May 30 2012

Pizza and mashed potatoes

 

I have never been one to get excited about a smorgasbord. My children, on the other hand, get ecstatic. Macaroni and cheese with a side of pizza and another side of jello. A second trip for a plate full of fried chicken and more jello. And finally, a third trip for the mashed potatoes and sliced peaches.

Not a meal they would typically get at home. But the beauty of it is the choice. They get to walk around isles of food and pick only what looks good. ‘Cause that’s such a great representation of life, right?

Several years ago I had a checkup with my doctor. The subject of hormones was broached and I was asked how I was doing. As any self respecting woman would respond, I said, “OK.”

Undeterred, and obviously not buying my feeble reply, the doctor paused and rephrased the question. “Ever so often, say once a month, does your husband, or anyone else in your family, notice a big ‘ol pot of crazy and choose not to stir it?”

I laughed and cried at the same time. How could such a creative question not earn a completely honest response? And so I then said, “Uh, yeah, probably.”

The antidote for me against the big ‘ol pot of crazy is to run. Consistently. Not once a week or every other month. But consistently. I have at times practiced this and it seems to keep the crazy to a low simmer. The way I see it, I have two choices. I can run and be a functioning, rational woman. Or I can not run and be, well, the opposite.

Life is not a smorgasbord. We want it to be a trip down the yogurt isle where any flavor one can possibly imagine can be picked out. But, being the bearer of bad news, I must say, it is not natural to eat pizza and mashed potatoes at the same meal. And neither do I get to post-pone my runs for months at a time and not keep the crazy at bay.

I can bemoan the fact that I must run to function emotionally. I can scream from the top of the mountain (which I did not run up) that life is not fair. I can whine and complain how I wish life were more like a smorgasbord.

But I really only have one choice.

To run, or not to run? That is the question. And the answer? I’m thinking I need to start running again.

Is there something you know you really should do but you don’t like to do it? Please commiserate. I’d love to know it’s not just me.

 

 


May 23 2012

Tiny Bubbles

 

Have you ever seen a toddler play with bubbles for the first time? Their fascination is captivating. They follow and chase the free-floating orbs with euphoria. A small round ball, a tiny bubble drops and every ounce of attention focuses. With arm outstretched, they waddle hurriedly to capture and claim the treasure. The bubble continues to fall and explodes, sending small droplets of soapy goo to the adjacent blades of grass.

The toddler stops suddenly. Frozen. Staring at what was. And then, the lower lip juts out and their brows furrow. Liquid disappointment falls down their cheeks.

Shattered bubbles are painful regardless of age. Dallas Willard says, “Reality is what we learn when we find out we are wrong.” When the bubble pops, reality is there to stare us in the face. The world is brimming with tragedy and pain. Suffering and destruction. Our rainbow like, soapy clean bubbles cannot shelter us. Our illusions of safety are fleeting. But security, that is an altogether different matter.

Death’s shadow passed by again last night. My husband missed the first two innings of another baseball game tending to a “clean up” effort of another demonstration of man and car vs. tree. Tree won. A few days prior, he was called away from an award dinner to an officer involved shooting. All officers are fine. Suspect died in the gun battle he started.

The world is a dangerous place. Death and pain run rampant and try as we might, our small, gossamer, self-constructed bubbles are no match. Fragile and translucent. They don’t stand a chance against the razor-sharp shrapnel of everyday life.

Not everyone lives with such demonstrative examples of this. But no one is exempt. No one can walk through this life unscathed. And yet, we put forth great effort to try. For many years, especially with small children under foot, our motto had been, “Safety first.” Often spoken tongue-in-cheek, none-the-less it was applied with vigor and vigilance.

But what is left when the bubbles burst?

We are not safe from pain and trouble. We are not immune to suffering or tragedy. Our hope cannot reside in the residue of tiny bubbles. But who needs bubbles anyway? Our eternity is secure and sheltered in the capable hands of the Almighty God.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

 

 

 


May 19 2012

Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

I am so jealous of the Girl Scouts. And not for the reasons you might think. Sure they have the “Thin Mints” and the “Samoas” and the “Lemonades.” All pure genius. But those aren’t covet inducing.

I see the Girl Scouts and the thing I want most is the vest. Think about it. Haven’t you done some stuff that is badge worthy? Reached a mileage goal in running, or a weight goal or an anniversary?

My vest would be a color other than kelly green (this is my daydream so I get to pick) and I would wear my badges proudly. It sounds ridiculous but we do it everyday. At the end of the day, my to-do list is examined. How many badges did I earn today? Laundry, grocery shopping, bills, chauffeuring, and on and on. The number of badges earned is compared to the number of badges missed and an opinion is formed. Good day? Not so good day? Horrible day?

On those days where the accomplishment column is on the empty side, my self-worth swirls around the porcelain bowl that still needs cleaning. And always on those days, I seem to come face to face with the vests of those around me. Their vests are laden with badges! How in the world can I keep up? They have badges I’ve never even thought of!

But the rebel in me, that part that wants to rage against the machine longs to be free. I wish to walk into my yard and burn the vest. And then shout from the hill behind my house…

“Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

Imagine a day where the only goal is to live. Live every moment until you fall into bed without thought of to-do lists and badges. (Cue orchestra.) To fall asleep simply remembering the moments that made you laugh or cry. (Music builds to crescendo.)

Who’s with me? (Applause and screaming.)

Say it with me…

We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

 

 


May 15 2012

The Ultimate Fiction Writer: Part 2

 

Regardless of where you live or how old you are, your life has a cast of characters. They go by different names. Friends. Family. Co-workers. People whose lives intersect your own. People with pain and hurt. Joy and sadness. People who love you and people you struggle to love.

The Ultimate Fiction Writer is at work again. An array of characters have been specifically chosen to intersect your life. Is there that character enlisted to be the voice of encouragement? Who is the character with the sarcastic wit? Do you find yourself hoping that one of the characters of your life gets inadvertently hit by a bus?

My guess is you have a character or two or three who have been cast as the villains. The troublemakers. The thorns in your side. (See bus comment above.) How often do you think that life would be so much better without them?

But would it? Would life be better without them? OK. Yes! Emphatic yes! But would you be better without them? What kind of person would you become if you had no one to point out the areas in your life that needed work?

There is no story without conflict and there is no change without struggle. So the question isn’t, “When do the troublemakers get taken out?” The question is, “When does the main character change because of the struggle?”

As you live out the epic saga of your life, take note of the characters that have been written into your story. They have been hand picked to share your stage. And when you face conflict today with someone from your cast, resist the urge to envision the bus. Maybe their part is to help you find areas of improvement. It isn’t their fault. Their just playing their part.


May 11 2012

The Ultimate Fiction Writer, part I

“All the world is a stage…”                 (As You Like It, Shakespeare)

Perhaps James Cameron or Steven Spielberg would disagree. They might say the world is a movie.  Every day of your life is the onscreen version of a scene from an epic novel. You may not meet your Avatar today or meet the love of your life on a disastrous sea journey, but what if today is full of scenes that make up the story of your life? Comedy. Tragedy. Love story.

But whose writing this story? Who picks the ending?

Spoiler alert. It’s not you. You may choose your breakfast and determine what you will wear but the writer? Nope. The director? Not you either.

This came to me recently as I was working on a current story. I get to chose what happens to the characters. But strange things occur as I get to know the characters. They begin to voice their opinions. (That is an admission to hearing voices.) My characters want a say. They don’t want to suffer. They want a happy ending. They question where the story is going and the competency of the author. They want to join the circus.

As I was trying to ignore the request to join the circus I had a moment of realization. I am just like my characters. I want to control my story. Including the circus part. There are days.

You may not be the author of your “live” and reality based epic movie, but you still play a part. You have a voice. You have an unique voice, in fact, because you are the character actor in the story of your life. And your story has the potential to remain relevant and riveting for generations to come.

How often I forget that although I construct stories, I am not the author of my own. Even harder still isthe recognition that I am not the author of the story of those around me. I am the main character in the story that is my life. My responsibility is to play my part to the best of my ability and to submit my strengths and weaknesses to the Ultimate Fiction Writer. There is an Author penning my story through the events and circumstances of my life. He even promises to work it all out in the end to those who let Him do the writing.

What scenes does the Ultimate Fiction Writer have planned for you today? Would you remove some of the struggles and challenges present in your story? Would you like to join the circus with me?

Or will you let Him write your story? 


May 8 2012

No more white-wash

This blogging thing is quite amazing. Theoretically, I control the topics. And yet, I sit to write and I am overwhelmed with the urge to bare my soul. Perhaps it’s the lack of consistent adult interaction throughout the day. I also must take into account the fact that I am a woman and have a quota of words each day. But maybe it means that I am finally learning that it’s alright to be me. And part of being me means not having perfect children, not always having the perfect thing to say and not being perfect. Sometimes I wear white after Labor Day. (That is not an exhaustive list of my imperfections.)

I have spent a great deal of my life striving for perfection. The careful application of white wash is a difficult habit to break. Somewhere I got the message that striving to be like Jesus meant striving to be perfect. But along the path to perfection, I trampled over the lessons of learning to love others more than myself, learning not to worry about tomorrow, and remembering that God’s ways are not my ways.

What I thought was perfection was really a heap of ugliness with a shiny outward coating of white wash. The real issues, the heart issues, had been ignored for the appearance of holiness. When you give God permission, He goes after the white-wash. Sometimes He gently scrapes small pieces at a time but other times it feels like He douses it all with a highly flammable substance and transforms it into one giant ball of fire. I have frequently disagreed with His methods. Don’t worry. I’ve been very honest with Him about that. But then He reminds me that His methods are not my business. I gave Him permission. And it is without question that His motives and His means reach exceedingly beyond my understanding.

God is not a vandal. He is not sadistic in His enjoyment of watching the white-wash go up in a mass of flames. His goal is not to destroy me. He understands, far better than I, how detrimental the white wash is. It keeps me so focused on me that I am unable to truly love others. His goal is for me to learn to love others the way He loves them. The way He loves me.

“My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” I John 4:11-12

 


May 4 2012

shadows and sirens

My husband is in law enforcement. For a season, thankfully a short season, he worked what is called swing shift. He would go to work around 3 in the afternoon and work until 10 or 11 at night. The office he worked out of during that time happened to be fairly close to our house and on a few occasions, he could join us for dinner. It was almost a drive-thru scenario. I had to time dinner just right so that he could eat, or inhale, and head back out.

The children however, could not be bothered with a task as mundane as eating. Not when daddy  stood before them in the middle of the kitchen in full regalia. Shiny bits of brass. All kinds of unexplained things hanging from his waste and the radio attached to his lapel squawking unintelligible things like a parrot. Fascination read all over their tiny faces. They were starving a few moments ago but now dinner can wait.

When he would leave for work, they saw him in jeans and a t-shirt. This uniformed man before them who looked like daddy was an enigma. And attention must not be averted for one second.

This ritual concluded with us walking him out to the car after our fifteen minute “family” meal. Our youngest son was about five years old. As soon as we were in sight of the car we would hear, “Turn on the lights daddy! Turn on the lights!” Shiny buttons and talking black boxes had nothing on the lights and sirens.

Fast forward five years. We were on our way home tonight from a little league game. We won by one run. A real knuckle biter. Ice cream was in order to celebrate. Fifteen minutes from home, ice cream half eaten, we come around a corner and we have no choice but to drive through a debris field. Stuff is strewn all over the road. A car had rolled across our lanes and careened off the embankment, leaving a large arching path of scraps in their wake. It must have happened only a few moments before we got there.

Daddy who had been following us home, turned around and was the first person at the gruesome scene.

Daddy breaks formation and the car goes silent. The lights and sirens mean something different now to my children. I can’t tell you when the change happened. But it did. The excitement of a little boy’s face at seeing the clean uniform and bright lights has been replaced with deep concern.

I don’t share out of regret or remorse. I’m proud of what my husband does. But this is our reality. The shadow of death sometimes invades our celebrations and may even follow my husband home. It doesn’t distinguish between cop or victim. And it is not partial to age. I can feel it tonight.

It’s not “Turn on the lights daddy!” any more. Now I hear, “Can we pray for those people?”

“Even thought I walk thorough the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)


May 4 2012

If you give a mouse a cookie…

You know that cute little children’s book? A simple act of giving a mouse a cookie turns into something way bigger and unexpected. I’ve never given a mouse a cookie. It makes an adorable children’s book but frankly, I have no intention of willingly giving a mouse anything except a bit of “d-CON.”

But it makes me think…what would I do? What if I gave God permission?

It’s a beautiful afternoon. Sitting beside a quiet brook and listening to the birds chirp. Communing with God. All is right with the world. In a moment of rapture, you tell God that He can have His way. You give Him permission to orchestrate your life as He sees fit.

Something occurs in that enchanted moment. Unseen and relatively unnoticed. A covenant is made. Not a contract signed with ink but a contract signed by the blood of the Lamb on the flesh of your own heart.

I have needed to be reminded lately, that I indeed gave God permission. My peaceful has been replaced by chaos. The world is upside down and inside out. The wheels have fallen off the bus and I can’t even find them to reattach them. “What is going on?” I wonder, often out loud like a crazy person.

And then I hear this…

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. (John 6:67 NIV)

In other words, “When things don’t happen like you think they should, are you out?”

The world stops. A question has been asked and it demands an answer.

Am I out? But He has never disappointed. Over and over He has taken the broken trinkets and  baubles I seem to keep collecting. He takes the heartache and confusion that seem pointless. And then, He uses them to create something I could have never imagined. He incorporates every part into something that has value. A piece of art that proclaims with abandon that He alone is God. That He alone creates and He alone redeems.

I stop looking for the bus wheels and I give Him permission again. Well said Peter.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

 


May 1 2012

The first…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Look. I’m blogging! I’m a blogger!”

My first blog on my new website. I feel like I should have something profound to share. A pearl of wisdom or wit that may change the course of your day.

Instead, I struggle to come up with the perfect words to commemorate this endeavor. And maybe it’s better that way. This way you see the real me from the start. Wisdom and wit may find it’s way into this blog, God willing. But the truth of the matter is I’m just a mom, struggling to be a writer. And some days, I feel like a writer struggling to be a mom. And some days, I’m just struggling.

I guess that leaves me with baby steps as a valid option. I’ll start here, with this first step and keep taking baby steps. Funny though. I keep thinking that I’m in charge of where I end up. Come to find out, right now, I’m only responsible for the first step.

So here it is. My first…baby step.