My junior year of high school, I was on the Varsity cheerleading squad. I’ll pause there to let you rifle through all your cheerleader stereotypes.
Go ahead. It’s fine!
We were an athletic squad, required to take a weightlifting class as part of our school curriculum complete with bench press, bar squats, deadlifts, the whole thing.
Just before Christmas that year, our squad competed in a regional cheer competition and placed 3rd. That earned us a spot at the UCA National High School Cheer Competition in Florida. Here’s a photo because of course.
We wore those white things under our uniforms for competition because it made our arms all look the same. I distinctly remember this being annoying. And hot.
We spent months preparing our routine down to every single count and sharp transition. We knew exactly where we were supposed to be and when because the quickest way to a sloppy routine was for someone to not know how to transition well.
Watch any cheer routine and you’ll see what I mean.
Many times in practice we would only practice the transitions – I stay put for four counts to let her walk in front of me, then I walk backwards four steps and turn to my left, two, three, four.
While the transitions were a necessary function of the routine, they didn’t share in the glory of the performance. No one clapped for an awesome transition. Basically you know you’re doing it right when it goes unnoticed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately, because the truth is we are all either in the midst of some kind of transition, just coming out of one, or preparing to enter one and we just don’t know it yet.
To me, transitions in life are the exact opposite from the kind I’ve described in cheerleading.
You can rarely predict them, you certainly can’t practice them, but they are perhaps one of the most important parts of our life experience.
Change comes and we start running in to things, we take steps back and realize we should have stayed still or moved up a bit. We spin and try to figure out other people are doing in the same circumstance. We try to find what’s normal and expected.
If you’ve recently experienced some kind of life transition, know this:
The decision fatigue you feel is real.
The overwhelm and disorientation is not in your head.
It won’t always be like this.
And if you’re a maker? Your art will come back in time.
Let’s moonwalk our way back a bit in this story.
This spring has been a season of evaluation for me – about my writing, our writers membership site, my ministry, my work with John, our family commitments, some professional partnerships, and what I might like to do next.
Okay fine, it was last spring, summer, fall, winter and now finally this spring.
While on paper those plans sound purposeful and straightforward, the reality is it’s been a difficult, non-linear, often foggy meandering.
I’m in the midst of a transition, but it isn’t a short one and this in-between place has almost started to feel normal. Almost.
If I get stuck in my head too much, reasonable questions morph into doubts, uncertainty slides into panic, and lack of answers can tempt me to make decisions out of fear rather than from love.
And so I want to take a few moments and share what life looks like in this in-between place. Because the truth is, it still looks like life. Even in the waiting, the listening, and the watching for what’s next, there is still so much right here.
Let me tell you how we drove to the mountains during spring break with the kids, watched Mom’s Night Out as a family on a 1995 TV.
Let me tell you how our girls are almost finished with seventh grade and Luke is finishing fourth and I’m grateful to be around for it all. I make their lunches every morning and drive them places in the afternoon – band and piano, gymnastics and volleyball. It’s all regular and maddening and a gift.
Let me tell you how our neighbor, Ms. Giny, died last Tuesday, a few weeks before her 91st birthday. The preacher at her funeral said when their church members called their church prayer request line, the phone rang inside her house, right there on the edge of our cul-de-sac.
From the back of the church, I teared up thinking about the needs of the people being literally brought to her house first and from there the prayer chain was sent around the city.
But hours later when I sat across from my spiritual director, my guard was down and my hands were open and that was when I cried and cried, not the polite funeral kind but the behind-closed-doors ugly kind. Because when your house is the first one called on the prayer chain, there’s a reason.
You have to be a present, prayerful person for that. People have to trust you for that. You have to have priorities for that.
I want to be that kind of person. And she will be missed.
Let me tell you how we wrote a check for our taxes so big I think it weighed a pound. But it also made me grateful. You only have to pay taxes when you make money, right? And that’s a gift.
You probably already know about the coloring book release, but I’m not sure I told you that my favorite part about the whole thing was the opportunity to go around and meet some of you in person.
And it helped me remember how much I enjoy talking with friends and readers. Thank you for that.
Let me tell you how I launched my first online course twice over the past six months and how creating, teaching, and launching that took more out of me than I realized. I’m just now coming back into myself.
But I loved it so. I loved it so. I’m still figuring out how to love my work without letting it take over.
Let me tell you how I finished reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow and I still haven’t recovered from it.
Let me tell you how I’m still sharing weekend links, but not on the blog anymore. Have you noticed? I send them out in an email and I know that might be annoying, but it’s a decision I made for my own sanity.
Sometimes to serve a reader well, you have to take care of yourself. And while I thought about scrapping the weekend links altogether, my love of supporting other writers was too great and that’s the only reason we’re keeping it up. So I compromised with myself by only having them in one place. Email won.
(If you want to be sure to get those, you can add your name here. We pick the best 4-5 posts we find on the Internet that week, guaranteed to help you take a soul breath.)
I’m telling you all this now because I haven’t told you some things in a while and, while I have been writing daily, I’ve not been writing publicly. At least, not as much.
Sometimes the breaks are necessary. Most times they are, for me anyway. But if you’re like me at all, you might struggle with getting back into your rhythm and maybe feel awkward to bumble back in to things, whether that be a small group you’ve not visited in a while, a book you put down and keep meaning to return to, or a conversation you’re listening to from a distance but haven’t stepped into yet.
But maybe you need time away from the words in order to find them again.
Maybe you need some space from people in order to remember why you need them so much.
And if you haven’t been to your yoga studio since election day and you end up going back on your 40th birthday, you might feel like a superhero just for being alive.
I know I did.
When life becomes unpredictable and unsure, the first things to drop off the list are often those things our souls most desperately need for health: space, deep breath, and creativity in the presence of Christ.
If we neglect to cultivate this space on our regular Tuesdays, it won’t be there to lean back into when our world turns upside down.
It’s one reason I work so hard to try to create a little space for your soul to breathe here.
It’s why I wrote a whole book to try to poke awake the art alive within you.
It’s because God has ways He wants to show Himself to us and they’re all wrapped up in love. And then He has ways He wants to show Himself to the world, and it starts with us. He comes out unique in us, through the filter of our personality.
He just asks us to remember He’s with us and within us in every moment – whether it be a regular Tuesday or a sudden loss or an anticipated, joyful transition we knew was coming.
And I think He always wants us to know it’s not too late to come on back. We don’t have to walk as far as we think.
When I’ve neglected to engage in something I love – writing, walking, relationships, or something else – it can feel like I have to somehow re-trace my steps to get back to where I was before. It feels too hard. That may be true when you take a wrong turn on the highway, but not with this.
No matter how far a change in your routine has carried you away, know it’s always only one step to find life again.
One walk around the block.
One prayer in the morning.
One blog post.
So here’s to taking the next right step.
Here’s to refusing to let our long absence keep us from raising our hand again.
Here’s to letting go of the myth that there is a normal to get back to anyway. Maybe we’re not meant to go back. Maybe we’re simply asked to take the hand of our friend Jesus and do the next right thing in love.