Tag Archives: a letter to myself

running away

shoes

Every other day since May of this year, I have laced up some shoes and pounded 2 miles out of my dirt road.

I have 2 pair of running tights… and they are that: tight. It’s not pretty.

After a couple months, I bought some real running shoes… lighter and simpler than the cute ones I’ve always worn with jeans. I bought socks that don’t have stripes and don’t come up to my knees.

Before you get all Yay Yahoo It’ll change your Life Anyone Can Do It One Step In Front of the Other It’s Where I Do My Best Thinking on me, let me say this:

I hate it.

I sure do hate running.

I do not feel awesome when I am running.

I cannot talk when I’m running, much less solve the world’s problems.

I don’t finish on a high with rosy cheeks and happy muscles.

My body has not changed and is not super thrilled with me.

I am not a runner’s runner.

So, why do it?

Because for 20 years, I have assumed that I could not. True: I ran track my freshman year in high school… sprints and certainly nothing over 400m in practice. True: I was a Kinesiology (that’s P.E., in layman’s terms) major in college and suffered through every agility and physical requirement that came my way. I survived both simply because I did not like my alternative options.

For 20 years, running has been the thing I cannot do, that I could not be great at, that I wouldn’t learn.

When given the choice, I choose less. Less complicated, less hard, less risk.

When a friend asked me to join them on a 5k in May, I laughed and agreed- signing up before I could come up with an excuse to bail. I signed up Curt, too, just for good measure. And ever since that weekend, I have kept going.

It’s not awesome. I have no illusions or desires of personal bests and sleek silhouettes. I just wanted to change my mind, and 30 minutes every other day was the simplest way to do it. No equipment. No membership. No kids. No cds. No diet. Just… run.

I wanted to quiet the voice. That voice that whispers, “Yeah, well… you can’t do that. AND, you don’t have to. Running means racing and winning… you can’t do that. Running means walking out of your house in awkward clothing… you can’t do that. Running means having familiar cars pass you… you can’t do that. Running is physically uncomfortable and public and hard.”

Actually, I can do that. 

I can’t do it well, which always stopped me before, but I CAN DO IT.

I am learning, slowly, that God is not as impressed with results as He is with effort. I have taught this to students, prayed this with my children, and written this to lost hearts… but I have never personally accepted it.

He is not as impressed with your results, Katie, as He is with your effort.

Just try. 

Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t wait for perfection. Don’s assume everyone else out there is loving their race.

Just try. Stop when you have to, stretch at the end, and check it off the list.

It counts. 


tell me a story

rainbow

Tell me a story, I said.

I don’t have one, she answered. Nothing’s happened to me yet. No one can see me except on the days when I don’t want anyone to see me and then everyone can see me and I don’t want to talk about that. I’m basically invisible, living a normal kid life in a normal kid town with normal kid junior high problems. There’s no story.

What’s your name?

She gave me a withering look. You know my name.

No, I mean… seriously: what’s your whole name?

Jaimie Grace Owens. Pleased to meet you. Please don’t miss the eye-roll.

I caught it, thank you. And how’d you get that name? Do you know? Do you know why your folks picked those names?

Yeah- Jaimie was my mom’s best friend in school. She was like her sister or something but now they don’t talk anymore. And Grace was my gramma’s name. She died before I was born but all my girl cousins have the same middle name.

And Owens?

Owens is English, I think.

So, there you go.

There I go, what?

There you go, there’s your story. You may not be a writer or a storyteller by heart, but everyone HAS a story and it starts with their name. Your name is near the end of your grandparents’ story, it’s probably the middle of your parents’, and it’s the beginning of YOU.

I just mean that you are a story… a beautiful, intricate, thought-of work of art. Not what you do or where you go, but who you ARE, Love. It’s a story that will build and change and turn as life goes on but you are a stunning story. Not boring. Not invisible. Not passed-over or through. You are a piece of history, tied to the people who made you and the God who created you. And He is well-pleased.

My story is not dramatic or global or easily explained. It’s a mess, truthfully. My story is a mess. A mess of laughter and tears and snot. But I do have a story– written by the greatest Author of all Time. I’m still reading. I find myself having to go back to certain chapters and re-read, you know? Or I’ll find that I’ve skipped too far ahead or missed the last few paragraphs and nothing’s making sense… so I have to go back and look for familiar ground again. Or I’ll pick up similar lines from other stories and try to work them into my own…

I could do this, I think. 

This is the obvious next step.

I was made to do this.

I should be here.

Look at all the signs. 

I’d be perfect for this. 

It just makes sense.

Over and over again, I find myself trying to alter a story that’s going too slow or too fast or too plain or too fancy for my fickle preferences. I grab the pen and, in the name of intention and courage, I rewrite a few pages.

Inevitably, I find myself deep in winter. Lent. Reflection. Quiet.

Oh, the humility of looking up from my “work” and realizing I’ve made things so much more complicated than necessary. That I am tired (of work I was not asked to do) and angry (because it’s not working) and hurt (because people are honest). And then I sit and I go back and I try to find a safe place to start over again. It is a constant effort, this life. Trying and searching and rerouting and repeat repeat repeat. I am bruised.

If only I could remember this:

I am story… a beautiful, intricate, thought-of work of art. Not what I do or where I go, but who I AM. My story will build and change and turn as life goes on, but I are a stunning story. Not boring. Not invisible. Not passed-over or through. I am a piece of history, a sum of the the people who made me and the God who created me. And He is well-pleased.

He is well-pleased. 

So, slow down. Eyes on your own paper. You story, as is, is perfectly lovely. Stick with it. Keep reading. You’re only in the middle… there is so much more yet to come. Promise.

The meaning of life is to find your gift.

The purpose of life is to give it away.

(Shakespeare)


I heard you.

I want a drink of water, you said.

And before I could answer or refuse you, you repeated yourself.

I want a drink of water.

MOM. I want a drink of water.

-Yes. I heard you.-

Mom, watch.

MOM, watch!

MOM. WATCH.

-I heard you.-

Mom. Mom. Mom.

You shake my arm and pull on my shirt.

MOM.

-I heard you.-

Child, I heard your first cry, in a delivery room as you left me and became your own.

I heard you at night when you cried in your bed a whole floor and house-length away.

I heard you when you fell outside.

I heard you when you said ‘thank you’ to your sister without me prompting.

I heard you when you asked your dad for a(nother) goodnight kiss.

I heard you singing to your stuffed animals and grumbling about dinner under your breath.

I heard you.

I can pick you out of a crowd of 100 children, simply by your voice. Speak. Continue. Say my name once and go on. No need to repeat it 8 thousand times. I HEARD YOU, child.  I heard you the first time. And I say it through gritted teeth with tense shoulders.

You want me to look at you. What’s more, you want me to SEE you. You don’t want me to simply hear. You want me to LISTEN.

I am still learning.

Let me point you to the Father, who is never too busy with another child. He is never distracted by FedEx deliveries or email notifications. He never sleeps. He watches over you and out for you… and he waits, simply to answer when you call.

I try my best… I do.

But He is infinitely better.

He hears you in the quiet, when there are no words.

He hears you when you are too afraid to ask.

He hears you before you’ve finished your thought.

He hears you in crowds and on mountains and through tears.

He hears you the first time and the thousandth time.

He hears you, presently.

1 John 5:14 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let me remember the next time and every time you repeat and beg and clamor for my attention that I have done the same, assuming He has not heard me the first time. That he was too busy. That I must be persistent and loud to be effective. That He will forget me.

Let me remember that He hears me the first time, every time.

Child, I hear you.

And let me show you the same patience He shows me.

I can do this.

I can change the words.

(My children do not listen.)

(I should have.)

 


cleaning house

:: a letter to myself ::

Oh, but they mock me.

The boots in the locker downstairs. They were bought and then used… and then silently exiled to the basement, out of sight and out of mind for all but a couple days a year. Too heavy but too expensive to admit it and now too old to return. So they sit downstairs and I force myself to wear them once a year and chide myself for being wasteful in between storms.

boots

The cups in the bottom drawer. Every kid has tried and used and rejected a different sippy. The opaque metal ones that curdle the contents when moms forget to collect them at the end of the day (week?). The grow-into-me one with the handles that drips too much and explodes when dropped from high chairs. The normal one that loses its valve every. single. time. The almost-grown-up versions, each with a broken handle or missing straw or half chewed-off bite valve. A fifty-dollar drawer full of non-matching, abundant annoyance… taking up space and growing contempt.

The pants that are my favorite but will never fit. Seriously. Like, never. I keep them because they’re perfectly fine but I am not, and giving them away means throwing away money and admitting they were a poor choice.

This tiny shoebox of a house is packed full of haunts that point to quick decisions, bad timing, and waste. I keep them like a penance. Make do, I whisper. Make it work and no one will know you actually want a take-back. That you bought in excess. That you didn’t think it through, didn’t do your research, didn’t use that appliance you thought would change your life.

Or.

Bring out your dead. 

Sometimes being free isn’t about healing childhood hurts or changing careers or making  a counseling appointment. Sometimes being free is about the simple, every day decisions. Guilt and shame hide in corners of our homes that we often deem too minor to dust. By the time we break, it’s that blasted sippy cup staring at you that makes you question your worth. It’s the boots, the scratched DVDs, the wilted veggies in the bottom of the fridge that wear you down. We’re surrounded by a hundred small decisions we wish we could take back, and they weaken our defenses to the greater battles in life.

Clean house.

Gather the rotted, the too small, the ill-fitting and be done. Make room. Do you need permission? I do. I declare a day of amnesty. No explanations, no defense, and cart the guilt out with the over-abundance of crap that has made itself at home thanks to your desire to keep it all together.

Let us be done.

Make room.

There is a child coming, who is a king. THE king. This is no time for distraction or shame. In fact, instead, this is the season of preparation. Clear the way, inside and out, for the Christ-child to arrive. There is no room for excess baggage, so start moving. Old, new, and everything in between that hurts your heart for the wrong reasons. Gather what binds you and send it on its way.

He is coming to set you free- not only from this broken world, but from yourself. However simple or ridiculous or prideful… whatever the reason those objects weigh you down… the best gift you can bring Him this season is a heart with room.

Now.

Who needs some boots?


the view from here

There’s a game I do with all of my ropes groups… adults, kids, teachers, doctors, fellow guides, everyone. The people form a circle, and I bring out a huge box filled with huge wooden puzzle pieces. Each person grabs a piece and then the group puts the puzzle together. Sometimes, we do this several times, changing the rules with each turn. No talking this time. Boys are blindfolded. It’s an easy problem, and it’s always solved quickly.

The discussion afterwards can take much longer. Often we end up talking about it the rest of the day in-between other events and lunch and progress. There’s the obvious: everyone’s a piece of the puzzle. If someone opts out, it’s not complete. We all have a part to play, a purpose. And there’s the backseat question… the one that sits in your pocket and rides around for awhile:

What piece are you?

Are you a corner piece? Visible? Easily distinguishable and placed?

Maybe your a border piece. You’re known, you lead, but your in-line with others.

And maybe, just maybe, your in the middle. Somewhere… with the majority of the pieces. Perhaps there’s a funny angle that sets you apart… but, for the most part, you’re in the middle. Not easily seen. Literally in the thick of things. Important, but not on display.

Do you like your piece? Do you dream of being more? Of being less?

the Colonel

This is a common view for me.

I am the person you call when you need someone to follow you home because your brake lights don’t work. I’m the friend who rides along to a Phish concert and (safely) escort you home afterwards. I’m really decent on a tow strap. I can steer and brake and coast appropriately, keeping the lines taut but not too taught. Giving room, taking wide corners.

I’m an excellent motorcycle passenger with no plans to drive alone. I’m the backup singer with no desire to be a soloist. I LOVE to be up there on stage, but do not let the moment ride on me. I will melt.

I’m solid in the garage, but keep me away from under the hood. You need a crescent wrench? I can find that for you. A Phillips screwdriver? I know the difference. I can’t fix your car, but I can hand you the right tools.

I can belay you up a wall or tower or pole and talk you through hours of communication exercises, but it’s you who does the work. I’m just the guide.

I stand somewhere in the middle. Not in front, but not last. Not unnoticed, but not irreplaceable.

I am so very ok with that.

I spent a lot of time thinking I wasn’t. This world credits the stand-outs, the book deals, the loud stories, the extreme, the visible. We are taught to fight for the front, and we ache to be seen.

I realize now I have no desire to be seen.

I would, however, crawl on glass to be heard.

I spent so much time when I was younger sorting through feelings of wanting to be more… more something. I assumed, like anyone would, that I wanted be seen. I sought the part. The clothes. The job. The microphone. The followers.

I’ve had those chances to be in front. To be the corner piece. To be on the stage in the spotlight. And they all fell short of the thrill of speaking and being HEARD. Of writing and making sense. Of sharing and being found. Of being just BEYOND the glare of the spotlight.

My heart hurts when I look back at that girl who thought she wanted the wrong things. Who thought what she wanted wasn’t big enough, important enough, fancy enough. Aren’t you supposed to want everything? Say that you don’t and people assume you’re selling yourself short… that you don’t believe in yourself.

What that girl wanted- all she ever wanted- was to be heard. To tell the stories. To write true and honest and funny.  And that, for her, is exactly the right thing.

It’s not always about believing in yourself, which can change day by day. It’s more about knowing yourself.

Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

Yes.

My view from here is busy with people and family and school and kids and friends. I am finally finding my voice. It just took a little practice and a little courage to start speaking out loud. I am holding steady in the middle.

It’s where I never knew I always wanted to be.


good-year

goodyear

[photo by Katie Mulder • Michigan, 2013]

She is a good-year house.

Her rooflines are irregular. They jump and and skip and drop with every addition.  She stretches and breathes into new hallways, new bedrooms, new pantries as Providence allows. A new baby is coming. The crop was good this year. The old barn came down and there’s free lumber to build the pantry, the bedroom, the back porch.

She is still through the hard times, and plans are made. Needs are obvious. Dreams are prayed out loud with shoulders touching at the dinner table and shoes piling up at the door. Next year… next year, Baby will move out of the basement and into her own room. Next season, that root cellar will be dug. In a good year. In a good year, she grows. But for now, she learns. She rests and she plans.

All in good time.

She is uncontainable in good years, laying more foundation claiming new ground. Adding onto the old. Complimenting the family, the needs, and the blessing.  In a good year, she grows. There is always room for more. The siding doesn’t match and the floor is uneven, but she is strong. There is room.

When, exactly, did you realize that you didn’t have to be built perfectly- whole- to be useful? Or even, FULL. When did you breathe that sigh of relief after understanding you are a work in progress? Maybe just now? We do not start this life ready for the parade. We start with the framing and we add as we go. As we learn. As we pray. As we live.

I am a good-year house.

I am still in the hard times and wild in plenty.

Lord, may I be a student of both… but may I be a JOYFUL house in-progress.

I am built for life, with life, as it changes and allows.


I should have.

I should have.

I should have incredible abs.

I bend and stoop and crouch every day, reaching for tiny toys lost in ridiculous places.

I should have perfect legs.

I walk, run, and scramble about 75 miles a day chasing down children and animals and the occasional postal truck.

I should have amazing arms.

I lift 20 and 30 and 40 pound weights constantly and in every direction. Over and over. Repeat. Again.

I don’t have those things. I don’t even have dreams of those things.

What I have is a tough heart.

I have a heart that can cry at school programs, discipline for backtalk, and cheer for a newborn calf.

What I have are quick hands.

I can save children from falling off the counter, stir homemade spaghetti sauce, and sign reading charts. At the same time.

What I have are sharp eyes.

I see tantrums minutes before they manifest, I see tired kids behind tears, I see lost stuffed animals at 50 paces.

My whole body… and most of my mind… is fine -tuned to kids. I cannot run a marathon (do not ask me), my pre-pregnancy body is missing in action and probably having a great time, and I regularly forget to eat meals. I do not fit on any measurement chart, and I can’t remember the names of kids in my high school class.

But I can decipher a 2-year-old’s speech, I can put three kids to bed before 8 o’clock, and I can set a timer on any electronic device out there.

I don’t have what I should have.

I have what I need.

I’m built for family.

I can do this.

I can change the words.