Bound For Greatness

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Several weeks ago I had the great joy to attend a quilt auction. Not just any quilt auction but one for the Carol Joy Holling Camp & Retreat Center…the same center I visited several months ago for the Jumping Tandem Retreat.

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I’d never been to a quilt auction before so I was pretty excited. What added to the excitement was that this place has not only new personal history but also a long family history. My brother-in-law and many of his relatives have gone to camp at Carol Joy as children. Many of them also worked as camp counselors as young adults. They all have fond memories and a lasting love for the camp and have gone many times to the auction.

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The auction is the last big event of the summer for the camp staff. The weekend after all their charges have left camp and headed home they gather a bunch of quilts…408 or so this year!…and auction them off to raise money to make sure no child that wants to go camp is ever turned down.

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What makes me so very happy is that all the quilts are donated. By individuals, by groups, by churches…just people making blankets to help some kids. I love that. Hundreds of people come on auction day and thousands of dollars gets raised. It is a beautiful thing to witness. One I’m hoping to make a family tradition of.

And next year? Next year a quilt or two hanging from those racks will be made by our family. The first of which is this Christmas wall hanging.

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We noticed two themes got somewhat higher bids than the others this year: one being the Huskers blankets – it is Nebraska after all! The second is holiday themed items.

It just so happened I had this unfinished Christmas quilt top my mom and I created together. I asked my mother-in-law to quilt it so we could donate it from all of us to the auction next year. Now, all that’s left is the binding – my favorite part!

Oh, and then the donating and auctioning of course! At the end of next summer we will have made some kids really happy. Kids who will find no monetary restriction keeping them from an amazing life experience.  That makes me beyond happy.

This little quilt of ours is definitely bound for greatness. Nothing feels greater than helping children.

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Willingness in Fear

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I didn’t know when I wrote my last post that my words would be put to the test with such immediacy. I said I was prepared to face what came and trust God would carry me through it. And today I’m packing for a journey that scares me beyond measure and I can feel the unwillingness clawing at my insides.

My father’s health has been declining rapidly. The treatments that were a possibility only a few weeks ago have dwindled. He’s in the hospital, he’s weak, he has no appetite, his body is building up toxins his liver is too damaged to filter. We are still hopeful that the doctors will find a protocol that will work, that a new medication will see him stronger, that more time is possible.

But I am scared.
Deep in my heart scared.
I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to face mortality so blatantly. I’m afraid to see my strong vital father sick. I’m afraid that when I head home from this trip I am truly saying goodbye. I am afraid of too much overwhelming emotion. I’m afraid of crying and never stopping. I’m afraid of my heat hurting so much I can’t breathe. I’m afraid of the sympathy others want to express, the strangers with sad eyes. I’m afraid of 1000 things I can’t escape.

Sooner or later we all have to do this, we all have to walk this road, face mortality head on. Weather it’s in ourselves or someone we love it’s still coming. And I have an avoidant spirit.

My whole being wants to run in the opposite direction of pain, it wants to shut down, close up, and hide till the painful stuff is gone. I am an unwilling girl when it comes to facing my fears.

But, I know some simple truths.
I know that this is something I must do. I know if I gave my into avoidant spirit I’d regret it the rest of my life. I know that I can cry and feel broken and wounded beyond repair and still survive it. Feeling my emotions, good, bad, or indifferent, will not break me. I can lean into comfort. I am not alone. I am afraid, but fear does not mean I can’t do this. I can. I can do this. Hurting, scared, unwilling spirit and all – I can do this.

HE told me I could. He promised to be there every step, walking with me.
I’m hanging on to that.
Every step forward is a prayer; though I walk through the valley, you are with me.

Little did I know that a retreat about facing fear while chasing your dreams would be preparing me for facing the greatest fear of my life. Jumping Tandem was more than about God-sized dreams. It was about having a God-linked tandem life.

*For more on my experience at Jumping Tandem – the retreat check back and click the Jumping Tandem category below.

I am here

Here. On the other end of my interweb tether, coming back after not feeling compelled to write for quite sometime. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, but that life was making the things I had to say too hard, or sad, or seem very small and unimportant. And so I went away and found a puzzle piece to pick up and came back to tell you about it.ImageI went on a Christian women’s retreat called Jumping Tandem. A retreat I had been super excited for when I signed up with a friend months ago. A retreat that I was anticipating reading books and blogs and studying up for. I wanted to be prepared, I wanted to be ready to soak up and take in and change. Then life changed my focus.

I found out my father has liver cancer. I found out the life I was imagining as an infinite timeline had a definitive end looming. I found out that it is not an easy task to prepare for something so heart breaking. I found out that one diagnosis can so shift your focus that everything else you are doing and feeling is a blur.  So, I didn’t study up, I barely looked at the material Jumping Tandem offered to prepare myself for what was coming. I just went and trusted that I could figure it out once I got there. Preparation for one more thing seemed like too much.

I got in the car Friday morning and began the drive East to Ashland, Nebraska. It was only then, with the immediacy of Jumping Tandem upon me, that I switched my focus to where I was going and what I was doing. It was only then that I was in the moment, that I am here became true.

My friend and I talked about 1000 things through Colorado and Nebraska. (including my dad) We planned for the future; the next few hours, the next few days, and the next years to come. In our task of getting to Jumping Tandem – the place we would explore our God-sized dreams – we began to sort them out and focus on the big ‘what will come’ for each of us. I went into my weekend thinking I hadn’t come prepared enough to get anything out of it, and in the course of just showing up God made sure I brought something home.

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I found myself in a not unexpected place this weekend. I am by nature an introvert, I am painfully shy, I hate speaking in public or in groups (even small ones), I find it incredibly difficult to meet new people and develop even a simple conversation with them. I tell my friends (who have all done the work of getting to know me) that my brain is missing the ‘small talk’ area. Normally in conversation there is a give and take and people who are asked a question answer and then respond with a question. I, however, answer and then miss the ‘ask a question’ cue. I remember it hours later when I realize I could’ve made a 2 minute conversation into a 10 minute conversation simply by repeating their questions to me. I occasionally have the ‘ask a question cue’ close enough to my awareness to make it happen, but it is a struggle and most often I am the dead-air girl. I am stunted, it’s a thing.

So, on a retreat where I could have made lots of new friends, I went with a comfortable friend who I had tons of awesome conversations with and had several 2 minute conversations with strangers.  That’s totally normal for me and was completely expected. But, fear not, the retreat was not a loss on this girl, because even though I don’t connect with new people well I am an excellent student!

I took a bazillion notes. I worked through stuff in my own introvert way, and I came home with my God clearly in my heart saying things like:

“Hello! You circle around this same idea for a reason! Your dream is where your passion meets my need.”

and

“I told you other people feel that way too.”

In my sessions, with speakers the non-studied-up me was clueless about, I heard my own voice from those daringly brave women who spoke and spoke up. In voices saying they were scared, they were unsure, they were lost and confused. These women who just wanted to know what God had planned, just wanted to be willing, wanted to be used by Him, to love on others, to encourage and support, to ask questions, to say the hard stuff, to dig in, open up…they all had pieces of me. It was amazing.

I came home knowing I don’t have to have all the answers -and that there would be plenty of times that fact alone will make me crazy. I came home knowing I don’t need the big picture but just the willingness to pick up my puzzle piece and take the first step with God. I came home knowing that allowing yourself to feel the hard emotions is OK – and that I will struggle with letting it be OK every time I need to cry and say I’m scared or I need help. I came home knowing bravery looks different on everyone -and that everyone is brave just by opening their mouths and sharing their dreams with another person. I came home thankful to have gone, for being in the momentand to have deepened the friendship I carried with me through it. I came home still afraid (because fear never really goes away) but trusting that I will be OK through whatever is to come. I came home looking up.

I am here.

IMG_20130420_180445[1]*For more posts about my experience at Jumping Tandem check back and click the Jumping Tandem category below .

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