Let me tell you about my summer in Springfield.
Remember at the beginning of 2015, when I resolved to write on this blog once a week? HA! Happy halfway through the year, friends! It’s kind of amazing to think that I started this journey, this process of discovering what life could be like when I lived it like a new romantic, just over half a year ago. There have been ups and downs, and they’re all on this blog. I’m pretty proud of that.
Long time, no talk! That resolution quickly went downhill when I realized that the whole purpose of my writing was to share the beauty in the common as it struck me – and I consistently discovered it strikes in God’s timing, not my own. I have had this thought in my head for a blog post since starting my internship back on May 18, but not yet had the words to share it with you. Today’s the day (the sun is shining, the tank is clean) because today is a bit of a breaking point. Today is my second day back from a week-long vacation from work, and I am so feeling like someone who was just on a week-long vacation from work. It’s a rough one . . . so let me tell you.
First of all, I am spending my summer in Springfield, Illinois, working a full-time internship in the Education Department of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM). In a nutshell, I have been assisting the education team with research and programming ideas, as well as other odds and ends like working in the kid’s area and inventory. My projects have included a series of Saturday programs for kids ages 8-12 that revolve around technology in the Civil War, and researching and designing a Classroom Connections workshop that could be used for small student groups, like field trips, to add a hands-on as well as education component to their museum visit. I love it a lot, y’all. I love getting to research independently and at the Library, but I love getting to apply that to teaching kids even more. It’s an awesome way to see how education and history can be combined outside of the classroom, and a really neat opportunity to see how a museum functions firsthand.
The sunset from my first day here
But that’s not even the highlight of my summer! My favorite part by far has been the people I’ve met here. I’m staying with family friends, and getting to know them has been wonderful. It’s nice to live somewhere completely different and still feel like I’m coming home at the end of the day, and I’m really grateful for that. They’ve introduced me to some absolutely incredible girls my own age, who have very quickly become some of my best friends. Last night I spent two and a half hours with them at Starbucks, talking about our lives and where Jesus is in them – it was so refreshing. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find such a strong community this summer, but it was something I was asking Jesus to provide, and He never ceases to amaze me. At work, we’ve gotten together a little lunch group of fellow interns in the past month and a half, and they’ve very quickly become my close friends. Not only do we count on each other for laughs in the middle of a long day or freakout sessions over nerdy history things, but we’ve gotten to be there for each other as we each figure out the strengths and stresses of our current jobs and what we want to do with our time, energy and education in the future. Considering we only have this one summer to spend together, that’s a pretty cool connection, and I’m so glad to know each of them.
The big theme of my summer has been people – but that goes beyond the people I’ve met here to include my family, my friends from high school, and my friends from Vanderbilt. I’ve gotten to go on some neat trips with my family and spend a lot of time with them, which I love! I’ve also had the chance to meet up with my best friend from high school and my childhood bestie, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the time I got with them. And of course, while the best part of summer is being away from school, the hardest part is being away from the people I had there.
One of the challenges I’ve been experiencing lately is what I was calling balance. There are so many people so dear to me from Vandy that I want to stay in touch with on a regular basis, there’s a wonderful and godly man in my life I want to keep getting to know better, there’s my family in Elgin I want to check in with on a daily basis, and there’s eight hour workdays, random babysitting gigs, intern lunches, girl’s nights, running, my summer reading list, and the city of Springfield. A phrase I say a lot is “all of the things” and I think it’s because, well, there are a lot of things! And I let it get to me, because when I care about the people in my life, and they are all from different backgrounds, different places, and different perspectives, I start to worry about doing right by each of them, in different ways. In my head, these are the things I need to do to show them they are loved. That might be remembering to send a quick text or answering the phone, but for others, it’s writing them a letter, making the effort to call, or setting up a FaceTime date. It might also look like going shopping, watching TV after dinner, or Starbs nights. These are all things I love doing! But after awhile, I start to worry that I’m not doing enough, or I start doing them because I feel like I need to. Do you notice how worry is a theme?
My sweet friend Nicole once said something I loved, about there being a difference between loving Jesus right and loving Jesus well. I just love that distinction! She was talking about pouring herself into things that like the “right” ways to show love and be love like Christ in the world, but only left her feeling drained. This reassured me that just because something is “right” – which we often measure by the perceptions of the world or of others – doesn’t mean it communicates love in a Christlike way. We won’t get there doing so many things with our lives if we haven’t addressed our hearts first.
I think this is true of people. It’s less about balance, and more about taking a good, hard look at where my heart is at. If I’m so worried about loving people right, it’s pretty easy for that to take away from me actually loving them well. It take my focus off of Christ as the center of my life, and puts it on the perceptions of the world. It draws my attention to what I do with my time and my life, and away from the fact that those things flow from the distraction of my heart.
Don’t worry – I’m not going to stop texting and calling and writing letters, and I’m certainly not going to skip out on Starbs anytime soon! But I am going to show myself a little more grace. Jesus loves it when my heart longs to show His love to the people He’s given me to love, not because I’m panicking because I haven’t found a good time to FaceTime a friend, or answer an email – even if it feels like these are the “right” things for me to be doing, my heart is in a place of worry, not love! God’s perfect love casts out fear, and abiding in Him and His word is what will refresh my heart to love others well. Time spent with the Lord is an integral part of my life as a new romantic – there’s no way to show love until I know love, and knowing it daily. So busy people of the world, take heart! He has overcome the world and the busyness in it, and He calls us to embrace a life of loving well, not loving right.