Thursday, October 16, 2014

When I Asked My Husband for Advice: Finding the Good

Okay, here's the truth.  In the past, I have been accused of being, shall we say, a "type A" personality.  I call it tightly strung.  Intense.  It works for me most of the time.

However, sometimes a person can tear herself to shreds with just her mind.

Sometimes a girl can over think things.  Just a bit.

In the last few months, as most of the major things in my life have changed, I have done a little over thinking.  Most of the changes have been big beautiful blessings, but did I mention that I tend to over think things?  Just a bit?

Yesterday, my mind chewed on my hopes and dreams.  I chewed on how to stay focused on the potential future and not sell it out for trifles today.

I might have undervalued the gift of Today.

I don't want anyone to know this carousel of thinking that leaves me tired and reeling so I hide it as best I can.  Write or wrong, I make the big decisions deep in my heart and often alone.  Then I share it all over the internet right here because I trust you people.  And also because I have no real idea who you are though I strongly suspect that most of the people who come here share my DNA.

Anyway, the other night, I look up at my husband while he is sitting in his "nothing box" harmlessly watching TV and minding his own business.

I barge right in with this beauty, "So, if you had any advice to offer me, what would it be?  About anything, just one sentence.  What do I need to hear?"

He turned his face to me and just looked for a few seconds.

I looked back.  I smiled a smile that I hoped looked doe-eyed and beautiful but I am afraid resembled The Joker from Batman.

"Quit thinking about tomorrow," and he turned back toward the TV.

What?  Quit thinking about tomorrow?  This from The Man With the Plan?  From the stubbornly conservative person who bought a whole life insurance policy before he was thirty?  Quit thinking about tomorrow?  We have three kids and the four of you hungry people are all going to look at me in about forty-five minutes to find out "what's for dinner?" and I WILL give you an answer because not only do I think about tomorrow, I think about EVERYTHING that happens next whether it is likely or not!

You are agreeing with my husband now, aren't you?

In her Bible study on the life of Gideon, Priscilla Shirer says:

"...what lies ahead in your journey is not nearly as critical as where you are right now.  Wherever you are now is where you are meant to serve now...your greatest impact will be done here--in the ordinary rhythms of your daily living."

I believe what I wrote yesterday, about not selling eternal Tomorrow for junk Today.

However, the gift of Today must not be despised or discarded while I spin my wheels in imaginary Tomorrows.  

Today, right here, my impact is real.  Tomorrow, my impact is unknown.  There is treasure and balance in both times.

Today is real, it is the bird in hand.  It is finite and like a good meal, it will be consumed or spoil.  It must be savored, every moment, before it is too late. 

Tomorrow is potential and magical.  Tomorrow will show the harvest of the seeds sown Today.  Expectation and dependence on one particular Tomorrow will likely disappoint.  Whichever tomorrow comes, it must be accepted with the gifts it brings.

Its funny, sometimes I think I was more "together" when I was younger.  Maybe I was just too foolish to even know what I didn't know.  So I continue trying to work it all out, to learn and grow and love and laugh.  All this is possible because Today and whatever Tomorrow brings, I have hope and a future through faith.

More like this?
Bloom Where You're Planted
The Truth...and I saw it right there in Sunday School
Superman's Secret Identity

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hold Out: Finding the Good

The subtle voice whispers almost constantly in my ear.  To be honest, I want to listen, I want it to make sense.  I want it to justify and speak the words I want to hear.

The air is cold and damp, it stings my fingers.  The voice tempts me, "You can have whatever you want today.  You can get it yourself."

The offer is tempting.  I could use an easy road right now.  Uphill gets old.

Restlessness weighs heavy today as I walk the curved path.  The best part of the walk is ahead.  The path changes from too bright sunlight to rich dappled green and teases off into the woods.   I have walked it for weeks now and I know good and well where that path goes.

Seeing it though, seeing it is like a trick of the soul.  This part never gets old.  My breath catches like a kid whose eyes finally behold what the heart has been anticipating.  The path tricks me every day and every day I imagine that it goes somewhere new.

"What is the cost?"  The words float in my mind.

"You can have anything you want.  You can have it today.  Just sell Tomorrow."

And there it is.  The only part of what the tempter says that is truth.  I can have whatever I want Today, if I just sell Tomorrow.  

Surprise sparks in my mind when I experience a blessed moment of clarity, seeing the lie for what it is instead of swallowing it down.

I take off my sunglasses to see in the shade of the woods.  Everything looks different, the green is more intense, the light dances through the cottonwoods leaves, and the creatures can't hide from me anymore.  I drink up the peace in this place.  And I hear a different voice whispering of hope and future and holding on to what you know is good.

Today is finite.  It ends.  Yes it is beautiful and what Today offers should be seized and lived in and celebrated because it ends.  But it still ends.

Tomorrow is eternal.  Some people say it never comes but they're wrong.  Tomorrow is born fresh over and over.  We just get confused because it changes its name each time.  Make no mistake though, Tomorrow never really ends.  It is eternal.

Selling Tomorrow for chattel Today would only make me a bondwoman, a kind of slave.  

I can have a spotless home today if I sell part of my bond with my children, one precious hour at a time.

I can have a bigger home today if I sell a dream and stop planting the seeds and stop doing the work  that will make that dream grow real.

I can have esteem today if I sell a hundred little moments that I simply won't have time for in a different tomorrow.

I can spend money on whatever draws my eye if I sell the time it takes to care about you and yours.

Now hear me, our Todays and Tomorrows are different, you and I.  My dreams and loves do not judge yours.  We are both safe in this backyard.

This jumble of nonsense and vague ideas is just about holding on to what you know is true, holding on to what is significant and of real value.

Holding on and holding out for real gold instead of running to town with a hand full of shiny worthless rocks like some fool.

The path hasn't changed and it is real Today.  I can seize this moment and love it for what it is, here and now and real and use beautiful Today to do the work for Tomorrow.  I do not have to trade true value for the easy road.  Besides, Today may have an end but it teases and delights with its own surprises.

The merganser duck with the late brood of chicks has only one left.  I don't know where the rest are but after two cold snaps, dogs, turtles and whatever else lives in water, the chick is a little miracle.  It makes me unreasonably happy.  The kid in my heart catches her breath as she sees the fuzzy shape, half yellow, half brown, waddling awkwardly around the duck as an older woman feeds the flock.  The woman points her cane directly at the orange bill of the big obnoxious goose who, all of us park walkers know, is solely responsible for the new warning sign about aggressive geese.  The goose seems to nod his head as if saying to the flock, "Respect the cane."  

Yes, for all my babbling, Today is beautiful too and deserves to be fully occupied, while its still around anyway.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ugly Beautiful: Finding the Good

The big, black snake gliding through the water at Soldier Creek creeps me out.  Can't help myself though, I move closer, fascinated.  The snake cuts through the water with hardly any movement at all.  I am close enough to see the dull black scales across the thick back.  An older man steps of the path to see.  He moves sort of sideways, not blocking my view but sort of protective in a way.  It's nice, not patronizing and I doubt he knows he's doing it.

The snake is hypnotic, fascinating, ugly and beautiful all at the same time.

Sometimes our days in this house can be rather antagonistic.  Sometimes we five choose to fight when we could choose to play.  

Sometimes twenty minutes of homework is like an emotional war fought with weapons of words.

We five can fuss so much that we are driven to shut each other out, at least for a time.  Eight got plain sick of her brothers messin' her stuff up so she made a sign.  

Keep Out: Girl Might be Mad or Sleeping.  

Amen sister, amen.  Consider yourself warned.

Reality is not always beautiful.  Life is not all sweetness and light, no matter how hard we try.

Truth is ugly and beautiful all at the same time.

  So are people, even the ones we love. 

The ugly can point the way to the beautiful, if you have eyes to see.

At the end of the long day, you find what you are looking for.  

posts about thriving...
Schooled by a Wyld Angel
Bloom Where You're Planted
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Glass Half Full: Finding the Good

Thanks to The Nester for inspiring and inviting us to link up and share our passions!  This is the first post in a series about gratitude and seeing the extraordinary in the everyday.

This start is humble, but off we go nevertheless...

A warm breeze pushes my skin this morning while I walk.  The dog and I are going for a little over two miles, just enough to work off whatever chocolate might beckon later today.  It's a regular thing, walking at the park after the kids are dropped at school, but it hasn't gotten old.  It's just a nice place with a couple of playgrounds and acres shaded by old pecan trees.  Squirrels crowd just out of reach of a six foot leash and the old folks feed them by hand.  Boston the dog rescues toddlers from aggressive geese.

A few weeks ago, I stopped taking my earphones.  

I just walk and listen and say, "Good mornin" to the people who pass on the sidewalk.

It makes me strangely happy.

The route I like best runs along Soldier Creek.  A third of a mile down, the sidewalk enters a tunnel of trees.  This is the best part.  Off to the side, a man with a sleek, spoiled doberman stands fallen tree limbs up in the shape of a massive teepee.  Vines wrap around it and hold it together.  His dog watches as he works.  The first teepee appeared over the course of a week or two and he has started on his second.  I hope fervently that no one takes them down or tells him to stop.  I hope they just let it be.

Some of the regulars are missing today.  Winston-who-gives-sniffems and his man aren't there.  The snarly terrier must be grounded for her bad behavior.  Callie the Yorkie is at home or late but the shy Aussie with one blue eye greets Boston sweetly.

Blue Jays call, the breeze rattles cottonwood leaves and one baby squirrel makes what I can only describe as "tiny noise" at the edge of the creek.  He is so stinkin' cute its just unbelievable.

The peace is shattered.

Whooping, over and over from up the hill.  WHOOPING, I say!  Like a crazed teenager jumping off a bridge or an entire football team celebrating after a touchdown.  WHOOPING!

A blue tractor flies through an empty parking lot, its big scooper thing raised and a man sitting in the seat, whooping like someone who just won the lottery.

Unnecessary judgments push into my mind.

Is that man drunk?

He sounds happy.

Someone should call the city.

Someone should let him be.

What's wrong with him?  He could...

be grateful for his very life today?

Glass half empty, glass half full.  Choose this day the glass from which you will drink.

As for me and my house, we will choose the glass half full, even if it comes riding in the scoopy thing on the front of a blue tractor.

...singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...Ephesians 5:19-20

finding good today,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How I Won by Waving the White Flag

Before the small people came, my canned goods were stacked according to ingredient. Corn stacked on corn, green beans on green beans.  It just seemed right.

When the small people were smaller and did not have nearly so many opinions of their own, their shirts matched their pants and bedtime was 8 PM.  Breakfast was at 7:30 AM because that's what worked for me.

There are three of them.  As differences in height become evident, differences in their natural tendencies become evident as well.  One boy, Nine, would like to stay up late and watch baseball with his Daddy.  The girl, Eight, sleeps more than the other two and prefers water to most other drinks.  These tendencies mesh with my own habits.

I surrendered my system of stacking canned goods sometime in the toddler years.  I gained mental energy previously used on my kitchen cabinet inventory for more important things.

Then there is Robert, Eleven.  If he stays up much past 9:30 PM, he goes into a semi-vegetative state wherever he is.  He just wilts right over in his seat and the light in his eyes slowly dims.  I can handle a sleepy child at 9:30 PM.  I cannot handle an eleven-year-old, 85 pound ball of noise and energy making gun noises, whistling and getting the dog all riled up prior to daybreak.  Did you hear me?  Prior to daybreak!

I surrendered the idea of matching clothes about two years ago to the bliss of having them dress themselves.  I gained freedom from having to make a few trivial decisions and the great gift of knowing my children and their "styles" better instead of growing mini-me's.

He's been this way, lived this early rising lifestyle since the beginning.  At nine months, he would talk loudly to himself in his crib while I tried to raise eyelids made of lead.

I  have tried to explain my way.  "If you just close your eyes and be still, you might fall back asleep.  You are tired because you don't sleep long enough.  You wake everyone else up."

The discussion plays again today.  Eight, herself a less than adaptable personality, has a face of solid intensity as she plays a game on the iPad.

"But Robert, a kid your age needs about ten hours of sleep a night.  If you go to bed late and get up early, no wonder you are tired in the middle of the day."

I surrender a room to their Lego's and their idea of clean and organized.  I gain a tidy living room, and amazing insight into their imaginations.

Then wisdom declares herself and Robert and I are released from our long-standing struggle.

Without looking up or betraying any hint of awareness outside of her game, she simply declares,

"That's just how Robert rolls."

It's over.  I am released from trying to fit him into my ideal mode of operation.  He no longer needs to feel regret at waking early.  It is accepted, this gift of early morning, high gear "get to it" and in return he may accept me and my foggy haze.

 I can see the freedom of this gift as we move through life together.

That's just how Robert rolls.  That's just how Mom rolls.  Isn't it great?  That's just how you roll.  It's a gift.

The early folks, get up and get it done, I kick in with my gifts at a different time doing different things.  They mow in the morning, I do laundry all day.  I pack 50 little things all afternoon into two big boxes, they get up early and move the boxes.  We are different parts of one body.  We have different strengths.

Our family surrenders our individual ideas of perfect to a collaboration of what home might fully be. We gain a life that is more than the sum of its parts.  Instead of spotlighting weaknesses, we gain everyone's strengths.

I surrender my idea of the way things should be and I gain grace for myself as well.

That's just how He rolls.

grace and peace,

More like this?
Love Does, our story
Nora's Cents
The Truth, and I saw it right there in Sunday School

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This I Know...Summer 2014

Thanks to Emily Freeman for inviting us to share what we learned this summer at Chatting at the Sky.  Emily is one of the most gentle souls I know, and as I dive back into my backyard travels after a summer off, I am glad to be jumping safely into that sweet space.

This summer has taught me some lessons and true to form, I had to learn them the hard way, with deep growing pains and much prayer.  There are more things I don't know but this I do...

This I know...home should be a safe place.

Me and my circus, we have begun putting down roots in this town, new to them, familar to me.  We are happy to take our time and look for our "long-time" house.  I don't know what it looks like or where it is but this I know...

I know our 'long-time' house will be a safe place.  It will be a place of acceptance and grace.  I love these words from Gary Morland in his post, The Safest Place on Earth:

"Your family is designed to be a place of honest vulnerability without rejection.  Disagreements without anger.  Foolish mistakes without embarrassment.  Failure without shame."

Our "long-time" house will be a place where you can take your drink into the living room and three kids who have moved way more than I meant for them to move can choose whatever color they want to paint their rooms.  (Yes, Nora, even macaw green.)  We already act and sound like a circus, why shouldn't the colors of our home match the way we live?

Our "long-time" house will be a place where it is "all about the heart."  As we make mistakes and fall from the trapeze, we will catch each other.  We will practice life together so that we are ready with our best efforts.  We will applaud each other when the lions and tigers are tamed.  We will live our real lives whether it is showtime or not.

This I know...what I do is not who I am.

People move, jobs change.  In spite of my threats, kids grow up.  My role in this circus is changing.  I have been the planner and orchestrator of all things at home for almost 11 years.  I was mother, teacher, helper, cook and maker of all trivial decisions regarding people shorter than me.  Until this summer.  I have come to the realization that it is time for me to move out of the director's role and into the role of trainer or coach.

Perhaps I yell up to the kid flying on the trapeze, "A little to the left, reach farther, hold tight.  Let go!"

Can I be honest?  This change?  It came much too fast.  I feel grief sometimes, but it is grief for the role I used to have, not the person that I was.  I don't die just because there is a change in what I do.

I need to stop parenting "little" kids who need to be constantly directed and I need to start parenting "big" kids who are ready to begin making their own way.  I need to be the mom who lets those kids fly through the air while falls are still about report cards, fights with friends, stealing pencils and forgetting to brush their teeth.  Let them learn how to fly before falls are about lost jobs, bad relationships, or jail.

I am still the same "who" whether my kids wear diapers or baseball pants.  I am still the same "who" whether I cook their lunch or the buy it at the cafeteria.  I am still the same "who" whether I spend my days at an office or picking up laundry.  The circus may move from town to town, but it still has the same clowns, elephants, and acrobats.

What I do is not who I am.  I am still here.

This I know...people are often most beautiful when they are their most ordinary.

Earlier this summer, I had a bad day.  I trudged along under a cloud, my thoughts going around and around like the strange animals on the carousel, circling incessantly and achieving nothing.  Only not fun.

At the dry cleaners, the same woman works there all the time.  She always says something nice.  Her voice betrays a little age.  We share the same hair color, Preference 9NB.  The fog followed me into the dry cleaners.  We speak, I pickup a tie.  I pay and move toward the door.  The cloud follows over my head.  We are finished with our transaction.

She speaks ordinary words that I don't even remember.  Her words are kind, nice, and spoken for no reason at all except she is nice and we are both people here on this earth at the same time.

This small moment is a gift that reminds me that people are good.  People are better than I think.  Sure, people are sometimes worse than you think but they are also better.  It's all mixed up and beautiful and I can't explain one bit of it because I am not God.

If that woman at the cleaners had stood on a stage wearing a gold suit and making $1,000 and hour to tell me how to be happy, her words would have been worthless that day.  There she was, in her chambray shirt and black leggings, Preference 9NB hair and smiling face saying nice things to every customer, even me, myself and Eeyore, and she spoke a gift of good.


I kept feeling like I needed to tell the woman at the cleaners about that bad day.  I thought she should know that her kindness matters sometimes.  So yesterday I let my crazy show.  I paid for two pair of suit pants and headed toward the door.  I stopped and told her about the bad day and how she said nice things and how I walked out thinking that people really were nice.

She told me that she was real glad to know.  She said that she had her own bad time happenin' and that it was so hard she just had to give it to the Lord.  I told her she mattered.  We both tried to pretend that our eyes weren't misty.

True to form, as my hand hit the door to the sunshine, she offered another parting shot of courage, "Finish well, sister, finish well."

Yes ma'am, it is my intention to do just that, one ordinary day at a time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Double, double, toil and trouble; when I feel like a bad Mom


Joining Kathi Lipp today hoping to encourage some other Moms-in-the-Trenches by airing my own dirty laundry.  You are not alone!

Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake,
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble.
--from Macbeth

Yeah, that's me sometimes.
I also do quite a bit of bubbling, toiling and troubling.
I don't know what a fenny snake is but sometimes I have an adder's fork for a tongue.

With three kids, I find myself talking most of the time.  Instructing, answering questions, reminding, answering questions, acting as referee, calling them to dinner, and answering questions.  Sometimes I even find myself...I also fuss every day.

I am starting to get on my own nerves.

There is a kid in my life, yeah, he's one of mine and sometimes you would think he doesn't have feelings.  Talking to that boy is like talking to a brick wall.  So, to get through, sometimes you need to use a hammer. I don't mean literally, I mean strong words, not foul language, just big, deep words.

Twice this week I cut that boy to the quick.

Both times I was wrong to do it.  Both times I used my big words to make a point that was irrelevant, unnecessary and careless.  If a friend spoke to me like that we'd have to have a long talk on the porch.

I cut my boy with my words and I saw it on his face.

Hell-broth, that's what my words were made from this week.  I fell again.

I apologized and pray that he forgets over time.  Literally, I pray that he forgets my ugliness, but who's to say if he can?

I tell my kids to listen more than they speak.  You know, the whole "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason" thing.  

Practice what you preach, girl.  Practice what you preach.

If I listened to that boy, maybe I would know how to get through that brick wall, how to put velvet on the hammer.

Too many words are like a hell-broth, all full of junk, but certainly a charm of powerful trouble.

Powerful trouble.

So maybe I keep my dog tongues and frog toes to myself a little more.  

Maybe I make my powerful charms out of love and verses and acts of kindness instead of too many words.

If you see a big, black kettle laying by the street, I don't want it back.

How do you balance correcting behaviors with staying positive?  Consider sharing your advice here or on Facebook before you share so we can all chat...
Traveler on Facebook here

More posts like this:
Confessions of a Reformed Helicopter Parent
Yesterday: oh my words!