I’ve Entered the Long Jump of Faith

“The woman silhouetted in the painting is leaping – with abandon and joy, it seems — across a chasm. She is looking ahead, at her goal, not down at what is or is not currently beneath her feet. Does she know, I wonder, what lies ahead? I doubt it – it seems clear that this is a leap of faith. Faith that she’ll land safely on the other side. Faith that the choice to leap was the right one. Faith that the time for leaping had arrived. And faith that, whatever awaits on the far side of the chasm, will be worth facing and taking the leap.” 
                   —Jenion, January 24, 2013 “Take a Flying Leap”
 
“And with that experience and knowing, perhaps it is time for me to become a person of faith, not just a person of beliefs. Time to close my eyes and take a step, trusting that I will put my foot down in the very place I need to be.”
                    —Jenion, April 4,  2013 “Have a Little Faith”
 

On Monday, April 22, 2013 I finally took the leap of faith that I’ve been working myself up to all year – I resigned from my job without having a clear idea of where I will land when my feet touch down on the other side.

Hopefully, there will be time before May 31, when my resignation takes effect, for looking back and celebrating. But right now, there are so many things that need to be done and prepared. It’s not one of those leaps that happens immediately – it is more like a slow-motion long jump. I pushed off the ground with my resignation, but I won’t actually be out over the chasm of the unknown for a little while yet. I have paperwork, planning, and packing to do before then. Mountains of each. I want to thank the friends and family with whom I endlessly debated my options – your promises that I would never be homeless or hungry went a long way toward lessening the fear of action.

What am I hoping for? I believe it is time to create a different life for myself. One in which I am not as limited by the demands of my job (nearly 20 years as a first-responder, ever on call, others as my top priority) so that I can be free in my off-hours to engage in a variety of pursuits that have been tabled – whether that is creative work or volunteering or exploring. I don’t know what the future holds. How strange is that feeling? I might find right livelihood quickly, or it may take a while. I might stay here or I might go elsewhere. I do not expect it to be easy, but I do expect that I will find my way.

Composing a life is an improvisation, one which calls on us to be clear about what we value so that the decisions we make along the way are made from the right place. Whether we are staying put or moving on, whether we are staying the course or charting a new path, we need to remain centered in what is real as opposed to what is mirage – what is true value as opposed to imposed value (imposed cultural values, such as “more is better” or “busy equals virtuous”). As environmental activist, Julia Butterfly Hill said during her campus address Monday, (serendipitously just hours after I tendered my resignation): “We are all co-creating our world every moment with every choice…Regardless of perceived boundaries. We are not victims, we are co-creators.”

The thing about a leap of faith is that you have to practice actual faith. Faith isn’t the absence of fear, rather it is the knowledge that beyond the fear lies the right path. Faith that, wherever my feet touch ground, I will be walking the path that I am meant to be on.

Dear readers, I hope that you will come on this journey with me – I will certainly be keeping up to date through weekly posts on Jenion! I’m interested in your stories of taking a leap of faith – please feel free to share your stories in the comments section!

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Have a Little Faith

“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere.  We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them.  I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”  ―Lauren Kate

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Having faith is something that doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. There are things I believe, things which are pretty steady and unshakeable: that God is; that love is our most pressing action and responsibility in this life; that there is a point to our being here. Faith is different – faith is about trust, which isn’t one of my natural responses to the world, other people, or my own efficacy.

The amazing people in my life regularly encourage me to trust that the right path will reveal itself to my feet. And while I believe that it will, I struggle on a daily basis to keep the faith. To trust enough to relax and let it unfold.

But my own recent history should inform me here. This blog began with the “Hunger Challenge” and has led to uncountable gifts that were never foreseen or promised. This morning I posted my 500th post! That’s quite a milestone, given that I began with only a vague idea what I was doing!

In his “Letter to a Young Poet”, Rilke says, “Keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.” Blogging through the most difficult issues of emotional denial and repression – the things inside me that I had never brought to the light – proved to be incredibly powerful. Telling my own story in my own voice has been more healing, more central to my weight loss and current physical health, than the changes I made in diet and exercise. Rilke was on to something important which in our crazy, loud, rushed world is often overlooked. Silence and solitude allow what we carry deep inside to bubble up to the surface – if we are listening, we hear our own voices, and we learn.

Voice. I had been using my voice in journaling most of my life, and I still appreciate journaling as reflection. In posting to Jenion, though, I discovered the powerful nature of voice in dialogue with others. We live in a time when people are quick to share prurient details but slow to openly speak what is truly in their hearts. The incredibly amazing gift of this blog has come primarily from readers – both friends and strangers – who have listened to what I had to say and responded from their own deeper selves. It still feels like such a humbling grace when someone comments on a post – either sharing their experience or simply saying, “Thanks, I needed that”. I am not special or different, as I assumed in my younger years when I felt so isolated from others. I am blessedly ordinary. When our hearts are able to speak together honestly about our experiences and feelings, something extraordinary grows from that conversation.

As a teenager, I often looked for the perfect quote to share as my favorite with my senior portrait in the yearbook. (Never mind that, as it turned out, I didn’t take a senior portrait and was certainly not asked for a quote!) I thought I would probably use, as had countless others, the famous proverb: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I believed this to be true. But I hadn’t the life experience to have faith in it. Jenion has taught me the visceral truth of it – along with the unexpected knowledge that you may not know that you are taking an important first step. A step that will lead you someplace you didn’t know you wanted to go…but which is exactly where you need to be.

And with that experience and knowing, perhaps it is time for me to become a person of faith, not just a person of beliefs. Time to close my eyes and take a step, trusting that I will put my foot down in the very place I need to be.

Friends, family, readers: thank you for coming with me on this Jenion adventure! Hopefully, we have many more experiences and exploits to share!

Taking a Flying Leap

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“You remember the old Roadrunner cartoons, where the coyote would run off a cliff and keep going, until he looked down and happened to notice he was running on nothing but thin air?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” he says. “I always used to wonder what would have happened if he’d never looked down. Would the air have stayed solid under his feet until he reached the other side? I think it would have, and I think we’re all like that. We start heading out across this canyon, looking straight ahead at the thing that matters, but something, some fear or insecurity, makes us look down. And we see we’re walking on air, and we panic, and turn around and scramble like hell to get back to solid ground. And if we just wouldn’t look down, we could make it to the other side…”

–Jonathan Tropper,The Book of Joe

I was sitting at my dining room table, trying to decide what to share in today’s post. My recent reflections have been, indeed, reflections of my state of mind – serious, heavy, full of the weighty feel of winter. I was attempting to think of something to say today that would lighten the mood a bit, but I was coming up empty-handed.

Then, I happened to look up and see the little painting (in the photo above) that my sister, Gwen, gave me for Christmas. When I got home from the holidays in New Mexico, I put the painting in the little niche in my dining room, where it resides with angels and saints, a diminutive ceramic creche, a glass charm against the evil eye. And I promptly stopped noticing it until now.

The woman silhouetted in the painting is leaping – with abandon and joy, it seems — across a chasm. She is looking ahead, at her goal, not down at what is or is not currently beneath her feet. Does she know, I wonder, what lies ahead? I doubt it – it seems clear that this is a leap of faith. Faith that she’ll land safely on the other side. Faith that the choice to leap was the right one. Faith that the time for leaping had arrived. And faith that, whatever awaits on the far side of the chasm, will be worth facing and taking the leap.

Faith is what I’ve been forgetting to cultivate in this dark winter. And in so doing, a joyful spirit is what I’ve imprisoned in anxiety and fear. The overwhelming to-do list I’ve written with my obsessive thinking lacks both faith and joy – I have been thinking of everything as something I have to do (even time with loved ones has been relegated to the status of “onerous chores”) rather than as something I choose to do – or better, as something I am privileged to do.

I am reminded of what Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection about resilience: “Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.” (my emphasis)

So here’s to cultivating resilience: to leaping forward without looking down, to releasing a joyful spirit from the gloom of winter, to celebrating connection, and to actively practicing faith.

The Songs Stuck in My Head

For the past week or so, there have been two songs in my head which refuse to leave. More specifically, there have been two lines, one from each song, which keep playing on a loop in my brain and I can’t seem to shake them. The fact that I had not heard either song in at least 25 years (possibly longer) made me that much more curious to understand: why these lines? why now?

Both songs are by Christian recording artists I listened to in my youth. The first by Keith Green (written by his wife Melody), Make My Life a Prayer to You.  The line that keeps playing over and over is, “…oh its so hard to see, when my eyes are on me.” The second is an even bigger memory stretch, by an artist named Honeytree, from a song called, I Am Your Servant: “…when you are lonely, you’re the only one to blame.”

Sometimes when song lyrics float to the surface of my thoughts and refuse to leave, it is because they are catchy and I happen to love the song at that moment. Sometimes, the song is connected to a specific memory that I’ve been playing over in my head. But sometimes, like in this instance, I believe the lyrics are a message I am meant to decipher then use in some manner. Deciphering whether the source of that message is my own heart or subconscious, or whether it is the result of Divine intervention, doesn’t seem to matter as much as parsing the message.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at these two lines, put them together and come up with the idea that I need to focus attention outward, toward others. And it certainly makes sense, as much navel-gazing as I’ve been doing recently. It also feels like a call to trust both what my heart and my friends have been telling me: that I have something to offer to others that can make a difference in their lives and I need to stop holding back out of fear or misguided feelings of unworthiness.

On another level, though, I can’t help but notice that both songs are calls to live a Christian life: one of faith, prayer, and service. I have always striven to live by Christian ideals, though I have not always been what could objectively be considered a practicing Christian. Is this a call to deepen my faith life?

Here’s what I believe today, thanks to a wonderful and illuminating conversation with my friend, Wendy, yesterday. If life is a series of dots, as Steve Job says, which we have to trust will connect in a coherent manner even though we cannot see the connections as we move forward, I am in the process of stepping onto the next dot – I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I’m ready to trust that I am being led where I need to go. In my daily, active life, as well as in the life of my spirit.

It didn’t take me long to find video of Keith Green on YouTube. Eventually, I found the Honeytree song, but I had to pay $.99 to download it in order to hear the entire song. I had forgotten some (though clearly not all) of the lyrics. The final stanza includes the lines, below, which seem like a perfect way to end this reflection:

I am a servant, getting ready for my part.

There’s been a change, a rearrangement of my heart.

At last I’m learning, there’s no returning once I start,

to live’s a privilege, to love is such an art…