Just Do It

image

 

 

“Begin with the end in mind”

Recently I’ve seen this little piece of wisdom everywhere; quoted in books and hung on classroom walls among brightly coloured posters.

In a lot of ways, this statement makes sense. This statement is logical. Before you start a project, it’s important to know what the end result is going to be. If I’m going to build a puzzle (a task I recently discovered I lack the patience for), I better have a picture to follow. Before I start to assemble ANYTHING from Ikea, I better have a good, clear diagram of which piece goes where, or else my dresser is going to become a desk with a lot of extra pieces. It’s great to know where you’re going. It’s not a bad thing to have a clear goal or vision.

I had adopted this phrase for years, drawing up every part of my life into goals and deadlines and maps. I thought, if I have a destination painted then perhaps the steps that I take will lead me somewhere worth going. That’s what we want, it’s it? We want to see a map of where we’re going and the 5 easy steps we’re going to take to get there. We want to know how many chapters this story is going to be. We want a predictable ending; a safe story.

But what would happen if we gave this all up? What if we gave up the safety of having an end in mind and just started? What would happen if we allowed this life to take on a life of its own? What if we threw away the destination and just took off on this journey, giving everything we have to the people and projects that are right in front of us?

I want to live in today. I want to give everything I have into living today well. I’ll still plan, but I won’t allow these plans to stop me from starting something new and unscripted. Just because something isn’t in The Master Plan does not mean that it isn’t worthy of pouring my energy into.

To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what I want to be “when I grow up”. I might be a lot of different things.

I don’t know if I want to be a counselor, I just know that I absolutely love people. I could listen to people talk all day long. I’m not sure that I want to be a writer, I just know that I love to write.  I love to tell stories. I don’t know if I want to be a photographer, I just know that I have this overwhelming desire to freeze time in order to capture a moment and allow someone else to have a glimpse at the beauty my eyes are beholding. I want to hold up this frozen moment and say, “Look, I know life isn’t easy. Sometimes we lose and it’s hard and it isn’t fair, but look. This makes it worth it. This makes this life thing sweet. Stop and look. Revel in the masterpiece that was painted in the sky. This life thing can’t be an accident.”

 

Plans are great, and I know this piece would drive my sister, the type-A wedding planner, absolutely mad. But not everything in this life has to be scripted. I’m learning that it’s okay to do things just because you love them, and not because they will take you somewhere. Maybe starting something new will take you to a new destination or career path, and maybe it won’t. In the end, doing something you’re passionate about is always worth the risk.  It’s okay to start projects and not actually know what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.

 

Some pictures take on a life of their own as the brush hits the canvas. To stick only to what the script first dictated would be to cut the circulation of creativity. So take a risk and just get started. Buy a camera and start taking pictures. Write songs and share them with your friends. Write a story, paint a picture.

This week, don’t allow the fear of not knowing what the product of your creativity will bring you stop you from starting. Don’t just create for a product, or for ‘likes’, or for an end or approval. It’s not only about the outcome, the process is just as important. Just get started.

 

In the words of Nike and Shia, “Just do it!”

Advertisements

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I would love to come back to this page after all of these weeks and report a list of the wonderful things that have happened in 2016 so far. I would share the goals that I’ve reached, and the moments that I’ve chosen to stay instead of walking away. I could paint you a picture of all of the ways that I’ve lived so committed in 2016, but I won’t. I can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there certainly have been moments and stories worth celebrating, and I could easily embellish them and leave you with a beautiful picture of my life this year. I could tell you about the adventures I’ve been on. I could tell you about the ways that I’m learning to love better and more honestly. After reading the words you might even credit me as someone worth following or looking up to. You might like me a little bit better. But that’s just it. You would like me in the same way you like a picture you’ve seen while scrolling on Instagram, forgetting that the whole thing is filtered and cropped and far from the truth. The picture I could paint might be pretty but it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t be honest.

You see, I can promise you so little on this page.I can’t promise that you’ll love everything you read. I can’t promise that I’ll always be right (in fact, it’s safe to say now that I will be wrong). I can’t tell you how long I’ll be writing or how often or whether or not you’ll gain anything at all from these words.

I can promise you only one thing: I’m going to try my very best to be honest with you in this space. No filtered words. No pretty pictures. Just the truth.

Here’s the truth: this year didn’t get off to the best start.

I made mistakes. I watched friendships fall apart. I cried a lot. My priorities got mixed up and somewhere along the shuffle of being busy, my heart stopped beating. Not in the physical sense, but in the sense that it stopped beating for the things that I love. I can’t explain this feeling, but my heart stopped caring. Gradually, without notice or warning, apathy consumed me.  Somehow I had become the Tin Man, wondering why I couldn’t feel a thing.

That’s the thing I’m learning about heart change. It rarely happens overnight, and most often we don’t even realize it’s happening until we stop for a moment to look back. Every day we make choices; which voices we choose to listen to and the ways in which we spend our time. Day-to-day, these choices seem insignificant and petty, but slowly they etch away at our hearts.Just like water against a rock, it’s not the strength but the frequency that shapes us. It’s the every day.

Slowly my heart had changed its shape. All love became forced and I couldn’t understand why. This frustrated me to no end because my heart is such a big part of who I am. I wanted to love so badly but my desires didn’t match up. With everything in me I just wanted to care without pretending and trying hard and talking myself up to it. I wanted to listen for the sake of hearing, and look for the sake of seeing – not because I felt like I had to.

I remember the night that I first recognized this shift in my heart. It was a month ago today. I sat myself in the back of a crowded room full of friends, wanting only to be alone. – Isn’t it funny how we tend to push people away in the times when we need them to hold us tighter? I might be an expert at trying to face these things on my own before realizing that I can’t. – I eventually couldn’t even stand beside anybody so I retreated to a different room and I just wept. I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, but I felt far from myself and far from God that night. I think this was the moment that I first caught a glimpse at the footprints in the sand marking how far this way I had wandered.

The week that followed became a battle. I wanted my heart back and I had to fight to get it. Not because somebody had taken it, but because in haste I left it behind in my chase after other things.

I ended up taking a step back that week in order to retrace my footprints; I took a step back from the things that required me to engage my heart; the things that my heart were no longer beating for. Because love isn’t love at all if it’s only pretending. Half-hearted love is as sorry as standing in the basket of a hot air balloon without ever actually leaving the ground. Without heat, the basket won’t take you anywhere; it won’t give you a clearer view.

That’s what love does, doesn’t it? It removes barriers. It lifts you up so you can see the sunrise past the treeline.

Now, I don’t know what your Sick Day Routine looks like, but when I’m sick I like to lie on the couch, drink peppermint tea and binge-watch Friends. I drink lots of OJ. I don’t change out of my Pajamas. I sleep, a lot. When I’m sick, I know what my body needs to get better.

We take such good care of our bodies when they’re not well, so why do we have a hard time doing the same for our hearts? Why do we fake love when our hearts become unhealthy instead of getting down to the root of the problem and seeking an antidote? It isn’t normal to take a sick day for our soul, but I would even argue that our soul is of far greater importance than our flesh. Everything we say, everything we do is just an overflow of our internal health.

I honestly didn’t take my “soul sick day” soon enough. I had wasted time giving out half-hearted love for months, hoping that eventually my heart would just magically start beating again. It doesn’t work that way. Time can certainly heal, but sometimes you need to stop right in your tracks and retrace your steps. Sometimes you need to be vulnerable and honest with a friend about how you’re actually doing. Sometimes you just need to pray, to get down on your knees and utter the words “I think I’ve been trying to do this thing alone again. I need You.”

It’s okay to take a step back. Life will continue. You don’t keep this whole thing in orbit, you never have. You aren’t a hero. And if you’re giving out half-hearted love because you’re afraid that taking a step back will make everything collapse, remember what half-hearted love feels like. It doesn’t take you anywhere. It doesn’t give you clearer vision. Only real, sincere love has the power to do that, and that stuff can’t be forced or faked. It only comes from a healthy heart.

So whatever your heart remedies are, I challenge you to practice them. Work them into your routine. Just like exercising and eating well, our hearts require a healthy and balanced diet. We can’t neglect our hearts and expect that they’ll be able to do this loving thing long-term. The truth is, love can be hard work. Staying in the mess with a friend who wants to give up is hard work. Being kind to someone who makes you feel small is hard work. But let me tell you, love is worth the fight. If anything at all is worth your hardest fight in this life, it’s love – real, sincere, God-given love.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to be a marathon of love, not just a sprint. I dont’ want to run hard for a few years only to become tired and dejected because I didn’t take care of my heart. Just like an injury, burnout is preventable.

So whatever it is that your heart needs, do it regularly.

Pray, write poems, sing songs, do less, speak honestly, retrace your steps.

Committed

 

We sat at the airport all day, her and I. We weren’t leaving, we weren’t picking anybody up. With no flights to catch and no luggage in tow, we packed ourselves up and drove to the airport. Maybe we’re crazy, but there is something about that balcony overlooking Arrivals that makes my heart jump around inside of me. There really is something sacred about that spot.

Maybe it’s the bustle, the collective anticipation of being on a journey somewhere new. Perhaps it’s the diversity, with so many different languages and cultures being shared. It could be the luggage, or the planes overhead, or the handmade signs held up to greet old friends and strangers. Really, though, I think the magic is suspended in those moments when you see two people who love each other so much that they can’t help themselves from running through the crowd to embrace their Love. He doesn’t care that he’s running over people’s toes with his suitcase, she’s all he sees in that moment. For just a moment, everything else disappears. The spectators become invisible.

As we watch people come and go, we get to have a glimpse at love. Love that is real and passionate and living, and love that has grown tired and cold. We see them both. We learn that real love, if anything, isn’t timid. It runs, it chases and pursues.

As yet another tired family returns from their Christmas vacation, Emily breaks the silence we have been sitting in.

“Joy, what do you think this year will be to you?”

Last New Year’s Eve, Emily and I stayed in. We drank Pinot Grigio and watched sappy Nicholas Sparks’ movies and made goals for 2015. After working at a gym for a few years and watching people make lofty goals only to give up on them before February arrives, I had always thought New Years resolutions were empty and cliche. But last year Emily reminded me that it’s okay to dream. It’s okay to challenge yourself. New Years is a beautiful and much-needed “reset” button in the course of our year. Sure, not all of our goals will be met – I still don’t wake up on my first alarm as I had vowed to myself a year ago. This year, though, there have been victories. Some greater than others. I’ve learned that if you can’t celebrate small victories, you can’t celebrate much.

I couldn’t give Emily a direct answer to her question, so I started to list off a few of the things that I want to invest myself into this year. Friendships, relationships, and projects that have been living on the back burner for the past while. Dreams that have been living on the shelf because fear tells me I’m not enough. Emily lists hers off to. We write our dreams and goals on paper to make them more real than the ones living in our heads.

“These are the things I want to commit myself to this year.” I finally said with my finished list on the table in front of me. And then it came. As though the word had been planted in my heart; Committed. This year, in all the things that I do, I want to live Committed. No more half-way, luke-warm living, in fear that living All-In will leave me vulnerable to failure. Fear has been the thing that holds me back from fully committing to anything. But this year, fear doesn’t get to direct the script. It doesn’t get a say in this story.

2016 is Committed. To friendships, to deeper, to creating and to Jesus. This year is Committed.

This year one of the things I have committed myself to is the reading of God’s word. All of it. Not only the easy parts that tell stories of Jesus and His grace and His love, but also the parts that are challenging; the parts that leave me only asking more questions or falling asleep. I want to unwrap this entire story this year.

It’s not that I’ve never read the Old Testament before, I have. But it has always been a chore. Even now as I begin in Genesis, I expect to read for the sake of getting on to the next chapter. The honest truth is that I never anticipated Genesis to shake me or to shift things around in my heart. I never expected God to show up in these pages and speak to me (which is kind of silly, since they’re still His words). I guess I just held this attitude that the Old Testament is old and dusty and lifeless. It’s just history.

But let me tell you, I am being absolutely slayed by Genesis. I’m on Day 4 of this journey and every single day I have been completely blown away by the words on these pages and the heart of my Creator. I’m not playing this up, not even a little bit. These chapters have rattled me.

This morning I was reading in Genesis chapter 5. I was reading a genealogy (which, if you haven’t read the Bible before, is a long list of people’s names, how long they lived, and their children’s names, and it spans through generations. Yes, it’s as interesting as it sounds). It’s usually something I’ve skipped over, to be honest. I would butcher the pronunciation of names like “Zerubbabel” anyway, so I may as well save myself the trouble and dignity and skip ahead. This time, though, I read it all. And as I read, a name jumped out at me. His name was Enoch. He lived for 365 years and he walked faithfully with God. There was little else shared about this man’s life, but his small story captured my attention.

I think that was God speaking to me, telling me to stay and to wait. I wanted to move on but I couldn’t get past this man’s story. I couldn’t shake Enoch off. I got stuck in Genesis.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God.”

In this entire long list of men and the legacy they have left behind, Enoch’s is the only one that reads these words. Surely, this man’s life must have been worthy of taking note of.

I started to research the name Enoch – its origins and meaning. It’s a Hebrew name.

Dedicated. Enoch means Dedicated.

Considering this year is one marked by living Committed and All-In, this name spoke to my heart. Enoch lived a committed life for 365 years. I want to live committed for these next 365 days, and longer. Here I am, now, reading a genealogy and sitting in a puddle of tears. Surely these words must be alive. Surely they’re more than a history lesson. Lists of complicated names and facts and numbers don’t do things like this to my heart. It must be God. It has to be.

I’m not sure if you’ve made any resolutions for 2016. Maybe you’re sitting in the camp of “resolutions are bogus”, or perhaps you have a long list and you’ve already broken most of your resolutions by eating that last donut and binge-watching Gilmore Girls. I don’t know which one is you. What I do know is that a number on a calendar certainly doesn’t determine whether or not we are capable and ready to make choices that move us forward. If you are going to commit yourself to anything in this year, I would challenge you to commit yourself to the Word of God. Whether that means three chapters a day or just one, pick up the book and expect God to show up on those pages. These words are living. They’re living and they give your heart a makeover.

This love is undeniable. Just like the man running through the crowded terminal with his suitcase, God’s love is running, unashamed and in passionate pursuit of your heart. This year, I want all of Him. Not just the parts that are easy and comfortable. I want to know all of Him.

If you’re not sure where to start or you don’t want to do this alone, Tory Vore has an amazing reading plan that I’ll be following this year with a few of my friends. It’s really balanced and the conversations that have come out of reading together have been life-giving already. Definitely worth checking out if this is something you’re interested in!

Here’s to a New Year; to deeper and a life lived all-in.

2016, give us your best.

Cardboard boxes

September 14, 2015. I was supposed to move. There was an internship in Seattle that I had been accepted into. The school was two hours away, just far enough from home that I would have the breathing room that I needed. You see, things were supposed to change. I had packed all of my dreams, visions and hopes into cardboard boxes and I had made plans to go places with them.

New friends. New routines. New responsibilities. New self.

Really, this move wasn’t about an internship or an experience at all. It wasn’t even about moving cities. If I’m honest, the internship was a bold step into the unknown with the intention of reinventing myself.

So I spent the entire summer saying goodbye. I held old friends close and kept new friends at an arm’s length, aware that goodbyes aren’t easy and that in this case they would be inevitable. It was a summer marked by goodbyes, distance and cardboard boxes.

 

Plans change though. Visions change.

 

When the moving truck failed to arrive in September, this year quickly became an unpacking from the move; from the constant moves. It’s the year that I would learn to let go of the brown boxes and taped up love long enough to call this empty space Home. To unpack. To settle in. To make plans here on this all-too-familiar ground.

For too long I had been clinging on to my fairy tale called “Somewhere”. I sang her song on repeat and when my plans fell through, I realized that Somewhere doesn’t actually exist; the place we find at the other side of the think forest. The place we run away to where nobody knows our stories – our stories of failure and inadequacy. The place where people are kind. Where they see you. And you fall in love with the neighbourhood and you find your People; the ones who ensure you that you belong.

As I tore the tape off of my life, all packed up in boxes, I learned that Somewhere is make-believe. It only exists in shiny story books. It is only as real as paper.

Somewhere doesn’t exists because the inadequacy and fears are still packed up in those boxes from the last move, from the last time I tried to run away. It’s all folded and tucked away, never unpacked, but always lingering. Each move, every run, I sweat as I hoist these brown boxes onto the bed of the truck because I haven’t learned yet how to let them go. Just like my mom’s dusty collection of finger-painted childhood art, I don’t know how to throw them out. I don’t have the time to sort through each and every crumpled piece, so I resolve to bring it all with me.

I have always imagined that if I move my life to a new location, if I attempted to build a home in a different city, the clutter that I have stowed away in those boxes would simply vanish. I would live carefree and confident because I left those stories behind in my childhood bedroom.

They follow you, though. The stories, the insecurities. They won’t stay put. I used those card board boxes as my shelter in my past runaway attempts. I built a fort out of them in the forest and made them my security. It’s funny how the very things that we run away from become the thing we clothe ourselves in when we are new to town and are grasping for something familiar.

 

This year is different, though. I want my Somewhere. And so the uncomfortable process of unpacking and discarding begins now. Through tears and shouts, I resolve to unpack each and every box. This time, I will choose what belongs in Somewhere and I will rid myself of the rest. These things will not own me or define me any longer. They will not take up space. If I ever want my Somewhere, the place where I belong and am free, this process needs to begin here; here on this familiar ground. Before I make plans to be free anywhere else, I need to be free right here. Here, the boxes will be collapsed and discarded. Here, I belong and am free.