Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Great Escape


      In the past few years, on particularly tough parenting days (you know,  those days... like when you cleaned human excrement off of everyone and it seemed like your kids started melting down before they even woke up), I used to  imagine myself meeting Brad at the front door as he arrived home from work.  Only I didn't greet him at the door with a kiss and sparkling clean babies and invite him to sit down to a hot, multi-course dinner.  I had my running shoes on and I sprinted past him as fast as I could and was already down the street before anyone could protest.  And I would RUN.  Fast.  But here's the thing: I do love to run, but in this imaginary escape it wasn't the running that I was seeking to soothe my raw emotions and distance me from the feelings of confinement and stress.  It was the running away.  Don't you ever just want to run away?  The present moment seems too hard, too loud, too mundane, too painful, whatever, and your brain starts to whisper, "We've got to get out of here..."  And we do.  Maybe not physically running away, but we mentally run away all the time.  One of the ways we escape without even realizing it is to enter a state of being "lost in thought." 
How much of your day do you spend thinking about things OTHER than what is happening in your immediate surroundings in the here and now?  Your mind circles or flips through mental pages at random... you dwell on distractions, stresses, possibilities, imagining things that "could be," thinking about other people or worrying... and then worrying some more.  Or maybe thinking about something completely pointless like the dream you had three weeks ago or that strange man you saw sitting under that tree at the park.  The cycle of being lost in thought may not take you to bad destinations, but it certainly extracts you from the present moment... and then you miss it. 
        There was a study a few years ago conducted by Harvard psychologists that assessed the correlation between a "wandering mind" and happiness.   And guess what they discovered?  There seems to be a strong connection. "People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy."*  They conclude that how often your mind wanders is more of an indicator of happiness than the actual activities you are doing.  I don't know the mechanism or habits by which we train ourselves to let our minds wander... so much of that creativity and exploration in thought is good... but it's the "escape" component that I think can become detrimental.  If you are "lost in thought" you are just that: lost.  There is no productivity, no memory-making, no engaging with others or the world around you, no growth, no movement.  You are just lost.  This could become a colossal waste of time- 47 percent of your waking hours?!
         Focusing your thoughts and all the potential you have along with all the potential of each moment is powerful, isn't it?  When you can turn and look into someone's eyes and be fully present in that moment, isn't that a gift to the other person?  I've been practicing- I need it.  I can spend unlimited amounts of time thinking about things other than what's right in front of me because it is an escape... an easy, accessible, effective escape from things that aren't very interesting to me or are stressful.  (My iPhone is another adequate escape, but that's another story.)  My prayer this week has been for the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts... to be fully present and focused in those divine moments with my children, and to limit my wandering thoughts and replacing them with wonder at the immediate things God is doing right now... here.  With the ability to quiet my wandering mind I hope to gain more depth from studying Scripture and a better ability to listen to God's voice in my life...and to actively explore present moments for their potential.   I can imagine Jesus watching the distracted thoughts coursing around my mind and, just like calming the sea, He says, "Peace, be still."
       So here's a little "present moment" beauty:
 This girl... she brings our family so much joy.  Annie thinks Grady is the most hilarious thing on the planet and she can light up a room with her smile.  She finds extreme pleasure in finding some tiny object, sticking it in her mouth, then walking up to me with a mischievous grin and shaking her head "no" as if to mock me.  She already knows how to get a laugh and seems to take great pride in her sense of humor.  She is the worst sleeper EVER, but by far the most affectionate of our little ones.  She wraps her arms tightly around you and gives full, strong, lingering hugs complete with a squeeze and an "Mmmm." (Yeah, try and resist that. Not. A. Chance.)  These are precious moments, indeed.  Thank you, Father.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

10,000 Reasons

I've had the song 10,000 Reasons resurfacing periodically in my soul over the last couple years- somewhere between the competing daily renditions around me of Old McDonald, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and my two-year old's latest a cappella version of the musical score from Star Wars.  I hear it quietly at first... and then it builds to full volume somewhere in the back of my brain and as I hear the words, I blink and refocus at my surroundings.  It kind of reminds me of the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy suddenly steps out of the house after the storm and her world is transformed from black and white into full color.

We all know that every day there are 10,000 reasons to be stressed, afraid, angry, and downright cynical with life.  During this morning's rush to get three little people and myself out the door it seemed like every zipper got stuck, every shoe was missing, every ounce of compliance to obey disappeared, and in our triumphant moment of arriving at school only slightly late- the baby has a blow-out diaper on cue in the parking lot and we discover the box of wipes is empty.  In the short time between first opening my eyes this morning and now, I feel as though I've already had a million moments of repetitive frustration.

But then quietly I hear it, "Dear one, how very much you need my grace! And I have more than enough... "  Seriously, people... just like that.  Grace.  And that's only ONE of the 10,000 reasons we could come up with just today. So in the chaos of the day, in whatever stresses or fears are distracting my focus from the Lord, I blink away the colorless pit (where I put myself, by the way) and the explosion of joyous color almost knocks me over.  Look! I have warm food to eat.  Look! I have a cozy home full of more than I could possibly need.  Look! I have these beautiful little people with sticky fingers and stuck zippers hanging on my leg and they are incredible.

So when you see me...rushing because I'm late...with my unwashed hair, my kids in mismatched socks and crumbs on their cheeks, know that my smile is genuine as we are celebrating our victories and praising God for our blessings instead of focusing on the things that aren't going so great today.  We keep doing our best and sometimes that looks like complete chaos, other times it looks a little more "put together," but it's always perfect because Jesus is perfect and He is the one we are chasing after with all our hearts. 

"The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds obey him!"
Matthew 8:27

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Blog is Reborn... (Because This Occasion is Worth it!)

The thawing of winter (or that one cold day we had in December, anyway), always makes me think of new life and rebirth.  We are in a season of new life as a family as we are expecting our third child this summer and I just left my job of eleven (eleven!) years. While our world is opening up to brand new opportunities and transitions at every turn,  "newness" is always an interesting experience for me. It's in those days when I feel most unprepared- yet so overwhelmingly blessed to have even another day, let alone a whole new season of life to live.

Eleven years seems like only moments in a way- after graduating college, a lot of my peers embarked on grand adventures around the world or early little families with bouncing babies.  I rolled right out of college into the first and only job I've ever had- at The Hills Church of Christ where Chris Hatchett hired me with very little knowledge of who I was... and I spent eleven years working as a youth minister there. 
I can't imagine a better way I could have spent that decade (+).  The innumerable ways God blessed me through that ministry have shaped my heart and my life in a way I could have never dreamed. I not only fell in love with a generation of students and families, but also fell more in love with the Lord and the way that He works in his children.

It has been an incredible honor to serve at the Hills, to be associated in any way with a family of faith that loves so effortlessly and listening so wholeheartedly to the Spirit.  The staff and the shepherds can make me weep in an instant with their sincerity and dedication to God and His people- and I can't believe I got to witness the beauty of those hearts in action for so many years.

To the hundreds of students, staff, families, mentors, and volunteers: thank you for loving me, for humbly following my lead even when I clearly had no idea what I was doing, for trusting me to listen to your heartaches, and for letting me work along side you in the often messy, tough business of ministry.  It's been an amazing journey and I can't wait to see what's next.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wow. It's been a YEAR.

Maybe it's the hope of Fall in the air, but I feel the energy to reflect and write more- I had pretty much forgotten about this blog until today. Poor thing.

So... some quick updates and some pictures to come soon.

1. I am 17 weeks pregnant! I feel great now, but I can't believe I survived my miserable first trimester. It was brutal. (I had no idea pregnancy could do that a woman. ) We find out in 2 weeks if we're having a little brother or little sister! That's my favorite OB appointment and I can't wait. :)

2. Grady Cole will be 2 in October and he is something else. He is creative and hilarious and has a MIND OF HIS OWN. He talks like a little adult which adds to his cuteness but also to my daily frustration when he can specifiy, "No, mama. I don't want to see THAT construction equipment. I want to the see the mini excavator and yellow backhoe." He keeps us laughing, though. Some of my favorite moments are when he sings songs to himself, has "dance-offs" with Brad, reads me books he has memorized, and says, "I love you, Mama," and blows me a kiss across the room.

3. We are moving... maybe. We put our house on the market yesterday and have a contingincy offer on another close by. A little more space, a killer interest rate (4.25!!), and the timing for baby #2 make for a good window to try. If we sell before closing date, hooray. If not, we'll probably stay put. 1100 sq. feet is tight, but we like our current location. Let's just hope I can survive having a house on the market with a toddler in the mix. Yikes.

4. Brad is finishing up his current project in Southlake and will soon be starting another one. In Frisco. I am not so happy about the super-long commute (on top of 12-hour work days) when I'll have 2 kiddos all to myself from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but the "glass half-full" view is that it's only a 14-month project. Sigh.... I miss him like crazy when he's gone. :(

More to come! No, really....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Finish Line

2007 Tyler Half Marathon

Sometimes I think of life in terms of a race. As a distance runner, I understand the importance of training, of ingesting just the right things to keep you strong, and the desperate need to have fans cheering you on when that hill in front of you threatens to beat you once and for all. I like the challenge of having a big, intimidating, "seems impossible" goal, because in the middle of a tough run, I find that spiritual moment where I know how weak and insignificant I really am. And when I'm at the end of my rope... at the end of "me"... I find there is always more. That surprise, that realization that you are capable of more than you think, tells me a lot about how small our perception of God is. If we really KNEW just how big He was, if we really KNEW just how much more we could do on this earth, if we really KNEW how much more potential He has placed in each of us- then we would get off our rears and be challenged to make a change. (Disclaimer: the previous words are being influenced by my current reading of Crazy Love- talk about uncomfortable... I am squirming just THINKING about Chan's chapter on lukewarm Christianity.)
So- the main reason I run (really far distances) is that it teaches me something and I like the challenge of conquering something seemingly impossible. And here's why I am EXCITED about the "finish line" in a couple months.

Summer, 2003: I decide I am going to run a marathon. I form a training group, pick a race, and talk a bunch of other people into my crazy idea. (I also meet Brad in this training group and we get to know each other through those grueling 6 a.m. long runs.)
November, 2003: Three weeks before the race, I get injured at the 20-mile mark and can't run the marathon (coincidentally, so does Brad with the same injury.... ahhh... kind of like sympathy pains?) I was pretty bummed after all those months of preparation.
Fall, 2004: Attempt #2 for the marathon, get another injury during training at the 15-mile mark. Grr.

Spring, 2005: After a new-found love for adventure racing has taken over, decide to train for the marathon a third time. Get another injury over half-way in to training and can't make it.

2006 Tyler 12-hour Adventure Race

Winter, 2007: Decide I want to, ONCE AND FOR ALL, meet my goal and run that marathon. Brad and I decide to run the Cape Cod Marathon for our 30th birthdays in October of 2008. Instead, (surprise change of plans!) I delivered Grady at the same time we would have been crossing that finish line (let me insert, here, that 30 hours of labor is a different kind of marathon, so I didn't miss out on that "challenge" aspect of the weekend. But what an adorable result!)
Present Day: Aren't you excited for us after reading my dramatic journey up to this point?! Ha- not sure anyone will ever read this. (I haven't blogged in like 6 months?) We are just 2 months away from FINALLY crossing that finish line when we run the San Antonio Rock-n-Roll marathon in November. I've changed my training approach (translation: I run a LOT less) and am so far injury-free... hang in there, little IT band!

So, if you hear the shouts of triumph all the way from San Antonio as we hobble across that finish line on November 15th, know that it's been a process over many years to finish this race (if we actually make it this time!) ... and be encouraged that just like the set backs in running, you are gauranteed to have ups and downs in your life. But you are also gauranteed to finish the race- and you aren't alone on the journey. With fans cheering you on and a heavenly Father that scoops you up when you fall, keep trudging along. There is going to be one MAJOR post-race celebration on the day we all get together at the ultimate finish- I hope there will be Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits there. :)

2009 Oklahom City Half Marathon

Friday, January 30, 2009

This and That

Man, I am a terrible blogger. I'm good at plenty of other things, though. Like eating cookies... yeah, I am pretty much the best at that- I'll throw down a challenge any time. I think I'll spend some time this next month adding posts: "Things I never blogged about." Like wedding pictures (Yes, that was more than a year ago, but we just got them a few weeks ago.... don't get me started) and the rest of our Europe trip last April... oh, and the incredible first few months of my son's life... in no certain order. :)

It's been a really fun transition into a family of three with Grady's arrival in our lives. The hardest transition of my life so far, but still wonderful. Being a parent is HARD- and I only have one child! I constantly marvel at the amazing parents around me and have found a new sense of gratitude for my own parents... you learn a lot in just a few months.

Grady is such a delight. We are always laughing with him- I had no idea 3-month-olds could have so much personality! He seems intent on being the center of attention and is very good at being LOUD. Is that a boy thing?

And here are just few random items about what's been happening in this crazy life of mine:

1. We are headed towards another half-marathon in a couple months. I kind of wish we could do the full, but it's hard enough to log any miles at all with a new baby.... he can't run quite fast enough yet to keep up.

2. I am figuring out this part-time work thing- it's tricky, but I am SO thankful to still be in ministry... such a blessing that it worked out for us!

3. I successfully fed our family for 11 days on 20 bucks. I didn't exactly need to, it was just to see if I could- and I made the rule all food had to be good (no Ramen noodles... not that those aren't good, it just would have been an un-nutritious cop-out.) The challenge was a success, but I spent so much time in the kitchen I decided it was worth taking some more expensive short cuts to balance the whole cost/time issue... it was fun being creative, though. (Disclaimer: I did use some frozen items from the freezer and spent exactly $19.99 on top of that.) Also, I don't know that I'll ever go back to store-bought bread... making it is so easy and it tastes tons better.

4. Brad and I got a Wii and I haven't laughed so hard in a LOOONG time as I did watching Brad hoola hoop on the wii fit. Hilarious. You gotta come over and see.

5. I read a book that I thought would give me ideas on how to cook different kinds of healthy grains in lots of recipes... instead it depressed me since the whole first part of the book describes how the meat industry is basically killing the planet... I'd much rather be an uninformed, mindless comsumer who contributes to the problem.

6. I left Grady overnight for the first time last weekend! Brad did amazing and he described the experience to be a lot like a 24-hour adventure race. I assured him that I totally believed him.

More to come... hopefully sooner than 3 months...

Monday, December 08, 2008

One Year

So much can happen in one short year! Brad and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary this weekend and we can not believe how the last twelve months have just flown by. It has been an amazing year and I couldn't be happier than I am every moment I get to spend with Brad. I fall more in love with him every day. What a great adventure.

As we celebrated our first year of marriage, we laughed and laughed about God's sweet timing and the way He can bless us in such unexpected ways. We would have never believed that we would have a 7-week-old on our first anniversary (we had to get a babysitter- thank you, Aunt Suzanna!!) and would you believe we had baby pictures BEFORE our wedding pictures? Life is pretty amazing... and wonderfully unpredicatable sometimes. (We have also been nervously laughed about what surprises next year may hold!)