Life with four kids does not always lend to peaceful mornings. But on this particular day, I managed to shower and get out of the house on time - I marked it as a win. I'm learning to celebrate the small things, because in this last 5-7 year span, the small things are the only things. I made my way downtown to my favorite coffee shop. The line was long because apparently it isn't only my favorite spot. After ordering I scavenged the place for a seat, and opted for a small two top on the patio outside
The friend I was meeting arrived a bit late and got caught up in a conversation with a woman in line. In the waiting, I started to pay attention to those sitting around me, particularly the table of men to my right. They were probably all 55 or older, and I knew each one of them. I didn't know them well, but each man at the table had a daughter or son, whom I would call a friend. Two of the men were fathers to a few of my elementary school classmates. I have vivid memories of sleepovers at their houses while in 5th and 6th grade where I was introduced to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the art of TP-ing and the "couples-skate” at Roller Towne. One of the men was the father of a friend that I met later in life. His daughter and I had worked together at the same PR firm one summer and have been part of the same local church for the past 5 years. The last man sitting at the table was the father of a guy I went to high school with and had a crush on. His son was the captain of the soccer team, who also happens to be the cousin of my high school best friend. I spent a week one summer in a cabin with their whole extended family in Lake Tahoe.
My mind began to wander back to those times and spaces. Life felt easy and uncomplicated in those years. It was a trip down memory lane and a longing to know what my friends were doing and who they had become filled my thoughts and heart. Yet, regardless of all those connections and newly discovered yearnings, I sat there and didn't say a word. I sipped my coffee and busied myself with the scenes and happenings across the street and stayed occupied with social media sites on my phone. I didn't move towards them in posture, eye contact or conversation.
My friend finally made her way to the table and we had a beautiful conversation about risk and obedience and living our lives intentionally looking for how it folds into the bigger story. She recently launched her own photography studio [JackiPotorke.com] and was about to leave for Uganda to participate in the Archibald Project. I was so proud of my friend and the risk she was willing to take because she knew that God was asking her to. I shared with her from a vulnerable place that I sensed that this was the year I was to begin documenting the lives and stories around me that are whispers and shadows of the greatest story ever told. The story of God. I didn't know what that would look like, but I knew that I was already dragging my feet in getting started. Part of writing today is because of that conversation. We dreamed of traveling the world storytelling the lives of those we met, through a moment captured on film, and through the written word. Although those thoughts and desires feel very far off, I need to dream out loud and write them down, for fear they will get lost somewhere in my head and wither away.
I'm learning more and more that words matter. About 2 years ago, something inside me woke up. I began to have a growing appetite for books, for stories. I have lived my life as an extrovert. My friends and family would describe me as an extreme version of the term. I love people. I love hearing about people's lives and the things they are learning and experiencing. I often think about the amazing people that I have not yet met. In these past two years I have settled a bit and found myself longing for a quiet, extended, one-sided conversation with a book, rather than with a group of rowdy friends. Maybe I am repositioning myself on the extrovert/introvert continuum and landing somewhere in the balanced middle. Of course I still desire to be connected to people around me, just in a more intentional way. I want to begin to engage and pay attention in a way that, if I am honest, I have not done until now. Reading other's thoughts, questions and stories has birthed something deep inside me - a desire to engage the world around me with a sense of wonder and awe.
So here I am - looking for meaningful moments amidst the familiar.
It has been a few weeks since the coffee date with my friend, and I cannot shake my lack of courage to interact with the men seated at the table next to me. Why didn't I open my mouth? What was I afraid of? I realized that I was waiting to be noticed, to be recognized. I didn't want to risk sounding foolish. A simple hello and introduction could have changed the course of that morning. I genuinely was curious to know what was going on in the the lives of their children - my friends - and I missed that opportunity because I was scared. I don't want fear to dictate whether I open my mouth. I really had nothing to fear that day. I resolved then that I would live from a greater place of courage, confidence and boldness. I don't want to continue missing those chances to connect and see people. To look them in the eye and ask honest questions. I can't guarantee what I will be given in return, but I am only responsible for my part.
Writing feels like a safe second chance - it provides the opportunity to say the things that I didn't have the courage to the first time around. Writing also feels like a risky endeavor - I'm releasing my words into unknown areas that are outside of my control. Scary and exhilarating all at the same time.
As I write of what is possible with God, my heart beats a bit faster in my chest. This really is the best news ever. I have lived for over 30 years keeping this life-giving reality at bay in conversations. I've told myself that I don't want to offend you. The irony is that in the end I am actually not thinking about you, I am thinking about me. As I peel back my fears, I've found that in my heart of hearts I long for something more - a life centered around God. Life with God is not boring, mundane or meaningless. It is full of abundance, provides the gift of joy in the midst of every circumstance, and brings hope in a world that is grasping for it in all the wrong places.
So here I am - finding my voice and my words.
I will be courageous to speak them out in the moments and places that He gives them to me. I will write them down so they can go forth. I will not squander what He places in my hands. I will fear God more than I fear man.
For the first time in my life those words are not just a hope and a longing - they are coming true.