Saturday, January 15, 2011

Time: It's NOT on My Side

Hello everyone. After over a week hiatus, I am back to the blog. Believe me, it was not for lack of things to share with all of you. I never seem to be lacking for that. Instead, and as is it is most of the time, it was for lack of time. Over the past few months I have learned and/or concretized the following lessons:

  • There will never be enough time.
  • Things will not spontaneously slow down.
  • The phrase to "make time" is very accurate.
Let me explain. . . I had a very busy summer. Summer tends to be my busiest time of year with work because that is when the libraries are in full swing with their summer reading programs. Last summer I did 55 shows in the span of two months. I remember thinking during this extremely busy time, "Once the summer is over, things will slow down. Then I'll have more time." Right? Wrong!! Once the busy summer of shows was over, it seems that my calendar filled up with a million other things. These things kept me busy and pretty much without a break straight through to Christmas. Around Christmas, I finally slowed down a bit. But I don't think it was because I ran out of things to do. It was because I decided that I had to make the time to stop.

Now after my short reprieve, January is in full swing, and as I look at my calendar, I can see that things are not going to slow down for a long time -- in fact, I've already got lots of different deadlines to meet all the way through August of 2011. And I know that soon that will stretch itself into September, then October, then -- well, you get the idea.

I used to believe that I had busy seasons and not so busy seasons with work, but now it occurs to me that in our modern world, all of life is a busy season. We have to be very intentional about stopping. We can't wait for things to slow down because in most cases, they won't. We have to carve out time for rest, for putting family and friends first, for stopping to smell the roses, etc. We have to make time for what's important or else time (or our lack thereof) will make us into busy, self-centered, preoccupied people that we would never want to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Search for Happiness

I recently read an interesting book called, "Hector and the Search for Happiness." If you have the time, it's a quick read and offers some interesting insights on what makes people happy. It's about a psychiatrist who travels the world trying to figure out what makes people happy. He begins his search because he wonders why some people who have everything you would think they'd need to make them happy are miserable, while those who have next to nothing are quite happy.

Over the course of his journey, he comes up with a list of lessons about happiness. They are each good things to consider when we evaluate our own happiness or lack thereof. Below are a few of his lessons which I've found to be thought-provoking.

  • Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
How many times are we unhappy not because our lives are 'missing' anything but rather because we are all too aware that someone else has it much better than we do. A better job, more education, nicer house, more recognition/status, etc. If we didn't have the comparisons to make, we would stand a better chance of being happy.
  • Many people see happiness only in their future.
We miss out on lots of moments of happiness here in the present because we are too busy looking for it in the future. We say things like, "Once I've paid off my house. . ." or "Once I make more money. . ." THEN I'll be able to enjoy my family, pursue this dream, etc. The list goes on and on. If we can't be happy in this moment, what makes us think that we'll be happy in the future?
  • Many people think that happiness means having more money or power.
I think most people already recognize this as an assumption about happiness. Even if we don't necessarily believe it, how often do we live as if it were true? Once again, we often delay certain things we could do in the here and now that would give us happiness and quite possibly bring happiness to others as well because we are too concerned with having MORE.
  • Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
There are a lot of examples of where this can be true, but here's one from my own life. Before I'd traveled overseas and seen the extreme poverty that many people live with each day, it was easier to enjoy luxuries of any kind. However, knowing what I now know, some of the things that once made me happy make me pause and say, "Can I really enjoy this in good conscience?"
  • It's a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
This is perhaps the most interesting one to me and perhaps the hardest one to get my mind around. We often live as though happiness is the goal, and so much of our modern culture propounds this way of life. And yet, if we work to make ourselves happy, can we really do it? Or does happiness come from something else? Are we more likely to become happy by working to make ourselves happy or by considering the happiness of others above our own?

We all want to be happy. I don't know anyone who would rather be miserable than happy! But perhaps we have to let go of some of our long-held, cultural assumptions to truly experience it or else to recognize that we already are happy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: The Year in Review

2010 has come to an end, but what a great year it was. It's almost hard for me to let go of it! As I look back over the year, I feel overwhelmingly grateful, especially when I compare how I was feeling at the end of 2009 with how I feel at the end of 2010. 2009 was a difficult year filled with lots of uncertainty and questioning on my part. At the very end of November, Estith and I had moved out of the apartment where we had lived for three years (ever since getting married) and moved in with my parents while we began searching for a home to buy. I wondered if we were doing the right thing in buying a home. At the same time, I was working hard at both my company and my writing and a lot of times it simply felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I wondered if I was spinning my wheels, if it wouldn't be easier or more productive to give up and do something else. I struggled on a daily basis with all of these questions and more -- and I didn't feel much peace.

Then at the very end of December, Estith and I had the opportunity to attend Urbana, a missions conference held every three years in Missouri. This was an incredible experience afforded to us by our church, and I think it got the year off to a great start. We rang in New Years Eve through awesome praise and worship in an electric environment filled with the hope and promise of all that God is doing in the world. It's not to say that after that everything was just a cup of tea throughout the year, but somehow this year God took all of my doubts and fears, my sadness and frustration, and replaced them with joy and peace. This is the attitude I bring into 2011, and I am so grateful for it. Of course, I feel that the happiness and success that I've experienced this year would not have been possible without the difficult days of the year before. And so that leads to some more of the lessons I learned this year.

Lesson 4: The dry seasons of life have their purpose, even though as we go through them we may not be able to understand it or fathom what it could be. If nothing else, the dry seasons teach us to appreciate the seasons of abundance that much more.

Lesson 5: True happiness/joy is not circumstantial. I must learn to be content whatever the season knowing that God is working out His purposes in me. (As I look back, I had so little to complain about or feel frustrated about when I was feeling unhappy, but in that time, it was the only way I could feel about my situation. I have vowed that if another dry season comes and with it the unhappy feelings, I will not succumb to it, but rather remember the lessons I have learned and remind myself that each season has its reason. Easier said than done, but I hope that I can stick to it!)

At any rate, here is my year in review:

  • Began rehearsals for the film "Flight to India," the first film project undertaken by World of Difference, Ltd. which I wrote and starred in.
  • Shot the film "Flight to India"
  • Closed on and moved into our first home! (The feelings of uncertainty give way to deep gratitude and peace that we are in the right place! Thank You, Lord!)
  • Began working with the After-school Program at Stan Hywet which has been an incredible blessing to me both personally and professionally
  • Stayed busy as I started performing "The Monkey and the Crocodile" at all 27 branches of the Cuyahoga County Public Library from March thru May. Too many wonderful stories of great experiences to share!
  • Wrote the sequel to my children's book, Lily and the City of Light. This story, entitled "Lily and the Return to Htrae," came to me in the same way the first story did, completely out of the blue while praying one day. Had never even considered writing a sequel for Lily, so I knew it must be the Lord at work. Hoping the publisher will pick it up so I can share with others as I now find Lily's story incomplete without it!
  • Celebrated my 30th birthday -- no qualms about turning 30 at all. Felt great!
  • Participated and performed in Youth Councils for the Salvation Army and had the experience of seeing my group of drama students do an awesome job on a challenging sketch. God opened many doors for me to share my sketch-writing and showed me how it could be a blessing to others.
  • Won a trip to Haiti after entering a writing contest that I saw advertised at Urbana. Traveled there with an amazing team of people from all over the country and Canada. Saw firsthand the strength and courage of a people who have not let adversity stand in the way of their faith and made life-long friends in the process.
June, July, August:
  • Began my summer tour with World of Difference, Ltd. visiting venues in Ohio, New York, and Michigan and performing over 50 shows in a 60 day period. Shared the folktale "Papa Dieux's Well: A folktale from Haiti" with numerous audiences raising awareness about the lack of access to clean water that many people face daily.
  • Taught acting at the TAM Conservatory in New York again forging incredible relationships and a deeper love of my craft!
  • My husband Estith becomes a citizen of the United States!
  • I finish editing my 300 page novel -- a feat that felt akin to running a marathon. (I'm hoping to begin looking for a publisher for this novel which is about a children's home in Paraguay in 2011.)
  • Perform my show "Godmother Death" for diverse audiences, including high school students
  • Write my first grant (which I would later receive!)
  • Premier of the film "Turning Point" in which I play the role of Carla
  • My first children's book "Lily and the City of Light" is officially released. This puts me in touch with many wonderful people whom I haven't heard from in a long time.
  • Estith and I celebrate 4 years of marriage. I'm still totally in love with this man who has made much of the above highlights of my year possible through his love and support!
  • My second children's book, "'Twas the Year Christ Left Christmas" is released
  • Perform "Babushka: A Russian Christmas Tale" at a number of wonderful venues
  • Get my dog Blitzen for Christmas
And as if this weren't enough, many wonderful people came into my life this year in quite random ways -- from a couple we met at Estith's citizenship ceremony, to a program evaluator (and her husband) trying to pick up some forms at my Stan Hywet show, to a woman I met while attending a grant-writing workshop. The randomness of it gives me no doubt that God hears and answers prayers!

There are probably many other things I could mention, but the list is already quite long, so I'll leave it at as it is.

I now look forward to 2011 and all that it holds in store, and I hope you do too! I also hope that you would be encouraged knowing that whatever season you are in right now there is a purpose for it. Just wait and see!