Sunday, July 3, 2016

Did You Pack Extra...

As Dotty and I got ready to head out for an overnight stay this holiday weekend we began packing the car as if we were going to be gone for well over a week. The entire back of my SUV was filled with everything I would need for any situation except a blizzard and since we are in Texas in July I felt pretty confident I was safe there. 

(On second thought I better throw in a light jacket for both of us just in case.)

While we were putting bags in the car Dotty kept asking me things like...

Did you pack extra pillows?
Did you bring extra snacks?
Did you make sure we have enough to drink?
Do we have plenty of sunscreen?
Did you pack me extra shoes in case mine get muddy?
Do I have an extra swim suit?
Do we have extra batteries and chargers?

I reassured Dotty we had plenty of everything and then some!  I learned from one of the best how to pack like a champ (aka like you are moving out of the country temporarily). 

We picked up Dotty's friend who would be joining us for the overnight trip and off we went.  As the girls watched a DVD I let my eyes enjoy the countryside I rarely saw and let my mind wander. 

It didn't take long for my mind to head down a familiar path to Worrytown.  I began to ask myself things like...

Did I pack extra patience?
Did I bring extra hugs?
Did I make sure I have enough love to go around?
Do I have plenty of grace to give?
Did I pack extra forgiveness in case my feelings get hurt?
Do I have an extra good attitude
Do I have kindness and generosity?

So often when we make special plans we make sure to bring all the right physical "stuff" but we forget to pack the really important "stuff".  I am guilty of it the past and on this most recent trip. 

A few times I lost my temper.  A few times I was short.  A few times I was tired or hot or hungry and took it out on the people I love the most.  Sadly the person who sees me at my worst is the person I love the most...Dotty. 

Dotty sees the real me...and loves me anyway...God bless her.  Luckily she is seeing a better me these days.  Six or Seven years ago I never packed any extra patience, hugs, love, grace, forgiveness, good attitude, kindness, or generosity. 

But thankfully people can change...if they want to.

Just like making a list of what to bring on a trip it is a conscious effort to try and do better.  You have to see what you are missing and write it down to know that you need to get some of it. 

For instance I can say to myself...

Hey...I was kind of hard on Dotty when she was hot and tired at the end of a long day.  Maybe I need to get more patience and kindness as well as some extra hugs before a situation like this comes up again. 

We are never going to be perfect but the point isn't to be perfect just to be better than we were before.  I want Dotty to see my flaws.  I also want her to see me apologize for my mistakes and I want her to listen to me when I tell her how I hope to do better in the future.  Then (Lord willing) she will be able to see the change the next time something similar comes up. 

Like in life I know I will almost always forget something whether it be my pillow or my patience but unlike my pillow intangible things like patience, forgiveness, and grace are easy to get once I notice I left them behind.  All I have to do is stop and look again.  In reality they are always there.  I just have to dig a little deeper. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Random Button

I remember the day I got my new Toyota Hylander. The gentleman at the car dealership was very thorough in going over every feature, every inch, every button, bell, and whistle on that vehicle. He showed me how check my tire pressure and where the jack was. (I showed him how I dial my brother to come change my tires.) He showed me how to adjust the air temperature and the heated seats (love those things). He showed me the mirrors (yes even the vanity one) and he showed me all the cool things the stereo system could do. I remember when he got to the cd portion of the lecture, he showed me the Random and Repeat buttons as well as how to use the Browse feature to search for my favorite song via the menu on the touch screen.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself how I would never push the Random Button and even the Repeat Button was a highly unlikely choice. I even remember pondering why in the world would someone want to hit the Random Button? I have never in my life bought a cd in which I liked all the songs. In fact, I like it when I get so familiar with a cd that I know the minute one song ends if I need to skip the next song or not. The whole idea of a Random Button seemed quite…well random to me.
It was less than a few weeks after I got the new car when Dotty noticed the Random and Repeat Buttons that showed up on the touch screen when a cd was popped in to play.
Dotty asked “Momma, What do those buttons do?”
I explained “The Repeat Button will just keep repeating the same song over and over again. The Random Button will play the songs in a random order. Like it might play song number two then jump to song number six then back to number three then to number nine then back to one. There is no particular order it will go in. The system will just randomly choose the next song.”
Dotty – nodding…thinking…fingers twitching in excitement.
Needless to say, a year later, Dotty now uses those buttons quite frequently.
When Dotty gets a new cd we listen to the whole thing but then she goes back to her favorite ones (usually the loudest and poppiest songs) and she will hit the Repeat Button on each one until it has played at least four or five hundred times. This process ensures she has learned all the words, come up with a dance routine to the song, and done several videos of herself on her iPod singing and performing said song.
I handle the Repeat Button fairly well…to a point. As long as I, in general, like the song and the car ride is under 15 minutes I figure I can endure anything until she gets out of the car.
However, the Random Button simply kills my inner need for order and my love of predictability.
This past weekend I was battling being ill for what seemed like forever but was at least a good five weeks. I had reached my “OTC Meds Just Aren’t Cutting It” breaking point and had been to the doctor. My mom was a saint and had kept Dotty most of the weekend so I could rest and let my body heal.
When I got Dotty on Sunday afternoon I needed to run a quick errand. As Dotty and I were driving through town Dotty popped in one of her favorite Christian music cds. I personally like almost all the songs on there but Dotty has about five on the cd she prefers to listen to and the others she prefers to skip.
She made sure to search through the Browse screen and find her all time favorite song first. We rocked out to it…singing and dancing as we drove past amused onlookers. Let it be known, Dotty and I can have quite the dance party in my car and we have perfected choreographed routines to many songs that not only prompt but entice people to stare at us…especially at stop lights.
After we had gotten our jam on Dotty hit the Random Button. The next three songs were not her faves. Dotty kept asking me to skip the songs. At one point we had “skipped” the same song five times within a 30 second period.
My Tylenol and my patience were wearing off at a rapid rate.
I aggressively pushed off the Random Button and said in my most snappy, matter of fact, mom voice “Dotty. When you push the Random Button I have no control over what song will come up next. If you will just let the cd play as normal in the proper order then I can control what number song we go to.”
Dotty sat there very quiet.
Dotty usually sits very quiet when I do that voice.
Unfortunately, Dotty has heard that voice often in her life.
After a while Dotty relaxed back into her seat, grabbed her iPod, and began to play a game. Our fun, carefree time was over. I had ended it with the push of a button. I had ended it with my no nonsense words. I had ended it. Not Dotty. Me.
As we drove in silence I began to think about how often in life I ended Dotty’s “Random Life Moments”. After all, she is only eight so being random kind of comes with the territory.
Dotty can one minute be singing and dancing and the next minute ask if we can bake a cake. She can be yawning and laying her head on my shoulder and then jump up and want to take her new puppy for a walk when it is time for bed. She can love math one minute and hate it the next. She can pick out her clothes the night before while she is getting ready for bed and come walking out of her room the next day in a totally different outfit.

Dotty likes to be a girlie girl and a tomboy.
Dotty wants to be the smartest girl in her class but she wants to need the teacher’s help too.
Dotty wants to be a teacher when she grows up, who works as a nurse at night, runs the family store on the weekend, and stars in Broadway plays in the summer.
Dotty wants to be a mom, the President of the United States, an astronaut, a paleontologist, and a farmer…and she wants to do it all before she gets old…like me.

Dotty is eight.

When you are eight the world is full of possibilities and your head is full of dreams and your heart is full of hope. When you are eight things come and things go but your world is what is happening right now…right this minute…with the people you are with at that very moment in time. When you are eight you live in the now…and the now changes. When you are eight your life is random but it doesn’t seem random to you.

However when you are thirty-six your world can seem full of uncertainties and your head can be full of doubts and your heart can sometimes be full of brokenness and pain. When you are thirty-six the things you love and feel safe with seem to go and the things that are scary and hard seem to come and seem to stay. Your world is sometimes all about what happened in the past or what might happened in the future and you forget to live in present…you don’t know how to focus on what is happening right now…this minute…with the people who are experiencing it with you. When you are thirty-six living in the now is so hard because life can be hard. When you are thirty-six you seek stability and calm and peace and you flee from things that are random because randomness is beyond your control and if your world is out of control then then all heck breaks loose.

I spend so much time thinking about what has happened or what will or might happen that I forget to just let things happen.

I have lost my ability to simply enjoy whatever comes in life. I feel the need to prepare for whatever life might throw at me and in the preparation I forget to simply live.

It isn’t that Dotty loves to listen to the songs as they play on the Random setting. The truth is she is simply okay with the setting.

Whatever song comes up next she will deal with it. If she likes it she will sing along. If she doesn’t she will hit Next. Even in hitting the Next Button she still doesn’t know what the next song will be but again that is okay. When the next song comes up that is the one playing now and that is the one she will deal with. Sing along or hit Next again.
So simply. So easy. Not really all that random at all.

Dotty doesn’t get upset if a song she doesn’t like comes on. She doesn’t even get upset if a song she doesn’t like comes on five times in a row…or ten…or twenty. She simply keeps hitting next not knowing what is coming.

When you are eight you are brave like that.

I know life is much more complicated than finding a good song on a cd but what if it isn’t all that much more complicated???

What if we simply let God pick our next song…our next life moment…our next life event? What if we simply quit trying to control our world and just live in it? What if we were okay with the Random Button in life? What if we had faith in our God and in ourselves that together we can handle anything?

I love that Dotty is okay with things being random and beyond her control. I love that Dotty can let go of the need to control something and just enjoy what comes.

I love the fact that Dotty can enjoy the moment…each moment to its fullest. She can sing her heart out to the song that is playing on the stereo as we drive home. Then when we pull up into the driveway she can enjoy the wind and sunshine on her face as she rides her bike along the sidewalk. Then she can enjoy every bite of the chicken nuggets I lovingly warmed up for her in the microwave like they are the best things she has ever eaten.

Each moment, even if it is routine and not a big deal at all, is milked for all its worth by her eight year old self.

She is living life to the fullest.

And I want to be able to do it too.

I want to wake up and enjoy the feel of the warm covers surround me instead of start to immediately worry about what I have to do that day.
I want to pour a glass of orange juice and taste its sweetness instead of absent mindedly drinking it as I check email and Facebook.
I want to bend down and look at Dotty in the face as I listen intently to her when she tells me about her dream the night before instead of nodding and uh-huhing to her as I barely listen while I gather all our stuff up.

I want to enjoy the moment. I want to enjoy my eight year old.

I don’t get either one of them back when the moment is gone and the eight year old is nine…or ten…or twenty…or thirty-six.

I want hit the Random Button on my life and let God lead the way.

I want to take my hands off the control buttons because let’s face it…I haven’t been doing that great of a job anyway.

I want to let go…and let God.

Because deep down I know if I let Him guide me, my path will never be random.