Airline bucket list

My starboard seatmate

After a full weekend of work that included many hard conversation-filled days and nights, I was ready for space to capture some thoughts on paper and get started on the pile of emails that needed to be sent.

I boarded a plane to return home, only to find that the plane was not working correctly. When flying you don’t want to hear, “the engine is not starting properly.” These words seemed like a good enough reason to choose to be re-routed through a southern state in order to go north.

As I squeezed into my last minute, middle-seat assignment and brought out my iPad to begin working, Jim, my starboard seatmate began a conversation. A conversation that would continue for the next hour and five minutes, with hardly a breath taken.

Jim has led a fascinating life. His bucket list is quite lengthy and holds things that I have honestly never imagined were even a possibility nor have I considered as worth pursuing.

  • “Feed the sled dogs at the start of the Iditarod race in Alaska,” – Fascinating.
  • “Cave diving in Iceland to see the crack in the platonic plates of the earth,” – Sounds cold and I am not sure I wanted to know that were cracks.
  • “Walked the trail that Christopher Columbus took from Italy to ______,” – Quite honestly I can’t remember the other city, but it sounded impressive.

As I glanced at my still open iPad, I realized my ambitious flight plans for working were slowly ebbing away and I had a choice:

  1. Listen (no, he never once asked me a question) or,
  2. Shut him down (my razor precision for doing this was definitely  an option).

I looked into his brown eyes and began to ask questions. What made him choose this trip? How did he manage to find a guide to take him into the caves?

Comparing my life to his

As he talked, my life adventures seemed small in comparison, and I realized I was beginning to compare my  life to his. A sense of measuring began to form in my brain of what “adventure” really is.

  • Do I lead a boring life?
  • Do I not dream big enough?

“I bought a bike in Columbia to ride the trails of (sorry I don’t remember this famous place), and I almost died. I wonder if my wife would have missed me.”

Suddenly I was snapped out of my trailing mind and asked, “who do you enjoy doing these adventures with?”

“No one,” came his response, “it’s my bucket list.”

After I left Jim and was sitting on my next flight I realized something. We all have our own bucket list (verbalized or preverbal) and we put on that list what is truly important to us. And while my bucket list isn’t written in draft form, divided out by continents, and time zones — yes, Jim’s is — this conversation has caused me to reflect on what I value most about the adventures I have experienced.

The most important part of life is not what I do, but who I am with.

So, if I actually did have a bucket list it might read something like this:

  • to see others
  • to listen to people
  • to value the story being created through relationships, and
  • to honor the process of life.

I will most likely never dive into an underwater cave or pet a white tiger, but IF I ever do, I want to do it with someone I care about in order to share the moment — not be the sole owner of an event.

Thank you Jim for sitting beside me today, for sharing your life with me, and allowing me to see you, to listen, and to recognize the value of this moment and what I could learn.

~ becky

Photo credit.

How sweet it is to be loved by you…

I think love is risky…

I had breakfast with a friend the other day. We talked about our shared moments in history, our life stages, grown/growing children, and then we turned a dark corner into the hard stuff. The kind of things that once they’re said out loud can no longer be hidden.

I think love is messy…

We talked of our fears, our hopes, those dreams left in the dust, and the dreams that are kind of still being formed within us. Words in our throats got caught and in the pausing we made space for oozing tears to be mopped up yet again in our already-crumpled napkins.

I think love is scary…

A dream of sharing life with another is on hold for her as she gives her energies to her children growing into adulthood. “You know that point where you let go of what you think is IT and discover what’s been waiting to be seen? What if this is that point? I don’t want to miss it.”

Way too soon, she had to leave our shared space and re-enter her roles of breadwinner and single mom of two teens.

I think love is returning again and again…

We lingered a bit at the curb, she invited me into her car to listen to a song that has brought her hope in dark places. She spoke of it as a tool that strengthens her to remember how to engage in her journey to hope in hard places. She spoke of how learning to love herself is teaching her to risk loving others more fully.

I think love creates motion…

As the melody filled the car, I found myself in tears because at the core we all need to experience many different dimensions of love. Too often we run—or too often I run—when a melody of love requires my acknowledging the need for someone else or the dimension of inviting another to see our process.

I think love is nourishing…

That day at breakfast, I had a great latte, an egg sandwich, and a lesson on loving well.

I think love is a journey not a destination…

Here’s the song.

I’d love to hear how love’s journey is teaching you today.

~ Becky

The Special Vintage of Her Life

It is her birthday.

She is turning thirty.

She gathered her friends from across the structural lines of work and pleasure and asked them to all show up in a vineyard – hard to struggle through I know.

She dreamed of celebrating.

So we all came.

We met one another, shared a living space for four days, drank, cooked, toured, drank (it is wine country), laughed, swam, napped, ate amazing food and cried. Yep, all of us, even John.

What could possibly make grown people, some who barely know one another, shed tears together?

We gathered, fifteen plus around a table, food clinging to forgotten plates, loud chaotic conversations, and glasses of wine swirled, sipped, and savored. Someone rose and invited us all to gather our attention to the birthday girl – the one who had brought us all here, the one whose life had created these weekend connections between random people.

One by one we spoke of what we know to be true of the birthday girl, and as the strong affirming words rose in the air and we all began breathing the same air of knowing this woman we ALL cried.

The motion of feeling

Emotion is a funny thing – it stirs something in us. E-motion is about movement. Yet, too often, I want to move past what is being stirred and quickly step into logic and defining something that’s meant to be experienced.

I began to taste our tears, not just my own. The birthday girl gathered us and in bringing us together she was crushing and squeezing our lives into this weekend, she was creating a wine that held a special vintage of her life.

grapes

What is truly crushed is joined with and to another. It will cease to be alone and instead be a part of something bigger.

We paused to let one another’s words be shared. We honored the expansiveness of shared understanding. We drank deeply of seeing her receive these words. We finished this bottle completely not wasting one drop of the love shared.

Thank you for letting me be one small grape, crushed into the rich vintage of your life. Happy Birthday sweet friend.

~ Becky

 

I Wanted To See Whales

Living with desire

I went whale watching in Washington.

Searching for whales in the San Juan Islands is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack—these islands are massive and waterways are 100-lane highways for freightliners. I boarded Island Adventure Cruises and we set out for a six-hour tour, with about 60 people.

Once aboard, the crew began to give us detailed instructions on how we help them look for whales, which I know nothing about, thus I hired them to take me out. Quickly, I knew that if it depended on me we would not be finding whales today. I barely knew how to keep my balance on the rocking ship. Then, I began to engage with an inner dialogue that was, inch by inch, seeking to lower my desired expectations to see any whales.

You don’t have to see whales today, I reasoned with myself. After all I was,

  • on an adventure (in Washington!)
  • with my daughter
  • in the San Juan Islands
  • on a beautiful boat
  • experiencing a perfectly sunny day…

By lowering my desire, I was adjusting my expectations, preparing to be disappointed, I’ll just choose to silence my desire for anything more than all this beauty I am experiencing, right now, in this moment. This is what I began telling myself.

How often do we lower our expectations when we are beginning something that holds possibilities? How often do we not name our expectations for fear of having to face not getting to experience what we think the moment is meant to be?

So I said this, what I perceived to be a profound and rather mature thought, out loud to my daughter.

“If we don’t see whales, I will still be happy, I mean ALL of this is overwhelmingly beautiful.”

To which my daughter replied, “Yeah, that’s nice. But I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t see any whales today.”

And, wham! She hit my “profound wisdom” like a rotten melon, shattering it right before me. You know what?

I really wanted to see whales.

I mean, I really wanted to see whales.

We are talking WHALES here—humpbacks, orcas, grays, minke, and this is the season where they hang out around here!

So, grabbing binoculars I began engaging the whale-spotting techniques we’d been instructed with in the beginning. Four hours into our trip, the radio revealed that whales had been spotted, but they were a long ways away. We headed towards the area, not knowing if we would arrive in time, but once again I felt desire rise up—I want to see whales. This time, instead of squishing it or controlling it, I let my desire jump inside me. I let it swim in hope and, you know what, I began to taste possibilities while I imagined these massive creatures.

whale-watching

When we disengage from our desires or silence stirring sensations that go with desire we begin managing an outcome that is not real. We fake living in order to not have to experience sensations on the black list of emotions:

  • Disappointment
  • Fear
  • Loss

While these emotions seem harder to deal with, they are real parts of real life. Here I was with a choice, would I taste of my desire?

“There be whales here capt’n!”

(This is one of the most-quoted lines in our family.)

Yes, I did see them that day. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

But as I reflect back on that moment, I realize that I was surprised by a joy that overwhelmed me. When these orcas crested and dipped in and out of the water I cried and clapped, turning to everyone around me and sharing a joy of seeing.

Desire will always leave us vulnerable. To taste of one’s desire will always involve risk.

What if we learn how to walk with desire in a new way?

 

~ Becky

Sitting With Judgment

This morning I am sitting with judgment.

It’s rather quiet right now, but it was active most of the night and robbed me of sleep.

It goes something like this: I hurt someone I love with words that came out of my mouth. Honestly I didn’t intend to, but the way they were received in our conversation, injured them.

And you know what? This someone told me. They stood face to face and shared with me how I had hurt them. What I thought was an engaging conversation, they experienced as painful. In that face-to-face moment, I felt the tugging to explain myself, so they would:

  • understand me…
  • see my heart…
  • see my point of view…
  • hear the words again…

Or, instead of scrambling to explain myself, I could instead just listen, hear them, and hold the their heart.

Who are we guarding anyway?

God is very clear in placing humankind into the garden—we have a purpose for being there. Maybe God’s words in Genesis 2:15 are painting a picture of how we are meant to live and what we can create.

“Yhwh, God took the human and set him in the garden of Eden to work it and to watch it.”

A few meanings might be helpful from the original language of Hebrew:

  • work =  work, worship, serve
  • watch = to guard
  • garden = delight
  • human = humankind (gender-full)

Foundationally speaking, how we perceive this verse in the heat-rising judgment moments will determine what we create.

If my understanding of this verse is rooted in the Garden belonging to me, myself and I, then what I am to guard and work turns my focus solely upon myself.

  • What is best for me?
  • What serves my purpose and creates what I want?

But, if my understanding of this verse is rooted in the Garden belonging to us all, then, together we are meant to guard one another and yes, this will mean engaging in the work of often hard conversations in order to build community.

  • What is best in this moment?
  • What are we seeking to create together?

Using the original Hebrew words this verse sounds like this to me:

“Yhwh, God, took the humankind and set them in the garden of delight to work, worship, serve it, and to guard it.”

Community can be uncomfortable

Judgment came and slept with me last night. And this morning I had to look up the meaning of the word. It means, “the ability to make considered decision or come to sensible conclusions.”

Yep, I think this definition is giving some direction to what it means to be engaged in creating a community who guards and works the garden in order to create together something that’s bigger than just about guarding me, myself and I.

My sleep-deprived night with judgment invited me into being in the risky place of forgiving and being forgiven. I was misunderstood. I also hurt another. Together we meet face-to-face and something is created in, around, and for both of us. In asking for forgiveness there’s an invitation to myself and another to enter into a new place—a place that involves the ability for us both to consider decisions that will help us see one another more vulnerably.

Dear judgment, I thank you for you for interrupting my sleep last night and inviting me to “revisit my words.” I don’t get to change what happened, instead I get to change only how I will choose to be in God’s garden.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if community were easy? It isn’t, but you know what? It’s good, very good.

Photo credit.

Easter Interruptions

My time is coming to a close there in this beautiful place called South Africa. I had my morning planned, eat a healthy breakfast, write a profound Easter blog, do a bit of cleaning for my daughter and then head to the seashore. So I headed to a local coffee shop I have fallen in love with and will miss deeply.

I was about halfway into intensely writing an Easter blog with amazingly profound thoughts on Jesus living aware to others during his final week and how death creates life, when I got interrupted. Andre was sitting at the breakfast bar to my right and had to keep asking me for a condiment sauce, sugar or the pepper grinder in order to not reach over my laptop to retrieve it. I enjoyed our simple interchanges, any excuse to hear this great South African accent. At one point he asked me about my accent, where I was from and what I did. I politely gave him a simple answer about being a pastor and working to help men and women discover relational wholeness.

Over the course of the next hour and a half he shared his story with me. He is taking leave for six weeks from working as a counselor for addicts in recovery, to do some healing around the loss of both of his parents in the course of one week—a tragically beautiful love story, they died within two days of one another, even death could not separate them. Andre is the son who was closest in proximity, he had managed all the practical end of life details for them, but capacity to function did not mean he had grieved.

Grief had returned him to his faith, these past three months something that because of his sexuality he had fled in order to not be abused. Grief was teaching him to risk being in relationship, and as he jokingly said, even talking to a pastor. We talked about God, love, life now and life eternally. He shared about how deeply he misses his parents, how he longs for a love that can impact another’s life—like his parents had experienced.  I listened, mostly looked at pictures of his vineyards, images of a Tuscany style home he is building and tasted a sample of olive oil that he had just harvested from his olive groves.

At one point he offered an apology for interrupting my morning and my writing. My writing, my plan, my words seemed far away and very insignificant at this moment, and quite truthfully I could have missed the whole experience. God laid a test out there for me to trip into—would I live aware? Could I let my profound words die and let someone else tell the Easter story about life?

As we were preparing to each go our own way, he reached out and touched my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You have a beautiful heart.” I asked if I could give him a hug, a motherly embrace and there in the coffee shop a grown man laid his head on my shoulder and cried and cried and cried and I cried with him.  When we wiped our snotty noses and laughed at the spectacle we must have created, he looked me in the eye and said,

“I needed to share this morning with someone to be reminded of what love is, one can’t face death alone.”

No Andre, one cannot and because of Jesus, neither of us have to. So, thank you for letting me taste of Easter, instead of just write about it. Thank you for taking the risk.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Jesus lived aware, will I?

Becoming A Parent

My life is changing…

Sometimes we get to choose change and other times we do not. I love being a mom. I am forever grateful for the ways marriage and children have changed me, but at times it is also hard.

I am entering this week knowing that in the course of five days my life will forever be altered and there are no guarantees waiting for me about a final outcome. Today there is a choice —will I be present? If I am present, the experience will have something to teach me.

When I leave South Africa it will be knowing that this is now our daughter’s home. From this point forward when I come to see her, I will be a visitor, a guest in her chosen place of creating a home.

The day after I return home, I will stand jet-lagged and blurry-eyed in the morning and wave goodbye to our other daughter as she drives away from her childhood home with her earthly possessions to create a home on the West Coast.

Okay just writing about this I’m having to use my sleeve to wipe my leaking eyes. But this is real. This is the experience. This is not a reality TV show, it is a very real example of what being a parent is all about—can we/will we let go? Again and again?

Honestly… I want to plead a case for Minnesota being home (really tough with all the winter records we set).

I want to not feel this gripping in my chest when I think of everyday aspects of life I miss sharing with them both. Let’s face it, electronics are no substitute for real touch in relationships.

Breathing in, breathing out…

Hmmmm, what is the experience seeking to teach me? I do not have a conclusive answer to my own question, though I wish I was through this one and knew the other side already.  What I do know so far about letting go is this—when we have children we become parents, but the becoming never ends.

The root of the word become is German “bekommen” and it means, “to get, to receive.”

Our becoming parents never ends if we risk being present to who are children are. We “get” or “receive something” from every choice that is made. Good and bad, each choice ushers us into an experience.

What is the experience seeking to teach me?

Right now on this side of the experience what I see are two things (I reserve the right to add to this list—remember it is a process).

  1. Grief not acknowledged creates false images – if I pretend it doesn’t hurt, just seek to be strong for them I am denying a very real part of what it means to be their mother. Mother’s grief can be real and without being manipulative.
  2. Joy not noticed is a lost treasure – how amazing that these once vulnerable and dependent creatures are now carving pathways that are beyond what I ever imagined possible. This is their life and it is a treasure.

So this week I am hanging out with the words of one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen,

“Can you drink the dregs of this cup that is before you.”

The dregs of my cup hold both grief and the joy and therefore are the place where I will be nourished. My own  nourishment comes from the One whom I call my Creator.

Becoming a parent is to receive an amazing gift, but this gift, our children, are never meant to be gripped tightly, to become our source of life, or to feed our insecure egos. Gifts that are released continue to create life and new treasure to be discovered wherever they are.

Becoming a parent is a lifelong process… what is it you are “receiving” in the stage of parenting you are in?

A Game of Hide And Seek

I got the chance to play hide and seek a few nights ago. Three boys under the age of six and three adults–good odds, really. We took turns counting to 25 and hiding in new places (while also re-hiding in previous spots).

I noticed three things:

  1. There’s great anticipation in ‘being found’
  2. Not all hiding places are effective
  3. When found, I get to choose how I respond

There is anticipation in ‘being found’…

When I heard “23… 24… 25… ready or not here I come,” I sucked in my breath. Knowing someone is looking for you creates anticipation and longing. It awakens your senses to be more alive, listening to what is around you and noticing the space you occupy. How often do I “hide” from God wanting to know that someone is looking for me?

I do this with God sometimes. I mean, God and I have been in relationship for a long time and often I need to be reminded of what it feels like to be found, again and again and again. So I “hide” behind a feeling of justification for an action I know has hurt another, maybe just for a bit, and I know full well that God and I are going to need to address, once again, how to walk in forgiveness. If one has known real freedom, one rarely chooses to stay hidden for long.

Not all hiding places are effective…

The best thing about hiding with a four year old is when their small hand is pulling you to hide in a place where your sheer size difference will expose you, not them. Their sweet minds deem it fit for two when, as an adult, I know I have long outgrown THIS perfect place. Like an ostrich with their head stuck in the sand, I join with them, pretending by closing my eyes, covering my face, thinking myself hidden only to be the first to be found – exposed.

Oh yes, I do this with God as well – ask a question and then avoid hearing the answer because I really want another one. I pray, “Please forgive me my sins” when what I really mean is – bummer I got caught. And maybe this place in our relationship is about letting me remember that I can hide, but really I know I need to be found.

When I’m found, I choose how to response…

We played for close to thirty minutes and then last round was called. I was hiding behind pillows of a coach. As I lay there, my one-eyed view of the ceiling, I listened to the sounds of the searching – no one was finding me. Then I heard, “Becky, can you give us a hint?” I raised my fingers up above the pillows and suddenly found a small face peering over at me saying, “I found you!”

Yes you did.

Too often it is not my response to even want to give God a hint – though I know “hiding” is really ineffective when talking about the Creator. But yet, there comes a time when God must make a final call to our hiding. Think of Jonah going from the bottom of a boat to the belly of a fish. God did’t make him come out of hiding, the wind and waves were part of the ways to call him out of his hiding place. After everyone else endured a storm that was meant to call him out, God essentially says, “Want to give me a hint about how to get you out of this boat?” And Jonah’s response is kind of like waving his hand – here I am, I will jump in the water. God graciously swoops in with a fish to scoop him up, “I found you!”

When was the last time you let yourself anticipate being found by God? By another? What if there is an invitation to us all in hide and seek?

——

At bedtime, one little guy looked up at me and said, “Thank you for playing with me.”

I got to look him in the eyes and say, “Thank you for finding me.”

 

Photo credit.

“Your Image of God Creates You”

Just the other day, I got an early birthday present from a friend.

It’s a book.

Which is actually, the very last thing I thought I would want, only because I currently have five books that are half finished, three purchased waiting to be read, and seven on my “wish list” in Amazon.

With a touch of a smile, he slided this book across the table at me and asked me to read the introduction while he got some coffee.

I proceeded to find these phrases:

“…we each tentatively contribute our little part to the great truth of God.”

In that moment, it felt as though the words were penned for my heart. Richard Rohr, one of my spiritual tutors whom I have yet to meet in person, is a man who continues to encourage and challenge me.

So I turned the page to one of the first meditations…

 “Your image of God creates you.”

And suddenly this book became a river inviting me to dive in to the wonder of how my image of God is creating me.

I know I have said this before, but we are made in the image of God, and while these are great words, it isn’t something that is exactly definable. But, I’ve learned that when I have had a static view of God­–omnipotent and already finished–then I also have settled for a static view of myself.

Do we really think the very best we can hope for is this static, no movement type of personality that is forever going to be stuck in what has been?

I do believe God is omnipotent, but I don’t think this means God is finished, with me, with the world, with creating new things…

IF I think God has already done the best work (after all it is recorded in scripture), then I leave no room for God’s creativity to be a part of this situation, this fear, this day. So I am hanging onto the truth that God is busy creating every moment, of every day, in ways seen and unseen.

“Your image of God creates you.”

God in me is continually at work and how I view God, engage with God, interact with that creative aptitude of God – this will in turn create me.

I have vivid memories as a child of returning to the altar and surrendering my little life over and over to God. While I am not really sure about the accuracy of my theology at the tender age of six, what I do believe is each of those trips to the altar, the bending my knee to surrender, this has become a part of creating me and a pattern of learning to return to God.

“Your image of God creates you.”

My image of God as a little person holds a distinct sense of being invited, received, and seen at the altar over and over and over. Through my adult eyes it may seem silly and rather unnecessary part of my faith, I can’t help but wonder if, from God’s vantage point, God was creating something in me.

So I my question today is this: How is your image of God creating you? Are you willing to be in the motion of being created every minute of every day?

Thank you my friend for these words of wisdom. My challenge with creation right now is to let this book be a slow savoring vs. a quickly devoured meal. Wisdom can only burn me when I linger long enough to let the language seer my soul and begin creating something in me.

– becky

Let Me Introduce My New Friend

I would like to introduce you to a new friend of mine.

Actually, I don’t know it all that well yet myself, but no matter.

For the past two years, I have been looking, searching, and weighing in my mind how to continue to transform a once bedroom into an office space that honors journeying. Can former sleeping room become a healing space where people share deep heartache? Can an office be more than functional and be a place of discovery? You see, I kind of care deeply about creating space to receive and hold another’s journey.

About four months ago I saw this couch in a place (Omaha) that was crowded (a boutique with too many things) and inconvenient (I was driving a very small car) and yet, I knew that this couch belonged in my office.

I offered a price and was politely turned down. I walked away, but I knew this was the couch.

And I kept waiting…

A few days later, I went back and offered the same price again and was, once again, politely turned down.

I walked away, but this time left my name and number, just in case she changed her mind.

And I kept waiting…

Three weeks later I got a call that I could take my friend home. I was in Minneapolis – couch was in Omaha. A dear friend picked up my new friend and made space in her home for it to wait for my arrival. Snowstorms, ice, car-availability all played into three and a half months of my new friend in process rather than coming home.

And I kept waiting…

Everyday in Omaha, my friend in her own office space, had to walk around the couch (I told you, she truly is the kindest of friends). Each time as she the navigated around the coach, she prayed a blessing on it – sometimes through gritted teeth – “May God do much healing for those who sit on this coach.”

And she kept waiting…

photo (8)

Today it is here and the space feels sacred with its presence in this space where God is teaching me about how holding others is a process, not a place. So far, my new coach friend is teaching me more about waiting with others…

Waiting as a verb has much to teach me. I am seeking to make space to allow it to be more of an active part of my life, rather than a last resort…waiting that is.

Anyway, all that to say, welcome friend! I look forward to all that will happen in your strong arms while we wait together.