November 26

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.

Be polite.

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.

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Art Festival – Nov 20

This weekend was Via Colori – a street art festival in downtown Houston.  Lots of chalk, good people, good, food, good, music and chalk. Saturday I volunteered – doing a very small part in helping this huge production  happen. For a small taste of what I enjoyed on the second day of the festival…..

Also there was music..

The Gents and Kronika.

And all of it was good, fall, creative fun. PLUS it was all to benefit The Center for Hearing and Speech.  That’s right – awesome art for a cause!!

Also, for the four people who read this blog, be looking forward to some more thoughts on art and creativity in the near future.

 

November 17 (yet)

Music by Sia or Shawn McDonald

The blog posts by Your Other Brothers

The BlackLivesMatter movement

X-Men First Class

At first (or even fifth) glance, these things have nothing in common.  And maybe that’s true for most people.  But for me, they have something deeply in common.

In each of these, I see meaningful, authentic dreams being lived out.  Creatively, actively sharing stories, songs, lives that need to be shared.  Not caring about the political correctness, the “right” way to share these stories – just knowing, caring, believing that they are worth sharing, worth dreaming, worth fighting for.

Recently I’ve been realizing that while I can notice this around me, I still haven’t figured it out (or even a starting point) within me.  I don’t know what story needs to be told. Or how I would go about telling it.  Or what dreams are stirring in my head and heart.

There is more to say – I can feel it. But I cannot put words to it.

yet.

November 3

A fellow blogger is blogging EVERY day for the month of November. I am NOT going to try this.  But it has got my mind thinking.

  • Why do I take time to blog? (on the rare instances I do…..)
  • What stops me from blogging more often?
  • Do I have anything worth saying, writing?
  • Does that matter if it is good for me??

In a recent post, he wrote:

“Without connection, addiction wins. Without confession, secrets fester.

Without love, indifference wins the day.”

Bah. So much I could say about this. So, I’ll try.

Connection – this is what I’ve been seeking over the last month(s).  I spent the last year living in 900 sq ft with 7  other people – CLOSE QUARTERS. But we learned to love each other and share space and enjoy life. Since that community has disbanded, I find myself seeking ways to connect with people.  Whether this is church or Skype or on the internet or via Skype/phone calls – I need people.  And it’s true, without these people, it is easy for addiction to win – addiction to food, sloth, negative thoughts…..

Love – one of my least favorite topics… but it comes up all the time (we can unpack that in another post).  But how true?  The days and moments that I didn’t love, didn’t feel loved – are those that seem the most MEH. Apathy is easy… and disappointing.  Love is tough…but rewarding, even if it’s small.

Is writing a way for me to connect? Maybe. Maybe not. I will continue to seek.

And with God’s help, I will continue to try and love and be loved.

 

practices

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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]

little Moments.

How easily I forget my place.

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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

The Stars

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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!

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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.

#fiveminutefriday

 

Photo sent in by – Sarah Kearney   (feel free to comment, email a photo for a future post)

P.S.

Writing the title of this made me think of the following song…. if you care to listen:

 

The struggle of Story

Over the last week month or so the idea of story keeps running through my mind and life.  How each person has a story, is living a story and our stories MATTER.  Our stories intersect, intertwine, run into one another.  As I’m in this period of transition, other’s stories grab my attention.  Whether it’s a fellow Mission Year alum who is vlogging about transition or an old co-worker doing weekly blogs, friends sharing thoughts through music, phone calls, or poetry.  These stories are touching something within me that I struggle to name.

And in all of this, there are levels – depths- to the stories shared.  Sometimes a story takes me into the daily life of a friend overseas.  A blog may discuss a current issue or Christianity.  Spoken word may talk about climate change, racial injustice or the joys and pains of high school.

Unfortunately, amidst all the reading and listening I’ve been doing, I haven’t found my medium.

I haven’t found the way(s) to share my stories.

I haven’t found my voice.

There is more to be said. written. sung. rhymed. colored.  It just can’t find its way out – clearly.

But, I’m not giving up. These stories will emerge.

Slowing down

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.