Embarrassment

Fear of embarrassment is a like the coin Two-Face flips to determine his victim’s fate. On the side, a proper sense of self-restraint can help you maintain the kind of life you want: good friendships and being a respectable member of a community. (That sounds like something Emma Woodhouse would say….) On the other side, being afraid can lead to a kind of death: one where you are so worried about making a fool of yourself or having people think badly of you that you “kill” the uniqueness of you and blend into the background, so you aren’t labeled as odd or stupid.

Overcoming embarrassment is something I have struggled with for most of my life. Though I have definitely had my share of moments where I could have used a proper dose of being afraid of embarrassment (I’ve said and done plenty of  very stupid things), most of the time I’ve been terrified of being considered silly, childish, weak, you name it.

My time in theatre has definitely helped with that. Spending a month doing raw Meisner exercises with a group of people I was still getting to know last year helped a lot with it. But I found the other week that I can still be inhibited by embarrassment.

After my exciting (and rather embarrassing to be truthful) adventure in boxing back in February, I found a new studio to train at which was a better fit for me and involved no hospitalizations. A few weeks ago, I started working with a personal trainer. The first session wasn’t too bad, but the second session, my instructor had me shadow box. (Imagine swinging your arms and legs at the air, trying to look cool.)

I stalled a little, being terrified that my swinging of arms and legs would be far from cool. I did try it–sort of. But I held back. While I was hitting air, the ways I encourage my theatre kids to handle themselves on stage ran through me head: don’t worry about looking silly, let go of self-consciousness and focus on your task, you actually look sillier when you are stuck in your head, etc.

In order to be able to keep pushing my kids to give up embarrassment on stage, I knew I had to work to give up embarrassment in the ring. So I pushed through. Kind of. I kept finding excuses to stop and ask questions or trip myself up, or whatever. Eventually, my trainer had pity on me and we moved on to something else.

We had a drama camp happening that week. The day after that class, I confessed to the students about how I can still get stuck in my head and get paralyzed by fear. I get how hard it is to let go of the fear of looking silly.

But I forgot to mention another realization I had while I was wildly swinging at air, thinking way too much about whether I was doing any of it right: fear of embarrassment makes it so much harder to accomplish your task, be it theatrical or some other kind.

My fear of looking silly made me uptight. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t focus on breathing or on performing the technique of the punches or kicks correctly. All I thought about was whether I was being ridiculous or not.

If I could have let go of that and thrown myself into what the instructor had asked, I probably would have done it completely wrong (I am a beginner after all), but I would have been able to actual mistakes that could be corrected instead of him having to spend the time reminding me not to worry about looking silly.

As unappealing as mess up feels to my ego, (for some reason I need to be perfect at everything, even things I am clearly a beginner at…) it really is better than not making mistakes because of being cautious and reserved. All an instructor can do then is try to push you to loosen up instead of helping you grow in your technique.

I haven’t figured out the secret to giving up all fear of embarrassment, but I am hoping that my awareness of how it held me back in that lesson will help me in future lessons and also in other areas of my life. I like to tell my kids that mistakes are opportunities. Now I might start adding that being willing to make bold mistakes is more beneficial than up-tightly trying to get everything right to avoid the need for correction.

 

 

 

Surviving Pruning

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-6-03-15-pm

They say pruning is good for the health of the plant. I bet the plant feels differently.

Despite the glamorous alternate reality that is sometimes hailed as possible from the big and small screens, the truth is that life is hard. I find myself remembering the words of the great Dread Pirate Roberts:

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. – From The Princess Bride

Not that life is only pain. Far from it. But there are definite periods where it seems like the only reason you know you are still alive is the pain. People, especially those in religious communities, call these periods by different names.  The last several months as I’ve been going through a painful phase of my life, I’ve been thinking of it as pruning.

When I repurposed my blog I decided to focus on encouraging others to pursue blooming in all areas of their life. Unfortunately, in order to promote the growth of new blooms you’ve gotta prune.

Why? It helps prevent disease, allowing for better circulation which reduces the risk of black spots and powdery mildew. Things we’d all like to avoid.

It’s easy to justify the need to cut dead and diseased branches off a rose bush. The need for drastic action is clear to us. It’s harder to understand when life cuts something, or many things, from your life.

I know for many Christians, the belief in God’s sovereignty is a constant source of encouragement. For me, the doctrine of His sovereign will and care is more a mixture of confusion and comfort. Sometimes the one is stronger than the other.

Even though I know in my mind, and often believe in my heart, that God is using the pain He has allowed and/or brought into my life for good, I can’t help but ask the questions:

Isn’t there another way? Couldn’t you bring out about whatever good you are working to accomplish with something less difficult? Or maybe even something pleasant?

I got reminded by my brother that Jesus asked similar questions of God before He went to the cross.

Holy week I plan on writing a blog post devoted to the importance of the Cross in my faith, but here’s a sneak peak:

God told Jesus “No” in order to recuse us because He loved us. A “Yes” would have meant ease for Jesus but judgment for us. Knowing that God has used great suffering to bring about immense good in the past helps me trust that when He says “No” to me, He has my good in mind, even if it doesn’t look like it.

Why is pruning necessary? Isn’t there another way one could promote growth?

I don’t have solid answers, but I have experience. While pruning is far from fun, I’ve seen how it has shaped me. It’s much easier to say when the experience is past and you’re basking in the glow of new growth.

It’s harder when you are in the midst of things. If you’re anything like me, it’s especially hard when it seems like everyone else around you is flourishing.

With this pruning session, I’ve been finding myself asking less of “Why did You let this happen?” and more of “How do I survive this?” These are some of the things I’ve learned from family, friends, and counselors.

1) Reject labels

It’s easy to feel as though my particular struggle is written on a sticky note and posted to my forehead, demanding attention every moment from everyone I interact with. And while some of my well-meaning friends are tempted to operate that way, for the most part, my community has encouraged me to remember I am more than what I am struggling with.

It’s taken a while to believe that, and while there are still times when I feel like all I can focus on is which branches God is cutting back, I’ve had days when I’ve been able to focus on areas that are particularly strong right now, like my desire to draw.

2) Take the work of recovery seriously

The last several months have been very difficult for me and the process of working through things has brought about a period of depression. Since I struggle with putting my identity in how much I accomplish in a day, it’s been very discouraging to experience weeks where I feel like I get nothing done, or to consider a “good” day when I get a couple solid hours of work in.

My depressive episodes are better or worse depending on my to-do list. This can cause massive spirals if I am feeling down and then have a less than productive (by my somewhat excessive standards) day.

The other week my counselor told me that recovery is work. I’m not a master gardener (or really any kind of gardener) but from what I understand, rosebushes typically don’t get pruned when they are in the height of blooming. They are cut back when they are finished with their season and can rest, get stronger and grow.

Even though they aren’t producing buds or blooms, they are still working.

In periods of sorrow, trials, and difficulty, sometimes the greatest thing you can accomplish in the day is pressing on. That takes work and tenacity and is being productive. I don’t need to compare myself to what I was able to get done before or to what others are accomplishing now. With God’s help, I can push myself to do what I need to do and trust Him enough with everything else if I need to spend my time journaling, or resting, or talking.

3) Live moment by moment

Try as I might, as I gaze into the future and try to plan my life or guess at how the issues I am facing will resolve themselves, I cannot know how God is going to shape me.

That often frustrates me. I wish God would just tell me: “This is what life is going to look like. This is how I am going to bring something beautiful out of this pain.” But He doesn’t.

That gives me two options: I can worry and fret, or I can trust Jesus with my future and focus on one day at a time.

This is probably the one I’m struggling with the most right now. I am a fast results gal. Waiting around is not my style. What I’m learning, and trying to remember, is that I don’t have to wait around. Even in the face of uncertainty, I can be proactive throughout my days by focusing on what I need or want to get done that day, living moment by moment instead of getting lost in the face of the unknown.

When I do that, I get writing and drawing done, compose e-mails and grants, read books and take naps, or some combination depending on my energy. The amount of writing, e-mailing, and reading is still less than what my peak was before, but at least I’m still making progress, instead of wallowing in worry.

4) Encouragement from others is vital

My sister has written a very honestly about mental illness on her blog The Doctor DancesShe has been such an encouragement to me. In particular, she pointed me to this TED Talk video “How to get stuff done when you are depressed”. I’ve never met this lady, but listening to her speak was extremely helpful in figuring out how to even attempt to function at this difficult time.

I strongly recommend it.

Whether it comes from a youtube video, a sister, or close friends, getting support and encouragement from others is vital.

5) Pruning as a way of thriving

As I said, I don’t really know why God chooses to allow difficulty to come into our lives to teach us things. The typical reasons don’t satisfy me. But I am trying to embrace the reality that pruning is a good thing, even if it hurts.

Even if I don’t understand it, I can survive it, and with God’s help, I will even thrive in it.

I hope that this post is an encouragement to you if you are in the midst of difficulty and feeling overwhelmed by it. None of these lessons have changed my situation, but they have helped to change my mindset and attitude which has made the pruning more bearable.

Here’s to when spring (or summer, depending on the variety of rose) comes in its fullness and brings us back to a season of blooms!

 

 

It Fades but never Passes

IMG_0922
“Judy” Drawn in 2015 as part of my grieving process.

Grief.

It leaves a permanent mark on you. But I no longer think that’s a bad thing.

(Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire persuaded me that it was okay)

Wednesday will mark two years since the death of my good friend Judy. As the days have slowly crept towards her anniversary, she has often been on my mind. The crawl to February 22nd has been both weightier and lighter than last year. Lighter because I do not dread it with the anticipation that plagued me for her first anniversary. Weightier because I miss her so much more.

There have been a lot of songs, and poems, quotes, and scripture passages that have helped me cope over the last two years. Here are some of my favorites.

From Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

Becca: Mom? Does it go away?
Nat: What?
Becca: This feeling. Does it every go away?
Nat: No. I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t. And that’s goin’ on eleven years. It changes though.
Becca: How?
Nat: I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around – like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in awhile, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh right. That.” Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda… Not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is…
Becca: What?
Nat: Fine… actually.

“Playing Hard to Get” by Rich Mullins

You who live in Heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt

Do you remember when You lived down here?
Where we all scrape to find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away?
Well I memorized every word You said

Still I’m so scared, I’m holding my breath
While You’re up there just playing hard to get

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then

Did You ever know loneliness, did You ever know need?
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on and Your friends fall asleep
And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

And I know You bore our sorrows
And I know You feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret

I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

*Lamentations 3:31-33 

31 For the Lord will not reject forever,
32 For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
33 For He does not afflict [j]willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.

*Really the whole chapter but it would be far too long for a blog post, but I strongly recommend you read it in its entirety.

If you are in a period of grief, I know something of your pain. I hope the above selections are a comfort to you as they have been for me.

Injurious Inspiration

It’s amazing what a hospitalization can do for your blog traffic. My post detailing my boxing adventure and aftermath received the highest views so far for The Late Bloomer. While the numbers would be low for other bloggers, I was excited to break a new high. Thank you to everyone who read the post and offered well wishes and prayers for my healing.

I got released on Wednesday morning and have been making steady progress every day. While I’ve been recuperating, I’ve given thought to what I’ve gained from my stay at the hospital. I’ve, hopefully, gained some perspective on the importance of being gentle to oneself, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for nurses, but I’ve also gained life experience.

And that can get translated into writing!

20170212_212825-2

This realization came to me before I was admitted to the hospital, last Saturday evening. When I woke up the Friday before with swollen, stiff, and somewhat unmovable arms, I hopped into the tub for an Epsom salt bath to get some relief.

There’s something about water that helps one think.

While I soaked, the memories of boot camp style boxing class twirled around my mind. I relished in the intensity of the workout and berated myself some for not being fit enough to keep up. But what I really landed on was the teacher.

He was amazing. He was very tough, but he really cared, both about the students and the sport.

As I thought about the whole experience, I remembered something a beta-reader had said to me about Chrysalis. Chrysalis is my first completed (but still not finished) novel that follows Joyel, a young girl who is kidnapped and trained to be a soldier, and her journey in recovering from the trauma, bitterness, and confusion she experiences along the way.

My beta-reader suggested that I include at least one scene describing her training. It was one of those comments that you know you should follow but don’t really want to because you aren’t sure how to pull it off.

Well, as I sat in the tub, I realized I had the inspiration I needed from my boxing class.

All I had to do was imagine what that experience would be like if I had been forced to be there and if my instructor had been cruel and uncaring. The exercises he had us perform and the way he motivated us will now get twisted and exaggerated to the extreme until it becomes the perfect scene to depict the horror that Joyel lived in.

Additionally, I also got a good sense of what it really feels like when your muscles have been pushed beyond their limit, so my description of her pain afterward will be more realistic too.

The point of all this is that as writers and artists inspiration for our projects is all around us, in the joys and sorrows and pleasures and pains of life. That must be why I have run across a consistent strain of advice to take a notepad with you where ever you go so you can make sketches or jot words to remember for future use.

So be on the lookout as you go through your days! Not only do we get to live life, we get to take our experiences, both good and bad, and write them into something transcendent.

Here’s to inspiration! And here’s hoping it doesn’t aways come from injuries!

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy Who Never Bloomed

He is commonly known as the boy who never grew up, but I think it’s fair to say he never bloomed either.

This realization came to me as I watched my actors (or as I affectionately refer to them, my children) put on the first batch of performances of Peter Pan. Working on this show has been an experience, a good one. From the adaptation process, which started in April of this year, to the prep work, directing, and helping the shows to run, I have seen growth in myself, in my actors, and in the theatre company as a whole.

Ironic considering the play.

Below is my director’s note for the play, which explores a little of the framework we used in evaluating the characters and stories and the cost of never blooming.

img_8077
Wendy trying to wake Peter from his nightmare

“I want always to be a boy and have fun.” – Peter

“You say that, but I think that is your biggest pretend.” – Wendy

The above are not lines from the play, but rather from the 2003 Universal Pictures film, Peter Pan. That movie made me fall in love with the story of Neverland, because of it’s poignant portrayed of what Peter lost by refusing to grow up.

When I knew we were going to do Peter Pan, I read multiple versions of the play, including the original by J.M. Barrie himself. None of them lived up to the standard that had been given to me by the movie. I made a desperate plea to the owners of the screenplay to see if they would allow me to adapt it for the stage, but I was, not surprisingly, turned down.

The rejection meant that I had to adapt the script on my own, inspired by the themes which the movie had teased out in its version, without copying it.

What stands out to me about the story is not Peter’s fear of growing up, but his selfish refusal to do so. I’m convinced it is not from lack of bravery or courage that Peter Pan remains on Neverland—he has endless adventures to prove his daring. No, Neverland is Peter’s prison because he is too selfish to allow anyone to have a claim on his life.

And he suffers for it.

J.M. Barrie’s novelization of the play gives us a deeper picture of the cost for Peter’s eternal youth. My goal in my adaptation and direction was to capture both the pain of the characters and the ways they tried to cope. We typically associate Peter Pan with his bravado and confidence, the very things he uses to distract himself from his own heartache.

The question that Peter Pan poses for us is not whether or not we’ll grow up. We know we will. For us, there is no Neverland to stop it. The question is, will we allow fear and selfishness to convince us that self-protection is freedom? Or will we dare to choose the riskier, but infinitely better, option of participating in deep and meaningful community?

 

Investments 

Black Friday shopping is dangerous: crazy drivers, crazy shoppers, but also crazy deals.

This past Friday was my second venture into the fray. My list was short: a pair of gloves and one colored pencil. This plan for derailed when I realized Dick Blick was selling a set of colored pencils I had been wanting for years at less than a third of the original price.

Impluse buying is typically frowned upon. That’s what I told myself. But I made the decision to calculate the price per pencil. 

Then I called my husband. 

I didn’t want to blindly throw away a large sum of money. So I asked his opinion. I presented the cost benefit and also the fact that I would be needing to buy several of these pencils in the near future for my next illustration project.

Being the great guy he is, he fully supported me in whatever decision I thiught made the best financial and artistic sense.

I wandered around the store for a while debating. 

For us, it was a lot of money. For the pencils, it was dirt cheap. I would need many of them for my next illustration project if I did it in full color. But I might just do it in monotone since I’m not that good anyway. 

These kind of thoughts went back and forth for several minutes. Finally, I decided to make an investment, not in colored pencils, but in myself.

Seizing the Black Friday deal was more than a purchase; it was a commitment. I made a commitment to myself to push past my perceived limitations, a commitment to develop a stronger technique, a commitment to believe that my growth as an artist, and a person, is worth the investment of money, time, and tears.

I know figuring out how to work in color may be frustrating, but I am committed to conquering that medium. 

Thanks to Black Friday, I have 150 pencils to reminded me of that commitment.

Sometimes you need to be willing to invest in your own growth. What’s a way you can invest in yourself this week?

A Moment of Silence

Much has been said since last Tuesday. Since the election, I have had many thoughts, questions, concerns, and prayers whirling around my mind. For the most part, I’ve kept silent, preferring to repost other’s comments and articles that I resonated with.

Today is my scheduled day for a blog entry. This would be the perfect time to formulate all my ideas and opinions about what happened and what needs to happen next.

But I think instead, I will leave blank space and more time to think and pray and listen to others first, before I rush to add to the clamor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

an-art-exhibit

 

Connection

 

5
“Water” from Players of the Stage’s 2011 production of “The Miracle Worker”.

Annie Sullivan is remembered for opening the mind’s eye of the blind. In October, I got to watch one of my former students perform in “The Miracle Worker” as Kate Keller. The play by William Gibson is a moving and powerful exploration of Helen Keller’s struggle to be able to find language, but more importantly a way to connect with her world.

 

Most of us live with the blessing of being able to speak and hear. We can converse and talk. Social media keeps us busy with tweets and posts, our phones buzz from texts, emails, and calls. But in the midst of all the communication, I wonder if we have lost connection.

Connection has been a pursuit of mine for the last several years. I struggle with overpowering people, obstinately holding to my beliefs and opinions. I allow opposing ideas to threaten me instead of sharpening me. I don’t remember when I began to realize that my relationships suffered from my lack of respect for contrary thought, but I made, and continue to make, learning how to connect with others, regardless of how different they are, a priority.

I admit that I am still woefully deficient in this area. A lot of the reason stems from my passion for the things that I hold dear. My beliefs and preferences are not mere whims. They are things that I have fought for and developed over the twenty-seven years of my life. I realize that’s not a great deal of time, but my opinions and standards are precious to me, so much so that I often fall into the trap of identifying myself by a system, philosophy, or association, instead of my relationship with Christ.

Despite my weakness in this area, I have learned that connection can be improved by listening, something I try hard to practice. One of the reasons I love the Meisner approach to acting is because it trains actors to really listen and really talk. It’s amazing how the repetition exercise can change the way you relate to people.

Why do I bring this up? Why spend a post on this? I think we all can agree that listening is an important skill. No one says “Don’t listen to others. That’s a waste of time.”

I wanted to write about listening because of tomorrow.

Tomorrow is election day.

A lot of horrible things of happened during this election. There is so much I could talk about, but what I really want to explore is the loss of connection and the utter lack of listening.

One of the things that have saddened me the most are the relationships that have been destroyed by the political season. I’ve read far too many posts about unfriending and unfollowing on social media because of virtual brawls over which candidate was worse and who was stupider for their voting decisions.

I’ve tried to have discussions with friends. Some have worked and been beneficial, but most have gone nowhere, because there was a refusal from everyone involved to shut up long enough to listen, really listen, to another person, regardless of whether they disagreed with their thoughts.

I’ve seen posts degenerating groups of people that the writer doesn’t even know because of their political affiliation, candidate endorsement, or policy belief.

I’ve listened to rants against groups of people that the speaker has no personal connection to, only news reports from their favorite channel.

This happens on all sides. My die-hard Republican friends cannot, and often will not, try to understand how anyone can vote for a woman they consider to be corrupt, a liar, a rape enabler, and responsible for the deaths of four American servicemen. For them, she is the worst option.

Most of my other friends cannot understand how anyone could consider Trump a better option than Ms. Clinton when they consider him to be a sexist, racist, unqualified, bigoted, failed businessman.

From what I’ve seen, it seems like there has been lots of name calling and attempts to bully and guilt others into voting for the “right” candidate and little attempt on either side to understand why anyone is voting for the “wrong” candidate.

I wish there would be more attempts to connect. I don’t want our culture to decide that whatever someone thinks or believes is okay. Challenging ideas that you believe are dangerous, immoral, and evil is a good thing, a necessary thing, but we’ve gotten so used to labeling people that we assume they hold to certain ideas for reasons that are offensive to us.

This assumption means that we jump past listening and go right to hounding each other with what we believe is right, and, if we aren’t careful, the disagreements can become so bitter and sharp that friendships are lost and connection broken.

I have friends who are going to vote for Hillary, friends who are going to vote for Trump, friends who are going to vote third party, friends who are writing someone in, and probably some friends that won’t vote at all. I’ve tried my best to listen to why they are voting the way they are, and while I don’t agree with them all, our relationship has not been broken because of a political disagreement, no matter how severe it is.

In order to have connection with others, we have to be willing to listen to them. In order to be able to challenge others and ourselves, we have to respect a person enough to hear out what brought them to a specific conclusion. Individuals buy into rhetoric and beliefs for all sorts of reason. Even if you think a specific idea is evil, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who is holding to it understands it as evil and is okay with that.

Hear them out, find out why they believe what they believe because if you don’t, you can’t really effectively challenge them anyway. There are reasons people are putting aside the baseness of Trump and voting for him that are not full of hate. There are reasons people are putting aside the corruption of Hillary and voting for her that are not full of stupidity.

But you’ll never know if you accuse instead of ask.

I am all for hearty disagreement and discussion. It’s part of what helps us as individuals grow and shape our understanding of our world, but that can only be done if we listen and connect before we speak.

Leo, the Late Bloomer who inspires me so much, struggled with many things: writing, reading, eating, drawing, and even speaking.

And, he never said a word. – Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

By the end of the book he had learned how to talk, which is wonderful! The ability of communication is a great gift, as I think Helen Keller would attest to.

But if Leo had only learned to talk his growth would have been stunted. In order to be able to really connect, one must also learn to listen.

Here’s hoping that after the election, people’s blood will cool, and we will find ways to come together as family, friends, neighbors, and fellow humans, and learn to connect despite our differences, to be able to challenge ideas that must be challenged without attacking the individual, by learning how to listen.

 

Under Construction

It’s been a while. Part of that has been because of having a production, rehearsals, and needing to work on the adaptation for Peter Pan, but part of it has been thanks to Michael Hyatt. If you haven’t checked out his blog, do so. He has lots of really valuable information on how to be an effective leader, efficient worker, and powerful communicator.

For all that I love and appreciate his writing, I confess it’s been tripping me up. I think in the long run it will be good, but in the moment it has caused me to slow down and re-evaluate my blog and website both for my personal use and for my theatre.

He has a lot to say about building a platform, all useful stuff, especially for us aspiring writers. Reading it makes me want to redo everything and refocus. But it’s hard to know what on. These are the questions that I’ve been mulling over my head:

1) Can I focus on building a platform for both my hired job (the theatre) and my hobby job (writer, artist) or do I need to just do one and let the other be for the time, or maybe permanently?

2) How do I figure out what I should focus most on in building the platform, especially blog posts? For instance, on my personal site, I waffle back and forth between writing about personal struggles, to writing, to art, to whatever I feel like.

Michael Hyatt suggests niching yourself as tightly as possible so that your message is clear and devoid of muddiness. I love doing posts about all three of those main topics – struggles of faith, writing, and art.

How do I choose? Should I maybe separate blogs for each topic? (That’s an unlikely one…given how it’s hard for me to get one post in a week as it is!)

3) Am I really communicating anything of value to others?

4) If so, what is it? What is the most valuable content I’ve offered?

Michael suggests doing a reader survey, but with how few readers I have, I don’t know if that would even work.

5) Should I keep trying?

I don’t have answers to all or any of these yet. I have ideas. But life right now is so consumed by theatre that I don’t have much time to sit down and flesh them out. I am hoping for some time over the summer while I am traveling. Michael has a book called “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” that I want to read, and also a class you can take called Platform University that I want to try…but too busy right now. Maybe in the fall.

What about you, my friends who try to get a platform? What are you struggling with right now? Or how are you succeeding?construction

 

 

 

 

Easter and Loss

Some of you know that I am a closet NCIS fan. I watched it mostly during season 8 – 11. Even though I was heartbroken when Ziva left, and I still think Bishop is a sad replacement for her, I occasionally watch the free episodes posted on CBS to keep up with what was happening with the team.

Providentially, (It’s amazing how God can move and work through anything) on Wednesday of last week I watched “Scope”. It followed a marine sniper, Davis, who was recovering from serious wounds, both physical and emotional. Gibbs, the team leader, was charged with trying to get through to Davis and in so doing Gibbs ended up dealing with some of his own wounds as well.

At the end of the episode Davis thanks Gibbs for his help and says:

You know, the thing is, I was fighting myself. Trying to be some empty version of what I was before. But I think I need to try and find a way to be who I am now. You know what I mean?

That simple statement sent me off crying and by the emotional end of the episode I was sobbing. It felt good. I’ve been thinking for over a month that I needed a good cry, but it didn’t happen. Probably because the times that were sad and I was expecting tears I kept my guard up. But this caught me by surprise, hitting me deep in my soul.

I am that marine. I have been fighting myself, trying to be some empty version of what I was before.

The last six years of my life have been filled with wonderful blessings and joys, but also of things that were traumatic for me personally or for my community. In 2010 I contracted Lyme disease, from which my body has never fully recovered, in 2011 I had the joy of getting married but our first couple years were a hard transition, in 2014 I nearly cut off my hand, and in 2015 I lost a dear friend to suicide.

All of those things have taken a huge toll on who I am, and I often struggle with trying to go back to who I was pre-lyme. I miss things about who I was before I cut hand. I am weary with the weight of loss. And the fight to return to pre-all these things can be exhausting.

It was providential to watch that marine struggle with accepting his mangled and scarred body as part of him. It helped me to realize that I don’t have to go back. Who I have become as an outcome of those struggles is not a bad thing. It’s been a hard journey, it’s been a journey full of loss, but God has used those things to shape me, to start humbling me, to make a tad more compassionate, and that’s good. I don’t have to let trauma define me and cast a shadow over my life, but I can embrace the ways that God has used them for good.

Since Wednesday I’ve been thinking about loss a lot, especially in conjunction with the Resurrection. Jesus left the glory of heaven and took on human form. (If that is not loss I don’t know what is.) He died for our sins, paying the debt we owed to God, and then rose again. But when He rose he was still the God-man. He did not throw off His humanity. He became the firstborn of the dead, the first to have that glorified human body.

Jesus suffered great loss for us but He never reverted back to pre-incarnation. He’s returned to His glory, but even more glorious. He didn’t reject His loss, rather He embraced what He had gained, and amazingly, what He gained was us. Reconciliation between God and man was accomplished because Jesus lost much, because Jesus trusted His good Father to turn that loss into something beautiful.

So as I think the big things and the small things I have lost, I am trying to keep it in the perspective of the empty grave.

I may never have as much energy as I used to, and I may always have a twinge of Bells palsy. I may never like wearing skirts again. I may never play the piano or sign again. Maybe drawing will always be a bit frustrating because I can’t feel my pencil. Maybe the 22nd will always a sad day.

But whatever I have lost from these traumas, and whatever I am going to lose in future trials, I know that they are for my good and that my Heavenly Father is going to use them to make me more like Jesus. Will it be painful? Yes. Will I experience loss? Yes. Will I struggle to believe that God is good and faithful? Oh, absolutely. But I hope that I will be better at trusting Him in the process of healing, and that I will not fight so much to return to pre-whatever; that I will rather embrace the loss as a part of God’s shaping of me, as a part of my story.

Happy Easter all. Glory be to the one who accepted loss and considered us to be worth that loss so that we could gain heaven and fellowship with Him.