Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Newness as a Source of Inspiration


Today, I was in a counseling session discussing my general thriftiness with the occasional shopping spree, to which my counselor responded, "It's probably the childlike part of you that wants to treat itself every once in a while, and that's not bad as long as it's not overboard." I knew that of course, and I went on to explain to her how the last shopping spree I went on was, in fact, a bit overboard, but how I don't do that all the time.

In a separate but connected thought pattern, most nights I find myself relaxing while browsing pinterest, etsy, or modcloth looking for beautiful things to someday make or buy to make my life a bit more beautiful and fun. I probably buy less than one percent of the things that I "like" or "post" or "pin" or "wish" or whatever else you can do with those things. I mostly just enjoy seeing what new things are out there and in what new ways people are designing things. It keeps my mind fresh and helps me feel inspired. Sometimes it overwhelms, too. Especially if I spend many hours a night, many nights in a row doing said activities.

I think tonight I came to a point of overwhelmed-ness. I also came to a point to understanding. I need newness to keep my mind fresh and moving forward. I hate to be stagnant, and I think that matches the nature of life. As much as we want to stay put and keep comfy, life often pushes to the edge, to the limit, into discomfort, out of the box, onto our knees, into someone else's arms or home for support. Life, by it's very nature is not stagnant. Here's where you may be disagreeing with me. We all have come to that point of boredom with our daily living and routines,etc, but let us be clear, life only appears to be stagnant in those times. Do not get lost in it-- only an ILLUSION.

Here's where the understanding deepens: if you take no notice of things outside of your routine, your own little world, you may be under the impression that each day is as dull and predictable as the rest, but I would challenge you at minimum to turn on your local NPR station. NPR reports on news and weather, as many broadcasting networks do. Heck, if you aren't a radio person and TV is more your thing, you could just turn on your local news station. Either way, you are bound to notice that something is different today from yesterday. If not in your own life, in someone else's. If not noticeably in someone else's, at least in the weather.

The seasons and weather, I think, are God's ways of reminding us that we are different every day in some way. Our lives as a whole mirror not a stagnant puddle after a storm, but the river that flows without end, even when a bit dry. We are the seasons that change every year without ceasing. We are the wind that blows unpredictably and unexpectedly. We are the clouds that blow and shift and change around the spherical planet we inhabit. We are the death and rebirth. We are the sleep and the awakening. Life is not meant to stand still or mechanically repeat endlessly. Even in our routines and rhythms, life is always changing and different. I think if we are able to recognize that and pay attention to it on a regular basis, we can become more intentional about the ways we are growing and changing as people.

Counseling has taught me a lot-- that I am in control of things that I never thought I had control over, and also it has taught me that I am not in control over things that I thought I did have control over. Nevertheless, both require a conscious acceptance that both postures are a part of who I am. Life requires me to bind it in a stranglehold and to release it without knowing its path. The timing of each action is what I am working on now-- to know when to grasp and tame and to know when to submit and observe. It's a beautiful gift that we have the opportunity to take on both perspectives. I want to learn to continue how to balance them.


Take a look at the right hand side of this page to get some material inspiration, and take a walk outside to find your natural inspiration. It's always there waiting for you to seek it and either observe or tame it. Be blessed on this beautiful day.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Miracle of Strife (Part 1)

Striving we all seem to be-- for money, recognition, affection, worth, knowledge, acceptance, fairness, justice, joy, growth, maturity, fulfillment....the list goes on. We strive and strive in this life on this earth. To what end? Striving for something, whether a goal or an attribute, is always hard. The word 'strive' indicates hard work, sweat, tears, pain-- most often is does not have a positive connotation. After striving we hope to be in a positive place, but the process itself is by no means fun or enjoyable.

I have come to find, in my quarter century of life, that striving accompanies all parts of life. Personally, I have spent my life striving for attention, for dance trophies, for friendships, for love, for good grades, for scholarships, for athletic abilities, for happiness, for joy, for satisfaction, for purpose, for a mate, for meaning, for a job, for understanding, for money, for recognition, for worth, for faith... all to little or no end. Not that I didn't receive those things, but those things came despite my strife.

This past week was a really tough week for me: work has become a lot more stressful, things with church are busy and stressful, and my relationships were on the rocks. I was striving to survive, manage my time well, care for others in my life, care for myself, let others care for me, and know God. For those of you who may not know, I believe that a being whom I (and others) would call God, has created this world and myself. I believe what the Bible says about God sending a man in the humble form of a child to reach out and relate to the human race, and to bring about reconciliation and redemption in our lives of strife. At least I thought I believed that until Friday.

My faith journey has been one that has been pretty much always confusing, but always assuring. I have seen myself and others transform in ways that would otherwise seem impossible had it not been for some divine source outside of ourselves. I came to love the message of Jesus in high school, despite my family's disapproval, and I have seen many beautiful people and moments since that time. I have come to love others and myself and God more deeply than I ever thought possible, and those things are powerful. When I have lost sight of those things, it is equally powerful and scary. The only security I find in life is the knowledge of the fact that I don't know much and that I am really not as in control as I think I am.

Friday night, after this rough week that consisted of way too much work, lots of wine, and lots of just existing, my roommates and I spontaneously had a dance party to Spice Girls and DMX (awesome combination, right). We danced like madwomen, and we loved every minute. We lost all inhibition, we embraced the moment and each other. It was beautiful really. Then we wound down and went our separate ways. I thought that moment would provide so much comfort to my weary soul, but alas I still felt empty. I felt frustrated. I felt the most anxiety I had felt all week. It all seemingly culminated in this moment where I actually gave some time to care for myself. Cutting a rug shook loose every thought and emotion that I had been holding back to get through the week. The proverbial flood gates opened.

By this time it was dark. I got up from the couch, so tired of looking at facebook and working on stuff for church. I got in my car and just started driving. I knew that there was a blue moon that night so I wanted to find a good spot to sit and watch it for a while-- the air was cool enough that it was more refreshing than being in my non-airconditioned house. I drove and drove. And drove some more. And drove. Finally, after skirting the whole city, I found an abandoned parking lot with enough shadows for me to hide in. I parked my car behind a paper collecting dumpster, leaned my seat back, and turned off the radio.

Silence. Then came the thoughts-- my head was exploding with anxious thoughts about all the issues of the week, especially my unhappiness and my lack of fulfillment. I felt so empty, and I still could not figure out how to fill myself back up. Sitting in darkness and stillness, listening to the crickets chirping and the cars whizzing by at the nearby intersection, one of those anxious thoughts popped out of the barrage in my head and made itself very clear: I AM NOT HAPPY, AND I CANNOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. I realized that I had been trying to make myself happy all week-- reassuring myself that the lost relationships would be replaced by new ones, that drinking wine would somehow induce a permanent state of merriment and peace, that dancing with my friends and watching the moon would somehow still the raging waters in my soul... but none of that actually worked. I could try and try and try some more to make myself happy, and it was just not going to work.

I don't know how other people react to those kinds of situations, but the first question that arose in my mind was "If I leave open the possibility for Christianity to just be a psychological coping mechanism, does that mean I am not a Christian?" I sent it in a text to one of my roommates, and then decided to go get some more wine and go home to talk it over with her and my other roommate.

The Miracle of Strife (Part 2)

Working through complicated questions takes a lot of either patience or complete surrender of power of self, as  I soon came to find out in talking with my roommates. They were wonderful listening ears with a lot of the same questions I had, which is understandable since we are all in about the same stage of life. We came to the conclusion that time will tell, experience provides wisdom and understanding. The best that we can do is ask the questions and continue to seek out people's experiences to help inform our understanding.

The next morning, all of my roommates had left the house and I was working on planning music for church. In the midst of questioning God, planning a worship service is really hard. One of my friends reached out to me seeing a frustrated post on Facebook: "Kayla. I have beer. Come over." Would have loved to except I am working on shit for church... no excuses. About an hour or so later, I hear a knock on my door. I open it to see my friend, and immediately the water works go into effect. I have tears streaming down my face and am so appreciative of people that know what I need even when I won't acknowledge it. He comes in and just holds me and tells me that everything is okay. Exactly what I need. We sit down, he hands me a fancy (and rather large!) bottle of beer, and his generosity is such a blessing to me. We talk through some things and he reminds me that I will make it through, that he has seen me make it through before, and that I have such a worth. He has seen me grow and it is beautiful. God's voice speaks through surprising moments.

At this point, I have to leave to rehearse at the church, so I grab my beer, my ukelele, and my purse, walk my friend to the door and head out, eyes puffed and red, but heart ready to move forward. Rehearsal was good (except that I found out my ukelele is broken) and the music ministered to my soul more than any preacher will. We practice for a few hours and then I head home to get ready for a night out with the girls. We head out for margaritas and football, then back to a girl's house for more booze and doggy cuddle time. It was just the relaxing fun that I needed. I ended the night very sleepy and ready to hear from God the next day.

I fell alseep and then wake up at about 4:30, which is pretty normal for me when I drink. I get up to pee and grab some water, then attempt to snuggle back under the covers until my alarm goes off at 7. I lay there, thoughts again whirling around in my head...20 minutes...30 minutes...45minutes...alright still not asleep. I guess it's time to get up. I wake up with a fragment of a verse from the Bible in my head-- "Perfect love casts out fear..." Whatever that means. I spend some time working on the powerpoint for church, then I start to read through a book that a friend suggested the night before. The book is called "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Henri Nouwen and it is amazing. Nouwen speaks beautifully to the human dilemma of innate worth and feeling loved by God:
"God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, not because thousands of people have been converted and  are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who has been lost has been found. What I am called to is to enter into that joy. It is God's joy, not the joy that the world offers. It is the joy that comes from seeing a child walk home amid all the destruction, devastation, and anguish of the world... I have to learn to 'steal' all the real joy there is and lift it up for others to see... I don't have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand." 
The Return of the Prodigal Son, pp 114-155
"This is how love is made complete (or perfect) among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment (or any day, really): In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect (or complete, mature) in love. We love because (God) first loved us.
1 John 4:17-19


The Miracle of Strife (Part 3)


I spent the rest of the morning moving slowly and intentionally as I got ready to go to church. After watching the moon on Friday I had realized that I love taking life slowly and that I had lost the ability to do that. So, I took a long shower, took a while to pick my clothes out, and even put on a bit of makeup. I dressed up a bit more for church than usual, not to impress anyone or to convince myself that I feel good, but to express how I felt inside. I felt beautiful, I felt happy, I felt full of worth, loved. I put on mascara and told myself that I would not cry today and that today was going to be a good day. I made breakfast and grabbed my things to head to church. It was a rainy morning, but it felt so sacred. It reminded me of when I first started going to The Mercy House when I was in college, and how we used to comment about it always raining on Sundays. This rain reminded me of those days that were so refreshing for me, and today the rain served the same purpose. I knew that I didn't have to pretend to be anything or anyone that I am not, and I know that God's love for me was all I needed to accept in order to be happy.

I sent my worship team a wake-up text -- "This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Shout out to Camp Su'Na'Go' peeps ;D) I had a song in my heart. I headed to the door and proclaimed that I would open it on the first try. Note here-- our locks on the building we are in are HORRIBLE. I generally spend about ten minutes trying to wiggle the key and finagle the lock until the door finally opens, so getting it to turn on the first try would be a small but huge miracle. I approached the door with confidence, trust, and most importantly belief. I turned the key slowly and caught the lock on the first try...the door opened! "Praise God," I thought. I love it when God speaks in those small but huge ways.

We practiced, played through a beautiful service that was carried a divinely planned theme of letting God have control and learning to love and not resent, and then we had a time of communion with one another over a pitch-in meal, which is always a blessing. After cleaning up from the meal, a friend and I started chatting and she found out about the week that I had. I was planning on having a tough conversation with a friend that day, so she wanted to pray over me and talk with me about it. We went back inside, alone in the church, and talked more.

She spoke to me about things that there is no way she would have known without me telling her. She spoke directly to my heart about worth, about confidence, about God's innate love for his people, about acceptance, about peace and hope for the future, and she reassured me of some thoughts that I was already having. Then she spoke a strong, straightforward prayer of blessing and anointing over me, and I felt a warmth in my heart, not like a warmth of simply feeling loved, but a warmth of a deeper assurance of love, a warmth that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit of God himself. I have only felt that when I have felt like my knowledge of God and my assurance of His love for me has been so certain. It was beautiful. I thanked her as we parted ways and I headed over to my friend's house to talk.

We had an awesome talk, and all the things we had been praying were exactly the way the conversation went. God is faithful. Another miracle of his love. The night ended peacefully with a community meeting at church (we have been meeting for the past few months to figure out where our church is going to meet starting at the end of September, so it's generally a stressful meeting). I went to bed feeling assured, secure, strong, confident, and happy.

So striving is never in vain if you can see it for its beauty. The process of striving is often synonymous with the process of growing. We may strive for a goal and then end up somewhere totally different. That doesn't mean we have failed or strived in vain, but that means that the one who knows what is best for us is intervening in a miraculous way. In times when I am struggling to see the blessings and the beauty of my life, instead of striving in frustration, I am going to slow down, take some deep breaths, and talk with God about it. I am going to let go of controlling my life and look to the one who created me for His will for me. I can only be happy when I accept the love my God has for me. His love is vast, deeper and wider than any body of water or distance in space that we can fathom. God is more present than we realize, more faithful than we acknowledge, and more good than we make Him out to be. No longer do we have to fear for our lives because He has already saved them.