It’s only February 18th and I have had the great pleasure of spending time already this year- 2018- in Maui, in Nevada, in California and of course, at home in Tennessee. I love to travel, but to some of you, this might sound terrible! I get it. Travel can be exhausting. But I feel so blessed to be able to see so much all the time. It gives me such perspective, and you know how I love me some perspective.
I used to be afraid of flying. Well, at first I wasn’t afraid at all. I made it to Europe three separate times, among other long flights, before I was ever even afraid. I don’t know what shifted to bring on the anxiety, but once it started, it was unavoidably there. And I had a choice… I could either conquer the fear, or have my life limited by that fear. If I was afraid of flying, I would inevitably travel less. That was not at all the direction I wanted to head. So I had to face my fear straight on (learn more about that here).
And let me give you some perspective… when I was in Europe in my early twenties, doing the classic backpacking adventure, I spent so many hours on trains crossing countries and boarders, that getting on a plane and zipping across the sky to a destination hundreds of miles away- MAN was I grateful, in those moments, for planes. Gratitude will almost always win the war, Readers.
Which brings me back to my blog topic tonight… how often do any of us REALLY take a second to just be grateful that we’re alive? Grateful that God decided to color the world as vibrantly as He did. Grateful that there is such incredible magnificence absolutely all around us, absolutely all the time. How often do we take a minute to just appreciate what we have been given?
I know I don’t do it enough. But I’ve been reminded several times already this year…
Some of you know that I spent 15 years as an actor. Yep, from the time I was 8 until the time I was 23, I gladly and proudly called myself a thespian. And although I didn’t ever perform in the play, I have always been intrigued by the concepts described in the play Our Town. It pretty perfectly describes the point I’m trying to make here, in that, it’s about a perfectly normal, average town. It illustrates the perfectly normal, average lives, loves and deaths, of perfectly normal, average people. But the end is the part that really grabs you, chews you up, and spits you out…
This is how wikipedia describes it:
The Stage Manager opens the act with a lengthy monologue emphasizing eternity, bringing the audience’s attention to the cemetery outside of town and the characters who have died since the wedding, including Mrs. Gibbs (pneumonia, while traveling), Wally Webb (burst appendix, while camping), Mrs. Soames, and Simon Stimson (suicide by hanging). Town undertaker Joe Stoddard is introduced, as is a young man named Sam Craig who has returned to Grover’s Corners for his cousin’s funeral. That cousin is Emily, who died giving birth to her and George’s second child. Once the funeral ends, Emily emerges to join the dead; Mrs. Gibbs urges her to forget her life, but she refuses. Ignoring the warnings of Simon, Mrs. Soames, and Mrs. Gibbs, Emily returns to Earth to relive one day, her 12th birthday. The memory proves too painful for her, and she realizes that every moment of life should be treasured. When she asks the Stage Manager if anyone truly understands the value of life while they live it, he responds,
His answer is no…
Is that true for you? I had to ask myself… is this true for me? Do I truly understand the value of life as I am living it?
God, please help me to do so…
So this last month and a half, as I’ve been traveling the way that I so love to do, I’ve tried to make a point to just stop and see… look… notice what God has done and is doing. I have to tell you that when I remember to do it, I’m brought to tears almost immediately. And it’s the simplest of things that end up taking my breath away, I assure you.
For example, when I got on the plane headed from Nashville to Maui, I knew I had 10 hours of fly time ahead of me- not travel time, FLY time. That’s intimidating. Although I don’t hate flying nearly as much as I used to, no one wants to be trapped in a glass case of emotion for 10 hours.
And as expected, somewhere about an hour west of San Francisco, the plane tried to fall out of the sky. I feel like every plane I get on these days tries to fall out of the sky! I mean, give a girl a break. Maybe it’s God testing me. I don’t know, but I don’t like it. But this time, as I was being bumped around, and I could feel my chest start to tighten, and the flight attendants were scurrying to their ‘jump seats’ (why on earth do they call them that? This does not make me feel any better!), I could almost hear God whisper…
“What are you going to do about it?”
I kind of had to laugh. I mean, in reality, there really was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t go help the pilot (but could you imagine that scene unfolding?). It didn’t really matter how much I worried about it, nothing I did, said, thought or felt was going to change anything about the flight.
It made me see the value…
Life is short. It might be over at any minute. And it might not be fair, but it’s not something that I can control. And so why on earth am I getting caught up in the weeds of life? Why am I missing the roses???
And so when I got off the plane, I had a new appreciation for Maui. Maui is beautiful, even when your flight there is smooth, but when your flight there is rough… you really see it with new eyes.
There was a point when I was at the pool, it was towards the end of the day, and I happened to be glancing out at the ocean and a whale surfaced to take a breath no more than 30 yards off the shore! We could see the back of the whale and the blow hole, and that was it. But it was one of those moments where you just catch a glimpse of this really small thing that is just one piece of a really HUGE thing…
And although the whale was just coming up to take a breath of air- what a perfectly normal, average thing to do- it took my breath away.
After Maui, I flew into Reno, Nevada to spend a few days working. If you’ve ever flown into Reno, Nevada, you know that every one of the planes that land there are trying to fall out of the sky. I’ve flown out of and landed into MANY cities and airports in my day and Reno has got to be the absolute worst. It’s something about the desert and the mountains coming together to create this absolutely perfect storm of crap. Well, after spending a few days there, I happened to be driving up highway 395 towards Reno and I glanced over to see the mountains…
You guys, these are the mountains that I stared at for 7 years living in the Carson Valley. These are the mountains that I saw out the window in my shower every single morning. These are the perfectly normal, average mountains of my life… and now they’re the mountains I see when I close my eyes and miss most of all. The smell of the pine, the color of the dirt, the wind that rushes off of them like clockwork. I looked up at them, just driving down the road, and I felt such deep gratitude for them. I was overtaken by the fact that they are just so dang stunning. I mean, God didn’t have to do all that!
That same night, I took Foothill road home, and bypassed the last stretch of the 395 on my way back to my in laws, which is where I was staying. I like to take that road because it winds along the base of the mountains and takes me right past my old house. I didn’t own that home, we rented it. I didn’t live there long, just two years. But I loved that place. I loved living in Genoa. I loved that my house, although a touch out of the way, was always where everyone gathered. I hosted countless conversations around my massive kitchen island.
And just as I pulled up to the one stop sign in Genoa, a herd of deer came through the intersection.
There was no one around, so it didn’t matter that I waited for each of them to pass before I moved on through. But it brought me to tears. Deer. Just deer. But these beautiful, wild deer, used to be a part of my perfectly normal, average day. As a matter of fact, more than once I cursed this very herd for making me late. I’m notorious for leaving my house with exactly enough minutes to get to my destination. And these deer took up my minutes! The kids would shout excitedly from the backseat every single time we saw them… because they see the value, don’t they? Kids, man, they just have such a sense of what is really important. They never miss the roses for the weeds.
When I got to California a few days later, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my family while I worked there. It was the end of my trip, and although I was exhausted and ready to head back home to my husband and kids, I didn’t miss the sunset. My mom lives in a part of Woodland called Wild Wings. Its at the very western part of town, just before the country starts. My mom lived there when Thomas and I started dating, and he and I lived with my mom for over a year at the beginning of our marriage (Yes, we lived with my mom still after we were married). Thomas and I watched a lot of sunsets from Wild Wings. They’re pretty spectacular from out there, given there isn’t much to the west to block any of it’s splendor.
And although the sunset is the same sun setting everywhere in the world, it’s somehow different depending on where you are… and who you are when it’s setting. And the sun that sets in Wild Wings is the sunset that I fell in love under. That’s the sunset that heard many early conversations. That’s the sunset that celebrated our wedding night. It’s full of a million memories.
When I got back to Tennessee, I felt full. Yes, tired and ready to be home, but full. Full of gratitude. Full of experience. Full of presence. Full of value…
When she asks the Stage Manager if anyone truly understands the value of life while they live it, he responds,
Let’s not let this be. Let’s decide to see the value in the perfectly normal, average extraordinary. Because there is no perfectly normal or average… there is only extraordinary when you really stop to look. And we should stop to look!
I’m so grateful for perspective because it helps me see. It helps me see things in another way, but it always helps me see the things I can’t see. It helps me see the things I’m missing.
Don’t miss the roses.