We have a magic power in life with a pen and paper (a tablet/stylus or computer/keyboard) when we practice signing in and signing out. Signing in means that we are open, present, ready or prepared. Signing out says, “That’s all folks!” Drop the microphone and close the curtain because the work is done.
This week, I signed out a child from school and signed into a board meeting (x3!). I signed into my banking account and signed out of a doctor’s office. I signed up to provide refreshments and signed out of the library. In and out, in and out, all week long.
One evening during the week I signed off my phone. It was ringing, buzzing, and alerting me at such a rapid pace that it was practically creating an earthquake on the kitchen counter. Someone forgot to tell the phone that the day was winding down instead of winding up. Someone forgot to tell the phone that we were in the last act of the play that day and we needed to wrap things up. Without thinking, I sent one more text informing the sender that I was signing off for the night. It was an automatic response because my personal battery was on low and I needed to recharge before the next day. Enough work for one day.
Immediately, when I signed off for the day, I signed into being present with the people I love the most. I signed into awareness and curiosity. I relaxed and took a deep breath. (Maybe the first one all day.) Dolly Parton once said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Meredith Bell says, “Never get so attached to a device that we forget to be present with those we love.”
My new spiritual practice is signing off. Signing off to work at the end of the day even if there is more to do. Signing off to busyness and hurry. Signing off to exhaustion day after day. I’m signing into recharging, resting and sabbath moments. God is in those moments!
Is there a place in your life that needs a signing out spiritual practice?
Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none. Exodus 16:26
From our Happy Tent to yours,
Sometimes life completely surprises us in both good and bad ways. Recently in our tent, we experienced a surprise. We were surprised to discover that our new puppy had a kidney disease. The extremely sad part is that she is now Jesus’ adorable puppy and no longer ours. The extremely spiritual part is that we have moved through our loss together and relatively well.
Birdie came into our lives over the summer. We planned six months before during Christmas to add a puppy to our tent. Everyone in the family contributed to the “Puppy Fund” jar over those long six months. We paid for Birdie in 1’s, 5’s, 10′, 20’s and A LOT of change. When we handed over our jar to the breeder, we all smiled with pride. After Birdie was ours, we went on our summer vacation. And yes, Birdie joined us because we were NOT going to leave her behind.
She traveled to Longmont and Estes Park, Colorado. She enjoyed the early morning coffee shop visits and met many locals over coffee. She loved the feeling of the wind blowing on her face as we traveled to the top of Estes Park. She couldn’t believe the view. One evening during an outdoor jazz concert, she rolled around in the thick grass on a cool Colorado night and played with her tiny ball. She was such a trooper on the long car rides and participated in every game and sang every song! Birdie Bell quickly became a part of the Bell family.
Once we were home for good, Birdie enjoyed picking up our scholars in school each day and assisting with homework by keeping little laps warm. She learned tricks, greeted us in the morning and assisted with the wake up call. She loved to visit our neighbors and was often the center of attention as neighbors were taking their routine walks. She never met a stranger. She even befriended our other dog, Sam, with little effort. He was a big fan of our tiny little Birdie.
Just as quickly as she came she was gone. Of course we shed tears, asked “Why” and hugged a lot during the days after she was gone. We still talk about her often and smile at the memories we shared with her. Some dogs need just a little bit of time to make a big impact.
In honor of Birdie, we would like to share a few lessons that we learned from her.
- Perfect Planning Does Not Equal A Perfect Ending: We prepared for our new puppy. We shared the responsibility of paying for her. We all learned about the discipline of saving and waiting. (It was very difficult to not “borrow” from the puppy fund!) We shared the responsibility by letting her out, letting her in, feeding her and playing with her. Everyone participated with joy. We took her to the vet for her shots and carefully selected the perfect groomer. We gave her perfect treats. We did everything RIGHT for Birdie. But our ending was less than perfect. Perfection is not a guarantee for a perfect ending. In life, perfection is overrated. It’s a myth. In life, nothing is promised to us other than eternal life when we believe in Christ.
- Take Time To Visit: With Birdie we spent a lot of mornings and evenings outside playing. Our T.V. became a secondary activity. Because she was a five pound adorable ball of fur, she was a neighbor magnet. During our time with Birdie, we visited with our neighbors more because we did not have the luxury of being in a hurry. We were present with Birdie and our neighbors. We enjoyed our spontaneous conversations each day and we looked forward to them. Birdie taught us to hurry less and visit more. You never know how much you need to have a conversation with a neighbor until it is over.
- Risk Love: We fell in love fast with Birdie, very fast. We risked everything to love little Birdie and we loved her completely. She had full control over our hearts. Would you do it again? Absolutely! The pure love and joy that she brought into our tent and into our relationships was worth every dollar and penny that we saved in our “Puppy Fund.” It is a risk to love someone or something other than yourself. Birdie taught us that it is worth the risk.
One evening last week we were having dinner and we talked about Birdie. We talked about getting another puppy. We talking about if we wanted another one, if we wanted the same breed, and if we were ready. Everyone in our tent has strong opinions so the conversation was lively. But one comment summed it all up. If or when we are ready to try again, our new puppy will be named Birdie 2.0! She was that fun and special.
Which one of the “Birdie” lessons speak to you this week? What is special about your pet(s) and what do they teach you?
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29: 11
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
I visited a beautiful campus library this week. There are still a lot of books in a library. BUT I discovered there are even more at my finger tips. Databases after databases are available by typing a single word. They are all connected and they are all amazing. Amazing because they answer questions. All of them!
God loves a beautiful mind. Proverbs 2:2 says, “Turn your ear toward wisdom, and stretch your mind toward understanding.” Our minds are a gift, a beautiful gift. When we use them for understanding we are using a gift from God.
What is a question that you have been thinking about lately? What have you been curious about? What have you wondered about lately? What has been keeping you up at night? We always encourage children to ask questions. Maybe children should encourage adults to ask questions, too. Of course, as adults, we no longer need to ask simple questions like “What makes lightening?” or ‘Why are there no more dinosaurs?” We know these answers. (Or at least we can quickly google them!) Adults are called to go deeper with their questions. Adults are called to ask bigger questions and commit to finding the answers.
This is a calling from God. A calling to use our beautiful minds. Questions like “Who is my neighbor?” or “What can I do to being healing to this situation?” or “What is behind this feeling I have about images I see?” When we engage the world (issues, images, headlines, events) around us with our minds, we discover more questions behind the first one. With each question and answer pair, we take a step closer to understanding. And we take a step closer to creating change or awareness so others can understand as well.
Raise your hand and ask your question!
From our curious and Happy Tent to yours,
P.P.S. This week’s book suggestion is The Encyclopedia of Student and Youth Movements. All of these movements started with questions. This book is full of stories about youth around the world that created change with their beautiful minds. This one is sure to spice up your family dinner conversations! (Not all topics in the book are appropriate for younger minds…at least not until they get older.)
After church one Sunday a few years ago, my husband asked our five-year-old daughter what she learned in Sunday school. She said that she learned about Jesus and the cheetahs. The theologian in him was immediately curious because he was not familiar with that story in the Bible. He asked for more information and she told him the whole story. Then he listened closely to her lesson.
Jesus and the Cheetahs
Once upon a time, Jesus was walking down the road. There were ten cheetahs that came to him. They were sick. (In Sunday school we put dots all over our clothes with cotton balls and baby powder. We looked like cheetahs. It was fun.) Jesus made the cheetahs better, but only one cheetah said “Thank you.”
Eventually my husband got it…she was talking about Jesus and the Lepers not CHEETAHS! We always get a good belly laugh from her version of the story especially since I was her Sunday school teacher that day!!
There is also a lot to truth to her story. There are a lot of cheaters in this story. Nine to be exact. In Luke, we learn that Jesus encountered ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem who begged him for mercy and healing. He did exactly what they asked. They were healed and they had their lives back. They could return to society, their families, and their careers. He had given them all that they could dream of having and more. Out of the ten healed lepers, only one returned to thank him. Only one.
This Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to be the one that returned to give thanks. Think about all the people in your life that have made your life better this year. Be the one to thank them. People like your doctor who helped you stay healthy, your friend that remembered your birthday, your co-worker who helped you meet your deadline, or your neighbor who pulls your trash bins back to your fence after they are empty. Be the one to thank them. Think about the people you see each week at the grocery store, school, bank, gas station or in your neighborhood. Be the one to thank them. Recall how they helped you have a better day or a better life. Be the one to thank them.
Since Thanksgiving is on our minds, our family took a moment after dinner this week to make a list of all the people we want to thank. We signed a cards and wrote a notes together. We had fun talking about why we wanted to thank someone. What is a creative way your family can give thanks?
When we bow our heads and give thanks to God with our family on Thursday, we will also be giving thanks for all the people God sent us this year to make our lives better. If we don’t take time to pause and give thanks, aren’t we really only cheating ourselves?
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:15-19
Happy Thanksgiving from our tent to yours!
Just this week I found myself in the middle a modern “fishes and loaves” story. I did not wear any thing special that day because I did not know I was going to walk into the story as a main character. I did not know how my ordinary day would end.
School is winding down for us (in fact today was the last day for one daughter) which means our afternoons are less busy. Routine has been thrown out the window…hello world! We even met friends for a snow cone after school this week… spontaneously. (Oh how sad that even a spontaneous, unscheduled, and unplanned snow cone date can feed my adventurous side. Next week I may spontaneously take on the Appalachian Trail!)
After we cooled off with our snow cones, we headed to the park. What we found there took me by surprise. Our neighbor. She is a teenager and she was with her friends. School was out and she was just hanging out before walking home. We chatted. Then I remembered that after her parents divorced, she is often home alone with her brother in the afternoons until her father gets home from work. Then I remembered this has been going on for a while, but I had forgotten.
Once we returned home, my daughters invited our neighbors over to play. I made after school snacks and started on dinner. For dinner I was preparing a salmon dish. (The fish in the story. But I doubt Jesus served salmon.) I knew the meal would feed my family of 4. But I was not sure about company. Before long, the dinner question arrived in my kitchen, “Can they stay for dinner?” I looked at my fish and it looked back at me as I muttered something like, “Sure”. (God’s response…ABSOLUTELY)
This is when my dinner plans were hijacked by God. God had other plans for my fish…hospitality and love. As I was finishing up the meal, God and I had a chat. My meal prep and serving suddenly turned spiritual. Our neighbors had a place at our table that night. They weren’t alone on the playground or in their own home. They were with us, their friends. Because they were with us, our circle became wider as we simply became aware that they needed us on that day. Our tent grew, our table grew and our love for them grew. And by the way…somehow the salmon (fish) and loaf (well…really Jasmine rice) grew. We all had enough and we were all filled with much more than food when we left the table.
Simply aware. Simply Available.
Whew…after we finished dinner the other night I was even more worn out that I was before we began. I LOVE the idea of sitting around the table at night together to enjoy one slow meal. Our only slow meal of the day. We get a chance to talk about our roses and thorns (our highs and lows) of the day. It gives me a great insight into the lives of my children that I don’t get to see. This ideal meal (conversation, good food, laughter) is at least what I expect.
What really happens is this…pleaseeee eat your green bean. When asked how many at the beginning of the meal I decide on number 5. Eat 5 green beans. By the end of the meal I am begging…just eat one…just one. Just eat one green bean for my sake. Only because I know the pediatrician will ask me that one question at your annual visit. “Does she eat a balanced meal?” I always say yes…but it is a stretch.
And then both my children began using my own lines on me…”I love you to much to argue”….then they would laugh…
I once heard Kevin Leman encourage parents to talk with their children at the dinner table the same way they would talk with diner guests. For instance, I would not demand that my dinner guests eat their green beans before they left the table. So why do I talk with my children that way????
Thankfully I will be invited back to our dinner table tonight. Maybe I just need to focus on my own green beans and not worry about controlling everyone else’s. I’m learning that a Happy Tent usually includes a happy mom…not one who brings stress and control to the table. There is enough of that in this world.
I pray my table will reflect more love, acceptance and peace.I want to enjoy these years because I know in a few short years, some of my dinner guests will not be at my table on a regular basis.