Overwhelmed.

Father, I am overwhelmed.

This is not the first time You have heard these words come out of my mouth, or seen them pecked out by anxious fingers. You’ve read them plastered across my unquiet mind before I even realize they’re there.

I am often overwhelmed.

This time, though, it’s a quiet buzz. An undercurrent. A sense of pressure, and yet a simultaneous settling peace. A recognition of much to be done; a feeling of uncertainty as to which direction to turn, which topic to tackle first–and yet a realization that it’s okay to sit still right now. Bills will always need to be paid. There are facebook challenge groups and “How to Make Money Blogging” workshops and interpreting videos all vying for my attention. Which do I pick? What makes the most sense? What is the most necessary? What is the one thing or one formula that is going to help me succeed in whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing?

I check my notifications. Someone has posted in the blogging challenge group I’ve joined on facebook. I am late to the game, and need to get caught up. But it’s 11pm and I have to be at work at 7 in the morning. When am I going to have time to get caught up? Am I going to get caught up? I ask myself. But am I even supposed to be doing this right now? Aren’t I supposed to be focusing my time and energy on preparing to become an interpreter? Where does this fit in to that? Does it? Can I both write and interpret? Must I choose one over the other? How can I fully do justice to both?

I don’t have the time or energy to do all that I want to or think that I should. I become painfully aware once again of my humanity, my fragility, my finiteness. And I remember that I am not the only one strapped for time. My mom friends hardly have time to themselves at all. Others are chasing dreams of their own, or living out their callings and serving in ministries. And we are all only given 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. The time flies by. How is it almost May already? we ask ourselves. As much as we might accomplish in any given hour, day, or week, aren’t we all still left with laundry unfolded, tasks unfinished, dreams unrealized?

And then there is You, outside of time. Unconfined by a work schedule, and a bedtime, and a body that only lets You be in one place at once. You are not disappointed in my inability to be all things to all people in all places at all times. You have not called me to do All the Things Right Now. It is enough that I am faithful. It is enough that I am a diligent steward of the time and energy and resources and gifts that You have entrusted to me. It is enough that I will never actually be enough, and You will always be more than enough.

I remember this. And I am overwhelmed. But it’s not because of my to-do list. It’s because no matter how long it gets, no matter how many things are left unfinished, I can never exhaust your strength, mercy, love.

I am overwhelmingly at peace.

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That thing.

It’s 12:28AM. I have done this a handful of times, at least: mark the time of when I am writing. It is usually when I write late at night. I think that’s perhaps because I’m aware of what I should be doing–sleeping, instead of staying up writing. But should I? Should I really be sleeping when I have this burning desire to write, even if it means not getting as much sleep as I could?

I have long been obsessed with this concept of “should,” and doing whatever it is I “should” be doing at any given time. The tiring and confusing thing though, is figuring out whose voice determines what the “shoulds” are. Because there are multiple voices vying for my attention. And I wish I could say it was always God’s that wins out. But sometimes it’s society’s. Or my own. Or this person’s or that person’s.

Lately I cannot get away from this one, pressing should: write. Write a book. Blog. But girl, whatever you do, write. It is, I believe, a gift and passion and calling all balled up into one thing that flows onto computer screens out of fingertips furiously clacking keys, that spills onto pages out of pens pressed and swirling, squiggling, sliding across line after line.

They say the thing that keeps you up at night? Do that thing. Pursue that dream. And the thing that keeps me up at night–I know because I mark the remarkably late time–is writing. And maybe that means something, to pay attention to the things you’ll lose sleep for. But I think the things we lose sleep for are the things buried deep in the soil of our souls, by the One who formed and fashioned them. I think they are God-planted dreams. And I think sometimes we see them making their way to the surface when we sacrifice sleep and other things to do that one thing. I think, also, sometimes God tries to coax that dream to the surface, too, by giving us nudges that spur us to water it and give it some sunlight. I think that because that’s what He’s been trying to do in me lately. And those nudges have come in different forms. A thought, a feeling. Encouragement from friends. And it’s encouragement I’ve needed because that seedling has been ignored for far too long.

I haven’t blogged in a year. A year. I got sick and lost my job. I ended relationships and started new ones. And much of the time, I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t want to expose my mess to the world. And other times I just got caught up with life, as they say. I moved and started a new job, and began working toward an ASL Interpreter certification. Writing fell to the wayside, got put on the backburner, and [insert every other cliche implying negligence].

But then I started thinking about how busy life had gotten–so busy that I hadn’t made time to write. I started to question if I ever would again, if my current life path would ever allow time for that. Oh sure, if I made time for it. But would I? And if I didn’t, would I regret it?

Yes. A resounding yes. I would regret not giving writing everything I could. I would regret not ever trying to write a book. I would feel as though I wasted a God-given talent and passion, and opportunity to share what He’s taught me through this medium in such a way that others can relate and learn, too. Yes, I would regret it. But what would it look like to start writing again? And how would I ever get from where I was, to publishing a book? I didn’t know. I don’t know. But I know I want to try, and trust that if this is in fact a God-planted dream, He will bring it to fruition in His way and in His time.

I believe He has already begun to do so. First, the questions, and the tugging. Then, talks with friends. I text back and forth with a friend about a current struggle. She tells me I have a way of putting what I’m thinking and feeling into words. I have not told her about my dream to write. I meet with another friend for coffee. I tell her my current plans of pursuing interpreting–but how I question if it’s what I really want to do, and how what I really want to do is write. She then tells me that before I even say a word about writing, she thinks to herself, “I bet Tamara’s a good writer. She should write a book.” Then I see my counselor. I tell her my dream of writing, but that I’m scared of failing. She tells me she’d love to read a book about a girl who grew up with Deaf parents. We talk about the fear of failure, of leaping. But writing won’t pay the bills, Tamara, I tell myself. Hence the sensible career, interpreting. We talk about doing both.

And then I read a blog post by another writer I admire, Ann Voskamp. She invites Jennie Allen to share her blogspace. Jennie writes about big dreams, dreams she dared not dream on her own. I tremble as I sense God whisper to me through it that I have got to let Him bring the dreams He has planted in me to light. But that will never happen if I never clack keys and bring a pen to paper. I admit, I am scared. I question who will want to read the words of a single 27-year-old who lives in a dorm, when there are already so many other voices out there commanding their attention.

And then I just remember. I remember the teen girl who doesn’t yet know her worth, doesn’t understand the weight of the precious price that was paid for her (do any of us ever fully grasp it?), who looks to find her worth in all the wrong places, and I want to write for her. I remember the college-aged girl getting ready to graduate from her Christian university without a fiance or even a boyfriend, feeling rejected and lonely, and I want to write for her. I remember the CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) who wrestles with her identity, knowing not which world she belongs in–Deaf, or hearing, or if it could be both? And I want to write for her. I want to write to her, and tell her that I know all of the pain and confusion and thrill and joy and wonder of what she is seeing and experiencing and learning. Tell her that I’ve stood where she’s standing, gone where she’s going. So there are times when I’ll want to say, “Hang in there. You’ll get through this.” And there are others when I’ll want to run ahead of her and beg, “Stop!! Don’t go down this road any further! I’ve gone down it, and there is only hurt waiting for you at the end. Turn around now and RUN the other way!” I remember all the girls who I was–amand think that if I could help them see more of Jesus, especially in the midst of their mess, then it will all have been worthwhile.

I remember that this is what keeps me up at night–this God-planted seed, germinating.

Learning Not to Resent Fragility

“Help me not to resent fragility, Lord,” I wrote on October 15, 2014, five days before I was scheduled to start my job at Old Colony Elder Services. It seemed like a dream job to me. I was looking for an administrative assistant-type position (which this was), it was for a non-profit, and it paid more than I was expecting. It was a blessing and an answer to prayer. But I had to have a physical, and the issue of my having Carpel Tunnel Syndrome came up during my exam. The doctor was concerned, as it was an office job, and I’d likely be on the computer most of the day. She said she couldn’t state it wasn’t a concern, because it was. She recommended no more than four hours a day on the computer. I understood, but said, as I blinked back tears, “I really need this job.” I sobbed the whole way home. It didn’t seem fair. How could God seem to have blessed me with this job, only for it to be potentially taken away? But through tears, I resolved to trust. To trust God had a plan. And that if that plan was this job, He would make the Carpel Tunnel a non-issue. And if it wasn’t, He’d provide another.

I called Old Colony the next day, and spoke with the Head of HR, with whom I’d been corresponding regarding the job. I wondered whether she had gotten the doctor’s evaluation yet, and had stated that I personally felt my Carpel Tunnel wouldn’t affect my job performance; that I wore a brace at night which helped. She stated, and understandably so, that they couldn’t go against the doctor’s recommendations, and that she would have to think about it because the job requires being on the computer a lot. Again, I understood. But I was sad. I prayed that if there was a way, God would make it.

I heard back from the head of HR, who had spoken to who would be my supervisor. They agreed it would be doable for me to only spend four hours on the computer a day, and the other three could be spent doing other things, like filing. I was so relieved! This job was a blessing from God. There was just a speed bump in the road on the way there, an opportunity to trust Him.

He gives me a lot of those. And I don’t always do the best job of taking advantage of those opportunities to trust and learn and grow. I often complain and throw hissy fits, tell him how it isn’t fair.

I often resent fragility.

I don’t like being weak. I don’t like having to have opportunities to trust and rely on God for strength. I’d much rather the easy way out. To never be challenged, to never be humbled. To always be able to do things on my own with ease and comfort, with no help.

Except not really.

It really is hard at times for me to say with the Apostle Paul that I can boast gladly of my weaknesses, and be content with them. With hardships. With calamities (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). But without times of questioning, God’s goodness wouldn’t taste as sweet. I wouldn’t be as thankful for His provision. His light wouldn’t shine as brightly through me as He does things in my life that only He can do, that could never be attributed to my strength or power alone.

I have been ushered into a new level of fragility in this season of my life. More to come on that later. There will be some changes to my blog in the coming weeks. It’ll be undergoing a makeover, and will have a change in name, and focus. The purpose of the blog will be to chronicle my journey through this particular season of my life, and to offer hope to others through what I’m learning during this time. To give you a brief glimpse, I’ve been dealing with physical illness that’s really thrown me for a big loop. And at times I find it baffling that Paul could ever say he rejoiced in his sufferings, and question if I could ever find myself saying that along with him. But then there are times—which will turn into days, which will turn into weeks, which will turn into months—when I know God has a purpose in it all, even if I can’t see it. And I trust that if this is what will bring Him glory in my life right now, that if this is how others will see Him in my life, then it’s worth it. I hope those times do stretch into months, and that this is a season of trust only sprinkled with moments of questioning, rather than the other way around. I’m learning not to resent fragility, because His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

God is Bigger than the Boogeyman

I don’t even remember the VeggieTales episode, just the song. Somehow, it stuck in my head. And I sang it to the boys I nannied when I put them to bed one time when their parents were out, and they were afraid of monsters under the bed: “God is bigger than the boogeyman. He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV, oh God is bigger than the boogeyman, and He’s watching out for you and me.” It’s easy to sing that song to a child, thinking it will miraculously melt away their fear. It’s easy to think, “There’s no reason to fear monsters under the bed! They don’t exist! And God’s here, anyway, and He’ll take care of you.” As an adult, it’s easy to minimize the fear of children because we know more than they do. We know there are no such things as monsters under the bed. But to children, those fears are real. And the presence and comfort of God is something real to be offered, not just a pat answer.

And aren’t we all children in a sense? The monsters we fear may be real—depression. Illness. Divorce. Layoffs. Losing loved ones. The list goes on. Those monsters are real. But do we really need to fear them? God is just as much bigger than those things as He is bigger than the boogeyman. And He’s watching out for us. He saw that monster form and lurk its way toward you, and He will watch it go. And like the adult who knows the child doesn’t really need to be scared of the monsters under the bed, He knows His children—the redeemed and reborn who put their faith in His Son—need not really fear those things. Because He is bigger. And He can slay them in an instant. He doesn’t always. Sometimes He lets them linger, because He knows they’re to teach us to trust Him in the midst of the battle. But knowing He could cut them down dead in an instant if He really wanted to? That He’s stronger and bigger and more powerful than them, and they don’t have the power or authority to destroy me? That comforts me. And I know I don’t really have to be afraid of them.

As adults, we tell kids that monsters under the bed don’t exist. But we know monsters are real. They just aren’t blue and fuzzy with purple polka dots like Sully. They take a different form. But nevertheless, we need not fear them, because God is bigger.

Phragmites

It’s time.

It’s time to start writing again. Or at least start sharing. Tears almost fill my eyes as I set my fingers to the keyboard. It’s been too long. I’m ready now.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a video to a song on my Facebook wall, It is Well.  There’s a line that says, “And this mountain that’s in front of me/Will be thrown into the midst of the sea” (Read more: Bethel Music – It Is Well Lyrics | MetroLyrics) It had reminded me of a prompt I had done in a writing class I had taken about three years ago, which in turn prompted me to take out that floral print, spiral-bound notebook. As I flipped through the pages to find that particular prompt, I scanned the countless other prompts I had written, many of which about I had forgotten. And I was taken aback at how, though I had written about entirely different circumstances, that three years later, much of it is applicable to things I’m experiencing now or have experienced in the time since then. I was taken to one particular entry that seemed especially fitting, and felt compelled to share it today. It was a twenty-minute prompt titled, “Phragmites,” that was written some time in the spring of 2012.


“Phragmites”

She’s beautiful.
She stands tall, brave, confident–but not rigid, like she’s bracing herself for a blow, fearful she might be uprooted and topple over if she’s not strong enough.
No, she knows better now.
She knows because she’s tried and failed. Tried to be strong on her own, tried to think if she managed to stay put, stay rooted in the ground, that it was her own doing. But it never was.
And it wasn’t until the fiercest of storms blew through that threatened to destroy her that she knew: phragmites were never designed to be rigid. They’re supple. They bend and they sway, seemingly at the mercy of the waves and the rain. But they’re not. If their roots grow deep, they may be bent to the ground, but not cast off. And turns out, being bent to the ground is one of the most beautiful things. Painful, yes–but it’s then that you know that the only way you can get up again is when He stoops down and gently wraps His fingers around you, pulling you to standing. You’re weak and fragile and bend easily at the slightest breeze, but He’s there to catch you, pull you upright again, and you get stronger.
That’s what she learned after the wind whipped through her hair so hard, it threatened to knock the wind out of her. And the waves, they beckoned her, threatened to pull her away for good.
She lay still, almost lifeless. But her roots, they grew deep, and strong. She was still connected to her foundation.
And as He pulled her up and she looked into His compassionate eyes, rested against His gentle hands, she knew.
She knew the memorizing Bible verses and going to Sunday School weren’t just for being a good little girl and getting a pat on the back. They were for the storms. They were for knowing when you’re knocked on your back, there’s nothing you can do to lift yourself back up. There’s only remembering you lie on a firm foundation, established by the One who extends His hand to you, to offer you life anew.
And for her, it’s never been the same since.

 

On Leaving Peaks and Pieces of my Heart Behind, And Lessons in Contentment

peaksOkay, okay, so perhaps it was a little ambitious and naive of me to expect that I would be able to keep up with Writing 101 during such a hectic time. I mentioned earlier this month that in the coming weeks, I’d explain why it’s been so hectic. At the time, I wasn’t quite at liberty to say because there were still some people I needed to tell in person before I broadcast it all over the internet. But now that that’s all said and done, here goes:

I am moving back to Massachusetts.

This winter was rough. I know now it wasn’t just rough for me. But at the time, I was all I was thinking about. I hinted at it in my writing, and griped about it to my friends: I was lonely. And I didn’t like it. And I didn’t even really pray about it, either to be okay with the loneliness, or to not be lonely anymore. I just sort of knew that that season in my life was about learning to be okay alone on a completely different level. But I tried to just push through it on my own instead of asking God for help or putting myself out there to be around other people more. And it didn’t work out so well.

You know the old adage, “Once I was okay without _______________, then it just came when I was least expecting it!”? You’ve heard the stories before. “Once I was finally content with being single, I met my spouse!” “Once I was okay with not having my dream job, I got offered an even better one!” So, this is one of those. But read my words carefully: this is not a formula. I am not trying to sell you something. I am not trying to tell you, “Just be okay with being single, and before you know it, your future spouse will show up!” or, “Just be okay with living in an apartment, and before you know it, you’ll have the chance to buy your dream home!” or any of the other things we set our hearts on. Because you know what? If the end goal is a spouse or a home or a job or anything else, our hearts are still set on the wrong thing.

Contentment is important. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that God wants us to be content. And there’s a whole lot wrapped up in that word, in that idea. Paul said that he learned to be content in any situation, whether he had a lot or he had a little. Because the one constant in Paul’s life? God. Like Kari Jobe croons on her new (and magnificent, if I might say) CD, “If I have You, I have everything/But without You, I have nothing.” Paul could say that he had learned contentment, whether his belly was full, or it was empty. Whether he was married or single. Whether he had his dream job or didn’t. Whether he had a mansion or a shack. Whether he drove a Ferrari or a beat-up Broncho. Those things were just that—things. They didn’t have the power to sway his contentment. Those things didn’t determine it.

You see, God isn’t some cosmic gumball machine in the sky. He’s very much concerned with the affairs of humankind. I know plenty of people who would beg to differ, considering the current state of the world in which we live. I can understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I understand. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that there is supposedly a powerful and loving God, and yet He seems to refrain from intervening in some devastating and heartbreaking situations. Why do children get cancer and die? Why do natural disasters ravage entire communities? Why do groups of people enact grave acts of terror on others? And if there is this God who can do something about all of it, why doesn’t He?

It may not seem logical when I tell you that I believe in a God who cares about the goings-on of the world He created, yet mysteriously chooses to allow some of the things He does. But I do. I believe in a God who allows the world He created to experience the effects of rebelling against Him, while simultaneously reaching down in grace to redeem that rebellious world to Himself. And I believe He cares about this little heart of mine. I believe He cares about what it sets its affections on more than giving it everything it fancies. And I believe that He knew that at this time in my life, I needed to get this contentment lesson down just a little more. That was so much more important than where I ended up or what I got in the end. But He’s behind all that, too.

It wasn’t about getting off this island or getting more friends or not being so lonely anymore. I won’t say it was like God waved a wand at me, and, “Poof!” I woke up one morning and was magically happy with my life on this island and content to stay. It was a gradual coming, and it was a choice. His grace and love and patient pursuit played a part, but He didn’t force Himself on me, or make the choice for me. It came slow, but when it did, I knew: I was content to live this life as it had been given, on this island and in this community. I was excited. I wanted to be here. I was looking forward to summer with my church family, and the new adventures awaiting us. I had become grateful, on a level I hadn’t been, for the people surrounding me. And all that’s wrapped up in contentment? Gratitude. That’s a big part of it, if not the whole of it. Being thankful for what you’ve been given. My eyes had been opened to just how much of a blessing the people surrounding me had been. Beau and Michelle, I hope you read this because I’m gonna brag on you two for a minute. These two have become my family up here. They drove over in the snow to pick me up the night I broke up with my boyfriend so I didn’t have to spend the night alone. They let me sit in their kitchen and cry and vent for hours. They let me share my heart with them, and they shared theirs with mine. They let me borrow their van on countless occasions so I’d have a way to get around on the mainland. They let me love on their kids, and let them love me. There are plenty of people I have in my life who tell me they love me, and I don’t doubt for a second that they do. These people are no exception. Even from the time that I first got up here, they’d tell me that, which I thought was strange because they hardly knew me. But I knew they were sincere.

There was a gradual awakening to all that I had taken for granted, and to the fact that I really wasn’t alone. Even in the midst of my madness, in the throes of my lowest moments, He was there. He is here. Holding me. And He had surrounded me with people who showed up and said, “You matter to us. You are loved. You’re not alone. We’re here for you.” And when I woke up to that, I was overcome with gratitude. And that just opened up all kind of space in my heart for hope for the future as I had seen it: here, on this island, with these people I had come to love, who loved me. It had happened. I had become content. And I was excited.

So when I met with a Christian financial counselor to help me sort out part of the mess I’d made this winter, moving was not on my radar. She’d asked if I’d be willing to make some radical changes, and I said I was. But I was blindsided when she suggested I move back home to save some money and thus pay off my student loans faster. Well, my parents live in an apartment complex, and without going into detail, the management will not allow my brother or I to live there. I figured that had answered the question for me: moving wasn’t an option. And I was relieved. But I told my financial counselor that I was willing to look into other options, and I was. So I did. As much as I wanted to stay and was convinced that I was going to, I knew that I hadn’t exhausted all of my options. So I sent a couple messages. One was to some friends back in Massachusetts that I knew had housed another friend of mine, who had since moved. I reached out and asked if they’d be willing to have me. They were. My parents were buying a new car. They would give me the old one. Housing: check. Transportation: check. It seemed as though things were falling into place and after much praying, I felt as though I couldn’t deny that God was leading me in this direction. I’d also reached out to the pastor of the church I left when I moved here to the island when I was exploring my options. He’d said it was “funny” I contacted him when I did; he had been thinking and praying about the children’s ministry. Well, I have years of experience and training in this area, not to mention I love kids and believe that God has gifted me with teaching. We met. He wanted to take me on as the children’s ministry director. It seemed as though God’s fingerprints were all over this entire situation, and it would be foolish to deny that. And while I would have loved for a ministry opportunity like this to present itself right after I finished college and had no idea what I was doing, I wasn’t ready.

I can’t even say I really feel like I am now. But I will say I was in a much less qualified place to serve in such a capacity when I was a bright-eyed recent college grad who thought she had the world at her fingertips. “I’m young! I’m smart! I’m capable! I’m trained! If anyone’s cut out for ministry, it’s me, God. Okay, where’s my chance?” It hadn’t come then because I was too proud. After this winter, I felt like such a wreck and totally unqualified for any such position. I was humbled. The last thing I’d do would be to seek it out on my own. But when I have those Moses moments and am tempted to think, “I can’t do this!” I remember how He’s orchestrated it all. It’s not my doing. It’s His. He’s gifted me this way. He’s given me the opportunities to be trained in this area. He’s put me in a position to be able to move back and save money, and minister in the church that I grew up in and helped shape me into a woman who tries to follow Him. And I have to say, I’m excited.

I will miss Peaks terribly. And I will miss my church family. I will miss the Boyles. I will miss Livie calling me Tammy, and then catching herself and correcting it to Tamara. I will miss baby Gigi’s toothy grin. I will miss hugs from Jojo and Mimo. I will miss my best ASL student, Brady. I will miss Nicholas always saying hi to me in the store. I will miss too many people and too many things to list. But just like the place to which I’m returning shaped me as I grew up, Peaks and my little church have played a huge part of shaping my life over the past two years. And while it hurts to say goodbye, just as I was content to stay, I am content to leave. Because the one constant is God. And I’m learning once again to set my heart on Him. Not on people, not on a place, not on a job. People are important and hold special places in my heart. This place has a piece of it, too. But neither have the whole of it. That’s reserved for God alone. That’s the aim. The rest of it is peripheral. The marriage and the job and the house may come, but even if they don’t, God is here. He is constant. And He is enough. Always enough.

Where My Soul Calls Home–clicking heels, time-and-space travel, and brainstorming meetings with not-so-strangers. (Writing 101 Day 2)

Writing 101 Day 2
Today’s assignment begins with a question: “If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?
The assignment? Write about this place. The twist? “Organize your post around the description of a setting.”

………………………………………………………………

I close my eyes and click my proverbial heels.

I am transported through space and time to a place that is limited by neither.

I find myself upon a shore, sinking bare feet into sand while waves wash upon them. The sun is just starting to set over the oaks behind me. You walk toward me.

You and I, we make our way up the winding, narrow, boarded path to the cozy cottage that sits upon the hill, tucked behind trees whose branches make just enough space to view the shore through the bay window, the one with the bench seat littered with brightly colored pillows.

You and I, we sit in that cozy living room sipping tea. Maybe you prefer coffee. Or something cold. But I wrap my hands around ceramic and sip while you do the same with your drink of choice. We’ll sit across from one another, I with my feet curled up beneath me on the beige love seat, enveloped by more plush, oversized pillows. I’ll set my tea down on the vintage, light blue, three-legged end table next to me and hug one of those pillows, set my chin upon it. You’ll sit in the oversized chair opposite me. Maybe put your feet up on the ottoman, and maybe you set your forearms on your legs and lean forward. Books are scattered on the coffee table constructed of old pallets sitting between us, and line floor-to-ceiling shelves that enclose us in this room small enough to feel safe without being confining. But not even they could catch the attention of a bibliophile such as myself, because you and I, our eyes are locked on one another.

You and I, we have all the time in the world—because time doesn’t exist here. We’ve not lost a minute of our lifetime sitting here for what feels like hours to our time-confined bodies. We don’t look down at wrists wrapped with a banded face that tell us we’re slaves to its ticking hands: it’s time go to work, time to go to bed, time to go on to do more important things. This, you and me, right now, this is what matters.

Maybe you laugh. Maybe you cry. I likely do both. We speak, and we listen. Gold in worden form pours out from our lips and floats through the air, deposits into ears and brains, and really, hearts. We’re the rich ones. We know we’ve found what’s valuable here. We exchange stories, share dreams and fears. But I try to mostly listen, and then tell you that I understand. I understand your heart dreams big and yearns for bigger things. And that fear threatens to hold you back from those things. Then I tell you, “You can do this.” I put that pillow down and we both stand up. I walk toward you and reach my arms around your neck. We embrace. I whisper it again. “You can do this. I know you can.”

We’re ready now. We’re ready to leave this place, to return to a world where time rules. But we know. We know that even in a world where the clock tells us when to eat, when to sleep, when to work, we can carve holes into the hours that make up days to live outside of ourselves. To fulfill the dreams that were planted in our hearts, dreams to take the way we’re made and bring it to the world in a way that makes a difference. I write. Maybe you paint, and maybe you sing. Maybe you build houses, and maybe you teach. But we both know we needed this, and we’re ready to return to time. I walk with you out the screen door, into twilight, back down that path, back to the shore, and wave goodbye as waves approach my toes. I stand awhile on my own to take one last drink of this place, with its fragrant sea spray and emerging stars.

But I always come back here. This is the place I go when I’m aching for connection and difference-making. This is the place tucked into the location of my mind that hungers for more, that knows it’s made for more than thinking small and only about me. This is the place I go to when I need to be inspired, when I need to rekindle the fire that fuels the forward motion, the growing and seeking and learning I have so much more to learn still. This is the place I go, because sitting with strangers like we are kindred spirits reminds me that we are all unique. We all have been written different stories. But the common strand that runs through each of them is that we all must overcome adversity. Jesus promised His followers they’d have trouble, but to take heart. I think it’s clear this world is full of trouble, for all of us. And the part of our stories we get to write is how we tackle the trouble. Do we not tackle it at all? Do we lay down and let it wash over us, let it whisk us away to drown in a swelling sea? Or do we build a boat to ride upon it, above it? This is what inspires. This is the stuff of meetings with strangers in a cozy seashore cottage, who really aren’t strangers at all, because we all have boats to build to really live. When you sit and tell me how you’ve constructed boats in the past, this is how I know: You can do this. You’ve done it before, and now it’s a different shore with different building materials, but they are there. You can do this. And if you can do this, I can, too. Oh, and when we both need to be reminded of that? That gray-blue cottage with the white trim and porch, the one with window boxes filled with pansies and alyssum, is just a heel-click away. I’ll meet you there, where you and I steal away from time to drink some tea and do some boat-building brainstorming.

Til then.