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 encouraging...read 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

Jubilee

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

On which I become a journalist again

I met a lady who has a parrot this weekend. A parrot who nibbles on her shoes. She said she's already had to replace one pair. Parrots have the developmental age of a three-year-old, she said, so it feels like disciplining a child. What a curious thing. I'd never met anyone who owned a parrot.

I saw a man in a pizza parlor earlier this weekend wearing a kilt. This reminded me of bagpipes and my love for bagpipes. The man didn't have bagpipes, so he looked sorely out of place getting pizza -- at least to me -- but I'm partial to bagpipes.

I finally took some time to read a book I started, oh, a few months ago. I've gotten in a bad habit of starting books and putting them away for later. I can't explain it. Sitting down to read again, I realized I've missed it.

I listened to a trailer for Where'd You Go Bernadette? that I also need to finish. A book trailer. This.Is.Amazing.

I talked to friends about taking part in a book I'm writing starting in which I become a journalist again -- one of my friends corrected me as I misquoted myself on the title. "Didn't you say this was your book title...?" Busted. Lesson learned: when your title has a large number in it, write it down, tattoo it on your forehead, keep post-its with the number so you will sound like the project is actually in gear.

Stay tuned. It's beginning. And it's about you, you, and also you. So I might ask you to take part. Get excited.

PS: I ate a lot of green cookies today. Never mind the food coloring, they were legit. I love St. Patrick's Day and my mom for teaching me to dance around like a leprechaun all my life on this holiday and did I mention green cookies?

These stories of my life are a journal of thanks. 

linking with laura, holley, and  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Contradictions


apple -- porcupine, tree --- shade, tomato -- potato--, elephant -- zebra, left foot -- right foot, dr. Seuss -- books, football -- movies, Christmas -- upstairs, glass -- attic, ice cream -- cone, Milky way -- galaxy, milk bone -- frodo, garbage -- truck, pillow -- baseball, paint -- cookie

:::

I'm taking an improv class. I don't know what the above word exercise has to do with improv but to me I think of improv like I think of someone giving me a word and I have to say something back to them, probably that makes no sense. The ones above maybe made some sense because I was writing them instead of speaking them, but you should try it! Just a series of words and writing or speaking whatever comes to mind.

Improv is not safe. It reveals how odd we all are, I think. I'm sure that's not in the Improv dictionary anywhere, but it's silly and fun and you are supposed to say and do the first thing that comes to your mind, which is the opposite of what we are told to do in life. This is scary.


What if we lived this way a little bit more, I wonder, without harming people of course? What if we were a little more free, what if we lived with a little less judgment? What if it was not super frightening to say the first thing that comes to our minds even if it is a contradiction?

What if we are contradictions?

I don't like crowds but I am a party person.

I don't like getting up in front of people and sharing what comes to mind but I take improv.

I don't like sharing hard stuff with strangers but I write a blog.

I don't like driving but I have been an in-home counselor.

I am a person of contradictions.

Apple porcupine

Pillow baseball

Paint cookie

May you live not trying to push away your contradictions and unconventional ways today in a world that is crowded with ordinary.

linking with lisa-jo for five minute Friday and simply beth for (a little more than) three words

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Empowered by mentors

Did you know that for all the risk factors there are for kids, the biggest protective factor is a mentor? I learned that at a crisis intervention training for work. I wrote it down, underlined it and have had it on the mind ever since.

I think I've known that the whole time on some level. I want to bring others along who can invest in them. I want to help their family structure so maybe they can see something different.

I find that one of the harder things in my job is when I do some activity or safety plan  where a kid or teen has to fill out a list of supports they could call on if things get bad AND THEY SAY NO ONE. I have no life lines. Zip. Everyone is dead. Or left. And I don't feel comfortable with anyone. No supports.

I have work to do, I think.


But also... shouldn't there be greater things that wreck me? I should hate that they are getting into the trouble in the first place, or the fact that they are living in near homeless conditions. I should hate that the system is broken and they haven't gotten the treatment they need through the years.

All the things.

But, I am people-driven and, ultimately driven by my hope in Christ. I'm glad for crisis management type jobs, but it doesn't fix what is already broken out there and I believe God uses people to come along side what is hurting.

More than anything else -- not to process feelings or to make you feel you should be doing more than you are, I want to bring awareness from my little pocket of life because when we each do that with our lives we are empowered to bring change to places that are hurting.

You may or may not be tired of hearing about broken things, hurting things. It's popular right now, it seems, or maybe I just hear about it and speak about it a lot because that's part of my life and my work, but I think it's valuable. Christ was about talking to those who were forgotten.

I just have to post every now and then about work stuff, not because it's anything special, but because the realities of what's going on with young people on the street like so many other problems, are not going to change unless we do something about them, and be the hands and feet somehow. We as a church talk about the orphan care crisis a lot, and we definitely should. Many of my friends have adopted and I believe in this and want to adopt wholeheartedly.

But there are also functional orphans out there and we need to do something about them.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Visiting them and knowing their afflicting takes showing up and knowing them.

I know many people are fostering, and that is awesome. I want to bring awareness to another section of youth, though, who might not fit the adoption/fostering needs but may be growing up without a loving mother or father and they are in our own backyards.

They exist, day after day, and I have to wonder if they think 'this is it.' I often hear people say, 'they can turn it around!' With an exclamation point. 'They can be anything they want to be.' Try learning to survive from other kids or from the streets. Still think you can be anything you want to be? It gets me mixed up.

The Mentoring Project is a constant in the field of mentoring in our country and I believe in their work. I hope it keeps spreading, and ultimately, I hope the church as a whole works to spread seeds of hope on a generation of kids who need it. Not only can we be empowered to do something, but they can. They are stronger than most people I've met and my hope is that we allow them to share the gifts they've been given and become who they were made to be.

For so long I've seen both physical and spiritual needs in the community. It's difficult to find any one program or organization or treatment that exists to truly touch on both. How do you think the church can be a source of love for people to touch their physical and spiritual needs through these kinds of relationships?

EMPOWERED link-up 
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On risking God is always good and unpublished posts

I've been off the grid for a bit. I feel God nudging me to leave more room in other areas of my life and it just so happens it's Lent, when people give up things. I haven't gone completely cold turkey with social media but I'm trying to tone it down for personal use and focus on other things, and in most ways, I don't miss it.

I miss you, reader-friends.

So, I'm glad for a little risk rejection, even if I'm late for the party.

I realize connection is an integral part of my life, but as soon as I said good-bye to Facebook * (for personal use, mainly), I have wanted to take some breathers from other aspects of online, too.

It's good to come back though, to remember the good reasons why I blog and to share with you an exciting discovery from today.

You should never consider yourself a blog failure. That's encouraging, right?

I had a fun day with my friend Ashley as we came across tons of old blog drafts I never posted, most of which had only a few words or some incomplete thoughts to leave you hanging as well as finding four other blogs that I once started at some point in the last several years. Most, if not all, I don't even remember creating. One of the blogs had no posts. No posts! I wrote a draft and never published it in one. You should probably search the web right now for that blog.

I found a few drafts from my current blog that were at least somewhat complete.

Why not publish some of these gems, I thought?

This one was from a year ago today and it's not as ridiculous as some of the others, which is a plus. I thought you might enjoy learning how it relates to me and my current risk rejection.

here. we. go. : march 8, 2013
 :::

I read a sobering article today about forgiveness. At the end of it, the author challenged readers to prepare yourself for times in the future you would have to forgive during the darkest times.

It is easy to forgive under light circumstances, when life still gives off an aftertaste of sweetness. How much harder to forgive in the hardest of times?

My friend once told me we were in one of two places in life: either going through a valley or getting ready to go through one. This stuck with me for some reason. I can agree with it, even though at times I want to add to it. But, the reality is that it is not abnormal to go through valleys. In fact, we should expect them. this does not mean we can't enjoy sweet times.
 
We are on a journey Home but in the meantime there are valleys.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you." -1 Peter 4:12

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2-4

:::

Where is the risk rejection part in there?

Everywhere.

In the valley. In the preparation for the valley. When you've found water. 

I just repeated this phrase again this past week, actually. The idea that we're in one or two stances in life: either going through a valley or getting ready to go through one. I hadn't thought of it for a long time but at a Bible study, we were talking about bearing one and other's burdens. I began to think about the idea of going lower with people, to recognize that we all experience valleys. That if we're not in one, we will be. This is actually some of the best news I can tell myself, not actually gloomy, but hopeful. Because I dare remind myself how much I am in need of his mercy. Not just then, but then I remember my limitations. Again and again. He becomes more.

It's so easy in the good times to forget. I ask myself to risk God is good not just when all looks good but to tell the honest truth about who he is always and can I live not fearful of the next valley but thankful he is with me no matter what the terrain looks like.

"The child of God knows that the graced life calls him or her to live on a cold and windy mountain, not on the flattened plain of reasonable, middle-of-the-road religion." -Brennan Manning

*In case anyone wonders, if a person tries to log back into their account and gets locked out, you might never get back in because the process is very thorough and includes friends receiving notifications for you and sending you numerical codes. In other words, Facebook likes to masquerade as the CIA.


linking with amy and other brave riskers