Wednesday, October 17, 2018

You can do hard things

I keep reminding myself of my friend's voice that has told me many times during this  recent difficult season, "you can do hard things."  

When experiencing a deeply challenging time period, it is common to want to check out, shut off from the world, numb or escape, but the feelings, issues, or problems still eventually rise to the surface and my friend's voice comes blasting through when I try to remember that I can do hard things.

This may look like confronting an issue or making choices to take care of ourselves, engage in community, whatever it is for each of us. 

Maybe it is not the easiest choice but a choice after all that moves us forward. 

So my prayer tonight is to keep being able to do hard things, balanced with soul rest. 

I pray that for you, too, tonight, friends.

I keep finding that one way out of the rut of my heartache is prayer, even when I don't want to pray, or when I find myself hurting, or lost for words, or feeling stuck. 

Writing is this for me, too. Writing as a prayer. Writing as a way through my stuck-ness, a way to be totally honest, when regular life and small talk feels fake, and everything feels so unnatural lately. There is an uneasiness in me I am not used to, like my insides could burst out and be exposed at any moment. 

If you need to express yourself (and who doesn't?), what helps you do that? I've been so grateful for words during this season and places that encourage creative expression, freedom with your voice, and vehicles for writing and wordplay and storytelling. 

I'm not sure why I feel like I will cry when I pray lately but that's a thing. I want to cure it all through laughter and comedic words but sometimes the only way out is through so I embrace the cry-pray, cry-pray pattern and when I have more days when I feel free and good, it's wonderful, and I think the grief and stress are gone, but then they are not.


I tell myself what I know is true: it won't always be this way. Still, I don't want to store up my living for another day. As hard as it is to do hard things, I remind myself that whatever choice lies in front of me that I need to do to keep trying to live well, that's what I've got to do. It's amazing how a mind and a heart need those small reminders. Take care of yourself. Take care of your heart. Give yourself time, grace, space. 

You can do hard things. I can do hard things. Let's cheer each other on...

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fifteen

I am 15 and my high school best friend, Jodi, and I are walking around the reservoir, our favorite place to walk because it is quiet and surrounded by water and trees, and it feels to us as majestic as a big lake. We go there for walking, but mainly talking.

Here is a short list of things we might talk about: school, musicals we are in together, practices for the musicals keeping us at school late at night, other activities we do that keep us at school later (is it even legal to keep kids at school all hours of the night), boys, water activities, boys, family stuff, the future, solving the world's problems.

Isn't life grand??? As weird as life is at 15, it's never THAT bad with a friend.


***

I wish I could remember more of the walks and conversations I had when I was a teenager, but I just know it helped me get through the most awkward years. 

I work with teens now and I consider all their questions and uneasiness about themselves and the future and think that I was a lucky one. Even when there were plenty of things to complain or be confused about, everything is better with a good friend.

Jodi paved the way and was one of my first true friends, the kind that sticks by you.

I write about home and the topic of moves and starts and restarts, but I don't often talk about my hometown, Findlay, Ohio. Flag City, USA. Nestled away from the world, a city onto itself.

If I'm honest, most parts of me want to say I'm from anywhere else, any of the other places I've lived. I'll say I'm from North Carolina, even though I lived there far after I was raised. I will always consider myself 'from' there in a way. It's such a home to me.  And yet, I didn't start out there. I didn't even start out in Cleveland, which is the other place I say I'm from, where my family lives and where I go when I visit family. It's the home that got away. I used to say I wished I would have been raised there.

But the home I got was the home I got and it was the one that formed me. And for better or worse I've made peace with it and actually still feel a connection with Findlay, Ohio, however distant I still have managed to stay all these years in miles and heart. 

Later in life I have wondered what came first, my drive to get out of that town or my sense of adventure. 

Once in awhile I also wonder what would have happened if I stumbled upon my future husband when I was 15 like Jodi. Would I have stayed? I already know the answer to that question, but it is interesting anyway. 

As for Jodi, her story is a total movie. Literally. 

We were at Family Video renting a movie when she first talked to her now husband. It was our Sophomore year and that year she went to homecoming with him and I went with a guy that I never spoke to again after that year. That was a million years ago! What if we had grown up in today's time when there are not video stores? Maybe they would have met doing Pok√©mon Go or something. 

If you are young, go outside or go places with your friends, you never know what will happen. Not just because of meeting a future husband or wife (I don't think those are good odds, anyway), but this can be a great thing. If you're not young, pick up the phone and call a friend and invite them to do something in real life. You don't have to wait for someone to call you.

Jodi is one of those friends that keeps the memory of a strange past experience with a small town alive. It only takes one positive memory to blot out a bunch of negative junk. 

I have this dream from time to time and in it are some old friends who didn't want to be my friend as I got older. When we were in high school, we basically stopped being friends all together, and it never made sense to me. Now, I would guess we drifted or became different people. Back then it felt like they stopped liking me for me and I didn't understand after being friends for a long time.

Most of us have probably had a story of friendship gone sour. Good thing this dream usually involves one of my favorite ice cream parlors in town, so it's like a combination of a stand off with these people and something truly delicious and sweet.

Even in the dream, I can almost taste the flavors of the orange and vanilla soft serve swirl. I would go back to Findlay just for that.

Although in a dream everything can feel so real, this part of my past was a LONG time ago. That helps me step back and look for the good things in it, too. The reservoir. Growing up in a safe town. Everyone knows everything about everyone, and while I didn't like that at all, when you find the right people, you are known.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Bargain Shopping

I tried to make it to Anthropology today but walked inside Macy's instead. I landed in the shoe department. I thought it would be a quick trip. Then I found four pairs of shoes for forty percent off each, which I told myself was a bargain. Somewhere in there I got an extra ten percent off too, but it almost felt like buying a plane ticket, a cheap plane ticket mind you, but still a plane ticket. When I consider whether I would rather buy shoes or plane tickets, as much as the smell and look of a fresh pair of boots is enticing, I still choose travel any day.

I tried to make it to Anthropology because I remember the great experience there earlier this year meeting Mae, and finding the perfect jumpsuit, which actually looks entirely like a dress, so really it doubles as both. The perfect jumpsuit dress was also a perfect bargain. Long and flowy and turquoise.


The perfect turquoise jumpsuit dress was a dream buy, especially for someone who doesn't like to shop. It was January and I needed an outfit fast. Maybe I'll get lucky if I go to a store I don't shop at often, I thought to myself, and started scurrying around, eager for a magical clothing item to jump out at me. That's when I met Mae. She wasn't a magical clothing item, but she was her own kind of magic. She was friendly and we were both chatty. She talked with me about where I was going.

'I'm speaking at a storytelling event...in front of a couple hundred people," I told her. 

Only a couple minutes later, I found the dress and started getting excited. She agreed that it was the right pick. 'I know it's winter but..' 

I started telling her a little about what the writing piece was about and what my style of storytelling was like. I told her I wanted it to be fun, but also portray a sense of change and rebirth. Well, the dress was just that: colorful, light and airy. 

I was now officially getting more excited about the dress than speaking. Time to snap back into reality.

Mae asked me when the event was. Tomorrow! She then said she was off the next evening. She decided right then and there to purchase a ticket.

The next night, when the time came for the AZ Storytellers Project evening on New Beginnings, Mae showed up and I told her she could come sit with me and the other people who came to support me that night. I ended up sitting by someone who was a stranger 24 hours before.

It is only now that I am realizing that Mae is a coffee, and that the 87 Coffees project still could have some life in it yet. Her adventurous spirit and sense of style is inspiring. 

When we parted ways in the store that first day, I told her everything had gone full circle, as this meeting was completely giving life and breath to what I was saying about New Beginnings. She said now she had to come to see what I was talking about. 

Mae is a genuine, gutsy person, I could tell just by meeting her. She Facebook friended me because that's what happens after you take pictures together even though you don't really know each other. She told me she had a great time at the storytelling event.

I think it's important to get out there and live a little and I'm glad I have the turquoise dress to remind me of that. The dress reminds me of getting up there in front of all those people and of meeting Mae and if I wanted to interview her for a book, or really sit down for a coffee with her, I bet she'd say yes. She was a good reminder of when saying yes is a good thing.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Wake me up when September ends

Thanks for the reminder Green Day.

It's more like, I will go to sleep when September ends when the clock strikes midnight and I am done typing here soon.

However, I have been sleeping off my wisdom teeth surgery for about a week now, so it would make sense to wake me up when September ends.  The whole week was a blur, but I only took two days off of work.

I have dreams of taking months off at a time to do creative projects, do mission work, try a completely new work endeavor, or take a spiritual retreat/ writing sabbatical. I dream so much, but when it comes to finishing things, I often wander off the course.

What about you?

So here I am again, even if it's just baby steps, writing and offering what I can in the direction I am going now toward an unknown future. Beautiful. Messy. Scary. Exciting.

***

Writing is a lot like love, you learn as you go and it's not without messes along the way. My friend's little boy is going to be two soon and he is learning to say lots of words. I notice him say the word "mess!" a lot. He says this as he fumbles around the living room to put toys away. He has watched my friend well (she is a lot more organized than I am). I don't think he knows yet that this is going to happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. This is life: MESSY. 

I know there are many brilliant things to be said about love and love stories. I don't really know how I feel about love stories right now. I keep thinking I don't have a lot to say about love, but the topic comes back to me in the late hours of the evening. Write it down, write it down. That's what I encourage others to do as they are seeking healing, so I attempt to do the same, as I know God has used writing in the past as a healing balm. Also, writing connects us in powerful ways.

I am listening and thinking and reflecting on what God says about love. I STILL sit confused and that's okay.  Because right now I don't get how to embody love like Christ in this messed up world. Then, I ask Him to fill up the spaces of my lack and what to do when it feels like we are just twirling around in circles of our sin, brushing up against each other, still in need of His redemption.  Love can bring out our most messy selves, the ones we have done so well over the years hiding away. We need you, Jesus. Help us in our mess.

In my mind, I know that a story, even one with an ending that is hard, does not equal a fail, but it still feels like there's no easy clean up for a mess of a heart still hurting at times. I settle on realizing the work God has already done. 

Love also consumes more than romantic love, and so I'm thinking about keeping the flow of love going in my life. What's getting me there is staying open. Openness for me currently means being honest with emotions that feel very present and at times too much and I hate being 'too much.'

However, the real truth is the past few months have been weird but also freeing: there are often no words I want to say (strange for me), too many words I want to say, times I feel embarrassed by not being able to 'pull it together,' days where life is moving so fast, days everything is going slow, moments I'm feeling way more like the person I know I've been all along, times I cry in public and I wonder why I am not curled up on the couch not leaving the house until next month.

I like to have words that sound good, I don't like to feel embarrassed, I like to tell the truth but it seems like far too often I don't know if I can really trust you. I like to be understood. I like to keep peace with people.

Change right now is shaking me up because even though we had a talk awhile ago and decided we were going to stop meeting like this at unpredictable times, change isn't listening.

Change keeps nudging me, softly, slowly, then sometimes quickly, to give up my rights to those things I thought I had rights to or in essence, could control. 

Change this time around is also being a bit more friend-like. In essence, as I release more,  I recognize that change is not my total enemy. Not entirely. I don't actually hate change completely. I guess.

Has change ever brought you to a place of letting go?


Colossians 3:3 says "for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

This verse reminds me about my real life. My life is not hidden in all the things that I like to use to tell myself I am okay when big parts of my life are falling apart, like for real completely unsettled and I don't know what is going to come next, but hidden in Christ. He enables me to keep going and know that I will not crushed by the waves that threaten me. Even if everything may not always FEEL or even BE okay, at the end of the day, God is with me, and my soul will rest in that hope.

By the way, I'm going to be publishing this in October. Happy October, everyone.