What the Train Taught Me about Perspective

We live a few hundred feet from a train crossing.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Because our home's original owner was a man who owned a cement company, our walls are solid concrete. (We have to be very careful hanging picture on outside walls. The nails only go in about 1/2 inch before "ping" and they bend.) This place is a fortress. So even though trains thunder by about half a dozen times a day, we barely feel a tremor.

But of course, between the hours of 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM, we hear the whistle. OH MY WORD, do we hear the whistle. We hear it in the distance, we hear it as it grows close, we hear it around the corner and then it takes up residence inside us when it sounds its arrival at our street.

This delights Kieran to no end, of course. Even the faintest whistle triggers his train dance. "Train cah-ming, Mama! Train cah-ming!" he squeals. And then he runs for the front door and bounces on his toes with impatient joy. We end up standing on our front steps for the whole show, from the almost-scary thrill of the piercing it's-here whistle to the ding-ding-ding of the crossing guards returning to their upright position after the train is gone.

Watching the train in December
Occasionally, we will catch a train crossing when we're in our car, as happened this morning. We were loading up for the drive to school when we heard the first whistle. We ended up pulling out of our driveway just as the red engine roared through the intersection. We drove closer and idled right next to the crossing guard, counting cars and feeling the tick-tick-tick of the train wheels shake the minivan.

But you know what? It's hard to watch a train when you're close to it. The freight cars whizzed by with such ferocity, I couldn't focus. I got dizzy. I ended up backing up a bit so I could gain some context. It was too close, too fast, too much.

It's funny what a little perspective can do.

My word for 2012 is focus. It isn't as all-pervasive as Sabbath was last year. It's more of a drip in my mind than a steady stream. But this morning, because of the train (Hi, my name is Kelly, and I'm an analogy queen), it's been like a mountain brook rushing with snow melt.

I've lost perspective of many things in my life lately. It's understandable. When you're standing close to the fast-and-furiousness of it all, it's easy to get hypnotized. You can hardly take in what's right in front of you when - zoom - it's gone and the next thing is coming at you full steam. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Pack the lunch. Fold the laundry. Make some dinner. Clean the dishes. Hug a toddler. Play dolls. Go to bed. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! It's all encompassing, all consuming.

But thanks to the "train cah-ming," I think what I really need is to step back and remember the big picture. (Maybe after I close my eyes for a few minutes to chase away the vertigo.) I need to refocus on my husband, my family and my deepest dreams. It's easy for me to lose sight of the best things in life when I'm caught up in the zooming train inches away from my nose.

One of my Siesta Memory Verses from last year was this passage from Ephesians.

That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you — every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask — ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory — to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him — endless energy, boundless strength!
I think those words need a freshening in up in my mind this weekend.

Maybe I'll focus on them while I sit on my front porch and watch the train.

Last week, in between trains, I created a Facebook page for my blog. I'd love you to click through and like it, because then I will have another way to interact with you. As a thank you, I've put a video of Keiran's I-want-to-jump-out-of-my-skin-with-excitement train ritual on the Love Well wall. (And if you're not on FB and you want to see the video anyway, email me. I'll send you a link to it on Vimeo.) Happy weekend!


  1. This is good, good stuff, Kelly. I could stand to take a step back and consider the Big Picture myself.

  2. I have to write things down to focus on anything these days... but it actually feels better that way otherwise I feel lost. If I have a written record it's there...
    And we live about the same distance from a train as well... no crossing that we have to use, but it blows it's whistle just parallel to our house... and we don't even get a reprieve at night. Sometimes I wonder what the engineers think is trying to cross at 3am in a very rural area that they need to lay on the horn for a full 30 seconds?
    I'm so glad we'll be getting new windows in a few weeks that will help the sound some. Unfortunately our house isn't made of concrete!