Monday, September 2, 2013

Day Forty - Seven

The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:14

In the past, I've been a really big dreamer. One of the first things I learned from my mom (and all those Tupperware ladies that were helping to raise me) when I was growing up was to dream big. Also, to set goals and to go after them. I believe it has been a beautiful part of who I've become as I've grown into adulthood. It has also become part of how I view others. I want others to dream big. I want others to live in the moment, to know that anything can happen if you're willing to work hard and take tiny steps each day toward your dream. I want people to expect great things from a wondrous God. However, it is this word "expectation" I am starting to exam as I near my 32nd year hear on earth. I feel like I've walked into a decade of unknown. There are a lot of reasons that I thought I wouldn't make it past my twenties. This is not a reflection of any type of morbidness. God healed me from a very dark season of destructiveness where I dangled a little too often off a bridge that was the barrier between life and death. After that, I just think I believed that I was hear for a short time, to display the splendor of the Lord, to comfort those that were in pain, to share my story, and to move on with Him. However, I am still here and I have been walking the unknown. I know what it looks like to be a creative writer, I know what it looks like to be a daughter, and I found safety in being a student -- I knew how to do that. Now I am in a new city, I am recently a wife, and I am in a new season of working without school. I'm learning. I'm stepping. I'm far less "in between" than I was a year a go, than I was even a month ago. What did I expect from this time in my life? And do we often get the word expectation mixed up with the word standard? I think having standards is much different. "I expect people to be ..." is different to me than not wanting people in your life who don't bring life, benefit, or only bring toxicity. That is a standard I want to uphold. What do you think? How do you define each word? I am beginning to define the word "expectation" as bondage. Our expectations come from so many places in this country TV, books, magazines, family history, the Bible, self-imposed ... Expectations are all over the place and they come from without and within. I was recently doing a day in my Bible study and it was about idolatry. I felt a little relief that I wasn't caught up in idolatry in such as toxic way as I was in my teens and early twenties. However, there are some things I still put before God in my life on some level. At the end of the day's lesson you are asked to talk with God about things you are still holding on to too tightly. Into my mind floated the word "expectations." To be all together raw and honest, which is what this devotion site started out to do, I have cried, had huge adverse reactions physically and emotionally, caused tension in relationships, missed out on big joyful moments in my life, beat myself up, and have found myself in times of depression because of expectations. How I think I should be as a friend, wife, person, writer ... How I thought planning a wedding was "supposed to be," what I thought a weekend, honeymoon, wedding day was "supposed to be." It is bondage and burden. I believe that is the only outcome having expectations can lead to. In a backwards way, I thought I was less of a person if I didn't have expectations, but maybe this is where I was confusion the word with standards and goals. It is okay to have hope, but I am doing away with all expectations in my life. It won't be easy. I admit I even project expectations on a subconscious level. There are subliminal messages from society seeping into my ears daily, but to the best of my ability and God's power (well, maybe just God's power) I am over expectation. I will even begin tossing around the idea of what I expect from God. I was always taught to pray expecting great things from God. However, I am now thinking that you know truths about God and you can pursue him, petition Him, love on Him, but let's be surprised, awed, and blown away by God. He's big enough to overflow our expectations anyway. His thoughts not my thought and His ways not my ways. I believe having expectations in a form of idolatry in my life. I am only to be satisfied by God and I know longer want to miss out on the joy from His presence by expecting something horrific or something amazing.

I just want to live, love, and be -- expecting nothing.

Giving and receiving. 

Letting go.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pillows and Purpose

I've been spending a lot of time with pillows lately. I have been propping myself up with them so that I can watch TV, putting one under my laptop to cruise the internet, snuggling up with them while I read, and even watching my baby turtle run to hide under one when I get him out to play. However, today a special pillow came in the mail. It was protected by a box and in the left-hand corner of that box was the name of a very special friend.

Lately, I've been bewildered, you know, about the way life works sometimes. Sure, on the surface I've said things in moments that were negative and I've had a couple of whiney rants. (Wishing they'd involved a cup or two of wine and a table of good friends.) But deep down I know what it is to wait. I'm not naive. In fact, I'm very smart. College degree. Honors in English. Real world experiences that take me to above average using any type of measurement to determine "too wise for my own age." (Plus, I watch "The Big Bang Theory" and I use large words.) I knew it wasn't going to be easy to find a job when I first got out of school. The economy. Well, it is what it is right now, and it is not good or beautiful or brave. I don't believe I deserve a job more than any of the 13,967,000 reported persons unemployed for the month of my college graduation -- August 2011. I don't believe that the stack unpaid bills in my drawer is any bigger than that of the single parent trying to feed their child or those on the verge of losing their homes. I have a roof over my head, parents being supportive of my goals, and enough love to fill a well and spill, spill, spill over. I guess what I'm missing is a place to serve.

I want a job. I want to be writing more often. I want my health to improve. I want to move. I want a place to volunteer. I want to be advocating for the women that I love and the children that are hurting, to whom I can relate. But those are wants and though they are good wants, I am in the place of waiting, in between, and operating on a need-based level. I need to feed myself spiritually. I need to be thankful for what I do have. I need to be loving on my creativity and I need to be growing for what is next.

Back to the pillow (s). There have been several packages showing up on our doorstep without my name the past few days and birthdays coming up and Christmas -- so I do not open or touch too much, but today there was a package with my name. And his. I smiled big. I hugged the little box to me as I walked back to the house. As I sat down to open the package with my mailbox key I though of what reminded me of this man -- the mail-sender. I opened the taped box, removed, bubble wrap, and there it was -- a bronze pillow form.

I held it in my hands and glowed a bit. I felt the sun in Vermont as I sat at the picnic table and he in the chair. I saw the flowers and heard the noises flowing from the other studios as I chattered and distracted. I felt connected to the river that was breaths away and I felt the green, green Johnson grass under my feet. I knew. I knew what it looked like to close this pillow. All the different colors that went inside. I knew how long it took to make just one. How I'd offered to help without realizing that I wasn't the creator ... I thought of meals and laughing as I drank wine given to me from my favorite poet and learned football while he observed. Mornings in the kitchen. Open studios. Stowe. Movie nights with the fan club. Times when I was anything but silent about my passions, the creative atmosphere I loved, and the many different types of artists I learned from, loved there. I remembered community.

I thought about how I'd put out a request for art from this community I met two years ago to surround me with love, support and memories as I moved forward in my life. I thought of the calls that I've gotten. The mail from Australia. That special lady that sent it and what became of my life after I asked to sit with her at lunch and inherited a gorgeous fan club. I remembered sitting in an empty basket rolling around while she and my other friends did clothes and I well, tagged along. I though of another friend from that Fall. The trade she proposed last week and how special that offering was considering how long it has been since I've written -- anything. How she was giving me the chance to write about art and artists I love ... to do something for them. I remembered that community never ends. And even though I feel a bit listless these days, when they give, when they create, when they are fulfilling their purpose as artists, writers, human beings -- so am I in a miraculous way. We are forever connected.

What a gift a pillow can be and how holding it brought light into my whole day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day Forty-Six

Written in response to seeing a light bulb
out during the praise band's rehearsal 
at The Anchor in Nashville, TN.
April 3, 2011

There were more than two. I saw two. There were four lights! There were many light bulbs. Strung. The ceiling of the church. Little “c.” They glowed yellow with light. Pale against the glorious sun pouring through the window like fresh, squeezed lemonade at the fair ground. One was grey. Dim. One wasn't needing to be replaced. It would have lit up any carousel. But the other was seen. By me. It is beautiful, He whispered, beautiful like the rest. It'd lost its glow. I want to shine again, I prayed. For You. I used to glow. I am greying like the clouds, green with silence before a tornado. Like the cold mist of rain, that covers my jeans, my shirt, my dollar-general-reddish hair. In April. I want to be the tiny rays of warmth propelling through fluffy peek holes. There were two lights. I hugged the different. One. My heart understood its pumping valve of electricity, leaking before reaching filament. Turn me. Turn me. Turn me. I'm sitting on the fake bear with eyes that never shut and a fish in his mouth. Turn me. Back on. I'm so in love with You. The brightest light bulb, smells the roses. I'll mixed-up what I like. Born a lightbulb. Strung from the ceiling of the Church. There were more than two. I saw one. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day Forty-Five

Sometimes your brain feels like it is on a merry-go-round and focus is hard to come by. Sometimes the barista at Starbucks looks at you fearfully and hands you the green tea latte she has made. It tastes like foamy rabies saliva, bright green like Romulan blood, and you drink it anyway. Sometimes you stand in a long line to buy one book that costs $121.00 with tax. The book is for school, and you know that you will only get $5.00 max for it at the end of the semester. This will not even cover the minimum payment that has caused your credit card to be rejected because Netflix placed an unwarranted fee on it without letting you know, and now you walk away without the book but with the knowledge that you will be behind on your homework. Sometimes your refund check from the university you attend does not arrive when you need it. Sometimes it is grey and you walk around in the misty rain as it seeps cold into your bones while you try to fill time in between classes. Sometimes you seek to fly free of the nest and the rules that make you feel stuck, only to bump into restrictions from others. Sometimes your full of blessings that keep trying to force you to analyze them when you just want to pour gratitude and joy onto their brightness. Sometimes your beautiful holiday guests leave and you receive quiet in return, only to find there is no silence inside. Somehow I walk alone in this world yet, there is a Spirit holding my hand and a Lion both soft and ferocious never far away. He walks with me and the "sometimes" are just sometimes. They are surrounded by peace, contentment, and love. And the day has truly been beautiful, there has been strength and independence to place a wide smile on my face. And there are plays to be written, possibilities in the air, assignments to be checked off on a syllabus, and moments to receive with adoration for the Giver. The future is finished and untouchable. I never met anyone or any circumstance in a tomorrow. Each today (raindrop, latte, rejected credit card, opportunity, brave step, minute) I choose positivity and love adds up to a victorious finish lovingly walked out for me before I was born. "Sometimes" are temporary. I am "sometimes." Today I entrusted my day to the Lord and He added it to forever by overflow of His love. Happiness is not always the easiest choice. Yet, I am finding the work pays off in -- contentment. And not just sometimes.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Forty-Four

"Cages or wings? Which do you prefer? Ask the birds. Fear or love, baby? Don't say the answer. Actions speak louder than words." -- Tick, Tick, BOOM

"Tell Vlad I said Hi ... I like playing with Vlad. He's awesome." -- Student from NC, '08 (letter)

"I hope Valdimir doesn't miss me too much." -- Student from NC, 08 (letter)

Today when I was driving to take a walk at this park I really love not to far from my house, I thought about Vlad. Considering it's Halloween today, you may think that I'm referring to some intimidating Dracula-like figure. Though you would be wrong, because I hate scary and I'm not really a fan of Halloween. Vladimir was a pet ball that I had the pleasure of being owner to when I worked in Yarmouthport, MA for an environmental education program.
In all actuality, he was a ball on the end of an elastic string that I paid a dollar before leaving to use during my field group that season. There was a velcro strap that you put on your wrist and it was supposed to be a game, which none of the staff were really able to make work. You throw the ball and pull your arm back and catch it or something. What the ball became was magical. One morning before going to meet my field group, of 12 or 13 kids, for the first time I strapped the ball onto my wrist with the cuff and began pulling it behind me toward the basketball court.
From then on, he became my pet ball. I didn't really know how it would go over with the kids, but I trusted my imagination and went with it. They were going to think I was weird and eccentric after a few minutes anyway. I might as well express it in a fun way. Besides who doesn't want a pet ball. And so the adventure began. I made him really special to them. Let them be the first group to name him. Jerked him back when one of the kids tried to touch him. Explained his newness, fears and temperament and my concern that he might bite.  So we dragged him through the woods. He chilled out. The kids even argued over who could "walk" him next. During science fair, they walked him to the different experiments and taught him things, on beach day we learned him how to swim, and when the rough terrain of the woods caused his string to detach ... Well, of course we covered him in duct tape for protection and re-attached it.
He really did become a pet and friend to the kids and me for that week. And a learning tool that maybe they didn't see because they were having fun. He could go to the kid that was homesick, to give him/her something to focus on other than his fears and that kid that was a bit too mischievous so that he/she might feel like a leader -- responsible for something. I used him in a couple more field groups, but that first one was the most imaginative and effective I think. I got a whole group of letters from those kids later and they had drawings of Vlad, Vlad and me, and asked me to pass messages along to him. In a generation that is so hindered by being indoors and staring at the TV, video games, and cell phones -- I'd gotten the chance to break through and into their creativity and imagination. And with a rickety ball and rubber band string from the dollar store.
Sometimes I think we forget. We forget that we can take something simple in our days or minutes and turn it into something full of joy with our imaginations. When the day looks bleak or things are frustrating or worrisome we don't tap into those gifts we have of creativity or imagination. We think that embracing and voicing that child-like spirit is strange or abnormal. We might stick out. We might look nutso. We might ... So we don't. But a few weeks ago I looked at a sculpture and saw spaghetti o's and meatballs, I saw some glass creations floating in a pond and imagined them special protectors of all the wishes we make on birthday candles and stars, and I talked to a stuffed turtle occasionally. It's nice to imagine the leaves twirling in a tutu or how high you could climb in that huge magnolia tree next to the university b/c life is stressful and serious and it isn't easy. However, it only takes a moment or two and a commitment to that imaginative, childlike spirit to bring a little joy into your day.
Or maybe you just need a pet ball.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day Forty-Three

The Anchor

Drip. Drop. Drip. Spin.
It is my toe-nail polish,
I am barefoot in a church.
My feet are naked on hard,
Wood floors.
The hole is in my pants,
Not in my life.

The drip. Drop. Drip. Spin.
Is slipping from a lovely lollipop,
Licked not, by me.
It is stained glass,
The flavor experienced by a tongue
with spikes.
Poking holes, just enough to release
The dreams, bright and love.

The pieces of the window are swinging,
Through what is broken the fluffy full
floats down.
It is a miracle I jumped into long ago.
The glow of it, I am still receiving.
And I moan, shoes empty on the floor.
Feet free in Christ's living room.

I wait for someone to throw a rock,
And find they are naked also.
Hands empty of stones.
So we open our mouths,
As the sweet saliva, sacred water -
Drip. Drop. Drip. Spin.
Colors our throats and we walk
Painted light.
No windows.

It is not a dream,
We are trusted by Him
To take off our shoes,
Stretching, wiggling our toes
In the comfort of His presence.
We do not slip.

We drip. Drop. Drip. Spin.
Unusual. Real. Genuine. Pure Love.
And we are completely naked,
At church.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day Forty-Two

Today I found a lake. Today I found a lake all by myself. Today I found a place to be quiet. The only thing frustrating me is that I cannot find the perfect pen. And so I will keep switching. Today I found a place underneath a tree on a big rock, to hear the water lap – trying to wash up. Trying to touch me. Trying to rinse my mind clean of the lies.

Just like me, this body is not quite sure how they got in there, but wants them out. Out, out, out – liquid seeping out and the waves crashing in, the pores of my skin soaking up the truth. Moments ago I saw a bottle and prayed it had a message. It is now sunken treasure, the message is within me. We are both screaming, she and I. This lake dressed in transparency, yet filled with vile green duck poo, boat fumes, and forgetfulness.
At one time I hated her, this girl that floats to the surface at times. My Ophelia. I once sat at a different lake. I wanted to drown – her. This lake is here, that was then, there. Ducks float by two white, two black and somehow one white with orange, one white with gray. One of them has taken strength and swallowed it down with weakness, feathering out the mixture and quacking, quacking, quacking.
I can imitate a duck call fairly well, but I am not accepting of imitation.
I thought strength was leaving her behind. Years and years, my Ophelia has been drowning. Deeper she sinks to find the message. This week she has surfaced, surfaced, crashed and cried through me. She wants me to take the bottle, the words. And I say, No. I say, I hate. I say, You are not worthy to hand me such things. And so I have come to this lake, this river, this water to lift her out.
I don't know where I am but we are here together. I cannot let her drown completely. We must let our feathers spread out together. She is not darkness and I am not her light. I will kiss her lips, breathe into her lungs, grasp onto her hands. And she will forgive as if I never left her. We are whole. My strength, this fragrance, welcoming back my Ophelia.
Today I found a lake. Today I found myself. Today I followed brown signs alone and I am leaving with her. The confidence and the tears – linked by the lapping, the rocks and the roots, surrounded by broken branches. I could not have been whole without her. She will walk softly and I will float on the transparent and we will save the drowning only for days when we need refreshment.
She isn't a mirror. She isn't my undoing. As one we are fit snuggly, uniquely, bravely, we balance, barely but beautifully, and I will not leave her. She is my and I am her – healing.
Today I am thankful for this lake and for my dear, Ophelia.

– amanda gayle oliver

August 4th, 2010

Thank you Papa. Thank you for knowing just what I needed.

Old Hickory Lake?

Close to Andy Jackson's House

Somewhere near Nashville, TN