Friday, June 17, 2011

Dance Lessons: One Month Count Down!!!

"When you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance"
           ~made famous by Lee Ann Womack

or perhaps you prefer

"Just dance...
Dance, dance, just, j-j-just dance"
            ~made famous by Lady Gaga

Friday afternoon June 17, 2011.  Wow!  Less than 1 month until the wedding!  So much has happened in the past month: dress fittings, the school play and promotion ceremony for Clint’s junior highers, the NBA finals where the Mavericks won the championship, our engagement picture photo shoot, bbqs, my 3 year anniversary at ECCU, a camping and bungee jumping trip (Clint and the boys), a local bridal shower (me and the girls), a museum and wine tasting outing, a wedding shower in my hometown, signing the lease to our new studio and getting our furniture, and just last night our first dance lesson.  Did I mention that was just our last month?  Yep.  Pretty crazy!

I must admit that as the wedding is getting closer, I feel more excitement, sentimentality, and pressure to have everything in order, so I’m afraid I had a little “bridezilla” moment yesterday.  Now please understand that I am generally not very outspoken or demanding, but as my opinions have been solicited for the past five months for just about everything, I have discovered that I have a lot more expectations, and thus opinions, concerning our big day than I thought.  During a great conversation last night with our reception MC, I realized that the wedding day is not simply a list of events to check off, but a series of special moments, of precious memories to last a lifetime.  I want to be fully present and experience the great delight, to allow myself the freedom to be beaming with smiles or to shed a tear, to rejoice with my love and our family and friends and not to worry about whether the platters are lined up perfectly.  Every bride with whom I have spoken has told me to not stress about the details on the wedding day, but to have a great time.  I take it that they wish they had not stressed so much over minor details, so it is my goal to take their advice.

Excellence is very important to me and I want to put forth the effort to plan a great event, but at the same time, I want to recognize that I cannot control all the factors and that very fact will actually make it an organic and a truly human day.  By this I mean that I do not want a superficially manufactured event, all fake happy smiles and a perfectly designed everything.  Our wedding should be a beautiful day, while remaining open to the uniqueness and spontaneity of real life.  The day will have life and vitality, like the difference between listening to a recording and attending a concert– it will breathe.  It is a once in a lifetime experience where all in attendance are engaged and participate, thus the community creates an experience that can never be repeated.

Take our dance for example.  In our dance lessons last night we told the instructor that we wanted to learn some steps, but not to create a choreographed number.  Clint ought to have the freedom to lead as he feels in the moment, not being overly pressured to remember what comes next and force a step that does not flow naturally.  We want to be prepared, but flexible.  If you know me this might sound a bit humorous, as I tend to be a very scheduled and regimented kind of girl, but Clint so often eases my mind and helps me to feel confident that all will be well. 

In conclusion, say a prayer for me if you have a moment in the next month that we will do all that is necessary to plan and be prepared, but that we will fully embrace the moment and enjoy the dance!

Monday, June 6, 2011

One Bended Knee: Combating 'Mad Dash' Syndrome

“Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late.  In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
                                    ~Martin Luther

It’s Monday morning and I am cutting it close again.  Grabbing my purse off the counter, I dump some Honey Bunches of Oats into a coffee mug and pour chocolate soy milk on top, then snatch a spoon from the drying rack and run out the door.  As I drive down Imperial Highway, I pause at each stoplight to munch on my cereal, while trying to precariously balance a bouquet of sunflowers on my lap.  I glance longingly at the picture of a latte on the Starbucks sign as I pass, then suddenly slam on my breaks as the light turns yellow.  Startled, I cautiously drive the last couple of blocks, and pull into the parking lot of my office building.  Turning off the engine I glance at the dashboard – 7:52 A.M.  ‘Late again,’ I sigh to myself.  I pull out my Book of Common Prayer and flip to the Psalms, pausing five minutes to read a couple before jumping out of the car and charging off to the time clock to swipe my badge by 8:00. 

Even with all that is going on I always seem to pull it together and make it to work on time, which is essential, but my goal is always to arrive in the parking lot around 7:40, so that I will have 20 minutes for prayer before I start work.  Unfortunately, this chaotic scene of my juggling act and mad dash to the office has been happening too frequently of late.  I could blame it on too little sleep, quite a bit of stress, so very much change… Yet why is it so easy for me to be disciplined in my punctuality to work, but then to struggle so much with finding time to pray?  Why is it that in the times when I need more prayer, I seem to make less time for it?

In church yesterday, Fr. Scarlett reminded us that one of the ways we display our faith in Jesus is through consistent prayer.  I am generally good at prioritizing in order to accomplish my goals, but I am afraid that becoming a consistent and habitual prayer warrior has not been on the top of my list.  As I continue to reflect on the importance of prayer, I am realizing that although it seems logical that I will have less time for everything else if I set aside time to pray, I am finding that the opposite is in fact true.  Prayer realigns my focus on what really matters.  It deepens my trust in God to provide for all my needs, and lifts my spirits.  Just a few minutes in prayer can radically reshape the course of a day, a week, and ultimately a life.

Rather than a vague “I want to make prayer a priority this week”, I need to literally carve out time for prayer.  Like everything else that I want to get done, at least for now, I need to put it on the calendar.  I need to whisper my prayers for strength throughout the day, taking every thought captive, and then set aside some extended time to spend with Him.  I have heard it said that it is impossible to have a relationship with someone if you never spend time with them. I certainly know this to be true, so instead of thinking about it as “making prayer a priority”, I need to think about it as “making God a priority”.  Now that certainly sounds essential!

Reflection:  How do you make God, specifically through time in prayer, a priority in your life?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Bended Knee: Unshaken

“I spit out the blood and dust that coats my mouth, but I can’t spit out the fear.  Buried beneath six stories of rubble, the remains of what was once the Hotel Montana, I’m hanging on to the realization that I live through an earthquake.  I survived!  But, I also know that if I want to make it out of this black tomb alive, if I ever hope to see my family again, it will take a miracle – a series of miracles.

Miracles I’m not sure I  have the faith to believe in.”

                ~Dan Woolley’s Unshaken

I recently finished a book entitled Unshaken by Dan Woolley, a Compassion International photo-journalist, who was buried under the Hotel Montana during the Haitian earthquake in Port-au-Prince last January.  He writes about his fight for survival in an elevator shaft, but what I found most compelling, was his crisis of belief, his struggle to maintain his faith in the goodness of God while in the very depths.  His instincts and memory of a survival tv show provided the material needed to keep himself alive, but it was the battle for hope, the war to control his thoughts and to turn to the Lord in his pain and anxiety.

In crafting his book, Dan parallels his earthquake experience with a recounting of his wife’s struggle with depression, and I found that the two stories interweave beautifully to display the saving power of God and His divine intervention in both situations.  The Woolley’s have seen the Lord’s faithfulness through the most difficult challenges and the darkest times of his life.  Dan and his wife Christy have experienced a renewed passion for Christ and for one another, and it has radically reshaped their lives, and they want to share their story

I found that the book was able to capture my imagination, and my emotions for that matter.  Every time I put it down I kept wondering how he would ever be rescued and how his wife could emerge from such emotional despair.  I simply could not imagine the ceiling caving in on me and being trapped for 2 ½ days with little hope of rescue, nor could I imagine receiving news of my love being missing after a massive disaster, not knowing whether he was dead or alive.

In the depths of their despair Dan and Christy called out to the Lord, sharing their feelings and not seeking to deny or hide their sorrow, pain, or anger.  They turned to the Lord in their hurt and He spoke to them.  Too often we turn away from God when painful circumstances take us by surprise.  Too often we blame God, but are unwilling to listen to His response.  Too often we strive to do all that we can to remedy the situation on our own before approaching our Almighty Father.  In short, too often we fail to pray.

Whether facing our greatest difficulties or the challenges of daily life, the Lord encourages us to pray, to come to Him as we are and to seek His forgiveness, His comfort, and His love.  Why do we so often neglect our Maker, the Source of our very being and the Giver of life, thinking that we just don’t have time or that we can handle it on our own?  Why are we overwhelmed with stress and the pressures of this life?  Why do we live as people with no hope?  Instead, as the author of Hebrews urges: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in time of need.”

Yes, let us be people of faith amidst the darkness – let us be people of prayer.