Two years ago I went crazy with glue and tape, and made a portion of my bedroom wall space a collage.
At the time, my mother and I had planned on being the ultimate Pinterest queens and decorating a wall by using pallets. The beautiful / inconvenient similarity between my mother and me is the ability to start a project and never finish it. Which for my wall meant progress stopped at the halfway mark. That’s right. The bottom half of 1/4 of my bedroom wall space was pallet scraps, and the top half was plywood. To be fair, another beautiful trait my mother thought wise to pass down to me is this hunger for creativity. So, I did a thing.
Dozens of colleges sent me pamphlets in the mail, so I’d cut out the big words and pretty pictures that made me want to do something and glue them on the wall. When I finally decided where I would begin my college career, I marked off the “Belmont” written on the cartoon tower and replaced it with “Lipscomb.” Totally original.
I got a lot of little paper things—lyrics, worksheets, etc.—from youth group during this time. Those things were cut and glued as well. When I ran out of paper ideas for the still-blank spaces, I made a vine that quoted the entirety of John 15. You know, the chapter about being rooted in Him, and being unable to bear fruit without the vine—not that I totally understood that then.
And on the top right corner of my wall, I glued tissue paper in the shape of a sun, and quoted 2 Corinthians 4:6, overlooking the pallet cross my mother had made. Even the cross had its share of me added to it, as I would often scribble a prayer or a single word or an entire quote on the cross as I’d sit up late pondering those promises.
I thought about those things often at night. Because my bed was on the same wall, I’d just stare up at the little pictures and big words, and wonder about it all: the college path I was heading toward, the things I wanted to define my life, my favorite song lyrics and book quotes, the truths that moved me. My 17 year-old self would stare in awe at these things, and be brim-full of wonder at this story I had somehow become written in to.
When I left for college, the collage stayed in place. Untouched. Maybe a little more dusty, but untouched nonetheless. In fact, it stayed there for over a year as I lived dorm life. I remember being bummed out to leave my ginormous work of art, but soon, the nights I once spent staring at these things—these manifestos that once inspired me—I traded in for quick dashes in and out of my room at home.
A couple weeks ago, during my Christmas break of college sophomore year, I made a whim decision to take the collage down. I didn’t really have a reason, other than I wanted to clean my room before Christmas. I was tired of looking at that wall. Those things. Those words.
And as I ripped off layers and shreds of paper, still clinging to dried glue on the wood, I walked through my senior year of high school.
I remembered the night I texted my friend and told her all about my choice to be at Lipscomb. “It feels like the right place, for now at least,” I told her in a series of too-long texts.
I remembered my short time helping bring the yearbook to life, and the little hand-scribbled “Biggest Inspiration” award another friend wrote shortly after we sat in a dark car plum electrified by an overwhelming excitement woven in conversation about God’s plans.
I thought of the night I sat praying into the wee hours of the morning, hot tears covering the pillow I held in my lap, as I spoke out for the girls who would receive the 19 inches of hair I planned to chop off.
I thought of those things. And honestly, I hope I always do. I hope I always remember to allow room / time / space to walk again through the places I’ve been. Because the reality is I am the person I am now because of the movements God made in my life then. In a totally non-idol-loving way, the things on my sweet little collage wall represented high school Brianna. Baby-Christian Brianna. Don’t-know-which-college-to-choose Brianna. Failing-for-perfection Brianna. Scared-away-3-dudes Brianna. Scared-in-general Brianna. And as I ripped and pulled and tossed and shredded, I realized I no longer lived on this wall.
And it took me tearing down that wall to see I’m not those things now.
Today I am a student at the most special college I never would have picked on my own. I’m still a young Christian, but truth be told, I will always be (hello, have you seen the span of time / eternity? Crazy.) For the first time since a boy first held my hand in 8th grade, I am freed from the desires to hurt over one or seek attention from the rest. My hair’s growing out / officially out of mullet stage, so that’s a positive too.
And I’m not saying that to boast in my own accomplishments, because there is no way I did that stuff. I guess what I’m saying is all of these things I had dreamed and spoken about years ago is the reality I’m living in now. And I don’t know how it happened—all the moving and changing and growing and stuff—but I know that somewhere along this messy path, it did. And it took me throwing down the old things to stand back and say, “Hey, I’m a new thing. Everyday I’ve simply showed up to breathe and somewhere along the way I have been heard and seen, and because of that, I am new. I am the thing I never thought I’d have the courage to be.”
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
I don’t know how to string words together that leave you resounding, “Lovely, lovely, lovely.” And I guess that at the core of what I’m saying is this: I’ve spent a good chunk of my break throwing things out. Scraping away the old words and pictures, parting ways with the smelly things. And I’ve carried bags of trash under my dirty nails to finalize this thing. It hasn’t been fun. Sitting on your floor surrounded by piles and stacks of the things that once made sense isn’t fun.
In the middle of this mess though, I’ve made room for the new things– the things I am now, the things I desire today, the dreams I long for tomorrow. Yeah, I have those rad memories to think back on, but it isn’t enough to stay put on the wall. And guys, I’m so scared of staying put on the wall.
I mean, do you realize how absolutely awesome we are? It’s like the very substance that makes up our bones is designed to create beautiful invitations to live at the heart of a story too big for itself. It’s like we’ve been created to think up these seemingly-impossible dreams, and somewhere in the pursuit, we get to this point where we finally remember to stand and breathe. And as we stand again and blink in the falling glitter, something inside us nudges, “I know this isn’t exactly what you were planning, but look at this—this incredible story. Look what I’ve done for you. Look how we’ve dodged those things, and leaped over those others, and how we’ve landed here. Look at this story I’ve entrusted to you, and look at how where we’ve journeyed with it so far And to think: we still have such a way to go.”
We’re like living symphonies– melodies and harmonies resounding throughout Carnegie Hall as the audience clad in black and pearls watches in adoration and says under an awed voice, “How does she do that?” A masterpiece like that has no time to slow down. We were never meant to live in a yesterday anyways.
What I’m getting at is this: you are being changed too. As you gaze at your collage wall—whatever big words and pretty pictures you have glued, and whatever hopes you have scribbled in the cracks— I hope this boundless opportunity stares you in the faces and boldly invites you to not only live, but to live fully. I hope you see those things that make you giddy with excitement as you dream up all those scenes that are good enough for the book pages, and find that compass to lead you down the paths they paint pictures of. And as your cheeks blush thinking of such incredible plans, I hope that you remember above all to open your palms and feel the wind between your fingers sometime too.
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
As I peeled away the cartoon bell tower I had once marked and scribbled, a string of words stared me in the face. Written in fading Sharpie on the patched wood read the words, “Lead me to the cross where your love poured out.” And I had to stop for a moment, and smirk at the careful way these things align. All of this renovation is good. So, so good.
I wouldn’t want to live in any other mess.