Thursday, March 26, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Break

Welcome to Five Minute Friday where I join Kate Motaung and the #FMFParty girls to write for five minutes. There's no editing, no polishing, and then we all link up together. I've been joining for Lent, and love the challenge.

And... go!

Traditionally a time of reflection, of self review, of solitude, Lent has become something so different for me over the last couple of years. Yes, plenty of reflection, and self review, but instead of the quiet and retreat like space, I have gathered with a whole group of lovely women to travel the road to Easter.

Kath and I take up a largely un-choreographed dance for forty days, each day posting a new reflection, each day taking a turn to chat with our group. While it is sometimes scheduled, many of the days there is a text "I can post this morning," or "I'll post later," or "Can you post today," and we do. We support each other. It is an act of community and beauty. I love this part of the dance.

By the end of the season, we have hit a time of mixed emotions in so many ways. I'm always torn on how to address The Crucifixion. We can not ignore the truth of what leads up to Christ's death, as grizzly and awkward and unnerving and upsetting as it is. It is part of the love story, this death. And the elation and glory of Easter can not be the same unless we have sat with the heartbreak and ultimate sadness of Christ's death. This is how life is. We descend to ascend.

And so as many people rush off to Spring Break and a time of renewal, for my little tribe, we still have one week before we get to that break. We have a road to travel, a story to bear witness to, and a heartbreaking love story to witness. And then, only then, we can rest.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I Want to Help Others Fly

A year and a half ago, I was working with a life coach, and was looking to leave advertising, and find a job that would give me better balance, that would shorten my 4 hour daily round trip commute. At the time, I was also trying to decide what I wanted to do next. I had an interview with a large financial industries company as part of this journey, and wrote the following post (which I haven't published until now).

Even at the time, I could feel that my reaction to this interview was different. It was a a solid realization that I truly wanted to move in to something new, in a role where I could support and uplift others.

I can't quite pinpoint what was so off putting about the interview. Maybe it was the one guy who asked how many hours I currently work a week, and when I answered between 55-60 he asked, “so you are comfortable with that kind of work load?” Or the beige cubicles with wine colored stripes. Or that I heard the term “fire hose” used repeatedly.

I found myself staring beyond one of the men interviewing me, past his ears, past a leggy plant, out the window. Where there was freedom. Big buildings needing to be explored. A vast view to take in. There was beauty beyond the walls.

When I was in first grade I had a similar experience. Math class made me feel claustrophobic. It never quite made sense. The rules were oppressive. So, instead of doing the math, I’d sit and stare out the window. There were stories out there. There was a world to explore. My life beckoned.

My teacher put me in a small walled-in cubicle. She didn’t want me to see out the window. Even with no view, I’d daydream. I didn’t want to do what she asked me to, she didn’t understand and she’d closed me in. So I would sit. I would think of stories in my head.

Next, the teacher gave me a kitchen timer, put it next to me and would tell me I had to get my work done before the time was up. The claustrophobia would rise, the anxiety would mount. I would get so upset that someone would cage me, time me, pace near me, decide what was best for me.

And there was something about that office, that team, those people, that gave the same feeling I'd known in first grade. Something about managing people through that environment that made me feel the roles were about to reverse. That I’d become the one that caged others, who defined their days, decided their priorities, that clipped their wings.

When really, all I want to do is to help others to fly.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Plan

For such a very long time, it was so important for me to have a plan. For moments to be scheduled, for me to understand what was going on. This is how project managers are ... and then, after much searching and wondering and thinking, I realized that I didn't really love planning any more.

I like being organized, but I don't revel in being the organizER.

And so, what to do? I was knee deep in commitments that meant I'd be heading towards getting a project management certificate and it felt ALL WRONG. I even had said on this blog that it was part of my big three year plan. But yet, with the rest of it, the life coaching, the planning to be on my own as an entrepreneur, getting a PM certification seemed - out of place.

That's because it totally was. I've been such a planner for 15 years and then about 5 years ago it seemed to have lost its luster. It no longer excited me.

And it's funny because what does excite me is people, and their stories, and how they fit into the big scheme of life. I like to know and understand people's hearts. I want to help them understand themselves. I feel that it's what I was put here to do.

Sure, there's planning involved to get there, and I'll have to have a plan to do a good deal of the work, but I'm ever so glad that I listened to my heart and am following what feels to be a truer calling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Wedding Dance, or Dancing in the Kitchen

Sean and I got married in October, and we chose to have our first dance in the kitchen of the small reception hall. That's right, the kitchen.

Sure, he's a chef, and that's cute and all, but there's a lot more to our kitchen dancing than his profession.

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

It started way back when we were living together in a one bedroom apartment. The kitchen was modern and huge and it was a great space to dance. Many nights we'd just stand there, swaying back and forth, usually without any music playing.

Just dancing in the kitchen.

We moved before Zoom was born, and again we had an ample amount of space in the kitchen. While I was pregnant, it was comforting to stand and dance, and the kitchen was our favorite space. Those months were filled with me picking out about a million "perfect first dance" songs, which I'd insist we play, and we'd dance.

Right there in the kitchen.

When we moved into our new home, again a smallish home with just 2 bedrooms, a reliably open and inviting dance space is in our kitchen.

Zoom will sometimes start a dance party there, and we will play loud music, jumping, dancing, laughing in our kitchen. And there are nights, after a long day, that we still just hug and sway, in the dim light of the kitchen.

So when we looked at our reception hall, there was a clear space for a dance floor. But when we thought about where that first dance should be, well, I asked if we could have it in the kitchen. Sean loved the idea. The caterer didn't mind (but had never had anyone ask that before).

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

For us, dancing in the kitchen embodies so much more than what at first glance might seem to be a quirky place for a first wedding dance. It is in its simplicity, it's everyday-ness that we have found it to be sacred. It's a dance that can be done any day, regardless of mood or circumstance. It can (and should be) done in any home, with or without music. In pajamas or wedding gowns, with chicken pox or after gardening. After a hard day, or to celebrate something, we dance in our kitchen. It's the heart of our home, it's a symbol of our togetherness, both as a couple, but also now as a family. It reminds us that we are close, no matter what, and we are loved, no matter what.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lent: The Dance of Trust

Perhaps you've seen this video of Swan Lake, performed by the Great Chinese State Circus.

As I watched for the first time last week, I was in awe of the trust of the lead ballerina. She had an immense amount of trust and faith in herself, in her male partner, in the dance itself. Simply put, I've never seen Swan Lake like this.

And I wondered, what could I do if I trusted in myself like she does?

And then at the very end, you see her balancing on her partner's head, after dancing gracefully on his arms, and he is a rock, a solid foundation. His strength and dignity are awe inspiring.

And I wondered, what could I do if I had a partner with such strength, such selflessness, such presence?

I see myself in both roles and wonder where can I be more brave, where can I push myself, where can I dance with great courage although the dance itself seems nearly impossible? And where can I be someone's strength, their base, their silent support?

God wants both for us, and to be both for us. In this dance, I saw so much of our Lenten journey. Of the daring courage it takes to face the wilderness, to be our own self out here, and in the silent strength we have in a God and Savior. To enter into this dance takes grace and total faith. It is a dance that can be danced again and again, a different stage, a different performer, a different orchestra. And it is a dance of beauty, of daring greatly, of living fully.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Gather

Each Lent, for the last three years, I've gathered with about fifty strong women to travel the journey to Easter together. It has been one of the most love filled and loving things I've done; opening up to these women, some that I know well (former room mates, my mom, my aunt, my cousin in law), some that I know only through another person, some "strangers" that are interested and join.

Each year, while the group is the same set of people, the topic has been different. We did "wilderness" the first year, the alphabet the next, and this year we focus on dance.

It is the gathering, though, that makes it special. I get a bit cheesey as we open the group each year, so excited to "see" these friends again, so excited that we get to share 40 days together. It is sacred, in so many ways. It is community, it is full  of like minded women who want to share with each other. This is what makes the gathering so special.

We are not bound by time or space, as we meet virtually, and in many ways, this buoys my heart as well. To be able to gather, virtually, is a gift. It brings me together with a friend I met at Yale, and it continues to give our relationship a strong foundation. I cherish that Kath and I get to gather together each year, and it feels so much like our time together as students. And, it brings together others who are all over the country and globe. I'm grateful for our Lenten Gathering and all that it means.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lent: The Dance of Trying New Things

On Saturday, Zoom (my son) and I headed up to San Damiano to help my best friend Tammy lead a two hour session with a group of about ten children. The unusual thing about this is that in it's fifty one year history, this was the first time that San Damiano had welcomed families with children as part of an overnight retreat. It's a retreat center place that started as a silent retreat center for men, and the walls are thin, most rooms have two twin beds. So this event was a trial to see how things would go, and we were all just pleased to be a part of it.

We started off the morning with a bean bag throwing game, to get everyone acquainted. It's an ice breaker I've done before with adults, and the kids loved it so much that they asked to do it again and again. And things got a little crazy, and one little boy started throwing wildly, and well, next thing we knew, there was a bean bag sitting up in one of the very solemn, very proper light fixture, with one of the glass panels knocked loose.

That made for a fine time for a bathroom break, so I escorted a couple of the boys and stood in the hall while Zoom (age 4) and Grant (age 7) used the restroom. This being the first time, ever, that I had not gone in to the restroom with my son, I was half nervous, half amused when another grown up went in, and totally relieved when there was no laughing coming from anyone in there.

Just then, Brother Mike, the administrator of San Damiano, came out of his office. He seemed confused to see me standing outside of the men's room, and so I explained what was going on.

"Brother Mike," I said, "I know this is the first time kids have been up here, and I have to inform you that we have already managed to launch a bean bag into one of the chandeliers. It's not broken. I take full responsibility."

 Brother Mike looked at me, kind of amused, and laughed. And then asked, "Did anyone get hurt? I can get it down tomorrow, after the retreat."

I reported everyone was just fine, and that's when Zoom and Grant came out of the restroom. Both were wide eyed, as they were face to face with a Franciscan Friar. Brother Mike was in his brown robe, and sandals and the boys seemed intimidated.

I introduced everyone, and Grant shyly announced that we'd thrown a bean bag into the light. Brother Mike said he knew and no one was in trouble.

And then, Brother Mike looked at Grant's shirt and said, "Cool Minion, dude."

Grant's eyes lit up and without missing a beat, he replied, "Bee doo, bee doo."

Brother Mike, Grant, and Zoom started laughing super hard.

Later we were out in the courtyard, which has a little stream and fish in it. The children loved the fish and the stream, and running along side it. Dorothy, who works at San Damiano, was walking past, and I waved at her. She came over, and I introduced Zoom.

"Look!" He said to her, "There are tiny fishes in there, and I think that one is my friend." She knelt down, and looked into the water with him. "Yes," she said, "I do believe he is your friend!"

And they laughed and looked at the fish, and other children came to talk to Dorothy and they all fell in together like they'd known each other all their lives.

As they laughed, and pointed at fish, I recognized that this the wonder of The Dance. The Friars, in saying yes to something they'd never done before, opened their doors to a new world. To new experiences, to a different kind of energy. And it was clear that each of them were warmed by the presence of these children. And the kids, they loved the new place, the storybook-like courtyard, getting to meet new people. They loved the attention of adults that regarded them as equals, and met them where they were, silently inviting them in to their community. In turn, children have that magical way of naturally inviting others in to their world, with their curiosity and joy, they make such quick friends. There was an absolute easy to these interactions, and it was a true treasure to watch as each person interacted, saying yes to the universe, to love, to friendships, to the joy of getting to know another person, another part of God's creation.