Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Not My Best Skill Set.

Dear Samantha,

For the first time in my life, I am struggling with feeling useless in the face of the task before me.  Maybe useless is an understatement.  Picture…hmmm…a fish on a bicycle.

fishbicycle

I had a chance to explore this feeling further when our weekend projects came to an abrupt halt.  (Anytime that happens it is usually expensive and highly disappointing.)  Nonetheless, I was all revved up to accomplish something so marched across our yard clutching an industrial trash bag, intent on picking up the flood litter that was strewn about our 40 acres.  I gazed across the horizon, settled on a small expanse where Samantha used to swing, and set to work.   It is a daunting job, but I was tired of feeling useless.  What’s more, my “can’t help with” list had exceeded my “can do” list, and it picked at me like a record skipping in my mind.  So I decided just to focus on what I can do.  Something little.  Something anyone could do.

photo-3Alone with the soundtrack of the wind in my trash bag, I let myself feel the frustration of being ill equipped for rebuilding a house.   I can’t lift the things I used to lift a decade ago.  I have never even built a dog house – let alone a people house.  I am a teacher, an entrepreneur, and (as you have encouraged me) a fairly good writer.  I am NOT a carpenter, a mason, or a plumber.  Yet this is my journey!  I believe in my heart of hearts that nothing is purposeless.   So what do I do with my talents that are ill-adapted for this job?  And how will I ever develop all the talents that I need to succeed on this path I am on now?

What I thought were my original ideas started to seem awfully familiar. Gradually emerging from my memory was the story of Moses – a shepherd, a man “slow of speech and of tongue” – who God chose to lead a nation of His people.   Moses supplied a long list of reasons why God picked the wrong man for the job.  I can relate!  God listened [patiently] and replied:

“Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  who gives him sight or makes him blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” – Exodus 4:11,12

Moses and I both thought our respective tasks were ill suited to our talents.   He too, questioned whether he was strong enough to stand up to the voices of discouragement and opposition.  I imagine that we both believed the task ahead to be too big, or maybe we simply wanted God to pick someone else.  No such luck for either of us.  Instead, God promised to fill our talent-gaps along the way.

After an hour or so, the segment of property that I had carved out to clean up was looking mighty tidy and I was feeling outsideourtalentsenergized.  It feels good to work hard and to face what lies ahead.  As I took in my surroundings and the flattened earth that awaits a house, I decided that it must be here, when we are working far outside of our talents, where God’s most powerful work happens.  The blessings in your life too, Samantha, will come from watching the impossible happen not just in spite of your inadequacy, but because of it.  In your weakness, God’s great work can shine.

My answer to myself and my advice to you on what to do with mis-matched and missing talents?   Let God’s work unfold.  Look for it.  Expect it.  And share it!   God’s words personalized for you – “Now, go, Samantha, I will help you with what to say and do, and teach you what you need to know.”

Incubating the new talents God has planted in me,
Mommy

P.S.  To anyone reading this who might feel sad that I was picking up trash all by myself, please don’t!   I will gladly accept all the help I can get this fall at our trash pick up party (stay tuned for details!), after construction stops for the year.  Until then I just do it to blow off steam 🙂   Sometimes a girl just needs to be alone with her trash!

———-

Further encouragement:

Hind’s feet on high places, by Hannah Hurnard
Much-Afraid had been in the service of the Chief Shepherd, whose great flocks were pastured down in the Valley of Humiliation. She lived with her friends and fellow workers… Read more

Read the first 5 books of the bible in 10 weeks with YouVersion.
Until last year, I had never read these books straight through.  What an epic journey!  I highly recommend it.

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Making the best of things

Sam,

Some days, you say things that startle me.  In a good way.

You had a sleep-over at your friend Penny’s house during the holiday break.  You loaded yourselves up with makeup, sang karaoke, and got out every doll and accessory in the house.  Just what I would have expected from an 8-year old.photo(12)

Dinner, though, was quite a surprise.  (Penny’s mom, Marilyn, told the story best, but I will do my best to retell.)  You made a few no-holds-barred comments like, “Wow!  Marilyn!  Your green bean casserole is NOTHING like my mom’s.  I love it!  My mom’s is way too spicy, but this is perfect.”  Tonight’s beans, mind you, were straight from the can.  “And the cranberry sauce – woah.  That is amazing stuff.  My mom’s is terrible!”  Again, straight from the can.

Marilyn was amused by your gushing over her un-extravagant fare.   And given your total honesty, it seemed like good timing to get a truthful answer about our lifestyle of late.  “How is life in the camper?” Marilyn asked matter-of-factly.

“Living in the camper?  It. is. AMAZING!  It’s the best place we’ve ever lived!”

Back up, what?   Amazing?   The BEST place we’ve ever lived?  I am stunned.   I have been thinking about it ever since…

I like the camper too.  It is luxurious, and cozy.  It has a washer and dryer (tears of happiness!).  We have fun here.  We laugh here.  We look forward to coming home when we have been away.   But it is most certainly not the best placed I have ever lived.  Nor would I say “amazing”.   Puzzling.

I cannot help but wonder if it is a question of contentment.  Perhaps you have everything you need in a way you have never experienced?  Maybe you are thriving on being reminded daily that we are loved, taken care of, thought of.  Are we acutely aware of how much worse things could be?  It might be that writing thank you letters each week has helped you to adopt an attitude of gratitude?  Is it possible that your happiness is rooted in something much deeper than your circumstances, already, at just 8 years old?
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Or perhaps green beans and cranberry sauce from a can were just so alarmingly good that your entire world began to radiate.  Either way, while I have been merely making the best of things (canned food and camper living included), you have been making them “AMAZING!”  I am humbled and inspired.   And you have my word – green beans from a can, here on out.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,DSC_0975
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if [Happy], he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if [Happy], perhaps, means a little bit more.”

-adapted from Dr. Seuss’s, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Love you most,
Mom

Facing the New Year unresolved

Dear Samantha,

I don’t know about all this New Year’s resolution stuff.  I for one, I am least likely to run out and sign up for a gym membership on January first.   I am not going to promise to write every day, or swear off chocolate (heaven help us, no one should ever do that).  I am not going to vow not to have any temper-tantrums during home school grammar.

You see, I spent the first 10 years of my young life being uber responsible and commitment frantic.   Really, I was too responsible for a tween/teen/young adult.  I was on the honor roll, and graduated in the top 5 in my class.  I organized a group of nearly 100 high-schoolers each year for cancer fundraising.  I opened an IRA when I was 19 and despite running out of money for food here and there, I managed to put $200/month into the account.  I got a great job out of college, bought a house, and continued making predictably responsible choices.   I was 24, and I was all burnt out on being responsible, planning ahead, following through.  blog

It was time for an intervention, but what life had planned, I could never have guessed.   That summer, your dad and I found out we were expecting YOU!    ….Uh, unexpectedly.   Over the next three years, you, my adorable infant/toddler/preschooler, beat the type A right out of me.  I was inexperienced at all things domestic, sleep deprived, and in over my head.  I missed an occasional meeting, was late almost everywhere, failed to return phone calls, and even lost a few friendships because I just wasn’t the same person anymore.  I couldn’t keep up simple friendly commitments let alone complicated professional ones.  But without my best laid plans to depend on, I received a remarkable gift.  I began to discover the joy of living in the moment.  Living. in. the. moment.  Still working on that one daily, as you know.

So my live-in-the-moment encouragement to you is this: unless the ad in the sidebar this January is blognewyearsencouraging you to keep your money, take it easy, smell the roses, and enjoy what you have, perhaps you should resolve to ignore it.  You are amazing.  You do not need to redecorate your house or workout at the new gym.  You should only join that volunteer committee if it makes your heart light up.  Only jog the extra mile if it makes you feel more alive!  Or best of all, you can just be happy with you, and in so doing, free other people to be happy with themselves.  Your life is already abundant.

Cheers to the unexpected adventure THIS year holds for us!   I love learning about life with you; you have and always will be my favorite life lesson teacher.

Photo on 1-1-15 at 6.46 AM #2Love,

Your blissfully unresolved Mommy

“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”  Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Power of choice

Life gives you this amazing power: choice.    It is easy to forget that our lives are a product of our choices.  I heard from a great man that it is easy to look great when things are going well, but it is how you act when things are unfair that really tells people who you are.

When you are going through a difficult time someday, I hope I am able to encourage you that you always have a choice.   And you can gain a sense of power in that choice.  You are not the victim of your life, you are the master of it.  When you encounter circumstances that are unfortunate, I know you will have the grace to handle it with dignity and continue pressing on toward your dreams.

I hope you grow to expect that things will not always (uh, ever) go as you plan.  But that snags in your plan will open up doors to things you would never have imagined.  Let your creativity help you harness opportunity when it arises.

While the path is always changing, each new fork in the road gives you a chance to choose your way.  And, when someone who has traveled a difficult road gives you their improved roadmap for an easier way, might I suggest that you take it.

Oma says: “No babies until after you have your college degree.”  I listened, and man did that one pay off.

Opa says:  “Don’t buy a car with 100K if you don’t have the money to fix it.”  Three oops-cars later, I get it – he really was looking out for me.

….list to be continued

little change, big results

Sam,

I learned a lesson this week:  Never underestimate the power of a little change.

Last weekend your father called to my attention the fact that you and I had been squabbling back and forth for the last two months and getting worse.    Once I came to grips with the problem (me), I was unwilling to let it go on one minute longer.  Out came the token board.   The moment I finished explaining that you could earn tokens toward a pool date with me by following my directions quickly you cheered and asked what you could do to get your first token.  Wow!  Over the course of a week, we probably spent 15 short minutes talking about tokens or doing tasks to earn them.  What was surprising was the complete change in your attitude from resistant to helpful, and all the compliments [like “she’s so respectful” and “what a good listener”]  from your teacher and perfect strangers.

I got so caught up in the problem I failed to do something about it.    The truth is, you don’t need a complete plan to begin.  When you are facing an new challenge you rarely have enough information to determine the best way out.  You just have to take one step at a time and be ready to adjust the plan when needed.  Failure provides the stepping stones to success.  Remember, “Yay, you failed!” (Disney’s ‘Meet the Robinsons’).

When in doubt, change something little, and you just might win big.   This time we both won, sister.   More amazing mom-dates to come.

Love,  Mom