When I was working on my book I sometimes took myself out for impromptu picnics.
As soon as the kids left for school and my husband went to work, I’d cook myself some breakfast and sit down with my Bible, pen, and laptop. I wouldn’t have any plans on those days because my goal was to stay home and write. Then I’d read and pray for awhile, or sit and think about whatever chapter I was working on, only getting up to refill my empty teacup.
But on my way to the kitchen I might glance out the window to see if the recycling had been picked up, and the sunlight might catch my eye. A single gleam might bounce off the edge of the brown bin, beckoning me to drag it back from the street to the edge of my driveway. And then I might imagine how good the sunshine would feel, and that’s when I would know: I had to pack a picnic lunch and spend the rest of the day outside.
One day I even heard a song in my head when I looked out the window, with words that seem to come from the Lord himself: “You call me out upon the water.” As if God were nudging me to find a new location to work that day. Perhaps he wanted me to spend some leisurely time outdoors, enjoying beauty, and gathering strength before I sat down to write.
A particular place popped into my head when I first thought of an outdoor picnic that day, and I wanted to get there as soon as possible; but by the time I finished packing my lunch I’d gotten really hungry. Sometimes, when I get really hungry I get jittery, and sometimes those jitters turn into anxiety. So, as I drove past my kids’ elementary school, I suddenly felt like something bad would happen if I drove twenty minutes away, to the park by the water. No, I should go and sit in the park right next to their school. I needed to be nearby so I could go scoop them up when the airplane suddenly crashed into the playground and they were left all by themselves, hungry and alone, in the middle of a fiery crater, filled with noxious fumes and burning debris.
Wild-imagination-writer-Mom to the rescue!
Luckily, there was a woman training for a race on the greenway next to the bench where I ate my sandwich. I watched her go by enough times that it began to feel like I was invading her privacy, so I decided to head to that park after all.
It was a warm morning but the drive was winding and shaded, so I rolled down the windows and turned up the music. I put on one of my favorite CDs and hummed along as I followed the road. The water was calm and there were only a few people hanging about, so all was quiet and peaceful. I chose a shady spot on the hill, where I could see the lake, as well as the railroad tracks across the bridge. I spread out a blanket, stirred up my yogurt, and breathed. The moment was pure bliss.
I knew there’d be plenty of time to write on my laptop after spending time in the three dimensional world, so I pulled out my notebook and began to journal. Before I knew it, my eyes were watering. Because I’d finally admitted, on paper at least, that I was scared. I felt guilty for spending all my time this way, daydreaming and thinking, rather than cooking and cleaning, or sitting in an office, bringing home a paycheck. After all, there were trips that needed planning and ways to pay for those trips that didn't include hanging out at the park. There were dishes to be washed, floors to be vacuumed, and closets to be cleaned. Wasn’t it lazy and selfish to spend my time trying to write a book? What good could it possibly bring anyone, I thought, and isn’t it vain to write a book of stories only about me?
Those feelings didn’t surprise me—I’d faced them before—but a rejection letter in my email that week served to amplify their intensity. It was only the second time for this particular project, but the sting was still fresh. I couldn’t help thinking I’d wasted my whole life, and I’d never be good enough to accomplish what I wanted to achieve: my name on a spine, my story on a shelf, my vision become reality.
I filled up a page and a half with whining and told God that I needed help trusting him to continue providing for our little family. Even though I had a running list of everything he’d done since I left my part-time job, it was hard for me to believe the goodness would last. I felt overwhelmed at the mountain of work in front of me. It’s just too hard, I thought. And then I wrote this little prayer in my notebook:
Please make my faith stronger. Sometimes I feel the need to trust you with all of eternity, right here and now. But maybe you just want me to trust you right here, right now. To take the next step, whether in the dark or in the light. I know you’re in front of me leading the way. Help me to feel the tug of your hand, and follow wherever you lead, even if I’m scared.
As I wiped my eyes I looked down the hill toward the water, where I noticed an older man and a young girl who’d gotten out of their car ten minutes earlier. They hadn’t walk to the gazebo and opened up a picnic basket. They hadn’t gotten out fishing poles or added bait to their lines, and they hadn’t unloaded a canoe like the young guys on the far side of the bridge. Instead, they’d walked over to an outcropping of rocks that stretched several feet into the lake.
The man went first, as the girl held his hand and walked behind him. When they came to a large crevice he let go and stood in the gap to catch her in case she slipped. Then she reached out and grabbed his hand again as she gained sure footing across the crevice. He walked slowly for her, and they took time to look out at the sunshine rippling across the water. The man picked up an old piece of driftwood for the girl to throw and she gathered her strength and sent it whirring a whole two feet. It sank for a moment then bobbed again along the surface. Finally, the two of them made their way back to land in much the same fashion as they’d started out: him going first, her holding his hand. When they reached the grass she jumped in the air and shouted for joy. I was already crying by that time, but the words she yelled out cut loose a sob in my chest.
“I did it, Daddy!” she cried, as she skipped up the hill toward the car.
They were too far away for me to catch his quiet response, but I feel like I know what he said in return, as he patted her head and smiled.
“You sure did, sweetheart. You sure did.”
So I opened my laptop and started working, as the rest of that song came back to my mind.
“So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.”