Purses and Thoughts

My purse is out of control.

My beautiful blue crocodile Kate Spade is so full of stuff and so heavy that once I sat my bag down in the passenger seat, my car flashed the seatbelt sign.

I knew it was getting heavy – a couple of times recently I’d caught myself rubbing my shoulder and thinking I needed to clean a few things out. But my car thinking my purse needed a seatbelt? Come on, now.

I really only carry a purse to keep up with 5 things – wallet, keys, phone, iPad, and lip balm. I came home and dumped everything out, and I found that my usual suspects had become surrounded by things that didn’t need to be in there and that I didn’t realize were in there. Additionally I found an alarming number of things I have no recollection of whatsoever, and I’m not entirely sure they are all my possessions.

Two things became clear to me:

(1) The hair ties we are constantly looking for at the very last minute on school mornings are all in the bottom of my purse.

(2) It’s time to make some changes. Specifically, to set some boundaries for what I am willing to carry around.

I’m carrying around everything from a blue stone I received as part of a sermon to remind us of our baptism to the official name-change papers I received 6 months ago now. My folder with the tax stuff. A couple of Audrey’s LOL Surprise dolls. Tootsie Rolls. An old device I need to drop at Best Buy for recycling. A Time’s Up lapel pin. A Virginia Beach Rocks rock. A small container of slime.

I think in part what happens is I have good intentions of getting some things done – so I put the dry cleaning receipt in a pocket in my purse but I don’t actually get by there for weeks. (Zoots may actually be out of business by now and I need to probably check on that.) And in part as I am cleaning up after others when we exit the car, I put things in my giant bag thinking I’ll put them in the trash or put them away when we get inside. In part I’m carrying around things I might need, like Advil or my iPad in case I want to write. And in part I’m carrying around sentimental things that I may not see every day but are there to make me smile occasionally.

Why am I carrying around so much stuff? The first thing I decided is that everything I carry around from now on is going to be because it is something I need or that brings me joy. I think of myself as not a Marie Kondo fan because at no point will folding laundry ever bring me joy. The first time I watched her fold clothes and talk about communicating her affection through her palms, it reminded me of the scene in The Silence of the Lambs where the serial killer rubs his palm over the back of the kidnapped girl. WEIRD. CREEPY. CRAZY.

Watch Marie Kondo fold: https://youtu.be/Lpc5_1896ro

But as I’ve read a little more about her and watched her a bit, I’ve realized that like her or not I have been employing her “does it bring me joy” method all around my house for the last few months. I’ve donated clothes that fit but that I rarely wear because I don’t love them. I’ve gotten rid of house stuff I like but maybe just isn’t right in that space anymore. I’ve dug up lilies around my yard because I want flowers only planted with love, and I’ve been trying to fill our living space with things that all have positivity associated with them. I may have even made this little KonMari step-hop when throwing a few things in the trash.

So what do I do about my giant purse? I’m not switching to a smaller purse. One, I don’t like small purses. And two, I feel like I should be capable of controlling what goes in my giant purse. Just because I have an oversized bag doesn’t mean I have to fill it with stuff. But more importantly, I need to constantly filter for junk and stop carrying around things that don’t bring me joy.

I started to wonder if my purse is a metaphor for my thought life. Maybe I’ve been wasting time entertaining thoughts that aren’t productive. Maybe I need to literally toss out thoughts just like I tossed out lilies. That’s why my current developmental sprint is to actively think about my thoughts and replace any negative thought I recognize with a specific positive affirmation, adapted from 2 Timothy 1:7.

The old King James reads: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

But I like the Berean version better: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of calm and of self-control.

I decide what I think about. Just like I decide what goes in my Kate Spade. In addition to the usual suspects it’ll carry my gratitude journal, a gift from one of my besties, a small/medium-ish supply of Tootsie Rolls, and a star from an American flag that my Dad loved and carried in his pocket for quite some time. It’ll carry a photo of one of my favorite places, a hillside in Ohio where the earthly bodies of some of my great cloud of witnesses are buried, and it’ll carry the statement of faith Ella made last year about choosing to remember God loves us (and that reminds me she said “darn” in front of the whole church and I was so proud of her anyway).

For God did not give me a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of calm and of self-control.

God did not give us timidity. He gave us the opposite of timidity, and that’s bravery.

April Fool’s Birthday Girl

Fourteen years ago, in the middle of the night, I was doing the exact same thing as I am right at this moment: laying in bed with my daughter just a few feet away, marveling about her.

Ella was born not long after midnight, on April 1. After all the post-delivery chaos of Apgar scores and examinations and congratulations, everyone went home and I was alone in a dimly lit hospital room with Ella. I had a daughter, a little swaddled baby making faint sighing noises in her sleep. I was a mother, and it was really just remarkable and unbelievable that a life had come from me. We were a team now, me and this little being with giant blue eyes that had seemed to look all around my face when I whispered to her. We were a team and that little girl should have been terrified because the Mom on her team had absolutely no idea how to care for a baby or what she was doing.

I wasn’t a child who’d dreamed of being a Mommy. I wasn’t a teenager who’d babysat to make extra money. I wasn’t a person who held other people’s babies. In the more than three decades of my life prior to Ella’s birth, I’m not sure if I held any baby other than my nephew – and that was always supervised by people who knew what they were doing. My poor kid had a Mom with a very short resume. I’d gone to a class to learn how to breathe consistently during her birth process, I’d learned in that class that I had to always always always hold and support her neck and head, I’d read a couple of books about babies and I’d even read ahead in the infamous What to Expect the First Year manual, and a nurse maybe 30 minutes prior showed me how to give her a bath. At any Mom company on the planet, I would not get the job.

Ella is 14 years old today. So the good news is that despite my lack of qualifications and preparedness, I did manage to keep her alive. Although I’m not sure that’s really much of an accomplishment. What you learn as your child ages and as you have multiple children is that they’re built pretty tough and I could have probably better utilized my countless hours fretting about things like possible milk or nut or bee allergies, could she get botulism if honey was simply nearby, when to switch from car seats to booster seats, and even if french fries with pointed ends could be too stabby in her mouth.

The real fretting settles in later, and seems especially heightened at this stage. The real question to fret over is am I guiding her toward being a good person? Or maybe it’s could her life be better if I did something differently? Or maybe it’s have I laid a solid moral foundation? Or maybe it’s am I properly protecting her from bad stuff and bad people? Or maybe it’s am I properly preparing her to inevitably face bad stuff and bad people? Or maybe it’s am I setting a proper example? Or maybe it’s have I prepared her to say no and yes at the proper times?

There is no end to the things I can fret about, and sometimes I just get exasperated with all the fretting I cannot seem to relinquish and I think I should have stuck to raising cats – I am certain I can do that! And yet I must explore all these questions and constantly assess and reassess what’s missing and what’s off and what’s right and what’s wrong. I have to do that because I’m a Mom, and because my greatest responsibility and privilege is to be her Mom. No other responsibility or people or thoughts or desires or work are more important than her and Audrey, or than what I need to do as a Mom.

I’ve never been one of those people that wanted to throw their kids giant birthday celebrations every year. It’s exhausting to plan and host those events and it’s exhausting to take your kids to them throughout the school year. Last year we had a party because Ella was finally a teenager and because I wanted to bring her joy in a time of confusion and sadness and anger. And so until about a week ago I’d expected to have a quiet birthday with her this year. She started talking about having a friend or two over and then another friend and then another, and then it was going to need to be different people on different nights and I found myself panicking at the thought of having very little time to prepare. And just as all the panic was at its peak, I realized that Ella has only four birthdays left in her official childhood. Four. Four is nothing. A tiny number. How could there possibly be only four childhood birthdays remaining?

So we celebrated. We had two sleepovers, two cakes and a set of cupcakes, stacks of facial scrubs and masks, trampoline jumping way after bed time, shopping with gal pals at the mall, singing at Olive Garden, and countless pieces of candy. I’m exhausted and my house is even messier than the mess it was last week. I have a recycle bin full of empty pizza boxes, a basket full of laundry, a trash can full of makeup wipes and KitKat wrappers, and a Momma heart full of gratitude.

I am grateful for Ella, a young lady who’s lovely inside and out. A kind and thoughtful friend. A super smart math whiz. A talented singer and actor and gymnast. A child of God who prays about everything, from the need for guidance about big issues to finding her phone charger. A young lady full of empathy and the desire to care for people who struggle. She may not keep her room clean, but she will take money out of her own wallet for CHKD or to feed the homeless or to buy a treat for a friend who’s feeling down.

I am grateful for the village of people in her life. I am grateful for the choices she’s now making about what kind of people to add to her village – I may have made the initial choices about who surrounded her, but she’s old enough to make her own choices about those things now, and she’s choosing well. And I am grateful that she’s such a wonderful young person despite all my flaws and mess ups.

In the stillness of night tonight, in a dimly lit room just like on our first night, I laid quietly by myself and prayed for sweet Ella. No matter what she may encounter in her life I want her to know deep inside and beyond a shadow of a doubt – or as my Dad would say “that she knows that she knows that she knows” – that she is loved beyond measure and that it is a privilege to be her Mom. I pray that she would love life and be filled with joy. I pray that she would get into the college she wants and have the career that she wants and get the life partner that’s just right for her and that she will keep her priorities straight. I pray that when she’s happy or sad or mad or has messed up or done something great, she will always want to call her Mom. And I pray that I will always have discernment about how to pray for her and how to guide her and how to be a blessing to her.

Happy Birthday, Brave Girl. I love that you are 14 and still call me Mommy, even when your friends are around. In exchange, I will no longer publicly chase you to smother those perfect cheeks with kisses.

Picture submitted by and approved by Ella.

Refurbish, Brave Girl

I hate messes.

I don’t like sand in my car, I don’t like PlayDough that gets stuck in toys supposedly designed for PlayDough, I don’t buy glitter or powder or terrariums if I can help it, and I don’t like substances like Desitin or vegetable oil that are really hard to clean off of things.

I hate messes, and yet my whole house is a mess.

And when I say it’s a mess, I mean it’s in crazy complete disarray. Like, stacks of books on top of my dining room table and china resting on shelves in the sitting room and gymnastics mats in hallways and toothbrushes in the dishwasher.

In the last three weeks, a wonderful team of people has painted our walls, baseboards, casings, doors and railings. Literally everything. As they moved from room to room, we moved our things from room to room. Every night we spent preparing for the next day, shifting what we could to accommodate the next round of work.

The last few days of painting happened while I was in Dallas last week, and the biggest change in color – a room going from cranberry to a linen color – had not happened when I left town. I absolutely could not wait to get home and to see it and then to start putting things back together. It’s been so hard for OCD-me to embrace the mess. Every day I’ve longed to just put things back together and back where they belong. On Thursday night I came home very late to a completely quiet and still house – my father-in-law had long before gone to bed with the kitties – and I walked though each room marveling at what a brighter, lighter place it is. It’s completely transformed.

The house that I’ve lived in for a decade has a completely different feel now. Same doors, same walls, same wooden railing…and yet with fresh paint in lighter shades, it’s different. It’s different and yet the same. It feels like my old house I’ve always loved and it feels like a new house that I’m so excited to live in.

It’s like old me and new me. It’s all me, but I’m different than I was two years ago. I have the same core foundation of components like faith and family, but I look different and I feel different and my countenance is lighter. Just like my house, I’ve been under construction for a while. Or maybe refurbishing is the better word.

The me that has emerged from refurbishing is stronger, focused and determined. I recognize I’ve aged as a result of anger with and disappointment in people, but at the same time I’m once again filled with youthful laughter and hope because my life is filled with genuine and kind and happy people.

The me that has emerged from refurbishing that is accountable to and for only me and my girls is a freer and lighter me, even with the weight of added responsibility. This me sets better boundaries and fiercely guards what things get my time and thoughts, to ensure that freer and lighter me stays that way.

The me that has emerged from refurbishing has realized that there’s a huge difference in Beige and Crisp Linen. Something can seem like it’s neutral or light, but once you’ve experienced actual light the darkness is revealed for the shade that it is.

Now that all the painting is done my next task is to put everything back in its place. But as I’m doing that I’m realizing that I do not want some things back in the same places they’ve always been. And not only that, but I do not even want some of those old things in my house at all. So room by room I’m making more changes – some additions and some deletions and some refurbishings.

I guess that’s what we should all strive to be as we age – a mixture of all of our learnings. We should be made up of additions or the things we’ve tried and liked along the way, and of deletions or the things we’ve learned aren’t right for us and we’ve removed, and of refurbishings or the pieces that change with us and with the times. And actually maybe we are refurbishings, if we’re doing life right – going through cycles of renewal or reconstruction.

Beneath the Crisp Linen that covered a deep cranberry tone in my sitting room are the same four strong walls that have always been there. The walls look different now but they are the same walls that hold up a second floor and a roof, that sit on a foundation that has not changed. It’s already kind-of hard to remember what that room looked and felt like, which makes me so glad I have this snapshot of the transition time – the time when some of one coat of primer covered the cranberry walls so you could still see the old room and yet start to envision the new room. In a corner where two of the walls met, it looked like there was an arrow.

An arrow is hidden deep within my home, in my favorite room, reminding me that refurbishing is an opportunity for me to be brave.

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming. ~Unknown

The Girls in my Compass

Women’s History Month has me thinking. Thinking about all the women in my family, and their stories. Thinking about women I’ve never met but who I admire. Thinking about how some women detest the word feminist, even though those women wouldn’t be voting today if it weren’t for the first publicly-acknowledged feminists. And thinking about how the people in our lives shape who we are, sometimes positively by showing us the way and sometimes negatively and ultimately showing us what’s not the way.

I have always been drawn to strong women – the women in my family are strong, and without actively thinking about what I’ve done I’ve filled my life with gal pals who are all strong and I tend to focus on female candidates in the workplace who are strong. The women in my life have served as my compass my entire adult life. My true north.

Some of my family compass.

My Mama was bold in a time when it was more fashionable for women to be quiet and submissive, she worked while my Papa was fighting in WWII, she organized voting in her small town on election days, and she spent countless years leading church efforts to support people in her community. My great Aunt Jean worked at the local courthouse way before women in the daily workforce was generally accepted, back in the 1940s. I used to think because those women were set in their ways about some things that they were old-fashioned, but really nothing could be further from the truth. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve thought carefully about who they were as people – not just who they were in relation to me. These were women who were not afraid to stand up for themselves, they were women with opinions, they were women of faith, and they were women who didn’t just think about doing but who actually did. They were the perfect matriarchs to raise a family full of girls.

It frustrates me that in 2019 there are women who scowl at the word feminist. We don’t all have to agree on abortion in order to agree that jobs should be held by the best qualified people and that leadership at any company and in any country can proportionately reflect the constituency of that company or country. I don’t think men and women can all do all the same things, but I do think they should have the same chances to participate and excel in any arena.

It also frustrates me that even in 2019 so many of the qualities that I admire in women and men are looked at as positives when found in men but as negatives when found in women. Confidence. Strength. Belonging. Assertiveness. Courage. A sense of self-worth. A person who uses their voice and who advocates…If a woman stands up for herself or her family, or if she sets a boundary, she might be judged as being bitchy or controlling or entitled. As part of the same event or meeting or conversation a man does the same thing and his boundary or his confidence is not only looked upon as positive but is actually expected in order for him to appear manly.

And finally, it really frustrates me that the majority of the people I see scowling at the word feminism and scowling at women who are confident are other women. I’ve worked and worshipped and learned with thousands of men and women in my adult life, and I think if I lined up the people who I have seen hold women back or harshly judge women of strength, more than half of the people in that line would be women.

Why is that? My initial reaction when I think about that line of people is why are women so hard on women? But I think perhaps the more important question is why is anyone in that line – what do the people in that line have in common?

And the answer, I think, is insecurity. When you’re insecure, male or female, every one and every thing is a potential threat. And when people feel threatened or at risk, they will sometimes do anything possible to assert control in some area in hopes it will enable them to hide their weakness in another. The bottom line is that a confident and capable person is someone who can see and possibly expose another’s insecurity or weakness.

There is not a single person on this planet who doesn’t feel insecure in some area or areas – even if they are unwilling to admit it. That’s human and that’s OK. What’s not OK is the many many many people who will devote their time and energy into trying to make a colleague or candidate look bad instead of working to make themselves better, who will devote time and energy into trying to break others down instead of working to build themselves, and who will devote time and energy into blaming others for their bad decisions and misfortunes instead of acknowledging their own failures or shortcomings and actually working to fix themselves. And whether it’s in the business world or in our personal worlds, the time and energy we spend focused on others instead of ourselves is really what ultimately keeps us stagnant and holds us back.

I have very big shoes to fill. One of my most important jobs is to shepherd two little girls into womanhood showing them what the women before and around me exhibited – thoughtfulness and kindness and empathy, confidence to lead, tenacity to ask for or demand or secure what they or their children need, bravery to sometimes stand alone without the accolades or approval of others, willingness to advocate for others who cannot advocate for themselves, and vulnerability to have faith. And I somehow have to do that while they are constantly bombarded with contrary images and examples – mean girls, selfie mavens, women who sleep with their boss, women who support misogynistic behaviors, people who can’t see past self.

One of my favorite feminists, who happens to be male and sometimes vote Republican, said something this week that stuck with me: “It doesn’t matter if people know WHO I am. It matters what lesson they learn from me.”

It matters what people learn from me. How I live matters because it is a constant lesson for my daughters.

That’s crazy and scary because I’m still learning with a very long way to go while little people are learning from me. How does that make sense?! It seems like the process would work better if adults did all the learning and then deposited that learning in kids after it was all gathered. When I was a kid, in my mind my Mama and my Aunt Jean were finished products, not works in progress. But 45-year-old me now knows that can’t have been true – they were clearly learning new things at the same time I was learning from them. They’re in heaven now but I still think about what they would say and do in my shoes, which not only means they are still a part of my compass but also that they are a part of the compass my girls will use. And that really makes me smile and gives me hope.

I’m a person who looks for signs. Maybe it’s superstitious and maybe it’s slightly crazy or maybe I’m just a heretic, but I’ve always thought that God sometimes reveals things to us – “talks” to us – through signs, and that the people who have passed before us – our great cloud of witnesses – encourage us and speak to us through signs. This week, walking through an antique store, I came across this little Studebaker stool.

My great Aunt Jean and Uncle Dale loved and collected old cars, and when we were children my cousins and I rode in her blue Studebaker in small-town parades in Ohio. Maybe you could say I noticed the stool because I’d been thinking a lot about her recently, but you might also say it was Aunt Jean’s way of encouraging me, reminding me she’s still close.

I know she’s smiling down on us this morning, especially her Little Bit. Last night Audrey and I were up late and goofing off and then disorganized and then ate too much dessert and then exhausted. Way past bedtime we fell asleep within seconds of laying down, without saying our prayers. Not a shining Mommy example. This morning Audrey woke up as she normally does – she has no fogginess or process of waking up and pulling herself together for the day. She simply wakes up at 110%. She spoke clearly and her first thought was a complete sentence.

Audrey: Mommy, we forgot to say prayers last night.

me: Yes, we did.

Audrey: Let’s say them now.

I am a part of my daughters’ compass, but they are also a part of mine.

Miracles, Little by Little

I love this picture.

I love our girl tree in the front yard. She is majestic and awesome and beautiful.

I love that she marks the birth of every season as well as the death of every season. Sometimes she surprises us. Literally overnight, just when we think we cannot take any more of the old season, we walk outside in the morning and she shows us the sign of something new.

I love that my daughters love her, and that she brings them joy. Last week, Audrey squealed with delight as we left the house for the bus stop – she was the first to notice our tree’s spring blooms.

At the end of a very long week, I sat down to load the photos from my phone onto my desktop and really looked at this snapshot. My favorite thing about it is that you can still see a winter tree in the shadows of her spring blooms.

You can still see the shadows of winter even though spring is blooming.

It has me thinking about life’s miracles. We rarely wake up one day and find ourselves miraculously healed of a disease, or free from a prison or a bad situation or a burden. I think because what we expect of the word miracle is that it involves a loud booming announcement or a jolt that we feel throughout our body, we often miss that a miracle is what is occurring or what has occurred. We think because we need a doctor or meds that that’s not a miracle – but doctors and nurses and medicine are ways in which miracles can happen in our world. Or we think because our change or healing took time that somehow we are responsible for making it happen, or that maybe we just got lucky and things worked out.

But often, I think, miracles happen little by little – over time. And maybe because we fail to see or think about the little steps and changes over time we don’t really recognize what’s happening.

If you know anyone who’s battled cancer, you likely think of the day an MRI or some test result came back as the day they were cancer-free. But really that test showed healing and change that had already happened. That test was the proof of the miracle that already happened. It happened little by little, over time, as cell after cell was fixed or killed.

The woman with the issue of blood, a tale of healing in the bible, might seem like a miraculous instantaneous event. But really weren’t there years of steps leading up to that moment when she encountered Jesus? Weren’t there maybe years of days and moments where her faith was challenged and she had to persevere, and her faith grew little by little – the faith that was required for her miracle? Jesus said to her, “…your faith has healed you.”

That brings me back to the photo of my tree, where you can still see the shadows of winter behind spring’s blooms. The blooms are so little right now that her shadow shows only winter. You have to look closely to see her few blooms. You have to really look to see her miracle in progress. Little by little, each day, she has more blooms. Little by little, each day, the shadows of winter diminish. And when I walk out of my house a couple weeks from now and see my beautiful tree in full bloom, that will not be the day of her miracle. The miracle of her rebirth was little by little over days and months.

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” Marty Rubin

Melancholy Mom Notes to My Girls

When you are sad or hurting it breaks my heart. I would rather feel the pain of someone smashing a limb of my own than watch you struggle. Watching you struggle and knowing the reason why fills me with sadness and regret. And it motivates me to do absolutely everything possible to make the remainder of your childhood as great and as carefree as possible. To get you any help and to tap any source to see you genuinely smile and feel peace.

I will do anything to help you grow into responsible and caring and successful adults, and that includes setting boundaries for you and having rules for you and even enforcing consequences for you when those rules are broken. It’s my job, my most important job, to help you see how to be good people and to help you want to be good people.

I want more than anything for you to trust people. To believe firmly that the vast majority of people are good. And instead of focusing on the havoc that selfishness in people can wreak, I want you to focus on the best of people that you have seen – the people who have rallied around you and loved you and supported you and prayed for you.

I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what love is and what love isn’t. I want you to know that you know, deep down in your gut. Things may get confusing as you explore relationships of your own, and when you’re confused I hope you will seek the counsel of the right friends and adults. Just as you would choose a cardiologist for a physical heart problem, choose people who have loved with honor and integrity and selflessness for an emotional heart problem.

I hope you two rely on each other always, even when you’re mad at each other or in different places in your life. You are each the only other person in the whole world who has experienced love and heartbreak and disappointment and resilience together during this time. You can keep each other grounded, you can keep each other honest, and you can support each other as no one else can. Commit yourselves to letting each other say anything, and to forgiving each other no matter what.

I understand that in great part you will learn from your parents how to be a parent. I really, really, really hope I am a good enough example, but I know with absolute certainty that I fall short. A lot short. I commit to always doing my best to be honest with myself about the good and bad, to allowing you to be honest with me about the good and bad, and to trying to do better.

No matter what, I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will always prioritize you and choose you over anything and anyone and everything and everyone.

I will always choose you.

I will always choose you.

I will always choose you.

I will always, always, always choose you.

No one, including and especially me, will ever be more important than you.

Love you my girlys.

Climb, Brave Girl

Many years ago now, I was on an airplane that had some sort of electrical issue during takeoff. Heat and smoke spread a bit up through the cabin and created a panic (probably mostly in me). At this point, I can’t remember if it was a short in a heating component or an AC unit or something, but what I do distinctly remember is that as I started to process my surroundings this one thought kept running through my head over and over and over again.

Why are we getting further from the ground?

Why are we getting FURTHER from the ground?

WHY are we getting further from the ground?

WHY ARE WE GETTING FURTHER FROM THE GROUND?!

I just could not wrap my head around why the pilot would continue to climb when there was danger. Didn’t he know there was smoke? Smoke clearly meant there was an issue. I mean, there had to be some little alarm going off up in the cockpit, right? Some annoying noise or blinky light that indicated something was amiss. Smoke indicates fire. And fire means we’re all dead. This is not a scenario with a water landing where I could maybe figure out how to use my seat as a flotation device and *maybe* be the one person in 100 that survives and gets their own lifetime movie. This is fire, and there’s no safety seat for that. Why were we climbing further from the ground?

The answer was likely the pilot knew it was a containable issue. Fix the unit, send around the drink cart, everyone will be fine. (At least I hope that’s the case – the thought that the pilot knew nothing and just kept obliviously flying is not really an acceptable possibility for the me that regularly flies.)

But in all sorts of instances, climbing up is a positive game-changer. Pilots climb higher so that they can fly above turbulence. Eagles climb so that they can see and hunt their food, which is sometimes a mile away on the ground or underwater. Leopards will climb trees to rest and eat above ranting hyenas. Zacchaeus climbed a tree so he could take in a view other than a noisy crowd and so he could see Jesus.

Looking up and going up, instead of looking around and wandering around, is the way out or the way to something better. Golfers hate when their balls land “in the rough” because the taller grass makes play harder – they use a special club to hit the ball up and out of it. At work we say things like “you’re in the weeds,” because we want our peers to stop getting stuck in small details – what we mean is we want them to think bigger than themselves and their current situation as they consider solutions to problems.

The common theme is easy: change comes when we stop looking around at the view of our noisy, weedy, hungry, rough, turbulent, whiny, combative and confusing surroundings and we instead decide to pursue up. Even if we can’t see what we immediately need, just like a pilot who trusts that sunshine is above the rain clouds, we raise our head above the rough and the weeds and the crowd and the hyenas, and we look in the direction we’re going – UP – and we climb in that direction.

Up is the way to peace, the way to the food we need to survive, the way to see things differently, and the way to salvation.

Sometimes you need to go higher to see things as they really are. The world is pretty big and the higher we climb above the mud and the muck and the selfishness of our own lives, the more we realize that we are a very tiny minuscule part of the world. And that each day and each hour and each setback and each horrible person and each car that cuts us off in traffic is really just a very tiny minuscule small part of our lives.

When we’re in the storm or the weeds or the rough or the crowd, we can’t even see all the things contributing to our situation. We can’t see all of our surroundings. We can’t see how big the storm is. We can’t see how close our salvation may actually be.

We don’t have real fuller perspective until we go high. And you know what else happens once we go high? It’s not just perspective that we gain. It’s speed. Planes travel faster at higher altitudes. Our fuller perspective allows us to more quickly understand what’s happening and why, and it allows us to progress more quickly toward the healing or salvation or food or peace that we need.

I used to be scared to fly. When I say scared, I really mean terrified. Like, heart beating 130 times per minute, cold sweat, picturing my airplane crashing into the ground in a big ball of fire afraid to fly. I-needed-Xanax-to-fly scared to fly.

I have no idea when exactly that fear disappeared or why that fear is gone. Maybe because I had no choice but to fly regularly regardless of my fear. Maybe because I started trusting my Pilot more. But one day several years ago I found myself not dreading flying, and then on another day I found myself actually enjoying it. I can even sleep on an airplane now and it’s absolutely awesome to enjoy a nap while someone else does all the work to get me where I need to be.

I mostly write or read now when I fly. It’s uninterrupted quiet time, and I don’t get much of that. As I look down at the clouds below me, I am so thankful to be exactly where I am, flying in a beautiful colorful sky. And I am so thankful for the knowledge that the stormy rain, the rough, the crowd, the hyenas, the weeds, and the turbulence are all small from up here, and I can see those things for what they are. They’re all really just noise, designed to steal my peace. It’s my job to hold on to my peace and to stay on course, and from way up here I am reminded that the individual stormy raindrops falling below the clouds I just climbed through are really insignificant in the big scheme of things. Most of those raindrops won’t matter five minutes from now, some won’t matter five months from now, and almost none of them will matter five years from now.

I just needed to get further from the ground to get that perspective.