Tag Archives: personal growth

To all the has-beens and wannabes

It’s not about “that moment”. It never has been and it never will be. 

I used to think that life was more clean-cut. That a few singular events would mark me. I imagined them playing out over and over again in my mind. Rehearsed the lines and planned the details of how this party was gonna go down. I used to dream of the moments that would define me. Marriage, motherhood, career goals, levels of fame and recognition.

Clouds would surely part and rainbows would light the way for me. People would stand to their feet and acknowledge the finish lines I crossed. I’d get a trophy of some kind because, hey, I just had a “moment”.

This is the nature of the myth we believe.

A myth that life has a defining moment in which we reach our peak, our purpose. The big thing we were born for. The world will cheer for us and time will stand still to acknowledge that we have arrived. Our achievement. Our coming into our own. This is the moment we can rally around and cling to in order to make sense of our existence.

Life is less science and more art. It is about the sequential experience of collective moments.

And yet most of us view our existence in this linear chart of “life-changing” events. We live from dot to dot on the graph because in our minds that is way our lives are graded.

Some of us look towards the blank, flat line in front of us. We squint our eyes hoping to see a big mark in the future that documents one of those big events of life. The time our dream came true. A big break in our career. Getting asked out by that guy you have been crushing on all semester long. We chase big social media platforms because one day something significant will happen to us and we want to be able to share it with as many people as possible. ‘Cause somehow we have begun to believe that validates our experience.

We are hungry wanna-bes. Looking at our future selves and dreaming of what we will become. We anxiously wrestle through discouraging gaps between where we are and where we want to go. There is a vision we have of what we will look like when we are significant. Until then, we are nobodies. Just a faceless person in a crowd waiting to be launched into our lives. Just shuffling wanna-bes competing for a moment in the spotlight. A moment to be seen for our real value. A day in the sun.

Wanna-bes live in the future, but not in a dreamy sort of way. More like we don’t have permission to be awesome yet because we still lack a few things on our resume. As if there is a list with boxes to check before we can officially “arrive”.

Some of us have had those big moments already.

Like the guy who was in a popular band when he was in his early 20s. Now what? Life is all downhill from here? You are the guy who used to do and used to be?  The only gig you can get is an off the beaten path casino somewhere.

The warm sunlight we were basking in has moved on to another person with a fresh accomplishment and a newer idea. Now it starts to get a bit chilly in the shade and we bundle ourselves in blankets in an attempt to recreate the warmth we felt in the spotlight.

Watching the people who have taken our place on the pedestals we once owned. Today seems like a dried up version of yesterday, so instead of watering it with new vision? We let the present go to waste, and devote ourselves to the static shrine of who we once were.

 If the wanna-bes feel like their lives are on hold until “someday”, then the has-beens relive their “back in the day” over and over. Broken record status.

What if that isn’t the way it works at all?  What if our defining moments lie in our ordinary days. The days we practice again because one day we hope to stand on the foundations we are building today. What if who we once were is actually the foundation for us to become who we are supposed to be today?

Thing is, I know a secret about you.

You carry wild dreams in your heart and neon hope in your soul. —> click to tweet

What you have done or what you will do is not what defines you. No single moment creates your legacy. It’s a lifetime. A series of ordinary days that build into an extraordinary story. A life with ups and downs threaded together by a greater purpose. You and those wild dreams you carry in your heart. The neon hope you bring into a dark world. The world needs you. Every day. It needs you to show up and give what you’ve got.

Cause life doesn’t start when we finally “arrive”. That finish line is really just another day in the journey. And life doesn’t end when we reach the peak of something. It shifts us into new territory if we let it.

We are the ones who show up. On the best of days, the worst of days, and the days that seem to blend into everything ordinary around us. We show up because we believe that every breath is a testament to our purpose. We are still here. And we still have life to live. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Today.

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Pages have expiration dates

Because I love you, I must tell you to turn the page.

pages

 

Life is about so many things. The relationships we hold, the values we believe, the things we dream as we swing our legs off kitchen counters. Our stories are woven over long summer days and countless conversations we have while drinking overpriced coffee.

Like any good story, our lives need several great elements. The characters, the plots, the emotions that come out with every twist and turn. But there is one element that is the hardest to come to terms with in our lives. Timing.

Timing is everything.

And I gotta tell you friend. Sometimes we just don’t get timing. Sometimes we just can’t seem to turn the page.

The paragraphs may be good, exciting and everything you’ve dreamed. What a shame to move on to the rest of the story when this page is so perfect. Moving on would mean loosing this.

Could be that the page is a total failure. Our worst nightmare. The most unimpressive parts of us put down onto the paper. The words we shouldn’t have said and the actions we know we will regret. Temptation is to keep re-reading it. Trying to figure out how to change it. Desperate to find the edit button and fix the mess. Moving on would mean accepting it for what it is. 

But dare I say it? The page has an expiration date.

I’m not sure what it is, but humans have this odd reasoning that if we don’t let something go, then it stays. It doesn’t stay. It moves on with or without us.

Yet we get stuck. We embed ourselves into this one place too afraid to leave. To frustrated to leave. To happy to leave. But life builds. It always builds.

We’ve got to turn the page or we never see how it ends. Where does the dream take us? What does happily ever after look like? How powerful can our redemption actually be?

No matter how great the present is, it will go sour if we don’t let it grow and morph into what it is already becoming. You and I are constantly outgrowing our lives. New days demand new ideas. New ambitions and strategies. Keeping a growing kid in their old toddler clothes doesn’t stop them from growing. It just makes them uncomfortable and awkward. And it ruins the clothes, turning a sweet memory into torn fabric.

Life doesn’t stop for perfection. We don’t have the option for a million edits. The words said at the wrong time, the choice that threw everything off course. It is what it is. Something may happen in the future to salvage it but you have to get there to find out.

Stop reliving yesterday’s happiness and find the courage to seek out today’s.

Stop reliving your failure. You don’t belong there anymore.

Whatever you are stuck on. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s expired. There is a new thing waiting for you.

Go on. Turn the page friend. It’s about to expire. And the next chapter is oh-so-good.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, something bigger, Whimsy

Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

befullyseen

2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Your Shoes Are Too Small

January at Lark & Bloom is all about getting uncomfortable and taking risks. An Uncomfortable January has been fantastic so far with posts about the risk of staying, the risk of leaving, the risk of loving to name a few. Today’s post is one I actually wrote several years ago but fits this series so well. So, lets get barefoot and risky people.

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You have probably heard about foot binding. It was an ancient Chinese practice which involved wrapping a young girls feet so tightly that they were prevented from growing. It wasn’t uncommon for the bones in the feet to break when their feet were bound. Often times severe deformities resulted, infections set in and girls even died in the process.

The confines of the shoe and the bandages created a handicap that women had to live with for the rest of their lives.

So, why am I telling you that you shoes are too small? You are most likely not Chinese and there is a 50/50 chance you aren’t a women either. But, I bet your shoes are too small too. How do I know?  Because you have big shoes to fill.

Just like little kids feet, we need room to grow or we get distorted and walk with a limp. Why are your shoes too small? Because your dreams are meant to grow bigger. God’s destiny for your life is meant to increase and the fruit we produce is meant to be abundant. Our destiny is to grow.

If we live in the limitations, fears and comfortable places of a previous stage then we begin to get ingrown. We believe a lie that we don’t have anywhere important to go anyway. So, who cares what shoes we wear? Our dreams press against our capacity and we feel inverted and confused. We need new shoes for new seasons.

I need to be regularly putting on larger shoes. Making sure that I have room to wiggle my toes and grow into them as God increases in my life. After growing and risking for a while, there won’t be room anymore. On with another pair. More room for dreaming and advancing. More capacity to run in roomy shoes.

We bind our own feet to often. We are afraid to get bigger.

“What if I walk this road alone? Id rather just wait in this place and grow into these shoes when I get married.”

” If I walk out no one will follow me. They won’t trust what I bring to the table.”

” I just got comfortable here. I don’t want anything to change.”

or the ever popular

” I’m not gifted. I don’t have anything to grow at all. I’m just meant to watch other people do the cool stuff. I observe, others participate.”

Except a funny thing happens. The tissues and fibers of who we are keep expanding anyway. Even when we try and stay in the same old shoes. It begins to get uncomfortable.  Eventually we just sit down and stop going anywhere. It hurts too bad. The longer we sit the greater our disfunction grows.

And that is where a lot of us are. Sitting on a curb waiting for our feet to stop hurting. Dreams, calling, destiny, capacity… they are all pushing against the boundary begging to be let loose. Risking again on love. Risking again on pain. Risking again to breathe.

And then a fabulous thing happens.

When we are rubbing our stubby toes wondering what happened to our lives, Jesus comes. Tells us to stop being so scared. Stop being so comfortable. Stop thinking we can’t walk any further. He puts these enormous shoes before us. The shoes of Heaven that contain limitless hope and strength. We are terrified to put them on because we know we can’t fill them. Not only that, but our little feet are tiny and tangled.

We forget that Jesus is a healer. He touches deformities and they straighten. The skin and bones go back into places and the painful sores go away. He puts the too-good-to-be-true shoes on. The kind we dreamed of wearing when we were little children.

Maybe your new shoes look like a relationship. Maybe they look like a new business venture. A move to a distant land. The revival of a dream that has nearly expired. Could be letting go of a fear that has held you back and controlled you. Leaving behind an old identity for a new one perhaps.

All of us have new shoes waiting to be worn onto fresh ground. But we have to risk taking off our old shoes, healing the deformities we have and putting on bigger shoes that will support our new dreams. It can be scary, uncomfortable and oh-so insecure. But I think we can do it guys. ‘Cause we are risky like that in 2014.

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An Uncomfortable January

January

You know that thing that sets you on fire and makes you come alive? The dream in the deepest-most-secret part of your soul that keeps you up at night with your heart pounding and mind reeling at the thought of “what if?”. Or the idea that makes you laugh out loud because it is so absurd that it just might work? Yea, that’s the one.

Well, you are in good company. Let me tell you why…

I have a love hate relationship with the month of January. I spent New Years Day tucked in a nook of a local coffee shop with my journal and day planner. Sketching out brilliant ideas and dreams that I hope will unfold in 2014. Not simply tasks or goals I want to do at some point in the next 365 days, but thinking through who I want to become this year as well.

That’s the love part.

Then there is the actual implementation part. After I wrote all my hopes and dreams down I took a good hard look at what it would actually take to accomplish them this year. What would I have to say “no” to? What would I have to learn or change about myself? How early will I have to wake up to actually workout?

That’s the hate part.

Like I was saying, yesterday afternoon was spent dreaming into this next year. As I sat there with my lukewarm coffee in hand, I read through all the scribbles in my notebook. How is this all going to happen? Aside from a strict budget, earlier bedtime and pots upon pots of coffee one thing stood out – RISK.

I will have to get uncomfortable and risk not being picked, risk making the wrong choice, look past disappointment, risk looking like a total idiot, and forcing myself to choose hope instead of fear…so many ways I will have to stretch if I want to really pursue my dreams in 2014.

Welcome to An Uncomfortable January.

Last year I did a series called An Uncomfortable January where I did one thing each day that made me uncomfortable – made me risk – because no one can chase dreams from their comfort zone. The series is back again by popular demand this year.

‘Cause we have passions to burn for, dreams to chase, character to build, and ideas to create.

I have some amazing guests lined up – from a model in NYC to a former army ranger – who will be sharing what risk looks like for them.

So, guess what peeps? We are gonna go out on a ledge. Starting right now. Today I took a risk and chopped all my hair off just to get us started. Yea, that’s right. I went all pixie cut on you. Wanna know why? Cause we are risky like that in 2014.

hari

My friend Chris always says that most people are too overwhelmed to take action because they are trying to cover miles at a time when they should be focused on taking inches. And that’s true I think. Most writers don’t want to grow a blog we just want to go straight to New York Times best sellers list. What musician has time to actually play small local gigs? It’s Grammys or bust baby.

And of course, we all want to find that one singular thing that makes us special.

Reality is that miles are taken one inch at a time – not in one heroic leap.

This January it is about pursing our dreams by taking our inches.

Go ahead, take a moment and dream freely. What would you do if you had no fear?

We are risking on those answers. Together, taking our inches and risking.

Who knows? Maybe we will all fall flat on our faces, come up short and move to rural Nebraska to hide our heads in shame.

Or maybe it will work and come December we will look back in disbelief at the ground our “inches” have covered. Maybe, just maybe, that “thing” will grow legs and carry us into our destiny.

At the very least we will end up with great stories and the satisfaction of knowing that we didn’t fail to act.

So, here is to another Uncomfortable January. The month we each acknowledge that we have a destiny and passion worth following. Friendships worth forging and jokes worth telling.

Why? Because we are alive and the breath in our lungs is there for a reason. Plus, it’s 2014 and we are risky like that.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Going Places, Lifestyle, Uncomfortable January 2014, Whimsy

The Dirty Gospel : When God Disappears

IMG_5124We are well on our way into the Dirty Gospel series. If you are new here, grab your coffee and catch up on loss & depression, a severe mercy, and why I believe God is not fair.

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This is a picture of my living room and in many ways what my relationship with God feels like sometimes. It is empty and God is not to be found. Sure, there are reminders like boots on the floor that He is here somewhere, but I can’t see Him.

Back in college it seemed that God was everywhere I looked. His voice sounded so near and His presence was unmistakably close. I didn’t have to look for Him. He was just everywhere. I have had other times in my life since then that God has been beyond evident. I love those seasons where I can feel God with me.

But, something happens between those obvious moments with God. He seems to disappear…God hides.

Sure, He is around still. I just can’t find Him.

I read the Bible and it feels dry. I pray and can’t seem to go more than two sentences before I completely loose my train of thought due to disengagement. God’s voice begins to feel more like a rumor than a reality.

Is this some cruel joke? Did God manipulate my emotions and then check out?

What used to be endless journaling trying to catch all the dreams God was putting in my heart turned into blank pages with nothing to be written. God is silent.

These dips in my relationship with God used to throw me for a loop. I would get confused and doubtful if anything I had previously experienced had been real. How could I depend on a God that seems bi-polar at times. Is God flakey?

I’ve come to discover that these silent moments where God appears to be missing are when the Gospel does a deep work in me. I need the “highs” with God, but I need the depth too.

Experiencing God produces a desire for Him, seeking God produces faith in Him. —> click to tweet

When God disappears, I have to make deliberate and non-emotional steps to seek Him. My faith becomes stronger and there is a steadfastness that builds up like a deep anchor in my soul. I learn how to believe that He is with me when I cannot see Him.

I need that skill on weeks like this one. My friend Stevie died of brain cancer. Our adoption hit a new snag and it appears to be delayed even longer…

Times like these, I am thankful that God seems to disappear from time to time. I have learned the defining truth that when I seek Him I will find Him. I will find Him late in the night when I don’t think I have what it takes to obey what He is asking of me. I will find Him in the pain that seems unbearable.

The Gospel is dirty because it makes us dig deeper into the scary, painful and fearful places. And in that process of digging we realize that God has actually never left.

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The Art of Moving Mountains

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photo source unknown

Moving mountains is quite tricky really. So often I hear sermons about how God can move our mountains. Faith of a mustard seed and all. I believe that with God I can move mountains. And yet, there they stand before me again. Daunting peaks and valleys, frozen ice patches splattered along the ridges.

They seem so magnificent and their beauty scares me. How can such a thing move, God? And yet I know it must. I know it doesn’t belong here. It blocks me in and hides me from the things beyond it’s peaks.

Mountains are situations, experiences and views of ourselves that block us. They trap us. They stop us. These past few months I have wondered why I don’t say to my mountains, “Move!”.  As I have thought about it, I identified three common reasons why I make friends with my mountains instead of moving them.

1. Having a mountain is a good excuse. It’s a good reason to stop and an excuse for why I can’t or shouldn’t. What better reason than to say, “Well, I guess I am off the hook. There is a mountain in my way.”. Such an obstacle is a good reason to pitch a tent at the foot of this giant.

I could make a nice life here at base camp. Sure, base camp is more of a place of survival rather than living. Soon I might forget how nice heat is or electricity. Or forget about indoor plumbing. I might start to believe that I was made for nomadic camping instead of being planted in the land God has for me.

When I get weary of pressing on, excuses look good. I like the excuse my mountain offers me. You guys go ahead. I have a mountain. I’ll meet you on the other side…maybe.

2. Often I don’t move my mountains because I am freaked out what might be on the other side. Most likely it is better than where I am now, but it still scares me. Yes, there could be a flash flood here. Yes, the winters are harsh and long in the shadow of the mountain. Yes, I am always blocked and unable to move, explore or grow. Sadly, I have learned to live like this. And knowing what to expect brings some comfort. Can I really thrive on the other side of the mountain?

3. This realization knocked the wind out of me: Sometimes I don’t move my mountains because I need them. I get resources from the mountain. I rely on the animals living on it for my food, it’s snow melts into my water and it’s caves are my shelter. In a way it replaces God meeting my needs. Why trust Him for water when I can just get it from this muddy pond? The mountain provides me with some identity as well.

Our mountains mark us. Maybe you are the girl with the eating disorder. Or the man who never had a father. Financial crisis is your go-to. No matter who says they love you, you will always be the one who was rejected. We cling to our mountains because they have been feeding us for years.

We aren’t made to live in the shadow of daunting, haunting mountains. We were made to move them. —> click to tweet.

Moving mountains isn’t easy. In fact, I don’t really know how it works, but I do know that we are called to do it. We look at God, take Him at His word, pray like our lives depend on it and start walking.

Maybe when we approach it, the mountain will disappear. Perhaps the image of the mountain will remain and we will find that God gives us the supernatural strength to walk straight through it’s rock core.

There isn’t a formula, and I don’t know exactly what God is going to do to move your mountains. But I know He will. I know He promised. We aren’t made to live in the shadow of daunting, haunting mountains.

We were meant to live free. We were created to live without inhibition. We are destined to move mountains. 

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