Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fear of Exposure

Waiting for my domain name to be established so I could officially launch my blog, a long held fear of exposure set it. It’s a familiar insecurity. I love to write, especially about my faith. The process brings me joy. I don’t know how else to describe it. That joy usually lasts while I’m preparing my work for publication, no matter how limited or intimate my circulation might be. Until now, it has been by letter. Letters meant endless checking for typos and finding just the right stationary. Now with the advent of the blog finally arriving in my outdated universe, it's stressed phone messages to my blog designer, who I gave birth to, and discovering how many other women share my name and coined my blog title. Who knew there were so many “Anne Kinskey”s out there?
I feel great as I put the letters in the mail. It's a sense of accomplishment, that I am somehow answering a call to share my faith with others. For a few minutes, I feel like a confident disciple. Then doubt creeps in: what if it’s really stupid? What if I’m a mediocre writer and no one has the courage to tell me? Similar “what if’s” creep in after I prepare a meal for a family in need in our community. “What if they don’t like it? What if the chicken isn’t cooked all the way?” “What if I give an already ailing family food poisoning?” Thoughts like these have a hey day in my insecure little psyche, running wild, laughing all the way down the slide of my low self esteem. Eventually I take a deep breath and blow them off because the chicken’s been delivered or the letter’s in the mail: it’s too late to retract anyway.
So today, waiting for the blog to come up and having to prepare dinner for my sweet friend Mary, my insecurities were looking forward to an afternoon at a full service play park, possibly Disneyworld! I decided to have my nails done, as I’m off to a Christian Writer’s Conference tomorrow - another opportunity for fear and doubt to wreak havoc on my confidence. Nicole, who could possibly be an angel, began to work on my really tragic finger nails. As we talked we discovered we were both mother’s of four. My four were just a few years older than hers. We were both raising young twenties and teens. No wonder my nails look so bad.
Nicole’s eyes lit up when I said I was a Christian Writer. I no longer say “I’m hoping to be a Christian Writer”. See, I did pick up something from the last seminar.  Nicole loves Christian blogs and Facebook groups. She was so excited to listen to my ideas for the blog, I felt enthusiastic and uplifted. In the time it took to cut a few cuticles, okay they were really bad so it wasn’t that quick, I had a new friend and a new network of potential Christian readers and sources to encourage me – pack it up fear and doubt, the play park closed early today.
Leaving the salon with my nails looking significantly better and my spirits much improved, I headed home to finish preparing dinner for my friend. My usual dinner delivery panic set it when I asked my oldest son Andrew to try the roast. At 16 he pulls no punches, “Well, I liked the last one better.” That was it. No, “but this is good too Mom”. So I resorted to Peter, my youngest, my angel, who at 14 is usually wise enough to forgo “blatantly honest” and settle for “whatever Mom wants to hear”. Tonight all I got was, “Well, I never really liked roast anyway.” Confidence back in the skids, I loaded up the meal and set off for Mary’s.
Mary has been battling cancer since her surgery last October. Her chemo has been brutal. In all the nights I've delivered dinner, I’ve never seen her, she’s been too weak to socialize and sometimes even to sick to get out of bed. Tonight much to my surprise, Mary answered the door. She admitted she didn’t plan on answering the door; she hasn’t wanted anyone to see her. She has been extremely gracious in sharing this experience with us through emails. She is a gifted author. But to be with Mary for even a minute is like soaking up the sun; she is so full of genuine affection for others, that knowing she is suffering has been a heartbreak for all who know her and miss her warmth.
We were both shocked to see one another. In that moment when she threw her arms around me, it was just joy. That was it - just a wonderful, joy filled moment. Mary was still Mary, the warm-hearted, exuberant, out going person who always had a hug for you. I don’t think until that moment she realized it, even though not one of her friends ever doubted.  No matter how many body parts cancer got, it couldn’t get Mary. Mary had felt so sick for so long, I don’t think she recognized how beautiful she is to all of us, full of energy or not. We talked a few minutes and laughed and hugged and it was a gift that is difficult to explain.
I headed home to eat what was admittedly “not my best” roast with my family; and then back up to church for another commitment. Tuesdays are always long days, and I'm away from home most of the day and evening with meetings and classes. Trying to get a dinner ready for another family took some advance prep work and I was tired, but felt so very blest to have had the opportunity. Preparing for the conference has been intimidating: I even skipped my afternoon class on “Faith Foundations” so I could get my hair and nails done, which during Lent is rather ironic but probably fodder for a entirely new post. But through all of it, God was using those around me to gently, and joyfully encourage me along the way. No matter how hard fear and doubt try to coerce me into letting them out to play, God consistently heads them off at the pass; not with miracles - with ordinary, wonderful people who just go through life sharing His love with others.

The blog is launched; thanks to my wonderful daughter. The inspiration is there; thanks to God who surrounds me generously and abundantly with examples of His love and encouragement. As far as I know, both families survived the roast. Thank you all, for joining me on the journey. I look forward to seeing you again, along the way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Spaces that Find Us

Looking up as I walked from the parking lot into the grocery store, a woman smiled at me and we began to chat about the weather. She was from California and she spoke of the storms that were heading our way. With large dark glasses and her head wrapped in a scarf it was difficult to determine her age, but her tone was friendly and maternal. It was her voice, enthusiastic smile, and her heartfelt, “God bless you, child” that touched me. I found myself smiling as we parted at the entrance.

As I walked through the store I passed her again. She was shopping with her adult, very professionally dressed daughter. Her daughter was a beautiful young woman and appeared to be assisting her with her purchases, probably over her lunch hour. The woman stopped and pointed me out like an old friend. I heard her describe me as a “woman with a beautiful spirit”. There I was with no make up, dressed in my exercise clothes, feeling the weight of some personal storms that had been brewing in my life, hearing myself described as beautiful – at least my spirit was looking good. And there she stood, grinning, practically announcing to the deli department that I had a beautiful spirit. Her daughter stood by patiently and smiled at me, as if to say this was not an unusual occurrence.

As we both made our way to the salad bar, we began to visit again. We started in like old friends and there wasn’t a moment I felt uncomfortable. She knew I was a Christian before I said a word, said she just “felt it” as we walked in. We laughed as we both reached for the grilled vegetables at the same time. Turns out we were both missing those grilled pineapple rings that were usually served. She asked me to check the label on the raspberry vinaigrette dressing because her eyesight wasn’t good, and it was her favorite. Mine too. We hugged each other and I thanked her for being such a blessing in my day. I told her that I’d really needed the encouragement. She said the same to me. For that moment, in the aisle by the salad bar, despite the difference in skin color and the presence of her own beautiful daughter, she was my mother. She was the hug that I needed and the reminder of the beauty I carry within solely due to my heritage, as a daughter of God Most High.

While Jesus hung on the cross, he looked down at his grief stricken followers and reminded them that we would need to be family to one another.

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:27 NAS)

Along the way we will each be called to be parents, siblings and even children to those we meet on the path. We must remember to make space for those new relationships, no matter the how fleeting the scope or context might appear. Today a generous and loving woman found the space in her heart to be my mother for a few minutes in the midst of her errands. I thank God for her kindness and her example. Her gesture has empowered me to make room in my heart, where minutes before there had been worry.

Although this passage of John’s gospel has deep theological meaning on many levels, for me today it was simple. Look around, make eye contact and be ready to accept the family God has provided through the love of Christ Jesus. May God bless each of us today with the grace to reach out in love to someone unexpected we encounter along the way. Amen

Friday, February 19, 2010

Before Mounting the Blocks

Morning swim meets start early. To have my son in the water by 7:00 am warm up means we’ve been up and going for quite a while before. By the time the National Anthem is played at 8:30 am, I’m well settled in and my second cup of coffee is growing cold. It’s been an exceptionally cold winter and on this Sunday morning, without all those students, the high school halls are really cold. Since I wasn’t needed as a timer for this meet, I armed myself with my homework for next weeks scripture study lesson on The Gospel of Mathew.

Given the option, I would prefer to time at swim meets. It allows me a great vantage point when my son swims, but mostly I enjoy being engaged in the meet; talking with the swimmers as they wait their turn behind the block and cheering them on as they swim. Swimming is a wonderful sport for children. Once in the water it’s just them against the pool. It provides opportunity for all levels of ability to participate and excel while emphasizing the social benefits of being part of a team.

I love encouraging a swimmer by telling them how many seconds they shaved off their individual best time, or consoling them in the event the “Grim Reaper” aka the Stroke Judge appears at my side with the dreaded “DQ”. No matter whose child it is, for those few moments they are mine, and even if they were dead last in their event, I get to tell them how proud I am of their efforts. So even though it may take hours to see my own son have his few minutes in the water, the meets go by quickly when I time and I really enjoy them.

But today as the anthem began to play I wasn’t standing next to the block by the pool, with wet ankles from back splash and already feeling balmy from the heat radiating off the indoor pool. I was sitting alone in the hallway outside the pool entrance, immersed in my homework. No one would have noticed if I stood for the anthem or not. But I did. Hand over my heart, I stood, not terribly gracefully – trying to balance my coffee and books while hoisting myself out of one of those folding camp chairs that sink really low – anyway I stood, and looked toward the doors where I assumed there was a flag.

From where I stood I couldn’t see the pool, much less a flag, but I did see a young, sweat suit clad little boy down the hall, drawing on a white board. He looked about eight years old. When he noticed me, he put down his marker, put his hand over his heart, and stood very straight and still until the anthem was finished. A few adults passed by us, racing to the pool entrance. One of them hesitated and as she reached the doorway stopped and put her hand over her heart. I felt a kinship with that little boy; we'd been a good example. In those brief moments, he was mine and I was proud of him, and we were both proud to be Americans. We smiled at each other and went back to our tasks.

Shortly after the anthem finished playing, a rather frazzled woman burst out of the pool entrance.

“Mathew, get in here, your next event is up!” I smiled and returned to question about chapter 17 when Jesus asked Peter who should pay the temple tax. (Matt 17:24-27). My young friend Mathew, had he not been busy lining up behind the blocks for the 10&Under 50 meter free style race, could have answered that. I think he would have said, “We all should, because it’s the right thing to do.” I think this knowledge wouldn’t have been intellectual, but visceral. Mathew would have understood that doing the right thing just feels right, even when it interrupts our fun, but that when we do it, we model right behavior for others.

In that moment I felt a deep sense of gratitude for my own upbringing, and for all the adults who modeled respect for me. I was grateful for young Mathew and his innate sense that it is important to do the right thing, not because anyone sees, just because. I was grateful to God, who knowing my very visual style of learning, provides so much more than homework questions as I strive to understand the concepts Jesus taught in the gospels.

What are the life lessons of the importance of respect for authority that others have modeled for you? I look forward to continuing my lesson through sharing your experiences!