Springing Forward

I could tell it was coming. It’s happened every year I’ve lived here. One day we’re in the thick of winter and the next my eyes feel the first hint of itchiness. Then my nose starts getting stuffy. I know the sneezing is just around the corner. I double up on the Zyrtec and brace myself for what I know is just around the corner: the arrival of my arch-nemesis, the blossoming Bradford Pear Trees. I’m not sure who decided to plant dozens upon dozens of these trees in my little town. I know they look pretty but they smell like fish (seriously, not exaggerating even a little bit) and they aren’t even very sturdy trees. We loose several in every major storm. All of which, might be tolerable if they didn’t constantly assault me with buckets of pollen.

Further hints that Spring is coming was the fact we lost an hour of sleep on Sunday. But this Daylight Saving’s wasn’t a typical one for me because I started working nights for the first time. The funny thing about working nights is how fluid time’s become for me. Wednesday morning at nine, after my third twelve-hour shift, felt a lot like a Friday night at nine. My attempts to sleep during the day feel more like taking long naps than getting a good night’s rest. My “day” starts in the afternoon and I leave work while most people are just heading in.

I’m actually liking night’s more than I thought I would. There’s far less distractions in the hospital at night. I have time to think about what I’m doing or need to do. I’m less panicky that I’m forgetting something in the chaos. Which is fantastic considering I need extra time to process everything I’m doing. I’ve found as long as I have some caffeine around two or three in the morning, I’m not even any sleepier than I was when I got off at 7:30 pm vs 7:30 am.

Working nights is just one more thing that’s changing lately. I think that’s why despite allergies I’m so ready for Spring. After such a cold (for Tennessee) winter, and lots of gray days, I am craving blue skies and warm breezes. I miss my sundresses and have grown tired of my coat. I need the days of driving with the windows down and the music up.

I found these beauties at Publix yesterday. They made me happy so they came home with me along with the ingredients for Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili (which is crazy delicious) and Peanutty Buckeye Bars.

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I love watching the leaves change colors and the snowfall. But Spring has this way of infusing hope in me like no other season. It reminds me that there really is an astounding amount of beauty in the world. It carries with it the promise of summer; it hints at BBQs, picnics, and days at the beach. But it has a grace all it’s own. Days filled with ever-increasing amount of sunshine and perfect temperatures for eating on patios and going for runs.

Spring gives me hope that something wonderful is just around the bend. That there are second-chances and new-life to be uncovered. It whispers that maybe the best is yet to come. And all that makes me believe that seasonal allergies are a  pretty good trade for some seasonal hope.

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God of the Middle

I heard a beautiful story yesterday. It was about how God has given my friend rainbows over and over again the last six years. For example, when she was wondering if her now husband was the one, she saw over seventy rainbows. An impressive feat considering she lives in the desert where it almost never rains. It was a story about His faithfulness at every turn.

Sometimes a rainbow is just a rainbow and sometimes it’s a reminder of God’s hand. I know a group of women who would tell you the same thing about purple flowers. That in some form or other when they are making decisions or needing to feel God’s love, they will stumble upon a field of purple wildflowers or find just one exactly when they need it. I have another friend who literally finds pennies from heaven. That change you pass on the ground every day without a second thought, is something she bends down and picks up, claiming God’s faithfulness.

I don’t have one thing I can point to as sign in my life. I can say that ever since a yellow lady bug landed on my blue dress with sunflowers as I was entering my audition for Annie, they’ve been something I view as a blessing. I mean I did get the role of Tessie so ladybugs seem downright lucky. I know it’s not just luck though, it’s also reminder. I’m the kind of girl who holds on to movie tickets and little trinkets from events I want to remember. So, it seems natural that I have a rock I picked up on a hike in Colorado and a shell I collected on the beach while watching the sunrise. Both are markers of times I heard God’s voice clearly.

How often have I found myself praying, “God, if xyz, then send me a sign”? It’s a prayer I occasionally utter when I’m making a decision to start down a path or bring a chapter to a close. But I find it incessantly on my lips when I’m somewhere in between. In the middle, that’s when I wonder what have I gotten myself into. It’s when I’m halfway across the rope bridge and feeling its definite sway. When I’m too far along to backtrack but unsure how I’ll ever reach the end.

 
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV

These words I know to be true. I need little reminder that the creator of the universe is in the process of its redemption. I know he is the Beginning and will be the End but, oh, I need a constant reminder that He’s also the God of the Middle.  He sees me shaking my head when I find myself exactly in the spot I was afraid of winding up. He hasn’t forgotten me when the waves are getting higher and I can no longer remember why I ever got in the boat. He knows where to find me in the inbetween.

He knows what I need before I ask.

He can reroute me if I’m lost.

He knows what’s on the next page.

My God is the ultimate author. He knows the middle matters. It’s what gets you from “In the beginning,” to “Amen.”

He hasn’t forgotten me along the way.

I’m the one in need of reminding. I need the Ebenezer. I need to mark a moment. I need to remember that ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’*

And I know He hasn’t forgotten you either (even if it feels like it). And I pray that He’ll remind you however you need reminding- be it flowers or sunsets or pennies or rocks or shooting stars or whatever your thing may be.

Tonight I find myself grateful he’s more than the Beginning and the End. That He’s also the God of the Middle.

* 1 Samual 7:12

Emotional Klutziness and Mixed Metaphors

“How did you get that bruise?”

“What did you spill on your shirt?”

These are two questions I have been asked on a frequent basis for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I know the answer. I ran into the coffee table/door/corner or it’s coffee/BBQ/ice cream etc. However, since I bruise easily (thanks, Mom!) and have what my friend refers to as the “spill gene”, more often than not, I don’t have a clue.

My mom posted this on my Facebook wall:

And while it wasn’t directed at me, I couldn’t help thinking how I can be such a klutz. When you’ve spent your whole life running into inanimate objects and tripping over thin air, it’s hard to think of yourself as graceful. Coordination has never been my strong suit. Whenever we played sports in P.E., there was almost always a fifty-fifty shot that I wouldn’t be able to get my limbs to move in the direction my brain intended. Take kickball for example. Occasionally, I’d kick the ball and it would sail to it’s intended destination. But more often than not, it wound up so far off my intended trajectory, I’m not even sure how it got there.

I think I will be ninety and still hear my mother cautioning me to “slow down” because I’m cutting corners too quickly. She was never scolding me as much and she knew from experience (her’s and mine) how scurrying leads to contusions. To be honest, I’m okay with being clumsy. I don’t know what it’s like to have the grace of a figure skater or the coordination of a snowboarder. I’m in awe of the how elite athletes have such command over their limbs. I’m amazed that they can to launch their bodies so high into the air, flip, and still stick a landing.I mean sometimes I have trouble getting mine to walk a straight line.

But sometimes even Shaun White goes home without a medal. I watched as he attempted to save face after crashing and burning when nailing the landing never mattered more. I know the reporter was just doing her job when she asked, “What happened?” but I just wanted her to leave the poor guy alone. I firmly believe there will be plenty of time for interviews when the disappointment’s not so fresh. I may not be an Olympian, but I know what it feels like to screw up something that is usually your forte. I’ve seen the face he made in front of the cameras staring back at me in the mirror every time I’m emotionally klutzy.

I may be physically clumsy but what I lack in coordination, I make up for in emotional balance. I have honed intuition and keen perception. (I have also been like this for as long as I can remember.) I can walk into a room and almost instantly pick up the vibe. I can quickly suss out how people are really doing. I don’t always know why they’re that way and sometimes I don’t care but I can usually just tell without having to ask. It’s so second nature that usually I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

My preceptor told me last week that I am really good at going with the flow and not easily flustered. I know she’s right but usually it’s because like a seasoned baseball player, time slows down enough for me to get a good read on the pitch and adjust my swing accordingly. On a typical day I can figure out if someone needs a hug or a good laugh. I can gauge whether they want to talk about something or avoid the topic completely.

And because I’m not an athlete, I’ve had years to become a verbal acrobat. I’ve taken gold in the “quick comeback” category. I have little fear of public speaking. I know how to motivate. I’ve been blessed with the gift of encouragement. I rarely have a problem with finding the right words.

Like anyone I have my off days. I can be tired or sick or sad or self-absorbed. Usually these emotions just make me quiet and reflective- and I’m okay with that. But every once in awhile when instead of feeling fine I feel F.I.N.E. (Freaked-out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.)* This is the curve ball I never see coming. These emotions throw me off balance and turn me into an emotional klutz. Only instead of running into walls, I start running into people. The quick comebacks come off as sharp instead of sassy. My tongue starts working too fast and though I’m pleading with it to “slow down” it’s usually too late. Instead of spilling hot coffee, I’m spilling unfiltered emotions. And sometimes I’m not the only one who winds up with bruises. Sometimes when I’m feeling F.I.N.E. my fear of inflicting internal injuries causes me to pull away. And if I catch my reflection, it carries all the self-disappointment you can see on the athlete’s face after they screw up their main event.

NBC recently aired a documentary about Shaun White’s preparation for Sochi. I watched him fall over and over again trying to land the YOLO flip. In the course of trying to stretch his repertoire, he suffered a couple of injuries. And I don’t know what he was thinking, because I cannot read minds, but I know when you attempt something and you fail, it makes you a little gun-shy. I think the next time you try, try again there’s a whisper of fear that history will in fact repeat itself. If that fear grows it can turn into something crippling, something that haunts you and keeps you from ever trying to throw that trick again. I’ve been there. I’ve withdrawn. I’ve “turtled.” I’ve let pride get the best of me.

But lately I can’t seem to get the Batman Begins quote out of my head:

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

Turtling is not the best solution. Never snowboarding again is not the answer. Avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away. It’s okay to be freaked-out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. It’s okay to let other people see you like that. Some days you’re the speed-skater and some days you’re the toddler just trying to stand upright on two feet. Sometimes you win the championship and sometimes you relearn a lesson you should already know by heart. But either way, there’s grace that abounds.

Sometimes I am the one who needs the hug and words of reassurance. Letting people love you when you feel unlovely is humbling but that vulnerability can be a very healing thing. Scrapped knees can be good reminders. Falling down is always an opportunity to pick yourself back up.

And sometimes the victory following the failure is so much sweeter. After all, who doesn’t love a good comeback story?

*acronym courtesy of The Italian Job

Things I Like Right Now

I love snow. I love watching big flakes drift from the sky. It always makes me incredibly happy (as long as I’m not driving in it. . . ). There’s something about the beauty of it all that makes me believe anything is possible. I love it even more now that I live south of the Mason-Dixon line after spending my childhood walking to school in feet of it up North. So, I understand that my brother shares this giddiness of a rare snow but it’s not nice to rub it in my face that he got 7 inches when the “snow” here just made my yard muddy.

IMG_0968 copy 2And it’s really not nice to do so at 6 am on a day I’m not working. But I still love snow and my still-a-kid-at-heart brother.

Speaking of not working today, I’m really enjoying working only three days of the week. I mean my schedule is downright chaotic at the moment being I’m at the mercy of the system and limited preceptors, but I think I’m really going to like it.

I also am really enjoying the Olympics. I like team sporting events well enough. I like watching people watch football. MLB’s Opening Day always feels like the start of summer. I’d like basketball more if their sneakers weren’t constantly squeaking as they ran up and down the court. And while I like like team sports, I love the Olympics. I like the variety. I like how it’s edited for TV so there’s not a lot of downtime between plays, runs, or participants. I like all the crazy tricks and spins and flips and freakishly fast speeds. I like learning about random sports and countries. I like how I can never figure out the scoring system. I like the patriotism of it all and proudly wear my team USA t-shirt. There’s something great getting so caught up in it all that you’ve stayed up until 2 am and are watching an event you’re not that into like curling. There’s always a story behind every athlete and I love hearing them.

I’ve always been a girl who loves stories. Library days were my favorite and I often spent recess reading. (Yes, I was and still am a bit of a nerd like that.) I also love going to the movies. I love everything about it minus the ticket price. I believe if you’re not there in time to see all the trailers, you’re missing out. Sometimes I get so caught up in watching the previews that I forget what movie I’m about to watch. I’ll even go to the theater all by myself when I need to escape the day-to-day and I can’t get near the water. Going to the movies alone is not sad; it’s wonderful. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.

So, because I love books and I love movies, I love when books I love are being turned into movies. Here’s two I am a bit giddy about seeing in the nearish future:

One will have me on the edge of my seat and the other will have me reaching for Kleenex. I’ll let you guess which one is which.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m just telling you about things I like right now. That’s about the only thing connecting these scattered dots in my brain, so I’m just going to continue. Continue reading

Wet Cement

It was raining as I made my way to my first day of work last Monday. There’s nothing quite like a rainy Monday, is there? I was excited, sure, but also nervous. Fortunately, some familiar faces of my former classmates greeted me in the conference room and helped calm my jumping nerves.

I’m not sure what I expected from an orientation day. Definitely to hear about policies and procedures and benefits. Definitely not to hear that I am there because God called me there. I wasn’t expecting to be commissioned or have someone bless me saying, “May you find growth and renewal.” Growth and renewal . . . I’m living and breathing that daily.

Yesterday, was my first day to take on two patients. Not on my own mind you, but all the same it was a little surreal. My patients were good to me and graciously overlooked my fumbling around with new equipment and trying to figure out where things were located. As a “newbie,” I’m more than a little unsure of everything so when I hear my patient on the phone talking about how well she’s being taken care of and how she has the “cutest little nurse,” I think maybe I can do this after all. A coworker laughingly told me with my sassy attitude I’ll fit right in and I hope that’s true. Little moments like this that make the long hours, tired feet, dehydration, and steep learning curve worth it. Because if I can do something with my small hands to help heal, reassure with a smile, while earning a paycheck, then I am definitely blessed. And I felt that blessing driving down West End last week watching the sun rise and kiss the tops of the beautiful old buildings and church steeples on my commute.

A couple Sundays ago at church, Darren was talking about January hopes and resolutions and newness. He used this phrase “wet cement” to describe it and I found myself thinking it was the perfect description of life right now. I’m in a season of wet cement. There’s a lot of change and possibility.

I’m falling in love with life all over again. Finding unexpected joy in so many moments. When I sit in home group with this assortment of people who would never come together under other circumstances yet somehow make this amazing kind of sense as a whole. It’s in the sheer excitement of getting to wear royal blue scrubs instead of the white ones I’ve endured the last couple of years. It’s going to bed exhausted from a well-spent day. It’s the quiet moments when I can catch my breath. Grabbing breakfast with a new gal-pal and talking until the lunch crowd appears. And it’s nights spent with this group of friends that grafted me in and finally realizing they’re not just being polite because I’m a friend-of-a-friend but that they actually like hanging out with me. It’s in finding myself in someone’s lyrics:

it took me 27 years to wrap my head around this-
to brush the ashes off of everything i love.
where courage was contagious, confidence was key.

right as rain, as soft as snow,
it grows and grows and grows,
our home sweet home.

we’ll try to document this light,
with cameras to our eyes.
in an effort to remember
what being mended feels like.

Isn’t it funny how you don’t realize just how broken you’ve been until you’re in the process of being mended?  Sometimes mending comes in the beauty of watching snowflakes drift in the wind and other times it’s being able to simply find the right quip at the right moment. It’s listening to the back-and-forth of a story from so far back no one recalls the same details. It’s being able to make someone who’s in pain laugh. It’s in the randomness and the trivial and the silly. I’m being stitched up by good hugs and long talks and the best company.

And I am more than a little grateful for the mending, for the wet-cementiness, for second chances, for a season to smooth off the rough edges. For time to lean into the scary and embrace the unknown. Just to live the growth and renewal and be thankful for this moment right now, for as long as it lasts.

A New Year’s Ramblings

I’ve started this post in my head so many times the last few weeks. I’ve typed phrases and have several drafts I discarded. Even now, I’m not sure how to start in an eloquent way, so I guess I’ll just wing it.

Life’s been rather full as of late. I almost want to say busy, but busy to me implies a certain level of unwanted tasks tying up your time. And it certainly hasn’t been that.

On December 13th, I commenced nursing school. I walked across a stage, received my pin, and stood with my classmates to recite Florence Nightingale’s Pledge. I can hardly believe it’s finished, but I’m so grateful. Nursing school had a way of draining my brain from it’s usual level of functioning and interacting. Some days I found myself with little room to cram any more info or remember anything new. So, I’m happy to leave that aspect of school behind me. I will, however, miss my fellow nursing students. Going through classes, clinicals, check-offs, and tests with them bonds us in the most unique way. I know I wouldn’t have made it through the past two years without this amazing group of individuals who will make wonderful nurses.

On the way out of pinning, I received an email to interview the following Monday morning for a nurse internship program. My excitement was quickly replaced with a bit of panic when I realized I had nothing to wear. So Saturday, my mom happily endured an endless amount of time outside dressing rooms until I found the perfect outfit. Funny, I was more nervous about finding the right clothes than about answering interview questions. By the grace of God, Monday afternoon I was offered an internship position. I’m thrilled and a little bit terrified to start next week.

Life’s funny sometimes. I feel like the first half of 2013 I was in a holding pattern. I felt stagnant and stuck. And then, things started changing and now sometimes I can’t get them to stand still even if I try.

Late last night I drove home in the freezing cold. The stoplights were blinking and the stars were bright and I found myself reflecting on this new year and this pocket of time I’ve had between the end of school and the start of my new job. I’ve gotten to spend it with some of the people I love most in this world. I’ve had a couple breakfasts with some gals that know me better than just about anyone else. There’s been dinners and game night and parties. There’s been teasing and laughter and theological debates. Talks about hopes and hangups and dreams for the new year. I’ve found that when I go to sleep with a full heart, I wake up with a clearer head. I know I’m better for the company I’ve been keeping.

We’re a week into this new year. I can’t help wondering what 2014 holds but I hope to receive it with open hands. That’s my One Word this year: receive. Sometimes I kind of suck at receiving. I’m awful at taking a compliment and quick to credit Target or just shrug it off. I’m not always good at asking for or accepting help- although nursing school as mostly eradicated this hang up. But my hope is that when 2015 rolls around I will be a little bit different. That I will receive what God’s giving me and where he’s placing me without trying to earn it or wish it was different. Accept the invitations I receive. Simply say thank you to compliments without deflecting. Just have a general openness and let people into my life more.

Life’s never easy and it holds more heartbreak than I dare imagine but I have to believe there’s still hope and sweetness to uncover. That there will be blessings and celebrations and adventures along the way. That the light will shine into the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. I’m daring to believe this will be a year filled with stories and people that change me for the better and I hope that I can in turn, return the favor.

Singleness, Downton Abbey, Fears, and Flirting

If I used Twitter, I would file this under #confession. But I don’t tweet because #imissedthebandwagon and #athispointwhybother. Nevertheless, this is a confessional of sorts on singleness, Downton Abbey, and one of my greatest fears.

Being single, female, and twenty-seven is a strange thing. It’s not bad nor good; just strange. Having spent twenty-six and half of those years not “in a relationship,” I’m more or less used to it. It’s what I know, but definitely not what I desire. And certainly not how I anticipated my life unfolding. Sometimes I’m grateful because not being attached to a significant other has allowed me be the me I want to be without having to factor in someone’s expectations. There’s a freedom to it at times. And there’s a quite hope that someday, in the nearish future, I’ll get swept off my feet.

That being said, singleness is different when you’re no longer in your teens or early-twenties. Continue reading

Sometimes It’s Not Easy As Pie

IMG_0814Orange barrels. My life right now is a maze of orange barrels. Literally my town is littered with orange barrels. It’s closed roads and reroutes. I can’t leave my house in either direction without seeing a “Road Work Ahead” sign. I never know what to expect when I venture down Mack Hatcher.

And I wish I was only navigating construction zones on the road and not in my life. But that’s also turned into one big construction zone. For two years I’ve known the plan which is to finish nursing school. But now I only have a rough idea of what should happen: less than one more month of classes, finals, pinning, NCLEX, and then it’s fingers/toes/elbows/legs/eyes crossed a job as a RN. I have a sketch but the getting there . . . That’s a maze of confusion. And the timeline is even blurrier. Where should I apply? What kind of nursing do I want to try? Or in a tight market what can I get? Experience anywhere would be great but is it too much to hope I also like going to work? Quite frankly it’s a little daunting.

Sometimes it’s not easy as pie. Maybe that’s way I find myself gravitating towards the kitchen. Why I’ve made a grand total of six pies in the past month. Now in fairness, some of those where for an early Thanksgiving meal.  But I keep coming back because I know when I’m baking, I can follow a recipe and turn butter, sugar, flour, and love into something less than perfect but still pretty spectacular.

Like apple pie.

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Or a Reese ice cream pie concoction.

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It’s also probably why I find myself already watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Are they cheesy? Of course. But it’s kind of nice to know at the end of the movie everyone will wind up happy- well at least the ones on the nice list. And I like predicting, with high accuracy, the outcome. Sometimes I can even guess the dialogue. It’s not award-winning TV but it doesn’t require a lot thinking. It’s just serendipity and fluff.

And in this season that’s whirling by faster than the leaves are blowing off the trees, I’m trying to take the day as it comes. Do what’s required at this step. Thinking ahead as needed but trying not to lose focus on now. In this month of thanks, I’m trying to be grateful for the little things. The simple things:

A recent exploration of quaint Bell Buckle, home of Moon Pies and RC Cola, with my mom.

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 This beautiful birthday bouquet.

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Playing with my dogs on a gorgeous fall day.

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Seriously, dogs are great for reminding you of what’s good in the world. How could you not love this face?

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Or not find yourself taking her cue to just kick back and relax?

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It’s watching the sunrise unfold over Nashville that makes getting up at 4:30 for clinical tollerable

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Or discovering the neighborhood kids have decorated the trees.

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It’s a happy mug that reminds me, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”

IMG_0805Complete with a T.A.R.D.I.S. tea pot to make any tea time a happier timey-wimey-ier place.

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It’s going to a 90’s themed Halloween party. It’s discovering you can, in fact, buy scrunchies at the store- which I may or may not have in my hair at this very moment. It’s being grateful I don’t have this 90’s haircut anymore.

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It’s getting the very first letter actually written by my Compassion child.

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Finding the moon through the leaves at the end of a long day.

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It’s birthday celebrations, laughing with my classmates, grabbing lunch with a best friend. It’s gathering with my small group- excuse me- Missional Community group on Wednesday nights. It’s a hundred little things that remind me to breathe. To take each curve as it comes. So when like today, I became the proud owner of a full set of new tires I’m just happy the guy alerted me to my low back right tire before I end up stranded on the side of the road.

It’s not simple. It’s certainly not easy as pie. It’s most definitely not a Hallmark movie. The future is still this blurry looming thing but I find myself echoing the words of Anne Shirley:

“Oh, I’ve dozens of plans, Marilla. I’ve been thinking them out for a week. I shall give life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return. When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.” ~ L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

And that’s enough for tonight. Now’s the time to rest and be still. To let go and let God. For tomorrow holds the next step and most graciously His mercies are new every morning.

The F Words

I failed my driver’s test three times. No, you did not read that wrong. I failed it three times.  (Insert woman driver joke here.) Not the written portion; I rocked the written permit portion. I passed driver’s ed with flying colors, despite hating every minute of it. But the first time I got in the car with the test monitor, I was so nervous I missed the green arrow sign wasn’t on . . . yeah not my finest moment. I think that time I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t had enough hours behind the wheel. And let me assure you failing made me leery to get back behind the wheel. After some time passed, I tried the test again. This time I failed not because I did anything wrong but because I was too cautious. Okay . . . The third time, well, the third time I tried it at a different DMV and there was a weird interstate cross-over thing I didn’t know how to navigate having never encountered one before. Another failure on my record. The third time was not a charm.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I really don’t like failing. I’m not a true Type A. I’m not very competitive- for better or worse. Sometimes I wish I were a bit more competitive. But for me, playing the game and watching other people compete is just as much fun as winning. This is why I’d never make it in law school. I don’t expect perfection of myself either. Maybe I used to but I’ve learned that it’s never going to happen and I can spare myself a lot of emotional trauma if I give myself the grace to not be perfect. But while I may not expect perfection or a perfect score, I always expect to do well or at least pass. Passing is good. Failing is not, not at all.

And the thing is, when I fail, I feel like a failure. I definitely felt like a failure when I failed my driver’s test for the third time. I remember feeling like a failure when I was little and taking piano lessons. I’d practice over and over but once the music sheets got more complicated than “Mary Had a Little Lamb” I could never get my fingers on the right notes or find the right tempo. I’d sit there with my piano teacher that I loved, and mess up over and over. Finally, I couldn’t take screwing up any more and I quit. I remember feeling relieved but also being very disappointed in myself. Now, I’ve just accepted that after years of chorus and music classes that there’s something about reading music that my brain cannot and probably will never grasp. But at eight I just knew I failed at something I thought I’d be good at.

Feeling like a failure creeps into your self-image. Let me assure you this is not a good thing. The problem with feeling like a failure is that sometimes it makes me go to lengths to ensure I do not fail. And when I start fearing failure I’m in big trouble. It keeps me from taking risks or trying new things. I start putting up walls and live inside a boring box of known abilities and areas of safety and proven success.

The F words: fear and failure, fear of failure, these are the words that whisper in my ear and turn me into an insecure, lesser version of myself.

I was watching baseball awhile back and I heard a phrase that I’d never paid enough attention to hear, “struck out looking.” I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant but quickly discovered, courtesy of Google, that it was when a batter was out on a third strike when he didn’t attempt to swing at a “good” pitch. It’s the opposite of struck out swinging. It’s okay to strike out swinging, at least you were trying. What was it Babe Ruth said, something like, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

How many times have I struck out looking? How many times have I been so afraid of striking out that I’ve watched the pitch come in and not swung afraid it might a bad one? Why do I let the fear of failing, the fear of striking out, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being too much, the fear of not being enough, the fear of overstepping, the fear of being just me and not someone else keep me from swinging for the fences?

You’ve Got Mail was on TV again the other day. I love this movie. It’s one of the better 90’s chick flicks. And being a girl who loves books and emails, this one’s become a sentimental favorite. Sometimes I watch it for just a few minutes and other times I watch until the final scene where Brinkley bounds around the bend at the park. This time the following scene jumped out at me:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, valuable but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?

Kathleen Kelly’s words could be my own. I think I could accept if my life ends up being small as long as it is also valuable. But I’m no longer okay with striking out looking and letting the F words run my life. If I’m going to fail (which is inevitable), then I want my failure and my mistakes to reflect that I’m trying new things. That I’m daring to dream a little bigger and be a little bit more brave. That I’m attempting to knock one out of the park. I think I could use a life filled with more home runs. Maybe you could too?

On my forth attempt to get my driver’s license, I passed. And you know what, holding that plastic card in my hands was even sweeter because I’d failed so spectacularly on all my previous attempts. And maybe that’s the silver lining that comes failure: a chance for a beautiful redemption.

I guess there’s just one thing left to say, “Swing batter batter swing!”

 

One of My Favorite Fall Meals

Last weekend autumn started blowing into my little corner of the world. The humidity is tapering off. Driving with the windows down is once again a feasible non-sweaty option. And I found these leaves starting to change:
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I’m kinda excited about fall, in case you couldn’t tell. Last week I was house/cat-sitting for this cat named Ellie:

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In this photo she has stolen my class notes and when I tried to retrieve them, she hissed at me. I let her keep them as long as she wanted because sometimes when she hisses, she is saying that she will definitely bite me. She’s a bit temperamental but she eventually curled up on my lap so we’re still pals. Besides, subliminally I was begging her for a study break.

I invited my friend Naomi over for dinner, one night while invading Ellie’s territory. With the evenings being cooler, I decided to make her one of my favorite fall meals: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili, Cheddar Corn Muffins, and The Best Fudgy Brownies. We happily chatted while we ate and then I introduced her to Call the Midwife, a seriously great show on BBC. Oh, BBC, how do you manage to make such fantastic television?

So, since I can’t make you all dinner (even though I’d love to), I thought I’d share the recipes and then you could make it yourself sometime. Continue reading