The Box

Eons ago, a younger version of me wrote.  Hard to fathom, but true.

I literally would dream about what to write, jump up out of bed and run to my typewriter. (For the younger generation, that is a computer with ink. Think keys and a Paper Monitor if you will.)

I kept an index card box with ideas, characters and plot lines in it.  If I heard a phrase or an idea in passing, I would jot it down and throw that in there too. It sat next to the typewriter.

Oh, and I was obsessed with pens and paper.  I loved spiral notebooks and yellow pads.  Writing anywhere I found a spot.

In my house now, there is a bigger box.  Filled with spiral notebooks, yellow pads-half filled, crumpled typewritten dreams, a 1979 copy of Writers Market. Magazines from Writers Digest. If I dug through, I am certain I would find a copy of Elements of Style.

Yes, I used to write.

Life as it does, jumped up and pushed the box and all evidence of another life into the bigger box, filled it with dust and forgotten memories and shut the lid.

It has been more difficult as the days go by to open that box.

Family Illness

Death

College

Marriage

Children

Career

Challenges

Each one of these I used as a reason to keep from opening the box.  But the truth is, those were the reasons I should have opened it.  All of the seasons of my life were, actually, filled with characters, plot lines, phrases heard in passing, ideas that would have filled the index card box to overflowing.  They would have ultimately spilled over to those tablets and notebooks.  But I looked at the challenges as problems.  The plots as too much to deal with, some characters difficult to deal with, too much hurt, anxiety, too busy.  In short, I figured my life was far too busy to “settle down” to write.

Now, I sit in the mid-season of my life. The box sits in front of me.  Do I take the season and use it as an excuse or an opportunity?  Well, this much is true.  This is a start.  Albeit a rusty, rough start-it is a start nonetheless.

Advertisements

A Five Minute Leadership Moment

 

I smile when people are asked to name great leaders in their lives. We get the biggies, the Presidents; the Champions of Nations; the World Changers. But those day-to-day, people in our lives have as much to do with leadership, as someone whose name is splashed across the media and history books.

Spend five minutes with me and we will talk about Leadership. I can guarantee it.

Perhaps it is because of the incredible leaders and mentors I have had in my life. Or, perhaps it is because I identify with the exhilaration I feel whenever I am around someone who walks with purpose and vision. I really don’t know. But I seek out that type of individual. I long to learn more about how they walk the path and why they do so.  Inspire me in my life or my career to want to be more and do more and you have my attention.

Leadership says not just “Go!” It says “Let’s go together.”

Leadership isn’t a power struggle. It is an investment in those you are leading. If they fall behind or get lost in the process. You never really led anyone. If a leader does not recognize that their success is measured by their legacy, they have missed a valuable opportunity.

Of the many values, one of the most valuable commodity in a leader is vision. The writer of Proverbs said it best; “Without vision…the people perish. ”

Leadership is not a sometime thing. You don’t turn it off and turn it on. It is consistent and sure. It wants something more than a one-time success story. It is built on all the tiny moments and the great ones as well.

It isn’t for the faint of heart either. If you consider leadership as a course in your life, don’t go in expecting, you will be loved by all. In all likelihood, you may find some pretty lonely times there in Leaders Corner as well. Stay the course.

Leaders, believe in the cause, nurture a vision, provide a light for the path and an encouragement to the future. Maybe they didn’t make the latest mass share on Facebook, or most tweets. But everyday leaders are making significant differences everyday.

Thank you to the Leaders in my life, that inspire me to go further and do more and pay it forward.

Can You Speak Into A Destiny?

If you are a parent, you know what I am talking about.  When that child first lies in your arms, you marvel at the miracle.  You think about how you have planned and prepared for them.  You wonder at all they will discover and yes, you dream about their future.  How will you get them there? I know I made a million plans for my children as I rocked them.

And then, life happens.  You stand at the edge of your driveway as they head off to school and wonder what their next step will be.

The Barna Group quoted a staggering statistic.   65 percent of college-aged young adults step onto campus’ and step away from their faith.  That is an amazing stat to me.  I have witnessed first-hand students in high school passionate about their faith and have also seen the fading of that in their hearts and eyes.   I suppose we could point at a myriad of reasons.  And all the reasons may be completely accurate.  I am not writing to debate or to justify.  Each of these 65 percent has their own path to walk and walk it they will and must.   But instead I would like to share with you a ministry that I believe makes a difference.  I would also like to introduce a friend of mine to you that believes in this ministry so much.

crmThe ministry is Campus Renewal Ministries (www.campusrenewal.org ).

 

 The Vision is clear and defined:

  • Forge partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus.
    • Forge partnerships among students in their spheres of influence.
    • Forge partnerships among the collegiate ministry and church leaders in their spheres of influence.

By reaching into the college campus, CRM helps create an alliance with students that walks along side them and encourages them as they move through this phase of their life.  Through their work on campuses, in Fusion Groups and Spark Groups and their outreach in national and regional conferences, they strive to create opportunity and a presence of God’s love that offers hope and support.

Now, may I introduce you to one of the faces of  CRM?

akpene    For as long as I can remember, my beautiful friend Akpene has been a missionary.  She has been all over the world sharing God’s love, working alongside the hurting and lost.  I have had the privilege of working alongside her as well and  at one time she shared our home with us.   How do I describe this person?  Her smile and enthusiasm is contagious.  She shines.  I mean she SHINES!  I have seen her joyous, exuberant, challenged and saddened, but she is one of those individuals that never wavers from the path God put her on, even in challenging times. Life could hand her lemons and she won’t just stop at making lemonade! (Frankly, she is more likely to hand you back a lemon meringue pie!)   She rises to every occasion, embraces  it and in putting her heart and soul to an issue leaves everything better before she passes it on.

Four years ago, she traded everything to begin working as the Executive Coordinator for Campus Renewal.  akpene2

If you ask Akpene why she made the choice to trade the world stage for American college campuses, she would tell you “the world stage begins in my backyard and that is where God has called me”.   Ministry, ladies and gentlemen, comes in all forms.  What CRM and Akpene do daily is a powerful witness to God’s love for all of his children right in our own communities.  Campus Renewal doesn’t push the young adult into God’s love, it is another response to the challenges our youth are finding on campus and around the world.

There are some who have actually questioned whether or not we need this on our college campuses.  I could point to a half-dozen news articles in the last month that would confirm that we do indeed.   The issues in the microcosm of a college  are just the beginning for a young adult.  If a seed is planted in our children, it still needs nurturing and love when they leave our homes.  Campus Renewal offers the next step.

May I encourage you to invest in the future?  If I have peaked your interest at all please visit them at www.campusrenewal.org  and learn more about them.  And while you are there, visit and learn more about my friend Akpene .  She is a remarkable individual.  Her funding and those of all of their staff is funded by contributions.  She has personally struggled to make ends meet and she is a vital part of CRM and needs to remain there.  Even in our own backyard, missionaries need support financially, prayerfully and tangibly.  I know she would be extremely grateful and would ease some of the challenges she and the ministry face regularly.

If I have given you a reason to consider supporting a ministry to believe in….make it count and visit their website link here.  A little, especially during this time of year, can mean a great deal.


Rules for the Road – The Lost Art of Connecting

businesswoman silouetteNot long ago, I was sitting in an Airport.  I have done this a lot in the last 35 years of my career. I get through security as fast as I can (well, as fast as the NTSB will let me), then grab coffee and snag a chair.  I flip open my laptop and pick up right where I left off at the office.  Yes, I am one of THEM.  The Professionals.

You can pick them out of the crowd by their demeanor.  They are the ones who never look up from their electronic device of choice, or are speaking loudly on their cell phone (as if the rest of us want to hear exactly what George screwed up on at the office).  Whatever their head is buried in, it is clear they are not in the same room with you.

On this particular day however, it really caused me to stop and think about how if the airport is indeed an extension of our professional office demeanor what then, must they be like in the office? And, is being in the office 24/7 such a smart idea?

With my flight delayed,  I decided to conduct a little experiment.

I closed my laptop and I looked up.  Surely there must be someone interesting to talk to, get to know better, learn something from.

Nearby are my three potential traveling companions.  Ahead of me was a young woman, clearly loaded down for college.  She is wearing jeans, a Mumford & Sons T-shirt, and has a piece of shrapnel in her eyebrow.   She was chewing on a fingernail, and checking her cell phone for text messages.  Hmmm.

To my left, another Professional.  Ah a kindred spirit!  She is tapping into an iPad as if she just discovered a new planet and needs to let everyone know about it.  Her one suitcase (Yes just the one, you know she could not be bothered to check anything through. ) parked neatly beside her. It is a complete enigma to me how one tiny carry-on can hold a weeks worth of clothes.  I make a note to myself to Pinterest how people do that.

Next to College Girl, another Professional.  He has his briefcase open and is using it like a portable desk.  I don’t know if anyone has told him yet that the rest of the world stopped using those boxy Samsonite cases sometime ago.  But he seems to like it, so…..  He has this crease between his eyebrows that seems to disappear into his receding hairline.  I wonder if this man ever smiles or if the crease has just caused an overall atrophy of his facial muscles.  He picks up his phone and alternately types, grinds his teeth and types.  Pretty much like that.

And here we sit – Tapper, College Girl, Grinder and Just Curious.  I think to myself, if the plane makes an emergency landing on a secluded island, who would I rather spend the time with?  Guess I better interview them.  I start with Grinder, who is now holding his cell phone up in the air.  Waiting to catch some bars, I think.

“It is frustrating when they don’t work, isn’t it?” On my left side, Tapper jumps slightly.  I don’t think she ever knew the rest of us where there till I spoke.

“Yeah!  It is more frustrating when the guy your texting decides to shut up and not finish his sentence.”

“Ahh office issues. ”

“Yeah, stupid (%#$#&$%^& thinks he can just quit talking to me and that will fix it.  %$%$& I will show him.”

I am just going to move on from Grinder.  I figure he is also the poster child for Road Rage when he has four wheels under him. If we do land on the island, perhaps his seat will eject on the far side.

“Hi, off to school, somewhere?” I say to College Girl.

She looks up as if I shot her. “Uh, yeah”

She is young.  Perhaps a shot at personal connection here will work.  “College was my favorite time.  Lots of great people to meet, fun things to do.  Going far?”

Her face looks like the same one Wylie Coyote makes just after the piece of cliff he is holding onto breaks off from the mountain and he crashes into the Acme box in the bottom of the canyon.  No comment.  I bite the inside of my lip and move on.

Tapper is still tapping, perhaps I could draw her in. I touch her arm slightly she freezes as if I had interrupted her conversation with Copernicus.

“Do you remember that time in school, the excitement of college, the fun of all the new things you do?  It was great wasn’t it?”  She looks at me and then at the direction of my conversation, pausing just long enough to figure out this was less of an interrogation and only now a mild nusiance with the kid and the middle aged do-gooder woman.  “Not really.”  she quipped.  “I really didn’t have the time or frankly the patience to enjoy myself.  School was a stepping stone for me.”  she glances at the nervous teen.  “Just keep your head down and get through it.”  She returns to the electronic missive she is writing.

Grinder is too angry.  Tapper is too self-involved.  I slow down, take a breath and smile at College Girl.  “What are you most looking forward to?”

She shrugs slightly and smiles back.  “At first, just getting out on my own.  Doing my own thing.  Now, not so sure.  It just seems big.”

“What seems big?”

“Life. Out there.  You know?  I wake up one morning and the biggest problem I had  was sneaking out of the house in a pair of jeans my mother wouldn’t let me wear.  Now, my life is my own.  Going forward, I will be responsible.  Feels weird.” For the first time, she smiles a genuine smile.  I think perhaps grateful, someone was really listening.

I nod. “Yeah, I remember that feeling.”  And just like that, with Tapper and Grinder doing their thing and our flight still delayed, I bought her a cup of coffee and we talked about the adventure ahead, school, friends, family, and some fears.  Mainly, College Girl (Annie to her friends) talked.  I listened.  I decided fairly early on that she just needed someone to listen. It was a great time!  I now know who Mumford and Sons are, for one thing.  I also know that it is really probably preferable to pull your head out of your own world and look around from time to time.  There are some very fascinating conversations to be had.   Computers don’t talk back, they only respond to data.  We all need someone to just be a touchstone on the journey.

I don’t know if I can ever close the laptop every time, but  I do resolve to look up a little more often.  You never know who might need you.  Or what you might need for that matter.

 

My Kids Grew Up (And I Am Not Sure How I Feel About That)

toyI am certain, I only just stepped into the laundry room to throw a load in the dryer.

My son became an adult while I was gone.

Yesterday, he was afraid the two-wheeler would hurl him into traffic and today, he drives away on his Harley.

As a teen, he screamed about how unfair living at home was.  The minute he had a chance he would move out.  He did.

And then he moved back.harley

When he was younger, I could tower over him and demand a clean room.  Today, I must have a step stool and a breadbox and I barely look him in the eye.  And the room is no cleaner.

My daughter moved out, cleaned out her room-she was gone. It was yesterday that she swore to stay with me forever.  Having a daughter leave is like having a piece of your heart removed.  I can’t even explain the feeling anymore which does nothing for my writing skills, I suppose.  

But she came back, she brought a husband and a grandson with her.  She is an excellent loving mom.  Her husband is one of the most patient people I know.  She grew up, changed and matured.

Gosh, where was I?  Maybe bringing in the groceries?

Last week, she and her husband and son moved into their first home together.  

I am about to become a grandmother for the second time.  Two grandsons running about screaming, chasing one another.  Delighting in secrets and tent citys built out of blankets.  Secure in knowing they are loved unconditionally.  They will look at the adults and admire and idolize us.  Then wish we all dropped off the planet as they grow older.

dollhouseMy son has no wife and children, my daughter and her husband are relatively new parents.  There are so many things I would share with both of them if I could. So for the future children and those in the present at the end of the day, there is just this simple philosophy:

Cherish the moments, don’t get so hung up on the bills and the broken water heater, that you forget to catch the twinkle in your son’s eye when he ties his shoes by himself for the first time.  Don’t yell in frustration when they don’t clean their room they way you want it cleaned.  They probably did the best they could and are looking for your approval. Take a good look around you before you speak harshly of them or each other.  You do not know how good their hearing or tender their spirits are.

The days, rush past at ultrasonic speed.

Teach them to be what they are called to be.  If you don’t, trust me someone in the world will.

Hold yourselves up with integrity and create an example that they will want to grow up and be like.  In this very crazy and ever-changing world, they crave the security of knowing there is someone they can count on.  And don’t worry.  They will go through periods where they will not want to be anything like you at all.  Be patient, they are just trying to figure it out for themselves.

P.S.  You will blow it a few times during this time of your life.  Forgive yourself, and ask their forgiveness.  You would be surprised just how forgiving they really are.

Love,

MOM

 

 

 

Peppermint Memories

peppermint

Memories do more than just remind.  Oftentimes, they reinforce a piece of what makes you who you are. These days, we spend far more time focusing on the “I” and less on what contributions were made by those who loved us and how they shaped us. 

I grew up the first daughter in a group of five children.  I was the second child.  My parents were musicians by trade.  But to make ends meet, my dad worked a ‘day gig’ for the State.  It kept food on the table and a roof over our heads  but weekends, he was usually playing somewhere. My mother managed the brood, but five kids (including my brother Stephen) was a lot to handle.  Many times one of us got called on the carpet for something another one did.  It wasn’t always fair, it was just the way life was.  

My mother was a concert violinist.  We had an eclectic lifestyle down the road from my grandparents in Austin, Texas.  But the roots of all of us were up the road.  Two hours away in Waco.  My parents would divide us up each summer so that for a week or two, the older girls (My sister Jenny and I) would have a vacation from the younger ones (Melanie and Mary).  Actually I think my parents were just needing a break from four small girls running amuck through our tiny house!

My father was the only child of Annie  and JD. My dad was beloved by everyone who knew him.  His easy-going smile and generous nature made him a favorite with his family.   My father looked just like his mother.  Annie was a quiet woman with a somewhat haunting life. She lost her mother at fourteen, she and her brothers spent some time in the local children’s home, until family later took them in.     JD was one of two sons born to a carpenter and his homemaker wife. Both had extended family consisting of many cousins and aunts and uncles in the same community.  While my dad never had brothers and sisters of his own, he never lacked for family around him.

In a small town like Waco, everyone knew everyone else.   JD was also a carpenter by trade but also worked in his uncle’s candy factory..  I remember that  factory in Waco, Texas to this day.  Several years ago I located the building – a tiny building up an alley in North Waco.  

I spent a week, every summer with my Grandma and Grandpa. A trip to Woods Candy Factory was a regular adventure.  Years later, looking at the building, I was shocked.  It seemed cavernous in my mind.   Now, a tiny, rusting tin shack.  The building is not what stays with me.  It was the smells.  Somewhere in a file cabinet in my brain, the incredible aroma of large copper vats filled with the mixture for  peanut patties, rises out.  Sugars and, peppermint oil combine.  Aromas emanating from boxes of DoubleBubble invade the rest of my brain, and I am seven years old again, sitting at a long metal table with four or five women.

My hair is back in one long dishwater blonde pigtail and I am missing my front tooth.  My sister is five and still retains her white blond hair in a pony tail on the back of her head.  We sit side by side with these women.  Most are my grandfather’s cousins.  Somewhere over my right shoulder, my grandfather gently but continually stirs a huge vat of sugary peanutty goodness.  My great- great uncle, dumps a paddle full of cooling peppermint on the metal table.  It is 90 degrees inside that room and sweat runs down the cheeks of these women, but they sit, twisting the red and white veins of peppermint together, then rolling quickly back and forth with the palms of their hands until the mixture creates luscious strips of perfection.  A long strand runs down the table.  One woman takes a metal spatula and cuts the pieces in precise lengths.  She does this so quickly, it amazes me that each piece is almost identical in length.

For Jenny and I, our ‘job’ begins.  With squares of cellophane before each of us we mimic the women and run the lengths of candy under the palms of our hands.  Running the two together, twisting the cellophane ends together and putting the finished product in a box in the middle of the table.  Never mind that these women are outpacing us in wrapping 20 to 1.  Jenny and  I were just so proud to be part of the process.  No one criticized Jenny that her pieces were sliding out of the cellophane.  “Easily fixed” my grandmother would say.  Or that I was sampling more than I was wrapping.  The cousins just looked at us and grinned.   

“Look at Jackie’s girls!”  one would say.

“JD what would we have done without these two!” another noted proudly.

Before automation, beauracrats and child labor laws, there was just a small candy factory in downtown Waco.  Where two little girls felt like they were making an important contribution.

Before we exited the building, and went home to mid-day dinner and naps we would be paid.  A handful of peppermint sticks and some DoubleBubble for the road for each of us.  Same pay.  Every time, we beamed.

40 plus years later, the memory of that scent and the people in that room, play out as if it were yesterday.  The scent reminds me of a greater truth.  A generation ahead of me made sure I knew I was valued and important.  Contributions from a child while likely not the most important were valued because they built up the character of those children.   Maybe it was peppermint wrapping after all, but it was also reinforcing that my self-esteem was not cut down by what I couldn’t do.  But rather built up by the little truths of what I could.

A Wire and a Word

Nik Wallenda appears to be a confident, man.  He is a husband and a father and has a legacy that includes a courageous history of challenging gravity and (ok, I’ll say it) sanity.

The hosts did a great job of setting the stage. He was crossing a space in the Grand Canyon a quarter of a mile long and higher than the Empire State Building.  Fighting hot, dusty canyon winds that were whipping at upwards of 25 miles an hour, this man was going to attempt something that many of us would back away from

.Image

So, he steps on the wire and it begins.  A 1500 foot walk over a canyon floor, just barely visible below him.  On a microphone, you can hear his Dad speaking to him, you hear the hosts, but on national television, the one thing that resonates over the airwaves is the wire walker’s continual praise to His Heavenly Father.

Nik Wallenda is a man of enormous faith.  You are likely thinking to yourself “Well he better have faith in something at that height!”  True, I suppose. But I was impressed by his focus and passion on his love for God.  He wasn’t listening to what was going on around him.  He kept his heart and mind on one narrow path a wire and the Word.

Each of us, walk a similar path. Do you realize that?  Perhaps it is not be 1500 feet in the air, but the illusion of height is similar.  LIFE blazes at us unchecked-ready or not. Our children struggle, our jobs require us to juggle, our commitments we make to ourselves and others cause us to wonder if we are on the right course.  We struggle to stay on course but more often than not we find ourselves feeling more like this:

Image

Unprepared and in a bit of a “cliff-hanger”  We cry out for help, waiting for a bail-out.  In the day-to-day, it is hard to not grope blindly for someone; anyone to come to our rescue.  Or, perhaps even fall into the abyss, feeling lost and invisible.

With every step forward, Wallenda accomplishes two things.  He takes himself one step closer to the prize and one step away from fear and uncertainty.  And throughout the course he keeps his focus on the source of his strength.  There were a couple of times he showed some concern.  Winds picked up around him.  He lowered himself to the wire and waited for the Lord to calm the  winds .

I have hung on the side of the cliff and waited for the bail out.  I come away from the experience exhausted and worn out.  Wallenda’s experience illustrated to me that abandoning my fear and keeping my eye one what matters helps to still the winds of challenge around me.   In those moments, perhaps I should take a page from Wallenda’s book.  Focus, keep moving forward and keep my eye on the prize.