My Identity

(Note: Most of this was written in early summer, back around the time of my graduation, but I never published it.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my identity. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a true identity crisis. Because I’m  rooted in my faith, “follower of Jesus” is my biggest identifier and something I can cling to even when I have no idea what or who else I am. I hope that’s the way other people see me, too.

For most of my life, I’ve been an adventurer-an explorer. I have always been a reader. I’ve been a cook and a baker. I’ve been an ice cream scooper and a barista. A student. A daughter. A friend. A nerd. An artist. A wanderer. I was a film buff. A coffee drinker. I tried my hand at being a hipster. Then I was hip for awhile. I even took a brief foray into being a hippy. Sometimes I think I’m becoming more of a hippy every day without even trying.

These are all identifiers. Jobs I’ve had, ways I see myself, ways other people see me…

I’ve been a student since I was 5 years old, when I entered 1st grade. Over the past 16-17 years, I’ve gone back to school every single autumn, and rejoiced every May.

For the past 4 years, I’ve had another identifier: English Major.

Since May 7, I’m no longer an English Major.

THAT IS CRAZY.

And it scares me.

For a long time, that’s been my go-to identifier. I use “I’m an English major” as an excuse, at times.

As an English major, people assume I will correct their grammar errors. (I won’t. On the inside? Yes. On the outside, no. Rest easy.) Another fun part of being an English major is everyone automatically assuming I’m going to be a teacher.

I tell them, no, I want to write. I want to publish novels. And they give me what I call the “English-major-pity-smile.” Most of you have probably given me that smile at one time or another, but that’s okay. To me, it became a joke. Every time I explained my desire to be a writer, I was being serious. I know it’s a big dream, but after four years, I’m still serious. After four years, I still believe we’re called to big dreams!

In Mere Christianity, my man C.S. Lewis wrote one of my all time favorite passages. It begins,

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

When I give up all the terms and identifiers to Him, I have the freedom to pursue Him fully. When I stop pursuing other things and focus on Him, the rest of my life seems to fall into place. If I stop worrying about how other people see me, or whether I am successful in the world’s eyes, I can shift my focus to Him.

A few months ago, I was meeting with a couple friends at Panera Bread, and someone asked the question, “How do you think God sees you?” That’s a hard question to answer at a moment’s notice, but it is also the identifier I care about most.

He loves me. He loved me before I loved Him.

He sees the good things about me. He sees that I am merciful. He sees that I am discerning. He sees that I am good at teaching and leading. He sees that I am a communicator. He sees that I work hard to maintain my relationships.

He loves me, not because of what I’m becoming, but because of who I am.

Even if you try to hide things from God, He knows. To me, that gives me license to be completely open and authentic with Him! He sees that I sometimes don’t allow myself to be real because I am afraid of being hurt. He sees that sometimes I tell people I’m so busy, but I’m really wasting valuable time. He sees that I sometimes go past boundaries I’ve set for myself.

And He loves me.

Because I know I’m loved by Him, I don’t have to become depressed over not being a student anymore. Because I have a beautiful community surrounding me, where I am given opportunities to use the gifts God’s given me… losing a part of my identity isn’t so bad. I don’t have to be afraid about the future, about stepping out into the real world, like so many of my classmates are.

I may not be a student or an English Major anymore, but I am still loved by God. That’s a constant, no matter what else I choose to be… no matter what other labels people give to me. Moving on from college after just four years is a reason to be joyful, because I’m moving toward something.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say,

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day, and death of your whole body. In the end, submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

I admit that passage is confusing. It’s paradoxical. It doesn’t make sense. Looking for someone else shouldn’t bring you to the center of yourself.

But hey, Jesus doesn’t always make sense. It doesn’t make sense that we have more freedom when we submit to Him. It doesn’t make sense that I find myself when I seek Him with everything in me. Grace doesn’t make sense. Self-sacrifice doesn’t make sense.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ, for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Colossians 2:9-10

There is no place I want to find my identity other than the heart of Jesus.

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Thanks for reading,

Carrie

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On this, the Monday-est of all Mondays

Today had me feeling some type of way… some type of melancholy. The Monday-est of all Mondays.

Tonight I crawled into bed with a glass of wine and some Faulkner, but I ended up with my laptop out, looking through photos of Scotland – of the place I called home for only half a year – and missing it something fierce. (May or may not have squeezed my eyes shut reaaaaally tight, in hopes that when I opened them I would be in my itty bitty icky flat, and I could throw on my rain coat and run down the hill to my favorite cafe for a flat white, or to ‘Spoons for a pint. It didn’t work.)

I think it hit me so hard because instead of looking through my best photos – the ones that are edited and perfectly posed – I ended up flipping through ALL of them. The bloopers made me miss it more.

Ah, what a time that was. How the sheep ran to me, embracing me in love and fluffy kisses. (Not what happened.) How the Scottish security guards LOVED seeing me climbing on the wall of Edinburgh Castle, trying to get that perfect gram even though the drop on the other side was 30-50 feet. “Tourists will be tourists,” they said good-naturedly. One may have even offered to take the photo for me. (Not what happened.) Oh how that handsome young bagpiping soldier offered to let me try to play his quaint lil instrument. (Ok fine, he’s not, strictly speaking, “alive,” so that’s not what happened either.)

Ahem.

Anyway.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Awkward selfies with my Canadian bestie, pics of many a meal of “fancy ramen” in my little plastic purple bowls, photos of wild drunken Scots messing about in the quad outside my bedroom window, playing in the 1/4 inch of snow that decided to bless Glasgow that winter.

Rain-soaked bridge running photos. Rain-soaked castle hill climbing photos. Rain soaked runs back from the grocery store photos. (It rains a lot in Glasgow, ok?)

Seriously, so much rain. But look at those smiles. Aw. What a time we had.

Every happy memory comes rushing back so easily, in the blink of an eye. I don’t remember how I felt in the nights lying in my twin sized bed with the crappiest mattress, wishing I was home, wishing the noise outside my window at 2 am was my family rather than another drunken college student celebrating a rugby victory or just celebrating your average Wednesday night. I don’t spend time dwelling on the days when I legitimately thought I was going to fail my Arthurian Legends class because the professor was a… word I’m not going to write here.

Instead I remember last minute train rides to new cities and running to the pub with new friends. I spend days thinking about flat whites and empire biscuits. Or just biscuits in general (an under-appreciated food here in America. And no I’m not talking about the biscuits you douse in gravy).

It’s so easy to pine after the good things about a place, an experience, a memory, a person… anything you lose, really. It’s so easy to forget the things you didn’t like.

One thing I do remember is how afraid I was of coming home. I knew I didn’t have a lot to come back to. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to drive my car. I had a couple close friends I knew would still be there for me. But I also knew that when I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia, I would be stepping away from some friendships and relationships that had been integral parts of my life before I stepped onto another plane in Philadelphia just half a year before.

I had no idea if I would find new relationships to step into.

But here I am, 1 year and a couple months out, and I have never felt more at home in a place than I do in Lancaster, right now. 22 years old – most of those years spent right here, in good ole Lanc. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this feels like home. I shouldn’t feel surprised that these people are home. I shouldn’t feel surprised at it all.

But I do.

Because before I left, this wasn’t home. It was just the place I was from.

I came home not knowing what I was coming back to, or why. And then my purpose found me. I found people to pour into, and people stepped in to pour into me.

Maybe it’s just chance. Or maybe someone is pulling the strings.

I’m reminded again tonight that God knows what He’s doing. That He’s most in control when I’ve given up my petty little excuse for power. That sounds simple enough, and maybe it is, but I need to keep reminding myself.

I’m reminded that when I tell Him daily my talents are His for the using, He will use them. I’m reminded that He’s ALWAYS speaking. When I can’t hear Him it’s not because He’s gone silent, but because I’ve stop listening. (Or because I’ve let my Bible sit idle by my bedside for too long.)

I’m reminded tonight that when I give Him my heart, it might get a little dented and it might be pulled in different directions, but it will not be destroyed beyond repair. I’m reminded that He cares about my desires more than I ever could. That He’s already given me the desires of my heart, and that He will continue to.

I’m reminded that every single time I’ve let anxiety and fear and doubt overcome me, He’s proven Himself – He’s come through, again, and again, and again. He didn’t have to. But He did. Because He knows my heart. He knows my heart desires Him above every other desire, but He also knows I’m easily distracted. He knows what I, specifically, need.

I’m reminded that He is good. That He helps us to gradually move on from things we need to move on from (even if they were really good things, in their season). Even when we want to hold on.

And I’m reminded that when memories come back like a whisper, sewing little seeds of discontent, of self-doubt, sewing little seeds of you’re not enough, you’re not doing big things like you used to… Why are you doing this when you could be doing that?

His voice rings out in the darkness :

I am enough.

I am more than enough, so you don’t have to be. 

Friendly reminder to look around at your life. Find the good. The Father has you where you are for a reason. If you don’t think that’s true, start asking Him for revelation. Don’t stop asking.

Let me just quote the great Ferris Bueller before I hit publish: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading.

XOXO,

Carrie

 

Full of Life Now, and Full of Passion

Wow. It’s been awhile. Life has been a little crazy. Almost two weeks ago, I walked across a stage and accepted a diploma. (Well, really, I posed for a picture with my school’s provost holding a diploma case that I wasn’t even given. Because first of all, they send us our diplomas in the mail, and second of all, it was raining, so they didn’t even hand us the leather diploma cases the way they normally do.)

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That’s me, moments after graduating!

Over the past weeks, I’ve had a surplus of free time for the first time in… four years? I’ve had some time to ruminate on the fact that I’m finished. It is 8 parts joy and 2 parts sadness. 8 parts sweet freedom and 2 parts wanting to go back to school in the fall. 8 parts finally getting to DO some of the things I kept saying I’d do after I graduate, and 2 parts realizing I was never going to do those things, whether in school, or not.

It’s hard for me to see the changes in my life from the last four years. It’s hard to pick out specific things, and know that they have changed for the better, or the worse. My high school graduation seems so long ago I can hardly remember the person I was. I remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t change in these four years. They were worried I would be “corrupted,” and I assured them that my core beliefs were unwavering. That I wouldn’t change in those 4 years.

Ha.

I have changed a thousand times. There were times in college, that I was so much worse off than I ever was in high school. There were times when I struggled with who I was and what I believed. My morals were shaken. I was confused about the right next step. Plenty of times I worried so much about what I should do, without even bothering to ask God what He wanted me to do. But not once in college did I question my belief in God’s unwavering, unconditional love.

Many students do walk away from God in college. I am thankful and blessed that my faith only grew stronger. Some of my friends have asked me how I’ve stayed so sure. My reply: Jesus is the most important thing in my life. Everything else stems from my connection to Him. It’s a relationship – the most important relationship in my life. And it’s not something I could just walk away from because of one or two professors who tried to tell me I was wrong, or because of one or two great writers who happened to be atheists. Peers have pointed out to me how may great writers – writers I love – didn’t believe, or don’t believe. And to them, I generally throw a few names like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or T.S. Eliot, who happen to be three of my favorite authors, and three of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century. For every person who left the faith, I can find one who held fast.

I’m more certain today than I ever was in high school. I have made discoveries of God’s love in this past year. I have seen His hand move in unprecedented ways. And it has changed me in the best possible way.

My favorite Bible passage throughout the past couple years was Proverbs 3. The whole chapter is so good, but verses 5-8 are the verses that really stuck out to me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Someone shared this passage with me when I was on a mission trip in Alaska, the summer after my Sophomore year of college. It was my hardest year of school. The only year I felt like I was losing myself. Anxiety really hit me hard, and I was stressed out for pretty much every moment of every day. That trip to Alaska was, for me, a turning point. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that trip impacted me, turned me around, and began a change in me. Looking back, I see that I heard God’s voice very clearly there, in the wilderness, in the stillness, in the solitude. I experienced Him in ways I hadn’t before, and I couldn’t look away.

Up until that point, I hadn’t been trusting God. Not with my whole heart, anyway. Not even with most of my heart. I was trusting in my own intellect. I was trusting in my own knowledge. And it wasn’t working. This passage is a promise that I can lean on. If I chose to follow Him, He will make my paths straight. Up until that point, I was leaning on my own knowledge, and on my own skills. In the two years since, I have tried my hardest to lean on Jesus, and to acknowledge that he can give me so much more wisdom than I could get anywhere else.

He is all-knowing. He is the giver of understanding, and He is a generous giver.

A few months ago I read A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy for the first time. (I’ve read it another time since then.) Oh man. If you’ve never read Tozer, do yourself a favor, and read Tozer. He so fully encapsulates the relationship we should have with our Father. He talks about getting back to the source, and about God’s Holiness, and makes me realize how much I should spend every moment of every day on my knees. Because God is worth it. One moment in His presence is better than a lifetime anywhere else.

This is a passage I jotted down from Tozer a few months ago, and it continues to be my daily prayer.

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

I know I’ve talked before, about wandering. I feel like I’ve been wandering for so long, through time, and space, and I feel like I’m beginning to find my place. He is good, and He is constant, through all of life’s changes.

 

What I’m Reading this Week:

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings – Philip and Carol Zaleski

This book is an engaging, comprehensive biography of Lewis, Tolkien, and co. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf, calling to me for nearly a year. So far I’ve gotten through Lewis and Tolkien’s childhoods and their time in World War 1. One thing that stood out to me so far is the way loss (of parents, and so many friends through illness and the war) shaped their lives, their writings, and their faith. Any page now, I think I will read about their first meeting in Oxford! My nerdy heart is happy.

 

Much Love,

Carrie

Do I Dare?

Do I Dare?

Tomorrow, I graduate from college. 16 years of school. 4 years of hard work, and sweat, and tears, and stress, and wanting to quit numerous times…

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”

This is the end. I know it won’t hit me until autumn, when I should be buying school supplies, and ordering books. For the first time in 16 years, I won’t need to buy pencils, and notebooks, and backpacks.

“Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…”

Despite all of the bad, I loved school. I loved “being an English major.” I loved learning new things. I loved the race against time to get a project or a paper turned in.

“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”

Tonight was my last class. My favorite professor made my classmates clap for me multiple times, probably to make up for the fact that he can’t make it to graduation (and that he made me come to class from 6-8 on the night before graduation).

“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,”

Tomorrow, I’ll walk across a stage (number 448 in the school of arts, humanities, and social sciences alone). This is the end.

“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”

On this, the eve of entering the “real world,” lines from my favorite poem keep running through my mind.

“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?'”

There are things I’ve read in college that I probably would not have read otherwise. T.S. Eliot is a big one. I read Eliot in high school but wasn’t impressed. I remember studying “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and not understanding it (or just not caring). 

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

In college? Eliot was enlightening. I read “Prufrock” again every couple months, and every single time I read it, I see something in myself that I need to work on. If I’d left high school and not gone on to pursue an English degree, I would probably never have read Eliot again. I would think a little differently than I do now, and I would be a little more passive. There are steps I wouldn’t have taken and chances I would’ve ignored.

“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”

“Prufrock” is all about passivity.

“I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”

Passivity is a problem I see all around me. It’s a problem that is often attributed to my generation – to millennials. However, Eliot saw this same problem in his own generation, almost 100 years ago! He saw people letting life pass them by, rather than taking life by the horns. He saw people who measured out their lives in… coffee spoons? What a small and insignificant thing to measure your life by.

“And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.”

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” is a well-known line. I see it in cute little prints and coffee shop chalkboards, and I always smile to myself, because I know when Eliot wrote it, he meant it as a bad thing. This is why we should not take quotes out of context, people. 

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”

In the poem, Eliot’s character, J. Alfred Prufrock becomes so passive, that he begins to question his ability to make even the smallest decisions. At the beginning of the poem, he’s alive. He’s even thinking about daring to do something as big as disturb the universe. At the end of the poem, he’s questioning whether he even dares to eat a peach.

“Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,”

One thing I learned in college is how to step out of my comfort zone. In college, I had to put myself out there if I wanted to meet anyone. Another way I jumped out of my comfort zone? Living abroad for over 5 months. I learned to conquer fears I didn’t even know I had. 

“And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!”

Another thing I really struggled with during college was anxiety. College is all stress, all the time. The more stressed I became, the more anxious I became. There were times I was too afraid of the future to sleep. Thanks to Jesus, and thanks to my Mama encouraging me when I genuinely wanted to quit school, I overcame my anxiety.

“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

As I leave school and enter the “real world,” I want to be unafraid of taking chances. I want to make good decisions without always second guessing myself. I want to follow my dreams of writing fiction and being published, and I want to continue to do everything I can for the Kingdom. 

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”

Here’s to the class of 2016. Here’s to following our dreams without fear. Here’s to making our mark on the world! 

xoxo,

Carrie

The beginning of the end (or me starting to freak out and get nostalgic because I graduate in 12 days!)

Fun fact: I just wrote an entire blog post. Then it disappeared. What?! Where did it go? Sometimes I love the internet and sometimes I hate it. I keep checking, like, maybe it will have magically reappeared, but no. Ok, cool. Hopefully this isn’t indicative of how my week will go. Now for recreating said post…

Today I picked up my graduation regalia. It does not seem real that this cap and gown and sash and tassel are really mine. I haven’t been here long enough. This can’t be right. I only graduated high school… last year? Right? There’s no way it could’ve been four years ago. I’ve gone back to school every fall for the last 16 years. This year, I won’t.

I’m currently sitting by the Millersville pond, my favorite spot on campus. It’s a morning like a thousand other mornings I’ve had over the last four years. I’m pretending to read a book for my Drama class tonight, but I’m secretly letting myself be distracted by the swans, the ducks, and the squirrels (and the “TURTLES,” which the annoying girl down the bank from me keeps screaming every time she supposedly sees one).

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The Pond, complete with the school swans, Miller and S’Ville

As I sat here, reading my book, I realized this book of Eugene O’Neill plays is the last book I need to read before graduation. This is the final one. What?! Since I began my studies, I’ve read many books similar to this one. (And sometimes Shmooped or Sparknoted many books similar to this one.) They’re books that are interesting and literary and “part of the canon,” but also books I’d just as soon trade for a book of my own choosing. Too many times to count, I have whined, “Plays are meant to be watched, not read.” Today, I don’t want this book to end. I want time to move just a little bit slower so I don’t have to think about this season of my life being over.

I’m reading the book for my last Drama class, with my favorite professor, Dr. Carballo. Tonight is the last night that I’ll just get to sit, occasionally add some input, listen to him lecture, and be blown away by how intelligent he is, and how he seems to have 90% of the books in this world stashed away in the library that is his brain.

I was absolutely terrified to take a class with Dr. Carballo in the second semester of my sophomore year. He was the gatekeeper. You have to take Comparative Literature to get into the upper level literature courses, and at that point, he was the only professor teaching that class. I’d only heard bad stories about Carballo… throwing students out of class for going to the restroom, yelling at people for sneaking a snack during class, even supposedly losing his temper at someone for reaching for a paper rather than letting him hand it to her. Sadly, I never got to see these supposed displays of anger.

I did get to see a professor who expected much from his students, and gave them knowledge, and insight in return. I got to see a professor who demanded respect, and gave respect in return. I got to know Carballo on a personal level, and I love him. In fact, his friendship is probably the most important friendship I’ve acquired here at Millersville. Carballo complimenting me on a paper I wrote, or giving me an A on an essay exam, or writing me a letter of recommendation means more to me than any other professor or peer doing the same thing.

Dr. Carballo is retiring after this semester. I feel so sorry for future Millersville English majors, who will miss out on his wit and wisdom, but it also feels right that his retirement and my graduation coincide. I am glad he won’t be here teaching if I won’t be here to listen to him.

Tonight is my last class with my favorite professor. It’s my first “last class” of the semester. The beginning of the end. This is my last week of classes. Next week is my very last finals week.

I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m nostalgic, I’m excited, I’m stressed, I’m emotional, and I’m so ready to see what comes next (in essence, ALL THE FEELS). Here’s to the beginning of the end, and to embracing the future!

What I’m listening to today:

xoxo,

Carrie