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Leveling Out

I love the adrenaline rush of a busy day but as I get older I find the downslope of that mountain can turn treacherous. I spend my day being extra helpful and gracious to people I don’t know (good thing) but then I’m grumpy with those who love me best (bad thing). I’ve expended tons of energy to do my job well but have nothing in the tank for after hours.

So, at the end of my crazy busy work week (with a crazy busy and emotionally draining weekend ahead), I’ve decided: (1) my best self needs to be given to my husband and children; (2) I will not beat myself up over silly mistakes; and (3) even keel is my best speed and serves others best also.

In the midst of the late 90s revival services, I received advice from a well known speaker: You cannot live on the mountain top experiences. And there is no medal for wallowing in the valley. You must attempt to live as steady as possible, enjoying the changes in terrain but always striving for level.

So when my schedule is wonky and my temper is short, I will remember those other wise words: “This too shall pass.” Leveling out and moving on. Giving and receiving grace. Enjoying the journey, not trying to win the race. Oh yes, a visit from puppies never hurts.

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It’s not even a word – but it so accurately describes my life. I have a lot of unexpectedlies – every day. And so do you. At first, I was blindsided by happenings in my life that I never planned for. Death. Accidents. Job loss. Broken relationships. All these and more kept me off balance, sometimes teetering on the edge of grief and despair. I felt more fear than faith – dreading the next bend in the road.

One weekend TrailI had an epiphany. I came to realize, with the wooing of the Holy Spirit, that these unexpectedlies are opportunities. Opportunities to find blessing in the midst of sadness. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing in the midst of pain. Instead of finding the gray on the backside of every cloud, I really do attempt to find the silver lining.

This past month, three close friends have passed away. One was my beautiful daughter-in-law’s father. He was a huge influence in my life, in the lives of my friends and family. Another was a man who helped me navigate the stress of my first radio job, moving from co-worker to great friend. He and his lovely wife gave me support in the hardest time of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. Just this past Tuesday, another friend entered in the presence of Jesus. We’d only known each other three years but we became the best of buddies, joined together through our love of the Chicago Cubs and our little church family.

Each man was an unexpectedly in my life – unexpected voices of encouragement and affirmation, sometimes challenging, always loving and supportive. I am a blessed woman to have known these three and I am so grateful I was able to run part of my life’s race alongside them.

Takeaway – celebrate the unexpectedlies. Look for the blessing in each one. Grow through the experience. Choose to respond to each one with grace and forgiveness. Love fiercely because unexpectedlies happen…every day.

Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

Sometimes I just need to remember.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

“Please, sweet baby. Just go to sleep.” The poor mama was almost in tears. So many late nights trying to get her young son to sleep. She knew that once he settled down, he would be fine, but he was stubborn and just would not fall to sleep without her presence. Their apartment was too small to allow him to “cry it out” which was the suggestion almost everyone gave the new parents.

“He’ll stop soon enough. Let him cry.” Well, he must not have listened to their advice because he could cry, and cry, and cry, without wearing down at all. Conscious of their thin walls, and trying to be good neighbors, they could not allow the noise to go on very long. So far, her only solution was taking him out of his crib and resting with him on the spare double bed in the baby’s room.

“Please…

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Originally I posted this in 2015 – it seems I need to revisit this topic…

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

11523-Eeyore

Goodbye Eeyore, Hello Pollyanna

Though I’m naturally an optimistic person, sometimes I react in negative ways to someone who wants to bring change into my life. Instead of embracing the excitement of doing something new or in a different way than what I may be used to, I jump right to “but what if?” It’s like a splash of icy water in someone’s face when I respond negatively to their anticipation.

In the spirit of trying new things, I’m going to let go of negativity. It won’t be easy. I don’t always realize what I sound like. But I can usually tell by the expression on the face of the person I just spewed on.

I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna (refer to old Disney movie of same name). She always looked for the silver lining in any situation, loved everyone no matter what class of person they were, and her…

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One of my favorite weekends ever…love my beautiful niece.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

I’ve been entertaining a house guest this weekend. Stanley arrived a unexpectedly on Friday. I had heard of him from other people, but had never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He’s a pleasant fellow, always smiling. He travels very light – no suitcase and basically just the clothes on his back (or more accurately, his front). He’s no fuss…he will go with whatever plans we have for him. Never a complaint and always that same smile.

It turned out to be a great time for Stanley to visit. We had plans for a weekend visiting family and friends, so I tucked Stanley in my purse and away we went.

Our first stop was in Ames to visit our son Sean. We hadn’t seen him since January when he returned to school so it was nice to hug his neck and take him out for breakfast. In all the…

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Pet Peeves. I’ve come to the realization that pet peeves are just subtle forms of complaining but acceptable because we all have them (plural). Many of us could make a list: Top 10 Pet Peeves (and still have plenty left over for a second or third list).

There are those who specialize in grammar, harping on “their/they’re/there” and “accept/except” and “lay/lie” and of course, “you’re/your.” These people have become more vocal as texting and social media posting have become the norm. At least once a day I see a post on my timeline bemoaning the lack of proper grammar on Facebook. Personally, I won’t repost any cute meme if it contains a misspelled word…I’m guilty of being a Grammar Czar.

Maybe you have issues with technology…more specifically, those of us who are trying to keep up with technology. Do you do an eye-roll when encountering one of us old people trying to learn a smartphone? Yes you do…admit it. Do you sigh in exasperation when you text and text and text, with no response…not even a “k”? Or maybe you deplore the overuse of emojis.

I have a tech pet peeve list: GPS that takes me to the wrong address, iPhone batteries that don’t hold a charge (Thank you, Apple), and computers that (fill in the blank). Enough already – that list could get long real fast.Pet_Peeve_Toilet_paper

Then we have those whose pet peeves surround their idea of acceptable behavior, always willing to judge others on bad parenting, disobedient children, too fast/too slow drivers, tardiness and loud public conversations on cell phones, etc… For every behavior, we have someone who doesn’t like it.

Let’s admit it. Pet peeves, especially those that surround someone else and their behavior, is judging. You are assuming you are right, in whatever opinion you have, and the other person is wrong. We would all agree that none of us are perfect (especially when it’s us), but we still want everyone else to be our definition of perfect.

In the morning I grouse about slow drivers on the interstate and on the way home, I complain about the fast drivers speeding by me. Thank God for the “edit” button on Facebook postings because I have typed so many grammatical errors, I could fill an English textbook.

In an ongoing attempt to make better choices, I’ve been working on my decision to complain, instead of expressing gratitude. I proclaimed a “no complaining day” this past week. It was mildly successful – mostly because I posted a “no whining zone” sign on my desk and posted about it to keep myself accountable. But every day? It’s hard. So, once again, I’m making the choice to give people (myself included) some grace. To show love, instead of judgment. To offer a smile, instead of a frown, when I see something I may not agree with. I’m not going to compromise my convictions…but they are MY convictions and as long as no one is being hurt, I can live with a little public cell phone conversation.

P.S. Scripture shows a history of complainers who got what they deserved…some major heat and a few extra years in the wilderness.

“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” Numbers 11:1

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.” Psalm 45:1-2