"Fear is mostly wasted imagination."
"Fear is mostly wasted imagination."
"... and what came after that was fallowness - a season to rest and reset, to be replenished and renourished ... to hold space and emptiness and be still in the quiet of not being rushed."
Growing up in Iowa, I know that summer is the growing season. I see it all around me.
So it might seem weird to tell you that most summers I try as hard as I can to let my mind and soul lie fallow.
Fallow - like a piece of farmland plowed and dug up but left unsown for a period in order to restore its ability to grow an abundant crop.
I have to lie fallow.
I use my words the remaining months of the year: Reading, writing, thinking, drafting, editing, speaking, talking.
By the time June rolls around I feel like a wrung-out washcloth. Not one drop left in me.
And so I stop speaking.
At least I stop speaking for a living.
I write less in my journal and simply read.
I try not to teach classes, do weddings, take speaking engagements.
And - I have come to learn - I stop blogging.
I tried to write some blog posts this summer and just could not do it.
It's hard to explain. It just feels as if all my words are gone.
And so I have learned that if I let the "words" part of me lie fallow most summers, come fall a crop of words appear to grow as if by magic and off I can go again on my jolly way - teaching, preaching, writing, leading, talking - letting words tumble out of me with abandon.
A crop of words grown in the rich farmland of my life left to lie fallow for a season.
I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future.
I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness,
and other things being equal,
I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side.
I think it must be a rule something like this that makes jonquils and crocuses come pushing through cold mud.
(Katherine Butler Hathaway, 1890 – 1942)
As I sat on my porch this morning after the flurry of a few days of travel,
this thought came to mind:
"I am practicing living in the beautiful tension of life's imperfections."
I am not great at this.
My tendency, my temptation is to try to fix it all.
It is hard for me to be still when all is not as it should be. Or rather, all is not as I think it should be. Important distinction there.
But what if "fixing it all" is a myth; a goal that is unattainable, unachievable?
What if most of life is simply about the practice of living in the beautiful tension of imperfection?
I want to give you a glimpse into my life.
For those who know me this story will not surprise.
For those who think you know me this story will help you know me better.
I was shopping for groceries earlier this week.
Just minding my business getting some produce on a steamy summer Monday morning.
Whilst reaching for some avocados my flip-flop got stuck under my shopping cart and I fell backwards onto my posterior while flinging my arms around wildly into a big stack of tomatillos in an attempt to catch myself.
I failed to catch myself.
And in a flurry of tomatillos I landed hard on my butt in the produce aisle.
I believe I even grunted in a lady-like manner as I landed.
To the unassuming guy stocking tomatoes, it must have appeared I fell out of thin air.
He looked over at me in amazement and I was so shocked that I just stared right back.
An elderly woman glanced at me for a couple seconds and said under her breath:
"Been there. Done that," and walked away.
So I did what you do when you make yourself fall down in public.
I got up.
Put the tomatillos back in their little messy pile and walked away.
A little bruised.
A lot humbled.
Gently reminded by God: Sometimes we fall.
We recently sent an old bookshelf from our house to our daughter's new apartment.
It was an old bookshelf I bought used at a thrift store.
It is rich with history, dings, and uneven footing.
There was concern it might not even stay upright when placed on conrete floors.
My husband said, "Well, all it needs is a shim."
A shim is a small piece of wood that all carpenters know about ... because more often than not doors don't hang evenly, windows don't fit perfectly, something always needs a little shim; a little assist.
After he taught my daughter how to use the shim for the bookshelf, my wise husband said:
"You know, there is something beautiful in the shim. Nothing in life is perfect. If we are hoping for perfect, we will always be disappointed. Thus, the art of the shim. When something is wobbly or doesn't fit quite right, don't be distressed, just shim it."
He broke into a huge grin ...
We have been quoting "the art of the shim" for these last few weeks.
Just shim it.
Life's too short to be ruminate over imperfections.
Learn the art of the shim, friends ...
When my kiddos were little they had a piano teacher who was originally from Poland. Communist Poland.
She was intense.
WAY too intense to be teaching my children how to play the piano.
For awhile, I didn't realize this was a bad fit. We had never had a piano teacher before and I just kind of thought maybe it was all supposed to be this intense.
Until one day, my middle daughter, who was beautiful, socially self-conscious and pretty intense herself, played a little piece she had memorized for her teacher. It was lovely. A little wooden, and perhaps played with a tinge of fear, but lovely nonetheless.
Ms. Intense Piano Teacher said to my somewhat fragile child:
"You played that perfect ... but not quite perfect (imagine a Russian accent here). Therefore, I will give you a gold star on your sheet of music, but I will Ri-i-i-p one of its arms off to make you remember that you played it perfect, but not quite perfect."
The next day, I fired Ms. Intense Piano Teacher.
But her phrase, "perfect, but not quite perfect" has remained in our family through the years, and we are able to laugh at it now.
But there is a lot of junk underneath and within and around that phrase.
So many of us see our lives this way - Perfect, but not quite perfect. And that last part - not quite perfect - detracts from our joy, our wonder at things, and our satisfaction in a job (pretty) well done.
So, here's a humorous little example of this:
Yesterday, I wrote a pretty serious post about finding God in the ordinary.
Lovely writing about a lovely moment in my life.
And I edited it, or so I thought.
And then I posted it! Out there for all the world (well, maybe 47 people) to see.
And in it, there was this hilarious mistake ...
I meant to write: "I felt the wind ON my cheeks..."
and instead wrote:
"I felt the wind OF my cheeks ..."
which kind of makes it sound like I enjoyed a good round of farting on my porch.
Which, of course, is NOT what I meant to say.
I read it this morning and my initial reaction was disappointment in myself:
"How could you have missed that? Everyone is is going to notice that, and they will think you shouldn't blog, you are not worthy to blog. You made an error ... perfect, but not quite perfect."
Instead - and I am starting to think this may be the truest sign of maturity - I laughed aloud at the hilarity of it all. And my own ridiculousness ...
My husband read it and e-mailed me: "Perfect, but not quite perfect."
And I smiled.
Life is good.
Life will always be perfect, but not quite perfect.
And so will I.
And so will you.
The years of all of us are short, our lives precarious.
Our days and nights go hurrying on, and there is scarcely time to do the little we might.
Yet we find time for bitterness, for petty treason and evasion.
What can we do to stretch our hearts enough to lose their littleness?
Here we are – all of us – all upon this planet, bound together in a common destiny, living our lives between the briefness of the daylight and the dark, kindred in this: each lighted by the same precarious, flickering flame of life, how does it happen that we are not kindred in all things else?
How strange and foolish are these walls of separation that divide us!
(A. Powell Davies, 1902 - 1957)
Tourist Preaching - by Frederick Buechner
ENGLISH-SPEAKING TOURISTS abroad are inclined to believe that if only they speak English loudly and distinctly and slowly enough, the natives will know what's being said even though they don't understand a single word of the language.
Preachers often make the same mistake. They believe that if only they speak the ancient verities loudly and distinctly and slowly enough, their congregations will understand them.
Unfortunately, the only language people really understand is their own language, and unless preachers are prepared to translate the ancient verities into it, they might as well save their breath.
When my kids were young I would often find myself overwhelmed with all of the chaos.
the play dates,
the sports schedules,
the parties and doctor's appointments and laundry and toys and clothes and decisions and
One thought helped me mentally dig out from under the pile of constant, daily, hourly, minute-by-minute decisions about where to give my attention, where to expend my energy, where to put my focus.
William James, the father of American psychology, said this:
"Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook."
I found this quote in a magazine,
ripped out the page,
and taped it on my wall in the kitchen.
It was the perfect piece of art for those days.
It is still a guiding force in my life today where different kinds of decisions must be made,
many more weighty than those I made decades ago.
What good work do I want to give my energy to?
What people can I make space for today?
How do I keep my attention freed up enough to hear God's wise, guiding voice?
What can I let go of?
What can I say no to?
What should I overlook?
What or whom should I NEVER overlook?
King David writes in Psalm 90,
"O God, teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well."
As you pursue a life of wisdom, a great question to ask yourself each morning is:
What can I overlook today?