that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.


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rolling waves

When I lived on Vancouver Island, one of my favourite places to tuck away was leaning up against a piece of driftwood and burrowed in the sand, watching the water as it crashed on the beach. I preferred this spot at night time, when the glow of the moon mirrored soul-type things. Hours spent – together or by myself – included a book, or beer and guitar, or catching scattered stars, arranging them however we thought they belonged.

The ocean…unrelenting, wild, and commanding the highest reverence, is home. Geographically, in some ways, but more – that feeling, of truth and the nudges in a particular direction – the not relenting, impassioned, reverent knowing I’ve got to do some things differently never lets up; home is being in the space of knowing which direction I want to go and not doing anything about it. At all. It feels safer that way, and far more controlled, when deep in my bones I actually do know what needs to be done, but keeping it at arms length means I still get to be in charge [or, the illusion of such]. I don’t have to risk anything. I think it’s time to challenge the comfort in this space.

I bought a bike about a week ago – the perfect place for this story to begin again. I’ve wanted a bike for years. Years. I’ve actually never owned my own bike. Growing up as the third of six kids there seemed to always be a bike available to me, but I never had my very own. As I’ve made some aggressive changes in my lifestyle these last few years, biking has appealed more and more as an alternative to running. So I finally got one.

In one short week, biking became a powerful metaphor for me and how I do things – and doing the exact opposite. On my first ride of my literal adult life, aside from a nice winery-hopping cruise on my 30th birthday, I was determined to ride the entire reservoir [16 k]. As I got going, I learned all too quickly that while I know how to ride a bike, I had NO idea how to shift gears on the ‘new’ bike – as I hadn’t done so since the late 90s and I think bikes have changed a bit since then. And the hills? Forget that I am in the best shape of my life, biking is a different exercise that I wasn’t prepared for… even though the hills are barely hills, because I couldn’t figure out how to shift properly for awhile, I had to WALK up the little inclines. But I did manage to complete the ride. The whole ‘first ride’ experience truly felt as inaugural as anything brand new – I have no idea what I am doing.

See, usually I won’t attempt something unless I have almost absolute certainty that I will be successful at it. And unfortunately, not ‘sort of’ successful, or ‘partly’ successful, but absolutely, almost expert, could-teach-a-class-on-it successful. Which is why I just don’t try much. I’ve convinced myself that being the master of some is better than an amateur of much.

Better? No, I realize that. Easier? Much easier.

And I’ll be honest – I didn’t think biking would be hard! If anything, I thought it would be a leisurely reward for my runs, alternating difficulty. Oops. With my perceptions so entirely off base, I pursued the new activity only to find out that it isn’t what I thought it would be. Aside from a learning curve that would be laughable [and not, at all, a curve] to most people I know, and the sore ass from a few long rides, I know that my determination to be a ‘really great biker’ is not why I started the hobby. I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t want it to be hard. Now what?

I’m going to keep riding. I see the need to pursue this if only because all my instincts are screaming against me doing so. It’s a risk. But such a small one! So small. And while I get that, it’s the first thing in a long time that has surprised me in that it’s not at ALL what I considered. I love it, and have had more fun with the new activity that I thought, but it’s not easy for me and I know it’s okay that it’s easy for others. Pretty simple, but something so foreign to me – risk taking.

On my road trip yesterday, I had two significant moments. First, I saw an old friend who is relentlessly pursuing his dream – mastering his craft while building his business – and I was struck by not only the artistry of his purpose, but that not doing it is not an option. He wouldn’t even consider stepping away from this path – his path. I really love that. I don’t remember the last time I knew I had to do something so fiercely. Or so imperfectly.

The other? I was listening to a podcast that included an interview with a well known author. She was talking about fear, and how she lives in a constant state of it. In fact, her fear is so rampant, she doesn’t know life without it. However, she chooses to harness the sense to propel her forward. I love this passage from her recent novel – “Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.” Something to be dealt with. It just might be time.

Assuredly, fear is implicit in why I’m so unwilling to take the risks I need to. And I think it’s even worse that I know what I need to do, in so many ways, I just don’t. For all those reasons. The only truth I can mustre is that I can’t get away with it any more – there’s no ignorance when it’s so clear. If only I perceived the risks were easy, like riding a bike, only to then find out their difficulty… I would do so much better in taking those initial steps.

Anyway. I’m starting with writing. Back to the trusty, reliable standby – perhaps one of the most natural expressions of my creativity, and of my soul. And a venture back to those late nights at the lagoon, as the waves crashed and fear, though very big and very real, was far enough in front of us that catching up to it meant stepping right into the water – the only true way to experience the ocean.

grace and peace.


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state[s] of being

If you’re even out there still, thank you. 

Nothing like a long, deafening silence from my corner, only to be interrupted by a [complex] question…

There is an every growing chasm between what I am doing and where I want to be – is that normal? 

‘Restless’ can often be likened to a ratty old sweatshirt, one that is so uncomfortable, yet so familiar, that it is difficult to want to discard the feeling it brings. I am five years into a career that brings me challenge, joy, and growth. I find pleasure in the Sunday morning stillness, and in running so hard my lungs hurt. I am getting creative in my coffee shop and prairie scenery pursuits, and I am confident that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. I am also pretty certain that I could continue this for a long time. Unfortunately.

I’ve often wondered about the ‘right’ way, or ‘missing’ something, or if I should be doing something entirely different with my time. I watch furniture design shows and think I would be pretty good with a sketchbook and a skill saw. I watch TED talks or listen to pod casts and consider what I need to become a public speaker. I peruse the plant section of department stores or peek into scads of cookbooks and think I could be pretty good in the artistry of gardening and cooking. I stumble through the manual of my Nikon and laugh at the sheer immensity of what that hobby requires. I watch my latest guilty pleasure, Chicago Fire, and think that a fire station could be exactly where I fit in most appropriately.

My meanderings are not unlike anyone else’s; I truly believe that we all stumble on these thoughts. From a time that I was quite young, I knew two things: I want to teach and I want to write. [And be a public speaker, but nobody really knows that]. I considered myself fortunate to be in company of those who know who they are, what they want to do, and ultimately, even find out that I could do it pretty well. The dream, if we’re calling it that, was never in question, and I think I assumed an identity with it before I even had time to decide whether or not what I do could be synonymous with who I am.

It isn’t, is it? Call it turning 30 soon, or looking at all the ways that I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life, but I am a little lost in this space of ‘what else could I do?’ or ‘how can I do it all?’ and being content with where I find myself at this moment. Is what I do, who I am? Because it sure feels like it, and I sure don’t think what I am doing is representing the very nature of who I am.

And then there is taking risks. You know, those big, huge leaps of faith (fear?) that I don’t do so well. So much has changed for me in the last year. It’s been 365 days of growth and healing and change that knows no bounds…I don’t even recognize myself, literally. Yet – still I struggle with saying the things I should, acting on conviction that has served me so well, and willing myself to make the mistakes that I know will have immeasurable, lasting outcomes. It’s as if I know everything to do, I just won’t. My favourite friend could attest to this, as I constantly listen, yet rarely act on, his encouragement to just go for it, Kate. Why don’t I?

I have this friend who’s [likely unknowingly] been teaching me how to analyze various types of feedback in my world – edifying and evaluating the words and insights of others, yet accepting and applying the ‘wisdom’ of only those whose voices we [I] actually trust our vulnerabilities with. So we take certain voices as truths, only to question why we allowed that power to them. It’s interesting how this squad of people changes over time…at one point, being grateful for certain voices, yet now careful to silence those same hearts when they forget how to know you. I’ve been watching some of my relationships shift this way, and it’s been good to face the value of those changes.

We’ve all heard those words by Wendy Mass – ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.‘ I am beginning to consider applying these words for myself, to myself. I think the person I am least kind to can be myself…especially when my battle seems non-existent, until I am sitting on my tush, labouring over that question above…

Is there a right way to do this? My mom would say ‘bloom where you’re planted’, and I am doing that [I think]. But does that nagging wondering, oh-so-whispering sense of ‘is this what and where I should be?’ ever really dissipate?

Yea, yea, yea. I guess the fact that I am even articulating this, after almost a year of blog-silence, must mean I know the answer already. But where’s the fun (confusion?) in that, really? I thought that by 30, I’d be a little more sure of where I fit and how to curb the loneliness. It’s an interesting place to be.

I want it all. And my all looks different from everyone else’s, absolutely, but surely the sentiment is the same for everyone…

…just different. Different goals, uncovering needs, changing avenues, evolving hearts…

various states of being [exactly who we are].

Now, back to Chicago Fire.

grace and peace.


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defining gratitude

New Year
Thank you.

‘Thank you’ kind of looks like this: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Sometimes, I’ve decided, being grateful is my default action and reaction to circumstances I cannot understand – or change. It is as though I’ve learned that I need to be grateful for adversity, or difficulty, because I know that this is where my purest growing happens.

However, it is a bit of a charade. And things are changing. I think somewhere between situation and reaction, I’ve forgotten to let myself be. Be tired. Be hurt. Be afraid. Be lonely. Be angry. Be frustrated. Be confused. And then, let the authentic gratitude come later. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this – a masking of what is really going on, providing the “right” answer instead of the “true” one.

Doesn’t sound like much good around here, does it?

I think I have mentioned that this year has been a difficult one.. not just at work, and not just in my personal life. For some reason, 28 has boasted more adversity and more confusion that any years past.   As it has all unfolded, I’ve felt pretty vulnerable, yet consciously aware of why I am walking through everything. Call it self-awareness, call it maturity, or whatever you want, but as everything has happened, I think I’ve been attune to it because this is the first year I’ve also really understood myself. My limitations, my downfalls, my talents, my strengths. I have struggled with worthiness this year; I wonder often if the range of who I am is as valuable as I think it is. I’ve taken more risks this year, but I’ve also struggled to find my voice in some of the most important aspects of my everyday.

Anyway. My profession provides a myriad of ways to feel success and vulnerability every day, all day. I feel like I am perfecting my craft a bit more, all the time. I often refer to myself as a “work in progress”, yet this has negated myself from seeing that even so, I am pretty good. There have been many instances that have left me wondering and questioning that this year, but I try to see that humility to my art is the place that I want to be. The same is true for my relationships. While sometimes leaving me feeling as though I shoulder much responsibility for things that really aren’t mine, I am learning to trust that people are capable of disappointing or hurting me, even when they love me and fill that need in my soul for connection. It might not be revolutionary to all, but it sure has been to me. Somehow, it makes me feel better, learning that all this can’t solely be on me. I tend, as we all do, look at our own situations and go “well, this is really not so bad and compared to others, I have nothing to complain about”, but as much as we do this, we need to get better at recognizing our hurts need only to be measured relative to our own experiences. In other words, this is the worse it has been for me. And I am tired. 🙂

Now, none of that [very confusing and vague] explanation is my point. I have been struggling to put words to everything, because I know I am not ignorant to how beautiful and much-more-whole I will feel once I am out of these valleys, looking back and seeing how much better I am for these bits and pieces of my life. However, I am tired of putting an inaccurate voice to how difficult it’s truly been. My mom’s favourite saying (and subsequently, my least favourite) is “bloom where you’re planted” – some line from a Catholic hymn that used to drive me crazy in grade school. I’ve tried, and ultimately struggled with, being grateful, genuinely, in the moment as the days of this year have passed. Instead of allowing myself to be more honest with others, and myself, about everything, I’ve created a cautious identity of gratitude, even though it doesn’t always work.

Don’t misinterpret this – I am grateful. I know that amongst pain are immense blessings. I just also know that I am not better for ignoring some other truths in my heart, and in my experience. Chalk it up to working with kids all day, and encouraging them to find their voices and be authentic in their being, but I’ve been feeling convicted in knowing that there is a bit of a competition in my heart right now – being grateful and being unsure [of why things are panning out as they are]…is it possible for me to be both?

I remember going to counselling a few years back and we were talking about how tired I was about learning lessons. I wanted to be left alone for awhile…no more lessons for a bit. As I write that, I am taken back to that day, and I still feel silly for saying it. I guess my point is that I want to know that what what I am doing is good enough for awhile, even though I know it’s never that easy. We don’t plateau, nor would I want to, at a mediocre version of ourselves; a version we spend our entire lives trying to overcome as we get better and better at identifying ourselves with who we’re supposed to be. 

Anyway, this post is lame. And I am as restless with it as I am restless with many things right now. But I think what I have learned, especially in the last four to eight months, is that even though it might lack authenticity at times, attempting to live in gratitude is much better than the alternative. My gratitude looks different, as I try to be thankful even for experiences that have been hard on me, but somehow I have to trust that this will be more beneficial in the long run.

Doesn’t mean I am not exhausted. Or hurt. Or confused. Or humbled. I am trying to be all of those things, too.

Looking forward to so many things… ❤

grace and peace.

 

 

 


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love

90_20_27-four-advent-candles_web1

Fourth Sunday of Advent.

The fourth candle symbolizes love.

Treasuring borrowed words from a beloved poet:

“Here I came to the very edge
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning. ” 
                                                                                       -Pablo Neruda
Love, in every form, goes something like that. Being mindful of this truth in these final moments.

The wait is almost over.


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joy

90_20_16-three-advent-candles_web

Third Sunday of Advent.

The third candle symbolizes joy.

Anybody have any grand ideas for this one? Years ago, my dear friend [then Pastor] Nathan explained that joy comes internally, externally, and always from God. Yet what about those moments, like this moment, where joy is a little harder to come by? Harder to find? Sometimes it is just more of a struggle, and we feel like we spend so much time looking for and grasping at hope and peace that seeking joy just feels more like a chore. I have written several times on this blog about actively trying to live my life one of joy. And how hard it is. When joy, the beautiful return for waiting for and the gift of Christ, should be so simple. Do you have any ideas? I don’t really know what to think about joy today because I am waiting, it feels like everyone is waiting, for the joyous part of this season. Amidst the haste of tasks we associate with the season and busyness of trying to connect with loved ones in heartfelt, meaningful ways…we pressure ourselves to find joy. As we focus on the desire for healing and hope and peace and then – that the suffocating, intoxicating, brilliant thing of joy will comes to overwhelm them all. Us all. And we didn’t have to really do anything at all.

Where does your joy come from? …What fills you? [story.donald miller]

And personally, I do not mean simply waiting for the joy of Friday, December 20 – when school is out! What a blessed relief that day will be, the joy in the quiet breaths I can take during a few weeks away; a time with my family that I long for 11.5 months of the rest of the year.

Calgary has grown cold, and the blustery days of snow have produced some magic in the prettiness of white. And it’s so very quiet out there tonight, a first in awhile, perhaps here to settle us in for the last full week of anticipating this gift.

grace and peace,

Kate

[adapted from d.08]


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peace

90_20_8-two-advent-candles_web

Second Sunday of Advent.

The second candle symbolizes peace.

Peace is so fitting right now, I find (as I am sure you all do too) that Christmas season, which should be the most peaceful of all, often isn’t. I spent a lot of time around the city this week, waiting in lines, waiting for kids to settle, waiting for my coffee to be made, waiting with abated breath for people to stop moving. And stop rushing from everywhere to everywhere else. It’s as if Christmas is the ticket to speed up, get out of control, and be justified doing so.

But lack of peace is so much more than the busyness of the season. I’ve found, with some experiences, that there can be some really hard circumstances that make it hard to find the peace of this second week of Christmas. Oftentimes, people share how they are simply not at peace. I find I am not the most equipped person to deal with other people’s hurts or concerns very eloquently or even say things that directly reflect my heart… I mean, I am hardly comfortable hugging people so it is hard when someone is struggling for peace because it so mirrors my own soul. So I just ruminate on it; and pray… because our burdens are small compared to the love that encompasses us. We’re seeking instant-gratification, often manifested by impatience, which can suffocate the peace that should be resting inside.

The dictionary defines peace as the separation or distance from anything that causes strife or pain; it’s serenity and silence. Silence. Maybe that’s why it is so hard to hold onto, peace, because it only takes a drop of water or a gust of wind to break the silence. If that’s all it takes, that I can see why school or health or family or fear can take over and replace the peace in our hearts. But as I consider the notion that we all spend a little more time in silence, the more we may slow in peace. The longer it’s quiet, the more we get used to it…and I am convinced, the more we’ll miss it when it’s gone. The better acquainted we may get with this peace, the more real it becomes. And like our hope, we need to share it. I have a deep and persistent yearning for that peace… not just for myself but those whom I love who need that peace right now… the settling of hearts and silencing of fear.

The quiet surrender of our souls.

Can you feel it? We’re being held; we’ve got more than enough to step into the silence and embrace a bit of peace.

 

grace and peace,

Kate

 

[adapted from d.08]


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hope

90_20_2-advent-candle_web

First Sunday of Advent.

The first candle symbolizes hope.

hopebreedshope

Hope Breeds Hope is my classroom theme this year; a maxim that adorns our eastern wall, above the boards, staring at the children each and every day. We’ve woven its meaning into every aspect of our time together, desiring hope to be in the forefront of what they do.  As I teach my students about how hope can – and needs – to inform them, the choices they make and the ways of their being, we challenge this hope to be contagious…breeding willful hope in others.

Some say it’s fleeting (or reaching), the quiet moments of accessing such a higher order understanding amongst eleven and twelve year olds. But as we teach these children about hope, their awareness of all they’ve been entrusted with is transcending the words on the wall. Slowly, and ever so simply, I am seeing the impressions of their hope in others. People enter our classroom and sense the quiet community that is growing within a common faith. Though their faith might look different from the person sitting beside them, I am certain that there is a new, existing belief… even if somedays, it’s only a belief in themselves.

Hope breeds hope. Three words that mean everything today; a day that begins the journey we embark on each winter seasons. To use my own words from a few years ago, I don’t know where you’re at, who you’re with, what you’re struggling with, but I encourage you during this advent season. Hope is the greatest thing we can put into this life, and you can always have hope when it feels like you have nothing left. If you’re struggling to find the hope of this season, through the lights and candles and chaos and busyness and the oh-so-apparent, but sometimes too subtle, reminders of the simple beauty of what we’re doing here…why we’re here, let me hope a little for you. Sometimes we need encouragement as we wait in joy for the things that are promised to us.

I see that hope breeds hope, every day. If not only by the explicit words that are guiding me, and our class, but in the gentle ways that we do and need to risk hoping a little more for each other.

Have a blessed 1st Sunday of Advent.

grace and peace,

Kate