A Good Spin On a Bad Day

A Good Spin On a Bad Day

It seemed to have been a bad day.

My teenage son sat at dinner and told me he’d walked to the bus that morning in the slush and rain, soaking his shoes right through. He felt just mediocre about how his classes had gone and then said,

“Coach was yelling at me a lot during practice.”

“What about?” I asked.

“Keeping my back straighter.”

My son is a novice rower, and learning the correct technique is what this year is all about.

“Was he disparaging or encouraging?”

“Mmm. Encouraging,” he admitted.

“He wants you to get better?”

My son nodded.

“And did he single you out, or was he yelling at others too?”

“He was yelling at others too.”

“Right. I see. You know, I heard on the radio today that the average American has 60 bad days a year. That’s slightly more than 1 per week.”

My son looked up from his plate and gave me a begrudging grin.

I left it at that.

Sometimes we need to hear a few well-placed questions and a relevant tidbit to help us turn our perspective slightly, from a jaded to a more positive point of view.

The same is true in the spiritual life. If I consider all my trials as personal attacks, I will become disheartened.

But if I recognize that in my human condition I am not alone in my suffering, I can take a step toward seeing things more clearly.

There is Someone Who is willing to carry my burdens for me and give me His strength in return for my trust in Him. I can draw new strength from Him to carry on, and someday He will show me the reasons for my trials.

Cast your care upon the Lord,
Who will give you support.
God will never allow
The righteous one to stumble.
(Psalm 55:23)

Lighten Up!

Lighten Up!
Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

Do you need to lighten up?

I do.

And I’m not talking about weight here.

I’m talking about attitude.

This is a recurrent theme in my life.

I try hard.

A LOT.

To get things right.

And sometimes I overdo it.

I lose perspective.

I miss what’s really important.

Recently I was remembering one particular time when my earnestness billowed up comically.
When my husband and I were awaiting the birth of our first child, I took seriously the advice that I interview pediatricians. I was convinced the doctor-patient relationship may prove significant in the years ahead.

And so, one very cold, windy December day about a month before my son arrived, I rolled my round self through the doors of a doctor’s office.

I was a vision, to be sure. Breathless from having climbed two flights of stairs, my shoulder-length blond hair was whipped around my head, and I struggled to free myself from my coat – a cherry-red, ankle-length woolen shroud that had once been my mother’s. Back in Philadelphia circa 1988 it had been striking, chic, and regal. On me – 8 months pregnant in 2002 – minus Mom’s 3-inch heels, manicured nails, and expertly coiffed hair – it was somewhat less fantastic. I resembled a squat strawberry past its peak.

Looks aside, I was on a mission.

I had my notes and my questions ready.

I was going to make sure my baby would have the best provider I could find.

When the doctor entered the room, I was slightly surprised that he was no more than 5 years older than me. But no matter. I proceeded through my questions about diet, weekly and monthly visits, developmental expectations, office hours, etc. and he answered dutifully, thoroughly, and patiently until I finally thought, “Good grief. He’s the professional. And I’m exhausted.”

Having crossed just about everything off my list, I looked up at him and asked, ”How am I doing?”

He smiled.

“Fine,” he said. “There are really just a few things we want to make sure all new parents know about.”

“Ok,” I said.

“First, is that we believe in immunizations.”

I felt my eyebrows shoot up and my body start to tremble.

“Umm…” he stammered, “There is a debate right now. And for some people this is an issue.”

I covered my mouth and then burst out laughing.

“Hahaha! I know! I know! Oh gosh! I’m so sorry! I was so uptight about this. About meeting you… I…I…forgot to ask about the most basic, essential things! You don’t have to convince me of this. I’m fine with immunizations.”

He looked relieved.

“Oh. Ok, great!”

I nodded.

“Another thing,” he continued, “Do you have a car seat?”

I laughed harder.

“For real!?! Yes!”

“Make sure it’s installed properly. Seriously. Do that and you’re golden. Everything else we’ll take as it comes.”

I beamed at him.

I deeply appreciated that doctor that day, and every day we’ve visited him since, because he has consistently focused on the NOW. Today’s right thing.

So here’s the rub…

Do you catastrophize?

Do you envision all the ways the future could go wrong before the next hour has even happened?

If so, lighten up.

Our biggest burdens are often the ones we put on ourselves. So toss your heaviest loads aside, look UP for guidance, and trust that you have – and will be given – the appropriate wisdom and strength required to handle whatever comes next.

All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.

(2 Chronicles 9:23)

No More Summer Scrooge

No More Summer Scrooge

 

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I used to hate summer. I was a Summer Scrooge.

I only lightly concealed my loathing of the heat and humidity. I never wanted to be outside. I harbored resentments – for my fair skin that burns like bacon, blue eyes not meant for bright sunlight, and tender feet that just won’t tolerate hot cement, sand, or even flip-flops. Strange, you think? It’s true. The thought of something stuck between my toes all day long makes me cringe.

But my feelings were a prison of my own making.

It’s amazing how years can go by before you realize that you’re missing out on whole seasons of your life because of the way you look at them. 

I’ve learned – the words that ring in my head and my heart frame my perspective.

So, 7 years ago, I decided to make summer different. It happened like this….

I had a friend who seemed to treat every day like an adventure, even if she never left her home. One weekday afternoon, I was sitting in her bright yellow kitchen while she cooked, eating olives from a ornate blue and white bowl that was part of a set.

“I love these bowls,” I told her, which matched a platter covered in cheese, crackers, and cured Italian meats.

“Thanks! They’re from Portugal. We got them when Tim* was stationed in Rome.”

Five of the six kids we had between us were yelling and charging happily all over her house, occasionally running through to snatch a slice of provolone or salami.

“And you’re using them today?”

“Why not?” she laughed. “What good are they doing in the cupboard? I use them all the time!”

“What if they get broken?”

“Well, then they do,” and she tossed her long hair as if to say, ‘But we really used them, didn’t we?’

That small exchange made an impression on me. Yes, other people had told me, “Use the good china,” but until that moment – I guess I hadn’t heard the message: Live today.

Even as a stay-at-home mom doing the usual thing on a random Tuesday – Live today.

And I decided to make a summer plan.

In the beginning, my summer plan entailed my own physical happiness. I found a non-sticky sunscreen and decided I was worth the expense, shunned capris and shorts and settled on the fact that skirts were more comfortable for me in the heat, and discovered that playing in the pool with my kids actually is more fun than sitting on the side watching them.

But by leaping those physical hurdles, I also found strength to focus on my deeper, emotional hurdles. Like how to use the summer months to draw closer to my children emotionally, when holding them at arms’ length would be easier for me. I’m an introvert with currently very extroverted children, and all this ‘togetherness’ can be challenging.

But the summer is time we will never get back. So I’ve learned to pray and ask for discernment from God about how to spend these days well.

I don’t always get the answers I want. As one would expect, there is less time for me and my pursuits, and in the short-term that can be frustrating. (i.e. I’ll be blessed if I can write one blog piece a week from now thru August!)

But because of my willingness to bend to Him, He is helping me to make the very most of now, learn from the past, and have fewer regrets later. It’s a hard thing to admit that I’m a better mom to my third six-year old than I was to my first child when he was six, but good parenting is about continuing to grow, and I so desperately want to be good – for them. I am being formed into the woman I was intended to be and the Creator is creating the best summers of my life.

This coming week, we’ll be on vacation, and I intend to spend equal time on the beach reading and building sandcastles. But I leave you with some recent words from my youngest son.

He and I were driving to the gym in silence when he blurted this out. I scrambled to get it down as soon as I could. I was in awe of what I’d heard, knowing I had to preserve it forever. He said,

“Every day is special. 

Because God is always with us.

And every day is a birthday.

And a new baby is born.

And a new house is built.

And a car is fixed.

And flowers are planted.

And gardens grow.”

 Amen.

Every day is special.

 

 

*Not his real name.