Four Things I’m Learning Right Now

Yesterday was summer solstice. Just as we notice the turning of a season, it’s also nice to take stock of how we’re changing and growing. So, I thought it might be fun to write down a few of the things I’m learning.

Here goes:

It’s easy to misunderstand people on social media, particularly Facebook. The other day, I asked a question on someone’s post, and by the way the person responded, I could tell I’d been wildly misunderstood, or at least, categorized. If there’s anything I really struggle with, it’s the feeling that I’ve been put into a category and now have a label. As I pondered my options, to clarify or not to clarify, I realized again how important it is for me to follow the direction of my own pet-peeves. If it bothers me to feel misunderstood and categorized, I’m probably not the only one. When it comes to pictures and little paragraph summaries on social media, or short tweets, we are merely glimpsing into the life and thoughts and politics of someone, and the kindest thing I can do for anyone, is to resist the temptation to place people under a specific category and decide that I know who they are, and what they’re about all the time. People are multi-faceted and layered. If I want people to accept that about me, I best start practicing it in my own life.

Generosity is a pathway toward a beautiful life. When someone mentions generosity to me, I tend to think about it in monetary terms. But lately, I’m learning again, that generosity of heart and spirit are where it begins. To be a generous person, means, at least in part, that I’m generous with my love, with my affirmation, and with thinking the best about a person. When we’re crouching in the corner licking our wounds, we aren’t thinking about opening our hearts as wide as possible and loving generously, but as counterintuitive as it may sound, generosity is the route to wholeness and well-being, it’s the path that leads us to optimism, to resilience, and to renewed hope.

Things take the Time They Take. Two and a half years ago, I started writing an epic fantasy novel. It’s the gutsiest thing I’ve ever written. When I came home from Chile, I went in search of an agent who represents Fantasy, and who knows something about the industry. After a few emails back and forth, I found a great agent in New York. He agreed to read the first fifty pages, and then asked to read the full manuscript, and then made some editorial suggestions, asking for a rewrite, which I did. Months later, I sent it back to him, not knowing if he’d like the changes I made. Around that time, I started to feel a nudge to write more non-fiction.

I started writing articles and honed my non-fiction voice. I had a long talk with my sister, Judi, when she was here from Australia and she gave me some helpful advice about writing more non-fiction. There was a big part of me that wondered if my fiction season was over. I prayed about it, and felt like maybe I was through with novels. And like laying Isaac on the altar, I set my novel down and let it go. It’s hard to explain why. I think it had to do with seasons, with big change and release, with holding on too tightly to a dream, and the realization that if I hold too tightly to one version of a dream, I might miss the version that God has, which in the end, is much more real and more painful, but also, paradoxically, more life-giving and sustainable.

The other day, I started looking at a printed version of The Girl Who Calls the Wind beside my nightstand, and the long-recognized ache for storytelling began to surge up inside me. I started to pray about it and felt like God gently let me know that what I laid down forever, was never meant to be forever.

A couple days later, the agent wrote me and along with asking me to do another rewrite, had very good things to say about my story. I’m not sure where it will lead, or how it will all work together but, I’m working on my novel. Again.

I’m learning that prayer is relational, and not even a little bit, transactional. This is pretty basic. I’m not new to the prayer thing, but maybe I am new to the prayer thing. If Christianity is all about a personal and communal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then prayer is the doorway into that life, and if the life we are to live with God is relational, rather than transactional, then so it must be with prayer. I can’t manipulate God with the perfect way of requesting something, I can’t prove to God that I’m good enough or smart enough or educated enough. I can’t must up the presence of God by worshiping for an hour with great Hillsong worship music and then ask for what I want. I can’t search for the right prayer voice, or the perfect cadence, or the right language. Prayer is about cultivating intimacy with God. It’s about learning to ask for what we want and need, and also resting in the complexities of our wants and needs. Just as being in relationship with one another is about as complicated as we have words for, so it is with God. And yet, there’s a simplicity to this relationship we seek. There is a rest that comes from peace, and there is a quiet that we settle into when we cease striving.

How about you? What three things are you learning?

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Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.

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