Drop. Push. Go.

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One of my favorites from last summer.

 

It looked so easy when she did it.

The List

I’ve been working on my 60 Before 60 List this summer. Considering 60 is a LOT of things, and considering I front loaded that list with way more travel items than I can humanly manage without a TARDIS, I need to be working on it.

While at school in Santa Barbara in June (going to Cali was rough, but it was all in the name of education), I knocked off the “go sailing” item. That was #1. A few weeks later, our youngest and I went on a #motherdaughtertrip to Charlevoix, Michigan, a lovely little town snug between a giant lake and a large lake. It was glorious, and it was good. I completely forgot all responsibility, which is not normally a thing for me, so I suspect my brain needed a break.

On July 6th, we tackled another thing on my list. We rented a stand up paddleboard. Our daughter has done this once before. She also has ten years of gymnastics behind her. A girl who can do back flips on 4 inches of wood four feet in the air can balance on a paddle board, even in the wake of a number of pleasure cruisers going by.

She looked like Moana out there, hand raised over her eyes toward the open water, paddle at the ready. She was awesome.

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What’ SUP?

I, on the other hand, am still recovering from a back injury, which leaves me with a still-weak right leg and, shall we say, not the mountain goat sense of balance I once had. I mourn that reality. It’s one of the things I’ve loved about my body—the ability to climb up boulders and straddle a teetering log like a gecko.

I learned it early, as the youngest of seven and growing to only 5’2”. I’m not strong, and my endurance level is like my old AMC Hornet that desperately needed a gas filter, but I’m fast and sure-footed. Except not anymore.

My daughter said it was easy, so we pulled up to the half a foot of sand a few feet away from the “No Tresspassing” sign and traded her SUP for my kayak.

It went well. My legs shook, and I am grateful for no vidoegraphic evidence of my ungraceful stance, but I paddled. Back and forth, a few times in that small channel between the giant lake and the big lake. I could do this.

Until I couldn’t.

Making one last pass to the end, I went farther than I had before and tried to steer the board back toward the channel. Away from the steel (iron?) pier that marked the end of the channel and also the coast guard station. I tried. Really tried. That board had no intention of turning.

I hit the pier. Hard. My daughter heard it from twenty feet away. I leaned forward to grasp the bar on the pier, and the board slid out from under me. There I was, legs flailing, dangling from the pier and about to become a contestant in a very wet clothing contest. So glad at that moment I had decided to ditch the leggings and just go in the long tunic.

I let go, splashed into the surprisingly warm water, and grabbed the board to swim it back to the rocks on shore. This, of course, is when she started taking pictures.

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On the Rocks

It was while I sat on the rocks trying to figure out how to get back on the board that another woman came alone, going the same direction. Either she realized that she also could not avoid the pier or, clearly experienced, she intentionally chose to use it as her bouncing off point to redirect her down the narrow side stream. Whichever, as she approached the pier, she dropped to her knees, struck the pier, and pushed off with her right hand in the direction she wanted to go.

“Wham!” She yelled it as she slapped that metal surface. It sounded like a cry of triumph. I knew she knew what she was doing. It felt like maybe she even did it to show me how it was done. Not in a “look at me and how great I am at this thing you totally failed at” sort of way. It felt more like “I’ve done what you just did and I want to help you get past it.” Don’t we love women like that?

I watched as she took a quick hop back to her feet, one smooth motion. She knew that was my next question, and she looked at me as she did it. I think she nodded in encouragement. As she went on her way down the stream, I got back on that board.

Obstacles Can Sink You

There are so many obstacles in the way of our dreams and goals. So many iron piers loom ahead, and we desperately try to steer away from them. We think that hitting them will be the end. We believe that we will never survive that roadblock.

Maybe we should take a lesson from that anonymous paddleboarder. Maybe, avoiding the obstacles isn’t the goal. If we can’t avoid it, maybe we ought to be thinking about using it.

She dropped to her knees.

She knew the impact would send her flying off the board if she tried to take it standing up. Dropping down, lowering her center of gravity, working with the impact instead of against it—those things kept her on the board.

It’s not a bad idea to drop to our knees, too, when we see the obstacles coming. The impact could be destabilizing. But it won’t be if we’re on our knees, in prayer to our Daddy who holds us in the palm of his hand, so that we will not be shaken. Dropping to my knees could have kept me on the board. Dropping to our knees before God will keep us facing our goals and dreams and making certain that they are still aligned with his purpose for us. It will keep us centered, balanced, and sure.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help

She used that problem to redirect.

She didn’t let it redirect her—she used it to change course in the way she wanted to go. I had allowed it to redirect me right into the water. I saw that pier only as a huge obstacle, a scary problem, a thing I did not want to run into or deal with.

She saw it as a chance to point her board where she wanted it to go. When she yelled “Wham!” she shoved off the pier into a hard left turn, allowing the impact to turn her course.

Do we do that with roadblocks in our path? Can we use them as course correctors, things that make us look more clearly at the place we want to go? Do we push off of our problems, rather than let them envelop and sink us? Take in their force and use it to send us further and faster?

I learned more than how to stand up on a paddleboard that morning. The dunking was worth the education.

How fast can I get back to my feet after hitting the pier? It doesn’t matter. If we need some time to sit on the rocks and refocus, that’s time well spent. But I want to learn from paddleboard wonder woman.

Drop to knees. Push off. Pop up, Go.

I Want Less in 2016

IMG_8764Did you choose a word to focus on during 2015? It’s become a popular practice, and I’ve enjoyed it the last couple years. It helps me to stay focused on one main thing. And we all know that focus, and its arch-nemesis random distraction, are the angel and the devil on our shoulders a lot of the time.

(If you’re interested in the one word idea, there are instructions and ideas here.)

One Word?

My word for 2015 was rest. It wasn’t hard to do. Being sick for 11 of the 12 months made it nearly impossible for me not to rest. I may not have done so willingly – but I definitely pulled back and admitted – I need rest. I cannot do this. Whatever it is. It may have been a severe mercy, as Sheldon VanAuken has said, but I did learn about rest. I believe I am better at taking time out for sheer fun and for people. Sometimes, the two even mix.

For 2016, I’m choosing the word less. I know, strange word. Other people choose way more exciting, active words to focus on. Oh well. “Less” has been on my heart in various ways for a long time.

Less stuff. Less busyness. Less “I need.” Less frustration. Les anger at world events and less taking offense. Less me. Oh, so much less me.

(Or, if you’re a grammar snob as I am, sometimes the word is going to have to be fewer. But that’s beside the point…)

Why less?

Can you think of anything you’d like less of?

A writer/speaker spends fifty to eighty percent of her time self-promoting. It’s part of the business. If I don’t get my name out there, make a constant push to get noticed, I don’t get paid. Simple math, really. Plus, I don’t get the soul-knowledge joy of knowing I’m doing the work I was created to do. It’s tough for an extreme introvert like me.

(When I took the Myers-Briggs in seminary, the prof asked me if I really thought going into ministry was a good idea with my off-the-chart introversion score. Well, it wasn’t my idea, it was God’s, so how was I to say? Plus, I was pregnant and had a ten-month-old. So all those questions about “Are you tired a lot?” Ya think?)

But you know what? Sometimes, so much focus on ‘me’ makes it crowded inside my head. Sometimes, I really hate having to prove to the world how awesome I am. I want to yell, “I’m pretty normal, really, and so are all of you. Can’t we just be that, together??”

Sometimes, I get sick of my own awesomeness.

I have a low threshold for self-promotion anyway. Worse, I start to believe my own press and think I deserve recognition, and then….then entitlement and envy and resentment start driving the car. They do not drive nicely.

So, less in 2016.

IMG_8807Here are the things I want less of:

Less stuff

We are cleaning the basement. I’m not even kidding this time. It is no idle threat. It’s either this or a controlled burn. We are also jettisoning other things we don’t need all over the house. There are people who do need and will use this stuff. OK, no one needs or will use a broken knick knack of a fairy my daughter made ten yeas ago. But the other stuff….it can go somewhere useful.

Working with refugee families has renewed my sense of urgency to rid my life of the excess so I can concentrate on giving more away. I want generosity to bookend my life. That’s hard when the “stuff” exerts its pull so convincingly.

If less stuff appeals to you, I highly recommend Jen Hatmaker’s book 7. It will help you in the letting go process. And, Jen will also kick your but when needed. Try some of these if you want hard core help. I might.

Less anger

A presidential election year is going to make this a tough one. I try to walk the line between being unified and loving in the Christian community and calling out the jerks who give us a bad name. It’s a murky area. Who is to say exactly where the line is drawn? It’s not in my pay grade. So in 2016 I am choosing to find more and better ways of loving those with whom I disagree. While still disagreeing mightily when I feel God is not being honored.

How do you manage to do that?

Less me

Way more putting God and others in the limelight. Less, “Why not me?” It’s fun to encourage others and watch them shine. I want to do more of that. In fact, if you have something you want to shine out there, I’d love to hear about it. And tell others.

My key verses for this year:

 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3.30)

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6.33)

What do you want to choose for 2016? Less of something? More of something? What are your verses? I’d love to know. I’d love for us to encourage one another toward that goal.

I’m living less in 2016.

Here are some resources if you’re looking to set goals for your new year. Isn’t it a great feeling to start fresh? I love that God gives us that any time, not just at New Year’s, when we ask.

Goal setting activities (I love the practicality here and the ideas)

How to set goals

5 Fun Goal Setting Activities

Other things for 2016:

I’ll be starting a series on who Jesus is. If we stripped away all that we have added to Jesus, what would we see? Whom would we encounter? How would we be changed? It’s going to be fun. And risky. Because Jesus is not the tame lion we have made him out to be. (Or, well, the white American male.) I’d love to hear about your encounters with Jesus.

Next week, I’ll have a surprise guest post!

What topics would you like to talk about?

And remember my promise begun late last year: Anyone who comments on a post, likes my Facebook page, follows me on Twitter, or shares a post is in the running for a surprise gift each month. (I promise, it will not be the broken-winged fairy.) But please tell me you’re from the email list if you do the twitter or facebook thing, or I won’t know!

Stay tuned. I’m looking forward to 2016 with you!