Thursday, October 30, 2008

A real-life blown gasket...

It all started with a shudder. I knew something wasn’t totally right when I started my car yesterday evening. I drove a few blocks through my neighborhood and then the tiny little light on the dashboard came on: “Service Engine Soon.” Not wanting to tempt fate, I promptly turned around and took my ailing vehicle home.

This morning I hoped to pop over to Nissan, get things diagnosed and fixed, and get myself back on the road. But this was not to be a “just add water and microwave” sort of day.

To start with…my car wouldn’t start! I deduced that it was my extra security feature gone wrong. (Hooray technology, right?) But after a brief phone conference, I figured out how to change out a relay on my car and be on my way. …Feeling very car-savvy I might add.

I got to the service center, checked in, and found a spot in the waiting room. And I waited….and waited… and realized that this was not going to be a quick fix day.

When my service advisor finally came around to talk with me, she opened by saying “I have some bad news.” LOL! Gotta love how they put you at ease right? And then she told me: I have a blown gasket. And though it’s the word she used, “blown” may be a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, the gasket isn’t working correctly. Coolant is leaking into the engine…blah blah blah…it needs to be fixed.

Such a tiny thing (relatively), but a very costly repair. You see, it’s not just the gasket that has to be addressed. They also have to reprogram the car’s computer after the repair – it’s called “Reset and Relearn.” But the silver lining is that the “Service Engine Soon” light probably saved my engine.

Either way, I’ve pretty much lost a day of work. I’m car-less until Tuesday. and I’m going to have an unexpected bill to pay. (Silver lining #2: I’ve been really aggressive about saving lately. So while it’s not the way I wanted to spend that money, I’ll still be able to cover the expense.)

As I sat in the lovely Nissan waiting room, my mind started mulling over the idea of blowing a gasket. Somewhere along the way, that phrase has come to be used for more than just car diagnostics. It’s also a word picture we use for someone who explodes in anger. And bottom line, whether we’re talking about car-land or life in general:

It’s always costly.

How’s your “engine” running? When heated or stressed moments happen, do you have a healthy way of cooling off? Can your self-control handle the pressure without blowing? Do you have things (or people) that act as warning lights? Do you pay attention to them? Are the relational bank accounts in your life deep enough to cover the expense following an outburst?

Just a few questions brought to you by my ailing car…

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Battered Chapel

For whatever reason, I was thinking about this chapel today…and the brief time that I got to spend there.

It's part of a church that is on the waterfront in Gulfport, Mississippi. It survived Katrina, but as you can see, the bottom portion of the walls of the chapel didn't. But what's really great is that even though the bottom layer has been washed away, the rest of the chapel remained unscathed, including the stained glass and center chandelier. The pictures don’t do them justice. The windows were beautiful. When our group was there, the sun was shining, and….yeah….stunning.

I was part of a mission trip group that used this church for an impromptu meeting. It was the end of our week there and we do this thing where we make a big circle, and then each person gets turn to sit in the center. Then, everyone on the perimeter gets a chance to affirm and encourage that person. It's very moving. Many laughs and tears were shared in the hour or two it took us to go around our circle. It was over two years ago now (amazing how time flies), and I can still remember the encouragement I received that day.

After spending a week building houses for people whose lives were changed by Katrina, we sat in a church that had the same story. And like most of those people, even though there was damage, there wasn't sadness. Only peace.

This chapel made the perfect setting for our meeting.  The open walls let the sounds of the ocean waves "wash" over us the whole time we were there.  And after experiencing the presence of that place...I can't imagine it any other way.

As a side note: I was actually surprised by the demeanor of all the people we met in Gulfport. They had certainly been through a lot, and had more challenges waiting in their future, but it seemed like all they needed was someone to care and to be interested in their story. Because every time they had the chance to tell their story, the lit up and jumped at the opportunity. I imagine this chapel represents a similar desire and joy. Because at the heart of it all, I think part of what God wants from us is for us to care, to be interested…so he can tell us his story.

Thank you!

I was honored to receive an "I love your blog" award from my friend Marie.

My blog world is kind of small….but here are the blogs I would like to highlight. (No passing on is necessary, just enjoy the free bit of love! *grin*)

Spun by Me... - I love getting to see pictures of family, being blessed with stories from old pictures, and being wowed by all the creativity that comes from my friend Marie. I truly love this friendship that has emerged because of blog-land.

BillSimmonsLive - My favorite posts from PB are always the ones that have to do with family. I miss having him and Renee close by, and I love little anecdotes he shares on his blog…usually accompanied by phone pictures. Love it!

2Slicks Good Times and The Peters and the Point. - These two blogs are kept by friends I have had since my church brat days. I am consistently encouraged by their marriages and their stories. April and Terri...You guys rock!

Storie Delle Sorelle - This book club has it going on! It's always fun to hear what they've been up to, what book they're reading next, and what new idea they've decided to integrate.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. ~ John Burroughs


I rediscovered something about myself: I’m human. Seems silly right? But the inner superwoman in me hates to admit it. Not only do I hate to admit it, but it really irks me to have to stand back, and evaluate the things that I’m pursuing so I can maintain some sort of sanity. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The past several months have been insane. I think one of my late-night, bonus-time quotes says it best: “Some days are like isometric exercise. You feel like you're pushing against a brick wall, but really you're building muscle.” However, in this season of my life I haven’t felt as though I’m pushing the wall as much as I am trying to just hold it up and keep it from falling on my head. It takes a lot for me to feel overwhelmed. Genuinely, thoroughly, overwhelmed. But I reached that point and realized that I had to do something about it.

You want to know one of my most poignant barometer checks? Even in the areas of my life that are going well, I have only been meeting expectations. Why is that bad? Because I don’t meet expectations, I exceed them. I love to do that unexpected thing that takes something from good to great. As they say in Cajun country: “Lagniappe” -- doing a little bit extra. But I haven’t had that little bit extra to give. The wall hasn’t fallen. I’m still tenaciously holding it up. But my arms have been shaking and I haven’t been making headway.

A friend gave me a fantastic mental image (warning: geek moment ahead) – It is possible to run so many applications on your computer, that even though it has the system resources to do them all, it dramatically slows down the response time. You can even end up crashing your system, though in theory you’re staying within its capabilities. – This has been one of my mental struggles. I can do all this things. I have the capability. In theory, I even have the time. But my friend gently pointed out that perhaps my system would run better if I wasn’t juggling so many open applications.

Grrr. …sigh…

Spurred by a school assignment and a great conversation, I revisited my mission statement and core values. Then I did a mental tally of the things that are drawing at my time, and made list of the things that are currently closest to my heart.

(By the way – It’s really powerful to take some time and really articulate those things for yourself. What *do* you want your life to say? What are the values you want to direct your life? …and Does your life accurately reflect the pursuit of them?)

I discovered that some of my most energy drawing obligations weren’t at the top of the list.

Amazing, right? I'm a puppy who forgot what she was supposed to be chasing. (Which is easy because this puppy has lots of natural talent and a nearly insatiable curiosity).

In any case…How does a woman who is an overachiever, who knows she *can* do all these things, deal with her pride and expectations, and make some changes?

By pruning.

My favorite birthday card reminds me to “live deep.” But I can only grow deep roots by trimming back branches. Don’t get me wrong. I like my branches. But a tree can only take so much energy from the soil, and those nutrients can only go so far. Which is better, quantity or quality of fruit? (Rhetorical question).

As any scrap booker knows, cropping pictures is hard. (I’m looking at cropping as a type of pruning. You know…getting rid of the excess to get to the heart of the image? Run with it, ok?) Part of your mind is scared that you’ll mess up the cut, or that you’ll end up wanting more of the picture later. And once you make that cut, there’s no going back. It’s a commitment.

So what if I choose to cut and prune the wrong things? Because once I set some things in motion, there’s no going back. (Well, there might be, but it would take some doing…).

Insert gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit here in the form of a ‘verse of the day’ – “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

Grant me a willing spirit. I don’t think the phrasing of that verse is arbitrary. I, for one, need to be “granted” a willing spirit. Willing to pause. Willing to examine. Willing to prune. Willing to admit limitation. Willing to change my pursuit. That’s a lot of willingness. But what’s amazing is that when I do ask, God always follows through.

So I prayed. And listened. And cut. …and I’ve gone from feeling frantic, to feeling peaceful. I’m not exactly back to normal yet, but I am being restored.

That isn’t to say that I’m slowing down. I still plan on giving all I have. But I want to give where it matters. I want to deeply invest in those things that made it to the top of my list. I am cutting away the excess to get back to the heart of the collage that is my life.

Now, I’m self-aware enough to know that it will be a challenge to keep my prioritized focus, and to not be too hard on myself from backing down from some things. But that’s the power of a personal road map. I can always return to that mission statement and those core values to see if I’m on the right path. And let’s face it; a road map is only good if you follow it. (And if you have the humility to redirect once you realize you’ve gone off course.)

So there you have it. I am not a superwoman. But I am a driven woman. And thanks to some faithful anchors and some uncomfortable cuts, this puppy is on the right track again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life Legacies

The following is taken from my favorite birthday card of all time. I actually received the same card two years in a row from my Grandfather (so he must have liked it as much as I did *wink*). There will be more on this later. But for now...I leave you with some greeting card wisdom.


Life Legacies
Thoughts for my Granddaughter on her Birthday

Live Deep
Never stop learning, playing, or finding wonder in the world around you.
Live the length of your life, but live the depth of it as well.

Travel Light
There is no use carrying around worry and regret. They only weigh you down.
Always keep yourself open to hope and to love. They give us wings.

Forgive Imperfections
In yourself and others. Imperfections keep things interesting.
They’re the cracks where the light shines through.

Own Beautiful Things
And not just to keep in the drawer, tucked away for a perfect day.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy, that remind you of the beauty all around us if we only keep our eyes open to it.

Make Mistakes
Follow detours. Sometimes it takes an unexpected turn to help us find the life that is waiting for us around the bend.
Trust yourself and the path that is meant for you.

Take Care of Yourself
And sometimes that means you need the ice cream.
Be good to your body, but also to your mind and spirit. You’re the only one who can.

And always, always know you are loved
You are a gift to this world and a blessing to me.
And that will never change.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Martha Martha Martha

I’ve always had problems with the infamous Mary/Martha story in the New Testament. I understand that Martha was in the wrong for fussing at her sister. But I have a hard time with accepting all the criticism that gets laid on her shoulders, and with understanding why exactly Mary had chosen “what is better.”

I feel for Martha because I am a server myself -- a take charge, what needs to be done, let’s do it, kind of girl. And I think we need people like Martha -- who are concerned with preparations, and who set the stage and empower others to just sit and listen.

But recently I looked at this story through a different lens, and it opened a whole new thought for me.

Gary Chapmen pioneered this fantastic theory of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In this story, I honestly believe that Martha was functioning from her love language -- Acts of Service. (Granted, she got a little flustered, and so was not operating perfectly. But I can’t fault her just for being human.) I can relate to this love language. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I feel re-charged and re-invigorated when I get a chance to serve. It’s not a drain. Rather, it’s an act of love.

But here’s the revelation: love languages aren’t just about us. They’re also about the person we love. Maybe Jesus is cluing Martha into the fact that Mary recognized what He needed—Quality Time.

Jesus was fully God, right? The same God that chose to speak to Elijah in a gentle whisper and not the wind, earthquake, or fire? I remember hearing a sermon that pointed out that we would love to hear God’s voice in the earthquake. We want him to shout over the cacophony of our lives and get our attention. But that’s not how it works. We have to take time to “be still and know” – God wants to speak to us through quality time.

It’s an amazing thought that Jesus was simply craving some quality time with the people he loved. Mary recognized it, maybe because quality time was her primary love language. And I can certainly digest (and be challenged by) the thought of Jesus pointing out Mary’s better choice because she was recognizing that it wasn’t about her…it was about Him, and what He needed at that moment.