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.