Sunday, October 25, 2009



Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.

George Herbert

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I believe that this life is not all; neither the beginning nor the end. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep.

-Charlotte Bronte, Vilette

Friday, May 29, 2009

less > more

This image is my rendering of an assignment given in a graduate class I am taking. We had to write a "mission statement" for our lives. Here is what I turned into my professor, along with the image of this collage I created:

As I was preparing for this assignment, I decided to start with something I had had my students do recently - make a collage of what they want for their future. I had been wanting to make one for myself, and thought this would be a good time to do that and help me brainstorm for my "mission statement." I cut several things out and left them out on the kitchen table all week, giving them a glance or two every now and then and not really knowing where to go from there. One day I spent a couple of hours at a coffee shop writing, sorting out the things that matter most to me and bravely trying to craft some poetic vision for my life. I left that time feeling like I had some ideas, but nothing was coming together. I felt intimidated by the task, overwhelmed by how I was going to come up with something so big, and how in the world I was ever going to live up to it.

This afternoon I was painting some shelves that a friend is going to help me install tomorrow. It was while I was painting that one of the cutouts from my collage project came to mind. It was an advertisement (for what I don't remember) that said simply,

less > more

As I thought about that statement, I realized that this should be my mission statement. I often work too hard and don't rest enough. I find myself "going above and beyond" when it is not necessary, and then I end up burnt out and exhausted. When I think about the most beautiful moments in my life, they are those tiny moments, when I have slowed down enough to really experience beauty through a micro lens.

I lost my father in March of this year. I have to confess I did not have much energy to come up with a lofty, wordy, hard-to-live-up to mission for my life. But this fits. It is easy to remember, and it came easily to me once I stopped working so hard. Uncanny how the idea came in a moment in which I was painting, and not much else.

When I am counseling clients, I need to remember that the less I talk, the more I listen. And the less I am trying to help them get on the path I think they should travel, the more they are free to find their own path. When I realize how little responsibility I actually have in the counseling relationship, the more I empower my clients to make their own choices. When I get out of the way, that is when the magic happens.

When I rest, I am giving myself more energy to do the things I care about. When I cut out unnecessary activities from my life, I am freer to be spontaneous, and to discover the world around me. When I am doing less, I am living more. On a spiritual level, the less I try to impress God with my deeds, the more he is able to work in my heart. I have also come to realize that it is not about what I do that sustains my relationships with my friends and family - they love me for the person I am: nothing more, and nothing less.

Therefore, my "mission statement" is this one image. The collage I created is a visual reminder to me that when I face daily decisions about how to live my life, less really is greater than more.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ah, Twizzlers.

Has anyone else ever eaten an entire bag of Twizzlers in one day? Or drank a can of Dr. Pepper (or R.C. Cola - nod to Neely) through a red licorice straw to stay awake when studying? Well, I have, and at last I have a little bit of backup. Psychology Today recommends Twizzlers as a stress-reducing snack! Yippee! Hand me a bag of red, chewy strips of yumminess!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shadow of a mighty rock

Today I got out of work early, around 3 pm. It was a beautiful day - a high of 60 degrees, and I felt like a little exploring. I wasn't exactly sure where I would end up but I just started driving through Winter Park toward downtown. Near Rollins College I stumbled upon the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, a place I had never been and never heard of. Perfect. One U-turn and I was there. They were closing up the indoor museum but said the grounds were free and didn't close at any certain time. The light was just perfect and I happened to have my little digital camera with me.

Have you ever had a "place" that you returned to again and again at certain times in your life? A little spot outdoors where it is peaceful and inspiring, and all your own? Well, maybe I have found a new one.

I have been feeling quite distant from God, not really able to pray, not motivated to even go to church. My dad is quite sick with stage 4 cancer, and I feel that I am watching him die before my very eyes. I find myself angry, bitter, sad, and confused much of the time.

Today I found a stone table to sit at near the lake. In view was a strange orange sculpture which I didn't like at first. But then I remembered that I have a thing for the color orange (ask me why sometime if you are curious) and noticed that the figure was dancing. It seemed hopeful to me, and as I sat down I felt like reading my Bible. Having been inspired by a sculpture of "The Risen Christ," in which there is basically a pile of rocks to symbolize the empty tomb, I read the story of the resurrection. Tears welled up in my eyes as I recalled the power that Jesus exerted over death, and remembered that one day all of this pain will be over. I then turned to the end of John 11, after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus asks Mary if she believes He is who He says He is, and if he keeps his promises. She answers yes. I prayed a renewed prayer of belief. It didn't take my pain away, but it felt good to pray it.

Then I went and sat under a large sculpture of a crucifix. It was a powerful thing to sit on that bench, underneath the cross, and to accept forgiveness for my bitterness and pride at thinking I have any control over my life. More tears.

I hadn't planned on that time with the Lord. But it was real, and it was beautiful, and I feel more peaceful than I have in a long time. Last night was a sleepless night. Maybe tonight will be different.

I am reminded of the words to a favorite song I haven't heard in awhile:

Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand
A shadow of a mighty rock, within a weary land
A hope within the wilderness, a rest along the way
From the burning of the noontide heat and the burden of the day

Friday, October 24, 2008

From Wilderness to Wildcat

Just last week (which seems like a long time ago) I was leaving a parking lot after an exhausting day of interviews. I began to think that job searching was a lot like finding a parking spot in Boston. Sometimes you drive around and around, looking for an opening, and...nothing. Or sometimes you think you have a spot, and someone happens to reach it seconds before you do and snags it. Other times you find one and it is so far from your destination you feel like you would have done better to park at home and walk. (And I won't even mention the parking tickets). I had been feeling like the job I wanted was just out of reach, worried that someone else better and faster would get the prize. I feared it would go on for an eternity, like the endless search for parking in Harvard Square on a Friday night.

Well, this week I have hit the jackpot. It seems that the perfect "spot" has opened for me, the one I wanted, the one I have been waiting for, and it has my name on it.

I am so excited to announce that I am going to be the School Counselor at Winter Park High School - Home of the Wildcats. (And yes, I just watched High School Musical for the first time the other night - how fitting)! If you check out the photos on the side of my blog, they are mostly from Winter Park...if I were to pick an area of Orlando to live and/or work, this would be it. In so many ways, this is not just a great job, but a great job for me. I am so thankful to the Lord for providing this for me, and humbled that I have been given such a great gift. I feel what Proverbs 13:19 says, "A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul..."

Go Wildcats!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wear my sunglasses in the rain...

So in the past week or so the following has happened to me more than once: I am driving along, sunglasses on to temper the sun's rays coming through the windshield. All of a sudden, I need to turn on my windshield wipers. But then I take off my sunglasses, and it is still too bright. So I'm driving in the rain with my windshield wipers going and my sunglasses on at the same time. This happened again Tuesday afternoon so I ran out into the backyard to grab a shot. (Yes, it is really raining in this picture, and the little blurred spot is a raindrop).

Hmmm....anyone sense a metaphor coming? I guess it's kind of obvious, but I think it is true that we can at one and the same time feel joy and pain. I can recall many significant moments in my life when both have existed in equal intensity. At weddings I often feel the acute pain of an unfulfilled longing while simultaneously feeling exuberant joy and hope for my friend. And sometimes one trumps the other, and the pain can be forgotten for a time or the joy can be briefly lost. But in those moments when both are there, this is such a little picture of life. Aren't we all balancing between these two fundamental human experiences? Can they not coexist? Are they not common to us all? And could one exist without the other? No, then we would not be real. They are both real, joy and pain, and both a part of this created world, both experienced by Jesus when he walked the earth. We cannot be disconnected from pain, or we would not be human. As Dolly Parton famously says in the movie, Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." I have to confess I'm getting more than enough rain in my life right now, but I can't dismiss the sun. It is here, it is shining, and my sunglasses are on.