Embracing Possibility

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This time of year, when everything turns to gold and purple and grey, my mind turns to Harry Potter. The books were made for the frosted crunch of Autumn, for cold nights and roaring fires, for pumpkins and odd creatures, magic and mystery. I re-read the books every so often, and each time I enter into the world of Hogwarts, I remember what drew me in the first time.

The story captures imagination and possibility.

As a child, I spent most of my time in church or at my conservative Christian school, where much of what we consider childhood classics were dismissed. I missed out on many of the essential stories that explore myth and mystery. I never read fairytales or watched Disney movies or learned about the Greek or Roman gods. Both Cinderella and Antigone were a complete mystery to me. Add Halloween and Santa Claus and card tricks to the list of forbidden delights.

My childhood was rooted in reality. Pure and simple. My imagination was fueled by the everyday stories of family life, of school troubles, and babysitting woes. Secrets were something you wrote in a locked diary and kept from your brother. They didn’t possess gardens or hide behind an enchanted door. Mystery was not the magnetic pull of a single, precious ring, but rather  finding your favorite socks living in someone else’s dresser drawer.

And magic, well, magic was inconceivable. Unimaginable. Impossible.

I felt at home in the physical world–the thump of feet against hardwood floors, the smooth, cool surface of marble, the salt-tinged taste of tears on cheeks–but I knew there was more. I knew it because I heard rumors in the school yard. Unexplored books beckoned from the local library shelves, and when I spent time in the natural world, I felt the mystery pulsing beneath.

I knew there was more, but I didn’t know how to find the hidden door and enter. I have a friend who likes to say she lives in possibility, and I envy her for it. Her imagination and creativity for confronting every perceived barrier in the real world, reminds me that the magic of possibility we discover in stories as a child also exists in our own hearts. The secret chambers of our inner selves, the hidden spaces, echo with opportunity.

Anything can happen.

I can feel at home in both the physical world and in possibility.

This time of year when everything turns to gold and purple and grey, my mind turns to magic. To stories of the impossible, to creative minds spinning opportunity, to the hero’s journey, to a window into the world beyond my everyday.

Healing exists on this side of possibility. Good triumphs over evil. Mystery exists. Redemption is a song we sing. Time bends and stories come true. Hope is birthed.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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A ring of keys swung from her hip, and I could hear her clinking down the hall long before she came into view. Her name was Ida, and she was the geriatric security guard employed by my high school to police the front doors. We held opposing goals; mine was to avoid her and all other adults while slipping in through the triple set of front doors of the red brick school building.

Her goal was to catch me…

To read the rest of the post, join me at More to Be.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Shannan Martin’s fantastic new book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted.  Leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page for a chance to win. I’ll choose the lucky winner on Wednesday, October 5th.

When You Wish You Started Sooner

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One after the other, when asked what they would do differently for the next assignment, each student said, “I’d get started sooner and stop procrastinating.”  I listened from a seat in the corner of the classroom, and their lament struck a chord with me. They were all of eighteen years old, and even with our age gap, like me, they wrestled with a fear of mismanagement. Their fear manifested in sweaty palms the night before class, and questionable essays constructed between pizza slices and texting. My fear manifested in sleepless nights and rambling journal entries wondering if I’d mismanaged the past two decades of my adult life.

I used to imagine what my life would look like if I’d started “living” it sooner. If I’d moved away from home sooner, embraced my writing sooner, known and understood my own soul–sooner. The list trails behind me like a thick cloak–one I’ve worn for far too long. The problem with this fictional reality is that it appears like an underdeveloped photograph. Only part of the picture is revealed, while the rest remains blurry. I can’t see how an impossible future would take shape because every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every confident step towards an imagined path, requires that I step away from the reality of another.

In my twenties, I was living my life as authentically as I knew how. There is no need for shame or regret or a cloak of if-onlys dragging behind me on the wandering path it took me to arrive in my forties. What I once saw as a putting-off or procrastination, was simply growing up. Embracing new experiences, making every-size decisions, falling, failing, losing my way, trying again.

There is always an alternate path shimmering like a mirage in our imagined future. But it is the path of reality, the one worn with our footprints, crowded with the faces we love, lined with the rooted growth of the seeds sown year after year that appears in sharp focus. Our mistakes may litter the path, but our triumphs and great loves and moments of illumination do too.

If you find yourself wishing you’d started something sooner–family life, pursuit of your vocation, self-care, loving others well, faith-building–it’s never too late to start. Looking back and wishing for the imagined past, will not improve your present or give you a fresh and prophetic vision for your future. Cast off the cloak of if-onlys. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. It’s the road ahead with its infinite possibilities that matters.

When Life Turns Out Differently Than You Planned

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Twelve years ago, I stood on the precipice of a decision that would shape the future of my family. Staring into the chasm between what I desired and what God desired for me, I wondered which ledge would hold my weight, or if I’d find myself lost, falling in the echo chamber in the center. Our family had made a home for ourselves in London for almost four years, and the tendrils of roots had begun to take hold. We had extended my husband’s work contract twice–this time, we needed to decide whether to stay long-term or go back home.

Together, we had birthed a life of deep friendships, rich culture, and journeys across the English Channel to enjoy Paris for the weekend. Tucked away in my wallet, I carried my hard-earned UK driver’s license and our National Health cards. We grew in new ways too, our family of three grew to four as I labored in the upstairs bedroom of the house on Second Avenue, giving birth to our son. We filed my son’s British birth certificate under “Important documents”, and from the filing cabinet on the third floor it pulsed like beating heart, reminding me that we had birthed a life here.

We’d labored long and hard, shaking with the pain of  tender skin stretched taut, watching our family breathe the oxygen of adventure for the first time.

I wanted to stay. I envisioned a future rooted in sprawling London under low grey skies heavy with rain. But, it became increasingly clear that our future lay on the other side of the chasm, across the Atlantic Ocean. I refused to loosen my grip, but the ground beneath me crumbled and fell away. I felt myself falling and falling and falling. I didn’t know if I’d ever reach the other side.

I stand on the other side now, after many tears and accusations and flashes of anger, and I know we ultimately made the right decision for our family. After the fall, we are planted on the other side of the chasm. Rooted. Thriving.

I continue to dream big dreams for my future, but at times I still fear the tearing away of the ground where I stand. I fear the wide gap between my own desires and the unknown plans God has for me. I fear the crumbling of solid ground, the loss of my footing, the falling.

Over the last few months, I’ve scrambled to safety as I’ve watched some of my desires crushed beneath my own weight. The future I envisioned in minute detail has grown more and more fuzzy, and across the way, I see other opportunities beginning to take root and grow. I didn’t dream them into existence, but there they are, pushing up out of the ground, an unexpected unfurling.

The ground holding my sacred circle of dreams no longer holds up beneath me. I’ve wondered whether or not it’s time to release them entirely, but I’m not ready yet, even as new things unfold across the way. I’ve decided to carry them with me, tucked under my ribcage, beating like a record of a new birth, beating like a heart.

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What unexpected or new thing is being birthed in your life? How do you reconcile it with your vision for the future? Where do they intersect?

Perseverance Is The New Sexy

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My husband and I sat huddled around the computer with our houseguest, watching the video of his interview with a South American beauty queen. She asked him about his recent book release, and after she asked in Spanish and he answered in English, my husband said, “I didn’t know you speak Spanish.” “I don’t!” he replied. “We talked about it in advance and faked it for the cameras.”

“Watch this part,” he said, when the beauty queen switched to impeccable English. “She gets personal, and there’s a bit of a frisson between us.” We smiled as we watched this otherworldly beauty, with a talent for languages and for hiking up her bosom with an industrial strength push-up bra, ask our friend, who was slightly hungover and wearing a toothpaste stained t-shirt, how he enjoyed his time in her country. They bantered a bit, and he used his British accent to great effect, and she laughed, and we, on the other side of the screen, laughed with her.

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This month, my husband and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. I’ve been married for nearly half of my life, waking up to the same man on the other side of the bed for as long as I can remember. The early days of nervous laughter and sweaty palms and  sensations of excitement, frissons if you will, have matured into something deeper, something solid, something daily.

This is the strength of a long marriage–discovering passion is built upon the cornerstones of like-minded purpose, and encouraging your spouse to become who they’re meant to be. Over the years you find a “frisson” looks less like a camera-worthy flirtation, and more like your spouse unexpectedly washing the dirty dishes. Strength isn’t built on a rush of sudden emotion, but on choosing each other day after day after day.

Those of us who’ve made Ebenezers of these milestones in marriage, know this is what it takes. It’s not what the world considers sexy–there are no reality shows called “Housewives of Suburbia: Committed to Making It Work.” Reality roots itself not in the show, but in the quotidian rhythms of life.

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I know this about marriage, and I know this about mothering, but I am still learning this about the pursuit of art and higher education. I want it to feel a little sexy. I want the frisson of the blank page, of sitting down to write and discovering I have strung words together like stars across a midnight blue sky. I want it to feel like magic exists in the craft and in the pursuit. I want the fizz of fireworks when I create, and that flash-pop rarely exists. Pursuing our dreams often roots itself in the quotidian rhythms of life, just as it does in marriage.

I wish I had known it meant choosing my art daily, even when I don’t want to look it full in the face because we’re barely speaking. Or repeating the same tasks over and over to build up the muscle memory of love for my work. I wish I had learned sooner that the strength of creating a large body of quality work is built on the foundation of small, daily decisions not built on my feelings.

I know I am not alone in this pursuit. You have a family, a career, a goal, a dream. And you wake up to the reality of how much hard work it requires everyday. You wake up to look it full in the face, and you wonder if the choices you make today create a difference in tomorrow’s story.

Growth comes when we place one foot in front of the other, string one star across the sky, and live by the daily rhythms rather than fight them. A glance back at how far you’ve traveled from your starting point becomes the source of true pleasure. Forget the flirtations. Perseverance is the new sexy.