Not Like The Movies

It’s not often that my life imitates art, but every now and then something so epic happens that makes me think, “Wow, that was just like a movie.”  The story I’m about to tell you was one of those moments.

So far, I haven’t had any cinematic experiences such as Jake Ryan pulling up in his sports car rescuing me from a horrible birthday or Ferris Bueller taking me on the greatest ditch day of all time.  Rather, I’ve had the great misfortune of living a moment straight out of Say Anything.

I’d love to tell you someone stood outside my door with a stereo above their head blaring “In Your Eyes”.  In fact, I still dream of that happening to me.  What did happen, however, was the famous pen incident.

Let me set up the scene for you.  Teenage heartthrob Lloyd Dobler (a.k.a. John Cusack) was living the dream having nabbed Diane “brain trapped in the body of a game show hostess” Court.  Things were going great until, well, they just weren’t, and when she breaks up with him she gives him a pen asking him to continue to write to her.  I suppose that would be the modern day equivalent of telling someone, “send me a message me on Facebook.”  Ouch.

Devastated, Lloyd calls his sister and delivers the line that would one day ring true in my own life: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”  Total rejection courtesy of office supplies.  Thank you, Staples.

So one Christmas many years ago it was my personal mission to pick out THE PERFECT gift for the guy I was convinced was the love of my life.  My poor mom had to endure the crowds at the mall while I put all my energy into finding something that would be the perfect token of my love and affection.  Unfortunately, the key to his heart was not on sale, so I just settled for a nice shirt.

Finally it came time for the big gift exchange.  I came bouncing in with a huge smile on my face thinking this would be the first gift of our many Christmases together and I could hardly wait to see his reaction.  He opened the gift and at least seemed to really like it and I was pleased by his response.

Then it was my turn to open his gift to me.  It was a long, small box and all I could think was, “Oh my gosh! Is this a bracelet or a necklace???”  It was neither.  It was in fact a fancy pen.  I gave him my heart in the form of a button-up shirt and he gave me a pen.  Insult to injury, not only was I not the only female recipient of said pen, he also gave me the SAME PEN (with socks) the following year.  I graciously accepted the gift as well as all the bonus rejection that came with it.  Yep.  Life was just like the movies.

In the years that followed, I discovered a couple of things: 1.) This guy was definitely not the love of my life, and 2.) This would not be the last time I would give away my heart and receive a pen (figuratively speaking) in exchange.

However, the pen has come to represent more than just failed romantic aspirations in my life.  For example, I’ve done everything I know to do to get a job (i.e. earn a degree or two, network, apply) and life keeps handing me the “we’re not going to even acknowledge you sent us a resume” pen.  Sadly, I know I’m not the only graduate who has been handed this load of ink.

And after having acquired quite the collection of these ballpoint rejections, it’s become easier and easier to make room on the desk expecting more to be added to the clutter.  In other words, I’ve come to anticipate disappointment rather than expecting victory in various parts of my life.

Which brings me to this morning.  While I won’t go into detail about what I’m currently dealing with, let’s just say I started making room on my desk for another pen.  And just as I was figuratively clearing some space, something strange happened: “In Your Eyes” came on the radio and the picture of Lloyd standing outside Diane’s window came to mind.

This image reminded me I don’t have to settle, I don’t have to accept another pen or believe that I’m only worthy to receive office supplies as the consolation prize for my hopes and dreams.  The movie doesn’t end with Lloyd accepting the pen or that his dream is over; Lloyd gets creative, turns up the volume on the stereo (as well as the collar on his jacket) as a demonstration to his woman and the world that he’s not giving up on her.  He doesn’t accept defeat; he uses this as an opportunity to rise to the challenge and take hold of what he believes rightfully belongs to him.

So whatever your pens are in life, it’s time to throw them away and start working on creating a new playlist in your head that drowns out the negativity.  Turn on whatever “song” you need to blare at your dream to keep you hopeful, focused, and to remind you to never settle for the consolation prize.

Several years and disappointments have passed since I first got that pen.  There are dreams still yet to be fulfilled and my Lloyd Dobler still hasn’t shown up at my doorstep, boom box in hands proclaiming his undying love for me – heck, even music blaring from an iPhone would work at this point – but I’m hopeful and am slowly but surely starting to believe I don’t have to settle for anything less than something that’s just like the movies.

So bring it on, Lloyd Dobler.  I’m ready to board that plane to England.  3… 2… 1….

Pour Some Sugar On Me

A Lego portrayal of the Israelites and manna. I couldn't have thought of a better picture if I tried!

I still remember the day I went to see “The Prince of Egypt” in the movie theater.  Growing up in the church, it fascinated me to see a famous bible story portrayed on the big screen.  Even with “Ice Man” (a.k.a. Val Kilmer) doing the voices for Moses and God, I was still able to watch this movie as if I were looking through a window into the past.

The movie did a pretty good job showing how this point in history was a terrifying, hopeful, epic, and miraculous event.  Of course, it also showed what a flawed man Moses was and how God STILL used him despite his past, fears, and insecurities.  That’s not something you see very often in cinema.

The other thing you don’t see or hear of very often is the story of what happened after God used Moses to deliver His people from Pharoah’s tyranny.  The story (and God) didn’t just stop at freeing the Israelites from slavery – no, God wanted to lead them to a promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  I think my promised land might also include some steak, bacon, chocolate, tortillas, salsa, a little bit of cilantro, grilled onions, and Diet Pepsi in its most perfect form as served up by Taco Bell (it’s true – theirs is the best).  Mmm, yeah.

Actually, that heart unfriendly food list was a pretty good segue into this next point.  For whatever reason, it took God’s people forty years to reach the promised land, and along the way they needed some provisions to complete the journey, namely food.  The story goes that the people prayed for food and God sent down manna from heaven.  Manna is basically this wafer type stuff that God would spread on the ground, the people would gather it, pound it together, and bake little cakes out of it.  So, pretty much like scones from heaven… as most scones are, in my opinion.

Anyway, this was all the Israelites were allowed to eat during their journey.  Whatever God allotted them for that day was what they had to live on.  If they tried to store some for the next day, it would decay, worms would grow in it, and it was just straight up nasty.  No one wants to own that scone.

It took a long time (just growing up and having life experiences, really) for me to see that there was a point in the way God provided for His people: He wanted them to rely on Him alone for their daily needs to be met.  I’m sure many of them questioned why He insisted on forty years of forced vegetarianism (I would have), but I’m also sure they finally reached a point where they no longer worried if they would receive what they needed to survive one day to the next.  The menu may have been a little too predictable, but at least they could count on always being fed.

So this brings me to this morning when I was getting out of the shower.  As I buried my face in my towel I let out a groan mixed with words like, “Why, God?  What is going on?” and the oddest word popped in my head, “manna.”  Weird.  But God, as I know Him anyway, is quirky like that.

Suddenly everything came into focus (and not just because I moved the towel from my face).  I understood that I am in a desert time in my life and God is only providing me manna for this journey, no extras.  This means a couple of things: 1.) I need to be grateful for His daily provision, (i.e. food on the table, roof over my head, love from family & friends), 2.) Instead of getting caught up in where my life has been, where it’s going, or even what’s going to happen tomorrow, I need to just trust God to get me through today, and 3.) This desert journey is only a temporary journey and I best learn what God wants to teach me as quickly and efficiently as possible so I can get out of here a.s.a.p.!

Sure, it’s not easy transitioning from days of feasting (hello CNN!) to the days of the one item menu (hello unemployment), but it’s all for good reason.  I don’t know what God is preparing me to do or who He’s shaping me to be, but I’m sure this desert wandering (and trust me, I’m wandering) is so I’ll be ready to play when it’s my turn to step up to the plate.  It’s all very Mr. Miyagi making Daniel-san paint the fence so he knows how to fight (rent the o.g. “Karate Kid”, people).

I don’t know how long this desert living is going to last – I hope not much longer – but I have to take a cue from the Israelites and continue to rely on God and God alone to provide my manna one day at a time.  It’s not the feast I am desperately craving, but the manna menu is only temporary.  I just need to remember that even though I’m not gnawing on the fattened calf, my daily needs are still being met by a loving, though sometimes hard to understand, God.  And maybe, just maybe He’ll let me negotiate a side of honey butter and a latte while I tumble with the tumbleweeds :).

Don’t Forget to Remember Me

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’ve been going through a bit of an identity crisis lately. I’ve changed my Twitter handle more times than one person probably should, but the truth is, I’ve been attempting to create a brand and a future.

You see, back when J.K. Rowling first put paper to pen, Twitter and Facebook and even MySpace didn’t exist. Social media back then only consisted of phone calls, letters, and house calls. She wasn’t thinking about a hundred different ways to reach an audience; she merely concentrated on telling the tale about a boy wizard. I envy this quiet beginning.

Nowadays, it’s a lot more crowded and significantly louder with all of this technology. Where once it was difficult to give someone a voice, it is now even more challenging to be heard over the crowd. Hence, when I shout via social media networks, I need to make my voice clear, loud, and, most challenging of all, distinct. Unfortunately, for my Twitter followers, distinguishing myself has come in the form of dealing with multiple Twitter personalities.

Once I finally decided on a pen name everything started falling into place. My Twitter handle became steady, I set up a website (still working on designing it), and the future became a little clearer. I simply was amazed how choosing an identity is what it took for me to break through this wall of frustration and lack of inspiration.

What I didn’t expect was that this breakthrough would release a floodgate of inspiration – drought was replaced with a flash flood that I was unsure about how to control. I was asking myself, should I just write books or should I just blog? Should I be a Christian writer or should I be a writer that’s a Christian? (There’s a difference). Again, I found myself going through another identity crisis, but this time I wasn’t taking it out on my social media outlets.

But then I thought back to one of my favorite Disney movies, The Lion King. There’s this part in the movie where the ghost of Mufasa, Simba’s dad and the O.G. Lion King, whispers to Simba, “Remember who you are!” (You know you just read that in his kingly lion voice). Simba needed a little reminding that he was the son of the Lion King and it was time to take his rightful place as the new man, er, lion in charge. And after choosing to walk confidently in his calling, knowing full well there were still obstacles ahead of him to conquer, he defeated the enemy, assumed the throne, and restored the land to its original beauty.

Like Simba, I think many of us need to remember who we are. We might not be destined to rule a kingdom, but we do belong to The King. Each of us have a purpose and it’s up to us to gain (or regain) the confidence and the strength to live out that calling. Whether you’re put on this earth to affect one person’s life or to touch billions of lives, you must walk in the confidence that you do matter, you do have a purpose, and nothing can take away your reason for being. That’s just the facts.

So in the words of Henry David Thoreau, go CONFIDENTLY in the direction of your dreams. You CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you and take heart, always remembering who you are: a person of purpose.

(Oh, and if you want to purposely follow me on Twitter, here’s my handle @NycoleReynee. This one’s sticking… I promise… I think. Ha ha!)

Bust A Move

I hate shopping for toiletries; toothpaste is among the worst. Do I want gel or paste? Do I want it to whiten my teeth, protect them from cavities, or fight tartar? Do I want a mouthful of crispy mint, dragon fire cinnamon, or some sort of paste that tastes like the smell of Comet? All these choices make me want to curl up in a fetal position and just lay in the store aisle until the fluoride storm passes. Clean up on aisle five! I can’t handle the pressure.

The real reason choosing toothpaste is so stressful for me is because I’m slightly fearful of choosing wrong. This pressure is mostly brought on by the fact that the last two or three times I bought toothpaste I chose wrong – really wrong. I’d choose the one that offered all the fancy features, but I wanted paste not gel. Another time, again, going for the fancy features, not only did I accidentally choose gel AGAIN I also managed to choose a horrible flavor. I rarely ever win this battle.

Toothpaste isn’t the only thing in my life that brings on the stress of choosing wrong and failing. In fact, I’ve found most things in my life, particularly those related to my goals and dreams, cause this kind of stress in me to the point of just wanting to lay fetal-like in a store aisle (but if I’m in a Tiffany’s just leave me…. It’s so pretty there).

I discovered I was dealing with this stress/fear when I recently decided to tackle some art projects. I love doing artistic activities, but I usually have a difficult time getting started. Some of it has to do with just a plain lack of creativity and the rest has to do with this feeling that I’ll spend a lot of time working on something that will just turn out crappy. Lame, but true.

So as someone who lacks great artistic ability, I often look to those who make it look effortless. Two such artists are my friend Shawna and my five-year-old cousin Jaime.

Much of my and Shawna’s friendship is built on a shared love for the arts. As college freshmen, one of our favorite activities was to make glitter Christmas cards while everyone else busied themselves studying for finals. We still made the grades (I think… ha ha), but craft time was the glue (sometimes literally) that bonded our friendship. Many years later, we still do these kind of projects together but what she produces is actual art while whatever I do is usually a vain attempt to look like I’ve moved beyond the realm of macaroni necklaces and tissue paper wreaths (although I did make an awesome wreath in 6th grade). She has such a natural, creative intuition and is a true artist.

Then you have my little cousin Jaime. He loves to draw and color, but it’s what he does with his crayons that amazes me. He’s not bound by rules – he mixes colors, blends one into the other and, when necessary, leaves some sections uncolored. In fact, I found this out yesterday when we colored on a menu together. I pointed out two sections of a cow he left uncolored and he said, “No, Colie. Those ones stay like that.” See? Artist. I would never think to leave something blank whereas, in his mind, blank spots contribute to the art. Wow.

While observing two of my favorite people function in their happy places I realized that I’m not as unbounded as they are. It might cross my mind to mix colors or patterns when choosing my wardrobe or to mix different shades of eye shadows, but I usually won’t do it for fear of looking ridiculous or just choosing wrong.

Same thing with my writing. I’d like to be the next J.K. Rowling and write something as epic as Harry Potter, but I think there’s this underlying fear that I’ll write something that will just bore people to pieces. Sure, it could happen, but I’ll never know unless I try. I need to focus on the possibility of writing something great rather than dwelling on what could go wrong.

Art is the example I’m using here, but what do you want to do and are just not getting done? My goals range from cleaning out my room to losing about 40 pounds to writing the next epic novel(s). Whatever’s on your list, start by making the choice to do it. Choose to be greater than whatever is holding you back from taking the first step or continuing on in the journey to reach your goals. Whether it’s fear of failure or just plain laziness (yeah, that gets me too), know that you are greater than whatever would try to bring you down and away from what you want to accomplish in your life (however great or small).

Just making a choice to go forward is already a step in the right direction. So what if you fail? It’s worse to never try. But know this: every day you must choose again to move forward in the direction of your dreams/goals. After all, Rome (and even Hogwarts) wasn’t built in a day.

Hello, It’s Me

This is going to be a blog mash up.  A mash up of those Five Minute Fridays I’ve been doing (I didn’t say consistently) and a prompt from my friend Melissa’s blog (who I will miss dearly, by the way… stupid Northwest).  Both blog themes seem to really hit home, so instead of just choosing one, this bachelorette is giving a rose to both ladies… journalistically speaking, of course.  So now I give you my mash up of “Welcome” and “Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself.”

(Jessica, you win this week’s Hannah Montana Best of Both Worlds Award. You’re welcome.)

I guess I’ll start with a reintroduction.

Over the past five years, I’ve gone through some big changes.  Not Chastity/Chas Bono kind of changes, but big changes nonetheless.  Here are a few of my highlights:

1.  I love vegetables now more than I ever have in my life.  Because of a few brave souls who invited me over to share in their botanical delights (I consider it all ‘botanical’), I have a great love for broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, grilled onions, corn, brussell sprouts (when wrapped in bacon, of course), and asparagus (thank you to those who warned me of the after effects).  I now feel that I’ve successfully climbed the food pyramid even though it’s a plate now.

2.  I like country music.  There! I came out of the country closet!!! Now, I will say that I still turn my nose to that bluegrass, twangy kind of “music”, but come on… there’s some good stuff out there now! Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, my #1 forever and always Danny Gokey… they’re at the top of my playlist.  Of course, they all have something in common: their songs barely sound country.  While some of my friends may take this as a slap in the face and/or hole in my credibility, I feel it makes me a much more rounded person and will help me relate to artists of all genres when I’m an uber famous music journalist someday.  So there.

3. Confidence.  This has been the greatest change of all.  I’ve had the confidence to pursue my dreams (hello, masters degree!), the confidence to face up to, fight, and beat the bullies (which sometimes included facing the inner bully that tries to attack my self-worth), and the confidence to face the unknown… which leads right into my next point.

At the beginning of this year, I sensed deep in my heart that life would be considerably different by the start of next year.  I felt right away that it had something to do with my job.  However, I figured the earliest I would leave my job would be late this summer or at the end of this year.  God had a different plan – June 30th was exit day for me.

During my last week at work, everything started to feel final.  For those of you who don’t know my work history, I worked at this college, left on my own terms, came back, got laid off, came back again (because it was the Lord’s source of provision at this point), and was (sort of) laid off again.  What was different about this exit was that I knew deep down that this was for good.  I didn’t burn any bridges and left with my relationships and reputation in tact, but I knew that God probably wasn’t going to be leading me back here again… at least not as a staff member.

The thought of that freaked me out a bit.  While I never intended to return after I was laid off the last time, I think somewhere in the back of my mind I looked at the college as my safety net.  I guess I felt like I could always go back if I needed to and then I did.  Didn’t want to, but I did, and the Lord created beauty from ashes (but that’s a whole other story for another time).

After I said my goodbyes and my dear friend Jessica walked me out the door, I imagined a welcome mat at the threshold.  I didn’t (and still don’t) know what’s waiting for me, but as I crossed that threshold, I felt welcomed into a new life filled with new possibilities where longtime dreams would finally be fulfilled.  Best of all, instead of feeling stressed and anxious as I had anticipated I would at this point, I felt peaceful, excited and full of hope.  I think that’s a fantastic way to close one chapter and start the next.

I don’t believe that when God closes a door He opens a window – my God and His plans for me are so big that a window is too small of an opening to access His incredibly awesome path for my life.  Same goes for you.  Never settle for the window – always use the door.

And while endings aren’t always easy, they are always beginnings.  It’s not to say that the unknown isn’t overwhelming and scary – it is – but instead of fearing the unknown, feel welcomed into a new, hope filled life and anticipate only GREAT things awaiting you.

Oh, and if you know of any awesome jobs, send them my way.  In the words of my friend Ginny, “I’m kind of a big deal.”  Here’s to shameless plugs and welcome mats!

 

P.S. Here’s the links to the blogs I mentioned earlier: 

Melissa Brotherton: http://melissabrotherton.com/2011/06/30/allow-me-to-reintroduce-myself/?utm_source=feedburner

Five Minute Fridays (a.k.a. Gypsy Mama): http://thegypsymama.com/2011/07/five-minute-friday-welcome/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thegypsymama+%28thegypsymama%29

 

 

 

Days Go By

It’s that time of week again! Five Minute Friday! Today’s theme is “Every Day”. So now, in the words of Ryan Seacrest: “Dim the lights. Here we go.”

I’ve found that every day I think about the past, present and future. When I get up in the morning I think about the day ahead, I think about my present need for a shower, and then I think about how lovely it was to be in bed asleep just a few minutes ago. See? I think about it every day.

I also think about where my life is going. Knowing that my job will be ending at the end of this month (without any new job prospects), my future seems so blank and unclear. I feel both fear and excitement as I think about that. After contemplating the future, I think about the present. I think about how I’m so grateful for the past that led to this present. The last time I was laid off, I was just about to begin my master’s program and have some of the greatest experiences of my life. Uncertainty is pretty awesome… when you’re finally able to look at it retrospectively.

So even though my every day is currently consumed by thinking about the future and its uncertainty, my present day reminds me how God’s goodness, His provision, and His love for me will lead me to good things. Every day then is a day of thanks. I’m thankful for my past (mistakes and all), thankful for my present (another day of being able to breathe and remembering to enjoy the moment), and thankful for a future that is filled with good things as I continue to trust that, as God promises, “I have given you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Every Day He was with me, Every Day He is with me, and Every Day He will be with me.

Eye Of The Tiger

One upon a time, in a land far, far away, I had a gym membership. At the beginning of my membership, I had three sessions with a personal trainer – she was brutal, but fortunately not so much that I would lose my faith in exercise (she was, however, brutal enough that I would lose feeling in my entire body).

Somewhere in the midst of my on again, off again relationship with “gym”, I agreed to go to a shadowboxing class of sorts with my friend. Considering how well I did on my Wii Fit game, I was sure this was going to be easy breezy. Wrong.

We ran across the room, squatted, and did an assortment of activities my body rejects. Halfway through the class (at least I hope I got that far) I couldn’t handle it anymore and I jetted out of the workout room and headed straight towards the women’s locker room… as fast as my lifeless legs would allow, anyway.

Yes, I admit I hid in shame as my friend successfully finished her workout. Of course, it wasn’t without consequence as I was surrounded by some ladies with dewy skin and no shame. I’ll leave it at that.

The second worse part about waiting in that locker room is that I knew I’d have to explain to my friend about why I bolted. I knew she wouldn’t care and wouldn’t judge me for leaving, but I felt like I needed to provide some valid excuse for my actions even if it meant making a false claim that all those years of smoking finally caught up with me (God as my witness, these lips have never touched a cigarette). Fortunately, it never came to that and, as it turns out, the only person I ended up making excuses to was myself.

Unfortunately, this has been a pattern in my life. There are some things I’m able to persevere through that are extremely difficult; my masters degree alone is proof of my ability to push through difficult tasks. But sometimes I tend to throw in the towel if what I’m trying to accomplish takes just that extra amount of effort that I don’t want to give.

The silver lining of this horrible “quirk” of mine is that when it comes to the things in life that require serious effort (i.e., relationships, jobs, etc.), I can run the race just fine. But when it comes to stuff like consistent workouts or other things that would benefit me physically or personally, I just kind of lose it. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to keep my head in the game.

If that’s not bad enough, I discovered something even worse this week: I’ve sorta lost my will to fight. It’s one thing to lose it in the middle of the game – at least you tried. But to not try and to not want to try, that’s even worse.

As I write this blog, I can’t say that I got the fight back in me. I do, however, have the awareness that I lost it and now I want it back. I know I’m a fighter. I know I have the kind of tenacity to knock down whatever challenge comes my way – I just haven’t been brave enough to step back in the ring. But now that I’m aware of the lethargy I was living in, I’m finally thirsty for the fight and I’m ready to tape up my fists.

It’s sometimes hard to even reach that point especially when life throws all kinds of crud your way. I mean, I still can’t even grasp what kind of emotional rubble the Midwest is trudging through as they’ve seen lives lost and communities wiped out by these tornadoes. I don’t know about you, but if I were there I would just feel like curling into a ball and letting all the tragedy wash over me.

But I’m sure what any survivor of any tragedy knows is that the only way to survive in the aftermath is to just pick yourself up and keep going so you can move forward. You gotta fight to do it, but it’s a fight worth fighting and a fight that CAN be won.

So whatever life throws at you (even if it’s apathy you’re battling), get up and fight. You owe it to yourself and to the world you live in to do everything you can to be the best version of yourself and then help others do the same.

And on that note, it’s time to put on my hoodie and fedora and get to hitting some beef. Figuratively speaking. I think.