Monday, August 25, 2014

Seize the day, Peter Pan

Like most beloved fans of the late Robin Williams, I couldn't help myself but to pull out every movie I owned of his and start watching them, reminiscing about how much each and every one of his roles has taught me as I've grown into a young adult.  Out of all of his movies, though, I'd have to say Hook left the biggest impression on me as I was growing up.  After re-watching it a few nights ago, I remembered why it was deemed as one of my all-time favorites.

"To live will be an awfully big adventure." - Robin Williams as Peter Pan

At the end of the film, Tootles yells "Seize the day!" and my little nerdy self smiled way too big as I connected Hook to Dead Poets Society.

Neverland in Hook
The story of Peter Pan, created by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, is about a boy who never wants to grow up, so he flys away to Neverland, where he can battle pirates, swim with mermaids, fly with fairies, run through the forest with Native Americans and go adventuring and escapading with the Lost Boys.

While Barrie's creation of Peter Pan may have been solely to comment on the selfishness of childhood, I think the character more importantly gives us the freedom to escape once we've reached "the real world."  The story of Peter Pan retold in Hook illustrates key factors in living creatively and lovingly as an adult.

In Hook, grown-up Peter Pan had forgotten what it was like to be a child, unaware of his adventures in Neverland.  He had forgotten how to love like a child: innocently, whole-heartedly, imaginatively and creatively.

Adult Peter Pan became so obsessed with his work, that his family was pushed aside; he'd taken the sacrifice to leave Neverland and grow-up in order to love his wife and teach his children the importance of adventure and curiosity but instead overwhelmed himself with the drama of worldly patterns.

Watching Hook as an adult made me remember that although my career may be important at some point in my life, nothing will ever be as important as the simplistic joy that comes from living life imaginatively and faithfully, and by wholeheartedly investing yourself in every relationship; to live is to make the most of every little day, every little gift and every little moment we are blessed with in our life's small brush stroke in God's painting of the world.

Seize the day, Peter Pan.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grape Discernment

"Life is about being adaptable; all things change, but it's about remaining true to yourself." - Psych seas. 8

Sometimes we convince ourselves we don't have a plan when in reality, we've been creating a master plan for our lives without letting the pieces fall into place the way the Master has planned for us.

Someone once told me it's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole; cliche, but undeniably true.  As driven individuals we sometimes refuse to give up on something that masks itself as perfection . . . the one and only answer to ultimate satisfaction and happiness.

We can continue to convince ourselves over and over and over again that something is right for us or meant for us, but know, deep at the heart of whatever the situation is, that it's not our calling, at least not at this time in our life.  Sometimes we want these things so badly that we're willing to do whatever it takes to get them, selfishly pushing aside all of the signs that are pointing us in a different direction on our path.  The other day I was running at Pearson Park, reminiscing about my younger days and journaling some of those memories.

The sun was streaming through the forest I'd grown up in where I'd walk next to my grandparents on hot afternoons.  The trees never really changed height because as I grew up, so did they.  Although the paths in the forest felt more magical when I was little. . .more intriguing and more mysterious, they weaved down the same line of trees.  The park holds in those memories like a snow globe, easily rewatched when the leaves are rustled by a similar breeze from 13 years ago.  I remember the bag of freshly washed grapes staining the brown picnic table, my grandma's soft hands plucking a few and depositing them in my palm eagerly yearning for the crunch of the purple fruit.  She would tell me stories about her childhood even when my eyes kept peaking at the R.L. Stine novel in my lap.  Dad's band would play those boring songs not anywhere near as cool as Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys, but, they'd eventually become some of my favorites over the years. 

And when we would get back on the trail and take those long walks with Grandpa, the rocky path seemed to go on forever and ever, and I could never figure out which end of the trail we started on.  They'd walk hand-in-hand and I'd lag in the back, staring in awe at the hand-carved initials of young lovers adorning the giant birches' trunks.  "One day it'll be me," I used to tell myself, wrapped up in the fairytale day dreams of a typical 9-year-old girl.

Now the carvings have grown in number, the couples older and probably with kids of their own, hearing stories about their parents' great love and that time they snuck away at the family picnic to graffiti the wildlife.  As my tennis shoes padded past one of the trees, an inescapable giggle flew from my lips, amidst exercise-induced breaths.  The initials haunt a teenage memory that never was.  I created my own path through the forest, writing my initials on rocks and the inside of book covers.

And even though it's the same place, it's always going to be different.  And even though it's the same path, running in a different direction delivers a new perspective.

After that day in the park I couldn't stop thinking about how weird it was when I ran the trail backwards instead of the way I'd always gone before. Although it was the same as it has always been, it was different and I had only failed to notice what was right in front of me.  It made me think how sometimes, in order to find our actual direction, to discern our passions, our driving force and the joy behind our smile, we need to change our approach.  It's the same process, but taken from a different angle.  When we're willing to go a different way than usual on the same course, that's when we find what's been hiding from us.  It's like being in a room with a two-way mirror.  If you're on the inside, you don't realize there's something on the outside looking in.  Unless you step outside of the room, and change your point of view when looking at that same mirror, you don't realize what's always been there staring right back into your own eyes.

It's incredibly easy to miss the signs that are right in front of us when we think there is only one way to achieve or answer a dream, a hope, a goal or a prayer.  Blindsided, we keep running in circles; we're unaware of the fork to the left that's been waiting for us to notice it, hidden behind the cobwebs that have formed from passing it by too many times.

Don't ever stop listening to that voice nudging you to change your direction or your approach.  God's hand is always at work, His voice calling us from every angle.  We have to be willing to take off the blindfold, step out of the mirrored room, brush away the cobwebs and listen - intently and honestly. Just because the doors seem to be closing on a dream or goal, doesn't mean that God hasn't mapped out another way for you to achieve it.  Change offers us a chance to stay true to ourselves and discern our heart's ultimate desires. Don't give up; keep searching.  You will find it and you will be found.

Never stop running the race set out before you.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Reflection, A Reminder and A Recipe

"The joy of life consists in the exercise of one's energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal."

-Aleister Crowley-

This summer I’ve spent quite a few nights at the old family farm house.  In the backyard, my Dad has been nursing two tomato plants.  Even with all of his tender love and care, specifically spending his time to make sure he’d have bright, red and juicy tomatoes to put on the dinner table, the plant that’s producing the most fruit is the one left alone in a bucket by the window.  All summer he’s left it untouched, thinking that by properly caring for the other two plants, it would mean they’d develop the most successful fruits.  But all he needed to do for the other two was initially cultivate the seeds, give them a kiss of water, a hug of sunshine, pat the soil and whisper “You’re on your own now; learn how to grow strong stems and flavorful fruit.  I will be here when you go through a storm or a drought, to help rebuild and replant; but for now, trust in your strength and the strength of your creator to meaningfully fulfill your purpose as a tomato plant.”

So what do tomato plants have to do with summer time besides how good they taste on a homemade pizza? Personal growth can’t be gained when someone does all of the work for you.  To truly flourish, you need to let go of the nourishment from your parents and your other crutches in life; you must find what makes you buzz, come alive and continuously produce fruit even when you must go through those inevitable transitional periods of drought.  The transition from childhood to adulthood isn’t easy, and the easiness of always running to your parents for money or asking them to make decisions for you will never allow you to develop your own unique fruit.  Neither will staying indoors watching re-runs of Boy Meets World and Mythbusters allow you room to grow when you’re cut off from the sunlight begging you to explore outside and see how you can spread your fruit to others. Save those Netflix marathons for a stormy night after a long day of work.

Now that I’m back in a vulnerable state of transition again, the tomato plants left untouched in the bucket are a reminder of the gift my parents gave me: support, solitude, and space to grow.  It’s when we leave old areas of comfort, enter the scariness of the world outside of the window and trust in the unknown that we’ll truly learn how to consistently produce fruits in the present and cultivate our own seeds in the future.  To find your path which will lead you to produce healthy and hearty tomatoes, you must be willing to let go of what pulls you down and drags you back to unhealthy pasts and habits.  Be still; be present. Water your soul; rest in the light.

Fresh Margherita Pizza

1 frozen pizza crust (recommend Augustine’s)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 bag shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
10 leaves of fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle the crust with part of the olive oil and top with the mozzarella.  Evenly spread out the tomatoes, onions, basil and garlic on top of the mozzarella.  Add the sprinkle cheese, salt and pepper to the pizza toppings and top off with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Galatians 5: 22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”