change

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.

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

The Silverware Drawer

So I recently cleaned out my silverware drawer. Every time I opened it I was frustrated by the chaos.  A small voice kept after me, just deal with it, clean it out, fix it up.  So I finally did.

You’re thinking, big deal, right?

Well it is to me.  I have one drawer where I keep silverware and most all the kitchen utensils.  When I first moved in this house this drawer seemed most natural to me to host all things kitchen utensil-ly.  So it became the silverware home.  And like all homes, over time it needs some fixing up.  Something I had neglected for a long, long, time…ask anybody who has tried to open it.

So one snowy day I decided enough was enough and I cleaned it out.  I purchased new drawer liners and threw away anything that hadn’t been used in a year or that had at least three more just like it.  It’s amazing what can accrue over time in a nasty silverware drawer.

Alas, I got the job done and all was right in my kitchen.

Silverware Drawer

As I looked at the newly organized drawer, ok I know some of you are looking at it and are thinking “That’s organized?” believe me…it’s a step up …a big big step up!!  But as I looked at my drawer I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with how long it had taken me to deal with the mess. I was embarrassed by the amount of useless things and crumbs taking up space. Why did it take me so long to fix this mess?

And then it came to me.  Almost as if a little voice quietly spoke these words.

Everybody has a mess somewhere they don’t want to deal with.

I know I’m not the only one who has a messy silverware drawer.  Raise your hand if you have a closet  you are afraid to open the door to for fear it may never close?  How about a garage that no longer can fit your cars?  Maybe a basement that has been hijacked by old furniture, boxes of memories or the stuff that you think you may need one day? A crabby attitude that invades family time?  Envy that has taken root and fills your thoughts with jealousy?  Cookies you just can’t stop eating?  Anger that is ravaging your relationship? Control that micromanages everyone and everything?  Obsession with phones, tablets or computers that you can’t seem to live without? Fear that keeps you from leaving your comfort zone or keeps you up at night? Am I getting close?

We all have messes.  We share this trait as humans.  We all have something that we know needs attending but we’d rather not deal with it. This is a common thread in each of us.

After I had cleaned the drawer I realized that it felt good to have order back.  It felt good to have invested in something that made my life a little better.  Looking at my newly organized drawer I had another revelation.  Improvement is good.  Improvement is possible.

Which one of us is not drawn to stories of those who overcome?  Who does not find appealing the stories of those who, although living with difficult, even self induced, consequences, find life in seeking order?

We are created for order in the chaos.  We are flawed by our own inabilities and fears.

I took out one fork at a time when I cleaned my drawer.  It felt big at first to tackle the mess. My drawer really was a disaster. But with each utensil I pulled out I gained a growing desire.  A desire for order and a clean drawer.  One motion at a time. Removing one item at a time, I began to believe it was possible to get through it.

I may be flawed but I am influenced by a desire for restoration.

Do you hear a voice whispering something small to you today?  Our problems feel so big sometimes it keeps us from dealing with them. Sometimes a small voice is necessary for big jobs.  Sometimes small voices are the ones that get us to take that one step, that leads to the next step that cascades into a series of steps toward order, improvement, health, growth, healing and restoration.

Maybe we shouldn’t be listening for the big voices but the little ones?

We may share the messy trait as humans but we are united by our desire for wholeness and restoration. Breathing  life into whatever needs a fresh start we write a richer story, we awaken the desire for good to spill into our lives, we extend the hand of unity to someone else needing to do the same.

Resorting order starts small.  Like a silverware drawer.  Maybe the little things we bring order to foster courage to tackle something bigger farther down the road? Today a silverware drawer, tomorrow the back part of the basement.  Who knows?

New Year Restoration

2015 Restoration

2015 Restoration

January 1 2015 my son asks, Mom what’s your New Year Restoration?

You mean “resolution”?

No, “restoration”, that’s what it’s really about anyway.

Huh.

He got me with that one.  He’s right.

New Year Resolutions are about restoration.  Transforming something in your life that isn’t so good into something better. Restoration.  I like that spin on this age old tradition.

Restoration is practical, active and visual.  How many times have we watched shows where old homes, junk or furniture have been restored for a new purpose?

Restoration is hope and possibility filled.  There are places in my life that need to be restored for a new purpose.  Who doesn’t need an upgrade of some kind?

Normally I do not do New Year Resolutions, but I will do a New Year Restoration.

Back to my conversation with my son.

Well Jake, my New Year Restoration is so say “Thank You” more often.

Why?

Because when I say “thank you” out loud I’m practicing gratitude and I want to practice gratitude.  I want to appreciate people and blessings more regularly.

Why?

I think gratitude leads to a fuller life.  Appreciation reveals goodness in everyday places.  I want to focus more on what’s good versus the negative things I’m prone to recognize quickly.

That’s good mom.

Thanks Jake.

And that was that.

Resolving to change has never really gotten me anywhere before.

I’ve been more successful at restoring something that is run down and refurbishing it.  Restoration is a process.  It takes vision and patience.  A system of progressive steps.  It isn’t so black and white.  Pass or fail.  Win or lose.

I know it’s just a slight shift of words but it brings a more attainable and purposefully meaning for me. I like restoration a lot better than resolution.

What’s your New Year Restoration?

Letting Go Of Broken Ornaments

How many ornaments have you broken this year?

I always break at least one.

Broken Ornament

 

I’ll be honest.  Some ornaments I can live without, others are special and I would be sad if they broke.  Things can’t last forever. Sometimes you have to let go.

Christmas is all about letting go.

God the Father let go of His son Jesus to come to earth.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to let go of her youth and hopes of a celebratory engagement.

Joseph, the father of Jesus, had to let go of his reputation and the security of his future.

Zechariah, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of his voice.

Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of her barrenness.

Christmas came through a series of letting go.  (Luke 1:1-2:20 NIV)

Letting go can be one of the most difficult things in this life. Broken ornaments are one thing but letting go of a job, a dream, health, a home or a child is altogether different.

When my children were learning to swim my husband spent time in the pool teaching them what to do. When the time came for them to practice they would have to let go and swim out into the water.  There would be that scary moment when they let go of the wall.  There they were, dangling in that frightening place between the wall and their daddy’s hand. Those were swirling moments, when they had to let go, when they weren’t sure if they could reach their father, when they had to feel fear.

Letting go is sometimes forced upon us.  We have no other choice and it is unwelcome.

Sometimes we have to let go for our own emotional, spiritual and physical health and it’s so very hard.

Other times we must choose to let go in order to gain something new.

In any case, letting go is a part of each of our lives, like broken ornaments.

Like many of you, I’m a bit reflective at the holidays.  I think about Joseph and Mary, real people faced with a real predicament.  An unplanned, albeit supernatural, baby.  An assignment directly from God.  A hostile environment both at home and abroad.  So many things to let go of.

  • Expectations for a “normal” life
  • Support of family and friends
  • Living in their hometown
  • Never having the “honeymoon” stage of marriage  (i.e. pre-kids)
  • Financial security
  • Reputation
  • Their own plans

Maybe you find something on their list that relates to you?

It amazes me the hardship that is wrapped around the story of Christmas.  It humbles me to think of how I idealize Christmas and forget how it was forged.

Letting go was imposed on Mary and Joseph.  Read their story.

They also chose to let go in order to embrace something new.  I think this must have been intensely difficult. Choosing to let go is just as challenging as being forced to let go.

My children had to let go of the side of the pool in order to find the waiting arms of their father.  Sure, they flopped in the water, their heads went under, they felt fear, they tried their best to swim, but their father grabbed hold of them just at the right time.  In the chaos of the letting go they found their fathers embrace.

Sometimes letting go is just that. Flopping, fearing, sinking, trying.  It’s chaos.  It’s a broken ornament all over the floor.

Is there something you need to let go of?  Has letting go been imposed on you?  Do you feel the chaos and uncertainty of it all?

Take heart.

Find your story in the Christmas story for it too is filled with chaos and letting go.

Letting go free’s your hands to embrace something new.

In the flopping, fearing, sinking, trying, chaotic, broken ornament minutes of our lives, Christmas comes to teach us how to let go because letting go happens to all of us.

Christmas is the display of the Father’s embrace.

It’s the tangible expression of Light’s promise to peer into our darkness.

Christmas lets us sink but will never let us drown.

It’s hope wrapping around, telling us our mess doesn’t have to define our lives.

Christmas is whispers of love songs that slowly melt us and lead us back to wonder.

Christmas comes to free our hands to embrace something new in difficult times.