Public Speaking

I would like to share publicly a dream I’ve had in secret for quite some time.

I have a desire to be a public speaker. To stand up in front of a church, or retreat, or really any group or gathering and share something I’ve prepared.

Some of you who’ve seen me in social settings might wonder at this, as I am often shy, awkward, and I am even likely to stumble over my words when put on the spot.

But perhaps those of you who have seen me back in my acting days on stage or those of you who have ever seen me give a wedding toast (like this one) might understand.

There is a big difference between crafting and delivering prepared words to fall on the ears of an audience and carrying on a conversation.

For me public speaking seems to hit a sweet spot between many of the other things I have longed to do in my adult life.

It started with a hidden desire in high school. I wanted to be pastor, more specifically a teaching pastor. There was a season where I would write sermons in my free time. Pages of sermons never spoken hid tucked between homework lessons.

Then came speech class and acting and I found a home, places my heart thrived.

Then a desire to teach and mentor youth – to instruct and guide, inspire and encourage. In my young college days these things brought a passion to my heart and a fire to my voice.

And through it all I crafted words. Always imagining in my writing that I was delivering the message, the story, the thought, directly to an audience. Writing it as I would speak it. Utilizing incomplete sentences for the effect of how they would sound being delivered from lips to ears. From vibrations to thoughts.

Public speaking stands out as the sweet spot between all these things. The secret longing that ties other interests together.

It is a dream I have that often feels like a pipe dream. Hollow of meaning because it feels so far off. Hollow of purpose – because who am I to stand up in front of a group and what message could I possibly deliver?

But lately it has seemed a little closer and yet more expensive.

In recent months I have often heard a whisper…

“Your husbands illness and death could be the platform for this dream. Your current pain could be the message that sends you toward that desire.”

And my heart breaks.

Too costly.

I don’t know yet how Bryan’s cancer will end, but I know this: I desire nothing as much as I desire having him live.

I want this dream. I deeply long to have a voice in the world. I want not only to write, but to deliver my writing to an audience. But not at that price.

I would rather continue as nothing more than a housewife, whose voice matters to no one beyond her own children and have Bryan’s hand in mine than have all my dreams, this one and others, come true at the cost of loosing him.

At times I try to hold loosely to all I love, and all I long for, saying to God “whatever you will”, but tonight my hands are clenched around my husbands, “I want him, Lord, no other path. Please. No other path.”

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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Creative Co-Work

Note: The following is a made up story. It’s just a picture of one of the things I’m currently day-dreaming about. I wrote it as a story so that I could give you a snap shot, the specifics of the picture aren’t what’s important so much as the feel they promote.

 

Picture this with me….

 

You walk in to an old warehouse. It’s a large space with tall windows. Straight in front of you is an open conference room made from repurposing old windows and glass doors stacked together. There’s a long table in the middle. And you can see a group of seven sitting around as someone else is animatedly talking and pointing things out on a grease board that you can’t quite see from where you stand.

 

The whole place has a sort of industrial chic, creative repurposed feel. There’s a tangible energy to the space. You walk in and you feel it almost immediately. It makes you want to make something. Build something. Create.

 

To your left there are couches and comfy chairs set up in a sort of open sitting room. There’s a small group of four people sitting and excitedly talking over a new idea for an iPhone app they are designing. To your right there’s some tables and through an open door you can see a kitchen. You notice a man making a pot of loose leaf tea through the large open kitchen door. You also notice a chalk board behind him that has a list of community events on it – php group meeting, yoga class, community dinner, guided meditation class, open mic night.

 

As you circle around the conference room you notice a couple of drawing tables and art supplies. Next to big open windows there’s a woman painting and a man sketching a story board, with previous pieces of the story taped up to the wall next to him.

 

Out of curiosity you wander to the other side of the conference room and find a door that says “screening room” above it. A room for videographers to preview and show their work. The door is closed.

 

Just past the screening room there’s another door, it’s open. You can see a stack of yoga mats against the far wall and a shelf with candles of various sizes. This must be where the yoga class happens. Right now, though, the lights are bright and a young women is spread out on some floor pillows typing on a laptop.

 

The back of the main room has a number of desks, some traditional and some standing desks. Some of the desk spaces have a number of large monitors. You wander close to one of these and hear two men talking about a web design they are working on. At another desk there’s a women working on her first novel. On a laptop in the corner you see someone working on a logo design. At another desk you notice someone is editing photos. On a chalk board beside one of the desks you see a simple note scribbled “Creativity builds on creativity. Don’t create in a vacuum.”

 

In the back of the room there are stairs leading down and a sign that says art exhibition. That’s when you remember seeing the same sign on a doorway from the front street. That door had also had an explanation of the current “basement exhibit” – a mixed media exhibit from two local artists you had only just recently begun to hear about.

 

Next to the stairs there’s an elevator and another stairway leading up. You take the elevator. This is where you’ve been heading all along. You’ve been invited to my apartment for lunch. I’d warned you that you might get a little side tracked and distracted if you came in the front way instead of coming in the back entrance, but you were curious.

 

The hall upstairs is well lit with three doors each a different bright color. On the last door there’s a sign that says “Play Room” and inside you can see a variety of neatly organized children’s toys. You knock on the first door, my door. I answer and show you in. As you enter the small but open apartment you see a young women sitting on the couch holding a baby and I introduce her as my neighbor and then hurry off because there’s a bit of a ruckus coming from the other room where my children are playing. As you talk more with the young women you learn she lives in the other apartment on this floor. Her husband’s a graphic designer and she does interior decorating. On the side they run a small video production company. They helped start the co-work down stairs. I come back and my neighbor leaves to go give the baby a nap.

 

I suggest we have lunch in the garden since its a nice day and the kids could use a little outdoor time. I call the kids and three come running. You know two are mine and assume correctly that the other is a neighbor boy. I explain that the neighbor boy is hanging out with us while his mom is working on some projects for her etsy store and the dad is out doing a photo shoot. We all head out to the garden on the roof top.

 

The garden is beautiful with a number of containers of various kinds growing all kinds of produce. In the center of the roof there are a hand full of tables. We sit down at one and begin to eat as we talk.

 

You begin to ask questions, that’s why you are here after all. You are writing a paper about communal living and upon hearing about this place you knew you had to include it in your paper. For you the co-work is interesting and inspiring (even more so upon actually seeing it), but what is even more intriguing is what is happening in the rooms up above. Four families choosing to live in close community with each other. I explain that we call our little community co-live, nothing fancy just a simple echo of the co-work that we together created and manage.

 

“What does it looks like in practice? Are you just some friends who live next to each other?” You ask.

 

“Well, yes and no. We are friends and we do live next to each other. But, we are more than that too. We aren’t just community. We are intentional community. We are intentional about spending time together. We get together weekly for dinner and a prayer time together. We are a spiritual community, so we are intentional about encouraging one another in our spiritual journeys. We all are at different places in our spiritual walks, but we are all seeking to follow Jesus in a way that is authentic and open to how God’s voice is currently leading us. We also want to be intentional about opening our lives to one another and caring for each other. So we do things that help each other, for example, we watch each others kids now and then, we cut our costs by sharing a playroom for the kids, sharing internet, and even sharing two cars between the four families. Granted that last one isn’t as hard as it seems since all of us work just down stairs and there’s a grocery store just a short walk away.” I smile and pause for a minute before continuing. “Lately though, our intentionality has begun to take on a new measure as well – being intentional about using our space and our creative gifts to benefit the larger community. We want co-work and co-live to be a place for community and collaboration FOR the benefit and care of others.”

 

“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Or an example of that?” You ask.

 

“Sure.” I reply. “Well, a few months ago co-live started hosting dinners for all those who work in the co-work. It’s been a great way for people to get to know the people working around them and some great collaboration has come out of it. Last month we also organized a hackathon of sorts, where a group of designers and developers from co-work created a free web site for a local charity in our community. There has also been some talk about beginning to offer some classes to the community. Since co-work is really specialized towards independently contracted creatives and small creative companies these classes would be geared towards the creative arts as well and hopefully taught by members of the co-work.”

 

The kids run back over at this point asking if they can pick some strawberry’s. I tell them they can only pick the ripe one’s and they run off to gather as many as they can carry. You and I continue talking about intentional communal living in general as well as co-live specifically. Before you know it is getting late in the afternoon. And it’s time to go. The kids and I walk you back down stairs, but not before first giving you a small handmade cloth bag filled with strawberries.

 

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

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Day Dreaming

I’m sort of a crazy dream addict. I love coming up with these crazy big ideas and day dreaming about them actually happening. Sometimes I’ve even gone so far as to write up investment proposals for my crazy ideas, other times I’ve just secretly held on to them in my heart. Many of them have come and gone faster than I can fully form them into words. Others have lingered, grown, and morphed.

There were the  unfleshed out dreams like the dream to “build something”, or “be part of something bigger than myself”, or the dream to “change the education system”, or to “change the church”. And then there are other ideas that are more thought through.

I recently found a whole document I’d written just after graduating college that talked about the dream to start a high school for future entrepreneurs. Then there was the dream to have my own theatre company. And the dreams to start our own companies of various sorts, and the dreams to design and build our own house. There were the dreams to have land and animals, and the dreams to live in community and close proximity with others. There was the dream to travel around the world every year with our kids spending a few months on each of the major continents. There was the Life Studio dream. There was the dream to teach yoga and have my own yoga studio. And, of course, there have been more dreams and ideas that I can’t even remember.

Then there have also been the dreams of others that have captured my imagination and become my own. Dreams like starting a church in Prague, starting a community of artists, starting a retreat center community, and so many others.

Lately, as I’ve been thinking back on some some of these  daydreams and ideas, I’ve recognized some consistencies and common threads between them. Ive begun to recognize some touch points for what draws me and what capitivates my imagination. Almost all of my dreams seem to have thesecommon threads:

  • Starting something. I want to start something, create something. I don’t really want to come into an existing structure and work within it. I want to be a part of shaping and building something. I want to have a voice in what something looks like, and what it becomes.
  • Community. There is almost always a communal aspect to my daydreams. What I want to start and build is community. At various seasons the type of community has been different – an  entrepreneurial community, an art community, a church community, a yoga community, an intentional living/commune community, etc. But, always my dreams take on a communial aspect.
  • Physical Space. This is something that I’m only just recognizing, but physical space effects me and I ofte daydream in pictures of layouts and physical space.Even people whoknow me well, would probably never guess this about me, because it’s not really apparent in my life. I have friends who are spacial beauticians, and that is NOT me. But, I do think in terms of space p, but it’s the flow and form of space that interests me and when I day dream my ideas almost always take on an aspect of creating a physicalspace in my head that promotes the type of community I desire to create (sometimes I wish I had followed my childhood dream to become an architect!).
  • Creativity and Health. These are the topics of interest. These at the frame works that my ideas almost always fall into. The specifics of these look different at different times, but the ideas that captivately all have some aspect of promoting some form of creativity and/or some form of health.

Honestly though this part of me that loves to dream and come up with ideas has sort of laid dormant over the past few years since becoming a mom. I haven’t written about it much but I did suffer from some postpartum depression after having Thad and one thing that I really noticed was it became really difficult for me to dream, or at least to get really excited about dreams. I no longer would think of some crazy thing I wanted to do and then get so excited about it that I would lay awake making the dream bigger and bigger and fleshing it out until I could fully visualize it.

It wasn’t until Thad turned one that I started to feel like I could dream again and I had one dream in particular that I played with. But it wasn’t really my own dream, it was more like I was testing the waters of desire again. I dabbled, I dipped my feet in, sometimes I even got excited translating their dream to fit with old dreams of my own, but I still kept some distance. Somehow I knew it wasn’t really my dream to dream.

But, all that’s starting to change. I feel it deep in my heart. I want things again. And isn’t that the start of dreams? Desire. Ive realized something lately… In order to really dream, really desire and let your desires come to live in dreams there needs to exist a certain level of stability. It’s hard to dream big dreams when all of your desires are for very basic needs – like sleep. That’s how the beginning years of motherhood were for me – I was always tired, I was always hungry, I lived with a deep uncertainty about our future. I wasn’t taking care of my most basic needs and I loved surrounded by instability and uncertainty. It was hard to look past those basic desires to the kinds of desires that breed dreams. But, that’s all changing.

As I’ve written before we are stabilizing settling, finding our feet again. We’ve had a new start and we feel like we are coming into our own in this new place and stage of life. And I’ve started to dream again. Started to tap into my desires again. And it’s fun. I’ve missed this side of me. So in the next post I’ll tell you about my most recent crazy dream. It’s a good one!

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman

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The God Who is Not Embarrassed

This is another guest post from my beautiful friend, Tara. And it’s definitely one that I needed to hear right now. Growing up as a “good religious girl” I struggle with desire and how to handle my own desires. I struggle with how to honestly and openly journey into desire and invite God into my desires. So, this post hit home for me personally. Tara always has a way of saying things that I need to hear right when I need to hear them and I’m so glad that I got a chance to see her in person and connect with her this past week. Thanks again, my friend!


LGLPMexico34Have you ever been in a public place when somebody blurted something out that made everyone else around turn red with embarrassment? Quite a few years ago, standing in the checkout line at Target, my little son stood up in the cart and, at the top of his lungs, yelled…“Mom…I need to go psssst!!!” and then proceeded to point to those body parts that mothers wish their kids wouldn’t point to in public.

I am not totally sure what I did, but I am sure I wished that I could have looked around bewildered, asking how some strange child (obviously not mine!) had gotten into my cart. Embarrassed, I did not want to claim this one as my own!!

Now, quite a few years later, I am coming to realize that how I felt that day in Target is oftentimes how I feel about the deep desires within my heart. Their strength and volume embarrass and, honestly, scare me.

The “good religious girl” in me is unnerved by the deep rumblings of my soul and asks questions like:

  • what about being selfless and sacrificing?
  • what if this leads you away from God?
  • can you really trust the desires of your heart?
  • aren’t they full of sin and marred by your depravity?
  • what if you name your desire and then realize it can’t be lived?
  • isn’t desiring bad?
  • shouldn’t you just read the Bible and “do”?
  • what if a desire is in opposition to what God wants?

She asks all these questions in rapid fire succession, all while glancing around nervously to be sure nobody actually heard the stated desire out loud.

It is not that those questions are bad, but it is here where I get stuck. Do I stay where I am or do I journey into desire? And what if I lose my way on the journey? Some of the spiritual authors I read – CS Lewis, John Eldridge, Sue Monk Kidd, Ruth Haley Barton – all speak of this journey into exploring our desires. But if I were to be honest, I am afraid at the force of the desires that press against my heart and make me feel like they will undo me. I am afraid to say them out loud for others to hear…for me to hear…for God to hear. I am afraid to want.

As I sit silently with this longing ache, I am reminded of the story of Bartimaeus and Jesus in Mark 10. It is a story of much shouting, and shushing and eventually poignnant question asking.

In the narrative the blind beggar Bartimaeus knows that Jesus is near and does not want to waste the opportunity; he begins to cry out!! Interestingly, his cry is “Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me!!!” It is from this portion of Scripture that we get our orthodox “Jesus Prayer”, and it dawned on me that it is a cry of desperation and longing for Jesus to stop…pay attention…and notice. It is the cry of utter longing mixed with the physical reality of a present state of total blindness. It is the state I find myself in as I take the journey of desire.

If we read on in the passage, we can see that these longing shouts unnerve the crowd. People try to shut Bartimaeus up. His desire and his loud cries are embarrassing them. But Bartimaeus chooses not to listen and cries out all the louder…”Son of David!! Mercy, have mercy on me!!”

Jesus stops. He has noticed. He calls this loud, raw, longing, blind beggar over. And then He asks him the question…”What do you want Me to do for you?…What do you want?…”

At this point Bartimaeus has a choice. Will he actually risk saying out loud what his deepest longing is? Does he have the guts to say to the Son of God what it is he wants? Does he risk looking stupid in front of others and Jesus to name his desire?

These are the questions that we, who journey with desire, must all face. Will we say out loud what is in our hearts and wait for the answer from the Master? For me…I am learning that God is large enough to handle my desire. He is gentle enough to sometimes say no and good enough to sometimes say yes. He is capable enough to transform my wanting into new and surprising desires too. And He is risky enough to not be afraid or embarrassed of it all.

PictureofTaraForSite

Tara Malouf makes her home in the Seattle area with her husband and two kids. She loves images and words, quiet and beauty, walking and prayer. She sees with “connectedness” eyes and thinks life is lived in story. She aspires to be a professional friend.

You can check out her photography at www.redthreadphoto.blogspot.com and her occasional musings at www.stroyformed.wordpress.com

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A Dream: In the Garden…

Last night I prayed that God would speak to Bryan and I in our dreams. I prayed that he would speak truth to us in our dreams and that he would not allow any lies or falseness into our dreams that night. I prayed also that he would speak guidance and encouragement to us through our dreams…

Here is what I dreamed…

I dreamed that Bryan and I were part of starting a large co-op. It was garden, where anyone who wanted to could come and eat the food grown – all we asked in return is that they work in the garden for a while, planting, pulling weeds, tilling soil, etc. In my dream I knew that there were lots of different kinds of fruits and vegetables growing in the garden but all I saw where miles and miles of orange trees (interestingly enough, I got curious and looked up oranges on a dream interpretation web site, it said: “To see orange trees in your dream, signifies health and prosperity… You may want to expand your horizons and look into new interests.”) As we walked through the orange trees we came across a group of homeless who were working in the garden. They were happily pulling weeds and raking the path near the trees. We stopped and talked with them for a little while. (I looked up homeless too and found this: “To dream that you are homeless, indicates that you are feeling insecure. You are unsure of yourself and where you are headed.” – not sure what it means to see homeless people contentedly working in a garden, though…)
Anyway, then we found some friends who were planting some new orange trees. They were saying that they have been having some problems with some of the new plants – diseases, ants, and other bugs were killing them. We looked at an orange tree that had been completely devoured by ants – there were ants everywhere. (I looked up ants as well: “To see ants in your dream, signifies your general dissatisfaction in your daily life. You are feeling neglected and insignificant. Petty things will annoy you throughout the following day. You will learn that cooperation will be the only way to achieve your desires. Ants also symbolize hard work, diligence and industry. Increased business activities are expected…According to the biblical interpretations, ants symbolize diligence concerning the things of God. Despite its small size, the ant lays up substance during times of plenty.”) After seeing the trees I recommended that they plant mint bushes near the trees since I had read that ants don’t like mint (not sure if this is actually true or not).
After that we were suddenly in a small house which seemed to be a sort of office/shed/central meeting place for the garden and it was also where we and a few other friends were living. We were painting it and in the process I got paint all over me. (painting: “To dream that you are painting your house, signifies that you will find much success in a new project and that you will be promoted to a coveted position. You may be expressing your creativity. Alternatively, it may also mean you are covering up something. To dream that paint has gotten on your clothes, signifies that you are too easily offended by criticism about you. To see or use a paintbrush in your dream, symbolizes harmony, creativity and artistic talents.”)
After painting for a while I walked into the other room where a group of people were sitting around and a few were telling stories. It was a hog posh sort of room where none of the furniture matched and few of the people knew each other but they all came together and it created a room that felt whole and comfortable. After watching and listening for a little while I went back into the main room that we had been painting and found that one of the women who had been helping us paint was stealing the paint. She wasn’t discrete about it – she was actually asking people’s opinion on what color to take – even though all of the paint was similar shades of gray and beige. At first I confront here but then just let her take the paint. (Stealing: “To dream that you are stealing, denotes that you are deprived and where the stealing takes place is indicative of your neediness. Alternatively, it may signify unrealized and unfulfilled goals.” – so does it mean the same thing to see someone else, who I don’t know, stealing?). It was at this point that I woke up.
The dream may have passed for nothing if it hadn’t been for what I had prayed the night before. It was also a very vivid, colorful dream, one that stays with you for a while after you wake up. Anyway, that was my dream and I just thought I would share it today…

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

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