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Wisdom from the Hammock

Lacy pattern of green leaves with deep blue sky filtering in between. That was my view recently when I lay in middle son’s hammock. Above me were branches of three different types of trees (I can name only the popple and oak). I swung quietly and studied them as though I were again a 10-year old with few cares in the world. I had forgotten to grab a blanket but found myself wrapped in the peace of just being. Stopping the noise, chaos, and cares of everyday life to become a part of the beauty surrounding me. I breathed more deeply than I have in a decade.


In that silence and dappled light, thoughts that I’ve been turning over in my head finally had a quiet space to land. Mainly thoughts of perfection and performance. I resist the label perfectionist with a wrestler’s tricks and movement, yet I can’t deny the performance-based foundation I have created for myself in so many ways.

I’m an achiever. Which makes me valuable to others in a lot of areas but also weighs very heavy on me. Nobody can perform THE BEST all the time. And trying to do so is ludicrous. Striving to meet temporary goals is exhausting and leads to disappointment and self-condemnation. It takes away from true life. And quite honestly those to whom those traits are most valuable don’t fit the category of core people in my life. Hmmm. Seems a life change is in order.

True life is that time spent deeply with those I love and who love me back with fierce commitment (the core people!). I am beyond blessed to have a husband, kids, parents, in-laws, and friends who fill that category to overflowing again and again and again. Sometimes I’m a rockstar at showing and giving back that love and time. And sometimes I get distracted because I’m so busy in another area of my life working so hard for that incredibly-best outcome.

God has pressed convictingly on my heart in 2017 about this issue. The choice is unbelievably simple. All those I love ask is that I be present. What has been an ongoing internal wrestling match is starting to become a natural choice. I now clearly see that where I felt conflict, I, in truth, have created my own conflict. 

I woke this morning a little heavy of heart. But this time, before my mind started ticking about how to positively control everything for an excellent outcome, I heard God ask me, “How would you feel right now if you weren’t immersed in A, B, and C?” And I smiled. Jesus fixed A, B, and C for me long before I took my first breath. It’s gonna be a good day. And I’m living some of it from the hammock.

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An Open Letter to my Readers

I’m working on a blog post right now that I am finding supremely difficult. Basically it’s about harmony with the larger body of Christ—the worldwide set of those who believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. It shouldn’t be so difficult. Jesus says love each other and Paul later reinforces that message in his letters to the various new churches. Lots of material and wise words to reference.

To be honest, I’m struggling with personalizing the message. Personalization is key to making valid points and engaging whoever happens to come across my wee little blog. To me that means sometimes sharing my own shortcomings and hopefully providing some encouragement that our bad attitudes and general failures can be overcome.unnamed

I am so grateful to those of you who encourage me in my writing and let me know when and where it touches you. I am also grateful to those of you who tell me I am too hard on myself and that I’m “not that bad.” But for those of you in the second group, please hear me: My point isn’t to publicly self-condemn. It really is about sharing the “me too” moments of this life walk. What better way for us to connect than when and where we find the “I get it; I get you” connections. That’s where I put the sweat of my words. Maybe in some small way, I am contributing to the oneness of the body of Christ by sharing what I can do better by following Him. And I thank you for the privilege of sharing that with you.

A Reflection on My Dad

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Thank you for 50 years of practical guidance, heartfelt moments, and loving me as unconditionally as a human being possibly can.

I am so grateful for decades of memories. Many hilarious, some serious, and a few anger producing. The anger was on my end and from when I was about 14. Thanks to you and Mom for both hanging in there and shaping me into a better person than I could ever have become on my own. 

I spent the first 30 years of my life believing you were never wrong. What a relief to finally discover you are as human as the rest of us! This revelation didn’t diminish my admiration for you. Rather, I realized you had the ability to maintain positive leadership and earn our respect through what must have been your own uncertainties. Thank you for being a strong parent and showing me how to love and lead my own children. 

Relationships are made for change and ours is no different. We have navigated this dance of life as best we can. Some life change has been remarkably difficult and we have been powerless to stop it. But we have faced it together and that has made the difference.

We probably won’t celebrate today the way we used to. I know some days are really tough for you. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to wish (my word, not yours) a body would remain physically capable of all that it once could do.  I’m okay with the changes we are experiencing because you are still here. We both know that is nothing short of miraculous and I am beyond grateful.

It may surprise you to know that the moments we spend visiting now are some of the sweetest in my memory bank. I hope they are for you too.

Dad, you are still and always will be My Superman. (Minus the tights of course!)

Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for making every day of my life richer and fuller because I have a dad who cares and has asked me the hard questions and always come through for me. Life may have changed your body a bit but it has not changed your strength of character. Thank you for passing that on to me. I love you, Cindy


PS: Your worst piece of advice to me ever was to stop having babies. Where would we all be without your youngest, extremely tenacious grandson?!

My Saturday Morning Heart

Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand, is a weekly ritual when I “take stock” of what occurred in my life the past week. 

Unfortunately, this beautiful Saturday morning finds me steeped in regret. Words I spoke, actions I chose, thoughts I let percolate in my head until they became nearly poisonous. Why? I know better, so why don’t I “do better?” These words from the Apostle Paul at least tell me I am in good company:  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
I really do have a desire to speak uplifting words, choose wise actions, and think positive thoughts. Unfortunately I also (almost simultaneously) don’t want to make those better choices and all too often I choose to speak/live/think in destructive ways. Strong word that–destructive–but completely appropriate. When I choose to not live in the freedom of Christ, it negatively affects not only me but those I talked about and also those who share in the consequences of the poor choices I made.

Enter this week where I have to face what has developed out of some some really bone-headed decisions. I know better. I mean, I really know better. But something about those moments drew me to the point of no return. Where I almost couldn’t help but push myself over the lines of good judgment. Truth is though, I could help myself and simply chose not to. Repeatedly.

I continue to look for what my new best friend Paul has to say so that I might find hope to cling to. Throughout Romans 7, he references the internal war we all face:  I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

There is, as always, a way out. Jesus. And when I look back through the telephoto lens of my week, the truth is that I didn’t want to reach out to him. I could have. Oh the avalanche of self-destructive habits I could have stopped with even one silent plea. 

The good news is it is absolutely never too late to turn my heart, thoughts, words, and decisions over to my savior. That’s Paul’s point. On our own, we aren’t wired toward goodness and unconditional love of others. That comes only through our belief in Christ and our continuing surrender of our lives to him. 

This morning, I am not going to hang onto the mess I put in motion. I’m handing it to him, telling him I’m sorry, and asking for mercy to help get it right next time. And he says, “Yes.”

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:2

That’s me! And Saturday is looking up!!

Undone

I’m simply undone. The church I attend semi-regularly has a first Sunday of the month evening worship service that I say I really love but haven’t made a priority in several months. Tonight I pulled myself together 20 minutes before the start and headed out.

I asked God for an answer to a specific prayer on the 5-minute drive. It’s a prayer I’ve been asking off and on (more off than on) for the past 5+ years. I haven’t really been serious about receiving a response from Him because to get one requires something of me. And I’ve been really reluctant to know the outcome of this one. Anyway, question asked on the drive and kind of forgotten as I took my seat.

Sunday night typically has really good worship music. Tonight was no exception, but none of the music was really impacting me. In fact, I had to mentally remind myself several times about where my focus belongs. At some point during the service, I mentioned to God that if He were looking to get a hold of me tonight, the music was going to have to be something really meaningful to me. And I suggested in my heart that it should be something I really like and probably as moving as The Agnus Dei.

The night proceeded. I was touched by the readings, the prayers, the fellowship, and by the music (a little). At the close, the attendees were reminded this was the last Sunday evening service ever. And the worship team closed. With . . . The Agnus Dei.

Total heart silence on my part. Barely able to sing the words. And then I realized God was answering my 5+ year prayer. With the last song. Likely chosen by the worship team days before. On a night when I didn’t even anticipate going to church. Bam. That’s just how God is. I am not random. You are not random. We are forever in His thoughts and He loves us through words and songs and every individual way imaginable.

The answer He shared with me tonight is not one I am thrilled with. In fact, I wrestled with Him a little on the way home, lightly arguing that I meant I wanted better music and that part really wasn’t about answering my prayer. I gave up pretty quickly though. It’s not remotely arguable. He reached out and touched me without a doubt.

What’s next? A whole lot of trust. Because this step isn’t going down without my leaning on him for every footfall. It requires mental, physical, and spiritual commitment of more than I can put forth on my own. Good thing He’s God and I belong to Him. He told me so on a quiet Sunday night in a small town church during their last Sunday evening service.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgUVugjcWI

 

 

The P Word (and its evil twin)

Perfectionism. I am not a fan. The first 7 letters are enough to cause me instant angst. Perfect. Nobody has managed that in over 2,000 years. And yet, we strive and reach and make ourselves crazy. I have a friend who is very pleased to call herself a perfectionist. I’m quite worried about her actually. You can’t possibly be a perfectionist and enjoy the little things in life at the same time. So as I ponder how to share with her that I think her attitude is akin to walking the plank, I’m jolted by a realization of my own.

I may not welcome perfectionism into my heart, but I am surely well-acquainted with her sister, “Performance-based Worth.” Ah. The dagger strikes. I can feel as smug as I like over disdaining perfectionism, but my performance meter is drumming up a party beat.

It’s been an extensive battle. And battle is really the only word to describe it. For the first four decades of my life, I felt like a failure unless I was the very best at whatever was the flavor of the day. Academics, athletics, best friending, work, etc. The problem with this, of course, is that no one can be the best at absolutely everything. So I felt pretty rotten a lot of the time.

In my forties, I started to realize I had really wasted a ton of time measuring myself not only by what I was doing but also by how well I was doing it. Safe to say God had been trying to get my attention for a really long time but I was just too deep into weighing, measuring, and groaning to expand my view to match His. As I began to open myself to the thought that I maybe had some personal thought processes messed up, God showed me quite clearly that nobody thinks about me nearly as much as I think about myself and certainly no one else is assessing my every move to figure out if I’m worthy of their time and attention. This concept was freeing.

 A couple of years ago, I lost track of God’s wise teaching  and ended up not really liking much of anything and finding every day really hard to get through. Life was good all around in general, but I was only counting the failures. God clearly spoke to me that it was time for a serious change. No more worth based on performance.

What is a girl to do when the framework she has spent nearly 50 years developing needs dismantling? Get on her knees, that’s what. And as always, God came through. Wholely and completely. He led me to His own words over and over again of how much He loves me and finds me worthy simply because I Am His. So simple; so amazing and awesome.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% cured, but I surely am aware of when I find myself trying to earn, rather than accept, my place. And I know to let go and surrender the “I can do everything myself” attitude before it gets entirely out of hand.

There is more than one reward to living this way. Peace. The supernatural kind that only Christ can give to any of us who stop flailing around long enough to receive it. I have a new P word in my life and it’s the best reward I’ve experienced yet.

Restless Heart

Not the ’80s country group. My own heart.

It doesn’t happen everyday. I’m often clicking through life just fine and then–bam!–I awaken the next morning restless and, quite honestly, a little unlikeable.

I know immediately I’m “off.” Edgy. Wanting to stay isolated but too bored be alone. So I start looking for something to fill me. And nothing satisfies. I move from thing to thing, not really accomplishing anything. Social Media can serve to distract me in the short run, but by day’s end I’m frustrated and critical of myself for all the time wasted.

This cycle repeats every few weeks. It never lasts long but it wrings me out both mentally and physically. And judging by the way my family scatters when this phenomena strikes me, I gather it’s no picnic for them either.

Today was such a day. It bled into this evening and I’m now sitting here wishing for a do over. As that is not possible, I turn my brain cells toward figuring this out. 

The answer is immediate and oh so simple. It’s my focus. When I put my eyes and heart on only myself, I end up in a dangerous place. Self-serving, self-sufficient, and the all-consuming selfish. I lose sight that I am created by God and for God and His purposes. I haven’t forgotten about him this week, just have been sliding him into the backseat instead of handing over the steering wheel. 

Big sigh of relief when I discover I don’t have a cyclical mental disorder. This is so fixable. Immediately fixable. So I turn my head and heart to My Best Friend Ever to obtain clarity and peace. As usual, he does not fail. And I’m no longer failing either. My head and heart are at peace and I’m looking forward tomorrow because I know I’m restless no more.

Can we find a friend so faithful? – From the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus (my Grandma Gobel’s favorite by the way) written by Henry Crosby

Victory and (Momentary) Defeat

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Joshua and Judges, courtesy of the fanastic first5 ministry. Today was the video wrap up of both chapters from the historic old testament.

 

Joshua is a book bursting with the 12 tribes of Israel claiming victory after victory against the immoral people who occupied the land God had promised to his chosen people. Again and again, Joshua leads the Israeli soldiers as they slay armies and capture cities. Inheriting the promised land is less about sitting down to receive a gift promised and more about downright bloody work.

Unfortunately, God’s people make the poor choice of not entirely cleaning up the land. They allow some of their enemies to live counter to God’s directive. It isn’t long before Israel begins to engage in the corrupt practices of the people who held the land before them. Many of them turn their backs on God entirely, ultimately serving false gods they have created with their own hands.

While God opens His own hands again and again for us, many times without us having to do anything, the stories of Israel’s conquests portrayed in Joshua is a reminder that obedience toward God leads us into claiming and living in his promises. Not long after, Judges reminds us that disobedience can lead to disaster.

Krista Williams themed this weekend’s first5 message on being a woman of conquest rather than a woman of compromise. I too desire conquest over compromise and can see the relevance of Israel’s victorious conquering of nations and then sliding into complacency and compromise as a parallel to my own life.

Following God means being fully obedient and when I am not, understanding there are consequences. That doesn’t mean God isn’t still good and, in particular, good to me–just that I have some unpleasantness to live through based on my own deliberate poor choices. I am unfortunately in a season of repercussion at this moment and feeling the pain of the people of Israel who sat on their laurels a little too long after victory.

The good news for me is the Word of God clearly shows the hope that exists for me, not just in the future but also today, this very moment, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. God sees my restored heart, rather than the messy outside visible to the rest of the world.  And He clearly shows me through Joshua and Judges when it is necessary for me to pick up my sword and when I need to be still.

Joshua 1 9.jpg

To My Oldest Son

What a ride we’ve had so far. Your recent high school graduation prompts me to look back on what we’ve shared so far and it can only be called amazing. You have taught me far more than you know and it is my turn to say thank you.

You won’t remember the winter and spring of 1997 when I had the first ultrasound of my pregnancy with you and a black spot on your brain was discovered. You won’t remember the tissue test the two of us underwent and the doctor’s resulting recommendation to abort you. I’ver never told you that I regret that test every day of my life. Your dad and I are convinced something we were told was so simple and necessary was actually invasive and traumatizing to both of us. And completely unnecessary.

You do know, of course, that thankfully and prayerfully we ignored that doctor’s advice. As a result, you stand before us today a man of health and integrity and your body houses the largest heart that anyone could ever imagine.

Early years with you were tough. You rarely slept. And I mean that literally. The first 3 1/2 years of your life, while precious, are somewhat of a fog to all of us. And you struggled with some health issues that I again can’t help but wonder if they tied into that damned tissue test! (Seriously, I’m getting over that . . . )

I remember the first day you went to “Moose School.” You stood in the living room with your backpack strapped to your back on your 4th birthday, watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center. You were devastated by what was unfolding on TV but so excited about your first day of school and celebrating your birthday. You have lived every day of your life since that fateful day in the same way–caring beyond measure what is happening to others while looking forward to what every day brings.

You had some struggles in school, academically and socially. And I worried. A little. Until your wise fifth grade teacher told me how much you were liked by everyone and that the heart you show every day makes you “golden.” She was right then and she is right now. And as I learned to let go of you (and you are the hardest one for me to release my grip), you began to flourish, to find your own way, and eventually to establish close friendships with people I couldn’t be happier to call your best friends.

You’re ready to take your next steps. College. And we’ve had lots of talks about what you are most comfortable with and what makes the most sense. Just remember, life doesn’t always make sense. The hard, early days you spent in the womb and adjusting to life after birth and the health issues you experienced off and on in your first decade of life were not a foreshadowing of your future. Rather they provided with you with development of strength, resilience, and love to grow into the man you are today.

And I could not be more proud of you. You love like no one else I know. You give of your time, talents, and money like no other. Your thoughtfulness and compassion are rare commodities in this “me first” world. You, son, are my treasure.

 

Connor Prom 2016

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