When Fun Turns Fearful

We had our yearly barbecue Saturday. Close to a hundred people—all ages—attended.

What an outrageously fun time.

It was supposed to rain all day, which would have put a damper on water slides, outdoor eating and creative play space for close to fifty kids.

It didn’t.

The weather evened out; the clouds actually diminished some of the heat. People wandered from inside to outside, talking, eating, enjoying a little bit of downtime with friends.

Observation–kids range in fear capacity from hesitant and risk resistant to courageous and risk pursuant. Some didn’t even want to try the slides, while others barreled down them with abandon.

Parents congregated on the grass around the slides, watchful yet conversant. It was a safe environment—as safe as it can be with two giant water slides. The screams of those going down were gleeful.

Until they weren’t.

I was called outside to help a parent whose son had been injured. Folks had been going up and down for close to three hours, and there hadn’t been any incident.

Then there was one.

Kids were rushing up the stairs on the side of the slides, with so many on at one time that this huge monstrosity threatened to tip with their weight. Some parents tried to regulate, but limiting fun isn’t in the DNA of most kids.

A young boy found himself at the end of a wayward elbow. It was an accident, but he got knocked in the head at precisely the right place with exactly the correct angle of the elbow to split the skin open just above his forehead. And it bled. A lot.

This young man was quite brave. It’s never encouraging to put your hand to your head and pull away with it covered in blood. His white-blonde hair magnified the massive amount of red.

His mom took him to a local miniER where they super-glued his wound together. A lot less painful than stitches. They came back to the barbecue, and he hung out with his friends for the duration.

I don’t believe he went back down the water slides.

All we wanted to do was provide an enjoyable opportunity for this group of people I work with, a chance to come together for a relaxing time.

No matter how much I try to cover my bases and make sure everything has been provided for or dealt with, I’ve no control over what happens. Even having a parent on every step of that slide wouldn’t have prevented that accident. Nobody is great enough, good enough, powerful enough to deal with all the factors that can go wrong on any given day.

Except God.

All-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing.

Could He prevent such accidents? Sure. If we all wanted to live like puppets on strings.

In light of His great love, He gives us the options of choosing or refusing that love.

Accidents will happen. Some much worse. Loss and pain are part of life.

Walking with the One who holds my future makes my present feel more secure. Storms will come, but He weathers them with me.

There really is no fear in that kind of love.

 

Be Careful Who–Or What–You Listen To

I’m directionally challenged.

If the sun’s shining and I vaguely know what time of day it is, I can somewhat guess the points on a compass. After that, everything’s up for grabs.

Back in the day, before GPS became easy, I’d stop at gas stations for directions. I carried a notebook for this purpose–I could never remember what was said. Or I’d use a real map.

With the inception of GPS, I believed my problems would be solved. Plug in an address and follow directions. Piece of cake.

Until the directions don’t take you where you want to go.

I was to meet with a small group of people to have a conversation about team dynamics. I love this stuff, so I was looking forward to it. I checked the amount of time it would take to get there–32 minutes to be exact–added an extra ten minutes to account for any unusual traffic, and headed to the appointed address.

Or so I thought.

Ten minutes into the trip, I checked the GPS for the route. To my dismay, it now said I’d not show up at the address for over an hour.

My phone has acted oddly on occasion. My husband thinks it’s all me. He doesn’t understand that technology in my hands is a disaster.

I’ve become confident of getting where I need to go by relying on my GPS. This situation sent me into a tailspin. I thought going a little further might help it recalculate appropriately.

It added ten more minutes to the travel time.

I yelled at my phone and the disembodied voice giving me directions. Every time she’d comment, my response got edgier and more unkind. She’d tell me to turn a way I knew at that point had to be wrong, and I’d shout back, “Really? You’re lost too?”

After driving an hour with forty minutes still to go, I called the folks I was meeting with and told them why I was late. I’m quite responsible, so I was close to tears trying to explain what had happened. I desperately wanted to blame someone.

This gentleman dropped me a pin. And kindly chuckled over the mishap.

I was fifteen minutes from the house.

I had the correct address.

My GPS was as directionally challenged as I was.

In life I often ask the wrong people what direction I should take, what path I need to follow. Someone whose agenda is different from mine or doesn’t know me as well as I thought. Someone who is clueless about their own path.

There is no person alive who cares genuinely about my every need and question. Of the concerns I have about wanting to make what I do count. Not even my family. They love me, but they’re involved in their own journeys. Great intentions but no capacity to make my life work.

Only Jesus knows and cares about my issues, my path. He alone is fully invested in me. He gave His all for my sake and now stands ready to walk with me through the mine field of life.

End game is heaven.

That’s hopeful rerouting.

 

 

What You See Is Never Who You Get

 

We began the year as thirteen strangers. From different places around the world.

It’s been a journey getting to know each other. Not always smooth. A few potholes along the way.

Ten months after beginning, we’ve become family.

We didn’t start that way. Our first meeting felt tentative and more than a little uncomfortable. We were a designated small group, put together to do life differently in a smaller community.

Being thrown together in what felt like a random act of crazy had folks on full alert. Not questioning the value of the intent. Just hesitant to dive in and be vulnerable.

Safety is a high value for me. Knowing people I trust will keep confidences, will reciprocate openness, will engage in questions that delve into who I really am.

Multiply that by thirteen and you have wariness.

I remember that first night we gathered; I quickly got my foot stuck in my mouth. I try to learn peoples’ names quickly, but lots of names at once befuddle my brain. One gentleman was sitting on the floor during this little meeting, and wanting to address him, I couldn’t remember his name.

And called him Floor Boy.

I tend to joke around a bit, so I thought it was a novel way to inject a little humor.

I’d forgotten his name.

I know it now. I learned it quickly then. In my unintended snarkiness, I disrespected him. Not knowing any of his story, where he’d been, my attempt at humor turned into unacceptable rudeness.

I’d dug a hole for myself that took time to fill in.

We’re all from different backgrounds with a variety of grids with which we process our experiences. The similarities were obvious–we were visibly from the same culture.

That wasn’t the reality.

It’s taken us most of the year to hear and appreciate each others’ stories. To better understand who we are and value our incredible differences. We now see each other more clearly. There’s recognition that our differences flow deep below the surface of who we appear to be.

In a world that’s increasingly diverse, it becomes too easy to think that appearance alone separate us from one another. Whether race, gender, cultural background or abilities, our differences embrace the total picture of who we are more than our maintained image.

Being a bit of an extrovert, too often leading with words rather than listening carefully for context, I can miss the nuances of diversity. If someone is obviously from another culture or speaks a different language, it’s easy to assume certain things about who they may be.

We are never just what we appear to be.

Being made in the image of God, we all have a dignity worth pursuing. A value that goes beyond who others perceive we may be.

We’re all a story that is being written, a magnificent story that entails drama and challenge, joy and discovery. Next chapters which we can’t know. Previous chapters we need to understand.

Time and intent. That’s what it takes to really enjoy the stories we encounter.

Our small group? A library of fascinating reads.

I’m enjoying being a reader.

Watch Your Mouth

“Watch your mouth.”

Growing up, I often heard this from my mom when she thought I was sassing her. Being disrespectful.

Which, admittedly, I did. Quite frequently. Too many words and too much attitude.

Entrepreneurs have taken Mom’s admonition and turned it into a card game: Watch Ya Mouth. Folks wear a mouthguard and have to read phrases as teams try to interpret the garbledy goop that comes from hampered speech. It’s funny just listening to people try to talk.

Really, that’s all I wanted Mom to do. Understand what I was trying to say. My words were always loud and clear. Which was the problem.

We had a similar game when I was younger. It didn’t use a mouthguard–just large marshmallows. You’d stuff your mouth with as many as you could and try to say, “Chubby bunnies.” Packed cheeks have the same effect on speech as a mouthguard.

Ryken, at three, is quite verbal and has tons of questions to ask. He will also supply answers to just about anything anyone else asks. When he inserted the mouthguard, however, he was unintelligible. Small mouth. Large impediment.

He looked like a giant sucker fish.

He couldn’t make anybody understand him. But trying made everything funny. It didn’t matter what he was saying.

If I’d had one of those things as a kid, I could have made Mom forget all about my sass and just laugh.

Games are like that. They bring people together to relax and enjoy one another. Our family has a penchant for board games, card games and anything that causes groups to gather and laugh out loud.

Games are great ice breakers because they allow people to drop inhibitions and be themselves. Playing takes the pressure off managing an image. If you put your foot in your mouth and say something goofy, Another opportunity to laugh.

Life isn’t a game. Fun has its place. As much as I sassed Mom growing up, you’d think I’d have learned the value and timeliness of words at a younger age. When to speak up to make a point. When to bite my tongue and not feel like I have to have the last word.

I struggle with that. I grew up in an environment that reflected judgmental attitudes and frequent criticism. It was a parenting style my folks were raised with and defaulted to using on us. Hurtful words were what I expected. What I didn’t expect was that I could be just as critical.

I genuinely wish I had a guard for my mouth and another for my thoughts. I may not voice my judgmental attitude, but I’m thinking it. I can lighten words with snarkiness, but it doesn’t take the sting out of what I say.

God gave us an incredible gift of being able to communicate with one another. Words matter. It’s often not what we do to others that causes so much pain, but what we say. A critical spirit isn’t fun and games. It’s often death to a relationship.

I’m learning. I catch myself quicker than I used to. One of those life-long lessons.

Watch my mouth. Constantly.

No joke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Played Well And Still Lost–Am I A Loser?

Really? Another soccer game?

Our family has soccer imbedded in our DNA.

Over the weekend I had the privilege of watching two of the grands play in games that mattered. A lot.

Not in the big scheme of world issues. In the competitive realm of sports for kids.

Sydney competed for a state championship. Her team was new, first year they’ve played together. They have no designated goalkeeper–hard position to fill, especially for teenage girls. But they’d made it this far, and everyone (read parents and family members) expected them to go all the way.

The game was intense. Sydney, who typically has to play in goal for half a game, was able to score the first two goals for her team. Powerful and well-placed.

They were the only goals scored for her team.

The other team played cohesively. The players had the practiced look of those who know and trust their teammates to be where they pass the ball. Focused.

They beat Syd’s team 5-2.

A tough loss, not because the team didn’t try hard. Syd played some of the best soccer of her young career.

It wasn’t enough.

We then went to Teagan’s game, where his team, which was in first place, played a team that was gunning for them.

Teagan is a designated goalkeeper.

It takes moxie to play keeper. They’re the last line of defense, and the ball has had to go through a whole lot of players before it gets to them.

When the keeper misses, however, it feels like his fault.

Teagan played a stellar game. He  made some incredible saves. But the 6-4 loss felt heaviest to him.

Both kids did their best. Both games had a lot on the line, and winning was the desired end result.

Both had explanations why things hadn’t worked out the way they’d hoped and planned.

Bottom line–what the teams did wasn’t enough.

When I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, I can be paralyzed by disappointment. I’ve a fairly elevated expectation of myself and tend to set the bar high, so failure can feel like an unwanted companion.

There are some things, though, that I absolutely know I can’t do.

I can’t run a marathon. Knee issues.

I can’t figure out technology on my own. Tech toad.

And I can’t get to heaven with my great works and grand gestures. I’ve not got the capacity to be perfect.

God knows that. It’s why He sent His Son to take our place and pay a price I can’t ever hope to pay. God being God requires perfection. Not even one mess up.

I’m not that good. I can’t go a day without a hurtful comment, critical thought or doing something foolish.

Having accepted His payment for my mess ups, I now live in grace–receiving something from Him that I don’t deserve but that I’ve been given out of love.

Heaven and hope.

It doesn’t give me a pass to do whatever I want. Being fully loved and forgiven gives me freedom to love God and want to choose what’s right.

That makes me a winner no matter what the game is.