One word 2017: Abundance

My word from last year was illuminate. I was working on a 2016 wrap-up post, but I’ll continue exploring this theme for some time. I love the way each word I’ve chosen has stuck with me.

My word for 2017 is abundance. I’m beyond excited that one of my dear friends and I have the same word this year!

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I have a chronic condition called saving things for special occasions: When I receive a box of chocolates, I save my favourite piece of chocolate for last. I have an unused Ariel pencil from a Disney Trip in 3rd grade. I have special pens that I’ve “saved” since high school. I’ve saved art supplies to use “once I’m a better artist.”

After Konmari-ing my apartment last year, I faced a lot of my saving over the years. My saving was rooted in frugality. Imagine my disappointment when I found my cherished pens dried out, art supplies too old and yucky to use, and some used up tubes of my favourite paint colour with just a little more left in them. I’d intended to cut the tubes open and get out every last bit of paint that I could.

I looked at these old tubes of paint and remembered what my old painting teacher said, “Some people save their old tubes and cut them open to get every bit of paint. But how much is in there? Maybe a few brush strokes. You can’t be scared about resources. You have to use the paint to get better.“I threw every single old tube away.

For too long, I’ve operated out of scarcity mentality, hanging onto these metaphorical old paint tubes. I fear there may not be enough, so I need to preserve what I can in case something happens. This is an exhausting way to live. I want to operate open-handed, focusing on what I do have and what I can do now. I’m ready to move forward in my life instead of being paralyzed by the fear of messing up, choosing poorly, or running out, trusting that God has my back and that he will be with me in my successes and failures. I want to throw away the old paint tubes and live a life of abundance.

Here are some ways I want to embody abundance this year:

 

-Experience abundance instead of scarcity in my growth. I’m realizing that a lot of my envy and competitive nature comes from a scarcity mentality. I’m changing the way I see these sins: formerly, I saw them as a state of guilt and “trying harder”. Now, I see them pointing me towards new ways that God wants me to grow (like transferring a plant to a more suitable pot). It’s still painful, but life-changing.

-If I can see the abundance in my own life, I’ll soon be able to help others note abundance and strengths in their lives. I have a knack for speaking to the heart of things, and I want to trust myself to do this more often for others, even when I’m not prepared.

-I want to see the abundance in my opportunities and abilities, which encompasses both myself and others. For too long, I’ve been selling myself short, and the fear of failure has paralyzed me. While my resume is erratic (people like me are the reason skills-based resumes exist), and I’m definitely not a perfect person, I have a lot going for me. I’ve done well with the cards I’ve been dealt. It’s time to see what I can do. *cue Elsa*

-I want to see abundance in my time. I’m a firm believer in busyness being a choice, but I’m also guilty of mismanaging time. I’m young and have many plans before I die, and I must see my time differently to move forward. I’m ready to make the time. I’m making some significant changes in my time this year so that I might pursue what God is calling me to pursue.

-I also want to explore the abundance of God’s grace and presence. Growing up fundamentalist, I experienced God being a judge and far away. I’m beginning to understand that God really is with me each step, and that rather than me knowing enough about him or doing enough for him…he simply wants me to be with him. This compassionate nature of God floors me, and I’m excited to explore the abundance he has for me (both present and future). My 20th spiritual birthday is this year, and I’m very excited about not being a Spiritual teenager anymore. 😉

I have tangible goals like exercising more, painting with watercolours, Finishing The Novel Of Doom, and some career goals. In my successes and failures, I hope to experience the abundant life I already have, and the abundant grace our Savior continues to pour on all of us.

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Eleven.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. If only it was that easy.

I’ve survived a decade without my mother – what’s one more year? Life as a motherless daughter is part of my identity rather than a fatal flaw. It’s not even my “new normal” anymore, but my “normal”. What do you do with grief after you’ve both settled into your routines?

Time and grief are at work whether we acknowledge them or not. They gently tug and remind you – stop. And you have to stop. Or maybe you can keep going for awhile, but they tug harder and harder, pulling at your shirttails and collar until you can barely put one foot in front of the other.

This year, I’ve tried to put the tugs on hold. I have told grief over and over that I don’t have time to talk about her feelings and our realities. I have things to get done. I have to help. I have to pray. I have to do something, learn more, try harder. My heart is broken in so many ways right now, and I can’t yet find the words to write out why.

I am confident that grief is digging again in her garden (link) with some new companions, and perhaps she is planting more seeds of light. I must confess that this year, I cannot see them. All I can see is darkness, but I feel a new fire shut up in my bones.

Instead of a new entry, I ask that you read what I wrote about grief last year – one of my favourite things I’ve written.

 

The tin man: on fear-based silence

metal heart
photo by vampirefreaks.com

Nick Chopper was a real, live lumberjack with an intention to marry his sweetheart, Nimmie. Nimmie, however, is a servant of the wicked Witch. The witch gets wind of this plan, and, as witches are, can’t fathom the thought of losing a servant. To keep her around, the witch enchants Nicks’s axe, causing it to chop off all of Nick’s limbs. Somehow still alive, Nick is rebuilt with tin prosthetic limbs with the help of his friend Ku-Klip. Nick, now known as Tin Woodman (or as many know him, The Tin Man), is now made of all Tin except his heart. Once his friend makes him a heart of tin, he is no longer able to love Nimmie.

In a way, I am the tin man. On previous social media accounts, I’d post articles about both politics and religion, expressing my outrage. When I “came out” as an outraged political progressive in 2010-ish, I immediately lost several contacts on facebook, and also had to remove contacts for my emotional safety. I learned my lesson quickly, and I covered my limbs with tin armour. When I left facebook for a year and came back, I decided to not speak about or react to politics on social media unless it was something I was actively involved in changing. I chose to not keep up with the news because of my sensitive nature, and because I have the luxury not to. My tin armour was finally finished, and it glinted in the sun.

I am part of the problem. Here is my tin heart.

Armour is made for defense and out of fear. I put on the breastplate of Self-Defense because I’m afraid that I won’t say the right words and my own racism will be exposed (because deep down, we are all racist.). I put on the Sandals of Snarky Comments because I fear being called out for my actual opinion. I put on the Helmet of Good Intentions because I fear being seen as heart-hearted and not compassionate. And lastly, I take up the Shield of Abdication because I don’t want to put a line in the sand between me and people who feel differently, and I don’t want to cause division among family and friends. I hunker down in the barracks fully clad and ready for battle, whispering to myself as I polish shield after shield that it’s not my place to tell others what to post or how to react, especially when I’m not posting or reacting myself.

So today, I come out from the barracks, remove my armour, and expose my tin-man heart: I am sad about the terrible things happening around the world, but probably not as sad as I should be. But as a person of privilege, I need to say “these events are not okay” and “these happenings are not just a coincidence” even if I’m not as broken-hearted as God wants me to be. I am not active in any political venues, and I’m afraid to explore how much of my inactivity has to do with my life path…or if it’s sin that needs addressing. I’m at a loss of what to do as a white person living in white suburbia, and I’m ashamed that I don’t have more friends of colour to ask. I’m skeptical if sharing the “correct” article can make a difference, and I fear that even these words will be misconstrued as a distraction from the real issues. I want to spend less time defending that my privilege is “okay” by “proving” that I “understand” my friends of colour when I can’t understand because I am not them, but rather use my privilege to expose things that aren’t normal. I’m wondering what to pray, how to give, and what to ask.

Now, exposed with all my faults, I believe that God can fill the gaps where I am still a jerk. May God oil my Tin Man heart and melt it back into flesh.

If you feel like I do, I encourage you to pray or meditate on these words, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” I’m not sure how a secular version of this might read, but you can absolutely send out your hope for understanding and positive energy into the world.

When Tin Woodman joins his rag-tag team, they do eventually see the Wizard, defeat the witch, and Tin Woodman is rewarded with a new heart – a silk heart stuffed with sawdust. In the receiving of a heart, we readers see that Tin Woodman had a heart the whole time – even if it was cold and hard. May Christ soften this heart of Tin.


Here are some things you can do:

-Check out Campaign Zero to understand part of the problem.
Find your local representatives. See where they stand and write to them.
-Find minority news sources. I’m honestly still learning the best sources myself (I skimmed The Root today) – there are so many! I am open to suggestions because this is an area where I need to grow!

Guest post at Twelve16Photography!

Hey guys, I did a photo shoot in my mom’s wedding dress and wrote about it on Twelve16Photography. If you have any photo needs in the Central TN area, I HIGHLY recommend Lindsay and Dolly!

Check out my piece (and some fancy poses) here!

Why you can wish me happy mother’s day

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by AZURE via flickr

As soon as one arrives home from his/her honeymoon, the questions start: “When are you going to have a baby?”

These questions about your sex life surge especially between years 3-5 of your marriage. But somewhere around years 7-8, the questions lessen. By years 9 or 10, the questions stop completely.

During these years of questions, I would toy with how to inflect my “No,” when asked if I had children. Do I say it flatly to avoid other questions? Do I slide my voice up and look off in the distance hopefully, since that’s the expected response? I finally became comfortable in an up-and-down sliding no, followed quickly by, “But we have a cat.” (See? We can keep something alive! 🙂 )

Regardless of the “reason” why we don’t have children, (I find it strange that I “owe” society an explanation for my choices thus far!) it’s a thing my spouse and I are okay with.

But I need to make something clear:
I may not have children of my own, but I AM a parent.

I am a parent because I work with small children every day. Because I work after school, I get to teach them life skills rather than how to do math. I work with teachers and parents of children who have challenging situations. I get hugs, listen to secrets, hopes, and dreams, and hear about the inner-workings of the lives of my students. I tell stories about ponies and dinosaurs when they are sad. I cover them with blankets and read to them when they are sick. I get to remind them that they can talk to God about anything, and show them that God is a loving God and not angry. I also make mistakes that keep me awake at night, and I vow to do better the next day.

I am a parent because the majority of my friends have children, and I have come to love many of these children like [I imagine I’d love] my own. I’ve lost count of how many of my friends’ kids call me “Aunt Becca”. When I’m out running errands, I see or hear things they love and think of them.

I am a parent because I get to sit with my nephews, who I haven’t seen in too long, and talk about anime and all sorts of geeky topics. We have a camaraderie simply because we’re related.

I am a parent because even though I don’t actively seek out children, they seem to somehow find me. I can make one silly face, one small wave, and the next thing you know, we’re having a tea party. Even when I have to be firm, they can still understand that I care for them (even though I have to remind them sometimes).

I am a parent because as a youth minister, I am constantly good-worrying and praying for my teens.  I get excited when they do great things or achieve big goals. I give the support I can when they make not-great decisions, and trust that God is at work. I know that the voice I have – the voice of an adult who is not their parent – is sacred and valuable, and I choose my words ardently when I’m asked for advice. I’ve come to learn that sometimes modeling Christian adulthood is owning your mistakes and asking teens for forgiveness when you mess up. And of course, I love embarrassing them (just a little) and I know that one day, they’ll secretly love it too.

I don’t believe a person is made a parent at conception of their child, when signing adoption papers, or when attending foster parent classes. The seed of parenthood grows in the heart. It grows in you more like a tree than flowers and blooms in petals of catch-in-your-throat love that fall like cherry blossoms. The roots wrap deep and strong in and around your heart like a Willow, sometimes drinking pure emotions as you muddle through how demanding and awesome your job is.

For many years, I have wrestled with the answer to the question, “Why do you not have children?” But now I know the answer – I am already a parent. My life is filled to the brim with children and teenagers, and this life I’ve chosen – to allow my petals to fall on the beautiful garden around me, to come alongside other parents to parent – is the most blessed life I could imagine.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

One word 365, 2016: illuminate

The OneWord365 phenomenon is growing, which is fantastic! My year of courage went awesome, so I thought I’d give it a try again in 2016. When I was choosing words, this word stood out from the beginning. As a true Meyers-Briggs Perceiver,  I still had to sit with several other words Just To Be Safe before I Officially Chose. I am excited about this word, and I hope you will be too.

illuminate

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” -Ephesians 5:13

Why illuminate?

I chose Illuminate because I’m discovering that some of my capital-P Purposes are to illuminate truths and equip others. I have a knack for shedding light on dark or confusing matters and putting words to emotions that people don’t like to talk about…and this is a gift! I also realize it’s a strength that I’m not afraid of darkness and walking with people in dark places. I believe the reason I can do that is because of something that God is illuminating in me.

When I think of illuminate, I think of the genie in the movie Aladdin: “So why don’t you just ruminate whilst I illuminate the possibilities.” I look at my life and I often see limitations – not much of a resume; no outstanding talent (I’m a jill of many trades);  lacking  “stability”; no idea what’s next. This year, I want to illuminate my possibilities. I’m not asking for a genie, a miracle, or a new bike, but I am asking courageously, “God, what are you up to? What are you wanting to illuminate in me?” 

Here are some things I hope to illuminate:

-Acknowledge my light source. In 2015, I was torn between not wanting to be a Christian blogger and acknowledging that my spiritual posts were read and shared the most. So I stopped blogging. I researched branding, (blech) and chose a new angle for this blog–I even had a title! I planned to tuck away all of the Christian-y gobblety-gook and establish myself as a Regular Person. Dear friends helped me realize that omitting Christian matters doesn’t make me any more of a Regular Person. In fact, not writing about my faith isn’t authentic to who I am (and I’m not a popular enough blogger to worry about “branding” at this point.). I’m not ashamed of my faith, nor do I ask friends or readers to believe what I believe, so “hiding” this part of me doesn’t make sense. I can write about spirituality and still explore “regular” ideas like art, personality types, and delicious food.

-Illuminate/shed light on my time. I want to be mindful of spending my time doing things I love rather than being passive. I want to hang out with more people and finish more projects. If there are things I say I love, I want to take time to do them.

-Illuminate my flourishing and pruning. When light shines, it reveals the good and the ugly. Illuminating truths means that I must aware of and actively working on my own shortfalls….but I must also be aware of my strengths. This is a balance I’ve been working towards for a long time. Every weakness is a chance for light to shine in! Every strength is an opportunity to empower others.

-Illuminate others’ awesomeness. In 2015, I ran an art therapy group for a few months, and this group empowered a few creative people in their talents/gifts! There are so many other stars around me, and I hope to continue equipping and empowering others. I want to encourage others to chase growth, to find their niche, and ultimately, see themselves like the lights they are.

-Illuminate beauty in darkness. Since I don’t fear darkness, I hope to continue walking with others and show them the light and beauty that I see–the source by which I’m illuminated (Clarification: this doesn’t mean telling people about God. Sometimes it means listening and saying “that sucks.”). This also means allowing others to walk with me in my dark places.

-Illuminate next steps. My spouse and I are exploring and feeling more confident in our vocations as a couple and individually. This doesn’t mean much for our careers, but it’s an important identification for us. We want to explore what these vocations mean for our future.

There are more tangible things I want to do. I started learning the cello last year, and I hope to continue. I’m also toying with/obsessing over painting my church’s ceiling this summer (I haven’t asked for permission or forgiveness from anyone important, but I have a folder full of ideas.). I’m excited to see how 2016 unfolds!!

One word 365: Courage, the daughter of hope

Instead of resolutions, I chose to focus on the word courage in 2015. I’ve chosen my word for next year, and I can’t wait to share more about it with you. But first I must confess: 2015 is not the end of my journey with courage.

On our first night in New Zealand in March, we woke up in the night in our camper van, bleary-eyed, and stumbled to the bathroom outside. On our way back to the van, my husband grabbed my shoulder and whispered, “Look at the sky.” I looked up, and I gasped when I saw the stars. Living close to a big city, we don’t see a lot of stars because of light pollution. I fumbled with my glasses and rubbed my eyes caked with jet lag, and I saw a multitude of stars, and the clear outline of the milky way, her arm suspended so gracefully in the air – the first time I had seen this celestial body this clearly. My breath caught in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. I had forgotten about the stars. 

In a similar way, before this year I had forgotten about the notion of courage and being courageous. I had done courageous things before, but not the type of courageous things I wanted to do. I waited on God, asking him why he was making me wait, asking him why he had given me deep desires (career/vocation-wise) when there were no opportunities even in a city as large as this one. But in my despair, hope still grew. This year specifically, God has reminded me that I have not been forgotten. He is also changing my desires and loosening my words, and I’m not sure what this might mean.

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I have watched these daughters of hope open their eyes and walk around in my soul, but it’s only recently that I’ve realized they were sisters. There is still so much we have to learn together.

I am all too familiar with the daughter Anger – and I imagine that this is how most of my readers see me – as the angry person I was in my teens and twenties. I was angry. Much of it was sinful, some of it was misdirected, and a tiny sliver was this justified anger. I confess that I’m sad that I’ve spent so much of my life angry. Over the past several years, I’ve said, “I am tired of being angry. This is not who I want to be anymore.”

There’s a big difference between not wanting to be something and actually changing your mindset. It’s hard to set new patterns, and it’s hard to know what to do when you fall back into old patterns. Relapse is part of recovery. But hope propels us forward.

This daughter Courage is the one I am less familiar with, but I now understand that the right type of Anger and Courage do go together. They hold hands and skip in parks…and they start revolutions. For many years, I justified this anger I had while courage cowered in the corner, but as I allow the old anger to fall away, the good Anger, the righteous fiery Anger, is what allows me to extend my hand towards Courage. Yes, I am courageous.

We often think of mighty warriors when discussing Courage, but sometimes, Courage is rather timid. But she eventually says, “I don’t want to do this, but it’s what I have to do. So I need to take a step forward.” And here’s the important part – you take the step. Courage can hesitate, but Anger grumpily pushes her sister forward.

That’s all that Courage is – taking one step after another towards whatever good you’re walking toward. Courage isn’t unattainable, and it’s not some outstanding quality that only few can possess. Likewise, we revere the stars, but there are so many stars – so many we can’t even see. We certainly don’t pick out one star that is the best – we love all of them because of how they fill the darkness together. Likewise, we are the stars, the stars of courage, and that must mean that there are so many ways to be courageous.

So I’ll say it again – I am courageous. I am courageous because I put one foot in front of the other. I am courageous because I put one word after another even though my brain says, “No, no, no – what are you thinking?” I am courageous because I choose to do what needs to be done, and I am courageous because I realize when I need to stop and take a nap.

Courage is a lot like the stars – there are multitudes of stars, and there are multitudes of courage. Find yours.