Change.

Change… requiring of us movement in a direction that we are not as familiar, calling upon skills we are not accustomed to using, and forcing us to stretch beyond our well established and often too small, comfort zones….can be hard.  Sometimes we do anything we possibly can to avoid it, even when it is what is best for us and everyone around us.  It can rock our foundation, threaten the equilibrium, and wreak havoc.  But, it can also rock the foundation and then give the ingredients necessary for a stronger foundation.  It can threaten the equilibrium that has been maintained for so long, but isn’t necessarily the healthiest.  It can wreak havoc as it encourages us to continue on the path of awareness and growth.  It’s crazy that we as humans would much rather cling to something toxic than step into the unknown, even though we cognitively know it holds a promise of something better.  It’s not familiar.  And we don’t know.  Another way to say that perhaps, is that we’re desperately afraid OF the unknown, the change, so we cling to something, even if it’s toxic.

I’m working to be friends with the change that is flamboyantly present in my life.   And at times it feels incredibly clumsy and extremely terrifying.  I’m learning.  Stretching, growing.  But I can’t forget my I, is a we.  The my I just referenced is actually an our.  That’s just another part of the self-discovery piece…we do not have to travel it in solitude.  No one has to navigate these things on your own.  If you are single, lean on your closest friends and family.  If you don’t use them, you’ll feel alone.  And then possibly feel incredibly distant from them, for they have no idea.  And then feel even more alone and even more hopeless about your ability to go through this with any semblance of grace.  If you are married, use your partner! Don’t leave them behind.  It’s their job to be with you, just as it is your job to with them.  Don’t ever forget that.

Picture a team of horses, pulling a wagon.  We’ve probably all caught a glimpse of this in real life, some of us an even more personal, up close experience.  Imagine all those ropes, each one with a purpose, each being vital to the operation of the entire setup.  Once fully assembled, the driver now has a clear line of communication open with both of the horses.  Imagine what would happen if the horse on the left decided he wanted to do it this way.  And the horse on the right disagreed.  What would happen?  Catastrophe.  And face it, there’s nothing the driver can do to force two +1500 pound animals to do what he wants them to do if they don’t want to do it.  He’s powerless, along for the ride.  Life doesn’t have to be that dangerous.  Look to your partner.  Talk about transitions.  Embrace the changes. 

I’m working to be present with mine.  To seek agreement between my head and my heart, between my human longings and my faith in God that my needs will be taken care of.  I’m working to do it with grace and strength.  I’m not always successful, I don’t always do as I should, I forget to practice what I preach.  But I come back to my center.  I want to embrace the changes, the gift of growth and forward movement.  I’m so thankful for my husband, my rock, my partner.  For my family and friends.  And for my church.


In-Between

Almost two full years ago, I felt a stirring for something new.  I began to connect with and understand pieces of myself in a more mature and holistic way than I ever have before.  I credit the amazing community around me, and the stirring of the Holy Spirit.

Being someone who is somewhat apprehensive about change, I went through periods of time trying to sweep the thoughts and feelings under the rug.  It’s easier to stay where we’re at, and a challenge to venture into the unknown, especially when things are so uncertain.  I tried, and failed.  The reminders kept creepingback, and God wouldn’t let me forget.  So began, the active phase of seeking.

There was a time when it seemed that every door I knocked on failed to open.  And then there was the moment, when I transitioned my thinking, from hoping someone else would accept me, to seeing myself as the one that needed to make it happen.  Perhaps the heavy doors were meant to have stayed shut.  They were rigid for a reason.  Interestingly enough, when my mind shifted gears, the doors became easier.  I fell into invigorating possibilities.  Ranging from hopes of this connection or that, to realizing my absolute dream career was just outside of town, and had been there all along, I had no idea.  Had those rigid doors been accidentally left open, it may have been some time before I literally stumbled upon this place.  So I sought to sow the seeds.  Thankfully, unlike my own garden, which I can forget to water as the summer goes on, these seeds were cared for, and tended to, and subsequently flourished.  And as the fruits became recognizably enticing, it was even clearer to me that changing my present situation was absolutely necessary.

I think I hung on to my perception of security as long as I possibly could.  It’s funny to think that what I thought I was doing was being practical, was really just being fearful.  Letting go of the rope as you swing over the bay, trusting your body to land where it’s soft, trusting the water to be there, praying it wasn’t an illusion.  I clung.  And then let go.  Since that point, I haven’t been filled with regret, despite the fact there is a great deal of uncertainty now!  I’m not certain how my material security will arrive, but I trust that God will provide.

So far, I’ve been listening to His guidance.  This is all His doing.  The doors, the grace, the community, I can’t even begin to explain it any other way.  They keep saying, this is the time of greatest growth…you’ve let go of your fear and put your trust in Him…He has led you this far, and you feel the peace, it HAS to work Anna.  So I find myself here, in the space of quiet, in-between.  And comforted by the knowledge that I am not in control.  “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.   It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Why question?  I know, I believe, I feel.  My roots, foundation, is being fed and watered by the Giver of Life.  My roots are my faith, my family, my health, and my self.  When struggle comes, I will persevere.  At the wire, I can make do with very little, and am very open to the conclusion that I have way more than I need.  And when I feel this, I will, because I have been, and believe I will be, blessed.

I’m thankful for the journey, even though it was hard at times, for it led me to where I’m at.  I’m ready.


Community

I had the pleasure today to be a “Part of the Beginning.”  Around 100 professionals in our area gathered with community members to make a public stand against child abuse.  The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center coordinated this beautiful Zero Tolerance day, and it was an honor to be a part of it.  I’m no good at numbers, but I would guess at least a couple hundred people gathered in our State Theater…listened to people speak, watched some amazing young dancers, and walked the streets of downtown in support of maintaining a safe environment for the next generation to grow.

Anyway, around 10 or so of the PEACE Ranch crew gathered together for the celebration.  As I sat there with them, and Payton pointed out that we all had the same shirts on! –I thought that it’s has been a long time since I’ve felt like such an important part of a work community, a long time.  The Executive Director breathes welcome, the volunteers exemplify servitude, and the environment is then incredibly open and safe.  I am honored.  Blessed.  And so happy to be going in a direction that feels so right.

When you’re doing what you are called to do, you’ll know it.  Every square inch of your soul will feel at peace, will be energized, and you will be certain.  No questions.  Thank you God for blessing me with the past 3.5 years of my career so I could be the person I am today, and also for leading me so clearly in my professional journey.  Your time is truly perfect.


Growth

I had one of those experiences this week that leads to incredible self-growth but you wouldn’t ever want to go through again.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it’s not quite over.  As with anything in life, there’s got to be a gem in here somewhere.  Something with a tag on it that reads priceless.  Those are the best gifts aren’t they…the ones that lead to an enrichment of your self…?  I’ll look back and be thankful.  In this moment, I’m looking forward to finding the way out.  In the meantime, I’m really glad that I know who I am.  I’m glad I have a support system…that there are people in my life who believe in me…that I can come home to a stable, loving, and healthy family.

I was a kid who always liked to have the last word.  I still do, at times.  My son and I sometimes wage war over the right to that title.  Then I have to remind myself that I’m the grown up.  I’m fighting the urge to have the last word right now.  I don’t like people thinking things about me that are not true.  Especially when those things are not pretty.  There’s a part of me that wants to shout, that’s not it, you have it all wrong! And at times, I have.  But something I’ve had to learn (and by the way, even if someone advises me on something, at times, I just have to learn on my own) is that no matter what you say sometimes, there are some people who will not hear it.  They hear through their filter.  They take it in, change the message slightly based upon their perspective, their life experience, their assumptions, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.  About them that is.  But there is something I can do.  I can learn to walk with my head held high.  I can learn when I’m in the midst of dysfunctionality, and respectfully remove myself.  There is a feeling that goes along with that, with being a part of a dysfunctional system.  I feel it deep in my gut, I feel it in my heart, and then I feel it in my thoughts.  You start to wonder is it me? Here’s when my healthy family, that I get to come home to every day, plays an incredibly important role.  They ground me, remind me of who I am, and who I’m not.

So there’s a couple lessons in here for me, number one is that my family rocks.  They’re crucial.  Everyone’s family is.  For they know you (hopefully) and stick with you (ideally) through thick and thin…give you energy and perspective…love and acceptance.  The second is, I know who I am…I know who I’m not…and I know who I belong to…and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

So for now, I’ll cling to that.  And remain open…and grounded.  These experiences are gifts…even if I don’t see them as that until far after…they are…gifts.  With that as my perspective, I am so incredibly excited for the next chapter.


Seeds

I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds lately.  I’m a horrible gardener, but would love to learn!  I think the major problem is our soil, and lack of sun.  Those are kind of important aren’t they?  Perhaps the rich, abundant garden will have to wait until our next home.  Until then, seeds.  Imagine the journey a seed takes…it starts as just a, well, a seed.  A very small, sometimes almost so small it’s hard to pick up just one, hard shelled…thing.  My novice gardener brain isn’t able to ascertain what one particular seed will grow in to, I suppose some people can.  It’s hard to tell.  But in order for it to transform into what it will eventually become, it must go through a process.  A process that is sometimes harsh, sometimes uncertain, and often times one that requires a great deal of care and attention.

First, into the ground.  It must be placed in the right soil, the right depth, the right sunlight…must be supplied with sufficient nutrients, just the right amount of water, and patience.  Buried in the ground, sometimes cold ground, it must be very dark, lonely, quiet.  Feeling the water moistening the soil around the seed, it must hurt a bit to expand to the point of breaking.  The being inside the shell is getting too big for the shell, it’s outgrowing it…time for something new, something unknown.  It doesn’t know what it will find once it sees the light, what climate, what wind, or rain.  It doesn’t know if it will continue to receive water, if it will have room to grow.  It doesn’t know if it will yield what it is supposed to.  It just grows.  Breaking out of the shell, pushing it’s way through the soil, somehow knowing which way is up.

One of the most exciting times in the spring is watching my plants break the soil…the tulips!  The grasses!  It’s so much fun.  My attempts at a garden, I almost always see the seedlings rise from my garden bed, it’s after that happens that I find myself faltering.  So they’ve made it, so far.  Growing, shedding the shell at some point, surviving the bunnies, or deer, or eager children picking their fruit too soon.  What is developing, and what continues to develop is amazing!  A tiny little seed can give you 13 cucumbers!  Or 9 giant tomatoes!  Or rows and rows of lettuce!  When it finally makes it, it must be a fulfilling experience.  To have survived the elements, to feel the success, to have provided food for a family, or beauty for all to see.

Hmmm…


My partner

My husband’s in Guatemala this week.  I’m flying solo.  The kids and I actually do pretty well alone.  The house doesn’t get vacuumed as often, laundry gets washed, folded, but not put away…but the kids are loved, clothed and fed, so all is well.  I don’t know what I would do though without my partner.  By the time he’s due home, we’re all ready.

The dance of marriage has caught my eye lately, in a slightly different way than it usually does.  The family that initially caught it, 4 young kids, and mom and dad.  When I see their family function together, it is a beautiful thing.  The two of them almost dance as they share the load…without words, they know what the other needs before they even ask for it.  They share the work.  And through all of that, they still manage to look at one another like they like each other.  They respect one another, that’s evident.

I think that is absolutely beautiful.  That is the way that families can operate, the way couples can work together.  I think of the beauty of a team of horses, pulling a load.  Have you ever watched the communication between human and animal?  Have you noticed ALL the different tools atop the horses?  I’ve seen those tools hanging up, and it looks like a big mess to me!  Each piece serves a specific purpose.  The horses stand sided by side, and equally share the load.  If one decided he would rather eat from the lush grass they just passed by, they would never reach their destination.  The only way that is possible is if they each pull.  They each are attentive, to one another, and to their human.  Listening to the subtle words, vocalizations, movements on their bridles…all of it, communication.  Teamwork.  Beautiful.  One horse MAY be able to pull some of the load…but certainly not for long.

Like a working horse, we need partners, to share our load, to work with us not against us.  And to keep us company along the way.  The kids are sleeping and it’s quiet.  I miss Justin.  I miss his presence in our home…peaceful, stable, attentive and faithful.  Time away really makes you appreciate all the other person does.  I’m thankful for a partner to share my load and to dance in life with me.  And I’m thankful for all of you who inspire others to respect one another, to be authentic, and to place your partner first.


Compilation

At the suggestion of a friend, I reached out.  She said, talk to your friends, to the people that know you.  I did.  See what they have to say.  What I received in return from that reaching out was beautiful.  So beautiful that I feel compelled to create a collage so to speak of the wisdom.  Here it is:

“I remember my spiritual director telling me that there are moments where you walk out into the fog?/unknown. Sometimes in life you just have to take that risk. You step out, not knowing what is there, but those are most often the most beautiful and rewarding steps to take. I have taken some of those, and she’s right…No matter what, we love you and support you…You know what you need to do already, don’t you?? ♥…You need to follow your heart. The rest will fall into place…’From now on if you listen obediently to the commandments that I am commanding you today, love God, your God, and serve him with everything you have within you, he’ll take charge of sending the rain at the right time.’ Deut. 11:13-14…When you’re doing what you love to do, no one has to motivate you, or challenge you, or check up on you. You do it for the sheer enjoyment . You don’t need rewards, or applause, or to be paid well, because you love serving in this way…Figure out what you love to do – that which God gave you a heart for – and then do it for his glory!..It’s my heart, and it’s not a chore to do this, because I love it! It’s slow-going, but I know that once it takes off, there will be a next step and another next step that God will ask me to take…That old definition of faith, “Going forth, not knowing”, is so true….One thing is for sure, you are in the middle of a paradigm shift and things are unclear. You are going somewhere good here and the direction is foggy. That’s ok, just keep your big-picture perspective within it, and keep your eyes and heart out for possibilities, for doors…You’re on to something here, feeling the movement and knowing its going somewhere, pay attention to that. Doors opening, doors closing, all of it will guide you…God will give us direction always according to His plan for us in His perfect time…speak TRUTH, have PEACE, say what you ARE, and LOVE…”God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.”…God’s time is oft’ not quite ours but always Perfect…you are loved & you will be fine… Trust where your heart keeps leading you… God is w/you in that space & place…Oh Lord God,who hast called us thy servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending by paths as yet untrodden & through perils unknown, give us courage to go out, not knowing whither we goest but only that thy hand is leading us and thy love supporting us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen……You are in my prayers, I believe you can do whatever God calls you to do.

May this help you too, in decisions you are contemplating.  It has helped me.  Thank you friends, and to the authors some referenced (Rick Warren, the Bible…).  Horses…art…homes…ministry…FAITH.