Go Big Or Go…Hey, I’m Already Home!

We have a tradition. An annual event that delights many and serves as a great space of interaction for those with huge people needs–and not so huge.

We host a barbecue for the group of folks I work with. People who’ve done life differently for almost ten months, who have grown in understanding and love for one another. A remarkable group.

Add two massive waterslides, a passel of children, tons of sugary snacks, great barbecue, and you’ve got a party.

This year we added rain.

Not something I asked for; not what I wanted. The one hundred plus people moved their wet selves from the outside to the inside for dinner, fun talk and watching the running of the Kentucky Derby.

Does it get any better?

People were amazed at our tolerance. I actually stepped outside with a few other adults during some of the chaos for quieter conversations and a bit of fresh air. But honestly, this is a house. Our home. Not a place that needs to be enshrined and saved for posterity because of its historical value.

More for its hysterical value.

The best fun of the day was watching the big people go down the waterslides. Barreling down at breakneck speed, causing a huge splash zone that soaked those sitting close by. Kids were awed by parents doing what they hadn’t expected.

Knowing we’d have these slides for two days, John decided to do it big. Have another group of one hundred plus people the next day, the group of folks he’s working with this summer, and do it all over again.

And it rained.

Wet bodies trooped back into the house. Mess increased exponentially.

Conversations were happening all over. With all those folks in the house, it became obvious quickly that our air conditioning wasn’t working as it should.

It quit.

Not part of the plan.

At the end of two days of entertaining, enjoying interactions with a variety of folks I don’t often get to talk to, watching young and old alike swishing down those waterslides, it was a very good weekend.

I’m tired. The house was hot and messy. Much of the outside was brought inside. But it didn’t take away from the value of the time spent. The adventure of doing life in the moment with such a variety of people was a gift.

Life is the great adventure. I’m limited in my understanding of what I know; I’ve no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring. I can plan, provide for what I’d like to see accomplished, but I’m not in control of much more than my attitude.

When the rain falls–and it always will–and plans go awry, my comfort comes from knowing that God knows my yesterdays, todays and all my tomorrows. He knows and values my story; He walks with me in it.

I don’t want to be afraid to risk what’s comfortable to be able to experience the amazing. It’s easy to sit back and do nothing. Pushing myself past my believed limits is freeing. I’m becoming more the person God has made me be.

All that rain? It’s great for growth.

It’s Enough To Drive A Person Crazy

Lots of little boys love cars. Anything with wheels brings joy and sounds of “vroom, vroom”. Mack, at one, loves to get in his plastic car and pretend.

Most sixteen-year-olds are equally delighted with cars. The idea of independence, the freedom to go where you want to when you want to, is high on the list of desires. A driver’s license is a rite of passage.

Midlife crises often take the shape of a sports car, a chance to break out of the all-purpose family vehicle and act like a sixteen-year-old.

Me? I don’t like driving.

When I was a teenager, I’d grab every opportunity to drive.┬áDriving was exhilarating. Listening to my music. Taking the route I chose. Being in charge of a massive vehicle that could flatten me in a moment’s notice.

Power.

Not so much anymore. I drive out of necessity, but I don’t enjoy it. Not like I used to. Orlando, Florida is a particularly challenging place to drive. We have lots of tourists and visitors who live here for extended periods of time.

And lots of angsty drivers.

I can be one of them. On my way to an appointment this morning, I left early to beat the worst of the traffic.

I was in the middle of it.

Trying to leave a little space between me and the car in front of me, I was cut off four times in a space of ten miles. A car darted in, not using signals, causing me to slam on my brakes and watch my gas gauge drop precipitously. People honked when someone didn’t move fast enough. Arms were extended out of windows, using fingers to indicate extreme distaste with the drivers ahead of them.

I was clenching my jaw so hard my face hurt by the time I arrived.

Leaving from there for the next meeting, the traffic had lessened. I was going ten miles over the speed limit (kind of acceptable) and was being blown off the road by big trucks and buses.

It was difficult to unclench my jaw.

Transportation is necessary but can be hazardous to health.

We’re all on similar roads, dealing with traffic and a destination. Daily.

Our life journey takes us down highways that aren’t always comfortable to drive on. We’re never the only car on the road. Our driving affects those in cars around us. School buses full of kids. Families in minivans. Individuals–all with a place to go.

How we drive through this life–our attitudes toward others, our interactions with the people we work with, relationships with family, neighbors, friends–can affect our journey.

But nothing can determine our destination except for who we’ve invited to drive with us. If Jesus isn’t with us, the highway we’re headed on won’t be heaven.

Life is frustrating and tense. We don’t always agree with those driving near us. But operating with God behind the wheel, steering me toward hope, is the only way to be assured of the promise of heaven. And a better attitude here.

Everything else is just being stuck in traffic.

 

 

When The Shoes Are Too Big To Fill

When my girls were little, they loved putting on my big girl shoes and slopping around the house in them. I didn’t have the normal assortment of heels, but what I had was used for dress-up and drama.

Iconic. All kids dream of filling shoes bigger than what they currently have.

Watching several of the grands this weekend, I couldn’t help but laugh as Cal, in all of his fifteen-month big boy mode, walked around our house in big-brother Ryken’s shoes.

He’s learning to walk. His steadiness is dependent on the surface where he walks. In the grass, the up and down of small divots and uneven places have him wobbling a bit more. On the sidewalk he moves out at a quicker pace, adjusting to cracks and crevices because he could see them. Carpet is safe, but tile is hard.

When he put on Ryken’s big shoes, he stood with effort. There wasn’t as much control in these things that stuck out further than his toes reached.

That didn’t slow him down one iota. He moved out as if this was the way it was supposed to be. He wasn’t bothered by falling and picking himself up again.

He kept trying.

I laughed until I recognized I was Cal. Putting on big girl shoes that too often are two sizes too big, attempting to do the things I was never intended to do.

I’m not that good.

Trying to make life work well for others, especially my family. “Fixing” other folks’ problems instead of just lending a listening ear. Thinking if I don’t step in and help, who will? Who else could get it done?

I’m quite responsible, and I have a hard time saying no. When I’m asked to help someone out, to do something I really have no time to do, I don’t think twice. I’m all in. I agree to whatever is being asked–and I’ll do whatever it takes to get it done well.

Even if I gripe and groan about it and complain to others of how busy or tired I am. I want to be liked, thought of as helpful.

I was never meant to take the place of God in the lives of others. And yet I grab opportunities to demonstrate how necessary I could be to friends and family.

I’m not Jesus. He accomplished a task on the cross that has led many to an assurance of eternal life. Knowing and experiencing God now and always.

I’ve not done anything like that. I’m unable to make life right for anyone else. Not even myself.

It doesn’t stop me from trying.

The next time I try to wear those too-big shoes, never meant to be mine to wear, I want to stop and consider what I have been asked to do by God: depend on Him, live out loud in His presence and power, and trust Him to do what only He can do.

Save me from my messiness.

Cal’s going to figure it out. He’ll grow into these shoes. Eventually.

There will always be bigger shoes to fill.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Has The Endurance To Run The Race?

It was a 5K. Not a marathon. Not even a half marathon.

3.1 miles. I’ve walked further than that most days.

Running? Another story.

Every year, Orlando holds a corporate 5K sponsored by the Insurance Office of America and the Track Shack Youth Foundation. The purpose is to promote health and fitness and give back to the greater Central Florida Area. This was the 25th running of the 5K, and 160,033 meals were donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank as a result of funds donated.

It was a great big moving party. Over 18,000 participated. Over 700 companies and non-profits involved.

I’d signed up as a walker–my race bib was clearly marked.

My walking intentions went out the window when my three daughters, who also participated, and a friend decided to run/walk. Intervals. They were each wearing “Runner” bibs. My remarks about not fitting in because of my “Walker” status was ignored.

We were off. I used to run (not saying how long ago) and have a decent amount of stamina. I’m able to walk fast, but running is a different dynamic.

I’m incredibly determined. If I agreed to do this, I was all in. I ran the intervals, sparing everyone my comments because I didn’t have enough breath to talk. Took huge breaths when we slowed to a fast walk.

Water stations were at necessary places; bands played at intervals; people sat on sidewalks and porches and cheered everyone on. The atmosphere was celebratory.

My daughters were my heroes. All of them could have run fast and left me in the dust, but they chose to run with me. Their encouragement was fuel to my feet; I refused to let them down.

We all finished with smiles. People were high-fiving all around, congratulating one another on finishing well. No one commented on how fast or slow anyone ran. We were all in this together.

I hurt for the next three days.

My legs hurt when I stood, when I walked. I’d used muscles I hadn’t used in a while. I’d pushed myself past anything resembling comfort.

I was so glad I did.

It was worth it to be part of something bigger than me. To enjoy the company of friends and family and accomplishing good at the same time.

God made us with hearts to choose together.

It’s the race of life. Everyone has a different skill set, a different pace. But we’re all in it together. Some are naturally gifted as runners. Others have challenges that prevent them from running, but they still participate. There are those who insist on just watching, and they missed out on the fun and fellowship of the run.

We’re all part of the race. We choose our involvement and comfort level. We choose who we run with and how we interact with them.

Jesus came to level the playing field. To make it possible for all to participate together. For unity to become our heart desire. For togetherness to trump entitlement.

He is the source of our hope to live together in harmony.

Not everyone chooses that. But those who do find a wholeness that allows them to see things through a different grid.

That finish line is only the beginning.

 

Real Love Is More Than A Feeling

Cal didn’t care if it was a holiday. It didn’t bother him that lots of people were at their home to celebrate Easter.

He was miserable. His breathing wasn’t what it should be, so he was on medication that didn’t really fix anything. Just made him more awake in his misery.

All he wanted was his mom.

He walked around the house with his arms held high, alternating between a whimper and crying. Trying to get her attention as she welcomed others and engaged in conversation with those she’d opened her home to.

Others tried to pick him up. Including me.

Not good enough.

He knew what he needed. Wanted. Mom. She’d make it all better.

Heather laughed and interacted with others, but when her little man came up and grabbed her attention, her focus was fully on him.

Her tone softened, her smile widened, and she reached down to pick him up and cuddle him.

His whimpering ceased. A small grin made its way to his face.

It’s not that his dad isn’t equally as loving and compassionate toward his son. The two have a beautiful boy bond that reflects a different need for Cal.

When he’s not feeling well or is tired, when he’s had enough of other people or wants to just be, he chooses Mom.

We all long for that nurturing, loving compassion in our lives. Some of us had it growing up; many didn’t. It seems counterintuitive when we’re made to be so relational and to trust.

God longs to draw us into that kind of trusting relationship with Him. So that He might lavish His love on us, walk with us through the rough times as well as the good.

To do so He had to turn His back on His own Son.

Jesus came to die. Nobody can blame the Jews, Romans, or angry crowds for that; they were witnesses of real love and humility in action. When Jesus went to the cross for acts He didn’t commit, people wanted to point fingers at who was responsible.

That would be God Himself.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the weight of all the wrongs of mankind was laid on Him. He paid a penalty we can’t pay. A perfect sacrifice to take care of our mess once and for all.

To do that, God turned His back on His Son, turned away from the ugliness He was dying for. A relationship that had existed for eternity was temporarily broken for us to be freed from the darkness of our souls.

If we choose to accept such an undeserved gift.

That’s true love. Not an emotion that makes people feel good; it’s a commitment that puts others first. No matter what the cost.

Cal reaches for his mom in need, knowing he will be welcomed into her arms, his needs fully met.

Because God chose His Son to take on our faults and failures, we can walk with assurance into God’s embrace. Which takes courage. It’s admitting I can’t do it on my own.

Jesus won’t turn His back on those who receive Him. Which takes courage to do.

Are you that courageous?