Monthly Archives: August 2013

A View of Nothing

Yesterday, I drove down to the bay to meet a girlfriend for a walk. It was a beautiful foggy morning. The leaves are turning orangey brown hues and falling as if to say “I am done with summeraren’t you?” The air was nippy and inviting sweaters. My friend was running a few minutes late so I stood along the waters edge just looking out. As I did I noticed this sign post. So I walked up and looked at it.

This sign stood on the edge of this view. You were supposed to be able to stand here and look directly ahead and see several different mountains, points, hills and islands. I have walked this path a thousand times and have never noticed this sign that diagrams all of the gorgeous landmarks I take for granted to be the scenery of my life. And then the one day I notice this map of sorts, I look up to find the Twin Sisters, Chuckanut Island and Bayview Hill to see this…

Fog. Nothing but fog. A horizon of who knows what….I stood on what is apparently the edge of destination and I couldn’t see squat. It might as well have been a white wall with a smoke machine. I thought…this is so often how life feels. We stand on the edge of something…a new horizon, a big decision, the end of a road or it’s beginning and it feels like we have no idea what is in front of us. And we think we are going to have to guess our way ahead blindly or we are going to have to wait for things to clear up. So often I find that many of us have destinations we are hoping to arrive at and journeys we would like to travel and yet we feel like the path before us is so very foggy. I am reminded of what God says in

Isaiah 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

For those of you who stand at a map just like this and you know that your potential is out there, God promises He will lead you as blind as you feel. For those of you who face a foggy future and are confused by your own life’s direction, God promises He will guide you along unfamiliar paths. If you stand on what feels very very dark, the same God who spoke light into being promises HE will turn what seems so dark into light, right in front of your very eyes. If you came to see something beautiful and you’ve hit a rough patch, God says ‘I will smooth things out‘. He says these are the things I will do and what I will do is never leave you. The views might change from here to there and so might the clarity, but there is one thing that never changes and that is Who made the horizons in the first place. As unclear as the horizon may be, I am thinking  we should stand on the edge of this view and trust what is on the other side.

 

Drive-by Disciple: by Branden Griffith

Branden Griffith is a young man who just graduated from college and is now giving a year of his life away to serve young people telling them about God in a much more thoughtful, authentic and loving way than the experience he describes below.  What Branden chews on as a result of a collision he had, lays before God’s people a challenge worth reading! Colliding with people who drive by and pass out God is not changing lives…so what is? Read Branden’s thoughts…- Willow

Seven months ago, a friend and I made the decision to ride our bikes from Seattle to San Francisco together.Unprepared for what was in store, we left at the end of June for what would be a 13-day trek up the sides of Oregon mountains, along the narrow shoulders of Highway 1 and 101, and alongside angry drivers who were a bit too excited to use their horns.

Through all the ups and downs (pun completely intended), we hit walls both physical and mental. I broke down crying one night, entirely prepared to call it quits in the middle of an empty campsite in northern California. But through pain, sickness, and exhaustion, Brenton and I reached our destination, limping our bikes across the infamous Golden Gate Bridge, an accomplishment that I will tell stories of for the rest of my life, and one that I am sure those closest to me will get tired of hearing of by the time I am 60.

On this 950-or-so mile trek, we took many opportunities to stop and rest, talk to people at campsites, and to repair our bikes. However, one of these stops left more of an impression on me than I gave credit to at the time. On the side of a busy highway with logging trucks whizzing by, I was on my butt, prying an industrial-sized, rusty staple out of my supposedly reinforced tube. The only space safe enough to stop was in the driveway entrance of a house on a hill. Hoping we wouldn’t be in the way, I had to all the belongings on my bike in order to access the popped tire and pierced tube. Sitting in the middle of a driveway with everything I brought along splayed out around me, I toiled at the staple which was the cause of my THIRD flat tire in our days (ridiculous). Needless to say, I was frustrated with my bike,
frustrated with the road conditions, and frustrated for being frustrated on the
trip of a lifetime.

As I toiled away at the staple which slowly became the bane of my existence, a green 90s-era minivan carrying the owner of the driveway (and probably the house at the top of the driveway) pulled in. I scooted everything out of the way so he could pass and gave a reluctant, greasy, sweaty wave as he drove past. Five minutes later (the staple was really in there), the same van came down the hill and the man rolled down his window and said, “Here, I want you guys to have these.” We grabbed the pamphlets out of his hand and by the time we read the title and looked back up, the man’s window was closing and he was driving away. We looked back down on the book and the words on the front read, “Are you saved?” and all I could think was, “Are you kidding me?”

At this point, I am fuming. I tell Brenton that this guy is lucky that I’m a Christian because if I wasn’t I would probably have a few choice words for him. But as I thought about it, I realized the gesture this driveway owner was making, and how even that small gesture probably required a bit of courage. But the thought stuck with me, “What if I wasn’t already a Christian? How does throwing a pamphlet at someone advance God’s kingdom on
this Earth?”

This guy’s action of tossing a pamphlet made me realize my own shortcomings in ministry and outreach, and that is a fear of entering into brokenness, a fear that we might have to invest emotions and time, and that we need to have answers to difficult questions when they are asked of us. Our culture is more polarized about religion now more than ever, and the ideas of Christians come from the extremists that are able to shock the media enough to gain coverage, and if those of us with stories to tell of grace, redemption, salvation, and power keep our stories to ourselves, we can’t expect anybody to change their mind.

The man with the pamphlets sticks out in my mind because I realize how many opportunities I miss to make even a small gesture like his, let alone do something bigger. I saw first-hand what it must look like when I tell someone about the greatness of God, and then leave them to mull it over without ever asking what they thought or felt about the whole
thing. Jesus wasn’t one to glaze over the brokenness and insecurities in the people around him who weren’t believers. He entered the hurt, the hard questions and the doubt. He changed lives in a single encounter by showing them his glory and power. The truth is, I won’t ever have the answers to all the hard questions, and I also won’t be able to reach everyone with the truth about God and his glory, but I can at least realize the opportunities that He puts in front of me dig into people’s lives, and to assume the authority that He has given each of us to advance his kingdom and change lives. We can witness by telling of God’s presence in our own lives, and recognize that He already has a presence in other’s lives. Sometimes it just takes a little more time to help each other realize that Presence, and you can’t always do that by handing over a pamphlet.

Follow Branden’s future adventures !

Run-Ins

I remember a while back, my husband and I had an appointment at a preschool to meet our child’s potential teacher and to do an assessment. They want to see if your kid can count plastic bears or say their ABC’s and while doing so, the parents get to sit in kiddy chairs at a kiddy table across from the teacher while they ask you questions about your kid. The whole experience, I thought, was supposed to give you the warm fuzzies about leaving your baby for the first time and help your kid feel excited about counting plastic things and singing songs they hate by the time they get out of diapers.

So we were excited and I had this vision in my head of what a teacher would be like… You know…the apple/ruler pin, cardigan, cute bob, squeaky voice, sleeps at her desk and for a hobby spends time at the library, fresh out of college girl. So, my very tall husband and my not so small derrier sit down on these kiddy seats. And the teacher had her clipboard. So, she was definitely in charge. She was sweet and chatty….but she wasn’t fresh out of college. In fact, right after she asked about allergies, my husband takes a tangent and says, “You look really familiar.

It is at this point that I am starting to think my husband’s tangent is actually headed somewhere and I am not sure if it
is a good idea to go there. She answered that she was at the same school as him decades ago . He squints his eyes at her to guess what she used to look like. She does the same thing and echoes his familiarity. He starts talking about his long hair and speaking of fashion, I change the subject and bring up Doc Martens and grunge clothes…..Alright,
it is here, that I uncomfortably giggle and say, “Oh you probably don’t recognize my husband…he was really crazy in college! Oh Honey, I am sure she has other questions to ask us about our kid.…”

She did and then we shook hands, said nice to meet you and walked outside the school. As soon as the door closed behind us, Rob looked at me and said “I know why she looks familiar!!”  …And then proceeded to tell me some crazy thing this woman did at a house party on a washing machine with someone! What? This is who will be reading Goodnight Moon, doing noodle art and teaching the days of the week to my kid in preschool? Great!  My husband had forgotten this run in from years prior – And now we had a run in, that I had thought would be insignificant or at best warm and fuzzy and include a cardigan.

The next day, both our kids had soccer games and afterwards we went out for donuts with some friends. We were eating
gluten fried in lard when this guy comes in with his wife and baby. It was a guy I had a run in with my freshman year. I remember it clearly. He wore white jeans, and in case you were wondering, that was not cool. I met him at a
concert the first weekend I moved to college. I was drunk and I don’t think I noticed the fashion sense. I didn’t even know this guy and the next thing you know I found myself in a dorm room doing things I shouldn’t have
because a girl who wanted to be loved ran into a boy who wanted something too. As I sat there, I was reminded of the teacher. “Maybe I shouldn’t wear cardigans either”, thought, as I was expecting to enjoy a maple donut, but instead ran into my own washing machine!

(more about how God got me out of the laundry room for another day…)

Life seems to be a series of run-ins that run on and begin to shape who we become. Some run-ins leave us damaged. Some run-ins seem lucky or Divine. Some run-ins chart our course. Others are expected to be insignificant and seemingly mundane…and sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. Jesus ran into people all the time.

Every time you see Jesus running into people, there was

something so mundane, so cardigan like and maple donutish and yet so Divine and life altering.

Every time Jesus ran into people they were never the SAME and He is still running into us everyday! Thank God! Let us keep telling of these run ins with Jesus in the ordinary and extraordinary-because it is in those stories that we will find hope, truth, transformation and life! How is God running into your life? Share here…

Apparently You Want To Be Awakened

This morning, I asked the question below on facebook, in the hopes of hearing from a few women about what they think we need to be awakened from and the response was overwhelming. As woman after woman shared from their hearts, I was struck by just how much we all desire to be awakened. Women shared their hopes that we would be awakened from the pain of betrayal, from self imposed expectations, from the need to look perfect, from self -centeredness, fear, shame and apathy. I mean the list just keeps growing. There is something profound in the fact that so many women have so much that they feel keeps them living like they are sleeping! This list in and of itself should burden our hearts to pray for one another… My prayer is that Jesus truly would wake us up like He did Lazarus and we would live wide awake!  What are your prayers?…

Awakened

I sit here this morning working on messages for a women’s retreat for Central Methodist Church. They want to spend the weekend being ‘Awakened’ by Jesus. What is it that keeps us living as though we are asleep?  I am wondering if you will engage in this message by sharing – what do you feel we need to be awakened out of?

Gone for Good: Lyndsey Plute

met Lyndsey Plute her freshman year in college and since then I have been amazed at the way she lives her life. Lyndsey lives wide open to the ways of God. As a young adult, she looks around for what God is doing and she enters in! I learn from her and am inspired by her. Read her story and be so yourself…- Willow

A couple of weeks ago, my bike got stolen. I walked out of my house, backpack and helmet in hand, and was ready to conquer another day at work. But when I turned the corner, ready to unlock and hop on my bike, I noticed it was gone. GONE! The bike that was given to me from my aunt and uncle after they bought and fixed it up for me. The bike that gave me plenty of fun times with friends. The bike that got me to work every
day. I literally stood there for a minute, swore and started crying. I ran back into the house and bawled my eyes out to my roommate, proceeded to cry as I walked to work, and sobbed to my coworkers. It was a weird feeling knowing someone violated my space, that something so special was
taken from me.

I was bitter about it the whole morning. I couldn’t focus on my work and I kept thinking about where my bike could possibly be and why this had to happen. But slowly, as I continued to work at my desk and refocus on the day ahead, I relaxed a bit more with every click of the mouse. I was reminded that there is a reason for everything. God has this under control and trust in Him would be the only thing that would get me to change my perspective. Maybe there is a reason why I need to walk to work? Maybe there is a reason why this person needed my bike so badly? Those things only God knows, and I prayed that He would show that to me.

A couple days later as I walked home from work, I told myself to keep my eyes open. Now that I was forced to walk, I tried changing my perspective to look around at my surroundings as I was going at a slower pace than if I were on wheels. I tried to take a new look at the things I saw and the people I passed by. Just as I went through one of the crosswalks, a girl on a bike pulled up to the sidewalk and shouted my name. It was an old friend that I haven’t seen in ages, and was meaning to catch up with. Our conversation left me feeling better than I did, and that wouldn’t have happened if I were on my bike!

The week went by and I noticed something else that I didn’t see as much before. There is a large amount of homeless adults and teens that spend their time on the same street I take to work. It especially breaks my heart to see teens congregating together without homes or parents to go back to. It’s hard to see women and their children who are looking for money, or even just somebody to talk to. And so, I told myself that I would say hello to any person I walk by, no matter their monetary status. I got a lot of “good mornings”, a handful of blank looks, and one “Hey, there pretty lady!”

You never know what a simple “hello” could do to somebody. It may show that someone actually cares about them. It may start someone’s day off on a slightly better note. The important thing to remember is not the responses we may hear back, or the smiles we can tangibly see, (We may not get a reply at all!) but rather, remember that our simple gestures could spark the slightest bit of love in someone, which may be the just thing that ignites the fire.

One of these ‘hello’s” actually did turn into a great conversation. I met a man named Timmy on my walk home a couple of days ago, and he was sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, his cart on his right side, and a cigarette in his left hand. His eyes lit up when I greeted him, and he immediately proceeded to talk to me about his ideas on life, and the problems he is currently facing. After awhile, I asked to sit down next to him and joined him on the sidewalk. I continued to listen and I got a better glimpse of his perspective near to the ground as we looked up at people walking by. It seemed like they towered over us while they hurried along to their important destinations, glimpsing down out of the corner of their eyes. Don’t get me wrong. I AM that person. We all are those people. But for a minute I got to get down to Timmy’s level and get a snapshot of what he sees every day.

Timmy told me about existence. Initially, he seemed very confident that existence is happiness. That’s how he started out, but then his ideas
began to shift as he processed about his purpose in life. He asked me over and over: “What is the purpose of existence?” “Why am I sitting here on this sidewalk, while everyone else has warm beds to go home to?” “Why don’t I have a girlfriend?” “Why do I feel so lonely?”

I told Timmy how God changed my life 3 and a half years ago. I, too, was feeling particularly lonely one week in my freshman year of college. God made His presence known to me, and in an instant I knew I wanted to follow Him for the rest of my life. I told Timmy that since that point, I’ve been growing closer to God and the more that I trust Him, the more He reveals the path that I should take.

We talked more about God and how He created us to love other people. We talked about Jesus and the pain that we can identify with in Him. Our existence is to love, and if we call out to God and trust Him to guide us toward that, He will show us where to go.

The words and prayers I spoke with Timmy echoed exactly what God has been reminding me. I am to love others, just like Christ loves us. Biking to work became my routine, but now I have a new routine of trying to notice and greet those around me. I feel like I have been constantly reminded to do that, and maybe this time God chose to take away my bike to make it a daily habit in my life. You never know why things like this happen, but if we can try to take a step back and change our perspective to see the goodness amidst the bad, it will only help us love others better. This is why we exist, and God is calling us to love in every seemingly good and bad circumstance. Let this be our prayer. – Lyndsey Plute

My Booty, Sparkly TOMS, and Whining: A Story of Telling

So I got this hair brained idea to run/walk to one of my girlfriend’s birthday party yesterday. Now the reason why this is a crazy idea is because I have not been running and she lives about 4 miles away. I was motivated in part because a girlfriend asked me to train for a half marathon that is scheduled in late November and as soon as I got her email, I literally went and put running shoes on, got my 8 year old daughter on her 5 year old size pink bike and headed out the door. Bella let me know right away that she did not want to do this. She wanted to bring her Nerds candy. I said “You can’t bring your Nerds candy. Leave it at home.” She wanted to walk. I said “You can run or you can bike, what do you choose?” She was whining, “Let’s just drive.” In all this back and forth, I said “Bella, let’s be tough! We can do this!” (I didn’t think we could do it either.)

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We walked down our driveway and she was wearing a plaid skirt and sparkly Toms. I mean how unused to doing this, are we? We looked like
pansies. But we were doing it and I knew it could go sour quick. She could brake too hard on the gravel and get bloody knees. She could just wimp out in the middle of the trail and refuse to move.  I could have a heart attack mile 2 or have to go number 2, which might be even worse. And it looked pretty likely that any of those options could happen because Bella literally complained and whined for the first 15 minutes of the journey. “How long will it take? Why do we have to? I don’t like riding on gravel. I’m hot. My legs are tired from swimming.” …I finally broke.

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Here I am a woman nearly turning 40, overweight, out on a hot day trying to get off the couch and reach 3 miles so that I can even qualify for training for a half marathon and my youthful daughter who does cartwheels to get everywhere is complaining about riding a bike while looking like a GAP model. I didn’t want to go on a 4 mile run. Everything in me wanted to turn back and get in a cute dress, do my hair and makeup and show up to the party looking fresh with a present in my hand. Bella was right, we should turn back, I thought. But for some reason something in me felt fierce and I was willing to push through her complaints. So I broke and had a mom moment: “You can choose to be positive or you can choose to complain the whole time and ruin the journey, but either way we are going! We are doing this. We are going to prove we can. If I were you I would choose to be positive.  I am from here on out going to ignore your negativity. I f you say anything negative I am going to ignore you. Instead, why don’t you talk positively. You can say ‘oh mom, look at the beautiful sunshine or see the pretty bird….or mom tell me about when you rode bikes as a kid…’”

I know none of what I said was out of the box or all that wise, but it’s all that I could come up with in the sweat and the mental ‘I can’t keep goings.’ Immediately Bella said, “Tell me about when you rode bikes as a kid.” Immediately, I thought, ‘why did I give that example?’ I can’t remember a darn thing. I think I have early Alzheimers. Then I remembered a story…. so I told her in between panting to keep up with her lil’ bike.

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I told her the story about when I was five and I was hanging out with one of my best friends, Burt. I called him Burt the Squirt. I still didn’t know how to ride a bike and so Burt was holding onto my bike and pushing me, but I was very unstable and the bike felt rickety like it could fall over at any point if he were to let go. But at some point, Burt decided to let go and I kept going. I told Bella, I remember just pedaling and being surprised that the bike worked and I didn’t crash. I was so excited, I said “Burt the Squirt! Let’s go get French fries at my mom’s café to celebrate!”  And off we went, biking to the Roslyn café I lived in, to have a celebratory snack.

As Bella was traveling fast now and way ahead of me, she yelled out from underneath her bike helmet, “Tell me another story mom!”  I said “Wait until I catch up to you so I don’t have to yell!”  She slowed down. I told her I couldn’t remember any more stories. She said, “Tell me that one you told me before- the one about that other kids bike.” I knew which one she meant. So I retold her about how I went to the city park and was playing with some kids while my mom was at work. I saw this kid named Robert and I asked him if I could use his bike. He said no. I think I was super jealous he had a bike because as per my usual, I had left my bike somewhere in town and had no idea where I left it, so I was out a bike. Robert said no, but I heard yes. I mean I didn’t actually hear yes, but I told myself to take the bike. So I took the bike and rode all the way across the park from the tennis courts to the swings set. And there I was swinging when my mom walked up to the park in her white apron from cooking at the Café just to visit and check in with me. As we swang, side by side, she asked where I got the bike. I told her Robert let me use it. ( Here I was telling Bella I lied to my mom. I am hoping as I story tell, this doesn’t backfire!) Right when I told my mom this lie, Robert runs across the park yelling for his bike and I was busted! Mom sent me to sit upstairs in the café and “think about it.” Sitting in a room by myself was pure torture in light of who God made me and “thinking about it” was even worse. What does thinking about it do? It lets you sit in your guilt. “Ooooooh”, I told Bella I learned my lesson that day. When you lie to someone, they don’t trust your words. And if you don’t have trust in a relationship, you don’t have a relationship.

I stopped and suggested she push her bike a little.  The stories continued…Then we went full speed again, our full speed. We had been going for over thirty minutes and I realized that Bella hadn’t complained for miles. I hadn’t heard one negative thought or whiny “I don’t want to” and she was cruisin’ stylishly! I yelled ahead toward her, “Bella, how did you kick that negativity?” She yelled forward as if her words would boomerang back. I heard loudly, “haikjdshi uydfas hfb aszldfh jawse!”  I yelled, “What? I can’t hear you!” Breath. Pant. Wiping sweat from brow. “Howwww didddd youuuuu kickkkkk that negativityyyyyy?”

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She said “You told me stories.”

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You told me stories. Fascinating. The rest of the run, I thought about that statement. Boy is she wise! Telling stories kicks negativity!   When I am being negative, the last thing I think to do is listen to someone tell me stories. Instead, I think of how I am going to get out of what I don’t want to endure or experience. And when getting out of something is not an option I am left with more reasons to complain. So my negativity either lands me as a quitter or more negative. Neither of which, help me get where I want to go nor make me who I want to be.

And here my daughter taught me, when you have a long journey ahead of you and you don’t know how you are going to make it that far and then someone shares story with you- it just helps you get further down the road. When you know you have distance and miles ahead and there is someone to share tales of pushing through and being able to celebrate, you see that that might be possible for you too. When you have to do something you absolutely hate doing and you engage in story, the thing you are doing takes a back seat while the story takes a front seat. Story has power and I think that is why Psalm 107 says “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” The Psalm then goes to touch on the crazy adventures, long journey, and scary gravel roads God’s people traveled and yet their determination proved victory, their sweat was worth it, and their pain turned to strength.  ( I really encourage you to read it and I will too.) This Psalm reminds us to tell our stories and says “Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD.”  Those of us who heed another’s story are wise. We are wise because we learn from other’s journey and so see the love of God that shows up in ordinary and extraordinary moments in life. And sometimes we forget He will show up and instead we start thinking we aren’t going to make it. We aren’t going to be able to finish. We aren’t going to be rescued. We are going to have success or victory. We aren’t going to get where we want to go. And we keep thinking these things until we listen to someone tell stories. And then we are reminded that God moves through trial, obstacles and the impossible to tell otherwise.

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As you go, tell story to one another. Tell story and ask for it. I think we have lost the art of asking people to share story. This past week I actually asked an older woman to meet with me and as I was struggling with something, I asked her to tell me story of what she has experienced. Just listening to her journey and tales helped me in mine. So, try finding yourself saying “tell me about…” more often and just those two words will shape your outlook in the right direction.  Or get off the couch and attempt something you don’t want to do because you really do want to and as you do, engage in story. When all you can think to do is complain with your mouth, instead listen with your ear. Ask each other to tell story. The adventure, mystery, lessons, romance, drama and journey of others just might be what you need to kick the negativity that keeps your sparkle shoes at the mall and your booty on the couch.

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May you journey whatever trail lies before you, together sharing story…. It is then that you will be reminded, God will meet you on this road….

 

What to Do with Wusses, Weenies and Scaredycats

Recently, while on a family vacation, my husband Rob suggested we drive to some railroad trestle trail where we could see beautiful views while biking. As we traveled up a windy hill on paved roads in the car we soon found ourselves climbing heights on gravel roads out into the boonies wondering if we were in the right place. Perhaps an ATV would have been a better idea, I was thinking, as i said “I should have been wearing a sports bra for this ride.”  When we got to the parking spot for bikers and hikers, the terrain and view truly were incredible. You could see the Okanagan valley, wildflowers, gorgeous trees, and rocks, all that beckoned you to push your pedals. So we did. We hopped on our bikes and took to the trail.

I am going to start by saying, I am a big weenie. I am the opposite of extreme sports. What would you call that? Extreme scaredycatness? That’s my sport. I mean don’t get me wrong, I can ride a bike with one hand.  (Such a big deal, I know.)  I could handle this trail…. until it dropped off to what felt like a very narrow gymnastic beam with cliffs on the side that could suck my children off the edge to never see them again. And even then, I did o.k. But I have this thing. Call it fear of heights, call it whatever. Psychoanalyze me on your own time….but when I am high up, I feel like I am going to fall off into the abyss and my feet actually get sharp shooting pains, I start sweating and my stomach hurts. I feel like I should just jump so that I can end the inevitable and get it over with because my mind convinces me that this- is going to happen. I am going to go off the edge. So this was my physical and mental state when we hit our first train trestle.  

These trestles were hundreds of feet up in the air and only a few feet across with little boards on both sides keeping you alive. Any of you, I am sure would think crossing one is no big deal. But my mind told me the big deal was that I was going to get freaked out, steer my bike into the small wooden side keeping me hedged in and crash, falling over the edge! And even if I didn’t end up as nothing but a wooden cross with fake flowers on some trail head someday, I was just no longer having fun.

I pushed through the first trestle, then the second, but the third just drove me to tears. I stopped, got off my bike looked at my family who had made it all the way across the trestle and then looked down at the ground too far below. I started crying. This was a new site for my kids, to see their mom upset because she was afraid. It was ridiculous. Seriously, embarrassing, extreme wimp material.  Aidan, my son, was yelling from the other side “Mom- it’s no big deal! It’s fine, just ride across the trestle.”  In my irrational fear state, I emotionally tried to explain to my ten year old who fears nothing(except maybe girls) Aidan, you can’t take away fear by telling someone it’s no big deal!”

fear

Rob got off his bike, put the kickstand down and walked over to me and instead of making fun of my fear or trying to explain rationality and logic into it, he said “I will walk with you.” That moment gave me exactly what I needed to keep going. I was going to stop. I was going to turn around and wait by the car. I was going to go down as the weeniewimpscaredycat. We walked that trestle and then the next trestle I rode and my whole family cheered me on “Yay mom! Good job! Way to push through!” We rode through several trestles, a cave and a lot of trail and bonded by pushing through together. When I came over the last trestle, I was struck with what was so significant about this experience.

Fear can only be conquered when someone says “I am with you.”

i am with you

Rob said to me what I see in Jesus. This is what Jesus did when His disciples were afraid.  When they were on the Mount of Transfiguration and freaking out, Jesus came to them, (Matthew 17 ) touched them and in His presence with them said “Do not be afraid.”  When Peter was walking on water and he got afraid and began to sink, (Matthew 14) Jesus immediately reached out His hand letting Peter know “I am with you” and Peter was able to defy odds, gravity and fear of sinking because Jesus reminded Peter that he was not alone. Jesus reminded his posse in a boat (Matthew 8) when a huge squall came over them and they were peeing their pants, “I am with you” and His presence brought peace and His voice rebuked the winds and the waves.

If you know someone who is struggling with fear, you too, like Jesus, can remind people you are with them when they feel like they might drown, sink, fail, get injured or disappoint. Saying those four words replaces fear with presence. Speaking rationally and logically might seem like a good idea, yet most fears are not logical nor rational. Reminding someone that what they fear is no big deal, doesn’t make it any smaller of a big deal. It only makes their big deal bigger because other people think it’s small.

i am with you2

Standing with someone who is afraid of relationship and saying “am with you” might actually be just what a person needs to walk the trestle toward connection. Putting down your kickstand and walking toward someone who has just had their path change and they are deathly afraid- and putting your arm around them and saying “I am with you on this new road” just might help them realize trails they never knew existed. Echoing the words of God, “I am with you” to someone who is afraid to give up the very thing that paralyzes them, just might be what causes them to move for the first time in far too long. Cheering someone on who just accomplished something that might not be a big deal to you,
but you know it is for them, is saying “am with you.” And saying “I am with you.” That just might be the most Christ like thing you can say to someone who is afraid. “I am with you”, just might be what will help the wounded and fearful see new terrain, experience freedom, claim conquers and live out of fear, instead of into fear, pedaling into the journey they are meant to travel.

From one weenie to another….what has helped you push through your fears? How can we help one another? Share with one another here….

Living with the And: Lindsay Anderson

 I have known Lindsay for over a decade and watching her over the past few years face deep grief has shown Lindsay to be a woman full of depth, insight, compassion and wisdom. Read her story as she describes living with the ‘And’.  -Willow

The day after the Fourth of July our next-door neighbor, a forty-plus year resident of our neighborhood, passed away. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a loyal supporter of local parks, a neighborhood leader, a Seahawks fan, an avid gardener, a retired engineer, a near-daily disc golf player, and a good buddy to my two incredibly extroverted children, who until he got sick this winter, followed him relentlessly around his yard asking question after question about flowers, trees, and everything else under the sun. We all miss our neighbor very much. His name was Bill.

If you know me, you know, I love our street. Our neighborhood is kind of a relic of days gone by, lined with old Post-WWII homes and if it isn’t raining you’ll find folks chatting over the property lines about their gardens, kids whizzing by on scooters, multi-family water balloon fights, and the occasional ice cream social. Summer is the best and these past few weeks, we’ve not only been pulled into the many joys of the season, but we’ve also
been quietly connected to the grieving of Bill’s wife of fifty-four years and their family. I’ve cried a little with her. And I’ve heard bits of their story. I learned that every morning he ate peanut butter on toast and she gave me one of her many jars because she won’t eat it as quickly now that he’s gone (and as she suspected, it’s a staple for our family). I’ve squeezed her hand and hugged her. But amidst the tears, as I’ve interacted with Bill’s family, and heard their life carrying on over the fence that divides our backyards I have also caught moments of laughter and seen glimmers of a smile. Yes, there have been condolences, meetings with ministers, and a memorial, but there’s also been normalcy – laundry, dishes, lawn mowing, pruning,
and weeding.

Grieving and laughing.

Sorrow and stories.

Pause and normalcy.

Remembrance and
distraction.

Tears and joy.

Anger and hope.

Death and life.

In all of this I am caught by the ‘and’.

For me, Bill’s passing has been a reminder that life is not all good or all bad. Our experiences, emotions, and relationships are more often than not, mixed together in a beautiful mess of glory and wreckage – a theme that has been front and center in my own life. Just over two years ago, on May 28, 2011 I got the phone call that changed everything. We all know those phone calls. The ones that come at odd hours to turn your world upside down. This call was from my mom to tell me the previous night, my aunt, her baby sister, Amy, was shot and killed by her estranged husband, who then took his own life. They left behind two thriving kids and a slew of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. And we, the ones they left,
are marked.

Marked by sadness.

Marked by confusion.

Marked by anger.

Marked by regret.

Marked by bitterness.

Marked by emptiness.

But we are also marked by the ‘and’. Because life goes on for us on just like it is for my neighbor’s family.

The day of that phone call I was getting ready to play wedding coordinator for two dear friends. It might have been in part due to utter shock and paralysis, but somehow I took a shower, got dressed, and went to the church as planned. On that day I desperately wanted to cling to any sliver of hope that, amidst my uncle’s unthinkable, tragic action, life and love prevails.

I needed the ‘and’.

So, I went to help my friends ring in their new life. I lit the candles. I kept the wedding party hydrated and stocked with Kleenex. I cued the musicians and sent everyone down the aisle.All, so that I could taste a little bit of the resurrection.

In the days, weeks, and months following Amy’s death I prayed that God would raise her from the dead
like he did Lazarus and Jesus. I was drawn to The Road tEmmaus narrative in the Gospel of Luke. In this story the newly resurrected Christ approaches two of his followers traveling in their grief and confusion, but they don’t recognize him at first. After Amy died, I had an all-too-real sense of what it must have felt like for these two men when they realized that this oddly familiar stranger was in fact their teacher and friend, Jesus, brought back to life. Even now I will catch my breath when I see a forty-something woman of medium build and big golden curls, as I imagine for a second, that it is my aunt. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye I get a glimmer of the resurrection.

In one of his letters to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

The people who originally heard this letter, like me, were living with the ‘and’. Two thousand years ago in Corinth and today in the little town of Bellingham, we experience glimmers of glory here in our earthly tent, but there is also immense wreckage, reminding us that we are made for more.

Every year on the anniversary of this tragedy a contingent of family and friends hike to the top of Mount Peak in Enumclaw, WA.  It is a 1,000-foot
elevation gain over the course of a single mile and many locals take on the trail daily, including Amy up until the day she died. This spring as we
gathered to mark the passing of year two, the rain fell hard and the weight of reality was burdensome. It was muddy and slippery. The second anniversary stood to remind us that every minute we tick away is one minute further from May 26, 2011 when everything was still okay. While the first anniversary felt victorious (we survived!), the second anniversary was a hard dose of reality.

As my smartphone and the Holy Spirit would have it, I happened to read the following passage a friend shared via Facebook from his seminary studies just before we got out of our car at the trailhead. It’s about the co-mingling of two sides of the same coin:

“As death and life are thought to be in complex relationship to each other, the depiction of redemption begins to shift. By linking redemption so closely to one event or the other, we run the risk of elevating suffering or of negating it. But what if we began to see the work of witnessing, the work of the Spirit between death and life, as redemptive?” (Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma).

In other words, we are living with the ‘and’ and not the ‘or’. For me, the last two years have been a beautiful mess and there was no more fitting way to remember and look forward than on a steep, muddy, wet, dreary, breathtaking hike, all giving voice to God’s Spirit at work in us and through us, pointing us to the hope of what is to come while sitting with in the middle of our ever-present grief. Words truly cannot describe
how hard the last two years have been. We all have these hard stories to bear and if you are fresh in your grieving, pain, or dark place, I am so sorry.
Please reach out if you need to talk. You are not alone. And if someone reaches out to you, helping is far simpler that you might realize.

Personally, I am learning to embrace the ‘and’. I am trying to be okay with the ups and downs (which often happen simultaneously). I am still immensely sad, but I also, because of my new found state of vulnerability, am more open to joy. I am finding out what it means to truly allow God to extend love, care, comfort, and grace to me – to accept what I have needed all along from him and others with open arms. I am also discovering that I will be angry and confused for a long time – probably forever and that this is not only okay, it is healthy because I do not follow an apathetic God, but one who, so moved by our suffering came down in the most unexpected of ways. Now, more than ever, I am aware at how much this world
needs his redemptive action.

Life and death are tangled up, working redemption inside of me and inside of you.

By God’s mercy I am learning to live with this ‘and’. – Lindsay Anderson