Shining through…

It’s All About Us

The 12th of March was the hubby’s and my anniversary.  We observed it with the usual Facebook tribute, a beautiful rose (he picks out the BEST flowers!), cards, and the umpteenth round of  the “tell me again why we chose a wedding date right in the middle of Spring Break” conversation*.  We didn’t make any plans to go out until the next night, when M would be sleeping over at his Honorary Grandma Lulu’s house.

So tonight was that next night, and we found ourselves with a dilemma (1) and a realization (2):

  1. We live in a city that neither one of us particularly likes, and because of that,
  2. We usually end up going to other places to celebrate our day.

Escaping our town wasn’t feasible this year for various reasons, so we had quite the discussion about finding things to do that were “us” in the vicinity.  And it was tough.  We’re not into most of the things our city is known for, and going the “fancy dinner and a movie” route seemed disingenuous (not to mention at odds with our dietary habits) since part of our issue with this area is that the food scene seems a bit pretentious.

[GASP!  Wait a minute!  What do you mean, you don’t like our fair city?  It’s the best city on the planet!  Everybody loves it here!  And why don’t you like the things our city is known for?  We’re so cool!  We have music and weirdness and hipsters and more music and festivals and a vibrant downtown scene and music!  And our food is awww-suhm!  You must be out of touch.  Or you’re old.  Or you just don’t get it.  Maybe you should move!]

Yeah, I know.  I heard the collective protests and sighs of dismay before I even started writing this.  Because truthfully, this city is full of people that feel exactly that way.  And it’s okay that they feel that way.  But it’s also okay that we don’t, which leads into the point I’m trying to make.

My husband and I were initially attracted to each other for a number of reasons, including the fact that we think quite a bit alike about many, many things.  Tonight we celebrated the fruits of that attraction: our marriage, our friendship, our very unique relationship that is unlike any other I’ve seen, the fact that we both LIKE how different it is.  We celebrated US…by not doing things we wouldn’t normally do, anyway.  This is not a moral or ethical, “there’s only one right way” issue.  Our marriage, as we see it, is about laughing joyously with God, acknowledging His crazy sense of humor in putting the two of us together, and just enjoying who we are individually and as a couple.  And honestly, that’s what I wish for everyone: Find the truth of whom you are, and enjoy BEING it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  I firmly believe that every single person was made to reflect a facet of God that no one else does, and when you find the freedom in being whom He says you are, you shine.

I’m not going to tell you what all we ended up doing, but I will say that this Texas girl could eat those In-n-Out grilled onions by the spoonful…

[GASP!  Mighty Fine/P Terry’s/Elevation/Whataburger/Hopdoddy is sooooo much better!]

Shush.  Let us be.  And you go be. 🙂

*In case you decide to get married on a date that falls during the week of Spring Break, you might want to rethink it.  Destinations are  way more expensive – and crowded – around that time, so if you’re wanting a quiet, romantic little beach getaway, or a visit to Disney World, or a ski trip, well…good luck to ya.

One Moment in Tiiiiime…

(Admit it.  You’re singing.)

We-e-e-e-e-e-ll, I should know better than to think I could dash off a quick, encouraging post whilst sitting at the airport, waiting to board a plane, which is exactly what I’m doing.  It’s those darn rabbit trails…I had a thought in mind, and I was going to talk about it on the simplest, most superficial of levels, but then when I went to research the components of my thoughts, I started thinking about nuances of words and how they’d apply to what I wanted to say, which meant I had to look up the nuances, which led to more thoughts…heck, just re-reading my last sentence is making me tired!

So.  Instead of telling you what I was GOING to tell you, I will share with you the reason I am at the airport.  I’m sitting here because someone I love said yes to God when He asked if she was ready to walk into some brand new healing.  And He had told me I was going to be a part of it several months ago, but I had to wait for her to be ready.  And she is.

God told me my word for 2014 is “new.”  As in, He makes all things new.  This year will be about new ways of seeing things, new ways of doing things, new ways of Him doing things and showing me things, maybe new jobs, new locations…I’m not even sure yet.  What I do know is that He has said clearly to me that things can change in a single moment.  I am not to stress about what I don’t see happening, but I am to watch for those moments and be ready.  He called them “flashpoints,” and I saw a timeline with these big dots on it.  Periodically, one of the dots would flash once – like when you throw those little crackerballs on the ground.  One quick pop, and then it was done.  I got the sense that He is being very intentional about things in this season, and each one of those flashpoints is only gonna flash once.  I don’t want to miss any of them.

This moment in time is a flashpoint for my friend, and the way this trip came about is a VERY big object lesson for me regarding how a couple of things I reallyreallyreallyreally want to happen are probably going to happen.  Not that I have details, obviously, but they’re gonna be single moments that flash and then everything will be different…if I don’t miss them.

Be encouraged!  I know I’m not the only person in the world this word applies to.  If you are facing impossible situations, don’t focus on what’s not happening.  Be looking for the flash!

On that note, adios…I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…and you’re singing again, aren’t you? 😉

Hello Again!

Hi, strangers!

To everything there is a season, right?  It seems that 2013 was NOT a season of blog-writing for yours truly.  Or much writing of any kind, actually.  Hopefully, 2014 will prove to be different.

What 2013 was was a season of intensely going after some big things like dreams, like identity.  It was a season of laying down old ideas and defenses.  It was a season of defining boundaries – some needed to be erased, some needed to be modified, and some needed to be constructed.  It was a season of picking up paintbrushes and learning how to take joy in the act of creating, rather than worrying about whether the creation would be “good enough.”  (That one was tough, let me tell ya, because I believed in doing all things in what I thought was excellence.  What I learned was that excellence just might have more to do with attitude than with skill.  Skill can be learned.  Attitude must be chosen.)

I think last year was tough on just about every person I know.  Some of the stories I’ve heard, well, let’s just say a bunch of people are glad to put 2013 behind them and not look back.  But those same people are also feeling pretty positive about the new year.  I, myself, sense some big, big things getting ready to happen in my life.  And where 2013 was a season of a sort of turning inward, dealing with very personal things in a very private way, 2014 feels like it needs to be lived out loud.  If 2013 was a greyscale pencil sketch, 2014, in contrast, seems to be a canvas begging to be splashed with every hue, tint, tone, and shade known to man, and maybe a few that aren’t!

I’m hoping to share all that color with y’all through this blog again.  Part of me really missed writing it, but the rest of me was just so overwhelmed and tired out by everything going on that pellucere ceased to be a priority.  But I think I’m b-a-a-a-a-a-c-k!  And I’d love to hear from you, as well.  What’s been going on in your life?  What do you see this year holding for you?  What would you like to see me write about?  Does the rain in Spain stay mainly in the plain? 😉

Here’s to 2014!!

Les Miserables is my all-time favorite musical, so it was with some trepidation that I went to see the latest movie version.  None of the past versions have ever captured the passion inherent to Victor Hugo’s story the way the musical retelling does, so I wasn’t expecting much of this one.  Seeing as this post is not intended to be a movie review, though, I won’t tell you what I actually thought, except for one little bit:  Anne Hathaway nailed it as Fantine.  She made me cry, like, tears-running-freely-down-my-face cry.  Twice, in fact.  If I did hashtags, I’d say #notafluke.  Ms Hathaway eschewed the typical portrayal of Fantine, which tends to be wistful, kind of wimpy, like that horrible “Foolish Games” song in the late 90s.  Her Fantine was real.  Ragged, broken, ugly, utterly without hope.

I wasn’t the only one crying.  All around me, I could hear people sniffling, guys and girls alike.  I especially noticed all the men who, truthfully, probably got dragged to this movie by their significant females and then found themselves reacting on a gut level to the raw emotion on-screen.  Probably a bit uncomfortable for most of them, I’d say.  Several actually walked out for a few minutes.

I think we all reacted because everyone has a bit of Fantine in him or her.  She couldn’t possibly have known that kind of despair, had she not once been sure that life was hers for the conquering.  And maybe we haven’t found ourselves selling our bodies to make ends meet, but we’ve all had beautiful dreams and ideas of how things were going to work out.  Except that years later, they didn’t.  So we fell into depression, becoming shells of ourselves.  Or we got bitter, alienating those around us and resenting the ones who did realize their dreams.  Some of us turned to various substances to help us forget; some of us just chose to forget and went on surviving.  We decided not to hope because it was too costly, too disappointing.  We pledged not to feel so we could never get hurt.  We laid those dreams down, comforting ourselves by chalking it up to “putting away childish things.”  Coping mechanisms, all.  And Fantine cracked the shell just a little.  For a moment, we felt all the hurt, the disappointment, the pain that is the hallmark of unfulfilled dreams.

I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this can’t even remember what you used to dream of doing or being — you’ve been on autopilot for too long.  I was there – and not even that long ago.  But awhile back, God began to speak to me about dreaming again.  He wanted me to revisit the things I’d dreamt of long ago.  I tried and tried, and I finally had to tell Him that I couldn’t remember any of them. So God, who can be pretty insistent, began to help me.  Suddenly, I was recalling all kinds of things – little, tiny ones and big, audacious, gonna-take-a-miracle ones.  There was genuine laughter and pleasure in His voice as he said, “The last lyric of the song does NOT have to be ‘Now life has killed the dream I dreamed’ because I AM the Resurrector.  Give Me your dreams – because I first gave them to you – and watch what happens!  This is a season for dreaming with Me!”

What has happened so far is that I have begun to live from a place of hope again instead of a place of just getting by.  I’ve begun to trust that He’s got it all taken care of.  I’ve begun to believe that my dreams have already come true because He sees the end from the very beginning.  It’s only a matter of timing, now.  And I have to say, this is a MUCH more fun way of doing life.  It feels like the night before Christmas as a kid.  Remember how you just KNEW those presents were going to show up under the tree (the right place) on Christmas Day (the right time), and they were going to be AMAZING?  Yeah, it’s like that times ten thousand.  And by the way, God always picks out the perfect gifts.  How do I know this?  Because I always dreamt of traveling as a child, and He has given me trip after trip over the past couple of years.  And He hasn’t stopped giving!  I am going to Alaska at the end of May, which has been on my “WANT!!” list ever since 3rd grade, when I did a report on Seward’s Folly and promptly decided I MUST go there one day.  He just gave me that one yesterday, and I am so excited!  I want to jump around and dance like an idiot and yell and scream because it’s just SO COOL! 😀  And you know, it’s not just the traveling that’s so cool.  It’s that this came up seemingly out of the blue – 3 days ago, it was still a 29 year-old dream in the back of my mind.  But HE never forgot, and He put it together and just sort of casually gave it to me, and it’s awesome because it’s not like going to Alaska is a life-or-death deal for me.  But I’ve wanted it, and He gets such enjoyment out of giving His kids good gifts.  So He gave it.

If you’ve forgotten your dreams, like I had, I want to encourage you to ask the Lord to help you remember them.  If you feel like your dreams are dead, rewrite the lyrics because they are SO not.  He will breathe life back into them for you – LIFE.  Joy, abundance, enthusiasm, giggles, beauty.  FUN.  Poor Fantine didn’t grasp this, but you can. 🙂  Because hope IS high and life IS worth living.

Having been born smack in the middle of the 4th largest city in America, and having grown up in its suburbs, I’ve definitely always considered myself a city girl.  I’ve spent time marooned (I felt)  in very small Midwestern towns and chafed at the lack of culture, museums, ethnic diversity.   I’ve freaked out at the fact that cow poop is green when fresh.  The words, “You actually SWIM in the river??” have come out of my mouth.  And when I got to move back to the big city from those small Midwestern towns, it was as though the heavens opened up and a chorus of  angels escorted me home, all the while singing the Hallelujah Chorus…

But about a month ago, the Lord and I were having a conversation about dreams.  It went something like this:

God:  Hey, I want you to start visualizing your dreams.  Really see them.

Me:  What?  I’m a seer.  Of course I visualize my dreams.

God:  Not the nighttime ones.  The dreams that are in your heart, things you long for.

Crickets…

Me:  Oh.  Um.  Yeah, I don’t think I have any of those. (Dawning realization). I think I’ve spent my life more or less in survival mode, even after I didn’t need to…hard habit to break, that.  You’re gonna have to help me on that one, God, ’cause I can’t think of a single thing I’ve wanted so badly that I’ve wanted it with everything in me.

God:  What about J and M?

Me:  Uh, no, that was YOUR idea.  I certainly wasn’t chasing after J.  Didn’t you read my post, “Honor Among Weirdos?”

God: You know full well that J and M are redemption of your past on many levels.  C’mon, daughter, work with me here.  See your dreams.

I pause.  I look around.

Me:  I can’t SEE any of them.  Help!

God: (grinning) Watch!

Suddenly, this city girl is remembering a time in 2003 that she walked into a model house and announced before she realized what she was saying, “This is my house.  I will build this and live in it one day.”  Suddenly, this city girl is remembering that she saw that house built on a couple of acres of land.  She saw a garden, a few chickens, maybe a cow or two, a creek or shallow river running through the land, and no lawn to mow.   Suddenly, this city girl is realizing she has – and has had – a VERY strong desire to simplify her life for a good while now.  And apparently, simplifying, in her mind, doesn’t equate to city life.

I suppose there have been clues.  About 3 years ago, the hubby and son and I moved to a smaller town outside Austin, and I realized very quickly that I like being NEAR a bigger city but not necessarily living IN it – I can get to it when I need to, but then I can come home to a slower pace of life and far less traffic.   And then there is my ongoing love affair with wide-open spaces: last summer, driving through the mountains of West Texas, I felt like I just belonged there.  Last weekend, we drove all over the Texas Hill Country, and again, I was captivated.  I kept looking for land-for-sale signs. And finally, there’s the fact that no matter how cute the shoes might be, I’d rather be barefoot and digging my toes into the dirt.  Like, the stuff plants grow in, not the grime of a city sidewalk (grooooosss).  I want the sun shining down on my face and the breeze blowing my hair every which way.  I want butterflies and dragonflies and wildflowers in my yard.  I want to lie outside on the driveway at night and actually be able to count the stars…

I don’t know how it will all come to pass.  What I do know is that if the Lord shows it to me, it eventually happens in His timing, so I don’t need to try and figure it all out.  And I’m realizing, too, that when we remember forgotten dreams, we might just see aspects of ourselves, our identities, that we didn’t know were there.  In my case, since I’ve asked the Lord to show me who HE says I am, I’ve been a bit surprised at some of the things He’s said, but they aren’t offensive or cumbersome to me.  They fit…like missing puzzle pieces.

What about you?  Do you need to visualize your dreams?  What would the Lord show you if you allowed Him to help?  What puzzle pieces would you discover?

Martians and Mailboxes

Back when people got more than just junk mail and bills via the US Postal Service, I was a letter-writing fool.  I loved to write to friends all over the country – and oh, the anticipation of receiving a letter in return!  Sadly, those days are long-past.  I don’t stalk the mailbox anymore because, really, City Utilities and Sprint just aren’t that exciting. But I do appreciate our modern-day equivalents to letters, things like email and social media messaging.

Wait, equivalents?  No, sorry.  There’s nothing quite like a handwritten note.  So, okay, our modern-day…methods of correspondence?  I guess that’ll work.

As I was saying, I do appreciate our modern-day methods of correspondence.  Just like I kept a box for all my letters back in the day, I keep personal correspondence in my virtual inboxes.  Occasionally, just like with the letters, I go back through the box and re-read the notes people have sent me…which is exactly what I was doing before I decided to write this blog post.  In fact, I’m writing this because of a looooong chain of messages with one particular person.

I have this friend we’ll call Marvin. (As in, the Martian.  Trust me; it fits.)  I began corresponding with Marvin before I ever met him.  He was one of those people who seemed to know everyone I knew and many I didn’t, and his very funny comments kept popping up all over my Facebook news feed.  He was really kind of an odd duck, from what I could tell, but he had some depth.  One day, I read a note he posted to a mutual friend’s wall, and I felt like he had, well, read my mail.  So I messaged him, conveying my appreciation for his insight, and thus began a very encouraging and uplifting friendship.

Marvin is erudite and friendly, creative  and quirky.  His favorite color is tie-dye, and he has a penchant for purple socks and mannequin heads.  (Perhaps best of all, he has a very firm grasp on the intricacies of proper English grammar and punctuation. This, of course, is a prerequisite for my true friends; I forgot to mention my unfortunate tendency to mentally “red-pen” any and all correspondence I receive.  Marvin saves me time and effort. 😀 )  He is truly a unique person – and he’s quite comfortable to be one.  Just watching him live out life as himself has helped me to become far more comfortable with my own weirdness.  He loves people and accepts them as they are, and they, in return, gravitate to him and Mrs. Marvin (who is equally as cool).

Like any oddball, Marvin is sometimes misunderstood by the more “establishment” among us.  I have seen his motives questioned when there was nothing amiss, and I have seen people put strictures on him that were ridiculous at worst, unnecessary at best.  I can speak for his delightfully original character, though.  Is he perfect?  No, of course not.  He gets his feathers ruffled for funny things (like all of us, quirky or not), he eats waaaay too much Tex-Mex (I heard he lobbied hard to have his most recent grandbaby named Chuy), and sometimes he speaks such fluent geek-speak that I have no idea what he’s saying, but he’s the real deal.  You need a friend, he’s it. You need a unique perspective, he’s got it.  You just need a hug – he’s good at those, too.

I want to encourage you to take some time to get to know someone you might consider weird or different.  You may find one of the most genuine friends you could possibly have.  At the very least, you’ll look at life from a different perspective, at least for a little while.  Oh, and I also want to encourage you to comment on this blog – tell me about that odd someone you love.  Unless, of course, you want to send me a letter. 🙂  In that case, PM me for the address, and be sure to include a SASE for a prompt reply.  I’ll be standing by my mailbox, laptop in hand, waiting!

So…it’s the 15th of July, and my summer has not been even remotely what I thought it would.  What it HAS been is a series of lessons in adjusting my thinking and my response time.  Timing is everything, you know…

First, I had planned on taking the summer off from school (1st break in 3 years) and starting to write my book.  Then I found out that the 4 classes I needed in order to graduate in December were all being offered on the same days in the same 3 time slots, which meant that if I took the summer off, I’d have to go one semester longer for a single class.  Uh, no thanks.  So I signed up for 2 classes this summer – one of which meets at 8 in the morning on SATURDAY, 50 miles from my house.  Yay!

Second, God began to challenge me to rethink everything I ever thought I knew, which I’ve identified as the running theme to my summer.  Through a series of very cool events which I’ll probably document in another blog entry at some point, He showed up in my house in a major way and basically left the door open.  I’m not kidding – people walk into my living room and get overwhelmed by the presence of God.  I’m – we’re – learning how to steward that well, and it’s the reason for all my “best-laid plans” going wonky.

Third, the plans I had to keep my son occupied fell through.  The thought here was to give him something to do for a few hours while I wrote my book…and then while I did my summer schoolwork, too…negatory, Ghostrider.  Instead of him participating in a summer homeschool program my friend started, he’s been home with me all this time.  I was pretty concerned about this arrangement at the beginning (gonna be reeeeeally transparent here) for several reasons.  One, I am definitely not the stay-at-home mom type.  I realize many women are, and God bless ’em, but the idea of coming up with fun little activities we could do together (sock puppets!  dance party!  locking myself in the closet!) sets my teeth on edge.  Two, my son and I are so, so much alike that I thought we’d drive each other up the walnuts, as he says.  Three, my tolerance for Star Wars is exactly 1/276,0000th of my child’s enthusiasm for it.  But what God told me changed my perspective a good deal (well, that, and mandating “No Star Wars Days” from time to time).  He told me that the summer was all about training up my child in the way HE should go – because M and I share very similar giftings, the Lord wanted him to spend a lot of time with me, just watching me live day to day interacting with people and with Him.  And curiously, our being so alike has actually been beneficial.  It turns out my kid wants his alone time just as much as I want mine, and he understands completely when I need to disengage for a few minutes.  He also still likes to take naps or lie quietly reading or drawing for hours at a time, so I’ve not felt tons of pressure to come up with things to do.  We’ve grown closer, and we’ve discussed topics ranging from the Dark Ages vs the Renaissance to Democrats and Republicans to why different denominations believe different things about the same God.  All topics brought up by the 7 year-old, I might add.  It’s kept me on my toes.

Fourth, we were given a word that now was the time to make some decisions.  Well, let me tell you, I’ve had a whole list of topics that I knew were going to need some attention, but I didn’t know immediacy, priority, etc.  And of all the ones to start with, I’d have never picked the one that God did…but isn’t that usually the case?  So the latest is that we’ve been feeling like M wouldn’t continue at the private school he’s gone to for the last 2 years for much longer.  We did think he’d go at least one more year.  Today confirmed otherwise.  We – J, M and I all – have clear direction that he is going to the public elementary school in our neighborhood for 2nd grade.  And I have this strong sense (which has been confirmed by a trusted friend) that all the other decisions will fall into place, contingent on this one.  My friend said she saw the Lord placing a bunch of dominoes very precisely, and when He was through, I got to flick the first one down, which set off the chain reaction perfectly.  I don’t think He could have gotten much clearer. 🙂

Fifth, one of the very biggest things that has happened this summer came from out of the blue.  I started having all these people speak words of creativity over me, again and again and again.  These were people who know me as very logical, precise, and organized.  What none of them know is that early in my life, I painted and drew and wrote constantly and never went anywhere without my beloved Canon A1.  But some years ago, I set all that down.  Life required too much logic and precision just to get by, and I guess I got used to moving within those parameters.  The creativity got stuffed in a dark closet somewhere.  But then a couple of weeks ago I began to feel that there’s a series of paintings the Lord wants me to do…and I kind of freaked out.  I really don’t move in a lot of fear or intimidation as a rule in my daily life, but in this area, I was definitely not my normal, confident self.  All I could think was, “What if it’s no good?  What if I can’t get it out of my head and onto the canvas?  What if I’m fooling myself and I really suck at this stuff?”  Ad nauseam.  And that in itself was completely annoying because I KNOW better than that, but I was still thinking that way and couldn’t seem to help it.  So I made myself accountable to an intercessor group I’m part of…and the next thing I knew, they were all tossing money at me to sow into this series of paintings and my giftings.  The gesture blew me away, and I figured that the 30 or 40 dollars would buy a couple of canvases and maybe a few brushes.  Except that the 30 or 40 dollars ended up being $235.26, and I was promised a French easel as well.  HOLY TOLEDO COW MOLEY FRIJOLE!  I joked that I guessed God was serious about this, and then I went shopping!  And do you know that all of what I bought cost 47 cents less than what was given to me – and I got every single thing I need to get started???

So now I’m at a place where I’m just watching to see where the dominoes fall.  We’ve got one decision crossed off the list, and I have no idea which one will be addressed next, but I know it’ll be ordered of the Lord.  I’m good with that!  And I’m not making ANY more plans this summer (did I mention I was hoping to travel before school started back up?  Sigh…).  So if you happen to call to see if I want to go do something, you might have to be happy with a “maybe” for your answer. 🙂

How’s your summer going?

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