When It’s Not Safe To Be You

 We have learned to be the greatest pretenders from the moment we wake till the moment we lay our head down.

photo cred: Art of Street

photo cred: Art of Street

On some days I let myself go there.

I unwind all the pretense and crack open the door to fresh air. Crisp thinking that hasn’t been judged by years of experience and well-meaning advice. All the voices along the way who have confirmed to me what I always suspected. What I always dreaded.

It is not safe to be me.

A scene went down when I was fourteen and it replayed through my mind for years. I was on the lawn of my church with another friend who happened to like the same boy I did. Let’s call the boy we liked “Josh” and my friend who liked him too “Amy”. We were outside obeying Josh’s friends who told us to go wait for them because they had something to tell us.

I remember standing there on the grass trying to stomach what I knew was probably coming. In true teenage fashion, some of our friends had taken it upon themselves to mention to Josh’s friends that Amy and I thought Josh was cute.

Now, let me say this. I wasn’t even allowed to date. I just thought the boy was cute. Which was big for me to admit because I was never the girl picked. I stood on the sidelines of my eighth grade dance never – not even once – being asked to dance the whole night. I’d like to submit a motion that we do away with junior high dances altogether.

When our friends mentioned that we both thought Josh was cute and told his friends not to say anything, they didn’t exactly follow instructions. Off they went to spread the word of our attraction to none other than Josh himself. Which can I just say, in hindsight is hilarious because Josh wasn’t really attractive or cool. I prefer to chalk that crush up to groupthink gone wrong.

Next thing we know, Amy and I were outside waiting to meet with Josh’s friends. Awesome.

A crew of boys came bounding down the stairs with smiles on their faces. “We talked to Josh.”, said the ring leader of this motley crew. ” Told him that both of you think he is cute. And guess what? He thinks one of you is cute too. But just one.”

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

“So, Josh wants to talk to the girl he thinks is pretty.”. Josh’s friend continued, ” …and it’s not YOU!”.

As the words fell out of his mouth, he turned to me and his finger pointed right at my face. It wasn’t me.

Just like that my friend Amy squealed and ran inside to meet Josh. I stayed there on the lawn alone watching the swarm of them rush back up the stairs. I didn’t cry. I just swallowed it. And then – as easy as that – those words became something I carried around in me for a long time after.

It’s not me.

The sentence rattled through my mind over the next decade. Who I am is not enough compared to who they are. It isn’t safe to put myself out there because it will neither be wanted nor valued.

Fast-forward to college. I had a friend who I had been close to for years. Hours of conversations about dreams and hopes had been invested into our friendship.

One evening she sat me down and told me something that shocked me like nothing else had.

She thought I had a mental illness. I had let someone into the inner workings of my mind and instead of seeking to understand, they judged. And I felt betrayed in a way that shattered so many things I once had thought to be stable. I was embarrassed and exposed.

I bawled for days.

It’s not me. I’m not the one with the beautiful ideas or creative mind. I am the girl who sounds crazy – who no one will ever believe in. It isn’t safe to be me.

There are few things which can create such a desperate feeling inside as when being yourself doesn’t feel safe. If your ideas scare people, your motives are misunderstood and your actions continually rejected then you slowly begin to morph into something that feels less painful.

Something other than yourself. It holds the illusion of safety. Like an internal Switzerland.

And so all the walls go up to shut out the haters. We put on masks so the one pointing the finger saying “It’s Not You” can’t find us. We put our best foot forward trying not to mis-step and bring attention the person that actually lives inside of us.

It is in that place of hiding the miraculous happens. God seeks us out. He finds us. He heals us. Our terror is exchanged for a holy confidence. The whispering lie of  “It’s Not You” is replaced with a steel reinforced truth. That you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That you have in fact, been chosen.

To all of you, who like me, have learned to wear the disguise and cover up the authentic. Who are afraid that the things inside you are not enough or the way you think is overwhelming.

Those of you who don’t feel like you have an invitation with your name on it… Welcome to the world of doers and dreamers.

It may not be safe out here this side of heaven, but we can’t let the words of people shut us down. The world needs people who are willing to take risks and love even when it hurts. Don’t back down. Light up. Dream harder. Go bigger. You’ve been created by a Maker who has your back. With Him you are always safe.

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He died. And we all came to his party.

I never really knew a tragedy and a party could go together until now.

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I remember being a little girl and laying in bed at my friend Kaleigh’s house. Spending the night at a friends still had all the magic. Being dropped off. Eating food that isn’t a part of your normal menu. Playing with other people’s siblings. Getting ready for bed away from home always made me feel so grown up.

The nights I spent in that house are countless. It is funny what you remember about those times. Kaleigh’s mom always told me not to pop my knuckles or I would regret it when I was older. She was right. Once her dad let us stay up till about ten to finish Pippi Longstocking. And for a second grader that was basically winning the lottery.  As we got older, he watched us practicing the Macarena and told us we looked great. We didn’t.

This past week Kaleigh’s dad, Chris, passed away.

Last night was the visitation and I had to park at another building because the funeral home parking lot was maxed out. I waited quite some time to even get in the door. Finally it was my time to hug the family and say what little I could to communicate how sad I was and how sorry. Those are the times where words can’t really communicate what you have to say. And so you stand shoulder to shoulder in the crowd with your presence doing the talking.

Scanning the room it was filled – literally filled – with people that took me right back to my childhood. The families who all went to the church I grew up in. Teens I was in youth group with who had turned into full fledged adults with wedding rings and mortgages. So many people.

I was talking to a woman named Marsha who was a constant figure in my younger days. Homegroups, mission trips, her kids in the youth group with me. A lot of life connected us even though it had been years since I’ve seen her.

We talked about how Chris passed way too soon. We marveled at the crowd who showed up. And then she said it.

“He threw a party. And we all came.”

All the magic I had been feeling about the night, Marsha summed up in two sentences. Chris threw a party and we all came. Out of the woodworks crawled people from decades ago. Faces I haven’t seen since church picnics when I was a kid. People traveled from far and wide. Because this was Chris’s party and we wouldn’t miss celebrating him for the world.

Walking to my car, those words just ricocheted against all my thoughts.

I want to live a life that breeds these kinds of parties.  Throw the glitter and spread the dip. It is time for me to throw some serious soirees. Not just to celebrate life when it is over but in the thick of it. Where people line up just to get their feet in the door. ‘Cause they know that what is inside will be spectacular. It will be full of love, full of inspiration and full of life.

What I am about to say is the stuff of overdone graduation speeches. I know that. But I also know that it is true and that no matter how many times we have heard it before – we need to hear it again.

This is the time.

The time to feel all the feelings and love till our hearts bleed out onto the people around us. Soaking up every conversation knowing that it probably won’t be our last, but that doesn’t make it any less special. I want to hug my kids more because I can. And life is good. It may be hard and broken down at times. But it is good.

Those ideas that  are so risky they send comfort zones screaming? I want to do those. And I want to nail them. I know I probably won’t. In fact,  I will fail at many of them. But I will have done them and there will be scars that tell of my adventures into the daring world of possibilities. And I will throw my scars a party because being brave is worth celebrating.

However, some of the things I just might get right. And when I do? I’ll throw a party. Because I can. Because this is life – my one life – and I don’t want to put it off.

But mostly? Mostly I want to dare to open my heart up to people in the boldest of ways.

To love without any catches or qualifiers. The kind of love that is generous even when I feel like my own heart is surviving on bread crumbs. Believing that God will sustain me. The fierce kind of love that makes others uncomfortable with it’s intentional pursuit. I wanna be that girl.

And you?

You should fall in love more. Send out the resume for the dream job. Build a treehouse if for no other reason than it was a weekend of nice weather. Read books in homemade forts with friends because honestly, who wouldn’t love that? Pulling out the destiny in others even when your own seems overlooked. And love Jesus with everything you’ve got.

Because this is life. Welcome to the party.

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The wild one

I remember well. Exactly where I was when I first had the words roll through my mind. 

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I was sitting in a coffee shop just as I had through so many nights of college. It was late. I don’t remember how late, but I probably should have been in the library studying. Instead there I was on the stool situated along the front bar. The large window in front of me opened to the street and looked out over campus.

My worn journal was open to a blank page and I grabbed my pen and started writing. I am sure if I shared with you the exact words I wrote they wouldn’t make much sense to you. Syllables and doodles covering pages and exposing all the bits and pieces of me.

The parts of me that seemed disconnected and disjointed from each other, but all deeply rooted in my heart. That page had me on it. All over it. Even the parts of me that made no sense.

There was no clear picture or plan that emerged. All signs didn’t point to a specific direction my life should go. Destiny didn’t spill out like some sort of code amid the ink blots. It was just my words. The thread of my deepest dream.

I knew at that moment. I wanted to be one of the wild ones.

All the things I wasn’t – I already knew. No one needed to tell me that I wouldn’t be the first girl picked. I never was. Life didn’t have to remind me of all the places I fall short. The times I say the awkward thing or get my feelings hurt when I open my heart just a little too big. My soul bears the scars of close calls and doors shut in my face.

None the less, I couldn’t argue with what I already knew. I was one of the wild ones.

Full of fear and insecurity, but wild to the core. I wanted to chase impossible things and wrap my life with colorful thinking. Thinking that didn’t try to color-cordinate with every person and every situation. I didn’t want to be khaki. I didn’t want to blend in and match everyone.

I wanted a bold life. Those words and images I wrote on the page that night testified to that. I didn’t want neutral. I wanted to be red. And paint in red wherever I went. Marking lives and streets with red letters that declared “Liz was here”. I wanted to leave myself behind.

I was twenty. I naive. But I was right. At least partly right.

Fast-forward a decade. I’ve learned a few things about being wild.

I’ve learned that meals have to be cooked. Houses have to be cleaned. Every day. Jobs have requirements and you have to – you know – actually go to work when you feel like hoping in your car to chase adventure. And relationships? Those take time too.

But mostly, I’ve learned that wild doesn’t mean what I thought it meant when I was twenty.

It isn’t about spontaneous and risky adventures that create envious stories.

Wild is not what we do, but how we think. Daring to believe in what could be. Willing to be the person who changes things. Big or small. Not allowing the realities of life to dull down our spirits. To make us think that this – right here and right now – is all there is.

I was wrong to think that I was the wild one. It isn’t me. It’s you too.

After countless conversations on long phone calls and on sofas in coffee shops, I have realized that I am not the only wild one. You are too. We are all the wild ones. At least that is what we were made to be. The capes may have turned into cardigans and swords into laptops, but we are glowing in our core. Glowing, burning, for something better. Something bigger.

From our cubicles and living rooms we dream into a world that is better. A world that has our mark on it.  Believing that life doesn’t have to play out this way – believing that we could do it better. We could do this better. That despite all our failures and scars from being the last kids picked in dodgeball, there is something in this heart to offer.

Wild generosity is meant to do battle with greed. Wild forgiveness can cut off the cycles of hatred and vengence. Wild hope has the power to reach into the darkest places and sit – be with people where they are. Remind people that we pick them. We see them.

And love? Wild love makes people recognize that they were made for the same thing. To be wild. To dream. To live this one wild crazy life will all we’ve got.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think we are ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ kind of people I think we are wild.

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There were no ordinary days

I see Ferguson. I see Ebola spreading. I see ISIS terrorizing. I see poverty destroying entire countries. And yet, I dream. I dream of what the Church can be in moments like these…

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The history of the earth is comprised by stories of men and women like you and me. Experiences compressed through time to make a greater story. This is our moment to tell our story.

Because like it or not, history will read the pages we are currently writing.

I don’t care if they know who I was or who you were. Most likely future generations won’t talk about which church had the most campuses or who toured the conference circuit. They will want to know our true story.

I pray. I dream. I hope that this – this is what our story is:

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They did something. The world around was falling apart, but the people of God did something. Their plans weren’t perfect, but regardless of failure they got up and kept going. The Church didn’t make excuses, they made progress. Their short-comings didn’t haunt them.

They didn’t gossip the Gospel, they lived it. They advanced it. Each one looking at the brokeness in front of them and responding. Big or small. There were no ordinary days. The Church in that generation found their voice. A mighty voice that roared on behalf of the silent.

They were driven by a love for the Greater. They solved social problems previously thought un-solvable. When they grew weary they rested in the presence of God and drew from wells that never ran dry. The people of God never gave up. They sat around their kitchen tables dreaming into the Kingdom. While riding in their cars they called upon heaven to intervene on behalf of the disenfranchised. Miraculous things happened. There were no ordinary days.

Each one took the tools they had and worked. Labored – remembering the stories of generations before them. Holding to the testimony that has preceded them. The vision was greater than a fleeting pleasure and righteousness grew in their midst.

They risked everything knowing that Eternity calls their name.

There were no ordinary days.

History may have forgotten their names and faces, but a greater Kingdom knows them well. The fruit of that generation is still being harvested today. A group of courageous people who stood up when they didn’t have to. They did something.

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In the Kingdom there are no ordinary days. Let’s give the historians something to write about. Let’s do something.

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A silver box came from Russia. What was in it made me cry.

Sometimes we create our story, and other times it creates us…

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I was just like every other kid in junior high. Twelve year old Liz with big red glasses, shoulder length sandy blonde hair and teeth that were begging for some braces. My arms and legs were too lanky for my body and everything I did was awkward. Painfully awkward.

I was just like any other junior higher, except for one thing. I lived in Irkutsk, Russia. My family moved to Siberia when I was eleven and it remained my home until I was thirteen. Those long Siberian winters and their stories are preserved deep in this soul. The food, the smells, the sights. The people. Mostly the people.

I don’t think you could separate those experiences from me. They are so woven into my perspective, thoughts and dreams that to remove them would be to unravel me altogether. Russia marked me.

But something has happened since I’ve moved back. More and more years have gone by since those days, and it seems smaller and smaller. Not to me. Never smaller to me. But when people learn that I used to live there, I get riddled with questions. And the answers go something like this:

I only lived there for two years. 

No, I don’t really speak Russian anymore. If I am around it then it will come back, but sadly I am no longer fluent at the drop of a hat.

Umm, no. No I haven’t gone back. Yea, I know it was a long time ago.

I bet you are right. A lot has probably changed since I’ve been there.

Oh, really? You lived in Spain for eight years. Yeah, I’d love to hear about it. 

At the end of the conversation I am left feeling a bit small. Like people expected more from me. Or I am surrounded by people who have lived overseas longer, currently speak Russian or have visited since I lived there years ago. I don’t remember the answers to their questions. Suddenly, I feel a bit disqualified. Probably like a guy who played junior high football would feel surrounded by college players. Still a football player – but not really compared to them.

And it hurts when something so significant to you seems insignificant to someone else. So I don’t bring it up all the time. I hate feeling that it wasn’t that big of a deal. So I hold it tucked next to my heart and only share it with the people who make it that close.

But yesterday something happened.

A friend of ours, Ryan, visited Russia this summer on a mission trip. While there he spent time in Irkutsk and he came back with a gift for me – a gift from Natasha. After trying to figure out which Natasha, cause there are like a billion of them there, I learned it was from my friend who lived near us in our first apartment. She was one of my very first friends in Irkutsk.

Now as an adult, she attends the church that my family moved there to start. And when Ryan came to work with that church, she sent back a box for me. A box that made me cry.

There was a sweet note that was written in English, but with that distinct Russian handwriting – “ To Elizabeth with love from Siberia.”.

Each item brought back a flood of memories. A beautiful box made of birch wood – carved by the hands of a people I love so much. A Christmas ornament that will go front-and-center on my tree this year, I assure you. Some yummy chocolates to have with a cup of hot tea. And then, I opened the silver box. Inside was a bag of meringue cookies.

I just stared. How could she possibly remember that? Tears came. She remembered. Natasha remembered.

Those cookies were one of my favorite things in the world. Any time I passed a stand or kiosk selling them I would always stop. There was a bakery down the road from my house that sold them and I went nearly every afternoon after school. And she remembered.

Peel back the layers of time, the change of government, the loss of language, the nineteen years since I had seen Natasha… and it was all still there. Because it happened. Because I was there.

So, what if others have more international experience than I do? Or more language skills. Or more up-to-date information on the country. So what if in a conversation among expats my experience doesn’t compare to theirs.

It is my story. And Natasha knows it.

All of us feel the same way to a degree. Our story is big to us, but compared to another’s it seems to lose a bit of its glitter. Making the rounds at parties we don’t feel we have anything interesting to say, because sometimes we fear that the things that have become part of us are only average.

We look at people and decide within our minds that our stories are not worth telling. At least not loudly.

If I had a magic wand, I would do what Natasha did for me. I would send you a silver box and inside would be that thing that helps remind you of your story. The love you lost, the book you started to write, the college degree you loved but didn’t set you apart. You would pull out your junior varsity swim jacket and rock that thing in front of Michael Phelps himself. Or that high school basketball trophy? Shoot I’d send that to you with a chain so you can wear it like a baller. ‘Cause it’s your story and it is worth telling.

And while your life may not be the thing of best-selling novels or Oscar-winning films – it matters to you and to the people you shared those stories with. And it matters to God who composed the whole thing Himself with a beautiful vision that we can’t even begin to touch in our wildest imaginations.

Natasha, who I haven’t seen in almost twenty years, sent me cookies and it tells my story. I don’t know what is in your silver box, but you know what? I hope you tweet it, Instagram it, share it with the world. ‘Cause it’s your story and it’s worth telling.

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No small plans. No timid dreams.

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The summer between my senior year in high school and my freshman year of college I had this same exact feeling. I remember sitting in my front yard late one night next to a boy. I found myself pulling grass out by the fist full – doing anything I could to delay the inevitable. He and I had said all the things there were to say until there was nothing left but the one thing. The thing that hung so heavy on my eighteen year old frame.

“We have to break up.”.

It was hard. There were tears and doubts. Years have taught me now what love is and that wasn’t love. But it was sweet and kind to me – whatever it was. I let him walk away that night unsure if someone better would ever find me, but I knew that sometimes you have to let go in order have space for the next thing. He was a good thing no doubt. But he wasn’t my good thing.

I snapped this pic a few weeks ago on top of Table Mountain in South Africa. This summer I have put in some miles and these feet of mine have carried me through numerous cities in the US, walked me through London and led me over the hills of Cape Town. It has been a journey. A journey that has given me the opportunity to hear some of your stories and see some of your faces.

Those of you who have mustered up the courage to start new businesses, go back to school or who have gotten together with other readers to share the things you carry on those pieces of paper. I am moved. Always, deeply and humbly moved that something I have said or done has sparked inspiration in you.

As I have heard the stories of featured readers over the summer that I have posted to my blog, I have realized something. I have settled for a “good enough” dream. The way you all risk and are pushing the boundaries has sparked something in me.

Courage is contagious. And I have caught it from you.

I sat at my computer three years ago and wrote the first blog entry on Lark & Bloom. Thinking to myself that the thoughts rolling around in my head might be better left unshared and unspoken.  Away from scrutiny and rejection. I hit that publish button and that’s when this all started. That’s when we started. 

Truth be told, it is easy to take one big leap and then convince ourselves that we have landed. That this is as far as we will go – as far as we want to go. We’ve got something to show for ourselves now. No one can fault us for not trying. We tried. We succeeded. But then we stopped. 

We got far enough, did enough, lived enough.

Your stories have highlighted places in me where I have begun to settle. And I’ve decided something.

No small plans, no timid dreams.

If I am honest with myself – really gut honest – I want to contribute to social change in more profound ways than I am doing now. I want to mentor dreamers and creatives to a greater degree than I am at the moment. I wanna give a pep talk to the world – I want to be an author. There I said it. Out loud and online.

But that requires something terrifying and vulnerable. Something that may or may not work.

I don’t have a business plan, but I have a dream. And for now that’s gotta be good enough.

Your tales of triumph, ache, of stumbling through the mess to find the next steps. You have moved me.

So here I am again on another summer night. Looking at what has been and saying that this is lovely, but I have to let it go. Because there is a bigger dream in me that needs chasing.

Let’s be clear. You and me? We aren’t breaking up. 

I’m just risking on taking this to the next level. I’m going way out of my comfort zone to build a new website that will house this blog as well as other projects.

But we are in this together – me and you. So, I wanted to be transparent from the start. ‘Cause sometimes we need reminding that risks aren’t always polished or easy. That sometimes it means letting go of what is to chase something bigger. Even if it feels too big at times.

And maybe some of you champions need to take some risks with me. Letting go of  “enough” to chase the fuller picture.

So let’s be honest about the things we carry inside us. The version of ourselves we long to become. And let’s do this again. Let’s pioneer something new. No small plans. No timid dreams. Just brave. That’s us.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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…

 

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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.***

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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