How Do I Not Drop The Balls?

photo courtesy of Alexey Turenkov on Unsplash

We’re living in a time when being a professional juggler might be to our advantage.

School is beginning in many areas, and figuring out which option to choose for educating your children may take a dozen increasingly challenging decisions to make:

Do I let them be face-to-face with other students and teachers whom I have no control over how they’ve taken care of themselves?

Do I make them sit at home in front of a computer for hours on end, trying to focus when I can’t focus for more than an hour without getting antsy?

Is homeschool our only best option? And what about work? How do I work and still help with my children’s education?

It doesn’t end with education. Figuring out how to keep yourself and those you love safe and healthy without feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed takes serious choices. Dealing kindly with others when your own emotions are scattered like the wind across the spectrum of feelings takes intent. Having job situations existing on the precipice–not sure if it will tip over to its demise or roll back to safety–is a challenge when you’re trying to provide for yourself and your family.

And every day it seems life is throwing one more ball for you to keep in the air.

As a child, I was fascinated with jugglers. Their ability to keep so many things airborne was a skill set I wanted to have.

I tried it. I’d watched enough jugglers that I believed I could do it.

It’s never as easy as it looks.

I worked at it. I could never get the hang of having them all in the air at once.

That’s not true. I could do it with one ball. Two were difficult. Three were impossible.

Like any skill, it takes time to learn to juggle. There’s balance, keeping your eye on the balls, being aware of what’s coming at you. Some are more adept at it than others. Practice is the only way to improve.

I’ve never felt the need to understand how to juggle as much as I have lately. And I’ve raised six kids, all who played soccer, so juggling schedules and time was something I did.

The emotional stakes have increased. The confusion, despair, and anger that has spread globally have undone our systems, our ways of coping, our old methods of juggling.

But God.

My tendency is to think ahead of what might be, what I need to do to prepare for what I’m not sure will happen. To figure out how to fix what is so broken in my day-to-day experience.

To fix my reality, I’d have to fix the world. I don’t have the skillset, power, or the authority to do that.

I can focus on changing myself.

With the help of the One who knows me and loves me best.

I can’t fix the world, but I can overhaul my heart with His truth and love. I can find security in His permanence, His power, and presence in my life.

When I drop a ball, it won’t be the end of the world.

He helps me pick it up and move on.

 

 

The Rain Will Come With The Shine

 

photo courtesy of Brandon Morgan on Unsplash

We’re at the point in summer when rain is predicted every day. We have seasons of drought where we long for more rain. And now when we get more rain, it’s very easy to whine about excess moisture.

Lately, with our intense heat and high humidity, we’ve had a lot of electrical storms, with wild displays of lightning that spark the sky like a massive fireworks display. It’s beautiful and terrible all at once, whether bolts appear to be hurled from the heavens or sheets blanket the sky with brightness.

Our newly planted landscape tends to wither in the intense sun. Rain on a consistent basis keeps our water bill down and gives our plants what they need to thrive. So when what is expected doesn’t happen, the plants droop and we haul out the hose.

Rain is necessary for life. We all need it to sustain our day-to-day existence, farmers need it to grow crops, which keeps us fed and able to live with what we need. In places where there is limited rain, life is more of a struggle for sustenance. Clean water is life-giving.

It can also be a problem. Too much rain causes flooding and mudslides, a totally different issue to deal with.

Apart from the massive help and hurt it can cause, there’s also the inconvenience of rain and lightning.

My kids, and now my grands, play soccer. Rain alone won’t prevent kids from playing. I’ve stood on fields and have watched my kids hydroplaning over the grass as they chase after a ball. We learned early on to carry a supply of towels with us during this season to keep the mud at a minimum.

When lightning is part of the mixture, practices and games are put on hold for half an hour until it’s safe to play. If lightning strikes within that time period, they wait another half hour. Too many times we’ve waited an hour, only to have practice finally canceled.

Our ability to predict the weather has improved dramatically over the years, but there are no guarantees that a forecast will be correct.

Life is full of what we can’t control or even predict what will happen. We can anticipate with knowledge, we can plan with intent, and we can prepare for unseen options.

Right now we’re in the midst of unexpected occurrences, things we didn’t expect to happen. Responses are different depending on personal circumstances.

But we can’t stop living. We can’t quit in despair. God has given us what we need for today, a sufficiency that doesn’t come from our current situation. He has promised to be our Enough, even when we’re weak and have no resources of our own left.

He longs to provide us with the strength and hope we need. Particularly when we see no hope.

No one knows how long our current circumstances will go on. Quitting can’t be part of the game plan because it leaves us with no hope.

Hope in the Lord. He is our Enough.

Come rain or shine.

Because it will rain.

 

 

 

 

It’s Coming, It’s Coming!

photo courtesy of NASA on Unsplash

Hurricane season begins June 1. We rarely get many of these storms the first two months of the season. Except, of course, the day my daughter got married. June 1, an outdoor wedding, and it had to be moved indoors because of the coming hurricane.

Most of our really big ones here in Florida don’t happen until August. The conditions for these tempests all fall into the category of the perfect storm. (Pun intended). Our first hurricane of concern came in the first part of August. Isaias. Many have been fascinated by the name–it’s a derivative of Isaiah, the Hebrew name for YAHWEH, or God, is salvation.

An intriguing name for a catastrophic storm.

Since this is our norm, when these squalls begin to form in the Atlantic Ocean, we’re made aware of what to expect. People prepare, many by purchasing water, nonperishable food, and filling the gas tanks of cars. On the east coast of the state, they board up windows, bring in anything that could blow away, and make sure flashlights and batteries are available in case power is lost.

We brought in all the toys scattered on the porch, placed plants in more secure locations toward the wall, and brought in anything that could be used as a flying weapon. Years ago, we had a trampoline that actually was picked up by the wind and hurtled into our neighbors’ yard. Thankfully, nothing was damaged, but we learned a lesson.

Then we waited.

It missed us.

The Weather Channel, as well as most local channels, love to speak in hyperbole. The awfulness of what could be, the challenge of what we don’t yet know, prepare for the worst. Often, this goes on for days causing worries to happen before the fact.

I understand the need to be prepared. Sometimes, doom and gloom don’t communicate what needs to be understood.

I often am preparing for things I see and understand. The unknown and unexpected too frequently leave me unaware and vulnerable.

COVID is a great example. Nobody anticipated how this would affect our lives five months ago. On the last day of work, I walked out believing I’d be back after Easter.

Now I’m adjusting each day as more of the unknown enters my world.

But God.

It’s easier to deal with what I know and can grasp than what doesn’t make sense. The things I don’t agree with can leave me confused or even angry.

God in all His greatness has that effect on people. It’s hard to grasp Someone I can’t see yet is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and full of grace.

It’s easier to dismiss Him, marginalize Him.

Until someone is sick, or death hovers too close for comfort.

It’s natural to turn to God in moments of fear and pain, in times of loss and grief.

He embraces us, no matter what the storm is, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how hard it is to admit we need Him.

He’s available for us to cast our burdens on Him. To not go it alone. Ready and waiting for us to ask.

Maybe doing it before the storm hits would help.

 

 

We All Have A Hidden Closet

I’m not fond of opening that door. If I need to, I close my eyes so I don’t have to look. Seeing what it is brings nothing but guilt for not dealing with it, and shame for letting it become what it is.

I’m talking about our toy closet.

When the kids were little, we used this wonderful hideaway under the stairs as a play space. They’d use it to be away from the large family that was very loud and always present. It was a grand place to read without interruption. And until I figured out it was also a place to use to disappear from chores, the kids were successful in hiding.

Once they moved out and grands came, we began to collect toys and books for the kids when they came to visit. John created order by installing two small bookcases with bins to hold everything from trucks to Legos to books that spanned interests.

That lasted until the first grand entered the closet.

Children don’t see order; they lock eyes onto what is desirable and do everything they can to get it. Which means throwing things out of the closet, dumping things onto the floor, and scattering organization to the wind.

In the beginning, we’d make an attempt at reestablishing order once the littles went home. After a while, I didn’t want to take the time or energy to clean up a mess that would be made again. It wasn’t worth it.

We let the closet go. The grands still came and scavenged. Instead of cleaning it, I’d throw stuff back in and shut the door.

I didn’t want to deal with it.

When we decided to finally clean it out, I knew we needed help. Ethan, at seventeen, is strategic in how he thinks. I needed rational thoughts when it came to throwing things away. Everything to me had too much sentiment.

As we cleaned, the reality of what it had become became clear. Toys were broken, games were missing pieces, puzzles weren’t all there.

To add insult to injury, cockroaches were scattered underneath the debris.

We cleaned it out, with Ethan continually saying, “Pitch it.” He was my reminder that some things shouldn’t be held onto.

I have a similar closet in my life. It holds all the junk I don’t want to deal with, hidden things I’d be ashamed to let others see or know, things that aren’t the best for me that I struggle with giving up. Attitudes, desires, fears, behaviors.

Jesus knows the contents of that closet; I can’t hide it from him. I fool myself to think nobody knows my dark secrets, but He knows them all.

No condemnation from Him. His offer is to help me clean it out. To allow Him to enter and help me pitch what doesn’t help me but hurts me. My critical spirit, my jealousies, my unforgiveness.

We all have a closet. Things we choose to hide, even from those we love. But the contents of them are the bondage that holds us to darkness and keeps us from seeing the Light.

Jesus never expects us to deal with it on our own. His help is needed.

None of us are good at getting rid of junk.

 

 

 

Who’s Doing All That Cleaning?

Who knew over four months ago that cleaning supplies would be so hard to find?

Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing in the world–it doesn’t even rank in the top ten. Or twenty. But it is a necessary endeavor to ensure that my home isn’t a hotbed of germs and contagions that could negatively affect others.

I clean out of a sense of duty. Growing up, cleaning the house was one of the chores my two sisters and I were tasked with. Every Saturday, no matter what else was happening, we would diligently clean the house to Mom’s specifications.

No cutting corners there.

When it became obvious with this pandemic that certain things weren’t going to be easy to come by, I was intrigued. When weeks went by and these items still didn’t appear on the shelves, I became annoyed. Disinfectant wipes had become a mainstay at our home, basically because of the parade of grands through the house and the ease with which they could be used.

But disinfectant wipes became things of the past.

Imagine my surprise when John said, “Wipes are on sale. I’m going,” and left. A man on a mission. A big box store near us had the wipes on sale–he’d happened onto a post that told how someone had just purchased them.

Of course, they were limited. Only two could be purchased.

They were in packs of five. That made ten containers of wipes. Enough to clean houses all over our subdivision.

When John returned with his two five-packs, he said people were going in just to get wipes. They’d walk out with their two multi-packs like treasure hunters who had just hit the jackpot.

I never imagined cleaning to be such a high value.

There’s both comedy and sadness in what we value. When there’s the chance that we may not be able to get something that everyone else is saying is necessary, fear and frustration dog our steps because our perceived wants aren’t met. The comedy is in what we choose to stockpile as if we have control over circumstances and can ward off need. Sadness evolves from what we choose to value and yet can’t maintain it.

Challenging circumstances often make us aware of what really matters. Between this pandemic and the current social environment, people are taking a stand on what they see as important.

The bigger question is who are we becoming as individuals in light of the hard circumstances? Better, more considerate people? Treating others with kindness, compassion, and hope? Or does emotion cause us to react instead of responding thoughtfully?

Jesus came to share hope for the world. A Jew, hated by many, preaching of the love and grace of His Father at a time when anger and unfair treatment of others was the norm.

He didn’t compromise who He was. He remained sinless, no matter how He was treated. He didn’t compromise Himself because of His circumstances.

He offers us a chance to live in His power, learning from His values. To consider how we’re choosing to live, how our lives are impacting others around us.

How are your values affecting your lifestyle?

The answer may surprise you.