Living On the Edge

This summer I did something completely outside my comfort zone. I composed an unsent letter and read it to an audience of strangers. I was one of about 15 or so people who read letters that ranged in mood and theme. One woman responded to a misogynistic text sent after a first date; an Uber driver wrote responses to his passengers; one woman wrote about an abortion and another wrote a letter to America through the lens of her experience as a black woman.

My letter was one of the tamer ones, written to a group of friends I lost a few years ago due to circumstance and misunderstanding. It was a healing process – I knew my feelings were hurt but I hadn’t realized how I hung onto those hurts.

I took away two lessons from this experience. First, we need to listen to more stories. Each person spoke between 5 and 10 minutes and, as an audience member, all you could do was listen and applaud at the end for their bravery. Folks were vulnerable and I was reminded that there are so many stories just below the surface, waiting to be told. It is powerful to be in a space in which my only response is to listen – no asking questions, no personal connections, no feedback. I need more of this in my life.

My second takeaway is how incredible it is to do something completely outside my norm. I lead a very routine and quiet life. And I like it that way. I like knowing that our meals are planned and that school pickup looks about the same everyday. I like having rhythms and expected behaviors to guide my days. But it is invigorating to do something new, something scary, something that gave me butterflies in my stomach the week before my performance.

It was a reminder to push my boundaries and to say “yes” to opportunities that make me nervous or that I don’t seem qualified for. It’s also made me wonder what I need to pursue, without invitation. What are some dreams I may have or even just some ideas that are bubbling below the surface?

As we transition from summer to school-season, I’m thinking of adding just one big risk to my days. Maybe I’ll fail at it or maybe it will teach me something new about myself. Either way, I want that feeling of challenge and a break from the average days. I don’t know what this will look like and perhaps the opportunity won’t present itself until months from now. At any rate, I’m calming my expectations and keeping my eyes open for something that will help me take a leap.

What are some new risks you’re taking? How do you intentionally pursue something outside your norm?

Caution Leads to Independence

On New Year’s Day, we bundled up and went for an icy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our winter here has been incredibly dry with very little snow but that week of Christmas was cold. When we got to the trailhead, old snow had iced over and we carefully set out for our mile “hike” around Bear Lake.

IMG_8042Adventurous Bea ran down the trail, sliding down any incline on her stomach, penguin-style. She spun, rolled, and dove through the snowy path, shedding her coat because she had worked up so much heat.

Cautious Elle rode atop Frank’s shoulders, taking in the view. Suddenly, Frank hit an icy patch and they fell into a snow bank. I don’t know how he did it, but Frank managed to fall and catch Elle all in one motion. She came away unscathed but startled.

When Bea falls and is surprised, we’ve learned to acknowledge her accident, give her a quick hug, and get her back on the bike or trail as quickly as possible. Once she’s back to the activity, she’s usually fine. Elle takes a bit more work. She needs to snuggle in and really observe her environment again.

After the tumble, we came to a hill at the edge of the lake. Someone had built a little snowman on top and Bea began sliding down. Elle watched for a while as we invited her again and again to join the fun. Finally, Frank took her in his arms and held her in his lap as they slid down the small hill. After that one experience, all Elle wanted to do was ride down that hill in our laps.

This experience reminded me of what we call “gradual release of responsibility” in teaching. When someone is learning something new, you can’t just throw them in the deep end. You model how to do it, then you sit beside them doing it together, then you have them do it on their own knowing you are close by to support until eventually, they can do it independently.

It’s a reminder that caution leads to independence. That, until we feel safe in a situation, we can’t take risks. Until Elle felt safe and secure with us by her side, she wasn’t able to slide down that hill alone.

When I was picking lean in to define my year, a friend reminded me of the importance of leaning into our community for support. It’s a reminder that asking for help and support is what makes us stronger and allows us to take greater risks.

As I look at this year and what it holds, I know that I’ll need my community to help me along the way. In big ways and small, the comfort and rooted knowledge that my friends and family are here to support me give me courage and strength to lean into new responsibilities and adventure. They also give me the courage to lean into those small, daily tasks that would feel overwhelming without their encouragement.

I know that leaning into what God has planned would come to nothing if I didn’t lean into the people God has placed in my life to help me along this journey.

How do you depend on your community? In what ways does leaning on others for help give you the ability to take greater risks?

 

Serendipity

Frank and I were traveling in Botswana over Father’s Day in 2011. Our group stopped in Francistown for shopping and stretching so we decided to find an internet café so we could send our dads an email. As we waited in line at the Western Union to pay, we heard the couple in front of us asking to transfer some money to Denver. On a whim, I exclaimed, “We’re from Denver!” This led to a conversation with Sheunesu and Susan about what they were doing in Colorado. It turns out, Sheunesu was headed to a conference with Youth for Christ, the organization he worked for. We have been longtime supporters of missionaries with YFC, and the conversation continued to narrow the world. We exchanged email addresses and continued on our journey.

A couple months later, Frank picked up Sheunesu from his hotel a few miles away and we chatted over dinner in our backyard. It solidified a friendship of encouragement and gave us the opportunity to support the work of Sheunesu and Susan in Zimbabwe. Even though we haven’t been able to travel back to Africa, and they haven’t been able to visit Colorado, we keep in touch through email and Facebook and I look forward to the day when we can take our kids over to see them.

I was reflecting on the various serendipities in life. When I first had Bea, I knew I wanted to join a Mothers of Preschoolers group. Our church didn’t offer one, so I had been Googling MOPS in the area, just assuming I’d go to the one closest to our house. In the midst of searching, I met a woman at our library’s Book Babies group. She encouraged me to attend her church’s MOPS group, only about 5 minutes from our house. I did and connected with an amazing group of women. Funnily, I didn’t see the woman who invited me until months later. She is the Children’s Pastor at the church, so usually didn’t attend the meetings. A year later, I was in her minivan on a road trip with some other moms to the MOPS annual MomCon in Kansas City. We laughed that neither of us had been to Book Babies since – our conversation must have been divine intervention.

Even when Frank and I met, it was on a snowshoe hike with a group that neither of us had attended before and neither of us went to after that day. We just happened to decide to get up early on a Saturday and were in the right place at the right time.

On the day we met
On the day we met

Serendipity… Divine intervention… Coincidence… Whatever it’s called, I love those random, seemingly chance encounters that shape the course of my life. Thinking back on the incredible friendships I have because I took a small risk has renewed my desire to live life with intentionality and daring. As someone who loves control and planning, I’m learning to trust the unknown moments and embrace the risks.

What are some chances you took that have shaped your life? Is there a random moment that turned out to change your life?

Writer

I have never viewed myself as a writer. I have always believed everyone has a story to tell, but I’m much more comfortable telling mine over dinner and wine with friends. I believe our stories and opinions empower us and those in our community, but I’ve wondered about the widespread use of the internet and opinions that are so freely given without established trust.

That said, one of my favorite genres is memoir. I love learning about people who have vastly different experiences from me and my friends. I enjoy stories and am equally amazed by the internet’s ability to allow so many people to share and encourage through storytelling.

It wasn’t really until a road trip last fall that I considered writing and telling my story. Three young moms and a mentor mom from my MOPS group piled into Kathy’s minivan and headed to Kansas City for the annual MomCon. While the conference was great, the truly lasting and amazing part of that long weekend was the 8 hours there and 8 hours back we spent talking, sharing stories, reminiscing, asking questions, and laughing. As we drove west into Colorado, Kathy asked if I had ever considered writing my story. I hadn’t, but I began mulling it over.

MomCon coffee break
MomCon coffee break

About a month later, I decided to start this blog. I wanted the accountability of writing for an audience – however small. It’s been challenging to be more intentional with my thoughts than I would be through journaling. And, it’s been a risk for me to begin calling myself a writer.

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to sit and write for five minutes without editing.