Monthly Archives: March 2015

That Darned Need to Know Basis

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Can you recall a time in your life when you had a “call-in” time window? Perhaps for jury duty or an appointment time you were told to call at a specific time. You find yourself waiting for the clock to move, or staying awake speculating on possible outcomes. There is no answer until the time window opens. You can have your pencil poised over your calendar, but you can’t write or plan or move forward. You have been given a time and you must wait.

I experienced that at Mayo Clinic the night before my brain surgery. I wanted to get to bed to have a good night’s sleep. Well, what I should say is that I wanted to get to bed to toss and turn. I couldn’t relax or set my alarm clock until I called a number at nine pm to find out when to report for surgery in the morning. Did it really matter given that I was having brain surgery at some time the next day? Not really, but the clock didn’t move and I was frustrated to know exactly what the plan was. I tried to call earlier, but there was no cheating. There was no answer until the appointed time, when I finally got an answer with the exact time to show up in the morning. I then set my alarm and tried to get some sleep.

Like those time windows in life, God knows the plan, but doesn’t share it until the time is right. One of the things that I personally struggle with most is God’s “need to know” basis. However, I have learned that fretting and worrying about future days only interferes with the quality of today.

As I worry, I find myself drifting away from God. I find myself focusing on issues and not my relationship with Him. I find myself drifting away from the joy of life in this moment and the people around me. However, as much as I’m sorry for the way I drift away, I am grateful for the way He pulls me back. Being pulled back reminds me of His love.

Oh, just for the record, what happens when the answer does come? I frequently find myself thinking, why was I worried?

Muscle Memory

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A friend recently drove my car, and asked how the cruise control worked. From the passenger side of the car, I told her clearly and confidently. However, after following my precise instructions, we both felt the car slow down. “Hmm, I don’t know what’s wrong, but it works for me and I do the same thing.” After repeatedly speeding up, following my instructions, and slowing down, I both put on my reading glasses and looked at the clearly marked buttons. “Oh yea, I guess that’s what I do — push down instead of up.” Sheepishly, I mumbled, “I do it so automatically that I couldn’t tell you! Sorry about that.”

I’m in awe how unconsciously we do certain things. Muscle memory is created as a result of movements being repeated so many times that we perform them without conscious effort. I find, like with cruise control, I frequently can’t verbalize a series of motions because I’m so used to doing without thinking.

Passwords provide a great example of muscle memory. I was reminded of that when my bank recently updated their website. I sat and looked at my computer screen dumbfounded because with the three passwords required were now in different spots on two consecutive screens. I could no longer remember any of them. I had to close my eyes at each new spot and think through the old order so that I could pull out the portion I needed for the new screen format and sequence.

We also build up “spiritual muscle memory” by spending time in prayer, meditation, and Bible study. The more we repeat a motion, the more ingrained it becomes. The more we fill our minds with the right information, the more automatically we return to it. So, if we find ourselves fallen by the side of life, bleeding and bruised, it’s kind of like riding a bike. After climbing back on, we quickly find a comforting familiarity and focus. How do you develop your “muscles?”

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow will be a busy day because I don’t seem to be making progress on my to-do list. Of course, I understand prioritization, but tell that to life, right? I’ve become a victim of daylong excursions. No, not a walk through peaceful woods. Not a drive along the colorful frozen Lake Michigan shore. Instead, I keep having appointments requiring a full day of travel, and sometimes overnight. I will admit that I’m more than a bit frustrated because I get a high from checking things off my list as complete. Things that instead get put off because of another “can you be here tomorrow” phone call.

Tomorrow I’ll clean my desk. I’ll no longer sit here typing between piles of paper. Stacks that become more disorganized every time my half-Siamese calico cat decides to walk across my keyboard, gaze out the window, and jump down with papers cascading behind her. As I reach to catch the falling pile, she’ll pause to look at me with disgust and disinterest before padding of the room with a meow of protest. “Gabby!” I complain every time.

Tomorrow I’ll clean my closet. Tomorrow is when I’ll have neat and orderly dresser drawers. You know, the kind where everything has its place and you don’t have to push things down as you close. I’ll will love my new closet with clothes arranged by color and type. I’ll be taking all excess directly to a charity.

One thing I’ve learned to not put off until tomorrow is love. I love my family and they know. I’ve told them how much I appreciate them. If I can spend time with any of them rather than spend time cleaning Gabby’s path to the window, I pick family. If I can travel to see a new part of the world, I pick travel. If I can spend time appreciating God’s incredible earth, I pick nature.

Since having brain surgery, I’ve learned to listen to my body. If I need to lay down to rest my head, it’s not an option and I’ve accepted it. I listen to quietness for guidance with the loudness of life. We all live today not really knowing if there is a tomorrow. Living time that we can’t accurately calculate fractions of because we don’t know the total sum that will be given us. So, when I think about it, I’m even grateful for unplanned daylong trips. Because I’m here to take them.

I keep adding more to my “to-do” list than I’ve checked as complete. Pushing to tomorrow what I just don’t fit in today. Yes, tomorrow will be busy. Did I mention the great American novel that I’m working on? Well, tomorrow.

Gilbert Goat

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One life lesson I’ve learned from my father is the value of listening. As I grew up, he always had time for me. If I knocked on his office door, he would tell me to come in, setting a book aside. If I approached him as he worked around the house, he would stop what he was doing. I always knew I had his full attention. By asking a question here or there, he would help me come to the right answer for whatever my dilemma was that day. Not by telling me what to do, but by sharing insights, asking questions, and applying logic. I would then continue with my day, feeling settled and confident with my decision. He would pick up his book or tool and continue his task at hand.

I’ve been trying to focus more on listening to people in my life. Too frequently, I haven’t. I’ve missed questions or conversation because I was distracted by my phone, a book, or a task. If I really want to hear a need, a question, or a statement, I’ve come to accept that multi-tasking doesn’t work. In order to really hear, I have to put my distractions aside.

As I continue to work on my listening skills, one instance of successful listening comes to mind. My father loves to tell stories and one was about wanting a goat as a small boy. Through his words, I pictured a chain attached to their garage with a little collar ready. A water bowl was prepared to be filled religiously. However, his folks explained to him that a goat was not an option. Why had he wanted a goat? Why couldn’t he have one? I have no idea, but I heard his story. I had listened.

One Father’s Day, when I was an adult and he was a grandfather, I got him a baby goat. Dad was surprised when I told him my plan – confirming that he still had a goat desire before actually picking one up. I had read that goats calm horses, which we had five of at the time. Dad agreed, and we brought Gilbert home. Tawny brown, Gilbert was adorable with floppy ears and a dark stripe painted from nose to tail.

The kids had fun helping Grampa care for Gilbert. We learned that not all was perfect when Gilbert ate our horses’ tails off. Ragged and stringy, the poor horses’ tails lacked enough substance to swat flies from their faces. After preparing a separate pasture for him, Gilbert cried to the point that we got a second goat, Nanita, to keep him company. Nanita calmed Gilbert down and they thrived in their separate pasture, allowing the horses to grow tails again. We all had fun with the goats, and my father was pleased.

The gift of a goat was one that came from listening. I heard and responded. I have learned from my father that you have to listen to hear.