La Vie En Rose

ImageI realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Part of it has to do with the fact that my well of creativity hath runneth dry, and the other part has to do with the fact that I’ve just been in a weird, dark place in my life.

The reason I’ve come out of hibernation is because I want to share with you something awesome God showed me a short while back.  But first, let me set this up for you.

When I was a tiny coffee bean of a little girl, I was very curious.  I was new to the world and had a lot of questions about how it functioned.  Much to my father’s dismay, he became my personal Google.

My poor dad had to hear this squeaky 3-year-old ask, “Why?” over and over and over again.  I asked questions ranging from “How will I know when I can read?” to “What am I going to be when I grow up?”  You know, the small questions of life (and I swear, I actually asked these questions at this age).

At some point during my seemingly endless line of questioning, I asked my dad how flowers grew.  Instead of just providing a verbal answer, he gave me a visual aid by drawing each step of the growth cycle of a flower.  He then put each picture in a plastic sleeve and bound them together in a folder.  Doing this bought him maybe one minute of relief from my rapid fire of questioning and gave me one of my most treasured possessions.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I had a similar encounter but this time with my Heavenly Father.

Like I said earlier, I had been going through quite the rough season in my life (actually, I still am).  I felt pressed in on every side with no sign of relief and God was the last person I wanted to talk to.  I doubted, I questioned, felt abandoned and forgotten, and only saw darkness surrounding me.

It’s not that everything was going wrong in my life, but I was definitely walking around with a broken heart.  It was a struggle to get up every morning and put on a brave face – some days were easier than others – but my smile was just a cover up for the brokenness I was enduring.

So one day I was just going about my business, not really thinking about much or even seeking God for answers, and I heard him speak to me about the growth of a flower, but from the perspective of a seed.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize He was talking about me.

Here’s what God spoke to me: first, the seed (you) is planted in rich soil.  It’s pressed down deep, completely surrounded in darkness.  It can’t see or feel the sun, but it’s there.  It doesn’t know how or when it will sprout, but it will.  A seed cannot see the gardener, but the gardener is there, above ground, tending to the seed, watering it, giving it air and sunshine.

Now, the job of the seed is to be still and allow change to happen in its time.  It will be dark for a while and, at times, uncomfortable as it sprouts roots and starts pushing to the top.  And one day, the seed will not only break through the surface, it will become a beautiful, fragrant flower giving great pleasure to the gardener.

Pretty cool, right?  I thought so.  I also found it terrifying and felt claustrophobic because I understood where I was in that picture.  I was the seed pressed in on every side unable to feel any sense of hope for breakthrough or the existence of an ever-present gardener.

I’ve also come to understand that this metaphor applies to many facets of life.  It’s a great picture about our lives from start to finish, but it also applies to seasons of life.  Right now, I don’t feel so pressed down (maybe I’m starting to sprout), but I still don’t see the breakthrough happening.  But there have been other times in my life when I’ve been above the surface and have felt the sun shining on me.  So even when my next breakthrough comes, I can also be sure that I will be the seed once again.  It’s a constant cycle, one that does not end until we’re plucked from the earth and enjoyed at the Creator’s table.

I hope that wherever you are at in your growth cycle that you remember that you are not gone from God’s sight.  He has planted you right where he wants you for a reason and will see you through every phase of growth.  Be still, trust in his timing for change, and when it’s right, you will bloom into the fullness of all that God has created you to be.

Look at life through rose colored glasses, even when you’re a seed covered in dirt.


It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay

PamAside from the odd job here and there, I’ve basically been unemployed for nearly two years.  In fact, I haven’t had a full-time job since I was laid off in 2008.  To say it has been a “struggle” would be a gross understatement.

Mind you, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom over the past few years, but I spent a lot of time questioning life choices while making futile attempts at convincing hiring managers to choose me over the next desperately seeking Susan.

So when a friend of mine propositioned me about a solid job opening, I was compelled to consider applying for the position.  The job was completely unrelated to anything I had my professional sights set on, but I figured the responsible thing to do was apply for the job and accept my lot because maybe God’s will for my life included taking this sharp right turn in a new direction.

In the middle of the interview I was carrying on a fantastic inner monologue.  I kept asking myself, “Do you really want this job?  Why do you keep selling yourself so hard to get the position?  Stop trying to make yourself look good! This is not the time to be competitive!” and so on and so forth.

Even during the interview I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but I continued to tell myself, “Suck it up and be an adult.  You’ve prayed a long time for a job, so take it if it’s offered to you.”  Ten minutes after I left the interview the job was offered to me.  I accepted it and cried every day for at least a solid week.

To be fair, I had a lot of good reasons to accept the job.  The work environment and co-workers are fantastic, the idea of doing my part to help people get the care they needed sounded amazing (and it was), and praying with the staff at the start of the workday was incredible.  So for those reasons, I knew I didn’t make a bad decision but I certainly didn’t make a right one either.

However, it didn’t take long for me to reach the breaking point; shortly after taking the job I gave my two weeks notice.

This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because: 1.) I don’t like to quit, 2.) I don’t want to be viewed as a quitter, and 3.) I was well aware that I’d be letting down a few people in the process especially since I unintentionally gave the false impression that I was happy to be employed.

Long story already long, here’s what I learned from this experience.  First of all, go with your gut.  From the get go, I felt a heavy burden of hesitation but went through with my decision because I thought taking this job was the responsible thing to do.  Turns out, it would have been more responsible to trust my instincts and pass on the job instead of dragging myself (and others) into the consequences of my wrong choices.

Secondly, don’t allow outside pressure or hype to rule your decisions.  I got so caught up in the excitement of the situation that I didn’t give myself the proper time I needed to make a good choice.  I let the positive influence of others – and the fact that I didn’t want to turn away their welcomed assistance – push me into something I didn’t really want to do.

I’m a natural people-pleaser, and unfortunately my inclinations to please the people led to making things quite unpleasant for all parties involved.  Sometimes not having other’s best interests in mind before your own is what is truly best for everybody.

Lastly, be brave. Whether you’re making decisions about a job, the possibility of a relationship, or other potentially life-altering choices, have the guts to make the RIGHT choice.  It takes just as much courage to say no as it does to say yes – even if what is offered to you is of great value.

So there you go, kids, another page ripped from my book of difficult life lessons.  Everything you do may not be right, but if you learn from it, eventually it’ll all be okay.

Band of Gold

Sometimes I really don’t know if owning up to my nerdy interests is hurting or helping my social life.  I’m the kind of girl who reads for fun (gasp!), digs superheroes, loves British television (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who – I’m officially in love with the 10th Doctor, btw), and would much rather attend Comic Con than a girly tea party any day… unless that tea party happens to take place in London in which case I’m grabbing my biggest hat and heading out the door (supposing a Tardis isn’t already available, of course – see Doctor Who reference).

But whether or not you’re as well versed in the nerd culture as I am, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the fandom that is the Lord of the Rings.  You know, hobbits, wizards, creepy, balding, bipolar creatures obsessed with jewelry – that stuff, them peoples.  The movies are epic, the books are… difficult, and the soundtrack is inspiring.  It’s the stuff that great novels and their spin-offs are made of.

One of the more famous characters from the Lord of the Rings franchise is Gollum.  He’s that creepy, bone thin, overly cooked hot dog, wide-eyed, creature who openly expresses his obsession with “the ring.”  The sight of him creeps me out and every time he calls the ring his “prrreeccciouuuusss” I just want to throw him in the river.  Yes, I feel that passionately about him.

However, as much as I don’t like him, he’s probably, in my opinion, one of the most well written characters throughout literary history.  Tolkien didn’t settle on creating Gollum to be a one-dimensional character; Gollum is, in one body, two people.  He is Gollum (the evil version of himself) and Smeagol (the nicer, yet equally creepy version of himself).

Gollum is the guy who is overcome with selfishness, greed, and obsession.  Smeagol, meanwhile, hates the ring for the way it has overtaken his life.  He wants the ring destroyed because the ring is destroying him.

I don’t know if Tolkien purposely wrote this character to show the human battle between flesh and spirit and right and wrong, but that’s exactly what he did by creating this literary enigma.

There was one time in my very early years when in a toy store I spotted a kid-sized red car with a yellow top.  According to my parents’ legend, I climbed in the car and it was a… “struggle” to get me out.  They said I never reacted that way to any toy and was never the kind of kid to get all crazy over stuff like that.  I’m still not, but I’m pretty sure if you put me in a Camaro or Dodge Challenger I’d have a similar reaction – just sayin’.

As it turns out, I did end up getting that car.  Just to clarify, my parents didn’t buy it for me that day – they didn’t reward bratty behavior and they’d definitely be the first ones to ship me off to Singapore if I ever acted like “that kid.”  Although my parents recognized my extreme passion for motor vehicles and would give me the world if they could, they understood the value of raising someone who isn’t given what they want simply because they demanded or felt entitled to receive it.  I’m thankful for having parents who know how to give me what I need over what I want.

I can say with 100% certainty this instance was the first and last time a material possession caused that kind of reaction in me.  I’ve learned that stuff is just stuff and if I really want something then I’ll work to get it and be content if it never becomes mine.  I am a non-material girl living in a material world.

My dreams on the other hand have become my “rings.”  Getting married, having the dream job, etc., have at one time or another turned me into the Gollum/Smeagol character.  These things, while certainly not bad in and of themselves, have caused me to act, well, crazy.  I’ve cried, whined, yelled, kicked, screamed – all the things extreme fits are made of.  At times, I’ve gotten so focused on WHAT I think my dreams should look like and WHEN I think they should happen that instead of being content and trusting in God’s plan and timing I straight up turn into a Gollum.

Fortunately, God – in all His love, grace, and mercy towards me – hasn’t given in to my crazy fits or demands.  He’s helped the Smeagol to overtake the Gollum in me and has given me the strength to overcome that nasty, obsessive, think I know better than the Creator of the Universe, mentality.

Yes, it’s an ongoing process, but He’s teaching me how to let go of my will so that His can be done.  And so far I’ve found that His way and timing (though not always to my liking) is far better than my own.  Oh to think of the bullets I have dodged.

Whatever your “rings” are in your life, stick ‘em in your pocket and continue on in your journey.  Yep, they’re going to call out to you, tempt you, and drive you crazy until you reach your destination, but it’s far better to own the ring than to be owned by the ring.

So carry on, Hobbits! Enjoy the journey and remember that the Author of your life knows the beginning, end, and every twist of your story.  You are His precious.

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….