Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I haven't written in awhile, but I received a text early this morning from a good friend in Denver that reminded me that what I have to say is worth sharing. He visited me last September, shortly after I had moved to Salt Lake City. He rode his motorcycle over 500 miles through sun, wind, and rain just to get here. It was a true blessing.
Ryan is an artist, and his text this morning was a picture of his latest 4'x4' painting telling me that he's taking the advice I gave him when he visited last year: "Be bold." Against the strong winds of 2013, I seem to have forgotten that I could've said something like that - and more so, that I could've inspired someone else. Especially an artist.
I meant to be bold with colors, but I also meant in life.
I needed that reminder this morning.
Tonight while I was showering, a small spider dropped from the basement ceiling and landed up high on the adjacent wall to where I was standing. I have to admit - I don't like spiders much. I've squashed quite a few in my lifetime. But I found myself perplexed as I resisted the urge to do what I've done a hundred times before, and instead watch the spider try to crawl back up the wall against the resistance of condensation. The spider barely hung on as it made progress measured by millimeters. Every so often, all of the progress it had made was lost because it would slip - tripling the distance it had to go to make up for the lost gains.
I could relate.
The last six months I've experienced (and continue to experience) physical injury, heartbreak, financial burdens, and trying to die to my old self. I feel defeated. I don't know what it would feel like to not have a broken body, a broken heart, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. And all at the same time. The healing process is a slow one, and broken bodies, hearts, and debt spreadsheets don't fix themselves overnight. But, when will the healing come? I would take just one improvement at this point.
As the spider struggled, I even found myself wondering how it felt. Its legs were shaking just trying to keep in one place. The incline it was facing was literally straight up and down. Was it scared? Did it want to give up? We all have our uphill battles - they're unique to each of us. But as I face my own battle, I realize I've been doing it by my own strength and somewhat alone. I'm not letting people see me struggle - I'm not admitting to what I'm afraid of. And that's not what Jesus died for. He died to remind us that its not our strength that overcomes the darkness, and we don't have to be alone in the midst of the everyday struggles.
While I came to the realization that I need to let people in again, I reflected on my friend Micah who died in August. After he died, I remember wanting to know everything about everyone. That's how Micah lived his life. He cared about every detail about everyone with which he came into contact. I wanted to know people's favorite color, what city they were born in, and what their biggest fear was.
What is your biggest fear? If you know what it is, do you know why it is? And if someone asked you what it was, would you tell them?
Vulnerability is hard. It wasn't always that way for me. But after being burned so many times, it's easy to retreat and decide it would be better to not take the risk. It's "easier" to give up and say, "What's the point?" The problem with that option is that it leads to a heart that gets harder. A heart that stops feeling compassion for the brokenness around it. A heart that loses its ability to love well.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
I got out of the shower and opened the bathroom door. The fresh air helped to dry the walls within a few minutes. When I came back in, I saw the spider crawling with more ease as it climbed its way to the top, finding refuge on a narrow wooden ledge.
I have to admit that was the first spider I haven't killed - maybe ever. Having compassion for a spider might mean that I've officially lost it. It's possible.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I have been reading the daily devotional book Jesus Calling every day so far this year, and while each one is impactful, I couldn't help but share today's entire reading. This month has been so much about taking each day as it comes, relinquishing all control to God, and watching as He so carefully crafts my life into a perfect melody that sings of His goodness.
Worrying is in our nature. We've been worrying since the fall of man in Genesis. What I have found so beautiful about this is how much it causes me to rely on God. He already knows what my future holds, the choices I will make in my next moment, and despite fumbling and falling - He loves me.
"Stop trying to work things out before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time. When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today's agenda. If it isn't, release it into My care and go on about today's duties. When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in its time.
A life lived close to Me is not complicated or cluttered. When your focus is on My Presence, many things that once troubled you lose their power over you. Though the world around you is messy and confusing, remember that I have overcome the world. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have Peace."
May you know how great, deep, and everlasting the love of God is for you. I'm finding that in the moments of my overwhelming gratitude - staring in awe at the blue sky and mountains, smiling at the joy of a young child, closing my eyes and burning moments of laughter with friends into my memory - His love is felt most deeply.
Take in the moments of today. Be present. Be alive in the now. Good or bad, a heart filled with gratitude can let go of the worry tomorrow brings. The very hairs on your head are known in number. So do not be afraid, for you are more valuable to God than an entire flock of sparrows (Luke 12:7).
Saturday, March 10, 2012
“You've always been what you are. That's not new. What you'll get used to is knowing it.”
- Cassandra Clare
As many of you know, I'm a people person. Through and through. In just the past couple of weeks, I've been having a few more "ah-ha" moments about how this shapes who I am and how it impacts other people. As a former employee of Gallup, I have learned and come to understand the importance of leveraging my strengths. But until recently, I've seemed to forget that I can use my strengths to have an intensely positive impact on the world around me.
If you've never taken the Gallup StrengthsFinder test, I recommend it. When I took this test 2 1/2 years ago, I wasn't necessarily surprised about what they identified as my top 5 strengths. In fact, I laughed out loud with each sentence, wondering how something could be so spot-on. All of my top 5 strengths are people-related. And just last night I was talking with a friend, wondering if my job is really making an impact - because at the end of the day, sometimes I feels like all I'm doing is selling clothes to people. And in the past year, this has become less and less important to me. Recovering shopaholic, remember? But in re-reading these strengths this morning, I realized that maybe I am making an impact. In my current role, I am a teacher and an encourager. And this job is teaching me how to refine those skills to help me continue to grow. As a business person, and just simply as a human being.
This post is in part to share my top 5 strengths, as identified by Gallup. But it is also a reminder to myself to take a step back and really remember who I am, and that I was created this way on purpose. God knit me in the womb, knowing I would be a crazy, intensely passionate redhead, knowing I would snort when I laugh, knowing I would care deeply and intimately about the people around me. He knew that I would be positive to a fault - desiring for my glass to be overflowing every second - that I would be impatient, that I would desire to get to know every human being I meet on an intimate level, and that I would want to carry the burdens of others who are hurting.
I don't have this all down, I'm learning each and every day. But this journey I am on is unique, exciting, and filled with adventure.
So leverage your strengths. Discover what sets you on fire. And then go spread it everywhere you go.
My Top 5:
Yeah, me either :)
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
For some, it is a time to give something up for 40 days. Something tangible. And probably something that will come back when this time is over.
In years past I have tried to give up things like Facebook, shopping, or sugar. Just typing that makes me feel ridiculous. Why? Because after that 40 days was over, all I did was eat cupcakes, spend hours on Facebook, or spend $300 on my credit card in one stop at the mall. I didn't learn anything. I spent 40 days counting down when I could go back to my old ways. And what benefit was it to anyone else, or even to myself, to try to and "sacrifice" for 40 days? Does abstaining from sugar help others? Does it really help myself?
But what if I decided to do something for 40 days. What if I decided to give something away?
I have struggled with my finances for as long as I can remember. Until age 20, I was hardly in want or need of anything. My parents lived in a nice house, drove nice cars, and would put money in my account every month. They leased a new car for me when I was 18 because I had gotten a soccer scholarship to go and pay for most of my education. My dad has always been the frugal one, saving more money than my mom wanted. But in October 2006 when my mom lost her job, and the only income our family had at the time, things started to change. My parents kept me in the dark until after New Year's when I wondered why my mom wasn't going to work after the holidays were over. I had no idea, because Christmas was the same as always, and I had gotten everything I asked for. The next 3 years included phone calls to me at school preparing me for the possibility that they might lose the house. This wasn't what I had remembered from high school.
But what developed in me was so strange. I went out and got a job at Gap in January 2007, and spent most of my income on clothes. Suddenly, I was trying to make up for what my parents could not provide. And I spiraled out of control to obtain so many material things, that my closet was overflowing. I sit here today paying interest on $13,000 of out of control spending. Finances are so personal, but I am really over the mentality that I should keep that private.
I have debt. I've made mistakes. A lot of them. Who's hasn't? So why do we still hide?
In just the last week, God has pressed upon my heart that now is the time to change directions. If I don't make the choice now, I will probably spend the rest of my life in this hole. I am at a crossroads. And for the first time ever, I am truly listening.
At church this past Sunday night, the sermon was about money. I sat in my chair, shifting positions every few minutes, signaling my discomfort. When I finally sat still, I felt my heart open up and sat there vulnerable and broken. Jay showed us a clip from Dave Ramsey's teaching - and some parts I could hardly keep it together. He said that to get out of debt, we must attack with with gazelle-like INTENSITY. He said, "Darlin', you can wander into debt, but honey you can't wander out of it. You have to run." The tears started to well up. I've been a competitor my whole life in sports - having been wired by God as a passionate and intense individual - and here I am being defeated by clothes.
Dave painted a picture of how we don't come to God with our garbage because we think that He'll look at us and be mad at the choices we've made. Dave said, "But instead, the truth is that you're deeply in debt, and God in heaven is crazy about you." I couldn't help but lose it. The last thing he said was, "If you want to do one thing to prepare for your marriage, get out of debt." With a seemingly impossible pile of credit card debt, I wish I could say to whoever that man will be, I've made these mistakes but I'm making the choice today to honor God with my money.
Have I mentioned that I owe the government $1,514 by April 17th? There is so much hope, if only I would just turn my gaze to heaven.
After church, a group of us headed to a friend's house to enjoy some spaghetti. I met a few new people there, having some of the most real and genuine conversations I have ever had. Our friend's aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he was hosting people to try and raise $100 to send to his aunt's family so they could go out to a nice meal and not have to worry about money. As he stood up in front of us and shared this, I was so moved by how open he was to people in the room, some he didn't even know. He emphasized that his main hope was that everyone who came could just simply enjoy the company of others and eat some spaghetti. I gave all of the cash I had in my wallet. I didn't even look to see how much it was, I just emptied it.
I had finally seen clearly: giving is everything.
Giving without hesitation, giving without strings attached - giving so freely, that your heart is overflowing simply from the sacrifice.
And so God has pressed upon my heart, this season of Lent, I am to give. Every week when that paycheck comes in, I am to tithe first. The whole 10% of my income. Every week for 40 days. I am going to give freely, and let God take care of the rest. After all, nothing I have is my own. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..."
Jesus Christ has paid the greatest debt of all on my behalf. He is surely able to give me strength enough to pay off the debts I have built for myself.
Give. Sacrifice. And see what happens.
May you know that you are loved by God.
May you know that there is nothing He cannot repair.
And may you give so freely, that the angels sing over what you have done.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
For those of you that know me, I am a big fan of new beginnings. I've spent all year discovering and rediscovering their beauty. I haven't written since May 26th, and believe me when I say that more has happened than could fit in the space that Gmail provides for its millions of users.
"May you accept the past for what it is. May you celebrate what needs to be celebrated and grieve what needs to be grieved. And then, may you receive from God a new Spirit, one for Here - Now - Today."
But today was different. Something I couldn't pass up the opportunity to write about.
I sit here, sweaty, hair a mess, smelling like CLR (yes, the cleaner. "Just CLR it!")
Today is a Tuesday, not a Monday, which we often associate with a new week - or beginning. It is not November 1st, which I would have already proclaimed that it is a new month somewhere on my Facebook. It is not the beginning of a new season, we are in the middle of Fall - and a beautiful one at that.
So what is it?
Today, for whatever reason, I decided it was time to scrub my bathtub. Not just give it a quick spray and rinse. I'm talking deep clean. This is all compounded by so many other things happening, but today was the day.
But, why is this significant?
My whole life, I have associated rain and water with being washed clean. But my tub was anything but "clean." (You can run for the hills if it really bothers you).
For those of you who know the story that unfolded this Spring, Summer and well into Fall, you know I've been holding onto a burden of guilt, pain, confusion, hurt, and doubt caused by someone I was close to here in Denver. Despite this, I've found so much joy, which is the thing that has been different about this year. I think I'm finally getting a small grasp on the verse that talks about finding joy in your trials. It's not easy. It is a choice. And it doesn't always feel better right away. But, through baby steps and a strong will to believe things will change, things do change.
Sometimes I wonder why I complain about anything. I have a job that pays my bills, I have a family that loves me unconditionally, I have a roof over my head and a warm bed. I have friends that make every aspect of life - good and bad - worth living through. I live in the most beautiful state in the country. And I'm healthy. When was the last time we stopped to be grateful for that?
I went to church on Sunday night for the first time in months. Months. Might as well have been years since I've been so disconnected. The most amazing thing about this fact is that God has never once stopped pursuing me. And more often than not, I am listening. No matter where we end up, God is always there, whether we believe it or feel it or not.
On Sunday, a man named Peter spoke to us about the trials that his father faced growing up in Russia and fleeing to China as a little boy. His father was beaten as a child, deprived of food, saw both of his parents buried in the same hole before age 5. At age 16, he stood blindfolded in front of a firing squad because he refused to stand on the front lines with a weapon and shoot at people. And yet, God was faithful to direct and orchestrate a story that continued to lead him down the straight and narrow. A journey that was heavy laden with pain, is a journey that has changed lives and turned hearts toward the Creator.
And isn't it about the journey and not the destination anyway?
My shower has been a vehicle for cleanliness on the outside. But what about what is left behind? The reason we clean is to make new, start fresh, and be able to present something worth showing.
I was scrubbing my tub until I was covered in sweat, my hair falling out of its ponytail, remembering all of the things I have washed away in this one small space. But I had let what was left behind remain.
Peter spoke about how he was a little child at age 7 listening to parts of his father's story each night before he went to sleep with his siblings surrounding him. He would get mad when his father would speak of being mistreated, sometimes being left for dead. Peter would ask, "Daddy, why didn't you get mad?!" His father would reply, "My son, I could not get mad, I had Jesus." Instead of planting seeds of bitterness, he would plant seeds of gratefulness in the hearts of the children listening to these stories of how he grew up.
I was almost done scrubbing the bathtub and heard God say, "You have labored enough my child."
But he wasn't talking about the scrubbing. He was talking about my burden. He was telling me to stop doing it on my own. To stop carrying something that is too heavy for just me. To stop allowing what is left behind to build until it breaks me. He was asking me to give it to Him.
The problem with our human nature is that we actually try too hard. We think we can do things on our own until our exhaustion from doing so prevents us from functioning at even a fraction of our best.
As the water swirled around the tub in the final moments I was cleaning, I let the water rush to the drain to take with it everything I had left to hold onto from my burden. Although it has been a journey to this point, and I'm sure my human mind will not completely forget about what happened this year quite yet, I know that I have released that person to the loving Hands of God. And I wish him well.
And in the letting go, we find a different kind of new beginning. One that is not marked by the start of something, but that which is marked by the end of another.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
"Hands, is it worth my work?
If it's not with Your eyes, what is it worth?
Love, is it worth my time?
Cause if it's not with Your heart, it's from my mind."
-Kye Kye "Introduce Myself"
My checking account overdrew yesterday. It's the same story of trying to strategically plan my payments to clear the same day my direct deposit drops into my account. Living as a professional commuter makes this difficult sometimes. But, nothing is forever. And I get paid weekly. So it could always be worse.
As I sat in my car on my lunch break trying to figure out how to make it to Friday with $10 in my wallet, all I could think was I could make it work by spending $2 on my lunch and use the remaining 8 to buy enough gas to get me home from work on Thursday night. As I was leaving work later that afternoon, I took a different loop around the mall than I normally do. Stop. Yield. Go. Repeat.
And then I saw her standing on the corner at the stoplight.
She put her head down and looked at her cardboard sign; a look that revealed the shame she felt that she would have to beg. Her sign said she and her child were in need.
I caught a glimpse at the very moment her head sunk to her chest. She put her lips together as if to hold back tears, the same ones she's been holding in the entire time she's been standing there.
I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Here I am wondering how to make it with $8 and she is trying to figure out how to make it with zero. The light turned green, and my car, fourth in line, proceeded to turn left. As my car passed her, it took less than the blink of my eye to feel the tug on my heart to turn back. I turned left and pulled a U at the next light.
My car stopped suddenly, half in the bike line, half in the lane of traffic. I flipped on my emergency lights and jumped out. My door slammed behind me and I just started running up the grassy hill to get to her. Why was I running? My car would still be there. She would still be there.
But I ran. And it was as if I was running toward my own brokenness.
She was startled by my sudden appearance in front of her. But I handed her the $8 I had and apologized that I didn't have more. I grabbed her right arm and told her to take care of herself even though it's hard. She told me God bless. And then I ran back.
The breeze was blowing so hard I didn't think I would make it back in one piece. It was as if God had come down in a rushing wind to sweep away the worry that should have gripped me in that moment.
I hopped back in my car and pulled away at a speed that felt much slower than it was moving.
And I just cried.
When will I see that I've never been in want for what I need?
When will I stop desiring more when God tells me He's enough?
When will I see that I am only called to give what I already have?
I desire more to give more. But does God call me to use a spiritual gift that He has not bestowed upon me?
He asks for what I have. Not for what I will have. Not for what I wish I had. What I have now.
Sometimes living in the present and fully alive isn't about feeling God's hand in it.
Sometimes it's about making the sacrifice you don't think you can and trusting that you've done all your human spirit is capable of doing.
And in this, you will find that it's not even by your own spirit you could do it. It is the Spirit of Christ that dwells within.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I am indeed a phoneless socialite.
My phone fell out of my lap into a parking lot on Saturday night and I didn't realize it until I tried calling it and guy picked up and said it had been run over by car and he had it with him. I have phone insurance - but it does me little good when they tell me my phone is backordered for up to 7-10 business days. 10 business days means two weeks from the day my phone died!Gahh!
The timing of something like this is never ideal, but especially right now. I met a guy on Thurs that I really like and he had my number and I didn't have his...and then my phone was crushed to death. It's laughable to a point, as I'm sure it's not the end of the world. But like I said: phoneless socialite.
I've been making the best of this situation by enjoying the quiet and alone time. Today I went to my favorite breakfast place JELLY! to get lunch. I've been there a handful of times and made friends with the staff on day 1. I saw Randy today who gave me a hug and told me to enjoy the alone time. I sat at the breakfast bar and met a girl named Regan who served me. She happened to grow up in Alameda, CA which is where I was born! One of the cooks, David, came out and I told him he made a mean breakfast. He introduced himself and told me about how he opened 2 restaurants in the Bay Area, then one in Seattle and made his way to Denver because this is where he wants to be.
Capitol Hill is by far my favorite place in all of the downtown area because you meet people just from walking down the street. I love how downtown used to be so foreign to me and I would get lost all the time, but now I know the sequence of streets going East-West and don't need a phone to navigate anymore. There's one positive despite being phoneless :)
A lot of times when I'm out by myself I tend to surf facebook on my phone or do other things on the internet, but today I didn't have that. I watched a group of 8 people eat their meals together and listened to their laughter. I loved it. Community is such an important part of life even if it's not for the purpose of being at church. A lot of times, the conversations and experiences outside of church bring different life perspectives and wisdom together and in that, the face of God is revealed to me. Brokenness is a common theme among all of us. Let's share it. And work through it. And heal from it.
There is a guy eating by himself across the way from me and he's surfing his phone. Sometimes I wish that every time I went somewhere, I could sit down with a stranger and just start talking to them. Social norms work against this desire, but I want to help change that. What would it look like if we ate with or talked to a stranger every day? Talk about community.
It's been easy for a lot of my Christian friends to tell me the reason my phone broke is because God thinks I need a break from it, or need be less dependent on it. I'm not going to get into this argument too much here. Maybe being without one for 5 days and counting is a good thing, but I think the way we go through life - with or without a phone - should be consistent. Maybe God broke my phone? Maybe it's for my well-being? Maybe the guy I met was bad news and God knows something about him that I don't? Or maybe it just happened? TBD...
On my 2 hour walk around downtown I got Pinkberry for dessert. My fave! Mango yogurt with raspberries, blueberries and chocolate chips was today's order. I filled out a survey for them and got two coupons for free Pinkberry. My day would've been complete at this point. But I left and just a couple blocks later a man named Eddie was sitting against a building and pointed at me and started dancing. He saw I had my headphones in and so I started dancing toward him. I took one headphone out and he laughed and he told me I "got it going on." Haha, it was so fun. I only had $1 left in my wallet and I gave it to him after he declined my offer of a raspberry. Normally I wouldn't blame him, but raspberries are my new favorite fruit, so I guess it was win-win because I got to eat my extra raspberry and he wanted the dollar instead. He had the best laugh. I couldn't help but smile.
I wish I had a moral of the story for this entry. Maybe it's that I am not a slave to technology (as I type this on my new Mac?), maybe it's stop and talk to people on the street, maybe it's about community. Or maybe it's all of them. I met 3 new people, got to listen to great music, walked four miles in my saffron yellow cord TOMS, and danced with a homeless man. Great day, great day.
p.s. The JELLY! jelly flavor of the day was raspberry!