Lofoten, Norway. Where Aaron & R were.
“Find your own quiet center of life
and write* from that to the world.”
(Sarah Orne Jewett to Willa Cather, who asked for advice)
*this is not necessarily about writing— it is about whatever gift God put in you to share with the world, and we all have one
It’s funny how a little thing can jar you back toward reality.
I got a postcard in the mail yesterday evening from Norway. Aaron sent it from way north above the Arctic Circle where he stayed with his wife for a few weeks in that isolated place with its massive granite rocks, birch trees, wildberries, and northern lights.
The photo on the card is magical. Snow falling on the town below those gigantic granite rocks. Everything white except for the cosy red cottages along the water. It’s the spirit of Christmas, and I can’t stop looking at it.
The message, written by Aaron’s hand, touched me deeply. It was a simple message of his enjoyment of that isolated place, but somehow his words made me feel loved, thought about, and included.
It’s the sweetest card I can remember receiving, but I think I’ve forgotten a lot. I think I’ve lost a lot. I think in going (necessarily) in my new direction in life, I’ve lost touch with something essential. Somehow, I’ve lost touch with part of who I am. My quiet center, I think.
It didn’t need to happen, but it did, and now I want to regain that center.
I can’t explain well what I mean without first sharing the words Aaron wrote. They aren’t private or personal. They just deeply understand me—who I am, what I love, what fills me up. My quiet center.
Hej from Norge!
I know you already have some sense of this, but I’m going to start off by saying Norway is your kind of place. Especially these remote areas. Coffee is great, incredible views are impossible to avoid (a three mile hike can lead you past a chain of mountain lakes surrounded by birch, waterfalls, granite cliffs, and tons of wild berries), seafood is spectacular, air is clean, and the accomodation quite cosy. Both N and I have had a wonderful time, and I thought on numerous occasions how much you would enjoy it. We should come back here with you in the future!
Love from N & Aaron!
P.S. The Northern Lights rank in my absolute top experiences of nature.
(fish burgers: white fish, potato starch, leeks, cream)
When I read this note, I felt a big welling up of sweetness and happiness. And I realized that this is a little masterpiece of thoughtfulness. Aaron is telling me about his trip and what he loved, but it is also about me and how I would love it, too. He knows me. He was thinking of me. And his words show it through and through.
Every item Aaron mentioned is what I love deeply. In fact, his words almost define me, and he knows this because He knows me. And he is like that, too. In this, we are deep kindred spirits. Others may love all of the things on this list, too, but Aaron gets how fundamentally meaningful they are to me. He knows my mind, my heart, my needs.
“Remote. Coffee. Views. Hike. Mountains lakes. Birds. Waterfalls. Granite cliffs. Wild berries. Seafood. Clean air. Cosy accomodations. Your kind of place.” It’s not that these particular places and things encompass and define all of me, but they capture the spirit of who I am.
I know Aaron, and I know he was not thinking, “How can I encourage or bless Mom?” The letter is not contrived like that because Aaron pretty much despises anything contrived or set up to evoke a response. He was simply being thoughtful in sending this particular card and message—one that feels natural, spontaneous, and real—because he knew that my kindred spirit would be fed by spending weeks (not days) in that remote, quiet place, too.
Here’s the thing. I read the card, and I smiled. And then I got hit with a sense of deep thoughtfulness on Aaron’s part that brought tears to my eyes. And then there was a profound sense of loss that made those welling tears fall hard.
I couldn’t help but wonder what made it so powerful to me? Why did I feel so understood? So included? And why did it break my heart? First, it is what I just said. Kindred spirits are rare, and, in this, Aaron and I are kindred spirits. Second, I cried because I was jarred back toward reality.
I’ve lost touch with my beautiful quiet center. I’ve lost touch with what fills me up and gives energy and bubbling joy to my heart, mind, and gifts. Honestly, I thought back to the high desert, where I was very much connected to my quiet center. I haven’t quite had that since. At first, the center was still in sight, and I was able to keep hold of that spirit, but the trajectory got off, and time took my orbit further and further away from that center.
This is not a matter of me needing to accept being in a new location or a new life situation or living a “new season” of life. I do that already. It is a matter of me needing to insist on living the kind of life I need to live, even if others do not understand (more on this later). Because lately I feel almost unauthentic, not me—like I am a square peg trying to fit myself amiably into a round hole so that everyone around me will be comfortable and happy.
Let me briefly say that I am not even slightly unhappy or discontented with my life. I believe I am where God wants me. But I have long felt a disconnect from my old self, and I’ve explained it away by a need to live in this new reality. That explanation missed the key. The key is that I’ve lost touch with my quiet center, and that center never changes. It is what makes me me.
I am not writing this to cry or mourn. I am not writing it to get encouragement or commiseration. I don’t need advice. I know what my quiet center is. No one can guide me (or you) in finding this because they will always lead us toward their own center. We find our own quiet center, and it is what fuels our particular life—the creative, joyful, convivial life that is our unique gift to the world.
Do you know your quiet center?
Obviously, the real center is Jesus. It all emanates from His life in me, in you, in all of us. This is what makes us authentic. This is what makes us beautiful and wonderfully different from everyone else, like a snowflake.
Our particular interests, desires, fascinations, ideas, delights, tastes, artistic inclinations (and we all have these!), our view of what is cool, fun, beautiful, etc. all emanate from the way God made us. These are not trivial or disposable. They are what makes us us. This is holy.
The quiet center is what fuels the life, and the life is what feeds the quiet center. It is a self-perpetuating circle once it gets going.
No one is like you or me. We all need to share our unique perspective and our unique gifts. When we do, we make God more fully known. It is from our own quiet center that we are our truest selves and gain impetus, creativity, and inspiration to share our gifts with those around us—the whole world!
Do you know your quiet center? Do you know how to find it?
I have more on this already written, but I don’ t want to share it all at once. I will share more tomorrow, and perhaps even more the next day. This is super important to me right now. My aim is to clear away the noise and clutter, as well as the misunderstandings and opinions of others that have unwittingly led me away from my most fundamental center, and to reestablish the kind of life I need to live to stay connected to my quiet center. I need to find that same old center in this new place. I’ll talk more about this because I think it is important.
(Thank you so much, Aaron! I’m glad you have always insisted on maintaining your own quiet center, even against the opinions of others. It makes you so different and wonderful. I love you!)