MY SEGWAY RIDE TO HELL

"I can't stop!"

“I can’t stop!”

By Lisa Huddleston

I have at least one other little homily to write down from last week’s vacation, before it completely escapes my mind. It is about the importance of being humble.

On the first full day–our second at The Homestead–the four of us, our New Jersey pals and Chuck and me, decided to take a tour on Segways. Radical. A new experience for each of us. And incredibly nerdy. I chuckle to myself just thinking of it. Jokes about Paul Blart, Mall Cop, abounded, but we were all just a little worried about balancing the odd contraptions. Well, Suzanne was worried. Secretly I imagined that I would have no trouble whatsoever and privately sniggered at her concerns. I flew confidently up the practice hill and back with no difficulty and felt ready to roll. I did ask the instructor to explain one more time how to “lock my arms” in order to stop, but he made it sound like a piece of cake so I discarded any shadow of doubt and followed the group down a slightly sloping path to a paved road where we stopped. Our guide once again asked if we were ready, and I confidently asserted that I was.

Oh boy! He led the way down the steep road, but before I knew it, I had overtaken the guide and left the whole group in my dust. Which might have been just a little cool if I had had any control over my speed at all– but that was nowhere near the truth. With the guide yelling, “Lock your arms!” and Suzanne screaming, “The heels, the heels!” I was totally out of control. Holding on for dear life and shouting over my shoulder, “I can’t stop!” I continued at literal break-neck speed all the while frantically trying to think of a way out of an inevitably painful landing. The guide finally caught up with me and got in front where he showed me how to rock back on my heels and slow that sucker down. I was joyfully relieved and also hysterically laughing at the sight I knew I was. For the rest of the tour my new name was “Speedy,” and it was a source of great amusement for us all. Yet only I knew the embarrassment I felt at not living up to my high and mighty expectations. I was torn between laughing and crying–so I laughed until I cried!

This might just be another funny anecdote in my crazy life, but as usual I think I had some lessons to learn from the experience. First, about my attitude: I thought I had things under control. I bike. I kayak. I hike. A dorky Segway trip would be no trouble. Wrong. And because I had too high an opinion of my ability, I didn’t really worry about the fact that I didn’t understand the whole “locking your arms” thing. Dumb. Next time I have a question, I’m going to get the answer before I start rolling.

Second, passion and intensity are only good things when one is using them in the right direction. No matter how hard I clung to the handles of my Segway, I was eventually going to crash if I did not relax enough to straighten my arms and rock back on my heels. Those directives do not come naturally to me. I can be a strong force to reckon with, and relaxing my grip on anything is difficult to say the least. In this case, it was darn near impossible, because it went against all of my natural instincts. But I had to listen to the cries of those around me, to accept that my way was the wrong way, and change what I was doing–or I was going to crash. Period. Good practice for me in being a little more humble and a lot more teachable.

I feel as though there should be a “third” right about here in this essay, but I think it is better simply to reiterate these first two lessons into one succinct word of truth: Humility. Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Humiliation may not be a lot of fun, but it sure can be profitable … and sometimes it makes for a very funny picture. Oh my.

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ALMOST HEAVEN

Sweet friendship lasts.

Sweet friendship lasts.

By Lisa Huddleston

Last night, Chuck and I returned from a four-day trip to The Homestead Resort in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. It’s pretty unusual for us to travel this time of year, and I think this was the first time we’d ever visited a bonafide resort; but this was a special occasion. We took this trip to spend some time with dear friends from New Jersey, Bob and Suzanne, whom we had not seen for the past 12 years. None of us could really believe it had been that long, but as they say, time flies, life gets busy, and it’s hard to find margin. But the kids are grown, and my friend, Sue, is a persistent gal (thank goodness). The time to reunite was here at last.

I was a tiny bit nervous about going. First, it had been so long. I hoped we’d have as much fun as we used to have. (We did!) Second, the resort had restrictions regarding clothing styles in certain areas of the building, and I am a blue jeans kinda girl. (It was no big deal.) Third, I always worry about going anywhere and have to be cajoled to leave the farm–I hate to separate from my pets, my house, my bed, and so on. (Basically, I’m a stick in the mud.)

The guys--aren't they cute?

The guys–aren’t they cute?

But all that worry was a ridiculous waste of time. It was a wonderful visit, and the four of us connected instantly as though no time at all had passed. Of course, none of us “had changed a bit,” and we all “looked great!” And in our eyes, every bit of that was true. In fact, it was just like coming home.

And that last thought caused me to ponder the true meaning of home. I’ve determined that as much as I love this beautiful house my husband has built for our family, home is not a building. True home is a relationship–a comfortable and easy place that allows us to be who we really are (blue jeans or not). Whether in the mountains of Virginia, the crowded neighborhoods of New Jersey, Nashville or Knoxville, the city or the farm–wherever the pieces of my heart reside with friends and family, that is true home to me. And ultimately that truth points me to my best and final home where I will be completely accepted and loved for myself (in Christ)–Heaven.

The Omni Homestead--almost heaven (but not West Virginia.)

The Omni Homestead–almost heaven (but not West Virginia.)

What a sweet time we enjoyed with our friends this week, and what a sweet reminder of the joy that is to come one day when we are reunited for good with all the saints who have gone before us taking pieces of our hearts with them to our final home to come. (I just hope there’s not a dress code!)

FILL MY CUP, LET IT OVERFLOW

Fall devotions: full heart and full head.

Fall devotions: full heart and full head.

By Lisa Huddleston

I sit at the kitchen table this morning surrounded by books–a devotional, a Bible, a study for home group (Timothy Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness)–and a bunch of used tissues. Fall is truly here and with it have come my seasonal allergies for the various grasses that are blooming to spread their seeds before winter arrives. Because of the setting I just described, my head is full of both burgeoning wisdom and ideas as well as snot. Forgive me if the two become muddled together.

And fullness is the very thing about which I want to write. In our home group gathering last night, we discussed our human need for significance, our desire to fill ourselves with purpose–often at the expense of filling ourselves with God. Even under the guise of religiosity, we seek to be special. What is my calling? What is God’s will for me? What special gifts or talents or works have been prepared especially for me to do? Me, me, me. Self runs from our hearts as the water runs from my rummy eyes. And still, yet, and always–IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.

Jesus got that. He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he willingly let go of his elevated and deserved status. Why? For God’s glory. Did it diminish him? No. Did it destroy him? It looked as though it might, but no. It was in letting go of the position he genuinely had a right to hold that he became “the image of the invisible God.” Isn’t that incredible? His self was effaced but then God’s was magnified! And by that self-forgetfulness “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus.” He filled Jesus up with all his fullness! Can you even imagine such satisfaction? No more longing, no more hunger, no more pride or self-elevation required. Jesus let it all go, and God lifted him up.

And, yes, that same fullness is available to us, to you, to me. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” God in Christ, and Christ in me. If I will let go. If I will pry my grasping fingers from what I think I deserve. Oh to be full like that!

SHRINKING THE CIRCLE

Overloaded.

Overloaded.

By Lisa Huddleston

The urge to leave Facebook has been building in me for some time; so yesterday, in a fit of dissatisfaction, I finally pulled the plugged. I say “finally,” but we all know that most people who deactivate their Facebook accounts usually return. Heck, this isn’t even the first time I’ve tried this–I will not declare any statement of finality in my decision. However, for now I am unplugged.

As I said, it was dissatisfaction that drove me to deactivate. Oddly I was not too dissatisfied with what I saw on other’s accounts, at least that wasn’t the final straw. It was a dissatisfaction with how I felt others were responding to my posts–and the totally creepy-odd fact that I even wanted to post them. Why did I feel compelled to document my life? Did filtered photos and pithy captions make it seem more real, more significant? Maybe so.

First, the response of others. From comments both in person and on Facebook, I was getting way too much applause. I know I’m nothing special. My talents are minimal at best so when I posted a picture of something I made or a recent blog post I was really saying, “Wow! Aren’t you as surprised as I am?” But, there were always those who responded, “I wish I could do something like that. You’re so fill in the blank.” Ugh. I felt like such a phony, such a hypocrite. Sure, I loved the praise, but I knew the truth. I am sincerely average. I’m just good at spinning it (my life) so that it looks better than it is.

Second, there was some sense of never being able to live up to the glorious events that are posted on social media–mine and other’s. Each time someone wrote about publishing a book, selling a painting, saving the world one grass-fed cow or chicken at a time, I died just a little. (It shames me to admit it, but it is true.) I would post a sweet comment congratulating them and then I would say ugly words to myself–not about them but about me and my general inadequacy.

So I am slowly shrinking my circle. LinkedIn was the first to go. I mean I don’t really want to start a new career at this stage in my life anyway–why was I wasting my time building an awesome resume? And yesterday, Facebook bit it. That still leaves my blog, Twitter, Instagram, Ravelry, and Pinterist. Man! I’ve been swimming in the deep end for too long!

Dissatifaction is miserable, but it doesn’t have to rule my life. There is a better way and I’m glad my morning’s reading reminded me of it:

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

“Filled with all the fullness of God.” That means totally satisfied with God: rooted in love, comprehending God’s love, knowing the Messiah’s love. FILLED to overfull with love. Not self, not achievement, not worldly success. Amen.

(Disclaimer: This post is in NO way an endictment on those of you who can handle social media better than I.)

FLIP FLOPPED OUT

I'm trying.

I’m trying.

By Lisa Huddleston

I don’t know why it is that when something negative happens to me I want to write about it. Maybe it’s because I want someone to understand how I feel, to know that I really do try to be a good person and that I want other people to like me. Of course, that is an impossible dream. There are always going to be some people who don’t like something I do or something I am, and I’m just going to have to live with it. We all have to accept criticism from time to time.

So what started this conversation today? I went to the gym to attend my weekly yoga class, and since yoga is practiced with bare feet, I wore easy-to-remove flip flops. Since I arrived early, I slipped into the workout room and onto the AMT machine to burn some extra calories before class, and about ten minutes into my “fat burner” program, I saw the lady who works at the desk making a bee-line for me. Oh oh! I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn’t imagine what. She approached me with an apologetic smile and told me that someone in the gym had reported me for wearing flip flops in the workout room. Really? Wow! I was stunned, but I didn’t argue (thank goodness), got off the machine, and left the room. But I felt so hurt and shamed and angry that I was fighting back tears. I mean how was I hurting anybody? My feet were not touching anything. It was an easy, swinging, low-impact exercise so it wasn’t concern for my well-being. Sadly, all I can think of is that someone just decided to be the policeman or woman for everyone in room. My thought is that they should have been paying more attention to their own workout and less to my feet, but whatever. Rules are rules–although I didn’t even know there was one regarding footwear. (Yes, I still so badly want to defend myself!)

Instead of just sitting there waiting, I decided to go to the chair yoga class that precedes power yoga. It was very good and designed to center me in peace and relaxation; but, as you can tell, I never got there today. I am still hurt, I still want to confront my accuser, and as one friend put it, give them a “Downward Dog!” Alas, I have to let it go. And letting it go for me means finding something good to learn from it. So here goes:

1. I will strive not to put rules over people remembering the embarrassment I felt today and hoping not to inflict similar pain on others. (This lesson is good for so many situations!!)

2. I will try to mind my own business more and other people’s less.

3. I will remember that the person who asked me to leave was just doing her job and continue to greet her with a smile and a heartfelt “Good morning!”

4. I will humbly wear gym shoes the next time I go into the workout room and submit to the rules no matter how stupid I think they are.

5. I will allow myself to feel the injustice for just a little longer, and then I will let it go. Yes, I will. Very soon.

Breathe in; breathe out. Shake it off, blow away the anxiety, and remember this is still the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!

JUST GETTING MY FEET WET

Goal reached by Diana Nyad.

Goal reached by Diana Nyad.


By Lisa Huddleston

By now I’m sure most of you have heard a news report or read an article about the record setting swim by Diana Nyad over the Labor Day weekend. The swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage was impressive in its own right, but it was the remarkable attitude of the swimmer herself that made an impression on me. With lips still grotesquely swollen by the nearly 53 hours in saltwater, Diana said, “I’ve got three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is [swimming] looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.” Three awesome, inspiring messages that I think are worthy of a closer look.

First, never, ever give up. This was Nyad’s fifth attempt at making this swim, her first attempt taking place 35 years ago. Now that’s persistence! I’ve definitely heard this message before, but somehow I still need the reminder. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. One foot in front of another. One bite at a time. Different words but the same message, and as I made my way back to the gym to “start over” once again today, I savored Nyad’s words: Never, ever give up.

Next, you are never too old to chase your dreams. I don’t know if it registered with you, but Diana Nyad is 64 years old. You read that right—64! She was only 29 when she first tried to swim the 103 miles, and it would have been easy for her to excuse herself from this dream many years ago. But she didn’t let her age serve as an easy out. Age may make some dreams impossible–like there will probably never be a 64-year-old Miss America (eh–who cares?). But far too often we let age be our excuse for accomplishing less than we can. Want to get another degree? Go for it. Dream of making a difference in the world? It’s never too late. Still hoping to write a book, learn to play the piano, visit Italy? Go for it! Don’t falsely claim your age is your reason for giving up on your dreams.

Finally, Nyad reminded us that she didn’t make this swim alone; she had a wonderful team of people supporting her all along the way. Her team fed her, looked for signs of distress, cleared her path of jellyfish (as well as they could), and I’m sure buoyed her with their hope for her success. Her team made her dream possible, and Nyad gave them all the credit they deserved.

Chuck and me at Union University. Woo hoo!

Chuck and me at Union University. Woo hoo!

Who is your team? Family, friends, co-workers often make the difference in a dream’s fading away or becoming a reality. When I first dreamed of going back to school to work on a Master of Christian Studies degree, it seemed impossible. But I shared my hope with my husband who supported me all the way. My friend and pastor told me about a great program that was perfect for me. My kids and friends gave me the space I needed to study for two and a half years. And my teachers and classmates provided knowledge and emotional support. I was 50-years-old when I finally received my degree, and I know I could never have done it alone.

Today I am 52, and I haven’t stopped dreaming. I’m learning to weave, I’m studying yoga, and my husband and I are planning some new ventures into “backyard” farming. And I know those are just the dreams I have today. I will keep learning and growing and stretching as long as I live.

Diana Nyad’s mantra for this year’s training was, “Find a way,” and I encourage us all to do just that. Do you have a dream? Have you got the will? Then find a way! (And thanks for the encouragement, Diana.)

CHANGING SEASONS

Celebrating September!

Celebrating September!

By Lisa Huddleston

It’s September 1st! Can you believe it? I’ve always heard that time flies faster and faster the older you get, and I’m started to get that firsthand. But today I’m really not minding it so much. I am one of those people who always look forward to the season to come, and the season to come just happens to be one of my favorites–fall. The only other season I like as much is whatever one is the next to come. I guess I like the promise that change holds, the opportunity to improve what is, the hope for a better day.

I’ve heard some people bemoaning the loss of summer (although it really doesn’t end until September 21st.) They are already looking at the approaching winter with dread and skipping right over the gorgeous melancholy of autumn with a giant leap. I cannot relate. There are riches to each season. The gaudy glory of spring, the warm glow of summer, the cooling breeze of fall, and the coziness of winter. I love them each in turn.

Interestingly, as I’ve pondered this topic today and naturally applied its metaphorical significance to my life, I happened upon a Facebook post by an older friend celebrating the 21st anniversary of his retirement. He listed an amazingly long litany of fabulous accomplishments since retiring. He has written books, served as interim leader of both companies and churches, traveled to several countries, built a cabin on a hill, and enjoyed his family well. His post reminds me that even in the metaphorical seasons, there is something to be looked forward to in each. I was encouraged by his joy and enthusiasm and glad to see that there is always something better to look forward to.

So today I am celebrating the arrival of September. Welcome old, new friend. I can’t wait to wrap myself in a cozy sweater and see what you have to offer!