Sunday, March 4, 2012

Off the Leash - The benefits when I unchain my brain

Recently I have had several bouts of Overwhelmed-Itis.  This is when I have too much to do and stay too busy for too long that I either become paralyzed and cannot manage even the simple tasks or I collapse from exhaustion.  And when I refuse to collapse, then my back goes out or something equally disabling. 

Between my very busy 40 hour/week job at a local hospital and the documentary I am working on in my "spare" time, my brain is chained to a "to-do list" all the time.  If I'm not at work thinking about what needs to be done there, I am elsewhere thinking about what needs to be done for the documentary.  Add to that my family and friends and my desire to stay connected with them... play dates become an item on the "to-do list" as well!  Not to mention trying to keep my house clean!

Last week my house was an embarrassing mess.  I was seriously considering buying a hazmat suit to tackle the kitchen.  It was disgusting.  Plus I had a meeting scheduled last Sunday with one of the board members for  the documentary- and it was supposed to be here at my house! Usually inviting somebody over is good motivation to clean.  And that had been the plan for last Saturday.  Spin class then clean the rest of the day in preparation for the meeting.  

Luckily I followed my instincts on that important plan of attack.  And my instincts said "Let your brain off the leash.  Unchain it from the to-do list.  Let it wander freely wherever it wants to go for the whole day!" This, of course, meant avoiding the kitchen...I considered putting yellow "warning" tape across the door to my kitchen so I wouldn't have to encounter the nastiness growing in and around my sink.  And I moved the board member meeting to a local coffee shop. 

Aside from running the risk of having my house condemned by the health department, I am SO GLAD I let my brain off the leash last weekend.  I had been feeling overwhelmed and uninspired about the documentary for a few weeks.  By letting my brain off the leash to wander, it instinctively found inspiration in piles of seemingly wasted time watching several TED Talks in a row.  I allowed myself the luxury of a TED-a-thon and, as usual, they gave me inspiration.  For the documentary and the TED Talk I might be giving on April 7th.  

In summary, keeping my brain chained to a list of tasks leaves no room for God to fill my brain with His inspiration, truth, and GRACE.   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Education Synchronicity and Me

As I work on the documentary project, I am doing research on how to make "my" documentary as effective as possible by watching other documentaries.  To keep me on task with this, I have an ongoing list of documentaries in my Netflix queue.  For some unknown reason, and without really having time in my day to do so, I watched "Waiting for Superman" yesterday. 

As I watched, I was noticing what caught my attention and what kept my attention.  And my mind wandered to thoughts of my own education, how teachers always said my grades would be better if I applied myself, and how the thought of being in a classroom long hours sounds like torture to me.  I also thought about a couple of TED Talks by Sir Ken Robinson that address the problems of the current education system.  I am a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson- his ideas about teaching and learning resonate with me and inspire me.  

At the end of "Waiting for Superman" I was mostly disengaged and felt sad about the education system in the U.S.- and hopeless that it will ever be fixed.  I don't have any children, so I could not really relate to a parent's passion for wanting their child to have a good education.  On top of that, I was always a mediocre student (as referenced above).  Yet, I consider myself a very intelligent woman and I love to learn.  I just have a "meh" attitude about "traditional" education.  Thus the admiration for Sir Ken! 

So, imagine my surprise (and delight) when, as I sat in a church service where I go for corporate worship (Crossroads), to make a point about a special aha moment- my pastor showed this clip:

My pastor explained that the actual subject of education had little to do with his "aha" learning.  But that the notion of failing due to using a teaching approach established for a different time in history spoke to him.  

I think this is what was so scandalous about how Jesus taught while he was physically walking the earth.  He upset so many pharisees because He used non-traditional approaches to teaching the people about God's character, love, truth and grace.  It is this demonstration of God's character that resonates with me when I listen to Sir Ken Robinson- even though he is not talking about God.  And it is this complex yet simple illustration of God's truth and grace that I intend to use as inspiration while putting the documentary vision on film.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Second that Emotion

A few days ago I was feeling extra emotional about something and needed a friend to talk me through the intensity of the moment. Nothing to love and be loved stuff.  The friend who came to my aid is one of my closest friends. We talk and pray each other through lots of life. In her efforts to tell me everything would work out, she said, "You are a very emotional person."  I literally cringed.  She meant it in the best way possible. Why do I feel the need to add that disclaimer?  Why is being emotional so frowned upon in society?  

I was writing in my prayer journal about this question.  I find myself wanting to be defensive about my emotions- explain them rationally.  Then I remembered that I am created in God's image and that God, the almighty and holy God, is an emotional being.  The Bible is full of examples of His wide range of emotions.  He is famous for His intense love.  Love that is so over the top that He sent His beloved Son to be born physically into the world He created in order to share Himself intimately with all of humanity.  Not only that, but His beloved Son died a tortuous death to atone for our darkness and create direct access to His Holy Love. And He didn't let His Greatest Act of Love remain in the grave.  His Love ascended from the physical world and is still alive- knowable and soulfully tangible to anyone who reaches for Him. 
That is the beauty of God's perfect truth and grace.  
That is the ultimate demonstration an intense emotion.  
And I second that emotion. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Documentary Distraction

My apologies for being MIA for the past few months.  Not that I haven't left my readers hanging before...but this time I have a better reason than busy.

Last Fall I started working on a documentary.  Then in April I created a blog to keep people updated on the process and progress of the documentary.  So, all my blogging efforts have been directed towards that blog since April.  The working title of the documentary is Heart.Beats.Slavery and thus, that is the name of the blog.  You can link to the blog for the documentary HERE.

Anyway, so I think I mentioned previously that in December I took a promotion at work.  That was also a big distraction for 3-4 months.  After a rough learning curve, I am happy to say I've hit my groove and was able to arrange for a 4 day work week.  Woot! That means that I have an extra day off every week to focus on the documentary.  I've only had 4 of these "extra day off" things, so I haven't settled into a consistent rhythm yet.  But my goal, eventually, is to include posting on THIS blog as well as the documentary blog every week on that bonus day.

As a matter of fact, I did a post on the other blog this morning.  Now this one.  I am on a ROLL!

As you can see, my life is generally a flurry of activity.  And always chock full of God's truth and grace.

How does God's truth and grace manifest in your life?  Please share in the comments!  Thanks!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lyrics du Jour - You in the Sky

Post subtitle could be "Full and Passionate Worship, Waterboys style!"
There are a couple of versions of this song. There is a somewhat subdued version with the following lyrics:

You alone of all 
You in the sky 
I want to know why clouds 
come in between You and I 

Let me know you 
Lover woo me 
Open up my heart and 
sing Your song right through me 

Nice right?  That version is almost soft spoken compared to my favorite version on Fisherman's Blues.  The version on Fisherman's Blues crescendos and builds with a soaring sax and fire in the fiddle.  Mike Scott's voice is passionate and raw when he sings these lyrics:

Thou alone which art
You in the sky
I want to know why clouds 
come in between You and I 

Thou art beautiful
And I am gifted
When in Thy precious presence
I am lifted

Let me know you
Come into me
Open up my heart and
Sing your song right through me

Let me know you
Come into me
Open up my heart and
Sing your song right through me

Thou alone which art
You in the sky
I wanna know why clouds
come in between You and I

It is a rainy Easter Sunday in Cincinnati and these lyrics seem a perfect way to praise the living Triune God in both sun and rain.  And the bolded lyrics inspire me to remember my creativity comes directly from the ultimate Creator of everything.  When I feel disconnected from my creativity, I lift my spirit up to be in God's Precious Presence...where I am blessed with His Perfect Gifts.  Where His perfect Truth & Grace are within perfect balance.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beaded Hope & Dreams

When we met, Jennifer had just begun taking action on a vision after visiting South Africa.  She had a vision to create an avenue for South African women with AIDS to be able to sustain themselves and their families.  She noticed how common and popular beaded objects and jewelry were in South African markets. Jennifer thought having the women make and sell beaded products could generate income in order to put food on their tables.  She named her venture Beaded Hope ( ).

I met Jennifer a few years ago via a mutual friend.  I think I was updating the mutual friend about a vulnerable time in my life when we bumped into each other.  And because Jennifer was part of that conversation it seems we were instantly bonded. I remember Jennifer got tears in her eyes as I shared how God had freed me from a heartbreaking situation. And Jennifer’s vision for Beaded Hope inspired me.  So naturally, I started supporting her vision any way I could.  I bought Beaded Hope products, I took the jewelry to work and sold it to my co-workers, I proudly wear Beaded Hope t-shirts regularly (which, by the way, are very stylish and do not boast the name Beaded Hope-so when people say they like my shirt I get to TELL them about it), I volunteered to help her at Beaded Hope events, etc.

So this is how I ended up at a cute little cafĂ©/book store/lending library called Book Bums in November.  The event was named “Let it Snow” because the featured products were Christmas tree ornaments beaded by women in South Africa.  The ornament that inspired the event name is a beaded snow man. Yes, a snow man! The South African woman who designed this ornament had never seen snow before.  In South Africa it only snows down around Cape Town. And the women associated with Beaded Hope live in Pretoria which is much closer to the equator.  I don’t think it ever gets near freezing there.

Also featured at this event was a book signing by Cathy Liggett who wrote a novel inspired by the Beaded Hope story.  That is a whole ‘nother miraculous divine introduction story in itself. And that story would lead to other miraculous divine introduction stories… so I will refrain from going down that rabbit hole in this post. While Cathy’s book is fictional, it does illustrate the context of Jennifer’s vision- you should buy it and read it!
As it happens, a friend and neighbor of Jennifer’s helped organize this “Beaded Hope: Let it Snow” event at Book Bums. And THIS is the divine introduction story I will share today.  You know how you can walk into a room and- without even realizing it - survey the contents and pick out people and things you think are “cool” or you’d like to know more about?  Well I immediately noticed this tiny thin woman with spiky red hair, glasses that eluded she was fascinating, and her clothes whispered “We like the same stuff.”  This was my first impression of Joules. After catching up with Jennifer, eating some lunch and ordering a fabulous frozen peanut butter hot chocolate (don’t think too much about the contradictory name, just go with it!)- this terrific tiny woman boldly approached me, extended her hand, and said “I’m Joules!”  Her friend Lisa (yet another wonderful person I met that day) joined us in the “Beaded Hope show room” and we started chatting about this, that, and the other.   As it turns out, Joules and I have a lot of mutual interests- she is also a writer, fan of U2 and Over the Rhine (amongst many other bands we both love), and more.

I love God’s timing and how He weaves lives together. And this is just one example of His perfectly mysterious ways.  As we (Joules, Lisa & I) talked, Lisa mentioned she had been at the Unbound Event ( ) a couple weeks prior.  I tend to down play stuff I’m working on that’s early in the process, but I explained to Lisa and Joules I had been there to do my first day of filming for my documentary.  Their eyes widened and Joules said, “Tell me about your documentary.”  My decision to make this documentary had just formulated at the end of October so it was still a very new and very rapidly progressing adventure for me.  So, I explained it was early in the process but that the goal of the documentary is to show how ordinary people can and do make a difference to end human trafficking… specifically sex trafficking.  Well, it just so happens, Joules informed me, that her teenage son was in the Czech Republic making a film about sex trafficking, too! What?  No way.  This is just one of many instances of God putting people in my path to inspire me as I muddle through making a documentary for the first time ever.   I’m super blessed to have a film-making partner (my friend Lee) who has some documentary experience- thank God (quite literally).

As we parted ways that chilly sunny Saturday in November, Joules gave me her business card which reads “Joules Evans- writer and tennis freak” which cracked me up!  We started emailing and she sent me a link to her son’s blog and invited me to join her writing group. I was able to attend the writing group for the first time last week and we celebrated with Joules that she had finished writing her book. “Shaken not Stirred…a chemo cocktail” is about her journey with breast cancer (learn more about it on her website ).  Joules shared the bottle of wine her husband had given her as a “carrot” to finish her book- it was yummy.  They (Joules & David) have other gifted children, in addition to Mike overseas. Their daughter Amanda, also wrote a blog post about the “Let it Snow” event (read it here: ) and she’s a singer/songwriter.  Their son Matt can take you on a complete Spider Man tour of NYC (among other things, I’m sure).

So, there you have it- a rambling tale of God’s inspiration, hope, dreams, and divine introductions.  I haven’t posted in a long while because on top of all of the above I got a promotion at work that required lots of overtime during the transition from one department to another, plus I was busy with Nativity The Pop Opera (see previous post for more info on that). And the month of January I was giving myself extra grace and down time to fully recover from the extreme busy-ness of November and December.  Now, I’m off to apply for grants to pay for the documentary. I think we’ll start actively filming again in March. In the meantime, much preparation is needed in every way.  Please say a prayer for everything mentioned in this blog post: Jennifer & Beaded Hope,  Shaken not Stirred, Joules’ family, and the documentary I’m making. Please pray that God’s perfect truth and grace shines through all these projects and that His Glory is exemplified through all of us who are being His hands and feet. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peace, Hope, Love, & SOUL

Divine intervention made me pursue bringing "Nativity: The Pop Opera" to Cincinnati this coming Christmas season. In February 2009 a free issue of Ohio Magazine arrived in my office.  I usually just put the free magazines in the waiting room of the clinic.  The only reason I took this particular issue home was because the cover declared it was the "Green Issue" and had tips about how to live an eco-friendly lifestyle in Ohio. I like to do what I can to reduce-reuse-recycle, so I took it home to read.

That Ohio Magazine sat on my coffee table for at least a month before I finally picked it up to flip through the pages. Somewhere in the middle was an article titled "Picture Perfect" and it was about a guy from Dayton, Ohio who works as a storyboard artist for major Hollywood movies.  In fact, J. Todd Anderson has been the storyboard artist for every movie the Coen Brothers have made since "Raising Arizona" - one of my all-time favorite movies.  In fact, I'm a big fan of Coen Brothers' movies in general. So I read the entire article. I was completely intrigued by the fact that this guy with a major Hollywood connection still lived in Dayton.

Towards the end of the article, it mentioned J. Todd had written something called "Nativity: The Pop Opera" that had been performed at a church in Dayton.  What? A guy who works for the Coen Brothers wrote a "musical" about the birth of Jesus? Really? What inspired him to do such a thing? Was he a Christian? Did he lose a game of Truth or Dare? Was it his Nanna's last dying wish that he write something to rival "Godspell" or what?  I had to know.
Good thing I had honed my internet research skills at a former job digging up potential dirt on physicians recruited to work on military bases! The article also said J. Todd did a show on Dayton's public radio with another guy about the best movies ever made.  On the website for that show I found an email link.  So, I sent an email that basically asked for more info about "Nativity: The Pop Opera." I didn't think he'd actually respond himself.  Well, he DID respond himself.

J. Todd explained that the Dayton shows raised funds for Dayton Children's Hospital. He said that he had been considering approaching Cincinnati Children's Hospital to produce it as a fund raiser in Cincinnati. I told him that since I work at Cincinnati Children's, I could probably help! Specifically, I knew we needed help paying the costs of our summer camp for patients with cancer and bleeding disorders. Polly, the woman with a passion for making sure our patients got to go to camp, was thrilled to have a new fund raising option! But first we had to convince the hospital's Development office.  The only way to do that was to go see the show in Dayton.  Four of us went last December and we LOVED it!

"Nativity: The Pop Opera" is a magical, light-hearted pop opera that tells the Christmas story through the eyes of the angels. There is a band on stage and J. Todd wrote great songs in a variety of styles.  The wise men are actually part of the band and called the three wise-guys.  They look like ZZ Top.  The angels have super tall wings, designed by J. Todd.  The chorus of one song repeats, "Peace, Hope, Love & Soul" and that sums up the heart of this pop opera.  The whole show is mesmerizing and fun mixed with inspiring beauty. It is first class entertainment for the whole family! The success of this show will provide funding to send patients from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Cancer & Blood Diseases Institute for an unforgettable week at camp.  If you'd like to audition, get tickets or be an underwriter for production costs, please leave a comment. Thanks!