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Pushing and pulling

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

This morning here at work, there are four repairmen walking in and out of the lobby – in and out, in and out – carrying ladders, tool kits, wire, and generally, looking confused. I have no idea what they’re doing – but they keep climbing ladders and removing the ceiling tiles and disappearing from the waist up into the space above, yelling back down to their comrades on the ground. They were here yesterday, too.

The glass doors in the lobby swing one way. Since they have probably used these doors 80 times in the last hour, one would think that they would know which side to push on, and which side to pull. But they don’t. Every single time that they walk up to the door, they do the wrong thing: push when they should pull, or pull when they should push. And a few minutes ago, one of the men ran straight into the door.

Who could blame him? Glass doors: now you don’t see them, now you don’t.

I feel agitated. These men have invaded my domain, my private sanctuary, and are disrupting my peace and quiet (and, let’s be honest: nail painting) with their… clanking. Hammering. Shuffling. And whenever they pull when they should push, or push when they should pull, I fight the urge to roll my eyes and yell, “IT’S NOT THAT HARD.”

Why do we make the same mistakes over and over again? We know better. We’ve been there before. We’ve experienced the consequences. And yet, we still mess up. We struggle with the same thing we struggled with yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. We fail to choose the right path – we forget the fallout.

Sometimes, I start to think that my struggles are hopeless – that I will never rise above, that things will never change. I push when I should pull, and pull when I should push. I know the right answer – I know the TRUTH – but I allow myself to be distracted just enough to trip. To throw my weight in the wrong direction. To run smack into the wall.

To change our behavior and our way of thinking, it takes awareness. Vigilance. Dedication. Attention.

There are many areas of my life that I could apply this to. But this morning, I am coming back to the same issue that I have struggled with year-in and year-out: the relentless issue of “beauty.” I believe lies. I buy into the world. I trust the media, and the voices in my head. And since such a large percentage of the female population feels the same way, there is no escaping it. Will it ever change?

Yesterday, my beautiful friend Emily posed the questions:

Am I willing to be the odd-woman-out and love the shell that God has given me to inhabit while on this earth? Am I willing to talk nicely to myself, in private and in public? Am I willing to ruthlessly edit the messages that I receive through media – cancel magazine subscriptions and delete shows from my DVR, if that is what it takes? Am I willing to let others compliment me and receive those kind words as truth? Am I willing to train my thoughts to dwell on the positive and stop comparing, stop chastising, stop chasing?

THIS is what it looks like. This is awareness. Vigilance. Dedication. Attention. And I want to be willing.

Push and pull, push and pull. Maybe one day I’ll get it right.

Friends old and new

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

My friend Matt is in his second year at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and the other day, he emailed me saying, “I miss Seattle more and more. Yet, sadly, it’s becoming more of a memory than an old reality.” What an unfortunate truth – and one that has been sneaking into my own way of thinking in recent days. Seattle will always, always be home. But all of a sudden, it feels further away. I hear about the things that my friends are doing, and the new people that they have met, and I see pictures of them having fun in my favorite places, and it all just feels so… far.

I know that my friends will always be my friends. But space changes things. Distance changes things. Time pulls certain people and circumstances away, away, away, like taffy – and the longer we try to hold on, the more stretched we become.

But when we learn to let go – when we choose to let go – we find other hands to hold. They are not replacements. They are not the same. But they are wonderful and beautiful in their own unique ways – ways that no one else could be – and they are walking a parallel path to mine in this new chapter. I have found some of these people, and I am so grateful. And as my friend Emily mused about her own life in a recent email, “I don’t want to miss this good season because of selfishness or envy.” Me neither.

My friend Joel wrote to me, “I think that if you take steps, at every opportunity, towards your dreams, you generally find that somewhere along the way, you’re actually living the dream.” All of the little steps that I have taken since leaving Seattle have led me to where I am now – 10 months into a new life in Nashville, new relationships, a new perspective. I am not the same girl that I was when I arrived – this time has changed me. I have seen sides of myself that I never knew existed – and some that I would never care to see again. I have doubted and despaired, and I have lived and laughed. Many, many times, I have cried – and I know that I will cry again.

But today – beautiful today – the tears are nowhere to be seen. And today, I feel like I am living the dream. So take it from me. If you are thinking of making a life change or taking the plunge or chasing a dream, do it. It’s never easy. But it’s always worth it.

And my new friends are making this whole thing so much more fun.

K is for Kaleidoscope

Monday, October 6th, 2008

We come into this world vessels of beauty, pre-packed with purpose and potential. We are full of hope, full of possibility. But eventually, the various shapes and colors inside of us begin to shake around like a jigsaw puzzle, rattling our brains, and we long to make sense of the chaos. So we begin to unpack the contents of our hearts.

A green triangle. A red square. A yellow diamond.

We spread them out on the kitchen table, and attempt to arrange a mosaic that makes sense – pairing pieces together, turning them this way and that, feeling frustration at the bits that just don’t seem to fit. We focus on individual colors, scrutinizing and criticizing them for being purple, for being orange – for being exactly what they were meant to be. We want the shapes to combine and form a flower, a mountain, a rainbow – but no matter how hard we try, we cannot arrange them into something lovely. Our attempts yield us with nothing but a dull and flat sprawl of plastic chips and pebbles. And so we hang our heads.

We are disappointed and disheartened. Our high hopes have crashed. We believe that we will never achieve anything worth noticing. We have tried, but cannot come up with a lovely or worthwhile picture.

So we scoop up the pieces, and pour them back into the can.

But sometimes, our resignation is the opportunity for someone else to get a hold of us. Someone who made all of the colors, and the vessel that holds them. Someone who knows that the value is not in the doing, but in the simplicity of being. Someone who understood that life would be ever-shifting, but, wonder of wonders, designed us for beauty even when turned upside down – tumbling masterpieces.

All I must do is hold my face to the light, and turn.

True transformation

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

When people ask me what it was that brought me to Nashville – how I got here – the story sounds very bohemian and romantic. I was following a dream, I sold everything that I owned, I lived a nomadic existence for 4 months, I drove all over the country, I landed here without a penny to my name, armed with nothing but a broken heart and a Martin guitar.

I’ll admit that even I bought into the rosy mystique of it all, and I could not wait to arrive here in Nashville completely anonymously. I had the rare chance to reinvent myself, and to become whoever I wanted to be. No longer would I need to be known as “Annie Parsons – pastor’s daughter,” or “Annie Parsons – worship leader at UPC,” or “Annie Parsons – awkward girl who says really embarrassing things,” or “Annie Parsons – used to date so-and-so,” or “Annie Parsons – didn’t she drink too much at that wedding?”

I could change my name. I could be “Annie Parsons – songwriter,” or “Annie Parsons – callously courageous,” or “Annie Parsons – never deals with insecurity,” or “Annie Parsons – sparkly wonder child that everyone loves and adores, and we TOTALLY need to invite her to our party!” I could wriggle out of that old skin that was feeling so heavy and ugly, and emerge something new and exciting and different. I could be like Cinderella, and magically transform into the beautiful soul I’ve always hoped I might be – and won’t they all be amazed?

The truth is far from glamorous. The truth is that I arrived in a puddle of tears. The truth is that it’s been lonely and hard. The truth is that even as I watch my Facebook friend-count grow with every new person I encounter, I am so tired of meeting new people. The truth is that I wonder if I’d be better off back in Seattle. The truth is that I’m still just as introverted as I ever was. The truth is that I deal with all the same stuff: insecurity, regretful words, body image issues, pessimism, awkward moments, selfishness and pride, lack of discipline, empty bank account.

Different town, same girl.

On my own, I am stuck in the same old patterns that I’ve always dealt with. I am facing the familiar struggles with no real hope of anything changing. I am just me, just Annie, and what could I possibly do to tear down the heavy, solid walls of “what has always been” and start over – become something new?

Different town, same girl. But luckily, different town, same God.

And lately, I have been learning that God can take anything – loaves and fish, two coins given by a destitute widow, a barren womb in Sarah, a swindling tax collector named Zacchaeus, a rugged cross, and yes, even me – and transform it into something worthwhile, something big, something of consequence.

All I have to say is “yes.”