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 --

is

so

freeing


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.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love makes you free

Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love. -Wally Lamb

~~~

I sat down to paint tonight, but I turned up with nothing.

I chose writing instead.

In that battle, writing usually wins. Still, I had my paints out and colors ready.

It got me thinking how the last time I painted I came up with some interesting color schemes. Life was funky then and painting is a great activity for that. I had some darker than usual edges and it turned out to be an abstract-nothing-you-can-visualize kind of picture but it was still art I promise.

Colors tell a story all their own.

~~~

Speaking of stories, I decided it's time to write a bit more about what fuels some of my passion. I'm not saying colors or feelings are my passion but like mom blogs who talk about homeschooling or artists or crafty people who talk about art projects they are doing, I realized there are things I love and are part of my world that I don't talk about or share information about on here. Mostly because I don't think people are interested or it doesn't apply to them. Y'all, I don't have kids and I hardly do 'real' artwork or cook or any of the things you do, but I still read your blogs, unless I start to feel like a poor specimen of the population. Just kidding.

We are meant to accept what different people offer. It's so unique! Even if I keep thinking one day I will remember all the tidbits you shared about your kids or that I will make a car that moves, I am thinking that any car I make will probably not move and I won't remember all that you said about your kids.

What I will remember is you.

You, friend.

I wasn't going to post the following because it was long but maybe someone will remember something about Dr. Seuss and freedom. Probably not though and that's okay. I'll tell you anyway.


Basically, the book My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss is a winner. Dr. Seuss + colors = yes.

Another activity to go along with it for working with kiddos involves feelings discovery cards with colors on the back of each feeling. They are arranged in color families.

Scared, angry, happy, free, sad, and safe...

I matched each individual card with its family or color and tried to guess them since the game is new to me.

I got stuck on a couple, those feelings families can be tricky! Loved for instance. The card loved got me.

Did it go with happy, safe?

Nope.

Free.

Of course. Loved. Free.


My mind flashes to God. 

Freedom is something I chase often and still have trouble with it many days. In an instant though, none of that matters and I am reminded how the love of Christ shows up for me anyway.

Then I am free to love others, too.

Freedom is one of the best things I know, but also so easy forget to remember is true.

I know, I know, love is more than a feeling, but for the purposes of this game...

Love and freedom are linked.

And outside the game?

Same thing.



inspired by five minute Friday with lisa-jo

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What the cobwebs teach me

I have an elegant spider web on my porch right now. I got close tonight when I was eating dinner and all I could do was stare at it.

I can't knock it down
just yet because it's too pretty.

Do you know the difference between a spider web and a cobweb? Check out Cobwebs Vs. Spider Webs. Don't worry, you don't have to pick a side -- they are both intriguing. But, I have to admit, it's easier to brush aside the irregular, abandoned cobwebs.

~~

Such a great thing happened. I get to work at a place where I'll have regular hours and still get to meet with kids and when I do activities with them and they use paint, I won't have to put wet paintbrushes in my bag because it doesn't involve driving around to the whole free world. 

I don't normally talk much about work on here but I read an article by Don Miller and he talked about creating and actually not being afraid to make something happen. 

I'm excited about counseling more than I was before. I feel like I make something happen when I work with kids because I think they are great.

Before, if you asked me I would have told you I enjoyed the kids I worked with and still think of them because of the intensive nature of the jobs I had, but why is it that the jobs resembled cobwebs to me?

So irregular.

No order. My body is still adjusting from those years of a chaotic schedule.

These aren't intended to be complaints. Good, good things happened there.
Today, I filled out some documentation and I realized that I have a fuller picture of the gamut of kids and their mental health needs because of having exposure to so much. That's just one of the good, good things.

What do you do when you start to make a spider web, or what resembles a spider web to you, with intricate patterns and carefully laid out pieces and beauty and, well, you realize that you've been making a lot of cobwebs before?

Cobwebs don't get a good rap at all. Neither do jobs without much order or other things in life that are confusing, like difficult relationships and maybe our lives are never quite 'regular' as much as we try to make them so.

I'm thankful for the spider web but maybe it's a little unnatural?

Maybe there are a few cobwebs or a lot of cobwebs thrown in there much of the time?

I learn again and again how to live amongst the irregular.

There are times I am too hard on my chosen field, on difficult relationships. I scorn the dust they pick up and the pain they bring. I can barely see the beauty because there are cobwebs, and well, there are cobwebs.

I'm sorry to say I destroyed a cobweb tonight. It was right next to the spider web.

I mean, in reality, it makes sense.  Why do we need all these webs hanging around?

But it's curious that I left the pretty one.

We want to keep what makes sense to us.

Odd shapes can turn into something lovely if we just look long enough.

 
inspired by five minute friday -- close

Monday, May 19, 2014

On where we go when we're not here and the beauty of art...and coffee

I'd like to be one of those people who has funny things to say when they are going through strange or hard things. I know it's okay to be serious when I write sometimes -- sometimes being the operative word -- but if I take myself too seriously, bad things will occur and it will spark things in me like adult acne.

But I've also learned that you need time to sift through things before you put them out into the world. I believe in realness and rawness but I also believe some things, not all things, should be thrown out there.

I don't mind sharing my life with people, and am a person who believes vulnerability is good, but does anyone else struggle with feeling like it's hard to write when you know too much would bleed out?

There's a balance in there somewhere. And it's important to find it.

One of my chief purposes of writing is to 'expose the unexposed,' as Anne Lamott says. Isn't that a goal of all writing? What about all living? We each do it a little differently to be sure.


I'm treading lightly at the moment.

Is it hard for you, reader-friends, as it is for me?

Sometimes, I like to imagine us sitting down and having a cup of coffee, or maybe tea or lemonade, and mostly, I feel like my writing is a simple conversation that I wish I could have with you in person. Probably if we met though I wouldn't order coffee because I've only had coffee approximately three times. But, irony is one of my best friends, and the good news is I'm working on a new project. Guess what? This project is enabling me to sit down with people and have some kind of coffee type drink with them and write about that encounter. Stay tuned.

This makes me happy, and kind of makes me not care if I go away for a little while because I know I'll be back, and I know I'll see you.

I met some ladies this week at my job and they keep telling me I remind them of this girl who used to work there. Within five minutes of meeting me they thought I could be her twin or something. What's she doing now? I asked. Oh, she's traveling the world with her new husband and apparently she's doing something with hula hooping (??). I did not get the details but she it sounds like she's some kind of international star now. Okay, I made that last part up.

 
I always know that life is getting better again when I can laugh.

I wanted to share some encouragement about art, life, music, and the broken/beautiful from some of my fave people and websites:

Stephanie's story: broken is beautiful: I've already posted this awhile back, but I love it and this website. Reminds us of the gift of imperfection and beauty even in brokenness.

Natalie Closner of the band Joseph: love me some new music.This here post is another (real as it gets) interview with Joy and musician Natalie, 6:10-6:50 talks about acknowledging what is difficult because otherwise the world is a "very fake, superficial place" and inviting people to have hope amidst the tension.

Broken Beautiful: Video by Ellie Holcomb. End of the video = dancing in fields. That's all.

Where do you go when you're not here?

Linking with emily