My thousand unremarkable steps
I still read blogs, believe in blogs, and find them to be quite satisfactory. I've been on a mission to limit my social media intake lately but sometimes as I peer into the little windows of Instagram each square just seems so perfect. Even the messier confessions seemed to be paired with a well-styled, imperfect photo. But then there are blogs, where I feel like a certain sense of authenticity and honesty hangs in the air, at least in the ones I frequent most often. I like that. I adore real-life people, the ones who are who they are, take 'em or leave 'em. I suppose it's one reason why a favorite blogger and author of mine is Ann Voskamp. I've never met her in real life but in her writing she sure doesn't stray from the truth, even if it's gut-wrenching or quiet or sensitive, or tricky. That's my kind of gal.
Yesterday I read a post on her blog, written by a guest. The title was "How a remarkable life equals a thousand unremarkable steps." A favorite opening line-"The tragedy is that, while waiting for great opportunities to come along, we miss out on a parade of good opportunities that march steadily by." The author? Jeff Manion, a pastor who says "Goodness grows slowly. It arrives through the repeated kindness of the diligent faithful. It arrives quietly, traveling the slow path of devoted love. Dream big, but think small."
The entire blog post made me tear up and the best/hardest/richest things in life do. You can read the article here. I was thinking on this same subject yesterday as I was once again at work, pruning the fence row behind our house.
I almost tricked you, didn't I? You can hardly even tell there's a barbed wire fence underneath all those thorn bushes, but there is. I've been slowly working my way down the fence row, pruning and trimming the spiky thorns away. While I work? I have visions of colorful flowers filling this space instead.
You can see a bit of my progress here. To be fair to the process I must show you this part, the tedious task of clearing out the bad to make way for the good. If I only showed you a beautifully cleared fence with flowers growing someday down the road the beauty would almost come at a discounted rate because you wouldn't have seen the hard work that went into it. You wouldn't have known how my arms ached, how my hands shook because I'd been at it so long, how many hours it took to make way for the beautiful blooms.
We've started our garden again for the year and again I'm reminded of the same lesson. The farm and garden are like a giant canvas, just waiting for God to paint a picture for us to learn from. Here, you can very tangibly see that a thousand unremarkable steps really do equal something remarkable.
I used to plan for big dreams. I filled notebooks with big ideas, planned my life months in advance and chased after any opportunity I could to get my creative life noticed and mentioned and growing. And then slowly over time, I stopped. I realized I was letting my dreams become my companions and friends, instead of the real-life people like my family and loved ones who actually needed me. I was chasing so many "remarkable" opportunities that I was too spent and tired for the thousand unremarkable steps that lay in front of me, not knowing that the unremarkable actions were really what it was all about anyway.
It's safe to say that through the past two years or so God has whispered, yelled (but nicely, lol), sang, and talked to me in a thousand different ways to change my heart. He's opened my eyes to the value of the dear friends I have right now who need me and I them. He's showed me how to do real-life with the people around me, whether it be offering to baby-sit, dropping groceries off, or sitting in on a doctor's visit. God has gently molded my heart, much like I watched my girls do with their pizza dough last week, showing me how much more I am able to know him and love others when I'm not running as fast as I can after big dreams. I can safely say I am loving people in a capacity I didn't know possible and I'm feeling rested and well enough to follow God's lead, even when it's after some pretty hard things like foster care and trusting him with growing our family in a non-traditional way.
Through all the learning in my spiritual life, God hasn't asked me to lay down my creative passions that beat so loudly in my chest I'm sure others can hear it. He's quietly urged me to keep going. That's something that maybe others don't see or realize either, that a photo like the one above (a favorite of mine) took a thousand unremarkable steps to arrive at.
I've confessed a lot to you lately that this is my first year to not have a one-year plan, a five-year plan, or even a six-month plan. I just wake up and see what lies ahead for that one day. I've also confessed how truly freeing and frightening this is. But before yesterday I don't think I had adequate words to put pen to paper and express "dream big but think small."
For in my daily small thinking and one unremarkable step after another, I can feel that God is behind the scenes at work on a masterpiece. I have a sense that someday down the road this seemingly ordinary Sunday-Saturday schedule of days and unremarkable steps will have been a part of our big dreams that we'll finally see grow, much like planting the garden and waiting for a harvest.
Where are you in your journey?