Losing It! (Again and Again)
The first clue last January that I was succumbing to getting-ready-to-go stress was when I returned home after the movies without the new brown leather gloves I had bought on sale to go with the new, warm coat I'd also bought on sale. Well, I thought. You'll just have to go without or wear your old ones. This will teach you to be careless with new things!
Losing a pair of gloves might not seem like such a big deal, but I had also run to ALDI that day, bought Swiss cheese and some bread, and hand-carried my purchases out of the store because I had neglected to bring in my ALDI bag. When I returned home, I couldn't find the Swiss cheese. I looked under the car in the driveway, checked the front seat, the floor—no cheese. I made myself a peanut-butter sandwich instead.
Hurrying to Wal-Mart that evening to pick up some necessities, I then stopped at Target, popped into the cleaners, pumped gas into the car, and didn't realize until late at night that I hadn't unpacked my Wal-Mart purchases. Down to the front door, out in the dark, I checked the front seat, checked the back, opened the trunk—no bag.
During these years, David and I are aware that our window for journeying overseas will probably close at some point, so I was thrilled when he gave me a 65th-birthday gift of a 10-day trip to Scotland. Our 11-year-old granddaughter, Joscelyn, announced that she would accompany us. (We also realize that the window for our grandchildren being crazy about spending time with us may be closing as well, and we were happy to have her along.) So of course, my getting-ready-to-go stress was related to leaving our home, leaving the city, leaving the country.
The list of things ready to get done kept getting longer the more I got done! I repeated that mantra I use when I'm under pressure: I have so much to do, I don't have time to hurry/ I have so much to do, I don't have time to hurry/ I have so much to do…
Then a little voice nudged me: Just because you lost it, doesn't mean you can't find it again. That quiet, inner voice. Just because you lost it, doesn't mean you can't find it again. So, as the dim sun was rising on January 15, the day before we were scheduled to fly out of O'Hare, I circled the empty shopping-center parking lot with my car headlights, looking for the gloves—just in case. Perhaps no one had noticed them, and they were still where I had dropped them. Perhaps some merciful soul with her own glove-losing tendencies had tucked them on the concrete ledge of a lamppost. Nope! No gloves.
Next stop: McDonald's for a cup of coffee, then into Wal-Mart again. It was 7 o'clock in the morning. Better luck this time. There on the returns / complaints counter sat my bag. I had left it the night before, as I was replacing a too-small furnace filter with one of the right size. I quickly claimed my bag, waving my Wal-Mart receipt as proof indeed. I even found the Swiss cheese; it had slipped and was hiding in the wedge on the floor between the passenger door and the front seat.
I had time enough to find a new pair of brown suede gloves on sale, with an additional 20% discount for seniors. What was I thinking? Punish yourself some other way, if you must. Everyone said it would be COLD in Scotland in January.
And I learned a good lesson: Go looking for the things you leave behind. Just because you lose it doesn't mean you can't find it again. Things once lost may not be lost forever.
In a way, ten or fifteen years ago, I lost my writer's life. ("What's a writer's life?" someone asked me when I used that phrase in conversation. "Oh, it's a life where the major thing you do is write, and study about writing, and think about what you are going to be writing, and spend long leisurely days in the library, and hold even longer intriguing and stimulating and intellectual conversations with other writers, and study the dictionary, and know who the exciting new writers' voices are.") I finally came to the conclusion that I would never really be a good writer if I had to chunk what I did into and in between all the ministry demands that persuade me. I might just as well face it: I would never have a writer's life. So I stopped pursuing it. I cancelled my weekly subscription to the New York Times Book Review. I resigned my place in a prestigious writer's gathering so some other, worthier author could be invited instead. I stopped planning books in my mind at midnight, or when flying cross-country in mid-air. I lost something I loved about myself; I lost a dream of what I could be.
There! That's done, I rationalized. One less thing to crowd my life. One less disappointment to deal with.
But I wasn't counting on God the Nag. Write! He said. And I didn't. Write! He said. And I started Hungry Souls. I couldn't find my deep down centered voice. I have almost an entire book length of pages just from the many beginnings of the novel I've attempted—Chapter One after Chapter One. Write! Write! Write-write-write! I launched Listening Groups.
But just this year, I've found something again. I went back through my prayer journals (36 years of them). I organized them by year. I combined them in 4-inch binders. This was partly a retrospective exercise and partly a stalling tactic. I read them, labeled them, put my past days in order. And I was deeply, deeply moved by the record of God's faithfulness in my life.
"Yahweh, Yahweh, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and abounding in faithfulness. For the thousandth generation, Yahweh maintains his kindness, forgiving all our faults, transgressions and sins."
And somewhere in the midst of the months it took me to clean my writing study, organize all the drawers, the bookcases, the closet, my archive armoire, my files, and then hook up the laptop and get rid of the old computer (what my IT guru called "a piece of junk"), Wi-Fi the house and add a DSL line, buy a wireless mouse and keyboard—somewhere, somewhere in there, I found my writing life again. There she was—smiling, holding up her hands, and begging me to take her up in my arms.
On the 16th of January, going to Scotland for my 65th birthday with our 11-year-old granddaughter in tow, we checked in at the British Airways ticket counter for the 5:30 P.M. flight to Heathrow. We exchanged U.S. dollars for Euros. We waited in lines and showed our IDs and boarding passes at security, then took off our shoes and loaded bins with our coats and carry-on's and purses. I'm certain I had my blue-felt, brimmed hat all the time. But when I reached the other side of security, my hat was missing. "You go on to the gate," I said to David and Josie. "I'll see if I can find my hat." Dreading going through all those lines again, I nevertheless trekked back to the British Airlines counter—no blue-felt, brimmed hat. Onto the identification check. "I've lost a blue hat. Did anyone turn it in?" No hat. Through the electronic security line. "Did you find a blue round hat?" I asked the TSA official. "No," he said nicely. "Did you lose it?"
I looked at every security checkpoint, got down on my hands and knees and searched under the counters. "Lost a hat," I explained to the passengers behind me. And just when I was ready to give up, there it was. Someone had placed it on a stand between the security lines. It looked exactly the size and color of the blue bowls into which travelers dump their watches, cell phones and coins. "Oh, pardon me. That's my hat!"
"This your hat, lady?" asked a guard. "Yes, ma'am. I lost it, and I've been looking for it. It matches my coat." She handed it back to me.
So this is what I have learned: Some things we lose, we will never—in fact, we shouldn't—find them again. But other things, we need to hunt and search and seek out. It's amazing, the things that we have lost but are given back to us again. Things once lost may not be lost forever.
Do you need to go hunting for something today?
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
July 7 - 12, 2008
There is still room for about ten more people. For details, go to www.Hungry-Souls.com and click on the "Ontario" button.
Microenterprise Trip Opportunity
If you are interested in studying the effects of microenterprise ventures in Kenya, we are putting together a small group in conjunction with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology to journey to Nairobi next year, March 25 to April 6, 2009. The itinerary and the pricing are still being negotiated. Contact Karen Mains ( ) or by phone at 630-293-4500 and we will get back to you when this information is finalized.
Due to the fact that I need to be writing about Listening Groups and need to be bringing the Hungry Souls Web site up to mentoring speed, there will be no Chicago Hungry Souls' programs until the Advent Retreat of Silence December 3-4, 2008.
The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
"It's amazing, the things that we have lost but are given back to us again."
Will in the World:
How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
2008 Pilgrimage to France
God Through the
October 24 - November 10, 2008