A Truckload of Wisdom

Expat note: No matter the country, the DPS/DVLA are the same.

Things I’m thankful for today:

  1. Our home in England exchanged/closed today.  As a bonus, we love the couple who bought it. It feels good to hand keys to someone kind.
  2. We will be moving to Frisco, Texas on May 17th. Wahoo. Our option period ends tomorrow at 5:00 pm.
  3. We have toured Scarlett’s school and love it.  Instead of waiting until the next school year, she starts Monday. I’m relieved; we don’t have to homeschool.
  4. I found an OBGYN.  I’m delivering 15 minutes from the house at Baylor Frisco. The doctor comes with rave reviews. I look forward to meeting Dr. Holt on 1 May.
  5. I found a paediatrician and got all three kids scheduled for immunisations and well-check ups on the same day. The office is spaceship themed and has unlimited popsicles. #onlyinAmerica
  6. The kids have reconnected with a few old friends, and they played perfectly. We all soaked it up.
  7. The DPS office was crazy busy and it took over two hours to get my driver’s license renewed.

Wait. What?! #7 seems crazy. When I drove up, I had the same face everyone else did: one of sheer frustration. The line extended out the building and the online system to make appointments was down again. I was irritated. I had so much to do, but I need to fix my expired license- only to update it in 28 days anyway. Oh well. I grabbed this massive book called “Unlocking the Bible” and wondered what would happen first- Would I finish the 700+ pages or get my license renewed first?

UGH.

After I made it into the building, I got to sit down. No mobile phones are allowed, so I didn’t feel obligated to be signing documents or searching for more logistical answers to my life. I simply read and relaxed.

A few things popped up at me in my reading at the DPS office. Primarily, the book was talking about the failures of the Biblical heroes. They had some major moral flops, but what made them great wasn’t their perfection, it was their faith.  When other people were putting their faith in what they could touch, these characters were invested in the qualities you cannot touch: faith, hope and love. It’s the story of God’s grace over and over- that His love is something we don’t deserve and haven’t earned. It is a gift. Out of that gift, your life is transformed. How grateful are you when you get something you haven’t earned? That experience changes people. Last week, the lady at the airport waived over $700 worth of luggage fees just because. That was amazing and gave me such a great attitude and spirit. How much greater is it that God takes care of my yuck?

I’ve been a yuck mom the last few days. I’ve been shouting, frustrated, and exhausted- then even worse- I’ve felt bad about shouting, feeling frustrated and being exhausted so I’ve been operating out of guilt. That has led to horrible parenting like letting the baby eat ice cream for dinner.

When I drove home, I raised my right hand and confessed out loud. “I’ve been way too short tempered with the kids. That’s not right.” I then thanked God for grace to start over. I prayed for energy, for compassion, for wisdom and discernment, for a new attitude, for grace, and for a different perspective that lets me get all this craziness accomplished while having a peaceful home. We have made so many major decisions in seven days; my head is spinning. We have so many more to make and those choices are crowding my headspace. “God you promise to give wisdom to those who seek it, and I need a truckload.” I prayed.

I got home and just started slowing down. I whispered everything I said to the kids. I empathised with them instead of neglecting their ridiculous requests. For example- “It’s so nice of you to plant Uncle David an apple tree, but it won’t grow back here. How about the park later?” instead of “STOP DIGGING! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?!”

Slowly, I saw the kids relaxing, too. I finally bought kid hangers and had to hang every item of clothing the kids own. I got the baby to help me, and we enjoyed doing it together. It took three times as long, but we laughed together.  I could see my attitude and my heart changing because I allowed God to change my character.

James had a phone call with our mortgage guy to ask a few questions. He was ecstatic when he got off the phone. “He gave me answers to so many questions- way beyond the mortgage. I feel like I have a lot of clarity about our whole financial picture.” All of those nagging feelings about the mortgage and money and pressure I had been feeling, lifted.

Just like that- a truckload of wisdom, and a heap load of grace. I didn’t deserve it, but had faith to receive it. Thank you God.

Driving home from the park, the kids watched a veggieTale movie. The cucumber and tomato started singing about God’s grace, and I found myself saying AMEN.

Ain’t it good to know a God who gives a second chance?
Why, that’s enough to get a smile from Mr. Grumpy-Pants
So, if you say you’re sorry for all the stuff you do
We know that He’ll be ready with a second chance for you

-Veggie Tales- Second Chances

Before bed, all the kids climbed on my lap and cuddled. Evan gave me a kiss and told me I’m beautiful. It was so genuine. The other kids raced in for their turn.

Truckload of grace, right?

And on the subject of trucks, my husband is sitting across the room looking for his vehicle. He can’t decide. Pick-up truck or electric car?  I find this bizarre.

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A Dream

I had a dream.

I was at a dance course at a prestigious university full of dancers who were tall, beautiful and muscular. They had the correct shoes, leotards, make-up, and perfectly tight ballerina buns.  I looked down at my own outfit- it was track suit bottoms and trainers with my hair thrown in my usual ‘I’m late’ pony tail. Scanning the room, I told myself that I belonged there. I didn’t need to prove that to anyone else as long as I believed it. The ballerinas compared themselves to each other, side-eying my physique, attire, and commenting to each other. I didn’t let it phase me: the course was open to anyone, and therefore, I qualified.

The choreographer began teaching quick paced and complex steps. I tried to remember them- asking questions and staying engaged as best as I could. I fell behind, but didn’t let that stop my enthusiasm or my belief that I was eligible. I didn’t compare myself to the others- I just expected to do my own personal best. A few moments later, the choreograher announced that, row by row, we would demonstate the steps so she could evaluate how we were learning. Anxiety came over the room.  I stayed calm, telling myself to give it my best.  After all, it was an opportunity to see what I knew and find out where I needed more training.

It was my group’s turn.

I told myself to feel the music and express what came in my heart using the steps to guide the emotion.  I took my spot and looked up. A massive crowd had gathered. This was a real performance that no one including the instructor had planned on.  A few of the prima ballerina types began to step back- stating they weren’t ready to perform for others- this was only their rehearsal. The music started- except it wasn’t the soft, lyrical style we had been practicing. It was pop rock. From all over- the doors, down an elevator, through a corridor other dancers began to emerge, and it became very clear this audience was expecting something great.

After a deep breath, I used the steps that I had just learnt and improvised the rest, telling the narrative of my heart, throwing my pain, my elation, my sorrow into these dance steps, inviting other dancers around me to participate and tell the story of our lives. I recalled some other classes I had taken years before and incorporated those dance moves letting my feelings guide the rest. Some dancers joined in, some audience members began to participate- expressing themselves and embracing the mystery of the setting we found ourselves in.

Other dancers were rigid and froze, backing away into the shadows, with anger, disappointment, and confusion written squarely on their faces. Despair sank in for these dancers, but the audience didn’t notice the ones who went missing. They thrived on the performance of raw emotion on stage. They didn’t miss the unison or precision of a traditional performance; they just responded to the heart of the movement.

The scene cleared. The dance instructor acknowledged she had no idea there was an audience waiting.  She praised the performance of those who danced when they didn’t know the music or the steps- to the disgust of some dancers who were still angry, frustrated and embarrassed by the lack of preparation and the choreographer’s inability to maintain control. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t taught.

The next scene, my hair and makeup looked better, I had the right costume on and dance shoes on my feet. I still believed I could be there, and I knew that I had better pay exceptional attention to what was being taught- I could be asked to use the skills at any moment. The training I would receive combined with an ability to play along to the situation I found myself in would define me as a dancer. It would make me an artist or someone who cowered behind the scenes in fear.

I wanted to be an artist.

The dream ended and I woke up contemplative.

Rehearsal is short in life.  School, university, family, church, and community all teach us dance steps and it is imperative to stay engaged and show up prepared. These skills, nuggets of wisdom, and experiences of others will give us something to draw from when we encounter the unexpected. The most important challenge is a self-belief in your own capability.

The feeling I got in my dream on stage in front of the audience was the same one when I evaluated my first patient as an occupational therapist without supervision. Without much notice, practice time was over. I have had lots of surprise moments where I anticipated one thing, but got another. I have had lots of surprise moments where I have had to rely on past experiences, lessons, and skills from other seasons of my life that I didn’t expect to need.

I have come to realise that I don’t have to know the choreography, and I am not shocked when life brings about the unexpected. People are impressed by the ability to recall intricate steps at the prescribed time, but they are inspired by the character of someone who embraces what they haven’t actually prepared for or anticipated. They see beauty when a dancer invites them to move along side of them in the midst of an otherwise chaotic and confusing scenes, engaging with others and inviting them to make art where others see catastrophe.

I don’t want to be the rigid person in the shadows. I want to be centre stage with a team of people around me dancing when we don’t know the music or the steps, merely sensing that we belong and we have a story worth sharing- knowing that our previous experiences will guide us to create an unique masterpiece that captivates and inspires.

And so as I am moving again 5,000 miles away on short notice, pregnant with a baby after having a vasectomy and who knows what else, I’m just going to dance, centre stage- making up each step as it comes, and inviting others to dance with me.

Be loved. Be love.

 

 

 

Down the River

The story at a mother/toddler playgroup this morning was Moses in the Bullrushes. If you aren’t familiar with it, here is the two second version:

Moses was born in Egypt as an Israelite whose people group were enslaved harshly by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The Egyptians were concerned by the growing numbers of Israelites and put out a law to kill all the newborn males as population control.

Moses’ mother, put him in a basket and floated him down the Nile river. He was intercepted by Pharaoh’s daughter who bathed in the water. Long story short, his mother was able to raise Moses in the palace alongside Pharaoh’s daughter, and he grew up to be a leader whose privileged background gave him the skills to free his people from slavery.

I’ve read this story a million times, however, today I almost burst out in tears at the thought of placing my infant son in a basket and letting him go because evil people are trying to wipe out future competition.

This really seemed relevant to me today. Why? First, because I needed the reminder that the political and social devastation that plagues our world is not new. Terrorism, genocide, civil war,  racism, violence and humanitarian crises have littered the world for thousands of years.

Generation after generation- the struggle facing Moses’ mother still occurs- forced abortions due to babies being the non-preferred gender, genocide, infanticide and war. People exploiting their power to their own benefit. Watching the evil unfold in the terrorist attacks in London just highlights the on-going destructive nature the Bible sent Jesus to restore and redeem. I see the world’s need for rescuing thousands of years ago with Moses, and I also see it very much today. The Biblical story clarifies why mankind and this world are so broken. It gives me hope for the beauty of the story- that love prevails and death is defeated.

The Bible challenges me to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.

It challenges me to use my power and position to help the weak and vulnerable, not exploit  power. It challenges me to love my enemy and pray for those who want to harm me. The Bible, when read the right way, challenges people to serve others- not enslave, exploit, manipulate, and destroy. If we all bought into this mentality, the world would look very different, right from the beginning.

The story was powerful for a second reason today. Like Moses’ mother, I’m placing a lot that I love in a basket and letting it go- relationships, stability, the known, material stuff, sentimental things, roots . . . putting it in a basket and not knowing what is going to happen down the river.

There is so much unknown in 20 days time for our family. The temptation when uncertainty is prevalent is to clutch onto the things you do have and hold tightly with clenched fists. However, at each turn, I feel a spiritual nudge inviting me to place things down and watch them float away.

I don’t know exactly how, but I have peace about moving pretty empty handed. I am putting good things down in a basket because my circumstances dictate it, trusting that our family’s needs will be provided for, and with each box that leaves the door, I’m feeling lighter and a bit freer. I’m asking myself hard questions about luxuries vs. essentials and I am so humbled by how much stuff I have that is in the first category. I am amazed by how many things I was given by friends and strangers, too.

I’m still a work in progress, but there is a principle in Christianity that things don’t actually belong to us. Things are gifts entrusted to us to manage diligently. As I drop off yet another carload of things to the charity shop, I’m experiencing some spiritual transformation that says this stuff wasn’t mine to begin with, which makes it easier to put down and let go of.

As my anniversary china set that I loved went out the door for pennies on the dollar, I took a deep breath, wiped a single tear from my cheek and shook my head, “It’s just stuff.” The process of letting go of the material to embrace adventure (?), the future (?), opportunity (?) is freeing. The (?) is because I’m not sure exactly what comes next. My character is being shaped through this process, and although it is hard at times and often very logistically challenging, I’m liking the woman I becoming down the river.

From Puddles to Splash Parks

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A few years back, I took my 4 year old daughter and 18 month old son to the splash pad.

We often value what we already have- even it it isn’t great.

While I was lathering my daughter in sunscreen, my son happily played in a muddy puddle underneath a drinking fountain. When I was finished, I called my son to go towards the waterpark just behind the building.  He screamed, threw his body on the floor, refusing to leave that nasty muddy puddle.  It was so frustrating (and slightly amusing) watching him melt down over leaving the filth even though there was a brightly coloured water playground full of squirt guns, slides, and tunnels just out of sight.

We don’t trust what we cannot see.

I reflect on this scene in my own life frequently. What things do I hold onto so tightly that I miss the splash park because I’ve settled for the puddle?  I wonder what adventures I might experience if I would be willing to give up what was in front of me for something I could only hope for around the corner.

If you risk nothing, you risk everything.

Giving up the known to pursue the unknown requires a great deal of trust, faith and hope.

My son at that moment didn’t trust that I had good things in store for him. That the promise of a waterpark really would materialise. I think my relationship with God can be like that at times. I refuse to give up what I know- refuse to trust that what is around the corner is better (or could be better) than what I have now.

Taking risks gets easier each time.

Faith is like a muscle. It takes practices- the more waterparks you experience, the more likely you are to give up the puddle. Humans thrive on minimising risk and maximising a sense of control. People often say “better the devil you know,” but what if familiarity breeds stagnation that prevented you from huge reward?

Went wrong? Let it Go (again).

Any kids addicted to Frozen? Mine were. If something doesn’t work out, just keep letting it go. There aren’t any guarantees in life, unfortunately. Sometimes you give up a puddle you are content in for another puddle.  Keep striving and looking for opportunities. They will come.

Somedays, you look for a shell . . .

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But you get seaweed instead. lmmphotography-7

Somedays a great day at the pond gives you more than a great tan.

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You leave with a rash and body aches because the green algae level is high.

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Somedays you end up in that muddy puddle with no spare clothes.

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But on the day you get the splash park, it is all worth it.

Below are some of those days.

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9.11.2016. A New Flame Burns

As I reflect on the terrorism that completely changed the world, I am overwhelmed with passion, humility, love, and a fire burning in my core.

As I watch flames and smoke erupt, men and women jumping out of buildings, first responders entering into danger, I hear a question nudging me deep inside:

“WHAT AM I DOING ABOUT THIS?”

So many emotions floating through my head re-watching the scenes. It’s one thing to feel devastated, fearful, crushed, thankful for life, patriotic, and angry. It is another thing to fan the flame of those burning emotions and let them fuel me towards action.

I want to be like an airplane on that day- only I want to do the opposite. I want to take my life experience, my resources, get trained, get organised, gather people together for a cause to impact the world in a way that makes it more beautiful. I do not want destruction; I want to be a builder. I want to create community, art,  build bridges where there once was division, encourage the hopeless, bring unity to families and life to the dying. I want to counteract the damage done on 9/11. I want to counteract the damage done last year, last month, and yesterday by evil.

I want a new day. A day the world looks to as the day that changed everything. A day marked by a demonstration of overwhelming love.

As I watch the Americans on 9/11  walking aimless through the city streets wanting to disbelieve their own senses, I cannot help but think of refugees today who are escaping similar scenes that don’t even shock them anymore. There is so little left to destroy in their towns and in their lives. Hope is shattered. It’s easy to think of Syrian refugees and feel at a loss as to how to reach them, but I don’t actually have to leave my neighbourhood to find someone lost and hurting.

As I watch a crowd of firefighters don their gear and look up at the blaze, I ponder. Were they ready to risk it all? Did they consider the risk of themselves entering into a fire to save the dying worth it?

I applaud their courage, and look at myself with questions.

I say I have faith in Jesus that means I want to spread love, reconciliation, peace and hope, but where are my feet in this race? Are they running towards people who need rescuing or are they propped up on a coffee table? Just like the firefighters evaluating the blaze and gearing up, am I a person who shakes my head and walks away, or do I say- “If I could just save one?”

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Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4