Juggling in Public

Winter was long and cold; spring was slow in arriving. But once it did, I had the urge to go for a walk and spend some time sitting by a nearby pond, enjoying the weather, while I thought and journaled.

While I was there, I saw a man in his maybe 60s show up with a bag of juggling equipment. For most of the time I was there, he practiced in the grass.

I thought it was a little weird.

After a while, a group of four people who looked to be in maybe their early twenties walked by, but stopped to talk to him and ask him about what he was doing.

“What made you want to do this?” one of them asked.

Mid-life crisis,” he answered.

I was too far away to hear most of their conversation, but one of the young men asked him if he could try it, and the man let him, and gave him some tips on what to do. After a few minutes, the group went their own way and the man continued practicing his juggling on his own.

In Daring Greatly Brené Brown writes:

To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance of appreciation–that’s also vulnerability. To let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster–that’s an intense form of vulnerability.”

Practicing juggling in public seems vulnerable to me; anyone could walk by and see him doing something pretty unusual, but it didn’t bother him, and he even welcomed the interaction and questions of these people. They may never see each other again, but for a brief period of time, they shared something, because he was willing to (in my opinion) look a little silly, doing something important and meaningful to himself. For a few minutes, these random, unconnected people connected over something most unusual: public juggling practice.

We interact with a lot of people everyday, but we don’t often connect with them. Most of the time, we’re too afraid to be vulnerable, to juggle in public. There are a lot of reasons for this, and you all should just read the book, because it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. So many of us are missing connection with people, and don’t know how to change that, but it is possible.

We just need to be able to juggle in public more often.

Never Good Enough

Last week, I wrote that putting together everything I know and have learned about myself is like putting together a puzzle. Part of that puzzle is understanding how to take what I have read and understand where it fits in my life.

One of the books I love and have read twice is Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

The problem is that making the connection between understanding and relating to the book and applying it in my life has been difficult.

In the introduction to the book she writes:

If we want to know why we’re all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known, we have to understand the power of shame and fear. If we can’t stand up to the never good enough and who do you think you are? we can’t move forward.

I don’t really think of myself as a fearful person and I’m not even sure if shame is something I’d describe myself as feeling, so I’m not entirely sure how I might have experienced the shame and fear that she mentions, but for many reasons, the “never good enough” has been something I have struggled with throughout my life. I don’t really know why; I don’t know if there was one event that triggered it that I don’t remember, or if it is due to how I have interpreted different events that have happened to me over the years, such as the breakup of a best friendship early in high school, sitting the bench playing softball, a sport I loved, or hearing a message from the church that my gifts and interests were not all that welcome because of my gender. It could be any and all of those, plus others I haven’t thought of yet–or just don’t want to write publicly.

As an Enneagram 9, the message that my voice isn’t important is one I have somehow internalized over the years. While it hasn’t been constant, it’s been regular enough that when I have started to realize that my voice does matter, it’s always wrapped up in doubt. It is difficult to break free from that, but over the last year it has been happening; I am a person who needs to hear something a LOT before I let it sink in and truly believe it.

I posted this on Instagram one day, because this experience has been instrumental in helping me realize this:

 

I have been able to explore this part of myself that has been buried for so long, and other conversations and experiences I’ve had in the last couple of months have also helped me to confirm that I need to stop ignoring myself for the sake of other people.

Something I read recently that ended up being instrumental in helping me move forward is from Isaiah 43. It’s nothing new; I wasn’t unfamiliar with it; but I read it again on a day when I needed to hear it (despite the context of it being about Israel, not me–you all know I’m big on context).

“I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”

I love you.

The message of God’s love is one I’ve known and believed for my whole life, but just like in any relationship, you don’t want to be told only once that you’re loved; it’s a message that should be repeated frequently.

When you know you are loved and valued for who you are, it gives you that courage to stand up to the “not enough” and “who do you think you are?” 

Let’s keep moving forward.

Putting Together a Puzzle

Over Christmas break, we tried to put together a 2000 piece puzzle. That sounds nice, right? Time off from work and school, lots of relaxing, pretty falling snow, hot chocolate, Christmas music, etc.

It wasn’t like that at all.

It was an extremely difficult puzzle with colors so similar and so many pieces that looked the same that it seemed impossible to understand where they were supposed to go, even though we knew they all fit somewhere. After Christmas break was over and we didn’t have time to work on it, we eventually put it back in the box, never completing it.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the picture I took of all the personality and spiritual gifts assessments I’ve taken over the years, spread out on the floor in my sunroom to see what pattern I could find, to see how it all fit together.

I’ve done them so many times because I’ve been to so many churches over the years, and each time you start over, you do what’s offered, and you find out where you fit in that place.

The problem with that is that while my gifts didn’t necessarily change (writing and teaching emerged the most frequently), there wasn’t always a specific or clear place for me to fit.

In a culture where many people go to church twice on Sunday and attend other church activities on Wednesday, and in a church of 500 people, in a place where the Bible is supposed to be incredibly important, it was disheartening to see that most people really didn’t care about learning more about it. I taught classes on Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Luke, and there were no more than five of us in the room for any of them. While I don’t think the amount of people that attend is what makes something successful or not, it continually surprised me that more people were not interested.

I also had a conversation at one point when I offered to write a series of articles for our bulletin, but was told that was really just for the pastors and other staff.

Another time, I attended a Bible study in which I brought up the questionable premise of the study’s author, because I thought it hinged on something that was not certain at all. The study’s leader said, “well, that’s too deep for me,” and we moved on.

Apparently a reason I never quite feel like I belong has to do with my INFJ personality.

Because Ni perceives the world so differently and profoundly, INFJs often experience a sense of loneliness and isolation, even when they are with other people.

The rarity of their personality type makes a lot of INFJs feel like they don’t fit in.

I think that, combined with all of the many times I have moved and had to adapt to new people and cultures, has made it more difficult to know myself than I realized.

We gave up on the puzzle for now, but I’m not giving up on the puzzle of my own life.

Not this time.

 

This week’s Recommended Reading:

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I’m Back

“I’m back!” I exclaimed, a bit too exuberantly for simply returning from the grocery store, which caused my husband to give me a strange look.

I explained that I had realized earlier that morning that a part of me had been missing, and I finally felt like I had returned.

“How long?,” he asked. “Since Waldorf?”

I wasn’t sure at first how long it had been, and over the years, while I hadn’t completely disappeared, as I considered it I decided he was probably right. When I had to move in early 2012, I had to give up the job I had most loved in my entire life, and I floundered a lot since then. 

There’s been a lot lately that I’ve read, re-read, written, thought about, listened to, and talked about that has helped ME to reemerge, and I’ll be referencing and reflecting on a lot of those in upcoming posts.

If anyone needs guidance, help figuring out their identity and life’s purpose, I highly encourage you to contact Align Coaching. Andy’s been a friend since I had that job I loved, and has been so helpful in our conversations over the years.

There’s a lot more progress to make, and there are a lot more thoughts that will make their way to this blog. I haven’t even really had the desire to blog in a long time, but I do now.

I’m back.

 

MOPS Devotional: “Now What?”

 

Today is the last day of MOPS for the year.  I know that I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of you since I started coming to MOPS right after I moved here, just over a year ago.
Endings are bittersweet.  We feel somewhat sad when something ends, partly because we’ve enjoyed it and partly because it is something that has filled our schedule and we are left wondering “now what?”  Now what will we do on Thursday mornings.  Now what will we do with the kids when school is out.

“Now what” is how countless people must have felt:

  • When Adam & Eve left the garden, they must’ve thought, “now what?”
  • When Noah & his family were on the ark, they must’ve thought, “now what?”
  • When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and were free from the Egyptians, they must’ve thought, “now what?”
  • When Israel was exiled, and when they were able to return to their land, they must’ve thought, “now what?”
  • When Jesus was dead, lying in the tomb, the disciples must’ve thought, “now what?”
  • And when Jesus was raised from the dead, but then left again, people must’ve thought, “now what?”
Do you see the theme?

No matter how normal, ordinary, or average our everyday life is, we are all going to be faced with the question “now what?”

A lot of times, we like to think of the Bible as our go-to answer book.  We look up in a topical index whatever problem we’re facing and are given a verse or two to read and assume that is supposed to be the answer to our problem.
But that kind of makes the Bible fall flat, I think.
Instead of looking at it as a place to look up the answers, rather, we should look at it as a place to see the experiences of so many people before us who struggled, who feared, who doubted, who had questions, who lived ordinary lives.  People who also have asked, “now what?”
We can look to it and realize that often, there are not final answers for us, and even if we do get answers, they are not always the same for everyone, and they take a lot of time to come.  And while there are promises in the Bible, they are not exact.  It doesn’t tell us exactly what to do with every single step we take in our lives.   For example, when I was in the process of moving here, I had to wonder, “now what?”  God didn’t tell me exactly what He wanted me to do here.  He didn’t tell me which church I would attend, if I would get a job, or what.  But I firmly believe that opportunities that have opened up–over time–are due to His leading and prompting.   And even though I can’t look to the Bible to tell me exactly what I should do, I can look to it for some beautiful and life-giving promises and guidance:

I think of Jesus’ words at the end of the gospel of Matthew, assuring people of his presence:  “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20).  Or Colossians 3:15, in which Paul encourages us to “let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts”.  Or from the gospel according to John when Jesus explains that even though he is leaving, the “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit, is being sent to be with us forever.  And then when Paul explains in Galatians that we will know who has that Holy Spirit guiding his or her life because of the fruit produced:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Too often, we want everything in our lives planned out.  We want lists made and we want to check things off of those lists.
But, as we learned a couple of weeks ago, life gets interrupted.
And when that happens, we can go crazy, or we can still ourselves, quiet ourselves, and ask God, “now what?”  And I believe that God will lead us, even if we can’t see where we are going or how all the pieces of our lives may fit together.

So, as we break for MOPS until next year, I encourage you to ask yourselves, “now what?” regarding your faith.  Is there something you need to surrender to God?  Is there a practice such as prayer or meditation or Bible reading that you want to put into your life?  It’s not going to be the same for everyone here.  But it is a question we all can ask, and we all can find an answer to–even if that answer isn’t explicitly in the Bible.  It’s there through the Spirit, and there through the Spirit working through others.

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I’m going to leave you with more of Paul’s words in his letter to the Colossians, also from chapter 3, in order to encourage you in seeking God’s guidance:

 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,   for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.   Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).   On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.   But now you must get rid of all such things– anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.   Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices   and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.   In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!   As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.   Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.  (Colossians 3:1-15)