Being known by someone is the best and sometimes most terrifying feeling in the world. Other people knowing you so well and perfectly!!! Wow. To have someone look at you and say "Hey. I see you. I get you!" is all at once freeing and exhilarating and humbling and exposing…
Yesterday was my 27th birthday and the start of my 28th year here on earth. It was, at least as much as I can duly remember, one of my best birthdays yet (though the scavenger hunt for birthday #8 was pretty epic, I do recall.) New friends, longtime friends, younger friends, older friends, kiddo friends… my house was filled with the many faces of people whom I adore. We ate chili and red velvet cake and cooked s’mores over a fire and drank delicious seasonal drinks and taught kids how to throw darts and played with babies and laughed and listened to my favorite songs and sat outside in the brisk October night with strings of light twinkling overhead. It was relaxed and wonderful and no one made me blow out candles because I despise it and I really don’t think I stopped smiling all day.
Between the breakfast of donuts and a second breakfast of a Mama’s Boy biscuit and gifts of my favorite candies and drinks and music and flowers and everything my little heart could ever desire… I thought my heart was going to explode.
Despite all of that… the best present I received yesterday was a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to be known and loved by the Lord: for all of my messiness and craziness… I am fully known and fully loved.
“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.” Ansel Adams
We drove up 85 to the state line and headed west towards the mountains, with our only plan being to hike down Brasstown Creek Falls and see where the day took us after that.
We passed through Westminster, SC in the middle of their Apple Festival and decided to take a pit stop for some plump red galas. A girl working for a local orchard told us to swing by Chatooga Belle Farm for the best view of the mountains— promised us we would not be disappointed.
We took our apples and after the somewhat treacherous trek to 3 of the 4 falls of Brasstown (fear of death-by-falling-into-a-rock-laden-waterfall keeping us from the 4th), we headed to the farm that did indeed have a breathtaking 280 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We met a man there named Wray who told us we shouldn’t leave the area without visiting Woodall Shoals and a BBQ place called The Gathering. A couple of turns down an unmarked dirt road later and BOOM. One of the coolest places I’ve ever been.
My take-aways from this adventure are: take unplanned stops, talk to locals, and 100% go to Woodall Shoals. Also, if someone I know doesn’t get married at Chatooga Belle Farm I’m going to be upset. Also also… the Hot Sauce at The Gathering might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
I’ve been attending a lot of Going Away Parties recently. Calling them Parties seems a little mean, mostly to me, the One Who Is Left Behind. Saying goodbye to someone that you really love is really quite difficult. Saying goodbye to a whole bunch of people you love… man, it hurts.
"In the wilderness, God is killing the desires that are killing you."
Yesterday’s sermon was on Exodus 17, the famous passage of the the grumbling Israelites forgetting their rescue from 400 years of generational slavery in Egypt and the Lord’s provision for them in the desert (walking through the Red Sea, manna from heaven, etc etc.) and how they questioned whether He was truly with them or not. It’s easy to sit there, comfortable in the pew of the air conditioned church and think "Those guys were so dumb. How could they not see how God was taking care of them?"
And then I realized. I am in the wilderness. I am an Israelite. I am grumbling. I am worried. I am fearful about tomorrow. Heck, I’m fearful about today. Today, I heard the click of the door as one of my best friends left Athens for a new permanent life in Washington D.C. And she’s the just the first! Over the next few weeks, I’ll hear that proverbial click about 6 more times.
"In the wilderness, God is killing the desires that are killing you."
I thought about that quote from the sermon a lot yesterday. Killing what’s killing me. I thought about what’s killing me right now— my desire for my life to be what I want. To have friends that will stay in Athens forever with me. To be known well and know others well. To have friends and people to share life together and walk alongside and grow up with. Those are my desires, and losing them is making me miserable. But perhaps the misery is necessary.
What does it look like to trust that the wilderness might just be the thing that will save me from myself? From my idols? From this ideal life that I had planned for myself? When everything else is crumbing away into desert dust… all that’s left is the Rock that God says he will provide water from— the Rock of Christ.
I’m not sure how long I will be in this wilderness— maybe a while, and I think that’s OK. But until then… I will trust that this is for my good… for removing my expectations of life that are making me feel lonely and not good enough. For allowing me to see something even more beautiful than my little plans.
And speaking of plans… please invite me to do things as I will most likely be sitting at home watching Revenge on Netflix by myself. K thanks.
This is the first morning in a few weeks where I’ve woken up and not felt like I was simultaneously being punched in the face and dragged out from under the covers against my will.
I’ve been reaaaal tired, yo.
If I didn’t work in youth ministry, I would probably need to go to the doctor and have this exhaustion examined. But as it turns out, teenagers have a pretty profound effect on ones exhaustion meter. Who knew?
In the car last week on the way down to our high school summer beach conference, Taylor Swift’s 22 came on and I proceeded to tell the kiddos that nothing made me realize I am most definitely NOT 22 anymore quite like that song. Just listening to it made me tired and want to switch to NPR.
I took a deep, exhausted sigh and looked over at the 16 and 17-year-olds in my car, windows down, singing a the the top of their lungs. We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way… it’s miserable and magical OH YEAAAAH… and I started laughing. We’re really not so different after all, even though I’ve got a decade on them and a college degree under my belt. But in that moment I remembered what it felt like to be a teenager and have your thoughts flit between whether or not it was going to rain at the beach and whether or not God was real.
There’s a lot I don’t remember about being a teenager… probably from intentional suppression or because most days were pretty ordinary. But from what I do remember, it was this scary, wonderful time where everything seemed possible and impossible at the same time. Where I worried about AP Calculus and what it meant if this man named Jesus really did die on the cross for my sins. (Mostly I thought how it probably meant I needed to be nicer to my sister and I surely needed to pay closer attention in math class.)
I saw myself in their faces that day in the car—- windblown, excited, overly-caffeinated. I thought about 16-year-old Morgan and how different I am now… and how in 10 years, maybe these same kids will be driving a group of teenagers to the high school summer beach conference, praying they’ll learn a little more about Jesus and trying to remember what it was like to be young.
I wasn’t going to breathe a word of this story to anyone, but last night when I confessed this to my roommates as we made a late-night-spur-of-the-moment-adult-decision-run to Mickey D’s for some hot fudge sundaes… I changed my mind.
Well. Not so much as changed my mind but was convinced via EBs uncontrollable laughter and giggling pleads to “pleaaaase put this on your blog. Please please please!” Why have a blog if not for moments like this?
Towards the end of what seemed like our 3rd swing of winter, I decided I would plant a little garden. Nothing fancy: a few flowers and some herbs to see if my thumbs were indeed green. I tried various methods of planting: a few from just placing the plants, a few from bulbs, a few from tiny seeds themselves.
The plants that were already growing seemed to be doing fine (Easy. Check.) Even the plants from the bulbs sprouted quickly and started shooting up. But the flowers from the seeds I wasn’t so sure about.
They were sure growing fast, but didn’t really resemble what I thought the flowers were going to look like: I had planted zinnia seeds, and these didn’t look like zinnia stems. But I pressed on, undeterred by the strange appearance of these “zinnias.”
I was diligent. So diligent, ya’ll, I can’t express it. I bought the right soil. I watered them in correct amounts, at the right time of day. I even bought some Miracle Grow pellets! In my mind I thought “this is what people with pets must feel like—” Me and my plants. I felt so proud.
A month or so goes by. The plants keep on keepin’ on… and my skepticism about the “zinnias” continues to grow (pun most definitely intended.) albeit silently inside my head.
The roomies even make comments about how quickly the “zinnias” are growing and I too am outwardly impressed with their progress. Inside I’m thinking “these really don’t look like zinnias…” but I continued to water them and check on them and mentally mark their progress.
A few days ago, the “zinnia” buds bloomed.
Not zinnias. I don’t know what I was expecting, honestly, but they were most definitely not zinnias. In a moment of sheer horror, I realize that these giant “zinnias” I’ve been growing and tending and nurturing in my front yard are indeed weeds.
Countless people over many weeks have passed by our house (as it’s on a popular street for walking dogs/letting dogs poop on the train tracks) and there I was, sitting on the stoop, so proud of my giant plants that were in fact growing like weeds. Because they were weeds.
When I confessed to my roomies as we were enroute to hot fudge sundaes… uncontrollable laughter arose—- I had been so careful! So loving! So disciplined about watering and planting and— hilariously— weeding the flower beds that the fact that I was actually growingweeds was too much to bear!
"Isn’t that just how we are, though? We think we’re growing all this good stuff… all these flowers… and we’re really just growing weeds."EB, in her profound laughter, was right. We are just like this. I kept thinking about all the other things in my life that I treat this way… thinking I’m doing something good and producing something great and beautiful when really it’s just weeds. Even when I suspected something was wrong, I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what I was doing, or what a zinnia should really look like, even though I googled it about 800 times. I was so convinced that somehow that giant weed would turn into the beautiful flowers I thought I was planting. There was even a moment a couple of weeks ago when I knew it was a weed… and I kept on watering it anyway because I didn’t want to fail. I thought I’d rather have weeds than nothing at all.
We scarfed down our Sundaes and EB made me promise to take a picture of the “zinnias” before I pulled them up, which I did promptly as soon as the sun came up this morning.
Sometimes you need an EB in your life to point out the hilariousness of the facades you are trying to keep up… no matter what they are: your own physical appearance, wealth, material possessions, friends, blog followers, adoration of others… On the surface, it was just a weed pretending to be a flower and me totally going along with the weed’s ridiculousness. But often it’s a deeper problem… one that must be ripped out from the roots and not planted or tended or nurtured again.
This has been a day in the life of Morgangster.
EDIT: Not a zucchini. Similar flower, but the stem is totally different/no zucchini fruit to be found… could be a squash of somesort though. (My mom grew zucchini/cucumbers etc. and this is similar, yes, but not the same.) Plus… not a zinnia. And that’s what I planted. So either way there was a problem aka WEEDS and it was taking over/smothering all my other plants in the flower bed :)
I haven’t posted much since I started my new job (long story short: I love it!) because I’ve been so busy. The good kind of busy where you’re equally happy and tired at the end of the day.
Last week on my day off, I went to the Botanical Gardens (which I affectionately call The Botans)and drank Grapefruit San Pellegrino amongst the flowers. Tomorrow I’m headed to visit my grandmother in Atlanta and drink Grapefruit San Pellegrino with her. It’s an exciting life I lead.
If you think about it, call/write/email/visit your grandparents soon. I’m realizing now how crazy it is that we live so close to each other and I don’t often get down to see her. Life is busy, for sure, but some things are more important— more than even flowers or gardens or Grapefruit San Pellegrino (though it delicious and I am obviously obsessed.)
That is the face of someone who has their last day of work tomorrow.
In my new job, I’ll be continuing my role as a graphic designer + some other extra special duties that involve hanging out with my favorite teenagers and talking to them about Jesus. It’s literally a perfect combination that doesn’t make sense outside of divine intervention.
Full Job/Life/Excitement Update next week, but until then, enjoy looking at this cartooned version of my face. HOLLER HOLLER HOLLER.
Life in the Classic City is good. It’s always good. But especially lately (see above :) .
Spring finally decided to show up and my pasty white skin has started to look a little more alive. You can no longer see the veins through my translucent skin! JK. But seriously.
Everyone’s always talking about spring as a time for renewal: new buds on the trees, out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new-spring-cleaning, fresh sunburns, long sunny days, the surge of vitamin d in the body…
I’m always excited for spring and all it’s newness. But there’s a lot of scary newness/change on the horizon too… many of my friends are leaving Athens after this summer—- new jobs in DC and internships in Colorado, folks headed to the Big City and folks just moving on…
And so with all this freshness is a sense of sadness for me too. This place that I love so much is facing so much change. I am facing so much change.
It’s a little strange to be staying in the same place when so much is going to be different around me… but I’m excited to see where this crazy road of life is leading…
The thing about having something you’re supposed to do every week (grocery shopping, laundry, exercising) is that sometimes, you just don’t do it. (I think that’s why they call that “supposed to do.”) The Friday Mixtape is a little less dire than those other 3 (I see you, piles and piles of laundry I have been stepping over for days on end. I see you. I see you.) but sometimes, more important things call your name. Like going to get one of your best friends all married-up and stuff.
A & D have a particularly lovely story, having met as a bridesmaid and groomsman at another of our friends’ wedding a year and a half ago. SO CUTE am I right?
This group of friends that gathered this weekend to celebrate is a particular kind of wonderful: we met at camp as strange little children and somehow, despite time and changing and not living in the same cities or going to the same schools… we grew up and we did it together. There is a rare quality amongst us that only comes from having seen how far we’ve all come: from our summers of braided hair and sunburned skin in the North Carolina mountains to being grown-ups with college degrees and jobs and houses and now, husbands.
So even though it’s late… it was for a good reason. Here’s the mix!
I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin.
And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin.
I love movies about “The Big Moment” – the game or the performance or the wedding day or the record deal, the stories that split time with that key event, and everything is reframed, before it and after it, because it has changed everything. I have always wanted this movie-worthy event, something that will change everything and grab me out of this waiting game into the whirlwind in front of me. I cry and cry at these movies, because I am still waiting for my own big moment. I had visions of life as an adventure, a thing to be celebrated and experienced, but all I was doing was going to work and coming home, and that wasn’t what it looked like in the movies.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what was happening while I was busy waiting for my big moment. I was ready for it and believed that the rest of my life would fade into the background, and that my big moment would carry me through life like a lifeboat.
The Big Moment, unfortunately, is an urban myth. Some people have them, in a sense, when they win the Heisman or become the next American Idol. But even that football player or that singer is living a life made up of more than that one moment. Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearl. It takes so much time, and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies.
But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movie-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of use will ever experience.
My little brother moved to California a few weeks ago (Yes. THAT California. ALL the way across the country. Is someone cutting onions? My eyes are watering…) and though it’s strange not to have him right down the road in Athens, I am inexpressibly proud of him for doing something so brave. I could never have done what he did, and I want him (and you) to know that you’ll survive these cross-country moves and hard times o’ growing up. You will.
And I think that’s the ultimate lesson here. No one really tells you how hard Becoming An Adult is. Or, they do, and you’re too busy living your awesome collegiate years to hear those old, wise folks trying to speak to you. But somehow, just KNOWING that it’s going to be hard makes it easier to deal with. Like getting a shot at the doctor’s office and the nurse warns you it “might pinch a little bit.” Sure, it hurts like hell and you’re not sure where she got her idea of “pinching a little bit” unless she spent time wrangling lobsters before nursing school and therefor has a completely different frame of reference for pain… but you’re thankful you at least knew it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and butterflies. You slap a bandaid on and go about your day, thankful that now you won’t get the flu and have to hug the toilet for a few days like the rest of your friends.
But I digress.
Let the record stand that I am telling you IT WILL BE DIFFICULT. But it won’t last forever. Soon, you’ll figure out how to make it through the workday without craving a nap. You’ll make friends, you’ll enjoy having money to spend on trips to visit your old friends, and being in bed at a reasonable time not only sounds appealing but it will be a habit. You’ll get to do so many cool things with your homework-free hours. You. Can. Do. It. And it’s actually pretty nice. It just takes a few bags of Tostitos and a Netflix account.
If you’re like me and just want to know that you are normal and everyone feels this way… check out some of my choice moments of these funfun years of Growing Up and Figuring It All Out.
Today is my Grandmom’s birthday- 12-12 in 2012. We call this her Super Golden Birthday!
When I think about my cool G-mom, I think about the times spent running up and down the stairs in their big 3-story house, playing baseball in the expansive backyard and climbing the old fireplace where another house once stood, and of course eating her life-changing French Toast at the corner table in the kitchen.
My love of canoeing, of reading, of adventuring, of writing, of photography, of music and of riddles and crossword puzzles and art and building things and solving puzzles and shooting guns and climbing trees and not being afraid of things like bats and snakes and spiders… all of that can be traced back to my Grandparents. (Sadly, no love for Chemistry or Calculus for me, but we can’t win ‘em all.)
Happy Birthday, Grandmom. I’m thankful for everything you’ve shown and taught me over the years and for giving me my cool Mama and for making, quite literally, the best French Toast on the planet. I love you!
I didn’t know what this word meant until this weekend. Not in some metaphorical way… like “I didn’t know what Love was until I met you” sort of thing. I literally had never heard of it.
Which is strange (even though it’s Hebrew) considering I have experienced it so many countless times. I am often blown away by new words… words that until the moment of hearing, I only knew of their meaning, not the name. Words like feuille-morte, crepuscular rays, petrichor. (Look those up if you don’t know them!) Hesed is one of the most beautiful examples of that.
I’ve studied the book of Ruth before, but only in the context of Relationships and Boys and Waiting For a Boaz Kind of Man. Never in the context of Hesed. Sunday morning at Adult Sunday School, studying Ruth, I learned the word I’ve spent my life discovering.
Hesed is a quality that moves someone to act for the benefit of someone else without considering “what’s in it for me?”
The word hesed is usually translated “kindness” or “lovingkindness.” Hesed is difficult to translate because it stands for a cluster of ideas—love, mercy, grace, kindness. It wraps up in itself all the positive attributes of God. Hesed is one of the Lord’s most treasured characteristics.
But it is not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself. It is steadfast, strong, and good.
By all accounts, the last few weeks have been some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time— wonderful birthday, crazy Thanksgiving with the family, a youth mountain retreat with some of my favorite teenagers, unbelievable Sufjan concert, Georgia Football, supper club, community group, Halloween, fall leaves, hot beverages, pumpkin spice everything… but understanding this word is maybe the best.
God’s act of hesed leads us in a chain of hesed for others: We love because He first loved us. If I can remember one thing from this season of my life, I want it to be that.
Last week my dad and I went to Boston for a chilly, history-filled vacation. We mapped out the best restaurants and pubs, which museums and historical sites we wanted to see, the highest views of the city and the lesser-known local gems of the bustling and cobblestoned streets of Beantown. We saw Fenway and the Freedom Trail, ate famous pastries and freshly plucked oysters, rode the lines of the T and ducked into coffee shops for warmth. Day 1 and I was already exhausted, but the good kind where you could probably fall asleep with your shoes on and wake up feeling like you didn’t move.
Vacations are a strange thing. You enter into a world that is completely not your own for an abbreviated amount of time in order to experience all the great things that place has to offer. But amidst the heaps of local food and brews, towering edifices and iron statues… people live and work and walk and move past you like you don’t exist. You’re just there briefly, soaking in the cultural flair for a weekend or so and then… you’re gone. The only evidence that you were actually there is a photo or a t-shirt or chapped lips.
I always wonder about the people I see when I’m on vacation, the locals who ride the trains not for the sport of people watching but for commute. The folks who serve the heaping mounds of oysters and hold the door open for you at the museum. I am equally as fascinated by the history of Boston as I am with the Irish woman who served us Guinness at Mr. Dooley’s Pub. Vacation is information and sensory overload in the best way possible.
Vacation time is good for you, not just for getting out of the office or experiencing something new… but it’s good for your soul to see the world. I guess I like vacation for the same reason I like people: always something new to discover that makes life that much richer. I’m never going to know about the man playing the fiddle that looked like a pony-tailed Irish version of my pastor, but I will have known for just one moment in time that he exists on this earth and has purpose and a story…and I think for that, I am made all the better.
Fall has been quite delightful here in the Pretty Little City. There has been an abundance of boot wearing, pumpkin flavored food eating, and bonfirey goodness. But tomorrow… I head to another fun city. The City on the Hill. Beantown. Boston.
Tomorrow I embark on an adventure with my Dad to the land of Red Sox Fans and Lots of College Students. I cannot wait. We plan on eating our way through the city, hitting up museums and historical sites along the way and people watching galore. I am also hoping to visit the Dunkin Donuts where Matt Damon ‘How-Do-You-Like-Them-Apples’-ed Scott William Winters in Good Will Hunting's best scene. (My boy's wicked smaht.) It's the little things in life that really get me excited.