Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Opposite of Awesome

The Opposite of awesome isn’t insecurity.  It’s not, “oh, gee, do these jeans make me look fat?”  Nor is it, “I really hope I can think of something to contribute to this conversation.”  Insecurity is pride’s step-cousin.  Insecurity is self-reliant, self-focused, and is a pithy rationalization for not fighting for your awesome.  
No, the opposite of awesome isn’t insecurity.  It’s deception.  It is the constant lie that tells you, for whatever reason, you’re not enough.  Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thoughtful enough, not busy enough, not still enough.  Not enough and yet entirely too much at the same time.  Too emotional, too loud, too shy, too brassy, too opinionated, too quiet, too focused, too ridiculous, too much effort.  It’s a daily fight, waged against the truth of scripture regarding who you are, and who you were meant to be. 
And its objective is to incapacitate you.  To render you completely ineffective for the kingdom of God, for the reason for which you were designed, the purpose which only you can fill.  Because if you agree with the deception of “not enough/too much,” you will disengage.  You will eventually become someone else entirely.  It may be as innocuous as thinking, “I’m not as well educated as the people in this conversation, what can I add?”  And so you say nothing, allowing the smarter-thans to converse, without your input.  Alright, but what if your input what exactly what the smart-thans needed to hear?  What if your perspective was one they hadn’t yet considered?  What if, by holding back, you extinguished a little piece of why you’re here?   

Don’t hide anymore.  Fight the deception that you are not enough.  Wage war against the lie that you are too much.  You, imperfectly so in the very moment, you are neither too much nor not enough.  You are exactly who you were made to be.  Don’t let the lies overtake you.  Don’t listen to the deception anymore.  Don’t call it insecurity, for that is yet another facet of the untruth; another way to hide your awesome away.  Call it war.  Ready yourself with truth, clothe yourself with armor.  And fearlessly, though it never be flawless, live you ~ out loud.    

Monday, December 12, 2011

Awesome Isn't Afraid

There are days when I am afraid.  Afraid of the noises in the dark, the ones that only occur when my husband isn’t home.  Afraid of something happening at the school (I’ve had my fair share of calls from the nurse’s office), particularly when I’m over 45 minutes away.  Fear of time slipping by too quickly.  Fear of not accomplishing what I want to in my short time in this place. 
But when I gaze long and hard into the crux of those fears, what stands so plainly in sight is: I am afraid of failing.  Scared of not being a good enough mom, wife, friend, student, minister, daughter; a not good enough version of me.
In the quiet moments when these fears sidle up to me, curling glacial tendrils around my restless hands, in the times when I’m weary and doubting, I default to what’s easiest; I do what’s safest.  I purpose to NOT TRY.  I am a spectacular quitter.  I can avoid the hard things with the finesse of an ostrich.  I am very good at walking away from challenges.
But, I don’t see that in the life that Jesus calls me to.  I know that my quitting is my own hand, suffocating my Awesome.  Yes, I am going to fail.  Epically.  BUT GOD, whose strength is manifested in my weakness, who uses the foolish to shame the wise, who knowing my propensity for imperfection sent his only son to die on my behalf; but God loves me yet.  Delights in me still.  And in the trying, in staying in the fight, I become stronger.  I am forged into a closer likeness of Christ.  I am more fully me, the me he created me to be, than when I stick my head in the sand and let life, opportunity, pass me by. 
Today, I resolve to abandon my fears and live my life thusly:       

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.
~Dawna Markova

Join me.  Step out into the adventure of a life fully lived, completely abandoned to love, and fully embodying your own, unique Awesome.  Pluck your Awesome from out of the sand; be you, to the fullest.  And allow it to break forth, and sing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Awesome, intimately

There are days when I’ve trade real relationships for social networking sites.  When others’ chirps and updated conditions have masqueraded as knowing what’s going on in their lives.  When IM-ing or serial commenting has been the seat-filler for the lost art of conversation.  But these phantoms are as real as the H&M catalogue models: contrived manifestations of what we think we want.  An ideal that is warped, one-sided, and self-focused. 
Because, relationships, the genuine ones, are messy.  People require effort.  And there’s always the possibility that we won’t be Awesome enough.  That we’ll be eclipsed, our lacking found out.  And we’ll be replaceable.        
So it’s easy to retreat behind our categorical ramparts.  There are people we see on Sunday, work people, people we call every other week, those with whom we only interact online.  That’s safe.  Besides, we tell ourselves, “I’m much too busy to engage people on that level.  It’s the season I’m in.” 
And yet, Jesus, who had only 3 years of ministry on earth in a time without podcasts, webinars, or tweets to further his message, Jesus found time to be absolutely present with the people near and dear to him.  Not just the heads of his impending church, but people, like Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, whom he called friends.  He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, and Pharisees.  Jesus, who frankly embodied Awesome, called it out of those with whom he interacted.  The presence of his Awesome called forth theirs.    
But, shuttered away, isolated and pale in the cold winter of loneliness, our Awesome shrinks; skulks into a corner and turns its face to the wall.  Forgotten and diminishing. 

However, in the company of others it shakes off the fetters of self.  Because it’s here, in community, that the Awesome thrives.  Only here, can it begin to be known.  Only here, however haltingly, can it press towards what it was intended to be: you, utterly and solely you, being the Who you were created to be. 
Turn off the tv, pause the ipod, stop tweeting and updating long enough to really listen to your Awesome.  Is it crying out for companionship?  Where and with whom are you airing it out?  Because in our day of virtual reality, all the ambient noise is the courtesan that distracts us from the very state of our souls. 
When is the last time you actually listened to another person’s spirit, not just the words they were saying.  But the words, in the context of their life, their dreams, their fears, their failures.  And in doing so, saw them for who they are.  And called them forward to who they were designed to be. 
When was the last time you let someone do that for you?         
You were made to be known.  You were made to share your Awesome with fellow sojourners on this planet.  Seek them out, engage people on a relational level.  Get involved.  Be messy.  Your awesome will shine through you; and theirs through them.  You’ll each come away better for it.    

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wordsmithing my Awesome

I  have devoted a great deal of time, of late, to the study of words.  Their force, intentionality, function, and forms in other, some dead, languages.  Words restore me.  For, as John tells us, Jesus is the Word, the Logos.  The Word come to heal, to redeem, to set free, to save.  Words are a salve to my spirit, weary and wounded from its sojourn in this world.  Words that lift my countenance, words that refocus my wanderings, words that coax me further toward truth.  And sometimes, even with all those that fill my days, I need words to steal into my tired and lonely spirit; to nestle into the scrapped out places, and emanate truth.  Sometimes, I need words to remind me of my awesome. 
Scripture, cool and refreshing, is the endless fount of truth.  Words splashing over, with the living water that is the only remedy for this world.  Jesus, the logos, restoring the ruined places within me.  Yet, there are times when truth startles me from behind other mundane exteriors.  Because God is a poet, a writer, the creator of words.  God can and does use the words of others to remind us of his truth: that each one of us is his beautifully awesome creation.  And, whether we return it or not, he loves us; passionately, completely, and intimately.         
So for today, I want to share with you one of my favorite wordsmiths: Joshua Bennett.  A young man whose poem below creeps in, when I am feeling particularly awesome-less, and reminds me who I was created to be.*

If words aren’t you thing, don’t let my delight in them discourage you.  One of my favorite heroines became rather sick of words.  For all the ‘Liza Doolittles out there, show the world how awesome you are.  You’ll make us better because of it.      

*Granted, this poem, as it is titled, is intended for black women.  Acknowledging that, I humbly submit that each woman, regardless of her race, has a deep need for words such as these to remind her of who she is; thus, it resonates with me.  Truth will do that. 
**If you can’t get enough of this young wordsmith, enjoy another powerfully vulnerable performance by Mr. Bennett: watch his White House performance.     

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Awesome Does

"Upside Down Kingdom" by Michele Perry

Maybe it’s the time of year.  Or perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve been privy to so much loss and hurt in the lives of others recently.  Maybe it’s the fact that the kids and I watched Disney’s take on A Christmas Carol this weekend.  Maybe I’m just burnt out of sitting around, all by myself, learning.  Or perhaps it’s because my kids make me want to be a better person. 
Whatever the reason, I feel the need to live outside of myself.  I want to earnestly live the upside down version of what our culture says is ideal.  I want to see the end of poverty, the end of exploitation, the end of hurt and suffering, of want and loneliness.  I want peace on earth and goodwill towards humanity. 
I was called out by my son yesterday at the grocery store.  I paid, as always, with my debit card and had no cash for the bell-ringer who stood outside.  My kids were incredulous.  My son looked at me and very matter-of-factly stated, “Mom, it’s for the poor.”  (This is the boy who wants to bring the homeless to our house and give them his bed; so his brand of incredulity is a little sharper than others.)  My daughter, more introspective, watched; waiting to see what I would do.   A quick glance into my cart, and its superfluous contents, struck a further cord.   Finally, I dug a measly 12 cents from the very bottom of my wallet.  “It’s all I’ve got,” I explained, divvying it up twixt the two.  Happily they traipsed to the bucket, dropping their respective 6 cents in, calling out, “Merry Christmas,” and bounded back, beaming.  It was written all over their faces: they had helped the poor.  And it was awesome.   
Sometimes, the best way to rekindle Awesome, is to take whatever you have and use it on behalf of helping others.  Even if it’s only 6 cents.
Here are some ways to step outside of yourself, and in doing so, you just might recall a little bit of your own awesome in the process:
·         Buy food/a farm animal/plants/share thereof for people in desperate need.  Visit World Vision or Plant with Purpose.
·         Make & then distribute Homeless Blessing Bags. 

 Find descriptions and instructions here and here.  They’re easy, affordable, immediate, and even the youngest folks in your family can get in on making them

[One of my favorite ideas here; thanks to Chelsea Schofield of “A Simple Life” for this one!]  

·         Visit an Angel tree near you.  Pick an angel, buy the gift (or leave the money); and know that some little one’s Christmas will be merrier because of you.
·         Be a Santa to a Senior.  Works like the Angel Tree, only for seniors.  Go here for a location near you. 
Time is a gift; and so is letting others know that they’re not invisible.  If the money just isn’t there right now, give of yourself.  In the long run, it’s likely a richer investment. 
·         Bake some cookies and take them to: a neighbor, a local nursing home, or your local emergency response personnel.
·         Take that friend you’ve been putting off out to coffee.  Listen to what’s going on in his/her life.
·         Invite the widower in your neighborhood/building over for coffee or dinner.  Ask about their holiday plans.  If they don’t have any, include them in yours.
·         If you’ve got the skills: make some blankets and pillows for your local NICU.  Find a tutorial here.  [For all my local readers, I know that the University of Colorado Hospital at Anschutz Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is currently in need of these.]
·         Talk to a single Mom in your circle.  See if she’s comfortable with you watching her kids, so she can go have a few moments to herself (even just to a local coffee spot to read; you might consider supplying a gift card for the cup of coffee).
·         Offer to help an elderly person in your neighborhood with their grocery shopping or errands; either taking them out (an opportunity to chat), or completing them yourself.
·         Do a load of laundry for a new mom…while she naps. 
·         Shovel the driveway of the gentleman who lives alone; leave a note letting him know that you’re glad he’s in your neighborhood. 

If you’re in a place where all of these suggestions feel too overwhelming, too much like yet another way to fail, know that your Awesome DOES NOT hinge on what you do.  Your Awesome is contingent upon who you are because of who God is.  And if this is where you are, start with the practice of being thankful for what you have.  Make a list, even if it’s only three items long, and put it somewhere you will see it.  And rest in thankfulness, until you can radiate out.  Because what you do doesn’t make you Awesome.  That’s simply who you are.    

Monday, October 17, 2011

Walk It Out

Day 14 (resumed):
[Jesus said:]
“This is how the world will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”  John 13:35                 

In the interim between posts, this space that has been filled with so much busyness, I have been asking, “why the need to reclaim my awesome?”  Before I started my examination of this topic, some days, I was left believing I’d lost it, or buried it, or handed it over.  Yet when I had gone looking for it, it was always on the horizon: first I have to accomplish these tasks, earn these merits, prove myself worthy in order to be awesome.  But as I’ve already noted, my awesome is inherent in my design; its reclamation happened (and is continuing to happen) when I exchanged my depravity for Christ’s righteous, salvific work on the cross.  My identity was restored to Awesome.    
Following this restoration, daily attacks have been launched on my awesome to delude me into thinking that my awesome is gone.  To keep me from doing what I was designed to do, be who I was made to be.  Yet the truth is:  
"I -- and every other person in the world-- must say: ‘I have my own special, peculiar destiny which no one else ever has had or ever will have. There exists for me a particular goal a fulfillment which must be all my own -nobody else's...His glory in me will be to receive from me something He can never receive from anyone else -- because it is His gift to me which He has never given to anyone else and never will.’"
- Thomas Merton
I am most aware, more fully embodying my awesome, when I am being who I was made to be; doing what only I can do.  And when I am using my gifts and passions to love and serve others, I am allowing my awesome to be fully alive, through the Holy Spirit’s power.  Frankly, when I am about my Father’s business, I thrum with life, with awesome, with hope, with joy, with a here-and-now kingdom reality.  God’s kingdom announced and demonstrated here on earth: the greatest expression of awesome for which anyone of us may ever hope. 

See this painting here

So in the next few weeks, I will share with you how we can embody our awesome, how to live it out loud.  Find your passion, ignite your awesome; wear it.  Walk around in it; set it free and watch how wildly it abounds.  Its glow will illuminate the countenances of others, because your awesome was designed to call forth the awesome in others, to remind the stragglers and struggling that they are more than this fallen, mute, and grey world tells us.  That they were created awesome.  We all are.

Need a refresher to remember where we’ve been?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Awesome, on pause

I need a snow day.  I realize it’s only October.  But I need the pause that only the freshly powdered silence of an exterior down-comforter can bring.  I need everything to just stop for a moment.  Not slow down, not ease up.  I need a full stop.  One that literally bars me from going out my front door; the kind that demands movies, hot chocolate, snuggling under blankets, and fluff-reading.    

This week alone I have two quizzes, one paper, and one qualifying exam; not to mention I’m officially three weeks behind on the research schedule, and two weeks behind on the midterm prep.  I have the last 3 weeks of an 8-week course in cram into one grand finale.  I have a surprise trip (the kids don’t know yet) to plan for and pack, all while everyone’s asleep.  I have another surprise, in the form of a matinee ballet for the oldest.  And I have a potentially fatal (ok, perhaps slightly dramatic, though this is what the doctor has said for 3 years running) oral challenge for the youngest’s allergy.  [Translation: we’re going to go to the doctor’s office and feed him the one thing he’s never suppose to eat, for fear of death, to see if he’s grown out of his allergy; as the blood work and scratch test show]  Plus, the clean that needs to happen for the guys’ group head over on Wednesday, on top of all the “usual” chores [laundry, feeding people, procuring food, sanitizing surfaces that would otherwise animate because of all the living things growing on them, etc..].  Yeah, I need a snow day.
But, I know in my knower that’s not going to happen.  What to do?  Well, I am begging grace for starters.  Though I will be more Martha than Mary in my hustle and bustle this week, I am going to shut down all the non-essentials.  I am going to spend my time where it matters most.  This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my quest for the awesome.  Quite the contrary; I will be gathering all that I can in this next week to make the last seven explode with meaning.  I just won’t be able to present my discoveries the day I happen upon them.  I already have a list going of things I want to share, little jewels I’ve plucked from my days that I truly want to turn over slowly in my hand to appreciate their full beauty.  But that will have to wait until after this week.  Forgive me, reader, if you’re still there.  I am not abandoning you.  I am merely admitting to my limitations.  And for someone who’s constant striving was a hindrance, that’s a freeing thing.    
I’ve heard it taught, so often, that Martha was the baddie and Mary the goodie, as they entertained Jesus.  I would like to submit a “yes-and-no.”  Yes, Martha’s attitude was poor (oh, Martha, I get it!) and Mary’s was good.  But I would like to also point out that in that time and culture, both Martha and Mary had responsibilities, expectations to live up to.  You see, someone had to get everything ready for all the people listening to Jesus.  Somebody had to be the hostess; in that culture it was more than expected, it was required.  Our “things” need doing.  It’s the attitude that counts.  So for the next week, while I’m neck deep in all my things that need doing, I’m going to maintain a thankful heart; an attitude that recognizes that this season is a busy one, full of things I love to do and am so blessed to be a part of.  Not one should be a burden.  In each one I will find joy.  And likely, my awesome, peeking out from behind each, smiling.    

Joining us for our 21 Days of Awesome?  Click on the links below to catch up, or refresh your memory :

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13: Awesome is an Art Form

One thing I want to do before I die is go to an opera at the Met.  I want to be overwhelmed with the music, swept up into the narrative, cracked wide open and exhale only the collective emotion so cathartic it cleanses what’s pent up inside. 
Anna Netrebko, Anna Bolena, The Met 2011 [go here for tickets]

Or stand in the tiny Sistine Chapel, and marvel, breathless at decades of exacting toil, which was merely meant as wallpaper.  Or sit in the Royal Albert Hall and openly weep as a lifetime’s opus is delicately offered by expert hands.  Spend weeks in the Louvre, get positively lost in the Guggenheim.  Troll ancient libraries, breathing in the intellect laid bare on withered pages.  Wonder at codex’s so timeworn, were the glass not protecting them from my breath, they would but crumble to dust.  Ache to touch silks and porcelains so thin and antique, their productions almost incomprehensible to me.  To revel in a lost world of creative genius, crying out to something greater, something more worthy and important and vast, than my fleeting existence. 
Art is not just something old, something other people have deemed beautiful.  Art is… art is beauty, indefinable.  Art reminds me that I possess beauty.  I am a poem, written by the greatest Author to ever exist.  I am a work of art, in a world of beauty; a world that would not be complete without me in it.  Right here.  Right now. 
So today, though I’m not touring the Hermitage or Ufizzi or MoMA, nor listening to the Royal Philharmonic; I am looking at the little bits of art all around me.  I am seeing in my world tiny pieces of beauty.  And I remember that I am a beautiful work of art, by the Master Creator

These words, which are not mine, inspire me today:         

I think everything in life is art.   what you do.  how you dress.  the way you love someone, and how you talk.  your smile and your personality.  what you believe in and all your dreams.  the way you drink your tea.  how you decorate your home.  your grocery list.  the food you make.  how your writing looks.  and the way you feel. 
life is art. 

Joining us for our 21 Days of Awesome?  Click on the links below to catch up, or refresh your memory :


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 12: Too Much

It’s there, carefully seated somewhere among declensions and substantival positioning, under 15 unfolded loads of laundry and 2 days of dirty dishes, hiding behind worthy arguments that rote out lies, crouching beneath the desire for more time.  This truth, that while at times the awesome can be so loud its roars rouse you in the morning, most days it is merely a soft, murmur curling inside your chest, reminding you that you are more than the sum of your circumstances.  Or the consistent failing to be master of your surroundings.

Too many things to do, most done in distraction.  Books to read, words to memorize, floors to clean, clothes (always clothes) to wash, lunches to pack, conversations that need to be had, art projects that demand looking at, hands that need holding, and hugs that need doling out.  Too many moments slip by, without notice because there is simply too much.  It’s all too much.  And there’s never enough time to do them in, nor enough time to do them all well.  At times it feels insurmountable.  It is certainly something that can cause the awesome to feel less, to dim in my eyes.    
But there comes a point when the awesome has to admit that some things are going to have to be left undone.  At least in the here and now.  This is not a failing.  It is not a waste.  It is the trappings of a material life lived in finite quantity.  Eternity will one day (or non-day, depending on how you look at it), stretch out it’s vastness before you, with untold stores of time in which to experience perfection.  There will be more time.
Until then, I will allow myself grace.  The unfolded laundry and dirty dishes don’t diminish my awesome.  I am still, at my core, me.  My blatant trouble with Koine cannot define who I am.  I will attend to the things that are important: studies, the laughter and snuggles of my children, the voice of my husband, the nearness of my friends, but most importantly, the presence of my God.    
And I await the day (or non) when my awesome has the time and space to unfurl, to stretch out into eternity and breathe in the vast expanse of it all.     

Joining us for our 21 Days of Awesome?  Click on the links below to catch up, or refresh your memory :