A Jump in My Waltz

My instructors failed to tell me how quickly I had advanced before I signed up for this last round of figure skating lessons, so I signed up for a class that is below my skill level. My classmates consist of four middle-aged women who are only just learning to navigate the ice. Naturally they are impressed by my simplest of spins.

“It must be easier when you’re young,” the oldest of my classmates observed. “You’re probably not afraid of falling.”

If I were not afraid of falling, I would be jumping by now.

I didn’t say the words aloud. I’m not even sure I could have forced them from my dumbstruck mind if I had tried. Because as I sat there with the words tucked safely within my thoughts, I wondered if they were true. Is my fear of falling the only thing keeping my blades on the ice? Could it be as simple and yet as complicated as a mind game?

My instructors seem to believe so. I hear their voices filtering through my thoughts.

Elaine: “You’re holding back.”

Austin: “You’re overthinking it.”

Gary: “It’s all in your head.”

It is not “all in my head,” there’s quite a bit in my uncoordinated feet, too.

(For whatever reason, Gary has always been the easiest to argue with.)

But the truth remains that I am afraid of falling. I don’t like sprawling across the ice. I am not fond of limping through Walmart after a particularly grueling lesson. And while purple is one of my favorite colors, I’d rather not see it blooming in bruises across my knee.

As far as I’ve come since I first walked into the Chiller and strapped my mom’s old skates to my feet, I have definitely not arrived. I still don’t fully trust my skates, or my feet, or my balance.

So I hold back. I overthink it. I go through all the motions, but I still won’t put a jump in my waltz. Because I’m afraid the landing might be painful. What is meant to be a three-step routine—waltz, waltz, jump—turns into an endless cycle of waltzing in circles thinking this time I might risk it.

But I never do.

And it’s not only on ice that I feel this way. I let fear cripple me in just about every aspect of life.

My heart says to take the risk, make the leap.

My mind asks, “But what if I fall?”

I think too far ahead. I analyze every possible movement. I worry over the ending before I’ve even begun.

I waltz and waltz and waltz in continuous circles never finding the courage to jump.

When it comes to making the great leaps in life, we could all use a change of perspective.

You could fall. You really could. You could collect a few more bruises, leaving you to limp through life another day more.

Or you could stick the landing. You really could. And just think of how glorious that will be.

Some questions will never be answered until we take that leap.

“But what if I fall?”

Oh, but darling, what if you don’t?

What if you land this? What if you check right into that perfect glide?

Let us all be brave enough to put a little jump in our waltz.

Say Goodbye to Plan B

I’ve said before that Hannah Brencher is one of the most amazing human beings that ever walked this planet. I’m in love with her message, and her heartbeat, and the way she weaves such simple syllables into music that sings to my soul. But mostly I love that, though we’ve never met beyond the realm of digital acquaintance, she’s like the best friend I never knew I needed, giving me what she calls “a good butt-kicking pep talk” just when I’m set to give up.

Sometimes I think about how much I want to be her. Other times I think about how I already am her, and she is me. How else could she know? How else could she manage to speak such specifics to my fears, my doubts, my hesitations? How else could she know the depths of my dreams and the intense longing I have to make the world a more beautiful place before I go?

When I stumbled into my inbox yesterday afternoon, I had to remind myself to breathe. Because she did it again: that thing where she’s writing to the whole wide world, but I’m looking between the lines and finding the words, “Yeah, I’m talking to you, Rebekah Snyder.”

“Plan B doesn’t fit you,” she wrote.

“Yup. That’s right. Said it. Meant it. Plan B is where you are standing when you decide that you are too afraid to step out there and let life smack you in the face with blessings and confetti. Plan B is the shaky, but seemingly secure, house you construct for yourself when you want to avoid risk and keep all the pieces intact. Two fun facts for the day: a) nothing worthwhile in this lifetime is fit to be controlled b) Plan B ain’t for you.”

I’d never thought of that until yesterday: how maybe Plan B is the worst possible idea I’ve ever concocted in my life because it could keep me from living Plan A.

Because I’ve thought before, like probably every person thinks, “What do I do if this all goes wrong? What’s my back-up plan?”

There is no back-up plan. There’s doing and there’s failing. And there’s the brushing dirt and debris from your skin and starting over from scratch if that’s what it takes to make your dreams happen. It’s do, or die trying. And maybe it’s not very encouraging to think about the die trying part, but, darling, I don’t think there’s ever a reason to give up on Plan A. Maybe you’ve got to tweak your methods a bit, but don’t you ever give up on the goal. It’s not worth it.

Remember the parable of the talents? You know, the story Jesus told about the three guys who were entrusted with the king’s money? The first two guys took a risk, and they were commended for it. The third guy buried his portion in order to insure it was still intact when the king returned, and he got in trouble. Why? Because talents were meant to be invested.

Sometimes I wonder what the king in the story would have done if the other guys had failed. Would he be angry with them for losing it all, or would they have been commended for trying? Had the third guy invested, but lost everything, would his ending have turned out differently? I don’t know. But I do know this:

This world is not the end.

We forget that too often. Or we know it somewhere in the back of our minds, but we haven’t let it transform the way we live. Because if we were really convinced that this life is but a blip on the scale of eternity, we wouldn’t be so afraid to live a daring life. We wouldn’t try so hard to make sure our futures are safe and comfortable and secure.

I think that shows a lack of trust on our part. I think that if God decided to give us a season of life on this earth, He wanted us to live it, and not just in our safe little comfortable existence that we call living. When God gave you a dream, He never intended for you to fall back on Plan B. He never intended for you to find ways around it because, let’s face it, it was a crazy dream, after all.

I think we all need to take a little bit of advice from Hannah Brencher and “get real clear on the things you always, always said you would fight for before you learned how easy and safe it felt to stand in your own way.”

I’ll leave you to contemplate, and hopefully write your Dear John letter to Plan B.

Plan B

Light Bulbs, Airplanes, and Impossible Dreams

“Fear wants to stop our stories,” Anne Jackson writes. And I think I’m going to have to read the chapter over again because all I saw was that simple sentence. So at the risk of writing something that might already be written let me tell you why that sentence stopped me in my tracks.

I think most of us are more aware of our dreams than we care to admit. When someone asks you what you want to do when you grow up and you reply, “I don’t know,” I’m inclined to wonder whether you honestly don’t know or whether you’re afraid of what you do know. Because Fear has a way of killing our dreams.

The thing about dreams is that they’re larger than life. Impossible, even. And maybe in your heart you know what you would really love to do if there were no possible way you could fail. So what do you want to do with your life?

And you’re still saying that you don’t know because the big question I just posed was “if.” I said “if” there was no possible way you could fail, but that’s just the thing. There are countless ways you could fail, says Fear. And if you fail, people are going to laugh. If you fail, you will have wasted your life. If you fail, you’ll have nothing to show for yourself but a pile of shattered dreams.

But listen closely before you close the door on your dreams, because Fear says the same thing I did. “If,” Fear whispers. “If.” And maybe all those things Fear says are true. People may laugh and your dreams may shatter if you fail. But there’s no guarantee that you will fail. And what’s the harder life to live – the life of someone who dared to pursue their dreams regardless of what the critics said or the life of someone who died having never attempted to do that one thing that beat in their heart?

One day your heart will stop beating and your dream will die with it. Unless… Unless you dared to give it life before you encountered death. Because some dreams outlive the dreamer. In fact, I would imagine that most dreams do.

Don’t believe me? Hit the nearest light switch and see what happens. What happens is all because Thomas Edison dared to dream that there was a better source of light than candles. And he burned a few candles in the process of making that dream a reality. A new friend of mine is boarding a plane back to Barcelona tonight, but I never would have even met her if the Wright brothers hadn’t quit their day job and decided to invent a flying machine.

Light bulbs and airplanes… Impossible dreams. You can bet that there were critics. You can bet that Fear screamed that it couldn’t be done. And history shows there were failures. The dream didn’t fall together in a day. There were setbacks and frustrations and things that didn’t work.

And you can bet that these dreamers got discouraged. But they didn’t let their temporary failures destroy their dreams. Because they knew in their hearts that lights were made for shining and men were made for flying and that, one day, in the not-so-distant future their dreams wouldn’t seem so impossible after all.

When Life Happens

“You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”

Profound insight from the world’s favorite, seriously confused fish. I think this line from Finding Nemo makes us laugh because it is such an obvious statement, but in all actuality, it’s also a great reminder.

We tend to play it safe. We protect others. We protect ourselves. And in doing so, we miss out on a vital part of living. We weren’t made to live in a bubble. We were made to thrive and explore, push ourselves to our limits, and yes, even fail sometimes.

You know how babies learn to walk? By falling down. If they never fall, they never learn to balance. By sheltering and protecting our kids, we keep them from living to their fullest potential. We keep them from excelling at things in which they could truly thrive. And, as Dory would say: “Not much fun for little Harpo.”

Sometimes life happens. Sometimes we find that things aren’t going according to plan. Sometimes we face challenges that knock us down. But that doesn’t mean we should stay down. That doesn’t mean we should sequester ourselves away from the world in hopes that we will never again feel the sting of failure.

When you attempt to protect yourself from the bad things, you accidentally block out the good things, as well. You can’t never let anything happen to you. Then nothing would ever happen to you. You can’t find acceptance without risking rejection. You can’t experience success without risking failure. It’s not possible to embrace what is good in life without coming across a few bad things in the process.

It’s time to move beyond the comfortable, little space you’ve created for yourself and attempt great things. It’s time to let things happen. I’m confident that you can overcome whatever trials may come your way as long as you take some advice from Dory and…

Just. Keep. Swimming.

#8 – Letting Hope Out of the Box

I’ve found that the reoccurring theme in my life recently has been about taking risks, trusting the unseen and embracing the unfamiliar. In pondering all these things, I’m brought back to the lesson of Pandora’s Box.

Now, for those of you who haven’t brushed up on your Greek mythology in the past few years, Pandora is the woman who is accredited for releasing evil into the world. See, Pandora was the guardian of a box. A box that was never to be opened. Of course, in this mythological twist on the story of Adam and Eve, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her and the box didn’t stay closed. The moment it was opened, a myriad of evil creatures rushed out into the world. Pandora struggled to shut the lid and revoke her bad decision, but it was too late. Pandora had been burned. And what’s a girl to do when she’s just released a whole horde of evil into the world?

Then came a tiny voice, begging to be set free. But Pandora was afraid. She had caused so much harm already. What if this made it worse? But for some reason, Pandora decided to take the risk. She decided to trust this thing that she couldn’t see. Tenaciously, she opened the box… and hope floated out on butterfly wings.

Now, I don’t believe for a moment that this is truly how darkness entered the world, but pretend for a moment that it was. What would have happened if Pandora had allowed her original mistake to keep her from trusting the small voice? What if she had been too afraid to risk again? To trust again? What if Pandora had left hope in the box? What kind of world would we live in today?

It’s so easy to become embittered by life. When bad things happen, we harden our hearts. When people hurt us, we close ourselves off. We’re afraid to risk again. To trust again. And so we leave hope in the box.

Today I encourage you to learn from Pandora. Set aside your disappointments, disenchantments and past mistakes. Take the risk, trust the unseen and let hope out of the box.

Letting Hope Out of the Box

I’ve found that the reoccurring theme in my life recently has been about taking risks, trusting the unseen and embracing the unfamiliar. In pondering all these things, I’m brought back to the lesson of Pandora’s Box.

Now, for those of you who haven’t brushed up on your Greek mythology in the past few years, Pandora is the woman who is accredited for releasing evil into the world. See, Pandora was the guardian of a box. A box that was never to be opened. Of course, in this mythological twist on the story of Adam and Eve, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her and the box didn’t stay closed. The moment it was opened, a myriad of evil creatures rushed out into the world. Pandora struggled to shut the lid and revoke her bad decision, but it was too late. Pandora had been burned. And what’s a girl to do when she’s just released a whole horde of evil into the world?

Then came a tiny voice, begging to be set free. But Pandora was afraid. She had caused so much harm already. What if this made it worse? But for some reason, Pandora decided to take the risk. She decided to trust this thing that she couldn’t see. Tenaciously she opened the box… and hope floated out on butterfly wings.

Now, I don’t believe for a moment that this is truly how darkness entered the world, but pretend for a moment that it was. What would have happened if Pandora had allowed her original mistake to keep her from trusting the small voice? What if she had been too afraid to risk again? To trust again? What if Pandora had left hope in the box? What kind of world would we live in today?

It’s so easy to become embittered by life. When bad things happen, we harden our hearts. When people hurt us, we close ourselves off. We’re afraid to risk again. To trust again. And so we leave hope in the box.

Today I encourage you to learn from Pandora. Set aside your disappointments, disenchantments and past mistakes. Take the risk, trust the unseen and let hope out of the box.