(back story: this year as siblings we pulled names for christmas. instead of trying to buy presents for everyone, when all of us are either in college, soon in college, or post college (which means, we're all broke.) we decided to focus just on one person - and buy them a thoughtful present that was affordable and kind to our bank accounts. secretly i had hoped that zach had pulled my name because he always gives the most thoughtful and unique presents. i think his love language is gift-giving and i am glad to be on the receiving end of it. :) from a tandem bike to a vespa mug from italy, to the jumping antonio who hangs from my rearview mirror to the nicest running sneakers and a darling bracelet...i couldn't help but secretly hope that he pulled my name this year.)
so this morning when i awoke i saw a very, very large box sitting in front of the Christmas tree with my very own name scrawled in sharpie on it. "To Ashley, From Zach - Merry Christmas!" A smile quickly spread across my face as i crept closer just to make sure i didn't read it wrong. it was indeed for me.
the gift giving began and soon it was my turn to open the huge present from zach. he carried it over carefully and placed it before my shining eyes. as i gently pulled back the wrapping paper and removed the tape from the cardboard box my eyes soon fell upon a bicycle tire wheel. just one bicycle tire wheel. a squeal of excitement jumped from my heart as i realized what zach had purchased for me... a unicycle!
zach makes all of my dreams come true.
so this brings me back to the hardest thing i have ever attempted to learn in my life. it is no longer learning how to drive stick shift, although in some ways the two activities are quite similar. namely in that until you "get it" ---- you are the most dreadful and sorry sight. haha
[also. i now have a new-found respect for people in the circus, particularly the ones who ride unicycles. if i were ever in the circus, i could not be the unicycle-r. i would probably be the bumbling clown who trips over things and gets water thrown in her face. i should think however, that people in the circus would be quite interesting people to spend time with. maybe someday i will find myself a circus family to follow around. :) ]
anyway, so about two hours of practicing later i only have two really sore legs, a few splinters, and a humbled heart to show for it. haha i am making progress however, i can now balance for approximately three seconds.
when i first stepped onto the unicycle i was in shock as to how hard it was going to be. somehow in my mind, i could pick it up like pogo sticking, or hula-hooping, or one of the other random hobbies i had as a child. no, no my friends. unicycling is hard. every muscle in your body counts. every movement matters and sends you soaring forward or backward or directly into the pavement.
it takes patience. and practice. and more patience. and some more practice. and then some more patience.
so for christmas i received a unicycle. but i also received a harmonica. something else that i thought would be easy to pick up. (i am really naive and silly.)
but this semester i have been learning a lot about patience. and how beautiful it is to work with your hands at something for long periods of time until you get the end result that you intended. (but you don't always get the result you intended, and that's ok too.) when i look back over this semester, it has been a lot of hands-on learning, a lot of patience learning, a lot of feeling...and i think i am learning that i am the kind of person who really enjoys things that require all of you. things that require you mind, body, and soul. things and activities that are hard and challenging and tedious and yet so incredibly fulfilling. now granted, sometimes these things are really frustrating and they make me want to throw my hands up in the air and never try again, but it's in the choice to try again (and again and again) that wonder and patience and grace can begin to grow inside of a person.
i think that's why i like knitting.
i think that's why i have a growing interest in gardening.
i think that's why i like the prospect of learning how to ride a unicycle.
i think that's why i want to learn to play the harmonica.
i think that's why i love meeting people and really getting to know them. really, with my whole heart.
and i think that's why i like following Jesus.
...because it's hard. and challenging. it requires every single inch of me. it requires every thought and emotion. it requires everything i can possibly offer, and even that isn't enough. but the good news is that God's grace is sufficient. and recently i have been learning that he redeems my mistakes. i keep living and trying and striving to bring a smile to his face and often times i end up stumbling - but his hands always reach out and meet me in my stumbles and he redeems my mistakes. somehow he reaches out and meets me just where i fall short, and every time he redeems what i am feebly trying to do and somehow brings good out of all of my failed attempts. i am learning that God can use us in mighty ways, broken and foolish as we are. and so i keep seeking, keep trying, keep learning...
and i'll continue to get up on that unicycle- i'll keep holding onto those wooden benches that keep sliding splinters into my fingers. i'll keep almost falling on my face. and i'll keep slobbering all over my new harmonica in attempts to play a song. i'll keep putting everything it takes into learning because if we're not learning we're not growing...and if we're not growing we're dying. (thank you, dan pfisner.)
so i encourage you to go embark on an adventure that seems far too big for you. start learning something that is going to require all of your attention in order to master it. pick up an instrument, buy a unicycle, knit a scarf. poor yourself completely into something and see what you come up with in the end. take a pottery class. better yet, poor hours into something and then give it away. watch how the works of your hands can bless others. (and not just bless them, but inspire them!) plant seeds, grow trees, take up running, train for a marathon, bake bread, do a puzzle. no more of this instant gratification stuff - be patient, enjoy the process, learn to make mistakes well, learn to try again. go learn something, you'll be glad you did. :)
(and if you can't come up with anything to learn, come on over and we'll learn how to ride a unicycle together!)
and this my friends, is what i am so excited to learn for life, i am SO excited that this is a lesson i get to continue to examine and learn and poor myself into...
"Finally as soon as the community of the disciples is born, Jesus sends them: 'Go. Go and announce the good news to the poor, but go with nothing- not even two pairs of sandals. Don't take two tunics, don't take any money, don't take any food. Go with nothing. Go poorly and do the impossible.'
What is the 'impossible'? It is liberation. To liberate people from the demons of fear, of loneliness, of hatred and of egoism that shackle them. To liberate people so that they also can love, heal, and liberate others. But in order to do that, you must go in poverty and experience the life of God flowing within your flesh. You will give life but a life that flows from the heart of God. You will bring people to new life, a new hope..."
from, 'From Brokenness to Community' (a lecture given at Harvard by Jean Vanier)