Friday, November 30, 2018

I remember Jimi

Leni and Jimi's wedding
When I was a freshman in college, I went to this wedding. It was my first ever (that I can remember). I was even a bridesmaid, too.

I looked at the bride and groom and thought,

"I am soooooo not ready to be like that!" 

They were so in love with each other--so ready to commit. This college party girl could not imagine such a thing.

No thank you.

But, my cousin (the bride) was someone I had looked up to all my childhood. She taught me about the Bangles, and fashion, and rollerskating (in our yiayia's basement), and, on that day of her wedding, even if I wasn't quite ready for owning the reality for myself, she gave me a glimpse of what life could be like on the arm of a dream guy.
My daughter and Leni's daughter, look-a-likes

Fast forward (after meeting my dream guy a couple months later...and then marrying him a few years later), my new husband and I visit my cousin Leni and Jimi--and I fall in love with their toddler who had been an infant on my wedding day. She was the sweetest little toddler I'd ever seen. My husband and I weren't ready for children yet--no way. But, I can't deny that hanging out with my cousin's daughter that weekend planted a smidge of longing in my heart for my next adventure--motherhood.

More forward motion...and I find myself with four kids, one little daughter (who is literally the twin of Eleni's oldest--especially during each of their toddler/elementary years).  Jimi, now an Orthodox priest lends me his ear, over a message here or there, and then in brief conversation as I struggle in the darkest valley of my life. I'll not forget the man's wisdom, and his declaration of God's grace and love that I had hardly grappled with until that point. Those were probably some of the last conversations I had with Jimi, come to think of it.

Leni and me with my oldest, and her second
My cousin Leni and her husband Jimi have not just been in my life as extended family, but as I look back, God used them in my life in pretty significant ways. I never had older siblings--maybe they filled in those roles without knowing it? I don't know. All I know is, that I can honestly say that Leni had an impact on my growing up, and they both gave me an unmoving example of solidarity in love and faith through my young adult years.

Why am I writing all this?

Well, Jimi, the dream guy of my cousin, the other half of the couple who showed me the path that I wanted for my own life, (even though I didn't realize it until I'd followed the path on my own), over the past few years, that man has struggled, triumphed, and struggled some more with brain cancer.

I didn't really see him during that time. I had the chance to spend a few hours with them this summer. And I am so grateful for those moments--no matter how short. Because on this last day of November, Jesus decided that Jimi and his family had finished their battle, and Jimi went Home.

My husband and Jimi--a long time ago
Through all I know, or the little that I really do, even with distance constantly between us--and communication lacking because of seasons, I can honestly declare that Leni has proven a good and faithful servant, caring for, hoping for, loving so much--Jimi, the good and faithful servant ushered through Heaven's threshold today.

My sweet cousin has been a light of true faith in all this--doing everything a woman can do to care for the love of her life until the end.

Oh, PRAISE GOD it's not the end, really.

Jimi's there, beside His Savior, no wheelchair, no tumor, just JOY in the God that He chose to serve on Earth.

I'll always remember his enthusiasm for things he loved, for the people he loved, for his three children, for the amazing Leni. I didn't see them often, but when I did, nothing ever changed. They were a solid rock of a couple. A reason to believe that God brought them together, and they were meant to be.

Thank you Father Jimi Foreso, for taking Leni's hand and setting an example for all to see--as a husband, a father, and a child of God.

God Bless Your family, and May Your Memory Be Eternal.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Join Me in an Advent of Solitude

"One of the new challenges of our generation is the impact of technology on spirituality. This warrants serious consideration. If we are not careful, technology has a way of compromising our ability to present to ourselves, to God and to each other--all of which are fundamental elements of spiritual life...Exhaustion sets in when we are too accessible too much of the time.

A soul-numbing sadness comes when we realize that a certain quality of life and quality of presence is slipping away as a result of too much "convenience"."

-Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, by Ruth Haley Barton

MY LONGING:

The author just described the underlying reaction I feel after a bout of losing myself behind a screen:

Soul-numbing sadness.

I can hardly go an hour without reaching for my phone, just to check in--no matter what I am doing-- writing a novel, playing with my kids, praying, reading a devotional. Everything I do, has room for a screen check.

I've trained myself to be connected ALL.THE.TIME. But, when it comes to connecting with God, I've squeezed that time to connect into the slivers of seconds between life and screen checks. Hardly any time at all.

Something deep inside me knows this is not how I am suppose to live the moments of this life. Deep down inside me, I know that I've been sabotaged, and I've allowed it to happen.

MY QUEST:
So this Advent season, I am going to be more mindful of SOLITUDE, rather than screen time. I am going to use the extra moments, or the actual moments, to tap into the quiet, to dip my attention into the present, and to find a new rhythm for my living--I hope to be transforming to spiritual wakefulness on a consistent basis.

I am dedicating this next season as an ADVENT OF SOLITUDE.

Does this sound like something you'd like to do? Does this resonate with your heart at all? I've spoken with many friends who feel the same longing, who have actually taken time apart from social media because of the noise, and the need for quiet. Does this interest you, too?

Check out the invitation below:


THE INVITATION:

Join me in an ADVENT of SOLITUDE.

First things first.

WHAT IS ADVENT?  The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

WHAT IS SOLITUDE? The quality or state of being alone (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) OR according to Ruth Haley Barton, "An opportunity to interrupt this cycle {constant noise of our society} by turning off the noise and stimulation of our lives so that we can hear our loneliness and our longing calling us deeper into the only relationship that can satisfy our longing."

The only relationship that I've found to satisfy my longing, has been through Christ. He is the wholeness of life, the one who has given me a hope and a Way to live into each next step. I've lost my connection with Him, to be quite honest. And so, I am going to offer Him this next season of Advent where we focus on His birth, to bear a new rhythm that connects me to Him.

An ADVENT of SOLITUDE  is  a season of FASTING from social media connection, and instead, connecting to God in   SOLITUDE,   PRAYING,  AND   BEING   PRESENT, with the hope of transforming  daily life into a rhythm that syncs with God (more than WiFi). ;)     

THE CHALLENGE:

A SEASON: For the weeks of Advent, I'll disconnect from social media for a certain amount of time, and carve in time for Solitude. I am choosing to disconnect all Advent long, except for the Monday morning check-ins. If you choose to join in this Advent of Solitude, do what you feel is best for you (although, I strongly recommend disconnecting for a good long while. It truly is good for the soul. :) )

DAILY: Each morning, I'll spend some quiet in prayer--just God and me. I am going to buy an actual alarm clock and keep my phone away from my bedside. I hope to buy a journal as well. It has been a few years since I journaled my prayers. It's a wonderful way to stay focused on what my heart wants to say.

WEEKLY: Each week, I will carve out an extended amount of time to just spend time in Solitude. God and me only. Praying, but not reading. Sitting and listening. Breathing. Allowing God to speak, to move, to enjoy my undivided attention. (I will probably do this on Saturday morning for an hour or two while the family is asleep.)

CHECK-INS: Each Monday morning, I will get on to social media (for me, it will be just this day only), and check in on my Facebook Page (facebook.com/dicken.angie). If you choose to join in the Advent of Solitude, you don't have to share what is between you and God at these check-ins, just stop by and receive some encouragement, and let us know that you are spending your Advent focusing on Solitude.

MY HOPE:

I am going to do this to re-prioritize my moments. To become more present for my family, and more attuned to my relationship with God. I want to start a new rhythm this Advent, so I can step into 2019 without that "soul-numbing sadness". I want to transform my days into being and not just doing. I want to meet God again.

If you choose to join in the ADVENT of SOLITUDE, please join me on December 2nd, the first day of Advent. Stop by my author page (facebook.com/dicken.angie) for pre-check-in.





Friday, November 2, 2018

From An Author, After A Year


As an author stepping into the second year of publication, a few thoughts have rolled around in my writer’s heart. Five to be precise. If you are on this journey too, I would love for you to add to this list:
1. You never arrive. You just take a next step, or two, and find yourself in new territory with different challenges and triumphs.

2. If you write something that you want to shout from the roof tops, keep it. If you write something that makes you cringe, delete it. Drive and passion blossom a story, but edits are essential to confidence in sharing the story.

3. Don’t ignore those on the path behind you, and don’t envy those ahead of you. Community is the greatest treasure in the writing journey. I will never change my mind on that.

4. Writing is more than publishing. It’s a calling. It’s hard to distinguish the two..without the calling, a published book is just another product for a consumer. With the calling, the published book is art to be considered. I’d much rather be considered than bought.

5. Dreams start out small—if you settle with the seedling, you’ll miss out on the bloom.

I have always adored a good show of color, so while I wait, I will keep writing. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What do you see?

What would it be like to look at all sides of a person at one time? To see them—really see them—for who they are in every intricate way? Maybe a little frightening? Maybe disturbing? Perhaps, we’d find ourselves in them.

 When our tour guide at our local art center pointed out that this Picasso displayed all sides of the face at once, I finally understood the painter who I had only seen from one perspective before. 

I wonder if we all have a little bit of each other made up in our whole. The same fears, rejections, perspectives, loves. Have you ever walked through a group of people, and at first glance you see complete opposite traits as you? Maybe the way they dress, or act, or speak? If we could see all sides of a person at once, maybe those differences would fade to the background of our likenesses? After all, each one of us is created in the image of God.

And as a fiction author it resonates with me greatly. I love plunging deep in my characters, and exploring every side of their perspectives, wants, needs. My goal is to give the reader a portrait where they can find themselves, to give them an avenue of empathy, and a trace of truth in the made-up world.

 Thank you, Mr. Picasso, for this visual. While some of the little girls in our group said it was weird, (and I thought the same at first), I now understand that, for myself, I need to try and remember that all of us have different sides—but in each of our God-given makeups, there is some of the same.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Is Kindness a buzz word?

Today, this mama held her baby girl as she spoke through her tears, sharing with me the meanness someone threw at her. If I gave into my initial reaction, I'd tell her to fight back, to say the next mean thing. And then I'd start playing in my head what I would complain about to the appropriate adults-in-charge.

Let's just thank God that I demanded the mama bear back in the cave before taking hold of THAT mentality.

What I told my girl, though, was to stand up for herself in a different way. What I told her was to stand firm in kindness. Show the mean kid something different. Be kind, even to them. Kindness is the only way.

Doubt always creeps in at these moments while mama bear is forced away, and I wondered what was the downfall of teaching my daughter to be completely counter human-instinctual? Maybe not in this situation, but what about bigger situations? Am I teaching her to be passive to a fault? Would her being kind come at the risk of ignoring strength? Do I run the chance of making her soft, sensitive, easily broken by meanness? Am I teaching her to forgo being tough and resilient?

Is kindness really the holy space I've come to learn as a Christ follower, or is it a cowering, a cop out?

Even after tears and heartbreak, the daughter smiled and readied for school knowing she is loved, she is kind, and who she IS, counts more than what people tell her.

I see the daughter whose favorite word is "LOVE", who craves friendship and people and love. Who is ever happy to be beside her old friends, and who is always willing to make a new friend. I see her kindness as her greatest strength, and I know her spirit is strong in love.

No, kindness is not a buzzword. Kindness IS tough. Kindness is bold. It's passing up the fleshy garbage of broken people, and pouring out love regardless. It's a fine shield for a strong spirit.

Kindness is Love.

And I guess, after all my struggles and fails as a mom, I will once again, cast off the mama-bear instinct and step into a surprising posture of victory. Because, whatever the world says, whatever the hatred shows, I know one thing I'll get right as a mother--my kids will know that kindness wins. Can't wait to see the paths they'll pave ahead.