Finishing Well Means Finishing

 

We began well. With great intentions.

I know myself. Following through and finishing a project isn’t always a priority. I get started on something, go at it with grit and gusto, knowing exactly what I am hoping to accomplish.

Too often I lose steam, become bored, or the situation becomes more complicated and significantly more difficult than I anticipated.

I quit.

When we began the work of cleaning out the garage, we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.

We didn’t finish in a day. As I was in and out of the garage the rest of that week, I’d gaze about at all that had been done.

I was fine with it as it was. We’d done well. My kids had sacrificed a whole day to help John and me do a job we’d put off for over a decade. It was enough.

They returned a week later to finish the job. What I had settled for was enough to make them laugh.

Which they did.

The guys built sturdy shelves that will hold up to any hurricane or child tornado that happened upon it. The girls and I bought clear bins, all the same size, that would store our stuff easily, allow everything to be readily seen, and then labeled the bins so there’d be no confusion about contents.

Having never been that organized in my life, I stood back in awe. I’ve been the kind who finds a surface or a spare bin and throws whatever I don’t want in it because of convenience. Of course, that meant searching through piles of junk to find what we needed.

Or we’d replace it.

We have eight hammers. Nobody needs eight hammers.

My family intended us to finish this project well. To not only clear the garage but to make it useable and easy to navigate.

Too often in life, I’ve settled for what seems enough or have quit because I didn’t want to handle what appeared to be too hard or uncomfortable. I’d get by with less effort, but it typically caused more disappointment and frustration because things just didn’t end well. I’d have a bad attitude about people who did a half-hearted job in things I was passionate about, but my own half-hearted efforts often discouraged family and friends because of my lack of follow-through.

That’s a character issue.

People long for those they consider safe people. Those they can trust to do as they’ve promised, who will keep confidences, who will be whole-heartedly on their side. Not condoning bad behavior or mistakes, but not condemning it either.

It’s hard to find those people. We’re all messy and shattered, and our personal shards stick others even when we don’t want them to.

But God.

He alone is One who sees all of who and what we are and chooses to extend grace when there’s nothing we can do to earn it. He never goes back on a promise. He is who He says He is and acts with full justice and compassion.

We don’t. People fail one another and themselves. No matter how much we care about someone.

What a difference it could make if we knew we always had Someone on our side who would never fail us.

His follow-through is eternal.

 

 

When Do I Need To Say ‘Enough’?

photo courtesy of Graham Covington on Unsplash

In life, I’m not a quick learner.

I miss the obvious, don’t listen to the wisdom of those around me, and often find I’m unobservant with what needs to be seen. Lessons that need to be learned take more time with this method.

And contribute much more frustration.

I threw my back out sometime last week. I’m not sure how, what I might have been doing, where I wasn’t careful. I might have been carrying something too heavy. I could have slept funny.

What caused it isn’t the issue. I can barely move.

It hurts to sit up. It hurts to lay down. I sleep in a chair because the bed is the worst place for comfort.

And I’m whiney. Just ask John.

Pain can be a severe instructor. It’s a reminder of what we can and can’t do. By its very nature, it’s limiting.

Unless you don’t pay attention to it.

I’ve been to the chiropractor twice. Her adjustments are close to the pain level of my sad back; I’ve not yet screamed out loud in her office. After both times, she said I’d be sore after her work on my muscles and joints.

Hurting more in order to hurt less seems counterintuitive. I did, however, schedule another appointment. Somewhat masochistic of me, but I believed her when she said she could help.

All of that, and I’m still not asking for help to pick up heavy items, move bulky things, or get someone else to do the bending to pick things off the floor.

It’s difficult for me to ask for help. I’m more than willing to offer my help to others, but to seek assistance is hard. Raised in a family where you do what you’re told without complaint, I learned to be self-sufficient and not expect help. It becomes a habit not to ask.

It’s also a pride issue, and what I’ve prided myself on is being a low-maintenance kind of gal who isn’t needy.

Being independent and capable, especially as a woman, can reflect both a strength of character and an unwillingness to admit need. There’s a tipping point where admired personal toughness becomes a barricade that keeps others from knowing the real me.

Do I want to be known? Or am I satisfied with a facade?

It’s so much easier managing an image, crafting it to appear as I choose rather than who I really am. If I do it long enough, I begin to question what my needs really are. What I’m truly needing from others to feel that sense of belonging and community.

The truth is I’m very needy. I need acceptance, love, forgiveness, hope. I need a sense of worth as I live each day. I need to know I’m known and valued for what I contribute, what I can do.

That’s why Jesus came. To make us whole, to give us purpose greater than ourselves, to live each day with hope and meaning. To not have to do all, be-all, but to walk with Someone who is.

Let Him carry my burdens.

I need that from Him.

Not a crutch; a Lifesaver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody Needs To See My Garage

When we moved to Florida and had no possibility of a basement, my garage became my catch-all for anything that didn’t have a place.

I cringed at having anyone see it. My kids learned from me that if you don’t have a place for something, throw it in the garage and think about where to put it later.

Or not.

Garages are meant to house cars. That has never been the purpose of our garage. It exists to hold stuff, to contain that which probably shouldn’t be, to house things that I hesitate to throw away. A messy storage unit for the misplaced and forgotten. It’s also the storage space for our kids’ things that they didn’t necessarily want to go through.

As an act of kindness, possibly motivated by a bit of responsibility for their clutter, several of the kids decided to help us clean out our garage. To finally throw away stuff we haven’t seen or thought about for years.

The driveway became our staging area where things were placed in piles. Each child had a bin of things they wanted to keep. The biggest pile, however, was the throw-aways, things we no longer valued. We had paper receipts from fifteen years ago, trinkets we’d picked up on our various adventures, and yearbooks for all the kids. I was surprised when no one wanted to keep those memory-laden tomes. Filled with ridiculous comments and reminders of things done that they didn’t want to remember, I realized I never wanted my own kids to see my yearbooks.

What was fascinating was how the younger kids prowled through the clutter as if on a treasure hunt. Most of the grands acquired new-found valuables.

That might not have been how their parents saw it.

Apart from others helping us, I never would have tackled the garage. Too messy, too uncomfortable, too many things I didn’t want to deal with. We’ve made progress on it; we may get a car in there yet.

There are areas of my life that resemble my garage: areas of messiness I don’t want to deal with, pain that I shove further down, disappointments that I refuse to face, a conflict I’m avoiding. I hide things well with my humor and a perpetual smile that makes others think they know me.

I don’t invite many into the garage of my heart.

But Jesus is there. He sees the mess, the hurt, all that I don’t want to confront, and He tells me to give it to Him. He promises to help me deal with my junk in a way that is healthy and hopeful. He doesn’t condemn me for the mess; He fully knows what I’ve done and what I’m capable of. He’s committed to my growth because He cares for me more than I can understand.

I wouldn’t have touched our garage without help. It was more than I could do on my own. Life, in general, is a better journey with a Companion who knows the road and promises to be faithful to stay the course.

The hope of Jesus is the freedom to see and live beyond the garage.

 

 

 

Don’t Force It If It Doesn’t Fit

I’ve been a lover of fairy tales since I was a kid. The fantasy of happily ever afters and the drama of quests and conflicts has enthralled me for years.

One of my favorites is Cinderella, the story of a young girl who, through kindness and courage, lived through loss and rejection to find her happy ending. One of my best-loved scenes is when the glass slipper is presented to her two stepsisters, and they do everything possible to make it fit. Discomfort is cast aside–they would wear that shoe no matter what the cost. They were invested in the results–they wanted to marry a prince.

Cal, at two, is growing quickly. He has several shirts that fit him easily a month ago, but now they’re a bit small and hard to force over his head. Getting them on is a lot easier than taking them off. His ears get stuck, his eyebrows squish together, his face resembles a potato as it’s mashed into a shape it wasn’t meant to be. He’s not a wicked stepsister, but if the shirt doesn’t fit, it’s time to let it go.

That’s never easy to do. When children are young they grow out of clothes quicker than they can wear them out. If it’s an outfit that is particularly special to the child, it can be a challenge for them to give it up. A special princess dress, a pair of comfortable shoes, a shirt that’s soft, and reminds them of a special day spent with family; things that provide memories are hard to give up. We’ve invested.

I tend to hang onto things past their usefulness. I have an old pair of tennis shoes that I’ve worn holes in the toes which I don’t want to throw away. I want to get as much wear out of them as possible, and I don’t want to regret getting rid of them. What if I need them to take a walk in the rain?

They’re no longer helping me. They’re most likely contributing to my back pain. My feet are grateful when I take them off. Why keep them?

The same reason we all hang onto things past their usefulness. We’re invested. I paid good money for those shoes. They should last longer.

The truth is we grow out of many things in life that we need to discard. Old shoes, clothes that don’t fit or don’t look good, or ideas that no longer work for us. Ways of thinking that aren’t relevant to our lives now. Belief systems that have proven false.

There’s a lot of anger and divisiveness in our world that comes from all of us being different. Differences make us the beautiful tapestry of humanity that we are. But we’ve chosen over the years to invest in ways of thinking that don’t always value each person as God intends each of us to be valued. We don’t see the wonder of our differences; we only see the inconvenience of those who aren’t like us.

God sees each of us as beautiful. Made in His image. Full of hope.

Isn’t it time to see others through His lens of love and let go of ideas that minimize some?

Love is always the best investment.

 

 

 

 

 

What Does It Take To Be A Diva?

Brooklyn has been in a dance class for two years. The highlight of every dance year is the recital, with fancy costumes, parents, relatives, and friends watching enthralled, and the celebration that comes at the end of something done well.

It almost didn’t happen.

The pandemic shut many things down, including such classes and performances.

When you’re almost five, that’s an unbelievable disappointment.

The teachers became creative and practices were held virtually. Not the easiest way to learn dances with many children, but it was a valiant effort. The recital was scheduled for an outdoor venue. Parents only were asked to come, and the rest of us watched on Facebook Live.

What was fascinating was what it took beforehand to get Brooklyn ready. it made me grateful my kids chose to play soccer.

Hair was the first order of business. It needed to be up and off their faces; each costume had come with a special hair accessory to make it work. Brooklyn has long, baby-fine straight hair that needed to be curled. Tiffany, Brooklyn’s mom, left the styling to sisters Heather and Debbie.

The show actually began two hours before the recital.

Hair had to be combed into a high ponytail, bangs slicked back, and a multitude of curls made in the dangling hair. So much hair spray was used that I feared lighting a match would make us all toast. Brooklyn sat through this like a trooper.

Then came the makeup. She looked beautiful but older. My energetic grand looked like a little porcelain doll.

When she finally put the costume on, the transformation was complete.

All for ten minutes of fame as they performed their dance routine. Which in and of itself was delightful, since dancing with people they hadn’t seen in a while was a surprising distraction.

Hours of classes. Two hours of personal preparation to make her recital-ready. For ten minutes.

It was worth it to us as her family to see Brooklyn shine on stage. But as much as we enjoyed the performance, it was not life-changing.  A wonderful memory was made. Period.

How often in life do I spend an inordinate amount of time, focus, frustration, and stress on something that has no lasting meaning? Often without the accompanying grand memory.

Possibly the better question to ask is how often am I thinking of me and only me? When my focus becomes so self-centered that I’m not considering anyone else in their feelings and circumstances?

Brooklyn was diva for a day, and it was fun to see her in that role. But that’s not a sustainable role, not a place she lives every day. It was an opportunity to share talent in a public forum.

Too often, our public forums are about our grievances and criticisms. It’s easy to not agree with others–we’re all different. But I know me–when I spend so much time complaining and not doing something to help a problem, I become the problem.

God wants our focus to be on treating others with kindness, respect, and courage. To stand up for what’s right and not compromise our behavior because of anger or disappointment. To love others well.

This world doesn’t need any more divas.