Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dreaming and Dabbling and Diving into Margin

As August approaches, our family is beginning a sabbatical which will allow for my Man to rest a bit and read a lot and, Lord willing, be able to reflect and relax as he embarks on his third decade of ministry and his second decade with our local church family.

The kids and I are planning our activities as well and will hopefully serve to prepare us for another year of learning whether it be in our school setting, within our church family, or out in the great big world. We hope, while on our break, to read a bit, play a lot, and dream and dabble a fair amount too.

One of the most intimidating challenges facing me as I prepare for time away is what books to pack. Our space is ever limited and it is frowned upon by the establishment when I attempt to carry three overstuffed books along with me on our travels. I'm grateful for my iPad in these situations because it allows me bring along many books within it's digital circuitry, but just now I find myself in a phase in which I desperately desire to hold the actual book that I am reading in my hands and turn the physical pages and feel the weight of the finished pages accumulating in my left hand as the bundle of pages yet to be read in my right hand dwindles. So, there's the rub. As we prepare to head for our destination, I've considered mailing a box of books ahead so that space will be saved in the family van...

It's been fun to look forward to what we pray will be a healthy time of soul-feeding and family focus within and a time of preparing and recharging our hearts and minds for the outward-facing calling that the Lord has placed within each of our hearts. We speak of activities which we might undertake by saying "that might be beneficial to do on sabbatical." When a certain type of resource crosses our path someone might say, "Hey, let's listen to that on sabbatical." You'd certainly imagine that there are books arriving in our mailbox and making their way onto lists which we've determined would be "good sabbatical reading."

This will be our second sabbatical while serving and worshiping amongst our church family and we are so blessed and thankful to God that He has chosen to place us in this particular body of believers. To be loved and cared for in such a way that we are able to both look forward to partake of such a respite is a meaningful gift from God and from our church family. Thom Rainer has written an excellent and very short article {click HERE to read it} entitled Five Reasons Your Pastor Should Take a Sabbatical and every single reason received a hearty AMEN from this pastor's wife.

I used to dread the thought of our family on sabbatical because I felt it implied emergency first aid to the exhausted and beleaguered pastor's family who were teetering on the edge of disaster and we are, by the grace of God, not that. We are weary at times, yes, but so is the coal miner's family, the kindergarden teacher's and the grocer's. We are tugged apart toward a myriad of obligations and endeavors and come home fairly tuckered, late at night after ministering to those in need or after exciting activities, but so do deacons, and children's workers, and the ladies of the social committee.

We are not exhausted beyond measure but this pace for this family both in life and in service is best not maintained long-term without the provision ahead for sabbatical. Sabbatical, which I learned after the experience of our first one years ago, is not an ER visit after an explosion of life has occurred, but instead is like the administration of vitamins and immunizations which serve both to maintain and enrich the health and vitality of this ordinary ministry family in which we live and breathe.

In his book Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson writes,
Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
So...we are headed toward the margin for the next 30 days or so. While we abide in this place between our load and our limits, we'll plaster the cracks that are sneaking up the walls there and patch the holes in the roof lest our margin begin to leak and by God's great grace we'll return as we did last time with fresh hearts and rested hands and heads ready encounter all that is to follow.

{Please continue to check back in here as the weeks pass as I'm eager to share what I'll be reading  and learning and laughing about because surely as we pull the laces more snugly around ourselves things worth relating are bound to be squeezed out!}

With love and appreciation for your stopping by this space...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Left To Our Own Devices

All four of our children are away this week. The older two are at church camp and the younger two are at grandparent camp. We have had reports of all manner of fun and learning from both camps and are thankful that the kids are enjoying themselves.

Though we take a week each year to travel without the children, it has been many many years since my Man and I have found ourselves home alone.

{You saw that coming right?}

Here's what I am learning as we have been left to our own devices...

My Man does, in fact, remember how to take the trash out.

I do remember how to unload the dishwasher.

There is little need to do either of these activities because the amount of trash and dishes generated by two 40 somethings is significantly less than what it was, say...last week!

The same holds for the laundry.

When my Man is away, the kids and I plan all sorts of adventurous "Daddy's Gone Dinners" with international themes and ingredients. When the kids are away, however, an acceptable dinner just might be two bowls of cereal enjoyed in front of a favorite TV show.

When the children are away it is possible to actually HEAR every word of a favorite TV show.

A spoon loaded down with peanut butter and chocolate chips is the perfect lunch.

My Mother-In-Law was correct when she told me that cooking for two is not nearly as fun as cooking for the whole family.

There is no one with whom to share trivial things with the very instant I learn of them after my Man has gone to work.

I have no earthly idea what LeBron James is up to this week.

There is no one around to "do what I say and not what I do".

Minivans are huge with only a driver.

Socks do not magically appear on the living room floor or on the couch or under the dining room table or in the fridge but I did hear a report of an orphaned sock of my Man's appearing at church camp?!

Our home echoes when there is only one person in it, that is, if that one person choses to create noise, but really...what is the point?

Podcasts are wonderful ways of learning and of filling a house with sound.

So is talking to oneself.

There is no line at the coffee pot in the morning...but there is also no one to bring me coffee out of the goodness of their teenaged hearts in the middle of the morning either.

Finally, I've learned that time alone is a wonderful restorative privilege in this life of mine for which I am grateful but it is not the life which I've been called to live. So as the house fills back up and as the noise level rises and the pantry level dwindles and the laundry piles and the dishwasher runs and runs and runs, and the line at the coffee maker grows, my prayer is that my heart will remember the joyful refreshment of this week and then charge ahead to the jolly chaos of the next.

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” 

~Sarah Dessen
What Happened to Goodbye

Thursday, July 17, 2014

All the Wrong Rules

Growing up, my family owned a checker game much like those you see at Cracker Barrel. Big and soft and carpet-like with red and black checkers that were roughly the size of hockey pucks.

My Dad taught us how to play and reigned as Checker King for as long as I can remember. It always perplexed me how he could be planning strategy three steps ahead while my whole goal was to not get jumped in the very next move.

I remember a particular match between my Mom and Dad where my father won in such grand fashion that my Mom was forced to grab the corners of her side of the checker board and flip the remaining checkers (all of which belonged to my Dad, of course) at the King. 

This summer Molly has taken quite an interest in the game and I've spent a good deal of time teaching her the basics during the last few weeks. This week while visiting my parent's home, she was destined to meet up with both the checkers set from my childhood and the Checker King himself. 

Last night I received this report from my Mom via text:

Dad and Molly just at [checkers] game for 30 minutes. Kate and I in beauty shop. Molly came up and announced that "Mom taught me all the wrong rules but I let Poppy win two games." Thought she would be sweating but none was visible. [She] was in a tiny snit over some king issue.

The question that remains is not what the snit over the king issue was, though one does wonder. The question that remains is how Molly managed to win or rather how Molly was allowed the victory because, as the child of King Checkers...I do not ever remember being allowed this pleasure!! 

And so I conclude... Poppy has gotten soft. 

This is yet another example of the affect of grandchildren on formerly sensible adults. 

Mark it down and enjoy!

The true art of playing is not only to make the right move at the right time, but to leave unmade the wrong move at the moment of truth. 

Players are usually at their most confident peak....just before they walk into disaster.

~Tom Wiswell, World Checkers Champion 1951-1976~

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to Make Your Gal Grin...{a little}.

My Man and my kids had been working hard outside all morning. 

It was a day that threatened rain but in the meantime was delivering humidity by the bucket. I made an iced tea-lemonade combo from a powered mix I’d purchased. 

On a whim, I sliced a circle of lemon and added it to my Man’s tea before delivering it to him on the front steps where he and Cole were working.

After a long drink he said, “Wow!!” and then looked our boy in the eye, “Son,” he said with a serious voice, “marry well. Marry a woman who will care for you like this.”

{I might have grinned a little.}

Please note here that the THIS my Man was referring to was merely powdered drink mix and a lemon slice!! 

It was not because of a washed car or a hot meal made from scratch, it was not because of a freshly mowed lawn or even enough clean socks to make it through the week (as if!).

It was because of a little slice of lemon.

When life gives you lemons…put a slice in someone’s tea… at the very least, they’ll appreciate the thought, 

...and maybe, just maybe they’ll say just the right thing…an make you grin…{a little}.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Demise of Mr. Cranky Pants

“Mom, can you even believe those folks in the theater?”

“Which ones Kate, the children or the grown man and his family?” 

“That MAN!” she said, “he totally annoyed me!”

He had totally annoyed me too.

It all began in the movie theater. 

Kate and I, alone for the afternoon, decided to see a movie. We were happily situated in our seats when a man, woman, and a teenaged girl chose seats in the row directly behind us. In the last few rows of the theater sat what I imagined to be a preschool class or a summer camp group of sorts. They were of kindergarden age give or take a few years and there were maybe six children and two adults. Also in the back rows was a mother and three young children. 

The children chattered, eagerly anticipating the movie. Kate and I portioned out our candy and popcorn making sure the candy boxes were opened and ready to dispense. I finished a text to a friend before the lights dimmed and turned my phone to silent. While I was doing so, the man behind us rather loudly asked his wife if she had her phone on silent. “Yes,” she said irritated, “WHY do you always ask me that, I always do.” 

I thought to myself, perhaps he was trying to send me a signal that my phone would not be welcomed in this section of the theater and that I should put it away. OR maybe he just wanted to check on his wife’s theater etiquette…hard to tell. 

The children who had continued to fidget and chat throughout the previews were shushed by their keepers as the lights dimmed and the feature presentation was about to begin. The shushing, however, had come entirely too late for the fellow behind Kate and me. The huffing and sighing became quite a distraction as the story on the screen was being told. The huffing soon graduated to a “PLEASE be QUIET!” through gritted teeth directed toward the children in the back.

Now here’s the thing, I’m often a high-strung gal who is terribly oversensitive to what I deem unnecessary noise. Tap your fingers on the dinner table, I’m all over your case. Whistle while you work or really, while you do anything, I’m your worst nightmare. Chew potato chips with an open mouth, you are my sworn enemy…I promise. HOWEVER the children in the back were NOT loud enough to be distracting.  

What happened next only served to add some comedy to the situation. Sir Cranky rose from his seat and with a determined gait marched down the steps and out the door of the theater only to return after a few minutes with a similar stride. Ten minutes later a theater worker entered the room and stood quietly to the side, listening for the Great and Terrible Ruckus that must have been described to him by Mr. Pants. It just so happened that the movie had taken an adventuresome turn and the youngsters were paying close attention and were as quiet as they’d been during the whole show.

The presence of the theater employee seemed to make the rest of us feel like we should be extra quiet so that we were not accused of excessive noise-making. Kate stayed frozen in her seat, eyes never leaving the room monitor, completely disengaged with the movie. Eventually the worker left and as you’d expect, the kids in the back got squirmy once more. The huffing and commenting from Cranky resumed behind us. 

I’d been having a difficult time getting into the movie and things weren’t getting any better there in the dark so I turned my attention to the argument that I was having in my head with Cranky Pants. I don’t know about your skills, but I am QUEEN of the mental argument. I can joust and perry with the best of them…in my head. Usually all of this internal arguing comes to nothing and proves to be a supreme waste of my time and energy but today as I sat there, energy provided by a large box of Mike n Ike’s and nothing but time, I indulged…

“Really Cranko…you came to a children’s movie about a dragon that can fly and than acts like a puppy, who exactly did you think you’d be sharing the theater with?”

“Mr. Pants, if you’d get over yourself and pay attention to this movie, the noise of the kids would not seem so loud…believe me…I cannot even hear them…BUT that could be because of all the noise and commotion YOU are creating in my ear.”

“Sir, an entire 36 rows of seats exists in front of me. Perhaps moving forward in the theater would put some distance between you and your current obsession AND the screen will seem so much bigger than those five year olds back there.”

“Please look at your watch, it is 3:00 pm again, who did you expect to find in the theater at this hour?”

And on and on I went, pressure building in my gut with each witty remark.

Finally, suffering from too much candy, popcorn, and soda intake Kate said, “Mom, I’d like to go. My stomach hurts and I’ve sorta lost the focus of the plot anyway.” So, we gathered our things and left the theater. Kate making quick tracks for the ladies room and me more than a few steps behind her when I heard from behind me…

“Hey! Weren’t you just in that movie?” 

I turned to see Cranky standing in the otherwise empty hallway looking at me. 

“Yes,” I answered amazed that for once in my life all of my mental argument prep work was finally going to pay off. I had my chance! Here he was smiling at me unsuspecting.

Here is what I wish had happened…

“Yes, I was in the movie.”

“Those kids are driving me nuts in there! Will you come to the theater manager with me to complain?”

“Sure, let me do all the talking this time.”

“Ok!” he would say, happy to have a like minded patron of the arts on his side.

Approaching the theater manager I step forward and explain that ever since the beginning of the movie there has been an annoying disturbance behind me. 

“Really, ma’am?” the manager would say, “what have the offending parties been doing?”

“Well,” I’d say pointing with my thumb, “this guy right here has been huffing and puffing and complaining and fussing at the kids who’ve come with their weary keepers to see a CHILDREN’S movie. The kids are not being silent, they are however being reasonable, unlike Mr…what did you say your name was? Anyway, I told this fella I’d come to you and lodge my complaint. Have a nice afternoon.”

What really happened…

“Hey you just left that movie right?”

“Yes. My daughter is not feeling well,” I answer pointing in the direction of the restrooms and taking a step in the same direction.

“Oh, ok,” he said and started back into the theater and then stopped unable to let his matter rest. He thought I’d left because I was as irritated at the children as he. 

“Those KIDS in there! They are driving me crazy!” he said shaking his head as if to rid it of preschool chatter.

I smiled and nodded. “Well,” I said “you are watching a children’s movie.” 
His head bent down slightly, more in disappointment over my lack of agreement with his case and less in embarrassment over his own actions, “And, it is a 2:30 movie,” I continued.

“You’re right I guess,” said a deflated Mr. Cranky Pants as he turned and, I imagine, resumed his spot in his theater of misery while Kate and I headed for home.

There are SO many lessons to take from this but I think the one I’m going to ponder most is this: if I am the only one bothered by a situation and I can’t get anyone else to see things from my point of view then it could very well be that the problem is not with everyone else but instead with me. 

As previously stated, I can get hung up on some pretty crazy things (but please STILL don’t crunch your Doritos in my presence…kidding, sorta) and maybe what irritates is a real issue but probably it is not of vital import. However, my focusing on any issue to the exclusion of reason puts me on the side of Mr. Cranky Pants himself and NOBODY has ever been blessed by Cranky! In fact, my focus on the minor matter will eventually make its mark on everyone else in my theater and will blanket the room with stress and angst and will extinguish every ounce of fun and happiness. Kate and I watched that happen today and it wasn’t pretty, it was pitiful. 

Down with Cranky and ...





Both cranky ...

...and joy 

...are contagious.

Which will you be spreading?

{Choose JOY!}

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