Archive | December, 2011

2011 in review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Hike Where I Almost Died, The Risk That Hurt, Singleness, and Other Mini-Thoughts

29 Dec

Mini-thoughts On My Year – #1

At the end of the year, I often reflect on where I’ve been, hoping to find some commonalities, a story, maybe the imprint of God on my life. This year was no different. An unexpected year, to be sure. A difficult year? Yes, in many ways. But did I grow more? Did I stretch more? Yes. Yes I did. Did I impact lives like I’d hoped to? I’d like to think I did even if it wasn’t in the ways I’d originally thought. Did I love until it hurt? Yes. I can say that for sure I did. Did I come out unscathed? No. I have bruises and scrapes. My heart hurts sometimes from loving this much. Was it awkward? Yes. It is always awkward to love people. When it’s really love, I’ve noticed that it becomes a sacrificial act. And it’s intentional. I had to decide to love even when I didn’t want to. I had to step out. Do things that hurt. Forgive. Grieve. Laugh again. Risk again. Know when I couldn’t participate. Know when I had to push myself forward to take part. I had to trust. I had to examine. I had to let go. I had to spend some time in counseling. I surrounded myself with great people. I realized I have a long way to go. Still do.

Mini- thoughts On Singleness- #2

Note: The following is not a boo-hoo fest on being single. Just a few thoughts I’m processing.

The hardest part about risking and having it not work out is that you sometimes lose a friend in the process. That’s what I’ve noticed about dating. It’s a lot of fun to date and get to know someone else. I highly recommend it and think that it’s necessary and essential if you ever really want to be known. But if you do it right, you’ve gained a real friend when getting to know someone and saying goodbye to that person, no matter how long you’ve been seeing them, is painful.

This is especially the case around the holidays, as I’ve discovered this year. When you see couples and families and get Christmas cards with pictures all over them (which I happen to love, by the way 🙂 ) and you somehow hear every version of “Blue Christmas” ever recorded (the one from Glee is my fave this year!), or when you are just having a sad moment when you remember what it was like to not be alone, it does make it a little difficult for us recently single people.

BEGIN PSA- So this New Year’s Eve or even this next year, if you have someone to kiss or you have kids and a family, remember those of us who don’t and give us a hug. Invite us to hang out with you. I realized the other night when I was hanging out with one of my favorite families and my 5 year old friend was bejeweling my fingers and toes after painting them with hot pink Hello Kitty nail polish, that hanging out with families is so healing for me.  I’m reminded there’s more to the holidays than my blues. I’m thankful for how I’ve seen my married friends and their kids grow.  Hug us. Give us a call. Invite us into your lives. We won’t be sorry and neither will you.  END PSA.  

Mini-thought That Turned Into A Story #3

If I could encapsulate this year in an analogy, I would say it was like this hike that I took in the latter part of this year in Malibu.

The whole point of the hike wasn’t to get to the waterfall at the end, although that was a big part of it. I didn’t know where I was going. At first, it was just a street with a group of majestic mansions on it. It was a beautiful walk but did not resemble a hike quite yet. Little did I know what was coming. After the street, I trekked down through the grass, on a dirt path, through the woods. I got to this point where I literally had to crawl up a steep part of a jagged path. Then after I made it through that, I scaled a couple of boulders and pulled myself up. Finally came the rope. In order to climb up the side of this steep cliff, I had to use a rope and lean back while pulling myself up the side of a mountain. I was parallel with the ground. That took trust. Part of me didn’t want to continue.

After venturing past that and a lot of people, I made it to the waterfall. It was beautiful and tall. Unexpected.

Along the side of the waterfall was this branch that jutted out. Next to that was a slim that one could use, if they were crazy enough, to climb up, shimmying their way across a slippery, thin ledge up into the waterfall. It took a lot of faith, a few swear words, a whole lot of trust, and a few people to help me, but I wanted to climb up into that waterfall and make it back in one piece.

The water was cold even though it was an 80 degree day. It was pelting on my head and I was shaking, getting all of my clothes drenched as I muddied my arms and hands, clawing my way up through moss and slippery rocks until I stood erect in my triumphant arrival .

When I could finally stand and enjoy it, I realized something. I had to figure out how to get back down. I had made it up so part of me knew I could make it. But sooner or later, I would have to start down the waterfall the same way I’d come up. I was surprised when I was able to climb down. It took more effort than climbing up. A stranger literally had to prop me up. I took steps and then backtracked, not trusting where I was stepping. I almost cried. Part of me wanted to jump off although I surely would hurt myself in the fall. In the end, I made it  down to safe ground and I was proud. Proud that I had risked at all. Exhilarated that I could do something like that and not die.

Ever since that moment, I’ve wondered what else I could do. How else can I let myself be surprised? How else can I trust? How can I go through 2012 with more moments of triumph?

Risking in community

Mini-thought on Risk #4

Going back to my year, I’m surprised. Surprised that loss after risk didn’t do serious damage to me or to my friends. Yes it hurts. So much. But not as much as it would hurt if I hadn’t realized what I do now. I know more of what I want after I risked and it didn’t turn out. I am healed more from a past that sometimes feels like a bag full of rocks that I don’t want to carry anymore. As much as it has hurt and still sometimes hurts, the risk was worth it.

Looking Closer for Love Notes

28 Dec

A “Glee” song played at the exact moment when I want to dance. 

Waking up to the Beatles on the radio. 

Christmas lights. 

The smell of broccoli cheddar soup on the stove. 

An unexpected message from a friend on Facebook. 

A whisper in my heart to turn off the radio and tune into an often missed world underneath the surface of the things I worry about most of the time. 

A sober reminder that we only have 525,600 minutes in a year. 

A love note

What do all of these have in common?

They are love notes. My friend, Jessica, told me about love notes yesterday. She said that they are all around and that she looks for them now that she’s aware that they exist. Some probably call them signs. I’m not sure, but I’m starting to believe that they do in fact exist.

Today I began a process of discernment and observation. I’m attempting to make some major shifts in my life and before just jumping in like I often do, I want to step back and observe to make sure that where I’m about to go, what I’m about to put my time into is worthwhile. To observe means you have to focus. It means stopping. Slowing down. Paying attention to these little things that are all around me. It is not easy because it’s actually a huge discipline. But when I do it, the worry stops. Instead, the beauty emerges.

So far, I’ve seen the above love notes. And the pain that I’ve been feeling, the sadness, the waiting, the loss, the hurt, the heartache, the question of why has become much more subtle. It’s muted because instead I’m seeing possibility. I’m seeing hope and a future. I’m believing that there’s something else happening that maybe I just don’t see or haven’t been able to see lately.

Earlier I was watching the movie, “Soul Surfer” about the young surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who survives a shark attack but loses her arm. In the movie, they discuss this idea about being so close to something that you can’t really see it for what it is. I feel like this about my life recently.  I’m so close that I don’t always have perspective. So I will actively observe. I will watch. See. Observe. And in the process, I’ll hopefully stumble across some of these love notes that my friend keeps talking about.

I want to look closer at my life. At the beauty around me. During all of the moments when I’m worried or anxious or insecure, I easily forget that God has a story for my life. I’m starting to remember. Here’s a little reminder.

From my favorite movie, “American Beauty”:

Ricky: It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me. Like a little kid beggin me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid ever.
Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember. Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it… and my heart is going to cave in.

 

“Rent” asks the question, how do you measure a year? 

“In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.” 

It was all of the above. I learned truth. I cried a lot. I said goodbye to some people I needed to let go of. I died to myself over and over.

I’m proud of this year. I’m proud of where I’ve been. I’m proud of where I’m going. Right now though, I’m going to look closer and hopefully find some love notes from God that will guide me in the direction I’m going.

A few days left of 2011. Make ‘em count.

 

Tootsie Pops, Waiting, The Real Story of the Cement Truck, and A Return from Tanzania

17 Dec

I don’t do New Years resolutions. For recovering perfectionists like myself, resolutions turn into “should haves” and “should haves” turn to guilt which soon becomes regret. So I don’t do that. Instead, every year, for the past three years, I’ve picked a word that will define that new year for me. Just one word. This year’s is JOY. And if you’re a regular reader, you know what I’ve learned about joy over the past 12 months.

However, instead of pondering about it too much, my word for 2012 came early.

The Roddys before the retreat

It was November. The culmination of a lot of things for me. I go on an annual young adult retreat every year at this time. I have a birthday, usually an occasion in and of itself. Thanksgiving happens. And this year two great friends, Liz and Shannon Roddy, came back after being gone for a year and a half in Tanzania, Africa serving at Wild Hope International. Oh how I had waited for them. In the midst of life I would often say aloud and yet rhetorically, “Liz and Shannon should be here, don’t you think?” At first it was a sad addition to whatever memorable moment my friends and I were having at the time. Then it became a joke to those who know me well. Before I could even say it, my roommate would see the sad look on my face as my forehead wrinkled, my head turned down, and my eyes filled slightly with tears and she would ask, “What, I’m not good enough? Just kidding. I know. Liz and Shannon should be here.”

But they weren’t. For a year and a half (despite the fact that they were doing amazingly awesome things and growing a ton), they missed birthdays, Christmases, milestones.  My breakup, my roommate’s new promotion to pastoral staff, that time I took a missions trip to the Czech republic, births of babies, deaths of people within our church, small moments, big moments. There’s only so much you can relay over Skype. They missed a lot. And I missed them. Waiting, waiting for their arrival back into my life.

When I saw their faces for the first time, I remembered what it was like to have complete  joy return. I hugged them and jumped up and down, probably waking up all of my sleeping neighbors as we lugged their bags into my apartment. Finally. They. Were. Here. And they were in the same room as me, breathing the same air, cracking jokes and able to engage with us without the screen freezing or the power going out. We laughed. We realized how much we had changed. And how much we were still the same.

I found in the time that they were visiting us that I wanted everything to go faster. Maybe it was a hold over from the year and a half of waiting. I wanted to catch them up on everything, hear their stories, and live the life that had been missed by all of us for the past 18 months.

This urgency culminated on our way to the young adult retreat. I was so used to waiting that I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted us to BE there. So when our car got stuck behind a cement truck going 20 MPH on a mountain road, I got irate.

The rest of the car thought I was crazy with impatience. I kept yelling at the truck to move over.  He wouldn’t move. Every turn was torture. Every place he could pull over, he refused. Finally, what seemed like hours later, the truck slowly found its way to the shoulder. (My roommate swears it was only 30 seconds that we were stuck behind the truck). After my irrational behavior, everyone else in the car was convinced I needed to settle down. But I didn’t.

I kept being impatient.

And suddenly like that, the Roddys were gone again. The card games, the night at the Lawry’s Steak House with Liz, the pool sharking she and I had done at the retreat, the spiritual conversations. It all went by in a flash.

We're such pool sharks! We were on a roll!

Even in this season of advent. I’m ready for New Year’s. I want to skip through Christmas because I don’t feel like it’s Christmas. I want to get to the good part of the story, the chocolate dipped cone at the bottom of the ice cream drumstick, the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop.

It’s in the quiet moments I realize that I need to wait. For what, I don’t know. Maybe a whisper. Maybe an answer? Maybe just silence. Yet there is something pushing me forward. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to miss this chance to wait, though. I know in my heart the greatest gift the world has ever seen is coming soon. And in my impatience, I may miss Him. And that would be a great tragedy.

As I was contemplating waiting this past week, I heard this in a poem by Issac Wimberly in spoken word form that makes me want to be a better wait-er.

This groaning was growing, generation after generationKnowing He was holy, no matter what the situationBut they longed for HimThey yearned for HimThey waited for Him on the edge of their seatOn the edge of where excitement and containment meetThey waitedLike a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waitedLike a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

Wow. People waited YEARS for Jesus. 400 years. And I get all upset about a cement truck and a year and a half without my friends. Despite all my wanting the best for people, I can still get upset about still being single while others are getting engagement rings and sonograms. Perspective shift, much after hearing this poem/spoken word? Yeah. Definitely. I can wait. And in the moments I can’t, I will learn. I will hope that despite the fact that things don’t work out exactly the way I planned that there still is a plan. And in that hope I can believe that the lyrics to the song I heard recently by Jesus Culture are true. “I have a plan for you/ It’s gonna be wild/It’s gonna be great/It’s gonna be full of Me.”

So because of this, this next year will be the year that I will learn to wait. Patience: my word for 2012.

What Do Breakups, The Question of Why, and Adele Have To Say To Us?

12 Dec

me asking why in my younger years

I’m sitting here on my couch and outside it’s pouring rain. It’s 10AM and I’m supposed to be at work. I can’t work. I’m too busy listening to Adele’s “Someone Like You” which rivals James Blunt’s “Goodbye, My Lover” for one of the saddest breakup songs in the world, in my opinion. As Adele croons, “sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead,” I get it. Oh how I get it. I’m here again. At the end of something and yet at a new beginning. An opportunity? I am faced with the question of “What am I going to do about this?” Perhaps you’ve been there too. Something you wanted to work out didn’t. A relationship ended. A job turned out to not be what you’d hoped. A friend chose to not be your friend in a moment you really needed them to.  So many other times when maybe you’ve been disappointed or felt sad about something not going the way you wanted. Oh how I know this.

Yesterday morning I sat on a bench at this children’s memorial park near my house and it read, “Every exit is an entrance to something else.” Those words are true but I wish they weren’t. I don’t want to exit. I liked it.

How many times have these words been true for me before? I even wrote last week that you have to let go of something to create space for something new.  I believe that. Part of me doesn’t want to let go though. It was so good for such a short time. Why? Why are things the way they are? Why does love last sometimes and sometimes it hurts instead? WHY?!

Simultaneously, I’m also being asked to live out what I’ve been talking about on this blog for the better part of a year.  I am currently watching friends date and break up in community and then date again. It’s so painful to watch sometimes. It’s tricky to navigate friendships with people, walk the line, and then have your words to them about sacrificial love suddenly apply to you.  I’m finding now that I have to step up and practice what I’ve preached in a new and difficult way. It’s really awkward. It stings. If I’m honest, I don’t want to do it and I resist, especially yesterday fresh off my own painful experience. Why? Why now? Why is this happening? What’s with the timing?

“Why” is a dangerous question because it can suck you in to a pit that is almost impossible to get out of. The reality is, we don’t often know why. If I spend my time asking why then I’m probably missing the point. There aren’t always reasons for things that we can see from our position. In time, the why’s might be answered but if I spend all of my time wondering why then I could be wasting it when I could be moving forward. Instead I want to look back and remember all of the ways in which God has been faithful to me in my life. The times He has showed up in my darkest hour.

I was praying this morning. I felt like I should read Psalm 116 aloud. It’s actually really encouraging and perfect.  Here’s a portion:

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

Beaches are the number one place where I process questions. Here's one in North Carolina I visited

And then I remember. Yes, he has done these things! And he will do them again. He helped me walk among the land of the living.  I have walked. And wallowing in my why’s didn’t help. I just had to keep walking one step at a time trusting that that would be enough. In thinking about my past, it has been enough.

If you had told me a year ago that people would be dating partially because of my words on this blog and through life, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me that I would be advocating for my friends to date the people I’ve dated before, I would not have believed you. But here we are. And I don’t know why. But what I do know is this: Our God cares about us. I know this because he cares about me. He sees me in this dark hour. He loves me when I don’t love myself. He knows my own shortcomings. He knows why so that I don’t have to. All I have to do is trust that he knows. Easier said than done, but then I remember his faithfulness this last year in my own life. I see it in the life of my friends who have faced their own sad endings but still choose to walk in the land of the living. I see it in the success stories. I remembered it when I saw the look on my friend’s face yesterday as her baby was getting dedicated and thought about how faithful God was after the traumatic birth. I don’t know why things happen. I don’t have an answer to Adele’s song about why sometimes love lasts and why it hurts instead. But instead of asking why, I will choose to trust that God is good. And that’s all I can do today.

Wait for it…Wait for it…Thoughts on Why I Don’t Do Well Waiting

9 Dec

The cement truck. It’s one of those analogies that sticks. I am not a patient person and when I get stuck behind a cement truck on a mountain road when I’m trying to get somewhere I’ve wanted to be for days, I get annoyed. I probably overreact and yell at said cement truck to pull over. I’m impatient. I’m a work in progress. I think my dad would say I probably got impatience from him. He’s not the most patient person either. Sometimes I think of those days when he used to be. Before I knew him. When he was working his parents’ farm in Ohio. I wonder if the city wore him down. Maybe wanting your whole life for something to pan out and hoping it will doesn’t always leave you with a lot of patience. What do we do when we want something to work and it doesn’t over and over and over again? How do we get back up and try again? Gain passion for something new? Not get jaded. How do we live life with expectation of joy? Anticipation for something that’s coming right around the corner?

I think that’s my question. I don’t want this to be one of those times where I’m not grateful for all I have. I am. Believe me. But there has to be a place for honest questions. I wonder what we’re supposed to do with disappointed dreams? Do you ever feel like you keep putting your energy into things that just don’t go anywhere? I’ve done it numerous times. In my career. In relationships. In friendships. With family. I’m the queen of starting. My friend, Jonathan would say that this is actually a good thing. He’d tell me about Thomas Edison who failed more than 2000 times before the lightbulb came around. He’d talk about failing up and how if you’re going to fail, you should embrace it. Because it’s the next step toward success. I think of Mr. Dice, my high school drama teacher who used to say the same thing.

“If you’re going to make a mistake on stage, make a huge mistake. Then never make that same mistake again.”

Something about learning from your failures. I suppose I should look at it like that. But sometimes it doesn’t always feel like that. I’m a starter. I start things. I have thousands of short stories I’ve started. I have so many open loops that are ideas or hopes or dreams. I have unfinished films, unedited plays, etc. I’m embarrassed about how many things I’ve started and never finished.

And then there are those things that I’ve completed that I don’t know what to do with. My screenplay. My play. My short story. My poetry. I write poetry because I can usually finish it in one session and be done with it. Same with blogs. They usually have a thread through them that links to other thoughts I’m having, but I give myself permission to continue that thought into the future at some time. You can’t always beat yourself up as a writer. But it’s really easy sometimes to go to that dark place.

This is not to say that I don’t have things I’ve done that I’m proud of. I think everything can be a lesson. Even starts. And sometimes I need a fresh start. We all do. I wonder about my friends who have been disappointed time and time again by dating dreams that don’t turn into marriage. They are great people. I don’t get it. Is there some class they can go to? A book they can read? A mentor they haven’t talked to? Maybe they need to just wait. Maybe I need to just wait. But it’s so frustrating. What if I’m the same as I’ve always been? I hear those critical voices in my head. The ones I’ve learned to shut out for the most part but creep back in during my insecure moments. An ex-boyfriend from years ago telling me I will never get out of this cycle. A critical teacher who told me I was never good at anything. A friend that was sure I’d never make it as a producer of anything and told me to my face. Those words hurt. And I vow to never do that to anyone. They made me doubt myself and who really needs that? We need fans, not naysayers.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. That I need patience? That I need help being patient? That I need something to work in order to restore some of my disappointment in the way things work out? That in the times when things don’t work, I need an extra dose of faith, friends to tell me to keep going and to remind me that this isn’t the end of my story? That I can remember all the things that have worked out and be proud of where I am? If I’m always thinking forward and longing, I’m probably missing out on the right here and right now. How do I be present? In this season where I have to wait–for unmet dreams to be met, for career goals to be accomplished, for God to show up, for my mind to slow down and my body to engage with that slowing process, I don’t always know what to do. I want to rush. I want to run. I want to break out into dance like Billy Elliott when he’s frustrated with the way things are. I want to start and never be accused of sitting back. And yet, I somehow have to wait.

Waiting is not my strong suit. I don’t know how.

A poem written at 4AM about waiting

3 Dec

December 3, 2011

Wait: A poem

I’m stalled in line at the DMV.

I’m stuck in traffic on some side street.

I’m staring at a clock, counting down the minutes until 5,

Dreaming up escape plans only I can contrive.

 

Frustrated I can’t pass,

Cutting people off, not wanting to be last.

My breath is caught in my throat, I wish I smoked but I don’t.

Is this really where I start? Being that I’m afraid of the dark?

 

I’m always counting down,

Barely stopping to refresh or rest,

Caffeine is my worst enemy/best friend,

Adrenaline…

 

Pumping, going, never slowing…

Striving, driving, thinking it’s arriving.

I feel anticipation bursting inside, it can’t get out,

My only option is to sedate…

To wait. To wait. TO WAIT.

 

Patience: Just wait.

Peace: Create.

A promise…We anticipate.

 

Breathe: No fear.

 

A whisper…. He is here…He is near.

 

By waiting, I heard.

By breathing, I stirred.

By being, I’m freeing.

 

The word dwelled. And I was held.

In a special place I’ve never been because I was too busy before.

To wait. To wait. TO WAIT.

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