Author: Randi Perez Helm

Most days you'll find that I'm not sure about a lot of things. I'm prone to be a victim of my own bad habits and pretty sure that I'm not alone! I believe in the potential of others and the possibility that good can crack open the darkest places in life. There is so much more to learn. Every unfolding story holds something new. The writing I do attempts to explore and share ideas, thoughts and companionship with you.

When Nothing Changes and Nothing Stays the Same

There are some people in my family who have been wearing certain clothing items for a long, L-O-N-G, time.  These clothes are allegedly, ahem, “broken in” and so comfy that they just a can’t seem to get rid of them or not wear them.

Are you like this?

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I’m not.

I can’t fill the Goodwill bag fast enough.  My motto is if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not ever going to wear it again.  Get rid of it.  But that’s me. I like to make room for change.  I like to see what else I can find.

But this isn’t the case for everyone in my world.  Some loved ones don’t like to let go; they don’t see any reason for new when old still seems to work. So what if it’s dated or discolored.

New can be a threat for some and same a choke-hold for others.

It’s tricky.  Bumping around life together.  One likes things the way they are and the other runs from ritual.  We inevitable annoy the heck out of each other.

If you are a same-r you may find yourselves clutching for control, easily upset if something gets changed without notice.  Maybe you avoid trendsetting types altogether because people who move around a lot make you uncomfortable?

Or if you’re a new-r , you may find that you have no patience for traditionalists or home-bodies.  Maybe you become critical and judgmental towards others who do not like to keep evolving and forging?

We become separate and not our best self in our own families and homes. A tense undercurrent tugs over things like rearranging furniture, meal planning for Thanksgiving or how to spend free time together.

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Today is laundry day.

Piles of clothes old and new, twirling in the washer then bouncing around in a hot dryer.  Old mixing with new. Water and soap scrubbing away the dirt, heat making the fabric warm and crisp. Both surviving the wash together and coming out the other side.

Maybe there’s something here for us to learn?

I thought about the same-r’s in my life.  I thought about how they hold on to the familiar, repeat treasured recipes and reminisce over fond memories of holidays and vacations. They linger over warm experiences. They pause and reflect the good that has crossed lifes’ threshold. Gratitude expands. We need same-r’s to help us remember the things worthy of remembrance. We exhale appreciation.

And what about the new-r’s? They like the practice of searching and enjoy solving mysteries. Trying new things and finding new roads is like Christmas morning.  They tend to paint walls, try different recipes or watch unknown movies just because it’s different.  They get you to color outside the lines, try things you’ve never tried and consider others different from you. Confidence flourishes. We need new-r’s to help us realize we are capable of learning, capable of experiencing life no matter what stage we are in. We inhale courage.

We need each other.

Tumbling around. Mixing it up. Old and new.

Nothing changes and nothing stays the same.

Wash warm together on gentle cycle, tumble dry low.

 

 

Are You The Glue?

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Have you heard the expression before? You’re the glue in this family.

You’re the glue in this organization?

You’re the glue that held us together with this project?

Glue is that sticky substance that through some scientific means bonds things together. Keeps them close. Holds things in place.

Are you the glue?

Being the glue isn’t something that one gets assigned, rather it’s something that just happens. Certain personalities tend to be the glue.  This is not something they try to be, they are created with this ability to bond.  For unknown reasons they seem to be the one that others look to for direction or information; to feel connected with and welcomed.  Glue people somehow have a way of understanding what’s going on, even when they don’t know all the details.  Their welcome mat is out and they live with availability. They are the glue that hold people together.

I’ll ask again. Are you the glue?

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Maybe a better question would be, are you sticky? 

Sticky substances have a way of holding onto all kinds of things, good and bad. Now we can all relate to that, right? Each of us has a tendency to hold onto good and bad. But if you’re a glue person, like me, it’s important to recognize a few things:

  1. Not everyone acts like a glue person. Don’t be angry when others don’t care the way you do.
  2. The gift of bonding and holding others close is a matter of the heart.  Caring always costs you and enriches you at the same time.
  3. When you find that you aren’t able to “glue” like usual, it may be because too many prohibiting things have stuck to you. Examine your life. What is stuck to you that doesn’t belong? That empty’s your body and soul? That makes you sad?

I’ve been reading the gospel of Mark.  I’m only 3 chapters in but have identified somethings that have made me think about my ability to care for others. Even if we are not a glue person by nature, each of us takes on the role of a glue person in various seasons of life. We all can relate to the responsibility of caring for others whether it’s a child, disabled loved one, an elderly neighbor, foster child, sick or injured co-worker who doesn’t have family support, a family you know of who has great financial, emotional, relational or physical need, etc. There are a thousand different scenarios where we are asked to care for others.

Jesus is just beginning His journey in ministry.  People are getting to know Him.  He is speaking publicly and healing all kinds of people. People are drawn to Him. Jesus welcomes them.  He entertains their problems and questions.  He walks for miles and miles with them (as that is how people got around). Jesus was a glue person.

There were moments along the way where Jesus went away from the crowds.  He needed to sleep, to pray, to rest.  His closest friends were frantic when He wasn’t being the “glue” all the time. When you develop a reputation for being the glue, others will come to depend on you to hold things together. But Jesus did not let the lure of being needed dictate His schedule or His own need.

Jesus gives clear perspective:

  1. You will burn out if you don’t find a rhythm that allows you to step away from the needs of others. It’s simple, you cannot be a glue person if your stickiness wears off.
  2. You have to let go from time to time.  Stop dwelling on how you can help or assist.  This sounds very un-Jesus-y. But glue people tend to get a little obsessed with how they can carry others.  Jesus teaches us there is a time to rest from this never ending work.  There is a time to lay it down and fill our minds and hearts with other things.
  3. Remind yourself that your identity doesn’t come from being a glue person. Holding people together is what you do not who you are. When we confuse this we tend to become people pleasers and that is a burden glue people cannot afford to carry. We have to maintain the ability to say no at the right time so we are able to say yes at the precise time.

Are you a glue person? Are you in a season of life where you have to be a glue person?

If you are, your work is too important to ignore.  Through you others feel welcomed and invited.  Through you others find a listening ear or a new perspective. Through you others belong. Through you others become grounded and learn they matter.

We would do well my fellow glue persons to learn from Jesus, the Ultimate Glue Person.  You never know when you’ll be asked to be a glue person.

 

 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:10

 

One Word

2017 has made a splash!  It is well under way.  I’ve long forgotten Christmas and New Years.  This always happens.  Celebrations short-lived and routine returns to a cold and gray January.

A few weeks ago I read some thoughts by a writer.  She does not do resolutions because they don’t seem to stick. I can relate, can’t you?  Instead chooses a new word that she wants to live into for the year.  A word that resonates with her and gives focus and imagination for life.  I like that idea.

So I thought about it for a while and finally landed on my word.

Curious

It seems to encompass the thoughts and feelings inside of me as 2017 begins.   I’m curious about this year, what it will hold?

The world is a noisy place right now.  So many opinions, ideas and perspectives and I wonder how we’ll all get along?

My family has grown another year older. The cusp of new frontiers await.   Where will it take us?

I think about possibility all the time.  “What if” kind of thinking.  What if I can go to….., what if I can experience….., what if I can have….., what if I can create….?

This word curious works for me. A framework which to wrap my day to day.  A filter through which I pass the stuff of my life.

  • When my mind is thick with worry or doubt, I will become curious about how God will help me?
  • When unexpected delays slow me down, I will wonder how to build myself for endurance?
  • When faced with others need, I will ask how I may help?
  • When God talks, I will wonder why He speaks at all?
  • When creation overwhelms me with its’ beauty and power, I’ll wonder why have we been given such a gift?
  • When seasons change and time feels rapid, I’ll ask how gratitude can enrich the transition?
  • When fear is present, I’ll ask its’ name and if it has power over me?
  • When examining the contents of my heart and hands, I’ll wonder what would change if I say yes to inspiration?
  • When God seems silent, I will ask how I may quiet my soul and trust?
  • When mankind isn’t kind at all, I will be curious about what prayers, words or deeds are mine to respond?
  • When I’m stained with guilt, I will inquire about the mysteries of forgiveness?
  • When life shines like the sun and I feel full and free, I’ll ponder the sweetness of happiness and ask how I may hold it in?
  • When the brilliance of humanity or the magnificence of a child take my breath away, I’ll be curious how much wonder can a heart hold?

When I become curious possibility opens. Possibility fuels imagination. Imagination brightens. Enlightens.

What about you?

What word would you choose to help shape your 2017?

I’d love to hear about it.

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Listening to My Brothers

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I found this painting I made years ago in a stack of old work today.  It’s a whimsical characterization of my brothers.  They both played football for many seasons of their life.

I grew up in a sports loving home.  Meaning, my dad loves sports and so that’s what was on TV when he was around.  His love for sports was infectious and it all impacted us differently.  We all have an enthusiasm and respect for “organized” games but my brothers had the good fortune of being able to play a sport for a very long time.

I pulled this painting out because I wanted to evaluate the canvas size and possibly paint over it.  I hung it in the intended spot and began assessing.

And then, well, it spoke.

At first I laughed when it pointed out the oddly shaped feet paired with the tiny helmet heads. My art is whimsy and conceptual…mostly because that is all I can create.

Then I stepped back and heard something else. Each figure frozen in a pose.  One entering the field with his teammates bursting with pride, celebrating their shared beliefs and  hopes for their collective endeavor.  The other  focused on one job, using his might to protect his quarterback from the opponent that sought to stop him. It whispered brotherhood.

My brother once told me that the brotherhood he experienced during football was unlike anything else he’s known.  It’s where teammates fought with each other because they were fighting for each other.  Each person responsible for his own unique contribution because the success of someone else depended on it. They won and lost as a team no matter how well an individual may have played. Every moving part demanding full attention and intention for collective redemption.  And collective gains were always the goal, not individual accomplishment because collective gains were for all, not just one.

Individual effort and investment is powerful when it’s intended for community benefit.

I thought to myself, what if?

What if each of us applied this principle in our lives?

What if we viewed our strengths, talents and interests in light of a team that needed us to play in order for all to win? That complacency was not an option? Investing in our unique selves so as to contribute to a collective whole?

What if each of us would be willing to enter the tension with another, because we were fighting for the other?

What would marriage and parenting be like?

What could happen at work?

Would we figure out how to neighbor in a way that perhaps we aren’t right now?

Would community and global problems be impacted differently?

I know, I’m asking a lot of questions.  But I’m writing as quickly as this painting is speaking.

What about you?

What do you think?

What if you applied the principle of brotherhood (sisterhood…fill in the blank-hood) in one area of your life?

Would you be willing to try?

P.S. I probably won’t be painting over this canvas anytime soon.

P.S.S. If you think it’s weird that paintings are talking to me…well let’s face it…it is weird.

Celebrate That! Part Four

I love a good mystery.  Give me a movie with a puzzling storyline or a big twist delivered right at a crucial point and I’m hooked. The unexpected fascinates me. The story in this fourth and final post of the “Celebrate That!” series, does not disappoint.

Maybe you know the Christmas story? The virgin Mary conceives a Baby by the Spirit of God. Her fiance decides to stay with her because he has bought into the idea that angels give out assignments and unscripted events change life plans. Now we are in the final scene.  Joseph and Mary were hunkered down in some obscure place. Then the Baby comes.

In the very next moment we are out in a distant field with shepherds and their flocks. (Read about it here.)

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Plot twist.

What? Where did they come from? What do they have to do with anything?

The main event was back in a crowded place and now we are outside of the city, in a field, at night. There were a lot of predators in the area who would love to come and nab one of the sheep for a midnight snack. So the shepherds had keep a careful watch to make sure that didn’t happen. It was another day at the office for them. They were used to this.  It was part of the job. They were on the lookout for signs of trouble.

Until then.

Suddenly the sky and fields were transformed. Ok, it doesn’t really say that but it must of happened.  An angel shows up, remember, angels always come at Christmastime. This time he comes with glory. Whatever glory is, it was everywhere.  The exact words are, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them. So I’m pretty sure it was spectacular and unsettling. The things of God usually are.

The shepherds were afraid. I can’t imagine what the flocks did?  The angel said he had good news that will cause great joy for all people. He tells them about the Baby that was born back in the city. I imagine there was more than one baby born that day so the angel describes where to find the Baby of good news.

Heaven came down and put on a show.

Right as he was talking a huge gathering of heavenly beings appeared. They were singing.  An outdoor concert. The night sky, a holy cathedral.

Sacred sounds.

Glory dancing.

The moon and stars paled in comparison. Ordinary night becomes extraordinary. Mundane to exquisite. No longer mere shepherds doing their job but mesmerized, frightened souls coming undone by what was happening.

Christmas had come and made them human. Christmas had come and showed them they were more than a job. Christmas had come and told them their one life held a bigger story.

Christmas had come! 
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These shepherds and their flocks were in the right place at the right time. Of course they were.

And that’s the thing. The angel knew where to find them. A dark and ordinary night in a field; at a temple where a priest was praying, in the dream of an anxious groom-to-be and before a young girl.  Heaven always knows where to find us.

Shepherds and their flocks pushed into the wilderness looking for food. Fearing the danger. No one goes there because they really want to. Some wildernesses really can’t be avoided. But there they are. The place God decides to be discovered.

Sometimes I wonder if God pushes me into the wilderness?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness is the place He wants me to discover Him?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness teaches me how to move on, with God?

Wilderness Christmas.

And isn’t that Christmas? God knowing where we are and coming to be with us? Coming to tell us we are wonderfully human and make us so? Coming to move us from our fields?

It had to be the shepherds and their flocks. They are us.

Everyday people living everyday lives. In a divine twist and the story takes a turn.  The story is for us. Christmas tearing open the dark and scary night to let heavens light in.

Christmas is not exclusive. It’s inclusive. We are the reason Christmas comes at all.

Earthly people intermingling with the Holy and all that it means. Miracle Baby born as God had decided long ago because we had moved so far from Him that He would not stand for it. Christmas was coming whether humanity wanted it or not. Jesus comes whether humanity wants Him to or not.  God does not forget His promises.

And isn’t that grace? Unmerited favor?

It’s always Christmas. Christmas is a new kind of story. It’s meant for us.

If you look closely today you can see the dazzling display of glory in the night sky. Filling the air with sacred sounds telling us that Christmas is here. Christmas is always here. Here for the everyday people living everyday lives.

I don’t know what Christmas is for you?  The celebrations, gatherings and presents are a lot of fun and honestly they do represent the spirit of Christmas if we let them. But Christmas comes to us, it comes for us.  It’s the twist in our story where things take a turn.

Do you have a Christmas in your story?

May we this season be curious about this Baby and they crazy way He came to us.  May we long to have our dark scary nights break open to let heavens light in.  May we find contentment in becoming human as God first had hoped for us.  May we discover Emmanuel, Jesus with us, through the up and down storyline of our everyday ordinary lives. O come O come Emmanuel.

When Jesus was born, God sent the sheep into the fields.

Celebrate That!