(PS I’m on a blog break this week while prepping for a retreat. Thanks to Katie for letting me shamelessly plug her new tune.)
My ridiculously talented wife, Katie, created this original song and video piece to celebrate Ryder’s one-year birthday. What a huge gift to Ryder and to our family. Thanks, love – beautiful, powerful, inspiring, thoughtful, heart-filled work.
I’m not trying to be snarky, I just know that the middle school and high school students I often work with speak only with their thumbs and I’m trying to sound like I totally, like, fit in and stuff.
Anyway, my friend Liz sent me an email a while back. And it was a great gift.
My friend’s email was chock full of words, as human communication often is. But it was the words my friend chose and the order they were arranged in that made all the difference. These were blessing words.
A blessing is an ancient tradition. Back in biblical times (when Moses rode around on dinosaurs), a blessing was how one person imparted certain things to another person. Things like:
- Hope for a better future.
- Authority to accomplish great things.
- A clearer sense of identity and mission.
In other words, a blessing communicated to a person, “This is who you are! This is what you are to be about!” Which is why blessings can be such gifts.
Because we all have the memory of a goldfish (which I’m told is about 30 seconds long, though I’d love to meet the poor researcher who had to spend their time discovering this), we easily forget who we are and the important work/play we need to be about. We forget that much of what fills our calendar and our closets and our refrigerator and our inboxes may have nothing to do with the unique person God made each of us to be. We forget that we are beloved, adopted, set apart. Blessings bring us back home to reality.
I’m grateful my friend Liz sent me my email blessing. It reminded me of truth in the very moment truth’s voice was the toughest to hear. And it made me think: who do I need to bless today? Who in my life needs reminding of how special and loved they are? What’s keeping me from just flat out telling them? What’s keeping you?
Email somebody a blessing today. Text it to them. Shock them by sending them a handwritten note. Or Holy One Direction, Batman, just speak it right to their face and follow it with a hug. You could totally, like, make their day and stuff.
(I referenced One Direction to show how youth-culture savvy I am. Whatev.)
Just when you’re about to reach for that 5th cookie, a carrot stick would appear in its place.
Just when you’re about to buy that thing you can’t really afford right now, $50 gets deposited into your savings account instead.
Just when you’re about to say “yes” to that person that’s asking too much of you (or the wrong thing of you), out pops “no, thank you” for an answer.
Just when you’re about to do that thing you wish, wish, wish you could stop doing, you magically choose the better thing with no effort at all.
I’ve met a number of people who, when pressed, reflect back on their life and expound profundities like, “If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” The idea here is that each step led them to where they are now and I guess I agree with that part. But seriously? Wouldn’t change a thing? No regrets at all?
I’ll be honest – I don’t trust people who don’t at least have a few regrets. It tells me they haven’t taken a hard look at themselves in the mirror. I don’t mean we should bathe in the shame of what we’ve done wrong or wished we would have done differently. I just mean if you can’t look back on your life and be able to identify some choices that would have spared you and others some heartache, you haven’t fully “owned” your life.
And ownership – as I’m slowly, painfully, awkwardly learning – is what life’s all about.
- Owning the stuff I’m proud of and the stuff I hope to the Good Lord Jesus no one ever finds out about.
- Owning (and not downplaying) my gifts and talents while simultaneously owning up to the fact that there are certain things I just plain suck at (and not trying to pretend otherwise).
- Owning the fact that my choices really do have impact on others; locally and globally.
- Owning my desperate neediness for a savior, a redeemer, a forgiver, a lover-of-me-no-matter-what.
- Owning my “belovedness” (a frou-frou sounding word that one could spend a lifetime mulling over).
Auto-correct doesn’t exist for the choices we make. I wish it had when I was caught speeding last weekend while driving without a license (I had left my wallet at home). I wish I’d had it when I was making those thousand little choices to eat junk food instead of something healthy. I wish it existed when I was putting all that stuff I don’t care about anymore on my credit card. I wish it existed when I was a single guy trying on different dating relationships that were less than life-giving for myself or the other person.
But auto-correct doesn’t exist for our life choices. And we don’t need it. Ownership trumps auto-correct.
So be free. Be the beloved. Take ownership of your life. Take a good look at your story-so-far and say, “I sure screwed that part up” or “That’s something I did really well!” Then let the God who has a massive, mind-blowing crush on you breathe new life into what lies behind you so you can enjoy today to its fullest and dream with hopeful anticipation about all your tomorrows.
BTW, the cop let me off with a warning. I decided to learn from my mistake (and the ridiculous grace I was shown) and now keep my wallet secured to my pants with a long silver chain. I make sure the chain hangs out so people know how gangsta I am.
Last week, Katie and I got to stay at a friend’s vacation home. It was a place we’d been many times before and we’ve built about a thousand of some of our best memories there – times with just us, times with family and friends, times to recharge, reflect and rest, times to laugh and play and dream. Our friends are thinking about selling the place and we offered them $1000 for it and they said they’ll “pray about it.” This was the first time we took our baby boy.
Recharging, reflecting, and resting rarely include the company of one-year-olds.
I had been planning on all of the reflection and recharging I could possibly stand. I had looked forward to the time away from work and routine. I couldn’t wait to just lie in the sun and read a good book. But I spent most of the week tossed back and forth between anger and frustration over the fact that it just wasn’t happening. One-year-olds are so selfish and needy.
I tried to reason with Ryder that this was “daddy’s time” to rest and reflect on his life and consider the years that lay ahead and what new dreams God may want to dream through him. Also, I wanted to get a tan. Ryder seemed ambivalent and smeared more avocado on his face.
The last morning of the week, Katie and I got to go out to breakfast together, just her and I. We vented some of our frustrations. It turned out she hadn’t relaxed for more than a couple hours the whole week, either. It was good to vent. It was good to connect, just she and me. It was good to do this over pancakes while looking out at gorgeous natural wonders like Mt Bachelor and golf courses.
As we talked, a phrase came to mind: Let it be hard.
In other words, let life be difficult. Let it be challenging. Don’t expect it to be easy.
Our problem wasn’t that it was a difficult week in our happy place. Our problem was we had expected it to be easy. Classic first-time parent mistake, maybe, but can you blame us?
Don’t you expect certain things to be easy, too? Doesn’t some part of you assume you’re supposed to get a break, get some alone time, get a raise, get a perfect spouse, get a perfect round of golf, get that opportunity you’ve been hoping for?
“Let it be hard” helped us locate our souls again as we thought about how, of course, it’s hard traveling with a one-year-old. Of course it’s not going to be like it was before Ryder. Of course “our time” was going to flow his direction. Of course. It was our expectations that had tripped us up all week. Fortunately, we bonded over the fact and had a wonderful breakfast and took our picture in front of a big stuffed bear.
“In this world, you will have trouble,” said Jesus. He probably had a smile on his face when he said it. Especially because of the next thing he said: “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Vacationing with a one-year-old is not starving to death or living in poverty or getting sold as a sex slave. It’s a 21st Century, Western, Middle Class problem. But still. “Let it be hard” reminds me that the world is not as it should be but that one day it will be. It reminds me that my strength and insight are not enough to navigate life successfully. It reminds me that my life is not all about me, that I was made to pour out my life for others, that, in fact, that’s how life works best. In the end, it was a wonderful vacation. Not peaceful the way I thought it should be. But meaningful and satisfying to my soul, the way God knew I actually needed.
Ryder’s waking up now and will be all needy again. Gotta go. He’s so sleepy-beautiful when he wakes up.