Archive for October, 2010
I happen to think birthdays are kind of a big deal. I don’t mean huge celebrations and fancy gifts, but I do think they are important markers in someone’s life. They offer a chance to celebrate and remember where you’ve been and where you’re going.
This birthday seems somewhat significant only because I remember exactly what happened one year ago. I cried. Yep, I cried on my birthday. I know the song says, “It’s my party and I can cry if I want to” but usually I think birthdays are better celebrated without tears. For my birthday last year I went out to my favorite little beachside restaurant in Santa Barbara with two of my best friends. And while we were sitting over burgers and beers one of them asked, “So, what are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?”
Something Needed to Change
It’s a simple, very appropriate birthday-ish question. But I froze, because the truth is I couldn’t answer it. I tried to swallow back the lump in my throat and squeeze back the tears, but my attempt was futile. The tears came. Slowly at first, and then the whole waterworks show. The thing is it wasn’t a bad question at all, but I wasn’t exactly in a “hopeful-joyous-lets-dream-about-the-future” kind of place. I was so confused and worn-out that I honestly didn’t know what I hoped for in the year ahead. Fear and doubts were more prevalent than hope and joy. I felt stuck; like I was waiting for something to change, but the worst part was I didn’t know what I wanted to change. I couldn’t name the feeling or the longing inside.
So what do most women do when we don’t have the right words to express what we’re feeling? That’s right. We cry. We just let the tears come. Sometimes tears triumph over words, languages and longings. men: a helpful note when your (insert any female in your life) begins to show the first sign of tears, sometimes words are not beneficial. In this case, just hug.
One Year Later
Yesterday I celebrated my 28th birthday with new friends, chocolate birthday cake and a wonderful surprise by someone special. There were no tears and for this I am thankful. But I am even more thankful that I’m in a different place. Not so much physically, but emotionally. This past year has been a lot of letting go of my plans and my expectations. Its meant being ok feeling a little uncomfortable and a lot out of control. It’s meant taking a risk and giving myself room and permission to try, to dream and to hope. This birthday I celebrated the wonderful things that happen when you listen to that unsettled, longing inside in order to welcome something new.
Here’s to every women (and man) who has cried on your birthday. May you know that it will not always be like this. Sometimes painful tears give way to beautiful surprises. So, what am I most looking forward to in the year ahead?
Learning how to celebrating the surprises.
Destination: Ixcán, Guatemala
Km from Antigua: 427
Driving time: 12+ hours
A Weekend Away
Somewhere nestled in the northern part of Guatemala, between tropical jungle canopies and tumultuous dirt roads are hundreds of small villages in an area called Ixcán. It was an area deeply affected by the civil war and in many ways families and entire communities are still rebuilding their lives. For the past 6 years Hechos 2:8 (one of the projects of Mission Impact) has been doing community development work in this area building water filters, latrines and providing education and pastoral training. So when I had the opportunity to go visit the project I said “Why not?”
I did not know that saying why not meant saying yes to a simpler pace of life and an adventure that I could not have planned: no running water, no hot showers, cooking with a wooden stove, and sleeping in a tent to avoid both the mosquitoes and the scorpions. I learned to appreciate the natural composting latrines. I watched women kill and de-feather a chicken that later ended up in my bowl for lunch. I attempted to make tortillas by hand. And I washed dishes in the pilla. We endured lots and lots of warm rain, muddy roads and flooded rivers. But what I was most impressed by is that none of this even fazed the Guatemalan men and women. They handle life with an ingenuity and calmness that I envy. Even when the water level was too high and we couldn’t cross the flooded rivers, and my natural response is to freak out, Guatemalans know how to work together, construct makeshift bridges and rafts from plywood and inner tubes and then charge people a fee to cross. They are both resourceful and creative. What may have felt different or uncomfortable for me, is normal every day life for them.
We made it back safely, a little tired, and with a tad more mud on the truck then when we started. I realized, what if I had said no? What if I had missed out on this? What if instead of saying “Why not?” I had asked, “Why?” Why should I go? Why should I take time off work? Why should I leave my comfortable home? Why? Why? Why?
The Why and Why Not
I have spent a lot of my life asking the why questions. For me why questions are rooted in fear and distrust. Why by the nature of the word implies a certain doubt or skepticism. I have always been a gifted why asker. Why should I let go of that expectation? Why should I move? Why should I try something new? And I could do on. But I am learning sometimes maybe the better (and yes, harder) question is why not? Why not take a risk? Why not do something that feels hard or uncomfortable? Why not make a change? Why not share your dream with some one? Why not ask her out? Why not tell him how you really feel? Why not run the marathon? Why not______________? (and you can feel in the blank.)
I don’t think why questions are necessarily bad. No, quite the opposite. I think they are necessary and healthy. Just spend time with any human under the age of five.They are excellent why askers. It’s how they learn and make sense of their world.
But if why questions are the tools used to build an understanding of our world, then the why not questions are like a blank canvas inviting us to crate something new.
Any artist or architect knows that sometimes staring at a blank canvas or a piece of paper is the worst feeling. It stares back at you empty, daunting and filling you with the burden of too many possibilities. And this is where the why not questions come in to play. Why not start? Just dream. Start with something. Go with your idea. Trust your intuition. Listen to that still small voice inside. I think sometimes God wants us to just start drawing. Pick up the crayon. Start dreaming. And start asking, why not?
Why provides structure and boundaries, but why not allows room for creativity to flourish.
What are you going to say why not to?