Watermark Words

a life in transition

Category: Life Stories

Life: a team sport

Jan 19, 2016

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Looking back over the past season, year really, I realize that it’s been a time of asking many questions and, over time, finding answers that have lead to a new level of maturity. The passage of time is the important factor. Sometimes God answers prayers directly; sometimes he delivers the answers naturally, through the course of life. At the time of asking the questions I saw no answers anywhere in sight. My sight was limited to the present moment. As I look back I can see that the answers to my questions were in the process of coming and have now arrived, almost unnoticed except through review. My heart was crying out to God in desperation from deep confusion. But I was asking and seeking and so, as promised, I have received and found.

In the spring I was searching for a life where you open the wardrobe and it leads to Narnia, where that ring you inherit leads you there and back again and where there’s something interesting and exciting and unknown around every corner—True Life Abundant! I thought that the answer was in living an unpredictable life. I thought that the expected settling down into a rhythm of responsibility would completely undermine my purpose. I was, as I rightly diagnosed at the time, experiencing the growing pains of maturity, the transition from unfettered childhood to rather fettered adulthood. What I didn’t realize was that accepting responsibility is finding purpose, taking on that challenge is an exciting adventure and meeting the requirements of it is fulfilling.

I was also exerting a last thrust towards independence. Getting married means a relinquishing of independence in favour of oneness—something easier said than done when one is surrounded by a culture that worships the individual. I think our move to and from Huntsville has finally killed the last bits of me that were clinging to independence within marriage… or at least killed a significant batch of bits…

One reason for this is that I chose Huntsville for Sean over my own dreams. I thought he needed Huntsville, turns out he didn’t, but the act of giving that to him cleansed me in a way. Sure, there were selfish desires involved, I wasn’t in a place where I could do something entirely selflessly, but the main current driving that decision was love for Sean and hope for his best. I really thought I was doing something that would be good for him in ways that even he didn’t fully understand. That heart posture is so healing and freeing. Having done that I finally feel ready to play life as a team sport. When we were first married it was such a news flash to me that I had to run my plans by him! I’d always just done whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. Coordinating my schedule with Sean’s is something I’m actually ok with doing now, for the first time in our relationship.

The interesting thing is that in surrendering my independence I now have more freedom instead of less. It’s the age-old gospel truth that, though paradoxical, being a slave of Christ is where we find true freedom. If I’m playing a sport I have to play according to the rules in order to win the game. I was created to worship God and so the only way that I can be true to my calling and myself is by surrendering my will to God and obeying his rules for life. It’s the same in marriage—I have chosen to be married which means that my life is no longer my own. It’s our life now and only when I play according to those rules can I win at the game.

So here’s to winning at life!

Who am I and What do I Want?

Holding the onto the ideal to follow your heart is well and good as long as you are in touch with your “heart”. But how easy is it to know your heart? I suppose a child is nothing but heart and so, for me, childhood desires gain vintage, like wine, and become more valuable for it. But as an adult how does one go about sifting through the many preconceptions and outside influences that one gathers from the course of life? Does “I want to be a dancer” translate “I want to be cool and popular” or is it something innate, something true to who I am at the deepest level?

For example, I have loved gazing up into the canopies of leafy trees ever since I was a baby, since before anyone could influence me one way or the other. Therefor, this leafy tree love must be true to who I am at the deepest level.

I have loved swimming ever since I learned how, have always loved the feeling of silky water flowing past my weightlessly free body.

When I was 14 I fell in love with dance. So I have always given this love the benefit of childhood vintage. However, a 14 year old is much more easily influenced by her peers than, say, a 5 year old. Of course… I also loved dancing when I was 5…

When I was 21 I told my friend that I dreamt of living in a small town on a lake one day – swimming in the summer, skating in the winter, beautiful leafy trees all around, slow intentional living and the close knit community that comes with less people.

Can I trust these desires developed later in my youth? And at what point does one stop referring to what 8 year old Heather wanted and start discovering what 28 year old Heather wants now, in the present. Are these 2 versions on myself different? Can they be? If so, how different?

If you think about it the small town desire combines a number of 5year old Heather likes: leafy trees, swimming, friends. So in this case 5 and 21 year old Heather are similar.

I feel as though I am constantly sending myself back to the drawing board of youth. I want the freedom to explore adulthood – and not just in the sense of, “ok Heather, now lets come up with some mature, adult desires like getting a job and owning a house.” I feel like I’m crossing the line between childhood and adulthood and I wonder if adult Heather is different from child Heather. At some point I think one must mature past the peer pressured daze of youth and, having learned from life experiences, settle into a new definition of self. However, zesty, passionate, 20 year old Heather was very sure she knew everything there was to know about how one’s life should be lived and if she met me now I worry that she would be dissappointed in me…

I am discovering a contemplative side of myself. Someone quiet and thoughtful and not altogether different from my childhood self, but remarkably so. Have I turned over this new leaf as a cover to hide myself from the pain of rejection or as a result of years of forced solitude (being an only child)? Or is it that as I mature and mellow out and am less often surrounded by the expectation to ‘party all the time,’ I am finally able to appreciate this quality? If I was truely a high energy extrovert would I be able to competely enjoy 3 weeks alone in the woods with only my wonderful husband as companion, absolutely no thought or need for further company and when it was over wish to just turn right around and go out for another 3 months? I don’t think so. However, I was raised with an absolute contempt for the concept of “needing other people” (having been raised in the church ‘all I need is Jesus’, combine that with only child independence and voila!) so perhaps my extravert tendencies have been conditioned out of me?

So you see the cycles I get myself into.

Who am I? Really, truely. Now. How much of an influence can life have on you before you become just another sheep in the herd? How do I sort out who I am in spite (or because?) of my environment.

Becoming One

A young woman, crazy about life, climbs into a car with a young man. She is unsure about launching this adventure but his hiking stories, relayed hurriedly and exaggerated over the phone that evening, have calmed her fears. Experiencing the big wide world. Fresh air and swimming and trees. A man to guide her adventures. Could it be that this first thread that stitched them together was a prophesy of their future? Aspiring dancer and soon to be police officer. Who would have ever thought. How would God cause this story to meld with His heartbeat? Many years, many disagreements, angry words, tears. But I want my way! …Lord, may your will be done. And it was evening and it was morning, the first day.

Before we left for Temagami everything was tumultuous. Where what when how… why? Life. Future. Hopes and dreams. Reality. Confusion. When we came home life came crashing back in. But it crashed on by and when the culture shock subsided the peace remained. The assurance than no matter how far you fall and lost you get, how many wrong turns you take, God is there. God is there and he cares and his promises about working for good and a hope and a future and being love are real and they stand and fight for you. ‘Do not worry about anything.’ ‘Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.’ ‘Jesus commands my destiny.’ These are not just words, they are true life abundant.

All those questions seem to have subsided in the peace that comes from knowing His voice and caring for nothing else. Jesus commands my destiny. Not me. I do not get to make those decisions anymore. I have surrendered. And now I’ve remembered that surrender. And now I feel safe. My future is in your hands Lord. Perhaps it looks nothing like what I have ever thought that it might, and I am totally ok with that because I trust you, I really do now.

The young couple are planning their future. Careers, a home, children. But God. He has woven these two together and, in doing so, changed them both forever. What was two is now one with one purpose, one future. That future looks different than it did when the one were two. She has reconciled herself to this and it is a joyful, hope infused light at the end of the long dark tunnel of becoming. She went on that first date because of his adventure stories and now that adventure is becoming their life. And that is perfectly alright. In fact, that is what she has always, secretly, hoped for.

Adventure Stories

Foggy Future

I’ve considered starting a blog for awhile now. Now I have one and am posting this to it but when I wrote this I was still writing on the subway on my phone. I’ve thought of different names for it and I’m still not sure which one I’ll choose. One name I’m considering is “Adventure Stories” – though that website is probably already taken by some crazy mountaineer or something.

I’ve always wanted my life to be an adventure. The idea of working the same 9-5 job for 40 years makes me sick to my stomach. I want safety and predictability like you do… just not too much of it. I remember one summer I read Lord of the Rings while lying in the sun on a dock beside the clear water of Blue Lake, BC. I wanted that journey, that adventure, I wanted to have a goal that required me to risk and try new things, go new places, experience danger and escape by the skin of my teeth. Those stories are so fun and exciting! A key component of adventure is fear, the unknown, things not working out according to plan…

Cut to Star Lake, BC. I was still on this Lord of the Rings adventure kick–running top speed through the woods barefoot like an elf (though somehow not as quietly) and running off the dock to “practice” walking on water like Jesus. One day I swam out to the island in the middle of the lake. It was not so far but it was farther than most people care to swim in deep water (my family and I are big on swimming). I got to the island, barefoot and in my bathing suit. This was always my problem with these adventures – I’d swim across the lake to some cool new spot and then I wouldn’t be able to explore it properly because I was soaking wet, barefoot and blind (this was before my days of swimming with contacts – life changer!) I got out of the water anyways, started clambering up the rocky shore, slipped and sliced my foot open. The cut ran along the side of my foot, parallel to the ground so that there was a flap of skin covering it’s length. It bled. Alot. I was in the middle of the lake and what was exciting and adventure inducing about this lake was that there was no one else around. What to do… but have an adventure! I was so excited!

I started swimming back. Of course it was a much longer swim home than it had been out. And every time I kicked my legs the flap of skin fluttered in the water and really hurt! Even better. I took my time, swimming mostly with my arms and using a bit of a whip kick which created less fluttering. I probably cut some of the adventure factor out because I was so excited about having one. When I got back to the cabin my mom just looked at me like I was crazy and patched up my foot. Not quite the triumphant story telling moment I had been hoping for. (Because of course, part of the fun of adventures is having a story to tell).

This was the first time that I put two and two together. If everything goes smoothly and according to plan you have a regular life, not an adventure. If Frodo had just been given the ring, walked up to mount doom and dropped the ring in the mountain no one would read that story. He might write a blog about his walk in the woods, but no one would care. It wouldn’t become a classic novel that children and adults alike will read for generations to come, with a multi billion dollar trilogy of movies.

When did I become so afraid? I have many stories of relishing danger throughout my youth. Dangers like the rush of adrenalin when you think you’re lost but still have the peace that comes from bravery and the knowledge that if you keep your head, everything will be ok.

Now here I am, terrified that if I choose the wrong career I will ruin my life forever. Mostly because I can’t reconcile adult responsibility with my childhood dreams. However, despite my intense, crippling fear, I have this sense that I’m in the middle of an adventure. I can’t see the home shore right now and I’m not sure what the triumphant story is going to be yet, but I have a feeling that there will be one. And I want you to be able to read it when there is.

Or so it seems…

“I want to be a fairy princess that has wings and flies around!” This is my husband’s joking rendition of what I want for my life. He’s not that far off.

So, I’ve decided to start a blog. I’m writing this on my iPhone on the subway during rush hour. That seems to be the time I feel most inspired. There could be many reasons for this.

Perhaps the most relevant reason is that being on the subway at rush hour is the experience which most highlights my dissatisfaction with my current life situation, and that, I think, is mostly why I want to write a blog. I am confused and dissatisfied and I am looking for wisdom. Also, even though this is a particularly negative post, I have hope. I have hope that things will turn out well in the end and that my life is a story whose process will be worth reading. I would like to write that story, as it happens, for myself to look back on.

Why a blog and not a journal? Because a blog adds the pressure of potential readers which creates just enough motivation for me to actually process what I’m thinking rather than keep my swirling feelings unarticulated.

I feel like I’ve been duped, misdirected, lead astray. I’ve lived my life up until this point according to a certain set of ideals and I feel like life is teaching me that these ideals are wrong. I really hope this is not the case.

“You can do anything you want with your life.” “Every year older you grow the wiser you will become.” “You can change the bad bits about yourself and become a better person.” “The purpose of life is to live an exciting adventure.” “Working a 9-5 regular job that you sort of like but mostly do to make money is selling yourself short of the life you were meant to live.” “Oh that poor lady, she had to be a school teacher for her whole life when what she really wanted was to be a writer. She should have quit her teaching job to follow her heart and pursue her dreams.”

The American dream: you can be, do, have, anything you want as long as you work hard enough for it.

Well… for whatever reason I don’t do or have and am not some of the things I really want and I’m at the point in my life where I feel that I have to decide whether to give up and change what I want … Or keep banging my head against that door and hope that one day it opens. Which is what I’ve done until now and which is fine… But I don’t want to bang my head against the same door for my whole life and then look back at my life and realize it was the wrong door the whole time. I’d rather realize that now so that I can choose a new direction now and be some definition of successful, sometime in my life.

But I really really want that life I’ve been working so hard for, have always wanted it. And if I give up now I might just regret it for the rest of my life.

Or do I really want it that bad? and is what I want even good or… is it even a real thing? Enter that fairy princess.

Two things I think I have learned: One, decisions really are a big deal. If you make the wrong one you can waste or ruin years of your life. Two, every decision you make looks like a better choice from far away than it does up close. Up close things get real and dreams are always so much prettier than reality. The photoshopped picture, the airbrushed model, the job of a pro athlete looks so fun on the field. Living in a small town, living in a big city, having kids, not having kids, in reality even the thing you think is the most fun in the world comes with it’s shitty bits. Hard work, people you don’t like, compromised values… Or that’s what I’ve learned. I used to think that dreams could become reality…

How much perfection should I require of my life? I will not settle for a life that leaves me feeling negative, trapped, unfulfilled, unsuccessful, unhappy. Yes, I hear you, those things are all a mindset which you can have in either a perfect or imperfect life. But… Ok here it is: there are some choices I can make which would make it much more difficult to be happy. Not impossible, never impossible, but difficult. I’m in a season in my life where I need to make many huge choices: career, family (is there a vs between those two words?), location.

I have to choose and build the framework of my life. The foundation is Jesus so the house has a good starting point but given how I choose to build the walls it could still very easily collapse further down the road… How can you be sure your house will never collapse? I guess you can’t. Shit happens.

Shit.

Actually that’s kind of encouraging. I can never be sure that my house will never collapse. All I can do is build what I know to build now and make repairs as necessary. Hmmmm, repairs… That’s a hopeful thought. If something breaks, God and I can fix it together.

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