Dandelion People

“Honey, those aren’t flowers.” I remember hearing those words as a kid and looking at my mother in complete disbelief. But they look so pretty,I thought in my preschool mind. How could any flower be ugly? The tiny little yellow petals, the stem that was gooey when you split it open, the way that you could make brilliant wishes on them – it all left me in awe. Bouquet after bouquet, I didn’t care that they weren’t flowers.

 

I grew up in a field of dandelions and I always thought they were beautiful.
 
At some point, I became timid in my regard for dandelions. “They’re weeds,” I was so often told and would repeat to my little ignorant friends – or mention in awe to the others that did not know. “Dandelions are not beautiful.” That’s what everyone said. That’s what everyone seems to believe. That’s something that I’m not so sure about anymore.
It’s not the childhood essence of a bouquet of dandelions that makes them beautiful – though the look of pride in a child’s eyes when they hand you the little weeds is completely wonderful – no, it’s the fact that it’s simply what they are in the moment. Dandelions die and spread quickly, therefore, we see them as a pest. We’re told not to blow on them or the whole yard will be full of pests. We focus on the annoyance rather than looking for the simple loveliness.
How often do we treat people like dandelions?

 

When there are people who seem rather shabby in comparison, do we write them off? Do we focus on the fact that they aren’t smart or attractive or are just plain annoying? Do we try to avoid the unpleasantness, whispering quietly about the fact that this person has little worth to us? Do we nervously look around when we do delight in someone that others see no worth in, fearful of the opinions of the roses if we praise a dandelion?
Looking around, that’s the impression that I get. We fail to look at people in a way that values them and gives them worth. A person’s intrinsic worth is not connected to our opinion of them – it’s connected to the fact that they are something beautiful, if the rest of the world sees it or not, we need to see it. People. No matter how dumb, ugly, or undesirable – God has given them life for a reason. He has given them a soul that needs to be loved. He has given them a beauty. He has given us the challenge and the decision: do we ignore and avoid them like the rest of the world or do we look at them for their worth, beauty, and unseen loveliness?

Temporary Brokenness

They lied. They’ve been telling you for years that you are alone. That you are different than the rest of this world. That no one else understands. That no one else cares. That you are the only one who is broken.But you know what? I’m broken too. Pull up the neighboring window of your favorite blog – they’re broken too. Your pastor? Broken. Parents? Broken. Boyfriend or Husband? Broken. Best friend? Broken.

We are a broken people. We are a people that is searching for wholeness and completion. We are restless souls that experience pain. And we have no power to fix this.

The more that we try to pick up those broken shards of glass and shove them together, the more that their jagged edges cut into our palms, causing us to feel pain deeper than just letting it be. We’re like toddlers who’ve broken the vase and think they can put it back together by themselves. We need help.

 “The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:2-3

The power does not rest in us. We are weak and fragile. But the God that created this world perfect, He knows how to restore it. He knows how to restore our hearts. He’ll gently pick up the pieces that have fallen and reshape them into what they were meant to look like. If wont be perfect yet, the environment isn’t right, but there’s a promise that’s grand. A promise that He will make us perfect in the end. That when we cling to Him as our only hope for wholeness, that he’ll make us whole when we stand before him – face to face.In Him, brokenness will not last forever. That’s glorious.

Make People a Priority

Sometimes, there are simply too many things going on in your mind to figure out what to think, what to say, or what to do. Instead of bombarding you with everything that’s on my little exploding mind – I’ll give you the biggest lesson on my heart right now.

 Make People a Priority.

In 20 years, I wont remember the B that I got on a quiz or even in a class.

In 20 years, I wont care about the funny meme that I saw on Facebook.

In 20 years, so many things just wont matter.

But – the time spent with people is what will be remembered.

I’ll remember praying under the trees in the summer of 2010 with my friends.

I’ll remember the one-on-ones with my camp girls and when they wrote me and the other counselor a rap.

I’ll remember choir and orchestra and becoming a family with those people.

I’ll remember Fall Retreat conversations with my pastor, youth leaders, and friends.

I’ll remember the trivial moments at college. The laughing about misunderstanding the “safety zone” and after class conversations with friends.

These are the things that matter. The opportunities that come along all the time. Sometimes, they are so easy to pass up. Tonight for example is a basket ball game in my town. Two of my dear, dear friends from another school are playing and it’d be really easy to say that I have homework (which I do) and just stay home. Yet – in light of everything, I know that coming out and supporting my boys will mean a lot more than cuddling with my astronomy textbook.

I want to start living differently.

I want to take every opportunity that I have. I want to stop using the excuse of being busy while I browse aimlessly on Pinterest. I want to stop using “I” in so many sentences. I want my life to be “you” focused. You should feel loved. You should feel special. You should be invested in. And I am going to play a part in that. And I want this all to take root in the fact that God loved me and I have enough love left over to give it to you.

Austin – Today and Regrets

Today, I face a lot of regrets.

Austin Gillen passed away this morning at age 16 from heart failure due to muscular dystrophy that he’s had since birth. He was a quiet boy and in the two years that I’ve known him, I’ve only had moments of making it past his outer shell. His mother Lynne is someone I’ve considered an artistic kindred spirit, but time with Austin has mostly been small talk.

There’s been lots of small talk. Every day in the halls I’d say hi to him – after awhile, he started to say hi back. I felt accomplished. Once when at their house to photograph his older brother’s senior pictures, I went and talked to him about school for awhile, asking him questions about the homework and the teachers that I’d had just the year before. I think that was the longest conversation we’d ever had.

We went to the same church and youth group. His mom brought him to youth group in Embarrass – his dad brought him to church at Cross Hill. On a week he was feeling well, I would see him twice, not counting times in the hall at school. I would talk to him, but it never went past small talk. I always thought that I had time to break through his shell. I knew there was an amazing person inside, but I couldn’t get to it.

I don’t think I tried hard enough. Lynne always was welcoming and I could have just gone over and played video games with him at any point in the last year. Just last week at the potluck at church, I could have just gone and sat with Austin during the meal. In my mind, these times I was too busy. But now? I’d do anything to get those chances back. I’d do anything to have no regrets when it comes to my time with him. I have no more time to get to know him.

It was only Wednesday that I was at youth group and got the call from my dad who told me to make sure Pastor Marlin knew that Austin was headed to Duluth. My heart pounded as I ran upstairs to the prayer room and waited to be able to tell him the pressing news. He already knew – which wasn’t surprising since he’d been pastoring Lynne and the boys for years. That night, we prayed for Austin and that God’s will would be done.

On facebook, I challenged people to pray for him the way that people prayed for the hockey player from southern MN that was injured. Today – people are posting “rip”s all over facebook – but not many were willing to pray for him while he laid in the hospital.

Yesterday, one of my youth leaders called to let me know that things weren’t looking good and to make sure to email and facebook him ASAP. A few minutes later, my friend Luke called asking if I wanted to go to Duluth with a few of them to see Austin. I knew that I had to go. I knew that if I didn’t go it would always be a regret.

Missing class to go to visit Austin in Duluth yesterday was one of the best decisions of my life. Seeing him there broke my heart as I watched his heart on the fine lines of the monitors. But I wouldn’t trade those last 5 minutes with him for the world.

Today I have many regrets when it comes to never having another chance to get to know Austin.

Today I have no regrets about my choice yesterday. When I got the call from the youth leader that went to Duluth with a group of us yesterday, I was so relieved that I had that one last chance to see him and I TOOK IT. If I would have said I was too busy or that I’d do it the next day, it’d simply be added to the list of regrets.

So here’s to Austin – the boy with the big heart who I know for a fact is running like crazy in heaven today. No more being confined by his wheelchair. No more back surgery and pain. Only healing. He’s home.

I’m so happy for him – it’s all of us here that’s the hard part. It’s thinking of the pain of Lynne, Tim, and Everett. It’s thinking of the pain that the churches and youth group is going through. It’s knowing that there are so many people out there that will always feel regret because they never truly got to know him.

 

*picture from Waren Eggebraaten. Fall retreat 2011.

Post-it Note Adventure

 Walking through the halls of the high school is an everyday occurrence. In fact, I’d even call it “mundane” and “boring.” Yet this day, something happened.

 

Together, my friend Noah and I were walking towards my locker, talking about the torture he goes through in his daily wrestling practice. when Noah noticed a post-it note on the wall. He picked in up and put it back down on the other side of the hall. It was nonchalant and if the story ended there, this would be rather dull.
See, it wasn’t the only post-it note. Nay, there were many of them. It was a trail.
We traced the trail back to the music wing when it stopped on the stairs. Eagerly, we searched high and low – in the orchestra hallway and down the stairs to the 1st floor looking for any sign of another note. No luck. So we headed back to the place where we first saw the notes – maybe there was something beyond.
We headed to another level of our school (I swear, we have like 14 floors) and at first, we thought it was the end. No more notes. No more fun. No more adventure.

 

That’s when the yellow note caught our eye. “There’s one!” and “there’s another one!” we cried excitedly as we chased the notes through the main hall. There was one stuck to the office door. We went inside. The last post-it note that we could find was in the office. There was nothing at the end telling us the purpose of the notes or even that it was the true end, but there were no more to be found.
This may seem like an odd story to you. You may think, “they were ecstatic over a post-it note trail?” Yes, we were. Why? Because it was an adventure. It was something out of the ordinary. It was something that was unknown. It was searching for something with a friend that is always a hoot to be around.
If you cannot look at the silly little things in life and find an adventure, you have no business dreaming about Paris and London. While you may still enjoy these cities, you will not find the brilliance that lays in wait behind the tourist attractions. If you cannot seek adventure everywhere, you shouldn’t yet seek it in the big and exciting places – for you simply wont know what to do with adventure when it presents itself.

 

It’s the concept of “to who has been faithful with little, more shall be given to him.” In order to enjoy life and to have an exciting life, you have to make it exciting. Adventures don’t just happen. Hundreds of kids probably walked by the same post-it notes. They aren’t writing about an adventure. Most likely, they’re complaining about how dull our small town is. Well darling, it’s only as dull as you make it. So make it brilliant.