Posts Tagged ‘Taking Risks’

For Us

Once after a speaking engagement, someone asked me if sharing hard stories helps me. I was puzzled because I ordinarily share because I want to help others know they’re not alone in the hard times.

As one who has a public dimension of speaking and writing it is an interesting question. I know that it does help me to think out loud or on paper about the hard times–but these are very private processes, usually involving tears, many, many tears. The outpouring itself is cathartic.

The public sharing though, that brings its own kind of difficulty. The choice to make the private thoughts public has to bear up under scrutiny: Does this even make sense? Does it really have the chance to help someone else? Does it make me look bad, and if so, how bad? And if it makes me look bad, what might be the costs of looking bad in that way?

After all that, then I weigh the question, am I looking for sympathy? And usually the answer involves a recognition of what a wise Deaconess once said, “There is no such thing as a truly pure motive.”

I would love to be able to stand behind my original sentiment–that I share to help others. Yet I know my altruism isn’t pure. And I wouldn’t do this public bearing of my soul if it didn’t come with at least some kind of benefit to me.

Even now I am aware of the way in which sharing here about my aimless aching just a couple of days ago has given me strength to move through this weekend. It didn’t make the ache go away–that would be far too much to ask. But pouring out the thoughts was the catharsis I so appreciate about writing. And sharing here has helped me because of the feedback from readers who have told me that I am not alone in the aching.

Does sharing help me? I have to say, yes. Does it help others? It seems to. What I’m realizing is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both. I hope it is both.

I think what I hope most of all is to deepen community–for you, and for me, for us together–as we share, honestly share, the hard times.

Risk, Loss, and Gain -or- What I Gained from Losing

I lost my deaconess pin. Again. And I started on a downward spiral of berating myself for losing something so special. Blessedly, before I got too far down, I interrupted myself and was able to reframe the loss in a way that gave me peace.

Don’t get me wrong, the deaconess pin—made of real silver—is very special. I received it as part of the consecration rite in which I officially became a deaconess. Each of us, as deaconess students, look forward to the day when we will get to wear the pin.

The basin on the crossbar is a reminder of the basin Jesus used to wash his disciples' feet. It is in that spirit that deaconesses serve the church and the world.

The basin on the crossbar is a reminder of the basin Jesus used to wash his disciples’ feet. It is in that spirit that deaconesses serve the church and the world.

The deaconess pin is an important reminder of our servant-hearted ministry. And wearing the pin is a great conversation starter with folks who don’t know about our ministry, or about the love of Jesus—the source and model of our serving.

But sometimes even important things get lost.

What really turned around my thinking about losing my deaconess pin this time (it is the third pin I’ve lost), was when I paused and remembered the stories of other deaconesses I admire who have lost pins more than once. “I’m in good company,” I told myself.

What’s more, part of why I lost my pin was because I was wearing it a lot. I wore it everyday (and every night) that I went to spend time with my mother-in-law, Elaine, in the hospital before she died. I wore it everyday that I planned meals for the Tinker family in the days surrounding Elaine’s death and funeral.

I wore it to remind myself that what I was doing was, in fact, ministry. It wasn’t some ground-breaking innovation in church-work, nonetheless it was ministry. It was ordinary, everyday ministry.

So, the clincher for me was the realization that I lost my pin because I was…using it.

It reminded me of my attitude about the “good dishes.” I know some people have the idea that you don’t want to use the good dishes because something might happen to them!

But my thinking is, if I’m never gonna use my good dishes, then why do I have them? What good are they?

Not much, not really.

I mean, sure they can sit there and look pretty. But tucked away in a china cabinet, they’ll be quickly forgotten—out of sight, out of mind. And even their beauty will fade into the background.

They will be safe though.

Of course, my deaconess pin, like the good dishes, was vulnerable by being used so much.

But what good is it if I don’t wear it? It would be safe in one sense, but not wearing it is its own kind of loss.

And you know all those nights I spent with Elaine? I made myself vulnerable by being of service in that way—my sleep was often interrupted, I was away from my husband and son, and I lived out of a couple of bags for 3 1/2 weeks.

Most of all though, by being there with Elaine—by spending so very much time with her—I came to care more and more deeply for her. And while that bond being strengthened was its own reward, it also made me more vulnerable to the pain of losing her.

But I wouldn’t exchange that experience for the finest china. No amount of silver could replace the ways my life was enriched by being there with Elaine in that time.

I took risks with that pin. And I lost it. But what I gained made it all worthwhile.

How Fretting Works Against Me

One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

–“Master Oogway” in Kung Fu Panda

I’m gleaning wisdom on my travels. Today I’m reflecting on how fretting rarely gets me what I want and often gets me the total opposite.

On this road trip I’m sleeping in new places every night or two. Each place takes some getting used to–you know, figuring out where to place my duffle bag for easy access, keeping track of light switches, and, of course, making certain to have a good place to charge my cell phone.

The hotel we’re in now has a plug by my side of the bed, but no bedside table. I figured out though that I can plug the phone in and then balance it on the headboard.

This system was working fine for me. But at one point I wanted to take my phone off the charger to check messages. I thought to myself, “I better be careful not to let it slip behind the headboard.”

FrettingPhone

Then with exaggerated care, I started to remove the phone from the charger. Somehow my ginger touch was just what it took to nudge the phone right behind the headboard. I grabbed for it and succeeded only in wedging it further down between the headboard and the wall to which it is attached.

The eventuality I was trying to avoid became my reality.

And really, isn’t that just the way of things?

It’s so annoying. Because really, it would be so much nicer if my excessive caution actually paid off. I mean, for all the energy I put into fretting, you would think it would have a better return on investment.

But that’s the thing with fretting–I can invest all I want in it, but it’s always a gamble and ultimately the house always wins.

I lose out on so much with a preoccupation on everything that can go wrong. I know I can take reasonable precautions, but fear-based control just doesn’t ever, ever pay off in the way I want it to.

Plus, as with my cellphone & headboard incident, all too often my fretting only makes my problems worse.

Maybe it’s what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or the old “what you think about you bring about” adage applies. Or it’s a Murphy’s Law thing. I don’t know what you want to call it.

I just know that most of what’s good in my life has happened because I somehow got past my fretting to take a chance.

I can worry myself right into shutting down and end up shutting out the wonderful opportunities that await me. Or I can take a deep breath and relax into something beyond my wildest imagination.

I’m against the effects of fear and fretting in my life; I want more often to see how that breathing and relaxing bit can work for me instead.

Home Sweet Ohio & Flying On

HeartDish

This heart-shaped dish is part of the beautifully eclectic decor at my mom’s house in Ohio.

 

My husband, David (aka “Tink”), and I made it safely back to my home state of Ohio. I was born and raised here, Tink and I met in this state, and before moving to Texas we spent a few wonderful years in ministry up here. Ohio is home for me and it is great to be back visiting family & friends up here.

If you’re wondering how everything went with my son and his trip–it went great! He flew up here to visit with my mom & step-dad for a week before Tink and I arrived by car. Tink and I drove up because we’re combining my family reunion here in Ohio this weekend and my Deaconess conference in Wisconsin next weekend all into one big trip. Our son’s early arrival was a bonus for him and his grandparents.

It’s interesting when I look back on how emotional I was about my son’s departure last week because I ended up enjoying the extra “me time” and really, really enjoying extra time with Tink. And my son had a great time with my mom & step-dad here in Ohio.

What’s also interesting about my whole break-down last week over my son leaving is the whole last-minute passing on of my stuffed bear named Arty. It was this big deal to me to have sent my beloved bear with my son, but I acknowledged in last week’s post that it probably mattered more to me than to him.

Well, I was right.

When we got to Ohio I asked my son how Arty was.

“Oh,” he said, “he’s still in my suitcase.”

And I laughed out loud that he didn’t need Arty despite how much I needed him to take Arty. And I was okay with that. Really, really okay with that.

It turns out this whole travel plan has worked out beautifully. I’m glad that the three of us are reunited, but we all did fine while my son was up here without us.

And what is most interesting of all is here I am back home in Ohio for a brief time visiting my family up here, but my own dear mother has been letting me go over and over for decades now. And my mom will have to let me go once again when we leave here on Sunday to continue our trip and eventually return to our far-away land of Texas.

I draw strength from my mother’s courage in releasing me and entrusting me to God’s call in my life. And I draw strength from this chance I have to perch at her sweet home in Ohio for a time before flying on.

On Letting My Son Fly

JetPlane

My son was on this plane earlier today for his first flight as an “unaccompanied minor.”

 

In the nest that is parenting, it’s not easy to know when to tuck my kid under my wing and when to let him fly. The older he gets, of course, the more freedom I give him because by letting him try his wings, he gets to become who he was created to be.

But, see, the more he becomes that guy–the more I want to have him around!

This week has been a text book case of exactly what I’m talking about…

 

Mother Nature

We had a bit of a trauma at our house on Monday. Before you get too worried, I will tell you we are all safe and no one was physically harmed. But lightening struck our phone line causing an explosion inside the house within 20 feet of where I was sitting.

Fortunately my husband and son did not witness what I did because the pop and flash made me jump and scream. I went into a panic and ran to the front room where my guys were and hopped onto my husband’s lap.

When my husband went to investigate the extent of the damage, I huddled up with my son on the sofa. It was already clear to me at that point that, since I had been closest to the explosion, I was more upset by the whole thing than my son was. Our cozying up on the sofa, then, was clearly more for me than for him.

My husband came back and reported that the jolt fried our phone and its cord and it blew up our wireless internet router–the router literally popping open when it exploded.

 

Creature Comforts

Even as the storm raged on, my curiosity drove me to examine the fried equipment and the charred spots on the wall. Then the reality sank in about what I had witnessed.

And I panicked some more.

You know how if there’s a tornado, you’re supposed to find an inside wall or a closet to take shelter? Well, that was what I did. I found an inside wall right by my bedroom closet and I sat myself down there, hugged my knees, and rocked back and forth.

By this time even my son was wise to the fact that mommy was way more scared than he was. As I sat there all curled up in myself, my son brought me one stuffed animal and then another and another.

“Lamby wants to give you love-comfort,” he would offer.

And then, “Here’s Danielle-Bear to comfort you.”

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just hugging myself, I was clutching a dozen plush friends to my chest.

 

Story Time

“Mommy, maybe it would help if I told you a story?”

“Oh, I don’t know if mommy can handle listening to a story right now.”

I pondered the import of what my son had offered. I know my son is a great storyteller, but any time I ask him to tell me a story he seems annoyed by my request, and if he does tell me a story it is usually just a sentence or two. When I ask for it, he gives me something far beneath his ability as a storyteller.

But this time, he offered to create a story just for me!

I took a few deep breaths and said finally, “You know sweetie, I think I’m ready for that story now.”

It was a sweet story of a boy named Bob who was an only child. Bob and his parents went on a picnic and Bob made friends with some ants. Because, apparently, a story where the ants ruin the picnic is just way too predictable. No, these ants were friends with whom Bob willingly shared some crumbs from the picnic.

By the end of the story, I was feeling a bit better. I held tight to the stuffed animals and brought them to my bed to sit and try to calm down some more.

 

Nesting Instinct

Oh, to have been so needy to have caused this role-reversal between my son and me…I am the one who is supposed to build the nest, to shelter my baby bird and there he was flitting about to provide my comfort.

And in the way that I get to fretting sometimes about whether I’m a good enough mom, I began to feel guilty. It wasn’t  just for having a melt down that night, it was also for all the times that I have not listened well enough to my son, all the times I have gotten irritable with him, and all the times I have not done (or not done well enough) something for him that I felt like I should’ve done (or done better).

But then, all birds must leave the nest at some point. And I found comfort not only in what my son had done for me, but also in the knowledge that he was growing into the kind of young man that could be so kind, gentle, and caring.

And I thought ahead to later in the week when my son was scheduled to board a jet plane and fly as an “unaccompanied minor” for the first time in his life to visit my mother in Ohio. And I thought how much I did not want to let him go–not because I didn’t think he was ready, but because I just love that kid to bits and I love spending time with him!

All these feelings mixed and interplayed in my brain when I went to sleep for the night with many of the stuffed animals still nestled with me in my bed.

 

Mending

The next morning–mornings are always my slowest times of day–my son had gotten himself breakfast and came back into my room where I was sitting up in bed. The stuff animals who had stayed the night with me were still about me as I sat there.

My son picked up the big purple bear. Sometimes we call him Lotso, like the bear in Toy Story III, but sometimes not because that Lotso was kind-of a meanie. But since saying “the big purple bear” is a bit wordy, I will just call him Lotso. As my son turned Lotso over in his hands he rediscovered a seam that had burst on Lotso’s belly.

“Mom, when are you going to fix him?” My son asked in that irritating way kids do when they themselves are rather irritated.

I took a big, deep breath. It was time for me to get to do something motherly, responsible–even if this particular task was long overdue. “Bring me my sewing box. And where’s Lamby? I still need to mend Lamby too.”

In all, I mended three friends that day. It was the least I could do after they–and my son–had given me so much comfort the night before.

 

Another Fine Nest

Today was the day my son flew to Ohio. And it was stressful and exciting and sad and wonderful and I’m so proud and I miss him so much already. But I know he is going to have a blast with my mom and step-dad. At their nest in Ohio they will take good care of him and he will care right back and they will all be such a blessing to each other.

The three of them always have such a great time together. They go on wonderful adventures and they play hard and they eat ice cream every day. And my son and my mother are well-matched in their energy levels–I can never quite keep up with either of them!

So, this is good, very good that they get to have this time. As hard as it feels to me to let go, I celebrate my son’s chance to perch for a while at another fine nest.

 

Taking Flight

Right before my son left I gave him something of mine. You see, there is this one stuffed bear–Arty the Arctic Bear–that I got a few years ago in a gift basket with some bath & body products. Even though my son begged for me to let him have that bear, I kept it for myself–after all the gift basket was given to me! I love that bear and my son respects that it is mine.

As we were about to leave for the airport, I thought of Arty and I thought if there was one way I could show my love to my son it would be to send Arty along with him–for love-comfort on his trip. And I don’t really know if it is helping him, but somehow it brought me comfort to let go of Arty as my son took flight.