Fear

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The time I walked to Breckenridge

Friday, July 4th, 2014

The night before I left, my mom said to me, “I just never want you to be scared, or anything to be hard.”

I laughed, because didn’t she know what I’d signed up for?

Like it or not, I was right: the first week on the Colorado Trail has been scary and hard – mostly hard. And despite the temptation to sugarcoat the details for my lovingly protective mother, I’m just going to give it to you straight.

I was prepared for a challenge. I was prepared for physical discomfort. But I was not prepared for the pain. On the first day, my pack weighed 45 lbs – the equivalent of a 5-year old child. My friend Sarah hiked the first two days with me, and when we would stop for breaks, we would unbuckle our packs to have them drop to the ground like boulders, like that ride at amusement parks that pulls you up, up, up, just to release and send you plummeting to the ground. Granted, Sarah’s pack was mostly a Bota Box of wine (of which we barely had any – sorry, Sarah).

Mine was just heavy.

I quickly developed sores on each of my shoulders, spots where my straps rubbed me raw. I hope you’re not offended by a bare collarbone, because here it is.

photo (12)

Then came the blisters. First my left heel, then my right pinky toe and the one next to it, then the ball of my left foot, then the left pinky. I doctored them as best as I could, but there was no way around the first few days of excruciating pain. Every step was like walking on knives.

The heat wasn’t helpful, either. Saturday and Sunday, Sarah I went whole hog, hiking 21 miles the first day and 20 the second. The days were so hot, we’d arrive at our campsite ready to vomit (hence the minimal wine consumption).

Before Sarah left on Sunday night, she looked at me and said, “You’re really brave.” But is it really bravery if I didn’t feel afraid? I was too shell-shocked to feel fear.

“But what if I’m not tough?” I said, blinking back the tears.

“You can do this,” she said. “You can do this.” And then she drove back to Denver with her husband Tom, and I spent my first night alone in the woods.

I thought that the decision was made when I put in for my leave of absence last fall, or maybe when I gathered each piece of gear, or definitely when I stepped out on the trail on June 28. But I’m learning that the decision to hike this trail is made every single time I pull my pack back on, groaning under the weight, and then straightening my shoulders and moving forward. It’s a constant re-deciding to keep going.

I could tell you a lot of stories from this week – about how in a moment of desperation I lay on my back in the middle of the trail in Happy Baby pose (feeling anything but happy), or how I leapt an uncomfortably wide irrigation ditch with my full pack on (like a heavy-laden, off-balance superhero), or how I came across a felled tree blocking the path and it was too high to climb over so I opted to crawl under (and wound up stuck, belly to the ground), or how I feel a new kinship with Lance Armstrong (because if someone were to offer me performance enhancing drugs, I would take them), or how I came across car campers who said the 5 magic words (“Do you want a beer?”), or how I awoke on the fifth day with a fire in my bones and tore over the Continental Divide (like She-Ra, Princess of Power). I could tell you how amazing my shower in Breckenridge felt (a holy experience), how delicious my burger tasted (try the curry ketchup at Empire Burger), or how I cried this morning when my dad brought me a resupply of food (and a visit from Foxy).

But it’s time for me to close the computer and head back to the trail – I’m about to be dropped off at the trailhead to hike into tonight’s campsite, tears still in my eyes. I’m going to keep going. And that’s what the past week has really been about – deciding and re-deciding and walking even when I didn’t think I could walk any further, through the tears and discouragement and the most beautiful terrain.

I’m 104 miles in. Here’s to 104 more.

ContinentalDivide

All That I Want

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a new song.

I love this description of the creative process, especially because it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who experiences #3 and #4. Actually, I tend to get stuck there – which is probably why I finish so few creative endeavors these days.

But I pushed myself to finish this one, and even though I want to apologize for its imperfections, I’m making myself share it. Even if it’s just a work tape and even if my guitar skills are bad and even if I’m not sure about certain parts SEE I NEED TO STOP APOLOGIZING AND JUST PUT IT OUT THERE.

Because you guys are safe, right? Thanks for listening.

:::::

[I’ve taken the track down for now. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

Aloneness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been in the Shotgun for two and a half weeks, and things are coming together. I have all of my furniture, and as of Sunday, a washer and dryer. A few pictures are hung on the walls. I painted the hallway, but gave up halfway through painting the bathroom because the ceilings are too high and the floor space is too small for a ladder; I think I’ll need to hire a professional to finish the job. My curtains are up, and I’ve jerry-rigged a temporary solution for the skylight over my bed (a towel draped over two tension rods). I’m learning the oddities of the space, and despite the quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

But the transition has been rough for Toad.

This little dog has been through more than her fair share of change in the last few years. We just passed the 2-year anniversary of her amputation, which is right around the time she came to live with me. In less than two years, she’s been through three moves, lost her dog companion when Becca got married and took Gabe with her, grew out all of her fur just to have it shaved off, and has tripped and scraped her nose more times than I can count. Through it all, she just keeps hopping along.

But my new next-door neighbor (with whom I share a wall) recently told me that when I’m not home, Toad barks. This is surprising to me, since Toad never barks when I’m around – she’s a silent, sleepy mutt who, for hours at a time, barely makes her presence known. But it appears that she has an alter ego, and as soon as I’m out the door, starts barking – and she doesn’t stop.

Last night I came home from guitar class, and had to park on the street a few houses down. As I walked toward my front door, I started to hear it – a desperate, throaty cry. “That’s not Toad,” I told myself. It couldn’t be her. But as I got closer, I knew it: my dog was barking incessantly, to the point of losing her voice, and she’d been doing this for the past 2 hours straight.

After an apology text to my neighbor, I sunk onto my bed feeling exasperated. Doesn’t this dog know that I take good care of her? Doesn’t she know that I always feed her, always make sure she has what she needs when she needs it? Doesn’t she trust that I’m never going to leave her alone, that I’m always going to come back for her?

She doesn’t believe it, so she cries. And I am no different.

How often do I buy into the lie that I’m all alone and that no one is going to take care of me? How often do I overlook the ways I have been provided for? How often do I draw conclusions based only on what I can see? How often do I assume the worst?

I’ve lived alone before, but something about being the only signature on the deed to this house has exposed my “aloneness” in a new way. Have you ever tried to hang a picture on a wall without someone standing back, telling you whether to move it higher or lower? Or deciding to change the placement of the rugs after the furniture has been set without someone else to lift the corner of the sofa? Not to mention being the only person earning money for the bank account to pay for it all. If I think about it for too long, I start to feel a lot like my little dog: frantic and afraid.

But here’s the good news: when you’re alone and you know it, you’re so much more aware of the ways in which you’re taken care of.

If I didn’t feel the full weight of my aloneness, would I feel the value of a Home Depot gift card from Luke and Maggie? Would I understand the thoughtfulness of flowers from Allie on my doorstep? Would I fully appreciate Steve coming over to drill things into the walls? Would I know the significance of Graham taking his entire Sunday afternoon to help me move a washer/dryer? Would I acknowledge the Denver map from Hitoshi, the rosemary plant from Isreal, or the bottle of wine from Erica as so meaningful? Would I read all of the well-wishing words with as much gratitude? Would I wake up each morning well aware that I’m living in a home that I didn’t even know to ask for or expect?

In the morning, I’m leaving for a 36-hour work trip, and I have an Anna-Hannah-Becca tag-team to make sure that Toad is never left home alone to bark. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this problem long-term. But despite the aloneness I am so tempted to feel, this little stressor of a dog is being provided for and taken care of – and so am I.

Stuck

Friday, December 21st, 2012

When I turned 30, I had the sinking realization that no one was going to fix me.

I had long harbored the belief – although perhaps not consciously – that someday, something was going to shift, and I would no longer be broken/sad/angry/afraid/lonely/insecure/what-have-you. Believing that someday things would change somehow made it easier to accept that today, I was still stuck.

I continued to allow myself to be stuck in the (shoddy) confidence that the elusive and undefined someday was coming.

But when the calendar turned to a new decade, I realized that I was struggling with the same things I struggled with at 14 and 19 and 23 and 28. I realized that in certain areas of my life, there was no movement. I realized that I was stuck – and that no one was going to dig me out, even if they tried.

Because oh, they have tried. Parents and friends and boyfriends and mentors – they have all meant well, and genuinely cared, and offered both words of truth and tangible acts to attempt to loosen me from the muck and mire. But I’ve been like a Chevy sunken to the axles: desperately, impossibly stuck.

A trusted person recently observed to me, “I see a war happening over your heart.” And I believe her. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that about all of our hearts – that there is good and there is evil, and they both want us desperately. Now, I believe that good wants us much, much more than evil ever could – but evil is insidious and conniving, and if the devil can’t have our souls, he’ll settle for our lives. He’ll do everything he can to keep us bound and gagged, to keep us from being a force for good – to keep us stuck.

Right around my 30th birthday, I got an email from Thomas Nelson Publishers asking if I would be willing to review a women’s bible study. Now, you guys. Confession time: I’m not big on bible studies. I just haven’t really done many (pastor’s kid failure). Thomas Nelson asking me to review a bible study was the equivalent of the MLB wanting my thoughts on the statistics of, I don’t know, BUNTING. (Although remember when I was so sporty and wrote this?)

But the name of the study caught my eye, and so I said yes. A few days later, Jennie Allen’s Stuck arrived on my doorstep.

This DVD-based study was so meaningful to me. It helped me pinpoint some of the areas I struggle with being stuck in: brokenness, anger, discontentment, fear, sadness. Jennie’s conversational teaching and storytelling made the 8 DVD sessions completely engaging (I want to know her in real life). And while I can’t say that I’m now completely “unstuck,” I know that addressing these topics head-on has given me language and tools to MOVE.

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that he is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways.

- – – – -

Thomas Nelson gave me an extra study kit to give away to a reader, so if you’re interested, leave a comment saying you’d like to be entered for a chance to win. The curriculum includes an 8 session DVD, study guide, leader’s guide, and conversation cards for group discussion. While I believe that the lessons apply to both men and women, Jennie created the study for women – so all you burly men, feel free to enter, although you have been warned.

A winner will be chosen via good ol’ RANDOM.ORG on Friday, December 28th.

The fear of scarcity

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I have recently come to the realization that I am a hoarder.

Now, please don’t confuse “hoarder” with “packrat.” I do not live in squalor. I don’t stack my living room floor with old newspapers and crocheted doilies and ashtrays. I regularly take sacks of clothing, shoes, and books to Goodwill. I shred and recycle unnecessary documents. I’m not overly sentimental; if it doesn’t serve a regular use in my daily life, I typically get rid of it. Let it be known far and wide that I don’t own a single Christmas decoration – NOT ONE. (Somewhere, a reindeer just died.)

But I live in a near constant fear of scarcity: that I will not have enough, that I am not safe enough, that I am not good enough. And this fear tempts me to hoard, to stockpile, whether it’s to my bank account or to my refrigerator or to my pride. If I can just secure everything that I’m sure I’ll ever need, then I will never be left vulnerable.

We live in a culture of such abundance, it’s odd that the fear of scarcity is so prevalent. But I see it everywhere I look – in global politics (“We’re out of oil”), in Black Friday shoppers (“I can’t miss a deal”), in economics (“FISCAL CLIFF”).

And don’t get me wrong – I’m just as concerned about this world as anyone else. I’m alarmed at the state of the environment, the way our government has hemorrhaged money, and the realities of the food system in America. This movie gave me nightmares. If I owned land, you’d find me preparing for the apocalypse with solar panels, a gigantic garden, and a bomb shelter.

But living in the fear of scarcity is a sign that I believe in the greedy lie that there is not enough, and its lonely stepsister, no one will take care of me. It focuses on the future, taking me out of the present moment – which is dangerous, since according to Eugene Peterson, “The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the moment.”

Living in the present does leave us vulnerable, because it takes the future out of our hands. It removes our sense of control.

But that sense of control was an illusion to begin with. And vulnerability is a chance to trust in something bigger than ourselves, which is the most beautiful of opportunities.

Now, this isn’t an excuse to be stupid. I’m going to continue attempting to make responsible decisions with my money, because I don’t want to end up destitute. I’m going to continue working hard toward my personal goals, because I don’t want to have unnecessary regrets. I’m going to continue carrying a snack in my purse, because I don’t want to wind up at a McDonald’s drive-thru (heaven forbid).

But when I try to hoard my money, my possessions, my achievements, they will rot like manna.

There is enough – for you, for me, for exactly what we’ll need, when we’ll need it. I want to live and give freely. Don’t you?

Different

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Oh, sigh.  Le blog.

Sometimes (a lot of times), I come to this space and watch the curser blink – blink – blink, just not knowing what to say.  These posts provide such a tiny glimpse into my reality, it’s hard to attempt to paint an accurate picture of what’s going on.  What you see here is a small window – what I don’t communicate far outweighs what I do.

I’m in a strange season right now.  One might argue that I’ve been in a “strange season” for almost 2 years – or almost 30.  I’ve been waiting for a change in the tides, a shift in the forecast – but it’s nowhere to be seen.  And so I walk and wait, and listen and ask, and hope to God that I feel some wind on my face soon.

But last Friday, I cried for the first time in a long time.  I was there on Greta’s couch, telling her honest words that have been stuffed down inside, finally feeling it so necessary, so vital, to just lay my fears bare.  She listened (something she is so good at), and asked questions (another skill of hers).  And then, she compared my life to a big room, and said that it seems I’ve relegated myself to a very, very small corner – that, having ruled out all other areas as “unsafe,” I’ve retreated to the perimeter.

And it’s true.  My back is to the wall – but at least it can’t get stabbed, right?

I’ve recently found myself stiff-arming friends and community in the name of self-protection.  I didn’t used to be this way – I’ve always been ultra-connected and involved with the people around me – but lately, it just hasn’t felt all that safe to let the walls down.

So I’m safe.  But I’m lonely.

In some ways, my life here in Denver looks very, very different than what I had hoped for.  But I don’t know that that’s anybody’s fault but mine.

2 Timothy 1:7

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Sometimes, when life feels uncertain and I feel crazy, it’s good to remember that I have not been given a spirit of fear, but the power of love and a sound mind.

Teeth and trust

Monday, August 9th, 2010

My cavities are spreading like kudzu in Alabama – this we’ve discussed.

Last week, I went back for round 2 with the dentist – a dentist, I might mention, whose last name rhymes with “feral.”  Actually, that’s how you pronounce it, too – “feral.”  Spelled a bit differently, but enough to put me on edge, right?

To her credit, this woman is wonderful, and lauded by D.D.S. folk nationwide.  Highly acclaimed.  Passionate about what she does, eager to always be learning more about her field, pushing back the horizons of dentistry one mouth at a time.  I trust her – maybe not with my life (after all, we just met), but definitely with my teeth.

Still though.  Feral.  Give this woman a drill, and BAM.  Terror, struck in my heart like a rattlesnake bite.

So when I climbed into The Chair last Thursday, I was already quaking in my cowgirl boots.  I hate hate hate a million times hate going to the dentist – especially when it involves cavities.

Be cool, I told myself.  It’s just the dentist.  People go every day.  You will live.

YOU WILL LIVE.  [James Earl Jones said that one.]

But as this woman drilled nothing short of a network of prairie dog tunnels in my molars, I was so stressed out that I couldn’t stop shaking.  My hands, my legs – everything was shaking.  When my teeth started chattering, she had to stop – and as soon as I realized that I was so out of control that the dentist could no longer do her job, I started to cry.

Tears.

Sneaking from the corners of my eyes, rolling out from behind the awesome dentist sunglasses and into my ears.

The assistant patted my shoulder, and then patted my head, and then began full on stroking my hair.  GAH!  How horrifying is it that I needed PHYSICAL REASSURANCE that I was okay – and it was pathetically obvious??

“Are you okay?” she gently asked.

“Yeah,” I sniffled.  “I’m a grown-ass lady.”

I told the dental assistant that I’m a grown-ass lady.  With tears running down my cheeks.

Then the dentist herself stepped in.  She spoke comforting, reassuring words, and then asked if I thought I could trust them.

It’s hard to trust someone who has the potential to hurt you.

But I think that’s the point, right?  Trust doesn’t mean a thing if the other person is completely safe.

It’s scary.  But it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing.

Taking my chances

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Without first being angry, you cannot forgive.
Without first being unsure, you cannot trust.
Without first being afraid, you cannot be brave.

If you find yourself in any of these less-than-desirable places today, you are really just on the verge of a beautiful opportunity.

A chance to forgive.  A chance to trust.  A chance to be brave.

A chance to trade up for something better.

Because after all, what’s so great about bitterness and fear?

Let’s be more interesting than that.

Welcome mat

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I’ve heard it said that to start anything requires a certain willing suspension of disbelief.  You have to allow yourself, on some level, to dare to hope – even in the face of potential disappointment or failure or heartbreak.

What a scary place to live.  There is no guaranteed win.  But thankfully, as a sweet friend recently reminded me, “winning” is not the point.

We might not be fearless, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be brave.

I want a heart that’s rolled open like a welcome mat.  I’m working on it.