February 18, 2014
This weekend my mood went to the birds. I had spent Saturday morning in a sort of a funk. It was not exactly a bad mood, as I was able to enjoy time reconnecting with a friend I had not seen in a while. And the sun was shining brilliantly—a fact that oftentimes has tremendous uplifting powers for me. But on a deeper level I was conflicted. I was battling my own moodiness—a darkness stemming from my inability to control my own emotions: an inability to be who I wanted to be . . . to love the way I wanted to love. I was, in short, feeling my fallenness. And this was the self that I brought into an afternoon intended to be spent planning the necessary logistics for a soon-to-come future together.
As we headed out, I couldn’t pretend anything other than where I was, so I just blurted it out, admitting that I was not in a good state of mind to be figuring out details. I ended with a sigh, “I wish there was a pretty place to go . . . somewhere to just be in beauty.” Rather than responding with any hint of disappointment, he just nodded and suggested we go to the lake. “Oh!” I said. “Could we? That sounds wonderful!” So we scrapped the intended destination and, instead, walked along the lake. For a spot smack dab in the middle of the city, I was shocked by how immediately soothing I found the sight of the water and the feel of the breeze.
Then, we fed the birds. I shrieked at the feel of the seagull wings sweeping against my hair, and beaks brushing my fingers. But they were shrieks of joy, coming from a wide-mouthed smile. And, just like that, the fog in my soul lifted. We even ended up carrying on with our intended agenda after all, with positivity.
Since that moment I have been musing on the frailty of my inner workings, and on the futility of placing any sort of confidence in my own skills. There is no goodness in me that can rise to the challenge of what a life can toss in my path. There is no amount of control I can muster to counteract the emotional ups and downs that buffet this brain on any given day. There is no “self” that is worth having confidence in.
But there is One who is.
February 5, 2014
It was an unflight to remember. Yes, an “unflight” –a 10-hour “flight” during which the airplane did not move. Actually, I take that back: it did move. More times than I can remember; but each time it began a take-off, the attempt was aborted. The funny thing about it all was that, like most memorable incidents, the trials of it ended up creating a sort of communal [familial] goodwill among the 2-hundred-some lot of us. I’ll explain that later. But first, the beginning . . .
It began with a sprint. My first leg of the journey was slightly late so that, with only a 45-minute layover, I had to make a mad dash through the airport in order to catch the main leg of the journey. Or so I thought. As it turned out, I could have turned that sprint into a 26-hour stroll.
We started off well, boarding as usual. They played the safety video, and we began the taxi. Nearing liftoff, a thud came from below, after which the airplane slowed and, soon, came to a stop. After a few minutes, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. He explained that, as some of us had heard, a noise had come that made him decide to return the aircraft to the gate for further inspection. We came back for the first 3 hours of waiting time. At this point the aircraft was determined to be safe for take off and we started over. Another no-go. Thus began a string of issues, ranging from mechanical to pilot shift changes to FAA regulations to medical emergencies.
Did you know that each time an aircraft comes to a stop, it has to replay the safety video before taking off again, even if all passengers are still seated? After a few repetitions, however, the crew members just might begin to introduce the video with jokes about how well we all know it . . .
And did you know that if a pilot times out on his allotted work time before the flight begins, they might have to call another pilot in who will have to drive two hours from his home in another state in order to take the trip? Mind you, he might just discover, once he has boarded the aircraft, that federal regulations will prevent the flight from taking off at all, after such an extended delay . . .
Have you ever observed a passenger become so irate that she stands up in her seat and begins ranting about how we should all join her in attempting to get off the aircraft because we have the “power” if we will “join together?” Happily, in this case the campaign was unsuccessful . . .
Were you aware that your stowed luggage, if composed of just the right materials, can clash with another bag in such a way as to imitate mechanical failure? Consider factoring this knowledge into your next baggage purchase . . .
I mentioned “familial” at the beginning of this piece. At first glance one would assume the use of this word to indicate a purely ethereal feeling: what I felt as I neared the gate on Flight “take 2” and saw so many people I had spent the day prior bonding with; In fact, as I walked by I said out loud to all who could hear, “Look at us—we’re like one big happy family!” And indeed, we were acting like it. In the midst of conversations about artificial insemination and bees [yes, I do in fact mean the real versions of each of these two topics. No pun intended], we began to take photos together and exchange contact information. After one photo, a recent acquaintance answered his phone and I could not help but hear the words of two intersecting street names that I know very well. After he hung up, I asked him if he was talking about an area near my old home. Turns out, he was. A few more queries in, we discovered that he spent time there many years ago and knew some of the same people I did. To be more precise, he knew my grandfather from business, and was pleased to hear that I had just come from a happy visit with two still active-and-chipper grandparents. What astounded me the most, however, was when he mentioned that he recalled meeting my father. This conversation happened as we boarded the aircraft and was the cause of a few distracted document-handlings and a good number of amused heads shaking and smiles from neighbors in the queue.
The second day of this flight’s attempt was almost smooth. We could not, I suppose, be all together without a few “apologies for the delay” and one start and stop. But this time, the second trip down the runway was completed. The pilot prefaced with “Let’s get there!,” and when we actually lifted off, the cabin erupted in cheers and applause. Onward ho, with 14 hours and 27 minutes of an actually-in-the-air flight :-)
January 21, 2014
You just never know with teens. This school year has been a bit of a learning curve in my present library. Not because I’m new to the school [or to libraries, for that matter], but because when I came last year it was in an unfamiliar position—a true learning curve—as a fourth grade teacher. The initiation into life here, then, was a rather harrowing one. And it left me overly stressed for much of the beginning of this year: I suspect simply because I got used to a high level of work stress and was afraid to sink into a more natural one for me . . . a “too good to be true” mindset, perhaps. All that to say, I’ve been figuring out this librarian thing all over again ☺
One thing I did without thinking too much about it was bending the old rules a bit by allowing the high schoolers to bring their lunch in. After watching them stand in the hallway with their plates for months, so eager to get into the library that they were unwilling to “waste” the time in the cafeteria, I just beckoned to them one day. “Come on in.” I said with a sigh. They looked at me oddly. “Just bring your lunches and come in.” I told them that so long as they sat at the table in the uncarpeted area while they were eating, it would be ok to come in. They nodded eagerly in agreement and the select few has ritually dined in the library ever since. I need to be in the library for both lunch periods, available for checkout, so am accustomed to saving in-library projects for that time frame, when I can busy about without being fully engaged as I am when teaching library classes. So I have grown accustomed to just doing my work and half-listening as they talk. Recently I realized, however, that I have also grown to look forward to this period of the day. With my normal elementary workload, I’ve found it refreshing to experience the high school world. And I’ve started to suspect that a few of them kind of like me as well [a suspicion that brings out the best—er, worst?— in my dorky desire to be one of the popular kids ;-)].
One of the girls who comes in bears an aura of devil-may-care about her. She is in her own world, and doesn’t really care what others think of her . . . or so it seems. I’ve started to notice, however, little indications of sensitivity tucked underneath that sarcastic exterior. And it has given me the desire to let her know that I enjoy having her around. With this sort of adolescent phase, I know better than to try to pry, or be overly affectionate. Instead, then, I just casually drop hints as best I can: hints that I think she is pretty cool.
This afternoon I packed up my things as usual to head out once I was done. If students are wanting to study in the library after hours, though, I try to allow it. I will just leave them there and return later to lock up. Doing so today, then, this particular student was reading as I left. I told her I was heading out and said that if she was gone when I returned, I hoped she had a good evening. She waved goodbye to me and I went out for my walk with a coworker. Later on I came back to lock up and almost missed a note on my desk. When I did see it, however, I grinned heartily. It was no big deal, really. But this small note spoke volumes to me. It spoke of the value behind each small moment of a day. It spoke of a brimming heart hidden beneath a gruff exterior.
December 25, 2013
A village Christmas. I could never have imagined it would be the way it turned out to be. Mind you, I knew going into it that it was to be a blind acceptance of an unknown to-come; I could not have predicted any particular sort of way 5 days in a remote village could be. And, frankly, it was with a good deal of trepidation that I stepped out of my comfort zones to do this. For one, I was out of my technology comfort zone: for one who is normally internet-reliant for all manner of connectedness, no online access for this amount of time would be no small venture.
For two, this would be out of my working comfort zone: it was going into someone else’s work life, basically as a bystander, and letting go of the crutch that my working identity generally functions as. Finally, this would be a departure from “comfort zone” in the expected “comfort” level of the word: logistics such as no indoor plumbing, for one (the closest outhouse being down the hill, past some homes, and back up the hill again) meant any Western idea of comfort was, well, anywhere but here!
But the surprising thing that happened, once I’d had a day or so to get my bearings, was the realization that somewhere deep inside the city-dwelling self I have become, there is a part of me that was shaped by my early village-dwelling existence. So I found myself settling happily into the pace of days spent observing toilet installations, playing impromptu games with laughing little ones, and then, in the oddest manner imaginable, celebrating Christmas. Christmas Eve began with a discussion over the breakfast table as to how the workday would begin. One project leader had left for a supply run that day, leaving us with a shortage of both supplies and leadership. The suggestion was made to do an alternate task at hand, hiking to the water source for an inspection. The village leader suspected it would take us 5 hours. Since it actually took 4, I later had my own suspicions that he was tacking on a significant chunk of time to allow for an apparently slow female hiker :-). It was, in fact, an arduous climb. For portions if the trek I felt like I was having to dredge up rock climbing skills (and, alternatively, bottom-sliding skills for the way down). It wasn’t particularly pleasant either, with the sun growing quite warm and the guide warning us against baring skin when in the tall grass. My fear of itchy skin overpowered present discomfort so I begrudgingly kept my winter jacket zipped up to my chin.
Eventually we made it to the top and inspections were made of the small streams that sufficed as water sources for the village. At one of them, after Peter had spoken with our guide for a bit without figuring out what the exact problem might be, he asked the guide if he could see the other end of the pipe that was directing water from the collection tank down the hill. He held the end up to his mouth then gave it a forceful blow. When a chunk of mud came out the other end, Peter scooped it out of the holding tank and smiled. “I’m really just a glorified plumber,” he quipped.
On the way back down, once I had determined for myself that I would, in fact, survive this hike, it occurred to me that I should somehow commemorate this as the day it was. I began to quietly hum “away in a manger.” Peter heard me and joined in, so I began to sing at a more normal volume. For the rest of the hike we worked through all the Christmas carols we could think of. One of my falls came in the middle of one of the songs I tend to get particularly engrossed in. I got up and recovered my bearings, still singing as I did so. “Maybe we should stop singing …” Peter suggested. I insisted that singing had no effect on my hiking abilities and we carried on.
By the time we returned to the village, I was covered with a layer of botanically interesting, but personally undesirable, burrs and prickles of all manner of species. I was dreading the prospect of removal until I realized that, village life being what it is, the process would be relatively painless (no pun intended). As the women laughed at me, and commented on how “li hai” (strong) I was to have finished the hike, the prickle removal was made short work of, with many hands.
That afternoon held more septic tank installation work for much of the village. So though our team had spoken a bit of attempting some sort of nativity play, we were short on both time and energy by the time evening came. At dinner, however, a mention of caroling was made. I almost jumped off my stool as I envisioned the idea. “Why not?” I asked. “Is it appropriate? Can we? … Let’s do it!” So we spent Christmas Eve caroling-going from one village doorstep to the next, and ending each with a “sheng dan jie quai le!” (“Merry Christmas!). Judging from the shy smiles on little faces and the amused grins on big ones, I’m quote certain that some significant Christmas goodwill was spread to all … Or at least to most :-)
Once we had finished, and bedtime neared, I began to think towards the travel coming the next day. A tear rolled down my face when I spoke out loud the realization that I was sad. Sad to be leaving, so soon, this place that so rapidly stole my heart.
The next morning we left on motorcycles. My backpack strapped to my back and my hands gripping the driver, I think I grinned the whole way down; I was smiling at both my love of motorcycle transport and at the amusing way this ride was commemorating Christmas morning. A motorcycle ride led to a bus ride shared with a tank of live fish and, as I write this, we travel on. On to the next stopping point and then, the next day, on to the next adventure.
“Oh God, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Ps 8:4)
…that You are so good as to fill the heart of a woman who wants You, and who wants to want You more?
November 30, 2013
So on this year’s “on this day,” I once again find myself living in a different country from the last year’s “on this day.” But this time I’m not planning my next move. This time the transitional period has been a bit different. More on that may come in the future. But for now, without further ado, on this day . . .
I remember, this day–November 30–in 1988. On this day, I awoke excited–no, more than that–I was ecstatic. I was running through lines of the Christmas program in my head, eagerly rehearsing for the program that night. You see, tonight we were performing for our families, for my family. They were on their way by this time, I knew, beginning the drive early that morning that would bring them along many lonely dirt roads, winding through villages and across open plains, to arrive here.
It had been 3 months now since I last saw them, when I boarded the little Cessna on the grass strip of our village, clutching my stuffed bear in one arm and holding my sister’s hand with the other. We stood there waving goodbye one last time on the boarding stairs, and then waved again out the window as we sped along the airstrip and lifted off into the air. I loved that moment of lifting off in the airplane–and have ever since–the exciting rush of becoming airborne and soaring faster and faster through the air.
That day, however, my excitement of the beginning was tinged with the sadness of knowing I would be away from my family for many nights now. The days were always full of learning, fun adventures in the bush with friends and with various creatures to be discovered and trees to be climbed. The nights were the hard part, though, when I fought the tears that often came in spite of my fierce will, silently dampening my pillow while I stifled the shortened breaths that may give away my tears to the classmates sleeping near me in rows of bunk beds.
The 3 months since that last flight had passed quickly–3 months of good books read, math problems solved, geography discovered, play weddings acted out in free time, and all manner of grade 4 activities. I had also turned 9 the previous month, and knew my family would now celebrate my birthday and my brother’s 4th birthday 3 days earlier, as soon as we made it back home. While on a shopping trip in South Africa, my Dad had acquired our first car, so the decided to make the road trip instead of Helen and I flying home as we had always done before. So, I knew they were loaded up in the Isuzu, along with 2 village friends–a teenage student of my Dad’s and the Zambian pastor he worked with in our Church.
So that afternoon, after various activities designed to keep all us boarding students preoccupied so we wouldn’t be bouncing off the walls with the excitement of our families’ arrivals, we all filed out the drive-up area to await the first arrivals. I had in my mind the perfect picture of what to expect, so as each vehicle arrived, I craned my neck to see my mom’s long arm waving out the window and Alex’s goofy grin peering out from her lap. But the cars came, parents claimed their clamoring kids, and my picture-perfect arrival still had not appeared. Finally, a lady I recognized as the mom of some friends who lived fairly near us went over to our Dorm Mother and said something to her, gesturing in our direction. She then came and told us to go ahead and get ready for the program–not to keep waiting for our parents there.
I was disappointed, but assumed they would arrive at any moment, so just kept waiting as we practiced our songs. My mental image just altered itself to adjust to a late clamor of hugs and kisses rushed in before the program started . . . but the program came, began, and ended, and they had not arrived. The next morning we were taken to the Cessna, and told we were going to go back to the village by flight after all. This time I imagined the whole family standing there on the airstrip, coming into focus as the plane landed, with eager smiles and waves–still, no. The parents of a classmate took us in their car instead–so of course I changed my expectation once more, this time thinking they were taking us to our house where the family would be, picture-perfect, waiting in front of our little home.
Instead we arrived at their house. Auntie Elaine (according to British habit, all family friends were “Auntie” and “Uncle” to us kids) finished up dinner preparations while we helped set the table. And then, instead of sitting down to dinner, she asked Helen and I to come and sit with her on the couch–”Anna, Helen–I have some really sad news . . . your Daddy went to heaven . . . ” Before the sentence was finished, I had burst into loud sobs, Helen looked at me and started crying, and Auntie Elaine and her daughter were both crying and hugging us.
I don’t remember any mention of the rest of the family at that point–nor did I wonder, as far as I can remember. The rest of the day, of the week, of the month, passed in a sort of a fog, in which my memories are clear but displaced, as if each memory was plucked from its proper place in the continuum of time and placed instead in some never never land of homeless moments.
I remember falling asleep with fitful dreams, waking up convinced I had dreamed reality, and that Daddy would walk in and comfort me any moment. I remember being reunited with my brothers, staring at Alex’s discolored and misshapen head, and carting Ian around carefully in his body cast, propping him up against walls . . . supporting him and holding his modesty blanket over his midsection as he pinned the tail on the donkey at his belated birthday party. I remember visiting Mom there in the Zambian hospital, horrified at the sight of my strong, active, beautiful mother lying there on the stretcher bed unable to move herself. At one point during a visit, the nurse had to turn her over so that she wouldn’t get a bed sore. As she did so, she let go of the sheet and mom was briefly exposed to us all in the room. I didn’t know whether to blush, sob, or scream–I wanted to just run away, to disappear forever into the endless, dreadfully beautiful African wilderness. I hated seeing mom like that, and dreaded the visits . . . and I hated myself for feeling that way, thinking there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t want to see my mother . . .
Somehow, time passed. My Daddy’s funeral passed in a blur of friends, strangers, languages I didn’t know, and wails I knew only too well. As soon as mom was strong enough to be transported, we were shipped to the U.S., where hospitalization and then physical rehab came for her. I hid in my books–in beautiful worlds of fantasy–to the extent that my grandmother still teases me for always having my “nose stuck in a book” as a child.
And eventually Mom was well enough to take over the care of the 4 of us again. I still don’t know for the life of me how she did it–a paraplegic supporting and caring for a home of her own and 4 not-always-angelic children. She did it well . . . she loved us well.
On this day, during my childhood, Mom beautifully commemorated the anniversary. She would buy what looked to me like hundreds of helium-filled balloons, bringing them home so that the house was bursting with balloons. Then she tied note cards to the string of each one, and told us to write notes on them–as many as we wanted, and whatever we wanted to say to a stranger. I remember writing things like “Jesus loves me this I know . . .” and “My Daddy died on this day, and he is now in heaven with God, because he loved God. I do too.” I wrote silly notes, but meaningful ones, longing, in all my childhood intensity, to somehow tell the world that I had a great Daddy, and that some day I would see him again.
I still catch myself, when I am still enough to listen to the deeper desires of my heart, craving moments of remembrance of my Daddy, and eagerly clasping to memory any tidbits about him that people from his past may be able to share with me. And thankfully my own mind clamped down firmly on all the memories I had of my times with him, out of a personal need for them and, I suspect, out of a nagging suspicion that someday, somehow, there would be a greater use for, outlet for, it all.
November 26, 2013
I had a bit of a “Chariots of Fire” moment today. Tomorrow we have the annual school Turkey Trot, in which all the elementary students will be running courses of various lengths, according to age level. The littlest among them have some difficulty keeping on course [and avoiding the temptation to stop along the way to investigate various rocks and bugs and such], so I have been asked to run with them during my free periods this past week. Running with 4 and 5-year-olds has been an interesting learning curve for a Cross Country coach, to say the least ☺
Case in point: this morning’s Kindergarten run. I intended to stay ahead of them all for the entirety of the loop, so they could all look ahead and follow my path. One youngster, however, proved to me that I highly underestimated the speed and stamina of a 5-year-old: he kept me on my toes [;-)], so much so that I eventually gave up and let him take the lead. Once he had finished I went back to fetch the remaining runners.
After getting all the obvious ones I saw the last one walking along a lap behind on the track. She is very obviously special needs; the school is trying to get her tested and properly cared for but up to this point she has been studying along with the rest of the children. I have had her for both art and library classes from August till now and, up to this point, have not had any interaction in which I was aware of a connection with her.
Today when I went to bring her to the finish line, I jogged towards her and reached my hand out: “Run with me, Janie,” I said. To my surprise, she reached her hand towards mine, grabbed hold of it, and began to run. The P.E. teacher, watching us from the finish line, told the rest of the class to cheer us on. So Janie and I ran almost an entire lap together to the sounds of “Come on, Janie!,” “You can do it!,” and “Go, Janie!” coming from a chorus of young voices. Periodically she would look up at me grinning and, to my surprise, she did not once let go of my hand, or stop running. We finished the race. I went back to the library. And I spent the remainder of the day smiling about those 7 minutes with Janie.
November 16, 2013
We had a date with the sun. Anticipating [hoping for] its breaking-through today, we planned out free afternoon to be spent sitting on the rooftop to soak up as much of it as possible. Our conversation was interspersed with periodic gazings to the West to see if it was about to break through the clouds. When it did at one point, A said, “Do you ever sing ‘Here comes the sun’ to yourself when the sun comes out? “All the time!” I exclaimed. I think we’re pretty similar in many ways, I began. Then I paused and we both burst into laughter at my unintentional joke, well aware that our personalities are in fact extremely similar, fitting strongly into the same highly unusual personality typing.
But there is a definite difference that came up as we talked. At one point the topic of “living in the moment” came up. You are very good at that, I commented. I mean it in a good way. The phrase sounds trite—almost worldly. But I don’t think it is at all. In its truest sense, I think that living in the moment is in fact the highest calling we can aspire to. What is true faith if not to be fully present, and fully loving, to the people He has put in our daily lives?
When A commented on how glad she was that I recognized it as well, I clarified. I had to explain, you see, that I recognize it not because I am good at it. In fact, I struggle immensely with that calling. My weakness lies in my tendency to wander into my own little world of to-dos and worries when I would be better of living in the moment with the people I am with. When I comment on that truth, it is as one who is longing to get to that point, not as one who is anywhere close to there.
So I surround myself with people like A. People gifted in that calling who see fit to hang out with strugglers such as me, and who inspire me onward, upward . . . loveward.
November 10, 2013
I feel a bit as though my life is lived in cycles, and in themes. I have written of these themes in the past, and have found that they often last for quite some time. And they come in the form of a sentence or phrase that pops into my head, clearly and distinctly, in such a way that I cannot take it as anything other than a divine word, spoke directly to my heart by its Maker.
Now, before I continue with this thought, I should perhaps mention that I am actually hesitant to put it onto writing. As real as these words are to me, I feel sheepish about claiming them, as if it is presumptuous to state out loud that I have a word spoken straight to me from God. But admitting that hesitancy makes me realize that it would be more wrong for me to deny it than to admit it … For is that not a clear promise to us, that we have a direct line to a loving Maker? So, that said, here goes …
When I was living in afgh@nistan, the theme I was living into was that “He deals with me gently.” The very real truth for that year and a half of my life was that I had stepped into a beyond-me reality. I stepped in fearfully. But I stepped in. And as He has always done in my life (but that I did not really recognize till then), He accepted my feeble steps and gently led me along a path that terrified me, providing Grace at every fear-provoking point. Gently.
Soon after I had moved on to the next phase of my life-yet another path that I had not anticipated in the slightest but that I had to just walk forward, in faith, into-I realized that I was still living into that “gently” reality. But I also realized that the time of immediate danger was over. The life I had stepped into here was a more predictable, more “normal” sort of existence. I am aware as I write this that I may draw some amused raised eyebrows by this assertion. Many would see this place I live, and life I lead, as anything but “normal” … But for my quirky standard of normalcy, the designation works :-)
Here I should perhaps mention that I skipped over one theme that arose from the in-between phase: “Lord, break my heart.” I do not need to delve into that one now. But I will simply explain that yes, He did.
Which brings me back to here, now. In some ways this past year has stunted my writing life. I have been occupied with so many endeavors here that I have seen neither need nor point in taking the time to write about it. It occurred to me not long ago that perhaps I should be worried about this fact. I mean, I am, after all, a contemplative, processing sort of person … Aren’t I? Am I being too lazy to do the writing I should be doing? But, wonderings notwithstanding, there has simply not been the time lately even to worry about this question.
This weekend, however, a bit of a window of time and space arrived. And this morning I ended up quietly musing for the bike ride into church (well, quiet interspersed with several amusing passings by others heading the same way, waving at each other from our various different modes of transportation). As I did so, I heard a clear word spoken to my heart. I am tempted to speculate on reasons and manifestations of this word now. But I think that instead, considering the newness of it, a better course of action at the moment may be to simply state it, and let ramifications follow as they should, in due course. That said, this is it: “Anna, claim your life.”
Yesterday I went to a park with fall leaves. Real fall leaves. E and I picked the best of the leaves to make a bouquet out of their colored loveliness. It was nothing grand, and certainly nothing world changing, but it was done for someone special. And that was enough.
November 2, 2013
I have disappeared from blog land for quite some time now. I have been occupied. Preoccupied. Funny how life just kind of happens to you sometimes. You flit along, minding your own business, busying about with various plans and then, suddenly, plans change.
The things that have occupied me lately fit into a few categories, some relatively mundane and some, well, not so much.
In the more mundane variety, you could fit the category of weather. This is something that tends to end up being a bigger deal for me than it seems to be for most people, and I have, for the most part, made my peace with that fact. But when we do have a string of really cold, and really rainy, weather, like we just had, it still manages to catch me off guard with the intensity of its effect on my mood. All that to say, I have ended up somewhat preoccupied with the effort required to stay warm and dry, and to continue functioning properly in my work as I do so.
In another potentially mundane—but not mundane so far as I’m concerned—category falls my work. Added into the usual mix lately has been a small accumulation of kind of cool un-usuals: coaching has been a fun extra for some time already, and it remains a happy time consumer for me. But I have also been recently readying for my first experience performing with the students in a musical. It’s kind of like a delayed fulfillment of a dream for me, really. In my adult life it has not really occurred to me much but when I was a child and teenager, I had dreams of singing and dancing for performances. The singing I managed to do, but dancing was always just a quiet love of mine. So it’s caught me off guard a bit to be suddenly the Disney singing/dancing character I always secretly dreamed of being [though I would never have admitted to such a girly interest, I suspect ☺] We have now come to the day of the performance. Here’s hoping for a good one: may we all break a leg!
One other occupying life category is not really mundane at all: this particular preoccupation may be written more about in the future . . .
There have been days lately when it’s just been too much of a good thing, and I’ve ended up completely at the end of my rope. As I snagged a 10-minute walk with a friend before a rehearsal the other day, I lamented the fact that I had just ended the workday feeling completely overextended and altogether flustered. I looked up as we talked to see a kite flying overhead. It reminded me of all the times I noticed kites in the last place I lived. I share a bit about the reason I was taking a picture of this one as we walked and, as I did so, I was humbled. There was a time in my life when I was intensely aware of the fact that, like a kite, I was buffeted about by the wind but held fast by a string firmly secured in the hand of my Maker. It was a time of very real danger then and it serves me well to remember now where I have been in the past, where He has brought me to now, and what blessedness He holds for my future . . .
September 30, 2013
We were supposed to be off on an adventure at the moment. Not able to swing any major travel for this holiday, the three of us decided, about a week ago, to have a mini-excursion, heading out on a 2-day hiking trip. In some ways it was going to be actually more of an adventure than a standard vacation, as we were going to just play it by ear once we got there, so far as hiking plans and lodging goes, none of us knowing the destination point other than just by word of mouth. The idea of getting out of the city, however, was enough to energize us with an edge of carefree adventurous spirit thrown in there.
But when V called me this morning, about an hour before we were supposed to leave, what I heard was not a question about our plans as I expected; instead I heard a voice speaking too quickly, so that I had to ask her to pause and start over before I could understand. She had begun to worry about several things on her agenda for the next few days, and about the prospect of going away. She didn’t think she should do it. Apparently whatever came out of my mouth was not what she imagined because she sounded surprised. “You’re not upset?” she asked. Not at all, I assured her. In fact, I had a few of my own misgivings that I just had not vocalized. We called M and decided together to cancel the plans.
Instead, today, we ended up picnicking in a park. In some ways this simple activity was actually a bit unusual, considering how green and different-from-our-usual-surroundings the park was.
Scrapping the intended agenda, then, we each unpacked our hiking bags, repacked picnic daypacks, and biked to the park. On the way over there, as I enjoyed the peaceful thinking time, I realized that I was getting less peaceful in my thoughts and more intense as I talked to God. I began talking out loud, repeating a few prayers as I did so. Until this moment, I had not realized how much I needed to pray. Really pray. Busy-ness has a way of doing that—a way of crowding out prayer space from the mind and heart. Today being the first real day of un-planned-ness, then, my feelings of late were able to be really felt. And tears came.
Later, at the park, once we had gotten our goofy photo-taking urges out of the way, we sat down to our picnic. As we did so, I talked of my bike ride over. And like I suspected in might, it resonated with V and M. In my case, it is due to the fact that another year’s door in my life is about to open. Or close, depending on how you look at it, so far as biological clocks go ☺ And as the years pass, I grow increasingly aware of the ways in which my life’s path has not turned out the way I used to assume it would. For quite a few years, this didn’t really matter. But now time has crept up on me and I realize that at this point in time, I may never have some of the experiences I assumed were just a “normal” part of life.
I do not say this to have any sort of a pity party: in fact, I have a great deal of enviable aspects to life. But it is simply a matter of fact right now. And I say it matter-of-factly. So be it.
We encouraged each other then, M recalling a quote she had heard recently. As best as she could remember, it went like this: “You [i.e human beings] are too insignificant to mess up God’s plan for you.” This hit a deep need in my heart, since one of my struggles, in this season of long-term vision-seeking, is the fear that I have somehow messed up His plan for me.
No, the day may not have gone as we planned. But it most certainly went as He planned.
*At one point in the day V snapped a photo of me smelling the only rose we could find in the “rose garden. When I looked at the way the sun’s rays were shining down, I gasped and asked how she did that. She shrugged and said she always manages to capture the sun’s rays like that . . . she would :-)