Journey Living

Life vs. Life

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  – John 10:10

Constantly I’m drawn to this verse and to books that unpack what it is to live abundantly.  Whether they are books about integrating faith and scholarship, going on pilgrimage, walking with others in discipleship, or enjoying sabbath rest, I love to read about the full life God provides his creations.  Sometimes this includes extraordinary events, but more often it is life that is flourishing with the ordinary.  A life that includes friends, family, meals, quiet, nature, work, as well as an awareness of weaknesses and brokenness.  Mostly routine stuff.  But more than routine, these activities help to root each of us more deeply into our places.  What a life!

However, every day I’m also accosted with another definition of life as I scroll though the internet.  I am particularly struck with the Life section of USA Today.  Articles focus on the highest paid actors, the latest celebrity pairing, movie rankings, and the latest drama in the lives of music divas. These articles are nothing like the life explored in the other books. In a way, these articles are almost anti-life.  Instead of rooting readers into their own places of life, these stories steal away attention from authentic lives as they focus on a few lives that are for the most part made up.  Entertainment, maybe, but not life.

First, many of these stories are about the crises involved in creating false worlds, particularly those of television and movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I would be one of the first to defend the need for a myriad of stories in our lives – and even imaginary ventures to other worlds. I don’t think I would have gotten through elementary school without the likes of Jo March or Harriet the Spy.  The books I read and even some of the television shows I watched encouraged and challenged me.  However, they were not life.  I also had the boundaries of parents and teachers, my failings, and daily routines to keep me going.  When the latest gossip or news from the entertainment industries in Hollywood or New York city is listed under the heading of life, what are we saying about the lives of everyone else?  In a way they are stolen.

Second, many of these are trumped up crises – or voyeurism into the failings of those whose lives we can’t even imagine.   Are the shenanigans on the reality shows really worthy of endless critique and angst?  What about the on-again / off-again rehab stints of several celebrities?  On these pages, the extraordinary moments are turning into the ordinary and these types of crises – real or fake – are being shown as the essence of life.  If this is the case, then a person who is not involved in such drama is not really living.

Eventually, these stories can reframe what constitutes life. Since we can not be movie stars, we will need to spend our time watching their movies and lives.  Or critiquing them.  Maybe we start to think that we have to wait to live a full life until we are also enmeshed in similar crises.  Or maybe we hear that we will never live a full life because these crises will never enter our world. It is difficult to measure ourselves against this vision of life.  I know that most people aren’t intentionally designing their lives after the life section of newspapers, but at some level it slowly infiltrates our individual and societal beliefs.

I would love to re-write these life pages.  Do an exposé of a couple married 15 years, with their struggles and their joys – including reading to their children every night.   Highlight the student with an average GPA at high school.  Showcase the wedding of a young couple that took place in a plainly decorated church and was followed by a two day honeymoon to a state park.  In such a section people would be encouraged to see their lives abundantly and know that they can live in such a way.  It’s not only available to a select few.

What stories would you want included in a life section that doesn’t seek to hold up celebrities, but to celebrate all.

 

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Redecorating a Different Success

Eight years ago I moved into my current bedroom.  It was small, but sufficient, even cozy.  Yet, it has never felt quite right.  A light oak chair rail divided the room horizontally with a dark evergreen painted below and a dirty beige above.  At least twenty nail holes marked the walls where previous owners had hung pictures and diplomas in this former office.  The beige carpet had black stains.  It could have been oil, tar, or coffee, but whatever it was, it wasn’t coming out.  Even though I filled this space with my furniture, books, and clothes, it increasingly felt foreign.  It was not holding my story well when the shadow of another story seemed to surround me. 

It’s not that I wasn’t able to redecorate this space. It’s just that I had never planned to be here for this long.  Then several family health emergencies, including my father’s death, along with career changes, kept me here.  In the midst of everything, an inertia quickly set in.  For years I’ve included repainting this room on my annual list of goals.  Still, I never found the right time.  I knew that the whole process – painting the walls, staining the trim, updating the closet, and laying the carpet – would mean several weeks of disruption.  I didn’t want to mess with it.  

At some level, I’ve also kept this room in a state of unfinished living because I wanted to follow that story of moving.  I felt that if I got frustrated enough I would leave. Well, I’m still here and should probably set down firmer roots, claiming the space for how ever long I am here – for one year or twenty.  Finally, the dinginess of the walls and the frustration with my inaction has started to bear down on me.  I want to see my pictures hung on the walls, not evidence from the life of someone else.  It’s time to make this room mine.

I started by selecting a new color – blissful blue.  A blue like the brilliant autumn skies.  Cool and warm at the same time. Then I took everything out: books, furniture, clothes, pictures.  With a crow bar I removed the chair rail and the old closet shelves.  Now it was ready for me to step and open a new chapter for the this space.  First, I filled-in all the holes in the wall and removed splattered paint from the trim.  After my mom and I re-stained the trim it was time to paint the walls. What a great feeling to cover the green and beige – creating a new canvas.  A fresh look in which to weave stories.  

IMG_2255As I waited for the carpeting to arrive – two weeks – I had time to re-imagine the floor arrangement.  My bed and desk had been facing the center of the house, inward looking.  This simple reality could have added to the inertia as my psyche followed my physique and spent too much time looking within, enclosed by walls that were ill fitting. I decided that I would find a way to arrange things so everything would look out.  Now this room has not only a different color, but a different view.  Both the bed and desk are looking outward – the desk directly in front of the window.  It’s reminiscent of the placement of many desks I’ve seen in authors’ homes.  Moreover, with this new arrangement there was room for a rocking chair where the sun hits everyday.  I can sit here and enjoy looking out the window as I read a book, dream of a new pilgrimage, or write.  

Even though it’s not quite finished, I can finally say it’s a place of my own.  I still have to figure out what to hang on the walls.  Pictures from my past and maybe some I will make. Now I feel an energy to actively create these new images of pilgrimage.  No longer am I ashamed of where I am, feeling stuck in the grooves of a broken record. I had thought success would be moving out in order to create a place of my own. Maybe a spot in the city, or a retreat center in the country.  Well, who knows when that will be, if ever.  So, I’m going to live, looking out on the world before me.  Living into this story, here.  

 

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Sabbath Rest Revisited

Over the past years as I have sought to practice Sabbath, I realize that I still don’t know how.  A nap on Sunday afternoon.  Maybe some time with family.  But then I start wondering what to do and my list of should’s drowns out everything else.  I start feeling that I need to complete work before allowing myself rest. I should complete my schedule for the week.  I should respond to those e-mails.  I should make another list.  I should finish work on a piece of writing.  Most importantly, I should do something the world may see as useful.  Quickly the practice of resting becomes work and I fall into old habits of doing things in order to not waste time.

But in actuality, Sabbath is about wasting time – at least in the view of the world.  It’s about stepping away from work routines that prevent us from seeing that we are not the one ultimately in charge.  This time of rest that God commands is a practice of trusting God with taking care of us.  It is also a gift freely given. Two reasons that may help explain why I’m so uncomfortable with it.  I worry whether or not God can truly take care of me; or, more accurately, I worry if all my effort will be for naught.  In a way I want to prove that I can succeed along my own path.  In addition, I have been taught to earn what I receive. However, God calls for rest even though so much is left undone. Even though I am wasting time.  Even when I get to rest, I am concerned whether or not I am resting correctly.  No wonder that at the end of Sabbath I’m often more tired than when it started.

Take a recent Sunday as an example.  As usual I had to keep myself on task to rest.  After a meeting at church (Not sure how I feel about meetings on Sundays.  Yes, they are the best times to gather people, but they can also negatively color the rest of the day.) I returned home and my mother told me she was going to clean the church patio.  Not wanting her to do it alone, I went along.  Working together was a type of rest.  At least I was with family and doing something outside and active.  But was it really was more working, getting something done.  Back home it was time to read and nap.  Upon waking I read some more, but felt I was just hiding away.  So, I opened the computer and fussed around.  Nothing important at all.  I kept thinking that I should just do the schedules, get some work done.  But another voice kept urging me to turn off the computer and stop coming up with useful things to do.  Waste some time.  My next activity was chosen for me as it was time to help with dinner and eat.  Afterwards I finally stepped away from the fretting. I started my latest counted cross stitch project.  This always fills wasteful.  After a few stitches I found I couldn’t see anymore because I needed reading glasses and better light.  Yet, there was something freeing in even starting this work.  Stepping into a project I enjoy without everything else being done.  Trusting that work will be waiting tomorrow and God will provide what is needed to finish it.

Clearly, this isn’t a template for Sabbath rest, but a start.  My thinking about, though eventually setting aside even small work tasks was a victory.  It felt of rest, and of trusting that God will care for these should’s in time.

As I look ahead to future Sabbaths I want to continue an intentional movement towards doing ‘wasteful’ things.  This could be hanging out with friends, cross-stitching, reading, walking, cooking a meal.  It’s an exercise in learning what constitutes rest, of trusting God, and of inviting others along.  It’s also a practice of letting go of old patterns that keep me locked into the idea that I am alone responsible for my work and that no one, not even God, can take care of me.

On these Sabbaths I desire

  • To quiet the voices that say I’m not worthy of resting on the Sabbath, not doing it right.
  • To stop thinking that I need to step up for God instead of resting in him.
  • To recognize that I am weary and to fall under God’s yoke.

Amen

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Lenten Hospitality

thMardi Gras and Easter vs. Lent and Good Friday.  When you think of inviting others to church this time of year many people are more drawn to welcome people to join in the excess of Mardi Gras or the elation of Easter than in the somber remembrance of Lent and Passion Week.  Don’t we want to invite people to church when they will see a celebration and can get caught up in the festivities?  We want to welcome people when think the church is at its best, which often means decorated, rehearsed, and filled with smiling faces.

Yet, maybe the observance of Lent opens up a needed hospitality that can be lacking in our churches when we focus on welcoming people to an upbeat, well planned event.  Though we may want to show off our church’s best side to visitors, if that’s the only side they see our churches soon become like any other institution that markets to the desires of possible consumers.  Lent can provide space for people to let down their outer shells created to please the external world.

Lent is a marginal, a liminal time.  We are between times, preparing for a story we know to expect, Jesus’ resurrection, but aren’t yet there in the church year.  During this time, we are walking with Jesus on his journey to the cross, a story not of triumph but of questioning, miscommunication, and doubt. During these times the readings show a Jesus who is open about what will be happening and shares his pain. He is suffering along with the people around him.

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”   Matthew 23:37

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  Matthew 26:38-39

Christine Pohl in her book Making Room writes that “Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive, countercultural dimension” (61).  Inviting people into the church’s Lenten practices – whether that includes a time of self-reflection, singing hymns in minor keys, or a discipline of sacrifice – offers this countercultural dimension.  The time of Lent directs us to see ourselves as the sinners we are, to repent – and in turn to provide this gift that God offers to us to others.  It’s a safe place to let go and be who we are in brokenness, not who we or others imagine we are.

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Wounding Gift

Gifts are supposed to bring joy to life.  Make it easier.  Not bring on pain, right?

A cassette tape of Michael Card’s Scandalon album started as a simple birthday gift. Opening the attached card, I read the words from a friend.  Instead of celebration, the words were ones of good-bye.  How could this be?  A new friendship that had been growing was now over?

Throughout the next months I continued to question what I had done.  What broke apart this friendship?  At the same time I was confronting the reality of a new life.  In only months I would be graduating and leaving a college that had been a home.  Wounds were building up within my soul.

Other friends surrounded me and together we walked through this time of pain, not always looking pretty.  Ironically, one of the most comforting voices was that of Michael Card, from the gift that initiated a cascade of wounds.

His lyrics did not present a triumphant, victorious Jesus and followers, but the reality of following Jesus in the mire of life.  Over and over I listened to these words.

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul
-Scandalon

As I looked around, I kept seeing broken people through my wounded eyes.  In the midst of this suffering, God’s presence started to grow more real.  Hearing these words brought to light a new sense of freedom that doesn’t hide behind a spiel of how life should be, but confronts the reality of how life is and the healing that is available.

Twenty-three years later I’m sitting only feet away from Michael Card at a concert.  During this season of Lent he is sharing his songs that journey through Jesus’ passion.  That again speak of wounds.

In this most holy place, He’s made a sacred space
For those who will enter in, and trust to cry out to Him
And you’ll find no curtain there, no reason left for fear
There’s perfect freedom here, to weep every unwept tear
– Come Lift Up Your Sorrows

As in earlier years, these past few months I had been looking for gifts to make life easier.  To take away and remove the difficulties of being in friendships, of trying to minister on campus, of dealing with caring for family members with cancer, and of being misunderstood.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that no external gift has worked to right these very human realities.  Yet, in the rush of the day-to-day it can seem more practical to quickly cover over these wounds in order to keep going.  They are irritants that need simply to disappear.

Throughout the concert/worship I’m alternately wiping my eyes in sorrow and smiling in joy.  The words of these songs are helping to uncover hidden wounds. Wounds I had handily hidden. I’m even imagining myself back in the dorm – and the pain that I originally associated with that cassette tape is now gone, replaced by the hope I found listening to these songs the first time.  I sense a new freedom, a freedom not possible by ignoring the brokenness.

These words of song are again a gift of wounding.  A wounding that ultimately heals through times of crying out and weeping with the One who cries and weeps with us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

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Seeing (and Living) the New Life in Front of You

I’m walking through a new building on church grounds – furnished classrooms that are ready to welcome students, a well-lit atria with places for people to gather and share meals, a stage area for musicians and others to perform, and there must be a well-stocked library behind one of the doors.  This is the perfect space for ministry.

However, it took me at least a week to go in once I noticed it on the property of an older building.  You see, I had been so focused making programs and activities work in the old building that I hadn’t seen the other building front of me. I had been struggling to put new wine in old wine skins, when the new were already there waiting to be filled.   Why?

Then I woke up back in my bedroom.

This may have been only a dream, but the images in it have been weighing on me. At first I thought that the dream affirmed a tendency to get everything in order, whether in ministry or other areas of life, before going on to the next thing.  But there was something more.  I had refused to see the new building for over a week, wasting time and energy on bemoaning the struggles in the old building because I did not see the opportunities in front of me.

How many of us do this?  Refuse to see what’s before us and really live into it.  Or maybe it’s not an active refusal.  Maybe it’s not having the eyes to even see because of fear, laziness, or simply lack of imagination.  There are many excuses for not entering the new building when staying in the old place is so comfortable and rearranging the furniture can make it seem as if something is happening.

Furthermore, it’s easier to complain and critique rather than walk into the new house. When I hear of friends and acquaintances setting out on a new project, I often wonder why do they have this opportunity and I don’t.  How were they able to finish all their work before starting this new activity?  They entered the new building before they should.  At this point I will often find a comfortable place to hang out in my old building and feel sorry for myself.

As I was immersed in this path of self-criticism and envy once again, an e-mail popped up from on of my favorite places, Southborough L’Abri.

“. . . Thankfulness to God begins with an awareness of our complete dependence on God. But a sense of dependence on God is only the beginning. It also requires that we stay awake and aware enough to notice what God is doing in the world and to not forget about it. Those areas of awareness are blocked if we have a strong sense of our own victimhood, if we feel an entitlement that our expectation of a “good life” is owed to us, or if we are confident that we can meet all of life’s challenges with our own resources. It is no secret that our consumer culture invites us to focus not on our blessings, but on what we lack, yet desire. All of these attitudes displace the consciousness that our life itself is a gift. We can usually do pretty well with occasional gratitude but the challenge is gratitude as a more basic attitude or assumption, an anchor beneath our lives.”  Dick Keyes, Southborough L’Abri News/Prayer Letter January 2013

These words spoke directly to me.  It was time to wake up.  Awareness of God’s working in the world is blocked when we focus on our own victimhood.  How true.  This is exactly where I existed as I pitied myself for staying in the old building for too long, for not having opportunities that others seem to have handed to them. It is easy to look at the world and blame some one or some thing else for my problems. To claim someone else has kept me out of the house, when really it’s been me.

Eyes of gratitude help us to live into the life before us within God’s kingdom now.  It stops us from holding onto the world’s ways of security so tightly that we miss God’s work right in front of us.  But it does require letting go.  Stepping into the new house.  Leaving behind the comfortable old belief that we or anyone on earth can create the good life ourselves.

In the old building I’m under the illusion that I’m in control and need to make things work.  In the new, God is, and I can rest in the work he has prepared for me to do, even in the midst of struggles.

It’s time to walk into that new building today.  Or maybe just move towards the front door as I pray for God to guide the way.

 

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The Relief of Lent

The real man is at liberty to be his Creator’s creature.  To be conformed with the Incarnate is to have the right to be the man one really is.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Over the past weeks I’ve been to retreats, cooked meals, met new people, planned ministry events, been invited to dinners, made phone calls, spent time with friends, celebrated . . . and read, wrote, cleaned, organized finances . . . the list could go on.  It doesn’t take long before days, weeks, and months are overflowing with tasks.

It’s in the midst of such a hectic schedule that Lent is such a relief.  It’s a gift to have an expectation to give up something, slow down.

Time to reflect. To return to God.  To breathe again.

At the same time I also wonder how to describe Lent to people outside of the church – as well as to many people within.  It’s not a practice or festival that is in the Bible.  It also seems to run counter to the picture of hope and abundance that is often central to Christianity.  Does Jesus really want us to go around looking sorrowful and depriving ourselves?

No, but throughout his words there are many messages about repentance, carrying our crosses, and persecution.  These are not the jubilant voices of preachers on a Sunday morning or the comforting words of a friend.  They are the earnest pleadings of God wanting us to look at reality.  To see what is really before us, in all its brokenness, instead of painting false pictures.  A God who yearns to heal us.  In current western society that admires image, wants to create a better narrative no matter how far it is from reality, we need this call more than ever.

This is lent.  It provides a time to recalibrate the stories in our lives.  To remove the false versions of ourselves and others.  To see God as God is and ourselves as his creatures.    To step out of the daily routine.  It’s a time when it’s okay to reflect.  It’s okay to remove our masks as we hear we are ashes, we are dust.

What we each give up or take on isn’t as important as the practice of doing so – and Christ breaking into this time to reveal the Truth and to set us free.  Free to be broken and to step into this mess with Jesus in the midst.

How will you find relief and break from the routine in your life over the next weeks to open yourself to God’s calling to repent – see reality as it is and turn to Him?

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Apologetics on a Saturday Night

Faith is something to be shared privately and in safe areas.  Definitely not on a Saturday night on the town.  Right?

Earlier this month I was at a conference that focused on Christian apologetics – the reasons for and defense of Christianity.  At at another conference two weeks later I heard ideas of how Christians can engage the university with some of the big life questions – why are we here, where are we going, does it matter what we do?

At both of these events, everyone agreed that it’s vital to share the Christian message.  The struggle was when and how to do so.  There was an unspoken assumption that because most people don’t naturally talk about these topics, they don’t want to.  That people want to be entertained and steer clear of religion.

With these conferences on my mind, I too was wondering what would be the best venues for palatably bringing up faith in conversations.  I assumed it was going to take some creative and outside-the-box planning.

Then, last Saturday, I saw the play Freud’s Last Session.  Once the lights were off, the audience was captured by unapologetic apologetics for and against the existence of God. In a London office at the beginning of World War II, Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis meet.  One soon to commit suicide after a life of breaking barriers in the field of psychology, the other just beginning a life as a scholar and convert to Christianity.

On this stage big questions were being asked and discussed – not behind the curtain of an apocalyptic tale or satire, but directly.  It wasn’t at church.  It wasn’t over a Bible study.  It wasn’t on Christian radio.  It was at the Ensemble Theater in Cincinnati.  Not only was this play part of the theater’s regular season, the initial run was sold out and additional shows have been added.

Based on the book The Question of God by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., this play  explores what might have occurred if these two men had met in the spring of 1939.  Their writings provide a basis for the dialogue during which they talk about God, psychology, happiness, fear, cancer, living, conversion, suffering. They trade jokes and show concern even as they question each others’ arguments.  Neither cedes to the other, but they do listen.  They respect one another.

The very fact that this play was being shown emphasizes that people aren’t shying away from questions and honest conversations about God – not even Christian apologetics. The conversations may have been between the two actors, but people were attending and hearing Lewis’ arguments for Christianity along with Freud’s arguments for atheism. Such conversations keep us thinking and move us to turn on the music we had been avoiding.

Maybe the world is hungering for this type of conversation more than we can imagine.

It’s time to talk apologetics. Even on a Saturday night in a theater.
“In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of the facts as they are.”  – C. S. Lewis – An Experiment in Criticism

 

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Serving in the Liminal Space

How do you talk to graduate students about serving where they are – especially if you have not walked the path to tenure?  Yet, like most people, I have been in many in-between places in life.  Places in which it is easy to just wait until the next goal is met to do the important things in life.  Once I get the degree – then I can serve at church.  Once I make the next pay grade – then my position will be secure and I can witness more about Christ to co-workers.

However, as I review my life and look at that of others, it soon becomes evident that much of life is lived in liminal spaces – in the now and not yet – and not at the end points. Victor Turner in his study of rites of passage and other rituals, such as pilgrimage, highlights the in-between time as a significant element during such practices.  It’s not merely a time to get through.  Its very structure sets the stage for transformation.  We are not in a comfortable, known place and are therefore more open to change.

At such times the opportunities for a deeper community – one Turner defines as communitas – confront us. As we live in-between and encounter others who are walking along similar paths, traditional barriers to relationships are often relaxed and new connections are possible.  In these communities there are plenty of opportunities to serve – and be served.

From a theological perspective, Christians are always in a liminal space.  We are fully redeemed because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.  We are made right with God.  Yet, creation is not fully restored.  We continue to sin.  So, we wait for that time of complete renewal.  But how do we wait?  Putting everything else on hold, or by fully diving into each moment?

In the Bible we see this is action.  Noah, Abraham, David, the exiles, the disciples – they all leave places of comfort.  Jacob was the home body – but after he deceived Esau for the second time, he must leave his place of comfort.  Not until this departure does he encounter God in powerful and life changing ways.  He could have taken this time and sulked, just waiting for Esau to calm down.  Head down, doing his work. But instead he is aware, meets God, listens, and follows.

Where does God call us, today?  He calls us to live where we are now as He serves us. During these uncomfortable times when we are waiting to reach the next step, we are whole people in relationships – with God and with our neighbor.  Moreover, it is through people that God continues to restore his creation, build his kingdom, as we live out our vocations in work, family, society, church.  Therefore, even in times of liminality, when we haven’t yet reached that next end point, we are living in vocations in which we are serving others.

Whether or not you are a graduate student, and finding yourself in a liminal space, consider the following:

  • Be aware of the many times of transition ahead along with the opportunities they bring.
  • Consider how God calls you to serve others through your unique vocations.
  • Most importantly, know the ultimate story, God’s story, toward which you are moving.  It puts everything else in perspective.
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Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw-Puzzle4My mother did it.  She bought a jigsaw puzzle – 1500 pieces – for the family to put together as we gathered over the holidays.  Well ‘the family’ became me.  Even though it’s probably been over a decade since I last put together a puzzle, it wasn’t long before I was in puzzle mode again.

In this state of mind I sit down to try a handful of pieces.  I pick up one, find a place where colors and patterns match, and turn it around to see where the shape fits.  When I find a match and the pieces click together, a feeling of satisfaction rolls over me.  Then my hand reaches for another piece.  Quickly ten minutes become half an hour becomes two hours.  I am engrossed in the process – getting to know the shades of blue and gray of the area on which I’m working.  The shapes of the pieces.

Usually it takes me at least an hour to really get into this state of mind.  The intensive focus allows me to differentiate small gradations in shades and shapes.  As I sort through the pile of pieces, I start to intuitively know where to try each piece.  This light grey piece with a slight fleck of pink goes over here in the upper right corner.  That more taupe looking piece with a faint white line will go where the ocean meets the shore. Eventually over a week of these moments, I finish.

This creation took time.  Piece by piece a final picture came into view.  But it wasn’t merely the quantity of time that was important, but how this time was dispensed.  I didn’t take five minutes here and five minutes there throughout a day.  Instead, uninterrupted hours of time allowed me to get into this groove.

When I finished it hit me how important it is to make space for this use of time within other areas of my life.  Often I take shortcuts to finish a project.  Or, I think I can get by with scraps of time here and there.  So, I leave half an hour to put together a graduate student discussion.  Or, sit down to write for only 15 minute stints.  Or, think that I can finish a quilt one afternoon.  Then I wonder why finishing large creative projects eludes me.

A book revision needs some in-depth attention.  Those quilts – well the picture just doesn’t come together in only 15 minute increments every other month.  Each time I site down in these short spurts of energy, it’s like I’m starting all over again.  Before there’s a chance to really become attuned to the project and make significant progress, I stop.

It’s time to get into puzzle mode and allow myself to be carried away by the creativity needed in the large projects before me.  There may not be a picture on a box to direct the completion, but that only makes it more inviting to begin.

 

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