Unfinished Thankfulness…

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I have not forgotten my commitment of November Thankfulness. Due to final exams I had to bow out and concentrate on studying rather than getting distracted with social media leaving 14 days in November full of unthankfulness (at least officially.) And, since Christmas has seemed to hang in suspension, I’m still wrapping up the Thanksgiving feeling.

So here goes…14 things. Warning: long post. You’re welcome to skim to a heading that catches your interest.

1. Sleep. 

During finals weeks, I found myself exhausted, and yet, when I climbed into bed, I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I had unfinished business, like I couldn’t go to sleep because I hadn’t cemented enough in my brain yet. Multiply that and compound it across ten days.

Yes, sleep is a glorious thing. That blessed unconsciousness where you relax leaving your troubles and cares for God to hold while your body resets. You assimilate what you learned, reprogramming for future events. You heal yourself from any bumps bruises or strenuous workouts. Plus, there is the dreaming part. I like going on unannounced crazy adventures that are incredibly life like. Way cool.

2. That aching feeling you get when you say goodbye. 

Over Thanksgiving break I went home to Statesville. It happened to coincide with my family’s last week there, and our last Sunday there. We started going to Grace Alliance Fellowship 16 years ago, I was 1o. Pastor Wall, and the people of that small fellowship were influential in forming the way I view God and life.  They talked to me about how to live, but they showed me. That last Sunday, Pastor Wall looked at our family, and, as he often does, brought up a question I’ve often thought of, but haven’t quite thought out.

Why is it that we get that aching feeling when we say goodbye? Why is there that pain of separation?

His answer? Because when we love one another it binds us together, so that when we have to leave, its actually tearing apart something that’s been bound up. (Law students reading this please, please get your brains out of Civil Procedure…you’re on break.) When we follow the “one-anothers” that Christ commanded, it works to form a bonded body of Christ…so that’s why it hurts.

That explains why it was hard to leave my old job too. Narelle, Kristi, Joanie…my friends…my sisters in Christ. Tough to leave that.

So, yes, I’m grateful for that aching feeling I have about separating and going on to a new chapter in life, that ache means that we love one another. Although it’s bittersweet, it’s precious and dear.


3. Mousetraps

As I sat upstairs in the fortress of solitude (formerly the writing garret ala Little Women), studying my brains out, I heard rustling noises behind the wood paneling. LOUD rustling noises. I’m easily distracted, so I didn’t appreciate it. Since grandma, dad, and mom lived down stairs predominantly (I was the only person who spent hours on end up there) they hadn’t been up patrolling for mice. Well, I made my peace with it and studied through. That is, until the paneling started to move. One board quivered. And quivered. And quivered. All I could do was sit in stone cold disbelief, unwilling to believe what I saw with my own two eyes. The board popped out from the wall and a beady-eyed, grayish, ugly mouse with the thinnest most naked and unbelievably disgusting tail I’d ever seen emerged from the dark depths of the netherworld beyond the paneling.

I did not scream.

But I did pull my feet up on top of the chair, and randomly stressed about how quickly a mouse can climb chair legs. And reader, despite my love of Jerry Mouse, and Stuart Little, and that little mouse in the Tale of Despereaux (I forget his name, bless me,) I actually set two vicious-minded traps and slew two mice during that week. I call them Romeo and Juliet.

But, I had to study.

4. Unconditional love

When I think of unconditional love, I think of my mother. No matter how selfish or rude or fussy I am, my mother loves me fiercely through it all. I don’t deserve the kind of love she gives. She’s always willing to forgive. Always behind me. Always ready to encourage me and cheer me on to the goal I’m striving toward. She’s the one who’s taught me the most about loving someone even after they’ve hurt you. All of this came back to me when I saw the decorated basket full of goodies and my favorite variety of apples for me to eat up in the fortress of solitude. That food spoke. It said, “Hi Lily-Bea! Welcome home! Your mother loves you incredibly, unconditionally, and she wants to help you study as happily as possible!”

I’m looking forward to spending lots of quality time with her over the break. :-)

5. Reddi Whip

Now, as you may recall, the parents and grandma were BUSY packing up the house for the move. Thus, a traditional thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the fixings was DEFINITELY out of the equation. Thankfully, my former piano teacher and good friend, Mrs. Anderson invited us to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Thus, I abandoned the books for a few hours and enjoyed the company of some humans over a luscious feast of amazing food. But, the best part was when my adopted-for-the-evening-grandpa offered to make coffee. He couldn’t find any cream, but saved the day by proudly producing a can of Reddi-whip for me to liberally dispense on top of my steaming hot beverage.

It was the best coffee I’d ever tasted. 😉

6. Little Brother(s)

Now, you all know that I absolutely adore Josh. We are two peas from the same pod. But, it seems that I also have a crop of adopted little brothers back home. It was good to be with them again. It was so much fun that I even cut up with them in Sunday School. Steve Johnson gave us a look, one of THOSE looks. “Lily-Bea, they are quiet, when you’re not around!”

No defense. I had to give my *angelic face shrug* in response to that.

Aside from the cutting up, I enjoyed talking with them about the tough things going on in their lives too. I enjoy being their “big sis” and I’m rooting for all of them! I’m grateful for the way they find the humor in life…and I’m grateful that they willingly hop to and clean up the messes I make by being my clumsy self without giving me tooo much grief about it. Bless you, fellas!

7. My classmates

My former boss Seth told me that I’d be just fine in law school when I found some people to share my pain. He was right. Law school became way more fun as soon as I became friends with this fabulous group of girls. They are so smart and committed to God. They inspire me to do my best, point out things I’ve forgotten, challenge me to work through my thinly-reasoned thoughts, and encourage me to persevere. I never faced a challenge like this before, so, it stands to reason that I’ve never had friends like this before. I’m grateful for them.

8. Music

God is amazing. Only God could create something like music. I love how it can reach into your soul and connect with you on a deep level. I love that musicians can communicate their emotions, ideas, and even a message through their music, even without lyrics. I like that best. When I understand what the musician is saying to me without a word being spoken. I can’t wait to hear the music of heaven. Notably, it was a great help to turn up some epic tracks to motivate me through the dark days of contracts. There is this one motivational video that I kept repeating…don’t know if I’d have gotten through without it. So, yes, I’m grateful for the versatile gift of music. There’s nothing in this world is quite like it.

9. Whiteboards

Around the end of October, I realized I had barely used the humongous over-sized whiteboard hanging on my wall. I was too busy reading and typing up case briefs. I felt guilty about that. Guilt no more! I spent hours and hours in front of my white board over the last two weeks, writing and rewriting rules. I love whiteboards because they save paper, and saving paper saves trees, and I love trees. On another note, the squeaky marker sound is fun. Further, I can draw goofy things on the white board and then erase the evidence. What’s not to love? It’s a forgiving playground for the mind.

10. Analysis–focus

I never thought I’d be grateful for analysis. It’s kind of clunky and redundant. That said, I’ve grown to appreciate it. I’ve always been a girl to try and make things as stream lined as possible. Conclusions were fine by me. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that by failing to provide the reasoning for my conclusions, I’m doing a disservice to the people around me. I’m asking them to rely on what I said, only because I said it. In many ways, it’s more respectful and more intellectually honest to provide reasons behind my conclusions to allow others the freedom to agree or disagree with me.

It’s also taught me a lot about focus. I tend to see the world as very interconnected. I can connect abstract ideas quickly with little thought to the actual process. This makes it challenging to stay inside a little mental box containing a rule with application to a set of facts. But, in practicing this kind of controlled focus, it’s made me a more balanced person. I can honestly say now that I’m able to hone in on a set of words and analyze through their implications in a whole different way then before  I started law school. It’s incredible. I’m so grateful for the opportunity God has given be to be stretched like that.

11. Playtime

The other day I was thinking about all the backyard games I used to play when I was a kid. Cowboys and Indians. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Cops and robbers. Rescue-the-Princess-from-the-Evil-Scalawag (ok that’s not an official game, but I bet you played it too.) I remember acting like we were Native American Indians and building teepees and scavenging for “food” and “medicine.”

Strange that those days are so far behind me.

Sometimes I get glimpses of the glory days when I’m called upon to watch some group of unassuming kids. They think they’re going to be plunked in front of a movie, or they’ll be subjected to playing a board game they’ve play fourteen times before. Hardly.

Kids have the most fun because they’re not afraid to use their imaginations in play time (unless it’s been wiped clean by a brain washing alien technology called electronics.) I love playing with kids who haven’t lost the ability to play, like Andy in Toy Story, so I always give kids the option of losing the constraints of someone else’s version of play and exploring their own fun. I’m grateful that my parents fostered this in me, and let me go play outside as often as they could (not as much as I wanted, but as much as was good for me.) :-)

It helps you to develop a sense of humor. To work out moral dilemmas with your playmates. To learn sportsmanship. To learn courage. To learn bravery.  It’s all of this and a good work out too.

12. Surrender

I’m grateful that in the hardest, most complex moments of life, it often comes down to a simple choice: surrender. Give up pride. Give up control. Give up the fear. Just melt into the arms of Jesus. That’s all. Surrender. I’m so grateful for this one truth, and the deep peace it brings. Pride and the Spirit of God have trouble being in the same place. Pride is naturally opposed to God and everything He stands for. But, it’s an integral part of my sin nature and it fights God’s plan for me…tooth and nail. It fights day in and day out. That’s why surrender, or humility, is so important. In order to live in peace, I must surrender, almost moment-by-moment, laying my life and my will at the feet of Jesus. And, when I put myself in His hands and I ask Him, “so, what are we doing today, Lord?” those are invariably the best days of my life.

13.  Words

I had this “zoning out” moment in front of my white board. I don’t know how many hours I’d been there, but suddenly, I stopped seeing the words I was writing. I only saw the individual letters. The E, the X, another E…whoa. These little characters. I use so many of them. But, oh my…they are amazing. These little characters placed next to each other mean things. They transform ideas into something physical that can be seen, comprehended, and appreciated. They have the power when put together just so to influence world leaders! They are like little parts that form complex components. The mechanics of the written language just totally blew me away.

Further…when you must memorize hundreds of rules, your mind gets into a groove. I began to apply things I learned from piano theory to the chunks of written texts. The sentences had key words and phrases that acted like chords, anchors for the rest of the filler words. As long as those filler words were in the same “key,” the pattern usually came out okay. See…words are so cool.

I know it was a sad, sleep deprived moment, but if you think for just one second what the world would be like without being able to read and write…you’ll understand the moment. I’m grateful for these little characters in the alphabet. I love each and every one of them. 😀

14. Christmas

Okay. Christmas. Can I tell you a secret? You deserve to know a secret for reading all the way to the end of this epic-long post. Here it is…I think Easter should be the bigger holiday. I can get into the Easter Spirit (if there is such a thing) much easier. That said, there is a very profound meaning to Christmas that commands my awe and gratitude.

Yes, Jesus coming to earth in human form was…beyond mind blowing. But, ever since I really began to ponder the meaning behind Christmas, the more I feel like it was a moment of utter, broken, humility. God as a baby. Babies are helpless. For the first time, God the Son was utterly dependent on human beings. There’s something deep inside me that recoils at this. I don’t have words to describe how incomprehensible it is that the God who formed the galaxies, who breathed life into dust to make man, who orchestrated the seasons, who masterminded the great story of man in the space of time here on earth, actually became one of us. It doesn’t seem fitting. It doesn’t seem right. It almost makes me want to cry. Sometimes I do.

Yet, that is God’s way. That is why I find Christmas attractive. Professor Lucas said earlier in the semester–Christ came as the servant of all. If we are servant’s of Christ, what on earth is there to be puffed up about?

God’s very nature is to give, to love, to abandon glitz and glamour, to reach out to people where they are. To cross the great divide between relationships, to mend, and to heal. He lowered Himself as low as He possibly could to do it.

That is what Christmas means to me. It means Christ is my example. Christmas is my chance to not insist on having things the way they “should be” (a fine palace for the King of Kings rather than a manger in a stable) but to accept what is, and to reach outside myself to love other people–even and especially the hard ones to love.

I’m grateful for Christ’s incredible act. For his determination to repair the relationship lost in Eden no matter the cost.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

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