7 Gifts that Help Creative Leaders Overcome the “Frozen” Feeling

You’ve felt it before. It’s the feeling that you experience when you have so much going on inside your mind and heart that you can’t say or do a thing to express yourself sufficiently. Being frozen in self-expression just might be the most frustrating and lonely feeling a Creative Leader must cope with on a regular basis.

I know.

For about six years I felt as though I was locked up inside my own body. I was stuck in my own head and I didn’t know how to come out. The sad thing to me was that I’d tasted the sweetness of creative self-expression before, but I just didn’t have the time or emotional energy to connect what was going on inside of me with words or actions on the outside. So what did I do? I distracted myself to avoid thinking or feeling. And all the while, the pressure in my subconscious world built up, leaving me ready to burst at any given moment.

After taking care of my physical need for chemical balance in my brain and my spiritual need for restoration of my relationships with God and people I loved, I decided to tackle the problem analytically by researching the gifts and curses of creativity. Here is what I found.

Your Gifts

The gifts that most Creative Leaders possess or have the potential to cultivate can either help or harm your ability to express yourself well in what you do and say. The key is to play those gifts like a fiddle instead of letting them play you. Let’s take a look at a few.

  1. Empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel. It’s an incredible power you can use to connect and understand other people. However, it can be difficult to separate your feelings from the feelings of others. This might sound crazy, but you can choose what you will feel to a certain degree. What feelings are other people experiencing that you might be mirrorng simply because you’re around them? Are those feelings yours to own? Use your empathy to understand the other person, but then take a look at that feeling and decide if it is yours to carry.
  2. Sensitivity. Empathy and sensitivity are closely related. If bright light, being surrounded by certain colors or sharp/loud noises feels painful, you are experiencing sensory sensitivity to some degree. If chaos or commotion bothers you more than it does other people, you may be overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Emotional sensitivity is related. When your nervous system is overwhelmed, your emotional equilibrium may be, as well. Sometimes, feeling emotional pain may cause you physical pain and vice-versa. The pain and overwhelm you experience could leave you feeling frozen or about to explode. Either way, sensitivity can also be used in your favor. When you become more aware of the things that overwhelm or cause you pain, you can choose to prepare ahead of time, avoid certain situations or, most powerfully, use your own sensitivity to understand when other people might be experiencing overwhelm. When you begin to take care of yourself, you can focus your efforts on helping others, releasing the grip of overwhelm.
  3. Intuition. This gift comes right on the heels of empathy and sensitivity. It’s that gut-feeling, not based on conscious thoughts. You just “know.” You might feel frozen because your gut is telling you it’s not a good time to speak for whatever reason. That’s OK! But sometimes what we just “know” is wrong. Intuition connects our past experiences and knowledge in non-linear ways. It is incredibly important to not only give yourself the opportunity to pursue good experiences and build a knowledge base that you trust, but also to be aware of what you are actually feeling in your gut and then ask if it fits with what you believe. Practice reflection on a regular basis to build your intuitive skills so you know whether that frozen feeling is irrational fear or wisdom.
  4. Idealism. Creative Leaders tend to be idealists. They see the world as it could be. Unfortunately, many people who begin as idealists may have been accused as being overly positive, irrational and not practical in their youth. As idealists experience the shame, injustice and disappointment of life, they may begin to question everything they previously stood for or believed. These kinds of situations can disappoint idealists to the point where they deflate like a balloon and feel utterly defeated. But that isn’t the end for you if you’re an idealist! Turn your idealistic demands into your ongoing idealistic vision. Let it fuel you as you strive to make the world a better place rather than depress you that it’s not what you thought it could be. When you feel frozen, find inspiration to tap into your idealistic vision and move toward it rather than letting disappointment overcome you.
  5. Initiative. You can be creative without utilizing initiative, but don’t call yourself a Creative Leader unless you do use it. Initiative begins with an impulse to do or say something and then it acts on it. Unfortunately, people punish or squash initiative all of the time because of the fear of failure and fear of the judgement of others. So what if we do something and it doesn’t work? Of course there are times when we need to heed wisdom, but Creative Leaders must be willing to stick their necks out by offering their ideas, service or art to the world in full knowledge that they might be rejected, ignored or shamed. Don’t let the shadow sides of empathy, sensitivity and intuition overtake the bright shining light you just might radiate if you act. Lead by being willing to appear less than perfect and you will not get stuck.
  6. Intensity. Emotional intensity is a powerful force, so be sure to learn how to use it for good. When you feel frozen, your emotional experience may be so intense that you don’t know how to contain it, though you think you should. You need release! The number one piece of advice I have for people experiencing emotional intensity is this: tap into your emotional core rather than living from your immediate emotional reactions. “Sad” is under “angry” every time. Give yourself permission to feel your sadness and possibly even cry. But don’t stay in that discouraged state. Find something that inspires you and open yourself up to how it could bring you out from your sadness or frozen feeling. Sometimes it helps to learn something new or be reminded of something old, but it is very difficult to will your heart to follow your head. Find something that speaks to your heart and don’t be afraid of the intense power within you. Use it!
  7. Problem Solving. Your ability to employ your creativity to solve problems is an incredible gift, but it is tempting to get stuck in a holding pattern where you keep trying to solve the same old problem. Unfortunately, for Creative Leaders, not all problems can be solved. If you find yourself frozen by the same old problem, it’s time to step out and gain perspective. Use those problem solving skills to analyze the situation. You might need to let go of the idea of solving the current problem and find a different way to look at your situation. Maybe you’re solving the wrong problem! Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to obsess over the same problem forever. Keep moving forward in other areas and perhaps you will stumble upon the right solution at a different time.

Do you relate to any of the above gifts listed above? Which one feels most like a “gift” to you?

Unfrozen Self-Expression

I will say it over and over. Authentic self-expression is not about doing or saying whatever comes to mind in the moment. That’s reactionary self-expression. Authentic self-expression is based on a holistic perspective of who you are. It is awareness, reflection and action based on more than your emotions. That’s why I believe Creative Leaders need to go through the process of uncovering and refining their core message.

Align what you do and say with a robust understanding of who you are for clarity, confidence and focus. Download the Arrowhead Alignment PDF now.

Your Frozen Heart is Worth It

“I wasn’t depressed anymore, but I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t sure what I was.”

Unfrozen prologue (read it by clicking –> here<–)

I can tell you one thing I was. I was cold. It didn’t come out all of the time. Of course, I shared as much warmth as I could with the outside world by engaging with people in heart to heart conversations and mustering up as much kindness as possible. But when I was warm to the outside world, it was like I depleted my resources so when I got home I had very little warmth to give my family. It made sense, in a way. They asked more from me than anyone else. When I was around them I felt like a failure because they needed things from me I wasn’t sure I could give. So every request for me to meet their needs felt like a neon sign flashing “FAILURE! FAILURE! FAILURE!” I knew I shouldn’t resent my family for highlighting my weaknesses, but that knowledge only made me feel shame for the fact that I often did. It was a spiral of self-centered self-hatred and bitterness.

*Don’t miss out on the contest at the bottom of this post!!!*

IMG_7422What does it really mean to be frozen, anyway?

When H2O is in it’s liquid form, it can flow freely, in and out of the spaces open to its movement. But when it freezes, it’s stuck. It might clunk around from place to place, but it doesn’t move freely and it keeps it’s goodness to itself.

The life-blood of our hearts is like that. When our hearts are hard, it’s difficult or even impossible to give or receive love.

When I think of that frozen kind of feeling, I think of a coldness of heart. I think of a heart that is so scared of being further wounded that it hunkers down or runs away from the threat of pressure or shame. The frozen heart feels paralyzed, isolated or trapped.

And when I feel trapped, I feel like there’s no way out.

But there is away out.

Wherever you are right now, you are not stuck. You may have given up on the idea of being open to giving and receiving love. You may feel you have no choice but to hunker down or run away. But you do have a choice. The beauty of the image of a frozen heart is that all it needs is warmth to get back to the free-flow of love. And that warmth can come with a gradual change in temperature or it can come in instant waves of heat.

One of the first things that has helped me in the thawing of my own heart is to come out of isolation and bring my heart into the light. But that was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to admit how fragile I was and then be vulnerable to the possibility of being broken. I didn’t want to admit how ugly I felt inside and then be vulnerable to judgment and shame.

I wanted to watch NCIS and Castle and eat away my longing. Sometimes I still do.

But that’s not the answer. We need a safe haven for our hearts. An environment where we can lift our eyes to see one another – to come out of hiding and gently begin to share the truth of what we think and feel.

You must decide that your heart is worth it.Your frozen heart is worth mining.

The very first image of Disney’s Frozen is the image of huge saws ripping through a thick layer of ice and a chorus of men singing about the dangers of a frozen heart. Then they claim that the frozen heart is worth mining.

Your heart is worth mining. Your heart is invaluable and you have an immeasurable amount of love to offer others. But you have to take the first step.

You have to decide that your heart is worth mining. 
I long to see your heart thaw so you can give and receive love freely. I long to keep mine soft and open. I long for my daughter to have a foundation for understanding that she doesn’t have to hide in the cold and become paralyzed by the fear that once trapped me.
That’s why I wrote Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You. I wrote it to:

  • bring my own life and heart out into the light to prove to myself that my heart is indestructible.
  • offer my life (our life) as an example of some of the struggles we all face in our relationships so you know you’re not alone.
  • begin a relationship with you, that you might find the space I offer to be a space where you can be free to mine your frozen heart.

Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide

I also want to offer you the opportunity to create your own safe space to vulnerably share and connect with others. That’s why I’m creating a free video discussion guide based on imagery from the movie and personal stories. You can use it with or without the book but it is a great companion to the book.  The features of this special video discussion guide are:Book_whitebg

  1. 6 Lessons for you and 1-3 other people to view together either once a week for 6 weeks or in any time-frame you choose.
  2. 2-4 videos in each lesson. The 3-5 minute long videos use illustrations from the movie, the book and other stories to set up questions you can use for discussion. It’s simple. Play a video, then have a conversation.
  3. PDF Downloads with the questions and room for you to journal your responses, if you so choose.
  4. PDF Downloads with biblical references to lay a foundation for how these lessons relate to your faith, if you desire to explore that.
  5. Access to a private Facebook group where we can interact and support one another on the journey. I will be available at least once a week to answer questions and offer ideas for you as you do the heart-mining work with your child, friend or spouse.

If you would like to check out the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide, sign up Start Here to receive notification when it’s available and access into the private Unfrozen Community group next week. Only people who sign up through this link or enrolled in the video discussion guide will be able to enter the group.

Enter to win one of 3  packages (including the Unfrozen audiobook & audio of Unfrozen keynote speech, etc. – a $27 value) by doing the following by Monday, August 30th:

  1. Share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter and tell your friends why you’re sharing it. Each post is one entry, so count them and let me know in step 3.
  2. Sign up for email notification of the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide release here —>Start Here.
  3. Comment BELOW this post (not on Facebook) and tell me you did steps 1 & 2. Please let me know what email you used when you signed up so I can contact you if you win! I MUST have your email address if you want to win because that’s the only way I know I can get ahold of you. Check back here and on my Facebook page, just in case!

**Previous winners are allowed to enter into this new drawing.***

Beware the Frozen Heart

Unfrozen Prologue

It’s hard to be real. Real is risky and leaves me wondering what others will think of me when they know that I’m not the perfect wife and mom. What will they think if I share my doubts and struggles? Well, a couple of years ago I decided it was time to share my journey through dating, marriage, postpartum depression and anxiety because I long to see the “unfreezing” of women everywhere.

Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You released August 28th as a Kindle Bestseller in multiple categories! I want to share with you the prologue, the moment just before everything changed for this wife and mom of two little kids.


Thanksgiving, 2013

Thanksgiving, 2013

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Aaron sighed. We were nearly home from spending Thanksgiving weekend with family.

“I know.”

As we prepared to pull off the interstate, I looked out the window at the Nebraska prairie whizzing past. He always had work to do. I’d spent the past three years taking care of our kids while Aaron attempted to dig out of the paperwork hole he’d fallen into as a small business owner. It wasn’t something we could do anything about and I felt bad for him, but…. How will I ever get myself out of this hole as long as he is in his?

“What are we going to do when we get home, Mom? Can we play with friends?” I glanced back at our 6-year-old Amelia. Her intense need to have our schedule planned out in her head made it difficult for me to feel like I was ever on top of things.

“No. Today isn’t a friend day.”

“Well, what fun thing are we going to do?!”

My muscles wound tight as she spoke, and then I glanced at Grant. His little body looked as tired as I felt. Grant spent the first four years of his life waking up at 4:00 a.m. Chronic sleep deprivation threatened to strangle the life out of me. I probably looked like it. Thankfully, we were at a point in Grant’s life when I didn’t have to wake up with him every morning, but I was still tired. Oh, so tired.

The truth was, I was also angry. It seemed like my kids, my husband, our dogs and even God were in on this conspiracy to keep me awake and on edge. I simply couldn’t catch up. Just as soon as I began to feel rested, someone would have a bad dream or need me when I went to sleep. I didn’t like having to fight for my sanity, but what choice did I have? If I didn’t, I was utterly defeated on most days by 7 AM.

My consolation was that we could afford a few distractions. “I think I’ll take the kids to the new Disney movie this afternoon while you work.” The thought of theater popcorn and a large Coke took the edge off the disappointment of another lonely Sunday.

“OK.” He looked at me apologetically and then pulled into our garage.

Leaving the kids in the car, I slipped into the house, through the laundry room and into our kitchen. I opened the pantry door to grab our popcorn bucket, but it was full of mismatched lids and containers. Dumping it out onto the shelf, I shut the door and sighed. I’ll get them later.

I shook away the acknowledgement that I had no intention of cleaning up my mess. Looking around our expansive kitchen, I mused again at how empty it felt…about as empty as I was.

“We’ll be back in a couple of hours,” Tears threatened to spill out as Aaron kissed me goodbye. I felt like a shell of the vibrant woman who married him 8 years before. While I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t sure what I was.

A few minutes later, I shooed Amelia and Grant into the crowded concession line at the movie theater. Glancing down, I saw Grant lying on the ground. “Grant! Stand up!”

No matter how early he’d gotten up that morning, I didn’t want to have to hold him while we stood in line for popcorn.

I looked at my adorable kids and shook my head. A couple days before Amelia told me she was tired because Grant was waking her up at 5:00 a.m. every morning. I was incredulous. “Why?!”

“He just wants to play,” she told me.

No wonder they are fighting by 11:00 a.m. every day! If only there were a simple way to get more sleep…

“Mo-om!” Amelia insisted I come out of my head and back into the concession line. “What time is it?” She was the most time-aware 6-year-old child I knew. “What time does the movie start?! We’re going to be late!”

“Shhh. We’ll be fine.” I scowled. Having my thoughts interrupted irritated me, and I had no intention of going into this movie without popcorn.

There had been a time when I watched grown-up movies to stimulate creativity and intellectual analyzing. Now I went to children’s movies with the kids, hoping I wouldn’t poke my eyes out with boredom. And that’s why we’re not skipping the popcorn.

A few minutes later, we found seats in the front of the theater and started stuffing kernels into our mouths by the handful. I heaved a big sigh, wondering what the movie was going to be about. Based on the trailer, I expected Disney’s Frozen to be nothing but a fluffy children’s movie about a cute snowman and a reindeer.

The movie began and my disgruntled musings about my sleep-woes were interrupted by ethereal vocal sounds. I looked up to see Cinderella’s castle transitioning into the snowy dark of night and one big, bright, beautifully complicated snowflake.

get-the-kindle-bestseller-for-2-99-3

Don’t forget your free bonus. Sign up for the Video Discussion Guide in the menu above this post.

Cocking my head to the side, I squinted. The dark mountainous landscape developing before my eyes seemed anything but fluffy. Out of nowhere, wide-toothed saws ripped through the mountain lake ice, and a chorus of men’s voices declared the dangers of a frozen heart.

I hadn’t anticipated a musical. I love musicals.

Soon, a castle near the mouth of a fjord appeared. Inside the castle, Anna jumped on her sister Elsa, as Elsa lay sleeping in bed. And then little Anna asked Elsa if she wanted to build a snowman. The girls, Anna and Elsa, appeared to be the same ages as Grant and Amelia.

Playful, early morning innocence cut through my icy exterior as violently as the sawing in the first scene. How did they know?

Quiet sobs escaped, and the eyes of my heart opened wide as Elsa created a magical winter wonderland experience for Anna. By the end of the “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” montage, enough tears had flowed to thaw the edges of my frozen heart.

Somewhere in my spirit, I sensed a voice whispering, “This movie is a gift to you, Andrea. Receive it.” So for the next two hours, my heart opened, and I wept as I watched my life unfold before my eyes in a beautiful metaphor on the screen.

~Excerpt “Prologue” from the book Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You

Reach Chapter 1 by clicking on this button.

Read Chapter 1 Now


UNFROZEN is on sale at a special price of $2.99 (paperback $15.99).

AJW_FacebookProfileImage_11The Kindle and paperback versions of the book are available through Amazon.com. Come find me on Facebook and let me know you downloaded and don’t miss the free bonus: “Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide” in the menu above this post. It’s perfect for friends or mother-daughter conversations.

Click Here for the direct link to the book!

What others are saying…

This book will leave you feeling brave, encouraged, entertained and inspired. The great storytelling will make you want to read “just one more chapter” while the depth and wisdom offered will make you slow down and think about how it applies to your own story. Unfrozen will challenge and encourage you to not shrink away from who you were created to be. If you’ve ever felt frozen by your circumstances or stage of life or felt like you have to hold back a big part of who you are, this book is for you.

Susan Manes, Owner of Mathnasium, former Community Engagement Manger at Creative Trust Media

How refreshing! An imperfect author! Andrea’s raw reveal gives integrity to her infectious invitation. It turns out that God has chosen, loved, and released only the truly flawed, but uniquely fascinating, image-bearers to give voice to his love!

Neal Brower, MDiv, LLD
Pastor, Author, EFCA District Superintendent

Unfrozen would be a fantastic read for both adults and teenagers alike, and a great resource for parents and youth leaders to utilize with teens and young adults as well as women’s ministry programs.

Christina Klausen, MA
Recource Center Coordinator, Community Church Fond du Lac

Few books have the authenticity to change one’s perceptions of life or move one to action. This one does! I feel inspired, energized to become “unfrozen.” Through beautiful, descriptive prose, the author shares her own experiences and ways of overcoming fear, anger, resentment, confusion and so many other emotions that can hamper living life to the fullest, or as she says, “becoming unfrozen.” The stories are compelling and entertaining reading in themselves, but they also offer inspiring insights into how to make life changing decisions. It’s a great read for women of all ages.

Amazon Reviewer

Buy it here.

 

Unfrozen from Andrea Wenburg on Vimeo.

If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough

Dear Friends,

I keep writing and re-writing this post, looking for a clever way to say what I want to say this week. But the truth is, my mind and heart are on a different set of documents on my computer.
IMG_1566They are on the large sheets of paper taped up on my walls filled with ideas, connections, quotes, outlines and chapters.

Friends, I’m writing a book. My head has felt like a pressure cooker of thoughts and feelings growing and flowing around for a very long time. After watching Frozen on November 30th, 2013, I knew I needed to find a way to release everything cooking in my head. It took a year for me to let out my Frozen Top Ten” (Click here to read). Then after I did, my good friend Debbie sat me down and challenged me to write a book about it. I’ve been dreaming and setting my course in that direction since then.

Each week on this blog I open the top and release a tiny bit from that pressure cooker of a head of mine. I am relishing the opportunity to Let It Go through writing a book.

This book compares the epic journey depicted in Disney’s Frozen with my own dramatic experience searching for a way to authentically express myself while building connections rather than destroying them. I hope to inspire and challenge others to find, refine and release their own voice.  (Read this short post called Your Voice Matters…it really does.)

Your voice – what you say and how you say it – really does matter. If you are interested in helping me get this project off the ground and into the hands and hearts of others, here’s how you can use your voice to help make that happen.

1. Subscribe to my website. Thank YOU to those who already do! If you subscribed prior to July, 2015 you are not subscribed now because I changed my website – I apologize for the inconvenience! If you did not receive an email with this blog post, you are not subscribed.

I will be sending periodic updates and special information and materials to subscribers. Building a robust email list is one of the most important and difficult jobs for authors. Before you read anything else, go to the subscription form on the side or bottom of this post and type in your email address. Your voice matters when you support by subscribing.

2. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. And if you think to yourself, “This post could help someone else,” please consider retweeting or reposting. It sounds minor, but I see the stats. When people interact with posts and share them, they reach thousands more people than I could reach on my own. Your voice matters on social media.

3. Pray. Writing is an exciting creative and introspective adventure. It’s thrilling and frightening and consuming. I have a rigorous, ambitious timeline. If you pray, would you consider praying for me in this process when you see my posts? I long to dig in, share with wisdom and connect deeply with others. Your voice matters to God.

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. This is just the beginning. There are more exciting things on the horizon that I look forward to sharing with you in the near future!

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

Just ask.

I should just ask.

I love discovering people’s unique contributions to the world and then celebrating them by receiving their offerings with open arms. But when I have a specific need to fill, I often look around aimlessly – wondering who will help me. I don’t ask others for help because I’m afraid I might not get a response. 

Being ignored feels worse than being invisible. Asking is risky.

Recently, I have been feeling the “need” for photos to use here on the blog. Images stick with me in ways words do not. That may sound crazy from someone who writes quite a bit. But it’s true. I’m the gal who prefers the movie over the book – most likely because I never read the book in the first place! (Can I say that?!) My brain imagines everything in diagram, so reading descriptions isn’t nearly as interesting to me as seeing the scene at the theater.

In fact, I remember my own blog post by the picture that accompanies it before I remember the title I gave it! So, finding an image to convey the message that flows out in each blog post is a big deal to me. I get lucky every once in a while with my own camera but I don’t really know what I’m doing. I toyed with the idea of learning more about photography, but I have SO many other things I want to do first.

So, week by week I look in the Creative Commons archives for images that speak what I am trying to say. And week after week I find ZERO joy in posting them.

Because I don’t know the photographer.

I tend to believe in finding jobs for the right people instead of finding the right person for a job. It is an important value I hold. I often make choices based on people I want to connect with rather than qualities I want in an institution or activity. It’s not that qualities don’t matter, it’s that the relationship oftentimes means more.

Empowered by this relational focus one night, I finally said to myself….

I should just ask.

And I did. You passed the word around and three very talented “amateur” photographers blew me away with their response. I couldn’t wait to share them with you!

Linda Liljehorn

Laura Bernero www.laurabernero@wordpress.com

Jennifer Brungardt


I am so grateful to them for opening up their archives to Live & Love Deeply. You will see more of them in the future.

Thanks as well to Christina Klausen Photography for her water image used for the title of this blog and this beautiful image of our daughter, used on my first breakout post about how Frozen changed my life:

www.christinaklausenphotography.com


I feel a deep connection with others when their art and my art dance. Maybe you’ll feel it too.

And maybe next time I’ll remember that people don’t know I need help until I ask. It’s worth the risk.


If you are interested in contributing a photograph or a few to the message of Live & Love Deeply, please email me for more information. Thank you!

awenburg@gmail.com


If you would like more thoughts on living and loving deeply, sign up for email notification of new posts on the right side or bottom of your screen. And as always, you are welcome to share with your friends!

Thank you, Friend!

Behind Closed Doors

It’s not that I want to pretend when I see you today, I just want to hide.

I would rather hide than open myself to you. When I feel overwhelmed, deflated and defeated as I do right now, I have no desire to write or engage or do any sort of active loving. I just want to sit quietly by the fire, consume comfort and contain the storm within.

Oh, Elsa.

Last night my sister and I spent an hour in a text conversation. Think we’re crazy? Lazy? Disconnected? Sometimes texting is as close as I want to come to emerging from my hiding place. She wanted me to open the door.

Oh, Anna.

The truth is, my door opens wider in writing where there is one point of engagement: words. Talking on the phone requires that I say words as well as speak them in the appropriate tone. Add a third dimension of body language and I’m sure to let my cold front move in on you.

I don’t want to do that, so I’m going to hide. If you’re in my presence, I’ll hide behind my genuine desire to care for you, knowing that what’s inside of me is best left for me to deal with on my own. Maybe I’ll draw the shades, but I won’t be opening any doors when we’re together.

Unless…

Unless you are safe.
Unless you don’t compare yourself to me.
Unless you are unafraid of the strength of my emotion.
Unless you are un-intimidated by the tangled web of my thoughts.
Unless you are willing to walk directly to the eye of my storm and invite me to open it wider.

Maybe then I will open my door.

But you’ll have to knock first.Doors

photo credit: Closing Time via photopin (license)

Frozen Top Ten

Warmth for Cold Hearts

“In other news…tomorrow is Monday and the first weekday of February!”

My sister’s Facebook post at the end of the SuperBowl got me thinking. It sure seems like there’s a lot of crummy going around lately. Illness, cabin fever, unmet New Year’s expectations, people attacking other people, people ignoring people attacking other people, and lots and lots of snow…Not to mention Valentine’s Day – the annual troublesome reminder of the loneliness most people feel. February is the longest shortest month of the year: 28 days to remind us of how alone and crummy and cold we feel.

It seems that everywhere around me people are hurting. And sometimes the hurt turns into rage or deep sadness. It’s all incredibly discouraging. But sometimes a miracle happens. Sometimes people take their pain and turn it into something much more powerful than retaliation. They turn it into love.

This morning a high school friend posted this video. It inspires people to take cyberbullying and turn it on its head. It reminded me of the Coke commercial from the SuperBowl last night about making the internet happy. (Both are worth watching – click on the blue words.) And I thought:

In other news…Today is Monday – the first opportunity of February:

  • The month where we take negativity and turn it on its head.  
  • The month where we offer kindness when we feel unkind.  
  • The month where we forgive instead of holding grudges.
  • The month where we offer connection in the midst of our own loneliness. 
  • The month where we offer love to warm cold hearts.

Now that I think about it, we started on Friday night when eleven 2nd grade girls came over to participate in “Kick the Winter Blues Frozen Sing-A-Long Party.” The goal? Relationship-building and letting go in a safe and fun environment where every girl knows she’s loved and no girl feels left out.

Frozen Party I don’t know if we accomplished the goal – the only real indication I have is the jumping and smiling and singing and not-wanting-to-leaving. A teacher even stopped by to soak in some of the sweetness!

Maybe, just maybe, a few hearts were warmed Friday night. Maybe they’ll pass on a little heat this week at school. Maybe they’ll know where to come in the future when they feel cold.

Work. School. Home. It’s a tough time of year, all around. Instead of complaining about it and hunkering down for a long winter’s nap as I’d like to do, I made a decision. It’s time to take drastic, proactive measures. It’s time to get creative and intentional about offering warmth to my kids, my husband, my family, my friends, teachers, and random strangers. If I’m not proactive, February has the potential to bulldoze me and everyone I care about. I’m just not going to let that happen.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to be tagging photos, links, observations and warm inspiration with #heatwave2015 this month on social media. Would you like to join me? I’m totally nervous that no one will respond! But you know what? I’m gonna lean into that and offer it anyway! Let’s spur one another on toward love and good deeds, shall we? If you have any hot ideas about what people could do, share them below or on social media #heatwave2015. If you are interested in spreading the idea, share this post and explain what it is or what it means to you.

Let’s create a heat wave that warms cold hearts this February!

#heatwave2015

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For more information about my own thawing heart:

Frozen Top Ten

“Follow” Live and Love Deeply for more encouragement and challenge. Thank you!

Heatwave 2

Frozen Top Ten

Frozen had a huge impact on me. So much so that it took me a year to work through my feelings and finally get it out.

And I’m not 8 years old.

That’s the beauty of art, isn’t it? It has the potential to transcend age and gender and culture and every other distinguishing barrier between people. Art digs deep into our guts and pulls out our humanity — allowing us to connect with anyone else who has guts too. So friends, are you willing to dig in? I give you my humanity: the top ten (of about 156) reasons Disney’s Frozen changed my life.

10. I love a good surprise. I had NO CLUE this movie would be anything other than a tolerable fluffy children’s movie about a cute snowman and a reindeer, let alone a life-altering inspiration for me. I was shocked as the movie transitioned from Cinderella’s castle to a dark, deep and beautiful land.

9.  Apparently “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” almost didn’t make the last cut. I am incredibly grateful it did. Our son has an internal alarm clock that wakes him hours before mine does. My loss of sleep the first four years of his life made for a lot of physical and emotional pain for me (and thus probably for everyone else in our family). The week Frozen hit theaters, he was waking his sister up at 5:00 in the morning to play and I was beside myself about it. When I saw Anna whisper “do you wanna build a snowman?!” to Elsa, I lost it. The entire song-sequence includes the loss of their friendship the loss of their parents and the quick passing of their childhood. Talk about putting things into perspective! Even as I type this I’m holding back tears (since I’m in a coffee shop!). I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to grasp and then embrace the innocence and beauty and friendship my children share. I still want them to sleep more, but I’m learning to sit and enjoy and appreciate them even when they disrupt my well-laid plans. So thankful for this.

8.  Frozen not only has songs in it, it is a musical of Broadway proportions. When I first heard Idina Menzel belt out “tell the guards to open up the gates,” I started to bawl. It’s one thing to sing out. It’s totally another thing to sing Idina. I grew up singing my heart out – often wondering if I should be quiet since people would sometimes stare or say things that embarrassed me. Most of the time I didn’t want attention, I just wanted to sing what was in me. What was in me was so intense that expressing it often felt too loud – like I was seeking attention. I often held something back. Then through postpartum depression that stretched into a couple of years, I was left without a song in my heart. I didn’t sing spontaneously. I didn’t sing hardly at all for over 4 years. When I first recognized Idina’s voice, I heard another voice say “This movie is a gift to you, Andrea. Receive it.” And so I opened myself to whatever it would bring.

7. Frozen’s emotional, artistic tendrils reached into cold and lonely places of my heart that I had abandoned in order to survive the necessary-mundane. Elsa has a beautiful gift that can enhance and bring joy to others’ lives. But even Elsa has her limits and sometimes using her gift causes big problems and relational strife. The wide range and intensity of her emotional, internal world directly impacts the expression of her gift in her life. She bears a great weight, knowing that her emotions impact others so powerfully. When the people around Elsa don’t know what to do with her, they silence and cover her. In effect they say, “You are too much. Your emotional instability is dangerous to us all.” Despite having an amazing family and support system growing up, I have always felt that I am too much. Like an iceberg, there is this part of me on the surface that I allow people to see and there is way more under the surface that I believe most people can’t or don’t want to handle. I’ve grown a ton in my ability to invite people to see the deeper parts of me in the past 12 years, but there always lingers a fear that if I start to express the intensity of my emotional world, people will shrug me off with “you think too much” and tidy me up with a trite “just give it to God” while never touching or seeing the depths of who I am as a woman. The movie gave me the opportunity to feel – intensely. In some ways it felt like waking up.

6. Oh, Olaf. Even Elsa has within her a certain capacity for innocence and faith and hope and love and sacrifice. She created the snow monster to keep people away, but her creation of Olaf proves that deep down, she most wants to enter into and celebrate the beauty of relationship.

5. “Let It Go” has become a beautiful anthem for self-expression. I love the song and singing it Idina – style has become the kind of goal for me that running a personal record in a marathon is for my racing friends. I still get chills every time I watch Elsa run up the ice stairs she creates as she sings “It’s time to see what I can do….I’m one with the wind and sky…” Sometimes I wonder if I could test the limits and break through. It’s astounding to think that my emotional, internal reality could potentially build an ice castle.

4. On the other hand, I know I can throw ice. I don’t mean to most of the time. Anna pushes Elsa’s emotional limits at the Coronation Ball and later in her ice castle. Elsa warns Anna that she needs to leave – she feels the intensity rising in herself and knows that if the pressure continues to build, she will burst. And burst, she did! And burst, I do. I HATE it. I HATE it when the internal pressure in me builds and then others are around to see the scary ice show. It’s terrifying for me and probably for them. I have been researching emotional sensitivity for the past 4 years and when I saw Frozen, I knew I had finally found the perfect example to explain what goes on inside of me. It was scary to see Elsa erupt in dangerous, icy defense. And it was eye opening for me to see how others experience it. I could genuinely say “I don’t want to hurt others, I want to relate to them in love instead of the fear that comes with the sensitivities I experience. I want more.”

3. Oh how I love Anna. She pursues a relationship with her sister at any cost to herself. Her naiveté is endearing. As someone who identifies so much with Elsa, it is hard for me to understand how Anna could diminish her own value and elevate Elsa’s so much. To me, Elsa is nothing but a hot mess without Anna. Anna is the hero. Anna is the inspiration. Anna is love. Anna’s actual loving sacrifice of self is the key to unlocking Elsa’s real power – love in relationship. I hate to think about where I would be without the Anna’s in my life. It wouldn’t be pretty.

2. For months I’ve wanted to shout this: “Let It Go is only a step in Elsa’s journey – it is not the end goal!” When Elsa tests those limits, she breaks right through them and creates an astonishing ice castle that only ELSA can live in. When Elsa lets it go, she explores her abilities and in the process she isolates herself. It’s cool to visit an ice castle, but where does one sleep? A philosopher/theologian can make amazing connections in her head but if she can’t share them with others, she is quite alone. Fear that others won’t understand – fear that others will run when she says her thoughts out loud – fear that she will offend or hurt others…these fears have kept me mostly quiet for a long time. I’ve learned a lot about tact and honesty and being considerate in my time exploring my own little ice castle, and I am very thankful for that. But there comes a time to come down from the mountain and offer one’s gift to the world with a balance of honesty and love. The world doesn’t need a bunch of ice castles, but ice rinks can be fun. Just ask everyone in Arendelle at the end of the movie. “Are you ready?” says Elsa with a gentle smile and nothing to prove. It is this scene, more than any other, that moves me. I feel called out in that scene. Nothing to prove. Time to share in honesty and love, without demand that others understand or stay or not be hurt.

The gift of ice magic is selfish and demanding when fear rules, but when love overcomes fear, it is a gift that can meet others right where they are and offers whatever it most wants to offer.

1. And so it is time for me to sing my heart out. To throw awesome parties. To write. To teach. To make kids feel special. To offer what I most want to offer without demanding anyone receive it. I had the Frozen soundtrack downloaded by the time we got home from the theater for the first time. I plugged my phone into the kitchen speaker and the kids and I sang and danced our hearts out for what felt like hours. Aaron even joined in when he saw what was happening. I’d never shown my kids such joy mixed with tears and love. Since then they have grown immeasurably in their own self-expression and love for the arts. I finally gave this gift to my kids – my family. Had I held it in, I may have unintentionally hurt them by uninspiring them to hold back.

DSC_0590Photo by Christina Klausen Photography     www.christinaklausenphotography.com

Thanks for hanging with me through my top 10 list. I hope to offer more on these topics in the future, but I need your help. I am inspired by relational connections. You share, I share: send me a message, respond to this post, share it with others. I’m also working hard to build a platform. Your follow on Medium or Twitter and your like of Andrea Joy Wenburg on Facebook can make a huge difference in helping me give others the opportunity to dig deep into their own guts and pull out their humanity — that true love might free them to let it go in relationship like never before.

Thawing,

Andrea

For more on my experience with depression:

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared