Letting go

A message to myself:

Even if there’s something better out there… It’s hard to let go of what’s in my hand for the unknown.

As I clutch, with white knuckles to what is good enough, I keep my eyes on what is best. I just can’t let it out of my sight. I long for it… I dream about it… Though my inability to let go of good enough feeds my growing discontentment like fertilizer.

I don’t know what you believe… but I believe that you can speak to the living God – and that God speaks back. Not in a crazy way… in a sane way. In a way that really transforms my life.

So, when I pray and ask God for insight and wisdom, I believe (100%) that He gives me those things. He promises that.

I’ve been seeking wisdom regarding a transition for years. (Just ask anyone close to me, I’m sure they’re tired of hearing about it.) So finally, I felt like I knew what I needed to do. It was clear. More than clear actually – uncomfortably clear – the kind of clarity that has to do with obedience. When clarity mixes with obedience, that’s some serious stuff. Seriously good. But serious none the less.

So, that’s where I am… struggling to obey.

Like God has never proven Himself faithful, good, or loving beyond comprehension. So, why can’t I let go of a mediocre dream for something greater? Can I not see that it actually is greater than what’s in my hands? Is it because I know that the next step will be hard? Is it just too risky?

So, I’m at a crossroad… I’m either going to believe that where He leads me is best – or I’m not.

If I can just wrap my mind, a little bit more, around how much God loves me… I would be less fearful, less intimidated and more willing to let go of the known for the unknown… Because if He really does love me, then He is trustworthy – without hesitation.

Sometimes I wonder if I jump, will he be there to catch me? Or, what if I leave what is certain -and obey- and then it all collapses in on itself…. and I end up out on the street – begging for food – without my tweezers (possibly the worst case scenario)… Okay… I know, a bit over the top… But sometimes, before I even get to taking the step of faith, deciding to turn in the direction of obedience is more difficult than anything.

The unknown that I turn toward might fall apart. Then again, the certainty of today might be pulled from underneath me. If I do everything right, things could still end up in a hot mess.

You see the thing is (and excuse me as I tell myself this for the eighteen millionth time)… It’s not up to me to make it right and beautiful and successful. Success doesn’t hinge on my perseverance, intellect or smooth skills (whatever those might be) alone.

What I am responsible for is loving people and loving God. It’s not complicated really (though I tend to over complicate everything). It’s simple… Today, am I being obedient to what God is leading me to do?

Am I willing to let go of my expectations, fears and disappointments and turn toward Him {and trust} in His love? His love that sacrificed, and gave and risked it all… And continues to give so that I might continue to scratch the surface of how deep and how wide and how high is His love.

If I can allow myself to get lost in His great love, then I can more fully see who He really is… In seeing who God really is, you can’t help but fall more in love with Him. Then, all I will want to do is turn and run in the direction that He is calling me.

If you would like to know more about what talking to God looks like – or want to ask any questions about His love for you, email me. We can walk through it together.

 

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Saying ‘yes’ to scared

When I was in elementary school, my sister and I would often accompany my parents to visit shut-ins and the elderly. (Yes, I was a pastors kid.) I won’t get into the singing performances that they use to make us do at nursing homes but I will say this – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Looking back, I’d do the same if I ever have kids… so many life lessons when you learn how to serve.)

One day my younger sister and I went with my mom to visit an elderly lady (looking back, she was probably only 60). I remember it vividly. It was a cool, crisp, Indiana fall day. I was wearing sweat pants (this will be important later). No doubt my sister and I pleaded to go outside and play to avoid what seemed like unending hours of boredom. As soon as my mom said yes, we were off to discover and conquer the great unknown… her backyard. In the course of our exploration, we found an old rusty swing set that was dripping with untapped play potential.

 

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Photo Credit: Philip Childress

I have always been one who has been motivated by challenges. You tell me I can’t do something and you should consider it done. When I was young, I was no exception. I’m not sure if this stupid act came by way of a dare or me just be adventurous. None the less, I found myself on the top of the rickety swing set getting ready to do a front flip. (We called these front hurkies in the midwest circa 1989.) So, I prepared to flip around the bar and when I did, my beloved sweat pants got stuck in a stray hook, along with my inner thigh… while I was upside down… six feet off the ground. I had no other choice but to let go and plummet to the hard, unforgiving, earth. I landed safely with a gash on my inner thigh and shredded sweat pants.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I’ve been toying with the idea of fear lately. Not kid fear – adult fear. Kids tend to be afraid of things like the boogie man and the dark. They’re not afraid, however, to fall and take risks. (Even though my palms are sweating from reliving the above experience.) As we grow into adults, it seems like we trade fears with children. No longer are we afraid of the boogie man or the dark, but we are afraid to take risks and fall.

We’ve traded adventure for logic and risk for certainty.

Most of us have jobs that are “certain”, bills that are certain, friends that are “certain”. Our lives are pretty neat and tidy for the most part. Sure we all hit a few bumps along the way, but we know what will give us bruises and what will be rewarding. If I’m not mistaken, we all gravitate toward what’s rewarding (if you’re older than 24 anyway).

As my husband and I pray about starting a new business one thought that circles through my mind is – Samira, what if you fail?

I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be scared and do it anyway. It’s okay to fail.

Now I’m not talking about doing anything stupid (insert a plethora of really bad ideas), but I’m talking about being willing to risk it all for something greater. How often do we settle for good enough when best really is out there? We settle in our work, in our relationships and even in the food we eat.

I’ve talked to people who want to go back to school and just don’t, people who want to start a new business and just don’t, or people who want to climb a 14er and well, just don’t. Maybe now really isn’t the right time. Maybe you really will do it in the future. Maybe.

I’ve been reminded lately how short life is. I don’t want to get to the end of it and say, “Whelp, it was fun – I guess. Would’a loved to have done this or try that. {shrug} Oh well.”

Oh well, you blew it. You had your chance… Wait – We still have our chance!! It’s not too late to do what you’ve always longed to do. As long as we are drawing breath, it’s never too late.

As my husband and I pray about the transitions ahead of us, I choose to remind myself that we have one go around at this life. Sure, we might fall and hit the ground head first (won’t be the first time) or we might not. But we won’t know until we look scared in the face, put our arm around its shoulder and invite it into our journey. Because when we say yes to scared, we realize that what we’re really saying yes to is being human.


Splinters, Pity parties and being Thankful.

I just got a splinter in my finger. Again.

We’re working on our new home and the first splinter came by way of a five-inch piece of severed wood that was driven between my thumb and fingernail. With eyes that bulged out of my head, I pulled that stick out of my finger asap. Now on to today, I was cleaning an old window when lo and behold another piece drives into my finger: underneath my nail – Ah-freaking-gain.

If you’ve never experienced this form of torture, be glad. I’m not a lightweight when it comes to pain…. but this my friends, feels like crap. I’d rather getting slapped across the face or forced to do burpees until I fatigue or throw up. To add insult to the literal injury, when I went to pull this splinter out of my finger, it broke off underneath my nail. So I did a few lamaze breathing techniques {or something?} and ran to the bathroom while making little piglet noises.

So, as a reward for all of my hard work, I went on Instagram and got annoyed. (Social media is my kryptonite!) I saw something on there that I wanted and didn’t have, so I became jealous – which lead to feeling inferior – which lead to me feeling discontent. Quickly, I realized I only had two choices:

1. Commit to the pity party and go big, for crying out load (perhaps literally).

2. Remember reality… I have everything I could want and need (maybe besides a Mercedes G wagon – KIDDING – I am thankful for my Nissan) and I live a pretty amazing life.

I’ve been working on changing pathetic attitudes that bring me no where but down. In fact, in small circles, I am known to throw amazing pity parties – for myself.

As I type this post, this is what I’m looking at:

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{#justmoved #nofilter #reallife}

Jealous? Probably not… Mainly because you shouldn’t be.

We are geared to share the lovely, the beautiful and the adventurous with our friends, family, and those who don’t even know us. But is that reality? No. It’s not. I don’t care who you are – you’re life isn’t perfect and poop happens {aka: splinters breaking off underneath your nail}.

I have so many things to be thankful for… I SHOULD be the poster child for thankfulness… But am I? -no- Are you?

Media tells us about all the things we don’t have. But why can’t we be content with being us? Wholly who we were created to be? …No mould, not like any other, authentic and uniquely beautiful.

About five years ago, I was really struggling with being content and found myself longing for everything that I DIDN’T have (imagine that). During that time, I started saying the phrase: “Envy your life Samira.” When I thought about all of the things in my life that I have to be thankful for (I made a list), it started to change my pity party attitude into one of gratitude, peace and contentedness.

So, since it’s time for an attitude change – right now, here’s my – this is what I’m thankful for right now, list:

1. I have all my fingers – even though one hurts – a lot. I almost lost one once – and I am very thankful that it was saved/healed.

2. My husband likes me. In fact, he loves me. Even better – actually – he honors me. And I know for a fact, not everyone has that. I’m thankful for him.

3. I’m thankful that when I need help, I can call out to the Lord and He’s there. {BOOM!} He’s not too busy for me. He just isn’t – and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

4. Even though my house is a “work in progress”, I have a house. Um hello….thankful!

5. And you know what? I like the sofa that I’m sitting on. I think it has beautiful lines, and as an artist, I’m very thankful for that.

… and as I go… I’m feeling better… I’m taking the focus off of what I don’t have and placing on what I do have… Where my focus should have been all along.

So, what are five things you’re thankful for? I bet if you start with five, you’ll think of six and then seven… Because thankfulness grows when you water it.

Be thankful… When it’s hard. When you wanna cry. When you wanna kick the window that gave you the horrendous splinter in the first place. Be thankful. Again… And again… And again. Until I – until you – can’t help but be thankful.

Because even though thankfulness doesn’t make the pain go away (finger still hurts), it does keep my eyes on the big picture… that life – MY life… YOUR lifereally is something to be thankful for.


A little note to a few Christians.

I’m taking a course right now from Jeff Goins (Tribe Writers) and I am SO loving it!! If you’re interested in writing, you must check it out! As a part of an assignment we were to go on a rant and then share it on a forum. Very tricky since I didn’t know about sharing it before I wrote the rant. None the less, I thought I’d share it with you. This post isn’t for everyone (as you can see from the title). So if it doesn’t apply to you, that’s cool, and if you have any questions about this (not so little) rant, let me know.

You know what I can’t stand? Christians that have their panties in a wad. I’m talking about a serious bunch, not a little bundle. A wad that makes not only them uncomfortable, but everyone else around them. 

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, saturated in the church. I love how God uses the church to accomplish some amazing tasks. I think it’s beautiful when we band together and fight for what is right, defend scripture, and love people like we are commanded. I also think that God healing and restoring a bunch of broken people is an attribute that comes from the purest of love. 

However, I am always saddened to see how destructive the church can be at the same time. We can tear down one another like professionals. We can poison the very mission that God has given us and harm the very people we are called to help. I think that sometimes, the church gets their panties in such an unfortunate bunch that the world sees us as people with a sour face, perpetual bad attitudes and joy killers. 

On that note, lets consider the whole Noah movie debate. You know, Noah, the one with the long white beard and all of the animals? 

Some Christians have lost sight of the big picture and gotten hung up on small details. Yes, a few things are not exact, all of his son’s wives were on the ark, for example. But have we forgotten that a Biblical story has gone out? A story that pulses attributes of God the Creator. A movie that God can use to draw people to Himself.

I learned that Noah had a long white beard when I was very little, thanks to the felt boards in Sunday school. Though what if Noah went bald in his early 20’s and couldn’t grow facial hair? That’d kill that interpretation. His long white beard is not biblical.

Even though the movie was getting a lot of negative feedback from the Christian community, my husband and I did some research and decided to see it anyway. Without spoiling anything, at one point in the movie (I’ll just say ‘rocks’), I cocked my head and started to roll my eyes. ‘Like that happened!’ I thought to myself. But I quickly caught myself. Who’s to say it didn’t happen!? Just because it’s not in scripture doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened like that. 

We are so quick to judge. I read in an interview that the producer tried to stick to scripture as best as he could and then filled in the rest of the gaps. The producer, mind you, who never professes to personally know Jesus. 

An interpretation is the action of explaining the meaning of something (thank you Google). So, we take what we are given, not deviating from the Biblical truth of scripture, and we all fill in the gaps. I interpret scripture. Your paster interprets scripture. The producer of Noah also did some interpreting of his own… though loose as it may be…

The ironic part to me is that so many of the people who are throwing stones at the movie, will gladly buy a ticket for a movie that has stronger language, violence and adult content than Noah has – and that’s okay with them because … well… because it’s… it’s entertainment?

I’ll be honest, at times I can can be quick to judge too. I’m not without fault. Trust me, I’m not pretending to be anything more than I am – a person in need of the redemptive love of Jesus. 

We’re all in need of Jesus… that’s the very issue! Our pastors, our neighbors, and the producer, the actors in the movie, and every single person that goes to see Noah… We all need Him. 

So, instead of accusing the producer of not acting like a Christian (or whatever), lets approach this issue like Jesus would. Lets invite our friends to see Noah. (You know, your friends that don’t yet know Jesus…) Treat them to dinner, or coffee, and chat with them about the movie after you see it. Ask them what they thought. More than likely, they’ll ask what you think too. And if you hated the movie and thought it was sacrilegious, tell them. But then tell them why. Embrace the conversation, don’t run from it. Love them, like we’re to love each other. So maybe, just maybe, they can actually see – and even meet – the Creator in your conversation, through your response and through your kindness.

I was reminded of why God sent Jesus to earth watching Noah. God wants the world to know about Himself and He wants to redeem us in the midst of our pain, our depression, our struggles. He wants to make us whole. You’re redeemable. I’m redeemable… and that’s a bit more impressive than flooding the earth in my opinion. 

Lets invite God to flood us, washing away anything that is not true and pure. Lets embrace the promise that He is with us and He will never leave us. And may we not fail to see that the God of the universe has chosen to expose a part of Himself through scripture. Let’s be quick to invite people into the conversation, into the struggle and into the questions that living life brings. Because like Noah, the last thing we should want is disobedience.

Yes, stand up for truth. Stand up for your convictions, fight for them. Be resolute. But remember who the true enemy is and remember what we are here to do.


This is personal…

I really struggle with knowing how much stuff to post on a blog, or any other social media for that matter. I don’t particularly want to post a bunch of personal things that I have created or what I do. I think my personal life is just that, personal. But what is a blog about if you don’t share? (Obviously, I need to do some blog soul searching or get internet therapy.)

None the less, in the attempt to share more personally, I am jumping off the deep end… on my blog – don’t be alarmed. This piece that I painted is personal because it is not only hanging in our home but there is also a personal lesson that accompanies it’s creation.

God had been teaching me (though He always is teaching me about this I must say) that He loves me. Simple sounding? Absolutely. Difficult to accept? Absolutely. To know that the God of the universe loves me, without me winning his love, is not only crazy it’s also countercultural. In the midst of all my shortcomings, in the midst of my successes, no matter what the journey may bring (attitudes and all)… He loves me.

I’ll be honest, if I was treated like I treat the Lord sometimes (ignoring Him or not giving Him the respect He deserves), I would “defriend” me – fast. But thankfully He never gives up on me because – you guessed it – He loves me… and He loves you.

His love is selfless, kind, forgiving and constant. And the kicker, I am called to extend that same crazy love to others… no matter if I like a person or not. (Don’t tell anyone that I just said that.)

Are you starting to see why this lesson is so important for me? 🙂 So, here is why this is so personal… because God is at work in and through my life and He is constantly teaching me about what true love is. This piece that I painted is a link in the chain of that lesson.

Title: Habibti (Arabic: Beloved)

Mixed Media: acrylic, modeling paste, salt, hot glue, contact paper, gouache & masking fluid

Inspiration: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Size: 20 inches x 20 inches

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Immanuel

Daniel and I are working through an Advent app on my phone this Christmas season… and I love it. After we wake up, we french press our coffee and sit down together and read the daily reading which includes both the Bible and a thought provoking side-kick (not the technical name).

Advent: “a coming into view, or arrival; the advent of the holiday season. The coming of Christ into the world.” (dictionary.com)

Advent is a pretty big deal if you are a Christian… and lets be honest… it’s a pretty big deal if you’re not.

One of the most meaningful readings was hinging around one of the names of God: Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’). I really love the name Immanuel and the reality that the God of the universe, the creator of the world, chose to intimately dwell with us.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

God (Jesus) came to us – if that isn’t amazing enough, he came to dwell with us.

Some synonyms of the word dwell are live and inhabit. God came to live with us, he came to inhabit us. Insert drop jaw craziness! It sounds almost unbelievable I know, but it is the best news EVER!

Grandeur and intimacy, holiness and friendship, creator and counselor.

I am so humbled to think of God coming down to us, to make a way to know him: personally, intimately. Knowing God is not a magical equation that once you decide to believe in Jesus your life will be grand and nothing bad will ever happen to you. We don’t have to look too far to see the absurdity in that thought. However, He did come to us – for us – to be with us.

As Christians around the world celebrate this special time of Advent, Christ coming as an infant into this world, I am reminded that He is Immanuel – God with me… you… and us.

If you have never experienced the God who is with you and are interested in asking some questions (as stupid as you think that they might be – they’re not), send me an email and I would love to dialogue with you about it.

I can say that Immanuel, God with me, has radically changed my life for the better on a whole and day by day. I am so thankful for God’s gift in coming to us so that we might know him in a personal way.

I hope this Christmas is wonderful for you, and your family, in every way possible.


Jellyfish

Jellyfish

While at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago we visited their Jellyfish exhibit.

I find jellyfish to be quite beautiful: their colors and shapes.
Though this one in particular grabbed my attention and left me speechless.

It’s tight curling tentacles stretched out and curled back up like a spring in slow motion. The colors were so vivid: black to cream to bright pink. Everything was perfectly attached to a translucent body that doesn’t have a brain yet knows how to live in a huge ocean.

This little jellyfish, no bigger than my fist, captivated me. God’s creativity never ceases to amaze me. He is an artist… and all I could do is worship Him through the beauty of His creation.