Friday, July 7, 2017

The Cycle of Daily Life


Some days, I wake up in a fog. I see that the sky is blue and I want nothing to do with it. I stumble into the shower, I'm too queasy for a real breakfast, and my chest is tight as I try to pray during the car ride to work or class. My smile is restrained and my laugh is forced. My shirt collar is a noose. I want chocolate but I don't want acne. I listen to some music but it brings back sad memories. I text a friend only to realize I'm texting for attention. I eat bread at all three meals (which tastes good for me but probably isn't when it's not paired with fruits or vegetables). I should sit down and do some writing, but the page remains freakishly blank, considering I'm a creative writing major. Then I have a small existential crisis and eat a cookie. 

Those days come around a little too often. 

But then there are other days. I get up early and meet a friend for breakfast and a Bible study. Then I run errands. I buy a pair of gym shorts for jogging and a file pouch for budgeting. My favorite worship song comes on the radio and the sky is mottled blue and gray, both pleasant. I get home and do some budgeting (because of my big-girl job) and laundry. Then I call a friend for a needed conversation that lifts my spirits, after which I go for a walk/jog (*cough* for the first time in years *cough*) in my new gym shorts, feeling very fit and healthy as my jogging playlists pulses through my earbuds. I go home, find I've walked/jogged 3 miles today, and eat some watermelon instead of a cookie. Then I get invited to 2 different events, on top of a third I was planning on attending. "So many social engagements, so little time." Then I write this blog post. 

These kind of days just come without warning and I meet them face-to-face with, "Well, it's good to see you!" 

It's the cycle of daily life. Not every day is going to be breakfast/Bible study/jogging/watermelon/budgeting-productive. A lot of days will be consume-chocolate-and-fake-a-smile days. You've got to take them as they come and accept yourself no matter what day you're having. Sometimes there will be reasons for the bad and the good, but I honestly think that often it just depends on how much sleep you get, and which side of the bed you wake up on. 

Just some Friday thoughts. Whether you're stress-eating a cookie or prepping a playlist for your next jog, love yourself despite your ups and downs. And remember that Someone loves you more. 

(Now excuse me while I go sniff out the cupcakes my grandmother HAD to show me just now).

/ / /

Does life seem to have this good-day-bad-day pattern for you? If so, how do find yourself handling it?

Cheers,
Alicyn

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Curiosity...in 100 Words


We are “curiouser and curiouser.” We are questioning beings, we seek answers, we wrestle with truths and mysteries and new discoveries and circumstances. We want to know

what
when
who
where
how
why.

But it isn’t our place to know everything.

So we’re free to wrestle with the big and small questions of life that are kneaded in our minds and come to settle on our tongues for the moment we can ask them. Hallelujah, we are free to struggle with situations, curiosities, the whens and hows, wheres and whys.

The paradox is,

we strengthen our faith in our questioning.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fruit


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law. 

The last few days have been a little difficult for me. I haven't been in the best place spiritually or emotionally, due to some issues I've been working through for a while now. It comes and goes, some days better than others. The biggest problem is that instead of trying to pray my way through all of it, I sometimes don't even want to talk to God.

Why do we act this way? I've been given the unbelievable gift of being able to talk directly to the God who created me and the earth and galaxies and universe I'm wrapped up in, and sometimes I just don't even have words. I give Him the silent treatment. Thank You, Lord, for your everlasting patience. 

The other morning, though, I did some praying. The urge to pray started pretty much as soon as I left my bed, and carried a good fifteen minutes through my morning as I got ready for the day. I'm not sure where the inspiration came from, but I started praying through the fruits of the spirit. 

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.

I think that often, part of my reason for not wanting to pray comes from not knowing WHAT to pray. And this is where Scripture can help. I've learned in the past couple of years that Scripture doesn't have to just be read - it can be used as powerful prayers when the words and requests we need to speak just won't come to us. I think in these moments, when we are at a loss for words, Scripture and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) combine to help us along in our prayers. God knows we are weak even in prayer, and as He always does, He offers us the help we so often forget to ask for. 

So in this post today, I want to write a basic skeleton of what I prayed yesterday morning, based on Galations 5:22-23. I like to write out my prayers - sometimes it helps me answer my own questions (or reveals God's answers to me, I suppose). I'd encourage you to try both if you're struggling in prayer - write it out, or find a Psalm or a favorite verse and pray through it, for yourself or for someone else. It might make all the difference. 

LOVE
Lord, show me how to love, and how to be loved. I know that love covers a multitude of sins, and that love is the greatest gift we've been given and can give. Help me to love fiercely and unconditionally, to accept love, to let my daily motions be driven by love. Let love grow in my heart and my mind, and let those I spend time with walk away feeling loved. Show me how to make a home for love in my spirit, and to remember that You are the definition of love. 

JOY
I pray for my joy, that you would renew it every morning. God, I am rarely as joyful as I should be, considering how many things I have to be joyful for. I let my heart blacken and harden and then try to use it from such a state, and all that does is feed negativity into my life and into other's lives. I don't want it to be that way. Please give me a joyful heart, a heart that always returns to joy even after bad days, attitudes, and situations.

PEACE
God, peace is something I rarely feel these days. I know You give it, though - sometimes in the most unexpected of moments. I pray for peace in my soul, not just for me but for those around me, especially people that I'm capable of influencing. Help me to inhale and exhale peace, and to let it be a way of life, especially when angered thoughts fill my head. Let there be peace in the world, starting within our own souls.

PATIENCE
Lord, You know how bad I am at this one. I've never been a patient person. I want to know what, when, where, why, who, how, and I want to know it NOW. But lately, you have been calling me to seasons of waiting and trusting, and those seasons take patience. Please instill patience in my heart; let it be something that grows as I find myself not wanting, but needing to practice it. When we are waiting, You are active, and I pray for the patience to wait well.

KINDNESS
I've always considered myself a kind person, God, but can I say that when I ignore the homeless person shaking a cup of coins at my feet? Can I say that when I look down on those facing different life situations, as if I am somehow superior? Whether I act upon what's in my head or not, I can be so unkind, and God, please change that about me. Or show me ways to change it. Give me opportunities to change it. I pray for small acts of random kindness to become a habit in my life, small kindnesses that can lead to seeds planted, which You water and tend until there is fruit.

GOODNESS
I am not good. God, I am not good. My nature is to sin. My heart is crippled by sin. And the only thing keeping me from dwelling in sin is this faith that there is something more to all of this, a faith that says there is Someone to which I am held accountable. But because of my relationship with You, I have a desire for goodness along with my desire for sin. God, let the desire for goodness rule in my heart, so that my faith can be fruitful and I may be a mirror of Your goodness.

FAITHFULNESS
You have taught me so much about faith these past few months, God. It used to just be an abstract noun that I talked about in church, or a word I used in reference to my relationship with you. But I've come to realize that faith is so much more than that. Faith takes a strength that is supernatural. It takes being braced for anything that You may present to me, any situation, person, command, or altered plan. It takes humility and grit to be faithful in all things, and I fail so often. God, forgive my moments of weak faith and help me to strengthen that same faith daily.

GENTLENESS
God, I live in a world that is not gentle. But there is something about gentleness that is unexpected. Help me to practice gentleness. When the world is raging, help me to be gentle so that it may see something different in me, something beautiful that doesn't fit the status quo. Show me how to be gentle in mind, body, and soul.

SELF-CONTROL
*and this is the part of the show when Alicyn starts sounding less "Christian-y" and instead, really, really human*
Um. God. I have zero self-control. Well, maybe I have some, but only because I'm aware that You hear every thought that flits through my head and that if it weren't for Jesus, those thoughts could separate me from You eternally. I pray for self-control, in my actions, my speech, and my thoughts. Sometimes there is freedom in limitations, and in this case, freedom is found when I control my nature of sin and submit it all to You for a relationship with You. That's where freedom is found, in knowing my soul is safe with You for eternity, no matter what happens here until I'm home with You.

/ / /

Got any thoughts on prayer? I'd love it if you'd share them in the comments!

Cheers, 
Alicyn


Photo by loli Clement on Unsplash

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Taste of Summer...in 100 Words


Summer tastes like cold raindrops in mellow heat. Like guitar-string-metal on my fingers. Summer tastes like a blade of grass between my teeth, like the sweet glassy rim of a soda bottle. It tastes like cotton candy from a fairground, French fries and fizzing root beer, overpriced snow cones and fire-roasted hotdogs. Summer tastes like kissing freckled cheeks, it tastes like daisies smell, tastes like chlorine and sea salt. It tastes earthy like backroad dust and the warmth of a strawberry fresh from the vine. It tastes like bonfire smoke and mango chap stick, like the effervescent thrill of adventure.    

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Study Away is Cool


From Arlington National Cemetery

I'm back! 

And I've just completed a study away course for two weeks in Washington, D.C. I stayed in a large house in one of D.C.'s prominent neighborhoods with nine other college students and two professors, and between trips to the National Mall and as many of the Smithsonian museums as we could cram into our schedule, we researched assigned areas of D.C., figured out how to use the Metro, and made it to a surprising number of cupcake shops. (I almost feel as if I came to D.C. solely for the food, especially when I found a vegan bakery in our neighborhood [I'm lactose-intolerant] and went for a milkshake twice). 

I got to hang out with some pretty stellar people. Not only were they hard-working and serious about their research, but they were hilariously fun to travel and explore with (and have movie and game nights with). They were also dependable in such a way that I would probably still be lost in some Metro station in the guts of D.C. if it weren't for them. We may have all gotten mildly tense when the food stores were reduced to Lucky Charms cereal, a pack of turkey, and a giant bottle of hot sauce in the last couple of days, but we worked together well and, most importantly, had a great time. 

Honestly, it was the trip of a lifetime. Rather than seeing just the big stuff (National Mall, Smithsonians, etc.) we got to know D.C. as a whole culturally, historically, and demographically. My heart belongs to country air and visible stars, but I enjoyed all of D.C.'s murals, monuments, memorials, cafes, diversity, and even the bustle of the Metro system. It was a world full of new experiences for me, and a step toward future travels (if God so wills). I'm thankful for the big things, such as saying hello to the Lincoln Memorial, and for the small things, such as chowing down on pizza and milkshakes with my newfound friends in a city six-hundred miles from home. 

I may write more about the trip eventually. I just got back from flying in today and I'm still processing the whole thing. For now, I'll share some pictures. I'm glad to be home, and glad to be blogging once again. 


Eyes from one of the murals in downtown Columbia Heights


'We the People'


Inside the Capitol


Orangutan with his blanket at the Smithsonian National Zoo


And what did we do with one of our last days in D.C.? We rode the tallest escalator in the Western Hemisphere. 

/ / /

Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? If so, what was your favorite thing about it?

Cheers, 
Alicyn 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hiatus


A lot of opportunities have come my way the last few months, big and small. One of those opportunities involves a study-away class that I'll be leaving for quite shortly. This means I'll probably be on hiatus from the blog for the next couple of weeks. But, Lord willing, I will return and have many stories to tell! 

Thanks to everyone who's been following my posts here lately - you all rock and I appreciate you with much much appreciation! 

I want to leave you with a few suggestions/challenges for the next couple of weeks: 

1) Take a friend out for coffee and good conversations, maybe someone you haven't seen in a while.
2) Take a nature walk. 
3) Look into blackout poetry.
4) Buy some used CD's - preferably of music you've never gotten into. See if you like it! 
5) Write a letter or encouraging note to someone. 
6) Be intentional about making memories. 
7) Press some flowers in a big thick book. 
8) Take a drive on a road you're not as familiar with and crank up the radio, windows down. 
9) Make a list of summer goals, both serious and silly. 
10) Cloud watch, or stargaze. 

Let me know in the comments if you try any of these. I'd love to hear about it when I get back! 

Cheers, 
Alicyn

Saturday, May 27, 2017

the one about friends


you don’t know what a friend is until you’ve shivered with that person on a bench as they release everything they’ve kept in while their eyes become small oceans, until that same person has listened to you vent then revealed the flaws in your attitude, because friends aren’t afraid to call such things out over coffee, yes, friends ask the gut-wrenching questions that you fight against answering as you wince, twisting your hair, and they smirk at that familiar mannerism, yes, friends see you when you’re wounded but also when you’re stitched up, and love you anyway or perhaps because.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Home...In 100 Words


Home begins when the air rushing through my car windows becomes sweet from grassy fields at twilight. The fields harbor fireflies that light my way to gravel roads and deep blue woods. Coyote howls replace the city’s sirens; the stars shine a bit brighter, constellations visibly mapping my place in the world.

Home is sitting on the back porch as this world slows down for the night – the smell of my brother’s strong black coffee – dry pages of a book between my fingers. It is closing my eyes and listening to the beauty of stillness and wind in the trees.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The One About Music


So, here's the scoop: I dated a guy, and now I'm not dating the guy. (Long story).

Sometimes, God brings people into our lives for a season and for a specific purpose, and then shuts the door, because He knows what He's doing. That happened to me. Ouch.

But everyone that we allow into our lives makes an impact and leaves behind a little something that we never would have had the privilege of experiencing, had we not allowed them in.

A lot of these things are super spiritual or super impacting or super deep, but I'm going to talk about something not-so-deep, but meaningful, all the same.

The guy I dated is super into music, and thanks to him, I've now been exposed to a lot of artists/bands that I knew about but had never taken the time to intentionally listen to. Sooo my musical taste buds have been developing quite a bit.

I'll start with...


Said guy is a bit of a Led Zeppelin fanatic, and the first time we met to do homework together, we also grabbed earbuds and had a "Led Zeppethon." I was skeptical, since I've always been a little picky about music and generally wince at a lot of the songs spawned between 1959 and 2006. (Slight exaggeration, but you get my drift - the 60's through the 80's has never been my favorite time period in regards to music). But I found myself grinning over my homework as the first chords of "Good Times Bad Times" cranked through my earbuds.

Thus Led Zeppelin made it onto the list of jams (and classic rock became not-so-bad).

Probably the second biggest new entry on the list is these guys:


Um. Can I. Just. This band. 

So Transatlanticism is my favorite album, Plans a close second. This band is the real deal, and I must admit that I'd been waiting for a copy of Transatlanticism to cycle through at my local Half Price Books Outlet the other day when I found one and snatched it up triumphantly before my brother could get his paws on it. One of us was super happy and one of us was disgruntled, you can guess who was who. 

Next! Zees person: 


So this guy has kinda ruined my life with his song, "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room." Not to mention, the YouTube playlist of his Live in LA show is my official homework playlist. I know he's been around quite a while, but all I really knew of his work was "Waiting On the World to Change." Looks like I was missing out.

Moving forward to Icelanders who make music like they came straight out of the American South:


I'm a little in love with their album A/B in its entirety. I heard "Way Down We Go" and was instantly hooked. (I actually found these guys on my own, woot woot). 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be off slow-dancing alone with my iPod to "Save Yourself." *leaves*

*comes back sheepishly* Just kidding. There is more music to speak of. 

Such as: 


"Like the Dawn" is one of the most beautiful songs to grace the music industry, in my humble opinion. Not to mention, their inspiration is Bible stories. These people are the best. If you're looking for good lyrics and a folksy sound, check them out. 

And speaking of Bible stories...I love all these folksy and faith-based bands that I keep finding out about, the people who craft genuinely good music and slip in positive messages for everyone to listen to - not just Christians. (That's an entire post in itself, though...I'll save it for another time). So the last band I'll be mentioning is...:


"Belly of the Deepest Love" & "The Kitchen" & "Porcelain" are my current three favorites. Poetic lyrics and gorgeous music. And talk about great album art

So there you have it! This is the new stuff that's been gracing my earbuds lately. (Well, new to me). If any of these bands have made your list of favorites too, let me know in the comments. Chatting about music is a past time I find to be very agreeable. 

Cheers, 
Alicyn

Friday, May 12, 2017

Freshman Year...in 100 Words


Once upon a time, I was a hyper-nervous, mostly-confused freshman. College began socially: an honors freshman retreat, campus ministry events, orientation. There were name tags, information fairs, class schedules, then classes. Bible studies. Lunches with friends. Professors (who were mostly cool). I survived first semester and winter break sadness and came back to more classes and a horizon full of adventures. I changed, grew, embraced spontaneity, tried new lattes, and assertively claimed my study spots on campus. I made music, hugged a lot of people, tried out dating, tasted freedom.

Most importantly, I was brave.

Sophomore year?

Bring it on. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Worth the Risk


Stepping out in faith is a scary, scary move to make.

A lot of us aren't built for uncertainty, and we're easily shaken when times turn rocky.

So we like to hide in the downy folds of our comfort, our familiarity.

We like to keep our hands from getting messy, our hearts from being bitterly scratched.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements." -- C. S. Lewis

Vulnerability is like nausea; anxiety is like a persistent ache. Fear is a crippling wound, worry a stifling noose.

But we were not made to live in such boxes.

Stepping out in faith is carefully cutting away the tissue and muscle covering your heart to expose it, pulse and all. You may encounter a situation so agonizing that you feel it bone-deep. You may expose your heart to someone who takes it in one hand only to stab it with the other. You may move forward toward a goal only to have the grounds of your ambition upturned beneath your feet.

But to move forward at all is to risk.

We were not made for shells, for boxes, for zones or fences.

We were made to scale mountains up to heights that make us dizzy, to run headlong through fields laughing the air out of our lungs. We were made to plunge into the depths of faith and trust and submit to the cold shock, to the prospect of what might lie below.

We were made for stepping forward one day at a time, praying and praying and praying, seeking grace upon grace upon grace, and loving fiercely.

Ambitions, relationships, adventures, they're worth the risk; even if it fails, even if you bend under the weight, even if you feel like you're walking through flames -- God wastes nothing, and He uses every situation for our good.

He uses risk to grow us.

To teach us.

To mold us as clay.

To remind us we are His, and He holds us firmly by our right hand, and we have no reason to distrust Him - not one.

God is good all the time, and by anchoring our heart in Him, we are freed to take steps of faith with His plan and goodness in mind. Not every step may end in success, but all are used to shape us.

God wastes nothing, and we would do well to take every step remembering that we walk hand-in-hand with Him. We may be shaken for a moment, but He will lift us up, dust us off, and remind us to breathe and keep moving.

To live is worth the risk.

Lord, remind us to live.

/ / /

In what ways have you stepped out in faith? 

Cheers, 
Alicyn 

P.S. Sorry for being virtually nonexistent on the blog the last couple of months. It's been a busy semester, you guys. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Why I Am A Christian

I wrote this piece as part of a winter break study my campus ministry challenged us to take part in. It was supposed to be a one-page paper, but I couldn't help but give it a little creative twist. Whether you're a Christian or not, this is the peace and truth that I believe in, and I hope that it may bring you comfort this Monday morning.

/ / /

Why am I a Christian?

I am a Christian because true Christianity is the great unifier.

Tall, short, thin, attractive, homely, fashionable, practical, black, white, rich, poor, clean, unkempt, educated, ignorant, male, female, loud, quiet, charismatic, humble, joyful, weary.

Beautiful differences cast aside, we are all united under Christ’s ocean of love, as image-bearers of God, and that is why I’m a Christian.

Why am I a Christian?

I am a Christian because to be anything else would mean self-destruction.

The world says, Find your truth. Be yourself. Do what you want to do. Serve whomever you want to serve, believe whatever you want to believe, defy whomever you want to defy. You have the answers.

You, you, you.

Me.

Christ says, Love your neighbor as yourself. And love God even more.
Christ, He died to Himself because we refused to (and still do).
Christ showed the world that we serve each other, not ourselves. For iron to sharpen iron, it must come in contact with iron other than itself, one painful, bright spark at a time. We cannot grow, cannot bend, cannot be sharpened by turning inward – we must seek to sharpen others. We must face outward. Only then do we find ourselves.

That is why I’m a Christian.

Why am I a Christian?

I am a Christian because Christianity defies the status quo.

Christ, He walked into the status quo’s temple and flipped the tables.

They wanted Him to be King.

So He was born to an unwed girl, amidst hay and dust and animals. So He became a carpenter. So He offered Himself willingly – He was not one to call the angels to save Him.

Christianity, it is upside down. It is radical, a radical notion that those who listen to the world cannot grasp. The world says climb higher – Christianity says sit at the lowest place at the table first. The world tells you to succeed – Christianity says to pursue the Kingdom’s success. The world says to fit this box, and that box, and those boxes, to be whole – Christianity says we were all woven from dust into His image, and we are whole, when we accept Him.

Christianity, it calls us to something beyond greed, artificial beauty, and societal norms.

It calls us to the alter, where worship is the status quo.

That’s why I’m a Christian.

I’m a Christian because God picked me up in His hand, examined my nine-year-old frame, and breathed life into this body stemmed from dust. He taught me that I am dust – I am earth – I am clay, and He is shaping me with every passing second, an unstoppable artist with eternal work. I believe because I see Him in all things – in clear mountain sunlight, in coffee shop conversations, in feathery butterfly wings, and in the roar of a restless sea, the way a mother gazes at her newborn, the weeping and laughing of those who lose and gain, sow and reap.  I see His gentle touch on this world, healing it one act of kindness or sacrifice or service at a time. God is alive. Christianity is alive. And that’s why I am too.

That is why I’m a Christian. 

/ / /

What makes you come alive?

Cheers, 
Alicyn

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Face-to-Face


"Coffee is a language in itself." 

- Jackie Chan

I've been to my local coffee shop more times in this single past semester than I have in my entire life. 

Here's why: I decided a while back that, despite my raging-introvert tendencies, it's way better to talk to people face-to-face. 

Today's world of messaging leads to shallow convenience. It's so easy for me to get caught up in a conversation online with someone and not think twice about what I'm telling them, or how I'm telling it. Tone is lost, so I find myself desperately hunting for emojis, or juggling the decision of whether to add "lol" to ensure the person I'm talking with recognizes my sarcasm, rather than taking me seriously. 

Online conversations aren't all bad, by any means. I message and text friends frequently, and I've had a lot of great "talks" that way, because my best form of communication is the written word. When I'm serious about something, it works best for me to write it out.

But in casual conversation typed across a glowing screen, I miss the color of a person's tone, the tilts of their head, the way they slide their coffee mug gently around on the tabletop when they're thinking. I miss their reactions, whether they burst out laughing or chuckle quietly, and their frown of concern as they listen to me, really listen. I miss how they burst flustered into the coffee shop to tell me that they're usually always on time, but something was just off about this particular morning. I miss how they shrug and offer unmerited forgiveness the times when I do exactly the same. 

I can't ask to try a sip of their hot chocolate when I'm texting. 

I can't sit in comfortable silence with someone in Messenger. 

And I can't ask the deep questions or tell the long stories and experience the same effect, the same impact, that it would have face-to-face. 

Us humans, we were made for communion. We were made for sitting beside and across from each other at tables, eye-to-eye, sipping drinks and breaking bread and telling stories and making music with laughter. We weren't made to hide behind the screens, inside our homes; community is too important, too vital to our existence, even if it's just one person across the table from you at a coffee shop on a cold morning. 

It may seem like a simple thing, meeting for coffee or tea or lunch. But when you make the effort to step outside the house and meet someone because you care about them, because they are worth your time, it paints a picture of image-bearers mimicking Christ, who met with us, broke bread with us, told us stories, laughed and cried with us. Face-to-face. Because we were worth His time. 

So, in essence, I appreciate modern technology, how it allows me to stay in touch with people throughout the day and write down my thoughts when I can't articulate them well out loud; but I've come to realize how important it is to spend time in person with those people, too. 

Here's to friends, family, and local coffee shops. 

(And, let's be real here, gift cards. Because I'm a college student, and I don't always have four dollars.)

/ / /

Do you have a favorite place where you enjoy meeting people? 

Cheers, 
Alicyn