Vignettes

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I was cold today. This is a new sensation for me in Altea. In my previous experience I was hot every day, all day. Today the sea breeze was cool and chilled each of us. Some how, we each last minute threw in a sweater or jacket just to be safe. I remember packing a yellow sweater and thinking I was crazy, “I’ll never wear that!” Today, I wore just that.

I walked the stairs again for the first time. Though, they are many, part of me couldn’t wait to concur them and build them into the routine of my day. Walking, movement and exercise are part of the gift of this place to me. This past year the movement I experienced was in my heart and not in my body. In many ways, it felt my body became paralyzed as I began addressing my heart in a new way. I had enough energy to feel, but not to move. I’m glad to be in a place where movement is a necessity and not a privilege.

Today I walked to buy stamps, make copies, purchase some materials for the group who will soon be arriving, and say hi to friends with whom I wanted to commit. I didn’t have to ask where I was going, I love knowing how to maneuver the streets which two years ago felt more like a maze than a grid of any kind. As I showed Stephanie and Cate around I felt as though I was introducing them to my town. We wove in and out and up and down, my resting face is a smile as I walk.

As the errands were run I would walk into the stores and immediately approach the person behind the counter as though I was from a small town in the Midwest. I’d smile and start talking. I of course know very little Spanish, but like Cate and Steph observed and recanted to me later, I talk as a local, an expert and completely confident in my language skills. I do not allow a measly little fact like I don’t actually speak Spanish get in the way of me making friends and having a conversation. There are too many words to be spoken and heard to let such an insignificant fact get in the way. Truth be told, I do have conversations, but I so long to be fluent. I so badly want to hear the tiny details of one’s heart and the visions of the mind. My concentration is such that I weary myself by days end from language acquisition alone. I will one day be fluent. I don’t know when or how, but I will become fluent. This is a fact.

We had staff meetings on the Terraza this afternoon. Together we listened to the story of Edge and the story of Arianna, Edge’s founder. We then went over the calendar of logistics for the next month. The calendar is full. As soon as the students arrive our days will be filled with relationships, creating, teaching and walking alongside a group of up to 30 participants at one time. I am excited and after the logistical meeting, feel grateful we have one and ½ more days until the first person’s arrival. There is still much to be accomplished. Finishing up the details feels like squeezing the final clown in an overstuffed Volkswagen Bug. It will all get done, but the final push takes a little effort.

I moved into my home for the month tonight. It is perfect. The staff will all be staying together. It sits right in the middle of the oldest part of town and the most vibrant. We are surrounded by cafés and one of my favorites, which my friends Sara and David own, can be seen from my window. I sit in my bed as I type, hearing chatter below. It matters not that it is in Spanish, restaurant chatter, in whatever language, all sounds the same and holds the same relational energy. Forks and knives hit the plates, glasses clink as toasts are made, chairs are moved and laughter echoes. I love it all. When I look down I see those gathered at the outdoor cafes and when I look up I see the Old Church, for which Altea if famous. She is a beautiful building, which holds a story so rich in history it dates prior to the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. I look at her and feel small. She has seen so very much, her story is grand and old and full of terror, grief, joy, sorrow, destruction and resurrection. I find comfort in her presence and remind myself that I too belong to a grand story.

A cat runs across the roof of a neighboring house. Birds fly to their nests tucked into the rounded terracotta tiles, roofing each home. Geckos scurry across building surfaces and pigeons with painted wings nest on near by roof tops. Everything has color. Every where I see life.

After we settled into our house we hosted our first meal. Seven of us sat on top of our roof sharing stories for hours. We laughed, cried, shared joys, difficulties and sorrows. We told our stories to remember good and to step into the stories of those with whom we’ll serve for the next four weeks. It is a beautiful thing to see strangers become friends through storytelling. Tonight was no different. Just over 24 hours ago, most everyone on staff was a name on a shared email list. And tonight, we are friends, brothers and sisters and coworkers living out of blessing to be blessing.

I no longer breathe out difficulty to breathe in good, but both breaths are filled with good.

We ended the night recalling the story of Joshua 4 and the Israelites crossing the Jordan and building an alter to remember all that God has done. I write this email with the same intent. I write to remember. I write to include you in my remembering. I write to invite you into the story of what is taking place here.

Thanks for remembering with me. What do you want to remember from this day? Take time to share it.

Day 7 of Truth telling: beauty, space and Steam

photo-3Today my truth is:

I function better when I’m surrounded by beauty. Today I’m sitting in my new favorite spot in Denver, Steam. It is a little espresso shop on Pearl Street. This street holds a quaint feeling that reminds me of movies. In the summer a local farmer’s market closes down the street and people peruse the produce while wearing their patagonia gear, walk their dogs and talk about their latest outdoor adventure. In the fall, the trees that line the streets begin to loose their leaves, like confetti falling on the passers by. The crisp air kisses the faces of those walking in and out of one of a kind boutiques and people hold their coffee’s as hand warmers. The street itself invites inspiration. My mind creates scenes and I smile as I piece together stories of the characters who dawn the street. I love it here.

Steam is a beautiful corner of the world. It is small. The design is simple, understated, it settles me down as I breathe in and out. Windows from floor to ceiling dawn nearly every wall. The light pours in flooding the room with so much light that the only necessity for lighting is aesthetic. And, let me tell you, the light aesthetic is perfect. A simple blend of masculine and feminine, mixed metals and shapes. The walls are a mixture of brick, lightly stained wood in shades of grey and blue. The walls are a simple and muted background to the life and color brought in by those who find themselves around tables. There is always one pop of color and life against the neutral backdrop, a bunch of lilies placed on the long community table. This is where I sit today.

I absolutely delight in this little shop.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area I had several places where I would go to fill inspired. On Saturdays I’d go to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. In the fall I loved going to 4th street in Berkeley. Chestnut street in San Francisco. Main street in Danville and down town Lafayette were places that also inspired me. Even now, as I type and remember I sit taller, smile and actually soak in the thought of the experience.

I think I am inspired by environments that hold aesthetic beauty, life and a complete sensory experience. Environments are important to me and they have a way of effecting my mood. When the environment inspires, I feel it and I too am inspired. When an environment is drab and colorless, I too fight feeling drab.

When I’m surrounded by beauty I connect with my Creator. I sense His presence. Environments such as these actually speak of life and beauty and such things are hints of God. I think, in some ways, this is why I function better when I’m in beautiful spaces. For it is in these places, where I easily see evidence of the beauty of God and feel inspired to co-create with Him.

What inspires you? What simple things cause you to function at a higher level? Where do you find God in a simple reality?

Today, look for this truth in your life and then visit a place that reminds you of your Creator.

Just the beginning: 25 lessons from my time in Spain

IMG_7001My time in Spain is rapidly coming to an end. I can already feel the shift in my spirit as I look to what is next. I’ve settled into a good pattern here in Altea. I’ve established good friendships. I’ve lived a very healthy life as I’ve eaten well and worked out daily. I’ve made it without being stung by stingrays or jellyfish in the Sea. I’ve spent good time with Jesus and I’ve planned ahead for my fall back in the States. I want to be able to leave Altea having completed the work I came to accomplish and to be prepared for life back in the States so I can enjoy my travels without anything left lingering in my mind.

As I reflect on my time in Altea I’m thankful for that which I’ve been reminded of, lived into or learned. Here’s a brief look:

1. Mission is not something we go off to do, it is a way of living. This can not be said enough. When mission is something we travel to participate in we actually miss mission. Mission is a way, not an event! There are times when we must travel to experience mission in other parts of the world, but on a whole mission is not something one has to travel to participate in!

2. Significance in impact or work is not determined numerically or by recognition. Significance is a matter of the Kingdom. When we pursue Him and His way and our work flows out of this pursuit our work is always significant.  Loving is always significant.

3. Speaking is only a small part of communication: Smiles, a generous heart, a kind spirit and love go far beyond words and communicate the truths one believes.

4. Making life change for the approval of others will ultimately fail. Making life change as a result of being self controlled, driven by the Spirit and out of love, will remain and will transform the whole person.

5. Friends are easily made when every person we come in contact with is seen as the image barer of God that they are.

6. Being led is a gift, when being led by a good person. Being led is a part of the feminine journey. (It is also a part of the masculine journey, but I am learning things from my perspective and I had to learn how being led was a part of being feminine.)

7. Dancing really is freeing

8. Truth really truly sets a person free. And when truth invades one part of a person’s life, all parts begin to submit themselves to truth, freeing the total person.

9. Striving is useless. Submitting is powerful.

10. There is much to the feminine journey and I’ve embraced much of mine.

11. I like tomatoes

12. Being divided in heart will always effect ones contentment.

13. One does not put on or wear beauty or femininity, one’s beauty and femininity are a result of an internal belief.

14. The sea is always beautiful until jellyfish come to town.

15. Laughter is healing and is a beautiful counselor

16 . Generosity is contagious

17. Seeing people, really seeing people will often result in loving them

18. The sun is good for the soul

19. There is a small difference between complementing one’s purse in Spanish and actually calling them a nice purse.

20. There is a small difference between complementing one’s outfit in Spanish and actually calling them a nice outfit.

21. There is a small difference between complementing one’s hair in Spanish and actually calling them nice hair.

22. You get the point

23. Being honest about one’s life will open the door for others to be honest about their own.

24. The table is redemptive

25. God is jealous for us. He has a deep deep desire for all people, everywhere to know him. God is good and God wants us! He wants us! All of us! All of the time.

There are many more lessons learned, both serious and silly. I’d love for you to ask. I’d love to share them with you. I look forward to seeing how these two months of my life will shape the many years to come.

Thanks for going on this adventure with me.

So I went dancing

profile-imageI stared at my closet, the choices were slim as one can only have so many clothes with them as they travel. The moment seemed rather important. I chose the bright yellow sundress as it was the best dress to twirl in and I was told that I should choose a dress I like to twirl in. The dress fell on me as if I were wearing someone else’s clothes who was much larger than me, but it’s what I had.

I walked into the bathroom, put up my hair, put on a little make-up and found the right jewelry to complete the outfit. I was ready!

There was knock on the door and I grabbed my last things and headed out the door. Tonight I was going to live into freedom, I thought to myself.

For on this night, I was going to dance.

For me, dancing has been something that I’ve kept myself from, because I’ve had so much brokenness around my body and dancing… well dancing is all about the body.

As I came to Spain I knew that I would dance. I knew that I would at some point put on the dress, wear the hair up and ready myself to go step into something new and this was the night.

I got in the car with my friend and three of her friends from Altea. The five of us headed off to Benidorm where I would dance salsa for the first time. I was ready, excited, nervous and momentarily tempted with thoughts of nervousness and timidity.

The club was not that full as the clubs here don’t really become active until well after 2 in the morning. The music played and I watched as women and men would take the floor and dance with such grace, confidence and sensuality it was as though they were all talking, but no words were spoken.

Salsa, itself is quite sensual. It is a dance that is felt deep within.

As I began dancing I was in my head too much. I wouldn’t feel the music, I’d try to think it. I would do my best to move to the rhythm, make the right steps, keep eye contact and try really hard not to bump into any of the people around me. I was all in my head and I had no heart at all. I couldn’t tell you what music was playing. It was all in my head.

I found that I would take on the qualities of the person with whom I was dancing. If the person led with confidence I too would be confident. If that person was clumsy I too was clumsy. I danced with a sense of anticipation for something good to happen. I danced as though I knew in just a few moments I would soon catch on. The catching on seemed slow and seemed to be more or less like my Spanish skills. I have a lot of desire but not a lot of skill.

I stood near our table watching the men and women fill the floor with movement and grace and story. They were beautiful. Then, it happened. A very handsome spaniard came over to me and asked if I’d dance with him. He was strong and had a smile that went on for miles. He led me to the floor and I straightened my posture and warned him that I was very new to salsa and that I was going to need a lot of help. He went on to say with a smile, “It’s okay I will be your teacher.”

He then led the dance. It was an amazing experience. It was as though I’d been dancing all of my life. With each movement he led me with strength and confidence. He led me as though I was a part of him. He led as though I was actually an extension of his body. It amazed me. With his every move I somehow, without words, knew where to go and how to respond. It amazed me. I actually wondered if I had danced before because it was seemingly so easy for me.

Let’s back up. For years and years I have wanted to dance and I’d only dance with other girls and I’d always lead. There was an apparent lack of men in my dancing life. And so I picked up the slack. So being led was a new and scary concept for me. He might make me look like a fool. If I lead I could be in control. With the man leading it was vulnerable. I was vulnerable.

But here I was, with a man who was strong enough to hurt me, and gentle enough to hold me and confident enough to lead me and I followed, becoming the prize that I’d seen other women live into all night. I was now that woman. I was the prize. And this man I’d never met was now going to show off his prize.

With each step he gave instruction, he spoke encouragement and he asked questions. At one point he spun me and I went the wrong direction, which for those of you who know me, you know that isn’t too much of a surprise. But his response was astounding. He apologized to me. I made a mistake and he apologized! What was this?! He then said, “If I was doing my job well, you would always know exactly what to do. So, it is my fault that you went the wrong direction.” I was floored.

Everything he did gave me confidence to be and dance with freedom, knowing he would take me where he wanted me to go. For the next few songs he and I danced together and with each dance I became more and more confident. His leadership brought out my confidence and I was so encouraged by it.

I didn’t really think about how powerful the experience was until I was later reflecting on it with one of the girls in the house. In my life I have been the leader more often than not. I have had to know how to do things and how to come up with solutions and I take the brunt of any wrong decision. And here I was, in one dance, being invited to follow. Not because I’m not capable, but because I was the prize.

There I was, in an uncomfortable situation, totally secure, because I was being led, truly being led. In one dance I felt peace. I felt cherished. I felt seen. I felt valued. I felt known. I felt feminine. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I was taught, held and led and I was free, in every way. The dance will not be forgotten. Nor will the metaphor it held. I will go again. I will dance again. I will become a better dancer and by becoming a better dancer I will actually become a better follower.

And being a follower it turns out, is pretty free.

A day of rest

968839_10152975071055004_1090486230_nI woke up to the shine beating in the window. It was hot and the morning had just begun. I made my way down the terra-cotta stairs to four students curled up, still in dream land. They are tired. They have explored and soaked in so much culture and experience that though they want to be awake for hours can not help but fall asleep the instant their heads hit their pillows and slumber until they are forced to wake up by an outside source. Soon noises filled the downstairs. Their voices went from  being slurred and half awake to loud and boisterous as they laughed about the previous days events. We laugh a lot in our house. (They have not yet fallen in love with my jokes, but I’m working on it!)

One by one they left to go experience Spanish church culture for the first time. All of the students were divided into three groups, each going to a different church. Three of the students from my house had to take a train nearly an hour away to go to their church. As each group left the house became quiet and I got some much needed fully alone time. I breathed in deep, taking a look around my room and once again being struck by my view. The water never ceases to amaze me. It is as though the sea were made to be a patchwork quilt with all shades of blue. There are patches of blue, turquoise, aqua-marine, sky blue and a deep sea blue. They move in a continuous and rhythmic motion as though they look up to a sovereign conductor, who directs the sea as though it were a choir singing in 8 part harmony all in the rhyme. I love it. I’m moved by it. My soul sings to it.

I decided to do laundry, a simple task that at home is one of my least favorite things to do. But here, for some reason, the simplicity of the laundry is one of my favorite things. I love the smell of the fabric softener as I hang each item on the line. I smiled once again as if I were a character in a play. I then made a breakfast of caramelized onions and eggs and savored the flavor as I enjoyed the silence of my home.

I could not wait to spend some time with Jesus. Though I’m here on a trip to walk with college students in their own spiritual formation, I have felt a strange distance between me and Jesus. It feels like the kind of distance one experiences when they live in a different place from their best friend. Though they know their friend is there and close and the relationship is in tact and secure, there is just a missing from being separate from their loved one.

I needed to be with Him.

I took time to write, to listen, to pray, to cry. My heart is much like the sea, a patchwork of colors of experiences, thoughts, new ideas, old habits, memories, hopes, dreams and questions. And they all flow in motion as they look to their conductor. But let me tell you, if even just one of the patches doesn’t submit to the direction of the great conductor, the rhythm is off for each part. Today, I wanted to once again submit to the direction of my conductor. One by one I laid my thoughts, experiences, memories and the like to His care and peace swept over me.

The peace was rich and good and it rocked me to sleep. I woke up to the sound of people coming home from their church excursions. We talked a bit, did our separate work and eventually the last group came home. The three of them; Claire, Brianne and Donald came upstairs and we chatted about our days and made a plan to go to the sea shore.

We walked down the street to the shore and laughed and listened and played. Once on the shore, we made a plan to swim out to the rock bar which rests a little over 100 yards away. We laid down our towels on the rocks. (Yes, rocks, not sand. The beaches in Altea have rock that is much like river rock covering their banks. Not the most comfortable, but for today it did its job.) I laid and cared for our belongings as they swam out to the bar and back, then I made the swim myself. It was good to be in the water.

Once I got to the bar, I stood on a rock and listened. I felt as though I were connecting with the mystery of God as I looked down at the water. The sea is vast and full and beyond understanding. It is powerful and full of life. As I breathed in the air and the smells of the sea I breathed in the life of Jesus. He too is vast and full and beyond understanding. He too is powerful and full of life.

I felt alive.

I swam back to shore. It was a more difficult swim than the swim out. The tide kept pulling me back and I kept pressing forward against its pull. Soon on the shore I laid covered by the sun, until shadows washed over us.

We headed back up the hundreds of stairs to our home. Donald had discovered a new way that he wanted to take us. It was beautiful. Maybe it was beautiful because of the geraniums. Maybe it was beautiful because it was different. Maybe, it was beautiful because I was with these two students whose hearts amaze me.

We stepped in our home and each have rested from a long walk and long swim.

I once again sit in my room, looking out at the sea, which is now a very light grey blue color, and am calm. I know my Jesus is with me. There is still much to say and hear from Him, but I am thankful for a day to be. A day to be with my Jesus and to be with these students who remind me of him.

(Tonight I’m going dancing!)

God who is good… created

blending-the-elements-of-creation-In the beginning God created.

God is good and God is King.

The stage is set, a story is unfolding. God, who one comes to know through the text of the story, is wildly good and He is King. He is sovereign and He is the ultimate authority. This God who is good acts. His very first action is the fifth word of His story. God created!

With poetic word and rhythm the story of creation unfolds.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formlessand empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered watershe called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Take a moment to read it again. A beautiful poem, conveying the purpose and intention of an almighty, thoughtful, intentional, and sovereign God.

The picture painted of creation is one that declares the character of God and his intension with his creation and both are good.

What stands out to you as you read the story? What do you notice from the text? What do you learn of God? Creation? Rhythm? People?

I’d love for us to learn from one another as we read and listen.

Upside down God

Listen

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him; shouting, “Hosanna!” Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming seated on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:12-15

To you I am an upside down God. I do things so contrary to human logic. I reveal myself not as you think I should, but as I know to be best. I am subtle when you think loud works best and I am grand when only small is requested.

It is not yours to know why, but it is yours to believe in me. Oh my love, look for me and worship me. The echo of your worship will dance through the cosmos joining the symphony of creation whose job is to continually lift up my name.

Hosanna! Hosanna! A word created only for me. Glory and Blessing are words only accurately used when attached to my name.

I am matchless in every way. I am full of good. I am abounding in grace and I love to hear my children sing. I dance along with your words.

Yes, my love, I at times come on stallions and other times I come on donkeys. It is not the conduit that brings me which is to be searched out, no it is me. So seek me. Believe I am to be found. Watch, look and listen and I who am God will awaken you to me.

Pray

I pray that you will know the dance of Jesus over you as your worship.

I pray that you will be awakened by Holy Spirit to God who is at work all around you.

I pray that you will be encouraged to seek Jesus in all things and that you would look to Him for his unveiling.

I pray that you would teach others to see Jesus.

Live

Grab a friend and for one week, together, keep track of every way you encountered the character of God. Share your lists at the end of the week over a cup of coffee and celebrate God’s daily revelation and his matchless character!