Living in La La Land

rs-la-la-land-3d3a431a-8329-4539-b953-51e2d61a396cInitially I wanted to see La La Land, but then when the hype and awards buzz hit peak level I slowly started backing away from it. Opting instead to see new favorite Hidden Figures (it’s amazing, you must see it). But alas, I finally saw it in the last couple of days.

And y’all, I loved it. LOVED. Here’s a caveat, I keep a skeptical eye on musicals. I am really not a fan when people break into song for no apparent reason. They also tend to be overly sweet in nature, sometimes not, but often so.

Back to the matter at hand, La La Land…y’all it is a great telling and portrayal of the tension of ambition and love with the backdrop of Hollywood. But to see the tension fully of the two individuals play out was something that really pulled the story together. I love me some Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (hi Crazy Stupid Love, anyone?) but more than that, they showed the conflict they were both living out so well.

Because often the struggle of pursuing dreams, dreams that break you and hurt you, can be in direct conflict with love and a relationship because we like the idea of a clean separation of both, of handling both, but what often happens is they are pulling and tugging us in directions that come across as opposing. I could not help but see the beauty in that mess on the screen. The messiness of life in general can cause us to hurt and emote in ways we wish we didn’t, or even lead us to give up on that pursuit simply out of the need to not be hurt anymore by it, choosing instead the more solid route of comfort and security.

Seeing La La Land was a reminder that messy can be beautiful and it can be both temporary and permanent, it can leave us longing and wondering, but it can lead us to places we’d never thought possible if we recognize the tension of both and allow the tugs and pulls to be in the right direction. But we may not get it all the way we thought we would, and there in lies the rub of it all with our own selves.

We struggle against the path of perfection, of our ambition and love both intertwining easily in order to get all that we expect instead of living out the hard tension of hurt, heart break and wrong timing. When we are able to face them we understand more about who we are and how we resolve those. Maybe we shouldn’t be living so much in la la land with our expectations and instead find a way to live in the tension of ambition and love a bit more.

Living Your Dream

Y’all know, if you’ve been a follower of this blog for long, that I have a Bible crush on Paul. I think he and I would roll well together and frankly a large part of me is really looking forward to meeting him in heaven.

Lately I have been enamored with Joseph. His entire story, from beginning to end, has just enraptured me in some ridiculous way. Over the last six weeks or so, we’ve been studying him in church. We’ve looked at what most would deem a mess of his life and ultimately God’s message throughout.

I think about Joseph talking about his dreams, there in the beginning as a young teenager with his brothers and dad. I cannot help but think if he’d only kept his mouth shut, if he’d just not been so transparent with what his head was speaking then maybe he wouldn’t have ended up almost killed, in prison…but then he wouldn’t have been advisor to Pharaoh. Would the grain have been stockpiled? Would the famine have claimed the entire land?

So I look at Joseph’s story, the entire thing, and think that in the moment say year four of prison, his dreams were looking awfully foolish and mocking to him I am willing to bet. Or maybe he’s dwelling on the fact he was a man of faith and rebuffed the advances of a woman seducing him and wondering where God was in that mess. For thirteen years Joseph was a slave or a prisoner, a life that looked like a mess. He was in it every single day, living it, and choosing faith over and over.

So we come to the backside of his story, where he gets reunited with family. He gives out forgiveness because that is what his faith tells him to do. He sees that what his brothers meant as harm, God wove into beauty. A mess turned into a message. But we don’t see that when he’s thrown in the pit. We don’t see how God can use him in prison. Or even in the famine. No, it’s a continual working of God in His sovereignty to weave a story that is threaded through with faith. One side we see a mess of threads for years, but on the other a beautiful tapestry from beginning to end.

So I am drawn to Joseph’s story, his life, because He wrote it. He crafted it. He spoke into his story over and over. Just as He does mine. Though I struggle at times (okay, most of the time) to see it in the moment, I see how He works when I take stock and look back over my story, a faith journey of 17 years now…a little longer than Joseph was in bondage but living in faith. So often I want to choose bondage over faith because my story isn’t looking how I thought it should. I am sure Joseph’s wasn’t either, but God’s pen wasn’t finished with His story being written for Joseph. And He’s sure not done with mine either.

So I live the dream, in faith, knowing the Author of my story has a far greater ending that looks an awful lot like an eternal beginning.

You Are More Than…

We have a new employee in the office that started this week. Another colleague was talking with her yesterday and I happened to overhear her say “Oh I just teach guitar lessons.” Thankfully someone else piped up across the hall saying “You don’t just teach guitar…” and began rattling off her many accolades as an accomplished singer/songwriter and performer.

That got me thinking…as oft happens in these kinds of conversations. Why do we justify ourselves when we talk about what we are doing or what our job is? Over and over I hear it:

I am just a stay at home mom

I just write on the side

I am just a single person

I just nanny

I just have a high school diploma

You are more than that. You are more than a job title or a hobby. More than a passion or dream. Why do we feel the need to put just in front of anything? When we use just we justify our fears, our shortcomings, and our insecurities. We downplay who we are in an effort to not be intimidating to others. To not make them feel less than, when in reality we are the ones making ourselves less than.

In truth, we are more than and we need to celebrate that. We need to encourage and support that, and more than anything, we need to stop just-ing ourselves.

 

I know I have shared this before, but I want to share Tenth Avenue North’s More Than again for you and for me today.

We’re Always Better When We’re Together.

Growing up, I was surrounded by kids in my neighborhood. For the most part, it was males, but I still had others to be around who were similar in age and interest. We would play basketball, wiffleball, and kickball. We would pretend to be the greatest, and for a while, feel like we were. In that community, we were unstoppable forces.

As we grow up though something tells us to seclude ourselves. Something tells us not to trust those around us with those same joys and hopes. We begin the slow slide into seclusion and isolation. For years I have kept a dream of mine strictly to myself, out of fear.

Photo courtesy of www.dancingwithhappiness.com
Photo courtesy of http://www.dancingwithhappiness.com

I think that’s what gets us. FEAR. We are afraid of what will be said, of the judgement, of the questions, of tarnishing that dream we cling to inwardly. We believe people will think of us less, expect more, question and encourage. It’s both sides of the coin because that’s how fear plays us. I have sat in a room with other dreamers yelling out their fears, and often shook my head in agreement or wondered why I hadn’t thought of that one.

When you voice your fear though, it takes away its power. As Jon Acuff states, “Fear fears community.” It hates to be shared. Fear wants to keep you quiet and shut off. The moment you share your fears with others is the moment truth comes pouring in. The blinders that had you focused on the fear are removed for you to see the vast world of truth around it.

Maybe we should take a few notes from our younger, more childish selves. Turn off the television, enjoy one another, share our hopes and dreams, and then cheer on one another when you go after them.

I know I am currently doing that as a part of the Start Experiment along with 23 other writers in Group 8, and alongside a couple of thousand other Starters. We got the start line, and we took off together for the next 24 days. We’re acting like kids, challenging and cheering one another on, and sharing our fears. Because when you tell someone of the monster under your bed or in your closet, you are no longer alone. Truth flips on the light.

Laughing at a Dream

In a fit of whimsy and openness I shared with some friends what my dream was, and how I was working towards it currently. The only other individuals I have shared this with are colleagues/friends at work and with the 5 Club. I was feeling mildly confident in it, as I have been working on it for the past several weeks and know without a doubt God has placed this passion on my heart for what I am working on.

imagesOne of my friends laughed. I am not sure what prompted that response, given some other things we had discussed over the course of the evening, but regardless that moment is etched in my mind. I am not sure the individual realized the impact of that laughter on what I am dreaming and doing.

How do you respond when someone whom you trust laughs at your dream?

A part of me now feels more empowered to push harder to accomplish this dream. Then I think that is a vengeful way in which to approach something I have held to since childhood and recently become even more impassioned about. So I give fear the voice on paper. I write out how my voice of doubt now sounds very similar to my friend’s voice. To their laughter. And I let it go. Fear of failing has no place in my dream currently. If I allow it to hamper what I am pursuing, then it wins.

I hope I can encourage you all to share your dream, don’t let fear of laughter or others’ perceptions keep you from that passion you have for something. Feel like sharing your dream, feel free below or find me on Twitter @sarastacy. I’d love to encourage you as others have done for me.

Knee Boots, Jon Acuff, and Belmont…

I think your boots could be bigger. I mean you went small, but they definitely could be bigger.

That joking moment about the height of my knee boots was part of a full circle life moment last evening. Close to three years ago I began reading Stuff Christians Like, a blog by Jon Acuff. It was comical, jabbing at those things in Christianity we often can agree are funny-like the metrosexual worship leader or the cheap knockoff cookies they have at VBS.

I would laugh and think this guy is a genius! My assumption was he wrote the blog full time, since he was having a book come out that was based from the blog. Then the Serious Wednesday posts started happening, and wrecking me. I would see how God would use Jon to speak very pointedly to me at certain times about my life. I wondered how this guy in Atlanta knew about my struggles with grace, or my ability to forgive.

I would read and read, engaging in conversations in the comments with people from all over. It began to be a community, not bound by church walls or religion or even the US borders. The blog began to challenge me to see beyond this box of my life and what could be accomplished if I worked beyond the standard, the norm of life. I saw a guy who hustled before work, work he wasn’t really digging, but doing anyway so that he could write and speak-his dream job. I saw him encourage others to write, pursue, get beyond standard and reach above average. He did that for me without realizing it, and I am willing to wager I am not the only one he’s done that for.

In March of 2011 I knew I couldn’t stay in my same situation at work, in life. I knew that if I worked and hustled I could dream big and push myself further. I began looking for jobs, jobs I felt I was qualified for and honestly, staying rather comfortable still. That’s when the posting at Belmont popped up. “It’s in Nashville!” I thought. “It’s a a mid-range university, where expectations will be higher and you’ll be challenged!” is what fear began to say. “Your faith isn’t as big as it needs to be to work there. You’ve only got five years under your belt, and everyone will be much smarter than you.” The voice got to be relentless. I went for it, thinking it would never amount to anything and I would be back to working in my same position come fall.

Several weeks later I found myself at Belmont University, being interviewed by advisors, supervisors, deans, and students. It was the toughest interview I have had to date in my career. I walked away rather defeated, with the bright spot seeing Jeremiah 29:11 posted in my would-be supervisor’s office. That verse had come up several times over the days prior to my campus interview, and I found a little solace in seeing it there in her office. In the days that followed, I had resigned myself to preparing mentally for rejection. “Don’t expect much and when you fail, it won’t be as bad.” The voices got loud again…

Last night I had the opportunity to introduce Jon Acuff as he was speaking at Belmont for 394399_10101002715162665_1030054131_nthe third time this year. Jon was instrumental in my jump, he confirmed that fear gets loud in your head, but sounds ridiculous when you share it. He may not realize how big of an encouragement the community he builds on his blog, with 5 Club, with Quitter conferences is for those of us let fear and doubt not chase our dreams.

Following last night’s program a friend of mine posted on my Facebook some encouraging words as I am seeking to pursue another dream (that’s why I am up at 4:30am, punching Tuesday in the face). I had shared with her this story of Jon’s influence, without him really knowing he’d done it, earlier in the day. Her response? “Now you’re being an Acuff for others.”

I get jokes thrown at me for how I engage in 5 Club or talk about Jon’s impact  from some individuals. They referenced me as an Acuffite once. But here’s the kicker, that’s a compliment. You see he feeds the dreamers and encourages the ridiculous because his story is ridiculous. I am excited that I get to work with colleagues and students daily and potentially encourage them the same way. Maybe one day I can be someone’s Jon Acuff, but with better boots.