Authenticity

21 is my number

21 is my magic number.

Or as of two weeks ago, that is the number I chose for myself.

I figured I could stick to or eliminate something for 21 days.

30 days? Meh. It’s not gonna happen. I usually lose my uumph. 
My personality type is an all-or-nothing mentality.
Which is great when I’m all about something, but when it’s off – good luck!

The 21 days is taking those parts of myself and working on small changes. A sprint not a marathon.
With the tiny results or sense of accomplishment, my confidence gets a boost.

Here are two areas I’m focusing my 21 on:

1) Walking
I’ve chosen to walk 21 times. Currently I’ve completed 11 walking days. My friend Jules and I are walking in preparation to traveling to Romania and building up our endurance. We meet four times a week.

A text is sent : Where? What time?

We’ve already committed so the only questions are where and when. No “do you want to walk today?” messages are sent. Although, it crosses my mind.

But for me, each time I walk I’m one step closer to my goal of 21. Ultimately, this feeds into my general feeling of better. Winter blues and that antogonizing bouts of depression get a swift kick in their hindside. I look forward to my walks not because it’s something I have to do, but it’s already schedule and placed on my calendar. It’s walk #11 and I’m on way to 21.

2) Bible reading
I chose to read my Bible 21 times. I am a horrible crack-your-Bible- daily-and-read person. I’ll read a self-help book or listen to a podcast or look for quotes on Pinterest 50,000 times before opening up my Bible or YouVersion app on my phone. There’s some ugly truth for you. But I chose to read my Bible. 21 times. I can do that. I chose a 21-day reading plan from YouVersion, selected The Message as my preferred reading translation, and got to reading. It’s been tough. I’m not going to candy-coat it. But it’s been good. And everyday I’m one reading away from reaching 21. Oh yea, I chose a bible reading plan on fasting. Not because I’m fasting, but I’m interested. For me, research of an interest is where I’ll start first. So for fasting, I’m starting with the Bible. This may very well be added to my list of 21 to try.

These are just two things I’m doing. Each of these are nothing big or major, but there are not necessarily small either. They are both lessons for me in discipline.

Scary word: discipline. But it’s the word that is chasing me around and I’d be a fool to not take notice and action on it.

So there it is my rule of 21. It’s not scientific, whatever, it’s working for me. It’s probably only noticeable to me. But it is working and creating and inspiring within me. That good inside change is where it’s at. Evenutally, it leaks and seeps out. It can’t not. And I’m excited to see the footprint trail I leave as I move forward.

an untold story

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou

An untold story. A vulnerability you haven’t yet laid out in front of those you trust the very most. A fire inside of you that just wants released. A message of hope, of warning, of joy.

We each have a story.

We each are a living story.

We each are a testament of life.

Share your story. Talk. Listen. And let your story unfold in ways you never anticipated.

Don’t hide or secret your life away. It is meant to be lived. Out loud. In words. In images. In all things that make us connected.

A year of changes

A year ago, I made some drastic changes. I sold my house and moved in with my cousin and his family.

One of the biggest, best experiences of my life.

Moving in with my cousin and his family has allowed me to be surrounded with those who really get me. They get doing things differently. They get making choices that set you apart. They get me. (Other than calling me a dirty hippie, I think it’s been a good move for everyone!)

I felt called to sell my house (check!). I felt called to embrace a more minimalistic way of living (It’s a process, people). I felt called to finish graduate school (9 hours down!). And I felt called to travel abroad (Romania trip is in the works!)

My cousin felt called to leave his Corporate America job. And did. He launched a business that joined his amazing design and artistic talents with communities, churches, and organizations that want their messages shared. Hello Creativity for the Creator! His wife encouraged him to go and be and do what God has set within him. Before my eyes, I’m seeing a marriage working in partnership and in obedience. Amazing. I get to hang with their hilarious kids, play intense 12 hour Monopoly games, and discover I kind of, sort of like hanging out in the great outdoors.

BUT

Sometimes on the journey you get lost or feel stuck or just forget who you are. In those moments, I am thankful for my community of friends and family who remind me of who I am, who encourage me to write, and who encourage me to have fun. I hope I do the same for them.

Here’s to the next steps in 2014: Romania, completing more school, paying down debt, and embracing life and all its whimsy.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

That’s what I’ve asked myself.

Days after tornadoes and unrelenting rain and hail left their unmistakable marks of damage, debris, and death in Oklahoma.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

In all honesty, the media and its frenzied thirst for sensationalism and drama numbed me out. Too much to process. Too many assumptions and “facts” that would later be changed. The numbers of deaths and damages raised and lowered, raised and lowered.

The souls. The children. The wounded. The desperate. The miracles. And devastation.

What do you do?

And then I saw something beautiful. Glimmers. Tangibles of something beyond this human frailty.

An outpouring of love. Of resources. Of undeniable hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

This is what is unfolding.

Out of the debris, we rise. Our faith shaken but not forsaken. Our hearts broken but not annihilated.

And the Church. What of the Church?

This cynic has had her cynicism skewered, punctured, and thrown aside.

Humbled in watching and experiencing the Church come together. Meeting needs. Searching out how to best be utilized. And doing exactly that. Large and small. All denominations. People from all over the state, the country, and the world coming to Oklahoma. Serving. Giving. Weeping with the grief-stricken. Sitting in the ruins alongside those who have lost homes. Celebrating over lives saved. Rejoicing in and over each act of love.

The focus is on need. And love. And rising each day. Rising to meet, to reach, to be alongside one another.

There is beauty in ashes. There is Jesus. In each outstretched hand. There is Jesus in each action. I see disbelief in the eyes of those unable to believe that help is here: Feeding, clothing, combing through the debris and rubble, cleaning and restoring. And that this very help will continue to pour in.

Love skinned in flesh. Love covered in dirt and grime, sweat and tears.

Each day we rise. Each day Jesus walks with us and in the midst of all the damage. Jesus is here.

In the weeks and months and years to come, let us remember.

Let us remember that when we don’t know what to do? We love as love does.

We crawl in to each other’s heartache and cry and sit and be. Sit beside others in strength. In gentleness.

We are called. Called to action. Not just today, but in every moment of this.

We are called. Called to remember.

We are called. Called to sacrifice. Meeting each and every need without hesitation today. Tomorrow. And the next and the next.

Give ruthlessly.

Give unabashedly.

And look and listen.

Your neighbor, your friend, your family, your community need you with them.

Meet with them. Look them in the eyes. See the depths. The joy. The pain. The loss. Listen to their story.

We are called to come alongside one another.

And this is where I find my Jesus. Right here. Holding and stretching and reaching. Unwavering in his unfathomable commitment to us.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Be love.

Because that is what love does.

 

Angels’ Retreat

 

These photos are courtesy of Tammy Seibert, be sure to stop by her blog.

 

It was the summer of 1998. I was fresh out of high school. And had an incredible opportunity to travel from Oklahoma to New York in an RV filled with babies, friends, mentors, and my pastor. I found this rough draft of an essay I wrote (I think I wrote this piece for a comp class, so pardon its roughness.) I’ve spent much time thinking of Tammy and her family and how they have shaped me. I am still so grateful for this journey and New York and for all the lessons I have learned.

 

It is the kind of place where angels come and seem to anoint the very place in which you walk. It is the embellishments of childhood that stand alone and it is here where I begin to sort through my own recollections. These memories, tainted with hate or those that seemed perfumed from sweet exotic fragrances that wisp through the air, capture me. This special place is where I begin to find solace. I have dreamed of a place like this to where I could travel on two levels while discovering and experiencing the fullness and richness of freedom. This freedom now envelopes me and I let go submerging myself in the light weight of its glorious burden. Until this summer I have only dreamed of this place, but upon arriving in Arcade, New York realization set upon me that this in fact was the place. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The words of Robert Frost echoed in my thoughts, for in this place was my turning point where I found my identity and did not pay heed to the expectations of those around.

The entrance to my haven was marked with an ordinary street sign labeled Seibert Lane. Turning onto the unpaved road the trees seemed to silently await my arrival. The branches stretched forth, curving over and bowing down as I passed through. I felt like a queen returning home after a long journey and just the view revived my senses, giving me the strength to carry on. A man-built lake comes into view as the road bends mourned. The lake is absolutely beautiful and is the color of greenish-brown, completely silent except for the ripples of surfacing fish. Behind the lake are gentle, sloping hills that round off into a wall of infinite blue spruces. Trails wind in and around the lush greenness. Located near the dock of the lake is the house where I will set up my camp for the entirety of ten days. It is a modest home with few signs of the increasing technology available. The house does not impose on Nature’s vast greatness. I settle in with my “adopted” family, the Seiberts, who from the moment I am introduced, accept me for who I am. I lapse into total comfort and can imagine no place greater that I would rather live.

The Seiberts and this land hold a strong connection for me. They both allowed and I guess in all actuality released in me the confidence to walk away from the monotony of everyday life and seek the simplest, truest form of realization of joy not happiness, and contentment not greed. Basically, for the past three or four years I had began to believe that I was here on this earth only to somehow please my mother and become all the things that my dad had at one time hoped for me. I had fallen under the trap of perfection and did not understand that this is my life and I must choose for myself what I will and will not do. I must remember that I am responsible forever for what I have ‘tamed’. With the opportunity to visit these friends in New York, I was given a way to escape for a few moments and decide what in all certainty I was going to do with each day of my life. From the moment I arrived in New York the Seibert family covered me in a positive atmosphere, exhorting me, and helping me find that which had been buried for such a long time. My passion for living and writing. Being out in the cool air, the welcoming silence, the calls of the birds and rustling of the grasses, awakened my perceptions and I fed on this gnawing desire. I learned to just be. By being able to sit, I learned to become one with what was surrounding me. I learned to breathe in and breathe out the sweet beauty, the sweet and sometimes bitter lessons of each experience thus far in my life.

I also discovered that life is not just about me and for me to truly enjoy experiences and those around, I must learn to give. Simple acts of kindness leave a mark on those you have aided. Selfishness only ignites a deeper need for what others could do for me. By being a part of the Seibert family I learned the importance of communicating, expressing my ideas and beliefs whether or not these opinions were the exact same or not of those I talked with. With my family at home we have mastered the art of bottling up what needs to be said, so for me to see people arguing, listening, discussing, I sat in amazement. The Seiberts became a prime example to me that laziness is not an attractive quality. Each member of the family was always doing what need to be done and yet they understood and practiced the art of relaxing and just being.

In just being away from my normal environment I had to act responsibly. I was in charge of my own money, food, and how I would spend my time. This, in itself, was a challenge for I am used to asking and just simply receiving from my family. Here, in New York, I had to interact with strangers and be able to express to them what I wanted or needed. My time at home is usually spent in my bedroom, within my own sheltered world, but here in New York I was not given that comfort zone.

The Seibert’s home in New York and those that I can call friends and family gave me a sense of worth. I returned home from my trip with my own thoughts in my head not someone else’s word that I came to believe as my own. What others thought of me did not matter–for who am I to judge and who are they to judge? In the land I connected with a part of me that had been dead. I learned to listen to the birds and even the nagging mosquitoes, appreciated the shade of trees, the warmth of sunshine rays, and to see what beautiful world God has created.

 

Back roads and babies

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A solitary drive.

Heading out to the country.

Back roads of Oklahoma.

Dust and gravel and red dirt.

The further I retreat from the city the noise, the frenetic pace, the busyness all fade. Fade to a distant hum.

The anticipation of reaching the farm

Of being greeted by dogs and babies and family

is my favorite.

The view. A farmhouse tucked safely away. A refuge. A sanctuary.

Tonight my gaze isn’t captured by the farmhouse,

instead I come around the bend and see

– my Little Man bouncing with excitement, pointing and grinning, and wearing a killer goatee of red, mud-packed artistry.

– my Oxford Comma, the baby, shattering me with his life-inspiring mischievous grin.

These boys are my babies.

And they know it deep in themselves – like I know it.

I’m undone with Little Man’s sweet voice exclaiming, “Keke’s here!”

I’d go and be and do anything for these two. And there is nothing more perfect than taking a drive out on those country back roads to spend the evening with my favorite little guys.

The God who sees me

“Roll your works upon the Lord – commit and trust them wholly to Him; {He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and} so shall your plans be established and succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3 (Amplified)

A verse spoken over me in my early twenties. A verse that God breathes over me. Never demanding. Never pushing. He sees me. He sees it all. And meets me in each moment.

The people pleaser in me doesn’t respond well to this idea of rolling my works, committing to the Lord. The people pleaser wants to please people at all costs – to myself, to God, to becoming who God calls me to be.

I think I am too much. Or not enough. I thinking I am failing or succeeding depending on others’ responses. That’s sick and twisted. God calls me deeper. He calls me to Himself alone. To forget the past. To forget my need for people pleasing. He calls me to Him. He calls out my deceitful need and replaces it with truth and health and wellness. My God doesn’t ask for me to get my shit together, to clean myself up, to defend, to explain, to excuse my behavior.

Why do I choose misery and bondage when God wants me to be me, to be His?

In His presence, though, in His presence, I am wholly beautiful, wholly confident, secure, seen. It has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with who my God is. And He consumes the lies over and over. He refuses to let this be my story. He sees me.

I keep trying to checklist my life away. Work? Check. Bible reading? Check. Go to church? Check. And then the checklist takes a nosedive into matters such as what can I do to make people be more happy with me, what can I be that will make people proud of me.

God crushes that checklist. The checklist is useless. The checklist is meaningless. I can’t meet the criteria. It’s impossible. I can’t. I’m stubborn. And a runner. And rebellious. And I do not like rules. I don’t want to be manipulated or have people shackle me with their bullshit guilt. I seethe, rage against constraints and boundaries. And other days when I am weary, I cower and give in to the guilt. I accept their guilt as my portion. But this isn’t what God destined for me. My satisfaction, my ontological self is wrapped only in Him – Him alone.

Today, as in other moments, I see this clearly. I choose God – I choose His best – I am all in. He will transform me. He will be ever patient. Ever resolute. No guilt. No condemnation. No manipulation.

He made me.
He sees me.

And my God doesn’t call me the labels I call myself. He doesn’t do anything but love.
Love.
Love.
Love.
Loves unfairly. Loves so fiercely and uncomplicated I can’t possibly comprehend its purity, its humbleness, its unadulterated strength.

Today, I choose God. I choose my Savior. And I will keep choosing Him.

I choose to let Him love me. Regardless of how I think I don’t deserve it. Regardless of how I have been, or was, or will be. I choose Him. His love. His seeing me.

I rest in this. I thrive in Him alone.
Today I say no to people pleasing.
I have eyes, ears, and a heart that is bending toward Him not toward people pleasing.

I taste
I see
I feel
I experience true, boundless freedom.

“…You are the God who sees me…”
Genesis 16:3

Sent with Writer.

Here’s to you little house!

This message came in response to my blog entry about my home. It is  from my best friend Elle who I felt summed it up just beautifully. I wanted to share her words and a few photos:

Will miss your Royal Tenenbaums-pink Domino magazine-teal with a splash of Cobalt house, but, only because you were there. It gave me a home at times when I could not find comfort in my own.  It was a place an artistic soul could find rest and where the manna of creativity was collected. The garage, an often overlooked room in a house by most ladies, was our little Italy of food, wine and conversation. A place where hurts of a most trench-like depth laid sprawled on our card table alter. It was a place to let go, be heard, hold hearts. Come to think of it, it was like the best church I’ve ever been to.  Laughter ruled, silliness encouraged, and love the norm. Here’s to you little house!

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Last moments in my home (part 1)

Tonight

And yesterday

Especially this weekend

A blur of activity

Of saying goodbye and hello

Of racing to an almost finish line, desperately playing catch up, and trying so hard to keep it all balanced

So these were my last moments at my home:

Sitting on the stoop with my best friend by my side

Wiping down the harvest gold counter tops, setting the thermostat, and walking through each room of my house turning off the lights

And it was all so fitting with Oasis’s Wonderwall pounding in the background

I walked out the front door

ran my feet over my favorite skull and crossbones welcome mat

locked the door

and

called it all good.

Why not? Finding the courage to say yes

20 secondssource: Pinterest

A few months ago, I wrote that God and I are on an adventure. And it was going to be epic. And it is. Oh it is.

I’ve been trying to figure out where to start with this story today. Do I start with my first purchase of TOMS? Or the summer of 2011 with my story of my roommate, of church, and The Book of Eli? Or do I share the visions I’ve seen? Any which way, I go I won’t look normal. But that’s good. Because I keep hearing people I admire speaking truth of how normal isn’t working. So I’ll just keep being weird, thank you very much.

The story is unfolding and I don’t want to miss a stitch of detail.

***

I’ll begin here in July of 2012. Sunday I walked into church. The warmth and comfort of worshiping freely in surrounding darkness is my favorite. I can be alone in my prayers unaware of how others are worshiping. I felt the inextricable pull to be there. I don’t like doing church alone, but today I knew I needed to be there by myself. And I am positive that nothing – excuses, laziness, no one thing – would have prevented me from being in service on that day.

The sermon was centered around the film We Bought a Zoo. I won’t ever forget that morning. My preacher shared his heart and encouraged us to move past fear, to have insane courage and answer the question of why not?

Why not?

Those two words had been pin-balling around my head forever. For. Ever.

And I knew the answer to why not? I had known it for a while but with the addition of 20 seconds of insane courage I wrote down snippets of my why not.

There is something beautiful in letting go of my expectations. Something freeing in not considering that poisoning people pleasing side of myself. Something greater than I could ever hope or imagine. The shroud of lies was lifted. The shadows of lights became whole and tangible. And I saw God’s leading. The possibility of what life is to be if only I would choose Him.

That afternoon I sat next to the swimming pool of my childhood home and spoke quietly with my best friend. I shared my why not question and my answer. For months I had known the answers to this question, but I had not verbalized them to anyone. And do you know how my best friend responded? She said, “What can I do to help?”. No questions about a timeline or specifics or whys. That is love doing.

I shared three things.

These three things are what I know and I have to trust the process, trust God and change as needed.

1) School – I finished up my first semester of grad school. I hope to take more classes (of course, we’ll see once final grades are released – fingers crossed, people!). My heart is pulled toward English – always English and literature – and to working on a community college campus.

2) Uganda – Africa is my heart. I didn’t know that for a long, long time. I will be going there – I just don’t know when or how or any of the details – BUT I will travel there and help at one of the mission-minded schools.

3) Rational minimalism and dumping debt like a mofo – Yep, the girl with a library in her house, DVDs and music everywhere is saying yes to less. I have put my house on the market. I am selling out. All these things are weighing me down. I am choosing a different way for myself.

I love the freedom I am experiencing already. Honestly, I am enjoying experiencing the loosening of my heart’s greed toward material possessions. This does not mean I do not buy stuff or deny myself. But I am choosing better. And nicer. And am learning to wait. (Which is so hard to do with a beautiful new apple iMac on the market and I really, really want it.)

All of this – school, Uganda, minimalism – are teaching me more about the process of waiting and preparing than I ever wanted to know.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the landscape will look like. And for the most part, I love it. I love this adventure. I love not knowing. I am learning the freedom of not being in control – control is just a false sense of security anyway. And I love the fact that in a few years, I will be living debt free and traveling and teaching. I think. But in the end, really all that matters is this is between God and I. He asked and I said yes to this adventure.

Because…why not?

___________________________

*What is Finish Year (#FinishYear)?
Finish Year is a community of people online encouraging one another in January and throughout the year to stay resolved and determined to see our goals lived out. Check it out and join in. Don’t allow past failures, lost opportunities define today as ruined. Make a better choice – one choice at a time. Better choices, better decisions will thrust us forward into 2012 and into our beautiful Stories.