Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Cup of Chesterton

Sometimes rambling and venting and writing are soothing and useful. Words tumble frantically onto a page as I sort out the racing in my mind and the jumbling in my heart. But sometimes an empty cup needs to be filled.

Sometimes, when the words just won't sort themselves into sentences and the thoughts won't arrange themselves into paragraphs, the solution lies not in my pen but in my books.

And so, on this quiet fall evening, I hope these words of G.K. Chesterton, full of far more wisdom than I possess, bring you as much calm and insight as they have bestowed on me.

"You have not wasted your time; you have helped to save the world. We are not buffoons, but very desperate men at war with a vast conspiracy."

"To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless."

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.” 

“Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?” 

“What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.” 

“Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.” 

“In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.” 

“The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God's paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle - and not lose it.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Destination: Unknown

"You don't get to know the ending."

This phrase is one of Mom's most frequent.

But I want to know the ending.

I was the girl who would skip to the end of the book so that I knew what was coming. 

I was the girl who endlessly harassed professors about test material so that I knew exactly what to study.

I was the girl who refused to watch anything labeled "Drama" because that was code for "Potentially Unhappy or Unsatisfying Ending."

No guesswork. No unknowns. No questions.

Clear answers. Clear endings. Clear directions.

But my plans have a way of being foiled.

"You don't get to know the ending."

The more answers I demanded, the fewer I received.

When I planned more, I enjoyed less.

When I insisted more, I appreciated less.

It was exhausting. And frankly, not a lot of fun.

So I gave up. 

I don't want to be the one in the corner, afraid that the story won't end the way she hopes it will. I want to be the one who lives fearlessly.

I don't want to compile a list of all possible pitfalls, dangers, and losses. I want to live without assessing the risk.

I don't want to have safety and comfort and predictability as my highest priorities. I want to live and love and give bravely.

"You don't get to know the ending."

I remind myself of this when I need to commit, when I'm asked to sign up, when I'm called to join. 

I remind myself of this goal when I catch myself compiling a list of "what-ifs?" and "why-nots".

I remind myself to take the scary steps, to agree to the unknown, to avoid the safe corner.

And I don't get to know where this journey will end.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Friday Linkage

Friday nights in October are for bonfires and friends, for hints of cozy winter evenings, and for piles of good books. And October Saturdays are for long hours in the golden sunlight. So this week's blog post wasn't published until Sunday night.

Here is a thought-provoking post on the difference between a hero and a celebrity.Which one are you aspiring to be?

New blog finds of the week include Keitharsis. There were so many wonderful posts that I could barely pick one to share. But this post on last moments is a good place to start.

It's been a while before I've shared an article by Seth Godin.  Read this post. And then decide: what are you going to do next?

Relevant Magazine recently published a thoughtful article on the wanderlust epidemic.

A recent article from Image Journal was a poignant reminder that grace resides in the everyday:

"But inside that little nothing is, of course, everything. Inside that smallness is an immensity beyond our ability to imagine. It is an offer of grace.Grace may be a gift, but the question we always have to ask is whether we are prepared to receive it."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stories of our Lives

The world is exploding with stories.

There are stories being told all around us, all the time. Stories are everywhere, whirling by in the autumn winds, and yet, so often, we forget to pay attention. We forget that we are always in the middle of a story. 

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books..." - C.S. Lewis

We are caught up in the rhythm of the everyday and neglect to notice that the plot is always moving forward, that new beginnings are always happening, that chapters are always closing. 
We forget, too, that we have a part to play in writing these stories...that the words we choose to grant or the thoughts we hold back - un-acted upon, under cover - are pages in the books of our lives. 

“With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand.” - G.K. Chesterton 

And sometimes we are caught by surprise in the middle of our own tales. We think we are nearing the end of a chapter when we are really just in the beginning. Or we think we are slugging through the middle of a story when, really, the final page is close at hand.

So we push onward, trying always to live better tales, because we never really know when the page will turn or the chapter will close, leaving us only with the fragments of a story that could have been better.

"We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?" - Donald Miller

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." 
- Steve Jobs, 2005

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday Linkage

It's 1:30 a.m. here, which means it's technically no longer Friday. It's been one of those weeks. Productive and challenging, exciting and stressful, I can't say that I'm sad to leave it behind. Now I'm spending the long weekend with my family in the woods, grateful for some time to catch my breath.

While you're enjoying the fall weather that's sweeping the nation, here's some weekend reading to peruse.
  • Some tips for decision making. 
  • A related article by The Happiness Project. Are you a satisficer or a maximizer? 
  • Another article on happiness in the usual irreverent tone of Lifehacker.
  • This article and this article, both published in Relevant Magazine, ask some revealing questions. They are definitely worth a read. And probably a second one.
  • Anne Jackson's writing is provocative and convicting. Take some time to savor this blog post of hers this weekend. Favorite quote from the article: "What I am realizing is the extent I let my expectations control me."
  • Along with the author of this post in the Cardus blog, I am learning what it means to love the revision process in writing and in life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

 "We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least." - C.S. Lewis

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Time to Ponder

Sometimes life flows along smoothly and one is swept along a bobbing current of daily tasks, duties, and pleasures. Other times life feels a bit more like a whirlpool, a dozen, a hundred, or a thousand different demands all passing by with dizzying swiftness.

Life has been a little crazy lately. First, there was August. In August, I was able to spend substantial time at home, resting and being with those I love. But blogging didn't happen.

Then September came and I spent a few weeks learning how to navigate the balance of grad school, a (sometimes more than) full-time job, sanity, and some remote semblance of a social life.

I spent a lot of time in September thinking, too, about this blog and about how it fits into this ever-turbulent season of my life. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish through Halfway Down the Stairs, about whether I should be blogging at all, about whether I should just throw the towel in and close this chapter.

But I love writing and I love blogging and I don't want to let go of this. On the other hand, I think reassessment is healthy. The questions I asked myself gave me a clearer vision and renewed excitement. Donald Miller's post on writing advice was an invaluable guide as I thought through my goals for this space.

I was trying to achieve a daily blogging regimen, but frankly, this was neither practical nor terribly productive. The result was blog posts that neither I nor anyone else wanted to read and frustration when I failed to meet my own standard. Instead, I'm going to try investing more into a few posts each week. There will be more links to writing by authors far better than I, more quotes, less clutter. Sometimes less is more.

A final note: if you receive my blog updates via Facebook, please take a moment to either subscribe by e-mail (don't forget to confirm the subscription!) or find me on Twitter (@emilyadams829). For a variety of reasons, I will no longer be posting blog updates to my Facebook page.

Thank you to all of you who bother to read these words, who care enough to share your thoughts and advice and criticism, and who encourage me with your presence.

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.” - Flannery O'Connor