“I don’t know what a meaningful life is supposed to be like, but I feel so close to it.”
I wrote that little sentence in May. I was on to something. I didn’t know what was coming, but I had to hope that it was going to be good.
This summer was nothing I expected.
It was nothing that I wanted it to be, either, if we’re being honest.
That summer bucket list I made in May? I threw it away this week, as I cleansed my room from as much clutter as possible and leftover receipts from mundane errands. The summer bucket list was full of good things. But when I looked at that list, I saw my still-pale skin, all the friends that said we were going to hang out but couldn’t, and all the things I didn’t do. It represented everything I wanted in these little months of freedom. Even if I didn’t write the words of my secret hopes out.
That list represents my tiny view of life in May.
But it’s August now.
It’s August: the month where most of my friends usually move away and I try to console myself with thoughts of flannel, new pens, and pumpkin spice lattes.
It’s August: the month without fail for the past few years that I’ve cried over the fear of losing the people that God used to bring summer laughter on the darkest days.
And when I look back at the summer I was sixteen for the rest of my days – I don’t want to see nothing but a halfway-there list of unfulfilled dreams. I want to see this summer for what it was – once I got over myself and began to see it as He was writing it, and not simply by how I could possibly control it.
I barely recognize the girl that I was the last time I had a full day of school in May. That’s because relational dynamics change when the temperatures rise and car windows are rolled down. Nights become lived together instead of in isolation at desks filled with homework. Mornings mean more coffee from staying up later while you’re still smiling from the inside jokes of yesterday.
This is what summer meant to me.
Mexican food and playing Dutch Blitz.
Sleeping in almost every single day.
Being sick for four long weeks, and putting life on hold to just rest and get my body back to normal.
Getting my drivers license and having more beautiful freedom.
Cutting my hair and two days later sobbing because everything felt wrong and it was nice to have a physical representation in my life of regret that wasn’t all in my head.
Sunburn on my shoulders.
Soaking up every moment that was just not enough getting to know my babe nephew, Rilyn.
Roadtrips and rhubarb pop. June was exhaustion, laughing in tiny hotel rooms, sitting on the patio, Happy Joe’s pizza, and watching Three’s Company.
Packing a blue polka dotted suitcase, sipping on cheap coffee from gas stations, headphones, and returning to the mountains. Being broken in the presence of God, transparency in prayer, and dance parties. Hanging out with strangers. God using new friends to come alongside me and hold my hand while breathing in the mountain air.
Lauren Daigle, Ellie Goulding, Frank Sinatra, Beyoncé, Selena Gomez, Usher, and KB on repeat.
A week with this precious lady in the capitol city — getting stuck in a storm on the side of the interstate, reading good books, singing hit songs that have stolen my heart completely despite how much I really want to be a hipster, exploring a different city (It started with an L and the mascot of the school is a Jayhawk. Forgive me, fellow Wildcats, for their downtown is amazing), popcorn, healthy smoothies, long talks about supreme court decisions and fitness plans until 1:30AM, and Pride and Prejudice.
A weekend getaway at my brother’s house including an afternoon at the pool and cuddles on the couch.
A gorgeous wedding between two amazing people and dancing as the sun goes down.
Learning how to stand up for myself. Or how to sit alone.
Teaching myself how to due ‘the whip’. (But mainly just making a fool of myself and having fun with it).
Going to city band every chance I got.
Returning to where they say y’all and ma’am. Gladly joining in on the culture of hugging and exuberant speech. Sitting around the kitchen counter in Memphis, asking vital questions about who we are to be as God’s church. Catching up on life events.
It was going to my small church in Mississippi and feeling more at home there in that old feed store building than I have in far too long. It was crying in the middle of lunch because I realized how much I deeply missed being in the south. How much I missed the people we were able to briefly catch up with, whether we hugged them in the hallway or knocked on their doors. Remembering the goodness that can only come from genuine southern hospitality.
Relaxing in Andy Griffith’s hometown in North Carolina, taking in views of the Smoky Mountains, relaxing in a tiny cabin, and learning about being behind-the-scenes on the Andy Griffith Show.
Starting Book #2 because the south touched something deep in me. Writing about hard lessons.
Two long days of praying in the waiting room.
Driving around town watching the sunset on quiet nights.
Thinking about my unused passport in comparison to three countries within six weeks last year and remembering that God’s got it all in control.
Long afternoons laying in bed watching Scandal and falling asleep.
Movie nights and playing Monopoly until midnight.
Drinking a homemade latte in my window seat with a girlfriend headed off to a different life, sharing memories about summer camp and dreaming about college. Acknowledging the importance of all the older people in our lives who mentored or befriended us when we needed it most and literally changed the course of our lives for the better. Acknowledging our desire to be that same person for those coming up behind us. Saying goodbye to an era of always being twenty minutes from each other.
Wet hair, frozen pizza, sweet tea, and nothing but honesty after ten o’ clock. The beginning of August meant saying goodbye to a new friend that I couldn’t be more proud of.
Bike rides – in the heat or breeze.
“Wanna come over?” texts. Taking crazy pictures. Sitting in my basement with the intention of watching Netflix but keeping it paused for over four hours. Trying to remember how the two of us became friends in the first place. They say that the best nights are unexpected and spontaneous. The best friendships blossom when God sits two people together that could have never planned it on their own and says, “Hey. Right now you guys need each other.”
We laughed at who we were a year ago, cackled over middle school photos, smiled over old journal entries, and went to church. It was just two people, and it wasn’t a time for preppy sweaters, floral skirts, or quotes from theologians. But we still went to church. We started to speak aloud the chapters in our lives that stay quiet on the surface. The people who’ve hurt us. The places we’ve been. The fears we face. Stereotypes. The roads we have to travel in order to come home and say, “I did it. I found who He is. I found what He means to me for myself this time and I’m never letting go.”
You see, this summer was nothing I expected. Nothing I’d dreamt about while watching the snow fall in the middle of winter. But it was everything I needed.
I believe in the power of summer.
I believe that three little months in the middle of the year can change someone in it’s own unique way.
I’m glad it changed me.
I’m glad time seemed slow for just a few weeks. I’m glad it taught me how to laugh harder and remember what it’s like to be a kid with no apologies. Even though it’s been painful, I’m glad that some walls in my heart broke. Now I’m picking up the pieces and dreaming of something brand new. This summer gave me the truth I needed even when I’d been dreading the words. I’m glad that I don’t recognize the girl I was in May that was so easily heartbroken.
Because any time that God whispers in your ear and says, “This way…” even though you know it will slowly break your heart, it’s worth walking forward.
It’s worth moving on, even when your geography stays the same.
It’s worth sorting through your life (and your junk) to see who gets to stay and who doesn’t deserve your heart anymore.
It’s worth discovering the people that bring out the best in you and see behind your masks, even when the closeness of their heart to your own terrifies you.
It’s worth finding your new normal. Whether it’s staying in one place and redeeming your current space, or packing everything up and starting over.
It’s almost always worth working through the mud.
It’s almost always worth picking up the pieces and becoming whole again right where you are.
It’s almost always worth staying.
You stole my heart. You made me love you and now you’re leaving.
If only you would practice everything that you taught me…
Call me next time you’re in town. I’ll never forget you.
[all title credits go to my girl, TSwift]