Wednesday, October 31, 2012

significant key changes

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?"
--C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

Recently, one of my friends has been letting her overweening nostalgia spill all over Facebook, as she comments on pictures, makes note of "this time last year"s, and has been both joyfully and melancholically mulling over the passage of time. Although we tease her, I admit that I do the same thing. I'm always making little notes in my mental calendar: this was the day last year when x happened; or it was over a year ago I was dealing with y; or z conversation only happened at the beginning of October, and look how fast the time has gone. 

Because October is my favorite month, I have very high hopes as we enter high autumn. The beginning of the month is absolutely radiant and beautifully incandescent. October is the months of wild windstorms, Indian Summers, and the strange and eerily magical transition from glorious fall weather to the chill and bitter wetness of November. 

Here are two things about October (and life) that never cease to amaze me:
the unexpectedness of the adventure
and the way that pain and joy connect together on this wonderful [albeit sometimes difficult] journey.

As I sat on one of my favorite God quad benches with my friend, feeding squirrels, I marveled at how unexpected and miraculous this particular moment was. As the squirrels climbed up on our shoes and on the bench next to us, the soft scratch of their little paws on my jeans filled me with joy.

Squirrels are little in-breakings of grace into each and every day. I always say (well, I never say this mantra out loud. This is one of those best-be-kept-to-oneself-mantras. Which is why I'm posting about it on my blog, I guess. Whoops.), the number one secret to being a happy person is to never be too busy to greet a squirrel.
It's true.

I was walking back to my dorm in a grey mood. My heart felt heavy, my mouth dry, and there was a dull throbbing pain all over me. I would have been crying, except 90% of my tears had been used up, and the other 10% had turned into snot and was stuffing up my sinuses. But in the middle of this giant wave of pain, I saw a little squirrel scamper out of the bushes by my dorm. So I took the Poptart out of my pocket (don't you keep Poptarts in your pocket?), and sat down and fed the little snooker.

He was a very bold young chap, and just skipped right up to me, grasped my hand with his two little paws, and took the pieces of Poptart right out of my hand. 

Although the sun was still hidden behind banks of gray clouds, my face was lit up with a smile for the first time that day.

October is like a backwards polaroid picture.

Polaroid pictures are created when the strange grey chemical-y photo paper is shaken up, and the color and the image emerge from it the murky grey. Life is about diving into the grey and shaking things up, shaking. Watching. Waiting. Seeing change happen right before your eyes. Watch as the grey fades away to reveal hues of happiness and joy swirled with hints of melancholy, all mixed all together

Although October begins with color and fades into the grey of November, really all the grey is this: the preparation for another picture to be made. 

As I channel my own little stream of nostalgia, I look back over all the key changes of October, and marvel at the unexpectedness of them all. The late night conversations with tears, and the late night stargazing with smiles and joy, the frolicking in leaves, the laughter with friends. The new jokes created, the new memories made, challenges overcome, adventures embarked on, new beauties discovered, new lessons learned.
The best birthday I could ever receive is simply the month of October.

But the second best gift was the birthday card from my dad.
I read it and re-read it and read it again. And my fingertips traced over the sparkly candles decorating the front of the card. 

One of the candles had the word faithfulness written on it.

I may not be many things, but I know with a conviction that runs through my heart and down to my very toes that I am the most faithful of humans. Once a creature worms their way into my heart: be it a squirrel, a brother, or a dear friend of the heart, I stay true to them with all the faithfulness I can muster.
This ability to hold on can often lead me to grasp too tightly. And when my fists are clenched so tightly around what I treasure, then all the anger and jealousy that has lain hidden in my soul rises up to the surface.
And I wondered how you can remain true to someone without keeping hold of the anger and he hurt that proves you love them, proves that you're not bailing out on them, proves you're in it for the long haul?

But the faithfulness that was written on my dad's card to me was a deeper sort of faithfulness. A faithfulness that can carry pain but in the midst of it find reasons to smile. That can rejoice, not despite of the pain or inspite of it, but within it and because of it and through it. A faithfulness that keeps company with joy, peace, patience, and gentleness rather than anger, bitterness and sadness. A faithfulness that allows sorrow to deepen the depth of the joy, but does not allow sorrow to stifle the joy.

There is no going back. There is only being made new. 
When looking back with joyful nostalgia on all the moments and memories that belonged to October, there's also a great sadness that arrives when the realization hits home that we can never go back to all of those particular happinesses.

 Once you shake the polaroid picture, you can't un-shake it. 
To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we're all barreling into the future at the horrifyingly swift rate of 60 minutes per hour. Sometimes I just want to rewind back to that perfect moment in the perfect spot; or to that moment of dancing for sheer child-like joy; or that untainted conversation, with no trace of bitterness, sadness or anger. But I guess you can't rewind life, or regress back to what you used to be. There is only further up and further in.

So here I stand: unafraid of the future. 
With a friendly little squirrel or two, one can find the warmth of joy even in the coldest Novembers.

She laughs with no fear of the future, for her hope is in Me.
--Proverbs 31:25

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