By anybody's standards, I live a full life. I'm happy and blessed. There's not a single morning of my life that I don't wake up with a deep abiding gratitude for the health and happiness of a beautiful family and the possibilities of the day ahead. Sometimes I let the day take me where it will. Some days, I might be planning something. Okay, I'm always planning something . . . but recent life changing circumstances - some deliberately orchestrated and some unforeseen - have allowed the opportunity to take one day at a time and lose myself in small journeys. In other words, Chicago is about the farthest from home I expect to get for a while. It's not the way I expected my year to go. A few months ago, I was planning a trip to the Carolinas. My husband and I would drive down the east coast by way of beautiful West Virginia, hit the Outer Banks, and the port city of Charleston, where my earliest ancestors came to America, and then swing back west through the Great Smoky Mountains, where they settled later with their sprawling clans. We also planned to revisit Northern Michigan again in the fall with friends, and then celebrate the holidays and the New Year in a mountain chalet in the Rockies with our Colorado babies.
I guess it's fortunate that we never finalized any of these plans before my husband lost his job at the end of April. And this was just a few months after I took that wacky leap of faith from convention that would make Dave Ramsey twitch in his sleep . . . the one that led to this aspiring writing career and this very blog by which I've sought to share my journey. And that being said, let me take this opportunity to thank you and express my gratitude if you are reading this now, if you've read this far . . . and especially if you've been waiting for a blog, as some of you have expressed. And please accept my apology for not living up to my promise . . . as should be the implicit promise of all writers to share the darkest parts of their journeys, as well as their triumphs and epiphanies and sage observations. And let me tell you one lesson that I've learned in this uncertainty (before I get to my real point here;) . . . that it's easy to be honest and transparent if you're convinced that you've chosen your own destiny. If you've taken a risk, and declare that you'll accept the consequences, come what may, you're happy to share because it makes you feel brave. THIS does not feel brave. THIS requires REAL FAITH. We did not leap. We were pushed. The words come harder.
So suddenly, and without warning, our priorities have shifted as we find ourselves mutually quite without jobs for the first time in thirty years. Finding (paying) work is obviously our first priority. And since our home for the last nineteen years has been contingent on Stephen's job, finding a place to live runs a close second. Traveling is a luxury that is neither prudent right now, nor one we can afford. Am I disappointed? Profoundly. Am I sorry for missed opportunities? Regretful for any decisions I've made? No, and no. Because even in this REALLY scary place, my faith IS still intact. I am convinced those opportunities will come back around in a bigger way, that God has a plan, that he knew about this long before it ever happened, that HE orchestrated it for good, no matter what the intention was on the part of any mere mortal (Genesis 50:20), and that HE still offers us an abundant life (John 10:10) . . . even in the small journeys of everyday life . . . even in the places where you can't see through the rubble.
A friend came to visit me this past week. She brought me a dozen eggs from her hens. Why are some brown and some white? I asked her. The brown chickens lay brown eggs and the white chickens lay white eggs. What about black chickens? They lay white eggs. Who knew? I poured us each a glass of Riesling and we talked in my kitchen while I made dinner. After we ate, we took our wine into the hot tub and talked about life - work and children and chickens - until the sun went down. Small journeys teach us. Small journeys connect us. Last week, I finished the book I Am Malala written by the Nobel Peace Prize winning teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to advocate education for girls. She shouldn't have lived, but she did, and well enough to still fight for the rights of Muslim girls and women all over the world. Small journeys inspire us. Last week, I pulled into my driveway and was greeted by a hummingbird buzzing beneath the golden petals of my hanging potted plant. We stopped putting hummingbird feeders out years ago . . . for lack of any hummingbirds, mind you. This one was an emerald green and he hung around long enough for me to get a picture of him. Small journeys remind us to slow down and surprise us with beauty. This morning when I woke up, the power was out, and it threw off my routine. No coffee. No elliptical. No internet. I sat down on the couch to contemplate . . . and my Riesling, sensing my displacement (and maybe feeling it, too) jumped up and snuggled close beside me. It was probably the resounding quiet (maybe the lack of coffee) that lulled us both back to sleep. But as I was drifting off in the rhythm of her doggy breaths, I felt the puppy love. Small journeys comfort and sustain.
Small journeys don't need money. Thay are not contingent on jobs or circumstances. Small journeys stitch together the minutes and the hours of our everyday lives. We just have to recognize them and appreciate them . . . and maybe shake off the despair and get up. A song that echoes in your head or a new recipe that you just happen to have all the ingredients for is a small journey. An earthquake or a quiet epiphany. A new skill learned or an opportunity lost. An enlightening conversation or an aching loneliness that brings you back to yourself. An open door begins a journey. A closed door inspires a different one. Journeys are bridges or roller coasters or mountain paths or meandering rivers. They are the other side of dark places reflected in sunrises over valleys or starlight on water. They can begin on a staircase or a porch swing. They can happen in the words of a poem or in the colors of a painting. A prayer answered is a journey . . . maybe even one you didn't remember praying.
Small journeys, when we lose ourselves in them, will take us home to places better than we've never imagined. My wish for you is that, no matter your circumstances, that you challenge yourself to see your journeys today, and name them. Give words to them and keep them close - like golden etching on your heart. It won't cost you a thing and it can't be taken away. Like the eternal riches of Heaven that you only had to accept or ruby red slippers that will take you home. You've always had the power.
Look for my update Small Journeys, Bright Lights coming soon:)