Follow the Leader

“write until your fingers bleed – tell stories until your voice runs out….”  

I think we all need this reminder now and again.

I don’t often find videos that I’m so sure I should share.  Often, I just link them in my bookmarks bar or if I’m feeling semi-share-y I’ll link them to my pinterest account – recognizing fully that most of my pins are only every looked at by me, myself, and I. So please, if you have 20 minutes and need a little encouragement, sit down and watch this –

Shauna Niequist speaks generally to a female audience here, however, I think her words apply to people of all gender, and I think it’s important we hear them.

She speaks about calling and passions and living into and out of those passions so that our entire lives can be filled to the brim with Goodness and Life.

I remember when all three of my children were under the age of 5 and I was pretty convinced my life as I ever planned it was completely over.  Any plans for piano playing, writing, teaching, travelling, reading, knitting, etc. had been beaten out of me by crying children, whiny toddlers, bedtime stories, sibling fighting, never sleeping through the night – all of the endless noise which reverberated through my poor introverted soul – and the realization that my life was not my own while these people needed me in order to survive on a daily basis.  I remember going to my doctor at the time – a good and well-respected doctor – and telling him how sad and depressed and tired and overwhelmed I was, and his response was only: “of course, you are the mother of three young children.  Don’t worry, it will get better.”  How many times had that phrase already been said to me. “Don’t worry – it will get better.”  No one ever said how, or why or when.  No one ever explained that the getting better was partially because I would realize that it was up to me to live.  Up to me to make up the grace and peace I needed in order for it to overflow into my kiddos and there be reflected.

I would like to throw in the caviat that unlike Ms. Niequist descriptions of her own mother’s experience, I did have help from my husband who worked hard and felt equally at a loss for his plans and dreams – we were drowning together in the pits family logistics – the need to work in order to survive – the need to survive day to day and the endless lack of monetary funding that was required to support our swollen family.

I’d love to say that we realized the need to find our passions and to start living into and out of them one day and that in a flash life became more bearable and even enjoyable, but man has this been a long road.

I feel like I’m rambling now and need to find the point, but I’ll keep rambling just a bit and maybe things will come around.  With all three kiddos under age 5 and Scott and I both working jobs that met the need to pay rent and buy food, but did not satisfy any necessary passion, I can honestly say that God must have decided to throw us a bone, and some of our best friends in the world (unbeknownst to us at the time), moved in at the end of the street.  A young couple with three equally young kids, struggling to figure out their own path had moved to the end of our street without a clear agenda but with the ultimate goal of starting a church in our town, and we thought that was pretty neat.

Scott grew up a pastor’s kid and I grew up sucking on Wherther’s Originals and drawing on the back of offering envelopes, sitting in golden pews and eventually inundated by the new-agey church of the 90’s with it’s flowing fabric reminders of “He is risen” and “God is King” and all that jazz.  We thought we knew the church drill pretty well and would enjoy the process of at least finding out how these things started.  Little did we know how much of a blessing that couple and that church start up would be in our journey to becoming more ourselves.  For me, helping plant a church made me aware of the deeper needs of the community in which we live – physical, spiritual, and emotional needs – it also helped me see just how connected I was to so many people within the community and how these connections could be useful to one another.  The other thing that this church plant did, was help me begin to recognize my need to let go of some things in order to become more myself.

Explaining fully the ways these friends and this church have so completely helped us become better able to be who we are meant to be, is a long story for another post,  so I will stick to the first thing:  we decided to stay where we were and to set down some roots in a town where we had refused to stay part of, but had been living for so long….

Scott and I decided to stop actively trying to move away from our town and to try to live better into it.  I cannot claim that this decision felt set in stone and it’s silly now to me that we did move away (albeit only 15 miles) and are trying now to move back.  However, letting go of one thing set us free to do so much more.  To plan, to live into the time and space given at the moment and to plan only as far ahead as to not take us away from the dreams of the moment.

While I’ve decided to post one video – might as well post a second  – this one was linked to an Ann Voskamp post I happened across today – but I think it resonates well with my feelings about leaving one dream behind and deciding to stay – to live into what is in front of me rather than what I’ve left behind:

A few years later ( 10 years after I originally started going to college), I did begin to pursue what I still believe to be my passions.  Literature and teaching.  And now – 4 years after that – I am teaching.  I am more whole, better able to deal with the craziness of family and the teetering balance that we call this crazy life.

Is it joyful?   -Mostly.

When I remember to be thankful.

Is it hard?  Freaking yes.

Every. Day. Is hard.

I worry that by pursuing what I want to do I’m actively sacrificing the needs of my family, and I know that while this is not completely true, sometimes I think it is.  My working toward my own goals and my own dreams and doing what I know I am meant to do well means that dinner is not always on the table, that I’m not always patient, that play dates are harder to come by, that my children are tired – that my husband is tired too.  BUT – it’s so much better than it was.  All of those people who told me “it will get better” – they were right, though, I’m not sure we had the same end in mind.  I question every morning as I leave the house whether I am ruining the lives of my family by leaving, and every morning I come to the same conclusion:  we were all miserable when I was miserable all the time – and love them as I do, being housebound with 3 kids who I may love to the end of the world and back – is my idea of a living hell.  In order to love them well, to appreciate them and to treat them as fellow human beings, for now at least – it is better for me to go teach 90 some odd other kids who need to be told they’re important too.

I think there is nothing so humbling as trying to figure out how to live for something besides yourself.  Whether it’s your partner, children, friends, neighbors, needy, church or God (or all of the above)- living with the realization that your life can provide peace to someone else creates space for you to realize just how much you need to be yourself in order to love and be gracious to other people.  To recognize the need to be grateful for each moment, sunrise, sunset, rain and drought, person, success and failure, each regret and each new adventure.

Ms. Niequist explains in her video how much her mother’s path to finding who SHE was played a role in Shauna’s own journey.  This part of the video made me sob.  I never meant to be a role model for anyone, and yet I have three kids who I know watch every move I make.  Every decision I make, whether it directly involves them or not – they see and they interpret into their own understanding of the world.  I never meant to lead and I never meant for my voice to be heard beyond the pages of worn out notebooks that I imagined would turn up hundreds of years after my own demise and would be used by historians to try and decipher the bland lives of town folk in the early 21st century.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” pg. 718 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

My parents have acted as role models for me.  I think they already know that – they are quiet and faithful, stubborn and hard working, and they will work toward a need and a dream with equal strength and fortitude. They are honest. They love no matter what and choose good over all-even when it’s a harder road.  They raised my sister and me to believe that we were capable of anything and if given the chance will still remind us of this belief at every moment.  They have been my role models – leaders by grace and love and action, and I know my own children will follow my lead in the same way.

So  I guess I’ll wear my mantle.  Probably inside out and backwards for the most part, but I’m going to continue trying to live into what I believe. I’m going to keep doing what I know I love to do and I’m going to hope and pray that my life can act as a model for my kids to pursue whatever crazy dream they choose.  By choosing my dreams, I hope they can see how clearly their own are always going to be the best options – even when they seem the hardest and most unrealistic to achieve. Even when dreams take different shapes than they once so clearly held.