Mindless chick flicks. Sure, they all have the same formula and you can easily predict the end of the movie five minutes in. But there is something beautiful about them nonetheless. However cynical and unfeeling this culture may paint itself, it really values and yearns for something as simple as love.
Hanging out with your superiors. They may be above you, but when you learn that they are still no more or less of a human than you, you can form a really mutually respectful sort of friendship that can result in long-winded discussions or laughing anecdotes. They become more real but you respect them all the more for it. And they learn to see you in a new and more mature light. Growing up isn’t all bad.
When you get into a fantastic discussion and you can feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins. Something matters and you get to talk about it. You have a chance to let all of that passion flow out of your mouth and the opportunity to arrange it all in a neat, articulate little package. And then it sort of unravels itself into something bigger than you and it gets the chance to blossom. It entangles with the words and passions of others and the blend of all of that in the air only invigorates you further. You are energized not only by speaking but also by listening and understanding and in turn growing closer to the humanity around you.
Doing the impossible. There are times when you don’t want to do things. When you dig in your heels and resist doing something with everything in you. You know it is inevitable, but it feels impossible. It may be a task that is more of a nuisance than anything but you simply cannot fathom actually completing the necessary steps to complete something so arduous. Or perhaps it is some truly insurmountable struggle that by everyone’s account should not be possible. You can go kicking and screaming just as vehemently to both. But there comes a time, when such a task is truly inevitable, that you suddenly realize that despite your terror and fervent opposition, you have done what needed to be done and the task is complete.
Making time to do things that you love. Since starting college, I have finished precisely two books that I read simply because I wanted to. Before college, two books meant I had had a pretty busy month. So since this semester began, I have been taking at least ten minutes before bed every night to simply read a little of a book that has no relevance to my classes or obligations. I feel like a little part of me sort of shut down when I wasn’t reading and I can feel it grinding back into gear again, which makes me happy.
Having a heart-to-heart about happy things. Usually, those deep, meaningful conversations seem to be limited to the things that have in some way hurt us or knocked us down a notch. And those are great talks. But it is unbelievable how very full your heart can become if those same conversations happen when everything is going right. We forget that we still need support when we are doing well so that we can share the love with those around us. Joy is meant to be shared.
Thinking. You have this really nifty thing called a brain. It can do a whole bunch of stuff, but it gets bored if you don’t feed it with intellectual fodder. Feed it well, my friends. You will thank yourself later.
Making yourself uncomfortable. Comfort zones can be lovely, but they can also become rather unfortunate hindrances to our sense of exploration. Little by little, our comfort zone gets smaller and smaller if we stay inside of it until we are not comfortable anywhere. But sometimes, the best possible thing we can do is to step out of the cozy little pillow fort we have built around ourselves because you never know what sort of adventure you might have out there. I know that is ridiculously cliche to say that, but it is cliche for a reason. (Because it is pretty darn true)
The unabashedly triumphant language of the Bible. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Bible, particularly the New Testament letters, but wow. I have nothing to say that could possibly add to those words because they are beyond powerful. Each sentence sounds like a personal act of defiance against Satan and his regime. There is no coy pretending or modest acceptance of victory. God’s Word is a bold, brash shout of conquest. Death cannot rally against the complete encompassing triumph of Christ.
Diving back into an old hobby. Life has a way of consistently driving us away from our hobbies as it continually changes our lifestyles and crams our schedules. However, taking the time to return to a bit of that old enthusiasm can rekindle it all again.
Asking unreasonable questions. In order to get places in this life, we must take the effort to move toward them. Sometimes, that effort may seem fruitless, but we cannot move forward if we do not try. In many situations, all it takes to get somewhere is to ask a question. Perhaps it is a bold question and the most likely answer is no. It takes guts to ask that question when you know you will be rejected. But if you don’t ask, all inkling of a yes vanishes because you take away the chance for it to happen. So ask the questions that scare you, because those can be the best way to get a seemingly impossible door open.
Leisurely meals. Something about food inspires relaxation, conversation, and a general sense that time has slowed down a little. When you take the time to really eat a meal and not simply scarf it down, there is more to be gleaned from it than simply nutrition. There is laughter and savoring and bonding and most importantly, there is more time to really enjoy that which has been given to you.
The privilege of reading and discussing other people’s work. When a person shares their work with you and asks for your opinion about it, they are lovingly handing you a piece of their soul and telling you that they think highly enough of you to respect your input on its creation. If there is ever any doubt that a person loves and values you, that is one pretty incontestable confirmation.
When you can hear God speaking to your heart. Some days I am not a very good listener. I go to church, I stare blankly at the pastor, my mouth blandly recites some hymns and prayers, and I go home completely untouched. But other days, God opens my ears and I truly listen. All of the things that he is trying to tell me come crashing through and they fall on my heart like water in a desert. Over and over and over he tries to get my attention and when I finally look up, I feel the blows of his love washing over me. There is nothing that matters more than that I should know that peace and love and be so filled with it that it spills over into the hearts of everyone around me
Being vulnerable. This world loves to tell us to put up defenses. After all, it is smart to keep oneself away from harm and horrors. There is much damage to be done if we leave our hearts open to the elements. And yet, that shell of protection gets thicker and thicker as we feel those defenses are needed and we retreat further and further away from our personality and the things we love until all of a sudden we realize we can’t get through that shell. In trying to protect ourselves, we build our own prison. But it takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes courage to let yourself be hurt and yet continue to love. Only the bravest people can let go of their defenses and bare themselves to the world as they are. To be truly vulnerable, we need God. No matter how much we may hate ourselves for it, we will close those walls off again by human nature. But God lovingly pulls them down and envelops us in his arms. He tells us that we do not need defenses because he is our one sure defense. And that is terrifying and comforting all at the same time, but in God’s arms I would far rather be free to be vulnerable than trapped in my safety.
Nuance. There is a certain satisfaction in subtlety, in making the details just as important as the big picture, in noticing the little things and making them work together to make one big cohesive blend of beauty.
Lenten and Easter hymns. I like hymns in general. I love Christmas and Advent hymns, but they can never quite match the rich and poignant strains of mourning during lent. And then you get to Easter and everything is glorious and triumphant and bright. The words of those hymns spare no extravagance to proclaim the victory of Christ.
Praying out loud over people. Prayer is unbelievably powerful. God has given us a unique and brilliant opportunity to talk directly to him. And sometimes, the best prayer for the moment is the private one between just you and God. But when it comes to praying for other people, there is an immense power in petitioning directly to God in their presence. Not necessarily demanding that God make their life perfect, but talking to God about that person in general. Thanking him for creating someone you love so much, reminding yourself that he will work out everything for the best and affirming that trust out loud. Letting someone else know that you care enough about them to pray to the creator about them in particular. God certainly knows how to use that situation to work miracles.
The first day of the year that is warm enough to convince everyone that spring is on the way. Forty degrees and sunshine means shorts and the great outdoors when all winter has been drab and cold. The snow melts and you think you even see a bit of green in the mud patches of lawn. Maybe even – miracle of miracles – a little birdsong in the trees in the morning. You never realize quite how dead and crackly the winter was until it all starts to come to life again. Then the spring is all the more beautiful because of it.
Finding really beautiful houses of worship in your own community. As an American, specifically an American from the land of homesteads and the bland middle-ground of the Oregon Trail, old churches are pretty simplistic. Don’t get me wrong, they are pretty, just in a very simple way. Think white siding, a steeple, creaky wooden flooring, and bare-bones pews. They are quaint and sweet and they feel sunny inside no matter what the actual weather looks like. But the old cathedrals and grand churches in Europe are so rare in my part of the world that seeing anything with a vague resemblance to that style of architecture is something of a miracle. But I did worship in a good old ornate Catholic cathedral today and despite seeing dozens of looming Gothic masterpieces in Europe, I was just as in awe at this smaller, newer incarnation of the idea at home. The vaulted ceilings, the intricate carvings, the marble pillars and spires that you had to crane your neck to really appreciate. It was breathtaking.
Putting down roots. As much as I have loved college, it has been the first time I have ever really needed to make new connections and build myself a new home. It isn’t easy to settle in and call a new place home, but I have finally begun to really do that. It is starting to feel like I live here now instead of an extended camp with homework. My friends are permanent, not people who I will lose touch with in a year anyway. The real indicator is that I have begun to plug in to a church more than simply showing up on Sunday and it feels wonderful. Every day is an exploration, but now it doesn’t feel like the place I am exploring is foreign; I am just learning more about my home.
Friendly banter with people whose company you always enjoy. You are so familiar with each other that you can slip in and out of sarcasm like its nobody’s business and as sassy as you may get, you never have any bitterness. They bring a smile to your face no matter the circumstance because you know they are there for you.
Learning new things about yourself by accident. I love to spend time getting to know people and the person I tend to know the least about is good ol’ me. Or at any rate, I forget to take time to get to know me. So occasionally I find out little things about myself that make me feel like my whole identity just got a little more stable.
Dreaming big things. Sure, it may not be practical and the realist inside all of us may roll their eyes, but dreaming is such a beautiful thing. There is nourishment in thinking about what could be and what might be if only the circumstances align. Because improbable is a long way off from impossible and you never know just what might happen.
Solving a crisis. The adrenaline of whirling about and finding ways to make the puzzle pieces all fit together until the issues magically seem to dissolve around you and everything falls into place. Then you can relax and enjoy the outcome.
Picking up on other peoples’ love languages. Getting to know a person, you come to learn all sorts of things about them. One of my personal favorites is the way that they love and receive love. Everyone has their own unique ways of showing how they love others and the littlest of nuances in their behaviour can be the things that teach you about the way they love. And when you know that, you know how best to love on them, which is the best part.
When your friends do something that makes you so proud that you can’t help but brag about them to the world. A few of my friends put on a production tonight and it was absolutely phenomenal. One of the cast members was also the director and the show was his senior project. I already knew that he was a phenomenal theatrical force, but this was just one more reason to be so proud of him. When he is rich and famous, I will be able to say I knew him in college, so that is pretty neat.
Being treated to a classy affair. You spend hours getting dolled up for the swankiest event you are likely to be a part of all year. Live Broadway theatre, dinner in an art gallery, everyone strutting around like they are the height of society’s socialites. Because, just for the night, you are just that.
Making intentional connections with people you already consider friends. It is so easy to forget that friendship is a continual process and it cannot grow without striving to learn more and become closer to other people. When you learn new things about them and make a point to look at life from their point of view, you get an extra measure of insight into their soul and you can’t help but love them a little more.