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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-Z1YwaOiw

 

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

A while back, maybe a year and a half ago, I had a conversation with Beth McCord, an Enneagram Coach, because I wanted to know for sure that I was a 9. I was pretty sure, well, almost completely sure, but I was having a hard time taking that definitive step and saying yes, that’s my number, because I didn’t want to be wrong.

During our conversation, she used an example to describe an Enneagram 9 as Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride who, every time the reporter asked an ex-fiance how she liked her eggs, it was exactly like his.

In the end, she tries all different kinds of eggs and settles on what type of eggs she likes best, not the type of eggs that she thinks she should like best because it’s what someone else likes.

I’ve spent a lot of time liking other people’s eggs.

In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which I read more quickly than any other book in a long time, she writes about the difference between fitting in and belonging (see also her newest book, Braving the Wilderness):

“Fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

When you’ve moved around as much as I have, belonging is a lot harder to come by and fitting in is–in the short run–is a lot easier.

  • Go to a church where women aren’t allowed in leadership? Sure, I can find other ways to use my gifts.
  • Live in a town where there are unwritten rules and expectations that aren’t to be questioned? Sure, I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.
  • Go to a Bible study that feels like it’s at the pre-kindergarten level? Sure, I’ll just read on my own. It’s all about meeting new people.

There are some advantages to adapting to other people; you can find common ground and you really will have something in common, and you don’t always have to get your own way in everything. The disadvantage is that it makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from others and to understand your own identity, and you can never really get too close to anyone to truly share what’s on your heart and mind, because the fear is that if they knew, they’d think less of you, you’d stop belonging, you’d be disconnected, you’d lose people, and you’d be lonely.

However, it’s more lonely to not be able to be yourself.

It’s also exhausting, because you have to spend a lot of energy wondering who and how you have to be based on other people’s expectations and standards instead of truly learning who you are.

This is a lot harder for women, I think, because we are often the primary caretakers of our homes and children, and so much of our energy is expended on other people, and various churches will see that as what we are primarily supposed to do. They even have moms groups for us where we can get out of the house and have adult conversation–about our kids. Have you ever found a church with a dads group that talks about changing diapers and sleepless kids? No? Think about that.

I have spent a lot of time in places where my identity is wrapped up in that of being a coach’s wife and a mom; there have been relatively few times in the last thirteen years where I haven’t met someone because of those two parts of my identity.

And so, I learned to adapt and take them on as my full identity, shoving the rest of me aside as necessary. Not all of the time, of course, but a good majority of it. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve really started to feel more free to be who I am, and it’s often a daily struggle.

In a recent episode of the Typology podcast, author Marilyn Vancil spoke about being a Type 9 and the vague sense of self that comes along with that. She said:

“I didn’t even really know how I feel about anything. I don’t even know what I want. I don’t even know what I care about…I didn’t even know what my agenda was, let alone have it matter.”

It’s easier for us Type 9s to understand and know what we don’t like/want instead of what we do like and want, and so I’m now trying to figure that out for myself.

One thing I know for sure, though, is how I like my eggs:

  • Cook 1 hash brown patty in a frying pan and break it apart.
  • Add 1 egg and scramble it together.
  • Mix in approximately 1-3 teaspoons of salsa, depending on how much you like it and how spicy it is. I prefer Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa.
  • Top with a handful of shredded cheddar/taco/Mexican style cheese and mix in until melted.

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.

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Today's word is "Awake" and it's quite appropriate, and not just because I woke up way too early, at 4:15. . I had chosen "awake" as my word for the year but didn't know what it would bring. I just knew that I wanted to use a word in connection with being an Enneagram 9. . Yesterday, after months–but most especially in the last couple of weeks–of thinking, reading, journaling, I woke up. I realized that *I* have been missing for a while (as in years) making appearances here and there, but I am now back, and I wondered where I'd been hiding. . There's a lot more reflection ahead, and I'm glad it's begun. . #lentensnapshots2018 #Enneagram #Enneagram9 #awake #abundantlife #joy #purpose #identity

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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.

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.

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.

Juggling in Public

Winter was long and cold; spring was slow in arriving. But once it did, I had the urge to go for a walk and spend some time sitting by a nearby pond, enjoying the weather, while I thought and journaled.

While I was there, I saw a man in his maybe 60s show up with a bag of juggling equipment. For most of the time I was there, he practiced in the grass.

I thought it was a little weird.

After a while, a group of four people who looked to be in maybe their early twenties walked by, but stopped to talk to him and ask him about what he was doing.

“What made you want to do this?” one of them asked.

Mid-life crisis,” he answered.

I was too far away to hear most of their conversation, but one of the young men asked him if he could try it, and the man let him, and gave him some tips on what to do. After a few minutes, the group went their own way and the man continued practicing his juggling on his own.

In Daring Greatly Brené Brown writes:

To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance of appreciation–that’s also vulnerability. To let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster–that’s an intense form of vulnerability.”

Practicing juggling in public seems vulnerable to me; anyone could walk by and see him doing something pretty unusual, but it didn’t bother him, and he even welcomed the interaction and questions of these people. They may never see each other again, but for a brief period of time, they shared something, because he was willing to (in my opinion) look a little silly, doing something important and meaningful to himself. For a few minutes, these random, unconnected people connected over something most unusual: public juggling practice.

We interact with a lot of people everyday, but we don’t often connect with them. Most of the time, we’re too afraid to be vulnerable, to juggle in public. There are a lot of reasons for this, and you all should just read the book, because it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. So many of us are missing connection with people, and don’t know how to change that, but it is possible.

We just need to be able to juggle in public more often.

Never Good Enough

Last week, I wrote that putting together everything I know and have learned about myself is like putting together a puzzle. Part of that puzzle is understanding how to take what I have read and understand where it fits in my life.

One of the books I love and have read twice is Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

The problem is that making the connection between understanding and relating to the book and applying it in my life has been difficult.

In the introduction to the book she writes:

If we want to know why we’re all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known, we have to understand the power of shame and fear. If we can’t stand up to the never good enough and who do you think you are? we can’t move forward.

I don’t really think of myself as a fearful person and I’m not even sure if shame is something I’d describe myself as feeling, so I’m not entirely sure how I might have experienced the shame and fear that she mentions, but for many reasons, the “never good enough” has been something I have struggled with throughout my life. I don’t really know why; I don’t know if there was one event that triggered it that I don’t remember, or if it is due to how I have interpreted different events that have happened to me over the years, such as the breakup of a best friendship early in high school, sitting the bench playing softball, a sport I loved, or hearing a message from the church that my gifts and interests were not all that welcome because of my gender. It could be any and all of those, plus others I haven’t thought of yet–or just don’t want to write publicly.

As an Enneagram 9, the message that my voice isn’t important is one I have somehow internalized over the years. While it hasn’t been constant, it’s been regular enough that when I have started to realize that my voice does matter, it’s always wrapped up in doubt. It is difficult to break free from that, but over the last year it has been happening; I am a person who needs to hear something a LOT before I let it sink in and truly believe it.

I posted this on Instagram one day, because this experience has been instrumental in helping me realize this:

 

I have been able to explore this part of myself that has been buried for so long, and other conversations and experiences I’ve had in the last couple of months have also helped me to confirm that I need to stop ignoring myself for the sake of other people.

Something I read recently that ended up being instrumental in helping me move forward is from Isaiah 43. It’s nothing new; I wasn’t unfamiliar with it; but I read it again on a day when I needed to hear it (despite the context of it being about Israel, not me–you all know I’m big on context).

“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.”

I love you.

The message of God’s love is one I’ve known and believed for my whole life, but just like in any relationship, you don’t want to be told only once that you’re loved; it’s a message that should be repeated frequently.

When you know you are loved and valued for who you are, it gives you that courage to stand up to the “not enough” and “who do you think you are?” 

Let’s keep moving forward.

I’m Back

“I’m back!” I exclaimed, a bit too exuberantly for simply returning from the grocery store, which caused my husband to give me a strange look.

I explained that I had realized earlier that morning that a part of me had been missing, and I finally felt like I had returned.

“How long?,” he asked. “Since Waldorf?”

I wasn’t sure at first how long it had been, and over the years, while I hadn’t completely disappeared, as I considered it I decided he was probably right. When I had to move in early 2012, I had to give up the job I had most loved in my entire life, and I floundered a lot since then. 

There’s been a lot lately that I’ve read, re-read, written, thought about, listened to, and talked about that has helped ME to reemerge, and I’ll be referencing and reflecting on a lot of those in upcoming posts.

If anyone needs guidance, help figuring out their identity and life’s purpose, I highly encourage you to contact Align Coaching. Andy’s been a friend since I had that job I loved, and has been so helpful in our conversations over the years.

There’s a lot more progress to make, and there are a lot more thoughts that will make their way to this blog. I haven’t even really had the desire to blog in a long time, but I do now.

I’m back.