Saturday, November 27, 2010

Interactive "We"

Two of my daughters really struggle. They are so different in their personalities that they sometimes butt heads. Ok, most of the time they butt heads. One loves horses, the other loves bling. One loves the granola look, the other loves make-up. One loves country music, the other loves hip-hop. They just could not be more polar opposite.

Every time they get on each other's last nerve I tell them the same thing. "One day, you two will adore each other. You will call each other on the phone regularly, share struggles, unload the heartaches of raising kids, ask help with financial burdens, and confide about your marriages. One day, you'll be estatic to see each other." They look at me like I'm an alien.

Honestly it makes me laugh. But I know I'm right.

I don't know where I'd be without my sisters.

Really, my family in general. There have been ups and downs and sideways - and still, I know it is my family that keeps me on track, keeps me asking the right questions and focused on the right answers. It's my family that builds me up, convicts me with grace when I'm erring, and encourages me when I'm lost. It is my family (and especially my many sisters) that knows me better than I know myself.

I believe God made it that way. I believe He wanted us to be surrounded by people who would have an impact in our lives so powerfully that in spite of our humanness, and our dysfunction, it would continue to draw us home. I see it with my own children.

Families - our Interactive "We" - built by God to surround us in support, discipline, silliness and love.

I'm grateful for technology, but I thank God for the invention of families. What a smarty pants God is. The whole time I was teasing my little sisters and begging them to go play with their own friends instead of mine . . . God knew . . . that one day, we would adore each other. We'd call each other on the phone regularly, share struggles, unload the heartaches of raising kids, ask help with financial burdens, and confide about our marriages. And one day, we would be ecstatic to see each other again.

Oh how blessed my life is because of my family.

Thank you God. For the interactive "we" You've created.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Nickel At A Time

Relationships are a lot like bank accounts. Deposits increase the reservoir, while withdrawals decrease it. Every interaction, in or out, has an effect on the total. As I look at my bank statement I see that even when I think my accounts are innactive there is still a monthly fee, or on some accounts a return with interest. Daily I must log on and carefully determine how to manage each account so I don't end up in the red.

Sadly, just like bank accounts, relationships can end up in the negative. How does this happen? Every single one of us WANTS to be in the black. Every single one of us WANTS to be successful. Nobody PURPOSELY chooses to be destitute or go bankrupt.

The hardest part is watching what hangs in the balance and at the smallest level, evaluating the negatives, even if they are a nickel at a time. It is those nickels that pull the balance lower and lower. Unwatched, unchecked, unaccounted for . . . even nickels can pull an account to zero.

Watch the real deposits. See the real costs. Daily, even hourly, acknowledge the bottom line.

As any successful investor or financial planner will tell you that the greatest success or the greatest demise, happens a nickel at at time.

The wonderful thing is that even for the simplest of minds (and I definately put myself in this category) managing a nickel at a time is doable.

As I open my purse I see silver coins at the bottom that yesterday I overlooked. I haven't been paying attention. Taking a nickel from the bottom I memorize the stamped impression.

Today I will begin seeing my nickels for what they really are.

In my bank and in my relationships. A nickel at a time is doable.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forcing Bulbs

Some things you can force. Some things you can't.

Like love. You can't force love. Like a butterfly it hangs beautifully in the air, silently watching, testing the safety, then landing and extending itself, opening more as the safety increases. Love rests and spreads its wings when it finds a place of peace and warmth.

Bulbs are similar. The term "forcing" bulbs is a misperception, for you see, it is not a "forcing" at all. It is only the creation and nourturing of an environment that lends itself to growth. Water, sunlight, gently being held in place . . . the bulb cannot hold back . . . but is completely drawn out by the irresistable warmth. Even in winter.

Children are this way, marriage and friendships are this way, flourishing ventures are this way . . . it is about the environment. Certainly it is about the passion. But, not about the "forcing" of anything.

You cannot force people to buy, you cannot force children to be endeared, you cannot force joy, you cannot force trust. You can only participate in the creation of safety, warmth and peace.

A butterfly hovers silently beside you in your life. Are you safe enough, warm enough, and at peace enough for wings to land and open? Is your influence irresistable and your kindness and compassiona a refuge? Hunger for that presence and peace. Let your life be a creation of that kind of compassion and nourturing.

You see, you can never truly force bulbs.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Truth Is Brewing

Five o'clock each morning Mr.Coffee begins steaming and sputtering. The caffeine infused vapor rises up the stairway into the loft of the master bedroom - and I pull on my comfy booties, oversized white sweatshirt, and shuffle down to kitchen. Pouring myself a mug of hello - I wrap myself up in a blanket on the couch with my bible. And as everyday begins with my coffee, every devotional begins with my same prayer.

"God, I'm so small in my thinking. I know that. You are so great. Please open my eyes to what you need me to see. Call me out of my brokenness and show me a better way."

And it's as if since God knows I will meet Him there in those early morning hours, He places the verses in order for me to find them like a path of breadcrumbs. They unfold like a conversation in the old Kung Fu movies where young grasshopper is taught by the sage in the flickering lights of a thousand candles.

Today the words press into my heart . . .

"We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your work to the Lord and then your plans will succeed." Psalms 16:1-3

And in the kitchen Mr.Coffee sputters. Ahh. Truth is brewing.

Today God reminds me that He, the Master of the Universe is examining my motives. And, as the verse says, I see myself pure and noble, even though, as I bow my head with the realization, I clearly am not. I do have ego. I do have agendas. I do want my way. And I do hurt people. Ugh.

"God let truth brew within me. Let me listen to YOUR right answer, not my own or one made of my own perceptions and selfish wants. Let me see success WITH you, not in and of myself. For then, it will truly be success."

So thankful that God meets me each morning, Him and Mr. Coffee . . . and I get to keep learning about what is right and real.

Truth. My cup runneth over.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Courage To Stand

There are times in our lives when courage, like the tide, ebbs and flows. Some days we have more courage, other days, having been beaten down by stress or loss, our courage is depleted. Honestly, in the last little while, my courage meter has been very low. Thus began my paddle boarding adventure.

Visiting my friend Sheri at her new digs close to Malibu, we remarked a lone woman paddling away on a sparkling ocean at sunset. "We should do THAT!" Sheri squealed. Instantly the safety list in my head began in decending order . . . starting with sharks and ending somewhere in the land of salt water stinging my eyes. Seeing her enthusiasm I was quickly crooned into a nearby board shop, complete with surfer staff and lei-clad mannequins.

Within minutes we were donning wetsuits on the beach with paddles in hand and yellow boards at our feet. Balancing on the sand was good practice for foot placement but would offer zero practice at the real challenge: standing up on the same board adding swells and waves to the effort.

Our instructor hooped and hallored from the shore as we paddled frantically into the surf, trying to time our pass into the deep between the crashing waves. Minutes later all of us were beyond the crashing waves and out into the big blue. And there the lesson began.

First kneeling and paddling for practice, then wide stance, STAND. Using the paddle to propel the board in the desired direction, but also using it as a balance, a newfound delight took hold of my heart. A delight called COURAGE.

As each swell would wobble me, and I would lean away, hold my board to balance, and manage to stay standing, I could feel a passion growing, just as the smile on my face continued to broaden. I was standing - in the ocean - on a bright yellow board. I had paddled out into the deep. I had challenged my fears - and I was standing.

Never will I forget the elation I felt standing on the ocean. It was a reminder to my soul that limits are of our own making. And thus, so is adventure. We get to choose the passion we pursue, the adventures we seek, and the happiness and peace we feel in it all.

It just takes the courage to stand where we've been afraid to stand before.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ridiculous in Tights - Relational Cross-Training

Some months ago I had the opportunity to see Olympic Medalist Apolo Ohno in person. Speaking at a huge arena in downtown Salt Lake City, dressed in a sleek black suit, the young athlete took the 20 x 20 foot stage, and poured out his soul to the thousands of strangers in stories of tiered seating.

No regrets. Training with a "no regrets" philosophy. Performing at his ultimate best. And then, how being a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars" actually made him a better speed skater on the ice.

It was a different discipline, a different challenge, a different training, and definately a different way of seeing his own personality. Each week on the show he would learn tangos and shuffles that he would never use on the ice, ingrained only to pull him through a 3 minute routine on a dance floor in front of the American TV audience. It stretched him. It pushed him out of everything he knew about himself, competition, and training. In fact, it was completely, laughably, random. Which made him so much better.

In our most significant relationships, the ones in which we have the most to lose or gain, the ones which define us the most, the ones in which we find our identity, I do believe once in a while God cross-trains us. He takes us completely and laughably, out of our previous training and places us in a foreign environment. All for the sake of rounding us out, stretching us, and helping us see ourselves differently. Completely, laughably, different. Seems random. But its not.

Our roles change, from mother, to nurse, to coach, to friend, to accountability partner, to confidante.

Our disciplines change, from meekness, to leadership, to mentoring, to encouraging, to patient listener, to laying down the law, to goal setter.

It's embarrassing to cross-train. As, in Ohno's experience, knowing that America is glued to their TV's, shocked to see a testosterone exuding speed skater donning tights and nickers . . . the movements are awkward, forced, foreign. The daily changing and stretching painful and choppy. New habits lending their way to fluid movements.

And then, lifting someone else. And then winning the highest number of Olympic medals in Winter Olympics - EVER.

Relational cross-training. God does that. He knows changing up the disciplines will make us champions. Even when we hate being embarrassed by the training it takes.

So if your life seems random and what your relationships require of you is a skill set you never possessed, and you wonder if you ever can . . . you're in heavenly cross-training my friend.

Don't let the tights bug you. It's all part of it. Just go with it. Because when you look back on your life, it will be the cross-training that will have taught you to not only compete for the gold, but to truly dance.