Two Important Life Lessons I Learned From Getting Lost

when the mind begins to wonder

Notice where things are growing.

Last weekend, Alan and I drove to church separately. We do that often since I rarely wake up early enough to leave on time, which bothers Alan. He so badly wants to be on time.

Oddly enough, I needed to be extra early to work the nursery that morning, so it was just J.D. and me in the van, and we were even earlier than Alan.  I was doing well, zipping down the highway. I didn’t have the radio on, and J.D. was extra quiet. Naturally, I began to get lost in thought.

I live lost in thought. It is such a large problem that my children have taken to coaching me as I drive.

“Don’t miss your turn, Mom!”

“Mom, were you supposed to turn there???”

“No, thank you, I know exactly where I’m going. It’s okay.”

They aren’t being sassy or anything. This is actually what is required to keep my mind from drifting. It is a sad piece of business, but it is my reality. I think it’s a writer thing. Surely all writers are dreamers. How could you ever come up with ideas if you aren’t constantly meditating, dreaming, reading, studying, or wondering??

The big boys were not there to keep me grounded that day, so my mind began to……

when your mind begins to wonder

Just think of Daniel as my mind, headed off on a trail.

I looked out my windows at the brown, brown, everywhere nothing but brown. The California drought situation BOTHERS me. The parched ground, the water restrictions, the bone dry ponds, and the wildfires are like obnoxious little yappy dogs to me. Drought feels like a sign of God’s disapproval and not his blessing.

I don’t know why this state isn’t praying harder for rain, but we need to stand in the gap for them. You know they grow all of our food. These are wonderful farmers, teachers, doctors, and tradespeople. I’ve met many wonderful people since moving here. The Californians I know love God and are good people. These sweet friends have been a blessing to our family and an encouragement in a time when I needed it badly!  I hope you will join me in praying for rain!

As I looked around me in dismay at the dry, brittle ground, I suddenly noticed that there are still small green valleys.

“Oh, the valleys are so green!” I thought, “How have I always missed this? The mountains are ugly and brown, but people love to climb them. We love to be on the ‘mountain-tops of life,’ and yet it is in the valleys where the growing takes place.  Hmmmm There is growth in the valleys, and the higher the mountain, the colder one becomes…..”

As I became even deeper engrossed in my thoughts, I whizzed several exits past the exit that I was supposed to take in order to be on time for nursery duty….

“The highest mountains are so freezing that they are covered in snow, and you can die up there. How like people. Too much success and too little humbling, and we become proud,cold, and hard and can’t grow at all, like a mountain top! This is like the rich people who have been wealthy for so long that they have no empathy for the poor, the healthy that do not sympathize with the sick, the supposedly morally upright who despise their weaker brothers.

But in the valleys of life, that’s where we grow! That’s where we remember what pain feels like. Love grows that way.”

Now let me stop and clarify here that I was only thinking all of this in my head and not saying any of it out loud, so officially you can’t classify me as crazy.

“But wait a minute. It’s not a perfect analogy because some valleys don’t feel green at all. They feel like hard, spiky ground. Hmmmm…”

And I am sorry to tell you that I didn’t resolve the hard, spiky feeling of the valley to the lush, beautiful valleys that I saw around me until later because right about then, I noticed that I was in an area that I do not recall ever seeing before.

“Oh, MAN!!! I missed my exit!!” Now this is where my thoughts became very much out loud. I process problems out loud, and I do wish I would learn to be quieter about it.

I took the very next exit, only to discover that it was just another major highway, with nowhere to turn around. I ended up in some town I’d never heard of before. I took a U-turn. I made my way back to the main road.

To make a long story a little shorter, I’ll just tell you that I proceeded to take yet another wrong exit because several exits have the same name. Seriously. It was a rough morning.

I pulled into the church parking lot only a few minutes later than I had intended to be, scolding myself with, “I have got to pay attention,” over and over again, but my take away lesson was two-fold.

  1. We grow more in the valleys, of that I am certain.
  2. Most importantly, one must FOCUS on the task at hand. Do not look to the right or to the left. Just pay attention, or you will end up in Castroville. Focus. Focus. Focus. Forget multi-tasking. Just pay attention.

These are the sort of lessons that dreamers must sometimes learn more than once.

And now, let’s talk about the hard, spiky, or sometimes even drowning feeling of the valleys.

There are valleys in life that do not feel like you are growing at all, but the fact is that growth can be painful. Sometimes, when it rains, it looks like the rain has destroyed the flowers, but without the rain, the flowers will die.

Pain isn’t always necessary for growth, but no one can avoid pain in life.

It’s how we respond to it that determines if we look more like a green valley or a rocky valley. Do I take the bad things that happen to me, internalize them as lies, and allow myself to become bitter?

We all walk through valleys, but sometimes we find ourselves in pits or sinkholes. That is not the same. When we are in a pit, we need to call out for help.

Never believe that things won’t get better. You never know what’s on the other side of that mountain. The top of the mountain might not be the best place to grow, but the view is something worth seeing, and you’ll build some crazy-strong muscles trying to climb it.

 

Yosemite
Let’s go climbing!

 If God says it, you can believe it. Let’s go climbing!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4  (KJV)
16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
James 5:16-18

 

28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.…

Isaiah 40:28-29

 

 

But Daniel Can’t See it That Way Yet.

Focus on the big picture.

Oh, Daniel, you ARE Buzz Lightyear.

Today the boys and I had to walk all the way to the mini-mart, which is all of 1/2 a mile.

I put JD in the double jogger, that way I could put the milk I needed in the empty seat. How did we let ourselves run completely out of milk? Families of six cannot do such a thing!

I didn’t let anyone ride bikes, so Caleb ran most of it. One of Daniel’s biggest wishes is to beat Caleb in a race. Sometimes we try to rig races for him, by giving him a drastic head start, but it’s tough.

Daniel is a slightly short, far wiser than his years, four-year-old. This boy is an athletic, determined, do-it-myself, brownie cooking, tricycle-riding, Bible verse quoting, mouthy little POWERHOUSE. He is the mitochondria of California. I do not exaggerate.

(Excuse the science joke. It was cell week.)

But Daniel doesn’t see himself that way. He has no idea.

As he runs down that side-walk, boldly telling himself that he WILL catch up with Caleb, only to be passed by Joshua from way far behind, he just crumbles.

He whines. He cries, “Mom! He passed me.”

The pure competitiveness and ambition of it all! How I adore him, and no matter how many times (per day) that this scene must repeat itself, he tries again.

We can see the very circumstances that frustrate him gradually molding him into this strong, determined, and resilient person.

But Daniel didn’t see it that way.

He just wanted to WIN. He just wanted to SHOW ‘EM!

I just smiled, and I reassured him that he is extremely fast, ever so much faster than a normal four-year-old. And it’s not that he’s little. It’s just that he’s YOUNG, and one day he WILL beat them sometimes.

Daniel smiled, “Really?” Off he went like a rocket, only to crumble a few minutes later because “Caleb took a short-cut, and now I’ll never catch up.”

Then his shoe fell off–one house down from finally arriving safely back to our driveway. Sigh.

Life is exciting but hard.

I convinced him to climb into the double stroller because we were so close to home. The seat was still empty because the mini-mart, much to my dismay, was completely out of every single kind of milk.

I don’t know how to fully express to Daniel how incredible he is, and yet he will always measure himself against his older brothers, a ludicrous measurement, considering the current difference in their ages. That difference won’t count for much at all in fifteen years, so hang in there, Daniel!

But Daniel Doesn't see it that way

Another great athletic achievement for Daniel. He started at the top of the slide-less slide and walked his way down ever so carefully.

This made me think of God and people. We look all around. We strive and we fret and we whine just like Daniel. We want to know why we can’t be as fast as this guy or as successful as this other lady, but God doesn’t see it that way. We get discouraged because we can’t do things as well as we’d like to do, but God doesn’t see it that way.

He sees the big picture, just as I can see more of Daniel’s big picture than Daniel can.

Having these big brothers to compete with is TRULY making Daniel greater. He pushes himself harder than he would otherwise. He sticks up for himself fiercely. He overcomes short-comings QUICKLY so that he can keep up with those boys.

Daniel is becoming a driven, confident, self-assured man. It doesn’t matter if he never catches up with his brothers in stature. He is building an incredible character, and I get to watch it happen.

It happens to us, too. We just have to take our eyes off what we can’t do, and fix our eyes on God. With God, we can do ANYTHING. We will grow not in size (hopefully), but in character, just like Daniel. We can hone the talents that God has put in each of us into something beautiful. We can over come our short-comings to produce a more fruitful life, a life that benefits more than just ourselves.

For just a moment today, I gloried in the thought of focusing on the BIG picture, not just the trees in front of me.

We need to look at ourselves the way that we look at our children.

Still growing! We might even grow the most from the very circumstances that make us cry!

the big picture

Me, at the “Ninja Warrior Playground”

For example, I have no idea how to delegate, and there are only 24 hours in each day, so I can’t have a blog that makes money anymore……

No, let’s replace that idea with this one:

This year I’ve decided to spend more time on teaching, learning to be a better teacher, healing my back, and getting out, both with and without my boys. So now is not the time to do sponsored posts or make any money at all. But I am well provided for, so that’s okay. I will work back to that another day, just not today.

 

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”

 

–Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

IMG_0243

Can you do monkey bars with one broken wrist, like Joshua? Go, Joshua, go!

 

I hope you all have a great weekend. I hope one day you and Daniel both get to win. We all just need to endure the training first.

 

 

11 Reasons Personal Interactions are Better than Social Media

10 Reasons Personal Interaction is Better than Online Communication

The biggest change of the year for me has been that I’m so busy with people who I can actually see that I can no longer keep my blog updated or read my Facebook feed. My online life–Is that a thing??– is seriously taking a hit!

Yes, I still go on Facebook to check my messages, so I still see the “top story” or two, but that’s about it.

Last year, I spent so much time alone in the house with the boys that I actually began to think that I preferred to live that way. I shied away from people. I began to believe I wasn’t a “people person,” but I think I was just lonely.

It wasn’t great for my kids either. They missed their friends, and their lack of new friends to replace the old ones made the move so much harder.

While I do miss blogging more regularly, I’m remembering that not having time to spend on the internet is a HEALTHY problem to have. Being friends with real, live people is VITAL.

Here’s why:

#1. People you can SEE can actually HELP you with your problems.

Writing was something I needed to do last year to process the major changes that my family was going through: moving across the country, Alan enrolled in graduate school, and I began teaching my own children.

Sharing my thoughts was therapeutic, and that is a positive thing. However, no matter how much or little that internet friends can empathize or even identify with my problems, they  can’t DO much to help.

That reminds me of that Bible verse:

“Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.” Proverbs 27:10

I’m not knocking our brothers, sisters, and friends that are far away. We do realize that, in our case, Alan and I are the ones who moved to the land of far, far away.

IMG_0301

Here’s Daniel, having fun in our Far Away Land.

#2. Instant gratification is super-fun.

Sometimes something so important happens to me that I want to shout it to the world, so I go online, and I do so. I post it on Facebook, or I write about it on my blog.

And then I wait.

Did anyone comment? Did anyone like it? Who???

Yes! “I got 10 likes and 2 comments!” Such sad little feelings of social media joy.

You have to wait for them, and if you post at the wrong time of day, maybe all the wrong people saw it, so no one gives you that warm, fuzzy, “Girl, I know exactly what you mean! Me too!”

………But that doesn’t happen with REAL LIVE PEOPLE! You know right away if they laughed or not! They quickly can say, “Yeah, but what about….” and you don’t take it the wrong way because you can hear the inflection in their voice.

I love the instant gratification of talking to a visible person.

#3. You know who they are.

The average Facebook post may get you 20 likes, but 20 more of your friends didn’t like it. Why didn’t they like it? Are they just anti-like-button? If they don’t like anything we say, why are they still our friends?

I think many of you just never mash that button. I’m always taken by surprise when a real-life friend says to me, “Oh, I liked what you said on your blog about yada yada yada,” and I had never even known they read my blog.

How encouraging to learn that they actually DO read it! Thank you, friends!

 

But when you are communicating with VISIBLE people, you KNOW these things. You know who you are talking to, so you can refrain from saying something that will not make any sense at all to this person. You can keep it relevant.

You can save the pictures of your 3rd birthday for when you know each other a little better. (Thanks again, Aunt Linda..  😉  No, I’m kidding. I totally don’t care.)

It really does drive me a little nuts sometimes to never know who I’m talking to online. I don’t mind the total strangers, but if I post to Facebook, and my blog tells me “45 Facebook referrals,” I can’t help it. I want to know which of my friends read it.

But I’ll never know.

See this would not happen in real life. We always know WHO we are speaking to.

#4. The thrill of being out! The joy of walking around in the sun and smiling at others!

How do you replicate that online?

#5. Attractive people

What is it about the pretty people? We lose a lot of that online, as we talk behind our anonymity, and I’m thankful for that, when I’m sitting here in my messed up hair and pajamas.

But don’t you love it when you’re out, and you get to talk to the pretty people? Beauty is inspirational, and that is not limited to nature or stuff. People can be so lovely that they inspire us too! People are both outwardly and inwardly inspiring!

How great is it when you see a lady all dressed to the nines, with perfect hair, make-up and pearls? I love pearls. I’m inspired, and when the lady is also KIND, her beauty factor goes up exponentially.

My friend Laura was wearing the most beautiful, chunky strand of pearls at church this morning, and it made me happy just to see it. Also, Laura is from Kentucky, and I thought, “Man, we Southern women are FANTASTIC. We rock. Look at those jewels. Beautiful!”

And then there’s that feeling you get when the handsome man smiles at you.

For 5 seconds, we can all be 13 years old.

And no, don’t worry. I do realize I’m married to the handsomest man there is.

Photo on 8-3-15 at 6.51 PM #3

And he’s a great smiler.

#6 The Encouragers

We all know people like this. They just have an aura. They can’t help it. They give off happiness. I wish all people could be encouragers. Just standing beside them makes you happier.

They don’t brag. They don’t put on airs. They don’t put others down. They just smile, and you know that they get it, and yet, they are happy. We are all happier, just from meeting them.

That’s a hard thing to transfer to the internet. I’m not sure if it can be done.

#7. The Do-Gooders

Do you remember that neighbor I mentioned last year that was always bringing us food? I got to know her better, and she’s one of these do-gooder-people. She naturally does sweet things for people, and that sort of thing can’t quite be replicated on the interwebbin’.

#8. It is obvious, in person, when people are being sarcastic, funny, or mad.

I have a Facebook friend who once said, “I always come off sounding like I care way more about issues on here than I actually do.”

Our voices are much harder to discern in quick social media comments.

#9. God did not create us to be hermits. He created us with a need for each other. We NEED other people.

I know that I haven’t arrived yet to being fully socially functional in my new home. I know this because I still have unmet needs. I have no babysitter. I need to keep getting out there and rubbing shoulders with others. For most problems we have, there’s a person somewhere who can help us!

I don’t have friends that drop by unannounced and have coffee with me, but I’m getting there gradually. I do now have friends that at least know where I live, and my friend Kim comes over and tutors one of my sons. I love this because I now have a friend who I keep something for in our refrigerator. That’s right, Kim, next time you come, I will very proudly present you with a little pint of half-and-half.

So exciting!

Online friends can’t truly need us, not unless they are so special that we make SURE we text them with our important events. I’m trying to move to that. I’m trying to start selecting the friends that I want to send messages that say things like, “Oh my goodness!! Daniel just scored a goal!!”

I used to just blast that on Facebook because that covers all of those closest to me and then some, but sometimes my closest friends don’t even see that.

(Side note: My biggest problem is that I lost so many cell phones since I moved that I do not have any of my Virginia friends’ numbers in my phone anymore. Virginia friends, could you please text me your numbers!!!)

#10. Real life is more Fun.

I love that I have neighbors who know my children’s names. It makes me so happy to see Daniel with a best friend only two houses down.

The sound of the big boys’ bikes zipping around “the loop” with their friends is pure music to my ears.

What is better than a weekend football party with friends, serving at church with your church family, or watching your children play on the playground with other moms?

Real live people. I am back to the world of real live people. Thank goodness! It is so much more fun.

z221510177

 

And of course: #11. Hugs and kisses.

Let’s face it. We all need physical touch. XOXO on a page is simply not the same.

Now, wait just a minute!

With that said, I’m not about to exit blogging or social media. Don’t worry. I’m here to stay. I still love a little time alone. However, I do hope you have noticed. I have cut back from 3 posts/week to 1 or 2 posts/week, just for this season of home-school teaching.

Meanwhile, I am definitely enjoying getting OUT more. I love being out, laughing and joking with people. I LIKE having places to be.

Thank you for sticking by me through the lonely year. I hope you all have a great week, and I hope you all manage to get OUT!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”    Hebrews 10:24

 

 

 

 

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