Raw Reflections from the Journey

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday Reflections: The First Day of the Rest of My LIfe

Today is my birthday which is as good of reason as any to wax philosophical. I know, I know...I don't really need an excuse do I? Well, if you will indulge me, I'm going to honor my stream of consciousness...I really need to process some things. Birthdays alone prompt me to reflect on how I'm living, but there is more. This one converged with a visit to my father who is currently living in a nursing home. Jill, Laura and I got back late last after visiting him for the past three days in Minnesota.

It was dad who introduced me to the magnificence of today, and every day we are blessed to live, "What is today, son?", he would ask afresh, as if he'd never asked before. "The first day of the rest of my life", I learned to reply. I really didn't get it when young, but as the reality of middle-age has set in (I'm 46 today), and as I watch parents struggle with maladies of aging, it means more and more. No doubt our days are numbered.

As I carried the last load of luggage from the car last night I paused to look at the stars which were exceptionally bright in a cold and dark sky. "I wonder the number of times I'll get to see these on a night like this before eternity?" Please don't misunderstand this as morbid preoccupation with death, but rather the opposite; appreciation for life and the magnificence of it.

For me there was nothing quite like seeing my hobbled father, a physical shadow of a once exceptionally strong, passionate leader to bring home the reality of limited days of life...and to move me to serious reflection About how I'm stewarding it: What do I think about? What do I do? And how do I do it? The bottom line question: How well am I living my life per the calling I have received?

One of the benefits of aging is awareness of the limits of time and energy. And a birthday is as good of a time as any to hit the reset button for a fresh start. What am I compelled to start doing, stop doing, do more of and less of?

- More fun with friends and loved ones
- More time in prayer, on walks and in love with Jill
- More free time away from my laptop and blackberry

- Less fretting about provisions
- Less anxiety about patients getting well

- Start taking dedicated periods of time away from the office and home office (days and partial days OFF)
- Start every day with quiet time, reading and reflection

One practical action-step Jill and I have already taken was to adjust our schedule for more balance and variety. Still the the reality is that a significant internal adjustment is required to make the most of that structure, and no one gets it better for me than Phillips, Craig & Dean in the song, Let God be God. Check out the lyrics...I find them humbling and reassuring:

You said “Lights ON”
And a blinding sea of stars began to shine
You said “Birds SING!”
And a million melodies filled up the sky
You said "this world,
Spinning through a crowded Milky Way"
Well the sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And God doesn’t seem to need my help
But the One who holds the sea in place
Is watching out for every step I take

I think I’ll let God be God, I’m giving up control
Think I’ll relax, step back
It’s time for letting go
If you kept the universe in sync
A million years or so
Since the Keeper of creation knows
I think I’ll let God be God

You clapped your hands
The thunder rose and lightning filled the sky
You bring new life
A tiny newborn baby starts to cry
The tide rolls in and it rolls back out
And never has God needed me to help
The One who sees the sparrow fall
Knows what I need before I even call

I think I’ll let God be God, I’m giving up control
Think I’ll relax, step back
It’s time for letting go
If you kept the universe in sync
A million years or so
Since the Keeper of creation knows
I think I’ll let God be God

Yeah, nothing takes You by surprise
Never late, always on time
The One who holds the sea in place
Is watching out for every step I take

Monday, March 7, 2011

No Rose Garden (but plenty of water for the flowers...in the basement)

April (March) showers bring May flowers...

Well, there's been plenty of water, but no flowers in our basement...as of yet.

This past Saturday morning had a leisurely beginning...barista Jeff had created his and her cappuccinos, we'd taken a walk (during which we noticed which houses were perched above the flood waters and which ones weren't). "I'm glad our sump pump is working well", I thought to myself. Little did we know.

At home, after our walk we'd begun to consider how to invest the open day when Laura sprung from the basement to announce, "There's a flood!"

Oh no! The sump pump had taken a nap, and 4-6 inches of spring rains were rippling across every square inch of the basement...groan. Spontaneous healing of the pump helped the waters to recede, but the damage was done; carpet and padding, soaked wooden furniture legs, and thousands of papers, journals, pictures...oh well, we did say we wanted to lighten our load the next time we move.

"These light and momentary troubles..."

Tim and Bridget (our landlords) were great as usual; kind, compassionate and responsive. Within minutes they'd made insurance calls (I made ours with my feet still covered in water..a true SOS call from the basement), and arranged a professional group to clean and restore. Thus began a parade of water workers. By phone and email we celebrated mutual grace and compassion; "Life happens...why get our knickers all knotted up?"

By Sunday afternoon it was getting old. Adrenaline of a new challenge had worn away, and now came the inconvenience, work, smells and the realization that house guests due w/in the week would have to be placed in places that we hadn't planned to place them...but we'll be together (Carly and Gabby, Jocelyn and Bella). Being together and staying together through life's valleys is what it's all about anyhow, right?

Jill and I shared an emotional jug last night (no, not homemade moonshine to allay our anxieties), but rather a talking exercise designed to help us identify and express honest feelings. It's cathartic and builds closeness. After working through mad, sad and scared feelings we got to glad. "What are you glad about?"

"I'm glad that we've learned in life challenges to turn to Jesus"
, I said. "His words are comforting", I thought. "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest", and "In this world you will have many troubles, but take heart. I have overcome the world."

Light and momentary troubles...that are achieving a victory in us that overcomes the world. yep. I'm glad for unexpected challenges...even if they are a bit wet!