Archives for June 2012

Five Minute Friday: Dance

It’s been a while since I’ve joined Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday, and I’ve missed it. She has a brand new website, hop over, have a look around, and join in the five minute fun.

    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them.

Today’s Prompt: Dance

My sister and I shared a bedroom in the finished basement of our family home. At the far end, a sliding glass door took the place of a wall. I frequently imagined the glass door to be an instrument of my demise when the inevitable crook/witch/crazy person came to get me in the middle of the night. To say I had a vivid imagination is an understatement. As I grew older, I let go of the fear (just a little) and the door became the gateway to my dancing dreams.

In the evening, I turned the music on, loud enough to move to but soft enough to avoid unwanted visitors like sisters/parents/crazy people. I pulled open the curtains, turned on the lights, and danced while watching my reflection in the glass against the night sky.

It never occurred to me that people could see me through the other side. Sometimes we do wonderful things when we think no one is watching. We see ourselves more clearly. I felt free and uninhibited and beautiful. My talent amazed me, although I doubt it amazed the neighbors. For a few songs, I owned the way my body moved. I owned the night.

Stories with skin on

I’m linking this post to Prodigal Magazine’s Travel Series. If you’re new here, thanks for visiting. If you’re a regular, thanks for coming back. Would you consider sharing a travel story of your own?

Growing up, I traveled by book. I hitched a ride on a spine or two, traveling vicariously from chapter to chapter, returning home exhilarated and road-weary by The End. I journeyed back and forth in time, leaving imaginary footprints in the soil of distant lands by way of words. These stories breathed life into my desire to live out something more than my small suburban experience, and they gave birth to my gypsy heart.

At fourteen, my first opportunity for international travel presented itself, and I spent a month in Costa Rica on a missions trip with Teen Mania Ministries. I told myself and every one of my financial supporters that the sole purpose of this trip was to bring the good news of Christ to the Costa Rican people. I intended to suffer for Jesus by eating nothing but beans, rice and the occasional sneaky Snickers bar. I would not enjoy it. I would not secretly roll up my Mania-imposed modest sleeves and long shorts in order to get a tan under the Central American sun. I would not revel in our free days at the beach or visiting the national park. I would not be more interested in seeing the sights and hearing people’s stories than I was in giving my testimony to a crowd of strangers. Except that I would, and I did. All of it–the tan, the beach, the sites, the stories. They captivated me. I wanted to crawl inside the skin of these people and experience life through their eyes and ears and hands.

Books brought far off places closer, but Costa Rica gave them a beating heart covered in dark brown skin. I imagined what it was like to live out their stories as I watched neighborhood boys kick around a homemade soccer ball in the middle of the street. I stood under a cold shower in a small village and dreamed of lives lived on dirt floors between paper thin walls. I walked through weedy grass while dodging cow patties at a refugee camp, and I wondered about life behind borders and fences. I questioned how my Jesus, the one of memory verses and Sunday School stories, would fit in these places of poverty and quiet desperation. I could hardly consider myself suffering for Jesus when I looked into brown eyes and real suffering stared back.

We attended a church service, and as Spanish words rose to meet the chords of a familiar tune, I sang along in English.  Together, we lifted hands in worship, read truth from Scripture, and mumbled words in prayer. And while the words sounded different, the object of our worship remained the same. Regardless of how our stories unfold or the skin we live in, the hand that wrote each one of them is the same. The Jesus of Sunday school and suffering doesn’t change. He put flesh and bone around the story of salvation and He lived it with our eyes and ears and hands. He knew dirt floors and the life of a refugee. He told stories and lived a breathtaking one with the greatest ending ever.

I travel often now, and when I do, I bring my fourteen year old self along with me. She remembers what if feels like to try and climb into the flesh of another, and she reminds me that Jesus knows it too.

Gone Fishin’

I apologize for my absence, but summer is having her way with me and my leisure time. I don’t know why, but every year the first few weeks of summer always come as a shock to me. The time I spend allowing my mind to follow rabbit trails becomes swallowed up by real people and real commitments, and I’m left standing dazed in a whirlwind of travel dust.

The next few weeks will be a little quiet here, although I will try to pop in as often as possible. All of these words building castles in my head need somewhere to land, and I thank you for stopping in here every so often to read them.

Over the last few weeks, I compiled a small list of links I thought you might enjoy although I suspect your summer schedule is much the same as mine. I hope to meet you back here in a few days, after I’ve gone fishin’. (I think you know me well enough to know that is a metaphor. At no point in time will you ever find me fishing unless there is a cute handbag on the end of the line.)

For the dreamer: Deidra at Jumping Tandem talks about great big dreams and how to chase them.

For the mother: LL Barkat writes about taking our kids seriously. This one really has me thinking.

For the lover of beauty: Old novels. Dresses. Art. A must at Carrie Ann Schumacher.

For the artist: Emily at Chatting at the Sky gives us three truths about art and envy and courage.

For anyone with a heart: Billy Coffey. This guy has so much to say and says it so well. Every time I read his work, I need to go back and read Emily’s post on envy.

Happy Reading!

On how to make a difference

My mother in law came to Switzerland for five weeks. When I mentioned it to friends, it was met with a look of horror and a whispered “How is THAT going?”. I understand theoretically why they responded this way, but I happen to be one of those lucky girls who married into a fantastically weird and wonderful family.

I won’t go into the details of our five weeks together. Suffice it to say we shopped and talked and she washed the dishes every night. When I arrived at the airport to pick her up, a man walked through the arrivals exit and approached me, asking if I was Kimberly. I answered in the affirmative, and he told me  to sit tight, my mother in law would be along shortly. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she appeared with a smile and two overweight suitcases. She asked if I met her new friend, Michael. I assumed Michael was the guy who approached me, and she said yes, he was her seat mate and they spent the eight hour in flight trading stories.

My mother in law has the uncanny ability to make a friend out of anyone and everyone. Complete strangers meet her and tell her their secrets. I don’t know how many times she’s been told by someone she’s just met “I never told anyone this, but…” It’s bizarre. She makes an impression, my mother in law. Sunday, the six of us flew back to the US for summer break. My husband and I were the recipients of a bottle of champagne because my MIL made friends with the flight attendant. The flight attendant asked me to hide it from the other passengers in economy, so we covertly toasted Mom for the next four hours.

She and I sit at polar opposites on the scale of personality types. If you met her, you wouldn’t forget the experience. If you met me, you probably would. I’m okay with this. She’ll share with you her deepest feelings on grief in the first five minutes of making your acquaintance. I save most of my words for this space, after thinking on them for a good, long while. I used to worry about being invisible, of feeling small in a room of bigger personalities, but I’ve grown into my smallness. I’d rather take an impression than leave one.

My mother in law manages both. She leaves a bit of herself with others, while managing to take away a piece of others as well. In watching her, I’m reminded of the importance of leaving something behind. It doesn’t have to be much. People don’t need to remember my blonde hair or my mad stories or my sparkling wit, they only need to remember I listened with an open heart and a forgiving ear. On the flight home, an attendant told my husband and I about her son, the autistic one. The one she remembers when she sees the blue puzzle piece pin on her lapel. She told us she wants to retire, to be home with her kids, all five of them. We didn’t offer her advice or similar stories. We offered her quiet nods and murmured assent. We offered her a moment in time where she felt heard and seen and understood. We left her with something I hope made more than an impression. I hope it made a difference.

Good Girls say they’re fine

On Thursdays, author (and unfortunate recipient of my online stalking) Emily Freeman, hosts a book club on her blog. She writes more about her book Grace for the Good Girl and invites readers to join her in the discussion. Emily wrote Grace for the Good Girl for me. Somehow, she knew across the ocean, living in a little gray house, surrounded by children and a tissue-eating poodle, sits a woman with a good girl heart. Here on the blog, I write often of my struggle to break free from my good girl tendencies. Most of them look great on paper. They look like responsibility and kindness and rule following. People like good girls because we always do the right thing. We can’t imagine living life any other way. But, “doing the right thing” often holds hands with “for the wrong reason”. My motivation for making good choices comes from a place of fear, not a place of grace.

I read Grace for the Good Girl last year, and as I read, the door to my heart opened a crack. A sliver of light slipped through and illuminated the good girl stuff gathering dust on the inside. In chapter five, Emily writes about good girls hiding behind our smiles and our fake “fine”. I smiled, a real one, when I read this chapter because truth slipped in with the light and smacked me in the face a little. In the not-too-distant past, I answered “How are you?” with “Fine”. Always. The only people who heard anything other than fine were my husband and my closest girlfriend, and as a result, they heard it all. I made everyone else dig so deep, they stopped before they hit the truth.

This week Emily asks readers why we hide behind our fake “fine”–what motivates us to hide the truth behind smiles and platitudes? She suggests we operate this way out of fear or out of laziness. While I don’t struggle with this as much as I used to, it remains my default position when I feel insecure, tired, and overly emotional. My false fine rises out of the belief that you aren’t interested. You have better things to do than listen to me talk about my failure or anger or disappointment. I think I’m doing you a favor, but in reality I cheat us both. The more thought I gave to my false fine, the more I realized it essentially boils down to fear, just like Emily said. (She’s good, hence the stalking.) I fear disappointing you with the truth. I fear boring you. I fear you will misunderstand.

It’s good to call these things out. They love to hide in the dust and shadows, and as we call them out for what they truly are, we take a step closer to grace. Maybe you have bad girl tendencies. Maybe you’re a good girl like me. Or maybe you find yourself somewhere in between. Regardless of where you find yourself, I hope you’ll read Emily’s book and come out of hiding. Why not hop over there now and see what other women have to say about hiding behind “Fine”.