I stood staring at the edge of the ocean, looking very much my age, perhaps not by what I was wearing, but certainly by how stoically I was standing, as if at 30 I had all of life figured out. I stood and I stared and I listened to the sound of friends’ voices sing into my ear about Jesus through my tiny pair of earbuds that are still clogged with sand. The beauty of having friends who are talented musicians is that you get to take their voices with you where ever you go and take their words personally and intimately, even if they are singing to the masses. Friends in an Ipod, it’s like a therapist in a box.
I am what feels like worlds away from my friends in Portland, and while I am pleased as punch to be exactly where I am, the beauty of Southern California doesn’t replace the beauty of what it means to live in community with people no matter where you are. Portland is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but let’s be honest, it’s not the thrift stores and coffee shops that sit beneath dark skies and rain drops that has kept me there so long… it’s the people. If it weren’t for the community I found there, I would have left shortly after arriving in 2010, as I was planning to do just before stepping into a group of people that changed the course of my next four years where Portland has remained home.
But… for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to live in San Diego for a season of my life. I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain a kid enjoying math, nothing makes less sense to me than that, but to each his or her own, some kids liked math, I liked California.I don’t know where it came from, and I get it, it’s not abnormal to like the idea of California, I just find it interesting that as a kid growing up on the east coast, enjoying the beaches I was raised on, I day-dreamed about California. Maybe I saw a postcard, or watched Free Willy one too many times, which I don’t even think was filmed in California, or I knew it was the birth place of Mickey Mouse and my obsession with Disney almost led me to pursuing a life that would involve getting paid to draw Mickey for the rest of my life (which l later learned was called an animator), but for whatever reason, I wanted to end up in California. While being on my beach in South Carolina, I dreamed of another beach far away, and so goes the story of my life… always dreaming of somewhere else.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, as proven by John Lennon well before I was born. I love being a dreamer, there is so much beauty in it. Even at 30, I imagine worlds that make the dreams of children look like child’s play… literally. If you let it, I think dreaming gets better with age because you have more experience with it. Too many people let their dreams die, they settle for less than because it’s safe or realistic or practical. I think there is a great risk involved in letting your dreams die, mostly because you end up living a mediocre life that you aren’t even aware of and if you aren’t aware of it then you can’t actually pursue living a more abundant life, so you end up thinking your mediocre life is all that life really has to offer and you get by, not really living until you die. That’s sad to me. And scary.
What’s also sad and scary to me is people like me, people who are so good at dreaming that they also never really live, but instead dream their way to grave, boasting that they never let their dreams die but they also never took action and did anything with them. They miss the life that happened in front of them because they were too busy dreaming of what could, would or should have been or be, and life around them gets stale, understandably so since they aren’t invested in it, and so they keep on dreaming, not even necessarily of somewhere better, just somewhere different. Before we pride ourselves on where we are at in life, be it as a dreamer or non-dreamer, I think we should ask ourselves if we are actually living the life we were meant to live.
And so here I am, where I’ve always dreamed about being… the coast of Southern California, and I love it. I’m living here for the summer and I’m not even going to try and down play it and say “it’s not what I thought.” It’s actually more than what I thought. Truly, it is beautiful in every way possible. I’ve cried multiple times from merely driving around, looking out at the coast line of the pacific, cluttered with palm trees and cliffs, so much so that my greatest threat here seems to have nothing to do with crime but everything to do with what I might plow my car into as I seem to look at everything but the road.
Not to mention, God let me in on a little secret kept during my entire childhood up until a short week ago when I moved here. You know Dr. Seuss? Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but for as much of a dreamer as he was, and he was if anyone was… all of his animation, whether he professed it or not (I don’t know his story) is 100% God inspired. Truffula trees and bungalow bushes and every plant or tree you’ve ever seen in a Dr. Seuss book or movie is REAL! My mind has been blown as living in La Jolla, California literally looks as though I am living in a Dr. Seuss book. I walk around laughing, saying “dude, you are so busted,” as if Dr. Seuss were there walking with me, laughing too. I imagine him to respond with something like, “yes, it’s truer than true, I’ve seen all my creations before, but much unlike those who’ve seen them all too, I didn’t keep them locked in my mind behind a trapped door. I took what was real, made it look like a dream, and so I went really living, being who and what I was meant to be. I’m a dreamer and a realist and I’ve combined the best of the two, and so ask yourself, JJ, are you good at being you and doing what you were meant to do?”
“That’s deep, dude,” I say back to the doctor as I brush my hand through an abundance of Kochia Balls. “Did you hear that, man!?” I ask God as I invite Him in on the doctor and I’s conversation. God laughs and says He indeed heard that, “and now that you’ve seen first hand what Seussy did with his time in La Jolla, JJ, what are you going to do with your time here?” God asks. And yes, I imagine God to have a nickname for Dr. Seuss, God doesn’t need the formalities of job titles.
Good question. What am I going to do with my time here? Am I going to leave what I see trapped in my mind or am I going to take action? And I don’t just mean with the scenery because let’s be honest, while I want to write books one day, I don’t think I’m here to replicate Dr. Seuss’s story. And while I love and appreciate what Dr. Seuss did with his time here, I’m here as a part of my own story. As I have met more and more people in the church I am working at for the summer, one of my favorite things they say to me is “God hand picked you to be here.” That melts my heart more than a stick of butter in a high-voltage microwave. Hand picked? And not just by any hand, but the hand of God?
There is great honor and great responsibility that comes with being hand picked by God and if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure what I am supposed to do with it… at least not yet. And though I might not know yet the full purpose in me being here, I don’t doubt for a second that I am supposed to be here, and I have yet to find myself wishing I was somewhere else (well, maybe except the time I found myself lying on the beach next to girls who made Sisqo’s thong song look somewhat conservative… I struggle with insecurity enough to not linger in that situation, and about five minutes into comparing myself to them, which is five minutes too long, I told the enemy to take a hike, and when he didn’t, I did).
Yes, there are challenges here, which I hope to write on more at some point. As I just mentioned, I am surrounded by beauty, and not just in landscape. I feel like I have to walk around with an invisible baseball bat, beating the enemy off as he tries to jump on my back and whisper in my ear that I’m not as pretty, not as small, not as well dressed as those around me. On top of trying to make me feel worse about myself, he has me blame the beautiful women I am surrounded by who “make” me feel this way, judging them in order to feel better about myself. But you can’t fight evil with evil and expect to come out victorious. I can’t fight feeling worthless with judging others. So what do I do?
I shake it out!
Florence and The Machine sang it best, “every demon wants his pound of flesh, but I like to keep some things to myself, I like to keep my issues drawn, it’s always darkest before the dawn, so shake it out, shake it out! And it’s hard to dance with the devil on you back, so shake him off!”
That song has greater meaning to me than anyone will ever know, as I have literally and physically experienced the devil being shaken off my back, as well as any of his punk-ass sidekicks being shaken out of my body, and all in the name of Jesus. And so I’ve come too far to get caught up in the comparison battle, only to re-start living a lie of life that says I need to look a certain way in order to really live. I am surrounded by beauty and I am surrounded by lies and I have a choice to make not only about what I am going to look at, but how I am going to look at it. I tried closing my eyes so as not to compare myself to all the women, but that lasted about three steps before I realized I would have to walk around blind all summer. Avoiding comparison is going to have to be a matter of the heart and a transformation from within if I don’t want to miss the beauty of God’s creation and every Dr. Seuss plant along the way. And so as I open my eyes and look at my surroundings, I remind myself that I have been set free and I shake out the lies, even if that looks like literally shaking my arms out, or spontaneously dancing just be sure the devil is not on my back.
And perhaps this is my spade to reveal, the truth I must tell, that even as a leader to young women, I still struggle with believing the message I want to send them. But, my struggle with the message does not determine it’s validity and I refuse to give up believing the truth that I am perfectly crafted in the image of God just because I walk in a world where the enemy lurks and tries to tell me otherwise. I am not my struggle, I am not my thoughts, I am not a product of the enemies lies, I am a daughter of God who is prone to wander from what’s beautiful and settle for a cheaper version of beauty. And fortunately, my God of a father snatches me up time and time again, no matter how many times it takes to say, “no way, girl, I have so much more for you.”
And so I’m here for now, still in the early stages of what will be an entire summer of being able to love on girls in high school, who are also trying to figure out what they will do with their time here, both in La Jolla and in life. I miss my community back in Portland, but I have their words with me, tucked into my heart, my emails and text messages and even my Ipod.
As I listened to my friend, Liz and my pastor, Josh sing into my ear at the ocean’s edge yesterday, I was comforted in a way that not even the edge of the ocean or the limbs of a good tree can comfort me. It was the words of Jesus coming from voices I know well that reminded of who I was. Being on the ocean restores my sanity and being high in a tree calms my racing mind, but the the love of Jesus coming from the voice of a friend does something for my soul that not even God’s creation can do, simply because God’s creation is not God Himself. And so I can be anywhere and be at peace with who I am, if I am at peace with Him. But, let it be said, I am OH-SO-THANKFUL that I am where I am… it is icing to the cake. God is the cake, takes the cake, ices the cake, and let’s them eat cake because cake is all you need when it’s made by the hand of God. Seconds? Yes, please.
I hope to continue to dream a lot while I am here, but even more so I hope to do something with what I dream. To whom much is given, much is expected and I have been given a lot by being here… my prayer is that I do well by and do much with this gift. If any of the high schoolers are reading this, I have one thing to say… I am here for you. And if that is the only reason God has brought me to La Jolla this summer, then that is absolutely 100% worth it.
I’m here because I believe in you becoming who you were meant to be, in part because as a child of God, you already are! Dr. Seuss may have said it, but he was really just repeating the words of Jesus, and I find it to be an important thing to say especially during this time as graduation is upon us…
“Kid, you’ll move mountains!” It only takes the littlest bit a faith and the biggest piece of cake!
Summer 2014, here we go…
Shaking it out and taking the cake so I can take in the beauty of the place Dr. Seuss called home, my home for now… La Jolla, California.