Beginning and Continuing

“I think I want to start a blog,” I said for the umpteenth time to my ever-patient husband, Tim.

“That’s a good idea. You should do that.”

“Yes, but…”

I’ve kept myself from writing for various reasons: blogging is too cliche, time is minimal, vulnerability and transparency is scary (especially when it’s published on the world-wide web), etc.

Amidst these hesitancies, I finally got to a place where I told myself, “Come on, Kasey. Just do it,” and once I sat down I started reflecting on beginnings themselves. While beginning can be a hard step to take, I don’t think it’s as big of a hill to climb as we often think it is. Every year on December 31st we come up with a long list of New Years’ Resolutions. Oftentimes, if not most of the time, by February 1st those resolutions are forgotten, or we carry the guilt of not continuing on in our grandiose plans to change our lives.

Continuing is the hardest part–to keep climbing the hill no matter how steep and to run down the other side of the hill as children do, feeling the breeze and adrenaline of racing with gravity.

My hope is that as you read, you are spurred on–moved in a positive direction. We are all in the process of continuing, and my goal is that we can continue on and learn together. Be aware that the words I type here are just my own, and I am in process, just as you are. Although the shape of this blog is still rather fuzzy, I do know that I will write mainly on my experiences. Whether it’s about my journey of being a graduate student, reflections on marriage, my struggle with anxiety and depression or about my faith in Christ, I hope you can identify with pieces of my story.

As I turned ideas over and over in my head, I couldn’t come up with any other title for the blog: “Branches.”

For those of you that turn open the Bible every once in a while, this theme is probably familiar. It is from the passage in John 15 which says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

This passage has carried much significance for me in various seasons of life, and as I am someone who loves metaphor, imagery, analogy and simile, picturing myself as a “branch” growing from the Vine is helpful in my understanding of the Christian walk.

This image brings me back to the theme of continuing. Branches that remain in the vine bear fruit because they receive nutrients and water from the vine. On the other hand, branches that do not remain in the vine wither and are cut off and burned. The latter are not receiving proper nutrients and water from the vine that allow them to bear fruit.

Both branches are growing, but it is the way in which they are growing that determines whether they bear fruit or are cut off.

If we are the “branches,” this remains true of us as well. C.S. Lewis states:

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

We are all “branches,” in the process of becoming a more “heavenly creature or a hellish creature.” Every choice we make is driving us in a certain direction. We either bear fruit or we wither–remaining stagnant is not an option.

Are we aware that every choice, even the seemingly insignificant ones, are literally molding and shaping us in profound ways?

If you doubt that this is true, it only takes time with a neuroscience textbook to learn that our brains are made to be shaped. We are creatures of habit, and this is not just some anecdote, but rather, it is a biological truth of how our bodies work. Every time we think a thought or perform an action, the neural networks in our brain are firing. As we continue to think the same thoughts and perform the same actions, the axons of our neurons become more and more myelinated through repetition. Myelination essentially enables the signal to move faster across the axon, thus making it easier for us to repeat a thought or an action. This is how habits form.

As a “branch” that desires to remain in the Vine, I must be self-aware enough that I can reflect on my own thoughts and actions. What are the patterns of thought, feelings and actions that seem to come easy to me? Whether these are driving me towards the Lord or away from Him is an extremely important thing to consider.

I am always continuing…what direction am I headed?

I ask (and challenge) you: What choices do you make that drive you in the direction of being a “heavenly creature?” Opposite to this, what choices do you make that drive you towards being a “hellish creature?”

 

 

 

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