Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn . . . "

Those of you who have seen the movie Moulin Rouge (and many of you who haven't) know how to finish the title.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

There's also Ewan McGregor's repeated rant about love:

"Love is like oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!"

Sappy, right? Especially within the context of the movie, where the focus is entirely about romantic love (and/or lust). But if we take those lines out of context and look at them in terms of life in general . . . there is so much truth in them!

I was talking with one of my roommates about Love last night. She was reading 1 Corinthians 13 before she went to bed. Just about everyone has heard this passage before:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I've been learning a lot about what it means to love this semester. I have been so weary, so utterly at the end of myself, that I have started to see more clearly what it means to let God love others through me. I haven't had anything of my own to give until this last week, really; and yet, I found that I was able to help some people through hard times better than I would ever have been able to on my own power. God is just awesome like that.

I've also been learning how to be loved. I discovered several years ago that I'm not very good at accepting love. I want to be self-sufficient. I'm stubborn, I'm independent, and I'm too smart for my own good. I don't want help from anyone. This semester, though . . . I have been forced to seek out help for the first time in ages. I've needed to rely on one friend in particular more than I've ever really relied on anyone. She's been absolutely amazing, and the best part of all of it is that she's been able to rely on me, too.

Over the past three months, I have been completely broken. I have had panic attacks, I've bawled my eyes out, I've spent large amounts of time hiding in my car or going for walks by myself because I didn't know where else to go or what else to do with myself. I've struggled to focus in my classes. I've barely felt human.

Things are finally looking up. I found out why I was struggling so much, and now I'm working to make it right. But part of that is asking for help . . . and for grace. I'm finding myself going to my professors to figure out how I'll end up with decent grades at the end of the semester.

God has been so faithful in all of this. He's blessed me with the most amazing friends I could possibly have asked for. I totally don't deserve them. He's given me the strength that I've needed to get through everything. He's humbled me. He's been gracious and patient with me. He's never left me for a moment.

When you think about it, the description of Love in 1 Corinthians 13 is, in many ways, a description of God's character. Think about it.

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, is always trustworthy, always gives us reason to hope, always gives us the strength to persevere. God never fails.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Plants are Addicting . . . in a Healthy Sort of Way

It's true, they are.

Rather early on in the summer my fish, Diego, passed away. I decided that I wanted to get a plant rather than another fish to come back to school with me in the fall. I looked at several options, did a bit of researching online, and came up with a great idea—a bonsai tree! I went to a couple of different stores that I knew would have plants for relatively low prices, and ended up finding a tree at Walmart.

This is Fezzik as he originally came to me. The rocks that you see were glued together on the top of the pot. He was obviously healthy, but I knew that without some love he'd die pretty fast (it's not easy to water a plant that has rocks glued to it!). I did a little research and determined that he was a ficus retusa, or ginseng ficus. I did a little more research and found a great website selling bonsai supplies. I bought him a new pot and some different soil, and then set to work prying away those silly rocks. When all was said and done, he looked much nicer.

I still have Fezzik. He has fewer leaves now (it's not exactly a growth season right now), but he's still relatively healthy.

Once I got to school, I decided I wanted another plant. I went to Byerly's and found Esperanza, my bromeliad.

Esperanza was a sort of temporary installment. The blooms on bromeliads only last for a couple of months, and then they don't grow back. Her bloom is fading fast now, so pretty soon we're going to have to lay her to rest.

I decided last week that I wanted to look for some new plants. I went to a couple of different places, but I didn't have much luck at first. Yesterday I finally went back to Byerly's with my roommate. We walked out with three new plants.

I found a new bonsai. I've decided this one is a "she," but haven't come up with a name for her yet. She was sitting on the shelf looking all pretty, and when I went over to check her out, I realized that there were rocks glued together over her soil, too. She also had a branch that was split. Other than that, however, she looked healthy. I decided I had to rescue her. From the little bit of poking around online I was able to do last night, I've decided that she's probably a "brush cherry" tree, but I'm not 100% sure of that. Whatever she is, she's quite pretty. I've once again ordered a different pot and some new soil for her that should get her in a week or so.

We also found a "house bamboo" plant . . . I think it's pretty cute.

The other plant is another that I may try to bonsai. I'm not sure yet. I'd tell you what it is, but I don't recall of the top of my head. This is what it looks like, though:

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Why on earth would I want to have so many plants to take care of? They're not like animals that move around—all they do is sit there and look pretty. Well, that's sort of the point. They look pretty. But there's more to it than that. They smell nice. They clean up the air in our room a bit (a big plus for someone like me who has allergies). They're like pets in a lot of ways, really. I haven't named the new ones yet, but I will.

Actually, one of the most interesting things about growing plants is the fact that they teach patience—LOTS of patience. I am not a naturally patient person, so it's good for me to do things that help breed that particular virtue. (That happens to be one of the reasons I like knitting so much.) Plants also reward patience. If you help them grow, give them enough care to thrive but not so much that you care them to death, they turn into something beautiful that can last for a long time. My mom has an ivy at our house that she's been growing for YEARS. It started out pretty small, but over the years it's grown into something quite impressive.

To make a long story short . . . you should go buy a plant. Now. I don't care if you don't have a green thumb. Start with something easy (do a Google search for low maintenance house plants), and go on from there. It can't hurt to try.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Warm Fuzzies

I've discovered a new, cheap way to make a bad day better.

I was rather crabby this morning. As is obvious from my last post, I was up very late last night, so I only got about 4 hours of sleep. On top of that . . . well, there's just a lot on my mind. So I was very crabby.

I decided after chapel this morning that I wanted to go back to my room for lunch, to get a little time alone. When I got to my dorm, I realized that I was seriously craving Leeann Chin, so I grabbed my keys, hopped in my car, and headed over to HarMar Mall, an old strip mall a couple of minutes from campus.

When I got to HarMar, I decided I wasn't quite hungry enough to eat yet, so I walked inside, intending to look around. I remembered that there's a little pet store in the mall, so I thought, "Hey, they have furry things . . . furry things always make bad days better!"

It was a great thought.

And it totally worked.

There were puppies in varying states of consciousness, from peaceful, snuggly sleep to wriggling and wrestling and just being goofy. There were little kittens, most of which were sleeping, snuggled together in a mound of warm fur. One particular kitten, a light orange tabby, was awake and meowing. I really wanted to take him home with me.

There's something incredibly comforting about furry things. When I'm at home and having a bad day, my dog is always there to help me feel better. She'll curl up in my lap and sleep while I read a book, or she'll bring me toys until I finally decide to get over myself and play with her. She's just a sweet little ball of smiles and unconditional love—a warm fuzzy.

So that's my new plan for bad days—if it's at all an option, I'm going to make a run to the pet store.

Maybe I should look into getting a weekend job there . . . ;)

The Pros and Cons of Loving People

I've come to the conclusion that I allow myself to become entirely too attached to people.

Don't get me wrong—I love loving people. It's just who I am. The problem is . . . well, sometimes, loving people is painful.

If there's one lesson I've learned in my brief 19 years of life, it's that goodbyes are inevitable. They also suck, especially when they involve someone you love. Even if they're only temporary goodbyes, they're still incredibly painful.

I've had to say a lot of goodbyes in my life. They never seem to get easier. I've never been good at them; in fact, I avoid them whenever I can. I hate having to let go of someone I care about, even if it's only for a little while.

There was a time in my life when I tried to stop myself from loving people too much. I was tired of having to say goodbye. It didn't last all that long—it's entirely against my nature not to love people—but in some ways, it was rather nice. If I didn't care about anyone else, I never had to worry about losing anyone. I never had to say goodbye.

I know that loving people is totally worth the pain it sometimes brings. The fact remains, however, that love is a painful thing at times. I don't particularly like pain.

(Ironically, Superchick's Beauty from Pain just came on . . . rather a fitting song to be listening to as I write this.)

This is more or less the vaguest and most angsty blog I've written in awhile. I apologize. In my defense, it is 3:30 in the morning. There's a reason I stopped writing late at night . . .