I Hope You Dance

When I had a phone call a few months ago with my friend Andy of Align Coaching to understand more about the coaching process he does, he explained that one of the exercises he guides people through was thinking about five lives you could have. He said, “for example, if you wanted to be a ballerina…”

My mouth dropped open.

My eyes widened.

“Did you know I used to dance?” I (almost) yelled back.

He laughed and said no.

When I was a kid, I’d always wanted to take ballet , but the opportunity and money wasn’t there. When I was in fourth grade, I got a Sweet Valley Twins book that I read over and over, because it had to do with ballet.

After I moved to Albuquerque and got married, for some reason, I started thinking about ballet again, and decided that I’d do it. When I was 23 I walked into a dance studio for my very first class and I fell in love.

It was difficult. I could barely do any of it at first and I felt awkward and uncoordinated. Others with more experience made it look so easy. I was sore the next day. But I showed up again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Eventually I took two classes a week and over time, I learned and improved.

There were times I practically lived at the studio due to classes, rehearsals for recitals or The Nutcracker, and even just hanging out talking before or after those classes and rehearsals.

Ballet class and rehearsal has always been the one thing where I could go and focus on something without any other thoughts creeping into my head. Dance helped me stand taller and be more confident in myself and be more comfortable in my own body.

And I became good at it.

As someone who enjoyed playing sports when I was younger, but didn’t get much playing time on the basketball court or softball field, it felt great to find something that I loved doing and that I did well.

The studio was more than just a place to dance. The people in that studio were a family, with past family members pointe shoes and pictures hung up on the wall. There is a sense of love and belonging that is hard to find when you walk outside the doors. The people there have different backgrounds, different lives, different faiths, different political beliefs.

But in the studio we were all one.

Ballet was one of the most important things in my life, an that studio represents beauty, peace, love, and belonging; four things that are of such importance to me that they really are a part of who I am.



When I am Weak, He is Strong


The following post is by Miah Oren as part of the Life-Changing Scriptures for Writers Project.

“But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. —2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV

For years, I clung to the belief that I needed to be as perfect as possible. I couldn’t tolerate my mistakes because I thought that that would make me unworthy of God’s love. I didn’t understand that grace is freely given precisely because I don’t deserve it.

I have felt called to write for years, ever since I was in middle school. But until a few years ago, I rarely shared my words because I was too focused on writing perfectly. If I made a mistake and someone pointed it out, I was ashamed. So to avoid shame, I hid my thoughts and feelings.

For me, writing is about remembering what God has done for me and reminding myself that God is able to work through anything, including my weaknesses. Without my weaknesses, I think that I can and should do everything on my own strength.

When I remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), I am reminded that God has made all of me – including what I often see as weaknesses. When I can let go of my standards of perfectionism and lean into who God has made me to be, I can embrace my creative potential and share my work and myself with others.

I would love to take all the credit for every good thing that happens. But when I am able to own my weaknesses and share how God has through me both in spite of and because of them, God get the credit and not me.

I’m human. I make mistakes. And God still loves me.

God’s grace is sufficient for every mistake. When I admit my weakness, God has permission to work through me. I don’t have to try to do everything all on my own. God is there, waiting for me to call upon him in my weakness so that I and others see that he is the one who is working beautiful things. It’s God’s power to do good, and not my power.

In my writing, I am working through my weaknesses of anger, perfectionism, and people-pleasing. Writing is part of recognizing my weaknesses and giving credit to God. Through God’s grace, He works in me to redeem my failures and weaknesses into righteousness. For me, that is success.

Lord, help me to focus on your grace instead of clinging to fear and anxiety. Thank you for redeeming my weaknesses and making me the way I am. ”

Miah is the author of The Reluctant Missionary (March 2016), and she writes about learning to let go of perfectionism and embracing God’s plan for her life. She lives in Dallas where she dreams of someday having another cat. Her website is http://www.miahoren.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.


Can God Use Your Weakness and Failure?

Dirty dishes fill the sink.  Thankfully, I’ve at least managed to empty the dishwasher so it is waiting to be filled.  There is flour and powered sugar all over the counter and floor.  Lemonade is waiting to be made.  My soon-to-be five year old (as in tomorrow) knocked the bowl of softening butter all over himself while trying to jump up onto the chair he’d put by the counter so he could help make his birthday cake.  This was approximately five minutes after forgetting the lid was not on his gatorade bottle when he thought it would be a good idea to make a tornado in the bottle by shaking it around.The various ingredients for the cake are partially mixed, waiting to be fully mixed.  The oven stopped preheating some time ago and is just warming the kitchen now.  I’ve yelled at them multiple times, have gotten increasingly irritated and angry at all of the interruptions, I have a zillion and one browser windows open of articles I want to read today, I’ve chased my toddler around and put him in time out numerous times for leaving the house alone, and can’t believe that it is 1:00 and I really have nothing of consequence to show for my morning.  Make that 1:35.  That’s how long it took me to write this paragraph (see parts about chasing my toddler).  

Mornings (and often, full days) like this make me question my sanity and make me doubt my parenting skills as well as my usual impression of myself as a fairly decent human being.  Because, in times like this, I feel anything but human.  I feel like some crazed monster who has taken over my body and mind and soul.  I feel inadequate, imperfect, and weak.

I don’t like feeling those things.  I’d rather feel worthy, whole, and strong.  

The other day, Rachel Held Evans posted a video of Nadia Bolz-Weber speaking to a Lutheran youth gathering. It was a fantastic talk for many different reasons, but there was one thing that especially stood out to me.  At one point, Nadia talks about God using all of us, not just our strengths and our gifts, but our failures and weaknesses too.  

Around same the time I was watching this, I was taking a couple of Spiritual Gifts Surveys (I like to take them every so often).  If you aren’t familiar with those, they are assessments that give people a general idea of what their gifts are so that one can better understand how to use them in the life of the church.  And, really, don’t we all want to do what we are good at doing?  Who wants to do something he or she is bad at doing?  I certainly don’t.

But in her talk, Nadia spoke about being a flawed person.  “I am a flawed person,” she says.  “I should not be allowed to be here talking to you.  But you know what?  That’s the God we’re dealing with, people.”

And then, shortly after that, she spoke the most beautiful and encouraging words:

“This God has never made sense and you don’t need to either because this God will use you; this God will use all of you, and not just your strengths but your failures and your failings and your brokenness and God’s strength is perfected in human weakness so your brokenness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful so don’t ever think that all you have to offer is your gifts because God’s going to use you too, God’s going to use all of you.”

God can use my failings and weaknesses?  God can use my irritation and my anger and my yelling at my kids?  God can use my messy house and my messy thoughts and my far-less-than-perfect life?

Today, one of the windows I had open was from a church in Minneapolis, Jacob’s Well, where my friend Andy spoke recently.  I’d asked him if it would be online so I could listen and he’d told me they’d had a lot of technical issues so probably not.  I checked again today, and there it was.  I listened sporadically (see previous comment about toddler, plus the five year old kept needing things too) and at one point Andy started talking about the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.  As the music played, for the first time today I smiled and felt some joy returning (I’m sure it helped that it was combined with one son playing outside, one son napping, and the spoonful–or two or three–of chocolate buttercream frosting that I had to make sure was ok to frost the cake with) and felt the irritation and anger leave.

Early in Nadia’s talk, she said “God always comes to us and makes us new, and than makes us new again, and then makes us new again.  It’s called death and resurrection.”

I don’t know how God can use my failings and weaknesses from today.  Maybe it is just in such a simple way as to remind me–and to let you know–that new life is always possible, not just once, not just at one time in your past, not just something to look forward to in your future, but right now, and every minute of every day.  We can continually be made new. The horrible person I was this morning does not have to be the same person I am this afternoon.  I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start over (although, I’m sure I’ll have to do it then too…and the next day and the next…you get the idea).  With God’s grace, I can be a new person, right now.

What a wonderful world.

Edit:  After I wrote this, I thought it would fit in the “Life Unmasked” Series at Joy in This Journey.  You can find others here.

Life: Unmasked