March 15, 2017

My Favorite Lap

One of my grandpas died when I was twelve. The memories I have of him aren't of conversations we had or things we did together; I only remember strong impressions of who he was. I learned to read his nonverbal cues.

Grandpa was an only child, born in a sod house in eastern Colorado. I've realized in the decades since that he had incredible mechanical intelligence. He wanted to be an architect, but he was needed on the farm. He only attended school through the eighth grade.

My strongest impression of Grandpa was "German." What he thought or felt stayed locked inside. If a question was too personal, he was the type to shut it down abruptly. If an excited conversation in Italian is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for expression, Grandpa was a 2. He held everything close to his chest. A small change in expression or posture meant a lot. A slight twinkle in his eye or a half-smile was equivalent to someone else's belly laugh or bear hug. If he got angry or upset, it was like watching a Ferrari go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds flat. I have a single memory of him standing up immediately to admonish one of my brothers, and even the memory leaves me feeling frozen, apprehensive.

The man those words describe may seem gruff and unapproachable, but that wasn't my grandpa. Somehow I knew he adored me without ever being told. I knew that he would allow me to do things he wouldn't permit from most other people. I have no memory of him saying he loved me, but I felt completely secure in his love.

One memory I mull over again and again is of Grandpa, sitting in his armchair reading his paper. His face is hidden by the spread pages, and all my preschool eyes can see are his hands and legs. Without hesitation, I go to him, push the paper out of the way, and climb onto his lap. No murmur or protest from Grandpa, but I'd snuggle into his left arm and chest, the paper would come back up, and I'd be on Grandpa's side of the page.

I always remember this when I ponder feeling secure in someone's love.

When I spend time with God, talking to him, listening to him, or sitting in silence with him, that security is what I feel. Other people might think of God as remote or angry or scary or unpredictable. He isn't to me. He's the one I wander close to, go to on impulse, or run to on purpose. Going to God or starting a conversation with him never, ever wastes a second wondering if he's too busy or if he has the time. He always listens immediately. He always takes me as I am. I can't remember a single time he's told me I'm stupid or stubborn or foolish or overly-emotional or immature--even when I am. Chris Rice wrote lyrics for his song, "My Prayer" that express my feeling well:

I feel You smile/ You feel my breath
You listen while I whisper nonsense
Simple exchange: Your will and I'm changed
And now my prayer ends
Thank you, Amen

My chattiness never bothers him. No matter how many times I interrupt myself or him, he still knows exactly what I mean. On my own, I would continually weave across the path of my life, going from ditch to ditch as I corrected and over-corrected; he gives me gentle guard rails. -If I put up guard rails, I promise you I'd make 'em electric fences so I'd KNOW not to make that choice again! He is far gentler with me than I am with myself.

If it feels like he's too busy, he's not. If you think he'll be angry that you interrupted him, he won't be. If you think he doesn't love you... you couldn't be more wrong. Take a deep breath and gather your courage if you need to, but go push aside that paper and climb up into his lap.

It's my favorite place in all the world.

February 27, 2017


So, yesterday... yeah. My troubles didn't seem far away. The day felt off-kilter somehow, and I didn't know why. I wasn't feeling or being the 'me' I know, and I didn't make sense to myself. Alone time may be the dream for all introverts and parents, but extroverted introverts (I call myself an 'ambivert') can actually get too much alone time. Feeling frustrated with my kids is normal; pulling away from my husband in conversation is not.
Something was off.

We got home from church, and I packed a small bag right away and told my family I was going out to a local wilderness-type park. It's become a favorite retreat for me, no matter what time of year it is. I drove out, parked, then trudged through sunlit snow to my favorite spot on a bridge over a small creek. For more than an hour, I sat in close-to-freezing temps as I talked, listened, and cried with God. He's my favorite listener.

I'm learning that talking with him, praying, isn't for him. It's for me. You can't imagine the hairballs of thought and emotion I dredge up when I'm with him. He either helps me untangle my inner knots, or he helps me realize the hairball is one he's supposed to handle.

Sitting on the bridge, I suddenly heard birds pecking in a nearby tree. As I started getting annoyed by the sound, I had the following inner exchange with God:
My child, what are the birds are doing?
They're pecking at the branches for bugs, I think.
Are they trying to annoy you?
No. I don't think they even know I'm here as they flit from branch to branch.
Are they using a 'perfect' system for looking for bugs?
No, it looks like they're just jumping from branch to branch randomly, sometimes going back to a branch where they just were.
Are they spending any time beating themselves up because they didn't thoroughly check the branch the first time? Are they scolding themselves because they didn't "get it right" the first time?
No... I don't think they waste any time analyzing their motives or choices, comparing who they are with their idea of who they could be or should be.
Why do you?

How are they looking for bugs?
Pecking the wood and listening for the change in sound, I think.
Why do they use those methods?
Because it's instinctive to how they're made.
So what are they doing?
...Looking for food, for sustenance, by using abilities they have automatically.
What do you think I expect, then, of you?

Later on, my gaze moved to watching the creek. I love running water so much. The play of light reflection fascinates me. It's been a source of so many, many insights for me. Yesterday brought more thoughts to resonate in my heart.

My child, what do you see?
I see light, sparkling on the water as it moves.
Is the water trying to reflect light?
No. The water is just being water, and one of its properties is reflecting light.
How do you think it happens that you reflect my light and my character: by trying, or by being true to how I made you?
-That's great and everything, God, but what happens when the water forgets how to be water? How is the water drop supposed to know when it's stopped acting like water and is trying to be alcohol by mistake?!
[Yes, I argue with God. No, he never strikes me down with lightning or yells at me. He's silenced me so very many times by how he listens to me in these moments and waits for my heart to hear him.]
Is the water trying to be water? Does it measure how 'good' a water drop it is compared to other water drops?
No. I think it just is water and surrenders to what it is and how it behaves.
Does it make itself be water or discipline itself into behaving like water?
No... It behaves as water without any thought of how to be water.
Are you?

Does the water always reflect the sunlight?
No... The water's actually sparkling because it catches the sun, then stops reflecting it, then catches it again, and so on.
Is the reflection less important when it isn't constant?
No... I think it actually catches my eye more because it isn't constant. The sparkling flashes of light make me stare longer.
Is the water aware when it's reflecting light and when it isn't?
No. I don't think the water feels any difference between the two.
Is the light reflection consistent no matter where you're standing?
No. Different angles of the water would reflect sunlight to my eye depending on where I'm standing or sitting.
Why do you think reflecting Me is in your control?
Why do you expect yourself to reflect Me every moment of every day?
Why do you think your assessment of how you're doing is true and accurate?
Why do you think trying to reflect My character is the way to grow closer to Me?
My beloved child... I have not asked you to be or do anything more than to recognize how much of a spiritual beggar you are, to keep your eyes open for spiritual food, and to be ready to point other beggars you meet to the bread you find.

Chilled, but calmed and content, I walked through snow back to my car (talking with God the whole way) and came home. I'm constantly amazed at how I bring problems to God, talk with him, get no clear answers or solutions to those problems, but end up content and trusting anyhow.

Yesterday my troubles felt very present and complicated; it felt like I was muddying everything. Now... now I don't think the answer to my problems is finding answers. When my problems look like they're here to stay, I think the answer (however unreasonable it sounds) is to be reminded who my God, my Abba, is. He reminds me who I am and what he expects of me. He reminds me I belong to him, and my value has nothing to do with how good my answers are. He reminded me yesterday on the bridge that he wants me to share my bread.

I feel a little shy about sharing this bread, because maybe other beggars won't see it as bread. Maybe my bread is only a crumb for someone who really needs several loaves. Maybe my bread isn't enough for you. But... God didn't ask me to evaluate my bread. He didn't ask me if I thought it was good enough or could be better. He told me to offer it to other beggars, people using the gifts he gave them to hunt for food. I pray these words on water and birds help you as you search. I pray we both keep looking until we find today's bread.

February 22, 2017

ADHD -- Ack... Don't Have the Desire

I'm having a hard time getting started on my "shoulds" this morning. This is not an unusual situation for me.

Over the last several years in particular, I've learned enough about myself to know why this is the case: I have ADHD. I never ran shrieking around rooms as a child; I did well all through school; there are times I prefer being alone. All of these things seem to contradict the general perception of ADHD.

Here's the way I explain ADHD: in every brain there is a traffic cop who stands alert, ready to tell our thoughts which ones may go, which have to stop, and which are out-of-line. Every traffic cop starts the job as a newbie, so every kid has to have practice in growing up before their traffic cop works well. In a brain with ADHD, that traffic cop is drowsy at best and asleep at worst. Picture the most chaotic intersection you've ever seen in Mumbai or Paris, and you'll see what a struggle things can be.

All the thoughts.
All the time.
Little to no awareness in the moment of whether this new thought (perhaps a thought on a skateboard) is or is not appropriate for cutting in front of the thought that was in progress (which was the size of a semi).
No rhyme or reason for which thought shows up when and takes over.

Those of us who take medication for ADHD usually take a medication that's a stimulant. It used to puzzle me that those of us with high energy were somehow helped by a stimulant, but the stimulant actually wakes up the traffic cop in our heads. With stimulants, some of us are better able to access our executive function and ignore distractions, stay focused on what truly IS important rather than what's screaming the loudest, and so on.

For me, my ADHD brings about a huge hill between me and whatever I might need to start doing that just doesn't interest me. I like novelty, interesting and exciting things! Routine tasks like laundry, cleaning, meals, showering, and even eating are the same battles in my head that most people have when it comes to running every day or doing math.

The struggle doesn't outweigh the fact that things still have to get done. Whether I like it or not, my family needs to eat. We really function better when we have clean clothes to wear. Today I need to put my head down and do rounds 3 & 4 of painting (2 coats) and sealing (2 coats) trim for my daughter's room so we can get her moved in.

I have ADHD, but God knew I would before I was born. To me, that means there's a way for me to look for him and surrender my self-focus without scolding myself internally, without making myself feel guilty for NOT doing this sooner, without comparing myself negatively to all those people I know who wouldn't have dragged their feet this long... There's a way to get over this battleground so that I am not injured and I can see the truth of who God, my Abba, is more clearly.

For now, I think it means ending a blog post, taking my coffee cup, and heading downstairs.
Maybe I can listen to some of my stockpiled podcasts while I work.