Tag Archives: bravery

Seasick…

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Well, you can say a little prayer for me this week.

I’m doing well. I mean, I knew this was going to be difficult, new job, joining anew the workforce, making my crazy dreams for children’s ministry at City Church of San Francisco a reality. And it’s not so insanely difficult. Indeed, I am at times overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. But then I just turn around and get drunk on the overconfidence of my amazingly heady ego and get stuff done. It’s dizzying being Barbara. (And imagine how my husband feels?!)

I feel like an apostle sent out on the boat. I am supposed to go to the other side. But the other side is not the destination. It never is. The other side is merely the end measure of the destination, the destination, and the point of all of this, being jumbled up somewhere in the length of this crazy ride over the time it takes to get there.

I am on a boat going to the other side. And I can’t tell which Bible story I’m in. I don’t feel like I’m in a storm, so maybe I’m in the one where the apostles are just not making much headway. Whatever, the wind’s against them or something. And Jesus has in mind to beat them to the other side just by walking across the water. Maybe he thinks they have it under control?

But they’re struggling after all. And so he goes to them, just right across the water and in the face of the damn wind he goes. And there’s me, Peter, the rock, saying, “Command me! Pick me! Let me do this job!” And Jesus says, “Ok, c’mon.” And there I am, Peter, sinking like a, well, a rock. I’m sinking like a rock at my own request.

“Save me!” “Command me!” “Save me!” “Command me!” “Save me!”

That’s me this week. It’s dizzying. And yet, it’s surprisingly secure. I am commanded. I am saved. I am being commanded and being saved.

I commanded. I saved. I am commanding. I am saving. I am. I am.

Ruby Bridges Part 2…

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It wasn’t a long Wikipedia entry, but it was full. It lined up the people like a list of characters from the flyleaf of a play.

The six-year-old named Ruby, one of four who passed the test to go to a white school.

The mother who wanted a better education for her daughter and for African-American children everywhere.

The father who was hesitant and, later, became convinced.

The teachers who refused to teach while a black child was enrolled.

The parents who pulled their children out the moment Ruby walked in.

The one teacher who taught Ruby in an empty classroom for a year.

The US Marshalls who walked her to school every day of that year.

The woman who threatened to poison Ruby.

The woman who nailed a black baby doll in a coffin and scared little Ruby more than anything else they screamed and threw at her.

The first little white girl who broke the boycott and became Ruby’s classmate.

That first little white girl’s parents.

The market that wouldn’t let Ruby’s family shop there any more.

The employer that fired Ruby’s father.

The neighbors who watched over Ruby’s house and babysat when needed.

The neighbors who offered Ruby’s father a job.

Every good and noble shade of humanity woven together in contrast with the darkest.

And it reminds me that the Samaritan never set out to be immortalized forever in his own parable. Nor did the priest and Levite set out to play villain. They were just on their way, about their business when the opportunity came upon them.

This is very freeing to me. Not that I’m free from seeking out those in need, but free to help those as I walk, where I walk.  I may not be able to choose great brave deeds, but I can choose to act bravely in the deeds before me.

Babysitting, employing, teaching, heroes are made out of such ordinary stuff.

We Have a New Mantra, Ladies…

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You know the scientific symbol for female, the one that’s the circle with a cross coming down from the bottom.  And then, there’s the male symbol, the slightly more wonky circle with an arrow flying out of the top.  The female one is steady, anchored down, because our reproducing tidbits stay put.  It’s the male bits that leave and fly all over the place, hence, the wonky arrow.

This is how they define male and female in organisms with different more unrecognizable features.  The male flower spreads, the female flower stays, anchored and waiting, in fish, in mosses, in humans.

In some ways I feel like this is accurate.  I stay … at home.  Daily life mostly revolves outside me, kids leave for school, husband leaves for work and I am anchored somewhere in the middle.  People return to me.

But in most other ways I feel that this is highly inaccurate.

Because if there is one thing we women do, it’s change.

We get our periods.  And we keep getting them. Then we have babies.  Our bodies change and our bodies go back, or don’t quite, as the case may be.  Then we lose our periods and, according to many trusted sources, continue to deal with ebb and flow of hormones … FOREVER.

We change. And most of this volatility is within us.

Pregnancy for me is pervaded by a sense of betrayal.  My body becomes a mysterious stranger waiting to sabotage me with a heavy club of nausea around any appropriately smelling corner.  Three times now have I been amazed anew at the way my body stretches, the way it opens, and stunned at how stinking long it takes to get back to normal!

I say it when I’m pregnant.  I say it at least once a month, “What is happening to me?!”

I’m a woman.  I change.

Perhaps this is why men are known for their distinct mid-life crises and women are not.  We do it by bits.  We aren’t overthrown by time all at once.   We get it in phases.

Phases!  Everything since my first son was born has been a “phase”.  Sleepless nights, clinging babies, teeth razoring their way to the surface have all been “phases”.  I have been beset by so many phases that I don’t think I’ve had a lick of normal in six years.  Do we talk of phases to make each other believe that there is a normal somewhere?  Thinking that there’s a normal somewhere that I’m missing is rather depressing. Do we want to believe that things will go back?

I can never go back to many things, my old bra size, my ability to sleep through anything, my ignorance of four other peoples’ bowel movements.   I am more efficient, more ambitious, and I’ve learned how to work.  I don’t want to go back.

I, then, hereby vow that I will not utter the deceptive phrase “It’s a phase” to any Momma, anymore.  I will instead choose to believe that we are in a boot camp of the most intense kind.

I will learn to duck and weave and roll.  I will become a delicate ballerina.  I will let it make me a master of change.  Like anything else in life that’s well practiced it will become a habit with me.  So, when the gray hairs come and I find my shirt still clean at the end of the day; when it’s finally time to get off this crazy monthly roller coaster of fertility, I will not be overcome.  I will be anchored in something steadier than myself.

It’s what we’ve been given to practice, Ladies.  Let’s do it well so our sisters, daughters, and daughters-in-law can do it better.

Our new mantra can be, “Normal is not a thing!”

Fear…

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It has been unveiled to me lately, the amount of fear hiding inside me.

One day, about a month ago, on a walk I asked myself, “Barbara, what would you be able to do if you did not fear? Who would you pursue into friendship?  Who would you extend hospitality to?”

I was overwhelmed by the breadth of the image that came, what could be accomplished if I was not subject to fear. I have since been trying to feel the edges, notice the limits, and recognize the deceitful promptings of this fear.

In New York I was baby free for a few hours and my brother and I made a mad dash through the MOMA and grabbed a coffee. So as we’re cutting past the park I’m stuffing my face with the flaky corners off of an excellent cheddar chive scone.  I’m half watching this long line of what could only be Texan cheerleaders on vacation when I notice this homeless woman lying in the middle of it all on a bench.

Eight million people revolved around her, yet, she was unseen.

I walked a few more steps, stuffed another bite in my mouth, hesitated, and then stopped my brother.

“Just a sec, Dave, I feel like I’m supposed to give this lady the rest of my scone.”

I began to feel the pressure of the fear. It was determined to make me feel insecure and insufficient to this moment.  Which I was, always am.  I approached the woman.

She lay on her side with her eyes open. The eight million people she was invisible to were invisible to her.  She stared through them.  Her makeup was so ridiculously thick, that she brought to mind a geisha.  But she was under there, in there, somewhere.

The fear arrived and sat heavily on top of me as I prayed desperately for the words this woman needed to hear. Why was I standing here?  What exactly was I supposed to say?

“I have half of a cheddar chive scone here. Would you like it? I only used my fingers to break off chunks.”

She glanced at me then away and shrugged concession. I laid it by her head.

“God bless you,” I said.

I was aware of the triteness of my statement. It’s my fear that hides behind a generic blessing and carefully avoids naming the more polarizing Jesus Christ.  My heart pounded and I made myself stay as I waited for the words, awkwardly standing over a homeless lady outside Central Park just staring at her.

“God loves you,” I said.

The look she gave me was odd. I couldn’t read it, maybe anger, maybe disbelief.  It unnerved me and I succumbed to the weight of the breathless moment and left.  As I passed the line of Texan tourists the words arrived suddenly and in a flood.

I was supposed to tell her that she was not invisible, that God saw her, and that, though I didn’t know her name, he knew her name. This is what I could’ve told her if I had rested under the fear another minute until the words had come.  Is it strange that my fear would try to eat the very thing that is my strength and my love, glorious healing words?

I did not turn around, but kept walking, the words burning inside of me. There was grace for me in that moment.  God and I stared down the massive shape of my fear that had suddenly become oh-so-visible.

Oh, friends, there is work to be done!

It’s coming down.

Brave Habits…

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For the past few days my baby has been waking up unusually early. When he wakes up this early he’s not the happy baby that’s ready to be up. He’s grumpy and falls asleep on me again instantly.

So, on Sunday at six thirty I found myself quite awake in an apartment of sleeping people. We had bacon, but no eggs. So I walked down the two flights of stairs and into the sixty degree summer morning made chiller by the wind.

I was thinking about fear. I thought about how much people fear and the silly things they fear. I remembered how fearful I had been as a child when I had to interact with adults or make phone calls to strangers. I remembered my mother practically pushing me out of the van on the first day of soccer practice with a new team.

I got to the little shop on 25th and Clement that opens at six and bought some eggs and a small orange juice. I nodded to the workers unloading produce. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner. He’s a nice man with laughing eyes and we talk about our kids. His youngest is six, the perfect age, he says.

“So, I’m just getting there, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, my daughter’s fourteen and all this,” he mimes texting on a cell phone and shakes his head, “just drives me crazy.”

I laugh, but I wonder if that’s what I look like sometimes. We say goodbye and I walk back out into the wind.

I think about fear again. I wonder if his daughter is on the phone so much because she fears loneliness. Could that be my reason? How can I be scared of loneliness if I’m never alone? How much does fear hold us back from doing more and bigger? If I wasn’t scared how much more could God do with me?

I remembered how scared I was before I went to Africa for a medical mission trip when I was twenty. There were things to fear. A girl had been pricked by a needle the year before and had been getting tested for HIV all the year since. I was going to see AIDS, polio, and starvation. God had shown me, at the time, that it was more than just a scary experience; it was a chance to be brave.

And doesn’t life give us so many opportunities to be brave?

How many things would I have missed if I had not been brave? Would I be walking the streets of San Francisco right now?

I say good morning to the crazy Bikram people on the sidewalk, freezing in their shorts waiting for the instructor to come let them in so that they can feel a bit of real summer before breakfast.

I was suddenly thankful that I was a fearful child. I breathed my thanks into the cold. How often do we long for a chance to prove our bravery, to be bold, to be daring?

When I fear, my chance arrives.

The streets are quiet. I look to the right and see the fog covering the bay, straight ahead and see it breaking over the tops of the trees in the presidio, little wisps overflowing at the top, dissolving on the other side. I wonder how cold it is at the beach with no break between you and the wind.

My keys sound loud in the stillness of the street. I feel the instant relief as the door to my building closes behind me. I walk past the sleeping doors of my neighbors and unlock my own. I consider the word “dormant”, “door-mant”.

I continue to think about fear, so insidious that we don’t often recognize it hiding in our reticence. I want to take the time right now to sit down and seek it out in myself, but we leave for church in an hour. What resistance in me is really fear?

And as I’m laying the bacon out strip by strip on the baking tray I find it strangely appropriate to think of Pa Ingalls. He reminds Laura that if you do something enough it becomes a habit with a body, just as anything else does.

So it goes with finishing things and bravery.

Practice, practice, practice…