Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One sign that time has been well-spent

When time is well spent, it breaks your heart to say goodbye. Even though you know it will only be for a little while and that you'll not always be  apart, it can still rip your heart in two.

When time is well spent, miles and years can never really separate what has been deeply intertwined in your heart. Because being together has changed who you are. Not because they changed you but because they gave you the courage to be who you really are. To be vulnerable. You were you. And they were they. And you loved each other. Kindred spirits.

And now it is time to say goodbye. For awhile.

I think sometimes the 'for awhile part' makes people think that the goodbye doesn't hurt as much. But that is not true. The only time goodbye doesn't hurt is when it was time NOT well-spent.

There was a vivid time in my life when goodbye didn't hurt. I was glad to be leaving. I look back on that very difficult year of my life and there is not much redeemable from that time, certainly no relationship or connection from that time.

God profoundly used that time in my life in other ways. But at the end of that school year, goodbye didn't hurt. It was a relief.

It was one of the few times in my life when goodbye didn't hurt. Maybe the only time.

So now I know that I don't really want to feel only relief and gladness to be getting away. Even though I don't want to be feeling this. This heart-wrenching good-bye. Even though I don't want to say goodbye right now, even though I don't want to hurt this way.....it is good.

It is good. Time has been well-spent.

I have been given an amazing gift. As a friend reminded me last night, sometimes we don't know how much the Lord has given until He takes it away.

I knew they were special. I knew that I loved them. But I don't know if I knew what a great, grand gift I had been given in their special friendship throughout the years.

We have stories of rattlesnakes, flat tires, wet camping trips, and shivering trips tubing down a  river. We've been at each others weddings and graduations and baby births. We've held each others hands as we've said goodbye to a mom and a dad. We talked and laughed and camped and cried. We've jumped off cliffs. Played cards til the wee hours of the night.  Brewed coffee, run races. Watched chickens and flowers grow. We've spun our lives together for more than twenty years. What a gift.

Soon these kindred spirit friends are moving far away -- four thousand miles far away -- for at least three years. I love their courage, their pluck to live their calling.

I am inspired.

And sad.

My heart is breaking. It feels like it may never recover.

Time has been well-spent. Thank you. Amen.

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How about you? Any painful goodbyes recently?

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How less can cultivate gratitude

One sweltering afternoon my oldest son played a baseball game. His five family members cheered him in the stands and melted in the fresh hot of summer. One player even fainted from the heat.

After the game, my husband went to the concession stand and purchased cold ICEE drinks for all four children. Inwardly, I groaned.

I braced myself for the moans and laments that would surely come. I was ready for a snotty toned "Well, it's about time" since it was the first slushy of the season and the season was done.

I expected an immediate return to the attitude of last season. The one where they asked for an ICEE as soon as we drove into the ball park and continued pestering until it was obtained.

My husband and I would delay the purchase as long as possible. We wanted them to wait a few innings because the games were long. Yet, we did want them to have a treat because we felt sorry that they had to watch those long games.

It also seemed fair to buy the watchers a treat since the ball players received one after the game. Thus began our toleration for their pestering demands that in a different situation I don't think we would have tolerated. 

Besides, it was only a dollar. So we bought the cool drinks.

We didn't set out to buy those slushies all season long. But that's what happened.

They nagged. We bought. At Every. Single. Game. We had set up quite a system. We thought we were directing the buying of the ICEE treats.

After awhile, though, something bothered us. But it was just easier to keep walking up and buying the cold  ICEE drinks instead of evaluating the problem. 

We just wanted to watch our oldest son play baseball and keep the others happy. It didn't cross our minds  to evaluate what was annoying us.   Thankfully, during next year's ball season it would work itself out naturally.

But I didn't know that yet.

Instead, I was braced for complaints the day those purchases were made on that hot sweltering day.

The flavors were selected. The sips were taken. And the children came running to their dad, saying, "Oh, thank you Daddy!" They were thrilled and thankful for what they had.

I was surprised! Shocked!

What did they say?

Thank you?!?

For this one ICEE on the very last day that the concession stand was open? It was the only one that they got all season long. Could these be the same children who the season before had complained, whined, and even demanded ICEEs?

How could this be?


It didn't begin as a noble effort to reduce whining, complaining, or children driving demands. Instead, we simply stopped buying ICEES due to the budget. They were only a dollar. But we had four children and more than one was playing ball that season.

We saved money. Instead of us buying treats, they spent their own quarters and dimes on ring pops and nerds. It was a bargain. One season we bought an ICEE for every child at every game.

The next season we stopped. Just like that.

Yet, we had done something to cultivate gratitude without knowing it. We gave them less. They became more grateful.

It was eye-opening. It was shocking how much MORE grateful they were with LESS.

Less demand. Less expectation. More gratitude.

And so less really can cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.

When they expected to get a treat, they began to demand to get a treat. And when it became special, they were thankful.

The lesson of an Icee. When we are given less, we expect less. When we expect less, we are thankfully surprised when something is given to us. And we are grateful.

It was an amazing process. It shocked me at the time and taught me a wonderful principle about how
less can cultivate an attitude of gratefulness.

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"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, 
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." 
Philippians 4: 12

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