Friday, April 11, 2014

The year of paint

Art is like life. Messy and beautiful, but mostly messy. And confusing. Especially if it's my art. What is that is a common question asked, because I do awkward things like give away paintings as birthday gifts even though I have just as much artistic talent as I had in sixth grade and oh yeah, I've started to hang canvas paintings on the walls. It's delightful. And awkward. Only when new people come over. I thought it seemed just fine until I got the questions and looks.

Isn't that like life? So many questions. Art confuses me because it is undefined. I like words because they give me boundaries. Words are something I understand.

I don't understand art. Painting. And yet, I've become drawn to it.

I'm drawn to the way I don't have to be perfect and there is a freedom in messing with color and doing something that is so not me that you almost have to laugh. Something that is not you can become you if you're not careful. AKA there are canvas paintings all over the place.

I'm all for considering the ways we can make art with life (read this book for more on that!) and the beauty of risking with creativity, but let's be honest, I'm still not very visually artistic. This is okay. I will keep on painting and believe me, it has been the year for paint. Let me know if your birthday is coming up, I will be sure to paint you a picture.

linking with lisa-jo for my fave prompt, PAINT

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stories are not for writers

I go to Improv class and afterwards we get coffee, to talk about Improv and our hopes and dreams (naturally). We don't put it like that though, but we talk about things like acting and writing, the things that naturally spill over into conversation when you get people together who have had to make fools of themselves for six weeks and so the need to celebrate surviving that goes without saying.

It wasn't that bad, we decide. It's hard, we conclude. It's fun and helps us look toward the things we're interested in doing. Like acting. For them, not me. They tried to get me to join a talent agency. I told them "no" because I am getting good at saying no. And they laughed.

I told them I'm a writer.

I think we concluded from the meeting that we all have a lot of dreams, some of which include becoming a professional actor.

Some of us are just fine without that dream.

I've met people who think I love entertaining, the spotlight. I actually don't.

I love stories.

Sometimes there are undercover reasons for doing what we do. I love stories and people and seeing where life intersects with faith.

That's what spurs me on as a writer.

But stories are not just for writers.

Stories are for people and they can remind us who we are.

It just so happens I am a writer and my story reminds me of that.

It takes some people a year to write a book, it's taken me a lifetime.

It's taken me my whole life to unravel my own story -- and it's still unraveling. It's taken letting go of expectation and seeing what's behind people and places to learn that the best stories come from a million different voices telling tales of love and friendship and heartache and fragileness.

I ask one of my new Improv friends about his journey living in Columbia. As he describes it, one of the others interrupts and shouts, "She's writing her book right now! I can see it."

I don't realize I do this, I write my book as I go about my day.

It's not just for writers to tell their stories.

But a writer has a unique job. I gather up stories and embrace them like a favorite present. Stories are a lasting gift. Not just a fad people enjoy talking about in writing circles now. 

Words can be bridge builders, if we let them. Our lives can point back to hope, if we find it.

Linking with Lisa-Jo for five minute friday

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest Post at Finding Heaven: Gelato on the Side of the Road

I'm excited to be a guest blogger today at Finding Heaven, my friend Jen's place, sharing about a sweet treat called gelato. That's right, a whole post about gelato. Because it's wonderful. It's also an ooey, gooey mess and teaches me to do my real living now.

I looked at my watch and the lady asked “for here or to go?” I hesitated, remembering past experience, but not enough to stop me from saying, “to-go.

The sunny day made today perfect for ordering gelato after lunch. A treat I don’t normally have, but something I love. Unsure when winter was going to call a truce with spring, I was ready for a little lemon berry fun.

I forgot what it was like to take gelato to-go.
If you ever get in a situation like this, you will need to remember three important tips.

Let's talk about gelato some more...join me at Jen's!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I Learned in March (Writer's Block Edition)

{A friendly note: I'm linking up with Emily Freeman for March Edition of What We Learned -- I've been trying to get out of it because a lot of what I've been learning has been heavy this month. Ugh. I have tried to find some lighter things (number four, number eight) for your viewing pleasure. I even tried to get out of this by doing the following: visiting the link-up and NOT writing, counting my change (number four), and watching ESPN for hours on end (I love March)}:

Finally, some time later...I stopped getting on my own nerves and here we go:

1. I could write a whole list based on what I learned in my Improv class.

a) "If you're not living on the edge, you're just taking up space."

b) If I plan ahead of time everything I think is going to happen or want to happen, I am trying too hard to play it safe. Refer to letter a.

c) What's ingrained in me might come most naturally to me but it blocks other creative things that are in me. AKA I don't need to play a teacher every time I get up to do a scene in Improv. I was banned from being a teacher. As in stop it now.

2. I have mixed feelings about the new Sleep Cycle alarm app -- have you heard of it? I've only tried it two nights so far. Sleep is such a funky thing. I should have known it was only a matter of time before our phones would be analyzing us while we are asleep.

3. One of my fave books, Cold Tangerines, was adapted into a play! This is inspiring.

4. A piggy bank can break on carpet. Is it better if I call it a pig bank rather than a piggy bank? It was a decorative bank in the shape of a pig and I got it at a cafĂ©/gift shop that once was a Piggly Wiggly.
But it shattered when it fell off my bookshelf and I actually wasn't sad because I was hoping someday I would get to count all those quarters. I felt like a kid again, wondering what I should do with that $33. If you are an adult and you think you are too old for these things, you might reconsider. Pig banks are cool.

5. As much as I want kids (!!), I was surprised by my response with another friend who is pregnant: "Better you than me." Hmm. For now, I'll stick with learning from the challenging, transformative-ness of the kids I work with -- check out this article about deeper, truer gifts like kids.

6. This article made me cry. Even the counselor who sees heartbreaking situations. Kay Warren's words wrecked me. I can't explain why but I think it was this part (or all parts).

"Hope is alive again in me. I'm left with questions. Why did I pray so passionately and believe with all of my heart that God was going to heal Mathew only to have him die? A friend heard me talking about that, and she bought me this little ceramic pot, and I've written those questions out and they're on little strips of paper, and they're all inside that little pot." -Kay Warren

It helps to remember that our faith is not without mystery, as she talks about. 

Yet, in our longings, deepest sorrows and pain, we have the chance to act out and practice love to one and other, bearing each other's burdens as we are a people often 'left with questions.'

7. It is fun to take photo shoots with friends AKA sequential photos just because.


We've been friends for many years and changes of seasons and out of the country moves and babies and these are some of my very first North Carolina friends so photo shoots are needed.

8. I love painting. The end.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

...Quito, Ecador, Lima, Peru...

One of the best illustrations of our broken, fallen world has to be our inability to communicate rightly with each other. We try, to be sure, but there are relational problems everywhere (or maybe I am more aware of it as a counselor the way my chiropractor says that his sample size is skewed and the whole world has back problems). I’m aware of it in my own life, too, how messy misunderstandings and communication problems are and it’s a wonder we are able to get through the day with all our problems, isn’t it?

Today I am super on for more fun times.

Right now I’m counseling some kids and I’m having trouble communicating with their parents because I don’t speak their language. I need a translator to communicate -- I know the basics but that doesn't help much for these kinds of contexts.
After counseling in the community for a few years now, my heart bends toward cultural diversity. If you a person wired this way and you are also in the helping fields or are a helping kind of person, perhaps you can see why encountering language barriers in these unique settings might have a person's head spinning at first.

I typically leave wanting to download as many apps or talk to as many people in Spanish or rack my brain for the supposed four years of Spanish I took high school but that only helps me a little because the only thing I am sure I know from high school are the capitals of South and Central America, which of course, I learned from a song and everything from a song sticks with you. Caracus, Venezula, Bogota, Columbia...

{Side note: It is astounding the things you can remember when taught in song. If I was still a teacher, I would teach everything in song form}.

All I can do is my small part here and trust Him for what He's doing in me and all around me. It's easy to say I trust Jesus but it's another to step back from situations that are hard and surrender my own stubbornness.
I have a role to play, He's given me a heart for this piece of the process and the world. 
But my role isn't to try and tie things up in a neat little bow as much as I might like that. The more I go outside of myself to learn about people and see glimpses of how God is moving, the more I find that things get stirred up in me. It's good, but it's also hard. He is moving, to be sure, but there's still pain. There's still division. There are still barriers. His grace is sufficient for me when I hope for answers more than I hope for Him to carry us through and once again I am reminded He is restoring everything that's been broken.
Did you ever learn from songs? Did you learn the capital songs? If so, please use the comments to finish singing them with me, I love them and sometimes sing them for fun.
linking with jen

Friday, March 21, 2014


I've always liked the name Jubilee.
Go ahead and steal it if you want, I'm not even sure I'll use it for a girl's name and I don't understand the whole concept of name stealing anyway. If I want to name my daughter Jubilee and your daughter's name is Jubilee, then awesome, more names that have to do with joy.

God transforms.
I get tired of people talking about how a Christian is only a Christian if you've had joy every second of your life as a believer. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but there are things God has delivered us from and freed us from and part of that transformative process for some is being able to be a person of genuine joy --

To where God has turned you into this:

beauty from your ashes.
an oil of JOY
instead of mourning,
a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

For some, it happens sooner than others, but I pray that we understand and give ourselves grace for the redemption God intends for us as His children in moving us into a state of gladness. That we do not have to live in a spirit of despair.

God is good and I pray hope and joy do have the final say in the end. I pray you know he rebuilds.

Joy is something dear to me, something I stay up too too late for because if we're not careful we are easily crushed people, but God's hope and truth has the final say.

Much love to you who need to know there is always hope.

linking with lisa-jo and emily

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Safe, even when you're on a roller coaster

There was a conference this weekend at church and we talked about pictures that represent our relationship with God.

I didn't want to overthink it, and since I'm more wordy than image-y anyway, I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Irony was screaming at me when I chose a picture of people on a roller coaster. Weird because I can't imagine going on a roller coaster if regular life still brings me pain.

I grew up in Ohio, where amusement parks rule. My cousins and I would go to Kings Island when I was little. I went to my first concert at the park -- Amy Grant. I ate ice cream of the future when it was new and cool. They had fun rides like Top Fun, Forward and Backward Racers, and The Beastie, which never got old even when we did. I didn't like the out of control coasters, the ones that flipped you upside down.

I didn't take many risks with roller coasters. Regretfully, I wasn't a hands-up kind of girl.

There's an old story that floats around with my brother where he was trying to figure out whether to go on one of the bigger, scarier rides when he was little and right before they lowered the bar down on him, he asked the probably 13-year-old worker, "is this ride safe?" The guy answered "No!" and slammed the bar down.

I'm shocked by that story because if someone told me a ride wasn't safe, even if he was an adolescent who didn't really know, I might believe him. And I'm sorry to say, I might get off.

I know the Christian life calls me to more. It calls me to stay on the ride even when I don't know what is going to happen. I'm scared sometimes that the dreadfully honest answer from God, even if it comes with more compassion than a young teenage boy is no, the road ahead is not exactly safe.

But you are safe in Me. Even when everything else fails.

I know there is a difference.

God is not a teenage boy mocking us by strapping us in to 'safety' only to send us down a roller coaster intended to bring us harm.

This is a hard concept for me to wrap myself around. I know my life is not my own, I know I am not in control, but like my gut-reaction when I'm on a coaster, I do my best to hold on so tightly. I wonder how to trust in the midst of what feels like unsafe places.

The truth is God is still working even when we question and even when we scramble for our own safety, but He asks us to remember and live out the truth that we have been made alive in Christ. My life is hidden with Him. This is my true safety.

We don't have to find meaning everywhere but from this simple picture activity, I later realized God has been doing something with this idea of safety for a long time.

I've talked about it on here before, but a book I love, love is Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. I go back to it yearly and sometimes only read the sections on safety. Big surprise.

Safe, even when it hurts
Safe, even in failure
Safe, even when it all goes wrong
Safe, even when you don't feel safe

So, this started out as a 'letter to the stuck' but quickly turned into a story about safety. I think they are linked. When am I stuck? When I hurt -- when I think I am unsafe. When I fail -- when I think I am unsafe. When all goes wrong -- when I think I am unsafe. When I don't feel safe -- when I think I am unsafe.

The truth brings freedom from stuck places.

May you know that no matter if you feel alone or with a hundred other people waiting on the top of a ride.

linking with ruth for letters to and jen for sdg