This weekend I spent the majority of my Saturday eating up the last 100 pages of the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, The Hero of Ages. The previous book concluded amid the messy aftermath of the final showdown between several warring kingdoms and left the reader with a hopeful but dark sense of foreboding for a far greater threat still to come.
In the last stage of the journey, this superior menace finally reveals itself and is every bit the challenge that we all feared. Throughout the story many beloved characters are led to question their ideals, their abilities and even their own memories in an epic struggle against a deific foe. Although this is a fantasy novel written primarily to entertain, the thoughts and doings of one character caught my attention and made me ponder some big questions of my own.
Sazed, a kindly scholar and purveyor of the lost religions of the Final Empire eventually finds himself in a crisis of faith and on a quest for universal Truth. Along the way, he asks questions that I’ve come across in my life and reached similar conclusions.
“It wasn’t the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of people. It was the simple magic in the world around them.”
I strive everyday to embrace the small magic of life, although some days, this is more challenging than others. In my experience, people who are not ready to find faith tend to demand extreme and undeniable shows of divinity as proof but, as one character pointed out to Sazed, to seek a religion that requires no faith of its believers is to search for something that cannot be found. A lot of people spend their lives begging for godly signs to put them on the right path and miss all those little, seemingly insignificant moments when the world did exactly that. It is these moments that make believers as Sazed discovered even as the world was crashing down around him.
“He would believe. Not because something had been proven to him beyond his ability to deny. But because he chose to.”
You have to choose to believe. As humans we are by our very nature unable to comprehend and understand the fullness of God. Yet, people believe anyway. They know there will always be questions and that many of us are ill equipped to answer them. But it’s strange how, even at the world’s ending, those who choose to believe can still find proof of faith.
Today after hanging up my usual call with my mom I perched on the edge of my sofa, phone still held loosely in one hand, with every intention of getting up to wash the dishes and tidy my apartment before calling it an early night. However, I didn’t get up. I stayed there, just as I was, for a solid ten minutes in total silence. I didn’t thumb through my phone for my Pandora Radio. I didn’t scroll through Facebook or Youtube. I didn’t flip open one of the books on my coffee table. I didn’t even start talking to myself as I’m prone to do when my apartment falls silent.
I simply sat, staring absently at the opposite wall, listening to the garbled female voices of my neighbors across the hall as they shared the latest juicy gossip. I have no idea what they were talking about but it sure sounded important. The noise of car doors slamming in the parking lot seeped through my closed windows. The world beyond my comfy little box was muffled and for the briefest of moments I actually considered crossing the hall to knock on my neighbors’ door and ask if they might have room for one more in their emphatic conversation.
This strange, quiet reflection led me to one resounding conclusion. I desperately need to have plans this weekend. I don’t mean the usual errands. I need to go be with people. I need to interact with the world beyond conference calls and grocery store check-out lines. Therefore, I am hereby reinstating date night and highly recommend it for anyone feeling similarly isolated. Go out and be in the world even if you have no one to go with and you’re just ordering for one. You’ll thank yourself later.
I will eventually stop talking about Christmas but not today. There’s a brief time which comes every Christmas season when all the magical things in the world wake up and life feels like the happy ending to a good book. For one week, the smell of fresh cookies trails through the house even when the oven has been turned off and the cookies carefully stowed in their tins for future munching. The finest dusting of baking flour seems to linger over the kitchen counters and the air tastes sugar sweet.
Christmas is special. Even amid the most mild winters snow falls in the mountains of Colorado to settle over the lawn like a fuzzy white comforter. Whether it be huge fluffy flakes eddying past the street lamps on Christmas Eve or the inexplicable appearance of five inches of fresh powder on Christmas morning, it always comes.
The frosty weather heralds the arrival of a few unexpected guests and this year was no different. No matter how old I get, I can’t help squealing like a six year old with a quarter from the Tooth Fairy every time I wake up to a winter wonderland. I skipped through the house to gawk at it from every window and, sure enough, tucked in the very back of the yard beneath a mesh of plum branches and bedded down in my mom’s garden napped four Christmas deer. They stayed all afternoon, occasionally standing to stretch their long necks or burying their noses in the snow in search of fallen crabapples. Even Mother Nature knows that Christmas is a time to cherish traditions.
This was the year that I finally got moving with this blog. It has been a much needed creative outlet which has honed my writing and photography skills as well as required no small amount of self discipline. Today, on the last day of 2020, I want to revisit all the things I accomplished this year.
Sometimes the best action is an overreaction. Speak your mind. Do what you have to do. Don’t stifle your heart, mind or soul for fear of appearing overdramatic. Sometimes the people we love, even the ones we don’t know yet, need a loud and decisive nudge in the right direction.
To the polite perfectionist types like myself, such measures usually feel like a trainwreck waiting to happen; thoughtless, messy ordeals that are bound to end in chaos and tears. To some, spontaneity comes as easily as breathing, one experience naturally flowing into another without hesitation. It’s risky and uncomfortable but a skill that must be mastered even among the most meticulous planners of the world.
Life is messy. If you spend all your time thinking you won’t have any left for doing. If you go to your grave never having made a scene I doubt your service will be well attended. Of course be polite, be kind, be gracious. But live boldly. Say what you mean when you mean it and don’t let life’s big moments pass you by. The perfect time won’t arrive until you choose it.
Some people spend their lives waiting for their moments. Others dedicate themselves to creating theirs. Which one will you be?
I couldn’t decide on a favorite quote today so instead, below are my key takeaways from the last three books I read this year. Sometimes the best advice comes from the imagination of a stranger, captured and seeded into the pages of a good book as glimmering jewels of wisdom left by the author for us to find.
“When a guy really loves a woman, she doesn’t have to plead with him to commit. He’d commit to her if she lived on the moon.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“You will not only find, but also give, the love you have been created for.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“The nicest thing you can do for someone is be happy to see them.” – The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
“Clothing doesn’t really change a man, but it changes how others react to him… The trick is convincing yourself that you deserve the reactions you get… Don’t worry that you aren’t giving people what they want. Give them who you are, and let that be enough.” – Elend Venture, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
“A man can only stumble for so long before he either falls or stands up straight.” – Tindwyl, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Today’s a new day! Let it be a fresh start for whatever trials life is throwing your way. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Today is Day 1 of the rest of your life. What will you make it?
I don’t know why my brain refuses to retain this lesson, opting instead to slip back into lackadaisical habits in a vicious cycle that feels like a big game of ‘why are you hitting yourself.’ I think most people can relate to this, the experience of being stuck in a rut. I’ve written about it before but it’s worth revisiting in my opinion, especially during these times of social distancing.
A lot of people forget to forgive themselves. Everyone has felt stuck at some point in their lives. This seeming lack of meaningful progress leads them to question every insignificant decision that life throws at them and suddenly everything is an uphill battle. Repeatedly finding yourself unable to gain momentum on big picture goals, maybe a project at work or a personal relationship, can strip you of motivation to accomplish even the simplest tasks.
It’s moments like these when my confidence tends to hit its lowest points. It’s very difficult to feel secure in a decision when it seems like none of the most recent ones are panning out the way they were supposed to. The spiral of self doubt inevitably continues in an exhausting downward pattern until something or someone (myself included) slaps me out of it, reminding me of my worth and my obligation to flaunt it.
You owe it to yourself and the world to be the most authentic, unapologetic version yourself that you can possibly be. You are going to make mistakes. That’s a given. Allow those setbacks to wake you up instead of shut you down. Take responsibility for your blunders and move on. Dwelling and overthinking accomplish nothing but to shatter your trust in yourself. Just be you and let that be enough.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, even during COVID. There’s always work to be done, chores to be finished and projects to be started. Sometimes we forget to stop and take a good look at all the things that are just right. What better day to be thankful and celebrate the good things? Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here is my current list of things that I’m thankful for right now.
Cheap plane tickets (without which I may not have been able to host a Thanksgiving feast for three).
Mom (the master chef behind our favorite Thanksgiving recipes and my lifeline as I attempt to replicate our traditional feast for the very first time in my Barbie sized kitchen).
A potato masher (and a number of other kitchen gadgets I purchased recently to help the holiday cooking progress as smoothly as possible).
Christmas lights (any Christmas lights – the ones brightening the streets of downtown Valpo, the ones spiraling my neighbor’s balcony, the ones twinkling on my own tiny Christmas tree, even the ones that haven’t been lit yet but will soon be declaring the Christmas spirit everywhere).
Boots in my entryway (the ones that belong to my sister and her fiance because no one should be alone for Thanksgiving).
These are hardly the only things I’m thankful for but that list could go on for days and give Santa’s naughty list a run for its money. Suffice to say that it warms my heart to be able to hug two of my favorite people today.
Today’s post comes from a brief conversation I had with one of my fellow parishioners when I attended church on Sunday. In an effort to maintain social distancing at church, seats are reserved in advance. Standard procedure now includes visiting the check-in table to receive a seat number before being led there by volunteer ushers. Despite being new to the parish as of last year, I’m starting to recognize a few familiar faces. The woman who usually works the table, checking names and scribbling seat numbers on a pad of sticky notes, has started to remember me as well. She always gives an enthusiastic hello when she spots me in line before sending me off to my seat.
However, this particular Sunday was a little different. This time when I stepped up to the table she gave a great sigh and slapped both palms flat to the table, allowing her pen and sticky notes to clatter away, looking for all the world like a doctor about to deliver a diagnosis. She looked up at me very seriously and said “Sofia… We’ve decided to be friends with you. It’s just so hard to meet young people, especially now with COVID.”
What on Earth do you say to that? I wanted to jump up and down and clap my hands together. I wanted to run around the table and give her a hug. I still don’t know who “we” is but I’m in! Where do I sign? As it was, I only had time to provide my short but emphatic concurrence before following the usher to my seat.
It was the kindest, most heartwarming thing she possibly could have said to a nearly total stranger. Clearly someone at church had noticed my regular attendance as well as the fact that I never had company. As I was led to my seat I couldn’t keep from smiling. Someone in the parish had been thinking about me and, what’s more, they wanted to be my friend despite knowing almost nothing about me. The next day she connected with me on social media, thereby opening a line of communication beyond the church check-in table.
When someone comes along and publicly, loudly, proudly declares themself your friend, you pay attention. It certainly is not an offer I intend to pass up.
My family liked to joke about playing tourist on vacations while I was growing up, particularly during one especially memorable trip to Europe when I was ten. We spent two weeks touring the lush countryside of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. As a fair haired family of four and with my parents both relatively fluent in German, we were usually able to blend in with the locals, avoiding the pointed eye rolls reserved for obnoxious tourons.
However, there were moments throughout the trip when being a dumb tourist had its advantages, when coming across the foreign lettering of a “No Photography Allowed” sign for instance. It wasn’t until recently that I began to consider this as an important life skill. All amusing linguistic loopholes aside, there’s something fabulous about being able to recognize new joy even in your own home, with all the wonder of a wide eyed tourist.
Wherever you go, it’s never a bad idea to have a camera handy at all times. You never know what you might see. Do you take time to notice the magic in your world? Go ahead and gape upon familiar sights as if beholding them for the very first time and don’t be afraid to snap a few pictures.