Stories (Mostly Serious)

Being Attracted to Humility

When you think generally about the word “humility” what comes to mind?  Maybe someone who is very quiet, passive; the kindergartner who gets pushed to the last place in line without anyone’s notice… Even the flamboyant NFL player who points toward the sky after a touchdown and the crowd coos in admiration. How humble of him. If humility were a color, it would match perhaps a light brown or off white kind of unremarkable color.

A color that someone would easily pass by.  A color maybe in our skin tones, in the winter grass, the unexciting background color for a tapestry. Humility.

I happened upon humility unexpectedly when I was working on a video project for a client awhile back.  The project included incorporating a clever poem, so I started searching for different artists and poets.

I ran across a poet, and when my eyes met the words it became artistic love at first sight. I became so moved by the simplicity of her style, the fire in her words, and the artistry she brought to her messages that it literally brought me to tears.

Whyyy am I crying?  This is not normal.  What time of the month is it?  I could not diagnose my strange emotional reaction until it occurred to me, this artist poet lady had what I was looking for.  She was doing what she loved and reaching people at the same time through her art. She wasn’t sacrificing one for the other, which I constantly struggle with.

Have you ever had that happen to you?  Where you didn’t know what you wanted exactly, and then you stumble upon it, and you think that’s what I was looking for, that’s what I’m trying to get to…

I felt a question in me rise up to God meekly…

God, how do I do this? I don’t know how to do this.

It can be an agonizing part of the process of dreaming, of creating, of pursuing any kind of passion to have no type of satisfying conclusion to your work.

I realized I was out of answers for my artistic endeavors.  I was out of trial and error experiments.  I was out of fuel.  I was out of trying and trying again. I was out of life plans scribbled on the back of receipts to present to God.  I had a lot of dreams I suppose, that had moved out of my head to somewhere on paper perhaps, but shared with no one but me.  I didn’t know what it looked like to share it, to broadcast it, even how to give it a name.

I just had my beat up forty year old soul mixed in the form of an innocent first grader’s type of question …how?

Could I really even approach God like that, though?

Wasn’t that illegal?  Isn’t that like saying uncle to God?  Admitting weakness?  Admitting defeat?  Doesn’t that go in the “lack of faith” department?

But – ahem, I realized that I was indeed working with a shade, an expression of humility.  Humility is something God loooves; He’s attracted to it like ants to honey.   That is humility? I thought.  I always pictured humility as something different.  Sure, I thought of humility as weakness, yes, but not being out of answers.

Whether by life or not praying enough or whatever circumstances led me to that moment, it was as revelatory as it was baffling.  When God can reveal to you a sneak peek of what He put in your heart to get to maybe one of the things He’s looking for is a humble prayer of “how, God?  How?”

The interesting thing about “unremarkable off-white” colors is they’re absolutely necessary to make the other vibrant colors stand out.  Humility may be a more beautiful quality than what we give it credit for.

The Beauty of Patience

 

Patience, You find her beautiful, don’t You?

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Artwork and poem by Victoria

She’s a warm green and yellow

Like a gentle rain.

Movements drifting in sync

Foundations shifting

and falling, but

with purpose.

She doesn’t push,

She enjoys.  She waits.

Watches,

More than participates

Patience.

I may speak for most of the globe when I say that a deep sigh of relief was breathed on December 31, 2016 marking a rather ..remarkable year coming to a close. (I search for a positive word to describe last year.)

The good thing I have observed from going through 2016, ahem those “character building” seasons, it actually developed in me more than a grit to carry on through the storm: It developed in me a beauty.  A beauty that is resistant to age.

“But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart …which is very precious in the sight of God,” Peter wrote.

What’s he saying?  The things you are learning day to day, month to month, year to year, where it may seem like no one sees or no one takes notice, capture the notice of God.  He notices when you go out of your way to listen to your crabby coworker again, He notices when you work hard at your craft only to feel like the forgotten one in the group, He notices when you lay down your right to argue or escape, He notices when you press on toward the goals inside you, He notices when you guard your heart against bitterness or disappointment.

God takes notice of these things, because He finds them beautiful.  Just as we find ourselves drawn to a beautiful new designer jacket, or a work of art, God is drawn to that particular area of patience being developed inside of you.

Last year’s difficulties were not wasted, now you get to wear that far more unfading garment, the beauty of patience. (And enough with the fedoras!  It’s a new year.)

 

Bare Naked Lady

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame 

I usually glance over this beginning story with very little thought of Eve. I often visualize this funny scripture with blurry white bodies something like the smiling cartoons wilting on a vacation bible school’s felt board.  (Because of course Adam and Eve were middle class white folk.)

But as I was thinking about it today, I thought about this tiny moment in history singularly as what it meant for Eve:  A full grown woman stark neckid, with absolutely nothing to hide… Nothing to hide about her body.

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She did not have one passing thought of I need to suck in my stomach, if only my thighs were narrower, I wonder if Adam is seeing my good side, I should cut more sugar out of my diet …

She was naked and she was okay. I’m not positive if there’s an absolute antonym to the word “shame.” Maybe it’s one of those things like “peace” you don’t recognize you have until it leaves you for a sec.

Because when shame came, that “okay” part of her was suddenly gone.  That rested part of her soul was suddenly rudely awakened that she certainly had things that didn’t measure up.  She had things that needed to be covered up.

What I found fascinating about this – Eve could only be naked and without shame in the presence of her Creator.   The moment she chose her own opinion instead of God’s, her perfection invited man’s authority on her own design.  
It make me wonder if a person, a woman, could ever feel truly rested in her design without ever being with her Creator?  Shame has a deafening voice most may find unrecognizable due to it’s consistency.

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*mad props to model Leah Parry for braving the snow

Step 3: How to Dream in the Midst of Despair

I desperately don’t want to be a bystander of life, but someone who takes hold of each moment, the good with the bad.  (Lately it’s been more on the bad side.) I think our inner dreamer always wants that, to be a part of some bigger story and not to be so near sighted with our own despair, our own struggles.

There have been a couple times this month where I have indeed been fighting despair. I would find myself curled up on my couch (maybe in fetal position) warring against tears that would inevitably fall.

This is ridiculous.  Why can’t I just move on?  I’d do anything to get out of this time, this process.  Why can’t there be a button that just turns off my feelings?  The tears come.  I stretch out my legs and throw a magazine over my face.  My roommates will be back soon.  Got to pretend to be normal.

Why do I always feel so alone?  I need to find something to do.  But I’m exhausted.  Maybe I can just go to sleep.

Usually if you dream a lot, a lot of your happiness comes from the beautiful future you painted in your mind.  I can deal with the painting changing colors or having different shapes then what I originally envisioned.  What I’ve found I can’t deal with – a painting that starts caving in on itself, it really makes you question where your anchor is. 

But part of working toward a dream is being professional no matter where your personal life is sucking.  

I eye the clock. 6:28.  I don’t understand how this day has been longer than 372 hours.  

I have to call a client about a project in exactly two minutes. Pull it together Patty.

She picks up the phone, I hear a toddler crying in the background.  

“I’m really excited for you to do this project.”

How could that one sentence make me feel eighty times lighter?   We start to talk about her non profit she runs and her clients, who are young mothers usually in seemingly hopeless situations find resources they need.  I start thinking about what stories are needed for the video.

I think about the pricing, and tone and colors and the scheduling of the video.  My imagination starts to move at the thought of what story could be told to reach people.  

I start to feel hopeful.

Dear dreamer, if you are struggling with depression or hopelessness or in a state of despair look for ways to create, a project to jump on, (even a coloring book can help with your mental state.)  But in the bigger picture – don’t miss this – God can take your most broken situation and turn it into something beautifully constructed.  He can take something like your present darkness, a memory that doesn’t paralyze you, rather catapults you into a bright future.  Maybe I haven’t hit that bright future part yet, but in all fairness, I’m writing as I go.

Step 2: How to Get Rejected and Then Get Back Up

Rejection.  How do you deal with it?

It’s one thing to go after a dream and keep your work hours and finances barely in line with your sanity.  But what do you do when you hit a big fat no on top of all the hard work?

Maybe you cry.  Maybe you turn the music up.  Maybe you find drugs.  Maybe you take Netflix binging to a whole new level.  Maybe you do all of the above.

I wanted three things this summer…two of them have to do with my filmmaking dream, one is irrelevant:

  1. To be in community theater
  2. To have a boyfriend (I promise I’m not 15 years old)
  3. To try out for a modeling career

These weren’t things I wanted out of the blue.  They were well considered pre-meditated risks that I thought to be worthwhile in pursuing.

What I’ve found is – even harder than taking the risk itself – was to discover what I felt after the rejection. These weren’t flighty things I decided on to go after on a whim, so the sting felt harsh.  

I found myself praying a sad little prayer one night  God. I think I’m running out of courage as all 3 sent their rejections in form of polite email or awkward conversation.

Though the process has been anything but easy, I’ve found that rejection can actually help you discover what you really want.  Had I never taken those risks – I wouldn’t have known which doors I wanted to go through when they were shut in my face and which doors are worth letting close.

Dear dreamer, have you ever found that you may not know what you really want until you got rejected from it?  It wasn’t until it was smeared all over your face: No you can’t do that.  No you can’t have that.  No, you didn’t get picked.  That’s when you found out it’s something worth still going after, still believing for.  

If it didn’t matter to you, then you would eventually stop fighting for it.  

If you’ve been feeling the weight of rejection, pick yourself up, you’re on the right road.  Keep finding those desires in your heart that you discover are worth fighting the rejection for.

Dear Dreamer, Start in San Diego

Where did your dream start?

I mean the part after you had that fuzzy idea bubbling up inside of you.  Did it start with a fresh loan from the bank, or maybe a nice check from your rich great uncle?  Yeah, me neither.

I’ve confessed that my dream is to become a well-respected filmmaker.  And I’ve been inviting the bold and the shy, the brave and the reluctant to join me in this journey to see how I’ll get there.  Also, I hope to encourage those daring souls who chase their dreams to get to wherever their “there” is.

Meet my friend, Reenie.

Reenie is a plantscaper.  She’s not a landscaper, not a florist, not a botanist, but has an unruly case of biophilia.  (You may also be a biophiliac if you find yourself drawn to nature more than most.)

If you’ve wondered the vast regions of Rolla, you may have come across her life forms thriving in the hospital lobbies and offices.  Her exotic plants not only beautify the building but give it an extra dose of oxygen, which seems to be logical (or ironic) for a medical care facility.

Reenie loves what she does, but it all started when her daughter needed braces.  The cost was going to be equivalent to a car payment so, as she puts it, “it really caused me to think about what I really wanted to do.”

The idea seemed far-fetched, maybe even too good to be true.  Could it be possible to bring exotic life forms to a rather un-tropical climate? Furthermore, how does one begin a profession very few in Mid-Missouri have even heard of? Easy, you talk to someone from San Diego.

This biophiliac has caught my attention as person who seems to have found her “there.”  Unfazed by being one of the only professions in her location, Reenie has followed a reawakened passion and successfully runs her own business as a plantscaper.

Step number one to chasing your dream:  Start in San Diego, duh.  Also, pay attention to the things that you could naturally be around all day.  What have you been drawn to since you were a child?

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes: A Whole Bunch of Poor People

You may not know it, but inside of you, you have this amazing ability to produce things that are not even in existence yet.  Whether it be a story, a song, a child, an equation, a solution, perhaps an etch a sketch (Idk).  Unfortunately, for me and you, it usually takes a little bit of pressure to be able to create something that is lasting.  

This short story is the result of one script, four people, one lucky ceiling fan, and a man named Glenn who was not thrown off when I approached his truck to ask if we could film in his store.

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This story is based on my interactions during my experience as the director of a local non profit. This story is also the result of one thousand things going wrong and one thousand new things to learn in a short amount of time as the director of this organization. 

But that was okay, because I was a magical fairy ready to spread my love, peace, and joy over an organization that would surely change the hearts of mankind.

So it all began when I, as any fresh faced yuppie, had romantic visions of what it would be like to serve the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, the homeless.  My optimism dissolved over time as I was at a loss with how to address some of the situations that arose. 

Like the instance I’m striking up a conversation with a man who tells me his ear was bit off by a family member in a recent fight that sent him to prison.  He goes on to describe an event that more or less could have been cannibalism.  Do you politely laugh?  Do you cast out a demon?  Do you pretend what he shouted didn’t just happen?

Even the time when a person who comes in day after day reeking of body odor and forever will not listen to me when I say “keep your shoes ON” complains that the soup is too cold after his third bowl.  Do you or do you not smack him?

But I kept my apron strings tied and my smile glued on as I balanced new things like accounting and budgeting and deposits and tax exempt forms.  I picked up exotic groceries every week and most 10am workers at Wal Mart now know me by name as we’ve all collectively learned that the coconut milk is located in the International food aisle.  Tricky, you’d think it’d be in dairy.

These things are all petty.  The real kicker was trying to get the churches involved.  The part where I go speak and try to get pastors and leaders and people who know Jesus to donate part of their time because good God don’t know you it’s a worthwhile cause?? And when the response was close to zero, I sensed that familiar hand of failure creeping in. 

Have you ever been at your edge?  Have you ever been at that point where you are battling bitterness and disappointment and frustration and all you feel is the pressure and the whisper of failure taunting you? 

All of these things mixed together could lead to a person’s nervous breakdown and declining emotional health.  But it can also lead to your next important moment.  That moment when you take all of that pressure and all of that fury and you use it to create something new and something meaningful.

Call it un/righteous indignation, whatever it may be, this story is about the perceptions the middle class build of the poor and the perceptions that the poor build of the middle class.

Whether you relate to the story or not, my question to you dear dream chaser- what is giving you intense pressure in your life right now?  What are those voices saying to you that are promising failure in your endeavors?   Don’t be fooled, you have what you need inside of you to turn your biggest disappointments into your next great creation.

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Special thanks to Giuseppe, Jeanne, and Lesley.  Thanks for believing in this story and donating your time & skills 🙂

Getting Married

I accept that the way You feel about me will never change.

Two years ago on June 6th I found myself writing these words.  Up to this point I had a relationship with Jesus most of my life, but I was so very desperate for something deeper.

And because that last sentence sounds like every 90’s Christian song your mom blasted in her Honda minivan, let me just explain to you how elite of a Christian I was… I could run a small group, a big group, outreaches, mission trips, I was 90% attendance at church, superior tither, celibate as a nun (not by choice), children’s church teacher, frequently fasted, you name it – I could do it. But I always found myself exasperated saying things like,  “SURELY GOD! there is so much more than this little town, there is so much more to me just nannying my life away, and doing all this church stuff!”  There was this constant nagging at me for something more.  It was driving me crazy!  I was like, “I already know you Jesus, you’re in my life, I follow you, I do things for you.  I get it – you love me … why do I still have to be in this town?”

And I slowly started to break because I realized what I wanted was not just a Jesus I knew lightly but a Jesus who knew every part of me.  I wanted intimacy.  And I wanted it from God.  And I didn’t know if that was even a thing.

I would find myself saying, “I want to know you and I want to know that if I died and saw You right now, You would recognize the curve of my face and understand each time my voice breaks when I cry.  Do you know my eyes?  Do you know that I can’t wear certain shirts because my stomach rolls just explode out of them?  Man you could have given me a more petite frame!   And I don’t know if you even really know me.”

Have you ever felt like that?  Like no one hears you or gets you or wants to understand you?  And it’s not just you whining after a bad day at work, it’s like this perpetual thing on your heart where you just know there is something so much deeper that you can’t seem to experience?

So, on that 6th day of June I decided there was no looking back, I decided to quit questioning if Jesus knows me, but instead accepted and said I do.  It took a lot of pushing away the voices that said He wasn’t there.  But more so pushing away the voices that said He is only half way interested in me.

Do you have someone in your life who is more than half way interested in you?  Do you have someone who understands why you always microwave food for 27 seconds instead of 30?  Do you have someone who holds you when you turn away from their love?

You are going to face some very tough rejection, and push through some very agonizing monotony in the effort of chasing your dream.  When you find that you are known in the deepest way for a human to be known, you have a foundation ready to face the world and whatever giants are against you.

You are deeply richly and wonderfully known, friends.  Have you accepted that you are?

 

Five Signs You’re a Dream Chaser

Friends, readers…others, I haven’t written in awhile.  Frankly, I have been super lost on where to go with these blogs that allow any interested person to see into my messy life.  But I think I finally found a point of destination for these writings:  I’d like to invite you to join me in this journey of Dream Chasing.  

Before you go rolling your eyes on how cliche that sounds please let me explain. See, I had this plan that I was going to release all of these blogs when I finally made it to my glorious dream of becoming a legitimate filmmaker.  And then people would say wow she started just like me, pa!  Or even, if she can do it, I can do it!  Now sit down and drink your milk little Tommy.

was planning to do that, to release all of these writings, after I “got there” after I “made it.” Then I started to panic because I realized I could be really old by the time I “made it” or what if Donald Trump doesn’t provide enough material by the time I “got there?” You’re right, that’s impossible.

The other thought that surfaced was this is not true Dream Chasing; to keep everything inside because you know it’s safe.  Dream Chasing is constantly about putting yourself out there, boldly declaring a result even if you can’t see it, and being okay with failing.  

Here is my dream, friends:  I would like to become a well respected filmmaker. I’d like to write and produce my own films.  It’s a little vague, but it’s a good start.

What is your dream?  Maybe you don’t know or you’re not sure if you have a dream or targeted passion inside of you.  Maybe you feel like there’s something itching but feel annoyed that you don’t know what it is.  Maybe you have a million different interests and always feel like you’re on a rabbit trail.  Here’s five signs you might be a dreamer, ready for the chase….

  1. You make “all or nothing” decisions that really didn’t need to be that big of a deal.  Sometimes these decisions don’t have logic behind them, but you trust your instincts more than your logic.  i.e. , If I can’t afford to have my own place right now, the only option is to shave my head…wait what?1396061_10202265160336283_835167445_n2.You’re constantly frustrated because you feel like life should look like more than it is

Please refer to Figure 4.8  showing an illustration made during my lunch break last weekFullSizeRender

3.You find yourself declaring random things triumphantly and with authority.  And then wondering where that even came from.

This is where I will live!” -me stepping out of parking garage in Philadelphia as an 11 year old child…Philly4. You’re constantly this mix of brave and scared.  You find yourself taking risks, rising to the challenge, but then you stop and doubt yourself because you can’t even do your own taxes.

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5.You are inspired easily.   All it takes is one youtube like this and you’re ready to quit your day job and go discover the cure for cancer as well as the solution to ISIS.  Because we are human beings and we can do anything we set our minds to! GET IT MISTY COPELAND.

So, Dream Chaser friends, I hope that you will embark on this journey with me.  I can’t promise that I will one day be directing multi-million dollar films and writing stories that audiences will marvel at for years, but I can promise that I’ll find whatever is in me and whatever has been waiting to surface and share it with whoever needs it…whoever needs to know that their dreams are important and worth chasing.

ISIS, Paris, and Pamplemousse

I used to dream about stepping foot in the City of Romance.

My French teacher would teach us words like “cheveux” and “pamplemousse” but I was far less intrigued with pronunciation than I was with dreaming up fantastic thoughts of what it would be like to go there.  I wondered what it would be like to taste dainty pastries and wear sophisticated muted tones of turtlenecks.  

And Oh God! I could only wonder what it would be like to see the Louvre!  Probably I would have to touch a lot of art.  It’s a rule I live by…maybe a challenge I give myself – always touch the art when the guard isn’t looking.  Because I never really feel like I experience art until I can feel its ancient canvas in my hands.  

And then I would probably get caught by adorable little French Police and they would say “non non mademoiselle s’il vous plait ne touchez pas l’art.”  And I would understand them because of my advanced high school French education and I would astonish them as they separated me from the stereotypical American tourist as I coyly reply “oh mon dieu, my bad.”  

So anyway, Paris was attacked recently, along with many westerners’ dreams.  And we can’t leave out cities like Beirut, Lebanon and Bamako, Mali whom ISIS did not want to keep exempt from their game.

I hate hearing about hurting humans and it’s easy to get cynical (if you’re like me) or feel angry or overwhelmed because you feel powerless to change the terrible things going on in the world.  So I began to question are we really at the mercy of hate crimes, of whatever terrorist group decides to act next?  Are there things we can do in our own communities to truly effect change?

These are some of the questions I brought to French Professor and friend, Audra.  She calls France her second home and has started working with humanitarian groups on campus who travel to third world countries.

She offered some fresh practical solutions that can help “change the atmosphere around us.“