Not So Simple Steps

photo-1504470695779-75300268aa0eMany people have asked how I am doing. Some watch me processing through the aftermath of the explosion of my marriage and want to know how I’ve seemed to wrestle through it and find contentment and health.

It’s a simple answer and a complicated one. I want to encourage others, yet I don’t want to bog anyone down with the heaviness of it. It might seem like an oversimplification to some, as if it is a pat answer that I give just because it’s easy. Here it is:

I am finding contentment and health – spiritual, emotional, relationship, physical – because of God. Because of choosing him.

But there is nothing easy or excessively simple about it. It is a constant choice, and I battle against other choices at times – bitterness, anger, jealousy. They don’t stick around long, because I’ve developed habits of weeding them out often and quickly, but they are there.

Choosing to move forward with God, going constantly deeper with him, emptying my life for him to fill, inviting and trusting him to heal me, is a one-step-at-a-time choice. A choice swimming among many other choices. Sometimes I move forward with a spring in my step, and other times, it is like trudging through a quagmire of sludge or leaning forward into biting blizzard winds.

It is exhausting, yet exhilarating at times. It is burdensome yet full of freedom.

I share because I know many others struggle with whatever you are facing. It might have a completely different context, but the process is often similar. So many of our journeys have more similarities than differences. And each of our journeys include a myriad of choices. We can get overwhelmed and stuck, or we can let God orient our lives and trust his direction to take one step. Then another. And another.

Take one step forward today.

Harvest

photo-1533241242276-46a506b40d66It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do I have many memories of growing up on the farm, not only do I find beauty in the sights, sounds, and scents, but also, it is a reminder of the importance of intentional growth, sacrifice, humility, and perseverance.

Harvest can be deeply satisfying as well as deeply disappointing. We all harvest something. We put different efforts into the process. Some people tend to “wait and see what they get” while others try to tightly control the process. It’s important to have a healthy balance – to pay attention without obsessing, to put forth genuine effort without expecting controlled results, to understand there is a relationship between the process and the result but to also accept there are multiple factors. Sometimes we get more than we expect. Sometimes we get a much less impressive yield. Sometimes everything seems to break down at once. Sometimes the sun shines and the rain falls on the seemingly perfect days.

Just as we can handle or mishandle the process leading into harvest and the harvest itself, we handle or mishandle the results. We squander, ignore, mishandle the crop, or we continue to care for and wisely use what we find in our hands and in our storage bins. We don’t hold it too long nor too briefly. We pay attention.

Although this is the time of the year I most think about harvest, we are all harvesting throughout the year. Every day. Every relationship. Every task. Wisely or not, we are investing, planting, cultivating, watching, weeding, giving away, and stewarding what we have in front of us.

Grumpy People

photo-1516248282510-3a829f0686d8There were some grumpy travelers at the airport.

I tried to self check-in, but my flight was more than four hours away. I’d have to wait a few minutes. My sister’s flight left earlier than mine, so she made her way to security in case she experienced a delay.

When I tried to check in again, only my boarding pass printed. I still needed a bag tag. The self-check screen directed me to customer service, so I headed that way. It was two crooked, confusing lines leading up to two agents. There was a third agent nearby under the sign “handicap wheelchairs.” But no one was in her line. Anyone needing a wheelchair was lined up to speak to the two customer service agents.

There were only about a dozen of us in the lines, and I was in no hurry, but I could tell several of the people had already misplaced their patience. Another agent came by and asked what we all needed – I think just to make sure we were in the correct line – and she was blasted with stories of how wrong it was to make people wait, etc. The agent calmly let everyone know they could also go to another area, where there were more agents, but one customer spoke up. He’d already tried that and saw long lines. Everyone stayed put.

Another agent came by and, again, asked why we were in line. Poor unsuspecting woman. She got an ear full of complaints.

Breathe, everyone. Just breathe.

I made it through the line. I hope everyone else did, too. I tried to encourage the customer service agent when it was my turn. She said, “Oh, I don’t let it bother me. Life is too short.”

Good attitude to have, especially with all the frustrations and issues she likely faces every day.

I proceeded to security. There was a long line, but it moved along nicely. Yet I heard people’s complaints and their “How dare they treat us this way when we’ve spent money to keep them employed?”

Breathe, everyone. Just breathe.

We’ll all get through the line. We’ll eventually get to where we’re going. It’s not worth the stress you’re experiencing and spewing on everyone else.

Sure enough, the line progressed, and people made it through security. Shocking.

I know there have been many situations in which I have not been patient or handled frustrations well. I’m learning. It helps to remind myself to breathe.

Whatever you face today, no matter how frustrated or overwhelmed you get, breathe. Hit the reset button and keep your perspective in check. The process and how you handle it is likely much more important than the end result.

The Bigness

20180916_090456My sister and I drove across Hoover Dam. It might seem like an understatement, but…

It is big.

Massive, really.

Quite astounding.

After we drove across it, I wanted to walk across it. I took off walking with the agreement that my sister would pick me up on the other side. I wanted a different perspective, especially a photo opportunity of the bridge high overhead.

I started thinking about what one of my favorite people texted me when she heard I would see Hoover Dam: “If man can do that, just imagine what God can do.”

Indeed.

I stood on the bridge and marveled at the engineering. I looked to either side of it and marveled at God’s creation. Such beauty – both massive and detailed.

I don’t understand every detail of that enormous dam, but someone did and does. It is within the grasp of man’s mind. I don’t understand every detail of God’s creation, but neither does anyone else. Oh, we certainly understand pieces of it. But God understands it all, whether we give him credit for creation or not. Whether we put his ways in competition with science or in complementary cooperation with it.

I snapped a few photos for memory’s sake, but I savored in God’s presence for worship’s sake.

He is good and great indeed.

Soaring Heights

20180929_121135I went on a zipline. Technically, it was called a zoomline, because it was the high option. It’s a zipline high over Fremont Street in Las Vegas, and my sister and I signed up to fly like Superman.

She wasn’t as excited about the adventure as I was, but she was a good sport about it. Our preparation process from arriving to the site to flying through the air was long enough for plenty of second-guessing. But I had none. They weighed me, suited me with gear, sent me even higher in an elevator, and I watched several groups of people get hooked up and released before me.

Still, no apprehension.

When it was our turn, my sister and I laid face down on platforms – deceptively resembling massage tables – which lift high enough to meet the cable and pulley system above us. Site staff clipped and tightened our straps, double-checked everything, then lowered the tables beneath us so we were just hanging in the air. But we were still in the tower. There was still a surface close below us as well as a half wall separating us from the rest of the cable that would carry us through the air for close to a minute at speeds up to 40 miles an hour.

20180929_121122Then that half wall lowered, and we hung there, staring a very long way to the ground.

I looked at my sister, who had suddenly come to peace about the whole thing and was ready to fly.

I, on the other hand, had a moment of “What on earth am I doing?”

  1. 2. 1.

Too late. I was suddenly soaring. My fear didn’t last long. I fully enjoyed the thrill. I held my hands outstretched by my ears just like Superman – or Wonder Woman. I looked at the people far below, many whom were looking up to watch us soar overhead.

And just like that, we were on the other end of the street.

Sometimes, anticipation, apprehension, and adventure are tightly woven together. When we let just one of them rule, we might find ourselves too fearful to experience life or too foolish to make wise decisions.

Life is too rich to compartmentalize it based on our assumptions and expectations. I am glad I soared that night. It reminded me that a moment of fear is overcomeable. Perhaps, in the context of adventure, it made my experience a bit richer.

Travelling Alone

photo-1521200039080-c704f509c0c2I had taken a trip since my ex left me, but the divorce was still in process. Two friends had schemed to give me a getaway filled with healing, peace, and process. It was difficult and amazing.

Recently, I took a different kind of trip, one intended for fun, full of celebration and adventure and new experiences.

Without my ex – the person I planned to do life with, the one who traveled with me through everyday life but also on many adventurous trips to get away, find new experiences, make new memories.

But he wasn’t a part of this trip.

And that was okay. It’s becoming okay. I had a great trip. I savor the new memories I’ve made. I’ve changed my expectations of possibilities. I see so many couples travelling together, and I wonder where they are in life, and I appreciate them. I am not bitter that they have something that I don’t. I am thankful they have what I enjoyed for many years. I don’t want anyone else to feel the depth of betrayal and disrespect and isolation that I have experienced by the person I shared life with and loved. I want others to travel together – on new adventures and everyday life. If I can’t have it, I certainly want others to.

My life has most definitely changed. Some of my options have changed. But I can still choose contentment. I will savor new memories and appreciate the many opportunities and blessings in my life. I will choose new paths on which to grow, one step at a time.

No matter what you are facing today, no matter the uncertainties, apprehensions, or disappointments, appreciate well. Choose well. Adventure well.

Life is inviting you to participate.

#lifegoals

photo-1535981767287-35259dbf7d0eI hadn’t known my fellow ATVers for long, but we bonded over the experience. At the end of our ride, we compared our filthy clothes and exposed skin. Our guide told us about a group who hadn’t planned to ATV on vacation, so once they booked the excursion, they went to the store and bought souvenir-style sweats and shirts. Their plan was to get them dirty, then toss them in the trash.

One of my fellow ATVers said, “That’s my goal – to have enough money that I can just buy clothes to wear for the day and toss aside. #lifegoals.”

We all have #lifegoals, things we think determine progress or success in our lives. We might chuckle or scoff at other’s life goals, but we have our own that spur someone else’s chuckles or scoffs. The point isn’t to receive others’ approval or avoid their disapproval. We need to be a bit more discerning about our life goals. We need to widen our perspective to assess what truly has value in life, not just personally but absolutely.

We’re still going to pursue some of the sillier, less important things of life, but what are our core life goals? If it’s about getting “enough” money, our definition of enough will shift with our income. If it’s about getting “enough” admiration and accolades for our achievements, we’ll find our definition of enough is built on shifting sand, and people’s opinions and attention will change. If it’s about getting “enough” happiness, we’ll discover the definition of happiness is fleeting because it is often built on temporary experiences we define by feelings instead of a more deeply satisfying purpose.

You might think you know what your deeply-abiding lifegoals are, but does your everyday life reflect your pursuit of them? Do your words and actions point you and others toward your lifegoals?

It’s worth the effort and humility to break apart your assumptions about your lifegoals and reconstruct them with intention and purpose.