Time Travel & Choices

Have you ever wanted to hit rewind and travel back in time? Perhaps you, like me, have made a few decisions that, if given the opportunity, you’d go back and make a few adjustments so you’d experience a different outcome.

I hate to break it to you, but a time machine has not yet been built that will allow us to return to the moment of poor decisions. It’s fun to imagine, though…

Image result for back to the future time machine

Strap yourself in, ladies and gentlemen! My name is Marty McFly and today we are headed back to 1988, the moment when you chose to ignore all the warning signs and blaze your own path to stupidity! On our way, we’ll be making pit stops in 1991 and 2015 so you can remedy your bad choices (and bad hair), ensuring the return to present-day 2017 will welcome you home to a cozy and wonderful life, free from all embarrassment and struggle.”

Nice thought, huh? Or is it?

As much as I sometimes entertain the thought of a rewind, these days I often think of the ways my decisions have shaped and molded me into the person I am in this moment. Maybe I’m gaining some wisdom in my old age…

Somehow, God has managed to take the mess that was (and often still is) me and work everything in harmony in ways I could certainly never imagine. I’m not the woman I am because I made good decisions my entire life… I am the woman I am because I faced adversity – sometimes caused by my own choices – stared it in the face, and then fought it with a fiery vengeance until I emerged the battered and bruised victor – well, most of the time.

I’m not recommending a life of making bad choices… not at all. However, the fact of the matter is that we all make them – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes because we just shrugged our shoulders and said “why not?”. God is amazing in that He works all those things together for our good, in spite of our own ridiculous selves.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”              —Philippians 4:8 MSG

What if, instead of focusing on all our mistakes and inadequacies, we make a choice to focus on how God wants to use those very things to shape and mold us into the people that can make an impact on others around us? What if we shared our experiences with others to encourage them and let them know they aren’t alone as they struggle with their own bad choices? What if…

  • …your broken marriage inspired perseverance?
  • …your drug addiction motivated someone to stay clean one more day?
  • …your struggle with a quick temper encouraged someone to extend grace?

The list goes on and on; it’s as long as our combined lists of inadequacies, failures, and shortcomings. Will you choose to encourage others by honestly sharing your experiences, or will you stuff them into a closet somewhere never to be brought again into the light of day?

Sorry, Mr. McFly… I won’t be taking that trip with you after all.

Love fiercely, my friends. Be good to one another and make today count.

 

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Reminders

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Things have been a little crazy lately. Although it’s been seven months since our big move, it still doesn’t quite feel like we’ve settled just yet.

I was reminded today that God has a purpose for each of us, and sometimes in the middle of the chaos we forget that.

We forget because we’re too caught up in the here and now – the “busy”-ness of life. You know, the gettin’ up everyday-go-to-work-come-home-work-some-more-what-are-we-having-for-dinner-tonight kind of busy. The monotonous daily activities that, while necessary, also distract us from the more important things in life.

Coffee with a friend.

Intimate conversations with a spouse.

That book you’ve read to your child at least 564 times and he wants it one..more…time.

Sound familiar?

It’s all to familiar to me, and usually it’s because I’m focused on the immediate and not the important. When I don’t begin my day focused on what matters, I neglect what matters. 

Anyone else have that challenge? I’d love to hear how you prioritize and how you manage to keep that which is most important first in your life.

I’m still learning…

 

 

What Do You See? 

Thanks for the awesome photo, Kaitie!

What comes to mind when you look at this photo? Do you simply see a person standing ankle-deep in the rushing waters of a cool Michigan stream, or is there something more?

I doubt my daughter realized the impact this photo would have on my heart when she captured one simple moment in time, but each and every time I look at the water swirling and rushing past her ankles I am overcome by a similar rush of emotion.

This photo speaks to me. It reminds me of the times that the turbulent waters of life threatened to pull me under or, at the very least, cause me to stumble and fall. It brings to mind the moments I struggled with depression, feeling like everything in my life was rushing by at warp speed while I just sat and watched. It takes me back to days of towering piles of laundry, overwhelming schedules, unpaid bills, and the crushing realization that I probably wouldn’t have money for groceries that week.  It represents every situation that left me wondering if I’d ever be good enough, wise enough, or tough enough to stand strong while the waters of life swirled and rushed around me.

But then it hit me…

This photo represents more than just the rushing waters of the stream.

Do you see those legs and the two feet (look closely)?

If you look closer, you’ll see that this photo also represents stabilitystrength, and will. Without the stability of the foundation, the rushing water can easily cause us to stumble. Without the strength of our body and spirit, the raging and swirling stream threatens to drag us under and hold us down. Without will, the water becomes our master, and strength and stability have little value.

You see, the water will continue to rush, ebbing and flowing with the storms of life. After all, that’s what streams of water do. But what about stability, strength, and will? Sometimes… well, sometimes we just don’t have it in us. Right?

Or do we?

Just as the rushing water dictates the direction and swiftness of the stream, the choices we make in life dictate our preparedness for the ebb and flow of its waves. When we take control of our thoughts and our actions, we create a foundation of stability. When we discipline ourselves to repeatedly engage in activities that bring about positive results, we create strength in spirit, mind, body, and life. When we refuse to be held captive by negativity and lies, we instill and inspire a will to not only survive, but to thrive – even as the rushing waters of life swirl around our ankles and the undertow threatens to sweep us off our feet.

Is it easy? No, but anything worth having requires some level of sacrifice.

Is it worth it? For me it is.

It’s up to you to decide how you look at the picture.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (MSG) Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

Chaos? Let me tell you about chaos…

It’s been three years since I’ve posted on this blog. Three years.

You know what’s happened in the past three years?  Chaos. Chaos has happened. Let me give you a few examples:

  • I was offered and accepted a new job.
  • My heart was broken as I watched my son go to jail.
  • My heart was healed as I walked alongside my son as he put his life back together.
  • We invited my parents to live with us, and they accepted.
  • We completely renovated the worst home in the best neighborhood – while living in it.
  • I welcomed two new grandchildren into our family, bringing the sum total to seven.
  • I walked alongside my sister as she bravely fought Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 54.
  • I was offered (and accepted )another new job – a fantastic employment opportunity in a place 1100 miles away from my newly renovated home.
  • I, along with my parents and my younger sister, held the hand of my older sister as she lost her battle with Alzheimer’s and passed from this life and into the arms of Jesus.
  • I moved, with my husband and daughter, across the country without the help of the moving company who rudely and unprofessionally cancelled our move – the morning of our move. Yeah, that was fun.
  • I began a new job in a new place, far away from family and friends.
  • My husband and I became empty nesters as we enrolled our youngest child in college.

Yep.  I’ve been a little busy, and life has had more than its share of chaos.

But…

God has been stirring in my heart again, beckoning me to write.

If God stirs, it’s time to listen.

 

Mediocrity – my wrestling match

Mediocre: Of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance; ordinary, so-so (Mirriam-Webster dictionary).

We die a slow but nearly painless death when we cease striving for excellence and instead settle for mediocrity. Our passion is reduced to passivity, and we unknowingly begin to allow ourselves to think that what we do no longer matters.  Our intimacy in relationships is replaced with isolation, and we slowly begin to feel loneliness despite the fact that we may be surrounded by others.  We allow ourselves to become complacent, experiencing neither gut-wrenching pain nor profound joy.  We simply exist.

I don’t think this is the life God designed for us.  I believe that Colossians 3:23 moves us to work at our tasks heartily – from the soul – as something we do for God and not for others; our Creator knows that we are less than fulfilled when we settle for mediocrity.  As heirs to the Kingdom of Christ, we were created for so much more and feel inadequate when we stop striving to be our very best in ALL aspects of our lives.

As for me, I don’t want to leave this earth knowing that what I did was mediocre.  I’m not satisfied to have average relationships with my husband, my children, my family, or my friends.  I don’t want to simply exist – I want to experience all the joy, pain, exhilaration, and heartache that this world throws my way because experiencing these things means I am ALIVE – and if I am ALIVE God must still have a purpose for my existence.

But…

What do you do when the people around you settle for mediocre and you strive for something more – for something extraordinary and excellent? Particularly, how does one cope with the frustration that accompanies the desire for passion and intimacy versus passivity and aloofness? How does one reconcile the “what could be” with the “what is?” Frustration becomes imminent and, before one knows it, distance creeps in and begins to separate individuals because they no longer desire the same outcome. Relationships become strained, silence becomes common, and shallow conversations are the best one can hope for.

Uh oh…

For those dissatisfied with mediocre, how does one balance desire for more with a desire to keep a relationship intact? Can two dissimilar approaches – the contentment with mediocrity and the pursuit of excellence – coexist for the long haul without significant friction or dissolution? Can friendships and other intimate relationships survive dissimilar approaches from the individuals involved? 

What do YOU think?

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.” (Amplified Bible).

Second Chances

We added a member to our family last spring.  Allow me to introduce you to Koda, our 2 year-old old rescue pup.

We were particularly set on adopting a dog from a shelter – we didn’t need one with a pedigree, papers, or a bloodline that would compare to Queen Elizabeth. We simply wanted to add a canine member to our family and liked the idea of opening our home to a little guy who needed love, care, and a place to call home for the rest of his days on this earth.  Early into our time with him we discovered a few of Koda’s “quirks.” He likes to play with his toys (and then rip the stuffing out of them), stand on his hind legs to check out what’s on the kitchen counter (always followed by a sharp “off!” from his humans), sniff everything he can put his nose to, and follow me around everywhere I go.  He even experienced the inadvertent closing of a door on his head after he stuck his head in the refrigerator when I was pulling out my yogurt this morning.  Poor guy (he recovered in seconds, by the way).

In addition to Koda’s “quirks,” he has also developed a few bad habits.  He – thanks to my husband – enjoys biting when he plays.  Nothing hard enough to draw blood, but a bit frustrating when all I want to do is pet him and all he wants to do is play… and nip.  I’ve told him that he shouldn’t bit the hand that feeds him, but I just don’t think he understands.

We are fairly certain that Koda’s other bad habit must be the result of his lineage. We surmise, beyond reasonable doubt, that he is a direct descendent of Houdini’s dog.  We cage him when we leave the house (as the result of some of his other bad habits – tearing apart pillows and scavenging the bathroom trash) but, despite our best creative efforts, he manages to find a way to escape.  We lock the cage – he escapes. We add clamps to the cage – he escapes. You get the idea.  We have finally found a way to contain him – latches and strategically-placed clamps seem to do the trick, at least for now!

I suppose, like the rest of us, he just wants to experience freedom at its fullest and finest.

Today’s verse:  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

 

The unexpected wisdom of a teenager…

Several months ago I wrote about some difficulties I’ve experienced in my own life (Do you know where God lives?).  While this certainly wasn’t an all-inclusive list, it documented many of the challenges I’ve been faced with in the last decade or so. Some resulted from my own choices, some from the choices of others, and some just haphazardly came at me from nowhere and bulldozed into me (well, at least that’s what it felt like!).

Challenges, difficulties, stress:  valleys that we would rather not travel if given the choice.  Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to view the really tough challenges in my life as times of upheaval and confusion.  Maybe it’s because I can’t see past my own inadequacies or maybe it’s because I choose not to. Given the choice, I’d rather say it’s because I can’t… although it wouldn’t be true.  It’s often because I focus more on what’s going wrong than who is in control (which, by the way, is certainly not me).  Interestingly, I had a recent conversation with my 13-year old daughter that caused me to open my eyes and examine the lenses with which I’ve been viewing those challenges.

In case you haven’t noticed, crises and challenges don’t often affect just one person; more often than not, upheaval is not contained to one aspect of life, one family, or even one person.  Stressful situations flow out of our lives and muddy the waters of those around us – especially our family members and those close to us.  As my daughter and I were recently reflecting on the events of the past year, we began to talk about the positive things that have emerged as a result of some of the challenges we faced.  In an “I’m-a-wise-mother-conveying-spiritual-wisdom” moment, I profoundly stated to my daughter, “Isn’t it amazing how God can turn our world completely upside down, shake it,  and still bring positive and good things out of it?”  Without skipping a beat, she replied:

Mom, did you ever think that maybe God turned our lives

right-side-up?”

Wow.

Who knew such wisdom could come from a teenager?  Maybe I need to start viewing life with a different perspective.  Thanks, Kaitie.  You are wise beyond your years.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

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