For the Ones Who Make Us Smile as the Plane Goes Down

To this day, I’m not sure how close that plane was to crashing. Suffice to say, I certainly believed we weren’t going to make it … but an unsung hero helped me to stay calm.

I’m no stranger to flying; in the past 6 weeks alone, I’ve boarded 11 flights for speaking engagements. Ordinary turbulence is no big deal. Yet I’ve never experienced anything like what happened on that flight.

I was 15, flying home from Italy with my parents, brother, and best friends. We’d traveled abroad for a church gathering, and after a week of eating gelato and saying Ciao, bella, we were (somewhat reluctantly) heading back to the States.

Everything was normal until it wasn’t. The plane just … dropped. It felt how I imagined the Tower of Terror would feel if I’d had the nerve to go on it.

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Fill Somebody’s Cup: An Unconventional Birthday Wish

Home renovation projects: they can wear on you.

Viva la tiny bathroom!

You stumble over construction supplies, and everything is forever out of place. The cat dips her paws in the polyurethane your husband’s using to top-coat your wood floors. (And then she proceeds to lick it off.)

Everything takes so much longer than it’s ‘supposed’ to take.

Need a glass of water? Too bad. You can’t have it right now. Your entire kitchen, including the sink, has been blocked off for a week. The water pitcher doesn’t fit in the bathroom sink, so you take it to the tub.

In the process, you skillfully avoid the other dishes in your tiny bathroom. (You also try to avoid thinking about how you really should clean this bathroom.)

You fill the pitcher, and wait. But naturally, you do something else while it’s filtering. You get immersed in your task, forget you were thirsty, and then wonder why, an hour later, your throat is parched.

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Photo courtesy of charity:water.

The terrible thing about the whole renovation process is that it’s disruptive. And the silver lining is the same.

Going through an elaborate process to get water isn’t what I would choose. But I don’t take clean water for granted as much as I did before. Now, I appreciate every filled glass.

It’s a (little) bit like going to a developing country, where people draw water from wells, walk long distances, and carry it home.

A place where the process of getting clean water is time-consuming, arduous, and absolutely essential.

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Make a wish …

Tomorrow is my birthday – I’ll be 28. I always get reflective this time of year. And the thing I’ve been thinking about? Water. (Great for reflectivity.)

It’s really easy to get comfortable when you have conveniences at your fingertips. But what happens when the little things you count on – like being able to have a glass of filtered water whenever you want one– are stripped away?

When I consider this, I’m just blown away by everything I already have, everything I already take for granted.

So, for my birthday, I’d like to ask you to consider giving to charity:water.

I’ll be making a donation, and I’d be honored if you’d join me.

charity:water is a non-profit, committed to bringing clean, safe drinking water to developing countries. Private donors cover all operating costs, so 100% of our donations go directly to water projects.

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If you’d rather not donate at this time, of course I understand. If so, consider doing an act of service instead. Go above and beyond for someone else, and be sure to share your story with us in the comments.

It’s the story of our lives: We are empty, we are filled, we are overflowing. Sometimes in the span of seconds.

And so often, it doesn’t take much … to fill a cup, to listen close, to hold out a hand.

That’s all. And that’s everything.

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PS – I was inspired by this post (and many others) from Glennon Melton of Momastery. And I first learned about charity:water from Courtney Carver‘s birthday campaign at Be More With Less.

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In the Silence That Follows: A Love Story

My dear friend Brooke recently wrote, “I want to listen to what I really want to be working on, what I really want to be writing, where I really want to be spending my energy … and then do that.” This resonated with me, because I’ve been having trouble listening lately. And when I am having difficulty listening, I am most in need of guidance.

Authentic listening is a lot more demanding than it sounds. It asks that you stop and be still. And in the terrifying silence that follows, it asks that you open your heart to what you hear.

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For what do we listen? For what is true, and for the next right thing.

Cherry Blossom Festival, 2009

Cherry Blossom Festival, 2009

You and I want to know the whole plan before we take the first action. But it doesn’t work that way. You act, you move forward, and then more is revealed. And once in awhile, you get a grace-filled moment of clarity. Every now and then, you sense how a certain choice will illumine your way for years to come.

Such was the case for me in June 2009. Days before I left my home life coordinator role at L’Arche*, I attended a quarterly retreat with the community. Silence is maintained on retreat, giving everyone a chance to listen.

In the months prior, I’d made big decisions on the basis of such listening: I applied to graduate school, but when I was accepted with a full scholarship, I decided not to go. I chose to transition from my L’Arche role, even though I cherished time in community. And in the midst of all this, I fell in love with Jonathan, a fellow direct-care assistant at L’Arche.

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Photo Credit: DayspringRetreat.org

Photo Credit: DayspringRetreat.org

That day on retreat in 2009, I took a solitary walk through the woods. The trail I took leads to a hilltop, from which point you look down on a lake in a valley. There’s just one main path down the hill, and in summer, you can see why – the grasses grow waist-high.

I remembered hiking to the same spot on a winter’s day, when the landscape was barren and desolate. That day, the path down to the lake had reminded me of a wedding aisle, and the thought was infinitely depressing. At the ripe old age of twenty-two, I despaired of knowing that kind of love.

What a change to be standing in the same place the day before my twenty-fourth birthday. The landscape was bursting with life, and so was I. The thought made me smile and cry at the same time. How my life — and heart — had changed.

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I stood atop the hill for a long time before turning back. As I walked, I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. I was appreciating the beauty of the woods around me … when suddenly, I stopped. Because I knew.

A certitude had arisen:  If Jonathan asks me to marry him, I will say yes.

It took my breath away. As a younger woman, I’d asked my mother, “How do you know that someone’s the ‘right’ person for you?” No answer satisfied me.

Finally, I understood why: it’s not something you can explain with words. It’s the kind of knowing that you listen for, that you feel, along with the sound of the wind in the trees and the touch of light on your face.

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Photo Credit: Kevin Fischer Photography

Photo Credit: Kevin J. Fischer Photography, 2012

I had no idea that Jonathan would ask me to marry him just days after that retreat. And now, four years later, his birthday approaches. Here I stand, ready to celebrate my husband, with more joy than I could have dreamed.

Whenever I am fearful about the future, I remember that day in the woods. I remember how all the steps of my life — even the ones I took without hope — led me to that moment of love and certainty. And I remember that a life I hadn’t dared to dream of is now a reality.

So if you’re feeling lost, keep listening. Keep doing the next right thing. Keep moving forward, however small the strides. After all …

The clarity you yearn for may be just a few steps ahead.

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5% of proceeds from the first month’s sales of my new Kindle* Single, I Was a Stranger to Beauty (ThinkPiece Publishing), go to support the vital work of L’Arche DC. The month is almost up (!) so be sure to get your copy today!

*If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry! You can read Kindle books with Amazon’s (free) Kindle Cloud Reader.

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AWCC Around the Web:

Upcoming speaking engagements – if you’re in the area(s), I’d love to see you there!

  • Florence Lauderdale Public Library, February 24, 2013, 2-3pm
  • Living Spirit Church, Florence, AL, March 3, 1:30pm
  • Faith Inclusion Network, “That All May Worship” Conference, Norfolk, VA, March 14-15

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