Stripping Wallpaper

I’ve always had strange dreams.

There was the one about the giant snake in the median of the road. There was another about a bear running full speed directly at me and then getting distracted by a honey-baked ham on a tree stump. Or the one where my 8 year old presented me with some leggings I wanted and claimed he’d taken the car to go to the store to buy them for me.

I don’t always remember my dreams when I wake up and I don’t always think about what they might mean, but sometimes I do.

I’ve been stripping wallpaper in one room in my house and it has been very difficult. I really want to get it done and the walls painted because the wallpaper is old and dark and I want the room to be bright and pleasant. The wallpaper is stuck on well and is not coming off easily at all.

I had a dream one night that all of a sudden, I was working on it and it started coming off very easily. When I woke up, I was kind of excited and hopeful that it was a SIGN that I’d get this project DONE (unfortunately, it was not).

But then I was curious.

What might the symbolism of stripping wallpaper be? I found a dream dictionary website and searched for wallpaper.

“To dream that you are peeling or stripping off wallpaper denotes that you are beginning to let your guard down. You are breaking down your barrier one layer at a time. It also indicates that you are revealing aspects of yourself that have been kept well hidden.”

I then yelled SHUT UP at my computer.

I know dream interpretation is not a science, and probably brings in our own biases in ways we both know and don’t know, but…seriously, this “definition” is exactly what I have been going through lately.

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about the armor that we use to protect ourselves, and I realized that what she was describing was something I had commented on more than a year ago in a conversation; I was feeling like I was often waiting for the other shoe to drop, that it was easier to just not feel happy about anything because then it meant I didn’t have to feel sad or disappointed when it all got ripped away from me. I could protect myself from the pain. And even as I typed it, I knew how messed up it sounded, but it was all I really felt I could do at the time.

When I was thinking about what she wrote, and realized that I’d been doing that and had even said so more than a year ago, my legs got a little weak and I had to sit down on the floor and wonder how Brené and her book knew me.

Slowly, I’ve been allowing myself to shed that armor and feel again. There are days when I have felt such joy and happiness that I look in the mirror and wonder where I’ve been, and it’s made me determined to have this me stick around and not disappear again.

It’s not easy.

After a lot of questions and thinking about it, and even initially deciding against it, I finally decided to go through my friend Andy’s coaching sessions. While I’m doing it at a snail’s pace, it’s been more valuable than I’d anticipated. I’ve learned what I most value, and I’ve learned how to see how those values, my strengths, other aspects of my personality, and what drives me has been present–or not–throughout the events and decisions of my life.

I’m peeling away the wallpaper to get at the heart of who I really am.

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We Can Only Write from Where God Has Called Us to Be

The following post is by Ed Cyzewski as part of the Life-Changing Scriptures for Writers project.

I’ve stopped asking whether I’m making enough sales, earning enough money, achieving enough success, or any other benchmark for my work and calling as a writer. I can drive myself crazy and kill the joy of writing if I require a certain level of success. Pursuing it can leave anyone drained, stressed, and even bitter.

Writing what you feel called to write and offering it as a gift removes you from the roller coaster of emotions. This combined with writing from a sense of security in your identity before God are the only ways I’ve been shielded from more toxic elements of writing.

You are free to write. This isn’t a race. We can only play our roles. Seek out what God has for you, give yourself to it, and let go of imitating whatever success you see in others.

Early in my own career, I was deeply impacted by the following story about John the Baptist:

An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
John 3:25-30, NIV

We all have our parts to play, but we’ll only find contentment if we invest in seeking our own roles and joyfully carrying them out. John the Baptist had a slight advantage since a FREAKING ANGEL appeared to his father in order to announce his life’s purpose.

Still, John deserves credit for jumping into his calling with both feet. He moved out into the desert and played his part as a prophet, even dressing like Elijah. He didn’t begrudge the audiences who sought out Jesus because he saw himself as the messenger and nothing more.

We can only point people in the right direction. We all have our limits. If anything, limits help us thrive and achieve contentment because we can see the blessings we can experience and share where we are right now. I mean, if you want to spend your life pining away for another role or more success, be my guest. I’ve tried it, and it didn’t suit me.

We hear advice all of the time like this:

Do what you love.

Do what you’re passionate about.

Follow your dream.

Pursue conflict and live a good story

This advice isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just incomplete without the insight John the Baptist offers. Our passions, dreams, and loves can be so very important in guiding us toward work that could be meaningful for us and for others, but the direction we receive from God comes before everything else.

If we know our roles and embrace them with all of our love and passion, then we’ll have something significant to offer. The joy of writing will become a reward all its own.

Ed Cyzewski (MDiv Biblical Theological Seminary) is the author of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, Write without Crushing Your Soul, and Pray, Write, Grow. He blogs about writing and prayer at www.edcyzewski.com.


 

Life-Changing Scriptures for Writers is a project curated by Ed Cyzewski, Kelly Boyer Sagert, and Kelly Youngblood and is published on Fridays.

Want to contribute? Submit your piece here.

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Are You Noisy?

When I wrote about the idea of vocation inspired by the song “Make a Noise” by Katie Herzig, I didn’t mention two things:  what made me laugh about it or what bothered me about it.  One word:  noise.

When I hear the phrase “make a noise”, I am reminded of a conversation I had one time with one of my sisters. As was typical, she was giving me a hard time about singing off-key (I am hopeless when it comes to singing or anything musical).  I said to her that the Bible says “make a joyful noise1”, not necessarily an on-key one.  She retorted with something like “yeah, and it is a noise”.  I think I probably just made a face at her at that point and walked away or pouted or did something extremely mature like that.

I find myself bombarded with noise:  the television or my kids or my cats or the train going by multiple times per day or anything political on tv, Facebook and Twitter or even my own voice talking to my kids answering their questions or telling them to get dressed or threatening time out or or or…you get the idea.  I think of the line in How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch is thinking about all the “noise noise noise noise noise”.  I think this is one reason I rarely listen to music anymore; I enjoy when there is silence all around me.  I find it peaceful when I can drink a cup of peppermint tea after the kids have gone to bed and I can just relax.  I don’t really like being surrounded with noise.

The word “noise” itself kind of bothers me.  It felt almost discordant when I first saw the name of the song and listened to it, because it’s a word that feels unsettling.  It’s not an elegant, pretty word.  It’s definition and synonyms are not elegant or pretty either:

Definition:       sound that is loud or not harmonious

Synonyms: babble, babel, bang, bedlam, bellow, bewailing, blare, blast, boisterousness, boom, buzz, cacophony, caterwauling, clamor, clang, clatter, commotion, crash, cry, detonation, din, discord, disquiet, disquietude, drumming, eruption, explosion, fanfare, fireworks, fracas*, fuss*, hoo-ha, hubbub, hullabaloo*, jangle, lamentation, outcry, pandemonium, peal, racket, ring, roar, row, shot, shouting, sonance, squawk, stridency, talk, thud, tumult, turbulence, uproar, uproariousness, yelling, yelp

I think that is the point of the song.  In order to be ourselves and live out our passions and dreams, we have to shed the fear of not appearing put-together.  We have to not worry about what others will think of us if we do not do what is expected or if our life seems off-key.  We have to have the courage to go where we are called to go and to be who we are called to be, even if it means we will be loud and not harmonious.

I may not know what my noise is supposed to be, but I can certainly encourage you in your noise.

Make a noise.  Be Boisterous.   Caterwaul, clamor, or clang.  Cry out.  In the journey of your life, find your calling in the din, dicord, and disquiet moments.  Roar with what you want to say to the world.  Shout in the tumult.  Cause an uproar.  Make a noise. 



1 References to making a joyful noise:  


Psalm 66:1-2   Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;  sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.  Psalm 95:1-2   O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  Psalm 98:4   Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.  Psalm 98:6  With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.  Psalm 100:1  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.

Find Your Voice

When I was in college, I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher.  After all, for someone who loved to read and write, what better major was there than English Literature?  And what else would I do with an English Literature degree?  Then I took a class on “Modern British Literature” and realized that I was tired and bored with literature and I could never, ever teach it to someone else if I wasn’t enjoying it myself.  I am glad that saved me from taking education classes, though, because they probably would have been a big waste of time.  I stuck with the major though, because there was no way that I was going to start over with something else, and even if I had, I had no idea what I would pursue.  I ended up enjoying the classes in my minor, Religious Studies, much more than most of my literature classes, although there were some literature classes that were Bible-related, and those I loved.

I believe I had to meet with an adviser once during college to make sure that I was taking the classes I needed to take for my degree, and I found it to be somewhat of a waste of time because I had a spreadsheet that I’d created in order to track my progress; I knew what I needed to do.  I only have a distant memory of waiting to see the adviser, and no memory of the meeting itself.

At no time during my college career did anyone ever talk to me about discovering my vocation.  When people would ask me what I wanted to do, it was as if I was already expected to know, because, really, what 18-22 doesn’t know what she wants to do for the rest of her life, right?

During my time in college and after, I had jobs that I did well, and even liked, but they were not jobs that I loved.  I was not passionate about them but I didn’t know what I should be doing instead.  I got a little closer to figuring it out when I began seminary, but I was very unsure about actually becoming a pastor–but that seemed to be the “right” thing to do.

Fast forward a few years, two moves and two children later, I still don’t have a Master’s degree (giving it up will be a story for another time), I have had part-time jobs (one as “Operations Coordinator” for a non-profit organization and the other as “Campus Ministry Coordinator”, and I have now moved a third time (as in I just moved about three weeks ago).

In my last sermon at Waldorf College in January, I spoke about vocation (Waldorf has a huge emphasis on vocation, which is an excellent thing) and said that I was heading into the unknown to find out what God’s next calling for me would be.

I knew that when I moved I wanted to really start looking into the concept of vocation and learning more about it as well as discovering what my next vocation would be.  I have a stack of books in my “to-read” pile (and many more that are not in the immediate pile) that are about vocation, the Bible, and writing.

While I haven’t figured it out yet, I have had little messages, you could say, that are serving to keep me somewhat focused.  It’s as if God is saying “ok, you’re mainly settled in, now get to work on this vocational discernment”.  The messages so far have been:

  • A book called Deepening the Colors by Sydney Hielema that is required reading at the college where my husband now works.  When I picked it up to read it, I had no idea that the topic was vocation.
  • A tweet and blog post by Rachel Held Evans about a man who was a mega-church pastor who had to give it up is is searching for his new purpose in life.
  • A tweet and blog post tonight by my friend Andy of a video of a song called “Make a Noise” by Katie Herzig. 

There were a few lyrics in this song that stood out to me:

“Believe that you can change the world. Your dreams have been living in a code of silence.So let them out.”

“Find your voice, find your voice.  Make a noise.”

As I listened and watched, not only did I start to feel tears forming (and my interest in fashion made me wonder how I could replicate the singer’s outfit), but I had a sense that there is something within reach, yet it is foggy, like waking from a dream and only being able to grasp a fleeting memory of it.

I hope as these next few weeks or months pass by, that the call will become clearer, the dream will become reality, and I will have the courage to discover my dreams and find my voice.



I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. –Colossians 2:2-3