Have Shneezles, Should Not Travel

photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema on unsplash

John and I’ve been waiting forever to get away alone.

The previous ten months have been a jumbled collection of too much travel, multitudes of appointments, a plethora of conversations that have filled both our lives. Busy has become a way of life.

Everyone’s busy these days. What we’ve done, however, is made life outside of us the priority.

That’s not a bad thing. There are many projects, people and plans that are time-sensitive that need to be dealt with quickly. Relational issues that must be addressed.

Both of us have a hard time saying no to anyone.

We’ve got a two-week break to relax in Santa Rosa, thanks to my sister loaning us the use of her condo. We weren’t going to overwhelm ourselves with crazy expectations of what we’d do. Time was to be our friend, enjoyed in the moment and not to be overly managed.

Do today. Don’t worry about tomorrow.

We’d spent two and a half days in southern California for John to go to meetings and for me to meet up with dear friends. Do some writing. Anticipate when we’d both be free.

While there, John began sneezing and coughing with passion. My thinking was just get the guy to Santa Rosa and a break from routine. He’ll feel better.

The day we arrived in Santa Rosa, I got whatever he had. (All of this thanks to our grands, who thoughtfully shared this with us before we left Orlando.)

Shneezles. Sneezing with accompanying chills. Makes me feel like I’m a walking contagion. I have fits of sneezing and coughing; when I forget to stick my face in my elbow (which wasn’t what I learned growing up), I get glances of reproach from those who don’t want to share the joys of whatever it is I have.

My body aches as if a person with a really big stick whacked me in my joints. Then returned to make sure the job had been done well.

We’re both pathetic. We’ve taken slow walks to get out in the sun, read, watched the World Cup.

Not the way I wanted it.

Really God? All this time I’ve wanted rest and relaxation, and You give me sickness and discomfort? I’ve wanted quality time with my husband, and we’re facing off across the couch, sharing a box of tissue. How fair is that?

I’ve anticipated this time for months and longed for the quiet, the solitude. Space to be. Opportunity to think and read and write.

I’ve gotten all that and then some.

Hadn’t expected it to look like this.

When I pursue God, choosing to deepen the relationship with Him, I often expect it to be on my terms. The way I see “the plan” working out.

He knows what I need. He’s provided for this time by not giving us a lot of options to pack our days with activities. I fill my time quite effectively.

God knows what I need better than I do.

I need Him. Time with the One who loves me best.

Even if it’s not the way I planned it.

Heat, Humidity or Humble Happiness?

It was 110 degrees when we arrived.

We’re in southern California for business, and I wasn’t ready for this.

Having just left the high heat and ridiculous humidity of Orlando, the Palm Springs’ sauna experience took my breath away. I went from moist with shades of green to dry with variations on brown.

I saw lawns that are collections of rocks and cacti. More vaieties of palm trees than I’ve seen in Florida.

Incredible blue skies and sunshine. Gorgeous.

But the heat also rises. I don’t sweat the same as I do in Orlando. I’m not sure I’m sweating at all–it must be evaporating before I’m aware it exists.

Sweatlessness. Where swallowing your spit is hard.

This community was dropped in the middle of a desert. Surrounded by rock-strewn foothills, scrub brush and huge spaces of beige nothing, discovering growing things was a bit of an oxymoron. There are some green lawns, a few flowering bushes and plants.

Judicious watering.

I love the difference. Change is an adventure, a chance to experience what I’m not used to or ready for.

I like different.

Until I don’t. And then I begin complaining. About the dry heat and the overwhelming taupes, beiges and browns.

I am a creature of habit.  As much as I enjoy change, I want it on my terms.

Anything else shows a lack of control.

Isn’t life like that for everyone? New is fun and exciting–till it isn’t. Different is eye-opening and thought-provoking–until it’s uncomfortable. Change is adventure–until it brings fear and uncertainty.

The older I get, the more I understand my appreciation for what’s expected. What works. It gives me a sense of having some control. I can manage what I know. I’m rarely well prepared for what’sdifferent.

If the world has proven nothing else, it reminds us daily that any control we think we have is a myth. From government oversight to stock market results to personal health, we can only do what we know to do. When a friend discovers they have cancer or a car accident happens that ruins a car–or a life–we’re left operating with what we understand to be true.

What is truth?

Coming from a faith-based understanding, God is truth. Whether we believe it or not, He is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present.

What does that say about bad things happening?

We’re so quick to blame God when life experience is painful, filled with loss or horror. He’s not the creator of evil.

It’s in the world as a result of our bad choices. We do bad things to others; pursue lifestyles that hurt our bodies and minds.

God becomes a scapegoat.

Why blame Him for wrongdoing if we question His existence?

Because I don’t want to admit I’m wrong.

Nobody does.

It’s humbling to own our poor choices. Consequences are hard to live with.

God exists to free us from the penalty of our wrong behavior. He took it on Himself, when Jesus went to the cross. Not because we deserve His forgiveness.

Because His love is greater than our wrong.

I’ll always be unhappy about something. Human nature.

God loves me. Divine truth.

Doesn’t matter how I show up.

 

 

 

 

The Revolving Door Of Family

You can tell who’s around the house by what clutter is on the floor.

There’s always something.

Last week, we had soccer cleats, dirty socks, books and whatever paraphernalia it takes to play Fortnight. My oldest daughter and her family of eight were camping at our place while their home was being repaired. The fumes were nasty.

This week, our mess runs more to building blocks, rubber balls and more Mickey Mouse figures than I could identify. Our daughter Tiffany and her family of four are here–younger children, less diversity of clutter. More toys and baby wipes, more little pieces that hurt like the dickens when you step on them barefoot.

I need to show up differently depending on who’s here. With the big kids, I can joke, tease, be in my snarky mode and they dish it right back. I can be a little more directive and not hurt anyone’s feelings. (I’ve got a tendency to be a bit of a straight speaker–nobody has to question what I’m trying to say.)

With the littles, I need to be gentler, more engaged, not assume they’ll entertain themselves. Cries of “Nana, Nana” are more prevalent with the younger group.

The olders would just as soon I leave them alone.

I love having family around. They’re entertaining in ways real life can never be. Three-year-old Ryken, getting ready for bed, had to go potty so he improvised by peeing into an empty water bottle. Two-year-old Brooklyn cheers for the Dodgers baseball team no matter what sport is on. Whenever anyone scores a goal in the World Cup, she yells, “Go, Dodgers!”

The older the kids become, the better they understand irony and sarcasm. When asked if he’d eaten anything healthy before heading out to soccer camp, fifteen-year-old Ethan quipped, “Yeah. I had two cookies instead of one.” Being Nana, not Mom, all I could do was laugh.

Touche.

People aren’t one-sided. I recognize my need to show up differently depending on my circumstances. There are times when my wordiness is inappropriate and unappreciated. I’m learning to be quieter. (About time!) I adjust my conversation depending on who I’m with. In the presence of adults, I try to avoid slang that I hear from my teen grands all the time. (Not always successful.) With the littles, I’m more specific and clear.

Those who know me understand who I am. Few people who know the real me. All of me. With them, I feel safe to be who I am in the moment.

Not everyone is safe.

But God is. He can’t deny who He is. He shows up the same with everyone–holy, righteous, full of grace and mercy for those who choose to ask for it.

God doesn’t adjust His character based on who comes to Him. How He shows up doesn’t depend on nationality, language or stories. Our experiences don’t reflect who God is.

Who He is should impact how we perceive our circumstances.

Life will always be a revolving door. Being fully known is an open door of safety for me.

God is that open door. Anyone who seeks Him may enter.

Can’t get any safer than that.

 

 

 

This Cup Continues To Overflow

photo courtesy of Fauzan Saari on unsplash

In case anyone has been hiding under a rock, the World Cup is being played in Russia.

The beautiful game’s new iteration–minus the U.S.

We didn’t make the cut.

It’s been fun watching the games with no horse in the race, so to speak. It gives me freedom to cheer for the underdogs.

And the underdogs are winning.

This has been an unusual tournament. The teams everyone fully expected to win are ending matches with a loss or tie.

Those underdogs, those not expected to succeed, are playing havoc with everyone’s brackets.

It’s better than college basketball’s March Madness.

When Iceland, the smallest country represented (a major percentage of their entire population was at the game) tied Argentina, it was the shock heard round the world.

Because Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick.

I felt sorry for the guy. He’s a terrific player, having accumulated honors and records beyond what most players could even dream of.

He’s not perfect.

Some players have yet to disappoint. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored four goals in two games, proving to be the one responsible for Portugal’s wins.

He’s not perfect either.

One of the highlights has been the incredible support each of these teams has. People who’ve traveled from around the world to watch their country’s team vie for a piece of the World Cup pie. There’s passion and enthusiasm in the stands and at home venues where those who couldn’t be present in Russia watch with their countrymen.

Loyalty and support for “their” team.

At a time when tension fills the world stage, where nation goes against nation for one thing or another, we’ve taken a pause to play a game. To participate in the common denominator known as soccer. Watching the faces of those in the stands, the reactions to goals and fouls, you see a delight that reflects a break in everyday tension and fear.

With the U.S. not participating, Volkswagen has brilliantly crafted ads that encourage Americans to cheer for different countries for wonderful reasons. “Support Iceland because they don’t have enough people in the whole country to do the wave.” “Support Germany because they gave us the frankfurter.”

Light-hearted teasing has diffused frustration over not being involved. Taking our eyes off global chaos for a moment.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if differences of policy and opinion could be settled with a team sport? If a few chosen people could complete for the honor of their country, and everyone shakes hands at the end? If referees, schooled in the finer points of government, could make calls in a public forum, where everyone was able to see the instant replay, and nothing was hidden?

The World Cup is a wonderful break from all the hard hurtful news that is typical for our very fractured world. And as remarkable as it would be if we could see even a few days break from hurt and horror, it won’t happen.

Peace won’t be legislated.

But God sees us. He knows what we need, and it’s Him. Hope that’s eternal. No matter our temporal circumstances.

This side of heaven, we’re all the underdogs.

We can’t win on our own.

With God, we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The One That Didn’t Get Away

Dad loved to fish.

He also loved to tell a great story.

Fishing was Dad’s method of getting away and decompressing. Having learned as a boy on a small farm in Texas, he’d find time and a place when needed.

We’d accompany him on occasion. None of us were ever true fisherman, but watching him was a chance to be with him, knowing his awareness of us, basking in his enjoyment.

His kids and fishing. Dad’s favorites.

We were on vacation in Canada, and Dad was on the dock at dusk, fishing. The four of us kids sat behind him, talking quietly, with the occasional look from Dad when the volume escalated.

He hooked a big one.

A quiet “wow” was all we heard. His rod bent in half as the fish on the line fought for freedom. Dad reeled in and relaxed. It was a dance of opponents, neither of whom wanted to give up. When he finally brought it up to the dock, it was monstrous.

A northern pike. It had teeth that looked like small razors as it snapped and flopped. It upended on its tail, close enough to my brother to cause him to leap and run screaming back to the cabin.

We talked about that trip forever.

When Dad told the story, his description of my brother’s race to safety was way more dramatic. And fun.

Dad’s stories always had an element of fun. He’d tell us of the escapades on the farm, which for us suburban kids was an adventure book waiting to be written. The time he was pushed from his perch in a tree by an older brother and broke his arm. The permanent tooth mark in the wood floor where he risked balancing on the too-high bannister and fell.

How did he live through childhood?

Going to college as a football player, we heard stories of how the team got a cow to the top of their dormitory building–and then couldn’t get her down. Or how they threw bags of water on professors walking beneath their windows.

The stories made him real and fun. More approachable. We knew Dad was someone who not only got into trouble but had to pay consequences for what he’d done. Like cleaning all the cow pies from the top floor. He got it when we pushed the envelope and got into trouble. We’d be disciplined, but always with a hug and a grin.

I know I’m fortunate. I’ve got friends who didn’t see their dads after a divorce or a huge family fight. Kids whose memories of their dads aren’t fun but frightening. Horrible men who knew how to hurt instead of hold gently.

Men who just didn’t care.

My Dad loved Jesus, and because of his compassion toward us, it wasn’t hard for me to understand a loving heavenly Father who cared for me no matter what I did. No matter how much I blew it. If God is God, He’d have to be perfect, a Dad who not only understood and allowed consequences, but also comforted and cared for me perfectly. Always there. Never abandoning. Never accusing.

That’s as real as it gets.

No fish story there.