Recently, I was speaking to a friend on Skype about the state of my life and my heart (not exactly a stellar state, let’s just say). She challenged me to make a ‘creative gratitude journal’ to lift up my heart and soul through this challenging season.
After we ended our call, I sat there on my bed pondering her words. And within moments, I decided to take her challenge seriously. This wasn’t the time to just sit down and wallow in a puddle of self-pity. This was the time for positive action and creative encouragement.
Soooo…. I decided since I love editing photos, writing and collecting inspiring quotes, why not make it a creative online design project? And why not share it with the world?
What is ‘The Creative Encouragement Project’?
To embrace each new day and multiply gratitude within it, I am creating photographic quotes to encourage the soul into joy and wonder again. Everybody needs a little encouragement to survive thrive every day! I’d like to think of this project as a creative infusion of courage for the soul.
This ongoing project is a way of (regularly) reminding myself (and others) of what is good, true and life-giving. This is my way of picking up the sword and kicking the ickiness out of my daily life (and maybe it’ll spur others on into joy as well which is an added bonus)!
So, without further adieu, click the button below to:
I would describe my life these days as rather ambiguous. I can’t seem to find a clear, concrete definition for this season. I wish I liked the ambiguity a little more. I bought this card earlier this year while I was visiting a friend in the States, and I have it displayed on my desk to try and convince myself of the supposed ‘deliciousness’ of this completely frustrating season of uncertainty.
Even though I have gone over my priority list a million times already, showing me why I have chosen to do what I’m now doing (living and working in my childhood hometown), it doesn’t make the ‘living-it-out’ part any easier. Not knowing how long I’ll be here and why I’m truly here is a tad torturous for this organizer-planner gal.
Most of the time, this ‘delicious ambiguity’ feels more like ‘distasteful yuckiness’, if I’m completely honest.
Life is about not knowing.
That involves trusting an unseen divine hand upon my life, a trust that I resist with everything in my being. A trust that involves all the unknowns and uncertainties that live just around the corner. I can’t see that far. I hate corners. They’re killin’ me.
Life is about having to change.
I used to think that I was fairly ‘okay’ with change. But these changes over the past couple years? Nope. I’ve kicked, screamed and stuck my head in the sand like a ridiculous ostrich trying to avoid the inevitable, refusing to accept that I have to change my way of thinking, my perspective on my life, and my approach to challenging people and circumstances. I’ve fought the reality that change is often counter-intuitive, goes against the grain of my natural flow, and seems to stubbornly violate everything my heart holds dear. I have had my share of grown-up temper tantrums, crying about how life is not going the way I thought it should. My life is not going according to plan! The plot has jumped off the grid, and I’m faltering. Reality is setting in that life is rarely easy or fair and not always enjoyable. Sometimes, it’s just damn hard. So, in those times, to get fresh hope and joy to navigate forward in life, we must change. It’s the only way to progress in life. If we refuse to accept the changes, we’ll get stuck on the road and life will pass us by. Ugh, I don’t want life to pass me by…
Life is about taking the moment and making the best of it.
So the ingredients in my current life don’t feel like they will combine together to form anything remotely delicious or tasty, but this is what I’ve been given to work with in this season of my life. Can I accept it and then make the best of it? Sigh. I’m trying…
Life is about not knowing what’s going to happen next.
So, I guess this means I must give up control of the plot, and give up my demand that life tell me what’s around the corner. I must give up my wishful thinking that everything in life will be ‘easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy’ as my little niece loves to cutely declare. No, life is definitely not easy-peasy, and nothing about it is certain or unchanging. Life is more about giving up the illusion that it never changes and accepting the inevitable uncertainty of it all.
So, here I am, staring at this little card on my desk. It tells me that life is a story that doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. At first, it breaks my heart, but the more I have thought about it these days (and the reason I have even kept it on my desk) the more I realize how much hope it has given me. It has shown me that even though the story called “My Life” feels so ambiguous at times, when I take the courageous steps to “change the things I can change” and “accept the things I cannot change”, I discover that the plot really is moving forward. This is all going somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, I can catch a whiff of something possibly delicious coming around the corner. And, as this other card below has encouraged me lately,
“Sometimes your journey will take you off of your path. It’s all part of the same trip.”
Life is full of side roads. Side roads that often don’t make any sense at all. Life is not one straight path forward. It is a woven tapestry of multi-layered paths, unexpected intersections, devastating detours, challenging roadblocks, fascinating views and surprising encounters along the way.
I’ve had a few people asking me lately when I’ll write a new blog post because my posts have been few and far between this year. Yes, I realize there’s been minimal activity here… it’s been a little silent on the blog.
If you saw my writing folder on my computer desktop, you would see that I have half a dozen or so half-finished articles, and there are even a few that are in draft-form on my website dashboard, with photos attached and all, but I haven’t been able to feel that internal release to ‘go-ahead-and-press-the-publish-button’. It appears I just don’t want to publish my words these days.
Sometimes, we go through seasons where we need to leave more of the deep, internal words of our heart hidden and un-written on the inside, or at least, just revealed to a few trusted friends or family. Let’s just say it’s been one of those seasons.
“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others.” (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism)
So, that is what I’m doing… my own eyes (and my own words) are not enough for me right now, I will see through those of others.
I may not be writing these days, but I am reading like a parched desert has just met an ocean of others’ words.
In five minutes, all the pain and perplexity of this long dark season was… validated.
These words were quoted and contained within an article on this man‘s website; his depth of mind and heart astonishes me and has the ability to comfort my soul like few can.
I’d like to just cut to the chase and post the first couple paragraphs of the article and share the very words that have made me weep. I am sure that those of you who are in a similar painful season will be compelled to click the article link at the bottom to read it in its entirety.
In her book, Survivor, Christina Crawford writes: “Lost is a place, too.”
That’s more than a clever sound-byte. It’s a deep truth that’s often lost in a world within which success, achievement, and good appearance define meaning and value.
What can that phrase teach us? That sometimes it’s good to be without success, without health, without achievements to bolster us, without good appearance, and even without meaning. Being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be.
One of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, John of the Cross, would agree with that. If he was your spiritual director and you explained to him that you were going through a dark, painful patch in life and asked him: “What’s wrong with me?” He would likely answer:
“There’s nothing wrong with you; indeed, there’s a lot right with you. You’re where you should be right now: in the desert, letting the merciless sun do its work; in a dark night, undergoing an alchemy of soul; in exile, lamenting on a foreign shore so that you can better understand your homeland; in the garden, sweating the blood that needs to be sweated to live out your commitments; being pruned, undergoing spiritual chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours of emotional and spiritual dead-wood that have built up from wrong-turns taken; in the upper room, unsure of yourself, waiting for pentecost before you can set out again with any confidence; undergoing positive disintegration, having your life ripped apart so that you can rearrange it in a more life-giving way; sitting in the ashes, like Cinderella, because only a certain kind of humiliation will ready your soul for celebration; and undergoing purgatory, right here on earth, so your heart, soul, and body can, through this painful purging, learn to embrace what you love without unhealthily wanting it for yourself.”
He’d also tell you that this can be a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. That doesn’t make it less painful or humiliating, it just gives you the consolation of knowing that you’re in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, Jesus included, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.
I love the global family of YWAM! I’d like to introduce Brittany Hurst to you, who was a part of YWAM Australia for a few years and is our guest writer on the blog today! You’ll be challenged in the area of surrender and trust as you read her words below!
There’s that Christian song – kind of old school – called “Blessed Be Your Name”. Who was the original artist? Beats me, but there’s this line in it that goes like this:
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name.
These lyrics are about the idea (and reality) that God gives and takes away, and that in seasons of plenty and in seasons of darkness and suffering, we need to surrender and choose to bless His Name.
Now, roll this word around your tongue a bit; ponder it. What do you picture? What’s the first word that comes to mind?
I have found that sometimes my initial response to a gift or a blessing is, “Oh great, thanks God… but I don’t really know what to do with it?! And…how long can I have it for?!”
The fact is, life is uncertain. Things happen. We live in a fallen world, full of people with free will and sometimes, it feels like ‘anything goes.’ Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
I’ve learned that sometimes God does ask us to give things to Him – to surrender it, to lay it down, or not pursue something for a certain time. Reasons vary, and sometimes we don’t understand.
Now I don’t believe God does this in a cruel way. Sometimes, I think it’s because it’s not good for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because He has something better for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because the timing is not right. And sometimes, I think it’s because He is testing our faithfulness and loyalty to Him and to Him being first in our hearts.
But, it brings me back to my initial response when I receive something I like and want: if I’m honest, I fear losing it or fear that I’ll be asked to surrender it (again).
It’s almost as if I don’t fully –one hundred percent– trust my Father.
There. I said it.
I struggle to trust Him. It’s a choice. Sometimes I choose to, and sometimes I dwell in everything but trust.
Our loving Father sees the end when I just see the beginning. He’s the One who sees all the pieces when I just see a small sliver. He’s the One who knows my heart even when I can’t untangle the thoughts in my mind.
Why do I struggle to trust Him?
In my short life, I’ve learned a decent amount about surrender already. Just say the word, and the first things that come to mind have to do with people, experiences, or decisions I’ve made. In those areas, I’ve had to choose to believe, even when I can’t see. I’ve had to choose to trust Him and His character so that I can see the bigger picture. The bigger, eternal perspective that reveals that it’s not all about me and my happiness and it’s going to be okay, because I’m on the winning side.
I want to encourage all of us today: whatever circumstances you find yourself in, whether it’s a time of abundance and blessing or the opposite, whether it be suffering, lack, hurt, or if you just feel the challenge (or nudge) to surrender…. remember that God truly is faithful.
I really choose to believe that.
God really is good and He works things out for the good of those who love Him. I’m not saying it will turn out the way YOU think it needs to but He’s got it figured out and He’ll come through in one way or another.
And even if today and tomorrow and the next day really really really SUCK, remember that He loves you. He’s there for you. He wants you to talk to Him, to trust Him now, before things get better.
“Chin up, child. This too shall pass…”
About the Author:
Brittany prefers being called ‘Britt’ and really believes that the essence of life is all about relationships; how we relate to God, ourselves and others. She’s a coffee drinker- journal writing- belly laughing – American girl who has got her eyes on the nations, developing world and cultures. Subscribe to her blog, follow her on instragram, or ‘friend’ her on Facebook.