Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Into the Woods

My friend Jinda can remember a conversation years ago when I declared I would never go camping. Well, I guess this post confirms the old adage, "Never say never."

Last summer we began our family's camping adventures (gently with a campout in the backyard and then weekends in Elkmont and Cosby). We continued the adventure this weekend with a Father's Day trip to Cades Cove.

The highlight of our weekend was riding the 11-mile loop of Cades Cove on our bicycles. We left our campsite at 7:30 on Saturday morning to begin the ride, and we finished around 10:30. Cars are not allowed onto the loop until 10 a.m., so we enjoyed the entire ride without seeing a single car.

We did see wild turkey and deer - plenty of them. At one point, we came upon a deer grazing on the side of the road. We stopped our bikes to watch, and she contentedly kept munching. It was a wonderful morning. The one-lane road was recently paved, so it was a smooth and scenic ride.

Another highlight of our camping trip was welcoming guests to our campsite on Saturday afternoon: my parents surprised us, and friends Joe and Amy Coker, with their sons Layton and Conner, paid us a visit. It was a pleasure to visit under the canopy of trees and along the creekbed.

Our next camping adventure in July will push me even further, as we extend it by one additional night - three nights in the woods...without a shower. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


This morning as I was helping out with a project for church I came to the moment that is always tricky for me: the moment when I am asked to declare my title (or occupation). Generally it happens at the doctor or school as I am filling out the patient/parent questionnaires. In my flurry of scribbling down the usual facts, I come to this one and pause.

I know many women who gussy up the term "homemaker," feeling it doesn't properly reflect all we stay-at-home moms do ("domestic engineer" being the most common that leaps to mind). My pause this morning, however, came not from a hesitation to label myself a homemaker. It came from a resistance to label myself something else entirely.


My kind friend who was working with me on the project stated matter-of-factly that this is what it would say under my name. Instantly my stomach churned and I felt warm. I had to correct him. To admit that it felt untrue. To suggest that we stick to something that I know to be true: "Wife, mother, friend." Yes, yes, and yes. This is who I am. But writer?

Long after he was gone and the project was finished, I was left thinking about my hesitancy to label myself a writer. Why? Well, first of all a writer writes. And I have to confess I haven't been doing much of that lately - at least pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard). My head has been busy cataloging story ideas and blog entries, but that seems to be as far as I get these days.

What would give me the confidence to call myself a writer? If I were published? If I posted fresh material faithfully to my blog? If I had an audience of readers?

Truth be told, I've known I was a writer since my high school crush admitted my letter made him pull over his truck as he read it on the drive home. I've know since my essay was published in our senior yearbook. I can still remember the response of my classmates. I've known since my first college English class when the professor (notoriously tough to please) praised my first essay. I've known as I've worked with student writers, edited professional writers, and mentored (and been mentored by) aspiring writers.

To say that I am something doesn't mean it must be my occupation. Wife, mother, friend...not my occupations, but essential parts of who I am. In the end, I see that adding "writer" to this list isn't a deception but an admission - I am a writer. It is part of my gifting and part of my glory.

It takes courage to say it; it takes even more courage to believe it. But here it is (I'm not sure the fill-in-the-blank is long enough to hold it all): "Daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, seeker, student, believer, mentor, teacher, leader, listener, encourager, worshipper, ponderer, and writer." I'm sure that answer will merit a double-take at the doctor's office.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Advantage Susan

What is the bravest things you've done lately? Well, for me, it is tennis.

Yes, you read that right. I began taking tennis lessons just over a month ago. I started partly so I could learn to volley the ball back and forth to the boys, who have been taking lessons for the past six months.

However, I admit that the larger reason I began taking tennis lessons is to face a deep fear of mine. It's not a fear of tennis exactly (now that would be silly, wouldn't it?) It's a more complex fear that looks something like this:

Neophobia (fear of anything new) + Scopophobia (fear of being looked at) + Ataxiophobia (fear of muscular incoordination) + Atychiphobia (fear of failure) + Enissophobia (fear of criticism) + Xanthophobia (fear of the color yellow - admit it, those small yellow balls whizzing toward your head are terrifying!)

When I parked at the courts for my first lesson I sat behind the steering wheel fighting back tears. One might think I was about to single-handedly face the Williams sisters. I told my coach to teach me just as he would Reed and admitted how terrified I was. He smiled, encouragingly, but I knew he really had no clue how much baggage I was bringing onto the court.

Then something amazing happened. My coach tossed me the first ball...and I returned it. He tossed me the second one...and I returned it too. Forehands and backhands, I hit more balls than I missed. And with each whack, I sent a painful memory, a physical agreement, or a low expectation back over the net.

Over the past few years, I've seen that sometimes I enter into situations just to prove that I am brave. Those moments usually leave me trembling and terrified. Other times I enter into situations to face a fear, and I find myself seeing more clearly, breathing deeper, and smiling wider as I pass through to the other side still standing. I don't know how to explain it, but there is a difference - perhaps it is simply in my motives.

I no longer want to be held captive by fear. And I've found that life offers surprising invitations to face our fears for the sake of healing. For me, this has meant speaking, leading, running, writing, and so much more. And now the path of healing happens to include a racquet and little yellow ball. (And maybe, someday, a cute little tennis skirt.)