Monday, March 29, 2010

On Being a Little Fish

I have a vivid memory of the Halloween parade when I was in kindergarten. Parade might be a loose term for it. Basically, we all donned our Halloween apparel and in our best follow the leader style took the stairs from the belly of the elementary school to the top. Once there we were walked in and out of the classrooms of the older fifth and sixth grade kids. I don't remember what my costume was. What I remember was the thought that I had better stay right on the tail of whichever child was in front of me or I might get lost and never be found again.



A few years later, I was one of the older girls commenting on how cute the kindergartners were. The school that had once seemed so overwhelmingly big was now quite a nice size. I was familiar with classrooms on every floor and quite comfortable.



The next year I was unceremoniously thrust into junior high – from big fish in a little pond to little fish in a big pond. Like most people, I think I liked being the big fish rather than the little fish. Maybe I still like it that way. It's safer somehow.



Last year at this time, I started doing Catch the Wave – a 10 week beginning running group. Actually, I started a couple weeks late. Add to that my naturally slow pace; I ended up in the bottom group. Given my speed, it was probably where I belonged. Still, it chaffed a bit to be in the slowest group.



I am use to doing well in my endeavors. I was a mostly A+ student and was horrified by a B. (Math was my downfall.) I have a natural ability to learn. If someone can explain the why and how of something, I can usually take even an abstract concept and run with it.



But I had never been a runner by nature. I knew that going into it. Still, I was disappointed. While I knew I wasn't likely to win, I wanted to do well.



While I am still not a stellar runner, I helping to lead the Catch the Wave (CTW) group. I am leading the slowest group. From my group members and even comments from the group above us, there is some frustration at being at the bottom. Coming in last really isn't much fun.



But maybe there is something to learn from being the little fish, the one at the back, the one that comes in last. Oh, don't get me wrong. I like to win. I like to do well at things, but what can you learn from being a little fish:


·         Sometimes the joy is in being part of the race rather than the destination.

·         Sometimes it is about the people you meet on the way rather than the few you would meet if you went straight to the top.

·         There is satisfaction in doing your best no matter the outcome.

·         Perhaps the goal is doing better or going farther than you did last time rather than beating the other person.



Growth, while painful and uncomfortable at times, is about being stretched. Big fishes in little ponds have nowhere to go. They have no need to stretch and grow. Little fishes in big ponds have everywhere to stretch and grow.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Live from Merna?

According to the Census, I live in Merna. Hmm. I think I may have driven through there once or twice trying to find my way to small town foster parents' homes when I worked in social services, but I've never even gotten gas there. I'm not even sure if you can get gas there.

I had heard that there was problem with some of the census forms going out to residents of Normal, IL – that they had been incorrectly labeled as Merna. I thought maybe they were the forms closer to that side of town. Apparently, even those of us in the heart of Normal can get them too. I am told that I can still send it back and be correctly counted as living in Normal. Still, it is a bit disconcerting.

I'm assuming that it was an error with a computer program that caused the glitch. The street address and the zip were correct. While they say that the bar code on the form will get it correctly counted, I wonder what the litmus test for that was.

I suppose we will find out if Merna's population explodes.

That's all from Merna or Normal or wherever I am.


Closed Due To CLEMENT Weather

"Closed due to CLEMENT weather." If only I could hang that sign on the door today.

But, we rarely close for inclement weather. Those out of town sometimes manage to call in because the roads are impassable. But I always seem to make it in. I doubt the powers that be would let us close for nice weather.

Still, my body and soul long for Sunday. Today seems like the perfect one.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Forward

Yes, it is that wonderful time of the year when we change our clocks. We spring forward, so we lose an hour of sleep. While I am not a fan of that, I am pleased that it means an extra hour of daylight!


I've lived in places that participate in daylight savings and places that don't. When I lived in Indiana, it was always interesting because part of the state (the northwest and southwest tips) did participate and the rest didn't. However, I don't remember feeling deprived of daylight when I lived in central Indiana. It was nice not to have to worry about the clocks.


I do have a question. If spring forward gives us more daylight, why don't we just stay on that time? At some point in the fall, does it give us less daylight? Maybe my perception is off, but it seems that the only thing that happens when we "fall back" is that we get plunged into darkness. Again, that is my perception and it might be off, but I never seem to find the benefit there.


My alarm clock automatically adjusts for daylight savings, so I shouldn't be late on Sunday. But I do need to see if I can find the car manual so I can figure out how to change the clock in the car. The bad thing about only doing it twice a year is I can never remember how to do it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Have Faith, Will Follow

In 1996 I had been on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) for five years at Indiana University. I still loved working with students, but I felt the tug to venture somewhere else. I began looking for the possibility of transferring with IVCF to another school. The possibility of moving to Illinois came about. I had thought that I would move in 1997, but the team leader in Illinois was interested in me moving so that I would be in place the fall of 1996.

I decided to move. However, my summer was booked with camps and various things so that making a trip to Bloomington Normal was next to impossible. I had talked to another staff, Marcia Wang, and we had decided we would room together. She found a place. In August I moved to a new city without ever having visited. My adventurous thought was that if I were moving to Africa as a missionary I might never have done a preliminary visit either.

While it worked out well, I sometimes marvel at my willingness to go sight unseen. Perhaps, I am more cautious the older I get or I rely on the conventional wisdom of look before you leap.

As I've thought about it, it has come to mind that sometimes God says "Go" without laying out the entire plan. I want an itinerary. We will make the following stops. The trip will take so many days, etc. But looking at scripture, it seems that God often does not lay out every step. When he called Abram/Abraham to leave his home it was only with the statement that he was to go to a land that God would show him. It seems too vague me. Or when the early Christians were spreading the good news, it seems that they were often lucky to know the next step. Sometimes, like for Paul, that came in a dream.

It isn't just with traveling that God sometimes gives the instruction and possibly a long term end point but leaves out the middle.

Again, God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. Abraham had to wait many years for the promised son. My logic says that Abraham and Sarah would have multiplied like the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting. But Abraham's line didn't really start multiply until his 12 great grandkids. And in hindsight, it seems that Abraham's biological kids weren't really what God meant. Yes, God used Abraham's descendants to spread His word, but in many respects, it seems that Abraham's offspring that outnumber the stars are really faith descendants.

A few years ago, I felt God prompting me to leave my job and start a private practice in counseling. It was risky and nerve racking. Honestly, it didn't turn out at all like I expected. Within a year, I had closed what I had just opened. Did it turn out like I expected? No. Do I still think God wanted me to do it? Yes.

I had been working as a social worker in foster care. The job was exhausting. I sometimes worked all day and then supervised parent child visits in the evening. It didn't leave me much time for anything else.

About the time that I found office space and had my last day, I met Bill. Bill worked third shift at the local paper. We ended up spending some time together on just about a daily basis. That wouldn't have been at all possible with my work schedule as a foster care social worker and his third shift job. I thought that the practice was the goal. In hindsight I think that giving me that time with Bill was the goal. (Bill died suddenly in late April of that year.)

I like knowing the steps in a journey. But I am learning that with God it is more about trusting the one who says "Move" or "Stop" or "Turn" or "Rest" or any number of directions.

In traveling we might say, "Have passport, will travel."

With God we must be willing to give up our preconceived notions and perhaps we should say, "Have faith, will follow."

God's work in progress,


Monday, March 8, 2010

When My World Is Shaking

When I was in college, southern Indiana experienced a few minor earthquakes. There was a prediction of a bigger one later in the term. My classmates and I were ready to believe the worst. We lobbied our professors to let us off that day. They took it all in stride and said, "No." In one class we were scheduled to do presentations. Dr. Bock told us that anyone who was giving a presentation during an earthquake would get an automatic A. There were no earthquakes that day.

This morning on the way in, I heard that Turkey experienced an earthquake this morning. I think that makes 3 countries experiencing earthquakes in 2 months: Haiti, Chile, and Turkey. Sobering.

It made me think of the song by JJ Heller entitled "In Your Hands."

I have unanswered prayers

I have trouble I wish wasn't there

I have asked a thousand ways

That you would take my pain away

That you would take my pain away

I am trying to understand

How to walk this weary land

Make straight the path a crooked line

Oh Lord before these feet of mine

Oh Lord before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

When you walked upon this earth

You healed the broken, lost, and hurt

I know you hate to see me cry

One day you will set all things right

Yeah, one day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave your hands

Your hands

Your hands that shaped the world

Are holding me, they hold me still

Your hands that shaped the world

Are holding me, they hold me still

I do not claim to understand what it is like to live through a major earthquake. The minor ones I have felt hardly count – like pinching your finger in a door. But I do think that these lines are true. When our worlds shake – literally or figuratively – heaven stands. When our hearts are breaking, we remain in God's hands. Perhaps like any parent whose child is heart, God holds us even closer.

Please pray for Haiti, Chile, and Turkey.

God's work in progress,


Friday, March 5, 2010

No Good At Waiting

I like to teach my pets tricks. Both cats (Katy and Mali) come when called. I've gone as far as to teach Mali to jump through a hoop. So, when I got Hadley (my floppy eared Beagle), she had to learn some things too. At first, it was sit, stay, come, down, etc. But as we moved into winter, I wanted to keep her engaged. We've attempted shake and rollover.

Recently, I've attempted to work on "take it" with her.

I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe. Click here to finish reading this post.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Anxiety Is My Closest Friend

Anxiety is my closest friend. Seriously. She keeps me up until all hours talking, perseverating. She rings me up in the midst of work, wondering when I will have more time for her, extrapolating on details that make my head spin. She meets me at the door with a pile of bills. Lest I forget, she reminds me of the 101 things that dot my list of things to do. When my attention wanders, she squeals until my eyes, mind, and heart are riveted back on her. She sets my priorities. She pushes me when I just need a moment of rest, reminding me of what might happen if things are tended to. The more insistent she is, the more attention I give her. The more attention I give her, the more insistent she is.

But I would rather have peace. I came upon this definition of peace recently:


It does not mean to be in a place

where there is no noise,

trouble or hard work.

It means to be in the midst

of those thnings and still

be calm in your heart.

(author unknown)

So what brings you peace when the world comes crashing in? What brings you pace in the midst of trouble?

Looking at the one who holds me in His hands. Listening to the one who quiets me with His love (Zephaniah 3:17).

But if I know that, why is it so hard?

Because the world is loud with flashing lights.

Because I have so often listened to anxiety and worry that I hear them best instead of listening to the still, small voice, the whisper on the mountain that is God.

So I need to practice listening to God so that I hear him best. I need to train my ears, my eyes, my heart. I need to tune them to the one who can calm my heart in the midst of life.

Any tips on tuning into peace?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No Dropped Stitches

Growing up, my mom taught us to knit. Each of us girls made a doll blanket. But that was the extent of our interest. When I went to college, I spent a semester in England. A woman who owned a wool shop came into Harlaxton College (University of Evansville's branch campus in Grantham, England) and gave free knitting lessons. Of course, we all bought our knitting supplies from her. About three fourths of the 200 students learned to knit that semester. Men and women could both be found carrying their knitting all over the castle. Once a week, about 30 students gathered in the TV room to watch what few American TV shows we managed to garnish from across the "pond." (Yes, this was in 1988. No internet based TV for us!)


That semester I made two sweaters. Recently, I picked it up again. Knitting always makes me think of the verse in Psalms that says God knit me together in my mother's womb. Knitting. It takes time. It takes patience. In reality, it is an intricate weaving of the yarn in and around itself. If you just knit across and then back, you get a bumpy pattern. If you knit across and use a pearl stitch back, you get a smooth "stockinet" pattern on the right side. Two stitches. You can combine them a number of different ways to make intricate patterns.


Some of it takes counting. I actually count a lot while knitting just to make sure I haven't dropped a stitch. A dropped stitch will inevitably leave a hole and mar the design.


Knitting. Time intensive design that is built one stitch at a time.


Knowing this, what are the implications for that verse about God knitting me together?


God took time.


He combined a multitude of stitches one by one to make me who I am.


He was careful with the design.


Each stitch, each hair on my head, is counted as valuable.


And God didn't drop any stitches. There are no holes even when I fell less than perfect. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.


Now, if I could just remember that, perhaps I could thank God for my curls or a nose that I think is too pointy or face too long or a crooked finger. Each and every detail was lovingly worked, knit together, in an intricate pattern that God calls beautiful. Who am I to argue? Okay, I do argue about it, but I probably shouldn't!


I am a less than perfect knitter, but I can rest in knowing that there are no dropped stitches with God.