Success is Relative

To be honest, the last few months have not been the easiest, creatively. I have had a whirlwind of ideas, concepts, next steps if you will, floating into my mind (some of which are better than others), and that just where they have stayed. In my mind. Personally, I can be intimidated by the sheer volume of other people creating things, it makes me not want to do anything ever. 

The allure and vision of becoming successful one day is slowing fading out of my mind and time just seems to go by: I’m standing still, slowly turning in a panoramic manner, and everything else seems to be moving in hyperlapse. Sound familiar? If not, let me paint you a better picture (complete with some sad piano music, a black and white filter, and all) : Standing Still.

I have to ask myself then: where am I getting this definition of success? Who is creating that for me? And why does that definition apply to my life? Long story short: it doesn’t.

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The world’s definition of success is actually so vague and purposeless that it makes me frustrated for actually falling for it. I didn’t even realize where I was feeding my soul information from until I started to dig deeper.

In the context example Google uses for its definition of success (meaning popularity and wealth), the sentence it gives is “the trappings of success.” I’m sure you know as well as I do that the feeling of entrapment can come hand and hand with success. But the definition I care to explore more about, the one I want to continue to meditate on is “the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose.”

We are all created for a purpose. Is that for us to know right away? Maybe. But at the very least, it is for us to figure out along the way . As we continue to grow more in our faith, we discover more about ourselves on a daily basis. This means trying on a daily basis. This means failing on a daily basis. But it also means one step closer to your own personal success on a daily basis.

Success does not look the same for a woman who was born to raise 3 children to be future leaders of the world as it does for me. It does not look the same for a woman who is a teacher during the day and attending night school so she can advance her research studies. It does not look the same for the lawyer working until 2AM in the high rise in Midtown Manhattan. It does not look the same for the athlete training 6 hours a day and making sure she gets 8 hours a sleep a night so her body can recuperate.

Success is setting reasonable goals for yourself within your own lane. Only you and God know your own limits; and you have to be honest with yourself. This is something I know I need to work on. I will be either all in or not at all. Lately, it has been a not at all mindset, which has left me feeling discouraged and left behind. If that’s you too, that’s okay. As you grow in your skills and abilities to become autonomous, your limit and capacity to tackle more responsibility increases.

That definition of success that I mentioned earlier (the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose)? I think I want to rewrite it to say “The accomplishment or aim of a purpose.” You may never been truly feel like you are “done.” But we continue aiming, because we will always be called to a Higher purpose.

Don’t look for the success that will entrap you. Look for the kinds of success that will propel you into your unique purpose. Own your own definition of success.

 

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Use Your Advantage

Sometimes I get so frustrated with my life because I often feel like I am stuck. Things just really aren’t moving along as fast as I would like them to and not how I imagined them to. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands and get more in control of my “destiny” so to speak.

No matter how many times I get disappointed and anxious (because believe me, it WILL happen again), I know that I am where I am for a reason. And while what I can be going through is frustrating for me, it may actually be to my benefit in the long term.

Take Joseph, for example. His brothers hated him. threw him into a reservoir, and THEN sold him into slavery. After that, he was sold to Potiphar (guard and official of Pharaoh at the time). For awhile it seemed like Joseph got a break. He was entrusted with Potiphar’s estate and was handed many responsibilities and it says that “from the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).  So…. a pretty sweet setup.

But just when you think Joseph had a breather, things began to go south real quick. Potiphar’s wife tricked Joseph by threatening to tell her husband he was sleeping with her… unless he slept with her. What a Catch-22. When Potiphar found out that Joseph allegedly “slept” with her, Joseph got thrown into prison. (If this was me, at this point, I would have thrown in the towel. Like HOW ON EARTH is there room for recovery after this?)

While Joseph was in prison, he was met by the Pharoah’s officials: the cup-bearer and the bread-maker (who were also imprisoned). One night, both officials had dreams that neither one could interpret. Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (Genesis 40:8). After he successfully interpreted the dreams, Pharaoh restored the cup-bearer to his rightful position. Years passed, and the cup-bearer had forgotten all about Joseph in prison until one night Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’ (Genesis 41:15-16).

Joseph successfully interpreted the dream. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:39).

Well. ALLLLLL that is to say is that we all experience ups and downs as we walk through life operating in faith. So stay the course and use what is advantageous in every mountain and valley. If Joseph had not used the advantage of diligence in his work, he would not have been entrusted by Potiphar to take care of his estate. If Joseph had not used his advantage of hearing God and being SO in sync with the Holy Spirit while he was in prison, his journey would have likely ended there.

The most important thing to remember is that I am placed in a position of advantage because God has put me there and that favor, that advantage follows me.  “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:20-21). No matter what sphere of influence I am placed in, and for however long, it is because God has curated this position specifically for me. Did it seem like an advantage for Joseph to be thrown into prison? Not at first.

Learning to take the perspective of the advantage is to your ultimate benefit. As I look around me, I ask myself “what is my advantageous about the life I am living in this moment?” Because if I only live and worry about the future, I am missing out on the precious moments and people God has placed right in front of me. How can I possibly expect God to entrust me with the things I am praying about for the future if I am not nurturing the season I am right now? I can’t build a solid foundation coming form a place of worry.

So if I’m frustrated about being single: my advantage is that I have time to grow more into the woman who God has called me to be. When I’m frustrated about my job, my advantage is reminding myself of my job’s benefits (the short commute, great coworkers). And when I find myself frustrated about my finances, I look back to see how far I’ve come this past year (paying off all debt, starting a savings account) and know that while it’s small progress, it’s still progress.

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What about my day, my week, my life doesn’t seem to be working to my advantage? How can I look at this situation and say “well, it didn’t look like an advantage….. at first.”  As I head into the rest of this week, if I get upset or flustered about something I can ask myself: “what is my advantage?” “how do I have the upper hand in this situation?” “what am I currently doing that is honoring the situation I am in?” and “how can I use that advantage to make someone else’s life (and not just my own) a little bit easier?” I never know what blessing can become of it.

 

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Two of the Biggest Mistakes I Have Made

Mistake No. 1: I think I can change people.

“Wait..then why do I even do what I do?” “How can I make an impact?” “What is the point?” I ask myself.
At the end of the day, the most I can be to someone is someone of influence. And that is enough. By being there, by sharing what I am passionate about, my sharing my faith, just my demeanor and presence can have an impact on someone. I can’t twist their arm, get inside their head, and create a change. Lasting change is a gift from above; and it comes from within. So in the meantime, I can be the change that I want to see in others. At the very least they will observe that I do things differently, and perhaps become influenced by the example that I set.
As it pertains to myself, I find that it is the closest circle of people I associate with that influence my actions (for the better, or the worse). Which, yes, can cause me to change overtime, but true change comes from within. I’m often a stubborn person, I don’t like change. Once I get settled into a routine, I am pretty tight fisted about it. But because I am saved by grace, there is a world of opportunity for me that exists in the sphere of change.

Mistake No. 2: I think I can’t change how I feel.

Let me start off by saying this: feelings are a good thing. It means I still have a pulse. However, when things get intense in my life, I have a tendency to be dramatic (sometimes I like to say “theatrical,” because dramatic gets a bad rep).

In the past, I have dragged out feelings and held onto moments of hurt in my life for far too long. Yet, it was my choice to do those things.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of pain from the past. For me, that pain was a crutch, a crutch that reminded me everyday that I didn’t deserve to be treated right, fairly, or respectfully. When someone does have a foot injury and has to use crutches, it is nearly impossible to go anywhere without them. With every step taken, the crutches follow. They have to. Weaning off of the crutches can be painful at first, but it is an important step to complete and total healing.
Healing is a choice, and a difficult one at that. I have this phrase that I totally made up called “wax on water.” Basically I picture pouring water on a wax candle; and how the water cannot possibly penetrate the outside layer of wax. Scientifically, it just. wont. happen. If I can make myself this wax candle, every bad situation, mean jeer, or strike that comes my way will not get under my skin and it will roll off of me like wax on water. The faster I change how I react to a situation and how I feel about something that has happened to me, the quicker it is to get over it. When I let things sit and fester, then I question myself, my actions, my worth, and my relationships.
My Dad always says “you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” So I ask myself: are my reactions and words the taste of something sweet or bitter? Stay on the sweet side of things. ❤
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Passion Over Distraction

Essentialism

I recently finished reading the book Essentialism and the core of the book could be summarized in the following sentence:

“Less but better” over “everything to everyone.”

So often I get caught up in saying “yes” to responsibilities without thinking because my emotions get involved. In reality, the emotions felt when you say “no” are merely temporary; and what is leftover is respect.

My current struggle is that I am haphazardly juggling too many things at once. (Living in New York City gives me a constant arbitrary pressure and guilt for the need to “keep up” and “be something” to everyone I know – or at least appear that way). I try to justify the so-called benefits to these opportunities. I say things like “but it’s more practice and experience,” “but this is a personal contact and friend, so I feel obligated to…”, or “it will look great on my resume.”

Before I know it, I have taken on more than I can handle and have left no time for me to think about my own goals, what I want, let alone spend time perusing those things with all my heart. Greg McKeown put a little chart inside the book that can be extremely helpful when it comes to making decisions:

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The top row is blank to fill out with an opportunity that could be presented to you. (This could be either personal or work-related). The second row is blank to fill out three minimum requirements and non-negotiables you have already established in order to take on the new opportunity. The second row is for three “would likes:” things that are secondary-tier requirements. Greg suggests that in order to take the opportunity, it must meet all three “must have” requirements and two of the three “would like” requirements. If the opportunity presented doesn’t meet the criteria, then it is not in line with the clear vision you have for your life.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

If I feel like I have lost my vision for my life, I meditate on this Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phillipians 4:8). It gives me joy, challenges me and sparks creativity that is rooted in the heart of truth and the heart of purpose. It provides me with a clear vision.

I don’t often read a (secular) book that alters the way I think, but Essentialism is one I will definitely be revisiting. Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned and how it has challenged my life.

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Starting this week I am asking myself: Am I letting the distractions of this world get in the way of my clear vision and passions I have in my life? What can I say “no” to today, to help alleviate pressure? When presented with a new opportunity, does it align with my requirements? “If it isn’t a clear ‘yes,’ then it’s a clear ‘no’.”

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On Finding Home

My Drawing Spot

There is a reason that people say there is no place like home. While often this does refer to a physical place for some, I do think that home has so many different connotations. I think that home is more of a feeling than a place.

For some, home can be a place of hurting, a place of pain: a physical place that is not desired to return to. Others may not have felt the feeling of home. Perhaps home connotes a restless feeling from moving from place to place and having to uproot a livelihood, a workplace, a lifestyle. I believe that true home is found in security, rest, and community. While a home can be a physical place, it is so much more than that: it really can feel like a safe haven. I know that when I walk through the doors of my home, I am fully relaxed, restored, and protected.

When I was a high-schooler, my mom introduced me to the movie “The Saint.” I will always remember this one scene taking place in Russian during the Cold War. One of the protagonists has to make a run for her life to the American Embassy so the Russian Mob would not kidnap her. She is able to break away and sprint towards the embassy (in dramatic fashion of course becuase… #movies). As she gets closer to the gates she starts screaming “I’m an American, open the gates!” (Watch the scene here).

Although this is obviously an extreme example, I feel that whenever I rush home and make it, I’m able to guard my heart and mind from the any battles or struggles that I’ve been fighting through the day. Once I am home, when I’m truly home, I can pray, read, journal – whatever it takes – for me to shake off the day. I know that God wants us to live in peace and He truly desires that for each and every one of us. Isaiah 32 says “My people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.”

Home is a place where I can fight my daily battles, and fight for the things that matter most. It is a place of creation, inspiration, motivation, and determination. Home resets, recharges, and rejuvenates me. It is more than just a physical place, it is a state of mind.
Matthew 11 invites us to turn to Jesus when we need to rest “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I need to fix my eyes and set my mind on the one who can give me rest, that true feeling of home.

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Once I found my home, my sanctuary, I have to do everything to maintain it. I can’t just let my guard down. Proverbs 24 says “By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” It is through the wisdom of the choices that I make every day that my house (both my physical space and that feeling of home) is built. It is a continued understanding of The Word that my home becomes a place that is established and deeply rooted in truth. And my continual thirst for knowledge – and keeping my faith fresh – that my “home” is filled with true and precious riches. It is then that I will feel safe, secure, and grounded. It is then that I will find my true home.

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About a month ago, I thought I was going to have to move out of my apartment I have lived in for the last 5 years of living in New York. It broke my heart because I have such an emotional attachment to my physical home; and it is my first place I called home in New York. It is where I hosted a Thanksgiving meal with close friends, where I received a phone call that I got a job after searching for months. Through a miracle (and a ton of posting on Craigslist) I got a new roommate just in the nick of time when I needed to resign the lease (praise the Lord, amirite??!). To say it has been a blessing would be an understatement, because I really do treasure the aspect of home. It may seem silly to say this, considering this is a rental apartment, I have invested so much time making my place somewhere I feel comfortable and safe, where I can shut the door and lift my eyes to Heaven, where my help comes from (Psalm 121:2).

So I ask myself the following:
What can I do to make sure when I come home, I am delighted to be there?
What can I do now to make my home feel safe for not just me but for others?
How can I bring that feeling of home, of peace, of rest out of my physical home and into the spheres of influence where I live my daily life?

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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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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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New Territory

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Lately I have been experimenting with different forms of art: taking pictures, making videos, getting back into watercolors. By no means am I a professional, but I guess the only way to improve is through experience. I get nervous about sharing things that I create for a few reasons.
1) I don’t want to come across as someone who knows it all. After all, the more you learn the more you find out how much more there is to learn.
2) To try something new is nerving.To try something new in the public eye is even scarier. (Even if that public is just your friends and family).
But you know what? I tell myself that taking small steps to pushing boundaries is key to getting rid of fear when it comes to much more important things. Like going on that interview for a job you feel unqualified for, or taking a trip alone for the first time, or signing up for that foreign language course that seems intimidating.
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With every small act of faith you will be rewarded. I am reminded of this verse: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Check out some of the recent experimental videos that I have been working on here:
Enjoy!
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