Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What I'm Learning

There's this hill by my house.  Well, it doesn't SEEM like a hill.  If you look at it, it just looks like a long, flat street--but it is SOOOOO not! 

A few years ago, when I was riding my daughter's bike (because I was too cheap to buy one of my own), I felt the burn when I was halfway down it.  You know the feeling--when you have to stand on the pedals, but your legs are so shaky you feel like you are gonna topple sideways?  Or maybe that's just me. 

ANYWAY, I could never figure out why it was so hard--it looked flat and surely I wasn't THAT out of shape (which I probably was, but telling ourselves little white lies every now and then is okay).  Then, one day, I mentioned it to someone else and they said that there was no way that street was flat--there was definitely an incline--you just couldn't see it because it was so gradual, but anyone who walked/rode on it definitely felt it. 

That's kinda how life is these days.  Now, don't get me wrong--there are several things that make that street harder to travel--like the wind in my face this morning and the podcast that stopped working yesterday and the zero dark thirty it looks like out there.  BUT, it's the getting up and going anyway.  Even when I know that I will have to do more than just walking a mile and a half to get rid of this overly excessive amount of weight my body seems to want to hold onto.  Even when I know it means I will have to juggle some other things and figure out what I won't have time for today.  Even when my legs feel like jelly from JUST WALKING!

And even when I look back and it doesn't seem like it should've been that hard for as little progress as I made.

What I feel like God is telling me is to continue to be faithful in the small things.  "Do the basics and don't stop.  Empty the dishwasher when you are tired.  Put that load of laundry in the washer before you go to work.  Answer that next phone call at work and follow through on what needs to be done.  Make the time to sit with ME--even though you think you need to plug in and work."

It's not glamorous.  It's not even fun most days.  And I certainly don't look back at the end of the day and see much progress (the sink is ALWAYS full of dishes, there is ALWAYS laundry that is waiting, the girls ALWAYS seem to want to eat lunch--go figure--I could go on and on, but you get it). Somedays it's only walking 1/2 a mile because that's all I can do in the moment. 

BUT, it's consistent.  It's putting one foot in front of the other when I'd rather just sit. 

And while I wish that one day I will look back on this time and see how God was preparing me in this season for something BIG and GLORIOUS, I'm not setting my hopes on that.  I'm trying to hear His voice in the little (emphasis on trying--I don't do that very well most days) and have it be enough.

Today, that means walking that hill and putting the blanket the dog peed on in the wash and making lunches and choosing to not open up work email so that I can sit and listen (and maybe even shaving my legs when I know I'm wearing pants to cover them up anyway--I know TMI--guess this is where I need to stop, before this gets really awkward). 

It also looks like writing this blog when I know the words are not necessarily life-changing or ah-ha moments for me or anyone reading them. 

But I do it because it's the next step in front of me and sometimes, that it enough.

The Gift of Giving Nothing

Yesterday was Brian's birthday.  The weeks leading up to it are stressful for me as I try to figure out what to buy or do for him.  When I ask him, the answer is always the same--"Don't buy me anything."

Now, when most people say that, they don't mean it, but when Brian says it, he means it.  Over the years, I've ignored it and tried to be creative with my gifts.  Last year, I was out of town for work on his bday, so I had his favorite bbq place in Tulsa send him their bbq sauces.  But, I'm not usually good with coming up with those kind of creative things.

This year, he allowed me to invite 3 of our favorite family friends over and we had a fish fry and sat around the fire pit.  So simple.  So relaxing.  So fun.  So US!

Even with that, I still felt myself feeling the need to come up with a present.

As I was out gathering twigs for a project (more about that later) and clearing my head--don'tcha just love how being out in nature does that for you?--I had an epiphany.  What if the best gift I could give is nothing.  What if I actually honored what he wanted and didn't do anything else?

What if we didn't make a big deal at the fish fry that it was a birthday celebration?  What if we didn't sing and make him blow out candles?  What if we didn't do a present?

Those little voices in my head that tell me what a loser I am started speaking up and telling me I HAD to do something or else I was a bad wife.  I had to have a surprise element of the night so that he would feel celebrated and loved.

And that's when I just STOPPED.  Brian would NOT feel celebrated and loved by being the center of attention and feeling the need to give a speech.  If I did that, it would be to make ME feel better.

How often do we do this in life?  We say we are doing something for another people, but we are really doing it to make ourselves look and feel good. We don't want to look like the loser wife who didn't  buy candles or a card.

But in doing stuff that makes us feel better, we dishonor those we love most?

So, while my love language is acts of service, it's not Brian's.  Love gets past our own hang-ups and expresses itself in the way others' feel celebrated--even if it would make us cringe.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Being Invited

Today, I received 2 different texts, inviting me to things.

Now, you may receive 2 invitations on the same day all the time, but, honestly, I don't get many invitations.  One was to play hooky and watch a movie and the other was to attend a fundraising gala.  Both were from dear friends that I don't get to see enough.

But what they were for and who they were from are really not the point in this post.

Being invited is.

I was taught years ago to "never do ministry alone."  What that means is to always bring someone with you--whether you are doing something big (like creating a non-profit AND when you're doing the mundane--like grocery shopping).  For those of you who are introverts, this probably just sent cold chills up your spine--I get it--the older I get, the more I need my space away from people.  Sometimes, I even make #mynameiswillow leave my room.

I used to be a great inviter.  I embraced what I was taught and just did life alongside people--a LOT.  The last year, I haven't been such a great inviter.  First of all, I live kinda far from most people.  Secondly, I haven't had the finances to do much and who wants to come hang out at my dirty house where someone always seems to be yelling and the dog hair never goes away?  Thirdly, I've been in a bit of a funk and really haven't wanted to spread that to anyone else.  I could go on and give you many other excuses, but you get the idea...

And here's the kicker, I couldn't do one of the things I was texted about, and I don't think the other will work out either.  So, both of those people might feel like they wasted an invite on me. (Be honest, haven't you ever felt that way when someone turned you down?  I know I have!)

But those invites were NOT wasted.  They came at a time when I needed to be invited to something outside of myself.

And it just makes me wonder...how many times do we think of inviting someone to something and we don't because we know them saying "YES!" is a long shot?  How many times do we get frustrated when we are turned down, once again by that friend who says they never get invited?  How many times to we attend an event and afterwards think, "??????  would have loved this?"  And how many times do we just want to feel like our presence is wanted somewhere--even if we can't go?

So, what are you doing today or this weekend or next month?  What is on your agenda that you can invite someone to do with you?  Who's name/face is God bringing to your mind right now?

You don't know how powerful that seemingly small invitation is.  And honestly?  You may never know.

But do it anyway.

Invite someone today.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Conversations with a Teenager...Part 1

I've decided to start a new series since I can only do so many #askingforafriend posts.  I thought I had "interesting" conversations with my girls when they were little, but I've had some doozies lately.  I'll have to edit out some since many of our conversations are not appropriate outside our home, but we'll see how many come along.

Here's part 1:

Me: Did you see the comments on the pic I posted of you on facebook?
Unnamed Teen (UT): Yes.
Me: You should say "Thank you" to those who commented.
UT: No.  I don't want anyone to know I'm on facebook.
Me:  Ummm...you are fb friends with them and I tagged you in the photos so they already know.
UT: Yeah, but I don't comment.  I just look at what you post.
Me: But people still know you are on there
UT: Yeah, but they forget.
Me: (Rolling my eyes) Oh, okay...THAT makes sense


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Long Road Ahead

I took this picture tonight on my way to pick up Hope at the barn. It's striking to me and almost takes my breath away.

One reason is that I feel like sunrises and sunsets are God's way of kissing us good morning and goodnight.  I don't have to see them to know that He loves me, but they just make me feel extra warm inside.

Another reason is I love the symbolism of the long road in front, but I forget about the length--just a little--when I see that it leads to the sun.

So many times I embark on something that feels like heading into a tunnel with only a pinhole of light visible.  And, because I know it's the way to go, I will trudge through the dark and do my best not to trip and fall too many times onto the ground that I cannot see. But, by the end of the tunnel, after my eyes have adjusted to the blinding light, I see the scrapes and bruises on me.

This pic reminds me that life is not always dark tunnels.  Sometimes it's open roads where I can see all around me.  And I'm in a car, moving at a faster pace.  And I have the S-O-N waiting for me at the end of my adventure.

So, I will soak in the drive and maybe even roll down my windows a little bit and turn the radio up just a tad louder.

And most of all, trust that where I'm headed is where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Basil in a Broken Pot

A few months ago I was walking into Sprouts and saw herbs on sale.  Now, I've tried to plant things in the past.  Brian even planted me a salsa bar last year.  But, for the most part, I kill everything.  I just don't have "the touch."

But, the thought of fresh herbs makes me happy, so I put 3 of them into my cart.  (I'm learning to surround myself as much as possible with the simple happys)

I bought plain, inexpensive pots for them--just in case they didn't make it into the next week--and put them on my window sill.

One of my favorite things (and maybe part of the reason I keep trying to plant with my black thumb) is getting to see the physical changes that take place in plants.  When you first put a plant into a bigger pot, it looks so small, but within days, you see how it's "owning" it's space and growing--not only outward, but upward. And even though I can't see the roots, I can only imagine how the tangled mess I buried is now stretching and spreading out of that clump.

I went out of town for a few days and when I came back, the basil pot was cracked and the plant looked dead.  Why?  Because Willow.  Apparently, the flycatcher extraordinaire did not see value in the  fact that my herbs were still alive when she was hunting and knocked my basil to the ground.  My family put it back up but Brian (who DOES) have a green thumb told me it probably wouldn't survive.

Now, I wish I could say I left it on the window sill because I had hope and believed I could nurse it back to heath, but the truth is, I was just too lazy to throw it away (our trash is almost always full--even right after it's emptied and if I put it in there, it would mean I would have to take the trash out.  If I just walk it out to the dumpster, then I might as well take the trash out.  It's tough being in my head).

BUT, I regress!  I continued to water the basil--cracked pot and all--just not as much as the other herbs--it got the last drops of water after I finished with the others.  The thyme and rosemary were both thriving and soaking up the water, but the basil was brown and shriveled and most of the water soaked the soil with no sign of life.

Until one day, I spotted some green in that pot!  So, I started watering it a little bit more intentionally.  And it continued to grow--cracked pot and all!  In fact, I even used some of it for a meatloaf a few weeks ago!

What's ironic is that there are still dead leaves in the pot, but the basil has decided to spring up around the death and not let it choke it and keep it from growing.  I have to water it a little more and in smaller amounts than the other two, but that just makes me more intentional with it. And ironically, that basil is actually taller than the other two beside it!

I can't help but think that many of us are like the basil in the broken pot.  We don't look like we have much to offer, but, God, in His grace, continues to water us and turn us so that we get Son on each part of us, so that we grow.  And those cracks in our pot, while still there, are not the focus and don't limit us.

Brokenness doesn't have to define us.  It sure doesn't that basil in my window sill.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bittersweet Beginnings

The beginning of a new school year has started at the Royal house, and, once again, there is change in the air!

First of all, the girls decided to transfer to a new school district.  For one daughter, it was a no-brainer, but it was a bit agonizing for the other.  After many lists and conversations of pros and cons, she made the decision to move as well.

As they are getting older, Brian and I have been trying to back off and let them make their decisions. It's hard and we DO have to step in sometimes, but we also want to launch adults in the world who can think for themselves.  We help by doing the homework and asking the hard questions, but leave the final call to them in most cases.  It's a bit frustrating to them at times because they want to be able to blame us if it's not the right one. Sometimes parenting feels like a no-win situation!

What's funny/ironic/sad is the one who didn't have to think twice about moving is the most nervous.  Every few days she's asked another "what if" question.  The hardest was "What if nobody wants to sit with me at lunch?"  We've all heard the stories and seen the yuck that happens with overt bullying, but we don't always talk about the subtle stuff.  I hate that she had to experience that in the past, but am also praying she doesn't forget it--so that she makes sure she is not on the other end of letting someone sit by themselves because she is scared of what her "friends" will think of her.

Along with a new school, another beginning for us is that Hope has started working at a new barn.  She had to say goodbye to her precious Sharay and the trainer who gave her her very 1st real lesson.  Even though it's the right move for her, it's still hard to let go of the familiar for the unknown.

I want to be able to tell both of my girls that it will be easy and fun and that they will never have a regret.  I am hoping and praying that for them, but I know from personal experience that the right decision will not always "feel" right.  They may doubt themselves--and even if they don't, the new adventure won't always be easy.  And there will be people who question them--some aloud and some behind their backs.

At the end of the day, I want them to learn--just as I am learning--that you pray about a decision, do your homework, pray some more, talk to people who love you and pray again.  Then you make the decision that YOU feel is best in light of all of that.  It might be easy.  It might be hard.  But at the end of the day, you have to answer for YOUR actions--not anyone else's thoughts or words. Have courage and be kind.