"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Completely Fluffy Tail (Tale)

“A dog owns nothing yet is seldom dissatisfied.” Irish Proverb

I’d like to tag onto the above referenced proverb with one of my own: A dog does nothing and is completely content. Almost every morning when I let Bella, the Wheaten Terrier, out of her crate, she stretches her front legs then back legs, yawns and scurries to me, tail wagging. A couple of strokes later, she jumps over the back of the couch, circles three times and positions herself near soft pillows. A full night of sleep and she’s all ready for her early morning nap. Gazing at her curled up, I wish I could join her in her sweet repose. Must be nice to not feel a sense of urgency to do anything all day.
In stark contrast, my morning is brimming with all manner of doing--awaking contrary kids for school, getting Crunch Berries and chocolate milk, bagging lunches, prodding said kids again. Rushing, hurrying, always doing. Miss Daydreamer finally sleepwalks into the kitchen.
“Maddie, you have 8 minutes to eat your cereal. When the timer goes off, get your teeth brushed and hair combed so you can practice your piano for 30 minutes.”
Yes, I set a timer for the girl that tends to dilly dally and daydream, the girl who hasn’t perfected the art of time management, like me. In the meantime, Bella snoozes contentedly, on her back with her form fully extended and legs stretched. Jealous, I check on laundry then head to the powder room for a little freshening up. The timer beeps, but I’m convinced Maddie doesn’t zoom off her stool just yet. Ten minutes pass, and I don’t hear the pounding of the piano. Another typical day. Sigh. Time for nagging and nudging.
“Maddie, you need to be playing the piano now!” I yell from my bathroom.
“I know,” she responds. Alas, she always knows. Why doesn’t she do? Bella’s the only one that can get away with sprawling and doing nothing. Ten to one Maddie is still in the bathroom primping. As I venture toward her bathroom, she emerges, hair pony-tailed, lips glossed and hands lotioned.
Setting the timer for piano practice, I say, “You only have 20 minutes now since you took so long in the bathroom.”
Maddie bangs piano keys, stumbling through scales and a song. While wasting several minutes making up melodies, the bell beeps and we bee-line for the bus. I breathe relief as I reenter the house noticing Bella lying on the couch, serene except for exuberant wagging. She jumps down, following me into the kitchen while I grab water bottles in preparation for the merciless cardio machine. A girl of routine, Bella recalls my schedule, soars over the back of the sofa, snuggling once again on top of fluffiness. When I return from doing, she will be napping in the same place, body elongated, tail wagging wildly.

Ahhh, the sweet bliss of simply being, content to do nothing but twitching tail.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mr. Fix-It Man

The shirt draped over the fence for months, its color fading in the sunlight. As summer turned to fall, rain saturated the nondescript hue. Seasons changed, and the garment stuck like glue to the wood. After a year passed, the jokes began. “Hey dad, how long is your shirt going to stay on the fence?” Dad smirked along with us but didn’t remove the shirt. Through our kitchen window, we watched the fence begin to bend backwards like a person doing the limbo. It leaned until it broke, the shirt falling with it.
We reminisce about those days when my siblings and I reunite, remembering kitchen cupboards with no doors because dad was repainting them—for months! When we put our house on the market, it sold with doorless cabinets displaying pots and pans, Tupperware, and canned goods. We had nothing to hide. When Dad showed the house, he liked to pontificate his future plans for renovation. “Yeah, if we lived here much longer, I was gonna knock out this wall and extend this room.” The first time we had heard of such plans, we looked at each other with raised eyebrows and question marks, stifling giggles.
It’s not that Dad wasn’t a Mr. Fix-It Man; he was just too busy to complete the projects he began. Holding down a full-time job and being a full-time parent to three children kept him too pooped to even pick his shirt off the leaning fence. Taking kitchen doors off the cabinets took a fraction of the time it required to paint and put them back on. Consequently, projects remained unfinished.
I guess he was just too busy being a dad, coaching our basketball teams, attending our band and choir concerts, watching t-ball, volleyball and softball games, participating in daddy-daughter events and making pinewood derby cars with his son.  Dad was the resident math homework expert and specialized in story problems which were my weak subject. He quickly became impatient with my confusion and almost shouted the problem. He seemed to think that the louder he read it, the more likely my brain would compute it.  This rarely, if ever, worked.
Thirty years later, some things don’t change. My mom tells me that for almost a year, a cabinet door has been awaiting proper placement.  Eventually, Dad will attach it, but it’ll be in his own timing. I married a guy just like that.  He’s a fix-it-guy just like my dad, but he’s primarily a provider and a participating parent. 
Several months ago, the canned lights in our bookshelf burn out. Hubby drives immediately to Lowe’s to purchase the products he needs to fix them. However, he soon determines that he needs something different to repair the lights which requires another trip to Lowe’s. The box of lights sit on the shelves for a month, then two, then three. I ask about the lights. “Hey, when do you think you’re going to fix those?” He doesn’t have time right then. I move the eye sore behind closed doors. Every so often, I ask about the lights—nicely, of course. He moves them back in his line of sight to remind him of a project still unfinished.
Other things seem to claim his attention: choir concerts, gymnastics meets, school carnivals, National Honor Society inductions, piano recitals, game nights with family. Meanwhile, the package sits, longing for the attention he’s giving to everyone else.
After months of no progress with the lights, I jokingly ask, “How long do you think those are going to sit there? I’m kind of tired of them sitting on that shelf.” I don’t understand why he doesn’t appreciate my comment. More days go by until one weekday evening, at 9:30 pm to be exact, hubby heads to the garage returning with the ladder. He sets it up and fiddles with some cords on top of the bookshelf, casually commenting on the exorbitant amount of dust accruing there.
 “Hey, maybe while this ladder’s up, you could dust up here.” Ahhh, hubby enjoys adding to my list as I do his!
I ask, “Why are you working on this project NOW? It’s 9:30!”  He climbs down and states he’s going to bed. I follow. The next morning, I notice the ladder is still set up in the middle of the living room.
When hubby awakes that morning and enters the bathroom, I smile mischievously. “So, how long do you think the ladder is going to stay in the living room? Until the lights are fixed?!” Two long work days later, he folds the ladder up and sets it against the wall. Judging by past history, I believe it’s going to be there for awhile…  
If the worst fault these men in my life have is failing to finish projects around the house, we’ll cite them for a few counts of procrastination and let them off for spending time with their active children.  After all, relationships are built over days, months and years and can last forever. And the fence, the cabinets and the lights? Well, those can be repaired any old time. “Lord, just give me a little more patience in the meantime…”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just a Little Bit of Magic, Please?

When my sister and I were in elementary school, we believed we had magical powers. One day while plodding down our street during a drizzly Oregon rain, we chanted the words, “Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day. We want to play.” Magically, the rain stopped, and we knew we had power. Desiring to use our newfound magic to good use, we ran upstairs to our shared bedroom and began pillaging through Barbie dresses. We each chose a beautiful dress, placed them on our bed and cast a spell to enlarge them to our sizes. Nothing happened, so we determined we must have to leave the room and reappear at a later time. Sadly, when we reentered the room, those Barbie-size dresses had not grown one inch. Our hopes were dashed.
Haven’t we all wished for wonder working power at some point? Hoping for life size Barbie dresses pales in comparison to being rescued from a crisis or a stinky season in my life. Wouldn’t it be nice if stores carried a magic potion that transported us to life without heartache and trouble? Life rarely happens exactly as we’ve planned it. Even our days are often replete with unplanned events. Just this morning lunch with a friend was moved back an hour and another appointment was cancelled. While this isn’t a catastrophe, many times life’s occurrences are. Tragedies can sideswipe us in the blink of an eye, a moment’s notice.
                These Plan B’s as Pete Wilson calls them in his book titled Plan B, can either happen to us because of someone else’s choices or occur because of our own poor choices. Regardless of the reason, we must decide how we are going to react. Are we going to allow this situation to make us bitter or better? Most likely, these crises have the potential to bring us closer to Jesus, if we allow Him to transform us. The question is, will we let Him have access to our hearts?
                Thinking we’ll travel through life with smooth sailing, following our to-do lists, is as likely as a year without rain in Seattle. I graduated with an English degree, planning to teach secondary students for the rest of my life. I taught for a few years and have been swabbing kitchen floors and doing laundry ever since. I never imagined I’d live anywhere else but the northwest side of the country. What am I doing in Indiana, where Hoosier Hysteria reigns, in a town I never even knew existed before 10 years ago? My plan also didn’t include getting divorced and being a single parent to two small children.
                Many of us dream about a life of ease, with financial comforts, happy marriages and well-behaved kids.  We work hard to fulfill our dreams, our plans, our desires, yet oftentimes neglect to commit those plans to God. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” I like to plan my course; I just occasionally forget about God in doing so. I assume that God wants what I want for me. Yet, over the years, I’ve learned that He cares more about my character than my comfort.
                It seems like God has allowed me to experience a lot of those character-building field trips. Going through a heart-wrenching divorce was the biggest by a mile. My plan was to stay married forever; divorce was never an option. But, unexpected circumstances caused such calamity that what I thought I’d never consider became a topic of conversation and then a reality. My dream shattered, my heart broken, tears flowing, I clung with dear life to my Savior, my Rescuer, my Protector. Psalm 126:5-6 says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” I sowed a lot of seed during that period of time that reaped a harvest of joy years later.
                Satan sought to destroy, derail and distract me with this tragedy, but God planned beauty, blessing and a bright future. I chose to believe in His goodness for me. There isn’t anything that happens to me that He doesn’t know about. A friend of mine once said, “It’s comforting to know that God knows my story. And, whether He allows something to happen or causes it, He will be with me. He must know I can handle it.”
                 Eventually, God restored my dreams of marriage to a godly man who had also been broken by divorce.  How grateful I am that my God can take our plan B’s and bring beauty from the ashes, healing from the heartache, deliverance from destruction.
                “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23           

Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome Summer!

My latest article on Sanctified Together is posted! I hope you enjoy reading my article as well as all the other fabulous writing about summer...