Relationship Test

I wrote this post on a flight to Paris connecting through Iceland. While I hadn’t officially started my trip, I had some difficulty getting there and wanted to share my experience.

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People say that the ultimate test of a relationship is to travel with said person. Say I’m thrown into (perhaps) foreign territory. I have endless options to choose how to spend my time: under definite time constraints (and probably money constraints). Bumps in the road are inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. It is how I choose to respond to the events of my travel experience that determine the healthiness of my relationships.

While this is all straightforward when traveling with others, what about the event that I go on a solo trip? (Like the one I’m currently on in Paris? Well, I’m still on the way, I have a layover in Iceland- we’ll get to that part in a bit). I firmly believe that how I respond to the events of my solo travel (be them good or bad) can reflect some underlying characteristics.

So I’m on my way to Paris. I booked this trip a couple of months ago because I found a reasonably priced airfare and have had the itch to go to Paris every single day since I left the city 5 years ago. (Not kidding: every single day). The hype is so real at this point: I had a full itinerary planned down to the hour (including things like picking up vintage postage stamps for my postcards that I preaddressed- YES PREADDRESSED). I was listening to my Parisian-themed playlist, featuring the likes of the Ratatouille & Midnight in Paris soundtracks. AND I was wearing the perfect minimalist athlesure outfit I could pull out of my closet for an “effortless chic” travel look. I did all of the things.

Then, things turned from 100 to 0. Real quick. Real freakin’ quick. Long & tiring story short, our flight was delayed for more than 48 hours total. Luckily by this time I had amazing friends who took me into their home, took me rock climbing, fed me, prayed with me, and acted as my travel agents to help me to book another flight to Paris. (THESE are the kind of people I like to have in my life).

During this whole process I felt so much distress. Why tho? Whyyyy?! Disappointment? Sure, of course. Sad? Absolutely. But by the time I had received that fourth delay text, my body was physically shaking and I felt ill. Part of me was torn and sad and not even wanting to go, after all this time. But the other part of me was picturing myself having an almond croissant at Cafe de Flore. It was that simple image of what was to come that kept me going, that made me wipe off hours of tears and drag my sore body to the airport on the other side of town to make this flight.

When I’m under distress- what am I saying over myself? Am I crumbling under the stress? Or am I saying that despite the circumstances that have come my way I can see the finish line and get through this with God’s patience and strength. How am I treating myself and the people around me? Am I snapping easily? Or am I the example of peace to comfort others who are under distress. Traveling alone is a relationship test for my relationship with myself and with that with strangers.

 

I can tell you right now, these last 24 hours were not hours of peace for me. There were many tears, lightheadedness, confusion. Not to mention several passive aggressive tweets (and active aggressive ones) at the airline I had originally booked.

Yes, I need to be practical. I don’t have unlimited resources to get to Paris. But I do have a will, a way, determination, and a God who is able to provide opportunities & deliver me from the stress that had consumed me. Right now, I am living out that example: I’m at peace knowing that every person I meet on this trip is a new opportunity to overwrite the stress that came earlier.

When I was waiting for the first flight, I wrote in my journal (as one does when needing to relieve some stress): “200 years ago, leisure travel wasn’t a thing. I’m so grateful that I am able to travel the world for fun because back in the day it would have taken over 2 years to get to Paris.” Whatever life throws at me, I have the choice to respond in a proactive and constructive way. I can see obstacles and a stopping point, or I can view them as another way to get a new “skill” under my belt.

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Lost in the Sauce

Everyone says be true to yourself, be who you want to be. While this is great vague advice, it often leaves me wondering what that really means. I find it so easy to jump into trends, and gravitate to what is popular, what everyone else is doing. Nothing wrong with a good third wave coffeeshop, but sometimes I take a step back and I feel like a clone. A couple years ago, I could look in the mirror and see everyone else: everyone else and not myself.

A few years ago, one of my best friends, Isabella, gave me this piece of paper to fill out. She called it an “essence matrix.” You fill in each “box” with three things for each category. (Categories are: Music, Moving Image, Avocations, Colors, Flavors, Textures,  Visuals, Plays, Literature). The end-product looks something like the picture below (or better, if your handwriting is more legible than mine!) Every six months or so, I make a new one and fill it in again. It’s interesting to see how (and if) my answers have changed over time. It is a really nice way to explore the things which impact my decisions that I simply don’t think about every day.

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“Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself,” I whisper and ponder. What did I use to love that I stopped doing becuase I was afraid I was too different, afraid the world would judge me?

More importantly what does God say about me, who I am and who I should be? At the end of the day, God’s judgement of me is the only one that matters. Not my peers, not my friends, not even my family. Do the people speaking into my life have my best interest at heart as it relates to your God-given destiny? Because trust me, my best interest for myself is not always what is best for myself.

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1 Corinthians 3:12-13 says that “now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” How I am picturing this is a house made of wood; and there is a bonfire next to the house. When the foundation of a house is built of wood, of hay, or of stubble- how does it stand against the fire? A quick change of the wind in the wrong direction and it sets the house ablaze. Once that fire finishes burning, the home owner is left with nothing.

The ways of the world are like an unpredictable wind. We do not know what the next trends will be, how the dollar will value against other currencies tomorrow, or what life changing invention will come into play. Instead of being subject to the wind- build a house on truth, what is everlasting, and what makes you grounded. If you are rooted in the ground and in truth, and the strongest winds of the world come your way, you will not be shaken.

New York City is a constant space of inspiration, influence, and change. It is all to easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing with their lives. Comparing my life to others not only hardens my heart, but it takes the focus off of myself. I no longer am focusing on the truth that God is speaking into my life, nor am I living out my unique calling, the things I feel uncomfortable doing because I am under the influence of what the world wants me to be. If I am not too careful, New York can be a place of “sinspiration,” a place distracting from truth. The only reason I am tempted at times is because my heart hasn’t changed. Those who are truly filled with the spirit of Christ cannot be tempted, just as Christ cannot be tempted. Rather, they can stare temptation and the things that are not of truth – things that do not speak to who the truly are – and say “be gone.”

While we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, sin is not in the nature of those who have devoted their lives to Christ. So while I can be true to myself, I am also subject to the nature of what I have chosen to devote my life to, what I have built my house on, and who I tell myself that I am. So what brings me joy? What brings me closer to Him? What draws others to see that Christ-like nature in me? That is what is most true to myself. Don’t get lost in the sauce: build your house on solid rock.

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Livin’ the Mundane Life

More often than not, life seems very monotonous, very routine. I often find myself trying to break out of routine becuase I get bored with doing the same thing over and over. Although I am a planner by nature, I thrive on the unexpected and variety.

I have looked at monotony the way that I feel most people see it: for its negative, repetitive connotation. I’d say to myself “I’ll be stuck doing this same thing for the rest of my life,” or ask the question “what good can come out of just repeating yourself and not learning anything new?”

What I seemed to have been missing over the years is that monotony can be seen as a discipline. By doing the same task over and over (and doing it well), I have the opportunity to build a reputation for consistency, for accuracy, for reliability. Practicing the same task over and over again can be healthy, becuase it builds habits so that you have room to grow in other areas of your life. When you become disciplined through repetition, you then gain that skill and then can graduate to bigger and better things (while retaining all that you have learned). If you move on before you mastered a skill, it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction.

Now, I have some new questions for myself. I’ll challenge myself by asking “is there anything I’m doing now that seems mundane or tedious, but is actually building my character and/or my skill set?”

Here are some close images from one of my latest drawings. While drawing each individual square seems tedious to me at first, without each window of the building, it would be incomplete.

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Life-Giving Life

When your mind, body, and soul are operating on the same page, meaning, there is a common goal, beautiful things happen. If you put your mind into a cause or a project where your heart is and your actions follow, passion ignites and things actually start to get done.
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What’s more, when you are operating within God’s will, you are on an accelerated path for the Kingdom, and you become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. When your goals align with kingdom destiny, your goals become on a fast-track.

Philippians 1:21 says “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I paused for a moment to meditate on the “to live is Christ” portion. “Is” in this context is a direct metaphor for life. Nothing you do can separate you from God, so why would you try? I am reminded of that Steven Curtis Chapman song, Jesus is Life. “The air I’m breathing, Why my heart is beating, Everything I’m needing, Jesus is life, Jesus is life.”

Jesus IS life. All encompassing, ever-dependent life. The goal is to operate as one mind, one body, and one spirit: totally and completely in sync with your God-planned purpose. “Be no longer conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test God’s will. His good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2. Just rest in those thoughts, knowing that God WANTS you to know His perfect and pleasing will for your life and He WANTS to be involved. 

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The Importance of Rest

This weekend, I had the opportunity to take a quick trip out to the beach with some girl friends. For me, the goal whenever I go somewhere for the weekend, especially the beach, is to “force” myself into a slower-paced and relaxing environment. Whether it be diving deeper into reading and prayer time (or – let’s be real – a full 8 hours of sleep).

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If I’m not careful, I end up filling my schedule with back to back activity. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good full filled social day. In fact, that is what is most tempting for me: to fill my schedule with coffee-dates or rooftop cocktails with friends. When my agenda steers from the core value or rest, I am not able to reconnect with God and feel more restless when I return to the city. Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Consciously setting aside quiet time allows me to rejuvenate and revitalize my life.

Now, I can’t always take a weekend trip, but I can make sure I set aside a day or two for rest and re-connection in my daily life. I’d rather give 100% effort for 5 days, than 70% for 7 days. And in case you were wondering about the math, it’s 500% v. 490% ;).

I’ve included some snapshots of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey, where the weekend trip was. Last Saturday morning, we stumble upon a mod 60’s – 70’s era type coffeeshop called High Voltage. The decor is very East Coast beaches meet the Pacific Northwest. I recommend the iced latte. Enjoy!

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1 + 1 = 7

Things aren’t adding up.
So many times in my life I have got a great momentum going and then I’ll stop for a bit and ask myself how I got there or where I am going next. I’ve reached a dead end and suddenly everything I have been doing doesn’t seem to add up. I have reached a point where my sense of direction is a bit cloudy. Anyone else with me on this?
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Well, first I am reminded of the story when Jesus first meets His disciples and asks them to drop everything they are doing to become “fishers of men.” Without questions, the disciples stop everything to follow Jesus, to complete their mission. But fish for men? That doesn’t make “logical” sense. To me. Let’s talk about the time when Jesus told the disciples to fish on the other side of the boat even after they had not caught anything all day (as if that would have changed something – and it DID! They caught so many fish that their nets began to break). Or, my personal favorite, the time He asked the Israelites to walk around the city of Jericho 7 days in a row (including 7 times on the 7th day) until the city walls fell down. On the surface, on paper, it just doesn’t make total and complete sense.
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If what you are doing today doesn’t make sense, it’s okay. If your vision is cloudy, ask for God’s wisdom. His eyes and His guiding hand for will provide discernment over your life. You will often experience months, even years of life where things don’t add up. It is only when your kingdom assignment is complete that you will be able to understand more the cloudy seasons of life.
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You have to have blind trust: even when the outcome isn’t quite clear or you really don’t see what is happening, you trust anyway. Becuase on the other side of blind trust, is the promise.
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Joy is a Choice

There is a difference between pretending like everything is okay, putting on a front and being genuinely joyful. I’m talking about having an unmatchable lust for life and for the Kingdom.

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It is okay to allow yourself to FEEL. To feel angry, unsatisfied, frustrated. However, in order to move forward into a season of fruitfulness I find that you have to choose happiness, faithfulness every day.
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Choose joy over everything, choose to love over everything. You will find it easier and easier to deflect hardship that comes your way when choosing to be joyful becomes second nature. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10
One of the things that has given me complete happiness and joy has been filming short clips of my favorite spots around the city. It’s important to celebrate the where you are.
Enjoy!
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Reaching Generations

Sometimes I take for granted the things that people around me have created to make my life easier or my life so wonderful. It’s easy to hold your phone in your hand, something that has been “perfected” and developed over decades of tech advancement & testing to take a picture of a classic New York monument, one that took so long to build; and not even think twice about it.
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I feel so often I take for granted the finished product of things; and don’t appreciate the time it takes to build something beautiful, something that lasts, and something people can appreciate for years to come.

My favorite building in the world (right now), the Flatiron Building, was actually envisioned and designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who worked with The Fuller Company until its completion in 1902. Unfortunately, even after working to put a dream into practice, the CEO of the company who bought the land in the 1800’s was not able to see the finished product before he died. Nevertheless, because of Fuller’s vision and investment, millions of people are able to enjoy his handiwork today.

I could study and draw this building for years, and I have, and I always find a new architectural element that fascinates me. One of my favorite things to do in the city is to sit on the chairs in Madison Square Park across from the Flatiron Building (probably with a cup of coffee in hand) and just thank God that these beautiful landmarks still stand here today.

So when you start your next project, think of the legacy you want to leave behind. Is what your working on something just for now for yourself or something generations of people can enjoy later? Be patient, and know that to produce something of quality that lasts can sometimes take more than a lifetime.
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