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Saying Goodbye

It’s been a while since I have been able to sit down and put two thoughts together with any cogency. Life has demanded I move at its speed, and I have dutifully complied, handcuffed as I was to things that needed doing on a firm timetable with no wiggle room.

As I now pause to take a deep breath, I am reminded of the story of the big game hunters who traveled to a distant and foreign land where they engaged local tribesman to carry their gear and belongings through the thick bush. Day after day, sunrise to sunset, they bushwhacked through thick jungle hastening in pursuit of the big game. One morning, as the hunters hurried to reengage the pursuit, the tribesmen stayed where they were, not moving, not rising, not packing, not tracking. “What are you doing?” the hunters implored, “We need to get moving!” The tribesmen replied simply, “We are waiting for our souls to catch up.”

Today, as the fog begins to clear, I am letting my soul catch up. My husband and I have just completed our own big game expedition. We packed up and moved out of our longtime home. All that has gone before has been boxed, bagged or tossed. How humbling it is to stand before your leavings at the curb — load after precious load.

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Three things are pinging my brain:

  1. Buy only what you need and use what you have until it’s gone. Discarding so much — physically taking it out with the trash — forces me to see how much waste I am actually responsible for. Mother Earth, I am so sorry.
  2. Don’t save for a rainy day. Do it, say it, use it now. Omission is difficult to live with and often impossible to rectify. Deep cabinets are not your friend. If it doesn’t come close to hand, you probably don’t need it. Someone else needs it more.
  3. There’s never the right time to say goodbye and always time to say see you later. Even though later will likely never come.

The universe is showing me that there is a difference between value and worth. I have never been good at distinguishing these. Often I keep things because they “might be worth something.” (to someone else) Ah, but value… value is determined by me. The purging, packing and moving has insisted I declare it. What do I value so greatly that I want to take it with me? How can I help it live on? These things …

  1. I share. Things I share live on in the life of the other.
  2. I photograph. These allow me to recall and remember.
  3. I tell. Words expressed live on in the heart of the other.
  4. I hug. Sentiments conveyed live on in the body of the other.
  5. I thank. Gratitude completes what the heart knows.
  6. I give. A gift keeps on giving in and through the other.
  7. I save. Things that tell our story in a unique way reverberate.
  8. I collect. Remembrances with deep meaning go with me.
  9. I pray, over the house and its rooms, claiming its blessings and sending them on.
  10. I depart, trusting that closing this front door will allow me to the open the next.

Few things in life are mentally, physically and emotionally taxing all at the same time. Moving out of your home and your community is one of these things, and I am trying to remember that it’s okay to take care of myself while recovering from the taxing trifecta.

Funny, just when I begin to think of myself as nearly there, God shows me how far I have yet to go. Wendy, Wendy, you hold onto so many things. There is only one thing you need to hold onto and it is already holding onto you.

Saying goodbye to what we truly love is so very hard. Ah, but something of deep abiding value… that has worth always. It resides in us, stays with us, has life in us. Always.

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What have you kept?

IMG_4109It’s a season of subtracting for me.

I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating. Collecting books, papers, files, friends, travels, vehicles, a home, a church, jobs and a few paychecks. I have a lot, just not a lot to show for it. I invested a lot of myself in the doing, but from the distance of years, it diminishes.

I rifle through boxes of “the kept.” Don’t need this. I’ll never use this again. Get rid of it, recycle it, leave it behind. Anything I won’t use again is set adrift. Amazing how this season is upon me. Everything that I wouldn’t pack up in a moving box is fair game.

All except the things that are heavy with memories. The rings that mom and dad exchanged on their wedding day. The book that Grandpa wrote. The birthday card my daughter made. And photos. Oh, the photos. These things have the power to tap into memories I didn’t know I had. That circuitry holds all I’ve ever done and, blessedly, has sifted, sorted and centrifuged it into one solitary particle.

That particle is impossibly dense, yet imperceptibly heavy. It’s the lightest thing in the world to carry. It goes anywhere you go and its no burden at all to bear.

All that I have ever loved is there.

Not what I’ve learned or done. Not what I have said or meant to say. Not what I’ve found or lost. By all accounts it is nothing. Yet, it is everything. It has complete power over me. And it empowers me.

“Just go!” it says, “You’ve got everything you need! We’ve seen to that.”

I’m beginning to believe it.

Letting go of what lies behind, I reach toward what lies ahead. How silly I would look toting a suitcase. IMG_4311

Why wait to be moved when you can move?

Use More Active Verbs:
That’s one of the prime advisories offered by writing coaches everywhere.

This confused me at first. I mean, it’s a verb, right? So it’s already active. Someone or something doing, right? Or, being done to or acted upon. And there’s the rub. No one wants to read about someone being acted upon. How boring. We want to read action. Active verbs are alive.

Here’s a sample I borrowed from the internet:

Active: The producer was making an announcement.

Passive: An announcement was being made.

The first one invites you in. The second makes you wanna loiter out in the hall and finish your coffee and scone. When we stick that passive “to be” verb in there, it makes us the acted upon rather than the actors.

That struck me this morning as I read, “I came to be inspired, but that just didn’t move me.” Dissatisfaction oozes from every syllable. (Oozes, a very active verb!)

I hear that in our churches. I hear that from our students. I hear that about our politicians. We, the people, haven’t been inspired by…something or someone we had high hopes for. Isn’t it odd that we insist on active verbs in our books, but we wait to be acted upon by our lives? We like action and people who take action. But we aren’t those people. We want to be moved, but we’re plenty comfortable staying right where waiting for someone else to overcome our inertia.

Isn’t it funny, then, when children don’t want to wait, we chastise them and call them impulsive? They want to move first and ask questions later — maybe. They wanna show you what they can do – their dance, their song, their artwork, their new shoes. They’re not trying to inspire you, they just wanna bring you into their joy.

I will never forget little Stephanie, my middle daughter, after we had gone on a clothes shopping excursion. She would pull the stool into the middle of the family room floor, climb atop it in her latest new outfit, spread her hands wide and loudly proclaim, “Pre-senting!!” We, of course, would all laugh and applaud while she ran to add a headband or change into the matching top. It would never occur to Stephanie to send word that she was trying on clothes in the other room in case anyone wanted to come see.

Kids today – yes, “those kids today” – are the same. They’re not waiting to be moved or to be inspired. They like to do the moving. To live life in the present tense. I guess that’s why my writing teacher told me that “to write for the young adult audience I should use the present tense.” I find that quite difficult. I keep falling into the past or springing ahead into the future. For now I would probably do well just to work on using more active verbs.

I can’t presume to be inspiring. I don’t what a reader will find so. And, let’s be honest, some people are hard to please. Perhaps I would do well to follow my daughter’s example, climb up on the stool and be totally delighted to say, “Pre-senting!!”

That was the other thing I read this morning. Much more inspiring.

“Dear God, show us what it means to delight in your presence.”

Not to be delighted or to delight You, just to delight. Active form of the verb.

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