Monday, May 2, 2016

Live Like You Are Alive

(For an explanation of what I mean by pixels and pixel #1, go here)

Pixel #2: Living Isn’t Not Dying.

That may not seem to be the most mind-blowing statement, but I don't think many people get this.  I know that when I reflect, this isn't how I actually view life, and from what I observe in others, I don’t think I’m alone. And while it isn't completely clear to me, I’m pretty sure I’m on to something here. 

It’s like when you are heading out the door to the zoo so your son (I'll call him Johnny) can go see Simba (all lions are Simba).  Before you leave, you check your bag for the 3rd time because you’re sure you’ve forgotten something, but everything looks right, so you apprehensively head out anyway. Sometime about three hours later, you’re standing next to the lion exhibit with Johnny wishing that the obnoxious family with the ice cream would quit showing up at the same exhibits and proceeding to the front of the viewing area as if all you were there for was to hold their places while they stopped at another snack kiosk about which you just told your son “no” for the 347th time.  You’ve spent the last 20 minutes standing in the sun trying to point out how that dirt colored lump differs from the rest of the dirt colored surroundings, convincing Johnny the aforementioned dirt colored, inanimate blob that looks like a discarded carpet remnant is actually the same animal as Disney’s majestic movie star, and internally cursing these big cats for acting like, well, big cats.  You are on the verge of giving up on the lions and caving in to the repeated requests for ice cream, partly due to the futility of the lion-spotting exercise and partly because while standing on the pavement, in the sun, arguing with Johnny, your body temperature has risen to 103.7 degrees, when you triumphantly notice movement: the subtle, (can I say catlike?) twitch of a feline ear.   But as you are asking Johnny if he has noticed the smoking gun in your case for the existence of the lions (because an ear twitch has now become the equivalent of Simba roaring from a rocky ledge while Elton John sings in the background), you notice that Johnny has long since ceased watching the mound of dirt that his parents have been lying to him about.  Instead, his covetous stare is directed at the bratty girl with the ice cream, which just about pushes you over the edge into the oblivion of insanity when he says, “My skin hurts.”

“Oh, #@%!  I forgot the sunscreen,” you say.  To which the obnoxious family with the ice cream glares disapprovingly at your clear lack of parenting skill and ushers their daughter away to protect her sensitive ears.

So, just like when you know you are forgetting something on the way to the zoo, I’m pretty sure I’m on to something here.  And here it is.  Drum roll.

All of us die.  Death is part of life.  But unlike death which none of us choose and which will happen to each of us whether we like it or not; unlike death you have to choose to live.

Okay, this probably needs some unpacking. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Time to Post Again

It’s been over a year and a half since I posted.

When I looked back at my last post, I was surprised that it had been that long since I last wrote.  The past 20 months feel like they have flown by.  It doesn’t feel like nearly two years.  We all understand this relative nature of time, because regardless of what our clocks say, regardless of how we talk about time, for each of us, it flows at different speeds and those speeds are determined by our perception. 

We usually associate time moving quickly with fun, but the past year and a half didn’t pass in a time-flies-when-you’re-having-fun way.  In part, it went quickly because I’m getting older, and I no longer catalog life by how many Gilligan’s Islands I can watch in a given amount of time. 

When I was eight, 30 minutes (about the time of one episode of Gilligan’s Island) was a long time. I would watch the clock in school with 20 minutes till recess and tell myself that it wasn’t very long.  I’d say, “If you started Gilligan’s Island right now, you’d be running out on the field about the time the professor makes a nuclear powered blender out of a banana and some palm fronds.  It’s not that long. Really.”  But it was.  It was an eternity.  And even though the long awaited recess was equally 20 minutes long, those 20 minutes were criminally short.  The bell seemed to ring ending recess before they even finished the song.  “…the professor aaand Mary Aaa… Brrrriiiiiiiiinnnnnngggggg!” Try telling an eight year old that time is constant.  He knows it isn’t true.

I’m not eight anymore.  Life no longer passes in stranded-boater-chunks. It now passes weeks and months at a time.  It passes with seasons and estimated tax payments and Super Bowls and Presidential cycles.  Even TV doesn’t pass in nice 30 minute segments anymore. With Netflix, I now measure television in entire seasons or series, but that doesn’t mean that my sense of time is now more accurate.

I had my teeth cleaned this morning.  It went really well.  No issues.  In and out in 25 minutes, but that doesn’t really tell the story does it? In the context of my inner eight year old, it felt like the equivalent the entire Gilligan’s Island series, all 98 episodes, twice. 

The cycle is the same every time:  I recline in the chair and tell myself to relax.  I willfully release the tension from my feet; then my legs; my hands; my shoulders; my head and neck… Oh crap!  Sorry.   I open my mouth back up.  I try not to gag on the saliva pooling in the back of my throat.  I ignore the hygienist scraping the plaque off my teeth with that tiny tool made of discarded chalkboards.  I hope that on the next pass, her little pick will slide cleanly between my teeth rather than catching again and threatening to pry two of my incisors off the bone. (I actually don’t think my gums are receding.  I think my teeth are just yanked slightly farther out of my gums during each cleaning.) About this time I realize there isn’t any blood in my hands.  Somehow, even though I’m not gripping anything, I have rigidly contracted all the muscles below my elbows to the extent that I can feel the blood flowing back into my palms as I force them to loosen.  So, I tell myself to relax.  I willfully release the tension from my feet; then my legs…

I also think time passed quickly between posts because the recently, my life has been characterized by a lot of growth and thinking.  Whether with my wife, or my small group, or my counselor, I’ve been working through a lot of “stuff”.  Some of it spiritual.  Some of it relational.  All of it personal. And even though I may still have the sense of humor of an eight year old boy (because every man does), I know my wife would agree that I’ve grown up a decent amount in the past year or two.

So, with all that elapsed, when I tried to encapsulate it into a post, I drew a blank.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything.  It was more like when you get too close to a video projected on a big screen and all you see are the pixels.  I think there is something there if I can step far enough back, but right now, I’m still seeing the pixels.

It’s been several weeks since I started thinking about this post (approximately equivalent to 2 Gilligan’s Islands), and I’m still struggling.  So, because I couldn’t compose something out of all the bits of information, I decided to write several posts about the pixels and hope they coalesce into a coherent image.  Since I already started, pixel #1 is time.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Rest

Have you read Jen Hatmaker's new book, "For the Love?" Other than "What is your Myer's Brigg's personality type?" or "What is in your backseat?", this is my favorite question these days.  I have wanted to read this book since its release but was too cheap to buy something that I knew I would devour in no time. So I put a hold on the book at the library and waited for my number to come up. After reading the first chapter, I was wishing I had purchased it so I could highlight, underline and star all the nuggets she offers in this book.

I am loving this book for so many reasons. One, it is hysterical! Laugh out loud funny! I have even had my kids read certain parts aloud in the car, or at the ballet studio. I have shared pieces with Joel. Jen is so funny and so spot on, it is hard not to want to share with everyone you come into contact with. Two, her nuggets are meaningful. Her chapters on marriage, children, aging, church offer deep thoughts to ponder, choices to be made and actions to be taken.

My favorite chapter so far has been the first one. In this chapter, Jen addresses the issue of women (most likely all of us) that try to do it ALL. She likens this life, this balancing act, to doing a trick on the balance beam. Her conclusion is that not everything fits on the beam, not every trick is worthy of being rehearsed, not every gig is worthy of our time and attention. This has really struck me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In our backyard

I love homeschooling our kids. Don't get me wrong, though, this journey has been far from perfect and has had almost as many challenges as successes. But overall, homeschooling fills my cup. I love being the one to chart the course of learning for my kids. I love that my finger prints are the ones that are imprinted over the hours of the day. I love that there is time during the day to process character issues. Now, I don't do all the teaching. We attend co op's and online classes, ballet and basketball, music classes, etc. One because I don't know everything (spoiler alert) and two because Joel and I are always looking for ways to have other adults speak life and truth into our kids' lives.

The last couple of years of school have been especially challenging with Jack. Jack is very smart, curious, creative, inventive but has struggled, really struggled in the area of reading. Each one of our kids has read at a different age and I have learned along the way that kids will read when they are ready to read. I have tried countless programs with Jack to no avail. I have looked at myself long and hard in the mirror and wondered if it was me. Am I not disciplined enough to spend the consistent time with him that it will take to have him read? Am I not skilled enough to teach actual reading? Maybe with the girls I just got lucky? Finally after a long summer of really being consistent and pushing through, Joel and I decided to take Jack for a learning assessment. When we sat down and looked at him as an overall kid, there were pieces for us that weren't lining up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's up these days

These days I have been obsessed with Podcasts. I am not sure when or where I made the discovery but I am so glad that I did. Each time I start to clean my house, fold the laundry, take a long drive in the car by myself or prepare a meal, I throw in my earbuds and tune into a Podcast. It makes the time go by quickly and I feel like I learn something new each time.

I started with The Simple Show by Tsh Oxenreider. I have been a faithful follower of Tsh and her ideas of simplifying life for a few years. Emails would come into my inbox and introduce a new podcast and I would delete it not knowing where to start or how to access it. Finally, one day I just decided to click on my podcast app on my phone (comes pre-installed, who knew?) and give it a shot. As my kids and husband would tell you, since then I've become a little (or maybe a lot) addicted. Halle has even started listening to Webkinz Podcasts on her iPod. She came home from cheerleading and let me know that NONE of her friends had ever listened to a podcast. My little trendsetter!

Tsh's show led me to The Sorta Awesome Show with Megan Tietz and three of her sorta awesome friends. I love listening to their show! It is like sitting down and having coffee with girlfriends. They dish on their "sorta awesome of the week," goals, confessions, books, holidays, birthday parties, tv, you name it. I look forward each week to their new podcast.

But the area I have become most enthralled with and the reason and I am back to take a stab at blogging is the podcast called Personality Hacker. Megan mentions in her show (actually almost every show) her obsession with Myers Briggs personality types. One day she talked about the Personality Hacker podcast and how it has helped her with personal growth. I was instantly drawn to this show and really can't get enough of it. It feeds right into the part of my brain that led to my psychology degree.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pruning

Gardening is one of my favorite things to write about and think about. I love beautiful flowers, fruits and veggies, and well manicured beds.

I know, you are waiting on pins and needles for photos of my beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, there are none. It's not that there aren't any pictures, there sadly aren't any beautiful gardens. I dream about them and dream about them and dream about them and then I venture out to make it happen and realize that it takes a lot of work to make it happen. Too much work and too much time for me. Which unfortunately is a bummer since we live on 10 acres.

We purchased this house because of the amazing property that came with it. We could envision the kids running and playing and building and digging. (Yay! They do all this!) The previous owner had taken meticulous care of the yard and its gardens. I was thrilled but sorely underestimated how much time and energy it would take to manage it all.

Every time I head out into the great outdoors, I am in awe at God's creation. I am thankful for His beauty and His handiwork. I take in the smells, the sounds, the colors and I am full of gratitude. God wrote a lot about gardening in His word. I spent last week in John 15 and was encouraged by these verses. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful....Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:1-2,4
My geraniums in need of tender care.

I have learned over the years to try and take on only what I can handle. I have picked a hanging basket or a pot or two that I can manage. I still long to have the rest of the yard look fabulous but I manage what I can (barely). This year, I decided to plant geraniums in a little bird bath that I have sitting next to the house. I love the color red and it always makes me so happy to come up to the house and see the beautiful red geraniums. Keeping plants alive is a ton of work, even the little ones in a little space. And sometimes they look like this, in desperate need of some TLC.

The flowers are more abundant and vibrant after pruning.
When they look like this, even I know that pruning is in order. I headed out back to do some work and was reminded of the verses in John. God revealed to me as I was pruning, that His work in me, the pruning, the refining, is intimate. Just as I was hands on with my geranium, God is hands on with me. He is up close and personal. Lifting every leaf, looking for the dead, the decaying, the parts that will continue to suck everything from me if He allows it to stay. I am so thankful that He doesn't hack from a distance. He doesn't blindly pluck what He cannot see. He gently draws near to me and carefully prunes.



I know and trust that God cares about the process and the end product and He really cares about the fruit I bear. He wants me to be the most fruitful that I can be. We have several hydrangeas around the property. I love them! Joel and I had hydrangeas at our wedding. They lined the front of the church in pots. We gave them to our moms after the ceremony and took a couple to plant for ourselves. Unfortunately we all have moved since then and there are no more wedding hydrangeas. I am grateful that the Lord had these hydrangeas waiting for me at our new house. One hydrangea is very happy and fully thriving in its location. The other was a little sad and  kind of scraggly. Joel took his pruning sheers to the scraggly one at the end of last summer and cut it way back. I had a few tears thinking that it might stay like that forever. But this summer it is so much happier. It is fuller and has more blooms. And that pruning took place by a gardener with comparatively little skill and knowledge. The Master Gardener, though, has great skill and perfect knowledge of who I am and how to prune me for his and my best fruit. Sometimes the pruning brings me to tears, lots of tears, because I feel like I have been cut down to the nubbins and that I might stay that way forever. But I rejoice in knowing that God knows the growth and the beauty that will be brought forth.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where's your joy?

So, I've probably said it before, but I'm convinced that we have kids so God can get through to us.

My oldest daughter picked up a new sport (flat water kayak racing) last year, and we have quickly become advocates of this relatively unknown sport in our country as well as the outstanding program that is being run out of our small town.

Rylee paddling her very own racing kayak for the first time
There really isn't much not to love.  Hanging out around the water to watch your child compete in a sport she can literally do for her entire life, being part of a nationally recognized program (national champions for two years running), having the opportunity for your child to compete in an Olympic sport... It's pretty ideal, but it isn't easy.  These aren't the kayaks most people are used to seeing.  They are not designed to stay upright without work.  They are designed for straight-line speed.  I've been in a TK (Training Kayak - like water skiing on two skis before learning slalom) three times now for about a total of 2 hours and I've flipped in seven times just paddling around the dock.  It's humbling, but I'm getting better.

Beyond the fun that I'm having though, one of the most valuable things about it so far has been the conversations kayaking has allowed between me and my daughter.  I have loved trying to help her process through the frustrations of learning a brand new sport while overcoming the fear of failure, a fear made even more pronounced by the added apprehension of being dumped into the 50 degree water of the Puget Sound should you make a mistake in form or concentration.  This has been a rewarding and challenging experience for my daughter.  Especially since she is accustomed to excelling in her chosen activities.

But the most valuable piece has been for me personally.  In speaking with my daughter about trials and perseverance, God has been speaking to me about the same things.  As I am helping my daughter walk through this kayaking experience, God has been reminding me of James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." and Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Okay, confession time: I have never liked these verses in James.  I know we aren't supposed to admit that. I know they represent wisdom and maturity, but really!?  "When you are going through crap, don't forget to have good time!  Enjoy it.  Be Happy."  I just have never understood this one.  Pain is not something to be happy about.  Pain can be mastered.  It can be tolerated and persevered through, but where is the joy in that?