Why We Create Out of Brokenness

Why We Create Out of Brokenness

I’m in a women’s class at my church on Thursday mornings. We’re studying the book Waking Up Grey, which is all about waking up your creativity. As I sat in class last week, I looked around and noticed several women crying. They were just sitting there, letting tears run down hardly wiping them away. They looked like the broken kind of tears. You know what I’m talking about? The times that you cry at little to no prompting but you can’t stop it because you just feel mushy inside and like nothing is working and you’re questioning everything? Who you are, what you’re doing. Seriously, am I headed anywhere in this life? That kind of crying.

I’m not a big public crier but even I have teared up in this class while sharing parts of my story. Last week as I looked at the other women crying, I wondered why we all felt the need to take this class on creativity in our broken states of self. Why do we feel the need to create out of brokenness?

I posed this question to my sister and her/our friend who stayed with me over the weekend. My sister made a really good point: Creating your art takes a ton, like, all the vulnerability you can muster, and when you’re in a broken phase of life, you are at your most vulnerable.

I lived in denial of my own brokenness for a long while, until I was 26 years old. Then, I went through a hard time. It was similar to other hard times I’ve had in which I was trying to fix my problem by doing and remaining busy. I went home for Christmas in the middle of this and during our Christmas Eve service at my home church, my other sister (I have very wise sisters) leaned over to me and said something simple that changed it all. She said I didn’t have to be strong anymore. That I didn’t have to hold it together and I could just rest in God’s lap, take a deep breath and rest.

That was it, the beginning of my broken journey. The first time I cried broken tears was right there smack dab in the middle of the church I grew up in yet never allowed myself to be vulnerable or honest in. I cried for the rest of the service and my extended family was concerned and people were looking at me funny because it’s Christmas and everyone is happy but God was breaking me and I couldn’t stop the tears.

Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, this was when the desire that I’ve always had to write began to overwhelm me. So much so that I knew, finally, writing was what I needed to pursue in a serious way and not in a dabbly kind of way. Many of the women in my creativity class are feeling this overwhelming desire too, though, to different degrees of seriousness. This is completely fine because creating is something we all must do whether we’re making money at it or not. Creating is spending an afternoon decorating your living room as much as it is writing a book. It’s making a card for a friend and it’s performing spoken word poetry.

I think I have so much more to learn on this creating out of brokenness thing. What I’m seeing in it now is that creating is best and most natural when it comes from the vulnerable state and true vulnerability isn’t possible until you’ve felt that broken mushy feeling on the inside, until you’ve realized that you are indeed nothing and can do nothing outside of Christ. It can make us feel so weak, but I think what can come out of it is stronger than anything we create from a place of certainty and confidence. Rather than waiting for the brokenness to subside, use it, and see what comes out.

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He’s Not the One That Got Away

The One that Got Away

This phrase has been running around my head lately: He’s not the one that got away. Did you catch that “not” I slid in there? I thought about it one night when I was cooking and listening to the Civil Wars. Their song “The One that Got Away” came on and got me thinking. The song talks about forbidden love, saying “I wish you were the one that got away” and what it’s like to not be able to let go of that person. As I peeled my carrots and listened, I realized I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a relationship like the one the song describes, wishing that person had gotten away. Then, this truth struck me: No one in my life did get away, at least, not in the sense this phrase entails.

Saying “he’s the one that got away” is like saying “he’s the one I should have been with and then something went wrong and got us off track.” I’ve wondered this before of course, and I’m assuming most of us have when a relationship ends. Did I miss something? Was that a mistake to let him go? Did I do enough to keep him around? Will he be the one that got away?

These questions can make you absolutely nuts. And they don’t apply only to relationships. We ask it about everything. I remember taking forever to decide where I was going to go for graduate school. I was choosing between two schools that were basically exactly the same, just located in different cities. And when I finally chose, I immediately wondered if the one I didn’t choose would be the school that got away. If not going there meant missing out on God’s blessings and will for my life.

Maybe you’ve wondered if that was the job opportunity that got away or the move that got away or the apartment that got away. Whatever it is, I stand here today (because who knows how I will feel about this tomorrow) and can confidently say to you, it’s not. He’s not. She’s not. Whatever it is, if it is no longer a part of your life or an option for you, it didn’t get away; it went away.

In the Bible, we are taught about seasons in life and God’s sovereignty in the same scripture: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The best way to attempt to overrule God’s timing and plan is to say that something in our lives got away, as if it were a mistake or an accident. I think we can really mean it when we say this. I know I have. I have felt so ridden and full of regret I was certain I had made a wrong decision. I was certain he/it was the one that got away and that I had derailed myself too far this time. But never has this thought brought me peace and never has it propelled me forward, and this is how I’ve grown so convinced that he, it and they did not get away. Because even in stating that, we stray. Even in wondering and questioning the past, we got lost in it.

The people and opportunities in our lives didn’t get away; they went away because it was time for them to. Our job now is to keep our gaze forward. The light, as they say, is at the end of the tunnel.

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Pity Parties on an Airplane

exhausted traveler

Do you know what it’s like to be on that last leg of a long journey? When you’ve forgotten how many flights and layovers you’ve had? All you know is that wherever you’re going, it is taking a really long time to get there? It’s always the very last, brief flight the gets me. Not the hefty, ten-hour one or the three-hour one after that, but the final one- or two-hour flight from Dallas to Nashville or from Atlanta to Nashville or, like yesterday, from Detroit to Nashville.

This Delta Detroit flight was a whopping one hour and eight minutes long, but before that flight was a 4.5-hour one and before that a 5-hour one and before, after and in between those was walking through terminals like a zombie looking for coffee and a grouping of chairs I could spread out on and contemplating asking a complete stranger what city, time zone and state I was in.

By the time I boarded my Detroit flight around 3pm, I had been flying traveling since 10pm the night before. I was in a state. Not only did I not want to talk to the people sitting on my right and my left, I didn’t want to look at them. I had no energy to acknowledge the existence of other humans. I was tired, I was hungry, I was achy and I refused to engage in the lighthearted attempts next to me to make conversation. I spent my hour and eight minutes with my eyes closed pretending to sleep and hating my life. If only the guys next to me knew how exhausted and ready to be home I was. I had been away for ten whole days.

When I don’t speak to those around me, I get very caught up in my own head. My problems become the worst problems anyone anywhere could ever have. I have the worst pain. I am the most tired. I’ve been traveling the most. I want others to know my story, but I do not want to hear theirs. So for one hour and eight minutes I blew up my tiredness and problems in my head until I was most certainly the one on that aircraft suffering the most and I believed everyone else should be catering to my needs and feeling sorry for me.

Because I refused to speak to the men next to me, I didn’t learn until we were landing that their exhaustion was actually worse than mine. The guy to my right had been flying for 23 hours (ten hours more than I had) and the guy to my left had been on the road for 18 days straight, was about to be home for two days, then hit the road again for another 18 days. Because I refused to speak to the guy on my left, I only overheard this information as he, without complaint, detailed it to another passenger. I only heard about the guy on my right who had been flying for 23 hours because he made a second attempt to engage me in conversation as we were landing, and I finally listened. He had come all the way from Manila, twice as far as I had come, and was in Nashville on business. This wasn’t even home yet for him.

This is what always gets me in trouble. I would rather sit and wallow in my pain than go out and listen to someone else’s story. As long as I don’t hear it, mine is worse, but every time I break out of the pity party—every time—I come out of myself, just far enough to get perspective on my “difficulties” and “hardships” that seem much less difficult and hard after I’ve listened. It’s not about comparing your problems with another’s; it’s about seeing yours in a different light, a more realistic and less doomsday shade of light. I wonder if the solution to our problems isn’t fixing them, but instead, is putting others’ stories before our own. I wonder how our perspectives would change if we began to listen less to the voices in our heads and more to the voices of the real people around us.

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The Parts of Us That We’ve Forgotten

The Parts of Us We've Forgotteb

I continue my time of rest from a place my family has returned to almost every summer since I was 15 years old. This place, oh this place.

I got to thinking as I was walking on the familiar beach path a few days ago that I’ve walked that path as many different girls: a teenage girl, a college girl, a girl in love, a heartbroken girl, a confused, sad, joyful and excited girl. A girl arm and arm with her mom, her dad, her best friends and her sisters. No matter who happened to show up as me that summer, I consistently walked or ran that path by the water and the lava rocks and the giant sea turtles as many times as possible before the sad departure day arrived.

It’s strange how a place can remind you of who you once were and what you once were like. I’m laughing now at how timely it is for me to visit that path at this point in my own path when I’m starting a new career and hoping for the best and trying not to be terrified of the worst. This path has been good for me these past few days to remember why I’m doing this, to remember the parts of me that love and have always loved to write. The part of me that told people at age five that I was going to be an Author. The eight-year-old me that made up stories and read them aloud to my class. The college me that competed in a slam poetry contest (yes, yes I did that).

Those parts of us. Remember them? They’re still there, but sometimes we quiet them and hush them until we convince ourselves they’ve gone away. We do this because we are clinging to the reliable things like schedules, and financial goals and to-do lists and things that aren’t bad but when they are our rock, we feel no need for anything else—a hobby, a passion, a savior.

On my beach path, I’ve been assured the parts of me I’d forgotten have not actually gone away. Neither have yours. I’ve also been assured that we owe it to ourselves to be honest about who we are. To let what we’ve let die a little come back to life. This often means taking little steps like signing up to be in the chorus of a community theater production, taking a substitute teaching gig, knitting a scarf for a friend. Whatever it is that taps into that part of you you’ve been keeping under the surface, into that thing you once loved and were good at and others told you so.

Find the walking path, or the city, or the house or the park that will remind you of this. Go there, walk around and remember what it was. Remember who you were.

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Learning to Rest

Brier_Island_Lighthouse_(1)

I write to you today from the lobby of a Ramada Inn in Ft. Walton, Florida. I’m on a somewhat last-minute beach trip with a friend. We plopped ourselves onto the white sand for two days on this long weekend with no agenda, lots of snacks and what turned out to be expired sunscreen. We are “resting.” At least, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I have vowed to take a breath between leaving my job and diving into My Writing Thing. A couple of weeks to breathe deeply, read, look at the water and renew my mind in preparation for a transition.

You would think I would be really good at resting right now. I don’t have a work email to attend to. I’m not anticipating the craziness that is Tuesday after a holiday weekend. No one will need me to answer questions or send them things. I’m not getting calendar alerts for meetings happening this week. I can say my body has been resting this weekend. I have done nothing but lie or sit in sand. Yet my mind is a different story. It’s been running. Running in the wrong directions: ahead and behind. Running anywhere and doing anything but stopping to recognize the present moment.

I don’t think many of us are good at true rest. I actually wonder if it’s something that we as a culture have forgotten how to do. True rest lies in the present. I’m not resting on a beach if I keep wondering about my future or replaying past conversations and events in my head.

It’s not surprising I’ve been revisiting my past this weekend. I’ve said this before but it’s ever true today, I think we go to the past because we know what happens there. It’s comfortable. And when you’re in a time of change and things aren’t as clear, you hurry back to familiar scenes and faces. So these past two days, I have been gripped by a nostalgia for my past. I’ve thought about the places I’ve lived and the people I knew there and I’ve missed them and I’ve wished I was back. Back to being 22, in school and certain of more than I am certain of now.

Maybe you do this too? Who wants to squint at an uncertain future when you can see and hear with clarity the voices of your past? On the other hand, who wants to stunt her own growth and refuse to take leaps in the dark because she can’t turn her head around to face the future?

I’ve been playing “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger over and over since her album released last Tuesday. I listen to it for these words:

Come out of hiding


You’re safe here with Me


There’s no need to cover
 what I’ve already seen

I’ll be your lighthouse when you’re lost at sea


And I will illuminate
 everything

God as our lighthouse is a powerful image. If He is our lighthouse, He will point the light in the direction we are to go, and I bet that light won’t be pointed backwards. I bet He isn’t aiming to illuminate our past for us. Maybe for clarity’s sake, but not so we can find our way back there. If we are to arrive safely to shore, His light will point us ahead. And I believe it’s in His light, that we will find rest.

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And He Will Make Your Paths Straight

And He Will Make Your Path Straight

My fourth summer in Nashville and I’m still not accustomed to it—the fast and furious rain storms that interrupt your day in the rudest way and leave you, just as suddenly as they came, walking along steamy pavement. This girl from the desert of south Texas is still surprised that rain in the summer even happens.

I watched a downpour like this the other day from the safety of my living room. People were on the street one minute and then nowhere to be seen the next. They had wisely run for cover. This particular rain was the vision-impairing kind that wouldn’t allow you to get anywhere fast anyways. A thick sheet of rain.

I haven’t made a major life change in almost five years. My last one was moving to Nashville, where I live now, to work at a book publishing house where I worked until this last Friday. This is the first Monday in 23 years that I have woken up neither an “employee” nor a “student.” It would be fair to say I am looking at a thick sheet of rain. I will probably be looking at it tomorrow too and many days thereafter. This is what it feels like to have an uncertain future. To leave a job you love and people you loved working with to do something you’ve known for a while now that you are supposed to do.

About a year ago after a succession of events I will write about in due time, I knew I was ready to start to pray about a job transition. And a few months ago I knew it was time to start to plan for said transition. And a few weeks ago, it was time to make it. I put in a five weeks notice, and here I sit on my stone on my uncertain path staring at the thick sheet of rain.

This is as descriptive as I can be about my next step at the moment: I’m going to be Doing My Writing Thing. At best, I’ve piddled in writing since I started a full-time job. I’ve freelanced here and there, been on and off this blog, taken a few weekends to work on longer creative pieces that are more fun than they are focused, and it’s time to get real about it.

I’ve never leapt like this before. My life to date has been about sensible choices. College, graduate school, career. I have felt safe in these decisions and yes they were challenging and scary when they started, but nothing has been quite so unclear as this next step. Never has my future looked so blurry. I can do nothing to get it into focus, squint as I may.

Sometimes several stones ahead of us on the path are illuminated. It’s so nice when that happens, isn’t it? When you kinda know what’s coming next, and the education and career track you are on are clear. Then there are those times when it seems only the stone you stand on and maybe one or two ahead of you are lit. Everything else? Dark.

We can’t know what’s next, and that’s difficult for we humans still not convinced of our mortality. But we can trust what’s next.

As I stand on my one illuminated stone, I don’t know what else to do except cling to this: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:6). And he will make your paths straight. Not clear. Straight. We aren’t promised that we will know what’s next, we are promised something better: that what’s next will be in the right direction. It will be straight ahead because he will make it so.

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Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

We all know saying sorry to others is important. But have you ever thought about saying sorry to yourself? I hadn’t until I read this blog post on Storyline by Mike Foster a few weeks ago about negative self-talk. Read it then come back here, please.

I don’t know about you, but his words were spot on for me and the way I talk to myself. Think about all of the voices that go off in your head as you go through your day. If you lean perfectionist like I do, you may have a few more voices and they are probably a little more critical.

For me, the voices start early in the day. The first thing I see when I walk into my office in the mornings is a big, dim, full-length reflection of myself in the tinted mirror/wall opposite the front doors. I tell myself not to look, but I always do and then I always have an opinion about what I decided to wear that day and how I look in it. I share this opinion with myself and make it to the stairs v. elevator debate a few feet away. “You have to take the stairs,” I tell myself, “and you know why.”

After this internal conversation about my looks is over, the internal conversation about my day begins. I check my calendar and see a meeting scheduled that I’d forgotten about and beat myself up for forgetting about it, even though it’s two hours away so it’s not like I’m going to miss it. Then I start to make my to-do list and get distracted by an email, so I get onto myself for being so easily distracted. And the negativity continues and progresses until it’s really a miracle I make it home not physically bruised from it all.

I think we become very accustomed to this in our lives. It’s the norm to be mean to ourselves and then nice to others. This is how we exist, but we don’t have to.

The other day I decided to put into practice #3 on Mike Foster’s list of recommendations for kicking negative self-talk to the curb: Apologize to yourself. I had been making fun of myself for acting awkward in a social situation and was running over in my head how I should have said and done things differently. I do this a lot–chastise myself for not acting “cooler” in public. But this time, I stopped me mid-sentence and apologized. To me. I said I was sorry I was being so hard on me, and that really I hadn’t acted that awkwardly and probably no one had noticed. I said I was sorry I lacked grace for me and then I gave myself a compliment.

It felt weird, and writing it out like this feels even weirder, but as I was kind to myself in my thoughts, I felt that toxic negativity start to leave and make room for a little confidence and grace to enter in. It’s physics (or something), really. You release the bad stuff and have more space for the good. Think about that, the potential beauty inside of you released with a simple apology.

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