Becoming Dust

The last few years have been full of soul searching, what ifs, why nots and personal growth. During this time I faced countless professional disappointments. Well, not countless, because believe me, I’ve counted them, sorted them, held them tightly, and cried many tears over each and everyone. During this time, I’ve also enjoyed many professional achievements. But those achievements I tended to discount as they were fun or creative or seemingly easy.

I missed the billboard signposts for my life. I missed the flashing warning signs along my path. I missed a lot as I tried to force my way into a career field that was traditional and appropriate. But guess what? I’m not traditional or appropriate. 🙂 I’m creative. I’m bossy. I’m incredibly organized and notice every detail. I get sidetracked by seemingly insignificant things like posters left on walls long past the advertised event or miss-spelled words or glaring grammatical errors. I’m creative 24/7 and truly believe with my entire being that every person that is breathing is and needs to be creative.

With all that said, you would think that I would have figured out that maybe my restrictive path might not be the best option for me. But I can also be really stubborn and goal driven and focused. So quitting before I reached the goal seemed like failure. And I couldn’t face that. I’m not a quitter.

And then I read Present over Perfect. Actually, I listened to it while walking and weeding the flowerbeds. And one day it hit me. That goal that I’d been struggling to reach so desperately… WASN’T MY GOAL! I let someone else’s goal become my goal. I let someone else tell me what they thought I should be and I believed it.

But no more. As Shauna Niequst states in her book, “What I’m finding is that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be, in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.” And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know that I have to do something that allows me to be creative.

And then if that wasn’t enough for me to say, OK! I started listening to Lysa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Dang. The timing was God’s timing as I was finally in the right headspace to hear what I’ve known for years. I’m going to have to embrace the dust of disappointment so that I can be remade into something even better.

And as an artist, I totally get the imagery of clay on the pottery wheel. I realized after listening to TerKeurst talk about becoming dust and being remade and how on the wheel a potter doesn’t destroy what is being worked on because of frustration or because something was bad… the potter remakes the piece because he knows it can be better! I kept allowing myself to let the self-destructive thoughts take over and tell me that I wasn’t worthy. Instead of looking at each disappointment as an opportunity to evaluate the path and see where I needed to go next, I allowed the disappointments to become mental whips to remind me that I didn’t deserve the opportunities. I would dissect each interaction, each interview, each no and berate my soul time and time again.

Looking at the mosaics at the British Museum

But finally, I realized something. I am not a broken piece of pottery that has no value. I am a beautiful mosaic. Like the incredible mosaics that I saw in the British Museum, I am beautiful and unique and made up of thousands of colorful pieces. My broken dreams and goals are not trash. These broken pieces of my heart help create the incredibly beautiful me.

And the mosaic of my life isn’t even close to being complete. I’ve really just begun. I have new goals and dreams. And interestingly, just like clay that has been overworked and needs rest before being molded again, that where I find myself. And I can finally acknowledge that. And it’s not just okay, but necessary.

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Pessimistically Hopeful

Pessimistically Hopeful.

That’s what I’m feeling today. About a lot of things, but maybe that is really the way I’m describing my life right now.

I’m pessimistically hopeful because there are potentially some good and great things on the horizon, but when you add the real dose of life experience to that hope, I’m pessimistically hopeful at best.

To start, I’m using these pictures of this spiny cactus to remind myself that sometimes life emerges from the unexpected and thought dead. You see, we bought this spiny cactus last summer at a farmer’s market and it lived in its plastic container for almost a year sitting on the edge of the flowerbed, not planted..it was forgotten although I walked by it at least once a day and regularly thought we should plant it.. but I didn’t. Through the winter and into the spring it looked dead. I figured the couple of hard freezes had gotten during the winter must have killed it.

Finally, a few weeks ago, Doug planted it in our front bed. It was listless and couldn’t remain upright without a support. Doug put the old decorative fence piece next to it and let it lean on it. A few of the sections fell off immediately and it looked sad. Dead.

But it wasn’t.

The rain, the sun and nutrients from the ground has brought it to life. The once sad looking plant is beautiful and healthy and bringing forth amazing flowers.

And so, I’m reminding myself that sometimes life does actually deliver on the potential and possibilities. I know that sounds incredibly jaded and sad. But dang, the last decade has had some really tough lessons and lingering issues were the answers were never given and the dreams and goals never reached.

But today, I’m enjoying the beauty of the flowers and praying for that same gift for Maddie’s feet.

Yesterday we met with a new doctor, Maddie’s 31st specialist. We were never actually suppossed to see him. It was an incredibly strange set of events that got us to this Neurologist over five hours away. He was kind, and interested. He was caring and deliberate. And more than anything, he listened, he looked and he took his time. In fact, the appointment was at 10am and he spent an hour talking with us and then asked if we could come back at 2pm for testing. We did and after another almost hour of working with Maddie he gave us hope.

Maddie has been wearing AFO braces on both feet for almost a year after spending much of the previous year wearing walking boots on one or both feet when one day her feet just stopped working.

She has had every test imaginable and all come back normal. There has been no explainable reason for her feet not working. But Dr. Martin yesterday said, there is ALWAYS a reason, we just have to find it.

And he might have.

So Maddie will start physical therapy and has a plan and a goal.

More than that, we left hopeful and not defeated. Over the last dozen years, we have left defeated, disheartened and discouraged time after time from specialists. We either left with no hope or were treated dismissively as Maddie is a “complicated case.”

But yesterday, we were treated with care and dignity.

And so, I’m pessimistically hopeful.

I pray with my entire being that just like the cactus that has flowers blooming despite everything, Maddie will return to college in the fall being able to regular shoes some of the time and will eventually be free from the AFO braces. I pray that her body will grow strong. I pray that she will continue to bloom, just like she always has, despite the struggles that are put in her path.

Standing Still While the Water Rushes By

standing in the water

Have you ever tried standing still in the middle of a river while the water runs by? Or what about just standing still on the shore of a lake/ocean? It isn’t necessarily easy.  Sometimes the riverbed is slick. Sometimes the shore line is rocky and rough. Sometimes its squishy and hard to keep your balance. It takes work to stand still in an unknown environment.  It takes focus and is a whole body effort.

Lately life has felt a lot like I’m standing at the edge of a riverbed and trying to keep my balance.  I am reminded by a trip we took last fall over to a local state park. I remember so clearly the difficulty Kylie and Lexi had just standing on the rocks while a couple of inches of water flowed over their feet and past them while they tried to navigate the slick rock.IMG_8006

The picture is sweet, but what it doesn’t capture is the slip and fall into just enough water and sludge to get yucky that immediately followed! I was glad that I had kept my shoes on and stayed on dry ground.

So why am I pondering and painting about standing on the edge of the river bank and waiting for the water to recede? Because that is the promise I am taking and firmly planting myself on in order to figure out how to “do” life right now.  You see, years ago I had the privilege of hearing my husband Doug preach over Joshua 3 which is about the crossing of the Jordan river with the Ark of the Covenant, and his thoughts and my processing over the last few years give me hope and peace in the midst of chaos.

Read Joshua 3:14-17

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3: 14-17 NASB

I know. Its wordy and full of commas, but it speaks to me.

Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?

I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but recreate the scene in my head. The Jordan river is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and the people know that they have to cross the river. Man, my pulse starts picking up just thinking about it. I picture myself as one of the priests, holding one of the poles to the ark on my shoulder.  It works well.. responsibility, peer pressure, expectations..

(I found the painting below labeled for reuse.. feel free to picture yourself as one of the other 3!)

james_jacques_joseph_tissot_-_the_ark_passes_over_the_jordan_-_google_art_project

I digress.

So, anyway. We arrive at the edge of the Jordan. We know that God has foretold that once we step into the water, the river will recede with the water dividing and piling up above us and below us, on the sea side being cut off and not able to flow back in. But we have to take that step. Can’t you imagine it? The river is at flood stage! The water is flowing and not only do you have to take a step into the river, but you are carrying a large and heavy burden.

But isn’t that what life is like?

While I don’t really remember the particulars from Doug’s sermon years ago, and I’ll admit that my takeaway from it might be incredibly flawed. The one thing that really stood out to me that I have pondered and considered is the idea of stepping into the water and standing still while the water recedes. I have thought about it over and over. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I needed the image of having to step in and hold my ground while the chaos of the running water around me receded.

Life isn’t easy and anyone that says it is, is lying and somedays I need to be reminded that while I don’t have to trudge THROUGH the water, I do have to take that first step INTO the water.

Cause really, in my mind, I see the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant just a step into the water holding firm and steady while the water rushes between their legs and runs towards the Dead Sea. Can’t you just imagine the panic that was rising in those priests before the water started visibly receding. But they stood there and the water receded and Joshua 3:17 says that all of Israel crossed on dry land.

And so for me, as I stand in the water.. maybe just an inch deep, or maybe it is up to my ankles.. or even my knees.. I am reminded to stand and let the chaos around me recede instead of trying to push through and make  a path. That isn’t my natural inclination. I’m all about taking up my machete and forging my own path.

But I don’t have to.

Sometimes being a leader is forging the path and sometimes being a leader is taking the first step and then holding still so that others can cross on dry ground.

And that is what my watercolor painting is of at the top of this post. I’ve learned how to make a path. Now I’m learning to stand and wait.