Solitude & Surrender

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I was Facebook messaging a friend this past week when the topic of the two of us having millennial long conversations, when I get back to Seattle, came up. See, this particular friend is quite special in that she and I have (more than once) spent most of the night talking about nothing, and after a year – there will be a lot more than a little something to talk about upon my arrival back in Seattle.

But, as we were messaging, I had a thought that I really hadn’t considered before: When was the last time I had talked to someone?
You know, like not a “hello” or talking about work, or being afraid you’re keeping someone up due to the time difference, or being told that one of the kids might be sick so watch out for vomit when you pick him up from school – but actually TALKED to someone.

You know, like sit down and talk about how you’re actually doing, opening up and fully “talking.”

I realized it had been a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I have awesome friends in France (and duh, we talk), but the reality is that I’ve spent more time alone over the past 7 months than I ever have before. I know, I know, all of you extroverts are yelling at the top of your cyber lungs that I need to go out and party more, MEET PEOPLE! And all of you introverts are thinking, “Wow, I could use some of that. Alone time sounds blissful.”

But I don’t think it’s as easy (or fair) to chalk this occupational hazard/perk to strictly being a “bad” or a “good” thing. There are both benefits and detriments to having so much time with myself. For one thing, me and myself know each other quite well, now (please read that in as sane a context as possible).

The reason being that when you have a lot of time to yourself, you have to face your good and your bad, your greatest accomplishments and your biggest fears. In those times of silence you have to find balance with yourself because there is no one else to help you. And you have to make real actual decisions, rather than burying holes to “deal with them later.” In short, you have to get to know yourself.

And let me tell you, it’s not always comfortable.

But facing your fears, anxieties and inhibitions never is – and, of course, it’s something we all must (or, at least, should do at one point or another. So whilst I’ve away in France, I figure, now is as good a time as any to get some of these insecurities out of the way.

Exhibit A:

I remember writing a post a while back about how I “couldn’t draw” (the reason being that I never felt that I could be good enough to even try, since my older brother is the superior artist in the family).

Well I’m facing that demon, and I’ve been forcing myself to draw every day for the past (almost) month. And you know what? I’ve discovered something that I never never never never thought I would: I really like drawing.

I’ve also discovered that being committed to doing something every day doesn’t mean you won’t feel so nervous you’re shaking, when you start a project, or that you won’t feel like throwing up when you show people the finished product – convinced they’ll spot every flaw your own eye is magnifying x1000.

But I’ve always liked to think that an artist isn’t someone who is somehow superior in the arts to the rest of humanity, but just someone who has learned to push past those specific demons and create despite their taunting inner voices.

Because, when it comes down to it, I think some of the biggest battles we face in the journey to creating ourselves, are the seemingly invisible and silent ones trapped within our own minds. And over these past months, I’ve begun to learn what it means to challenge the things that I‘ve had holding me back.

In the silence I’ve found strength.

These past 7 months have proved to be a time of more battles than I ever thought I could face. Now, looking back to the person who stepped on the plane to France, I feel like I was a hundred years younger; again, a good and bad thing.

But, if I had to assign one word to the past months, it wouldn’t be a negative one (compared to a couple months ago, since my life literally felt like it was going up in flames). But, instead, one that I’ve felt like God has been whispering over my life the past few weeks, specifically: Surrender.

Now don’t get this wrong – surrendering, in this case, does not mean giving up on a mission. It doesn’t mean stepping away from the cause, or breaking down.

If anything, it means the exact opposite.

It means realizing that I have something to fight for that is bigger than myself; and that I have people around me to help me along the way. It’s completely out of my nature (and SO hard) to admit that I ever need help. Help has always equated to weakness in my past.

But it has been such a journey the past months to see how weakness is not what has been shown through the actions of others, but how incredibly strong I am because of the people who have held me up in my times of need. And beyond that, a heavenly Father who hasn’t left me at any point along the way.

Life has not turned out as I expected. Things have not gone the way that I wanted them to, or that I planned them to. But that’s okay. And realizing that has been a journey of its own. But I know there’s a greater purpose for the fire that refines us.

And even though it’s not always the easiest or the most convenient, sometimes the thing we need to hear the most, in the silence, is the whisper of our Creator to take courage, and to keep moving forward.

Step By Slow Moving Step

A picture from a few days ago in Seattle.
A picture from a few days ago.

Right now I’m sitting on a park cliff overlooking Puget Sound. There’s a slight breeze, and half of the sky is sunny; the other filled with half huge cumulonimbus clouds speckled with highlights of gray and white. Staring at me are the Olympic Mountains. And normally, on a clear day, I would see them fully. But today, they are half hiding behind a dense curtain of clouds. I smell salt water. I hear seals barking on the beaches down below. Preening stay-at-home dads are walking by with their babies strapped proudly to their chests. A boy and his dad are practicing their Dempsey moves. The attire of each person here proclaims their love of hiking, nature and going on adventures.

This is Seattle. And I’m going to miss it – a lot. Sometimes I sit and just think of all the things I’m going to miss about home after I move. It sounds depressing, but I have a good reason for doing so.

I want to make sure I now appreciate what I won’t be able to appreciate once I leave. I want to make a list, and check off every special part of my city, knowing that I’ve enjoyed it fully. 
I want to savor everything. I want to imprint every favorite view, every spot I’m in love with, in my mind. I want to remember the smell of salt water and rain. I don’t ever want to forget home.

I’ve moved away from Seattle before, and I remember the feeling of displacement. How it feels to know you fit somewhere, but that you’re somewhere else instead.

But knowing that I’m going to miss my home city doesn’t make me sad, or prevent me from loving it in the moment. Rather, it makes me relish it. I don’t want to think for one moment, when I’m in France, that I wasted my last few months in Seattle. Because the weird reality is, I don’t know when I’ll have more. One year? Two? Five? Who knows?

Today I was thinking about the past year. It’s crazy how much can change in such a short time. Primarily that my AppleCare on my MacBook just expired, but other things too. We never know where we’ll be a year from now. I would never in a million years have guessed I would be moving to France. I know people always say, “ If you had told me, I would have told you that you were crazy.” But I literally would have.

France wasn’t in the books. There were no plans for it. But now, looking around, it’s incredible how much I seem to have been “preparing” for it for years without knowing. Now, here I am: getting rid of half my belongings and begging my mom to take care of, and love, my goldfish. Change is uncomfortable and inevitable, and I generally don’t like it. But, for one of the few times in my life, this change feels right.

I think it would be natural to step back from this opportunity. It’s intimidating. It feels like a rock wall blocking the path to the next chapter of my life. But, no matter how much I stare at it, it’s not going to dissolve. I know I have to climb it.

My job right now is to make sure I’m prepared, to equip myself and then grab on. Because ultimately, when I get to that end point, everything I’m learning now will enrich and enhance what I’m about to do – I just happen to still be in that stage of equipping.

Sometimes this place is scary, and awkward and frustrating. It’s taken me weeks to fill out paperwork for schooling and my visa etc. And it’s exhausting to not know what to prepare for on the other side. No matter how much work I put in now, how many French lessons, how much money I save, how many ideas I have and packing plans I make, I have no idea if it will be enough. The reality is that it could NOT be.

Regardless, I know the hard work is worth it. Something amazing is waiting for me on the horizon. Maybe it will be everything I ever hoped for – maybe it will be something I never knew I wanted. But, right now, it’s not my job to worry or freak out. My only task is to reach out and grab ahold of it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

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The PRE paperwork before I can actually start on my paperwork for my French Visa.

The Truth About Mindy and Me

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Yesterday I started watching a TV show called The Mindy Project. It’s been on TV for a couple of seasons, so I thought I would give it a test run. I absolutely LOVE it.

In one of the first episodes Mindy, the slightly dysfunctional and all too relatable leading lady set on self-reform, says:

“It’s so weird being my own role model.”

And I stopped in my tracks. In fact, I opened Photoshop right then and there and designed and printed off the quote so I could put it on my wall. The more I thought about the quote, the more I started to analyze why it resonated with me so much. What was so powerful about this kind of declaration?

Well, first off, a leading lady who is self-empowered, successful (both academically and in her career), and is a woman of color, said it. Second, I think it was the first time I had my personal outlook clearly articulated in one sentence.

You’ve probably all heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I happen to agree with this wholeheartedly.

Personally, I’ve always had a huge struggle with comparison. I’m hugely competitive, and I like to win. Always. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but what I’ve had to work on (specifically during the past couple of years) is reminding myself that to be constantly comparing myself actually distracts me, and never empowers me.

Gathering inspiration from someone is one thing. But staring at their lives and thinking, “What the hell? How come she gets to do that and I don’t!?” or “Why is their life so perfect when I can’t seem to get anything together!?” is destructive.

As a Christian, I don’t believe anyone was created without a God given purpose. We are made to succeed and empower each other. Maybe that success means making people smile every day as a street performer. Maybe that means working to represent ethical commerce on Wall Street. Who knows? But I don’t think anyone is without a calling.

I’ve said it before, but the past couple of years were rough. It wasn’t until a breaking point last September when I finally decided to start living my life with myself as the primary author. And one of the best reinforcements of my decision was my backpacking trip.

Having weeks of alone time can give you clarity that is hard to beat. I think it was then that I really began recognizing that, if I was going to be living on this earth for the next 70 years, I was going to have to start making my own decisions.

No more looking around at what other people were doing. No more seeing pictures on Facebook and thinking, “Really!? What have I accomplished that can even half compare to THAT?” No more unhealthy comparison.

With the teen girls I nanny, I really try to talk smart about body image and loving yourself in all capacities. I remember being that age, and how hard it was to find someone to tell me it was okay to be smart AND beautiful AND confident. It always seemed like you had to choose between the three.

This week, we were talking about body image and how nobody’s perfect, specifically in regards to Instagram. It’s hard, because in social media people only post the good pictures of themselves. Leaving my teen girls comparing themselves to a standard of everyone’s “perfections” and nobody’s real selves.

We’ve had some really awesome talks about how important it is to focus on succeeding to our own standards (eating healthy, staying active and taking pride in our bodies) rather than looking at posts and trying to fit into other people’s molds.

It’s definitely a challenge. But instead of looking at other people’s lives, let’s take a second and look at our own. What do I have to celebrate? What have I achieved? I don’t care if it’s as “insignificant” as making it through middle school. That is an achievement!

The only person I should be comparing myself to is myself. I am my own biggest competition. My own role model. Let’s gather inspiration from others, instead of projecting negativity rooted in insecurities. Because tearing other people down (even just mentally) is only going to leave us bitter and angry – I speak from experience.

There is so much freedom in being able to embrace our own success. To look back on our own lives and saying, “Wow, look how far I’ve come! Remember when I used to be afraid to ask out random strangers? Now I ask people out all the time!

Ok, that’s a weird example. But, you get the point! Let’s start celebrating our selves and start looking at how we can be our own role models. Our dreams have power! Let’s not let someone else’s tabloid keep us from writing our own New York Times Best Seller.

Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4: 25

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