Friday, December 28, 2012

On appreciating the small things.

Sometimes I write my nightly blog post at close to 3 in the morning because the only really blog-worthy material happened late at night.

Okay, so Mom, Mommom and I went to see Les Misérables tonight.  It was really, really good.  Minutes before we were leaving, Taylor sent me a tweet with a link to a YouTube video and he said "This man's story reminds me somewhat of yours."  I clicked on the video and saw it was 50+ minutes, so I told him I'd watch it when I got back tonight and get up with him after.  Well, I had forgotten that Les Mis is very, very long, and with the movie starting at 8:10, we didn't get home until almost 11:45, and then I had some things to do, so it was after midnight when I finally sat down to watch the video.

Only the first 18 minutes or so were his speech, and the rest of it was him answering audience questions.  I only made it through the speech before I got up to call Taylor because it was kind of late and just that much of the video had already blown me away with all the parallels I saw between this man and his words and my life.  Well, he didn't answer (turns out, he and Kyla were seeing Les Mis, too), but I just had this feeling that he was going to call me back tonight.  So instead of watching more of the video, I sat down and read this People Magazine I promised my grandma I'd read tonight so she can take it with her to the beach tomorrow.  That way I wouldn't have my earphones in (by the way, new earphones = YAY. now I don't have to listen to music at half the volume I like to listen to it at in order to not bother/wake up the rest of the house) and miss his call.

And he did call me back, at about 1:35, which is by far the latest phone call I've ever had with him, but it was so good.  I got to tell him all the reasons why this video was so powerful for me and all of the parallels I saw to my story and journey.  I told him how it was like the icing on top of the whole Chris thing yesterday in really motivating me to do more to reach out and help people, how I want to be the one who really hears hurting people and ministers to them, something I never really got when I needed it and was instead surrounded by trite "Christianese" that did not help.  He told me why the video made him think of me and his own reaction to the things I was saying to him.  And of course, we talked about our friendship.  He is such an encouragement to me every time we talk.  As I told him, he knows the ugly parts of my life, my shortcomings, all the ways I screw up, so to know that he still sees so much good in me is incredibly humbling and makes me very grateful for him and to the Lord for blessing me with his friendship.

As I'm writing this post and figuring out how to say everything else that is going on in my head, there are two things I said during our conversation that are sticking out.

The first: When the guy in the video, Ed Dobson, talked about the point right after his diagnosis [with ALS] and thinking that that was probably going to be his last winter alive, and his reaction was to pick up the Bible, part of me wished that I had found my faith a lot sooner than I did because I know the really bad years wouldn't have been quite so difficult if I'd had that to hold on to, but part of me knows that the journey that this year has been wouldn't have been quite so epic and so beautiful if I hadn't fallen as far as I did.  And that's a very delicate balance because I know the past few years of my life have played out the way they have for a very specific, God-ordained purpose (because really, how else could you explain the awesomeness that has been 2012?), but that video brought me back to the state that I was in a few years ago, and I can't help but wish I had the peace and joy that I have now when I was going through all of that trauma.

The second: Ed spoke about how he spent a year at a predominantly African-American church, and he realized that they pray much differently than white people - they give thanks for the simple things like waking up in the morning and having the strength to make it to church, that really stuck out at me because I've had people make similar comments about me and my view on life.  And I know they were right in making those comments, because I do find myself feeling thankful for small details, things I know I took for granted before going through these trials and this very dark time.  Things like the ability to go to school, for starters, because during the fall of 2009, I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to go to college.  Things like having a day where my pain level is relatively low, because I've barely made it through some very exhausting weeks in severe pain.  Things like having friends who will call me at 1:30 in the morning to hear what I have to say, who genuinely celebrate my progress and the things I'm learning, because the Mal that I was in high school truly believed that the only friend I would ever have was Matt - I couldn't picture anyone else in the world caring about me the way that Taylor and several other people do now.

And listening to that bit of his speech put a question in my head:  Why don't more people see life like this?!  Why does it seem to be human nature (at least in the First World) to take things for granted?  I don't say this to sound like a lecture because, as I said, I used to be the exact same way.  I say this because it took going through several consecutive years of absolute mental, physical, and emotional hell for me to realize that there is such beauty in the pieces of life that we often overlook, and if I had it my way, no one else would ever have to go through anything tragic to get to the mentality that I have today.  Please, look around you today, and notice the small things.  Appreciate things that you don't normally pay attention to.  Do it now.  Do it whether things in your life are falling apart, because I believe this will give you the peace that passes all understanding in seeing God's grace and presence around you in the midst of darkness, or whether things in your life are really pretty good, because it will come in real handy when you come to face a trial.

Ed and I are both people who have beaten all medical standards simply by being alive (he was diagnosed with ALS in 2001, docs said he had 2-5 years to live, he's still alive 11 years later; to this day, I still have docs look me in the eye and tell me that I should've died from everything that's happened to me, specifically 2009-2010), but in all honesty, it is a miracle that any one of us is alive, even people like Matt and Ryann who have made it through life virtually without a single medical problem.  Tomorrow is not promised for anyone, no matter their health.  And I know that the gratitude that I have for life is what helps give me the peace that so many people have said they see shine in me.  It's changed my life; it's given me a sense of joy that teaches people things without my even realizing it.  I want this kind of joy for you.

But infinitely more importantly, God wants it for you.  He created you so you could know Him.  He loves you and wants to bless you in a million different ways, big and small.  So if you haven't before, please, start looking for the small ways.  Because they're there.  I promise.

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