Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism
, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar
was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar
should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!Photo Cred
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God. Photo Cred
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke. "Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me. Photo Cred
I don't drive in the slow lane. At least not until last week. Now I'm hooked.
Here's the story.
I didn't set out to conduct a personal experiment--it just sort of evolved. Last week I headed over the hill to San Jose to see my spiritual director. On my last visit I was pulled over for the first time ever and politely handed a speeding ticket. This time, I decided to leave early and drive the speed limit.
This is new territory for me. I left in time to arrive fifteen minute early and I instantly felt guilty. There is so much I could have accomplished in that fifteen minutes if I weren't driving. But within minutes I decided to make a game of it. What would it feel like to stay in the right lane for the whole 45 minute drive? I felt ready for the personal challenge. Photo Cred
Slow is stupid.
As cars sped around me I felt an initial tinge of anxiety. It was really more a sense of inferiority. I was driving slowly and I felt stupid. Recently Madison and I saw a car with this sign taped to the back--"New driver. Just learning stick shift. Sorry." I wished I had that sign on this particular drive.
(Quick aside--if you're a right lane driver already, this blog will only disgust you. I've got problems and let's just acknowledge that you're better than me and move on. You don't need to read to the end because you've already mastered the art of slowing. )
Things I learned about myself.
The first ten minutes were a battle of fighting my well developed impulse to move as quickly as possible. The next ten were a battle of fighting my new self-awareness. It didn't take long to uncover some serious pathology brewing beneath my need to speed.
Here are the top four:
Image Management. I drive a mini-van and I feel the need to represent mini-van drivers everywhere. We are not unskilled or unimportant. We have places to be too. For some reason, I believe that my superior driving skills will leave people with a good impression of me. For what end? I do not know.
Competition. I like to win. And most things can be turned into a competition--even if I'm just competing with myself. Can I get there faster than I did last week? Can I accurately decipher traffic patterns? Can I safely weave my way through the checkerboard-like traffic? It's a sickness--until you need me to get you somewhere fast, then suddenly, I'm your best friend.
People Pleasing. I hate to be in someone's way. So, if a driver gets up too close on my rear bumper, I usually feel bad. Like I did something wrong. The least I can do is get out of their way so they can move forward at the pace they desire. This is closely linked with my desire that other people get out of my way when I'm in a hurry (which is most of the time).
Over Optimism. When calculating how long it will take for me to get from point A to point B, I am always optimistic about the conditions. I know which lanes are fastest at any given point of a commute. I know that if I make the light at King, I'll have to speed to make the light at River. I know to take King on the way to school and Mission on the way home. I know short cuts going either way on Morrisey. But I never factor in a car turning left or an accident or a pedestrian throwing off my groove. All things that occur regularly. Truth is, I over estimate the positive factors and pretend the roadblocks don't exist or that I can find a way around them without much cost. If that isn't a metaphor for my life, I don't know what is.
Twenty minutes into this experiment and I was hooked. It was so calming! I didn't worry about changing lanes or getting out of people's way or calculating how to get around slow vehicles and I could feel my blood pressure dropping. Plus, with all that strategy-building space freed up in my brain, I could think about other things. Creative things. Prayer, even.
I arrived at my appointment feeling relaxed, peaceful and centered. Weird! After that I headed up to San Francisco for an extended time of reflection and then an evening meeting. I decided to drive slowly for the entire day. What I found fascinating, was that everything was less irritating. Traffic jams didn't faze me. Slow cars in the fast lane had no negative impact on my day. Someone wants to merge in front of me? Go right ahead! All emotions completely foreign to me in a commuter setting.
On the last leg of my journey I elevated the challenge. I was actually running late as I left Golden Gate Park to head to my meeting. But I decided to continue my pattern. Even running late, I found slow driving to be a balm to my soul. And, when I arrived at my destination I was more settled and less frenetic. I listened more attentively and was less tired after an evening of extroverted activities. And, even with open highway, I easily stayed within the speed limit on my 90 minute drive home.
And, yes, I'm aware we are celebrating my success at simply obeying the law. Just go with it.
This is a real thing.
It occurred to me in the slowness, that I'd heard about this before--this wasn't my idea. When I returned home I pulled out my Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and looked it up. Sure enough, there is discipline of slowing. And--get this--one of the suggested exercises is (and I quote) "Intentionally drive in the slow lane."
Way ahead of you Adele (she's the author).
According to the handbook, the desire in practicing slowing is "to curb my addiction to busyness, hurry and workaholism; to learn to savor the moment." She quotes Peter Kreeft--
"If you can't take time to do nothing, you're a slave to doing. Doing nothing is a radical, revolutionary act. It frees you from the universal slavery of our age; slavery to the clock. The clock measures doing, but not being."
But practicing the discipline is not the end goal. It's simply a way to make space for God to do his transforming work. In this discipline, I may see some of the following fruit (again, taken from the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
- keeping company with Jesus as I live at a saner pace
- freedom from an addiction to hurry or spiritual shortcuts
- patience--waiting with grace
- living the present moment to the full
- trusting God's unhurried time schedule
- freedom from addiction to cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging and all that speeds me up
- living the truth that love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible
- receiving interruptions graciously
- realizing the work of the Spirit is not an "instant" work
I'm reminded that this experience essentially resulted from a speeding ticket and my desire to not have that happen again. Funny how God gets our attention sometimes. But I'm ever so grateful.
I'm looking forward to more days in the slow lane as I engage in the revolutionary act of "unproductive" living for the joy of sanity, freedom and trust in the long, slow work of God.
How about you? What is it like for you to choose to do things slowly? How do you react to a slow sales clerk or a child who is dawdling? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Last week I promised to share some of the principles I'm using to clarify my voice. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I'm having serious doubts. One of my chief concerns is that 'advice' blogs don't really feel like my voice. But, what the heck--I'm in research mode so let's give it a shot.
I've been thinking and rethinking and pondering and re-pondering. And then it came to me...this isn't working.
Instead, I started listening.
If this is the voice God gave me and the message he has for me to share, then I should probably get his thoughts on what to say and how to say it. True to form, he hasn't laid out a four-point plan or wrapped up his thoughts in a concise revelation. But as I've been intentional to spend extended time alone with God, some things have strangely started making sense. Its less a detailed syllabus and more cartoon map. There are general shapes and major landmarks, and the distances are a little off . But I trust the details will get filled in as I actually start traveling.Photo Cred
Mistakes are painful. Therefore, I want a fool-proof plan before I take any action, complete with pie charts and line graphs and clear, measurable outcomes in place.
In fact, part of the process seems to be trial and error. Not as a cruel test, but as a refining tool that shapes and sharpens as I learn to trust God's direction and the values he has been developing in me. Don't get me wrong--I like a good goal. But to overuse a cliche'--it's not the destination, its the journey. Photo Cred
Trust My Heart
If I'm listening to God and I feel strongly about something, I should just go for it. After all, it's probably divinely inspired, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
One of the difficulties I experience as a human is the deceitfulness of my own heart. Such a drag. And along with that condition comes a propensity to both overvalue some of my insights and ideas and undervalue others. I've been known to trivialize important topics and magnify mole hills. I've used humor inappropriately and sometimes been careless with my freedoms. All this to say...my heart cannot be trusted. It may be a starting point, but in anything I say or do I want to first ask what will be accomplished by my sharing. Does it build up the church? Is it honorable? Does it accurately reflect the heart of God? Does it help? Is it necessary? Photo Cred
Thanks for Nothing
In the interest of full disclosure...I'm on a lot of cold medication right now so this post likely doesn't meet any of the criteria I just established. But just in case you're also under the influence of similar drugs (or, very different drugs that alter your reality) let me summarize:
When discerning my voice--the thing God uniquely put in me--I have found it helpful to:
- Listen (and not over analyze),
- Take it one step at a time (not expecting perfection), and
- Commit to being a voice that builds up and reflects the heart of God (not just any old muck that bubbles to the surface of my heart).
Once again, not sure this is of any assistance to you at all, but, since I'm not going for perfection, I'm willing to give a shot!
I hate country music. Yes, even (more accurately--especially) Taylor Swift. So you can imagine how dismaying it is to me that I have a certain 'country' quality to my singing voice. If I'd ever wanted to pursue singing professionally my best bet would've been in the twangy genre of my middle American heritage. That was not an option.
My country girl pipes emerge most often when I'm around my little brother, who also has a natural country sound and a perplexing affection for this style of music. Its like an irresistible force when we sing together. One minute I'm a perfectly reasonable person and the next I'm slapping my knee and sliding into every note.
But most of the time my voice expresses itself best with a melodic ballad or soulful hymn. And on really special occasions its belting out Bach with a chorus of voices.
So what is my true voice? Photo Cred
Who Am I? (and other fluffy questions)
This is what I've been asking myself for the last year. Not about my singing voice, but about my writing voice. My speaking voice. In essence, I've been analyzing again "Who am I, what do I have to say, and what is the most authentic way to say it?"
This is proving more difficult than I expected because, as with my singing voice, I can authentically express myself in a number of ways. In any given week I'm likely to be writing management tips in the morning, creating Bible Study tools in the afternoon and blogging about parenting in the evening. Some days I feel compelled to write about whats wrong with the church and other days I just want to tell you how much I love Jesus. And there are seasons when I feel ready to share the successes in my journey and others when I'm laying bare my failures. So, how in the hell do I figure out what to say and how to say it? (And, yes, some of my voices include mild profanity--sorry mom!)Photo Cred
Truth be known, this is largely a result of being told my writing was 'complainy' and 'demoralizing' by a large publishing company. In case you are wondering--that was definitely not the voice I was going for.
I'm much more likely to be criticized for being Pollyanna-ish than pessimistic so I was forced to rethink my strategy. As I reviewed my writing of late I came to the conclusion that its possible I'm confusing my voices. You know--trying to sing country using my choir voice.
As a woman, I am quite adept at exhibiting the behaviors I believe are expected from me and that makes clarifying my unique and authentic voice a bit more complicated. At different times I've had a fair amount of peace around this and I wish I could just settle it, once and for all. But apparently, this must be done in stages. Bleh! Photo Cred
Prayer and Process of Elimination
As with any situation involving lots of choices, I find it easiest to start with crossing off some of the less ideal ones. So I have eliminated some potential 'voices' from the running. I know I'm not a cultural activist (Rachel Held Evans) or spiritual giant (Beth Moore) or Christian lifestyle leader (Jen Hatmaker) or researcher (Brene' Brown) or poet and political activist (Anne Lamont) or sweet, creative encourager (Ann Voskamp).
But now that I know who I'm not, I'm going to have to do the work of clarifying who I am. And that is freaking me out a bit. What I do know is my story involves no great tragedy or social issue. It is supremely ordinary. And I don't want to whine about it!
So I'm praying as I write and working harder at finding my voice for this season. The one God gave me for such a time as this. And I've promised him I'll sing as loudly as I can or as softly as he asks--even if he suggests I add some twang.
How about you? Do you know your voice? How did you find it?
In my next blog I'll share a few principles that are helping me clarify my voice in this new season. Hope you'll stay tuned.
This week we dropped Caleb off at his new life. Without us. But, frankly, its better that way.
Here are the top ten reasons why:
10. He was starting to like country music so we were going to have to kick him out eventually anyway
9. Cade no longer complains about how long it takes Caleb to get ready for school each morning
8. A gallon of milk goes farther (further?)
7. No wet, smelly towels left in the van after surfing
6. No more lengthy discussions about what college will be like
5. Those bulky surfboards are finally out of our garage
4. More hot water is available for showers in the morning
3. I only have to pay for one band trip this year (not sure we break even on that one)
2. The drums are silent
And the number one reason its better that he's gone is...(drum roll please)
No need to plan a birthday party for him this year.
And that's why I haven't gone a day without crying.
In our family, we love to watch the first weeks of American Idol. The train wreck portion of the show. We know its all staged, but we can't look away as person after person sings their heart out--poorly. We're left asking, "Where are her friends? Who let her believe she could carry a tune? Why didn't her parents protect her from this delusion?" Of course, that's all part of the drama.
I often fear I'm deluded. So, to insure that I don't make the same mistake as thousands of American Idol hopefuls , I study people's reaction to me very closely. I've learned to read when their words don't match their body language and I've placed a high value on the opinion of others. When I ask Richard "Do I look fat in these jeans?" He knows its a setup. I can tell what he thinks before he even speaks.
This pathology isn't all bad. I'm open to feedback and it allows me to grow. I surround myself with good counsel and it helps me make better decisions. Photo Cred
But what about when the judges disagree?
If you've ever seen the show, or one of the many knock-offs, you know that sometimes the judges have different opinions about the contestant's talent or potential. For a person like me, this is a conundrum. I like unanimous affirmation. Some people like the challenge of proving people wrong, of overcoming their objections. I think that sounds like a lot of work that could potentially end up in failure.
But nothing of value comes from so little effort.
The Journey or the Prize?
Many of you know I have a book proposal making the rounds at publishing houses around the country. Earlier this year, one of the smaller publishers made an offer on it. However, in the meantime I'd decided that wasn't the book I wanted to write and we withdrew the proposal so I could make some changes. A few weeks ago we resubmitted the proposal. I was pretty excited about the changes and we received some very positive feedback from the initial query. Photo Cred
Sure enough, one of the big publishers was quick to get back with some feedback. I was in a conversation with my son when I saw the email notification from my agent. My insides started to churn. I couldn't keep myself from hope. This might be it!
I paused Caleb in mid-sentence and went to my inbox. Yes, I was talking to Caleb with my computer in front of me. In my defense, I was working when he came in to talk. Plus, he was going to be very proud of his mom in just a few seconds so this faux pas would be forgiven.
As I skimmed the email looking for the words "loved your proposal" and "made an offer", I became aware that I wasn't breathing. My brain seemed to be floating away from my body and the room started to spin. "False alarm." I stammered to Caleb. "They don't want my book."
But that was an understatement. I finished the conversation with Caleb and went back to the email. This publisher didn't just pass on my book, they seemed intent on dissuading me from the whole writing game. My first thought was, "How did I miss the signs? I must have been delusional to think I could do this."
I toyed with the idea of sharing this rejection with you only after I was sitting comfortably with an actual offer. How dramatic that would be. And, inspirational.
But this is reality. I may never get an offer. And, I'm learning that a book deal may not be the primary reason God had me in the process in the first place. (Although, I'm really hoping it is a by-product.)
Something is different and God used this event to show me what he's doing in me.
The first hours were tough. I wondered if I'd ever feel good about myself again. Or, at least, my writing. But I decided to let myself experience the hurt and the pain. Not push it down or pretend that "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me." On the contrary, I was acutely aware of the power of words. I made a couple of attempts to read my proposal; to see if I could fix it and make these people like me. But I was too anxious, too wounded to view it objectively. So I went for a run, hung out with my kids, played a game on my iPad. I talked with God and cried with my husband and then went to bed.
I woke up feeling less anxious, but hardly back to normal. I have a morning routine that involves writing three pages of longhand ideas and thoughts each day. I didn't feel like writing. I stared at the blank pages for a long while, silently justifying a pass for this daily discipline. I picked up the pen and wrote a paragraph. I stopped to feel sorry for myself. I picked up the pen and started writing again. But this time I'd decided to suck it up and keep going. What is a discipline for if not for the days you don't feel like it? By the end of the exercise I had processed through my next steps. And the anxiety was gone.
I called my agent (who confirmed that the feedback was unusually harsh) and shared my potential modifications. She agreed and I got to work.
And it was done. A miracle. I was at peace. Not defined by someone else's opinion of me or my work and still able to learn from it.
This must be what it feels like to be a grown up.
Whales leave a trail of chaos. And... It. Is. Awesome!
Today when Richard and I arrived at the beach so our old and stubborn dog could chase a ball, we were greeted by hundreds and hundreds of birds in the water. It was a little unsettling. I felt like the odds of getting pooped on were very high.
Both of us wondered what all the commotion was about, but only Richard was willing to stop another spectator and ask what was going on. I don't know why I have such an averse reaction to his inquisitiveness--it was a perfectly acceptable response, but I hate bothering strangers. I prefer to stand quietly behind a group of bystanders, hoping they're talking about the thing I'm questioning so I can gather the necessary information without having to speak to anyone. That's not creepy at all.
Anyway...thankfully Richard asked the right person and we got a short marine biology lesson in the process. First of all,--there were whales in the bay. Jackpot! I was going to see whales today. More on that later. Apparently when whales travel through the bay this near the shore, they disturb the kelp beds in a rather violent fashion. This brings all sorts of debris, fish, bugs, crustaceans (a.k.a food) to the surface, creating a feeding frenzy. Yum! And it wasn't just birds. There were seals everywhere. One so near the shore that our aforementioned old and stupid, er...stubborn, dog tried to swim after it. Very sad to watch her swim in circles after the seal disappeared under the surface.
But back to the kelp beds. Just yesterday I had been out stand up paddle boarding with Caleb and commented on the smoothness of the water in the middle of large kelp beds. As soon as we navigated through one of these areas, the water became less choppy and the current seemed less forceful. Perfect for a calm day of paddle boarding. But today, not so much. Today the kelp beds were teeming with life. What was not good for a recreational cruise was a huge celebration for marine life. Photo Cred
And, sure enough, within minutes there were whales. A couple of them straight ahead. Their long, shimmering backs cresting just above the water line, then gracefully disappearing before the final show of power--the tail rising and descending like a conductor's baton eliciting a dramatic crescendo.
Over and over. More chaos. More beauty. More awe. Photo Cred
I really like a calm kelp bed. I usually prefer to sit on the beach and watch when there are disturbances of this size occurring. But today I found myself drawn in. Wishing I were closer. Less afraid of turbulent waters and more open to the new life that follows in its wake. Because, while it is terrifying and messy and more than I can control, the beauty it displays and the transformation it produces are not to be missed.
Here's to more beautiful disturbances!
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. I Peter 4:12,13 (MSG)
I have always loved school.
The day I graduated from college I wanted to go back. Each morning on my way to work and each evening on my drive home I passed my Alma Mater and the pit in my stomach would often bubble up into tears. Part of it was the mundaneness of my work and even the remote possibility that I might sit at that desk for the next 40 years. Adulthood was not what I'd thought. But mostly, I missed the classroom. Learning new things every day. Analyzing theories, discussing ideas and formulating opinions. I loved it when my brain hurt and when a concept clicked and when I was able to articulate a point clearly.
On the day of my graduation ceremony I requested the day off. I was working as a trainer at Discover Card and in the middle of a new hire class. Richard and I were newly married and he was unable to get the time off. It didn't matter. I donned my cap and gown and approached the arena with the sea of other graduates.
It all seemed so anticlimactic. A meaningless formality.
I was so alone and I couldn't hold back the tears of sadness and loss as I entered the building. While I watched other graduates pack up their cars to head back to their new, post-college life and what I assumed was a bright shiny new job or the opportunity to continue with their education, I headed back to work. The same job I had the day before. One that didn't require a college degree or a love of ideas. Photo Cred
Its not that I had any idea of what I wanted to do or what I would get my Masters in if I could go back. In one sense it wouldn't have mattered. Had I known then what I know now I would have just picked one and started the process. But I was still fairly fragile emotionally and wasn't able to identify what I wanted and even if I'd have known what I wanted I had not yet found my voice.
Richard and I agreed that he would complete his Masters and then I'd pursue mine. He knew what he wanted to do and he had a scholarship to move forward without any cost to us. It was a logical decision and I fully supported this path. The one downside was the length of the program. It was a 96 hour Masters, involving four years of study. But we were young and time seemed abundant.
Richard is smart and hard working and he completed his M. Div. in the time he promised. I'm the one who changed the program. By the end of his studies I was desperate to start a family. I knew that meant my Masters would have to wait. I had poor problem solving skills, was a black and white thinker and was struggling with depression. In my mind I only had a couple of options. Photo Cred
Looking back I think I could have made it work with just slightly more patience and emotional strength, but it was not to be. Soon I was pregnant with Caleb and my direction was set.
In one breath I will tell you I wish I'd pursued more education earlier in my life. But then I consider my years as a mother and its simply no contest. 'Mom' is my favorite title. My kids are such a source of joy and character building and amazement and learning! I postponed a piece of paper and traded it in for one of the greatest gifts of my life--parenting my kids. Not to mention that apparently I didn't need more formal education to accomplish all that God had for me to this point. Photo Cred
But now its time. This week I started my first class in my Masters program--Introduction to Spiritual Formation. I'm enrolled in a Masters in Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Spring Arbor University and am completing an online degree. Only 19 years after I originally intended to begin.
In his book, The Wonder of Girls
, Michael Gurian suggests that one of the most important lessons we need to teach our daughters is the reality of choices. With the great strides made in opportunities for women, many of our girls are overwhelmed by their choices. And, they are mistakenly told that they can 'have it all'. They can have a successful career, a thriving marriage, be the perfect mom, a marathon runner and a wine connoisseur. All of those things might be possible, but not at the same time! Our girls need to know (and have modeled) how to make choices about what they want to excel in at different seasons of their life. Identifying their values, then learning to prioritize accordingly. Photo Cred
I've found this to be true in my own life and I hope Madison is watching. I may not be able to have it all. But I have all I need and more than I deserve! It was definitely worth the wait.
I've got to learn to be more specific when I pray. This morning I asked God to direct me to the road I must travel (from Psalm 143). I should have also asked him to help me pace myself. Perhaps then I wouldn't have received my first speeding ticket in thirty years of driving.
Rushing to Rest
Ironically I was traveling to Saratoga to meet with a spiritual director. I was rushing to a time of stillness and quiet and discernment. Inspiring, isn't it? Google maps told me it would take me forty-five minutes, but I knew I could make it in forty. And I could have, too, if it hadn't been for that stupid Ford Fiesta!
Coming out of Santa Cruz on Highway 17, I ended up behind a slow car in the fast lane. This bothers me when I'm in a hurry (which is quite often). Its an etiquette thing. As an introvert I live concerned with how others perceive me so I'm naturally conscious of times I might be impeding the progress of others. In my opinion, this car was not as concerned as he should have been about how he might be holding me back. But after what seemed an eternity, he pulled over and let me pass. Here's where it all went wrong.
I could have simply passed him at a normal pace. But its possible I had been a little close up on his bumper for an extended amount of time and now that I was past him I felt a little ashamed. So I sped up so I could put some distance between us. I didn't want to be driving next to him for the rest of the twenty minute journey. Yes, I processed all of this. Its' what I do when I'm in the car. I analyze lanes, drivers and traffic patterns. I have a problem. Photo Cred
Do you know why I pulled you over?
I saw the police car as I sped past it. It was too late, but I pressed on the brake out of instinct. There were cars behind me so I peered in the rear view mirror hoping he stayed parked on the shoulder and praying for mercy. Sure enough, he pulled out. I did have a brief thought that I might have time to lose him, but then I remembered I wasn't in a movie.
He positioned himself behind my car and I waited for the inevitable flashing lights. Sure enough, he was pulling me over--just as the very slow Ford Fiesta was cruising on past.
Strangely, I didn't feel any anxiety or anger or the sinking feeling in my gut I was dreading. As I lowered the passenger window and he approached I felt a sense of calm. It was almost eerie.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"I was speeding?"
"Do you know how fast you were going"?
"No, but it was well over the limit I'm afraid."
He asked for my license and registration and returned to his car to write up my ticket. I called my spiritual director to tell her I was going to be late. I was getting a ticket. It didn't escape my awareness that had I been willing to make that call earlier, I wouldn't have felt the need to speed in the first place. Note to self.
When he returned to hand me the record of my offense he asked an interesting question.
"Did you know I was going to pull you over when I came up behind you?"
"Yes I did. I knew I deserved to get a ticket."
He smiled. "I've got to say, ma'am, you've got a great attitude and I appreciate it. Most people don't see it that way." I felt old when he called me ma'am. Photo Cred
Owning Up, Slowing Down
I'm quite surprised by my emotional response. No matter what, I would have been polite, but there was something about my internal state that kind of freaked me out. I was guilty and I didn't feel a need to defend myself or beat myself up.
I thought about the time my mentor got a ticket in a school zone and she wasn't frustrated at all. She told me it was God reminding her to slow down. Maybe that's what I heard in the quiet today.
"Kelli, slow down. You don't have to rush. What I have for you to accomplish doesn't require racing from thing to thing."
I'm headed back home now. I've learned some valuable lessons today. Sadly, punctuality isn't one of them. I'm definitely going to be late to pick Madison up from school. Photo Cred
If I had to do all over again (and I were much smarter) I would definitely be a neurologist--or a professional surfer. But let's stick with neurologist for the sake of this post. I am fascinated with the brain. Everything about it. The delicacy of moods and emotions and memory. How fragments buried deep in my past subconsciously affect my experiences of today. How the brain is wired for healing and how all that works together in my spirituality. Fascinating!!
With all that in mind I've been analyzing my last couple of weeks (perhaps over analyzing as I'm prone to do) and making some interesting observations.
As I mentioned (see my previous post)
, I've had a stellar couple of weeks. Two weeks ago I experienced five days that were not just productive, but full of great family moments, laughter with friends, good gifts and lots of highlights. Last week, I was in Hawaii. No further explanation required.
Superimposed on that reality was a spiritual practice I began again a few weeks prior. Each night before bed I spend five minutes writing down things I am thankful for that day and then direct that list as a prayer of gratitude. So here's what I've been wondering
...did I just pick the best couple of weeks of my year to begin a daily gratitude practice or did my daily gratitude practice have something to do with the outcome (or my perception of the outcome)?
I was leaning toward the former until our plane ride home from Hawaii this morning. For the second week in a row, a daily gratitude practice seemed almost silly. Designed to help me recognize God's goodness, this routine bordered on ridiculous. So much good. So much beauty. Too much to possibly even name. But I did it because I was on vacation and feeling lazy. As luck would have it, I was practicing gratitude this season, not poverty or solitude so all I had to do was express gratitude and I would be engaging in a spiritual discipline. Wasn't everyone doing this?
Apparently not. We arrived at the airport last night to discover chaos afoot. A flight back to the mainland had been cancelled and people were frantically scurrying to make other arrangements. Tired, sunburned and often hungover, this was not an ideal way to close out the day. But the levels of rage, entitlement and outright despair seemed a bit dramatic given a couple of factors:
1) They'd just spent days or weeks in one of the most idyllic locations on the planet
2) Worst case scenario, they'd have to stay a couple of extra days in this aforementioned paradise.
Was I missing something? Photo Cred
Don't Make Me Stay Here!
The last couple to make it on to our non-cancelled flight must have spent their time on the torture side of the island. Clearly they did not want to stay and, rumor has it, may or may not have offered to have their baby raised by natives to ensure immediate passage off Kauai.
As the distraught wife dragged her armful of baby toys , car seat, and overstuffed bags brimming with island booty behind her brave, baby--carrying husband she let out frequent sobs. "They were horrible!" She cried to anyone who would listen. Who? I wondered. The flame carrying natives? With that level of distress she must have been at a different luau than we had attended. The hapless TSA employees? The gate agents working their butts off to try to get everyone home from their hellish week?
All the other passengers seemed outraged on behalf of this young couple while I was enraged that I had to turn my music up louder to shut out all the tsk-tsking so I could get some sleep. (Clearly my practice of gratitude has not served to increase my expression of mercy. )
I'm no neurologist, but...
So, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that gratitude makes the heart more grateful. At least for me. In his fascinating book, The Anatomy of the Soul, Dr. Curt Thompson details the stunning effect spiritual disciplines have on brain chemistry. How telling our stories to an empathic listener rewires the neuro pathways of both the teller and the listener. As he discusses brain functioning and spiritual disciplines, Thompson states that "to be...acutely aware of God's beauty in anything leads to awareness of God's beauty in everything, save that which is evil."
I think that's what gratitude is beginning to do in me. And for that, I'm thankful.