Like the endless flow of a waterfall, plummeting to the rocks below, the words tumbled out. Free and uninhibited, they were a reflection of all I felt in the moment. I knew the end I had in mind but not the exact words and as they flowed, almost writing themselves, I realized the way my mind worked out the middle as I wrote.
Surprised at the result, I didn’t even realize what I thought until I saw it on the screen. It’s an amazing thing, seeing order come from chaos. A jumble of thoughts becomes a piece of art.
Writing feels that way—sometimes.
Other times it’s more like a clogged pipe. I know what I want to say but the words get caught in the plumbing somewhere and drip out slowly, painfully.
Whether you write or not, I’m sure you know what I mean.
We all have ways that we reflect on our inner life. Maybe you journal or create art. Maybe you talk it out with God while you run or you work it out in conversation with a friend. We all need an outlet and a place where what is going on inside of us becomes clear.
Sometimes the clarity is easy. Other times our minds are clouded and our souls feel cluttered. The causes are different but the result is the same.
Transition. Instability. The unknown.
Plans to make. Plans that break.
Symptoms. A diagnosis.
I don’t know what it is for you but a life in transition and facing so much unknown in my life right now has my mind cluttered and my soul aching for stillness and clarity.
At times in my life, I have worked out the chaos in the dance studio, with feet to the pavement, through art, with friends.
Words have always been easy for me, though. Journals are piled up around my house. Poems fill notebooks and essays are scattered around the internet.
Words are my prayer, my worship. They are the way I listen to what God is saying in the deep reaches of my heart.
When what usually feels easy suddenly feels like work, it’s usually a signal that something is awry. At times like that, it’s easy to quit the hard work of reflection, to run from the discomfort.
But I’ve found it’s those very times that we need to press into the thing that feels hard. That’s when the real work begins.
Last year I wrote every day in October, joining hundreds of other writers for Write 31 Days. I found a writing rhythm, found my voice. I also found out how beautiful writing in community can be.
Writing has become more than just cathartic for me. It’s become a calling I can’t deny. I work to hone my craft and become a better writer, to edit and put out a finished piece.
It’s also become work and I am so grateful to have people who value my words and my opinion. I have weekly obligations as an editor and pieces I’m expected to write.
And something of the joy of those flowing words has diminished.
When relationships feel like work, we love anyway.
When writing feels like work, I need to do it anyway.
Christine Valters Painter says in The Artists Rule that “when we engage art as prayer, we can remember that play is also an act of prayer, praising God out of sheer delight. We can learn to take ourselves—our art and our spirituality—a little less seriously.”
My word for this year is practice and as I work out the spiritual practices that feed my soul, my art intertwined with that, I want to get back to the practice of writing as a flow of prayer and reflection.
So, I’m jumping in again and writing every day in October 2016. It’s going to look a little different this year.
I’m joining others who use the Five Minute Friday writing prompts. A single word is the start of the exercise and the idea is to write freely for five minutes on whatever that word brings to mind. Free. Unedited. Just see what comes and put it out there.
“In patiently practicing faith, even when I don’t much feel like it, I eventually begin to feel the burden lift,” says Michelle DeRusha. This month as I continue to reflect on my word of the year, practice, I am writing through that lens of practicing faith in the every day. How that brings us into fellowship with God. How that brings us into freedom.
Tears rolled down his cheeks, his sad eyes pleading with me to stay. His little voice quivered when he begged, “A hug, Mommy” while his preschool teacher tried to restrain him. I squatted down. He latched his tiny fingers around my neck and wrapped his feet around my waist, willing me to stay. I tried to quietly plead with him as our eyes meet but I realized it’s going to have to be like ripping a band-aid off.
Then I loudly said, “You have to be a big boy now. Mommy has to get to work. I love you!”
I said it loudly because the teachers are watching and I felt like a horrible mom. I wanted to make sure they overheard that I have a place to be, that I have to work. I’m not just dropping my son off in a puddle of tears and screams because I want to. I have to.
I feel like I can’t just say, “I’m a mom” without the disclaimer, “I’m a working mom.”
It’s a scene that has repeated itself over and again. Like when I only have an hour to volunteer at the school. I rush in and read a book to the kids, hug my daughter and declare that my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work. I want to be that mom whose name I see on every PTO form and daily on the volunteer log. She is praised for her involvement and love for her children. I feel like the teachers need to know I would be there more if I could.
Or when the kids are eating popcorn chicken while we rush through the grocery store. I am juggling dinner and shopping because I have to get to a work event that evening. I imagine eyes on me, judging my choice of meals for the kids, judging my haste and my hurry. Did the cashier just roll her eyes at me? When she hands my kids a sticker, I wish she would hand me one too. “Working Mom,” it would say. I would wear it like a nametag, like a statement of my identity.
I justify my choices about the way I spend my time by labeling myself like there is a hierarchy of motherhood...
If you've ever wondered if you're enough for your family, if you've carried guilt about the choices you have to make - this one's for you. I'm over at SheLoves magazine today talking about the labels we carry in motherhood and learning to love this life more.
My son has never been confident in his abilities, even less in the water. At the beach, he runs into the waves and back out again, laughing with the innocence of his nearly five years. But if I try to take him a little deeper, the fear rises in his eyes and he runs. So, it was a big step for him to climb down the rickety ladder off the side of the dock. He looked past the aging wood, splintered over time and sagging to one side. He stepped past barnacles, his flip-flops barely hanging onto his feet. He had just settled into the smooth water, tentative and fearful, when the movement began.
Just a little ripple at first, the water began to shift under him. Then the shifting turned into full waves as the boat that had created the wake passed further by. It was just a small boat, a couple people skiing on this sunny afternoon in the intercoastal waterway.
The sound of their laughter drifted over to us at the dock about the same time the ripple did. They passed by without knowing that in their wake a frightened child was reaching for the ladder, frantically calling for his mommy. I helped him scurry back up the ladder and into my arms after only a moment in the water. He was done.
I’ve thought back on that moment many times in the weeks since lazy summer ended and our lives have launched into the momentum and hurry of fall. I keep remembering when I see the effects our lives are having on others, the way the actions of those around me ripple into my own life.
There are exciting dreams ahead for our family but I weigh my words each time they leave my mouth. Before I talk to my family about our coming move, I think about the grief they are feeling. I worry what my words stir up in their hearts. Should I talk about it? Should I stay silent? What will hurt them more? I choke on my words because I’m not sure.
The mother of my daughter’s best friend just told me this week that she has repeatedly caught her little girl crying in the car. She said during those quiet moments of riding she can’t help but think about her best friend moving across the world and it moved her to tears. I have never been so aware of the wake my actions are leaving behind. There are many people caught up in the tide created by the trajectory of my life. We don’t live in a vacuum. We don’t leave in a vacuum. We leave behind loved ones, holes that can’t be filled, and hurt. I grieve every day the way God is creating joy and pain at the same time in the lives that touch our own.
All week I felt like I was back out in those murky Atlantic waters, rising and falling with the tide. My week was filled with the highs and lows of this life in transition. My birthday fell mid-week in a busy time of back to school and Labor Day weekend looming ahead. I had lunch with a couple friends and a lovely dinner with my family. There were joys to be found but I still felt low. Most of my co-workers passed in the hall without a comment or a quick “Oh yeah, happy birthday!”
Just a few weeks before they celebrated another co-worker’s birthday at a nearby restaurant. I waited for the email to come inviting others to my celebration, knowing this would be the last birthday I would spend in the States for at least a couple years. None came. I smiled through the pain when one friend took me to lunch, pretended it didn’t bother me that everyone else was too busy to care. I reminded myself how busy I am, how many “Happy Birthdays” I haven’t said in the past year. How many people’s feelings have I hurt with my busyness? It still stung to be on the other side of the wake, to be caught up in the tides that are rushing so quickly there is no time for relationship sometimes. I fell to sleep early on my birthday, exhausted from emotion, from riding the rolling waves all day. I was done.
Before I drifted off, I asked God to make me more aware of those around me, of their needs and their hurts. I get so busy that I just don’t think about the effect I have on others. I don’t see. I am like those boaters—riding along in my life, caught up in what I have going on. I forget so easily that there are others on the periphery of my life. What I do and say—or am too busy to do or say—can rock their world. It can encourage and uplift them. Or it can send them running back to safety, wounded.
My son got back in the water that day. With his mommy speaking encouraging words and a friend’s arms reaching out for him, he found a safe space to enter the water. We laughed when the waves came, made a game out of riding them. He only stayed in for a few minutes and then came running back to my waiting arms, shivering from the cold. He learned a lesson that day about perseverance. I learned about paying attention, about the effect my actions have on others. I am still learning…
My mind struggles to place this feeling—this breathlessness, the sensation of reaching for something secure. I lie in bed trying to quiet my thoughts, forcing my chest to rise and fall in regular, timed breaths. I think over all there is to do and all I have left undone today. I fret over all the plans that feel over my head. I imagine water rising around me. A memory plays at the edges of my consciousness and I suddenly know when I felt this way, just a few weeks before.
My brave little girl had made the move from tentative wave jumper to full-blown ocean lover this summer. We vacation yearly at the same beloved beach and we loved being back, days spent covered in salt and sand.
She would beg me to take her, boogie-board in tow, far out to where the waves were breaking. Their white peaks would tease us, our hearts racing as they neared. Most often they would dissipate before getting to us. But once in a while, the foamy rushing water would tower over our heads and carry us in, sometimes under.
The water was up to her shoulders but not too high for me. I wanted to see the great waves the way she saw them, so when she was occupied with friends I broke away to venture farther out into the chilly, murky Atlantic. I swam until my feet dangled and my head bobbed up and down with each move of the water. I couldn’t see another person near. There was only water and sky in every direction. Completely at the mercy of the sea, completely caught up in it.
For a moment I marveled at the beauty of it. There is nothing I love more than the tranquil sound of waves lapping against the shore, the vastness of it all. I felt my smallness so keenly in that moment, knew my place in the world. A tiny spec in the seemingly endless ocean—I marveled at the Creator of all this.
How could He care for this one tiny life in the world where so much mattered more? This is what I wanted, to know my place and feel the weight of His care for me despite my smallness.
But then, feeling the utter lack of control I had as the undertow began to tug at me, I felt the panic rising up in my chest. As much as I love the ocean, I fear it equally. I’ve never been a strong swimmer. Not another soul in sight and the shore growing farther away, I fought my breath coming in gasps. The same sea that evokes such peaceful imagery can become a beast without warning. That vastness could so easily swallow me whole.
I closed my eyes and swarm hard until my feet could find the soft sand squishing between my toes, the comforting feeling of control returning.
Lying in my bed, my little wave jumper’s head curled up under my chin, I remember the feeling of the sea all around me. I remember the panic, but also the awe. All my worries and attempts at control from the day melt away. I unclench my fists and try to let all my fears tumble from my hands. Continue Reading
A journey through old photos of my life will quickly reveal something most people who know me could tell you—I am a restless soul.
I have a hard time staying in one place too long without at least an adventure or two. I love exciting, new beginnings and want to be a life-long learner. I guess my passport would tell you that, too. I am most at home in cultures not my own and love venturing out into the world to learn all I can about a new people, a new place.
It’s evident in those photos of me through the years that I love change—just look at the constant evolution of my hair.
When I was a kid all the adults in my life loved my stick straight, bright red hair. Other kids would hurl the typical “carrot top” insult my way though. While other nicknames cut me deeply, this one bounced right off. I didn’t mind that other kids teased me for my unusual hair. Every adult in my life adored it because it was so unique, and so I, too, loved my fiery hair.
But my restlessness kicked in early and I begged to cut my hair that was long enough to sit on by the time I was ten years old. I don’t know how long I had to beg to wear my mom down, but the photos tell the truth. My formerly curled or crimped locks gave way to a pixie cut that made me resemble Peter Pan. I hated it with a passion. (But I never told my mom that. Remember the years of begging? I couldn’t admit I had been so wrong!)
Flat-ironed straight. Layered with side-swept bangs. Permed (so big!). Short and spiky. A stacked bob. Every couple years there has been a new look. A reinvention. I couldn’t stand my hair to be the same style for too long. I get bored with it after a while. My husband learned this quickly when I chopped off the curls he loved so much the very day we returned from our honeymoon and replaced them with a short-spiky look. I am not sure he knew what he was getting himself into!
My life has often been a reflection of this reinvention. I lived in only two homes during my entire childhood, in the same area my whole young life. As soon as I was on my own, I set out to explore. In the six years between graduation and marriage I lived in six different homes, spent significant time in five different cities and visited my first three countries. Then there was marriage, an international move, a move back home, and all the changes starting a family brings.
Not much has stayed constant in my life. But as much as I like new beginnings, I love stability, too — something I can count on in this wild and ever-changing world. That has always been my family...
Today I am over at SheLoves reflecting on the changes in my life and the constants that anchor me to home. This month's theme is "hair." Come see how old photos and memories are speaking to me of what is constant in this world.
Please enter an Access Token on the Instagram Feed plugin Settings page.