The Tug of the Tether

This past fall has been an adventure. Like a fish out of water, I was dropped in a foreign country to work and study a major domestic policy issue (often late into the night) and publish a piece about how to fix the said issue. Having no idea where to begin in search of any solutions or how to make my writing more worthy of consideration, I at times stumbled into an apathetic coma. The problems were too big, I was too small and I might as well let the experts do what they do.

Then, after hitting the snooze button one last time, I chose to grow up instead of give up. And in the process I learned to adapt.

That word- adapt, seems to define my experience here. In so many seasons of my life I wasn’t able to find my footing in fresh surroundings with strange new people. I wasn’t good at being a foreigner.

Perhaps those times prepared me for this one.

The Japanese poet Saigyo once wrote

“Every single thing changes and is changing always in this world.  Yet with the same light the moon goes on shining.”

A perfect metaphor of our relationship to the Redeemer. Our guiding light.

I see now that I am not tethered to my street address, but to something greater, something… immaterial, something you cannot find on a map or paint a picture of in your mind.

The tether knots at my soul and pulls me forward in this life. It both softens and sharpens me through wildfires and wilderness, peaks and valleys, meadows and coal walks. I change and I remain the same. With every breath I become better. With every step forward I can see how far I’ve come. And through it all I follow the tug of the tether.

I learned that moving forward means packing light. Shedding old skins. When intimidation nearly crippled me, I had to drop my anxiety and grow confidence from scratch. When fear of the future drifted into my mind, I had to let go of my crystal ball mentality and instead embrace the reality that I was living a life many people have only dreamt of. No longer could I see challenges as things to get through, but rather as opportunities to make something happen. None of this I have perfected by the way, but I am learning to.

I made sure I did not forfeit the cultural experience for the academic one or vice versa. There were days to engage with art, music, survivors of war, and days to study, research and grow intellectually.

But in the end, in every experience, I was led by the guiding light, something I can only see now in hindsight. As I confronted culture shock and language barriers, my faith was a channel I could turn to for understanding. Despite living in an pretty homophobic and somewhat racist community, I took comfort in the awareness that my God has carved my name in his palms and has counted the number of hairs on my head. I abide in him and he abides in me. I draw near to him and he draws near to me. My heart breaks, he mends it. I get angry, he forgives. I forget, he never does.

In a few short weeks, I check out of this place. Holding tight to His tether and carrying all I’ve collected in this wonderful region, I am sure the path I am treading is leading somewhere. I glance back, not at my mistakes, but the messages I took away from them. Not at every test I flunked, but at every teachable moment I received. How I have changed, how I need to change and how I have remained the same. And while I may not know where this road will take me or what the next stop will look like, I have trust in the guide. My feet are ready for the next coal walk.

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are.  For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained.  Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.”  ~Saint Augustine

RR

Learning from Squirrels

Squirrel Hiding Acorn Nuts in a Tree.

My apologies, posts have been and will be less frequent as of late. I have left the country! I am working at an organization in the Balkans promoting the Environment and researching Energy policy. Thanks for sticking with me through these next couple months!

I have learned a lot from squirrels. Don’t turn back to facebook, I swear it’s not as weird as it sounds.

If you live in the path of the cold chill of winter, take a quick glance out your window. See the squirrels hard at work? Busy burying their livelihood for the season of dry spells? They hurry here and there to prevent an otherwise certain death.

The winter blues are coming and you can’t avoid it. The cold is coming. The sun is ceding it’s ground. Flowers are bidding farewell. So is your energy.

It can be easy to forget how the weather affects our moods. And that forgetfulness can make this season so much more difficult than it needs to be.

It’s time we take a lesson from our furry friends.

On a scientific level- the winter season shapes our brains in ways that you may not be aware of. The lack of sun (vitamin D) can drastically alter the chemicals in your brain making you more tired and unhappy. For those that struggle with depression, the winter months can exacerbate existing negative emotions.

So what are you tucking away this winter?

I love this message in Proverbs.

“You lazy fool, look at an ant.
Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
All summer it stores up food;
at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
How long before you get out of bed?
A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
poverty your permanent houseguest!”

-Proverbs 6:6-11 (The Message)

How long are you going to nap?

Here’s what I’m holding on to:

Humor-

There is perhaps no greater antidote to the blues than a good laugh. One of my good friends and I email each other funny past memories to warm our hearts when we start to freeze. This, along with my collection of Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Rec and so on, keep me close to the crackling fire.

Hope

Running through the Scriptures is a strong thread of Hope. There are stories of encouragement and endurance, which keep us checking for Spring around the corner.

“See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.”

-Song of Songs 2:11-12 (NIV)

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. “

-Romans 12:12 (ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
-Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Adaptability

Sometimes the cold can seem like something to just get through. It’s chilly, mushy and inhospitable. Simply slick streets and never enough mittens. But, what if we started to see this season as something more. Like a work of abstract art that upon first sight is unattractive and dull, it waits before us, and suddenly we notice it’s nuances and it’s meaning begins to feel magnetic. Winter won’t leave, maybe because it wants to show us something. Embrace this characteristic of creation. Go sledding, skiing, build an igloo, throw a snowball, watch flakes fall slowly. He made it with all of it’s imperfections and all of it’s beauty, just like us.

“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.”

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carrol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

Pick up your shovel and start digging.

RR