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July 2013

Los Angeles, Community & Coming Home

LA - I'll Take Care of You

Fresh off the plane from a week at home in Hollywood, I woke up at 4:30 this morning before my alarm, bounced out of bed ready to start the day. Coffee is brewing and birds are chirping, and I'm beholden to a week's respite in LA, away from the e-mail onslaught and the race to keep pace.

Periodic visits to my motherland return me to my Denver address grateful for everything from the way my house smells when I walk in, to the solid ground my life rests on here in Denver. 

LA beckons me like a siren song tempting me to forsake life in Denver in favor of the sunny horizons and the palm tree studded streets of Los Angeles. I love fashion and art, and all things trendy and novel. LA is all of those in a city. LA is iconic. From old Hollywood glamour to art deco masterpiece buildings, the city is art. Walking the streets of LA is like paging through a vibrant glossy issue of Vogue, full of fresh discoveries to be made at every turn. Except instead of informing culture like a magazine, LA creates culture. 

While I consider LA my home, because home is wherever my mom resides, I grew up in sleepy Napa, California. While Napa does harbor elitism and tourism like LA, it's an easier, unassuming, less accelerated pace of life, not unlike Denver.

Denver is the most healing place I've ever been with its all-American, we're-all-in-this-together warmth. Even after five years living on the beach, I can't picture life without crisp fall air and watching snowfall reading by the fire. While I consider seasons prerequisites for full life, there's a part of me still that loves seasons so much I want to skip all the lousy ones, which is pretty much all of January through May in Denver when I'm sloshing dirty snow out of my Chanel heels...which is an apt allegory for my life. 

California will always be my home and the Denver versus Los Angeles push-pull is exhausting, yet I'm learning to live in that tension. There's two people living inside me. One version of me is content with the suburban sprawl of Denver with it's hipster edge immune to my innate hustle, constantly serving to remind me that simplicity is the ultimate luxury. Then there's the other me, the beach girl and aspiring literati and glitterati, culture addict who lives by these infamous words coined by Coco Chanel that sit on my desk.

Coco Chanel Fashion

{Letterpress Print from Sugar Paper LA}

Denver keeps me humble, grounded, and grateful. I'm guilty of referring to Denver as "ho-hum" and "insipid," while moving here was the best thing I ever did for myself.

I'm grateful I come home to a place where "everybody knows my name, and they're always glad I came." The Cheers theme song befittingly describes my church community which is the heartbeat of my life in Denver. If I had to leave Southern California only to experience that love and that acceptance, then I'm forever grateful.

Before I moved to Denver, I didn't understand other Christians or those who managed to live in community, and I didn't think there was a place for me in that model. It never occured to me that the entire New Testament is a composition of letters to a group of people full of advice for living and sharing lives of love within the context of community. Christianity within the context of community always felt a little too hug it out for me, and it didn't fit well with what I knew of life up to that point...until I found New Denver Church.

It felt like I could breathe for the first time in years and it helped me realize I wasn't alone in the world. I have never felt such a feeling of family in all my life. I felt like I had nothing in terms of community and God brought a community up out of the ground, out of pure nothing like a magic trick. - Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

My encouragement today, is that if you're not living in community where you're fully known and fully accepted, seek it out and don't stop until you find it. It's terrifying, and exposing, and worth it. But wouldn't it be nice to have a safe place in the world to call your own, that feels like home?

If you were blessed with a loving, nurturing, whole family, then you're a step ahead of the rest of us. For me, with a less than picture perfect familial story, living in community is nothing short of redemptive. Either way, whether you've got it all or you're down to nothing at all, none of us make it through life without scars and there is nothing more healing than coming home to a place where everyone knows your name.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. 
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn't you like to get away? 
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...
and they're always glad you came.
- Cheers Theme Song

Sparkling Lives & Easy Spirituality


How do you live fully present in the moment?

Sunday and I were out for a walk with some friends when it started to downpour, right in the middle of a beautiful Sunday night. We got home drenched, read Vogue's July Issue and listened to it rain, while I beckoned inspiration and resisted the urge to compulsively eat. 

I've been struggling to write all weekend. I've went through my whole writing routine four times: coffee, candles, laptop and books open....and still no words presented themselves. No insights. No inspiration. I quit writing forever, feel like an imposter, and then start all over again. A pink wine glass filled with ice water, a passionflower candle burning bright, and a stack of books full of brilliant words refusing to weave together. 

I haven't felt inspired lately. I catch myself waiting for life to begin again, fresh and vibrant. Before I couldn't let go, I wasn't ready to see something new in life, I'm ready now. Yet, I have a feeling there's still a few lessons on the syllabus this season.

My morning devotional had this encouragement:

Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of Life.
- Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I could use a sparking surprise or two, how about you? A sparkling surprise sounds easy like the easy spirituality and instant gratification I crave. 

The practice of bringing myself back to the present moment instead of careening around in my head is not one that comes easy to me. On the one hand I work myself so hard in my career that I feel justified in wanting an easy, relaxed, convenient spirituality. Spirituality that makes me feel better instantly. But I have had a shift here in seeing that real consistent practice of eating, breathing, showing up moment after moment - that is my true work. This is what life can be. - Geneen Roth, Women Food & God

As I mature, I runderstand I can't be fully alive while numbing the pain of life. We can't numb tough feelings without numbing our ability to feel across our emotions. We can't block out pain without eclipsing joy. When things get tough it's much easier to "grab a beer and a banana nut muffin" (Brené Brown), or in my case a glass of wine and a cupcake, than to delve into the feelings themselves.

Feelings of inadequacy, insignificance, and incompleteness constantly threaten to overtake us. It's easier to distract ourselves with some shopping, compulsive eating, and a side of self-improvement. Another words, we'd rather fix some aspect of our ourselves on the outside than tackle the root cause of the feeling on the inside.

If/then thinking is easier than committing to growth for a lifetime. When I'm married, I'll be fulfilled. If I lose twenty pounds, I'll be enough. If I relocate to another city, I'll be happy. If then thinking is the superficial spirituality our culture roots itself within because it's accessible and it sells. Growth is not for sale.

I've noticed diets, decisions, and dates offer us the same thing: the instant gratification of distraction. Marketers noticed this too, and they use it on us, promising what products and services can't deliver: fixing our brokenness. We're easily distracted from the real work of showing up to life and diving into the vortex of our pain to understand who we are and what we believe, and how our current answers are messing us up. 

Cookie Monster, Living in the MomentI'd rather go on another diet, I'd rather pretend all this is about willpower and eating the right foods. I'd rather lose weight a thousand more times than truly see myself. Do the work of being aware of myself. Knowing myself. Discovering what I really believe about life, about love, about God. Geneen Roth, Women Food & God

There's nothing wrong with diets, dates, and decisions. They are facts of American life like summer, sports, and Saturday night. The trouble comes when we use them to escape, when we can't be alone, or we can't get control of our issues with food, or we endlessly mull over a decision imagining life in another place. This compulsion to leave ourselves, to escape in the idea of another person, persona, or place is intoxicating.

Wishing to be somewhere else or someone else is a waste of life and a cheap escape from the real work. Stephen Levine, a Buddhist teacher, says that hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where you are. 

Don't be wishing you were someplace else with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. - 1 Corinthians 7:17, The Message

When you don't leave yourself, a different life is lived. One that includes vulnerability and tenderness and fragility and changes the landscape - makes it verdant, wider, breathtaking - of life as you know it. Geneen Roth, Women Food & God

My encouragement today is not to trade growth for the quick fix mentality. Choose to grow, examining feelings as they come instead of working to escape them. This means walking back through pain, unraveling loss, to walk out whole, healed, and more alive. The growth opportunities came for a reason, let's not miss the lesson. 

You're already in pain, might as well get a reward from it. - Eric Thomas, The Secret to Success

Growing up is trading in our easy spirituality for sparkling lives, and that sounds like a fair trade to me.

How are you choosing to feel what you're feeling and ultimately, choosing to be fully alive?