Fighting Bitterness Rain or Shine

Have you actually ever heard San Diego referred to without the Sunny prefix? It’s like Mr. or Mrs. or ‘The’ United States. Sunny San Diego. Sunny is part of the city’s God-given birth name. It’s on the city’s birth certificate. So with every rainy, gloomy, icy, snowy, or generally windy, miserable cold winter day in Nashville the past three months, I focused on Sunny San Diego. Like a mantra, a mecca, a messiah come to save ashy white girl from winter. Sunny freaking San Diego.

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Here's What I Really Want to Tell You:

I am ok. The thing about failing at something- in this case- a CD that has (so far) gotten very little radio play and even fewer purchases- is this:

Everyone fails.

Failure is inevitable.

And also- I don't care what the numbers say or the charts read. Sure, there are nights when I cry and curse and pout and decide I will quit. But those voices- those numbers and charts don't define the value of what I have created. I wrote ten songs. Me! A girl who had no idea she could write ten songs, let alone write songs that tell the story of my journey and the human experience as we wait out the unknown deserts of life. It may not rank high on the charts or be a best-seller; but it is honest and true to the places God has led me. He. The Good Shepherd.

And telling the story of how the Shepherd has led me was never meant to be monetized in the first place- was it?

So many uncomfortable thoughts and questions.

And the truth is, our culture is simply not good at uncomfortable waiting and uncomfortable questions.


A few months ago I came downstairs and found Ryan watching another one of his never-ending endless Netflix documentaries. The amount of documentaries these days seems ridiculous. Documentaries on bikes and motorcycles and wheelchairs and farms and guns and medicine and food and internet dating and vagabonds. It's endless. This time, he was watching a documentary with little talking, mostly in sub-titles, and all about Sushi. Seriously? A documentary on Sushi making?

I totally judged him and the entire film-making community in one fatal swoop.

And then- I heard the man on the film say something that stopped me in my tracks. Literally, I was in the kitchen working and came into the living room and said, "re-wind that."

The movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, draws me in. Not because of the amazing culinary genius or the exquisite food created by the 3 star Michelin rated chef- but because it paints the story of a man who has devoted everything to perfecting the art of his craft. His son, who has apprenticed under his father, tells about the years of practice and learning that happens before a single egg is allowed to be cracked in Jiro's kitchen. The years he spent watching and training under his dad before he was allowed to create his own batch of rice. Years before he was allowed to make rice?  That's the part I made Ryan re-wind.

I've been making rice- mostly crunchy- since the 5th grade.

Did he really say it was ten years before he was allowed to make rice?

The ridiculous amount of time Jiro has lavished on this one thing stopped me dead in my tracks and I wept through most of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

“JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is about a spiritual journey towards perfection. But it is not about achieving perfection. It is about the act of striving for it. The film is breathtaking, inspirational and most of all humbling. ”- Eric Ripert, Chef/Co-Owner Le Bernardin.

This is an entire film dedicated to patience. An entire film about someone who went TEN YEARS before he was allowed to cook his first batch of rice.

Do you know anyone- honestly- who has apprenticed at anything for ten years before attempting it? Much less making a bowl of rice?

This movie is shocking because watching it, you become aware of your aversion to patience. Your aversion to waiting.

Waiting is uncomfortable.

It is uncomfortable for the person who is having to wait and it is uncomfortable for the on-looker.

It's like watching the Olympic athletes preparing to flip off of the high-dive. It is excruciating. Your heart beats faster than there's. You hold your breath. Unable to move.  Slightly frozen by the fear of the height and the audacity of the jump. The anxiety for the onlooker is paralyzing. JUMP ALREADY. JUST GET IT OVER WITH. JUUUMMMPPP.

Make yourself a freaking bowl of rice!!! DO IT.

The athlete's ability to wait in the middle of the tension and only jump when they are good and ready is heart-attack inducing for those of us just wanting to hurry up and get them off the high-dive before they slip and fall and lose control and get hurt.

Our aversion to patience- our propensity to hurry along the person who is waiting, preparing- speaks deeply to the state of our souls. We just want it to be fixed for them. We want to end their suffering and wrap up those tense moments of untold waiting with a pretty bow.

We are a people averse to waiting. We like short-cuts and quick answers. Happy endings that don't have to be fought for. That don't require mountains to climb and valleys to languish in before getting to the finish line. Watching someone else wait- is like watching a slug die. Brutal. Tie that in with little glimmers of failure as the person waits out the desert?

We cannot bear to watch someone walk through it.


So to boldly tell the world you are stuck. Waiting. A semi-failure at your current gig. Unsure of what comes next. Wrestling with what comes next and why the dreams aren't panning out is hard. Because hand in hand with that message is this:

I am ok with the waiting.

I am thriving in the desert.

While those who love me want me to jump already (for my own safety, of course)

I am ok standing tippy-toed on the edge of the diving board.

Do I want to jump?

Absolutely. I cannot wait to jump.

But until then- my eyes are focused. Locked in. My feet gripped firmly. Freely. My spirit is being prepared. My soul renewed. I am becoming brave. I am becoming centered. I am becoming purposeful. I am becoming prepared.

I am becoming.

And there is no other place that I want to be.

I am ok with this season of waiting.

And you can be too.



Wrestling with Sadness: A Dance with 'Letters to a Young Poet'

Are you sad? Living in a season of sadness and melancholy?

Embrace it. Let it settle deep within you. Do not run from it, tempting as it may be. Invite it to stay a while as your guest.

Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent. Rilke, pg 64 

I was a cheerleader in junior high and high school. Mostly the same girls on the squad my whole life. There was one girl on the squad who just didn't like me. And whether she intentionally meant to or not, I will never know, but she did an unspeakable number of cruel things to me.

I remember inviting girls to come over to my house or to go to the movies after games (the mean girl included) and all of them would akwardly say that they were sorry, they already had plans. And then I remember what it felt like to hear her talking loudly, minutes later with her back to me, about how the girls were actually going over to hang out at her house and how much fun they were going to have. In front of me.

They all had plans because they were all going to her house and I was the only one not invited. And she made sure I knew that time and again. Countless Friday nights I would go home in tears, my dad saying "I'm so sorry sweetheart. Don't let her ruin your night. We're going to have a great night. Want to go to CiCi's Pizza?"

And while I love my dad and the precious offer, that just made it worse. I felt like the most lame person alive.

They were tiny moments. But there were lots of them. Enough to make me feel stupid and lonely. And even though I had amazing friends from church- and a social life through my youth group- I felt so alienated and excluded from the girls that I spent the most time with. I can't count how many Friday night games I left, holding back tears, feeling alone, embarrassed and unwanted.

But, please, consider whether these great sadnesses have not rather gone right through the center of yourself? Whether much in you has not altered, whether you have not somewhere, at some point of your being, undergone a change while you were sad? Rilke, pg 63

It caught up with me my senior year and I fell into a deep season of sadness.

I could not 'see further' and 'endure my sadness with greater confidence than my joy'. I could not see past the hurt- into college or into a career or into a time where I would not feel alone.

But more than that, I could not see that during the season of sadness, during those Friday nights of loneliness, something new was being introduced into my soul and ushered into my life. I did not know I was undergoing a change while I was sad. But I was.

During those nights I learned empathy and compassion. During those nights I learned to read scripture in my bedroom closet. During those nights I learned to sing harmony. And I sang for hours. During those nights I learned that kindness matters. People matter. During those nights I came to know the Holy Spirit as one of my most constant companions. During those nights I became an artist. A lover. A preacher. A thinker. An activist. A champion of the underdog.

I just did not know it.

I did not 'count it pure joy'  to be excluded; the constant target of a mean girl. Back then, I was angry and sad and embarrassed. I wish I could have seen during that season, during that stillness, that something new had entered my soul and taken up residency. But I did not have eyes to see.

And maybe you, in your sadness, do not have eyes to see yet either.

And this is why it is important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from outside. The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it happens (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. Rilke, pg 65

Years later, I signed a record deal and threw a party. I dreamed up songs and recorded them. I got on stage in front of thousands of teenagers and reminded them of God's love for them. Of their unique being and their importance in this world. I hugged and prayed with more broken people those first few years than I would have ever dreamed.

And I remember so clearly the moment in the midst of all of that, that I realized, where I was and what I was doing had entered into me a long time before that actual moment.

Infact, it came to me in the silence of my sadness. Feeling alone, excluded, angry and sorry for myself. The new had gone into me back then. While I kicked and screamed and fought against being alone; God was actually growing new things inside of me. The idea of settling into and welcoming a season of sadness was the last thing on my mind as a wounded 17 year old girl. And yet it was there, on those lonely Friday nights, that my future was born.

And years later, when it 'stepped forth out of me and onto others' I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that for me, I was exactly where I was because once there was a season of sadness that grew new, beautiful and mysterious things inside my soul. 

I only wish I would've known back then. Perhaps I would have shed less tears and found joy in the in-between place. Perhaps I would have done what the poet so beautifully tells the young man he is trying to counsel in this series of letters to do: 'be lonely and attentive when one is sad.'

I hate feeling lonely. I despise seasons of sadness for the immediate pain, shame and vitriol they seem to conjure up in me. But I am so, so grateful that I have endured them. I believe it has been in these seasons that God has prepared my heart and equipped me with every beautiful and good thing that has, at some point in the future, come to life.

And while it is hard to say whether Rainer Maria Rilke would ascribe anything to God, much less God's very existence, it is easy to say that he understood the depths we must travel, the depths that Jesus himself traveled (Think 40 days of isolation in the wilderness or the feeling of loneliness as Jesus asked God to take away the cup of suffering while his friends kept watch. Only they didn't keep watch, they fell asleep.)

... to arrive at that still place of sadness where something new comes to life.

So you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Rilke, pg 69-70

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43: 19




*sadness: A season of sadness and a battle with a clinical diagnosis of depression are quite different. As a girl who has long struggled with mental illness (OCD/ADHD) and believes in proper therapy and medicine, I would never want my words to discourage someone from seeking the help they might need. Depression is real- and it steals from the fullness of life God created you to live in. For more information about the difference between a season of sadness and clinical depression, visit a trusted site like Dr. Les Carter's.

All quotes taken from: Rilke, Ranier Maria. Letters to a Young Poet: Revised Edition. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1954.