I often have these moments of fleeting revelation. One moment, I am sitting behind my screen, staring off into the depths of some digital reality. The next moment, I am non-dramatically hit with the desire to write down some simple thought that's crept into the spotlight of my consciousness. I was, like I often do, yearning after some imaginary future not but a few minutes (which will soon pass into hours, days, years...) ago. I thought to myself; "Now, why can't I just have that?" Because it belonged to somebody else, I suppose you could call this coveting. (I never really got the coveting thing until recently, so the concept fascinates me) So here I am coveting; in this case it was an alternate reality. Most of the time it's something petty and tangible, like some gadget off of one of those gadgety websites. No, this time it was an alternative to the life that I have been so blessed with; a hip, deep, artsy life. Full of character, completely multi-faceted, cute, intellectual, dynamic, full of hip cool people who cared about what I had to say about the world. Cared about what I did when I woke up, what I ate for breakfast (at least once and a while, when it's something interesting -- like, say, bananas in orange juice).
A humble preface...
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I am listening to "Amazing Grace" as performed by one of my favorite indie artists, Cat Power. I'm sitting here, listening to slacker radio on my blackberry. The sun is shining, the desk is awkwardly large, and the monitor is widescreen. I'm visiting a friend of mine in Madison (I hate Madison, but love my friend) and she's taking a shower. My hair is kinda frizzy. My face feels like it is burning from my face wash (probably not a good sign). Welcome to my vacation.
You taught me dignity. Amazing grace. These lines bring me back to earlier this week when I was really feeling God's grace. I know that it is often taught that we ought not to rely on those spiritual feelings, because they're not gauranteed. I'm still not sure what I think about this. I think that maybe those feelings are constant, and it's only that we are very skilled at fooling ourselves into believing that we deserve them. That we've earned them, or that they're not really there. I think they are a gift from God, like grace, wisdom, peace, and gratitude. I think we very often put ourselves in a position where we are beyond reach. Maybe not literally beyond reach, but actively unwilling to recieve. I think we distract ourselves, or we begin to make assumptions and form expectations about what we are supposed to be getting from God, instead of being observant and grateful for what we recieve.
So, while I feel really blessed to have gratitude, peace, and joy today... I also feel really convicted. I watched myself undo a lot of what God had built up for me this weekend by my lack of discipline. I think my biggest flaw is not thinking. If I can act without thinking about what I am doing, or imagining the concequences, or paying attention to the details -- then I can do the things that I ought not to be doing and reap the so-called rewards. So I spent a lot of money on crap. This has been a pattern for me. Clothes, accessories, gadgets, supplies that are a little more swank than I need them to be. I am really falling into bad shopping habits. The worst thing is that I find myself comparing my spending to other women my age, and feel like it's not so bad. I don't put much of anything on my credit card, I don't buy totally useless stuff, or designer labels, or whatever -- but I do buy things that I do not need. I also buy things that I don't often use. I also spend money on things that are poorly researched, and end up not working for me. I waste a lot of what I earn. I also spend my money on things that are not for me. I "gift" a whole lot to the library instead of paying of my debt.
So here's what I ought to do, I think, as a responsible Christian woman. I need to make some rules for myself. The rules need not be overly restrictive, but they do need to further one particular goal: to honor God, and be responsible with the gifts he's given me. If you any ideas, please share! Here's what I'm thinking:
1. Do not go into stores. Unless...
2. Always have a list. A specific list. List must include each item, and it's requirements.
3. Always have two spending limits. One per item, and one for the total.
4. Never spend more than $100 in any one day. Except...
5. On purchases or bills worth $100 or more, they must be well researched. Thought about for a week or more, and a pros/cons list made. Once they are researched and thought about, a special savings must be put aside. Money must be saved until there is enough for the purchase and the tax. Shipping, loading, installation, etc must be included. No other big purchases made this month.
6. If it is a: book, cd, piece of furniture, or jewelry -- try to get it used first.
7. If it is a: piece of clothing, technical gadget or upgrade, shoe, accessory -- get it on sale only.
8. Look for regurbished things.
9. Get coupons.
10. Go without often.
Posted by Leslie Peterson at 2:06 PM
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have no idea how artists can regularly blog about their work AND make art during the same week. I think it's a lack of discipline on my part, but after I have an especially hard/tiring day, the last thing that might occur to me is to write about it. Not good. My blogging experience will be much less interesting because of this fatal flaw.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Life is changing, as always... but you know it's something big when I write more than once in a matter of a few days. I suppose a lot of monumental changes have happened for me within the last year. A politician was elected that will change the shape of our nation forever, maybe for the good, maybe for the bad. I was in, and out, and in again, and out again of a fairly serious relationship. I am nearing the seven month mark of seeing a wonderful therapist, taking my church shopping more seriously, and building relationships with other Christian families in my neighborhood. I am nearing the completion of my undergraduate degree, and I am going on one year as a psudo-Children's librarian and loving (mostly) every minute of it. God is good. Life is good.
I've started dating again, almost immediately after my last breakup even. This weirds me out a little, only because it's not really protocol. The person I was dating only a month ago I hadn't seen in a year, and there were significant challenges when it came to connecting on a romantic or intimate level. It was a very strong friendship where we both held eachother captive in a way, so that no one else could cut in on our hang out time. I think for me, it felt secure, and it kept me from facing my dating demons. But that will not do, will it? I can not be a free-thinking, growth oriented, self-appreciating, gracious, and loving woman if I keep my demons in the closet. I cannot be whomever God might intend me to be if I don't relinquish the control I claim over my own destiny. Do I want God's intended destiny, or do I want to make my own? Considering that without God, and even with him sometimes, I am a cranky, scared, over emotional, critical, angry, and reactionary person... I'd say it's God's destiny for me that I'm more interested in.
So here I am... at a cross roads. Soon to be my own woman, with my own house and my own job, making big choices. Do I become a librarian like the Director at my library would like me to become? I get school paid for, I get a almost for-sure job for the rest of my life, with great benefits and a decent salary... and I actually kind of love the work? Or do I give it all up, struggle my way through a doctorate in theology and become a theologian, a teacher of religion, a community minister (not of a church, but one of those behind the scenes people), a writer, an artist, a whatever-God-needs-me-to-be now? Or is there some other option I don't see clearly?
And as for a husband... this thought makes me tremble. I have had such a distorted experience of love and sex for so long, I am no longer confident I am even capable of really falling in love and dedicating myself to the right person for me. I am now much less afraid to go look for that persons. I am now much more sure of my standards. But can I love them if they don't "need" me? Can I love them if they don't define my self worth? Can I love them without the overwhelming lust and feelings of infatuation that come from the feeling of being "wanted so badly" the desperate, the broken, and the fearful man? This is not quality writing, and I am sorry for that. This is also not a comfortable topic. I don't like to really write about these things, because when I come back to them later I often feel like what I had written was foolish or desperate or silly. I feel some measure of shame admitting that I want to be married and have a husband, and that I am, in fact, looking for him right now. But why? Isn't it a beautiful thing to have a family? Isn't the union between a man and a woman a sacred thing? Something that is in the "stars" for most of us?
I feel ashamed because I was one of those girls who said "I won't get married just to be WITH someone." Yet the people I dated were sub-par -- they were just someones I was with. Most were not Christian, and if they were, their spirituality certainly did not play any kind of leading role in their life or how they defined themselves. Most of them had interests that didn't intersect with mine, different levels of ambition, they were not as kind or as compassionate as the sort of man I know I need. Each relationship was different, but they all had this in common: They were just guys who liked me -- and for the most part, that is why I liked them. Save a couple choice relationships, like the last one. There was a lot of common ground there, but our lives were moving in very different directions. It was clear they would never intersect. The problem with this relationship is that it had been clear to me for some time, and I chose to ignore that fact and "hope." He did too. Looking back, and forward; It wasn't really "right" from the get go.
A person can be the perfect husband, or the perfect boyfriend, or the perfect partner... but still not be right for you. That's the case here. A man with integrity and potential and a lot to offer, but not what I needed, and now I am discovering, not what I wanted either. To define what you want in a partner is difficult. I wonder how people who don't date much do it. Maybe it is knowledge that comes from growing up in a secure home. Maybe nobody ever really knows. Maybe that is why dating is important, or maybe matchmaking is the key. Anyway, I do know now what I want, and what I need... at least to a degree, and at least the top three.
A spiritual, boderline mystical, absolutely personal relationship with God. Complete with utter devotion and understanding on a level beyond canned theology and biblical interpretations. Personal experience.
An intelligence that includes the ability to comprehend, analyze, create, find humor, and know truth. An intelligence that forms the foundation of a solid sense of humor. An intelligence that works toward self preservation and advancement, that can converse freely and openly, that is unique but not distorted.
A heart that is compassionate, romantic, inspiriting, enthusiastic and genuinely sincere and loving. Someone who is devoted to all things good, who is sensitive to other's dignity, well being, and spirit. Someone who wants to listen and help, but who knows the difference between helping and fixing. Someone who can offer tough love, who can stand up for justice and truth in the name of what is good and pure.
And that is what has been on my mind lately, beyond silly things like children's songs and hamsters.
EDIT: I should note that the latter option for a career is one that I would not only enjoy, but would fill me with joy in such a profound way it is hard for me to describe here. There is nothing that I love more than talking about God, hearing about God, and talking about the experience of being human; part physical, part spiritual being. I love to hear what other people are doing, what challenges they face, what choices they make, what darkness they've walked through, and what light and beauty they've seen. :)
Sunday, July 5, 2009
It's another lovely Sunday. It's months away from the post wherein I committed to a daily Sunday post. Failure. It would be good for me to write regularly. It would be good for me to do many things that I do not do regularly, but should. I think this is the most depressing thing in my life (to start on a blue note) -- all the things that one should do regularly that I do not. A quick list:
1.) Read my bible
3.) Send out letters to my friends
4.) Tell myself I am just who God made me to be, and should be grateful.
5.) My laundry
6.) Cook for myself
7.) Take my own lunch to work
9.) Meditate / Go to church
10.) Work out
That's my top ten for today. My major excuse is that I am living at home until school is done, and that I am a pretty busy person. However, today, I actually managed a little bit of number 9. The sermon was on fruits of the spirit, in particular, joy. I am not entirely sure I agree with the pastor's interpretation of the passages read, but it WAS a new perspective. Joy comes from God, but we can do particular things to encourage an environment conducive to a joyful spirit. We can stay away from sensual and social sins, we can read our bibles, tithe, and fellowship. I agree that there are a great many things that are straight up killjoys by their very nature, and that living in any kind of sin is going to create a obstacles for any sense of positive environment.
Laziness, malice, and fear really stand out to me as barriers to my own experience of joy -- but I have to say that lately I have been very joyful, and grateful, and loved. God is at work in my heart, in my home, at work, and even in my car. Lately, just remembering Calvary has been enough to bring me peace. In a devotional I read earlier last month written by Oswald Chambers, he says basically that it isn't our service or our good works that should be our central focus as Christians. It should be an hourly reminder that we were made clean and pure by our Savior's death on the cross. The pinnacle of everything we live for, the "this was made possible by..." advertisement that should come before every significant and insignificant moment in our lives, is Jesus. Simply Jesus. Hallelujah, am I right? Lord, it is so easy to forget! It is SO easy to get caught up in discipline, fellowship, and obedience... when those things come as a result of your divine intervention and providence. So easy to confuse creating an environment conducive to Joy for the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father, and the sacrifice of the Son. And that's all it takes to get me teary eyed, and feeling really great to be alive.
Life is sad, it is painful, sometimes it's even excruciating. Some days, like today, you can spend time with sweet people, do everything right, get a lot of things done, and still wake up sad from your nap for seemingly no reason. But then, you take a little time to remember Jesus, and it's all good. Really.
I pray that there'll never be a day where remembering Jesus' sacrifice is less than awesome and transformational for me. That, my friends, is where all the power of goodness and love is. The end. :)
Monday, February 2, 2009
In a discussion amongst peers on Sunday we tackled the questions of life, and asked ourselves when it was most meaningful, and when it was least. I have had several moments when life was seemingly meaningless, but judging from the energy I've spent on trying to turn those moments around, and trying to figure out the various "whys" and "hows," I cannot say that life was truly meaningless, or even that it felt that way. "Darkness" has always been the word I've used.
But all that brings us not a bit closer to the point, which is that there were times that I felt like like was so precious, if it could be counted on to stay that way forever, I would genuinely want to live forever. I told my peers about a time when an artist friend of mine came up from his big city to Milwaukee, my "big" city. We went to the art museum, and spent a lot of time talking about what we loved or hated, where our art was, what we thought of people in our lives, and the future. We had lunch, and we talked about our fears and the creative process. Lunch was at Alterra by the Lake, which means we had some awesome sandwiches. Then we got in the car and drove up north to a holy site, a monestary, the Basilica of Holy Hill.
The rolling hills, caused by glacier movement during the ice-age, are absolutely stunning. It was a cool summer day, an explosion of green everywhere. Beautiful skies, the sun was bright and mellow. We passed forests, marshes, streams, ponds, and lakes. The drive itself was just invigorating and breathtaking. Holy hill was a sight too. It was under construction, but still there was something so majestic about it. (Whenever I am in places like this, I am immediately convinced I want to be a nun. In fact, after coming home I did a whole lot of research on monastic life and even found a protestant monastery nearby to visit, which I have yet to do.) I am not catholic, but the place still moved me. There was something about this trip that was both deeply spiritual, and also deeply personal for me.
Until the discussion during class and some of the efforts I've made to analyze and understand my thinking and my identity, I would never have known why this was such a tremendous experience for me. First and foremost, it was one of the first times in my life that I made choices to spend the day with someone I wanted to know better, doing things that I by nature love to do. It wasn't a compromise, and it wasn't about simple entertainment. It was real living at its finest, and my ability to articulate what I wanted out of life at this moment in time was beyond my level of understanding (this is something I have had trouble with -- embracing what I desire). The second thing is that the entire journey was just full of beauty. A beautiful companion, a beautiful day, art, strangers, the lake, great food, green trees, nature, a holy monastery, rolling hills... And I am a real sucker for beauty. In fact, I have realized and fully embraced this small fact: that I am sensitive. Super-sensitive in fact, and to beauty in a way that is beyond compare. It's as if I encounter God when I see beautiful things. The amount of pure joy, serenity, peace, and excitement I feel is overwhelming, and its effects last for quite a long time after the initial experience.
So here I am, knowing who I am and what I like, and how I experience the world. Today, I decided I wanted a bit of beauty, so I drove out to Holy Hill again. This time I didn't drive up to the monestary, but explored the little towns surrounding that general area. Got out of the car and took a few pictures, but most of all, I enjoyed the rolling hills and driving through the countryside looking for things I hadn't noticed before. Paying special attention to ice-fishermen on lakes, glittering fields of snow, big red barns, crackley spiney trees, undulating landscapes, old run down buildings that had to be at least 100 years old. Towering, alien looking windmills in the far off distance. It was serene and exciting.
Then I came home and took a nap. So, here's to beauty, and here's to taking charge and going out to experience it spontaneously. Good for me. :)
Posted by Leslie Peterson at 2:38 PM
Sunday, January 18, 2009
For 2009, my hope is to move in a new direction. My goal is to stay on topic and post something weekly. What's a blog without readers? What's a blogger without a bit of discipline and commitment? So there it is. I am going to attempt to add something every Sunday. This seems reasonable. Sunday is more or less my day of rest, a day of reflection. Generally the only day where I avoid making commitments to anything other than rest.
My hope is that it will also be a day devoted to worship and learning as well. I have been searching for a church for a long time now, always with the feeling that I am missing something vital. Services are either a little silly, a little watered down, a little off, something. Not everything in life needs to be a challenge, but I think that Church needs to be that in a way for me, and if not a direct challenge, at least something that sharpens me spiritually. It also needs to be a safe place. Someplace where I can go to confess, someplace where I can go to worship, where I can go to learn about the Lord and to be myself.
The social pressures in some of the protestant churches are insane. I always end up feeling like your outside image is more important than what's going on inside. Some services, teachings, or behaviors even contradict scriptures or the little church tradition that I have some understanding of. As an artist, I find myself noticing all sorts of patterns. For instance, a lot of the more contemporary community or non-denominational churches prefer worship songs with really simple songs of praise, visiting Starbucks before and after church, and wearing Tiva/Keene sandal shoes all the time. There's really distinct vocab, and the trend to be "cool." There is a lot of mimicking of popular culture. A lot of pastors turned popular authors, a lot of fun group style ministries.
I can't say that I really understand it all. I can't say that it makes sense to me spiritually, religiously, or theologically. The bottom line is that I am little more than a student or a follower at best, and I am just NOT feeling the leadership of some of the protestant "brands" of Christianity. I don't even know why fully.
So I've been doing a lot of research lately on Orthodoxy. Today alone I wrote three different Orthodox priests. I am not really sure what they are called yet. "Fr." is abbreviated before their name, and in my reading I've found so many new terms and titles that it is overwhelming. In terms of history, tradition, and theology though, what I have read is very compelling. I am hoping that I gain some confidence to visit a local Church after my letters and questions are answered. I will certainly share my impressions with you as I learn more about this Orthodoxy, and my self in the process. I will also attempt to include more pictures of things in the future, and more on my art. Cheers!
Posted by Leslie Peterson at 8:24 PM