Never Were There Such Delightful Sisters

 

When Mom passed away a little over a year ago, the concern was that we, three sisters who’ve been close for so long, would no longer make it a priority to be together. Mom’s place was the gathering spot, the place we’d converge to visit her in the waning years of her life to be together.

Our brother, on the west coast, would come when he could. The family has always meant something meaningful. A value deeply ingrained in us by our parents.

Getting together now is more work. I don’t feel as free to go; there was nothing as pressing as a final goodbye to Mom.

Growing up, the four of us kids weren’t exactly close. We had enforced family times: Sunday afternoon poker games, visits to the zoo, the county fair. Much of the time we’d moan and groan about “She’s touching me!” or “He’s breathing on me!” As we grew up we had more on our minds than being kind to one another.

Dad would frequently remind us that blood was thicker than water. Friends may come and go but family is forever. That caused quite a bit of eye rolling.

Learning the value of family came at a cost. Spending time together meant we had to say no to other things. Being with friends. Hiding in our rooms and reading a book. Watching TV. Activities that, at the time, were more desirable than one more family outing.

That changed as we grew up and started leaving home. My sisters were the ones who knew me. Who understood my quirks as well as their own. I could tell them things and they’d listen. Maybe not condone what I was doing, but they’d not condemn me either.

I made the time to be with them over our spring break. The three of us converged on my little sister’s home in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Her home overlooks Green Bay, away from my “musts” and “shoulds”.

We talk. We ask each other the hard questions, ones that don’t always come up in social conversation. Pat answers are dismissed; authenticity is valued. We’ve been holding each other accountable for various things we’re seeking to change in our lives, and that interaction alone feels like a lightening of a burden.

These women are a gift to me.

We all want to be known and valued by those around us. Not all families are as fortunate as mine; misunderstandings may divide, jealousy may undermine, pride may shut out those who are related by blood.

God has declared His followers to be His family. Delighted in by Him, sharing a heritage and future with Him and one another, sojourners together in this alien land that isn’t really home, we are united in His love.

I’ve got sisters and a brother who love me well. I also have those who follow Jesus who are also family in the eternal sense of the word.

We all need family. A community of people who love us no matter what.

We can have that whether we’ve been born into it or not. Knowing Jesus creates those bonds.

A different kind of forever blood relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Madness If So Many People Are Doing It?

photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on unsplash

March Madness has begun.

I’ve become a college basketball widow. Four weeks of listening to a game that isn’t my favorite. It’s a short court with so many really tall guys, stopping and starting, leaping and throwing.

Give me soccer any day.

I’ve great friends–men and women both–who are filling out brackets with their picks for winners.

Some of them actually know what they’re doing.

I’ve one sweet friend who has won with her bracket several times because she chooses teams based on mascots and team colors.

Creative brackets.

Folks talk about teams as if they have a player in the game. A personal investment, not all that different from a soccer mom standing on the sideline cheering her child.

Some of this has to do with waiting for the next BIG thing. The Super Bowl is over. Professional basketball is dragging on and isn’t into the end of its season. Hockey’s season doesn’t end till April 6 so the Stanley Cup won’t happen for a while. And baseball is in its preseason mode.

So folks are all in for March Madness.

There are things in life where I can choose to go all in or be an uninterested bystander. I had to ask myself the question: What is truly worth my all-in? My investment of time, energy and even money.

The first thing that came to mind was family. Those people in my life that have been the biggest part of my story. My family of origin and my own immediate family. Folks I’ve been gifted with who’ve invested in me and I in them. I am, in large part, who I am today because of family.

I’ve others in my life who’ve made smaller investments in me. Not all are heroes; some are villains. But they’ve each played a part in making me who I am. A dear friend reminded me years ago that villains are just as significant as heroes. They push us to be greater than we think we can be.

My biggest all-in must be my faith in God.

There are those who find faith a sign of weakness. I’ve watched Bill Maher’s “Religulous”; he mocks faith at almost every level. Particularly any follower of Jesus. He reduces faith to something that can’t be proven.

That would be a surprise to those who, over centuries, have had their lives changed by the power of Christ. The Messiah. The One who was all in when He gave His life for us. Love sent Him to the cross, a love that yearned for us to spend eternity with Him.

He was all in because of passionate, reckless love.

Nobody has that passion for March Madness. For these weeks, they buy in because of their commitment to a team. Or to the fun.

The question remains: What is important enough for you to choose to go all in, no holding back?

It must be more significant than just a mascot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bee It Ever So Humble We Just Want A Home

“I’m not going out there with that bee flying around.” Isley was quite adamant.

“What bee?” from a concerned adult.

“The one flying around our tree near the playground.”

Context is everything. When someone says “bee”, I think of a single flying insect.

This wasn’t one bee–it was a swarm. Our oldest and her family had become hosts to a huge swarm of bees. Deep within the branches of the tree in their yard were clumped more bees than I’ve ever seen before,

When the kids told me about it, I was more than a little surprised. There are no known bee hives around our area. We have beekeepers in various parts of East Orlando, but they were quite a long way from us. Where they came from and why they settled there was a mystery.

Several ideas were expressed on how to deal with them. Chop the tree down. Call someone in to remove them. Have pest control come and kill them. Every possibility was extreme–and carried with it some definite possibilities of getting stung.

My dear husband did some quick research. Bees swarm because they’re cramped for space. When too many bees are trying to exist and work in one hive, the old queen takes a bunch of her workers before new queens are born and fly to a new location to set up a new hive. Then there are two hives, which is helpful for reproduction. The more bees, the more consistent pollination of surrounding plants and the production of honey.

When they leave their old hive, they find a resting place while scout bees locate a large hollow tree or any other space with a big enough hollow. Once located, the scouts return and lead the rest of the bees to their new home. A bee exodus.

If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. They’ve got more on their minds than us.

The swarm in the back yard was gone in two days. Relocated.

We can learn a lot from the bees.

How do I respond to unfamiliar situations with groups of people I don’t know? People from different cultures, speaking different languages, just wanting to find a home that works for them. Wanting to live with meaning and purpose–a heartfelt need for all people because we’re created that way.

We all want to find a place where we can live with kindness and courage and be productive in the ways we’ve been taught with skill sets that are ours. We want what we do to matter, to know we make a difference.

If we’re given the chance to be embraced for who we are and live fruitful lives, it would benefit everyone. God made us with unique gifts and talents to work together, to encourage one another, no matter our backgrounds, our language, our color. God says we all matter. We need to treat one another with deference.

And quite possibly we’ll all be better for it.

After all, the only difference between us and the bees is we can choose not to use our stingers.

 

 

 

 

What’s It Worth To Me?

I’m a huge fan of change. Boredom is my nemesis. Too much of the same gets me in trouble.

Except when life is undone by Daylight Savings Time.

The jumping ahead an hour messes up my everything. Sleep isn’t returned. It takes days to get into a routine that fits.

We’re no longer an agrarian society that needs later light for harvest. The only thing I’m harvesting right now are dust bunnies under my couch.

I stayed up too late on Saturday night and woke up resentful for losing an hour of sleep.

Talk about blame shifting.

Having gone to church on Saturday night, we were able to take it a little easier Sunday. John flipped through channels and came across a show called Strange Inheritance, showcasing the oldest amusement park in America–Trimper’s Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland.

It’s one of the few family-owned parks left in the U.S. Most parks are owned by huge conglomerates–think Disney and Universal. Founded in 1893, it’s been owned by five generations of Trimpers. The beautiful carousel and other rides have huge historic value. The carousel is hand-carved, one of only two of that kind ever in the U.S. The other one, on Coney Island, was destroyed by fire.

The land it sits on, however, is worth a lot of money. Much more than the profits each year from park revenues. The challenge for the family is there are those who want to sell it and take the money and those who want to keep it as a legacy to those who built and maintained it for over a hundred years.

What’s the value of history?

It became clear, as the program progressed, that the issue was convictions versus comfort and convenience. Daniel Trimper IV now runs the park with his sons and is committed to retaining the legacy built by his family. He knows he’d make a lot more money if he sold, but money isn’t the issue for him. Doing what’s right by his family is.

Conviction versus comfort and convenience. How often have I found myself in that predicament, wanting to make the right decisions but pulled by the promise of ease and more stuff? How deep and valued are my convictions? How strong is the pull of “more” in my life?

My choices will reflect the value of my convictions.

That doesn’t always play out the way I’d like. I fall to temptation too much when I’m driven by what I want. Not thinking about the consequences.

We all need a sense of absolute right and wrong, a solid basis from which to make decisions consistently, with integrity. Where do I get my foundation of right and wrong?

God is my basis of absolutes. He doesn’t waver in His standards; He’s very clear about what is good to choose and what’s not. His choices aren’t random to punish us should we stray–we all will stray. His standards protect and provide for us. Out of love.

Like any good Parent would do.

I respect what Daniel Trimper is doing. It takes guts to go against the popular and profitable opinion.

That’s a “same old” I can get behind.

 

 

 

Whose Fault Is It This Time?

 

photo courtesy of Hermes Rivera on unsplash

I was on soccer-run duty. The goal–get two of the grands to their respective fields on time.

The real estate adage about location, location, location being of foremost importance is followed closely by traffic, traffic, traffic in the time it takes to get anywhere in Orlando.

I made sure we left the house in plenty of time. Water bottles–check. Soccer gear–check. Cell phone with highly valued GPS–check.

Until we got on the road. Leaving our small community was a stretch because of traffic. I happened to get behind a vehicle who, when the light turned green, determined not to go. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and about three seconds to move before I honked my horn. I could see a head pop upright and figured he’d been texting.

I was determined to make this light. I stepped on the gas, as Mr. Pokey Puppy slowly accelerated. He made it.

I ran a red light.

I didn’t see a police car. I’m not totally sure there aren’t cameras at that corner. If there are, I’ll be receiving a kind notice from my local authorities in the mail.

What bothered me more was having two kids in the car, one who will be getting her permit soon. My response wasn’t stellar. I blame-shifted, became angry–and stopped as Teagan glanced at me.

“You’re making a lot of noise.”

I’m not fond of driving, but I’m even less fond of my temper and the tendency to blame others and be critical. It’s something I’ve tried to focus on, and the harder I try, the more I disappoint myself. When I start down that road, disappointment comes quicker, like a downward spiral.

If it’s been one of those days, I blame others for my issues like it’s my job.

I often blame God as well. He disappoints me in not doing what I need Him to do. Immediately. Not answering prayers as I’d hoped and expected He would.

Letting me down.

We’ve had some horrific things happen in our family where I felt God dropped the ball. Times that felt like He turned His back on me. Or that I wasn’t important enough for Him to care about my problem.

All of those are lies.

During one especially difficult time, a dear friend, who’d gone through her own personal crucible, reminded me of the depth of God’s love and my inability to earn it or deserve it. His love for me is so deep and thorough He weeps with me and collects my tears; they are precious to Him.

know that.

In the middle of a crisis or disappointment, it’s easy to forget the truth. It’s simple to move from remembering how much God has done for me and transition to “Woe is me!” To focus so much on circumstances that I lose sight of what’s real.

His love for me.

I will continue to disappoint myself because I’m messy and imperfect. God is everything good I’m not. He’s never bothered by my brokenness.

You won’t ever find Him running a red light.