The Little Things

The following is an assignment I’ve submitted for a current class I’m taking. It was intended to read more as a blog post than academic writing, so I decided to actually post it to my neglected blog.

Fasting: going without

“Ok, God, give me something to sustain me!” I yelled sarcastically as I read a section from Richard Foster’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline. He wrote “Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.”[1]

I was only about three hours into my fast.

I texted with my friend Yaakov throughout the day, as he was also fasting; it was Taanit Esther; I had chosen that day to fast because I knew I would get support from him.

Kelly: “I don’t know how you do this multiple times per year.”

Yaakov: “How bad is it?”

Kelly: “it hasn’t even been 3 hours since sunrise and I am getting hungry, cranky, and a little shaky.”

I went back and forth about whether or not I had to actually complete what I started. There are no rules I have to follow; this discipline is an experiment for me. I could adapt it any way I wanted. I could quit.

I am not a quitter.

Kelly: “what is the purpose behind fasting, other than God said so?”

Yaakov: “Many times in scripture you find that when people are satisfied and things are going well that they forget about God. So fasting is a sign of self-affliction to help you remember to turn to God in contrition.”

“Dinner’s ready!” I announced to my husband and kids, and started dishing food onto my kids’ plates for them to take into the dining room. My husband got a plate and said, “I’m not really that hungry.” I gave him a LOOK. I hardly spoke during dinner. I stared at Greg’s plate of pasta and meatballs, watching him twist the fettucine around his fork. My older son noticed. “Why are you just staring at Dad’s plate? Why aren’t you eating?” I reminded him I was fasting today. He went on with his meal. I got up and made a sandwich to go since I had to take my son to basketball practice later, and my fast would end as the sun slipped from the sky at 6:52 p.m. The facility has a concession stand and asks people not to bring in outside food, but I wasn’t interested in concession stand food, nor in paying the exorbitant prices for it.

One hour to go.

Yaakov: bon apetite

Kelly: two minutes!!!

Kelly: mmmmmmmmmmm

I don’t think a roast beef and pepperjack cheese sandwich ever tasted so good, and I paid  $1.75 for a Twix candy bar.

Gardening: lessons in death and life

When I discovered that gardening and running were the activities I had for number six, I felt a little deflated. At 42, I know full well that gardening is not a skill nor an interest I have, and I have absolutely, without a doubt, hated running since I was a child. Of the two, I prefer plants over running, and since it is not the optimal time to attempt to garden, I bought a bamboo plant because supposedly it is something that is easy to keep alive. I even bought it plant food.

I have never kept a garden, but my backyard used to be beautiful; in its prime, it looked like a scene out of a flower catalog and had been on the local garden tour, but when we moved in, years of neglect and overgrowth hid the way it once was. Every spring and summer I trim branches, tear out weeds, and attempt to make it look somewhat nice again. It is a lot of work but with it comes surprising lessons.

My favorite part of the yard is the lilac tree outside my sunroom door. When it is in bloom and the weather is nice, the heady scent drifts in through the screen. The first year I trimmed it back, I was afraid. I knew trimming was supposed to be necessary for growth, but I also did not want to inadvertently kill it. The next year, I was amazed to see new growth; branches sprouting from near the bottom, where I hadn’t trimmed anything. They didn’t bloom, but they hold the promise and hope that they will someday. My bamboo plant has some brown leaves, but it does appear to still be alive. It is strong and resilient, but still needs care and maintenance. It cannot get through life in a solitary manner.

Journaling: regular maintenance

“Have you journaled lately?” Robert, my senior pastor, asked me the other day, after I had stood quietly in the office, my head against the window, looking out into the empty parking lot as the rain trickled down from the gray sky. We were not under a shelter-at-home mandate yet, but we had decided to cancel all in-person activities.


“Maybe you should, so you can process what you’re thinking and feeling about all of this.”

I knew he was right, but I cannot find the energy to journal, which, for someone who has journals going back to the fourth grade, says something. It says I do not really want to face everything that is happening and what it makes me feel.

It is a time when spiritual practices are perhaps more vitally important than any other, yet also a time when it becomes easy to forget about them, especially with schedules and routines all out of order. When it is difficult to know what day it is, it is even harder to implement any new practices. In this time, I’ve relied more heavily on my “Sacred Space” guided prayer app; I use this regularly each morning when I have my coffee in the sunroom. While it is still dark, I can sit in the silence, one hand warm from the mug, the other tapping “next” as I move through the prayer.

Spiritual practices have different dimensions and will work differently in people’s lives. Sometimes, we need the “big” ones, other times, something simple and regular to hold onto in the midst of life’s uncertainty, and always, we can learn about life and resurrection being revealed in time in the little things, after deprivation, pain, and death.



[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 20th anniversary ed., 3rd ed., rev. ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 55.

I Hope You Dance

When I had a phone call a few months ago with my friend Andy of Align Coaching to understand more about the coaching process he does, he explained that one of the exercises he guides people through was thinking about five lives you could have. He said, “for example, if you wanted to be a ballerina…”

My mouth dropped open.

My eyes widened.

“Did you know I used to dance?” I (almost) yelled back.

He laughed and said no.

When I was a kid, I’d always wanted to take ballet , but the opportunity and money wasn’t there. When I was in fourth grade, I got a Sweet Valley Twins book that I read over and over, because it had to do with ballet.

After I moved to Albuquerque and got married, for some reason, I started thinking about ballet again, and decided that I’d do it. When I was 23 I walked into a dance studio for my very first class and I fell in love.

It was difficult. I could barely do any of it at first and I felt awkward and uncoordinated. Others with more experience made it look so easy. I was sore the next day. But I showed up again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Eventually I took two classes a week and over time, I learned and improved.

There were times I practically lived at the studio due to classes, rehearsals for recitals or The Nutcracker, and even just hanging out talking before or after those classes and rehearsals.

Ballet class and rehearsal has always been the one thing where I could go and focus on something without any other thoughts creeping into my head. Dance helped me stand taller and be more confident in myself and be more comfortable in my own body.

And I became good at it.

As someone who enjoyed playing sports when I was younger, but didn’t get much playing time on the basketball court or softball field, it felt great to find something that I loved doing and that I did well.

The studio was more than just a place to dance. The people in that studio were a family, with past family members pointe shoes and pictures hung up on the wall. There is a sense of love and belonging that is hard to find when you walk outside the doors. The people there have different backgrounds, different lives, different faiths, different political beliefs.

But in the studio we were all one.

Ballet was one of the most important things in my life, an that studio represents beauty, peace, love, and belonging; four things that are of such importance to me that they really are a part of who I am.


Stripping Wallpaper

I’ve always had strange dreams.

There was the one about the giant snake in the median of the road. There was another about a bear running full speed directly at me and then getting distracted by a honey-baked ham on a tree stump. Or the one where my 8 year old presented me with some leggings I wanted and claimed he’d taken the car to go to the store to buy them for me.

I don’t always remember my dreams when I wake up and I don’t always think about what they might mean, but sometimes I do.

I’ve been stripping wallpaper in one room in my house and it has been very difficult. I really want to get it done and the walls painted because the wallpaper is old and dark and I want the room to be bright and pleasant. The wallpaper is stuck on well and is not coming off easily at all.

I had a dream one night that all of a sudden, I was working on it and it started coming off very easily. When I woke up, I was kind of excited and hopeful that it was a SIGN that I’d get this project DONE (unfortunately, it was not).

But then I was curious.

What might the symbolism of stripping wallpaper be? I found a dream dictionary website and searched for wallpaper.

“To dream that you are peeling or stripping off wallpaper denotes that you are beginning to let your guard down. You are breaking down your barrier one layer at a time. It also indicates that you are revealing aspects of yourself that have been kept well hidden.”

I then yelled SHUT UP at my computer.

I know dream interpretation is not a science, and probably brings in our own biases in ways we both know and don’t know, but…seriously, this “definition” is exactly what I have been going through lately.

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about the armor that we use to protect ourselves, and I realized that what she was describing was something I had commented on more than a year ago in a conversation; I was feeling like I was often waiting for the other shoe to drop, that it was easier to just not feel happy about anything because then it meant I didn’t have to feel sad or disappointed when it all got ripped away from me. I could protect myself from the pain. And even as I typed it, I knew how messed up it sounded, but it was all I really felt I could do at the time.

When I was thinking about what she wrote, and realized that I’d been doing that and had even said so more than a year ago, my legs got a little weak and I had to sit down on the floor and wonder how Brené and her book knew me.

Slowly, I’ve been allowing myself to shed that armor and feel again. There are days when I have felt such joy and happiness that I look in the mirror and wonder where I’ve been, and it’s made me determined to have this me stick around and not disappear again.

It’s not easy.

After a lot of questions and thinking about it, and even initially deciding against it, I finally decided to go through my friend Andy’s coaching sessions. While I’m doing it at a snail’s pace, it’s been more valuable than I’d anticipated. I’ve learned what I most value, and I’ve learned how to see how those values, my strengths, other aspects of my personality, and what drives me has been present–or not–throughout the events and decisions of my life.

I’m peeling away the wallpaper to get at the heart of who I really am.

I’m Not a Music Person

“I’m not much of a music person.”

I’ve described myself this way numerous times, yet, I’m not entirely sure how it came about. I used to like listening to music, though I can almost never tell you the name of a song or artist, and I don’t have a favorite genre. Over the years I’ve listened to rock, soft rock, pop, country, classical, and probably others I don’t even know what genre they go in. I haven’t ever had to make sure to get anyone’s newest album (well, except back in middle school when I was obsessed with New Kids on the Block, of course).

I’m not musical, that’s for sure. I can’t sing well and even though I had a whole two years of piano lessons, I hated practicing and about all I can remember is the C scale, chopsticks, and heart and soul. I own a guitar, but I can’t play it. There are lots of musical people in my family though; in fact, being non-musical might be more of an anomaly.

And so, though at one time I listened to music regularly, somewhere along the way I gave up on it. I lost interest in having it playing around the house or in the car, and felt like a cranky old person when I thought music at church was too loud, and like something was wrong with me when I got bored singing the praise songs that so many other people seemed to enjoy so much, and then there’s also the unsaid expectations at times that “Christian” music is the type of music that should be listened to, not “secular” music.

I’ve been reading a book called Beauty, by John O’Donohue, and when I came to the chapter on music I thought it wouldn’t be all that interesting, because, remember, I’m not a music person.

He writes:

In contrast to most other forms of art, music alters your experience of time. To enter a piece of music, or to have the music enfold you, is to depart for a while from regulated time.

This is how I often felt during ballet class (which, guess what, involves music). During a 90-minute class, I was able to only focus on dancing; thoughts about anything else in my life didn’t even enter my mind. It was a time-altering experience. It didn’t matter how hard the steps were or how many times we had to repeat something; I was lost in it.

But I’ve been listening to music again in the last few months, to songs that inspire and encourage me, and express what I think or feel, songs that can hold the tension of joy and sadness, faith and doubt; that acknowledge that life isn’t just wonderful all the time, and to music without words that calms me when I’m agitated.

I have enjoyed listening to new-to-me songs as I work in the yard or find peace and solitude in my sunroom, songs that may express what I feel or think, or didn’t know I felt or thought.

I think I’ve decided that it isn’t that I’m not a music person. I just don’t want to feel as if there’s only one kind of music I’m supposed to listen to. There’s such a variety out there that when we write off certain types as something we shouldn’t listen to, it limits our own experience of understanding ourselves and connecting with others, and we can become more isolated and lonely.

Here’s a variety of songs I’ve felt a connection to lately:

What music do you most relate to, and why?

Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted.”

I’ve heard that phrase many times, and I generally like it and find it inspirational; it shows that despite the circumstances we face in life, we can still make a difference. We can still matter. We can still thrive.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply deciding to bloom.

My backyard was once amazing. It was part if the local garden tour and the owners spent at least 20 hours a week taking care if it. I don’t even have houseplants because I can barely keep any plants alive, so this is new territory for me.

When we bought the house a year ago, the yard was neglected and overgrown. We’d rented it for a year and two other families had rented it for a few years before us. I’m guessing there was five to seven years of neglect; the only thing any of us really did was keep up with the mowing.

Once it was ours, though, we needed to get it in shape, and thanks to the invaluable help from our friends Andy and Laura, we made a really good start on cutting out a lot of dead and overgrown stuff. I don’t even know what most of it is or was. I can pretty much only identify the lilacs, peonies, and roses.

Despite not knowing what a lot of the plants are, I have delighted in seeing everything bloom each spring and summer. It was planted with love and well-cared for over the years before the prior owners moved away. I’ve noticed though, that there are some plants in my yard that are not blooming. It could be that the years of neglect have killed them, it could be that they just need to be pruned and they’ll grow; I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is that waiting for something to bloom can take a long time and a lot of care. The plants don’t just thrive on their own. I wrote about how pruning has helped my lilacs sport new growth, and on Instagram I marveled at how pruning helped my roses bloom more this year than last.

In order to bloom where you’re planted it’s not only up to you. You need others around to help with the watering, weeding, and pruning. You need knowledgeable and caring people to come alongside you and help you.

In his book Anam Cara, John O’Donohue writes:

“The soul needs love as urgently as the body needs air. In the warmth of love, the soul can be itself. All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When loves comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow.”

We are all like the plants in my yard.

We all need to be loved and cared for in order to bloom and grow.


Awake My Soul

I’m terrible at keeping New Year’s Resolutions, so I just don’t bother to make them. A few years ago I was intrigued by the idea of choosing a word for the year, and have done it off and on since then.

I’ve been learning a lot about being an Enneagram 9, and one of the most important pieces of information I’ve learned about myself as a 9 is that we are often asleep to our own desires and needs because we don’t think our voice is important, and that we need to wake up to them.

So I chose the word “awake” for 2018, found a Bible verse to go along with it, and made a pretty graphic to post to Instagram.

Then I pretty much forgot about it.

Until March.

I’d spoken about the woman at the well in John 4 to a group of young adults, and when I was finished, one of them asked me “when are you writing a book? I want to read it.” I’d only just met her that night; she had no idea I was a writer, and that I’d love to write books.

She saw me.

For days after that experience, I woke up feeling happy. I wouldn’t have described myself as an unhappy person prior to this, rather, I just felt sort of somewhere in between. But being seen and acknowledged changed me, and changed how I was seeing myself.

I was waking up to my own life.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of thoughts and conversations and have done a lot of writing in my journal about what this means to me, this new phase of life that I have entered.

I wanted to commemorate it somehow, and so I chose to get a tattoo. It’s on my inner wrist so that I can look at it whenever I want, and has the words that started it all, from Psalm 57, in Hebrew.

It’s only the beginning. As I spoke about in a recent sermon, faith is a long journey, and this awakening is only a new starting point for me.

Awake my soul.

Do You Know Your Worth?

I love when Andy blogs, because it always gives me something to think about and over the years has inspired a few of my own blog posts. In this post, he wrote about a way in which students at an elementary school are being taught their worth.

It reminded me of another conversation I’d had recently with my friend Yaakov about a difference in theology between Christians and Jews.

We were talking about God’s expectations, and whether or not humans can fulfill them or do them perfectly. I said that I didn’t think we could because even if we even boil everything down to “love God, love your neighbor,” I know that we can always do that 100%. I know I certainly don’t always act loving, even though I know that I want to be loving. So if the expectation is to do it perfectly all the time, we can’t meet that. If the expectation is to try our best and do better when we fail, then I think that is something we can meet.

I’d been thinking about it due to reading Falling Upward, which has helped me look at and learn from painful events and failure and see how to turn them into something positive.

I mentioned that I personally have a hard time admitting my own failings and this surprised him; he tended to think that I am pretty self-critical.

He brought up Proverbs 24:16:

for though [the righteous] fall seven times, they will rise again

He explained that a Jewish perspective on this is that a righteous person is not one who gets it right the first time, but rather, someone who fails and recovers and grows.

It’s such a different perspective than what we have in Christianity where we hear over and over that we are sinners and God can barely stand to look at us. That doesn’t make a person understand their value and worth and how much they are loved by God. It doesn’t make them feel as if they are somebody for whom God could possibly have a purpose.

While I know there could be some criticism about teaching kids this because people will say they will become arrogant, isn’t it better to inspire and encourage than to tear down and make people feel worthless?

Failure can still be taught and understood and learned from but by starting from a point of worth and love it can make people be able to be and accomplish more and even not be afraid if trying

What if we told ourselves this?

What if we actually believed in our worth?

I’m afraid too often we don’t, we are stuck in a death to sinners mindset instead of a resurrection mindset. We spend an inordinate amount of time feeling so badly about ourselves that it’s hard to really understand and accept how God sees us.

I used these verses out of context a few weeks ago in my “Never Good Enough” post and I’m going to use them again here. 

“I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”

And we can also look at everyone’s favorite billboard and sporting events verse, too:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Or 1 John 3:1:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”

If those kids in that elementary school can understand their worth, so can you.

You are somebody and God loves you. If God believes it about you, maybe you should believe it too.


And if you need a visual explanation, watch this:

The Calling of a Coach’s Wife

My friend Beth wrote a post about how being a coach’s wife is more than a title; it’s a calling.

I happen to disagree with that (Beth has read this and supports it; we’ve had a great conversation privately about it).

But first, there is a lot in Beth’s post that I do agree with, so let’s start there. We also run a lot through the “football filter;” this is why we pretty much only travel in July, and nobody expects us to be able to do much during the fall, unless maybe there is a bye-week. 

I also have helped 1 my husband a lot. I have created season highlight videos, managed social media, made travel arrangements, cooked meals for players…and probably a lot more I can’t even remember at this point. I have attended almost all the home games he’s had, and have been supportive. I am happy to help with some things as needed, and when I can make the time to do it.

But it isn’t my calling.

The topics of identity and calling are of high interest to me, and I’ve written and spoken on them before. In a recent talk I gave on calling, I explained that our callings can actually come and go; we don’t necessarily have one specific calling in life, but we can have multiple callings in our lives. My understanding of calling comes primarily from Frederick Buechner, who says:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Beth writes:

“God does not make mistakes, and he has created you for the life you are currently living. He is not surprised you married a coach, even if you are.”

I fully agree God isn’t surprised I married a coach. But that doesn’t mean God called me to marry a coach, and even if someone is called to do this, while it might be a description of her life, it’s not a prescription for all of us.

People choose to get married for different reasons and love usually has something to do with it, regardless of the career paths each person chooses to take. I was a little surprised Beth “knew exactly what [she] was getting into” because I certainly didn’t! I had some general ideas that there would be long hours and job changes and moving involved, but I had no idea of any of the ramifications of those.

I’ve since learned what it can mean, like what resigning “to pursue other opportunities” or “spend more time with family” actually means, that when people say a win-loss record isn’t important that they actually mean the opposite, and that most people outside the staff and the staff’s families have next to no understanding about what coaching is like.

But at 22, I didn’t know any of that.

I didn’t know the anger and resentment of having my life turned upside down by people making decisions for me that were out of my control. I didn’t know the heartache of leaving people and places I’d grown to love.

No, I certainly didn’t get into it knowing what it would entail in full.

I also wouldn’t change it.

It’s taken me to places I’d never have gone on my own, introduced me to people I’d have never met on my own, and given me experiences–good and bad–that I’d never have chosen on my own. I’ve learned and grown through all of it.

Now, maybe there are some women out there who do believe they are uniquely called to be a coach’s wife. I’m not going to judge someone else’s calling. This should be considered carefully, though, because what happens if her spouse decides to quit coaching? If her identity and calling is so wrapped up in this one particular career of his, that could be cause for concern. But if your deep gladness meets the needs of the football program, maybe you do have a calling, though maybe not for life, and if your husband leaves coaching and you still have a calling to be involved in a football program, what then?

A few years ago when I spoke at a MOPS group, the topic the women wanted to hear about was how to be a better wife.

I said there were a ton of marriage advice books out there, and that we’d all heard the advice to have a date night, but that what I thought was important was understanding that:

“we are not only wives and mothers.  We are our own unique selves, created by God with interests, passions, abilities, and gifts that sometimes do not fit into that mold, and we should learn to be able to celebrate who God created us to be”

Beth also wrote something similar in her post as well.

But if we continue to think that being a coach’s wife is the calling, we can miss out on so much more that God has in store for us!

One way to start finding out is these 4 questions my friend Andy from Align Coaching uses:

  • What are you good at? (what talents have others recognized in you?)
  • What makes you curious? (what do you want to know more about?)
  • What are you passionate about? (what do you believe in deeply or what are you concerned about?)
  • What do you find exhausting yet exhilarating? (what drains you in the best way possible?)

I could be wrong, but I’m not sure anyone really can answer those as leading to being a coach’s wife anymore than the answers can lead to being the spouse of a doctor, teacher, electrician, or plumber. And if that’s the case, then how is being a coach’s wife a calling, if it is not necessarily a calling to be the wife to someone in any other profession?

And in answering those questions, we might find out that those answers may not fit into the myriad of duties that coaches wives take on. We may find out that there is so much more to us than we ever realized, and we owe it to ourselves to explore that and truly know who God created us to be.

A person’s calling isn’t dependent on another person’s calling; it’s dependent on what God calls us to be and to do. My husband would never say he’s called to be a writer’s husband. So why should I think I am specifically called to be a coach’s wife?

What we can do is explore how we live out our callings within this particular lifestyle that we’ve chosen. That’s actually much harder and more nuanced. Moving means losing jobs and finding new ones; there is a lot of sacrifice involved, there is a lot of reevaluating, there is a lot of confusion.

There’s also a lot of opportunity.

Each of us has our own lives to be lived, each of us has our own callings to pursue, and this lifestyle can enhance that in unique ways; we just have to do the work to figure it out.



1Please note “helper” does not mean subservient to or less than, but I can’t go into detail here. For an easy-to-read treatment of this, see this post.

Cleaning Out the Mess

I’m not a morning person, never have been. The only reason I get up is because that’s what responsible adults have to do. I don’t roll out of bed happy and ready to meet the day; I get out of bed ready to meet my coffee.

I do, however, enjoy sleeping with the windows open to let in the fresh air. Unfortunately, along with the fresh air comes the songs of the birds at four in the morning.

Since I had slept very well and didn’t feel too groggy, I decided to get up since there wasn’t going to be any more sleeping that morning. I got some coffee, read and journalled about Falling Upward, thought about the concept of “necessary suffering” and posted my Instagram post about the death of my daffodils and birth of my lilacs.

Around six, I decided I should go outside and do some yard work.

There’s a lot of work to be done and I decided to work on the small area by my lilac tree. As I bent down to clean out some of the dead leaves from the fall that surrounded it, I saw new growth coming from the bottom. Last year, I had pruned it, but I didn’t think I’d pruned anything there; I thought it was only up much higher that I’d pruned, and I had often looked at it thinking that it was kind of a waste that the flowers were all up so high and there weren’t any lower.

Now, someday, there will be.

I am excited to see how this lilac tree will continue to flourish with pruning that it needs to be able to do so.

I started cleaning out all the leftover fall leaves from behind the lilacs and a hedge. It seemed like a relatively unimportant place to cleanup; it’s not that visible unless you are actually out in the backyard looking at the back of the house. You can’t see it when you’re sitting in the sunroom and it’s not like it’s the front of the house where any neighbors and cars passing can see.

But the hedge is potentially dying; I’m not sure if it will recover or not, and if it is dying it’ll need to be removed. If it’s removed, it’ll reveal the mess and ugliness behind it if I don’t clean it up first.

We all have something hidden within us that needs to be cleaned up. We all have something that needs to be pruned. We just don’t really want to do it because it’s messy, hard work.

It’s also necessary.

Pruning takes away what is dying and holding us back. It takes away that unnecessary stuff we carry around. And when we can finally get rid of it, we have more room to grow and bloom; we will be more who and what we are meant to be, not the decaying mess that we find due to the neglect of our hearts and souls and lives.

And like the lilac tree, we might see growth in places we never expected.


The Woman in the Mirror

What thou there seest fair creature, is thyself…

The words are from John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, which I was a little obsessed with in college. Ok, a lot obsessed with.

One of the papers I enjoyed writing was one that used this line in Paradise Lost as an epigraph for a paper I wrote about Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Mirror.” As I reread it (yeah, I’m a packrat, and I have scanned copies of many of my papers and assignments), I was struck by how fascinated I was about the topic of women’s identity and how we seek to know who we are.

I wrote:

“The woman hopes that one day she will see a reflection that she is confident with, but because she is continually looking on the outside to discover her identity, she will never find a reflection that makes her happy. If she were to look inside herself and feel confident and comfortable with what she discovers there, she may perhaps feel more comfortable with her reflection.”

Being more confident in myself is a topic that has come up lately, many, many years after I explored it in a different way, and when I found this old paper, I was surprised by how relevant it was, because I really could see how it applies not just to myself, but to so many of us who are looking outward or at others’ expectations to determine who we are. And as an Enneagram 9, it’s a lot harder to realize who we are, because the 9 is apparently the only type that is most unlike itself.

After reading Daring Greatly, I was raving about it to my husband and he asked if it was life changing. Without hesitation I said yes, and this approximate conversation followed:

“I don’t understand what was so bad about you before.”

“I didn’t say anything was so bad.”

“So why do you want to change?”

“It’s not about wanting to change anything specific; it’s about wanting to be who I really am.”

One of the realizations I have had is that for the last thirteen years, I have primarily been known as “the coach’s wife” or the mom of my kids; that’s the usual way and context in which I am introduced to people. Most people I have met have been in either of those contexts; rarely have I met people due to anything about me personally. In those situations, I am only partly me. It is as if I am one person on the outside–the one seen in the mirror–that is presented to people, and another person on the inside.

“The mirror can only show the woman what she is like on the outside. It can say nothing of the woman’s inner beauty, her personality, and her soul.”

While this is true that the mirror can really only reflect the outside of a person, I think I’d semi-disagree with this now, because when I looked in the mirror recently, I saw someone different. It wasn’t anything obvious. My hair is still brown and needs a trim; my eyes are still green and can barely see two inches in front of me if I’m not wearing contacts or glasses, and despite reading countless articles about hair and makeup, I’ve never really determined if my face is oval or rectangular.

This difference, however, was not something on the outside; it was more of a knowing that I had changed or reemerged or awakened or whatever  and as I called it in this post, I was back. The same, but different, renewed; me, but more me.

In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talks about the death of the false self and the birth of the soul. He writes,

“When you first discharge your loyal soldier, it will feel like a loss of faith or loss of self. But it is only the death of the false self, and is often the very birth of the soul. Instead of being ego-driven, you will begin to be soul drawn.”

There is so much wisdom in this book, and so much that makes me say, “yes, exactly!” It’s somewhat ironic that I bought it nine months ago, and I’m only reading it now, just in time for a rebirth. I’m not sure I understand it all yet, but I love the symbolism that goes along with the church calendar, that the majority of these changes in me are taking place during the season of resurrection, that the next time I preach at church will be on the day when the lectionary has Nicodemus’ story where he approaches Jesus in the dark and Jesus talks to him about being “born from above.”

In the church, we talk about new life and resurrection a lot.

It’s nice to be living it.