Guest Post: Kelley Leigh {On Jumping, Not Falling}

by Laura on July 5, 2011

This is a picture of my friend Kelley and I, taken a few weeks ago on her front porch. Our paths crossed in the small town of Colorado where my husband was the youth pastor to her boys.  She writes, she works, and she literally asks the best questions of anyone I’ve ever met–ever, ever.  She’s an artist who speaks in images, and she’s a precious friend who has literally changed the course of my life.  Some of our best reminders of Community, in fact, take place with she and her husband and some other friends, around a firepit, way past kid-bedtimes, deep into conversations that seep honesty and change and grace.

Kelley just attended the Storyline Conference with author Don Miller.  I asked her to write about it, and the following is one of the stories that stirred her while there.  While she has taken a break from consistent blog-writing in an effort to focus on her family and to work on other writing projects, you can check out her other past writings at her blog, The Spill.  Promise you’ll be glad you did.

Jump

We cannot help but tremble on the brink of surrender.”

~Alan Jones*

Recently, I was at a conference in downtown Portland, Oregon with around 300 people where author, Episcopal priest, and speaker Ian Morgan Cron spoke briefly about his new book.  “Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir… of Sorts”  is a funny and painful account of his childhood longing for the love of an absent alcoholic father.

The whole audience was laughing at his animated story-telling when Ian’s tale took an unexpected turn and poked my soul. The ensuing dull ache I felt was the internal equivalent of the way my little sister used to press her boney finger into any of my exposed summertime bruises.

It was the story of a high-ledge jump.

Ian told of a nearby Connecticut quarry where his family of five would go swimming and jump off of low, medium, or high ledges down into deep water below.  When Ian’s small eight year old son decided to conquer the highest forty foot ledge, Ian was forced to wrestle with his hand-wringing parental fears.  As he waffled back and forth about allowing the high fall, his wife stepped in.  He describes it this way:

Ann stared at me, “Ian, what’s really going on here?”

I tossed my dish towel on the counter.

“Look kids get hurt doing crap like this; that’s what’s going on here.  Forty feet is a long way to fall,” I said.

Anne’s face softened, and she placed her hand on my cheek.  “Ian, they’re not falling, they’re jumping.”*

“They’re not falling, they’re jumping.” Something so true about that statement feels like a poked-bruise ache beneath my surface.  At age 45, in the throws of mid-life transition, I have been experiencing the disorientation of uncharted waters deep within my sense of self, community, and family.

Uncharted Deep Water. As my four sons grow older, the stakes of their life’s plummeting consequences get higher. It is tremendously challenging to surrender parental control in order that my children learn to jump, or fall, for themselves. And honestly, as a woman transitioning into an unfamiliar work world, in general my life is just plain klutzy and humbling. As I learn to surrender to this new season of life, I have been busy making my tumbling survival into an art form of sprawling falls.  But, on good days, I am also able to see that this is all about perspective, and choice.

What is the difference between falling and jumping? In the case of a high water dive, to an untrained eye there isn’t a huge visible difference.  Both entail a stepping off (either chosen or forced), a downward speed (either clumsy or poised), a point of submersion, and a resurfacing.

In both, the submersion is inevitable. But, I think the biggest difference between falling and jumping is about an internal perspective; how you choose to see it.  Said another way, in the most difficult circumstances in life, there is a posture to embrace.  How will you respond? If you are the hero leaping off the ledge in this story, which trait do you want to choose?

Jumping vs. Falling

Engagement vs. Passivity

Willing Surrender vs. Resignation

Faith vs. Doubt

Courage vs. Fear

Ian Cron described it this way:  “There is a big difference in life between a jump and a fall.  A jump is about courage and faith, something the world is in short supply of these days. A fall is, well, a fall.”*

That said, maybe you relate.  Maybe you are in a life crux right now without a lot of obvious options and a host of unknowns ahead.  If you are standing in a place where your surrender is necessary and eminent, let me speak this benediction . . .  for you:

May God give you faith and courage in your own high-ledge circumstance.

May you step past fear in order to engage.

May you surrender and choose His Life abundant, no matter what.

May you jump.

-Kelley Leigh, The Spill

_____________________________________________

Check out more of Ian Morgan Cron at www.iancron.com

*Quoted from Ian Morgan Cron’s new book, “Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts”  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011

*********************

Okay, friends.  Talk to me.  What struck you most about this story about kids jumping into the quarry?  Are you in a jump-moment right now?  Are you having to watch a fall?

  • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

    I just loved the idea that there is a difference b/t a jump and a fall. I LOVE that. Because the action is the same, the appearance is the same, but the heart and the power of choice is totally different in those situations. Falling seems much harder to swallow, obviously, b/c it feel powerless and more like a victim. But, choosing to jump, that feels totally different– powerful and faith-building and maybe easier to handle the consequences of the result?

    For me, I feel like I need to wrap my mind around going back to Thailand. I feel like I need to jump again full-force into life there, and I don’t need to just auto-pilot go back (fall back). Thanks, Kelley. You are such a gifted communicator.

    Love you, friend. :)

  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com/ kendal

    wow. ummmm. here’s what i do. i see someone (ahem. the husband) about to jump and immediately punch in 911 on my phone. worry. wort. and then, when i see my loved one has gone for it, i get mad because i’m left standing on a stupid ledge. so i end up falling in just to catch up. and then, the fall, i realize is pretty awesome and i turn it into a jump. sigh. what a way to live. i love this perpsective. it gives me courage.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Kendal. I LOVED this picture of following b/c I see it played out so often in my world and marriage, too. Really, I love how you wrote this b/c it connected with me.

      And I agree, the choice to jump screams courage to my heart, too.

    • Kelley

      This made me totally smile, Kendal. I love your perspective. Thanks.

  • Betsy

    Oh my. Once again you have posted something that pierced my soul. This was exactly, and I mean exactly, what I needed to read today. Thank you!

    Betsy

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Betsy, oh, good. I am so, so glad it was used to speak to you. I say that lots about Kelley’s writing. :)

    • Kelley

      Betsy. I am so happy that you found something you needed in it. Awesome. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.angiewashington.com @ngie

    Loved this post! I agree with you Laura, your friend is a skilled communicator. Thanks both of you for this post today.

    The story which led into this list was perfect:
    – Jumping vs. Falling
    – Engagement vs. Passivity
    – Willing Surrender vs. Resignation*
    – Faith vs. Doubt
    – Courage vs. Fear
    Wow. Good stuff.
    *THAT one’s a challenge. Grin-and-bear-it just doesn’t factor into a take-up-your-cross theology does it? Hmmm….

    • Kellee

      Great post. If jumping is what we step into then the first step seems to be the “What if” game. “What if I quit my job?” “What if I went to therapy?” “What if I moved?” “What if I auditioned for that…” my struggle is not in the jumping, it’s the “what if’s” I ask myself right before I do jump… Oh that my heart will jump after what is truly good. Hey Kelley, love you.

      • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

        Kellee, absolutely. The doubts creep in and playing the results out in your head can keep you from leaping off the ledge. And I struggle sometimes with the valid wisdom that comes with the “what- ifs”– the balance between asking the good questions and having faith to follow, anyway, when I am asked to. It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes, dontcha think?

        • Kellee

          I apologize for being unclear. I’m more in the state of WANTING to jump into new experiences…even the hard ones. The more complicated, the better. I’m a jumper. What leads me to jump is the “What if” questions. I literally can be in a state of contentment and self inflict a “What if I did this differently…” I jump often before thinking. I’m pro-jump. But not convinced that jumping is the goal. Supports my desire to be in control though…

          • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

            ooohhhh, I get it. Actually, I am married to a “jumper” too, so I know a bit about that. He is pro-jump, and I have had to learn to let go more than I probably would have normally. I do LOVE the question you ask, though, about if “jumping is the goal.” Sometimes, I do think we want to do the big dramatic, NEW thing, and that can hinder us from learning the HARD obedience of sticking, of staying, of doing the “normal.” And, yet, also, maybe God has gifted us each differently, too, to be geared towards one or the other, and maybe we need to not fight that too hard, either.

            Ahhh, the tension, the balance. I reckon that’s most of life, right? Figuring out the balance and not swinging too far, out of wrong motives?

            Thanks for the discussion, Kellee– love ‘talking’ to you today.

            • Kelley

              In a perfect world, you two would be in the same place and have time to chat by the fire pit.

              I know this is true.

      • Kelley

        Back at you, times a jillion. <3

        • Kelley

          @ Kellee. Oops. Didn’t mention the ‘Back at you’ was to you… it was.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Angie, I loved this list, too. Trouble is, I so often see myself in the second half of those statements, ya know? Especially in parenting, I feel so often like I am “grin and bearing it” instead of choosing to surrender ME for THEM.

      (p.s. Will you please always comment? I feel like I learn so much from them. )

      • http://www.angiewashington.com @ngie

        Parenting. Yes muchly me too.

        (p.s. You flatter me… I think you learn because you are gifted in teachability and adaptation.)

    • K. Leigh

      @ngie. Your astrisk sits on my biggest issue. I added that contrast in my last edit (thanks to Laura for tolerating my last minute tweaking), b/c it is my biggest challenge.

      Willing Surrender vs. Resignation. Yep. It’s the difference between an empowered choice the engage in circumstances, and martyrdom.

      I love your blog design btw. : )

      • http://www.angiewashington.com @ngie

        This discussion has been most satisfying. Thanks for popping over to ‘the @’. You’re cool. :-)

        • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

          i completely agree. kelley is most cool.

      • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

        Love her blog design, too.

        And TOTALLY struggle with playing the martyr, especially with my husband and taking care of the kids.

  • http://www.theitaliandyes.com Anne

    Thank you, thank you for writing this and sharing it. Jumping can be so scary for me. Loosening the death-grip I sometimes have on my beloved children so that they feel completely free to jump is even more terrifying! I do sincerely want us to thrive in the empowerment that comes from jumping. Thanks for poking my bruises today. I needed it.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      YES, Anne. I agree. It’s one thing for us to “jump” and another thing to encourage our kids to do the same. Somehow, my control issues come to the surface much quicker in regards to their hearts, worlds, ya know?

    • K. Leigh

      “Loosening the death-grip.” Amen, Anne. ‘Great description of the clench we all feel.
      Thanks.

      … and hey, off topic, I was just at your blog. Our family plays Settlers of Catan, too. :)

  • Lisa L.

    WOW!! I loved this post. Yes, yes, yes, the difference between jumping and falling!!

    This so reminds me of the video of the Navy SEAL dad where he throws his daughters into the raging river, knowing full well that he’s taught them how to swim and that’s how they’ll put it all into play. That the father (Father) knows what his (His) kids can do more than they realize.

    With each day, the realization grows in me that this is IT. You only get one shot to truly live… to give it all you got, experiencing all He has for you, not hiding in a safe cabinet like a porcelain doll, but instead, falling in the dirt, getting snot and bruises on your face, skinned-up knees and a heart and faith muscle that gets banged up yet is strong and. keep. getting. up…….

    Being like Peter and just getting out of that boat instead of always staying where it’s safe and critisizing Peter, sniffing and thinking, “I could’ve done that better.” But you never get out of the boat! And Peter did. Peter JUMPED.

    • Lisa L.

      Oops, meant to write “criticizing.”

      And yes, I’m in a jump time right now and it is beyond life-giving and fear-killing. It’s fantastic. I love this quote by Amy Carmichael I read recently:

      “Often we find ourselves in precipitous, perhaps cloudy places because of some act of obedience….. Sooner or later God meets every trusting child who is following Hiim up the mountain and says, ‘Now prove that you believe this that you have told Me you believe, and that you have taught others to believe.’ Then is your opportunity.”

      • Kelley

        You need to write your own post on this topic, Lisa. The Navy Seal illustration, Peter’s jump, Amy Carmichael are all great images. Beautiful response. Clearly you are living this idea.

        Keep going.

        • Lisa L.

          Thanks, Kelley. I don’t have a blog (just post long replies at great ones like Laura’s, I guess!). :) I won’t forget what you’ve shared here. I’m learning with each hour, it seems, how walking by faith is where you learn in the deepest part of you just how faithful He is. How near He is, how true what He says is, not just in a “I can quote the verse” way.

          I envy those fire-pit chats.

          • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

            Lisa, keep the long comments coming. I love them and am sooo encouraged by them and esp. their depth. Truly.

            And, I MISS ” those fire-pit chats,” for sure. :(

            • Lisa L.

              Wow, Laura, thank you. You always make me feel welcome here. I learn a lot, and get inspired, too.

              That Burma Navy Seal video you posted is permanently imprinted in me, I can still see it in my mind’s eye!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Loved that video, too! (it was posted here last month, search the blog for “free burma rangers” and you’ll find it, if you’re looking)

      I loved what you wrote here . . .

      “keep. getting. up. ”

      Man, is that a good piece of encouragement for all of us– b/c fall or jump, we often hit something eventually.

  • http://www.iancron.com Ian Morgan Cron

    Hi Kelly (and Laura),

    I was moved by your post and grateful you took the time to write it. The conference was awesome. wasn’t it?

    Thanks again,

    Ian Morgan Cron

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Ian, I’m honored that you stopped by and was moved greatly by the story of your kids at the quarry. I’m grateful Kelley was able to share it so beautifully. I look forward to checking out your book in the near future!

      Sincerely, Laura

    • Kelley

      Ian Morgan Cron. How completely great that you would stop by and comment here at Laura’s blog!

      3 Things:
      My copy of your book has dog-earred pages and underlines. I finished reading it in a 31 ft RV while riding across Kansas.

      Yes, the Storyline Conference was awesome. And, I hope you will pursue venues where you can do more extended story-telling. Really. I’d bring friends!

      Frederick Buechner goes to your church! You said this. I remember. Therefore, it is hard to believe there aren’t more than 12 people who attend there. You also said that. I remember. No doubt your parish/congregation is enormously blessed by your teaching. As were many of us at the conference.

      Thanks again for sharing your important story, Ian Morgan Cron. Let us know if you go on a storytelling tour!

      Kelley

      • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

        Now, I REALLY want to read his book! Thanks for telling us about it, Kelley. Sounds like the next purchase for my Kindle. :)

  • http://www.alyssasantos.com Alyssa

    Two of my four kids are big jumpers — the first and the last. My first has jumped to SF for the summer, at only sixteen. My kids have forced me to jump in ways I’m not ready for. Thank you for these thoughts, this post. It’s made me stop and mull falling vs. jumping and the fear and faith involved, and it began my post: “We’ve all awakened from a “falling” dream. They scare us. Our hearts beat wildly while we lay on sheets and wonder what was so frightening, grateful that we didn’t land in the dreamscape, uncertain who or what saved us from shattering. I can’t remember waking, trembling from a jumping dream….http://wp.me/p1Dat1-4O” And I landed on the word LEAPING, related to jumping, but a bit different. Thanks for your thought-provoking words.

    • Kelley

      Alyssa,

      I just read your post and think everyone else should check it out. Inspiring. It so beautifully picks up this idea and transforms it in your own way. I love the way you described leaping as “abandoning doubt with face upturned.”

      Thank you so much for commenting.
      I’m glad to ‘meet’ you.

      Kelley

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Oh, Alyssa, I love that quote, too, about ‘abandoning doubt’. This is a beautiful perspective from a mother who has had to Walk the Talk, so to speak. Thanks for releasing your kids to their big dreams of risking. A good piece of wisdom for the rest of we mothers who tend to worry more than let go . . .

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  • http://www.alyssasantos.com Alyssa

    Glad to meet you too:) My firstborn leaper is a dancer (they do a lot of leaping) and the gift, the best gift, is that she jumps with her savior. There is joy in trusting God with our kids — he suspends and upholds them when they jump. So we learn from them sometimes. Thanks for reading and inspiring (and, I read a review on that book by Ian Morgan Cron – it’s definitely on my summer list to read and share)

  • http://writingwhilethericeboils.blogspot.com/ Debbie Maxwell Allen

    My biggest takeaway: “In both, the submersion is inevitable.”

    Submersion can feel like failure, even if the leap is intentional. Thanks for the reminder that it’s all in my perspective.

    ~Debbie

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Debbie, love this b/c I agree– the submersion can feel like failure, when really it is the process of transformation. The leaping, the submersion, the fighting back to the surface– all important components of the process, right?

    • Kelley

      Debbie. So interesting how we all pick up on different parts of a story, isn’t it? Your take on that was a surprise to me. Thanks!

      Also, you are providing so many great practical free tips for writers over at your blog. I appreciate what you’re doing over at “Writing while the Rice Boils,” Debbie.

      Kelley

      • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

        I agree! Debbie is providing a great resource for we aspiring writers! It’s worth a look, for sure.

  • Lisa L.

    Okay, can I just say that this has been the BEST conversation and I can’t seem to stay away! Everyone is sharing SUCH good things that really resonate with me. I’ve printed out both Kelley’s post about jumping vs. falling, and Alyssa’s post about leaping. I’m writing so much down in my “to remember” quote journal. Words of life! All of this is “sinking down into my ears,” as Jesus said in Luke 9:44. Into the ears of my heart.

    See what you started, Laura and Kelley? :) Thank you. Wow.

    • Kelley

      Lisa, I am thinking “to remember” might be the name for the blog you haven’t created yet. : )

      And I agree, there have been a lot of great contributions to this conversation — especially Alyssa’s post, and Ian Cron’s drop in!

      Fun!

      • Lisa L.

        :)

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