So, maybe the title gives it away, and guess what >> there really is no punch line unless I’m referring to the moment I wanted to smash both of my hands around that person’s face.
Oh wow - I’m sorry. That was a little graphic, but you see, I was driving to the bank on base like any other day. The only difference was I was coming from somewhere different so I took a different route. No issues there, traffic was moving steady and most people were leaving base so a smooth ride for me going the opposite direction. I wasn’t there yet, maybe a mile or so away. It was a beautiful afternoon and I don’t recall if I had music on in the car or not, but it’s as if I am still in that moment right now…
….whhewwwww, all smiles :) ….
I am happy and feel very accomplished after a good day at work.
The speed limit on this particular road is 30mph with two roundabouts coming up before turning right to hit the road leading me on base. No one is speeding, the roundabouts aren’t causing any delay, and all is well until I notice a huge rock in the road. That is weird.
Such a big rock smack dab in the middle of the road. I have one car in front of me. I think he/she notices and will swerve just before I do. We both drive SUVs so it shouldn’t do too much damage, but avoiding it is always better.
As we both get closer, the rock begins to move. Wait. Maybe it was always moving but now that I am closer I really see it. Wow! It is a HUGE turtle! Absolutely ginormous! I’m not sure what Mr. Turtle was dropping off at the Post Office on the other side of the street, but he’s making progress back to his home near the little creek to our right.
There is no way SUV in front of me doesn’t see this turtle. Surely they’ll swerve…
Mr. Turtle is in our lane now, just over the yellow lines, so obviously the SUV will swerve to the right. We’re not even going that fast. And, it’s been a straight and flat road this entire way – they clearly saw the turtle from a ways back.
Just to be safe (because we’re getting really close and this person doesn’t seem to make any adjustments in their driving path) I honk the horn. A courtesy two honks, “Hey, open your eyes. See that huge turtle?! Move to the right…”
But you guessed it.
They didn’t move.
They drove straight over Mr. Turtle’s head and continued on.
The utter confusion, a tad bit of rage, and mere helplessness came over me. I will spare you the details of all that I saw Mr. Turtle go through, but I continue to pray the picture memory of that exact moment is wiped from my mind.
First things first. Turn my blinkers on. Pull my car into the middle of the road so no car can go either way and I can help Mr. Turtle get to safety. Keep in mind, the road just outside of base on weekday afternoons is nothing short of good ol’ bumper to bumper travel flow….hooray.
At this point though, I do not care. I stop my car in the middle of the road and get out. Passersby (who are serving way out to either side to avoid hitting me) are glaring at me. Some of their wonderfully curse word filled mouths are giving me fantastic phrases of choice.
But again, I do not care. I look back to each – “Can you not see this huge hurt turtle in the middle of the road?!”
I don’t dare ask for help. I don’t need it. I can pick this turtle up myself and carry him to the creek. His head is bleeding but his legs still work fine, he is looking back at me, and somewhat moving his neck (sort of) so I know he will recover.
This can’t be that hard. I mean, he is the largest turtle I have ever seen in real life…. and how in the world did he end up here??….oh wait, I’m sorry, my mind is racing with all of these different thoughts about Mr. Turtle all at once.
Will my vet accept a huge injured turtle for care?
Does the humane society help turtles? Where is the closest humane society anyways?
Should I put Mr. Turtle in the back of my car, take him home, and somehow treat his wounds myself?
As I am thinking to myself, calming Mr. Turtle down, and trying to figure out where I am going to move him, a minivan stops in the middle of the road just behind my SUV and asks me if everything is alright.
“What a nice lady.” I thought, but then I lost it. I felt so bad for Mr. Turtle I started crying to a complete stranger in the middle of the road on a hot afternoon telling her the entire incident and then continuing on about how oblivious and selfish people are.
She was very relaxed, sympathetic, and ready to help. She was also very knowledgeable about turtles. Hmmm, maybe I slept through that time in class because I have no recollection of ever learning such great detail about turtles…..
She also confirms what I first had a feeling about – my vet will most likely not treat this turtle and she has no idea where any humane society is besides the one in town for cats and dogs only.
And I better not pick up Mr. Turtle with my bare hands – apparently turtles are ridden with diseases. News to me. So I will not be taking him home either. The nice lady finds a pair of sweat pants in her car and throws them to me to use as I move Mr. Turtle.
“He just wants to be at home anyways.” That is what I kept telling myself as I squatted down to grab Mr. Turtle. “He will be fine. He is so large that he has to be at least 100 years old (that thought made sense to me), and now he’s learned to look both ways before crossing the street.”
It’s too bad we don’t have a local paper here because I feel the image of a twenty-something girl carrying an incredibly large turtle across the street and practically stopping all traffic both ways (due to my marvelous and strategic parking job) would have made the cover.
But back to the story – Nice lady let me keep the sweatpants (she actually told me to toss them ASAP – no argument there), and Mr. Turtle made it back home to his lovely house by the creek. I waited until I ran my bank errand and made it home before calling my husband to tell him about my day. I knew I would start crying again and there’s no reason to stop traffic twice in one day from nonsensical driving and stopping.
Even though I know Mr. Turtle has learned his lesson and thanks God for healing his head, I often drive that exact route just to peak and try to see him on the right side, near the creek, and safe in the grass. I’ve yet to see Mr. Turtle again, but I know it’s because he has no need or desire to come anywhere near the road ever again.
That is more than fine with me and I know Mr. Turtle will more than likely live longer than me too – but when we both go, we’ll be playing and lounging by God’s best creek ever in Heaven together**
For more information on turtles, World Turtle Day, and how you can help, please visit:
This man’s grace = complete power, perfect balance, total confidence and the works of wonder, joy, and strength…Absolutely mesmerizing and all for us to enjoy.
Years of hard work, determination, and (most likely) many falls enabled him to be almost perfect.
This is an amazing talent, but at the end of the day – this is a learned, practiced, and memorized routine. Do not let that take away from its ‘awe’ in any way, shape, or form – but what is more is the realization that our Heavenly Father is all of those things.
It didn’t take Him many years, multiple falls, mind of over matter frustrations, and sore joints to become perfection, but being able to understand that He is perfection may be a struggle. Furthermore, since He is perfection, how can He love so much and continuously forgive? The most ‘perfect’ people you know – they’re kind of on their own wavelength and even though they are certainly nice and happy, it almost terrifies us to get close. Maybe our normal-ness will wear off on them, or they’ll realize who we are and not ever call back.
The simplistic answer is, “Well, God is not a person. Simple as that. He is more.” Very true, good point, and a ‘well done sir’ nod to ya, but I, personally, want more than that for an answer.
That is definitely a deeper and more complex thought than trying to figure out how this man never falls, or gets incredibly dizzy. There is no doubt that it matters more, too.
Being that God is perfection, though, did it ever cross your mind that He already thought through our confusion, skepticism, and arguments towards His never failing, unchanging, and matchless ways?
I have not read the Bible cover to cover yet, and yes, it is incredibly small type face, thin pages, and lots of stories put together from multiple people in all different walks of life. It may seem a bit daunting. Maybe that’s how church appears to you, and by nature of the beast, maybe that’s how some believers appear to you as well. But here’s some great news: even the most devoted believer that never misses a service still feels daunted by a certain message, idea, or belief at times.
Of course, every single believer isn’t an open book like me – so being able to see that, especially to the untrained eye, is virtually impossible. But if His ways never challenged them, caused them to stop, think, and question – do you think they’d keep going back? Of course not – sure we like the easy life, but no one likes to be bored.
It is not our purpose, His plan, or a task on our ‘to do’ list of life to find out where everybody else is on God’s ‘Richter scale’. Sure, we are asked to and excited to share Him and spread His love, but He wants you and He wants me. With Him, we don’t have to attempt to do the splits on top of a spinning wheel with no safety harness like this acrobat. At times it certainly can feel like that, but let’s step away from all of the gadgets, all of the busy talk, and all of the distractions just for long enough to grasp this simple and life changing truth:
God is Love. God = love. Before God, love didn’t exist. Without God, love is absent. God completes our love. God’s love is more than a feeling, word, or act – God’s love is endless.
Our obsession with making things easy is fascinating because at the very same time we’re trying to make cars that drive themselves, phones that answer calls, cancel appointments, and turn on house alert when our kids don’t come home on time, as well as automated cat and dog feeders (like the cats and dogs have any idea, or care what’s going on anyways…), we tend to turn His very simple, easy to understand truths into the most complex questions and we end up abandoning because we can’t figure them out.
“Gotchya there, miss!” It is not our job figure them out – pick them apart, tear them down, or insert our own words and thoughts. No, just like this acrobat’s performance – we are to simply enjoy Him, love His presence, thank Him for what He has done (and continues to do each and every day in each of our lives).
I will never leave you, nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5
In case forsake is too challenging, how about: I will never leave you, nor give up on you.
Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Plain as day. God is not your mom, your ex-boyfriend who forgot your birthday, or your so-called BFF who cheated off you in class then ended up with a better grade.
Count those as your years of hard work, determination, and (most likely) many falls enabling you to be, ....what?.....
no, not almost perfect. Enabling you to realize that you’re already loved by God’s perfect love*
"The real LOTR - mesmerizingstreetperformer" Youtube clip: https://youtu.be/GLlpi-0_lB0
“You don’t need to remind me – I get it. Sometimes my over-planning takes all the excitement out of it. Yes brain, I understand.”
And so my inner conversation ensues, but these warning signs were not a result of my planning-to-perfection syndrome. No, they were different. Unusual and quite atypical for me.
“What is going on?!” I thought, “How could this be?”
I was quite amazed by my ability to look so happy, unconcerned, and rather energetic at a moment like this. I am standing there, bright eyed and bushy tailed from waking at 4:30am, downing strong coffee, slapping some makeup on my face as my husband drives us to our first Found Strong in-person real deal event, and then, standing there. Simply standing there.
Obviously that was not the conference name, but with our new table banner, borrowed shirt hanging rack, and lots of Found Strong accessories mixed with 400 expected guests it sure felt like an 'in-person real deal' to me.
After multiple conversations with other store owners, shirt suppliers, and previous conference vendors it made sense to pre-order and design 200 Found Strong Inspire Love Pray shirts to sell at the 2 day conference. Not only is it our top-selling design to date, but we also took it one step further and customized it a touch: printing it in the exact conference color scheme.
Printing half the shirts as expected number of guests at the conference seems like a no-brainer to me. For months leading up to this event we were not shaken by the fact that we had spent our entire Found Strong account, almost to the exact dollar, to have this done. Sound silly?
Not to a sales-minded person who knows they’ll make back what they originally spent when they sell just a percentage of the total shirts.
And yet, there we were, simply standing there.
Those were the numbers we were given so how were we to know that around 1/4th of the expected 400 would actually come?
That should not and cannot be an excuse for my fear and inner frustration, but it did help me convince myself that I just sunk my entire company into the ground.
It also serves another telling detail behind just one of the many reasons Our Lord paired me with my husband, David.
“We’re not here for the shirts, Whitney. Please stop worrying – Found Strong will go on. We’re here to show God’s power through your story. Stop worrying.”
David is definitely my source of reason (even though I’d rather not listen sometimes), and so I keep that smile on, keep inviting women to stop by our booth on their way to the restroom, and keep sharing bits and pieces of what I’ve been through that got me to that conference, in that hall, speaking of God’s immeasurable love and grace to each and every woman who had 2 minutes to spare.
But oh, my inner battle continued on. The calculating part of my brain was fighting my ease to associate with everyone who walked up or by our booth.
“Oh yes, that is a fascinating testimony,” my inner brain would think, “but could you possibly take two steps to the right so you’re not directly in front on our table this entire time taking up space where others can see and actually purchase?”
“No! What are you doing? Actually listen to her! If she buys, she buys and if not, then oh well. The others will come back if they’re interested. What has gotten into you?!”
It’s quite funny (after the fact) that I have such a hard time remembering the simple things day to day and yet can have 14 conversations, both with myself and others, all at once….but that’s for another time…..
And as the story goes… the long first day went on. And went on. And went on.
After briefly reading over my story, looking at me, then back to my story with 2 or 3 bewildered questions, most women did not buy a shirt, but they did tell me of tragic events in their lives. From losing their teenage son, being diagnosed with an incurable disease while pregnant, married to an abusive alcoholic…
At one point I felt bad for even sharing my story – as if my suffering didn’t compare to these. And then, *twinkle, twinkle*: a time worthy learning opportunity>>>
Tragedies are tragedies – no comparing should ever be made
What is more important was the conclusion these women all came to during each of our conversations.
All women had their different version of saying “So this was you…this is you now…all of this stuff happened – and I mean, look at you. You’re so .... ....... .......happy! After my ‘fill in the blank’, wow – is it even possible?”
Thank God I am no longer thinking about my sales numbers - or lack thereof – at this point. Like a whirlwind over my face, I fully engage in the conversation, grab hands, reach out to hug, and His words come out of my mouth.
With each conversation, and probably a mix of tired feet and coffee drought, my stress decreases. It is still there, but God is showing me as David already pointed out – it is not about the shirts. It is about God’s love. I found it, I show it, and it always pulls me to do the one thing I do best: talk.
During each speaker the women would all corral into the auditorium, so even though I thought I had handle on my inner mood and negativity, it always revved its horn just as the auditorium doors closed. Back to it. Reorganize. Make more signs. Offer any sale prices? No, it’s too early for that...But! The only way more people will find out about us is on social media, so take some pics, tweet some thoughts, and Facebook it up!
“What sounds ‘engaging’? What will get people talking, liking, sharing and ultimately coming to see me? Hmmmm….” Good thing I brought my phone charger because the amount of pics, edits, shares, and updates sure does drain the battery.
As the first day draws to a close – 12 hours + at the conference – it is time to wrap this up, throw the sheet over our table, and call it a night for the next 6 or so hours….
And even though Destin has innumerable cute vacation shops to check out, white sandy beaches and water on both sides, the only time I find it beautiful to drive through is in the middle of the night. All green lights and no traffic is my idea of beauty. We were whipped, I was frustrated, and being found strong was furthest from my mind. But as believers that is exactly who we’re called to be. In our weakest moments, when we want to use our ‘get outta jail free’ cards and then blame somebody else, we must recognize one thing: Jesus.
Instead of spending the entire drive home complaining and trying to solve this issue with our chatter and sleepy reasoning, it was time that we recall our blessings. Even if all we did was stand there and smile all day, others felt innately connected to us just by reading my story. They saw God working through me in such a powerful way on those dark days of my accident, and then witnessed at that very moment what He is still doing in and through me, my husband, and our life now.
It seems that not a day goes by where we don’t hear a story about finally seeing God, recognizing Him, accepting Jesus, witnessing His miracles and then telling the whole word because, according to each story, they hadn’t seen, felt, or heard from Him in a long time. Many seasons. Several years. Maybe even a lifetime – up until now, so I must not ever take for granted my moment and continuous moments that He is with me.
If at that conference, on that day, in that moment at my booth, women connected with Jesus again for the first time in what seemed to them like a long time, then my mission was accomplished. So on that night, while trying to push away my worldly concerns about money and negative thoughts about what I just destroyed, I prayed specifically about my mission. “Fix my eyes on you, Lord. Turns my thoughts from the world and onto You.”
Jesus Christ definitely granted me deep sleep that night. Or He knew my worries wouldn’t shut off so He pressed override and took me into auto-snooze. Either way – I woke the next day, on time, in a strange mood that I still can’t quite put my finger on. Regardless of my mood, it was time to get things back into action. I was so shocked by the next moments of my day that, to be quite honest, I can’t even remember when exactly they happened. Did I check my phone right as I woke? On the way to the conference? Once we got there and were ready at the table? Of this I am not sure – and how weird because it is such a monumental moment you’d think I would remember this down to the exact minute….but anyways….
At some point I decided to check my phone and was greeted with such a warm message from my dear friend at church. She saw the picture I took in my shirt at the conference yesterday and had a question for me:
“Is there any way we can make shirts to sell to help raise money for us adopting our first child?”
“Umm, yes,” I thought, “as a matter of fact there is. I happen to be sitting on (well, not literally sitting on) like 200 shirts of this exact design that are already made. Have at it!”
These were my first thoughts, not my response, but indeed I was sitting there, standing there, or whatever it was that I was doing wherever I was when I had the realization.
“David! Now….umm…I’m not worried anymore! It is all going to be alright!”
His confused look back at me was half trying to say, “ummmm, yea. Haven’t I told you that this whole time?”
“Isn’t He so funny?! We made all these shirts. All ahead of time. Thinking we would sell them here. But God really had us make all these shirts because now we’re going to help raise money for Lee and Alysia’s adoption! These shirts are perfect!!!”
My eyes felt like they were going to explode out of my head.
The time at the conference that second day didn’t fly by as a result of my newfound excitement, but it didn’t creep by either. We sold a couple more shirts, a coffee mug, and maybe a phone case, but I can’t really remember. I was finally able to relax, actually be fully present each and every moment of that day and not consumed by worry or fear.
Women from the day before were bringing more women to meet me, hear my story, share and receive encouragement. We kept hearing of my story being talked about among ladies at the conference during the breaks, in the lunchroom, and had even more opportunities to keep sharing about God’s matchless, unending, and deep love for each and every one of us. I even gave away a couple shirts and other accessories to women feeling a bit fragile in their lives as well as in their relationship with God who couldn’t afford to buy anything.
Would I have given away free items after seeing the light they brought to women’s faces on the first day?
To be completely honest – most likely not.
But on that second conference day, I was finally at the place our Lord calls us to be all of the time. It’s quite embarrassing for me to admit that I had to get to a place of knowing my shirts would sell and I would make back all of the money I just spent for me to relax, see Him work, and really open up to God’s plan for me. Shoot, if I would I have known all of this ahead of time I’d probably second guess the opportunity to be at this conference and instead, not take the risk.
“Oh, how shallow!” you might think.
But in those moments, during those different seasons, those thoughts always play a significant role in our self-assessments. “If only I would have known…”
God doesn’t purposefully call us into sticky situations, we still need to use our best judgements, but if we always follow by our own plan (ie, my plan is stick to the safe zones only, take no risks, spend no money, and on and on and on down that path), would we ever be able to see Him work?
And just then, *twinkle twinkle*, my second learning opportunity:
Trusting God is not making a fail-safe plan and then trusting your own plan as if God automatically checks ‘Yes’ in His box and goes according to your will and desires.
What a big wake up call. Things don’t always go according to plan no matter how much counsel I seek, how hard I pray, and how much silly math and Googling I do to try and get the answer before the event even happens.
Trusting Jesus’ way means I smile, talk, and use my best judgement in every situation and at the same time always be cognizant of His glory. The end goal is to lift Jesus’ name, not my own, and shine His light – not my own.
What better way to do that than help raise money for our dear friend’s adoption of their first child instead of just sell some shirts to increase the amount of money on our bank statement at the end of the month?
Yea, silly question.
~Dear Lord, thank You for Your forgiveness, allowing me to learn from this, and for Your love. I am forever grateful for Your encouragement to help others ...and maybe one day, we'll try this whole conference thing again. Amen. :)
The squeaky wheel may get the grease –
and yet - smiles last for longer miles and make the trip all worthwhile.
This may be a silly rhyme that I just made up, but our deeper meaning here may cause you to rethink your own phrases and let you enjoy a much happier and more meaningful holiday season. No matter what side we sit on, we all desire a wonderful and bright morning on December 25th spent with the ones we love, opening the presents we love, eating the food we love, and playing with the trinkets and objects that all possess our new found love. So what’s the big deal anyways?
This might strike as odd, but here’s a little known fact about me: I majored in Journalism. I love to write – I love to talk - and I happen to think I’m pretty good at telling stories. Working on a 5 o’clock news team sounds like the perfect fit for me, right?
Please don’t get me wrong, news is important, but in order for me to pursue a happy and not driven-mad life, I focused on sports reporting. A lot ‘simpler’ and for the most part, ‘easier’ in the logic-filled and joy-pursuing side of my brain. More than that, the news isn’t just facts. Surprise! Nope – it’s facts with angles…..please figure that one out for me….
Of course – we all know this, but how easy to forget and agree, forget and disagree, or forget and literally forget we even watched the story, read the story, or heard the story in the first place.
Even though I may not watch the news regularly I sure do hear about it. With social media taking the world by storm, it’s quite hard to miss any story that has ever happened – to anybody, anytime, anywhere no matter how big or small and yes, whether we want to know them all or not – we usually get all sides.
That being said, I am still quite surprised by all of the ‘Merry Christmas’ discussion. Growing up outside the church my whole life we still said Merry Christmas and I didn’t know, think, ask, get offended, or be upset that someone else, stranger or friend, was being nice, sharing a smile, and acting like they were also happy for me to go ahead and enjoy weeks off school and a get whole bunch of new presents.
And here’s the things that really trumps me: I said Merry Christmas my whole life to anybody and everybody in the same spirit. Even though I now have a personal relationship with Jesus, know Him and my Lord and Savior, and have found the real meaning of Christmas, I usually do not say all of that out of my mouth or with my eyes any of the times I wish another person a Merry Christmas. Of course, if they begin to ask, then yes, I smile as wide as the corners of my mouth can reach while still open and forming words as I share the story of Jesus’ birth. And if not, then a sweet Merry Christmas from my brushed and usually flossed mouth is all that comes out.
And there you have it! End Of Story!! :)
Well, yes and no. Yes, because at the end of the day I had a good day and possibly brightened other’s days as well.
And no, because that is not what we hear about. We hear about the squeaky wheel. Does the saying go, “The squeaky wheels get the grease”? Nope – wheel is not plural.
A word I learned while in school about the world of journalism is a fascinating word and can be used in many different contexts. That word? …..
Yes! Let’s sensationalize that big win! Let’s sensationalize that school’s accomplishments! Let’s sensationalize that recovery and really shine a bright light on this community tonight!
And no. Let’s let every headline blast that scandal. Let every listening ear and watching eye know every single little detail about what he really did.
Or did he? According to CNN of course he did! That man is a disgrace! But no, according to FOX he was protecting his family and he did have actual credible references.
Every day, every story. They all may be different stories with different plots and outcomes, but they are actually all the same story. Who’s side are we on? What do we believe? And do we even want to (as if we had enough time) hear the ‘other side’?
So put yourself in my shoes for one day. I don’t have cable and the most frequent internet sites I read from are Facebook, my work email, and to put a smile of my face: the daily dose of puppies on Twitter. I go to the gym, say Merry Christmas, and put on my headphones. I stop at the gas station, pay in cash, wish the clerk a Merry Christmas, and leave. I step in to work, put my stuff down, and laugh Merry Christmas out of my mouth like I’m Santa Claus. On my way home, I realize that we’re in dire need milk so I stop at the grocery store. I use the self-checkout, head to my car, and wish the cart-man a Merry Christmas.
It just seemed like the happy thing to do being that Christmas is just days away. And you may be surprised….but what kind of reaction did I get? Wishing white, black, Asian, and all kinds of ethnicities in the predominantly military and blue collar part of Florida that I live… Both young and old, women and men: all different types, customs, interests and beliefs...
After all of the discussion, and in my own words: all of the disruption, about saying the two words “Merry Christmas” in the same sentence, connected in the same phrase all over the news today, you might think that I came home exhausted and sad after being told off by at least 4 strangers that I saw today and wished a Merry Christmas, but the exact opposite happened.
Of course, we humans are not wheels. When an actual wheel needs grease the other wheels end up wearing down more over the long run and bad things can happen to the entire car, but again – we are not wheels.
All of us are not squeaky, and most of the time most of us don’t need any grease. And yet we think we all do. Oh, we better shape up, keep our mouths closed – don’t wish anyone a merry anything, and push on like a standard, normal working wheel.
And this is where everything gets lost. So I push on in the way I was raised, continue to brush and floss, and keep smiling a Merry Christmas to all….and maybe for giggles I’ll start to add in ‘and to all a good night’ just to really throw people off….
But oh, how could I forget? The smiles!
The smile from the man who tried (and failed) to cut in front of me at the water fountain in the gym.
“Oh! Well Merry Christmas to you too young lady!” :)
“ha ha ha…Merry Christmas right back at ya – and thanks for pushing your cart all the way into the return rack. People sometimes….” – from the grocery store cart boy
“Ho – Ho – Ho Meerrrryyy Christmas, Whitney. Man, it’s a good thing you don’t want to be a singer, because your voice….whhhewwwwweeee!”
In human DNA it has to be fact that it is genuinely hard to be mean to a nice person. If someone is nice, whether stranger or friend, the response back is 9 times out of 10 just as nice if not more nice than the initial greeting. Christ knows what Christmas is about and as believers so do we, so let’s not hush away our smiles or friendly Christmas greetings in fear of the off chance we’ll offend the other person. Instead, let our smiles, relaxed nature, and friendly attitude brighten someone else’s day :)
….oh and, if someone wishes a different holiday greeting what is our response? Such an easy answer: – smile and say Happy Holidays right back. Jesus is more loving of the genuine love you’re showing others than He is mad that you didn’t ‘correct’ them. You can say Merry Christmas, Yay for Snow Day, Happy Kwanzaa, or ‘don’t be a Grinch this Christmas!’ and His smile will shine through you and their smile will too :)
New neighbors! My husband and I were so excited about meeting and inviting our new neighbors over we were just beside ourselves. Grocery run, grill prep, mosquito spray in check, and logs for the fire all lined up ready to use…a mere two days in advance :) And so we prepared…there they come walking down the street, drink wagon and stroller making their way to our front door and then it dawns on me (OK, I did think about it beforehand, but now it was really happening): our pups have never ever, not even for one millisecond, been around an infant before. And oh, how excited they get when making new friends… this is BAD!
Our neighbor’s 7 month old is the cutest infant I’ve ever seen, and can you be ‘well-behaved’ at just 7 months? If so, he gets grand champion…but, back to the dogs. And that’s exactly where they went: to the back. They will remain outside while we’re inside and vice versa. Oh, they were so sad. The most pitiful two sad puppy dog faces to date and there wasn’t one second of interest in their most favorite place in the whole wide world – the outside (OK, maybe their most favorite place in the whole wide world is our bed, but that’s for a different story…). Nope, their crying eyes, sagged ears, and childlike whimpers were focused on us and our neighbor’s baby the entire time.
As the sun dropped lower in the sky and our bellies started to growl, we decided to make the people-puppy swap.
“We’ll defer the dogs while you all go outside.”
No issues there, but I had to keep reassuring our neighbors that the pups were fine. They are dog lovers themselves, so after burgers and many word juggling attempts not to bring the pups out, we gave in.
I must say, this is a little embarrassing for me to admit >>> Coming from generations of hardworking farmers, completing 10 years in the Hamilton County 4H Fair, and surrounding myself with all kinds of animals my entire life, this interaction should have been an expected and normal situation for me to be in, but it wasn’t (granted, I haven’t ever been surrounded by infants for even a minute of my life, so maybe that’s where this comes into play).
We open the door. I’m expecting rambunctious, four legged, hyperactive creatures to jump out the open living room door, both smash into the doggie door at the porch to try and get through first, and literally jump on top of our neighbor’s lap and crush their child.
I am ready to pounce (on the dogs) before things get scary, but none of my flash-by mental pictures took place. Actually, quite the opposite.
Both Snooki and Sadie walked slowly, almost lightly out of the house, took turns climbing through the doggie door, and eased gently towards the patio table. Infant baby blue eyes lit up and widened, if it’s even possible for big baby eyes to get even larger…. and both pups took their turn. Is that even possible?!
Snooki smelled him, toucher her nose on his fingers and just looked back at him, wide-eyed as well. When Sadie approached, her tongue actually stayed inside of her closed mouth for at least two minutes! She looked right back at him, eager to find out what he’s like. His tiny hand stretched out to touch her nose and she remained. Stance relaxed, no attempt to jump or even put one paw up.
Very wide-eyed and appalled myself, I sat there silently and watched them. Both were smiling. Both were calm and both were interested, cognizant of their differences – the newness, and they were each delighted.
In that moment, my mental self-conversation began:
How do the pups know to act so gingerly and soft around a baby?
How can they tell the difference?
Is this why dogs are the chosen animal for companionship and therapy when needed?
The questions continued inside my head as I sat there watching their interaction - quite soothing to watch if you ask me – and I began asking God how He designed each and every one of us and how He told my pups the difference between adult ‘me’ and the baby. What a way to experience God’s presence, right there on the patio. Not just in the child, but in his demeanor and interaction with pups – And let’s not forget, seeing our Lord move and act and reassure both child, adults, and pups through each one of my dog’s footsteps, nose sniffs, and tongue licks.
Overwhelmed by fascination, I tried to keep this marvel to myself until I could do a little ‘research’ after our very successful and happy patio dinner date.
As suspected (and delighted), the ‘research’ was not hard to come by. Another animal lover and believer pretty much sums it up:
Your animal’s love for you is unconditional. Who does that remind you of?
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.
Taking it one step further, I wanted to see more straight from the Bible:Psalm 147:9 tells us that God is concerned for all His creation, including the animals He created: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”
In Psalm 104:21, we see that “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”; it is implied that God feeds them.
Also, in Luke 12:6 Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”
After reading through scriptures, sites, blogs, more opinions, and further ‘research’, I realized the answer was much easier than initially expected:
My heart was touched, or for the lack of a better word – it was both physically and emotionally moved by my dogs. God is with us every moment of each and every day – but how often do we miss Him? We’re in a hurry, we’re tired, we’re deep in an important conversation, or we’re hanging out with friends and Waaaaaschoooom! There He goes by! He’s right here – but did we see?
During that dinner, on our tiny patio, with 3 new wonderful neighbors and two spoiled (but very smart and nice) puppies, God not only sprinkled on His love seasoning for our meal, He blessed us with His presence through two puppies and a baby boy*
This may not be true for my entire life, but one thing is true of me in my teenage to adult years – I take excellent care of my teeth. I have also loved sweets for my entire life, but only started caring more about my chompers in the recent years than the sugar I coat them with. Without trying to break down the exact number of how many cavities, removals, surgeries, and appointments I’ve had, I will tell you that I have noticed a common and strong theme about mouths recently (more than just my own) and why I am especially thankful for stiff toothbrushes, gliding floss, and strong mouthwash: our mouths are never closed.
Whether it’s in real face-to-face conversation, phone chats, Twitter and blog posts, Facebook updates, glaring or insinuating eyes, our need to share with the masses is growing exponentially. I’m so thankful I’ve got pretty teeth, a big smile, and working vocal chords because this mouth prefers to be open. But is that really what you need? We need? I need?
After a gentle wake up call in the form of a touching story from singer/songwriter Jason Gray, I think God is pushing me to trump that. I thank God for all 5 of my senses, but the two most important body parts I use while engaging some of those senses to further His Kingdom are things that I, by default, tend to use the least.
Mr. Gray shared a very personal story set on one of his tours in the back of his tour bus. He shared that things at the time were very stressful in his life and a team member noticed Jason’s behavior, asked about how he was feeling, to which - at that point - Jason spilled the beans.
After he exhausted his stresses and slumped further into his chair, he shared with us that he was waiting for the other mouth to open, tell him what to do, how to pray, who to call, where to place any blame, and on and on and on and on and on.
But that’s not what this friend did. He stood Jason up and hugged him – for 2 entire minutes.
This may strike as odd – especially for two, nonrelated, grown men…..so he continued: that is exactly what he needed. Not realizing it until that moment, Jason needed a hug. He needed ears to listen. He needed arms to hold him letting him know he’s not alone.
He didn’t need words. He didn’t need advice, fake uplifting smiles, or a comparison story to either try and make him feel like they ‘understood’ and knew what to do, or that his stress just wasn’t so bad.
Jason needed ears – a listening friend who made the time to sit down and do just one thing: listen.
Jason needed hands – the firm hug, the tight hand squeeze, the pat on the back of reassurance that they do care and that he is going to be ok. The simple gestures of physically reaching out to him all point to one thing: love.
When is the last time we actually listened – and truly listened - to the entire story? When did we let our family member, our friend, our colleague, or that 'someone’ finish their own story – pause – and then give us that look that it’s our time to speak? Closed mouths and open hands say a lot more than we, as the listener, can ever imagine. Not only that, the eternal benefits sure do pay off. Trust grows exponentially and, over time, if we aren’t trying to pounce with our advice or fix their problem for them, don’t you notice how the bond grows deeper, more secure – and, for extra bonus points - the problems actually end up working out even without our ‘helpful’ advice. God is so good and Jesus himself is the Healer. That’s why He gave us 5 fingers on each hand – pointing up to Him times 10…Wow!!! Look at where eyes start to gaze – no longer at my pretty mouth and waiting for it to close. Nope – feeling my heartbeat in my hugs and my love pouring out of my ears. Maybe my ‘hard of hearing’ problem would correct itself if I actually stopped and consciously listened.
Just a thought… :)
....and an optional #4: feel free to instill my oral hygiene habits into your routine too: brush at least twice per day followed by mouthwash - and floss after every meal :)
For one selfish benefit, I think you’re allowed to imagine how great it will feel when you hear so many others talking about you> “Man, they knew I needed a hug for sure, and they were right there”, “I tell you, I was in really bad shape and they listened to my whole story – literally – all of it. I was crying so hard my words weren’t even making sense…but they let my cry, held my hands, and stayed right there with me” , “We were talking about the weather and, all of the sudden, the flood gates opened on my mouth. Them staying with me was exactly what I needed. I doubt they have any idea how to deal with it…but it just felt so good that I could trust them with all of that and at the end of it all, receive even more comfort.”
And will it really feel ‘selfishly wonderful’? I highly doubt it…helping others is one of our highest senses of purpose. On top of that, they all point back to Jesus himself. Maybe our hands can’t instantly heal the sick or restore sight to the blind, but our hugs, our handholds, and heart availability sure can help. I also have a flicker of a feeling that we, as the listener, might feel a little of that comfort come back our way, too. How cool is that?!
*A big Thank You to Jason for sharing such a personal and powerful story during the My Story tour concert in Pensacola, Florida – phenomenal performances paired with invaluable insight from Big Daddy Weave, Jason Gray, & Citizen Way!*
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
What dictates your life? Or who, may I ask, dictates your life?
...Maybe dictate is too strong of a word. How about we say what runs your life?
Of course, we all want to use that go-to, cookie-cutter stereotypical answer with a smile on our face, but - to be honest - I got so aggravated with myself this morning I finally realized what is really running my life. Granted, I am the one programming it so you could say, all in all, that I am running my life, however this thing is running me.
What is it?
Such a simple answer...
My phone calendar.
Keep in mind, I also have written and up-to-date calendars at my home and the office and they both are color coded according to the task including times, date duration, and important names and notes, but I only use them as a reference after checking my phone calendar at least 17 times already that day.
It's great to be productive and to get all those ‘to do's’ done, but the end result is that I'm causing myself to miss all the special stuff in between. I thank God throughout each task and day, but is that really all this is about? Task to task, chore to chore, responsibility on to another responsibility…
I also kind of give myself a sliding ‘pass’ because, technically, all the things that I am doing each day are quote on quote “good things.” All are going to God, helping other people out, and keeping things easy and happy. Isn’t that what He wants?
To some degree, yes, but being efficient with time and tasks, no matter how ‘good’, are nothing on the scale of being efficient with my words, ways, and heart.
So what shall I do? Throw my phone down the drain and not run off the calendar anymore at all? Or how about, just look at it once, say it out loud 13x and memorize it, and hope I get it all accomplished by the end of the day?
No... I don't think either of those solve this problem…
Proverbs 90:12 is one of many verses instructing our paths and daily schedules, and after reading it, reminds me I need to take some serious timeouts.
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
What is the point of driving to work if I am not even looking at the road anyways? Instead, I catch myself trying to get ahead on work related things before I even get to the office. Listening to office voicemails – from my cell, of course.
Checking emails? Yep. Responding to them? Of course.
How about re-updating my work calendar even before I get there?! I have gone too far!
When we made the office move I thought this was the only benefit to my now 30 minute drive to work.
“Ahem. Excuse Me,” says the Lord. “Umm…Whitney?? You there? How about you do me a favor and actually look at the road. On top of that, We’ve got 30 minutes together and it’s a beautiful day, go ahead and listen to the music you go to work for to keep on the air each day… I might just meet you right there in the lyrics.”
And this is when my very detail oriented brain takes a deep breath. It’s also as if it just got a little wider, found some more room. I don’t need to be numbering my hours, my minutes, my drive time, my work time or my off time. No, just number my days. To be more specific: As A Whole!
*a tad bit about Whit~
I like to write just about as much as I like to talk & my college transcript proves I am much better at English than math! I love Jesus, my husband, and our dogs more than both of those combined so you're in for a treat!*