Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let the Water Fall


This weekend I went camping with strangers.
Strangers that soon became friends.

We were an odd bunch, really.
All from different walks of life with different stories, different opinions.
Different Attachments, Detachments.
Accents, Travel Experiences.
Reasons for moving to Nashville.
Reasons for coming on the trip.

Some were simply bored and needed an easy getaway. Some do this nearly every weekend. Others told stories of their recent ex: husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. And they just needed some fresh company. Fresh stories. Fresh faces.

But we all had some sort of deep appreciation for nature- being in it, a part of it, walking under it, through it. We spent our weekend treading on tree roots, our pulse pressing into theirs. Talking about bears but thankfully not seeing any. Talking about spiders and seeing plenty.

We jumped across the creek on rocks bigger than our beds at home, all in hopes of standing underneath a considerably enormous and unruly waterfall. Many of us did and we spent every second laughing like children. Eyes wide and mouths open, as the mist fell on our hair and clothes like pebbles. 

Sometimes that’s what life is to me- just hiking to the waterfall. Hiking to that unbearable source of life, that wild taste of tangible beauty, where we simply let the sound of the falls become the beat of our heart. Her mist becomes our breath. And her playful spirit gains every ounce of our attention.

And all we can do is let our gaze exceed our thoughts as we throw our heads and arms up to this incredible source of wonder.

And somehow we feel protected, loved, cared for. Somehow we feel more like ourselves than we have ever known. Our real, exposed, naked selves.

How I wish to spend my days under the waterfall.



The Divine Creep


Sometimes my emotions seem to take over my day.
Own my day.
Choke my day.
Collapse wholeheartedly into every passing Hour.
Minute.
Breath.
Blink.

Before I even know what’s hitting me, they sneak up from behind, boldly strutting over my shoulder like a shadow-less spider creeping in. Light-footed and fast. Intricate and detailed. Terrifying yet oddly appealing, requiring more than just a glance.

I shyly surrender to these odd creatures, completely ignorant to their direction, their timing. I am blindly and eagerly led into the deep wilderness of Despair, Loneliness, Extreme and Utter Joy, not knowing what to do with any of them.

Like a rock to the windshield, I am caught breathless as my first few mindful layers are in fist-clenched denial.

Until.
Until the split forms.
The ice breaks.

Like an abrasive, uncompromising gash on my glass heart, my weak spots are revealed. And yes, some see it as that. Weakness. But I choose not to. I refuse, even.

One, because that’s just where I’m at.
Or maybe who I am.

And two, because my emotions have the divine capability to awaken me to what’s real. What’s eternal.

Through the revelation of these domestic beings, layers of my internal scabs are gently, sometimes ruthlessly ripped away as I see new colors and feel new textures of myself.

And that, to me, is worth it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Green Meadow


Sometimes I feel like the ground beneath me is moving. Just hurtling by, plunging forward in utter abandon, at an accelerated speed I have never known. And I am screeching at the heels, trembling in terror, every living cell in me refusing to move with it. My skull plummets to the back of my head, fingers become numb. Mouth dry, eyes soaked, head dizzy.

And I am lost. 
Lost in my own skin. 
Lost in my own breath. 
Lost in everything I once knew to Be. 
To Exist. 
To Thrive.

Yet here I stand swirling around in invisible chaos. Striving to know what’s real and what’s not. What's tangible or illusional. What's relevant or a waste of my time. Which emotions do I believe, depend on? Which ones do I choose to ignore and turn my back on the wind of frailty? So desperately I wish that life was as simple as coloring Barbie on my front porch, just dreaming of a meadow.

A green meadow. 
With so much space. 
So much life. 
No clutter. 
No fears. 
Just a meadow.

How I long for my mind and my heart to be like that meadow where nothing can interrupt its peace. Nothing can disturb its tranquility.

Longing for the meadow today.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Little Elf Friend


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a little elf friend follow you around all day?? A quarter your height, glued to your heels, more loyal than a dog?

I know, creepy right?

Hopefully I haven’t offended any elves out there. (I may have just accidentally started a major outbreak of battle and protest in the North Pole… whoopsy). I guess what I’m getting at is, I just wonder sometimes what it would be like to have someone (anyone) whose sole purpose in life was to follow me and cling to my side beyond debate. They would, almost effortlessly, come to know my habits, my daily routine, my robotic tendencies, just when I thought no one was watching.

Again, I know my imagination can be odd at times, but I have to ask… What would my little elf friend say about me? About all the countless odd quirks and abnormalities I try so desperately to hide in crowds of people?

Just act normal, act normal, I tell myself in fear.
Don’t expose the real you, it could scare them away.

It’s funny, really. Sometimes I feel like I know myself so freaking well, that I am my own little elf friend, able to pull back at any moment and look down at myself in third person with nothing but ease. There I place myself in the perfect position, the perfect stance, like I am on some relentless mission reporting back to a boss with earplugs, ready to make lots and lots of money by my bold predictions. On the other end of the line, my boss listens intently with his combed-back hair and good-for-nothing stamina, holding with ever-increasing force, my very job on the line. And I try, so very desperately, I might add, to predict my next move… Ohh.. I know this one, this is when I start crying. Or, This is when I dive head first into my imagination with all desire to escape reality… Just wait, watch. Mark my words, boss. And within seconds, I become the overzealous, overconfident commentator at Alabama football games who

Never
Stops
Talking.

I mean, whatever happened to living for that element of surprise? That moment of unexpected chaos where we actually stand still in our tracks and respond to… well… ourselves? That moment that our “gut reaction” suddenly becomes real and is completely and utterly, in all forms of the word, unpredictable.

I mean, we are human, right?! Not machines ready to be managed and controlled beyond reason. Our very existence on this grand earth is miraculous and leads to something, Someone, rather, that is simply beyond words, beyond description. We, the created, have hearts and feelings, minds and spirits, that are not meant to be recorded, memorized, or saved away in some document deep within ourselves so that we know what to do next time a similar situation occurs.

Let’s be honest.

I know that sometimes… maybe a lot of times… I can certainly pride myself in just that: knowing myself. You might even hear me boast from time to time that during my year away in Wine Country, Middle-of-the-Forest, Solitude-on-Steroids, California, that there, I truly “found” myself. I am beginning to wonder, however, if there really is such a thing as that…? Perhaps we…or to be more specific, I… can use that phrase as a safety net, to make myself appear more manageable, easily accessible, more I don’t know… understood?

But do we ever truly arrive at that place? “Finding ourselves”? What if, perhaps, we are worth more than that? I mean, it’s no secret: I believe that we as humans are designed so intricately, so brilliantly, that to boast in something as foolish as “finding yourself” is mere nonsense.

Perhaps instead, there are layers beyond layers of “self” in us that change with every season, every new relationship, every up and down of your (and my) life. And that doesn’t mean that we necessarily lose hold of what was there either. That doesn’t mean that we failed in any way whatsoever. No, when these new layers of “self” appear inside of us, we must see it as a new awakening to a piece of the inner soul never yet discovered. And that truly is a beautiful thing. A gift meant to be cherished, explored, even. It’s kind of like meeting ourselves all over again in a way. 

So. Here we arrive. 

Today I choose to embrace the newness of self, of my self. I choose not to run away and hide when I see myself act outside of my typical “boundaries” or expectations, but to see it as raw beauty acting out, stripping away from all chains of pretend.

Self.
What a glorious thing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Ocean of Me


I remember studying correlations in psychology class. (Insert overly dramatic sigh representing my sporadic longing to be back in school here _______).  

WARNING: Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert! (Can’t say you weren’t warned).

A correlation explains a relationship between two variables but does not in fact equal “causation” meaning it’s not technically an “if... then” statement or a cause and effect type of relationship. And to be more exact, an imperfect positive correlation simply reveals how one factor can (frequently) predict the other. For instance, Poverty and Obesity. Lack of Sleep and Stress… things like that.

Well, I just figured out a new one. For me, at least. Ready for my fearless psychological power to unleash to the masses? Ok here goes…

The more I…
Understand
Accept
Embrace
and Collaborate with

my own personal freedom, the more I feel empowered to say one enormous and sometimes horrifying word that I am not always good at saying: NO.

I have been learning a great deal about this word lately-
What it means.
How often it is misread.
How much it can hurt to say.
To hear.
To talk about.

This one word has the deep-gut potential for so much destruction, so much doubt, and so much fear. Yet, what I am learning is that it can just as easily be a beautiful, life-giving, soul-singing, I-know-myself kind of word. And a word that is, at times, incredibly necessary.

The more I understand myself, the more I understand what I need- what I choose to take in and let go of. In other words, I choose what to say No to and what to say Yes to.

And sometimes all this means is saying No to a hang-out with some pretty amazing friends who I love to be around, simply because I need to invest in some self-care and spend a night reading or writing or just collecting my thoughts from the blurred, what-just-happened tangled mess of a day.

So I sit.
Alone.
Without people.
Without words to interrupt my current thought flow that sets sail as a yielding and hesitant but existent trickle.
Slowly, it glides down the unforgiving, immovable mountains of my mind, creating tributaries from every angle, it seems.
Eventually, my thoughts collect speed and intensity as the water meets the stream.
Then the river.
Then the ocean.
The Ocean of Me.

There I sit.
Silently.
Boldly.
All because I said one tiny little No.
A No that leads to so SO many Yes’s.

A Yes to Growth.
A Yes to Solitude.
A Yes to Space.

Big girls know how to say No. What’s your No look like?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Creature of Discovery.


An afternoon off work in the middle of the week. 

What a sweet, often underrated blessing. I mean, seriously, my leg muscles are still for a change… not hiking up massive, rugged, never-ending hills at camp. You may not realize how big of deal that is, but it’s a pretty big deal.

Right now I’m drinking an iced latte at Aroma Roasters, a cozy little coffee place around these parts, and thinking about this wild and crazy California adventure I have been on since August (minus my little 2 month stint back in Nashville). What does it mean? How has it... 

Changed me?
Disturbed me?
Energized me?
Motivated me?

…All things I will see in time, I guess.

The bit that I have seen thus far, though, has been more than encouraging. As I told my new roommate, coworker, and friend at the start of training when she asked how I liked the job, I simply like who I am out here. I feel calm most days… like the clutter in my mind is being spread out in front of me and I can see its various shades and colors for the very first time.

My fears and doubts no longer scare me like they used to. In fact, I am finding that often, I actually embrace them head-on… or at least try not to run away every time I sense that an uncomfortable, yet very human emotional battle of some kind is approaching. Just like weathermen predict a tornado by the wind’s increased speed and strength, I am coming to know myself better and finding that I can sense when certain feelings are building up inside me. I feel the wind of my internal tornado hit my face… the cloudy eyes or the shortened breath, and I know that the storm is coming. And in this season, I let it happen. 

Bring on the storm, I tell myself. 
Whatever it brings, I choose not to run.

Also, in this season, I take my time for writing very seriously and I have, in many ways, mastered the sense of alone time. Oh, and I read a lot more than I used to. You know, I actually look forward to reading every night before bed. (Should I be embarrassed to admit that?)

With this new layer of myself exposed, one may not be surprised to discover that when I retook my Myers-Briggs personality test at the start of training in January, my introverted and extroverted tendencies were tied, a very first for me. And you know what, I am more than ok with that. I have always had a sort of crush on the introverted world, anyway. 

Now. Lord knows I can live the extroverted life fairly well when I am surrounded by those who I am comfortable being a kid around (which is a lot of you...), but I think what's different in this season, is I have learned how to enjoy myself more.  I have come to realize...

Hey… I kind of like myself

And if I am completely free under my own skin, I don’t really need anyone to tell me that they like me because I like me

And sometimes, that’s all you need in life… to genuinely like yourself.   

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Daily Stretch


So I have a new hobby.

Stretching.

And with stretching comes pain. The two are practically inseparable just like fifth grade boys and paintball. Chipotle’s burrito bowl with guacamole. Sufjan and unicorns.

Initially, the pain can be anywhere between a noticeable annoyance to an unbearable bullet to the muscles. But over time, it grows into an expectation and then a challenge and then perhaps even a mere moment in paradise.       

As silly as it may sound, the physical pain related to stretching can be enjoyable in the sense that you are pushing through and beyond a barrier of some kind. And then there is the small hope that the next morning there will be less pain until you just go deeper and deeper into a stretch.

And this brings me to my point.

Sometimes and even more than sometimes, pain is good… and not just the muscle kind, but the heart kind too. Just like with stretching, pain can be an obstacle to push through, an internal battle worth fighting over. I believe somewhere deep in my gut that emotional tension can be a good thing. Awkward silence can be a good thing. Not knowing what to do with emotional tension and awkward silence can even be a good thing.

Yet over and over again, we wake up into a new day of opportunity, a new day of stimulation, a new day of Divine Appointment and yet we choose to fall so easily and almost effortlessly back into our small and predictable Corner of Comfort, choosing against stretching of any kind...

Physically
Emotionally
Mentally
Spiritually. 

And in this process, we are actually experiencing more pain than we will ever know what to do with. We experience an invisible pain of sorts, a pain that exists in the majority of our population, a population of Silent Sufferers, all with emotions made of brick and ideas made of concrete. Just sticking to the routine because that’s all we know how to do. Of course, this is in hopes of avoiding the pain that we think we know so well.

We avoid stretching ourselves conversationally and experientially because we simply fear pain. We fear the unknown, the risk involved, and the overall soreness that can follow that initial ache. We will do anything in our power to fill in the gaps, to cushion our words, to stick to the script, all for…what??

Sometimes comfort can kill.
Sometimes routine can destroy.
And sometimes, a little pain is worth it.

The Ask


A three-year-old asked his mother a question.
And then another question.
And then another question.

Like a robot on repeat, the child just kept going and going becoming lost in the melodic rhythm of his Why's and What If's until finally, in order to maintain her last ounce of sanity, his mother answered.

Big mistake.

The child burst into tears as soon as the words escaped her mouth and within seconds, his eyes became free-flowing, never-ceasing, are-you-kidding-me miniature waterfalls. “But mommy why did you answer??” he asked, acting as though she had committed a terrible, shameful crime.

Can you blame him?! Ok maybe this is a slightly dramatic example but it proves a powerful, unavoidable point: Sometimes questions are meant to be just that…Questions.

Last month during training for my current job, we discussed inquiry-based education and the importance of encouraging kids to explore their own questions.. ya know, get lost in the wonder of it all. And well, I don’t think that should necessarily stop with children.

Adulthood comes with a curse, I dare say. And part of that curse is that we forget how to ask questions. We forget how to wander around in our own curiosity and imagination as we actually admit to ourselves, Hey… maybe I don’t know everything.

If you look at the stories of Jesus, He always welcomed questions. In fact, He asked a lot of questions Himself and even answered others’ questions with a deeper question. You know, I am not quite sure where in the life of Christianity that we decided questions were bad, that questions were scary.

I could not disagree more with that idea. I believe questions pull into a deeper sense of who we are. I believe they pull us into someone who knows more than us, someone we will never fully know on this side of life because He is simply more profound and more complex than we could ever imagine.

I believe questions have a unique power to draw us into heaven, a place where our questions will one day be answered and we will stand face to face with our Creator, our ultimate Answer.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Forgotten Task


Today I spoke with a dear friend who straight up knows how to encourage. And in this Jesus-orchestrated, time-stopping, raw and completely unpolished conversation, I was reminded of something important.

Celebration.

Too often, we as humans find ourselves trapped in our own isolated, lonely, and often meaningless (that’s right, I said meaningless...) world of To Do Lists and Goals and even Disappointments that we simply forget how to celebrate. We forget what it means to step back and breathe and say, Wait a second. I’m actually growing. Good things are happening. Things are changing.

Sometimes it actually takes someone else to pull us aside and say these things to us, to allow us to really go there, to boldly and deliberately step into that terrifying place of… here we go… reflection.

And as we begin to step back and let go of the control that we think we have over our own lives, may I dare say… we gain awareness. With each step back, we gain a keen and valuable insight into our own stories, our own personal moments and experiences worth celebrating. And it is in this place that we begin to leave room for the very voice of God to enter into our perceived failures, our perceived shame.

Here’s the Truth: Our Creator celebrates your utter existence. He celebrates each breath that enters and leaves your body. He celebrates each eyelash, each fingernail, each brain cell. Our God is a God of celebration.

And it is time we join in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Think Again.


I remember when I could do a backhand spring.

Tumbling Tides.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
8th grade.
Ribbon in hair.
Ready.
Go.

And now just the thought of doing such a thing makes my wrists throb, my lower back ache, and my head spin. But REAL LIFE yall. I could do me a backhand spring. In fact, I could do several if I had the momentum for it.

I loved that feeling.

Upside Down.
Arms straight as arrows.
Back fully extended forming the perfect St. Louis Arch.
Feet in mid-air.
Body bent like rubber.
Speed building.
Wind in my ears.
Every joint in perfect unison coming together forming
Choir of Movement.

Yes. Backhand spring at its finest everyone.

My teacher Chris told me I was a fast learner. “You’ll have your standing back tuck in no time,” he affirmed. But just a month later, something began to happen, something peculiar. You might have heard of it…

FEAR.

That’s right, little 8th grade me got scared. I started to second-guess myself about everything. And I mean everything.

Wait…

How much do I bend my knees before I jump?
What do I do with my hands?
What am I supposed to look at?
How long should I be in the air?

I know, ridiculous right? Here I was, well on my way to the Promise Land of Tumbling Champions and then it hit me like an unexpected snowball to the face. It’s as if my bones and muscles went on strike refusing to do anything the least bit productive.

And if I did try to do a back handspring, the worst of all worses would happen. Well, I would make it over, at least. But my once frame-it-on-the-wall, back-fully-extended arch became an unbearable mess of undercut. Undercut. That was my new word. This meant that mid-air I second-guessed myself and cut under so much that my hands would bend back to where my feet had just been, hardly making an arch at all.

And come to think of it, I second-guessed myself in horseback riding too when it came to jumping my horse. I went through a miserable, not so fun phase where I would psyche myself out and lean forward too much too early, causing me to mess up my balance and I would in turn, mess up my horse’s steps.

Hmm… I’m beginning to see a trend in my used-to-be hobbies.

And if I let these memories really sink in to the depths of me, I am drawn to a truth that stretches much further than a backhand spring catastrophe or a hunter jumper paranoia. I am drawn to a reality that reaches far beyond this awkward, self-conscious 8th grade or even elementary version of myself.

How often I over-think the most beautiful of things, the things that aren’t meant to be fully understood nor fully analyzed. Believe it or not, some things, many things, are not meant to be drained out like a sponge, becoming so dry that all its original shape is forever lost and forgotten.

What would it be like for me to take part in a process in which for once, my mind is at rest… a process where I freely yet consciously submit to my senses. A process where I let the healthy emotions settle in, learning how to feel with my being instead of thinking and over-thinking and then thinking again. I am learning more and more that what often seems like a crucial necessity can just as often be a hindrance.

A hindrance to beauty.
A hindrance to raw experience.
A hindrance to life.

As human beings, we have a unique power to very easily paralyze our greatest strengths by over-thinking and therefore producing doubt and fear. And in this act, we become smaller.

Please note: We are not made for such small things as doubt and fear. We are made for participating in a world so divine and glorious that we as humans cannot help but stand in awe of its God-ordained details. We are made for participating in a world of risk-taking, grace-giving love, a world of creation simply in awe of its Creator.

I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of world I want to live in.