Does My End Look As Good As My Beginning?

“You need to learn to raft well.”

Two of my friends stood before a group of people soon to be launched into yet another transition in life. Their goal?

To help them understand how to say goodbye well.

In a world growing smaller with technological strides forward, it could be assumed that connections with people are seen as significant. That interactions, made easier by our smart everything, would be genuine and long-lasting.

Not so much.

Our busyness pushes us to be real when it suits us. Trying to balance a schedule that is often more than I can handle, relationships that are more numerous than I can invest in well, and expectations of what I should be doing doesn’t leave room for authentic closeness and heartfelt goodbyes.

It’s easier to pretend I’ll see that friend again. Or isolate myself so I won’t have to deal with the loss of someone else moving on.

Or, as a friend did as a child, moving a lot with a military family, just pick a fight with my best friends and not be sad about leaving.

Rafting is all about Reconciling with people so we leave with no regrets; Affirmation, so the folks we care about know they matter to us; Farewell, which acknowledges leaving people and places close to our hearts; and Think Destination–prepare for moving on.

Our hearts have space to consider all we value.

So much of my life has been focused on moving on, don’t look back. Think ahead, don’t dwell on what I’ve missed.

If I don’t think about what I’m leaving, I won’t value what I’ve had. I won’t be prepared for what’s ahead.

Jesus’ disciples were a lot like that.

They’d spent three years with the One the Son of God. They’d watched as He fed thousands from a few loaves and fish, He raised people from the dead, healed those lame, blind and full of leprosy.

When He told them He’d be leaving them, they didn’t want to deal with it. When He explained He’d have to die–it was the reason Jesus came–they wouldn’t buy it.

They wanted things to go on as they had.

They expected Jesus would defeat their enemies and begin a reign on earth where the Jews would not be persecuted.

Good Friday put an end to that notion.

They didn’t end well with what came next. Jesus was arrested, put through a mock trial, tortured and then hung on a cross, the most humiliating and painful way to die.

The disciples ran, except John, the only one who stood by as his Lord hung in agony from the cross. He stood with the mother of Jesus.

There is no indication he said anything to his Lord as He died.

How do we end well? How do we know that we’ve done all we can to complete this life well?

By dealing with the One who gave His life up for us. He finished all the work that needed to be done to give us life.

If we receive that gift of forgiveness.

Are you finishing well?

What will you do with Good Friday?

 

 

 

 

I Can’t Be What I’m Not

He sits on the couch like a little old man, a leg tucked under, watching the world. His youth is momentarily set aside by his need to see and understand what’s going on around him. His energy is curtailed by observation.

For a moment.

He’s no little old man. There are three legs on the ground as he perches on the edge of the couch. Not very people-like–though he tries to be.

Aspen, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever, would like nothing better than to be a two-legged, conversant individual invited into every area of family life that his people experience.

He works hard at it.

He prefers people food to his own, though he does scarf down his own when it’s given. He’s adept at stealing food from high chairs, anything close to the edge of the table or counter, and grabs things thought to be out of reach of his investigative mouth.

He loves people. He will always be the first to greet you when you enter his home; he shows true enthusiasm over your presence.

He has a personal entitlement to shoes–not to wear them, but to eat them. A different kind of shoe issue than the one my girls have.

In spite of his male gender, he has a greater grasp of his emotions than many men have. He whines when he’s lonely. His mournful eyes can turn a hard heart into a sympathetic one. When he’s happily engaged with his people, he embraces joy.

As much as Aspen wants to be people, he isn’t. He can’t be.

Many folks own pets they treat as if they’re people, and these animals can take on the persona of humans. Cats, dogs, even birds become safe places of comfort and confession, listening ears when people are untrustworthy, unconditional lovers when people are disappointing.

They will never be real people. No matter how much we care, coddle or connect with them.

They can’t be what they weren’t made to be.

As a kid, I thought boys had all the fun, all the best options of being something special. My brother got to play little league and soccer; options not available at the time to the three of us sisters.

I was born a girl.

Indoctrinated by all the skinny models with long legs and big eyes in advertisements, I’d have given anything to have grown my legs six inches longer and widen my eyes considerably.

I have short legs.

I’m limited with who I am by what I was created to be–a white woman living in this era in this country. With many privileges that others don’t have, and limitations that don’t define me but restrict what I may be.

My color, gender, talent and skill sets have been gifted to me by a gracious and good God. There’s no limit to what I can accomplish if I trust in the One who made me in His image to accomplish amazing things for His glory.

I can’t be what I’m not.

My options for being all I can be are limited only by faith and perseverance.

Opportunities way better than Aspen has.

 

 

 

Let ‘Em All Eat Cake

 

26 years apart, Debbie and Mason celebrate their birthdays the same day.

Debbie is no newcomer to birthday cake and candles. Her nieces and nephews got a kick putting on 27 candles on her smash cake.

Yes, I said smash cake.

A current fad is to give a one-year-old a small cake to do with as they please as they discover the world of sugar.

Assuming they haven’t over-indulged in their first twelve months of life.

Mason, at one, has had very little of the sweet stuff, so I made a smash cake for him to enjoy. I made one for Debbie to celebrate her momentous entry into this world as well.

Who knew butter and sugar could make someone so excited?

Sitting side by side with their cakes before them, Mason was getting tired. Wiggly and wonky, he was ready to end his day. Celebrating is such work.

Then he mashed his hand into his cake. When the hand met the mouth, the fun began.

I confess I did get a little carried away with the frosting; it was thick amazing. When he tasted it, he broke into a huge grin and let his little fingers fly. Two-fisted fast and furious inhaling of buttery sugar goodness called for cheers and encouragement.

“Go, Mason, go!”

Deb glanced at him with a grin, and with the help of nieces and nephews, destroyed her very pink cake. She didn’t eat much; mostly she and the littles played with it, mashing it in their hands, licking stray frosting flecks that flew with many hands in the newly-created crumbs.

It was a glorious mess. Cake and frosting were on walls, floors, chairs, clothes.

All of it was able to be cleaned up. A little elbow grease and Deb and Taylor’s apartment looked as good as new.

Life is a big smash cake. Appealing and tantalizing, it draws us in with its promise of satisfying our desires for things that may not always be good for us. But in the moment, we celebrate our craving for what looks good, and we follow the wishes of our heart instead of the red flag in our brain.

Cake seems innocuous; a small piece never hurt anyone. But how often is a small compromise followed by greater justification that if some is good, more must be better. Before you know it, half the cake is gone and a definite issue with stomach pain becomes apparent.

This isn’t just about cake.

Each of us is a glorious mess, a stunning shambles. Beautiful by design and creation, marred by the poor choices we’ve made.

God sees our beauty and isn’t deterred by our chaos. He restores the wonder of who we are if we receive from Him the forgiveness and grace He longs to give us.

We’re made for more.

There is no end to the confrontation of the sweet and tasty around us. Those temptations don’t need to define us.

Jesus’ work on the cross cleanses us like nothing we could ever do for ourselves.

I can wrap my hands around that celebration.

 

 

Confessions Of A Crabby Wife

He doesn’t bend well.

A week and a half after hernia surgery, John is still sleeping in his chair. It gives him enough dip so he doesn’t have to stretch his incision too far. Sleeping in a bed just hurts.

He’s spent time in that chair. Driving isn’t easy yet. He’s done it for short distances, but the long times sitting straight up are also uncomfortable. His twenty-year-old stick shift isn’t his best friend at the moment.

Being the kind and congenial wife that I am, I’ve tried to help him as much as I can. Getting him the things he needs, serving his meals in his chair, making him comfy in his uncomfortable state.

I’m trying to be kind and upbeat. Working all day and coming home to make dinner, however, isn’t me at my best.

Let’s just say I’m nice…till I’m not.

There are those occasions when he asks for a drink of water and the response in my head is, “Get it yourself.” I usually stop before it comes out of my mouth.

Not always.

I’d never want to go through what he went through, what he’s experiencing now. Not that kind of pain.

Every now and then, however, I find myself wishing I was sitting in that chair and he was serving me.

I don’t mind serving people. I find real joy in helping others. Serving is a gift we give folks out of a genuine desire to provide for their needs. There’s a sense of authentic contentment in doing for others without expecting anything in return.

Until I feel like I’m being treated like a servant. With no appreciation for services rendered.

John hasn’t done that. Yet his discomfort is bringing out my neediness.

What about me? When is it my turn to be served?

As selfish as that sounds, this is where we all live. Entitlement and self-centeredness drive our wants and desires. If I’ve done so much to help others, I want my efforts reciprocated.

“I deserve” lurks at the very core of our human nature.

People deny it, say they’re doing things for the greater good when their own desires are barely masked by altruism. It’s a way to be recognized for their “selfless” decisions.

We all want to be recognized for what we do.

I’m not pointing fingers. I recognize my own selfishness and self-serving behavior.

I prefer not to have anyone else point it out to me.

When Jesus came to earth, He did so to fully serve. To help those who couldn’t help themselves. Leaving the glory of heaven, He came to give His life up for us, that we may be acceptable to a perfect and pure God. To enter heaven, we, too, must be perfect and pure.

Not something anyone can accomplish alone.

Jesus didn’t come to be served by us, but to serve, to give of Himself, to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

He never tires of His loving service.

Guess I need a little more of Jesus and a lot less of me to not crab when I serve John.

 

 

The First Step Is The Real Journey

Walking is a learned skill.

We don’t come into the world knowing how to do it. We barely know how to kick and flail.

Crying is innate. Any small dissatisfaction–at most any age–can give us cause to use our voices.

Walking is something every parent longs for their first child to accomplish quickly. It’s a rite of passage, a sign of maturity, the indication that the little bugger is becoming his or her own person. Independence and self-sufficiency lurk around the corner.

By the sixth child, Mom and Dad aren’t anxious for him to move on his own two legs. Containment is the desire. With five other kids to monitor, having one that is not yet able to walk out the door is somewhat calming.

That typically doesn’t last long.

I’ve walked that road. Debbie, our sixth, was picked up, toted from place to place, and learned to raise her arms if she wanted to be held or moved.

Until she determined she wanted to walk.

History is repeating itself with Cal, the youngest child of my oldest daughter. This little guy crawls faster than most kids; turn your back and he’s gone. He has that winsome face with a big grin that draws people in. When he raises his arms, you can’t help but pick him up.

He has had no desire to walk.

Something finally clicked. Maybe it was all the knees on down he viewed from his place on the floor. Maybe he was tired of being taken places he didn’t want to go.

Or just maybe he decided it was time.

He’s a little shaky right now. Their big labrador retriever knocks him down with a few swishes of his very strong tail–or just mows him down.

He finds something to pull up on and goes again.

Cousin Mack in Pennsylvania has been walking for a few months; they have the same birthday. Cousins Mason and Ward, two and three months younger respectively, have been at this for a while. Different circumstances–none of them had older siblings that could easily haul them around.

Whatever the reasons, each boy walked when they were ready.

Not always how life is lived.

I’ve been that parent. Putting my kids into soccer, gymnastics, piano, drums, and dance at an early age to discover if they have a talent they may want to pursue. Expecting genius in some activity. I remember sitting with moms’ who shared how their child had been asked to be in the gifted program at school.

I reminded myself that my kids had great character.

I wonder now how much my expectations weighed on them and took away the joy of what they did?

Accepting our children where they are, with their talents and skill sets, their messes and mistakes, is part of loving them well. It’s what God does for me in a relationship. He doesn’t ask me to be something or do something to be acceptable to Him.

He asks me to receive His love and forgiveness. In exchange, He takes my mess and sees me as clean as His Son.

No performing required.

It’s your time, Cal.

It just takes that first step.