Thoughts From My Back Yard

 

It had been a long week. Much had been accomplished, but John and I passed each other like two fireflies in the night. We recognized our desire to spend time together, but pretty much just blinked as we passed.

We sat in our backyard, grateful for the chance to be still and share with one another. John had been in meetings all week and had just about run out of words. I’d been meeting with people and still had many to spare. Periods of silence followed by comments and questions. Laughter and concerns all rolled into one.

In the silent spaces, I enjoyed the scene before me. We have a natural pond behind our house. Not a retention pond; this one is God-made, with fish and other critters in it. My kids and grands have caught turtles, we’ve sited otters, and people fish there.

You can’t eat the fish. What you see isn’t necessarily what is. The HOA fertilizes around the pond, and rain washes it into the water. Some mighty big fish have been caught, but they can’t be eaten. They’re full of things that could hurt us.

Not what you’d expect.

I love our lawn because it’s expansive, a great place to play pick-up soccer or Spike Ball. Our neighbor’s yard is even more gorgeous–they’re legitimate gardeners and have kept their outdoor space beautifully.

If you look closely at our yard, though, you see weeds. We’ve worked diligently to try to remove them, but none of our efforts are enough. If you leave a little, it all grows back into a lot.

What’s worse is our weediness is encroaching on our neighbor’s loveliness. Not what we wanted to see happen. They’re very kind about it, but it bothers me that I can’t contain my mess.

Not my desire.

I value our huge live oak tree, for the shade it provides and the home it’s become for birds and squirrels that play in the branches.

Sitting there it’s obvious that the high root system makes it impossible to grow grass under the tree. The circle of dirt and sparse grass goes out farther than I’d like it to.

Not my choice.

My backyard is a delightful place to be, but it isn’t all I’d like it to be.

Neither is life.

It’s easy to focus on appearances, what looks good, managing what others see. What I might consider personal fertilizer, causing growth and the image I long for, is actually toxic and doesn’t show the authentic me. The weeds of my life I try to get rid of always come back–same weeds, same struggle. And the things I want to grow in my life–character, integrity, genuineness–don’t always grow well with the environment I provide for myself.

But God.

Apart from Him, my efforts to clean up and beautify my life are fruitless. What I do doesn’t have staying power. But in Him, I can manage the weeds, the toxicity, the barrenness that bother me. In Him, I see the real beauty He intended in my life–a relationship with Him that brings satisfaction no matter how my yard looks.

He’s the Master Ecologist.

Tiny Travelers; Weary Walkers

My daughter snapped a picture of her two kids as they walked down the jetway together after a visit with us.

These two have already logged more air miles in their first several years of life than I did in my first 40 years.

When I first saw this picture, it hit me how young they were, how vulnerable. How different everything had to appear from their lower line of vision.

Lots of legs and shoes.

But in spite of age, it reminded me of a familiarity they have with flying. It’s not as exciting as it once was, when the joy of flying among the clouds was all Sloane could talk about. Her matter-of-fact attitude borders on a world-weariness now that I often hear from my husband. Sloan deadpanned, “I just don’t know if I can get on another airplane.”

She’s three.

I do love the ease with which family living far away can get to us. I remember growing up, our summer vacations were always to Bowie, Texas. We’d leave the suburbs of Chicago early evening, the four of us kids in the back of the station wagon. Separated from the folks by luggage. We’d drive through the night and reach Oklahoma City in time for breakfast. We’d have a few days there with our aunt, uncle, and cousins, playing with their animals. Horses, dogs, cats–my dream place.

After a few days, we’d head south to Texas. Granny lived on a small farm. Her house was old and full of places to explore, root cellars to hide in, tire swings to get crazy on. More animals in town than people.

We only went once a year. The planning was a chore for my parents; traveling by car with four kids wasn’t easy.

Dad drove the whole way. Which left Mom to supervise us from the rearview mirror.

I swear she had eyes in the back of her head. She’d call us out when we thought we were well-hidden behind the luggage.

Traveling back and forth to see Dad’s relatives was always a big thing. Because of its rarity, we wanted to fill every moment with fun, making memories whose value we didn’t recognize at the time.

Lest I get caught up in the nostalgia of road trips, they weren’t easy. Mom stayed awake to talk to Dad. Too often one of us kids would get car sick, requiring an emergency stop at a local laundromat.

Traveling was wearing.

From here to there. The journey we call life takes us places: places we don’t expect, can anticipate with excitement, or dread with heaviness. We’re on the jetway to places we need to go, things we need to experience.

We don’t have to go alone.

God has offered to join us on our journeys; the good, the bad, and the hard. Jesus came, not just to share the reality of heaven with us, but to walk with us here. To carry and share our weariness with us.

We move around now more than people ever have. Yet so many feel lonely wherever they go.

Don’t travel alone. Let Jesus join you on the jetway.

 

 

 

 

Disappointments Can’t Destroy The Celebration

When you’ve been given a gift, it’s important to use it and not just let it sit.

We’ve got a great home, a place that is calming, warm, and welcoming. Our schedules often get too crazy to enjoy entertaining, so when given the chance, it’s fun to take advantage of an opportunity.

A dear friend was giving a baby shower for her daughter, who after years of waiting was having a child. A son. My friend’s first grandchild. Her joy at celebrating this life, this dream come true, was beautiful to behold. Our place is more conducive to crowds, so I offered to host at our home.

I’m not a planner by nature. Pinterest is my nemesis; I don’t do the crafts and decorations that are part of so many gatherings nowadays; I’m inept with that particular type of creativity. Ask me to bake, to clean my house up, to engage people in conversations, and I’m all in.

I’m a simple kind of gal.

Leanne is a planner. She’s talented in putting together things in a way that’s beautiful, with eye-catching details that tie everything together. She had friends help with the decorations, and my home looked stunning with little-boy-blue everything.

Kelly, the mom of the moment, was beyond pleased. Having so many people celebrate this long-awaited and hoped-for little guy was a gift to her of love and delight.

Yes, she got wonderful gifts for her little boy. He will be outfitted like a king with all the new and necessary accouterments for infants.

The unseen gift given that day was the support and love from a myriad of people who understood what the journey of waiting and hope has been like. People who’ve been on the sidelines, like fans in the stands, encouraging, anticipating what would be a genuine win.

Wins don’t always happen.

I have friends and family who’ve longed for the results Kelly and her husband are enjoying. Their wait wasn’t rewarded with what was hoped for. Empty arms disappoint. Other friends yearn for someone to love them well, a godly spouse, a life companion who will see them as a gift meant to be enjoyed for decades. Loneliness is hard. Still, others are confronted with challenges in parenting that no one warned them about. There is no perfect formula for great marriages or perfect children.

It all takes work.

We don’t live in a magical place where we rub a lamp and get our desired wishes. Or have a fairy godmother who grants us our life’s desires at just the right moment.

We live in a broken world where disappointment is as much a part of life as breathing. It happens. If you’re not disappointed about something this moment, wait five minutes. It’ll come.

But God.

God alone can provide perspective and hope in the hard and disappointing times. An eternal perspective which is greater than our tomorrows. His joy is in the moment; His hope is forever.

Kelly’s hope will be realized. She is grateful.

For hopes shattered or unrealized, God is our solace.

He knows disappointment. He’s enough we need to walk through it.

 

 

 

 

Frozen In Time

I wasn’t prepared for the plethora of Frozen II¬†paraphernalia when I walked into the store. I should have been.¬†Frozen was a phenomenon that never grew old. There are grands in the family born since the movie first hit that have been entranced by Elsa, Anna, and their exploits since they could say “Olaf”.

This has been the most serious of Halloween discussions–who will dress up as Anna and who will be Elsa?

Two little girls trick or treating this year want to be a character from the movie. Neither wanted to be Sven, Kristoff or Olaf–all very male and none of whom wore pretty dresses. Choosing whether to be Elsa or Anna has been challenging.

Three-year-old Brooklyn had decided to be Anna. She’s the one I’d have picked. Spunky and engaging, friendly and bold She very much is like¬† Brooklyn, who has had Anna’s dress for some time, putting it on for dress-up fun, having conversations with her imaginary Olaf. Living the part.

Sloane, also three, had decided to be Elsa. Elsa is more guarded, royal in her posture, with a mind of her own. Sloane has the mind-of-her-own part down; guarded is the exact opposite of who she is.

Sloane also had the gloves that were very much a part of Elsa’s character and growth.

The girls have changed their minds several times in the last few days. Typically, both want to be Elsa. The desire to wield the magic and freezing everyone into popsicles seems a greater draw than being the sister that helps the queen find redemption because of her love.

They listen to the soundtrack all the time. Alexa is constantly asked to play “Let It Go”. As the song begins, inevitably one of the girls will yell, “Pause, Alexa.” They both run off to put on the costumes so they can let it go in style.

All for Halloween.

Halloween. Making believe we’re something we’re not or can never be. For fun and candy.

Watching these two prepare for this very auspicious night has been fun and thought-provoking. The fun of make-believe is in imagining what it would be like to be someone so different from us. I’m not a fan of the macabre, as so many are, but when kids dress up as Superman or a doctor or a princess, there is something inside driving them toward that choice. To be more than they see themselves at present. Whether it’s bigger, scarier, weirder, or goofier than they are, it’s a chance to step out of themselves. For an evening.

God has made each of us with a unique skillset and story. I know I haven’t often agreed with His choices–some have been harder than I wanted to deal with. But I’ve been made for a purpose that is greater than any make-believe. To love God, be loved by Him, and love others.

It’s easy to compare myself to others, to wish I was someone smarter, more respected, better positioned, But who I am is significant for all those lives I’ll touch. I need to be the best me God has made me be.

That and wear the Olaf costume I was gifted with.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sick Side Of The Domino Effect

 

Who plans for this stuff? Nobody.

Insidious germs, however, are a fact of life. Things that come upon us unaware, and strike when we least expect them.

I’m talking about the flu.

Two of our children with their kids are staying with us presently; the cousins are having a blast playing with each other.

A damper has descended on our joyful troop. One of the adults came down with the flu. Immediately got on medicine and stayed quarantined in his room.

Then Ward, not quite two, came down with it. Coughing, feverish, unwilling to eat. His medicine tastes like something you’d flush down a toilet, but the little guy managed to take it with a cookie held in his hand.

The germs were on a rampage. His sister got it.

Then I fell prey to the nasty bug.

I don’t get sick often–or at least I don’t cease activity with little under-the-weather issues I may have. This has thrown me for a loop.

Especially since everyone wants me out of sight. Keep my bug to myself.

I get it. I got the medicine immediately and have been taking it.

But the nasty medicine my grands have to take is another matter.

Ward might be coerced with a cookie, but Sloane has had the flue before. It’s a struggle to get her to take her medicine. She’s not as receptive to coaxing as her brother.

I don’t blame her. Given the opportunity to take the medicine or swallow a cockroach, I think she’d choose the bug.

What’s so miserable with any bout of contagion is the effect it has on those around. It’s a horrific ripple effect, where those who’ve tried to keep their distance are still ensnared by the illness. At the very least, the workload created by sickness increases everyone’s burden.

I hate the fact that I can’t be of more help right now. I’m isolated in my room, trying to keep my germs in containment, knowing that’s a ridiculous desire because I can’t live in total confinement. I need help from those who are healthy. I got this because I was helping those who didn’t feel well.

It’s a sad cycle of need and expectations and frustration when life doesn’t turn out as hoped.

Even without illness, I’m affected by the hurt and pain in the lives of others. Sadness and heartache are different contagions–they require compassion and presence that reminds people that what they experience matters. That who they are, no matter what their circumstances, is valued.

In our busy world, it’s easier and less messy to ignore the complications in the lives of others, give a sincere, “I’m sorry”, and move on. Keeping their own pain at bay lest it affects others.

The English poet John Donne once said, “No man is an island”. We weren’t created to live alone, not connected to others in heart and mind. God created us to enjoy community, to care for one another. Even if the mess of one life encroaches on mine. God has engaged us at our worst. And He gives us the power to come alongside those who hurt.

After all, humanity isn’t contagious. It’s our condition.