Who Do You See Now?

photo courtesy of Vladimir Malyavko on Unsplash

I’ve worn glasses since I was in the fifth grade. I finally got contact lenses in high school, but I hated the “four-eyes” moniker with the ugly glasses I had. I avoided glasses for a full year by borrowing the pair of the boy who sat next to me.

Seeing, even at a young age, wasn’t as important as how I was seen.

When I finally got contacts, they were tough to get used to. My eyes would water uncontrollably, and the lenses would swim to some other place in my eye where it was of no use at all. It took months for my eyes to get used to them.

Once I’d gotten to that point, I didn’t want to take them off. I was back to blurry vision or my ugly glasses.

I never considered laser surgery until I was older, but by then my eye doctor said it would be wiser to wait till I needed cataract surgery.

I wear my contacts religiously. Except during COVID. Often, just staying at home, I don’t want to mess with them. I see well close up, so I can read without contacts or glasses. My vision becomes wonky at a distance, so I’ll wear my glasses at home.

It seems I still care too much how I’m seen. If I’m going out, I’ll put in my lenses.

The funny part is even with my contacts, I can’t see close up. So I need readers to work on my computer or read.

Seeing clearly is a struggle.

My twin sister just got cataract surgery in both eyes. She was nearsighted, like me, and found that once she had surgery, she could see things at a distance really well.

Her close-up vision, however, suffered. She now needs readers to see what’s right in front of her nose.

Just like me.

Vision is such an important thing. Being able to see clearly is something we value. Because we want to believe what we see.

What I forget is that the lenses through which I perceive life are not like the lenses of others.

Our lenses are shaped by our stories, where we grew up, what was valued, what was discouraged, how those around us viewed differences. Our filters aren’t clear. They’re clouded by what we’ve learned, how we perceive and value others, and our own value system.

What I may believe to be clear and understandable may be blurry to someone else. What others may see as uncompromising appears gray to me.

God steps into this with a value system that crosses lens lines. Looking at the world and people He made His way–with compassion, love, and forgiveness. It’s why Jesus came; to show us God, and to be able to live and love in His power.

We’re not good at it. We put our personal lenses on and see through our own pain or misunderstanding. But if we allow God to help us see others as He does, we’ll put more value on who they are rather than who we believe they represent.

The prescription for those right kind of glasses?

They’re worth hanging onto–no matter how others perceive you.

Beauty Is In The Full Palette

Schools have begun in various iterations around the country. Virtual, face-to-face, and a hybrid with a little bit of both. The adjustments are much different from years past.

But when you’re two and a half, and this is the first day of school ever, it’s a whole new adventure.

Cousins Callum and Mason are only a few months apart, and they’ve enjoyed a fun and feisty relationship. Both are full of energy, both love to kick and throw anything round, and both are quite verbal.

Both began preschool this year–in the same class.

I told my daughters I wanted to be a fly on the wall as these two entered into the early hallowed halls of education. Not just to see how they did with a room of kids they could interact with. The overwhelming majority of which were boys.

I was curious about how the teacher would hold up after a day with these two.

The classes aren’t large; they’ve kept things small, contained, and safe. But I know my grands. They both have dimples and can charm their way into anyone’s heart with a smile and a laugh.

Cal and Mason enjoy each other. They’re at that age where they’re learning to play together rather than just playing side by side. Kicking a ball back and forth or throwing rocks into the pond is more fun doing it with a buddy.

What’s fun about these two, as with most children, is they’re curious about others who are different from them. New children, no matter what they look like, are potential playmates. The unfamiliar is not a problem. The adventure is with the unexpected.

We’ve been created for community, to be in relationship with one another. The beauty of that is we’re all different. No two people are alike; our stories mold us uniquely; the people and circumstances of our lives impact who we become.

What becomes problematic is when we insist on being with those who are only like us. When we limit our experiences to the familiar and comfortable, we don’t learn to value the adventure of the new and unusual.

God has taken great delight in designing people with differences. People reflect the diversity of God’s creative genius. The beauty of His totality. Like the largest box of Crayola crayons–120 different colors are found here, not to mention the special edition crayons created for certain seasons. It’s way more fun to color with all those choices than with a limited box of eight.

Many today are choosing a monochromatic lifestyle, where they reject those who don’t look, sound and act like them. They don’t want to listen to those who won’t parrot what they say.

The loss is in possibilities. We limit our collective IQ if we put such strong constraints on those we listen to.

I want to learn to take a page from the grands’ playbook. Be curious. Be willing to interact, to get to know others, without fear.

The more we open our lives to listen with respect, even if we don’t agree, the better chance we have of giving voice to our own thoughts and being heard.

Don’t limit God to one color.

You miss too much of His wonder and beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Wheels Don’t Make The Deal

Right before John and I got married, he’d purchased a new car that was sleek, had a monster engine, and could hit speeds I’d never driven before.

I know because I used to drive that car to the school where I taught on country roads. I hit 110 miles per hour.

What a rush.

Years later, when we had our first child, we became more sedate and got a station wagon. Utilitarian, sturdy, totally lacking in personality.

The appropriate car for the appropriate time.

That was the last new car we bought for years. We purchased used cars that lasted through the wear and tear of six kids learning to drive. They wore their weariness like a badge of honor, with dings, rust, and some with parts held together with duct tape.

This past February, we bought our first new car in decades. John had been driving a twenty-year-old Saturn that was lacking air conditioning, problematic here in Florida. Not having a car payment for years made us hesitant. The need to get from point A to point B safely and purposefully drove the need. We purchased an end-of-the-year model with a warranty, guaranteed air conditioning, and a new-car scent that we hadn’t experienced for years.

One month after purchase, I got rear-ended at a stoplight. The gentleman who hit me was abrupt and didn’t want to give me his information. But I stood there until he did, not even thinking about taking a picture of his license plate. I’ve never been rear-ended before.

When I called my insurance company, the information he’d given me was false. They empathized with me, but you can’t go after payment from someone who doesn’t exist.

We have to replace our whole bumper.

Our new car, with all the promise of a smooth and easy drive, was in need of repair.

Last week I was driving home and ran over a drill bit. A large object that shouldn’t have embedded itself in my tire, but it did, not just making it flat, but requiring it to be replaced.

We have less than 2,000 miles on this thing.

How often do I think something new and sparkly will make life easier? That something I don’t yet have will be what I need to satisfy my inner longings of success or peace?

The Bible warns that horses and armies won’t save us. The security measures throughout time were strong armies and wise kings. The reality is that they are fallible–armies are defeated, kings and rulers fail us. Yet so many put their hopes in the one sitting in power. Only to be disappointed.

God alone can save us from our fears and anxieties, from the situations we can’t control. He does it by meeting us at our heart need, caring for our concerns as we give them to Him. Leaning into His power for the peace that all of us long for–especially in such troubling times.

Leaders will always disappoint. The security provided by those tasked with protecting us will always be limited.

God has no limits. His delight in those who rely on Him is endless.

We don’t need new cars or new anything to save us in our mess.

What we need is fresh faith in the One who is truly God Almighty.

 

 

A Little Dirt Goes A Long Way

Other than Girl Scout camping in cabins, I’ve been real-life camping only once.

We lived in California at the time, and a few friends invited us on a three-day camping trip somewhere in the San Bernardino mountains. We had five kids, ten and under, and no equipment. Folks lent us tents and other essentials to live three days away from the comforts of civilization.

That was the big miss for my husband. He loves civilization and all its essentials.

Like bathrooms.

It was a wonderful experience, except for my husband and my youngest. She wasn’t walking yet, so when we put her down on the dirt, she’d put whatever was close in her mouth. Rocks, grass, bugs. I was able to keep her from ingesting those things a few times, but all she ate was biodegradable and went right through her–into her diaper.

The dirt and the partial bug found there didn’t help.

Dirt happens. Mixed with a little water, it makes mud, wonderful for playing in and easy to ingest. Not healthy.

My daughter and her husband recently took their eighteen-month-old son on his first camping trip. Beck is a courageous little guy and has an adventuresome spirit. They’d been on numerous hikes as a family, and he’s learned to love the outdoors as much as his parents.

Setting up camp, however, made the outdoors home. Dirt became Beck’s best friend, and he sprawled in it, rolled in it, enjoyed it. His mom would try to keep his face and hands wiped off so he wouldn’t eat more dirt than needed. Putting him in the middle of a large blanket with a few toys didn’t dissuade him from finding more enjoyable distractions–all of the more natural sort. He knew enough not to eat dirt, but putting his grimy hands on his face and in his mouth gave the dirt access to his insides anyway.

Beck may be a little more prone to sprawl in the dirt, but I’ve had my share of falling down. Dirt on my face–maybe not the outdoor kind, but the stuff that failure is made of. I’ve made messes out of things I was trying hard to accomplish, being defeated miserably when my goal was to succeed. I was raised with the mantra “Try harder!”, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes trying with more diligence and persistence covers me with more dirt. Failure.

So often, failure isn’t tolerated. Making a genuine mistake, not being able to produce what was hopefully promised, not finishing well often feels fatal. The chance to move forward, to pick myself up and brush myself off isn’t offered. Or honored. Failure can stain a reputation, a hope, a dream.

But God.

He alone knows my true limits and doesn’t expect from me what He understands can’t be given. And when I fail with Him–which I do consistently–He picks me up, brushes me off, and urges me to continue. To be bold and brave and not give up.

He never gives up on me.

Dirt will happen. I will fall, and I will fail. But I’m not defined by how I crash and burn.

I am who God says I am.

A victor in Him.

 

What Does It Cost To Hang On?

On my wedding day, I wasn’t thinking of years into the future. What it might be like to grow old with my new husband. What having a family together would look like.

I’m not one who enjoys being the center of attention, so I was focused on getting through the day.

Weddings back then weren’t the Pinterest-focal point of celebration. We were married in a church, our reception was in the church, and quite honestly, being the first one in my family to marry, my mother picked out most everything that had to do with the day.

They were paying for it.

I didn’t care. I wanted to marry my guy and be done with the festivities.

We’ve been married over four decades, and as we celebrate another anniversary today, I think about why I took that step so long ago.

John is still the one I’d pick.

We’d been dating for four years when we finally married. I worked at always putting my best foot forward. I don’t think he saw me without makeup until after our wedding. I wanted him to see the best of me. We had our disagreements while we dated, and even one big blow out. None of that ever deterred me from wanting to marry him.

Then came the day after.

No one had told us that our pasts, coming together, would ever be an issue. That the way I was raised, which was very different from how his folks raised him, could ever be a problem between us. Although we had a lot in common, our stories were vastly divergent.

His folks never argued in front of their children. My mom was a very loud verbal processor, and my siblings and I  heard many fights between our parents. He was brought up in a small rural town. I was born in Chicago and raised in the suburbs.

We brought all this and more into our marriage. With my past, our first argument had me ramping up, getting louder as I tried to egg him into going toe to toe with me. His response to my anger?

He laughed.

A friend had told him that this was a great response to decompress a situation.

I guarantee you it wasn’t. I was so mad I got in the car and drove for an hour to simmer down.

Now, forty-six years later, we’ve learned how to fight cleanly with each other. We talk about things that are hard and uncomfortable.

It’s work.

A good work that I won’t give up on.

My relationship with God is like that. I’ve learned to get it all out with Him, often yelling, frequently crying as I pour out my heart to Him.

He hears it all, draws me close, and allows me to vent with Him.

No condemnation.

Too often people feel awkward getting mad at God. As if He doesn’t see that they’re miserable and unhappy.

He knows. And He seeks to comfort us with His love.

Getting to know God isn’t something that happens once with a prayer. It’s talking with Him, working out my relationship with Him, learning to love Him more as I understand how much He loves me.

That’s a relationship worth working on.