God is Awake

26 01 2007

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. When you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” -Victor Hugo-


Perplexing Pleasantries

24 01 2007

Of all the many problematic questions we’re posed with on a daily basis, I’ve concluded “How are you?” is, by far, the most perplexing.  If it didn’t appear to mean “Are you happy?” as often, it might not be as challenging to sort through the files in my brain until I’ve located a both creative and honest reply. 

Part of the problem, is most of the time I feel numb; it’s as if I’m on autopilot.  At times, I can deal with life very factually, rather than being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the reality and the emotions, but I do have my moments.   

The reality is, most of the time I don’t know the answer to the simple question “How are you, Kelsey?”  Is the question how I’m choosing to deal with life, or how it’s affecting me simply by osmosis?  It seems to depend on who’s asking.    

Life has dealt my family and I — along with many other people living on this planet we call home — what can feel like an overwhelming, unfair and very crummy hand.  At times, I’d like to slam my cards down in frustration and defiance on the table and demand a redue.  Someone’s stacked the deck; I’m sure of it.  Circumstances can seem overwhelming, unfair, and nothing more than a great cosmic joke, but I’m playing my hand to the best of my abilities, and I’m surviving, learning and growing inspight of it.    

The notice sign on a tiny church I drove by read, “Happiness is based on circumstances.  Joy is based on Jesus.” 

Am I happy?  Sure, I can smile and laugh with the best of them, but happiness is not my state of being.  Of course, it’s something I enjoy while it lasts, but it comes and goes like any other emotion.  It can be based on something as trivial as what I had for breakfast and the weather forecast, and it fades just as easily from sight.  (Please see “Happiness vs. Joy.”)  

Happiness shouldn’t be a euphemism for joy, not when you’re talking about true biblical joy.  It seems like peace, hope and faith would be better linked with joy than happiness.  To equate joy with happiness is to say this joy — that’s supposed to be our strength — is nothing more than an emotional high.      

I don’t know that I’m happy at this very moment, but I have peace, because I have hope for a future, even if that isn’t in this lifetime, and I have faith that God is good, even when life seems to be screaming something completely contrary.  I have joy, but I don’t always feel happy.   

The asnwer to this perplexing pleasantiry of how I am, is that God is good, and because of this, as the old hymn says, it is well with my soul.  

Just One Step at a Time

5 01 2007

There are two kinds of people in the world who I have an extremely hard time being lenient with.  The first, are bullies who have either hurt someone I care about, or pick on the small and helpless for the benefit of their own misguided egos, and secondly, myself.  No, I don’t have issues with self-loathing — my ego is just fine, thank you very much — but I expect and demand things of myself that I would never dream of asking of anyone else.  

If by chance, you’ve ever spent an afternoon playing with preschoolers with your fingernails caked in Playdough you’ve probably discovered something about the importance of being understanding. 

The kids try to eat the blue Playdough, simply because it’s their favorite color (isn’t that a good enough reason to ingest something?), they jumble the colors until the rainbow resembles an oily, mud puddle.  Playdough ends up in their pockets, hair, ears, nostrils and anywhere else it can be crammed into.  It ends up sticking to the carpet, and then, it dries as hard as concrete, so you don’t have the slightest hope the room, the children, or your clothes will ever be completely Playdough-free again.     

Did the children fail because they had fun and ended up made a mess in the process?  No, of course not.  They’re preschoolers, and that’s how preschoolers act.  You clean up the mess, scrub the tables, and take a chisel to the carpet, without ever thinking any of them have failed.   

Why don’t I extend the same level of understanding to myself?    

There’s something about the changing of the calendars – taking down the well used Dr. Seuss, with a years worth of piano and soccer schedules permanently engraved on it, and hanging a stiff and shiny Van Gogh in its place — that has a way of giving this crabby, drill sergeant of an inner voice a megaphone.    

As is customary, most of us spend time examining ourselves under a cruel microscope until we’ve found the hideous thing we’d like removed.  We make our New Years wish (but entitle it a “resolution” because it sounds more realistic that way) and wait for the New Years Genie to rub his golden palms together and instantly remove the unseemly thing, along with making us into the loving, patient, good-looking, intelligent individual we’ve always known was locked away down, deep inside, just dying to get out.       

When the New Years Genie doesn’t come through — he rarely does – the only “realistic” conclusion we can muster is that we have failed, yet again, and that obnoxious voice puffs out her chest and says “I told you so!” in a taunting voice.  I swear, she’s just asking for a knuckle sandwich.  

Too often, when I decide to make “seize the day” my life motto – which generally happens around the first of the year — my inner voice starts arranging long, detailed lists of things I should be accomplishing, and others that I should’ve already done.  Rather than feeling excited to embrace every moment of life as a gift meant to be treasured – to stop and smell the roses – it’s easy, at least for me, to feel chained to this new “mindset” of making every minute count, while getting tangled up in the overwhelming battle with Self.               

Without any prompting, my inner voice barks orders, pulls out the guilt card (“You never do it right”) and points out all of my flaws and shortcomings in a voice dripping with as much sarcasm and pointed remarks as a late night talk show host, and I’m tired of listening.    

My New Year’s Resolution for 2007 (although, I’d like to imagine it’s more than merely a wish) is to be nice to myself, which means not saying I’m failing because I can’t handle the same level of stress I could before life kicked up to purée.  It means reading what I want to, blogging if I feel like it, going for long walks, drinking tea every morning for no deeper reason other than I want to, and truly taking sometime to breathe, heal and when I need to, grieve.   

Of course, I’d love to be able to handle what I could before, but I can’t yet, and that’s okay.  I’ll get there, but only if I allow myself time to heal now.   

It’s a journey, and in the words of Confucius, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” and the entire journey – no matter how long or short it may be – is comprised of individual steps; choosing to pick on up one foot at a time, and put it down in the right direction, and eventually, you begin shuffling across the living room floor, out the front door and into the open air.  It doesn’t require a genie, just one step at a time.    

A Few of My Favorite Thinigs From 2006

1 01 2007

Albums that Dominated my CD Player:  

1- How We Operate — Gomez  

2- Back in Bedlam — James Blunt 

3- Plans – Death Cab for Cutie

4- On and On – Jack Johnson  

5- Chaos and Creation in the Backyard – Paul McCartney  

Movies I Enjoyed the Most:  

1- The Goodbye Girl  
2- The Dead Poets’ Society
3- The Lion in Winter 
4- Walk the Line 
5- The Doctor   

Favorite Reads:   

1- A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis  

As the title alone suggests, this is far form a lighthearted, upbeat book, but it’s been the most helpful things I’ve come across in the last year regarding grief and loss.  Unlike other books on grief, it doesn’t provide answers, or formulas to try out; it’s a real look inside the heart of one man as he struggles, questions, and grieves for the loss of wife.   

C.S. Lewis is honest in his writings about how he’s feeling, and even how others relate with him because of his loss.  This book won’t tell you what to do, or where to go from here, but it does provide comfort in knowing you’re not alone as you walk down the long and painful road of grief.  It you’re lost someone, are in the process of losing someone, or know someone who’s grieving and would like to better understand what they’re going through, I highly recommended it.  

2- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott  

Unlike most writing books, this one is more inspirational, but it still does provide some helpful advice.  It was recommended to me by a writer friend of mine while I was working on a research project that seemed, at the time, to be going nowhere fast.  I found in very inspiring, which is what I needed more than anything right then at that point in time.             

A quick word of caution: Because Anne Lamott is often very candid, crude, and very inappropriate in her writings, this book is not recommend for anyone who might be easily offended.      

3- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton  

It’s a Victorian novel set in New York among the upper-class.  It shows the darker, less “innocent” side of the Victorian era, that we normally aren’t shown.  It deals with some of the interesting social dynamics of the time, double standards, hypocrisy, and what’s considered “proper” or “fashionable” of decent, wealthy men and women.  Some of the issues, you can still see being played out today, to a degree.    It isn’t a light read by any stretch, but because it’s a Victorian novel, it never goes into too much detail, and it doesn’t get nearly as dark as a modern novel probably would.  I loved this book; the story, the character, and the fact that it didn’t paint things in a rosy, romantic lighting.               

4- Loving God by Charles Colson  

Charles Colson takes on the challenge of practically answering the question, “How do we love God?”

 5- The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis  

This isn’t a “relational book,” but rather, its observations on the four different kinds of loves.  It’s not a devotional book, self-help, or deep theology, but I found it very interesting and insightful, and C.S. Lewis makes it an enjoyable read by just being himself.  

6- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Sci-Fi, so the fact that this book actually made it on my list of favorites says something.   Along with just being a fun read, the book illustrates well how the hardest things in our lives — the things we’d like to wish away — are the very things that shape our character, for bad, good, or even both.  Although the main character, Ender Wiggin, is a young boy it isn’t a children’s book.  I found in a very interesting novel with a lot more depth than I would have suspected it to contain.         

Quotes I Like:  

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”-Coc (Gabrielle Bonheur) Chanel 

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” -Mark Twain 

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain 

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei 

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Favorite Moments:  

-Finally getting to see “The Importance of Being Ernest” performed live.  It was wonderfully done.  It’s one of my favorite plays.  

-Riding on a trolley car in Sand Francisco, walking through China Town, Golden Gate Park, and admiring the beautiful, old Victorian homes.  

-Seeing more of California than Disneyland.  

-Balboa Park in San Diego, and the Andy Whorhal exhibit.   

-Seeing my mom, Ian and Shannon all genuinely smiling.  

-Coming to the peaceful realization after moving that I was truly safe, and I could relax and breathe again.

-When friends listened, asked questoins that showed they cared, and then remember what I said later.

Happiness is a Journey

1 01 2007

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness.  Happiness is the way.  So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.  Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”  –Souza