On being happy

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Happy.

. . .showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, favored by luck or fortune (“happy coincidence); notably fitting, effective, or well adapted (“happy choice”); enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment (“happy childhood”); expressing, reflecting, or suggestive of happiness (“happy ending”); glad/pleased (“happy to meet you”); or having or marked by an atmosphere of good fellowship.

As far as I can tell, life’s not designed to make us happy. There is no promise that if we hold all the right cards and marry the right fellow and have the right number of babies and eat enough kale, happiness will follow. Is anyone actually happy eating kale? We should instead all eat dark chocolate salted caramels, except those make our blood sugar spike and food can be our comfort which leads to weight gain and depression. Maybe Gwyneth is right and kale is better.

Oh, please.

But somehow there is this myth floating around – it starts about high school – that one should do whatever it is that makes one happy. Like if theatre gives us wings we should move to California and live on stale pita bread, slumping around drinking bad coffee with wispy hair in audition lines. Or if writing is our passion we should quit our long, boring, corporate day jobs (so we can pay our mortgages) and write. Life bold. Live free. Love who you want and do what you want and smoke what you want.

Be happy.

But that lesson doesn’t always pan out. We turn around one random Monday when we are 40 wearing ill-fitting jeans trying to find the teacher who said it to us years ago, like “Wait! That’s not what you promised!” But there’s no one there: just a trail of smoke in the distance behind. We have lingering pain that we can’t seem to numb with narcotics. We have jobs with bosses. We have toilets that break over Thanksgiving and enchiladas that taste like cardboard and spouses with drinking problems and tumors that sprout up out of nowhere and end up lodged in our cortex. What once gave us great joy is now a burden. What was once a dream is now crushed, and we all feel like failures with raging sinus infections.

Because sometimes, life is not at all happy. Our fairy godmother has a case of rheumatoid arthritis.

So we roll up our sleeves and seek answers where we can – our pastors and friends, leaders and teachers – and compare the reality of our situation to some ethereal and unrealistic fairness standard the world sets. After all – THEY are happy. You know, those people. Celebrities with waistlines. Mothers in carpool. Men wearing suits. Oprah. They live a full life and have a Range Rover with tan leather interior.  They have spotless kitchens and blond grandkids with smocked dresses. Why can’t I? How can I get what they’ve got? Why do they get that life and I get this one?

How the hell should I know. For dinner tonight my kids ate macaroni and canned peaches.

What I DO know is that the most interesting and fascinating people are those who have been through many trials. Who have learned that struggle is not just a necessary part of life, but a valuable part. They see deeper, beyond the current reality.  And these fighters roll up their sleeves, look at their tattered lives full of holes and damage and failed relationships and past mistakes and 1980’s coca-cola t-shirts, and think “Well, hell.  I can teach yoga.  I can start a school. I can instill in these kids a sense of wonder. I can bake cakes. I CAN GIVE WHAT I CAN IN THIS TINY SMALL SPACE WHERE I’M PLANTED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”

They aren’t actually shouting, despite the all caps. But in essence they are. Shouting to the teachers that they were all bald-faced liars. Shouting to God that sometimes life hurts. Shouting to their student loans and their dislocated marriages.  The most interesting and blessed people have very little to give, and it’s not fair that whats-his-nuts got a promotion when they did all the work.  But they are hell-bent to keep on keeping on, pressing on, marching on, regardless.

Amen to you brave warriors. Applaud your own courage, and strength, and will. Your bold, bad-ass spirit is not unrecognized.

So on one leg or one eye or one bruised heart, rebound. Go teach yoga and start schools and raise kids and bake. Raise up those kids and march toward that job and smile when it’s hard. Then vow to give up Diet Coke or start running or keep your closet neater. And small things build to bigger things, and before long you’ll be volunteering at the animal shelter or finding a dollar a week for someone else and laughing, of all the nutty things. And out of nowhere like a wellspring rising there is an amazing amount of joy to be found in the surviving. In the community of people who walk alongside. In a God who teaches us to serve, and dig down deep.  After all, we are more than our circumstances.

We are standing inside of a brilliant, amazing life that we have weathered.

Be that. The person who survives. Who laughs. Who is grateful for the hard. Ask God to help you find the brightness even in the failures, so that you can look back and weave it into your patchwork. And in the end, I hope you say with a shocked expression that you actually found happiness. The true kind that survives and doesn’t wilt. That perseveres through the drought. The one that rises up strong and bears fruit.

The kind of happy that matters.

 

photo:

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Trashwalk Dancing

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Usually when I sit down to write, I have a general idea what I’m going to write about. Maybe a story or theme is rattling around in my brain. Usually it’s something on my heart that I want to get out. But I thought for a change of scenery I’d write about what I’m doing in one particular moment in time, without any idea of what might come out and with little editing. It will be like we are old friends and you’re just sitting here with me hanging out.

So at the moment I’m writing this useless bit, I’m sitting at a Greek Café, eating a salad without any component parts of a Greek salad since I’m on a stupid diet and can’t have all the good stuff. The guy behind the counter was like “NO OLIVES OR TZATZIKI SAUCE?” It was like I was offending his mother. Also, I had to look at the menu to see how to spell tzatziki because how genius that you can have a “z” so superbly placed in a word. But who wants to hear about all that when there’s more important things to write about. Like dancing.

It’s awkward. It makes my palms sweat right now just thinking of dancing in front of people. It’s embarrassing, and I’m not good at it, and yet right now blaring overhead in this Greek cafe is dance music, of all things. Adorable peppy your-eight-year-old-would-love-it dance music. The type of thing you sing out loud in your car and move your shoulders and tap your feet to, but of course we are in public where people are located. So I’m typing and clicking my keyboard looking very lawyerly in my pearls and answering emails from colleagues about the term-extension on a contract. BUT OH MY GOSH HOW I DIG DANCING.

So I’ve made a decision that, in an effort to carry my chipped blue tray with half-eaten salad to the trash, I shall walk-dance my way over. Do you think people might think I am ill? Like the gyro meat is causing too much gas? Maybe I’m trying to free pent-up underwear or just learned the discovery of a new planet and I can’t contain my excitement? Not that I’d be that excited about a planet, who are we kidding.

I will do it. In a minute, after I talk about capri pants.

Ya’ll seriously. There are very few times in life people should wear these atrocious shortened pants. Unless you have fabulous legs and are paring those bad boys with stilettos, you best wear your pants long as to avoid the inevitable staring at your ankles. Unless you have a thing with ankles.

Okay, I’m not really going to walk-dance to the trash. For the love. There’s a dude here in a hoodie and a girl in a bun and some old lady wearing plaid. Why do I make myself these stupid little self-dares anyway? My Type A personality is taunting its own self, like “you a sissy? Can’t freaking dance to the trash can? Little Amanda can’t handle it?” Damn you, body.

My palms are sweaty. I am so doing this.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS. I did it. I picked up that tray and be-bopped to the rhythm of thumping base over to the trash and the employee at the cafe was all “uh, you can just leave that at the table.” Naturally. But I don’t want to leave it at the table. I’d instead prefer to waive my arms around and thump my hips back to my booth like I forgot to take my medication. How stinkin fun. I encourage you to get up right where you are right now and dance-walk to the trash can. It’s a bit humiliating, I ain’t gonna lie. Did I say humiliating? I meant liberating! No one looks at you because they are vicariously embarrassed for your poor soul, but you end up laughing and all these fun endorphins rush into your system and you sit down in a heap in a Greek café booth spewing laughter like bubbles across the table. Laughing only at yourself, being such a foolish zany character and all.

Do it. Life is to be lived. Dance that half-eaten salad to the trash can, even though in reality you can just leave it at the table. Because honestly.  What’s the fun in that.

 —

photo:

(three-w’s)flickr.com/photos/lostprophet/9923312183/in/photolist-g7TyZn-9sHvNQ-8eMHsK-9ip5jm-dmFpU4-63DDqm-63DLNY-7cPL8h-7YGSp4-9sKPgs-64hbeF-7FT31K-8fJPfS-63DJWS-63qNpY-a6G8HK-63qKS5-aE5EaW-4Ezc39-7c6Yyo-67vjgK-ajwDA1-7oqCB-63DJhy-62T9Cx-62Tcjt-7uUS6e-9g5uxW-dmGa2s-63mcEt-62TfDT-62Tb2F-3Nutqx-63m9UX-62XoEC-63mbKM-63zyq4-63zzGk-8XAyWX-dmEP4h-63DFY7-61N3uo-9ikWBc-iwqsfM-9oMJsT-9jwAjd-9JeCbQ-9GcfJG-5son4a-9g2VVj

 

Burn up the Rubber

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Most of us live sensible lives.  We drive reliable cars. We ensure our children have green vegetables and eat organic chicken.  We rent bounce houses on birthdays and allow our daughters to be princesses and when Fridays roll around, men grill steaks in their chinos and their wives say “they’re wonderful, dear,” and at night these women take off their make-up.

And the days, they change numbers. The t-shirts turn to sweaters.  But it’s all essentially the same.  Day camp on Monday, spin class on Tuesday.  Pancakes on Saturday and church on Sunday.  And we smile and cook lasagna and say hello to Sheila-and-Bob that come over for a beer because that’s what good neighbors do. We have grown so adept at hiding all the pain that comes from living this bloated American life that we tell ourselves this is it – the life we’ve yearned for.

And then one day, when you are driving home thinking of making crunchy tacos, you hit the familiar turn toward suburbia.  The brick house on the left, third street to the right, named after birds or rivers or wildflowers.  And that stretch of curve comes a bit too fast before it’s upon you like a crosswind, and you have a choice whether to slow down or take it.

And by God, you take it.

Something strange and sinister swirls inside you like a demon. Instead of putting two hands on the wheel of your trusty Lexus and meeting up with Sheila-and-Bob and making tacos and pulling into Braeborn Court to the brick house on the left, you have a feeling akin to flying.  The tires grip the road and you narrow your eyes and you burn that rubber.  You turn that ache into fire and you realize the life you’ve been living is a shadow of the one you’ve imagined.

So you take a right instead of a left and head through the rolling hills without a plan, without a full tank of gas, without a good set of recipes or a dessert for the pot luck.  And it feels good to crank up the music loud and let it pulse with the beat of your chest.  You rip out the hair tie.  You open the sun roof.  You stick your hand out the window like an airplane dancing and you pulse in your seat to the rhythm of the street and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, shining.  You sing loud, laugh hard, and wave at passersby’s like a damn fool.

And as the sun begins to set upon your sensible life, the one you don’t seem to fit into, you head that Lexus back home to tell your children there are no more tacos. There are only ice cream sundaes, eaten at night by the pool at 10 pm sharp, and one cannot use spoons but must dive face-first into a bowl of strawberry, and everyone laughs with hot fudge dripping down their noses.  There is no longer grilling on Sundays, and spin class on Tuesdays, for you pack up your things and move to the mountains,  where you stand in your underwear on the ridge and raise your hands high – to heaven, to God, and to freedom. And your husband sips tea and kisses your mouth hard, the one he loves more deeply than before.

Sometimes a sensible life is not enough for a dreamer.  Life must be lived with wild abandon, with hands out the window and the sun searing skin and music raging in places that were once nothing and empty.  And you grit your teeth at so many turns, because that’s what wheels are for, really, to burn up the rubber. And it feels good to go fast, and live full, and go out with a flame instead of a whimper.

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30781947@N08/6154656560/sizes/m/in/photolist-anSdYh-6GmH8Y-89hsBV-5sXYn8-72wTKE-9hb8fu-6s7Xn5-o51QXS-89kHcC-89kHgA-76tkFK-8d1zXA-eDmG9b-eDmuKb-8dj1z3-4aYwnm-72wSBS-5kSaJg-6E2BRp-aAguJL-7ZWdQi-9UJbpN-5rNX5p-6Ne1NB-57QCbe-8kT1Pq-6E6MF9-6E6MoA-6E6Mud-yeaR-7zuodN-88jsAp-4W6Sig-9FptMT-72wSzJ-b4cR9-72wT2N-LtNrz-7LpxZa-75k8s5-7LpyQK-ccHcuA-7LpzDM-4W6Rke-bVkSTK-8dj1uG-58cTnx-c7A4Sd-5ZLmMu-8cXi48-8uvBW1/

Luck of the Irish

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This girl can’t pass up a good groupon, so when an Irish restaurant in town offered a four-course menu for four for $99, I ran toward the computer with my credit card in tow and snapped it up like last call.  Not that ye Irish are really known for their food, and I’ll be honest about a vague stereotype I had trapped in my mind of a bunch of burly men in pubs eating Guinness rabbit stew, but still.  So when said groupon was about to expire, I gathered up three besties and we wore our St. Patrick’s best. Come on, it’ll be fun. They’ll be potatoes.

So off we go toward this random restaurant set high on a hill like a movie set and as we pull into the parking lot and leave the vehicle I have a sense that we’ve grown ten feet tall and what’s in front of us is really a hobbit’s house or maybe a hovel for gremlins.  But we approach what appears to be Hansel and Gretel’s cottage and open the creaky door, it opens to a front-porch-like haven of horrors with little dolls and St. Paddy’s paraphernalia. My nostrils are hit with the smell of old-people’s homes but with someone baking soda bread in a far-off forest. It’s a confusing combination.

I start to back my way out, because perhaps we’re in a dream and this place has swallowed up my children and there’s no hostess stand or normalcy and why for the love are there so many dolls.  For a fearful moment I thought we stepped into Frodo’s neighbor Marge’s living room, who has been alive since well before Eisenhower. But alas – another door in front of us creaked open and my other girlfriends were in fact inside, perched at a table covered in lace.  They looked frightened, or maybe hungry for rabbit: hard to tell.  But there were normal-looking people inside, everyone just sitting around as if they were eating a blooming onion at Outback on a Tuesday. My friends waved and I sighed because if we are going down an Alice-in-wonderland tunnel at least I wouldn’t be alone.

So there we sat in the hobbit house, trying to not hit our heads on the ceiling, just a simple table covered in lace.  My friend Jess kept wiping her eyes because the prices were all wrong and there was a bottle of wine on the menu for thirty-five thousand dollars and she thought maybe they laced the air with hallucinogenic drugs.  But alas the waitress came along, just a wee girl of fifty wearing a prairie dress with spitfire hair and told us that bottle of wine wasn’t actually for sale. “It’ll kill ya perhaps, young lassies, with all the air bubbles and such trapped inside.  But it’s a family heirloom, yeh.” So we decided to live and order the house red and the lady’s voice said “Aye, a good choice,” and the cadence of her voice rose and fell as if she descended from the streets of Dublin and I WAS TERRIFIED AND ENTHRALLED ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

So the courses began, and us girls all sat around giggling as the potato soup was served and we attempted small talk as if we are not all in a hobbit house sitting around a table covered in lace.  After a while my friend needed to use the restroom so she transcended into the bowels of the earth somewhere to the left and came back to the table as if she were having a life-threatening brain spasm. But in reality it was just the facilities, which included a green bathtub and a faucet connected together by strands of electrical tape and a cherub that looked out the window at nothing that overcame her. So my other friend Becca braved the dark and I offered to tie a string to her so she’d never get lost but she went in like a hero and took iphone pictures of the statute of a woman staring at your private places holding towels.

So between the salad and the beef they brought out a palate cleanser, but not the real kind, just lemon sherbet from Wal-mart, and we were just so giddy about all the absurdities we looked around and realized no one else was laughing and we must in fact be caught in a dream. But our best friends are all there so it was actually quite delightful and I drank red wine that in hobbit-money probably costs thousands.  I had a hunch the other patrons were in fact staged and it was all some big gag and a muskrat dressed in a three-piece suit would very soon appear with signs that said “Happy 40th, Josephine!” and we’ll all say “no, no, you’ve got the wrong girls.” But no one jumped out from the kitchen so we sat eating carrots cooked in maple syrup, but not the real kind, just Aunt Jemima’s from Wal-mart, and we toasted our future travels to Ireland where we could start a gang because we were all a good six-inches taller than all these other red-headed hotbloods and we could take this place down.

So we finally got the bill and although I had a groupon they said the actual cost of the meal would have run us about $469 so the suggested tip was around a hundred bucks and we’re like “but we live in the real world, thankyouverymuch” so we paid for our wine and we took our iphone pictures and we ran out of the hobbit house as fast as our legs would carry us.

I haven’t laughed so long and so hard in months and when I think of that green bathtub and my friend having a brain spasm and that waitress in the prairie dress and the hobbit house as we sat around a table covered in lace I am exceedingly glad we went, because it was all just so brilliant and colorful and strange. And it’s times like this that memories are seared and if we were all just sitting around eating a blooming onion at Outback on a Tuesday night we’d have no great stories to tell.

Because life, my dear friends, is a huge book that can’t close because it’s so jammed with stories. I’m so blessed and delighted to live inside of it, with friends who laugh and a heart that’s open and a life that sings, so when we run out of little houses after sitting around tables covered in lace we can say we had a life well lived, and friends that are well worn, forged in the tunnels of green cherubs staring into nothing.

It’s just luck of the Irish, I suppose.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/1818264035/sizes/m/in/photolist-3LF5xV-dBG5Wu-K1VqU-baB7S6-Kip22-4N9Hrk-6wUSCK-583X-583w-58bV-58dm-586v-4sBzEG-dKYm1U-58dn-586X-585h-6iP4Bz-4sHfUN-7RuKdq-6xEgpv-6wAzZf-9Jqer-61ApCX-61Aj7V-61Ajpt-61AkM8-61Ey19-61EyKL-61EA4w-61Ewyb-61EvXA-61EtzQ-61AmwH-61AiMi-61Ex8j-61AomP-61Euoy-4GTSg2-61Axbi-61Eyu7-61AixX-61Akdp-dCS33M-4GTRPc-PVEp3-axnmiZ-e2PfPq-be7FQz-bV62oZ-9fgs5Q/

Use it or lose it

 

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There are times I want to write but the words freeze like cold air and what was once winsome turns rigid, just cracked brittle words falling down like chunks of ice instead of snowflakes.  Fear enters my fingers because it’s not good enough or not worthy enough so I fill my time sulking and texting girlfriends who would rather watch Modern Family but humor me out of obligation. I rattle on during the dinner hour about online dating or my love of roasted kale or the fact that some store clerk told me that my new boots weren’t going to last more than two years and I might as well just buy the six-hundred-dollar ones but I looked her straight in the face and said “I ain’t ropin cattle in these fancy things so I’m sure it will all work out.” 

My brain crescendos into a fury with words, and they must escape somehow, even at the most inopportune times.  Singers sing and trial attorneys litigate and engineers create and painters color and we all just have to do what we are built to do.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to all my best friends’ husbands who have to tolerate my incessant and time-consuming word dumps because they alone allow me to live a relatively normal life without the need of asylum.

But there are times when they jumble, my thoughts, like scattered stamps on the floor. I must gather them and press them into ink and secure them in some form of order on the page with no one around so that I can turn out the lights with a sigh that matters.  Because falling in bed at the end of the day without worthwhile word order is cheap and thin and I like my days to be thick like French bread, rich and ripping apart with a jagged edge.

But there are days I feel like a failure.  Failure at work, mothering, writing, home.  Failure to be thin and keep my perspective and to be the perfect image of who I want myself to be.  You know what I tell my kids? We are all failures. If not for that, what’s God’s love for anyway? 

In the depths of our fear, when we slam the phone down and there is no centering stone and we feel lost and trapped and frozen – when we feel like peeling off our very own skin and we can’t move or breathe and just want to invert into ourselves and be invisible and we are so weary of throwing down dirty cold ice– that’s where we pray.  We cry out from our deep places and ask God to take it, bear it, and hold it.  Because Jesus, we are not enough. We are never good enough.

That, my friends, is truth.  Words stick in my throat like peanut butter and I fear what might come out, and there are times I can’t move forward because I’m afraid of where I might land. I don’t want to face a future alone and I don’t want to cry any more tears and there are times I want to fall down and rip my clothes and never write another word.  But then I hear the words of Isaiah pulse through my veins: “Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  And I lesson the grip of fear, and the words come out easier, and I can feel a lifting. And the gift that God gave me resonates, and penetrates deeply, and I thank Him for this ability to speak when others cannot. So I trudge upstairs and write, because what the Lord gives  is right and true and it feels good to be following the yearning of your heart.

God has given each of you a unique gift.  Use it.  Nurture it.  Support it and pray about it.  Realize that your gifts are like an oiled slide that allows you to fly sometimes, and even in the midst of winter tragedy you land like a sunny afternoon at the bottom, and for just a little while here on earth, you were free.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/2923173128/sizes/m/in/photolist-5sj2wG-d32a5b-aN1GpT-catm93-aoxyFG-9MLCso-sLt62-9bojCy-9bojxf-7jK2dp-eFjCYL-5oiRLb-LPn9H-62Yv2h-gJ5aHT-gJ5E3X-gJ5BiZ-gJ4HJu-gJ6zyK-gJ5xu6-gJ4Rc3-gJ5i9c-gJ5Kgx-gJ4QyS-gJ5jmf-gJ5Mmz-gJ53Q5-gJ5a9N-gJ5bZQ-gJ592Y-gJ5YJz-gJ5GcB-gJ5mQ2-gJ4BBs-gJ55ty-gJ5piZ-gJ4fvu-gJ5Mvz-gJ5iJc-gJ4UBu-gJ4sXA-gJ4yft-66s5Ly-c6e1Rf-cihsbN-x2XfK-dTav48-5PWc59-83KUrK-3AawJw-5tXr65/

Art without Ego


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If an author is passionate about sharing words to motivate or inspire, he writes.  He hides in an upstairs guest room converted to an office with computer cords and plastic cups of water and a few used Kleenex wadded up and thrown down by his feet. And he writes – when his kids are asleep and his wife is asleep and the whole world seems to be asleep but his own overactive mind – accelerating past words like a stallion.  Because it’s not about being sexy, it’s about the story that is escaping him soon enough.

And if a singer wants pull at heartstrings, she starts to strum on her guitar and raises an arm and pours our her soul into the microphone like she’s praying out loud.  Nobody knows she wrote that song after her mom died and that was the only way she could stop drinking and pick herself up off the pavement.  And she didn’t care if she looked too religious or not religious or just plain silly perched on a stool with her eyes closed singing about a man named Jesus, but through her mascara she drug it out anyway, weeping and exhausted from the energy it took to retrieve.

I’ve seen artists sit by water and in damp dark studios wishing for a better place to paint, but there’s no luxury for more than the canvas they re-purposed from Goodwill.  Their hands are moving to the imaginary sound of wings that are beating from doves that are landing on a fence that has yet to be formed in oil.  And as they draw the brush they think of money they don’t have and laundry they need to fold and a life that was only half-lived, but this fence and these birds, they are liberating.

And God is sewn through these artists, a tapestry woven and stitched.  It’s the outpouring of love, blanketed around the world like a slow burn.

But then the author gets a book deal, and a media page, and begins to focus on the reality of publishing.  There are hits and strategies and followers and clubs. They are campaigns and tours and the advance for another manuscript.  And all of a sudden the writer is not creating, but churning, and expecting, and beginning to think of himself as One Who Writes that needs to be on a podium with a microphone.

And the singer gets discovered. After the tears of joy, she gets a label and an agent and a manager and a road crew.  And she starts to care what her hair looks like and what her friends look like and feels the naked skin of the roadie.  She can’t make it for Christmas or Mother’s Day either because she’s got a gig in Nashville and what’s more important, really?

Ego ruins art.  It’s the quickest way for our ministry to become our biggest liability.  We start to falsely believe we’ve earned the right, and earned the fame, and begin to tell others how to do things instead of praying that we are doing them well.  When the urge to create is overshadowed with the urge to be successful, we’ve lost it.  It’s the moment when the spirit leaves and we’re left focusing on ourselves, and a void grows in our heart where love used to live.

Let’s not become Martha Stewart, who runs an entire empire based on hospitality and craft but might lose sight of being hospitable.  Let us instead find our inner-Julia Child, captivated by the wonder and joy of it all.  Let’s undo the shackles and focus less on publishing, recording, speaking, and signing.  Let’s create for the sheer pleasure of worship, and using our talents for a higher purpose, for when we write well and we sing well and we paint a masterpiece on paper, we are lifting up and pushing out and sending beauty into the world.  That’s an honor, and a privilege, and one to be taken seriously.

Go out and create, artists of the world.  With messy hair and messy hearts and shaking fingers.  It’s not for your glory, because you didn’t create it to begin with.  It just so happened to be found within you, and you are simply releasing it back into the kingdom from which it came.

 

Jewels of Dawn

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I woke all alone, curled on sheets

Tangled up in white down.

Outside a diamond sparkled on a leaf

The cut and polished dew

 

They say morning has broken

But it doesn’t seem broken to me

Rain-soaked weeds burst through the earth

Leaves shimmer like tassels to the wind, dancing.

 

It seems like night is the broken one

Heavy and dark, my eyes ache

I lay naked on white sheets

Tethered to the ticking time

 

At 8:39 the world turns new

Diamonds in the treetops falling down

I rise and tie my laces

Catching gold in maple leaves

 

I inhale rich wind

Kicking coins in dirt like tin cans

And along the road home I feel it

Jingling in my pockets.

 

I am wealthy in the healed morn.

—-

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/41365291@N06/8372497451/sizes/m/in/photolist-dKReNk-eScBwD-eRXdyh-aJbbQg-cvS5q7-KuK9J-479LTQ-9M2AtW-8vdbM1-9Ccf21-9Aqk71-9AYKH9-9D35EC-7AvJoq-shqx9-cChoWd-cChndf-f2oDyY-cChpXu-8Vkdmd-afPjjD-8ucrbd-8qi6Q7-cdh9rE-awiHg8-9LUPwR-dYDDZS-6kVqUA-68bpF2-dKRage-dmoND6-8xNfLf-f2zmRV-bLqoEi-bxvGD9-bLqpm6-bxvHFE-4WScpU-dyyTEi-djtW5S-4TShqG-dmAEKa-6k5a4e-f2zmP8-aeBhUj-66Ytp6-673HWs-66YtAr-c3fikj-8xNcR3-8xKbcB/

Life is like ice cream

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Sometimes life feels like a root beer float. You just don’t know which direction to turn and whether to eat the ice cream first or suck out the soda and if you dawdle too long you’re left with a half-flat syrupy melted mess of calories that makes you want to throw up.  Nobody likes wishy-washy. Be decisive: life is short and the world needs more leaders that can make decisions.

But sometimes it’s like a banana split, where there’s a healthy mix of fruit and flavor wedged in between.  But I never eat the banana and I can’t stand strawberry ice cream so it’s all just for show and you might as well ditch the ice cream altogether and go for yogurt with granola.  Or perhaps you could just dive right in with chocolate almond fudge and be sure to have a salad for dinner, drink water, and run on Tuesdays.  Be true to yourself: do what you love.

Oftentimes, I find life resembles vanilla.  Not the from-scratch version with condensed milk your grandmother used to make that can totally hold its own, but the generic kind that comes in a box that tastes a little bit like cardboard.  And as the days plod on you just eat it because, well, it’s better to end with bad ice cream than have broccoli lingering in your mouth.  Some days are like that.  Be grateful for what you have: better days will come.

But there are times – oh the beautiful times – that resemble Italian gelato on a hot steamy night, when your breath is short and your hand brushes up against his and you feel so very lucky to be alive.  These moments might stay or they might vanish with the seasons of life, but let them roll around on your tongue so that you won’t ever forget them.  Be reminded from time to time of these special memories, even if they disappear: at least you had them and took a little break from cardboard vanilla.

I hate the vegan frozen yogurt phases, when you try so very hard to do the right thing but it’s all mucked up and funny-tasting and you just wish you could go back in time and just buy the damn sherbet.  You’ve wasted money and wasted time and it all feels so futile.  Be forgiving of yourself: we are all human and make mistakes and you need grace to start over.

And then there are the Sundaes, where things are sloppy and hot fudge is melting and we are all just lazy and droopy and sit around thinking of doing laundry but instead watch entire seasons of Homeland.  That’s a good refueling time, and necessary to counterbalance our hectic pace, and sometimes we just need to sit and hold the people we love without getting all Italian about it.  Be careful to schedule time to rest and gather your strength for the race ahead.

The crazy thing about life is that we all have our own precious identities that we cling to and people get all weird about it, like if you’re in Austin you go to Amy’s but if you’re in Upstate New York you might lick a cone at Stewarts and it’s all good because it’s ice cream, for freaks sake. Try new flavors and new stores and new ways to eat it.  It’s fun and sweet and usually not eaten at funerals. Be creative: you might be surprised at what you’ll learn about yourself.

In my sights ahead, though, is always a double scoop of gold medal ribbon and dark chocolate, because dreams are meant to be large and bold, and life should be lived with hope and expectations of great things to come.  If you constantly think Wednesdays will be filled with soupy floats there’s no being friends with the likes of you.  The weekend is coming, my friend.  The taste of salted caramel and the smell of baked waffle cones and the thrill of what is yet to come is what we live for. Be bold: there are dreams to be realized, and lived out, and embraced.

Life is like ice cream, only better.  It’s stressful, and at times we melt, but we can harden again.  We do not diminish but grow richer with time and experience.  There are so many colors and flavors to choose from, and ways to serve and enjoy them, and at the end we all go down smooth and mesh into the earth and our goal really should be to try to make a child happy on a hot summer day and have Jesus be pleased with our efforts. Be an example of a life well lived, full of richness and sweet.

Don’t live life half-way. Ain’t nobody likes low-fat buttered pecan. Trust me. Nobody. 

 

Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/6933384423/sizes/m/in/photolist-byFpCK-5hkCrr-3bWyVU-ow536-3bS7Tp-34aLuU-8zNN1q-atGn2m-atGpFb-atDHKr-atGoQ7-atDGck-atGoVq-atGnxU-atDJUz-atGpTs-atGpa9-atDK36-atDJmx-atGneJ-atDJNz-atDJAV-atGpeS-atDHpe-atDJ74-atDJFi-atDGND-atGnjN-atGoJd-atGorb-atGpmj-atDHBM-atGod3-atGo6f-atDH1H-agqsR9-cJTeAW-8cPxTs-8cLf2M-8cPxUf-8cPxRC-8cPxSG-6UK4iX-4dVuvo-9j4hTb-6TWSdi-ac2UXD-6kmHQ6-fjPwLR-fk4EQu-fk4EMf/

Be still, my soul

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(The Long Center / Blue Lapis Light Production)

I am blessed to know creative people. People who understand the need to create, and honor their gifts, and offer sacrifices with a brush or a song or a poem. So a few nights ago I spread out a blanket in front of the sweeping Austin skyline to watch one of my friends dance, thirty feet off the ground, like an eagle taking flight.  The choreography was amazing, with dancers zip-lining off the roof and prancing on suspended platforms and circling large pillars on harnesses that reflected their every move on the outdoor ceiling.  Through the red light it resembled devils at war, prancing and leaping and crouching low.

And the silks, oh the silks.  Without a harness at all, these incredible species of human beings climbed and bowed and swayed and made love to dangling ribbons from the sky, their bodies covered in nude bodysuits adorned with dazzling crystals, and they were the most perfect renditions of angels I’ve ever seen.  The daring moves made me gasp and draw in my breath tight as salt ran down my cheeks.  Sometimes it was too much, like pictures of children being pulled from wreckage and placed in their mother’s arms or soldiers returning from war.  I could scarcely take it in.

And then the duet began, man and woman both dangling in the sky.  She was holding onto him as he swung her free and they twirled and climbed and she trusted his grasp, her back arching and his legs splitting strong and they were so deliciously intertwined. And the concept of the marital union pulsed through my veins, remembering St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about how two are forged into one.

A new-age voice came pulsing through the speakers, and though the rendition was new the lyrics were penned in 1752, and I’ve sung it since childhood, and I knew that God was there and is and forever will be, even through storms and death and the rubble of tornado tears.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake


To guide the future, as He has the past.


Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;


All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Because sometimes it’s not enough to express love in words.  You have to open your eyes and see it, and shut out the world to hear it, and open your heart and feel it.  Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that it’s all too mysterious to explain, and there’s no reason to trust, except you know you must, and you do, and you somehow survive.  God is not simply my friend, or my teacher, or level-headed adversary.  He is not just a crutch for my weakness or a pillow I grasp up in the long nights.

My God is the creator of the universe in which I stand.  He displays love in ways I cannot understand, mercy in a way that I do not deserve, and tears for the lost that is deeper than I can fathom.  And I accept this love, and the creative spirit, and the sweat that flows out of the pores of his children.   I applaud loud, and stand, and bow my head in thanks.

After the dancers swept across the stage and said their goodbyes, I pointed my car toward home.  In that dark and quiet night, I was thankful for the ability to accept mystery through the loud cacophony of life.  Love was born into the world at night with a star blazing, and mystery abounded.  Such love prayed for the cup to pass in the hours which we comfortably slept, but God bled out our sin into darkness once again.  Against the backdrop of the world then, and now, and what is to be.  But the rising, it was revealed.  The son, He rose. And the beauty that resulted was blinding.

Be still, my soul.  At least long enough to take it all in.