Settler or Pioneer: Finding Your Role, Playing it Well

Laurie's wagonsIshshah’s Story is pleased to feature a new guest contributor to the blog! Join us as we welcome Laurie in her own words: Laurie Klein, who resides in the U.S., authored the classic praise chorus “I Love You, Lord,” a newly released poetry collection, Where the Sky Opens (Cascade Books), and she blogs at Her work appears widely in anthologies, hymnals, and recordings. She has made one quilt completely by hand. That was enough.♦


“Has the stone been rolled away yet?”

I groaned. Enduring a kidney stone prior to Holy Week ensures well-meaning jokes.

Trouble is, laughing hurts. Everything hurts. Waterlogged and half-crazed with pain, you think the tomb, any tomb, sounds dandy.

And then, there’s the issue of timing . . .


Four weeks earlier:

Heart in my throat, fingers crossed, I auditioned for the musical “Quilters.” That evening my serial nightmares began:Laurie's quilt

  • In the wings, I awaited my cue for a play I’d never read
  • Onstage, I couldn’t speak
  • I took a grand bow . . . in my underwear

Do dreams like these ever reduce you to wee-hour panic?

This would be my first real play. I had played a happy-go-lucky spring pansy swathed in purple in second grade. No lines. Just sway and smile.

“Quilters” is a musical based on the compelling true stories of settlers and pioneers. Like its name, the script showcases small, colorful stories threaded together in linked vignettes. As a mom and, at heart, a “settler,” I hoped to land the matriarch role.

Instead, the director assigned me twelve characters: male and female, from child to crone.  Twelve? Two of them male?

I’d been her private student for some time and wanted to make her proud, wanted to banish my stage-fright nightmares.

Picture potential headlines with me: “Small-town Pansy Finally Speaks” and “Wannabe Actress Hits College Big-time.”

I’d settle for nothing less.


Does self-induced pressure ever drive you?

Someone we love and admire champions us. It’s heaven, for a while. Then worry steals the scene. Can we fulfill their hopes for us? If we fail, will we lose his respect, or her heartening presence in our life?

Sanity asks: Can you simply love doing your best?

Grace replies: Simply do your best and know you are loved.

Ears full of imagined applause, I missed both memos.


Clueless about the vicious kidney “rock” getting ready to “roll,” by day, I danced and sang my “settler” heart out; by night, I reined in fear (mostly). I was forging onward, a modern-day pioneer crossing ego’s perilous prairie.


I desperately wished I’d already arrived. My “best” felt barely adequate.

Laurie's pansiesCostumes spiked my excitement. Vivid as a Great Plains rainbow, our long skirts swirled across stage as we “threaded the needle”—a lively number punctuated with rhythmic stamps of our lace-up boots. Although solid jewel tones ruled, my blouse was two-toned, in pansy-purples. This time, however, I had lines.

And a solo.


Do kidney stones have a personality? As if wickedly bent on inflicting epic pain, mine stabbed me awake a week before Dress Rehearsal.

I guzzled water. The stone did not pass. Gallons of water. Nothing moved. When my personal plumbing seized up, I was hospitalized: doped up, fed up, and hooked up—monitors, IVs, and a catheter.

The Lenten “stone” jokes commenced.

The director prayed for me and believed I would rally. Pain, hunger, and exhaustion—I endured them all, just like a real pioneer, but settled . . . in a hospital bed. For five days. In ugly pajamas.


Cue the understudy. The director called on a former student to learn my lines, my various roles, my blocking, my harmonies, my choreography, my solo.

Oh my (telling word, isn’t it).

Was this about letting go? I thought about women like me, who “settled.” I could honorably withdraw from the show; it would go on without me.

I thought about flint-eyed women who endured, no matter the cost. Had my stone rolled away? Or was it stuck, biding its time? No one knew.

Except Jesus, the rock of my salvation. Summoning up my inner pioneer, I returned to rehearsals, thinner and braver, my pansy-hued waistband altered to fit.

I renounced stage fright. And stone fright. I would trust The Director for strength to surmount my fears, and grace to embody the gutsy characters entrusted to me.


“Here I stay,” declared travel-worn Mary Murray, doggedly stepping ashore in L.M. Montgomery’s book, Emily of New Moon. Fellow writer Rebecca D. Martin shares in a blog post that those three words came to define the woman, and were later etched into her tombstone. Did Mary Murray ever feel stuck?
Laurie's sod hut

We settlers prefer to sidestep change, or a big challenge. Commitment to comfort comes easily. Naturally. Yet restless for rock-of-Gibralter security, we want it now already!

We pioneers relish the not yet. Also restless, we are seekers, wanderers, sometimes so passionate about the thrill of our search that realizing our desire poses a threat. We don’t want to settle. Ever. Commitment is scary.

Settler or pioneer? Both have virtues and downsides. Sooner or later, the noun that best describes us now will likely change.

Good thing God’s promises apply to both our alreadys and our not-yets.

Meantime, how might we manage this creative tension in each of the various roles we currently play?

May I suggest:

  • We open ourselves to daring, while savoring our safety in Christ
  • We trust The Director to cue and choreograph each step
  • We embody, by God’s grace, both contentment and courage


I left the security of home on Opening Night, twenty-five years ago, not knowing when, or if, the stone would move. It never did.

p.s. The show was a hit! Standing Room Only.

Settler or Pioneer: Which one are you in this year of our Lord? Is it time for contentment and courage to dance together?


  1. Several unrelated comments: 1) I’ve had those dreams, too, as “Opening Night” approached! ‘Plagued myself with wondering why I agreed to take part, worried I’d make a fool of myself, ‘wished the whole thing could just be OVER. Some great lessons of trust — that God could use even a poor showing for his glory! (But he always brought me through with passable performances!) 2) Never had a kidney stone; can’t imagine pressing on through such an ordeal! 3) Love your three suggestions at the end, Laurie, and your question about contentment and courage. I’m tucking those in my journal for further ruminating!


    • Nancy, I’m so glad you’ve never had a kidney stone! I am also enjoying the solidarity of kindred experience with Opening Night stress dreams. You say it well when you write “great lessons of trust” and “even a poor showing” can be used. I want to commit that to memory for next time! Thanks for reading my long tale. I always appreciate your warmth and input so much.


  2. That was such a delight to read.

    I “felt” the anxiety wrap around the desire & passion. God may not have actually given that stone a personality (such a great line), but He sure gave personality to its timing, causing such turmoil and then running away never to be “seen” again.

    Thank you for blessing with your creative stories and thoughtful expressions.


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