Tag Archives: transitions

ONE letter matters

When I was in 6th grade, I competed in the district spelling bee and lost because I added one  letter to a word. My 6th-grade son recently competed in his school’s spelling bee and missed a word by forgetting one letter.spelling bee word list

One letter matters.

In the world of spelling, one letter means the difference of staying “in” the competition or being “out.”

For enthusiastic writers who are vulnerably casting out their manuscripts only to be met with a flood of rejection letters, ONE letter of acceptance matters. One letter shifts the novice writer from being an amateur to being “in” as a published author. This inclusion is savored.

encouragement cardsFor the widow that spends many hours and even days alone, receiving a single handwritten note makes a meaningful difference. One letter can change her perspective from feeling lonely to loved. She feels remembered.

When a spouse is deployed overseas and is feeling the weight of isolation and homesickness, one letter from a loved one back home draws him a little closer to family. A familiar scrawl or silly doodle on the envelope tugs those hearts together a little tighter. He feels connected.

In a world of digital pictures and casual greetings available through Facebook and texts, even one handwritten letter delivered by snail mail on your birthday can transform all those virtual well wishes into a tangible token of love. There’s something special about holding a letter in your own hand that was in your friend’s hand just a few days ago. One letter can ground you, reminding you of a precious friendship. You feel known.

So last week when I was fighting a head cold and clutching my kleenex box, I hunkered down and wrote some letters:

  • to my son traveling on an exchange trip to China, hiding one in his suitcase under a box of Thin Mints and giving another letter to a friend to deliver to him midway through their trip (the potential embarrassment, I think, is worth a little sneakiness!)
  • to a Chinese couple whom I may never meet, but I’m entrusting the care of my 16-year-old son to them for 3 weeks while they generously host him in their home (sigh)
  • to a nephew, apologizing for belated birthday wishes
  • to an aunt undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, offering hope and encouragement while also recognizing her strengthBaylor pillows
  • a “thank you” to a loved one who sewed some pillows for me that I’ve been “planning” for years. Confession: I cheated on this one. I took a picture of the pillows tucked into their new nook and a sent her a text of gratitude. (Go Bears!)
  • to a college friend, wishing her the joys of another birthday

Throughout the week as I wrote to each person, I focused on the recipient. I considered their particular situation, reflecting on the connection between us and conjuring up some words to send their way. Before long, I was no longer aware of my stuffy head and my pesky cough. My mood improved as I redirected my attention to a loved one or reminisced about a dear friend.

Aligning letters on paper to transform them into a message to someone else is a magical thing, something we often taken for granted.vocab

Words are used a lot of different ways in our home. We are seekers of knowlLatin conjugationsedge and explorers of the written word. Our bookshelves are weighed down with words.

The boys are always working on a vocabulary list or conjugating verbs in a language I don’t understand.

Words surround us.

Letters weave in and out of our home daily, an endless merry-go-round of giving and receiving. Some of them we glance over; some of them stop us in our tracks. One letter can shift the atmosphere around us, crackling with anticipation or casting a somber chill.

Which letter do you cling to most?
Bible - I Cor 13
The letter that I’m drawn back to again and again is the Word of God. Each time I read it, I gain a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of something bigger than me. It stirs my soul.
I’m grateful for this ultimate gift. The holy Word is God’s letter to us.
It’s full of wisdom and adventure, heartbreak and triumph, joy and strength, loss and redemption, strife and struggle…but most of all,  its message is love. It offers us hope.

——->>>>>  THIS one letter makes all the difference to me

Phlox

“Every word of God is flawless.” Proverbs 30:5a

 

 

 

Diverted

Recently I was on a flight that tried to land in heavy Dallas fog twice, the second attempt within 100 yards of the ground, then abruptly aborting due to minimal visibility.  An exuberant redheaded flight attendant provided what limited information she had available and a calm pilot reassured us the aircraft was sound,  but the weather conditions were untenable for landing.  A collective sigh of disappointment arose as the announcement came we were being diverted to another airport.

cheerful flight attendantThe full plane of early-morning passengers transformed from a sleepy bunch of travelers into nervous camaraderie as conversations erupted throughout the plane, speculations about deboarding and re-routing sprinkled throughout spirited dialogue. Perhaps the happiest person was a woman two rows back that cheerfully announced this unplanned stop was her home destination and she was getting off as soon as the doorway was clear.😊 Amidst the grumbles of frustration about the delay and forced change of flight times causing a ripple effect of inconvenience, there were also spontaneous plans to grab some Texas BBQ if everyone had to deplane.

cloudy skiesIt’s in these tricky situations that one can see the range of human emotions and observe a wide range of attitude on display. Mothers patiently tended to children, providing distraction and encouragement. Level-headed flight attendants offered additional support to some elderly passengers.

luggageProblem-solvers sprang into action, procuring snacks for sustenance and making calls to rebook flights. 

Some people bailed immediately, asserting they would not get back on the same aircraft. Others made complaints aloud and responded grumpily after each delay update, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

A 15-minute delay bloomed into a 2 1/2 hour wait. People plugged into their devices, shifting from brief anxiety to resigned waiting.

Although there was a wide variety of individual responses, it seemed like we had developed some group solidarity in our waiting. More eye contact was made and conversations were deeper within the boarding area than usual because we had a shared experience of landing someplace unexpected. None of us planned to be in this particular spot, but we were pulled together by this disruption in our schedules.

An airport therapy dog was a welcome distraction and introduced a new common focal point for some positive interactions.airport therapy dog

Then relief pushed through the boarding area as our flight was called to board. For real this time. Reboarding was surprisingly upbeat as if we were reuniting with friends rather than the strangers we all had been just a few hours ago. Our numbers had diminished yet our remaining subgroup seemed undaunted in the collective hope that our flight would make it this time.

It didn’t.

After 45 minutes, we disembarked from the same plane again and started another round of problem-solving…and more people-watching in the process.

flight towerLife often unfolds this way, nudging us off our familiar paths and throwing us into a tailspin, doesn’t it?

We all encounter delays at one time or another. We each get diverted from our original plans. All of us receive unwanted news that changes our course. It may be relocating for a job, dealing with a medical crisis, or experiencing  the loss of a loved one.

How we face these challenges is a reflection of our personality and character. And, oh, how one person’s demeanor can impact the rest! We saw both positive and negative extremes of this during our 8-hour flight delay. 

The perspective we choose to cling to can make a huge difference when we are re-routed unexpectedly in life. Waiting for clarity requires tenacity.  Seeking guidance from those in our trusted watch tower requires humility. Sitting amidst uncertainty requires patience and perseverance.

(And don’t even get me started on lost luggage! )

However your life may be diverted, how will you choose to wait?

 

Proverbs 16:9

 

 

 

Blending

Crater Lake picToday was one of those mornings that I found myself hunting for cold-weather running layers for my son’s first winter cross country practice, rounding up loose change for a fundraiser this evening, and helping my youngest print out last-minute pictures of Crater Lake for a poster project. During the typical breakfast hustle, I found myself searching for this random mix of items reminiscent of a junior high scavenger hunt, trying to beat the clock before the bus came.
Next, in a clean-up pass through the house, I dropped a water bottle which rolled under my son’s bed. On my knees peering warily underneath his bed, I discovered some books, a camping chair, several balled-up socks, pages of sheet music, lego bits, a broken pencil, a soccer ball, multiple candy wrappers from a Halloween stash, a sleeping bag, a couple charger cords, and two dimes amidst all the dust jackrabbits (mysterious fluff too big to be labeled mere dust bunnies). Between a sigh of exasperation and a sudden gouge in my knee from a sharp Lego, I tried to remind myself that this was just the hodgepodge of boyhood.
Our lives are a blend of things, experiences and people, intersecting all the time in a tangle of unique ways. Sometimes we get a glimpse of how these daily artifacts blend together by facing what’s under the bed, clearing out a closet, or sorting through what’s landed in our garage.
Blending traditions can be tricky. As young married couples put up their first Christmas trees, they may find themselves negotiating all-white lights  vs. colored lights, opening presents Christmas Eve vs. Christmas morning, turkey vs. ham, etc. None of this is in the wedding vows, folks. Tread lightly and listen wisely.

mixing coffee cake batterAs I start my holiday baking season, I add ingredients into my mixer and watch it all blend together into golden batter. I pour it into pans and sprinkle it with a sugared pecan mix, remembering how my mother-in-law’s hands did this for so many years. Her handwritten recipe is the one I follow now, a tradition I treasure. My husband’s memories of Christmas coffee cake now blend into my children’s taste of Christmas morning.

Holidays are a time of blending…families from her side and his; families from in-town and out-of-state; recipes from generations past and new ones beckoning from Pinterest; traditions old and spontaneously new. Each year the blending may have a different flavor depending on who is gathered around your table or who may no longer be in  pictures with you Christmas morning. A natural blending over time allows things to settle in gradually, highlighting what experiences are important to the family storyline and are carving deeply into tradition.

coffee cake overflowingSome holiday activities we’ve  incorporated over time in an intentional way, such as an evening family advent activity.

Other traditions have erupted from spontaneous fun, like marshmallow tag that leaves us all giggling and breathless, overflowing with a sense of family connectedness.

Blending all of our usual family activities in with those of the holiday can be a challenge. I have to remind myself of a few things to navigate this season well:

Proceed at a moderate pace. (maintain own pace, not others’)

Enjoy the distinct parts of the season.

Cherish the beautiful outcomes; laugh at the jumbled messes that also come along naturally.

Treasure the history that has gotten us to this point.

Allow dreams of the future to unfold under the golden lights of the Christmas tree.

Savor slowness.

Loosen grudges; tighten hugs.

Encourage others in their way of celebrating; leave competition on the sports field.

Reach out.  (Repeat often.)

Hum with the Christmas music; sparkle with the lights.

Take a brisk walk to re-energize and re-focus.

Surprise someone with an act of kindness.

Make more eye contact in the hustle.

Let the to-do list marinate overnight.

And, always, always save room for coffee cake.

coffee cake

 

 

 

Paths

crosswalk in parking garageThe other day I was waiting to get out of a crowded parking garage and idling at a pedestrian crosswalk. An older couple caught my eye as I watched them navigate through parked cars to get into a medical building. The wife was all-business, clearly focused on the task ahead as she walked briskly with purpose. Her husband had a marked limp and was making use of each vehicle he passed as a respite to catch his breath. He was looking all around, taking note of his surroundings before he took a steadying inhale and propelled forward in his teetering gait, aiming generally in his wife’s direction. She paused several times to cast a glance back over her shoulder to make sure he was still following.

She came to a determined halt at the entrance, sending the whooshing automatic doors into a tizzy of confusion. Open-close-open-close-open… Her waiting stance became very intent – yet not quite impatient. Although this pair was obviously together, each of them was approaching what lay beyond those insistent doors in very different ways. She was charging forth while he labored with each step.

I wonder how long they have been doing this hurry-wait dance together? I’m curious when they were last side-by-side, slipping into a natural cadence as their footsteps marched in tandem.

sidewalk with brickI’m not sure what awaited this gray-haired couple in the doctor’s office that day, but their disjointed progress made me think about how often we can be in misstep with our people we are doing life with each day and how off-kilter our different paces may be in our personal journeys.

We all have different paths in life, which we walk in our own rhythms and progress at our own unique pace.

Sometimes the journey is expected and the path unfolds in an unwavering straight line before us. We feel focused and confident.

Some days we are eager to see what awaits around the next bend. Our steps may be light and energetic as we embrace the anticipation of what is to come.

curvy path

Other days we drag our feet, weighted down by uncertainty about what we may face. We have to dig deep to take the next begrudging step into a novel experience, tentatively exploring an unfamiliar path we have not traveled before. We steady ourselves with a brief prayer, a whispered plea of trusting God to hold us fast on His path for us.

In this season of graduations and life transitions, you may be facing the challenge of embarking upon a fresh path or launching a family member on a new journey. As you tentatively approach this unknown doorway, may you have the courage to reach forward and lean in to a new venture…knowing that someone is tenderly looking over their shoulder to make sure you are on your way.

doorway in brick wall



“My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” Psalm 17:6



Sprintering

blossoming pear treesHeading out for my morning walk, I was besieged with the aroma of budding pear trees all over the neighborhood. I glanced down and saw all the blossoms that had been whisked out of the trees and pelted by cold rain.blossoms washed away

Spring is trying sooooo hard to break out and assert herself, then a push of winter comes back through and surprises us with its briskness.

In much the same way I often start feeling energized with the hopes of spring, trolling through garden centers and jumping into visions of green and color all around, then I’m reminded by the “helpful” cashier that there may still be a freeze which would knock out my pretties. Drat.

I may have a lot of creative energy bursting with ideas one day, then a restless night comes and the next day I’m muddling through mental fog. Or I may start the week with an ambitious gameplan, but midweek something unforeseen occurs and I’m practicing my adaptability again, forging through the weeds to find beauty in the dailyness of responsibilities. flowers vs weedsI have a hard time sorting through all the random fluctuations in my mind and body at this time of year. The mix of spring and winter features outside somehow mirrors my unsettledness…I can’t quite put my finger on how to explain it, but when I talk to others, they seem to feel IT, too. It’s like we’re Sprintering: we want to be in the robustness of spring, but winter still nudges in.

The passage in Ecclesiastes 3 about there being “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” keeps coming to mind. It’s all about the transition — the Sprintering– between big seasons in our lives. When we are fully planted in a season, it’s easier to embrace all that particular season encompasses. Often we even have some social protocols to follow in certain seasons, clinging to these guidelines with all our might. The transitions in between are trickier, though, especially if others around you are not in your season. It’s squishy ground and we don’t like that sinking feeling of ambiguity.

So, if you’re feeling a bit unsettled or you’re having an off day, consider this: you may have a touch of Sprintering, too. Hang in there: Spring is knocking. Perhaps we have to acknowledge a few lingering lessons from Winter we still have to tuck in before we’re fully prepared to welcome Spring wholeheartedly.

blossoming redbud

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Thresholds

“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14



When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.

bridge

A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?

rock art

Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.

Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.

As a parent  it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.

So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…

pathThese last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!holding hands


“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:5