9 Years | A Reflection

For the past nine years, Sept. 15th has been a marked day.

But this day – this anniversary – feels different. I don’t know if it is because of the recent loss of Emma and how my brain, heart, and soul are still reeling from adding another tragic day to my calendar of remembering. Or if it has something to do with the seemingly non-stop transitions of the last year, that have left me in more of the survival/going through the motions and less of the reflective/intentional pace of living that I have always aimed for. Or perhaps the different-ness of 9-years compared to the 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 year anniversaries that preceded, is merely the movement of time.

Likely it is all three – and more. Nevertheless, today feels different.

More than any other year, I have shied away from conversations and even acknowledgment that today is the anniversary of THE day. [Perhaps that is why it is 11:24pm and I’m just now allowing myself space to write, and in so doing, allowing myself space to process.] I’m a little annoyed at myself for not seeking out spaces to process this anniversary today; to have deeper conversations about the things I have learned, the ways that I have grown, or even if/how I trust that God has/will bring beauty from the ashes of that day.

But maybe it is okay that today feels different and that I held my thoughts about the accident alone. I say this because sometimes on this day, I have sought conversations about what happened in order to somehow convey to the world that I have grown and healed and am now magically all better. And in this attempt to convince others, I am mainly working hard at convincing myself…

So maybe what feels the most unique and new about this year, this anniversary, is that I am allowing myself room to remember in such a way that invites all the feelings that I have about this day. I can remember that I have healed and that I am still in need of much more healing. I can remember that I have processed so much of that day and that I am still in desperate need of processing how the day has impacted me and how who I am  (and who I was prior to the accident) has impacted the ways that I process it. I am allowing my anger and sorrow and newness. I am allowing my extra-dose of introversion today. I am allowing myself to be slightly more walled-in with my feelings and I’m okay with that. I think.

Because today is one day.
It holds much, yes.
And what feels equally important is that Sept. 15th is one among many days.
I don’t have to have it all sorted on this day – and in fact, I think I get a bit of a pass on this day. I am just going to try to keep showing up to life and the rest will come when it comes.

peace.
-crf

 

 

 

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Jesus Got the Dove – We Got Violent Wind | A Pentecost Story

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure (or something…) of speaking in church. Sunday was Pentecost—the seventh Sunday following Easter—which serves to mark the Holy Spirit’s descent onto the disciples, and ultimately, all of God’s people. Being a better writer than public speaker, I chose to write out my thoughts and read them as close to verbatim as my highly-anxious-self could muster in that moment.

And, I like what I wrote. Not that it is particularly good writing—it isn’t—but, what it IS, however, is honest, and thoughtful, and the process of writing it brought me back into myself and to the ground. It helped me settle, even if just for a moment. And I was reminded that these days of uncertainty aren’t simultaneously days of abandonment. What a sweet, sweet lesson to recall.

And now, without further ado:

——————————————

As some of you know, this past year has been one of significant transition for me. I made the move from working at Cascades Camp to working as a mental health therapist with children and teens. This time last year, I was entering into my 15th and final summer of ministry at Cascades. And at the end of that summer – this past September – I moved precisely 69.1 miles north, to an entirely different world: Capitol Hill.

And while I’m thankful for many things about this transition, such as a pretty great roommate, supportive and encouraging and fun friends, living in an area that allows me to experience the beauty of many different cultures, etc. And yet, even with all of this goodness, it has not been the magical, perfect, everything-I-ever-wanted type of move. It’s been really really hard.

The kind of hard that has you questioning purpose. Like who am I apart from this identity I’ve had for so long? What is my vocation and calling? And am I going to be any good at this new thing that I spent FOUR years (and far too many dollars) studying? These are the big-life questions that have contributed to moments of fear and have, at times, gotten in the way of seeing a lot of goodness that is here with me.

When Paul approached me about sharing thoughts for this morning, I felt pretty confident in my response – and gave him a kind, but firm, ‘maybe next time’ and felt assured that I dodged that bullet. I said no because, in my memory, Pentecost is that one time where the Spirit comes down and rests on humanity, like a dove; a symbol of peace, descending on the extra-holy.

This season hasn’t been one of peace for me – and it certainly hasn’t been a time where I felt extra holy. Quite the opposite on both accounts. It’s been a season filled with a lot of doubt and frustration and anger and grief. And in the reality of these feelings, I couldn’t connect with the quote – descended like a dove – gift of the Spirit. And speaking this morning would mean that I’d have to come face to face with those feelings and that anger. Thanks, Paul.

But I, for some unknown reason, texted Paul and said, just kidding. Count me in. I think I was overly caffeinated, and feeling particularly chipper and philosophical that day, and thought to myself, I’ve always loved an underdog! And in the trinity, I sometimes feel like the Holy Spirit gets the least attention. So my empathetic self took over, and I thought I better speak up on the Spirit’s behalf. Welcome to how my brain reasons.

To be fair, I’m glad that I had this momentary lapse in judgment and committed to share with you all, because, after a closer reading of the Scriptures, I was reminded that it was Jesus who received the Spirit ‘descending like a dove’ – way back in the Gospels. On the contrary, humanities’ gifting of the Spirit was a bit different. Jesus got the dove; we, according to Acts 2, got violent wind, tongues of fire, and general bewilderment and confusion. Awesome. That’s our Pentecost experience. And THAT feels true to my current story.

Oddly enough, somehow this brings me comfort. I am reminded that from the beginning, the Spirit is with us in chaos. I imagine there was a fair amount of fear in seeing those tongues of fire and feeling the violent wind – but the Spirit was there, so things were different and new and somehow safer. Thankfully, I’m not experiencing visions of fire or anything like that, but I am beginning to remember that the Spirit is present in my storms. This knowledge doesn’t stop the chaos or sadness or remove the hard moments, but it reminds me of the present-with character of the Spirit. From the beginning, when the Spirit made that wild entrance, we have not been alone.

I don’t think this is new information for any of you. It isn’t new to me to know that God’s Spirit is constantly at my side, championing my every move. BUT something about knowing the nature of how the Spirit came to us – in that grand and unsettling entrance – gives me a bit more permission to be messy in my faith. Being faithful to our sorrows and disappointment – acknowledging that things are hard and not trying to hide that from ourselves or those that care for us, being present with our pain, all of this is what brings further authenticity to the moments of joy, blessings, abundance, and delight.

I don’t love the moments of fear or feeling the waves of emotion that come with loss, but they are part of the fullness of faith. And this week, I’ve been reminded that I don’t have to be extra-holy, happy all the time, peaceful like that dove experience Jesus had. I get to be messy AND I get to be faithful. I can feel all the blessings AND the losses that this year held. THAT is the gift that the Spirit has given me today on Pentecost Sunday – and for this, I am grateful.

——————————————

The Final Chapter

sunriseThis is a blog post I’ve been avoiding writing.

Well, that’s not entirely true.
I’ve actually been trying to write it for quite some time. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve started it at least fourteen times. Maybe more. But, I think it’s time to rip off the metaphorical bandaid and just say it:

After 9 years on full-time staff and a total of 15 summers, I’m leaving Cascades.

There. I said it. Now the world (or at least my small corner of it) knows. I officially resigned in March and will be ending around mid-September. God-willing, I will be receiving my Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology on June 25th (twelve pages of writing and an innumerable amount of reading stand between me and said degree). So, it appears as if this is a natural time to transition and give the whole therapist-thing a legitimate shot.

But if I’m honest – and I do try to be honest as much as possible – I’m scared sh*tless to leave camp. (Please pardon the feeble attempt at censoring the swear…)

Yeah, I think that sums it up well.
I’m scared.
I’m scared to leave.
I’m scared to walk away from a dream job.
I’m scared to no longer be able to call this place my home.
I’m really scared to leave the people here that I love.
I’m scared to transition from a place where I’m well-known; a place where I feel competent at what I’m doing; a place where I feel uniquely gifted to fill this role; a place where I’m proud of how I’ve grown the programs I’ve been entrusted with; a place where I’ve grown as a leader, mentor, servant, Christ-follower, and citizen of this earth.
I’m scared to step out in [very shaky] faith and trust that God might actually have something else that is good ahead.
I’m scared to try something that I’m not entirely certain is my calling – or even worse – something that I might not be good at.
I’m scared that I’m being replaced (and not the job-part of me is being replaced, but the ME-part of me is being replaced).
I’m scared that I’ll be forgotten.
I’m scared that whoever follows me will be more well-liked than me.

But mostly, I’m scared that I’ll let these insecure parts of me cloud my final chapter. Because the thing is, all of these fears are the young parts of me that can tend to forget that I am who I am apart from this place. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like anything other than ‘Program Director at Cascades Camp & Conference Center’ could be a better descriptor of who I am – and pretty soon I won’t have that identifier.

So, there’s that.

I’m 32 and I am being invited, though it feels like I’m being forced, to figure out just what it means to be Claudia Renee Fisher.

I get to choose.
That’s big.
And yes, that’s scary.
And I don’t have the perfect plan for what comes next (however – the one part I do have figured out – my living situation – is pretty exciting: I’ll be moving to Seattle to live with Ms. Ellie VerGowe). I don’t have a job lined up. I feel like a crazy person for stepping into the unknown. I’m plagued with uncertainty. BUT – and it’s a big but (one t, not two) – I have to do it. There was a part of me that at one point said, “Go for it. Jump off that really high cliff into the abyss of the unknown. It’s cool. You’ll be alright. You’ll like it.” I have to trust that part of me. Right now that part of me seems to be hiding behind some rather large rock, but I have to trust that there was a part of me that felt brave enough to say, “I want to try this thing, this therapist-thing. I want to help people in a new, different way than I had the chance to at Cascades.” Presently I feel the furthest from brave than I have probably ever felt, but I have to believe in the parts of me that have been utterly enraptured by the idea that sitting with someone therapeutically has the ability to heal and bring a renewed sense of goodness back to those who want – and need – more from their lives. Therapy has caught me. I’m bewildered and moved by the fact that a certain type of empathic presence has the capacity to offer restoration. And I want to be a part of that.

That is probably the biggest thing that kept me at Cascades for all this time. I learned about that type of presence from the people here. My dear colleagues/neighbors/friends/family here at Cascades healed me. In my darkest hours they have played many powerful roles in my understanding of what cures a wounded heart.* They stayed with me, listened to me, provided counsel to me, wept with me, laughed with me, challenged me, asked thought-provoking questions of me, pushed me, invited me, loved me. They taught me my impact. Such deep and treasured gifts – for which I will continue to be forever grateful.

And I will take this place – and all I have learned here – and all whom I have encountered and loved here – with me.

Gosh, this is starting to sound more like a forever-goodbye, a eulogy. Not my intent. Not what’s happening. I will forever be connected to this place. I guess I’m just struggling to convey the impact of my time here without the sorrow that comes with it all. Really, it is just an attempt at simultaneously grieving and sharing my love for this season of life that I am leaving behind.

This is my final chapter at Cascades. I’m not sure if I’m entirely ready for what the Author will write next, but in the words of one of my faves, Brené Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

I’m diving into vulnerability head-first, but also I’m diving in kicking and screaming. The next four months of my final chapter are going to be the epitome of bittersweet, but I have the beginnings of what one might call hope that as this chapter closes, the one that comes next will have its own adventures, lessons, loves, challenges, and goodness – hope that the vulnerability will be worth the risk.

So here’s to the final chapter of my CCACC story – may it be the right type of ending to launch me into whatever lies ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

*I would be remiss to not mention the fact that there certainly have been many others outside of camp as well that have played their role in teaching me these things…

 

 

 

Seven Years Ago, Today…

Today marks the seven year anniversary of what I have come to refer to as, “the accident“.

Seven years.

I don’t know how I feel about today. I don’t know how I should feel. Actually, what I do know is that there is no “should”. In the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years following the accident, I have been somewhat preoccupied with the “shoulds” of healing from this trauma.

Should I still have flashbacks? Should I have more flashbacks? Should I have less flashbacks? Should I still struggle to catch my breath when driving? Should I still picture accidents happening that aren’t really there? Should I still well up with tears when I drift onto the raised, reflective lane markers because I think that means that I am an awful driver – and caused the accident to happen? Should I still struggle with the question of, “was there anything I could have done to stop this”? Should I talk about it more? Should I talk about it less? Etc.

I know that the answer to this question is a solid, MAYBE. And I say that because, again, there is no right way to heal, there are no “shoulds” in a forward-moving trauma recovery process. It is just that, a process. One which ebbs and flows.

There are some that walked patiently and courageously alongside me during the time following the accident. There are some that even send me messages/texts on the anniversary. And I will say this, I am so deeply grateful for their boldness in speaking up in places that cause many anxiety (is it helpful to say something? is it harmful to say something? am I saying the right thing? etc.).

What I have learned is that when we are around those who have experienced trauma or loss, we often try to jump over the grief and move quickly to the hope. This, though sincerely well-intentioned, is vastly unhelpful in most cases.

Hope is beautiful and necessary.
But so is grief.
And grief needs its time before hope can be truly experienced and embraced.

In our efforts to soothe or alleviate our own anxiety about being near to another’s pain, we minimize their ability to experience and move through the grief, perpetuating those “should” questions, and inadvertently isolating those who tend to be pros at isolating themselves without the help of anyone else.

That being said, I recognize that it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to mark this day, in the same way that it will forever be marked on my heart and in my body. But I cannot put to words the healing that is offered when I am joined on this day…even through a simple text message. Because in those small moments of joining, the ones that shares another’s remembrance of our trauma, we are reminded – I am reminded – that even though I try desperately to be alone in my shame, I am not alone. I am loved. And I am in process.

So, yeah, I don’t know how I feel about today. But, I do know that my trauma-story is held by others, too. Sometimes I have to fight the urge to scream from the mountaintops something along the lines of,

“DON’T YOU ALL KNOW WHAT TODAY IS?!”
(and maybe this blog post is a little bit of me doing that)

but some people do know.

[And there is no guilt for those who DON’T know or haven’t acknowledged. NONE.]

But, I find it helpful that there are a couple people who have chosen to communicate to me that they are with me today. And for now, that’s enough, and that helps me continue to move through my grief and away from the “shoulds”.

So, thank you.
And, thank you.

30 Things I Learned on the Way to 30

DSC_0475bI had this “30 before 30” list – and while it was well intentioned and actually not THAT ambitious, I utterly failed at completing it… I’d say I landed somewhere in the range of 11-12 things accomplished.

At first I was kind of frustrated with myself. It felt like one more thing that I planned to do but couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through on. But then I got to thinking more and realized that just because I didn’t quite make it through some silly list I created a couple years back, certainly does not mean I should be any less proud of who I am today.

Thus, in an attempt to celebrate all that I’ve learned in my 29.9999999999 years of life on this beautiful planet, I am going to offer 30 nuggets of wisdom that I have been blessed to learn in my less than perfect, but immensely rewarding little life. So, for both myself and for you, here are 30 thoughts…

  1. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. ‘Nuff said.
  2. No one is nearly as concerned about how you look as you are. Get over it. Wake up, get dressed. Stop staring at all your zits and random chin hairs and smile – because that is beauty right there.
  3. Trust yourself, unless you are only hearing negative things. In that case, trust the people who remind you of your innate goodness. Spend as much time with them as possible.
  4. Dogs make life better, especially the cuddly ones that let you dress them up in wigs and weird costumes and such. Cats are okay too…but not as great as dogs.
  5. Read. Read as much and as widely as you can. Books open you to dormant passions hiding beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered and further explored.
  6. We were crafted in the image of a Creator. We were made to create. So, create. Make things. Be a masterful artist in whatever medium brings you life. Sew. Dance. Write. Make lattes. Fix cars. Heal people. Create. And inspire others to do the same.
  7. Try something new on a regular basis.
  8. Play outside. Swing on swings. Walk barefoot in the grass. Blow bubbles. Play.
  9. Don’t compare yourself to others. Allow others to challenge you to become a better version of yourself. This life is not about becoming someone else. We already have one of them. We need one of YOU. One of me.
  10. Hang out with kids. They remind you not to take yourself too seriously and they make some ridiculously funny sounds/faces.
  11. If you want to, get tattoos, but probably don’t get them impulsively and if you’re under 18 talk to your parents first. Your body is art in more ways than one. Take that for what it is.
  12. Go on spontaneous road trips with people you love.
  13. Don’t fight for perfection. Fight against it. Fight for creativity, vulnerability, honesty, relationship, realistic expectations, love. Perfectionism is never strength. Seriously. Never.
  14. Forgive yourself. Daily. Forgive others too.
  15. When people experience loss, don’t hide from them. They need you. Lean into your own discomfort and hold them. We have this tendency to try to minimize/ignore each other’s pain because it makes US feel better. Bad. Don’t do it. Walk into the sorrow with them and hang out. Even if it feels awkward. Of course respect people’s space and allow them time to be by themselves – but do what you can to make sure they know that they are not alone.
  16. Eat well. Take the time to prepare meals, eat them slowly, and as often as possible, eat them with good people. Oh, and eat your veggies, they really ARE good for you.
  17. Take pictures sometimes, but also just experience things without the camera so you can soak it in and have the memory fixed in your mind. If you live deeply you likely won’t need a camera to remember the most important experiences.
  18. Cry when you need to. The whole idea that crying or emotion implies weakness is just plain wrong. Honor your emotions and mourn or weep or be sad when you need to. Don’t be concerned with how it makes you look. Be attuned to how you feel and explore what is making you feel that way, then process those things in a way that honors your selfhood and allows your community to do the same.
  19. Dare greatly – check out Brené Brown on this one. Her research is legit. Everyone – EVERYONE – should read her books.
  20. Eat ice cream from the carton every now and then…but not too often…I’ll let you decide what “too often” means.
  21. Have hope. Don’t let fear control you. Conquer fear with hope.
  22. Listen to good music. Heck, listen to bad music. Just Listen to music. And make playlists for life – they help remind you of who you are in certain seasons, or who you aspire to be. And if you have the means, do yourself a favor and go see a Broadway musical.
  23. Procrastination is a defense mechanism. When you catch yourself procrastinating, pause, tell those internal messages to shut-up, take a deep breath, and carry on. I have lots more to say on this one, if you’re a procrastinator we should talk…
  24. Be nice. There is no excuse for belittling others. Sometimes people really piss you off, even then, be nice. Through your actions you’ll begin to teach them to do the same.
  25. Remember that everyone has a bigger story than you will ever know. Cut them (and yourself) some slack. We all were created good, so when you interact with another person, remember that they are just as good as you are. Treat both yourself and the other person as a cherished treasure.
  26. Arguments happen. Resolve them. Don’t give up on the person or the other side of the argument. That’s not fair. Have hope that they can change, but more importantly listen to them with a willingness yourself to be changed.
  27. Figure out what your strengths are and allow those to influence how you are in this world.
  28. Be an advocate for those who do not have a voice, not just with your words, but also with your actions.
  29. Find your way to commune with God. All things can be done as an act of worship (save for those that harm). Figure out what that looks life for you and do that unceasingly.
  30. Love.

That’s my spiel. My plan is to spend the next 30+ years perfecting my own ability to live these out, and maybe even come up with 30 or so more… Let’s live well. Together.

Peace.

Claudia Renee Fisher.

Hymns: My God, my Father, while I stray…

My God, my Father, while I stray
Far from my home on life’s rough way
Oh, teach me from my heart to say,
“Thy will be done.”

Though dark my path and sad my lot,
Let me be still and murmur not
Or breathe the prayer divinely taught,
“Thy will be done.”

What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved, no longer nigh,
Submissive still would I reply–
“Thy will be done.”

Though Thou hast called me to resign
What most I prized, it ne’er was mine;
I have but yielded what was Thine–
“Thy will be done.”

Should grief or sickness waste away
My life in premature decay,
My Father, still I strive to say,
“Thy will be done.”

Let but my fainting heart be blest
With Thy sweet Spirit for its Guest;
My God, to Thee I leave the rest–
“Thy will be done.”

Renew my will from day to day;
Blend it with Thine and take away
All that now makes it hard to say,
“Thy will be done.”

Then, when on earth I breathe no more,
The prayer, oft mixed with tears before,
I’ll sing upon a happier shore,
“Thy will be done.”

Hymn #418
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Matt. 26:42
Author: Charlotte Elliott, 1834-1839
Composer: Johann D. Meyer, 1692
Tune: “Es ist kein Tag”

I believe…

I believe in the power of connection.
I believe that desire is a beautiful thing, not to be hidden or stuffed away.
I believe love trumps all. ALL.
I believe truth is frightening, but worth it.
I believe that self sufficiency is utter garbage.
I believe that we rush through pain far too quickly.
I believe that I am so very small, but that I also have so very much to offer.
I believe that about all people, even the mean ones.
I believe ignorance kills, hope saves, and grace should be given (to others and oneself) far more often.
I believe we are complex creatures that do not fit into anything even closely resembling a mold.
I believe in a God who is immanent and transcendent.
I believe that this God is okay with my doubts.
I believe that this God has given the Spirit as my advocate.
I believe this Spirit offers a real freedom, should I be willing to allow her into my journey.
I believe beauty can be found in the brokenness and the blessings.
I believe peace is a learned state.
I believe I often fail to acknowledge my privilege.
I believe knowing who you are and what you believe is vital for authenticity.

And I believe that all of these beliefs are just the beginning…