Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Live Creatively

I've been rereading Debbie Macomber's book "Knit Together" this week while house-sitting for my mother. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is even remotely fed up with their life's direction and want to follow their God-given passion and purpose. I'm going through it slowly this time, drinking in her pearls of wisdom and writing them down so that they will better stick to my well-oiled brain.

The book is peppered with quotes and scripture passages that go along with the particular point she is making in certain sections. While finishing up chapter one this morning, the scripture reference on the last past jumped out at me and jolted me away better than the coffee I forgot to brew. I'm not usually a fan of The Message translation. Call me old fashioned but I lean to the NIV or *gasp* the KJ versions. However, this verse is so insightful in modern translation that I wanted to share it with you. Consider this a little tea-time food for thought. Pinkies out everyone! Sip your Earl Grey and read the wisdom of Paul:

"Live creatively, friends...Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." (Galatians 6: 1, 4-5)

*pause*

What an awesome admonition! "Live creatively." When we live creatively we are searching for ways to express the dreams and desires God has placed within us. God is a creator. He's the ultimate Creator. Madeleine L'Engle once referred to writers as being co-creators with God. Not only writers, but everyone co-creates with God, be it through clay, stone, paint, wood, cake batter or their children. The thought that God put desires in me to create beautiful and meaningful things is enough to make me dance. (I won't however, seeing that I'm at work right now and that might cause quite a commotion in the office...)

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given." Who are you? What has God given you to do? No, no, I don't want to know your name. Who are you, deep down inside? What are those hidden desires you are passionate about? The things you have always wanted to do but were, perhaps, too afraid to do them? God has planted desires and dreams in all of us and He fully expects us to follow through with them. Discover your passions. Dig deep and find out what it is that makes you tick, what makes you want to get out of bed every morning. The things that bring you joy. These are the things that hold the answers to your purpose in life.

"sink yourself into that." Ah, now for the action part. We must DO what we're called to do. Simply coming to terms with what we're on earth for isn't enough. With knowledge comes responsibility and knowing what we are called to do requires us to take a step of faith and begin doing all we can in order to make that dream a reality. Sure it's scary and it will probably be hard. You may have to take classes or ask questions of strangers. But know that if you are being obedient to follow the plan you believe God has given you, He will be on your side and He has already made a way. He will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you. No matter how scary or impossible things may seem, God is with you and you can do anything with Him!

"Don't be impressed with yourself." Ah, yes. The issue of pride. Many times we fall to the opposite extreme and don't see anything good worth saving. I have found myself uttering countless times "I'm not good enough" "No one will like what I do" "What if I fail?". This is just as unhealthy a mind-set as thinking you're too good for anyone else. Sometimes it can be tempting to put others down because we see ourselves and what we do as superior. We may look at our dreams and compare them to the dreams of others and find theirs to be "lacking" in the light of our own. This is dangerous ground, friend. Not only will this push us away from friends and potential relationships, but it can have an effect we never anticipated. We may come to the point that we think so highly of ourselves that we decide not to share our gifts at all because the "lowly" and the "weak" who surround us would never understand. Either by self-deprecation or pride, Satan is wanting to keep us from achieving our God-given dreams. Keep yourself close to God, bathe every action, every step in prayer and refuse to give in to self-loathing or unhealthy praise.

"Don't compare yourself with others." I touched on this in the paragraph above. It's far too easy to see someone else who's ideas or talents are more flashy or more "important" than our own. I have been guilty of seeing a new book on the best seller list and thinking, "Gee...must be nice to have a book published." It's easy to fall prey to comparison, especially to those who do similar things that we do. Remember, however, that we all have our place, we all have our own outlet and realm of reaching. We may do something that someone else already has done, but we may be the only ones who can reach those who are around us. You have experiences and visions that are unique to you and there may be those who will never be reached until they hear or see the message through your eyes. Don't get discouraged if others are doing better than you. Learn from them. Ask them what they did to get to where they are now. More often than not, I find successful people to be more than willing to share their "secrets". Successful people aren't afraid of competition. If nothing else, it makes them work harder. Plus, they haven't forgotten what it's like to be in your shoes. Seek out a mentor instead of hiding behind grumbling and complaining. That person who ruffles your feathers just may be the push you need to see the beginnings of your own success!

"Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." There it is. The "R" word again. Responsibility. We don't like that word, do we? I cringe at it sometimes, knowing that it means I'm in charge and people are going to come to be if there's a problem or a question. It means I'm going to have to interact with others. As mentioned earlier, with knowledge comes responsibility. When we know what we're called to do, we are now responsible for what we do with that knowledge. No one can make us do what we need to do. Sure, we have those who encourage us, who cheer us on. But no one is going to hold your hand and do everything for you. If they did, you wouldn't be the one doing it, now, would you? Only we can achieve our creative best. Only we can get the most out of our time on earth. Don't shy away from responsibility; embrace it. Take charge of your life, of your goals, seek out and discover all you have the potential to do and become. Step back and watch the amazing things that God has in store for you unfold!

Happy hunting!
~Jennifer

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If you have the time...

you should pop over to Neil Gaiman's blog: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/06/mourning-suit-and-green-goddess.html

This particular post just happened to make me laugh out loud and I thought I would spread the joy. His posts are usually humorous yet insightful and always refreshing.

This is the quote that got me: "I don't think you should ever insult people unintentionally: if you're doing it, you ought to mean it." This was followed by another hilarious quote about the Irish Sea. I'll let you read it for yourself.

If you don't know who Neil Gaiman is, shame on you! Go to the bookstore, pick up a copy of Stardust then mozey on over to blockbuster and rent "Mirror Mask". That should get you started.

Cheers!
~Jennifer

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Smell of Scotch Tape in the Morning

Weekends fly by.

I find myself on Sunday night running a recap in my head, trying to find where Saturday went. I wonder what I could have done to make it last longer, wonder what can be done to make the next weekend better.

All this wondering, is there really a need for it? I should enjoy my weekends as they are, as they come, as they are planned. They are all memorable; every day should be.

I find that I spend my weeks waiting for Friday afternoon, my weekends rolling my eyes at Sunday evening.

I'm thankful for my job.

I'm thankful for what it allows me, affords me.

I shouldn't dread any day, be it Monday or Sunday night.

Everyday is a gift and I realize this morning that I can either unwrap them, enjoying the sound of the paper, the smell of the Scotch tape, the feel of the wrapping, the box, the bubble wrap. Or
I can roll my eyes at it, toss it in the corner and watch the minutes click by to hours until the work day is through and I'm off to build my own empire.

When it's put that way, it's kind of hard to choose the latter.

I wonder once more and go in search of those tossed packages but sadly, they aren't there. The corner is clear except for one.

It's marked "Monday".

It's for today, tossed there this morning when I woke with a grunt and a groan.

Think I'll rescue it from the dust bunnies. Dust bunnies created by the other gifts left there, decomposed at day's end.

I'm opening this one slowly, the same way I open Christmas gifts, the infuriating slip of finger under tape and folding of paper (never tearing!) that drives my friends and family to cursing!

It is my day, after all. I should open it as I wish.

Deep breath...

Yep, there it is.

The smell of Scotch tape and the sound of something rattling. A lot of somethings, actually.

The many gifts in one ordinary looking package marked "Today".

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Snail Mail

It seems derogatory somehow to refer to a handwritten letter by the phrase "snail mail". I know why it's called that. It just makes it sound so...slimy. And unwanted.

I love handwritten letters. I love to write them. I love to receive them. My heart does a little flip every time I see an envelope in the mail that has my name and address written on the front. Written, not typed, spat out from some computerized machine. Bill collectors don't hand write addresses. The government doesn't either. A handwritten envelope means one thing: someone I know has taken the time to contact me.

Letters are meant to be savored, read at one's leisure. Just the other day, I received a letter from a very dear friend of mine. I opened it, glanced at it, but did not read it. It was a full twenty four hours before I finally sat down to see what she had to say. Had I read it upon opening, I would have missed the subtleties of the phrasing, the meaning behind the words upon the page. I brewed a cup of tea, curled up on my sofa, and read the pages slowly, word by word, taking in everything she had to say. She took the time to write me; I owe her and her words respect.

Letter writing used to be the norm, the way people communicated their thoughts, dreams, intentions. It was once a necessity. Now it has become a luxury. Or, at worst, an archaic pastime better left to Dickens' novels and doting grandparents. Have we really become so busy that we can not pause and write a brief note? It doesn't have to be a dissertation on the basics of quantum mechanics. Just a postcard that says, "Hey, I was just thinking about you."

"But email is so much quicker. They'll get it instantly and know I'm thinking about them right then."

Yes. If you write it, they'll get it in a day or three. They'll go out to their post box, pull out the mass of junk mail, bills, and fliers, shuffle through them, grumbling and complaining up the drive until...they pause. It's a post card. Huh...must be a promotion from some store. They turn it over. Wait- they know that name. They recognize the handwriting (hopefully email hasn't deprived of the recognition of a loved one's handwriting!). A letter? For me? Someone took the time to actually write a few words, fork over forty-seven cents and send ME a letter?!? The bills and junk mail get left on the table. They take your letter (post card, greeting card, whatever) and sit in a well-worn chair, next to a window and read what you have to say. It's not much, just the general, "hey how are you?", "thinking of you", "how did your doctor's appointment come out?" They smile, maybe get a little teary-eyed. They smooth out the page, stand, and put your letter in the chair. Now they are ready for the rest of their day. You've given them more than a greeting, a thought, a message. You gave them pause, a respite from the helter-skelter of modern life.

We write to those we love, those we cherish, those we wish to get to know better. We give them words, our words, written painstakingly across crisp paper, folded just so, put into an envelope and sealed up tight against prying eyes.We give them pause from their routine, a deviation that gives them new perspective and appreciation of the little things. We give them a smile, a tear, a laugh. All unexpected, all greatly needed.

What greater gift can there be?

Monday, June 1, 2009

In the Company of Angels

Some people don't believe in angels. I happen to be one who does. Not only in the heavenly beings who watch us unseen, but those who walk amongst us in human flesh. They aren't perfect; they rarely know they touch us in ways eternal. But they are there. Always watching out for us.

For some, it may be a parent or grandparent, a sibling that has always watched out for them, given them advice or a much needed push. For others, a teacher may have filled this roll. A mentor who has been where you've been, gone where you need to go and was there cheering you on and giving you priceless advice. While I have been blessed with a wonderful family who encourages me and a teacher or two who inspired me to persevere, my constant guiding lights have been friends.

It's amazing how people from different walks of life, who can at times be polar opposites, touch each other. I have been blessed with two such friends. They are always there when I need them. They aren't afraid to give me my soapbox and let me rant. They never cower when I come to them to vent. And they always, always, always have a message from the Divine, words they themselves are unsure of but know they must be spoken nonetheless. A lot of times they just begin to talk and out pops exactly what I needed here. Other times, a letter arrives, or a note is placed in my line of sight that says exactly what my heart is thirsting for.

I know you have people like this in your own lives. Your own person troop of guardian angels. Let them know how much they mean to you. Write them a letter (a good old fashioned one is always appreciated!), call them, send them flowers, take them out for coffee. Whatever you do, make certain they know how much you appreciate them. And I'll bet you mean as much to them as they do to you.

~Jen