Sidewalk
Connectivity, Daily Life, What I Like

What I Like: “Summer Slacktavist” Edition

This summer has passed faster than the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed. And we’re not talking Episode V here.

Amid long days at the office, magazine deadlines, work trips, and making sure I got to church mostly on time Sunday mornings, I’ve actually spent a lot of time doing one of two things: walking city sidewalks and watching a lot of television.

So, I discovered this joy called Netflix, which people have been rightfully gabbing about for years. I started “Sherlock” on a Tuesday. Anthony and I finished all three seasons by that Sunday. And I, of course, feel no shame for this incident.

I even caught up on “Arrested Development” as far as I could stomach it, finished all available seasons of “What Not To Wear,” started “Firefly” and watched a few kiddie classics just to reminisce.

To make up for my massive amount of couch-space-hogged time, I’ve been walking three miles once a week. Never mind that it’s to get Jamba Juice. It was official outdoors time—minus the pine trees and the bunny rabbits and all those nature elements we enjoyed in Northern Nevada near Lake Tahoe.

But I digress.

After years of activism and volunteerism, this past month I’ve inadvertently joined the slack-tavist team. And with as zany as finding my place in this big, big city can be, I’m okay with calm for now. We all need some normalcy, huh?

Sidewalk

Today, from my couch, I’d like to share a few articles I’ve enjoyed this summer. Here are my favorite finds. Thank you, Internet.

1. Los Angeles — A Love Story.” As I struggle to find where I fit in LA after my big move last year, Laura Tremaine’s exposé resonated with me. I like the idea that it’s a city filled with “what if” opportunities, where “possibility falls off the palm trees.”

2. “Watch This 27-Second Video the Next Time Fear Lies to You.” In the words of my favorite comedian/business advice guy, Jon Acuff, “You don’t have to be amazing at everything.” Don’t believe it? Read this quick blurb, and watch 50-Cent “throw” the first pitch at a baseball game.

3. “Three Supermoons in a Row.” Science can just be amazing some days, right? Or some nights. Yeah, that too. Get your nerd card, and find out how NASA describes the visual phenomenon behind #SuperMoon2014. Psst! Next Supermoon is Sept. 9.

4. “Comic-Com Readies for the Last ‘Hobbit’ Film.” In light of the trailer debut for “The Battle of the Five Armies,” I’m loving Philippa Boyens’ final sentiments in this USA Today article: “It’s the ordinary, everyday folk, as Gandalf says in the first film, those are the ones who keep the darkness at bay.”

5. “Back Home” by Andy Grammer. Who is Andy Grammer? I don’t know. But I heard this song on the radio, driving home from work one day, and this chorus is meant for me. Right now. In this season.

Thanks for reading about what I like! Let me know in the comments below: What do you like right now? Favorite Internet finds or otherwise?

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Connectivity, Daily Life, Writing Tips & Thoughts

Changes to the Blog, and With Me

When I first listened to Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns album after years of Meteora and Hybrid Theory fandom, I wondered if I’d purchased the right CD. The music was … different. The tone less angry, less angsty, more explorative and overall more forgiving.

The musicians told a new bold story—not an anticipated account of pain. Now, lead vocalists called for—in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—“wisdom, justice and love,” examining societal ills but also hope through the lens of (nuclear) fallout. What is the catalyst, after all?

Musicians evolve. Even the most revered bands change course with maturity.

Blogs, I would argue, are worthy of the same treatment.

Bronze Broken Disk

When I began Pans and Pickpockets in 2010, I was a Nevada newlywed and recent college grad, trying to figure out what it meant to be a “traditional” wife who had a predilection for social causes.

Now, in 2014, I’ve given up attempts at cooking in exchange for a communications career, so there go the pans. I don’t participate in protests these days, and I’ve come to realize that social justice stems from attitudes of the heart, not just petitions we sign. So, there goes the pickpockets.

Today, I live in Los Angeles. I work in digital communications at a fast-paced office filled with creative coworkers. I remain married to the same man, who four years later still makes me laugh with his nerdy jokes, Lord of the Rings references and witty puns.

I am me, but I am different. 



I would like to continue blogging, but I’d like to tackle new territory in this space. Will you join me?

Here are some topics I’d like to share in the future:

  1. Writing Tips
  2. Social Media Strategy
  3. Los Angeles Life + Nevada Nostalgia
  4. Links to Posts Worth Sharing
  5. Compassion-Based Social Justice (as best we can define that)
  6. Activism Opportunities
  7. Faith

Let me know in the comments below: Which of these most resonate with you?

(If you’ve bookmarked Pans and Pickpockets, note my new URL: pansandpickpockets.wordpress.com.)

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Belle mug and books
Connectivity, Daily Life, Submissions

“One Day” 2013: Project to Document the Daily Norm

One year ago, I determined to capture the Post-it note pieces of my life that, when placed together, form my life’s story. This year, Laura Tremaine at Hollywood Housewife hosted her annual One Day event again, and I couldn’t wait to join! 

The goal is simple: Capture details of your life that make it what it is. Your nightstand, your makeup bag, your commute, your desktop. Anything you normally wouldn’t photograph, you now have a reason to do so. Because this is “One Day.” And in one day, you receive a glimpse of your life, in those small moments, for 24 hours.

This is my life through my scope on November 13, 2013. This is my story of 24 hours that I may not have otherwise noted, but now have found meaningful even in the mundane.

This is my One Day, 2013 style.

Click any photo to start the slideshow and see complete captions!

Wondering what my life looked like last year? Check it out here: One Day 2012.

Thanks for joining in my One Day!

Words and photos by: Ally Siwajian © 2013

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Bob Goff speaks via live stream
Connectivity, Influential Interviews, Scripture Study, Stunted World Changers

Be Available: What I Learned from Bob Goff’s “Love Does” Talk

What if we told people who they are? Not that we commanded: “Be this” or “Do that.” But what if we honestly told people the talents we see within them, the character qualities we appreciate, the stuff they’re just good at?

This weekend, as author Bob Goff spoke to a church crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, I couldn’t get his question out of my mind.

“What if we’re the ones who say: ‘This is what I see in you’?” he challenged the crowd and the online audience.

How Bob Goff Became Available

Bob Goff speaks via live stream

Bob Goff laughs a lot! I’m glad I watched this storyteller online for good laughs and good encouragement.

In his short talk on Saturday, Bob Goff told of personal experience that led him to this realization. “I was getting less and less available,” he confessed.

In response, he did something drastic. He gave people his phone number. Not just friends. Anyone.

Bob Goff wouldn’t screen calls. He’d just answer, talk for a bit, and encourage the person. If he was spending time with someone in person, then he’d answer his phone and simple ask if he could call the person back. Then he actually would.

It’s such a simple concept. But I find it’s difficult to do.

A Time to Rest, A Time to Invest—in Others

For me, it’s definitely been a busy season. This spring, I finally scored my dream job. But soon I found I had little time for anything else. I’d arrive home from work mentally spent. My creativity for writing—emails to friends, blog posts, or even text message replies—lacked. I became tired. Then I just wanted to retreat.

Time to rest is good. Time to process and to recharge is vital to our health as people. But at what point did we decide to put up the barriers? To screen calls? To only meet a friend when it was scheduled far in advance and fit in “my schedule”?

Bob Goff said: Jesus, “He had more time for everybody.”

Yes, Jesus rested—he slept on boats, and he went away to mountains to pray. But he also aimed to be there for people. On His way to raise a girl from the dead, He stopped to heal a bleeding woman in the crowd. On His journey to Bethsaida, He paused to feed 5,000 people. Jesus knew His mission.

Pans and Pickpockets Challenge: Encourage People

If I want to be a good friend, then I need to take a lesson from Jesus. I want to begin to be intentional about caring for people. It’s as easy as showing people you love them. Since I’m a person who values words, one of the ways I can do that is just to tell them.

“What if we’re the ones who say: ‘This is what I see in you’?” Bob Goff said.

Let’s start telling people what we see in them. I want to live to encourage others in their journeys. All I need to do is be available.

PANS AND PICKPOCKETS CHALLENGE: How do you like to encourage others? Leave a comment. I’d love to talk with you here. 

Words by: Ally Siwajian © 2013 

Photo by: Ally Siwajian, featuring a live stream from Canyon Ridge Christian Church 

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traditional church with book pages lining front walls
Connectivity, Stunted World Changers

Why Non-Christians Might Feel They Don’t Fit at Church

I am beginning to understand why non-Christians don’t feel comfortable at church.

Angelus Temple skylineChurch people are weird. They hug a lot. They sing a lot. They even have a lot of terms every church person seems to catch that don’t make sense in daily life: prayer request, praise report, clap offering, secular, and even non-Christian. But while these words can be disarming, it’s the stuff that happens in a church service that can make even less sense.

Since I moved to the greater Los Angeles area earlier this year, I’ve been looking for a new church to call “home.” In Reno, where I’d previously lived, I’d found a family in my church. But recently I had to start over.

And even as a Christian, I wasn’t sure how to feel about half the things I saw in churches I visited.

At one church, while people collected tithe (10 percent of your income, given back to God through His church for all He has given you), a young girl belted out lyrics in a solo with a literal spotlight. I blinked. Wait, was there a Beyoncé voice impression scheduled that I didn’t know about?

Then there’s the church with gluten-free communion crackers beside miniscule plastic cups of grape juice. That’s conscientious, I suppose. It just struck me as odd.contemporary church service

Then I saw countless banners, proclaiming the names of Jesus, the attributes of Jesus, the predictions for Jesus. All in jewel-toned primary colors with gold tassels and Brush Script style fonts.

One church had a literal wooden bridge outside for people to walk across as they chose to accept Jesus as the bridge between sinful people and a holy God.

One church had three tiers of balconies, a big screen to see the pastor preach in contemporary style, and stain glass windows as a reminder of its history.

One church had ripped pages of random books stapled to its walls, parchments to signify the story we’re all living.

Some churches have their own T-shirts, their own sunglasses, their coffee shops, and their bumper stickers. Some still use pews and hymnals and an only old-school piano. Some church people even meet outside on the lawns of public parks.

Gluten-Free communion crackersAmid these atmospheres—whether the air is clear or clouded with smoke from a backstage fog machine—are people. And church people can be weird.

I understand, to a small degree, why people who aren’t used to church don’t feel comfortable in our churches. I found my reasons, and I’m sure each person can add their own. I don’t presume to know them all.

Between the communion crackers, the jewel-tone banners, and a preacher’s words, we feel a bit lost.

It’s not familiar.

We don’t feel comfortable in unfamiliar situations.

But church is filled with people.

Many times, I reminded myself that going to a church for the first time isn’t much different than going to a party or going to a first day of school. There’s the introvert who can’t muster the nerve to talk to his neighbor. There’s the know-it-all who forgets she can learn from others. Cliques still form when people find people with whom they connect.traditional church with book pages lining front walls

And if you don’t reach out to others, they likely won’t reach out to you. Sure, you might get lucky. An extrovert might find you on your first day. But you also might be alone for a while. I learned I had to make the effort even at church, and I couldn’t expect everyone to come to me.

Jesus promises to meet you where you are, and He never fails. People try their best to emulate Him, but sometimes we fail. So, please, be patient with us when you come through the church doors.

In the meantime, reach out. Get involved. Team up with someone you meet, grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat after the service, and ask questions.

Every church has its own customs. Every family has its own norm.

Like a family member, try your best to connect with others in the house. You may not see eye-to-eye on it all, but you’ll likely find the friendship (or as Christians might say, the “fellowship”) is worth coming together with people different than you.

Together you can discover what church is designed to be.

Photos (featuring churches visited) and words: Ally Siwajian

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desert road in winter
Connectivity, Daily Life, Stunted World Changers

Change is Hard. God is Good.

I used to worry when I heard the sound of a helicopter’s blades whirring and pumping somewhere above my neighborhood at night. It used to be rare—the sign of cops looking for someone who was making himself hard to find. Now that sound is normal.

So are the sounds of sirens. Of music blaring from passing cars. Of children’s feet hitting the pavement in the outdoor hallway beyond my apartments’ windows and of a young girl next door singing. Singing because she sounds beautiful—to her ears—and she hasn’t learned yet to care what other people might think.

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks now.

How do I encapsulate the twists and turns of a road from Reno, Nevada, to Los Angeles? How can I capture the dreams Anthony and I shared—dreams that came true and yet somehow came so unexpectedly but expectantly.

desert road in winter

In March 2012, Anthony and I drove home from church one evening and sat slumped in our car’s seats in our Reno apartment’s dark parking lot. God has forgotten us, we thought. We bought the lie—that America sells.

We wanted simple: to be, to live and to love. But we had traded it for convenience. Somewhere between rent payments, electronic gadgets, a desire to dine at restaurants instead of cook at home, and a whole mess of being over-committed for all the right reasons to all the right things but to too much at the same time.  We had forgotten how to say ‘no.’ And we felt buried.

Let’s run away and move to Canada, we thought. I have enough extended family there that it just might work. We could live in Nanaimo. Write books. Stay in a little secluded cabin made of cedar wood. We could disappear, and we could be free.

But there’s this problem called relationship. People die of starvation from the human connection.

Dreams of that kind of freedom quickly became overrun with realities of isolation. While utter escape sounded appealing to a couple of introverts, we knew that pace couldn’t be sustained any healthier than our current state of rat-race numbness.

So we stayed.

The college version of myself would have scoffed. Don’t settle, I would have said. Just do something.

But sometimes “just do something” can be just as harmful. I might send myself spiraling as I force my way forward, on the wrong path, misstep, and fall flat on my face.

Sometimes we aren’t called to just do something. Sometimes we’re called to wait. Because when we wait by continuing the slow, steady walk of what we know how to do, we find clarity. Then when the clinging fog clears, you can see the rocks in the road and see the paths you should take.

I waited in Reno for one year. Then seven years from my initial entry point into that city, I knew: It was finally time to go. But when I went to leave, I realized I’d done it the right way for once. I’d planted roots. When we moved, we missed those we left behind. We’d have to start over, start fresh. But that’s okay.

Relationship with people and with God is what I seek in this life. If I don’t jump in—if I instead allow myself to be numb in the waiting seasons—then I’ll never know the joy of stepping into my purpose.

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Leave a Comment: What do you think about waiting? 

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Special thanks to Natalie Heifner who told me: “Change is hard. God is good.” and to Louie D. Locke for showing Anthony and me how to wait but wait well. 

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youth group in winter
Connectivity, Daily Life

This is my church

This is a church where jeans prevail over dress pants, and women won’t look down on you for failing to acknowledge Jesus with a dress’ knee-length hemline.

This is a church where you walk in and people know your name. And if you’ve taken the time to ask, you know their names too. Debi. Petey. Tim. Joni. Louie. Colby. Claire. Rod. Kate. Danae. Ronnie. Katy. Geneva. John. Chris. Tiffany. Andrew.

In this church, we take time to connect over free-of-charge coffee and tea and pastries that a certain coffee chain kindly donates to our Sunday morning services. Kids race each other, ducking in and out of rows of maroon, cushioned chairs purchased for our building by the lively Spanish congregation that meets in our sanctuary in the evenings. A pair of three-year-old girls eye the Communion crackers that haven’t been eaten, and no one smacks their hands for wanting to participate in this symbolic reflection of remembering to come into union with Jesus.

In this church, I’ve found a family. I’ve discovered more about who God has created me to be, and I’ve been given opportunities to live that out in real, tangible ways.youth group in winter

I’ve learned so much from my church family and from a compassionate pastor who wears baseball jerseys and Doc Martens when it snows. I’ve learned nature is a gift, to be explored and enjoyed. I’ve learned to care for my body as well as my mind and spirit. I’ve learned to lead we must serve, and I’ve learned we must go beyond the church doors with love, hope, and mercy if we wish to see true change in the world.

I’ve learned it’s okay to be who I am. It’s okay to love nerdy books, and it’s all right to talk about how I was inspired by The Hobbit or The Dark Knight Rises or The Return of the Jedi.

In this church, I realized it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to experience emotions. Then instead of exploding like a shaken soda can, it’s good to ponder these feelings, give them to God as David does in Psalm 4, and invite a friend to help you in your journey.

In this church, I have learned how true it is that it is not good to be alone. We need each other. We’re a community. It’s not an unhealthy dependency that demands we always function in stride. No, it’s a healthy unit, a working body, a family that knows when to give advice and when to simply share a story and when to provide a car when yours is broken down or make a meal to take home when you’re out of food or say a prayer that communicates I really do care and I will be thinking about you.

In this church, I have rediscovered my voice. I have discovered who I am. I have discovered what God wants of women—not for us to be quiet when we should speak—but for us to embrace who He created us to each be. Unique. Beautiful. Relational. Powerful. Unified with sisters and brothers.

In this church, I have overcome grief. I have survived the deaths of a friend and a family member, and I have seen healing power overwhelm my husband’s sicknesses.

In this church, age doesn’t matter. I have been invited to the table of a couple who already have shared their fortieth wedding anniversary, and I have held hands with a child as she showed me plants in her family’s backyard. I have danced. I have sung. I have attended a rock show within these walls. I have seen people overcome thoughts of suicide. I have dreamed of days in the future, and I have been encouraged to continue.

In this church, I realized the power of God’s redemptive story. He loves me deeply, and He loves you. He wants relationship with us, and He wants to empower us to become people who pursue Him and care for those around us.

I’m still learning. My life does not reflect a complete picture of Jesus. But I hope when people see this church, they see a little piece of the puzzle we are working to complete.

In this church and beyond its walls, we all matter. We all contribute to the puzzle. And I’m looking to the box cover with its perfect example, to find where I fit in this design.

Photo credit: Debi Johnson (from my church)  © 2012

Author: Ally Siwajian

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