Making Proverbs 13 Your Mantra

This weekend at church, the most adorable little girl stood on the seat in front of me. She was wearing a beautiful silver dress and had a pair of velvet Mickey Mouse ears perched on top of her head. Her headband reminded me of the year that Bill and I took our daughters to Disney World on the Fourth of July. It was crowded and stressful and I told myself that we would never do that again.

No one wants to be so busy during the holidays that they have no time to enjoy them, yet so many of us pack our pre-Christmas days with an overwhelming number of To Dos. This year I resolved to not to fall into this trap, largely out of necessity. On the day before Thanksgiving, I had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur and repair a tear in the labrum of my left hip.  Several people who have seen me hobbling around on crutches have commented on how awful it must feel to not be able to walk over the holidays but I don’t see it that way because knowing that I would spend all of December on crutches motivated me to get ready for Christmas early.

Proverbs 13:4 teaches us that the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied, but sometimes God works through circumstances to drive home the lesson. With presents wrapped, cards ordered, and decorations up before December 1st, I had none of those distractions to keep me from serving and spending time with friends and family.

Diligence is the earnest and persistent application to an undertaking, not a frenzied  race to December 25th, so let’s make Proverbs 13 our mantra for 2013 and lean on God’s promises every day.

Road Maps

At the end of our driveway stands a new mailbox. Its presence marks the end of a long road of frustration that began when the mail carrier drove up to our old one and opened the lid with such force that a hinge broke, causing it to fall to the pavement below.

When repeated attempts to fix the hinge failed, Bill wired the top of the lid to the box to keep it from flopping open every time the carrier forgot to treat it with care.

I read once that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. What I didn’t catch was: When? When does the pain of ‘what is’ become enough to motivate us to work toward what can be? For me, the moment came when I tried to squeeze an armload of letters out of a half-open mailbox and imagined how hard it must have been for the postal worker to slide them in there.

I’ve met a lot of people who refused to start a project until they knew exactly how it would end. The problem with this approach is that God never gives us a complete road map. Instead, He wants us to step out in faith and trust that the journey will eventually lead to the finish line.

My first step was to call a customer service representative from Frontgate, because I had seen a mailbox that looked like ours in their catalog. The person I spoke to gave me the name of the manufacturer and, after confirming that ours was made by the same company, I called them about replacing the lid. To my delight, the one that our builder purchased came with a lifetime warranty.

A few weeks later, the broken lid was a distant memory and it wasn’t just our mail carrier who noticed.

“I need to fix mine too,” a neighbor said when he saw Bill replacing ours.

After seeing the bad condition that his was in and comparing it to the flawless appearance of ours, it occurred to me that people, like mailboxes, stand side by side. Some looking more worn than others: All able to be made new with a single leap of faith and the decision to say ‘no’ to the status quo and ‘yes’ to the delivery of God’s very best in life.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

A Healing Message

It’s been said that things happen in threes. After my April 14th surgery, I have to agree. It was supposed to be a simple procedure to repair a torn ligament in my left wrist but the damage proved to be more extensive than the MRI originally showed and the doctor wound up fixing, not one, but three tears.

“One of the ligaments had ripped completely away from the bone,” the surgeon told Bill after my three-hour operation was over. “I had to put two pins in your wife’s wrist to hold the bones together until it heals.”

That was almost six weeks ago and, although typing with one hand has been a challenge, my only regret is that I didn’t do something sooner. Instead I spent the past five years nursing an aching wrist that could have been fixed in one day.

The only thing worse than putting off the inevitable is listening to someone go on and on about an issue that he or she has no intention of addressing. I never want to be that person. While it is noble not to saddle anyone else with our problems, sometimes I think we spend so much time avoiding the pain of doing that we forget about the joy of living with the fruits of our labors.

Why do we do it?

Why are we so determined to play the victim instead of the victor?

If I had to self-analyze my penchant for procrastination, I’d guess that it was because I don’t want to be a burden to my family. Bill may joke about what I spend on purses and shoes but it’s nothing compared to the cost of repairing a ligament; and I’d rather wait until our insurance deductible has been met for other reasons than be the cause for that type of out-of-pocket expense. I also don’t like the idea of having to ask for help with basic tasks like tying my shoes and taking out the trash.

I often say that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Self-sufficiency is no exception, and so I set aside mine to have the surgery. When it was over, I was touched by how much everyone pitched in to help. Not once did Bill complain about the cost. Instead we all had a good laugh over how ridiculous I looked with my arm bent at a ninety-degree angle and pointed at the ceiling to keep the swelling down.

One Sunday morning, for example, when I walked past Hollie with my arm in the air she joked: “I hope you have a ticket.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“To the gun show!” She shouted while flexing her biceps.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Bill gave me a hug after we got home from church and said: “You’re so nice.”

Once again I looked confused until he held his arm up like mine and pretended to wave at passersby.

All jokes aside, this time of recovery has been a good one because it taught me that relying on others is not a weakness if it brings out another person’s strengths; and when we take care of ourselves it sends the healing message that I am worth it … and so are you.



Someday

While waiting at my youngest daughter’s bus stop, I decided to catch up on some reading and turned my attention to a chapter of The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud. In it, the author told this story about a fellow graduate student who suffered from what he called a “future” mind-set of happiness: Several times, when a group of us was going to do something fun, like take a ski weekend or go on a weekend trip to Mexico, we would invite him … And he would say, “I want to, but …”

Cloud went on to say that he eventually stopped asking because he realized “that it was not the paper that had to be finished or the degree or the dissertation or the internship or the license” that was standing in the way of his friend’s happiness. It was his friend. He was standing in the way of his happiness.

The story reminds me of my own experience with a college friend who regularly declined my invitations to come to Chicago because he and his wife were too busy to get away. “I have three jobs right now and we’re not taking any vacations except for an occasional weekend away to Omaha or Kansas City,” he explained. “Our plan is to work until we have paid off our house and saved enough to retire when we’re fifty-five. Then we’ll have time to visit all the places we’ve been wanting to see and really enjoy ourselves.”

Immediately upon hearing this, I thought about all the opportunities our family has seized over the past fifteen years. There were the business trips that the girls and I tagged along on. And the long weekends when we would set out in a new direction to explore sites that were within driving distance from our home. We too were saving for tomorrow, just not at a rate that would sacrifice today.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “yes” when circumstances allow. Jesus actually encouraged it in Luke 16:10 when he said that when we make the most of the small opportunities that come our way, we will be trusted with even bigger ones. My friend did not share this attitude of abundance. Instead, his either-or mindset was convinced that any fun he had now would be at the expense of his future; and current prospects paled in comparison to the promise of tomorrow.

I wish Dr. Cloud would have been there to challenge this person’s long-term plan. To convince him to see my invitation as an opportunity. If he had, he could have shared truths like this one from pages 45 and 46 of The Law of Happiness where he said: some people feel that happiness is on some sort of timeline and depends on a later event. It cannot happen now, because there is a missing piece that has not occurred yet. But in reality, people who think this way do not magically become happy “when” the “whatever” it is happens. They just transfer that mind-set to the next “when.”

Happiness is not a destination. It’s a state of mind. And as much as I wanted my friend to stop planning for long enough to start living, I knew that nothing was going to change his mind.

Not cheap airfare between Omaha and Chicago.

Not having a free place to stay.

And definitely not having a person with my driving record as his personal chauffer.

After hearing him respond to my offer with the promise that he would try to visit some day, I thought about calling out the same words that Apollo Creed screamed in the movie Rocky III after Rocky refused to engage him in the ring.

“I’ll train harder tomorrow,” Rocky said.

“There is no tomorrow!” Apollo screamed.

Creed was right. Someday is not a day of the week and tomorrow never comes. What will come is the moment when we see God in heaven and He holds us accountable by asking: What have you done with today?

The Logic Of Being Lazy

I am genetically encoded to be efficient and fear that my oldest daughter has inherited this trait. How else can I explain the night Katie tried to sleep on top of the covers to avoid having to make her bed the next day? This penchant for putting forth minimal effort also sheds light on her knack for avoiding daily chores in the hope of getting out of them entirely.

One of Katie’s simplest assignments is hanging up her coat and putting her shoes and backpack away after getting home from school. For longer than I would like to admit, I allowed my oldest to drop everything in the entryway if she promised to come back after finishing her after-school snack. Like many parents in similar circumstances I learned that later is not an hour of the day and—unless I got after her several times—later never came.

Dr. Phil once said that there are no victims, only volunteers. With that in mind, I decided that it was time to teach mine children about the logic of being lazy.

“Don’t forget to be lazy,” I called out when they arrived home from school.

“What do you mean?” Katie asked from where she stood just inside our front door.

“Lazy people want to do as little work as possible,” I explained, “and it’s less work to hang your coat up before you come into the kitchen for an after-school snack.”

“No it’s not,” Hollie argued. “It’s easier to just drop it here on the floor.”

“Not if I call you back to the entryway,” I replied. “Then it will take more steps and more time than you would have spent if you had walked over to your cubby and done it right away.”

The girls did not buy into my reasoning immediately. Only after counting the extra steps that it took to return to the front door did they begin to see that, by doing a task right, they could avoid the futility of doing it over and the annoying lyrics that I sing when they refuse to comply with my request.  If your children are also in need of some vocal entertainment, the following words work best when sung to the Elvis classic, Heartbreak Hotel:

Verse 1:

Weeeell, it’s important to be lazy; to save a step or two.

Put your things away, get more time to play.

It’s the right thing to do.

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 2:

And when you get home from school, I don’t find it very cool.

Throwing things on the floor; You should care more.

What’s a mom to do?

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 3:

And when you turn in for the day, I shouldn’t have to say:

“Clothes don’t go on the floor, find a basket or drawer

or I’ll take TV away.”

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.