July 10, 2015

Betwixt and Between

Have you ever felt like you were between two things, stuck somewhere midway, neither moving forward or backwards, but just lingering halfway to where you were and to where you thought you should be? This is how I feel today, "betwixt and between," which just means "in a midway position, neither one thing nor the other" (Merriam-Webster). This is one of my favorite phrases, along with, "neither here nor there," which generally means the same thing. I find myself in this "place" quite often, and sometimes it is a good thing, as in a place to rest where I can stop to catch my breath before moving on. At other times, it seems this place is only a place of perpetual frustration. Sigh!

I am not sure why I feel the way I do, but I woke up this morning with this "sense" that I am stopped midway between two destinations. One is behind me, and one lays ahead, yet instead of moving forward, I seem to be stopped in motion, standing still. I do not know why, but this is how I feel. Perhaps it is simply because I am mid-summer, mid-courses, and midway through what has been a rather difficult year. Yes, perhaps it is that I am tired, worn out, and ready for a good long nap. Or perhaps it is a sign of the times, a sign that what was before is no longer, and what is to come will not be expected. I don't know, I just don't know. Today, it seems, is a day to ponder and to mediate on the past as I look forward to the present.

Finding Continuity

It is funny you know because I have said numerous times that I would not focus on the past, well my past to be specific, anymore. Instead, I would only focus on the future, on what lays ahead for me as I complete my studies, tackle new projects, and take on new assignments. Yet, what happens most often is that I find myself reflective, and when I am in a reflective mode, I look backward. I know that most people do this, most people do think about their past -- whether it be past actions, past words, or even past deeds (done or left undone). We tend to review our life like a movie editor does, carefully looking at each strip in the film to see if there is a break in continuity. In my literature courses, we study discontinuity in writing. It is mostly seen these days in film or TV series where the writer simply omits sections of the story in order to save time. Yes, we feel this jarring breach whenever we are watching a film or show and notice that a 'gap' in time has taken place. Usually, it is not just the passage of time that signals discontinuity, but rather it is some missing element, some important piece of the story that explains how X got to be Y so quickly.

Continuity - the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

In writing, it is vitally important to not leave important details out. For new students, new college-level writers, it can be difficult to know what is important and what is filler. Most students prefer to leave in the filler rather than focus on the key details that move a piece of writing from beginning to middle to end. In life, likewise, we can lose our continuity when we fail to connect important events together. We can feel like we have skipped over an important detail, and this shift in time and space, leaves us uncertain how we ended up in a certain place.

Reflection, therefore, is a great tool to have in one's arsenal, whether it be in writing or simply in meditating on the contents of life. In my view, reflexivity is a good thing because it helps us learn more about ourselves, our choices in life, and through this process of reflection, we are able to understand our motivations as well as our attitudes and our actions.

I spend the majority of time on this blog reflecting on my life. It is the way I learn about myself, but also it is the way I chronicle my journey as I develop and grow spiritually. My blog is titled, "A New Day," and my blog description reads,

My journey towards a Christ centered life, focused on hospitality, cultural awareness, and community through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, because this is the nature and focus of my blog, most of my posts relate to my experiences and to the analysis of how those experiences shape my understanding and move me closer to what I believe is the desire of God in Christ Jesus for my life. Yes, I believe that the purpose of this blog is to help me understand my approach to life, to recognize God's work in me and through me, and to encourage me to not lose hope, even when times become difficult or events do not come to fruition as I had planned them.

Sometimes I worry that what I write is too personal to be made public. I am often vocal about what I believe, and I do occasionally state personal truth (truth as I have come to know it) about my life. This type of reflection can be poignant to some, while seeming to be repugnant to others. I understand this is possible, and it is one of the reasons why I pray about each blog post prior to hitting the "publish" button. I don't want to cause offense to anyone, especially to people who may feel that intensely personal topics, airing of one's feelings, and sharing the good as well as the bad in a public forum is one of the highest forms of narcissistic behavior. Yes, this is true. I know that studies have revealed that people who take "selfies" are narcissistic, that this "selfie-taking generation," is filled with individuals who lack self-esteem, worth, and therefore, take pictures of themselves in order to make them appear less lonely, less isolated, and less vunerable to the criticisms and critiques of the world they live in. I am sure blogs and online journals would be classified in a similar vein. I mean, anyone who reveals intensely personal details has to want attention, right? I mean, isn't that the point of writing about yourself -- all the time -- without regard to anything or anyone?

I can see this point of view, and it does make sense on face value. I would agree with those that would say that writing a journal that contains personal revelation would be of no use to anyone other than the writer of the post. Unless, of course, the purpose of the writing was to illuminate the process, to underscore the validity of actions and intentions, and for the general belief that writing in this way provides educational benefit to anyone who may read the content. I do believe that there is value in understanding why we do things, and why we choose certain beliefs and behaviors.

Journals and Their Value

In Communication scholarship, there is a method of study called "autoethnography." It is relatively new to the practice of ethnography, which has been historically classified as the observation and recording of facts about of people within a specific culture (or group). Autoethnography is the study of oneself, usually through journal writings about a particular experience (for example, a cancer patient who journals through their chemotherapy experience) or event. In scholarship, this practice has met with quite a bit of concern, specifically because ethnography is supposed to be the observing and the recording of details related to other people's lives -- and not -- the recording and observation of the details of the ethnographer's life! Therefore, "auto" presumes that there is little objectivity in the data, and that there is a whole lot of subjectivity instead. Yet, can reading a person's journal, especially as they detail the experiences they had during a particular event in life, be beneficial? I would say yes, yes, and yes. In fact, for many hundreds of years, students have read and studied the personal journals of explorers to learn about their life while they were tracing unknown routes in the most desolate parts of the world. Children once read the "Travels of Marco Polo," written in 1300 AD, to learn about this famous explorer and the vast cultures he encountered as he journeyed through Asia. Moreover, classical reads such as "The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus" by Christopher Columbus or Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Discovery of Guiana, and the Journal of the Second Voyage Thereto" provided students with wonderful detailed descriptions of these explorers and their companions as they traveled across the sea and into never before known places. Likewise, missionary journals such as David Livingstone's, which detail his experience as he witnessed and proclaimed the gospel to the people's living in Central Africa, bring his story to life, and provide readers with an uncensored 19th century view of Africa and the plight of missionaries in these hostile and often unfriendly places.

Why I Write Personal History

As I consider the nature of my blog, I wonder why the Lord chose this forum for me. I mean, He could have simply encouraged me to write my blog using MS Word, to keep it private, and to not share my life in this way with anyone -- ever. Instead, He allowed me, yes I would say even encouraged me, to write freely (with restraint) about the events of my life. Perhaps some day, He will ask me to use my blog for some autoethnographic purpose? I don't know, I don't know. But, what I do know is this...until the Lord tells me otherwise, I will write about my personal experience, using restraint and grace, in order to help me understand three things:
  1. The grace of Lord is with me always
  2. There is value in revisiting the past so long as we use it as a tool for education
  3. There is hope in our journey (all of our journeys) and that when we meditate on experiences in life, we are able to see the Hand of God, as He gently guides us and directs us in our pursuit of His excellent and upworthy calling in Christ Jesus
Today, then, marks a good point to stop and to reflect on what has been, and to consider what is to come. In my life, in specific, it simply is another day for me to see the glory of the Lord has it is revealed through the mundane details of my everyday life. Yes, my life is boring (as I say it), and it seems to be of no consequence to anyone at all. Yet, the Lord is active and He is present in my life. So while I may feel overwhelmed, burdened, and stressed today -- the fact remains that God is an ever present source of comfort and continuity in my days, my weeks, my months and my years. He is my source of all continuity, so while I may see gaps, missing chunks of data that often lead me to believe that important details have been skipped over or edited out of my life, I can rest assured that my Father in Heaven, knows exactly what He is doing to bring about His will, in His way, and through His Word in order for me to grow into the woman of God He is calling me to be. God is good, so very good. He is always so very, very good to me!

The Lord is Great and Mighty, and His Name is worthy to be Praised! As I write about my days, my seemingly endless, tireless, and very mundane days, I am more and more convinced that the Lord lives, and that the plans and the purposes He has for my life are good. I think this is the chief reason among many for why I write my personal history down on these electronic pages. I write about my life, I reflect on the details of it, and I learn through this process. I learn that God loves me, that He has a great plan for my life, and that while I may not always see everything clearly and in sharp focus, I realize that God is the Author of my story. He is the author and the finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:12). It is God who is writing my story, not me, and therefore, He is the One who delights in the details of my life (Ps. 37:23). Yes, God is the One who is creating a story from my life, and someday that story's conclusion will be read boldly, and it will be shared with the world in order to provide hope to a hurting and hopeless world. May the Lord's purpose and plan for my life be revealed as He designs it to be, and may my life bear witness to His goodness and His grace as He guides, directs, and delights in the details of my very existence. God is good, He is so very good to me!

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives (Psalm 37:23 NLT).

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