Trust

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Intuition

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Three months ago, Colorado was in the midst of out-of-control wildfires. Everything was brittle and dead, and when the summer storms started, the lightning-induced fires were hard to contain.

And because this state is completely bi-polar, today is a very different story.

Unless you’ve been living under a (dry, well-insulated) rock, I’m sure you’ve heard that Colorado has been experiencing major flooding in the last week. The worst of it has been north of Denver in the Boulder/Longmont/Fort Collins area, and the images are heartbreaking. Some people have lost everything. Some have died. Hundreds are unaccounted for, and they expect the death toll to rise.

Still, I thought I’d wander alone into the wilderness on Saturday. DON’T WORRY – I headed south, away from the floods.

:::::

“Have you ever been turned back by weather?” he asked.

I thought about it. There was that one time where we arrived at the trailhead and it was already snowing, so we knew we were doomed from the start – but aside from that, never. Each and every one of the 35 14ers I had attempted, I summited that same day.

“When it happens – and it will happen – it will be good for you,” he said. “It will make you a better climber.”

:::::

On Saturday morning, I headed up Humboldt Peak with the hopes of it being my 36th 14er – but 4 miles in, I had to turn around at tree line. The top of the mountain was encased in a thick cloud, and even if I didn’t sense electricity above, I knew that if I lost the trail, I’d be done for.

I was disappointed. I had wanted to check another mountain off my list. But I listened to my gut, just like I did on the road to the trailhead when I came to a spot that I just didn’t think the Subaru could clear, and thus abandoned ship (have you ever reversed down a 4WD road? Lord, have mercy). And when you listen to your gut, when you act on conviction even when it goes against what you want – it builds confidence.

My friend was right: being turned back by weather was good for me. It confirmed that intuition is trustworthy – that instinct should be honored. I can only imagine the times in the future when this lesson is going to come in handy.

On the way back to Denver, I stopped in Westcliffe where I ordered coffee from a completely no-nonsense lady. Then I took a different route home from the road I’d driven to get there, soaking in the beauty of the state and feeling a million miles away from the flooding.

Despite the fact that I wanted to climb 7 14ers this summer and only got 4 (the last one being two months ago, for shame), I recognize that living life continually at full throttle sometimes just makes you want to throttle yourself. Maybe it’s better to enjoy the moment; after all, fires and floods remind us that nothing is guaranteed. And in the meantime, perhaps learning to trust your gut is as big an achievement as reaching your intended destination.

Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.

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?

May I know whose hand I’m in

Monday, October 1st, 2012

On September 18th, we lost my grandma to pancreatic cancer.  She was diagnosed back in July, and even though we knew that death was coming, it still felt very sudden.

This past Saturday, we laid her to rest in Richland, WA, and then celebrated her life during a 2-hour service at the church she had attended nearly her entire life.  My grandma was widely loved, and the hundreds of people in attendance were confirmation of her gigantic sphere of influence.  She lived her life so well.

This weekend, I was reminded of what it means to be part of a family – the complicated parts and the beautiful parts, the uncertainties, the joys.  To belong to a family means you’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry and you’re going to roll your eyes – and sometimes, you’re going to do all three at once.  Especially when you’re all sharing the 15-passenger church van.

Anyone who knows me (or has visited this site for any length of time) knows that these days, my family looks different than I ever anticipated.  Maybe you feel the same way about your family.  Maybe things have not turned out the way that you planned.  Maybe you assumed one thing with such certainty that your new, unexpected reality causes nothing less than an internal shriek.

Family members were missing.  We are broken and incomplete.  This weekend held moments that were so potent with reminders of the way that things used to be, and will never be again.

People are quick to glibly label those feelings “nostalgia” – but that’s absurd.  These feelings are more important than that.  The lament and longing that come from the loss of a former life that molded you into who you are today are no small matter.

When I was dropped off at the airport yesterday, I told my mom and our friend Sharon, “Going back to Denver feels really lonely.”  And it did – it does.  I left my family members and the town in which I was born, and flew back to Colorado alone.  When I landed, I took the shuttle to the long-term lot where I’d left my Subaru, and headed back toward the city.

As I drove, I remembered that I was missing a show that I had initially planned on attending.  Peter Bradley Adams is one of my favorite songwriters – maybe even my soul mate.  Probably.  Is he married?  Let’s look into this.

PBA writes some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and I was crushed to be missing his show in Denver.  So I turned on his music, and listened to a song about the loss of place and of belonging – the loss of what was, what might have been, what can never be again.

And yet, his words have a hopeful, trustful bent: “If I wander ‘til I die, may I know whose hand I’m in.”

Of all of the ways I would like to be like her, this is the greatest: all the way to her death, my grandma knew whose hand she was in.  And prone to wander as I am, I hope to continue this legacy.

My one wild and precious life

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

On Friday morning, I went skydiving – and I smiled the entire time.  Do you need proof?  Oh, I have proof.

Here I am with my dad beforehand.  Smiling.

Here I am about to climb onto the plane with my instructor/partner/my-entire-life-is-in-your-hands guy, Matt.  Smiling.

Here I am in mid-air.  SMILING LIKE IT’S THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED.

(Come on, is that not the HAPPIEST you have ever seen me?)

And here I am, windblown but safe and sound on the ground with Matt.  Smiling.  Smiling.  Smiling.

As one with a historic fear of heights and smashing and death, skydiving might seem the wrong activity – but I can honestly say that my fears never came into play that morning.  I showed up calm, put on a jumpsuit, pulled my hair back into a ponytail – and then, jumped out of an airplane.

In a culture full of suspicion and defense, it’s a magnificent thing to trust a perfect stranger with your life.  I had no idea what I was doing – didn’t even read the release form as I signed it (which is probably for the best) – but I never questioned the instructions I got from Matt.  I took him at his word.  And as vulnerable as that may have made me, I never felt afraid.

I did, however, scream involuntarily for long stretches of time.  I couldn’t help that part.

Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  I hope that my answer always includes an amount of risk, the extension of trust, and falling face-forward into whatever may come… wearing a gigantic smile.

Pearl

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I’ve never been much for gems and jewels. I don’t own any precious stones, wear no diamonds, and really don’t have a desire for fancy baubles.

I do have a pearl necklace, though. It was given to me as the gift for singing in a friend’s wedding years ago, and while I don’t wear it often (come on, this is Denver), it’s pretty to look at – and last night, I remembered how pearls are formed.

Oysters, soft and tender, rely on their hard shells to keep them safe. But occasionally, a grain of sand will sneak in, and this coarse foreign object can cause pain, rock against flesh. One might think that the oyster would react protectively, forming a leathery callous to protect itself from the sand – but it doesn’t. The oyster remains soft, yielding to the suffering, and slowly, over time, begins to wrap the grain of sand in translucent layers.

The pearl is the oyster’s response to the pain.

I’ll be honest: some days are really tough right now. Sometimes, my parent’s divorce still hits me like a diesel truck, plowing me over. Sometimes, I wrestle with the “what ifs,” which spiral only into a black hole of uncertainty. Sometimes, the future stretches out like a never-ending one-way street, and the thought of walking that blacktop every single day (not to mention showering – don’t you ever get overwhelmed at the fact that you will always, always have to shower, forever and ever?) can be paralyzing. Sometimes, even this introvert feels so alone I can hardly stand it.

I wish for a quick fix, a microwave to melt away my icy problems – an insta-pearl, if you will.

But even if I’m not patient, I’m feeling pretty stubborn – and once again, I’m determined to see this rough patch through to something of value, something of worth, something with a silver lining. I just need to give myself over to the ocean.

And for the record, the ocean has always terrified me. It’s a beauty to behold, but to be in it? It’s too big, too unknown. It isn’t safe. The depths are terrifying, and if it wanted to, it could swallow me whole.

But for an oyster, the ocean is the only place to live. It’s what it’s meant for. And without it, there would be no such thing as a pearl.

Waves

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.
-Frederick Buechner

I know people who have active, vivid dialogue with God – they speak to him, and they hear his voice respond.  I am not one of those people.

When I talk to God, I am usually answered with silence.

Most of the time, it’s not that I think that God is not there – but, like Buechner says, perhaps his silence is meant to create a longing that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

And for me, these days, does that longing ever exist.

On Friday, I sat at the edge of the Caribbean, listening to the water hit the sand.  It made me think of a line in Alli Rogers‘ song “Closer to the Moon,” when she sings of listening for God’s voice:

“It’s in the aching that you know there’s something more.
I have never heard even a single spoken word,
Except the rhythm of a wave upon the shore.”

The steady pulse of ocean waves reminds me of the voice of God – it’s one of the biggest reasons I miss living in Seattle.  There is a comfort to the sound and the pattern, wordless as it is.  When I feel frustrated and anxious and doubtful that he even exists, the ocean somehow, inexplicably, brings me back around to truth, calming my heart and soothing my fears.

I’m back in a very landlocked Denver now, after 7 days in Haiti.  A mere week was not enough time to even scratch the surface of the culture, the language, the people – but sitting by the ocean on my last day was the best way to wrap up the first of what I hope will be more trips.  Listening to the waves reminded me that God is still there in Haiti, in the midst of the poverty, the devastation, and the crumbling homes – and he is still here in Colorado, in the midst of my sadness, my uncertainty, and my crumbling home.

Bloom

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Hope isn’t always an easy thing, and it doesn’t always feel very natural.  But I’m learning that hope is more than a feeling (more than a feeeeeelingg…) – it’s a choice, a deliberate commitment, like exercise, or saving your money instead of spending it.  It’s the wiser, healthier decision – the one that will bring the biggest payoff, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Recently, I’ve experienced discouragement and disappointment and hurt – to the point that I’ve stopped hoping for anything, because hoping hasn’t felt easy.  I’ve snuggled up with loneliness, curled my back to hopelessness, and taken comfort in the company of emptiness because it’s what has felt most real.  Hope hasn’t felt real – it’s felt imaginary, like playing pretend, like inventing some mythical creature and expecting it to materialize in front of me.

But the rejection of hope is actually to my detriment.  It makes me an ugly person, a bitter person, one with walls and suspicions and frown lines.  And moreover, as a Christian, I am called to hope, commanded to hope, even when it feels dangerous because of the possibility of pain and disappointment.

It might get cold, and all of our leaves may fall off, and our branches may crack – but hope is trusting that our roots will hold, and spring is going to come, and something is going to bloom again.

It’s just that what blooms might not be what we’re expecting.

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.