That’s Not Yours

I looked out the window today to see a squirrel hovering over a corn cob in the snow.  Where it got the cob I have no idea, but there were kernels still on it.  The squirrel feverishly was chomping off kernels.  As he did kernels popped off in the cold air making a messy pile beneath him.

As I watched this odd scene I noticed another squirrel cautiously making his way towards the squirrel “in feast”.  As soon as he got within two feet, the first squirrel jumped at him and ran him off. This happened repeatedly and sometimes violently.  There was no way the first squirrel was going to let anyone or anything get a hold of its’ corn cob.

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Eventually the first squirrel got tired of running. So it picked up the cob and hobbled across the yard and out of sight.  It was clear who it belonged to.

The second squirrel stood motionless. The battle lost and now the first squirrel ran away with, what looked like, a meal for at least two.  He seemed dumb founded the first squirrel was so unwilling to share, so selfish.  (Okay maybe I’m reading into it.  I’m not a squirrelologist.)

After a moment the second squirrel turned around.  Jackpot!  A corn pile was left behind.  Now began the second squirrel’s feast.

As I watched this new odd scene, I noticed yet another squirrel making its’ approach.  And as it got within two feet of the squirrel “in feast”… well I don’t have to tell you.  You already know.

Selfishness breeds selfishness.

Our walls, fences and divides screech, that’s not yours!

We don’t have a problem with what belongs to us but we sometimes have a problem with what doesn’t belong to others.

We are quick to respond with a that’s – not – yours kind of way.

My husband is notorious for saying, sharing is caring, when he wants some of the M&M’s that I’m eating. I usually never want to share my M&M’s.  They are my favorite and they belong to me, not him.

See? There it is… that’s not yours.

Why is it we are so quick to be selfish and slow to share?  Why is it that we, like the squirrels, hover over our preverbal corn on the cob and fight off anyone who is hungry?

As I pondered this dilemma of human nature I watched the second squirrel defend his pile of corn kernels against a third squirrel. I realized I had no good answers.

So I let my dog out to chase them all away.

The Hound
The Hound

 

Grasping for Christmastime

 

It’s close to that time.  You know, “that” time.

They call it Christmastime.  Yes, it’s a real word.

It’s the time we work so hard to make space for, to create, to celebrate, to forge new memories as we honor family and faith traditions, to conjure up a little more magic for the kids again this year.

I was looking at this old star.

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It belonged to my grandma. She had a flare for the colorful when it came to Christmas decorations. Her style would definitely not be found on Pinterest. But it was colorful and full of imagination.  It was grandma.

I remember as she got older it became more of a chore for her to set up her Christmas village.  What once was an exercise in celebration and fancy became a duty of deliberation.  She did it because of the kids.  Something compelled her. She did it because it was Christmastime.

But isn’t that like Christmastime?  It urges something inside.  It says, “Wake up, something special is about to begin.”  The senses are lured with smells, sounds and lights.  We are drawn to the brightness of Christmastime.  We are convicted that light doesn’t live very long in our soul.

We grasp for Christmastime.

Isn’t that a good thing?  Christmastime brings us to a place in our year where we accept that we are longing.  Longing for that which fills us, brings us peace, holds us near or sends us on a wild adventure.  Christmastime reminds us that we are human and long for something Divine.  We can almost taste it we are so hungry.

Awake my soul to see all that Christmastime brings.  Awake my soul to know the riches that Christmastime told. In the brightness of your light, you beckon me to find, the wealth of Christmas cheer that comes from Love drawn near.

With each bite of your Christmastime treats, may you hunger for richer delicacies.

Every party you attend, may you know loves embrace.

Each time you see Christmas lights, may you realize you were made for brightness.

When the sounds of Christmas fill the air, may a melody deep inside you resonate.

May we together grasp for Christmastime.

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“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son,” ~ Galatians 4:4

Are you feeling stuck lately?

I know how you feel. 

Often we get stuck with consistent problems at work or with friends, our families or marriages battle the same issues over and over again or our own unhealthy behavior seems to rule over us.  Feeling stuck is a universal experience often with no quick solutions.

Recently I was thinking about feeling stuck. Processing my own “stuck-ness” I began to realize surprising signs of help and hope. I am simply inattentive to the small graces around me. Suddenly a story began to form.  I’d like to share it with you today to let you know that you are not alone. If you feel stuck, keep looking for signs of help and hope in the unexpected places. That’s where the small graces rest.

 

Original art work by Randi Perez Helm
Original art work by Randi Perez Helm

Lionel

The jungle was hot and sticky. Lionel’s fur was matted and icky.

It was time to get out of the heat and find a shade tree or a pond for his feet.

Across the way he saw a large tree. Slowly he made his way through the jungle heat.

Coming up close he noticed a pool. No, not with water, but mud. It was cool.

He tipped toed in and it felt sweet. With a belly flop splat, he was off of his feet.

He rolled over and over, one messy cat. Making mud angels with his legs and his back.

But after a little while the mud wasn’t new. It didn’t feel cold. It felt more like glue.

Flat on his belly he couldn’t flip back. He felt like the jelly to a peanut butter snack.

I’ve rolled and rolled in this cool muddy muck. And now I’m afraid that I’m completely stuck.

 He looked to the left and then to the right, but none could be seen. There was no one in sight.

He started to think he’d be there for good. He started to worry like anyone would.

Oh no, what do I do? Lionel thought and thought it through.

Tired from thinking and feeling kind of stiff Lionel noticed a monkey carrying a stick.

Hello furry friend, I see you are stuck. Grab hold of this stick and I’ll pull you unstuck.

Oh thank you, thank you. You’re a friend indeed. Lionel grabbed hold of the stick, wishing to be free.

The monkey pulled and pulled and pulled with all his might. But it was no use. Lionel was stuck tight.

Just then a large hawk swooped down from the sky.

Can I help you Lionel? He cawed. I’ll give it a try.

 The hawk clutched Lionel’s tail and flapped up and down.   But Lionel’s muddy fur, still stuck to the ground.

And after a while it became clear that Lionel the lion wasn’t going anywhere.

Why did I slip into this muddy old place? He frumped and he grumped with no smile on his face.

Don’t worry old Lionel I won’t fly away. I’ll stay here with you until you find a way.

The hawk was sincere and the monkey agreed. Both now would and wait until Lionel was freed.

Tick, tock, the time traveled by, he was still, stuck and Lionel wanted to cry.

Hawk and monkey soon became sleepy but this was no time for Lionel to be dreamy.

How long was he stuck? Lionel didn’t even know. Ker-plunk, ker-plunk, something fell on his nose.

 Splat, splat, it started out small, but soon it was heavy, a real rainsquall.

Hawk and monkey now up in the tree called down to Lionel to see how he’d be.

Lionel oh Lionel, we’re sorry you’re wet.

But something soon happened he’d never forget.

With a slurp and a slosh he moved in the muck. With a squirm and a squish he finally got unstuck.

The rain that poured down was a good thing you see. It loosened the mud and now he was free!

With a jump and a roar Lionel hopped to his feet. His friends danced beside him all happy these three.

The rain washed the mud clear off Lionel’s fur. He felt so much better, that was for sure.

With his friends right beside him all squeaky and clean, Lionel realized one thing, then two, then three.

It’s never a good idea to roll in mud puddles. It might look like fun but you’re asking for trouble.

Real friends stay with you even when you are in a rut. They might not have answers but they stay ‘till until you’re unstuck.

And just like the sunrise the rain knows when to fall. You might need to get a little wet to be free after all.

Copyright 2015 Randi Perez Helm

Three Surprising Invitations

So recently I was reading the very beginning of the Bible. I don’t normally write about the specific things I learn directly from my reading but today I decided to share a surprising discovery.  I hope you enjoy it and that it gives you food for thought.Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 12.50.22 PM

If you know the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible, you have read that God created the earth and heavens.  But you might not know that in between the words of the story, there are three surprising invitations.

It took God 6 days to create everything. The Bible also records that 6 times God looked around.  HE SAW.  Then He called it all good.  I’ve never really noticed before that before God called it good, He saw.

God invites us to see.

In the middle of all His work God stopped, looked around and took inventory. He remarked about the good work He created.  We are invited to stop and look around in the middle of our work.  Find what is good and note it.  Become familiar with recognizing good.  It reminds us that God is near. Sometimes you cannot find what it is you are looking for if you don’t stop and see.

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The text then says God completed His creating.  His work had an end.  Everything came to a stop.

God invites us to stop.

It doesn’t mean that He was done creating.  The Bible is very clear that God continues to do a new work. But He was done with His work for the week.  Enough was enough. He knew when to put down His pencil. We too are invited to stop.  We are nudged to relax the grip of control over our affairs, knowing there is more to be done but yet saying, “Enough, it will wait for another day”. Our work is not meant to be the essence of our lives. It has an on and off switch.

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Once God was done creating Genesis records that He rested.  He literally ceased working**.  His seventh day was different from the previous six.  He didn’t work.  He rested.

God invites us into a rest.

God invites us to have a time in our week that looks different; where we enter into a “rest”. A stretch of time that isn’t like the other days.  Moments to walk away from the work. This rest is halting our regular gig in order to experience a break from it. (How that pans out for each one of us looks different.) To “rest” is to admit that God occupies the throne of all creation and He is the One who keeps your world spinning, not you.

These invitations opened up a host of questions inside my head.

  • Do I regularly look around and see the good in my life?
  • Do I acknowledge God?
  • Am I familiar with noticing good things in my work or am I negative or critical?
  • How comfortable am I with stopping?
  • Do I know when to stop? Stop striving, stop worrying, stop thinking, stop talking..?
  • How hard is it for me to stop….anything?
  • Do I enter into intentional rest?  (Not the same thing as being lazy.)
  • My mind may be working even if I’m not, how well am I disconnecting?
  • Do I rest from work and remember I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders?

These invitations from God surprised me.  I didn’t know in the re-telling of creation, was also an invitation to see God, to experience freedom from pressure and to rest in the knowledge that the same God who is capable of creating EVERYTHING is capable of handling my “creating”.

Sure, God created it all. But through it He invites you and I to continually experience awe, relief, and renewal.  I don’t know about you but that is appealing to me.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. ~ Colossians 1:16

**Quick side note.  For me the meaning of “work” or “creating” is anything that we may generate in order for our lives to move forward; being fruitful or productive.  It’s our 9-5 work, it’s the care for family needs, it’s the volunteerism we engage in.  That’s my take on it.

Ready, Set, Go

The other day while driving I noticed a young boy waiting to cross a very busy intersection.  This boy was young; probably no older than 6. School had let out and he was a good 1/4 of a mile away from the elementary school.  There were no crossing guards this far away.

I thought to myself, I would never let my child cross this street alone.  He’s too little to be doing this.  Where are his parents?

Stopped at the stop light I felt anxious inside as I watched him press the cross walk button insessantly trying to make the light go faster.  Not only was this boy young but he was small. Very easy for a driver to not see him, whether or not he had the right of way to walk.

All of my maternal instincts were in high alert watching this boy.  Then the light turned.

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Instead of bolting to run this little boy looked in all directions making sure there were no cars coming his way.  He looked several times and then began to run across the crosswalk.  The entire time he was looking about for an unsuspecting car. As he reached the other side he skipped along toward home.

He was ready.

I was impressed. Someone had fully prepared him for the journey and he was capable of handling it.  I thought they must have rehearsed this so many times before they were confident he could manage on his own. My first inclination was to place blame on the parents for not being around for this little guy.  He seemed so vulnerable.  But he wasn’t. He was ready.

Maybe this boy’s parents or grandparents were not able to walk down to the school to walk with him?  Maybe he didn’t have any siblings or older neighbors to accompany him? Maybe there was no other choice but for him to go by himself?

It dawned on me…

Even the smallest and most vulnerable of us can be ready to do big things.

To be ready is to be teachable.

I often feel too small to cross the preverbal cross walks in my life. I feel unequipped or incapable.  I focus on how busy the road is forgetting that I’ve been given eyes to see, legs to run and a brain to discern information.  The problem isn’t that I have to cross a busy road, it’s that I have to be teachable.  I can still learn.  I can still become ready to cross the road ahead where there are no crossing guards.

Life becomes stagnant when we stop learning.

Learning shrivels when we don’t want to cross busy streets anymore.

Right now I’m looking to cross a few busy roads.  Lately I’ve been praying that I wake each day with a teachable attitude.  Learning is uncomfortable for me sometimes.  I have to put myself in the student’s chair and become humble before others. I have to face the things I don’t know or the things I can’t do.  Learning requires getting outside myself. Growth always involves some kind of stretching. Stretching hurts. But like that little boy, I want to be ready and get set to go.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 8:2-4

When Things Change

Fall Trees

It’s Autumn.  Things are changing.

They always do.

  • What do you do when things change and you don’t?
  • What do you do when things change and you aren’t prepared?
  • What do you do when things change?

A few weeks ago my mom’s oldest friend suddenly passed away.  It was (and still is) a big shock to her family and friends.  “Auntie Le” was always present.  She went to absolutely everything she was invited to. She knew all the names of her friends children and grandchildren, along with their birthdays.  She had never let go of the lost art of sending Christmas cards and conversation.

She simply was a fixture that had never moved.

But things change.

Unexpected or unwanted change can be hard.  It’s easy to lose your way in a sea of uncertainty.  It’s natural that a loss of courage settles in our bones and fear begins to reside.  We begin to cling to anything we can control. We stop natural rhythms of life to halt time in its tracks as if we would not allow anything to change again. Ever.

But that only keeps us in denial.

Denial keeps us from life.

I do not have easy answers to these questions.  I like change, the kind I can supervise and orchestrate but I do not like the unforeseen change or the change thrust upon me without permission.

I only hope that I may learn the lessons these Autumn leaves teach me. Change comes, like it or not. Sometimes there is a death-of sorts, that I must face.  It could be a letting go of my thoughts or plans, it could be having to wait for something important, or relinquishing control of something, it could be saying good-bye.

I hope in the trial of my turning I become like a fiery Autumn leaf that reflects the color of grace, beauty, endurance, integrity, and strength mixed with vulnerability. I pray that I will have the wisdom to trust in the promise that change does not have the final word. I want to feel the weight of faith in the Author of life firmly rooted in my soul.

When something ends, something always begins.

I may not like the new something that begins, but it begins none-the-less, asking me to change along with it.

There is a season for everything, and a time for every event under heaven:  ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Love People Friday

Love People Clothing
Love People Clothing

I decided that today is Love People Friday.

Every day is a good day for working on love but Friday is even more important than most.  It’s the official start to the weekend. The weekend goes better when Friday is good!

My sister, Jodi, has a small business where she crafts unique pieces of clothing and sells them in local boutiques. It’s been a nice little business for some time but recently she has been inspired to move beyond creating something women like to own into creating something women will want to wear.  Her business, Love People Clothing has always promoted an inspired look but now she wants to promote an inspired life.  So she created a t-shirt line that goes by the name Love People.

Her goal is to inspire others to really examine the heart of what loving others is about and living that out in day to day life. The t-shirts are just a small reminder to wear love like you would wear a piece of clothing. To her love is not about the grand gestures but the small, loving words or actions that impact one.  Impressing thousands is easy and temporary, loving just one isn’t necessarily easy but it creates the most lasting effect.

So back to Love People Friday.

Friday is the day when most of us experience a shift in the work/school week.  Schedules are not as structured and we spend more time with our family and friends.  All the more reason why Friday matters the most when it comes to all things LOVE.

If I’m being honest, weekends around my house haven’t always been full of love.  Where I can coast most of the week on my own terms, I now have to collaborate with others on activities, needs or meals.  And then there is the issue of who gets in the shower first or who has the remote control?  I’ve been known to loose all good graces before on a Sunday afternoon. I need to be reminded to wear love.

That’s why I’ve dubbed Friday, Love People Friday.  It’s a reminder that I have to put on love before we all get together.  I have to decide ahead of time that I’m choosing love instead self-centeredness.  I choose to see my husband as he is and not as I expect him to be. I choose to flesh out patience, in whatever means necessary, when tempers rise and energy is low.  Letting naps happen. I choose to wait my turn and give grace when we are struggling; to speak truth or stop unhealthy habits as best I can for the sake of love. Eating a meal together instead of all at different times. Giving extra hugs and kisses and whisper soft words of love. Saying “thank you” and “please”. Playing a game. Reminding one another why you love “us”. Choosing to walk around the mall with your child, just because they need some time.

I know I won’t always do it well but I commit to giving it a try.

So here’s to Love People Friday.  Decide now to love those in your life this weekend.  You’ll be spending a little more time with them after all.  Wearing love on Friday could determine how well the rest of the weekend goes.

Regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  ~Colossians 3:14

#wearlove