Much has been going on these first two weeks of the new year. And thankfully, most of the happenings and thought-producers have been good (positive). But, too many of these at the same time means that my mind is everywhere – leaving me feeling distracted, unable to focus or feel productive, and sometimes anxious.
Quick snapshot into my brain:
- I finally admitted that although the church I’m going to currently is awesome, it may not be the best fit for me. This means searching for a new place to break bread, to be in community, to worship.
- My work environment isn’t always healthy…and I’m still learning how to work and love there well.
- Looking for ways/time to be creative this year – painting?, drawing, collage-ing and writing more often
- Still having conversations and reading about race in America (check out 13th on Netflix)
- As somebody who travels, understanding community in a local and virtual sense.
- Asking what it means to be healthy and how I can implement that in my life
- Have an interesting offer or two on the table for future creative projects and / or travel to consider
- Continuing to understand what it means to be a life-long learner and reader – finding books to read, discussions to have, ways to experience / live out my faith
- Trying? to learn Spanish
- And, as always, trying to better understand my passions / giftings
Even typing it out caused me some stress.
But, my friend reminded me this afternoon, that it’s important to keep moving forward. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you…. in order for them to follow, YOU need to be moving!” She’s right. While this may be overwhelming at times, it means I’m still thinking and not being stagnant.
And then this evening another friend reminded me – You are okay.
- I am okay where I am
- It’s okay to have feelings
- It’s okay to need to slow down and breathe
- It’s okay to be confused
- It’s okay to want something different
- I am okay the way I am
You are okay.
You are okay.
Earlier today I was telling my friend about a process I call “angry journaling.” The premise is simple. When I get overly frustrated with a person, situation or life in general, I give myself permission to write freely. This means using large, bold fonts, scribbles, cursing.
I understand that for some people, this may be normal journaling. And I understand that journaling should always feel/be free – no permission is necessary.
So, why do I feel the need to give myself permission to be angry? Why do I edit myself….especially when I may be the only person to read any of my writing?
At least in part, this is what my culture has taught me. Or how I have interpreted events and conversations in my life.
Speak [politically] correct.
Keep your temper.
Put others before yourself
None of this is bad… but I take it too far and tend to repress anything that seems negative. And sometimes, that negativity needs an outlet.
One of my friends is currently doing his yearly campaign leading up to Thanksgiving – #warongrumbling. For forty days he (and others who choose to join him & his family) posts something specific he is thankful for that day.
I am trying to join this year – but don’t always get onto social media – or remember some days. But there is something about this practice. Verbalizing our thankfulness or writing our gratitude down can solidify it – making more of a practice of finding the good in each day, in each moment.
This is a practice that was suggested to me during Mission Year by my city director. And I would do it for awhile, notice my attitude shift, and slowly stop doing it. As I lost my perspective, eventually I would find myself frustrated, more likely to grumble, until I remembered (or somebody reminded me) the practice of daily thankfulness.
[Just last week my roommate noted that during the year he could tell if I had been writing my thankfulness list or not]
How easy it is to lose focus. To get so distracted by some person or situation that is drawing energy that we miss out on the good. There are moments of growth and beauty happening every day. I know that when I slow down and focus and listen, it isn’t that difficult to see God. But taking the step to stop, to slow down, to be mindful is not always easy.
What would my life look like if I consistently practiced gratitude? How would it impact my attitude? How might it impact the people around me?
[photo credit – Kelly Hudgins]
How easily I forget my place.
Earlier this morning I read a blog post about finding beauty in the mundane. So when this photo came up in my list for Five Minute Fridays (or Saturdays), I was drawn back to this idea.
It is very easy for me to get stuck in my routines. Wake up, eat breakfast, drive the same route to work, follow my schedule at school, tell kids not to run/yell in the hallways, take the metro buses home, make some dinner, check social media/news (if I’m lucky, journal) and get ready for bed. There’s not anything wrong with the routine, in fact it can be helpful/healthy.
The issue is getting stuck in this routine.
There are little moments that I miss if I’m not paying attention. In the midst of my routine, do I notice (and appreciate, give thanks for):
- the sunrise as I wait for school to start
- the downtown skyline on my drive to work
- the students who give me a high five
- teachers and students who need some encouragement
- teachers who give me encouragement
- an honest question about my day
- the perfect song playing
Moments happen all the time. They are waiting if we notice and join them. May I (we?) be ever more aware and willing to be part of the moments.
Photo courtesy of Becca Grenell
Darkness. Night. All-enveloping in a way that produces both fear… and peace.
Some of my most peaceful, happy moments have occurred while looking at stars. I think back to college and the trip to middle-of-nowhere Missouri and being shocked at how many stars you could see when there was little to no light pollution. Or of my two summers on staff at Youthfront Camp West – the occasional night watch, or evenings on the weekends talking to other staff and just enjoying the view from the field or the waterslide tower. I think of Youth Encounter trainings at Luther Dell – middle-of-nowhere Minnesota, and again being surprised and awed by the stars. And again, staying up late, under the stars talking about life. I remember moments in my overseas travels and being comforted that the friends and family that I was missing were still present as I looked at the stars, knowing that they would be seeing the same stars.
Most recently, the stars were brought to my attention at the reception of my brother’s wedding. Outdoors, beautiful weather, wonderful time with friends and family. While everybody was chatting and dancing after dinner, I went out to the porch. I looked up at the stars… and breathed. So much happening that weekend, and in my life, it was nice to see the stars and breathe and rest – even for a moment. Seeing the stars reminded me that as much as I enjoy parts of Houston, it cannot be my forever home because I miss the stars, the open spaces too much.
I’m unsure what draws me into deep, reflective spaces when I’m under a sky full of stars, but it seems to be.
Ready. Set. Go!
This is coming to you a day late, but, in my defense there was a dinner that I needed to go to on Friday and I ended up taking some people home from it so I didn’t get to my computer until almost 10pm – and that’s too late for me to consider (remember) a blog post.
And ready, set, go may be accurate for this photo as well. It’s from the end of a weekend conference that I was facilitating. One of my co-workers had done the planning, but there were too many events that weekend and they needed me to be the face/voice of our organization for the weekend. Ah!!!
So, I felt thrown into the weekend. And there were hiccups, for sure – like a kid drawing on the carpet of one room… or the elevators being down for most of the weekend…… But it was still such a great time. Parents were gracious with me and the hotel, the bands, speaker and volunteers were wonderful, the youth all seemed to have a good time and not be too loud.
At the end of the weekend, the volunteers were cleaning out our hospitality room…and for some reason there were hot dog buns leftover…but no hot-dogs. They graciously gave me the buns as my “trophy” for a successful weekend.
But honestly, the weekend filled me more than I felt like I did anything for anybody that weekend.
Photo sent in by – Sarah Kearney (feel free to comment, email a photo for a future post)
Writing the title of this made me think of the following song…. if you care to listen:
Three weeks – amount of time I’ve been in Houston post-Mission Year
Two weeks – how long I’ve been employed in Houston
The time passes slowly some days, and quickly on others.
One morning last week, I noticed how quickly I was walking to catch my ride to work. Suddenly I had the thought – “just slow down.” By this time, I know that my ride is never on time (and by that I mean I don’t have to expect it to show up early). Yet, my instinct at this point in my life is to show up early (always) and to rush – to hurry – to worry.
On that morning though, the idea of slowing down just stuck. In that moment, I could slow my pace and enjoy the rest of the walk. And in regards to my worries? Slow down brain!! Don’t feel like you have a community yet? You’ve only been in this new season for three weeks – and you’re not even in your “permanent” location yet! Work still seems unfamiliar? You’ve only been there two weeks… and school doesn’t start until Monday!
All too often I want quick answers. And moving quickly will get me to answers/resolution sooner, right? Wrong. I’m being reminded that life is about processes… and being present, enjoying the process, the relationships as they form, the moments of laughter.
There’s more to say. But I need to start somewhere, or words will never be put on page/screen.
“Those who do not run away from our pains but touch them with compassion bring healing and new strength. The paradox indeed is that the beginning of healing is in the solidarity with the pain.” – Henri Nouwen
Currently I’m reading Reaching Out, which is where this quote comes from. With pretty much anything that Nouwen writes, it has me thinking tons – about myself, my community, how I (want to) live and my faith.
So, why this quote for a FMF? I believe that all the talk and thinking about the future has somehow brought me to the realities of the present. This community – both the neighborhood and the people I live with – are great. Agreeing to live with “strangers” for an entire year in a city I’d never been to, there is plenty that could have gone wrong with that.
But it didn’t. I ended up in Houston with seven amazing (and also broken) individuals. Their amazing-ness didn’t hide the fact that each of us is broken (at least, not always). And moments of broken-ness didn’t (doesn’t) change the beauty of each one of us. In this space of shared beauty and broken-ness, grief and joy – a wonderful thing called community is being realized. I say “being realized” because as long as we keep living, and being present, our community will continue to change, adapt to our life circumstances and what is happening in the world around us (both in a global and local sense).
I would never be able to understand the goodness within me without sharing the pains with those around me. And I’m learning that vulnerability begets vulnerability begets authentic community living.
This graffiti is just a few blocks down from the house where I’m living in Third Ward, Houston. The first time I saw it, I think I said aloud “Aw, yeah!!” But the more times that i pass by this, the more it sticks with me.
Two words. In just two words, so much is said. Escape mediocrity. There is a sense from some people in our neighborhood that one needs to escape Third Ward in order to have a “good” life. This idea needs to be challenged – keep the history and culture of Third Ward alive and celebrated. Yes, there are tough parts about our neighborhood, but the people are amazing.
Escape mediocrity. How easy would it be just to coast by in life? To go with the flow and do what is “expected” with your life? These two words challenge this. There s more to your life. Defy expectations and go after your dreams.
Where is the challenge for you in these words? How would you respond to the idea of escaping mediocrity in your life?
Part of Mission Year in my house has been sharing our dreams with each other Whether this is a day, week, month, next year, sometime-in-my-life dream. We value sharing, speaking our dreams. No life can come to unspoken dreams. No community can be built by one person. Dreams are meant to be collaborations. Community is designed to push one another, to help dreams be molded and come to fruition.
So, dare to dream. And then share those dreams. Escape mediocrity.
Earlier this week I was talking to somebody about how it can be tough for me to recognize the small steps forward (for myself & others), the little victories, the tiny moments that make you pause or smile. I want those to be more obvious, but I just don’t notice any of them… or at least don’t give them much weight.
And yet, as I sit here for a FMF, I realize that I can look back on this week and notice several of them.
- The routines in the morning and evening with different housemates
- Sharing stories and snacks with one of the other teacher aides at my service site
- Having a student ask a question and then give me a high-five (even if he stopped paying attention right after I left his desk)
- One of my city directors taking time to sit and chat over dinner about how I had been processing life this past week, and wondering with me about the future.
- A Houston gathering at the end of 2nd trimester that was simply about speaking real truth into each other’s lives.
- Getting authentic Mexican food for lunch with my awesome co-workers.
All of this in one week. Maybe it doesn’t mean much, but maybe it could. So the challenge to myself, and to anybody who wants to take it, is to notice the small “goodness-es” in life.
See the beauty around us
Take time to show appreciation
Go out of your way for somebody
Relax and enjoy being