Tuesday, June 30, 2015

lately, i've been thinking a lot about stories.

i'll be honest, i've been meaning to write this up for awhile.

maybe a year or so ago, i started watching the show, The Office.  i had seen clips of it on airplanes before.  some the episodes were completely strange and some were completely hilarious.  so, when i saw the first season sitting in the $1 bin at a flea market, i snagged it, and stuck it in my DVD player as soon as i got home. and i was instantly HOOKED.

it took me awhile to figure out why.  the first season is particularly awkward.  the show takes place at the office of a Pennsylvanian paper company.  the colors are bland.  the situations are uncomfortable.  but i fell in love with the show immediately because of the characters and because of their stories.  because they were REAL.

truth be told, i really fell in love with the story because of Jim and Pam.  you knew they were soulmates from the very first episode and i sped through the first 3 seasons just to see him finally ask her out on a date.  but after that, i kept watching.  i watched and re-watched.  and i continued to fall more and more in love with the humor and the awkward situations.  and the heartbreak.  and the settling-for-less.  and the small, triumphant moments of joy and companionship, which were always accompanied by the realization that ordinary life really isn't so ordinary after all.

but i don't think i realized all of this until after the 7th season ended.

for those of you who don't know...much of the story is centered around the Regional Manager, Michael Scott.  and i spent 7 seasons watching him be obnoxious and self-centered, while also managing to be hilarious and selfless.  i watched him fail at relationships and succeed at relationships.  i watched him be treated like a doormat, and i cheered when he stood up for himself.  i face-palmed more times than i can count while hearing him rant in his typical Michael Scott fashion...but then i felt myself fill up with pride when he outsmarted the best of them.  he always had a way of driving me crazy, and i feel like i spent most of the time asking nothing more than, "Why, Michael? WHY!"

and then, at the end of the 7th season, in the best way i could've imagined, he left.  and the night i watched Michael Scott walk through the airport to start a new chapter of his life, i felt my heart break.

as silly as it sounds, i don't think i've quite gotten over it.  the night i watched his final episode, i cried bittersweet tears, until there were no more left to cry. then, i went out to my backyard and just sat until the sun set and the sky went dark.  it felt like a huge piece of my life was gone.

it took me months to start back up and finish the 8th and 9th seasons.  and even then, i went back to re-watch old episodes because i missed him.  i miss Michael.

and i find it crazy and incredible how a character can do that to you.  how a character can annoy you and make you feel defeated, while also being able to make you laugh and fall in love and feel HOPE.  Michael Scott was not the first character to do that to me...and i know he won't be the last...but he's the first one who made me realize - REALLY REALIZE - that characters matter.  that STORIES matter. that they mold us, move us, shape us. that stories, really, are all we truly have.

recently, i started reading "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller.  i'm only 5 chapters in and i'm not quite sure how i feel about it yet.  but the whole premise, thus far, begins with filmmakers wanting to take his book - his memoir - and make it into a movie.  at the chapter i'm in right now, they are trying to take his story and change it - to make it more interesting...to make it more "film-worthy."  

and maybe it's just the place where i'm at in my life right now, but when i think of that idea? of trying to make my life film-worthy?  i would never even want to try.  because to do that would be to lessen it.  into a 90, 120, 180-minute snippet of all the things i've lived, felt, gone through?  to try to capture and encapsulate the people i loved, my favorite moments with them, how they made me feel?  to try to summarize the heartache i've endured and the lessons learned into little fragments of time that can't even begin to capture how triumphant i feel in realizing that i've made it THIS. FAR?  no.  i couldn't have any of it.

today, i was sitting in my car, on my lunch break, when i realized this.  i was holding Donald's book in one hand and a pen in the other.  and i realized how average that moment was.  i was on my lunch break.  from an office job.  with smeared make-up.  in an unwashed car.  and i thought about how most people will probably never even know my name.  i will never be the funniest girl in the room, or the prettiest, or the smartest.  i will probably never have a million followers on Facebook, never get pictures of my house in magazines, never be considered the most successful.  and i may not always be okay with that, but in that moment, i could not have been happier.  because when i thought about trying to sum up my story, i felt sad.  like it was cheapened somehow.  and truth be told, i thought of Michael Scott.

i thought of how he had 7 seasons to mess up.  to make inappropriate jokes.  to talk too much.  to have doubts and fears.  to fall in love and out of love.  to take risks.  to speak his mind.  to drive people crazy and to make them miss him.

and, at the end of the day, that's the kind of story that i want my life to look like.  i don't want my life to be reduced to a 90-minute snippet that might be satisfying for other people to watch and possibly forget about later. i want a lengthy TV series that i can play back and be proud of - one that's filled with honest, messy, doubting, hopeful characters.  a story with no scripts, no edits.  a story that's truly mine and wholly REAL.

tonight, before i wrote this, i was sitting in my backyard, watching the sunset.  my phone was cradled in my hand, warm against my cheek, with my best friend Ryan, 3,000 miles away, on the other end of the line.  we talked about how we met by "happenstance" on a mission trip to Jamaica 7 years ago.  we recalled old memories...like the time we walked on Laguna Beach, with vanilla chais in hand, and watched the houses light up the hills behind us.  we talked about how fast life is moving - about dreams and feeling old and growing up and being alive.  and it was perfect and messy and holy...all at once.  but best of all, it was real.  a moment that no film crew could possibly capture...a feeling that no amount of editing could reproduce...a moment i would never want anyone else to try and sum up for me...

which is how i know it was a moment i'll never forget.

so, the next time i get insecure enough to think that my story isn't film-worthy, i hope i'll remember to take that as a compliment.  because ordinary life is unbelievably extraordinary in all it's mess and glory.  and i hope to ride out every part of it for as many seasons as they'll let me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

sunday thankfuls.

today is Sunday - the Sabbath - and my favorite day...one that represents rest and resurrection and celebration and new life. 

in the more recent months though, i have made it more of a day for grief.  Friday nights are full of weekend promises - a shedding of the early mornings and gym routines and salads for dinner and textbook reading and survival.  my Fridays usually begin with throwing all those things out the door, and embracing things like frothy beers and greasy pizza wholeheartedly.  Saturdays are often for adventures and accomplishments...long showers, time to do my make-up and hair, expensive cups of coffee, flea markets, beach trips, lazy walks, late night movies, and, of course, large glasses of the darkest, frothiest, richest beer i can find.

but Saturday nights, as i crawl into bed, i begin grieving.  because i know Sunday is coming soon...and i spent most of my Sundays worrying about my Mondays.  i scramble to clean house and finish laundry and check emails and fill up the fridge because, on Monday, survival begins again.  on Monday, i wake before the sunrise, and halfheartedly pull on work clothes in the dark of my room.  i drive to work and fill up on cheap coffee and i prepare to do battle with traffic and grumpy co-workers and mounds of homework and people who refuse to acknowledge that i even exist.

so, this weekend, i moved forward with the intent of changing that.  last night, instead of grieving, i sat on my floor and watched The Office with a beer at my side.  then, i crawled into bed and let myself get lost in my favorite Explosions in the Sky songs until i fell asleep.

this morning, i slept in, then took the time to curl my hair and put on a celebratory Sunday skirt.  Ethan and i went out for expensive coffees and chorizo omelettes, and the warm weather beckoned me to roll the windows down and crank my favorite country music up.

as i write this, i'm sitting in my room, with more beer, preparing to finish up my homework for the week.  it's about 90 degrees in my house, and i'm pretty sweaty and my hair has been messily swept up off my neck...but i feel alive.  and as i look back on today - and on this past week - i can't but think about all the things i'm thankful for, like:

- the pretty pink roses blooming in my backyard.

- orange-infused water in pretty blue mason jars.

- the mustard-yellow yarn wreath i finally finished and plan to hang up on my front door:)

- getting to watch the birds that come to my backyard every day - the doves and hummingbirds and finches, and their little songs and squeaks and coos.

- daffodil bouquets in baby mason jars. :)

- the 1912 yellow Titanic book i scored on eBay that finally came in the mail.  inside of it are photos and sketches and personal stories from those who survived.  i've barely begun to peruse it, but so far, my favorite part is the "Dedication" page that reads: To the 1635 souls who were lost with the ill-fated Titanic, and especially to those heroic men, who, instead of trying to save themselves, stood aside that women and children might have their chance; of each of them, let it be written, as it was written of a Greater One - He Died that Others might Live."

- Penny&Sparrow videos on repeat.

- getting back into the habit of gym workouts...remembering how good it feels to sweat and push myself to new limits.

- library visits to thumb through old pages and reread my same favorite stories that i'll never tire of.

- the therapeutic process of cleaning the house - of soapy hands and dusty clothes that result in a place that feels a little cozier and a little more like home.

- making plans to see my brother at the end of this month, and my mama at the end of April.

- texts from my little sister that read, "Just read your blog, Char.  Keep writing.  Keep writing what you think and what you feel and what you do.  Write it all down.  I love you and I want you to know how blessed i am to have you.  i'm so thankful to be your friend and to be so close to you.  i could not ask for a more selfless and caring friend."  reading that made me cry because i rarely feel good enough to be a big sister and friend to her.  because SHE is the selfless one, and she is the caring friend, and she inspires me in my faith, and to be a better listener and to work to love others more than myself.  how am i honestly worthy enough to receive a text like that?  (i love you, baby munchkin.  you are one of the most amazing people i have ever known.  i can only hope for a heart that is more like yours.)

- phone conversations with some of my favorite people.  yesterday, i talked to Ryan for over two hours, and he reassured me in my doubts about writing, and said things that made me think about being alive, and shared things that made me want to grow, and reminded me that i'm not so alone in how i feel about things, after all.  one of my favorite things he shared with me was how he wanted more of his life to be full of things he was proud of - no secrets, nothing to hide, no places in the dark.  as soon as he said that, i wanted to rush to my knees and pray to think more like that.   

- getting to meet an Instagram friend. :) several years ago, i made a friend - Beka - through this blog.  through her, i made connections with several of her sisters.  and it just so happened that one of those sisters, Anna, was visiting southern California this past week - only 30 minutes away from me.  so, i played hooky from work for an afternoon, and drove down to see her.  she cooked me Mexican breakfast, and served me coffee and brownies, and we curled up on her friend's couch, where we shared our stories and talked about faith and wounds and growth and redemption.  Anna is one of those souls that is truly ALIVE - her heart beating right along with that of the universe.  she was one of those rare, truly captivating women, who was full of raw honesty and hope.  truthfully, i felt inadequate in her presence, and at the same time, she inspired me to truly LIVE.  to drink from the cup that has been given to me without doubt or fear or apologies.  

seriously, those last 3 things?  how am i so lucky to have these people in my life?

- and lastly...God-speaking.
i have been praying more often and more honestly these days.  growing up in church, i often feel like prayer has to be such a formal thing.  i talk to God all the time, but i rarely feel like it is really PRAYING.  but this past week...holy crap.  He has rushed into thought after thought of mine.  the other afternoon, i took a break from work to walk to the deli in my office complex and get a smoothie.  the girl who works there is a Christian, and always sweet and full of life.  every time i see her, she makes my day.  as i walked back to my office with smoothie in hand, i immediately began praying.  i asked God how is it that someone as wonderful as that has to work in a deli.  she works hard and has the sweetest heart, yet she gets no glory for it.  i thought about all the other Christian people i know of who are famous, with their book deals and speaking engagements and thousands of "Likes" on Instagram and Facebook - why do some get glory, but many others don't?  And God immediately rushed into my thoughts and responded, "I decide what Glory is.  You don't."  writing it out, it sounds harsh, but it came with a calm, with immediate peace.  many of us - myself included - decide that "glory" is limited to things like Facebook Likes and TV appearances.  who are we to say what Glory looks like?  God is the One who created Glory, after all - and He sees us and decides what is Glorious, even if man doesn't.  that is one of the most reassuring things i can think of.

another time God spoke to me, one that particularly stands out, is when i was driving home from the gym.  i was listening to one of my favorite worship songs, "God Be Praised," by Elevation Worship.  it's a song i've listened to dozens of times, but for some reason, it was like i was hearing it for the first time.  and the words, "You were despised" stood out to me.  as i sat in my car, i could instantly recollect the stories in the Gospel, telling of how people hit Jesus, spit in His face, yelled "Crucify Him."  even though He was the Son of God, a perfect man, they HATED Him.  and this was extremely convicting to me.  i've heard it said dozens of times before, and earlier in the week, Anna said it to me again, "Jesus will always make people uncomfortable."  and i know, even more so, He makes people angry.  i was reminded that there are several times throughout Scripture when Jesus said, "You will be hated by everyone because of me," and "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."  He even goes so far to say that we will be blessed if we are hated: "Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."  so why do i care so much about what the world thinks of me?  because i do.  i truly, truly do.  if i have any weaknesses, one of my greatest is the desire to be liked...and i definitely don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.  because of this, i am often willing to sacrifice parts of myself and what i know to be true in order to achieve that.  but Jesus was despised - DESPISED - for the sake of the Gospel.  so i pray to stop desiring to be liked and simply to start falling back to Him - to forget about worldly glory and to focus on HIS glory.

so, those are the things i'm thinking about and giving thanks for on this Sabbath.  and, at the risk of sounding cheesy, i am praying that, instead of grieving and fearing the week to come, that i can give it all up to the One who already holds every one of my seconds in His hands.

and i hope your Sabbath is just sweet and restful, my friends<3



Saturday, March 14, 2015

sweeter having written.

There is so much to say today.

It has been over two months since my last blog post. I have been trying to write for weeks now, and I just haven't been able to make it happen.  I've tried sitting in coffee shops, tried setting aside evening hours, tried praying... I've cried a lot of tears over it and I've lost a lot of sleep over it.  Last night, I laid in bed and I knew today would be my first FULL free day to write all the things.  So, I didn't sleep much because I knew the time was looming and I felt nervous and afraid. When I tried logging into Blogger this morning, my computer said my internet was disconnected. That happens often, and there is always a quick fix, but I purposefully let it lay as is.  I don't need the internet reminding me of all the other things that are out there. I just need to be present in my body, in this moment, and to just...write.

In my mind, the words are there. I wake up in the morning, and I'm full of ideas. As i'm standing in the shower or brushing my teeth, I start stringing them together, and the stories and concepts are full and rich – all the things I want to be as a writer. But when I sit down to actually write? I shrink back and I doubt and the words are suddenly empty or forced, and not at all my words anymore.

I know there are seasons of words and seasons of silence. At the beginning of the new year, I told a best friend that I felt like this IS a season of words. There is so much inside of me, waiting to spill out, to be written. But I'll say it again: I have been afraid.

Of what? I'm not sure. But there are voices that whisper that my story is not good enough, it's a waste of time, it's not worthy of being written.  I can recall blog posts that say HOW you should write and HOW MUCH you should write and WHAT you should write about at the drop of a hat.  In the midst of those voices, I try to remind myself that anytime I have written something I was truly proud of were the times when I didn't think or proofread or edit or censor myself. Those were the times I felt the MOST like myself. Still, I can't help but realize there are two weights on my shoulders – one is a story that is begging to be written, and the other is a voice that tells me none of it is good enough, anyway.  I feel silly just writing that out, but it's true. That voice is the reason I've lost sleep and cried tears...why I haven't felt truly like myself in weeks.  I've MISSED writing so very much.

I've read a lot of Shauna Niequist in the past few weeks to help get me inspired.  Someone once told me, with slight disdain, that they felt like Shauna's stories were nothing more than purging. Upon re-reading some of her first two books, I realize that's exactly what they are...yet, that makes me love her even more.  I know of dozens of blogs and books where the intent is always to inspire, and those blogs make sick after awhile.  Truthfully, because much of it's the same.  At the risk of sounding pessimistic, most of the blogs I read for a long time contained the same “inspiring” ideas about how to stop procrastinating, how to love yourself, blah blah blah. The only blogs I follow now are where people just...write their stories.  Because those are unique. Now, I never read the same two things.  I will also say that those "inspirational" blogs annoy me because they put me into comparison mode.  “Should I be writing for other people? Am I selfish because I don't want to?”  I have never wanted to walk into writing wondering what other people might need to hear.  I just want to write my story for myself – to get therapy and to note my favorite memories and to process grief and to remember to celebrate life.  And maybe that's why I love Shauna so much, because that's exactly what she does.  She tells her story and that alone is inspiring.  So, I figure, if i'm even a little bit like Shauna in that way...i'm perfectly okay with that because her stories have changed my life.  To pull one of her quotes from Cold Tangerines: “For me, to write is an act of rebellion, an uprising against the part of me that needs to be responsible, helpful, adaptive. It is one of the first things, maybe the very first thing, that is entirely my own, that doesn't help anyone, doesn't make anyone's life easier... To do something sheerly out of a deep love for the act itself feels foreign and vaguely scandalous. It feels, I'm realizing, selfish.”

So, strangely enough, I am praying to be a little bit selfish, so that I can write and purge and process and celebrate life.  It's what I'm here to do.  And I know this because, when all is said and done, if we lose all modern technology, and all we have left are basic tools, I will find a way to write.  That's how I know I'm not just a blogger...I'm a WRITER.


all that being said, today is the perfect day for writing.  I woke up early this morning, anxious with the idea that I might be writing today.  I have a warm cup full of vanilla chai to my left, the bed is freshly made, the windows are open, and the morning sunshine is pouring in. There are doves and finches and hummingbirds right outside, chirping and cooing and squeaking while eating the seeds and sipping on the nectar I've set out for them.  It's supposed to a warm, gorgeous day today, which means the crowds will be out and in force.  So I will be spending my day at home, with plans to submit some homework, clean the house, finish up some crafty things, get in a good workout, and definitely, definitely eat coconut pancakes. ;)

since I've last written, so much good has happened:

i finally made it to Oregon, which is one of the most magical places on earth. (blog post to come.)

Ethan and i drove down to San Diego to visit the Creation museum and see Penny & Sparrow live for the second time.

my sister flew down to visit for 4 days and we spent every single one of those days laying in the sun at the beach.

Ethan surprised me with a bouquet of lilies, a bottle of champagne, and an early Valentine's dinner at this fancy Mexican restaurant in Laguna Beach.

we also had another great date night in which we went out for pizza, got sappy over too many mugs of beer, and went to see Mockingjay in theaters afterward.

i've been given more responsibilities at work, as i slowly migrate from the Administrative department into the Communications department, where i get to do fun things like make flyers, proofread/edit documents, and write blogs. :) in a lot of ways, it's my dream job - the job i always wanted, but never thought i was smart enough to get.

the days were cold for awhile, which gave me a chance to cozy up in sweaters and leggings and boots. But spring has crept up on us, with blossoms decorating the cherry trees around the county. flowers and succulents are beginning to decorate the entrances to all the stores, and I've seen glimpses of colorful beach chairs and umbrellas being wheeled out into displays.

also, I dyed my hair red, which is the most recent set of news. i've wanted to be a redhead for years now, and i finally took the plunge. i didn't expect how it would make me feel which is wild and sassy and powerful. i don't think i'll stay red forever, but in this very moment, i'm kind of in love with it.

and in the meantime, amidst all this sweet life stuff...I've drank good coffee, and I've seen the sunrise and the sunset, and I've gone for walks and played volleyball, and I've stressed myself out and I've made time for rest.  I've said no to some things and yes to other things.  I've hand-fed the ducks at work and I've studied textbooks and written papers and listened to soothing music.  I've put my toes into warm sand and fuzzy slippers and into the covers of a freshly made bed.  I've lit candles, and watched the rain and lightning outside my window, and sat through number after number of Office episodes, as I get ready to finish the final season.

life has been hard and sweet, although I must admit... it's sweeter now, having written.

more to come<3 & happy Saturday. :)