Friday, September 30, 2011

Superman and the Trash Guy.

My favorite non-fiction author, Donald Miller, said the following in Blue Like Jazz:

“Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more.”

I love that quote!  I can relate to much of it, except I do not sit around in my underwear.  Haha.  But my favorite part is the end- "We are worth so much more."  That is so true.  But he doesn't just mean writers you know. 
I believe each person alive was created to do something very specific and unique with this one life on Planet Earth.  It requires a set of skills, talents and abilities only you possess.  Sure, many people could theoretically sell dishes at Target or flip burgers at Burger King.  However, there is art in every task, even those we might call "throw away" or low-paying jobs.  I am not talking about the rude teenagers taking your food orders at McDonalds...although if we all really knew what was actually in fast "food", we might thank them if their rudeness inspires us to stay away.  But that is a health tangent for another day. 
Many people don't have a clue as to what they truly have passion to do in this life.  Others know and are afraid to pursue their dreams.  Some people make a great paycheck and the money lulls them into numbness to their true callings, while most of us just make a paycheck and are happy to survive another day. 
But we are worth so much more. 
I don't have quick answers to "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  There are a million resources out there to help with that question.  I am simply bringing attention today to the fact we should be asking it... every day until we have answers and can move forward into that knowledge.  Otherwise our whole world will be grown up versions of rude teenage employees at McDonalds.  Don't you want to change the world?  I know I do.  And we have the ability to do that- regardless of age- if we can realize our passion and live it. 
And don't ever belittle your passions, dreams or abilities- we need the Trash Guy just as much as we need Superman. Just think, if Superman spent all his time hauling our trash off the planet and dumping it into other galaxies, he wouldn't be a very effective Super Hero, would he?  Plus, he would probably pollute Mar's second cousin planet because he wouldn't understand how to dispose of battery acid in a safe way.  Are you seeing all the problems this would cause? 
Be who you are meant to be.  We ALL need you to be who you are destined to be.  Thank you Trash Guy and Superman. 
I am off to throw Donald Miller's book across the room, beg forgiveness, and go earn my dollar. 
Peace dear readers. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know it...

I am sitting at my brand new desk writing my first blog! This is my early birthday present.  It was all purchased at IKEA, except for the picture, and put together by yours truly...I was too excited to wait for Ron to get home and assemble it for me. 

Do you like it?  I love it!
(Forgive my messy cords, I will fix that soon!)

My desk isn't what today's blog is about though.  Ron and I just got back from the movies.  We saw Contangion.  I would like to talk a little about it.  "End of the World" scenarios have been on my mind and heart for a few weeks now.  If you know my husband, you know they have been on his for the past couple of years.  The possibilities have always been too much for me to handle.  Call me weak-hearted.  Maybe I am.  I felt I fulfilled my duty to think about such things when I saw The Road and consequently didn't sleep for weeks.  If THAT is the future, then I pray a nuke instantly wipes us out so we don't have to live through the resulting horrors. 

I still honestly feel that way for the most part.  However, I had a vivid dream in late August which changed my perspective on some things.  I won't detail my dream here, as it is the basis for a novel I am contemplating.  But I will say it involved drastic changes in our society which completely altered our living circumstances.  The dream blew my eyes and heart open- I woke up crying and knowing I had ignored vital truths. 

Contangion is the story of a bird flu type pandemic sweeping across the world, killing thousands in days.  I will not give important story details here, because everyone should see it.  It is well-made, directed by Stephen Soderberg, and has some big names in it which means good acting. The movie is also not so horrific as to make it impossible to sit through, as I feel describes The Road.  It is a story of survival, and how our daily lives and way of life can change in an instant.  How will we adapt under those circumstances?  How will we eat, protect  The situation in Contangion is just one of many possible catastrophe situations we could encounter someday- nuclear war, a complete economic collapse, or an EMP.  In case you haven't heard the term before, EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse, which is achieved by detonating one or multiple nuclear weapons in the atmosphere above certain target locations.  The effect is a "pulse", which essentially fries all electrical equipment on the ground for thousands of miles.  ALL electrical equipment- cars made before 1984 would not start, no electricity, no water services, no computers, no life-saving devices- we would basically have our lives reverted back to the 1800s in an instant. And in case the EMP sounds like a bad Lifetime/Scifi movie plot to it did to me at first also...know that Congress has already had hearings on the subject. 

I have educated myself a lot this past month on possible scenarios and preparation measures.  I didn't have to go far.  I told Ron about my dream and he handed me a stack of books from our bookshelf.  Yes, from OUR bookshelf...I can truly bury my head in the proverbial sand when I wish. I will recommend a few resources for the interested at the end of this post.  I know I probably lost a few of you at the words "catastrophe situation"- it's okay.  I ignored the subject matter for years so I know the feeling.  But here is MY one basic premise for thought and preparation:

I will not allow my daughters to come to ANY harm because of my lack of planning or preparation.  Period. 

That mission statement keeps me focused.  

I am not saying turn into a doomsday freak and build a bomb shelter in your backyard.  But there are some simple and easy preparations anyone can do to be ready for a disaster situation.  You can keep things simple by preparing for a three day power grid outage due to a blizzard, or choose to go deep by preparing for a possible year-long power grid outage due to an EMP.  There are a lot of resources and opinions out there to help.

I feel I should say this also- Planning and preparing does not mean a lack of trust in God, or to allow fear to rule in your mind, heart or decision-making process.  It simply means to do what you do every day- to care for your loved ones and your neighbors, just with a future specific method.  We plan for college and retirement, we should plan for crisis.    

But for today, I am simply asking you to think.  Think about the future, possible scenarios, and what YOU would do.  Be open.  Ponder it.  I am right here pondering with you.  Go see the movie and ponder some more.  One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, just wrote this week that the best writing advice he's ever received is to love your reader.  I do love you all, dear readers, and I care deeply about what would happened to each of you if Contangion came true tomorrow.  Ponder...for me please. 

Oh- and one other reason to go see the movie- it has my favorite U2 song in it...All I Want is You.  :)

Peace dear readers. 

*A few resources I have found helpful:
-One Second After, by William R Forstchen.  This is a New York Times bestseller now.
-How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, by James Wesley, Rawles

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All things precious and protected.

Our family almost changed forever on Friday afternoon.  In a horrible way.  Most of you reading this will already know about the situation I am going to be sharing, but I need to write about it.  I have been hiding on facebook since Saturday, only giving quick thanks and updates.  But my heart had too much in it to share in that format.  There's no way to put a million thoughts into 150 characters. 

The facts:

Ainsley was struck by a car on Friday afternoon as her and our neighbor girls were scootering home from school.  A large SUV came up on the sidewalk as it was backing up, and its back tire hit Ainsley's foot.  The vehicle knocked her sideways and she was saved from falling all the way to the ground by her scooter's pole, which she grabbed to stop the fall.  The vehicle "flew off", in Ainsley's words.  And she did the same- screamed, righted herself on her scooter, and flew towards home, with tears streaming down her face, and only putting weight on her right heel. 

Friday afternoon and evening were overwhelming.  We followed up with the school, the school nurse, the Arapahoe County Sherriff's Dept, and the urgent care.  We talked to police officers and X-ray techs. 

At the end of the day, Ainsley had a badly bruised foot, crutches, and an ace bandage.  The best description we had of the vehicle was that it was a large, "silverish"  SUV type vehicle.

The emotions:

Anger.  Intense fear.  Overwhelming gratefulness.  Desperately wanting to cry but being unable to because I had to hold it together for my little girl who needed reassurance she was really okay.  I didn't cry for six hours- the only time I broke was when Onnie called from her friend's house and I had to tell her.  I was texting Ron about it, so it was not quite as emotional as having to hear our oldest daughter's voice and explain it to her.  I wanted to kill the driver.  I honestly wanted to take my Glock down to the school and start shooting at people in silver SUVs.  Lest you feel that response is wrong or irrational, then I would say to you perhaps you aren't a parent. 

But God broke through, as He always does if we will allow Him a crack into our hearts.  My anger overtook all other emotions on Friday afternoon.  I guess there was a thought of thankfulness it wasn't worse at some point before 7pm, but I don't really remember that.  My daughter got hit by a car- how could it be worse than that?? I wasn't thinking clearly, or past the fact Ainsley was hurt, regardless of how seriously.  The first person to say those words to me was my mom when I called her on the way to the dr.   

"Thank God it wasn't worse than that."  If you know my mom, you know she did not mean that in a flippant way- she truly meant, thank you God. 

Then the horror of the situation completely knocked me sideways.  I had a moment to pause from the "doing"- of phone calls, police reports, driving- to truly ponder what could have happened.  You may find it crazy or insensitive I didn't think of the awful possibilities before this moment.  It was indeed lurking there, in the corners of my heart- thank God my baby is not crushed or dead- but the "what could have been" hadn't struck me full yet, until that instant. The thoughts were suffocating. 

But God did not leave me there, floating in the unthinkable fathom of what if

The truth:

God protected Ainsley.  Completely and absolutely.  Yes, she could have been crushed, maimed, or even killed.  I am so aware of all of those possibilities.  But she had a very minor injury for being struck by a car.  Yes, she is living through the fear and the pain in her foot.  But God protected her from that driver and the car. 

I don't know exactly how it happened, but I have a pretty vivid imagination, so I have seen all kinds of scenarios in my mind.  Maybe her guardian angel- NOT a frilly girl with a harp, but a strong gigantic creature with calves like rocks and the sword from Braveheart- grabbed the wheel of the SUV and jerked it to the side, pulling the vehicle off the curb and back into the street.  Perhaps the angel punched the driver right in the mouth, leaving the driver with a sudden jolt of awareness.  Or, this is my favorite- maybe God himself jumped in between Ains and the SUV, putting out his eternal hand and shoving the vehicle out of the way just like Edward did for Bella. 

I am not making light of what happened.  On the contrary- something miraculous did indeed happen.  I do not believe for a second it was mere coincidence Ainsley's injuries were very minor.  I do not leave my daughter's health and safety to chance, circumstance or coincidence.  I prayed for protection and blessing over my girls on Friday morning, just like I always do.  But very rarely do I ever see in the present the reality of God's protection.  I know it happens every day, but it's kind of like terrorist threats- we usually only know about the ones which were successful, not the hundreds thwarted. 

I do still have anger, of course I do.  I honestly still hope the driver was unaware of what happened and didn't flee the scene in cowardice.  I pray the driver is found and disciplined in the proper way.  Who knows if this was a one time incident of reckless driving or if the driver is a constant danger on the road? 

But the ultimate truth remains strong as steel-  I know in my heart what happened that day, what could have happened, and this beyond all doubt:  My precious Ains was protected. 

Peace dear readers.  Hug tightly those you love today. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Give it away now...

Give it away give it away give it away give it away now.

THIS is what I was going to write about yesterday.  Giving away love.  It's harder than you think. 

As I was dealing with my Labor Day struggles yesterday morning, I decided to look up Mother Teresa quotes.  Not really sure why I chose Mother Teresa yesterday, maybe God put her on my mind.  I mostly wanted a feel good quote that would be a little challenging.  I got a whole lot more. 

"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start."

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

It was difficult just now to only choose three quotes.  That last one punched me in the gut yesterday.  I feel I do a decent job of loving my husband and our girls.  I could always give more of myself- my time, my energy- but I think we could all say that of ourselves at various times, right?  I try. 

The sad, pathetic truth is I tend to keep scores on my love giving with other adults in my life.  I am afraid to give too much, to love lavishly and without abandon.  I fear that love will not be returned and I will be rejected. 
Eleanor Roosevelt said this well:

"We are afraid to care too much, for fear the other person does not care at all."

This is so true of me.  I pull back, I guard my heart.  I give myself in small doses...just enough to show I care, but not so much as to feel the sting of rejection if my care is not reciprocated. 

Oh to give love freely, fully, drowning others deeply in it without desiring or expecting anything in return.  That would either be the dumbest, most unhealthy, boundaryless thing on the planet to do, or it could just change my world. 

I have always done this with my children.  I can love them completely regardless of how they treat me in return.  Of course it hurts when they do not value or respect me, but it does not touch my self-worth as their mother.  I just keep loving them, giving myself to them. 

I have encouraged a friend recently to love selflessly, to give fully in a situation, knowing there might not be an immediate return on that love.  That love might not EVER be returned in the situation.  But I know in my heart love is never given in vain.  Poured-out love changes the world, it changes us. 

This is my greatest wish today- to love without score.  To love until it hurts, and all that is left is love.  Being so secure in God's love for me and the unique person he has created me to be, that giving myself would only reinforce my calling and my worth. 

Give it away Val.  Be brave.  Stop keeping score. 

Peace dear readers. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Remembering the collapse...

Labor Day has always been a tough day for me. It approaches with dread every year. When I was a kid, Labor Day was always the last day of summer break. I could never relax and enjoy it because the first day of school loomed large in my mind. I have never done well in new social settings, and the fear of social execution at the hands of spoiled girls who might shun me from their lunch table was enough to make me wish for a highly contagious strain of the bubonic plague to hit me in my sleep.

But Labor Day since we have moved to Colorado has marked another milestone- it was the day we physically arrived here with our moving van back in 2005. To move here we left friends in Florida, dear ones that had become family to us and a church we loved. I also left a lot of denial behind. Hurricane Katrina was hitting as we were driving up to Virginia and on to Colorado. I feel it was a fitting image for our situation as well. Just as the residents of New Orleans were finding out how fragile their existence in the below sea level bowl of a city really was, my layers of outward appearing "fine" ness were being peeled back like a rotting potato being carved up for the garbage heap. The winds brutalized, the waters flooded, and New Orleans and I collapsed.

That was six years ago today. There was so much wrong in our marriage at that time. But I was able to ignore it when times were good, friends were close, and busyness could occupy my hands. Then all that was taken away. God left me with truth, our immediate family and about ten million moving boxes. That first year here in Denver comes in second place as the hardest year of my life to date.

But we worked hard, we worked on our issues, and we survived. God showed up with grace like He always does when we get real and humble. We began to thrive. We now have all the things we lost from Florida- dear friends, a church home, feelings of belonging and purpose- and we have truth, which might be the most precious of all.

But just because life is good now does not mean I dread Labor Day any less. There are some hurts and milestones in our lives that will always be painful no matter how much good has come of them. It makes me think of Frodo at the end of The Return of the King. He saved Middle Earth, he saved the Shire. But the Shire was not saved for him. He would forever carry all the suffering of the journey. We will always carry the suffering of our journeys within us. The sharp pain will lessen over time. But it is foolish to hide from it- it is part of us, an important milestone that proclaims we survived. I took a long shower this morning and wept. I am crying now. Thank God for where I am. But where I was can't be erased and must be recognized.

This wasn't what I intended to write today. I am still a little shocked all this came out of me and I am about to post it for the world to see if they wish. But writing is about being real. As Anne Lamont said, it is about opening the door we have deadbolted in our hearts and laying our souls bare so others might find truth and freedom through our struggles and defeats. I hope you, dear reader, connected with some truth in my words today. Be brave. And never ever give up.