passion

Reining in My Wild Heart

You know that feeling – like change is coming, but you don’t know what it is?

It’s like a humid summer day, and you see the gray and green storm clouds billowing on the horizon. You know a thunderstorm is coming. You can feel the electricity in the air, you can sense the barometer change. Part of you dreads the storm, but you love the thunder and lightning. It’s beautiful and exciting. You know it will bring relief from the humidity, but you hope it doesn’t turn into a severe storm, or worse – a tornado. And my heart is the tornado – wild and unpredictable.

peter_and_harrison_ellenshaw_a_very_blustery_day__97423__19383-1312387649-1280-1280That is how I’ve been feeling this past month. What started as “Tut-tut, looks like rain” is shaping up to be a blustery day, in the words of Winnie the Pooh.

And the difficult part is that my life has been in flux for over a year. First being open to the idea of change (for us, it was moving across the country), then waiting to see if the change would happen (the interview process), then the actual move, only to find out that more change might be coming (another interview process and more waiting).

But this change on the horizon, this beautiful and terrifying storm that is coming is in my heart. Before I attended the Storyline Conference (a conference where you create a life plan so that you can live a better story), I could sense a change in the barometer, I could feel the electricity in the air. Storyline served as a weather report. A confirmation that yes, a storm is coming. A storm that will shake my core and water the seeds that have been planted.

A storm that might even stir my life and heart like a wild tornado.

Regardless of what is happening in my life – where I am living, where I am working, how I am feeling emotionally – there are things I am needing to do. Things I NEED to do, to weather the storm. To water the seeds that have been planted so that they can grow and be harvested.

This morning I was reading Shauna Niequist’s devotional “Savor“, and she talked about having a theme for each season. My theme for this season is ‘work’. Ugh, I know. That sounds so boring, and, well, like work. But hear me out.

There is work I need to do to plant and nourish the seeds that need to grow in my life and in my heart.

To be honest, I have spent much of my life avoiding the hard work of my heart.

Yes, I am great with the passion – the big, emotional, explosive, exciting types of work. But I am weak in praxis – the daily practice and structure that provides a foundation for seeds to grow, and be nourished, and produce good fruit. In some ways, I feel like

I am being called to the mundane in order to build a foundation for the extraordinary.daisy-712892_1920

I am not sure what this will look like, but it’s becoming more clear each day. I believe it is going to involved these things: As you read this, if you know me, you may think,”Oh my gosh, she has gone off the deep edge!” I tend to agree. I have gone off the deep edge, but I think it’s something that has been needed for a long time

to rein in this wild heart.

  • Creating a spiritual framework to provide structure for growth – I want to learn about the church liturgical calendar, and start keeping a daily office. For those of you from the evangelical persuasion, this basically means having a daily quiet time and learning about times of the year like Advent and Lent, and how that can shape one’s spiritual discipline.
  • Starting and ending each day with mindful breathing and meditation on God’s word, to focus myself each day, and to manage anxiety and distractions. (This also means NOT starting and ending my day on my phone or computer, which has become a habit for me.)
  • Writing each day, first thing in the morning, while my mind is clear. Putting on instrumental music with no words, finding a peaceful and comfortable place, clear of distractions, and practicing the craft of writing every single day.
  • Searching for spiritual direction and mentorship: I am looking to learn from those who are further down the road than I am. I am considering a silence retreat at a monastery close by (I know, you are thinking NOW SHE HAS REALLY LOST IT. I agree, I can’t even be quiet during yoga class.) I am also looking at working with a spiritual director. To be honest, I heard this idea and it spoke to me, but I am not even sure exactly what that means. I am still doing research on what is a spiritual director and how does one find such a person? Maybe I will build a prayer labyrinth in my back yard. Send for the white coats now. 
  • Closing in my circle – focusing on the 12 or so most meaningful and significant relationships in my life, building deep connections with those in my closest circle, those who will gather around my death-bed (I’m not anticipating that this will happen anytime soon, but those relationships take time and great care).
  • Limiting my time on social media. Yes, I know that is how we all connect during these times, and I know that it can be a good thing. But I also know myself, and the difficulty I have with balance. So I am still contemplating what that will look like.

 

I am going to spend the next few weeks praying, writing, meditating, getting wise counsel. I am anticipating a start to a new season in my life, and I had thought January 1 would be an opportune time, but then I read that the church calendar begins at Advent, which this year is November 30. So I have some contemplating to do in the next few weeks. And for the first time in a long time, I am excited to do the hard work, to build the foundation, to plant the seeds that bring change.

To embrace the mundane in order to build the foundation for extraordinary.

To rein in this wild heart, so that I can love extravagantly and purposefully.

And as much as I’d like to edit the hell out of this essay, I just need to push publish and move on.

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If You Don’t Change Anything, Where Will You Be One Year From Now? 

Are you satisfied with the way your life is going? Are you happy? Do you feel your life is meaningful?

Today’s post is a journaling exercise or mediation.

Imagine you were to continue to live exactly as you are now – same job, relationships, habits, projects, priorities – not making any changes.

Now look ahead to one year from now. How do you see your life? Would you look back on the last year and say that you were living a life with a greater purpose? Would you say that you have been living a meaningful story?

If not, what changes do you need to make now so that one year from now you will be living a better story?

*These questions are based on material from Donald Miller’s life-changing Storyline Conference

Sometimes the Path to Your Dream is Lonely

This is a little departure from where this series was going, but it’s worth telling this part of the story.

Sometimes the path to your dream is just lonely.

When you start dreaming, it rocks other people’s boats. Maybe they don’t want you to change and grow. Maybe they wish they were chasing their own dream. And I hate to say it, but sometimes we just don’t like it when other people succeed.

When you start growing and realizing your dream and your passion, often other people just aren’t going to get it. You try and explain the spark that has caught your heart on fire, and they just look at you with a blank stare. Or worse yet, they roll their eyes.

You might think that as you are growing and finding your dream, your passion, your life’s meaning, that your friends and family would be your biggest supporters and cheerleaders. Sadly, that’s often the case. Maybe they just don’t get what you’re trying to do. Maybe they’ve seen you take on projects and not finish them. Maybe they’ve seen you jump in with both feet and fall on your face more than once. Sometimes they may even have a secret desire to see you fail. I really don’t think that most of our close circle are purposefully discouraging (and sometimes even shaming) when we are chasing our dreams. Or maybe some are that cruel. Or it might be that they are proud of you and are supportive, they just don’t verbalize it often.

Many of us find that our biggest supporters when we’re trying something new and finding our life’s meaning are acquaintances or even strangers. If our close circle can’t find it in themselves to be encouraging and supportive, then it benefits us to surround ourselves with people who will be our cheerleaders, or at the very least who are supportive and encouraging of our endeavors.

Lastly, sometimes chasing our dreams means moving out of our comfort zone. That might be a figurative move, such as changing our ways of relating to people or spending our time working towards our dream. Or it might actually be a physical move. Leaving your job. Starting a new job. Moving to another city, state, or even to another country.

So in the midst of the excitement and enthusiasm of finally following your dream and passion, you can have times where you feel very alone.

So what is the solution? No one wants to live a lonely life. I wish I could tell you I had an answer but I’m still figuring that out. Part of pursuing my dream has meant that I’ve moved thousands of miles away from my friends and family to a new city where I don’t know anyone other than my husband. As exciting as it is there are times when it’s really, really lonely. Here is what I know so far.

1. It’s OK to be lonely. I can’t deny that I’m feeling lonely, so I admit it. I can’t numb myself to it. I just have to admit, “Yes, I’m lonesome. I miss my friends and family.”
2. Stay connected to your support system as much as possible. Sometimes this may take more effort on your part because there is a natural tendency towards “out of sight, out of mind”. Continue to nurture the relationships that are important to you. Also take the initiative and text or call people – don’t just wait for them to contact you.
3. If people seem too busy or disinterested, don’t take it personally. If someone is not returning your emails or messages or texts it’s probably just because they have busy lives, too. Some people are just better at returning messages than others. You know how it is – in most relationships there’s usually one person who is more communicative than another. It doesn’t change when you’ve moved far away. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or that they’re not a good friend. It just means their communication style is different, or their lives are busy.
4. Seeking out a supportive circle. Find people with similar interests or who are pursuing similar passions. They will understand where you’re coming from and are more likely to be supportive with your endeavors. If you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy, join exercise group or running team. If you’re a writer, take a class or join a writing group and connect with other people who are writing. If you’re starting a business, connect with other people who are a little further down the road from you so that you can learn from them. If you find it difficult to connect with these people in your city, the Internet is a great place to connect. My greatest support for starting to write again has come from other writers online.

That’s all I’ve got tonight.

Bless you, dreamers. We’re in this together.

This ONE Thing is the Secret of Life

I love this scene from the 1991 film, City Slickers. Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a man whose marriage is stale and his job is unfulfilling – he’s in the middle of a midlife crisis – so he goes on a cattle drive with his also dissatisfied friends and his wife tells him to “Go find your smile”. As he is contemplating life, he gets advice from a crusty old cowboy named Curly, played by Jack Palance.

Curly: You know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: (holds up his leather gloved hand and points his index finger) This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing, just one thing.

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

 

What gives our lives meaning is a going to be different for each individual. Each one of us has a different dream, a unique calling, an individual passion and set of gifts. We have our own set of life experiences and circumstances that have shaped who we are and who we might become. We must figure out for ourselves what gives our life deeper meaning.

In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl talks about the importance of finding the ‘why’ that gives our lives deeper meaning. His book recounts his experience during the WWII as a prisoner in a concentration camp. He states that as the men in the camp defined a deeper meaning for their lives, their suffering became purposeful. Those who had lost their faith in the future were doomed to mental and physical decay. He describes a difference in prisoners who felt that their life had some type of meaning, and a difference in their attitude and ultimately, their survival. As they looked at what life expected from them, rather than what they expected from life, their life took on a deeper meaning. For one man there was a child whom he deeply loved, and he knew would be waiting for him in another country. Another man was a scientist who had written works that could not be finished by anyone except him. Frankl explains

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—hourly and daily. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the task which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. . .  No man and no destiny can be compared with any other may or any other destiny. (It) is unique and different for each individual.

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”. “

Figuring out the ‘why’ is another piece of the puzzle in finding your dream. But you must answer this for yourself. No one can tell you life’s meaning, or label you with a purpose or calling, or tell you what your dream is or should be. YOU are the one who must figure out THIS ONE THING, that which differs ‘from man to man, moment to moment’.

What is your ONE THING?

You can find 10 questions that might help by clicking here. If you haven’t read the rest of this series “Dare to Dream – Finding Your Dream (Again) a list of previous posts right here . And please follow this blog and our Facebook page so that you can get the rest of this #write31days series!

 

Digging Down Deep to Discover Your Dream

If you have forgotten how to dream, HOW do you start again?

We started this journey by asking ourselves “What would you do if money were no object?”

Then we went a step further, and looked at what gives our life meaning. We thought about our passions, and what sparks our heart to life, or ‘puts a fire in your belly’?

We talked about picturing your life as a story, and asked the question, “How can I live a better story?”

It’s easy to get stuck on those questions, especially if you haven’t thought about such things for a while. Next we looked at what might hinder us from finding our dream, or our passion.

Here are some questions that can help open your heart and mind and start you dreaming again. Once again, if you journal the answers to these questions, it might be easier to process through them. You also might not be able to answer the all of the questions right now – think about them for a while, and then come back. Once you start opening the door to dreaming again, you will be surprised at the thoughts that start to flow and the feelings that begin to bubble up to the surface.

  1. Write a list of things you LOVE. Not things you love, but things you LOVE, in all caps. Don’t think too much about it or analyze each item, just write things down as you think of them.
  2. When you were a child of about age 8-10, what did you love to do?  What did you spend most of your time doing? Before age 10, we usually aren’t distracted by hormones, and social and economic class didn’t mean that much to most of us. We were just carefree kids, our essence of self just forming, untainted by society and social norms.
  3. What energizes you? Is there an activity, project, ministry, artistic endeavor, type of relationship that really gets you jazzed? When do you feel most alive?
  4. What are your hobbies?
  5. What type of people are you drawn to?
  6. What times in your life were you most happy?
  7. What do you think about on your down time? (Like at night just before bed?                                                            *** Side note: if you are the type of person who is never without your phone or computer, you may not be allowing yourself any down time. If you have a habit of picking up your phone to check social media first thing in the morning and you are on social media until you fall asleep, you may not be giving yourself down time. TRY THIS: When you go to bed tonight, put your phone where it is not within arms reach. As you are falling asleep, give yourself time without any distractions – no phone, computer, television, earphones. Just you and the quiet. When you awake in the morning, give yourself at least 5 minutes of time without distractions. You can use this time to think, pray, meditate, or just be still. You might be surprised what happens after just a few days. Start with 5 minutes of quiet at night and 5 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning.
  8. What do you dream about? And this time I am talking about the kind of dreams that you have when you’re asleep at night. When we are asleep, our brain is still working, still processing in our subconscious. Write down your dreams for one month, and see if there is a common theme.
  9. What do you like to read about, or what kind of information are you drawn to? History? Fiction? Self-help?
  10. What do you like to do for artist expression or creativity? Write? Draw? Sing?

These questions may not give you a definite answer, but each is a piece of the puzzle.

photo cred Mats Hagwall flickr

photo cred Mats Hagwall flickr

Pleasant dreams . . .

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the ONE thing that is the secret of life.