Day 365: Never thought I could eat a whole elephant…

141,954 words. 361 pages. One year. Lots of growth.

I started this process on October 15, 2015, with a goal to blog every day, and here I am on the other side of the goal. Victorious! I love reaching a goal, as difficult as it may be. As I was pulling the data out of my blog site, I couldn’t believe how much I had written. How many errors I saw. How I was able to let them go. Nobody died because of my typos. Nobody freaked out over some mediocre writing. Of course, some of the writing was really good, so maybe something will come out of it if I spend some more time on it.

This year has been one of amazing growth for me. I’ve had some of the toughest of days. Days I never thought I would pass through, but God has been shaping my character through each day, and I know He still has bright days ahead for me. I don’t know what they will hold, but I know something new is unfolding, like the fragile wings of a butterfly.

I hope, for those who have walking with me on this journey, that you are better a year later because of something I put down in words. I hope that you have reached out to people around you to hear their stories, and so that you could tell them yours. I hope that you have learned to give yourself more grace on this walk we’ve taken together. That you’ve reached out to old kindreds and found many new ones. That you’ve built community around you. And that you’ve freed yourself from some of the technology that has such a strong grip on your being.

This is a process that never ends. It cannot end, for the moment that it ends is the moment we lose connection with humanity, and we sink into self-pity and loneliness. It’s a daily struggle to reach out beyond ourselves and find the best in those around us. When we can do that, we find what we’ve been put on this earth to do. It is in connection that we thrive, and we can pull each other along through our daily obstacles. We need each other, and we need, now more than ever, to live our lives beyond social media to make human-to-human connection. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with social media in and of itself; but anything that takes your life hostage leaves you weak. Let us break free of the self-imposed prisons we have built, and then let us run free, but together!

I don’t know what this blog will become over the next year, but I know that I will be taking a break for a few days while I figure out the next step. Thanks for your encouragement and support, and for being my kindreds. Even the most painful journeys can be beautiful if we’re taking them together.

 

Day 364: R&R

I’m bubbling with excitement; we’re on our way to a weekend getaway with the girls…some special people in my life. There’s nothing like going away, to where you can barely get a cell signal, to look at the beautiful fall colors and feel the crispness of the air, to be able to reflect, and rest, and giggle.

Even Jesus and his disciples took time to get away from the hustle and bustle. They were crowded in on every side by people, much like we often feel by being crowded in by projects, schedules, people, and more. Here’s an example of them getting away to rest [he, in this case, is Jesus]:

Mark 6:31 “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

It’s necessary to get away. I love that Jesus got away with others in community, but it was an intimate group, and they went to a quiet place for the purpose to rest. And rest included eating! How much better is that?

For me, I love the chance to get away and get into nature. It restores my soul, and I find myself overflowing with gratefulness at the intense beauty around me.

Look at this part in Job where it’s clear that nature always leads us back to God:

Job 12: 7-10 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

And that’s what I’m going to do this weekend: spend time in nature that will lead me to being closer to God. And spend time with kindreds to lead me to rest and relaxation.

DAY 364 HOMEWORK: Take some time to get some R&R this weekend.

 

 

Day 363: Watching the neighbors

Tonight, several of us gathered at the local police station. We weren’t in trouble. We weren’t posting bail for anyone. We gathered as neighbors to learn about the process of setting up a neighborhood watch program. The policeman in charge of the program was so incredibly helpful and friendly. He told lots of stories and reminded us of the great town that we live in. He also told of other programs the police department has, and even living in this town for 13 years, I didn’t know about any of the things he mentioned.

Though we live in a neighborhood of some 170 houses (and growing), there were only 12 of us there (plus the policeman). I’m not surprised by that…even I was tempted to renege on my plan to go. I was so tired, and could have easily found other things at home that needed to be done. But I thought about my blog and what I’ve been preaching, so I encouraged my daughter-in-love to join me, and off we went.

When we got to the Justice Center, there were only 2 cars there. The lights in the building were all dim. We were about 10 minutes late, so I thought maybe nobody showed up and they went home. We drove in the parking lot where all the police cars were, but there weren’t any “civilian” cars there. So we went back to the cars that were in front of the building. A couple of women were standing around, so I asked them if they were there for the neighborhood watch meeting. They said no, but there was an intercom inside, they said, where we could ask a dispatcher about it. So we went inside. The dispatcher told us she would open the door for us, and that we should sit down. The buzzer sounded, so I grabbed for the door.

I was confused. I mean, there were chairs there, but no people were in sight. Anywhere. I looked in all the doors, and everything was either locked or dark. So I sat down. After a few minutes, a lady appeared and said, “Follow me.” She was walking so fast, it was hard to keep up. Finally, she said that the group came in the back of the building, and after a few twists and turns, she opened a door for us where our neighbors were.

The meeting was in progress and I don’t know what they did at the beginning, but following the meeting, we went around to each person to introduce ourselves. It was really nice to put faces with names I had seen on our neighborhood Facebook page. A few of them, I had seen walking down the sidewalk, or out in their yards working, but most of them lived at the front of the subdivision so I hadn’t had a reason to officially meet them before.

One of the things the policeman said that stuck out to me fit nicely in #FindingKindreds. He said that as neighbors, we have to decide what to make of our neighborhood. We have to get out and meet people, and have get-togethers, so that we know people and can help each other out. It’s tough to know who to watch for, if we don’t know whether people are neighbors or vandals or whatever. He also said it’s easy to be a target of a crime if our noses are stuck in our phones 24/7. I could go on and on about the evening, but I’ve gone on enough about it.

I was glad for the opportunity to connect tonight, and will be working to be more intentional.

DAY 363 HOMEWORK: How well do you know your neighbors? Maybe you can start out by starting a Facebook page, or gathering a few who live close by for some cookies or something. Even setting up a meal out for anyone who wants to go, and passing out fliers might be a way to connect. Do something intentional!

Day 362: Are you a Kind Red?

My little brother got an email today from what I guessed was a web developer out of India. He offered to help on the website called “Finding Kind Reds.” It made me laugh OUT LOUD. To tell the truth, some days it might feel easier to find kind Reds than kindreds. But, after specifically practicing to reach out to people this past year, it is much easier to connect with people now, whether or not they are kindreds. We have to connect a bunch to find a few awesome kindreds, well, at least I do. It likely comes easier for some people.

I think I spoke about this guy before, but I was thinking about him again today. His name is Sean Ogle, and Sean quit his job as a Financial Analyst in the corporate world and decided to live like he wanted to. He wanted to travel, so he ended up in Thailand and supported himself there until he had a plan. Today, he has an internet business and he can run it from anywhere in the world so his dream to travel is coming true on a daily basis. The thing he said (whether or not he was quoting someone else) was, “There are only 7 days in a week and Someday isn’t one of them.”

That gives me energy to keep going on the path to figure out what I’m doing next. It’s why I’ve kept up this blog for a whole year. The challenge for me won’t be “someday.” …Someday, I’m going to write for a whole year. It’s today, and I’m living it a step at a time. Who knows what comes up next, but with only a few days away from my finish line, I know that I truly won’t be finished.

DAY 362 HOMEWORK: Have a Someday dream? What can you do today to take a baby step forward to make it a reality? If you can do a baby step, then do it. And do it again tomorrow, and the next day. Pretty soon it will be a year down the road and you’ll be way farther down the path then you dreamed possible!

Day 361: Frayed nerves, and what?

On the way home from work tonight, I heard the DJs talking about Jesus’s command to love. They were saying that the thing Jesus commanded us to do was to love…Love God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The question that came up was a good one. How do you love like that? One of them asked what love is defined as in the Bible. He pointed to 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love” chapter. Here it is in The Message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

There’s more to the chapter than that, but it gives us a starting place. I liked where their conversation was going. They were talking about how you need to show people patience, even the ones who get on our very last nerves. They were talking about not keeping score on people like the in-laws (and though I’ve always had great in-laws, I understand that others don’t always.) If we are truly practicing what this chapter says, and if, as 1 John 4 says that love comes from God and if we’re not loving, then we don’t love God, then we’ve got a lot of work to do to get our hearts aligned properly with God’s.

Saying you love and actually loving are two separate things, and putting it into practice is much harder than it would seem. We can only do it if we have God’s help.

DAY 361 HOMEWORK: Let’s spend a little time thinking about the most irritating people we know and how we can show them love and patience. Recognizing our lack of love is the first step, and then acting in love will be the next, courageous step we can take.

Day 360: We’re falling, America

The empath in me is easily overwhelmed in political seasons. In this particular one we’re in, I’m beyond overwhelmed. I detest all the name calling, both from the stage and in posts from other Americans. My skin crawls with disgust, and such deep sadness. To where have we descended America?

We are all going to end up losers in this next season, no matter who gets elected. We have jabbed at each other, we have rejected each other, we have spread hatred, and bitterness, and stooped to such low levels of human behavior. All of us. Before you think you haven’t, at what point have you shared things you haven’t fact checked or witnessed yourself? Each post allows opportunity for someone to join in on the bashing of fellow Americans, fellow human beings.

I’ve read through some of the threads. Someone will ask an honest question and people jump on the bandwagon to shame them. Someone will have a polite alternative view, and if there were stones that could be thrown on a post, a mob would have gathered to participate in the slaying. In fact, the behavior is mob-like without the stones. People say they have stopped going to church because of what they think “Christians” have become (the term is used loosely, but what kind of witness have we become in Christ’s name?). The ugliest of behaviors jump off the pages. Judgments fly while condemning the judgments of others. Things we would never say to someone, to their faces, are now so easily plastered all over our newsfeeds. What a disgrace!

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but a house divided against itself cannot stand. We’re falling, America. Crumbling and sinking in shame. Yes, we have imperfect, immoral and selfish people to choose between in this election, because we are ALL those things, but let’s stop with the slaying of each other; providing the arenas for stonings; and simply holding the coats of those who are throwing the rocks. Please!

DAY 360 HOMEWORK: Pray with me for our country. Oh God, have mercy on this country. I know that all these things must come to pass, and that You are in control, even if we don’t like the choices that we have, and we don’t like the outcome that we get. Yet help us to love one another. Keep our tongues from hatred. Keep our posts from shame, rejection, and judgment. Help us to live in the love that You have given to us, and to share it one with another. Forgive us for what we have become. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Day 359: Stifling, in a good way

I mentioned the other day that I was going through some old files to weed out the irrelevant and to simplify my files so that I have just the things I need on hand. In the process, I came across a page from a seminar I went to some time ago, and the title of the page was 50 ways to stop your drama. I’m not going to share all the hints, or I’ll be up all night, but I thought you might enjoy some of the tips. Some of them are common every day sense, but some are clear drama cutters, that I wish I had learned years ago.

  1. Notice patterns: who or what pushes your buttons? (If you know what those things are, then you can work to avoid them.)
  2. Follow through on what you say. (This takes down reasons for people to be angry with you.)
  3. Don’t let anger and irritation pile up. Express it. (I still need to learn to do this.)
  4. Find things you appreciate about your job. (Some days, you’ll need to read that list out-loud to yourself so you don’t walk away prematurely.)
  5. Give some slack to others. (No one is perfect.)
  6. Quit making excuses. (Own it!)
  7. Don’t betray yourself to please others. (Be true to yourself.)
  8. Strive for excellence, not perfection. (Yes, that’s the journey I’ve been on.)
  9. Initiate and build supportive relationships (#FindingKindreds)
  10. Clear your clutter. (Something I work on often, but still have a ways to go.)

The list goes on and on, and there are quite a few items on there about taking care of yourself better (eating right, exercising, sleeping sufficiently, find healthy stress relievers, etc.) Quite a few circled around being present…not living in the past or the future except in little doses. And I really liked the ones about holding true to your values, not compromising, and maintaining your integrity.

What I like about lists like this is that it’s a good reminder of things we probably already know, but the drama often swallows up in the moment. If we’re intentional on the front end, we can breathe through some of the things that irritate us, and not get sucked in to the chaos. It’s worth working on because even a bit of reduction in drama multiplies itself exponentially in peace.

DAY 359 HOMEWORK: Pick one thing off the list that you’d like to work on this week, and see if you can practice it often. As you’re successful, give yourself a little reward, and then do it again.