Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wonderfully Fearful

A few months ago, I was asked to be a monthly contributing writer for  In my first piece, we were asked to write our story.  Enjoy! 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Psalms 139:14

The thing is, everyone just wants to be loved.  That’s my story.  Plain and simple.

My story begins peering out my kindergarten classroom window.  As blurry as those days are, life became crystal clear at Marion Elementary School in upstate New York.  I had my first broken bone.  I watched with envy as the rest of my class played outside in the snow.  I distinctly remember feeling disconnected and I didn’t like the feeling one bit.

Actually, my journey begins in my birthplace, five years before, in Sodus, NY.  My parents were young and self-proclaimed “unprepared” parents.  They struggled through the usual stuff…finances, family dynamics, and the future.  I was their first attempt at writing their own stories as adults.  My memories of those times roll through my brain like a very broken movie reel. 

A puppy named Angel
A Red Rocking Chair
Birth of my First Brother
Cutting down Christmas Trees on Austin Road

The broken movie reel became a continuous thread as I watched my friends sled down the hill from inside my classroom.  I guess it’s my most vivid early memory because of the feeling attached. 

I was sad.

A few apartments and several classrooms later and my parents bought a home in Flint, NY.  I remember crying the entire ten-mile trip in the moving truck.  I couldn’t be excited about the move because it was located in a new school district.  As a nine-year old girl, I hated to leave my teachers and friends.

A month later, I walked into Gorham Elementary wearing a white and blue lace dress that Grandma Dee had bought at a yard sale.  I had shiny white shoes and my mom had curled my hair.  None of those things made me feel better about the situation.  I missed my old school.

My principal, Mr. Young, had kind eyes and a big smile.  As he led me to my classroom, he told me all of the wonderful things about the school.  I didn’t hear much.  I just wanted to find my desk and sink into it until the end of the day. 

I was alone.

My home on 5 and 20 was an adolescents dream.  It was a one hundred year old farmhouse with eighteen rooms on five acres.  There were plenty of places to disappear and create a world far from that of a struggling young person.

Mowing the Lawn Listening to Bon Jovi
Writing in the Goat Barn
Bike Rides down Goose Street

My parents always promoted an open home.  They would treat anyone that walked through the door like they were family.  This included my group of friends.  On any given night, mom would have cookies coming out of the oven and dad would fire up the grill for some Zweigles hots.

I spent my time as a teenager involved in everything.  I played softball and soccer, participated in marching band and winterguard, and had a booming social life.  I craved spending time with those I loved.  I spent every Wednesday night and Sunday morning seated on the front pew of my dad’s church.  It was a life that was polarized.  I loved every minute of it, but yet found ways to struggle through those times.

It was because of this culture that I was apprehensive to leave when the time came to select my college destination.  After many tears and arguments, I abruptly decided to attend Lee College, a small Christian school 800 miles away from my home. 

I was scared.

Change is hard.  It’s natural that with change comes feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear.  When I think about my story, there is a distinct separation of the times when I didn’t know and the times I did. 

The rest of the story…

“For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalms 139:13-14

It’s quite simple.  My story is completely wrapped around a beautiful love.  After many heart breaks and bittersweet loss, his proclamation of love was my only redemption.  I stopped searching for it.  I stopped trying to get attention for it.  I stopped seeking comfort from those that couldn’t give it.  What I found in that place was a tremendous peace and faith.  I remain wonderfully fearful of his works in my life.

A Beautiful Family
A Job I Love
A life I Don’t Deserve
Woven by Him.  

I have had my share of disappointments and despair over the past 41 years.  They pale in comparison to the joy I experience daily.  It is not a bubbly, giddy elation.  It is a blessed, content peace that despite my hopelessly-flawed, human self…


And he loves you too.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Enjoy the Ride!

A few years ago, I found myself at a crossroads.  I had everything I thought I had ever wanted, but couldn’t find a glimpse of who I was.  Some might call it a mid-life crisis, although I’m not quite sure I was there yet.  Others could say it was the result of being a stressed, overwhelmed mother.  Again, it just didn’t feel like that was it either.

I went through the motions, convincing myself that it would get better.  It’s funny.  Looking back at pictures, it’s so obvious.  But at the time, it seemed that I was living the life that was meant for me, but it just didn’t fit right.  I did the only thing I knew to do.  I stopped.

I stopped writing.
I stopped feeling.
I stopped dreaming.

“Life is like learning to ride a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
~Albert Einstein

That February, I embarked on the annual garage clean-out.  Just like each year before it, I grumbled about having too many Christmas decorations and nagged my husband to put shelving to add storage.  I remember hearing my voice and thinking how miserable I sounded.  I decided to take a break.

Sitting there in my dusty, cluttered garage, I thought, “Lord, it just has to be better than this.”  I mustered up enough energy to continue, committing to work in silence to spare anyone from the casualties of my foul mood.

At some point that afternoon, I found my old Cannondale leaning in the corner covered by crushed cardboard boxes.  For some reason, I pulled it out of the corner and leaned it against the garage door.  The rest is history.

"If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on." 
~Lance Armstrong

I have always loved to ride.  Some of it is my DNA.  I mean, every average Dutch girl likes to ride a bike, right?  I’m sure growing up in the middle of nowhere helped that too. 

One of my favorite stories from childhood was when Grandpa Ike finally taught me how to ride.  He took me to the top of the hill by the house, gave me a pep talk and let me go.  Down the hill I went, bike teetering with each pedal as I would slowly, but surely, steer my way right over the new tree that Grandpa had planted at the bottom of the hill.  It didn't matter where he started me, I always ended up riding right over that same young tree.  

A few year's later, sitting in the front yard at our new house on Routes 5 and 20, I looked up to see three boys, about my same age, leaning on their bikes in the middle of the road.  I hadn't made many friends in my new home, so I was eager to meet them.  The O'Hora boys lived a mile down Goose Street and became instant friends.  I spent many summer days biking back and forth to their house.  Occasionally, our moms would give us permission to ride to Flint or Gorham to buy a pop or ice cream.  It was my first test of freedom on the road and I loved it!

One summer, my dad was convinced he had met my soul mate.  He introduced me to an avid biker.  We spent that summer “riding the lakes”.  It didn’t take me long to recognize that avid would definitely NOT describe me as a biker.  My rides are more like hiking with two wheels. 

Take in the Scenery.
Ride again.

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." 
~ John F. Kennedy

I was nervous at first.  After all, I hadn’t ridden in a long time.  My kids made it easier.  They loved spending the time together and I loved being with them.  My heart felt like it was beating again and I looked forward to hitting the trail every chance I got.

I eventually found my pace again.  My short rides with the kids slowly turned into much longer trips.  I recently reached my personal best with a 20 mile day trip.  With every pedal turn, I smiled knowing it meant something.  My soul had returned.

It seems the old adage is true.  Riding a bike does actually come back very easily.  You just have to start pedaling.  Apparently, the same can be said for moving through the crossroads of life.  Enjoy the ride!