Friday, April 15, 2016

Choosing Simple Over Easy

I picked up a hitchhiker this week.

She was a tiny, petite little thing.  Overall pretty dirty, and she didn't smell very nice.  She asked if we were heading North, and, actually we were.  I had Steven, a co-worker with me, a 23 year old strong, weight-lifting type young man, so I thought it would be okay.  Besides, something about her confidence and straightforward way of asking took me off-guard.  I really couldn't think of a reason why not, so I said yes.  I had just read a blog that morning about Bob Goff, the author of Love Does, who took his friends on various "capers," adventures where they could find ways to bless people.

So I thought of this as my very first caper.

She plopped into the back seat of our very packed SUV, along with her "little" dog Venus, an over-gown sweet mutt she had picked up along the way, who rode with her, sprawled out on her back, enjoying the ride. It seemed in Venus' five short months on this earth, she had experienced a life of capers, traveling across the entire country, visiting friends, concerts, festivals, and circuses.

I had to know what motivated her to choose this lifestyle.  Steven and I took turns asking the obvious questions she'd answered many times before, yet she took great joy in sharing her story.

She had been a soccer star during high school, so talented that it had earned her a full ride scholarship.  She had played during college while finishing her degree in Special Ed, literally burning the candle at both ends between school and soccer.  People kept telling her not to ever stop playing soccer, she was so talented, so she didn't.  Eventually she realized that all of her hard work landed her in a profession that didn't pay well.  There isn't much interest in female professional soccer in our country, she said.  She was tired, burnt out, disenchanted.  She knew there was more to her than just being a soccer player or PE teacher, but she'd never had the time to discover it.

So, she hit the road, the road of self-discovery.  She chose a simple life with very few obligations, save to take care of little Venus.  And she learned the art of being direct and asking for help. Backpack and a few clothes with her, she worked wherever she landed, sometimes sleeping on floors of buildings or homes, sometimes sleeping in her hammock with Venus outside.  Florida was tough, she said with all of the bugs and insects.  She had been snowboarding in Colorado, sight-seeing in California with a friend, working festivals in North Carolina, waiting tables in tourist-laden islands. It really wasn't an easy life. It's not easy trying to plan your next meal.  It's not easy setting up a hammock in the dark of a deserted forest.  Not easy asking strangers for rides to your next destination.

But it is simple.

I asked if it was difficult to make the change, to initially drop everything and just hit the road by herself.  I couldn't imagine doing it.  I couldn't imagine not having responsibilities, not having my loved ones around me, not really having a plan for the day or week.

She said it hadn't been for her, since she now had the time to try new hobbies and crafts, perfect some kind of juggling skill that now made her money in many shows.  It involved strings and glass balls, and eventually fire.  She's asked all the time to join traveling shows and circuses with her acquired skill, but she says no.  It would put her right back into the 9 to 5 job she had just escaped.  It would tie her hands so she wouldn't be able to explore other hidden talents she had but didn't realize yet.

In my attempt to help her, to bless her, she got me thinking.  How much have I missed throughout my life by taking the predictable path that seemed easy, but became stressful, and complicated?

How do I simplify to that I can allow the Lord to mold me and change me?  What are the hidden talents I possess that I have been too busy to discover?

What about you?
Do you need to start asking new questions?
Go on a caper or two?
Choose simple over easy?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reflections on The Road Not Taken

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

--"The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost

It's too bad I studied this poem in grade school as a simple exercise in poetry appreciation.  I surely did not appreciate it then as I do now.  

Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out had you taken a different path?  Maybe chosen a different profession.  Married your high school or college sweetheart?  Decided to have more children, or maybe less?  Followed your dream rather than taken the safe route?  

I do.  Lately I wonder where I would be now had I not decided at the somewhat tender age of 16 to follow Jesus.  Surely I didn't know the ramifications then.  I wonder if I really do now.  
What would it have been like to ride the roller coaster of life, not knowing that there was Someone guiding me, having my back, so to speak?  What would my temperament be,  constantly living in the guilt of really bad decisions?  Would I have bounced through  relationship after relationship, packing my bags of fear, guilt, and shame higher and higher?  Would my load have been so heavy that I may have quit?

Really not sure, but, wow, what a thought.  The Bible teaches us to pause and reflect.  To number our days.  To consider our ways, learn from past mistakes.

When I pause and reflect on the roads I have taken, it gives me a surge of gratitude.   I have been given so much.  And I really do believe that it is not so much the individual  choices made, all stacked together that have determined  my place today, as much as the One I have had guiding my steps.  

Psalm 37:23 puts it this way:
"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives."

He truly has made all the difference.