Follow-Through…Finishing….Closing the Door

Sports have been a big part of my life as far back as i could remember – more watched than played, but still a big part.  For the middle part of my life, my dad was a baseball coach.  I remember when he would have camps for the little league kids during the summer and one of the fundamental lessons he would teach would be follow-through.  When you swing the bat to hit the ball, follow through.  When you catch the fly ball and throw it back, follow through.  When you’re trying to beat the throw to first, run through the bag (follow through).  The follow-through on the action is what adds the power to the action.  That is why a line drive off a major leaguer’s bat can break a guy’s neck!  It’s not about muscle strength or force.  Strong muscles and exerted force aren’t what allow golfers to drive balls “miles” down a fairway, it’s the follow-through.

Too bad we don’t get follow-through lessons in other things in our lives.  Or in other words lessons on how to finish.

I’m at the end of the pregnant phase of my life, and I’ve learned that I’m pretty terrible at finishing.  I have a stack of started crafts that prove my point.  I have rooms in my house that are 95% clean that add to the evidence.  Now, I’m not expecting my house to be “magazine worthy” clean – I live here, Ken lives here, we have a dog – I know better than to expect that level of clean.  But it’s the pile of opened mail that I know just needs to be sorted through (trash, act, or file).  Or the stack of fast food cups that sit on the counter beside the trash can that should have just gone in the trash can the first time they were handled.  Or the clothes that are laid over the chair that don’t get put up – since they’re not in the floor, they’re really not in the way (translation: I won’t fall over them on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night).

And cleaning house isn’t the only place we’ve failed to learn the lesson of follow-through (it’s just the first example this nesting preggo things of).  People also fail to follow through with their money.  You say you’re going to get out of debt, you even pay off credit cards, but then what do you do?  Is the account still open?  Is it still attached to your SirShopsAlot account?  Is the card still in your wallet?  Well, you made the promise to yourself that you’d set a limit and make sure you budget enough money to pay it off each month so you don’t accrue interest, that’s enough right?  How’s that working for you (as Dr. Phil would say)?  And speaking of budgets – what does your budget look like?  Is it on paper?  Has everyone who has access to the money agreed to it and understands the consequences of not following it?  You might have a written budget plan and it’s even hanging on the fridge for everyone to see, but where is your money really going?

Yes, follow-through seems to falter in the areas of our life where self-discipline (and self-motivation) is required.  Cleaning, money, health, relationships – all require us to work.  But that’s not the only areas follow-through needs occur.  So many opportunities present themselves throughout our daily lives – they sometimes walk right up to us, look us in the eyes, and jump in our hands.  Opportunities for new relationships, new experiences – learning more, doing more, living life more, sometimes even earning more.  And what do we do with them?  The business card goes in that “black hole” pocket of the wallet; the napkin with the phone number ends up disintegrated in the washing machine; the email or text message goes unanswered.  I wonder what we’re all missing out on?

This blog itself has been a lesson to me on following through with things.  I started this blog on 8/9/12 in Evernote on my iPad.  Something interrupted me in the middle of typing it (I really don’t remember what – went to lunch….got a phone call… had to pee) and when I finally got another minute to work on it, my excuse for finishing it was “I lost my flow of thoughts”.  Thus, in Evernote and (in my psyche) it sat – until today.

When I think about the condition of my psyche, it makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice walks into this room – it’s a round room, with doors of all sizes encircling her.  How does she get out of this room?  Most of the doors are locked.  In the end, she has to eat the cake on the table that makes her shrink so she can fit through the unlocked door.  But what if all the doors were unlocked?  That’s how I believe my psyche works – just like Alice’s room of doors where I can go through any of the doors I choose, and as long as I don’t let the door close behind me, i can come back to my room of doors and pick a different door on a different day.  The problem is that nothing ever gets completed which leads to me frantically running from one unfinished task to another (and not truly finishing any of them thanks to this thing call entropy – aka the chaos that ensues when you’re not applying energy to the situation) and then leads to the walls of my room being so full of opened doors that there’s no room for anything new in my life, that finally results me being stressed, frustrated, unhappy, and unable to relax in my own house.  What kind of life is that – especially since we’ll have a new baby around?!

Step one: yesterday’s to-do list (just ask Ken or my MIL & FIL about it).  Step two: this blog. Time to close some psyche doors, finish some tasks, and follow through on some opportunities.

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Liberated

…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Corinthians 3:17

We had a great time on vacation – it was restful and relaxing and just plain fun.  But the last 2 days of our trip rocked my world.

We spent that time immersed in a culture that takes Jesus literally when he says “go and make disciples” and “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20).  They build communities based on discipleship.

The relationships that make up the communities are based on Matthew 10:13 – And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.

They refer to them as “persons of peace” – people that receive your peace, or people who accept and welcome you and your message (because according to verse 14 [AMP], the people who do not accept and welcome are obviously not of peace).

This was a new way of thinking about relationships, and at first I was discouraged because I could not think of a single person that would qualify as a “person of peace”. (Again, a person who accepts and welcomes me AND my message). Through the event, I got to share my story and hear stories similar to mine and began to be encouraged.  By the end, we had a guy pray for us.  Through him, God gave me permission to grieve that which was “dead”.  Later in the evening, during a conversation with another couple, I got permission to “bury” the dead.

At the end of the day event, we did an activity they called Leave Behind/Take Away.  They had two white boards – “Leave Behind” and “Take Away”.  We got 2 post-it notes to write one thing we would like to leave behind after the event, and one thing we would like to take away with us from the event.  Then we each had to get up and say (into a microphone) what we were leaving and taking, and stick the post-its on the boards.  Here’s my answers:

Leave behind – the desire to do church exactly the way my dad or granddaddy did and to have things back exactly like they were

Take away – a hunger to be a true disciple in a God-centered covenant relationship

To be honest, for a lot of people, it was just another embarrassing activity.

I’m sure I haven’t realized the full extent of what I left behind, but I believe I truly left it behind this time – and that’s liberating!

And even though I’ve only been home 2 days, I’ve buried the things I’ve grieved for, and grieving for the ones I was ignoring – and that is also liberating!

Since then, I’ve become aware of some “persons of peace” – they might not be right now, but may be in the future.  I’m even dreaming about people and about community and about true relationships that feel like family.

The truth is, I don’t think there was room for any of that before I “left behind” and emptied out some things.  I only have the capacity to hold on to so much, and then nothing else can fit.  And for me to hold what God was wanting to put in me and do with me, some things had to be purged out – I had to be liberated!

Breakup Behavior

I’m not sure about anybody else, but I never experienced a “clean” breakup.  I had all kinds of friends who would say “oh yeah, we broke up but we stayed friends.”  I can’t even start to imagine what that would be like – “you know, we may not be compatible for the long haul, but we still get along and have stuff in common.”

(Just a note, I’m using a breakup analogy here because it’s the only type of painful separation I can relate to.)

After the breakup, at least for me, a big clean-up followed.  Getting rid of pictures, notes, playlists, gifts, phone numbers – all the things in my space that had a connection to that person.  Then in public, the goal was to be stuck up – if I happened to encounter them or walk past them, acting like I didn’t notice them or only giving a brief glance as to say “you’re not important to me anymore” or “I’m not hurt by you.”

I’m guilty of this behavior, but I’ve also been the recipient of this behavior.

I’ve recently gone through a painful separation – you could call it a “breakup”.  And I noticed this pattern of behavior coming out of me.  And the blog I wrote several weeks ago, was me recognizing what was happening – you can read it here.

“Here’s all your stuff back.”  “I want all my stuff back.”  The places where we would gather were cleaned, so that you couldn’t even tell that anyone used to be there.  Stuff was thrown out, box up, and moved out of sight.

What used to be continuous, warm interactions suddenly became cold and in some instances non-existent.

Can you see the pattern?  Breakup – clean up – stuck up.  Why is that?  Why don’t more breakups “remain friends”?

I have two conclusions, and it’s very possible they are both true.

1) I don’t want to be transparent enough to say “you hurt me”.  And I don’t trust God enough to  forgive 100%.  I’ve heard it said that “hurting people hurt people” and that is certainly true about breakups.  Separation hurts, and because of that hurt, we tend to try to hurt back the people that hurt us first (whether it’s conscious or unconscious).  But if we don’t release the hurt and forgive, the hurt we hold onto will eventually cause us to hurt people who weren’t even involved in the beginning.

2) I don’t have a clue how to have a real relationship.  Yes, relationships require transparency and forgiveness, but it’s much more than that too.  Through all of this, I’ve learned that a lot of my relationships were based on what someone could offer me or based on what I thought I could offer them.  And that’s just a horrible way to have relationships.  I’m not saying that we can’t reap the benefits of each others strengths, but if your strength is the only reason I have you around, that is shallow and heartless.

In no way am I expecting that all parties involved should go back to “life as normal”, because normal now isn’t going to be anywhere near what normal used to be.  But complete forgiveness is my goal and maybe one day the “we still get along and have stuff in common” scenario will be true.

Discipline Hurts

I have a discipline problem – and this week, I’ve tackled it hard core.

Being thrown into “real life” after graduation (or moving from one season of life to the next) will show you how disciplined you are. And I’m learning that as I discipline some areas, it makes me aware of other areas that are out of whack.

For example, last week, I moved my computer and all my study materials to the dining room table (it has no view of the TV from any angle). This means I don’t spend as much time in the evenings sitting next to my husband (my goal has been to study at least 2 hrs on my non-church nights).

Then this week, a friend invited me to start working out with her at 6 AM (I haven’t seen 6 AM since November!).  That means I have to go to bed early (I’m shooting for at least 11 PM) so I’ll be able to function during the day. This also means that once my studying (or church) is over, I get to spend even less time with Ken.

Next, I have chosen to leave my laptop in my study space instead of bringing it back to the couch to surf and watch TV.  This is because I firmly believe that all the technology in our lives is starting to take the place of or overshadowing the real relationships we have.  So, if my computer is in one room, then I can check email, Facebook, and blogs in about 20 minutes time.  Then I can sit in the den and watch TV or talk with Ken without trying to multitask (also, I’ve realized that I don’t really go anywhere on the internet, I just neurotically rotate between emails, Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, and our online bank account).

And it’s not that my “sitting around” time with Ken is being infringed upon because I’ve started these other tasks.  My house is suffering too – haven’t washed dishes in about a week, haven’t done laundry in a week, haven’t cleaned anything really in about a week, many house projects that are partially done.  That just proves to me all those areas weren’t disciplined in the first place.

So, now I’ve got to figure out a strategy for getting those areas lined up and in ship-shape.  Maybe next time, I’ll share some ideas on how I’m going to do that.  In the meantime, feel free to share your ideas on how you’ve disciplined some areas on your life.

“Connecting” Disconnection

In today’s society, technology’s main purpose is to keep you connected. “Crack” berries and iPhone allowing the owners to check email, twitter, facebook, and chat – all from a handheld device. But that wasn’t the beginning of it.
AOL, yahoo, MSN, and many others provide messengers that allow real-time, long-distance communication – for free! I remember living in the dorms in college and using instant messengers. I was able to chat with friends back home as well as friends right down the hall. How strange is it that I was able to have a deep meaningful conversation on IM but when that same friend came in the room, the topics became shallow?
This continued into dating relationships – there was even a commercial about it. The guy drops the girl off at her house. She runs upstairs, signs on and chats with him once he gets home – the date doesn’t end at curfew. That happened to me too. Our excuse was we didn’t like talking on the phone, so IM was the next best thing. And yet, we could have deep, honest conversations through messenger, but would be fake and shallow when we talked in person.
Is this what relationships are coming to? When I realized this was happening, I had this dreaded fear that Ken and I were going to get married and I was going to have to go to the other room and IM him or email him to tell him how I felt if I was upset or had something deep or important to tell him about. That’s just not right!
Thanks to digital cameras and other internet technology. I don’t have to invite my friends and family over to see 1,400 wedding pictures. I just post them to facebook and expect them to look at them. And we call that “connected”. I can check facebook, twitter, or myspace to see what friends are up to and somehow, that makes me feel “connected”.
Is it not strange to anyone else when two teen girls (or even younger) are riding in the car together and instead of laughing and chatting, they’re texting each other? Or that you’re out with friends or on a date and they are more “connected” to people on the other side of their “crack” berry (just as addictive as crack) than they are to you and the group they are with?
There is a disconnection that comes with being too connect. Personal interactions – whether fun or confrontational – seem to be suffering due to all the connectedness.
Even when you’re alone, walking down the street, riding the bus with your iPod on, you are disconnected from the world around you. There are sources that say this generation is craving connection and relationships and yet the technology of the day forces them to stay at home and stay in their room  on their computers and deceives them into thinking they are connected.
Don’t let the “newest thing” cause you to sacrifice personal interactions and connections. Your mama always told you “don’t talk to strangers!”  You’re all grown up now – maybe you should talk to a stranger!  You might learn something – learn something about yourself!

Taming Ken – Part 4 – The Love Umbrella

A few weeks ago, Ken and I had a fun conversation about when was the first time we thought we were falling in love with each other. So, I want to share my story with you.
At our church, we have a band of guys that man the parking lot before each service. On rainy days, they even come get you with an umbrella!
It seems like every time I recall arriving at church in my mom’s purple Dodge Caravan on a rainy day or night, Ken was the umbrella guy who escorted me to the building.
So, as a Valentine’s tribute to true love. Here is a theme song Ken actually approves of.
Bus Stop

Taming Ken – Part 3 – Ice Cream Bribes

When Ken and I first starting “talking” (you know, one of those in-between stages of “just friends” and “dating” that teenagers use to describe their relationships), I was working at the Emmanuel Student Activity Center (fondly called the SAC) during the summer.  Ken was taking a few summer classes and would come visit me in between classes.  Some days, Ken would come in with Jay or Moose (or both), other days, he’d come in by himself (as he got braver).  Even other days, I’d get visits from Moose and Jay by themselves and they would tell me how much Ken talks about me and likes me!

So, one day, Ken comes in and we’re chatting and laughing.  As it got time for him to leave, he stands up to give me a hug and says “see ya later, shorty!”  Just as with any early “talking” relationship, I got mad (sorta) and said “don’t call me short!” and pouted.  He left, I made rounds and came back to my office to read.  About 15 minutes later, Ken comes back in with a cup of chocolate ice cream from the Water Wheel!  Trying to remain mad at him, I made my best effort to act like I didn’t like chocolate ice cream – but I failed because chocolate is my FAVORITE ice cream!  Needless to say, I ate the ice cream and forgave him for calling me short.

Chocolate ice cream seems to be my weakness – and Ken has used it for his benefit more than once!