Half Jobs

I saw a car as I was dropping my 1st grader off at school one day. The bumper was strapped onto the back of the car with bungee cords, but otherwise didn’t seem to be attached to the frame. It was hanging down on the sides and sort of angled up as if looking at the sky. We have a law in Indiana that says a car has to have a bumper in order to be driven on the road. The people in this car followed the letter of the law. They had a bumper, but pretty sure it wasn’t effective.

I thought about how many times in life we do just what is required, but not a bit more. And sometimes we are creative in our interpretation of what is required. I’m sure the law didn’t intend for people to strap the bumpers onto the car in that way, but don’t we often get creative with rules we don’t want to follow? Well, don’t we?

I wonder how many times I’ve done that with God, with my spouse, with my parents when I was young, or with my boss? I remember these kind of responses from my kids,

  • “You said to empty the trash and I did. You didn’t tell me to put a new bag in the waste basket.”
  • “You said to clean the sink and I did. You didn’t say I needed to put the cleaner away.”
  • “You said to empty the dishwasher and I did. You didn’t tell me to put the dirty dishes in when I was done.”

When these kind of conversations came up, I remember responding, “Half job! You knew what needed to be done, but you didn’t finish the job. Take some responsibility and do the job right. No more half jobs!”

Yet, if I’m honest, I do half jobs myself sometimes. And no one really gets upset with me for some of them, but I know I haven’t given my best. I empty my lunch bag and leave stuff out on the counter. I do the laundry, but don’t get around to folding until it’s an outlandish pile. I clean up the clutter in one room, but stack a pile of stuff to put away in another room instead of putting it away. And those are simple little things.

What about these: the perfunctory goodbye kiss when you’re mad at your spouse, the quick devotional read when you “don’t have time” but want to say you spend time with God every day, the bare minimum you do at work to keep your job when you feel like you’ve been slighted by your boss, or bringing a book to your kid’s sporting event.

Half jobs!

It may not always be possible, but I believe that more times than not, I can take responsibility and do the job right. What about you?


Taking Back Control

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you realize something deep about you needs to change? Have you ever wandered through the years of your life to see how that one flaw could have made things different for you if you’d corrected it years ago? At that point, did you simmer in the stew of self-pity? Or, did you resolve to find a way to change that part of you? Did it make you stronger or did it sink you deeper? Did you linger on the what if’s and if only’s or did you take responsibility and move forward?

This morning, I had one of those moments. I began to see how I have given other people power over me and my happiness by choosing to let others decide my self-worth and value. I hear what others say about me and to me and sometimes those words aren’t nice. If I hear them too much, I begin to believe those things about myself. The more I believe those things, the more I’ve given away control of my self-worth and value. I allow others to determine whether I’m important or good at something. I allow others to decide if I am worthless and insignificant. I allow others the opportunity to cut deep into my soul with wounds that do not heal easily.

As I look back over my past, I realize all the relationships I’ve had with people where I have felt like I was verbally and emotionally abused and discovered that while their words were indeed hurtful and cruel, I also had a choice in that situation. I could have chosen not to allow their opinions of me to crush my soul. I could have chosen to not take their words as truth and let them go. But, I didn’t. I had the painful realization that I had made a choice in each of those situations in how I responded and that response may not have been healthy for me.

It’s the realization that part of the pain is mine to own which makes it easier to have compassion for those whom I have allowed to deeply injure my interior world. Knowing that I gave them permission to do so because I freely offered my self worth to be judged and injured is the very reason that I need to forgive. For if I hadn’t put it out there to be tossed around, I would not have been injured by their words.

So looking toward the future and the changes I want to make in me, I think a change in who I allow to determine my value is important. And, who should have that right? My boss? My friends? My spouse? My children? My parents?

I’ve tried them all and each time I come to realize what I’ve done. It is so natural for me to give away that control to someone else because I want to be liked, but that control doesn’t belong to anyone else. So, from now on:

  • I choose how I feel about myself.
  • I choose to feel valuable, because I know God values me.
  • I choose to feel that I have something to offer, because I know God made me for a purpose.
  • I choose to feel good about me, because I know God feels good about me.
  • I choose to believe in me, because I know God believes in me.

I wonder if you have given your self-worth to someone who has squashed it. I wonder if you know that you can choose who you allow to have that power. I wonder if you realize just how much God values you just the way you are. I wonder if you too need to take back control over who determines your value in life. I wonder … and I hope that you find a way to make you stronger. Your soul deserves it.

Every Which Way But Straight

On Monday’s I travel to another county for work. On my drive home, I take the interstate and there seems to be an endless stream of road construction. Fortunately, most of it is done at night, but what humors me is the temporary white dashed line that is placed “down the middle” between the two lanes. I put that in quotes, because I imagine the person who did this must have been having a good deal of fun with the machine that paints the stripes. These little dashes are slanted every which way but straight and not consistently in one direction. One may go to the right and the next to the left while the following one could be closer to straight. I am really not sure what was going on, if the machine malfunctioned or if someone had a bit too much to drink before laying the stripes, but it has caused me endless amounts of joy as I travel back to my home town.

Such a little thing and I wonder how many people traveling that road have noticed. I imagine some are irritated that it isn’t perfect, but the every which way but straight dashes are generally in the center of the road, so it doesn’t affect a driver’s ability to stay in the correct lane. For me, I choose to believe that someone took pleasure in their relatively boring and monotonous job of laying the center dashes and decided to get creative.

It seems silly to be humored by this, but that little stretch of road with the crazy center line reminds of me of life. Much of life is made up of mundane tasks that just have to be done in order for life to progress in an orderly way and to follow all the rules laid out before us. Allowing yourself to be a bit creative and accepting the freedom of others to be creative in their mundane tasks, makes for some enjoyable moments and takes the stress off of the routine. A bit of joy seeps through the laborious and brings unexpected happiness to others.

Whoever laid that crazy dashed line down the center of the interstate, thank you. Thank you for the joy and happiness and silliness it brings to my mind as I travel. I hope you enjoyed laying the paint on the road as much I as enjoy the thoughts of how much fun you must have had in being creative within your boundaries.

[ I tried a couple times to take a picture of these crazy lines, but …  just not a good plan while you are driving. 🙂 ]


Mom Laid My Foundation

My mother laid the foundation for my life. Of course, as adults we tweak the foundations our parents lay to fit our own personalities and to make them our own, but the basic pieces of who I am is as a result of my mother’s persistent and loving concern for me.

I was thinking about this a lot over the past week and as her birthday is tomorrow, I wanted to honor her and share with her the best way I know how, just how important she is to me and how much I appreciate the things I learned from her.

I learned to put others first because of her unfailing love for my two sisters and I and her desire to make sure we had everything we needed in life. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got everything we needed. That lesson in itself was important to me, but the care she took and the sacrifices she sometimes had to make in order to meet our needs was so amazing. When we were young, she made most of our clothes, taking us to JoAnn Fabric’s to pick out patterns and fabric. She would brush my long hair on Saturday night when it was wet and put it up in rollers or braids to make fun curls and waves for Sunday morning.

She made the most amazing meals from scratch and I loved eating her cooking.
I learned to look for ways to make others feel special because of something simple she did when I was young. And maybe she still does this, but I am not home anymore and miss some of these little special things that make me admire her. She used to create baked goods for the elderly women in the church and give them as Christmas gifts. She knew they didn’t have family close by and she wanted them to have a gift for Christmas. I learned to look outside my own needs and wants and see others through this simple act of giving.

I learned the value of family and making sure to keep your priorities straight in life even when it’s not always easy. My mother stayed home with us girls until I was in high school even though it meant finances were tight. In high school, she took a job not far from our home, but I remember her telling me that she made it very clear to her boss that her children were her priority and that she wanted us to be able to call her if we needed her. I assume the boss was ok with this, because we often called after we got home from school to let her know we were home and sometimes other times in the afternoon as well. I valued knowing that line of communication was always there and still call or text her knowing she will be there for me even today.

I learned to bake and make pizza from her. We made cookies and pies and cakes and cupcakes together. She let us girls decorate and I’m sure we didn’t do as good of a job as she would have, but the fact that she thought what we did was beautiful, made the whole project lots of fun. We were always eager to help with the baking.

I learned to take care of a home from her and if you look at mine now, you might wonder if I really learned or not, but she always kept an immaculate home from what I remember. We had a playroom that she allowed us to mess up, but the public areas were always well maintained in case one of dad’s parishioners would happen to drop by. She wanted the home to be welcoming. She taught us early on to clean, iron (because clothes weren’t wrinkle free back then), wash dishes, fold clothes and clean up after ourselves. We learned to set a proper table, cut up a whole chicken, put our napkins on our laps, do basic canning and freezing, and serve food. When I moved out and got married, that was one thing I didn’t have to learn and I was grateful for her meticulous training.

I learned the importance of being involved in the church from her. She was the pastor’s wife, but she went above and beyond the responsibilities that she needed to take on and she was very good at it. She led children’s church for as long as I can remember, she was a major leader of our summer VBS programs, she often played the piano for church or children’s church as she was needed, she directed or co-directed several of the children’s program’s at church, she didn’t hesitate to be part of many of the other activities at church. Because of her extensive involvement, I was immersed in the life of the church and loved doing the same thing when my children were young and I was a pastor’s wife as well.

My mother was the disciplinarian in our family and she was consistent and fair. I never questioned where my boundaries were with her. I always knew. I tried to be the same way with my own children because I felt like this was the best way to raise kids. No guess work from the kids. I always knew before I chose to do something wrong that there would be a consequence for my actions if I made that choice. It didn’t always stop me from making the wrong choice, but I didn’t go into it wondering if I’d get into trouble. I knew. I valued the strong boundaries she set for us.

One of my favorite family time memories was the evening bedtime routine. My mother would read us an Arch book (children’s Bible story books), and we would memorize verses of the Bible. Sometimes we would sing. I loved the times we snuggled up on the couch next to mom while she read the same stories over and over again. I never got bored of that and remember missing her reading to us after we all got old enough to read on our own. What a comforting time and it cemented the stories into our minds at a young age. She was concerned that we became followers of God and celebrated as each of us accepted God in our own separate times. She insisted we attend church every Sunday, even if we hadn’t had much sleep the night before. I value the habits she instilled in me even though I don’t always follow through with those today.

I am and will always be grateful for the solid foundation my mother laid in my life. Without her consistent love and care for my sisters and I, we wouldn’t have become the adults we are today. I have been blessed to have such a mother as she is to me. I wouldn’t trade her for the world. How lucky I have been in life to have been given two of the most amazing people in the world to be my parents.

Happy birthday, Mom! Thanks for everything you did to help me grow into the woman I am today. I love you bunches.

Practice is Hard

Practice is a bad word when you are 6 and want to do something right now.

John wants to ride a bike, but is struggling to get the hang of pedaling in the same direction for the duration that he’s on the bike. He’s autistic and I imagine it will take him a bit longer to figure it out than it did my other kids. So when John decided it was too hard with the training wheels, he wanted me to take them off because maybe it would be easier that way. Like a good parent, I told him not yet, he needed to practice. Frustrated, he quit and decided to try jump rope.

john and his bike

Jump rope takes some really good coordination and if your coordination and rhythm is off even slightly you end up in a tangle of rope. John has good musical rhythm, but coordination is difficult right now. So we tried to tell him to swing the rope over his head then jump over it and just keep doing that. It worked for a bit, but soon became frustrating. He wanted to swing the rope quickly and jump fast just like sister bear in the jump rope contest book. Again, I was the good “mean” parent. I told him he needed to practice to get to the point where he could jump really fast.

How often do we as adults want to be able to do something right now and don’t want to practice to get better. And God, as the good parent, wisely tells us no, we must practice so we can get better before we are given the prize of the end goal. We cannot obtain greatness if we never go through the difficult process of practicing.

But, for those who practice, accomplishment is a reward that is self-fulfilling.

I want to write a book. But if I don’t practice and work on it with regularity, the book will never be written. I will never know the sense of accomplishment for having completed a dream because I didn’t practice. So, practice must  become a part of my daily routine. And practice I will. I’ve set my mind on the goal.

I hope that one day John will ride a bike without training wheels and jump rope at whatever speed he wants to. It’s a long hard process for someone with low attention, but I know he can do it if he puts his mind to it.

Just as I can write that book if I keep practicing, you too can accomplish great things if you practice. What are your hopes and dreams? Have you given up or are you practicing to reach that goal? I hope you practice till you finish. It’s worth it and so are you.

Tribute to My Father

My dad turns 75 tomorrow. It’s hard to believe. I guess after he hit 40, in my mind he hasn’t aged. But 75 is an awesome milestone and I want to let the world know how this man affected my life in so many positive ways.

My dad left me with so many fun memories from my growing up years.

Things he built:

  • He made my sister and I Halloween costumes a couple years when I was in elementary school and they were the most amazing costumes made out of stuff he had around the garage: cardboard and paint and tape and string or wire. We became things like a giant screwdriver, trash can and stop light.
  • He built my desk that I still have and it’s as solid as ever with tongue and groove and lots of glue and it’s still painted the way presented it to me: white with gold trim and a Formica top.
  • We grew up with an indoor playhouse he made that we later turned into a puppet theater and presented several shows for my parents after hours of preparation. He and my mom endured these performances as if they were the best they’d ever seen.

Projects he taught me with:

  • In His Service was a cleaning service he owned and operated to bring in more money for our family. He often brought my sister and I along and taught me much about cleaning spots off of carpets, doing our best work, working hard, and general good work ethics.
  • When something needed fixing and I was around, I usually tried to be part of that project with my dad. We re-wired our camper one time, cleaned the flooding out of a church basement, scraped up ruined floor tile from that same basement, and other minor repairs around the house that gave me the tools I needed for my own home repairs. It taught me not to be afraid to try fixing things myself.
  • He taught me how to raise and propagate African Violets and even turned his work bench into a lovely indoor space for me to try out my green thumb. I learned to tie up roses to the fence to train them to weave between the wires. He gave us each our own garden plots to grow a few plants from seeds my parents had purchased.
Memories he gave me:
  • We went on vacation in our camper every year. I learned how to hook up a camper through those trips, but I also have so many positive experiences from panning for fools gold to touring the Denver mint, visiting the mall in DC to him sitting in the chair of the governor in Topeka, Kansas. I remember slippery snowing trips on Cincinnati interstates that left so many travelers in the ditch, taking a sled to my grandparents when the car wouldn’t go any further, talking on the CB radio and singing silly songs to all the truckers on that channel. I have lasting memories of experiencing a real rodeo, the Hershey factory, the St Louis Archway, bears in the campground, feeding the burros on the side of the road, the corn palace and the black foot mountains. So many more memories. Too many to list.
  • Several times he took my sisters and I outside to play in the snow. He built us a giant snowman one year and another year we made an incredible igloo that remained in our yard long after the snow had melted.
  • One time I remember going hunting with him and carrying the squirrel  back to the car that we had for dinner.
  • On another occasion he came to pick me up from a my first sleep over birthday party where I was snowed in from a blizzard for a couple days. That little red VW bug with the chains on the tires got through to save me
And as I grew older:
  • He helped me connect with my inner voice, my soul, my spiritual side. He has been there guiding and listening and sharing about soul work all my adult life.
  • He helped me with a fussy baby when I was at the end of my rope on several occasions and let me get some sleep.
  • He calls to check up on me and to connect when it’s been awhile since we’ve chatted.
  • He walked beside me when life was tough and I always knew I could count on him when I didn’t know what else to do. He has always been able to re-direct my thinking in a way that eases the stress of the situation and helps me look deeper.
  • My deep connection with those less fortunate that myself goes way back to an early experience of him bringing me along to take a very smelly couple to an appointment and his careful instruction about loving the person and treating them with respect regardless of the way they are on the outside.
  • He continues to remind me of God’s timing and following God’s lead on my life. My earliest memory of this was a move our family made years back when God did not reveal the direction for the moving van to take until midnight before the moving van pulled out. It may have been crazy making for my parents, but they insisted that we follow God’s lead and that God’s timing was not our own. God would and did provide.
So many memories and the more I write, the more I remember. Life would never have been the same without my dad in my life. I am forever grateful for the lessons and memories and support from him.
I love you, dad. You are the best father I could have ever had. Happy birthday, Dad!

This Boy

This boy …

He’s almost 7 and cute as can be. He chatters up a storm about one subject after another and following his conversation is like listening to several children talk about completely different subjects at the same time, but I love him.

He’s awesome with legos and anything he can build with. He’s great at drawing, especially anything that involves construction like roads, bridges, houses, buildings, etc. He creates the sweetest cards and notes to make you feel better when you are sad or upset. He calls me Seisa to my face, but tells others I’m his mom.

He knows everything, of course, and you can’t tell him otherwise. He’s confident and strong willed and loves life.

He enjoys learning about life and takes in tons of information through books we read and Curious George’s adventures on TV. He listens to everything we say and repeats it almost verbatim. It’s all stored in his brain and comes out in the most interesting and sometimes comical ways as he is trying to understand this huge world around him.

His determination to do things his way gets him into trouble on so many fronts, but the drive he has inside him to not fear life is admirable and I love that about him. He has little care for making sure his clothes match or even whether they are on backwards or not, but don’t even think about sending him to bed without brushing his teeth.

He is six almost seven with a brain that doesn’t quit. He is curious and determined and doesn’t concern himself with consequences. He is drawn to nature, but hates spiders and flying bugs. He has favorite foods that he would eat every single day, unless you make it without asking him if he wants it, then he hates it. He asks questions that you might meticulously answer, only to have him tell you what he thinks the answer is, which of course is not what you just told him.

He is my step son, my constant companion when I’m not working, my Georgie Porgie, my banana berry punch, my son. And I love him to the moon and back.


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