Sunday, December 30, 2012

Waltzing into the New Year

I’m going back to college! I don’t recall ever starting out a new year in such a dramatic way as I am about to this January. Since my birthday falls the day after New Year’s Day, January 2nd, I have extra reason to contemplate how I want to waltz into the New Year.

“This is the first day of the rest of your life,” sings Matt Maher in his hit song, “Hold Us Together.” I am taking that message to heart by doing something I’ve long considered would be fun to do: becoming a ballroom dance instructor. Yep, that’s right. I will be entering Dance Teacher’s College to become certified to teach the National Dance Teacher Association of America approved DVIDA syllabus of 12 American style ballroom dances. The first class, which is waltz, is on my birthday! I’ll be quite literally waltzing into the New Year.

Pursuing dreams usually requires a leap of faith in the form of time commitment or financially. It requires silencing all those annoying voices that say we can’t or shouldn’t do it. As one lady I interviewed for an article recently said, “We will never have all the time and money we think we need to do anything in life.” She was speaking in reference to her family’s leap of faith in adopting two girls from China, which led me to think, how many times do we stand at the brink of something wonderful, but tell ourselves we can’t do it for one reason or another, or are afraid to trust?

“It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance” (anonymous).
Richard Gere & Jennifer Lopez starring in Shall We Dance?
I’ve been ballroom dancing for 13 years. It is my hope to help others experience the power, beauty and magic of ballroom dance as I have and inspire people to put their best foot forward in faith. But if I hope to empower others, I must take the first step myself. 

If you could do anything to build the life you imagine, what would you do starting today? My best advice is to envision where you want to be and then start living that way. Or as Henry David Thoreau said, "Live the life you have imagined." When I first began writing and dared to say I was a freelance writer, the words coming out of my mouth always took me by surprise. But by telling myself that I was one, I gave myself permission to be one.

As I begin the journey in dance, stay with me. Keep me company. It will be an exciting year and fun to be back in the role of "student" again, acquiring new knowledge and gaining confidence in a higher learning setting. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Serving a Cousin, Celebrating a Baby

I began this Advent season by traveling to the hill country (literally, a place called Holy Hill) to help my cousin who had just had a baby boy.

Granted I didn't have to make the journey by foot or caravan, I enjoyed thinking of Mary, the Blessed Mother, who also hurried to the hills to be with her cousin Elizabeth just after the angel announced that she would conceive the Son of God. Why do you think Mary traveled "in haste"? These details in Scripture are often hints in unpacking the story. I always thought of her rushing forth with missionary zeal as a completely selfless act of service - until I watched The Nativity Story this month, which gave me a new perspective. The film showed the events in such a real, human way, and I realized that if I were a young girl who’d just heard such astonishing news as Mary and was faced with what was to happen next, I would likely respond as she does in the movie - plead my parents to let me take a short trip away so I could sort out these miraculous events.

Certainly, Mary did participate in hard work and help out while she was there, but a primary reason for her visit was likely to seek understanding and to “figure out” how in the world she was going to explain this pregnancy to Joseph, and her parents. Would Joseph divorce her? Stone her in the streets? What would her baby be like if he were the Son of God?

Doing laundry, changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking meals are all great ways to serve, but they aren't the reason we do it. When we serve, we are looking to give and receive human love.

So when Mary remembered the part of the angel's message that Elizabeth was also pregnant in a miraculous way, she goes and seeks answers there. I can relate with a young woman like this, seeking understanding from others and pondering the Lord’s will for her life with another woman of strong faith.

I love the scene in the movie when Elizabeth hears Mary coming, turns around, and bursts out in joy, "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled!" (Luke 1:45). And Mary responds, “How did you know?”

We all need people in our lives to be on the journey with us and give us some spiritual direction along the way. Sometimes we need others to point out the signs that God is at work in our lives. This must have been one of those “signs” to Mary that God was with her and that everything would somehow turn out alright. How often do we recognize that in each other and say, “Wow! God is at work in you! I can see your spiritual muscles being trained for something great He has in store for you!”

The five days I spent with my cousin, her husband, and child were so precious and reminded me of what Christmas is all about. It started with a newborn child and parents, poor shepherds and rich kings, all given the grace to accept the Gift, even when the Gift came unexpected and unplanned for.