Thursday, August 28, 2014

When you can't follow prompts

This week was eventful.

A pipe burst around midnight on Monday to start off the week right. A little water damage gets things rolling.

There was the always favorite: relationship confusion. Everyone loves this but I typically choose not to write about the single life because either I'd have to change the name of the guys or my own name. And that's just way too confusing to keep track of.

I went over to my friend's house on my lunch hour to try and connect with her but she wasn't home. I heard a beeping sound and thought I set off her alarm (I have a habit of walking in people's houses unannounced). Frantically, I called her and she didn't pick up.

Side note: My parents got an alarm because their house got broken into a little while back. I thought the same thing would happen, that within minutes the police would arrive.

The police never came. I found out my friend doesn't actually have an alarm.

Once again, for the second week in a row, nothing I'm writing about has anything to do with the prompt for five minute Friday.

I'm okay with that.

This is the best I can do. But don't feel sorry for me because I got to swim by myself at my neighbor's pool tonight even though the awkward check-in guy kept eying me because he knew I was pretending to live there.

Over here, the calendar still says "July." Well, one of them. Promise. I haven't turned it yet. It stays summer a long time in North Carolina. I know you thought it stayed summer a long time, but I mean a long time.

The radio announcer told me today that fall is coming but I don't believe him.

I guess the seasons do change and we have to turn the calendar and the pools close eventually and how come every year I have to write several odes to summer starting and ending?

Question (s): Do you ever feel like your life does not follow a prompt even when you are given one? Do you ever feel like it's easier to break the rules on paper than in real life?

What month would you keep on your calendar all year long if you could?!

linking with kate for five minute friday for (a stab at) reach

Friday, August 22, 2014

Finding your voice, pizza and not talking about change

Today's five minute Friday prompt is change.

Of course it is.

Here are the words I told my friend before she left my house, exactly five minutes ago.

"I don't like change much." -me

You know what I do like? Create your own pizzas. In theory, anyway. Tonight, the guy at Whole Foods let me choose my own ingredients and my favorite kind of cheese. He was bored, perhaps. He said he had never made a pizza with feta and goat cheese on wheat crust with broccoli and mushrooms. Weird combination, but it sounded good at the time.

Create your own pizza sounds good in theory. But in reality, it tastes about as good as it sounds, especially since it's not what they usually make. I can't actually complain because I was delighted that someone gave me so many options and did not find this order strange or complicated -- at least not to the untrained eye. But, maybe sometimes more options is not better?

I'm not sure what pizza has to do with change. I think change has to grow on me, again and again. Like weird pizza. I got three big slices, and I still have extra in my fridge, so there's time.

It seems like I would rather talk about pizza than change.

That and I lost my voice for awhile. I think I'd like to talk about that, too.

I lost my voice. Literally. It was weirder than the pizza. People I talked to on the phone didn't recognize me. Funny because I had been looking for my writing voice again -- I was afraid it was getting lost somewhere in the sea of my current state of life. Maybe things needed to recharge. My voice is back now.

If you've ever lost your voice, either kind of voice, maybe you've wondered if it wouldn't come back. Maybe your voice got scratchy and six octaves deeper than your actual voice. No?

So, it's been a little odd around here, but you know, there's always a story.

I'd love to hear you talk or not talk about change from your corner of the woods. And if you ever think your voice has gone lost, literally or figuratively, but you're still dying to speak to the world with whatever muffled sounds you can let out, I understand. I will do my best to listen close.

linking with kate

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting out of the bubble...and thank you Patch Adams

I wish we did more about mental health everyday.

I wish I didn't only talk about the seriousness of my job to a few people and the fact that in my work I see kids -- kids! -- who are hurting enough that they sometimes feel like the best solution would be for them not to be here.

Suicide is not a foreign word that I only hear about when something happens to a beloved celebrity.

Still, my heart hurts for the loss of Robin Williams as I know many others do as well.

It seems surreal and the world only looks more broken from the outside looking in.

What about on the inside looking out?

What if talking depression and suicide and taking kids to the hospital and safety plans was a normal day? I don't talk about my job like it's any more sacred than anyone else's. I just wonder sometimes if God has graced me with a burden for something that runs deeper than seeing headlines and causes me to ask a lot of questions.

The whole thing scares me, honestly. I knew Robin Williams struggled at times throughout his life, but I've never been one to follow the personal lives of famous people much. I always loved him as an actor though. His wit and unashamed humor was mysterious to me, and I secretly aspired to be him, his Patch Adams persona that is.

Ironically, I'm getting to live out that dream a little bit now, but it's not all clowns and story time. I never actually thought it would be. I knew if I worked in a medical setting and regardless of where I did counseling, I would still see people who struggled in all kinds of ways. My goal isn't to make them laugh, even though like Patch, I use humor to heal. I mostly want them to have space to grow and be encouraged that things can change.

It's so hard for so many. And the continuum is so large. While I don't think I have experienced depression in a clinical way or to where my life has been severely altered, I've experienced times where it's been an offshoot of other things going on. I can remember a season of my life where I didn't laugh. Me, who loves to laugh, above most things.

The continuum is large, people. We need to get out of the bubble we're living in. I don't talk about this much. But it's important, and it's worth struggling through with the people in your life, it's worth asking hard questions, it's worth listening. It's worth staying when you want to go.

Whether it's in your job or your home or the corner of a coffee shop with your closest friend, every day, not just a day we hear about it in the news, should be a day that we ask how things are going. And sometimes, the best thing we can do is to not have all the answers but be willing to walk alongside someone who is struggling.

There are no quick fixes to make the pain go away after such a death. It saddens me. I am not minimizing it. I am thankful for his life and his work even if I did not know him.

What I can do now is think about those in my life and not wait until the next time the headlines we fear are local news.

When someone comes and talks to me, one of the things that concerns me most is what their support system looks like. How have they gone this long without talking to anyone? There are so many more complex issues about mental health problems and yes, we all know the stigmas. 

But, in my own experience, it took that one person, one friend willing to step out when things were bad, before they got worse, to say this couldn't go on.

Can we not just pray or talk about it, even though these things are great. Can we meet with people? Can we help pull them out of the pit even if they say 'it's all fine?'

It can't just be a counselor who sees you every week. That is a start and a first step for sure but it can't be the end.
It can't be the end.

Be reminded, if you are hurting, that when you feel trapped, there are people who want to come around to surround you. This is a good post when we want to look past just the words. And this one. You see, friends, because real people struggle or have struggled. There is hope.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The one where I don't know the end

I haven't been writing here lately. Haven't been writing much of anywhere and usually something is off balance somewhere when that happens so that is a tragic thing. Summer is a time when everything stops a little so that might be my excuse. 

Jon Acuff says we should write fast when we have writer's block because perhaps what you really have is fear. I am not sure if it's fear or not but maybe it is and so of course, fear can't keep up with 100 words a minute and writing for five minutes flat. So here we go:

This week I went back to the elementary school where it all started. Where I learned to take my first steps in North Carolina as a teacher. Not that those baby steps are ones I'm most proud of, but even baby steps that lead you downward have to take you somewhere and eventually that somewhere has to be back up? That's a question mark not a period because I have a lot of questions but I'd prefer to have periods.

I like to know the end of things.

This week my life went full circle when I went back to my old school for a work meeting and it wasn't so bad, seven plus years later after my life has gone a lot of different directions from the year that turned things upside down.

It doesn't sound so bad now that I'm removed from it by lots of time --

and now people only see the smiles and the 'happy' and the health and the things that make them question if there was ever anything else.

It's amazing to see how things change.

But is it time that changes a life? Or is it change that makes it seem like 'time' really did the work? I'm not sure I buy this time business. Things you don't heal from can still be a problem years and years later, I think.

But the good news is God does heal.

It's hard to see the end when you are in the middle. Sometimes you only want to look back because you wonder how you even got there in the first place.

Are you yearning to see the end of a journey but can't imagine it right now? I understand.

Seven years later after I forgot so many things that don't even matter anymore, after God led me out of places I didn't want to return to, I got to return to the beginning to see that in it's most literal sense, it's just a building with walls. 

A building with walls is not scary at all.

I like to understand. I like to know the parts in the story. Especially YOUR story. And MY story. But I think that I hide parts of my story, just little bitty parts, because perhaps...they are scary.

To who?

Not to God.

God knows the ending from the beginning. He already knows the END of my story. And YOURS.

I love that. That small reminder is from the wonderful Constance Rhodes. The fact that we don't have to control and manufacture the plot of our lives because God ALREADY knows --




I am thankful he is the finisher and it's (mostly) okay that I don't know the ending yet.

*linking with lisa-jo for (a little more than) five minutes. horray for writing again!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sweet summer: belated #riskrejection

Not long ago, I went with my neighbor friends to see "The Fault in our Stars." You're going to weep, they said. You're going to cry through the whole thing. Get ready for a self-induced depression. This is the third time I've seen it, one of them said.

Three times? I could barely make it through once. Not that I cried all the way through, though, like they warned me. I did go through more tissues than I typically do at movies, and we all looked pitiful walking out, one by one, Kleenex in hand, any eye makeup long gone and smudged. That must have been entertaining for the workers.

The problem with me and movies is that I am not easily tricked. I know it's not real and most of the time, even if it's really moving, I don't cry. 'Real life' on the other hand, forget it. 

I'm starting to see that these two blend together a little more and I'm not sure there's a firm line in the sand.

I wonder if we cry at movies and books and the like because they are a shadow of our own lives, the things we hide from or what we want to face but can't or what makes us sad. Or maybe they remind us it's alright to feel it sometimes.

In the book, "Bittersweet," one of my most faves, Shauna Niequist, writes that your tears are a sign of health, because it's your body agreeing with and responding to what your soul is feeling.

"Bittersweet is also one of those fascinating books I read again and again because I want to believe in the sweet side to 'bittersweet.'

I lived this way for awhile. The bitter and the sweet. Life broken up between the two.

Sometimes I still do.

When I am going through something, when there is heartbreak or my world feels dark and crumbly, it feels like life will never be sweet again. But that isn't true.

Right now happens to be a 'sweet' time, but I know it will not always be this way. I even know that not long ago at the beginning of the summer, things were especially difficult,  unknown, complicated and painful in various forms.

Still, summer is my reminder that there is sweetness to be found all around. It's my reminder that things have a way of shifting, that our current stance, whether it be one with open hands for whatever this season brings or one of clenched fists, will not hold out forever.

We change just as the seasons change.

God is beginning to show me that I can be okay with where I am now and what this season looks like. That it doesn't have to look like the last one, I don't have to anticipate if it will be the same or better or worse than the next one. 

I am challenged to find that sign of health right here, right now, to let my body agree with my soul and do what July does.

July looks like rest and hot, hot North Carolina days and cookouts. And kickball and pretend fireworks because we drove all over and somehow couldn't find them.

July is freedom and what is also most freeing for me to consider this month is that I don't have to do everything. I don't want to get to the end of the summer and realize it has zipped by me and I haven't stopped to look.

This is hard for me. In seasons of exceptional 'bitter' or 'sweet,' finding the balance can be hard. I always have to search out Selah, but rest, pause, finally comes again.

Currently, life is lovely. Isn't it always? Yes and no, I think. It's also pretty hard.

I'm aware, as Shauna Niequist says, that in time, something will invade this current season of loveliness. It won't be sweet forever.

When life is sweet, I still want to be on the run. I want to soak it up like the sweltering sun and grab ahold of its beauty.

But life isn't only sweet and it's not only bitter. Life is good and we can say that even when life isn't lovely.

I think how grateful I am for the times it is.

I pray for grace and balance and rest, again. And I don't link-up in time for #risk rejection this month, again. But I'm not surprised or disappointed.

*In case you want to be encouraged by a podcast by chris seay on summer selah.

*Instead of #riskrejection linky, check out amy's world blog tour and what we did for IMPACT.

Question for you Friends: Have you seen "The Fault in our Stars?" If so, what did you think? Did you cry, cry, cry?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do what writers do (#riskrejection)

I met several writers and speakers this past weekend at Hungry for Hope in Nashville. There's so many things I learned and my mind is still a bit of a blur from traveling, so for now I will leave you with a couple brief #risk rejections from the week.

Number one: I went.

Yeah, it's pretty easy for me to convince myself out of going to things that are important and I am passionate about, but this time I planned and decided it was a trip and conference worth attending. Actually, I already knew this, because I've been before but rarely talk about it, which leads me to number two.

Number two: I am talking about it.

This year's conference was amazing and was full of authentic people and useful trainings talking about freedom and hope and ways to not only continue to live free but help others in this way.

One specific thing I continue learning: I cannot speak hope if I don't open my mouth. This one has been the hardest for me. Me, the one who rarely stops talking.

Number three: I had fun.

No forest fires this year! No 102 fevers. No missed flights...err, there was a delayed flight and I had to stay over another night. I cannot escape airport problems.

I met new friends. I saw a Raleigh friend who by chance was there at the same time, and my long lost friend from graduate school drove from Chattanooga so we could meet. I met two girls at the conference and we bought a t-shirt between the three of us. Looking back, I forget why we did that exactly, but we decided we could share it (we live in three different states). Think adult Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, except with a shirt.

Here's what else was fun: I cried every time I listened to Emily Weirenga or read parts of her new book. I laughed a lot when I met my pretend-twin Lee Blum. I attempted courage when I gave Jeff Goins my card, a.k.a. my information written on my place card (memorable, right?).

Here's what else I did this month that was risky: I skyped with the one and only, Amy Sullivan, who I know is really and truly my friend, especially because she let me interview her for my writing project a.k.a. book-in-progress, and she gave me tips and I never once felt silly.

I know I'm supposed to do this project but it feels unknown. I wish I had a carefully crafted plan for a book that didn't include interviewing people. I wish I hadn't designed a book around interviewing 87 people. I am still in the single digits.

Here's to risking rejection, and my goal to interview seven people this month. So far, I'm not even close.

We too often create our own rejections so as to not face them from others.

I hate admitting that. It's true for me in writing, though. Where is it true for you?

P.S. I did call myself a writer in front of Jeff Goins twice, so that has to count for something.

linking with amy for #riskrejection

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On being human (May edition)

I shouldn't have been surprised at the words that came out of her mouth not long ago when we were talking, but they caught me off the guard and really struck me.

I was talking about some challenging and confusing stuff going on and she said

"you make me feel more human when I talk to you."

My friend, she moved to Boston last May. I met her at the grocery store where she worked, of course, because that's where I meet everyone. I have no idea what it is with me and the grocery store. I've met everyone from friends to potential dates there. Nothing surprises me anymore so I roll with it.
"you make me feel more human when I talk to you."

Hmm. I guess that is a good thing?

Being human is a good thing. It's one of the most basic things, not frilly, something everyone can relate to. I like that unity. From there, we can recognize what it means to be made with a purpose, thought about ahead of time by God, with His design attached to our own individual lives.

Humanity is also messy. If I'm not mistaken, I think that's the reason she said what she did in the first place. I was talking about messy things and I wasn't afraid to do that then.
There are times I discern (or attempt to) whether I need to bare my soul with this friend or that friend, and there are reasons for that, but overall, I am a fan of honesty and of acknowledging the mess. I know I don't do this as much as I could, but it's what I seek to move toward instead of away from in life.

I think we do a disservice in the church or in our personal lives when we hide out from the places where we don't have it all together. That doesn't mean we don't ever try to do well in anything or allow people to celebrate the good times, but every single friendship that's gone into the harder and more ugly parts has created a freedom to be 'human' that's just not present in every kind of relationship.

Where we let each other be human, there is grace.

Where we let each other be human, we move toward each other instead of away from each other.

Where we let each other be human, we seek to understand instead of being understood. Oh, these are things I am constantly asking God for help.

This doesn't mean we embrace sin. But in giving myself grace, I learn to accept others' faults and flaws because I see myself more acutely. And then I go back to the truth that I am loved. And my over and over prayer is to see with gentler eyes, to look at people the way God sees them.

Have you checked out Humans of New York? I love love it and you can get more than a splash of humanity there.

linking with Emily for what we learned -- and thank you for bearing with me because once again I am more word(y) than picture(y) and I am learning you are visual people. I am sorry and I promise I will try harder next time. Thanks for the love anyway.