Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Hoggatt Family Reunion 2010" written by the Kitchen Minion

The fog is beginning to lift to where I can just make out the other shore and a bird taking an early morning cruise over the sound searching, I am sure, for a delicious fish breakfast. In the room next to me, I can hear my aunt and uncle waking up and getting ready for the day. And what a big day it will be! My Aunt Sharri, I am sure, is thinking I'm doing her some big favor by being here to help as her kitchen minion but the truth is, I am looking forward to a day spent in the kitchen together cooking up a storm. It sounds like a slice of heaven to me. one of those moments that seem so mundane but are really precious and holy. We spent over two hours in Costco yesterday with her pushing a cart and me, cruising around with a flatbed, which, I eventually got the hang of.

My Aunt is one of the bravest people I know for not only did she trust me with that flatbed at Costco, but tomorrow this house will be turned from a quiet island home overlooking the Puget Sound into a raucous, noisy, full to the rafters house with seventy of our family members, most of whom I have never met, and many she hasn't either. We've talked over this idea for years and this year, she put it together, a family reunion with all her dad's (my grandpa's) siblings. And since there were twelve children, there are a lot of descendants.

Can I just tell you how excited I am to meet them all? When I was growing up, most of the local extended family around me was step-family and while I appreciated the gatherings, the fact is, we were always treated differently. I don't blame them for that and I'm not mad about it, it is just the way it was and I understand how that happens. But I've wanted to have family I truly belong to. So it has been one of my deepest joys to be an adult with the freedom to travel to see my dad's family in Washington on a pretty regular basis. I have loved spending time with my cousins, talking with my grandparents, and hanging out with my aunts and uncle. I really belong, I'm one of the gang. I eat my pancakes with peanut butter and get poison oak at the drop of a hat. I'm family.

It still feels weird when I think of meeting all these people and knowing I'm related to them all. My great-grandparents, from whom we are all descended, were in the ministry. "Brother Hoggatt" was an evangelistic preacher and I've read when you drove with Brother Hoggatt, you prayed. Haha. Being in the ministry myself through writing and speaking, I like to think I get a bit of that from him. Whether or not that's true, I hope he would be proud to know this about his great-granddaughter. My aunt, who did know him, thinks he is.

The one picture I've seen of this family, is when the youngest is still a little girl. (She'll be here tomorrow.) I'm hoping for stories. I'm hoping for fun. I'm hoping for time to sit down and get to know each other a little, to have them as more than just faces I barely recognize. I'm hoping to land a piece of that peanut butter pie I'll be making this afternoon and another of the Boston Creme Pie my Uncle is picking up tomorrow. I'm hoping to hear God moving, bringing people together, giving my Grandpa and his siblings a gift of being together again.

Thank you Jesus for my family. (And for peanut butter pie! I'll save you a slice.)


Friday, July 16, 2010

What I Learned From the Freedom Friends Fishing Club

This last Wednesday I was invited to join the Freedom Friends Fishing Club as an honorary guest for the day. And while with them, I learned some things.

  • One does not eat while fishing. (Good thing I wasn't fishing.)
  • Don't tease people while fishing - especially if you're in a boat.
  • Catching each other's hooks still counts. (Apparently)
  • Make sure the anchor rope is connected to the boat. (It was.)
  • Fishing is very serious business.
  • Talking to the fish helps them take the bait.
  • If you are with people fishing and you do not have a pole in your hands, it is best to keep your mouth shut. (Though if you don't have a pole, you do get to drive the boat.)
  • Any manner of language is acceptable when handling tackle.
  • Whatever you do, don't get wound up and don't lose your balls. (Whatever that means.)
  • If you're not busy drowning a worm, your ONE job is to not scare the fish. (Unless you're driving the boat.)

Alivia's Fish

Monday, July 12, 2010


You always find out how much stuff you really have when you move. You also realize how much you have that you don't use. Think about it. How much stuff do you have that you wouldn't miss if you didn't have it? Really? How much would you never know is gone? Those are the questions I asked myself, and am still asking myself, as I packed up my belongings and then unpacked them shortly thereafter. Going to Africa was a terrific lesson in how much I have that I don't need. For example, in a book I was recently reading, it said we use about 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. The author suggested moving everything you wear for a month to one side of the closet and seeing how much you use for yourself. Now I haven't done that, but I know even after all the cleaning out of my closet I have done in the last year and again when I moved, I still have way too many clothes. Every time I get rid of some of the clothes, it's easier to give away more. I have this ideal in my mind of a closet with tons of open space, of clothes that wave in the breeze. I admire people's ability to keep themselves to this lower amount which is so much better financially, spatially, and mentally. The author of the previous book I mentioned also stated it is better to buy three good quality outfits you love rather than 20 that aren't of good quality and that you don't totally love and will wear. I have certainly been guilty of liking something in the store and then realizing I'm not such a fan of it after all after a few weeks of looking at it in my closet.

When going through clothes, it's hard to get past the notion I could still wear the garment or even harder, I still wear it once in a great while. But really, how many clothes do I need? That is how many I should have. This ideally should go for everything I own. I don't need that many VHS movies (I only get my favorites on DVD), I don't need all that silverware or dishes, and I certainly don't need all those books. (The books are really hard for me to give away, though I have been known to do so... on occasion...)

This is a huge difference in questions. When you are going through items, don't ask, "Will I use it?" because you can nearly always justify that question with, "I may use that one day." Ask yourself, "Do I need it?" And I have to tell you with all honesty, most of the time, the answer is no. We, in actuality, only need a fraction of what we own. Now, I have seen homes with, by American standards, are extremely sparse and they are refreshing. On the end of the spectrum, I have seen homes absolutely packed with books and knick-knacks and pretty much, a lot of junk. (This is why I am concerned about the extent of my library at age 30. I don't want to be 60 and utterly surrounded with books.) Myself, I fall toward the spartan end of the spectrum but I'm not all the way there. I like having a few things around, some rugs, pictures, and beautiful things to make me feel like that is my home. My bedroom and kitchen are there. My living room could use a little more work in this area. It is all a work in progress.

The funny thing about "lightening the load" is it does just that. It lightens your load. It helps clear your mind mentally and I actually feel better having less stuff. There is less to clean, less to keep track of, less to deal with. The culture I live in will tell you that you will feel better with more stuff but this is not true, you actually feel worse! It is also so much easier to keep things clean when you have less stuff. If your house is messy, you either have too much stuff or you have kids. Actually, whether or not you have kids, you still probably have too much stuff. As I've given things away, I find my house stays a lot cleaner. The most cleaning I now have to do in my bedroom is make the bed. I love it. This coupled with the self-discipline of keeping things picked up, putting things away after I use them, has brought on a real miracle in my life! When I go to look for something, there it is! (Except for my keys, I still keep misplacing those.) Think about how much time you can then devote to other endeavours if you lessen your belongings and then organize the ones you have.

The trick to this whole thing after giving away the unneeded items is to not bring any more in. I am now very careful about bringing new items home. Not being a big fan of shopping anyway, it can still be a challenge when other people try to give away things to me instead of the other way around. I don't need them so I don't bring them home. (But I will warn you, if you come to my house, I will present you with a list of things I have to give away so if you come over, just ignore that part about taking things home with you.) Shopping is now quite fun. When I do need to go to a store, I can look at all the items for sale and think about how so much of it is just junk that simply takes up space and empties my bank account. I, and you, don't need it!

I know it can be hard to start in on this simplification process. Short of moving, the first step would be to start with one area: your clothes, books, movies, or kitchen items for example. Go through all these areas one by one. As you realize, as you certainly will, how good it feels to have less things and how you don't even miss them, you will feel more comfortable giving away more, the next layer if you will. There are clothes I am completely fine giving away now that I was not okay with before. Each layer that walks out my door is another layer I am now ready to release.

One of my inspirations for cleaning things out is A&E's show on hoarding. I am not a hoarder but I have kept things because I might use them one day and words from the show such as you are not your things and the question of would you rather live in the present and into the future or are you holding onto your past, have been very helpful. I highly recommend it. http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/index.jsp

Simplicity isn't just something for my schedule, or even my home, it is a way of life. It is something that can characterize every aspect of our lives. And once you live it out in one area, you will want to start integrating it into others.

You will notice throughout this post, I keep using the term give it away instead of get rid of it. Sometimes you do just need to get rid of it, unload it all at once. But I have tried to make sure it goes places where the things will be used, or at least given to a good cause. My clothes goes to a clothes closet at a local church and I gave a bunch of things to a non-profit hosting a rummage sale. Other things I have given to friends who wanted them, who would actually use them and enjoy the items. That in itself is it's own joy.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Making the Space for Change

"Did you get the July notes?" "No, I don't remember getting them." "I sent them on July first." "Hmm. I'll double check when I get home." This, more or less, was the conversation Stacey and I had tonight after she looked at the On Tap website for July, a website I designed and regularly update at least monthly when she sends out the new newsletter. I have loved doing this for her. It's fun and creative and is for someone I deeply believe in. Most of the time, I've been pretty good at posting the notes very quickly after she sends them, some months, within the hour. But, for the last couple of months, it hasn't happened that quickly. Not quickly at all. One month, it was weeks before I finally updated the page. Even in my book, especially in my book, that is not cool.

Keeping the website up is normally one of my priorities, something that gets done right away, and the fact that it hasn't been is quite telling. My own website was months behind until I got it updated. And as you all know, blogging slacked off big time. Three things that are important to me, not to mention time with my journal, writing poetry, and creating quilts, all in the garbage can of the not-to-do-cause-I'm-too-busy pile. This stops now.

It came to a head just a week or two ago when I was meeting with my spiritual director and I couldn't settle into that place where I can really talk about what I'm experiencing and learning with God. It was a lot about just how busy I've been and she made the comment she didn't think I wanted to change. Wow. Those words stayed with me and I had to ask myself quite sincerely, do I want to change? Then, not too long after, a small accident happened to an object and I was near tears. I realized then and there I could not continue living my life the way I have been. At the edge, no real rest, no real space. I had to stop. So I cleared a couple of days in my schedule between house sitting jobs and headed to a friend's cabin in the woods at the roots of Mount Hood. No electricity, no running water. Just me and God for three nights and two full days, alone. Finally, I listened to his advice, "Come to a lonely place by yourselves and rest." I was restless. It took me the first full day to detox from business and constant stimulation.

With me, I brought the book, "Velvet Elvis" which I highly recommend. The author, Rob Bell, says we become addicted to the adrenaline of constant activity. It wears us out. It even kills us and I realized it was killing me in many ways. So I stopped. I sat. I looked at the trees. I listened to the birds. I walked. I read and I wrote. I rested. I even took a nap in the sun. I stayed by that cabin the entire day. It wasn't easy. That night, I laid out under the stars and enjoyed the view. Day two I woke up leisurely and set out for Lost Lake which is nearby. There is a hike around the lake of about 3.5 miles. You can walk it in an hour. If you do it right, you can take four. With frequent stops on the dock to play with the newts or to sit on the bench and listen to the birds, sit on the bank and read, or take off your shoes and wade, it is a lovely day to spend by the water with the mountain looming above.

It was on the hike I finally started soaking in the quieter rhythms, the stillness. When I got back to the cabin, I sat down to write and as I was still struggling with taking pencil to paper, I asked myself why? The answer that came is that it still felt like one more thing to do, not the center of what I'm made to do. So I decided to make some rules, some structure for myself so I could make sure I had the space and time needed to be more focused and purposeful about what I need to be doing. I can now only get on facebook three times a day and it cannot just be open for the illusion of company. I have to be doing something. I can only check my e-mail three times a day. My you-tube and hulu watching is two hours a week at the most. As I don't have television or read the paper, unless I'm house sitting, these are my time wasters. Not so much the e-mail, but really, how many times do you need to check it in one day? I am also working on being more intentionally about making time to write in my journal and to schedule time for quilting and time to write. Last of all, I am going to say "no" to things more often. Yes, they may be good, but there are better things that are mine to do. Oh, and one more thing, my cell phone will be turned off more often too.

The problem with letting whatever comes up fill your time is that your time will get filled up and not necessarily by anything important. I look at much of what I've spent my time on and realized it's all for nothing. It's wasted. Even the stuff that seems to be important, really isn't and the stuff, more importantly the people, that get cast aside, really are the important things to which I want to devote my time and energies. It has been said that if something or someone is really important to you, then you will make the time for them/it. If you are not doing or spending time with those things and people, then I, rather like my spiritual director, would question their real importance in your/my life. If you care about them enough, you and I will make the change.

I know it won't be easy and it's going to take constant discipline and adjustments for me every day. But I know if I am going to be able to write, create things with my hands, and find a job I can be passionate about, those things need space and I really do want to make that space. I want to be able to write poetry regularly, I want Stacey to know she can count on me to have the website updated. (She had sent the notes.) I want to hear God and it's hard to do when so much else is competing for my attention. I'm clearing it out and making the space for change.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Listen to the Wombat

(Thanks Emily!)

A Very Important Something

When I was at the women's conference, I felt I came so tightly wound, a state of "doing" I have since found to be a very common state of affairs among many friends. It seems the last few months have been incredibly hectic and busy for numerous people. We are a collective crew learning to create margins in our lives and especially learning how to keep them. It's not easy when you're used to operating at a high stress level, running your life by deadlines, flight schedules, and putting out fires. When you come down off of that tension either because you finally crash or at last realize how much it's taking out of you, it takes a while, 21 days I hear, to re-acclimate to having space to breathe.

This is the place I am now: re-grouping, re-acclimating, trying to hear and live by that natural rhythm of grace. It's not easy. While unpacking and cleaning my new apartment, I've been listening to a radio drama of the Narnia stories by C.S. Lewis. At one point while listening, I was laying by the fireplace and thought to myself, "I'm doing nothing. Hmm. Well, what is wrong with doing nothing?" For someone who tries to be so productive, to know that something was done by the end of the day, I'm coming to realize that "doing nothing" is actually doing a very important something. We have to have those moments of breath, those moments of quiet contemplation, of relaxation to give us space and a calm center, a place from which to draw strength and a wider perspective. How can you paint without thinking about the whole composition? How can you know a bar of music without hearing the whole song? There has to be time for fun, for play, for rest, for letting your mind wander, for doing nothing.

After such an intense period of moving, work, and travel, I'm struggling with the pace at which I'm getting other projects done. The list is long and filled with those large and small projects that need attending to but I find myself dragging my feet and I'm getting frustrated. I'm taking care of some of that stuff but it's taking longer than I want it to. I know that if I just sat down and worked really hard and intensely, I could get a lot done but I just can't do it. I can't keep going at that pace. I have to have time for breath. I have to realize that the pace of life I've been operating at isn't sustainable or even desirable. How can I help others, speak and write, if I can't take care of myself and the physical, emotional, and spiritual/soul nourishment I need? I write about margins but where are mine? Where is my space-filled structure of play and work?

I think my body knows better than my mind does in this case. I think for a while, I need to do more "nothing" than "something". I need to build up that reserve, make time to catch my breath, to stop and reflect, to make myself stop running. And yes, it feels like a bucket of cold water thrown in my face when I make myself be still. So much inside me is still moving, still thinking, that I have a very hard time just being still, sitting quietly and reflecting, listening. Last week when I saw my spiritual director, I had a difficult time doing this reflection, just being in that holy space with God. That more than anything else, loudly proclaimed the state of my heart.

So I am giving myself some grace. I am giving myself permission to go at a slower pace for a while, slower even than when I will have a good balance of work, play, and rest. For example, this morning I drove up to the seminary I attended for some time with a friend and mentor. After that, I was going to go hiking but as that got canceled, I am instead sitting in the library, enjoying being here in a place that meant so much to me and still does. I'm breathing in a place where I connected to God deeply and was transformed by the experience. It's where I learned to truly hear the song my soul sings and here without the other distractions of my life, I can hear it quite clearly again. I've missed those notes and that beautiful melody.

At the beginning of the women's conference, two weeks ago now, I remember telling God in the collective silence how tightly wound I felt. With compassion and gentleness in his voice, he replied, "We'll work on that." We worked on it with a basketball and hoop, we worked on it with playing cards, with shoes and a hiking trail. We worked on uncoiling me in a paddle boat on the lagoon and in the quiet moments I got to pull out a book and read. In those ways, he started taking the knot I tied myself into and unwinding, untangling the wires and threads. With gentle fingers he started prying me open, taking out the tension. It's a process I am still very much in. Tomorrow I am going out to where some friends are camping where I will have the freedom to walk, fish, write in my journal, and get lost in a good book. Next week between house sitting stints, I am hoping to go to a friend's cabin for more rest, time to enjoy being in the woods. If I can get myself quiet enough, I would love to write.

It's a hard process re-acclimating and learning to slow down, but it's much needed. I'm glad God didn't let me burn out completely before reigning me in. But operating like that, even though we may not realize it at the time, is actually quite destructive, not just to ourselves, but also to those around us. We don't have space for them. Conversations that need to be deep are shallow and touches needing to be made are never given. We fill our lives up with what we think needs to be done that we forget the things that really do. We forget the people, the leisurely talks and prayers, the time to touch another life, unplanned. If we strain to keep hurrying along, we will miss nearly everything to relish in along the way.

I know I don't want to live like that. I want to have the time to look at a painting, to spontaneously go out for coffee with a new friend, to be in those places God gives me where I have something to give from him, and something to receive. I don't want to be concentrating so hard on cooking for myself that I don't hear God knocking on the door with a dish of his own to share. I just don't. So here I am, learning to breathe, taking the time, slowing myself down so I can hear God moving. That in itself is a gift of grace: hearing him move. And now, when I clearly hear the difference between what it sounds like when he moves and when I move, I have to say, I much prefer the sound of him and if this is what it takes, sitting in front of my fireplace doing "nothing", then I am all for it. I am all for shutting up, being quiet, and hearing him. It's high time I did.