cupsrunningover

Encouragement for this "run" we call life, because as C. S. Lewis said, "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think one would often want to do anything else".


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When biking through Tuscany, I do NOT Recommend Wearing a Sundress:  A letter to my friends

Dear Becky, Robyn and Sara:

Have we been home for two weeks or two years- how is it that time always does that?  I remember Sara’s email two years ago with our calculated “joint 40th birthday” of 9 September 2014 where she declared we had to “save the date” and “do something big”!

How incredibly exciting is it that we DID it?  Despite all the reasons we could have NOT done it, we DID it!  I’m not sure even I really believed we would, but then maybe that was a protection mechanism on my part?  If I’d know what I had gotten myself into, I might have been tempted to NOT do it!

It was so fun to go to a Broadway show and fancy dinner in NYC!  (So what if we all had to take a nap (even Robyn!) so that we could stay up past 10 pm.)  It was SO fun to be on that long plane ride with all of you- to catch up on all the things we have and haven’t been able to talk about over the years.  Things like new jobs and new hobbies, babies and the absence of babies, husbands that drive us crazy but keep us sane, character traits we’ve discovered we never knew we had; dreams and hopes for the future, plans made and plans interrupted, hopes held on to even if deferred for a bit.

019

Dinner at Butter in NYC

But Italy- or more specifically Tuscany!  Wow.  Just wow.  I think I am FINALLY almost back to normal physically at least, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never be the same after that trip.  We laughed about how it was quickly evident that the “biking through rolling hills in Tuscany” was probably not exactly a fair description.  That being said, I think Robyn probably had an idea all along and in her sweet and non-judgmental way tried to prepare me a little before we left but I was having none of it.  I figured my running would transfer to the biking just fine, and honestly, thinking about biking on the road too much was not something I wanted to do….and so began one of the hardest, most intense, most life-changing weeks of my life.  The real world and all of the joys and sadnesses that we all face were waiting for us when we got home and so I’m still processing in general but I wanted to get this letter out to you before much more time passes.

What I’ve realized is that I learned many “life lessons” on this trip- things I had NO IDEA I would be learning about; things that have significant application in the here and now and the future.  Things I needed to learn YEARS ago, but I just wasn’t in a place to understand them yet.  Things that are a few of those “BIG”/monumental/”never-be-the-same” things.

1. Friendship is a gift- one that’s precious and rare and beautiful and messy and forgiving and giving and character-shaping. Ok- yes, duh, right? That’s kind of why we went on this trip in the first place.  But that’s sort of what I mean- we actually WENT on this trip.  We didn’t just talk about it, or dream about it, or wish about it, or half-way plan it.  We did it.  We planned and we saved and we shared the details and we talked about it for two whole years amidst life moving by and then we DID it.

Grapes in Tuscany- from the vine to the bottle

Grapes in Tuscany- from the vine to the bottle

Obviously it’s just the 4 of us reading this, and while I would say it to anyone, I’m also VERY aware that this might be hurtful for some people to read- people who don’t have these types of friendships.  People who have been hurt by friends; rejected, forgotten, ignored.  People who’ve moved one too many times or had one too many personal things to feel like they could be honest and even maintain a friendship.  So I’m careful who I talk about this with, but at the same time I feel so strongly that the only people in the world who can change the way “bad” girl-friendships go is us- the girls ourselves.  We have to be kind to one another, patient with one another, forgiving of each other (like you have always done Becky from residency to fellowship and all the time in between).  We have to be willing to go deep and to sit with pain when there is nothing we can do but listen and say “me too” (like you did Sara when I snuck into your office every day for what felt like a year, crying, wondering if I’d ever be the real me again).  We have to be able to give and share- our homes, our food, our hearts, our time, our laughs (like you did Robyn when Pete and I lived with you FOR TWO MONTHS while I was in the depths of depression after that first deployment and cross-country move).  We have to be willing to BE a friend but also to let others BE a friend to us, which means being vulnerable which means taking a chance we will get hurt.  It’s so hard, and I get it- I get why people don’t do it.  But I think it is a mistake.  This obsession with social media where we spend hours scrolling (comparing, judging, wondering) when we could be spending a small portion of that with a real life human (who may not look quite as happy as her facebook cover photo would have you believe) is to me just another sign that we all want these friendships.  It’s complicated.  For now, I’ll just say again- thank you for the gifts of your friendship.  If I could give a gift to every woman on this planet, it would be the gift of friends like you.

2. The next big lesson I’m taking away is a shade of the first but it stands alone as perhaps the biggest lesson I learned on the trip. I haven’t written or talked much yet to others about the intense FEAR for me on this trip- I’m still processing the words and I’m sure I’ll share them on my blog eventually.  But you guys know- there was an “irrational” fear of those dang downhills.  (MY fingers took a full two weeks to return to normal- it’s really hard to function with a claw hand by the way).

I was not sure after the first “introduction” ride if I would even be able to get on my bike again.  I’m sure I would NOT have been able to, had it not been for you three.  The way that you guys circled around me, accepted it for what it was and gave me nothing but love and support was a gift I will NEVER forget.  I’m certain I’ll still be thinking of it when we are old and much of my memory is gone because that’s how deeply I’ve vowed not to forget it.  I realized that I have never in my life actually said to someone “I need you”.  I mean I’m sure I’ve said the words, but I’ve never really meant them until that second day we got on the bike.  You told me you were right behind me all day Beck,and I recognized that I could not do it without you there.

"Behind me" all the way on this trip and always

“Behind me” all the way on this trip and always

And then the way each of you took turns staying back with me?!  There were times when I was going downhill that I could imagine how a person COULD love that feeling- NOT that I did as you know, but I could get a glimpse of how someone could.  And in that glimpse I realized what each of you were giving up by staying with me- crawling down those hills with me at what even I realized was a ridiculous pace.  I am still not able to talk (or write) about it without crying because it was such a deep lesson for me.  I thought of all the times I’ve run and walked with people- helping them complete races they never thought they could start, let alone finish.  We often finish in the last group, and like me on that last day- (sorry again about throwing the bike at you Robyn) they burst in to tears of joy and gratitude and thank me profusely for helping them accomplish the goal.  Every time I blow it off with a “no big deal” or “you don’t have to thank me, it was fun” or some other true but minimizing comment.  The truth is it IS A BIG DEAL!  It’s a huge deal to give up personal experiences and opportunities and goals to “stay back” with a friend who needs you.  I’ve realized it’s actually really RARE for people to do that and I understand why, but I now understand what a BIG DEAL it really is.  I forever have seared into my memory the minute I realized this and I am forever grateful for the way I learned this lesson.

3. Another very timely thing I learned was one I hesitate to say because it sounds so cliche’ but I realized the reason it’s true on this trip: To live life to its fullest, most peaceful, joyful, authentic possibilities, you have to be present in the moment.

This is a lesson I’ve told myself all throughout this year.  I’ve been working on not having a set schedule, and being comfortable with not having a long-term plan.  I’ve tried to be more spontaneous and leave room in my day for unexpected things.  In theory I’ve been getting better, but it’s a struggle in reality because I’m still “planning” to be spontaneous.  But what I realized mid-way through day three (I’m not ready to talk about that day yet) is that knowing what was coming next actually didn’t make it any better.

I knew I would be fine on whatever uphill was coming (oh Lord how I prayed we could just keep going up and up and up and up for infinity and never come down) and I knew knowing the downhill (and the switchbacks with the construction and crazy traffic and all the other possible factors that were added to the downhills at any given time) was coming was actually not making anything better.  Anticipating whatever it was they told us was coming, actually only kept me from enjoying those parts that I DID love (did I mention the uphills?).  I missed some of the details of the beauty and the intense way that the air smelled and the way the wind blew different trees differently and the way my heart felt when the sun was shining down on our little line of riders.  I opened my mouth to ask a question about the course after lunch that day, and promptly shut it right back as I realized that I honestly didn’t want to know.  As you guys know, this whole year has been somewhat unstructured and unplanned (and it’s not like Jan 1 2015 means the life plan is back in effect) so this is a lesson that I am CERTAIN was tailored just for me on this trip.  I am so grateful I was paying attention enough to GET it!

Slow foods restaurant where we were "forced" to be in the moment :)

Slow foods restaurant where we were “forced” to be in the moment :)

4. Another thing I’m taking away is this deep need, a sense of a duty even, to tell others they must DO THIS. Not necessarily Tuscany, or two weeks or riding bikes but this deeper thing.  They must take time to be with their friends, intentionally.  To click off Facebook and click to Facetime in an effort to keep those threads weaving together into these beautiful sweaters and cloaks and sweatsuits of friendship!  They must do things that frighten and encourage and test and strengthen and stretch them- those things that shake off the dust of life in this world and shock us with the memory of MORE, DEEPER, TRUE-ER.  I want to say it in a way that is kind and comforting, stepping gently with those who don’t feel they have friends like this, but also with a sense of urgency that says “THEN FIND THEM”.  They are out there- these real women who really want true friendship. I know they are there because my email and my facebook messages and my phone texts and my calendar is full of them!  They are everywhere!  I want to tell them if you don’t have any of those friends in your life, go back through the days of your life-is there a friendship you would love to re-engage with?  Then CALL HER!  Go present and forward in your life- are the people right around you, or doing things you want to do, that you can reach out to?  DO IT!  Ask them for coffee or a walk, and if they can’t do it, move to the next one, don’t give up!  Find a friend, whatever that means for you, and be willing to be a friend back.

Girl picture- yes we DID bike through the Tuscan hills (aka mountains)

Girl picture- yes we DID bike through the Tuscan hills (aka mountains)

5. Lastly, people keep wondering why I burst into laughter when they ask me if the trip was “relaxing”. I can’t even fathom how I would find a way to describe the trip that would include that word, but then that’s not why we picked to go on a 2 week adventure vacation in Europe, now is it?!  Words that come to mind are fun and challenging and hard.  Words like beautiful, life-giving, soul-strengthening and life-changing. Those are the words I might choose.

So while it wasn’t a “bike ride through Tuscan hills in our sundresses with a glass of wine in our hands” kind of trip, it was just the trip I needed for this spot in my life.  This place where I am marking a milestone that seems so hard and painful for some.  This celebration of 4 decades of life on this planet- and that’s just what it is!  A celebration!  This will always be a reminder for me of setting goals and plans and sticking to them.  Of finding challenges for ourselves that stretch our mental and physical abilities- it’s how our muscles grow!  A reminder that if we don’t take the time to plan and be intentional with our friendships, they will slowly fade away and we won’t even really realize it.  A reminder that just because others tell us something is a negative thing (turning 40!) or that we “definitely couldn’t” do something (that lady on the train had NO idea who she was talking to) that doesn’t make their truth our truth.  This trip was everything I never knew it would be and I wouldn’t change a thing (except to maybe bring that anti-chafing stuff next time- yeah, I might change that one little thing).

Yoga and wine- a perfect pair

Yoga and wine- a perfect pair

So thanks you guys- thanks for a trip of a lifetime and the friendships of this life.  (It’s a good thing this isn’t a blogpost, as I’m about 1000 words over the longest “recommended” limit!)  If you feel the same as I do about any of these things, maybe you can help me encourage all those other girls out there that it’s worth it to seek out friendships- they are all around us.  Who knows? They might wind up riding bikes through Tuscany? (We could see if we could get commission for referring them to Sandro and Marcello?)

Love,
Dawn

 

 


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August Words I Wish I Wrote that I Wrote Down (in my journal)

Happy September friends!

I hope you all had a simply wonderful August full of fun and sun and last minute “whatever” it was you needed a last dose of before the return to the routine/scheduled life that fall usually represents.  The hubs and I spent a great, sunny, active but restful weekend in Oregon on the now “second annual Muench Labor Day Bend vacation”, ending with an afternoon at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood at a bluegrass festival that is just a perfect way to end a perfect weekend.

bluegrass festival on Mount Hood at Timberline Lodge

bluegrass festival on Mount Hood at Timberline Lodge

This week, despite not having children with schools to return to, or a job with set hours to return to, I still found myself also craving routine and schedule and givens.  So I spent this entire day reviewing my year thus far, thinking of how I want to spend the last 4 months of this year “off” and what I want my 2015 to look like.  I finished the day off with a nice long talk with a friend who makes me a better person and am about to sit down with my favorite person in the whole world to watch what begins the season of yelling at the TV screen (which usually scares the dogs into running in circles) while various balls are thrown, hit and kicked across fields of various distances.  I hope this Thursday night finds you with a second of peace and that maybe one of these string of words below will speak to you just what you need to hear.  As always, I love hearing what words are speaking to you these days and am always excited to hear from any of you who stop by to say hello.  Happy September, fall, football, return-to-routine and yes, pumpkin-flavored everything time.

 

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Dallas Willard

Do more of what you enjoy most and less of what you enjoy least in training.  The feeling of enjoyment is your body’s way of telling you that your training is working.
Matt Fitzgerald

Our souls seek harmony, connection, integration/integrity, wholeness, rest, depth.
John Ortberg, paraphrased (Soul Keeping)

I have set the Lord always before me.
Psalms 16:8

Don’t blame the dark for being dark.  Blame the light for not shining in the dark.
Craig Gross

If you want to make a difference in your own community or neighborhood or world, start by looking at what’s wrong, and then figuring out how to make things right.  IN particular what most breaks your heart or offends your sense of justice?  Where do you feel the pain of the world most personally or passionately?  Then find the other people who feel the same pain and passion around that reality and work with them to make a difference…so if you want to change the world, start by letting the broken places and people of this world change your heart.
Jim Wallis

Start where you are.  You can’t change everything at once, but you can change something.
Craig Groeschel

As we collaboratively pursue our vocations, let us listen better to the stories of those around us.  Let us identify in the brokenness of our world, so that we can be transformed through the stories of healing and restoration. Let us respond to the injustices of our world by partnering together and helping to achieve the dreams of the poor.
Nikole Lim

Superficiality is the curse of our age.
Richard Foster

We can’t think our way into a new kind of living.  We must live our way into a new kind of thinking.
Richard Rohr

To be mature you have to realize what you value most.  It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity.  They seem to never have paused to consider what has value for THEM.  They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that fundamentally meet no real needs of their own.  Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family.  Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Darkness doesn’t have to be bad.  Sometimes it just represents the things we cannot see.
Kadie

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
Karl Jung

Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.
Sandra Day O’Connor

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robyn Williams

We will always take the most care of that which we value most deeply.
John Ortberg

We don’t say no for the sake of saying no.  We say NO to something good so we can say yes to something better.
Jeff Goins

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.
Nelson Mandela

Rivers know this: there is no hurry.  We shall get there someday.
A.A. Milne

God made humans because God loves stories.
Elie Wiesel

Trying to live out Jesus’ life, for real, is intolerable to those with something to protect.
TA Sparks

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
John D. Rockefeller

Children think not of what is past, nor what is to come, but enjoy the present time, which few of us do.
Jean de La Bruyere

Your value does not decrease based on someone else’s inability to see your worth.
Christine Caine

…Often the result of daring greatly isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue.
Brenee’ Brown

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
Helen Keller

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.
Mother Theresa

Of all passions, the passion for the “Inner Ring” is the most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.
C.S. Lewis

Be where your butt is.
Corey Allan

There are two ways to get enough.  One is to continue to accumulate more and more.  The other is to desire less.
GK Chesterton

Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.
Thomas Merton

If we value things of the world, we will miss the things of true value.
Kim Biddle

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.
C.S. Lewis

I must unrush my pace for connection and compassion to take place.
Ann Voskamp

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Success is the point where your most authentic talents, passions, values, and experiences intersect with the chance to contribute to some greater good.
Phil Strickland

All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Chair Whispers (The day a bunch of 5th graders made me cry)

GOTR "words"

GOTR “words”

You know those things you sign up for thinking you are going to “help” in some way? You may do it out of a true desire to “serve” or a desire to be less selfish, to give back, to show gratitude for what you have.  You may do it out of guilt, or because “everyone else is” and it’s the “cool” thing to do or the “uncool” thing to NOT do….or you may have gotten roped into doing something you have no desire to be a part of for whatever thousands of reasons we do and don’t do things.

But!  Then you show up.  And you do “it” whatever “it” is.  And it’s weird and scary and confusing and awkward, and you wonder how in the heck you can justify being there for “free” when there are a million other things you could be doing.  Your mind wanders, which makes you more confused and uncomfortable.  But you push through, for whatever the reason you keep showing up.  And then it happens, and it’s almost always around the words.

She asks you a question.  He looks at you with questioning eyes, asking for help.  He smiles a shy “thanks” as you pass him a plate; she swipes away a tear as you move on to the next person.  He asks you what your kids’ names are; she presses a handmade card into your hand; he runs over for a “high 5”.  And you are hooked on this feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.  You get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a world where you are valued and noticed for what you bring to others when you show up, a world where everything is so…well..not all about you.   And for a few minutes/hours each day/week/month, you get to live outside yourself and melt into a world where you are just a planet-dweller, helping another planet-dweller, who might need a little of what you have to share that day.

Overly sappy?  Maybe.  True? Absolutely.

This has happened so many times that it no longer surprises me.   It happened when I was a part of Vacation Bible Schools and mission trips as a teenager.  It happened when I coached Girls on the Run (GOTR) in 2012, when I went to Guatemala last year and when serving as a medical volunteer at the Special Olympics.  It happens when babysitting or “woMANning” a booth.   It happens anytime I volunteer to work even a few hours in a serving capacity, whatever it may be.  There is always a moment when someone “gives” me something, a smile, a hug, a gift, a word, something that usually takes my breath away in the moment as time stands still…….and then it all picks up and the second hands start sweeping again. Granted, I know that by being present and doing the actual work of whatever is required that day, we are helping people.  I don’t mean to discount that.  But I do mean to make the point that what I learn and take away from these types of experiences is ALWAYS more than anything I feel like I give. 

As we are gearing up for another Girls on the Run season, I was reminded of the most recent time this happened to me.  The final lesson of this last season included the “Word Chair” activity.  I remembered this activity from previous coaching, and because I am a WORD person, I was alert to what this activity might do for the girls.  See, I know the power of words, the ones we say to ourselves and the ones we say to others and most definitely the ones others say to us. We’d been with these girls all season and had grown to look forward to seeing them, what they would say, how they would identify with the lesson.  We’d grown to like these girls, and I intentionally say like, because it’s more personal than love to me in situations like this.

For the activity, each girl takes a turn sitting in “the chair” with her back to the rest of the group waiting across the yard.  When it’s your turn, all of the other girls and coaches quietly run up to you, whisper a word or phrase in your ear they think describes you, and quietly runs back to the line.  It’s a way for the girls to express some of the core values of the organization, things like joy and confidence.  Like being proud of who you are, being intentional in your choices, and feeling empowered to change your life and the world in the ways that you can uniquely do.  (Seriously if you don’t know about Girls on the Run, you should take the time to check it out, if every girl in America (and the world) could learn these lessons at THIS age, our world would be a very different place.)  The lesson made it clear that coaches had to take a turn in the chair, and so Brenda and I did just that.  Despite knowing the power of these activities and believing and basing my whole life on the power of words, I had so much going on in my head that day (last class, don’t forget announcements, get handouts to parents, is everyone ready etc to infinity) that I sat down for my turn without really preparing.  Which was not so much a mistake as it was a jarring emotional bodyslam.

“Your smile makes me happy”.  “Encouraging”.  “Inspiring”.  “Show us you care”.  “Believe in Me”.  “Beautiful”.  “Fun”.  “The best coach ever”.  “My friend”.  “Great coach”.   “My favorite”.  “Love to see you”.  “Make me believe I can do anything”.  “Make me see I am a good person”.  “Make me believe I can run”.  “Confidence giver”.  “Best coach ever”.

WHAT THE WHAT?  These are 3rd-5th grade girls, that I spent time with for less than 4 hours a week for 12 weeks.  Barely enough time to even get the lessons done most days.  Long enough to have a couple of days where I showed up in “not the best” mood and worried that would show through.  Short enough to wonder if they had gotten what they needed to complete the course.  But this?  This is what they learned from and saw in ME?  (And it wasn’t just me, the other coaches got these sweet words too!).  It made me cry so hard I couldn’t turn around for a bit.  I was trying really hard not to go into the back-wrenching sobs that would have set Brenda off again (we’d already had one emotional “circle-moment” earlier.  Not that GOTR is all about crying, don’t be scared!)

What I realized AGAIN, this time through whispered voices of girls who weren’t all yet in double digits, is that our WORDS MATTER.  They matter SOOOOO much you guys.  Like maybe more than anything.  I know I’ve written about this before, but I am coming to realize more and more that this is actually my “message”.  The thing I am most passionate about.  I’ve seen what GOOD words can do and I’ve seen what BAD words can do.  I’ve seen words give life and hope to people and I’ve seen words take away those very things.  Often it doesn’t take many words at all to do either of these, which is perhaps the saddest and greatest part of the power of words.  They don’t take tons of time to share, but they can always be used to build.

Think of all the places you go everyday (even if that’s mostly within your house) you can use your words to build, encourage, inspire, educate, shed light, share information, motivate and validate.  I was talking to my friend Lori just yesterday about this and she shared a recent time where she had the chance to CHOOSE to connect with someone at work.  A person she initially resisted engaging with.  She intentionally pushed through that and made him laugh, which in turn led to an interaction that changed HER day.   What if we all considered that a little more carefully?  What if we thought a little more about the words we say, and just as much (if not more) about the words we don’t say.  What if we resisted saying those words that we KNOW are going to push, irritate, discourage, deny or kill, whether in the words themselves or in the ways we say them to those we know best how to hurt.  What if we just did that?  Who needs your words?  Is it hard for you?  You aren’t alone.  But I know some 5th graders who have some skills you might learn from.

GOTR07

Photo credit Jenna McConaughy

 


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An Interrupted Confession (or why you should not read Brene’ Brown and Jen Hatmaker at the same time)

I lied to Jen Hatmaker.

Ok, so let me explain.  I didn’t exactly “lie”, I just sort of applied for something (to get advanced copy of her new revised book INTERUPPTED) even though I didn’t meet the criteria to apply (blog 4 times a month for the last 6 months).  My thought process honestly was this: “If they don’t want to pick me, when they see I don’t post quite that often, they won’t.  If they don’t have enough people apply though (HA- who was I kidding?), maybe they’ll make exceptions and they’ll pick me.  I’ll never know if I don’t try.”  So, because these days I am all about putting it out there and seeing what comes back, I quickly filled out the application that was limited to 250 people, and I hit “submit”.  Then I forgot about it.

Until I was CHOSEN. 

I realized then they trusted us to not apply if we didn’t meet the criteria, and what was I thinking? They were going to have a team of people read through our blogs and “make sure”?  Seriously.  I felt really bad for an entire day.  Then I started reading INTERRUPTED again, (devoured it in an afternoon,) and remembered WHY I started LOVING Jen (that’s what her pretend BFFs call her, right?) in the first place.  It wasn’t “7” that won me over, although I did read that first and loved it, but it was INTERRUPTED that gave her a forever place in my (blogging) heart.  I made some space for her beside my other BFF bloggers Kristin Armstrong and Shauna Niequist and she has stayed there since, inspiring me in my actions, faith and writing, inspiring me to live my life with integrity so that what I “say” is what you “see”.

But I digress (slightly.)  (While we are “digressed”, if you don’t know who Jen Hatmaker is, you might want to stop, click her name and check her out.  She’s guaranteed to make you think, laugh out loud and say “me too!” no matter what your life looks like.  Seriously.  I rarely read her blogs without laughing and feeling inspired. So go ahead.  Back?  Ok- proceed.)

The purpose of the book giveaway was to help Jen get the word out about the release of the revised version of INTERRUPTED, which in her words is “the book of my heart.”  So I determined (in order to assuage and re-frame my “guilt”) that I would use this as a catalyst to aim (AGAIN) to post weekly both as a commitment to my writing and a commitment to share more with those of you who kindly read my words.  Without further ado, here are a few of MY words on why YOU should read Jen’s words!  They are support for anyone who has felt a call to do something a little “crazy” in the way that life-changing truthful words always are.

I haven’t written in-depth about how I wound up where I am now, namely out of the Army and a full-time (or even part-time) medical career, spending my days doing things I want to do that pay absolutely nothing beyond the intangible benefits of helping others and improving health and all without a clear sense of “what’s next”.  Perhaps because I’m reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown and vulnerability is on my mind, or perhaps because I was recently at the World Domination Summit with my friend Sara and thousands of like-minded people, or perhaps I’m sun-struck or sleep-deprived or peace un-deprived or some combination of these but the truth is, I knew without a hint of a doubt that all of those changes above were the right ones for me.  I was emerging on the other side of some hard years of stress, exhaustion and “un-health” in every aspect of my life.  I was reading a lot of words about simplicity and de-cluttering and authentic living.  I had purposely put myself in places to interact with people who were unloved, unwanted, seemingly “unproductive” members of society as well as those living in poverty and hopelessness.  I had interacted with people who devoted their lives to helping these people and had seen a light and happiness in them that I did not see in myself or most of the people I interact with daily.  I had come to terms with the new knowledge that the military and medicine were no longer places that strengthened me as a person and a planet-dweller. (As an aside, this is in no way meant to indicate they CAN’T be that for others, just that for me they no longer were.)  For 2014, I felt strongly that I was (am) supposed to use my time investing in relationships-spending time with people in whatever ways that may look like, and trusting that my future “path” would show itself beneath me when I took that first step onto it.

Digression (is this number 3?): I recognize some of you just MIGHT be rolling your eyes a bit right now, and I get it….but it doesn’t change the fact that it is truth for me.  If you know me, you probably know that my faith is very important to me, the most important relationship I invest in and I felt clearly that this journey was initiated by my friend Jesus.  If you are tempted to stop reading right now, would you do me a favor?  Since we are friends? In the spirit of the words of Ghandi (who said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians), in place of every time you hear/read/think “Christian” (especially if that has a negative connotation for you), would you replace that word with “Jesus-follower?”  I have yet to meet anyone in all my life that has anything negative to say about Jesus, so as my friend, I’d be totally psyched if you kept reading.  (And I’d be REALLY excited to hear your thoughts down in the comments below).

When I read INTERRUPTED the first time, it was just as I was making moves in the direction of these changes, which was pretty dang scary.  Then, suddenly Jen came along and gave a name to what I was feeling, INTERRUPTED (in the largest sense possible) and her words sort of metaphorically held my hand as I kept making each tiny decision.

Words like “I am so done with being enslaved to the elusive top rung” and “I hate who I have to be to live there [at the top].  I hate the biblical two-step I have to perform to justify top-dwelling.  I hate the posturing up there.  I can’t stand the fear of heights, since falling is a constant danger…I detest the fear that haunts every decision.”   How about these words? “It is shockingly peaceful down there [at the bottom].  It’s much quieter.  The chaos of ego and pride recedes.  It’s, well, kind of still and beautiful.  I find myself exhaling and thinking less about the race going on up higher.  Releasing the compulsion to be right, to be respected. To be understood, to be winning, if not natural, it’s certainly a relief.”  YES.  Just Yes.

These next words ESPECIALLY resonate with me because I feel their truth deep down in my heart and I’ve seen their truth in the faces and bodies of my patients and their families (and my friends and myself): “They [the poor] already live at the bottom, in Jesus’ zip code.  I suppose that’s why Americans are the richest people on the planet but plagued with depression, suicide and loneliness.  We’re furthest from the freedom that exists only at the bottom, and money can’t buy that liberation.”

But these next words were the ones that did it for me, words straight from Jen’s hand to my heart.  She even calls me “dear” (ok I replaced “good” with “dear” but I don’t think she’d mind!):
Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader.  God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet.  As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be?  Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon?  There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind.  The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath.” 

What?  It’s like she knew just what I needed to hear then (and even now as I reread the revised version). A reminder that 1) I’m not alone.  2) Left to my own devices, I usually plan and “squash” the life out of things and 3) although I am in the “horrid beauty” phase, there is goodness down the path.

I do not think this book is for everyone.  Not that everyone COULDN’”T read it, just that it says some truly unconventional, un-“American”, un-easy things and not everyone will want to hear them.  What I love is that she does not tell us WHAT to do with the life we have, but she points out what might bring more meaning and peace to our lives and it’s not always having, doing, being “more.”  Regardless of your job, background, demographic, reading tastes or age there is something in this book that would make you think and I “think” we can all agree that is a good thing.

I’m not sure if Jen is going to forgive me. Based on reading her books, and hearing her speak twice this year (even though I MISSED taking a picture with her because I was in the bathroom and Karen was texting me to “get here now” but they cut the line off RIGHT BEFORE my turn) I know she has a heart of grace.  I know she is a generous soul (she gave us an e-copy AND a hard copy of INTERRUPTED), so I think my chances are looking pretty good.

I would truly love to hear anything you have to say about this post, this book, Jen Hatmaker, Jesus, military medicine, top-dwelling, lying on the internet or pretty much anything else you want to say.  Truly.  I think any writer would tell you when you write, about one millisecond after you hit “submit” you panic and want to take it all back!  (Brene’ Brown has taught me that is the effect of shame and vulnerability is a “good” thing).  So any words of response are generally helpful in bringing air back into your lungs.  (Even hard words swoop your mind back into “function” mode).  And seriously, maybe more than any post I’ve written, I’m interested in your thoughts.

Lastly, in the spirit of Jen’s forgiveness (just go with me here), I’d love to give my “hard” (it’s actually paperback) copy of INTERRUPTED to one of you guys who is still reading this far (thank you!).  Let me know in the comments below if you want it and why, and I’ll figure out some fancy way to pick who gets it! In addition, (her generosity continues), if you want to order your own copy, you can get it for 20% off at this link through Aug 10th.


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(June)/July Words I Wish I Wrote that I Wrote Down (in my journal)

Hi friends!

When I started this year of travel and spending time with people with the intentional intention of not working full-time (or even part-time; I actually call it “super part-time” to patients), I knew that June would be busy; summer vacation is a busy travel time so I volunteered to work a little extra. Then somehow July turned into a month of work, travel, catching-up, conferences, visitors, weddings and parties and such and suddenly it’s August!

But August- now that is a month I’ve been looking forward to. There’s not a ton of travel on the schedule, there aren’t a lot of work days and it’s still ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL in the Pac NW. The running trails are gorgeous, the sun is beaming down, the flowers are still exploding and there is time to sit and read with a glass of water or wine on the beach. Yep, August I am ready for.

I’m starting out the month with my only trip that required a flight, and I’m currently sitting on the porch of an adorable cabin on a lake at Fort Rucker, AL where my friend Christina is learning all about how to be a flight surgeon. Her daughter Alexa is quite possibly the most adorable and intelligent three year old girl I know (I can get away with saying this since none of our nieces are exactly three!), and she and I have been having a simply lovely time while mom is at “work”. So far we’ve done about 6,000 arts and crafts, we’ve played games and puzzles, been swimming (it’s SOOOOOO hot, and she can swim independently now she would like you to know), been bowling (dear Lord she truly only lost by 2 points and that was because two of her balls were too slow to actually make it all the way down the lanes) and played “beauty shop” (could I borrow anyone’s child ever to just sit and brush my hair all the live-long day? Seriously?!). As a funny little side note, for some reason in the midst of the first morning when we were getting to know each other again, I affected a British accent that has since been requested to be present at all times. (I blame my dad, maybe Robyn a bit too. See! I just said “bit”- that is so not the same as “little” and most definitely more “English” sounding, right?). Truly, it’s an AWFUL attempt – some sort of mix between what I THINK Mary Poppins, Liza Doolittle and my GPS navigator voice might sound like if they were morphed together and had a bad cold. Seriously, no seriously, it’s awful, but it has become quite funny (see, again, who says “quite”?)

In the interest of wanting to not give you 200 quotes, I pared it down a bit from these last two months worth of collectable words. There are a couple of conferences I’ve been to with enough quotable words for a post all their own, and I’ll get to that eventually (really I will- the World Domination Summit was AMAZING). These are the ones who made the cut for this time- and as usual there seems to be a theme as I read over them. Oddly enough (but not really) it is right along the lines of things I’ve been thinking about and working on in my life. Things like being present in the moment I’m in, and learning to let go of always trying to do more and be more, and instead do and be where I am no matter how big or small that may feel. Things like celebrating others instead of always trying to be the one celebrated. Things like learning that when we are helping others and focusing outside ourselves is actually when we are most healthy, productive, in synch with ourselves and the world and yes, “happy”.

So, playing Connect 4 with imaginary girls while spending lazy days in my PJs ’til 10 am seems just about right. I’d love to hear which words (below or otherwise) are speaking to you these days, so let me know in the comments if you like. You’ll have to excuse me for now though- we have a date to go and find some fairies! You do know the first rule in fairy-finding, right?

You have to believe!!

Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.
Zig Ziglar

Let the refining and imporoving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.
Joe LeRoy

You’re glorifying something when you find it beautiful for what it is in itself.
Tim Keller

Friendship is a place where our hearts don’t have to wrok quite so hard to be heard and understood nd accepted.
Stasi Eldredge

God has planted certain things within you, and you must wait for them to take root and grow…With God, a delay is not a denial.
Bob Gass

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.
Karl Barth

I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc., don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time…The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give up.
C.S. Lewis

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
John F. Kennedy

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Maya Angelou

The temperament that produces a talent for little things is the opposite of that required for great ones.
La Rochefoucauld

If people knew what Matisse, supposedly the painter of happiness, had gone through, the anguish and tragedy he had to overcome to manage to capture that light which has never left him, if people knew all that, they would also realize that this happiness, this light, this dispassionate wisdom which seems to be mine, are sometimes well-deserved, given the severity of my trials.
Henri Matisse

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell

To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
Alphonse de Lamartine

There is always the need to carry on.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Other people’s faults are like bees—if we don’t see them, they don’t harm us.
Luis Vigil

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.
Viktor Frankl

Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey.
Bradley Whitford

To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

There can be no joy in living without joy in work.
St Thomas Aquinas

Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.
Robert Ingersoll

Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
Soren Kierkegaard

Every noble work is at first impossible.
Thomas Carlyle

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.
Madeleine L’Engle

The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.
Thurgood Marshall

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
Arthur Ashe

Once in those very early days my brother brought into the nursery the lid of a biscuit tin which he had covered with moss and garnished with twigs and flowers so as to make it a toy garden or a toy forest. That was the first beauty I ever knew. What the real garden had failed to do, the toy garden did. It made me aware of nature- not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant…As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother’s toy garden.
C.S. Lewis

People are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I encounter every lesson in life on purpose.
Jadah Sellner

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Mother Teresa

There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
Josh Billings

Action and feeling go together…by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling.
William James

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.
Calvin Coolidge

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Margaret Wheatley

People hate as they love, unreasonably.
William Makepeace Thackeray

The divided life is a wounded life and the soul keeps calling us to heal the wound.
Parker Palmer

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
Stephen Covey

Progress begins with the belief that what is necessary is possible.
Norman Cousins

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Dallas Willard

What is one’s personality, detached from that of the friends with whom fate happens to have linked one? I cannot think of myself apart from the influence of the two or three greatest friendships of my life, and any account of my own growth must be that of their stimulating and enlightening influence.
Edith Wharton

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
J.K. Rowling

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.
Herman Melville

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, overcivilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
John Muir

The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the dominance of outward conditions.
Robert Louis Stevenson

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An Amazing Average Post: Jessica Alexander Fields (Or how I wound in Bali with someone I “met” on Kickstarter).

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Jess with one of her sponsor children in Bali

If you are reading this post, you are one of two people: Either you know my friend Jess or you don’t. If you do, you probably don’t need to read this (but I hope you will!) and if you don’t, I really hope you WILL read this, because I think everyone’s life can be made a little bit better by knowing Jess.

[If you missed the introductory post where I explained why I am writing about Amazing Average people, you might want to take a minute to check it out here, and you can see a couple of the past “honorees” here and here. Jessica is one of the very people that inspired this idea because she truly is an “average” person doing amazing things….usually 5 or 6 of them at one time!]

Jess’s story is hers to tell, but I don’t think she’d mind me telling you that her path has not been always an easy one. She has known pain in many places and she has had hard days and hard years and she has been hurt. What I love most about Jess is that despite that, and I would say because of it, she is one of the most joyful people I know- and it’s a joy that’s contagious.

Jess is at heart an artist and an amazingly talented one at that. I “met” Jess when a common friend posted information about her Kickstarter project to start her new business “Nutti Yogini”, a yoga-inspired active wear line of clothes. Since that day, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t have on SOMETHING that was created by Jess! It is so inspiring to hear her talk about her passion for her clothing line, because Jess is 100% committed to all of her clothing being 100% American made, down to the tiniest thread and button. This means that her prices are higher than some clothing lines who don’t share this commitment and she has had pressure to compromise in order to make a higher profit, but she has held on to her conviction and promise; I wear her clothes proudly (ok I’m basically a walking advertisement for her!)

Nutti Yogini wear

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You can climb mountains (or really big rocks) in Nutti Yogini clothes!

Jess is one of those unique people who is a blend of so many different things that somehow combine to make one amazing beautiful person. She is compassionate beyond words: if you are hurting or struggling, Jess is a friend who will cry with you and make you tea and then make you laugh. If you sit too long in the hurt, she’ll then gently but firmly remind you to get going again, and she’ll be right there to help you if you need her. Jess is honest about who she is and what she wants, and you never have to wonder what she means because Jess is beautifully authentic. She speaks up for herself and is direct and goal-oriented in a way that makes you want to sit up and take lessons. She is one of the hardest-working people I know, and to watch her get excited about her latest project or job is truly inspiring.  In beautiful contrast to this, Jess knows how to have fun, and to hear her laugh is one of my absolute favorite things.

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Another one of my favorite things about Jess is that she is truly a relational being. She is a caring and creative wife, “bonus mom”, daughter, friend, boss, mentor, co-worker and artist. (Of note, she is also a cat-lover and she’s such an amazing person in every other way, that I’ve even forgiven that!). She is always giving back out of what she has.  Whether it’s to her sponsor children we met in Bali or local girls who need a mentor and positive role-model, Jess isn’t afraid to give of herself and her blessings. I have watched her use words to encourage others in just the way they need it, and she showers around her love like she has an endless supply. She is quick to give and take advice and encouragement and I always come away from time with Jess feeling inspired and quietly refreshed.

In addition to creating super-cool clothes, Jess is an amazingly gifted jewelry artist. She was just voted Best Local artist for the third time in a row in the South Sound Magazine’s annual “Best of…” series.  Her pieces are each unique and lovely and carry a little piece of Jess’s personality and heart in them and I simply adore her work. The latest piece of Jess’s I bought right off her neck and I don’t think I’ve taken it off since!

Jess lives her life out loud- in a big bold beautiful sparkly way that makes you feel grateful just to know her. I try to always have a next “date” on the calendar with Jess, because she is a super-busy girl but I’m determined to continue to steal away a few moments every couple of months with her!

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Jess’s wedding- isn’t she a beautiful (artistic) bride?!

If you are interested in checking out some of Jess’s beautiful creations you can do that here: Nutti Yogini and here: Jessicaalexanderjewelry. I can promise you won’t regret any purchases you might be tempted to make, and in fact, the problem will be keeping yourself from buying more!  (Her new summer line was just released and it’s colorful and awesome, just as it always is!)

Thanks Jess for letting me a part of your beautiful life.  You truly are an amazing person and I am so honored to be your friend!

Mr and Mrs Fields

Mr and Mrs Fields


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May Words I Wish I Wrote that I Wrote Down (in my journal)

Life has been BUSY (with a capital B, U, S and Y) and I’ve been writing less as I’ve been living and celebrating and sharing and working and running and listening… a good kind of busy. I scheduled in some time to write today, so I’m back with some words for you. Almost every single one of these made me want to say “this one is my favorite” and since I can’t say they are ALL my favorite, I’ll just say these words were all good for me to hear last month. Maybe one speaks to you in a specific way- I’d love to hear which one and why! However, even if you just read and move on, here’s hoping one or some of these words make your day a little more sparkly!

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It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery “The Little Prince”

You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that ok? Your life does not get more right by chance, but by practical CHANGE.
Jim Rohn

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am.
Thomas Merton

Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I don’t want that girl- she plays dirty”
Aiden McCann (6 yo) in reference to the Queen of hearts while playing (beating) me and Pete at “9 card stud”

Some beautiful things are more dazzling when they are still imperfect than when they have been too perfectly crafted.
la Rochefoucauld

No effort is required to define or even attain happiness, but enormous concentration is needed to abandon everything else.
Quentin Crisp

The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but to hold hands.
Alexandra Penney

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Jesus. (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Once you label me you negate me.
Soren Kierkegaard

One can often endure an extra pound of pain far more easily than we can suffer the withdrawl of an ounce of unaccustomed pleasure.
Sydney Harris

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
Shakespeare

No effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.
Helen Keller

No one is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful or to discover something that is true.
William Ralph Inge

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.
Arnold Glasow

Never cut what you can untie.
Joseph Soubert

The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you.
Jean de la Bruyere

One does not write what has already been written. One writes out of the storehouse of fresh revelation and his own personal knowledge gained through the painful experiences of growth. Ye cannot escape the growing experience without forfeiting the other. Ye shall cease writing if you cease learning. Ye do not learn as ye write, but write as ye learn.
Francis Roberts

There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice.
Po Bronson
Measuring sticks always become weapons of self-harm.  And scales always lie. They don’t make a scale that ever told the truth about value, about worth, about significance.
Ann Voskamp

There can be no success or happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.
Freya Madeline Stark

A good example is far better than a good precept.
Dwight Moody

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is 10% about what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.
Charles Swindoll

I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord

Person to person, moment to moment, as we love, we change the world.
Samahria Lyte Kaufman

You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.
Lupita Nyong’o

We brag about the things that we think give us value.
Kathryn McIvor

You can not change the people around you, but you can change the people that you choose to be around.
Christine Caine

Only speak words that make souls stronger.
Ann Voskamp

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
William Wordsworth

In this world, you must be a bit too kind to be kind enough.
Pierre de Marivaux

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