Finding Joy in a Whack World
In the midst of all the trauma and tragedy, I've had trouble articulating my thoughts about our whack world, which can be frustrating for a person who processes the world through writing. I've felt such heaviness, especially in the past month, but when I try to write to relieve some of the burden that weighs on my heart, it feels like ranting. I'm not adding anything to the collective conversation, and I don't want to be a ranter--another voice shouting from the fray. We've got an overload of shouting. We need more listening.
That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to listen and lean into the love that's inside my own heart.
I'm trying to find the beauty in this broken world.
I'm looking for beauty because it brings me joy. It's a reminder that God is WITH US. He is HERE--in our MIDST--we just have to take the time to notice. Even in this WHACK world, beauty still abounds.
But so does fear.
Fear is a thief; it not only robs us of our peace, but it also snatches beauty before we have a chance to recognize it--before beauty can penetrate our hearts--our minds--and open them to love more--fear less.
Fear is a hungry beast that we feed with constant streams of news, social media, and internet memes. But I refuse to feed my fear. I refuse to have my spirit sucked dry; my soul crushed; my heart made heavy by this world.
I refuse to let fear steal my joy. So I will starve the fear and feed my joy.
Joy is the antidote to fear. Think about it: How can you feel fear in the face of joy? There's a reason that God commands us to NOT fear. He knows what fear does to our hearts, our minds, our souls. He knows that it makes us HORRIBLE humans--not anything like the followers that He calls us to be. I read somewhere (I think it was on the internet, so it MUST be true) that "do not fear" is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. Coincidence? I think not...
So I'm looking hard for beauty that brings me joy to keep the fear at bay. When I see something that stirs my heart to happiness, I whisper a prayer of thanks for the small reminder that humans are still capable of beauty; I thank God for giving me eyes to see it. I pray for "Jesus eyes" each day to help me see the beauty in people's hearts--so that I can find joy.
Rather than rant about all the brokenness in our world, I'm going to tell you about some of the beauty that I've discovered in 2015. Of course, my tribe (my family, friends, and students) have brought me boundless joy. They are my #1 Joy-Givers. But it's words and time to internalize them that have also contributed to my joy. Here are some of my favorites:
My Jesus-Loving SQUAD:
These books have made me laugh, cry, and do A LOT of soul searching this year. In my head, I think of Jen, Rachel, and G as my BFFs. They are all friends in real life, and I am totes jealous, but I think they would invite me into their circle if our paths ever crossed. I read their words and think--how do you know EXACTLY what is in my head? Some times I read their words and cringe and think--WHOA, I don't know about that. But that's what friends do; they hold up mirrors--showing us the best parts of ourselves, as well as the parts that make us uncomfortable. These women help me examine the secret parts of my heart to bring me closer to God.
My Writing Journey: (Maybe joy is debatable)
It's been a year of GROWTH in my writing life. Some days I feel like I'm on top of the book mountain, and other days I feel like I'm trudging through sludge to make the words right. I finally finished my book in March and then went into revision mode. It's such a frustrating process to create something and then have to take it a part to put it back together again, which I have done THREE. TIMES. The highlight of my writing year was my trip to Nashville to attend the SCBWI Conference in September. Thanks to my mentor and dear friend Courtney C. Stevens (our relationship sprouted from a tweet), I met a fabulous writing community and got the push I needed to continue this agonizing process to publication. During the summer, I queried seven literary agents. I got six rejection letters, which make me a LEGIT writer now. But I got one encouraging response that gave me the courage to continue. I'm wrapping up the revising process, and 2016 will be the year that I query like crazy to try to bring my book into the world. And then I'll start my next story because that's what writers do. THEY WRITE. 2015 has taught me that I AM a writer.
I loved almost every book that I read in 2015 because I picked them very carefully. Because I was working hard on revision, I didn't have as much reading time, so I chose my books wisely--I only read ones that I knew I would love. And I LOVED all of these SO HARD because they made me THINK and see the world in a new, beautiful way:
I am obsessed with Spotify, which I actually discovered in 2014, but I think it still counts because it lead me to my FAVORITE find of 2015...HAMILTON THE MUSICAL.
If you don't know anything about this Broadway PHENOMENON, then you are MISSING OUT. This is the story of Alexander Hamilton (yes, the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton) whose life is told through a blend of rap and hip hop (it makes such sense, right?). As Lin Manuel Miranda, the GENIUS creator, says, "It's about America then but looks and sounds like America now." It's the most BRILLIANT thing I've heard in a long time and now ranks right up there with WICKED--which if you know anything about me you know that I LOVE me some Elphaba (just look at my blog's name).
I first listened to the OBCR (Original Broadway Cast Recording--look at me being so Broadway) in the car on a solitary trip to College Station in November. It felt like I was listening to an audio book because of the story that unfolded. If you are intrigued, watch this video that will give you more insight:
My favorite video of 2015:
My Time for Stillness:
2015 has been a big year because I turned 40. I got another tattoo as reminder of the most important lesson that I learned in my 30s--to BE STILL.
I've been intentional about starting each day with stillness. I wake up 30 minutes early to sit with my coffee and quiet (most days). I pray. I journal. I read. I use this time to calibrate my soul to see beauty in the day ahead.
I am not suggesting a "head in the sand" approach to our world. I think it's important to be aware and informed about current events, but I also think we must be very vigilant about the effects of the world on our own souls. So I challenge you to find beauty--to do things that turn your soul more to love rather than fear. Don't feel guilty about finding the beauty that brings you joy. I think it's the only way to survive in this whack world.
That's my mantra for 2016.
So here's to 2016...
May it be a year filled with