Jesus Wept

Yesterday when I went to bed, I did not want to write a blog post today. I knew that I should, and I knew that I was probably going to, but that didn’t increase my desire. When I got up this morning though, I had new energy. I knew what I wanted to talk about. It was the words that my mother has said at least a hundred times:

“You just need to keep moving forward.”

I went over to my brother’s apartment at around eleven, only to stay there until after three. My prospects of actually getting this blog post finished for my goal was waning. I still wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to say.

Awhile after I had returned home, my pocket buzzed. It was Mom asking who had died. I had gotten a notification saying that Barbara Sinatra (the wife of Frank Sinatra) had died. I assumed that it was that. Mom said no and informed me that a boy in my graduating class had just passed away. It took me some time to find out who it was.  I was in a slight panic. I have never had anyone I was extremely close to pass away before. With a graduating class of less than five hundred, most everyone knows everyone. The panic dissipated when I found out. He was someone I had classes with, but had never really talked to. Yet it was quickly replaced with the sick misery that is all too familiar for my school. Last October we lost a teacher and a student within days of each other. If there is one thing I have found living in a small town, it is that if something like this doesn’t directly affect you, it does to your friends.

I have tried to keep religion mostly out of my blog, in order to make it as relatable as possible. It is impossible for me to express my thoughts even at mediocre manner without incorporating my personal religious beliefs.

I remember when I was about thirteen years old, one of my church youth group leaders telling us about how she had gotten through a difficult time. Her parents divorced. It was incredibly difficult for her, but she was married and had a young daughter. She continued to keep a schedule with her daughter, making sure her needs were met. She told us that her therapist attributed her not going into deep depression to this. That was a story that has always stuck with me. It has something to do with knowing you are part of something bigger than yourself.

When I heard of my classmate’s passing, I thought that it might not be the right time to talk about moving forward. When there are family and friends grieved, who are you to tell them to get over losing a precious soul. Then I thought of the famously short scripture found at John  11:35 :

“Jesus wept.”

I came to realize that in this scripture lies the key. This is the story where Christ raises Lazarus from the dead. There isn’t necessarily a reason why he should be sad. Christ knows that in a few short minutes, Lazarus will be up and about. Yet when Martha takes him to where Mary and other Jews are weeping, he weeps along side with them. Christ shows that even when He knows that we will rise again, He also knows that it is difficult now. It is okay to take the moment to be sorrowful. What is important is that we do not allow for the sorrow to take over us and stop us from progressing. After Jesus wept, he raised Lazarus. After the Pharisees heard and decided they wanted to kill Jesus, He went to Ephraim and “there continued with his disciples”.

We may not get our brother back, we may not get our friend right now. But the fact that there is life after death, the fact that the sun will raise to see another morning should give us the comfort to weep and there continue.

There will always be those who will be there to help. There will always be those who love you. Though there may not be the chance to go back, there is always the opportunity to move forward. My thoughts and prayers are with my classmate’s dear family and friends. To feel pain is to be alive.

~Ali

It Was Like a Hug and a Kiss to Someone Who Was Homesick

No school. No job. No friends. It has been nearly two years since my sister Jill left for college, leaving me the only kid at home. I had gotten used to being on “my own” in a sense, even though I still had my parents. I didn’t do a lot with my friends, so much of my socializing was playing cards with my parents and grandma. Which isn’t extremely typical. I decided to move early to Provo to acclimatize myself before starting school. I was afraid, but felt good. As June 29th continued to approach, I felt there was still so much I wanted to do, people I wanted to see, and things I wanted to say.  Yet time went on, and I was awake at unholy hours that Thursday morning. I drove for the first part of the journey. My thoughts were thankfully unable to wander.  When we arrived at my apartment complex, my brother came over from his to help me haul my things to my room.  I went to the door and knocked. Nothing. I knocked again. Holding my breath I opened the door and it was unlocked. I was dismayed. Was there seriously no one in the apartment? I unpacked a little and left a slightly passive aggressive note on the table before heading off to Salt Lake with my family. Taking the train to Salt Lake was an experience. There was lots and lots of waiting. Which meant lots and lots of thinking time. Which meant a woe is me mentality. We ended up only having lunch (which turned into dinner) in Salt Lake. By the time the Provo train station arrived, the last thing I wanted to do was go to my new apartment. Yet time went on, and I found myself knocking on my apartment door once more.  I wasn’t excited. This time the door opened.

“Hi, I’m the new roommate.”

As soon as she stepped aside, my grandma shoved me in and started talking to my roommate. That’s where it all becomes a blur. It seemed as though everyone was home, and everything was happening (though that was far from true). Before I knew it, I hugged and kissed my mother goodbye. My brother left for his apartment and my mother and grandma left to spend the night in a neighboring city. I was alone. With three other people. Becky was really the one who saved me that first night. She just talked. About her family, about her college freshman dating life. I was unpacking and listening. I’m not sure that I experienced anything like it before, but it was what I needed. I was able to spend my first night in Provo, if not elated, comforted.

The next morning I woke up to my roommates’ 6:15 am alarm. The other two girls in my room worked together, ten hour shifts from 7 am to 6 pm. I was having a hard time sleeping, so I figured I might as well get up.  I didn’t get much done that weekend. I didn’t really feel like it, and I didn’t feel the need to do more than unpack. So I didn’t. Yet time went on. The problem with letting yourself do nothing is that other forces tend to get in the way of the nothingness. The more time went on, the more lonely and out of place I felt. Something need to change, but the problem was nothing was staying the same. I was drowning in change.

The hope came on Sunday. My roommates and I went to church about twenty minutes before one. The service started at one o’clock, so we made it in plenty on time. Over the past couple of days, I had tried hard to attend all the different activities that were going on. As other students entered, I recognized quite a few of them. When one certain person walked into the room, I took a quick little breath. It was my friend’s older brother. He is a couple of years older than me and I don’t believe that we have actually met. He was incredibly popular during high school to the extent that we we’re still talking about him years after he had graduated. It was small. It was simple. Even still, it was something incredibly, undeniably familiar. And I held on. He ended up speaking later in the meeting. If there is one thing that boy can do, it is speak. Every word was a hug and a kiss from every person I loved and every person I missed. It was greetings from home.

I could have listened forever. Yet time went on, and I was home from church. Before I went to church that day, I was uninspired and sluggish. After, I was happy and energetic. I loved Provo. I started calling my apartment “home” and I loved the people I was around. Things are looking up.

I learned (or at least remembered) much that Sunday. The show must go on, because time will go on regardless of whether or not anything is happening. Performing is much more fun and satisfying. We can use what is familiar to inspire positive change. For me, all I needed to move forward was to realize that I haven’t lost myself forever. That came in the form of a familiar face and voice.

Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”. The past gives you many supplies and tools on the great journey of life. Be sure to use those things to propel yourself to a better future. You are capable of the incredible and improbable. It is easy to forget. When you are feeling lost or suffocating in change, look for hug and a kiss from home. Be yourself, because you never know when you will be helping someone who is a little homesick.

~Ali

Old, Dead Men & AP Government

“If I had only three words to describe my interests in high school, I would probably use these: old, dead men. I know that for many girls my age their three words are more along the lines of young, living boys, and don’t get me wrong, while I’ve had plenty of fun with that variety of male too, my affinity for the initial kind still remains. From Aristotle to C.S. Lewis to Winston Churchill and others, this demographic has captured my heart in a way that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago. So many of them have, in one way or another, reminded me of the three words that have become my life motto. That is, life is good. “

When I  began writing this speech piece (titled “Three Words”) in January, I couldn’t have imagined the impact that it would have on me just two-and-a-half months later. The more I said ‘life is good’, the more I believed it and the more I believed it, the happier I’ve been. There is an endless amount of potential to be had. Dreams and goals can certainly be achieved with prudence, passion, and patience.  By attempting to kindle hope in others, I have found that I rekindled hope into myself. I knew that I wanted to share that life is good with others, but until recently, I didn’t know how.

If you are active in the National Speech and Debate Association, you know that many of the speakers and debaters are nerds.  serious about academics.  It is no surprise then that roughly half of the AP Government class are also debaters. These people are my dearest friends. The next part requires a bit of background. With our high school being on a 3 trimester schedule, AP Government doesn’t start until the second one and goes to the end of the year. I decided not to do AP and thoroughly enjoyed  my first trimester of regular government. On the first day of the third trimester however, I knew that something needed to change. I was miserable with my classes and the prospects for the next three months seemed dim. I am a firm believer in finding happiness regardless of circumstance, but also in taking control of your life when necessary. With some prodding by friends, I made the decision to ask the teacher to hop into AP halfway through.

It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I’m a pretty shy person when you first get to know me, with a fear of getting my dreams crushed. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for my life to fall apart. I went to school early and with every step up the east staircase my apprehension also increased. His classroom is at the very end of the west hallway. I walked right past the classroom the first time around, I just couldn’t do it. I stood it the corner of the west hall for a moment, breathed, and said a little prayer before going in. The conversation went a little like this:

“Erm…. I was just wondering if- there was anyway to get into your AP Government class…”

“Sure.”

In that moment I almost died. All of that internal pain and suffering was almost for nothing. After a little bit of time in the counselor’s office, I was good to go. That first day was surreal, exhilarating. I am learning what I love with people I love. I discovered that I want to go down the path of political speech writing. That is scary to me. While getting guidance from my former government teacher, she advised me to start a blog. At this point in my life, I am not very educated, and I am not very personally or cognitively developed yet. What could I possibly write about?

I thought of how much I have changed since I was twelve, and how much I will change by the time I’m twenty-five. I have a dream. I have a goal that I am working towards. Things change and people change, but change can be (and often is) a good thing. One of the things that can be know in this wild, ever changing world is that life is good. There are ups and downs. We make poor choices. In the preface of “The Great Divorce”,  CS Lewis describes life as a tree, starting at one point then branching outwards. When we get on the wrong path by making bad decisions, there isn’t a way to get to your destination without going back. This is hard, but we can go back no matter what we’ve done. When we know our end goal, we can make staying on the path to success that much clearer. Life contains everything. Politics, friendship, family, economics, pop culture, science, humanities. An overload of information is always available at our fingertips. We will never know it all, but life is universal. So that is the starting point. I’ll begin with what I know; while life certainly isn’t easy, life certainly is good.

~Ali