Thursday, August 2, 2018

sisters, swimsuits & synchronized joy



























I was talking to my friend, Lindsey, the other day.
I love her so much. She is one of those people I could spend hours pondering life with.
And laughing with.
We both have awkward underpants stories that have haunted us throughout our lives.
But her stories are better. I can't breathe right when she re-tells them.
Her lost swimsuit-bottoms-jetskiing-in-a-lake-after-a-speaking-engagement-with-people- 
she-just-met-that-day? One of my favorite stories of all time.

Joy.

I so love to laugh.
I think we are made for it.
Our faces look so much better when we are smiling.
All the wrinkles go the right way.

Lindsey and I talked about hard things, too.
Like who we wanted to be when we grew up.
Things keep switching up on both of us. Life is crazy life that.
But I told her that I knew one thing, no matter what career path I am on....
If I can make some people laugh while I am figuring this life thing out...
If I can usher in some joy...
If I make some people hold their sides when I tell a story...
I want to do that.

Because joy lets us breathe.

I had a moment of pure unadulterated joy on our family vacation this summer in Colorado.
Laughing so hard I couldn't catch my breath.
Which should have been scary because I was in a pool.

Except that I wasn't swimming...I was in a water aerobics class
with my sister, Jenny, my sister-in-law, Traci, and my cousin, Janna.

Yep. Water aerobics.
The class was called "Aqua Pump."
That should give you a visual. We were pumping it up...in the water...
with about 20 other women...in our swimsuits...to 90's hip hop.
They had all the jams playing.
It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right. Or a whole bunch of AARP members with pool noodles.
You get it.

We were at the lower end of the age spectrum.
So we were feeling good about ourselves.

Except that Janna and I were having issues with our swimsuit bottoms
while we were pumping it up.
Who knew that while performing underwater jumping jacks
your swimsuit wants to stay in one place while you jump up and down?

This would have been no big deal...
expect for the lone guy swimming laps in the lanes behind us.
He had goggles on. We weren't interested in giving a show.
Janna and I had to resort to one handed jumping jacks.
One hand flailing in the air, the other hand was keeping our pants up.

We moved on from jumping jacks to the "taco/tostada" move.
This required us to bend in half like at taco...then flatten out like a tostada.
Keeping your head above water.
Using your core.
Let's be honest. I don't actually have a core.
I was very little taco...mostly tostada.

The few times I got the move right propelled me across the pool towards another aqua pumper
who was facing me.
She was coming for me, too.
Our feet were headed towards each other.
I yelled out, "I don't want to touch feet with you."
Something I have never said to a stranger before.
We altered our course.
Strangers shouldn't touch toes in the water.

Or should they?
Our instructor thought that we should at least hold hands.
Yep.
The whole class joined hands. In two cocentric circles.
One inside the other.

And we proceeded to put Esther Williams to shame.
Or shame her...I don't know...one or the other.
One circle jogged to the right, hands held under water.
One circle jogged to the left, clasped hands held high above our heads.
The instructor would yell, "Switch," and we would change directions and arm positions.

Traci was all business - she hit every switch with precision.
My sister, Jenny, was laughing so hard she could hardly make the switches.
I was waiting for some synchronized swimming instructions - it felt like that was the next step.

We were so pumped up after our aqua pump class
we talked other family members into joining us for a different class, later in the week.

Aqua Plunge in the lazy river.
A full hour of under water laps with resistance training.
With 9 of us.
My two sisters.
My sister-in-law.
My teenage niece.
My two married nieces.
And their husbands.

Seeing David and Zach taco/tostada?
That was a pleasure.
Aqua Plunge was no joke.
There were floaty weights involved and deep lunges as we struggled against the current.
David was bypassed by an elderly plunger who taunted him saying,
"And you thought this would be easy!"
Cousins lined the side of pool nearest the lazy river and cheered us on.
We gave them high fives and hollers as we would come around the corner
to complete our laps.
We were a bit raucous. There were high spirits.

Joy.

I would do it all again in a second.
I am trying to talk a couple of my girlfriends into
helping me find an aqua class that we can take here at home.
Not because I feel great in a swimsuit.
I just really, really like laughing.

Get yourself down to the Y and do a few taco/tostadas with a friend.
You'll see what I mean.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

love, fear and the big adventure


























When I was a little girl, life felt wide open. I loved it.
It was a big adventure.
I felt big enough to take it on.
And I wanted in...on all of it.
I mean all of it.

I was an explorer.
A bug catcher.
A wanderer.
An escape artist.
I frequently got lost in stores (and panicked when I couldn't find my mom.)
I was a risk taker.
A rule breaker.
(I was also, on occasion, a bully, a petty thief and a liar, but we'll address those issues later.)

I was a wonder-er.
A talker.
A philosopher.
A poet.
A short story writer.
An illustrator.
A scholar.
I asked a lot of "why" and "how" questions.
It rarely bothered me if I didn't get answers.

I lived life to the full.
I deplored naps.
I was an adventurer.
A chaser of lightening bugs.
A runner who took on all the boys in PE.
And I planned a surprise wedding for the cutest one.
(My plan was to say, "Surprise! We are getting married!" on the day of. I had guts.)

I was a dreamer.

And then fear killed my soul.
And by fear, I mean junior high.
High school wasn't much better.

The adventure got scary.
Decisions were weighty.
Goals were unreachable.
Some of the people I met? Super mean.

Those fear-riddled years re-shaped my understanding of myself.
I took less risks.
I followed the rules.
I stopped catching bugs...because...EW.
I turned inward with my dreams.
I stopped planning surprise weddings. (Scott appreciates this.)
I put limits on my hopes.
I played it safe.
I kept quiet.
I let what others thought of me...tell me who I was.

Life closed in on me.
I grew up.

And I got small.

Smaller hopes.
Smaller dreams.
Smaller me.

I had cracked the door open to fear and doubt.
And I got scared.

Fear.
Such a small word. Such an enormous impact.

Fear balls us up in the corner.
It cramps our style.
It cripples our hearts.
It gets us alone with our thoughts and leaves us there.

This is what I have found in my dealings with fear....
Fear will take up any and all space that you give it in your life.
It will fill up the fissures of your heart.
It will occupy the nooks and crannies of your thoughts.
It will overflow every area of your body, soul and spirit...if you let it.

I know this because I have lived it.
It is not great.

But here is what I have also found....so will love.

So will Jesus.

When you crack open the door to Jesus and His love?
It is a different story.

Because He....is fear-less.

He is the Joy Whisperer. The Life Bringer. The Mercy Giver. The Heart Healer.

Jesus is the One who can throw open the door to my life and...yours...and fill us with light.
It is His presence alone...His love...that shatters fear.

Love.
Such a small word. Such an enormous impact.

The more we throw ourselves into Him and His love...we have fear on the run.
The more He occupies the fissures in our hearts and nooks and crannies of our thoughts....
the more life seems wide open.
I think this is mostly because....we are not alone.

His light and love are constantly breaking off chunks of our fear and chucking them into eternity.
He is constantly shooting stars of hope and beams of endless grace into our darkness.
The darkness can't stand Him. He is the Bright and Morning Star.

His words calm the chatter of anxiety and regret.
His power emboldens the faint of heart and gives strength to the weary.
His voice thunders across the universe, shouting down the years at us,

"Don't be afraid! Do you hear me? I AM RIGHT HERE!"

Jesus is the Savior Who flings open cell doors and sets the captives free.
Every. Single. Captive.

He is the Debt Payer Who pays for our biggest mistakes
and the Redeemer Who turns our worst downfalls into our best victories.
He is the Breath of Heaven Who gives us wings to soar and songs to sing.

He restores our crushed hopes and He heals our deepest wounds.

He backhands fear and conquers death.

He is peace and gentleness
and justice and hope and mercy
and grace and goodness and forgiveness...
all wrapped into One.

He is The Way. The Truth. The Life.
The Big Adventure.
And I want in...on all of it.
Don't you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

PTSSD...otherwise known as post-teaching-summer-sofa-disorder


























Last fall, when I decided to teach, I thought, "It is going to be great to have summer off!"
Then I taught. For a whole school year.
And now I am realizing,

Even when you are not teaching....because summer is here....
YOU ARE STILL THINKING ABOUT TEACHING.
What in the world?

I am pretty sure this year has actually re-wired my brain.

All of my thought processes are still being filtered through a teacher-y lens.
BING- my eyes are flying open at 6 am of their own accord.
I have been waking up a little scared and breathless, 
wondering if I forgot to grade something and nervous that I am actually missing class.

As I lay in bed, with the sun barely peaking through the clouds, I have to talk myself down and say,
"Sue...it's summer. Relax. RELAX!!!!!" 
(when you yell at yourself in your brain...it is the opposite of relaxing.)

Even though I want to read great fiction -
I can't stop thinking about the new grammar textbooks that I will have next year.
And the motivational self-help book I ordered.
And the summer reading that next year's class will be reading.
And what kind of theme should I go with for Lit next year?
The real question is....should I start lesson planning now?

Should I start pre-labeling files and sorting vocab worksheets
and reviewing classroom management principles
and reading up on Shakespeare's young adult life in preparation for next spring
when I take the class through Midsummer Night's Dream?
Should I? SHOULD I?

Mercy days.
That is what my Grandma Blakeley used to say when things got wild.

I do need some days full of mercy and calming ointments and maybe a spa right about now.

Because a strange juxtaposition has taken place.
While my brain may be on teacher auto-pilot,
hashing out the inner-workings of next year,
my legs have stopped working.

They have gone on strike.

All I can do is lay on the couch 
and watch British mysteries and drink seltzer with lime.
And munch on tiny squares of dark chocolate.

My brain is all-in for keeping up the growing and learning and re-org and tight scheduling.
My body? Not so much.

It has given notice.
Post-teaching-summer-sofa-disorder has taken me down.
My limbs are in full rebellion.
The only thing that they will allow me to do is sink deep into
the sofa cushions and snuggle under a throw blanket.

I have decided to go with it.
I'll start lesson planning in July.

For now....if you have need of me...you know where to find me.
I will be on the couch.