Thursday, December 7, 2017

New Beginnings -- #1

 My beginning here in Arizona is not-so-new anymore, but was important nonetheless. Beginnings of all kinds signify change, and most of us have encountered them.

The messiness of it, how confusing it is to stand on the edge of basically your whole life as you know it, and on the other side, an entirely new life, which hasn't been built yet.

To be in the chasm between those places, is to be no place at all. Like being sucked into a vacuum.


Okay, I never got sucked up into a vacuum, but beginning again with a blank slate can almost feel like that. It was over two years ago so I'm not in that space anymore, but I remember the feeling when I moved to Phoenix from Raleigh. One night, I remember thinking that there was no one in the world that I knew still awake; it was about 11 PM in Phoenix, so that would make sense with almost everyone living on the east coast. Still, something about the time zone shift was throwing me off. Perhaps I always liked the feeling of knowing that there were people in the world that I was connected to, on a daily basis. Then when they were far away, they just seemed, far away.
 
I kept having a similar feeling that I had early on in my move to Raleigh nine years before. Who would really know if I fell into a ditch on a drive home? Surely, my boyfriend would know. But, it was just the point that I didn't really have people yet that was strange and eerie. In Raleigh, I quickly developed odd connections that I later realized were a little quirky, and I wonder if they somehow relate to the idea that it helps me to have a wide community. I like to know people and have people know me. Maybe it's the fact that I've lived on my own and in different places for over a decade, but there's something to the folks at Whole Foods knowing you enough to know that if you're not there for a month (or let's face it a week), something's wrong.

In Phoenix, I didn't have any routines yet, any places I frequented. I wanted to give myself time to get adjusted, and part of me also felt like there was adventure and excitement in the anonymity of it all, but in reality, it was actually lonely. That word carries a lot of weight and maybe even stigma, so it's hard to say and talk about, but I guess it\is probably true.

New Beginnings by their nature, being new, carry with them a lot of white space, like the blank page of a new year or a fresh calendar that is both inviting and freeing but also can be a little frightening and lonely if you're not sure what will fill the pages.

A new beginning, of course, also can carry with it the joy of the opportunities it brings and the sense of wonder with where life will lead with the new start. We humans are good at editing everything, and there is something to be said for beginning something, a journey or a project, or another chance, and being willing to see it for what it is, fresh and unedited.

On New Beginnings and the threat of busy--

My calendar did that for me when I moved to Phoenix. While I'm not the best at keeping up with plans, I remember that I used to (and still do to an extent) but tons of dates in my phone of appointments and events and especially social activity. Then, all of a sudden, the plans stopped. I still had a life when I moved here, but I moved here in early September, and I didn't have a job or really any appointments to keep, so in essence there was nothing in my calendar. I went from having a flurry of activity and I'm-so-busy (AKA so important...) to I am not busy at all, let me see what ONE activity or hobby I would like to have in this new life. I remember talking to a good friend from college who knows me well, and we were brainstorming, and she was saying, "I'm sure there's one new thing you could do. Letsee..." As if, the hardest thing in the world was figuring out how I could possibly add one thing to my life consisting of no set plans.

Now, I haven't gone to the other extreme, thankfully, but I am once again a very active person. It would not cross my mind that I have to think of how to find ONE thing to ADD to my life; if anything I would think once again, am I doing too much? 
I don' know if I think about it on a conscious level, but moving here made me consider, in an almost existential way, how everything we try and 'build' for ourselves is really smoke and bubbles when you stop and think about it.

I'm not saying this is a story about loss, because I still have a lot of the friends I had and I didn't need to hang onto my busy life and all the things I built in my old life anyway. I guess this is a story about letting go and then it is a story about starting again, but that this process happens a lot in our lives, in different ways.

I am learning to hold things loosely. That's not so easy, but so many different aspects of my new beginnings have taught and are teaching me how to do this.

I got rid of most of what I owned because I had a lot of crap I didn't need to lug across the country, and I don't miss one thing. It was a cleansing process, even as the process itself was weird because I had to go through so much of what was part of my life for so long and then it was just so physical, letting it go. 

I remember more than anything I just wanted to know what it was going to be like being on new ground, so different, this Arizona soil, so far way. Would I feel the same? It sounds so silly writing this two years later.

God puts me in positions where I have to grow and change, even as it has been a challenge for me. I don't know if I saw life with new eyes when I first got here, or if I wanted to keep the same vision I had from before; it was difficult to adjust my senses to what was in front of me.


On New Beginnings and Love --


There's a lot to say about new beginnings and love. Much of it I have resisted saying in writing over the past couple years. I am doing whatever I can, while at the same time realizing a lot of it isn't even doing what I can, because this love journey is also about letting go, too. That is the hardest part.
 
Like I said, letting go has felt like a hard thing, until I realize there can be beauty in it, like letting go of old stuff from my house and holding everything loosely. Softly.


Part of that, I wonder, is being soft with myself, and truthful. About what new beginnings have meant for me in love.

How can love be about letting go?

Love is starting to be more about letting go and surrendering than about holding on, even though my first instinct is to hold on.

Love can be consistent. Love can keep moving and flowing. Love doesn't have to force. Love can be brave, even in the face of uncertainties and starts and restarts and fears and when you clean out all the weight you left behind from your previous life and you're not yet feeling light because you're wondering where it all went -- love is patient.

Love is not perfect, because all these things are from God and shown to us from God. So I realize I'm going to do them not right sometimes. I am so thankful for the journey and really thankful for writing it all down now.

As I've seen before, writing lights the way.
 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

On love

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19.

Writer Allison Fallon wrote a blog post about not giving up when things are hard.

She says  there's really only two choices when it comes to keeping going... to give up or not give up.

Seems so simple, yet a lot of life comes back to this question. No one can truly decide for you what is right. But what she says is helpful.

"The time we need hope the most is when it is most tempting to let it go. Hope is dangerous. It threatens to make fools out of us. It threatens to make a mockery of the life we choose for ourselves. Will anything we’re doing ever matter? Will our circumstances ever change? Well, there is really no way of knowing. So are you going to do it anyway?
That’s hope."

What Allison talks about in many of her blog posts resonate with me.

After reading it, I have more questions than answers. Questions just create more questions.

What does it mean to live hopeful if I continue to choose not giving up?
What does giving up look like? Is there a time when that is actually a good thing?

Then I go back to love being soft, like Allison says. Letting love be like the ocean, for instance, which is so powerful and strong, yet it is soft. Think about it.

Yes, love hurts sometimes. But, despite that, I want to be soft. I don't want to harden.  Yes, sometimes I protect. But, I don't want to go so far with it that I can't lay my armor down.


I can go gentle. I can agree to move together and flow together with another person and let it be light. I can't do that if I'm geared up for a battle, or geared up to protect myself at all costs.

Love can be a mixture of real fears and real uncertainties and real growing pains.
Yet, we can still be in awe of it, still find it magical, and surrender to the process. When we are in awe, we likely aren't in control.

I am someone who, deep down, thinks things will go smoothly if I am in some kind of control, thank you very much, and if I'm not, secretly wishes I was a little more in control. Deeper down, I know it's better for me not to be in control. Complex, I know.

I love what Allison says about the ocean, how we might go into it thinking, we've got this thing. But it's THE OCEAN. The ocean is actually in control, even if I think 'oh, it's just a little water.' What happens when the tide pulls me under? Maybe love is like that? Maybe there's more going on that we can't even control that we get to be in awe of. The good and the bad and everything in between.

To soften like water is counter intuitive. But also, love is so counter intuitive to begin with.


Basically, if I love well at all, it's because God first loved me. He showed me His love and grace, and I now I am able to love back.


It's really a risk. I'm starting to think risk is also the opposite of control.

It feels like everything I'm being asked to do is the opposite of control.

Risk. Love.

I can sugar coat the process in a lot of ways and say it's fine and I'm good but a lot of times it's terrifying and I go back and forth between emotions but love is also amazing overall, because I am part of something bigger that myself, that God orchestrates. Telling the truth about love has set me free in a lot of ways, though.


I am mostly talking about romantic love here, when you start to get close in new ways to a person and it's all very weird and new, but really, being open to love in all different ways and telling the truth about it is freeing.

Allison says so much of love, really, is about letting go.


Maybe love is about letting go because love is really about surrender.

I am trying to listen to what this means for me.

Right now, in my life, I think it means to keep coming out of hiding more and more. Not trying to control. Acknowledge there are days I want to give up. Acknowledge there are days I would like to be in control. Remind myself that God has done so much and it is good. Remember to listen to my own voice and the voice of God. Remember that where I am right now is where I am right now and that's where I am supposed to be.

"Sometimes we need to pull ourselves together and try harder and go faster and longer. Other times we need to soften, to give in a little, to give ourselves permission to take a break. Strong and soft."- Allison Fallon

Sometimes you have to work your way through the questions, even if there are no immediate answers, to remember who you are (for me, someone who asks a lot of questions), and remember who God is (a God who can handle all these questions).

I remember I have what I need in this moment, I remember God may not reveal everything at once. I remember that I can do the next right thing in love.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Writing - my next right thing

Sometimes the best thing for me to do when I don't know what to do is to put words on paper. Writing makes my words and thoughts come out clearer.

I am about to see one of my best friends from Raleigh in two days. I can't wait. It seems like so long ago I saw her. When she came here to visit, we painted and we let Scripture speak to us. We also wrote down words  and those words on the canvas became an inspiration for us to draw from over the next year. My word was embrace. I still look at it on the wall in my living room.

***

Today was an emotional day. We all have those from time to time. I think of how God is sovereign even over our feelings. He made them, after all. They help point to something going on inside. It is important still to consider that feelings don't have the final say, yet to acknowledge their place and to hold them up against truth.

Solomon said that our hearts are the 'wellspring of life.' The heart overflows into thoughts, actions. It holds so much. It is of value.


Even when life is hard, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 2: 16-18. It is one of my life verses. It reminds me to keep going no matter what. 

"We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

God is always at work, doing something internally in us that is far bigger than meets the eye. He is good all the time.

We must be remembering what is true even if something doesn't feel true. Our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). I LOVE this. We are hidden with Christ. We do not have to hide anywhere, or be anything we are not, except who we really, truly are, and that is always enough.


***

I have been listening to The Next Right Thing podcast by Emily P. Freeman. Today's happened to be called "Expect to be Surprised."

She talks about how we can do the next right thing even when the path leads somewhere we didn't totally plan for.

That is something I might groan about and wrestle with, but again, whatever road is from God, I will follow Him. I know He gives me His hand.

I can write these down and still in practice I am working them out. I know in writing them down, each time, it is an act of surrender and rest on my part. And an act of faith, and hope, that I can and still will 'expect to be surprised,' whatever that looks like in real time and space. As Emily described in this particular podcast, it was paying attention at the scenery outside as she was traveling and seeing a musician she liked appear years later at an unlikely restaurant. A musician who once inspired her in ways that this singer probably had no idea, because she just kept doing what she was called to do, and showed up to sing for a room full of youth group teenagers. How amazing that Emily was in that group and later would go on to write books, and now is inspiring people like me herself. Expect to be surprised at how God works, often through people, often in unlikely ways.

You never know how the next small step or next right thing can lead to something else, even if it's a road you didn't plan for.

It's hard to release your sought after plans. I know this. It's hard to not wish for tomorrow to come now. It almost feels like a joke to still expect to be surprised sometimes. But, I know there is good everywhere and in the daily-ness of life. I am so thankful God keeps showing up in the funny and mundane and crazy parts of my life and reminding me He is there. He hasn't gone anywhere.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

You brought your fire?

Tonight I was cooking and my potholder caught on fire. Not only did I have a de ja vu moment from college, all of a sudden I felt like I was back in my college days as well because my downstairs neighbor had just been inside my place using her computer. I told her I would be right down in a minute to borrow her vacuum (we like to live communally)

Well, since we share so much and we had been together 30 seconds before, when my potholder caught on fire, my instinct was to take the potholder to my friends place. Why I don't know, because it really looked bad; it had just caught on fire. I knew I probably should take it outside or put it in water in MY apartment, but no, why not knock on her door. It seemed innocent enough but then it started smoking more and when she came to the door she looked at me funny and said, "You brought your fire here??"

I took it outside and we put the rest of the fire out. It turned out okay, of course. And we laughed a lot after that, of course.

Rule #1 of the apartments is now: don't go mobile with your fires. 


Seriously, fire safety is IMPORTANT.

Still, this song came to mind, and in favor of being super sentimental about fire even though the whole thing was actually quite ridiculous, I think you all might enjoy it. This is actually a song I like a lot by a singer I like a lot more.





Are there people you have sat with in the burn? I sit with many who are in this space daily, even though a lot of the time I don't think of it this way. I remember the first time I heard this song was a few years ago, and it put to words what was happening around me. It felt like a truth-telling message. 

This was a time when I was working with kiddos who were being abused/neglected in foster care and it was one of my first experiences with that within my job. Needless to say, my heart was breaking for them. I was feeling the angst of desperation of no answers coming after many trials they had endured in the system and not being able to find permanency. As their counselor, I tried to stay objective, but also as a follow of Jesus, I kept seeing the brokenness of it all and was hoping there would be deliverance and change.


Do you ever want to but find it difficult to 'come close' like this? What was my place in all that? It was several years ago, but sometimes I am reminded of this feeling. There is only so much we can each can do, and yet, there are times we are called to brave the heat. It is a gentle reminder.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Stars and the Stripes

Freedom. It means something different to different people.

***

Opps, this post was supposed to be in the 'drafts' pile but it ended up getting published the other night. I started a blog post about freedom.

Freedom........

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

This post started off talking about freedom but for those of you faithful readers, I have the urge to note an exercise I completed a couple of years ago. Stay with me. It is a continuous exercise actually, one that I try and look at regularly. I can give credit to a mentor of mine for its origin. It is called "What Kind of Woman do I Want to be" and in it I listed several key aspects of life that I thought were important. Perhaps it will encourage you to think about what gives your life meaning, what you hope for, what you want out of life. Of course, you will change. I did it in 2014. I am sure I have changed as a person since then but it is helpful to see that I still want to focus on these today.

Even as it's God who reveals more and more with each day how I can live out particular callings or desires, my hope is to live with intention. I guess if I have the list in front of me instead of buried in my 3200 emails, I am more likely to give it some thought and intention (now it's buried in a blog post, but it's progress). Where would you need to put some reminders in order to visibly see your hopes and goals?

Okay, here goes:

I want to be

  1. A woman who knows God and walks closely with him in my life
  2. A woman who understands her worth and value in Christ and lives accordingly
  3. A woman who loves others well
  4. woman who pursues and lives with freedom
  5. A woman who lives with balance in all areas of my life
  6. A woman who lives with self-awareness 
  7. A woman who is healthy
  8. A woman who lives with purpose 
  9. woman who helps others experience freedom
  10. A woman who is honest and authentic
  11. A woman who invests in the younger generation 
  12.  woman who uses gifts of counseling, writing and speaking
  13.  woman who is free to integrate my faith into my professional setting
  14. A woman who is financially stable and responsible
  15. woman who invests in her family, neighbors, community

You'll see freedom listed a couple times throughout. This is a very dear and very real topic for me. Waaay back when, I began a journey of walking back toward freedom from major health and eating issues. It was God who did it - all that I am is grace. My hope is to continue to pursue and live with freedom and to leave room in my life to help others, especially the younger generation. My prayer is for many who feel bound in some kind of chains to also experience freedom and to know that change is possible. God's goodness abounds and He is our living hope.


I love the imagery in Job 36:16:
"He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction."

May freedom be our anthem. May we remember God is the one who brings it and He has the power to do it.

 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On stuff and things

In my IMPROV WRITING BOOTCAMP I have decided to instill some practices that I'm learning in actual improv. One of them is to not just talk about 'stuff' and 'things.' But to talk about why it matters, what it means to you. Get vulnerable.

Vulnerable is a buzz word everywhere today. Even in improv??


I guess so. It's true though. Last night, I did a scene with someone and we were 'sisters' who were cleaning out the litter box, reluctantly, as a chore we didn't really want to be doing while our mom was gone from home. At the end of the scene, one of the comments from the teacher was to tell more about why it mattered. The scene didn't seem to go anywhere. It was just the two of us sitting there cleaning the litter box. Why is it important?

Do you hate cleaning litter boxes because you hate cats? Do you not know how to clean the litter box because this is actually your family's first ever cat? Do you not want to be in the same room with your sister because you hate her guts? Do you love your sister and this is bringing you together and you want to do everything she is doing?

WHO CARES?


Why does it matter?

What do you feel?


These are so important. Every single second of our lives and interactions don't have to answer this, as well as my writing, but I feel like it's so good to think about.

No one really cares about stuff and things. A way my teachers describe not giving a reason for being there, justifying the 'why,' not considering the relationship of the characters. Not putting together the exposition: who, what, where, why. All of that matters. It is tough to get together in a short little scene. Or a short piece of writing. But it matters.

No one wants just stuff and things. I get it. Please tell me if I'm giving you too much of that.

Timbler on vacay

Timbler the traveling man is on vacay. He has been with my friend for several weeks now.
 


 
I'm glad he gets a vacation! Don't we all need one sometimes?
 
 It is hard to believe it is June. June! June is half the year has already happened and I can't believe it. June is summer is here and I am still working hard, but praying for time to be still and also to play hard, too. I've had some of those moments already and they have been sweet. There's something beautiful about the beauty that happens in summer, even if I am in the dessert and the intense heat seems to fight against the season.  
 
You can't stop the change that happens when school lets out and it is just a little bit quieter. Things move a little bit slower. Maybe the dial goes down just a bit on the chaos in and around. Maybe we can once again learn and relearn rhythms and habits of peace even as everyday life still happens.
 
Timbler and his summer activities are a great reminder to have a little fun and go on some trips and adventures! Away from home and at home. Maybe even in the comfort of a friend's home, someone who will love on you for awhile!