Tag Archives: creative living

Find Your Place

I have always been an indecisive person. I struggle with the simplest decisions, hemming and hawing and turning over possible scenarios and outcomes. A dear friend says my struggle to make decisions stems from shame–a deep rooted fear that I am not enough and that I am incapable of making choices. I believe this is true, for my inner-critic constantly taunts me and fills my mind with self-doubt whenever I attempt to make a decision.

This shame was further embedded into my heart by religion. It was clear to me throughout my teens and early adulthood that I needed God to make decisions for me. “Waiting on God” became the justifying remedy to indecision. My fear of making the wrong choice and veering off God’s “perfect plan for my life”, kept me from developing decision-making skills. It was a way of seeming to be a person of great faith, but in actuality, a terrified decision-phobe.

Though I have struggled with and been hurt by the church, I know God well enough to realise that He isn’t behind all this nonsense. One of my favourite concepts that my therapist has introduced me to is the idea of co-creating with God. As a dreamy-headed INFP with a creative bent, I love this idea. I love it far more than the nail-biting, waiting-on-a-sign-from-God paralysis of my upbringing.

I must make it abundantly clear that I have not abandoned God; I have just abandoned religiosity. I have given up on all the things religious people told me that do not line up with the character of God, or the reality of my experience as His child. I have spent so many years making myself unhappy in order to make God happy, but I am beginning to sense that this isn’t the point of it all.

While I believe that I, as a self-proclaimed Jesus follower, should make it my aim to honour God in all things, I no longer feel that in order to do that, I must fully abandon myself. After all, He made me; why would God put gifts and passions and desires in me just to watch me shove them all down, in order to “please Him?” Perhaps, and I am no theologian, God puts in us exactly what He wishes to bring forth in us. Perhaps following one’s passions and interests isn’t veering from God’s plan at all, but living it.

Last week in my therapist’s office, unbidden tears sprang up as I shared how unhappy and lost I felt. My therapist, a gentle and wise man, told me something I will never forget:

“You must claim your sacred place in the world.”

How does one claim one’s sacred place in the world? By making choices.

I sense that God wants to co-create a life with me,  one that brings me joy and Him glory. It may seem “holier” to wait on God to drop a neon sign from the sky, but I believe it’s just fear dressed in a robe and rosary. He wants me to claim my sacred place in the world, not wander aimlessly on it.

Let’s find our sacred place in the world and co-create with God. Let’s be doers and wise decision makers. Let’s use our faith actively to accomplish whatever we want to do.

In the words of St. Augustine, let’s love God and do what we please.

Travel Diary: From Dublin to Rostrevor

I was rather tired the morning I left Dublin, because I’d been out all night at a backpacker’s pub crawl. Before leaving the hostel, I stripped the bed, balled up the sheets, and double-checked that I hadn’t left anything. My hair dryer occupied the tiny wastebasket (the voltage was just too much for my American hairdryer…may she rest in peace). My backpack felt even heavier than my day of arrival, but I strapped it on and headed out the door.

As I flung open the brightly painted  door, I saw what awaited me outside: a torrential downpour. I immediately shut the door, wondering what I was going to do. I hadn’t packed an umbrella. I didn’t bring a raincoat, let alone a coat. I decided that the only thing I could do was just forge ahead, rain and all. Within two minutes, I was completely soaked, raindrops trailing down my nose and my hair slicked to my head. I accidentally stomped in a puddle while hurrying along, soaking my trainers. By the time I made it to the bus centre, I was miserably hungry, tired, and soaking wet. After purchasing a ticket to Newry, I sat down at a cafe and devoured a small breakfast and sipped a gritty, bitter Americano.

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Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

The bus was comfortable, and included free wifi. I listened to Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s while watching fields of sheep graze, occasionally glancing around at the other passengers. The Newry bus centre wasn’t as nice, and the bus was dingy. The driver was a kind old man, though, and that’s what matters. He dropped me off directly in front of An Cuan (which means “The Habour”). I walked up to the old building, noticing a scattering of children’s toys, and a few parked cars. I opened the front door, but no one was in the hall. I called up the stairwell, but received no answer. After several minutes of wandering around, I grew fearful that I was stranded. I called my best friend back home, as well as the friend that recommended I stay at An Cuan. Finally, I ventured around the enormous house, and walked up to the backdoor. A little boy answered, and I asked for his mum. The lady, Jen, came and we quickly settled the confusion. She led to to my room, sparely finished but comfortable. The house was a hodge-podge maze of the original structure and additions made in the 80’s.

After settling in, I took a walk to Kilbroney Park, which is a beautiful forested park that houses the Claughman Rock, the Narnia Trail, and Fairy Glen. I walked through Fairy Glen, past storybook homes, and a gentle river. The sun was shining, and I felt truly at rest. I remember smiling to myself, feeling proud that I was brave enough to come to the middle of nowhere in Ireland. Upon arriving back at An Cuan, I decided to take a shower and go to bed early. The shower, while slightly bigger than the one in the Dublin hostel, had barely any water pressure, and trickled out lukewarm. After a long day of bus travel and getting caught in the rain, all I wanted was a decent shower. This trip has made me realise how spoiled I am back in the States. I appreciate how the inconveniences are developing patience and thankfulness within me. The tight spaces, limited options, and budget accommodations are helping me realise how little I truly need to be happy.

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At the end of this street is the YWAM base, An Cuan.

My second day at An Cuan, another American girl arrived at the base. We chatted on the couches after the community meal, and she then invited me out for dessert and coffee. We walked down the street to The Church, a lovely old church that was converted to a cafe. I cheated on my diet and indulged in a toffee pudding with ice cream and berries. I am dairy-free and usually attempt a vegan lifestyle, but I just decided to go for it. We chatted about our faith, our struggles with doubt, and a little bit about our lives back in the States. After a couple days of being alone, it was such a blessing to make a friend!

When I got back to my room, I popped a couple of Benadryl to counter the affects of my indulgence. The next morning I awoke with a terrible ache throughout my body, a sore throat, and what felt like an ear infection. I had planned on a day trip to Belfast, and decided that I wouldn’t allow being sick to keep me from exploring. I was also in desperate need of a warm coat. I rode two buses to Belfast, and by the time of my arrival I was terribly hungry, grumpy, and ill.

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The beginning of the Narnia trail.

My guidebook suggested I visit Kelly’s, a three-hundred year old pub that once catered to Irish rebels. I walked in and sat down. No one served me, so after about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, I chose to move closer to the bar. After more uncomfortable minutes of waiting, I flagged down the bartender and asked if I could order. His accent was thick, so after a little difficulty, I was informed that they were serving only beef stew. I hate beef stew, and I didn’t want a drink, so I left.

I was then directed to a hip cafe, where I ordered “The Big Fish”. I assumed it was akin to fish and chips, plus that’s the title of my favourite Tim Burton movie, so I guessed it a safe bet. The waiter brought out a platter with a battered, deep fried fish the length of elbow to fingertip, with a serving of chips and mashed peas. It was an enormous amount of food. I ate everything though, because I was so hungry and past the point of caring.

After lunch I wandered around different shops in search of a coat. All the shops were featuring  spring attire, so all I could find were paper-thin raincoats. It began to rain, so I popped out my umbrella that I purchased in the village for about three pounds. The heavy winds immediately folded my shield from the  inside out, and I stopped to wage war on the cheap thing in front of a small cafe. After realising I was at a loss, I walked inside. “Having trouble with your umbrella, are you?” The comment came from a smiley barista with a red beard and vivid blue eyes. I laughed and replied yes, that I wanted to throw it in the trash. I ordered an Americano, and he hospitably told me to sit down and he’d bring it to me. I was relived to find a kind person. We chatted as I sipped on my coffee (which was delicious). He’d travelled through the Middle East on his own several years back, which I found impressive.

I told him I was in need of a coat, and he directed me to a TK Maxx (their version of the States’ TJ Maxx). After browsing, I chose a black down jacket. It was lightweight but warm, though not my style. After my jacket mission was complete, my desire to wander around Belfast died completely. I just wanted to go home to bed. I nearly cried multiple times, mostly from disappointment and feeling so poorly. I didn’t expect I’d have bad days while travelling; I thought that I would be so overjoyed and in awe that I would be immune to every difficulty.

When I returned to the base, I was feeling so ill that I just showered and went to bed. I awoke the next day fairly early for how sick I felt. I dressed for church, went on a walk to Kilbroney Park, and picked up some coffee before heading to the service. When I arrived, I saw a couple of girls from the base. I stood with them and chatted with the elderly. The service was beautiful, with various Scripture readings, organ-led hymns, and a celebration of the Trinity. I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional service, and felt so apart of the village community through the experience.

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Fairy Glen, with my dream house over yonder.

The next morning, I visited the local physician. As I had suspected, I had another ear infection. He prescribed the routine antibiotics, and told me not to fly for a bit. “That’s impossible…I have several flights that I cannot cancel!” He shook his head, but said to take care. I waited in a tiny pharmacy while the two women behind the counter gossiped and filled plastic bottles with various pills.

The remainder of my time in Rostrevor was spent resting, taking long walks, and chatting with locals. By the time the bus came to whisk me to another destination, I cried at the thought of leaving such a peaceful nest of a village.

Shame

For years, I believed that the source of most of my problems was rooted in self-hatred and self-pity. I fully believed that the reason I struggled with self-destructive habits and beliefs was due to an innate abandonment of self.

It has been revealed to me, however, that my core issue is shame. All the self-hatred, pity, and perfectionism that I have wrought come from the same source: shame.

As I became aware that my self-destructive habits resulted from shame, I became increasingly aware of the moments I experience it. A few examples are:

  • Stepping onto a scale or seeing an unflattering photo
  • Eating a food that I (or culture) has deemed “bad” and fattening
  • Meeting an attractive man or going on a date
  • Comparing myself to other women on social media

This is a very small, curated list. Because I am an intuitive, introverted person, I am highly self-aware. This self-awareness has led me to discover that I experience and live through shame on a daily basis. Shame has kept me from pursuing relationships, my dream career, and having peace with God. Shame speaks to me every day, and this is what it often says:

  • “You’re so gross/ugly/chubby/unattractive. You’d be more valuable if you were prettier.”
  • “You’re a terrible writer and you’re not creative. Who the hell do you think you are? People judge you and dislike you, so you should share as little of yourself as possible.”
  • “You are too old and ugly to ever find a man who will love you. Nearly all your friends are married! This proves something is wrong with you.”
  • “You’ve wasted your life. You haven’t done anything important and now you’re in your late twenties and it’s too late. It’s your fault.”

Shame says some terribly wicked things, doesn’t it?

If I wanted to face shame in a fight for my honour, I’d have to grab a mirror, because shame is most often from myself. It isn’t a separate entity that I can destroy. It is a wounded and frightened part of me. Shame insists on perfection, and anything less is a disgrace and should be abused roundly.

This evening I listened to a few TED talks, and one in particular struck me so intensely that I burst into tears. One line in particular drew some fast tears: “Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” I have included an audio download of Brene’s TED talk below, and I urge you to consider her words. It brought some clarity to the cloudy musings of the past year, giving shape and meaning to them.

 

 

I share this deeply vulnerable post not because I want others to pity me; I share because I want others to know that they’re not alone in their shame. I am sick to death of hating myself, of wishing I had a perfect body and perfect soul, of reaching a place of heaven on a very broken earth. Shame may try to destroy me, but it can also lead me to greater vulnerability, which Brene claims is the “…birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

 

A Poem on Faith & Doubt

I wrote this little poem several years ago, based upon James 1:6, a passage from Scripture. I have always struggled with doubt–in God, myself, in other people. Over the years, my doubts have been met and transformed by truth. I am discovering that doubt is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Doubt, when accepted as a path, can lead one to new places and deeper understanding. Ultimately, I believe holding God’s hand on this path leads not to annihilation of relationship, but a greater capacity for it. Allowing doubt to be helpful requires faith, rather than the denial of it.

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“Uproot and plant yourself in the sea,” said the man of mustard seeds. “You’ve held belief in small things, but greater yet is what will be.”

The mulberry tree duly replied, “Surely my roots will never be dry. The fishes will dance among my leaves, for your faith, I’ll do as you please.”

Another man out and lost at sea, drowning in doubt with prayerful pleas. But oh, how should you receive? Marked with doubt, anxiety.

Faithless man, take hold the seed.

Current Reads

I am reading three different books, all very dissimilar from each other. I tend to peruse more than one book at a time, each serving a different purpose. I follow an online book club, but am woefully behind on my pages because of this habit. All in due time, I suppose!

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The first is the much-acclaimed, frightening, and engaging The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. It’s currently a new Hulu series and is receiving a lot of buzz. The story is told from the perspective of Offred, a Handmaid in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. In the novel, the Constitution is illegal, women are stripped of all independence and freedom, and a severe caste system is enforced.

Offred, like many other women in the Republic, is valued only for her ovaries. She is shuttled from one house to the next, with the sole purpose of giving birth to children that will never be hers. She is a vessel that can be used, replaced, and discarded. Her own husband and child were ripped from her, and she is utterly without hope (at least where my bookmark is nestled).

The novel tackles religious abuse, separation of church and state, women’s rights, and other political and societal issues. The book is brutal and often painful to read, so it may not suit everyone. It is eerily timely, even though it was written over thirty years ago.

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The second book is a morning devotional,  Jesus Calling: Experience Hope Through His Presence, by Sarah Young. Its daily readings are short, which is perfect for time-crunched mornings. The readings are written like letters from God to His individual children, which I love. Apart from Streams in the Desert, I have struggled to find a morning devotional that suited me. This one is filled with encouragement and insight, and has helped me turn to God during a very hopeless season in my life.

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The third and final book is actually a twelve-week course entitled The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practise, by Julia Cameron. As I have previously mentioned, I have been going through a very dry, hopeless, and (seemingly) fruitless season. This course is reviving my spirit and enabling me to view creativity in ways I never have before. It is giving me courage to simply make things because I enjoy it, to pursue a creative life because I want my life to be as vibrant, adventurous, and creative as possible. I highly recommend this course, and if any of you would like to join me, I would love to have you!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss

 

Old Poem 

I wrote this poem years ago, but its words still touch my heart. I have only ever shared it with a limited audience, for fear of it being silly or clumsy or misunderstood. In my pursuit of living a more creative life now, however, I am choosing to share my creative efforts with no thought of the reception it may or may not receive.

So without further ado, here is the old poem I found buried in the heap of my creative past.

I remember as a child sitting in the backseat with a story being read to me, about a girl all alone in the jungle who was afraid.

Just like me.

Well, not exactly–I mean I grew up in suburbia and for a while backwoods country.

But God, it seemed like life was like that scary jungle scene; where every corner, every branch held uncertainty, like something was going to happen, like something was going to hurt me.

But the girl in that story said something that stuck out to me, repeating ever so softly,
“God is with me, always with me. I am safe, always safe.”

And it was in the backseat of that car on that warm summer’s night, driving from Seattle on that stretch of 405, that I came to a conclusion in my childish mind, that if I just spoke those trusting words, everything would be just fine.

Though over time, I found these words to be only half-right.

God is with me, He’s always with me. but I am not always so safe.

Does this mean He loves me less?
Does this mean He’s forgotten me?

Somehow we’ve come to believe that following that still small voice gives us some sort of invincibility, a special  protection, that if it’s His will, things will work out perfectly.

But if that’s the case, why hasn’t that come through for me?

If that’s how God works, then why are my brothers and sisters suffering for advancing a kingdom He’s building?

Yet when I flip through the pages of that old book that still breathes life, I see God has never been too concerned with us leading safe, comfortable, predictable lives.

But I still don’t pretend to understand why You allow certain things to happen, and I can’t help but ask so many questions.

There’s really no resolve here, but to keep trusting in You;  for perhaps the body You do not always keep so safe, but as for my soul You always do. And I can rest knowing that no matter the circumstance, You bring about Your redemptive plan.

You promise to wipe every tear from our eyes?

Okay then, I’ll let them fall freely so I have nothing to hide, for I know one day all wrongs will be made right, and we will finally see the “whys” behind this life.

But maybe by then we won’t need the answers, as to why our loved ones died of cancer, or why our sons and daughters are bought and sold like they don’t matter.

All I can say for now, is that I’ll keep listening for Your voice to break through my clouds.

Current Obsessions

I have a somewhat obsessive personality. I latch on to ideas, colours, songs, a particular line from a book or poem, etc. I draw inspiration from these little obsessions, and I love to share them.

It’s been nearly a year since I have blogged or written anything substantial, and as a result, I have been feeling rather dull. The truth is, I want to live a more creative life. I want to write more, travel more, share more. I am a very introverted, private person, and as a recovering perfectionist,  I forgo creating out of fear that my work isn’t important, that my voice is not needed. However, I have been re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (a book on creative living), and it has emboldened me to start writing again. For better or for worse, I am most alive and happy when I am creating something.

So without further ado, here’s a list of my current obsessions:

  1. This shade of pink has me absolutely smitten.

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2. “Banana buns” are currently trending in Paris, and as an out and proud Francophile, I am obsessed. Messy, undone hair is just so much sexier.

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3. I have always been a bath-lover, but this terribly cold, dark winter has caused me to appreciate them even more. A Lush bath bomb and a cup of tea make bath time even more sacred.

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4. This affirmation is my mantra for 2017. As I am searching for meaning and direction in my post-grad existence, I am holding onto these words.

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5.While I am not a very materialistic person, I do love shoes. I especially like the kind I can explore city streets and random villages in. I pre-ordered these throwback kicks in preparing for my summer adventures.

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6. I have listened to this audio version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s so many times that I could recite a faithful account by heart. Capote’s writing style captivates me; I love retreating into the little world of Holly Golightly and her nameless cat. Michael C. Hall narrates it, and his accents bring the story to life.

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7. I have been an avid coffee drinker for years, but in the past month or so, my taste for it has been waning. Instead of my usual Americano, I have been enjoying a cup (or two or three) of PG Tips each morning.

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So there you have it–a hodgepodge list of my current obsessions/inspirations. What inspires you? What do you do to live a more creative life?