January 30, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

I found an article yesterday that said hobbies you loved as a child are most likely the hobbies that will refresh you as an adult. My favorite childhood pursuits were reading (so surprising), music, and asking a million questions, which surprisingly all still ring true today.

Now for the real reason you opened this post, the books:

Here If You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup. This book--mwah! This is a bea-u-tifully written memoir about a woman whose husband dies unexpectedly and how she moves forward, eventually becoming a chaplain to game wardens. While it may seem that game wardens in Maine wouldn't have much need for her, you'll be surprised. Her well-told stories of hunting for lost ones, comforting grieving families and encouraging wardens will captivate you. This book is moving, funny and inspiring. One I would highly recommend.

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod is chalk full of helpful and hilarious tips on moving forward with creativity (not to mention his fun business card art). He has the ability to wryly kick you in the pants while making you laugh. I set this book down, grabbed a pen, and started creating!

Because I'm insatiably curious and still love to ask questions, do you find that your hobbies today are similar to the hobbies you loved as a child?

January 27, 2015

Broken Cage Part 2

I used to think faith was a box with lines and edges, but now I think of it more like the ocean ~ liquid, flowing, changing. It doesn't sit still, it doesn't stay the same. As life pours out good and bad situations, so faith lifts and drops with it. Sometimes bad situations bring huge cresting waves of faith and sometimes they pummel you down to the ocean floor.

I'm not talking about wavering faith, although that certainly happens too. I'm talking about the aliveness of faith, the growing of it.

It's like noticing your child has grown an inch. They're standing eye to eye with you. You didn't see it happen but you noticed their sleeves shortening. Growth happened and you only saw the result.

That's how I see faith. It's not a mountain climb where you're either going upward or falling down. It's more like riding a wave. The wave starts small, builds, crashes and levels out; then it starts again. Faith is in the entire cycle not just the crest. Faith is present in the doubts, the questioning, the hope and despair. It's all of it combined into this thing that keeps pushing forward.

I don't think God is afraid of our questions. We're so afraid of admitting we have them. We pretend they don't exist and sometimes even convince ourselves they aren't there. But they sit in the crevice of our soul, popping up in moments where life spins out of our control. They flash before our eyes and we choose to engage those questions or deny them.

Denying sends us down a road of falsehood. It keeps us locked into cages we don't know we're locked into. We assume we can get out anytime but our denial keeps us there. Only when we embrace our struggle and our questions, do we get free. Then we're able to embrace faith for what it is, not what we want it to be.

Liquid faith terrifies me. I'm more comfortable with boxes. Boxes will always be the same, they are dependable and safe. But they also keep you locked away from beauty.

Liquid, however, is unpredictable. It moves. It's dangerous and fierce, or calm and soothing. There's no controlling the sea. It does whatever it pleases. Sometimes it takes you where you don't want to go; sometimes it lands you in paradise.

When I realized there was a crack in the foundation of my cage, everything began breaking apart. I tried repairing it with band-aids but they couldn't hold the bars together. All the questions I asked as a kid, all the struggles through grief, all the moments of awe-struck wonder ~ they came rushing in, breaking apart my preconceived notions and adding themselves to my faith.

I stood outside the cage basking in new-found freedom and shivering with fear of the unknown.

Personally, the entire turn of my faith began with one question, "Why not women?"

It may sound trite, but in my tiny existence, this one question opened up a world of questions and I began to view things quite differently. My husband said to me once that when one core belief changes, it alters all of your beliefs. I think that's exactly what happened to me. Once I allowed myself to question one thing, others bubbled up and I grew more bold in asking them. I became comfortable not accepting standard answers, but pushing against them to discover truth.

I wrestle with sharing examples from my own faith here because I fear being misunderstood. If I seem vague about the details it's because I am. I worry it'll set my beliefs in stone in the minds of others, when in truth, my faith is still moving. 

I long to be open about my journey because I know others struggle too and I want them to know they're not alone. I want to be willing to stand honestly and vulnerably in my liquid faith.

But I'm scared. I'm not yet strong enough to share it all. I want to be. I hope eventually I will. But these are baby steps and I'm just learning how to not get seasick with this moving faith.

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

January 22, 2015

Dear Log

I've been keeping a logbook (an idea from Austin Kleon's book, Steal Like an Artist) to document my daily activities or little things I want to remember about a day. It's easier than a diary because it's just a few things jotted down in list-style ~ and I love lists, also doodling.

I've not been so great at my Instagram photo challenge, maybe I'll improve as the year goes on, but for now I'm happy to rely on the log to capture these little glimpses into my day.

What is your medium of choice to capture thoughts or moments?

January 15, 2015

Book Love: Fluent Forever

I've been wanting to learn other languages for awhile and honestly when I read the fluent in Fluent Forever, I felt giddy with hope. I've struggled with feeling I just didn't have what it takes to learn languages because I took Spanish earlier in life and it didn't come easily nor did I retain much of it. So, reading this book has been super exciting, to say the least.

He has a grasp of how to learn languages to permeate your mind so that by the end, it's second nature. It's sort of simple in concept, but more habitual when it plays out. He uses a system of cards (physical or electronic) and he suggest learning sounds first so that the words come easier later. That's summing it up too simply...there is SO much in this book.

I'm only beginning to learn Spanish in the way he suggests (and it probably helps we're kindred spirits in the way we learn) but I can already see huge progress in how I'm remembering things. If you have a desire to learn another language, I highly recommend this book!

It makes me want to learn ALL THE LANGUAGES! This may be listed in all my monthly goals this year. :)

Have you wanted to learn more languages? Or have you had success in learning other languages? If so, any tips?

January 12, 2015

Half-fish and a Broken Cage

Dad always said I was half-fish.

Sliding under water always felt to me like sliding into edges of God. I was weightless; I could move with liquid speed and hide in the deep. No one could see my emotions under water. I could sneak a smile or tears; I could search for treasure. The water seemed endless.

I always came out from swimming feeling refreshed and exhausted. I often come out of wrestling with God feeling the same way. I connect with Jacob and his wresting of God. God isn't easy to cage, impossible really, and that unsettles me.

For the first half of my life I drank in what was spoon fed to me about God. I hung onto it like a child grasps their blankie. It felt calming and manageable. I knew what I should and shouldn't do to keep God from getting angry. But I didn't just envision an angry God, my parents were tender with me so I could imagine a tender God albeit a little moody.

One infraction and I might get the silent treatment for awhile before He engaged talking to me again ~ or at least that's how I perceived it. I worked hard at keeping him happy. Ironically, I would've sworn a person isn't saved by their works but by grace; yet I had no belief in it. Keeping the God-mamma happy was my goal.

God couldn't be caged ~ but I walked right into one. 

Oddly I felt at peace with it for a long time. It became a cocoon against the world, a tree-house hidden in the trees. It didn't always make sense but it felt safe and I love safe.

So I plumped pillows and hung posters in my little cage to make it as homey as possible. Then I became determined to get other people into my cage with me, like a clubhouse. If they were in the cage then they were safe too, but outside the cage was a terrifying cavern of darkness. I assumed that if others didn't find their way in, they would be stuck in the wild fighting monsters and tempting God's anger.

I posted club rules on the wall and enforced them on my heart with the weapon of guilt. These rules were sacred. Basic rules like: don't swear, don't wear plunging necklines, don't drink, don't miss church, don't go to bars and don't have sex. I didn't want to mess up these rules. Well, except for the swearing one...

I found how delightful cussing could be during my freshman year of college when my cage was feeling tight and cumbersome. My boyfriend had just broken my heart and I saw him with friends walking on the sidewalk in front of my dorm. In a moment of crazed anger I did something uncharacteristic of me, I spoke out. Not only did I speak, but I yelled. I cussed like bloody hell. I stepped out on the back porch of my evangelical college dorm and let every unsavory word I'd ever held back cross my lips in a throttled pelting like rocks across the lawn.

He and his friends looked up in shock then laughed with surprise and hurried on. It fell on them like one plop on the water, but for me, it sailed across the sea in a record seven skips. Freedom. It washed over me like a six foot wave. I'd said what was in my heart instead of hiding it. This was new. It was against the rules. 

So I picked up the stick of guilt and beat myself silly.

The cage grew cramped but I remained because it was safe. For the first time though, I noticed there were cracks in the bars and rust on the locks. This cage was not going to hold forever and I had an ominous feeling I'd have to face the outside soon. I pushed that thought aside and recommitted myself to the rules, which I interpreted as recommitting myself to God. Blindly I didn't see it was the opposite of grace.

The cage fell apart eventually; as with all good pretenses, it had to come to an end.

I'll tell you more about that in another post.

Read Part 2 here.

January 8, 2015

Photo Project

What I'm learning about my photo project on Instagram:

*It's helping my gratefulness increase. It causes me to stop every day and savor something.

* I apparently like close-ups. That could be an eyesight problem, ha, but it also reveals the way I like to see the world ~ intimate and detailed.

*I'm not sure how to get a focused photo with my phone camera. I'm hoping practice will help me in this.

The point is I'm learning, right? I'm still clumsy about remembering to take a photo every day but I know it'll become a habit soon enough. I also know I'll be grateful at the end of the year for all the ordinary moments I captured (imperfectly or sporadically) because these simple moments fly by so fast. They'll be extraordinary to me soon enough.

What moments have you been savoring this week?

January 1, 2015

New Year Beginnings

I love beginnings: new day, new month, new year, new book, new canvas, new manuscript; it makes me feel full of hope and life. I know it's possible to reset your life at any point but I always feel more inclined to do so on the beginning of something.

Last year, I decided to do a five goals each month throughout the year starting in February (If you'd like to see them, start here) This really helped me spread my goal-making out over the year and not stress so much in January. I didn't know if I'd actually be able to finish a year of it but I'm so happy I did. Setting goals really does help me; I'm the type that loves marking things off a list.

I'm going to continue doing monthly goals during 2015 because I loved it, but I also want to add a few more yearly challenges this time. Since I seem to respond well to a challenge or experiment, I thought a few more couldn't hurt.

Here they are:

1. Write 52 Thank You Notes. I recently read a book on gratefulness that really got me thinking. I want to pay more attention to all I have to be thankful for and the people that contribute to my life. I think this will be a physical activity that will help me be on the lookout for what is happening around me.

2. Read 30 Books. This is a low-ish goal for me since I love reading, but the third challenge is making me nervous so I wanted to keep this one simple and achievable.

3. Take 365 Photos. Piggybacking off of the gratefulness goal, capturing something special about each day will help me stay present and remember to enjoy my life. This challenge is the one I'm most nervous about. I've never done such a big photo experiment but I think it's worth trying. I'll be posting them on twitter (@CatherineDenton) and Instagram (@catherinedentonphotos) as well as here on the blog.

4. Write 1000 words per weekday. The hardest part about writing this many words daily is getting myself in the chair and staying there. Once my fingers start moving over the keyboard, I can usually make myself finish but it's the avoidance beforehand I have to fight. I'm going to add a few routines to help get me in place. I'll start with coffee at my desk and a review the previous day's writing. Possibly I'll add some soundtrack music for background inspiration (if it doesn't end up being distracting).

5. Exercise 20 minutes everyday. I would love to say thirty or forty minutes but I know myself; if I start too high I won't even begin. Twenty minutes seems manageable and less time-consuming. I've been doing much better with movement since getting an under-the-desk exercise pedaler for my birthday. Now each time I sit at my desk, it's there at my feet waiting to be used and I feel like a slouch if I don't use it. How's that for peer-pressuring yourself?

Okay those are my challenges for the year. I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew, but I did try to keep the numbers small-ish. (Can you tell I like to number things?)

Here's wishing you a Happy New Year!!