Meandering Thankfulness: the adventure continues

Last year, I wrote a Thanksgiving post that seemed to speak to a lot of people. That wasn’t necessarily the intention, I was just trying to get some thoughts out about my journey in the year thus far, the things I had learned, and what had changed. So much, and yet so little.

And you know what this year has me realizing? The case is still the same.

As I took M on our second annual Thanksgiving morning walk, I thought about where I was last year. What was going on in my life. The wins. The things I thought were wins but were actually losses in disguise. The battles. The highs. The lows. The adventure. When I think about where I was last year versus now, it is easy to brush it off to say very little has changed. It’s also easy to say so much has changed.

The events as a whole in the last year continue to reinforce the idea of being pieces of a bigger mosaic of life. There are those splotches where I threw my fists on the painting in sad frustration about not feeling like I’m where I thought I’d be right now. There are the bright and sunny pieces of accomplishments, of happy moments spent with the dearest of friends. It’s all a part of life. It’s a part of the adventure. I’m equal parts thrashing, singing, serious, happy, sarcastic, playful, studious…I’m living an adventure because I choose to see life that way. In a world where very few people actually LIVE an adventure, I’m thankful for the mindset that lets me do so.

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Granted, as friends and family can attest, that doesn’t necessarily make me the easiest person to live with. Always pushing. Never settling. Those things can get tiring.

Falling on your face gets tiring.

But you know what’s more tiring? Standing still. Whether it’s out of fear or complacency or simply because you see no need to push. That doesn’t feel like a life to me. What are you learning by standing still? Sure…I fell on my face. There’s some red on the mosaic from blood or embarrassment, but I learned something. And I got up and moved forward. Adventure. As Jessie J would say, I’m creating my masterpiece.

I realized last year that I am thankful for the fact that there is a bigger mosaic. That all of these highs and lows of the adventure along the way add up to something. This year I am thankful for those highs and lows in general. It takes courage to live. It takes courage to seek happiness. You have to know, like a toddler learning to walk, that there’s a high likelihood of you falling on your face when you let go of that couch. The toddler may not have known that the first time, but as an adult you’ve let go enough that you know the consequences. It’s ingrained in you.

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I’m thankful for the mindset and courage that lets me seek happiness, all the while knowing I need to work on the mindset that lets me see the happiness in the day to day. Most of all, this year I’m thankful for the dear friends and family who put up with me. Who chose to love me and live this adventure with me. My mosaic is brighter because of you. In each day, in each moment, you teach me the true meaning of love. Of grace and happiness. In my most thrashing of toddler-esque fits, as I’m fighting and pushing to make things better, you stick with me and show me grace. You stand beside me and know me. You let me know that I am loved and known in those moments. When I let go of the proverbial couch and take a step forward without falling, it’s you who I celebrate with. When I fall a couple steps later, it’s you who helps me get up and keep going. It’s you, your love, that covers me in happiness this Thanksgiving.

You make the adventure worthwhile. Thank you.

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Trust is a fickle little thing

I’m coming upon some big life experiences: things are going well in the AIA, I’m trying to navigate my career, and I’m buying a house. You heard me right – a house. All by myself.

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That’s not actually the point of this post, though. It’s just a piece of it. You see, the big things make you BE big. You have to act like a grownup because…well…the real world doesn’t take kindly to throwing toys, much less temper tantrums.

These big things, though? They also have a way of making you play it safe. They frighten you into doing the thing that ruffles the least amount of feathers. They keep you in a bad situation out of fear. A mortgage, a car payment, a family. They’re all things to answer to and answer for. And sometimes the fastest answer is the least frightening one. Because let’s face it, it takes a lot to stand up and push for better when you might have good enough (or something bad that keeps the rest of life comfortable).

I’m moving through this process right now in a lot of ways. And tonight I realized just how much I’ve grown over the last couple months.

I’ve been given a lot of opportunities in the last couple months at the moments I needed them most. Some of them have continued to grow and provide fruit, and some of them appear to only have been temporary. I still learned from them, and I will continue to try to do so, but I sense that opportunity to learn is quickly ending. I’ve been praying about what the right move looks like, that I might be shown the path.

Today I got an option to that path and I’m struggling with it a little bit. It has become increasingly clear to me that a part of my career path has provided as much fruit as it ever will and from this point will only continue to rot (to continue with the fruit metaphor). This new option would provide me ample learning opportunity from people I know and respect, but currently cannot promise to be long term. I’m struggling with waiting it out in a bad environment while hoping something better comes along – and taking the leap of faith and learning as much as possible in the time I am provided while hoping it turns into a long term situation.

Here’s where the difference comes in. In the past, all of this would have made me a straight up HOT. MESS. I would have been such a worry wart that I probably would have given myself an ulcer by now thinking over every option and outcome and figuring out every single minute step of the plan.

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But in the last couple months I’ve come to see all of the grace from a loving God showing it in tangible ways that mean something to me. A really great AIA Convention where I was able to build the foundations for relationships that have continued to grow to this day. A job that gave me the chance to learn the front-end side of the architecture world. Things in a part of my life aren’t panning well and I’m unhappy and uncomfortable and have been praying about it. And He’s presented me with a new option that solves the issues of the uncomfortable scenario…the option just doesn’t have a defined ending. The very thing that would have made me so very anxious…

But what I realize now is that if it did have a clear path…I wouldn’t have to trust Him as much. To trust that it will all work out. And that’s where I’ve grown, because I’m more okay with that thought than I’ve ever been.

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Let the good things grow

So…after a couple hard months of the beginning of the year trying to get on track, things have been steadily arching in the right direction. The hard work, the determination, the belief of better things…

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The job came first. I had been applying to places right and left. Locally, out of state, you name it. Katie had been trying to get me to apply in Sacramento, but I just couldn’t bring myself to apply to a city I’d never even been to. Anyway. I applied to a job in Chicago using the AIA Careers Center website and when uploading my portfolio and resume it asked if I would like to keep them public for other employers to see. I thought, “Why not?” A couple days later, the new firm called me saying “The partners would like to meet you. Would  you like to come in?” This firm does substantial work, but flies under the radar, so I spent the weekend researching them and making a game plan. I went in, pitched myself and what I have to offer, and pitched what I thought they needed. By 8:30 the next morning, they were asking me what I wanted in my offer letter. Sweet baby Jesus that was an awesome feeling.

The convention and events surrounding it was another great experience. Not only did my lodging end up being pretty amazing, but I had an awesome time volunteering and attending the convention. There will be more discussed on this at www.L-2-Design.com when I have a chance to write about it (hopefully this weekend), but it was so great to meet architecture friends I had made over twitter and experience the city of Chicago after not having been to the Windy City in awhile. Also, while there, I won airfare and hotel stay for next year’s convention as a part of a Tweet Up contest! (And my mom think’s twitter is silly, but it just saved me over $1k!!) The Saturday or Sunday of convention, I noticed that AIA National was running a question on twitter asking who would be attending the Tweet Up and why they were looking forward to it – the winning answer chosen at random would win the airfare and hotel. I responded, and my response won!

And last, but definitely not least, I found out this morning that I passed my Structures test! This was wonderful news because I honest to goodness thought I failed this test. There were fill in the blank questions that I knew required multiple formulas and I felt like I had just as much of a chance creating the right answer as a child with Tourette’s mashing the keyboard. But it’s passed and behind me. Now I just have to pass the last two!

So…all in all, things are looking up. There are still times where I worry about my future, or focus on trying to solidify an overall plan, but I think in general I’m having an easier time letting go of the reins and trusting that it will all work out. It doesn’t mean I don’t work my tail off every chance I’m given, but I’m not screaming too loudly on the rollercoaster of life (unless it’s for fun at a concert). I’m focusing one at a time. And letting the pile of good things grow.

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The sky hooks of safety

So the Lenten season is over. And I stuck to my goal of not seeking out dates and focusing on my relationship with God.

In that time, I did go on two dates. They were…what they were. And I started to think I was ready to entertain the idea of a relationship with someone other than/as well as God. Evidently I still have some more healing to do, because the resounding answer I felt in my heart and stomach was “nope”.

INDEPENDENCE

That one word can bring so much growth, and yet cause so much turmoil. Yes, it is good to be independent. It is good to want to work towards goals. It is good to have the desire and gumption to dream and act on those dreams.

What’s not good? Doing those things without God.

The Lenten season, and the two weeks since, taught me that I’ve been doing a lot of independent-of-God aspiring lately. Yeah, we’ve talked about it before. The bull in a china shop, the child with tourettes on the roller coaster. Take your pick…the theme is woven throughout this blog. I knew it was a part of me, but I could never name it.

These last weeks…I’ve named it. Independence. Self-protection. In aspiring to achieve a fulfilling life, I turned my focus away from God. I assumed He was right beside me, cheering me on. I decided, like the ignorant human that I am, that I could achieve my goals faster and easier on my own, with Him as my failsafe and cheerleader.

Holy cow, I’m dumb.

Time for some architectural metaphors:

Background: In architecture school, there’s always bad students who don’t consider the reality of their design…namely: how it will stand. When it came time for presentations, we joked that their projects would be held up by “sky hooks” – theoretical hooks in the clouds that held the load of the roof and somehow kept the building from collapsing.

So…in me trying to take on the world by myself, in being independent, in protecting myself…I built this wall. Whatever its need was, it was sturdy, and made of real things, and there was “evident” safety in its structure. It held me up. And then the next problem or goal arose, and I built another wall. And another. And another. And soon enough I’m running around in this maze of walls, trying to figure it all out on my own. My “safety” is now my prison.

God? He’s the sky hooks. You can’t see Him. And that’s crazy scary. You don’t know how He is going to hold you up. How He is going to get you to your goals, His goals for you….but you just have to trust. You have to depend on Him, and know that you are safe. You have to know that your life, your plan and path, is this beautifully wondrous design. It defies all human expectations. And it is capable of happening if you just trust God.

Let your faith be bigger than your fear

Your choices are:

1.  the maze of man-made walls with no window to the future

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2.  the amazing sky hooks that allow views to the wonder of life surrounding you.

It’s a no-brainer to me now.

Now I just have to actually practice that realization.

He is the sky hooks holding up the design of your life. You just have to get out of your own way to trust the safety of His love, and everything else will come in His time.

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There are lessons everywhere

Church today hit the nail on the head in some feelings I’ve been having lately.

I’ve written about this before. I’m a woman of action. I hate sitting around waiting when I can be out doing. And more to that, (typically) when I set my mind to something, very little keeps me from reaching that goal. I’m determined, courageous, focused.

That person, though? Is a bull in a china shop when it comes to the dating world. I hate the waiting and the seeking. I hate going on dates only to realize this guy isn’t what he says he is in one way or another. That he lied about himself or his intentions. Or is just plain boring. So I go back to the drawing board and I seek more, harder, better, faster, stronger. *cue techno dance break*

I know what I want. WHY CAN’T I FIND IT?!?!?!

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Today’s lesson was the first of 6 Lenten lessons. It was about Abram and his life. In Genesis 12-18, The Lord comes to Abram to tell him to pack up his stuff and move his family to an unknown place. He’s going to make him famous, and give him more descendants than there are stars. Mind you, Abram is 75 and his wife is barren. But he says, “Alright. That sounds awesome. Let’s do this.” Abram makes a sacrifice to the Lord, creating a covenant between them to honor these promises to each other. 11 years later, there’s still no kid, so Abram takes matters into his own hands. He defies The Lord’s promise. The Lord says, “I will still honor you.” His wife even questions the ability for this to happen, given how old they are. The Lord says, “Why did you laugh at me? Just believe.”

Finally, 24 years later, Sara finally bears Abraham a son.

God came to both of them on many occasions throughout that time period. Reminding them of His promise, of the covenant between them, that He would provide. Sometimes the more impossible the promise, the more frequently The Lord reaches out to remind you he will deliver. All we have to do is believe. Abram asks The Lord how he can know for sure this will happen. God’s response is something to the likes of “The time is not ready yet, but my promises will be fulfilled.”

His promises will be fulfilled.

This lesson today was like a bucket of cold water over my shoulders. I believe in Him, in His goals in my life…but I get restless and try to achieve them faster on my own. I put in effort. I join dating site, after dating site, after dating site. Searching. Trying. Seeking.

And all God asks is that I look to Him. That I keep my promise to Him, as He will to me. That I step back. From rushing. From the computer. And trust Him.

The inverse of this being The Lord’s promise to us and our rebellion in seeking answers of our own means. We broke our promise to Him. We do it daily. When someone breaks a promise with us, we have a tendency to overpower, dominate – to do to them what they did to us. To take matters into our own hands, as Abram did. And God? He still honored His promise. HE STILL HONORS HIS PROMISE. When we walk a life with God, when we truly trust in Him, it doesn’t matter (as much) what others do to us. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Yes, someone may hurt us, and we may realize that they aren’t to be trusted, or kept close. But we release them. We forgive. We move forward. Yes, it’s frustrating to wait – like an excitable kid in line for his first roller coaster ride. But with God, the plan is so much more wonderful than anything we could have imagined. Why rush for the vanilla, when you can hold out for the mint chocolate chip?

A major part of the Lenten season is about what you’re “giving up”. It becomes fodder at lunches, around the water cooler, in talks with friends. Who is so strong that they can go 40 days without something? But if we step back, really we’re saying: that thing…is essential to my life. And it’s hard for me to live without it. It…this THING…fills me up.

What does that compare with the splendors God has for you? What does that compare with the empty tomb of resurrection and salvation? He should be what fills us up. Lent has become what we give up. Why don’t we make ourselves empty so He can fill us up?

For me, this “thing” is dating. I bum-rushed it like a rookie cornerback looking for his first sack. I want that joy, that happiness, of having someone by my side who gets me. Who wants to experience life with me. Who will love me through and through and shout it from the mountains. I’ve been searching and fighting and clawing the last 2.5 months, looking for him. When really I should have been looking to Him. So for Lent, I’m stepping back. I will answer responses as they come to me, but I won’t be seeking anything out. I’m refocusing my gaze on where it should have always been. On Him. Because in Him lies my ultimate promise and my ultimate mate. He knows and has already picked out the man who is my equal whole. He knows the man who will take my hand and my heart and treat it with compassion (and passion)…because He created him. And who am I to argue with that?

I honor my covenant with Him, He honors it with me. That’s how it works, folks.

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On matters of the heart

The first months of dating have been unsuccessful, borderline downright discouraging. Men who lie. Men as dumb as cardboard boxes. Men who don’t know how to open up. Cowards. Bores. You get the picture…

While unsuccessful, it has continued to teach me about what I want out of a relationship. That I want someone who will stand beside me bravely, not paralyzed with fear. That I want someone passionate about us, as I will be to him. Someone so excited with our love that he will yell it from the rooftops. Someone who will love me unconditionally as God does. Whose love in Him will show through in his character as a wonderful, loving spouse, not motivated by fear or external factors, but by his love of God, and by the love I give him, given to me by God. An unabashed, unwavering, unfaltering love.

I’m also beginning to learn that my timeframe is not the timeframe in question. I can’t rush these things, any more than I can make the earth spin backwards. Love and marriage are gifts given to mankind by God. It is His will. Yes, there are marriages that are entered into with the wrong motives, or become filled with the wrong motives over time to the extent that the only healing to be done is walk away. But you do so, bravely, with God. Knowing His love for you is unending and that His plan is greater than any you can imagine. And those plans can’t be rushed.

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Forgetting that the timeline is not yours can lead to a lot of miserable feelings. Doubt. Hurt. A lack of faith in the path your life is taking. It is a dark place. Reminding myself that it is not only up to me as to my path is a daily chore. Remembering that there is a love out there meant for me, my gift from God, is hard to swallow in the dark moments. But it is true. God tells me that there is a love out there for me, a man who will love me without condition or fear, whose heart overflows with love for me, because God is in it.

And so I pray that the heart of my future husband will be filled with God just as He is in mine. And when that happens, watch out for the fireworks…

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So this is the job, bob…

As I’ve mentioned, I started a new job mid-January. The first day (and a half? I honestly don’t remember. I tried to put myself in a voluntary coma) was spent in general training. Ethics. Medical coverage. Retirement plans. College savings plans. 401ks. Sexual Harassment.

Here’s my answer to all of those:

1. I have them.

2. Thanks. You pay me so little, you might as well give me good benefits.

3. How do people retire on this salary?

4. No kids, but thanks.

5. See #3, but insert “save” in lieu of “retire”.

6. whaaaaaaat

To be honest, the sexual harassment section was the funniest of them all. And I don’t mean that in a way that says I condone it. (For shame!) But some of the information, and the way they chose to present it, was hilarious. Some of it was straight-forward: Hitting on people, unwanted advances, etc…not cool. But at one point they said sarcasm was not allowed. WAIT.

Back up the truck.

Sarcasm is my modus operandi. It keeps me sane, in a cynical way, but also makes me laugh and not take situations too seriously. It gives me an outlet for the dumb encounters of life. And it’s not appropriate or allowed?!?!?!

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I was concerned I would be faced with an onslaught of interactions with coworkers turned drones. No personalities whatsoever.

So it was to my enthusiastic surprise when, on day two, I asked for help and the guy training me asked another code veteran to help me and he said “NO! I don’t like her. I know she’s new, but she’s mean…and she has cooties.”

Thank you sweet baby Jesus. Sarcasm lives.

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Goal Update

So part of the hiatus of storm-facing actually involved ticking off some of my 2014 goals.

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1. I found a job. It’s one that will require a lot of hard work for little pay, but it’s still pay. The benefits are good, even if you can’t afford to actually GO on vacation on your vacation days. It is a means to an end while I continue taking my tests and looking for architecture work. I know I will learn a lot about the code and inspection side of building design and construction and look forward to having that as another Ace in my hand. Some of the stuff I’ve seen already is crazy, and I’m sure there will be a rant…or five…associated with it in the future. But it’s work. And income.

Having said that, if you hear of any architecture work, please let me know!

2. I started dating. I’ve officially been on two dates and…well…I’ll leave it at that and let my tirade on Disney say the rest.

So…that’s it. Two goals in the first month. 2014 is off to a pretty good start, I’d say.

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And so I return…

I apologize for the hiatus.

That’s all there really is to say about that.

I took a hiatus, mostly because I didn’t feel like writing, or that I had much to write about, or was simply too overwhelmed with other stressors to focus on writing. Writer’s block is a real thing, and it comes in the form of life events, stress, and sleep. That last one may be a reaction to the first two, but still…no writing gets done (and I like things in threes).

I think I was stressing about the job situation, the lack of income situation, the “fresh meat to the market” situation (that had my phone blowing up with notifications, which was slightly confidence-boosting)….The perfect storm of chaos was reigning down on me. And so, at a time when I probably had good material, I didn’t write. I was focused on the storm.

Sometimes you need that, though. You need to shut down the outside world and focus on the storm. You need to focus and just get. sh!t. done. Sometimes it’s not necessarily soul food, but it’s finding the next thing that will actually put food on the table. Either way, the little things slide. They probably shouldn’t, but they do.

It’s important to take the storms of life seriously, but as I’ve learned over the past couple years, it’s also important to do the little things that feed your soul. That keep you full, happy, alive with a fire, eager to begin the next day…and not just begin, but charge forward in hot pursuit of your dreams. The things that feed yourself and your soul and your mind. Those little things are different for each person, but they’re equally important.

My things are my friends, my family, this blog, and a good book. I’m eager to get back to them, now that I’ve resurfaced from the storm and can resume a more balanced life.

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I actually bought myself a piece of jewelry recently that is called the “balance necklace”. It was hand-designed, with the description that read:

“A happy life is one of balance, not perfection.”

Sometimes you get caught up in the storm and start to lose air, start to lose the things that bring you joy, that feed your soul…and it only sucks you into the storm more. I am a focused and determined person and I know I struggle with this, but I think, if I were to create an overarching goal for this year, it would be one of balance. There are many things that I would like to achieve, many things that are important to me, but if I only focus on one of them, all of the others fall away. This is not to say that there are moments and things that require one’s full attention because the outcome of them makes everything else easier to achieve…but balance overall is the goal.

And so I move forward, ship steadied, ready for adventure…

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Wake up, Sleeping Beauty…

…this ain’t no fairy tale.

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I’ve had this thought swirling around in my head for awhile. The pieces and parts. And the other day it finally clicked. Disney has ruined me.

I spent my life growing up thinking “Some day my prince will come” and that we will “live happily ever after” despite all odds. I know I’m not alone in saying that as a girl, I – on more than one occasion – spent a wish on “I hope so-and-so and I live happily. EVER. AFTER.”

So far, a couple relationships, a failed marriage, and two dates in…I think my life is more like Mulan’s: “I’ll make a man out of you…”

Is it so darn hard to find a man with a backbone and his sh!t together? Driven and compassionate? Strong and loving? Or did Disney make them all up?

Is this one of those build-a-bear things, but instead I build-a-man?

I have to think that he’s out there somewhere. The guy who can handle my stubbornness, and see that it comes from an intense drive that also provides intense love. The guy who will stand strong for us and our happiness, and yet delicately cradle and care for the heart I give him. Who will keep me on my toes intellectually, but also make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. Who will provide, protect…and love.

Perhaps that thought is just my own Disney movie playing in my head.

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