Captured in the Moment

Lessons in the Stream of Life


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Enough

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Do you ever think about all the things that never meet your expectations? Not enough rain; too much rain. Too hot; too cold. All the Charmin is sold out, and I have to buy the generic toilet paper. I have to cook when I’d rather go out.

The strangest things pop into my head when I’m out in the yard looking for the treasure that I know God’s left me to find. Today it happened as I was looking at the droplets of water clinging to my Gerbera daisies.

It wasn’t supposed to rain last night or today, yet it has again. We’ve had so much precipitation here in Dallas-Fort Worth over the last few weeks. That, along with the measures I’ve imposed to protect myself and others from exposure to the Coronavirus, have me feeling a bit cabin-feverish. For a half second, I felt myself feeling deprived of the ability to make a run out on a trail, or to take a drive to scope out wildflowers and snap some photographs.

On the heels of my disappointment, I felt prompted to shift my perspective. I think God does that to me a lot these days, and he leads me to a more positive space where I can stand on higher ground and at a enough of distance away from myself to understand that what I want isn’t always what is best for me. What if the rain, running late to a meeting, or having to cancel a trip is somehow protection in another way? What if it frees up time that I’m frittering away for something that’s more important?

I’m wanting so much to stand in the moment these days – to stop looking into the future for joy or happiness. I cry out so often to be able to step off the merry-go-round for just a little while, and now I have the opportunity.  I need it to be enough. It may not look the way I expected it to look, but in a way, this isolation is an answer to a prayer. I’ve already wasted parts of this last week lamenting what’s not here. Perhaps I need to look at what is here, embrace whatever time is left, and enjoy it with wild abandon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

He says, “Be still, and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3


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Time Out

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Photo Credit: Christina Bynum-Breaux, Simply Black and White Photography, Keller, Texas

When my boys were little, I worked hard to teach them how to resolve their differences without hitting one another or seeking out parental support for their cause against the other. If they fought, I would place them both in time out and ask them to think about a solution to their issue that could make them both happy. My goal was to forge a stronger relationship between the two of them and to teach them positive resolution skills.

I think of this today as all of humanity is facing the single biggest threat to our lives, both literally and figuratively. This COVID-19 virus is pulling the rug out from under every foundation that has held us up, and we are quickly finding that those foundations have been built on sand. Our jobs have disappeared overnight. Our health is threatened by sharing the air we breathe with the person standing next to us. We are fighting among ourselves for food, toilet tissue, sanitizers, and more.

Like my boys when they tussled, we have a choice to continue divided or to find common ground. At this moment in time, we’re all in time out together – rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, black, white, or brown. Whether we want to accept it or not yet, we are on the same team. And teams don’t successfully make their way down the court or the field without a unified effort. Our very survival depends more upon our ability to support one another and work out solutions than on winning or losing as individuals.

Our world and the human beings that inhabit it have become so broken, and I can’t help but wonder if a crisis like this isn’t nature’s way of correcting our path – of shining a light on the fact that our selfishness and the divisions we’ve created with our unyielding stances are killing our bodies, our souls, and our planet. We have to stop waiting on someone else to fix it and take responsibility for making a conscious contribution to healing by taking the small step, every time we are faced with a me versus you choice, to choose us.

My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. 1 John 3:18

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives you by means of the peace that binds you together. Ephesians 4:2-3


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Hitting the mom jackpot

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Photo Credit: Simply Black & White Photography, Keller, Texas

Some days you just feel like you’ve pulled the arm on a coin slot machine and silver dollars are pouring all over your feet! That’s how Mother’s Day was for me yesterday, and I wasn’t even in town to spend it with my boys.

Instead, I’m away enjoying the generosity of my husband and anticipating a photography workshop several hours away from home. Since my youngest couldn’t be home from college in time for the big day, we had already decided to consolidate our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations in June, so I skipped out of town a couple of days early to visit a close friend that lives near my destination. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much to happen. Mother’s Day was on pause as far as I was concerned.

Maybe that’s why the flowers and text from my youngest son, phone call from my oldest son, and text from one of my shared sons lit up my sky like the 4th of July. (Isn’t that a line in a song?) It’s hard to express how blessed and overflowing your heart can feel at all the goodness in your life sometimes – just like those coins pouring from the slot machine. It just keeps flowing out in a stream that puddles at your feet and grows into mounds the longer it goes.

It’s the next day, and I still feel the glow of the gratitude to have such loving and giving young men call me mom. I’m grateful for their love and their appreciation for all I’ve given them over the years. In return, I am grateful to them for being one of the most significant sources of refinement that I have ever had. I doubt they will ever know the many gifts that they have given me that have molded me into a far better person than I ever was when I held them (or met them-I’ve been blessed with an extra helping of shared sons) for the first time.

For me, the true blessing in motherhood is in understanding that the experience will forever change me in ways that I never could have anticipated. I am a better human being thanks to the joys and challenges of being a mother.

 


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Man’s search for meaning

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I know – I’m stealing the title of a very famous book (Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, 1946) as the header for this post, but it’s the one that fits. I haven’t yet read it to know if I’m stealing his ideas, so I’ll risk being repetitive. All I know is that we all look for it at one time or another – that sense of purpose that makes life on this Earth mean something.

I ran across a quote from an old blog post by Terri Savelle Foy today that really made me think about purpose and about how many of us may have missed the boat on our own purpose by buying into the belief that our contributions only matter if we’ve done them on a large scale – you know, been famous for saving a corner of the world in some way that makes newspaper headlines. It made me wonder how many days I’ve wasted and left no positive footprint. I asked myself a big what-if question – what if our most important purpose is in the day-in and day-out kindness we offer to loved ones and strangers?

The more I think about it, the more right that option feels, and it helps me to see how we can all have so much more influence than we are led to believe. What if we helped that frazzled mom quiet her crying baby instead of scowling at her in anger for failing to control it? What if we smiled at people and looked them in the eye, acknowledging their presence, instead of passing them by as if they are invisible? What if we held the door for the person behind us? What if we told them they had the most beautiful color of blue eyes we’d ever seen?

We don’t have to be rich or have lots of free time. We don’t have to have any extra resources except for being present and being mindful that we have a choice to be kind or a choice to be hurtful in that split second of our encounter. What if our choice to be kind changes the whole trajectory of someone else’s day? I think of the times that I’ve been the recipient of someone else’s kindness, and my heart kind of swells at the realization of how often I have the opportunity to make a difference in another person’s life with one small act, word or expression. I don’t want to waste any more days being caught up in things that won’t matter when I’m gone. I want the time I have left on Earth to count, so before I run out of it, I’m making a commitment to look up and to participate in a positive way. I get more clarity all the time – we only have one chance to make a difference in the right now. Just do it! (Yes, I’m stealing again – this time from Nike, but it fits.)

                         Your life is precious. Every single day you live is a day recorded in history never to be relived again.

Terri Savelle Foy

 

 

 


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We may never pass this way again

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Post, Texas April 16, 2016

Several years ago, I began making more road trips than I ever have – visits to my parents, moving kids to and from college, weddings, funerals, and girl trips with my friends. Most of my travel is getting to some place for a specific purpose and then turning around for home – definitely nothing to get too excited about! But this last couple of years, I’ve started to wonder more about the places I visit as well as the stops along the way. I find the lure of the billboard advertising “the best thumbprint cookies in Texas” almost too much to pass up, and I find myself veering off the highway more and more often to indulge those little wonderings.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate taking the road less traveled when opportunity allows. My excursions tack a little extra time on to my trips, but I take a lot of pleasure in finding the occasional treasure along the brick-paved streets of long-abandoned downtowns, the beautiful detail of historic buildings, and the faded paint of advertisements on the brick walls of buildings. If I’m lucky, I find a local cafe, a bakery  or a cute little place to shop to help break up the drive. I figure I may as well see what there is to see while I’m in the neighborhood.

In the back of my mind, I hear the words to an old Seals and Crofts song, We May Never Pass This Way Again. I am reminded that life is short and that I must make a conscious choice to seek joy in each day lest I get lost in the monotony of my routines. For me, this means taking everything in and avoiding the temptation to take it all for granted as I speed through life. It means stopping to feed my curiosity on the road and at home – by seeing what is around me and enjoying something every day that I’ve never noticed before.


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Fraidy Cat

beta fishI’ve got to admit that I’m a big chicken about a lot of things, but nothing as much as putting myself out there in the world. Like a beta in a fish bowl, I feel like ducking into the floating ivy and disappearing when anyone stops to take a closer look at me or what I’m doing. That’s exactly why I decided to start this blog a couple of years ago. There’s no better way to get over your fears than to just plop yourself out in front of the whole world where even perfect strangers have the opportunity to take jabs at you that make you want to run away!

If you’ve read more than this post, you’ll see that my initital efforts have been half-hearted – okay, maybe invisible – but lately I hear life whispering in my ear to “just do it” and see what happens. Maybe I’m a little naive, but when I ask myself, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen,’ my best answer is that someone might be mean to me and say hateful things. The one thing I know is that I won’t die, and in the process I might just connect with someone out there that experiences the same things in life that I do. It’s always nice to know that you aren’t completely alone in your craziness, right?

There’s something about the latter stages of mid-life that really challenges me to move through my fears and experience life in a more raw state of uncensored feelings. Add to this that I’m supremely exhausted from all the stimulus that incites unnecessary fear in my life, and I feel like I’m ready to jump from the cliff and trust that it will take me to far more interesting internal places and joy than I’ve ever experienced. If not, there’s nothing lost, and I’ll have chalked up a new experience. Works for me!

 


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Clearing cobwebs and clutter, Part 2

IMG_0739It’s kind of embarrassing when you start to realize just how much stuff one family can have when there’s so much lack and suffering in the lives of others. I’m pretty sure now that this exercise in downsizing was as much for me to learn something about myself as it was to diminish our possessions and have a greater appreciation of what is really necessary to be happy in this life.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood all this in my head. I’ve always considered my family to be generous with our resources, but it’s different when you begin to really get it on what I call a soul level. It’s like the light going on and understanding that you don’t need all the stuff you have just because you can have it – and also understanding that somewhere along the way all that stuff we have becomes a burden of maintenance, storage, etc.

Needless to say, I’m not out of the clearing stages just yet. With each new day, I get a little more clarity and I shed a little more of the stuff I thought I really needed to move with me this time. Sometimes it’s painful to acknowledge that a hobby I had for years just doesn’t interest me anymore. I gaze at the hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars of stuff I have to enjoy that hobby, and something in me begins to wheedle and bargain to make a case for keeping it. It tells me that I have so much money and time invested. What if I need it again? The tape rolls over and over in my brain until one of us wins.

I’m happy to say that six months into our temporary home, we are really beginning to own what makes us happy and rid ourselves of what doesn’t. We’ve found that it is seldom our stuff that brings us joy – unless it’s our memorabilia like photos, old baseball jerseys, and yearbooks. But even so, I’m seeing that those things are of no use to us unless we can enjoy them, which doesn’t happen buried in a box and lost in the hidden spaces of our home.

I’m condensing the boys’ things down to the things I really think will matter. Ticket stubs to every game they ever played have made it to the recycling bin along with a heap of other questionable treasures. What remains are the things that I know hold special memories for them, and the rest are those that hold special memories for me in relation to them (along with a little note telling them why I kept it). I figure when I’m dead and gone, they will find it, look through it fondly, trash what is meaningless, and save their own treasures.

I am finding a great lifting of my spirits as we lighten the load of stuff around our home. I find I laugh more and enjoy life more. Perhaps clearing our physical stuff is just a metaphor for something greater. Whatever it is, I’ll continue sorting and letting go. I like the end result, and I know my kids will appreciate that I’ve already done most of the dirty work one day when we kick the bucket and it becomes their job to clean out what remains!