Chapter 3: Leave Room for the Unexpected

It was raining the first time I saw her face.

It was raining and I was wearing hot pink rain boots, a navy wool sweater, and my hair was long, curly-frizzy, and stuck out a foot from my head. Her sleek blonde hair hung in waves down her back and she look every inch the West Coast mama that she is.

We are very different, but most days our hearts are similar.

There is an episode of Friendswhere Phoebe insists Ross and Rachel are each other’s lobsters. “Lobsters mate for life,” she tells them and leaving them and us with the image of little crustaceans wandering off down the beach claw in claw. Some people find it in their love relationships and some people find that in their crew, their friends. That’s part of the friendship which developed between Corie Clark and I. She is my lobster.

That rainy February evening was in San Diego the night before Storyline. We’d already known each other eight months and a hundred phone calls and a few traumatic life experiences, but San Diego bonded us. It was there we connected with another writer friend of ours, Nicole Romero, and talked life, writing, God, and healing. They were both on their way in the latter one. I didn’t know it but I had a long way to go.

Corie, myself, and Nicole in San Diego at Storyline

I was a mess when they found me that February but they embraced me right where I was; holding my hand, hugging my neck, talking me off of a few unwise emotional ledges. The following August when I asked both of them to be dreamers I spoke to on my trip, they readily agreed.

I sat down with Corie on her back patio that September day, eight months after we had first hugged each other. The sun shone through the slats in her gazebo and bounced off the water in the mason jars before us. We laughed nervously at the camera on us and immediately dove into the deep end of her work.

She had recently written a book called The Simplicity Project.

As I was planning to write a book or many books, I asked her what brought her to the place of wanting to write.

She leaned in and began to speak, “It just kind of happened. My husband always said told me I should write one. I’ve been writing since I was little, so it makes sense. The more I had my own spiritual awakening and began to realize there was more to life than being a wife and mother. Not that those aren’t enough, but you can take your marriage and your family into your purpose with you. And there’s a way bigger purpose for you. It’s not about “this part of me is married” and “this part of me is mom,” it all goes together. I can’t be a good writer if I’m not a good wife and mom, but I can’t be a good wife and mom if I’m not being who I was meant to be either. I really feel like it is all connected, so I don’t want to leave out any of the parts either. As I started to wake up and realize all of this; I started to write about it.”

This wasn’t the book she wanted to begin with either. She has a book which has been burning in her soul for a long time and when I asked her how it felt to write this one first, she laughed nervously and answered, “This really isn’t my best, it’s my second best. I struggled with it, kind of wanted to put it off. I felt like I needed to share what my struggle was and address it. Everyone has a stumbling block keeping them from their dream. For me it was being stretched too thin. I need to remove those stumbling blocks in order to have time to write. I figured other people had some of those same problems too. I wondered if I should be giving this first book so much attention, but I thought as soon as I take care of this then I can get back to my original plan.”

I was in awe. A community has sprung up around the first book she had written and I wondered how this was all working out. I asked her if that had happened, if writing the book had enabled her to simplify her life.

“I’m forced to live out this,” she told me, trying to speak over the dog snoring in the sun next to us, “There are more things coming from it than I was expecting. It morphed into more. There’s a community which has come into it. Before I lived out the Simplicity Project, I would never have had the time or energy. It’s what I have to do now and I’m fine with it.”

I wondered aloud if everyone has this same battle to fight on their way to living their big dream.

She paused. “I think people struggle with something on the way. There is always somethingstanding in their way which they have control over and they don’t even realize it. I kind of got to the point where I realized if I really want to be a writer and an author there were changes I needed to make. I was the one standing in the way of it. No matter what it is that’s keeping you; it’s usually your own fault. You have to get over it. No one else is going to get over it for you.”

I liked these words. I liked the idea of taking ownership of your life and overcoming obstacles and fighting through. I asked her if this was hard for her; if she had to fight through the idea of change.

“I didn’t necessarily fight it. There are things I still have to do, but I have to be intentional about it. It’s more important to me to address the issues and get them out of the way.”

I thought of all the hard work she had put into her current book and was putting into the day plannershe was hard at work on to accompany it. My mind wandered over my own trip and her future book and I remembered the people who had whispered how easy it was for the two of us, “Do you notice people will say “things justhappen for you?” I asked her.

“Yeah. People just say well you’re just good at that kind of stuff. You’re just made for that, but everyone is made for a purpose. But I decided that I wasn’t going to settle and I was going to go for it.” I agreed with that. Talent and ability are useful but hard work and pursuit is what gets you to where you want to go. When I asked if she thought there was anything that set her apart, she said, “I don’t think you have to be born with it. You can acquire a taste for it." 

"The longer you live your dreams, you realize there is always more…you never arrive.”

The camera turned off without either of us realizing it, but the interview had taken a much more personal turn and we both agreed that it was probably for the best. Through tears and laughter we shared the journeys our dreams were continuing to take us on. They were unexpected and not at all what we had planned.

Kind of like what happened next.

I had planned to meet with Nicole that afternoon to interview her. Nicole Romero is a pastor, writer, and the founder of Love and Making It, an e-course which helps women develop comfort with intimacy. Her story is as beautiful as she is. I was supposed to meet her and as I rounded an Orange County curb in my tiny rental car at ten mph, I heard a crunch. My tire was toast. Somehow I had managed to crush the entire thing. That interview never happened, but it led to Nicole showing up at the house and she, Corie, and I spending an evening gallivanting about town.

We cried while standing in a Pep Boys for an hour. We laughed over whiskey in a nameless chain restaurant. And we held hands and hugged in a suburban driveway as our hearts were knit. Sometimes life mutinies in ways we don’t expect. It takes us on adventures we didn’t plan and ones we’re not exactly sure we want to go on when they begin. It leaves us with a few damages. But if we look for it, there will always be beauty in the unexpected.