Generosity is not a mood

There is a tired idea that has been met with very little challenge in recent years: we get to pick and choose when to be generous.

To me, it’s like saying that you’re a hipster, if you actually say it out loud, that probably means you’re noooot a hipster. In this day and age, I don’t know why you would even want that.. but I digress.

Generosity is not a mood that you wake up in. It’s not a piece of clothing that you decided to put on this morning. Generosity is not a choice in itself, although it comes with choices. Generosity is either a diligence or a negligence. But mostly, I think of Generosity as a piece of our humanity.

What I’ve learned of this kind and gentle friend, Generosity, is that she is almost always beckoning us to come and play.

When we agree to her invitation, she invites her friends like Compassion, Empathy, Freedom, Love, and Connection.

Generosity, while seemingly separate from us, is a kindred spirit. She is second nature to us, part of who we are as human beings.

But I want to talk about what happens when we refuse to be friends with Generosity.

If we keep saying no to our friend’s polite invitations or ignore her soft nudges, they slowly get quieter and harder to discern. We have an increasingly difficult time connecting with the world around us. We begin to lose out. And then we start to perform– but only enough to get what we want; hoping that it is enough to satisfy the void that Generosity used to dwell in. (spoiler alert: it’s not.)

But Danae, why would we ignore Generosity? She’s so dope.

We don’t know any better. Saying yes to Generosity will always come with a cost. It may even be painful. Agreeing with Generosity can mean giving away pieces of us that we can’t get back.

It’s a beautiful sacrifice, where the return on investment is never guaranteed in the way you would expect. If you’re looking for tangible rewards, you’ll probably never find them. However, you will find that Generosity pulls you closer and takes you further into the depths of love. She guides you into relationship. As you play with her, the fear of loss loses it’s grip on you, your “yes” becomes easier, and your love becomes more valuable.

The truth of it all is:

You don’t get to decide who is worthy of you, because that’s not your decision to make.

And you don’t get to choose Generosity, you get to give in.

One year ago

In 2008, I was 18 and my mother thought I was depressed (she was right). She wanted me to talk to someone. So she convinced me to chat with her friend, Tina, over the phone (long distance counseling at it’s most sincere). I remember when Tina told me that anything we talked about would be in complete confidence. In that moment, my mom’s best friend became my best friend. I felt so understood and heard. She treated me like an adult and called me “dahling” with the worst British accent, but it was our thing. She was intelligent, witty, and so empathetic.

During that summer of ’08, I broke up with my dysfunctional boyfriend and wanted to leave everything behind. So I settled on restarting my life in Tennessee. I lasted about three weeks. But I was with Tina and it was good. We sat watching the Tennessean sunsets and talked about the true meaning of love and infatuations. I took her kids grocery shopping and let them pick out their own cereal. I drove around Athens in her little beat up Honda looking for a job. I listened to the crickets in the humid twilights and witnessed lightning bugs for the first time in my young adult life. It was healing.

I didn’t see much of Tina after that summer. I went back to Washington, on to college and then to California.

When my sister got married in June 2015, Tina and I were reunited in Washington. I had the privilege of sharing a hotel room with her and we picked up where we’d left off. We played card games for days. My initial anxiety of being back in the homeland wore away as I got to spend time with her and some of my extended family. At the end of my trip, I didn’t really want to leave. I couldn’t figure out why at the time but I think it was my spirit. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d get to hear her voice or hold her hand.

She was one of my closest confidantes. She believed in my dreams. She taught me to love the setting sun. She laughed at my jokes. She understood me in all my dysfunctional behavior. She loved me so, so well. She was a hell of a fighter.

Her greatest opponent was called cystic fibrosis. It’s a genetic disease that causes mucus to build up in the lungs. The immune system is weakened and the body becomes highly susceptible to lung infections, the common cold easily becomes pneumonia. The only real treatment for cystic fibrosis is lung transplant, but there’s only a 50/50 chance of survival within 5 years. The life expectancy for CF patients is 37 years. Tina celebrated her 47th birthday in July of 2015.
She died a year ago, today.

I’m happy that she can breathe easy again. I celebrate that she can sing as loud as she wants now. She can stare into the sun without blinking. We miss her and the strength that she brought to our lives. Her legacy lives on in the people that she loved so deeply. We are grateful that we knew her and had the privilege of being called her friends.

Here’s to you, dahling.

Leslie and Tina

Things I’ve learned in the last three years.

-Making friends takes time, intentionality, and a huge dose of vulnerability.
-Pain can be your greatest enemy or your greatest ally. You have to choose which one.
-Growth begins in the dark hidden places, it becomes exponential when it hits the light.
-Wisdom is best heeded with a double shot of humility. It burns like hell going to down, but it’ll make you better in the long run.
-It’s healthy to care what people think of you as long as it doesn’t become your prison. Character is both internally and externally motivated.
-Invest in self love. You can never like yourself too much.
-Choose your people. Choose them on purpose every day. (I’m still working on this one)
-The fastest road to connection is confrontation. She’s windy and bumpy but damn it, she’s worth it.
-Thankfulness can change everything.
-Don’t be afraid to love like crazy. Literally, everyone likes to be loved. You can’t go wrong.
-Manage your boundaries. Find out what’s yours and take care of it. Let your neighbor do the same.
-Your heart is practically a person. Treat it like a dear friend. Talk to it, listen to it, embrace it.
-Time is your most valuable resource, be aware of where you invest it and don’t throw others’ away.
-Give compliments at every opportunity.
-Believe the compliments given to you.
-Wear comfortable shoes.
-The best way to love other people is to love yourself well.
-The world needs you to be the fullest expression of yourself.
-Once you get over the question of whether or not you’re enough, you’ll be able to accept the reality that you are.
-Show up early.
-Practice smiling.
-If you wouldn’t say it to your Grandma, maybe don’t say it at all.
-The person next to you is always important.
-The best way to clear your head is to play some music (pick up an instrument.)
-Don’t let other people clean up your messes, it’s bad form.
-Rest, go hard, rest some more. Repeat. Just don’t leave out the rest part.
-Darkness is easily bankrupted but when it comes to light, there’s always more where that came from.
-Sometimes, going to bed on your anger is wise. We do real damage in the heat of the moment.
-Don’t feed thoughts that don’t benefit your future.
-Feast on good thinking, you cannot over do it.
-Pride will jack you up. Kill it as quickly as you can.
-Hold everything with an open palm.
-Choose not to be offended. But if you can’t, forgive quickly and move forward.
-Look for challenges and take them.
-You aren’t going to regret being generous.
-Do everything you can to choose fun.
-Holy Spirit loves fun.
-Jesus is even better than we think he is.

 

 

Kill the Dream-Killers

I left a small town in Washington almost three years ago to chase after a dream in California that was planted in me before I was born. Somewhere in the last years I buried the dream deeper and deeper with each passing disappointment. Isn’t it what we do? We just bury our treasures when we can’t find the bank to invest them in? I kept covering it. I piled on excuse after excuse.
“I need to make a living.”
“I don’t have time, I’ve bills to pay.”
“I just need to focus on finding community right now.”
“I need to solidify my relationship with God”
Lies.
They sound like good lies because they sound responsible and safe. But they’re lies, rooted in fear.
I threw out excuses for not believing the dream because I was afraid that if I actually owned that thing I would find disappointment at my feet.
“People won’t like my songs.”
“People won’t like me.”
“I’m not as good as I think I am”

Lies. The killers of dreams.

Let’s kill the killers. (killers as in lies, not the band)

It’s time to get honest.

The other night I realized that I’ve been making room for things in my life that I don’t actually want. I’ve been going with the flow and calling it a season. It started with the moment that I delivered pizzas to the people that I want to be.

I bribed my coworker to let me take a delivery. The man who ordered had said that we were delivering to some semi-famous songwriters of a local record label. Sorry, did I say some? I meant, ALL. The man on the phone said ALL of the label’s artists would be there. So, I did what I had to do to get on that delivery. Bribed a guy and prayed for favor.

Talk about a rush. I’m running scenarios through my mind the entire hour before my delivery.
“Oh hey! You look like a singer! Sing something for us!”
“Oh me? No, I can’t… Oh fine you convinc… AND IIiiiIIIiiiI WILLL aLWAAAAYS LOOOVE YOUUUUUUUuuUUUU”
You get the gist.

Of course, nothing like that happened. I delivered the pizzas, I saw some Christian-Famous people and I drove back to my shop with an ache in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I was STOKED to serve the people that I look up to. But there was a longing that woke up within my soul that I had forgotten was there. It was my “why”. Why am I here? For this dream. How did I forget? Lies. I want to clarify, I love who I am and what I do (I don’t need to be someone else) but there is a part of me that I ignored for a long time because I gave up on the possibility of it’s fulfillment. I gave up because I believed lies. Lies like:
“You miss out on good things.”
“You will have to settle.”
“You’re no different from anyone else.”
HA! Lies seem so believable until you say them out loud. Verbalized, they sound ridiculous.

I could have stopped that little crazy train a while ago but we live and we learn right? Well, here’s what I learned: The people around me are a really important part in recognizing lies and realizing dreams. 

There have been rare moments when I let my closest community into the scariest parts of my heart. Those scary parts don’t hold gross things like shame or guilt. The scariest parts of my heart hold my dreams.

My dreams are a thousand times larger than I could ever hope to be. They are the anticipation of good things that are yet to be born. They are more powerful than anything I can imagine. And as such, they are more precious to me than all the gold on the earth. Lies will always try to keep you from sharing those dreams because it’s in the sharing that dreams see the light. And the light is the only place where they can take root.

It’s easy to just loosely throw aspirations into conversation when I’m talking to a stranger in the waiting room or the airport because they won’t be following up with me in a week or a month or three years to see if I’ve actually done what I set in my heart to do. I can just impress them with my delusions of grandeur and be done. Letting my confidants see my dreams requires a level of responsibility and commitment that is intimidating at best and paralyzing at it’s worst.
If I confess the reality of what I actually want. It means you can see it. It means that you can judge it. It gives you a place to tell me that I’ll never measure up, that I’ll never accomplish it.
Or it means, that I will actually get the thing that I dream about.
That I will actually be charged with the high privilege of stewarding it, taking care of it, making it grow and letting it illuminate my world. And that you will get the front row seat to the glory that I was created to display.

So here it is world, my dream. I want to be fully me and bring all my strength and love and goodness to you. And I want to make some damn-good music while I’m doing it.

#hiremebethelmusic

Enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. About things that I don’t normally think about. Things other than how I will be paying my bills, what I’ll be wearing today or where I’ll be getting my next coffee.

Because I’ve been thinking about new things, I’ve been writing about new things. I guess it’s time I start to share.

There was a time when I couldn’t look pain in the eyes. I remember a specific moment when I was fighting to take control of the panic that was rushing through my veins after learning that my worst nightmare (at the time) was going to be a reality.

I know now that it wasn’t the actuality of the thing that upset me.
It was that it meant I had to go digging.
I needed to return to the shallow grave where I had buried my secret.
I had covered it with anger and shame.
I thought if I just put my secret in the ground it would die; I just couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. It was too painful and felt too real.

I knew there was no running. I had given my “Yes.” and I couldn’t take it back.

So I dug it up—with bare hands— I pulled the dirt back and unearthed the secret that had I desperately wanted hidden. It was my favorite lie: “I’m not enough. I lack.”.

An interesting thing started to happen when I actually brought that thing out into the world. It started to get smaller. I started to realize that Jesus made up for the lack. It was ridiculous to think that I could just cover it up myself and hope that no one would notice it festering under the surface of my heart.
He’s been reminding me over and over that I don’t have to strive for life. He provides the enough, he provides the money, the love, the companionship, the harvest, he is the “enough”.

Oh Jesus, thank you that I never have to be enough.

#themikeboard

The honor of fulfilling dreams.

It started to hit me last night—how faithful God is. Even in the midst of my self doubt, even as I drown in the vastness of my dreams; He reminds me that it takes one sunrise at a time. 

How do we even know that the sun will rise again? All we have are the words of yesterday. 

Aren’t they enough though? 

Today is marked by favor and love. Today is a long time coming. Today is a dream realized. Today is another sunrise closer to destiny. 

Pick one: Fear or Fierce

Fear. You know that feeling of the blood rushing to your extremities and your brain telling you to flee. Preserve yourself! Get out now!

I used to bow my head and excuse myself from the room obeying the panic that surged through my body.

Nowadays people like to say cute things like, “Ooh that’s me, I’m so awkward hahaha” whenever the topic of Social Anxiety comes up.

Listen. Being awkward is not anxiety. Anxiety is in the moment you feel your skin crawl when you walk into a room full of fellow humans. It is the uncomfortable and unsettling feeling of insecurity as lies hurdle themselves at the back of your head. It has nothing to do with you having a quirky moment. It is demobilizing.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela

When it sets in there are one of three choices to make.

1.Fight

2.Flight

3. Shut down

I’ve been picking options 2 and 3 for most my life. They were easy and gave me a (false) sense of security.

But something happened to me recently. I’m not sure when it was exactly but I decided to fight.

And now I’m batman.

The fear is still there but it became my strength, I let it propel me rather than hold me back. I figure if my adrenaline is pumping and my brain starts screaming No, protect yourself! it’s probably the right moment to jump in head first.

Things I’ve done in the last 2 weeks that would have been INSANE only 6 months ago.

-Posted a personal mediocre song video to social media, twice.
-Earnestly sought out feedback on how I’m viewed by my peers
-Preached a sermon in front of my role model and peers
-Deliberately pursued connection with a leader in my life
-Walked into a room of 600 students without an ounce of fear
-Revealed pertinent information about my romantic interests to a third party (pending review)

Why does this stuff matter? It matters because if I can just throw caution (and nerves) to the wind, then so can you! I’ve risked my reputation and my delusions of grandeur but it has been so worth it to see myself through others’ eyes. And I can say I did that.

Besides, I won’t ever move towards connection if I flee every time I feel vulnerable.

I’m addicted to the thrill of kicking fear in the face.

Who knows what I’ll do next? Whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome. Maybe I’ll even ask someone out on a date. 😉

How I feel about not going home this Thanksgiving.

When the sojourn feels like it’s been too long, it’s probably just beginning.

It has been many moons since I last posted. I must admit that it’s been hard to make updates a priority with my rapidly shifting schedule. As I sit on the eve of my favorite holiday, with more spare time on my hands than I know what to do with, I can’t help but feel a sense of longing for the coming seasons and the desire to get it out of my heart and on to the page.

When I get into moods like this I generally go on long drives, sing, and write in my journal. But tonight, I feel the need to be known. I hope others can relate.

This is my first Thanksgiving apart from my kin in Washington. It has been heart-wrenching. After spending a summer in exile (Alaska), I really thought that I would have eventually been able to make up for lost time. “Eventually” hasn’t come, and it doesn’t look like it will be any time soon.

I’ve been taught that if I sow in this season it will bring a generous harvest. I believe it to be true but sometimes it’s hard to remember when it seems like everyone around me is reaping while I’m still breaking soil. Do you ever have those moments? Do you ever find yourself covered in sweat and dirt, wistfully forcing a smile, in celebration, for the friend who is feasting? I do, all the time.

On July 23rd, I had one of those moments. I sat in a small phone booth in Alaska; covered in dried fish scales and other unknown salmon particles, holding onto a corded telephone, listening to the surprise celebration of my mother’s 50th birthday with tears rolling down my cheeks. It was one of the hardest moments I’ve ever had in my adult life, I had to fight to celebrate. When I signed my summer away to the salmon industry, I thought I was buying a ticket to a year of financial provision, I didn’t realize it meant sacrificing those irreplaceable moments.

Only a month or so ago, I once again found myself on the other end of the phone listening to the news of my sister’s engagement. I was the only one missing.

Just last week my mother went in to surgery; I wasn’t there to hold her hand and pray with her before she went in.

These last years have been marked by huge sacrifice.

I’ve sown into this season with many tears as I’ve missed all the really crazy things that are happening back home. Do I wish I was there? Yes. Will I let that affect my posture towards Him? No. I refuse to let entitlement creep into my heart, I chose to know Him and I chose to lay down this whole life that I have. In His sovereignty, He has every right to keep it. In His goodness, I know He will give it all back.

I know that I will reap a harvest of joy, and I think that it will yield greater fruit if I’m still thankful in the midst of the back-breaking.

TL;DR

He is worthy of my trust, my devotion and my celebration in all things and in all seasons. When I remember that, I don’t miss out on any thing.

I choose thankfulness.

So there I was… in the middle of absolutely no where.

 

Well, technically you could say I’m in Bristol Bay or Dillingham, Alaska. My heart (on the other hand) is still on the eastern beach of Whiskeytown Lake soaking up the rays.

*Long Exhale*

The initial magic of being in the last frontier is slowly wearing off but the food in the mess hall is keeping my stomach and spirits happy for the moment.

The weather is a lot like Seattle; it rains randomly with little warning, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for days. I like the rain though, it’s refreshing after living in the droughts of Northern California. The rain has always reminded me of abundance and it reigns true here in AK, as well. The salmon, apparently, like the rain; I’m not sure how they know it’s raining, but they figure it out and start heading up stream to spawn. Which is what we’re still waiting for… the fish. They could show up in nets any day; until then, we clean and wait.

In the mean time we’ve found many ways to pass the time with some amount of entertainment. For instance, if you attempt to laugh without smiling, you will actually end up bellowing harder than you originally planned. Like I said, entertainment. There’s not a lot to do in town but I managed to make my way to the local pub on karaoke night. It was a complete accident but if you know me, you know that I cannot resist a microphone so I made my Dillingham debut. I think there’s a video floating around youtube. I’m sure I’m already a local celebrity because of my trbute to Britney with “HIt me baby, one more time”. Sparks flew and they weren’t from the speakers my friends. Also, (to any Deadliest Catch fans out there) we got to meet the crew of the Cornellia Marie. It was a beautiful boat but it was mostly fun to watch my diehard roommate freaking out. She’s the cutest.

There is definitely a sense of isolation. It almost seems to make people a little stir-crazy. No roads lead to Dillingham but some how people smuggle in the drugs that keep them company. My local friends tell me that the drug, alcohol and physical abuse run rampant in this town of 2,500. What should be picturesque living- away from the hussle and bussle of city lights- has become a small spot on the map full of hopelessness and broken dreams. It’s not impossible to get out, but when you grow up on welfare and entitlement it’s hard to break poverty mindsets. But God has big plans for this little place. I’ve met some friends here that are crazy about Jesus and just as crazy about people. They adopted me the moment I stepped into church. I mean, I was the youngest one of their five other congregants but it was nice to be so welcomed and valued. They’ve given me rides and permissions to use the church’s instruments and space whenever I need it which is a blessing that I could never fully put into words. They call themselves missionaries but I think they’re more revolutionaries in this environment; it’s exciting to watch them at the frontlines of their ministry as it involves work as EMTs.

I’ve been comtemplating some things.

This is the season where I find out what exactly I’m made of. Will I still be faith-full through sleep deprivation and 18 hour shifts? Can I rest in the joy of the Lord when I’m being worked to the bone? Do I have what it takes to make it through the grueling weeks with little-to-no rest? I think so, but mostly I hope so.

My next post should be funnier. These things are time consuming to write, you know.

 

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