One of my and my big kids (6&8) favorite things to do is go on hiking adventures in the woods together.
Today was the first time I took Ellie, who turns 2 next week for a walk in the woods by herself, without the comfort of her stroller and the companionship of her father and older siblings.
You guys, the second she lost sight of the car she wanted to turn back.
I spent a good 5 minutes gently convincing me to follow me into the woods in between her asking where her brother, sister and father were.
Once she agreed to follow me, holding my hand, the farther in we got, the more unsure she became until she finally asked to be picked up.
We were in the middle of one of the most beautiful trails that we had been on as a family before, in the middle of a flock of hundreds of migrating songbirds and she kept looking back to see if she could see the car, and while I was mesmerized by the birdsong, all she seemed to be able to hear was the traffic beyond the trees.
How often are we like this? We are beckoned into wide open spaces of beauty and adventure only to look back to the comfort of the spaces we know. A dirty minivan vs. sunlight dancing in the trees. Four wheels and 7 seats vs thousands of songbirds fluttering overhead.
I hoisted babygirl onto my shoulders and I pointed upward. LOOK! Look at the mama squirrel and her babies in the hollow. Look at that one just two arms lengths from you chattering away. LOOK at all the birdies Ellie, listen. Look at the river dancing in the clearing ahead.
Then the moment we were both waiting for… that sweet little toddler gasp..
Mama! Me go down!
Mama, let’s run!
And we spent the rest of the hour wondering off the path and into the trees, picking flowers, investigating fallen branches, watching the water and flat on our backs enjoying the birds overhead.
At the end of our adventure I had to coerce her back into the car.
Friends, don’t mistake familiarity with destiny. Don’t get too attached to the minivans inside yourselves.
I am a human parent, need to recommit to my ideals on the REGULAR, and I choose to lovingly lead my daughter down pathways (although unfamiliar) that are for her good, her joy, and for her flourishing.
I was not angry that she was afraid, I was not upset by her attachment to what she knew. I did not disparage or judge her tentativeness. I just embraced her and invited her to trust me.
Some of you may feel led into the woods, past the point you’ve been before and without the people who usually go with you.
Just because all you can hear is the hum of the traffic beyond the trees, doesn’t mean thats all there is to hear. Listen.
You are not alone out there. You will not be left alone in there. If you need to, raise those arms and ask to be lifted up onto your fathers shoulders. Ask for some perspective. Ask him to show you things you are unable to see or hear from where you are.
You’ll be running out ahead of him, picking flowers and marveling at the beauty of your path soon enough.
I wonder when it is that most of us stop or dull our shining?
At what point in our journeys do we decide that it's safer and/or easier to blend into the background?
When we get the message that our shining invites pain into our lives?
When we get the message that our shining hurts others?
When we are fooled into thinking we don’t have anything of value to offer the world?
When we get so preoccupied with surviving that shining becomes an unexpected bonus prize?
I have to be honest. Something about the past few years of my life has dimmed my light.
Unexpected challenges and changes.
Grief and deep pain.
Experiencing a loss of control over how or where we live.
I have spent a good portion of the past year waking up from a foggy haze, realizing that I have shrunk back from myself, my gifts and my life, that I have been in hiding who I am and what I can TRULY bring to the table in service to others.
Realizing that it's been so long since I indulged that shining part of myself that I’ve almost forgotten who she is.
Tracing my steps back to the moment or the series of moments that I determined it would be safer, more economical and less painful to stand up or stand out.
I am not 100% there just yet.
A dear mentor and teacher recently posed this question to our class:
“How much energy would the sun have to exert in order to hold back, dull or hide its shining?”
“How much energy are YOU exerting to hold back, dull or hide yours?”
I have spent a good part of 2020 thinking about a story in scripture about three servants, each bestowed with treasure to care for and how each of the three managed what was left in their care.
The least faithful of the three is described as being paralyzed by fear and in a state of panic, hides what he has been given from himself and the world so that when his master returns it is perfectly preserved.
His treasure is safe.
But it has not seen the light. It has not faced the scrutiny of others. It has not risked anything. It has no sweat on its brow. It has never had to be brave or dig deep for its courage.
It is safe.
But no one has been inspired by its beauty. It hasn’t leveraged its value to create value for another. It hasn’t been enjoyed or admired.
It is safe.
But it has been covered in dirt and darkness.
It is safe.
But it’s keeper was found unfaithful.
I need to confess that I have been that keeper. I have been hurt, felt betrayed and afraid and I took everything I had and I buried it.
But I commit to the excavation process.
I commit to digging deep.
Dusting myself off.
And shining my light.
Scared out of my mind.
What will they think?
What will they say?
Is it enough?
Will it hurt like it did last time?
But I commit to shining.
I return to the deep wisdom of Marianne Williamson, and I invite you to return to it with me…
I started it on a Saturday night, and finished it by mid-afternoon on a Sunday.
I loved it and I think you will too.