Posts Tagged ‘Out of Control’

Heeding the Signs

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Oh, there are signs. We see them. We know what they say, what they mean. We even know they’re right and helpful. But do we heed them?

There has been some road construction on the highway that goes by our house. I drove through it a number of days ago.

There were signs up that warned of “Loose Gravel.” And indeed, when I drove through the construction on the first day, I had to drive very slowly on account of said loose gravel.

On the second day of construction, I got in my car to drive into town. As I was driving down the driveway toward the road, I noticed one of those “Loose Gravel” signs. I recalled how loose the gravel had been the day before.

I drove right up to the road and paused in my driveway to wait for a break in traffic.

Once I finally had my chance, I did as I’m used to doing and I pounced on the accelerator. You see, our driveway is not level with the roadway; we have a steep climb right at the end of our driveway to get up onto the road. I have to really give it the gas to get up and out.

But only, this time, when I gunned it, my tires didn’t grip right…because they had gotten caught up on some…loose gravel.

And I thought, gee, I sure wish someone would’ve warned me about that gravel being all loose like that. And all at once I remembered the construction and I looked up and noticed that “Loose Gravel” sign once again.

Oh, someone had warned me. But I forgot. I knew there was loose gravel. I had even seen that sign just minutes before my tires spun out.

The same type of thing happens in my spiritual life more often than I’d like to admit.

Just today something a friend wrote reminded me of a lesson that the Lord has been trying to impart to me repeatedly over the last several months. And every time I get these kinds of reminders about that particular lesson, I say, “Yes, Lord. I remember you telling me that before.”

I know the lesson pretty well on one level. I get what the Lord is trying to tell me. I know it is right and it is for my own good.

I hear the reminders and I know they’re true.

But then? Then, I forget.

All at once I forget and I revert back to my old ways, to what I’m used to doing instead of heeding the Lord’s message to me.

The old ways are so ingrained and it’s hard not to do it those ways. I mean, like putting the pedal to the metal to get out of my driveway, I do what I’ve always done in my life as well. I do what has worked for me in the past even when God has showed me clear signs to do it a new way.

I know I’m not perfect at heeding the signs Lord, but I thank you for providing them so generously. I do see them; I need your strength to obey.

How Fretting Works Against Me

One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

–“Master Oogway” in Kung Fu Panda

I’m gleaning wisdom on my travels. Today I’m reflecting on how fretting rarely gets me what I want and often gets me the total opposite.

On this road trip I’m sleeping in new places every night or two. Each place takes some getting used to–you know, figuring out where to place my duffle bag for easy access, keeping track of light switches, and, of course, making certain to have a good place to charge my cell phone.

The hotel we’re in now has a plug by my side of the bed, but no bedside table. I figured out though that I can plug the phone in and then balance it on the headboard.

This system was working fine for me. But at one point I wanted to take my phone off the charger to check messages. I thought to myself, “I better be careful not to let it slip behind the headboard.”

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Then with exaggerated care, I started to remove the phone from the charger. Somehow my ginger touch was just what it took to nudge the phone right behind the headboard. I grabbed for it and succeeded only in wedging it further down between the headboard and the wall to which it is attached.

The eventuality I was trying to avoid became my reality.

And really, isn’t that just the way of things?

It’s so annoying. Because really, it would be so much nicer if my excessive caution actually paid off. I mean, for all the energy I put into fretting, you would think it would have a better return on investment.

But that’s the thing with fretting–I can invest all I want in it, but it’s always a gamble and ultimately the house always wins.

I lose out on so much with a preoccupation on everything that can go wrong. I know I can take reasonable precautions, but fear-based control just doesn’t ever, ever pay off in the way I want it to.

Plus, as with my cellphone & headboard incident, all too often my fretting only makes my problems worse.

Maybe it’s what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or the old “what you think about you bring about” adage applies. Or it’s a Murphy’s Law thing. I don’t know what you want to call it.

I just know that most of what’s good in my life has happened because I somehow got past my fretting to take a chance.

I can worry myself right into shutting down and end up shutting out the wonderful opportunities that await me. Or I can take a deep breath and relax into something beyond my wildest imagination.

I’m against the effects of fear and fretting in my life; I want more often to see how that breathing and relaxing bit can work for me instead.

Curbing the Urge to Crush Legos

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Confession: whenever I see my son’s Legos on the floor I have the urge to step on them and crush them underfoot just to make the point that he needs to pick up his toys. I’m pretty sure that’s terrible parenting, but the thought goes through my head. Every. Single. Time.

Is my 10 year-old son old enough to take responsibility for his own toys? Of course he is. It’s just that angrily destroying his belongings isn’t the best way to instill a greater sense of responsibility in him.

There’s a term for behaviors like crushing Legos just to teach a lesson. It’s called being “passive-aggressive” which basically means you don’t address the person or problem directly, but you do or say something indirect that undermines the person or situation.

Passive-aggressive behavior is never a good idea in any relationship–parenting included.

This is an excerpt from my new post at Life & Liberty: Why Crushing Legos is Bad Parenting. Click the title to read that post.

When Weeds Are Wildflowers

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It’s thistle season in Texas right now. The ranchers down here aren’t real fond of the nuisance of the thistles in their pastures. But looking out at the beauty of a field of thistles takes my breath away.

I’ve always been a little obtuse about the distinction between weeds and wildflowers.

As a kid I always lamented that we didn’t have more dandelions in our yard.

“They’re weeds.” I was told.

And in my subdivision neighborhood in the suburbs we all paid good money to have folks come out and spray our lawns to keep those weeds under control.

But I was the luckiest kid in my neighborhood because out beyond our back yard was a field–real estate that was a little less desirable because of its situation on a busy road. This field hardly ever got mowed and the grasses and “weeds” got to grow and grow.

In “my” field I had dandelions and clover flowers that got so tall you wouldn’t believe it. There was lots of Queen Ann’s Lace and there was a yellow flower that grew out there in abundance too–I never did identify it.

I know they’re all considered weeds. No self-respecting suburbanite would want them in their yard.

But I couldn’t understand it. They were glorious. That field was full of wonder and all the majesty of God’s creation.

I’ve often wondered, who decides what’s a weed and what’s a wildflower?

I mean, I get it that if you’re planting vegetables you don’t want some other plant taking the nutrients away from what you’re growing. In this way, even a vegetable out of place could be considered a “weed.”

But I loved my field and all the lovely wildflowers that grew out there.

And I love my thistles down here in Texas.

And I just gotta wonder about how hard we try to keep our weeds under control. I mean, if they’re not hurting anything, do we really gotta mow ’em all down and spray ’em into submission?

Then again, we humans are infamous for our need to control, well, just about everything…and everyone.

We best be careful though because otherwise we’ll miss the beauty of the wild ones.

Why I Stopped Hoarding Hotel Soap

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I used to hoard hotel amenities like the little bars of soap and the small bottles of shampoo. But I don’t anymore and I want to tell you about my transformation in this area.

 

How it Started

It started innocently enough. When I would go to a hotel for a youth event or band trip in high school I would grab the shampoo & conditioner bottles from the bathroom before checking out. As a young-married I would grab the shower-cap to take home with me if I didn’t use it during our stay.

But those little bottles are so darling, and I found that on multiple-night stays that hotel staff would replenish any and all amenities that appeared to be used up. So, to create the appearance of them being used up, I would stash whatever was left in the morning in my suitcase before they came to refresh the room.

Sure enough, they replaced everything. I found that I could do this each and every morning and build up quite a little store of soaps, shampoos and shower caps.

At some point in married life there came a trend of getting in-room coffee and tea at some hotels. And I found I could do the same trick of stashing the pillow-packs of coffee, the tea bags, and sugar in my suitcase and those too would get replenished each day!

 

How it Stopped

In a similar way to how I stopped collecting magazines, I finally stopped hoarding these little hotel goodies.

For one thing, it became a storage problem for me. I mean, I wasn’t going to use those little bottles and bars at home and I didn’t travel frequently enough to use them all. I hardly ever used the coffee pillow packs, and I didn’t really much like the tea bags compared to the brand I always favor at home.

So, here was all this loot that kept taking up space in my life and in my home.

But that wasn’t really what did it. I mean, I found places to stick all the little treasures here and there. And then they were out of sight, out of mind.

What really did it for me was moving around the country multiple times. Having so much stuff that needs packed and unpacked prompted me to take an honest look at just how much I was hoarding.

Because really, when all I wanted was to find my son’s bath toys, I didn’t expect to have so many “Bathroom” boxes to go through. And when I wanted bath toys and only found mixed lots of hotel shampoos, no one was served by that.

So, I started to get honest with myself about my hoarding habit and decided to cease the stock-piling.

 

But It Smells Soooo Good…

So, here I am at this church convention this weekend and would you believe they have the most scrumptious-smelling little bars of soap at the hotel where we’re staying. I mean, absolutely divine. And all I want to do is take ALL the bars home.

And there’s a Keurig coffee-maker in the room. I don’t even have a Keurig at home, but I want to take ALL the little K-cups home with me.

What is with this crazy compulsion?

I have to consciously talk myself out of grabbing everything each day.

It reminds me of the story in the Bible (Exodus 16) when God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. God instructed them to just gather up what they needed for each day and no more. And when they gathered up too much, it was spoiled by morning anyway. But there was always plenty to gather each new day.

Whether it’s me and soap or it was the Israelites and manna, trying to store more than needed only backfires and leaves us with something unpleasant to have to manage. Pluswhich, the hoarding in both cases is/was wholly unnecessary!

 

Provisions

I’ve never gone a whole day without access to soap or coffee. Even now, back at my house, there are back-ups of full-sized bars of soap in a cupboard in the bathroom; there is coffee in the pantry. To be honest, I’ve never gone a whole day without all of my real physical needs being filled.

God’s provision is abundant, but still I find myself wanting to grab more than I need.

Once again, I talk myself out of taking ALL the amenities.

Before I leave, I’ll lather my hands up and inhale the wonderful aroma of the soap one last time, and I’ll have one last cup of coffee brewed in the Keurig. Then I’ll head back home and enjoy the “amenities” there.

And I will be fine without hoards of things I don’t really need. Better than fine. I will be free.