Tree Climbers

“The fear of human opinion disables. Trusting God protects you from that.” Proverbs 29:25

Like a scared cat running from an enthusiastic dog…. He knew it might be his only chance.

His only opportunity. Not to get away, but to get a closer look.

He was desperate. He had heard about this life changer and his message of hope and something had started to shift deep down in his soul. Everything he believed to be true and right about his life had been turned upside down. The life of luxury and wealth he was living at the cost of others, the one that had never caused him to lose a wink of sleep – now kept him up at night. He was ready to make a change but he wanted, needed to make a direct connection with the voice behind the message that was spreading like wildfire. The words of life and truth. The words that offered grace for all his past mistakes and an invitation to live full and free. He just needed a glimpse of The One and word on the street was that he was very close by.

Except that the crowd was large in number and stature. And the man, the one with few friends due to his reputation of being a cheat and a fraud – was alone. And he was small.

Short – to be exact.

The people pushed all around him and he heard the voices announcing the Man’s arrival ….

But he just couldn’t see.

Oh how he wanted to see.

Really see.

Oh How I want to see…. really see.

An amazing thing happens when your hungry enough, curious enough, desperate enough…

Your willingness to do what you’ve never done before, or what others may look down on you for becomes a viable option.

All cares of lack of skill, education, or opinions of others fly right out the window……

And the tree you’ve walked by a million times now becomes the answer to your question….

How can I see Him? Really See Him?

Oh How I want to see…. really see.

“He wanted desperately to see Jesus but the crowd was in his way – he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.” Luke 19:3-4

It made perfect sense.

He was short.

The crowds were tall.

And … well, crowded

and the best way to get a clear view was to go up, get up, climb up

The nearest tree.

A sycamore tree.

“Because the branches of the sycamore-fig are strong and wide-spreading, and because it produces many lateral branches, it was an easy evergreen tree for Zaccheus to climb, and in which he could easily be hidden.”( Bible Gateway)

…… and in which he could easily be hidden.

Zaccheus, a tax collector, wanted to see Jesus but he did not necessarily want to be seen. He had so much to hide. So many layers of shame and guilt from his way of life. In the time when Jesus walked the earth, tax collectors were a hated lot. They were Jews that worked for the oppressive Roman government. They were seen as “turncoats” that used their position to take more than was required. They became wealthy off of their fellow Jews – using the extra they collected to support their lavish lifestyles. He wanted what Jesus had to offer but he guessed Jesus wouldn’t want to actually get close to him. He’d just climb the tree, snuggle in to the branches and watch Jesus share his love and message with more worthy recipients.

But Jesus wasn’t looking for the ones prettied up on the outside. The ones certain of their worth because of the clothes they wore, the good deeds they had done. The ones whose peace came from status and stature.

Jesus was looking for tree climbers.

The ones adjusting their lives to get a glimpse of him.

The ones throwing aside all care of tarnishing their reputation.

The ones with hearts open to the changes he would ask them to make.

The ones that when they felt the tug on their hearts that he was getting closer,

Climbed a tree to get a better look.

Oh how I want to be a tree climber, and see, really see.

But Goodness the crowds can feel thick.

The crowds we might call…

to do lists….

and opinions of others….

and world events out of my control…

and family members struggling…

and a business to maintain and grow…

The crowds that can distract, disappoint and discourage.

The ones that can block my view from the One who wants to guide me through it all.

The ones I need to bust through to get to the nearest tree, grab hold of its branches and hoist myself up to see the One that loves me most.

Jesus is looking for the tree climbers. He is so ready to welcome the tree climbers.

The ones tired and weary from the battle through the crowds. The ones hungry and open and ready.

“When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said ‘Zaccheus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.'” Luke 19:6

And just like that, Zaccheus life is changed forever. He has been noticed. He has been called by name. He has been invited in. No judgement. No list of boxes checked.

Just a man with enough faith to climb a tree and pray for a glimpse of his Savior.

An extension of abundant grace to a man that deserved nothing.

When grace floods our lives it cant help but rush towards those around us. When we receive abundantly we can give abundantly.

“So Zaccheus hurried and came down, and welcomed Jesus with JOY. He stopped and said to the Lord , “See Lord, I am now giving half of my possessions to the poor, and If I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Luke 19:8

Oh how I want to be like our tree climber friend Zaccheus……

Convinced that I have nothing of worth to bring to my Savior except my open, eager, repentant heart.

Willing to fight through my crowds to hear his voice welcoming me in,

reminding me I am loved,

pointing me to a better tomorrow.

Much Love, justbeth

View from the Tree Tops – Lake Ozark, MO – glorious!

What Moves You?

A man’s mind plans his way (as he journeys through life), But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. Proverbs 16:9 AMP

The sound of an alarm?

The scent of hot coffee brewing?

The cry of a baby?

The ring of your phone?

Tickets to the big game, the once in a lifetime event?

The message that old friends are in the area and could they stop by for a quick visit?

The endorphin release that hits at the end of a good workout?

The threat of rain?

The threat of missing a flight?

The threat of plans crashing into your office building on a quiet morning in September?

What moves you?

Yesterday, our son and his girlfriend participated in the Scott Merirtt Memorial Half Marathon. It was a perfect excuse for Tom and I to head five hours north for the weekend to cheer them on. It had been three months since Jonah had moved to Iowa to begin grad school life with a new apartment, new school, new job. I had missed his infamous bear hugs and was eager for a visit. When the opportunity came for this trip.. we moved.

What moves you?

As a recreational runner I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate cheering on those that chose to push themselves in a formal race situation. The crowd is always diverse. All ages, all fitness levels, all variety of attire. Some run with friends and some run alone. Some have trained extensively and some have been moved last minute to give this running thing a try. Some are motivated to achieve their P.R. (personal record) and some are determined to simply finish the race. The group I observed before the Scott Merritt Memorial Half Marathon was similar to many I had seen before. The participants looked eager and focused. The crowd, full of family and friends and lots of dogs were friendly and encouraging. There is just something special about a crew that willingly chooses to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning to either challenge their bodies as runners or anxiously position themselves on what hey hope will be the best viewing locations along the route.

What moves you?

We learned from the chatty gal at the creamer the evening after the race that a Reserve Police Officer is one that is called in to work special events. They are not on the regular pay role but ready to jump in when more police staff are needed. I don’t know how Scott Merritt gave his life, but I do know he lost it in his line of duty as a Reserve Police Officer. A man moved to serve when he could, as a help to the police for of his local community. His memory is honored every year as hundreds rise early on a Saturday morning to push their bodies for time or accomplishment or the promise of chocolate mile in the event that bears his name. I had no knowledge of Scott Merritt before Sept.10,2022 but clearly his life made an impact on many.

What moves you?

I awake early this morning. Feeling rested after a good nights sleep in our cute little air bnb, the words for this blog came racing to my mind. I tip toed through the living room, brewed a cup of coffee and sat myself down in this area I’m pretty sure was created just for early morning writers like myself. As I waited for the caffeine to kick in, I glanced at the date in the upper right hand corner of my computer screen.

Sept. 11

What moves you?

22 years ago.

22.

22 quick years ago, on this day, Americans were shocked that an evil to what we now refer to as “9/11” could happen on our soil. We had been sheltered from the realities that had always been part of other countries normals. The loss of so many lives in the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon moved us all.

Moved us to pray.

Moved us to worship. ( I know your church pews were as packed as ours)

Moved us to the reality that we did not have as much control on our lives as we thought we did.

What moves you?

Minutes before the race my sons girlfriend suggested we pray. Which we did. My son then shared a verse he had read off of his bible app that morning…

“A man’s mind plans his way ( as he journeys through life), But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.” Proverbs 16:9.

Each runner in the Scott Merritt Memorial race had a plan – to start and to finish. Some had studied the race route and some were depending on the race volunteers stationed along the path. Some through they knew the path and were surprised and thankful when someone pointed them in the right direction.

Each human having reason to enter the Twin Towers or the Pentagon on 9/11 had a plan – to start their day and to finish. Some made daily trips to these buildings and others were just visiting for the day. They thought they knew the way in and out of the buildings and were surprised and thankful when a Police officer or Fire Fighter pointed them in the right direction.

What moves you?

I don’t know if everyone finished the half marathon. We left shortly after our two gulped down their chocolate mild and the skies turned dark with rain. We fell like there were still a few runners left out on the course. Maybe injury or fatigue had slowed them down or caused them to stop. They had planned their day but it may have had a disappointing finish.

We all know that everyone that went to the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did not finish the day they way they planned. A tragic ending to what may have felt like a very normal start.

What moves you?

This past week a wise mentor reminded me that the safest place to live is in the center of God’s will. She reminded me that each day I should seek to see where God is working in the moment and join him. She reminded me that whenI seek His plans and trust the direction of my steps to Him I would life a life fulfilled. She encouraged me to listen close to the voice that promises to encourage, comfort and when needed…

move.

We are not promised earthly success when we receive our identity as Christ followers. We are not promised that our plans will succeed. We are not promised PR’s or perfect finishes or lives free of pain and suffering. But we are promised a guide through it all. One that moves us to our starting lines, points us in the right direction on our paths and when our earthly race is complete will carry us to our heavenly home. Never leaving or forsaking. Always loving, always forgiving.

What moves you?

What moves me?

As I take my last sip of now cold coffee and head into my day, I ask myself that question? I think through my plans for worship with my kids, potluck lunch after church and a 5 hour drive home. I think of my week ahead filled with more work and travel. I think about my family and our futures. I think of my community and my volunteer responsibilities. It feels full. It feels good.

I think of all these things and I lay them at my Lord’s fee.

Jesus,

Guide my steps. Direct my paths. Move me,

Move me,

Move me…. to be in step with you.

Much Love,

justbeth

Moved to run!

O.K.

These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on a solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards. Matthew 7:24-27 The Message

“Everything O.K. over there? I see the flags on your lawn?”

A kind inquiry from my next door neighbor to which I answered,

Nope.

Tom and I had so much fun transforming three rooms in our home this summer. Moving furniture, painting, hanging new curtains, purchasing a few more throw pillows (can you ever have enough throw pillows?). I absolutely love the transformation that gave me a new home office and two guest rooms ready with clean sheets, scented candles and goodie baskets for anyone that needs a place to lay their head when passing through our town. Each time I walk by one of the newly renovated rooms I give a contented sigh, just so happy with the results. The work took a couple of hundred dollars and a couple of weeks of time – a fun summer project for my teacher husband that has time to kill in the month of July.

Recently as I was leaving the upstairs guest room I decided to close the door. I never close the door – there is no need to. But I did, or at least I tried. The door which normally closed quietly without effort, stuck. I mean when the door hit the frame it required effort on my part to pull all the way shut.

Well, shoot.

It was at that moment that I looked above the door frame to a crack that had been growing across the ceiling. We had it looked at a few years ago when it was smaller and we were told everything was fine – the effects of normal settling of a home. But I was pretty sure that at this new, closer inspection that the crack was bigger and had a little tributary crack branching off of it.

In another few moments, as I allowed my brain to think through the summer months of our fun home improvements, I remembered the popping. The loud cracks we had heard several times that seemed to come from the attic. New sounds. Sounds that were brief and intermittent making them easy to dismiss when there were so many other fun things to focus on. Like new throw pillows.

Doors that are hard to close, cracks in the ceiling, loud pops in the attic. These are the factors that often point to one thing…

Foundation trouble.

We have learned that in our part of the world that our heavily clay soil does not respond well to draught. As it dries, it hardens and pulls away from the surface it is attached to. Our golf course and school soccer field are littered with large cracks in the ground. Our soccer coach told me that one year a student tripped on one of the cracks and broke his ankle. The effects are significant to say the least. As the soil as pulled away from the foundation of our home everything has shifted, everything is impacted and until we do something and do it quick, it is only going to get worse.

And buying another cute $25 throw pillow is not the answer.

Well shoot.

It feels ironic that in preparation for our foundation fix that will cost us not hundreds, but thousands of dollars , that has required numerous visits from electricians, and gas company technicians to mark our yard with flags and spray painted markers indicating buried lines, one of the messages left smack in front of our home is…

Our grass clearly shows the signs of our dry summer

O.K.

Nope.

Our foundation is not OK. Our Foundation Recovery Rep tells us we caught the problem early, that the price tag could be much higher. The work will be internal in a part of our basement that is unfinished so no need for outside landscaping or inside carpet to be torn up. If we would have waited the internal damage would have been much more significant, the cost doubled or even tripled. None of this is a surprise. I have several friends and neighbors that have already walked this road to which each time I have said “Whew, glad its not me.”

Have you ever done that before?

Witnessed someone else’s ‘foundation trouble’ and said, ‘glad it’s not me?’ and continued purchasing throw pillows overlooking the issues that may be happening right under your nose,

with your own foundation?

I have.

Gosh it is easy to judge and critique other peoples stuff. You know the stuff that would never happen to you, your children, your job, your marriage. The stuff talked about when meeting friends on an afternoon walk or put on the weekly bible study prayer list. The stuff that feels inconceivable and unbearable and you don’t know how anyone could live through the clean up…

Until it’s yours.

Until a season of draught reveals the truth of your foundation.

Until words you thought you’d never hear spoken about your life… are.

Health diagnosis.

Relationship changes.

Et cetera.

As I stood in my living room listening to the diagnosis of our foundation from the kind, straight shooting home technician I felt a sense of peace. It has been said that clarity is kindness. Now that we know the truth of our foundation situation we can begin the steps of solidifying and strengthening the very base that everything rests upon. It feels hard and it feels good.

As I clean out my storage area in preparation for our renovation this week my mind wanders to other places my foundation has been tested – in my personal and professional life. Have I been counting on cute throw pillow solutions to carry me through or have I spent time strengthening the one foundation that holds the promise of never letting me down? In Matthew Chapter 7 Jesus speaks clearly about the importance of building a life with his words, his truth. “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on.” He is clear that his blueprint for life building is the one factor that will determine if a life storm will make you stronger or knock you down like a “house of cards.”

Today I ask you the questions my neighbor asked me,

“Everything O.K. over there?”

Are their cracks and pops and sticky doors in your relationships, your work, your finances, your anything that you’ve been ignoring? Consider this an invitation to pay attention and listen close. It is only when the problem is diagnosed and the truth of the situation is clear that healing and rebuilding can begin.

Jesus – Our foundation. Our Savior. Our friend. He is the master carpenter, he has everything you need to start your own home improvement project, today. The revealing of our weakness shines a light on the power of his strength. The clarity of our own fragility forces our eyes to the solid ground on which Jesus invites us to build our lives.

Trust Him.

Lean on Him.

Believe Him.

Build on Him.

Today.

O.K.?

Much love,

justbeth

Spinach for breakfast

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone ( just one grain, never more.) But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest. John 12:24 AMP

“Essentially, we are waiting for someone to die.”

It’s a phrase I’ve shared two times this week. For real. It is the honest to goodness truth of the reality I am currently living, I am waiting for someone to die, two someones actually. Each time I’ve shared this with my friends I’ve received the same look. Faces that hold a posture of “Huh – really?” and then when it settles in their soul – they turn to an attitude of hesitant resignation. One that agrees it is true but gosh it would be great if it wasn’t.

A tendon and an apartment.

Two pieces to the completion of two puzzles that will be made available after death.

My daughter needs a tendon from a cadaver to fix an injured knee and my parents need an empty apartment in the senior living center close to my home. Each of them, my daughter and my parents, have their name on lists. Lists they only move up when someone else..

dies.

It’s just the strangest thing.

Life coming from death.

Healing coming from pain.

Starts coming from finishes.

Yet, so it is.

It was not supposed to be this way. Humanity experiencing pain, suffering, death. It’s why it is always so hard, to say goodby. God never wanted it. He hates it.

But he uses it.

Brining good from the hard.

I’ve found that if I look close enough – I can see the lessons. The ones God uses to remind me that he is real. That he cares. That he has a perfect plan for all that believe in him – “plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

If I look close enough – I can see the beauty that comes from ashes.

It’s about this time every late summer that I give up on my flowers, the ones I was so excited to plant and nurture in the spring. Their care now feels like more work then I want to exert as I eagerly await cooler weather and the beauty of fall. The beauty that comes from the changing of leaves from green to red, orange and yellow. The beauty that comes from one thing ending and another beginning.

I see the cycle of the importance of endings and beginnings all around me.

The graduation of beloved Senior Classes of our high school each spring. The students that we’ve seen grow and mature over four years, the ones that always leave. They make room for a new class of nervous, giggly, immature freshman. One ending bringing another’s beginning.

The sun that sets each night in glorious beauty leaving darkness and a much needed pause for rest and refreshment before a new day comes again.

The flowers that die and scatter their seeds which provide hope for multiple of their kind in the next growing season.

The professional that retires from the workforce providing space for the new college gradate.

The tradesman that leaves his craft after mentoring his apprentice who can now provide for his family.

The person that loses their job and moves to follow work in a new town and leaves a home for someone who has lost their job and moves to that town to follow work.

The athlete that suffers a season ending injury opening up a spot for the overlooked player on the bench. The player that when given the chance reveals her excellence and earns the starting spot on the team.

The eggs that I crack for breakfast each morning providing protein to fuel me for the day and the spinach I chop – the leaves that started as a single seed, grew to an abundant bush of leaves and when mixed with my eggs add extra nutrition to my morning.

Starts and finishes – I see the pattern all around me.

And so do you.

This simple reality that shows up in our work place, our leisure activities, our breakfast food.

The ones that can ultimately

Point us to truth.

The truth that despite the pain we may feel when one thing ends and another begins, we have hope.

We have hope even when we face the ultimate ending, when our days or the ones of our loved ones come to a close. When the cycle is complete, the race is finished. We have hope that this one big end is entrance to the most grand and eternal beginning. Our hope for a life, when as C.S. Lewis quoting Samwise in the Lord of the Rings , says “Everything sad will become untrue.”

No sorrow, no pain, no tears. We will see purpose in the hard of our earthly life. I like to think that I’ll have understanding of the blessings that came from the little deaths of disappointment and discouragement I felt in my life on earth. Like when the seed Luke talks about in chapter 24 dies – the one single seed, that upon death creates an abundant harvest.

Our beautiful beginning that we only have because of the one traumatic ending of our Savior Jesus.

His death after living a perfect life. His ending opens up our beginning.

His lonely, heart wrenching persecution when he took all our sin and pain right to the cross and resolutely completed the hardest race anyone will ever run. His death whose effects multiply daily as we share his love and his truth and his sacrifice with those that don’t understand his story and its role in ours.

Our story – the one with starts and finishes, endings and beginnings, celebration of new life and mourning death. The story that has purpose when we remember that God will use each hard for our good and others and for his ultimate glory. When we recognize the lessons and embrace the reminders.

As I wait someone else’s finish to open up my loved ones beginnings, I hold tight.

I hold tight to the God who ordains it all, all our beginnings and all our ends. I hold tight because this cycle is hard. The waiting, the starting, the ending. I hold tight while I clean out my flower bed, I pull out my sweaters as the air grows cold and when I chop my spinach each morning for breakfast.

How good that He is with us in it all.

Hundreds of new beauties can come from the death of this one precious daisy.

A hand to hold

“Look how strong you are!”

I’m not sure when it happens – I just know it does and did for each of my three children. That moment when your infant child is able to wrap their tiny fingers around your one adult finger and you feel the smidge of strength and purpose as they recognize their ability to grip.

“Look how strong you are!”

These words instantly come out of a mother’s mouth both in affirmation of your child and awe at the miracle you are holding in your arms. Each new development you see in those first weeks is remarkable. The progress in the first year of a child’s life feels like more than any other year of a human’s existence. The newborn that comes into the world 100% dependent on their parents quickly moves from nursing or a bottle to solid food. They transition from lying helpless to crawling and walking on their own. First words may be uttered, and the desire for independence that grows with each passing year begins to peak at you in the most subtle of ways.

“Look how strong you are!”

Today marks a milestone in my mothering life. Our youngest turns 20.

20.

The memory of her gripping my finger for the first time is clear in my mind’s eye.

Maybe because she was my last baby.

Maybe because she was my smallest baby and this landmark felt even more amazing. Her fingers – so tiny!

Maybe it is because even today, she still reaches for my hand when we are walking together or driving together or sitting near each other. I learned one of the best ways for me to communicate my belief, support and love to my strong, determined, compassionate last-born is to hold her hand.

“Look how strong you are!”

As I look back at the years my children spent in their teens I realize that the words I spoke during their first year of life, that came so freely and so enthusiastically, were the exact words they needed during this season of the teenage years that again felt like such rapid growth. The tone may have needed to drop an octave or two from the higher pitch we often use with newborns – but the sentiment is still the same. “Look how strong you are” is a message my teenagers needed when navigating a world that seemed to scream about their weaknesses when held against their peers’ apparent strengths. It was a message spoken from a “I knew you when” perspective. As a parent your memory of that first finger squeeze is held up against the strength your child demonstrates when stepping up to bat for the first time in little league, or rides the bus for the first time, or gets in the drivers seat of your car and you genuinely see their strength that comes from daily, gradual growth. The biggest lie a parent of teenagers can believe is that their voice is no longer welcome or necessary. The effect your words have may elicit different responses than the smiles and coos of a baby but the reminder that you are still in their corner full of the same belief, love and trust instill a security so desperately needed in their lives.

“Look how strong you are!”

But what about those times when they’re not.

And we’re not.

Strong, that is.

When the circumstances of life appear to have the upper hand that takes a sneaky right upper cut to the base of our jaw, or into our gut. And all strength and hope feels lost. The “look how strong you are” statement falls flat because it is…

just

not

true.

God uses each of my children to teach me much needed life-lessons. My just-turned-20-year-old is no exception. My modus operandi is to proclaim “Look how strong you are!” even when it is not entirely accurate in an effort to take my eyes and others off the hard and onto the bright side. The reality is that as we grow older so does our ability to detect inauthentic praise. My daughter reminded me once that allowing oneself to feel the sadness that accompanies disappointment and discouragement are a necessary part of the growing process and that false encouragement is no encouragement at all. I learned that in the moments when my children feel weak and I have little to offer the most important words are not, “Look how strong you are!” but…..

“Look how strong HE is.”

He – the God who knit you together in my womb.

The God who promises to never leave or forsake you.

The God who has endless grace and mercy. Giving us more than we we ask or imagine and forgiving us more times than we deserve.

The God who sent His son into the world, leaving his divine power in heaven in order to feel the strain that humans feel when their strength is tested. The God who exhibited the greatest strength when he allowed the physical sacrifice of His son through death on a cross.

His son, our Savior who defeated death and the grave to give

hope,

power

and STRENGTH

to all that believe in him.

“Look how strong you are!”

Today I celebrate the end of an era. I loved the teen years. I loved the conversations with my children that made me laugh, made me think, made me sometimes want to pull my hair out. I loved the evidence of moments that showed their growth, their maturity and their trust in their Savior. I loved every moment where I was reminded of my need for wisdom and strength which lead me straight to the feet of Jesus.

Today I celebrate you, Brooke. The bookend to our children. The courageous, witty, determined, passionate 20-year-old. The human that asks the best questions, that expects excellence from herself, that is willing to stay in the hard when others may want to bail. The one that takes the time to write heartfelt birthday cards and thank you notes and is quick to ask how I am doing. Today I celebrate your God-given strengths that you use to point others to Him and I also celebrate your weaknesses that remind you that your true source of power comes from the one who gave you life for now and eternity. I take your hand, I squeeze your fingers, I feel your grip –

“Look how strong you are! Look how strong He is!”

You are loved.

Mom

Brooke – She’s 20

Kiss and Cry

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 b

Feb 4 – Feb 15, 1976, Innsbruck, Austria. My first memory of falling in love. Later that summer, July 17- August 1, 1976 Montreal, Quebec, Canada I fell deeper. I was just 6 years old. That most impactful year was my first introduction to the world of Olympic sport and I was captivated – my heart, my soul, my everything. Since that time I’ve never wavered for my love for all things Olympic. I watch the opening ceremony, I watch most of the competitions, I fall asleep to it and the next morning I turn on the morning news shows to watch the interviews.

For real.

I think most little girls fell in love with Dorothy Hamill- 1976 Gold medalist in women’s ice skating. We were enamored with her beauty, her elegance, her haircut. If you look back to pictures from the mid to late 70’s you will see a similar theme in hair styles called – the “wedge”. We all wanted to look just like her. I have a very clear memory of sitting in the beauty shop chair saying “I want a Dorothy Hamill hair cut.” Isn’t it funny the things that hold place cards in our filing cabinet of memories?

And Nadia, sweet Nadia, Gold Medal gymnast from Romania. She was just 14 years old and the first person to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics. Her bow tied pig tails, her shy smile, her absolute dominance in all gymnastic disciplines are memories cemented in my heart. In the winter I had been inspired to skate as much as I could on our frozen lake conveniently located at the end of our block and when I returned to school in the fall of ’76 I begged my mom to enroll me in the after school gymnastic classes held in our school gym.

Dorothy and Nadia… their influence changed my little self… for so much good.

They made me want to be better. They inspired me to want to learn new things. My heart soared when I watched them. When Dorothy skated I danced around my basement pretending I had skates on. When I did get on the ice I taught myself how to skate backwards and go into a spin – pulling my arms in tight towards my body and moving in what felt like very fast circles. When Nadia moved effortlessly over the uneven bars I ran to my backyard to hang from the bar on my swing set – attempting to fling myself to the ground without using my hands. I lived in my imagination of bigger things and fantastic dreams and……

I felt alive.

As I think back on the impact those women had on my little 6 year old self I understand why I still deeply love the Olympics. Over the last two weeks of investing hours watching or at least listening while working or cleaning or cooking, my love grew. I collected stories from both those that achieved great success and many that fell short of their goals. The olympics remind me that life does not always feel fair – this time more than ever. They remind me that humanity does not always rise up. They remind me that there are tomorrows after both victory and failure. Here are a few of the athletes stories that I will take with me when the events end and the Olympic flame is extinguished.

“I don’t wait to do tomorrow what I’m capable of doing today.” Winter Vinecki – US Olympic aerial skier from Michigan commenting on what she learned from the adversity she has faced in her young life – including loosing her dad to cancer when she was 9 years old.

“Stay out of their business – they have coaches.” Advice for parents of child athletes from Sheldon Peterson father of Tabatha and Tara Peterson – US Olympic curling team and sisters.

“Listen to your parents.” Nathan Chen, US Olympic Gold Medalist in mens figure skating when asked – What makes you so good?

“When you’re going through Hell – keep going”. Taylor Shiffrin – brother to US Olympic Women’s downhill skier – Mikaela Shiffrin when she wanted to quit skiing after her dad unexpectedly passed away.

“Do your best every day. Never give up on yourself and dreams. Surround yourself with support!” US Olympic Silver Medalist in the Super G Ryan Cochran-Siegle – Mens downhill skiing event. He returned to skiing after experiencing a broken neck.

“Three keys to success – Perseverance. Patience and Passion.” Zoi Synnott New Zeeland snow boarding Olympian. Her coach credits her with “Keeping things simple in complex situations, always trying to be better than the day before.”

“My biggest strength is that I ask for help.. now.” Jessie Diggins US cross country skiing Olympian – who over came an eating disorder so she could continue skiing.

“Let the turkeys get you down. There will always be turkeys. Or get up. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Get up because you can. Because you like what you do when it’s not infested with the people who have so much apparent hate for you. Just get up. It’s not always easy, but it’s also not the end of the world to fail. Fail twice. Fail 5 times. At the Olympics. ( Enter me…). Why do I keep coming back? Gosh I knows it hurts more than it feels good lately. I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be and I’m stubborn as S**T. So lets go for some team event training tomorrow and then the final alpine race of this olympics on Saturday.” Mikaela Shiffrin responding to critics after she failed to finish ( DNF) 3 of her events in the Olympics.

Finally – I learned that 2 X Gold medalist in freestyle skiing David Wise credits his power and strength to a strong faith in Jesus Christ. “I want people to say – Dave did it different than anyone else and he was still alarmingly successful.”

Over the last two weeks I have asked many if they are fans of the Olympics. I am simply shocked when some friends share they might watch and others that weren’t even aware that they were happening. I have taken it as personal challenge to help others fall as deeply in love with them as I have. I want everyone to share in the joy, the disappointments, the victories, the failures and the life lessons in each Olympic story that unfolds. And I ask myself, “Why?”

I think it’s because I want others to marvel at the athletes commitment to their life calling and be inspired to give that same kind of attention to their own. The determination, focus, belief, tenacity that I see modeled in Olympians are really at the same level I feel like I need in my own life, in my own little space in the world, in my calling. I’m not competing to win a gold medal but I certainly want to maximize the life I’ve been given. I’ll most likely never be asked to represent a sports drink or an athletic shoe but I have been asked to, in the verbiage of the writer of Hebrews, “to run with endurance the race God has set before me.” He proceeds this statement with this statement – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Hebrews 12:1. Like the athlete that shows up to the gym, or the track or the slopes. Like the olympian that surrounds themself with coaches and trainers and experts – I want to show up. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to get up when I fall. I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to celebrate the victories. I want to appreciate the unique ways God has created me and all those around me. I want to embrace every opportunity He has orchestrated for my good and His glory. I want to receive the promised grace and mercy on my bad days and I want to freely give it on my good.

I guess it’s ok if you’re not as much a super fan of the Olympics as I am….

I guess it’s ok if you’ve watched Netflix, or apple tv or hallmark channel or absolutely nothing the last 2 weeks…

I guess it’s ok if you don’t know who won the gold in the super G, or the mono bob, or what the Kiss and Cry station is for ice skaters or that there almost wasn’t a medal ceremony for the women’s ice skating champions…

BUT….. I desperately want you to know that you are called to bring your best, to receive the most, to embrace the worst, to get up again, to learn, to grow, to love, to live full out…..

the race you’re running.

I want you to believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That all your days were recorded in His book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139.

I want you to understand that with God’s strength you will be able to stand firmly and tread safely on paths of testing and trouble. Psalm 18:33 AMP

I want you to remember that your Savior will renew your strength, guide you along right paths, protect and comfort in dark valleys. Psalm 23. NLT

I need to know we’re in this together. I need to know you are with me on this journey embracing the freedom of knowing our ultimate victory celebration is secure. Our eternal medal ceremony is waiting not because of what we have done or will do but because of what Jesus did on our behalf.

He is our ultimate coach.

He is our faithful guide.

He is the Champion of our souls.

The author and perfecter of our faith – the Ultimate victory.

My eyes are on Him – let the games begin.

The Hamill Hair Cut

$5 Pumpkins

“We had one that we sold for a dollar…. but now we just have the 5 and 10 dollar sizes left.”

The 8 year old salesman was explaining my options as I perused the back of the trailer filled with orange and green pumpkins … of the 5 and 10 dollar size. I chose a fat, round orange globe with a dent on one side and handed him a $20 bill. His mom let him do the math to determine my change. He thought for just a moment and smiled big when she affirmed his correct computations and then his dad handed me a 10 and a 5. I learned that later that day he would be heading to play in youth football game in our unusually warm Missouri weather. I proceeded into our local coffee shop ordered a dirty chai tea latte and an apple danish, loaded up my pumpkin and headed home.

My pumpkin now sits on my porch with my one traditional red mum I purchase yearly for my limited fall decor. My apple danish is half eaten – gosh its good. The cinnamon sugar crusted dough wrapped around warm apple filling reminds me of something my mom made years ago. My latte is cooling as I enjoy the view from my deck. The cloud cover and cool morning temps are providing a perfect setting for the beginning of a day that I’m going to work hard at keeping….. Slow.

I’m a natural early riser. Its unusual that I sleep past six, most mornings rising between 4:30-5, with no alarm. After my first cup of coffee I’m ready to roll. Living the life of an entrepreneur means if I don’t get to work – I won’t get fired but it also means I won’t make any money. Sitting around is just not an option. Until it really needs to be.

I recently heard that a vacation is not what we all need when life gets crazy and overwhelming. It was the opinion of this author that it is a readjustment to our every day life rhythms that will bring the relief we need . One week away will feel good but if the life we return to still holds unnecessary obligations, bars to high for our current life season and broken relationships left needing mending – the peace from our week on the beach or in the mountains or fill in the blank of your favorite getaway – will quickly slip away.

This last week I said No to three worthy and noble opportunities. One yes would have allowed me to use my love of writing. Another would have provided a way to encourage people I deeply love and a third would have supported our school community. And I said NO to

every.

single

one.

If I looked at my calendar I could have squeezed these activities in – there was room. There was room if I pushed myself to the very edge of the limits of my capacity. There would be no wiggle room, no extra, no margin, no space. I’ve learned living like this is draining and life sucking and actually quite dangerous. When my life is so full and I am moving so fast, I am certain I miss the lessons I need to learn and the loved ones that need me most.

I do not know how much smarter I’ve grown in my almost 51 years but I can say in many areas I have added much needed wisdom. Growing comfortable with a simple NO has been such a gift. The three no’s of my week allowed me the energy to dive in to the list of commitments I had already made. I was able to focus on the tasks in front of me that demanded my emotional and physical energy. I was able to pause for the phone calls from my college daughter looking for feedback on a choice she was making and another call from my dad who was reporting on my moms first round of radiation – her final step in her breast cancer battle. I could complete the tasks for my business, teach for my online bible study and also joyfully serve with other parents and students in our concession stand at our school football game. My week was full, and fun and busy.

And it was also free.

FREE.

It was free from bitterness that has come when I have over committed in the past.

It was free from scrambled brain syndrome that occurs when I fail to leave any room to breath in my schedule.

It was free to take some moments on my Saturday to chat with and 8 year old pumpkin salesman.

To learn about his life and support his business.

To add a splash of orange color to my front porch.

To sip a double shot dirty chai tea latte.

To think of you, the reader, and pray that when you put your phone down or close your computer after reading these words…

You will pause and breath and search out your own pumpkin salesman, or coffee shop or that you wont..

and you’ll experience the joy and peace of your heartfelt, powerful ability to say..

No.

my $5 pumpkin

30 minutes

I set my timer for 30 minutes.

30 minutes of writing.

30 minutes of diving into something I promised I would do 2 times a week and now its been almost a month.

30 minutes feels like a lot.

30 minutes is a lot.

When you don’t know what to say.

Yesterday I had an important 30 minute conversation with my 21 year old.

Today I took a 30 minute nap.

after I walked my dog…

for 30 minutes.

I schedule 30 minute coaching calls with the consultants I lead. This set time encourages a focused and productive conversation – no rabbit trails.

My daughter just left to begin unpacking her college boxes…. for 30 minutes.

I’d like to be able to complete a 5K in 30 minutes – I am currently at about 35 ish.

It takes me 30 minutes to get to the closest Target and Starbucks.

Our weekly family zoom calls last about 2- 30 minute time slots.

When we drive to Utah in a couple of weeks it will take about 40 – 30 minute time slots.

When I am the teaching leader for my bible study I usually use all of my allotted 30 minutes.

My weather app is telling me the rain storm that just dropped from the sky will last about 30 minutes.

Last Friday when Tom and I went out to dinner – we waited for 30 minutes to be seated.

My prep time each morning is about 30 minutes.

My favorite podcast drops each Tuesday and Friday – 30 minutes each.

This morning I made waffles and start to finish – probably took about 30 minutes.

I scrolled on facebook for 30 minutes today – avoiding writing this blog – because I could not imagine that I would have 30 minutes of anything to say.

It turns out – social media is not the place to go for inspiration.

Yesterday a professional golfer – on the cusp of winning a tournament and over 1.5 million dollars – tested positive for COVID. The news was shared with him in the most public of settings as he exited the 18th green at the completion of his round. You can bet the next 30 minutes of his life when he withdrew from the tournament and was escorted off of the grounds were some of the most disappointing of his life as a golfer.

During this 30 minute writing session I have paused once to finish off a bag of stale Cheetos and picked up my phone 3 times to be reminded by my phone timer that I am supposed to be writing for…..

30 minutes.

With each stroke of my keypad my fingers appear to be remembering and my heart, mind and creative juices are flowing. I am experiencing the beginnings of the escape that happens when I turn off the rest of the world and free the words hidden in the inner places they have been waiting to flee – while I pushed them back since the last time I set my timer for…

30 minutes.

What have you NOT done lately?

There are a gazillion things we have been told are wrong, bad, dangerous…. things that once took up our minutes and returned to us joy, peace, laughter, happiness.

Church gatherings

Concerts

Carnivals

Vacations

Business retreats

Summer Camp

Backyard BBQ’s

Meeting friends for coffee in a public coffee shop

Greeting each other in the grocery store with our smiles…

So many things.

As I look at a month filled with travel both for personal and professional reasons I realize I feel a bit out of practice. Events that in the past have stoked feelings of anticipation and excitement have currently been replaced by bit of awkward social anxiety. I certainly can’t be alone as we join together as a nation and world to get back to normal.

I’ve decided over the last 30 minutes of writing that I’m going to give myself some grace.

I think Ill take my re-entry in small chunks… setting my timer, dipping my toe in …..

30 minutes at a time.

Little happy… little sad

His voice cut the 30 minutes of silence that had filled the car. After a bit of small talk and my attempts to gather some information about the young man earlier in the ride it became clear he wanted to escape into his air pods and the music I could hear softly from the front seat. I had never met this young man before and I had hoped I would learn a bit more about him and his home country, Vietnam, on our hour and fifteen minute ride to the airport. I succumbed to the reality of the quiet ride and drifted off to my own thoughts.

‘I don’t even know what I’m feeling.”

At first I did not realize he was talking to me. He had been speaking to someone on his phone earlier in his native Vietnamese tounge but this time his words were in english and directed towards me.

When I snapped to attention – I leaned in to his comment – “Yes? Feeling about what?”

“I’m a little bit happy and a little bit sad – all at once.”

Hmmm.. I replied – “What is making you feel happy and what is making you feel sad?”

“I’m happy to see my mom, eat my home cooked food, sleep in my bed. I’m sad to leave my friends and this school. I like it here.”

This young man had developed a reputation for not caring about school. His efforts appeared to be enough to just skate by. One would think all he wanted to do was leave and never come back. For a couple of minutes in the car he revealed the label he had of not caring, not connecting may not have been entirely true.

A little bit happy and a little bit sad.

I affirmed him that it was indeed a strange reality to experience two opposite emotions at the same time. One coin, two sides – flipping back and forth between the two trying to figure out where to land. He spoke a few more words on what appeared to be a first time experience for him in his world of teen emotions and then drifted off to the silence and his music. We reached the airport, unloaded his luggage and I bid him farewell. I do not know if I will ever see him again.

Yesterday was full of happy/sad moments for our community. We celebrated the graduation of our Senior Class and the reminder that the relationships that had grown during the last year would now take on a different reality. A large portion of our student body are international students which means the end of the school year means our students will not just return to their homes around our small town but to twenty different countries around the globe. Goodby takes on a whole new level of happy/sad when it takes 24 hours and three flight changes to return to your home land.

One American student commented that she didn’t realize she would cry so much during the graduation ceremony. Another student from Armenia reminded us of her offer to host my husband and I in her home if we would ” Please come visit!” Every year I tell myself I will get better at handling my feelings on this day but like my new friend from Vietnam I have landed again in the happy/sad conundrum that sneaks into the silence of our souls in the midst of the busy of transition to a new season of life.

Little happy, little sad.

As I pulled away from the airport I reflected on my brief yet important conversation. I was reminded that so much of life is not all happy and all sad. I thought of the tug that I have when I label life ‘good’ when I’m happy and ‘bad’ when I’m sad and I rested in the fact that both joy and sorrow can hold the same space and actually work together to make it more beautiful, more appreciated, more loved.

I am grateful I decided to say yes to a last minute request to drive this student to the airport. He was an unlikely candidate to remind me of an important truth of life on the eve of dropping my son off at a camp where he will work this summer and a couple of weeks before we drop our daughter at another camp to do the same.

Little happy, little sad… all at once.

The sweet dance of life….let the music begin.

Ani from Armenia – We can’t wait to visit


Head pats, bear hugs and a hand squeeze

Allie pats my head.

Jonah gives me bear hugs.

and Brooke….

she grabs my hand.

Three humans -now swiftly moving to adulthood – grown and flown as they say, that once spent the first 9 months of their lives inside of me. They were physically closer than any human can get with another – literally attached by a cord of life, needing my heartbeat and my nutrition. Is it a wonder the emotions shared between mother and child are so intense, complex, beautiful……

I’m so glad I’m a girl.

I’m so glad I got to be the one that housed the lives created by the love of my spouse and I.

I’m so glad for the months of wonder, and heartburn, and joint aches, and weight gain and doctors appointments.

I’m beyond grateful that our journey to parenthood was simple and text book and in many ways just like I’d imagined it would be.

And now 23 years into the parenting journey I am even more grateful for the gazillion moments of joy, challenge, sweetness, frustration, growth, that far exceeded my expectations. These three humans: The head patter, the bear hugger, the hand squeezer have impacted me more than anyone else on the planet. They are gifts that took residence in my heart from the moment I knew of their existence – deeply rooted, deeply loved.

And tomorrow, for some reason, the world has told me – I should expect a grand celebration commemorating all the blood sweat and tears I have shed in the raising of my tribe. It is a pretty big bag of expectations we’ve placed on our husbands and children.

Some moms will enjoy breakfast in bed, brunch after church, bbqs with family.

Some will receive flowers, jewelry, appliances and depending on how creative the childs teacher – a sweet hand made gift you’ll have sitting on your desk or hanging on your wall for years to come.

Some will get the “day off” while their spouses take their kids to the park or the zoo.

And it will be good and sweet and lovely.

And it may not.

This past week I have read several blogs and listened to several podcast with the theme of Mothers Day. One reflected on the importance of Moms staying grounded in God’s word as they raised their children. Another was advice to dads on how to best show appreciation for their wives on this special day. One discussed the pain that many will feel due to their inability to have children, the loss of a child, a challenging relationship with their mom or the loss of their moms. All of this input surrounding this day left my mind swirling with what to say as I made my weekly pause on this blog that would post the day before the yearly tradition of showing our moms all the love.

I realized as I thought about all the ways a woman will enter this day – with either anticipation for the celebrations or the dread of another year passing in pain…there is an important common denominator that we would be wise to recognize. Whether your quiver is full or empty. Whether you are in a season of peace and calm with your children or you are feeling deep sadness over choices you or they have made that have severed relationships that seem far from being able to be mended. Whether you are on your third round of fertility treatments or your child has left this earth before you. Whether you will wake to three toddlers bouncing on your bed in excitement or the sound of dishes clanging in the kitchen as children attempt to create a feast…..

The desire for motherhood provides us all with one important gift…

the one that drives us to our knees in prayers of gratitude, anguish, anger, praise,

the gift that points us all to the need for a Savior.

Recognizing our need that can be filled to overflow with a powerful, peace giving God is the gift to all women.

The desire that he gives us to nurture will be filled, can be filled when we trust the One who does both the creating and the filling.

When I was a young mom my unspoken expectations of the day were for peace and calm and maybe a bit of pampering. The days when I felt the need for a break are long gone.

Today my desires are simple…

A head pat.

A bear hug

A hand squeeze

And the reminder that even though tomorrow I’ll physically experience only one of those three…

My Lord, my savior, my life giver …

Your Lord,

your Savior

Your live giver

will meet me and will meet you right where you are.

Let the celebration begin.

Head patter, bear hugger, hand squeezer.