If You Jump, Know Where You’ll Land

It had been on my bucket list for years. I didn’t want to do it alone, so I kept putting it off. Made excuses. Didn’t want to spend the money.

Dear friends gave me a gift certificate for my birthday.

I got to go skydiving.

I have no idea why the idea of jumping from a plane at 15,000 feet was enticing. Almost three miles up with no place to go but down. The money was paid; the date was booked.

I was committed.

John managed to be out of town for the big jump. He’d told our youngest that it was her responsibility to clean up the mess if I splatted. And inform next of kin.

We headed to the coast early Sunday morning. We picked up Heather and the three oldest grands–I told them they could go fishing while they waited, and headed to my rendezvous with a parachute.

Upon arrival, I was handed a consent form thirteen pages long. Signing away any rights should problems occur during my time in the air. Broken parachute. Freaked-out instructor. Issues with the plane. I copied a paragraph explaining I understood the risks. Maiming. Paralysis. Death.

Not covered.

With what they were asking, I figured we should sign in blood.

Once they outfitted me with the harness that would allow me to jump tandem with a professional, I could barely contain myself. My daughter did the “Mom’s misbehaving” eye roll.

Couldn’t help it.

My partner/instructor, Jeff, was a character. Some might call his shtick gallows humor, but it helped put me at ease.

Once in the plane, it became real. When we leaped out, it became a thrill ride.

We had 70 seconds of free fall at 120 miles per hour. I could do nothing but grin. Feeling the force of the air, knowing the only thing between me and sudden impact was this guy tethered to my back, was incredible.

Putting physical distance between me and anything I was dealing with on the ground reduced things to what they really were. From up high, everything is small. The context was creation. The vastness of the sky, the breadth of the land. From up there, little molehills can’t be seen.

I need to look at life from a 15,000 foot perspective every now and again. Get my reality into view and have the mindset that what I’ve been given I can deal with.

With God’s help.

He sees the big picture clearly–past, present and future. He knows what’s coming, what I’ll go through. He graciously gives me choices on how I’ll deal with those things. He doesn’t prevent me from bad choices. He teaches me through them.

The best Teacher.

Jeff was a great instructor. I had his voice in my ear, telling me what I needed to do and when. I was confident because he’d done over 5,000 jumps and knew what he was doing.

I’m more comfortable with God having my back. He knows all things and is a good God. He gives me power and perspective to live this life with joy, purpose and hope.

And He definitely cushions my landing.

 

The Fellowship Of The Ears

The happiest place on earth.

Disney World has successfully branded itself as the place to be if you want a family full of smiles. They’re fastidious in keeping parks clean, caring for their guests and providing all the comforts and fun a person could hope to have.

For a price.

Money aside, it’s a place where you see wonder in the eyes of a child as they come nose to nose with their favorite character. Where a little girl becomes a princess and gets to hug the Disney real McCoy. Where dreams come true.

And ears abound.

The ear culture at Disney is something to behold. I fully understand children wearing the ears. There’s so many to choose from to accessorize any outfit. The simple black ears, reminiscent of Steamboat Willy and the early days of Mickey. The fancy Minnie ears, bejeweled and bedazzled. Royal ears for princesses in training.  BB-8 ears for tough young Jedi.

What astounds me are the number of adults wearing mouse ears.

I get the newlyweds wearing bride and groom ears. Early imprinting for couples. (If you can get him to wear mouse ears, you’ve got a lot going in your favor.) Honeymoon cute.

Many young women wear ears. I saw some the other day made of colorful flowers with delicate metal ears. Others wore the blingy ears, reflecting the sun with blinding sparkles. Some had princess ears with iridescent gauze flowing behind. Cute to quirky.

I didn’t see boys wear the ears after a certain age–maybe 8. Moms can try to insist. “You look so cute. Get some like your sister.”

Only to receive a look that could wither a cactus.

It’s the big guys wearing the ears that cause the most fun. Men who, under any other circumstances, would never consent to wear something perceived as childish.

But it’s Disney. When in Disney, you do what the Mouse does. No embarrassment.

Everyone wears the ears.

It’s why the Bible calls us sheep. We tend to do what everyone else does. The herd mentality.

It begs the question parents have asked their kids for years. “If everyone else jumped off the cliff, would you?” A brisk nod of assent is often the answer.

Independent thinking. It’s a novelty in our society. Social media drives us to be acceptable to a standard set by persistent people who want life their way. Peer pressure. We find ourselves agreeing to do things, say things, believe or disbelieve things because everyone else is doing it. Without that pressure, we’d have mental space to assess a situation and make choices based on what we know to be true.

It’s easier to go along with the crowd. Walking the wide road of acceptability. Choosing the narrow road of conscience, hope and faith, isn’t popular.

Or easy.

It’s fun to channel my inner Mouse when I’m at Disney.

But I don’t live at Disney. It’s not my reality.

I need to learn to take off the ears. To think for myself, to pursue truth and value I can find only in God. Live a life of integrity and character.

The ears?

They don’t look that good on me anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name That Holiday

Mother’s Day.

This day is second only to Valentine’s Day in creating angst and discomfort for many women.

It’s a day to celebrate Mom. To honor the one who birthed us and to receive the adoration of those we’ve birthed.

I wasn’t with my immediate family for this day. It would have been fun had all the kids come into town. For me. To remember together younger years. When handmade cards were diligently crafted. When gifts included homemade potholders and flowerpots with tiny colorful handprints on the sides.

I was with my mom and sisters for Mother’s Day. A wonderful reminder of my heritage, the people and circumstances that have helped me grow to be who I am today.

Mom wasn’t easy. I was loved, but she and I butt heads more often than not. As I grew up, there were things I swore I’d never do if I ever became a mother.

Most kids have those mental lists.

I’ve ended up doing many of those things.

This day, though, can be hard for women.

There are those who don’t remember their moms because she was, for whatever reason, not in the picture.

There are those whose relationship with their maternal parent was more than difficult—it was toxic. “Mother” brings up mental pictures of pain, hurt, rejection. Not love and affirmation.

There are those who’ve struggled with infertility, wanting to be moms but not being able to conceive a child. Many of them don’t have the funds to adopt or go through expensive procedures to help them get pregnant. Disappointment on top of disappointment.

There are single women who dreamed of being a wife and mom when they were little, and it never happened. Career happened. Mr. Right never materialized. The dream never became reality.

Women who’ve never chosen to be moms can be made to feel like they abdicated their roles and responsibilities if they opted for career over family.

Hardest of all are the moms who’ve lost children before their time. When Mother’s Day reminds them of what was and will never be again. It magnifies the loss in light of the celebration. Even if other children are in the home, the empty chair, the never-slept-in crib and the trips to the cemetery are laser beams of focus on lost dreams.

We need to celebrate mothers. Their jobs can’t be measured in hours worked, projects accomplished or net profit accumulated. Their rewards are often minimal but meaningful: a snuggle when a small one is sick or sad; a smile when they see you coming across the room; a homemade potholder.

I propose we expand the focus of this holiday. Rather than limiting it to traditional mothers, what about making it a day of gratitude to all those women who’ve encouraged us in our growth and development? A time when all women, no matter their role, can be honored for how they’ve impacted others for good, whether it be children, neighbors or a stranger in need.

Jesus urges us to be encouragers of others. He knows we grow as we’re seen, known and valued.

What about Happy Nurturing Day?

Hallmark may have issues with that.

 

 

 

 

Magnificent Masterpieces

It’s quite an experience being in the presence of true talent.

Timeless talent.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Tiffany, founder of the famous Tiffany’s jewelry stores. When his dad died, he left him three million dollars. (85 million dollars in today’s market.) Louis didn’t rest on his dad’s reputation. Wasn’t just the entitled rich kid.

He pursued his dream. A true artist.

Tiffany experimented with glass design, taking something useful and making it an object of art. Colors and textures. Form and function. He looked to nature, antiquity and rock formations for inspiration. He used chemistry and mechanics as art tools in finding and purifying colors and making massive pieces. Doors, window panes, lamps, vases. He pushed the limits of what had been done to discover what could be.

My friend, Clara, and I spent the morning at the Morse Museum in downtown Winter Park. Walking through exhibits that reflected not only Tiffany’s talent, but his imagination.

Beauty grabs heart and mind alike. Add to it incredible workmanship and unbelievable attention to detail and people will take notice. As much as we live in an “instant” society, something exquisite that took a long time to create depicts the value of the process and talent behind it.

In an article Tiffany wrote for Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1917, he said, “The search for beauty is in itself the most wholesome of all quests.”  In his pursuit of beauty, he didn’t limit himself to glass creations. He worked in pottery, architecture, painting, and interior design.

Seeing the variety, detail and beauty of his work, I realized skill and talent aren’t the only things that separate the artist from the non-artist.

It’s vision. How the artist sees what hasn’t yet come into being. The allure of putting differences together.  

That’s how God sees us. We’re individual works of art from the hands of the Master Craftsman. Put together in ways He sees as beautiful and delightful.

The media has scripted for us a definition of beauty. Youthful, bright, healthy, slender. No blemishes, wrinkles or flaws.

Something we all could achieve if we could daily airbrush ourselves like a canvas. Never allowing anyone close enough to see it.

True beauty isn’t just appearance. It’s how we show up when no one is looking. It’s how we receive someone who’s different from us. It’s appreciating and valuing the flaws. Stepping back and recognizing that true beauty isn’t polished or profiled.

It’s personal. From the hand of the Master Designer.

When God created us in His image, He used colors and textures that spanned a spectrum. He saw all of them as good. No one color was better than another. He gave people shapes and sizes, all of which were pleasing to Him. He allowed circumstances which might cause some to have missing parts or pieces that don’t work as others do.

He delights in the magnificence of our differences.

Tiffany understood that ordinary could become extraordinarily beautiful. It’s how you frame it.

God sees the extraordinary in each of us as we reflect Him. Framed in His love. Presented as uniquely beautiful works.

How do you see yourself?

 

 

 

 

The Glorious Mess

Doing life differently is the tagline for the group I work with.

We proved that Saturday as we hosted two groups of folks, totaling over a hundred people, for a day of barbecue, sweets and massive water slides.

We do enjoy entertaining. So we go for broke. One weekend every Spring.

We rented two giant water slides. Taller, steeper than any we’ve had before. The thrill of bigger and better never grows old.

The age range went from littles to much older. Some of the younger ones proved themselves to be future adrenaline junkies as they shot down the slides, head first, to land in a shallow pool of water at the bottom.

Insane.

People moved from the yard to the house and back out again. Laughing, talking.

Dripping large amounts of water. Dragging in dried grass. Dropping food at various locations.

Messy.

When it was announced that our annual barbecue was on the calendar, my friend Darin mentioned that this was the time when we opened our home for fun and annihilation.

No one understood what he was talking about. Who invites folks to destroy their home?

Upon leaving, several commented on the truth of the statement.

The house was a wreck.

Food, water, grass, mud was everywhere. Upstairs and down.

There was a time when that would have bothered me. We invested in our home to update it because it was, through use, children and pets, a mess. It looked nice. I like to keep it that way.

Having the opportunity to host this event, however, brings focus to what it’s really about.

People.

Providing a place for easy communication and community. A place for the whole family to enjoy. Where folks don’t have to think about making food or fun for their kids. 

People had a great time. I had a great time.

Sure it was messy.

It took some work to clean up.

It’s a house, with no eternal value.

Anything worth doing typically requires effort. There is a cost, consequences, for choices we make.

Life in all its phases, challenges and beauty is messy. The things that matter most cost us the most in time and energy.

And it’s so short-lived.

It took time to prepare for this. Buying, baking, decluttering.

Within twelve hours, it was over.

Joy and happiness in this life are always temporary.

We invest so much in what we’ve got here. All of it’s momentary.

When they came to pick up the water slides, I joked with the guys, as they deflated them, that they were killing fun.

They laughed.

Fun here has a short shelf life.

Jesus offers a joy and hope that lasts.

It does cost. The payment is my willingness to give up what I feel entitled to–my way. My control for His grace.

The rewards?

Peace, joy and hope that don’t end with my last breath. Eternity in the presence of Love. Satisfaction that can’t be equaled on earth.

Messy will be our reality here. It’s the human condition.

The bigger question is where are you investing time and treasure?