Daring to Dream; Taking a Leap

“Daring to dream what is deepest in our collective longings is
what makes us most human and fully alive.”
– Wendy Wright, The Vigil

I’ve been offline a great deal because I’ve gone back to school – enrolled in an academy that meets once a month for 11 months. It came about suddenly, and is proving to be filled with blessings. I’ll share the story with you, in the hope that it will bless you, too.

Paris door What happened is this: a door closed at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. The video project about family-centered care on which I have been working for the past couple of years ground to a furious halt, incomplete, and it took a valued personal and professional relationship with it. 

I had to assess where I was, what was possible, and do my best to discern where wisdom was pointing. But before that, I had to recover from the shock and pain of the way the end of the project had transpired. It is not an exaggeration to say that this was the most difficult thing I’ve encountered since Katie died.

I had no idea whether it was wise to try to have the video finished or not. I did not have the emotional wherewithal nor the financial freedom to do it. It was difficult to discern whether this meant that the video was not “supposed” to be finished (a sign from the universe to stop the work I have felt led to do), or whether this was simply a problem that needed to be resolved. 

How was I to interpret the situation:  press on with diligence, or walk away and let it go? Which was the grace-directed path? Did I really have anything that important to say – important enough to suffer and sacrifice even more for it? I honestly did not know.Rose Window Chandelier

I consulted people in the field of video, marketing and the law. I prayed. I cried. I stressed. I talked it over with trusted advisers. And one day, I received a kind message from a stranger – a doctor who is the acquaintance of a friend of mine. 

At my friend’s suggestion, I had written to this doctor (a few months before any of “the troubles” began,) and, receiving no reply, had forgotten all about it. His message therefore came as a complete surprise – and a welcome one. This doctor is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer. His business/ministry involves helping to motivate people and transform their lives. He has worked on the front lines, aiding the public after numerous natural disasters. His name is Dan Diamond, and he invited me to call him.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Diamond’s website: “Our mission is to resuscitate and equip people to thrive when times are tough. We believe in empowering and inspiring people to make a difference and discover significance. Only in giving life away does one actually find it.” I was excited to hear what he had to say.

In the course of our conversation, Dr. Diamond told me about a group to which he belongs, called the National Speakers Association. He suggested that I contact the local chapter. This one phone call would lead to encouragement, sharing of resources, support, kindness, generosity, understanding and an invitation to join the group, which was just about to launch a brand-new academy. Jan McLaughlin of Your Communication Connection is the Dean of the academy, and she offered an insightful, listening ear and a warm welcome.

NSA was described to me in this way: We are not a group that believes there is a pie with only so many pieces to go around; we are a group that says, “We’ve made a pie; come and have some!”

But to go back to school when I felt confused, beaten and stymied? Why would I do that? What could the National Speakers Association possibly have to do with me – and what would I have to contribute? I’m not a “national speaker” – not a “national” anything.

The following anecdote arrived in my INBOX around this time:

“There’s a famous story about the lion who came upon a flock of sheep and to his amazement found a lion among the sheep. It was a lion who had been brought up by the sheep ever since he was a cub. It would bleat like a sheep and run around like a sheep. The lion went straight for him, and when the sheep-lion stood in front of the real one, he trembled in every limb. And the lion said to him, ‘What are you doing among these sheep?’ And the sheep-lion said, ‘I am a sheep.” And the lion said, ‘Oh no, you’re not. You’re coming with me.’ So he took the sheep-lion to a pool and said, ‘Look!’ And when the sheep-lion looked at his reflection in the water, he let out a mighty roar, and in that moment he was transformed. He was never the same again.”  – Anthony de Mello, Awareness

Because of the demise of the video project (and the way it happened), I had begun to doubt myself, my ability to be of service to others, and my path. In soul-searching with a spiritual director, I did my best to be honest about my mistakes and shortcomings, but also to be honest about the role of others – and to see the larger context. And then, this quote appeared:

“Without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray for God’s grace with a perfect confidence relying upon the infinite merits of our Lord. God never fails offering us His grace at each action, as I have distinctly perceived it myself… unless my thoughts had wandered from a sense of God’s Presence, or unless I had forgot to ask His assistance.”
– Br. Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

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and then, this one popped into my INBOX:

“Do you allow Jesus to be the Lord and healer in your personal life, family, and community? Approach him with expectant faith. God’s healing power restores us not only to health but to active service and care of others. There is no trouble he does not want to help us with and there is no bondage he can’t set us free from. Do you take your troubles to him with expectant faith that he will help you?  ‘Lord Jesus Christ, you have all power to heal and to deliver from harm. There is no trouble nor bondage you cannot overcome. Set me free to serve you joyfully and to love and serve others generously. May nothing hinder me from giving myself wholly to you and to your service. ‘ “   –DailyScripture.net

and significantly, this one arrived:

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” David Lloyd George

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and finally, this: And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” – Phil. 1: 6

I copied and pasted these quotes into a Word document, and referred to them for encouragement. They fed me, by grace. After consulting an informal “clearness committee” of friends and family, I decided to take a leap of faith, applied to the class, and went back to school.

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photo courtesy of David M. Gerstenberger

The dean, the instructors, the curriculum and other students have already blessed me greatly. They are helping me to take my somewhat fuzzy vision of what I would like to do and put it through a rigorous process of questioning and refining. It requires a lot of homework, but it feels energizing, right and good.

I still don’t know what will happen with the video, nor is it clear what I am being called to do next, but I am working to improve my skills, willing to share and serve, and listening for insight. 

This experience is not simply about me, my story and my work, but touches upon the question of what is meant to be for the greater good (which includes me and you, as parts of a whole). It is a process, more than a product – it is not static. We don’t have to be “perfect” now; we do need to wake up, give thanks for what we have, offer ourselves wholeheartedly to what is in front of us, and listen for the next step.
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“I am sure God wants us to be whole and healthy in every way possible, 

but love neither depends upon these things nor ends with them. 

In fact, blessings sometimes come through brokenness  

that could never come in any other way.”

– Gerald May, The Awakened Heart

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What Would You Tell Yourself, Back Then?

My talented friend Elizabeth Aquino, author of the blog “A Moon, Worn as if it Had Been a Shell”,  invited her readers to take part in a video that she was making.

Elizabeth is the mother of Sophie, Henry and Oliver, the wife of Michael, and an elegant writer, an activist and pastry chef. Feeling intimidated yet? But there is no need – she is also one of the warmest, most supportive, empathetic, sharing and inclusive persons I’ve met in the blogisphere. Having a full life of her own, Elizabeth still takes the time and makes regular efforts to care – and participate in meaningful ways – in the lives of others. Hence her membership in the Hopeful Parents community, and her making of the video.

Hopeful Parents was founded by the mother of a son with special needs as an online community providing “grassroots support for parents of kids with special needs.” I was invited to become a regular columnist there after Katie passed away.

At first, I wondered if I should do it; my daughter had already died, and I wondered what I would have to contribute to this community of parents who were navigating the medical, emotional and social world with their children living with disability. Yet Christina, the founder, felt there was value in speaking to the issues of parenting a grieving sibling, as well as the difficulties surrounding pediatric cancer treatment and life after the death of a child.

I never thought of Katie as disabled. I expected her to regain her strength and to get her life back after she recovered from cancer. Yet Katie was disabled by her cancer treatment; she was weakened physically, needed to use a wheelchair, had a nasogastric tube and an IV line for many months, and was in severe emotional distress, at times. She never regained her appetite, had an enormous abdominal scar, had had major organs removed, and was on an oral chemotherapy follow-up protocol until shortly before her death.

Bearing all of that in mind, I trusted that I would find something to write about that would be of benefit to the community, and I was blessed by writing regularly (& reading) there.

Many parents of children with disabilities are practicing living abundantly, though their lives have taken a turn they didn’t anticipate through their children’s needs. Their lives are not easy, but their lives are rich, as you will be able to see from their words in the video.

The question Elizabeth asked is,  

What would you tell yourself, if you could go back to the day of your child’s diagnosis?
I invite you to watch, and leave a comment about it  for Elizabeth, or leave one on her blog (or mine). Here is the link: Elizabeth’s VIDEO .

Thank you, Elizabeth, for asking such a good (and deep) question, for listening to the responses, and for sharing them with the world.