Tangible Dreams

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My feet and Rattlesnake Ridge, WA

There’s something beautiful about tangibility.

Call me a romantic, but I love the feeling of feeling.

I love getting ink on my fingers while I’m thumbing through the NY Times. I love pounding down the keys of a vintage typewriter. I love running my fingers over the hand tooled leather of my favorite bag, or turning the pages of a vintage book.

There’s just something about being able to touch and feel, that makes things more real.

Yesterday, I got an acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, in France. I was excited beyond words to get the email, but I couldn’t help slightly mourning that I wouldn’t be able to rip into the letter when it arrived in the mail. That being said, I’m so extremely excited, I think I can overlook missing the experience.

And anyway, next week I’ll have a scan of the original acceptance letter, and I fully intend on running through the streets waving it like a child high on 4th of July parade candy. It shall be glorious.

Getting into the university I wanted comes with a lot of emotions – something my Norwegian roots are not used to and, frankly, have no idea how to process.

Mainly, because this is the first time I’ve really wanted to get into a university. Most of my life my parents have decided which school I would go to, and I’ve never questioned their decision-making. Even the college I went to for my BA was the same one my brother and mom graduated from.

Applying to the Université D’Orleans was the first independent choice in my education, and it feels wonderful. Think kid riding their bike without training wheels for the first time: completely thrilling, mildly terrifying and ridiculously liberating.

I’ve wanted to study abroad since I can remember. But when I was in college, it was ridiculous to even think about. Since I was on an accelerated track for graduating, there was the issue of time (I was only at the university for two years, instead of four), and there was also the huge issue of financial accessibility.

My school promised to match the tuition being spent at their campus, but since that would still have been about $40,000 (without scholarships) and with an added cost of living expenses in Europe, it was just not plausible.

So I tucked that dream away. And, honestly, I forgot about it. I forgot how much I wanted to study abroad when I was in college. How weird is that? A teenager who wants to go to school as much as possible. But every time one of my friends would announce that they were going off to whatever country they were planning on studying in, I remember being slightly ridiculously jealous.

Now, in the true nature of my life, I’m finding a roundabout way of accomplishing a dream that has unexpectedly resurfaced out of nowhere. Normality doesn’t run in my timeline.

God looks at my plans and says, “Haha. Yeah – how about this, instead?”

And the thing is, it’s always so much better than what my plans were, or could have ever been. Here I am getting ready to study at a university for an entire year, instead of only a semester. Rather than amassing more debt than I can ever pay off, I’m getting paid while I’m studying. AND I get to live with an amazing French family the whole time. Call it cliché (French word – woot!), but I feel so blessed right now.

Even though this whole process has been/is going to be filled with ups and downs, stress and hard work, laughing and crying, it’s one of those mountains that’s worth climbing in order to reach the amazing view.

Although it might not be the way I had it planned (there’ve been a few more rocks and potholes on this trail than I had anticipated), I’m learning that, sometimes, it’s the unconventional paths that reward us with the greatest experiences.

Intangible and seemingly impossible dreams can (and do) become tangible realities. Sometimes, you just have to find a different way of climbing.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ 

Isaiah 55:8-9

Dust From The Ground

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Glasgow, Scotland

What makes a life memorable? With today’s world of online clutter, award winners, inspirational people and political voices,  it’s hard to really know what impact even means, anymore.

But, a couple of days ago, I read an article about a girl who died when she was 22. She didn’t have any Nobel Peace Prizes or Olympic gold medals. What she did have, were friends who were willing to write her story after she was gone. And, as I scrolled through the piece, tears started to fill my eyes. After I was done reading, I had to stop and ask myself, “Why does this matter? I’ve never even met this person. So, why am I mourning?”

You make beautiful things out of dust.

These lyrics have been haunting me for a couple of days now. They come the band Gungor, but I don’t think I ever let them sink in, until today.

Before, when I listened to this song, I thought about the scientific realities. From dust we come, and to dust we will return.

But today, I let my heart speak for a moment. I started to think over the past couple of years. They weren’t great. With the exception of the last four months, I would go as far as to say they were probably the worst in my repertoire. Nothing seemed to work – ever. I felt like life kicked me again, and again and again, until I was broken down and bloody on the ground. Life was shit, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better. It was chaotic, it was unfair, it was overwhelming, and it was filled with pain, tears and sitting on my bed asking, “WHY?”

But now, looking back, I see that it was dust. Those things that happened, each pain filled moment, was merely dust preparing to be formed into beauty.

See, I serve a Creator who takes dirt and molds it into lives that matter. A God who raises up leaders out of the broken and the weak. When doubt fills my mind, and chaos is all I can see, I know that, through the storm, there is beauty waiting to be made. Beautiful things are rising up out of the ground.

I feel like doubt is one of the greatest killers of dreams. We doubt ourselves, so we make do with what we have, instead of pursuing what we’re called to. We look at ourselves and think, “There’s no way. I’m too [flawed, imperfect, scared, tired, messed up, broken, weak, insecure, unlovable, insignificant, unsure, inexperienced] to ever see this through. It’s not even worth trying.” And guess what? You’re right. You are. But, that’s not the point.

Regardless of beliefs, I think the creation story found in Genesis is beautiful. In it we’re told that God takes dust from the ground and forms it into man. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist – but this is significant. For every other living thing, God speaks them into existence. But for humankind, he takes them and forms them out of the dirt of the ground.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried making pottery, but let me tell you – it’s hard. Your hands get dirty, and your arms get tired. It takes hours and hours to make one pot. You sit there staring and carving, smoothing your surface and lovingly putting in each detail you desire.

We were worth God’s time. And that means something.

In life today we don’t get to see God physically making people out of dirt, but I almost wish we did. We don’t have a physical manifestation so, instead, we have to pay close attention to see the remaking of beauty from the dirt that life produces.

Because, when it comes down to it:

In order to truly understand love, you have to experience pain.

To truly appreciate the value of laughter, you have to know the heaviness of silence.

To relish the comfort of restful sleep, you have to know the anguish of tear filled nights.

It’s not that our lives are perfect which makes us matter, or important, or significant or able. It’s that our lives are poignant.

Why did that 22 year old’s life matter, when I read her story? Because, the words she left behind sparked curiosity and enlightenment in those she spoke to; she set her mind toward goals, and her hard work inspired others to do the same.

Her life wasn’t beautiful because it was spotless, it was beautiful because the ripple effects of her existence are still echoing through space and time. Her zeal for life, her passion for engaging fully with others; those were her legacy.

Those were the stories that continued to be told and retold and retold until they ended up on my laptop screen. She lived a life worth writing about.

And, even if it was through the testimony of others, she inspired me to remember that it’s not always about the prizes, the recognition and the success of our endeavors. Sometimes, beautiful things don’t come out of perfection – they come out of dust.