Friday, September 5, 2014

Lighting up the Cave

"Would one of you ladies please loan me your diamond ring for a minute?"

What a question.  Sure, there were a handful of us women in the little crowd of tourists there in the deepest, darkest part of Timpanogos Cave in Utah, and most of us wore a diamond on our ring fingers, but no one wanted to give it up -- not even for a few moments, not even to the park ranger who requested it.  The other women were probably scared that something would happen to it.  But I... I was just afraid.

I loved my engagement ring and adored the man who had humbly knelt in the middle of a quiet forest and asked me to marry him that day almost five years earlier.  But that was when we were both in college, and my diamond -- though it was two months' salary for him at the time -- was small.  It wasn't the kind that made people gasp and gush over it, no matter how special I thought it was.  It wouldn't, couldn't, be big enough or clear enough or anything enough for whatever reason the park ranger was asking for it.

But the silence was getting awkward.

"I promise to give it back," the ranger said with a grin.  The other women shifted uncomfortably and looked at the ground.  "It'll be pretty neat..."

"You can use mine!" I heard myself volunteer.  And before I had a chance to second-guess, I handed my quarter-carat solitaire diamond to him.  

"Great!  Perfect!" he said.  If he thought it was too small, he didn't say so.  He started to explain what he was going to do next.  There, in the bowels of the cave, he was going to turn off all the lights.  He asked us to stand still so we wouldn't trip over anything because there would be no light whatsoever, and then he reached up to a switch and... there was darkness.  Such darkness I hadn't known before. It almost took my breath away, made me feel swallowed up because it was so thick and tangible.  

For a few moments, he let us stand there, taking it in.  We strained our eyes hoping they would adjust and we could see some sliver of light somewhere.  


"Now watch what happens when I shine my flashlight on this diamond," he said.  And suddenly the walls of the cave, so utterly black just a moment before, lit up with thousands of tiny lights, radiating from my diamond.  We all gasped a little.  I was so amazed.  My diamond ring could do that!

That was one of those moments that has stayed with me because it was so profound and beautiful.

But last year was a hard year.  It wasn't that any single disastrous thing happened, and I know without a doubt it could have been worse.  It was just messy and exhausting, full of mistakes and regrets.  We were trying so hard to feel settled quickly after yet another move (our ninth major move in fourteen years when we hadn't even spent two full years at our last two duty stations... But who's counting?) that we rushed into things and tried too hard and kicked ourselves hard when we had setbacks.  I think said the worst things I've ever said as a mother and have never felt less equipped for what my life was.  I wasn't writing anything of value because it felt like there was just nothing inside me from which to create.

By the end of February, ten months after our move, I wasn't just tired.  I was utterly spent.  I knew I needed silence and stillness for a little while. 

It was during that time that I bought Emily P. Freeman's book A Million Little Ways.

I'd read other bloggers raving about it, and it had a five-star rating on Amazon.  Usually I'm under-impressed when people are getting this crazy about something, but some of the reviews said things that made me think, I could maybe use this.

I started reading, and...  Well, I'll put it this way.  My husband, when he was going through flight training, was taught to recognize the signs of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in case the instruments fail.  In fact, many pilots don't recognize the signs until it's too late, and they lose consciousness and crash.

That's where I was before the book: hypoxic and unaware.  What I saw as failures as a mother, as a writer, as a wife; insecurities about these spheres of my life; fears about the future -- all these things were making the air awfully thin.  Emily Freeman's words breathed life into my soul again.
"There is no art in anxiety.  We try to manage the future, a time that doesn't even exist yet, and we wonder why our stomachs hurt."

She writes about recognizing and appreciating what makes you an artist -- and we all are artists.
"We are the mirrors of God on earth, the megaphones of glory, the hands and eyes  and hearts of heaven."
 Teachers, accountants, stay-at-home moms, doctors, musicians all have an art they were given to create. 
"When an artist chooses to be generous, everyone wins."  
She also writes about giving yourself time to pause, trusting God's timing and the seasons of your life, enjoying the art that others make without comparing yourself to them while appreciating that each of you has a very specific role that only you can play.  
"If waking up to your desire is bringing you closer to someone else, if it allows you to be vulnerable in ways you weren't able to be before, if it reminds you of your desperate need for God, then your art has not been wasted."
There is so much good in this book, I'm having to remind myself to hold back and let you discover it for yourself.  It was almost spooky for me to read, because it felt like she was reading my mind, addressing the fears or thoughts that I hadn't told anyone.  
I'm not sure where I'd be right now if I hadn't read this book when I did. It scares me a little to think about.  This blog would not be here, for one thing, and I'm not sure what good I'd be doing for my kids or husband. 

But instead I'm here, writing again, hopefully caring for my kids and supporting my husband better, a little braver when I think about what the future might require of me.  I'm remembering that cave again, all lit up from my diamond and thinking, Maybe I can....

{Disclaimer: this essay was not in any way a push for a new ring.  My husband got me the ring I wear daily now for our seventh anniversary.  He always gets me the best he can... But all that is a story for another day! ;-)}

{Another disclaimer: this review is totally my opinion.  You can get the e-book right now for $1.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  But if you ask me, you could pay a lot more for it and you would not be losing anything!!}


  1. Replies
    1. Okay, this is what I shouldn't multi-task. I was answering a kids question, thought I was clicking "Reply" and clicked "Delete" instead. Spent way too long trying to figure out how to recover it, only to be unsuccessful. Anyway. I hope your library is better than mine, because I couldn't find it there.


Go ahead and make my day! Leave a (respectful) comment!