Tag Archives: Spirituality

26 to 26: Birthday.

Today the countdown ends.

Today is my birthday.

I always feel like birthdays are supposed to be a big deal, like maybe some insanely life-altering moment is just around the corner. But birthdays are just that—days. Normal days filled with normal hours and ordinary minutes and common seconds. They tick away just like average Fridays.

I’m not sure what I was thinking today would be like when I started all of this. I guess that I imagined that I would wake up to a kick in the stomach and a neon “26” looming over my bed. I guess that I thought that life would feel different or time would feel different and really none of that is true.

In reality, I took a nap and carried grudges and brushed my teeth, all like a normal day.

Yet today has been a time of reflection on this journey that I created for myself. I have learned a lot along my path to 26, seeking out and uncovering lessons in the cracks and crevices of the daily grind.

I have felt full and empty; lonely and cared for; hopeful and disheartened. I have laughed and cried and regretted words spoken and actions taken.

It has all been an adventure for me. At different times, this journey of “26 to 26” has felt like both a burden and a privilege. It has forced me to express my feelings and confront some of my fears. It has forced me to cultivate writing as a discipline.

As I bring this series to a close, I am thankful that God does not finish with us until the day we finish this race set before us. I am thankful that life leads us down roads and alley ways lined with lessons in grace and forgiveness and selflessness and humility. I am thankful to be walking down those roads. Even now. Even when they seem too hard, too narrow.

Today I had breakfast with some of my lovely lady friends (the best!), snuggled with my pup while catching up on The Walking Dead (too cute!), noshed on a delicious (gluten free & vegan!) chocolate raspberry cupcake from Esselon Café (drool!), at a dinner of Riceworks chips (glamorous & health conscious!), and finished the day out with a massage (yesssssss!)

It was quiet and lovely.

As I look upon today and the last 26 days, I feel full. Full of so many things: memories, gratitude, dreams, love. I feel nourished in a way, like in leaking words into the blogosphere there’s been some fullness attained, some vision realized.

I want to thank all of you (aka my gramma, Auntie Chris, & Aunt Vicki) who have read along, learned along with me. I am so grateful to have had you all there, cheering me on, nodding your heads in support. I love you for more reasons that just you reading my silly blog.

Another year older, another day wiser. Here’s to making 26 count for the Kingdom!

Cheers!

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26 to 26: Life isn’t always peachy.

I wish that there was one area of my life that I felt good about right now.

I wish saying that aloud didn’t sound so terribly miserable and ungrateful.

I wish I knew what I meant by good.

good  [goo d]

adjective, bet·ter, best.

1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.

2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.

3. of high quality; excellent.

4. right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.

It’s just that things feel hard right now—working, teaching, trusting, feeling. Living feels a lot like heavy lifting on these long, cold days.

I am the heavy lifting and the lifter. It’s the responsibilities and obligations and fears and apathy that are multiplying the weight.

The truth is that life is not always satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree. Satisfactory. Life does not always feel satisfying. I wish that every day felt like a cool glass of water quenching my thirst on a hot August day but some days feel like sipping sand to quench an insatiable thirst.

Good is not an objective unit of measurement. Good changes with the day, with the seasons. Just because something doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean that it is automatically bad.

You have to stop letting the memory of yesterday interfere with your living of today.

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26 to 26: A Weekend in Maine

My roommate moved out at the end of August and, with that, seemingly opened the floodgates of change in my life. Good, messy, hard, chapter-turning change.

And she also just up and got engaged married.

Emilia and I made the trek up to visit her in central Maine this weekend. We knew that she’d be in the area for Thanksgiving but we also knew that the likelihood of us getting any one-on-one time with her was just about 0%.

We left early on Saturday morning and arrived just after 10. We spent the entirety of our time together in our pajamas, drinking coffee, laughing, sharing, and listening all huddled around her parents’ wood stove. It was beautiful…and wonderfully warm!

Friends! Coffee! Yoga pants! No showers! It’s the perfect weekend!

Don’t worry. I’m learning things all of the time and this weekend was no different. Here are some old, and one beautifully new, lessons I’m (re)learning:

Now after planning to be gone for the weekend, at nearly 26, I should have been responsible and done my dishes before I left. However, I am irresponsible and I hate doing dishes so I did not. That means that the soup pot from the beef stew I made last Thursday just sat around alllllllllll weekend.

Heck, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s still sitting around. I don’t want to open the lid and disturb whatever smelly, nasty stuff is going on in that thing.

#1: Do the dishes, Alyssa.

While we’re on a similar vein of “things you do that make you an idiot, Alyssa” I should probably address these food allergies that I have. My body hates…no. That is not a strong enough word to describe it. My body detests, loathes eggs, milk, and wheat.

What to guess what I had to eat in Maine?

Oh, don’t worry. Just a big, ole’ turkey sandwich on soft, chewy bread (wheat) slathered with mayonnaise (eggs) and American cheese (milk).

Oh, don’t worry. My intestines are still feeling the wrath of that sandwich.

I should know by now to plan ahead and pack my own food. I should know by now how disgusting I’ll feel and how my stomach will reward me by torturing me during my all too short little vacation with my friends.

#2: Don’t eat the crap you’re not supposed to, Alyssa.

This last one is something that Miranda said, that she taught me.

She said, “At some point, I made a choice…to love him. I made a decision that was for richer or poorer, sickness or health.”

I guess I’ve never thought about it that way—loving being a choice. I suppose that it’s because I’ve always just loved the people who loved me first. I suppose that maybe it’s because I have a romanticized idea of falling, stumbling into love.

I suppose that I’m probably completely wrong.

Love is a choice. It’s the best choice. It’s a hard choice.

It’s a choice that has to be made on the good days and the bad days, on the wedding days, birthdays, and death days. It’s a choice that you just have to keep choosing.

Love is a choice, a resolution.

#3: Choose love. Every day. Choose it with your family and your coworkers and your friends and your enemies. Make the life-changing choice to love because of and despite of.

 

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26 to 26: I need Jesus.

credit: pasotrepaso

credit: pasotrepaso

It hit me in the shower this morning—steam rising, mist splashing in the tiny stall—trying to scrub off feelings of sin and failure.

This is the gospel: me falling on my face.

That’s it.

I can’t get up tomorrow and hope to be stronger or wiser or less filled with sin. It is in me. It stitches me together and pulls me tight.

And yet, this is grace: unbinding the stitches—one by one—and piecing me back into wholeness.

This is mercy: that in my tripping and falling, I am lifted to my feet.

This is love: that in my darkest darkness, my most grotesque sin, Christ died for me.

It is timeless Truth to be repeated with ceaseless thanks:

I need Jesus.

 

May I learn it and feel it and deepen in this understanding each day. The gospel is for me today and tomorrow, at 26 and at 96.

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26 to 26: Do not envy your friends.

credit: Florencia Carcamo

credit: Florencia Carcamo

 

Envy is a dangerous thing.

It creeps in and consumes. Promising to bring pleasure and comfort, it breaks in and steals all joy and gift.

Envy infects and spreads and fills a life, a heart with bitterness and strife.

It settles into the cracks of relationships, driving wedges and filling them with want.

Listen to me close: do not envy your friends.

Do not spend all of your time peering into the windows of their lives, coveting all that they have. We like to peek in and believe that they have found perfect. We inspire ourselves to self-pity. I am the only one with problems.

Do not believe the lie that they have something that you deserve. Do not let shallow hypotheticals and suspicions destroy relationships that run deep.

Do not open the door to bitterness by peering into windows.

 

 

 

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26 to 26: There’s more to life than being really, really ridiculously goodlooking.

I believe that it was the great philosopher, Derek Zoolander, who once said:

“There’s more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking…and I plan to find out what that is.”

So much wisdom, so much truth.

If we’re honest, this is a lie that we whisper to ourselves in front of mirrors and our peers.

Life would be better if __________________.

We fill it in with dreams of higher cheekbones, thinner waists, fatter paychecks, broader influence. We fill it in with things far off and fleeting.

We stuff these Photoshopped ideals chock full of promises of easier, better, fuller living.

But the storms still come when you’re beautiful. Relationships still strain when you’re thin. Loss still hits when you’re rich. Failure still comes when you’re famous.

And just because they have rock hard abs and stunning features, doesn’t mean that they [male models] can’t not too die in a freak gasoline fight accident.

We can spend our lives chasing after thoughts of how we should look, how our lives should look. We can and often times do. But I wager that it is those who are concerned little with physical beauty or worldly wealth or hoarding power who are indeed the most beautiful, affluent, and influential.

I wager that those living life-fullest are fleeing from better and clinging to now.

“But seek first the Kingdom of God his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” –Matthew 6:33

 

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26 to 26: It’s not your responsibility to make everyone happy

I often say that I am a people-pleaser both by nature and profession. My natural tendency, impulse to make people happy makes me pretty good at my job and pretty hard on myself.

This next one is a hard lesson to learn:

It is not your responsibility to make everyone happy.

creative commons; efleming

creative commons; efleming

I’ve been seeking other people’s approval for just about 26 years but I’ve been doing it as my full time gig for just over two. I’ve had some frustrating interactions with ministry leaders, parents, and group members but they don’t usually shake me.

Until a few months ago.

Until a Hispanic woman berated me in the lunch line in her broken English and made me cry. All over a few baked potatoes. I didn’t cry in front of her, of course. I’m too proud, too stoic for that. No. I waited until she had said her peace and I had nodded and I’m sorry-ed myself out. Then I went to the basement and bawled.

Her group leader saw the whole thing and tried to intervene. She had consoled me with Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy.

But they didn’t matter. Again, I nodded and smiled and said that it was fine, fine, fine.

This woman’s words shook me not because she upset with the situation but because she was upset with me. She made it clear how she felt about me. I was unqualified, immature, and impolite.

And the haunting fear: I’m not enough, I’m not enough, I’m not enough.

There will be people to whom you cannot say yes and you will have to say no.

There will be people who don’t like the things that you say, the jokes you crack, the stances you hold, the questions you ask, the answers you give.

There will be people who whisper about you behind your back.

There will be people who say hard things to your face.

There will be people who do not like you.

And that’s okay. That’s actually kind of normal. That’s actually kind of good.

Your life’s purpose isn’t to make people happy. Don’t let that scare you. Your life’s purpose is way bigger than that.

Keep your eyes up and your heart open.

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26 to 26: Growing up & knowing that you’ll never be grown up.

creative commons; veganbaking.net

creative commons; veganbaking.net

Your mid-twenties are weird. I’m only half way through but I’ll tell you what I know.

At some point you start talking to your best friend about cutting sodium of your diet because you feel bloated.

You start putting flax seed on your oatmeal.

You realize that your parents’ actually know what they’re talking about and this prompts you to listen to their advice.

You start finding gray hairs. Not just one hair. Several.

You lose your ability to stay up late, wake up early, and still function normally.

You use clichés like, “That’s for the birds!” And find yourself wondering, “WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! AND WHO AM I, MY GRANDFATHER?!”

You begin to refer to college freshman as “babies” because 18 is sooooo young and they’re so naïve and don’t they know how good they have it?!

You start worrying about health insurance and how many cavities you probably have.

You start saying things like, “I really need to start saving for retirement,” and, “I need to establish some credit.”

You start watching HGTV and thinking, “I should buy a fixer-upper while the mortgage rates are still low!”

And then, at some point, you stop saying things like, “When I grow up…” because it hits you—like  a brick to the face, like a kick to the gut, like a —that you are indeed “grown up.” You have a job and people actually trust you enough to give you responsibility over things, important things and you’re buying your own toilet paper and probiotics and coconut oil because it’s supposed to be good for you, right? and you just adopted a dog and what were you thinking, embracing this growing up thing?!

It’s just a really weird place to be. You’re only 10 years from 16 but you feel like you’re 46 pushing 106.

But then again, being grown up, you start to realize that you’re never really fully “grown up.” You’re still uncertain of the future, still unsure of yourself.  You’re still a little scared of the dark and all of the scary things out there at night. You still long for adventure and passion and love. You still want to laugh and be silly and shed all of that responsibility on a Friday night.

You still spend time thinking, “What if, when I grow up…”

But, you know, it’s actually better. It’s actually nice to know your credit score and buy yourself something nice with the money you’ve earned at the job where you’ve proven you’re responsibility. Or just to sit in the home that you’ve made for yourself with your little dog and your hand-me-down furniture and that coat rack that you hung yourself. I don’t think I’d trade it. I don’t think I’d go back to the simpler, naïve.

There’s some peace in the process of wisdom. There’s some strange beauty in the knowing. There’s something charming about growing up and knowing that you’ll never be grown up.

Ah, the mystery, the intrigue, the flax seed. You’ve just got to go with it.

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26 to 26: No one is thinking about you in your bathing suit.

creative commons; jonny2love

creative commons; jonny2love

I’ll be honest. This is not a post about my bathing suit.

In fact, I’ll be doubly honest: I haven’t shaved my legs since some time in late September. I am definitely not thinking about swim suit season.

Truthfully, this has nothing to do with my bathing suit and everything to do with the fact that I live my whole life as if people are staring at me, judging eyes wide open.

We all think that people are looking at us, when really we’re just looking too hard at ourselves.

I read a book this summer, Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. I loved it for so many reasons. I loved it because I am a person of Bread & Wine—a Believer in a Jesus that offered up broken bread and broken body; poured out wine and poured out blood. I’m also a person of bread & wine—a lover of food and table-side community. But mostly, I loved it because Shauna was bold and honest and funny and raw. She was ruthless with herself and transparent with her readers.

She shared this story about spending summers on the beach and missing out on memories and moments because she’s consumed by what people might think of her in her swim suit.

She said:

“But my friend Sara always reminds me, on one’s actually thinking about me often as I think they are. Probably my friends are not actually counting the days till summer to see if I’ve finally turned into a supermodel. Probably they’re thinking about their own lives or current events or any number of things that have nothing to do with my chins.”

I have to laugh because we all think this way. I think this way. Too often, I think that all eyes are on me.

All the critical eyes gaping open, refusing to blink lest they miss it—my failure.

“Shame whispers to us that everyone is as obsessed with our failings as we are.” –S. Niequist

The truth is that no one is paying that close of attention. No one is as critical of you as you are of yourself. It’s time that you stop projecting that onto other people. It’s time that you stop desperately clawing at approval and recognition.

Everything is not about you. The world is not spinning in motion around you, orbiting around the circumference of your fears and failures.

Trust me, no one is thinking about you in your bathing suit.

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No One & Naan

It’s only been 4 months since I posted last & 3 weeks since I started writing this. I wish so whole-heartedly that I was better at all of this that I am. Regardless. I finished something.

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bread dough

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I came home tonight and I felt alone.

For the first time in the two weeks that I’ve been roommateless, I felt really alone. Maybe it was because I had no to-do list to keep me company. Maybe it was because I knew that I was exiting a car with two people whom I love dearly and entering an empty house.

My co-worker’s father died this week. Tonight was his wake. Tomorrow they will put him in the ground, whisper long goodbyes.

Death stirs up so many questions, and still for me, illuminates so many fears about family, friends, and self. And this haunting thought—it is coming for those I love.

It’s on nights like these- lonely, quiet, fearful- when you need something warm and hopeful and home.

So I mixed the flour and the sugar and the yeast and the water. I formed thin, round circles. I covered with a cloth. I waited.

There’s something about yeasted bread that gives so much comfort. The perfume of dough rising smells nothing less than home.  The feel of a loaf proofing puts magic at your finger tips.

Yeast is a magical thing. It lies dormant in our refrigerators and pantries, awakening to life with a little warmth, a little sugar. It’s comforting. It shows evidence of life—springing up, bubbling over— where there seemed to be nothing by dry, desert death.

And I heated oil over flame to transform the dough into bread, the nothing into naan. Four misshapen rounds of dough becoming bread.

I took a round from the plate where it lay cooling. I broke it, still so warm—almost too warm for my skin to take— and remembered a body broken. Remembered a death. Remembered a sacrifice—a remembrance so unexpected.

I took it and ate. I remembered and gave thanks for a life-given for my life-rescued.

I chewed and thought only of communion, thought only of doing this in remembrance of Me. Thought only of the dry, dead yeast springing up dough like my dry, dead heart springing up with new Life, new Hope. I thought only of the death which gave and which gives life.

And I was filled—with warmth, with home, with Hope. I was filled with remembrance & thanksgiving that from death springs forth life; from old springs forth new; from pain springs forth joy; from Christ springs forth communion.

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