Friday, September 9, 2011

making memories

This year I am an Honors Mentor for the program’s orientation class.  Basically what this mean is that I assist a small group of students in their transition from high school to college academics in the Honors Program.  Each week these students are assigned reading and a prompt to which they respond to on the blogs they set up. 

I am going to join them in these weekly posts, but to avoid the messiness of having two blogs {or maybe I’m just lazy and this keeps me accountable to posting on this one}, I am going to respond to the prompts here.  I will do my best to integrate my response to the prompts with this blog’s theme of true beauty {which might really be a challenge}.

This week we started reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  With its light tone, short chapters and exaggerated line spacing, the 60 pages went by faster than I expected.  I wish I could tell you more of what this book is about, but I haven’t yet figured it out for myself.

So far Miller’s first-person account seems to revolve around the theme of “story.”  This week’s prompt:

For your blog post this week, write a scene of your life depicting a single provoking/meaningful/memorable moment. Then discuss what made it for you; what makes memories? What makes that experience stand out, for better or worse?

Miller seems to think humans have a tendency to remember only the good moments in their life or times of achievement.  I can understand his thinking here for the most part.  Successful times in my life are pretty vivid memories and were my first candidates in response to this post. 

I can remember quite clearly the Saturday morning Mom decided to check online for the results of my ACT and the reaction of my dad on the phone ten minutes later when he wasn’t sure whether or not we were serious.  Or there’s also the moment I struck the final note in my piano rendition of My Heart Will Go On at the talent show and knew without a doubt that I had nailed the performance.  And nothing is probably more vivid than watching the final seconds tick off the clock in the finals of the state basketball tournament my senior year of high school and realizing those eight years of hard work had finally paid off.

Though the feelings of those memories linger, the significance soon fades away.  No one cares what I got on my ACT anymore.  I honestly haven’t played the piano in over a year {I wonder if I still know how}.  And last month in orientation, the freshman in my group thought it was more believable that I was a part of a roller-derby league this summer than that I was once a state champion MVP.

However, I can also vividly remember the moments that I hit rock bottom.  Those are times God challenged me and I was either forced to grow or wallow in my misery.  These are the memories that still hold significance because they shaped me into the person I am today.

I could relive for you the time I disappointed my parents so much that they grounded me from the computer for a whole summer.  Or there’s the time I fell for the boy with the smooth talking even though he was bad news because he made me feel desired in a time I felt so undesirable.  Or there’s the time I didn’t learn my lesson and made that exact same mistake again—different boy, same insecurities.

But in line with this blog’s theme, I’ll tell you about the time I felt the most unbeautiful.  I specifically remember this moment for several reasons. 

First of all, I was in South Africa on an impact trip.  It was my first time out of the country and my team of nine had been busy all week serving people in the lowest of conditions.  I had walked the garbage-covered streets and entered homes built with whatever materials the people could find.  I had served men, women and children possibly their only meal for the day.  I had talked with men and women dying of AIDS.

This all happened right in the middle of my battle with my weight.  Huge meals by the house chef and no exercise for ten days wore on me hard.  But the devil knows just the right buttons to push to distract you from the Lord’s work.  One night I just hit a breaking point.

I wrote my mom a huge message about how ugly and out-of-control I felt.  I filled my journal until my hand cramped asking God why I couldn’t fix this and why I couldn’t feel beautiful.  I fell asleep crying, one of the few times I can ever remember doing that in my life {I’m not much of a crier}.

But though I was upset about my weight and how I perceived myself, I was mostly just ashamed that it was bothering me so much—ashamed at how selfish and ungrateful I had become. 

Here, I was surrounded by people who scrounged for one good meal a day, and I was upset because I had too much food at my disposal.  Here I was amidst people who worried about jobs and food and AIDS, and I was worried about how I looked. 

I was ugly—more inside than out.

This is the moment where God gave me perspective, and it was the beginning of my transformation in how I saw myself.  Though I’ve had more than my share of speed bumps since then, this moment was the beginning of something new in me. 

Striking a pose with the cutest little boys at Kid's Club after school.  I had the amazing opportunity of leading the little boy on the right to Christ--talk about a life-changing moment {for me as much as him}.

For my Honors Orientation group {and everyone else, too}:
1) What do you think prevents us the most from living what Miller calls a “great” story?
2) Are you {and am I} currently living out a “great” story?  Why or why not?  

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