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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

And Everybody Settles

Early-morning creative carnage. Photo: Timothy James Kay.

The last few months or so I've had the pleasure of being involved in being a part of a team that writes for a mini-series. It's called Vice Meets Virtue and it revolves around the (rather tragic) marriage of Billy and Chris Grey.

Not only has being a small part of the writing process changed my heart about elements like story, redemption, and purpose, it's also placed me on a film set every once in a while.

It's chaotic. Strange. Full of cords and wires that look like spider webs coiling on the floor. The actors are goofy and lovely, and then turn inward and expel their emotion when the director says action.

It's been such an adventure to be a small part of telling a story with images instead of words. Because really, who would have thought that an avid-believer-of-book-before-movie would end up here? Would find pleasure in the low rumble of shot lists and call times?

The older I get, the more I find myself asking God that very same thing.

Lord, how did we get here? Is this what you had in mind for 

us all along?

It's all a part of the grand scheme of things, it seems. I keep telling myself over and over, when I get discouraged or feel like I'm living life on the sidelines, that I'm living in the midst of the "good old days" right now.

And that one day I will sorely miss getting up early to meet my writing-partners-in-crime Amanda and Tim at the local coffee shop before work.

Of course, the writing part of this series eventually came about naturally to us–though not without a little pruning and "wool gathering" as Anne Lamott likes to say.

It was like already being a decent swimmer, but having to learn how to kick harder, make my strides faster and smoother in the water.

It happens bit by bit. Stroke by stroke. Wrinkled hands and bloodshot eyes. But it happened. We became better swimmers, better writers.

What never really came naturally, for me at least, was being on set; watching the action unfold. I was awkward and bumbling, unsure of what my role was.

And then, after rehearsal with the actors and the lights and cameras were put in place, the director called for action. And right before he'd begin recording the scene, he would say, "...And everybody settles..."

We would all followed his direction and stop our paper-ruffling and draw in our breath. Afraid that even our blinks would make noise and ruin the shot.

That's when the actors were able to do their thing. That's when the action was able to unfold.

When everybody settles.

I know Shakespeare's "all the world is a stage" mentality is trite. Overdone. This seems, to me, to say something about God–our Director in the Sky–and how He works in our lives. It seems to say, "stop wrestling." Or "stay very, very still and just wait."

Certainly things can only play out in our lives when we're still enough to let them happen.

The "everybody settles" mentality doesn't mean to hope for less, of course, but to be still before Him. To watch the scene unfold. To find the grove where we're confident enough to not need to know how all of the scenes and film shots will end.

It can only happen, it can only be clear to us when we slow down. When we quiet our impatient spirits enough to settle.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A Morning of Coffee and Quick Goodbyes

The sun is up on a Monday morning and my heart's a little achy. It's mornings like these that I remind myself of the quote by A.A. Milne that I love so much:

"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying 

goodbye so hard?"

One of my dearest friends, with whom I share a passion for Broadway, coffee and Christ, stayed with me for two nights on her spring break.

She's a music teacher to elementary school kids. But she's a teacher of so much more to me: faith, grace, patience and confidence.

She's a pick-back-up friend, meaning that no matter how many weeks separate our phone chats, and how many months separated our in-person chats, she's still a real-good, tell-me-what's-going-on-in-your-life sort of friend.

Our souls bonded together our sophomore year of college, and since then we have shared so many joys and the inner-labyrinths of our struggles together. She's the type of friend–aside from my mother–who's always one of the first up to bat when it comes to making important decisions, or slugging through the ever-awkward quarter-life crises.

She's leaving today, and I'm stubbornly hoping that our time together doesn't end. She's pressed snooze on her phone, and I'm dragging my heels while getting ready for work (hence, this blog post).

This weekend, she and I wore ourselves out with sunshine, walking on the Virginia Beach boardwalk and coffee dates. We worshiped together, we got sand everywhere together, we took a reprieve from standing on the shore and found solace by way of margaritas and guacamole dip. We got matching rings together, little gold and silver bands, hers reading hope and mine reading faith.

Last night we returned to my apartment tired from a day 


It's a special sort of exhaustion, like when your cheeks are sore from laughing and smiling so much. 

She's one of those friends you have to say "goodbye" quickly to. Because if you don't, you'll be caught in a swirl of her absence–her presence in your life so real and impressionable that when she's gone, you hurt.

Days I lived with her this past weekend are what we call Kingdom Days. Days where God feels so close, because you've lived them with your heart wide open. 

I don't think any of us is closer to the Kingdom than when we are connecting with the people that we love.

This morning, she and I will have a quick goodbye. I will tell her not to look at me while she drives away. Because sometimes parting ways is too difficult for eye contact.

But, I'm lucky to have this woman in my life. A friendship that makes saying goodbye so hard. Because it makes hello so much more sweet.

photo credit: Lisa Widerberg via photopin cc

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Today, a Story for the Dreamers

"But, God. I had so many dreams," he said, pressing his forehead against the scratchy, concrete floor of the jail cell. His face is bruised, stained with shame. "Was I wrong about the stars bowing? And the one about the wheat stalks?"

We know this man. We call him Joseph. He wears a colorful coat, and his story begins in the book of Genesis.

His story is a story of favoritism, false accusations, jealousy, and sibling rivalry. But, most importantly, it's a story of patience while waiting for your dream to unfold. It's about being faithful and finding purpose in the twisting, winding coil of God's needle and thread.

And that's where many of us are today. Because we're close to Joseph, aren't we? We're right there in the next cell with questions about our own dreams and our own lives. We hear his fast and steady prayers and reach our battered arms to him through the rusty cell bars.

It's the most peaceful of times, it's the most chaotic of times. 

That's what the twenty-something Christ-follower's life feels like. In a way, there's freedom in not having it all figured out. But there's also the unnerving, restless feeling that a life of meaninglessness is to be feared.

We call it the "quarter-life crises," but I think it reaches deeper than that. I think it's a roundabout journey we're all in together that doesn't quite make sense. We have to squint through our reading glasses to make out the words, and even then it's not clear:

Why are so many of us stuck?

This is a frustrating season we share with Joseph. Particularly if we have gifts--be it interpreting dreams, writing, singing, dancing, storytelling, filming--that we feel haven't quite taken off yet.

"But, God," we say. "You put this calling in my heart, right?"

So, why are we still slogging in this cell? Were we wrong about our dreams? Why were we betrayed? Wrongfully accused? Sold as property? Ignored by the people who we've helped along the way?

Here's the thing, though. This is what leads us to Egypt. 

This is what places us at the right-hand of Pharaoh. This is what has to happen in order for us to have a part in saving a land from famine. We're on an eternal path--whether we can see it from the inside of the story or not.

We all know this man named Joseph. We're living right beside him in the midst of big brothers, stolen and retrieved chalices, revealing our true identity, and living out our lives as a favorite of our Father.

We're dreamers. We're creators. We're all in colorful coats.

We're living in a story that is made for us. And that should be enough to push us forward. To hope for a happy ending and a greater purpose revealed.

photo credit: citx via photopin cc

Thursday, April 3, 2014

For Those of Us Feeling a Little Bit Squirrely

Anxiety runs deep like a river in many jobs around the world.

Here, in our world, we call it being squirrely.

A multitude of emails flood our inbox—trying to land on a decision that could have been agreed upon in a 30-second conversation. We create paper trails, making sure our hind quarters are saved if we're confronted about how big of a dent we've made on our task list.

We're all just a little insecure. We're zipping about our days, swirling around in the inbox-vortex. Never satisfied with a day well-lived. Never relishing that we're doing good work.

Always pursuing an even greater vision, or an even bigger calling. Always dissatisfied. Always…well, squirrely.

Lately, that's what's been pushing my motives for moving forward in my life. It's the pulse that my heart and brain agree on at least twenty-thousand times a day. It's the questions that run through my mind each day that determine my very worth:

Am I doing enough?

Am I being enough?

Am I attaining enough?

I can't simply rest in the goodness that's unfolding in the here

and now.

I have to be moving forward or else I feel like a failure. If I'm not getting ready to launch onto the next lily-pad-life-stage, then I must be stuck. God's favor must not be upon me.

I forget how long and hard I prayed for a job in the journalism field. A job that would release me from serving tables and let me put my master's to use.

Instead, I blindly fall into the smothering quicksand of comparison. Seeping, drowning slowly. Wishing for more responsibility. More clout. More (dare I say it?) fame.

I forget how much, even in the midst of dating the wrong men, I hoped for the right one. I forget how I prayed for someone who would cherish me, let me be myself, pray for me and walk with me through my caffeine addiction.

It's been almost a year since I started dating the man I prayed for. But, I get absorbed into thoughts about future. Instead of being patient and learning how to love better, I want to push for the next big thing.

I haven't been careful. I haven't been prudent. I've let myself

skate along the edges of the ungratefulness rink.

And if I let myself continue, I will never be satisfied where I am. I will always be fighting for the next stage. Even while I'm living in the midst of so many answered prayers. By allowing myself to be squirrely, I am taking advantage of God's utter goodness.

I'm taking advantage of the miracles I've waited for.

I am the Israelite clan. Wandering. Rejecting the manna that falls from the sky and into my open, expectant palms. Wishing for the days that I was a captive in Egypt again—because those days seemed so much better, didn't they?

When will it stop?

Today marks the start of me resting from my squirrely-ness. To slow down enough in this season to recognize the good unfolding there. To put an end to the cycle and to adore this season.

This one. This one. This very season is worth all the celebration.

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc
 photo credit: THEfunkyman via photopin cc

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