Too Much of a Good Thing …

I believe that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And for every questionable action there is the risk of an equally adverse reaction. It is in this spirit of avoiding undesirable outcomes that I got after my oldest daughter for slicing a hole in the top of her water bottle.

“Why can’t you unscrew the cap like everyone else?” I asked.

“Because it’s easier to drink out of this way,” Katie said as she stabbed the lid again.

“Not if I have to take you to the hospital for stitches,” I warned.

My words fell on deaf ears as Katie twisted the knife to make the hole bigger and then pulled it out to examine her handiwork. I should have been more stern with her but the truth is that I admired my daughter’s determination and understood her action. All of us, at one time or another, have dismissed direction and taken a stab at finding our own solution to a problem. Sometimes it works to our advantage and other times it works us over to the point where we’re so afraid of getting hurt that we refuse to even try.

I want my kids to realize the dreams that God has planted in their hearts, not hide from them.

Too much of a good thing (even avoiding negative consequences) is definitely a bad thing if it holds us back or hinders our progress. And although I intend to keep poking holes in Katie’s water bottle theory until she finds a safer way to quench her thirst for efficiency, I never want her to stop trying to make the world a better place. Instead I want my oldest—and all of us—to take responsible chances and view mistakes, not as road blocks to avoid, but as guard rails to keep us moving in the right direction. Only then will we reach the place where God’s plan meets our productivity as we put a lid on our fear of failure and say goodbye to the status quo.

Put every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best.

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.

Cutting Our Losses

I believe in finishing well. And that no matter how much we mess up a conversation or situation, it’s never too late to end on a more positive note.

While this philosophy works well to calm the waters of regret before they wash away our peace, it often requires an investment of even more resources at a time when many of us would be tempted to cut our losses. Resources like the time it takes to send an e-mail or a hand-written note to someone we may have unintentionally offended. Or the effort required to plan a night out and bridge a gap of silence that has been growing between friends.

I was attempting to accomplish the latter when I drove my daughters to Nebraska during their last spring break. For several weeks before the trip, I thought about calling a few classmates to see if they were available to meet me at an alumni event that was scheduled for the same weekend I was back. Because so much time had passed since our last get-together, I was hesitant to dial their numbers. I was also concerned about logistics. The event was 45 minutes away from where my daughters and I were staying; and after driving for ten hours, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time behind the wheel. 

It’s been said that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. Because keeping in touch with friends is important to me, it felt wrong not to at least try to reconnect with a few of mine from high school. And so half-way through Iowa, I started making calls. To my surprise, every person answered the phone (even the one who normally would not have been home).

“I can’t believe you called on the one day that I happen to be home sick,” she said.

My classmate was amazed by the coincidence, but I wasn’t. That’s how God works. With gentle nudges and nagging feelings that escalate until the exact moment when obedience meets providence and a divine connection is made. It is in this moment that faith is strengthened and relationships are restored.

I saw this firsthand at the alumni event as my classmates and I reminisced about the crazy things we did to add excitement to our quiet, small-town lives. Our meeting also gave me a chance to apologize for the way I treated one childhood friend during a football game our senior year. The offense was small in the grand scheme of our friendship but, because it was one of the last times we spoke, the thought of seeing her again always made me uncomfortable … until now.

Now, it was like we had never been apart as I realized: The best way to cut our losses is not to avoid people, but to invest even more in them. And when we do, the only thing that will be finished is the distance that separates close friends.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” – Proverbs 14:23a

Use Equals Storage

I believe that use should equal storage. And when you keep something in an unhandy spot, it decreases the chances that it will be utilized. To prove my point (without knowing that we were doing it), my husband and I decided that the logical place to put our mini refrigerator when we moved to Illinois was on my side of the garage. That’s where it stayed, unused and unplugged, for four years because there wasn’t enough room to open the refrigerator door when my van was parked in front of it.

Once in a while (and to Bill’s dismay), I ran into the refrigerator when pulling into the garage. The dents caused by my front license plate proved that my vehicle was in far enough to shut the garage door. They also made the appliance too unattractive to bring indoors for a holiday party that we were hosting in our home.

“We can’t use it like that,” Bills said after examining my handiwork.

“I’ll buy something to cover the front,” I assured him.

The next day, I perused the aisles of Home Depot until I found a plastic kitchen backsplash that Bill could cut to fit the door.

The refrigerator looked so good when he was finished that we decided to move it to the pantry after the party was over. Ever since then, it’s been used on a daily basis. And whenever one of us reaches for a drink, I receive a refreshing reminder that if we’re not using something as much as we ought, it helps to put it in a more useful spot.