Thursday, January 8, 2015

Saying Good-bye Comes Before Saying Hello

In the wake of this past week, a survival week of packing and crying (momma, are you crying AGAIN, said my son) and just plain old living (because the children must still be fed and clothed, oh yes), there has been little time for sitting still.  But this early morning – on the day we move from East Ross Street – I couldn’t help but do just that.  I needed to write about an image I’ve been carrying around in my mind and heart.  A metaphor for the shifting sands of this time that I’m living right now.  It’s been helping me with the hard work of saying good-bye.  I’ve realized that life, even life in Lancaster again, can never really be the same (we’ve sold our house, for one thing).  It takes courage to live with that realization when the life around you is all that you know.  When that life has been rich and full.  I’m sharing this with you because I know that courage and faithfulness aren't just for big acts and for moving to Kansas City – they are for the daily decisions of life too, big and small.

I’m standing at an ancient door.  It sits between an old, loved, familiar land and a new land.  The door has been closed for many years – so long that the hinges have rusted in place.  My task is to open the door.  I’ve been at this task for several months now.  

It’s not that I haven’t tried before.  In times past, I’ve stood at the door and contemplated trying to open it.  Even attempted it a time or two.  But I wasn’t ready for the task then.  NOW I AM.  (Sometimes I use capital letters to remind myself.)

For months, I have come to the door, put my hands on the rusted handle, and pushed with all my might.  Most of the time, it doesn’t move much, budging just enough to let me know that there is progress.  And because I must do this task, I come back, day after day, and continue the work.

I’m almost finished.  Surprisingly, the pushing at the end has been my hardest work.  The door has never opened this wide before and at times it wants to default to its old, comfortable position.  I go home at night to rest, exhausted by the effort, tearful of the leaving.  Saying good-bye is an important part of the hard work that I am doing.

But this hard work is now giving me glimpses of the land on the other side.  Bright glimpses that excite me and let me know my task is soon done.  The glimpses whisper to me…

  “Don’t give up."

  “Have courage.”   

  “It will be worth the effort.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fear Goes Running

This morning I did something I thought I could never do.  I ran a race.  A 5K race, to be exact (3.1 miles).  If you followed my blogging over the Lenten period, you may remember that I have had a fear of running - or, more accurately, a fear of FAILING to run.  I had a dream in April that turned the light bulb on those shadows of fear (see my 4/19 blog post), and since then I have been training to run a 5K.  This morning was my chance to kick that fear in the face once and for all.  And let me tell you, it was exhilarating when I crossed that finish line.  But I didn't get there without crossing over some obstacles.

Snapshot 1:
The race has just started.  I'm not a fast runner, so I try to stay away from the front of the pack.  Even so, lots of people are passing me.  It was discouraging, to be honest, to see so many others running at a faster pace than I could maintain and leaving me behind.  But I've learned something from all these months of practice:  my mind will make or break the race.  So I pull my thoughts back and decide that I'm going to endure and keep my pace and race against MYSELF.  Because honestly, that's the only race that really mattered to me today.

During my childhood years, we owned a recording of the tortoise and the hare story.  I listened to it many times while reading the accompanying storybook.  Imagine my surprise when my discouraged thoughts turned to a line from that old story:  "Slow and steady wins the race.  Slow and steady wins the race."

Snapshot 2:
 I'm nearing the finish line.  It's less than a half-mile away.  Suddenly, I have thoughts of wanting to quit.  Physically, I felt good.  I had maintained my slow, steady pace for the duration of the race.  But my mind and emotions were ready to burst, even though I knew the finish line was a short distance away.  I've noticed this phenomenon before.

When I was laboring to bring my daughter into the world, I felt productive, somewhat in control (only somewhat) and excited.  Excited, that is, until the final contractions left me reeling and all I wanted to do was give up and find relief.  I didn't know it, but I was minutes away from birth.  Minutes away from the moment that would end several days of labor.  At the point of breakthrough and relief, I almost didn't make it across.  But the support of my husband and those present with me in the delivery room carried me through the point of no return.

I thought about that experience today when I felt like quitting so close to the finish line.  I told myself to remember that this is what it can feel like.  I knew that my emotions and mind were already at the finish line and wanting a release from the pressure.  I worked to bring them back to my physical reality - I wasn't finished yet.  I remembered how much support I had from others to stay in the moment and give birth to my daughter.

And just then, I saw my husband and son up ahead on the course, wildly cheering me on.  Can I tell you that I erupted in tears?  Joyful tears?

I finished the race with laughter in my heart and joy on my face, my spirit soaring!  I can't think of a better way to cross a finish line.

And, incidentally, I finished a full 1.5 minutes ahead of my previous training record.  Take THAT, fear.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What now?

We've made it through the Lenten period.  That means I've officially reached my blog-writing goal.

I thought when I came to this point I would have a clear sense of what comes next for writing and/or for this blog.  But I find that the future still looks fuzzy.  I think I need to free myself, at least for now, from the obligation of writing every week.  That may mean that I continue to post on here more frequently than I think I will (playing the piano happened that way - when I stopped lessons and practicing for recitals, I actually played more).  But it could also mean that I'll post infrequently.  I'm just not sure.  If you subscribe to the blog (see button at top right) you can receive an email with my most recent post, regardless of how frequently or infrequently I write.

If you are reading this, I do want to thank you for following along.  The whole point of this goal was to start writing again AND to start sharing my writing with other people.  I would love to have any feedback.  Was there a post that "stuck" with you?  Was there a post that frustrated you?  Would you be glad to see the blog continue?  It's not too late to contact me via email or by commenting here.  I'm always encouraged when someone takes the time to respond.


Since I'm already posting, I'll tack on something personal.  The last week or so, I've been feeling pretty discouraged about my daughter's progress toward walking.  She's so close, and yet it could be weeks or months until she finally decides to take a step.  I'm feeling really impatient.  Really tired of feeling like I need to keep pushing her toward the goal.  And afraid to share how discouraged I am because:  1) when I start comparing (always dangerous to do) this "problem" to what others are facing, it seems pretty insignificant; 2) I think I should have a better grip on my emotions, more patience, more steadfastness, etc. 

I'm afraid of judgment, pretty much.  And I question myself - should I be doing more, or perhaps less (just let go)?  Or is it really not about me, at all?  I wish I knew.  In the meantime, I wait.  Because, at the end of the day, that's the only option I have.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


I had a dream last night.  It wasn't a nightmare, but I woke up feeling uneasy.  I stayed in bed a few extra minutes and thought about my dream . . . that's what I do when I need insight.

In the first part of the dream, my husband and I worked for a large, unknown corporation.  What I remember from the dream was the maddening difficulty of accomplishing anything in that company.  People would quit, I presumed because the tasks were difficult and also meaningless, and yet no one was willing to change the order of things.  There were outdated procedures and lots of obstacles to freedom and productive work.  But it continued.  Over and over again, day after mind-numbing day.

I'm not sure what to do with this dream except to think about how it relates to tomorrow (or today, if you are reading this via email subscription).  Resurrection Sunday.  If ever there was a day that upended the supposed order of things - getting rid of obstacles and the dull comfort of meaningless routines - well, this is the day.


The second part of my dream involved the sport of field hockey.  I was playing it, enjoying it, and determined to try out for a team.  And then, in my dream, I remembered that field hockey practice involves lots of running.  And just like that, still in my dream, I lost my resolve.

Then I woke up. 

While I was puzzling over this part of the dream, I had a sudden flashback to my 8th grade year of junior high.  I played field hockey in 8th grade and I loved it.  I would even say I was good at it.  But something kept me from trying out for my high school team, and that something was running.  I figured I couldn't do the running that a high school coach would require and I was too scared to even try.  How funny, and quite amazing, that this snippet of my history should come fleeing out of the shadows of memory this morning.  It sort of washed over me that I'm standing at the exact same crossroads of that memory, except now I need to run for a 5K (one of my goals for the year) and not a field hockey team.  Back in eighth grade, I made a judgment call - a judgment of myself - based on fear.  This time, I need to make a different decision about who I am. 

I need a resurrection.

resurrection  [rez-uh-rek-shuhn]

the revival of something: a resurrection of an old story  


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Still, Small Voice

I have a confession.  I'm still afraid of God.  And it's not "holy fear." It's the plain, no-frills version of being scared.  I've had a growing awareness of this fear lurking in the shadows, and it has surprised me.  Surprised me because I remember places of fear and not trusting and I look back on those times - they are not part of who I am now, I believe.  But, still, there are little pin-pricks telling me that all is not as it could be.  

As I've listened to those pin-pricks - honed in and tried to REALLY listen - I've realized what I'm really afraid of.  I'm afraid of God's voice.  I'm afraid of what that voice might say to me.  What it might ask me to do or say or not do or not say.  I have told myself that listening to it might come at the expense of self - I might not be able to do what I want to do or be who I truly am.  And, perhaps because I'm afraid, it's easy to let other voices drown out the small, quiet voice of the Spirit of God.  Because there are lots of other voices and they clamor for my attention.  I want to listen to them because they are louder, familiar, comfortable, and deceive me into thinking they won't require anything of me.

But here's the thing.  I'm not new to the whole Christian experience.  I've got some powerful stories and experiences notched on my belt.  So the fact that I still want to listen to the crowd of other voices grieves me.  It means that I still don't hear the voice of God as the voice of love.  This despite years of knowing God's voice as exactly what scripture professes it to be:  patient, kind, never forcing its way upon me, always hoping, never ending.

As I pondered all of this today, a "what if" question started to take shape in my thoughts.  What if listening to the smallest, quietest voice meant not the death of self but rather the way to a life that was free and authentic and flourishing?  What if?

I need to sit with that question.  I've wondered sometimes what it would mean to take a couple weeks or months or even a year and go to a place where my main occupation is listening to the still, small voice of God. Listening for that voice is a discipline, I remind myself.  Like any discipline, it takes practice.  But maybe, with practice and care, it becomes more familiar.  Comfortable.  Home.

All fear is but the notion that God's love ends.  ~ Ann Voskamp

For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.   ~ Matthew 16:25

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walking Is a Process

My 17-month-old daughter Eve is not walking yet.  As an infant, she would not put weight on her legs, as infants normally do with ease, and until her first birthday she spent most of her hours in a sitting position because she didn't know how to do anything else.  Once we figured out what was hindering her from movement (low muscle tone in her legs and feet) and got help from a physical therapist to strengthen her leg muscles, we saw an amazing transformation.  She began to crawl almost immediately and in the past three months has progressed to the very tip of the final frontier - walking without assistance.  She's almost there, but not yet.

My husband and I have discussed at various times what an accomplishment walking is.  Such an amazing coordination of brain activity and muscle movement.  Our first child started to walk without any assistance from us, and so we took that milestone for granted.  However, working with our daughter has revealed some of the complexities of developmental milestones,  and we now understand that walking is really the culmination of a long process.  Before they walk, a child must (in many cases) crawl, kneel, learn to pull one leg up and bring themselves to a standing position, learn to pick up their feet and side-step along objects, maintain their balance, and finally, WALK!

I've been inspired by Eve's accomplishments in recent weeks. And I've drawn all kinds of helpful parallels between my daughter's journey and my own.  Here are three of them.

Fear hinders movement. 
At times, Eve was physically capable of performing a movement before she was mentally or even emotionally ready to do it.  So we had to do some coaxing and motivating to get her to attempt it, and then we had to help her do each step repeatedly until the action became part of her brain and muscle memories.  I've thought about points in my life where I have needed to do or say something new - repeatedly - to gain confidence and create a fresh memory that overrides the fearful one.  (Public speaking is just one example.)

If the big goal seems insurmountable, start with baby steps.
I've already written about all the little steps a child needs to take before they can walk.  So it is with me, an adult.  Big changes intimidate me.  But I don't want to avoid them, or avoid the adventure and growth and perspective that come with change.  Breaking down the big goal breaks down the fear too.

Movement, however small, is progress.
When I'm afraid or overwhelmed, something funny happens.  I don't move.  I get lost in thought.  Procrastinate.  I've been amazed to discover in recent months that sometimes the best way to get unstuck is to move, be it a walk around the block or tackling an item on my to-do list, even if the movement has nothing to do with the issue at hand.  It's forward motion, and it helps the mental fog to dissipate.  And Eve...well...if you could see how much we rejoiced over the smallest movement, you would know that her little movements represented progress!

The day my daughter walks will be glorious.  I'm sure I'll shed some tears.  But today I'm celebrating all the little accomplishments that will help her to get there.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Writing

Writing for this blog is hard work.  And I've been wondering why.

When I set out to do this, I imagined that writing a blog post would be something like writing in my private journal.  And journaling has never been difficult for me.  I think about something, emotions surface, ideas form, and the words come to the page without too much intervention.  It flows.  But blogging has been a different animal.  I write.  Stop.  Think a long time.  Write some more.  Change what I wrote and start over.  Try to find the right word to convey my thought.  Write.  Attempt to conclude.  It takes a loooong time, especially with the normal interruptions of my daily life.  It reminds me of my college days, where writing was painstaking but necessary (I wrote lots of papers as an English major).  And I dreaded it then.  I don't want to dread it now.  But I haven't hit a stride like I thought I would and that leaves me feeling discouraged.

Why is my blogging different from my journaling?   I was prompted in two conversations today to think that the main differentiator is the fact that I have an audience here.  I want my writing to be meaningful for readers.  So I am still writing for the crowd, still not fully vulnerable in the way I would like to be.  It feels uncomfortable to be in the awkward teenage years of writing a blog.   And to know that others see my awkwardness.  I tell myself that surely all the writing practice of my college years should put me further down the road of experience.


I think writing - or any act of creating - must take lots and lots of practice.  I'm not sure why that revelation surprises me.  I certainly didn't learn to play the piano without spending many hours on the piano bench.  But it seems un-artistic, somehow, to put creativity and work in the same sentence.   I've always pictured the great artists painting or writing with ease.  Maybe my inability to think of those things as two parts of the same whole is part of my problem.

Work has never conjured up pleasant thoughts for me.  I don't like to think of it as drudgery, because having activity for my hands and mind and heart is a concept I want to embrace.  My husband, wise man that he is, has often told me that I need a paradigm shift when it comes to the subject of work.

In some ways, this is where I see what I'm made of.  Where the good feelings end but I keep going and push through the awkwardness because I know this is something I need to do.  Even if it doesn't come together or flow as I thought it would or should.