When a Holy Desire is Thwarted

For Red Tent Living this month...

Perhaps you can relate? Ever feel that a genuine, sacred desire is being thwarted? Yeah, that's us.


Clouds move in and the wind picks up. Sunny, blue skies turn gray and thunder ripples west. Another Saturday’s desperate attempt at play, thwarted. Our family story, on repeat. Stuck in a motif we’re rather tired of, weary of.

It began while living overseas. In a megacity of concrete and traffic and millions and millions of bodies, we craved space, nature. We brought picnics to the waterfront patch of green, but stray cats and dogs forced us to move. We bought bikes to transport on the ferry across the sea to an island without cars, but the hordes of people made it virtually impossible to peddle. We left early on weekend mornings to reach a forest outside of the sprawl, spent a refreshing few hours in the trees, before sitting in endless hours of congestion homeward. The hot, stop and go sucked the life from us.

We left the megacity with weary souls.

In the Pacific Northwest, we tried camping with friends. We emptied the nearby camp store of tarps and they were still insufficient to protect us from the onslaught of rain. Years later, when we had all moved to sunny Colorado, we tried again. Memorial Day in the mountains brought rain. We went south in June: Rain. We went to the desert the next year: Rain. We went east to Nebraska: Rain.

It became laughable, so long as we were together. But alone as a family, after a tiresome week of holding trauma for clients or teaching about trafficking or struggling with school friends, we reach for play. When it alludes us time after time, it is not so funny. It is the very opposite of funny.

Continue reading here.

 

Update

It did not rain!

Italy in Pictures

Twenty years ago we blew every penny we were given for our wedding and honeymoon and went to Italy. One of us had just graduated and was jobless and the other would be returning to a work-study job in a preschool making minimum wage. We could care less. He had offered to take me out of the country for the very first time and not a common sense piece of logic could have stopped me from being so whimsical. One would hope that after 20 years, a healthy mix of responsibility, savings, and income would lend itself to either an easy to afford anniversary trip or the reserve to not go. Unfortunately, that first trip abroad created an insatiable zest for travel and taught us how to do it within our finances, small as they may be. And, having spent the last 2 decades in ministry, income never quite allowed us to be sensible. Creative is the way of travel for us.

To make this 20th anniversary trip back to Italy a reality we relied on two things: credit cards that gave us 50,000 air miles for signing up (which turned into 2 free tickets) and a father who gifted us with timeshare points to stay in an apartment, in the middle of Tuscany, for free. The apartment allowed us to cook most meals and that left our biggest extravagance: a hotspot to enable Siri to talk us through the crazy mountain roads of the Crete Sienese, in butchered Italian no less.

Folks, if you long to travel and see the world, figure out a way to make it happen. Get creative and think outside of the box. I guarantee you'll spend as much for a week in Disney or on a beach in Mexico. I'll spare you the throw back photos I took 20 years ago when I first took over the camera! But hopefully these pictures come close to expressing the beauty of Italy.

Territorial Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Sienna

Sienna Celloist

Sant'Antimo Abbey

Sant'Antimo Abbey Valley

Sant'Antimo Abbey Olive Tree

Sant'Antimo Abbey Grounds

Sant'Antimo Abbey Altar

San Biagio

San Biagio Church

Rosaries

Roman Herb Bike

Roman Bar

Orvieto

Oldest Door in Montepulciano

Montepulciano

Montalcino Winery

Marmore Falls

Italian Women

Italian Cheese

Eating Outside in Italy

Cortona

Brunello Winery Montalcino

Assisi

Assis Street

19th century cafe

Books I'm Reading This Month (#2)

Books-1 Web Last month's list was a huge success so I guess I'll continue to let you peruse my side table. In fact, I'll take a pic of it for you!

Side TableYes, yes, there are lots of books on there! This list is just what I'm finishing, not including what I spot read.

Some have asked when I have time to read. As an encouragement to crazy ones and young parents, I will say I've learned to read in the margins. This is how I made it through grad school with a toddler and two little kids: book in one hand, hair brush or soup ladle in the other, or other arm draped around a kid on the couch as they watched PBS. Now it's the carpool lines or in transit moments, book always in the seat next to me: never leave home without one!

This Month's List:

1. Notes from a blue bike Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider. Two things: It starts in Turkey and the title is awesome. Had to read it. Tsh writes of how life in Turkey helped her identify the style of living she wanted for her family and goes about addressing the main categories they deemed most valuable: education, travel, food, work, and entertainment. She is the author of the popular blog, The Art of Simple and in Blue Bike, she writes about the decisions she's made to be intentional about living the life she wants. Really delightful read!

Runaway Girl 2. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets by Carissa Phelps. Because I love survivor memoirs and this was professional development. Kudos to Phelps for working through the trauma of her life on the run and doing something good with it. But as much as this was Carissa's story, it was a call to those of us who desire to "do good" or "help." The people who intersected her life at Juvenile Hall or in the alternative school were heroes in their own right, helping shape the narrative of change.

 

unquiet time 3. Unquiet Time by Heather Caliri. Because Heather is a new friend and fellow Redbud and I like what she's writing about over on her blog. With a similar theme to the next book, Heather writes of post-perfectionist faith. This hand-lettered devotional is whimsical with thought-provoking quotes and artistic prompts. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

 

When We Were on Fire 4. When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over by Addie Zierman.  Addie is every evangelical believer who came to faith in the 90's. Riddled with humor and pain because it is so vividly true, she captures the emotional consequences of being entirely consumed by a sub-culture. I appreciate that she never gives up on God, nor questions Him as much as she does other believers, evangelical culture, and some of the harmful byproducts.

 

Fine balance5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Because I need fiction and a friend thought I would like it upon learning I was briefly a Russian Lit major in college. Just started this one. My Thanksgiving read. Really great character development so far.

 

Really, I would be happy if I lived in a bookstore. I would sleep in a mound of stuffed animals, live off of scones and coffee, and spend the day devouring an aisle before I moved on to the next. How about you? What are you reading?

On a Beauty Hunt: When the Pain is too Great, Stick it to Him

I felt so guilty at the close of the day, headed to a farm with friends to grill, and dream, around a fire pit. I knew I would feast on beauty in all its forms - relationship, food, and nature - and had spent the day similarly. Intentionally carving out space of time to attend to space of dwelling, I had organized a new spice drawer, repurposed file boxes with colors for my new pallet, and thrift store hopped for hidden gems. My creative daughter in tow, we had had a great day. But not far from my creativity were thoughts of Christians forced out of Iraq, kids from my sister-in-law's homeland laying hope at our borders, a dear one who lost triplets, another praying in the health of twins, a third distancing herself from a hard marriage, another burying a parent. I felt indulgent with my spices and cute chalkboard labels. Who am I to enjoy beauty when so much pain surrounds me, us, in this world?

In the car on the way to the farm I dare to utter this to my husband. He has spent a day immersed in trauma, counseling people with heartaches too great to carry. I feel guilty even with him, knowing his holding of pain allows me to buy chalkboard labels. There are days he admits to jealousy so there are days of delight I hide. But he surprises me with his middle finger and a wry grin. "Don't you feel like you're stickin' it to him?"

We had just passed the old strip club and a sketchy looking car so I'm confused. Who are we stickin' it to? "Finding beauty despite the brokenness. Don't you think that's saying 'up yours' to the enemy?" I smile, considering.

And then today, out of nowhere, but thanks to Macrina Wiederkehr's A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary I am reading Psalm 104: 15,

wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains the heart.

I am struck by the word gladden and overcome by an image of a long table beneath the cottonwood trees of last night... bistro lights and good food, laughter, bread and wine. Delight. God gave it all, to gladden our heart and make our face shine. To sustain our hearts, even when they grow weary.

So I'm going to stick it to him. My weapon in the face of harm and distrust and sadness will be beauty. It's a small offering to a hurting world, but a sacred one. One I've already unknowingly been doing. This summer, I've been on a beauty hunt, as if needing to name and immortalize the small acts I notice: the chalk art street, the Rockies, the fabric flowers woven into the chain link fence penning an abandoned lot, a vintage wall with loved ones, an artistic place to sit, and the beauty of my risk-taker daughter as we drive through the campground.

But I'm curious, what do you do to "stick it to him?" How do you overcome the realities of a hurting world?

Chalkart

BreckHike

Gorillaweaving

lovedoneslovedwall

paintbrushbench

risktakingdaughter

Beauty out of Chaos: The Art of Movement (Part 2)

Creative Welcome to Part 2 of the series, Beauty out of Chaos and the Sacredness of Art. We're exploring the idea of how we mimic God in our creativity (see part 1) and today I'm interviewing Connie Jakab, founder of Mpact Dance Company and author of Culture Rebel. Connie has some powerful things to share about identity and beauty (of one's self?) coming about through community. The dance actually creates and births that identity formation. Question #4 is still stirring in me...

1. Connie, this series is born out of my own exploration of beauty coming out of chaos and how artists imitate God's creative work. I think it's vital to humanity and has more power than we've yet to uncover. Can you speak into this a bit?

I couldn't agree more! The art of storytelling through writing, dance, theatre, visual art, photography has a way of engaging people, bringing them into the story to be experienced with their senses. Creator God works through creation! He loves seeing something come from nothing that tells of His glory! When we can use these mediums to reveal who He is to our world I believe His beauty can shine. Ironically, His beauty in us shines brighter as well. The one who is most impacted by the message is the artist, the choreographer, the author. That is beautiful.

2. I've loved following your work with Mpact! I want to hear everything about it! Can you start by sharing about your own story of movement and how you experienced transformation and beauty through it?

I started dancing at the age of 22 for two reasons: One, I had just finished Bible College and hadn't been in contact with the "outside" world for four years. Two, I was struggling with some serious weight issues and was afraid to go to the gym. Being overweight made me very insecure. Dance class was fun and a place to connect with society. I started teaching movement to the youth I was working with in East Vancouver. Eventually this would lead to me opening my own dance space in East Vancouver that hosted battles and classes for lower-income, at risk youth. You could say that much of my calling to reach the broken has manifested through dance. I've also found a journey to health and wellness through it as well.

3. Tell us about how the youth culture intersects with movement and community building. What are you creating together at Mpact?

Hip Hop Culture is empowering for youth. With Mpact we are creating and redefining community through igniting courage and compassion into the hearts of youth. Youth are longing for identity and belonging. This is what we seek to bring them through what hip hop calls, "The Cypher" which I've explained more in my next answer. Why is identity important?

It is the foundation that drives one forward into destiny. In contrast, a lack of revelation of one's identity will lead to despair. Identity is the understanding of the great value we have and who we belong to. It comes to us not by education, but revelation. It's more caught than it is taught. The heart has to embrace it. It's not something we can just "know" in our minds.

People are told to "believe in themselves" by mass marketing, educators, motivational speakers and even preachers. "You can do it! Just believe you can!" This is something everyone deserves to have; an encounter with the beauty within that comes from the very image of the Creator. However, identity and belief in oneself was never meant to be an individual process. You can wake up in the morning determined to believe in your personal value all you want, but the minute you step out your door, that belief will be tried, tested and come directly against by:

- your own doubts and assumptions about yourself - mis-reading (or correctly reading) someone's negative body language or look towards you - opposition - sometimes downright cruelty - discouraging words - trauma - the list could go on

By the time you arrive home in the evening, every ounce of determination you had to "believe in yourself" has been sucked out, leaving you feeling defeated. Clearly, we can't do this on our own, can we?

It's because we were never meant to have identity reinforced by our own selves. We were born for community.

The intention we have at Mpact for community is to reinforce and strengthen identity and value in one another. It was meant to become a shelter, a safe place for those who've had a rough day. When haters come in droves, the community protects, builds up and provides rest for the crushed soul. Courage floods a heart when 20 others speak words of life into your spirit. Who doesn't thrive in an atmosphere of safety and belonging?

However, there are many who are struggling in this fight alone. All you have to do is scroll through a news feed on Facebook to see numerous status updates stating something along the lines of; "When haters hate, it only makes me stronger" type of statements. Somehow, we've taken on the role of self-protection which has driven us all into isolated caves with protective walls so high no one could ever see in.

Ironically, our self-protection keeps the greatness inside caged in us as well.

Greatness is released fully in community. It's released when others call out my destiny. When they hold me accountable not to "shouldn'ts" but to my identity, I thrive. When I can fail and not be shamed, but applauded for trying, I'm more likely to try again. When my community doesn't let me sit on my arse because they are just as committed to my success as I am, I push past my own limitations faster.

I see this reality as I reflect back on where I would be if it weren't for the people who invested into me, spoke words of life into my heart and told me to stop being so lazy and get moving. In myself, I don't have what it takes to move me the way they were able to. God used them in ways I will never forget.

When we build communities that become safe places that speak life, people thrive and become courageous. It produces something that individuals cannot do, and were never meant to be able to produce on their own.

4. I'm super excited about The Cypher: A show about Belonging and wish I could road trip to Canada. Can you explain the concept of the cypher, this show, and maybe share about a particular youth who has participated?

"What makes a youth resilient?" "Why do some in this life overcome incredible odds, while others flounder?" These are questions that stir inside me. I'm hungry for answers. I long for all to see resilience; for none to fall through the cracks. The question is, "how"?

After experiencing bullying as a teen, one of the scariest experiences of my life has been going into what hip hop culture calls, "The Cypher". Being heavier and having past experiences of bullying makes the centre of the cypher the LAST place I ever wanted to find myself. In a world of judgment, hatred, and ridicule, it's a vulnerable place to dance on your own with a circle of eyes staring you down, yet I was surprised to find the centre of the cypher to be a game changer for me in terms of reclaiming my identity and finding out how powerful community really is.

This is where I discovered a powerful truth: "We" have the power to create identity in one another. Inside each of us is the power to either create an atmosphere around us where "we" are for one another, calling out one another's strengths and beauty, or disabling and shaming one another to isolation, depression and hopelessness. That's a lot of power.

We have the ability to create resilience in one another. What if Pink Shirt Day became a historical event, rather than an annual plea to "stop bullying"? We have the capacity to make that kind of change if we understand the power of "we". Belonging creates resilience inside of people. The potential is limitless together. It's absurdly simple.

Connie headshotConnie Jakab is the author of the book, Culture Rebel, released fall 2012. Connie is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out. Connie is an active member of poverty reduction in her city, the founder of WILD (women impacting lives daily) as well as Mpact (www.mpactdance.com), a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues, Connie drives her passion outward into the arms of those wanting something more radical and meaningful in life. Connie is an active speaker and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She can be found on twitter and instagram. @ConnieJakab.

Connie is honoured to be a part of the Redbud Writers Guild

Beauty out of Chaos and the Sacredness of Art: Part 1

Creative Nearly one year ago I watched with fascination as a Turkish uprising spread across the secular, albeit oppressed, country. As the protestors gained momentum and numbers, they acquired a more dangerous and powerful asset - confidence in their voice. Within weeks, out of the chaos and amidst banging pots, water cannons, and even death, a creative expression emerged that was beautiful in its strength, commentary, and solidarity. It was the time of the artist. I ventured to call it a Turkish Renaissance.

Recently, I happened upon a story of the longest mosaic mural in the world... made out of recycled objects in war-torn Syria! A professor who helped with the project was quoted as saying, "Creating something beautiful from rubbish means that we can rebuild despite the destruction." It gives them hope. It reminds their children that beauty still exists. It infuses joy into all that pass.

Consider urban renewal projects: the gorilla weavers in Philadelphia who, in the dark of night, weave lovely fabric pieces into chain link fences surrounding abandoned lots; community gardens and place making art intended to beautify an ugly location and serve to educate, involve, and gather a community; public park projects... even Central Park's design meant to inspire, gather, and nurture people's souls.

As a creative myself, I am drawn to this idea of making something beautiful out of chaos. But as a believer, I am even more intrigued by how this action reflects a creator God. Did he not also create something beautiful out of chaos? Gungor's lyrics are never far, "You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us." The act of making something beautiful out of dust is sacred.

I believe there is within us an innate need to create. Our mandate: take raw materials and make cities, tones and chords and make symphonies, plants and fruits and make delicate feasts, multiply and make families, build legacies, construct culture and tradition. Create! Why? Because it is a sacred act.

All of art is sacred.

To help us explore this idea, I've invited some wonderfully creative artists and fabulous women to share their journey with us. I'm curious about their creative process, the musings and mullings that go into the work of their hands, and the insight they can share about the sacredness of art. Follow on Tuesdays as we hear from:

Snowfall on a Teen

The snow fell heavy this week and still sticks to trees and drips slowly off rooftops. It is lovely now that the sun shines bright and light dances atop huge flakes. I am in search of a tree-lined street not too far, but have failed to find one. Instead, my teenager ventured outside with me for a bit, promises of food to bribe cooperation. He has always been cute, but now I think handsome. I see man. TeenBoySnowPortrait

TeenSnowPortrait

TeenageBoySnowPortraitColor

Snowfallingportrait

SnowFallingTeenBoy

What makes art, art?

Day 10 Blog 3I don't imagine myself to be an artist. Rather a creative, a dabbler, an art enthusiast. Lately I've been expanding my activities with A Face to Reframe to include body percussion, assemblage, and creative writing. As always, I realize the importance of exhibition of the students' work. They need to be recognized. They need to see their work displayed to feel it has been more than just an art therapy session, though it is that too. As a full participant, I penned these thoughts in my notebook, a reminder that this is why I blog. It is both and. Both therapeutic and social commentary. Both self-expression and public immortalization.

Art without a frame... Frames validate, deeming worth hanging, showcasing for appreciation Frames make professional, immortalize Without, forgotten, stored, unseen

But was it not beautiful? Was it not fun to create? To get out, work out? Did not a muse cause pencil to stir over pages blank with eager anticipation to be written upon with coffee steaming at corner of table some lovely scenery and peace and quiet and sun shining through, stilling soul and calming spirit and grounding all to face another day And is that not framed in the pages of the heart and the timeline of our journey?

Read more of my thoughts here.

Spacious: More Thoughts on the Creative Journey

There are times of insomnia, while I will myself to sleep, that my mind searches for moments of utter rest. Imagining places I've never been or experienced are not as peaceful to me as recalling with mind and body those snippets of memory I've lived... Hours following the completion of a big event or project

Day 3 or 4 of a vacation

9:30am on a day with an empty schedule

Post - birth in a hospital bed

Moments I have felt spacious. Tranquil. At rest.

Why are they so few? And how do we purposefully carve out more?

to be kind to our self

to hear and see beneath the clutter

to experience the spiritual blessing of Sabbath... a right-ness with self, God, others, and the world

Mountain Flowers

In an effort to rediscover my voice, I have picked up Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way again. I remember working through it a decade ago and recall those days as feeling fully alive.

We were in Turkey then, leading younger grads, and I hosted people in my home constantly. I strived to cook elaborate meals from Turkish ingredients, recreate beauty for our holidays in the absence of store-bought decor, and craft a space for the women of care and vulnerability. That season was one of the most fully-purposed I have ever felt in life and ministry.

Somehow, in unison, my soul dried up with my creativity.

When I noticed it, my husband's had also. And so, we left Turkey to begin a season of tending the soil, watering and replenishing, studying a different way of growing and producing life. I am ready to harvest.

But to do so requires a spacious soul. And that demands discipline. Or, at the very least, intention.

So I avoid. Get distracted. Work on my lists first.

Julia Cameron suggests I might be afraid. She says, "Recognize this resistance as a fear of intimacy--  self-intimacy."

And I know. She is right. I do not fear what I might find, I fear what I won't.

I fear an absence of any creativity at all.

I fear that when I silence the chatter, I won't hear anything.

But my soul remembers and it is the memory that keeps inching upward, refusing its dormancy.