Forgot to Remember

It is NCAA D1 Volleyball Year End Tournament time. 5 months late.

The fall volleyball season for many colleges was pushed to spring due to…. duh..

Covid.

College athletes have pushed through regular co-vid testing, quarantine, cancelled games….

and playing in front of empty stands.

Until now.

The NCAA D1 Volleyball tournament held in Omaha,NE has allowed limited fans in the CHI Health Center Stadium for the finals. Our family loves volleyball and we could not be happier for the return of a sport we enjoy so much. It is exciting to hear the cheers of live people in the stands and not the recorded background noise we’ve come to find normal over the last year of COVID impacted sports seasons.

The sounds of the fans is so energizing.

When they remember.

To cheer, that is.

Which begs the question? How could you forget? More importantly how could Nebraska fans forget?

To Cheer.

Nebraska has the largest college volleyball venue in the Big 10. It seats over 11,000 and in non co-vid times is usually sold out. The atmosphere is electric. People of all ages show up to cheer on their Huskers who have a long tradition of winning. Tom and I are always eager to tune in to a televised home game in Husker arena.

So why were they so quiet? The tournament was held in Omaha giving the Nebraska team a clear home court advantage.

The No. 5 ranked Nebraska Volleyball team was one of the final 8 teams left in the tournament playing No. 4 ranked Texas. It was an exciting match. They were in a must win situation and the Texas fans were on their feet. They were loud and proud – waving their Hook Em horns hands – ready to usher their team in to another NCAA tournament semi final.

And the Nebraska fans sat.

They stayed settled in to their comfy arena seating – all decked out in their Husker T shirts, pom poms and one man even wore a hat that looked like a corn cob. They had all the signs of excited, loyal fans ( I mean how many people do you see walking around with a corn cob hat?)

But they remained quiet.

I probably would not have noticed this – but the TV announcers calling the game drew it to all the viewers attention.

“It’s like they forgot how to cheer!” Said one.

“Yes – the Nebraska team needs their fans to get behind them. They were playing so much better earlier in the match when the fans were ON THEIR FEET and CHEERING.” said the other commentator.

Wow.

The team needs to hear their fans but it appears they forgot how to cheer.

Texas went on to win the match against Nebraska and they went on to beat their next opponent No. 1 ranked Wisconsin in a close, hard fought match to take them to the NCAA tournament finals. As I watched the Texas/Wisconsin match I paid attention – to the fans. What I noticed was interesting and eerily similar to the Texas-Nebraska match.

The fans.

In the final determining points of the set that Texas won to send them to the finals…

The Texas fans were on their feet.

The Wisconsin fans were not.

The team that had the loudest fans….. WON.

Now…. My Volleyball Coach husband will tell me their were a gazillion other reasons Texas won. They are a tough, talented team. They won because they deserved to win.

But gosh…. there are some lessons these fans can teach us. There are some important questions I believe we as a culture can ask ourselves in regards to the way we support or don’t support the people in our lives. I fear that a year of disconnect has caused us to forget the power of connection, community and full out cheering.

Friends – your voice of encouragement matters.

How you show up matters.

Your effort in reaching out to people matters.

Sociologists and Psychologists will tell you that the rise in suicide and substance abuse has sky rocketed since we all took cover in the safety of our homes in March of 2020. We need each other. We need to feel the energy that comes when we know someone believes in us because they have told us so. If we continue down the course of passivity the implications are far greater then not making it to the finals of a volleyball tournament.

I have realized that as I work to stay connected I am going to have to make a few adjustments.

Connection takes work. Friends and family that I used to feel united to because of shared beliefs may now find ourselves on opposite sides of well…. just about anything. Our culture has no end of issues we can disagree on and it appears that we believe that if we just get louder about our perspectives people will understand. I have not found that to be true. Taking time to understand the people in my life before offering up my perspective means I will work to listen first. Talk later.

Connection means you open you mouth. In a world where we can scroll passively past the lives of thousands of people we may have allowed ourselves to believe that act is true connection. We see what is happening, we note it, may judge it or ourselves and move on. Can I suggest that a start to connection is to leave a simple LIKE or ‘good job’ underneath the post? If you are wondering who may need your words… the answer is simple: anyone you encounter who is breathing. That is the only qualifier.

Connection means you move. You make the call. You pick up a pen and paper. You shift your gaze to the eyes of the people in the store – making connection with the parts of our bodies that some writers have characterized as the windows to our soul. Take the first step. Follow the nudge to reach out to the person that drops into you mind for no apparent reason.

A couple of years ago Tom and I were leading an event for students at our High School campus. It was required. We took attendance. One young man came in late and said the words I’ll remember forever. English was not his first language so he expressed his sentiments with the best English phrase he could put together…

“I’m so sorry I’m late…. I forgot to remember!”

Friends – It’s time that we stop “forgetting to remember” ……

how to cheer.

How to encourage. How to love. How to support our people in a way that helps them push through their hard, those last final moments before the finish line. Our silence serves no one. Your CHEERS matter.

You matter.

I can hear the voices now.

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.” Hebrews 3:13

A former HS team Tom coached. We love volleyball!

First love

It was bound to happen. I’d been hanging out there for a few months so I was sure to bump into him.

Or at least His memory.

It was Monday and I was running down a gravel country road about 1.5 miles away from home. Just like that – the song on my 80’s pop play list jumped ahead and I was back in the summer of 1986 and in the arms of the love of my 16 year old life. I’ve been stuck on this play list since I discovered the completion of my runs has everything to do with the music blasting in my ears. 1980’s music is the soundtrack of my teenage years and the upbeat rhythms of Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams and Rick Springfield fit the bill.

Raise your hand if you are old enough to remember cassette tapes you shared with your teenage love – the one that held all of your songs and especially “the song.” The names of you and your person were written on the label in black sharpie with hearts around them. The making of the tape took time, effort and money. They were gold.

Me – right here. Had one and had a Song.

The Glory of Love by Peter Cetera – former lead singer of the Classic Band Chicago. He left the band in 1986 and went on to record 8 solo albums. Thanks Wikipedia. It was his first hit single that I had not heard in years that sent me down a rabbit trail of memories that helped me push through at least a good 3/4 of a mile of my run.

This boy that filled my memories for a few minutes last Monday was my first love. We dated for four years and all our high school friends thought we were a forever couple. People were shocked when we went our separate ways after our sophomore year of college but we knew it was for the best. My daughter recently asked me if the break up was hard.

Did I cry?

Did I have regrets?

The first answer was yes. The second answer was no. And thats what I thought about when the tune started playing.

There is this beautiful gift in life that can sometimes only come with the passing of time. This means the longer one lives the more of this gift they should have. It gives one the ability to look at a circumstance from all sides to recognize the beauty in the middle of the pain. To see the joy in the midst of the sorrow.

Its called Perspective and I enjoyed a bunch of it as my feet pushed through my morning run.

As I reflected on that teenage romance that held so many firsts I found myself full of gratitude. I hold so many sweet memories from the years I dated this boy. From the awkward first date to praying his dad wouldn’t be the one to answer the phone when we would have our nightly phone calls to formal dances, football games and dreaming of the future. It was in that season that we both realized what was most important to us and it was that realization that lead us to the revelation that our time together would not be a forever but still a very important foundation for our futures.

My husband and I are getting close to celebrating 30 years of wedded bliss. It may seem strange that I allowed myself the brain space to reminisce about an old boyfriend – one that many thought would be my husband. I want to suggest that surrendering a bit of time to reflect on our pasts, whether they are filled with joy, sorrow or a healthy mix of both is never a waste of time.

What my glimpse into the past revealed…

  1. I’m glad I loved – I allowed myself the vulnerability to share my life with another person.
  2. I’m glad I lost it. I learned that despite deep sadness over broken relationships – life will go on.
  3. I’m glad I made mistakes – I needed this for my future as a parent. Holding tight to the reality that despite trying to do the best I could – my choices were not always wise.
  4. I’m glad I received grace. I see it in the ways God guided me through that season and brought me safely to the life I have today. He was so good to continue to show up ready to lead despite my attempts to go it on my own.

When the song started playing I almost skipped ahead. I didn’t need to be reminded of an old boyfriend. That’s silly. But I was about to receive the benefits of that gift, you know the one I mentioned that comes with the passing of time?

Yep – Perspective.

As I let the song play the focus on one young man in my past actually lead me to another – the one that was with me then and is still with me now. The one who yearned to be part of my teenage days and the one who strengthens me as I now parent teens. The one who lead me to the perfect husband and father. The one who shows me his Glory in the way he loved me when he died on the cross and the way he rose victoriously from the grave. How sweet to know my Lord was with me then and he is with me now and will be with me forever.

hmmm somebody should write a song about that……

” I am the man who will fight for your honor.

I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of.

We’ll live forever

Knowing together

That we did it all for the glory of love.”

Peter Cetera – The Glory of Love

Let Jesus restore the soundtrack of your past as he prepares you for your glorious future and sustains your perfect presence. He is good and he will do it.

My forever love:)

Hand washing and other hills I didn’t die on….

“Would you like to wash your hands?”

It was August of 2018 B.C. You know – Before Covid. The question posed to my oldest and I was one that had crossed neither of our minds. And as the mom – I’m the one responsible for that. We had just arrived at her then boyfriends apartment and he had prepared a delicious meal and set a beautiful table. I was impressed. I am guessing in the moments after the question left his mouth he was not so impressed with me. As my daughter and I exchanged sheepish glances I realized that hand washing had not been a non negotiable in our home while raising my three children. They knew how to wash their hands and they would willingly do so if it seemed obvious it was needed. It clearly wasn’t a question that was asked before sitting down at our dinner table. I considered it victory when dinner was made, the table was set and we were all still alive by the time my husband returned home from work. Clean hands? – lets celebrate breathing children and a mom that still has all the hairs on her head.

My hand washing practice or lack of passion for it started when I was a camp counselor and there were few opportunities to wash hands before eating. Both the campers and the counselors would play hard and eat. Play hard some more and eat. Our hands had played tennis and capture the flag, rode horses, dug in the sand in the beach, created crafts all day long. I’m certain there were some kids that did not shower much during their 7 days away from home let alone wash hands before every meal. And as far as I know we are all still alive today.

My children who are now ages 23, 21 and 18 and I were laughing about this account with my now son in law the other day. It lead to other conversations about battles I chose to not fight. Parenting is tricky and making those calls are a challenge. I remember times as a young mom when I was hell bent on getting my children to finish their dinner. Their hands did not need to be clean but apparently their plates did. One instance was at a friends wedding when my oldest was 2 1/2. The reception was full of good food and music and distraction and she would not eat her pork chop. I remember feeling such frustration and actual anger that she wouldn’t eat and I honestly let that steal some of the joy of the moment. Wow – looking back I recognize this was such a waste of both of our lives.

As I sit at this stage of parenting I’m thankful I can laugh. I’m thankful my kids can too. I’m also very aware of the incredible grace of God that has clearly carried us all through. I’m also quite sure that the grace he gave is the grace we all will continue to need. Our journey as a family working to love, encourage, and grow in our faith in Jesus will not end until we all cross the finish line of earthly life and enter eternity with our Savior. My friends further on their parenting journey remind me of this and I’m so grateful for their encouragement and wisdom that tells me to keep entrusting our children to the one that stands with us in the battles we do or do not choose to enter.

I don’t know what hills you will or have chosen to die on with your children, or spouse or friends. There are resources we could all find that would support our way of thinking. I’m not here to debate those issues or suggest THE way to handle hygiene, or hair length, or skirt length our curfews, or screen time, or age one gets a cell phone….

But,

I will point you to the one hill… the one we all need to recognize. The one we spent significant time contemplating just a couple of weeks ago.

The hill that held the cross …

that held that man….

that held our sins.

The hill where the ultimate battle was fought and won and the grace we need in our everyday, wash or no-wash decisions of life was born.

The most important hill ….. the most important battle.

It is done. It is finished. Let us rejoice in that victory today.

My sons college apartment

Certain.

Matthew 28:17-19 NLT

“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” “As you go into the city,” he told them, ” you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.” So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

I never noticed him before but there he is just hanging out in the middle of the most important story for Christ followers. We don’t know his name or what he did for a living. We don’t know if he was married or had children. We don’t know if his home was humble or extravagant. We don’t know if he was young or old. We just know one thing…

He was certain.

CERTAIN. adjective 1. known for sure, established beyond doubt, beyond question, not in question.

I’ve been in the sales industry for 17 years. I love CERTAIN. It is a delight when someone contacts me that loves my

product, wants to become a loyal customer and places a significant order. Their certainty is a gift.

I’ve been a sports fan most of my life. I love CERTAIN. I love when you’re watching your favorite team and the win is CERTAIN. You know there is no possible way for the other team to come back. Thoughts can move to deciding which ice cream you’ll order from your favorite DQ to celebrate. It’s peace and calm and celebration – Certain.

I’ve been a mom for 23 years. I love CERTAIN. I love when my adult children are all gathered under one roof and I’m CERTAIN – because I can see them – that all is well.

Maybe it is my own hunger for certainty in an increasingly uncertain world that caused my eyes to notice for the first time this unassuming character in the account of Jesus last days on earth. Jesus and his disciples were preparing to celebrate Passover, an important custom in the Jewish tradition. It was a meal commemorating the protection of the Israelites hundreds of years earlier. They were enslaved by Pharaoh and God was about to set them free. He would use His ultimate power, taking the lives of all first born children not protected by the blood of an innocent lamb painted on their door post. Passover is a beautiful celebration – one that many Jews and Christians still celebrate. Finding the right spot was important. Jesus knew it. I believe he also wanted to make some things easier for his disciples. His followers and friends were in for a rude awakening as they faced the reality that their mentor, Lord and Savior was about to be crucified. Jesus gave them the gift of certainty – in the person of an unnamed, unknown yet very willing man.

“Master – where do you want to celebrate the Passover?”

“Go to the city – you will see a certain man…”

Certain – meaning specific – you’ll know him when you see him.

Certain – meaning the heart of the man. We see no record of this servant questioning the request. I think we can assume he immediately opened his home, showed them the room that was certainly ready and allowed them full access to use for the feast. This is the ultimate display of hospitality. He opens up his home to the most famous dinner party every held. It is captured in the painting by Leonardo Da Vinci and prints hang in homes and churches all over the world. Did the Holy Spirit give him a vision of this taking place? Had he been prepping for this moment because somehow he knew he would be the one? Or had he put his trust so clearly on the love of Jesus that when this unexpected opportunity arose he knew the only thing he could say was,

Yes.

I can imagine the disciples relief when they found the man and then he quickly lets them in. I wonder if this awed them, “How does he do that – Jesus just always knows!” or I wonder if they were used to this kind of discernment they had witnessed so many times. I wonder if they realized that what Jesus says and does is always the truth and it has nothing to do with circumstances.

This blog will post Saturday of Holy week. In my opinion the most Un- certain day of the week. Nothing happened on Saturday. The disciples huddled together in fear. We don’t get any insight into the way they spent that day. Maybe its because they were in such shock they just sat in silence. Maybe it is because there is no way to put into words the loss they felt. No words. It did not make sense. Maybe if we shake our head this horror will all go away.

Some of you are in Saturday seasons – the most uncertain of times. The one where you wish the bad dream you are walking in was just that, a dream. I imagine it feels long. I imagine it may feel far from hope. I imagine the wait feels unbearable.

Today – I ask you to hold on. Your uncertain days are held by a most certain Savior. The Savior that knew a few things about that Saturday… and now we do as well.

What we know about Saturday is that it ended.

What we know about Saturday is that it was creating certainty that the man that said he would give his life for our sins – would and was actually dead.

What we know about Saturday is that the slow, painful wait created a more glorious and welcome celebration.

What we know about Saturday is that it didn’t win. All the doubt and fear and discouragement it attempted to plant in the minds and hearts of Christs followers would not take root.

Because their Sunday came.

And yours my friend, will come too.

That I am certain.

Sunday is coming!

Social Distance

“I will bless the Lord who guides me, even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. ” Psalm 16:7-8

“As you are exiting the plane please give space between passengers to create social distance to keep everyone safe.”

Are you kidding me? If you have not traveled lately let me paint a picture of the world of air travel. Flights are full, terminals are packed – masks are worn but it is impossible to social distance. The words of the flight attendant came at the end of a 2 1/2 hour flight from Orlando to Kansas City. It was full – not one open seat. Let me remind you that there are not 6 inches between passengers let alone 6 feet. We had not social distanced for the entire trip. By the looks of my fellow passengers it was clear that many had enjoyed a spring break week with the mouse – you know the big guy – Mickey. Disney world is open, people are vacationing and the call for just essential travel is not being heeded. And to be totally honest – it felt really good. Mixing with strangers, walking through a full terminal, waiting in line for a coffee, listening to conversations about work or a theme park. Our need for connection with others, even strangers, has become abundantly clear over the last year. We were created for it. We were not meant to be alone.

This description may have some of you saying – “Whew – Im so glad things are feeling normal.” Others of you may be judging the decision of myself and others to partake in air travel when despite the progress we are making towards defeating this crazy virus – in many ways it is far from over. What I know from watching the ways my friends and family have responded to the events that have unfolded over the last year is that at some level we all believe we are right – despite our beliefs landing on opposite sides of the spectrum. The tension of living with people that hold strongly opposing opinions is real. It’s an understatement to say we are living in challenging times.

As I read the words to Psalm 16:7-8 I was comforted by the truth of one who has chosen to not play by the long list of rules during COVID times that sometimes feel like they change by the minute.

Social Distance

Masks required

Distance learning

Work from home

Curb side pick up

Arrows directing cart traffic for indoor shopping

Capacity limits

Outdoor dining

Canceled graduations. Canceled proms. Canceled sporting events. Cancel, cancel, cancel.

In a world where nothing feels stable, or reliable – I need to know that the man I call my Savior is also the greatest rebel of all time. The GOAT if you will.

Psalm 16 says it clearly:

I know the Lord is ALWAYS with me…

I will not be shaken because he is RIGHT beside me.

Always.

Right.

Always.

Close.

No social distance. Never canceling his appearances. Always showing up for the celebration, the restricted areas of the hospital, in dorm rooms, in classrooms, in restaurants. He has been and will be – everywhere we choose to ask him to come. Anywhere, anytime. His presence brings peace, and power and comfort. He brings truth and wisdom and discernment. He has not left the building, your home, your relationships, your work, or those of your children, your parents, your neighbors or your friends.

But….

I wonder if in the year of feeling like so much has been taken away, we feel like Jesus has too.

Maybe the loneliness that comes from separation from those we love has blocked our view of our Savior that has never left. Maybe the drained bank accounts from job loss, the obituary lists that grow, the anxiety that shows up in our choices to numb the pain have turned our eyes off of the one who is Right there,

Right.

There.

Always.

and our light grows dim. Hope feels lost.

Friends…. may I be the one that turns your face back,

Back… to the one who is sitting

Right beside you.

When our world shut down last March…. Jesus did not.

When we moved our kids home form college. When we shortened our guest lists for weddings. When our vacations turned to stay-cations. Jesus stood his ground – in our lives and in our hearts. He was not cancelled nor will he ever be. He is with us for the long haul. every step, of every day of every season.

The good.

The bad.

The ugly.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken for he is RIGHT beside me.

Always.

Right.

Today.

Orlando airport

My path…

There was a dense patch of woods between the main camp and total freedom. A path the width of a car and only lit by the moon cut through the trees to an open field and small pond useful for not much more the breeding mosquitos. It was the space that became the landing spot, or home base, for myself another male counselor and seven 3rd grade boys and girls. Looking back on the summer of 1990, my second as a counselor for youth camp in upstate New York, that week was one of my favorites.

Of all times.

To be sure.

It really was freedom. The other counselor and I were given free reign to plan the week. We were in charge of everything from activities to the menu. We just had to cook everything over a fire, sleep on the ground in Tee Pee style tents with poor closures and report in to the camp dean every few days. I loved every minute of it. I loved giving the kids a bit more wiggle room with the rules then the campers would follow with the main camp program. If we wanted to extend beach time – we did. If we wanted to sleep in – we did. If we wanted to stay up late to watch for shooting stars -we did. If we wanted to see if over baked potatoes would explode if you launched them into the air – we could ( and they do). If we wanted to sneak an entire chocolate cake out of the dining hall and eat it by the fire in the middle of a rain shower – we could. ( Just imagine for a moment the looks of delight of a 10 year old, eating a giant piece of chocolate cake in the rain – sheer bliss.)

There was this one part, the hard part, the getting there part that was not my favorite. There was one path. It began on the far side of the camp parking lot, wove through about 200 yards of dense forest and had no lighting. On a clear, full moon night it was perfect. You could see just far enough ahead of yourself to feel confident you weren’t going to trip or no one was going to jump out at you. On cloudy, low moon nights – it was down right frightening. I ALWAYS made sure I had a flashlight. Always. I’m just not a fan of the dark. I was the child that would turn every light on in the entire house before I would head to the basement to practice my piano lessons.

It is this path, MY camp path, that I thought of this week as I read Psalm 119. Its the longest Psalm and full of great nuggets – especially v. 105. Here it is in several translations.

NIV: Your word is a lamp for MY feet and a light for MY path.

The Message: By your words I can see where I’m going, they throw a beam of light on MY dark path.

TPT: Truth’s shining light guides ME in MY choices and decisions, the revelation of your word makes MY pathway clear.

ERV: Your word is like a lamp that guides MY steps, a light that shows the path I should take.

And my favorite… because of the camp reference…..

TLB: Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of ME and keeps ME from stumbling.

Aren’t they comforting?

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we never have to walk a dark path alone?

Isn’t it such a beautiful picture to imagine a trek through a dark wood with the secure glow of God’s word lighting the way? To these questions I would say yes….. and I would also say,

Aren’t these words convicting??? huh?

The one word that jumped out at me in every single translation was the word ME, or MY in reference to the path. God promises that when I am in His word I will have clarity on MY path. He will direct ME in my ways. His lamp and his word is for ME. Over the past several weeks I have had real feelings about choices people around me have made. I have questioned decisions with a heart that is desiring to be helpful but possibly a bit puffed up with pride -thinking I have all the best answers. To be fair… in some cases I might. But to be honest with myself in some cases I’m don’t.

This is what the verse does not say.

My word is a lamp for you to see your husbands path.

My word is a lamp for you to see to your co-workers path.

My word is a light for you to direct your adult children’s feet.

My word is a light for you to direct your aging parents feet.

Disclaimer: Of course I believe that what I learn by spending time in God’s word can be used as I interact with others. He may even teach me something that someone else needs to hear. 100%.

But….

What I heard this week was the reminder that God first needs me to focus on the path, my path, directly in front of me. He promises his light to shine for me. If I am spending the bulk of my time trying to see through the dark to someone else’s path and the light God might be shining on it – I most likely will end up in a crumpled heap having missed the giant branch he was trying to warn me about in my own path. I find myself heading down my path with my eyes everywhere but where God needs and wants me to be. This is what that looks like in everyday Beth life.

Instead of praying and asking God for my role in the decision of a family member ( Keeping my eyes on the lamp on my path) – I think of the ways I will convince them my way is right. (Looking over at their path first). I find myself spending time in prayer that kind of seeks his guidance but ultimately lands in problem solving mode. My personality doesn’t like to sit with things for too long. I want answers and I want action. This may be what causes my eyes to dart from path to path of the people in my life rather than resting on the lamp and the light for My feet or my path.

The beautiful thing about the truth ….

of the one light on the one path…

is that its makes life….

so much easier.

When I trust that spending time in God’s word will bring clarity, direction and wisdom and when the time is right it may include answers to the troubles happening over on someone else’s path – I can rest. I can walk calmly, persistently and boldly. I can stop my ADHD eyes darting from one problem to another and settle in…

on my path.

The one where God has promised to meet…. me. The one that he has told me his lamp is waiting to guide.

One path.

One God

One light.

All leading me to…

total freedom.

May you see His light on your path today.

My guitar playing, Tee Pee Sleeping summer…..Camp Pioneer Angola, NY

Blind Date

I went on a blind date this week.

of sorts.

Well, kind of.

Actually it wasn’t a blind date in the traditional – 2 people meeting to discover if they may be compatible because their mutual friends think they would be- blind date. But it was with people, three actually, that I didn’t know and we were meeting for the first time. On a specific time on a calendar – thus appropriately falling into the category of both blind and date.

We were set up by someone that thought we would get along because of shared interests. We had emailed a few times before our meeting. I didn’t know where they lived or what they looked like. I didn’t know their age or what they did for a living. Felt pretty blind to me.

I woke up on the morning of our date feeling excited and nervous. We would be meeting on ZOOM because Covid and well – we do live in four different states. Our date was set for 10 a.m. so I had time to exercise and get some work done before we would all pop on each others screens. I prayed for peace and wisdom to discern if this was a good match. I wondered if this is what it always feels like before a blind date.

At promptly 10 am CST three new to me faces popped on my screen along side mine. We were off to a good start – we all showed up! Our eager smiles held the same look of anticipation. It seemed as if we all wanted to discover that the others wanted this new relationship as much as we each personally did. We spent 30 minutes sharing our brief stories of work and family with the bulk of our time focused on the one thing that had brought us all together …..

the love of writing.

In December we each had made a commitment to be more intentional about our craft by joining a larger community of women made up of future writes, podcasters and speakers. When the opportunity arose to join a smaller community within the bigger for more accountability we each said “Sign me up!” We each listened to the still small voice that said ‘ go, do something more, be vulnerable, stretch!’ Can I tell you that hanging out with people like that is pretty fantastic?

When I started my business 17 years ago I was told that you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with- choose your friends wisely. This thought emphasizes the power of your circle both for good or for bad. I have a runner friend who says the best way she can increase her speed is to simply run with people faster than her. Bottom line – the people you hang out with can greatly impact the trajectory of your life. The funny thing is – we know this to be true for children. Parents pray for good friends, they don’t want their children running with the ‘wrong crowd’. Protective fathers will run a potential suitor for their daughters through a gauntlet of questions to confirm they are good enough. There is a great deal of time and effort put into helping our children find the right people because we know the power of the five. Today I’m going to suggest that we revisit this idea…

as adults.

I have an exercise I do with my team that has them list their people. The ones that have a say in their lives. The ones they work with, recreate with, live with. Next to each name they are to draw one of three symbols. Smiley face for those that fill them up. When these people leave their space they are encouraged. Sad face for those that bring them down. When they spend time with them they feel worse and notice less than stellar behavior. When I was first introduced to this idea I realized I had a small group of friends that spent their time bashing their husbands. Our play groups or lunch dates were filled with rants over what our husbands did or did not do. I’d find myself coming home from those situations feeling mad at my husband – even though he had done absolutely nothing wrong. The last symbol is a straight line – or neutral.

This always brings surprise to those that choose to honestly look at their tribe. For some it is encouraging. For others it is enlightening as they recognize the power of those around them. For still others it is distressing when they allow themselves to see the level of toxic behavior in the people closest to them. It provides an opportunity to make choices on how one spends ones time. There have been times when I’ve done this assessment over my life and I’ve realized I need a few more voices of people that look at things from a different perspective. I can get in a rut of how I think the world should be run. Looking at a situation from another angle can expand a much needed view of the world or it can confirm my original thought. The process of challenging our beliefs can give them deeper roots which brings confidence and peace. It’s a healthy and important practice.

When we look in scripture we see this idea confirmed. Abraham believed this when he sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac from among a God-fearing people. Isaac knew this when he sent Jacob to do the same. Your people, my people they make a difference.

So… my blind date. It went pretty well. By the end of our 30 minutes we had delegated responsibilities on which forms of media we would use to stay connected. In just the first few days of knowing each other we have decided to trust each other with our own need for accountability. I am reminded of the power of choosing your tribe wisely. When you invest and allow yourself to be invested by people of excellence you can’t help but get better. The very reason this blog is being written is because I told this group of friends that I was going to do it. Taking 30 seconds to leave a quick voice message asking for accountability is the one and only reason I looked for a time to write.

Three smiley faces for this crew.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

My daughters tribe – diverse, colorful, supportive.

Tired Arms

“When Moses arms grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other- so that his hands remained steady til sunset.” Exodus 17:12

My husband has a workout he does occassionaley called “The 100 pull up workout.”

It’s pretty simple – he goes over to our high school gym and does…

100 pull ups.

Now I love to exercise but even if my life or my children’s lives depended on it – I couldn’t do 100 pull ups. In grade school the girls would have a test for those presidential fitness awards ( the most stressful part of my elementary school experience) called the ” Arm Hang.” You essentially hung on to a bar, arms bent to keep your chin above the bar, for as long as possible. I think I maxed out at about 3 seconds. I’m not kidding. If only a couple of my friends were allowed to stand under my body and support my floppy tri – ceps. My upper body strength leaves something to be desired. This is not a slam on myself – just a fact with which I am perfectly happy to live.

The history of the Israelites records an account of a battle between Israel and the Amalekites. Moses is attempting to lead a bunch of people through a barren land to get to a promised space full of milk and honey. (hmmm.. wonder if they had discovered the honey oat milk latte… my new favorite coffee treat..) As the attack ensues Moses commands his right hand man, Joshua, to go and fight.

“Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands. So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up- one on one side , one on the other – so that his hands remained steady until sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. ” Exodus 17: 9-12

Moses – competent leader of many. Moses a man who talked to God face to face. Moses strong, powerful, wise….. could not carry out his calling alone. In this account we see a man physically exhausted, arms shaking and in what may be one of his wisest moments of his life, accepted the support of his friends. Aaron and Hur have joined Moses on the hill and when it becomes clear their leader needs support – they swoop in , provide a rock to sit and literally hold Moses arms up for the duration of the battle. Moses doesn’t push them away letting pride get the best of him. We see no struggle, no “I got this” just a man willing to receive the much needed assistance from two people he trusted the most. His ability to admit his personal limitations lead to the saving of thousands of Israelite lives. The battle was won because he stayed obedient to the direction God had given – even if it meant humbling himself to identify he was at the end of his personal rope.

Yesterday – my arms were tired. I bet yours may have been as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a season of life where I have known SO many that have had SO much with which they are struggling. The private battles happening in the homes of people I love are real and hard and dang it….

heavy.

And we cannot keep trying to carry the burdens alone.

I am incredibly blessed to have an inner circle posse. An Aaron and Hur if you will that I know will swoop in and hold up my arms. They are faithful, present and continually remind me of God’s promises, power and provision. I hope that I have been that for them as well. When I reached out to them yesterday morning… they did what they do best and held my arms. It took about 10 minutes of voxer messages back and forth and I felt the shaking stop. My triceps relaxed, peace entered my body and the victory march began. The challenges didn’t disappear but the day was won.

How are your arms doing today? Are you in need of a little relief? Is the shaking beginning to wear you down? Friends – I beg you ….

Pay attention.

We were NOT wired to walk out this life alone. There are passages all over scripture that proclaim this truth. Our sometimes stubborn, pride filled selves can be our greatest enemy. Our independence is serving no one.

I hated those days sitting on a cold gym floor awaiting my turn on the arm hang. It was lonely and intimidating. How I needed an Aaron and Hur. The good news is – the gym floor days are over… I’ll never take another presidential fitness test again. And my weak, floppy arms …. they are ready and eager for the strength of my faithful friends.

Are yours?

100 pull up workouts help when moving adult children!

21

My feet moved my body down the long corridor from sheer muscle memory. Walks down hospital hallways were ones that had become the norm in the year prior to this day. The beeping of machines, the whispers of nurses, the rolling wheels of carts and patient transport beds.. all of it… felt like home…

in the worst kind of way.

My friend stood waiting for me, alone and distraught, her frame highlighted by the EXIT sign on the door behind her. Her eyes said “make this all go away, tell me this is all just a bad dream.” She trusted me because of the similar path I had walked and her hope was that her ending would be the same as mine. Earlier that day her 14 year old son had been involved in a bike/car accident. He had left their home on a beautiful fall day to ref a youth soccer game. He did not survive the hit from the car making a turn too early. His future that looked so bright had come to an end.

A year prior our 7 year old son was lying in a hospital bed. Hit with a different kind of health crises. A mystery illness that left him paralyzed from the neck down, unable to eat, speak or move. We received no answers from the multitude of tests administered. We hung on to the hope of our God that heals and answers and provides. We talked of the party we would throw when he was healed. We knew that when he was able to talk again he would have so much to say. Every prayer we prayed was answered- not always in the timing or way we would have hoped but ultimately our son was healed. In our family he is literally ‘the boy that lived.’ This son, our only son…the one with a heart of compassion for the down and out, the game loving, poetry writing, hard working, college junior, our son… who next week will turn…

21.

Something feels significant about this birthday something that causes me to pause as I look back over my years of parenting not only my son but all three of my children. I would never wish for a parent to experience what we did or my friend for that matter. The pain we felt as we watched the unexplained suffering of our child at moments felt like it would wreck me. I do wish though for all of us that we would have the gift that came from that season.

PERSPECTIVE:

Brevity of life – I thought I understood this but this time taught me to own this truth. We are not promised any day given and each one is truly a gift.

Everyone has a story. Living on the pediatric floor of a hospital for a month introduced me to all kinds of childhood struggles. Rooms full of children battling their own monsters.

I’m not in control: As much as I worked to keep my children safe, this little mystery illness snuck right into our home like a bad cold in winter. No warning, no reason, no nothing – not even a national pandemic. He just got sick – really sick.

I can control some things: I learned to focus on what I could do. Pray. Turn off the noise. Seek God in everything. Sleep, shower and show up for my son. Communicate with my husband. Create a routine for our girls. Accept help in every from from anyone who offered – no shame.

God can take it. I mean God can really take us… the real us, the angry at our situation us, the “why are you not fixing this now God” us. I discovered the more real I was with God the more real he was with me.

God is faithful. Recently a bible teacher shared these peace giving words.

“Every life stage and phase will bring its own brand of challenges that build our faith. Without tests of our faith, we do not fully experience God’s faithfulness. Unless you know how desperately you need God, human understanding and solutions still look appealing. My trust in God goes the deepest when I trust him with the people and dreams that have a hold on my heart. God can be trusted with everything, especially with what I value the most.” BSF Lesson 24 notes.

21.

14 years more than we thought we might have. 14 more years of growing and trusting and releasing control of a life God entrusted us to raise. 14 years of life lessons that have served me through the twists and turns of life. God has not wasted one hurt or one tear or one disappointment. Our season with our son prepared me for the walk I took with my friend. Her journey has not been the same as ours. Her prayers for healing were answered with the eternal victory we have when we die in Christ. Her sweet son has enjoyed 13 years in the presence of his Savior. She once said as much as she wanted him back he would probably be mad if he had to live out the crazy of the world in which we live. Perspective – a powerful thing.

It seems my list of friends with life trials grows longer by the day. I just have to look out my window at the surrounding houses to remember the issues that many of my loved ones are enduring. In the face of these current circumstances I pray and I praise and I remember. I look back on my seasons of hard and remember the gift of perspective I’ve been given. I celebrate each lesson, each provision each answer.

And today… and all week… I celebrate my son. The one that teaches me about perseverance, and love for all people, and boldly living out a life of faith in Jesus. The one that is always ready to play a game, go for a walk, lend a hand. The one that introduced me to all things boy, and swing dancing and CATAN. I’ve loved every one of the 21 years I’ve had with you Jonah and I will thank God for everyone he blesses us with in the future.

Happy Birthday Week.

I love you, Mom.

Ice Cream; Jonah’s love language:) Happy 21!

Saturday Bagels

“Ready, Set, GO!”

Just like that our two oldest were racing to the end of the paved patio and back to the table where Tom and I sat, our baby on the ground in the car seat between us. It was a beautiful fall Saturday and we were enjoying a family rhythm we enjoyed in that sweet season of life. Without fail, each Saturday we would pack up the kids and head to our local Panera where we would enjoy a breakfast of carbs and caffeine. We unpacked the gear that a family with three littles travels with ( even if it’s just 2 miles down the road) at a table in the outside seating area. Happy, foot tapping music played over the outside speakers often inspiring our children to dance and run. That hour or so we spent indulging in good food and fellowship with our family of five is time I consider not only a fun memory but an incredibly wise and important investment of time. To this day my absolute favorite moments in life are when our fam of five – now 6 with the addition of our bonus son, husband to our oldest, are together.

I recently learned that the two most important characteristics of a strong and healthy organization are :

Safety and Connection.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Think of the places you land each day: home, work, church, clubs, places you volunteer. I’m guessing the places you love the most – make you feel

1. Safe and

2. Connected to the others you are with and to the organization.

What a challenge we all face now as we look at the events of this last week in our world. The two areas in our everyday lives that were attacked –

  1. Our feelings of Safety.
  2. Our connection with others – often times people we have known and loved our entire lives.

On top of the disturbing pictures we saw of the activity on our countries capital were the conversations people were willing to have on public platforms about their opinions of these actions. I witnessed friends and family post and accuse and then be offended when someone did not agree and then continue the back and forth publicly. Small sparks were happening all over social media – some growing to raging fires that I pray will someday be extinguished. As I willingly chose to view these conversations I was taken back to my very first ” Big Girl Conversation.” It was the first time in my life that I remember sitting down with someone, face to face, toe to toe, knee to knee, that I did not agree with. I was so nervous and uncomfortable about our appointment I almost cancelled. I had functioned through all 33 years of my life simply not dealing with conflict. I’d sweep things under the rug, turn the other cheek and live with the bitterness and resentment that follows such actions.

This time. This time was different. I made a decision to show up and face the person and issue head on, like an adult. Let me rephrase – like a healthy adult. The relationship I shared with this person was professional. We shared rented building space that was the base for each our home based businesses. We had served side by side and I respected her wisdom in many areas. But…. we had come to a disagreement and it became clear that a conversation was needed. I categorize this moment as defining. I can still remember what I wore, the smell of the coffee shop where we met and the peace I felt as I sat down across the table from my friend. We had both chosen to show up with the intent to first, listen to each other. Second, repeat what we felt we heard and third, willing to ask permission before we shared our idea for a solution. In those moments of feeling heard, desiring to hear and healthy back and forth I learned the power of healthy confrontation. It had moments that were uncomfortable. There were times that comments were made that attempted to trigger words I knew I would later regret if spoken. We pressed in together in the muddy waters of disagreement and came to a solution. It was better than either of us could come up with on our own. The bitterness I walked in with drained like the coffee from our cups. It was a freedom I quite honestly had never felt before in a relationship outside of my husband. Sharing our truths with those we disagree with can be the starting point for new perspectives, deeper trust and healthier relationships moving forward. The lesson I learned that day has served me well for the last 18 years. When I feel a conflict rising between myself and anyone – I hunger for conversation. I’ve seen the magic that happens when the light of sharing our true selves is shone.

As I’ve pondered my response and responsibility to the current state of our nation my mind floats back to my Saturdays at Panera. The times when our family felt :

  1. Safe
  2. Connected.

This is the space where I will start. How are those closest to me doing? How are we each interpreting the actions of those around us? What conversations will be helpful for us as we continue to foster safe, connected space? Like rings on a target, with my family and relationship with God in the center, I’ll move out to check on others in order of my influence and responsibility. It can be a hard and uncomfortable task…. sometimes, many times it just feels easier to hop on a social media platform and vomit all the yuck thats inside. From my experience this week, it doesn’t appear to work. The stench still lingers.

As I pray for our nation today I begin with a prayer of personal repentance. I ask for a window into the conversations I need to have and a desire to first listen, second listen and third listen some more. I want to pull up my chair to the table… face to face, toe to toe, knee to knee…. and I invite you to pull up a chair as well. As we begin to invest in the hard conversations with the people closest to us…. I believe the peace we are seeking will manifest. Jesus modeled this for us all throughout scripture – He engaged in open, honest, hard conversations. He listened and he lingered and he spoke truth in love. Let him be our guide, seek his presence and his wisdom. Trust that he is the healer of all things, including relationships with those we love most.

Saturday – a day for strong coffee, good carbs, deep breaths after a week of hard. Pour a second cup today …. follow the Lords leading to the conversations he wants you to have….

and let the healing begin.

Hiking with our fam of 6. Colorado Springs, CO Nov 2020.