magic.

Magic.

*I feel it to be my civic duty to warn you that this post contains excessive use of the word “and”.


When I was in college, I had this amazing professor, the Dumbledore to my HP if you will, and she taught one of the best classes I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing: Rhetoric & Style.* We did so many unexpected things in this class, and while we learned a lot about Rhetoric and a lot about Style, I feel that what we learned the most about was our place in the universe.

I remember one day she got carried away on what seemed like a tangent, which generally would give my sweet little structure-craving temperament a bout of the anxieties, but on this particular occasion I still remember feeling drawn to the dialoguelike something inside of me was reaching out for something else, like part of me was already expecting it. She went along this path that transitioned from English majors to journaling to list-making to poem writing to sound and color observing to rhetoric to our creative muses to unity within the universe. (this same teacher who in another class that same semester would settle in with “The center cannot hold/ all things fall apart” as our lens for analyzing all the works we studies those 4 months) Later we watched Elizabeth Gilbert deliver this amazing Ted Talk about all the things we had been discussing and I teared up as I felt myself recognizing the magic that lies in being present to all the things that are endlessly working together to create…magic. Then we walked with the Victorians as they struggled to understand how and why the center cannot hold; we sat in the sadness that their revelations mandated. Then we in our present day held their works to the light and saw the beauty they held, and suddenly there it was again, that magic—that stuff that presented itself in the midst of seeming dichotomies and sadness and pieces of a fragmented humanity. Peace-bringing, soul-shaping, life-giving magic.

And then the semester ended and I didn’t feel the magic any more. So, I chalked it up to superlative teaching and mutability and carried on.


Fast forward to a while back when I started going to therapy and doing yoga and meditating, all things that force you to look inward and be present to what’s going on. One day I saw this phrase “create space for magic” that someone had put on their yoga mat, and while what they meant by “magic” probably had more to do with executing a solid King Dancer pose, I decided to adopt the phrase as my mantra. I wrote it down and began to use it to set my intention for my yoga practices; then I found myself referencing it during trying times at work; before long I realized this wasn’t just some trite phrase, it was a way of living, it was the way back to that wonderful indescribable soul medicine I experienced that first time with Rhetoric & Style.

Recently I’ve been listening to some new podcasts, reading some new authors, and I swear for every single thing that has made me say “YES!” or “Me too!” there’s been a reference or tie to another thing that also made me say “YES!” or “Me too!”. I’ve started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast titled “Big Magic” (right?!) and in the first episode I stepped into, she had Rob Bell (episode #4) on who talked about living as though “the action is here” and being present for what’s already happening in us and through us and around us. Just today I had an issue with my library account, so I called them and had the loveliest conversation with the lady working the circulation desk who said it was a system error then remarked on one of the books I had checked out (which is a phenomenal book about a certain personality trait that apparently we both have), and we bonded briefly in solidarity over our DNA-based compositions. Then she, without any prompting from me, remarked on how our conversation must be why the system gave me an error message even though it was working.

It would take me days to tell you all the ways everything is cross-referencing and things from one area keep filling in the blanks for things happening in other areas and everything is clicking together and connecting and making sense and it’s wonderful. That semester in college, I recognized that something was speaking to my soul. Somehow deep down I knew a part of the core of who I am had been reached and its thirst had been quenched, but when I lost it I failed to relegate any responsibility to myself.

Now, I know that it’s up to me, and you, dear friends, to create the space for the magic in our lives. If you create space, if you show up, if you truly believe that the action is here, with you, right where you are when you are where you are, then magic will find you. And man, it’s something spectacular to behold.

*I know I’ve talked about her and probably this class before, but this my friends was a game-changer, a turning-point, one of those people-shaper things we all have along the way.

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yoga.

Camel Pose

(Credit Unknown)

So in yoga there’s this pose called Camel Pose. It looks easy enough, but it’s actually super hard. And honestly, it’s more mental than physical. I’m pretty sure every instructor I’ve ever been with during this pose has said something along the lines of, “don’t give in and come out of the pose early; stick with it”. Not coincidence. While your body is probably muttering something like, “this is kind of weird…hmmn” your head is SCREAMING, “STOP THIS MADNESS; RUN LIKE THE WIND BULLSEYE; GET OUT LEST YOU PERISH”. When you’re in Camel, your heart is exposed, your throat is exposed, your hands and feet are cut off from your core, your shoulders and hips are open, you’re helpless. And most people’s brains just literally can’t even. And people who’ve been there and passed that, try to encourage others by telling them that if they don’t run from all those emotions that come bubbling up from the deep recesses that no longer have sturdy walls to hide them from everything, then they’ll make it to the other side -the rainbows and butterflies side-of Camel Pose. But here’s why I’m pretty sure the difficulty is more mental than physical: if you don’t quit the pose, all those feelings are still there waiting for you.

At first I couldn’t even do Camel Pose, tilting my head back was the most I could muster, but then I advanced a little to being able to do a slight backbend with my hands on my lower back. Basically this stage looks like you’re not doing anything at all, but let me tell you that stage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There’s this panic that creeps over you with each millisecond that passes. You start feeling a little fight or flight, but the panic intensifies so much your brain forgets what fight even means. Then as soon as you come out of the pose there’s a wave of dizziness, along with all the emotions the panic was shielding. I came out of it crying every time I did it. Then I progressed and was able to do a full expression, and still the panic, still the emotions, still some tears. Until one day (and kudos to all the instructors, because they all said this would happen) it WAS rainbows and butterflies. I came out of a full expression feeling invincible, feeling happy, feeling strong. But not because the emotions and panic and vulnerability stopped. Somewhere along the way I became more mentally strong, my heart more open to facing the fear and the rejection and the hurt and the sadness, and once you name your fear, you steal its power. It’s still there, yes, but you can see it for what it is, breathe in its existence, breathe out its importance. It no longer serves you, so you let it go. Until today I have been quite pleased with that progress and those realizations, but tonight we did a partner Camel Pose, and something clicked for me.

In an attempt to make sure we were using core strength and our legs rather than abusing our spine we partnered up, one person practicing Camel, the other supporting. It’s a little weird to have a stranger touch you at all, and to intentionally push your hip bones into their hands seems even weirder, but it wasn’t. It definitely felt better doing the posture correctly, but after completing a full expression and coming out of the pose I realized, it felt better mentally too. Tonight I didn’t experience even one second of panic. Not one second of confusion. Not one second of convincing myself to overcome and reminding myself it’s worth fighting for. Because I was supported; I knew someone was there (literally touching me) and I wasn’t alone. My Enneathought the other day said that I “tend to cope with problems by being competent” and that my message to others is “There are a number of hidden issues here: let me think about it.” And it’s spot on. But it also challenged me to ‘expand my coping skills by expressing my feelings and adopting a positive outlook’. I like living in my head; it’s safe in there. But I have seen and experienced the joy that can come from leaning on others and practicing the same things with a positive community. Every time I go to yoga class I’m reminded to be mindfully meditative about what it is to be part of a gracious and growing community that encourages me to open my heart and live with gratitude, but tonight I got a physical reminder that I need others. And I guess I wanted to share my positive outlook and feelings. LOOK HOW MUCH MY COPING SKILLS ARE GROWING ENNEAGRAM! Life is hard; be kind to yourself. And each other. And also do yoga.

(P.S. this is an old post i never posted [when i figure out what’s wrong with me i’ll let you know], but i still believe in all these words 1 million percent.)

Save Room

We never ate dessert as part of our dinner growing up. We got dessert. We ate sweet things. But never did we finish our dinner so that we could get dessert. So when I got older and started eating out on my own or visiting with friends who did have that tradition, I started hearing a new phrase— “don’t forget to save room for dessert!”

I like that. Take initiative. Make plans. Demonstrate discipline. Go big. Get the pie. But what inevitably happens when the server comes back to the table to ask if you’ve actually saved room for dessert? You say, no, maybe next time. Right? (90% of the time, yes, right.)

I don’t like that. I eat my dessert first. If I want dessert, why would I take the chance of it not being there when I’m ready, or me not having room because I used up all my dessert space with other filling things that I didn’t want as much, or me changing my mind (and most likely having a least one subsequential conversation about how good I bet that chocolate pie was?) If I want dessert, I make sure I eat dessert.

I think there are people who don’t know the practical applications of this principle. People who enjoy what they have, yes. Who cultivate intentions of having good and desirable things, yes. But sometimes I think these people follow timelines created by a culture that doesn’t offer individualized specifications, and by the time they realize and decide what they want, it’s gone. I think sometimes people get so caught up pursuing good things and competing (whether with others or with themselves) in an endless race to be better and more that by the time they stop to evaluate what they really want, they realize they haven’t the room to take it in. And I certainly think that every single day there are people who after changing their mind (because it’s their prerogative) wonder what might’ve been because they were too ___________ to give it a chance.

I think it’s sad.

I don’t want that.

My hope is that I would be someone who is constantly evolving, constantly weeding out things old and unused, things that have become ineffective or impractical, to make room for better things—things that will stretch me, grow me, make me better. I hope that I never become so self-satisfied, not even so engulfed by a passion or project, that I forget to look outside myself, that I forget to let others contribute to…well, to me. I want to make room in real time not theory. I want to live as if this is all I have, this here and now, this hurt and pain and beauty and love. I don’t want to have to make room for good things, for things that I love, I want to have some room ready and waiting, and when those things come along, I want to embrace them, then and there, and enjoy them and treasure them and have no regrets.

Isn’t that what you want too?

the great gamble.

Recently I was asked to contribute my voice and skill-set to a publication and in doing so I got to join in on some really cool stories happening at and through the church I’ve been serving at for the past few years. One of the experiences was especially touching to me, so I decided to share it here. This is only place it can be read in entirety too, so win-win!

Obviously you can read the article below and figure out what was happening that night. But since you likely don’t go there, it probably won’t mean as much to you. That’s cool. Because what I really want to talk about is the things I learned through the experience of collecting these glimpses into people’s stories, and I feel pretty confident you’ll relate to those much more easily. Somewhere in this creative process I gambled a bit of my soul, poured it all in to digging deep alongside others, but as is (potentially necessary?) apt to happen, the cards were eventually stacked against me and I saw unappealing, hurtful consequences of making yourself completely defenseless and trusting. Time will heal all wounds and all that gooey cliche goodness, but until then, here’s what I’m walking away with.

First I learned that sometimes it’s important to work on a good thing just because it’s a good thing. I “learned” that by reading it in a book my friend KB just got me; it has lots of awesome, inspiring quotes in it and one was “Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed”. Really hard lesson, really good truth. Read it again.

Next I learned that you can only speak where you can speak. If your platform is taken away, build another one. What’s that? It’s lower? No one can hear you because your new platform is actually the one at Grand Central Terminal? No matter, the homeless guy sitting nearby can no doubt hear just fine. That’s two ears, and sheesh, how many do you really need? (That whole thing is a metaphor for me writing/sharing this stuff on my blog…don’t you wish your English professors in college would have spelled things out like that when you were reading Homer?)

Another lesson, that is still totally in progress, is to keep trusting. I believe that’s important. I believe that to be kingdom people, we have to live in the kingdom…not in our heads. But I really want to live in my head right now. And I really want to clinch my fist and smirk because my cynicism knew it all along. I don’t believe I should. And I don’t believe I will, but it’s taking a lot to remember, to relearn, the importance of unrestrained, unmerited trust. I’ll get there. We all will.

(And to help paint a picture of the story below, here are some actual pictures)

Luke

father/daughter

 

Lucas Zegelien began a personal relationship with Jesus just this last summer. Although his faith walk has just begun, his parents are excited about leading the way and setting examples for him. His mom, Traci, says “We’re excited about My First Communion tonight because it’s one more step in making his faith real for him.” The Zegeliens see the importance in teaching their son about this tradition, and as Paul puts it, “Experiencing it is more impacting than just telling him about it; and what better way is there than with our church family?”

The night began with Children’s Minister Nic Allen addressing the families and explaining to them the thought behind this parent-requested event. “This family communion experience is really important. It elevates two of our primary values.

The first of course, is communion itself. It’s a vital expression of our faith story. The second is family. Parents are the primary spiritual developers of their kids, and having moms and dads lead their kids through this experience is incredible!” From there the kids and their parents made a craft representing a spiritual truth that they as believers can claim with confidence, and then they moved into a time of learning the history behind as well as leading up to “The Lord’s Supper”. After the group watched a clip from the movie The Prince of Egypt, Nic discussed the tradition of remembering and celebrating God’s power in what he has done for his people throughout the ages.

Although Nic taught in a way that tied together traditions and elements the kids were familiar with, the truth in his teaching is relevant for us all. When we approach the table, do we remember the beauty and fear associated with the God we serve? Do we remember the protection he’s given his people century after century; do we celebrate his matchless grace? The kids at this First Communion Experience were led to celebrate all these things, and furthermore, they were encouraged to celebrate together. They passed the cup among their family; they broke bread together; they got to not only hear, but see the bond of Christ in action among their families—both physical and spiritual.

As Nic encouraged those in attendance that night, taking communion together isn’t something we have to wait to do until we are lead in a church service. We can and should be remembering Christ together all the time. But for those who are new believers, especially kids, this quarterly gathering to learn and grow together is a great place to start.

the Mundane.

Last week during small groups, we discussed faithfulness. We also watched a few videos and one of them just really resonated with me and the things I’m doing and learning right now, so I wanted to share. You can watch the video here if you’d like (and I highly recommend that you do).

Basically in the briefest of summaries, he says, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of our lives are an invitation to be faithful in the most basic, regular things. He’s talking about what it looks like to be faithful in the mundane, to love and live and glorify even if all we do is live life…normally.

Now I’ve shared what I’m learning about what it looks like to love God where you are, to not always look for the “big” thing that brings the “most” glory, and yes, it is a hard lesson to walk through. Even in the last week I had to make a decision about joining an awesome team that’s going to be doing great outreach things in a new area with a new/different population or staying with an awesome team that’s reaching people where they are and doing great things in teaching what it looks like to keep going and dig deep. I caught myself in the midst of that hard decision thinking, “but where will God get the most glory”? And that’s a slippery slope, because here’s the thing, he doesn’t need me, all the glory is already his, and my part is done when I’m where I’m supposed to be, not because I align myself to something that I’ve rationalized will logically get more glory than some other thing. It’s not fair to analyze glory getting and giving, you know?

All of that to say, I’m still in that cyclical motion of failing to remember/teaching myself/remembering that it is OK to be faithful where you are. And it is beautiful to be faithful in the mundane things of life. I don’t want to be the person who’s remembered for doing huge awesome, catalyst starting things, I want to be the person who shows up when they’re supposed to, picks up trash just because I saw it, and smiles because I can. I want to be remembered for my integrity and consistency, and how else can you even begin to do that than by investing in the mundane details, day in, and day out?

I’d argue that you can’t.

My favorite part of small group last week was that when we talked about which video resonated most with what we were learning at this stage of our journeys, 3/4 of a diverse group chose this video. And we were able to relate this basic concept of beauty and fulfillment to multiple situations/stages of life. I’ll leave you with this quote, because this is the invitation I think we all want to say yes to.

“Our lives are unimpressive, basically uninteresting. Most of the things that all of us do are undramatic. And if we can’t live beautifully into that, then the opportunities we have for the very exciting things are wasted on us. I think there’s a beautiful invitation in the undramatic, also the contemplative.”

life lessons.

You guys… i JUST found this draft…and since i wrote it 8 months ago, i decided to post it? oops.

Sometimes I forget that other people don’t actually live in my head; therefore, I forget that I have to sometimes give an audible voice to what all those other voices in my head have been saying. Buckle up.

If you’ve been with me, I regret that some of this will be repetitive, but this sweet little blog started as a means of pacifying madre with a means of communication as I traveled solo to Macedonia to do 10 days of missions my sophomore year of college. In college it was a means of clinging to all the wonder of the Victorians and newly found lifestyle blogs and friends living hundreds of miles away. Post-college it was just plain cathartic; I didn’t even care if not one other soul ever perused; it was mine.

This past year, it was hard. I rarely felt inspired. And in the few times I did, I struggled to communicate anything in a way that was satisfactory to my own expectations or really in a way that communicated anything at all. I wanted to blog. I wanted to love blogging. I wanted to love the freedom of pushing “publish”. But I didn’t. And I couldn’t. Sometimes life-change is hard.

I’m not really sorry for any of that. In fact, I don’t even think I’m sad about any of it. It’s not like I didn’t do things, meet people, or have fun, but I just felt so devoid of energy whenever the time came to write that I couldn’t. It’s unfortunate I suppose, but such is life. Moral of the story, don’t let life suck the creative energy from you- even if all you’re creating is mediocre updates for your mom and 4 friends who also blog.

And as a lovely little post-script tid-bit: I spent the last year interning at a church that I love claiming as my own with a supervisor/mentor who is brilliant and loves the Lord in all things. I read a lot. I met A LOT of people. And I experienced a little more of the fullness of God that comes from aligning your character with Jesus’.

Service.

Recently I’ve been going through Celebration of Discipline, and this week the chapter on the discipline of service really stepped on my toes and encouraged me all at once. I have a lot of friends who love to serve. Some serve with kind words and letters of affirmation, some sacrifice time to just sit and listen, some spend their weekend cutting grass or babysitting, and some invest the little money they have in organizations that meet “the least of these” right where they are.

I’m sure you know lots of people who will serve too, but as I was reading this particular chapter I wondered, “How many of us are willing to be a servant?”

Foster writes, “Self-righteous service comes through human effort. It expends immense amounts of energy calculating and scheming how to render the service. Sociological charts and surveys are devised so we can ‘help these people.’ True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh.”

He continues to later say, “Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. […] Self-righteous service is temporary. It functions only while the specific acts of service are being performed. Having served, it can rest easy. True service is a life-style. It acts from ingrained patterns of living. It springs spontaneously to meet human need.”

What I think we so often forget is that we are called to be servants, to be slaves. To die to ourselves and daily esteem those around us as higher and more important than we are. And when we do that, when we seek Christ first and love our neighbors fully, we become servants.

It shouldn’t be about serving, about working to check something off a list so we feel holier. Instead it should be about seeking, being fully present and meeting needs around us so faithfully that we hardly realize when we do it.

I like to serve others, but I would rather be a servant. Who or where do you serve? Do you think it’s easier to serve or be a servant?

skilled. like @TheSkillery

File this one under, things I want to be part of. And by “want to” I mean, I’m probably going to become a professional salsa dancer AND a professional photographer. Recently I’ve stumbled upon this up and coming wonder called The Skillery and because this is my blog because I love y’all, just haaaad to share.

click this picture for their twitter page

And holy cow, it’s like the jackpot of all jackpots for learners everywhere. (I’m a learner) (I’m ecstatic) Basically they’re out to provide opportunities for the creative and talented in a community to teach the ready and willing. The subject matter varies profoundly, but the outcome is the same. You enter as old, regular you, but you leave with a new skill, understanding, or passion-you, but better! What?! The coolest. In fact, in case you decide not to visit their site (stupidly because you’re busy) read them explain what they’re trying to do here (because goodness, they’re good with words):

Visit their site, follow them on twitter, then tell me when they offer a cooking class, just in case I miss it. (yeah right, like that’s going to happen. I’m waiting for that cooking class like nerds are waiting for the premier of The Avengers movie)

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, I need a date to the midnight premier of The Avengers. Takers?

everyone’s got baggage.

So I met this site via THIS fun girl’s twitter, and now I’m kind of obsessed with it.

It’s called Emotional Bag Check and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You go to their website and see this:

Then you choose which you have and see one of these:

THEN you get emails from people with a song of encouragement and sometimes even sweet messages, or your songs and sweet messages get emailed to someone else. It’s humanity at it’s finest! The interwebs are getting all Galatians 6:2 on us!

Go! Try it! It’s the most fun.