Thursday, November 13, 2008

Navelgazing in November: The life that I am meant to lead

The title of this blog post comes from a song in the musical Little Women, titled "Astonishing." Jo March, the lead female character (and the fictionalized version of the author herself, Louisa May Alcott---the book being based on her own life), sings this anthem after refusing the proposal of her childhood friend, Laurie (Theodore Laurence). She has such dreams for herself, but they are only partially formed. She knows she wants to be a writer and to become famous. But she doesn't know where to begin, how to start, or really what to do. She does sense that the life that was placed in her to live is more than the life she is living now. Jo sings

I thought home was all I'd ever want, my attic all I'd ever need. Now nothing feels the way it was before, and I don't know how to proceed. I only know I'm meant for something more. I've got to know if I can be ... astonishing.

There's a life that I am meant to lead, a life like nothing I have known. I can feel it, and it's far from here. I've got to find it on my own. Even now I feel its heat upon my skin: a life of passion that pulls me from within, a life that I am aching to begin. There must be somewhere I can be ... astonishing, astonishing.

I'll find my way; I'll find it far away; I'll find it in unexpected and unknown. I'll find my life in my own way today!

Here I go, and there's no turning back. My great adventure has begun. I may be small, but I've got giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.

I will blaze until I find my time and place. I will be fearless, surrendering modesty and grace. I will not disapear without a trace. I'll shout and start a riot, be anything but quiet. Christopher Columbus, I'll be astonishing! Astonishing! Astonishing! At last!

Jo isn't your usual heroine of the 1860s. While older sister, Meg, longs to be a wife and mother and worries greatly about propriety and appearances, Jo is brasher, more daring, and independent. She doesn't know how to stay quiet all the time, and she wishes that she could do some of the things that Victorian society thinks are unfit for women to do. Thus, she wishes to surrender the stereotypical modesty and grace. She sees these ideals as oppressive. She doesn't want to sit in a corner and embroider cushions. She wants to blaze!

Such is the Jo portrayed in the musical. And the Jo March of the book doesn't differ greatly from the musical's version of her. Perhaps a bit less strident. (And Sutton Foster's original Jo of the musical certainly has a bit more brashness and stridency than the Jo I "get" from the book. [Foster originated the role in the Broadway cast.])

Now, why would I, an evangelical Christian who readily discerns the spiritual problem of one's wanting to "shine as brightly as the sun," find Jo's words as resonating with my own yearnings? I don't wish to shine as if I were the sun, to compete with it...or with God Himself. I'm not attempting to build a tower of Babel! (Or am I?)

Well, though I would not phrase it as the musical's writers have done, I do understand a bit of what Jo is trying to express. She knows that there is something in her that has yet to be birthed fully into the world -- something far more than her circumscribed life in Concord, Massachusetts. And I feel the same about myself. And have felt that way for more years than I can count. All my life, really.

Why did God make me the person I am, with the natural talents and gifts (such as they are, and in what amounts they exist) He's given me? Why did He direct me the way He has, upon dwelling as the Holy Spirit in my life? And for what purpose?

Of course, the general, overall purpose is to glorify Him -- to make Him known.

But... what about those nitpicky details of how that reality actually is lived me...on this earth?

The post "Your Path to Purpose", by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Community Church (where my best friend attends church), helped flesh out some of those practical questions:

1. Who Am I to Serve? Your deepest purposes must bring good to someone who is without justice, reconciliation, or hope. It might be abused women, orphans in Africa, or business men who don’t know Christ.

2. Where Am I to Be? What is the primary context where I will serve the people I’ve been called to love?

3. What Burden Am I to Bear? This is so important!! Everyone of you reading this right now is called to battle some unique effects of the Fall. Don’t just blow by this. Stop for a moment and think about this… there’s a problem in this world that brings you to tears or makes you downright angry. What is it?

4. How Am I to Engage? Your engagement to the problem might be to pray, administrate, teach, serve, lead, paint, sing, confront, repair or nurture. EACH of us will do what we do with a style which reveals something about God in a way that no one else can.

So... meshing the song "Astonishing" with Pete's questions, I come up with some of my own, for reflection:

Why do I want to "blaze"? Who (or what) would I be blazing about? To what end? Where does the power and fuel for blazing come from? And why merely blaze? Doesn't blazing "peter" out eventually? Wouldn't I rather radiate and illuminate? Like a banked fire... or a candle or a lantern...

Dear readers... these questions are likely some that all of us should ponder.

Part 2 will continue our investigation into this. May the questioning now be far less about navelgazing. And more about that actual change we want to see in the world. It's me and you and the other guy and the other gal.

See you next time!
~ Elena ~

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another belated birthday wish

This time it's four years. Happy birthday, poor neglected blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Easy cookin', good livin'

The former drama queen is back!

Ah, yes. Elena is back, y'all! Elena is BACK! =D

(And can I just say, "I love me some new computer hardware and software!!"? Of course I can! New monitor, new Mac G5 CPU, new mouse, new keyboard, and Firefox for the browsing. Sweet, sweet, sweet!!)

Friends, I am embracing a new motto: "No more unnecessary drama!!" If you know me well, you know what I mean!!

You make all things new

I don't know why 2008 holds a particularly special place on the Kingdom calendar, but it seems to me that God is doing a new thing in my life... and that the same thread is running through the lives of others I know and love.


On this blog in 2008 I'll be focusing on good things. Less ranting. More gratitude. No whining. More joy!

Without going into great detail, I will tell you that I am doing several things to make positive changes in my life: to work outward what God works in and into me.

One area for me is better domestic management, including the honing of domestic skills I already have and the acquiring of those I lack and will need to have in future.

Someone's in the kitchen with Elena!

And I think it must be Him!! =) Where else does inspiration come from?

Let me share with you my return to actual cooking (rather than grabbing whatever snack item is handy).

Sunday night's dinner was concocted much more easily than I thought it was going to be. Most excellent! *tents fingers*

First up were the splendid Cinnamon Spice Pancakes. I made them for one, so the mix consisted of 1 cup of Bisquick, 1/2 cup of skim milk, 1 egg, about 3/4 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon, about 1/8 tsp ground allspice, and about 1/8 tsp ground ginger. Blend till wet and thoroughly mixed, but don't overmix. Cooking spray in a non-stick skillet worked fine. I got about 9 pancakes out of the deal. Yay! (And some leftovers are eagerly awaiting consumption soon!)

The protein portion was Savory 'n' Cheesy Scrambled Eggs. I used 3 eggs, about 1/2 cup skim milk, around 1/4 tsp of Pampered Chef's Southwestern Spice Mix, and a handful of Four-Cheese Mexican Style mix (pregrated). I whisked that up, poured the mixture into the skillet, and cooked till slightly golden brown and somewhat firm (but still "fluffy.")

I was tempted to add a couple of turkey sausage slices to my meal, but I figured that the eggs and cheese constituted plenty of protein!

Food, glorious food!

"Pink Lady" apples. They are (or should that be "it is"? I should know these things) a variety new to my grocery store. Not only was the name appealing to me but also the lovely hues of red and green and the shape of the apple caught my eye. I wondered, Are these eating apples or baking apples? The gentleman working in produce was kind enough to take the apple I chose, go to the back of the store, slice up the fruit, and offer me a piece to sample. I pronounced it delicious: very crisp, both sweet and tart, and good for both baking and for snacking. And lo, thus said-eth the handy 3-ring binder produce guide, upon our perusing its pages.

I've left behind the traces of who I've been

Is easy cooking best? Well, for me, since I am making baby-steps right now toward better habits and a better life overall, anything that adds delight to the journey is welcome. Finding out that what I dreaded was far less hassle-full reinforces the truths that I'm learning: there are many things---especially things I had dreaded--- that are worth doing in life, rather than avoiding. (And I am past mistress in the art of avoiding.)

Thus, yes, in this case, "easy" does help make for good livin'. =D
Of course, not everything is so easy. I know that. But also many things are not as hard as I thought they'd be.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

So many lessons to learn. So much truth to celebrate together, brothers and sisters!

I look forward to the 2008 portion of my journey with Jesus Christ and with you. Wonder what we will uncover, discover, and learn!?

May your journey be one filled with joy, whether in times of sorrow or laughter.

Until next time!!
~~~ Elena ~~~