Future and a Hope

One of these days I will get time to talk to Anne who comes into my Starbucks and works on her journal project. I would like to ask her about herself more than the quick questions I spout at her while making her latte or wiping the tables off. She said she has journals from 1985, that is 24 years ago, and that she wished she had kept them even longer. She is working on the process of  condensing the bulk of a lifetime! I asked her what she intended to do with her it, and she said she didn’t know yet. I am interested in her project of reading and sorting through all her old journals because I picture myself doing that one day. I want to one day go back through my journals, and possibly blog entries, and reinvent myself as some conqueror and author of an autobiography.
Later though, I was thinking to myself, why would I want to write an autobiography? What would I want to share most about myself or be remembered for? How do I know that I would be a person worth remembering? What great contribution to mankind will I give? What pride that I imagine myself destined for greatness! Don’t we all want that? Yet why should I want to be remembered here on earth if our hope is on something eternal?

My favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11 often misquoted:

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

When my Dad first shared that verse of encouragement with me during one of my nights crying out of frustration during high school,  I had a misconceived idea about what that “future” meant.  I believed I should not lose hope in a God who would give me the future and success I wanted if I “honored him” in my work .  I too often viewed Him as a genie-in-a-bottle rather than the mighty God whose plans are often not our own. The “future and a hope” the prophet Jeremiah told the Israelites foreshadowed the fulfillment of the promise that God would provide them with a hope for a future out of their despair-a future with Him. Our “hope” is spending eternity with Him. In that light, what does it matter how I am remembered or if my autobiography is read? Unless my story could bring one person to Christ…

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Elaborate on a theme…

…a theme of exploring my reasons and reasoning to understand the contradictions of living a life devoted to my art and living a purpose-filled life devoted to love my God; how to rectify the two…

Building on what I began in my last post, I want to examine frustration, as I would explain it. Frustration in terms of my dance career I think I have moved past and surrendered to God; I say I am alright with understanding that I probably will never dance professionally again, yet if I am honest with myself I still want it. I tell myself it is too late; be realistic; but I still want it. It has taken a long time to be able to surrender control of it to Him, but  some days I still try to take it back into my own hands. Will I continually question what could have been and blame myself for my failure? Or will I truly move on and live in the grace God has given me to be a “failure”? I must preach the gospel to myself that God does not see me as a failure. I know He has a plan for me to glorify Himself, but it is hard to see what it could be without dance, and how I could be happy without it. Yes, I believe God is all I need, but this passion and desire in me – that I believe is a gift, why is it a stumbling block? why is it so hard to move past it? Or does God really want me to move past it? Has He really called me to give it up or is that just what Christians have told me all my life? Perhaps I must simply be willing to give it up in my heart before He can give it back to me, so that there is nothing more important in my life than Him.  Like Abraham – God told him to sacrifice his only son that God had given to Abraham and Sarah as a gift in their old age and promised to make descendants for them through this son. (Gen.22, Gal.3;9) When God told Abraham to sacrifice this son, Isaac, can you imagine what went through Abraham’s head? I would be a crying, wailing, fitful Abraham! Good thing God didn’t tell Sarah to sacrifice their son.  I wonder if it is harder for women to give things up to God than men? This is a relative question, and I am getting side tracked again…

If I accept failure and am willing to sacrifice my gift, the question is where to go next. I have built up this idea of what I wanted to be all my life, that I thought that without dance, my life would be not only a failure but a catastrophe. When I accept the catastrophe, there is nothing I can do. There is nothing I can do in my power to make it “work” to my advantage anymore.  This puts me in a place of complete complaisance and waiting on God.That is where I am right now – at the brink of catastrophe. Maybe I have been through a hurricane or two already. It wouldn’t look like it from the outside because I am finding distraction in other occupations and work, but inside my world has come crashing down as I watch my dream slide into the void. I still have  responsibility to dance in an academic setting and I am thankful for that opportunity, but it is hard since it is not my priority anymore. If it is not my priority, I wonder if I should quit completely. But God has not given me to release to quit dancing completely yet. That is why I have an underlying hope, a hope in the impossible, that He will bring me through the catastrophe and give it back to me in full joy again.

In the midst of the storm he has given me better things than I could have asked for: joy, peace, friendship, community, healing, all essential to my growth spiritually and my witness to those around me. These things help me see that there is so much more God intended for us artists than be shut up in a box or a studio creating our “art”. Through letting down my intense striving, I have opened up my heart more to people, and what is worth more than people? There is nothing worth more than a human life. I cannot believe that I would place anything in this world above the importance of people, but I did: I placed more importance on dance than on family relationships and friendships. That is no way to live, people! Because when you lose your profession or job and have no lasting friendships, that is a lonely place. God sought to preserve me from that loneliness by breaking my dreams, if you will…and I am thankful for it. Our identities have to be placed in something more than our profession or our art, and not even in our relationships or other people, but something greater. That is a blog subject for another time….

I am posting a link to a short message by Dr. Paul Zahl that encouraged me a lot this week, thanks to a sweet friend who kept hounding me to listen to it. Thanks, Carol.\”The Story of Noah\” Dr. Paul Zahl

Farewell, Darcey

She has been my idol all my life.  I found ways to use her as my subject many a high school essay.  If I could be like anyone in the world, I know immediately it would be Darcey Bussell. She is the epitome of all I have worked for and dreamed of all my life. Although she is the impossible, the near image of perfection, there is something human about her that makes me love her so.  Her impeccable technique and seamless movements consummate what I imagined real. What makes me love her so much more than any other prima ballerina is her sweet, humble spirit, as evident in interviews and books written about her. I like to think that if I meet her she would sit down and have tea with me and spare a few minutes so I could get a glimpse into her rich inner world of beauty. Just a side note…I would hope that I emulate that serene peace when I dance because of the hope I have within me from trusting in a mighty God – I don’t know whether Darcey has that or not. I hope that when I get that chance I have the courage to ask her about her life, about her illustrious stage career. If I ever held that position of esteem I would want all the little girls who were in awe of me to not be afraid to come crawl in my lap and look into my eyes and dream the dream through me then be inspired to go live it themselves.

I wish I could have been in London for her farewell performance this past June 2009 at Convent Garden. It would be a dream come true. I have only ever seen her in videos and we all know that diminishes the magic. I recall learning variations off videos of her as a young ballet student.  She has been esteemed worldwide. Darcey joined Royal Ballet of London at age 19 the year after I was born and enjoyed just over a 20 year career, gracing stages across Europe and the world.

Her farewell comes at a time where I am struggling with losing the identity I have always found in ballet. I have always been “the dancer” among friends and family. I shrink from being introduced as that now, because I am not living up to that standard. I had set backs in my career, and feel pretty stagnant right now. There are lots of disappointments, resentments, guilt and hurt paired with that dance life that make it so hard to go back and be involved in it fully again, yet the joy and peace and satisfaction that I get from dancing, when my heart and intentions are in it, make me feel so alive that I cannot live without it. It sounds sacrilegious to say that, but it is such a part of me I cannot starve it or distract myself from it for long. I love it. I cry when I talk about dance now because of the frustration I feel.  I have so many struggles going on inside my head, and there are other contributing factors as well, that I have an emotional block up against what I truly believe God made me to do. Am I in rebellion then? Am I being a poor steward of my talent by letting it lay waste? Or is there really something deeper God has called me to that I must be able to lay down all for Him including my love, my art? Then why did He create the very art I love, and put the passion and love for it in me. Christians would say I must turn it into thanksgiving and worship in order to be honoring God with my gift. But what if it doesn’t look the way they think it does? It must not be wrong to enjoy it, but I don’t want to be swallowed up in it. In ways, that lifestyle led me away from God by creating problems and obsessions in my life, yet it certainly lets me feel closer to God when I am doing what He created me to do. I used to feel such joy when I danced…but there were only tears and sadness.  It was never as free as I wanted it to feel. I figured once I perfected my technique, once I got that step right or lost 5 more pounds, my dancing would feel more free. I haven’t found it. There must be something missing. There must be another way.

I have to trust, that this time is for growth and healing and I will return to my first love. It’s either that, or a complete change in direction; stop dancing and have kids, start a pilates studio, move to New Zealand. I can’t shake the all-or-nothing feeling. I won’t settle for mediocre. all in or all out. Does it have to be this way? Is it healthy? Where does my relationship and life devoted to God fit into this? I need time, much more time, to sort through all these feelings.

10 Ways to Ride a Bike in a Skirt

"I wish I was cool enough to ride a bike in a skirt."

I had the idea for this article just in time for the May issue of Skirt magazine. Just as well now-the weather in Columbia is still both bike and skirt-friendly.

For those of us who are reducing our carbon  foot print yet still want to look feminine on occasion.

1. Buy a skort. yes, those shorts with a flap of fabric in front to make them look like a skirt that are so far out-of-style they were something we picture our moms in while gardening or driving to soccer practice with the carpool of kids in the van.

2. Try wearing running shorts under your skirt to make it a scooter. A scooter resembles a skirt all the way around, and has shorts underneath. (wikipedia.org)

3. Spandex shorts work just as well, pull them out of your closet painful as it is to remember all the aerobics classes with white sneakers and scrunchy shoe laces.

4. Wear leggings to be trendy & cover up all necessary areas. Can also be the base layer of your “abominable snowman” outfit during the winter, necessary to keep out the chill.

5. Stuff your skirt in your bag and pull it out when you get there. Bathrooms are the most discreet place to undergo your transformation, but if you’re not bashful you can pull it on over wherever you lock up your bike.

6. Take a spandex-lycra blend skirt that folds up small enough to fit in a purse and not wrinkle if you need to look dazzling and like you didn’t ride a bike to wherever you’re going.

7. Crumple up all long ends and secure them so they don’t get caught in your gears. Be creative. You can tuck them into your lap or sit on the bulk of your skirt by wrapping it around your legs like a diaper.

8. Make sure you choose one that is long enough and has enough flexibility to put your leg over the seat. or at least look around before you lift your leg.

9. Hum the song from the Wizard of Oz while bicycling in boots and a long skirt. To complete the “Wicked Witch of the West” look put a basket on the front of your bike for Toto.

10. Go into Wild West Mercantile Store and ask the clerk about purchasing a riding skirt. Make sure you get a holster for your gun too. and a cowgirl hat. Or go side-saddle. Who needs both legs to peddle?

about the pool

I realized the “illusion” I referred to was probably the simple result of my poor eyesight and that perhaps I am the only one who can see the navy blue circles in the tiles. Trying to make sense of things is something I need to be wary of. I was trying to relate my observations in the pool to some things I have begun to see in my life, but I without any direction, my observations were not much more than, well, observations. If we look for it, we can see that God’s presence is evident in the minutest detail in our lives, yet I need be careful I don’t try making analogies and lessons without God’s guidance, or it ends up being a loose cannon and not making much sense. While I can draw a lesson or analogy from nearly anything, I want to make sure it is purely what He is trying to say or teach me, which happens through prayer and He gives me a peace about it. We can rejoice in what we see God working out in our daily lives as well as His display in his wonderful creation. Too often, I feel we Christians can begin to  make everything too “spiritual” though and miss some simple pleasures in life. I like to revel with the author of Ecclesiastes sometimes, although he is rather cynical, he makes some good points about man’s life on earth.

“What profit has a worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and do good in their lives,  and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of his labor-it is the gift of God. ” Eccl.3:9-13

It’s in the Bible. I think I can justify my relaxing days of summer for once, after all that non-stop work all year long. I better be careful how I interpret the Bible… Here’s the warning to heed from today: Do not add or take away anything to God’s word or try to interpret it in your own way. We should always ask Him to reveal it to us and give us wisdom to understand it. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (1:5) Be careful what wisdom you ask for. I would like  God to give me wisdom of understanding, and the capacity to know what to do with it to aid other’s lives.

For an article on wisdom, read my dear friend Jayson Sherrod’s essays on The Pursuit of True Wisdom. It’s good stuff-deep theological and philosophical reasoning, all under guidance of prayer. It’s no light reading.

http://sites.google.com/site/thepursuitoftruewisdom/

Observations at a Swimming Pool

I love to take a couple extra strokes under the water before taking a breath so that I can keep my gaze on the tiled line that stretches the entire 50 meters of the pool. I concentrate on keeping my body centered with the middle of the line, even numbers of little square blue tiles on each side. I feel in harmony with the lap line, my body stays in perfect parallel synchrony with it as the depth of the water between us increases. In the first few strokes I notice that where each of the navy blue checker squares meet there appears a navy blue circle. There are lots of circles, like an M.C. Escher illusion. As I reach the middle of the pool, however, the white lines dividing the squares become more clear, and the cognitive illusion begins to fade. By time I reach the deep end, the hazy circles have almost disappeared. I can see that the checkered pattern is made up of many distinct squares closely placed together. The depth of the water helps me to see clearly and reveals what they really are.

How often do we fool ourselves when we are close-up to the goal, the prize, in the midst of a trying problem or situation,  by scrutinizing ourselves in our reflection in the mirror? Standing in the shallow end, we think we can see everything, but often our view is short-sided. When we reach the deep end, the side where it we can’t stand, it might be scary. We have to trust God in all circumstances, even when we can’t see anything but the deep end.   Sometimes we have to take a step back or look at ourselves from an outsider’s view to get the right perspective. It is often while we are in the deep end and feel as though we are exhausted and can’t touch the bottom that we can look back at the situation or circumstances and see it more clearly, make sense of it and get a glimpse at understanding the real reason or meaning. The distance clears things up and clears the fog that sometimes clouds our vision when we are in the shallow end. Then the walls that were in our way protected us from a pit just beyond it and guide us around it. The road might curve back around onto the same path or continue on to something better for us in the long run. The things that were so important and demanding lose their glimmer. I like to think of God as looking at the entire swimming pool, when all we can see is a few of the hazy tile squares on the bottom of the pool. Even so He sees the big picture, he see the details better than we can.

Process of Finding a Domain Name

The time it took me to find a domain name/title perhaps says something about my state of contemplation and purposes for creating this blog – fuzzy. I hope it will define itself more over time. When my friends and neighbors asked me what I planned to write about, I paused and thought for a brief second, “Jesus, dance, ballet, transformations and changing hearts”. they know me well enough not to laugh; I was serious. If writing helps me process my thoughts, then by all means do it and put all those discombobulated meanderings into a communicative form so that I can carry a conversation about it with people… Although this is mostly for myself and my own reflection, blogging attracts me because it opens up opportunities for dialogue and discussion – often times necessary for decision making and sanity. “Talking it out” or writing it out solidifies thoughts and if anything helps me clear my mind to go back and sort through the junk. I will make a commitment to myself and any friends who might read this, that I will try not to use my blog as a “mind dump” but will aim to put forth useful information that can stimulate good conversation or at least entertainment. (This is very green of me, saving some paper ;-))
Back to the naming game – my dear neighbors and roommate put up with me for oh, 2 or 3 days of trying out words and begging for suggestions, which I mostly refused, especially the suggestion to name it my despised nickname “spills McGee”. Don’t ask. So, after a couple non-social nights with my face glued to the tiny monitor, I settled on one a free domain search engine put together from words I liked.  Need I mention it was 1am of my birthday.  I was under pressure. I told everyone I was starting a blog for my birthday.

It felt all too cheesy to put “dance” in my word title, but as dance is this pervading presence in my mind, I can’t live without it or thinking about it so I just as well go with it. I’ll get all gooey and romantic about my dance passion or obsession later, but you have to understand, I have been trying to push that out of my radar and well, it just didn’t work.  Regardless, “dance” can have more connotations than simply graceful, physical movement. I see “dance” as a metaphor for my life as well – always moving, swaying, changing. “Introspection” is just a neat word for a contemplative thought process, regardless of the contents. Somehow it speaks “ethics and morals” and “intelligence”or at least a presence of knowing oneself well. Rather, I fear I give the impression of absent-mindedness frequently. Enough said about the name.

Processes of coming to a decision intrigue me, since mine are usually lengthy. I decided to start after an encounter with a friend. I had been looking for a way to make my thoughts and experiences known to be a testimony of what God has and is doing in my life. One day I will write a book, but I’m not there yet. Even my decision to start a blog wasn’t as  impetuous as I could make it out to be; it took several days of announcing it out loud to get used to the idea, and then the careful process of selecting a name. The rare case of impulsiveness is indeed an indulgence for me, although it is usually a case of responsibility or obligation. I already mentioned this a celebratory milestone for me. Last year I see as the beginning of an incline  of change and growth and healing; I want to come to the place I can share it all, but I must make sure that my vulnerability is timely so that it will be an encouragement in a more public sphere. I am looking forward, however, to continued growth and maturity in the coming year.

Very briefly, of late I have been asking God to give me a burning desire to spend time in His word and to know Him more, and He has been faithful to do so.  In the past it has taken a dramatic events or intense struggles to bring me back to the Lord and seek Him. I pray He need not run after me and bring me back to Him again, that I will dwell in His presence continually, but I know that even though my human tendencies may not let me keep that committment, He will not let me get too far away that I am ever out of His reach. God has done some amazing things in my life that I am beginning to see, and I hope He will continue His work. I know He will. His promises are true that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)