Drenched in the Chase

So I broke a rule today.

You know that rule about not running with scissors?  Yeah, I broke that one.

You see, I was inspired by beautiful prose and just had to go find some wildflowers.

Even in the rain.

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Sometimes you stumble upon beauty and sometimes you have to go chase it.

So off I went mismatched in pink running pants, a teal rain jacket and armed with scissors

The rabbits scampered away in surprise.  They weren’t expecting company in the drizzling grey.

I was a girl on a mission.  A mission to let whimsy be my guide.

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Sometimes gifts are placed in your hands and sometimes you are compelled to throw on some running shoes to run into gifts.

Friend, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to daily, intentionally chase gifts.  Because if you are armed with thankfulness, bitterness can drip off you like little raindrops.

Eternity is soaked in moments like these.  You start chasing wildflowers under sprinkling skies and moments later you’re knee deep in grace.

Grace, because who are you to hold a gift as fragile, yet resilient as beauty?

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You are tangled up in a field of whimsy and you wonder if it’s just for you.

Step by step you shake off shame, breathe out anxiety and lay down fear.

Then you pick up beauty, pluck some wildness, clip off some joy and grasp it gently.

One foot and then another on the path of peace.

You hunker down on holy ground and inspect a delicate piece of sunshine.

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It’s a natural rhythm of receiving and thanking, like breathing in and breathing out.

Serenity soothes an aching soul and you breathe deep draughts of delight.

Each is a gift that gives back.  And the greatest gift?  His face.  A living gift with the sweet breath of heaven aimed straight for you.

Standing there you catch a glimpse of His face in wide open spaces.  A place where you find yourself already known, desired and delighted in.

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This is home out in sopping fields of tender flowers and brilliant color playing in pockets of light.

Saturated with wonder.  Lost in a moment so humble in its simple hopefulness.

Sometimes whimsy takes practice, but don’t hesitate.

Always embrace the chase.

 

Inside Out and Upside Down

Inside-Out-Teaser-PosterInside Out is an adorable and smart movie about the emotions living inside 11-year-old Riley’s head. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust work together to guide Riley through transitions and the ups and downs of life.

The movie made me smile. It also made me think about how I approach life and react to problems. Do I respond with joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear or a combination of emotions?

Ultimately, it made me think of who or what is manning my control center.

I like to think it’s joy, but I know it can be sadness, disgust, fear and anger as well. This isn’t always bad – these emotions work together for our good unless we give one too much control.

I think we have a problem in the church. I’m going to call it the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome”. It’s pretty serious. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You’ve talked to that lady (or man) at church before who is always blessed, right? Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about (unless you are that person, in which case, bless you).

For some people suffering with the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome” they have the misfortunate fortune of nothing ever going wrong. Nothing breaks, they can go on vacation, they have a good job, their kids are not crazy and their dog is even sweet. They are #blessed.

Then there’s the person whose car is making weird noises, they are scrounging money for a weekend getaway, they are thankful for their job, but don’t get paid much and there are holes in the carpet from where they pray on their knees each night for their kids. They are blessed too.

See how this can be annoying? Sunshine and rainbows do not equate being blessed. Being a Christian does not mean you must be happy 24/7. Having the Spirit of the living God active and alive in you means you’re blessed. A better word would be divinus, the Latin word meaning divinely inspired and sacred. I also love the Greek verb eulogeo meaning to praise or to consecrate with solemn prayer.

I once stopped in a church’s office where the receptionist quite literally answered “blessed” (insert sappy tone here) to my question of “how are you?”. This is too much people.

“Joy” does not man the control panel on her own. Let’s be the complex beings we were made to be filled with the Spirit and reflecting our Father’s love, whimsy, thoughtfulness, riskiness, courage and wisdom.

If blessed is still your favorite word, have yourself a little party in your pew and be happy. I’d rather be divinus. Want to join me?

ESTJs and Life with Joan (of Arc)

How do you fill in your blank? I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m just too ____________.

So often we fill in the blank with lies. Sometimes we listen so intently to these messages that we eventually embody them and they become a part of us. They are like a little tumor we nickname and grow strangely fond of even though they are the cause of our demise. “Hello failure, so we meet again.” When we do this, we become the enemies of our own stories.

I’m quite fond of personality psychology and enjoy personality tests like Myers-Briggs. Pinterest got wind of people’s interest in personality and iconic movies, so we now have Myers-Briggs profiles for Star Wars characters, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey, Disney and many others.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol' Pinterest.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol’ Pinterest.

I’m an ESTJ, which apparently makes me the Darth Vader-Professor McGonagall-George Washington-Judge Judy-type. In a Holy Week version (because Christians want to play the game too), ESTJs are the Joan of Arcs. Even to me this could sound intimidating, except I know the truth about myself.

I am not a heavy breathing villain with a machine for a heart. While I may be a strict, but fiercely loyal Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts, I’m not at liberty to say.

Here’s what I can say, for many years I was a scaredy-cat. I learned to carefully tame my President McGonagall of Arc-ness. It became easier and safer to be that sweet, quiet girl. I found my identity in being who I thought others wanted me to be. I had on so many masks it would take years to remove them one at a time. After all, who could really handle the real me?

I was timidly prancing around like a mousy Jane Bennett when a bold Joan of Arc lay restless and dormant inside me. Identity crisis? I think yes. I was no more a Bennett than Joan of Arc was, but I didn’t have the faintest clue how to be the real me – the girl I had toned down and shoved back for so long. (Disclaimer: I think Jane Austen rocks)

'Joan of Arc' Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

‘Joan of Arc’ Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

If it was possible, I was even more afraid of my strengths than I was my weaknesses. I knew what to do with weakness – stare it down, overanalyze and “work on it” until it went away. Healthy, right? But my strengths were terrifying and exciting like a rare creature both familiar and exotic – a creature you instinctively knew you weren’t supposed to touch.

When I discovered that I was ardently pursued and fiercely loved by Jesus, that’s when things shifted. A daughter of the King does not live life masked and afraid.   A daughter of the king must wake up and stand up for such a time as this. When I realized that it was me and me alone holding myself back, I knew something had to change.

To dare to be known – to be real and to be known for exactly who I was and not who I was projecting – took practice. It also took someone else saying to me, “I see your beauty. I see your brokenness and I’m not afraid. You are a daughter of the king. Who you are is strong, tender and enough.”

For years I scoffed at who I was without understanding myself fully and without owning my story or my weaknesses and the part I played. I put the blinders on thick and blindly swung my sword around – this is both awkward and dangerous. I thought I was playing a key role in a battle, but really I was swatting at flies. Flies that were pestering me because I was in fact stuck in the muddy pit of comfort, holding tight to fear while sitting in a pile of poo. I was my own prisoner and I was fighting fear with poo. Not awesome. But now I know I must own my own story. And I must become friends with my story to be at peace and to find my strength.

So often we typecast people.  She’s so sweet! He’s such a nice guy. Oh, he’s just being a boy. I had typecast myself as the quiet, sweet, good girl. And then I got stuck there. When Joan of Arc started slashing her sword around, I told her to quiet down. I didn’t know how to do life with Joan. And I definitely didn’t know how to invite others to be their true selves whether that be the Joans, Chewbaccas, Thors or the Mother Theresas around me.

But now I want to dare greatly to be who God made me to be and allow others to do the same. I want to create an environment where people are free to be the best version of themselves. I want to call out the greatness, the beauty, the fire and the tenderness in those around me. I’ve been learning this from others and it’s a beautiful and freeing thing.

This is not a case for ignoring weakness. Instead, it’s a call to press into weakness and lean into brokenness and the darkness so that we may find intense light, love and life. I think the path to heaven is lined with discarded masks. Each step we take deeper into the kingdom of God reveals another characteristic of our Father and we can know a little more intimately who we are in Him and let down our masks.

We can do this because we are not slaves to fear. I have a confession to make – I don’t usually like Christian music. (I know… you can judge me a little). But this song is an exception. I’ve been listening to it over and over. Listen with me until you believe it too.

PS – What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Fifteen days into 2015

5603130The past few years I was inspired to choose a word or focus for the year.  Have you ever done that?  Last year, God took me on a journey of learning to be present in His presence.  I was also inspired by Shauna Niequist to “live freer, softer and braver”.  This was my prayer countless times throughout the year.

This year my word is “abide”.   I want to learn to live with intention, grace and courage.  I chose these words, or more accurately these words chose me, after a painful, yet eye-opening moment.  I had forgotten how messy freefalls are.  Wouldn’t it be nice if waking up a little deeper were just clean and pretty?

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What I learned brought me into this year slightly bruised from sliding into home plate, but exhilarated from the run.  (You’re welcome baseball fans.  And yes, I know it’s not baseball season.)  Being present in God’s presence looks a lot like resting, waiting, listening and being still.  Things I’m naturally quite terrible at doing.  I thought abiding would look the same.  I was wrong.  I think abiding – remaining connected and living deeply – looks much more like stepping out in faith.  Thanks to Andrew Murray’s beautiful little book, I’ve learned that God is even more invested in me abiding in Him than I am.  After all, he abides in me as well.  Crazy wonderful, yes?

A year of being present (or doing my best) has prepped me for a season of stepping out with intention, living with grace and listening with courage.  Let’s call this “Game Day”, but in the quietest of ways.  There probably won’t be much shouting or face paint or butt slaps (well, maybe a little bit).  There will be a sense of purpose and poise in stepping out.  I will step out onto the field of writing bravely and daring to pursue my dreams, and I will step onto the court of leading with grace and loving deeply.  I’ll say yes to things that matter instead of staying paralyzed with fear and waiting so long for the right moment that it passes me right by.

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So here are fifteen things I’ve learned on the fifteenth day of 2015 (because I’m sure you were dying to know):

1.  Bossypants by Tina Fey is a worthwhile read – don’t take yourself or the book too seriously, but don’t be surprised when you learn something.

2.  Moving in with your sister and brother-in-law and bonus roommate is surprisingly awesome, but don’t make a fire in the fireplace and close the vent too soon.  I’m now sporting a musty scent today at work.  It’s not my favorite.

3.  Eating clean makes you feel good inside and out.  It takes planning and budgeting, but it’s worth it and the buddy system helps.

4.  Make new friends and grow old friendships.  (I’m not saying I’m old).  Community is priceless and takes work.  Build community and be committed to it.  It’s a beautiful thing.

5.  Support other people’s dreams.  I love giving my brother books by comedians so he knows he is seen, loved and supported in dreaming big.

6.  Chase moments of whimsy and grace.  They go hand in hand more often than you think (or so I think. Bob Goff does too).

7.  You are never too old for Disneyland, Harry Potter, the zoo and dance parties in the living room.  Enough said.

8.  Networking is really about friendship and wanting the best for others.  I’m so thankful to be surrounded by great examples of this.

9.  Sometimes you feel lonely.  Know that it’s okay.  Just sit with it for a moment or two.  Maybe cry and hug a dog.  Then get up and shake it off just like said dog. (Psychologists say this works).

10.  I’m convinced family is God’s greatest gift.  Friends that are family are just as wonderful.  Someday I’ll take them all to Disneyland.

11.  Embrace moments of “Carpe Diem”.  Remember those who have gone before whose shoulders we stand on and then look around for those who have grown weary and need someone to lift their arms for them until the battle is won.

12.  Learning what kind of eggs you like is liberating.  (In case you were wondering, I like them scrambled with lots of veggies cooked with curry, salt, pepper and a dash of cardamom).

13.  Be mentored.  My mentor embodies intention, grace and courage.  I have learned so much from her of the kind of life I want to live – find someone like that in your life.

14.  Read a lot. Read your favorites, read recommendations, and read something totally outside your norm.

15.  Say yes, say no and let things go.  (Brilliant, I know).  I’m learning to say yes to what matters and to what takes me deeper, say no to what adds clutter and chaos, and know when it’s time to let something go.

So there you have it.  Fifteen things that you didn’t ask for, but you got them anyway.  If you’re one of my tens of readers who made it through to fifteen, let’s be friends.  Chances are if you read this, you already are.  So here’s to a season of intention, grace and courage.

Wishing you a brave week friends!
Love,
Esther

Light Always Fights

My words, His response.
A tug and pull of Spirit, Father and Friend.
A response to a gift that’s one of a kind
A painting, a story, a promise.

A canvas so innocent.  Truth so striking.

A gift of hope from a true friend
A gift of vision for what is to come
A gift of remembrance for battles past

A girl at a big grey wall once again. Oh how He loves her.

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A gift to keep fighting, growing, loving, healing and thanking
To keep pressing forward in gentle days, rugged days and boring days
To maintain a posture of heaven and pause with the sacred

A battle fought, a battle won.  A battle wound surfaces again.

Hope is rising
Hope is waiting
Hope is multiplying
Hope is.

A hesitant brush on a canvas page.

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Hope is me and hope is you
Relax into my Presence, He says
Soak your soul in my truth
Let me love you closer to me

I paint determined to break light out of dark.

An expectant gift, but one with no pressure, no strings attached
Just a wish and a promise to love as you find colors dancing in your soul

I paint desperate to see color rush through.

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So, awake.
Awaken to color and beauty and rest
Your trust in God is sweet and deep
Trust in yourself is shaky and uncertain

Now.  Paint now.  Paint with your heart and soul until you bleed thanks.

Be brave dear heart and take a chance
Stumble, limp, dance and sing
Be not afraid of the strength in you
Be not afraid of the tenderness in you

Warmth.  Peace floods.

Fear not the waves for they listen to His name
Waves of doubt crash around your soul threaten to pull you under
Peace, be still, He says, She is mine

Transformation, my good old friend.

Piece by piece the wall comes down
Peace by peace until light breaks through

To speak the tongue of heaven.  The language of life.

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So dance my soul
Sing out with joy
Heart be brave and take flight

Soul piercing, mind captivating, heart transforming.

Oh to hear you beyond myself
There is a time to rest and a time to be brave
Now be brave in your rest and restful in your brave

Safe, wild and free.  Come to me.

So dare to hope
And may stone wall break
Color is waiting to come rushing through
Color and light dizzy with expectation for you

Come to me and breathe in wide open spaces.

Are you ready?
Be brave.
It’s time to let go

I am hereI am good.

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Chasing Rainbows

Driving home from work one evening, I was blown away by the incredible sky.  It was one of those slow, summer sunsets that fills the sky and takes its time to travel across the horizon.  I pulled over to snap a few pictures while it was still light enough.  My car was parked on a rocky outlet on a side street, I left the car running and the door open as I jumped out to capture the last light on my trusty smart phone.  I was literally pursuing the light and chasing the beauty.  When was the last time you chased beauty?

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This reminded me of when I was a young high school student and my sister was in middle school.  At the time, our family lived in a house that backed up to a field and beyond that was a golf course.  One summer, a brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky and looked as if it was actually touching the ground in the field.  Colorful light filled a grassy area that appeared just a short distance away from our house.  My sister and I threw on our shoes, rushed out the back door and ran to find that rainbow.  I was sure we could touch it.

So we ran and ran.  We ran through the field and across the bridge that led to the golf course.  The farther we ran, the farther the rainbow went.  We ran on for a while pausing to catch our breath.  It’s not easy chasing rainbows in Colorado’s high altitude.  I put logic aside and was convinced I really could touch the rainbow if we ran faster.  We ran a little further, but alas, we didn’t touch the rainbow.  It was always just beyond our reach, and we knew that, yet we delightfully pursued anyway.  I love this little memory and I still hold in my heart a faith that says you can catch rainbows if you chase them hard enough.

Sometimes in the chaos of life we forget to chase rainbows.  We forget to look up and notice a summer sunset claiming the sky.  I turn my eyes inward and get stuck.  I put the emphasis on myself, not on He who is greater.  Suddenly, I forget rainbows and chasing beauty because I get lost in myself.  When will I wake up from this toxic sleep of self-obsession?  When will I be brave enough to be free, unbound in endless salvation, resting in quiet hallelujahs?

I hold dear a philosophy of chasing rainbows.  A little whimsy and faith can go a long way.  Maybe you can’t touch rainbows; maybe science says it’s impossible.  I don’t care.   I will keep chasing rainbows anyway.

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Alive and awake
Sky speak to me
I chase your brilliance
I catch sun’s last light

Quickly fading
My last glimpse is another’s first taste
Morphing color make your brilliance known to me
Great big sky encircle me like a warm embrace

Sweet kisses of pink, blue and gold
Heaven in the wisps of every cloud
Your vastness in miles of big open sky

Your creative canvas
Your most holy playground
A love letter of highest form
A kaleidoscope of light

Heaven softly calling from up above
Surrounded by love’s perfect touch
Clouds surrendered to their maker
Lighthearted they rest in splendid suspension

A place of fearless awe and wonder
Overwhelmed you would paint skies for me
In a world torn, hurting and afraid
You pause to create such beauty

Who am I to deserve such art?
A gift I’m most undeserving
But I’ll stand still and wait and watch 

A moment in time is mine for the taking
If only I’ll look up
Inward eyes I do despise
Yet I’m so easily swayed

Emphasis on you is joy
Roots of faith grow down deep
Taking hope from wondrous skies

Magic Eye

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Image from magiceye.com

Having eyes to see and ears to hear is what I long for.  Jesus talked about it a lot.  Churches don’t talk about it enough.  But what does that mean?  I believe it’s seeing with faith.  It’s believing enough to hear through the noise.  It reminds me of the Magic Eye books.  Did you ever see one of those prints?  They were unusual pieces of art.  They were made of a colorful patterns repeated across the page, each line of the pattern slightly different than the next.  Curious and tricky in nature, you would focus on a two dimensional print in order to see a three dimensional picture.  You could look at it, walk right past it and miss it.

The first Magic Eye print I saw was at a gallery in downtown Dallas, Texas when I was young.  My mom walked up to the print with me, explained the instructions and stood before the picture with her arm stretched out in front of her, pointer finger extended straight up.  The instructions were to study your finger until the background, the print, begins to move and form into a picture.  Wikipedia describes it this way: “The viewer must diverge his or her eyes in order to see a hidden three-dimensional image within the pattern.”  It sounds trippy, but it totally worked. Soon you could see the picture, so you could lower your arm.  Then you were able to get lost in the three dimensional picture before you of a castle or an animal or a ship.  Once you saw the picture you could even step to the right or to the left so the picture would move with you.  It was fascinating.  Later, we bought a book filled with these prints.  You could use your finger or you could use my technique, which was to hold the book right up against your face until the print got blurry from you starring at it a little cross-eyed, then you would very slowly pull it away from your face.  The picture would get clearer and clearer until you could move your eyes about the page looking at this pop up scene before you that had emerged from the pattern on the page.

Believe it or not I have a point with this story.  I propose that we must develop a magic eye.  In order to have eyes to see, we must relearn how to see not just with our eyes, but with our hearts.  Seeing into the kingdom is a multisensory experience that begins in the heart.  The eyes of our hearts must be open, that’s why it’s important to guard our hearts.  Learning to see into the kingdom and developing a magic eye is no trick.  We may or may not look as wonky as I did trying to see the Magic Eye prints in my book, but we must practice this sight over and over until it becomes second nature.  We must diverge our eyes in Christ so we can have kingdom eyes.

Eat, Pray, Love

1336687811 “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

So, I was thinking.  Yes, a dangerous pastime, I know.  What if… I took a year to Eat, Pray, Love.  What if I took off a year of graduate school to discover what I’m really passionate about?  A year to dance, read, explore, travel, seek out adventure, friendships, meaning, simplicity… To seek truth and learn to be still.  To be open and to let God fan into flame the passions he has put within me.

Frederick Beuchner wrote, “The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  After trying to logically and analytically figure out what I should do and what I’m passionate about, I’ve decided that perhaps it’s best to just jump off this cliff in faith that He will catch me and lead me on a path that leads me to deeper discovery of Him and life.

In the words of Emily from Today’s Letters, after hearing Katie speak (Kisses from Katie), “I walked away being reminded of four things: to be faithful where I am, to say YES to today, to be relentless in loving others, and to lead with authenticity because vulnerability conquers all fear.”

I have always viewed life as an adventure.  A play to star in.  A treasure to discover.  I do not want to look back and think, “Oh, I wish I would have done that.”  Whether in work, play, or relationships I want to live life to the fullest and without regret.  I do not want to wonder what it would have been like to be this person’s friend, or to go to this country.  This is also what drives my desire to have a career that is meaningful and touches on my passions.  Why waste one precious day on a job I hate?

All in all, I want to value each and every day as the gift that it is.  I want to treasure the friendships and relationships in each of those days because in my heart, I believe that, most often, people are life’s greatest adventures.

So, here’s to saying yes to today, loving others, being open to adventure, leading with authenticity and holding tight to God’s hand while I walk, run, stumble and dance.