Thursday, February 8, 2018

Milkshake, Anyone?

I have a beautiful brand-new kitchen (4 years old) and it is my favorite place in the house. It's bright, warm, functional, and colorful. I try to be generous with my kitchen; I let other people use it and mess it up. But truthfully, I do think of it as MY kitchen. Perhaps that's wrong of me. Maybe I'll explore that someday. Probably not. So, as I think of it as my space, I do have some standing requests of others when they use it. Like, when you spill on the counter, clean-up is easiest immediately following the spill. It takes a lot more effort to clean off dried up, turned-into-cement gunk than it does to wipe up right away. If I had a nickel for everytime....Broken record, anyone?

A milkshake was made last night. Drips were dropped on the counter. They were left there overnight. I'm not naming any names. This is a perfect example of something that would be nothing to wipe up when it happened, but instead takes actual elbow grease this morning. It's good to keep my muscles working. There was one kinda big blob that didn't want to leave the counter, so rather than fight with it, I put a damp paper towel on it and walked away. When I came back 30 minutes later, it was rehydrated and came up easy-peasy.

Listen, drips happen. The only way to be guaranteed drip-free is to be milkshake-free, and nobody wants that. Do we recognize that after the drips, we have choices about how to deal with them? Do we choose immediate attention, deferred attention and then full-on wrestling, or softening and waiting?

We make choices all the time. I like to choose on purpose. The first step is to recognize that I am in fact, making a choice, then pick the one I really want. Milkshakes for everyone!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Keep Bending

Yesterday (or maybe Sunday, depending on who you want to believe on the internet) was National Puzzle Day. I wish I had known beforehand. I would have celebrated. Over Christmas break, our family did a jigsaw puzzle. That's a very generous description of what happened. The puzzle was laid out on one end of the kitchen table. It was available at all times for the whole family. And I think everyone who entered our house found the right place for a piece or few. But the truth is, jigsaw puzzles are actually only fun for me. The rest of the family tolerates them. This year I ambitiously chose a 1,500 piece puzzle. Almost bit off more than I could chew, and by the time we were finished, I didn't even like it anymore. But since I spent so much time ruminating over that puzzle, I did have some thoughts that I'll share.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post that still rings true. (Thankfully, I am not still where I was when all of those were written. God is good, and He helps us grow.) The post was about a phrase I use often, and found myself uttering repeatedly as I pored over that infernal puzzle, searching for a particular piece. "Sometimes you have to bend." I did so much bending, my back ached. But bending is required when you really want to find something. That was the point of my original post; that what we are looking for doesn't always appear before us--sometimes we need to do a little digging.

One of the beauties of a brand-new jigsaw puzzle is that all of the pieces ARE there. They don't vaporize, they don't disappear. If you keep looking, you'll find all of the pieces and they'll fit together perfectly. (Having cats in the house can present an extra challenge, as pieces do get relocated.) There is comfort in knowing that each piece is right there somewhere, and it will all come together. There is also frustration, when you know it should be doable, but you just can't make it work. And I guess that's my point today. The frustration can't win. In order to complete a puzzle--even an infernal one--I have to keep bending. Bend right through the aching, or try looking from a different angle. I have to hold on to the belief that what I'm looking for IS there.

I am waiting for answers and direction. Bending might look like taking a few steps forward in one direction. It can look like embarking on a new path. I might need to move so I can look from a different perspective. Bending might look like studying Scripture. It might look like surrendering my will. Whatever bending might mean to you today, may you hold on to the belief that what you are looking for IS there, and keep searching.

And here's some belated National Puzzle Day encouragement from the Bible, "Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."(Proverbs 1:5-7 NLT)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lessons in the Car

Waiting is hard. Why? What's the big deal?

I was going to meet a friend this morning, either at her doctor's office or at a restaurant, depending on where she was after I completed my other obligations. The plan was that she'd text me and let me know when her appointment was complete. If it went quickly, we'd celebrate at breakfast. If it was long, I'd be a friendly face waiting for her when she got out. So at 7:33, I'm in the school parking lot, wondering which way I should go as I exit. Do I head south towards her doctor's office? Do I go north in the direction of possible breakfast joints? Do I go westward home and wait for word? Do I pull over, stay put for a minute or two, until I hear from my friend? "Aghh, I don't want to sit still and wait. I'll go towards the doctor's office," I tell myself. "I haven't heard from her, so that's probably where she still is." And of course, at 7:35, just barely into my journey south, but no way to turn around; I'm committed. I get a text from her, let's go north to breakfast. It all worked out fine, of course. But she did have to wait 10 minutes or so for me, and the whole point of meeting her in the first place was to provide moral support for this kind of anxious appointment, and now I've just added annoyance to her day. And I put myself in a position where I was looking at my phone while driving.

What is it that makes sitting still and waiting so hard? If I'd waited two minutes, I would have saved gas, been safer, and shown up on time! Yes, I am overthinking this particular situation, but there is a lesson here. "I feel a blog post coming on," I told myself in the car. I haven't written anything on here for four years. There's probably a lesson there, too, but meh. I can relate to David and his Psalms, because he too, had a tendency to overthink.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (Psalms 27:11-14 NLT)

I wanted to be in motion this morning. Being on the move, even if it's in the wrong direction, somehow feels better or more productive than waiting. What a lie! I fell for it. The "enemy" in this case was in my own head. The wise choice this morning would have been to wait. Hold still. I notice that when I do wait, I'm not very patient about it. I fuss and complain, I worry and wring my hands. There are good things available to me when I wait. Not the least of which is clarity about the best way to go when the time is right for going. God has things to show me, and if I'm always in motion--my whole car or just my mouth--I will miss out.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Green Thumb? Not me....

When Luke was in kindergarten, he had the most wonderful teacher's assistant. She told Luke her favorite flower was Lupine, and he wanted to try to plant some. We mentioned it to our neighbor across the street, who had some lupine growing, and that Fall, he gave us some seeds from that plant. We held on to them until the next Spring, and then planted them in a big pot, so that we could nurture the seedling, watch its progress, and not lose track of it in our big bed of mostly weeds. The plan was to eventually transfer the plant, once it grew strong enough, into the larger bed. It never got strong or big. We had saved some of the seeds, so the next year, we did the same thing, and had about the same experience, though I did go ahead and transfer the tiny thing, thinking maybe the pot just wasn't a happy place. Alas, we never got any lupine, and I added it to my list of many plant failures. That was 5 or 6 years ago. Luke just finished 8th grade.

So years later, lupine experiments long forgotten, look at what happened this Spring. Do you see that picture? That is LUPINE! It's growing up in our weedy bed, it's big, and flowering, which means it'll be making seeds for more lupine next year. It did this with no help or nurturing from us.

I blog for a few reasons:
⋄I want to record sightings of God's activity in my life, and share these with others.
⋄When I'm looking for God's activity, I'm more likely to see it, and so around and round we go.
⋄It gives me a bit of discipline in my writing ways.

I see God's activity in this lupine. It's amazing. I'm sharing it on this blog, and you can "make of it what you will."

I'm going back to James, who wrote, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4 The Message) I am in a difficult season, there are tests and challenges, and my first instinct is not to see it as a gift. But the growth IS happening. Our surprise lupine is proof! Of course, we always get weeds that grow mightily without our care, we know all plants don't need attention to grow. But I want to be growing the good stuff in my heart. Here is something in the plant world that I started long ago, but gave up and forgot all about. So is there something like that in me? God can do the nurturing and tending, and bring up something beautiful and fruitful. That is the gift.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sneaky Weeds

A gardening wizard, I am not. I do however, seem to be a master at cultivating thistles. I was out attacking them yesterday, and noticed something interesting. Weeds are very sneaky things. They are chameleon-like. They hide themselves among the wanted plants, and even though they were all thistles, they seemed to be able to make themselves blend in with their neighbors. If they've snuck in with the short little flowery things (no idea what they are), they stay low with broad stems and spread-out leaves. If they're in among the tall, wispy anemones (ok, I know one thing), they grow up with a skinny stem, and flimsy leaves. Regardless of the look they happen to be sporting, they all have prickly, poky thorns that make getting rid of them a painful job. I was amazed by this. I thought a patch would be completely thistle-free, and then, upon closer inspection, find a couple more trying to pass themselves off as something I want.

Jesus told a few parables about seeds and weeds. My thistles reminded me of the farmer throwing seed on the different kinds of soil. Jesus said the seeds that fell in among the thorns eventually were choked out, and the weeds took over. As He later explained the parable to His disciples, He said, "The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced." (Matthew 13:22 NLT) I've been aware of the crowding and noisiness of the weeds in my life. What struck me yesterday is how the weeds can be deceiving, and can make themselves look (or hear, as Jesus explains) like something acceptable. Closer inspection--viewer discretion advised!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Last night, Lily and I dug up all of my old journals. She's dying to read them. There's 21 of them, and I have no idea what all is in there. May not be, probably definitely not, age appropriate. So I told her she can read them when she's the same age I was when I wrote them.

Kind of funny just glancing through them. I have the ones where I was experimenting with colored pencils and drawing... I have always loved a good stationery store, and fine pens. You can see that in the old journals, the phases of loving to write in green ink, the ink cartridge and calligraphy-tipped pen, the super-fine pink felt-tip pen.

In keeping with looking for joy in struggles--looking for joy in growth that comes from struggles--I do believe there has been growth over the years. There is evidence in my journals. I am not where I was in 1986, 1993, or even 2012. Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Show Me the Way

The computer desk is dusty. Papers from months ago are stacked and there are cobwebs hanging around the bookshelf above. I haven't sat down here in ages. I'm waiting for inspiration, for God to give me something to write. But I've not been waiting well. I believe there is such a thing as waiting well. Opening your heart, listening, looking for direction, these are actions that go with good waiting. That hasn't been my MO lately. Don't misunderstand, I haven't been running around. I've been here, but I have filled my head (and so my heart) with noise. I've busied my fingers with my phone and ipad, filled my ears with television and radio.

In a way, I've been daring God to show me how He wants to use me in this chapter of my life. I go through an ugly cycle of not wanting to hear, afraid He might want too much of me; feeling guilty about that; then wanting to hear; pleading; getting frustrated that answers don't come instantly, that there isn't a giant arrow pointing me the way; and even getting angry; and so, not wanting to hear. Back to the beginning.

Today, I don't know what is next. I feel a bit stuck, still wrestling with my dad's death. The sadness is hanging over me, and I know there is more sadness to come. Then I remember that verse in James 1, "when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." Ugh. How?! I can get hung up on the joy thing in verse 2, thinking I must somehow manufacture joy, be happy that I'm in a struggle. The key is in the next verse. It saves me. Verse 3 says, "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow." Rather than focusing on making joy, I want to try to pay attention to growth. Growth brings joy.

Here we are, Spring is springing everywhere today in the Chicago area as we enjoy our third or fourth day of sunshine and temperatures above 60. It's glorious, and things that have been growing are actually blooming. I don't know that I'm quite blooming, but a lot of growth happened with my daffodils before they opened up this weekend. And there's more growth (and blooming!) still to come with the late Spring flowers. So perhaps I am growing, coming up out of the dirt, still fighting to get through the old leaves from last year.

In the past when I've asked God to show me what He wants me to do, or where He wants me to go, I've asked Him to open doors for me, show me the way. And He did, I remember His clear answers when I was trying to figure out where to go to college, when I was searching for jobs post-college, and when we were looking for a church family to join. The other day, I had a thought that while I'm waiting I should go ahead and take some small steps forward, in one direction or another, and ask God to close doors that are not where He wants to use me. This is not the same as sitting and waiting for Him to just lay a path before me. Maybe this is waiting well? I am actively moving now, asking for redirection, rather than expecting a wide open, well-marked, full-of-signage path. As it says in Proverbs: "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."

I think I'll start by tidying up this desk.