Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Rhetorical Question

I don't remember most of the day, but I remember the moments leading up to the impact like it was yesterday. 

It had been a particularly rough morning. 
I had screwed up a major detail of an event, only to learn about it during the final run through. 
I left my cell phone at said final run through, across the county from my office. 
I had forgotten, again, to pick up new eye glasses in another small town 15 miles away and my head was feeling it. 
That afternoon I decided to pick up my eyeglasses and go back to the event site and find my an Answer Plot field. Feeling immense stress and frustration, I called out to God while driving down a state highway:

"God! What else could possibly go wrong today?"

It was a rhetorical question, but I guess maybe God felt obligated to answer to prove a point.

It was only seconds later that I saw the black Jeep come up over the perpendicular hill - quickly. 
The driver never hit the brakes, only me. 
Fannie the Focus, rest her soul, did two full spins, went over on two wheels, nearly flipping, and landed in a ditch within someone's yard. 
I was taken to the hospital because I didn't feel so hot after the ordeal, but walked away completely fine. Not a scratch. 
But with a lesson wrapped around my wrist:
Full name
Date in which I arrived in the ER: 08/08/2012
A reminder I've never forgotten:

When you ask God a question, be prepared for an answer.  

I swore I'd never ask him that question again. 
Sometimes my memory slips.

I have a friend from college that I've kept in touch with since our Purdue days. 
One of those people that deserves the very best and is living boldly in order to find it. 
Every time I meet someone eligible, I size them up by his standards, wondering if I could introduce the two. I have yet succeed. 

Anyhow, he sent me an email a while back saying he'd finally met someone (I heard angels sing at my desk) worth talking about. His words were brief and only somewhat descriptive, using far fewer adjectives than I prefer. I mean....he didn't even mention her color hair. But I do know a bigger detail about her: she is ill. Weekly-treatments, ill. This detail doesn't change his feelings towards her or the anticipation of their future together. This relationship, as it turns out, is an affair of the heart, not the worrying mind. 

Over dinner one night I told Cody about my friend's exciting news and now difficult situation. "Can you believe it? He finally finds someone to capture his attention and now this? Why him? Why her illness, now? How much can one guy take?" 

Cody didn't really answer the question, he only agreed. 

It was a rhetorical question, but I guess maybe God felt obligated to answer to prove a point.

That same friend texted me last week to let me know he was heading west - homebound - last minute. His dad found a lump and they learned that it might not be the "no big deal" as previously thought. I got the text while outside with Cody and read the text aloud. I knew better than to ask God any questions. I didn't care to learn anymore punch-in-the-gut answers.

This friend, however, is handling it all with grace and patience; both things he doesn't seem to have when McDonald's gets his drive-thru order wrong. He has never asked what more God could throw his way, not because he doesn't want to know, but rather because he already knows things could be worse and today he's climbing life's mountains one at a time. 

God sure as an interesting way of answering questions. Sometimes with Yes, sometimes with No, often Not yet or maybe even I have something different in mind. I think He continues to answer this friend with: You're not going to believe this...

This story is not told to discourage you from asking God questions in fear of what He will reveal. I think God loves it when we have those conversations with Him. My thought is that part of living an enriched life is accepting those answers - no matter how pleasant or tough - as part of the journey. Part of your life's story. 

Personally, I wish I was better at this. Sometimes when I ask God if He can show me where I need to be in my life, I have a real concern that He is going to physically move me to where I'm going to do my best work for Him. Without a chance to pack. Or do the dishes in the sink I've put off for two days. So I never ask the question out loud; I whisper it in my head. As I type this, I realize: I'm a real mess. 

Of course, asking, "What more can God possibly throw my way?" may just sound like a challenge and expedite the process...

Have faith in this. 

I'll close with a few words from my strong, optimistic friend, hoping that his experience will encourage you today, no matter how your life's story is unfolding minute by minute, day by day, year by year:

Life is full of uncertainties 
but what we can do is 
focus on living the best life 
that we can today.

Inspiring more than he knows, that friend. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Farmhouse Frustrations of Fall

There are several things I appreciate about fall. 

Photo-worthy foliage.

The next generation of calves hitting the ground.

Honeycrisp apples from Meijer.

And most important: Ponchos that cover an extra five pounds.

Our culture goes cray cray over fall, and seemingly more so in the last five years. I’m not sure if it’s been the introduction to pumpkin spiced lattes or the re-introduction of ponchos, or phones with fantastic cameras and one-touch filters, but here we are, drooling over burlap and mums and flannel and cinnamon.

The burlap, mums, flannel and cinnamon fall seemed to have ended at our place about a week ago. Now we’ve moved into the real, frustrating fall in this farmhouse. Everything I've done to make this place Country Living-worthy is now rotting and and frankly, all of my ponchos are at the dry cleaner.

In October I parked my car in a ditch along a rural roadside and gathered as many hedge apples as I could before the anonymous homeowner returned home or spotted me and my plastic grocery bags whipping in the wind.
What? They were going to have to mow over them, anyhow.
I drove home and placed the seized hedge apples all over our house, in an effort to 1. decorate with a green punch and 2. keep spiders away.
On heat registers.
In window sills.
In the mud room sink.
By the washer and dryer.
Under the coffee table.
On the mantle.
Under the kitchen sink.
Along the basement and second-floor steps.
And other random places I’ve since forgotten.
I dropped these bad boys so many spots that the only way I can find them all is to follow the awful smell they’re now emitting, a month later as we enter the frustrating fall. I hope to have found all of the hedge apples by the time I hide Easter eggs. Lofty goal, but one Cody has set for me. 

There are two sides to every stink. 

Speaking of…
I’d like to think I’m fairly tough.  
I walk across gravel in heels daily.
I once endured braces and the world’s worst haircut simultaneously. I'd post a photo but I'm not that stupid. 
I’ve worn Spanx for more than five hours straight.

But when it comes to mice, I cannot mentally muster the strength it takes to even address these tiny refugees fleeing the cold weather and hiding in our home. 

This was a day that we had zero bounty. 
God probably thinks I talk too much. 

When Cody is out of town, trap checking becomes my responsibility. I get serious hand sweats before this exercise. Sometimes it’s the only cardio I do in a day.
Last week Cody bought a new set of traps, Jaws of Death, or something spikey, black and sure to do the job. Or so we both thought. 
The other night I was watching TV alone (I thought) when I heard a trap fire.
And then a tap dance routine ensue.
Game over.
Farmhouse For Sale. 

I had to clip the screen shot there. 
My response wasn’t ladylike. 
Or wife-like. 
Or humane.
It's hard to take "haha" advice from a guy texting me from a prime steakhouse a state away. 
To summarize, I told him we better just stick 
to the $.99/2 pack neck snappers that actually work. 

And another thing. 
Another thing that chooses our homestead to die during frustrating fall.
The flies. Everywhere. 
Listen, flies and orange ladybugs, I know you're tired. I'm tired, too. But you'd probably have a little more energy if you didn't zoom around lightbulbs for for hours on end. 
Chill. Out. 
Nothing worse than having to turn up the TV volume because you can't hear Angela Lansbury give her Murder, She Wrote final remarks due to the B-51 Bombers pinging off the lampshade beside your head.  Really quick way for me to lose my head. 
My favorite part of holiday decorating is candles in the windows. Looks great from the road. Welcoming, cozy and colonial. It's like a subtle sign that we're waiting for Paul Revere.


But from our internal view, it's carcasses everywhere, daily. 
I can barely stay ahead of the carnage. 

Late fall is tricky because the harvest dust finally settles; all over everything, inside and out. I’ve learned that the greatest way to address this “harvest glitter” (I’m an optimist) it just to throw things over it. Every time I see something that needs dusted, I transition directly from fall to winter and toss some festive berries. As I type this, our home is decorated with aging hedge apples, pumpkins, gourds, mums that died of thirst the same week I bought them and two out-of-place Christmas berry bushes. And it wasn't until I look photos for this blog that I realized I still have spring decor up, too. No sense in taking it down now. December is half over. 

I sure hope this is one of those entries my Norman Rockwell-reincarnated-mother gets too busy to read.

Make no mistake, I do love my favorite season of fall, it’s just that the hype and glitter flakes off when things start dying and the dust settles all over our furniture. But I guess that transition happens right in time for Christmas to roll in and rekindle the spirit of the season. 

Then I look at the example on our coffee table in which I'm determined to emulate:
 The December 2015 Country Living cover

And reality hits me: There is simply too much going on here. Where on earth would I find a place for the tiny refugee traps? And those popcorn strings would be like a welcoming feast for them!
I think I'll stick to reality and our regular farm house frustrations. 

After all, what would life be without them?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gut Check: Contentment

Unbridled, or tethered in tide, 
the safety of the fence or the danger of the ride, 
I'll always be unsatisfied

A few years ago I worked under a man named Forrest who insisted on bi-weekly "gut checks". These gut checks were his way of keeping a pulse on the business and the voices of his team members. Were we focusing on the things we should be? While there were weeks I didn't have much to say, there were also weeks that the punch in the gut was exactly what I needed: whether I originally believed that when I entered the meeting, or not. 

Fast forward seven years (time flies):
Sunday we sat down in the pew and I opened the bulletin. If you're feeling sorry for yourself, read through the church prayer list. Heart wrenching. 
The sermon headline instantly caught my skimming eyes: Are You Content?
Without hesitation I answered in my head, Of course.
I took notes throughout the sermon, anyway. 
I didn't know it then, but a gut check was on it's way. 

As it turns out, people can be a lot of things. 
But truly content? That's tough to accomplish. 

As it turns out, contentment is not a matter of circumstances, but rather a matter of attitude. Sometimes the most difficult thing we have to learn to do is separate what is really important or valuable with all the other "stuff" that can interfere with a content life. 
The family beside you. 
Your health. 
Home windows that don't sing with the wind. 
Someone you can count on. 
Comfortable shoes.  
The whole idea of taking assessment of those truly important things -  and learning to live with out life's frivolous perks - reminded me of the story I told some time ago about what is was like to grow up rich. Did you happen to grow up rich, too?
I was told once that if you can talk/text on your cell phone while waiting in line to upgrade to a new one, you're rich enough. 
How is that for perspective?

As it turns out, a guaranteed way to find contentment is to quit comparing yourself and your life anything.
To others'. 
To what might have been. 
To something you read in a magazine. 
To something you saw from a distance. 
To the what if that still burns inside you. 
How tough is this?  Daily we're surrounded with other people who seem to completely have it together. 
In the bank. 
At the house. 
With the family. 
Amidst the solid future plan. 
Where does that leave you and the 854 questions still left lingering in your head?
In a world where something - or someone - more is just a click or conversation away, it's no wonder we may find ourselves constantly seeking ways to find something better. 
Do something bigger, better. Are the most discontent people the ones who have to keep up with social statuses?
Go somewhere farther, more exotic. Are the most discontent people the ones who constantly claim that they need a vacation? Personally, I prefer a life that I don't need to vacation from. 
Be someone better, more exciting. Are the most discontent people the ones who never find peace within themselves?

That brings me to the final gut check:

Perhaps the greatest ways to find contentment in life is to find - and live - your purpose. 
Purpose and contentment are actually brothers, did you know that? And while they're not conjoined and the hip, you can usually find one with the other. 
Diving into your life's purpose can be the most terrifying, gratifying thing you ever do. It may take some time to find it. Sure, you're on this earth to love your husband or wife, be a teaching parent and keep the family unit operational. But is there something more? What is missing?

Where might you finally find that contentment? 

Maybe you're not making the income you hoped for. Work to improve yourself and your abilities. 
Maybe you haven't lost the weight you've let drag you down for years. Today is the day to get started. 
Maybe you're 1,000 miles from where you want to end up. Devise a plan to get there. 
Maybe you find yourself going back to what could have, might have, should have been. There  is nothing more empty than living in those terms. 
Maybe you walk through your house and dream of all the improvements you'd like to see made. Make a list and start saving your money. 
Maybe there is still a void. Pray about it. 

There is power in saying, honestly: 

This is where I am today. 
I am confident it will get better. 

It's strange that sometimes I can remember the exact moment that I got my name on the board for the very first time. Mrs. Baker's class. 1990. I was talking out of line. I told Kristen Sparks I liked her headband. I remember that as though it was yesterday. But other times I have a terribly difficult time remembering my purpose. And that's when discontentment begins to set up camp in my life. 

Sunday was the best gut check I've had in some time. Not because it was something I wanted to hear, but because it was something I needed to hear. 
I know that I'm happy, but am I content?
Are you?

We studied Philippians 4:10-13 
:: Thanks for the Gifts::

Oh, how I long to live this. 
No matter the circumstances. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Let The Light Shine

I learned this week that folks 
really get bent out of shape when you 
allow the light to shine in their windows 
just a little earlier every morning.

I'm just going to leave this right here...

The best way to avoid the worst in folks is to never mention Daylight Saving Time. Ever. 
I'm serious. Wowza. 
I've never seen the masses so angry about driving home in the dark. I mean, you know you have headlights, right?

This concept of Daylight Saving Time is not new. In fact, it roots back to something like 100 years ago.
I don't know for certain, I'm only 30. 
Anyway, the original reason behind "falling back" and "springing forward" was to 1. conserve energy and 2. make better use of daylight. 
Instead, we seem to 1. use our energy to complain about and fret over something we cannot control and 2. sleep away the extra hour of morning daylight. 
And we have a bazillion more opportunities for electric lighting around our condos/homes/farms/ranches than we did in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed Daylight Saving Time into law!
Yes, we are a weird species. 
Life, you know, is all about interpretation.

Beyond the counterproductive babble regarding a process created to deliver daylight to us earlier, what can we all learn from Daylight Saving Time?

Simply this: 

You didn't lose that hour of light. You simply have to rise earlier to enjoy it. 
Have you considered that?
While we get worked up over losing an hour (60 minutes. 3600 seconds.) of daylight in the evening, but it's not been stolen from us. It's been moved. 
It's still there. 
Go find it. 
Rise & Shine. 

And that's a good reminder of how short our days - I'm not referencing daylight hours - are. 
24 hours. 
To enjoy a show together. 
1,440 minutes.
To drive through the acres and reflect on what you've built.
86,400 seconds. 
To listen to your kids laugh.
That's it. 
A moment to ever to be seen again. 

Listen, I understand the early sky fall can be discouraging. 
I feed a black, mature bull twice a day in the dark. 
Some days sprinting from something I can't see - I can only hear - is the only cardio I get in a day. If it were still daylight, I know I'd feel safe knowing where his massive carcass was. But that's not the circumstance. And I deal with it. Even if I'm a 'fraidy cat. And I hate cats. 
Life, you know, is all about interpretation.

So don't complain when the sun comes up.
Be glad you're able to see it. An hour earlier this time!
Watch it. 
Live it. 
Check out the stars when they show their pretty little faces a little earlier of an evening. 
They've been so amazingly bright!
Don't bend the neighbors'/son's/teachers'/friends' ears about Daylight Saving Time. 
Appreciate that super early morning hug around the neck from your kid, won't you?
Simply let the bright morning light shine while you live

And until you agree with my message, here is another way to spring forward/fall back. 
Life, as you know, is all about interpretation. 

Let The Light Shine