It’s Not A Hill To Die On

I so wanted them to be the bad guys. Then I’d have someone to rail against, an entity to receive the focus of my anger and frustration.

I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of our HOA.

Our house needs painting. Badly. It’s been more years than we should have allowed, but with work and family responsibilities, it never was an overwhelming issue. Our home exists in all it’s lived-in, well-used, hard-loved glory.

The HOA sees the need. And has sent us a few registered letters, informing us of our lack of neighborly responsibility in allowing our home to fall into such a state of ugly.

We need to get it painted.

I’ve not problem with that. I know it needs it–they’re not getting an argument from me on that. So John and I went to Sherwin-Williams Paint, the holder of our HOA’s colors, and were told to pick.

Not easy. We knew gray was on the list, but we didn’t see the book. We picked a pure gray color. Software Gray. Who’s going to fight with gray? We submitted our choice and waited for the OK to move forward on hiring a painter.

It shouldn’t have been that complicated.

We got another registered letter, telling us our color had been rejected. We needed to pick a color from the dad gum book. Three representatives of the HOA board had determined our gray wasn’t satisfactory.

I was fuming. John listened. I went on and on about not wanting beige gray or blue gray, just plain gray. He listened.

I came up with a grand alternative. “Let’s paint it the gray we want, and I dare them to walk up with paint swatches to show we don’t have an acceptable gray.”

“And when they make us repaint because it’s not an approved color, paying a second time, what would you say then?’

His calm was irritating. His logic, irrefutable.

“I’ll tell them they’re all color blind!”

I don’t believe they even checked the color we submitted. I think, when they saw it wasn’t an approved color, they rejected it out of hand.

Which is so unfair.

“This isn’t a hill to die on, babe. Save your energy for what matters.”

He’s right. The rules may seem petty, but they’re the rules. Used to keep order. And not have homes painted neon green. This was neither a life or death situation nor was it a compromise of conviction. The house needs to be painted, and I want it to be gray.

Spending time and energy on things I can’t change, fix or control is a waste. There are so few things that are really worth fighting to the bitter end.

The safety of my family. Helping those less fortunate than I am. People who are abused or traded as slaves because someone sees them as property.

And my faith. Believing Jesus is the Son of God. That’s a truth I’ll defend to the end. It defines and strengthens me like nothing and no one else can.

That’s the hill I’ll bunker down in and stay the course.

 

 

 

 

Road Trip 2.0

When we were younger, road trips were an integral part of our lives. We’d throw all six kids in the back of the van, hook up a small TV with a VHS component (definitely back in the day) and drive wherever we needed to be. Often we’d drive all night, the kids sacked out in the back. John and I would talk or listen to music. If it got too exhausting, we’d pull into a rest area for a few hours.

None of that would work today.

Fast forward many years. Debbie, our youngest, is moving to North Carolina. She packed everything she could fit into her car, and she and I took off.

I adore my kids, and there’s tiny bits and pieces of me in each. Deb ended up with whatever was left–the outspoken, sarcastic parts. We’re so alike, and yet so very different Which makes any time with her a hoot and a holler.

Not a morning person, she’s reminded me on more than one occasion that speaking to her in the morning before she’s fully awake is futile.

I, on the other hand, am a morning glory. I wake up perky. And when fully caffeinated, I’m rather obnoxious.

We hadn’t been in the car but a few minutes and she turned her music on. I’m mired in a music warp a few decades past, so I didn’t know any of the tunes. She’s quietly humming. I’m trying desperately to be quiet. Let her have her space.

“Isn’t that the song that was…?

“Couldn’t last fifteen minutes, could you?”

And so it began.

We laughed most of the day. Neither of us are great long distance drivers. Deb gets tired and I get stiff. I want to stop and walk around. She wants more coffee. Stopping becomes necessary.

I got to drive several hours. Nobody ever lets me do that–I err on the side of speed. In my head I could hear my dear husband saying all the kids drive like I do. That’s true. I taught them. He didn’t want their driving skills on his conscience.

The downside was when I drove from early evening to dark. I have this small issue with night vision–I don’t have much. She’d drifted off and I still managed to terrify her.

I was grateful when she made me pull over and took the wheel.

We made an eight hour trip in just over ten hours.

Girl bonding time.

Spending time with Debbie was fun. Talking and laughing together. Teasing one another. There was some serious conversation, but enjoying my girl came from just being with her. I don’t love her for what she does for me. I love her because she’s mine.

This is how God sees His own. He delights in us, not because of what we do for Him, but because of what He’s already done for us out of love. Because of Jesus we’ve received the gift of life and forgiveness if we choose to accept it. We can’t do anything to earn it. It’s a gift to be received..

I become a reflection of His love.

That’s a pretty awesome parenting skill.

 

Fabulous Friendships

“That’s the bank I’m gonna sue for what they did to me.”

“That’s the brewery I spent yesterday afternoon in.”

“That’s the place I spent all night eating dinner in.”

“That’s the gun range I always use.”

You’d think I had a couple of old men in the back seat of my car, commenting on their lives as they rode with me through Orlando.

Not so much. These were two preteen boys. Great friends. Partners in crime. Unbelievably engaging. Trying to outdo each other in obnoxious behavior.

I was in stitches.

It began late afternoon before I took Teagan and David to soccer practice. They were playing with giant Jenga blocks in the next room, creating a particularly tall tower with more holes than support. Each trying to get the other to collapse what they’d built. They were laughing with such enjoyment I’d have given anything to bottle and sell what they had.

It took awhile to get to the soccer fields, so the two of them sat in the back keeping up a running conversation on nothing in particular. Both have more words than a lot of girls I know. They talked about everything–bodily functions and noises, growing tall, eating food of any kind, manners, and how to babysit large quantities of little kids.

I tried so hard to not laugh.

Not successful.

I got some work done while they practiced. When they returned, I’d liked to have died.

“Which one of you stepped in dog poop? It stinks to high heaven in here.”

David grinned. “It’s Teagan’s goalie gloves. They smell that gross.”

“Not my fault. I had a scab that came off and I bled all over the inside of them.”

“That’s disgusting!”

I was trying to keep from gagging while we looked for a place to grab dinner.

Poor guys needed sustenance.

We stopped and got them food, having hilarious conversations with the box where you give your order. Don’t know if the gal on the other end appreciated the humor.

Gratefully, the smell of french fries and chicken nuggets overwhelmed the sick smell of the goalie gloves. But the conversation just got funnier.

By the time we got home, I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face. I felt better than when I’d left the house four and a half hours earlier. How could such a long evening be so restorative?

We had fun .

Teagan and David get each other. They don’t stand on pretense. If one of them is acting weird, the other will point it out and they’ll have a laugh over it. They’ve no problem being who they really are with one another.

Friendships are a sweet gift from God who made us for relationships. We’re created to love and be loved. How often do I make it harder than it has to be by trying to show up the way I think someone wants me to be?  So much work!

God accepts me as I am. He knows all the warts and wrinkles and still loves me. Real friends do the same.

God longs for that kind of camaraderie with us that Teagan and David share.

Minus the bodily sounds.

 

 

 

In A Word

This past weekend, we had a retreat with the women who are participating in our program this year.

Content, crafts and conversation. The three C’s of successful women’s times.

My friend, Gina, shared about being loved–a topic near and dear to the heart of every woman alive, no  matter their age or marital status. We have a deep need and desire to be loved.

Our world defines love in a variety of ways. Much of that comes from finding validation for who we are, an acceptance of how we show up. Good days and bad. Great hair days and bloated body days. Our best selves or our own worst nightmares.

Women especially need to feel validated to feel loved. We hear the voices that speak words into our hearts from our pasts, the media, family and friends.

“You’re too much.”

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re too heavy.”

“You’re not pretty.”

“You’re not what we need.”

“You’re going to fail. Why bother trying?”

Voices that become easier to listen to over time. Voices of reproach and rejection.

It’s a lot easier to believe the bad than the good. And yet love can be strangled by the lies we choose to listen to.

After listening and sharing our thoughts, we moved into a time of crafting. We each chose a word or short phrase that reminds us of who we are or of significant times in our lives. The words were traced onto boards and painted as an expression of a truth we were choosing to believe.

No matter how loud the voices are in our heads and hearts.

I was surprised at the variety of ideas expressed that reflected what we yearn for.

Conversations flowed as women came up with ideas and fonts, as thoughts were exchanged and gals felt more freedom to reveal a little bit more of themselves.

Discussions continued to happen as women fell into a gentle camaraderie with one another, being real, exposing more of their stories, sharing thoughts not always easy to share.

We were becoming a safe place for one another.

I didn’t make a board–this was taking place at my home, so I wandered around making sure everyone had what they needed, from supplies to coffee, and remarking over the beauty of their work.

A part of me didn’t want to come up with just one word. I was afraid I wouldn’t see that word develop. There are days when the lies that whisper in my heart are screamed through mental bullhorns.

On my kitchen blackboard is the word “Hopeful”. One I had Deb write (she has beautiful printing) months ago. I looked at that and realized that is my word.

I’m hopeful that I will grow to be all that God has made me to be. Hopeful that I’ll mature and not be so quick to complain or criticize. Hopeful that I will be content with who I am and not constantly compare myself to others I was never intended to be.

Hopeful.

An upward focused word that reminds me tomorrow is another day. Clean slate. New chances.

Isn’t this what we all need?

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Hurry; Be Happy

 

photo by Brooke Campbell on unsplash

Why is it so much easier to schedule myself to death than make space for things that are really important?

A logical question with a very obvious answer. If it’s that important, just do it.

Autumn feels like the beginning of a horse race around here. The bell sounds, the gates go up and the horses are flying to claim a place in the moving crowd. Time is the value here.

It’s all about who crosses the finish line first.

The pressure on animal and jockey is huge. Those riding will do whatever it takes to get their mount across the line to claim first place. Even if it means using a whip on an animal that’s running its heart out.

I’m not a horse racing fan, but this is what my days feel like now. The bell has sounded, and there’s a lot of ground to be covered.

The only problem is I’m both horse and jockey. Cracking my own whip of expectations to be able to produce more. Win or lose, there’ll be another race tomorrow. And the next day.

Culturally we equate the relentless, self-sacrificing worker with the better worker. The more hours you put in, the more you sacrifice for the job, the more you’re appreciated.

Who doesn’t want to be appreciated?

So I live my life by the clock. Or in spite of the clock. Do more, no matter what it costs.

The irony is I do this to myself. I’m the taskmaster.

I’m not proud of it. Not even sure why I do it except there is always more to do. Good stuff. Meeting with really great people. Helping others figure out more about themselves. It’s a great job.

But I find it hard to relax. To turn my head off at night. Incomplete thoughts buzz around like angry bees in their hive. I read in bed before I fall asleep, but then story lines cross with people lines and create odd pairings in my dreams.

It makes no sense. Like so many other things I focus on.

We’ve a huge live oak tree in our back yard that has become a reflection of rest for me. It stands next to a pond that has, at different times, been home to ducks, otters, tons of fish and the occasional alligator. Deer come to drink from it.

It points me to slow and steady. To recognize some of the greatest growth in my life has happened when I’ve taken time to be. To think instead of do. To be aware of what’s happening around me instead of being so caught up with my inner unrest.

Jesus didn’t hurry. He accomplished everything He set out to do–He claimed, “It is finished.” on the cross. He took time for people, to care, to heal. The culture was different, but folks back then worked as hard as anyone today. Without excess time for leisure.

We’re losing so much by rushing through life, filling time with activity that doesn’t help us. We need a pause button. To take time to say hello to a stranger. To laugh for the sheer joy of being in the moment. To rest our hearts.

That’s worth pondering.