Monthly Archives: July 2014

Resistance. And love. And war.

Erika bioRumor on the street is that Prince William only married Kate after today’s guest turned him down. Okay, maybe not. But it’s just ’cause he never met her. Erika Kraus has been one of my nearest and dearest since 2003. Erika serves as the Director of Haiti Transformed and you can read about some of the incredible people they partner with in Haiti at beyondtherubble.com. Take notes today friends, take notes.

unnamed-1

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” – Richard Foster

These days the world is incredibly complicated. I was running at the gym last week – after a really challenging day at work staring at the televisions in front of me. One was set on a music television channel where a young girl was singing adult lyrics dressed in almost lingerie. Another hosted coverage of the crisis in Gaza. I think some Adam Sandler movie was on and maybe some sports coverage as well, but I hardly noticed those.

And out of nowhere I choked up-

Considering the fact that I had already had a rough day and felt terribly overwhelmed, I turned my music up, focused on running that incline and tried to suppress the grief welling up within me.

On top of the challenges our staff and friends were facing in Haiti, I didn’t want to touch the pain rising from a small strip of land in the Middle East nor the sadness that young women grow up with impossible standards and expectations. I definitely didn’t want to face my own disappointment with myself for not looking as good as I think I should (in comparison).

The older I get the more I realize that in the midst of my own complicated realities, one of the scariest things I can do is face the pains of this oh so complicated world. Situations like Gaza – brokenness and disappointment – violence on every side – two wrongs and no clear right – are hard.

Equipping our staff in Haiti to live full and fruitful lives in a land where there is no seeming opportunity and endless amounts of corruption is hard. Living near women my age — some loosing babies to miscarriage and husbands to affairs– some waiting for love they’ve yet to taste, wondering if all the good guys will marry 10 years down, fighting against self-discrimination just like I do…this is tough also.

Haiti Transformed

When the world inside us and the world around us seems caddy-wonkus the last thing we feel humanly equipped to do is face the grey and the muddled, the complicated and the impossible.

It’s messy to live in tension — ask good questions, listen to the other side, pray, be near God, stay intimately close to people, and celebrate greater truths.

Here are some easier things to do:

1. Not rock the boat with tensions/convictions you feel — stick to the status quo — don’t burden anyone else with what you care about.

2. Numb out your awareness– be busy, pretend it’s not there

3. Bark at situations but don’t engage internally – have strong (yet shallow) opinions, but don’t bother with the deeper realities of what people are facing. Judge from a distance.

Here are some ultimately harder things to do:

1. Grow a Savior complex — and sell your entire soul and identity to a cause.

2. Alienate friends and relationships because they don’t agree with you. Stand at the poles, but don’t risk seeing and hearing the other side.

Many of us want a platform to make a difference from, we want to change the world, make it better, grow a garden for others in the midst of pain.

What I’ve realized living in Seattle in Haiti and in Texas is that no matter where I am – this means that I live with tension and resistance. It means picking up the burden of grief and suffering with. It means staying close when I’d rather run — asking questions to myself and to others, and living near God and celebrating His ways in the middle of life’s discrepancies and disappointments.

I’ve never felt so tempted to disconnect from a life in God and belief in people as when I am overwhelmed with complicated situations that seem to have no answer. I’ve also never felt so alive as when I do engage God and people in the midst of complicated situations that have no answer.

While seemingly ill-equipped for a life so laden with grief– still we are made for Heaven and draw Heaven’s light to earth when we connect to God in the grey of life- ask great questions, dig deeper wells, and love in the midst of pain.

To live fully alive, is to live awake to Heaven and awake to Truth without dismissing or denying the pain around or inside us.

That day at the gym, after running myself ragged on an incline that didn’t absorb my sadness, I turned down my music and let myself ache — I faced the images in Gaza and prayed for peace. I thought of people I know on both sides of the situation — and prayed for the impossible. I prayed for light and forgiveness in a bloody mess, asked God questions, and then waited for the burden to lift. And while the sadness didn’t — the weight of it did.

From there I found myself praying for other things…talking about my friends in Haiti, my own desires and wants, the babies my friends hope for… And here I knew I partnered with Hope rather than avoid the Dark — I resisted apathy, I treasured a greater Truth. All this on a treadmill.

My pastor often says–“We are made for love and war” — Love and connection with God and one another–and war against the dark that destroys us.

We want to change the world, but do we know how to live in tension and find grace in the resistance?

Do we know how to dig deeper wells…so that we don’t dry up but instead bubble over with wisdom and light for some of the most challenging situations on earth?

We can’t face and carry the burdens of this world if we disconnect, dis-engage, or stand in the shallow end from the sidelines. There is a well for you and for me — if we choose it — and a wider breadth of relationship and revelation. Beauty and grace to reveal in the midst of “suffering with”.

If we’d be the people who don’t turn back, but dig deep in the haze of the grey, in the pain of the resistance, we’ll find that the gardens we so often hoped we’d plant will often bloom.

Sharing is Caring

Did you know? Blogging is a team sport. Leave a comment or share this post via social media by clicking here.

3 Comments

Filed under current events, Faith, Fire, Global

Sometimes dreams make you cross oceans. – an interview with Oddie Moghalu

She left her parents in Nigeria to pursue her education. I told you this summer I would introduce you to some fellow Lark & Bloom readers who dominate at pursuing their dreams. Oddie is a lady who lives life like a boss and won’t let an ocean keep her from her dreams. She knows her destiny is in Something Bigger and today she is sharing her story with us. Ladies & Gents…meet Oddie.

oddie

Liz: Oddie, you were born in Africa. Tell us a bit about how you came to the United States.

Oddie: I was born in Nigeria, Western Africa and lived there till i was 16 before moving to London to continue my education. From London I moved to Leeds where I started out my degree in Medical Engineering at the University of Leeds. I chose medical engineering because I had this interest in medicine but I also like mathematics and physics and wanted to study something that incorporated both.

While I was at the University of Leeds, I felt very distant from the career path I had in mind. The education system in England is so different from that of the United States.

The system is more rigid and did not give me room to explore a degree in engineering while also preparing for a career in medicine and this really frustrated me. I started feeling very depressed about school and started hating to even be in class. Anyone that knows me knows I love school. Yes, I am being 100% serious. I love school. Looking back at the situation I was dealing with at that time, I believe the frustration I felt with my classes was God’s way of showing me what he really wants me to get into.

So one morning I woke up, called my parents and told them that I wanted to transfer to United States to complete my degree. They thought this was a phase but also encouraged me to do what I thought was best for me. I bought new SAT books and started preparing to retake the SAT while keeping up with my classes. I travelled 6hrs (to and fro) to take my SAT because the closest place I could take the exam with the short time I had was in Oxford. This all happened so fast and as God would have it, July of 2009, I was on a flight to the US to continue my degree at Baylor University.

Liz: What made you decide you wanted to study medicine?

Oddie: Growing up, I remember wanting to be two things, a model and a medical doctor. I laugh at this because I am 5’3′ tall so modeling was definitely not in God’s plan for me. To be honest, I was not sure I wanted to study medicine, which was why I refused to go the direct route into medicine after my A levels. However, I immersed myself in the medical field, I shadowed doctors, I volunteered with medical organizations and as I did this, I saw how much it affected me.

Volunteering and shadowing brought me joy; I was excited to be in that position of helping people and serving people and also enjoyed the responsibility that came with it. I love science, especially when it has to deal with exploring the human body. I could not see myself spending the rest of my life as an engineer so while at Baylor, even though I continued with my engineering degree, I also declared a pre-med concentration.

Liz: Obviously, medical school is incredibly difficult. What keeps you motivated?

Oddie: My parents are my number one motivation. This might sound very cliché but when I feel like studying is too much work, I think of the sacrifices that my parents have made to be able to get me to where I am. My parents still live in Nigeria but they have been able to help me pay for school and basically make sure that I do not lack anything.

The other motivation I have is myself. In a society where people feel entitled and demand the easy way out,I find pride when I work for something. I prayed that if God’s will for me was to be a doctor that He would make it possible for me to get into medical school.

Granted I studied and worked hard to get here but I believe that the strength I got to get through all the obstacles were not mere coincedences, but were God’s way of directing me to the career He has called me to. I keep myself motivated by reminding myself that medicine as a career goes beyond treating patients and working crazy hours but using my career as a platform to show the world the love of Christ.

Liz: What was the biggest risk you have had to take to pursue your dream of being a doctor?

Oddie: I would say travelling 6 hours to and from Oxford in the middle of my final exams of freshman year. My SAT was scheduled for the weekend before I took my thermodynamics final exam. Thermo as we fondly call it had a bad reputation for being the one class that made people repeat the school year because it was a cumulative final exam where 80% of your grade depended on that exam. My classmates thought this was unnecessary but to me, this was one decision that determined where my career was eventually going to go. As God would have it, I pushed through and ended up doing well on both exams.

Liz: We talk a lot on here about the dreams we carry in our hearts. You have obviously had some pretty big obstacles to overcome. What have you learned about pursuing the things you feel called to in the midst of adversity?

Oddie: One thing I have learned is that there is something in us that moves us and that thing might be the passion that God has woven in our heart and it is different from what He’s woven in others. Passion as I like to define it is that unique gifting, wiring, aptitude and opportunity that makes us come alive and fulfills our entire God given potential.

It means that we understand that God uniquely gifts us. For me, it is a medical degree and serving people as a doctor and the passion to accomplish that has driven me to face the obstacles that come my way. For you it might be taking on a new job or even leaving that 9-5 job you have and pursuing that music career – whatever it is, find it.

Find what makes you tick. Find what makes you happy and even when you don’t feel like doing it, you still do it because you find joy in it.

 

13 Comments

Filed under Global

Was that you? Sitting behind me in a London pub?

I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t think I am this time. I think we had dinner next to each other in London once…

 

8ed9363410d659e061e6ec9168b834ca

This computer feels so foreign in front of me and my fingers are having trouble dropping syllables at the speed which they did before. I am in Africa and due to my poor internet connection I have not been posting or even trying for that matter.

Today is different though.

I am working hard to get a wi-fi signal because I am aching to tell you something. Something I’ve wanted to say since that evening in London a few days ago. I was sitting at a table with my family in central London waiting for our fish & chips when I first heard her start talking.

“Really? What is it that you like? Please tell me.”

She was sitting behind me when she said it to the man across from her. I couldn’t help but keep listening.

They had been discussing painful childhoods when she pulled out something from her purse. It was a poem – several pages long and typed. A poem inspired  by her experiences in a broken home. I stole a glance behind me at their table pretending to reach for something out of my own bag.

She watched eagerly as the middle-aged man read her words through his wire framed glasses. I wondered how long she had kept that paper waiting for the right moment to share it with someone. Finally he put the pages down and told her that he loved it. That it spoke to him – another who had a similar experience with a dysfunctional  family.

The woman then rambled off all her excuses as to why it wasn’t wonderful. She didn’t study poetry and never even took a course. Immediately she discounted all the value she had handed him on that paper.

Again, he insisted that he really did like it. Sheepishly she mustered the courage to ask the question we all are dying to ask.

” Really? What is it you like? Please tell me.”

I didn’t hear much of their conversation after that, but those words lingered as I ate my dinner. I heard my own voice in her question – the voice of so many of us. Your voice.

Forget the vague descriptors. Drop the token encouragements. Shoot me straight. What is it your really like about me? About what I offer? 

Our flight out of London to Cape Town left at 9pm. After my kids fell asleep I sat there in the dimly lit cabin thinking about her question again. My thoughts began to drift to you guys.

You wild dreamers with your passions scratched on pieces of paper and your ideas stored in your 140 character increments. You entrepreneurs with the risky streak just waiting to bust the world wide open in the most beautiful ways. Those of you who love big because people and their stories are the fuel for your generous souls.

All of you to some degree sit across a table from someone and give them your piece of paper. And deep down inside you wonder. Is this really valuable? Does this really matter?

And while I sit here halfway around the world from my usual keyboard, I want to be the person sitting across the table from you saying “yes. it matters very much.”. 

I’d reserve a booth for months if that pub would let me and you could each come and tell me your scribbles on pieces of paper. The things that anchor you to the most authentic parts of yourselves. The legacy you imagine within your most sincere daydreams.

I want to hear them and tell you in detail what makes you so unique. All the ways you carry greatness in you. How your story holds eternal value and unimagined potential. I’d tell you not to be embarrassed about what you’ve put down on that piece of paper. It’s pure gold.

Maybe one day we can rent out all the pubs in London. Cram through their doors and find our seats at worn tables. There we can share our stories together and pull out our papers from our own bags. Answering that lingering question – what is it you like? About me. About this dream. Is it really a thing of beauty?

Until then, I pray you find a friend to sit across from. Together sharing the secret papers you carry around in your bags. Answering each other’s questions of value. And if you don’t have a pub partner to meet up with – then hear it from me.

Those stories you carry, the ideas you create, the product of your handiwork. They are needed. They are powerful. They are a thing of beauty. Really.

*** I go great with your morning commute, lunch breaks and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar and get posts sent directly to your inbox.***

Sharing is Caring

Did you know? Blogging is a team sport. Leave a comment or share this post via social media by clicking here.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Faith, Fire, Global

What are you made to say “yes” to? – an interview with Lindsy Wallace

It started with an email and then a necklace she sent me. I quickly became a big fan of Lindsy, her jewelry and the way she uses her business to impact women in developing countries. When I started my summer series showcases readers who are doing amazing things, I knew she had to be in the mix. HINT : there is a special treat for you guys at the end.

LW

Liz: You are one of the women behind Johari Creations. Tell us a bit about that business.

Lindsy: Johari Creations is a marketplace for handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries.We seek to come alongside our artisan partners with sustainable incomes, holistic development and shared work and responsibility. We believe amazing beauty can come from poverty and while the artisans handcraft stunning products, it is the artisans themselves we celebrate as “johari” – the Swahili word for jewel.

Endeared to the traditional African wisdom of “Ujima”, we believe our brothers & sisters struggles to be our own and therefore share a collective responsibility to work together towards spiritual freedom, justice and economic stability.

A percentage of all Johari Creation sales is given towards adoption and community-based orphan care. Our products are environmentally friendly and created from local materials in a historically indigenous trade.

estherandbaby

Liz: Is this something you have always wanted to do?

Lindsy: Not exactly. I’ve always had what I’ve called an injustice complex and been a fighter for the underdog.

Our experience with the foster care system and international adoption brought us face to face with homelessness, mental health issues, single mothers/absent fathers, the brokenness of the foster care system, lack of clean water, human trafficking, poverty, lack of maternal health care and drug addiction.

This is where Johari Creations was born – out of my desire to come alongside families, in particular women just like me who desire the best for their children. Only they aren’t like me because they were not born in a country where women are not educated or clean water is not accessible or there is no maternal health care… the list goes on.

So I said “Yes.”. I said yes to starting an online business and celebrating artisans from developing countries around the world because I believe in them and I believe they deserve to raise their children. Thankfully, I found a friend-turned-business partner with over a decade of community development experience, global contracts and a killer eye for design to do it with.

Johari Creations is more than just another online business. The heartbeat of Johari is family. Connecting first world people to third world people one trunk show at a time. Giving ordinary folks like me a tangible way to come alongside parents on the other side of the world so they aren’t forced to put their kids on the street or in an orphanage. So their kids can eat three meals a day and go to school. So the cycle of poverty and broken families can stop with them.

classic

Liz: Thinking about creating economic stability for women in poverty, running an online shop and having a family on top of that seems daunting. Is it messy sometimes?

Lindsy: Not just sometimes, all the time!

I am a high-capacity person who is not easily overwhelmed but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to shift my focus away from my to-do list and back onto the people in my real life from time to time. Thankfully, I’m an evaluator so I am constantly evaluating things to see if something needs to change, and usually, something does.

I’ve learned to give myself grace and be quick to ask for forgiveness. I also have an incredibly supportive husband and kids who don’t know any better.

Liz: How do you stay motivated when the problem is so big?

Lindsy: My motto is just say “yes” to the one thing in front of me. I try not to get ahead of myself and into the “what ifs” or worry that I am ill-equipped or can’t see the next step. I just offer my “yes” to that one thing and trust that will be enough until the next thing comes along. One “yes” at a time.

Liz: Lark and Bloom readers are dreamers & doers. Any advice for them?

Lindsy: Ask yourself, “What is my one thing?”. What are you being asked to dream? What are you being called to do? Don’t get distracted with the “what ifs”, just offer up your “yes”. One “yes” at a time.

*** In the true spirit of community, Lindsy is offering fellow Lark & Bloom readers 15% off all purchases from Johari for the next five days. Just visit their website, and enter in “larkandbloom” as the promotional coupon code at checkout. (this is not a sponsored post and I do not receive any portion of the sales.)***

LWLindsy Wallace is a Jesus follower, wife, mama, orphan advocate and justice seeker living in Kentucky. Visit her business, Johari Creations. Or check her out social media. Instagram: @joharicreations Facebook: @joharicreations. She also blogs at Light Breaks Forth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

When Enough is Enough: The Lie of Outward Appearances

 

I‘ve been saying it for a few weeks, but this summer is all about Lark & Bloom readers. You movers & shakers. Your wild ideas, beautiful stories and hopes of  Something Bigger. Today I want you to meet Holly. The truth she tells is challenging and her vulnerability is beautiful. Enjoy!

unnamed-3

I don’t keep a full length mirror in my house.

I refuse to look at my reflection in store windows as I pass by.

I keep my eyes closed when I shower.

Maybe if I can’t SEE my body, the imperfections will disappear. Or at least let me forget about them for a while.

At night, I pluck, cleanse, shave, and moisturize in an attempt to bring my body up to societies “code”, but each morning I awaken and see what I have to work with and I’m not pleased. Actually, I’m devastated. This past Sunday, as I stood before my mirror that is big enough only for me to see my face, tears streamed down my cheeks in disgust.

No one is ever going to want me, I think. So far, that seems to be the case.

Most days though, I give a heavy sigh and do my best to conceal and highlight hoping that my make-up will somehow magically and miraculously transform my face. I examine my laugh lines around my mouth gauging whether more have appeared overnight and notice the “angry face”  lines on my forehead seem to be deepening. My nose is covered with blackheads that I’ve tried to evict using every Pinterest at-home remedy available. Nothing has worked.

I critique each and every inch of my body — from my chubby little toes to the tips of my split ends. Everything is flawed.

I’ve been having a harder time with my appearance than usual. That might have something to do with the fact that a friend from high school would like to meet up. We haven’t seen one another outside of Facebook pictures (which I have carefully hand selected, cropped, filtered and angled), since 2003. If you’re doing the math, that’s 11 years — 11 years of weight gain, weight loss and gain again. It’s 11 years of wear and tear on this body of mine.

I guess I should also mention this friend of mine is of the male gender, which only intensifies my insecurities. In those 11 years, he’s only gotten more…hot. There’s just no way else to describe it. He works out religiously and his trimmed and chiseled body has been nicely accentuated by his hard work. To make matters worse, he’s grown a sexy man beard which is basically my kryptonite.

Regardless of the fact that our relationship is strictly platonic, every time I think about getting to see him in a few days, I want to throw up. What’s he going to think when he sees me? Will he be just as disgusted by my body as I am?

He’s a nice guy, even if he did think those things, he wouldn’t say them. If he did say something, I doubt it could be any worse than the names and/or descriptors I have called myself. I am, after all, my worst enemy.

I contemplated a binge diet in order to lose a few before our meet-up, but I’m also an emotional eater. The more I thought about him visiting, the more stressed out I felt, and the more I’ve tried to drown the stress in ice cream.

All of that is useless though because my problem, or rather the real issue, is the belief that I will never be good enough. I could lose 100 pounds, get facials, waxes, and pedicures and it still wouldn’t make me feel any better. There will always be something to critique.

We all tell ourselves: If I just drop a few pounds, then I’ll be happy. If I could just lighten my hair, then I’d be attractive. If I whiten my teeth, then I’ll be acceptable. At least, those are the types of things I think.

Excuse me, but that’s crap.

For far too long, I’ve based my worth on outside appearances. When they don’t “measure up” to the runway model body image I think I should have, the rest of me doesn’t make the cut either. I’ve made this correlation that if my body isn’t perfect then neither is the rest of me. And if I’m not perfect then I am some kind of mess.

The truth is, I may be a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess. My beauty may not come from perfect hair or a perfect body, but it comes from some place much more lovely — the heart.

As poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote, ” Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” More importantly, the Great Poet Himself once said, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

And my heart loves fiercely. It loves despite having been abused, wounded and trampled upon. Yet, it remains pliable when life’s circumstances could have easily hardened it. Like a stained glass window, it allows God’s Light to shine through the broken places casting a beautiful array of colors on the world around it.

I make the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. Not because my body looks nice in a bikini, tankini or full body scuba suit, because I love well. And that is enough.

I am enough. And so are you. 

 unnamed-3Holly Hrywnak is a 30-year old, coffee drinking, blog writing, sassy jokester who enjoys sarcasm and loves Jesus. She strives to be genuine and transparent in her writing believing, in doing so, people will not only relate but find freedom in knowing they aren’t alone in their struggles, feelings and disappointments. Her writing has been described by some as raw and real and she wouldn’t want it any other way. Check out her blog, follow her on Twitter @thecommonqueen or follow her on Facebook.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized