Get Ready; Get Set; No

It’s January, and in Florida, that can mean 80 degrees of warm or 60 degrees of damp cold.

Northern friends grimace at the thought that I could freeze in 60-degree weather. It’s true.

Three of my kids are now living in the cold climes. Where snow is expected and temperatures drop below freezing.

My hands are cold just typing that.

Between Colorado, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, these three families live with the cold. Often enjoying it. Sometimes tiring of it. Always needing to deal with what it impacts–driving, school closures, and cabin-fever potential.

Not the kids.

One-month-old Beck hasn’t had the chance to play in the snow. If his parents are any indication, however, he will learn to love it. A lot. The other five grands in the now frozen tundras of northern states see snow as the new playground of the hour.

Having lived in Florida more years than I haven’t, I forget how fun it was to take the kids sledding, to build snow people and animals, dig snow caves. To curl up in front of a fireplace with a cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet brought on by the blanket of white.

I also forget how much extra clothing we had to buy on a yearly basis. Snowsuits that would be outgrown in a year. Boots that barely made it through one winter season. Mittens that needed to be purchased by the case because it was the first thing lost.

And who can forget the reality of getting all the kids ready to go outdoors only to have the first one fully dressed tell me that a bathroom break was necessary.

All that work, only to have to repeat.

I’m not prepared for cold weather. I’ve learned to do hot and humid well. To appreciate the warm rays of sunshine that are familiar to me here. I no longer have the gear to play in the snow.

I’m not sad about it. Cold soaks into my bones quicker than it ever did when we lived up north. My extremities become so chilled that John shivers when I hug him. When the temperature in the house drops to 69 degrees, I’m walking around in flannel jammie pants, sweatshirt and holding a blanket around me.

There’s a lot in life that I’m not prepared for. Crises happen, and they always take me by surprise. They’re part of life. If I’m not in one at present, it’s just around the corner.

I’m not prepared for disappointment, hurt, loss, or being disrespected. But I don’t get up each day expecting the worst.

Sometimes the worst happens.

I don’t have to see it as a problem.

A friend reminded me of something our boss once said. He really had no problems. Jesus, however, had a bunch, because he would give all his hurts, struggles and pains to Him.

Jesus invites us to do just that. To cast our cares, our lack of preparedness, our worries on Him.

Because He loves us. And He’s our enough to deal with all that.

The cold?

I just need more clothes.

 

I Recognize That Face!

He didn’t recognize the face. Reaching out his hand, he touched another hand that looked just like his.

“It’s you, buddy. That’s your face in the mirror.”

At almost a year, Cal is interested in many things. The world has exploded with new places to explore, fascinating faces to get to know, and amazing items to stick in his mouth for further investigation.

He’s developed an attraction to mirrors. Recognizing himself and grasping the reality that the little guy in the reflection does exactly what he does. It still takes moments for recognition to click, but when it does, he embraces his image with joy and enthusiasm.

Literally. He tries to hug himself and licks or smooches his likeness.

We all do it. I glance into windows as I’m walking past to see if I’m put together the right way. I don’t tarry too long with looking–it’s too easy to find something wrong with the image. So long as I’m clothed and mostly in my right mind, I’m passable.

Kids enjoy longer gazes because everything they wear and every mood they have changes the way they look. Mirrors become a lesson in self-awareness.

Brooklyn, at three, loves dressing in pretty and pink. Wearing a princess dress, though, changes who she is. She may be a little girl, but arraying herself in a long silky pink dress transforms her into Princess Aurora; the yellow gown into Princess Belle. When she gazes at her reflection, the imagined transformation becomes real.

What she sees is a princess.

Sloane is all about drama. The faces she makes in the mirror expand her idea of who she is.

What she sees is fun.

We are mirrors of another kind. People reflect the image they want to project–it’s why we manage an image on social media. A careless picture, an inconsiderate statement not thought through, or questionable contexts make people wonder who the real you is. In a world of quick pictures and sound bytes, a peck of a finger can make or break you.

We tend to believe what we see. Rarely do we wait around for explanations if appearances seem problematic.

With kids, getting up close and personal with their reflected image is the preferred way of viewing. Mirrors get smudgy and streaked and don’t show clearly what’s before them.

That rarely bothers a child. What might appear fuzzy to us is fully seen by them.

I need to be conscious of the image I’m reflecting. Not trying to fool others into thinking I’m someone I’m not. Being authentic.

So who am I? What do I see when I look in the mirror? Not the image staring at me, but the person standing there.

My heart’s desire is to reflect the Person most important in my life.

Jesus.

I may be smudged and streaked. But He sees me as beautiful.

He alone has the power to shape who I am. To permanently and positively impact me to grow to be a better person.

What do others see in you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding Tightly; Releasing Eventually

It’s January 7, and our Christmas tree is still up.

It’s not artificial; it’s very real. Was once very alive. We’ve had it since November 23–it’s been in our family room for over six weeks.

The tree has lost very few needles. It’s quite green, with a wonderful fresh aroma that still fills the room.

I don’t want to get rid of it.

It has stood sentinel over our holiday gatherings. It’s been the quiet observer in the corner as presents were unwrapped and babies tried to pull ornaments from its very gracious branches.

And it has been my companion late at night and early in the mornings when I sit alone, reading, writing, praying, thinking. I’ve left the lights on more than I’ve left them off, and I’ve come to appreciate their gentle glow in the background.

John has been patient with me. He put “Christmas” away a week ago and quietly left a bin in the family room to hold our ornaments. A gentle nudge to get the job done.

I moved the bin.

There’s been so much going on with this new year. Some things are really great; others are hard.

The tree has stood there, like a friend.

It hasn’t been faithful to stand throughout the past month and a half. It fell while I was away, breaking some of my favorite ornaments. It’s quite large and even now tips to one side. John put it back up, redecorating even though he’d have been happy leaving the whole thing down.

He loves me that well.

I’ll take the tree down. Eventually. It is, after all, a dead tree. Hanging on to whatever time is left. It won’t drink any more water so it won’t last much longer. It will dry out sooner rather than later. It will be tossed to the curb for pick-up and will be a memory.

I have many things in my life that I struggle to release. People. Circumstances. Things. Special parts of life that have mattered, for one reason or another.

Nothing and nobody will last forever. Not this side of heaven.

I lost my mom and several friends this past year. Death happens to all of us. I’ve had disappointments and the loss of a few dreams lately that meant something to me.

Life won’t end with losses. They’re very much a part of life.

It’s learning to live in light of loss. Recognizing that there are some things in my life I can’t lose.

Like my relationship with Jesus.

He’s with me in all things. The good and the bad; the things that work and those that don’t. He’s the Sentinel that stands by me, even if I can’t see Him. The One who is with me, even in the crowds of loneliness. The One who hears my voice whenever I call.

Nobody else has that kind of staying power. Nothing else can satisfy what I really need.

I guess I can let my Christmas tree go.

It’s All About The Faces

Many are reflecting on what occurred in 2018. Personal goals reached; dreams realized; ambitions pursued.

Or not.

It would be easy for me to reduce my year to what I accomplished. To look at what I was able to do and evaluate accordingly.

I’d be disappointed with myself. I’ve high expectations of what I should accomplish, a ridiculously high benchmark that often seems unattainable.

Which can be truly annoying to all around me.

2018 was a tough year around the world. Natural disasters that took multitudes of lives; national politics that had people angry over things they couldn’t control; foreign countries that could prove problematic to the US.

It’s concerning when two of the most talked-about issues were a royal wedding and Dr. Sandra Lee, better known as Dr. Pimple Popper.

What do we individually focus on as noteworthy?

Looking back on this past year, significance for me is to really see those people who’ve impacted my life. Whose lives have touched mine in powerful ways.

People are often shoved aside when circumstances get pushy and overwhelming.

It’s the faces in my life that have made the difference. I want those faces to be my focus, to be what matters most.

The five boys born this past year into our family. Stretching the number of grands to fourteen.

My children who choose to pursue their dreams, not thinking of a  the freedom they have to pursue who God has called them to be.

The folks on my team at work, who challenge me to be my best and who come alongside me even if I’m not.

The friends I’ve made over the years, who are near and far, who love me even in my messiness.

The extended family that lives all over, who are connected by more than just DNA.

Neighbors who’ve become dear because they’ve been there for us, for each other.

Faces.

Dreams and goals come and go. I achieve some; I fail miserably at others. Circumstances and opportunities aren’t always equal for everyone. The chance to achieve doesn’t always work for all.

People, however, are always around. They populate our lives purposefully. To grow, encourage, love and shape us into better people. God knows who we need in our lives. Not always those we think are essential, but people who’re necessary for us to be our best possible selves.

I’ve no single word for 2019, but I do have relationships I want to grow. People I want to be intentional with. A personal goal that is enriched by wonderful faces.

Who do you want to impact this year? Who will you allow to impact you?

 

 

A Picture Is Worth At Least Fifteen Words

Fifteen framed black and white pictures. All the grands. And an almost granddog.

The kids made me cry on Christmas–always a goal. If Mom sobs, the gift was a hit.

We have no pictures of all the grands anywhere in the house. The ones we had were outdated–the older ones were underwhelmed by their youth; the younger ones were stymied by their lack of presence on our walls.

The day before the exodus from our semi-epic Christmas, the project was to get the pictures on the wall. I have been known to have framed art or photographs for years before putting them up.

This would be finished. Whatever it took.

Jonn and I purchased a bunch of those sticky things that leave no marks on the wall when you take them down. Not that I was going to ever do that, but it was nice to know that my walls would look spotless if that were ever the case.

Plus there was the guarantee that each strip would hold four pounds. And these portraits barely weighed a pound apiece.

I’ve not got a great eye for style, so I was encouraged to put them up in three rows, five across. I thought uneven lines might make the end result more appealing.

I got the stink eye for even mentioning that.

Placement on the wall was determined. A level was used to make sure the lines ran straight–no eyeballing. A tape measure was brought to bear to make sure they were at an equal distance from one another. Very organized.

Until it wasn’t.

After the first six went up, the fourth one on the wall fell. Putting it back up with those little sticky things–which guaranteed to hold–didn’t help. That picture kept falling.

And then another one fell.

Fortunately, none of the glass broke as they tumbled off the wall. That was a positive.

No matter how firmly we held those frames in place, they refused to stay up.

So much for the stickies. I told John we need to rely on good old nails. Who cares about a hole in the wall?

This is a grand picture (pun intended) of what my approach to New Year’s resolutions is like. I’ve got a great plan with an end goal that will be spectacular. I get input from others on what might work best. I listen to advice from those who know better than I do about such things. And I move forward with a plan.

The plan works as long as my stickies (my willpower) hold up.

Rather short-lived.

My attempts to make broad changes in my life are only as good as my ability to make good choices. On any given day, the bad choices feel better.

My competencies mean nothing apart from my character.

The new year represents a new beginning. A clean slate.

As a messy person, clean slates don’t last.

God doesn’t operate on the clean-slate principle. Once He wipes a life clean with His forgiveness, it’s permanently clean.

No stickiness can mess that up.