Month: February 2016

Weather Wimps, Beware

If you live somewhere close to the equator, you may think you have it made. You don’t have to worry about blizzards, shoveling, snow days, or sub-zero temperatures. The weather reports are so boring where you live, it’s a wonder the meteorologist doesn’t fall asleep on the job. Eighty degrees and sunny all week, every week is not all that interesting. You may even have become a bit snobby about your warm weather location, boasting without reservation on social media while the rest of us suffer chronic hypothermia and mid-winter depression.

Maybe I’ve become bitter about the weather situation where I live. Literally. Because I’ve not-so-affectionately coined a phrase for all the warm-climate snobs out there. Weather Wimps.

Yes, Weather Wimps. You may never have to scrape ten-inch thick ice sheets from your car windows while icicles form in your nostrils and your long johns freeze to your thighs, but you don’t know what it is to endure the harsh reality of inclement winter weather. We in the Midwest are durable. We know how to survive the breath-choking heat of summer and the bone-chilling cold of winter, all in the same year—sometimes in the same month. We know how to layer up, and we know how to cool down. And our city infrastructure doesn’t shut down over a light dusting of snow.

You Weather Wimps will never know the rewards of our great suffering. Out here, we appreciate spring. We don’t take the sun for granted. The first green tree buds of the year are enough to make us pause and breathe thanks. A fragrant flower is not to be ignored. After a few months of frostbite-inducing cold, we wear a spring breeze like a royal garment. The heat of summer soon scorches relentlessly, but we get to witness an explosion of fall colors and treasure the crisp autumn air in the months to follow.

Midwestern weather patterns more realistically resemble human relationships. In every relationship, there’s the newness of spring, the scorching heat of summer, the beautiful yet mournful death of fall, and the frigid winds of winter. Weather Wimps, beware. If you approach relationships the way you approach your weather reports, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. No relationship is as perfect as a Southern California day. Relationships are rough-hewn and rugged. More like…a typical Chicago forecast.

True love is unfailing. It doesn’t cave when storms rush in. It doesn’t hibernate when emotions run cold. It’s as steadfast as a Midwesterner trapped in a polar vortex. Weather Wimps, take heed. You may be gloating over there, in your heated outdoor pool while we shovel our walks for the thousandth time. But you have something to learn from us Midwesterners. And it’s not just about the weather.

Source: Weather Wimps, Beware

The Day I Celebrated my 107th Birthday

I’m not even a half-century old, as some have come to believe—though I did celebrate my 107th birthday last year. My birthday does not fall on Leap Year. And while my memory is not completely in tact, I do recall the day I nearly doubled in age.

Remembering birthdays has never been my strong point, and it has nothing to do with old age. I don’t expect anyone but my immediate family to remember mine. Sometimes, I even forget my own birthday. So I entered it on Facebook as February 29, 1908 as a joke. That way I’d only have to celebrate once every four years, which is fine by me.

I’d forgotten all about it until I opened my account on February 28, 2015 to a timeline filled with birthday wishes—though those who really know me caught the humor behind it. After a good laugh, I thanked my well-wishers, apologized for the misunderstanding, and changed my birthday info in the account settings.

The whole thing got me thinking—how well do I really know my friends? There’s no way I could know every detail about everyone’s life, and I wouldn’t expect a small fraction of my friends to know the same about me. But those closest to me, know me—and I, them.

There are friends from different seasons of my life, all whom I love for the roles they’ve had in my life story. Some of those friends I know well, others I wish I’d had the chance to get to know better. Then there are those with whom I’ve shared the deepest valleys and the highest heights. We know each other well enough to “see into” each other. We don’t need social media to remind us the details of our lives, because we already know.

Beyond even the best of friendships, there is one who knows us better than we know ourselves. God not only knows the day we were born, he knew us before we were born. It says he knows our deepest thoughts and our unspoken desires. He sees the hidden corners of our hearts, yet loves us still. So, even if the world mistakenly believes me to be 107 years old, God counts the exact number of my days. Because true love knows.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:1-6)

Source: The Day I Celebrated my 107th Birthday

The Bear Lives

As a little girl I lived in full expectation my stuffed animals would one day come to life. My sister and I would tuck ourselves in our bedroom closet, close our eyes tight, and cover our heads in belief our little friends would drop from the trees of the play land we’d imagined in our heads. And almost every night, I’d pray God would do some miracle and I’d wake up to a room full of furry, friendly animals.

My favored candidate for transformation was a bear named Happy. I’d gotten the buff-colored, pointy-eared bear at a garage sale and loved it’s furry hair right off. It wasn’t the most beautiful sight by the time I was done with it. The orange-rimmed brown eyes were literally hanging by a thread. But the bear was clearly well-loved.

Many years passed, and most of my childhood toys, if they hadn’t suffered the fate of the dump truck, went the way of the neighborhood garage sale. My sentimental sister kept a few of our favorite bears, who survived long enough to meet our own children. But none of them came to life. Until one day.

She was THAT puppy who stood out from the rest. While the others clamored and clawed for food and attention, she sat quietly in the corner, shifting on her paws and pleading with her big brown eyes. I didn’t recognize her at first. Her ears were floppy and her topcoat was a greyish black. When we took her home and cleaned her up, I was met with a vague sense of familiarity. We trimmed off that topcoat to reveal a gloriously fluffy buff-colored coat of hair. And eventually, those floppy ears tipped upward.

I’m not saying my puppy Jazzie is my teddy bear incarnate. Her brown eyes aren’t rimmed with orange or hanging by a thread (thankfully). But I do find it funny that whenever I take her for a walk, people comment that she looks like a walking teddy bear. And when asked what breed Jazzie is, my daughter proudly replies, “She’s a puppy-bear!”

I believe my God has a keen sense of humor and an infinitely great memory. He remembered that prayer prayed in pure, childlike faith so many years ago, and he delights to show his love in the little things. This small answered prayer is a picture of the far more significant ways God has remembered me.

Take a look back at your own life, and you’ll see it, too. Little things no one could have known. The simplest, most pure desires of your heart. Things that say…you are remembered.

“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16)

Source: The Bear Lives

I See Royalty

When our vision changes, so do our actions. How would we act in the presence of a king or a queen? When we begin to see the average person as royalty, we’ll treat them the same.

Source: I See Royalty

The Day I Exploded

What happens in one moment can affect a lifetime, and too often hurtful things are said and done in those moments that we wish we could take back. But what is done beyond those moments is equally important. What will we model through how we respond when conflict does arise (as it will in every relationship)? Will we say we’re sorry when we’re wrong? And will we forgive those who wronged us? Those examples will outlast everything else.

Source: The Day I Exploded

My Feline Alarm Clock

It’s five in the morning, and something is scratching at the wood under my bed. Forcing my eyes open and my body to motion, I place my feet in my slippers and take one step forward, only to trip. Over my cat. Who’s darting out from under my bed with a look of smug satisfaction on her face. Phase one of her morning mission, accomplished. As she heads confidently to her food cabinet, she doesn’t know I’ve closed the door and crawled back in bed.

At 5:02, phase two of her mission is under way. She’s scratching at the door while I’m thinking how much I love my dog. Come 5:05, the scratching persists. I open the door and put on my best grouchy face, which isn’t so hard about now. Maybe she’ll get the hint. Instead, she tilts her head as her pupils triple in size. “Meow?” It sounds like she’s saying “now.” I shut the door gently as possible and crawl back in bed.

At 5:30, she’s on phase 12 of her morning mission: running down the hall and pouncing off the door. I’m wondering why we invested in an alarm clock when we have such a persistent cat. And thinking—if only I were this persistent, I might get more accomplished.

Annoyed as I am by my cat, I want to be like her. She’s persistent, even when she doesn’t get the results she wants when she wants them. When it comes to writing, it can be hard to persevere when we pour all our efforts into an article, blog, or book but don’t see immediate results. As for my cat, she knows eventually I’ll wake up and feed her. When it comes to writing, I need to know eventually I’ll see results—even if it’s the life of one person changed by something I’ve written.

It’s the same with love. There are times when it’s hard to love. There are times when we give love, but don’t receive it in return. There are times when we love someone through a difficult stage in life, yet don’t see the change we long to see. But true love requires persistence. If we stop loving when things get tough, it was never true love to begin with. True love persists in spite of obstacles. It “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” True love never fails.

Source: My Feline Alarm Clock

The Big Freeze

When I go to a department store in Midwest sub-zero temperatures, I expect to find hats, scarves, and warm mittens. Maybe even some thick long johns, if I’m lucky. Swimming isn’t usually on my family’s radar until the end of May. Where we live, January and February are best spent hibernating indoors. So when the arctic wind accompanies me through the automatic doors of the local store, I’m more than a little confused when I see swimsuits hanging on the racks where there should be something, anything to keep us all…warm.

Never mind that half the swimsuits on display lack sufficient material for summer coverage. If I even tried to jump in a pool in February, I’d transform on impact into an ice sculpture. What I’d really like to do is write the store managers behind the winter swimsuit displays and ask them if they actually live here in the Midwest. Because if they did, they’d know we don’t need swimsuits just about now. We need down coats and thermals.

This world can be a cold place. Even if you live in California. Or Hawaii. The bitter winds of life are strong enough to freeze a heart. And only love has the power to usher in life-giving warmth.

True love is relevant. It sees a need, and meets it—whether it be a kind word, a listening ear, a meaningful gift, or practical provision. It’s not like the Midwestern store owners who lack the relevance to meet their frozen customers’ actual needs. Love observes and understands, listens, hears, and sees—enough to know the deepest needs in a person’s life.

So when someone comes looking for encouragement or comfort, I hope they don’t find the equivalent of department store swimsuits in the sub-zero Midwest winter. My prayer is that my words and actions will bring warmth enough to usher a mid-winter thaw into a frozen heart—that what I say and do will wrap them in the life-transforming power of love.

Source: The Big Freeze