Words Are My Delight

Blogging is an interesting thing. I often feel like I should only draft up a blog and hit “post” when I believe I have something worthwhile to say.

But sometimes I don’t want to write anything revolutionary. Sometimes I just want to write. Because I’m a writer. And I need a place to do that, even if it’s not that exciting. And if you have something that you love to do, and most of the time you do it well, it doesn’t really make sense to keep it to yourself.

I like to remember Jon Acuff when I write my blog. He is presently the best-selling author of Quitter, but when he started writing his first blog, Prodigal Jon, his readership was limited. But that was actually a great thing, because his blog gave him space. It gave him a place to write in one style, and then in another. To change his theme, his tagline, and his platform without having to worry about his audience or a perceived identity crisis. He had a place where he could express his love of writing and even do it poorly sometimes, practicing now what he hoped to produce later.

I’m currently reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I love this woman because she understands the beauty of books exactly the way I do, that out of “…small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world…” She says that most writers come to her workshops and all they care about is being published. “How can I find an agent?” they ask. But they fail to remember that it’s not the publication that changes us (I know because I’ve been published), it’s the act of writing. It’s the feeling you get when words flow from your mind to your fingertips to create something beautiful. And then in days or months or even years to come, you look back at your work and ask with astonishment and delight (and sometimes humiliation), “Did I write that?” Lamott emphasizes that writers need to love writing not for the external benefits (which aren’t that lucrative, even for a best-selling author) but the internal ones.

And for that reason I will keep writing in this blog, even when I have nothing worthwhile to say. Sometimes I might write something inspirational, but other times I’m going to write about what I’m cooking for dinner, or my favourite cleaning products, or the craft I just made that I’m really proud of. And I’ll do it because when I string words together like beads I feel good inside, because I know I’m doing what I was created to do.

Revisiting Chapter Two

A year and a half ago I sat in the airport crying as I was waiting to board one of three flights that would take me to Thailand. Despite my excitement to go, I was actually pretty scared, and at the last moment I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave my family for 6 months and move yet again. I listened to the same song on my iPod over and over (for increased dramatic effect) wiping away tears as curious passengers looked at me with pity. When my body didn’t move during the boarding call I considered not getting on the plane. But then I coaxed myself out of my chair and made a promise that I would at least fly to Toronto and take it from there.

A coffee from Tim Horton’s seemed to do the trick, and once in Toronto I boarded the plane to Beijing with more excitement than nervousness. Partway through my flight, however, I began to question why I was actually going to Thailand, and wondering if it was a smart decision. Suddenly I wanted to get off the plane, but I was 6 hours in to a 13 hours flight. Shoot.

And then I got to Beijing where I was greeted by the most chaotic airport security in my life. At that point all I wanted to do was sleep, which is what I did during most of the 6 hour flight to Bangkok.

But then I was in Thailand, and the moment I stepped outside of the ice-cold airport into the warm, spicy 2am air, I was in love. I was at home. It was exactly how I pictured it.

One year ago today I left Thailand and began life in a new reality. In Bangkok I spent 6 months dancing on a mountain top, running wild with hope, and living in complete joy and trust. I felt more like Natalie than I ever have.

And though it’s been hard to get that Natalie back, I know that it’s not possible to live on the mountain top. We walk out our lives in the valley, with the vision that we gained on the mountain. I spent much of this past year wondering where that vision went, and wondering what it’s supposed to look like in this context. I can’t tell you that I actually know, but I’m learning to find grace for myself and to regain all of the joy and trust that I had when I was in Thailand. It’s definitely a long and hard journey, but I’m believing that it will be one with great rewards.

“I’m So Bored!”

Those are the words that I long to utter.

I’m not the type of person who fills up my life with so many activities that I have no time left to spare. I hate that feeling, and I hate how I act when life becomes that way. In fact, when I notice that my google calender is filling up fast, I get anxious and re-work my schedule so that I know I’ll have some me-time. I prefer this me-time in the morning, before the world is awake, and all I need is some freshly-brewed coffee, a journal, a pen, and my bible. I treasure this time and am easily irritated when people start talking to me and break my focus.

Anyway, back to being bored. I want to be bored because I want to be creative. In a conversation the other day I learned that creativity often stems from boredom, and the reason people lack creativity is because they’re just so busy. I’ve felt this way a lot lately. All I want to do is get my creative juices flowing once again, but I can’t. I’m stuck.

I think back to when Living with my Parents started, two years ago. I was incredibly bored! I was living out in the sticks and I had no job, and no purpose. After fighting through some resistance I channeled that boredom into writing, and have never enjoyed creating prose as much as I did in those 6 months.

But like I said, my problem isn’t that I’m too busy. My problem is that I don’t know how to rest.

Take for example two weeks ago. It was Friday night and I had no plans. All I wanted to do was come home from work and create. I pulled out some scrap booking paper, I started to print  some photos, and I gathered some old picture frames I had on hand.

And then I noticed the mess.

The absolute clutter in every corner of our apartment. The dishes stacked high. My unwashed laundry. And so I stopped creating and started cleaning. I became obsessed with cleaning and worked well into the evening, finally heading to bed around 11pm.

This happens to me a lot. I’ve forgotten how to just be and I’m constantly bombarded with the message that I must do. But then I’m never satisfied with how I’ve spent my time, and I never end the day feeling as though I’ve somehow enriched my life.

I’m just longing for some boredom (obviously without neglecting responsibilities). I want to stop, breathe, sit in silence, become utterly bored, and wildly imaginative. That’s my goal this next week.

Here’s to boredom!

On the Road of Life, Use a Map

I’ve read 2 interesting posts about the GPS lately. The first was here at Stuff Christians Like, and the second was here, on my friend Katherine’s blog.

Interesting, I think, because both posts refer to sermon illustrations that take a completely opposite stance on the GPS than I do.

Essentially they liken the GPS to God’s path and how we might veer off it if we don’t listen to the “voice.” (Sounds to me like these sermons breed a culture of fear).

As for me, I have a strong dislike for the GPS. And every time I use it, I tell myself that I’ll never use it again.

This could be because I have a negative association with the GPS. My first memory of it dates back to 2004 on the day before New Years Eve, when my mom, dad, and I were trying to make it back up a mountain to my aunt and uncle’s chalet in Switzerland after dropping my brother and his girlfriend (now wife) off at the train station.

The GPS was having major “recalculating” issues, taking us here and there and everywhere, so of course my dad chose not to listen to the annoying voice in the box and create his own route. Needless to say we became quite lost. So my mom took it upon herself to dangle that precious GPS (belonging to the car rental company) outside the window, threatening to chuck it unless my dad pulled over and asked for directions.

Eventually we made it up the mountain, but it wasn’t without me wishing I could chuck myself out the window that day.

Since then I’ve lacked trust in the GPS (and please don’t use this as an analogy for me lacking trust in God – it’s an electronic box!) I can’t even count the amount of times the GPS has taken me along the wrong road, a gravel road, an unnamed road (through the wilderness), the complete opposite direction of my destination, or added an unnecessary 2 hours to the route.

So without further ado, here is my GPS sermon.

Buy a Roadmap

Think of the map of a road as the map of your life. With it you can see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to end up. You can also choose how you want to get there, and where you might want to stop along the way. You can be strategic. That’s called wisdom.

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Lost again

And of course there will be times when your mapped out journey will fall through. You might encounter some construction that you didn’t expect. Whatever the detour is, it’s all a part of the adventure which will inevitably build your character along the route to the final destination (which could very well change amidst the journey).

But then there are some people who will punch their destination into an unreliable GPS without even bringing along a roadmap and set out on an “adventure”. I’ve been that person way too many times.

Are you seeing the stupidity in this?

Why would you listen to the voices in a box – voices that might lead you astray – when you have been given an indispensible tool, a road map? (i.e. – a brain).

Life Application

I’m not saying that the GPS can never help you. But I think it serves merely as an aid, after you’ve studied the map and have a clear idea of where you’re trying to go.

But what if you don’t?

Then I think the voices of the GPS are a lot like the voices of the world.

“Go here, go there! Like this, buy that! Money, success, fame, glory! That’s what’s important!”

And so you start following those voices, even though you might not even want those things, because that’s what those voices are telling you, and since you don’t have you’re own map to consult, you’re not even really sure where you want to go, what you want to do – what you want in life.

I might be young (by some standards) but I’ve lived long enough to know that even with a roadmap life is not necessarily going to take the route that you want it to. In fact, it probably won’t. But isn’t it better to actually know where you want to go, so that when you come up against those potholes, construction zones, and road closures you actually have the wisdom to determine what to do next?

I think that’s a lot better than a GPS that can take you to a place you never wanted to go without even realizing it.

The thing is, I don’t think God is like a GPS. God is not a voice in a box that tells us where to go (often calling out the wrong directions). God is a lot smarter than a GPS. A lot more gracious (He doesn’t whine Recalculating!), and He’s not fearful when we get lost. He’s in total control.

God won’t set us up for the wrong path. He’s promised to guide us and counsel us, and He even gives us tools (like a brain, gifts, skills, passions, desires, and wisdom) so that instead of being a mindless robot we are a person of character who doesn’t just “go with the flow” but uses those tools efficiently.

And I honestly believe that as long as we’re using those tools with God as our ultimate goal, we can’t really go wrong.

Goodbye Vague Ambition

Perhaps my GPS Sermon Illustration is nothing new to you, and you’ve heard it all before. Or maybe you completely disagree with me because you’re experience with the GPS has been positive.

But hopefully this post will make you think a little bit more about what you want in life, give you the courage to chuck your vague ambition out the window, and as my favourite man (after Jesus and my future husband…and my dad and my brother) Don Miller says,

“…to stand up and point toward a horizon.”

Get Ready, Miller Fans!

For those of you who don’t know, the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years was conceived when Don Miller was approached by a director to turn his best selling novel, Blue Like Jazz into a movie.

Everything that Don learned about the concept of a story while editing his life into a movie made its way into A Million Miles.

But did you know? Blue Like Jazz almost didn’t become a movie!

From the website savebluelikejazz.com:

On September 16th, Don posted on his blog that despite a strong screenplay, a stellar cast, and rave reviews, the film would be put on hold indefinitely – because there was not enough funding. We thought, that since the book itself is so unique, why should the funding come traditionally? We submit that the funds for this movie should come from the people who the book actually impacted. It should come from the more than a million people who bought the book. It should come from the fans. We are raising $125,000 in time for the film to enter into production on October 25th.

And guess what happened? Fans of the book raised $345,992!

Ergo, we have our movie!

Pass It On!

I’m happy to report that my copy of A Million Miles is making its way around the world! Sometimes when you love a book so much you can’t just tell people to go out and read it – you have to pass it on!

I lent my copy to my friend Katherine, but then I told her to keep it. She loved it so much that she wanted to pass it on to our friend Abby. So we decided that the purpose of this book would be be travel far and wide (perhaps a millions miles?), gracing as many people as possible, becoming dog-eared, underlined and highlighted in the process! (This is one of the reasons I love books so much and why I could never own a Kindle).

On the inside cover of our book we’ve written our names, the year we read it, and the city we were in when we read it. It begins in Ottawa in 2010, and where it will end up…who knows!? Maybe your hands!

Also Can’t Wait For…

I’m also looking forward to Don’s new book, The Way of a Creator. Here’s what he has to say about it:

It’s about becoming a person who speaks something into nothing, makes things happen, changes reality for themselves and for others. It’s also a little provocative, because I talk about how evangelical church culture breeds a community of fear, which makes people consumers rather than creators. Start firing up the torches, haters!

Words are powerful. I’m reminded of that more and more lately. God spoke and there was light. The word became flesh. God calls into existence that which does not exist.

Don, you are certainly a man after my own heart. Too bad you just got engaged!

Once More for Mr. Miller

Don, Don, Don. You’ve done it again. You’ve captivated me with your words (and you know how much I love words). You’ve reminded me why I would marry you in a heartbeat. If you knew me, you would love me! Because to be known is to be loved…

Enough rhetoric. Let’s get down to business. I’ve not forgotten about Dose of Don these past three months. Not at all. You see, the reason that I haven’t been writing about living out a story is because I’ve actually been living out a story. And a good one, I believe. A really good one.

Nevertheless, Don’s recent blog post got me thinking…

In his article, “Is Your Life Confusing?” Don writes about how a study from the creators of Sesame Street suggest that children lost interest Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, and Bert & Ernie when they didn’t understand what was going on. Introducing a bit of conflict didn’t help re-gain their attention. Instead, the writers had to work hard to make sure that every bit of the story line was understood.

How does this relate to our own lives? This is the question that Don asks.

I posit that we all do the same thing, not with television, but in life. That is, we check out when we don’t understand what is going on. We distract ourselves. Or, worse, we ratchet up the conflict or numb ourselves with entertainment.

Let me ask you this: What if your own life was so engaging that entertainment seemed boring? I mean what if you were involved in projects that so captivated you that turning on the television would be a distraction from your real life? Can you imagine such a possibility?

The elements of a meaningful story are the same as the elements of a meaningful life:

1. A character.

2. That knows what they want.

3. And is willing to overcome conflict.

4. To get it.

Yes!

I’ve been so distracted from my “wants” lately. I get distracted very easily by very many things (namely, guys). And these distractions lead to confusion. And then I forget what I want. And then I think about throwing my wants out the window.

What a good reminder this article was about the things that I want. As I think about my wants, the main questions is this: Am I willing to overcome conflict? If I go back to school, am I willing to dish out all that cash at 27? Will it be risky? Yes. Will it be worth it? I hope so!

I was talking to my friend Shelly a few weeks ago about the main reason why we don’t pursue the things we want. And generally it’s because we don’t want to do the hard work that’s involved. We could get along just fine how we’re doing now, but is it really what we want? Going back to school (or anything else that you might desire) will mean a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but you have to weigh the cost and know what you want. Do you actually know? Or are you just living day to day, letting life call the shots.

I’ve never been the type of person who has a “plan.” Truthfully, I think I had this notion that having a plan meant you weren’t trusting God. And this can be true, I think, for those who plan out every stinkin’ detail of their lives, not allowing for any sorts of detours. But the other side of the coin is passivity, complacency, neglect.

I have a plan. Even though I love this country so very much, I’m leaving Bangkok mid-July. I’m going home. I have an awesome roommate lined up an awesome part of the city. And I’m applying to go back to school for a one year grad course in communications.

Am I allowing for some unexpected detours that might re-route my path? Totally! That’s half the fun! But right now, it feels good to know what I want and to go after it.

Thank you, Don!

Marry me?