I figure it’s time to give an update on life and let you know what I’ve been working on that I’ve hinted about and which I’m so excited about. Here we go!
For those wondering where I’m living right now and what I’m doing, I quit my teaching job in California at the end of the school year, which means that since June, I have been unemployed, though in a planned way. As everyone started heading back to school over the last week or so, I realized this year is only the fourth in my 30 years where I have not had a first day of school. The other three go to the year when I wrote my book between stints teaching in Hawaii and my first two years of life (yeah, I went to 2-year-old preschool…apparently someone needed a break).
There were many reasons I quit my teaching job, but one of the biggest was because I’m in the process of starting a non-profit, and I knew that with my seven different roles at school, it was never going to happen. It’s sort of how I felt when I knew I needed to write my book but also knew there was no way that was going to happen while teaching high school English (a.k.a. grading papers and reading literature in my “time off”). For the past two years, God’s been reminding me of my heart for those with cancer, and for more than a year, I’ve been working on a vision of starting a faith-based cancer retreat (more on that later!).
Here’s the thing: I thought I was taking a sort of “token” faith-step, a hop, if you will. I knew I was supposed to step out in faith, and I thought that because of my obedience, God would quickly replace my job with something and all would go smoothly. However, as the summer has worn on, I feel like God’s been saying, “Hey, remember that token faith-step you thought you were taking? Haha. It was actually jumping off a cliff, and you’re in freefall. But I’ve got you.”
This image of cliff jumping has come to symbolize my summer and my continuing days of unemployment. Early in July, a guest speaker at my church in Carlsbad talked about what happens when we let Jesus get bigger in our lives, namely that our egos get smaller when we recognize His greatness and, at the same time, our lives get bigger.
He shared an anecdote about a time he was hiking and the cliff-side trail stopped, so to continue on, he and his friend had to jump off “a rock” and swim a little bit to climb up and continue on, or at least that’s how his friend described it. When they got there, the “rock” was more like a “cliff” and the taller height made a big difference, fear-wise. A 5-foot jump? No problem! 20 feet? Ummmm…
The speaker shared that jumping from a 5 foot rock is pretty much the same concept as jumping from a 20 foot rock, except the problem with the second one is in the hang time. With the taller jump, there’s more time in the air, which means a longer time in the unknown, having to surrender to gravity.
That image resonated with me, and that’s why I feel like this summer has been “My Summer of Cliff Jumping.” I thought I was taking a little hop, but it’s turned out to be a cliff-jump. Essentially, both required faith, and both involved quitting my job, trusting God to provide, and following His leading to unknown places. Yet, the longer I’ve been unemployed, the closer the end of the month slash the end of my lease comes, and the more I wait, the more time I have “in the air,” waiting in the unknown, surrendering to God’s purposes and will.
I don’t love heights. I heard a report on the radio once that psychologists think people don’t like heights because we subconsciously know we have the capacity to throw ourselves off of them. Yeah, that’s not my problem with heights. I don’t feel a subconscious urge to throw myself off a cliff or act recklessly. On the contrary: I think the reason I don’t like heights is because I’m not the most balanced human, and I tend to trip and fall, so being by edges of cliffs makes me nervous. But maybe even more than my propensity to stumble and fall is my fear of the hang time, the unknown that you have no choice but to accept as you freefall from that height, uncertainty lurking at the bottom.
I’m not a huge risk-taker. Some of you may look at my moves in the past decade and disagree, but what I’ve learned about myself is that I take “safe” risks. Moving to Hawaii wasn’t that risky because I had vacationed there many times, had been on a mission trip there and seen what it was like to actually live there and not just vacation, and knew a couple people on Oahu before I moved. Moving out to California wasn’t that risky either—I knew the headmaster of my school, I had a couple of college roommates and volleyball teammates within an hour or two away, and I ended up convincing a friend of mine to also move out and teach at my school. These and so many more moves have been fairly safe risks, where the unknown wasn’t completely unknown.
But here I am, in the unknown. I have some cousins in the area, and many friends have offered to let me stay with them in this waiting period, but there’s a lot that’s unknown here in this hop-turned-cliff-jump.
Maybe that’s why, when I went to Hawaii for a couple of weeks in July, I finally made myself jump off Waimea Rock. It was on my “Hawaii Bucket List” during the years I lived there, and it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do since then, but I never could work up the courage to find people to go with me (read: to go with and force me to jump) and commit to actually doing it. But when I heard that sermon a week before I left for Hawaii, I thought, yep, I have to jump off Waimea Rock.
In some subconscious, faithless way, my desire to finally jump off the rock may have been a way of asserting control, or saying, “If I’m going to be in freefall, at least this way is on my terms.” Hopefully it wasn’t me shaking my fist at God, though; hopefully it was more about me embracing the freefall, saying, “Okay, Lord, if this hop of faith is really a freefall cliff-jump of faith, then I’m all in. I’m going for it.”
So I jumped from the rock. Twice. (Shoutout to Kailey and the Topping family for making it happen!) Many of my friends and lots of my former students in Hawaii and California have done it, so it’s not the world’s greatest feat, but I feel like it was something I needed to do to remind myself that God’s got me, even when the height of the cliff is scary and the unknown depth looms below. A week later, on Kauai, I jumped by a waterfall into even more uncertain, less-touristed depths, and again I felt the scary thrill of surrendering everything to gravity.
So here I am: 30 years old, unemployed, soon-to-be-homeless, and yet at peace. I mean, I know I should be nervous, and maybe I’m just avoiding really going there. But I think this summer of cliff jumping has been a great reminder that I’m not in control, that God has a great plan which I know will be clear in hindsight, and that He’s providing for me.
The first way I’ve seen that is with this retreat. I’ll devote a whole post to this soon, but my vision is coming to reality, and my faith-based cancer retreat was officially approved a couple of weeks ago. Still Waters Cancer Retreat should be launching with its inaugural retreat next summer, and I’m so excited to share the ways God has been preparing me for this, laying this on my heart, and opening doors for this. In fact, though I’ve applied to many jobs and had multiple plans come and go over the summer, it seems like the only doors that are opening in my life right now are for this retreat, and I can be okay with that.
Still Waters is my labor of love, my burying my treasure in a field (Matthew 13:44), something I’m confident that I’m called to. I’m definitely excited to share more, but for now, you can check out the website: Still Waters Cancer Retreat. Let me know if you have questions!
To wrap things up: cliff jumping is scary. The higher the cliff, the longer time we have in the air, which means the more we have to give ourselves over to the inevitable forces that are truly in control (physically: gravity; spiritually: God). I’m in that place right now—I’m in freefall. I’m hoping that’s not a hitting-rock-bottom-freefall where someone’s going to have to call an intervention. Instead, I hope that in my freefall, I wait well, I trust one day at a time, and I remember that the God who calls me is faithful and that Christ jumped first by entering into our world and giving Himself in obedience to the Father’s calling and for our sakes. So may you, as you take faith steps, hops, or cliff-jumps, also surrender yourself to the One who calls you, trusting that He’s gone before and has got you.