You Don’t Know What You Have If You Won’t Open It

My husband is on a mission.

Get our garage cleaned so we can use it as a garage.

For a car.

We’ve talked about this for years, but it’s never gotten past talk to task.

Neither of us is great at follow through. Decision making about throwing or keeping is a huge endeavor. And when exhaustion dogs our steps on the weekend because of week-long busyness, more decision making is the last thing either of us wants to do.

John has friends who’re passionate about clean garages. One friend felt overwhelmed by his mess and felt stuck with the grand scale of the task.

A group effort helped him reach his goal.

John has caught the declutter bug.

I haven’t. But his contagion embraces me, like it or not.

He’s a pitcher. One who randomly throws things out without considering possible value.

I’m more the seller. If it’s in good shape and someone might be able to use it, sell it.

Having several children who have no emotional buy-in to our stuff, I invited Tiffany to help me select what was worth selling. She’s got the tech chops to offer it online.

She spent time with me going through our stuff, taking pictures, remarking on what needed to be thrown out and helping me declutter.

Boxes that hadn’t been opened in years.

Oh, the things we discovered.

Beautiful cloisonne boxes from Thailand we’ve had for twenty years. A ceremonial dagger from China John was given three decades ago. Pictures from Turkey I bought in Istanbul in the late 90’s.

I hadn’t seen any of these things in years.

One of the treasures we discovered was a beautiful hanging glass carving made by John’s brother. Mike created this piece years ago, but because of a tiny chip, he couldn’t sell it. When asked if I wanted it, I said yes. And put it someplace safe.

In the box I just discovered. With all these other treasures.

When we moved into this house twenty-three years ago, there were boxes we didn’t get around to unpacking. The longer we left them packed with no apparent need for what was inside, the less important it became to do anything with them. The gifts inside went unused and unappreciated.

My loss.

I’ve been given “gifts” in life that I’ve not valued at the moment. If I’ve not taken time to really open them and pursue and appreciate them, I lose.

Those gifts are people. Being gifted with relationships is the most incredible present we can receive. People add to our lives, experience, and growth. To not value those who touch our lives daily is a loss. Ignoring someone because we may not agree with or apprciate their “box” costs us. We miss out.

The greatest gift? That which Jesus offers us. The gift of life itself. Hope beyond what we can imagine.

Many never open that gift. They don’t believe Jesus can be who He says He is–God become man. The One who chose to leave heaven’s glory to show us God.

A Gift available to all who will receive it.

The only Gift that truly keeps on giving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetness In Brokenness

Who doesn’t love to smack a pinata?

The idea of taking out frustration on a paper mache figure filled with candy and being rewarded for efforts of aggression is so darned satisfying.

The older you get, the stronger you become, the harder you can hit. The quicker the desired results.

Sweets.

We celebrated Ryken’s birthday with a family costume party and an emphasis on Yoshi and Scooby Doo. His two favorite characters. A green dragon that shoots eggs as weapons and a big dog that talks, beginning every word with the letter R.

Birthdays are memory makers. Not at my end of the spectrum, mind you. But the monumental passage of a year in the life of a little is a big deal. Ryken has talked about his birthday for months, thinking himself as four, wanting to be four.

A great reason to celebrate. Recognizing that we’ve become what we’ve longed to be for so long. A dream realized.

I don’t look at birthdays that way.

The smashing of the pinata was a highlight for Ryken. The fact that it was a Scooby Doo pinata helped immensely. His one request–he didn’t want to be “blind”. Being blindfolded scared him. So eyes wide open, he was the first one to have a crack at old Scooby.

And the second, third and fourth.

Then the rest of the young ones took a shot at making the candy cascade out. When it came time for the older ones to have a whack, it was weakened. Considerably.

Ryken had the last couple of pops at it to complete the devastation. His dad shook out the remains.

Bringing freedom to the the pieces of candy.

Until they were eaten.

How odd is it that you have to hurt something and break it in order to get the good stuff out?

That’s a greater metaphor for life than I’d figured.

At a time when social media is allowed to define our culture and our individuality, it takes courage to be me. Not a sound byte that shows well in a few words or characters. Not a picture that captures a moment but hides the sory.

The real me is that person inside that I often choose not to show. The part that doesn’t want to be hurt, misunderstood, or not liked.

The part of me many don’t know.

I have to be willing to break through that outer shell–my messy, chaotic self–to let people experience my heart. The truth behind the me that usually shows up.

Jesus talks how owning my brokenness leads me to honesty with Him and a real relationship that provides genuine redemption. If I expose my own mess, I don’t have to keep taping the pieces together to appear fine.

Hiding my heart long-term prevents personal growth. And hinders honest and satisfying relationships.

Am I ready to have that carefully crafted exterior demolished for the sake of relating well to God and others?

Not always.

I’ll take a whack at the image, one at a time. After all, I have a sweet and tender heart to expose.

Are you ready to crack the facade?

 

 

 

So You Think It’s Worth It?

I’d just finished up one meeting and was heading into another.

I was dragging, struggling to focus. Limp and overwhelmed, like an overcooked noodle in a pool of Alfredo sauce.

Yech.

I walked toward the appointed room, and there, before me, like an oasis in the desert or a McDonald’s after eating a month of Whole 30, was what I really wanted.

Coffee.

We’ve got the best coffee bar in our entire headquarters. People walk from other buildings just to partake of the refreshment from that space. Designed by a dear friend, it satisfies the aesthetic sense as well as the caffeine need.

There was a significant problem. It was 3 p.m. Mid-afternoon when the woozies are want to hit anyway. The time of day when some type of fuel is necessary.

Coffee has been my fuel of choice for years. There was a season when I could drink cup after cup, no matter the time of day, and still fall asleep without a worry. But as I’ve matured (gently aged, moved on, heck, am no longer a spring chicken), I’ve found I can’t drink coffee after noon. Not regular, decaf or any iteration of the above.

It interrupts my sleep.

The conundrum was more than my boggy brain could handle. So I grabbed a cup, got a dark roast, and inhaled energy as I stepped into my meeting.

I felt great. I could contribute, follow the discussion. Act like an alive human.

Until later that night.

As I lay in bed, I couldn’t turn my mind off. It circled the day’s happenings like a chicken with its head cut off. (They really do run in circles.) I tried yoga. Read for a bit. Kept checking the clock, hoping it was time to get up. That I’d actually slept and was dreaming I wasn’t sleeping.

Nope.

I needed coffee to get me going a few hours later.

Consequences are a result of choices. Every decision we make, no matter how large or small, affects us. For good or bad. I knew from the beginning that caffeine that late in the day would make sleep hard.

I drank it anyway because it provided what I needed at the moment.

Decision making is balancing consequences. Immediate satisfaction often results in future regret.

Choices in life aren’t always obvious. What looks good at the moment may be hazardous for me later on. Finishing off all the potatoes from dinner. Staying up too late to watch a show I don’t even enjoy. Being with people whose values push the boundaries of my comfort zone.

When I say “yes” to something, I’m saying “no” to something else. I can’t blame anyone else for the consequences I’ve received from the decisions I’ve made.

Jesus speaks often of us being aware of the enemy of our souls who seeks to confuse us with lies. Subtle skewed truths that appear harmless, even helpful, at the moment. The only way to recognize lies is to know the truth.

God’s truth is absolute.

The questions that need to nudge our brains are, “Is what I’m choosing worth the cost? Can I pay that without hurting or blaming others?”

Those answers alone are worth a cup of joe.

 

 

 

Six Excuses (Reasons) Why Cleaning Is Futile

photo courtesy of Adam Le Sommer on unsplash

There are some people on this planet that enjoy cleaning.

I don’t know why, but there it is. Folks who, no matter what time of day or what day of the week, will open their door to a surprise visit with no hesitation.

Because their home is spotless.

My two sisters are quite good at this. I doubt I’ve ever visited either of them when they don’t look ready for company. Hospitable homes. Clean and healthy.

I, however, don’t aspire to such consistency. Cleaning is a necessary evil to keep viruses, roaches, and sticky stuff at bay. Nothing worse than having a large bug run rapidly across your floor when someone is over with their small child inches away from the crawling creature.

I have legitimate excuses why cleaning is lowest on my list of necessary household duties.

  1.  It’s just going to get dirty again. Most often, quite quickly. I finish mopping the floor, and John comes in with shoes covered in grass and mud from having just mowed our swamp.
  2. Nobody ever notices. This is not an exercise that garners deep appreciation. Nobody walks through with white gloves and comments on my dustless surfaces.
  3. Rooms that aren’t especially needed at the moment can be closed off. Bathrooms, of course, need occasional upkeep. The brown-potty ring around the commode is unsightly. In potty training mode, my son-in-law told my grandson to aim for the little piece of poo on the side of the toilet. Not a high point for me.
  4. Crowds in a home block out the unsightly mess. They themselves become the mess, so having many over at once is a good thing.
  5. It doesn’t matter how well or how much I clean–I always miss something. Which negates the entire exercise of intentional house sprucing.
  6. There are a lot more fun things to do with my time than clean. Fun is a high value.

There will be those who are appalled that I would think so little of keeping my home as spotless as possible. It’s all about pride in ownership and stewardship of what we have.

I get that. Such thinking doesn’t trump those reasons for choosing to do something else.

Here’s the rub. At some point, it does become unhealthy. We have littles over to our home a lot, and those crawly bugs can be a nuisance. Being so low to the floor, they see every tiny piece of dirt, old food and bug parts that immediately go into mouths.

Not healthy.

My heart and mind require constant cleaning as well. I find it’s easy to fall into habits of messiness. Having a bad attitude toward someone because of what I perceived as a slight. Focusing on the nonessentials and missing what’s really important–relationships with others. Wasting time with mindless viewing when all I’m doing is escaping from what I should be doing.

Jesus gave us straightforward words that relate to what’s truly important in life. Love God first, and love others as we love ourselves.

Relationships. Upward with God, outward with others, inward with ourselves.

In my life, that’s a cleaning task I can’t ignore.

(I’m really not THAT bad.)

 

 

Did I Say That Out Loud?

“Having a hard time walking?” I’d just tripped–again–and made a rather remarkable recovery.

“No. I’m fine. Just fine.” Snark was oozing out my pores.

“Could be those shoes you wear all the time.” My husband pointed to my soccer flops, my go-to footwear on any given day.

Comfort is a high value for me. Satisfied feet, however, can be their own risk.

The tripping thing. It’s something that’s happened a lot lately. I seem to walk in the comfortable manner these flops engender.

I slop in my flops.

Mom used to remind me of a tendency toward bad posture, both in the way I stood and walked. “Stand up straight, Dayle. Pick up your feet. Stop shuffling.”

My footwear, it appears, influences my stride.

This isn’t just about what’s on my feet. It morphs into an attitude. Slovenliness is an untidiness of habits.

There was a book years ago that was the attire bible for business people called “Dress For Success”. The idea was your work will reflect how you look. If one chooses to act like a professional, one should dress like one. The perception was people who are untidy aren’t efficient and effective workers.

That doesn’t fly with today’s young entrepreneurs. Relaxed apparel frees you up to focus on the task at hand. A casual dress code has caught on in many companies.

But when I’m dressing for me and not work, all of me needs a casual focus.

If I don’t watch how I walk, I can catch my flops on cracks in the floor and small ridges in the sidewalk.

Tripping is the result of my slopping.

Being too comfortable often keeps me from being aware of what I’m doing. How I’m acting. Not just the walking, but being with friends I’m safe with or circumstances that are so familiar I could walk through them without thinking.

The not thinking thing is when I get into trouble.

I saw this in Mom. As she got older, her filters faded. She didn’t care what she said–if it came from her mouth, it had to be true. Filters meant to remind her of hurtful or inappropriate things just weren’t there anymore. Her age was affecting her brain, an understandable situation.

That’s not my excuse.

I lose my filters when I’m tired, angry, or have a lot on my mind. I trip over my own snark.

And it hurts others.

Jesus reminds me that my words can be used for hope and encouragement or can be hurtful to others. A gift or a curse. I often excuse myself with “It’s been a rough day” or “They said something hurtful to me.”

Words are remembered. Many of the lies that plague my heart today came from words said by someone I loved or respected.  I’m now dealing with the blowback of words spoken without thought.

I need to be aware of what I say. Thoughtfully conscious of what I’m trying to communicate. Words of encouragement are gifts of value to the heart. Hurtful words are daggers to the soul.

I may slop in my flops. I don’t want to slop my words.