A few days ago, shopping at a store that knows me well, I found a great black plaid pencil skirt. Perfect with clericals. Elegant yet practical. On sale. And in my size! Yay!
I slipped it on. It fit perfectly in the waist and in the back. The length was exactly right. But the thighs.... What had happened? I hadn't gained any significant weight since the past shopping trip. But there it was. Hard evidence that I wouldn't be wearing pencil skirts anytime soon. If ever. The style I had worn for years dependably no longer fit across the thighs. Tight wasn't quite the word. Painted-on captured the image. Eeek.
Soon after, I relayed this story to my riding instructor, because for all the issues of import like world hunger and climate change and zombies that I discuss, I also discuss fashion points, as well. And she laughed and said, "Welcome to the world of horse riding thighs."
I missed this part of the joys of riding. Time with one of the most beautiful animals in God's creation. Improved balance. The wonderful smell of horses. Days at the barn.
And horse riding thighs?
Well, yes. For the uninitiated among you, what keeps a rider in the saddle is not the stirrups or even the saddle or the reins. What keeps a rider on the horse, other than the horse's willingness not to buck you off, is your balance and your upper leg strength. Riding is one of the best core, bun, and thigh workout I know. Those muscles of my upper legs keep me on the horse. They direct the horse, as well. These muscles give the horse the cue to speed up or slow down. They are clearly key elements in riding. I knew they would get stronger as I rode more.
I just didn't know they would develop quite so well.
A rule of life seems to be that doing something new will develop things that are unexpected. We pretend, mostly, that the unexpected developments will just tone and tighten, but not involve any substantive changes.
Maybe. But that's not my experience. When we begin to do something new, new things come. Firmer, larger muscles. A new passion. A renewed awareness. We love the new things.
Until...until we also realize the newness has a cost. Sometimes we're excited about the cost. A new awareness of diet and exercise may mean we can toss the elastic waistbands. Yay! But a friend who lost a substantial amount of weight said her soul identified with the woman who carried the extra 80 pounds for a long time, and the journey of letting her soul catch up to the healthy woman was harder than losing the weight. Even the best types of new mean we must - we must - release the old parts of our selves and souls that aren't needed anymore. Otherwise, we return to what was before. The new means that what we've developed or acquired may also mean old things don't fit anymore.
Newness always means a loss of some kind. Trust me on this.
As Mary and I wrote the book and reread and edited and edited and reread it, we both begin to notice that in our journey of loss, grief, and sadness to discovery, joy, and newness, some of the old things we had in our lives didn't fit anymore. We had developed new muscles, some we weren't even aware of until we tried to slip back into an old friendship or an old pattern. We could squeeze into it, but became very aware that we couldn't be comfortable in that place anymore.
Our new muscles meant we had to walk away from some old, unhealthy relationships and patterns of our lives. We culled them from our closets and while we might have looked at them as we flipped through catalogues, we kept going. Our muscles that owned grief as a part of life meant that we no longer fit with people who wanted to ignore grief. Our new sense of balance meant that those who were our friends as long as we were the people they wanted us to be needed to be removed from our lives. The strength we developed through God's regimen allowed us to journey places wholly new, but discovered walking this new path was impossible if we didn't put some of the old baggage down. So we did.
Don't think this didn't surprise us. Too often we hope that newness doesn't come with loss. Realizing the old things didn't fit anymore came only after we still tried to squeeze into them, wear them for a bit, and at the end of the day, may have been a bit tearful as we put them in the "give away" box of elements of life that could be returned to God.
And for a while, we looked at the box, then at God, and said, "Are you really, really sure we won't need that? I mean, I might think about wearing it again one day."
God said to leave it, that She had plans for it that didn't include us.
So we did. We went forward with our new muscles, our new awareness, and our new balance. Our newness sometimes still surprises us.
Sometimes we stumble upon an old situation and find we aren't afraid anymore. Or as afraid. We experience a familiar situation, but this time the old response is only a faint whisper, and the new voice speaks with authority. We wonder how we will respond to pain and dis-ease, and discover a strength we weren't sure we'd developed, but yes, indeed, look at this quiet strength (as we flex our newly-developed muscles).
Change and newness bring loss as God encourages us to develop our selves and souls. Rule of life, for better or worse. But I will take the gifts of balance and strength I've discovered on this holy journey. I mostly trust that what God says I don't need, I really don't need. And what muscles God wants me to develop, I do need.
Maybe to gain a better sense of balance, to have the muscles for this event called life, I cannot wear pencil skirts anymore.
But you should see the adorable drop-waist pleated number that lets me twirl like a princess when I wear it with clericals.