Life–The Long And Winding Road

The Beatles had it right–the long and winding road leads us somewhere.

The challenge is we don’t always know where that path is taking us.

While in Wisconsin recently, my sisters and I went to Gills Rock, a place photographed countless times during different seasons because of the winding road surrounded by magnificent deciduous trees that robe themselves in glorious shades of green in spring and summer, lacy branches that trace the grey skies and snow in winter, and brilliant bursts of colors in fall.

It was incredible.

This road is as winding as I’ve ever seen, rivaled by Lombard Street in San Francisco, known for its crookedness.

There aren’t the trees on Lombard Street.

Our grand idea of taking time to walk a bit of the road and get pictures like I’d seen others take was a bit naive.

There were a bunch of other folks who had the same thought. Many of them stood in the middle of the road to get a centered shot. Blocking the view for those of us who graciously stood on the side, not wanting to be in someone else’s picture.

And then there were the cars. It is a road, after all, and they kept coming up and going down. Not realizing–or caring–that they were messing up the possibilities of beautiful photography.

So we waited. In the cold. And this Florida girl doesn’t do cold well.

I talked to a young man sitting on the hood of his car, watching the mayhem around him. He held a camera with a lens the length of an elephant’s trunk.

“How long have you been waiting?”

“About an hour.”

Was he kidding? An hour for a picture?

More people kept coming, standing in the road. The cars kept driving by.

Frustration was building. I was willing to leave.

I walked down the road alone and stood off to the side. Watching. My phone was ready–who needs a fancy camera?–and I took trial pictures with cars and people populating the photos.

I waited. Ready.

It couldn’t have been more than a two-second space of time. The road cleared, and I snapped several pictures.

And then the parade of cars and people resumed.

I don’t fancy myself a photographer. I don’t work at it.

I took a picture.

It worked.

There were many that didn’t. Today I waited and was prepared.

Every day that road stretches before me, and I have no idea what awaits around each corner. Often I’m frustrated by things I can’t control, that don’t work out the way I’d hoped.

In the waiting there are moments of clarity, joy, gratitude that fill me with a sense of the goodness of God.

He’s on that road with me. Ahead of me and behind me. Present in all my circumstances, good and bad. Waiting to show me His beauty and purpose. Surprising me with His love.

That guy with the camera was still there when we left. Camera in his lap. Maybe he’d get tired of waiting.

We all tire of waiting.

But God.

He shows up in the grandest pictures of our lives.

 

 

I Am The Deer Watcher

“Let’s practice so I know you’re watching. What happens when you see a deer?”

I yelled, “Deer!” And we both laughed.

Sounds ridiculous. But my twin and I were driving to Wisconsin to visit our little sister; she lives in the north woods.

Legitimately.

It isn’t merely autumn in full bloom up there; it’s deer season.

The rut has begun.

It’s the time of year when love is in bloom, and boy deer are trying to find their girl deer.No candy and flowers involved, but there is a lot of chasing and running away.

Much of this running happens across county roads. At dusk or dawn. When drivers don’t seem to be as careful as during full daylight.

Which is why there are so many collisions between car and deer. The deer often lose.

A couple years ago, my sister had her welcome to Wisconsin by getting hit by a doe at dusk. The deer jumped from the forest to the road just as Janet drove by–there was nothing she could do to stop. She was one of the lucky ones. There wasn’t much damage to her car and she was unhurt; the doe, after getting up and shaking herself, ran from the road.

This has made her aware of the possibility of deerly encounters. We needed to be careful as we drove toward her home at dusk.

Gayle appointed me deer watcher. I embraced that request with responsibility. I peered into the darkening woods as we drove by and could see glimpses of movement.

No deer crossed our path.

The next day as we drove, the beauty of the autumn color palette was all around us. I was still the deer watcher, but I got distracted.

And three does leaped into the road in front of our car.

I saw them, but I didn’t do anything to warn Janet.

In fact, I squealed with delight and clapped my hands like a three-year-old.

I’m a lousy deer watcher.

There was plenty of room between us and them, and Janet had the wherewithal to stop. Two were in the street, staring at us. A long pause before they ran to the other side of the road.

Janet said, “Wait. There are more.” And another doe came streaking across the road.

It was an incredible encounter. Their lives are held in a thin balance; hunting season begins soon, and along with avoiding hunters, they have to deal with drivers.

My inability as a deer watcher made me understand how ineffective I am with awareness when I’m warned of problems or danger.

I get distracted.

God has informed us that in this world we will have problems. Not an “if” situation; a definite “when”; our world is broken. I need to be mindful of what I’m allowing myself to get involved in. There is an enemy of our souls who would like nothing better than to destroy us.

But God.

He comes alongside us as we ask Him. To give us His strength and wisdom. To remind us we’re not alone. No matter how despairing the season we’re in.

Crying out for God brings better results than yelling “deer”.

 

 

The Hilarity Games

 

The competition was high; the stakes were massive. The rules of the games were being laid out with the detail required by a serious endeavor. Clarifying questions were asked so rules would be followed–no one wanted to be disqualified.

Candy was at stake.

It was our yearly Fun Day. Instead of deeper, more reflective input, this is a time set aside for pure enjoyment.

People get to know one another quickly in playful situations. I’m more willing to let my guard down, let others see who I really am when I play games. As Brooklyn, in all her three-year-old wisdom says, “Silly is fun.”

Group competition was designed to involve everyone. Specific skill sets helped; those with athleticism definitely had an advantage in some of the tasks. It wasn’t just the fast and furious that could get it done–we needed people who could memorize well, tell stories, figure out puzzles, and be incredibly observant. We had an hour to finish the tasks.

Everybody participated in some way. Some activities required the entire team; other tasks needed only two people to compete. What I witnessed was how those not involved in the task at the moment were cheering teammates on to greatness. Affirmations were being shared in abundance. I hadn’t heard that much encouragement in a long time.

Being encouraged does something to us. It takes our minds off the things we know we don’t do so well and gives a sense of hope that we have accomplished something of value, enough to garner praise.

It takes ten genuinely shared affirmative statements to undo the damage done by one carelessly spoken criticism. Which should surprise no one. It is so much easier to believe the bad about us than it is to embrace the good.

Even when the competitors stumbled on their task, either physically or not understanding what was required, people were generous with praise.

Failure wasn’t fatal at all.

When we’re in an environment where we’re not afraid of letting others down or of being embarrassed by things over which we have no control, it’s easy to step outside our comfort zones and do what we’ve not tried before. If failing isn’t a deal-breaker, if our lack of success doesn’t disqualify us for other opportunities, we’re much more likely to try something new. Something bold and possibly a little scary.

God encourages us to trust Him for all our needs. It helps to be able to distinguish between greeds and needs; needs are things we require in our lives–people, environments, circumstances–that provides courage for us to live without fear. Trusting God to provide what our hearts and souls need to thrive in a broken world takes courage. He doesn’t always answer the way we think He should.

Sometimes He tells us to wait.

In the meantime, He provides a place and space of encouragement and affirmation that no one can take away from us. He tells us how He delights in us and enjoys us because His love has made us complete.

What would it take to feel the freedom to try something new and different?

Maybe a wink from God and a little bit of fun.

 

 

 

 

I Found Him!

 

He wasn’t physically or mentally lost. He was still operating with all his faculties.

But he felt lost to me. We hadn’t connected well with him in quite some time.

My husband’s job has been really busy of late. A smattering of travel, a plethora of meetings, responsibilities that grab his attention and his solid work ethic quicker than I can.

I’m not grousing, mind you. I manage to keep myself busy as well. We’ve both been at fault for not making each other a priority.

This isn’t about anyone’s fault. It’s recognizing how much we need to seek each other out and make space and time for one another.

We did. Finally.

We got away this past weekend for two nights. Not surrounded by work responsibilities that required lists of boxes to be checked off. Not being in a house that loves to remind me that it has needs–toilets to be scrubbed, laundry to be done, the ever-present dust that’s as much Florida as the alligators.

It’s only when I get away that I realize how loud that house is.

John graciously got us two nights in a hotel where it would be just us. Time to talk, to unpack much of what’s been happening over the past two months, an opportunity to really listen to one another without interruption.

Well, I interrupted him a lot. I’ve got lots of words.

Our two mornings were spent on our little temporary porch. A haven of quiet. Coffee in hand, it was easy to decompress and talk. Not all of it serious and meaningful. We had a lot of laughs, teasing each other, dreaming together, making plans for adventures that may or may not happen.

The fun was in the possibilities.

As we drove home, I asked the question gnawing at my mind. “Why have we waited so long to do something like this?”

There was no good answer. There is no solid excuse for the times we miss opportunities to be with those we love and care about. Friends who’ve drifted from us because we haven’t been more intent on keeping connections current. Family members that live at a distance and aren’t always right in the middle of our radar, who become forgotten because all the urgent things in life scream louder than heart connections do.

I’m at fault in many of these situations. My two sisters and brother live far from me, and I’m not consistent with keeping in touch. I’ve got great friends in other states–in my state–that I don’t keep up with because busyness is easier to do than heartfelt inclusion.

Many people feel far from God; they believe He’s silent. That He doesn’t care about the things they care about. That He’s busier with others who seem worthier than they feel.

But here’s a guarantee–He’s present, always. Longing for connection with us more than we want it with Him.

He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t badger. God speaks to us in our quiet places, when we have space to listen.

He waits.

It doesn’t matter how long it may have been since you’ve sought Him. He’s always ready to begin the conversation.

Pure grace. No blame given.

 

Pleasure And Pain–Is There A Difference?

John was out of town, and three of my sons-in-law were at a college soccer game.

Which left my daughter and me with five kids. Dinnertime.

Not feeling in the mood to cook–I’m not sure I ever feel in that mood anymore–we decided to take the kids to Chick-fil-A.

Family Night. A master of balloon art and magician would be present.

We corraled the kids in two cars–four car seats were needed. We arrived, found a table right in front of the balloon creator, and tried to sit everyone down so we could order food.

Enter the Chick-fil-A cow.

Chick-fil-A has built its brand on self-protecting cows encouraging everyone to eat chicken. The cows are winsome, wise, and quite often funny. Their logic is rather self-serving.

I love the cow. I’ve purchased calendars with a variety of cow figures dressed in costumes.

Our under two grands weren’t as accepting. They were terrified of the upright black and white bovine. And all the cow wanted to do was high-five them.

They wanted nothing to do with him.

I was holding one, and as the cow approached, he had a death grip on my neck.

Scared children are very strong.

We did everything to distract the kids. We turned high chairs around as the cow made his way through the restaurant. We got them ice cream, even though they didn’t eat dinner.

The cow kept showing up. Always within view of the two little guys.

Weeping and wailing would ensue.

It was comical. They’d be savoring ice cream one moment, fingers dug into cones, having tired of licking. The next they’re ready to throw the cones out of fear because the cow didn’t get the point. He was always right there.

Maybe he felt he could win them over if he persisted.

Wrong.

We took them into the play area so they could climb the platforms and use the slide. I actually got up most of the way just to help them get to the slide level.

When we came out, there was the cow.

Fear causes a unique sense of panic, even in situations where joy has been experienced. Was the boys’ fear irrational? Yes. But it was very real.

To them.

So many times in life I have the desire to do something I enjoy, and yet it strikes fear into my heart.

Because I’m afraid to fail.

Every time I write this blog, I have this thrill of putting my stories and thoughts out there, a little bit of me. But hitting the “publish” button is scary because I can’t manage anyone’s response to what I’ve written.

My two little grands were terrified of something they hadn’t encountered before and had no control over. Their place of pleasure became an uncomfortable place of fear.

God knows our desires and dreams. He is with His own as we pursue the extent of our imaginations, trying what seems impossible, experiencing our defeat and failure with compassion, and standing with us as we pick ourselves back up.

He never abandons us nor is overwhelmed by our fears or doubts. He stays the course with us.

He’s way more persistent than the Chick-fil-A cow.