Ticket to Trash

photo-1528190336454-13cd56b45b5aMy community has a trash disposal option of taking our own trash to the supervised dumpster location. A ticket to dispose of a bag of trash costs one dollar. It saves me money, and I don’t mind the little bit of effort. Plus, I get to interact with a couple people I would probably not ever see or know otherwise.

Because I live by myself, I don’t need to take trash often. When I do, I typically plan to stop by on my way to work. I bag the trash the night before, then put the trash ticket by my keys as a reminder for the morning.

On a recent Friday morning, I picked up the trash ticket as I left my house, fed my pup., got into my vehicle…and nearly left the driveway before remembering to load my bag of trash.

That would have been a bit awkward to show up with a ticket bu no trash.

But don’t we often do something similar in our lives? We go through the process of gathering our baggage, sorting what to keep and what needs to go. Then we leave it in the bag.

We let it sit.

The hard work of sorting is done. but the junk of life still sits there, taking up emotional space and permeating our space with a worsening stench. We might get used to it, overlook it, and nearly forget it. But it needs to go.

Be intentional and follow through with your baggage. Load some up today and get it out of your life.

Choose well.

Only In America

photo-1520255228379-36d62458b11c“Only in America” is a phrase that used to be primarily used in a positive way to express the many possibilities and hope of living in the USA. Now I primarily hear it in the context of complaints instead of hope. The phrase “only in America” is usually infused with disgust.

I get it. Our country is far from perfect. There are a lot of things that frustrate me about what’s happening in our country. I engage in some conversations about many of the trends and decisions – although I’m fairly picky in when and with whom I engage because there is no reason to repeat the same venting rants or circular reasoning. But I listen to the disrespectful way so many talk about the lack of sound character among leadership, the comments about how ignorant or unethical something is, and I marvel at how often we cannot see in ourselves some of the very qualities we’re slamming others for having. Sure, we might stand on opposite ends of an issue, but we both spew. We cover our ears while lobbing facts or insults to the other side. We choose a safe distance, perhaps because it makes our disrespect of each other a bit more palatable for us. When we use the phrase “only in America” or complain with other specific words, aren’t we undermining ourselves? Aren’t we adding to the problem instead of adding to a solution?

Isn’t America – at least in part – what we as citizens contribute to it? Yes, we cannot control all the legislation. Most of us are not decision-makers in the courts. But we are not victims. We’re not helpless. We have influence among our friends and community. That influence shouldn’t only be focused on lobbing insults and facts across the line to change others’ minds. We should use our energy and time to walk up to people, sit across the table, look someone in the eyes, and listen. Then walk alongside each other whether we agree or not. We can still do life together. We can still respect each other. We don’t have to tear people apart. We also don’t have to agree with everyone. Respect and differences are not mutually exclusive. In fact, respect is easy when people are similar to us. It’s basically self-respect – or might tip into self-centeredness.

Deep respect involves humility. We still maintain our own identity and values but we don’t let pride infect our relationships and interactions.

Perhaps one day we will say “only in America” can we experience such a shift in the way we grow beyond disrespectful and destructive fighting.

Even if we don’t do so as an entire nation, we can do so in our communities and personal lives.

Take an honest look at how you can improve and grow today.

Then do so.

Consistency

20190420_100051I planned to walk my favorite trail my first Saturday off work following a busy season. It was going to be a bit chilly to start, but the sun felt good, and I was ready to breathe the fresh morning air.

I checked Timehop before leaving, and apparently, I’ve thought of walking the trail on the same day years apart.

Consistency.

It made me smile. I’m sure it’s because, as spring arrives and the weather warms, I am ready to recharge outdoors. I’m certain there have been years I didn’t think of walking the trail around this time, likely because of my schedule, weather, or simple laziness.

export63341891Consistency isn’t about getting stuck in a rut. And sometimes we’re consistent with the wrong things. But it’s important to reflect on the patterns we’ve created (and are creating) and determine if it’s the type of consistency we want. How is it affecting us? What are we prioritizing? How are we impacting relationships?

We’re all consistent about something. Notice your consistencies today and make adjustments more than excuses.

Cleaning Forward

photo-1529220502050-f15e570c634eMy daughter asked what I needed for my new house. I knew she’d want to do something, so I decided not to avoid the request. I like to help, and others like to help, too. I told her a Swiffer Wet Jet. She already had it in her shopping cart, because I had mentioned it before.

I joked with her, pointing out it might be a weird gift for her to give me, since she had given me one before. Well, she had given “us” one before, when my ex and I moved into a new large house with lots of wood floors. When I moved out a little more than a half year later when my ex decided he’d prefer to do life without me, I left the Swiffer. After all, he was the one with the big house and lots of floors to clean. I knew he could buy another one, but I did what I could to keep the transition as simple as possible for him.

Some of the decisions I made back then seemed like no-brainers. I didn’t have enough brain power to process much of the time. Some of what I did was habit, and I was thankful for the good habits I had. Otherwise, I might have easily derailed. At times, I felt like I was off the rails anyway.

But I have moved forward. And I will soon be in a new home. My home. And I need a Swiffer Wet Jet, because (1) I like clean, and (2) Swiffer makes cleaning easier.

I’ve moved forward fairly well, I think. I am in a healthy place or, at least, in a healthy process, I think.

But thinking back to moving into the new house with my ex a few years ago and the small touches like getting a Swiffer Wet Jet as a housewarming gift and taking care of the floors without knowing what was happening around me until it imploded, thinking back to when I cleaned the floors for the last time before I moved out, something squeezed my heart just enough that tears fell.

How many people cry at the mention of a Swiffer?

Of course, it’s not about a Swiffer. And it’s not even about the past. It is simply part of the healing process.

Am I ready to move on? Yes.
Am I content to move on without my ex? Yes.
Am I thankful for the life I have? Absolutely, without a doubt.

Sometimes the healing process surprises me.

Sadness used to be oppressive. It clung to me like pesky plastic wrap. But sadness is different now. It surprises me from time to time, because it’s not the norm.

I am excited to use my new Swiffer. I’m excited for the strands of continuity with friends and family who remain. I welcome new adventures. And I’m ready to make a new home and savor the new memories of moving forward in faith and hope.

God is good indeed.

Gracefully Broken

photo-1516571350010-5662511cb065There’s something about the phrase “gracefully broken” that speaks deeply to me. I’ve experienced different brokenness. Sometimes within the same situation.

For example, when my ex left our marriage, I felt shattered and beaten. My brokenness felt ill-intended and destructive. It felt dark,  but through and within that brokenness was something else. It was still difficult, but it was a process of being fractured into wholeness. It was pierced with light, truth, peace, and hope. It was a feeling of being gracefully broken. I faced a daily drudgery of dealing with the consequences of someone else’s decision. I often couldn’t see beyond the devastating ripple effects throughout the family. The light of my graceful brokenness seemed swallowed by the ugly, dark brokenness.

It wasn’t.

God continued to shine light on it all to reveal truth – truth about God, truth about me, truth about the situation.

And I am thankful for being gracefully broken.

God is good even when people are not.

Brokenness is not a bad thing as long as we trust God through the process.

Love In Spite Of

photo-1516967124798-10656f7dca28Know the kind of love you are seeking and giving.

As I listened to a simple message shared by a college student, I reflected and learned.

If love is conditional. I love you if you do what I like and don’t do what I don’t like. I love you if you provide in a specific way or like the same things I like.

Because love is conditional. I love you because you are beautiful, successful, or respected. I love you because of what you have and what you can give me.

In spite of love is unconditional. I love you in spite of your faults, weaknesses, and struggles. I love you in spite of how difficult our relationship is or becomes. I love you in spite of your mistakes.

Sometimes people say they love you, but how they treat you does not match their words. The same is true for the claims that I care for or I respect you. But they might truly believe they love, care for, or respect you. Their concept of love might be different than yours. God’s love is the standard, and he always loves in spite of. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he loves us in spite of.

No one else is capable of loving you as fully and as generously as God does. But the better we know and experience his love, the more purely loving we can be and the more wisely we can determine how people are loving us and how we can respond – not how we want but how God would respond.

Love in spite of.

 

 

Well-Timed Friend-Time

photo-1491438590914-bc09fcaaf77aIt was a perfectly timed night with two good friends. We had planned it a month or two earlier. It was a risky plan for me, knowing it was near a huge deadline at work. That day, I thought I might have to back out when work got busy, but I was able to slip away.

Not only did I get to spend time and catch up with good friends, but I also savored a night of worship. The music was outstanding. A large group of college students led, taught, shared, and worshiped. The auditorium was filled with a variety of people, and every now and then, I glanced around and appreciated how different I felt from many of them, yet how similar we all were.

God highlighted specific lyrics to remind me of his promises. He used music to soothe my soul. He used people’s teachings and stories to reveal his character to me.

And I soaked in his presence.

On the drive to and from the venue, my friends and I shared life. We talked about plans, struggles, and celebrations. I knew the next morning and work would come quickly, but for several hours, God calibrated my soul, mind, and heart.

Reality checks are good. They help me live a spiritually and emotionally healthy life.

I am thankful.