Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Awkward and Clumsy and Stupid and Old

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, 
          who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 
will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; 
          my God, in whom I trust.” 
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler 
          and from the deadly pestilence; 
he will cover you with his pinions, 
          and under his wings you will find refuge; 
          his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 
You will not fear the terror of the night, 
          or the arrow that flies by day, 
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, 
          or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
~psalm 91:1-6
I saw this in the home of my friend, Jonathan.

Ten years ago, I learned to ski. I was the youth pastor at a church in California, and the youth group had gone every year for a decade to downhill ski at a resort called June Lake. We stayed in a cabin near the ski lifts. It was one mountain away from Mammoth, but what we liked about June was that
all the slopes, beginner-immediate-advanced, funneled into one landing strip. You could sit at the bottom of that hill and watch the students come down again and again--no matter which lift they took up which hill, they all ended up in the same place at the end. It was a youth pastor's dream to not have to chase all over 27 ski lifts to find everybody. So we always went to June.

I had never skied before when I took the job, and I was less than enthusiastic about learning. I was 30 and had the sense that I was done learning new things--especially something that required that much physical skill. The students learned quickly and easily--fearlessly. But that first year I took a student who was scared, and so we took a beginner lesson together.

It was awful.

I fell down about 8 billion times. My skis crossed. I felt awkward and clumsy and stupid and old. The whole long weekend I felt that.

The next year I went, thinking I would just sit at the bottom of the hill and count students. Except another student came who was scared. So we took a beginner lesson together. I lied and said I'd never skiied before so I could take the beginner beginner lesson with her.

And it was awful.

I fell down 8.5 billion times. My skis crossed. I felt awkward and clumsy and stupid and old. The whole long weekend I felt that. And plus, I felt like a fraud for lying. And PLUS I felt incompetent because surely I must have learned something the last year.

The next year I went, determined to drink hot cocoa and read a book in the lodge. I wouldn't even LOOK at the slopes. But a few students wanted to take a lesson. One student, who had the habit of just jumping off cliffs and trusting the skis to do what they do, said, "Don't take a LESSON, Katie! Just come out on the black diamond slopes with me. By the time you get to the bottom, you'll know how to ski. It will just happen." 

By then I was 32. And I was pretty sure learning to ski was not going to "just happen", although I might "just happen" to break bones. So I took the lesson with the students. This time we all told the truth that we'd skiied before at least once. 

And it was awful.

I fell down 9 billion times. My skis crossed. I felt awkward and clumsy and stupid and old. The whole weekend I felt that. But at least I wasn't a liar. 

The FOURTH year I went and planned to rent skis. I figured I'd try a run and see how it went before I signed up for a lesson. I didn't fall off the lift or lose a ski on the way up.

And halfway down something clicked in my brain and body and suddenly I was swish swooshing down the slope. I can't describe it. But if you ski, you know what I'm talking about. No black diamonds for me, but I could feel that my body knew what to do, and I could focus on laughing again. I wasn't afraid.

And it was beautiful.

I felt the same way a few years ago when I started to take dance lessons. There was a tiny studio in Trenton, that I found by walking about the neighborhood. The instructor taught salsa on Mondays. Two middle aged white ladies trying to get their dance on. It was a bit on the excruciating side. Every now and then a man would wander into the class. Usually he was there because his fiancée wanted to dance at the wedding, or whatever. They lasted about 2 weeks before they ran screaming from the studio. We middle aged white women were a little tough on men, I guess. Oh here, I wrote a post about the salsa class.

It took about a year of weekly classes to learn how to dance without wanting to die of self-consciousness. I still don't know if I could dance partnered--I don't follow or lead well. *shrug*

But oh the demons of doubt and fear and helplessness and incompetence! I don't like not knowing! I don't like learning new! How much I love being in control and doing the things I have already become accomplished at! I nearly quit 8 billion times in that year. I'm so glad I didn't.

And that was 2 years ago when I moved a bit away and started working full time again. The dance class moved to a different time, and I didn't have the money. So I let it sit, and went back to pastoring with youth, which I know how to do.

But tonight I went and tried a new thing. A thing I've been promising myself to learn for a long time. And I'm not ready to share it because I feel small and incompetent--it's too new. All my demons came out. The teacher is nice enough, but I don't LIKE being a student. It was awkward and awful and I wanted to quit 8 billion times in the half hour we met.

I laughed that horrible nervous half laugh that says "I'm a 14 year old girl who is scared of the world." I laughed that laugh about 8 billion times. Pretty sure the poor guy thought I was going to stroke out.

Oh how I hate feeling small.

But I can see how in a few weeks, a few months, a few years, that my body will shift. The muscle memory will develop, the habits will form. It won't take conscious effort, just time dedicated. 

I want this.

So until that shift happens, I'll just keep pressing on. And after every half hour, cringe-worthy lesson, I will crawl back into the shadow of the Most High, and I will say, "Dear God I feel small."

And God will say, "Little one, you are small, but so lovely. I delight in you."



  1. Ah, Katie, I loved this. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Amen. That's how belly dancing started out for me. Every day I show up to class is a triumph over the voices in my head telling me I'm too old, too out of shape, too clumsy, etc. And every day I show up, those voices get quieter and less demanding.
    Can't wait to hear what this new thing is!

  3. I taught ski lessons for 8 years and nervous beginners like you were my very favorite students. As an instructor, it was so much more fun to see someone who was scared grow into a confident skier than teaching someone who was ready to jump off a cliff.

  4. I'm at work and now I'm crying - what a gift this is to me on this day!

  5. Katie...what a wonderful and heartfelt story...I personally understand tge skiing experience...I was 28 when I dared to attempt to learn...ann


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