Who Needs You to Listen to Them?

Every few months or so, I’ll get a migraine headache that forces me to get in bed.   

Last night, I crawl into my daughter’s bed, and she joins me.  At 7:00 PM--two hours before her bedtime.  

The little one finds her pajamas, brushes her teeth, and snuggles up on the other side of me.

For two hours, we stay there.  I listen to exactly 35 diary entries that chronicle my daughter’s 3rd grade year.  I listen to a debate about which glitter pen is actually better–red or blue.  Then I listen to prayer requests straight from the heart of a child.  I hear about best friends, arguments, crushes. 

For two hours, I listen because it doesn’t feel good to talk or to move. 

I need to get sick more often.

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Journal:  What can I change in my schedule so I have time to listen to family members?

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Listen to This Story

Vernal Pond in PA

Today, I had time to listen to different folks tell me a story.

I ask a neighbor to tell me the story about how she moved from one county to another.

I ask a complete stranger to tell me the story of how she transferred from one college to another.

Both women said, “It’s a long story.”

I said, “I have time.”

I decide I want to have the time in my life to listen to long stories.

I’m teaching memoir writing this month for the college seniors. They have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside that nobody has yet asked them to tell.

I wonder how many people we encounter each day who have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside.

They are in there, hidden away like a secret vernal pond.

Living with flair means I encourage others to tell the story inside of them.  It’s been an amazing day because I’ve lived the adventure of listening.

And here’s the picture of me listening to the sound of snow falling on the vernal pond.  Thank you, Jennifer, for being part of my story.

(photo taken today by Jennifer Kelly and her fancy phone)
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Journal:  What if I asked this person to tell me his or her story?

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How to Be Sick with Flair

All night long, a fever rages, and I can’t keep warm no matter what I do.  I’m coughing so much that I actually lose my voice.  I can’t talk on the phone; I can’t boss my family around; I can’t even go to church and call out my welcomes. 

I try to get out of bed while everyone else is at church, but then I flop back down on the pillow.  I have no energy.  I’m suddenly amazed by how the body takes the energy it needs to get better and forces you to conserve it.  You stay in bed.  You don’t move.

I can’t stand the lack of productivity.  I actually devise a grand plan with my lost voice.  I can make a vow of silence and pray all day.  How godly!  But when I try to get my Bible and journal, I flop back down on the pillow once more.  Forget it.  I’m too weak.  

I’m worried about how in the world my husband got everybody ready for church and who handled all my responsibilities there.  And I’m worried about who’s cooking dinner. 

My family returns from church, and the girls bound into my room like little gazelles leaping about the bed.  Their outfits are adorable, and my husband has actually fixed their hair.  The youngest has the smoothest pony-tail , and their faces are clean and bright.   I can’t stop looking at that pony-tail.  For years my husband has announced, “I don’t do hair.  I’ll do everything else, but I can’t do hair.”

But he did it. I look again at that hair and realize how God provides, even down to the pony-tail.  And then a friend sends the message that she’s bringing hot soup.   I turn over in my blanket and realize my God-given assignment.  Stay in bed.  Don’t move.  

There’s nothing I can do, so, for once, I learn how to let God provide.

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Just Because There’s Space Doesn’t Mean You Have to Fill It

For the first time in 9 years, I’m going to have space.  Space and time.  Both my daughters will attend elementary school from 8:30-3:00 PM. 

Already, I’m filling up those future days.  I work part time and help coordinate ministry events with my husband.  I write novels and design college writing courses on the side.  Saturday morning I clean the house.  If you read this blog, you know that I keep busy.  I’m driven by some unseen force to produce, to achieve, to be recognized.   That’s my dark side.

And it’s showing up again as this new school year approaches.  I’m already thinking about new projects and new campaigns. I’m wondering what group I can organize, what new courses to teach, and what new novel I’ll conceive.

My husband, the wise Eagle Scout that led me to the still water on our anniversary hike, said this:

“Just because there’s space doesn’t mean you have to fill it.”

I stare at him, mouth agape.  Whatever can that mean?  I don’t even know what that would look like.

This morning in church, I talk to God about my drive to fill space with as many things as I can.  What am I doing?  Whose affection am I trying to win? What prize am I racing toward?  I ask God to show me how to be led and not driven.  I ask God to show me what it would look like to have so much space in a day that I could rest, listen, and respond to my life rather than reacting in a rush of furious energy.

So I’m not filling space this fall.  I’ve turned down 3 offers for more work this week. I even said “no” to a teaching offer and a writing project.  Cheers!  High-fives!  I’m going to feed my soul and practice not filling space.  

I need space to be led by God and not driven.  I’m still not sure what it looks like to slow down and sit in empty space.  But whatever it is, it’s a new thing.  It will be my less frantic form of flair.

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Writing Atop a Double-Decker Bus with WiFi

I’m doing something I’ve never done before:  I’m riding atop a double-decker bus on the way to Manhattan. 

I’m with complete strangers.  But here’s what I know: 

The woman beside me was homecoming queen, and I know the whole story about the boy she met when she was 14 who visited, only in the summers, his grandparents who were her neighbors.  I know about their long distance relationship, the time they broke up after they already paid for airline tickets to visit Chicago, and how, even though they doubted the other would actually still go, they found each other in that city and fell in love again. 

I also watched a storm brew through the windows above my head with the older man next to me.  He has a hearing aid, and I’m not sure would speak if I engaged him, but when that storm barreled in, he glanced at me, looked back up at the dark clouds, again at me, and then back again.  We both saw it happening, and this was important. 

I had 15 minutes at a truckstop, and I was late because I was listening to a man describe his writing project.  The bus driver came in to find me.  He looked down at me, shook his head, and smiled. 

For the woman who hates to travel, I’m learning to find buried treasure in the people around me.  I’m having the time of my life, and we are just in New Jersey. 

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