Sunday, September 16, 2012

3/100 (letter to a teenage me)

Dear little seventeen-year-old Danielle,

I write to you at age seventeen because apparently that was your -- our -- favourite age. I don't even remember now why it became so, but I suspect it's something to do with being a sort of magical inbetween time: not really a child, not really an adult, and yet it's entirely possible to be one or the other or both. A good age.

The teenage years were kind to you, little beaming, optimistic Danielle. I don't mean in the sense that they blessed you with an unforced grace of movement, milky white skin, and gorgeous long tresses of wavy hair. I don't need to tell you that none of this happened; after all, why do you think there is no cheesy retrospective picture topping this letter? It's because I couldn't find a picture of teenage Danielle that I was willing to share with the internet. So no, Danielle, you will never be the beautiful, ladylike Meg of Seven Little Australians with her delightfully romantic ways and the adorable sprinkling of light freckles over her nose. Sorry about that.

But your teenage years were brilliant in altogether different respects. You lived in cool places and had cool friends and your siblings were cool companions and you got to make stuff and paint stuff and think stuff and read stuff and all those horrible things you'd heard about intense emotional and hormonal confusion and the teenage years totally being the pits? They didn't actually come true.

I'm not saying things were perfect, and I'm not saying things are going to be perfect. Life's messy and, while hormonal confusion won't dog your teenage years, emotional confusion will definitely pop its head in during your twenties. You know how you knew it all and had all the answers when you were seventeen? I'm afraid to tell you, kid, that all that dries up. By the time you hit mid-twenties, you'll be starting to realise that things are less black and white than you'd once thought. Pat answers don't actually satisfy. Also, life sometimes punches you in the stomach -- hard -- and this may dent your breezy seventeen-year-old demeanour. I have to tell you, Danielle, that far from being more confident, more interesting, and more funny, you will likely be less of all those things. In short, Danielle, you will turn into one of those people you said you never would be: a grown up. What's more, it'll come over you slowly and before you even realise it, you're there, never to return to the kingdom of the kids.

Grieve a little over all of that, if you want. I know you have big dreams and plans. But when you're done, dry your eyes and start looking ahead. Good things will happen. You'll be surprised by the doors God opens for you. You'll be startled by the amazing gifts that come in from all corners at surprising moments. You'll be in awe when some of your dreams, the ones you've had since you were little, will actually be realised. Some of the friends you're starting to get to know now -- they'll still be majorly important in your life fifteen years later, plus you'll get to know some amazing new people. You'll grin when you realise that you don't have to click with everyone straight away. Some strong and deep friendships can start off slowly, and others can burst into existence like fireworks. Have fun enjoying all of them.

You will have friends all around the world. Your book collection will continue to grow -- alarmingly. The internet will only get cooler. You'll be less of an extrovert than you once were; try not to think about it too much. In fact, try not to think about most things too much. That's always been your downfall. Stop beating up on yourself; you're not fat. One day you'll look back and wish you'd appreciated your size now, because you sure won't stay that away. Again, sorry to have to put it so bluntly.

Chill out about the whole driving thing. You're a late (late late!) bloomer, but you work it out eventually -- you even figure out how to read maps and get yourself to strange places. As I said, your skin will never be porcelain, but the horrid teen-face days will eventually disappear. And here's something cool: you finally, eventually, actually work out how to style your hair in a way you like. After years of experimentation and grief, you WILL settle on some styles and cuts that work for you. The frizz shall be tamed! I mean, to a degree. Pantene-ad-perfection will probably elude you all your days.

I know, I know -- you want me to cut to the chase already and tell you who you end up with. But here's the thing, little hopeful-faced Danielle: there is no who-you-end-up-with, at least not yet. I know you secretly think you could get married by eighteen or twenty-one. After all, it's what your Mum did, and you really just want to have babies and stuff. But you're so not ready for that. I mean, you would've muddled through, joyfully and optimistically, and grown up next to whoever you married (don't worry; it's not him. He eventually finds someone else, so you can breathe a sigh of relief). I've seen other baby brides do that, and life is lovely for them. But I'm glad for your sake that it won't pan out this way. I hesitate to even tell you any of that. What seventeen-year-old wants to know that she still won't be married at the age of thirty-two? It's the truth, though, and there's no way you'll really get this, but while it's definitely rough at times, life is good.

Thanks for spending all that time in reading and study and soaking up the word of God. It'll come in extra handy in the future, especially when you no longer have time to sit for hours and digest good meaty stuff. It will be so helpful, particularly when you realise that there's so much you don't know. Eventually you will turn into your mother, Danielle, and cry during movies. That's payback for all the times you laughed at Mum. Actually, you'll cry a lot, sometimes even in front of people. I know you worry sometimes that you're an emotionless robot, but seriously. Quit worrying about that. It's so not true.

You will keep secrets, little-version-of-me, that you can't imagine having to keep. You will see things broken down and built up again. You will develop a rich and thankful appreciation for your amazing family. That's all I can really tell you. I'll leave the rest for you to figure out on your own.

I wish I could have some of your starry-eyed optimism to keep me company nowadays, but I don't really think I'd trade that for what these years have shown me -- will show you -- of grace. God keeps His promises, Danielle. You don't need to be scared to grow up.

With you all the way,


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This, above, has been the Taxi-cat's modus operandi for most of this afternoon -- a restless, miaowing blur. I kind of wish she could speak English so she could let me know what's bothering her.

Finally, I set up a little nest for her under the sunniest window corner in the Housie, right next to my wobbling stack of library books. I couldn't force her to sit there, but eventually she found her way over there on her own. This was her response:

-- I think she liked it okay.

Candid family:

This week is a chapter in your autobiography; what's the title? This week is a band; what do you call your group? This week is a song; is it a ballad, a dirge, a love song, a scream?

Mine? It'd probably be called Lots of Little Pieces. My song would be a worship track, sung by a band called Watch The Blur. Whatever the words you find to describe your world this week, I hope you have a window in time to really live.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breathing to death:

It seems like a cruel irony that the times when we most desperately need to step outside the circle of clamour in order to pause and examine are the very times when it feels most impossible to do so. Things can be so pressing -- one Thing, then another Thing, and another and another and another -- that it becomes easy to forget an even bigger Thing: that this is life, and we each get only one of them. Maybe it's hard because it's important. The most important stuff doesn't usually come easily.

There's a line in a song by Lecrae which says, 'I ain't living; I'm just breathing to death.' It gives me a little shiver, a shudder of kind of unfamiliar recognition -- like I'm on the verge of finally understanding something I should have known all along.

It's terrifying, this thought that it's possible to go through life without actually living. And I don't mean living in the floaty sense of I'm-just-going-to-spend-my-time-and-money-doing-whatever-I-can-that'll-make-me-feel-happy. I mean, sucking the marrow out of life while looking outward, facing out to the people we love and up to the Creator who made us. We owe it to him and we owe it to them to live fully and live well.

Just gotta work out how to turn down the noise occaisonally and actually do that. How do you strive to be more present -- more alive?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Spring reading stash:

This week's top ten Tuesday challenge at The Broke and the Bookish is all about the books on our Fall reading list. Autumn? I wish! Spring is lovely, for sure, but it leads to Summer and -- I think we all know that I'm not so much a fan of Summer. Not compared to a Queensland Winter, anyway. But the Fall/Spring thing is irrelevant. Here -- which is far more important -- is my list of Top Ten Books on My Spring Reading List:
  1. Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic
  2. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
  3. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  4. The Boat by Nam Le
  5. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  6. Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson
  7. His Name in Fire by Catherine Bateson
  8. The Messenger Bird by Rosanne Hawke
  9. Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary by Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne
  10. City by James Roy
I'm excited about diving into all of these. Seven fiction, three non-fiction. Some have been on my to-read list for a while. Others are brand new releases. This list includes six books by Australian authors, which makes me happy. Four of the books were published this year. There is one verse novel in the pile, as well as two short story collections. One of these books won the Newbery Medal, and another won the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. One is written by a past creative writing professor of mine, and another is written by a cool Brisbane author. One was a birthday gift, and another is required reading for uni this semester (guess which). Four were published by local publishers UQPress, which makes me feel patriotic.

What's on your Spring (Autumn?) reading list?

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