Just before climbing on that floatplane in Kodiak Alaska, I called my husband and daughter and texted my boys. I reached my husband but couldn’t get ahold of other kids at that exact moment.
I then asked someone to take a photo of those of us about to board that bright yellow plane and tried sending it to my family, but it didn’t go through. And, I couldn’t post it on my Instagram account, either. I felt anxious.
We climbed on board and buckled up.
“How long have you been flying?” I asked the pilot as nonchalantly as I could when he joined us after he locked the doors to prepare for take off.
“I don’t know. I never applied for my license, so I’ve never had to renew it,” he said smiling as I assume he sensed my nervousness.
Okay, so it was obvious that I was a worrying mess and, let’s face it, fearful.
Fear: What if something happens to the plane? What if we run out of gas? What if we hit a mountain?
And, worry: about what my kids would do without their mom and worry about all that remained undone and worry I would be forgotten, because in the end, don’t we all want to be remembered? And to matter.
And, then as we took off on that 45-minute flight to our destination, Harvester Island Alaska, where we would be off grid for a week, another feeling hit me:
I felt Trapped.
Trapped by the feeling that I would be disconnected for a week, away from family, away from friends, away from what was familiar, away from my phone and email and no way out to communicate.
It just sunk in that moment. There was so much going on in my life and my family’s life. My son had started his sophomore year of high school, my twins had begun their second year of college and their first year as resident assistants, my daughter-in-law had started a new job and I was helping with the Sweet Little 2, and my son-in-law had begun his 24-hour rotations at the hospital making it really hard on my daughter and her two Sweet Littles.
Oh, and we were in the process of making an offer on a house and I have a book proposal due and those photo albums I never finished remained undone and my house and my friends and extended family and and and.
Fear and anxiety and overcommitment were trapping me from enjoying the adventure ahead.
Of course we are all busy in our lives, and yet, there are seasons and moments more full than others; Vina, my roommate for the week at Harvester Island, noticed that I have an especially full plate.
“You have no white space in your life right now, Cornelia, your schedule is so full. With kids and grandkids and family commitments and writing and teaching and the house search and recovery from the accident. The anxiety in your life is evident,” she sympathized.
Then she gave me Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.
“This Wilderness Workshop will be perfect for you to be able to be still,” my roommate for the week away said.
Vina knew. This was to be my roommate’s third year, and she discovered how getting away, off grid, into the wild, into the quiet, could heal your soul.
The Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop had been on my radar the past three years when I first connected with Leslie through mutual friends. She was a sponsor of our 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference. It looked like such a great week away into the wild. Then, when I met Vina at the Festival of Faith and Writing in April of this year, she asked me to be her roommate when I told her I had been wanting to attend for a while. And, I had vowed that this was the year to “get my life back,” in all areas, especially my writing life, and I so was finally able to say yes to this week away soaking up amazing teaching and doing some writing on a remote island in Alaska.
But, saying yes didn’t mean it was going to be an easy ride. The fear, the anxiety, the worry gripped me as the plane began to climb.
Then I was reminded of the verse from my roommate, and I just began repeating it. Psalm 46:10 was a passage I had memorized long before that plane ride, but it was a refreshing reminder to my soul this day.
Be still and know that I am God.
I prayed so hard it was like self-talk. Tears started streaming down my face on that floatplane, and I recalled how God rescued me in the past after being hit by an SUV. He can do anything.
Cease striving and know that I am God.
Relax, and know that I am God.
As the ride got a bit bumpier, I prayed harder and more tears.
I think the tears were more than just reflecting my fear of crashing. I think it was a bit of letting go and saying, God, you have got this. The plane ride and my week away and my family and indeed my life. All of the stress and worry and a cluttered mind with so much going on.
And, I thought of another verse: “Our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases.”
I either believed God or I didn’t. We cannot live in such a constant state of worry about the future, about what might have been, and what never will be, but rather we need to be present. Right here. Right now.
I sit on the shore on my father’s birthday, four days into the conference on Harvester. My dad is 81 years old this day. So many thoughts, so little white space. Our House situation and our kids and our three Sweet Littles and my book proposal and my writing and my marriage and my friends and my extended family. Thoughts, fears, worries, anxiety. This is no easy cure being here, but I am open to all God has for me. I sit with open notebook and pen and Bible in hand. I try to write. I think of Ann Voskamp’s words this week: “I am a waiter, not a writer.”
I wait and go to The Word. To wait.
Why am I here, I ask myself on that shore on Harvester Island September 5th? Being disconnected from social media is so good. To have the quiet, to have the white space not filled with the emptiness of the internet’s constant calling, which only numbs and fills bored crevices with more empty.
We worry about affirmation from an online world that DOES. NOT. CARE, as one of my twins recently remind me. My 20-year-old twins and my 15-year-old who have been growing up in this online world, and they even recognize this reality.
And yet, we keep striving, we keep rushing, we keep whirling in a constant state of anxiety online.
I go to Daniel 3, the spot in Scripture in which I find myself in my Through the Bible reading right now. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us. . .But, even if He does not…we are not going to serve your Gods.” (Verse 17-18).
And, then, “The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” found in Daniel 4:25
Trust. God’s got this. I know whom I serve.
I skipped dinner that day – (it was venison so it wasn’t hard to skip). I wanted quiet. I yearned for quiet. Then, I skip lunch the next day. I needed more seeking alone, and yet I worry about missing anything or anyone during this week. It stems from the lack of trust. From fear.
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Enter into your story. Tell the inner story while sharing the outer story, Leslie Leyland Fields shares during our sessions at the retreat. As I sit here alone by the sea, clouds formed in the sky, waves crashing against the shore, I think of my story. Where I am at, where I am going, who I am, who I am not, my dreams, my goals, my roles, my “You’ve done goods,” my “you’ve messed ups,” and my “where now?”
I think of author and speaker Bo Stern and how God gave her a vision for recently starting She.ology during her quiet time with the Lord. Wow.
Prayer. Seeking the Lord, the quiet. I need this. Right here. Right now. In this present moment.
And yet, my mind is flooded with so many commitments and pressures and roles.
“I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” – Psalm 40:1
And, in the waiting I try writing. Parts of My story. For His glory — the theme of the week. And yet, back to Fear.
As Leslie said this week: “Fear not that your story doesn’t matter. It matters to God, who is the author of your story. And as the writer of your story, you’re in charge of making it matter to others. Fear not that no one will read your work. Someone will. Maybe a few friends, maybe thousands of people. No one knows this when they are writing.”
For one reader. For a thousand readers. I need this reminder here. In this present space, away from it all.
And, this reminder from Ann this week: “Maybe now is the time to turn off our screens and to be still. . . . Pay attention and let go of perfection. Perfectionism will kill your skill, your spark, your art and your soul. . . . Pay attention, let go of perfection and simply write your story for His glory.”
During the week away, we had no choice but to heed Ann’s encouragement to “turn off our screens,” as we were off grid with no access to internet or phone service.
And, what If we took that notion, that idea back into our everyday lives back home, and turned off, de-tuned, de-toxed more often, more regularly? To, Pay attention. Be present. Be right here, right now.
And, continued to live into the Be still. And know. That He is.