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January 2014

December 2013

Reflections on 2013: Clarity & Commitment

Champagne Toast Candle and Erin Condren Planner

Happy New Year's Eve!

Before we champagne toast at midnight tonight and open the book of 2014, let's take some time to reflect on 2013. 

Do you ever think, what is my life? This is not what I signed up for. I wanted success, not sitting behind a desk waiting for the clock to strike five. I wanted romance and adventure, not uncertainty and change. I wanted to look great, not near religious trips to the gym. But more than anything, I want it to all make sense.

We’re taught there is no success without work, no romance without risk, no beach bodies without sacrifice, but no one told me there is no clarity in life without commitment. Until I read this, no one told me to stop waiting for it all to make sense. Like all the great lessons that don’t come with a college degree and a monthly student loan payment, I learned this one the hard way in 2013.

I spent 2013 torn between Denver and LA. On January 1st, 2013 I read this verse as directed by my devotional Jesus Calling

I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out –
plans to take care of you, not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.
 I’ll turn things around for you and bring you home
to the place from which I sent you off into exile.
You can count on it.
{Jeremiah 29:10-14, The Message}

It spoke so clearly into this feeling of living as an expatriate in Denver, exiled from my home in California. I run on glitter in a town that offers me granola. Everyday I miss the California hustle, the work ethic, and the glamour, yet I love how the people of Denver know what's important in life. In 2013, I complained about the weather in Denver and how it snowed until May, though I know “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” {Psalm 118:24}. I complained about my city, but I’ll plainly tell you this is where God called me. Then I wondered what happened to my hope, I craved the next best thing, the answer to my issue.

This is a symptom of the human condition, we're made to long for something more. Sometimes this longing  leads us to conclude that we married the wrong person, and therefore, we fell out of love. When in reality we stopped committing to love when the feeling of love receded. I thought I must be in the “wrong city” when the novelty and adventure, and that burning desire to make it (ironically enough, because I made it) wore off Denver. In reality, I got lazy and stopped exploring. I stopped getting out to see the city and its people, waiting to have it all figured out. As humans, we’re made to long for something more. Christians are not immune to this longing, though we’d tell you Jesus is the something more.

I thought it was home that I craved. The City of Angels looked like hope. I longed for the return of that spark, that feeling that just around the bend, life will get good again, fresh and exciting. It was a four year itch in my marriage to Denver, an endless compare and contrast, and an attempt to discern where I belong, desperately seeking resolution when life itself is living in tension. Life does not resolve.

I believed the myth that clarity preceded commitment. This myth propagates our culture, especially Christian culture. The myth tells us we need to undergo a defining, kairos moment before taking a step, before packing the boxes and moving, before we can be devastatingly honest with ourselves, before we can bleed authenticity and live freely.

I bought into this thought pattern and subconsciously, yet very intentionally put life on hold. I was waiting for it all to make sense when all the while clarity does not precede commitment. In fact, it's the opposite, commitment proceeds clarity.

We want to know all the details before we commit to a city, a church, a career, or a partner. I want to think, learn, and deliberately choose an outcome independently, and for myself. Yet, I know living in Denver for five years and living in Southern California for five years only made the decision between the two grow in complexity. Knowledge breeds complexity, but clarity does not sire commitment.

After seven months of waiting, clarity never came, so I chose to re-commit to Denver. Not because of any certainty, or because LA stopped pulling on my heart, but because I read this quote by Eugene Peterson...

The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the …moment.

…and realized it was time to take life off hold and turn the page of the story.

We are the characters and God is the author writing our stories into His much bigger story. God sets the scene and narrates the plot, introducing characters, allowing conflict, climax and conclusion. I’m an aspiring writer, and I want to write the next page of my story, not read it. But the story is not mine to write, it’s only mine read. I rebelled and chose not to turn the page, but it didn’t change the next page.

I'm 27 surviving my return to Southern California, learning to live in life's tension, and with the longing for home that lives in all of us. I'm walking into 2014, with the understanding that clarity does not proceed commitment, and that there's great beauty and mystery in not knowing what will happen next.

If we’re praying and leaning into what God is trying to do in us and in our lives, we’ll eventually end up where we’re supposed to be - in the right town, in the right community, in the right arms. In our culture, clarity is overrated and commitment is underated. When in fact, it is our commitment that leads to our clarity. Life is a long, slow grind that sparkles and burns, ignites and flickers. We can't hit the pause button while we figure it all out. Life is learning to let go, learning to live fully, and love freely. 

Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.
But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
{John 12:25, The Message}


The Library 2014

The Library

This post is for us aspiring literati. If you don't like big books and you cannot lie, I'll be back tomorrow with some reflections, and Wednesday we'll talk resolutions and living well in 2014. But for now, let's talk books.

At the start of each year, I pick a book to read intentionally each month of the year and a daily, morning devotional to read with coffee each morning. These are the books burning a hole in my bookshelf. Each time I glance up and see their titles staring me down, I silently promise to read each one next (allegedly). 

First let me say, if you find this list overwhelming, I get that. I'm an aspiring writer, and rule #1 of aspiring writers is to read authors that inspire you. Words are my passion. Plus, my simple, single, early-rising life, affords me the luxury of spending the first two hours of every day reading and writing. I jump out of bed every morning with the hope of extra time alone with words and the turning of pages.

Without further ado, here are my picks for 2014:

{Morning Reading}

Hope for Each Day Morning and Evening Devotions
Billy Graham

Hope for Each Day is a combination of Billy Graham's two devotionals Hope for Each Day and Wisdom for Each Day. From Goodreads, "Each morning readers can prepare their heart and mind for what lies ahead, and then process the day's events every evening in the presence and fullness of His grace." I love this idea of morning and evening devotionals and the God-centeredness it cultivates. This year, I read Jesus Calling each morning, which I loved and would recommend. One caveat is there were days it left me wanting something more and deeper, and less token and trite. Then there were days Jesus Calling met me right where I was, with God's voice echoing off the pages.

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
Sarah Ban Breathnach

This book is Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled meets Ann Voskamp's One Thousand GiftsIt's a "daybook" combining the timeless wisdom and crucial gratitude necessary for living and loving well.

{Monthly Reading}

{January}

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society
Eugene Peterson

{February}

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Donald Miller

{March}

Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter
Compilation

{April}

I Am Malala
Malala Yousafzai

{May}

Be the Miracle: 50 Secrets for Making the Impossible Possible
Regina Brett

{June}

Daring Greatly
Brene Brown

{July}

20 Something Manifesto
Christine Hassler

{August}

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling

{September}

Creating A Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know
Victoria Moran

{October}

The Fire Starter Sessions
Danielle Laporte

{November}

Bread & Wine
Shauna Niequist

 {December}

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent & Christmas
Compilation

If you're wondering why this list is solidly non-fiction, it's because I'm in a book club for my fiction fix. Our Book Club decides what to read as a group, so it's a surprise what we'll read each month. Last month we read, The Light Between Oceans. This month we're reading The Painted Girls. For February, I'm hoping we read The Monument's Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, so we can all go see the movie when it comes out.

Since I made this list, there are already new books I cannot wait to read, such as Chanel Bonfire and The Toa of Martha:  My Year of LIVING, Or Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off the Dog. I'm easily distracted by new, shiny objects, this list pulls me back in and helps me stay focused on reading the books I already own and keeps me from making my Library Wishlist on Amazon obsolete.

If you like the idea of picking out books to intentionally read in the new year, figure out how many books you typically read and then make it no more than a slight stretch. Don't overdo it and then feel like you're coming up short. We're reading to learn and grow, not to earn a degree. One thing I love about Goodreads, is that it calculates how many pages and how  many books you read each year. (Side note: If you're a book junkie like me, hop on Goodreads and friend me! I love finding new books to read and following what my friends are reading.) 

Julia Cameron, an acclaimed creative genius and a prolific writer says, "It is not excessive outflow that damages artists so much as increased inflow. Without the time and space to metabolize our impressions, we could easily become flooded by too many stimuli."

If the inflow is excessive, and it's damaging our creativity instead of enhancing it, we simply trim the list and defer a few books to 2015. "Easy does it" doesn't mean calm down, or taper your dreams, it means easy achieves it, easy gets the job done. Growth and change are slow and steady marches, not hard and fast marathons.

What are you reading this year? Let's raise our coffee mugs to reading through 2014.


Christmas Home Tour!

Merry Christmas from Denver

Good Christmas Morning! I hope you awoke to something lovely under the tree, I know Sunday did!
 
Sunday Under the Pink Christmas Tree
 
Every year it happens, but December was a blink! My little site was neglected this month, but my commitment to you is to be back in full effect on Monday. In the meantime, if yah missed the Denver Apartment Update: Christmas Edition, here she is:

I'm off to a convivial Christmas brunch for some sparkly champagne.

Have a merry little Christmas, see you Monday!