Inch Forward, Back Up

photo-1500589177368-c810ea3db799.jpgI turned on my left blinker and waited at the busy intersection for my light to turn. I could proceed with caution on a yellow arrow. I inched forward, but before I began to turn, I noticed a problem. The lane I needed to turn into had a car in it. And the car was facing the wrong direction. It was waiting for a light, too, but it was in the wrong lane.

I had the arrow, and it was my turn to go through the intersection, but I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t get around the misplaced car because of the curbs, and I wasn’t sure if the person was aware she was in the wrong. I no longer had the option to go straight. I was committed to go in a direction I could not access.

As I quickly considered my options, the misplaced driver realized she was in the wrong lane. She began to back up, while another car began to merge then paused. I pulled into the lane as the other car backed up. It was a puzzle we had to untangle. I was at least out of the way, and it wasn’t long before everyone was repositioned in the correct lanes and directions.

Everyone had been paying enough attention that there was no emergency, no accidents. We all seemed fairly patient and smiled and waved to each other in appreciation and courtesy. No one lost their temper.

We often don’t like people to get in our way. We want to go where we want to go and we don’t want to be inconvenienced. When people don’t do what we expect them to do, we often get annoyed. We quickly forget the times our own mistakes and bad decisions have impacted others.

Someone will get in your way today. And you’ll get into someone’s way.

Pay attention. Be patient. Be willing to back up or wait. Be willing to admit you’re wrong. Be flexible and considerate.

A Day

photo-1503876466-1fc5143eda57There was a spring in my step as I moved through the first day of the year.

It was a quiet but busy day. I got many things done at home but also went out and about for a bit. I enjoyed several interactions throughout the day. I helped both my daughters with little questions and challenges. I shared coupons with strangers at a store where I couldn’t find anything but thought perhaps someone else could get a good deal. I had the opportunity to encourage and thank a Target employee who had helped me several weeks before. I got to be patient with a grumpy person. I sang worship songs loudly at home as I sewed a quilt.

I got to live life.

Yes, that’s an opportunity each of us get every day, but how do we embrace it? How often do we fall into our routines or settle into our selfishness and neglect people around us or fail to notice the chances we get to fully live with joy, generosity, and compassion? What are we missing, and how are we contributing to what others are missing?

We can’t do it all, but we can engage more than we do. We can be more grateful. We can be more giving. We can live more fully.

Why waste the short time we have on earth? I know it seems like the time drags on at times. Hard times seem to be the longest. Every minute doesn’t seem to be equal in its duration and quality. But no minute is worthless. No moment should be squandered.

God purposefully gave you today. It’s up to you what you’ll do with it.

Movie Day

capture1I planned a movie day. Actually, it was a day filled with a variety of things I wanted to get done before a busy season of work began, but it wasn’t all “must do” tasks. It included “soak” tasks – a few things I wanted to do to simply enjoy life.

One of those tasks was to see Mary Poppins Returns. I like the original, I like musicals, and I like the cast of this movie. I don’t go to the movie theater often, but it’s a treat, which nearly always includes buttered popcorn! I had been listening to the soundtrack to become familiar with the music, and as always when I listen to a musical’s songs ahead of time, I looked forward to seeing how my imagination spurred by the music matched up with the storyline.

captureThe movie did not disappoint. It was an excellent mix of keeping much of the tradition of Mary Poppins and adding broad strokes of creativity and freshness. It fit well into the expectations of Mary Poppins while also paving the way with a new storyline. It was expected and surprising, consistent and unpredictable.

It reminded me a bit of life with its juxtaposition of fun and silliness among struggles and pain.

capture2It wasn’t just the content of the movie but the process of it. The lessons wrapped in silliness – like real life. The encouragement through unexpected people in trying times – like real life. The ways we find ways to connect with people different than us – like real life. The ways – both positive and negative – we rely on others. The seasons of grief. The behind the scenes people who help make our lives a bit easier. The ways we continue to weave through others’ lives in changing ways through the years. The importance of intentionality, both with broad strokes and fine details.

All like real life.

I walked out of the movie theater with a spring in my step. Maybe it was more of a “must do” than I realized.


Good Morning, New Year

photo-1520013806762-e405d199e5b6I woke up on New Year’s morning to the smell of roast simmering in the CrockPot.

It’s a familiar smell I grew up with and raised my family with. A long, slow simmer time makes a tender roast. Combined with potatoes and carrots, it’s a close contender for my favorite comfort meal.

New Year’s Day has never meant a lot to me. The first day of the year isn’t much different than the last day of the year. Yet it reminds me of the hope of life. It prompts me to be thankful for the details of my life, not just the ones I like but the ones that spur me to struggle and help me grow.

I woke up New Year’s morning with familiarity – and appreciation of it – and the hope of what I don’t yet know and haven’t yet lived – and appreciation of it.

I stayed in bed a little longer than usual, and I prayed and reflected. Just as the smell of roast infused my house, the hope of my faith filled my soul. The promise of God’s faithfulness filled me to the brim, and I thanked him.

What we simmer and infuse into our lives can comfort and nourish us. (It can also create a stench or make us sick. And much of the time, we become so familiar with the stench and mess around us that we don’t notice it much.) What we do in the evening sets the tone for the next day, and how we start the day ripples through the hours that follow. We need to be intentional. We need to be grateful. We need to choose well.

It’s a process that takes time and intention.

And it starts right now.

New Fangled Stuff

IMG_5721I loved my daughter’s baby shower. We did things a bit differently, and it fit her personality and preference.

  • Open House – Instead of having a block of time to which people had to commit, guests could come and go throughout the two hour time frame. Some stayed the entire time; others stopped by for 15-20 minutes. Whatever fit into their schedules. It created a casual atmosphere, which was especially welcome during a hectic time of year.
  • Display Shower – Gifts were brought unwrapped. Sure, there were a few people who wrapped gifts, but in general, people put gifts in a basket (which gave the added benefit of having quite a few new storage and decorating options) or wrapped everything in clear cellophane. Others tied a bow around their unwrapped items or simply piled gifts on top of a gift bag to be used later for transport. All gifts were placed on long tables, so guests could look through them during the shower. We didn’t spend an hour opening everything, which meant there was more time to visit with people. Not to mention there were no comparisons among people who tend to feel bad about giving a small gift or proud about giving a large gift.
  • IMG_5714Games by Choice – We all know what it’s like to be trapped in the game whirlpool. Instead of structured games, we had two that were available but none that were required. One was a paper game (deciphering the titles of children’s books through a string of emojis), placed on the tables. As people completed the card, they could place it in a bowl at the head table, and we drew a door prize from the bowl every now and then. The second game was included in the slide show. It was a series of ten images of elephants that occur in children’s books or movies. (Well, there were technically eight elephants. Somehow, a pig that sort of looked like an elephant made its way into the slideshow; plus, my daughter was adamant that a heffalump from Winnie-the-Pooh didn’t technically qualify as an elephant.)
  • IMG_5706Slideshow – It’s nice to have something to look at if there are awkward moments of sitting alone or a lull in the conversation. We had a slideshow that included, in addition to the elephant game, photos of my daughter and her husband as kids, then more as they dated, married, and found out they were expecting their first daughter. We inserted basic facts of their journey among the photos. We also included basic reminders and instructions about the various options guests had during the shower: enjoying refreshments, looking at gifts, and signing the guestbook.
  • IMG_5715Head Table – At the main table, we had several things people could do. They could pick and choose. We asked people to address an envelope to themselves to make it easier for my daughter to send thank you notes. We had a guest book that included a page for each guest with space to write the name and relationship to the expected little girl, tips to the parents, and a note for the baby. We also had a jar with colored paper beside it and asked people to write a prayer for the baby. The plan is to keep them in her room as she grows up, and she can read through them from time to time as a reminder of the faith-filled encouragement and love she has from many others.
  • Signs – Signs are nothing new, but it is always nice to communicate in multiple ways. Even if we try to catch everyone as they come in the door, we’ll miss some people, and some we talk to will forget the instructions and options. Having signs made it easier for people to choose what they wanted to do.

You might not be planning a baby (or other) shower, or the ideas here might not be your style. But consider what is. You don’t have to do what everyone expects. You don’t have to go above and beyond. Simply consider the person you’re celebrating. How can you help her or him have a good experience and walk away feeling celebrated? You might not like change, but you certainly like the person you’re celebrating. Be flexible, and love well by thinking outside the box. Sometimes keeping it simple is exactly what we all need to enjoy the celebrations of life.

Sifting Memories

photo-1480072723304-5021e468de85I needed to go through my daughter’s childhood books in preparation for her baby shower. We planned to put some of her books on the tables, then she could take them home and add them to her daughter’s library. As I saw some of her favorites, I checked inside to confirm they were hers and not her sister’s, as well as to look at any notes written inside the cover.

I didn’t realize how often I wrote in books to mark an occasion. The number of times I found a short note and “Love, Mommy and Daddy” quickly began to add up. The memories of birthdays and other special occasions were sweet, but seeing Mommy and Daddy written on the same line so close together was difficult. Oh, each of us is still a parent, but we no longer belong on the same signature line. We no longer partner as we parent, grandparent, and simply do life as a family. We aren’t that kind of a family anymore.

Seeing many of those notes marked moments  that spurred joy but also poked and cut like a barb.

In addition to the books, I wanted to go through my wedding tub.. I hadn’t purged it when I moved out of the house I shared with my ex, because I didn’t trust my judgment of what to keep and what to pitch. But I was fairly certain my ex would have pitched it had I left it behind, since he was tossing aside pretty much everything related to our relationship.

Most items were easy to toss in the trash. They were mementos that just took up space and no one would ever want to reuse. The tub also contained cards people had given us for our wedding and our first Christmas together. As I read each one, I thought of many people who had been in our lives at that point. Thinking about the people in our lives then who had faded out over the years prompted me to think of other friendships through various seasons, including people who had invested in or burst into my life. I read cards from people who had passed away and reflected on their lives and the interactions I might have had with them today. And I read cards from people who were important to me then and continue to be today.

I only saved a handful of cards, most which I sent to other people to remind them of our friendship through the years or a loved one’s handwriting and thoughtfulness. Despite the circumstance, I was blessed as I sorted through the cards, and I wanted to share the blessing with others.

I had a sense of peace through the process. I was ready for it – one more step forward. I even laughed at the small booklet I found. Created at one of the showers where couples and families attended, it was “Words of Wisdom for Marriage.” I chuckled at the irony. Most of the advice included in the handwritten pages was wise indeed, but if one or more persons in the marriage (or any other relationship or situation) doesn’t apply the wisdom, the commitment is fractured.

I continued the evening with my daughter hanging out for a while, baking cookies, and taking down Christmas decorations. I was especially sensitive to the moments of joy. I reflected on the Christmas season we’d just gone through, and I smiled. It had been a sweet one. More steps forward.

Yet as I walked on the treadmill at the gym later, tears began to fall. I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t feel overly sad. I wondered if it was just that I was tired from a busy weekend. But that would be unusual for me. Then, as easily as the tears were falling, the answer came: I was healing. I had taken quite a few steps forward, and I had sifted through memories. My heart and mind were a bit more clear. God had lightened my load and nourished my soul. I felt as if he had given me a hug, then held me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes as if to reassure me, “Keep moving along, my girl. I’ve got you.”

Yes, God. You have, and you do.

Repeat. Remember.

photo-1470319149473-af271634cecfOne of my girls’ favorite books was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I am confident I read it 1000-plus times through the years. I can almost repeat it from memory.

What we repeat we remember. I’m not sure Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is going to change my life whether I repeat and remember it or not, but it is full of memories for me. The many hours I spent reading it and other books to the girls, holding them close or hanging out together in the play room, are irreplaceable.

But that time and resulting familiarity could have easily been replaced by something else I had chosen to read and speak often. It could have been better or worse.

There are other things I easily remember without referencing the original source. I don’t ever use a recipe for chocolate chip cookies and haven’t for decades. I am familiar with Ephesians 6:10-20 in several translations. I can find my way around my home in the dark. I don’t have to think much when driving to my mom’s house.

What we repeat we remember.

That can be good but it can also be damaging. What we do over and over, no matter how insignificant we think it is, matters. What we say and think over and over impacts us.
Take inventory today. Reflect on the last week, month, and year of your life. What are you repeating? What are you remembering? What are you soaking in and living out? Your choices and investments matter.