On Being Brave

obstacle

The photo above popped up on a friend’s Facebook feed earlier this week and the words have been stuck in my head ever since.

I haven’t been writing much lately.  

I blame work.  I want to write – I love to write! – but it’s so much easier to push the job I love (that earns me pennies) to the side to concentrate on the job that earns me a living.

I blame my to-do list.  I can’t stand a messy house so instead of using Topher’s hour of Quiet Time to write, I spend it cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing the floor, or purging the hall closet.

Sometimes I even blame the kids.  On the rare occasion that I actually have an evening off, I’m too tired.  Our days are full and my brain is completely fried by the time I’ve tucked them in for the sixteenth time.  I don’t want to think about anything at that point so I crash on the couch in front of the TV.

I do have to work, I do have to keep my house somewhat tidy, and I love spending time with my kids –

So I can’t blame those things.

The truth of the matter is that I am my own biggest obstacle.

I’m afraid to write.  

I’m afraid to be vulnerable.

I’m afraid to put myself out there.

I’m afraid of criticism and rejection.

I’m afraid of failure …

And I’m afraid of change. 

I’m at the point where I need to get over myself and just jump in.

I need to be braver.

Stronger.

Tougher.

Make sure that the obstacle in your way isn’t you.

10 Year Albertaversary

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer.  “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross country move for more than a decade.   I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses.  The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next – even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed.  They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven.  A month before I had flown across the country to tour the school and perform a riding test.  I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done.  “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

“I’m going to go anyway!” I finally said, surprising even myself with the boldness of the statement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously.” I reached out to stop the spinning chair.  “I mean, it’s now or never, right?”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do …” I could tell he wasn’t sure.  I don’t have a history of courage, by any means, and the thought of me, moving across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody, had no place to live, and had no job lined up must have seemed a little bit silly.  But I was sure.

Three months later he dropped me off at the airport with a crushing hug and a promise to keep in touch, and  I stepped onto a plane with two suitcases crammed full of my worldly possessions.

* * * *

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past ten years, it’s that courage produces more courage.  On that day, in that moment – I was terrified.  I had no idea if I was doing the right thing.  I had no guarantees, no real plan for the future – but I did it anyway.

And when I look at my  life now – an entire decade later – I can’t help but think that I became the woman I did because I took that first brave step.

Because for me, it was more than a cross country move:

It was a conscious decision to cut ties with the past,

And it was me choosing to chase my dreams even though it clearly wasn’t going to be easy.

* * * *

Spoiler alert:  I’m not an Olympic equestrian.  I’m not much of an equestrian at all, at this point in my life.

But it all worked out.  It always does, doesn’t it?

I’m not where I thought I would be, ten years ago,  I’m somewhere better.

* * * *

So here’s to the big decisions.

Here’s to the frightening moments.

Here’s to the times where you trust yourself, and you trust God – and you do it anyway.

Being the Church

Topher has been at day camp at our church this week.

Last week I was envisioning all the free time I was going to have in the mornings while Ellie napped.  I was going to catch up on chores!  Deep clean my house!  Make a work schedule!  Submit queries for freelancing!  Organize the linen closet!  Nap!

None of those things have happened.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time deep in thought.  The sink is full of dishes, the floor is covered in crumbs, and the doors on the linen closet still won’t close – but I’ve figured something out.

All week I’ve been struggling with the fact that the place I should feel the most at home is the place where I feel the most self-conscious:

Church.

This is how a typical morning goes:

Topher picks out his own clothes so he’s probably wearing wearing his swim shorts and an oversized “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt he got from the local radio station when we donated a turkey last Thanksgiving. I’m wearing my usual summer wardrobe of shorts (that I’ve probably owned for at least six years) and a tank top from Old Navy.  My hair is in a ponytail, I’m not wearing make-up unless you count chapstick, and Ellie is still in her wrinkled pyjamas.

Our mornings are so rushed that I don’t think anything of it.  We have to wake up an hour earlier than usual to drive Nathan to work so we can have the car (our church is too far to away to walk to) and we barely have half an hour at home before it’s time to take Topher.  I’m feeling good – we’re going to be on time! – but then I see the other moms in their skinny jeans, flowing shirts, and Pinterest updos, with their kids in brand name clothing that actually fits properly and matches.  Topher never matches.

And I feel disgusting.  Frumpy.  Less of a mother.  

Pathetic, isn’t it?

The church we attend is fairly large and fairly wealthy.  I never really noticed it when we were part of the young adults/college and career group because we were all struggling to make ends meet, but now it’s glaringly obvious.  When I went back to work after Topher was born I felt like I was the only working mother in the history of our church.  I would have loved to stay home but with student loan and car payments and a mortgage, it just wasn’t possible – but all of the women’s events and Bible studies were during the day.  Now that I am home during the day, every now and then I get invited to join in but I always say no, because they cost at least $80 to join (for “materials), plus $60 (minimum) for childcare – and I can buy the same Beth Moore book on Amazon and do the Bible study at home.   I don’t go to the Pop-In group on Wednesdays because we only have one car and it’s too much of a pain to drive Nathan to work for something Topher isn’t going to enjoy anyway.  And don’t get me started on preschool!

Earlier this week I was feeling frustrated that we don’t have more.  We don’t have a house in the Hamptons – we live in a tiny, two-bedroom condo in a less than stellar neighbourhood.  We only have one car.  I stay home with the kids during the day but work from the time Nathan gets home into the wee hours of the night, either typing medical reports or writing about exciting things like equine dentition and rain rot, just to make ends meet.  We shop the sales at Old Navy and buy used toys and clothing from Once Upon a Child.

But we have enough.

No, we have more than enough.

Sometimes I get so caught up in comparing myself to other people and the lives I think they lead that I forget that.  

I get upset with The Church when I really am is frustrated with not actually being The Church.     

So tomorrow is going to be different.  I’m still going to wear my six-year-old shorts and a tank top, and Topher will probably beg to wear his “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt again because it’s his favourite, and I can guarantee that Ellie will still be in her wrinkled pyjamas.  But instead of feeling disgusting and frumpy, I’m going to take a step outside of myself.  Rather than judging others and deciding that they’re judging me, I’m going to talk to the other moms.  Instead of grabbing Topher and making a mad dash for the door, I’m going to thank Topher’s teachers for the great job they’ve done this week with their ten tiny campers.  I’m going to connect with the new mom who posted on the Pop-In Facebook page.

As terrifying as it is, and as inadequate as I feel, I’m going to reach out.

I’m going to be The Church.

Just Get In

Topher started his second set of swimming lessons on the weekend.    He loves swimming!  He met his teacher and the other kids in his class, and they all lined up to get into the pool.  He was so excited!

But then he froze. And nothing anyone said or did could get him to step into the water. He spent almost the entire lesson sitting on the top step with his feet in the water, watching the other kids in his class.

It was frustrating.   I know his teacher is a good guy,  I know Topher loves to swim, and I know he would have a great time if he would JUST GET IN. 

But he sat there and stubbornly shook his head.  No.  I’m not doing it.  Just NO.

He was afraid and that was that.

And I’ve been thinking – aren’t we all like that sometimes?

I know I am.

Sometimes I feel God leading me in a certain direction and I dig in my heels.  No.  I’m not doing it.  Just NO.   

I feel my reasons are completely valid:  I’m a mom!  I have to take care of the kids!  I can’t disrupt their schedules! 

I’ll do it, God … next time You ask.  

But my reasons are nothing more than excuses.

The truth is, I’m afraid.

I know my Teacher is a good guy, I know He loves me, and I know He will take care of me – so what’s the issue?

JUST GET IN, HOL.