Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Don't Want To Compare Myself To You - My Messy Beautiful

***I interrupt this Lenten blogging hiatus to bring you words as I participate in Momastery’s Messy Beautiful Warriors Project. This beautiful idea shares blog posts from women striving to make the most out of our messy, beautiful lives. Take some time to read the hearts of participants. You’ll realize we’re not so different after all.*** 

Sisters. I have a question for you: 
Why do we spend so many hours comparing ourselves?

She has more money than I do.
She has a bigger house than I do.
She has better hair than I do.
She has nicer clothes than I do.
She has a flatter stomach than I do. 

At some point in my life I’ve thought all of the above. Now with four decades behind me, I will proudly say I’ve let these petty self-judgements flitter away.

To celebrate the paperback release of “Carry On Warrior”, a book filled with stories of her messy, beautiful life, Glennon Melton asked bloggers to share vulnerabilities in their own messy, beautiful lives. 

No problem, I thought when asked to submit a post. I’m as transparent as a bay window. Everyone who comes into my life spots my messy and I never hesitate to call out where I find beauty. 

Just an example of the "messy" you may see.

However, if I’m going to share total honesty in this post, the truth I find when I dive down deep to my core, there still lives shame; one last standard in which I compare myself to other women.

I do too much but it’s not enough.

I hear what you’re saying now. “Hoooold on, Andee. You don’t really do all that much. In fact, I do way more than you and I never even complain about it!”

Or at least that’s what I imagine you’re saying.

Before I met my husband, my days were filled from dawn until midnight. So much to do in a day, let alone a lifetime. I was unfamiliar with the term “present in the moment”. In fact, the first time I heard this phrase I assumed it was some new-age fad passing through. I’m more of a “future in the moment” type of girl. Whatever I’m doing presently, my mind is on what comes next. 

5/4/2010: To-Do List
Photo Credit: Flickr John.Schultz

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you know my once pages long to-do list came to a screeching halt when I was 24 years old. In the fall of that year, I suffered a stroke. There were no more lists to complete, no more events to handle, no more errands to run. Doctors appointments and the TV Guide dictated my agenda.

Fast forward to today - almost 20 years since my paralyzing illness. Looking at me, you’d never know I once spent a great deal of time with only the left half of a functioning anatomy. 

But I know. 

I am reminded every time my right side tells me, “You’ve done too much.”

My brain continually disagrees with the rest of my body. All of my cerebral matter shouts, “Do more, ya’ sissy! See that woman over there? She works, has 4 kids, is the room mother in each kids’ classroom, and volunteers at a homeless shelter. What the hell is wrong with you? You only have 2 kids and no job. Get crackin’!” (My brain sounds like a barking Camp Pendleton sergeant.)

So I push through and I obey my thought pattern commanding “do more”, which leads to tiredness and weakness. 
Which leads to irritability. 
Which leads to stress.
Which leads to depression.
Which leads to kids needing a mama and husband needing a wife, but the only one around to fill that role is in bed with the covers pulled over her head.

That’s not beautiful. It’s just messy.

Sisters, can we make a deal with each other? 

Can we let go of the self-criticism arising from our own insecurities? I’ll try not to place my to-do list side by side with yours and you don’t have to envy my flat stomach. (And by “flat” I mean “soft and pillow-like”.)

If we learn to dismiss the self-judgement,
the unreal expectations,
the comparing,
imagine how much easier it will be to appreciate the beauty in our “messy-beautiful”. 

And if we lean on each other during these times of self doubt, we’ll honor our messy-beautiful together.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seeing Jesus

For two days I’ve been an emotional wreck. 

Journey Theater Arts Group’s presentation of Godspell, Jr. has finished, but the sorrow I feel is more than post-show let down. Usually the girls are a bit melancholy after a week of performing, yet I am elated when life gets back to normal. I couldn’t put my finger on the reason I am so down this time. Then this morning it hit me - I saw Jesus. And I miss him.

I didn’t see our Lord in my grilled cheese sandwich or on a water stained wall. I saw Jesus in 37 youth acting out the parables found in Scripture. 

Oh, these boys!
Can you imagine the responsibility to play Judas and Jesus?

When kids are cast in productions, they are given a part to play. For Godspell, Jr. only 3 boys were asked to portray a character: Jacob became Jesus, Jordan became Judas, Ethan became John the Baptist. For 34 other kids, their main responsibility was to convey stage exaggerated versions of themselves. Even their own names remained the same. The set backdrop was our city of Portland and the costumes came from the cast’s own closets. The script was peppered with inside jokes and improvised lines allowed our children’s personalities to shine.

Yep. That's her personality.

The show was personal. The message was for today.

When “Jesus” touched Annika, he touched my child. When “Jesus” blessed Emma, he blessed my child. When “Jesus” was crucified, my own daughters pierced him.

And in my daughters, I saw myself. Through the kids, I was reminded of Jesus’ teachings, love, and sacrifice. I realized, Jesus and I have a lot of catching up to do.

"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice"
"For they shall be filled."

How appropriate for my awareness to come at the beginning of this Lenten season. I’ve never been one to give up something for Lent. I’ve tried a few times, yet never grew in my love of God or understanding of sacrifice simply by giving up refined sugar or watching less television.

This year, I am giving something up only to add something else in its place. As much as I enjoy writing, I am giving up blogging until Easter. 

Not posting my words online may not seem like much of a sacrifice. However, in the time it takes to organize writing ideas, to type, edit and check stats to see if anyone has read what I’ve written, I will be spending my time in the Bible, in prayer, and in study.

When I blog, the focus is on myself; my thoughts, my lessons, my information. This Lent, my focal point becomes Jesus.

It’s time I refreshed myself on what it really means to be blessed. 
On what it really means to live in grace and mercy. 
On what it really means to forgive others because I have been so greatly forgiven. 

This will be my reaction when I meet Jesus in the flesh, I promise you.

When wilt thou save the people?
O God of mercy, when?
Not Kings and Lords, but nations,
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
God save the people,
for thine they are,
Thy children as Thy angels fair.
God save the people,
from despair.

Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Killing Jesus: In the Mind of Teens

My girls are stumbling around the house in a knocked out daze. Twice today they met Jesus, sang with Jesus, loved with Jesus, and killed Jesus - all in front of 350 school kids.

Today the cast of Journey Theater Arts Group's Godspell, Jr. performed "school day shows", a chance for the kids to perform in front of a live audience before opening weekend. I'm not going to lie. This may be my favorite show I've ever seen my daughters perform. I don't want to take my eyes from the stage, afraid I'll miss a detail or reaction from one of the 37 youth in the play.

The musical is an emotional one. Two of the actors expressed their feelings in written form and I have permission to share their thoughts here. Read to peer inside the mind of a teenager asked to portray crucifying their Christ.

Rachel wrote a poem:

"Have you ever Seen
A more Terrifying thing
Then a Chain-Link Fence?
Each Twist of the Wires
Reminds and Inspires
The Cross where Creation wept.
Where a Holy Man was slain
Where Death was the World's gain
And when Crimson washed into White.
Now up on the Stage
Fake Malice and Rage
Yelling for a Friend to die.
We know it's not Real
But our Hearts still Feel,
As we see the Cross in our mind."

Charlotte shared with me her journal entry:

I have to tell you, at this point in rehearsal, I wasn’t very happy. Nothing anyone could say would make this rehearsal fun. It had passed that point. I was standing knees locked, arms folded, and a blank expression while Kristi [director] assigned us insults to yell at Jacob [playing Jesus] during the Finale’s instrumental break.
“Charlotte,” She said. “You’ll say ‘Save yourself.’”
Outwardly, I didn’t react. I might have nodded once, but my face didn’t change. Kaitlyn, who was standing near me, took a step nearer, hooked an arm through my arm, and put her head on my shoulder. I put my head on top of hers and we stood waiting for her name to be called.
Kristi assigned her something like “If you’re the king, come down from there.” I squeezed her arm when her name was called and she looked down at the ground, unhappy. No one was happy with what they were assigned except for three girls who got the only good statement. I can’t even remember what it was now.
Kristi played the music for us and told us we had to fill in the whole space with our yelling. We tried it and failed pitifully. Most of us just stood still, barely saying our line.
“Ok, we’re going to try it again.” Kristi said. “This time, close your eyes. Just close your eyes and yell. You can fall to your knees, act in pain, whatever you feel like you need to do. Move your ribbon around and keep your eyes closed until we’re done."
We closed our eyes and she started the music. As soon as the instrumental break started, Kristi yelled. “NOW!!”
It was Hell.
Everyone was screaming. I opened my eyes momentarily because I jerked my head too hard and I saw people writhing on the ground, falling to their knees, their faces turned up in pain. Everyone’s eyes were closed and we were all going full out. I screamed “Save yourself! Jesus, save yourself!” And jerked my (invisible) red ribbon around. I was the last one to stop yelling.
The instrumental break ended. The music stopped. I slowly opened my eyes and turned my head. Across the room, Priscilla was bawling, a few people were on the floor sobbing. Rachel  and Kaitlyn next to me had their faces in the hands, shaking. Lindsey and Linda on the couch were wiping their eyes. Steve had his back to all of us, but he was slowly turning around. He held his binder over most of his face but his eyes were red and full of tears. Kristi stood silently and slowly nodded once.

I cannot watch the end of this show without tears falling. I cannot read either of these accounts dry eyed. This isn't your average musical. This is changing lives.

To join the rest of us on our "mountaintop" experience, purchase your tickets at Tickets are only online until midnight, tonight, February 27. Starting tomorrow, tickets can be purchased at the door until sold out.

Long live God. Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

5 Reasons You've Never Seen a Production of Godspell Like THIS:

Godspell is one of the most beloved musicals of our time. The story is almost as old as I am, yet the message never loses its meaning as it transcends the decades. Kind of like a little story known as “The Gospel.”

The beauty of this particular show is the flexibility the artistic team has with the script. Just because you’ve seen it once doesn’t mean it will be the same the next time you attend. Here are 5 reasons this production by Journey Theater Arts Group is unique. I promise, you’ve never seen it quite like this before!

5. Location: Portland
Settings of this musical vary from New York, to local coffee shops, to construction sites, to school detention (shout out to our Everett, WA friends). When I learned this production would be set in my beloved PDX, I could not contain my excitement. All kinds of local references are present in this retelling of Jesus’ parables. I don’t want to spoil everything, but you may see pink donut boxes and the coffee is locally roasted. 

4. Jesus and the 36 Disciples 
While the original Godspell calls for a cast of 13, Jesus, John the Baptist/Judas, and 11 other Apostles, we’ve got that plus a whole lot more! A cast of 37 kids, ages 8-18, will be singing catchy melodies that will stick in your head for the next week. See if you can guess which Portland neighborhoods each actor represents. (Hint: look for Old Town, Pearl District, Hawthorne, Sellwood, and more!)

3. Kristi Foster
Kristi is the Executive Director for Journey Theater Arts Group, and the director of this production. My friend, Kristi, gets visions that can only be explained as God inspired. She is one of the most spiritual humans you will ever meet and her love for the Lord is contagious. I mean this quite literally. Let me explain:

In the process of directing “Day by Day”, Kristi told the young actress singing the part to look at Jesus, really gaze into his eyes, as he grabs her hand and twirls her around. She asked the actress to see Jesus as her “daddy” and to imagine how proud a daddy is when he sees his daughter growing up, becoming a beautiful woman.

Kristi lost her own father a few years back, and she recounted their daddy/daughter bond to the cast. Then she asked the youth, if this is the love my father had for me, how much more does our Lord love all of us? The kids melted into a puddle of tears. 

This is just one example of how Kristi introduced the cast to Jesus in ways they’ve probably never thought about. My own daughters have grown so much in their relationship with the Lord these past 6 weeks, and I credit it all to Kristi. (Well, okay, Kristi AND God.)

My 2 are the one doing the choking and the one in the background on the left.

2. My Kids 
Yep. Shameless plug because I am the author of this blog and I bet you’ll never see another rendition of Godspell, Jr. with my 2 daughters in it. In case you’re wondering, they play a servant, a “sharer” of the beatitudes, a rapping narrator, and a weed.

While I am always super proud of my girls while they're on stage, I can honestly say my heart swells with pride for each and every one of their friends under the spotlight with them.

1. The Resurrection
Believe it or don’t, not all Godspell performances include Jesus’ return after his death. When I watched the movie (starring a very young Victor Garber in a very creepy interpretation of the play), I kept the DVD playing until after the credits. Surely they wouldn’t end the movie with Jesus’ death? They did. And from what I’ve heard, some directors choose to end their stage productions in the same way. How depressing!

The absolute BEST part in the story of Jesus is the resurrection! My whole faith in the Gospel depends on it. Kristi’s vision for this telling of Christ’s rising should not be missed. I dare you to watch without tears falling.

Still not sure what Godspell is all about? Lindsey, one of our artistic team members, found this clip from Rosie O’Donnell’s show on OWN from 2011. Give it a listen for a taste of what you’ll hear this coming weekend.

Godspell, Jr. runs February 28-March 2 at Valley Catholic Theater in Beaverton. Click here for tickets. Can’t wait to see you there!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

See Me

Photo Credit: Flickr

“Why are you trying to make yourself small?” my therapist asked

“I’m not!” Involuntarily, I sunk deeper into the couch. “I just don’t need to have everyone noticing me all the time. I’m okay with my small group. A little community is perfect.”

“Then why do you need to write a book?”

“Because I want to teach. I feel I have a message I want to share. I want people to see it.”

This week, I spent 50 minutes with my counselor discussing my desire to write. More specifically, a yearning to spend time writing without guilt. The end of my session boiled down to this: Do I want people to see my message? Or do I want people to see me?

We all want to be seen, correct? Some are okay with an intimate group seeing them, others need the world to take notice. No one wants to be invisible.

Nerdy Black Hipster Glasses. Embroidery Hoop Art. Hand Embroidered.
Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios Flickr

High School was the worst. I had friends, sure, but I floated. In the San Diego County warmth, our school common areas were all outdoors. Each planter in the large courtyard was surrounded by a knee-high brick wall, your identity determined by the “wall” on which you sat. I had friends camped out at the cheerleader/jock wall, the cross-country/track wall, the drama wall, and yes, even the stoner wall. Which wall I ate lunch at depended on who “saw” me that day. 

No where on campus was the “I have no idea where the heck I fit in”  wall. Looking back over 25 years later, I wonder how many were searching for that particular one.

I didn’t have many boyfriends in high school, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. The guys were all attracted to my childhood best friend. And why not? She was/is gorgeous! I wasn’t even sure how to make myself “seen”; to naive to wear provocative clothing (thank God) and I didn’t know the first thing about flirting. In my teenage mind, invisibility equaled unattractiveness. 

Best $1 ever spent??
Photo Credit: Flickr Brandon Cripps

College was a different story. Six hours north of my hometown, nobody had ever met me. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I made sure I was seen, but not necessarily in a way I care to remember.

At 23, I met, fell in love with, and married a man whom I believed would desire to see all of me. But you know what? True love isn’t a Disney movie. (Gasp!) Edd is my partner for life, but sometimes when we really see deep into each other, it hurts. Those times, it’s easier to put on blinders just to make it through to the next day.

Photo Credit: Flickr Cur-Tuss

Periodically, I’m afraid of people seeing me. I know the science behind my depression - low serotonin, processed food, lack of exercise, blah, blah, blah. But ultimately, what am I looking for when I pull the covers over my head shutting everyone out? I don’t feel seen, therefore I go to great lengths to make myself unseen.

As a Christian, shouldn’t I only be concerned with The One who sees me? Why do I care what anyone else thinks as long as I know I’m a daughter of Christ? I have no answer to this question. All I can tell you is I do care about the perception of others. Probably a little more than is healthy.

Yay glasses!
Photo Credit: Flickr SewPixie

Maybe instead of “How can I be seen?” the question I should be asking is “Who can I see?”

How are you feeling today, really?
Tell me about the best part of your day.
You seem down today. Do you want to talk about it?
You seem down today. Do you want me to watch your kids so you can have some alone time?

What would life look like if we saw one another? Lets make a deal. You see me. I’ll see you. Now we both know someone will be watching.