What If I Have Stepped Wrongly?


Author’s Note: I started writing this back in late February/early March and it was really quite heavy then.

The question is always there in the back of my brain, pricking at my mind and my heart. What if I step wrongly? What if I put my foot in the wrong spot, step into a hole, and break my figurative ankle? What if I step before I’m supposed to, or I hesitate and miss my chance? Then what?

The past few months, I have been weary-worn. That’s exactly how I feel: constantly weary  and worn thin. As Bilbo would put it, “‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 42)” I’ve been sick; I’ve been busy with work; exhausted when I get home; and what is usually meant to help restore and recover my spoon seems to use up my dwindling store even more. This is unusual: the constant weariness, this overhanging gloom. And I can’t help but wonder.

Did I take a wrong turn or a wrong step somewhere? Did I leap before I looked, decide before I discerned? Did I step wrongly? Now, I do not believe in a “that’s what you get” God. I do not believe that, if I did step wrongly, he’s sitting on by with hands folded and a harrumph of “Serves you right for not listening”. I do believe that God allows us to make mistakes and our own decisions, even if they turn out to be the wrong ones for us. I also believe that he is waiting to help us find our way again, even if it needs must be by roundabout.

But is that what I’m dealing with here? Or is it something else? Have I misplaced my priorities and therefore my energy? Have I stepped wrongly? I have to admit that, sometimes, I feel like Job, leaving aside the obvious differences in our difficulties.

“Is not all human life a struggle? Our lives are like that of a hired hand, like a worker who longs for the shade, like a servant waiting to be paid. I, too, have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn. (Job 7:1-4, NLT)

I’ve only ever been in therapy during one season of my life and even then it wasn’t very long. So a question I am daring to ask myself and pray about is if perhaps I am suffering from more than just exhaustion, and, frankly, it’s a scary thought for me. Having been raised in the Caribbean, it’s very true that Indiana winters can be hard on me–the long dark, the gloom, and the cold. This winter it has been especially hard to shake, hard to find my way back to me. Now, as spring begins to come into itself fully, I feel a little lightening of my spirit. Is that what it was? Or was there, is there more to it? The truth is that I don’t know. But I will keep praying, keep examining, keep trying to pay attention. I only hope that, if I feel that nudge in my heart and gut, I will have to courage to actually pick up the phone, sit in the chair, and ask and answer the hard questions. I don’t know if I am brave enough for that yet so I would appreciate good thoughts, hopes, and prayers as I process through this and keep an examining eye on myself and my heart. Thank you.

2015-07-17

 

Works Cited: Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Lord of the Rings, Part 1.

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Holding the Days with Gentleness


2016 is almost over and what a year it’s been. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now that I sit and think about it but I will try to put word to thought.

This year, my watchword was grace—to give grace as well as to recognize it when it is given me and to also give it to myself. I have spent this year trying to be mindful of opportunities to show grace, as well as to accept it when I receive it. I also worked to be mindful of opportunities to study and explore grace and its facets. This year, I spent my NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November centering my writings on grace. I explored what I knew, what I have experienced, though, and considered, and even found new levels of thought on what it means to give grace, experience it, choose it, and even to be graceless. It was, honestly, one of the best writing experiences of my life and it renewed a desire in me to write, and I am determined to write as often and as much as possible in the coming year.

This year, I went back to teaching full time. It was a quick decision after many, many applications, interviews, and then coming to terms with being home with Elizabeth for a final year. I got a call, interviewed, and made a decision all in two to three days. I had to sacrifice some things, such as seeing my baby off on her first day of daycare/preschool, but I knew that it was the right decision for my family. Has it been easy, such a quick and large life transition? No, not really, and it has taken me almost the entire semester to feel as though I have found my feet or that I belong in teaching again (still not entirely sure on the latter but for now, functional will do). I am still struggling a bit to find a life balance again—to find the correct levels in time for daughter, husband, my self-care, and my writing–but I have learned and am learning a great deal from the teachers and students I am working with now. At the same time, my girl is enjoying school and missing her friends now that we are at the tail end of Christmas vacation. She is doing wonderfully, growing quickly, learning so very much, and I am thankful beyond measure for that.

My husband has just completed a leadership development program, which I am buttons-bursting proud of him for sticking with. I know that it was a testing for him and I am ever so proud of his perseverance and determination to get everything out of it that he could. He works hard each and every day and gives all he can as a teacher and a pastor and I am constantly awed and inspired by him. This year, we celebrated ten years of marriage surrounded by friends and full of laughter and good food. It was the best method by which to celebrate (well, that and the new Star Trek film) and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I love you, darling, today and every day and even beyond that.

As 2016 ends, I have been thinking and praying about a watchword, a word of intention for the coming year. This year’s word was grace and the year before was intentioned by courage and kindness. So far, the word that has come to me is gentleness. What does it mean to be gentle? To act and react, listen, speak, and be with gentleness?

With all the fear, the worry, the anger, the darkness, what does it mean for me to be gentle? How can I be gentle with the hearts that are afraid and hurting? How can I be gentle with those who do not understand or don’t want to?

How can I be gentle with my dear ones? Gentle with their feelings, their thoughts, with honesty, in my reactions and discipline as we raise our daughter, with my loved ones’ precious hearts and souls?

How can I be gentle in my job, with my students and coworkers, with their humanity that may break out in difficult ways sometimes, much like my own?

How can I be gentle in my faith, in speaking love and kindness and giving grace to others? In following the example of the God I claim to believe in and the Jesus I claim to follow?

How can I show gentleness in my craft, in what I write and how I post on social media, the corners that I build in the world around me, both real and online? How can I be gentle and bold and courageous at the same time?

I want to hold what people give me, what they trust me with, gingerly and carefully. I want to be gentle with souls, with words, with trust, with hearts and feelings. I want to do this for others because I know how much I want it for me. I want people to be gentle with me, with my thoughts, feelings, words, hopes, dreams, heart, and soul. Just as I know how much I need grace and so I try to give it, so it goes with gentleness. I know how much I desire it; why should others not be the same? Why should I not try to give the reactions that I would want to receive?

Everyone is going through or has gone through something; everyone could use some gentleness in a world so rough and tumble. This year may be hard, this year may be scary, but I will not let that stop me. I will not let it harden me either. I will not let it take my softness away but, if anything, I will let it increase, let it seep into my touch, fill my words, prompt me to listen more than I speak. May this coming year find me holding others with gentleness and radical love, continuing to act in grace, having courage, and being kind.

Farewell, 2016.

Welcome, 2017. I call you blessed and look forward to what we have to learn together.

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Crucial Conversations


“There are moments of disproportionate influence, moments where how someone behaves has an enormous effect on every result they care about.” – Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations

Let’s be blunt here: crucial conversations are hard, very hard. “When it matters most, we often tend to do our worst.” This has been a large struggle for me in my lifetime. When I sit down face-to-face with someone to have a crucial conversation, it can sometimes be difficult for me to keep my emotions in check and that can derail a conversation quickly. I often fare better in having written conversations because I am able to write out my thoughts and see what I am going to say BEFORE I open my metaphoric mouth. But that is not always an option, nor what is best for the other person or the conversation.

As a child, at some point, I bought wholesale into the myth that you have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend/relationship. It has been and continues to be a struggle for me to choose truth when I know that it could possibly cause difficulty in my friendships and relationships. I know that honesty can birth incredible intimacy, deeper bonds, and sharpening relationships, and I have definitely experienced that, thank God! But we all face those situations where we can fear those crucial conversations. I have had quite a few of them over the past several years, and I have been able to see a change in my strength in those conversations. I am still in process, yes, but I have been able to have some crucial conversations, be honest and respectful throughout, and I think that it worked to good effect on both sides.

One of my biggest fears/worries is what people will think of me, if I am being totally honest. One of the statements that Joseph Grenny makes, in his book and in his public speaking, is this: “People never become defensive about what you are saying. They become defensive because of why they think you are saying it.” My mind is such that I catch myself worrying about what other people possibly think of me or my motivations, imagining their thoughts or what they might say to others of me. I try to make sure that people know my intent for a conversation but it is hard even then at times. I want to be able to create a sense of safety so that I can have these crucial conversations. But how? How can I create that sense of safety if there has been any emotion/pain/misunderstanding between myself and others in the past? Or if I have already attempted to create that safety, that mutual purpose and respect, in other ways with what seems to have been minimal effect? That deeply discourages me from conversation, to be frank. If previous attempts at fostering safety haven’t seemed to work, how can I put myself out even more for a conversation that may not even be desired? When do I stop being someone who is trying and become just a nuisance? These are the questions that I am asking myself as I continue to try to work and grow through this process we call life, which no one can fully prepare you for.

Crucial conversations are hard and, in my particular case, they are a lifelong process.