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Category Archives: Perspective
Its that time of year again – time to say goodbye to 2015 and look ahead to 2016 and all the growth, changes, and challenges it will bring. How does this keep happening so fast? Why do the years fly by at increasingly alarming rates, refusing to slow down, even for a second, and let us catch our breath? It’s slightly terrifying, this march-turned-sprint of time.
I keep seeing the ads for organization, planners, courses on goal-setting and finances and career advancement. I am watching those around me or on social media pick their word for next year (there are even stamped bracelets or pieces of jewelry you can buy so you can wear your word as a constant reminder). Normally, I’m all over this.
I just can’t bring myself to go there. Not yet. Not right now. Maybe I’m lazy. I’m definitely unmotivated. I know there are things I want to accomplish, and areas I need to improve on. I’ve got to get better organized, with sharper goals and detailed agendas. I haven’t even started a list of words to narrow down. I have no desire to do so.
Because I’ve spent the past week watching movies, cracking jokes, eating poorly, building toy houses, chasing pets, going on random outings, avoiding this blog and all writing projects, making popcorn (a lot…and often), singing silly songs, reading stories, staying up too late, and marvelling at the freedom of an unfettered schedule.
I don’t even know where my to-do notebook is (sadly, I’ve surpassed the simplicity of a list; it takes a three-ring binder now).
This holiday season was definitely one of my favorites, and the more I reflect on it, the more true that sentiment becomes. We hosted multiple Christmas celebrations in our home (which is pretty much par for the course), but didn’t travel, so things seemed less chaotic. Because of schedules, the fact that we had to plan more gatherings meant they were smaller….and while we are all over the more the merrier, it was kind of a nice change, making the season seem gentler somehow. We’ve spent more time together, just the five of us at home, and that was needed as well.
It’s been beautifully peaceful, and relatively drama-free. That’s always nice.
Lest I seem to be waxing overly poetic or painting a scene that seems more idyllic than it really is, rest assured I’m not trying to sell you a picture of Hallmark commercial perfection. We’ve had to swallow our share of the bitter with the sweet. The holidays still feel incomplete with the absence of my grandmother, and I shed more than a few tears at that void this season, as I’m sure I will continue to do for the rest of my life. We had moments of mourning – our beautiful youngest “brother” (so close a family friend, we’ve always considered ourselves to be siblings) would have been 28 this Christmas were it not for the car accident that took him three years ago; our dear new friends left our home Christmas day to visit their son’s grave, a brave Marine who lost his life in the line of duty 18 months ago. We experienced a painful family estrangement that none of us saw coming, and doesn’t look to resolve any time soon. We’ve got a kid on antibiotics and a septic system that imploded.
It’s not all glamour over here.
In spite of it all, however, I stand by my earlier statement. The brief moments of pain have only served to accent the appreciation I have for the magic of the season. We’ve gotten to meet and make new friends, experience memories in the making, and see different faces around our holiday table.
Our children are safe and healthy and happy in their home and with their family. The peals of laughter coming from every corner as a result of the antics of our new kitten have made the chaos of another pet a non-issue.
Their joy at having loved ones surrounding them, and at being tucked within the bounds of the security that brings has refreshed me in ways I didn’t know I needed.
Every year, I find new facets of the Christmas story to learn from or focus on…and this year is no different. I keep getting stuck on a simple phrase in Luke. Of course, it involves our girl, Mary.
Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
I’ve been doing a lot of pondering myself. And the more I ponder, the more I find to treasure. It’s a fabulous way to wind down the year, and I am grateful beyond the telling for this reality.
I may not know exactly what growth and changes will make my top priority file, and I may not have a word of the year picked, but I do know what I want to hold on to….and how I want my family to feel about and with me. The fun and the love and the joy have to stay. Period.
And so I think I’ll decide, at least for now, not to let the what-ifs of tomorrow steal thunder from the blessings of today. I think I’ll rest here a while, in this place, with my thoughts and musings and gratitude. I think I’ll live in the moment, these last days of 2015, and be present and engaged with those around me.
It’s a simple goal. I don’t even have to write it down.
Solidarity, sisters. There’s still room for bonding in this goodbye.
Yesterday marked the end of my first forty years on this earth. Or, I guess we could say, the beginning of my second forty years on this earth. Either way, it was my 41st birthday. I can’t believe I just typed that.
For those of you who’ve been with me for a while, you may remember my reaction to turning forty last year. If not, you can check it out here. In a nutshell, I didn’t handle it with the greatest of maturity, at least not at first. Let’s just leave it at that.
This year, however, I am older and wiser and much more mature. Ok, I’m not, but I didn’t flip out about the older part, so that’s a start. Plus, I had an amazing day. How can I complain? How can I be anything less than ecstatic at a day filled with love and cards and messages, surprises (many of them quite sparkly) and calls, singing voice mails and hugs and laughter? I am blessed beyond the telling by the people who surround me, who make up my tribe and lift me up while keeping me grounded.
Even our favorite sushi chef got in on the action at lunch yesterday, gifting me with this gorgeous and delicious concoction. Check it out.
As I celebrated throughout the day, surrounded by friends and family, I kept finding myself in a state of bemused wonder. What an amazing thing it is to love and be loved. We can never forget that, or take it for granted. It’s pretty much the point.
Recently, the women at our church completed the Seamless Bible study by Angie Smith (I cannot recommend this one enough. If you haven’t already, go get it.). One of the points she makes in it is that throughout the Bible, when there is a 40 year stretch, it’s always a time of learning. I found that incredibly interesting. So as I round the bend, coming out of my first time of learning, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned so far.
Life is as precious as it is unfair
Acknowledging both of these truths helps the bitter with the sweet. We aren’t promised fair – we are promised meaningful, blessed, hope-filled, purposeful, God-ordained, and many other descriptors…but not fair. Along the way, we hopefully find joy, peace, community, fun, adventure, and Calling. But, fair? Not a factor. Never has been, and expecting it to be robs us of the amazingness that is.
Seasons don’t last
None of them. Change is as irrevocable as it is inevitable, and when I let this scare or intimidate me, I miss out on new blessings and opportunities. When I cling to how it’s always been at the expenses of what could be, I minimize where God’s taking me or those around me. It’s not always fun – aging isn’t easy for me, that’s the diva talking. The stretching and growing of relationships doesn’t always go the way I wish it would. I can’t always see the finish line, and even when I do, I’m not necessarily on track with the end point anyway. I’ve learned that seasons of crippling insecurity, heartbreak, or disappointment often preclude my times of greatest joy and growth, and serve to give me empathy for others as well as the ability to recognize this struggle in them. They stretch me in ways I’ve never wanted, and force me to view things through a lens of increased patience. I’ve learned to enjoy the good times, power through the bad ones, and get ready…because I never know what’s around the corner.
My agenda can wait
This has been a tough one, and I’m far from done learning it. I’ve always been a task-driven individual, but the longer I live, the more I’m discovering that people outrank my to-do list….without exception. I may not get this one right (confession – I don’t get this one right more than I care to admit), but I know it to be true. My ability to multi-task and my energy both have limits, which never ceases to surprise me for some reason. I’m becoming less organized and able to juggle details, which is shockingly frustrating, and I openly ask for grace and prayers in this area. On the other hand, my heart for people has grown exponentially. I love the whole messy lot of them, and just want to make that clear to everyone in my life. I can’t stand the thought of broken hearts that come from the insecurity of not seeing your self-worth, or an inability to accept unconditional love; of loneliness that is a side effect of tenuous connection to others and fractured family or community ties. My husband and kids need me to live this every day. The people I do life with need to see this as the norm. They need to know that I can take my eyes off of my list long enough to really see them, and that they are the priority. If that means laundry doesn’t get put up, or the entryway isn’t painted, or my blogs are published late….well, what else is new?
People are broken
Including me…and that’s ok. God makes no bones about the fact that He knows this, He sees this, and He loves us anyway. He’s also pretty clear that we are to love each other in spite of the mess. Hurt is inevitable in this life, and the more connected to others we are, the more vulnerable we are to becoming collateral damage as they blow through life. It doesn’t make it right. It certainly doesn’t make it easy, especially when the source of hurt is someone dear to your heart. The choice is simple – be right, or be connected. We rarely get to do both. And chances are. we’ll spend a fair amount of time on both sides of that fence, so be careful how quick you are to lock down the decision.
Wonders never cease
While I could wax poetic on this one for a good bit, the current example I’m living will do. My family is full of surprises. They are funny and spicy and often impulsive, with big expectations….such as coming home with a kitten as a surprise and expecting me not to freak out. Apparently, the plan is that even though my entire existence up to now has been clear in knowing I am not a cat person, the next time of growth will be spent learning to become one. I think we were all taken aback by my lack of negative reaction. It was getting down to the wire on pet begging from Drew, and my choices were this or a parrot. I think I picked this battle wisely, don’t you?
Mostly, I’m just grateful
I really am. I’m grateful to God for every day, every person, every gift, every opportunity in my life. I’m humbled that He has chosen me as His daughter. I’m blown away that He loves me in a way that, when I catch on and hold to, allows me a sense of joy and purpose and connection that boggles my mind.
It’s a good life.
And so, my theme for Year 41 of Rebecca’s Time on Earth will revolve around one of my favorite verses.
James 3:13 – Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.
Wisdom, and humility…shown in a good life. My good life, filled with so many good people and so much good love, under the sovereignty of our great God. Not a bad way to kick off the next phase.
Solidarity, sisters. Let the new Time of Learning commence.
It’s always interesting when I reflect on the timing and effectiveness of life’s lessons. I use the word “interesting” loosely, as it makes me seem more mature than I am…and since some of the words that come to mind when I get one of those lessons don’t belong on your screen. Anyone else feel me here?
I recently received a communication from someone dear to me, in which she decided to make clear every single thing that has ever bothered her, specifically about me, but also about select members of our family. It was, let’s just say, a less-than-pleasant experience. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was indignant. And I was angry.
It took me completely off guard. And while I have managed to block out some of the more hurtful phrases, the one I couldn’t (and still can’t) get past was the bold statement, “I deserve better.”
Because my immediate reaction was, “No, you don’t.”
And once my vision cleared and my blood pressure started returning to normal, I had to pause for a moment of self-reflection. (I really hate those, by the way.)
Nevertheless, while this letter wounded my heart, it also sharpened my sense of “self”. How many times have I entered or left a situation with a list of all the ways I deserved better? How often have I forgotten just how fortunate I am? If we’re looking at hard truths, I’m certainly due my fair share.
This moment of self-reflection through reality-tinted glasses, while oh-so-fun, gave me a thought:
What if we took the word “deserve” out of our vocabulary, unless it’s preceded by the word “don’t”?
None of us actually get what we deserve – thank goodness. In our heart of hearts, in the deepest places where we hide our most secret thoughts, we breathe a sigh of relief. Because we know the truth. We know who we are, and what we’ve done, or said, or thought. We know what we really deserve…if we’re honest. And what we really deserve isn’t unending grace and love. It isn’t a life of freedom and second chances and opportunities. It isn’t an open invitation to eternal joy and paradise. We don’t like to focus on that part, do we?
When we, as flawed people, use the word deserve, our focus is on the human element. We go one of two places with this. “I deserve”, which leads us to entitlement and accolades based on accomplishment. Or “they deserve”, which often takes us to judgment and an anticipation of punishment. We’re looking at the end game here on Earth instead of opening our minds to the big picture. We look sideways, instead of up, wondering “What did we get? What did they get?”. It makes us cocky. It creates competition. It gives birth to dissatisfaction, and often greed.
We are called to be grateful, not dissatisfied, and certainly not competitive or covetous.
Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
The addition of “don’t” changes our focus from “I deserve better” to “I don’t deserve that”. When we change our language (inside and out) to don’t deserve, we can focus on the divine. It shifts us from entitlement to gratitude, and puts our hearts in a posture of humility. We become thankful for grace and all of our blessings, or express sorrow for crummy circumstances.
The tension comes when we look at what we consider to be fundamental human rights.
- I deserve to be happy
- Children deserve to be safe
- People deserve to be fed, or healthy, or treated with dignity
We can still apply our new vocabulary here.
The truth is: no child deserves to be neglected or abused; no one deserves to be cold, or homeless, or hungry; we don’t deserve to get terminally ill, or injured; we don’t deserve tragedy or pain; the French didn’t deserve to be victims to acts of terrorism; the Syrians don’t deserve the horror they are living; victims of sex-trafficking don’t deserve their plight.
Are we starting to get onto the same page? Does it change your rhythm a little to phrase it this way?
In all of Scripture, there is not a condoning of the “I deserve” school of entitlement. Even the life of Jesus and story of the cross revolve around what he didn’t deserve as opposed to what he was due – and let’s face it, if anyone who ever lived had rights to that parade, it would have been the Son of God.
Isaiah 53: 5-8 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought our peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He died a death he didn’t deserve, so that we could receive the gift that we don’t deserve.
He was God, and yet, there is no mention of him deserving better than the simple life he lived and brutal death he endured.
Philippians 2:5-9 – Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.
Despite all of this, we never hear how richly he deserved what came next.
Philippians 2: 9-11 – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Nary a “deserve” in the whole passage. In fact, the focus is still on the Father; the accolades still aimed at His glory.
There’s a very clear message here for us. There’s an expectation of how we are to view ourselves, and example of the attitude we should embrace.
It gets so very tricky.
I’ll give you an example:
The desire of every mother on the planet is to raise healthy children. It’s a basic wish, and the hope of all our hearts. My secular job revolves around parents who face the other side of that coin. I’ve spent 16 years working with families going through the pain of raising children with broken bodies and minds. They are amazing people, kind people, good people, faithful people. Their kids are beloved and special, and precious. They don’t deserve the hand their dealt, nor have they asked for it.
And as much as I love/adore my three kids and think they are pretty great, I know this to be true – they don’t deserve their amazing, talented bodies and minds any more than the children I treat.
There but for the grace of God go I.
And as we raise our kids, as we watch them and celebrate them, encouraging them in every endeavor and phenomenal achievement they head towards… Their father and I have one over reaching goal: to be sure that they never, for one second, forget to do all that they do in the name and to the glory of the One who dealt them these cards.
It’s all from Him.
It’s all for Him.
Ephesians 5:19b-20 – Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The more gratitude I embrace, the more joy I find. The more joy I find, the more gratitude I feel. I find myself celebrating the little things…and not just for me or mine. It becomes easier to celebrate for and with others as well.
The cycle continues in this big, beautiful circle that brings me closer to God with every repetition of the rounding.
We shine brightest with His light when we are filled with His joy.
We are most filled when we let go of ourselves – our pride, our competition, our dissatisfaction or self-proclaimed sense of what’s “fair” and lift up a simple thank you. It acknowledges God’s gifts and the trust we have in His provision for us. It brings to the forefront of our minds His sovereignty. It reminds us of who He is.
I am grateful His is who He is, and chooses what I don’t deserve over what I do. I know who I am. I know, in my innermost secret places the wretchedness of my heart. I am grateful to be loved in spite of it. I am grateful Father wants me to find joy in His love, and in the love of and for others. I am grateful that here go I, in this time and place, in these circumstances, with the people in my life – because this is where He placed me, with specificity and purpose. So, this is where I’m supposed to be.
Here is where my focus should be – on the One who loves, who created everything and let’s us take part, who is waiting patiently for us to grow up and do our part and live our purpose, then join Him for an eternity of joy.
It’s a beautiful life…even when it’s messy, or less than perfect, or hard, or criticized. Those things do not diminish it’s value, or mine, or that of those who surround me. We are loved. We are precious. And I am incredibly grateful.
Solidarity, sisters. Grab a hand and give thanks.
I had the amazing privilege of attending the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries last weekend. There is so much to say and think and process through… It’s truly an incomparable event. It’s well-run, phenomenally organized, perfectly staffed and tailored to Christian women writers, speakers and leaders down to the last detail. It is unequivocally the best conference I’ve attended.
Even so, the things listed above are not what make it exceptional.
Lysa Terkeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, leads this group of breath-taking women in a culture of sisterhood, team playing and true humility that exceeds my capacity to describe in a way that does it justice. The vision and execution of equipping women to learn and teach God’s Word is inspired….and unanimous. Each of the leaders and staff members has embraced the core values, and none of them waver in the slightest from the mantra.
“We have to go to God’s Word, to truly be with Him, in order to stay in alignment with His assignment. Keep the sacred space. Getting sent out is second.” Lysa Terkeurst
Every speaker wove this theme throughout her lessons and advice seamlessly, which tells me that they walk this walk as well as talk the talk. They were gracious and funny and wise, giving us a plethora of tools to put in our arsenal for study and use, sprinkling each lesson with the reminder to really listen for God’s voice….and then do as He says.
Are we serving where needed, regardless of what that looks like, knowing that our call is never mundane?
I was uplifted, overwhelmed, encouraged and enriched.
I was mentally and emotionally spent by the end of my time there.
And I was determined to stay true to the spirit and wisdom shared by these women I so admire. I prayed for God to help me hear Him clearly, to have the discernment to understand when and how He speaks to me, and to have the discipline and humility to obey by serving as He wills even when it doesn’t match up to what I plan or think.
I spent my last night there meditating on this while girding myself up for the return home, knowing that His voice gets harder to hear and His will feels less clear in the chaos and noise of my everyday space. I waited at the gate to board the plane, anxious to get seated, anticipating a few hours of concentrated reading/studying/writing time as I processed through my copious notes, aware that my patience would have to increase back at home, given the distractions and people who constantly need me in some form or fashion.
As usual, God had a different idea; and it became obvious that my testing would begin the moment I stepped onto the plane.
I made my way down the aisle and found my seat. Looking at the row behind mine, I discovered that a family of five was sitting there – two parents and three children below the age of four…on their first flight as a family. Two of the kids were wired, bouncing in their seats with excitement and chattering non-stop when I made eye contact, the baby was already not happy to be there, her mommy looked incredibly stressed and was on the verge of a small freak-out (every mom recognizes that look, we’ve all been there), and her husband was trying to follow orders as fast as she was spitting them out. Turning my head to the seat next to mine, I saw a lovely teen girl, who I had noticed at boarding because she was escorted onto the plane as it was her first time flying alone and she had special needs.
All thoughts of focused study time flew out the proverbial window at this point.
I didn’t get upset, not really. I could almost hear the question: “What now? What are you going to do? Do you remember the point?”
And I found that I actually did. I smiled at the kids as they jabbered excitedly about their first time on a plane, their first time going to Texas, all the things they thought would happen during the flight. I joked with their mommy about the adventure of flying with three kids, and how we had just done so last month. I had a lovely visit with my new friend, Misty, as she told me her entire life story and exclaimed over how fun flying is. She chatted about her best friend, and how he would miss her while she was gone, and about how her sister fixed her very own room up since she was staying there for a whole month.
Transparent moment: I might have given myself a tiny mental pat on the back, preening at my cheerfully smooth handling of this curve ball….which set me up for a bit more correction.
The real fun began when the plane started moving. Misty was quite insistent I look out the window with her to see take-off; and then she began to loudly proclaim that she hoped we had a good pilot because planes can crash, you know. She saw it on the news once, so she knows it’s true. It could happen to any plane, even ours.
Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, may already be chuckling. For those of you just tuning in, let me bring you up to speed.
I don’t fly well. At all.
I hate flying. I am terrified of planes. I generally spend take-off and landing with my eyes closed praying and/or singing Amazing Grace under my breath as I try not to cry or vomit. I envision plane crashes with tremendous ease. Every instance is cause for alarm.
This flight was oversold. Which means they kept asking people to give up their seats for vouchers. It also means the luggage space was over capacity, so they had several of people check their carry-on at the gate. More luggage means heavier plane. What if we went over the weight limit? What if they underestimated fuel needs, not realizing how packed the flight was? I was already shaking as I boarded.
Before take-off, the flight attendant came and asked the guy in front of me if he would switch seats with someone in the exit row who didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The man who ended up sitting in front of me was a perfectly healthy, normal-looking gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s. Why would he switch? Why would he be uncomfortable? Did he know something? Had he placed an explosive device under his seat?
Apparently, if there’s not a crash, I’ll create a terrorist.
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Every time I fly, I mentally end up with my children orphaned and my husband a widower who (after a less-than-meets-my-approval period of time) marries a 25 year-old blonde aerobics instructor who has no idea how to properly care for either him or his kids.
I am a lunatic. But, I’m a lunatic who listens when the promptings are so very obvious.
What else was there to do, other than agree that yes, planes can crash and assure her that our pilot was much too skilled to let it happen? How else could I respond, except to lean over and look out the window at everything she pointed at while maintaining a pleasant facade as I fervently prayed I wouldn’t throw up all over her? Who better to sit there, comfortably unfazed by this beautiful and special child of God than a mother who works with special children as a career?
Even as He works to teach us lessons, He provides….. for everyone.
And what a lesson He was driving home. He reminded me, as He does with increasing regularity, that the call to love my neighbor, the command to love His children, always comes first. Always. Without exception. Without equivocation. Without end.
Perhaps because I was more open than usual to listening, He decided I had done reasonably well, and to further drive home His ability to provide for and pursue us, He threw me a bone. About an hour into the flight, the kids settled down, the baby stopped crying, and my friend decided to take a nap.
So, I got to write and journal and study a bit. And the exact instant I lifted the pen from my final sentence, Misty woke up, ready to resume our chat and share her M & M’s.
God is so good. And I was so humbled at the reminder of His goodness (following that tiny slap on the wrist).
He thinks of everything, and loves us enough to cover the details that fill our minds and trouble or excite our hearts. No whisper is too silent. No prayer is too small. No slip-up is too large. No accomplishment goes unnoticed….even if He has to guide us in baby steps to the goal.
What a gift. What a blessing. What a Father.
Solidarity, sisters. When He speaks, listen.
I’ve had this post floating around in my head for months…just haven’t found a way to let it out. You know how that happens? You get a thought or idea or epiphany rattling around in there, bouncing off the sides of your skull, but it’s stuck and loses it’s impact or point when you try to explain it out loud or on paper.
So, I started to think maybe I shouldn’t try, even though I keep hearing echoes in my head; whispers, if you will, of a concept that needs to be explored.
It came to me several months ago at church, when I looked up and noticed the section in back. This row had the distinction of housing several of my brother’s co-workers – all of whom happen to be former military members of varying experience. They filled the seats, crammed together like a line of well-muscled birds, with their backs straight and their eyes focused, drinking in the sights and sounds and words coming from the stage.
They maintained this intensity throughout the service, never fidgeting or looking away from our pastor as he delivered his message. Their in-the-moment focus and patience was a sight to see. It grabbed my attention, and I’m sure caught the eye of many others in the congregation.
It has stayed with me since.
It’s an impressive thing to watch, the functioning of the heart and mind of a soldier. It’s unique, and in many ways inspiring.
Memorial Day was this past weekend, and even so I was unsure of whether to share my thoughts on this topic. People feel strongly about patriotic holidays and subject matter, and military references evoke a variety of reactions in all of us. I am not one to be overly concerned with what others say or think, but soldiers are near and dear to my heart, and matters involving them strike a raw chord with my family.
Two things happened to make me pick up a pen:
1) I saw a post on Facebook in which someone made disparaging remarks to those who would thank a soldier over the weekend. He went on to explain that Memorial Day is not about veterans or GIs, it’s about the ones who have been lost, who never made it home. Thanking a these men/women is inappropriate behavior, according to Mr. Opinionated, and he was happy to correct us in this.
Let me go on record to say that thanking a veteran (or active member of the military) is never inappropriate. Period.
2) I am writing the draft of this post in an emergency room, surrounded by the sights and sounds of machines beeping and medical staff coming in and out, as I sit by my unconscious brother. My baby brother, lying in a bed, with a tube down his throat allowing a machine to help him breathe. His arms are strapped down to keep him from tearing at the tubes should he wake up. Every so often he twitches, or grimaces in pain.
I have lost count of the number of times we have sat like this over the past eight years. It’s a way of life for our family. This time didn’t require a helicopter ride…so that’s something.
He’s only 37 years old. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. And Memorial Day is most certainly about him.
Because while he did come home, miraculously, after many deployments and engagements, we did not get him back, not completely. We got him back broken and fragile, with pieces missing or shattered or irrevocably changed. We got back his nightmares and PTSD and brain trauma and horrific scars, both seen and unseen.
The boy that left for boot camp, shiny and new and excited to serve did not come home.
He was lost years ago. We mourn him every Memorial Day, and every time we sit in a hospital surrounded by machines and unanswered questions.
The man who survived, who continues to fight his way back from every single this-could-be-really-bad episode would do it all again….with pride, and without hesitation. We celebrate him every day.
We celebrate the others like him, who come in and out of our lives with stories and nightmares and survival battles of their own.
We mourn with them for the losses of their brothers who never made it home.
We are humbled by their ability to serve with every fiber of their being.
It begs the question, when was the last time we did so?
When was the last time we believed in something enough to sacrifice everything? To create and maintain a lifestyle around turning ourselves into a protector and advocate? To know that it’s worth dying for?
We talk the talk about being soldiers of God, of fighting His battles with Him, of spiritual warfare. Do we walk the walk?
1 Thessalonians 5:8 – But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
There are lessons to be learned from the ideals of the American soldier.
1. Believe in the calling, no matter what
They fight for our freedom, even when it’s not pretty, or easy, or popular. The entire group has but one aim – the protection of America and its people. They don’t argue this point. They don’t debate its validity. They don’t vacillate. The purpose is the point, not the individual. Forge ahead with everything you’ve got, whether anyone sees, or cares, or hears about it. Many won’t understand – do it anyway. There will be blood, sweat and tears – wipe them off and keep going. Cry when you need to. Scream if you have to. Know that it’s worth it, and your part will make a difference.
2. Stay focused
Once the objective is made clear, they move towards it. There is a plan. There is a goal. There is no other agenda. There is no time for rabbit trails or distractions or besides-the-point stress. There is no time for pettiness or in-fighting.
3. Create strong relationships
Ever notice how tight these guys/gals can get? They are a unit, bonded my multiple layers of commitment and experiences. They are aware of the risks, and know that there is a very real chance one or more of them will be lost along the way. They form the relationships anyway. They love fiercely and without limits, forging bonds and brotherhoods that seem disproportionate at times. They don’t let the fear of being hurt or losing a member weaken their attachments or decrease their enthusiasm. They know when the pain of loss comes it will be crushing. They don’t let the anticipation or anxiety of this win over the importance of trust and human connection – the strength of this union may make all the difference in a tight spot.
4. It’s a lifestyle
There’s no such thing as lip service to a battle field. They’re all in. They live, eat, sleep, breathe, read, hear, experience and learn throughout the military experience. Every space points toward growing into the role, training each individual for the part he/she will play in obtaining victory. It’s not put on the shelf when inconvenient.
5. Live, and find your joy
Soldiers, perhaps more than any other, understand the fleeting nature of life. They have an uncanny ability to find laughter in the oddest places, and celebrate at every opportunity (sometimes in rather over-the-top ways). They know their days are numbered, so they grab life by the horns. They embrace their place in the grand scheme, accepting the byproducts to the best of their abilities.
They are human, and imperfect…and that’s okay. They make mistakes, some more costly than others. They can be broken, or derailed, or put out of commission.
It does not diminish them. It does not negate their contribution to the fight. It does not make them less deserving of love, respect, or a place in the pages of history.
What if you and I did Christianity this way?
What if we took the lessons as ideals, and put them into practice? If we treated the battle for true freedom and the redemption of human souls as a life or death issue, instead of a topic to banter about while mouthing platitudes?
What if we served with every fiber of our being, and seized the chance to love our neighbor with ferocity and fervor?
What if no amount of blood, sweat, tears or ridicule could sway us from our goal or distract us from the face of our Father?
Would our lives look different than they do now?
For most of us, the honest answer is yes. So, what are we going to do about it?
Solidarity, sisters. It’s never too late to join the fight.
I am a hamster on a wheel. There’s just so much to do….all the time. And things are always messy and dirty and crazy. The kids need rides and lunches and clean clothes and homework help and instruction…..and more than an occasional hug or kiss. My husband has expectations. My job has expectations. My inner dreamer has expectations and plans. My inner planner has lists and schedules.It’s exhausting. Listening to the voices inside my head and coming from those around me keeps me spinning until I’m dizzy. And then, I feel guilty for being dizzy. If I were stronger, more grounded, more capable, more organized, more….just more, then maybe I wouldn’t even get dizzy. Maybe I could just spin forever and not get tired. Maybe I could hear all the voices at once and multi-task successfully enough to get it all done all the time for all the people.
Or maybe I should just stop.
I’ve been blessed to be a part of an amazing little group on Facebook (shout out to my She Reads Truth peeps), and we’ve been walking through a routine of daily scripture readings. We’re doing them in 15-day increments, and my lovely friend, Nat, asked me to lead this set – which is on the teachings of Jesus as found in the Books of the Gospel.
It was the biggest favor she could have done for me.
Sitting and looking for these readings; picking them out and facilitating our online Bible study (I use that term loosely); looking for new gems in familiar stories; and best of all, spending time in the Word, in quiet time for which I am accountable, has helped me get through my days with renewed peace and energy.
Today’s reading is in Luke 10:38-41, the story of Mary and Martha. Two sisters who had the honor of hosting Jesus in their home. Martha, the ultimate hostess, bustled and cooked and cleaned and served, becoming increasingly irritated at her more organic sister, Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, absorbing every moment, every breath in His glorious presence. In fact, she allows herself to get so worked up that she actually admonishes Jesus for not noticing the discrepancy in their entertaining talents, and then orders Him to “tell her to give me a hand”.
Oh, sister. You forget yourself, honey.
She just got so caught up in her duties and tasks that her irritation overcame everything else, including the joy and significance of this momentous occasion. She actually demanded God notice her work!! Why should the lazy sister get all the attention, after all?
Sound familiar to anyone?
Perhaps I shouldn’t judge too harshly here. I’m starting to feel uncomfortably linked to this tale.
This story was in the forefront of my mind earlier this week, thanks to our fabulous group. So, maybe that’s why my reaction to the opportunity I had required less of a learning curve the other day.
I was bustling around the house, as usual. Kids were off to school, and I had scheduled my first patient later so I would have a couple of hours in the morning to take care of things before heading out. I had the washer going, dishes loaded in the dishwasher, my computer open to e-mails and my to-do list out and ready for tackling. Then Gregg walked in and began talking. He has some stress at work right now and needed a sounding board, which is rare. Even so, I found myself tapping my foot and trying to look interested while re-shifting my mental lists around.
And then came the kicker.
My husband, the capable, solid, rarely-at-a-loss man I love looked me in the eyes and said, “I just really need to know what you think about this, Bec. Because your words are important.”
That got my attention.
So, I stopped.
And I sat.
And I listened…..with 100% of my attention.
This changed the entire course of my day.
Gregg had a really positive reaction to my intentness. So, I decided to apply this principle of being fully PRESENT and IN THE MOMENT; of not being rushed or in a hurry; on putting my focus on the WHO in front of me instead of the WHAT that’s lined up for hours to come….
I listened to music in my car.
I picked up lunch and took it to my mom, stopping to visit with her instead of eating in my vehicle while dashing from errand to errand.
I sat and chatted with Emry and her friends at preschool instead of rushing her out of the door – and learned a lot in that visit. They are strict about coloring in the lines and do not mess around when it comes to playground etiquette.
I sang songs and played 20 Questions on the way home, instead of taking calls.
We had a dear friend over for dinner, which meant lots of talking and laughing and stories.
I fully participated in Game Night, instead of bowing out early or just watching in spurts as I worked on laundry or kitchen duty.
I prayed with Drew at bedtime, and let him facilitate and add on as he saw fit, instead of wrapping him up with an impatient “amen” (he was so overjoyed, he spent three minutes listing the reasons I’m the Best Mom Ever. Be still, my heart).
I ended that day as I had begun it, in the teachings of Jesus.
And you know what?
I went to bed at peace and settled.
When I got up the next day, life was still crazy. Two of the three kids were sick, as was Gregg. The timing of my work schedule was too ambitious for one person. My to-do list was still a mile long. I hadn’t gotten any more sleep than normal.
And I was ok. Things were still as insane as the always are. I was just more balanced.
When Martha temporarily lost her mind and snapped at Jesus, He answered her with the same love and wisdom He showed throughout His life. His words rock me to the core: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Oh, how I know that feeling of worry and upset over many things. There’s always something to worry about. The world is constant in its ability to upset and stress and weigh us down. We can never run fast enough to keep up, can we?
What a relief to know we don’t have to.
He meets us where we are. His example of love and family and relationship shows us just where to focus and helps us discern the right choice.
And once we have Him, once we grasp His grace and love and mercy….it will not be taken away from us.
Solidarity, sisters. There is time to stop and smell the roses, especially when they belong to those we love.
So, as promised, I have put together a follow-up blog complete with photos to prove I truly did venture into the world of wagon decorating to deliver on the Mommy delirium Frozen wagon promise. It actually wasn’t all that traumatic. And the wagon came out pretty cute, too.
I hit Hobby Lobby during its duly-appointed time slot on the grid of insanity that is my schedule. Side note: Did you know that there is an app for this place? And that they always have an online coupon? It’s a good one, too – like 40% off of an item! And their Christmas section is already in full swing and on sale! And that no matter how many people are shopping or waiting in line, they only man two registers at a time. The staff is super nice, though. So, there’s that.
I had allotted 40 minutes to get in, get shopped, and get out. Yes, I am a total rookie. I’ll pause here to give the Hobby Lobby veterans a chance to wipe the tears of mirth from their eyes and collect themselves enough to continue reading. We all good here? Okay.
Realizing my mistake immediately upon seeing the checkout lines, I grabbed a basket, straightened my shoulders and charged ahead at a pace any mall walker would envy. I gave myself a stern talking to about not getting sidetracked by all the aisles of sparkles (there is so much to look at, and all of it shiny or poofy or patterned), choosing to listen instead to the repeating voice of Steph’s advice. “Don’t get fancy, sister”, she admonished, “just slap some glitter on that business and be done with it.” Roger that. Glitter is a go. It’s nice to have friends that understand our limitations without making us feel bad about them.
I quickly decided that this was not the time to get in over my head and try to create a masterpiece on the fly. My solution was direct – I headed straight for the Christmas department and raced up and down the aisles, grabbing everything that was white, silver or sparkly blue. I snagged three different types of snowflake ornaments, two packages of fake snowballs and some tinsel. I blasted my way through the feather boas and quilt/toy stuffing. I accosted HL staffers for help with glittery spray paint and spray adhesive. I re-accosted another staffer for help with the tiaras (apparently, they are quite concerned with the likelihood that rampaging brides will steal $12.99 tiaras right out of the wedding zone, thus placing them in a locked case…like they are the most valuable thing in the store). I fidgeted my way through the checkout line wait, downloading of the magical coupon app and excited questioning of the very enthusiastic cashier. I headed out the double doors, arms loaded down with $68 of supplies and a determination to decorate a wagon to be proud of if it killed me.
Naturally, I called for reinforcements that evening, bribing Pledge Ashley with promises of dinner. I already had the wagon washed and prepped for glitter paint when she arrived, and we sprayed that puppy down with vigor. Once it dried, we filled it with stuffing to approximate snow and then got to work picking out snowflakes. Sweet Friend looked at me all wide-eyed and asked, “Where’s your glue gun?’ Seriously? I stood blinking at her for about 30 seconds, until she threw her hands up in exasperation, exclaiming, “How do you expect to craft without a glue gun?”
First of all, I never actually “expect to craft”. Ever.
Second, since when is “craft” a verb?
You’ll be quite impressed (or horrified) to know that we did indeed secure four beautiful snowflakes to the wagon using Kinesiotape – it’s that colorful stuff you see on marathon runners and Olympians. I use it all the time as a PT….and I happen to have it in blue. I knew we needed something that could stick to a plastic surface covered in glitter paint. Booyah!
Emry’s reaction was priceless. Her excitement and wonder and appreciation were beyond anything I deserved. We put a singing Olaf as the passenger, dressed her in her Elsa costume and tiara and headed to the parade of a lifetime.
Look at that smile! Best outcome ever!
The picture doesn’t do the amount of sparkle justice. I’ll be cleaning glitter out of my car for months. Just as I started to wonder if we had overdone things a little, we got to school, unloaded and made our way to the classroom. The oohs and aahs over her outfit and crown and braid were adorable. I headed to the gym to drop off the wagon, and was so very grateful for the crafting effort put into her little float. These wagons were incredible. They were colorful and creative and impressively themed. In the corner of the gymnasium was a mother/grandmother team with a glue gun (apparently a common tool), building a mast onto a pirate ship wagon. I kid you not. It was epic. And a bit scary. My glitter paint didn’t seem so out of control at that point.
The “parade” was just as precious as we expected it to be. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and teachers stood in the parking lot clapping and smiling and taking pictures while patriotic music blared from the lone speaker and our little darlings marched around the designated route. Emry was so proud, waving and smiling as she marched by pulling her creation and occasionally shouting orders to the easily distracted little boy in front of her. Those sweet little showmen walked around the assigned circular path no less than 137 times. I am not even kidding. I guess the school figured since we had put so much effort into the wagons, we would enjoy watching them go by over and over and over and over……
I’m not ashamed to say I shed a few tears as I watched. She looked so grown up and pleased with herself. Her face lit up every time she went by and saw us waving. Her wagon, her dress, her hair….all were exclaimed over and complimented the entire morning. When the parade was over, my little ice princess ran full tilt towards me, leaping into my arms and wrapping herself around me with abandon. She hugged me tight, whispering in my ear, “Thank you, Mommy”.
Oh, my heart. Talk about a moment to freeze in my memory forever.
Who knew stepping outside of myself, of my comfort zone and preferences could be so rewarding?
I may even buy a glue gun….
Solidarity, sisters. Life is art.
So, I’m having guilt and some self-imposed stress because I made a deal with myself to blog more often, and I am failing miserably at this so far. Thus, I decided today to share with you my journal entry from this morning. Yes, I still manage to journal most mornings in spite of my insanity. And, yes, I am opening those thoughts up to you, my friends. It’s getting real up in here. Ready? Ok!
Yesterday was both rough and refreshing, which is odd to say, as I struggled through the day trying to survive on two hours of sleep following a night up with vomiting Emry. She’s such a little trooper, she really is. Through all the dry heaving and puking she never cried once. Just got a bit fussy. And basically, all I did was hold her….all day. I did work a bit – scheduling, supervising, checking e-mail…but mostly, I held her.
I’m not good at that often enough.
She was in Heaven. She excitedly told everyone we spoke to (because we had to phone all grandparents or speak when they called and spread the news that Princess was sick) that she was skipping school to stay home. Each person asked some variation of the question, “Is Mommy staying home with you?”. To which she would proudly reply, “It’s just me and her!” It was like rays of sun and rainbows and tangible joy pouring out of her. Talk about uplifting…and humbling. I know I could never do anything, be anything good enough to ever merit this kind of status and adoration from such an incredible little miracle. What a gift.
The icing on her cake was the arrival of her Elsa dress. She completely flipped out when we opened it. And she looked like a dream when she put it on. I got so enamored with the intense Day of Mommyhood and cuddles and her contagious excitement and twirling and posing and playing that I completely lost all sense of reality and somehow promised to create a Frozen themed wagon for her preschool parade.
Heaven help me.
I have lost my ever-loving, can’t-craft-to-save-my-life mind. What was I thinking? It’s like I shifted into a parallel universe for the day. I even built a break into my schedule for today so I can go to Hobby Lobby for supplies. What?!?!
As I started to panic a little, getting overwhelmed by the insanity of my schedule and length of my to-do lists (because my stuff doesn’t fit on only one list….and I have issues with losing lists), the little voice in my head went all retro on me and started singing “Have a Little Talk With Jesus”. I tried singing it to Gregg, which was challenging because the male and female vocal parts overlap, as do the lines – so one person can’t do it justice. Oh well, it’s in my head now. And it made Gregg laugh and shake his head over the soundtracks in my head.
Then I pulled this verse: John 15:17 – This is my command: Love each other.
If I do nothing else today (I mean, I’ll do tons today….so let’s say if I do nothing else well), doing this…showing love to others….that is a great accomplishment.
So: Patients, here I come. Meetings, here I come. Errands, here I come.
Carpool, here I come. Hobby Lobby, here I come (yikes).
It’s another day in the life.
And I love it.”
There it is, my loves. My morning musings, without polish or premise. They’re a bit discombobulated, but it was early and I was only halfway through my first cup of coffee.
I’ll follow up with my Hobby Lobby adventure and final wagon result soon. Just know that this will involve glitter.
Solidarity, sisters. Every day is an accomplishment.
Summer is over! Well, I mean, summer vacation is over. I realize the official first day of Fall is several weeks away, and that here in South Texas we are still in for ridiculous extremes of heat until Thanksgiving. Still, school has started (Praise!), so we can pretend.
The Friday before school started here, I actually had a pretty open day (shocking, I know), so I did what I always end up doing on a day that isn’t too scheduled – I planned to do all kinds of organizing and starting-the-new-school-year-off-right projects. Almost simultaneously as the project planning began, I promptly threw such ambitions out the window (not so shocking) in order to hold a brief (well, it was supposed to be brief) church event planning meeting, do one of the Girls a solid and watch her kids for a bit, and put together an end-of-summer river day for my boys and some of their friends. I just can’t help myself. It’s like a compulsion. And then I wonder why my house is a disaster, my to-do list never shortens and I can’t ever pull off Pinterest-worthy anything. I’m never bored, though, so there’s that.
At some point that Friday, I had 13 children go through my care. I know. I am ridiculous.
It all started with my three kids, of course….and one of my nieces was in town….and the sweet lady from church who came over to meet had her two grandkids….and Steph needed help with two of hers, one of whom is her sweet, adorable, tornado of a son, Aaron (who should probably count as three kids, but I did only count him as one – some of you may know him from the I’ll Be Second blog)…..then Mel’s son came over to hang with Luke and play until Luke’s buddy and his brother came over (because the brother and Mel’s son are BFFs)……Drew’s two friends entered the picture later. It was chaos, complete and utter chaos. There were kids everywhere – running, jumping, coming in and out, getting snacks, asking for water…. Aaron was supposed to have OT that morning, and since his OT and I are friends and co-workers, she braved the nonsense to get in a therapy visit. Brave girl. And he actually did very well, considering the chaos. I was quite impressed with him and his ability to maintain his composure without getting too overstimulated or agitated with all the noise and distractions. He did lose it briefly after his session, though, expressing his displeasure via the clear I-am-done-with-this act of beaming Emry in the face with a cucumber. I am not even kidding. I think we’ve established that I can’t make this stuff up. He also single-handedly demolished all order in my kitchen in a matter of 45 seconds or less, which is how he snagged the cucumber and got a shot off before I could catch him. It was epic. Points for style, coordination and comedic timing. I could barely control my laughter as I attempted to corral/console/admonish.
Luckily for Steph’s precious hubby, I am married to his soul mate, so I barely batted an eye when he showed up to get kids two hours late. I finished cleaning peanut butter off the blinds (don’t ask), threatened and loaded kids and dog into the suburban, then headed out to get the first of Drew’s friends to join us. Hypothetically speaking, we may or may not have been a tad overcrowded in the suburban, and Luke may or may not have ridden in the back with the dog, under strict orders to lie down and not get Mom pulled over. Maybe. In theory. Regardless, we made it in one piece, and I had Drew’s other buddy meet us there so as not to endanger anyone (else) with overcrowding. If that was indeed the case.
Here’s the crew that survived the ride.
Don’t count them. Just trust me.
From this point on, the party started for real. I don’t know that I can adequately describe the intensity of swimming, fishing, wrestling, kayaking, turtle hunting, hot dog eating, laughing, cavorting, treasure-diving craziness that ensued. They had a BLAST!! And you know what? So did I.
I was the only adult in the mix. They were my only guests. So, my focus was different than it usually is when we have tons of people out there or I am visiting with friends. My sole purpose that day was to give them an amazing send-off out of summer. I had a more intense period of one-on-one Emry time than usual. She is hilarious! I mean, I knew that, but got to see it up close and for longer than a few minutes at a time. We held hands and walked into the rapids….suddenly, she stopped, tugged on my hand, and exclaimed in a loud voice, filled with joy, “Oh! I just LOVE the water, Mommy!” She was literally beaming from the inside out. At one point, she was wearing her pink life jacket and purple goggles that were on crooked and smushed her ears into weird shapes. She stood, poised to leap into the rapids and shoot by me so I could catch her as she roared past (one of her favorite games). Her pre-jump proclamation was, “Get ready, Mommy! I’m gonna swim to you. I’m gonna swim to you, like an angel!” (fist pump to emphasize).
In that moment, my heart just soared.
Bliss is the word that resonated through my very bones.
I looked down the river to the boys yelling and laughing and splashing, and an amazing peace washed over me.
I listened to their plans to catch the ultimate turtle, and their promise he would be mine to keep and name…..and I felt so very blessed.
I laughed and I swam and I got a good dunk or two in during the wrestling matches.
I fed them hot dogs, and didn’t worry about whether they were organic.
I let them eat Cheetos and Oreos and drink CapriSuns without checking sugar content.
I cut up a watermelon and let them eat it in the river.
I let the bigger boys stay in the water to fish and play Marco Polo as the sun went down.
I let go – of expectations and worries and should-have-done’s and perfection-seeking, list-making neuroses.
It was sublime.
It was amazing.
It was the perfect end to summer.
And if Paradise includes curly-haired angels with flowered swim suits and mis-sized purple goggles…….
I’m all in.
We threw the turtle back, though. I draw the line at Salmonella.
Solidarity, sisters. I can tell you my love for you will still be strong, after the boys of summer have gone (Come on, 80’s music fans!)
The week before last was a really rough week. I mean, knock me on my butt and reduce me to crawling through its last two days rough. Nothing tragic happened, at least not to me and my immediate family. We managed to avoid emergency situations, for the most part. Everyone is well except for some allergy situations here and there. I think I just ran out of steam. You know how that happens sometimes? You just run out of gas before you make it to the week’s end, so everything seems harder. That was me that week. I confess my fallibility to you all.
Of course, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning if there weren’t a few calamities. So I’ll share.
Monday: Monday evening was one of those rare times when the women in our family got to do something together. I was joined by my mother, mother-in-law, sister and niece (who is visiting from Virginia Beach for the first time in three years…we are thrilled!) for some girl time, and we had a ball all together at a (wait for it) jewelry-making craft night. I know! Me…at a craft night! And still, no Armageddon. Who knew? On the way home, we noticed a rather horrible sound coming from under the car. It basically sounded like I was dragging a robot down the highway. I’ll just throw it out there: this is not a good sound coming from any vehicle. Looking back on it, this may have been a mini-Armageddon result of my presence in the craft universe….. The general consensus was that the sound probably had something to do with my brakes, and since those are a rather necessary component of safe driving, we would need to get them looked at tout de suite. Fabulous.
Tuesday: So, Tuesday had the added chaos of trying to get my car to the shop, juggling schedules and drivers to do so. Which meant, beyond the inconvenience and stress of that venture (why does car stuff always create such tension?), I got to drive The Bus. Let’s pause for a moment here for a full description, lest I deprive you of a full mental picture. The Bus is the name for our (and by “our” I mean my husband’s) hunting/fishing vehicle. It is a 1997 Chevy Suburban with a trailer hitch/tow package, windows that may or may not work, a door handle that opens when it feels like it (other times, it requires praying for the afore-mentioned window to open so you can roll it down to open the door from the outside) and a 3rd row that has been removed to make more room for fishing gear, rifles, air soft guns, bows, kayak paddles, life jackets, ammunition, the dog, ropes, bungee cords and any other spare guy paraphernalia he could ever hope to need. In the event there ever is a zombie apocalypse, this is the escape vehicle we need to run for. As long as the zombies can’t run too fast (it sometimes has acceleration issues). Or work a door handle, since the doors don’t actually lock……
In addition to all of this loveliness, this car is filthy. It is full of dirt and dust and old peanuts and dog hair. So, naturally, it smells like dog….and fish….and boys. Driving it always puts me in a less-than-fabulous mood. This morning was no exception. Especially since it was a home health day, meaning lots of car time. And it’s August….in South Texas…..and the air conditioning went out. And to further improve my mood, Gregg calls out, “Oh, hey, babe….while you’re out today, it would be a good idea if you could find a few minutes to run by the DMV. The license tags expired in April….of 2012. And the inspection is out, too. I’d hate for you to get a ticket.” Would you, now? Would you hate that, honey?
Frazzled and frustrated, contemplating my ridiculously full day and muttering dire threats under my breath at the result should I get pulled over, I made my way into the car, loaded all of my therapy gear, tablets, paperwork and drinks and drove out of the driveway. I stopped at the light at the entrance of our neighborhood and my water and energy drinks both promptly flipped out of the wrong-sized cup holder, spraying the entire contents of my front seat and floor board with liquid. I immediately did what any self-respecting professional grown woman would do in my shoes and burst into tears. It was only 8:15am. The rest of the day pretty much followed suite, seeing as how I was driving around in 100+ degree weather with no air conditioning.
Wednesday: The car was still in the shop. My brake pads were totally worn down and some other jargon about something undercarriage, blah, blah… Translated – drive The Bus some more and spend lots of money on car repairs to get my car back. Great. It was also my last day at the outpatient clinic in San Antonio, which meant tons of paperwork, wrap up all loose ends, say goodbye to a staff I adore and patients I love and load up my entire office into the car on my lunch break. Do you have any idea how heavy medical reference books are? I worked a nine hour day, then sat in I-35 traffic (again without air conditioning) watching the thermometer on the car read 105. I began to seriously contemplate a move to Montana at this point. I looked almost as good as I smelled by the time I got home to greet the house full of people there, since it was our church small group night. You know you are disgusting when even your dearest friends wipe their hands off after patting you on the back.
Please know that I am well aware that I am venting, and that none of this is truly tragic. My kids are healthy and well fed, our home is safe and comfortable, our loved ones are fine, we both have jobs, we live in an amazing time and country……I know these things. I even know what a blessing it is to have another vehicle to drive when one breaks down. I’m not that clueless or spoiled. Sometimes, it’s just really hard to pull it together and find that focus when walking through the beat down. Until, something gives you perspective in a new and refreshing way.
Enter Thursday: I got my car back!! I have never been so grateful for working windows and doors that lock and cup holders that actually hold cups and air conditioner and vanilla-scented fabulousness. Even the consult with the oral surgeon to talk about pulling two of Luke’s teeth which turned into a decision to pull two teeth and cut out four wisdom teeth, increasing cost and recovery exponentially (and making me start praying immediately, since he is so incredibly sensitive to sedation…..no matter what they give him, it’s the Excorcist vomiting extravaganza in our house after any procedure) was less daunting.
Friday: Was busy, at least at first, since I had to cram in more patients and a couple of meetings, then race to gather things for river time with yet more visiting cousins. As much as I love having family here, and as thrilled as we are to have nieces and nephews to spoil and play with….it’s been non-stop. We have been on hyper-tourism and playtime schedule for about a month, and the exhaustion factor is getting to be a big one. My kids are so off schedule and off-kilter, they don’t know if they are coming or going. Gregg took them to the river so I could make my last meeting and grab the food we would grill that night. I had promised to pick up one of Drew’s friends who had invited him for a sleep over, so made that quick stop on the way. I climbed into the car after chatting with his mom and we were off.
A side note about this little man – he is truly one of my favorite people on earth. We’ll call him G, and I would do this story a disservice if I didn’t take a brief moment to describe him. G is a blond, blue-eyed cherub of a seven-year-old who is full of enthusiasm and joy. Everyone is his best friend! Every day is the best day ever! Any time I cook or prepare food when he is around, it’s his favorite! You get the picture. He also has this amazing way of enunciating everything he says and speaking in a sort of booming voice, so when he’s with us, I always feel like he’s about to burst into the Gettysburg Address or quote from a State of the Union speech. Some day, this kid’s got to run for office. Added to that, you never know what he’s going to say, which I love, since I often never know what I’m going to say until it starts to come out. See why he’s my favorite?
So, G and I are in the car and he starts talking immediately (of course), opening with, “Have you heard of Yellowstone?”
Me: As in the park?
G: Yes! That’s the one!
Me: Yes, I have heard of that.
G: Guess what? We’re going camping there next summer!
Me: How cool!
G: Yep! And we’ve started watching DVDs to study about it. Guess what? You can NOT feed the wildlife. I mean, not at all. You have to be very careful and not mess with the animals there.
Me: I see (thinking to myself that his parents are geniuses. Knowing what I do of him, they probably need to spend a year drilling Yellowstone safety into his head).
G: There was this guy who ran into some bears, and he got so scared, he just kneeled down. Right there in front of them! He couldn’t even run!
Me: Did that help?
G: Nope. They attacked him anyway.
Me: Oh my. I guess bears don’t respond to genuflecting?
G: Uh-huh. And, you know what else? There was this older gentleman, and he walked right over to this tree where there was a bison grazing….you know what a bison is, right?
Me: Yes, I do.
G: Okay, good. Well, anyhow, he got too close, and this bison….it just jumped right on him!
Me: The bison jumped on the man? (starting to get a clear mental image)
G: Yep! It jumped right on him!
Me: Well, now there’s a bad day, huh?
G: It sure is!
Me: Things did not go well for him.
G: No, they did not (in his politician’s voice)
At this point, I almost ran the car off the road. I started off giggling, then quickly escalated into full scale laughter, complete with tears. I honestly don’t know what was funnier – the mental image of a huge bison jumping onto some hapless elderly gentleman (picture Jack Lemmon in Grumpy Old Men and that trampoline-jumping bison from YouTube), G’s enthusiasm and hand gestures while telling the story, or his solemn assessment of the situation in his Senator’s voice. Then, he looked so puzzled at my inability to pull it together and control my laughter.
I now have a new standard. From this point forward, any time someone around me (or someone who is me) declares they are having the worst day ever or complains to excess about how rough a day is, I believe my response will be, “Really? Did a bison jump on you today?”
Because that would be a bad day.
Solidarity, sisters. It’s all about perspective.