For one of my classes this week, we all took the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (here) and discussed our results. These were my "top strengths:"
1. Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith 2. Curiosity and interest in the world 3. Judgement, critical thinking, and open-mindednesss 4. Capacity to love and be loved 5. Love of learning
I was struck by one of my classmates who was sharing that my "#1 strenghth" was at the bottom of his own list. He said, "I believe, but I don't let it affect me." At first, my (internal) reaction was, I admit, quite smug. Clearly he has missed something. It is impossible to come into contact with the creator of the universe, the lover of our souls, and not be affected. This guy obviously doesn't know God!
And yet... Is it obvious that I do know God? Do I live in such a way that people know I have come into contact with the creator of the universe, the lover of my soul?
I just sold a print of this photo (called "Southern Strength") to a fellow etsian who shared with me that it reminded her of a friend who is currently going through a divorce. After giving the photo to her friend, the buyer wrote to me again to let me know that her friend was very encouraged by the picture. The buyer also shared that her friend is a fellow Christian who "knows where that strength comes from." I feel so humbled, so blessed to get to participate in the experience of giving and encouragement between friends in difficult times....even when they are people I don't know. It is so beautiful that this easy, fun hobby of mine can produce fruit that can bring a glimmer of hope into someone's life in the midst of pain. And Nehemiah 8:10 is true... the joy of the Lord is her strength. And mine, too. Thanks be to God.
Alex and I had engagement photos taken last week, and it was a really fun experience! Our photographer, Wendy Wilson, was so nice and such fun to work with! The pictures are up for viewing now, and some of them are on her blog! Go check it out!
After a hiatus of more than two years, I spontaneously returned to my collage-making hobby. It was a strange sort of impulse which I couldn't quite make sense of at first. Being the existentialist that I am, I have tried to find some meaning in this seemingly random event. Here is what I came up with. The last time I made a bunch of collages was when I first started to feel better after (or at the end of) my battle with hyperthyroidism. I was starting to feel hopeful, starting to look ahead and see something better than my (then) current state. I didn't think about this at that time, but since then I have thought that there was some metaphor to my creative activity: I put lots of little, insignificant, disparate pieces of paper together and tried to make them into something that made sense, and that was exactly what I wanted to do with myself. I wanted to put myself back together and make sense again. Each collage was a microcosm of me--if I could make something with pieces of paper, maybe there was hope for the pieces of me.
In a way, I'm in the same boat now. I'm not sick anymore (I continue to praise God for this), but I'm preparing to try to make something new out my life, which currently feels disjointed. There are a lot of good things my life, but none of them are matched up neatly right now. I constantly have one foot in Ocean Springs and one foot in Hattiesburg, so I feel like I'm not fully a part of either one. Alex and I are growing closer (and happier, and better at working together), but I'm still an hour and a half away and see him only on weekends. I'm a member of a new church (more on this later), but I can't be there regularly. I'm planning (ok, helping to plan) a wedding and a move, but I still haven't guaranteed an internship that is close to the place I'm moving to. I'm trying to maintain relationships with happily unattached friends whom I can identify with less and less but whom I love and want to relate to. I'm jumping through the hoops of grad school even though my mind is not usually in the game. I'm struggling to complete a research project that I care very little about while wanting to focus more on my clients whom I care very much about. All these pieces are just not creating the whole, singular, beautiful, unified picture that my heart longs to be. That is why I have come back to finding solace in putting paper pieces together again--it reassures me that I will be put together too, soon enough.
Here is one of my new creations:
It's my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:2. I love these words because they speak to a part of faith that many people seem to overlook (or miss out on) but that has been powerfully and beautifully real to me. Christianity, too often for my taste, is characterized chiefly by "touchy-feely," emotional things or by outward, behavioral events. Too often, faith in Christ is seen as something that disagrees with intellect. This may be true in some cases at some times, but I have found that my richest and clearest experiences with God have been when I think--question, wrestle, wonder, study, try to figure it out. I recognize that I will never "arrive" (at least not in this earthly life), but I cannot imagine missing out on this journey.
Lord Jesus, please let Lent be a time of renewal despite the countless distractions; please restore my faith in your perfect will. Amen.
I am really, really excited about getting married. I am excited about having a husband and being a wife and sharing everything and being partners. I really am.
But I am not excited about being named Sara Miller. Not at all. I love, love, LOVE my last name, and I am very conflicted about changing it. I've been thinking about it for a long time and I thought I would've had it all sorted out by now, but I still don't know what to do.
In college, I did a lot of reading about feminism and came to strongly identify with its philosophy. (I am not talking about man-bashing or female supremacy here, but actual feminism, which is really about equality, overcoming barriers that oppress both genders. Just wanted to clear that up.) I became aware of all the "rules" that society gives to women (and men) and the ways that I obey them without question. I began to realize how many of our cultural traditions are rooted in a patriarchal system that was based on the idea that women are property of men. I decided, among other things, that if I got married, I would not change my name. Why should I have to? I am not becoming property of my husband anymore than he is becoming property of me. And no one would ever think to expect a husband to change his name! Why not? Why does it have to be me? Especially when I have the coolest name in the whole world. It was settled.
And to a large extent, this is still how I feel. Except.... I want to be a mom someday. I want to have a family, and this seems to create name issues that I'd rather not deal with. If we have kids, whose name do they get? In most cases, they get the dad's name (which is just as logical as the mom's name, unless you give them different names, which I think is weird.) Do I really want to have a different name than everyone in my future family? Do I want to be a part of the Miller family but not really be a Miller myself? I'm not sure I feel great about this idea.
There is always the hyphen, I'm told. I could be Sara Montague-Miller. But that's a bit of a mouthful and will annoy people to no end, I'm sure. There's also the option of keeping my name and hyphenating the names of the (hypothetical) kids. But on top of the mouthful issue, this creates a whole new set of problems for when they get married. If I had a daughter named so-in-so Montague-Miller who was getting married, she would be having the same conflict I'm having now but with the added problem of a third last name! It's just a mess.
Because of all these kid-related difficulties (not that kids are coming along anytime soon, mind you), I have been trying to convince myself to just suck it up and change my name. It makes things easier for everyone.
But it's participating in a system that I truly dislike. And yet, more recently it has occurred to me that keeping my name does not really get me out of the patriarchy system at all. My name is Montague because of my dad, after all. Even my mom's "maiden name" (I am not a fan of this term) is there because of her dad. So no matter how far back I could theoretically go to find a name to change to, it would still be a "family name" only because it was the name of a man. So if I'm going to have a man's name, maybe it would make more sense for it to be my husband's name and not my dad's.
Except that my (almost) husband's name is Miller and my dad's name is Montague, and it is quite clear which one is better.
My dear brother, who is far more conservative than I am, and also quite an eloquent writer, tried to ease my mind by telling me that I will always be a Montague because "that branding is internal, and eternal." This may be true, but I remain jealous of his male privilege of being "allowed" (expected) to keep the external branding, too.
I guess it seems like I'm still leaning toward "sucking it up," but it's really hard letting go of being Sara Ames Montague. Is that weird?
I used to be a hater of Valentine's Day, and I'm still not into Hallmark and roses and chocolate and obligatory money spending, but this year, I just couldn't resist expressing my sentiments to my groom-to-be (who, by the way, is also doing most of the wedding planning, which clearly makes him the best groom-to-be ever [not that there was any doubt.]) Here's a virtual version of the Valentine I gave him:
I'm glad that I don't have to ask, "Alex, will you be mine?" I'm glad that I already know
Graduate school has made me not like writing anymore, hence my very long hiatus from blogging. It makes me sad though, because when I do blog, I'm always glad that I did. So today, Ash Wednesday, I've decided to start "blogging for Lent." I usually do the traditional "giving up" of something during this season, but I was having trouble coming up with anything this year. I normally choose a food or drink that I love, but I'm already on a bit of a (pre-wedding!) health kick, so that doesn't really work. Instead, I'm going to add something that is (apparently) a bit of a sacrifice, but which is good for me. I'm not going to try to catch up on life necessarily (I already gave away my big news anyway ;)). I don't even think I'll make a plan for what I'll write about. But starting today, there will be 40 days of blogging. Stay tuned!