Monday, April 13, 2015

Worms on the sidewalk

Good Morning.  “Thank you” doesn’t seem adequate to express my appreciation to you for your kind words, thoughts, prayers, and countless private messages, e-mails, phone calls and other gestures of love and support in the past few weeks as I picked up the pieces of my broken engagement.  Just know that your thoughtfulness and kindness means a great deal to me and that as each day comes and goes, I’m slowly finding my way back to the ‘main trail” of my journey and in time, I’ll be, NOT… “as good as new”….but “BETTER THAN EVER”….because my experiences these past several months have taught me many things and, in spite of the ‘ups and down’s, I am grateful for the experiences and am stronger; wiser; and grateful for the ‘side-trip’ of my life’s journey.

It was a lovely, sunny weekend (with an ‘extra day off” thanks to a power outage at the college on Friday and a “no school day”) and the temperatures in northern Michigan were in the 50’s and 60’s. Spring is definitely in the air. I have some tulips and daffodils that are beginning to poke up from the ground; the ice is off the lakes; and there is only a little bit of piled up snow remaining in the ditches and shaded areas of the woods. I managed to finish the two essays, one quiz, one exam and 5 chapters of college homework that was due this weekend taking even more stress off my weary mind. We are definitely heading in the right direction and my semester ends in about 3 weeks!  I even got my new pool put up yesterday and it should be ready to start filling with water by next weekend….that is, if I get the water “un-winterized” this week.  LOL.  Nothing like rushing the season, eh? Summer is a long ways away, but I think God knew I needed a warm, sunny weekend to attempt to divert my attention to better days ahead.  In spite of the sunshine, though, I thought a lot about earthworms for the past few days.

Let me explain…. Two days last week it was raining heavily when I went into work and as I walked up the sidewalk into the college I noticed the first batch of worms of the season creeping across the wet pavement. I counted 40 of them in a short distance! Typically, I would say, “Yuck”…as I tried to avoid stepping on those slimy creatures, but I was actually happy to see them after a long winter. Those worms are a welcome sign of spring after a long, cold winter and they actually caused a small….and rare, these days….smile to form for a brief time as I thought about the better days ahead.

As I walked to my office, I remembered a little ditty that I used to sing to my students when they were feeling sorry for themselves or pouting. It goes like this: “Nobody loves me….everybody hates me… I think I’ll eat some worms.”   The silliness of those words often was enough to cause a smile and sometimes even brought the child out of the “poor me” mood that he/she was in.  I’ve been in-and-out of that mood for a few weeks, but thoughts of  “nobody loving me”  certainly were proven wrong after the outpouring of friendship I’ve received in recent days!  Sometimes, however, how we are FEELING doesn’t match up to the reality of our lives and we forget that we are abundantly blessed and surrounded by God’s grace. Those silly worms reminded me, that YES…even on rainy days… I AM incredibly blessed and have much to be grateful for!!!

And so… I’ve been pondering what God might be saying to me from an abundance of worms creeping across the sidewalk on not one, but two, rainy days in a row.  Several years ago, I was like most girls: I hated worms and was grossed out by their slimy bodies. Now, after learning about their value to my gardens and my renewed interest in fishing, I’ve come to recognize that they are very beneficial to the soil, as food for the birds and other wildlife in the yard, and as bait (well, more like food because I lose them all the time) for the bluegills I love to catch. Ugly…yes; slimy….certainly; mushy and wiggly and somewhat creepy….no doubt; but nonetheless, very valuable to the environment.  And so…..I wondered….WHY…did I notice them on the sidewalk?  Why have I been thinking about them all weekend?  WHAT was God teaching me about my journey?  Hmm…………..

I started with the question, “Why do worms come up to the surface during rainy, stormy weather in the first place?”  As a kid I heard that it was to avoid drowning in their burrows, but I later learned that that isn’t the case for all worms as some can survive in the lakes for a period of time. Then I heard or read that sometimes they came up to the surface to take advantage of the moisture which makes it easier to mate or to move from one place to another. Another theory is that the pelting of the rain on the surface reminded them of the sounds a mole makes and they came up to avoid being eaten up.  Hmmm……I began to think about those silly worms and what I can learn from them to help me on my journey.

First…..IF…it is true that they are trying to avoid drowning during a storm…..what a great lesson to “GET OUT OF THE ENVIRONMENT” and look up….get up……rise up…..or stay there and wallow and drown in the misery of a storm/rainy day that the worm has absolutely no control over. The same is true in our own lives.  When the stormy, dark days happen.....when troubles, illness, or heartbreak comes our way….most of the time it’s beyond on our control….we really do have a choice in how we respond to it.  For a while, it might be tempting to stay there and wallow… bury oneself even deeper in the darkness and safety of the earth….to avoid coming to the surface and interacting with others……to just stay stagnant and wait to be swallowed up by the elements or depression…….BUT…….if one is to survive; to live; to breathe… needs to be like that worm and work one’s way up to the surface…..TO RISE above the storms and raging waters….to keep moving UP…looking UP…fighting one’s way to the safety of the light….even when/if it’s hard.

Next…..if the worm is truly coming to the surface to mate…..then one must realize that doing so is risky because that worm on the surface is taking a chance on getting eaten by a bird, stomped on by a passerby, or run over by a vehicle.  It becomes vulnerable to be ‘out there” to be visible and unprotected on the sidewalk where it could be hurt, but in order to connect (in whatever way worms connect) it must take that chance.  Otherwise, it could stay buried and protected in the safety of the earth’s burrow and darkness.  Likewise, I have learned that trusting others, opening up to love and friendship, makes one vulnerable. It means laying one’s soul, one’s fears, one’s heart out to another, knowing that it could be trampled on.  BUT…..those earthworms are HEARTY….and if something takes a bite of, or chops part of its body off….it can regenerate and regrow that broken piece. It can take A LOT before succumbing to the abuse.  We, too, must sometimes risk failure….or take a chance, not just on love, but each and every time we try to do something that we are uncertain of. Every time we “START OVER” on a weight loss or life changing plan, we risk failure. Every time we try to reconcile or forgive someone who has hurt us, we risk being hurt or disappointed again. Every time we start a new job, a new diet, take a new class, or try to do something we’ve never done before, we become like that worm and we ‘put ourselves out there” where we could be trampled on, disappointed, make mistakes, or eaten up by anyone who doesn’t support us.  We must take a chance….on life….on love….on ourselves….if we are to reach our goals.  But…we have to remember that, like that worm, we CAN REGENERATE if we get wounded. We CAN survive a bit of pain. We CAN bounce back if we get hurt or we fail or we get stepped on by life’s cruelty.  WE CAN….and WE WILL…. if we trust that God is with us and allow Him to heal us.

Finally….if the worm is truly taking advantage of the water to help it move from one place to another easier, than we can realize that the storms and hardships in our life are actually opportunities for us to get from ONE PLACE to another with ease.  Certainly, I am a better person today because of my relationship with Bruce, not necessarily because of the heartache and broken engagement, but because of the good things that came from our time together; the things I learned about myself; the ways in which I allowed myself to trust and be loved; the barriers that were broken down through our interaction, and the things that I’ve experienced. I learned valuable lessons in trust, communication, commitment, and recently, forgiveness and humility.  I am in a “different place” in my head today than I was a year ago….and my current and future friendships will be improved because I have grown as a person through love and loss.  Sometimes, when we look back on periods of life when things were difficult or trying, we realize that without that illness or health scare, we may not have made the lifestyle changes that literally saved our life; without the death of our loved one, we would not have come to appreciate the gift of life and those around us; without the struggles of raising kids, the heartache of defeat; the times of trouble, we would NOT have changed our thoughts, our actions, our behavior and we would STILL BE IN THAT PLACE of heartache, pain, or addiction.  It is the ‘hard times’ that test us…that challenge us….that threaten to consume us…and are very often  the vehicle in which we move to a much better place in our heads and our lives.

And so….today… I move forward on my journey, I remind you that, like an earthworm… ME… have a choice to either stay in the comfort and security of your burrow (whatever that may mean to you) or you can RISE above whatever temptation, fear, anxiety, or struggle you are faced with; you must be willing to be vulnerable, make a mistake, experience a set-back, or be hurt if you wish to find fulfillment and change your reality; and every hard time; every trial or bad day is really just an opportunity to MOVE TO A BETTER PLACE in life.  Changing one’s life is hard work and sometimes, in the process, we get hurt; we get eaten up; we fail and we face struggles…..but it is truly just PART OF THE JOURNEY…..and eventually, we will find our way if we keep moving in the right direction!