I remember when I was growing up, my Dad would show us stuff. He was intent on teaching us to identify trees and plants, like Morrel mushrooms, Bittersweet and Sumac. Of course he taught us useful stuff too, how to back up a truck with a trailer; how to drive a boat; how to collect sap and make Maple Syrup and, best of all, how to fish. Although my growing up years are mostly wrapped in nostalgia and I have few opportunities to exercise those skills, what I actually learned was this: I am limitless in my ability to learn a skill and do it. Dad taught us to be learners, and to not be afraid to try new things.
One year Dad decided to build a cabin on the back edge of our property. Dad was neither a builder nor an architect but he and my lovely, artist-in-residence Mom put their skills together. With the help of generous builder-type friends, the tiny, humble building came together. At the time the cabin served as the best fort and doll house a girl could ask for! We loved it! With it’s steeply-sloped corrugated roof, woodstove and dry sink, the cabin stood on stilts and overlooked the trout stream that ran through our property. My friends and I would traipse around in the woods and slosh in the creek for hours at a time.
It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned the strain that building the cabin placed on our family. Apparently it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible undertaking, nor was the building designed to withstand 25 years of rugged weather. My Dad has been gone for some time now, and yet the cabin stands perhaps as a tribute to his tremendous influence on our lives.
Talk is cheap and we spout ideas of who we are and what we’ll one day become. The fact is, we are not who we say we are. We are what we do.
Dad didn’t leave behind a cabin. He left behind a legacy of attempts to show us how important we were to him, how deeply he cared and how much he wanted us to love the things he loved.
Plain and simple, Dad wasn’t great at communicating. I still wonder about who he really was, and why he called me Scout.
But I know he loved me.
And I’m not afraid to try stuff.
Recently I’ve been pondering grad school. You know, the kind of musings that require change-of-address cards, and a new resume. Mind-numbing fear encroaches at the periphery of my thoughts. It’s not that I’m unhappy because I’m not. I love my job and I love my house. It’s been easy to say “no” over the years, to choose the practical and known over the unknown. I’ve let opportunities fade into the shadows but somehow I’ve not forgotten them:
“…. I should take that job in London.”
“No. I won’t make as much money as I do here in the States.”
“… The hiring manager from Amsterdam called. That job could be mine if I let it. What an incredible opportunity…”
“No. I have friendships which mean a great deal to me and I don’t want to lose them.”
“… Rather than a short-term mission trip, why don’t you stay this time? Quit your job and stay.”
“No. I might miss out on something here. I might miss meeting my husband.”
Not too long ago, I read somewhere that God is bigger than our ability to miss opportunties. I really believe that. Yet sometimes we permit ourselves to miss opportunities simply because we’re afraid. God’s abilities toward me were never intended to enable me to live behind fear. God’s ability to catch and redirect me in spite of my decisions requires that I’m actually making decisive choices of action. If I have made indecision my companion, or compromise has become my bedfellow then I am not trusting God. Instead, my indecision has become my decision to live my life in hues of grey.
Sometimes strength and beauty come from risks taken and conquered.
I think of life as a tapestry, with the different threads having different functions. The long parallel threads -the warp- provide the fabric with stability. The threads which are woven through the warp, called the weft, are of indefinite length and are usually used to form the overall theme or design of the fabric. In order to form a complete tapestry, I need both the warp and the weft. If I have no warp, my fabric has no strength or stability. Yet, if I do not submit to some of the uncertainties, my tapestry becomes purely functional. The rich reds and vibrant greens of a life lived intentionally occur when we step out in faith and become the man or woman envisioned in our heart and mind’s eye.
To be dragged in the wake of the passive flock and to pass a hundred and one times beneath the shears of the shepherd, or to die alone like a brave eagle on a rocky crag of a great mountain: that is the dilemma. ~Praxedis Guerrero, RegeneraciÓn, 18 February 1911
Recently I’ve discovered that dreams have a funny way of shifting and rewriting themselves, to the extent that they become fairly unrecognizable from their point of origin. Why do dreams seem so elusive, and how do we bring them out of the shadows and into reality? And what happens when a dream is no longer a dream?
The example that is closest at hand is my home. For several years the only thing I could think about was buying a house. Everything else seemed to take a back seat. It’s possible that buying a house was a little more achievable than my other dreams. All of my savings, bonuses, and expenditures were processed through the lens of the question, “Will this get me closer or further from owning my own home?” As you probably know, said home is on the market. While I have loved owning a home these past few years it’s just not worth the quantum amount of money and sweat required to maintain it. But it was a dream, right? I was thrilled to push myself to reach the previously unreachable. To wait until the timing was right, the money was there. All of these factors developed my character more than I realized. My college degree came about in much the same way. It didn’t come to me easily but then no longed-for thing ever does.
While yet unfulfilled my dream loomed large in my thoughts. Now it’s an accomplishment, and a part of who I am. Self-discipline, strategy, and creativity all wound together to bring me to this point. A new dream must take it’s place and, for the life of me, I don’t know what is next. I do know that selling my home will free me up to focus on things more important to me: my writing, travel, laughter, loving others. I really want to be poured out, like the Apostle Paul says. You know, to be so full of life that others are filled up, just by being around you?
Sometimes our dream makes us, more than we make the dream. And so my prayer is that a new dream will find me, and take me by the hand. It will catch my breath and wrap itself around my very soul.
There are women and men who stand like sentries around the periphery of my life, with whom I share an uncommon depth of relationship. Some have been there from the beginning of time, and some have only recently taken their place on the wall of my life. This is not an exclusive club with costly membership dues. Days turn into weeks, and they tirelessly listen to my dreams and breathe hope on them. They believe in me and remind me of who I want to be. The visceral strength they infuse is not something I can extract from them and, as a result, I cannot control who stands on the wall. You see we make the choice to love another unconditionally. We make the choice to shout down the mountains in their life, to stand with them in the floodwaters, shoulder locked with shoulder.
You might think I’m a relational ogre following this, or if you’ve known me for many years you may try and understand where you fit in to the schema. Nevertheless I must tell you that there have been times when I have tried to decide who would be my closest confidantes. I have intended to trust only those that seemed incapable of hurting me, only to be bitterly betrayed. I tried to care and feed for the few that seemed most advantageous to me with the result that I was left alone. To pour salt in my own vicious wounds, I wrecklessly wounded those who loved me dearly. You know who you are.
Why this confession?
Most of us want to arrive at the end of our lives with the confidence that we have loved deeply and been deeply loved. To be loved implies that we are known, for you cannot love someone without really knowing the ugly parts of them. If our life-goal was happiness we’d be sorely disappointed for happiness is merely a by-product of being fully known, and fully accepted. Some of us misunderstand the objective and clang around the countryside ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’. I know. I’ve done it. It’s as though we’re holding out a beggar’s cup with the words “LOVE ME” taped to the side.
There is only One who perfectly loves. Until we allow Him to know us fully, to see inside the crevices of our lives, even the uglies, we will always wonder if we are truly loved. Not only do we fail as friends and lovers, but our friends and lovers will fail us. It is not in our nature to perfectly love as the Father perfectly loves us. Even our best efforts will fall short. I’m reminded how the Perfect Lover knows when He’s been in intimate relationship with a man or woman and to some, with the deepest regret He says, ‘Depart from me. I never knew you.’
There is simply no mistaking intimacy, whether with the Father or a person. It’s intentional. We choose to maintain a soul connection with someone or we choose not to. But when we choose to make this step, the cost is paid from the heart. I was looking the other day at the story of Jonathon and David. “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him [David] as himself.” The king’s son put himself on the wall of David’s life, with complete disregard for what others might think as to rank or motive, timing or propriety. He stripped himself of his robe and armor, his sword, bow and belt, and placed it on David. Talk about making oneself vulnerable, I’m not sure that he had much else on after that. Jonathan knew that David was to be king one day and acknowledged it long before David’s time.
There is a grand lady who is in the latter seasons of her life. Though her memory is not what it used to be, its evident that her heart is given over to selflessly care for others. I want to be like that. I want to be known for “…loving [one] another deeply from the heart. For love covers a multitude of sins.”