Monthly Archives: May 2012
celebrating the month of may . . . some images from bahrain to you! and don’t miss my question to you at the end. i’d love to hear your answer!
life in bahrain is interesting in that always-borderline-dangerous sort of way. exhibit A. was driving behind this truck and then got in another lane to avoid watermelon-frogger. had to snap a picture for proof.
this beauty was my mothers’ day gift from my mother-in-law. my name in arabic calligraphy. LOVE. sterling. have been wearing it practically non-stop since she gifted it to me. this would be a cool blog giveaway down the road. win one with YOUR name! an authentic souvenir from the middle east. that could be fun!!
love how the europeans drink wine out of a humble glass. stumbled upon these babies at mega mart recently for 150 fils, which is equivalent to about 39 cents each. yes please. in fact, i’ll take three dozen. they were marked “tea glasses,” but i will be using them as multipurpose barware. we recently threw a going away party for some friends here, and i stacked these up in a wire basket right next to all the drinks and people could grab and fill with whatever beverage they wanted. perfect for sparkling water, prosecco, wine, etc. i feel triumphant to have found these for such a steal. and i also feel somewhat european, which is always fun.
a friend here recently returned from istanbul where she purchased the most gorgeous ceramic bowl. hers made me think of a bowl steve and i picked up when we visited sicily in 2004 . . . purchased it right off a street vendor’s table. ours is not “fine” in any way, but i love the cobalt and white. such a perfect contrast with the lemons. makes me think summer . . . which is in full swing here. we’ve reached triple digits already. please pray. we are not quite to the “face of the sun” portion of the year yet, but it’s coming!
something very freeing about putting mint green polish on your toes and nails. try it. honestly, you’ll feel a tiny bit scandalous . . . almost like you got a new tattoo or something.
enjoyed a truly inspiring tour of the enterprise while she was in port. such a stunning vessel. she is a piece of floating history. a bit of an adventure to walk through those crazy tunnels and up and down the stairwells (with a 3 month old baby strapped to me! and two 3 year olds in tow) during a shamal wind storm. but, why not. family fun.
may marked baby elle’s first dip in the pool. she’s beyond delicious in that turquoise tutu ensemble.
and, finally, luke. he put these up to his eyes and then said, “look mommy, spy goggles.” luke inspires me. his very own version of found art. two empty juice bottles become new eyes. raw material turned into treasure with a little imagination. i want to see life as he does . . . limitless potential for creating, abundance instead of scarcity, beauty-in-the-making, art in the castoffs.
what is one goal you have for the month of june?
mine are: rest when needed, write consistently, be a companion instead of a critic to myself (work in progress)
love to you all wherever this post finds you.
Ecclesiastes 3 has always meant something to me—its poetry, its permission to live all of life. In fact, I used the 28 “times” mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3 as the 28 chapter titles for Found Art.
Using those same “times,” I created 28 writing prompts for you. These can be prompts you use in your own personal journal or prompts that help you get writing again. Prompts to inspire a blog post or a dinnertime conversation. Regardless, they are little portals into your soul that just might help you show up to life.
Choose one that resonates and keep your pen moving.
First, the inspiration . . . Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to break down and a time to build up,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to turn away,
a time to search and a time to quit searching,
a time to hold on and a time to let go,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
And now, the prompts:
I am experiencing the birthing pains of . . .
I’m desiring the death of . . .
A planted life is . . .
The last time I was uprooted, I . . .
I wish I could kill . . .
Healing would require . . .
I believe in breaking down . . .
Building up is an act of . . .
Today, I laughed at . . .
I began to weep when . . .
I am mourning the loss of . . .
If I could dance anywhere, I’d dance . . .
Gathering is like . . .
If I could scatter anything, I would scatter . . .
What is keeping me from embracing . . .
I would experience freedom if I would turn away from . . .
I’m searching for . . .
I want to quit searching for . . .
I need to hold on to . . .
I need to let go of . . .
I was torn when . . .
Mending requires . . .
I need to speak up about . . .
I can find moments of silence when . . .
I love to . . .
I often find myself hating . . .
I am at war with . . .
Peace will arrive when . . .
Remember, just keep your pen moving.
I originally posted this on Memorial Day of 2010, when Steve and I were still living back in San Diego. Our twins were just 18 months at the time. Every Memorial Day, my first thought is to Marc, so I thought I’d repost this in honor of Marc’s life and sacrifice. And, for Maya, too. A true beauty.
I left off the “happy” from the title of this post because “Happy Memorial Day” just doesn’t seem exactly right. More like, “Poignant Memorial Day.” A more accurate sentiment.
Steve and I took the babies to Fort Roscrans this morning, the national cemetery on Point Loma that overlooks all of San Diego on one side and then out across the ocean on the other. We waited in a long line of cars and tolerated the protests from our back seat even though we knew we’d probably only stay a few minutes once we were there.
We finally pulled off onto the shoulder, into the makeshift parking lot that was forming on the side of the road, and we loaded the babies into the stroller and took off up the hill.
Instead of participating in the parade or enjoying all the military bands, we just walked straight to Marc’s grave. We didn’t really discuss our plans ahead of time. I guess we both sort of knew, an unspoken consent, why we had decided to make the trip.
Marc was the first Navy SEAL killed in combat in Iraq. Because Steve was assigned to his widow immediately after she had been notified of Marc’s death, we feel a sense of connection to them. I wrote about the entire story in chapter 22 “Mourning” of Found Art, but it was all fresh again today.
Marc was killed in 2006. Today, just shy of four years later, we stood in front of his grave while our two children ran in the flag-studded grass around us. Our babies wanted so badly to pick up the empty bottle of Jack Daniels someone had leaned against his headstone, or the five gold SEAL Tridents that were lined up on top, or the wreath of flowers with the flag in front, or the vase of flowers leaning against the left side. All evidence that family and teammates had visited.
We picked up the babies and held them so none of the tributes that had been left would be disturbed. We talked about “Mr. Marc” briefly and then loaded the babies back into the stroller and walked back to the car.
It was a simple moment—pulling out fruit sticks to bribe our kids to sit still—and yet it was filled with thousands of words neither of us could ever say.
Each headstone a representation of someone killed in their 20s or 30s. Each headstone a reminder of the gravity of war. Each headstone a tragic loss. Each headstone, Marc’s headstone, a reminder of the worst fear turned true. And they go on and on and on as far as you can see.
As usual, I am suffocated by it all, and yet going seems so necessary. Acknowledging the reality of my husband’s service, the reality of the war that still rages, feels necessary. Taking our kids feels necessary. How could we possibly let today pass by without honoring what we have been through?
Today, we remember those who have died fighting for our freedom. Though war is indeed a complicated endeavor, today we acknowledge the great courage of those in the fight. Today, we remember Marc and his widow Maya, and we allow a sense of sorrow to sit with us knowing that Marc’s young and promising life—just like far too many others—was tragically and prematurely ended. I feel both deeply proud and deeply grieved by today.
I am honored to know men like these, to be married to one of them. I am honored to know those who possess an undying desire to bring hope to our beautiful children, bring voice to those who have been long silenced, bring relief to our bankrupt world.
May we all find the courage to join in such a fight.
Take these beautiful words with you into your weekend, fellow warriors of the light, believing that your healing and your becoming are not about being perfect but about participating in the process. Showing up. Brazen.
“Every Warrior of the Light has felt afraid of going into battle.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.
Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his.
Every Warrior of the Light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at least once, believed that he was not a Warrior of the Light.
Every Warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual duties.
Every Warrior of the Light has said “yes” when he wanted to say “no.”
Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.
That is why he is a Warrior of the Light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.”
I have a fortune (from a fortune cookie) in my wallet that I’ve carried around since 2007 when I was trying to make a big decision. The fortune says, “Decide what you want and go for it.”
First, I have to admit that I believe in fortune cookie theology. Firmly . . . ish. I believe that God often speaks to me through fortunes, and that I have received revelatory inspiration from those little white slips. (Can you hear Steve rolling his eyes?)
The “Decide what you want and go for it” fortune came to me at a time when I was trying to decide if I should quit my day job and pursue writing full time even though I had a whisper of an opportunity on my hands but not a full fledge sure thing.
That one sentence said it all. I had to decide what I wanted. I had to name my desire.
Desire is a funky thing. We often skirt around it in lieu of what we “should” do, what we “need” to do, what we “must” do . . . even. We are really good at finding reasons why what we really want isn’t actually what we really want and explaining away our heart’s beat.
Mainly, I think, because heartbrokenness is hard. And when we name something we really want and then it doesn’t happen, well that’s the best recipe I know for getting your heart broken.
So, we do this thing . . . this safe thing . . . we abdicate our desires. Synonyms for abdicate: relinquish, resign, step down from, hand over, give up, abandon.
I’ve done this before. I’ve decided to let someone else—someone who is much more productive or efficient or attractive or articulate or whatever—handle it. I’ve avoided the fray for fear of heartbrokenness. But you know, I never save myself any trouble by abdicating my desires. I never find that approach more fulfilling.
I mentioned Stephen King in my last post and how inspiring that story has been to me. I love it because, honestly—if you read the whole story—you would see that he had a hundred reasons why that particular time in his life was not the right time to write a novel. Anyone would have agreed. There were so many reasons why he should have waited. But SK had decided what he wanted, and he was going for it.
Even without a swanky writing room and a beautiful new macbook pro, you ask? Yep. Even without the glitz.
He refused to abdicate his dreams. He refused to let inertia decide. He refused to live a life he didn’t actually want.
It’s very brazen to just go for it. To name a desire and take a step toward it.
But don’t confuse brazen with sexy or glamorous. Because it’s not. Brazen is barefaced audacity, which is rarely ever easy breezy beautiful.
More often than not brazen looks like something I saw this morning: a few hotter-than-hot-pink bougainvillea petals making their way down the street in the muddy gutter water.
I believe in you.
I’m always inspired by the part in On Writing when Stephen King talks about how he got Carrie, his first novel, written. He was living in a double wide with his wife and his first child, working two fairly unsavory jobs to make ends meet.
While the rest of his family slept, he would sneak away to this tiny little room in the double wide, and he would put a board on his lap and put a typewriter on the board, and he would write. He wrote the entire novel that way. While his family slept. Locked in a closet. With a board on his lap. And a typewriter on the board.
Just shows you what you can do when you commit to some material that needs to get birthed through your hands and you participate in the process of getting it birthed.
I’m working on a second book right now. And it’s all happening in much the same way the first one did, which is a tiny bit tragic because that whole process was . . . what’s the word . . . oh, yeah, hard.
The thing I’m learning is that the raw material comes to me, but then I have to do something with all that raw material. I have to shape it, engage with it, find the beauty in the chaos. And that process is not formulaic. There is no shortcut or solution. It is inefficient.
I just have to work with all this unwieldy ooze and see what might come of it. A very, very little bit of progress each day. I have to trust that the process of turning it over and over and participating and working hard will yield something. Even when I can’t completely see or measure the yield.
I’m not sure what you’re working on today. Perhaps you’re working on a writing project, realizing a dream, getting/staying sober, or surviving a divorce. Maybe you’re working on grief today because grief is like a job sometimes. Maybe you’re working on a new business venture, a big decision, a friendship, a summer garden, getting your baby to sleep through the night. Maybe you’ve just moved or maybe you’re barely moving.
Whatever it is, the raw material has arrived. It is here! God has put it all around you. And that, in and of itself, is a big deal. Not to be overlooked. But now you must go about the process; you must engage and participate. You must detect the Beauty . . . because, it’s there.
I have to put the following on repeat in my head: “he is making all things beautiful in its time yet no one knows what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecc 3:11). Sometimes life feels like a huge HUH?!?!, but we still show up and trust that something might just come of the showing up.
In your waiting or creating or risking or walking or breathing or crying or shushing or planting or tending, I just want to challenge you to keep participating authentically. Today. Even if you aren’t racing toward the finish line. Even if you can’t see the finish line from here.
Put the board on your lap. Put the typewriter on the board.
Show up to life. And do it because you want to tell a different story.
Incredibly honored to share the following post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog today. Rachel is an amazing thinker, writer, and voice. Check her out at rachelheldevans.com. She asked me to write on “faith and parenting” for a series she’s doing on her blog. This is what I wrote . . . May you find God’s grace in the fog today . . .
Sometime after my twins turned one, they began throwing food from their highchairs as if it were sport. Bits of turkey, string cheese, and soggy peanut butter crackers were half eaten and then pitched from their perches.
I spent most of my day bent over, butt up in the air, picking up one kind of thing or another. On one occasion, to avoid fainting, I sit down on the floor next to the scraps, piling them up in my hand. Mindlessly, I pick the hair and carpet fuzz off the chunks of banana and sucked-on crackers and then I eat the remains. As if my only sustenance comes from the food I must forage.
This is what we call “a low.”
From my floor-dwelling, my mind wanders . . . to the girl in the Anthropologie catalog. And I want to be her. Perched on a tufted leather sofa, sitting in this most perfectly imperfect artist’s loft wearing ankle boots and a belted bohemian blouse that despite its tunic-ness somehow manages to make me look lean and elegantly unkempt. My children, Pickle and Twice (because I’m just that secure and avant garde), play lovingly in the corner. It’s clear from the décor around me that I’m very talented. It goes without saying that I’m gluten free, passionate about composting, raising some chickens on our roof, and the envy of all who know me.
Motherhood sits you down on the floor of life, closes the door, and asks you to do your best work, moment by moment, with no one watching. This is torture for someone like me.
I don’t plod well. I certainly don’t plod well with no one watching. I need a crowd, some adoring fans, a cheering section, loud applause, a fight song in my honor. A full color spread in the Anthropologie catalog, at the very least.
I didn’t know all of this about myself until these two little pink piglets arrived. I didn’t know that hormones would make an otherwise well-behaved woman feral. I didn’t know how much I would long for an escape some days, how desperately uncompassionate I would be with myself, how relentless it would all feel. I didn’t know how desperate I would be to feel seen.
I didn’t anticipate all the angst, and I certainly didn’t anticipate what a lousy companion I would be to myself in that angst.
I once heard Parker Palmer speak about 9/11. Like everyone, he had been struggling to reconcile the terrorists’ acts with his theology, and the only question he could think to ask himself was, “What do these terrorists and I have in common?” His answer: “We are all heartbroken.”
Was it possible that, in becoming a mother, I was now confronting my heartbrokenness: My longing for the glamour. My acceptance of the Beauty. And the gorge of grief that stretched between.
After some time, I did something radical: There in my floor-dwelling, I told God I was heartbroken. And I asked if he would mind terribly sending Christ to sit with me.
Three years and another baby later, tiny bits of breathing room have arrived, and I am finally able to . . .
let myself be scared of how much I love these kids.
let myself be scared of how much I know I will fail them.
let myself admit how tired I am.
let myself long for a tufted couch and a bohemian blouse.
let myself grieve the losses.
let myself drink an entire case of Coke Zero (only once in awhile).
let myself rest.
let myself laugh.
let myself off the hook, finally and after a long time, realizing that parenting isn’t hard because I am failing. Parenting is hard because it’s hard.
Baby steps. Small miracles. Water into wine. Spit and mud. Healing.
I just finished Some Assembly Required, the latest from guru-turned-grandmother, Anne Lamott. In the middle of the book, Lamott takes a break from grandmothering to visit India. She dreams of watching sunrise from a riverboat on the Ganges.
But, on the morning that she is to climb aboard the riverboat, the Ganges is socked in.
It was a thick, white pea-soup fog—a vichyssoise fog—and apparently we were not going to see any of the sights I’d assumed we would see, and in fact we had come here to see.
But we saw something else: We saw how much better mystery shows up in fog, how much wilder and truer each holy moment is than any fantasy.
This is the spiritual discipline I must practice every day, every minute, sometimes every second, if I’m honest: To believe that “each holy moment” can and does supercede “any fantasy.”
God, I love the fantasy. And every month when the Anthropologie catalog (“retail porn” as my husband calls it) shows up, I am bewitched all over again. Wanting to escape into a life that looks so much more enchanting than my own. Wanting to disappear into an image. Wanting to believe that glamour pays better than Beauty.
I believed motherhood would be the Ganges in all its glory. Turns out, some days the whole landscape is so socked in, you can’t see from one moment to the next.
The work, the holy work, is to believe that somehow what is happening in that fog, that haze, that soup—if we will allow ourselves to sit in it and even invite Christ into it with us—is actually the whole point.
Have loved talking inspiration with you this week! I hope even just one phrase or idea or reminder has burrowed its way into your soul, so that you feel encouraged to go about this vital business of filling up.
So HOW do we find the time to go in search of inspiration? Isn’t that the big question? All of this is great, but where am I going to find the time to live like this?
Here are a few ideas that have helped me order my life so that this “filling up” business is a value and a priority and doesn’t get completely overtaken by the rest of life.
1. Acknowledge your limits. When we are willing to admit that we have limits and when we do the more sophisticated work of figuring them out, and knowing exactly what we can tolerate in a week and then what puts us over the edge and right into turmoil, we can begin to keep ourselves from getting to the point of totally frazzled and crazed. We can also begin to give ourselves grace. “I can’t do it all. No one expects me to. Why am I expecting myself to?” Sometimes finding our limits takes trial and error. You over-schedule one week and you realize it, and you make a mental note not to do that again. Because you can feel your soul sinking and you realize you’ve gotten the balance all out of whack and that you’re not doing well.
2. Assess your needs. It’s like taking your pulse. I begin to feel overwhelmed. I begin to get panicky. I need to stop and breathe. And then I need to ask myself the million dollar question, “What do I need?” Now, sometimes you can’t just take off and go participate in the thing you need. But at least you’re aware of it now and you can schedule it or share it with your partner or a trusted friend or make a u-turn in your car or something like that. What do I need? A massage, time alone, time with others, a creative outlet, silence, a shower . . . you get the idea.
3. Exercise your options. It’s so easy to see our lives from the perspective of deficit instead of abundance. There’s just no time. There’s just no money. There’s just no energy. There’s just no help. There’s just no support. There’s just no hope. I want to remind you—as I often have to remind myself—you are a capable, intelligent, resourceful person who is able to think, to creatively problem solve, and to make changes in your life. You have a choice. Again, I have to remind myself of this often, when I feel suffocated and trapped and like the only option I have is whether I’m going to sit on the floor in the living room or sit on the floor in the kitchen and play with my kids. You are rarely, if ever, stuck. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s true.
You can choose how you’re going to order your life. You can choose to cut things out, to add things. You can choose to dye your hair a weird color or save up enough money to buy a big canvas and some oil paints. You can choose to start shopping at thrift stores or to take 30 minutes out of your week and do lunges around your house or load your kids in the car and drive to the beach even though it’s hard. Now, some of you are already building your case. “Well, you don’t know my life, Leeana. I go to school at nights, I work two jobs. I live in a crappy apartment and all of my extra money goes to keeping my old car running.” Well, if that’s your story, then you really are screwed. No, I’m just kidding. Again, I remind you, you are not a victim. You have choices. Can you change everything? No. Can you change something? Yes.
4. Make a plan. Space is not going to create itself. Money is not going to arrive. Time is not going to all of a sudden multiply. Your boss (or your family) isn’t going to realize you need a personal day. You have to be intentional. Remember, these are acts of self-care, of soul-care, and you do them as a discipline, like you’re taking a multi-vitamin or brushing your teeth. So you need to get a plan in order to be consistent. Do you need to sit down with your husband and say that you’re interested in going to a salvage yard in the next month and you’d like him to try his best to understand that this will make you a better wife. And you are going to use the spare change you’ve collected over the next month as your spending money. And you’re asking for a bit of latitude and understanding as you start making inspiration a regular part of your life and your soul-care. Or do you need to sign up for a class or do you need to re-look at your budget or how you’re spending your Sunday evenings or how much TV you’re watching or ???
5. Live by your values. Elaine Hamilton has this great line in her book, Church on the Couch, that says, “The problem is not just that we are too busy (though, absolutely, we often are), but that we are too busy doing too many things we don’t believe in.” Isn’t that the truth?!?!? You feel it when you’re doing something that you don’t believe in. You’re faking it. You’re de-energized. You’re not totally present. When we spend our precious time doing things that aren’t really all that important to our souls, we are just inviting the numbing. Pretty soon we are doing all these things, but our hearts/souls are disengaged. And we’re busy, but we’re not making a difference, we’re not changing our corner of the world.
Amazing passage from Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me on the subject:
“We appear to be anything but slothful, yet that is exactly what we are, as we do more and care less, and feel pressured to do still more. We may well ask: if we are always in motion, constantly engaged in self-improvement, and even trying to do good for others, how can we be considered uncaring or slothful? . . . The culture may glorify people who do Pilates at dawn, work their BlackBerrys obsessively on the morning commute, multitask all day at the office, and put a gourmet meal on the table at night after the kids come home from French and fencing lessons, but . . . are these hyperscheduled, overactive individuals really creating anything new? Are they guilty of passion in any way? Do they have a new vision for their government? For their community? Or for themselves? . . . Their purpose is to keep themselves so busy, so entrenched in their active lives, that their spirit reaches a permanent state of lethargy.”
That’s a zinger.
There is nothing more soul-sucking than doing a bunch of stuff you don’t enjoy or believe in. Do we have to do some of that stuff some of the time? YES. Do we need to act like a martyr about it? NO. In the discretionary time we do have, we need to exercise our ability to choose and to make choices that align with our values.
6. Be courageous. Change is hard. And sometimes, the people around you don’t like it when you change because it disrupts them and their culture. They think you’re being pretentious or self-absorbed or frivolous. That’s okay. If inspiration is going to be one of your life values, then it needs to be a part of your life. Making room for, taking time for, filling up the empty places inside you might require you to gather some courage. Good for you! Hooray! Courage is the new black!!!!
You may have to break some bad habits and start some new patterns. In the midst of wanting to lead a more awake and alive and inspired life, you might hit up against some patterns of thinking or behaving that are causing you to feel stuck. That’s ok. That’s even a little normal. So, you call up a counselor or a pastor or a spiritual director and you say that you are trying to live your life more intentionally but you keep noticing that some things are getting in the way and you might even say that you’re not sure exactly what those things are, but you just have this feeling that you’re not free. And so, in your journey toward inspiration and soul-care, you spend some time talking through the places where you’re feeling stuck or sad or wounded. And this is all part of the process! If you keep cycling back to the same paralyzing thoughts, the same destructive habits, the same unfulfilling relationships, the same debilitating fear, then you’re a little stuck. And you do your very best to gather some courage and to call someone that could help you get unstuck.
Which leads nicely into the last idea . . .
7. Reach Out. It is rare that we are all, at the very same time, on zero. Just reaching out—through a phone call or email or sending up a flare—can be one of the greatest ways we get ourselves back to believing that we can live this awake and alive life after all. Because chances are, the person on the other end of our reaching out might be able to say, “I’m sorry. I understand. I believe in you. When was the last time you did something that really filled you up? I love you. Now, get to work.”
Than you for reading. I love you. Now, get to work.
This is part II of a little mini-series on inspiration. You can see the first post here. You can also just jump in with this post.
I wrote previously that when I’m feeling empty, I try to go about filling up again. One way I do this is by seeking out inspiration.
Sounds good, right?
Well, some of you got right to work on those prompts in my last post, and the minute you started working on them, the minute you started soul-tending, something went terribly wrong.
Some of you wanted to think through those prompts, intended to, really really would have liked to, but every time you sat down to work on them, something went terribly wrong.
Yep, those nasty toxic voices (the enemies) were at it again. Looping and looping and looping, telling you:
- God doesn’t support inspiration. God supports serving and suffering. In fact, good people don’t sit around writing about inspiration. Good people suffer.
- God’s primary goal in your life is to teach you lessons, punish you, and break you, not see you live and love freely.
- This kind of thinking and daydreaming is a big waste of time and only for people who can’t tolerate real life. You don’t have time for this “filling up” nonsense. You’re a professional, for God’s sake.
- The other people, the prettier people, will be able to live an inspired life so much better than you. You’re not very good at this kind of thing.
- And, finally, your outfit is ugly today.
That’s the kind of nutso crap the toxic voices are probably hissing in your ear, spewing their sticky spit.
But you know what God does with spit? He takes it and he mixes it with a little mud and then he puts it on our eyes and he helps us to see. To see the truth. About ourselves and about others and about him.
If you’re feeing covered with toxic spit today, you don’t worry. God can do something incredibly miraculous with even spit. If we’re willing to let him.
So how do we move past these weaseling mantras and pursue inspiration wholeheartedly (to use a beautiful word from Brene Brown)?
1. Are you able to make filling up a PERSONAL VALUE? See, the toxic voices will try to convince you that this is a stupid value to have. So you have to decide if you really want to dig into your soul and see what’s in there or does that actually become a burden and a big pain and a big mess and you’d rather not deal with. Is it going to cost you too much?
(Now, I suspect that for most of you it actually is a personal value or else you wouldn’t still be reading this; however, as we all know, it is one thing to talk about our values and often quite another to live by them.)
- If something is a value, then you give yourself permission to incorporate it into your life.
- If something is a value, you see it as a necessity, not a luxury.
- If something is a value, you engage in it as you would a discipline (i.e. make an appointment with yourself) and not relegate it to “what you’ll do when everything else gets done.”
2. Are you able to TRUST THE PROCESS? Here again, the toxic voices will convince you that if you can’t create something or do something perfectly, it’s not worth starting at all. (i.e. if I can’t make it to yoga 5 times a week, then I’m not going to even start doing yoga. One or two days a week just wouldn’t even matter. OR If I can’t quit my day job to be a writer, then I’m not going to write at all. Unless I have all day to write, it won’t make any difference.)
But what if you just decided to try something that you feel might be filling to your soul and trust that something profound could happen in the process, however imperfect?
For example, you might try oil painting only to discover that you hate oil painting and that turpentine gives you a migraine, but in the pursuit of oil painting, you realize how much you love holding a paint brush and working with color, and you think you want to try water color. So you do, and it’s a huge hit, and you would have never discovered your love for watercolor had you not started down the road of oil.
Do you consider clarification and redirection a failure or a part of the learning process? Are you able to trust the process?
- Trusting the process means tolerating imperfection. Beginning the practice of filling up might mean doing something poorly the first, say, two hundred times you try it. Are you OK with that? See, perfectionism is this terrible drug that keeps us high and unable to access our most profoundly inspired selves. The high keeps us self-conscious and nervous and we are too frenzied to just settle in and do something poorly.
- Trusting the process means redefining “success” and “failure.” Our souls aren’t so concerned about proficiency. Our souls just want us to get out there and get our hands dirty. Love this line from Kathleen Norris: “Jesus reminds us, that it is not proficiency that heals us, but faith, and faith does not traffic with success or failure.” !!!! Can we just have faith in the process instead of counting on our ability to conquer something?
3. Are you able to STOP COMPARING yourself to others? The toxic voices paralyze us by telling us we suck. Newsflash. Someone else will always be able to do it better than you. Period. Comparison kills. So incredibly divisive and paralyzing. What if you could participate in the beauty and loveliness in the world and see yourself doing that in your own way, at your own pace, in your own style, and through your own context . . . instead of insisting on grading yourself against someone else. What if? And at the same time, what if you could appreciate the way other people pace and create and produce and contribute, but you didn’t feel the pressure to have to do it that way?
- When we stop comparing, we are actually able to receive great gifts from each other instead of being threatened by each other.
- When we stop comparing, we begin to believe the best about each other and ourselves instead of the worst.
- When we stop comparing, we begin to understand grace.
Filling up through intentionally chasing down inspiration is a lifelong discipline of self-care and soul-care. It is being connected to myself enough to know when I am empty and what I need to do to start filling up. It is about knowing what is going on in my own soul. It is about hearing the toxic voices (the enemies) for what they are and renouncing them as lies. It is about allowing God to take all the spit and make it into healing mud.
I thought we’d talk about INSPIRATION on the blog this week. So look for a few posts that follow this theme.
Like me, many of you resonated with the anne lamott-ism I shared in a recent post: “sometimes you’re not blocked, you’re empty.” For all of us who are desiring to participate in life, to be alive and awake, the forces out there (“Resistance,” Steven Pressfield might call it OR “Acedia,” Kathleen Norris might call it) can really work against us to numb us out, empty us, leave us listless and stuck.
When I’m feeling empty, I try to go about filling up again. One way I do this is by seeking out inspiration.
When life goes on for too long without any contact with these soul-inspirations, we begin to slowly and surely lose consciousness (like the frog in the pot of water as the temperature is imperceptibly being turned up under him), and we begin to fall asleep and do our lives in a way that is both painful and numbing, and sometimes we don’t even realize it.
The word inspiration literally means “to breathe” or “breathed upon.” So when you think about inspiration, think about the act of breathing in and out. Inspiration is what keeps us breathing, our very breath. And breath, as we all know, is what keeps us alive.
I believe God created the world as a playground of inspiration to us. And the beauty we find in it is unique to each person here, like an individual poem or song he has written to you and to me and he’s hidden the words and the stanzas and the melodies and the verses in the nooks and crannies of the world and has SET US FREE to find those things that speak to us uniquely.
His very word, spoken to you, spoken to me, is lurking around us.
And what’s so cool is that it’s different for all of us.
For some of you, it’s elephants. You love elephants. And you get weepy looking at elephants because their big ears are so friendly and elegant and their long eye-lashes have an other-worldliness to them, and when you see an elephant at the zoo or a picture of an elephant, you just feel like the world is a better place. That elephant inspires you. Elephants make you feel alive and somehow known in a way that you can’t really explain to anyone else, but in a way that is incredibly true to you if you’re totally honest.
Maybe for you, you can breathe when you have a collection of extra fine tip sharpie markers in your bag. And when you look into your bag and you see hot pink and lime and turquoise and chocolate brown caps, you smile and you feel like the universe is speaking to you, beckoning you, through those markers. That’s inspiration.
For some of you, it’s the sky. And it whispers to you as it changes all day long. And if you take the time in your day to actually listen to what it wants to say to you, you find yourself absolutely hypnotized and really breathing. That’s inspiration.
Maybe one of your primary inspirations is music. Music is, for you, a teleporter or a time machine or a cocoon or a life raft. And when the right music is on, you are transported and enveloped and saved. And your soul feels as if it has been cut open.
Maybe some of you find great inspiration in other people’s creativity. And though you may not be able to come up with ideas or projects or recipes on your own, you love looking at what other people have created and that breathes ideas and life into you, and it motivates you (inspires you!) to get up off the couch and do a little something. So you need to find time to look at other people’s creativity – books, blogs, HGTV, etc. That’s inspiration.
Maybe you need to get your body moving. And when you do, you find that your brain kicks into this other gear and, though it’s so hard to find the time to do it, getting your heart rate up and your body moving and your skin sweating brings you back to life. That’s inspiration.
Maybe you like going to salvage yards and garage sales and junk stores and digging through discarded things in order to find something strange and wonderful that you might refashion into this interesting piece of original artwork. And when you do that, you feel like you have just come alive for the first time and again. That’s inspiration.
Perhaps this is a week when you might go in search of an elephant, purchase some sharpies, spend some intentional time with the sky, put in your headphones, visit a museum, take a walk, troll some garage sales Saturday morning. Perhaps RIGHT NOW is a time to go about filling up. TO BREATHE.
If you’d like to spend some intentional time reflecting on this idea of inspiration, here are some prompts for you to consider . . .
Make a list of anything and everything you find beautiful.
When was the last time you felt really alive? Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with?
When I ________________, I am being the me-est me.
If you could do anything in your life, what would you do? What keeps you from doing it?
Describe your very favorite place to be. What does it look like, feel like, smell like? Who are you when you are there?
What is saving your life right now? What is killing you?
And while you’re at it, pick one of the prompts and leave us a comment with your reflection . . .
May today hold unexpected Beauty for you!