Monthly Archives: August 2013

Zero Birthdays & Peacocks

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Last week I turned 30. I think that’s something to be embraced & celebrated, considering the average life expectancy of a woman in Swaziland is 32, according to the CIA. In show business, you’re not supposed to tell anyone your age, I guess so people don’t write you off as irrelevant to youth culture or something. All I have to say is, I think I have a lot more to offer the world at 30 than I did at 20. (Not that I knew that at the time). So I hope each successive decade I am given to live will cultivate greater depth and richness to my life and those around me, and I’m praying for fresh grace to embrace each new season.

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It’s a good thing to pause to look back as I celebrate today. Almost nothing in my life turned out as I imagined it would 10 years ago…. AND, it’s come out better. That’s how God works.

It’s hard to give you a retrospect of the last decade. I can tell you what I did, but that doesn’t capture anything about the journey of my soul. How do I capture the grace, healing, love, freedom, nurture, self acceptance, security, and depth of intimacy that God is patiently forming in me?

I hate to be cheesy, but I keep thinking of “Seasons of Love” from Rent… wait for it…. wait for it… “How do you measure? Measure a year in the life?… How about love.”

So perhaps I’ll make a quick list of the most formative experiences of the last 10 years…

  • Graduating from college & moving to San Diego for a music therapy internship… during which I discovered I hated being a music therapist, but loved facilitating drum circles & singing jazz standards to my geriatric clients.431197_10151350866859548_1875768991_n.jpg
  • Getting married to Tim, who is almost my complete opposite… and the death of the fantasy of what I “thought marriage should look like” and planting seeds of gratitude for “the gift of what it really is.”
  • Attending Vineyard Anaheim & being embraced by the community there: the first place I could stop pretending to be “fine.” I experienced being loved as I am, not as I appear to be.
  • The gut-wrenching loss of several key friendships–and looking back on it, realizing it was mostly my fault or my issues that precipitated the breakdown.

 

  • My pastor, Charlie, moving cross country unexpectedly, and our tight-knit community at the Vineyard disbanding. Ensuing grief and loss dramatically impacted me. Depression.
  • 1005367_10153108400290387_62232551_n.jpgSmall groups of girlfriends committed to meeting together weekly and baring our souls:  Jen, Leigh, Jessica, Ana, Julie. Thank you.
  • Attending The River (an inner healing group) and then starting therapy– so much healing, growth and change, it can’t be expressed in a sentence. This is the gift for which I am the most grateful, because it has given me resource to learn and grow through all the other experiences. This can’t be measured…. EVER.
  • Attending “Impact” through Reinvent Ministries (which I wrote about here).
  • Joining Converge, a small Asian American church plant, and learning that confrontation is essential for loving, committed relationships… and being confronted, for the first time, with my own ethnic identity. Learning what it means to be white, experiencing culture shock, and talking it out in love. Started grappling with my own privilege–something that is far from done.208205_10150558580420109_4017381_n.jpg
  • Teaching for All the Arts for All the Kids & discovering a love of teaching, as well as performing & storytelling for children. The craziest thing I ever did was drive a “mobile classroom,” aka a 35′ purple stick shift school bus from school to school.
  • In 2009, I had a brief stint as “Melody”– the host of an animated TV pilot. Being reminded that I love performing… and I feel most at home when I’m in a recording studio or on stage.
  • Becoming mysteriously & extremely ill for 2 yrs after I (unknowingly) developed lactose intolerance & digestive problems in 2009… undergoing multiple radical dietary changes, until I finally found out I can no longer eat garlic, onions, and peppers (and broccoli, cauliflower, beans, milk products…) 247846_2013547092141_4833477_n.jpg
  • Fulfilling my dream of going to Italy with my husband and 2 friends, and returning with all relationships in tact. Seeing the David, the Pieta, the Duomo… I discovered lactaid the week before my trip, and double fisted gelato the entire 3 weeks!
  • Moving 11 times in 10 years.
  • Recording original folk rock\indy demos in 2006 and 2009… but not really finding my voice until a voice teacher threw “When Sunny Gets Blue” at me, and I found out: I am my mother. My voice was made for singing jazz\soul music.

 

  • Starting my jazz group The Lovestory Quartet after serendipitously meeting pianist Jonny May at a mutual friend’s wedding.
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  • 551265_10151449756438535_1204130072_n.jpgReconnecting with Ana Sanchez and getting the tiny idea to write & record a few songs together… The writing process & our friendship have been so nurturing & formative, it’s indescribable. This little idea has grown into the Aurora Crossing, a combination of my passions: art, healing, justice around the issue that matters most to me: sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Rekindling my secret, deepest passion: THEATER, when the Aurora Crossing was invited to co-write a musical about pornography & the sex industry with producer Elkin Antoniou.

 

 

I don’t think that list really covers the insane experience of being in my twenties… which felt completely CRAZY. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know where I was going, and didn’t know what I was made for. A lot of that has settled (somewhat) over the last year or so, and I’m hoping my 30’s will be a bit more stable. So here’s what I’m hoping for in this coming decade…

English: A Peafowl flaring his feathers. Franç...

 

 

 

 

 

 

A milestone calls for a way to look forward in hope. I found the symbol of the peacock, which began to crop up everywhere right before my birthday.  A friend suggested using peacock feathers to decorate for my birthday party. When I got home, there was a peacock birthday card in the mail. Later that week, I visited an art gallery in Laguna Beach and was captivated by a painting–before I noticed it had a peacock feather. I opened a coffee table book at a church and there was a Renaissance painting of Mary & Christ…. with a peacock standing by. Then another peacock birthday card showed up… What the?!

Peacocks are my favorite colors (teals & blues), but since peacocks are typically associated with pride, I did some research to see if they had any other symbolism. I discovered that while the peacock has significant meaning in many cultures and almost every world religion, there were some key features of its meaning in Christianity that stood out to me:

  • There was an ancient legend that the flesh of the peacock did not decay. Catholics adopted the symbol of the peacock to represent resurrection and immortality.
  • The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal and hope.
  • Peacock feathers were used to decorate the church during Easter.
  • In medieval art, the peacock often appears among the animals in the stable in Christ’s nativity.
  • The eyes on the feathers represent Christ’s beatific vision–his direct perception and knowledge of God as He truly is. url.jpg
  • In the Western world, the peacock was referred to as a slayer of serpents. The shimmering colors of his tail feathers were explained by his supposed ability to transform snake venom into solar iridescence.
  • Peacock blood was believed to dispel evil spirits, and its feathers and meat to cure snake-bite and sickness. Their flesh was believed to have healing properties.
  • Peacocks are considered to be loyal and faithful to their partners. Peacocks are said to grieve the loss of their mates. Thus, they have become a symbol of Compassion.
  • In the middle ages, alchemists believed that they could transform lead into gold by using a process of purification of metals. Alchemists claimed that there was a moment just before the alchemical mercury was about to be transformed into gold, when the substance became colorful and bright. This moment was called “cauda pavonis” (“peacock’s tail” in English). This is symbolic of the moment when a “soul of lead” becomes a “soul of gold.” The peacock, then, symbolizes this special moment of transformation.
  • Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacock—a hyperbole referring to the longevity of the Greek poet’s words.
  • The ugliest part of a peacock is her feet.  

The words and images that stood out to me, again and again, were: a symbol of Christ, resurrection, loss and renewal, hope, slayer of serpents, transformation, transforming poison into beauty, turning lead into gold, standing on the ugliest part of itself (weakness), a display of splendor, seeing God rightly, and poetry that lasts (Homer). Sounds like a pretty good decade coming to me!

My prayer for this new decade, which I hope you will journey with me, is for long dead dreams to be resurrected. I want the grace to surrender to each season, with a deep assurance that God endlessly renews beauty. I want to see God with Christ’s vision, and be utterly overtaken by the knowledge and experiential reality of his love. I pray that I will rest in grace for my weaknesses, and know that through them, my life is a display of God’s splendor.  I pray that Jesus will transform every evil I encounter into something beautiful, and let my life be a source of increasing freedom and healing for others. I want to shine unabashedly for God’s glory when it’s time. Lastly, I am yearning to create something beautiful and lasting, through my art & my family & relationships. I pray that whatever decade of life you are in, God will renew your sense of hope in Christ for the present and eternity.

With love,

Chelsea

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The Last Three Months

Ana & Chelsea waiting. Photo by John Doukas Photography.

The last 3 months have been disheartening. Despite my best efforts to keep my chin up, discouragement has been seeping in, unwanted, like an underground septic tank that’s leaking through the floor.

Here’s what’s up: After 6 months of working 45 hrs per week at a new office job, moving into a new house, her mentor moving overseas, a full social calendar, and trying to maintain our work with the Aurora Crossing, Ana finally crashed. She just couldn’t take it anymore and needed a major break. Given the un-sustainability of her schedule, I guess this was inevitable.  I just wish we had seen it coming to prevent the burnout. Hindsight, right?  With that, our Aurora Crossing projects grinded to an unexpected stop.  (Hence the inconsistent blogging—please forgive us. It’s not personal, really.)

Ana’s life-as-she-knew-it came to a screeching halt, and she started desperately trying to find a new rhythm of being that includes REST. Since we’ve put much of the Aurora Crossing work on temporary hiatus, she’s been anxious and fearful that she will never have energy again to do this creative work she loves. With no definite end date for achieving a sense of wellness, “temporary” and “interminable” can feel interchangeable.

Me? Well, I’ve been all over the place. One moment feeling frustrated, waylaid and disappointed with our circumstances, the next seeing silver lining poking through the unusually gloomy summer we’re having in LA.

One thing is becoming clear to me now (after 3 months of being on a rollercoaster and feeling totally out of control): this is not a mistake. In spite of this part of our story not turning out the way I would’ve written it, this season is an unexpected gift. It’s clear to me (and the community of people speaking into our lives) that this is a severe mercy. This “pause” isn’t a crimp or kink in the thread of our story, but rather knots being undone and new, stronger threads being woven in.

Ana is learning about self care, boundaries, and guarding her heart and time. God bless introverts—they really do need to be alone.  This disappointing turn of events is a gift to Ana: a necessary good, to build her up and strengthen her for the journey we have ahead, which is going to be a joyful and painful marathon. She’s learning new ways to run so that we don’t fall off at the 4 mile mark and can complete the work we’re called to do as artists and advocates for the voiceless.

What am I learning? I guess I’m learning to wait. ………Yay.

In Southern CA, public transit is not easily accessible or commuter friendly. Everyone who can afford to drives a car. People dependent on the bus have to wait (while the rest of us inch by in bumper-to-bumper traffic). Their body language seems tired, disengaged, and depressed. Teenagers block out the grueling crawl of time (and everyone around them) with earbuds. Parents of restless children stare into space wearily. Thank God I have a car…. Except that millions of people have cars and every day we gridlock on the 20 some odd freeways running through LA—so really, no one escapes waiting, no matter what their economic situation.

So what is this season of waiting about for me? I honestly don’t know. It’s easy to see what God’s doing in Ana’s life. It’s much harder to see the patterns in my own at the moment. Is it about holding on? Believing in everything God has promised to do in us and through us, despite our circumstances? If so, what posture should my heart take during this time? I just don’t know. I do know that not having creative writing time with Ana is wearing on my heart, which is yearning to create and bring beauty into the world and affect change. I vacillate between gratitude and discouragement like a pendulum.

Last week I wrote in my journal: Father, I am feeling so much despair about the Aurora Crossing—de-energized, deflated. Please reinvigorate me.

Immediately after, I called a friend regarding a project he’s starting. In the course of the conversation, he must’ve said half a dozen times about the Aurora Crossing:

I believe in what you guys are doing. You’re creating beautiful art. You’re standing for the voiceless, for those who have been trafficked and abused. You’re doing something unique. You’re called to do this.

When I finally confessed how stuck I’d been feeling the last 3 months, he shared some ideas for helping Aurora Crossing get funding so we can work full time as artists engaging culture on the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation.

He said: “I believe in what you are doing so much. If I can help support you or get you funded, I will feel like I’ve done something worthwhile with my life.”

I burst into tears. The power of someone standing with us was incomprehensible to my tired heart. The despair dissolved. My heart cried: Someone believes in us. Someone is standing with us. We are not alone. Someone believes in us so much they want to fight to make it happen. What we’re doing is worth spending our lives on, for the sake of others. Press in. Press on. It’s coming, even though it tarries.

Reinvigoration? YES.

Humans have a way of forgetting the light they bring into the world, the Imago Dei in them. We can’t see our own shine, especially when we’re journeying in seasons of weighty, pressing darkness.

Who comes to mind today to call and encourage? Do it. Perhaps they need to be reminded that their presence on this planet is a gift to others. Perhaps your presence is the gift they need today.

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