I just got off the phone with Stella. A born and raised girl from LA she is all things California. Having spent her college years in Beloit, Wisconsin she understood my mid-west roots. But our paths would cross in the south, during our 10.5 months in Americorps.
Stella is beautiful. A sassy sort of girl. Now a lawyer, having graduated from Tulane and embracing all things New Orleans. She was the first person to teach me what it meant to show up as a friend free of rules and religion. To just be. She accepted all of me, each day. On the days when I’d beat myself up for not getting to the gym she would remind me that my body was not a robot, to chill and take it one day at a time. She was the friend who would let me fall apart day in and day out and I never once thought she was going to abandon me. She was the friend who smuggled in a whole jar of olives each time we went and got pizza because the allotted olive toppings was never enough. I always felt such a sense of awesome as she’d pull the jar out of her purse and slide open the lid. I wasn’t even the perpetrator but I was part of that act. And that made me feel like a rebel.
We lived next to each other. And one morning Stella threw a bouquet of fake flowers over our dividing fence. I had no idea how to be fun because I was the mid-west conservative church girl who never smiled because smiling was a sin, but Stella had engaged and I felt invited. So I grabbed my measuring cups and tossed them over. Back and forth we threw junk over the wooden posts. Then there was this long hard pause in life… Game over? I thought.
Then much to my surprise, over the 8 foot fence tumbled a fold-out-bathing-chair. It surely wasn’t an easy toss and I sat and watched, unable to see Stella’s face or body, simply a ginormous chair messily making it’s way over. By the time it hit the pavement, I was left stunned with such genius. She had won. I was sure of it. But I was left with one of my top five favorite moments in life. And so for that matter, I won too!
Stella taught me a lot that year. How to be sarcastic. How to be sneaky. How to love. She would always poke or touch my arm or invade my personal space right on up in my face in a way that made me so uncomfortable but in a way that was so endearing I wanted to be more like her.....
It's been years since Stella and I connected but today... I called Stella:
KAYLEE PAGE. HOW ARE YOU?
I heard Stella, her voice always so full of life and affection.
Well umm… I returned in response. (because truth is, life is HARD right now. Like really hard.)
What followed was a time and space so sacred. As if time hadn't skipped a beat. We talked bout how twenties suck. That we’re sure thirties are way much better. But then we talked about how we’re learning to be. I shared how I've never been quite good at "Be still and know that I am God." (in fact, I flunk it every time!) But I shared with her the idea of how the knowing of God is a lifetime, but that I've learned to get still for a bit. Even if the stillness passes I can at least find it now. I followed that sentence with how I used to get really anxious in a room. But that I’m learning to talk myself out of fleeing. Like for example, at my friend’s baby shower the other day I got sad. I got really sad about something. And I wanted to run. To get into my car and cry. But I don’t want to be that girl anymore so I told myself to SIT. And I did. And it felt a little funny. And I still wanted to run. But in between the wanting to run and the trouble I had not bounching my legs up and down as a result, was that I saw some really great things unfold. My friend’s family is really funny and they made me laugh. And she has the most adorable aunt. And there were jokes about tissue paper and lots of hoots and hollering at pretty wrapping paper.
I found myself enjoying the room despite the other parts of me that were jittery and run-away-bridey.
What I’ve realized is the full beauty that is found in the art of sitting in a room and taking it in instead of trying to be in charge of it.
Stella said it like this: Being in a room and not feeling like you have to hold it up.
When you get to this point. When you accept and give yourself permission to be in a room in whatever capacity your heart and soul want to engage in the room --- SO MANY gold nuggets come your way. And they are all yours. Just for you. To take and toss in the air like glitter to dance in or take and hide them in your pocket as your very own treasure.
I can’t take any earthly treasures with me. I understand that more than ever these days.
But I am so very rich. And all these nuggets I’m collecting that are just mine – they are making me filthy rich! A type of richness that I can take to heaven. It’s love. And God is love. So heaven is… LOVE. Which means all this love I’m pocketing… I CAN TAKE IT WITH ME.
Honest, authentic, whole-hearted-nugget-collecting living is what I want. It is to be free – with control not getting in the way of love. I now treasure words like permission, acceptance, belonging, your own definition. These are my words these days. When I give myself these things – I can allow the mystery of God to do his work and invite me deeper - into accepting all kinds of love and giving all kinds of love - a sense of fully being tapped into the truth that God is love. Love is God. Give. Take. Take. Give. Let it go, let it flow! (I think that's a good start to a pretty stellar rap song!)
So, For you... May today bring you moments of being in a room. All the things that you want to reach out and hold tightly, may your hands let them go. May your hearts open up and may you collect infinite gold nuggets today as love moves in, out and all around that sacred room.