Monday, April 30, 2018

Solitaire Observations

I play Solitaire on my iPad when I have time to kill. There is something soothing about just barely touching the cards and seeing them fly to their new address on the screen. At the risk of being too introspective, I'm sharing a couple of things that have occurred to me while playing this silly game.

I usually play the Hard level, and my tablet reminds me that "not all Hard games are winnable". It's an interesting choice to have to make. If I'm playing a Medium game and I lose, then I definitely did something wrong, because they are always winnable. One can replay a game over and over until it's a win. I can learn how to beat the computer. If I paly a Hard game and don't win, I can believe it just couldn't be won. What kind of game would you play?

I've learned in my gazillions of games that sometimes the winning strategy is to not always play everything you can play the first time it's presented to you. Sometimes waiting will actually allow for more possibilities to be uncovered, leading to the win. Good things, the "right" things may be in front of you, available. But the best time to play that card may not be now. What good things are in front of you today? When is the best time to play that card?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Prodigal Luggage

We returned Friday from a quick Spring Break trip to see my mom in Arizona. My bag had an extended vacation and finally returned home just after midnight last night, so technically, Tuesday. I've never had this happen before. Do we all kind of wonder while watching the bags go around on the carousel if it will be our turn to have lost luggage? This time was my time.

It shocks me to find so many emotions attached to my stuff. It is just stuff, after all. But as the days crawled by and still no word about my bag, I began to inventory in my mind what I had in it. A favorite pair of sandals that were bought on clearance at least 3 years ago. Worth nothing monetarily speaking, but irreplaceable. My whole skin care regimen, worth a ton surprisingly, and a hassle to replace. And since I went 3 days without it, I shall now be wrinkled and blemished forever. Just stuff that I can make jokes about now, but I was actually a little distraught during the time of waiting. That is not who I want to be.

My bag has a story, one that I'll never know. I have bits of information. The gal at the Central Baggage Office at O'Hare told me that it was found in Phoenix; the paper sticker tag from the airline had fallen off (how does that happen?) and that fortunately, since I had a big protected plastic tag of my own attached to it, they contacted every airline until they found the one we had flown on to figure out where it should go. But when the uber driver (really.) knocked on our door just after midnight (really.) and gave us the bag, the plastic tag was not on it. There's just a paper tag attached to the handle that says "Julie Dahlberg, Wildwood, IL" with no other information. Everything seems to be in the bag, just as I packed it, so I believe that the fancy tag is how my bag got back to me, but where's that tag? Why would someone take that? Where, what, who, why??? I just won't know.

I am grateful to have my suitcase returned, unharmed. All is right again, and there are many lessons to be learned. I'm sitting right now with the idea that there's a story, and there always is one. My bag would've had a story even if it had been on the carousel for me. We have stories. We carry them with us and they mark us. All the people we encounter have stories. Some we may get to know, some maybe never. Obviously, I have work to do if a suitcase full of missing belongings can leave me distraught. I want to try to hold loosely the stuff, and be sensitive to the stories, whether they are shared with me or not.

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!