Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How much difference could one life make?

Lucas Donovan on a walkabout with Grandpa.

I call him Little Bean. When he's a teenager, he's going to love me for it.

When my 43-year-old brother told me he and my sister-in-law were expecting, I thought, "expecting what?"

My family long ago gave up on babies. I've never married, so they weren't coming from me. My brother and his first wife, also, never had children. My parents were grandparentless. And, yes, we lived with heartache.

Things changed a few years ago when my brother remarried. His wife, Jody, had three young daughters from a previous marriage. So now our family had kiddos! I've loved being an aunt to these girls. But a new baby?

Nah. Never going to happen. And for years, it didn't.

Lucas and his daddy.

Life loves surprises.

On Valentine's Weekend 2016, I got a call from my brother late one night. "I need to talk to you," he said. "Something has happened."

Oh geez. Here we go. "Okay, what's going on?"

He blurts out, "We're expecting..."

I added the ellipsis (...) to the quote because that's how I heard it. I kept waiting for him to finish the sentence, while I quietly freaked out, 'How bad is it?! What could he possibly be expecting?'

Brendon, Jody, and Little Bean

Then it hit me. 


Got it.

Every life starts small. 

Oh the nephew smooshiness. 
My brother gave me the delivery date and we laughed and cried and debated dimensions. We figured, at this stage, he was roughly the size of a pinto. Or a lima. So I nicknamed him Little Bean.

I wanted to mark the moment his life entered mine. But, also, to give him a nickname that would embarrass him for decades.

I did good.

Lucas with Mommy

Suddenly, this little guy, all by his little self and all before even being born, made me hope again. Dream again. Wonder if the impossible was, at times, possible because - for my family and for this moment - it was.

I laughed louder at jokes, cried harder at movies. I wasn't the one pregnant, but my hormones didn't know it.

This kid made me view any difficult day with less angst because, no matter what happened, life was still coming.

Life begats more life. 

Lucas loves Grandma cuddles. 
He's had a big impact for one little dude. His life has forever altered the lives of his parents, grandparents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the list will only go on.

One little boy.

One life.

Since the passage of Roe v Wade in 1973, we've lost 58.5 million lives to abortion.

I'll just leave that right there.

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy
I am come that they might have life
and that they might have it more abundantly."

 John 10:10 KJV

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The more I know the less I understand

Don Henley told me that once. I was listening to my radio in 1989 and he was on the other side of it trying to get down to the heart of the matter. Albert Einstein listened to Henley, too, because he once said, "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know."

What a peachy fact of life.

Recently, I celebrated a big birthday, the birthday-that-shall-not-be-named. Every time I say it out loud, I black out.

What's shocked me more than the number is reaching this point in life and still struggling with basic life questions, like:

  • Where to from here?
  • What should I be doing with my life?
  • What's my purpose?
  • Why haven't I purchased an easy grip jar opener by now? 

I mean, really, how many times do I need to bruise my palms before I accept there are jars not meant to be opened?

Stupid pickles.

The not knowing.

Many of these questions we wrestle with our entire lives. I get that. Part of the struggle will always be finding peace with the mystery. Still. I don't know about you, but living in the unknown is antithetical to my personality.

Problems need solutions.
Ignorance needs education.
And all mysteries must be solved. 

Faith asks for something quite different, though. It says to believe without seeing. Hope without reason. Move forward on a darkened path.


The second harvest.

But I have a theory.

What if there was more to find? We traversed life harvesting what we could, but what if there was grain left behind?

I got the idea recently after reading the story of Ruth, who found her future in a field.

A common practice in ancient times was for the poor to go through fields after harvest and gather what was left behind. And God made sure there would always be something left behind.

"When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 23:22 NLT

By following after the harvesters, Ruth found food for herself and her mother-in-law. This sustained them until Boaz, the owner of the field, redeemed her in marriage. Together, they had a son, Obed, who ended up being the grandfather of King David.

Not bad for a poor girl gleaning a second harvest.

The next time around. 

To celebrate the birthday-that-shall-not-be-named, I've decided to set aside my plans to take a European, yet also tropical, vacation, while throwing a massive party extravaganza for myself after checking off all the items on my bucket list.

Instead, I'm taking a trip into the past.

Because I'm a girl who likes cheap, meaningful experiences.

What I hope to do is visit the people who have impacted my life up to this point. Not to reminisce. The past is nearly always best left where it lands. This is to remind myself what I gleaned from them the first time and, if my theory stands, glean more.

This is me walking the fields after the harvest. Like Ruth. Except for the whole sneaking down into the threshing floor scene. Breathe easy, men, I won't be uncovering anyone's feet. (Hey, that's a decent joke. If you didn't get it, read Ruth 3.)

The rules.

If this inspires you to do the same, join me! Here are the rules, which I can't actually enforce but I hope you follow them anyway.

1) Do this in person. 

We are far too disconnected as a culture. We text instead of call, converse on a thread instead of at a dinner party. Face-to-face time is a crucial element to building intimacy and closeness in relationships. So sit down together. Share a cup of coffee. Take a walk. But do your second harvest in person.

2) Don't visit bad memories.

This adventure will become dangerous and unhealthy if it turns into digging up graves and exhuming bodies. When you make a list of people you want to revisit, focus only on those who left a positive impact. Not on settling scores or getting closure. This is not that.

3) Take what comes. 

This journey will have a mind of its own. Which means you may not unearth any life-altering revelations. You may discover something entirely unexpected. So go forward with excitement, but not expectations.

4) Tell them their impact.

We rarely know what impact we have on the lives of others. But wouldn't it be cool if we did? This is your opportunity to pay that forward. Give to someone else what you'd love to get. Besides, if you don't tell them what they've meant to you, who will?

5) Share!

Comment below. Blog about it, which is what I'll be doing, too. Post and tweet about it. And, if you do, use #My2ndHarvest so I can find you and I'll share your experiences, too.

The first harvest may have ended. But the fields are open for a second round. Go out there and gather some grain, my friends.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

You may already be a success. And don't know it.

A friend recently asked me a question. Then told me not to answer.

We were discussing another business venture I was embarking on because I'm always embarking on something. Since he was joining me for this voyage, we needed to go through our next steps. Then he stopped mid-sentence.

"Before we can go any further, I need to know what you call success."

I could Merriam-Webster it for him, if he wanted.

"What's your definition of success?" he clarified. "Before we can start this, I need to know how you define it." Then he told me not to answer. "Just think about it. You need to spend time on it because how can you know you've achieved it until you've clearly defined it?"

I started to say, 'I'll just feel it,' but stopped myself before sounding like a millennial.

Hungry Is As Hungry Does

When I asked him for an example of what he meant, he told me about his dad.

An entrepreneur, too, his father worked for himself for one major reason: he wanted to eat lunch when he was hungry. While most companies established the lunch break between noon and 1 pm, his dad said he wasn't always hungry between noon and 1 pm.

"'What if I'm hungry at 11?' Dad said. 'Or 1:30?' He didn't want it dictated to him when he had to eat. He wanted the freedom to eat when he was hungry and not eat when he wasn't. Having that freedom, for him, was success."

Thinking Outside the Clock

For me, the definition came down to time. Not books sold. Not money made. Not recognition. Just time, oddly enough.

What I didn't want was to spend it in unnecessary meetings, obligatory luncheons, and seeking dust-collecting awards. I'm not a schmoozer. I don't need applause. I don't care if anyone knows my name, unless they want to buy my book. Then I want it tattooed inside their eyelids.

What I did want was to spend my time with the people in my life, to write entertaining/witty/thought-provoking stories, and to work on projects for organizations with eternal value. To do that meant I needed to have control over my time.

Control over my time = success 

It also meant I could eat only when I was hungry.

A Life By Any Other Name

Even though we try to avoid it, we often define our success according to cultural or family expectations. We never stop to put our own definition to it because the world has already done the hard work and defined it for us.

We've been convinced that happiness doesn't come until we...make a specific yearly salary...hold a prestigious title...receive peer in a certain neighborhood...follow all the fashion fads...vacation in certain destinations...exude a predetermined beauty standard...have a recognizable name...and so on.

We're often chasing after a success that, once caught, we may not even want.

No wonder some of the richest, most famous among us are also the most miserable. They've achieved "success." And to fully embrace all that happiness, they self-medicate to get through the day.

Your Private Award's Ceremony

We must define our idea of success. I didn't realize how dissatisfied I was with my achievements until I recognized my standard for judging wasn't my own. It had been implanted in me years ago and never forcefully challenged.

I realized what the majority of the world viewed as success, I did not. So I've stopped seeking it.

Maybe it's that way for you, too. You may not even realize you're desperately working for something that, once achieved, you won't want. Or maybe not. But we don't know until we take the time to define success for ourselves.

And, in the end, your definition might surprise you. In fact, you may discover what I did. That success was something I'd already achieved.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The best year yet? Yes, No, Maybe.

"These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test 
those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. 
He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites 
who had no experience in battle." 
Judges 3:1-2

I'm sorry. What?

He left them? On purpose?

When I read this chapter recently, I asked God if He was punking me. But, apparently, everyone's Bible says this.

God leaves problems, challenges, even enemies in our path to "teach warfare." He didn't hold a class or send a memo. He created an environment that would guarantee future generations would get "experience in battle."

That seems all kinds of wrong. Why would He do that?

My first thought was because God doesn't raise snowflakes, He makes warriors. Booyah. He knew the experience of warfare would convince Israel that God was with them. That their faith would give them boldness. And that boldness would ensure they wouldn't shrink back from conquering new land.

It was like a one-two-three punch knockout strategy. God was showing Israel that their battles scars weren't injuries, they were military stripes marking their rank.

And now, 2017

Well, hello there new year.

One popular phrase I've heard this year has been, "May 2017 be your best year ever." I appreciate the sentiment. But I'm annoyingly future-minded, so my next thought is, "Does that mean 2018 will suck?"

It's not that I wouldn't mind 12 months of bliss. But, let's get real. There's no such thing.

I'd love to believe 2017 will be the year where everything goes amazingly perfect, all my goals are reached, all my hopes are realized, all my pain disappears, and all my days are a balmy 72-degrees with a light southerly breeze. I'd also love to have dinner with Cary Grant on a riverboat cruise, but I'm not going out shopping for water-resistant evening attire.

Sidenote question, is there such a thing as water-resistant evening attire?

Challenges will come

I say lots of things lightly, but not this. To be perfectly honest, I acknowledge this fact with a tinge of fear. Unknown challenges frighten me. As do unknown blessings. Anything unknown, basically. I don't like it.

But the longer I've thought about those verses in Judges, the less anxious I feel about approaching a new year with all those waiting unknowns.

In those verses, God appears to be giving Israel a glimpse into what's to come, as well as encouragement that He was the master planner behind it. He's showing them that the presence of enemies is not the absence of God, nor the indicator of future loss.

He didn't leave the enemies in the land to give Israel something to worry about. He left the enemy behind to give Israel victory.

God had promised Israel blessings. And the battles brought an opportunity for God to show Israel just how big, how monumental, how gracious, how lavish, His blessings would be. The reality of the challenges He left behind was actually evidence of the blessings He already had planned.

Yes? See where I'm going with this? I'm on a roll here, people. Can I get an amen? I'm going to pretend I got one.

All things new

There may be a few problems that followed you - uninvited like - into 2017. In fact, there may be a few problems that have crossed the midnight divide over many New Year's Eves.

When they appear yet again in a brand new year, it can make you feel as if this year will be like all the others - still no victory, still no overcoming, still no prayer answered, still no land conquered.

There's no way of knowing, of course, if this year will be any different. Any better. Any worse. You can't trust crystal balls, positive thinking, or pollsters to forecast the future.

What you can trust is this: God never leaves behind an enemy He doesn't already have a plan to defeat. He didn't for the Israelites and He doesn't for us.

So, take heart and hold on. Victory is coming. Neither the proximity of an enemy nor the length of the battle is an indicator of the outcome. God has a path for you, all He's asking is for you to trust Him.

And, who knows. 2017 really could be the best year, yet.