6.22.2012

Who you are...

My gut said to call this one, "Who you are in a world you do not understand." Hm, she ponders generously.  My last six months have been a bit topsy turvy.  I know I am not like everyone else in the way I connect with people. There is no buffer.  I am who I am at face value.

I would claim openly to be a chicken-shit adventurer.  I house within me some sort of a wild heart - with a passport full of stamps, a college experience away from home and a couple of tattoos to mark life events and folks I wish to carry with me, always. I am not a rule breaker.  I simply long for authenticity. Something that leaps within me and desires earnest goodness, miracles and the greatness of the unexpected.  I don't want to fool it, or trick it or manipulate it into being.  I want to encourage light.  ...I don't know exactly what that means, sometimes when I write without an outline the words just tumble.  Well, it's been six months since I've written so here they come - careening forth like a gasping breath.


This wild heart of mine seems to be my counter point, possibly, to my personality.  A natural planner, since the age of 16 I've been the friend organizing outings, concerts and Saturday night bowling for as long as I can remember.  But there is something to be said for going with the life flow and allowing God to set your sail.  In some instances I learn and am reminded to let go, like the hard-headed gopher who finds his home on the 9th hole.... what does it really take to avoid the golf balls?

I am not afraid to take a chance, nor am I afraid of getting hit in the head with a couple of golf balls... especially if the end result seems well worth the trouble.  My Scottish grandma used to say "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." I am a lot like her.  I know I am.  I choose to see the best in people and I choose to find the growth in my life.  Only I can help myself be better.  It goes along with the whole encouraging light idea.  I choose to take a chance on the things I think are ultimately good.  I have conviction of heart and that is my gift.  In more than one instance this has resulted in big breaks and big burns. From these I ache - physically, mentally, spiritually because I pour it all in.

At the bottom of my emails I have a Cadet Maxim quote:

Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible. - Cadet Maxim

I choose it because it is how I want and do live my life.  I will not be afraid of the ache or the pain of what I know could happen.  I choose to love because I know the possibility of the miracle exists and I will always leave room for a miracle.  One day, I will see it come into fruition.

As I mentioned, is not the burning itself but the aftermath where we have the choice.  We can choose to learn and grow repent and forgive and in the process heal the hurt.  Or, we can cover it and pack it away and carry it like a suitcase. The latter is burdensome and contradictory to growth; along this way we let it rot our hearts.

I read a book a few years ago called Captivating.  It is the single place where I learned and saw what I was carrying. Things I had buried and hidden away were weighing me down like a heavy load into my adult years.  It manifested itself in many ways which were ultimately not good for me.  It was in the surrendering of my load on the Gulf coast about three years ago where the story began.

I stood on the beach at the very edge of the water and there the tears came. They rolled down my face and into the ocean where I surrendered my load to God. Hurts I didn't know were there bubbled up and fell into the clear blue water that washed around me. And that is when I realized exactly where my hope rests - with God.  It is not in my own capability or mental capacity that I love or grow or heal or stand or move or breathe or sing or be who I am.  It is in grace that I do these things.  It is in love that I do these things.  I am not who I am without it.

I am on this path.  I have chosen this path.  God guides my steps and covers me with unending grace and love.  "So lay your head beside a better burden, until the heal has come.  You will see sunrise again."  I choose love.

12.11.2011

My intended favorites

Music.  Music moves me.  If you could make an analogy for my life it would be an endless playlist and it is indeed my constant. It is no surprise to those who "know me by heart".  I am the keeper of the playlists and you may have indeed received one from me as it is one of my favorites to give.  My playlists are not accidental.  They are well thought out, reviewed and strung together based on the criteria that rattle around in my brain... Transition, flow, topic, tempo, key, lyrics and last but certainly not least, meaning.

I am a sap, a sucker for the lyrics that kick you directly in the gut, make you cry or make you want to laugh out loud.  Sentimental to the core, the songs that get me dig into something that I, more than likely, typically refrain from admitting openly. My music is the mystery of my story.  Being a relatively open book, there isn't much that I hide away... often my most favorite songs touch on something I identify with, something that strikes me down deep... or at the very least makes me want to take off running, or bust a hot move, when I probably shouldn't. (often, I dance slightly on the treadmill. Blush.)

When I was about 16 I wrote my first song.  Piano and some lyrics and there it was.  A little piece of me I floated out there for the world to hear.  It was as if the song had written itself in my bones and it was just ready to float out - my favorite notes and chord combinations always settle that way.  But there was something vulnerable about communicating "something" that rests in the quiet depths of what goes unspoken.  I have almost always pulled a "Hey you've got to hide your love away" in the realm of self-written works as they are ultra-personal... I refrained from singing and playing those for just anyone... Until, well, recently.

In college as a fallen voice major I shifted to the haven of Interdisciplinary Fine Arts, still getting my St. Olaf chalk-full-of-music education and realized after a stint of vocal injuries that relying on this singular piece of the pie as my money maker may not quite be my intended path.  I learned a lot - not just vocally, how to protect myself, how to sing and adapt, but also what to listen for.  But music is my core, so I have sought it in every era of my life - as a soloist, wedding singer, children's choir director, vocal coach, church choir member, songwriter, co-writer and band member... The hope has always been "to do something with it" (wink wink).

Now the possibility of daring myself to move with my own music has been a major challenge. I have written and sang with a variety of folks who have challenged, changed and grown not only my musical tastes, but also what contributes to my spark.

My Dad is the numba one stunna in the realm of musical exposure.  As far back as I can remember, I was exposed to the greatness of my father's musical collection.  Way too loud in the living room, would say my Mom, but Dad pumped out Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young, too!) I learned to identify each of the parts and the difference between each of the voices.  Stephen Stills voice is one of my all time favorites.  Led Zeppelin, gave me a little more uumph and listening to Zeppelin still makes me feel like I got a little sass in my back pocket. The Beach Boys exposed me to happy songs but like, The Beatles, evolved into something a little more complex.  To this day I have a tough time nailing down which Beatles album is my fav - I bounce between Help, Rubber Soul and the White Album.  My first "really big" concert was in 8th grade when Dad got last minute tickets to The Rolling Stones.  I still remember being amazed at a nearly 60 year old Mick Jagger dance wildly across the stage at the OSU Shoe. Leslie Gore and The 5th Dimension were summer favorites by the pool.

Now I would say my Mom is a bit more reserved in her musical tastes.  She would always nod and smile as my Dad would gush over the next song he had to play for us, until he turned up the volume too loud, anyway.  Her infamous loves were the Carpenters and Petula Clark and well, Josh Groban.  To this day, any time I hear a Carpenters song, or "Downtown" there is an instant flash to my mothers face.

My sister, being a hint and some change older than me exposed me to Duran Duran, The Bangles, Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant and the 10,000 Maniacs, Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam, just to name a few - I'm leaving a whole lot of the late 80's and early 90's out, but I'm sure you can imagine. I vividly remember waking up at about 7 a.m. to a little of Tori Amos's "whoo-ooh" from Happy Phantom, or the floating finger picking of Pearl Jam's "Release" on our regular school days. She would get so mad when CDs would mysteriously disappear but I was enamored with my sister's a.m. music collection.

As the years passed, I inherited a brother-in-law, who exposed me to the likes of Willie Nelson, Jonny Cash, Hank Williams,  Randy Travis and a number of other old school country favorites.  Now, don't let him fool you.  This whole old school country exposure started so he could beat me and my sister at "Name That Tune."  Beware Pat, we Kearns girls catch on fast :)

And so, as my time has passed I have inherited new music from talented musically-inclined friends who have exposed me, whether in a classroom, over a computer, on road trips, or by singing, writing and playing with me.  Those relationships have established my own colorful array of music edu-ma-cation St. Olaf could have never provided for me.

So now I get the practical application of the crossroads between where St. Olaf and my family and friends have taken me on my musical journey and it's time I start inventing a little bit of my own.   2012, bring it on.  I see a bit of IV & Kearns in my future...  Happy New Year.

11.25.2011

Longer than it takes the red nail polish to dry

Thanksgiving is a bit of an odd holiday.  Wedged between the excitement of Halloween and the anticipation of Christmas, it does not always get the attention it very well should be given.  Why?  In my humble opinion, being grateful for what surrounds us is the most important aspect of living a filled life.  I don't mean filled like on Friday night you have a place to be, or a gaggle of folks to see... I mean being filled in a way that your love is magnified in the people and things you surround yourself with.  Living, alive in the overflow...

I am finding my perspective and practice of Thanksgiving will need to be longer than it takes my red nail polish to dry.  Why that analogy?  Well, sorry there, guys - this one is for the ladies.  I am a painted nails kinda girl.  In a typical week, you will find me with an assortment of colors.  This week was red.  As I painted, I managed to finish the job without scuffing.  2 coats of red and 15 minutes to sit and not touch anything, or attempt to pick anything up.  Holy hot mamas, a huge feat.

Later I went back to touch up with some top coat - the protector - the one that keeps this stuff on.  Finished and ready to go I was out the door and onto the next thing.  In my haste, I looked down and 3 of my perfectly well manicured nails were scuffed. Seriously?  I had made it, I was done... but I didn't wait to give it time to dry...

So, how does this relate to Thanksgiving?  Well, being grateful is not always immediate and I think in many ways, it is a process.  It takes longer than it takes my nail polish to dry, and it comes with experience... 2 coats and some top coat for good measure.  I should have known, given my experience with my nail polish, to leave it sit for another few minutes... that my process was not done.  Isn't this true about our own versions of gratitude, getting there, and what we are indeed thankful for?  Sometimes, we need the perspective of what is immediate to be compared with the truth of what is long-term.  The more grateful you are for both the immediate and the long-term, the more you look for things to be thankful for, won't you indeed find them?

Have you ever encountered those people?  The ones who light up a room the second you see them - they seem to radiate joy...  I suspect, if you have a chance to talk to, or get to know them, they have an attitude of gratitude - no pun intended.  The ones who are sincere in their joy, are the ones who have found their sweet spot in life because of what they have pursued.  Yes, terrible, awful, no good, very bad things may have happened along the way, but those folks keep walking their walk.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.  Elisabeth Kubler Ross



I read a number of devotions that come to my email inbox each day - I either start or end my day with them depending on my schedule.  Recently, one of them has been about Job.  Now Job is like my least favorite story in the Bible, but so it goes, it is told for a reason.  It is the story where God tests the faithfulness of the ever faithful, ever grateful, Job.  Piece by piece, each element of Job's life is misplaced and disheveled.  His children die, his business sputters, his health fails, and with each step, he refuses to turn his heart and his focus from God.  In a similar fashion, the apostle Paul followed suit - amid shipwrecks, beatings and jail time, his gratefulness to God never failed. He knew, during those times, God was hard at work on something far greater than what his own eyes could see - and that is what I mean by grateful.  To be grateful, I think we must be able to have a perspective to see through the storm.

I often fail at "seeing through".  I get caught up and crushed in the immediacy that is the circumstance and it steals so much of my heart and my head in the process.  The after affects make me timid and less of who I know I am intended to be.  As we live through our own variations of ups and downs, I don't think we're supposed to exactly understand the why in seeing through or the why in the details.  How can we?  I think our hurdles are about learning to trust and grow and dig deeper, climbing over whatever it is that make up our own hurdles; and in the end, being grateful for not only the outcome, but the process, to see the goodness in the dark. I think that is why we encounter all the things we do - people and love and loss and triumph.  Gratitude is not limited to the good - you need darkness to know when there is light, knowing as you go, darkness is not the end. That is what I mean in the perspective to see through the storm.

And so, as I leave you, I hope you find yours - your sunshine, warmth, love, family, coverage, truth, joy and all the things you have to be grateful for.  Let it spill out and overflow and rise to the surface.  For everything I have seen and everything I have experienced, the light and the dark, I am grateful.  I am sustained by love and friendship and joy and kindness.  For all that you have contributed to my year, I am grateful for you. Thank you.

10.06.2011

Move


In recent weeks there has been a few themes that have blossomed in my own little corner of the world.  I often think of them the same way my Mom makes her infamous popcorn... old school style.  As the oil sizzles on the bottom of the pot, you never know which kernel will suddenly burst in its glorious white goodness.  Things are always percolating below the surface and then suddenly they just burst - with inspiration, epiphanies, challenges, change and perspective. Growth.

Now, the idea of a theme has many connotations:
As defined, it can be a focal point - topic of discussion, unifying element, motif - like the visual topic, in a work of art. In music, it is the principle melodic subject, that is often revisited.  In Grammar, it is the common idea, or "the root".  It is the groundedness of the story.

And so, the grounded, rooted, common melodic theme that has just floated through my life is... bah da da da. Togetherness.  Koinonia. Devotion. Ezer Kenegdo...  Each of these words has a distinct meaning when it comes to the melody of togetherness.  Koinonia is a word that came across my plate a few years ago when doing a Bible study with some girlfriends - it specifically touches on the idea of communion and fellowship. Ezer Kenegdo is the idea of having a helper for your life.  It is the word that was used to describe what Eve was to Adam - she was created and fashioned with intention - to be his helper for his life.  So, with all these words of togetherness, how does this apply to me - A single, twenty-something who wrestles with her own restlessness and tries to pull it all together... mostly on my own.  What does that mean to have and share and desire devotion and togetherness in the ebb and flow of my life?

I don't know.  It is still developing, changing and becoming.  But I know it's not just the end of the road that matters, it's each step that is taken on the journey and each hint that I get. To be a part of any of these "theme words" you must be exactly that - a part of something larger than yourself.  You are one half of an irreplaceable part in a friendship or a family, a relationship or maybe a marriage.  Without you, there is no togetherness - there is no devotion when I am nothing more than "ck flying solo"... (inner pep talk dialogue to myself as much as any of you who read my ramblings.. ) 

It is my nature to want to help, care for and support.  I feel alive and needed when I am in a care taker mode.  I have strong reservations in the department of letting someone else take care of me, allowing someone to see when I am vulnerable and in need, in an in-depth sort of way.  I put up a little buffer, where I rarely ask for help outside of my own immediate family.  As long as I can remember, it has made me slightly uncomfortable, like I shouldn't allow someone to go out of their way for me.  There is an element of "if I never ask, then maybe I won't be disappointed when something falls through the cracks, or there is no follow through." So I stopped. When the opposite happens, I certainly don't expect it and feel immeasurably indebted to that person in those instances.  I know, this is absolutely ridiculous - what is it that gets in my way?  Pride? Fear of disappointment?  Maybe.  So these things paralyze me and I never move from the same pattern of never ask, and my buffer stays perfectly in tact.

Like so many, I don't want to need help.  We live in a culture of complete self-sufficiency, but needing one another is a built-in aspect of our humanity- that which connects us to each other. So when I discover I need as a part of my human condition, and encounter someone ready and willing to be there for me in my need, I am humbled.  As I expose these unknown, unrecognized aspects of the deep crevices of my heart, I ask myself, what does it mean for me to be steadfast, courageous and enduring -  to live in the mystery of togetherness, to give and take and ask and receive?  Maybe it's less about steadfast and courageous and enduring - those come easy to me, maybe for me in my own journey it's about letting, allowing and receiving...   

I am a fixer.  I shine when I am put in work situations that require creativity, restructure, in depth thoughtful and holistic planning, understanding and patience.  I don't do so well when I can only see one small corner of the world.  I need to see the whole story and how each part is connected to it - (throw back to being an Interdisciplinary Fine Arts Major) - it is about the relationship of that one thing to everything else.  I tend to make good decisions, because I see how good decisions affect my life as a whole.  I want to please, follow the rules and make everything OK for those who surround me.  It is still a little hazy around the edges...  But what I am learning, is that it is OK for me to want and need that same devotion, koinonia and togetherness in the varying degrees we should receive it as people.  It is OK for me to ask for it.  And of course, at the very core of my search to understand God's breath and spirit moving in my life, I have come to realize that I cannot be in the fringe of togetherness with God - no matter where I hide or how much buffer I add to the surface.  There is no fringe when there is God.  The Spirit is all encompassing.  And that is what I look to for my example... Which leads me then to Ephesians 3:16-21

Now, usually, when a little ditty like Ephesians comes across my plate, I pay attention, mark it in my Bible, see how it applies to my life and move right along.  It takes a sec to sink in. When something comes across my plate twice, OK, I'm paying attention,  what are you trying to tell me?.. but 5 times in the last 3 weeks?  It seems as though there is someone trying to get my attention and I should wake up and start thinking, talking and meditating seriously on what impact the words have:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

When these words were spoken to me in a sermon a few weeks ago they sparked tears in my eyes - I need the reminder of how wide and long and high and deep God's love is and how far that love goes to root me - back to the theme - to center me, keep me on track, remind me, keep me, protect me, stretch and grow my insides, teach me what I am lacking.  Then, the example was given to use these words not only as a reminder, but as a prayer - replacing "You" with whomever you wished to cover with these words.  And I did.  

You see, my reminder has been - God is at work and certainly not done... ever. And what is my track?  My track is exactly my gifts - that which sets me apart.  My list that makes me exactly my own - an original, an only - these things are the things the Spirit moves within me.  And the Spirit knows my weaknesses and will constantly challenge me to be better.  Life is not about sitting on the hamster wheel and running the same track.  And so steady as we go, we grow.

So, I ask as you read this - what moves you?  What sets you apart, makes you feel calm, whole and filled?  Seek it - grow it in your insides... "In him who is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..."  There, is the Spirit that moves.

9.11.2011

Glow

Blinking cursor, white page...again.. write.

There is a Sharon Van Etten song with a line in it that says, "One day I'll be a better writer, I'll make every face that I never perfectly phrase."  This is one of those "ooh" songs that get you right in your gut.  Simple sweet melody - big lyrics in an unconventional way... Give me a new perspective, change my vision, my view of the world in a 4 minute song. :)

In expressing oneself with the written word, there is plenty of room for interpretation, application and perspective, unless you are perfectly clear in every aspect to which you are referring.  (Creative writing/paper writing/ essay writing 101.)  The clarity comes with time and practice. Yet, I sometimes feel like a stuck typewriter, with so much to say it could spill from my insides... and then I hesitate, worry, burp (figuratively and sometimes literally), or in my insistence to express- say totally the wrong thing.  And then I replay it.  I swear to you, if I could kill the instant replay button in my head that reviews my mistakes over and over again, I definitely would... the replay never does me any good, nor does the fear or the worry.  So, in my frustrations, I've made an effort to at least tame it, allow myself to rest and grow -  to change the replay into how I would have handled it differently and amend any lingering tingles head on.  

I sing a variety of classical songs for Weddings and often times I am asked which particular version of a piece of popular music I prefer.  For example, for the Ave Maria, I sing the Schubert version most often in B flat with a much faster tempo than most church organists prefer.  That is the version that lines up with me.  And so, this same analogy is meant to touch on the truth we are in each of the versions of ourselves.  What we choose to show and allow of ourselves to spill out.  I know there are many parts of me which make up the whole and certain folks see more of those pieces than others.  I know I get versions of friends and family at different times. Sometimes I see it in their physiology and the way they carry themselves, sometimes I hear it in the way they respond to me, in the sound of their voice in the way they look at me. But the problem is, I don't want a version.  To those I love and call the dearest of my life, I want the whole unabridged story...

I know this is not the standard.  I have had many friendships and relationships that have existed on a single surface level playing field for years, and the flip side of the coin is a-ok with things just as they are. But how do we propel forward as people if there is no deep dive to learn or grow or change or develop from really truly encountering another?  This is vulnerable to the core - when your heart spills over and it is uncertain what someone else might see.  It is possible to be misunderstood as we navigate and are  introduced into each scenario, and the audience might not get it the way you anticipate.  How do you live your life and just "be" who you are and the one you want to become without that challenge?  This is not a twenty-something life crisis, or an issue of identity, but I feel like I miss the boat when I version... If I hold back or hang back or try to protect some aspect of myself, I feel as though I'm not giving my whole truth.. and that is not who I am.  I want to glow.  

Just like the Sharon Van Etten song, my love of the unconventional totally and completely fits this scenario.   I think it is because it leaves room for the miracle, and you know how I love those.  We are a connecting point for God, so why in the world wouldn't God work miraculously in each of us?  I fail miserably at the "self-protect" mechanism of my life and I know it.  Is it something I  work on to build up, or is the absence of it my gift?  Rather than fumbling through my hurts and building them like a wall around me, I try to chisel them away each time I see them build a foundation... I know I can't carry the weight of the wall around - you see, its weight rests on the builder.  Tearing them down with the old hurts and throwing them away again is the only way for me to keep moving forward, so all is left behind is the glow.. the ability to rest and relax and breathe.  One of the side affects of doing this for yourself is that it provides the opportunity and ability to be able to give it as a gift...  And that would be my greatest hope - to allow you to be and rest awhile with me.   

One of the books I am reading refers to an open heart as "Tenacity of Spirit."  I am still on an "in progress" search of my tenacity, but as I excavate, I not only see my own value, but more and more of the value, worth, beauty and spirit of those around me.  Maybe we can develop with practice... maybe we can change the wings.   

7.14.2011

Love, among other things...

The things we don't talk about... I almost never mention the "L" word and whether or not I am in or out of it.  It is a taboo topic in some respects, I would say most specifically within the realms of social media.   It's like PDA if you see too much of it on the book of faces... for some, it's like heavens, hold back the up-chuck reflex. God bless the lovey-dovey; they are the others who love to see it in action.  (Yes, I would say I too, am hopelessly sentimental and air on the -dovey side)  I love seeing love in action - wedding photos, engagement photos, happiness oozing out of the the crevices...

We tread lightly on the topic of love before "it's ripe" as it is something each of us feels individually and as much as two people can "be in love," it is two separate states of being that overlap and give and take and push and pull and encourage and grow and reflect and change.. it is a gift.

 “All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.” - Goethe

It is true that love for each of us can be like a horse of a different color; it is always moving and changing and developing with new shapes and sizes, but it is always present, always there.  I love my family, I love my yorkie, I love my friends, I love... I love.  You too can fill in your blank.  But to fill it in, it can't be a kinda sorta thing - it must be an "all the way."

So why go and talk about it now?  God, give me the truth and be big about it.  Because I need to be reminded of the who, what, when, where, why and how. 

Who - me, you, freaking crazy Al down the street are all loved. It might be by your Mom, or your sister, or your kid, or that dead sexy significant other of yours, but don't hold it hostage.  Let it go. Give it away.  Fall into it and by all means, let it breathe.  Be true about it - centered, complete, perfect, pure.  It is something you not only completely deserve, but if you give it away like just like that, don't you think a gaggle of folks will radiate to your warmth?

What - My brother-in-law says "Love is teasing."  While I'm not quite sure that is the aspect of love i'm working on here - he has a point.  He knows me well enough to know where I'm touchy, where I get mad, when I am annoyed... And don't you think he perfectly pushes my buttons when he wants to?  Love knows the real stuff and the pain points and the pressure points and keeps on going anyway... It endures, even for my teasing brother-in-law. ;) love ya P!

All kidding and teasing aside, I would say my life quest, my life adventure- has always put me in search of that which is true. Truth. Real. Unabashed. Unbridled. Brave... love.  It does not shrink - it triumphs, no matter what hurdles lie in its way, because that is the nature of love - it bears all things.  It is the biggest, greatest most vital gift we as humans can give and take from each other.  But it can't have hinges, or conditions it just is because it can bear it.

When - It is funny the things that fall into place when you take this one collosal step - in my experience, I have felt like everything I was intended to be fell into place at exactly the right time.  I am stronger, more capable and alive - "There is no fear in love - for perfect love casts out fear."  When you know it's worth the risk.  When you know the other half of your scenario wants everything you entail - whether it be a new flame, family, friend and sometimes even foe - the good, the bad, the ugly, the broken.

Oh, but hells bells it is scary.  There is an incredible level of vulnerability that takes place when you give love away and allow it to come in - I think that is what gives you strength in the end.  You are strengthened by the love of the other because you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to know the truth and there is something so incredibly incandescent about the truth.  And regardless of the outcome, isn't it better to say - man, I gave everything I had from the depths of my heart and loved all the way.  I would much rather do it that way then look back on my life and go - damn, I missed it.  I will always do that every time, because that is my gift.

Where - "Where there is not love, put love and there you will find love." St. John of the Cross

That was the quote I chose for the yearbook my Senior year of high school, by default.  One of my friends called dibs on the one I was going to go with... aaaand I would say this little ditty by St. John of the Cross, has weaseled its way all over my life, ever since... completely unintentionally.  In my most challenging moments, this is what helps me center myself.  What do I choose?  Love.  It will happen in the most unexpected and unlikely places, and I can say with complete honesty I've always been surprised, humbled and even on occasion, honored by what God puts into being.  Perfectly planned before I even had an inkling to expect it.

Why - It is an ever fixed mark. No, really it is - think about this in application to your own life and existence.  Your constants - do they really change much?  Why is that?  Are they people in your life, places, why them?  I suspect you will find love somewhere at the core.

But first, in this story as it unfolds, I've had to find it within myself. My unique love. Not just once, but over and over again - it's not a one trick pony, it's a constant moving, spinning, growing, changing of the within. In my spiritual realm of understanding, love for me, is the channel between you and God which enables you, the giver, to do exactly that.  The real thing is not easy nor is it cheap. It is balance and care and protection it "bears it out... even to the edge of doom."- or so says Shakespeare and I tend to take his word for it since he has an expert-ish status on the topic.  Now I think doom is a pretty extreme place, but it means what it says - It heals and binds up and grows and covers.

Of all my faith, my strength lies in love - and my heart is completely my own, a heart that has never been before.  I am an only. The same is true for you - You are an only with a spectacular array of "own-ness" with gifts and talents that go unmatched. And that in itself shows the creativity of the creator, to throw the stars in the sky in perfect harmonious alignment and to knit each of us together with perfect uniqueness.  So remember your Big Love - you've got it.

So amongst my ramblings... Here is a bit of the newest musical experiment - the assembly of the Infinite playlist, still in progress.  It's mostly some of the favs I've been listening to recently.  Enjoy!

5.31.2011

Even in the Dark

What is your story?  Is it written already?  Let me ask you again - is it written already?  Dear God, I hope my story is less of a story and more of an-in-the-process-of-being-written song - give me some gushy lyrics and a couple good b-flat minor resolutions.  My ear is much like my perspective..

How do I write this and not make it sound like the most boring cliche analogy on the planet?

I am in search of the zing-er.  The unique.  The extraordinary.  The miracle.  I don't want to think or act, or react like everyone else.  It is remarkably boring. Personally, I have found if you do it the way its been done by everyone else, there is no room for anything to grow, or your heart to change or your life to improve, or to suddenly possess the capability to see any of the things I mentioned in my list above.  Those are the things I love about life. And my perspective is one of the things that consistently change my game.  I want the miracle.

My perspective and my heart are not always this way.  No, I did not say "were."  I said are.  It is opposed by its very nature...
I am relatively buoyant, but I fight my fair share of darkness.  And there are continuous clouds that hover. They are thick and dense and have the very unusual ability to hide all that is good.  You see, the darkness has this very easy allure to it, pulling you in, over and over again, just for a moment making you doubt and forget all the things that make you who you are, and worse, it covers over all the things that make you believe you are worth the miracle.

Yes, this is also my battle. One that I don't readily raise my hand to tell the world.  It's why I surround myself with inspirational quotes. They are reminders of the things I need to focus on, remember, look for, search for, strive for and be open to.  They remind me to breathe.

The truth is, the darkness is a lie.  Yes it whispers treachery and memories of things we love and hate - and preoccupies with glorious distraction.  But at its very core it hinders growth and love and healing and movement - that is why it is a lie.  However, the darkness is a part of all of us in whatever hurdle we face. Even the most lively bright and blazing life has its battle with the darkness.  So rather than pull a "Hey You've Got To Hide Your Love Away"  Stop hiding.  Refuse to believe the lie.  Be Courageous with your life... (inner pep talk dialogue... :)

A couple years ago I spent my Tuesday evenings in the company of about 30 or so kiddos.  60 pairs of eyes would be peeled on me and my accompanist for every bit of 90 minutes.  Talk about pressure.  This group of 4th through 9th graders who knew what was up.  Kids are amazingly honed in.  They know when you're making shit up.  They know when you're not sure.  They call your bluff. They know when you are pulling their chain.  They were my choir and I was their director.  I had to earn their trust.  I had to show them, that I not only cared about their voices, but I cared for them as ridiculously smart, fun, amazing human beings who were still figuring out where they fit in the world - just as they are. (Cough, cough - me figuring out my place in the world too.)

Often music exposes the soft underbellies of what we hide, not only in our heads, but it fights the darkness and reaches down into the depths of the heart.  Music, it so perfectly hones in the senses and the physicality of you becoming the instrument is incredible.  The voice, a piano, a guitar... a symphony, a choir has the ability to reach into the quietly tucked away human spirit.  The kids knew this.  They experienced it with each other.  They could recognize it in each other when it was really good.

One of our rules became "Be Courageous".  If the kids were singing and had their own part - if I couldn't hear them, if the audience couldn't hear them - the message - their gift - was lost.  Even if they weren't sure it was exactly right, the courage to sing was more important than to hide behind 29 other voices.  I could always hear the difference.  That one no longer quieted voice always made the difference.

So today, I give you my soft underbelly. The things I don't want to talk about.  I want to be buoyant and ablaze and strong and fearless and brave.  Of course I fall short.  But there is always the courage to look up, even in the dark and see the stars. It is my reminder - how can I keep from singing?  The story is still becoming.

And here is one of those that reminded me to wake up and tell a story - maybe part of mine - Blue Orchids, Sun Kil Moon

5.22.2011

True stories of Judy & Robbie

I started writing to tell stories and it started when I left for Hong Kong.  Every moment was heightened, every feeling was intense.  I was 17.  Overseas I took a creative writing class and it hooked me... I don't think my words have been the same since.... why go for boring words like "great" when you can say luscious or scrumptious or exhilarating... make it a little interesting, k?  Appeal to the senses where someone can taste your experience like a juicy crisp green apple - with a dash of salt. Most of all when I tell a story, I want to convey a level of sincerity, perspective, spirituality, passion, hope, joy, courage and whatever else I so happen to find myself witnessing or traipsing through.  I want to paint pictures with my words, but it does not always need to be about me... So today, I will write about my parents...

My Mom had reconstructive ankle surgery this week- her second. The first experience was on the left, now this one has removed bone and stretched tendons and ligaments and put them all back into their proper place - the result, is a massive white beast encompassing her right ankle.. but she's why they both get the post today... Parental entertainment value. Being such, I will tell their story.

My Mom was the first daughter to Don and Maria, preceded by David and followed by Diana. Maria was a pinch n some change older than Don (none of us knew anything about this until much much much later when we commissioned her birth certificate so she could get proper medical insurance at her assisted living facility.)  Don was from Springfield, OH and Maria was from Anyasco, Puerto Rico.

The back story there in a sweet little glimpse: Don met Maria while he was stationed as a Radar Technician for the US Air force in Puerto Rico.  Maria was a secretary on base. To watch and encounter my grandparents you would know they lived an adventure together.  Both of them had lost parents at young ages but still had a fierce loyal and protective connection to their families.  Don spent his childhood tripping around Snyder park in Springfield and Maria spent sunny afternoons in Puerto Rico.  Both were athletes - Don knew everything from Fencing to Archery to Fishing and Hunting and if my memory serves me, Maria had a bit of that Spanish zest in her - like a splash of Tabasco.  There are stories of Maria driving a Moped, running and winning races among other things.  As a child growing up as a regular fixture in their house, you would walk away with these things in your back pocket: 1. There was always the best cake you've ever tasted. 2. You would have been hugged on the way in and on the way out - even if it was the first time you'd ever met them. 3. You would be carrying a plate of leftovers regardless of what time of day you came. 4. You would know just by watching one look to the other how true love is.

Now, as I hear it, Judy, their middle child, was a bit of a spitfire and inherited some of that Tabasco. ;) hahah. (lum mama). No really. She was the organizer, the caretaker and the one who was in charge, aaand maybe took charge (so I gather from the subtle sarcasm of Aunt Diana and Uncle David) especially when both of their parents were working... Their family moved a lot - as kids we heard stories about their adventures in Panama, Puerto Rico, Mississippi, Washington and North Dakota.  For this little air force family it instilled and solidified that same close knit connectedness to each other Don and Maria so valued... and of course, with 3 bitty ones close in age, there was never a dull moment.

Robbie was the middle son born to Jean and Jerry... preceded by James and followed by Edward.  As long as I can remember, I knew my father was named for Robbie Burns - a Scottish poet.  You see Jean was a bit of a spitfire herself..  Jerry met Jean while stationed in England - Jean was in the the Royal Air Force and Jerry was in the Army Core working on P51s.. their story?  It followed a similar pattern. Both lost their parents tragically young from sickness and somehow made their way with the help of their siblings.  Jerry grew up driving his Indian motorcycle around Springfield - his bride was from Edinburgh, Scotland.  She could make the best pot of tea you've ever had, and could bake like a maniac.  The extent of her cooking, though was jello, baked chicken, shepherd's pie and meatloaf.  To stray from that list was disastrous.  They too, like Maria and Don, had a strong connection to family and as part of their adventure decided to set out, brave the wild unknown and venture across an ocean and make a go of it - in Springfield, Ohio.  

And Robbie lived up to his name, with a full blown streak of restless creative energy. I am fairly certain he inherited a bit of this from his mother along with the wild curl she had in her hair. She had her boys try everything under the sun, determined to have them learn what she did not. While Jean was a huge proponent of the public library and would bring home records and books, all to inspire the absorption of information.  Jerry was an accountant, while his days kept him at the office, Jean enrolled the boys in free tennis lessons at Snyder park and art lessons at the old Arcade.. and they were always going on "mystery tours" when Jean would get bored of the house and insist Jerry take her and the boys somewhere.. and there was always music...

Finally, in junior high Don and Maria made the decision to move their family back to Ohio - home base for Don where he had some family and lots of old friends. It was a far haul from the sandy adventures of Puerto Rico and much needed relief from the shoulder high snowstorms of North Dakota. Judy went to Roosevelt Junior high and then on to North where she and her siblings were athletes.  David was a wrestler, while Judy and Diana (13 months apart) were both on the track team, specializing in hurdles... To see this pair of sisters you knew they matched, with long hair down to the middle of their backs. Diana was a brunette, Judy was a blond.

Judy's summers were spent hanging out with her mixed bag of friends - yes, she was a North girl who hung out with the Central kids.  She spent her summers keeping watch as a lifeguard and teaching swim lessons at Lakewood swim club.

Robbie spent his time romping around with his brothers and hung out with the nuns, going all the way through Catholic school at St. Raphael's and onto Catholic Central.  He tells stories of Sister Rose Bernadette who would play kickball with all the kids at recess.  I once asked my Dad if he played any sports while he was in high school - to which he replied "Freshman Basketball". :)

After Central he bounded down the road to Athens where he became an OU Bobcat - among other things; Pizza delivery man through the hills of campus in break-less VW bugs.  He became a full fledged artist, expanding his reach not only with drawing and painting, but also with his study in graphic design and journalism.  Having fussed around with his guitar since he was a kid, he became a musician writing songs on his acoustic and experimenting on his roommates electric. And of course he was a student.

A few years later, Judy made the hop, skip and a jump over to Bowling Green where she was what I would classify as an extraordinarily funny RA- with a myriad of crazy pictures and all sorts of get ups, I'm sure there was never a dull moment.  There are pictures of theme parties with a gaggle of girls laughing and stories of sledding down the big BG hill on hijacked cafeteria trays. There, she landed on an Education major - exercising her excellent leadership skills.

So how did these two meet?  4 years a part, they knew some of the same people, but, they met of all places - at a bar.  Judy was the lightweight - H20 on the rocks was her drink of choice, she was the DD and she was ok with that.  One night, while sipping on her water, some unwanted attention floated in her direction.  She was a beautiful girl - long blond hair down the middle of her back, slender with a touch of athletic to her physique. After several attempts to kindly shrug off the unwanted advances, he grew more insistent and determined to win her over. At this point in time, Robbie "knew" Judy - they were friends of friends and upon witnessing the sequence of events he literally stepped in and said - "Hey, she's with me."  Other dude = hasta luego.  The details after that are a little fuzzy -  I do know, however, this was "the moment they really met".  They had talked, he had rescued her from a somewhat belligerent maybe-a-little-too-tipsy guy and there was an impression made. The impression was of his character.

So they started seeing each other casually and casually turned into regularly and regularly turned into steady and steady turned into serious... What followed was an engagement, a wedding, a marriage, two daughters, two designed-and-built-from-scratch houses, two businesses and a teaching career. They have supported and strengthened each other, challenged each other, changed each other.

You see, her spitfire matched his restless creative streak, and it still does. She encourages him to investigate and grow his ideas and in turn, he encourages her to take big risks (nothing ventured nothing gained.) There are so many stories I could tell but what I'll leave you with a few pictures instead :)



5.05.2011

You can't sit on 2 horses with 1 ass, sugar bean...

So, how will you choose?  I am the worst decider in the whole wide world.. I used to think I was really good at it.  I would make a decision and Boom - it was set.  I had decided.  Neat, tidy, uncomplicated and complete. Next.  I was decisive.  I knew what I wanted - I knew where I was "supposed to" be and I did it because of what was expected of me. "You should make this choice." "This is what is right for you." As a result, I regretted a lot of decisions I made out of obligation, or expectation.

If you would have asked me at 16, I would have told you I wanted to sing for my life, go to St. Olaf for college, graduate, get married and have kids... how do you like your pizza? - everything - except peppers, please - so she said, and she had it all figured out. You could wrap it up in a red bow and put it under the Christmas tree.

Well, I did go to St. Olaf, I almost transferred at least twice - I am a Project Manager - still sing, not for my job, mind you - not married, no kids... and I know I'm right where I belong.  Although.. I still do like my pizza with no peppers :)

I don't really remember when it started - I learned to become a storyteller - my decisions started coming slower and a good portion of them, I realized, weren't completely mine to make. The decisions I had so hastily made before, were things that had to come - unfold - not simply by the matter of my own personal decide it right now, will.  There was more to it than the "this makes sense right now", decision.

Maybe, it was the first time I left everything certain behind that I felt the impact of being really truly open to what was in front of me.  It was a huge risk.  Being open meant I wasn't just hanging out there for the good stuff, but that I was wide open to every curve ball the world had to throw at me, including the bad.  I was up to my eardrums afraid.  I knew nothing and I knew, I knew nothing.

And then she put a name to it and called it grace - although I definitely couldn't have put my finger on it then, this scared shit-less kid held out her hand to the world and came back with a handful.  I knew myself better after those experiences - but my decision making has, ever since, decreased in timeliness. Why?  Because I don't decide.  I pray.  With all my might I close my eyes and open my hands. Still, today, it is one of the most difficult things in my life. My will versus God's plan..  where will you use me - where will you fill my hands?  God is so big and is capable of ANYTHING... so I began to realize.

This openness has teeter tottered for decades - through tragedy and anger and a paralizing fear of being hurt - but each time the sweaty-palm, balled-into-fists-kid remembers the grace - the growth - the love and hands so full they are overflowing.  And with that kind of grace, there is nothing to do but let go - release it all and let God fill these hands - no matter where they've been or what shape they are in.

Like my hands, the world - people - places - events have changed my overall heart shape.  This sheltered, tender, desperately afraid heart began to develop into something I am still trying to figure out.  But a few things I have learned along the way:

1. "You can't sit on 2 horses with 1 ass, Sugar Bean" - There is a certain conviction of spirit that shapes your character with your decisions. The ones you yourself will into being and in contrast the ones God reminds you of, over and over.  I have learned, I can't proclaim to live my life a certain way and then actually live it out differently... you will, indeed fall off the horse.

2.  "Your hands start hurting" I'm sure, after long term exposure to this so called "fist clenching" it could even cripple you.  No matter where you are, you are capable of writing your own story - either by will or by force, or by God.

3. "It's like it came out of no where."  How many times do good things float into your life? They are blessings, recognize this is what they are and count them as such.

4. "If you build it, they will come."  hahaha - this one was a bit of a stretch, but I really wanted to use it.  If you build an open heart on a foundation of grace, I wonder what will fill it?  If God fills your hands, don't you think God can and will fill your heart?

5. Be courageous - with all of these things and the right decision will win out in the end.  Then you know God is in it.

3.28.2011

"For a moment I thought I saw your eyelids rise"

I have sat looking at this page several times throughout the last few weeks.  The result has been a white page with a blinking cursor, winking at me as I ponder...  I have found most of the time I too just need a little time to process... gleaning through a mind that works too quick for its own good. 

Lately I've been reading a stack of books - mostly to help curb the apnea that steals away my sleep, but also to calm a restless mind - Yes, it's always been restless - this is no different than it's been since I was in grade school, or high school, or college.  But these books remind me of the things that are most important to me, the person who I want to be and what I hope to bring to those around me... I can't put my finger on what it is exactly - it's not any single thing, but I want to be a jambalaya of joy and grace and hope and peace and understanding and love - all things that any of us might need with the deepest sincerity I have to offer it.  And in turn, I want the truth - Not an abbreviated version, or a hidden agenda - but the truth - all of it.  

Those who have the closest spots in my life don't lie to me - even if they know it's not what I want to hear. They tell me the truth because they know I will respect the truth - Truth requires courage.  And the things that are the truest aspects of our lives - what is it that makes them real? - I think usually you will find, they are based on the truth.  There is no replacement or substitute and there is no compromise.  So the books I read at night when I can't sleep remind me of these things - the big things - the reason I write - the reason I sing - the reason I keep trying to be something better than what I am right now.  They remind me that we all have Ransomed Hearts...
"I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory..." 2 Peter 2:12-13

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly... who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat."  - Teddy Roosevelt

"Hope is not what you expect; it is what you would never dream.  It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm dreaming ending... it is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no it is far greater than that.  It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction." - Max Lucado

Like my lack of sleep, there is so much that occupies our time - our thoughts, eats up our money, stresses us out, dulls our interests and steals away our reminders of these things that are most important to us - the things that make us so perfectly unique and most importantly - the things that make us come alive.  It is a certain tragedy when all of who we are is dulled by the unimportant information - what we "ought" to do verses what we love and where we are most gifted.  Had I known in college what I know now, I would have possibly made different decisions about my education, maybe different decisions about my life - instead of searching for "livelihood" and "safety" I think I would have searched for "fulfillment".  What is it that fills us up - Wakes us up  - and makes us come alive?  Where in that restless mind is there room for your heart? 


And so, I lived buried - for years. I was salty and a certain pessimism began to take over my insides.  I had let it live there and had let it grow.  And then a few years ago, I changed my mind and decided to live by my heart - I woke up.  Risky, atypical and at times even scary.  But with every ounce of who I am, I want to live a life with an unaffected heart.  Unaffected in a way that I will not hide because of what has come and gone before - we each have our stories, our things that have happened, our chests full of ache.  But, we are also meant to live through them to grow and change and become - better, stronger, more complete, more compassionate people by the things that test everything we are..."as gold is tested in fire.."  Maybe it makes me naive - to see the world as full of hope and exist in it - in a way like you've never been hurt.  It is my theory that the greatest rewards come with the greatest risks and usually there are miracles mixed in there somewhere...  Surprise. 

2.27.2011

Inspired

I've been itching for a few days to sit down and write.  Typically the words need the time to fill the space in my head and spill out naturally.  I'm a thinker - reflection is a part of my day whether I like it or not and when there are big things going on, I typically need a second to let this mind of mine catch up and wrap itself around it.

My last 6 months have been a bit of a whirlwind.  A whirlwind, I know, I haven't been in charge of on purpose.  Over the years God has taught me to go with the flow - and just as the Spirit moves within us, God is never wrong. So, with all my type A, planning personality - I've tried with all my might to surrender everything and ask my fearless leader to lead me, walking a wobbly step or two behind like a blindfolded kid being steered in the direction of a treasure-filled pinata.

  ..And suddenly I hit that sucker.  I have come to this place where so many things finally add up- like treasures scattered around me and they make some real sense.  I say suddenly like all of it happened overnight.  It did not.  Over years I've taken my fair share of swings - just catching air with valiant effort.  I have been the reader of this story as it slowly unfolds, consistently wondering what is up - constantly wondering why this old soul, tender heart and busy mind combined in me exactly the way they have.  But as I've watched the process of God moving in my life, I am indeed amazed, yet again, by the magnificence of the Spirit which grows inside of us as we build our relationship with "the numba one stunna".  Again and again I am reminded of the vastness and capabilities of God and as much as I plan and fret, everything is already taken care of - just like the birds of the air...  and now I see the purpose.

With all these things on my horizons, I am learning to exhale the breath I feel like I've been holding for decades.  I realize, I don't need to hold my breath - I just need to breathe and be at peace.  Feeling a bit like a little girl who has just lost her training wheels on her first bike, I find this to be the ride of my life- exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.  I know I've got a ways to go, but I'm finding my pedals and legs are connected already.

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, remembered gate, when the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning;  At the source of the longest river, the voice of the hidden waterfall - and the children in the apple tree, not known, because not looked for, but heard - half heard, in the stillness between two waves of the sea.  Quick now, here, now, always. A condition of complete simplicity - costing not less than everything - and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.  When the tongues of flame are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire.  And the fire and the rose are one." T.S. Eliot

The quote from T.S. Eliot I found while taking a creative writing class at Hong Kong International School.  It made sense at the time and fit my journey to China perfectly at 17 years old.  My first flying-solo trip and international flight alone. My first real starting a brand new school with all new faces.   All in one.  But the time away from home at 17 taught me so much about what I loved and needed - what it meant to really be home.  Reading the poem again now, it still applies because it makes me think of my own personal growth, the way my life perspectives have changed and developed over time - not just from the good things, but from the things that were the hardest hurdles for me to overcome.  Our sights change through our experience - like "Gold tested in fire"  we are God's constant projects and are being prepared for our own life's purpose before we are even aware of it.  God is keenly in tuned not only with our gifts, but also, with our needs. With all this preparation our insights and perspectives develop to see people, places and things in our lives which, likely, have been there - or at least nearby all along.

So, I'll leave you with some Alexi Murdoch so you can ponder your own journeys, plans, pinatas and bike rides.  Just don't forget where to find the air that fills your tires... and just breathe.

1.21.2011

Set your sights

This year was a big year.  I have learned quite a bit about who it is I am becoming, what I want and the direction I am headed.  I have set my sights.  I will be (fill in the blank) - happy, strong, healthy... You name it, I want it.  All the good stuff, anyway.  No, seriously, you can fill in your own blank too :)

  Direction is a funny thing - just like the wind, it changes with the discovery of who it is we think we are and then who we prove to ourselves we are in actuality. Sometimes we don't know what we're made of and sometimes we think that it can only be a certain way - for some things are all good and for others it may be all bad.  For me, it's all about balance.  I guess I have learned along the way, the ability to deal with and survive the bad stuff.  But not to let the presence of the bad eliminate the good.  Now when I encounter the good stuff my life experience knows that it is oh so sweet.  I am learning to appreciate it when I have it in my hands.

So, in the midst of my ever present and evolving self discovery, I have come to realize I am in constant change.  If I stop changing, if I stop becoming, if I stop growing especially in the direction I desire, it is only because I am somehow preventing myself from overcoming it.  So this year, I am determined to get out of the way, change my own thinking and set my sights.... What exactly does that mean?  No, I won't speak to you in cryptic undertones and riddles - but I'll shoot you straight and tell you the honest to God truth:  
You are in charge of what you think - what you let yourself think, how you react, how you treat others, how you treat yourself and how you feel about who you are.  (In case you want to check yourself - if you have a facebook or twitter, see what you've been posting over the last month or so... what are you thinking about?  What do you want your friends, your family and the world to know you're thinking about?)

Changing my thinking is hard for me.  For although I try my very best to be positive, I am a worry wort among other things :).  I wake up at 4 a.m. with things on my mind.  But ultimately, does my worrying at 4 a.m. accomplish anything?  No.  In fact, it makes me sick and tired the whole next day.  So I start with myself and my own thinking... How do I think about myself, my life, my family, my friends and so on.  That thinking has a trickle affect into the rest of my life.

We must learn to see ourselves clearly - the good and the bad alike to keep us propelling forward.  To be better in the process.  But also - see what makes us good as we are - as God made us an exclusive creative offer - one time only.  What makes us unique and unlike anyone who has come before us?  If we begin to see the value in who we are I think as a result your thinking towards yourself and others encounters a positive change as a result.  If we continue to put ourselves, pure and earnestly into the people and relationships around us and think things will be good, can't they ultimately be good?

There is a quote by St. John of the Cross that says "Where there is not love, put love you will find love." Well, if you are the source of love, can't you simply generate it everywhere you go?  Like your own little mini-sun.  Our entire solar system follows around a big ball of hot gas because of the energy it expels.  If you think about your life in the same way - everything that revolves around you - what if you simply changed your attitude or approach - what would happen to your solar system?  What would happen to your own happiness?  You are your own sun - radiate some warmth and as a result, see what grows around you.  

example - I am in the age where my friends are dating, get engaged, get married and now are having little bambinos of their own.  The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine who was telling me of her good fortune to reconnect with a handsome guy friend of her past.  Her words to me were this - "Yeah, I just don't want to get too excited about it...I don't know what's going to happen."  

Hold the phone.  Why not?  Do we ever know what's going to happen?  Yes, heartbreak and heartache are some of the most difficult things we as humans bear over and over again.  But, even in the midst of the most severe heartbreaks and heartaches of my life, I have never once regretted loving the truly wonderful happy moments.  We survive so much.  But to survive it means to also know when it is really good - so why not rejoice in it?  

So that is what I told her - yes, keep your head on straight - but it is ok to be excited.  In fact, you should be excited.  Live it.  We only get one shot- might as well make it the best one we've got. 

Be resolved to be healthy and happy and strong.  I want my solar system to radiate that, plus immense amounts of love and warmth to everyone in my neck of the woods....

Now, to ramble on, as usual, there are a couple tunes that have started hovering in my stratosphere.

When it don't come easy is a song written by Patty Griffin.  In this case it's being performed by Keri Noble.  It to me, captures a piece of true love - "when you break down - I'll drive out and find you.  when you forget my love, I'll try to remind you - n stay by you, when it don't come easy"  Goes straight back to my 1st Corinthians fav about love - it's patient and kind it is not jealous, or rude, or self-seeking.  It does not delight in evil but it rejoices in the truth - it bears all things - it always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres... even when it don't come easy...

So peek over the edge - set your sights - change your vision - change your thinking, because you are the sun.

1.06.2011

2011, lessons & a box o' chocolates...

It is always an adventure to write a blog.  It's a bit like Forrest Gump's "life is like a box of chocolates" analogy - I never quite know how what I'm thinking is going to spill out of my head... there is typically something at the back of my mind gnawing at me.  I haven't written yet about the transition of the year.  2011 - woo!  I tend to try and wait until I have a purpose and so I've held off on the "new years resolution post" - but I want to talk not necessarily about resolutions that come and go - but about really living.  All the way... ya know, like I always do :)

There was a good chunk of time in my life where I'm pretty sure I lived the picture shown here.  Have you ever felt this way?  If I move, I swear that rock is going to squish me like an oooh-too-slow-mosquito on the arm of an all-too-attentive-kid.  Just little old me against the world.  I wasn't quite brave enough, or strong enough, or smart enough to out-brave, out-strong and out-smart the world.

... But the funny thing about this picture - is that I'm not really holding up that rock.  Actually, I'm not even touching it.  That rock has been sitting on the side of that mountain in-the-middle-of-no-where-North-Dakota since God played some random game of Jenga.  No assistance from me required for it to maintain its position - in fact - it is actually perfectly balanced - perfectly planned exactly as it rests.  And similarly, I found my gifts were not found in my need to prove my courage, strength, smarts or capabilities to anyone.  I just simply needed to settle into them myself and let them rest a little without the fear or anxiety that things would fall apart.

So starting my year, I've taken a little evaluation of my life so far and for the first time, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be - exactly as I am supposed to be.  No, not everything is absolutely perfect - but a certain peace has settled over me.  I think Philippians 4: 4-10 says it best (as it's one of my favorites) :

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  


Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. 

This isn't the first time I've felt this way - it's a reoccurring theme.  But there is something so surprising and special about it - like someone gave me a quick glance at the plans for a giant building not quite built yet - suddenly you get to understand a little bit of the architect's vision.  I feel as though I am seeing how the steps that I have walked to this very moment of my life - had an actual purpose.  The good stuff and the tough stuff and the stuff I never understood - they were preparing me for something.  And if I just settle in and relax a little - maybe I'll enjoy my walk a little more - rejoicing in all things - understanding that there is an unforeseen purpose in all of it - and by the way - staying on the path is a good idea, even when we don't understand why.

Lately I've seen it over and over again in a few things I've been reading - What are you gifts?  Where do you excel?  What are your strengths?  And how can your strengths actually improve your weaknesses? How can letting your strengths shine not only change you, but also the reality of the people around you?  Can what you possess in you, teach and inspire and heal and protect and grow something which may have been dormant before?  And how amazing is it that these things have combined in you exactly as they have been combined in you?  There is no one in the whole existence of the entire world that is exactly as you are.  You are an only - and you are remarkable.

Too much of our lives is spent on what we have to, or should do - instead of finding our life's vocation - what is it that we were really meant to do.  I might be a Project Manager for my job - but I love to write and cook and garden and sing; and I love my family and children and people and art and music. I will never JUST be a Project Manager - 1 dimensional - singularly angled. Maybe I will always be one as my job, but if I'm not fostering all of who I am, will I live out who I was really meant to be to my fullest potential?

And so, that is where I will leave you for my new years 2011 post - with the same challenge I'm unravelling in myself - and maybe a few lessons by some guys who maybe put it together a smidge nicer than I did :) (Boys, Lesson One - Jars of Clay)

12.26.2010

Love, love is all around...

When I was a kid, Christmas was quite possibly the most exciting day of them all.  Anticipation would build up in my half-pint insides as the prospect of our family Christmas party and open house would draw near - oh, and did I mention... Santa would definitely be making an appearance.  I knew from experience how special the celebration would be and what was in store for the evening's activities.  The neighbors would come, my cousins and Grandparents would come.  Everyone who was important in my life would be there.   What a day.  

Now, my Christmas time has shifted a bit and my grown up sentiments with the time.  Christmas is my time of rest - a few days off work and for this year, a few days in the great white North.  So typically it is surrounded with family and friends, as this year is no exception... I know, none of these ideas are super unique or intriguing for a Christmas-esque post... but just hold on for a sec.

So I would say it started a few months ago, when I was re-introduced to my buddy Dave Matthews and his little band, and their version of a Christmas Song.  A random mix from my iTunes pumped through my car speakers.  It was still warm outside as I listened to the words.  I had never related to the Christmas story the way Dave explains it - but he nailed it on the head - Everything that has to do with this season is about Love.  "Love, love is all around." - and why?  Because of a few extraordinary courageous moves by some folks God tapped on the shoulder.  

As part deux of this "tapping me on the shoulder" struck me at church on Christmas Eve - no, it wasn't the crazy rendition of Faith Hill's "A baby changes everything...." of which I was not so much a fan.. nah, baby nah - but there was another note the service touched on which struck a chord with me.  Read Luke 2: 1-23.  And this is what clicked in the mind of a twenty-something Project Manager, sitting at the very back of the church, crumpled in between my brother-in-law and a pack of strangers: 

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

So for me, I thought about what it means to ponder something between you and God in your heart. What happens when something unexpected and unplanned interrupts your version of the world?  Mary was visited by an angel who told her she would have a child - at an exceptionally young age, out of wedlock - during a time where this was hugely taboo.  On top of that, her boyfriend/fiance, Joseph - who was a sturdy, well-respected Carpenter, didn't just drop her like it's hot (in the words of Snoop Dogg).  He too had received some divine interventions from angels, though. This story paired 2 pieces of an almost impossible puzzle together to bring into the world a little Jesus baby. That is a miracle.  

I am a planner.  I am a communicator.  I like to know what is going on :)  But what God really asks of us is to leave the planning of our lives up to God - who is in every moment and every single detail, in the things I have not even thought about, planned for or had the chance, yet, to worry about; in the people who walk into our lives, the events that change it forever and alter our perspectives. 

And so with my whole heart I ponder my plans with God - the things that I want for my life and the things I expect, my hopes and fears - and I hand them over to the planner of the universe.   I have no control ultimately over any of these things and being so, I will surrender what I have control over, because it is not my plan I'm fulfilling.  And I should know by now, that my own plan sucks. :)  God's rocks my socks off - so I'll go with that one.  I'm looking for the miracle anyway, so I might as well go with the one who invented them. 

So for all of you, I wish you the happiest of times off, a little bit of rest, a miracle or two - and to remind you - love, love is all around.