What Rainbows Taught Me About Life

The other day I was driving along on the way to work. It was raining and the traffic wasn’t ideal. I was sitting still at the traffic light when I all of sudden saw a beautiful rainbow.

Rainbows, at least to me, are a symbol. A physical reminder of a promise. So whenever I see a rainbow I can’t help think two things, “promise” and “I need to get my camera and take a photo”.

So that morning as I pulled my camera out to take a photo I was struck by a realisation. It was still raining while the rainbow was out. I think based on all the bible stories I’d read and perhaps my personal experience I’d always thought that rainbows only occurred after it rained, not during.

I realised that this is often the case in life. God gives us a promise. We have a dream or a goal that we are holding on to, our rainbow. Sometimes life gets hard and it rains. Life can sometimes feel like that. Rain and dreariness. How like God to remind me that sometimes the answer to our questions, the promise being fulfilled – is seen during and in the midst of our trial. A rainbow in the rain. A promise in the midst of pain.

Not too long after this I was driving in the rain, this time home from work. It had only lightly rained but I was happy to look out my window and see a small rainbow. Of course I thought “promise” and then I pulled my phone out to take a quick snap. Based on my previous thoughts on rainbows I was interested to see that once again it was still raining while the rainbow was out. I wanted to capture that memory so I was trying to get both the rain and the rainbow in the shot. Hopefully you’ve used an iphone or other camera phones are similar but when you tap your screen and focus on something in the foreground – the background fades out and if you tap something in the background.. you get the picture. If I focussed on the rain, I lost the rainbow. If I focussed on the rainbow, I lost the rain.

It got me thinking about how like life this is. If you focus on the problems in your life – you inevitably lose sight of the promises. But if you focus in on the promise, the problem fades away. Where’s your focus? What are choosing to “tap” your focus into? It’s not easy to focus on both your pain and the promises of freedom, so which one will you focus on? Watch one of them fade away in the background.

Tonight I went for a run in the rain. It had poured rain on the way home (classic Brisbane weather) in a quick but intense storm. I almost decided not to run but it cleared a little as I drove home and so reluctantly got my gear on and found a really high tech solution to keep my phone dry (plastic baggy). As soon I walked out the door I was struck by the most beautiful rainbow I’d ever seen. It was so full and big and beautiful. What a treat to run with this as my view! As I was running I was thinking about the other rainbows I’d seen over the last month and how they were lovely but they weren’t even close to being as spectacular as the one I was seeing now. Instantly I was reminded of the very intense storm I drove through on the way home and wondered if that had something to do with the size and beauty of this rainbow.

It made me think of some of the trials and challenges we go through in life. Some are difficult for sure and definitely challenging – but some are torture. The loss of a loved one. A sickness with no cure. Long term unemployment. Waiting for love. Waiting for answers. Waiting for hope. Sometimes we look at the end result, the beautiful diamond or stunning rainbow and we neglect to think of how it got that way – through refinement, through a storm. The more intense the storm, the more beautiful the rainbow. The more intense the storm of life, the more beautiful the outcome.

So while it’s raining in your world – think of the promise that is being outworked even in the midst of your yuck. When it’s pouring all around you, focus on the promise not the problem. When the storm rages – think of the beautiful rainbow He is creating in you.

Word Limit: 2015-2016

Lately I’ve been challenged to think about my dreams and goals for the future. New Years is a common time to stop and think about what your dreams and goals are and to look back and assess whether you made any progress the year prior and what will you do to make more progress again.

One of my main dreams is to write. I love it. It’s what makes me tick. However in 2015 I didn’t really do it, pretty much at all. I had an interesting transitional year where I went from a job and part time study to an actual grown up career. I gave my all to that transition and while I don’t regret it, I did mean that I had little margin for creative writing. I now had to write for my job which was awesome but meant that I didn’t really invest into my writing outside of business hours.

So when it came to News Years and I looked back on 2015 to see how much progress I had made on my dream to write, I sort of felt like I’d failed. How could I say that this was what I wanted to do and yet I’d spent no time doing it? I’d always written out of desire instead of habit and now that I had little margin I had no habit to fall back on.

I wasn’t disappointed with 2015 but I was a little disappointed with myself.

“You call yourself a writer and yet what have you written this year?”
“Can you still write? What if you’ve somehow lost it?”

These are the conversations I started to have with myself.

Conversations with yourself are pretty risky. They have so much potential both for good and for destruction. Without even realising it I was reinforcing a false idea that somehow who I am is determined by what I do.

Today I had to remind myself that I could write zero words or 1 million this year and that doesn’t change who I am; I am still a writer. Today I had to remind myself that just because it’s your dream that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Today I had to remind myself to make a start, even if it wasn’t my best piece of work.

Perhaps you need that reminder too. Maybe you need to have a good conversation with yourself and say that what you’ve done or haven’t done in 2015 doesn’t have to define you or 2016. Maybe you just need to make an uninspiring but critical habit that will push you on towards your dreams. Maybe you just need to make a start. Come on, let’s do it together.

Fog and what not.

I was away this last weekend for my uni graduation. I studied externally through a uni in Toowoomba which meant a small amount of travel time to my graduation. I didn’t want to be stressed driving up the day of or tired driving home that night, so I booked a small place for my family to stay the night before and after. As much as the graduation was amazing, it was also fun to go away for a weekend. Some of our oldest family friends now live in Toowoomba and so we planned to have breakfast with them before we headed back home. They picked the cafe, a cute little place heading up the range in Highfields.

I was riding shotgun as we drove up the hill and to be honest I was a little bit freaked out. Ahead in the distance, was a pretty thick covering of fog. We don’t get a lot of fog in Brisbane and so I am extremely unaccustomed to driving in it. I kept my feelings hidden as I didn’t want to freak out my younger sister who was driving. She turned on her lights and we climbed higher and got closer and closer to the fog.

The longer we were on the road the more I became aware of the fact that we didn’t know where we were going. How would we see the turns in the road? Would we miss the turn off? Would we completely drive off the road and down the range, hurtling to our death? Fog is freaky enough but if there had have been fog on my way home from work, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I know those roads well. I know it all sounds pretty dramatic, but for a fog rookie – it can be pretty daunting.

As we climbed I kept expecting us to ‘hit’ the fog and be surrounded by it but we drove and drove and it never happened. All of a sudden I realised that we were actually IN the fog. That as much as it looked thick and overwhelming, as soon as we entered the fog, it practically disappeared.

Have you ever found yourself crazy anxious about something in the future.. but that when it actually happened, when you were actually in the midst of it, it wasn’t as bad as it first seemed.

I know I felt like this as soon as I finished uni. I felt somewhat anxious because the future was unknown and all I could see was fog & a winding road ahead. Yes I knew my stuff and had my degree, just like I know how to drive and I have a licence BUT what did the road look like? Did I need to break for an upcoming turn? Would my visibility be so impaired that I’d drove myself off the road?

The future is a lot like driving I’ve realised. Sometimes life is like a long stretch of road. You can see what’s ahead and while it can be boring or require a lot of preserving, you take comfort in knowing what’s ahead. Sometimes life has bends and sharp turns that you weren’t prepared for. Sometimes life is a little like a 4 wheel drive off-road adventure, where you purposefully detour off the safety of the road. It’s crazy and just plain FUN.

And sometimes, life is like that winding hill headed towards the fog. Fog is a weird thing. It is both incredibly freaky and incredibly beautiful. I often see it in creepy movies but I also see it in beautiful scenic photographs. Just like the fog, the future can be both scary and beautiful.

Don’t fear the fog. You’ve got both the skills and the experience to navigate it. Turn your headlights on, take it slow. Don’t be worried about the future and being thrown into darkness, you might find yourself kilometres into the fog without even realising it.

Hello 2015.

Dear 2015,

You don’t really know me, but my name is Steffany and I’ve actually been waiting to meet you for a long time. 20, even 10 years ago.. I wouldn’t have thought twice about 2015 but in recent years you’ve become quite important to me.

I don’t really know what you’re like 2015. I’ve stalked you online and in books I’ve read, but nothing seems to really be able to give me an accurate read on you.

Will you be fun? Will you be hard work? Will you be full of new exciting opportunities or will you actually be, a lot like 2014.

I hope you aren’t. I left 2014 for a reason.. It wasn’t all bad, but it just wasn’t right for me you know? The timing was all off and it just felt a lot like work.

2015, I wanted to tell you that while you may feel like just another year in the very long list of years, to me you are very important. I have worked hard to see you and to be honest, I’ve actually been a little nervous. You see 2015 is the very first year in which I won’t be a uni student. I can see that you still aren’t convinced. People finish uni all the time, what makes 2015 so special? Well for me.. 2015 is super significant. I’ve been at uni for the last 7 years and so to be without it, is very exciting. Daunting and exciting. I think you and I could be something special.

Am I putting a lot of pressure on you as a year? Maybe. Is it weird to say I kind of love you even though we just met? Maybe.

2015, you should know up front that’s just the kinda girl I am. But if you’re willing, let’s do this crazy weird thing called life together. I’m in 2015.. if you are?

Love,
Steffany.

Learning Pain’s Name

I started a new role at my work approximately 3 months ago. Where I work there is a lot of movement and I am the 3rd person backfilling the role this year. The lady I work with however has been in her position for many, many, many years – especially given the movement. She is well known and is a wealth of information about the organisation and has been pretty invaluable to me in my learning. I noticed something funny after my first couple of weeks and that was that people would walk past our open office plan area and greet her as they normally did – ignoring me in the process. I wasn’t’ mad or offended – they didn’t know me, probably thought I wasn’t going to be around for long or we just hadn’t been introduced and it’s weird to greet someone if you don’t know their name.

Having now been in this role for a little while I’ve noticed that some of the people have learnt my name or we’ve been introduced and will now greet both of us as they pass through and others still just greet my colleague and act as though I am invisible. It’s semi awkward when my colleague is away for the day and they actually do need to come and speak with me and have to acknowledge the fact that even though I’ve been here for so long – they don’t know my name and what I do. It’s not awkward for me, just for them. All of a sudden they need my help and it’s a little weird.

It got me thinking about how skilled we become at avoiding things in our life.

I used to be an expert at avoiding pain. Out of habit you walk past something and greet the familiar and while you may wonder about the strange intruder – you aren’t prepared to make yourself a little uncomfortable and introduce yourself – ‘Hello pain, I don’t think we’ve met before’. It becomes easier and easier with time to pretend that pain doesn’t actually exist and you spend your time greeting and focusing on the familiar joy and good times. Meanwhile, pain is over there growing in skill and importance and just waiting til the hurt becomes so big you eventually trip over it.

I think they thought I would eventually move on – that they wouldn’t need to get to know me. Why spend time on someone that wouldn’t be there for very long. She probably can’t help me with my query – I’d prefer to talk to someone I know. I’ll come back later when someone familiar returns.

The problem with pain and avoiding it is that eventually the joy goes on leave and all you’re left with is the hurt you’ve been avoiding for the last 3 months. By that time – pain is a fully fledged integrated member of the workplace and you actually have to go through her to get your work done. You actually need pain’s help and while it might have been a little uncomfortable walking up and saying ‘Ok let’s get this over and done with – pain, I acknowledge you’ its way less awkward than the alternative.

Don’t pretend your pain isn’t real, that it’s going to go away on its own or that you can avoid it. You can’t. The more you avoid it the more painful it becomes. The longer you refuse to learn pain’s name, the more it shouts ‘I’m here and I’m going to let you know about it’. The longer you pretend its invisible – the more comfortable and integrated pain becomes. The longer you think it’s going away the more intent it is to stay.

Yes it might have been a little awkward at first, but if they’d just introduced themselves – maybe I could have helped them, maybe pain could have become a friend. I believe that it’s possible to turn the thing you hated most into your greatest triumph. Don’t be afraid of dealing with pain, put a name to it and start dealing with it.

My Means to an End

I had this great and confronting thought a little while ago when I was chatting to my housemate about people who hate their jobs. Those people who find themselves in what is neither a dream job nor a ‘I need to do this right now in order to be able to achieve something else’ job. You know the working part time at the Fish and Chip shop while you study type of job. There of course, is nothing wrong with working at a Fish and Chip shop, or at Woolworths or as a government admin officer if you legitimately love it – but the problem is that most of us don’t love it. It’s a means to an end and what I started to dwell on and couldn’t get out of my brain is what happens when the means to an end never ends and we find ourselves, knowingly, or unknowingly – stuck.

Depending on how well we know each other in the real world – you may or may not know that I am a part time university student. I’ve been studying for so long now that so many of the people in my life weren’t around before the study journey began and what led me to it all.

When I graduated high school – I had no idea what I wanted to do. It’s become a lot more common now but the concept of the “gap year” was fairly fresh and I was one of the few people who didn’t go straight into a degree or into a trade. I had some vague ideas about a communications degree but not wanting to force it and make a wrong decision at such an early stage of life – I deferred my degree and prayed that the “gap year” would resolve everything. As a way to pass the time and earn some money I landed a full time job as a Receptionist at a Real Estate. It wasn’t the dream by any means – but “gap year” for me wasn’t about fun times, it was about trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

A means to an end is something you are not really interested in but that you do, grudgingly or otherwise, because it will help you achieve something else. Gap year was my means to an end.

I didn’t love my job – in fact, I think I sort of hated it. I wasn’t being paid much and after 14+ weeks of school holidays I very quickly got over the phone ringing and it being my responsibility to answer it. However even though I hated it – I got used to it. The year rolled by and when a somewhat better Receptionist role came up – I moved on without giving my waiting deferred uni degree another thought. In fact, if I’m being honest – I think I purposefully forgot it.

After so many years of retrospective thinking – I think I can say that I was subconsciously afraid of university. Perhaps I was fearful of having no money after a year of a stable (albeit tiny) income or perhaps I was nervous that I wouldn’t like the course and I would waste my time by dropping out or if I was in fact, just straight up afraid that I wasn’t smart enough for uni –or some awful cocktail of the three combined. I didn’t want to be a “student” and so I pushed it from my mind and tried to focus on my Receptionist ‘career’.

What sucked about this was that the longer I stayed in what was initially my means to an end – the more I became dissatisfied with the means. It had way passed its expiry date and I began to resent it. I worked poorly on purpose, become one of those people who lived for the weekend and wished themselves sick in order to avoid work. It wasn’t a pretty picture but I wasn’t super prepared to change it. I was comfortable. Unhappy – but comfortable.

One Sunday I was chatting with an amazing couple at church and they were telling me about their daughter who was just about to graduate from the very degree I’d deferred. We talked a little of this and where I was at with work and while I don’t even remember asking for it he gave me the best advice said quite simply. ‘You should go and study now Steff – if you don’t do it now, you never will’.

For some unknown reason – his words rang true and I applied to university the very next morning. Was I scared? Absolutely! I had no idea how to even apply for uni let alone be a uni student. I was still afraid of failing but in the end, I was more scared of staying where I was forever – of not living up to potential I knew existed somewhere.

It would be so awesome if this was the end of the story but in so many ways it is only the beginning. While it was and still is one of the best decisions of my life – it has not been easy. I kept my admin career going as a way to pay for rent, bills and to metaphorically and literally fuel my weekends and despite the goal of achieving my degree – it was hard not to be overtaken by the soul crushing occupation that is Office Administration – my new means to an end. That sounds dramatic – but most ‘means to and end’ situations feel that way.

Now I only have mere weeks left of my degree and after many tough years where it felt like it would never end and after many tough jobs that I really didn’t love – the light at the end of the tunnel is practically blinding. I am equal parts ecstatic and afraid. When this ends, and I finally walk across that stage and get that darn piece of paper I will have to face the music and try and get started on my career – something for the last 7 years I’ve just been ‘working on’. My means to an end needs to come to an end and that scares me a little.

There’s something about the means to end process in which the longer we stay in it, the harder it is to get out. We learn to accept that seasons are hard and then we spend so long accepting it that when it comes time to leave the season behind, we don’t. Sometimes we go through a valley and a trial and there’s an important lesson to be learnt in those moments but so often, the valley season ends and God is standing on top of the mountain, applauding your learnt lesson and wondering why you won’t join him there. Sometimes we stay because we think there isn’t another option, that there isn’t a way out of our unhappiness. That is a lie.

I wanted to tell you this because I want you to know that you can do anything you want. If you can at all relate to what I’ve been through, then I want to give you that uncomfortable but necessary push that someone gave me. If you aren’t happy, you do have the power to change that. We need to learn how to swallow our fear or our pride and go do what needs to be done in order to live a fulfilling life. We can’t be the type of people who complain about our lot in life when we could quit that awful admin job and go learn how to fly a plan, or scuba dive, or be a mum, or become a florist. I’m not saying that you should quit everything that’s hard work – in fact, I’m saying the very opposite. Sometimes living the life God has called you to involves hard work. Sometimes it involves a ‘means to an end’ phase – but you have to make sure it ends. Don’t linger around the means because it’s comfortable – push forward. It’s not always easy but it will be worth it.

How to be happy; a simple guide.

When I think about our generation, certain ‘catch phrases’ and driving thoughts come to mind. We’re obsessively passionate about ‘pursuing our dreams’ and we’re the Kings and Queens of YOLO. We’re all about changing our uni preferences, our jobs and our friends in order to live the type of life we’ve decided we want. There are many other defining characteristics of our generation but one I’ve noticed is a desire to be considered deep yet understood and an overarching goal of achieving bliss. In fact, we want deep bliss.

As much as a generation changes and moves with culture and the times; the rest of the world is slow to catch up. Our parent’s and employers don’t really understand our constant need to be complex and our drive to live the ‘dream’. My world is filled with both types of people; deep thinkers and people who just want to be happy and then people who want to be both. The two however, seem to be mutually exclusive. The more you think and the more you contemplate – the more you realise how deeply unhappy you are and how you need to make a change and get your life right again. The two forces end up becoming a vicious cycle and we can’t seem to be happy or deep or understood.

I’ve definitely been there. Our generation seems to think there’s something romantic attached to being a ‘deep thinker’ and to being ‘complex’ or ‘misunderstood’ yet at the same time, we want every type of success and happiness in the world and wonder why it doesn’t work out. After lots of time and attempts to be both happy and deep I’ve come to realise something.

It really doesn’t take much to be happy.

Our generation doesn’t really believe the above statement. To be really, truly happy we think we need to have a certain amount of things. A good, fulfilling and preferably high paying job where we hopefully don’t have to do too much work or ever be stressed. A large number of friends of whom you feel deeply connected with all of them and somehow have time to hang out with all of them and that also happen to be very good looking. A wonderfully impacting relationship with God/other spiritual being that helps define us and give us “meaning”. A love type relationship that challenges us to be better than were the last day and makes us always feel like a baaabe. A plethora of university qualifications and other numerous skills such as but not limited to: some form of artistic ability (drawing/music are high on the list), sporting prowess and the gift of the gab or some other socially enhancing personality trait. It would also help if we had a great house, a great car and if no one was ever mean to us – ever. We want wicked holidays, epic Instagram photos with 80+ likes of said holiday photos. We want to be clever and well-read and really ‘up to date’ on certain topics of interest and it of course, would be best if we sponsored one more children in Africa and if we had the time – we’d also be volunteering for a cause that also attributed further ‘meaning’ to our world.

‘It really doesn’t take much to be happy’ feels like a lie.

A month or more ago I had this ‘wow’ moment when I sat down in bed with a cup of tea before I went to sleep and thought to myself “I am so happy right now – in fact, all I think I need in life is a good cup of tea.”

It feels.. so trivial doesn’t it? Tea Steff? Really?
In fact, it actually feels like I must be lying – or at the very least exaggerating.
But I wasn’t. I was so into this cup of tea and I was truly happy.

The ‘deep thinker’ within tried to come up with some intrinsic metaphoric reason for why tea was making me happy but I came up with nothing except the fact that if I could become so happy from drinking a cup of tea, then anything additional on top of my tea – would cause my life to be, well, AMAZING. So I rolled with it. For a season in time I forced myself to become that person who finds everything pretty awesome.

I would walk outside and think ‘My isn’t the air beautiful and crisp today. I love breathing fresh air’. I would receive an email at work and think ‘Oh they added a smiley face in their message – that’s SO nice’. I would get more green lights than red on the way home and think ‘WINNING’.

I made the simple things in life.. My everything. I tried to focus on only simple, easy to achieve, smile inducing things and told myself how happy they made me.

I thought it would feel trivial. Just like believing that I’d reached life’s peak while drinking a cup of tea was a limited way of thinking. I thought I wouldn’t feel deep anymore and that somehow by living simply, I’d lose any intellectual and emotional depth that I once possessed when I was deep but truthfully, a little unhappy. But I didn’t – in fact; my life increasingly had more and more meaning.

Why? Because the more I practised simplicity the more my simple little joys became infused with meaning.

Because when I drank my tea at night – I ended up thinking about how great it was that I had a job to come home from, even if it did make me tired. I would sit in bed feeling warm and appreciating my home and that I can afford to live in it. It would make me aware of how other people didn’t get the same luxury. I ended up feeling so darn lucky that something so simple could make me so happy.

What once was tea – ended up being gratitude, perspective and that ‘I’m so darn lucky’ feeling.

When I would walk outside for an errand at work – I ended up thinking about how the seasons work, and how beautiful it is that grass continues to grow even once it’s been cut and how the patterns on the leaves that had fallen on the grass have their own unique design and how that reminds me of snowflakes and how no snowflake is the same which makes me thinking of how wonderfully unique I am because God made me that way.

What once was a work errand – ended up becoming worship, fascination and unique sense of purpose.

In order to live happily – one must learn the art of living a simply deep life.

As soon as I adopted the above principle, everything became better. Surprisingly, everything became deeper and the happy, reflective, stoic, grateful kind of deep not the moody, what are we even here for, damaging deep.

I never thought being happy was so simple.

Displacement Theory

When speaking with a friend the other day, she asked a general question that we actually hear a lot, probably multiple times a day. She asked me ‘how are you?’ Now we are actually close friends and while we don’t get to catch up as much as I’d like, I knew I could skip over the ‘yes, great – can’t wait til Friday’ response that might have by habit, normally escaped my mouth. I decided to be real and tell her what was really up.

The problem was I didn’t really know what was up. I wasn’t doing poorly, sick or going through a really rough time, overall – things were good. Yet I still didn’t feel completely right about stating ‘I’m so ridiculously wonderful, thank you for asking’. In my prattling and in trying to explain my current emotional state – I said something along the lines of ‘I guess I’m feeling a bit displaced’.

I’ve never used that word to describe myself or my emotional state, and I don’t know if I’ve actually heard anyone else really use it either. The dictionary says it means ‘to move or put out of the usual or proper place’ and not until after I’d really thought about it, did I realise how truly profound my choice of words was. Essentially, I felt ‘out of place’ and out of the normal place and I know I’m not the only person who has felt this on occasion or in fact, felt it all too regularly.

Perhaps you’ve felt displaced as a result of a strange quirk of yours and you just can’t figure out how to fit in. Perhaps it’s been a literal displacement in that you’ve left your home town or country and you’re feeling a little too ‘fresh’ and new. Or perhaps, like me, as a result of a series of small changes and little to big decisions, you’re left feeling out of sorts. You can feeling it in varying degrees but the most common denominator is that something changed and you’ve been moved or put out of your usual or proper place.

To be honest, it’s not a good place. I actually don’t even know if anything worthwhile or good happens in this place. It’s not like a bad breakup that’s, like, so terrible – but you at least have the most legitimate excuse to eat tubs full of ice-cream and have a Gilmore Girls marathon. I don’t even think it’s really like a valley or trial where you know that you’re going to come out stronger or having learnt some valuable albeit painful lesson. Displacement is just that, it’s not fitting in, its removal, its change. If you’re feeling a little lost and you can’t figure out why – I’m guessing you’re feeling what I (and after doing another google search, psychologists apparently) term ‘displacement’ – its blech. Not gut wrenching, not amazing – because that’s what displacement is – the awful in between.

Sounds like all bad news right? I thought so too because I couldn’t even define or figure out what it was that was wrong in my life. Perhaps the only good news about displacement is that it can end. The answer actually lies in its original definition. By actually defining displacement, I found the answer. The dictionary says to ‘move OR put out of the usual OR proper place.

The key to overcoming my little displacement theory lies in deciding which ship you’re going to sail out of this situation you’ve found yourself in. Have you been displaced? If so, that sucks, sorry friend. Have you been displaced from your proper place, the place you are truly actually meant to be in? Then that really sucks. You should figure out how to get back there. Did you hurt someone and you now find yourself out of relationship –you need to make amends. Did you step out of line/make a bad call/end up somewhere you didn’t mean to go? You need to find your way back. Or perhaps someone hurt you – took you down a couple of notches, stole something from you. It’s time to go and get it back. Nothing is permanent. Take your integrity back. Do the right thing. Whether or not it was your choice that landed you here – you don’t have to stay displaced.

The tricky, yucky final option is if you’ve been displaced from your usual place.

This option is hard. It feels gross. It feels uncomfortable and awkward. Displacement might cause you to act out, in weird and awful ways which only serve to further enhance this uncomfortable place you’ve found yourself in. My displacement caused me to retreat, like that if I somehow avoided ‘humanity’ I could avoid the feeling of displacement, of no longer fitting into my usual place.

This type of displacement is hard because at some point, displacement becomes necessary for advancement. There is only so long someone can live according to habit, in comfort – succumbing to the trap which is their usual placement. If you don’t choose to step out of your comfort zone, life will eventually do it to you – and BAM, displacement.

Displacement is meant to be a transitional point in the journey. It’s necessary in order to propel you of your usual, run of the mill, playing it safe life into something better, scarier and ultimately, more fulfilling. Displacement is never the end destination. You aren’t meant to stay here.

And so my friends, you have a choice, just like me. We can stay and wallow in our uncomfortable-ness and refuse to step out into what’s coming ahead or you can look at this awkward phase of your life and choose to see God’s hand at work. Neither is amazingly pleasant – but if you don’t embrace some part of the displacement – you end up losing. You end up staying and never moving forward.

Choose to get yourself ready for whatever you’re about to been thrown into. Don’t stay displaced.

Ready for Love

Last year I decided that I’m ready for love.

That to me, sounds like the craziest/boldest statement I’ve ever made. And if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking.. Ok wow Steff, hold the crazy – tell us what you really think. I’ve never been one to be particularly publicly honest about being single but if you can’t be honest about love on Valentine’s Day, then when can you?

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment when everything changed, but it did, and I’m ready.

I don’t really mean this in the way you might think I do. I’m still not actively looking for a boyfriend, I still battle everyday trying to decide if it’s even worth wearing makeup or doing my hair and I’m actually still really content being single, but something changed, inside, and I think it’s worth talking about.

Having been consistently single (yeah points for consistency right?) for a really long time gives me a certain level of authority to say that everyone’s advice about being single kinda stinks. I know they mean well and to some degree, there’s a level of truth to what they’re saying, but unless you’re actually there, you don’t really know what it’s like to be single in today’s day and age. Just like I don’t know what it’s like to be married and my marriage advice probably rebounds in a very similar way. One of the best and worst pieces of advice floating around for Christian singles is this;

Stop wanting and desiring a boyfriend or girlfriend. As soon as you stop, it’ll happen. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when love arrives. Or something to that effect.

I am totally on board with what I think the heart sentiment behind this advice is, but the notion or the premise of it, is total bullocks. And I don’t mean any offence to anyone who has ever given this advice as I’m pretty sure I’ve dished it out also. It is absolutely so essential to strive to be content with being single but it is also okay to want to eventually be with someone one day. Finding the balance is what is tricky. Telling someone to try and stop the desire for love, but then all of a sudden switch it back on when love arrives is like asking someone to hold their breath indefinitely. It works initially, but eventually your body aches and forces you to take an almighty gasp for air. Your body wasn’t made to do that – It’s unnatural.

But I don’t know, somehow I managed it.

At some point I stopped telling myself I was okay with being single and I actually started believing it. It became a heart thing rather than just a head thing. You can tell yourself something over and over and eventually it does work its way into your brain and things travel smoothly until your brain and your heart start to fight, and that’s when it’s critical that you’ve made a heart decision and not just a head one. I actually truly believed deep down, that I was content on my own. I actually was, I actually am.

That was until recently.

I actually don’t think anything drastic has happened externally. I still don’t feel like it’s worth doing my hair, I still don’t really notice new “hot” guys, I’m still rocking up to coffee solo and enjoying the crazy freedom that comes with being your own person but something internally shifted.

It was like a couple of years ago God came and flipped a switch. I was struggling, trying to force down those emotions because I knew if I wanted a boyfriend, I had to stop wanting a boyfriend and I couldn’t make sense of it, let alone actually do it. It was unnatural. I felt a certain way and I couldn’t seem to stop feeling that way. Eventually God came and did what I naturally couldn’t.

I know my heart needed work. It was a mighty mess of tangles and knots inside and sometimes God, as chief architect of my life, makes an executive decision to shut off the power while critical maintenance occurs. I now know the risk was probably too great for me to be “emotionally active” while repairs were made. Perhaps in this instance, God is more like a Project Manager than an architect. I like the idea of God being an architect because it sounds more beautiful to me, and sometimes it’s like that, but often it’s just messy and hard work. That’s life.

The amazing thing is that now that God has flipped the switch back on – I feel, just right. I don’t feel the striving or the turbulence of being ruled by my emotions anymore but I’m also acutely aware that if the right thing presented itself, that I’d be ready. As ready as I could be. That’s a scary and ultimately beautiful place to stand with God in.

So what does all this honesty mean to you?

Well I’m just hoping that if you’re single like me on Valentine’s Day, that maybe you’ll decide to do a little heart check/heart maintenance. If you find yourself a little sad on Valentine’s Day, spend a bit of time praying and thanking God for this season that you’re in, asking Him to give you wisdom and insight about yourself that you wouldn’t normally notice. If you’re exceptionally sad this Valentine’s Day, take that as a blinking warning light on your heart. It might be time to let God take the reins and get inside and do some repair work.

Don’t be afraid of pain. God has it all monitored and he knows what you can and can’t work through – he knows when it’s time to cut the power and work out the kinks. Trust me, He knows your heart best. Trust Him, he knows you best.

Games and the quest for Solitude

Ever since I lost my job (cue trials and tribulations post at another time) I spent a significantly smaller portion of my time in front of the computer. That is quite good for one’s clarity of mind and a bunch of other things except perhaps forgetting to pay the bills on time and keeping up to date with my blogs. I follow SO many blogs, fashion mostly and a couple of lifestyle blogs here and there. No real writing blogs. I didn’t really check them while I wasn’t in front of the computer daily and so now that my situation has changed I’m back to it. However, catching up has taken almost a month in itself.

I found myself reading a lot of posts centred around the idea of inspiration. Whether that’s fashion inspiration or someone who read a great article online and so shared it with everyone that follows their blog. Quite often, bloggers say that they are inspired by other bloggers. This surprised me because I know I tend to be the complete opposite.

The internet was extending me an invitation to play Inspiration and instead of accepting, I politely declined and played ‘The Comparison Game’ all on my own. And while I’m kind of talking nonsense, I suspect that when it comes to day to day life, there are actually hundreds of us playing Comparison alone.

I notice random things. Being aware or perceptive or whatever you want to call it means that I notice patterns and similarities. I notice when captions on social media start to replicate themselves and I also notice when bloggers are taking their inspiration from other bloggers as all of their posts start to line up and all of a sudden, in one week I read five ‘What’s in my handbag’ or ‘The perfect LBD’ posts. Now I’m not judging. I actually know how hard it is to come up with blogging content, especially on a daily basis. I’m actually taking my imaginary fashionable hat off to all of you but I’m definitely a little confused and surprised by it all.

I just finally finished catching up on all my blogs and then thought ‘Now would be a great time to write a blog post’ and was surprised when I sat down to write that I didn’t feel particularly inspired. Instead I felt jammed.

My ability to be creative is stifled by other people’s talent.

Is yours?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you took you more than 2 seconds to mentally answer that question then it probably is. Unless you’re just the most secure person in history (where is your blog so I can take tips from you please) you’ve probably struggled with this at some point. Maybe you haven’t realised that’s exactly what it is you’re experiencing but perhaps, just like me, you’ve fallen trap to the Comparison Game.

I’m not saying I don’t find other people or their work inspiring, I do. My friend Sarah gifted me ‘The Book Thief’ a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it immensely. Just recently I watched the film and came away feeling inspired to write and document the frailty and beauty of life. I read those blog posts and it inspired me TO write. But when I actually sat down, with the pen and paper in hand, I really struggle to come up with anything I liked. That was before I even put the pen down on the page. In my head, it was all wrong. Have you ever felt like this, maybe not with writing, but with some other skill?

This is lame, everyone else is WAY better at this than me. I can’t draw
Oh no, this looks way too much like something I’ve already read, they will think I’m not original, LAME.
I am an average singer, nothing like all those crazy talented folks.
My business model wouldn’t have as many features as his, I don’t think I’ll present it today.

Why do we think like this? Say it with me now.. I am equal parts inspired and threatened by talent.

That’s right, threatened. Having an uncertain chance of continued survival which stems out of insecurity. You’re worried you haven’t got ‘it’ anymore. You’re worried you never had ‘it’ in the first place and that fear, stifles our ability to do what we were made to do.

One day I want to be truly comfortable in my own ability so that I can read a great piece of fiction, or prose and have the desire and the creative juices-a-flowing to write my own thoughts down, without the fear of comparison. Until then, I am my most creative when I have nothing and no one to compare myself too. And so for me, that means solitude. Solitude of the mind. I clear out everything I’ve recently read, gawked at, listened to, shared online. I tell myself “you can do this” three times over. And I intentionally remove the pressure that I place on myself.

And then, and only then, can I truly do what it is I’m called to.

If you’ve got this gifting thing down, then great – this post wasn’t for you. If you’re still on a journey to saying no to the Comparison Game, then get a little solitude. You can’t compare yourself to something you don’t know exists. Just don’t play the game!

Eventually, over time, you learn to do the thing you love without the fear of comparison, or rejection or being lame. Eventually you become inspired by the people around you and you can start living out of inspiration and stop comparing your uniqueness to someone else’s.

I’ll hold your hand until we get there.

In the meantime, in the spirit of inspiration. If  you’re ready for it, you should check out this post which is directed at women and our awful talent for bringing others down instead of building them up. It definitely inspired me to be a better lady.
Women vs. Women and a little thing called Self-Respect