I made it a goal to extend the days and make summer last as long as possible: to spend time doing the things I am passionate about, with the people I care most about, and to try new things – even things that scare me.
I am a practiced extrovert. That means that if you see me at an event, in a meeting, at the registration table, at the grocery store, or in church, I’ll greet you with an exuberant smile, a hug, and happily engage you in conversation. Inside, I’m reminding myself to breathe, to stay focused on what’s in front of me, and to be brave enough to step forward and not hide. So trying new things and putting myself in new settings is hard for me, but I’ve come to love the challenge of it. I love “conquering” it.
So, this summer’s challenge was paddle boarding. I’ve seen people on the lake and at the ocean engaged in this activity, enjoying a leisurely stroll across the water. I jealously watched from my beach chair on shore as they were going by, standing up straight and tightening their inner core (both physically and spiritually) and enjoying nature and the beauty around them. They seemed to be “praying in motion”. That’s my kind of exercise, I thought!! But to try it meant lessons and putting myself in a situation that I didn’t have control over or know anyone. I made the call. I scheduled the lessons.
The first thing our instructor taught us – was to fall off!! Do the thing you are most afraid of happening, so that you realize that “failure” is not as bad as you thought it would be, and getting back up is much easier than you imagined. Then he taught us that it’s ok to kneel. You don’t always have to stand to move forward. If you’re tired or unsure, take a knee. And when we were ready, he encouraged us to stand up. He told us it was normal to have shaky legs; that it’s not just your nerves but it’s also the muscles that you don’t typically use, awakening. It’s ok. Stand still for a moment and get used to being there, in that place. Once we were comfortably moving, and pretty sure of ourselves, it was time to “rock the boat”. My instructor encouraged us to move our weight from side to side and feel the motion that YOU are creating. You are in control of your movement, not the board, not the water, not the wind. You are in motion and therefore everything around you is in rhythm with you.
Well, I love it. It’s everything I hoped it would be. I get lost in the tranquility of the noise around me, the splendor of God’s gifts that are all around us. I marvel at the dragonflies whizzing by, the sound of the water lapping at the board, the birds, the wind, the other people on the lake, laughing….and in the subtle lessons God has so creatively given to me through this exercise, on the water and off.
Stand Up PaddleBoard (SUP) Lessons: Be brave. Remember to breath. Focus on what’s in front of you. Pray. Stand up straight. Don’t be afraid to fall off. Do the things you’re most afraid of doing. If your legs are too shaky to stand, kneel. Be still. Listen. You are in control of your own movement. And when you get good and comfortable, Rock The Boat.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Sioux J. Wilusz
The Executive Assistant to the Bridge Conference Minister provides organizational support for the Bridge Conference Minister, and oversees much of the day-to-day administrative functions of the Conference.