If my hike had a soundtrack…

The air was the perfect flavor of pine and clean wind as I sauntered along the smooth, shaded path past Lake Hebron that warm-but-not-too-warm day. The loons cried their short-lived daytime conversation and a bandana’d youth sat contemplatively underneath a fir tree, watching the reflection of clouds sweep across the slightly rippled water.

His iPod played a soulful tune and I thought it was a perfect soundtrack for the moment.

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I often thought I should have a soundtrack for this hike.

Not only a soundtrack, but an entire video recording of it that I could look back on if I ever forgot how incredibly, miraculously blessed I’d been to experience this.

In case I forgot the Me I Used To Be.

If I had a soundtrack for this hike, it would have begun low, building slowly in tight-stringed suspense. There would be lots of creepy segments in this first soundtrack, that would make you want to look over your shoulder or stand with your back against a wall. There would be tense notes–lots of them in fast succession. There would be a happy, frolicking piece. And then a mournful, low bar, full of pain.

As the soundtrack for my hike went on, the suspenseful notes would lessen and the smooth notes would gain the upper hand. There would be not so many creepy segments. Not so many tense pieces. But the mournful bars would continue, transfusing pain into the listener.

There would be short bursts of heavy metal. A few screams.

Lots of upbeat parts.

The final segment would start hauntingly beautiful, maybe just a solitary oboe or maybe a windy flute. There would be pattering and low, persistent whining notes and maybe a few screeches of nail on a chalkboard. Then there would be a clash of cymbals and the soundtrack would take on a folk song vibe. Another clash, and then a long piece on the piano, building momentum. Then a loud, long clash, with drums. And then my soundtrack would be one continuous dance party, ending with the Hallelujah chorus.

Well, I don’t have a soundtrack for my hike, but it would be a lot more concise to explain if I did. I could just pop in the CD and everyone would experience the same feelings with me. Instead, I’ll have to use words to share the story, which is what I know.

It will do the same thing, just take longer.

I jumped out of my reverie when my feet hit a paved road. This was Pleasant Street, and it would take me to Shaw’s Lodging in just 1.6 miles.

I hadn’t gone far before Poet, the owner of Shaw’s, zipped towards me in a trendy SUV. There were already three hikers inside, but my pack just fit under the dusty hatch, and I slid my boney self into the back seat.

It was stinky inside that car–sweat, mostly.

Poet had the air conditioning on and didn’t seem to notice. But I took the time to consider that it was us three feminine hikers in the back seat who were making it reek. Somehow that just didn’t seem right.

Poet dropped the two girls off at the post office, then gave me and Turbo, the third hiker, a tour of his hostel. It was colorful and clean inside, with tablecloths on the tables, plenty of towels in the bathrooms and bedspreads on the bunks.

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“This is a really nice hostel, Poet.” I said, and he thanked me.

After hanging my hammock outside in the tree line, rustling through my food box, and making a quick tour of the small, friendly town, the sun had almost fully dropped below the horizon. I carried my box of coconut caramel ice cream into the dining room and ate it while uploading YouTube videos.

AJ and Poet bantered in the kitchen, and the hikers had settled into their typical 8-o’clock calm. A few sat playing scrabble at a table adjacent to mine and drinking Maine craft beer. They congratulated me on my voracious ice cream consumption and after awhile decided to stroll to the quick-stop for pizza. I had the dining room to myself.

I stared out the window at the luminescent glow of headlamps inside the tents scattered across the yard, and thought about how far my heart had come.

I remembered my first hostel visit. It was at Top of Georgia.

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Even though Renaissance greeted us with his famous flair and gave us a highly entertaining tour I had been too shy to really relax and join in the community there–too scared to hang out in the bunkhouse with the other hikers.

I’d sat on the porch in the damp, biting air instead, listening to the upbeat chatter coming from inside and eating spam and ramen. I could still taste the feeling I’d had then–that numbing, unshakeable belief that I was young, weak and clueless, and would never make it to Katahdin. I’d felt like a giraffe in a pet shop that March day.

Now it was August, and I couldn’t begin to list all the miracles I’d experienced in that six month span.

All I knew was that this place of dreadlocks and backpacks and new faces felt cozy and comfortable. Like home. How big my muscles were, how light my pack was or how much knowledge my brain contained didn’t matter anymore. I was equally comfortable alone on a wind-swept mountaintop or in another strange town in a sea of new faces.

It’s still hard for me to explain it. If I could play you my soul’s soundtrack you’d understand. But that’s impossible.

I guess I’d better get started on my book.

But in the meantime, you might be interested to know that there IS an actual Appalachian Trail soundtrack coming to an orchestra near (or far away from) you!

I met this composer after I collapsed onto a bench in Madison Hut after a 14 hour race across the presidential range one Sunday last month, and he shared his incredible vision with me over a lukewarm pile of homemade dinner leftovers from the hut kitchen. You can find out more about his Appalachian Trail Symphony here: http://keanesouthard.instantencore.com/web/home.aspx

 

 

Victors

Tonight, the headlines irrevocably declare: “120 Dead in Paris Attacks, Worst Since WWII”.

Terror is spreading across our planet, and the people of this planet, like ancient wooden ships adrift in a storm, scatter. Some cry, some shout “Revenge!”, some huddle in the paralysis of fear. Some hold up signs that say ‘NOT AFRAID’–a distinctive message to their enemies, but the sign-holders are powerless to make the message true within their hearts.

We the people– the meant-for-another country people. We the foreign exchange students, so to speak. What are we doing?

If we’ve been trained to fight, why are we afraid?

If we are truly selfless, why not choose to feel pain with the hurting instead of jumping into our closets of self-protection?

If we really believe God’s power makes us unstoppable, why not walk towards the danger instead of running away from it?

We are never victims.

We are always promised joy.

We are always promised rest.

We are always promised protection–the definition of which only Jesus knows.

We are never victims.

We are victors.

We the people pray for Paris tonight.

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We also pray for peace within ourselves.

 

Never, never, let us accept the title of “victim”, Jesus. Never let us stop receiving peace from you, and fearlessly giving that peace away.

It’s Gonna Be OK

Ever have those days when you just want to sock yourself in the face?

You’ve tried so hard to do the right thing, to be that person you want yourself to be, but in the end you crashed miserably and burned a whole pile of people in the process. All the time and effort you’ve put into building trust… into maintaining a safe relationship… is a cloud of ash.

Gone.

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Forever gone, in just one moment of failure.

Or, is it?

It may feel that way, but is it really gone?

The other week, I confessed to my sister how, when we were little, I was the one who stirred her goldfish up in it’s little goldfish bowl with a plastic spoon until it had a heart attack, and floated. I just wanted to see how fast it could swim. I didn’t try to make it die. But it did.

She, kind-hearted lamb, suddenly remembered dozens of offenses she had committed to me.

Thing is, I didn’t remember a single one of them. All I remember about our childhood was a fun, spry little playmate who came up with many schemes, was always up for a bike ride or fishing trip, and always left surprises on my pillow on the holidays.

Our interaction got me thinking.

Could it be that trust isn’t about the visible, but the foundation?That the unseen foundation…. the entire picture all put together…. is more relevant than the tiny puzzle piece of what’s said and done in a moment of conflict?

I had a boss once, who everyone was afraid of. He brought the house down when he was upset. Seriously. Not the roof, thank goodness,  but pots, pans and anything else in his wake.

Thing is, everyone who spent long enough around him soon considered him one of their best friends. No matter how much he ranted and swore, he was, at the foundation, a friend worth having. At the foundation, he truly cared about his staff, and protected them at all costs.

Six years later, I hardly remember the rants. I just remember a safe environment, and being empowered every day. I’m not saying he never hurt me, I’m just saying I don’t remember it.

Mistakes happen to everyone.

Don’t fall into the condemnation trap. Stop looking behind you.

I know you’re quick to ask for forgiveness when you mess up, but I’m guessing the biggest question is…. can you forgive yourself?

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Just ask! Accept. It’s already been done, by the only One who can be fully perfect on this earth.

Just ACCEPT His forgiveness! It’s for real, I promise.

No looking back now! You are gonna be just fine, and so are they.

He Gave Me a New Name

I stood on top of Fort Fredrick two days ago, and while ants bit my legs and the sea breeze whipped my hair, Jesus and I had a conversation about love.

You gotta understand, I’m not so good at loving. Really though. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. I’m just learning now how to do it properly.

You see, I had a tower built in my heart. The cornerstones of this tower were Pain, Inferiority, Fear and Performance. Not a great family to build a tower on, to be sure, but I did. The small stones had many names… betrayal, mistrust, anger…. on and on to the sky.

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What did this tower surround? My ability to give and receive love.

Weird, isn’t it, that I would hide something that I wanted so badly to give away? I mean, how could I share something that was locked deep inside a fortress?

Well, I’ll tell you how it all started. I wasn’t always this way! One day, long ago, I started believing a lie. What lie? The lie that to love someone meant an instant assignment to protect them.

That is, after all what people do if they care about someone, right? It’s even, to the proper degree, scriptural. I was very good at it. Protecting those I loved came naturally for me.

But I took it too far.

I started crashing. I realized that I couldn’t be strong for everyone, so I started shutting people out. If it seemed like they were asking too much of me… too much strength when I was weak, too much emotional energy when I had none, I cut them off. Not from myself, mind you! From unlimited love. I just went only so far, and then stopped. They could visit my tower, but only stay as long as I allowed.

Why? Because if they stayed, I’d have to protect them…. fight their battles as well as… or even instead of… my own, and I already knew I couldn’t do that for everyone. I’d tried.

“There’s GOT to be a better way”, I thought one day. I was desperate for change. No, not change as in money. Change as in, a different way of living. A better way. I packed my bags and went on a long journey.

Up mountains, along crags, and through valleys I hiked, and along the way, I learned a new skill called “receiving love”. It meant valuing myself enough to accept words Jesus says about me that did not feel true. It meant valuing others enough to bless them by being a gracious receiver. It meant taking their love for what it is–a direct outpouring of love from Jesus Himself.

In return, Jesus pulled out the cornerstone named ‘Inferiority’ and my tower began to sag, just a bit.

With the love of Jesus now boiling inside of me, I powered onward, and found I had new courage to learn a second skill, called “saying no”. I learned, through Jesus the gentle Teacher, that sometimes it really was ok to say no… to a favor I was asked to perform, or to a task, or to a responsibility, or to a role. Sometimes it was better for everyone if I just said no.

No. That was a hard word for me, but I finally learned it.

In return, Jesus gave me a gift. Space! Space to let Him set my priorities. Space to love Him first. He grabbed the cornerstone named Performance and tossed it far from me in one mighty heave.

What did I do with all this new-found space? I used it to deal with the last cornerstone, Pain, and it’s ugly partner, Fear. Funny how the two go hand-in-hand.

Or claw-in-claw. It’s not funny at all, really.

Jesus said to me, “I brought you this far. Will you trust me? Will you trust me to know how much pain you, and the people you love can handle? Because if–no–when! When you trust me that much, you can love without limit knowing that when the people you love suffer, it will be for My glory, and that fact will make their pain worthwhile in your eyes!

You can live without fear because you’ll know that suffering will not last forever! That I always, always and always have something rich and spectacular in the making!

I, and I alone, hold the role of ‘Protector’. You can have so much more freedom to disappoint,–even hurt people, and still you’ll know, as long as you are pleasing Me, that they will be ok.

Will you let Me have My rightful place?”

Standing on the top of Fort Frederick, 25-knot winds threatening to blow me over the side, I said, “Yes! I will let you have that place!” I picked up a small rock, part of the fort’s wall, and threw it into the jungle with all my might. It crashed through the brush and disappeared.

In my mind’s eye, that rock was me, escaping the tower of self-produced love forever. The remaining parts of the tower–its last two cornerstones (Pain and Fear) smashed to smithereens–collapsed in a mighty crumbling, and blew away on the wind.

All that was left by the sea was me, Jesus, and our perfect love, alone in a real world where ants were still biting.

I’m so glad the last bit of that tower is gone.

The only walls that trap us are the ones we build ourselves.

 

What I learned about Jesus from the Ironman Triathlon

Think about what it means to be strong in the Lord, and tell me what you see.

I always knew better in my mind, but when push came to shove I used to believe that God wanted macho, 6-pack body-builders of the faith. The ones who overcame all odds by pure determination.

Somehow, I switched out the word faith for the word strong, and lived my life that way. My hope relied on “My strength is made perfect in weakness”—but in a moment of trial, I added on to the promise with, “But since I don’t believe God is strong enough to be my strength, I’ll just help him out by being stronger.”

Ouch.

You know Samson, that 7-braided, rock-solid Jew of the Old Testament? Samson was strong. Crazily enough, he was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and didn’t even know it. Somewhere along the way, he threw away the fact that his physical strength was a gift from God meant to accomplish a specific work in the Heavenly Kingdom. He’d always had it, right? So why not rationalize that it was a part…. of him? He could do anything he set his mind to.

“Go ahead, woman! Cut off my hair… I’ll be fine.”

But he wasn’t. He spent the next age of his life building physical muscles in the mill. Now he knew what purely physical strength felt like, but it was too late.

There was once a young man whose body was trapped by cerebral palsy… but not his heart. His heart, he discovered, loved to race. Racing made him feel alive.

His heart also had the capacity to trust his father’s love for him. He spoke his desire to compete to his father…. and despite everything the world tried to tell him about who he was and what he could do, ended up competing in the Ironman Triathlon… the toughest one there is.

What if being a child of God made no earthly sense at all?

What if Jesus wants to literally BE our strength?

What if all we need to do is tell him our greatest desires, and he would accomplish them for us… but we got to go along for the ride?

What if we didn’t need to be strong…. we just needed to learn how to RECIEVE THE FATHER’S LOVE?

Love Ambush

I’ve been a crab for twenty-four hours.

It all started when someone asked me a question, and I responded defensively and then the father of lies jumped in with all of his hogwash and made a mess of everything.

“You’re not worth fighting for.” he said, “You are selfish at the core, and think of no one but yourself. Your dreams are not reality. You have tricked yourself into following them as an easy escape from life’s problems.”

Because I was tired, weak in heart and still feeling defensive, I believed all of it.

My joy was robbed.

It’s messy enough trying to make big decisions for your future, but when you start believing lies… things get ugly pretty fast. Each lie is joined by it’s own disease until your heart is trampled.

Shame.

Defeat.

Anger.

People (and most animals) caught on pretty soon, and gave me a wide berth.

I sat at my desk the next day, trying to write encouraging words to a friend and finally decided that I needed some music for inspiration. The first song that played went like this:

“Whatever you’re doing inside of me… it feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace. It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see, but I’m giving in to something heavenly. Time for a milestone… time to begin again. Revaluate who I really am.

So show me what it is you want from me.

I give everything….

I surrender….

Time to face up. Clean this old house. Time to breathe in and let everything out that I’ve wanted to say for so many years. Time to release all my held back tears. Whatever you’re doing, inside of me…. it feels like chaos, but…. I believe. You’re up to something bigger than me.

LARGER THAN LIFE.

Something HEAVENLY.”

While the “You’re up to something heavenly… bigger than me.” promise was still reverberating in my mind, the next words came through my speakers.

“Lord I come. I confess. Bowing here, I find my rest. Without you I fall apart… you’re the One that guides my heart. Lord I need you, oh, I need You. Every hour I need you.

My ONE DEFENSE.

My RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Oh God, how I need you. Where sin runs deep, your grace is more. Where grace is found is where you are. And where you are, Lord, I AM FREE!!

HOLINESS IS CHRIST IN ME.

Teach my song to rise to you, when temptations come my way. When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay!!!!”

“Jesus… MY righteousness??” “Holiness is Christ in me?” I was overwhelmed.

“For real, Jesus? But…. my sins. They are HUGE! ”

“I AM your righteousness. It’s not about you at all. Where sin runs deep, My grace is MORE. Come to me, and you will be free.”

“Ok. I will!!!”

He smiled, and I could have swore He wrapped His arms around me.

My heart jumped into the sky. And of course, the next song that played was,

“I’m trading my sorrow! I’m trading my shame! I’m laying them down…. for the JOY OF THE LORD.”

THIS. This was what my Loving Father was holding out to me.

I received it, and cried.

Forgiveness overwhelmed me.

Yes, Lord. Yes. I AM blessed beyond the curse. Get behind me, satan. JESUS HIMSELF is fighting for me, and He will never stop.

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My Jesus is up to something LARGER THAN LIFE. Something HEAVENLY.

He does not despise me, but instead holds out HOLINESS, FREEDOM & GRACE.

His promise will endure, and His joy’s gonna be my strength.

He told me so Himself, in one big love ambush in my old-fashioned straight-backed chair.

And I accept His words.

What if heaven says you are PERFECT?

I once heard that when you comb your hair/put on makeup/etc. in front of a mirror, your hands are trying to conform your appearance into a ideal picture of yourself—–the Who-I-Know-I-Can-Be-With-Enough-Effort—– that you have inside your brain.

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I do that in so many other ways.

The other week while I was at work sweeping cobwebs and feeling like I was doing absolutely nothing of Kingdom value, I prayed, “God, show me how to meet the needs here as You would. What is my purpose here? I am doing nothing. Teach me how to love like you love.”

Quick as a whistle, He responded.

With just three words.

“You are perfect.”

I stopped what I was doing. It was that clear.

PERFECT?? Umm… what??

Still His words swirled undeniably around me. “You are perfect.”

What a preposterous response! Here I was, beating myself up about my selfishness…. all of the opportunities I’d missed…. my complete lack of energy….. On and on and on the list went.

I was fully expecting God to answer my heartfelt question by asking me to do some hard thing, or to accelerate my efforts, or to add an extra hour of prayer to my schedule. I was not expecting to be asked to believe the words, “You are perfect.”

How could the Father have such an unrealistic picture of me?

What could these words mean? Did they mean that it was time for me to toss my mental mascara and flat iron out the window? Did they mean that the Father desired me to lay down the idealized visions of who I KNOW one day I can be in favor of cherishing the who I am NOW?

Did it mean that the Father’s truest expression of perfection is a spirit that is completely broken and desperately willing to accept any direction that He offers?

What do you have to lay down in order to accept the Heaven-stamped fact that YOU ARE PERFECT?

I hope you {dance}

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Life is short.

But I’m not afraid. When I die, I hope you dance. I hope you do a full-out jig.

Stop giving me that awkward stare. I’m really not that crazy.

I attended a funeral last fall. Unfortunately, I’ve been at quite a few in the last year. But this one was traumatizing, unlike anything I’ve experienced previously or since, from the about-to-rain suffocation of the low-hanging storm clouds, to the crunching gravel beneath the wheels of the hearse, to the utter silence of the people, to the tomb-like, clammy chill in the air. The ghostly rustle of starched black fabric of the people walking towards the graveside was almost more than I could bear. What was the worst, though, was the total lack of communication and expression. Almost no one–out of hundreds–spoke to the grieving family. Almost no one cried.

And even though the one who died was a jubilant follower of Christ, no one celebrated.

When I die, I hope you dance.

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I hope you hug my family, and cry if you need to and laugh if you want to and don’t feel embarrassed if you do both at the same time. I hope you’ll understand that if your heart is sad, you don’t need to say a word. Just be. And realize the truth.

I am safe from the world of harm, and have the rest of eternity to explore my Father’s nature, to bask in His pure, unspeakable love, to uncover the mystery and beauty of an unseen kingdom.

It is a time to celebrate.

When I die, please don’t wear black. I hope you wear all the colors of the rainbow. Blue and orange and turquoise and yellow and every shade in between.

I hope you sing Blessed be Your Name. I hope you raise your hands towards heaven.

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I hope you clap. I think the Savior deserves that much expression, at least, for redeeming a creature like me and leading me safely home. It’s a home I’ll be ecstatic to be in.

I hope you celebrate. You can celebrate my life, if you really want to, but what I really hope you celebrate is my King.

Celebrate the glories of heaven. I don’t want the pastor to talk about ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that racket. I want him to tell the gospel message. But don’t use the word “gospel”, please, Pastor. Use simple, everyday words like love, freedom and peace. Explain the Father’s love, because it is AMAZING, and I don’t think I told the ones I love enough about it and how it transformed my life. Vividly display it as best you can, Pastor. Jump around a little.

Get excited!

Tell about the passionate, unshakeable, transforming, peace-oozing love of an incredible Prince of Peace. Talk about His love for the downtrodden….. how He bore (literally carried, experienced, was wounded by) our griefs and carried (took upon Himself) our sorrows.

Make sure you mention that He definitely does not have a thing for flowery words or perfectly choreographed actions. He’s totally cool with the unspoken cry of a desperate heart or the collapsed form of a beggar. It’s the kind of medium He can work with best.

Basically, Pastor, just make sure you let everyone know that His love is here, now, forever and REAL.

When you lower my casket into the ground, I want the kids to have confetti and glitter to toss, because it will be a small chance for them to remember that they can join in the celebration of the angels, even though they are still stuck down here on earth.

I want a cloud of colorful balloons to be released into the air.

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I want the balloons to symbolize my spirit set free from the limitations of my old sin nature and flimsy body.

I want you to remember only one thing when I am gone. Eternity is real. Heaven is pretty unspeakably awesome, and I really hope we can spend it together. Cuz we’ll have way more fun than we ever did here on earth.

I hope that if you never thought about life after death, or a passionate Lover who can’t be seen with earth-eyes but can be felt when no visible person would dare to venture near you, or a Lord who is willing to forgive the darkest sin (trust me, you’ll never know what kind’s I’ve committed. I can talk.), if you never considered these things, I hope you’ll know that it’s not too late!!

There’s this cool love letter around. You don’t even need to go dig it off of some old dusty shelf. You can read part of it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKmdIdQg3Ks

I hope that if you thought you’d never see me again, you’ll meet the King of Kings, and reconsider.

And when you truly meet Him, you will fall in love. And then, when your heart is at ease like you’ve never known before, and the smile of forgiven wrongs splits your face, and your eyes shine so brilliantly with the light of heaven that you surprise yourself when you look into the mirror, and the overwhelming reality of the love of your Heavenly Father comforts you in a way that you never though could be possible….

I hope you dance.

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I’ll be dancing too.

In which I practice chilling out

It was a Friday morning, and I was moving back to my hometown with a new dog, a mountain of boxes, an 18-month internship under my belt and the last check I would ever cash until who-knows-when in my hands. It was the first time since highschool that I ended a position without starting another one the very next week.

It was a Friday morning, and I had no coffee.

Which is why it was shocking that I actually remembered to use my 3-cents-off-per-gallon-of-gas rewards card.

Normally, when asked to produce my loyalty identification, I smile sweetly and glibly state that I don’t have one, while the hapless clerk stares confusedly at the unmistakable key fob dangling from my lanyard. But this, this fine morning, I remembered, and produced the card with flourish and a knowing smile.

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Turns out, I produced it at Hess. My rewards card was for Turkey Hill.

Gah! I knew that!

That is, I knew it after staring dumbly at the gas station sign for 39 seconds while the clerk waited in apprehensive anticipation of my next brazen demand. Stinkin’ sign-replacement-people. What business do they have switching gas station signs at random, anyhow?

Sigh…..

If only it was that simple.

This has been a withering week for my pride.

I had grand plans of dressing up in intelligent-looking outfits and descending resume-in-hand upon prospering local businesses. But not long after my gas station adventure, I found myself confined in bed with a nasty cold. You know, that disgusting sort of cold where every muscle aches and you feel like you are breathing like a dragon and your eyes are constantly watering and your nose is snotting and you generally look and feel like a character from a child’s worst nightmare?

Yeah, that kind. Job interviews were kinda out of the question. So in a burst of fever-sparked creativity, I thought to myself, “Why not make use of a bad situation by doing a benevolent deed for the good of mankind?”

Or something like that.

I drug out a sheath of advertisements, and decided to cut coupons. Before I could say abracadabra, the combination of hot tea, cheery music, and a rapidly growing pile of almost-money on my bedspread caused the thought of my shriveled bank account to become only the faintest shadow of a memory. I even managed to imagine that I could survive financially until January–for years, even. Which was a vast improvement of mental affairs.

A long while later, the coupons all cut and carefully filed away, I handed my mother a stack of good ones I had saved for her.

As she sifted through them, her chin began to quiver.

She shook her head a little. Her eyes got just a tad misty.

And she began to laugh.

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It wasn’t the fact that the coupons had expired a year ago that got me. It was the fact that I had checked the date.

So much for benevolent deeds.

I comforted myself with the thought that at least I hadn’t taken them into a store. No need for another innocent sales clerk to be traumatized….

Not twenty-four hours later, I forgot about my unfortunate experience concerning benevolent deeds and agreed to care for my friend’s pets. And before I knew it, I found myself locked quite securely inside a chicken pen.

A four-foot-high chicken pen, mind you. On a cold fall night. After dark. How was I to know that the door to the chicken pen was self-locking? How was I to know that the pen was tightly screened on top and firmly nailed and stapled on all sides?

Are chickens really that great of escape artists? 100_5173I thought all they did in life was scratch for seeds, lay eggs, and cackle. Now that I think about it, there is that story Chicken Run, where the chickens are constantly digging their way out of confinement with a metal spoon. Yes, I guess I should have known.

But I hadn’t known, so I paced and wiggled the wire mesh around the lock, and wished for a stick, and thought of how pretty the moon was, and thought of the time I spent more than six hours inside a doghouse (that’s another day’s story), and laughed at what the neighbors might be thinking of my bizarre behavior, and finally contorted my body into such an unnatural position so as to wiggle the lock open and escape. Much to the relief of a friendly dog, who had been staring at me through the gate the entire time, with an expression that clearly stated her thoughts on my mental status.

And then the end of the week arrived with a crash and a bang, and I just stared at it, and was amazed.

Every item on my ‘To Do’ list was as red and bold as ever. None of the strategic plans I had laid out for the betterment of my monetary status had been accomplished. No pieces of the picture of my future had come together. I should have known that life does not go as planned. Almost never.

I should have known to let go of my pride and just chill out. Life is more than money (a necessary evil, as some random crotchety Dickens character would probably say), anyway. I should have known that life is not about the moments in my day, but the moments that take my breath away. I should have known to sit back and enjoy the ride.

There’s nothing like imprisonment in a chicken run and a nice long bout of the flu to force a person to slow down.

There’s nothing like a few humbling experiences to encourage one to appreciate the lighter side of life. Which is very beautiful in its own right.

So today, I’m looking at the week from a new angle.I’m looking out for the most important things for today, right here, right now. I’m refusing to run my race with my eyes focused on the finish line of the race three weeks ahead. I’m doing my best to embrace a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas season, and to take the time to become re-aquainted with my neighbors, and to walk the dog through frozen fields, and to notice that it’s snowing, and to realize that my coffee (yes, I finally have some) tastes faintly of gingerbread, and see that a red-bird just flew across the lawn.

Oh, what about that perfect job interview? I’ve got some juicy leads. But I’m not gonna force it. In the words of Mr. Micawber, “Something WILL turn up!”

Living Is Simple… (or not)

When I was fifteen, I used to sing this line from one of my then-favorite songs over and over and over again. “Living is siiiimple….. ” It drove my friends crazy. And really, who could blame them? I’m no musician, trust me….

It didn’t take me long to find out that living is not simple at all.

In fact, the longer I live, the more complicated life becomes. Some days, I feel like I am living in a perpetual headlock, like my neck is clenched in choking steel, and no matter how I struggle and fight and push, it wont budge.  I am in a perpetual checkmate. All I can do is just lie there, panting.

And wait for the guillotine to drop.

Evil is everywhere. I am so tired. I have no strength left, and if I did, it would be of no use, because I’ve found out long ago that my own personal strength can’t do a thing against the forces of evil.

There is a flash–a blinding light! I see a grand hall, if the stale, earthy word “grand” can even begin to describe the spectacular, mind-boggling grandiosity of its design. A host of towering celestial beings fill the room. They stand at attention, their muscular faces glowing with wisdom and valour,  their broad shoulders tall, chests and arms tensed and ready for warfare. They wait. Wait in expectation, gazing intently at their Master’s face. The Master, the King of this realm, is not looking on His subjects. His face is turned to the earth below. He is watching. Waiting. Listening……

“Child, my angels can only do what they are told. How can I send them, if you never ask? All of heaven is at your disposal. Do you really think you can stand off the brutal attacks of the enemy all by yourself? You don’t have the strength. You don’t. Let go, and let me BE your strength! I am waiting. Trust! Ask! Trust, child…..”

The painting is fleeting, and before I’ve seen even a glimpse, it closes and fades away. I am left with an even more vivid picture of my own inadequacy. And I remember the last part of the song… “Living is dying, Your mercy is how I believe… I’m down on my knees… confessing my needs again.”

Trust is a choice.