That Wasn’t In The Plan


Living in the land of warm sun, beautiful beaches, and older folks, there are several things that are givens here.

Many tourists. We expect them. It makes for crazy traffic. We’re not New York City, but I think we may have the worst drivers in the country. (Am I pointing the finger back at myself? Well…)

Lots of humidity and mosquitoes, which the City Beautiful branding doesn’t embrace. Both need to be dealt with.

Yearly flu shots. Especially necessary for the very young and very old. They’re given in so many places of business that you’d think an ongoing epidemic here. Helpful, but they don’t protect from every strain of the flu.

My daughter makes sure her family gets flu shots every year. They have a little one, less than a year, and the flu for him would be harsh. I understand that.

Even with the shot, Sloane, at two and a half, got the flu. Two strains, to be precise. Protection and planning meant nothing to those little buggers in her system.

Sloane was lethargic and a little grumpy with her illness. They were giving her the recommended medicine, but it tasted so awful that the process of getting it into her was as miserable as the sickness itself. The four and a half hour nap made it all too real. Not the norm for Sloane, who has more energy than several her age put together and who considers nap time an opportunity to look at books, play or just talk out loud.

They’d taken every precaution. Being prepared for possibilities makes sense when people care for their children. Or for themselves. We all have a lot to do, plans to be expedited, goals to be accomplished. If illness can be controlled, if the unexpected can be regulated to what I’m prepared to deal with, a sense of confidence blankets me like false assurance that I’ve got this covered.

Who am I kidding?

There are so many things in life that I have no control over. I can work harder, plan my days well, and still feel unhinged by circumstances I hadn’t planned on. My friend just had an unplanned heart attack; thankfully minor. My sister-in-law just had an unplanned major stroke. We wait daily for updates.

We’re all control freaks. Some are more overt than others, but those of us who aren’t as obvious are passive-aggressive. Hedging our attitudes or actions in case something doesn’t turn out as planned.

Only God knows everything. To be God, He would have to have that understanding–beyond anything any of us can comprehend. He could make everything fine, answer all prayers as we ask, and we would be His marionettes, our strings pulled by an Almighty Puppeteer. He allows us the freedom of our choices–and the consequences that come with them.

He wants a relationship with us and promises He will be with us in all things, good and bad. He weeps with us in our pain; He rejoices with us in our celebrations.

Control is a myth. We can strive for it and experience frustration when we don’t have it.

Our mosquitoes, on the other hand, are painfully real.

 

 

What Does A “Yes” Cost Me?

photo courtesy of Diego Catto on unsplash

Avast, me hearties! There’s riches for the takin’ if we just set our sights on what’s out there! Arrrrgh!

Pirates in their fictionalized state are fun. When the grands were here recently, one of the make-believe scenarios they loved to act out was being pirates. Books like Treasure Island and Peter Pan add to the imagination.

Pirates had the opportunity to sail the oceans of the world with no destination in mind but the horizon and desire. The adventure of new places and unexplored areas expresses a beautiful sense of freedom. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that historically there’d been female pirates as well. Gals like Grace O’Malley, the daughter of an Irish chieftain who became queen of her clan upon her dad’s death. Her ships attacked the ships of Queen Elizabeth as the monarch tried to exert more control over Ireland.

Pirates with purpose.

I’d love to sail freely around the world on an adventure of discovery. Not limited by the constraints of where I am. Free to be and do as I like, go where I please.

Not reality.

A friend of mine gave a talk on the heart of a leader, speaking of the need to take an inventory of where my heart is so that I can identify triggers that set me off and cause me to react in situations rather than respond with thought and care. He used a quote that put me in a pirate mindset.

“To be free to sail the seven seas, you must make yourself a slave to the compass. Every freedom has a corresponding slavery.”

I’ve no idea who said this, but it resonated with me because of how freedom is molded by slavery. The life of pirates wasn’t free from worry, hurry or danger. They needed their compasses to get them where they needed to go. No pillaging, no paycheck.

Not to make light of a nefarious profession, the reality of that quote defines our lives. In laymen’s terms, our many yeses are underlined by our need to say no.

In terms of my heart, if I give myself the freedom to do whatever I want, without concern for the rightness or wrongness of the action, the “yes” from those choices brings a resounding “no” from the effects it has on others. Consequences are a reality of all decisions made; I’m not free of them. Poor choices often bring hard consequences, ones I must live with because of the options I’ve chosen to pursue.

That’s hard to grasp. Freedom appears unrestricted. The truth is there is a cost for every freedom we have.

I may want to sail the seven seas, but I don’t want to have to use a compass.

And I’ll get nowhere.

God is my Compass. My true north. The One who gives a framework of truth for me to work within.

To thrive within.

Does my Compass limit me? Yes, but only in ways that are good for me, that protect and provide for me.

Which means, me hearties, I best set me sights on that Compass. Arrrgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will I Ever Be Enough?

photo courtesy of Ian Espinosa on unsplash

I’m in over my head.

Not a surprise. Neither is it a new experience. I tend to fall into this mode several times a year during seasons of serious busyness where I struggle with urgent responsibilities; those things I think only I can do.

My job is people, but faces populate my life. It’s a reality that I embrace wholeheartedly; no regrets. My large family combined with all those I care for makes for a life crawling with folks I want to maintain a connection with.

The desire for a few more hours in each day rears its head every now and again. Which isn’t practical because I’d need that much more sleep. More days in a week would require at least one more day for the weekend to renew and refresh. More days in the year would mess up planting, harvesting, paying employees in general.

Not a great idea.

The issue is me. I struggle with saying no, especially if it’s to family, friends, neighbors in need. Or anyone who gives me good cause why I should be the one to help them out.

My Dad used to say it wasn’t judgment I lacked; where I fell short was self-awareness. How much I could actually do without causing immediate grief to my family or burdening others with my martyr complex when I whined about ALL that I had to do.

Why do I find it hard to say no to anyone? I want to be liked, accepted, seen as valuable to those around me, which means I often jump into something without a lot of forethought. I don’t consult my calendar or what I’ve already agreed to do for whomever. Saying yes is easier than saying no and having to qualify why I can’t do something that seems like a reasonable request.

When I overcommit, those closest to me are the ones that suffer the most. When I can’t help the grands by taking them to practice or a dance lesson when their parents are busy. When I can’t sit with a friend over coffee because I’ve scheduled every minute of every day with stuff. (Not really every minute, but it feels that way.)

The worst is the whining. John gets most of that. Crabbing about what I have to do and how tired I am. His look is always so kind–and yet so pointed when he says, “You did schedule all that? Intentionally?”

I’m neither all-powerful nor all-knowing. Just loaded with great intentions.

God, however, is all powerful, knowing and present. Which is great, because when I fall into a Messiah complex–thinking if I don’t do something, who will–He’s the One able to do what needs to be done. In the way that encourages, uplifts and grows people the way each individual needs.

As I step back from the “have to’s”, I own my limitations. My own lack of understanding of the big picture. Allowing Him to be the only One who can truly save anyone from the mess we all make of life.

The Messiah thing? That role has been wonderfully filled by Jesus.

No others need apply.

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Missing?

“Wait! What? How’d I get here?”

My daughter Courtney was describing the facial expressions of her son Beck as he rolled over for the first time. A tad bit traumatized by the change of scenery from front to back, he was clueless as to what had happened.

His folks were tickled with a new “first”. It’s how we measure progress in children. First smiles. Begin to crawl. Eat people food. Take their first steps.

I hate missing all this.

There are about 1,840 miles that separate us, so dropping by for a visit isn’t logistically feasible. To make it work would take a lot of planning and making sure it would work for our Denver family–details that can overwhelm. Life gets busy. There are responsibilities that must be completed.

I hate missing out on his progress.

We have grands in Washington, DC and Mifflinburg, PA as well as Orlando. I missed Sloane learning to ice skate. And watching Huck and Landry experience their first fondue. Small but significant things. It’s easier to make time to see the kids who are local, but even then we miss out on so many things. When I’m with them, I’m amazed at how much they’ve grown and matured.

I hate missing out on the small steps forward.

It’s easy for me to get focused on what’s in front of me and lose sight of what’s a little further away. It’s not intentional; it’s the challenge of constantly assessing value in the things that can and do fill my life.

So what am I missing?

People matter more than anything else. I need to constantly be reminded that the faces in my life are the things that impact me the most.

Those faces reflect my real passion.

I walked into a restaurant the other day, waiting for a friend. Three young gals in their early twenties sat together at a table. All of them on their phones. Texting someone who wasn’t there. No conversation. No interaction.

It made me wonder if they knew who actually was present with them.

It’s easy to hold people at arm’s length if I don’t want them to see all of me. Don’t encourage them to get below the surface of commonplace pleasantries and banal conversation. Ask questions; don’t give them the chance to respond with their own.

Does that ever satisfy my need for relationship?

I was good at holding God at arm’s length for a while. As I began a relationship with Him I was uncomfortable with many of my behaviors and attitudes. I thought I could keep some of my junk hidden, not so obvious. Be a little bit more of what I thought God expected me to be.

I can’t hide anything from God. He knows it all–and still loves me as I am. I can’t offend Him, shock Him, scare Him off. He’s committed to this relationship with me.

And longs for me to be that committed to Him.

I don’t ever want to put distance between me and those I love. Why would I ever do that with God?

That puts “missing out” at a whole new level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different Is Worth A Second Look

When I was a kid, toys didn’t talk (except Chatty Cathy, and she was just weird), light up (unless you were playing with your folks’ flashlight), or move (without help from me). We were in a world of our creation. Imagination drove play.

Any noise came from make-believe. Screaming pirates where we’d attack each other with plastic swords swung with purpose. Tea parties where the conversation was patterned after adult talk–and never sounded adult.

Toys morph with technology. Today, you need hand/eye coordination to play video games–without any other movement from the rest of the body. Sound effects are created by the toy–very real, often surprising. The focus is singular and intense, rather than roaming and broad.

Mom used to tell me my kids lacked imagination because what they played supplied all the fun without any creativity.

I disagree.

Everything changes with time.

Attitudes, however, often stubbornly remain the same.

We were babysitting a few of the grands, and I was fascinated by how they played with a ball John had ordered online. It vibrated, made loud noises that were quite indiscernible, and had flashing lights that gave me a bit of a headache.

Is that combination good for anybody?

My dear husband is quite intrigued by novelty toys to entertain the kids. He’s bought small rubber-band propelled rockets that light up as they’re shot into the sky. A sheep that moves and sings Christmas songs that scares the bejeebers out of one-year-old Cal.

His perspective is that different is fun. Not something to be overwhelmed by or afraid of. Embrace it. Try it. It’s an opportunity to discover the wonderful possibilities outside our tiny experiential framework.

There is a bigger picture we often miss.

God sees it clearly.

He created us all in His image–whether we acknowledge Him or not–with giftings and stories that we didn’t ask for. Those things that make each of us unique and special. Those pieces of talent and story that set us apart.

The challenge? We live in a world culturally that identifies what’s acceptable based on random algorithms that can’t identify character or integrity. Where unsustainable standards are set by those who themselves don’t fit perfectly.

We all manage images that we can’t live up to.

God has gifted each of us with a story. For some, difficulty living in a majority culture that doesn’t appreciate different is a reality. For others, fitting in with quirks and challenges that aren’t valued by others demands courage most of us will never know.

If we limit acceptability to what we feel comfortable with, we lose an opportunity to appreciate what everyone has to offer us. To grow individually with what we can learn from others.

God’s standard is His offer of grace and forgiveness to anyone who will receive it. He doesn’t look at economic status, race, religion, appearance or productivity.

He sees hearts that yearn for a relationship with Him.

Total acceptance.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could accept all people with the grace we long to have extended to us?

You can’t buy that hope online.