A house is just a house

logo_new04-300x300Its a cold and dreary day here today which seems appropriate since I’m feeling a little dreary myself. It’s not that there’s really anything wrong, per se, but I am in a place where I need to make a change in my life that I don’t want to make

I’m going to have to move.

I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’ve been in the same place ever since I moved back home and my little apartment has become a cocoon; a safety zone for me that I just don’t feel ready to abandon just yet.

As I sat and thought about it last night, looking at the fairly limited options I have available to  me in this incredibly difficult rental market, I suddenly hearkened back to the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, “A House is Not A Home” and began to wonder what exactly does make a home? Is it the furnishings? The location? The song suggests that the house is not a home without that special person there. Does that mean that a house (or apartment) where a single person lives can’t be a home? Does the love I have for my dog mean the same for creating a loving, “homey” space as that between two people?

I would have to vehemently say that a house can be a home regardless of the number of human beings that reside in said building. I have lived alone for nearly 10 years now and absolutely consider my current apartment more than just a set of walls that provide shelter from the elements. My little 800 square feet is a place that I not only feel free to be myself but I where I am comfortable having others in. I have friends there and have broadened my “family” with the people that surround me in the complex. I mean, sure, there are many people with whom I’ve never even nodded hello, but many of the people have become part of my day to day existence and the thought of having to give that up is painful.

Even as I type this, I realize how silly this all sounds. People move all the time and it’s hardly the end of the world. In fact, it can be fun! The start of a whole new adventure! I know this…I truly do, and yet, I am still struggling.

Its not just the process of having to find a new place to live that is more within my budget in a part of town I don’t know surrounded by people I don’t know (although that is, honestly, enough to keep me up at night…and has on many occasions lately). More than that, it’s the need to pick up yet again and start over; to find my way by myself one more time; having to start over yet again to develop a feeling of safety and security in a new place.

Safety and security are not things that I have ever had the luxury of taking for granted. While I certainly recognize that I am blessed, having not been not raised nor ever having lived in a war torn nation threatened by bullets and bombs or having ever lived in the inner city surrounded by gang violence and drugs, I have spent much of my life feeling the need to be perpetually “on guard”, ready and waiting for the next threat to appear.

The thing is, that over the last 4 years, I have been able to stabilize my life; to remove those things that were a threat to me in one way or another and I have been able to just rest in the quiet and calm of safety.

And not I have to shake things up all over again.

I have cried, I have run countless numbers on paper and in my head trying to figure out ways to avoid this new reality, and I keep coming back to the same place.

I have to move.

Of course, God had a bit to say about my moping and whining.

He reminded me that much as I hate the idea of moving, this coming move is like the Spring which has just started. It is full of unknowns and uncertainty, but more than that, it is full of promise. The buds on the trees and flowers, which may well freeze over the next day or two, still took the risk to come out and despite their early appearance, their eagerness will not be in vain. The promises of tomorrow don’t go away just because of a little dreariness or down-trodenness.  They are all there waiting with joy and expectation and sometimes the come in the most unusual packages…

…like a little mud and saliva…or the end of a lease.

The bottom line is this. God can us anything to show us his grace, mercy and love. Sometimes its a big, wonderful rainbow of glorious color that is seen by everyone but sometimes its just a little mud and saliva that is wiped on our eyes to clear away our inability to see the things right in front of us. The mud that God is using for me at this moment is my lease.

Maybe I will find a way to stay where I am, or maybe, just maybe, I will find someplace that is so much more than I could have expected. What I have to do is to stop whining about the why’s and what if’s and choose instead to acknowledge the fact that God loves me and has a plan for me that is greater than my blind little eyes can see in their current state. I have to choose to see that a home is a house with GOD in it and the location of that home doesn’t matter.

Where are you in this Spring season? Are you relishing in the joys of the season or complaining (like me) about the changes that come with it? Regardless of your answer, know that God is with you and waiting for you – like me – to make the choice to see Him in it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diving In

whatever-you-do-or-dream-you-can-begin-it-boldness-has-genius-and-power-and-magic-in-it17The New Year is rapidly descending upon us and I know that many of us are more than happy to be rid of 2016. This year has brought such strife – political unrest, death of beloved celebrities, economic woes, and on and on. Ah yes, the New Year has to be better, right?

Well, sure, but it isn’t going to happen all by itself.

I was reminded of this as I sat pouting at home on Sunday night, throwing myself a pretty significant pity party.

You see, it was my 50th birthday. A milestone that for many brings lots of hoopla and festivity, but for me, it didn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong. Friends and family all wished me a happy birthday, I am well and employed – all of things not to be taken for granted -but somehow it didn’t feel like “enough”. Even though I have never really done much for my birthday, even though I have learned throughout the years that trying to do something during the holidays is, to say the least, challenging, it still felt lonely and sad knowing there wasn’t a big party waiting for me or a special someone to make a big fuss over my special day.

Oh, woe is me!img_4815

After I was able to drag my 2-year-old-child self out of the kicking and screaming tantrum I was having, I realized that nothing happens in a vacuum and I had created just such a vacuum.

The reality is that most people in my immediate circle had no idea it was my birthday let alone that it was my 50th. I suppose this is a result of a childhood spent feeling like my birthday was more of a burden than a celebration; an inconvenience rather than something to look forward to. So I kept this tidbit of knowledge to myself and would casually toss it out in random conversations hoping against hope that someone would pick up on my desire to have a party and run with it.

Shocker! They didn’t.

Much as I would like for people to know my inmost desires without my saying a word, they simply do not. And unlike the forever popular romantic comedies, there rarely is a best friend or random stranger to provide this information to my loved ones for me. I have to actually open my mouth and express my wishes for people to hear me and act.

This is a difficult lesson for me because I have always been a people pleaser. The daughter of an abusive alcoholic, I have always worked hard to make sure that everyone else is taken care of and put my own needs and wants aside. My motto has always been the less you notice my presence, the less likely it is that I’m going to be hurt. And sure, that keeps new wounds from being inflicted – or at least limits the number significantly, but it also builds a wall so high that I end up feel lonely and slighted when I don’t to be center stage on these momentous occasions.

So what does this have to do with New Years?

Well, as I thought about this last night and this morning, I realized that each one of us has the opportunity not just at dawn of the new year, but every single day to dive in and create the life we want rather than wait for it to happen on its own – which, let’s be honest – means we’ll be waiting for a very, VERY long time.

We have to be willing to look at the life we feel we deserve or want and create a plan of action to obtain it, not just sit idly by and whine about how others are getting the achievements and fun that we want but have never been “lucky enough” to get. Does this mean we have to go through long, tedious hours of goal setting? Not necessarily, but there has to be some active participation on all of our parts for these things to occur.

None of us can change my health, physical abilities or our artistic abilities without making a decision to start lessons or spend more time practicing or working out and then actually acting on that decision.calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions

None of us can start making an impact on children, homelessness, animal rights or whatever the passion is without carving out time to actually get involved somewhere and, as Ghandi stated, be the change we want to see in the world.

And none of us can create healthy, positive friendships that encourage things like birthday parties or support systems for those inevitable times of strife without actually stepping out into the world and start engaging with others in similar positive, loving ways. Sometimes this means reaching out to old friends, sometimes this means finding new friends, and sometimes this means seeking counseling or support to find healthy ways to engage to bring people into our lives that will be the blessings we need.

Going into this New Year and expecting it to be awesome just because it isn’t the current year is a recipe for certain failure. Things have to be put in place so a positive change actually happens. Am I suggesting that I’m joining yet another dating site? No, but I am saying that I am going to make a more focused effort to get out and participate more; to be more engaged in other people’s so they can be more engaged in mine.

new-years-resolution

How about you? What changes would you like in your life that you’ve been too fearful of making? The reality is that we only fail by not trying. Simply opening the door to a new challenge is success in and of itself.

I would love to hear what you are planning and maybe we can keep each other encouraged and motivated. Feel free to comment back with your thoughts, hopes and goals. I look forward to reading them all and walking with you every step of the way.

Join me! Dive in and let’s see what this New Year can bring!

 

 

 

The In-Between Time

I at-work-cookie-monsteram in one of those “in-between” times…between jobs, between relationships, between big events, waiting the next new chapter of my life to begin. Waiting can be a challenging thing. As I’ve stated before, it makes me question my decisions and my abilities and I have to admit that recently I have wondered whether I’ve completely missed the opportunity that the Lord has provided me my being too “me”…

…and then a sermon was preached at my home church which made me feel very much at peace with where I am.

The lesson was on the passage Luke 17:11-19 which tells the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. I don’t know about you but I’m sure that I’ve heard this story told in many different ways through the years but the bottom line for the story typically is a reminder of being grateful for your blessings; remembering to say thank you for the gifts you are given. That’s certainly a viable message, but the speaker I recently heard took the lesson so much further I felt I needed to share my thoughts about it with you.

As you may remember, this passage opens with telling the reader where Jesus is. It’s a big_thumblittle piece of information that I have glossed over dozens of times, but that little piece of information is actually quite important. At this time Jesus is on the road between Samaria and Galilee – literally between a group of people that were considered by the Jewish people to be “the bad guys” – the Samarians – and the people considered to be “the good guys” – the Galileans. The lepers were there because they could not live in their home cities due to their illness. It must have been very distressing. Not only were they each afflicted with this horrible disease, but from the perspective of the men from Galilee, they were forced to live with someone they considered to be their enemy – the man from Samaria. Since there were nine Galileans, I can’t help but wonder how long it took for the “good guys” to allow the one Samaritan to be near them; how long the sole Samaritan had to live in isolation before he was accepted by the others. Regardless, there in that “in-between” place, the outcasts became unified to some degree and they created their own community which no longer cast the Samaritan as an enemy, but only as a person similarly afflicted.

When we are in times of “in-between” we often have the same thing occur. People that we dc06ffcce360f8076ab4757eab5e08f9may not have associated with before or not understood now become more a part of our circle if they, too, are in-between. When one sits in an unemployment office or goes to meet with state agencies for assistance, the differences between us melt away. We are all in the same desert waiting for the same drop of water to quench our need.

In this passage of scripture, that drop of water came from Jesus who healed all ten men with a single sentence. Like us,the solution for all of them didn’t recognize differences. Regardless of their status, station or affiliation, the solution was the same and yet their responses varied significantly.

The Galileans, seeing that they had been healed, now had the opportunity to return to the society they had been shut out of. They could return to their church and in so doing, be welcomed back into their community, their homes, their livelihoods. All could go back to the way it was – including no longer having a Samaritan as a member of their community. Things could go back to “normal”.

The Samaritan could easily have returned to his home like the others did; returned to whatever life he had before he became afflicted with leprosy, gone back to “normal”as well, but he chose not to. Why? Because being in the “in-between” changed him.

He was no longer the same man who entered that portion of desert and lived that i-am-what-i-choose-to-becomeexistence “in-between”. He was changed and, more importantly, he wanted to remain changed.

Looking at my life now, I realize this is the same opportunity I have and we all have when we are in times of being “in-between”.

Times like these allow us a chance to re-examine our own beliefs and thoughts and decide if they are ideals we wish to hold fast to or change. If we see that there are changes we need to make or wish to make to our lives, this in-between time allows us to make those changes and choose a new direction; to choose a path that is more in line with where we see the Lord is calling us to go just as the Samaritan man did.

Here’s the thing.

Whether we realize it or not, times of being “in-between” change us just like both the Galileans and the Samaritans were changed. They had to learn to live near one another, to accept the destruction of their bodies, to find ways to survive in a place far from their homes and families and though our in-between looks quite difference, we also have to change. We have to learn to live with the new reality of our lives for however long that new reality exists – a new reality that may include people we previously wouldn’t have associated with or jobs we wouldn’t have considered satisfactory.

60c413fef21aeca2b0a68be83af5df2dBut we also have the opportunity to learn to experience new blessings and mercies we would not have had in our life before the “in-between”. We have the opportunity to find the “there” there – to find joy, peace and the gifts that God provides us each and every day in places we previously didn’t know existed let alone ever thought we would find ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. Being “in-between”is challenging. I makes us see things we don’t want to see in ourselves and perhaps in others and also makes us change in ways we may not want to change.

We have to remember that God waits with us there just as He walked that road between Samaria and Galilee. He provides the same blessings to all who come near. One of the most significant blessings He provides is the wisdom of those who have been there and gotten to the other side. Our job is not only seeing the blessing of the in-between times and their resolutions, but also being grateful for the presence of these times in our lives and learning from those who are willing to share their journeys with us.

If you’re “in-between”, as I am, be blessed by its presence. If you have learned new things about yourself or your calling during such times, I would love to hear about it. If you have survived the “in-between” and wish to share your experiences, please do!

Wrong

photoI have to give a shout out to my favorite work out community, Daily Burn 365, for spurring this post. If you need workout inspiration, need a community to hold you accountable or simply try something new, I highly recommend giving them a try!

One of the things I love about Daily Burn 365 is that it is so much more than just an online trainer shouting out directions to get me to sweat and get stronger. It’s a holistic approach to health that creates a space that is accepting of who each person is and where they are right now. There is not judgement, just encouragement and that encouragement comes not only through the trainers, but through the discussions that are held after each workout that help members focus on how to make each day better – how to be healthier, happier, and have more blessings each day.

The discussion this morning was about the need to change our internal dialogues that have developed as a result of our past; how the judgments of others have colored the way we view ourselves. The trainer for the day had spoke to how she needed o change her body image after years of ballet training. For her, despite the fact that I’m sure she was a beautiful dancer and highly skilled, she was unable to do a number of the things that she desired to do because she was too big. She took the criticism of her size (which I’m certain she could do nothing about since there is literally nothing you can do about growth) and heard it as a condemnation of who she was as a person.What she heard every time she was told she couldn’t do something was that she as a person was “wrong”.

Wow! Did that ring true for me!wrong-advice

I don’t know about you, but the word “wrong” heavily affects me. Every time someone says or alludes to me being wrong -regardless of the reason – I feel my shoulders suddenly weighed down to by the gravity of the word; like the word itself is a grain of sand that I have saved like a precious stone and carried with since childhood and now all of those grains have grown to be something the size of the Sahara desert that I drag behind me on a daily basis.

No wonder my shoulders are sore!

One of the things that I have noticed about this word is that it doesn’t actually have to have been said for me to feel it’s weight. For example, being an actress, I attend audition after audition and am plagued by rejection. It’s just the nature of the business. When a director doesn’t choose me for a part, I know in my head that the reason I wasn’t chosen could be because I didn’t look the way he or she imagines that character to look or I didn’t have the chemistry with the other actors that he or she is desiring. From a logical standpoint, not being chosen for a part almost never has anything to do with me as a person, but what I feel is it that it has everything in the world to do with me. I’m not pretty enough, talented enough, too old, too short, too…too….anything. I’m just overall wrong as a person and I am crushed by the weight of those grains of sand again and again.

im-right-youre-wrong_1370Now I can’t say this definitively, but I am feel fairly certain I am not alone in the way this word affects me. I believe this because we all become defensive when told we are wrong. We find excuses for why something happened or how some event came about or why we believe the way we do. The word “wrong” has become personal definition rather than just being an objective statement of a fact about something external from you and I.

I think the reason for this actually comes from the way we use that word. Maybe its because of our laziness when we speak to one another, but somewhere along the line we stopped saying things like “you’ve done this problem incorrectly” or “I don’t believe the same thing you do about this” and simplified it to “you’re wrong”. While it may seem to say the same thing, the indication to the other person is significantly different. Being told I did a math problem incorrectly means that this is a fixable problem; it doesn’t say anything about me personally. To say I am “wrong” indicates that I as a person am wrong and there is nothing I can do about that; I am stupid, incapable, not fixable.

While you may be reading this and thinking that I clearly overthink things and need some serious psychological help, let me throw this out there for you to think about.

 

The race issues in our country stemmed from a group of individuals deciding that a darker color of skin was “wrong” and therefore those persons could be treated as less than human.tumblr_m503jcc8fn1qcnmcao1_500

The sexual orientation issue is very much the same. One group of people points at another and aggressively states that what another person feels about themselves – their very identity as a person – is wrong.

We even do this with faith. One group decides that another’s beliefs are wrong and therefore the people who believe those things are also wrong and need to be at best, changed and at worst, eliminated.

 

 

The thing is that God doesn’t do “wrong”. God is perfect and can create nothing less than perfection. I as a human have the ability to make incorrect decisions about my life (as I have proven over and over again), but I was created by a perfect God so I was made “right”; I am who God wants me to be. As a child of God, I need to believe the same for each and every person around me. I may not understand why God made an individual the way they are or why their beliefs are what they are, but it isn’t for me to say they are “wrong”. Being different doesn’t mean being wrong. God created an entire universe full of different things and none of them are “wrong”.

And neither are we.

27musicAs I walked away from my workout this morning, I challenged myself to do something and I would like to challenge you with the same.

I have challenged myself to remove the phrase “you’re wrong” from my vocabulary. Instead, when I’m getting ready to say those words, I want to stop and assess what it is I’m really trying to say and speak those words instead. Do I think someone made an incorrect decision? Was a task done incorrectly? Whatever it is, I am challenging myself to be more specific in my words so that what I say to someone is not that they as an individual are “wrong”. They are not – you are not – and neither am I.

 

 

The Heartbeat of a City

tmp_1335_7-10-2013_114834_There is a heartbeat of any place where people congregate. It’s an internal rhythm that can not only be felt, but can be see in the movement of its cars and people; slower in rural areas, faster and more energetic in cities. I know this isn’t a new concept but I was reminded of it as I sat in an office on the 16th street mall in Denver looking down on those ant-like skitterings of humans and vehicles making their way through their busy – or not so busy – day.

The never-ending buzz of activity I could see from above took me back to my younger years when I worked downtown and experiences this energy for the first time but the energy had changed. Back then, the city had a freshness; a newness that reminded me that I was starting my life fresh. All of the hopes and dreams in my mind were yet to be either realized or shattered and I felt that in the mirrored-finish of the skyscrapers that surrounded me as well as the brand new pedestrian mall that ran through the center of the city.

The beat of Denver is different now than it was then. The state-of-the-art shopping complex was once the center of that pedestrian mall now houses offices (like the one I was sitting in ), a university and pizza joint. What was once a vibrant working and shopping community has more reminders of  the homelessness that is so pervasive in our country and the dichotomy of rich and poor seems less stark as the oil and gas industry has recently taken a hit and other successful businesses in town are working harder and leaner to get to the same place they were back then.

In a way it saddens me. I love my city and I love the memories of those “hay days” from the 80’s, but Denver, like many cities, has gone through some pretty significant growing pains as it has tried to overcome  its “cow-town”reputation. While the sidewalks don’t roll up at 10pm on week-nights anymore, Denver hasn’t quite found its way to becoming the great metropolitan center of the Southwest.

Don’t get me wrong. Denver, has a great deal to offer! But Denver, at least for me, will always have a sense of naivety that is more commonly found in smaller areas. I love that despite the growing pains it has suffered, Denver is working hard to overcome its past and present burdens and struggles.  It is works to keep the sense of history that exists here while building something new that will be great now and in the future.

Funny. That’s just what we are doing as Christians and members of other faith communities, isn’t it?

Each of us has growing pains as we move into our faith. We all start out fresh and “shiny”, thinking we have it all figured out and are ready to take on the world with our big dreams and bigger imaginations but in the blink of an eye, the ground shifts beneath us and those dreams crack or maybe even break. We falter, our identity as Christians and as individuals and we are left standing there like empty storefronts on a forgotten city block – holding the space that was once our glory but now is just a shell, a reminder of our failure. We begin to wonder who we really are if we aren’t the person we imagined ourselves to be in our “glory days”.

1932-storefront_3231The joy of being both human and a member of a faith community is just like the excitement of being in the middle of a city that is being revitalized. Like that city, we have the ability to recreate ourselves; to take what was once there and recreate it into something not just newer, but better. Who we were before only adds dimension to who will choose to be tomorrow. But just like those who are looking at the shattered windows and graffitied walls of the city, we have to make a choice to change and accept that the choice will take work.

The choice to change is a scary one. It takes risk, it takes strength, and it takes faith. I know this now more than I did before as I recently walked away from a job that was causing me physical and emotional distress. I had to choose to believe I was worth the risk, to believe that I had the strength to stand up and take the leap, and to have the faith that God will provide a way through.

Believe me, I didn’t take this step lightly or easily. I literally spent days sitting at my computer and crying, trying to figure out what I needed to do and being overwhelmed by the risks that were ahead.

In the end, though, I came to one very clear realization. I was, for lack of a better phrase, being called to step out in faith. To take a new journey of revitalization.

I could have declined, chosen the easier path of staying put, but for this, this was not an option. Not only would the stress kill me, but I would become a human representation of one of the ghost towns that litter that mountains of Colorado. I would become an empty shell of who I was created to be.

Instead I have chosen to do the hard work – to gut much of the structure of my current life and re-imagine what my life could be.

I have to admit that I am terrified.

What if I fail? What if I run our of money before my next job arrives? What if I completely misunderstood what God was telling me because it was what I wanted to hear?

Believe me, these thoughts plague my mind more frequently than I care to admit, but I am choosing to take a “city planner” view of my situation.

Like Denver, my life still has pretty good bones, as it were. I have good skills, a strong faith, and a good group of people around me that are helping me to look to the future rather than worry about the moment.construction denver

As I sat in the office in the 16th street office, I see myself in the cranes and construction sites around the city. I am like my beloved city. I will come out of this stronger, newer, and more in tune with who I am supposed to be rather than who someone else said I should be so many years ago.

What about you? Are you being revitalized like I am or have you already been through this process and can see the other side? Or maybe you chose to stay put and see that staying there has revitalized you in other ways. Whatever your story, I would love to hear it.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to building.