Did You Hear The One About The Tiger, The Lobster, And The Chick?

Halloween is not my favorite holiday.

I’ve got my reasons. Some logical. Others more personal opinion.

However, the grands love it. Four-year-old Ryken has been talking about it for weeks. He’s many costumes to choose from.

What really had me laughing was three of the under-a-year grandsons whose moms found costumes that made them look like living Beanie Babies.

These small, stuffed animals used to be collector’s items back in the day. People would buy all the new ones, keeping tags intact for possible resale later on.

I’ve got the real deal.

Nine-month-old Cal was the tiger. He tried the hardest to divest himself of his costume–the headpiece just about did him in. Six-month-old Mason was the lobster, complete with googly eyes and trying so hard to grab his dangly claws. Five-month-old Ward was the chick, and he just grinned through the ordeal.

They may not have enjoyed being in the costumes, but they were fascinated with seeing each other all dressed up. The adults in the room were in hysterics. The little tiger was growling, not to emulate what he was dressed to be, but because he was uncomfortable. The lobster sat and observed, much like a lobster would do underwater. And the chick flapped his little arms because he could.

There’s something so endearing about little kids dressing up. They’re imaginations run with them, and they can be anything they desire. It’s playacting at the moment, pretending not to be who you are. Enjoying the feeling of being somebody–or something–different.

Not quite so endearing as folks get older.

I’m not talking about the older teens who make a half-hearted attempt at a costume–a last-minute mask from Party City or make-up borrowed from mom or sister. They go door-to-door with pillowcases, wanting candy more than the fun of pretending.

I’m talking more about people who insist on being someone they’re not. Putting on a brave face or an “I-don’t-care” attitude. A persona that works now.

I do it all the time.

The older I get, the more difficult it becomes to share honestly with large numbers of people. To really be who I am in the moment because the moment may be painful. And I truly don’t want to be that Dayle Downer that shows up in a group. It’s so much easier to make a joke of what’s going on and how I’m doing.

People rarely ask the questions to delve deeper.

It has nothing to do with people not caring. Everyone has their stuff, and we’re often so immersed in our own mess that seeing past it to others’ needs becomes difficult.

Jesus asks the hard questions. He sees me with all my cracks and missing parts. The messiness that’s me that loves to hide from others how I’m really feeling. What’s really bothering me.

I need Jesus in my life as the One who knows all of me. I don’t need to pretend–He sees through my facade. Being real before God is such a relief. To know Someone knows–and accepts–the real me.

But for the little guys–party on, dudes. Enjoy the pretend while you can!

 

 

 

Fake Fall–Not A Fan

photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on unsplash

When asked which of the four seasons is my favorite, I don’t hesitate.

Autumn. This time of the year.

Just not where I live.

Central Florida has been burdened with high temperatures for months. The ridiculous humidity that tops off 90-degree weather feels like a sloppy slap in the face.

As October ends and Christmas decorations are going up in stores everywhere, we’re now experiencing 80-degree weather.

Wow.

I grew up in a Chicago suburb known for its glorious maples that canopied the streets with brilliant red and gold. Temperatures became crisp, where even a jacket couldn’t completely keep out the chill in the air.

Cooler temperatures brightened everyone’s spirits. The energy sapped by sun and heat returned. When I’d finally fall in bed at night exhausted from being outdoors, I’d snuggle into a blanket because the cool air coming through the open window made it necessary.

Not here. It’s the great deceit that retail stores foist on all their customers this time of year. You walk inside from the hot and sweaty and pull on a jacket because the temperature has just dropped 25 degrees. There are jack-o-lanterns placed intentionally around the shelves. Colorful leaves are interspersed with everything from produce to sweaters.

It looks like fall.

Then I walk outside. Shed my jacket because I’m already starting to sweat. And wish desperately for a color other than green on the trees.

Fall used to herald the coming of the holidays for me. Cooler weather and changing leaves were preludes to winter. Anticipation grew as the days became shorter and cooler.

Not here. One day pretty much melts into the next.

We’ve lived in this state longer than any other and I still feel let down every year at this time because it’s not what I’d like it to be.

I’m disappointed.

I should be used to this. Hot, humid weather till December when the temperature drops a little. Drier air for a bit. For a few weeks, I don’t feel the need for another shower the moment I walk out the front door.

Take in too deep a breath and it passes me by.

Why am I complaining? We live in a state with a lot of sunshine. I love the sun–it does wonderful things for my mood. I don’t have to invest in heavy coats and boots, mittens and scarves.

photo by Greg Shield on unsplash

Yet I whine.

Because it isn’t what I want.

If I lived up north, I’d be crabbing about the cold weather come the first of January. I’d whine about gray days and long, dark nights.

Too often I want what I don’t have.

Jesus reminds me to be thankful. To show gratitude for what I do have, not focus on what I feel is missing.

Complaining comes so easily. Wanting what’s not mine takes the joy out of the many blessings I have.

Gratitude is work, but it’s a reminder that I have a lot of good in my life.

Here’s a reality. Jesus is real. And He doesn’t disappoint.

I’ll just “leaf” it at that.

 

We All Need A Calming Goat

My dad used to read us the book “Ferdinand” when we were younger. I loved the idea of a bull who didn’t want to fight.

I love the movie. My favorite character is Lupe, Ferdinand’s calming goat. She looks a little deranged with a crazy under-bite, googly eyes and has a gentle heart that’s torn between winning and friendship.

She was never in the book.

My grandson is a calming goat.

Not to be disrespectful to little Ward. He’s a sweetheart. He’s got a calm demeanor that’s contagious. When I pick him up, he snuggles in and grins at me.

I breathe deeply and smile.

I’m not the only one. Melody has had others tell her that holding Ward brings them a sense of peace. He’s a joyful little guy who doesn’t get flustered easily. A little grinner who brings a ray of light to a case of the grumps.

I didn’t know if calming goats were real things. Apparently, they’re used a lot for racehorses, who are herd animals, and need the companionship of other animals to live well. Yet horses that race are often by themselves without any four-legged friends to remind them of what they really are. Take away a horse’s goat and he may not be willing to run.

Which is where the phrase “he got your goat” came from.

My calming goat doesn’t require much other than being fed, changed periodically and enough sleep. He enjoys people and doesn’t make a fuss about being passed around like a dish at a potluck dinner.

I need two-legged calming goats in my life. Those people who are safe who allow me to be myself around them. People who don’t condone or condemn what I’m doing but are willing to listen to my side. They’ll kindly tell me I’m wrong or that I need to pull myself out of my Dayle Downer state and focus on truth.

When I’m around friends like that, anxiety lessens, I feel known, I breathe easier.

I’m a herd animal. Alone, my mind goes to the worst and oddest places. I don’t do as well alone as I do with people around me to reinforce who I am and to keep me accountable for what I do.

People, in general, are herd animals. There are loners who prefer time apart from their own kind, but even those folks have a need for people in their lives if only to supply them with what they can’t get for themselves.

We were never meant to live apart from others.

Too often I find myself without the kind heart, listening ear or understanding hug. That’s when the big lonely sets in, even in the midst of a room full of folks that I think know me.

I’m never really alone. I have Jesus with me always. Not an imaginary God. Not an invisible friend. Someone who lives with me and loves me enough to calm me in the middle of my fears and worries. Who speaks truth to correct the lies that bang around inside my head.

God in the flesh. Who loves me in my mess. Who calms my worst inner storms.

Who calms you?

 

 

 

When The Big Kids Come To Play

There’s nothing like seeing a group of adults making up crazy skits and playing games.

Fun is that rare commodity that brings space to relax and exercise rigid facial muscles. Life is serious business. It begins with the discipline to make sure children don’t run into the streets without looking. School brings a whole new realm of focus–grades, extra-curricular activities, all to build a reputable resume for college. Or not. And then a job and growing relationships. Careers, maybe families. Begin again.

It’s a wonder more faces don’t crack under the pressure of seldom-used smiles.

We’ve built into our program a fun day that requires no preparation on the part of the participants. A chance to dress down, have a cup of coffee and play. No skill, strength or dexterity required.

Just a bit of imagination.

Groups had to come up with a team name and create a cheer for themselves. Seeing adults channel their inner high school cheerleader was enough to have the sternest of us belly laughing. High kicks, cartwheels and all.

Then come skits created from bags full of odds and ends. Quirky surgeries to Disney hiring–topics were hilarious.

My favorite, however, is the body parts game.

Everyone pairs up, one member in an outer circle and the other in an inner circle, moving in directions opposite each other, like musical chairs.

When the music stops, a pair of body parts is called out, and partners have to find each other and connect the parts. Nose/ankle, foot/back, ear/knee. Finding your partner quickly in a room full of people is a little like watching the demolition derby. A little kinder.

There’s joy in unrestrained laughter. No one is polishing an image or trying to be someone they’re not.

Play often leads to more relaxed, deeper relationships. You see people as they really are; expectations are lowered, disappointment doesn’t come as quickly. We can learn to enjoy each other as we grow in appreciation of one another’s stories.

God views us with delight and enjoyment.

Many will find that hard to believe. With all the pain and misery of this world, how can anyone say God enjoys us? To many, He seems vengeful and angry, distant and unresponsive.

Have you taken the time to get to know Him?

When my kids were younger we’d often have their friends hanging around the house. They felt at home. They’d go to the refrigerator for food or ask homework questions. Like one of our own.

But not.

I wasn’t responsible for them. If something serious happened, I’d have to call parents who could make those decisions for their children.

Often people expect God to act on their behalf and yet they’ve never wanted to talk to Him or spend time with Him. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our mistakes so we could become His children. His beloved ones.

True enjoyment isn’t forced or demanded. It comes from a heart that accepts and loves. Being known.

God delights in us in ways we can’t even imagine. He does that for anyone who chooses to know Him.

Not something to laugh at.

 

 

 

 

Ignore Instructions At Your Own Risk

68 steps.

I’m not talking about a couch potato response to exercise.

It was the number of steps to put together an IKEA desk.

It looked so simple.

Who were we kidding?

John had tried to put it together once before, thinking it would be a quick project. I’d needed a desk for some time– I have a little fold-up table by a chair in our bedroom so I’m not sitting in the kitchen while he’s trying to watch sports.

Or being enticed by all things food when I’m overwhelmed by details. A piece of chocolate is only a few stepsĀ from our kitchen table.

If I stay in the bedroom for too long, my comfy bed calls my name. Enticing me to take a break. Catch a nap.

If I fall to that temptation, I’m done.

My daughters helped me pick out this desk at IKEA–the store with so many wonderful, thrifty things that could make my life more enjoyable, more efficient.

Until you have to put the darn things together.

All the pieces came out of the boxes–anything that requires two boxes should have been the warning that this was going to be painful. We laid out the wood in a logical way.

Then came the bags with screws and all manner of multiple tiny objects.

68 steps.

Four hours later, he finished.

This is the first IKEA project that he didn’t have to take apart at some point and start over. A huge encouragement to him.

The thing with IKEA is you have to carefully follow the instructions. Which are not words. They’re all pictures. For all people of various languages worldwide that attempt to put their products together. They’re specific–showing which way to face the pieces, how many screws of which kind for each part.

It’s all in the details.

I could never live life as an IKEA project. Too often something makes sense to me, I ignore the rules and push ahead with my way. Intuitively.

Often requiring taking things apart and starting over. Again.

I’m not a great rule follower. I border on mediocrity.

Our world runs on rules. Laws. The correct way to solve a math problem or the proper speed to drive.

If rules aren’t followed, we often get caught. A bad grade or a traffic ticket. Neither of which is life-changing.

In life, however, the internal rules we follow may not be enough to get us where we’d like to go.

Most would like to believe there’s a heaven and fully expect to get there. Especially if they believe their good outweighs their bad.

It exists. The requirements for entering are simple.

Complete perfection.

When was the last time you encountered a perfect person? Or truly believed yourself to be one?

It’s why Jesus came. To pay a price we could never pay. The perfect sacrifice for all the mess we make of our lives and others.

I can’t believe this life is it. Too much sadness and horror for everyone. If I’m being gifted with the opportunity to be assured of my eternity, I’m going to take it.

Will you?