Oh The Possibilities

So earlier this summer when I realized the season was a-changin’ on me and my wardrobe was needing a boost, I headed to the store, taking Sophalopes with me. It had been a particularly traumatic afternoon for me, I had survived my first phone call from a teen that started with, “Mom, everybody’s ok, but I’ve had an accident” and buying cheap stuff that would make me look better (that’s code for not-old-enough-to-have-two-teen-drivers) seemed like the appropriate response.

(I would like to pause and give a shout out to the anonymous teen who had to make that phone call to her Momma. You did GREAT! You were calm and you gave me the most important information FIRST! Thank YOU!)

Now back to me…so I headed to the store with Sophalopes. In case we’ve never met in real life and in case I have not expressed it clearly in this space, I have issues with shopping. My issues are the crowds of people, spending money, parking lots, and looking at all the stuff. I am easily visually overwhelmed. And did I mention the crowds of people???

So when I go into a store I enter with a survival plan which usually involves a specific list or one or two specific ideas in mind. And I always have a quick escape plan. I usually don’t do what I refer to as open-ended shopping unless I am accompanied by a professional who knows how to help me when at some point panic ensues.

Well, there are a few open-ended shoppers in my family. People who look at shopping as an opportunity. People who enjoy picking up everything in the store (several times), even things not in their size, color palette or price range. People who not only like to shop, but are rather visionary in their pursuit of it. Sophalopes is one of those family members. She is also the one I wrote about here who kept telling me the Apple Store would give her a new iPod. And in fact they did.

So as we entered the store I picked up three or four things that fit my idea criteria – dresses, in my size, in a very specific color palette, under $25. It took all of 10 minutes and I was ready to head to the dressing room. I looked for Soph and found her four rows over in dresses four times her size. She wanted to check every dress on every rack just in case some gem had been accidentally hung in the wrong place.

Forty-five minutes later I finally chased her into the dressing room begging her to, “make it quick.” I was at that point thirty minutes over my shopping limit and wishing I had just opened a bag of Oreos instead of heading to the store. Of course it only took me five minutes in the dressing room and I had picked out one thing and eliminated everything else.

At that point I heard her call out to me across the dressing room, “Mom, I think you should try on this yellow, tube top dress. And this green block one.” I burst out laughing right there in the dressing room. There were just so many things wrong with both those sentences that I didn’t know where to start. I believe that tube tops in any shape or color belong in the same category as Speedos and you know how I feel about those (see #1 on this post).  But Persistence is Soph’s middle name. Once she has an idea NOTHING is going to deter her. I admire that. I am easily deterred, especially if I perceive something is too hard, too expensive or might involve me losing sleep.

Needless to say, twenty minutes later I had tried on about ten more dresses of various sizes, shapes and colors and according to Soph they all looked great.

I would love to report that they were all a success, especially the tube top dress, but none of them made the final purchase cut. However, I tried. And I got to spend time with my visionary daughter looking at the world of fashion through her eyes with a renewed appreciation for how some of us go through life seeing all the possibilities.

God put those possibility-seeing-visionaries in my life and yours because sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we view life only through our limitations – our bank account, our mistakes, our struggles, our specific mind sets, our color palettes – instead of through an infinite God with Whom all things are possible.

I am not saying the yellow tube top dress is always a good idea, but sometimes you at least have to be willing to try it on.  Thank you to all the visionary people in my life, I love you!

And Still More Beach-iness

In my last post I shared about how much fun being at the beach with my teenagers was and how we actually enjoyed the beach itself.  During one of my people watching breaks in my week-long Sit Still and Do Nothing But Read-A-Thon, I spotted a little girl, probably less than a year old because she could sit up but not walk, with her parents about ten feet away.  She was the inspiration for my thoughts on vacationing with little ones versus teenagers.  That little one and her parents also inspired this post.

I first spotted Little One (I don’t know her name and I don’t want to keep calling her “Her”) on the second day of my world record mission.  Little One’s Mom brought her down to the edge of the water where her Dad was hanging out.  After hugs and kisses Mom sat her down in the sand right where the last vestiges of waves would roll onto the sand.  As the thin layers of water would gently kiss the sand as far as they could, Little One got splashed.

What really caught my attention was that when Mom sat her down on the sand, before the first wave rolled in and nothing had happened yet, Little One threw up her arms, turned her face upward and laughed with expectancy.  It was like she was saying to God, “Go ahead and WOW me!  I can’t wait!”

For the next fifteen minutes I watched her and every single time a wave rolled in, no matter how rough or gentle, she had the exact same reaction – she threw up her arms, turned her face upward and laughed with expectancy, as if to say, “Do it again!”

Obviously as a mom myself I realize I probably witnessed her celebration of God’s creation immediately following a nap, a diaper change and a snack (in other words, her little universe was in order during those fifteen minutes), so I don’t want to take this too far. However, the tide was starting to come in, so some times the waves would gently tickle her toes and sometimes they would flat-out knock her over.  She experienced everything from a refreshing splash to sand in her mouth and salt in her eyes, but EVERY single time she righted herself (with Mom and Dad’s help), celebrated with a round of applause and invited another one.

The other mesmerizing thing about Little One’s party was that everyone around her was totally caught up in her celebration.  It was captivating and contagious.  For a brief second it made me want to get up from my chair and join her, but I was having a celebration of my own.

We are God’s children, what if we lived with that kind of expectancy?  What if we celebrated God’s goodness and love even when we get knocked down, have sand in our diaper and salt in our eyes?

God is good no matter what our circumstances.  He is good all the time.  He is love all the time.

What if instead of looking for our circumstances to be perfect, we looked for the perfect God in all of our circumstances?  What if we expected Him to reveal His love all the time?

What if instead of gritting our teeth and resigning ourselves to just getting through the next crashing wave, we threw up our hands in praise of the God Who is with us in ALL things, Who works all things together for the good of His children?

How would those around us be affected if we chose to live in celebration instead of defeat or resignation?  Would light actually dispel darkness?

In the interest of full disclosure, I did see Little One in less impressive moments that week, so she was in fact a real baby, human just like the rest of us.  But I appreciate the invitation I received to her beach party and am grateful to God for glimpses of pure, unadulterated joy and His invitation to enjoy not just a few moments, but an abundant life of joy.

Thank You Father that You invite us all to celebrate You and the abundant life Jesus offers.  In Christ, we reign in our best circumstances and our worst, when we live in expectancy of Your goodness and Your love.

More Beach-y Thoughts

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I was on vacation and on an obvious attempt to break the World Record for sitting still and reading the most days/hours/minutes in a row, I did periodically take a break for a few minutes of people watching.  Those few moments were when I was struck by the profound observations in my last post.

I mentioned how much more fun it is to take teenagers to the beach last time too, but I didn’t launch into any specific detail, so please allow me to elaborate a little (and do not fear, all proper permissions have been obtained and the names have been carefully and cleverly disguised to protect the innocent and unsuspecting members of my family).

On my very first outing to the beach with a child, my oldest, Liv Loo, was somewhere between 18 months and three years old (I NEVER thought I would be one of those Moms who couldn’t remember when stuff happened with her kids, but alas, age plays tricks on us and I was never one for scrapbooking to preserve these memories) and I was thrilled to take her to one of my favorite places on earth – Myrtle Beach, SC.  I have a few memories of going to the beach as a child, but I don’t remember going very often, so my memories of the beach are almost mythical.  In fact, some of my memories may actually be “mythical” since my memory ain’t what it used to be.

Anyway, we arrived late in the afternoon and I got her out of the van or car (another gap in my memory) and took her straight down to the beach.  I do remember that I was holding her in my arms and I carried her down to the beach.  She was very fast as a child and I was always scared to death I would blink and she’d be gone, so I was holding her tight.  I stood there at the edge of the ocean watching the waves kiss the sand and thinking what a magical moment to share with my daughter, to introduce her to the beauty of the beach.

Then she started to squirm in my arms, the universal sign for, “Put me down now!”  I was happy to oblige thinking she couldn’t wait to touch the water.  As soon as her little sandaled feet touched the sand, she threw her chubby little hands over ears and ran screaming up the beach towards the hotel.  We spent most of that trip at the pool or shopping.  I sniffed back my tears of disappointment.

Fast forward a few years when daughter number two came along, Madelou.  Brave soul that I am, I had high hopes that she would love the beach as much as I do.  So we packed all our stuff up for a comfortable morning on the beach (chairs, blankets, towels, sunscreen, cooler with ice and drinks, snacks, toys, diapers, etc.).  It took four adults 30 minutes to get two toddlers and all that stuff from our beach front hotel to the ocean.  We got down there, unpacked all of our stuff, opened a cold coke and sat down to enjoy the day.

Five minutes later Madelou fell down in the sand, got up and came running towards me screaming with her sand-covered hands in the air as if to say, “Get it off, get it off NOW!”.  The way she was hollerin’ you would have thought she had stuck her hands in acid.  We gave her some time to calm down and get over it.  So 30 seconds later we started packing up and moving towards the pool…again.

I can’t remember how our third daughter, Sophalopes (she said it was ok to use her nick name because no one she knows reads blogs), reacted to her first trip to the beach, but by then my dreams of spending days on the beach with my girls had gone totally dormant.  No point in forcing the issue, we were pool bound for many years.

Until this year!  My dream was resurrected.  I got long periods of uninterrupted time with my girls ON THE BEACH and it was awesome.

Sometimes individual moments of life don’t feel very abundant.  Often a lot of time has to pass before you can see the trajectory of the story, get a sense of the progression and realize you feel like putting on the tiara because in fact you are reigning in life and didn’t even know it.

Thanks girls, your Momma had a blast!

Random Thoughts While Vacationing at the Beach

Woman in bathing suit lying on beach.

Woman in bathing suit lying on beach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I was going through my usual well-planned and highly organized process of formulating this post, my initial idea was that it should be titled Things Not to Do in a Bathing Suit. However, as I started chatting with one of my girls about the most important part of this post she presented a different point of view on the subject so it blew my plan for a consistent theme.

So instead it’s just a list of random, strange, funny thoughts that occurred to me while sitting four or five hours a day on a beach for six days in a row.

1.  Men over the age of 5 should NEVER wear a Speedo in public unless they are part of a professional water sport team! I don’t care what kind of great shape you are in for whatever age you are! And I think if in fact they are a member of a professional water sport team they should be required to carry identification that proves membership of said team any time they wear the suit in question, just like the FBI. I am also considering starting a petition to the governing bodies of said water sport teams stating that I am willing to accept slower water sport times in competition for the sake of modesty.

After this week all I can say is that it will take a while for my retinas to recover. I have probably gone years without seeing a man in a Speedo and this year I was confronted with multiple assaults. Thanks for bearing with me, I’ve been waiting all week to get that out.

Now this is the point my daughter took issue with me on. Just to be fair and balanced, I said I would also represent her side on such an important point. There was a particular man in question who was probably in his 60’s and looked like he had trained for the Olympics almost every day of his life. She countered me with the fact that he should be applauded for his bravery and courage, for being himself and not caring what others think.

Again, what gene pool did she draw from???? Thinking for herself? Not caring what other people think (that’s just crazy talk)? Stating her opinion in well-thought out arguments? Being logical? What kind of parenting job have her father and I done? I blame him. (WARNING: Tremendous SARCASM).

She and I did agree on one point, if you wear a Speedo in public, we reserve to the right to comment. The commenting part is what proves that she is actually my daughter.

2.   When you are packed into an elevator with strangers at the end of a long day on the beach and someone asks you where you and your family are from, if you answer then you are in fact having a conversation with a total stranger while half naked. Even in a modest suit we all have on less clothes than normal. If I don’t talk to strangers while fully clothed, why would I tell them where I live with only half my clothes on? I told you, these are just random thoughts that popped into my head.

3.   I don’t care what the offense is, if you stand on the beach yelling at your kids while wearing your bikini, you look ridiculous. They can’t possibly be taking you seriously. If it’s that bad take them to the room, get dressed and then put on your angry eyes so that they get the point. Otherwise, they are probably just laughing at you on the inside.

4.   Any activities that require jumping or running should not be done in a bathing suit.

5.   Now this next observation is clearly from a lifetime of honing my professional level people watching skills, so read carefully, you don’t want to miss it. It is a universal truth and does not vary across age or gender. NEVER bend over while in your swimsuit. There is no way to avoid vital parts of your anatomy either spilling out or worse being exposed. For those nearby when you bend over in your swimsuit…well, there are no words.

If you happen to have dropped the most important thing you own onto the sand and absolutely have to get it back, then for heaven’s sake offer the nearest kid $1 and let them pick it up for you.

6.   I think I proved a theory my family has had about me for years…I can actually sit completely still in a chair for days on end and do nothing but read. They all knew it, but now I have really done it.

7.   Finally, don’t get me wrong, I loved taking my kids to the beach when they were little, but it is infinitely better now that they are teenagers. The reasons are endless, but mostly there’s just way less whining and crying and counting heads every 10 seconds to make sure no one wandered off. Now if I whine or cry or wander off they are old enough to just wait for me to get over it.  🙂

I actually do have deeper thoughts, but they just didn’t seem to fit here so I will save them. I would however like to point out the OBVIOUS connection to this post and reigning in life – laughter is a gift and should be enjoyed every single day whether you are wearing a bathing suit or not, but especially if you are!

Pencil Girl

Pencils

This morning my middle daughter, Madelou (love that nickname), was sharing that in a few days she would have her scores from the AP European History exam she took in May. If you are unfamiliar with AP Exams just think BIG, SCARY tests at the end of a long, difficult, painful year of classroom prep that you can take for $80. If you score well you can earn college credit for a class that could cost $1000+ at your university.

The idea of AP Exams appeals to my frugality and need for efficiency so I have been as loving and supportive (or sometimes task master-ish) through this entire process as humanly possible. As usual, in the interest of full disclosure I may or may not have actually said, “Suck it up, Buttercup” in the face of one particularly difficult assignment, but have since expressed my deepest and profound apologies. At this point all I can say is that we both made it through the class and the exam and no one died. And last week we started speaking again.

As we were discussing her angst that she might not score a “5” (the highest score – I just don’t know what gene pool this kid came from, she’s so unlike both of her parents – SARCASM ALERT!), she told me about another girl that took the test with her. Apparently about five minutes before the end of the exam Madelou heard a noise and looked up to see the girl erasing something she had written in her test booklet.

It took about a second for it to dawn on her, she’s erasingshe took the test in pencilthis is a PEN ONLY EXAM! Madelou looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, particularly the proctor, but she was alone in her observations. She briefly entertained raising her hand, but then worried someone might think she had been looking at other people’s papers. So she had to let it go.

(Just as an aside, I think it’s ridiculous we’ve gotten to a place in our culture that we treat exams like a national security issue and feel like we have to scare people to death to get them to follow the rules, so much so that they are afraid to even raise their hands. Before you email me about integrity and the lack of it in our society, believe me, I get it. I just don’t think taking tests should require 15 forms of I.D., a retinal scan, a DNA sample, and sitting like robots for four hours afraid to exhale because it might make too much noise. End of rant.)

But this taking the test in ink requirement is a really big deal to the AP Exam people. As she was telling me this story my heart sank for this girl. Here she had spent an entire school year in a class that probably had at least double the work load of her other honors classes.  She had taken practice exams.  She might have bought a Barron’s AP review book and spent countless Saturday’s pouring over all things European History. Her social life suffered and she missed all of her favorite TV shows to study …oh, wait a minute, that was me 25 years ago.

But Pencil Girl might have done all of that too. It all came down to those four critical hours and just because she made a mistake a whole year’s worth of work might be for naught.

Have you ever had that feeling that everything was for naught because of one mistake? That it all hinged on nailing it all perfectly ALL THE TIME? That you were disqualified or didn’t measure up because even though the proctor told you 12 times to use a pen, even though it was written all over your test materials, and even though you had practiced using a pen multiple times, when the rubber met the road you were so overwhelmed and overcome with anxiety that you accidentally used a pencil? And the irony is you may have used the pencil so you could erase any mistakes.

The Good News is Jesus died for this too. Before Christ we were disqualified and we could never measure up. It did hinge on us and we could never get it right. We were failures, worse we were dead. But in Christ it’s all Him and because of Him we get to live free. We no longer have to strive and work to achieve. We have worth and value because of Him.

And this is important so listen close…in Him even our mistakes are opportunities. Even when we accidentally use a pencil when we should have used a pen, or worse when it really is all our fault, we can take it straight to Him. At that moment when we engage our Redeemer, even on our worst day and no matter how we got there or who is at fault, it quits being about the pencil and starts being about Him. It’s about our relationship with Christ, not about our circumstances. It stops being about blame and outcomes.  That’s more than success, that’s life, that’s reigning in life.

So Pencil Girl, if you are out there (and for all of us Pencil Girls), please know, there’s grace for this too. I am praying for you (and for your momma).

Romans 8:28 (ESV)“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

For the record, this post has the Madelou seal of approval. 🙂

Living Square

365 day54 study in white

365 day54 study in white (Photo credit: Ruth Flickr)

Last summer, after over 20 years in a monogamous relationship with my table settings I got a serious hankerin’ for something new and different.

The truth is I had not been entirely monogamous over all those years.  Over time as my just-got-married stoneware broke, chipped and I-don’t-know-what-else-but-it-looked-really-bad, I collected similar leftovers friends and relatives.  It turns out that if it was stoneware with some type of pottery blue, flowery design then it looked close enough to me and was welcomed into my community of dishes without judgment or condemnation.

In my youth I apparently placed a lot more value on function than aesthetics.  They were plates, we ate on them.  End of story.

However, in recent years I have come to realize that I am a grown up and I do in fact have opinions about domestic stuff, like couches, paint, and appliance colors.  That’s when it dawned on me that I did not like my hodgepodge of broken dishes.  I wanted new.  Different.  Pretty.   But I also wanted useful and efficient.

Finally I decided on square, white plates.  I will spare you all the hemming and hawing that went into that decision, but it did take weeks.

One of the things that sold me on the idea is that when you have very little cabinet space in your kitchen (I will discuss my tiny cabinets in another post at a later date, but for now just know that my kitchen is what happens when 22-year-old girls who KNOW NOTHING and are so in love that all they want to do is get married, decide to buy a house) square dishes actually are the most efficient use of space.  When dishes and bowls are round it leaves a lot of unusable space in your cabinets.

Of course the deciding factor was the OBVIOUS confirmation by the Spirit (sarcasm intended) when Costco had eight piece settings of exactly what I wanted for half price.  So I called my husband, asked if he cared if I bought dishes because I am all submissive like that (more sarcasm…and I think I just heard my husband fall out of his chair laughing at me).  I got the nod from him, grabbed two boxes and laughed myself silly all the way to the cash register.  Y’all this was HUGE for me on so many levels.

On a domestic, homemaking level, it was like climbing out of a dark hole into broad daylight.  It was like being released from home decorating prison.

Before I continue and translate this into how it applies to life, please know that I still love my dishes and I would do it all over again in a second.  And they really are beautiful and elegant and take up way less space in my tiny cabinets.

After unpacking them, washing them and hauling my old stuff off to the Good Will as fast as humanly possible, I set the dinner table for their introduction to the family.  I desperately wanted everyone else to love them as much as I did and to enjoy the fact that we were all eating on the exact same dishes at the same time.  And none of them were chipped, broken or otherwise defaced.  I felt it was very important that we all get off on the right foot since we would be spending a lot of time together.  If history is any indicator, another whole generation of Popes could pass before I work up the courage to buy new plates again.

Well, my husband sat down to dinner and immediately hated them.  I guess when I asked about buying them I didn’t bother to describe them.  And maybe his mind-reading skills were on the blink that day.  But what he said next is really the whole point of this.  He said, “Kim, there are no squares in nature.”  While our conversation deteriorated quickly thereafter, I have to admit, the man made a good point.

In nature when things have rigid edges, which usually happens through some sort of force, the elements (wind, water, and extreme temperatures) wear them down and smooth them out.  It might take time, but those rigid edges and right angles will be chipped off and smoothed out.  Hence, square might not be the most practical shape for plates.

The same thing is true in my life.  When I view the world and people through rigid, square, firm and unyielding constructs – well let’s just say there’s gonna be a whole lot of chipping off that happens.  The truth is there’s not always a right or wrong.  There’s not always a black and white.  There’s not always only one conclusion.

But there is always a choice: to love or not love.  Father God made every single one of us completely unique and when we accept Christ and learn to live from our union with Him, the expression of Him through us is unique.

I believe another way to live abundantly is to appreciate the unique expression of Christ not only in ourselves, but in others too.  One way to do that is drop expectations that everyone else be exactly like us and see things exactly like we do.  In other words, to let other people live free, out of the box.

Back to my dishes for just a moment…one revelation about square plates a year down the road is that yes in fact when right angles and straight lines bump into hard surfaces (like the side of the counter top or each other) they do in deed chip easier than round plates.  When a circle bumps into a hard surface it’s more of a glancing blow than a collision, so the likelihood of damage is reduced (I think my geometry and physics courses just somehow bubbled up into my writing…I’m feeling a little smarter right now).  My only regret on the dishes is that while they were on sale I didn’t buy a third box to use for replacement pieces.

However, one of my regrets when it comes to people and relationships is that I have been more of a square than a circle.  🙂