Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Learning To Love

In the last couple of weeks, God has put people in my path that are challenging. Challenging to the way I think, do life, and my perception of what is right and wrong. While this feels like something new, the reality is that God has done this throughout my life. Last week, he presented me with these two people and I avoided the inevitable. So of course, I knew that I would be presented with it all again. Today, I felt like I got it right. I chose to love and engage in tough interactions. I let myself be open and listened and was surprised at the questions I received. I know an element of this post is vague, but that is on purpose. The point is that I’m learning to love others in ever expanding ways. The truth is that I didn’t want to interact, or learn, or be open, but that is what growing and changing is all about.

Little Helping Hands

As early as 18 months, I started letting the kids help me bake. Little hands measured, stirred, scooped, and spread. As much as I wanted them to help, it was also a source of irritation for me. I started each baking session with my extra patience on and sometimes it ran out before we finished. I’m ashamed to admit that I made each one of them cry in frustration at least once.

Sometimes I bake because I want to surprise Jerry and the kids with a treat. While I don’t feel obligated, at times my annoyance with the little things that go wrong result in a stinky attitude. The love language I often express towards others is acts of service. I also enjoy giving gifts, so the combination of the two often leads me to obsessively looking for that perfect item and then running home to cook and bake three items in two hours. Baking is usually therapeutic for me, but occasionally I have that stroke of bad luck where I cut myself, dump sugar between the stove and cabinet, and realize I have no measuring spoons clean. Then I am rushing and brushing away the very people I’m preparing for.

Tonight, I was determined to make apple pie and start the apple butter in the crock pot. Pie crust and I don’t get along, so I ended up grumbling and patching it together like a quilt. After peeling and chopping about 50 apples, I knew I was in over my head.

My sweet, four year old Abby walks up, “Mama, can I help scoop the apples into the crust?” My first instinct and response is, “No”. My time line already a mess, bedtime looming in the distance, dirty dishes literally spilling off the counter, to do list too full for the last three hours of the day. She insists, whining, “You NEVER let me help!” I pause and look into her pleading pools of blue. I hand her the spoon and she begins – two apple slices at a time (there are at least 60 slices in the bowl). I sigh and walk away as Kayla sits at the table and chats incessantly over the single apple she has been peeling for the last five minutes. I’m frustrated, but thankful that my girls are here in my space, doing what I am doing and choosing to be with me. I know it won’t always be this way. God, please give me the patience to pause and listen and communicate with a word, a sound, a look, a gesture, a hug, that I am happy they are there.

An Artist’s Life

Today we took the kids to the Glass Academy for the Pumpkin Fest. We walked around looking at the beautiful, exquisitely designed glass pumpkins and other items. Every direction we saw pumpkins – unique, sparkling, vibrant. At the demonstration area we watched the artisans creating one-of-a-kind pumpkins commissioned by people in the audience. Two of the pumpkins they created in about 10-15 minutes. One included several colors using a twirling technique resulting in a finish entitled “Van Gogh”. Each piece carefully and quickly crafted giving onlookers the sense that their creation was effortless.

My Glass Pumpkin

As we watched the craftsmen at work, a calm, peaceful energy settled over us as they skillfully maneuvered the glass. The last piece created was a sizable pumpkin lamp. The craftswoman noted that the glass is so heavy and unwieldy that three people are needed to make such a grand piece. There were points during the process where we were convinced the glass may fall, but the artists were calm and quick and nothing was lost. Thirty minutes later, the piece was complete – breathtaking and iridescent in the light.

The satisfaction and joy on the artisans faces is what I remember the most. The pride in creating something exclusive to that moment that another will truly treasure and enjoy.

Our culture today paradoxically praises the arts, but doesn’t want their children to make a profession in them. We are all told to go college, get a marketable degree (whatever that is), and go out and sell our soul for the almighty dollar. True artists starve, it seems or are forced to work underground or on the side. Artists never fully realize their artistic bent and miss their chance to impact their world. Why do we tell our children to follow this model?

My oldest daughter is an artist and writer and my prayer is that I am able to encourage her to stick with these gifts in her career. I pray that God gives her the desires of her heart, to make an impact on the world through her art, that the money will come together in unconventional ways. Maybe this is reckless, but I believe that if she lives for God, it is reckless anyway with the benefit that He will hold her in His hand through the process.

Tense Remorse

I’m trying to capture the tenseness I’ve been living under the last couple of weeks. It all started with a cold and extreme shoulder pain last Thursday. Add that to an over committed week and my attitude and behavior took an enormous drop. My family suffers when I allow myself to get wrapped up in my own pain and stress. I’m short with them, I ask too much, I become annoyed at the messy house and I constantly ask them to pick up this and do that. My standards for cleanliness reach fever pitch utopia. I am harsh and unwieldy, unrealistic in my expectations.

When it is quiet and I reflect back, I am convinced that I have done permanent damage. I’m sure I negatively affected them at the DNA level. My remorse is bottomless. I pray and I think about how to change. And that still, small voice reminds me that He loves me and I’m so thankful for His grace – this unmerited favor. And I know that only He can change me. When I look back I see how I am changing. I am thankful and I realize that I can start again tomorrow.

Michigan, My Michigan

Today I went with my daughter’s class to the Michigan Historical Museum and Capital Dome. I love museums and beautiful architecture, but I had no idea that both places were so spectacular. The museum’s three story tall topographical map of the state and large, native stones as well as a massive piece of copper were awesome. It was interesting to see the lighthouse lens and other artifacts and stories of Michigan through the years. In the one room school house, I found this poem on the wall:

Michigan My Michigan

Michigan My Michigan – Michigan Historical Museum, Lansing, MI

I choked up reading this as it made me think about all of the places I love so much in the state – beaches, forests, and urban centers – Arcadia, Traverse, St. Joseph, South Haven, Frankenmuth, Plymouth, Detroit, nature centers we love – Sarett and Kensington. I’ve been all over the United States and each time I’m away, I’m reminded of how I love to live in Michigan, my chosen home. Today my heart swelled with state pride knowing there is truly no other place I would rather be.

Arcadia Fall Sunset

Fall Sunset – Camp Arcadia

Pain In The Preparation

When I look back over my life, I see valleys and mountains, just like anyone else. And it occurred to me tonight that those valleys of pain were the places where God was working on my heart, preparing me for the next, big step. Of course, when I was wallowing in that low, I couldn’t see it that way, but hindsight always offers its wisdom at the proper time.

I remember going to work each day at my corporate job and asking God why I was still there when my heart was at home with my children. I remember breaking down one day and pouring my heart out to my best friend asking her why we all believe that lie that as women we can “have it all” – the career, mommy hood, and all other sorts of nonsense. And in those trying times, God was showing me how to be content no matter what happened, to be grateful for those moments, to choose to see him in the details around me.

When my situation changed and I came home, it was in a way I never imagined or could scarcely explain to others – amazing evidence that God cares about the details in my life and I only need to trust him.

So if you are in a time of preparation and the way is painful, look around and see God smiling at you in the little things – always looking for him, because he is there.

Hidden Gems

I recently drove up north with my sister for the weekend. The leaves had not yet changed color in our area, but I was hoping to see glimpses of yellows and reds peeking out here and there along the way. On the way there, I distinctly remember passing a valley of trees shining in the sun on our way over a gradual, high dune. There was nothing remarkable about it, but I remember the spot well.

As we drove home two days later in the gray, misty cold, down that dune, we discovered a hidden grove of bright red trees. They were surrounded by plain green trees and there was something about the way we were driving down that hill that allowed us to see the whole lot of them. Shockingly, these red leafed trees went as far as the eye could see. We stared in awe and marveled over how we missed them on the way. I can’t say for sure what happened and I wish I had taken a picture because a part of me wonders if I truly did see them. But I was not alone and my sister saw them too.

Sometimes on these quiet, sad days, when we wish the fun would last and we wonder how God is going to get us to the next step, he reminds us of his glory, his faithfulness, his love – sometimes using a forest of blazing, red trees.

Autumn Peak

It is nearly fall color peak here in southeast Michigan and the leaves are breathtaking – oranges and reds and yellows of all combinations. I’m often shocked at the appearance of color in a tree that I pass daily during the summer when it blended seamlessly into the sea of green. Brilliant hues are my sunshine on a gray, rainy day like today.

Leaves and Feet

My favorite autumn days are where the sun shines fiery yellow orange so bright that you can scarcely take it all in. The air crisp, walking through the crunchy, colorful tapestry beneath my feet. But those days have been few since the colors turned and today was humid and warm and odd. The weather the last few months has been non-typical and it has challenged what I love about summer and fall and made me thankful for the typical days.

These days are the last hurrah before the icy blasts and white, gray days begin, bittersweet. So today I earnestly seek the turning leaves.

Dreaded Mondays

Mondays – I don’t like them either. It seems as though the days start late and rough and there is more rushing and crabbiness than necessary. Getting through the day is a challenge – catching up on laundry, picking up the pieces of the house after the weekend, making phone calls and to do lists. It seems that Mondays exist in the gray, mundane part of existence synonymous with drudgery and dread.

But I realized today that it doesn’t have to be that way. Monday can be an opportunity to have coffee in a cheery spot with a friend, bright flowers from her shirt lifting my spirits. It can be snuggles with my little one, her purple velvet shirt brushing my face. It can be a smile and a kind word from a staff person at the kid’s school. The surprised look I get every time I visit my oldest daughter at lunch and the super-tight hug her little sister gives her when she sees her sweet face. “I love her”, she whispers to me on the way out.

I pop up my fuchsia umbrella, thankful for the fabric that shields me from the mist and I mentally pause my to do list and thank God for these small wonders – all on a Monday afternoon.

Songbird Surprise

One of our fall family traditions each year is walking through the local nature center to see the changing leaves and observe wildlife. Each year we see something new and one of our favorite activities is feeding small songbirds along the path. We put seed in our hands and stand as still as we can until they perch on the tips of our fingers to gather the bounty. Last year we found that the birds really loved a couple of us, but were skittish with the smaller kids. This year, they landed on all of us and we got some great pictures.

bird pic

Every time one of these little creatures lands on my hand, I am amazed at how beautiful and finally crafted they are and how each one looks a little different. From far away, there is no way to tell the small differences between them. They look into my eyes as if to greet me in their own special way. Some gather one seed, others fill their beaks until extra pieces fall out as they fly away.

Each one approaches us differently and quickly chirps to notify friends that we are there. We all learn to not jump when they land as they always seem to swoop in without us having a clear view of them. One perches on my phone as I take a picture. Some buzz by my hair, one lands on my arm, each amaze me with the vigorous flutter sound as they fly away.

The views gorgeous, the temperature just right, and these sweet, delicate birds – just the right therapy I need today.

Panoramic of Nature Center