2016 glistened with moments of glory and unexpected losses. I experienced losses that traumatized me for elongated moments, and saw them evaporate with time and make room for the new. I've gone head-over-heels over some things, and saw these longings dissipate before my very eyes. Our generation lives for the flash. We keep hitting the ceiling for the breaking moment - a fleeting moment of high - while neglecting the importance of being present through the mundane. I now view the momentary highs, not as a purpose for living, but inspiration for creativity.
Here are strings of revelation that helped me to see glimmers of light through the fog!
1. Mourning unveils the unseen.
You dreamt unimaginable dreams and hoped for the impossible. But you keep coming back to missed opportunities and closed doors. You feel the sand slipping through your fingers and the emptiness expanding day after day. Until you learn to swallow the pain and let it sit - however uncomfortable and long - you'll never release the hidden strength and grit inside out in the daylight. Get ready to see things rise out of you that you were unaware of. Simply take that step of courage - and we're getting somewhere!
So, today, I say "yes!" again. The process isn't glamourous. If anything, it's messy, dark, and ugly. Life often throw heaps of black, not fields of flowers. But I know that the ashes are burning beautiful into something completely new and full of life. You taste the bitterness momentarily to magnify the sweetness of your resurrection moment.
2. Replace expectations with gratitude.
All throughout this year, this particular segment from 500 Days of Summer (one of my favorites!) kept coming back:
Talk about Expectations vs. Reality! Tom wants to be with Summer at her party, but he’s alone all night long. He's wrapped up about the possibilities, but never gets there.
Life is so much more than Instagram followers, living in a coveted city or even being the most well-liked person in the room. Things I used to obsess, cry, and stay up over seem so insignificant and even dull nowadays. Worldly values come with an expiration date while truth resonate into eternity. Letting go of unhealthy expectations and embracing my present process have been so freeing.
Despite the gaps between where I am and where I want to be, I'm perfectly loved in every moment.
3. Celebrate your progress.
Over the years, I learned to talk about my dreams like a speech practiced over and over. While I spoke with fervor, I was bored to death. After a heightened conversation, someone recently asked me: "so what's stopping you?" I felt like I was cornered and pressed on all sides. I had no answer and felt my fears clouding over me again.
Back in July, I wrote:
"We have a whole feast laid out in front of us. A banqueting table filled with foods to nourish us fully. We just need to lift up our utensils and begin to eat - but we're so afraid to even start eating. Are you afraid that he placed something that will cause harm for your soul, instead of nourishment? You may see a completely new, foreign dish and have no idea how it would taste - or maybe can only imagine a glimpse by what you see. The only thing you really know is that the one who prepared the meal is a good father... We can imagine all we want how it will taste, but we'll never know until we simply begin to eat. Until we let the flavors of his goodness and faithfulness marinate into our soul to heal and bring victory in every area of fear, shame, doubt, and condemnation."
In 2014, I proudly scribbled on my journal as a new years' resolution: "Doer > Dreamer." Finally! I will attach wings to the dreams I dreamt for many years. Since then, I've been working towards seeing my dreams become reality - and even saw some pass this year! However, my perfectionist mind prevented me from celebrating and left me in perpetual dissatisfaction. Perfectionism kills satisfaction. "You're not doing enough" is a big fat lie!
I recently had a moment of clarity when I realized how proud I am of my labor of love in my relationships, work, and creative expressions! I smiled real big and patted myself on the shoulder. You're not there yet, but you're surely getting there!
Count your blessings! Stay thankful! Leave room for evaluation and improvement, but don't neglect the progress you made. Most importantly, recognize your process is different from everyone else.
4. You can't do it alone! (And that's a good thing.)
The American Dream tells us: work hard and you will fulfill your dreams. Along the way, I convinced myself I can do my dreams on my own. This self-reliance is not only burdensome, but unhealthy and destructive. Hard work, discipline, and talent is not enough to get you the destination. We need each other!
A barrier that keeps me from being an active, loving participant of my community is jealousy and comparison. Fight the spirit of competition by celebrating others' victories. Celebration breaks comparison!
I'm learning that God-sized vision cannot be stewarded by one person, but will be fulfilled only in the context of a community. Kingdom project is family project. We'll see the completion of our dreams not alone, but in togetherness.
Going through these internal cycles silenced the clutter and noise - and brought me back to the place where only one thing matters. To love extravagantly. To love even when the love you give isn't recognized or returned. Even when your expectation isn't met - or better yet, comes back in heaps of pain and disappointment.
For me, loving can look like being generous with creativity - fighting against all voices telling me it doesn't have value - to bring healing, inspire another to create, or simply make someone's day through a smile.