Tuesday, August 21, 2012

THIRD ENTRY: Riding Wind

A firm stomp on the pedal and I am part of the bike.  I hop on and drift down the driveway, while the other foot flips the pedal and clicks in. I am now committed to both speed and balance.  Circular rhythm, head down gaining speed, I surge toward the short hill ahead. I consider what it might be like to clip into wings, suspecting that those too would not be effortless.

This morning it is windy. Wind from the NE means that for one leg of my favorite route, I will feel stronger than I am.  A splendid illusion.

 It’s a nine-mile loop. Slowing for a cross road, I remember a story about two men racing to the South Pole. The margin between winning and losing, life and death, was what the survivor (Robert Falcon Scott) called the 20 mile march. Good weather or bad, extreme or lovely, 20 miles. Only twenty miles. Always the same. Twenty miles of ambition and twenty miles of self-control.

Do not be deceived into thinking you can beat this plan, I tell myself. Nine-mile loop. Niner.

Rolling curves, slightly downhill the first 2 miles, gusts buffet at a 45-degree angle. I hunker down to the lower curve of the handlebars and tighten my grip. I weave erratically and go slow. Is it unbecoming to use the word panting?

To distract myself from the work of it all, I think of danger:

·          Weaving in front of a passing car that I haven’t heard coming because of wind noise, BAM.

·          Having a gust deposit me into unstable gravel and loose dirt. CAN’T GET FEET OUT >>> BPLOOOSH.

·          I thank God the fence by the cemetery I’m passing is chain link not barbed wire, in case I get hit from behind or bumped by a side view mirror or random trailer that is wider than the driver thought. KaUFFFF      aaaAAAAAHHH              oooooHHHhhh.

Stop sign. Slow. Unclip. Stand in the calm. Drink. Watch for traffic. Breathe. Heat radiating. Breathe deep.  OK. Stomp pedal. Hop on. Flip pedal, stomp in and onward. Nine miles of WIND.

Drafts buffet & jerk bike & brain beating me with the thing I failed to consider: one leg of easy balances three legs of hard. I blow it off with NINE. NINE. NINE.

All things equal nine. Nine miles. I take to counting breaths in nines…

… and turning a corner gales stop      their assault     and I SAIL for two miles.  Another turn and I grind it toward home giving myself helpful advice:

Look where you want to go; you go where you look.

Elbows out.

Don’t rest heavily on the other hand, when you raise an arm to signal.

Lean and the bike turns itself.

Another corner and it’s housing construction, dirt on the road, trucks, both parked and moving, a car barreling this way, don’t look at that rock on the road! Don’t look at that side view mirror! She does not see me, I thread the needle zipping close to the parked truck, look where you want to go

 A shift in sunlight or the sprite of a sprinkler, what is it that signals us to glance or listen, could it be danger itself flying unseen right toward us?

I consider this moment what I would do if a bee, just now, flew in the vent of my helmet…could I hold it together to not fall in front of the oncoming car, to not turn too quickly and skid on the gravel, could I not react to stinging my scalp over and over, ignore needles of pain, keep it steady …

… and there it was, 

a single line of rebar slumping four feet off the back of the truck

 right toward my belly.

Sometimes doing hard things is setting a goal amidst the good, the bad, wind and calm, or the satisfaction of nine miles. Sometimes it is paying attention to danger. 

And once and a while doing hard things is a moment of clarity, just in the nick of time.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SECOND ENTRY: Mirror Mirror

Let me just say it: I am vain.

Sunlight slipping behind the clouds, as a five year old I’d tug on a pink tutu, play my music box (Three Blind Mice) and dance. As I danced beautifully, God would uncover the sun. Again and again.  Yes, certainly God loves beauty. I wanted that.

But I must be clear—I did not necessarily want to work at ballet. I was just pretty sure leaping and twirls and lovely slippers would work for me.

My parents were a tough sell on toe shoes and tutus. The currency of our household was “smart”—having or showing quick intelligence or ready mental capability—not "pretty".  My dancer dreams were dashed smartly (sharp, local, and usually superficial pain). 

No worries, I ended up fine after all. Now I work beauty into every day as an artist. Personal beauty is not a huge focus, but I admit I long for elegance, grace and a measure of comeliness (even at 58). 

Story time: Engineer and I go to a seminar. We run into a good friend and a pastor of ours from 21 years ago.

Pastor turns in his seat and speaks directly to Engineer, while I look on. Whenever I marry two people, at one point in the ceremony I turn to the groom and ask him to look at his bride. Together we admire her beauty. Soak it in. Pulling the groom’s gaze back to me, I get in close. Remember how stunning she is today. Remember, because she will grow more beautiful every year, every year, if YOU treat her RIGHT.

Pastor then looked at me and touched my cheek and said, you are lovely; Engineer must treat you REALLY well.

Believe me, I did not miss his compliment, but what astonished me was the compliment given my husband.

It was, actually,       disorienting.

Beauty is a response. 

This is new. A different VARIABLE. 

Aside from raw material given at birth (and creative upkeep), there is an unaccounted for variable.

Engineer.  Engineer. Can you feel my love for Engineer pulse and expand? And years of striving to be noticed in the eternal way of beauty, sloughing away. The dust scatters and disappears in the currents.

Let me just enjoy this moment.

Beauty, a gift from those around me, evidence, left like a fingerprint.


Oh but wait, what does that have to do with Do Hard Things?

Ahhh, the work of realizations that bump you from behind …

Well, I now find myself in charge of a beautification project like no other: not just the power to give beauty to someone, but a mandate to so.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

Do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Love them. Give them Beauty. 

Do Hard Things.


Afterword: I am thinking about the shine of Moses face after he had been with God, so much so that he had to cover it. Beautiful evidence of God’s goodness toward Moses,

Can I be that good to someone?


Saturday, August 11, 2012

FIRST ENTRY: Go to your room and come out happy

“Go to your room. You may not come out until you are happy,” my daughter quietly instructs one of her children, who is pitching a fit. Do not come out until you are happy (period). That is a capital period.
But but but …
In all of 5 seconds the irascible child marches to the bedroom and back. No sour sigh or slouched shoulders, no dragging toes over hardwood floors, no stomp, sharp elbows or jut of jaw. Decision made. Skillfully performed. We cheer at giving children this lifelong skill, yet, it bumps up against something hard in my life.
Even as a fairly civil adult, attitude ensnares me.

Example: Engineer (husband) and I get on either side in a discussion (argument), I am a black tide of determination. UNDERSTAND ME, I decree, UNDERSTAND my point of view. Relentless—if we want to find solution, I must be heard and understood. I. Must. Be. Understood.
Go to your room and come back happy.
I pause. I frown. I don’t understand. 
Go to your room and come back happy. I am confused.
Enter an argument without attitude. Enter without the need to be heard.
Everything tells me this is wrong … and impossible. My emotions are the POINT of the argument … I AM HURT … slighted.
I craft a litany of objections on how Engineer would then NEVER know how hurt I was, how important this knowledge is to our future. And God whispers in my ear … 

Go to your room and come out fine and … maybe, just maybe you are not hurt after all.  
 Maybe I am not hurt?
It seesaws back and forth for my consideration. Maybe I am not hurt after all. 
Giving up my right to be hurt—means      I am not hurt.
I cannot tell you how wrong this seems.
And yet. …


This is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about me giving up the right to be hurt. It is about how I look over my own shoulder and watch for any reason to strike out (to make my point). It is about me not seeking understanding. Not being hurt--what could make a better listener?
I begin to see a firm path … of objectivity rather than emotions. What happened vs how I felt about what happened.
Do hard things.






Tuesday, August 7, 2012


A bow of respect to Alex & Brett Harris who wrote a book called

Let’s get to it: our culture teaches us to AVOID hard things.  Not out rightly, of course. We have the means to make life Fun, Easy and Entertaining (FEE).  It’s a no-brainer. Lemons to lemonade—DOING HARD THINGS has been overcome. No lack of creativity here in America.

Teachers pay the FEE.

Parents too.

And we whine and beg and cry to God to take it away when life gets hard.

Still, I wonder why survivors have miraculous and lasting strength.

Our culture is the most safety conscious society that has ever existed. Does that make us smart? Or just afraid. Very afraid.

Why are people who DO HARD THINGS not afraid? They seem to suck on bare bones, the marrow of faith, with chipped and broken teeth and...and...and... 

... are rewarded. More than I can say.

I want to be known as someone who DOES HARD THINGS.

Stay tuned for more: DO HARD THINGS.
(Experience, the great teacher)