you’ve come a long way, baby

last week, my little sis had surgery (it was brief and she is recovering nicely) and i agreed to meet her at the hospital.  running late, i had to call before hand to send her my well-wishes and get directions to the surgery center.  as i spoke to my dad, i came to realize that it was just him and my mom there with my sister and, now that my sis was actually back in surgery, my parents were alone together in the waiting room.  and it was ok.  neither was pressuring me to get there, neither indicated a need for intercession or a buffer.  i was told all was well and to be safe getting there.

i cried as the realization of this moment washed over me.

but let me back-track just a minute, to give a greater perspective on the significance of this. my parents separated during my senior year of high school and divorced during the freshman year of college.  it was  a bitter time, full of anger and anguish and disappointment for all parties.  my parents found it hard to be around one another without incident, and we existed that way for years, my sis and i serving as buffers, nervous about moments where the two may have to be in the same space as one another.  it was a hard road, full of anxiety and pressure on my sister and i’s part to keep the peace.

but now, (NOW!), they were sitting there, in that waiting room, not best friends but not enemies.  gathered for a common purpose and not needing anyone to intercede.  they have come a long way in healing, and therefore our family has begun to heal.

a friend once told me she believes we pick the families we come into.  that before we’re born, and we’re just little speck babies out there in the universe or heaven or what have you, we pick the life we choose to enter.  i don’t know how i feel about that or if i agree with the philosophy, but it is incredibly empowering to think that we’ve chosen this life.  then i’m not the victim of the things that happened in my childhood or the events of my family.  i chose this life.

i choose this life.

at the start of 2013, i wrote this about the words i wanted my year to focus on, and so many of them have played a vital role in my year.  in preparing for 2014, tho, that phrase above–i choose this life–keeps coming to mind.

i choose the changes i’m making, the direction i want to go.  i choose my health.  i choose to love.  i choose to cherish the humans i’ve been entrusted to care for.  i choose to go into the kitchen and make a delicious, nourishing meal instead of going out for cheeseburgers (ok, i’ll choose that most of the time).

so, cheers to 2014!
“make good choices!”

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awaken my soul

i walked into a coffee shop in Grand Rapids, MI, content to know no one.  to sip a delectable latte and study for a couple hours.  in town for work, i had nowhere to be and no one to demand my time until 3p.

within just a few minutes of finding a spot to settle in, i heard my name from a voice behind me.  i turned, not sure who could know me in this city, only to find an old friend from college days.  he was actually a friend i knew through an ex-boyfriend, and he had transferred to another school after our freshman year.  we saw each other off and on over the next few years, as our paths crossed in various ways, but that would have to have been nearly 8 years ago.

of course, the natural questions came forth and i quickly learned that he doesn’t live here either, but is fundraising to move his family to Spain for mission work.  i always find in these situations that i have so many questions and an eager desire to know what the other person is up to, that i don’t share much about myself.  even when asked.  so i briefly mentioned that i was in the city for work, but at the coffee shop to study.  then i went back to asking about him.

but he persisted, and i found my pulse quickening and my eyes brightening as i explained my desire to study naturopathy and natural healing options, as well as go through yoga teacher training, and my hope to combine the two.

and then i said something i wish i could recapture and put in a bottle, to carry around with me at all times.

i said, “it’s one of those things that just makes me feel alive and excited every time i think about it.  i think we need to pay attention to that, because that’s how we know what we’re supposed to offer to world.”  he nodded emphatically, and smiled, and got excited with me.

as a young person, i thought passion about life was a given, and i watched older people with quick judgment about the dutiful lives they seemed to live, committed and busy, but without much true passion.  i took that passion for granted, as i went to school and bought  cars and bounced from one idea to another.

but somewhere along the way, slowly but surely, my overabundance of passion began to dim.  and now here i sit, feeling slightly jaded about life, wondering if anything could ever feel “new” again, could make my blood race with excitement and passion.  dramatic perhaps, but these have been the honest workings of my mind lately.

then an old friend pops up in a coffee shop in a strange city, and asks what i’m up to.

the thing about “distance learning” is that i could legitimately go through my entire study without talking about it.  i could slink about with my textbook and highlighter, and do my thing in the corner where no one could see.  where no one could ask what it is i’m studying, or why.  they could never hear my heart for the subject, and worse, neither could i.

so, a friend walks into my world, and asks that simple question, and without thought i spew off a stream of thoughts about what i’d really like to be doing, how i’d really like my life to look, and feel that passion bubbling up under the surface just as in days of old.  and i feel a ray of sunshine peep through gray snow-filled clouds, as if to say that Spring is on it’s way, and keep going because all this is a sign that you’re on the right path.

afterall, we are all created to offer something beautiful to the world, to awaken others to live their lives wholly and fully.  but we can only know that by finding that thing that makes us feel awake and alive, and chasing it with all we have.

looking for a sign

i have to start this post with 2 disclosures.
1. i haven’t prayed in a loonngg time.  and 2. i’m not really a person for “signs.”

that being said, i experienced both yesterday and it pivotal.

let’s back up a bit.

i’ve been thinking for awhile time, but even moreso in the last 6 months, that i’ve wanted to pursue some further education in the natural health field.  i did an intense batch of research back in February/March timeframe and settled on the school and program i wanted to pursue.  what i didn’t settle on was the financial solution.  so i put everything on hold until i could remedy my finances a bit and carve out the money needed to begin.  i set my goal for August and moved on, carrying the packet of information on this program with me regularly, pulling it out every now and then to remind me of my real focus.  my true north.

then August came.  and went.  and the money wasn’t really there like i expected.

but September was different.  September saw a bonus that would comfortable cover the initial down payment.  September saw me really have to wrestle with, literally, putting my money where my mouth had been for so many months.  i would get incredibly close to enrolling in the program, only to find myself shirking back in fear.  i wrestled with my hesitation, and what i would tell someone else in my position.  coaching myself to take a risk and follow my heart and all that cliche’d nonsense that is actually really good advice.  i told anyone who would listen about my struggle but internally i would feel an overwhelming chorus of “YES” anytime i considered the program or read the course descriptions.

and then i decided to try something different.  i decided to try prayer.

ever since leaving the church earlier last year, i’ve avoided any of the old practices i used to observe, needing a deep separation from anything that reminded me of that world.  it’s not that i’ve felt prayer to be bad; i’ve just not felt overwhelmingly convinced of who or what i was praying to, of what exactly was out there to receive my prayers, and even to the extent of what would want to even interact with us enough to want to answer our prayers.

i wouldn’t have even considered the option had i not been to visit with a spiritual guide of sorts, who’s first piece of advice was the practice of meditation.  his suggestion was simple: use meditation to pray, be specific and come with questions you want answered, and, if necessary, ask for a sign.  he mentioned feathers and butterflies or anything else that might serve as validation.

so yesterday morning i sat down, crossed my legs and closed my eyes.  i began to slow my breathing and focus my thoughts.

“ok,” i said with some skepticism.  “ok, whoever you are out there, tell me…should i start this program?  that’s what i want to know.  and send me a sign…a sign of….” my brain immediately thought “turtle,” my rational self thought that was silly.  still, “turtle” kept coming back to mind, over and over.  “ok,” i said, “show me a turtle.  if you think i should do this program.  show me a turtle.”

it was all i could do to remember to find a turtle.  i was on a business trip and busy with different activities and had to keep reminding myself to find a turtle in a place that was not really known to have turtle inhabitants.

towards the afternoon, on a walk across the island we were on, a sign caught my eye.  it looked exactly like one we had seen in the Florida Keys so i walked over to it, only to find this:

tortugas

that’s right, the bar was called “Tortugas,” the spanish word for “Turtles.”  it was not altogether obvious, lost in so many other messages.  but it was there nonetheless.

it was my sign.

but truth be told, it was really just an affirmation of what i already knew to be true.  that’s the thing about signs.  they really just help you to have the courage to choose the path you’re already on, to give you the confidence you need to put your foot out and take that risk.  it minimizes the hives and hyperventilation you feel when thinking about jumping off that cliff.

i registered for that program this evening, and will be starting a Doctor of Naturopathy as soon as they accept my application. happy to finally replace the debilitation of fear with the exhilaration of excitement; thankful for whoever or whatever is out there that sent “tortugas” to nudge me forward.

(not) just another birthday.

last week, i celebrated what i have been joking is the first of many “29th birthdays”.  i now sit at less than 357 days until i wave good-bye to by 20’s.

despite the joke, though, i’m strangely ok with growing old.  my 20’s have been an incredible growing, stretching, healing, learning time for me…which has mostly been birthed out of the painful consequences of mistakes and missteps.  looking forward to my 30’s, a clean decade with nothing but potential, feels very promising to me.

i usually write a blog around my birthday that recaps my year, month to month.  this year i think i will just share the many ways that the newly 29-year-old Christie is much different from the newly 28-year-old Christie.

i like to be alone.
somewhere along the journey this past year, i came face to face with the fact that i had overextended myself in the area of relationships and am completely exhausted.  when i moved in April, i relished in the quiet space my new house afforded, and have since kept my schedule relatively clear so i can spend more time by myself, weeding the garden, going for runs, listening to tunes, reading Harry Potter.  it has been and continues to be an important space for me.

i (am learning to) love myself.
loving myself has been something i’ve always struggled with.  ask anyone who’s every seen me reach for a pack of cigarettes instead of food when i felt unloved, or gotten completely wasted and danced barefoot in the street when i felt rejected.  someone recently encouraged me to learn to love myself and my life, and i’m taking his words of wisdom seriously.  i’m giving myself space to recognize when i’m overextended, to rest, to cry, to be alone.  space to hear my voice and give it respect.  the opportunity to demand respect from others i might have previously let treat me like crap.  i’m learning what it looks like to value myself, to hold myself tenderly, to acknowledge hurts and wounds and work on nursing myself back to health.  i look forward to sitting here a year from now and saying i’ve made great strides in this area.

i feel complete without a relationship status.
the me i remember last summer was not satisfied with checking the “single” box…in fact, she was desperate, needy.  unable to separate the need for love from real love.  unable to just be friends with a guy without imagining one day he might come to my rescue.  through a lot of heartbreak, i’ve learned that i can be whole outside of relationship.  my perspective is quite flipped, in fact.  i’ve come to the conclusion that i want a strong, sensitive partner who can love me well.  and if i can’t have that, i don’t want to mess with it at all.  i’m content with being single.  even if it’s forever.  this is surprisingly freeing.

i want money.
this is trite and a silly way to put it, but i’ve spent the majority of my 20’s scorning money and “real jobs” and all those things that seem so typical of the American dream.  but the truth is, i want money.  i want to be able to pay my bills, to travel to my favorite places in the world, to support causes i believe in or share with my friends.  i want to buy an iPhone and pay off my car.  i want to provide myself, and begin the process of saving for a house or future babies.  all this realization led me to find a new job, and i have been so richly blessed to have one that enables me to do those things as well as giving me dignity and respect and room to grow.

i like NPR.
i know…this one surprised me too.  after living for a year and a half with NPR-fanatics and hating every time they chose talk radio over “real” radio, i have come to enjoy it.  this all started when i realized that i needed someone to “talk to me” on my commutes and calling people twice a day to fill space just isn’t cool.  so i switched to the public radio, and quickly found myself engrossed in world news and interviews with inspiring people and incredibly stories of people living rich lives.  i was hooked.

i’ve said this before, but will reiterate it again…i’ve never felt more myself than i do at this stage in the journey.  i feel a deep well of confidence i’ve never known.  i trust myself (for the most part) and appreciate my voice.  i love so many things about myself i once thought were “broken”, “burdensome”, “ugly.”  i walk with a greater perspective on my life…a perspective that allows me see beyond the temporal confusions and frustrations of the daily.  we are, afterall, “spiritual beings having a human experience,” and i intend to live mine to the fullest.

transition.

this is a morning for Intelligentsia and crepes, the Coldplay station on Pandora, kicking my feet up on the desk as i search the recesses of my soul for words to articulate how i’m feeling.

it was also a morning for confusion, miscommunication and hurt feelings as the man and I had our first…well,something.  disagreement, misunderstanding, whatever.  we finally had a good, what he called “compromising convo” and agreed that things are moving really fast.  not in a bad way, it’s just overwhelming at times.

but it’s mostly really….natural.  it’s like i was walking along and i looked up, and there he was.  like our paths just naturally intersected and became one.  since we’ve met we’ve spent a considerable amount of time together, sharing both the elaborarte and the ordinary moments of life.  going to plays, eating lots of food, watching our fav shows (Glee and New Girl), mopping up the gallery when the floor flooded.  it’s been really sweet.

i wrote awhile back about not feeling like parts of my life fit me anymore (read here), and that feeling is even more exaggerated in this time of transition.  i’m moving from my house and even my neighborhood within in the next couple weeks.  i haven’t spent any significant time with my friend family, but have been able to have good conversations with new friends i don’t know as well.  my life hasn’t be devoid of community; it just hasn’t looked the same.

i’m in no way saying i’m ok with scrapping my old situations/friends, but i do find myself in a place of needing some serious breathing room.  i look at all those things that used to be so familiar to me as though they are strangers, distant blots on the horizon behind me.  meanwhile, i keep pressing forward toward those things i’ve yet to know fully, those things that have become more familiar.

perhaps home is really a moving target.

good-bye’s and hello’s

and if you never stop when you wave goodbye
you just might find if you give it time
you will wave hello again…
you just might wave hello again.
john mayer

the New Year holiday is such a strange one, full of contradicting emotions.  on the one hand, you grieve the end of a year, and on the other you celebrate the promise of a new beginning.  you reflect over those things you wish you had done in your year, those things that it will be sad to say good-bye to.  you make new promises to make this year better, to eat better or exercise more.  you note how quickly time passes as one more December, one more Christmas, one more year is over.  you also note how slow those things you want seem in coming, that job promotion, that special person…how could it be one more December, one more Christmas, one more year without it?

i do not generally spend a lot of time reflecting at the New Year, mostly because i really enjoy doing that on my birthday, measuring my journey by the age i was and not necessarily the year.  but i do like to do a bit of goal-setting (i never use the word resolution because it seems to finite, not nearly flexible enough for my lifestyle or personality).  in that vein, here are some goals:

writing:
as i mentioned in my last post, writing has become a sort of saving grace for me.  as a friend once said when introducing me to a group, i have a “rich inner life.”  the best way for me to process is to let it overflow onto the page.  i also promised to work on my grandmother’s memoirs, i have a novel that needs some severe love and attention, and i’d like to try my hand at writing an allegory.  those are my three writing goals.

spiritual:
to be completely honest, at this stage in the journey, i’d like to quit Training School.  not because i’m anxious about it as i was at the beginning, or overwhelmed even, but because it does not seem that it could possibly have anything more to offer me.  i’m tired of it.  but it is as if i am in the middle of a 50-mile hike, right at mile 26 or 27, and to quit would mean nothing…i would have to go the way i came or continue on, it’s the same distance.  so i will continue to trudge on.  even though i see no sun here, and the rock walls climb high into the sky to block my view.

otherwise, i want to be more open to Jesus, to however he might present himself to me, be that through a loving yoga instructor or someone experiencing homelessness on the streets of Indy.  God has had me on such a journey of self-discovery and God-discovery and i look forward to pushing into those more, learning more about who i was created to be and living into that person.  i feel this is the only way to fully relate to and love those around me, to set them free to be their true selves as well.

running:
this will be a big year for running, i can feel it.  i am already registered to run the Mini in May, as are many of my friends, which will be a new and exciting experience.  i love that race and the training will be good to keep my body in shape.  i’ve also decided that i will get a star tattoo on the arch of my foot for every half i run, as a sort of trophy.  i’ve got three already to put on there…excited to have 4!

yoga:
i went to my first yoga class yesterday, a hot yoga class, and it was amazing.  i felt horrible in the midst of it as the combination of the poses and the heat worked to detox my body of too much vodka from the night before.  but as i moved through the poses, slowly and disjointed, as i breathed and began to notice the rhythms of my body, i began to feel very centered and grounded.  during one pose, the instructor asked if there was anything left to let go of, and if so to do it now.  i reached down in the depths and found my wounded heart and began to cry.  i let God hold me.

i remember reading the blog of someone i admire, who is very much into yoga, and she was recalling her “year on the mat.”  as an outsider to yoga, i had no idea what she meant.  but the mat does seem to be a place where transforming things happen, where you can come face to face with yourself and surrender it to God.

that being said, i would like to continue in the practice of yoga.  many women i admire and respect practice yoga so there must be something to it…we shall see.

so, here’s to 2011.  to yours, and to mine.
may it be a year filled with new hope,
new growth and new life.
may you find peace amidst the storms,
and love amidst the conflict.
may you not be overcome by chaos,
but find beauty in simplicity.
amen.