Friday, August 24, 2012

It's Harder Than I Thought

Dreaming every day is not as great as it sounds. And I'm not talking about dreaming while I asleep. For this next year-ish, I dream wide awake

It's an odd thing because the novelty of a dream a day keeps the thing going for a while. There is the starting of an idea, which feels like a lovely floating. 

Ah yes, like this. [Photo credit:]

After the floating, the novelty plugs a steam shot of adrenaline through me, kind of like a swimmer shoving off from the wall. But eventually, we all have to swim. Now I have to swim.

So here I am, Day 43 and I am swimming. Paddling along with the flabby, atrophied arms and legs, wondering when I will get the rhythm to make this work. Wondering when my imagination and altruism will kick in so I can dream away all the worlds problems. But to do this, I first have to face all the world's problems. So like going into labor and many other creative projects I start and commit to, I've pondered if 365 days of dreaming was really the thing to tackle. 

She looks a little angry. I can relate. [Photo cred:]

One must look far outside of one's own life to even get an idea of what is available for dreaming. Granted, I could simply dream up things for my own life. I could dream for getting all the way out of debt, which is a great idea - I will do that tonight. I could dream of better jobs, bigger houses, wider cars that take up more space, children who are geniuses and pay for my retirement, and neighbors who don't mind that our guests park in front of their houses. 

But why be so myopic? I can't handle that. I'm a social worker, pastor's wife and mom, for crying out loud. We bleed mercy and compassion and other gushy things like that. So I've taken to the news and the blogs and the .org sites to find out what is happening in the world. Exodus Cry, Live ActionAmnesty International or Heidi Baker's Iris Ministries are great places to see who needs the dream and the prayer.  

I read and lean into the problem or pain of the situation, pull on my own heart to do it justice by telling the stories. Then I add a picture and up goes the dream, in its own cyberspace balloon.

Some nights I am plain exhausted and don't feel much like dreaming. Even the drama or agony of unraveled relationships or a story I need resolved can not push me to dream.  Some days I feel confused about what to aim for in dreamland this week, what problems need dreamed away. And many days I feel like I just don't know if I can come up with 300 and some odd more of these crazy dream things. What was I thinking?

The (self-imposed) requirement to dream daily, to do anything daily, poses a unique challenge. A commitment that exposes my character in true and painful ways. I am learning much about God, life and self. Here's a few things:

1. God is always dreaming. I only need to ask him for ideas. He has plenty.

2. Dreams come first, then hope and faith. The dream actually grows the hope, which births the faith. Faith is the tangible certainty of the thing that I hope for. But it takes the dreaming before the faith and hope can come. The dream is always first. In this kingdom reality, dreaming inevitably gets work done. 

3. I am already starting to see the dreams take shape. Multiple dreams I've dreamed have led to responses from people - or myself - in unexpected ways where the idea, the Google-searched picture, becomes a real part of my imagination, then it becomes a conversation and a meeting on the calendar. Then it becomes a group of people who take a day or a week to talk and work and hang art or play with children. And then all of a sudden, the dream isn't a dream. It's real.

4. Dreaming is essential for life. Dreaming keeps us alive. Without dreams, we lose motivation. We have no passion. We lose the will to do, well, everything. No dreams, nothing to look forward to. Nothing to cultivate relationships for. Nothing to grow your bank account for. Nothing to write or talk about. Dreaming is where life starts. 
      -An important side note here: we stop dreaming when we move into anxiety/survival/panic mode. In that place of fear and orphan-heartedness, our worlds shrink and we can only think about what we will eat, wear, buy that day. We become obsessed with ourselves; hostile, bitter, angry alley cats, snapping at anyone who thinks about taking away our precious life preserver, whatever that might be. Instead of dreaming and optimism, we move to pessimism and addiction. We do what we have to do to stay afloat. It's a bad place. If you're there, get out quick. (Read #5 if you want to get out.)

5. Related to my side note, I always know I'm in a bad place when I can't write. When I can't dream. Writing is my passion. It lets me dream. If I have nothing to write about, then I'm not functioning. I'm stressed. I care about the wrong things. The only way to get out is to start it back up. Start writing. Start dreaming. If you don't feel like it, do it anyway. 

So this is my snapshot of the story, the journey and the inevitable struggle of the dream-a-day trip I've been on. Here's to the next 300ish days and the dreams and realities that may come. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On All The Changing and Shifting You're Feeling

Many of us have been feeling the same thing lately, but it's time we talked about it. 

Good things are flooding in, and bad is crashing all around. There is wild success and fierce opposition. There are arguments with people who you want to have your back. There are slight and significant disturbances of the peace all around. And at the same time, there are wide open doors, breakthrough and blessing and dreams coming true. 

It's the best of times and the worst of times, as they say.

The first day of August I could feel it. Something is shifting. It's going to be major. Light is getting lighter and dark is darker. You know what I mean. 

[Continue reading on the 365 Dream Project here.]

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Get Yourself Back

I am a conflicted human being. I value knowledge and productivity, people and noise and creatives, new ideas and getting things done. I also enjoy rest, quiet aloneness, and sleep. Something funny happens during the days though. All the busy makes me forget how much I love silence. So I get up and go with the sun's wake up, but run out of steam long after it's bed time. Well, not every day, but most days. Let's pick a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

  • 6am: Wake up. Hit the snooze too many times.
  • 6:40: Get out of bed with 15 minutes to get ready.
  • 7: Meet the carpool. 
  • 7:30-6pm: Working working.
  • 6:45pm: Home for a minute. Load the toddler into the car and something with protein into my mouth.
  • 7pm: Go to a meeting or a group or a session of some kind.
  • 9:00pm: Home for the night.
  • 9:30pm: Goodnight, little buddy.
  • 9:45pm: Catch up with roommates.
  • 10:00pm: Catch up with husband.
  • 10:30pm: Writing, reading.
  • 11:00pm: Thinking about sleeping.
  • 11:30pm: Asleep.

So you can see how this routine would get a little exhausting. I am very fortunate as this is my schedule only four of seven days. The other three look radically different, more flexible, with travel time, leisure and creative time, play time, face time with people I like, time to clean a bathroom, call a mother. I am so thankful for these days. Of course, they also involve church gatherings, trainings and workshops, planning sessions, lunches, late nights with friends and roommates, all the while dreaming up new things for Manhattan, theWELL and the world. 

Exhilarating. Hard to take a breath. So even when it's all going great, it still takes all the energy I have to keep it moving. The tragic part is, sometimes I get the sense that I can't control my life. That my schedule isn't in my hands anymore. It's not true, but it feels this way. 

I'm learning to draw lines around my time and my possessions, my advice, my presence, my companions - not all things are equal. But it's taken me so long to get here.

Tonight Josh said something he says whenever he thinks of it. "Why I don't I keep John with me tonight, and you can just go somewhere." It sounds so nice. But I am skeptical. 
    Will there be enough time for me to clean up the wreckage of my brain? 
    Can I dust out the cobwebs, regain my sense of self and hear God in 120 minutes? 
    It's not enough time, my Panic shrieks, wringing its hands, swooping in to steal the precious time I do have. 

I reminded my Panic that I don't need 120 minutes to solve all the problems in the world. This is not my only night to figure life out. Getting away for any amount of time will do me good.

Oh. Right. 

I changed into clothes that would be comfortable perched next to a lake or on a patio and away I went. I took the back roads near our house, the roads lined with yellowing rows of corn, in which hover enormous but graceful, spider-like sprinklers. I feel like I'm smack dab in suburbia most days, but I'm so close to country, to farms and barns and vast expanses of sky. 

And my favorite part about living out here: the proximity to several peaceful bodies of water. Tonight I made my way to Tuttle Creek, just in time for the sunset. The two-lane roads dove and swooped through the green hills along the periphery of the lake. I shimmied along, getting a glimpse of sky and then, a glimpse of the water, my view changing every few seconds. It was delightful.

I wanted to get to the water so badly, but I realized, even the drive was healing. The space between me and the small, tiny things I call problems. It took only 30 minutes or so to regain perspective. 

[Tuttle Creek at sunset, iPhone, no editing]

I camped myself along a high bank near the southeast end of the lake. The crickets chirped an evening song, serenading the sun as it slid down the horizon, leaving a brighter and brighter sky behind in its wake. I wanted to take the moments home with me, to remind myself of how close this beauty is, only a ten-minute drive from the place I call home. So I did. But I'll get to that in a minute. 

My lesson for tonight: getting yourself back is simple. It takes only the slightest bit of intentionality and a little planning. 

Knowing what I love, what brings me back to me and God, is key. It's nature almost always. 

I scribbled down plans to do this again soon. Here they are:

Things to do to get alone:
1. An hour drive outside of town
2. Borrow Josh's office for an hour
3. Spend a couple hours at a local body of water or hiking ground
Make it happen by:
1. Scheduling time ahead with Josh
2. Getting a babysitter for John
3. Getting up early before the day gets going

Yes, it really is that simple. There are so many beautiful places to go, places with silence, nature and God, just waiting to be discovered, to be heard, to be enjoyed. And it was easy to uncover my soul, to breathe a little easier, a little lighter. 

Every mom, everyone needs time for this. Whatever it looks like for you. There are no excuses left when God is this close and it only takes an hour to reconnect. 

A little treat for you: 
I captured the setting sun, the bright colors in the dimming sky, sounds of nature singing, the water lapping, birds and crickets chiming in. You can hear and see what I saw here if you want. All images were taken on my iPhone, totally unedited, except for a little crop I made on the second one so it would match the horizons of the other photos better. But all the beauty is natural, and even a 5 megapixel phone can see. 

[A couple viewing tips: turn up your volume so you can hear it all - you have to listen close to hear the water, but it's there. Now imagine you're here too.]

And the night ended like this:

[This is low quality, but you can see the enjoyment, the ME I got back. Sitting on a patio, drinking root beer, eating chips and salsa, remembering all I have to be thankful for.]