A Promise Is A Promise–Sometimes

I saw the truck and assumed it was someone stopping by to pick up tools from our back yard where they’d been clearing grass and weeds so our porch could be extended.

I yelled at John, “They’re back. Probably to pick up their stuff. Why don’t you go talk to them.” Translated: Can you get a date for when they plan to start?

Not something he wanted to do. He was preparing to head to work. I wasn’t going to check because I refused to deal with the issue. Justifying my suggestion and inactivity, I yelled, “Gotta leave soon!”

I’d tempered my anticipation for quite a while so I wouldn’t expect too much. We’d been waiting almost a year for this porch, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. Again.

John smiled graciously as he went out the door.

He came back in, surprised.

“Is everything ok?”

He nodded. “They just posted all the permits. They can start. Anytime.”

I walked outside in total disbelief. The truck had left, but on our tree was the DOCBOX, the place where all the permits find a place to live when work is being done on the outside of a home. The county requires this; everyone follows the letter of the law on this–failure to follow procedure could have them undo what you’ve done.

What it meant was they could actually start on our porch. All permits had been pulled, all permission had been given, all the necessary offices had been made aware of and had agreed on the intended building.

This is the promise they will start.

In the near future.

Promises are funny things. Everyone makes them; not everyone keeps them. I do trust the man who is doing the work on our porch–he had a dickens of a time getting all the permits necessary for expansion. I knew he wasn’t the one putting us off. He was being diligent to pursue what needed to be done.

He was the one, however, I blamed for broken promises.

It’s not like I haven’t broken promises. I’d promised our kids years ago we could get a dog. John wasn’t all in–so I waited till he left town to get one, figuring he’d fall in love with the dog if he just gave it a chance. Keeping the promise to my kids made me compromise my honesty with John. Not something I was proud of.

I’ve made promises to my sisters, telling them I’d be more intentional about coming to visit now that Mom is gone. She’d been the reason for us getting together for so long. With her not there, it’s too easy to put off following through.

I’ve made promises to friends about keeping in touch. Life happens, I get busy, and that promise falls through the cracks.

The only One I can really count on for being totally faithful to keep His word is God. He alone ALWAYS follows through; maybe not in my timeframe, but He consistently does what He promises in a timely manner. The good work He’s begun in those who know Him will be completed.

My DOCBOX of promises given? It’s called the Bible.

 

 

 

Welcome To My Porch

 

Coffee in hand, John and I sat on our back porch early one morning. Before heat and humidity made it unpleasant.

The sun was up, and bits of beautiful blue could be seen through scuttling clouds that drifted overhead. Some rainclouds, preparing to let loose another wave of saturation. Some like mounds of cotton soft enough to jump on.

It’s been a busy fall. John has already been on several trips and has had a lot on his mind with work responsibilities and thinking on family issues that are all part of being a husband, Dad, and Papa. I’ve been people-busy, my happy place. But for both of us, we have felt somewhat drained.

We sat. Quiet at first. Both focused on the beautiful tree in our back yard, looming over lawn and pond.

So much life in that tree.

We haven’t had that much time together lately. Certainly not to talk, to share what was going on in our hearts. But neither of us was in a hurry to speak.

For me, that’s as unusual as it gets. I’ve more words than anyone wants to listen to.

John began with a few questions, genuinely interested in what had been going on at home and with me. It took me a bit by surprise.

I’m the one who usually asks the questions. To have the table turned on me was unsettling.

So I asked him a question.

He didn’t let me get away with that. Patiently, he asked again.

It wasn’t easy to answer. I began giving him a rundown of my week. What I’d accomplished.

He shook his head. “How areĀ you doing?

I stared at our tree, its sweeping branches spreading wide, always a picture to me of strength and comfort. So much life goes on in and around that tree.

I tried to focus on the life that goes on inside and around me. It’s so easy to direct my attention to what I’ve done, what’s coming up, who I met with.

I had to be quiet to consider how I was doing.

John waited. Patient and interested.

I was able to get past stuff to who I was, what was in my heart. When I returned the favor and asked him, he was able to connect to his heart as well.

Conversations so often focus on the doing, accomplishments, purposes. To consider how our hearts are can take time.

God chooses to have those deep conversations with us. Not just what we want or need from Him, but how we’re really doing in our souls. In talking to Him, it’s easy to say words without really connecting. Without being still to listen to how He’s responding.

Because He does answer. In His Bible and in our thoughts. When ideas come to mind, impressions poke at our brains, we become aware of new concepts that we’d not considered before.

He speaks. It’s the listening that becomes hard. Quieting the noise around us so we can hear. Shutting down the busyness so we can think.

Just like our tree, God is present, and so much life happens because of Him.

 

 

We’re In A Can Of Peas?

Photo courtesy of Nick Fewings on unsplash.

Not being a fan of traffic, I tend to drive home from work a way that’s a little longer. The green space I drive through, the fewer number of cars, decompress the inner tensions from the day.

I breathe.

One of my favorite parts of the drive is a road covered by a canopy of live oak trees. They crest the road with leafy green that allows the sun to dapple the pavement, a kaleidoscope of light and color. It’s close to home, and it’s that last little bit that puts a grin on my face. I enter the house with a sense of peace.

I drove three-year-old Brooklyn this way, and I commented on the beauty of the canopy of trees that shaded the street and let just enough sunlight through to not be squinty bright.

“We’re in a can of peas? Where are the peas–and the can?” Her comment had me laughing.

It was a legitimate question. She had no context for tree-shaded streets like the ones I came to love where I grew up. She’s been raised mostly in southern Florida, and I’ve never thought palm trees make acceptable canopies.

It took some explaining. She ended up calling it a tree umbrella, which fit as well.

Apart from having some experience on which to base her understanding, a canopy might as well be a can of peas.

New people and places, unusual experiences, anything unknown can cause me to respond poorly or inappropriately because of a lack of knowledge.

I can’t understand what I haven’t had the opportunity or taken the time to know.

Our family went on a trip to Thailand years ago, and none of us knew the proper way to greet and interact with the people there. We didn’t know the language, but many Thais spoke English. We tried to learn some words for the short time we were there, but we could only get a few statements right. American are often seen as boisterous, loud, and arrogant. We wanted to get to know these people, but what we didn’t know could easily have become a problem.

We chose to learn.

When I began the job that I’m doing now, I had more questions than answers. I enjoyed working with people, but I wasn’t adept at asking the right questions or knowing how to listen deeply. I’ve invested time to learn these things, to become a better coach. A process that continues.

I choose to learn.

Many see God through a framework of misunderstanding, a lack of context. They prefer to listen to what others may say about Him or look at caricatures of Him presented by others, instead of choosing to learn about Him themselves. They presume to know Him with no personal contact and no interest to investigate Him.

Without choosing to read about Him in the Bible or talking to those who have a personal relationship with Him, it’s easy to get sidetracked on minutia that doesn’t matter. Or just isn’t true.

The lack of understanding could have one thinking on the level of a can of peas.

 

 

 

 

Will It Ever Be Finished?

We expected our porch to be finished by last Christmas. Our kids would have all been home at some point between then and the end of January, and we looked forward to having space where all of us could sit together. Without crowding or someone standing.

It’s still not done.

When Mom passed and left us a little money, we decided to fulfill a dream we’d had for years. Extend the slab of our patio to offer a place for many to sit and enjoy our outdoor space.

Pulling the trigger on any project like that is a big deal. There are so many other things that need to be done. Could be accomplished.

We chose to pursue the dream. Hospitality is a big deal for both of us, especially where our family is concerned. We researched the proper people to help us and moved forward with the plan.

There’s the rub. The plan.

I not only knew what I wanted, I knew when I wanted it done.

That plan got kicked to the curb.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault. That didn’t stop me from wanting to blame someone for my frustration and disappointment. And the royal mess that’s been our backyard for longer than I anticipated.

Unforeseen circumstances happened. Our HOA (bless their hearts) requires permits of all kinds for any project done outside. Some have taken more time to process than expected.

Again, I wanted to blame somebody. At least the system that seems to layer policy on policy for the express purpose of frustrating homeowners.

Combine that with the amount of rain we’ve had the last several months where the only thing missing from our backyard wallow were the pigs to roll in it.

I had an “aha” moment. A perspective I’d worked hard to avoid.

This isn’t about my plan not coming to fruition in my time.

It’s about me learning to live with the frustration of not being in control of what’s going on around me.

I’m an easy-going person, and I’ve fought the thought of being at all high-control in anything I do or with anyone I’m with. Mom was the control person in our family, and I wasn’t her.

Well, that’s not totally true.

We’re all control freaks to some extent, some more visible in their aggressiveness than others. Some, like me, are passive and try to put a humorous spin on our control.

Part of our brokenness is wanting to control things we were never meant to control.

Control, complete understanding, sovereign presence is all God. We can’t know everything or make all things work our way. No matter how hard we try. That attitude will only cause frustration and anger.

For me, this is a time of waiting. Not stressing over what I can’t change. Not grousing over what I can’t do. I prepare, I plan.

Then I wait. For God.

Many get frustrated with Him because they feel He doesn’t listen or work quickly enough the way they want Him to.

He alone knows the big picture. He knows better than we do what we need. And His plan is to grow us to become more like Him in character and attitude.

Not a pleasant process. But the results are worth it.

Even if it does require a little wallowing.

It’s Not All Puddles And Pleasure

 

We were fortunate. We dodged a big bullet.

The Bahamas didn’t. The Carolina coast is now in the crosshairs of the weapon called Dorian.

Waiting for Dorian to make landfall in Florida was an act of agonizing impatience on my part. Come do your thing and be done with it.

Having the storm stall out over the Bahamas wasn’t what I’d anticipated. Pictures of the devastation, flooding everywhere, a destroyed shantytown of immigrants were heartbreaking.

I just wanted it done. I didn’t want to hear any more dire predictions.

This wasn’t about what might be–the destruction was real for so many people. Not a possibility, but a sentence passed down by a hurricane. Dorian left an impact that will be felt for a lifetime for some–those who lost loved ones. Livelihoods can be rediscovered. Homes can be rebuilt. Essentials can be replaced.

Lives lost cannot be recovered.

My grands played in the puddles in the aftermath of the bits and pieces of Dorian we did get. Splashing in muddy water. Squishing in soggy grass. The experience was fun; it’s what you do with puddles.

They were oblivious to what others had lost. What others had to deal with because of a storm. They were bothered only with containment–staying inside longer than they wanted, not being able to go outside to play in the rain. They whined, not from loss but from unmet expectations. From being denied what they wanted to do.

Having pleasure denied and hope lost are two very different things.

We expect the media to make a big deal out of forces of nature that strike around the world. Their job is to inform, albeit dramatically so they can gain viewers. I’m not surprised by the coverage of Dorian on so many channels.

What happens once the storm has passed into oblivion? When there’s nothing to report but the aftermath?

Will there be the passion to communicate what needs to be done after the storm? Will there be compassionate hearts reaching out to those in need after the media hoopla is over?

There will be those who reach out to the less fortunate, to the hurting, the grieving. Culturally we often gather around those suffering to provide supplies, physical help, a kind word for those who’ve lost so much. It happened with Hurricane Katrina, with terrorist attacks in Orlando, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and other places, with earthquakes that happened in Haiti and other countries. There’s something in us that needs to reach out and help when we see a need.

It’s the heart of God, who made us each in His image, to be gracious and courageous when others need us. To be willing to give of ourselves when the burden is too much for others to bear. To love sacrificially when sadness and loss overwhelm hearts.

We have been made purposefully, to be reflections of a gracious and powerful God. We’re not here to please ourselves only, to get what we can at the expense of others, to manipulate our way to get what we desire.

We’ve been made for greater things.

Puddles will never satisfy anyone.