Didn’t See That Under There

My brain was sleep-fogged. I was awakened by voices in my bedroom.

2 a.m.

A text message kept repeating: “Roomba is stuck near a cliff.” It made no sense.

A woman’s voice, coming from my phone, explained the Roomba needed help.

I heard John yelling, “Go away. Go back home. Get out of here.”

I was really confused.

Clicking and bumping sounds followed. Fully awake, I glanced at my husband, who was sitting up in bed and waving his hands and shouting as if he was being attacked.

“What’s going on? What’re you doing?”

“It’s in here. And I think it’s stuck under the bed.”

We’ve no pets, certainly not one with the ability to talk.

“The Roomba. It got in here somehow and it’s stuck and won’t go home.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. Poor thing must have felt like it was falling off a cliff; it had nowhere to go.

Our kids gave us an iRobot Roomba for Christmas, which roams the house and picks up dirt and any miscellaneous objects it can suck into its little vacuum mouth. My daughter had finally hooked it up for us, and it worked for several weeks before it got lost in the house trying to find its way to its home base.

Tiffany fixed it set it to clean at 1 a.m. Less bother for us.

Last time, however, we’d left our bedroom door closed because we’d had a houseful of guests. In the heat of our extended summer, we now leave it open to get air.

And unwanted visitors.

We’ve named our little robot vacuum Sugar. A reflection of the sweet gift it was to us and of our appreciation of the job it does. That wasn’t the name I was thinking of that night, though the one that crossed my mind also started with an S.

Neither of us fell back asleep quickly. Both of us woke with lack-of-sleep headaches. Both of us broke into laughter, however, when we talked through the bizarre incident the next morning.

Expectations are funny. I set my mind on certain things–and people–acting a particular way because it’s how I’ve known them to be. What my experience with them tells me is real.

When people or circumstances don’t match up to what I’d expected, I’m usually disappointed. I can excuse my little vacuum–it was doing what it was programmed to do. I can excuse circumstances that don’t measure up to my assumptions because I can’t control all that happens around me.

When people disappoint me, however, I get bent out of shape. I take their response to me personally, which may not be who they really are. They’re acting out of a stress response because their needs aren’t being met. Their lives may be out of kilter.

Just like mine can become.

People will always disappoint us. We’re not perfect. If I’m looking for a constant loving acceptance of who I am, I’ll only find it in Jesus. Everyone else will let me down.

I disappoint myself.

Acknowledging our stories and giving people the benefit of the doubt is how I should respond to the messy people we all are.

Not messes my robot vacuum can clean up.

Confinement Is A Dirty Word

Memories come flooding back. I’ve done this before.

Soccer tournaments were a mainstay of our family for years. We’d drive all over Florida and surrounding states as well as fly to several so our kids could compete for medals and trophies that now gather dust in our attic.

But when invited by my daughter to accompany her to a tournament her daughter would play in, plus baby made four, I couldn’t say no.

I’m an amazing cheerleader.

We drove to Jacksonville for a weekend of the beautiful game. Soccer is my favorite sport–six kids playing it got me hooked.

Cal, at seven months, was contained for much of the weekend. The car trip up. A stroller to pick up groceries for eating in the room. The stroller for all the games and the waiting in between. The car seat to feed him in. He tolerated some of it, griped at much of it, cried intermittently, unless a kind soccer parent wanted to hold him or talk to him. His opinion was never considered; his wishes were never consulted.

This was the picture of my youngest daughter, Debbie, when she was the honorary “mascot” at tournaments. It’s what Cal has become. Tag along.

We’d take Debbie to games and tournaments, stand forever on the sidelines, sometimes holding her, often passing her down the line of kind parents who wanted to make her laugh or just be reminded of their own kids when they were small.

Confinement was the name of the game. We couldn’t set her on the grass unsupervised–she’d eat bugs, grass, or whatever waste matter was on the ground before her. Don’t get me started on fire ant bites.

By the end of most games, she’d be red-faced, cranky and inconsolable because she’d not had any freedom at all.

That was poor Cal. When put in his pack-and-play at night, he could see us through the mesh but couldn’t get to us. At the games, he’d reach for someone to release him from captivity.

A contented child, this pushed him over the edge. By the end of the last game, he was done. He wanted out–out of strollers, out of car seats, out of someone’s grip.

I can’t stand being put in a box. I don’t want to be captive to someone else’s assumptions. I want freedom to express who I really am.

Sad part is, I’m often the one who builds the box. I want to be accepted, liked, included. My fear is if people know who I really am, they won’t like me. Won’t want to be around me. So I become what I think others want me to be.

We all live with lies that plague us and destroy our hope. Lies that stem from the enemy of our souls who seeks to steal, kill and destroy all that we’ve been made to be by the One whose handprints are on our hearts.

The only One who can save us from the lies is Jesus. The Author of freedom. The true Keeper of the key of life.

We can be confined by the lies. Or find freedom in Jesus’ truth.

I’m ready to bust out of that box.

How about you?

 

 

 

The Pendulum Can Be A Pit

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bishop on unsplash

Growing up in the Midwest, winters were bitterly cold and snow was the norm. I loved being outside, ice skating, sledding, snowball fights.

Shoveling snow? Not so much.

In the evenings, when darkness fell quickly, my twin sister and I would play in our basement. Dad had rigged a swing down there–we had the space to reach great heights.

One night we made a bet with each other. Neither of us remembers whose idea it was–it wasn’t a good one. We were going to see how high we could swing with our hands holding at the base of the wooden board we sat on.

Maybe we were bored. Possibly we were six-year-old adrenaline junkies. Whatever the case, I got on the swing and began pumping for all I was worth.

Over a cement floor.

I know I got pretty high, but I clearly remember getting to the top of the arc going forward and didn’t swing back. I fell backward. Hitting the back of my head on the hard floor.

There was blood. Lots of blood. Head injuries are notorious for producing quantities of the red stuff. I remember being dazed–it was probably shock. Dad drove me to the emergency room.

It’s amazing how clear some memories are and how dull others can become. This one stands out boldly. The doctor told me the stitches were going to hurt.

Which they did.

Lesson learned–if I’m going to swing high over concrete, hold higher.

Life for me is a series of soaring loftily one way, trying to balance it out and moving too far the other way. The pendulum of life that defines things in hyperbole rather than acceptable norms. Extremes as opposed to moderation.

A case in point. I was invited to a gathering that appeared casual, so I showed up in nice jeans, a top, and soccer flops.

Everyone else was in a dress with heels.

We had a party for a large group of people at our home. I baked twelve pans of assorted brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and Rice Krispy treats for the occasion.

Half of them were untouched.

My life of faith can look like this pendulum swing. I can act like it all depends on me, where every rule must be followed, every meeting attended, signing up for every possible volunteer opportunity. I act like my doing, my producing, makes me more acceptable to God. As if He owes me.

There are the days I ignore Him completely. I do my thing my way. I justify my behavior to myself in a way that makes it workable. Then guilt and shame creep up and make me miserable.

God doesn’t need for me to do for Him–He’s done it all for me. Paid the price fully for all my contrariness and wandering ways.

He’s not fire insurance either. Not a prayer to be said to gain access to heaven. He’s a Father who wants to interact with His children. Show them how much He loves them.

The balance? Being loved perfectly and learning to love Him more.

Where is your pendulum taking you?

 

 

Heeeeere’s The Kick-Off!

 

Football season is upon us. Games that used to be relegated to the weekends are now popping up throughout the week.

It’s how I misplace my husband till the Superbowl is over.

I do like the idea of football. Two teams working together to win a game. Everyone sacrificing life and limb on the playing field.

It all begins with the kick-off.

You can talk about team line-ups and individual plays, strengths, and weaknesses of the offense and defense. But until that kick-off happens, it’s all just words and perspective.

There can be no winner unless the game is played.

We just had our kick-off retreat for our new year of people and process. Fifty adults, with more than that many children, showed up, travel-weary, transition-wary, hesitantly hopeful of what the year will hold for them. They’re coming from all over the world, and now that all are here and mostly moved in, we begin at the beginning.

The similarities to football don’t end with the kick-off. What began as a gathering of individuals has become a team. Fifty players, all issued the outline of the game plan, were gathered for the initial pep talks. Players aren’t ranked on skill-sets but on availability and willingness to get in the game.

Without the fanfare of crowds and cheerleaders, our game has begun.

It’ll be played over the next ten months, where training and development will become woven into the playing schedule. Coaching will be essential–each player has a personal coach to walk them through new plays, new strategies, new game plans.

Having done this for several years, I know the end results. Not the specifics, but the big picture. This disjointed group of strangers will morph into a close-knit community with life-long relationships having been established.

A real team.

Football is a great metaphor for life. Transitions push us into new team modes, where adults and kids alike have to get to know the other players. Not all will get along like best friends, but each can have an appreciation for what others bring to the team.

There are scores and penalties in every game. Some people will accomplish more and may even appear to have the edge on winning game after game. Others find themselves penalized for mistakes they didn’t intend, for errors of judgment in how they proceeded.

What everyone needs to do, however, is be a participant.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize how a team is playing or question the intelligence of a coach for the plays he’s directing.

God didn’t make any of us spectators. He made us for the purpose of getting in the game and making a difference with who we are and what we have to offer the world around us.

We may not be top-ranked players. Some of us may struggle with making it on the field.

That’s the toughest part of the game plan. Showing up with a willing heart makes the most valuable player. Just as we are.

With Jesus, we never play alone. He coaches us through the toughest of plays.

And guarantees a win in the end.

Let’s get out there and play some life ball.

 

The Many Faces Of Joy

 

You know when you’ve got it. It’s not based on circumstances, possessions or possible activities. Those can all disappoint after a time.

It’s centered around great relationships that you can count on. Those people who graciously provide satisfaction and delight with their presence that’s beyond what’s happening around you.

True joy.

It comes from being known.

I watched my oldest daughter feed her seven-month-old son, and the joy on his face made me smile. It wasn’t just the food (though flavorless rice cereal would put a pep in anyone’s step) but the fact that recognized his mom was right there, feeding him and carrying on a conversation which made him giggle. If she looked away, his face would drop into a frown. If too much time passed before she glanced back, he’d let her know his displeasure.

He wanted time with his mom. 

It was joy my girls shared (minus a very missed sister-in-law) when they celebrated Courtney’s pregnancy. A baby they’ve all prayed for. Knowing their sister, this baby is being anticipated with incredible delight.

Joy is the look on the face of cousins who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Sizing each other up and remembering the fun that once was–and would be again.

Joy is friends and family being reunited after too long a separation. The chance to do life together, even for a short time. Cherishing moments and shared memories.

Joy is the hope of relationships restored and made better. People who are forgiven and accepted. Individuals recognized and respected.

Family relationships are tricky. Some folks get along well with theirs; others, not so much.

The challenge or ease of kinship doesn’t take away from our need to be known and loved.

It was Cal’s eye contact with his mom that grabbed my heart. He had to see her. She was his safe place. The one he counted on most for comfort and food.

If I’d been feeding him, he’d have been looking for her.

Real joy isn’t an entitlement; it’s a gift. It isn’t something we can demand; it’s something we receive with gratitude.

Jesus called joy one of the gifts of His Holy Spirit that can be part of the lives of those who follow Him. Joy is a fruit grown in the soul that matures as we learn to trust the One who has given His all for us. It ripens as we walk with Jesus.

Joy can’t truly be experienced apart from a genuine loving relationship. An opportunity to be really known, totally exposed, and still loved without conditions, without any expectation of performance. Being loved freely, known fully, and accepted completely. Exactly as I am.

The only One who can love like that is God Himself. Through Jesus.

Does it ever get any better than that?

Happiness is fleeting. It’s derived from what life holds for us in the moment.

Joy, however, is worth the time and pursuit of greater understanding of who God really is. What His heart’s desire is for us.

That’ll bring a grin any day.