A Little Post About God: Constant and Consistent

I don’t know about you, but consistency has been a theme I’ve wrestled with a lot in 2020. From the way we have been advised about Covid-19, the public policies that have been <arbitrarily> enacted and revised, the election and political debate we are ensnared in, and even the strange rhythms of life… where is there any consistency? And why do I long for it?

There are some verses that have been swirling around in my head recently that are, at the core, about God’s consistent character. I’ve been using them as mantras in the last few months when I feel anxiety start to build. I wanted to share how they intersect and why they matter to me.

“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30
I’ve been thinking of this one in tandem with the way God showed himself to Moses and Elijah. Those guys were the big miracle players of the Old Testament and some of God’s biggest demonstrations of power were accomplished with them and through them. In both cases, despite the big miracles, these men were exhausted by their circumstances. God knew when they needed tenderness, and not just another demonstration of power, so he allowed Moses to “see” him (Exodus 33:17-23) and he ministered to Elijah with food and the gentle wind (I Kings 17 and 19). I am mesmerized by God being intimate, reigning in the mighty to be gentle. It’s almost more awesome to harness power than to unleash it. So in John 10:30, when Jesus says, “The Father and I are one”- that means Jesus is the same God that comforted Moses and Elijah. He mirrors that same tenderness and power. He demonstrated it when he commanded the wind and sea to calm for his disciples (Mark 4:35-41). His actions were consistent with his words.

“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow.” Hebrews 13:8.
If Jesus and God are one, and he has the same power and tenderness that was demonstrated to Moses and Elijah and to the disciples on Sea of Galilee, then that is also available for me. For today. For tomorrow. ALWAYS. It’s consistent eternally. The powerful and tender character of God is constant over the span of hundreds of Biblical years between Moses, Elijah, and the disciples. This verse tells me that it is still true.

“God can be trusted.” I Corinthians 1:9
I came across this one today. I was reading the first chapter of Corinthians, and the first and last bits of Paul’s letters are not always theological, sometimes there’s just a long greeting and some administrative stuff, so I was skimming until this jumped off the page at me: God can be trusted. Many translations use “faithful” instead of “trusted,” and they’re both meaningful words. Trusted means “proven to be true,” and it lines up with the two previous verses and the message God has been teaching me. God has always been trustworthy. Always faithful.

When nothing is consistent; when the circumstances don’t seem to line up in any pattern that makes sense, when the people that I love and care about act in ways that depart from what I thought was true of them, when I’m rattled by the tension of decision making and little seems constant and true, those are the moments I seek God. I am desperate for an anchor that hasn’t changed and isn’t changing and won’t change. He is constantly consistent. He is consistently constant. The God of creation is the source of remarkable power and tenderness. He has proven to be so for generations. And he can be trusted today, tomorrow, and always.

I don’t know what I don’t know…

Back in 2011, we were living our best life in our happy little bubble of suburbia when my husband called me to tell me that “We had an opportunity.” If you are not familiar with the nomadic life that certain professions (like heavy civil engineering) afford, an “opportunity” meant we were moving. And it was likely not to a destination where I had dreamed of living, or else this conversation would have gone more like: “Babe- guess what? We’re moving to Fiji!” That’s an important distinction, because “opportunity” meant, “This is likely going to suck, but hopefully it will pay off down the road.”

But, I think I need to go farther back and give some context.

About a year earlier, Paul came home from work and was doing a mental dump of his day. The kids were small and playing nearby while I was cooking dinner. Something was clearly weighing on him even after he had told me all the things that had happened that day. Finally, on a long exhale, he brought it up. He had to send a group of engineers to a job in Newfoundland. Most of them, and their families, had a lot of reservations. I quickly and indifferently snapped back, “Well I guess they’ll need to get over it.” That felt as awful coming out of my mouth as it does to look at on the page. As Paul moved out of the kitchen to go play with the kids, the still small voice in my head asked, “If it were you, what would you need to feel safe, informed, and valued making a move to another country, climate, culture? What would your kids need?” Obviously, lots of information. I called out to Paul, “They’re going to need a book.” He came back into the kitchen, “What do you mean?” I thought for a minutes, “They need a manual. If you’ve only ever lived in the southeastern United States and you have to move with your kids to Newfoundland, you need a guide book. How are schools set up? Where do you register for school? What vaccinations do you need? How do you register your vehicles? What documents do you need for a drivers license? How do taxes work? …” The questions were falling off my tongue faster than I could think them. Paul agreed that the manual was a good idea and he would put some people to work on it.

So when our move to Ontario came the next year, as hard as that “opportunity” was, I had a small framework on which to build. As I grieved the loss of my happy American suburban bubble and came to wrestle with my new Canadian reality, an uncomfortable reality became obvious: I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Not knowing what you don’t know is an uncomfortable status that most of us try to avoid at all costs. There’s a fear or suspicion that hovers in the back of your mind all the time that maybe you’re missing something that you didn’t know you were supposed to do or have, and that lack of knowledge will have repercussions later. Think taxes for example. We’re five years repatriated back to the USA, and that’s still a specter hanging over us. But I digress…

The crazy thing about not knowing what you don’t know is that it forces you to be vulnerable. I mean, you could choose not to be vulnerable, but that’s a quick trip to shame, anger and loneliness as you try to navigate territory that you know nothing about whilst making all kinds of mistakes. Vulnerability, while totally awkward, leads to community, humility, and empathy. Those were the things that sustained me during those four years in Canada.

Paul and I were taking a walk yesterday. I asked him if he thought we would have normal school this fall. “I don’t know,” he said. “If you had told me back in February this Chinese virus we were starting to hear about would have me wearing a face mask in the grocery store, I would have told you ‘the hell it will.’ We don’t know what we don’t know.”

I smiled, “We used to say that in Canada all the time. Unfortunately, we had the advantage that we could just go ask someone. Or check the manual. No one knows how this will all end. Or what’s going to happen next.”

“Why do we think we need to know how it ends? The tension of not knowing what you don’t know means that the end, the timing, the next new thing will just have to be managed as it comes. Not many people are comfortable with that, which is why there’s this low simmering rage on the surface of everything right now. People want formulas, end dates and simple solutions tied up neatly. That part of COVID-19 is scarier than the actual disease for most people,” he replied.

I think there’s truth in what he said. As I’m wrestling with all of this, I know I’m personally fighting the desire to wrap this disease up and move on. I don’t like masks. I don’t like cancelling events and plans. I don’t like hybrid school plans. I want it to end.

But I don’t know what I don’t know. I don’t know what it would feel like to lose a family member to this disease while the world holds a public debate about masks. I don’t know what it would look like to have my kid unknowingly infect their class or team. I don’t know how I would manage the logistics of traveling and then getting quarantined somewhere away from my family. I don’t know any of those things. I likely don’t know even more. But I’m willing to be vulnerable. I’m willing to listen when you complain about your uncertainties, frustrations, and fears. I’m willing to be empathetic to the fact that no matter where our feelings are on all of this- we are all wrestling with not knowing what we don’t know. And since there’s no manual, I guess we all deserve some grace.

What Does It Cost Me

What does it cost me to admit I have no idea what it is like to be black?

What does it cost me not to reply Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter when I see the words Black Lives Matter?

What does it cost me to refrain from saying “I don’t see color” or “I’m not a racist” in conversations about race?

It costs me NOTHING.

What do I gain from shutting my mouth and listening? From reading and learning and paying attention to the experiences of people of color?

Wisdom and empathy.
And maybe… hopefully, the courage to speak up to injustice.

It’s pretty simple.

My Mother’s Hands

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my mother’s hands. She has lovely hands. Her nails, never polished, are well shaped without much effort or maintenance. She never wore lots of jewelry, just a white gold wedding band and a simple diamond engagement ring. Her hands were sun tanned from working in the yard year round. They were capable of so many things.

I remember sitting next to my Mom in church when I was a small child. After doodling on the bulletin and flipping through the hymnal, I would often lean against her and pick up her hands from where they rested in her lap. I would study her hands. I wanted hands like hers when I grew up, attractive, strong, and capable of miraculous things like untangling delicate necklace chains. Sometimes those church sermons went long and I would release my Mom’s hands and my head would rest in her lap instead. And then her hands would do their most amazing feat, they would gently comb through my hair. There is no calm in the world that compares to being a child, resting on your mother while she gently runs her fingers through your hair. There are times in my adult life when I am in need of comfort and my mind takes me back to that church pew and the soothing rhythm of my Mom’s fingers gliding through my hair.

My Mother’s hands are gardener’s hands. She developed a love of plants from her parents, and she had an amazing garden. I remember stacks of Organic Gardening magazines around our house that she would consult. She was in that garden for hours every day. It wasn’t something she taught us or showed us, and to be honest, it is not anything I aspire to learn. It was her therapy. A way that she worshipped God. It provided food for our family for the year, and she froze, jarred, jellied and jammed everything in that garden. My mother’s hands can also cook!

My Mother’s hands can sew. Her Dad taught her to sew. She made many of our clothes growing up. We spent much time in fabric stores, pouring over McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue pattern books. My Mom doing the fabric math on her scratch pad before sending us loose in the store to pick out materials for our new clothes. She did tailoring for our neighbor. She made curtains, throw pillows, and even reupholstered a sofa and chairs for our first homes.

My Mother has beautiful handwriting. She would be the first to tell you what she does wrong technically according to her penmanship teacher from elementary school, but I always admired her signature on every document I had to take to school. And when the time came to learn cursive, I had no care for that the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog or that I was holding the pencil too tight against my ring finger. I wanted my signature to look exactly like my mother’s.

My Mother’s hands turn pages. She’s a reader. She loves to study the Bible for herself. The soft worn pages, highlighted and noted, bear witness to time spent with God. She loves Scripture the way that her father did. This is one way that my hands are like my Mother’s. When people ask me why and how I learned to study for myself, I can say, “This is what I watched my mother do.”

My Mother’s hands can hold cards. They can throw dice. They can spin a wheel. My Mom loves to play games. We played a lot of cards and games when we were growing up. She plays cards with her grandkids now. They all associate Nana’s house with games. Her hands are a legacy to her family to take time for play.

My Mother’s hands serve. Maybe because they have done so many things over the years like comforting, cultivating, sewing, creating, cooking, writing, and playing. These are the hands of someone who has lived and loved so well, and when a heart is that full, it directs the hands toward others.

My hands will never do all the things my Mother’s hands have done and I don’t wish it any different. She is uniquely gifted by God for the life He called her to and I am in awe of that calling. I’m simply grateful I was raised by the remarkable hands of my remarkable mother.

Romanticizing

Paul and I were at the ocean the other day, seemingly hypnotized by the relentless surf reclaiming the beach, when a thought burst into my head. How much time will pass before we start romanticizing this Strange Time we are in? I’ve already seen the memes on social media celebrating this idea of families gathered around the dinner table each night, kids playing outside and all the busyness seemingly stripped away so that relationships come first. But we who are here now, in this moment, we know it is much more complicated.

It’s natural to romanticize our memories, isn’t it? We lived in Canada for four years. I complained about the weather every single day that we lived there. I missed my family back in the States. The expat experience was one in which I didn’t know what I didn’t know and it frustrated me regularly. And yet, that experience was so good for our family. We learned to rely on each other and to enjoy each other-just the four of us- in ways we could have never learned back home in Georgia. The kids attended an amazing school. We built community and lifelong friendships. And now, I only remember the good. Sometimes I will comment, “I miss Canada so much.” My husband will smile at me indulgently and remind me that winter was a 6 month affair and I am a person that needs a blanket when the air conditioner is running. All true, but I do miss the good things.

I hear people wax nostalgic for bygone eras. Simpler times, they say. Simpler maybe, or maybe just innocent or naive to the weight of what was going on. I think of the 1970s of my childhood as “simpler” times, yet the country was polarized from racial tensions, the Vietnam War, Watergate, energy shortages, high inflation, and high unemployment. That didn’t touch me personally because I was a child, completely cared for by loving parents and not in any way directly impacted by the heaviness of the world outside my small town.

All of these ruminating thoughts ran through my head because I want so badly to process this experience in such a way that I can hold the tension that there were good things about this global pause, AND there was also restlessness, grief, fear, anger, and uncertainty. People lost jobs. Milestones went uncelebrated. We collectively held our breath for the vulnerable in our society left in tenuous situations. That has to be lamented as much as any silver lining about playing in nature and family suppers.

Later that day, I picked up a novel, The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins. It’s a wonderful book, but this exchange between the protagonist, Grace, and her foster mother, Mama G, seemed to speak right into the vacuum of my thoughts.

Grace had to laugh. “I suppose things were different back then.”

“You have no idea.” Mama G sipped her hot cocoa, a faraway look in her eyes. “It’s odd- when you look back, things seem simpler, but they weren’t.”

“Really?”

“When it’s a memory, you already know the outcome, so we believe it was an easier time. Looking forward is much more uncertain, and so it feels more complicated. But I don’t think it is. Not really.”

The Book Charmer. Karen Hawkins Gallery Books 2019 page 268

I’m not a psychologist but I would imagine that retaining good memories is what keeps us going forward into the uncertain. It has to be a component of the resiliency of the human spirit. As we go into the future, unsure of the outcomes that lie before us, we rest in the confidence of our personal history that whatever happens, there will be good with the bad. We need only to look back and remember that it all, somehow, worked out ok.

In some ways it seems such a waste to set aside some of the struggles in order to hold onto a silver lining narrative. These are strange times, and there is much to be lamented. The history books will hold the facts about the science and policy. It will be up to each of us, collectively and individually, to hold the bitter and the sweet together, and allow it to shape us as we go forward.

We’re back from Spring Break

The week the school district had designated as Spring Break (back before any of us had ever heard of Wuhan wet markets) has come to an end. What a much deserved respite it was from the busy life we have been living trapped in the house for the last 4 weeks. Stephen took this opportunity and played video games for 20 hours every day. We’re so proud of the gains he saw in his gaming. He still rides his bike or runs every day for a half an hour just to make us feel better about the lack of time management guidance we’re giving him.

Lindsey is well rested mostly because she slept until 1 pm each day and then watched YouTube in her bed until all hours of the night. She disappears on her bike for hours. She could be operating a meth lab somewhere for all we know. We just text her to come home for dinner and she does so… that’s probably fine.

Today we were back at the academic life. I walked by Stephen at one point and asked how it was going and he said, “Good, I’m just googling how to do math.” That’s a good indicator for a career in engineering, right?

Lindsey was in my room putting her hair up before she headed out to check on her meth lab, I mean- get some fresh air on a bike ride. She has informed me she did all her social studies work for this week in basically a half hour so clearly I’m not the only adult in her life that’s half- assing during the Quarantine.

Paul’s back at the all day conference calls in the living room. I’m not sure who already knew this, but conference calls about heavy civil engineering projects are not a compelling Must-Listen. There’s a lot of abbreviations and acronyms so it is a bit enigmatic, like a foreign language. Unfortunately, all that mystery doesn’t make it any more intriguing. I self isolate in my room with my friend Alexa and we listen to spa music and read but mostly scroll Twitter while we wait for the dryer to finish and then I can fold towels. Folding towels is now what gives my life meaning.

Some days I look at this situation and think, “What wonderful family time. We are going to emerge from this resilient and closer than ever before!”
Other days I think, “What a strange twist of fate to be trapped in this house with three complete strangers.”

Guess which day today is.

Sunrise Season

{I wrote this piece a few months ago but I never shared it because I wanted to get better sunrise pictures to include with it. School has been suspended through April 24, and that could possibly extend to the end of the year, so it seems more important than ever to celebrate Sunrise Season.}

I’m becoming a bit of an outdoorsy girl in my older age. Don’t read into that too much. I can’t skin a buck or run a trout line, but I do like a long walk and I love a sunrise. A morning person by nature, I love the visual of a new day erupting across the sky in glorified splendor. The Scriptures say God’s mercies are new every morning, and the sunrise seems to confirm that truth.

I have always driven my kids to school. I love doing it because the best conversations happen on that morning commute. I take Lindsey to school first and then come back for Stephen, as the start time for high school is later than middle school. Lindsey and I are usually in the car by 7:20. In time for sunrise.

I’m not sure when I started pointing out the sunrise to her, but we talk about it every morning. As we turn off our street, we see it cresting the top of the hill. By the time we cross Lake Peachtree, the vivid colors are streaking out their reflection across the glassy perfection of the water. We always pay attention at that point. Conversation stops and we take it in.

We had a rainy winter. Lots of fog and dark clouds, and many days there was not much of a sunrise just a subtle brightening of the grey sky. One morning mid-February, it cleared out and Lindsey walked to the end of the garage and looked out. The sky gleamed golden and pink at the top of the hill and she stood transfixed and said, “Look Mom. It’s coming!”

It was beautiful. Perhaps made even more so by the absence of that majesty over the recent days. As we enjoyed it there on the driveway I realized: This is a season. My Sunrise Season with Lindsey. Next year, she will go to high school. The sun will be up when she leaves. Her brother (God-willing) will probably drive her to school.

Seasons change. It makes me feel… not sad, but maybe wistful. As I pause to futurize the nostalgia I will one day have for this time in our lives, I’m grateful. Grateful to God for painting the sky for our delight and wonder. Grateful for this beautiful girl who notices the creation around her. But mostly, grateful that I was paying enough attention in the present moment to realize that I had been gifted with a Sunrise Season.

Wisdom from Jojo Rabbit

About a month ago, we had a family movie night and we let Stephen pick the movie. He chose Jojo Rabbit. We had never heard of this movie (which shows how out of the loop we are with critically well received films) and asked him where he had heard of it and he told us it was discussed on some Reddit groups he follows. Well, what is it about, we asked. “A kid in Nazi Germany who’s imaginary friend is Adolph Hitler.” Of course. A dark comedy about Nazis. Perfect for family night.

It wound up being a really good movie. It was odd. It was funny. It was sad, even tragic. But it was hopeful, in the way that only childhood innocence can convey. It has stayed with me so much and I think I will definitely rewatch it. Jojo is this ten year old boy, living in Germany at the very end of World War II without a father figure. He has a very strong mother, played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson, but that father figure is filled by his imaginary friend Adolf, who bears a striking resemblance to the dictatorial monster of the same name. Adolf gives Jojo pep talks and encourages him and Jojo also talks to himself in his mirror to bolster his courage. His own voice becomes stronger as events and history play out in the film. It’s one of those mirror sessions near the end that has stayed with me. As Jojo dresses to go out and face this new post war world, finding his own strength, he looks himself in the mirror and says, “Jojo Betzler. Ten and a half years old. Today, just do what you can.”

I wrote that in my journal a month ago.

Today, my journal fell open to that page when I dropped it. These are some weird times we are living in. There’s no script. There isn’t even a rough outline for a script. We wake up every day to a new reality. New numbers. New restrictions. New hardships. It is so hard to focus on anything because we’re trying to process all the new and what the new will mean for tomorrow while still holding tension that tomorrow will also bring more new. I haven’t been able to focus on anything for longer than five minutes.

Yesterday I finished a book. It took a lot longer than 250 pages normally takes me. I’m finally writing, because up until this morning, I haven’t had the patience to stare at a blank screen with a blinking cursor and try to string words together. But this morning, I looked at that journal page and I knew I could tell this story. I don’t have answers or profound wisdom to offer except the hopeful line of a ten year old movie character.

Today, just do what you can.

February Reflections

Delight

I took coffee to my parents a few weeks ago. We tend to do sit-down visits around beverages with my family. It’s always interesting the direction those conversations will take. My parents always want a full report on how the kids are doing, but once we had covered that, we moved on to books and movies.

I was telling them a conversation I had recently with Stephen concerning World War II and the Cold War. Stephen is an avid reader about those topics and I had recently posed a theoretical question to him and was astonished by how thoughtful his answer was. Quite honestly, he had probably already considered the question because the answer he gave was detailed and nuanced. He knows more than I do about that topic.

As I was telling this story to my parents, I could feel myself getting excited and I concluded with, “I think this is my favorite part of parenting… when they start to integrate everything they’ve learned, draw their own conclusions, form their own beliefs, and you look at this person and think, ‘I may have had a role in making you, but you are becoming wholly your own person.'”

My parents were just smiling at me. Indulgently. Wistfully. My Dad nodded and my Mom said, “It is the best.”

I think the way they looked at me will stay with me forever. In the moment, I saw us as parent and grandparents both proud of this kid we loved. It was only later, scrolling through Instagram, that I saw this meme and my thumb halted.

When I saw this picture, I saw the father in the background first. I saw his face. I saw the delight in his son. And I remembered the faces of my parents looking at me as I gushed in pride of my son. And I knew. The look on their faces wasn’t pride in Stephen’s knowledge of history. It was delight in their daughter being a mother.

It made me realize this gig of being totally in love with your kid doesn’t end when they graduate, get married, get a job, or whatever. I will be dazzled and delighted by them until I draw my last breath. I also realized how blessed I am to be the delight of my parents. Everyone deserves at least one person who thinks they hung the moon.

Further Thoughts on Delight

I’ve also decided I’m just going to start delighting more. I’m going to delight myself in some things. We had sunshine for the first time in what felt like months and I took my time delighting in that sunshine as I walked to the mailbox. I delighted in the birds singing. I delighted in the power-half-hour nap I took on the couch at 2 pm. I delighted in the sunset on the way to volleyball practice. Mindfulness is teaching me that I can engage my emotions in the small moments of the day where beauty and nurture show up and it will color the whole day brighter.

What I learned on the Roku

The Roku portion of my February is a tribute to the shows we watched or finished this month on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Cheer

This Six-part series on Netflix was so good. We are not cheerleading people by any stretch of the imagination, but that is not necessary. Cheer is a a documentary about Navarro College’s competitive cheer squad. There are so many underdog stories to root for, but the entire series was such a reminder not to compare your daily life to someone else’s. So many of the kids on that squad were dealing with pain- physical, mental, and emotional. In all their brokenness, they came together for two minutes and performed a near flawless routine. Hooray for glossy perfection, right? Except the beauty of the whole show was in the brokenness, the hard stuff they were pushing through and battling. Those were the reasons they were worth cheering for. We don’t know the hard stuff people are facing under their performance any more than we know the beauty God could be forging out of our own brokenness. We could be on the cusp of our own “Daytona.” Whatever the case, the real story is in the journey.

Downton Abbey

I know. I’m the last person in the universe to behold the beauty that was and is Downton Abbey. There’s so much to love about this show. The costumes. The setting. The humor. The history. The heartbreak. The cast. Dame Maggie Smith, for the love of God. Has a better television character EVER existed? I could write a book about this show, but I think it boils down to this: there was something magical about the writing and the actors that made me care so much about the characters. Call it kismet. The villains were redeemable. The heroes were flawed.

There was a scene in one of the later episodes when Mrs. Baxter’s kindness to Thomas completely changed my opinion of him. I had hated him, with (at best) minimal sympathy over the course of the show. He had been wretched to just about every character including himself. But Mrs. Baxter saw goodness in him. And if she saw goodness, there was goodness to be found. How we treat people can give them the dignity it takes for others to see their value as well.

I will never get over Downton Abbey.

Books

From the stack at the top, I did some nonfiction reading on the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle with Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. It was interesting to see some of the parallels to the show, particularly the history around World War I. Interesting fact, the Carnavons of Highclere bankrolled Howard Carter’s excavation of King Tut’s tomb.

I also read up on the Vanderbilt family. The time period paralleled Downton Abbey, but of course it was defined by their rise (and fall) during the Gilded Age in the United States. Fortune’s Children is family history to Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, and this book is well written. He highlights different time periods through the lens of one family member. It reads like easy fiction- this family knew extravagance and disfunction, in spades.

Self to lose- Self to find is a faith based look at the Enneagram. I’ve been diving into the Enneagram recently and this was a good resource. I’ll probably have more to say on that in the future.

The Unhoneymooners was my fun fiction for the month. It had some Pride and Prejudice themes in it, namely, what we assume about people when we first meet is not always accurate. The Elizabeth Bennet character comes from a large Mexican American family living in Minnesota. The dialogue was very funny.

God with Us by Glenn Krieder is a book I have had for ages and finally decided to read. It was an exploration of the presence of God throughout Scripture, not just at the arrival of Immanuel Jesus. My biggest takeaway from this book was that so much of what we know about God in Scripture is anthropomorphic. We ascribe human trait to God because that’s the only way we can attempt to understand him. God has condescended to us and allowed that because He wants a relationship with us. But that means that it is not the whole picture of who He is. We see through the glass dimly. We have to hold tension to the mystery that He is infinitely more. Even the language we use to describe Him is not sufficient because language is anthropomorphic.

The last book I “read” is a screenshot from my Audible app. The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness is a beautiful memoir about a family’s journey through childhood illness. A daughter is born with an unknown blood disease and the fragility with which Heather Harpham writes is akin to the condition of her daughter at birth. This quote at the end is a keeper:

“Between us was the future. Who we would become as we grew older, as the kids left home. And also the future of the two small people we loved most, our aspirations for who they might become, the revelation of who they already were. All of this reverberated in the gaze we held for a long time. Brian lifted his wine. We clinked and pressed glass against glass, globe against globe. ‘To the end,’ Brian said.

And the beginning.”

Asheville

We took a trip up to Asheville. The Downton Abbey Exhibit is at the Biltmore through April, so it seemed a good time to revisit this city. We were last there fourteen years ago, when we lived in Tampa and a mountain vacation seemed the right thing to do in the summer. Traveling with teens as opposed to an infant and a toddler is infinitely easier. But still, I have fond memories of both trips. In the picture below, we had just bathed those babies in the antique claw foot tub at the B&B we stayed at. I was feeding Lindsey and Stephen was playing with a truck. Paul had put Harry Potter on the television. We were happy and cozy in our vacation digs. In the recent picture we had just checked in to our brand new hotel. We were about to walk to dinner, where we would enjoy a leisurely meal that did not feature chicken nuggets or toddler tantrums. These pictures tell me that I have loved every stage. They tell me I will love whatever comes next.

The Highlight Reel

Lindsey plays club volleyball. This year one of the Dads on our team created a YouTube channel where he posts video of all the tournament matches that the girls play. He also condenses each match into a 20 minute highlight reel of all the best plays. Think SportsCenter Top Ten, but with 14 year old girl’s volleyball. It’s been fun to re-watch the games because we catch things we didn’t notice during live time. Lindsey sifts through all of it after a weekend tournament and breaks down all of her mistakes so that she can practice more productively on the things she struggled with. Sometimes, she has a match, day, or tournament when she knows she played well, and she loves to watch that highlight reel. She counts all the “kills” and “good ups” she had, and she will savor her small victories.

I’m happy for the highlight reel. We all need a moment to bask in a job well done. I think it’s natural to want to enjoy success. It’s important to remember though, that it is only a snapshot in time. The fact of the matter is, you don’t learn much, if anything, from watching the highlight reel. It produces all the temporary endorphins, but it doesn’t instruct the future. What I’ve learned from observing Lindsey watch these videos is this:

The raw unedited video is better for instruction.

The raw unedited video shows all the mistakes.

The raw unedited video shows all the stoppages when inerrant balls enter the court, when a timeout happens, an injury, a substitution, a conflict at the scoring table.

The raw unedited video shows discouraged shoulders and facial expressions.

The raw unedited video follows the ball and not one individual person.

It takes a lot longer to observe the raw unedited video.

The raw unedited video is life. The highs and lows. The mistakes and miscues, the accidents that change our trajectory, the rests along the way, the hurt, and rejection. The times when emotions got the best of us, good or bad. It is the unadulterated truth that this world is not just about us.

Who we are becoming matters more than any highlight reel. That’s not a volleyball or sports lesson, that is a universal truth. We learn from this life what we take the time to observe, practice, and correct. Enjoy the highlight reel, but don’t forsake the unedited footage of our lives, because that context is often what makes the next highlight reel possible.