Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons Learned from Buford 2014

Once again, my friend, Christie and I headed down south to see the Todd family in Buford, Georgia.  This has become an annual trip to wherever their destination may be.  We've been to Adel, Georgia, enough to feel at home there (and know our way around) and this was our third trip to Buford.  We still aren't completely familiar enough to take off without some help from Siri or Tracy, the human GPS, but we're getting there.  Laughter and fun are always a part of the trip.  If I haven't left with sore ribs from laughing, the trip isn't complete.  Mission accomplished.

This year, my recap will include lessons learned from the view of parenting.  I'm not a parent, but I do love me some preschoolers.  Living a few days at Hotel Todd, you learn all sorts of great lessons on raising children and the life they lead on a daily basis. Here are just a few lessons I learned on this year's trip...

Twistable Crayons are the best invention since, well, crayons - Coloring is a daily activity with Allison and Logan.  As we busted out the paper and crayon box, I noticed these intriguing plastic covered crayons.  Tracy enlightened me that they are twistable crayons.  I was in love!  She said they last longer, no paper to tear off or sharpener needed.  Where have these been all my life?  When I returned home, I had to go shopping for some new sunglasses that met their demise while on our trip.  As I perused the aisles at Walgreen's, I noticed they had the twistable crayons and colored pencils buy one get one free.  I may or may not have bought two boxes.

Car rider lines are fascinating - When I was in elementary school, I was a "car rider" but when school was out, my Mom just parked out in the school parking lot and I walked out until I saw her car.  Pretty low tech.  These days, the car rider pickup logistics are amazing.  On Friday, we went with Tracy to pick up Allison from Kindergarten.  When we approached the turn-in to the school, Tracy hung up her number.  One of the school workers was there to text/radio back the number.  As we wound around the parking lot to get to one of five pick-up spots, we could see Allison, all ready to go with her Elsa water bottle and backpack.  We pulled up, she hopped in and off we went.  We were never this organized when I was in school.  The anticipation of seeing your child waiting to be picked up was exciting.  Clearly I need to get out more.  And, if you need your child picked up from school, I'd love that!  

Chick-Fil-A is more kid-friendly than I realized - I'm a Chick-Fil-A fan, but even more so now.  Of course, I knew you could trade in toys in the kid's meal for an ice cream.  And I knew many of their locations had indoor playgrounds, but after a visit at Chick-Fil-A with Allison and Logan, I learned even more goodness!  They provide plastic place mats!  As Tracy was ordering the food, Chad was setting up the seats and pulled out these plastic stick-able place mats for the kids.  How ingenious!  The Twistable Crayon folks must have come up with this one!  Once we were done, we could just peel off the place mat, wrap up all the trash and voila!  Clean!  Actually, I suspect Tracy engineered these.  

Kindergarten is the new First Grade - I'm amazed at the level of learning in Kindergarten now.  When I went to kindergarten, it was a half day and we had nap time during that time.  I remember learning about presidents, and voting for kool-aid flavors.  We had birthday celebrations where we could pick a birthday buddy to sit with us and share a cupcake.  And we learned how to roast pumpkin seeds.  Allison is in a whole new realm of learning.  There is music, PE, art, literacy, along with her regular class.  She goes for a full day and is learning all sorts of things....like 2D and 3D shapes.  Friday was hexagons.  I don't think I knew what a hexagon was until later in elementary school.  Still don't as I quizzed Allison with a stop sign...which is an octagon, not a hexagon.  She even has homework!  After coming home on Friday, Tracy reviewed her backpack to pull out her homework and a newsletter to parents.  Good thing Tracy is organized because there were a ton of things to keep up with - picture day, homework, and teaching Allison how to open her own applesauce and punch in her own Capri Sun straw.  No wonder sweet Allison zonks out on the couch every day.  That's a lot for a little one to soak in.  

Kids hear everything and repeat it - Ok, so I already knew this lesson, but it was even more hilarious during our trip.  On Saturday we decided to go to Chuck E. Cheese.  But as we discussed the other options, we gave it the code name of "Charles E. Cheddar" to keep the children from figuring it out.  One day, they'll figure out the code name, but hopefully that'll be after Chuck E. Cheese has lost its luster.  Anything I said, Logan would repeat.  When playing Guitar Hero, I said "Daddy's guitar is on fire!" to which Logan repeated that phrase.  Logan wanted to play another game on the Wii.  Tracy said no (which is a rarity folks, she's a softie...especially with that long-lashed boy...and, I can't blame her one bit!)  Logan asked Daddy if we could play the game and Chad said, "No Mommy poo-pooed the idea."  Logan replied "Poop?  Who pooped?  Where's the poop?"  He was seriously looking for someone who had poo-pooed.  Hilarious.  

Another fun trip to the Todds has come and gone.  And I miss getting my good night hugs from Allison and Logan and playing games with their parents...and them.  Until next year's lessons, I'll just look at their picture on my desk at work in those moments when I need the right perspective on life.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Though I could write a post about so many tragedies in the world today - persecuted Christians around the world, the Iraq crisis and ISIS travesties - America seems to be consumed this week on the tragic passing of Robin Williams.  His life ended on Monday from suicide.  Sad.  Tragic.  Mind boggling.

The internet is replete with articles written on the topic of suicide and severe clinical depression, which Robin suffered from.  It seems the world is battling each other on the motivations for this and how it could have been prevented.  In the midst of the loss of a precious life, quite frankly, these articles are wearing to me, which is why I've been ruminating on this post for two days.  You won't hear me argue the "whys."  What you will hear, if you continue reading past this point, is what I feel is the overarching problem and why every one of us needs to be aware for our own knowledge and to help someone else in need.  

Suicide hits everyone, just like death.  No one is immune.  Just read the stories from Pastor Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, on the loss of his son, or Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, on the loss of his daughter, and you'll see that no one, not even the most godly, can escape the touch of how depression and addictions can impact a soul.  Lest we get too haughty and we fall, each one of us must remember that only by the grace of God have many of us not fallen in the same path as Robin or anyone who has committed suicide.  

Depression is real.  It's just as real as the air we breathe, the sun that shines, and Satan who is also very real.  If there has ever been a tactic that Satan can use to torment and control people, it's depression.  Whether you deal with clinical-level severe depression or just normal bouts of depression and sadness, I believe this is a tool of the enemy.  It is the opposite of joy and hope.  Satan is the opposite of God, hence, he would use this all-consuming depression to take anyone down he could.

I'm not here to speculate on Robin Williams' situation.  I'm here to bring hope and context to those who may be in the same tragic state.  I don't understand the level of severe depression he dealt with, but I do understand the world that is hopelessness.

I've lost multiple jobs in my lifetime (not of my choice or for performance). I've lost all of my immediate family to death. I've never been married (a lifetime desire) and, given my age, I will never bear a child.  I live every day with chronic pain due to rheumatoid arthritis.  I could go on, but these are just the highlights of hopelessness in my life.  

In contrast, when I look at my life from the opposite perspective I see things differently.  I have an amazing job that I love.  I have more friends that are family than many people count as a true friend in a lifetime.  My singleness has allowed me to pour into so many people and love on more "children" than I could have ever bore.  Medical advancements allow me to have medicine that helps me manage the pain.  

I've never contemplated suicide.  But I definitely have had many times where I could have.  I count that as the unmatched grace of God.  You see, I don't deal with clinical depression, but I do deal with chronic pain which causes chemical imbalance in my system and I am on medication to control that so I can manage both pain and emotions.  What makes me different from Robin Williams?  For me, it's the power and grace of God, along with God's wisdom in doctors to understand my body.  Is God not enough?  Absolutely He is enough.  He is enough because when I can't see beyond my circumstances, I see God.  I stop and realize the right perspective.  If God was not in my life, the medicine wouldn't be enough.  Oh it might help me physically, but my life would still be hopeless.  What I know is God is enough and His power to equip medical professionals to help me is enough.  And I know that Rick Warren and Frank Page would still say, God is faithful, because they know, and have seen, the enemy at work in their children's lives first hand.  

If you've endured to read this far, and you are without hope, reach out.  Reach out to me or to someone who can help.  I pray that this tragic event - along with every loss of life all over the world - reminds us of our immortality and our need for a Savior.  

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 
Old time is still a-flying: 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
To-morrow will be dying."

Monday, August 11, 2014

We're Going on a Road Trip!

Well, not today.  But, in a little over a week, Christie and I are making our annual trek to the Todd Mansion in Georgia.  This video makes me laugh out loud (literally) every time I watch it.  And it's a Monday and I figure everyone could use a laugh.  One day, if I ever get a dog, this will be me and my dog on a road trip.  Because I'll be "that" girl with a dog...




Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Why I'm Glad I'm Not God

Last week was one of those weeks.  You know the kind, where it's a never ending rollercoaster of one issue after another.  By the end of the week, I left work on Friday and decided to get a RedBox movie and completely zone out on life.  I zoned so much that I missed a school assignment.  Thankfully, God provided grace through a professor that gave me a makeup assignment.  But, last week is one I hope not to repeat any time soon.

In the past two years I've had a lot of loss in my life, and those times have been tough, but last week was different because prior to the events of last week, I knew what was coming.  Our company suffered a corporate-wide reduction.  Our division was the least impacted because we are the most growing part of our overall business, but we still lost four employees...one of which was on my team...and someone I'd had on my team for 3 years.  When I was told the news in advance of the reduction, I had to begin planning.  How would my team absorb her workload?  How would I manage the remaining team's emotions?  What is the best way to handle this for the departing employee to make a difficult moment as painless as I can possibly make it?  On top of all this, I had to plan this out, still wearing a smile on my face and not showing any indication to my co-workers and team anything was changing.  

The two days before were the toughest.  I didn't sleep much.  Turning my mind off was difficult.  My team is like children I never had.  I hurt when they hurt and they hold me up and are stellar in what they do.  Losing one was going to hurt everyone.  Not just emotionally, but many would carry more workload because of it.  I could barely think of anything else.

The day came and the events went as well as could have been expected.  My remaining team was in shock.  Some were just sad.  Some had survivor's guilt.  All the while, though, they had to jump in and pick up the pieces to keep the business running now that we were a "man down."  They handled it well.  I was very proud.  

In reflecting on this past week's events, I realized how grateful I am that I am not God.  The world lives to be in control.  We question what God is doing and we think we could do things so much better.  As I traversed those few days prior to the event, knowing what would happen, I was part of (or overheard) conversations and knew how that would change in the coming weeks.  In the big picture, management had to make this change for the overall good of the company.  Doesn't mean it was easy or that even they wanted to do it.  But they know the big picture.  And reducing a workforce by a small percentage is better than having a mismanaged company that has to close its doors.  Having that information was brutal.  

When I went through the loss of my Dad, I didn't know that a month after he first had a heart attack in 2013, he would be gone.  I walked a journey that was up and down, and God provided grace at every moment I needed it.  But had I known when his last breath would have been taken, how much more burdened I would have been.  I would have grieved during those days instead of enjoying that time with my Dad.  Thankfully, I was not God.  

You may think you'd be better off knowing what God knows.  But, after spending a week with a little foreknowledge and dealing with the outcome, I'm very glad I am not God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Gospel According to Robinson Mountain

This past weekend I made a return visit to the place I call Robinson Mountain.  It is the home of Mark and Sharon Robinson in the Nashville area.  If you follow my blog, you've heard the goodness that makes up a visit to this sea of tranquility and true balm for the soul.  I had been way overdue for a visit (the last one being in July 2011) and Sharon wrote on my Christmas card, "We're very proud you are getting your MBA, you need to schedule a visit."  So the planning began and between our busy lives, we landed on this weekend.

When I've tried to communicate in words what going to Robinson Mountain is for me, I fall way short.  It's refreshment for my soul.  It sharpens me in every way and is physically relaxing.  If our souls had a reset button, mine gets pushed when I visit.  It's almost like having a weekend long massage.  I feel more than blessed for such friendship in my life.

As I made my plans for the visit, I explained to Sharon that there was no need to plan anything major.  My life is going 110 mph and I need to take it to about 20 mph…and we had lots to catch up on the past three years.  The weekend fit my requirements as perfectly as a custom leather glove.

The food is always good at the Robinson B&B and conversation even better.  I left full both with food and soul nourishment.  On Saturday, we spent the most leisurely day I've had in a while.  We had a late breakfast (with Mark's famous blueberry pancakes) and spent a few hours at their favorite local coffee shop that would be a favorite of mine if I lived there.  Then we came home to dinner and the movie Planes, because we all love Pixar.  Sunday always starts with church, and we were going to head home and meet up with our mutual friend, Toby, for lunch.  That's when the gospel went into action.

On the way home, Mark said we'd drop off the movie at Redbox.  That required us to drive past the entrance of their complex and head to Redbox.  Not far after we passed their complex, we were driving behind a car that turned off the road and, Sharon noticed, ran right over the curb down the side of a slope.  She immediately thought the driver had a heart attack or seizure and Mark whipped into the parking lot adjoining the embankment where the car had landed.  We got out and Mark went to the car.  It was an older woman by herself and he eased her out of the car being careful it didn't roll and got her over to our car.  Her name was Barbara and she had turned off thinking that was the entrance to Barnes & Noble, but it wasn't, then she just turned the wrong way and over the curb.  She was obviously rattled and about that time another truck pulled up and advised to call the police.  Barbara was fine and the car seemed ok, but it needed to be towed off properly to avoid any further damage.  While they discussed this, I was talking with Barbara and realized she just had spinal surgery 4 weeks ago, so this was a blessing that she wasn't hurt.  

I could write much more about the remainder of that experience, but the short version goes like this.  The police came and didn't ticket her for reckless driving.  Blessing.  The towing company came and the young tow guy seemed nice, but in the midst of getting her car pulled out, he lost her car key.  From the beginning, she refused to call her husband, which caused Sharon to feel there was something amiss here.  Either she wasn't supposed to be driving, or her husband was controlling or, worse, abusive.  When everyone left the scene, the towing company owner had pulled the car out safely and guaranteed young tow guy, Ben, would be paying to create a new key for her.  Sharon got her contact info so she could follow up later.

So how was this the gospel in action?  Aside from attending to her immediate need, Sharon prayed for her.  Sharon and Mark were wearing their "Serve My Church" t-shirts from the service that day, so that opened conversations about church.  Sharon so smoothly and in a very real way explained to Barbara how she would pray and prayed aloud.  Anytime any of us said anything about God in this situation, she teared up.  I sense she isn't in church and so we were not sure of the state of her soul.  It was 100 degrees that day and we spent a good hour or so waiting, praying and ministering to this woman, that if we hadn't been taking the movie back, we wouldn't have had this opportunity.  

The one thing among a kabillion that I love about the Robinsons is they don't just talk about the gospel, they live it.  Sharon is planning to follow up with Barbara and who knows what this incident will bring to pass.  I always leave Robinson Mountain challenged spiritually.  After this trip, the gospel according to Robinson Mountain is to not only soak it in, but to live it out.