The times, they are a-changin’

I’m pretty sure Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are a-Changin'” was full of political undertones. I’m not into politics and I’m not a Dylan super-fan, but a few of the lyrics really caught my attention lately (via a modern cover by Fort Nowhere).

Backstory: I spent the last two months of 2019 feeling creatively dried out. Then, I spent the first two months of 2020 being physically sick. Between the stomach flu, a severe head cold and a sinus infection, I felt so crummy that I let life happen to me. January and February just passed by. There were, of course, some days and moments that were full of new adventures and joy, but mostly I was in survival mode. My mindset was limited to making it through every day, rather than planning for or anticipating life beyond the current day. I started to feel like I was a puppet in my own life, rather than an active participant. Coming off of a tough year-end directly into a miserable new year, I was so focused on my sickly circumstances that I wasn’t fully engaging in friendships, work, hobbies, resting well or my faith.

In mid-February, I went on a winter retreat with the youth group in which I volunteer as a leader. Last year, the trip – specifically my skiing adventure – had a profound impact on my ability to embrace new challenges and accept failures along the way. This year I skied again (with amazing success and no wipe outs), but more importantly, I found incredible truth from the speaker, Mark Holcomb. He talked about making time and space to listen to the voice of God, from gentle whispers to the roar of burning bushes. When I left that weekend, I felt compelled to reengage in seeking joy in my work, relationships, hobbies and faith. Unfortunately, the next week I got sick again and once more went into survival mode. Luckily this time I used the forced down time to consider how to better listen for the voice of God and use my energy to better invest in the activities that bring me a sense of fulfillment.

Over the past few weeks, I started feeling better physically, and, with the help of some constructive conversations, I’ve gained a better outlook on the present and the future. Life is meant to be lived with intention and I’m thankful to be setting some new goals with new purpose. I’m finding ways to intentionally sneak creative stimulation back into to my busy life.

I started going back to yoga classes with the goal of taking a quiet moment to rest my mind as I worked my body. I took time to better prepare my body for the dance classes I enrolled in and made sure I was also prepared with the proper attire, rather than just jumping in to class and hoping for the best. I prepared my canvases with gesso and took the time to sketch first, knowing that the preparation will pay off in higher quality end result. I got back to writing for fun, with a more developed purpose. I think my almost four month hiatus from intentional creativity made me realize that my mindset about creative pursuits was previously a bit laissez-faire. I didn’t have goals or visions for what I wanted to accomplish with yoga, dance, art and writing. I just floated by hoping for undefined wild success without being willing to sit down and do some tough work. Similarly, I was hoping for God to give me clear direction and guidance without investing time in my prayer life.

When I was in the midst of a fruitless job search about a year and a half ago, I somewhat randomly decided to read The Circle Maker and its corresponding devotional Draw the Circle, written by Mark Batterson. The challenge of both titles is to actively circle your dreams, hopes, desires, relationships, etc. in prayer. Blind faith that things will “work out” isn’t enough if I’m wanting to see big changes. An appreciation for art and an occasional sketch won’t push me toward my goal of selling a painting. Reading books and an occasional blog post won’t push me toward my goal of writing a book. If I am expecting to do big things in my life I need to 1. pray big, intentional prayers and 2. do big, intentional things.

I’m extremely excited for this new time in my life. I’m healthy again, sunshine is breaking up the monotony of Midwestern winter, and I have a renewed sense of purpose and I’m ready for some changes and new opportunities to invest in myself and others, as well as in my relationship with God. I’m writing down plans for this next year. I’m circling my goals in prayer; expecting that God will open the right doors (and close others).

Significant challenge: Don’t let the chaos of life bury your hopes and dreams. Set goals, write them down, tell people who will keep you accountable to your vision.

“And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again”

“The Times They Are a-Changin'” (1964) Bob Dylan


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