Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Gasping for New Air
Have you ever noticed how we're always on the go?
We go to the gym.
Go to work.
Go to school.
Go to lunch.
Go to the grocery store.
Go to a game.
Go to a movie.
Go to our friend's house.
Go to church.
Go to dinner.
Go to the park.
Go to the lake.
Go furniture shopping.
Go to the doctor.
Go for a drive (even if it's just so the baby will stop crying - try the vacuum next time, just trust me).
All so we can... Go back home.
In a comedic bit, Jerry Seinfeld shines a light on how much work we put into "going out" and then how eager we become to just get back home.
Quick note about Jerry - My dad and brother once came home from a trip and told us about how they saw him at a baseball game. My first question was, "What did he look like?!!"
You know how sometimes celebrities look different on tv than they do in real life? I thought it was a fairly good question...
I guess the men in my family did not. My dad and brother just looked at me as if I had caught them off guard, and my brother gave me the most typical older brother response possible, "Uh, he looked like Jerry Seinfeld. He had on a Mets hat."
My brother has always been a man of few words. He may not say much, but when he does, you listen. I've learned he's either about to make you laugh or share unique perspective with you. Oh, and when he laughs, it's my favorite. The biggest, whitest smile graces his entire face, and suddenly, he's the spitting image of my Grandpa McCoy.
So anyway, just in case you were curious... Jerry looks like Jerry whether he's acting in a scene set at the infamous NYC "Restaurant" or at a laid-back baseball game.
And I like that about him. Just like his comedy, he's relatable. What you see is what you get.
See what I mean?
And yes, we're always on the go.
Until we're not. COVID came, and almost over night all the "go, go, go" turned into "whoa, no, no." And all of the "go, go, go" is exhausting.
Even the "whoa, no, no" is kind of exhausting, too - stocking up on toilet paper, masking up for outings, keeping your kids entertained without the neighborhood playground as an option, trying new recipes to mix in with curb-side take-out, cancelling vacations.
And all of the parents who endured (and those still enduring) the new reality of working from home with young children in the next room having meltdowns or teenagers playing music too loudly or giving this virtual learning reality your best attempt... said amen!
Crazy times, y'all.
I'm reminded of a quote I have kept on my desk for years.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, even you. - Anne Lamott
This serves not only as my reminder to try the power button before calling our very patient IT department but also for my own mental health during the 8-5 workday.
This little reminder is gold for me.
A boss once told me I have a "stupid high drive that most people don't have." Basically, give me a task and I can...
Spring cleaning? No problem.
Mowing the lawn? Consider it done.
Paint a room? Alright.
A software redesign? Sure thing.
Laundry? Well, sometimes.
The thing is, I'm really good at putting the laundry IN the washer and IN the dryer, but there's just something about getting it OUT of the dryer and folding it that has a way of completely skipping my mind.
As I'm writing this, I'm reminded of the load I have waiting for me in the dryer at this very moment. Ugh. We're living in 2020, people! Shouldn't there be a third machine for this by now?!
Permission to Unplug
But, no matter what tasks fill our days, we all need to unplug. We crave the unplug.
Not an exaggeration. Ask my co-worker, Omar, and he'll tell you how I reach for an orange at 3:00 every afternoon without even knowing the time.
So, I'm fairly routine. But, the orange gives me three things I need every day at 3:00 - a little fuel to make it to dinner, a burst of citrus and sweet to satisfy that sugar craving, and a few moments spent peeling an orange and not looking at a screen.
Oranges to unplug. Whoddathunk?
But, if I have more than three minutes - like a weekend - to unplug, I choose the mountains. Surrounded by majestic peaks and running streams and breathing in the fresh, mountain air - ahhhhhhh.
I feel free.
I feel renewed.
About To Get Good
One of my recent adventures to the mountains involved my new-ish friend, Caroline.
Now, let me just say, there's always a risk when inviting a somewhat new friend on an 11 hour road trip. This could go one of two ways - really well or truly terrible. There's no middle ground. There might be an in-between safe zone in a less than 4 hour drive, but 11? Nah, no such thing. We rolled the dice and went for it.
Pulling into the driveway after 11 hours of non-stop fun, laughs, and authentic conversation, we realized we didn't listen to a single song the whole time. This new-ish friendship was about to get good.
And, spoiler alert. It did.
I had been praying specifically for a friend who would be willing to be inconvenienced, and God delivered in the best way possible.
We had a blast. We relaxed and enjoyed the great outdoors! Our days spent doing everything from calm, scenic trails to thrilling experiences like mountain biking for the first time. And one hike in particular caught us by surprise.
As we stepped out of the car, we double-checked our packs.
Bug spray, check.
Boots tied, check.
Chapstick, check check! (Hey, if being addicted to chapstick is wrong, I don't want to be right.)
And, we're off!
Two minutes later, the trail ends and we run into...
Hmm. Okay, so we're not so good at finding the trailhead. We go back and try again.
Sure enough, it was just a little ways off to the west. (In full disclosure, I don't really know my cardinal directions too well if I don't have a sunrise or sunset to look at or a major highway to picture in my mind. I could've said east and it really wouldn't matter. Point being, we found the trailhead.)
We start our initial ascent. Surrounded by so much beauty - any direction you look, there's not a bad view. Lush mountainsides shining with the evening glow of the sun, enormously tall trees filling our senses with the fragrance of fresh pine and evergreen, the sound of water rushing in the distance. Breath-taking.
Fifteen minutes in and we've already stopped three times to breathe!
Lungs on fiyerrr.
It was a steep zigzag up the mountainside. We'd stop and couldn't even make out a comment about the incredible views surrounding us.
We didn't have much air to spare. Gasping, we'd just point and nod back-and-forth to one another.
We'd go a few more steps to the next change in direction in the intense, uphill zigzag, and stop and look at each other like, "Gosh, this is HARD. Do you think I'm a pansy for breathing this hard? Are you sure you want to do this? Should we just stay in the valley? Taking these steps up the mountain out of the valley is tough. Will it even be worth it?"
Yep, all that in a single look.
Looking out over this valley with my heart thumping inside my chest, my face flushed, my arms and forehead sweating profusely, my mind trying to engage my legs for the next step, my lungs gasping for air, my words breathless - I feel a strange connection to this moment.
Some might say deja vu. I'm not entirely sure. My body has physically never been here on this trail before, but my soul seems to know it all too well.
In fact, it wasn't years ago. It was just a matter of months. Thankfully, I'm no longer in that place, but the memory is as fresh as the air I'm breathing (or ya know, trying to breathe).
Indeed my soul has endured this trail. Climbing out of the valley was no small feat. People tell you to take it a day at a time, and they mean well. But when you're climbing out of the valley, it's more like the initial ascent of the 403 in the Gunnison National Forest. You are taking it one moment, one step at a time.
My heart thumping inside my chest, my face flushed, my arms and forehead sweating profusely, my mind trying to engage my legs for the next step, my lungs gasping for air, my words breathless.
My thoughts, "Gosh, this is HARD. Do others think I'm a pansy for taking this so hard? Am I sure I want to do this? Should I just stay in the valley? Taking these steps up the mountain out of the valley is tough. Will it even be worth it?"
The initial ascent turned out to be the most physically, mentally and emotionally demanding part of the 4-hour hike. We met an avid mountain biker a few moments in, and he laughed when we asked if we were getting close. He graciously said, "Ah, yeah... you've got a ways."
I don't know your valley. Maybe it's a familiar valley - you've been there longer than intended out of fear of the climb. Maybe it's new, and you don't know where the trailhead is located to even start the climb out. Take courage, my friend.
The ascent is not easy. You may have to pause and catch your breath at every turn. But you need to know - the beginning is the hardest. Sure, you have a ways to go, and making the choice to step out of your valley may cause your heart to race, your hands to sweat, your mind to wonder, "Is it worth it?"
It is! Wonderfully so!
Look just beyond, and there's streams and waterfalls, wildlife and courage all around, views you'll experience and never forget. The simple truth is, there's beauty in store for you.
And you can do this, because you were made to rise!
We can rise out of our circumstances, fear, hopelessness, and despair.
As this psalm says,
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. - Psalm 150:6
It doesn't matter how much breath we have. Even when we're panting with little to no extra air while we're hiking up the steep side of the mountain of our circumstances, we're called to praise the Lord.
Praise is powerful. It can turn the little that we have into enough. It allows our minds to focus on Him and trains our hearts to trust in Him.
As we lean on Him and choose to praise in each step and each breath, guess what?
We are filled with awe at the majesty and power and creativity of our God. We are strengthened and renewed with joy for the next climb, and we find peace as we breathe new air.
New air. Don't you want that?!
Don't you need that?!
Yes, my friend. Lungs on fiyerrr for Him. It's worth it.
Take that next step. He's with you, He will lead you, and He will sustain you.
Let's unplug from our doubt and plug into praise for our Risen Savior. There, we'll find rest.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!