Applying the Brake

Whoa! This quote from Levi Lusko stopped me in my tracks.

Seriously NO PUN INTENDED.

After a full year of writing and posting nearly every day I’ve been thinking about dialing back in the new year. Putting a pause button on my daily desire to share a bit of what’s on my mind with anyone interested, like-minded or otherwise following my blog, Facebook page or IG account.

Now back to the raceway. I have been known to drive over the speed limit on long stretches of roadway on trips to see those I love. Unlike some I know who carefully calculate every approaching turn, traveling along at a markedly slower pace as to have additional time to cautiously navigate each turn in the road. They could travel faster but instead prefer to level each path before encountering it. Perhaps their unspoken credo might be “No bumpy roads.” I tend to travel a bit faster than that. And hit a few bumps, maybe take a few curves faster than is prudent. That’s all part of the journey.

Though I’ll occasionally break the speed limit, make no mistake, I am no speed junkie. I do prefer to smell the roses along the way rather than to screech past them. Does that place me at the middle of the road? Maybe. But to further use the raceway metaphor of this quote, I am about to apply the brakes to my fairly frequent posting so I can then accelerate coming out of the turn a little further up the road.

I’ll still be on social media unlike a few others I follow here who have taken an entire month or so off. And after putting my focus in a few other places for awhile I hope to come out of this turn with some awesome acceleration! Here’s to a little judicious braking.

Gifted

What will I give today?

I can give a smile to a stranger—it is free. Add some genuine human warmth to that smile (aka empathy) and the single scoop cone has just been upgraded to a sundae.

What can I give? Though there are days and times that giving monetarily to some cause or some one in need is appropriate, and though it can be hard in certain seasons, it can also be the easiest, most effortless, sometimes mindless, way to give. Sometimes with a sense of obligation attached, sometimes not.

What can I give without spending a dime? My specific knowledge of a thing that is unclear or unknown to someone else’s mind? A slight amount of my time giving an ear to a sad story or upset heart or confused friend? Or the same amount of time to one who is bursting with good news and dying to tell someone who will listen?

Has a child ever handed you the precious gift of a flower? And perhaps, though picked from a neighbor’s garden, it was presented with so much overflow of spontaneous love in their young and tender heart that they saw no wrong-doing, only a desire to give.

What can I give today? What WILL I give?

The Wait

Much of the time I find myself wanting something now though it’s time and place in my life is still yet to come. It’s ahead of me. There it is in my future but not yet in my current reality.

I can see it. It isn’t that far away actually. But though I can see it just ahead and almost reach out and touch it, it’s as if I’m at the longest ever stoplight just waiting, waiting, waiting to move forward. Well, isn’t that just the way of things sometimes?

Once a close-by neighbor asked if I’d like to have her outdoor barbecue when she replaced it with a newer, fancier model. I happily agreed and awaited the day that it would be mine. I thought about grilling steaks and veggies and using it to make a rustic pizza. And I waited.

The new barbecue arrived in a few weeks but the neighbor didn’t mention her previous offer. I waited patiently because surely the delay must be that she wanted to clean the thing up before passing it on to me.

It was right there in her back patio where I could see it but not enjoy it. I was dying to use it, it had been promised but I had to wait for the gift-giver’s timing.

It e v e n t u a l l y did come in to my possession and the steaks and veggies I grilled were delish. But the waiting.

Its so hard to wait for a good thing to come, a promised thing that we can already see with our eyes of faith. Its so hard and yet. The gift-giver’s timing is best.

This Time?

O, maidenhair fern, won’t you live a little longer this time?

With such a name and with such delicate lacy leaflets (or are they fronds) what’s not to love about a maidenhair fern? The thing is, for a non-plant care specialist such as myself, they have been difficult to keep alive. When purchasing this one the garden center lady announced just how difficult they were to grow (without offering a single tip).

“Oh, I know, I know,” I told her. I’ve enjoyed and lost plenty of them. She looked shocked when I said that. Perhaps I actually said “killed” instead of “lost” and that must have seemed purposefully cruel to her. Not that I’ve ever intentionally assisted in their demise. And not that their care is entirely complicated though it’s assumed that they’re finicky and temperamental.

Each time the previous one had been replaced I’d been sure that the new one, THIS one, would live. The others were probably of lesser quality, of poorer stock, I’d said to myself. But THIS one is going to make it. This time it will live . . . though each time I’ve done nothing different to ensure that. What’s that quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

The more fragile a thing has become, whether a fern or a friendship, living growing things need a measure of sunlight and water, oxygen and nutrients. Both will decline in varying degrees unless these are given. Both will grow and thrive when the ingredients of time, care and thoughtfulness are consistently and judiciously given.

My lazy Monday maidenhair musing.

Sunday Refections

An old window in a shuttered church located in Shelby County, Texas.

Our “Day” family forbear’s name was the first listed among the other founders who established this congregation in 1856. To walk the grounds and see it with my own eyes created such an unusual sense of familial connection to the past. One that I hadn’t conceived of experiencing when we set out to locate this old building. It wasn’t quite a feeling of nostalgia as this was a place I’d never heard of before and family I didn’t know existed. But . . .

There was something about connecting to the past that triggered a very subtle wave of nostalgia for another bygone season in my life—one I had personally lived only a couple of years ago. Finding the definition of this feeling of nostalgia lit a candle—shone a light on something I’d been feeling but couldn’t quite grasp. Ah, there it is. “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place of happy personal associations.” That explains it.

It’s a sweet and tender thing when we gently recall a pleasant day gone by. But it can also hold us back or deny us from experiencing new life if our heart decides to set up shop back there. The good old days, the best of times, the glory days, might even clash with our current state of being if we continue to wish for things to be the way they used to be. That is not future. That is nostalgia for the past.

Sunday reflections through a cloudy stained glass window can bring needed clarity to the day.

Just A Shell?

A shell of their former self. That’s what we might think or even say about someone who has been devastated by a life experience beyond their capacity to contain it or deal with it.

There is inestimable value in sustaining our friendships with those who have journeyed through life’s highs and lows—those who have navigated all manner of stormy weather and have survived. Those who have endured losses, humiliations, significant life changes and though knocked down have gotten back on their feet, learning how to walk once more or even to speak again. Redefining themselves as needed. Living again with joy.

If we’re lucky we may have one or two such examples in our lives, oftentimes more. We do well to listen and also to learn from others who’ve made it through so when (not IF) our own storms crash upon us we will have some navigational skills to draw upon. Good people in our circle will lend the support of empathy, practicality, prayer, wisdom and presence that we can’t provide for ourselves.

Empty shell prevention is made of this.

Blowing in the Wind

I’ve only seen the short stubby little dandelions that sprout up in awkward places on the lawn. Always as unwanted visitors. Does anyone other than an herbalist actually cultivate them? Intentionally grow a nice little patch of them just because they’re a cheery little species?

I think not. We employ gardeners to dig them out. We use toxic chemicals to remove them from our otherwise perfect lawns. They show up in by-the-way places. They seem to thrive in roadside patches of hard dry dirt that aren’t tended to or irrigated; that have been paved over with asphalt. Improbable places.

So I saw this random growth of dandelion on the edge of a parking lot. It clearly wasn’t planted there by design but there it grew nonetheless. And the stems were so long and slender as if it had done its very best to grow higher—to rise above happenstance in this utterly unglamorous location.

Here’s to all the dandelions who despite less than ideal circumstances have elected to grow taller, reach higher and lift their faces toward the sun. Somehow finding hydration enough to thrive, sunshine enough to stay vividly lemon hued. In a final season (or is it?) finding a grace to release their seeds of future potential on a gentle wind. Out into the wild they go and will grow in palace gardens and the awkward places alike. Carried on a breeze they start again and again and again. After all, Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. You never know. . . that just may be where a little blowing in the wind will lead.

The Power

A colleague of mine is walking through a difficult, soul stretching season right now. A hospitalized family member is in pretty bad shape. Chances are they won’t make it long enough to receive the transplant that is needed to survive.

Future plans are being examined from every side and new angles are being contemplated. “If this happens then I could do XYZ to manage things as they develop. I would be willing to try Plan C to become more available for them . . .” She was sharing the situation with me and processing incoming thoughts all at once.

I listened with compassion as this very rational, highly intelligent person shared a mix of strategies and possible scenarios all the while sprinkling in snippets of who this dear one of their’s once was. Micro moments of their childhood and such—peppering the current reality, that of their loved one being at the very doorstep of eternity—with fleeting thoughts pulled from an entire lifetime spent together.

I listened. What else can we do in such a moment? So often we feel as though we must offer an intentional, meaningful, and if we get it just right, powerful word of encouragement. Sometimes though there is power bestowed to the burdened other just by giving them our unhurried and undivided attention and compassion, allowing them to process a situation that is beyond their own control. There is a certain grace to that when the moment calls for us to be silent and listen with Love.

Down For the Count

Three days without the internet—three very long days and nights not being connected to social media, to streaming music or movie service, no form of news outlet, weather service, or even, “hey Siri, find me a recipe for ginger kohlrabi soup.” Emails haven’t sent or loaded . . . (except while at Starbucks). My computer has been worthless other than use of the calculator. So awesome. A smart TV and smart phone ain’t so smart without the power of the internet flowing through their wireless veins.

Ohhhh there were plenty of error messages to go around. The constant refrain on all three devices was a variation on a consistent theme. “CANNOT CONNECT” in the key of C major. Tests were conducted by a helpful, though remote, technician who despite following prescribed protocols could not restore a connection.

It’s not as though I had purposely planned a silent retreat either. I made good use of the time in other ways all the while resenting the disconnect. I got “other” things done during the outage. I’m resourceful like that.

Good news is that a person—a real, live, breathing, thinking, hopefully caring, person is coming to repair the situation sometime in the next six hours. If this posts then they made it . . .

For all the glories of tech, including social media that connects us to worldwide online friends , WE STILL NEED REAL PEOPLE in our lives. We need them and each other to carry on. Really and truly and not just to fix our broken stuff. Though some of us have nailed that, some self-sufficient types (takes one to know one) need a good solid reminder every now and again.

Contemplation

On my walk to the far end of campus I noticed a lone student standing on the ridge facing the small canyon. He stood motionless as if staring at something very far away.

By the time I was returning to my building some time had passed and as I approached the same ridge there he stood in the same place and pose as before. Not moving, still looking out across the canyon. The distance between us was too great to accurately say that he appeared to be transfixed; so focused in thought that he seemed oblivious to anything at all around him. His absolute stillness coupled with his physical posture of tranquility, entirely statue-like, communicated a state of deep reflective thought—of pure contemplation.

In the seeming stillness of thought there is highly engaging activity going on. Some days battles are being fought, some days they are won. Childhood memories are replayed as if being relived. Improbable scenarios are imagined. So much activity without a single muscle being moved and yet our beating heart pounds faster because of these internal escapades.

Contemplation—what a gift! Its a moment of rest for the body and a workout for the soul.