A to Z

The letters that make up words are often forgotten within the meaning of the actual word itself. But, the inspiration that words have brought to my life would not be possible without the letters. So, I've decided to begin a series of A to Z posts, choosing a word that represents each letter most efficiently, and then explaining why. This is also in effort to cure the boredom that arrives with my free time, and keep me motivated to write during each spare moment I have. (which, I pretty much already do anyways, but you get the picture.) We'll try it out, and hopefully find some fun along the way.

A
Art
A few weeks ago, I was standing in line at Starbucks, mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I ran into this


Upon clicking on the pictures, I discovered the entire webpage, 
and I couldn't stop reading.
It's an incredible interactive gallery in The Cosmopolitan that was created and set up in Las Vegas where people could stop by during a certain time, anonymously write a confession on a wooden plaque, and then have it put on display for anyone to read.
Immediately, this struck me as beautiful
How many times have you held onto a secret and wished more than anything that you could tell someone? Whether that secret was about you, or someone else. Those confessions that you keep hidden inside are the very ones that itch at you until you've found some way to relieve the scratch.
There is just something so wonderful and so freeing about finding someone to tell all your secrets to, spilling them out onto the floor, wiping them up, 
and then letting them go. 
This isn't something someone would normally see, and associate with the word Art, but I believe art is anything that outwardly expresses who you are on the inside. Those confessions and secrets are a huge part of who you are, and expressing them in a way that the whole world can 
see truly is as artistic as it gets. 
This is brave. This is art. And, art is who we are.

My confession would've been: I want to live in a world where secrets can be freely told, judgement is left up to God, and hate does not exist.

When in need of inspiration, search the world for art in other forms. There you will find inspiration beyond measure, I pinky promise.

A is for Art.

B
Beauty 
I explained my feelings towards this subject and all things surrounding this word pretty clearly in my post, Bye Bye Barbie, but when thinking of the letter 'B', I still couldn't quite get the word Beauty out of my head. The reason for this being that beauty encompasses so much in that little 
6-letter body that it is buried in. 

Like "the future", in Have No Fear, beauty is an abstract concept that society wants us to believe only defines 'that model on that magazine.' 
When in reality, beauty is long list of things. 
If a group of people were all asked to draw an image of what they believe beauty is, everyone's illustrations would be different. Some would draw makeup, some would draw a flower, some would draw their mother, some would draw a sunset, or a rainbow. The true definition of beauty is utterly whatever you want it to be. But, as for me, I've decided that beauty is one of those words that helps us decide who we want to be in this life, because after all, who doesn't want to be beautiful?

When I was a freshman in high school, I ran across a quote written by my cousin, Gabby, for her Senior Art Show at Presbyterian College in 2010. Her quote has stuck with me ever since.

Gabby and I at her wedding in March.
 She wrote:
"Sometimes we get so caught up in the 
way we think things have to be that we 
fail to see the beauty in just being." 

It later became my quote in the yearbook during my Senior year, and something I often contemplate. 
  
When considering beauty in a person, it ranges from every square inch of the outside and runs all the way deep into the soul. When considering beauty in nature, it can be found in a sunrise over a southern corn field beside an old red barn, or it can be seen in the sunset beaming behind the thousand foot tall buildings in a big city. It can be discovered in a tiny puddle of rain water in a parking lot, or in the vast, incredible oceans at the beach. It comes in a budding flower in the Spring, or in the loose leaves that scatter 
across the ground in the Fall.

Beauty is complex. It's intriguing. It makes the world go 'round. 
We are creatures made in the image of a beautiful Creator; therefore, we thrive off of the beauty that surrounds us.
But, with our busy schedules and impatient natures, we often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to take a second to look around, and catch a glimpse at all the beauty that we live our lives around. 
And, as Gabby said, there is so much beauty that can be found in 
simply just being.

I'm challenging myself to intentionally take time to embrace all the beauty that is on display in my life. To cherish every moment of my days and search until something beautiful can be found in every opportunity I am given.

B is for Beauty

C

Change
Photo taken by my ever so talented video/photographer friend, David Thompson. Check him out at www.michaeldavidproductions.com.

Change:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by, 
and that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost

This word was suggested to me by a friend a few nights ago, and at first, I was a little skeptical about actually using it. I believe the reason for that is because it's a little hypocritical to encourage others to do something that you don't first do yourself. And, change is something that I don't handle very well. So, how was I supposed to encourage you in that? 

But, after thinking it over for a few days, I have come to realize that like Beauty, Change is something that helps us discover who we are as human beings. But, also like beautychange consists of such a variety of things. 

[A change in the weather, a change in fashion trends, a change in careers, a change in relationships, and then occasionally, there comes a change that radically transforms your life, and makes you an entirely new person.] 

I think the scariest part about change is that you never really know which type you're going to run into. There are so many changes that happen that you can't plan for. But, even so, there are also many changes that you do plan, but that are equally as intimidating. Change, in general, is scary. It's something I've always been frightened by. I distinctly remember writing once when I was eighteen that if anything about me ever changed, I would never forgive myself. 

Now, I laugh at that because of all that I have actually learned about change.
In just these past two years, I've discovered that the key to accepting change is realizing all the good that will come of it.
But, with that realization, I have also decided that you will never be able to fully accept that change or see that good in it until after it is all said and done.
I was terrified of leaving high school and moving on to college, and it wasn't until just this year that I actually began being thankful for that change.
Time justifies change. 

If you are in a season in your life where change is scaring you, the new things on the horizon are making you want to run and hide back in the shadows, or if you are skeptical about the fact that God always has a plan for you; just remember, in time, the beauty of these changes will reveal themselves. You'll look back on the days you struggled, the days you cried, and the days your heart felt shattered, and you'll laugh. Because the places where these changes will take you will be so much more beautiful than the shadows you once hid behind. These changes will be justified, and your life will be much brighter.

But until then, take the road less traveled by, for that may 
make all the difference.

C is for Change. 

D
Dance

Upon deciding what word to choose for D, it took everything in me not to just settle for "Dreams", since achieving mine is pretty much all I think about ninety-eight percent of the time these days. So, when my mom suggested "Dance", my mind began immediately thinking of all those cliché quotes about dancing. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain" and "Dance like nobody is watching and love like you've never been hurt" and even that country-esque song that goes something like, "And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance"... and I rolled my eyes. But, it still made me think, and I wondered how I could write about dancing and actually make it original. I googled "Original quotes about dancing". I figured that would have to give me some kind of start.  
The first search I found was a quote by the famously witty, French Enlightenment writer, Voltaire. 
Then, embarrassingly enough, my next thought went directly to 
Princess Diaries, when Lily says, 
"Voltaire. Hair. I would personally like to learn about Voltaire."
Here it is, today's piece of life advice by the one and only, Voltaire. 
(This one is for you, Lily!)

"Let us read, and let us dance; 
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world." 

Because of the way these past few years of my life have flown by in a literal flash, I have been forced to learn a few specific things about the 
way life should be lived. 
First: Life really is too short to waste time on things you don't enjoy. 
Do what makes you happy. Always. 
Second: If there is something that needs to be changed, refuse to leave it how it is; do something today to make it better. 
What is life if you do not actually live it? 
Third: (And most importantly) Realize what needs to be taken seriously, and then lighten up on everything else. 
I've learned that happiness cannot be found where worries are present.
Leave your stress at the back door, and dance each night away.

I also having a saying that goes, 
"A cliché wouldn't be a cliché if it weren't so true." 
So, that "country-esque song" I mentioned early might be outdated and overplayed, but the truth of it runs quite deeply. 
When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.

And, I really hope you do.
And, I hope you take Voltaire's advice and read occasionally, too. :-)  

But first, wherever you are, just don't forget to dance.

D is for Dance.

E
Exfoliate
A few weeks ago, I was able to visit with one of my best friends who came into town for a short visit. We spent some time talking and catching up, and then she began describing this wonderful homemade body scrub that one of her friends had recently made for her. After the long day I had just had, the sound of it was so incredible. I convinced her to let me into her parents kitchen to muster up a few of the ingredients and make our own. We didn't have all of the exact elements that were needed, so we came up with our own substitutions. But, it ended up turning out perfectly.
Here is the recipe we created:
1 Cup of Sugar
1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
1/4 Cup of Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon of Peppermint Extract
A few shakes of Cinnamon
 

      The finished product! :-)

After creating such a masterpiece, (because it works like a charm, and feels amazing!) I started thinking about the word exfoliate. I wondered if there was a definition of the word that could properly be used to describe other things within daily life, besides just when referring to a body scrub. I went to the dictionary with this question in mind. And, here's what I found. 

Exfoliate: [eks-foh-lee-eyt]
Verb: exfoliated, exfoliating.
1. to throw off in scales, splinters, etc.
2. to remove the surface of
Later on, I read it is also defined as: to split or swell into.

Over the past few days, I've really been thinking a lot about these couple of definitions, and how they can be applied to life, in general. I couldn't get the word, and these different interpretations of it, out of my head. 
Would it be possible for one to exfoliate their life? If so, what would that look like? How could we painlessly "throw off" the useless pieces in our lives? Can we "split" from the negative aspects that relentlessly aim to invade our happiness? 
Is it feasible for us to "remove the surface" of our life as we know it in order to reveal something much clearer, more beautiful, and harmonious underneath?

I've been sitting on this idea ever since the night I concocted 
that body scrub in my best friend's parent's kitchen three weeks ago.
And, I've come to a few conclusions.
First, I absolutely love the thought of this.
Even the mere consideration of having the opportunity to rid myself of every displeasing portion of my life, feels like quite a dream.
I've found myself in the middle of these thoughts wishing that some "positive potion" could be found somewhere out there that would allow this fantasy to become my reality. This led me to the next conclusion, which simply is this:
It dwells in our mindset.
It is a slight change in our mindsets that can set us free from all the negativity that infects our lives. It is understanding that some things cannot be changed, and (like I said in my last post) deciding to do whatever you can to adjust the things that can be. It is about displaying acceptance of all people that are placed in your path, and loving them despite all differences that may interfere. It is thinking positive thoughts ("good vibes", I think is the term for it these days), and realigning your mind when it trails towards hostility. I wondered where this magic "positive potion" could be found, but I've decided that it resides within ourselves already, and is advertised by how we react to every situation that we encounter.
If we choose positivity over antagonism, love over mockery, joy over despair, and contentment over misery, our lives can truly change from the inside out.
The film of annoyance, opposition, and pessimism can be exfoliated, and a pure, righteous, and wholesome life can be lived.

E is for Exfoliate. 
(for more reasons than just one)

F
Freedom
Photo by David Thompson

Tonight, while thinking harder about what word I wanted to write about for "F", I sent a little prayer up to Heaven thanking God for this great day I got to spend with two wonderful people. I talked to Him about some other things that have been on my mind lately, and then, I sat still for a second. In that second, I swear I softly heard Him whisper, "freedom." My eyes filled with tears as I realized what He meant. And, in that moment, I almost drowned by the overflow of words that began filling my mind. (If I were ever asked, "How do you know that God is real?" These are the specific moments that I would describe in immense detail. There's truly no denying it.)
All my life I have strived to be different. 
The middle school I attended required that we wear collared shirts every day, and every day I felt challenged to add something to my ensemble that would set me apart from all the other twelve-year-old girls in my class. For example, I own 7 pairs of Converse. All which I purchased before they were actually a fad, all which I wore with flair jeans, my collared shirts, and multi-colored plastic jewelry, and all which I wore every. single. day. I have carried this perspective about things with me as I've grown older, and especially lately, it has trickled into my life even more. The other day, I bought a pair of shoes. I wore them, and I heard someone say, "Wow. Those are... different." I patted myself on the back, and felt utterly accomplished. If I had a dollar for the amount of times that I've been told that I'm weird, I would probably be a millionaire. I've never, ever wanted to have something, do something, or be something that is similar to someone else. 
I've only ever wanted to simply be me.
In the past, there have been days when I've been down about the fact that I desire to be so different. There have been days when I've wondered why I wasn't just created with the ability to be normal, the same, and satisfied with being like everyone else around me. Because of this, I've also found that all my life, I have been searching to find real freedom. Freedom from the pressure that society places on our shoulders to be perfect, to be like everyone else, to be something that we're not.

But, my Jesus is righteous. And, "in my anguish, I cried to the Lord, 
and He answered by setting me free." 
[Psalm 118:5] 

It wasn't until a few months ago, when I changed my major to pursue my passion, stopped worrying about what other people thought of me, listened to that still small voice that muttered words that gave me courage, and like I have said before, placed it all at the feet of Jesus, that I really discovered what real, true freedom actually is.
Now, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank the Lord for giving me the confidence to be myself, to be different. And, there is not a single doubt in my mind that the freedom I have found in knowing that who I am is enough was strictly born from the security I have in the fact that the love my Savior has for me comes in tidal waves, and engulfs my soul day after day.       
By no means do I have any desire to conform to this world. 
Therefore, I rest solely in the fact that who I am is exactly 
who He created me to be. 
And, who I am in Christ is what makes me free.

"All this is proceeding along lines planned by God and then executed in Jesus Christ. When we trust in Him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go."
[Ephesians 3:12 - The Message]

F is for Freedom.
(in Christ alone)



G
Grace

Grace is a light created by a love that conquered darkness in ways unimaginable. A light that intensifies our need for a Savior.

By Christian definition, grace is, "the love and mercy given to us by God because He desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it." 

With all that has happened in our nation in just the past two days, I believe grace is something we should all pause to consider. 
Something we do not deserve, yet something we are so freely receiving. 
It doesn't even seem fair. 
Why? Why are we, people full of heaps of sin, loved so indefinitely by a God who is so abundantly full of righteousness?

Blurring the lines and making some sins seem worse than others is 
exactly what we shouldn't be doing.
Sin is sin. 
It's black and white. It's right and it's wrong. 
And, luckily for us, grace has covered all of these sins. 

But, it was love that conceived this grace. 
It was the love of God that delivered this grace to us on a silver platter.
It was love, created so intricately by God, that nailed Jesus to the cross for the sin that we perpetrate daily.

1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a 
multitude of sins." 
And, this is why we were created: to love God and love His people.

Whether you think you know the answers, or whether you are quick to admit that you do not know where to even begin, one thing we can agree on is that our country is in great need of a great amount of grace. 
But, grace has been an essential need for us since the beginning of time.
As long as sin has been in existence, so has our urgency for grace. 
And, unfortunately also, our lack of love for one another.

The finest system of blinding with the light of God's grace is first by entirely radiating His unconditional, immutable love.

To understand God's reason for our creation, you must first understand the love He feels for us. The love that pursued us so inevitably that His grace was shown in the form of an atrocious death on a cross in our place.  

"Each time He said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Whatever may be your weakness, none is so immense that His grace cannot cover it. His love demolishes all, and will remain until the end of time.
I assure you, love does win. But, only because of the grace that was given for it.   His love wins. Every time.

G is for Grace.


H
Happiness 
I've debated on this word for quite a while now. 
I sat down on the back balcony when at the beach a few weeks ago overlooking the ocean ready to write and post it, but I was so hesitant about it, that I didn't let myself finish it. It has sat on the back burner lately due to the many other happenings in my life. 
And, here I am still arguing with myself of its significance. 
I think I've only been debating this so thoughtfully because of how clichè the word has become these days, and I refuse to allow something so important become just another hackneyed phrase.
So, here is my attempt at creating a new meaning for the word "Happiness" in order that it be made into something more easily attained and sought after by the lonely souls in this crazy world.

I used to be a firm believer in the "Pursuit of Happiness." I used to think that if someone wanted to be happy, they had to do something incredibly successful to gain that happiness. I used to believe certain things could make me happy. 
I remember a specific moment in my life wanting an item that had a heavy price tag, and thinking, "Wow, if I could have that, I would be SO happy." But, as I've grown older, the price tag on those things that I want only seem to grow larger and less practical.

After I hesitantly sat contemplating "happiness" on the balcony at the beach that day, I closed my laptop and went inside. Later that night, my family and I got all dressed up simply just to go out for ice cream. 
In the midst of licking my ice cream cone to keep it from running down my arm in the summer heat, and laughing out loud with my family watching them licking theirs in the same fashion, I realized something incredibly significant. 
Happiness can truly be found in the simplest forms... even down to a scoop of ice cream on a cone in the middle of the summer. 
Even after this little epiphany, I continued to wait to write this down. My reason for that being I wanted to spend the rest of my summer looking at life in this way. With the mindset that happiness can be found in any place you look for it. The rest of my summer consisted of babysitting where I found such joy in the giggles and tickles of the little children I had the pleasure of tucking in at night, spending a few last days with my best friends enjoying the brilliance of being young and so free, and sweet moments with my phenomenal family where happiness with them is so effortlessly found.

Throughout the last few weeks of my summer, and now into the beginning of my Junior year of college, I have also developed another theory in an effort to find happiness. This conclusion is also linked to the fact that happiness is equivalent to simplicity. And, this is the word: contentment. 
Being content with who you are, what you're chasing after, and where you are in this moment will ultimately result in the finding of your happiness.
In a conversation I recently had with someone, I was approached with the statement, "Maggie, I'm not content with just me. I feel like I need things to make me happy. I need the perfect job, I need the perfect haircut, I need these things. I'm confused as to why I'm not content and happy." 
And, my response was simply, "With contentment comes happiness."
This is a concept I've only just recently learned; therefore, I'm still processing how to believe in it myself. 
But, I do consider it to be more than true.
Like my explanation of the "positive potion" in Exfoliate, happiness dwells in our mindset, and how we allow ourselves to view life.

Regardless of what one might believe, happiness is attainable. Happiness begins and ends with what we allow ourselves to think, believe, and then, achieve. 

Become content and confident in who you are, and happiness will certainly be found in your future.

H is for Happiness.

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