The media is full of women archetypes and stereotypes. While some women esteem to reflect a certain image, others avoid the same image all together. Either way, we have been filled with messages about what "success" and "failure" look like as a woman at any age and in any role depending on our values and beliefs. Teenagers, twenty-somethings, wives and moms at all life stages may have very different life priorities and values but most share the constant barrage of expectations placed on us by either society or ourselves.
I can personally attest to the expectations and pitfalls I have encountered along my own journey in womanhood. The constant lie that "I'm not enough" or maybe even "just a little too much" have paced through my mind one too many times.
I've had ENOUGH.
Today, I choose to believe I AM ENOUGH...not in the world's eyes...never have been, never will be...but in God's eyes. I am, after all, the woman He created me to be. Aways a work in progress, no doubt, but unlike all of the archetypes and stereotypes this world tries to fashion for women to fit into, I am uniquely crafted, uniquely broken, and uniquely restored. We all are.
This is the birthday insight I have gained today.
I was blessed with the gift of time alone with my Creator this morning to celebrate 31 years of life. What started off as a normal morning of routine to-dos and daily goals turned into a spontaneous trip to the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe where I was greeted by a quaint dining room slightly swaying with the ocean's rhythm.
As I ordered my two scrambled eggs sprinkled with cheese (delivered on a piece of wax paper, mind you) I sensed an indescribable novelty as I sat in "my pocket of peace" embraced by the rolling swells of ocean surrounding me. In the distance, I watched as the waves traveled from directly under the pier I was sitting on toward Sunset Cliffs where they crashed with sudden resolve before returning back to the ocean.
When the early morning clouds began to break, I moved to an outdoor table to take in the view with more clarity (compared to looking through the cafe window glazed with a fresh layer of ocean mist). I sat in awe as I watched wave after wave respect the Creator's boundary once it hit the shoreline. God used this scene to remind me of His omnipotence and my reliance on Him.
He not only cares enough to hold the ocean back but also cares enough to "sit" with us and spur us forward in his abundant love and grace. This is the ENOUGH I choose to live in, embracing His limitless love instead of grasping for the world's limited attempts to define us.
Proverbs 31, describes a woman who is clothed with strength and dignity and speaks with wisdom. I suppose if there is any woman I want to emulate in my 31st year, it is her. Otherwise, I choose to let go of the other archetypes and stereotypes that try to define what "enough" looks like, because these versions of "enough" all have limits while God's "enough" is limitless and tapping into the limitless is a creative habit worth pursuing!
As we near the end of September and prepare to embrace the "Fallidays," as I like to refer to the upcoming months, I can't help but reflect on this past season of transition and change.
The last three months have looked very different in our home with my recent decision to leave my previous career role to focus on our family and developing Creative Habitat. Ever since getting married to my, then, medical student husband who is now in his last year of residency, I have worked outside the home to help support our family during his medical training years. The years prior, I was busy living out my college years working toward a double major and myriad of internships and campus involvements.
Now, my days revolve around an almost 2 year old boy who blesses and challenges me daily. For the first time in years, I have no set schedule which also blesses and challenges me on a daily basis. I am slowly learning how to let go of knowing the plan and instead allowing moments to unfold before me. Our spontaneous trip to the dog beach this week (shown above) is a perfect example!
This change of pace has been restoring in many ways and a needed time of rest and rejuvenation from all of the balls I was juggling. As I've been looking into articles about mindfulness, rest, and well-being this year while developing Creative Habitat, I learned something very interesting about the history of "rest" in Jewish culture.
In biblical times, Jewish farmers were expected to work their land for 6 years and let it lay fallow every 7th year to allow for restoration of the soil and also as a dicipline to trust God's provision for them during this season of rest, called a Shemitah or Sabbath year. After 7 Shemitah cycles (every 49 years), the year following the last Shemitah in the cycle (the 50th year) is considered a year of Jubilee.
A Jubilee was intended to serve as a year of freedom and mercy where debts were forgiven, slaves returned to their families, and land was returned to the original owner. Based on historical records, we have been in a Jubilee year (September 2015 - September 2016). Pope Francis has announced this season as the Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 - November 20, 2016). Ironically, November 20 is my son's birthday, but that's beside the point!
I have been fascinated as I have read more about the significance of the Shemitah and Jubilee years and their global impact both historically and in current events. I am convinced now, more than ever, that we were designed not only for work, but also for rest.
Rest is so counterintuitive to our "Go, go, go" culture, yet so important for the serenity of our souls which fuels our creativity. After all, a soul at rest is free to create when it is not burdened by burn out. I can personally attest to this truth in my own creative process.
Ladies, as we near the end of this Jubilee year, I hope we can carry on the creative habit of rest and restoration into the weeks, months, and years that follow. Allowing ourselves rest may be one of the most significant creative habits we can establish to fuel our creativity and live abundantly in our creative gifts. Like many changes in life, this change will surely be a challenge, but oh, SUCH a BLESSING!
Wishing you creative and restful days ahead.
Rain drops and a muggy hotel room were not on the agenda for the start of our vacation this week and yet we found ourselves doing our best to keep an antsy toddler entertained in a confined space when the rain decided to put a damper on our plans yesterday.
We were relieved to wake up to sunshine this morning and I was also relieved my camera captured this playful moment of my son dancing in the sunlight considering my SD card malfunctioned and corrupted all of my stored photos yesterday as well. Sadly none of them were backed up.
To say yesterday was frustrating would be an understatement but today was a chance to begin again.
"Always we begin again."
This famous quote by Saint Benedict has played over and over in my mind after hearing it at a women's retreat I attended at my church a few weekends ago. This statement is so simple and yet so profound. The word always is what gets me. When you really stop to consider that we always have the opportunity to begin again, it is incredibly freeing.
No matter what frustrating situation we may find ourselves in, we always have a choice to start a new, begin again, and trust the best is yet to come.
Ladies, perhaps you had a frustrating day yourself. Perhaps life rained on your plans and now you are faced with the choice to sit in your frustration or let it go and dance in the sunlight. I hope you will allow yourself the freedom to begin again because this is the first step in any creative act and key in developing creative habits to refuel in daily living.
So next time life gets frustrating and you want to throw up your hands, I hope you are reminded as I have been today,
"Always we begin again."
ALWAYS in ALL WAYS!
Wishing you new beginnings and creative days ahead!
"Diving board", "Vault", and "Medal" are all among a slew of new words I've been teaching my son while streaming the Rio games this week. "Perseverance" and "Grit" are on the list to learn, but those will come with time, sweat, and energy in the future. Life alone will teach him. No Sesame Street episode or "Word of the Day" can convey the courage and endurance needed to persever under pressure, however the Olympics provide many examples of those who embody this spirit of grit!
In fact, every Olympian athlete embodies this tenacious spirit, yet, there is one who stands out to me during these games. Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medalist, Dana Vollmer is a 28 year old swimmer and 6 time world record holder as well as a "Momma on a Mission" as she proudly refers to herself.
So what makes Dana Vollmer stand out? Perhaps it's her humble spirit, down to earth demeanor or the fact she gave birth 17 months ago and is still competing in the Olympics, nevermind winning medals!
This means she started training months after birth, probably while still nursing and I'm assuming on very little sleep. I mean WOW! I'm truly in awe of her capacity and dedication to carve out time to swim! She embodies not only perseverance and grit, but the very mission I have been trying to convey with this blog encouraging busy moms to carve out creative time and space to refuel in daily living by retreating to their Creative Habitat (a protected environment promoting growth and well being)!
Dana's example is proof it is ok and healthy for moms, even brand-spankin new moms to retreat to our Creative Habitats to refuel. She swims laps at the pool and wins medals while I write blog posts and enjoy the simple pleasure of penning a few thoughts. Different outcome, same renewing effect!
Mommas out there, if you are exhausted, stretched to your limit, depleated of energy or perhaps you just feel like you have let an important piece of you go, I implore you...for the sake of your health and your family, please allow yourself creative time and space to refuel on a regular basis (if not daily). If Dana can return to the Olympics as a #Mommaonamission, we certainly can carve out a little mom"me" time to enjoy the creative gifts we embody!
This article describes Dana Vollmer's daily routine and "creative habits" that have allowed her to carve out some mom"me" time to refuel before spending the rest of the day enjoying mommy time with her son, Arlen.
"Time management is key," she told TODAY. "I kind of retired in 2013 and had my son. And my whole goal with this comeback was that I would always feel like my son came first. I have tons of super supportive moms I talk to all the time, and they always said you need some alone time for yourself. And that's what swimming became for me."
Did you like this post and want more encouraging and helpful resources to help you carve out creative time and space to refuel in daily living? If so, please "like" the Creative Habitat Facebook page HERE.
A safe space is something to be cherished and protected. Whether it is physical space, emotional space or creative space...a safe space allows for ultimate growth. A habitat provides the ideal conditions to ensure that growth is sustained.
I was reminded of the sustaining value of habitats this weekend after taking my son to the San Diego Zoo and running in Mission Trails, a protected wildlife reserve near my house. Both had many signs posted to remind passerbys to respect and protect the natural habitats and their inhabitants.
This got me thinking, why don't creative women have similar signs to remind others we need protected time and space to grow and nurture the creative visions within? Why do we let the busyness of 21st century living intrude on our creative habitat so often? Perhaps I'm speaking solely for myself but something tells me many women can relate.
Women, by nature are caregivers, or as some refer to us as caretakers, yet few women take more than they give. This caring nature is our beauty within outwardly manifesting itself through an encouraging word, a hug, or a sippy cup given at just the right time...you get the picture. I'm constantly amazed by women's ability to care so deeply for so many.
I love being a caregiver. It's what I was designed to do, yet I have also come to realize I can cannot continue to pour into others if I am running on empty myself. In order to sustain our caregiving nature, I believe we must protect the creative gifts we've been given so we can continue to give the best of us, not what is left of us.
Just as natural habitats require sustained protection, so too do creative habitats. If we want to develop our creative gifts in a protected space, we must first set boundaries and invite others to partner in our effort to respect and protect our creative time and space.
This shared respect and understanding may be all the sign we need!
Are you in need of protected time and space to develop your creative gifts? If so, who do you need to inform about your creative habitat and protecting the key inhabitant, you!
Renewal is a consistent theme in Southeast Asian culture. From store fronts to prayer beads to cultural dances, hope for renewal speaks loud and clear in this region. Take the Cambodian Khmer Apsara dance for example.
Thumbs and middle fingers pinched, wrists twisted outward and palms raised to the heavens. This mudra (hand gesture) represents blessing the new seed before planting and renewing the land. The dance ends with a single lotus flower placed in the hair of the Apsara Mera, the lead dancer, symbolizing purity of heart and renewal of spirit.
The lotus flower is thought to be free of impurities and a symbol of rebirth, thus, explaining its prevalence in a country still seeking both renewal and restoration. The muddy roots represent our messy lives and the lotus flower rising above the mud to bloom, clean and fragrant represents human's desire to break free of suffering and embrace a new future. The hope of a new future is evident in eyes of the Cambodian people who continue to deal with the fragmented pieces history left behind.
While many know Cambodia's devastating story, few have taken action to play a part in their next chapter. Dr. Beat Richner, "Beatocello" is one such character who has dedicated his life to renewal for Cambodia's children. Dr. Richner is a suisse pediatrician and cello player who weaves both his profession and creative habit of playing the cello together to serve Cambodian families.
In 1992, he moved from Switzerland to Cambodia to help rebuild and manage the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital where he volunteered with the Red Cross just before the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge. He was forced to return home to avoid possible retaliation and death. Since his return to Cambodia, he and his team have provided free healthcare for millions of Cambodian children. He also holds cello concerts for tourists as fundraisers for the clinic. His clinic, or "creative habitat," now attracts lines and lines of moms and kids waiting for their "Beatocello" check up as shown on the YouTube video on the homepage of his website:
(Watch until the end...Astounding!!!)
Seeing Dr. Richner's vision of hope in the face of such adversity is truly touching and inspiring. Imagine how many people would miss his creative habit if he had not followed his intuition and returned to a war torn land to rebuild this children's hospital. Generations are being changed because he planted a seed of creativity creating a lotus effect of renewal.
What creative habit do you feel called to develop? What lotus effect will transpire as a result?
Now is the time to plant your seed, share your harvest, and renew the spirit within. Generations may follow!
Jet lag worked in our favor earlier this week allowing my husband and I to join a sunrise Thai Chi session we would have otherwise slept through. The elderly but spry Thai Chi master greeted us with a subtle grin as we tiptoed to our places and assumed "White Crane" position ironically juxtaposed with the iconic metal cranes developing the skyline behind us.
Our fellow early risers swayed in unison to the harmony of the music as we embraced the chi together. Each movement gracefully flowed to the next while fear and stress dissolved at our fingertips making room for positive energy to enter our souls. For a brief moment, we experienced the yingyang balance in body and spirit.
While the class was a memorable experience, I was most stuck by the Thai Chi master's closing remark, "Take care of your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." I stopped to reflect on the weight of this statement.
As a woman, I am programmed to take care...take care of my husband, take care of my children, take care of my responsibilities...but do I take time to take care of my heart? What does this even look like? Was the Thai Chi master referring to taking care of the physical, emotional, or spiritual heart?
Perhaps all three...leading me to three further questions...
Is there a parallel between taking care of our hearts and carving out time and space to develop one's creative gifts?
Could our creative gifts be our heart's most authentic expression and wellspring of life?
Will developing creative habits allow us to live more balanced and authentic lives, thus helping us better care for our own hearts and the hearts of those we love?
I bow my head in reverent quietness realizing my heart already knows the answer.