Handy-Dandy Helpful Hal

Wow, what a whirlwind of a few weeks! I have scarcely had time to breathe, let alone write a blog post, but I wanted to prioritize an update this evening.

We have been running around like crazy people because our departure date was moved up by 3 weeks – meaning we have that much less time to list our house for rent, sell our cars, etc. One of our major projects has been to take care of a bunch of “honey-do’s” which have been accumulating for the last year or two. I’ve spent the last couple weekends drilling, painting, hammering, wiring, and plumbing (my least favorite!) until I felt like a legit DIY-er (the featured picture on this post is a ceiling fan I installed). It started reminding me of a book I used to read as a child, entitled Handy-Dandy Helpful Hal. 

af1d3c9c3c8e50f6f95f6d1dfe0c616a

Other than the fix-it-up craziness, we’ve also been preparing for a large garage sale, which took place today. That’s been a major blessing to us, as we’ve sold the vast majority of the possessions we identified as neither important enough to ship or store. Two of my wife’s sisters have been staying with us all week, and they’ve been a great help. I wish we could just bring them along with us on our move!

As our departure date has approached, my stress level has begun to rise. Yet God is still on his throne and still faithful! His strength is enough. May my family and I remember that over the next month.

Advertisements

Tides

Last week, my family and I took a vacation to a nearby beach town. This trip was difficult for me because it was the first time I had returned since a Spring Break trek in college to the same town. That trip had been with a group of close friends, the majority of whom I no longer consider close.

I have struggled with this reality for several years now, and it still hurts. One of the friendships ended rather badly in a massive misunderstanding, and my belief (whether true or not is uncertain) is that it bled over and poisoned the rest of my friendships as well. Things were never the same after the first relationship imploded. Regardless of how it happened, the reality is that I still see the same group of friends posting pictures of doing fun things together…without me. It stings a little.

So it stood to reason that this trip would shake loose some emotional baggage. And it did. I took a walk on the beach one particular night to discuss it with my Father.

Do I keep pursuing? Or do I allow this chapter of my life to close?

Despite feeling like those friendships were long gone and nigh impossible to rekindle from far away, I was still holding on to them. As though the things my former friends seemed to believe about me would be true if I never had the chance to befriend them again and show them wrong. Even though I knew in my heart that I needed to close that chapter of my life, I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. So I struggled as I walked, wishing that things could have been different.

I had prayed earlier in the day that the Father would speak clearly to me, as clearly as he did when he rewrote my name. So I walked and listened.

Stop. Look down.

In a moment, I understood. Putting his guidance into words is difficult, as he speaks on a heart level first. I think this is what the Word mentions when it describes the Spirit interceding for us with “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). But in that moment, I saw the marks of the waves on the shore and I knew.

Do you see the marks of the waves? Some friends I bring into your life for a season, to accomplish the work in your heart that I have for them. When that work is finished, their time in your life is complete, and like the receding tide, the relationship comes to a close.

IMG_20160516_203527 (2)

I knew he was right; I had known it all along. To hear him speak so clearly was comforting, despite it not being what I wanted to hear. Yet I grieved. The loss of my friends had never truly healed…just scabbed over, with infection inside. Coming to this town had opened it up so I could see the wound again. My Father’s words, though painful, were cleansing. I wept a little as I continued down the beach, looking at the wave marks and remembering my old friends and how each had impacted my heart.

Forgive me, Father…I am a foolish child. I wish it could always be high tide, and the waves would never have to recede.

I had scarcely uttered the words when his answer came, so loving and warm that it brought fresh tears of gratitude.

One day it will be. 


Are you holding onto something you should let go? A relationship, a dream, a hope against hope? Trust your Father and let it go. He knows what is best for us, and has planned far more than we could ever hope or imagine. He loves us too much to let us have what we want when that thing is not our best. We just have to trust, and recognize that a day is coming when there will be no more pain.

Ship, Store, or Sell?

As per the purpose of this blog, I will regularly post “what’s going on” updates, in addition to real-life lessons I learn along the way. This is one of those such updates.

The last couple weeks, we have been running around like crazed squirrels (imagine a caffeinated Hammy, from Over the Hedge, yet decidedly less productive) tagging all of our possessions. We have to decide which items to ship (and whether they should go via air or surface), which to store, and which to sell. It’s been a rather interesting process, as we it has helped us see which items we actually use on a regular basis, and which we do not. It disgusts me sometimes just how much stuff we have. An engineering friend of mine described it this way, “Humans are like idea gasses. They always expand to fill the size of their container.” I think he’s right.

In any case, we have plenty of time, but we have so much stuff to sort through (and eliminate) that we’re getting started early. Our pack-out dates are scheduled for the end of July, so we’ll be having a massive garage sale in mid-June, and a second, smaller one in mid-July. Anything left over will just go to Goodwill.

My wife and I have also been getting more vaccinations – oh joy! Apparently, we were both wretchedly behind in adult vaccination boosters, so I suppose I should be thankful for the medical exam portion of the process. Yet I still don’t enjoy having sore shoulders for a couple days afterward (tetanus shots are the worst!).

In unrelated news, I had a moment a few days ago that caused me to chuckle. Last spring, I happened to be doing some weed-eating while wearing a baseball hat. I disturbed a tiny baby bunny, and lest it be injured by my power equipment, I captured it using my hat to temporarily keep it out of harm’s way. While I finished up, I handed the bunny-in-hat off to my wife, who showed the children. They loved it (of course!), but it also stuck in their heads that to catch a bunny, one must use a hat! To this day, my children will come running inside to retrieve a hat when they see a bunny. It makes us smile. In the photo below, you can see my oldest daughter working in the garden shortly after retrieving a hat due to a bunny sighting.

IMG_20160513_082915

Isn’t that just the cutest thing?!

On Pink (er…Salmon) Shorts

Wednesday was my birthday. My beautiful wife decided that since most of my casual clothing was purchased when George W. Bush was in office, it was time for a wardrobe update. So she surprised me with a handful of new T-shirts and a few other items, including a shocking pair of salmon-colored shorts. These shorts are so loud that I got a call from Arkansas asking me to turn it down as soon as I tried them on. Clearly not my style.

And yet my wife loves them! She somehow has the delusion that her poor husband can somehow pull off a trendy look, and despite nearly 8 years of trying with little success, she hasn’t yet given up. So to please her, I put them on today. After fielding another angry call from Arkansas, I headed out the door to Starbucks to make use of their WiFi for a few hours of work.

As soon as I left the driveway, I felt the dread in my stomach.

Look at this guy! Doesn’t he know only skinny people can wear those shorts?

O-M-G. I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

Ugh. So gross!

What a preppy wannabe!

On and on the soundtrack went. I could almost hear the disapproving voices of the strangers I would encounter, half-whispered one to another. I could almost see their smirks and feel their contempt as tangibly as the bright pink (for now it seemed, here in the sun) fabric around my legs.

Why? What about that experience was so frightening?

I asked myself that same question, and realized that the answer lay in a feeble understanding of my identity. If people truly did disapprove of me as strongly as I feared, then I would feel belittled, inadequate, worthless, and unloved. That means that I was seeking my identity from the approval of other people, from strangers no less! What a foolish thought!

Yet how often do we do this? Not seeking approval just from strangers, but from anyone. Do you hold back from lovingly challenging your friend when he does something you know is unhealthy for him, because you value his approval more than the health of his soul? Do you base your identity as a man or woman on how much your husband or wife approves of you? Do you live for work instead of working to live because you thrive on the praise of your coworkers and supervisors?

As broken vessels, we need love and approval – yet seeking it from man only results in it leaking out like so much water through a cracked vase. It can never satisfy. The only love and approval which can salve the brokenness in our hearts comes from the Creator of the vessels, and only he can mend the wounds in our souls and make us feel accepted. When we grasp that idea, when we realize that our identity is based not on man’s approval (which is fleeting), but on God’s in Christ Jesus (which is eternal), there is freedom to do and to be all that we have been created for.

When I remembered all this, I brushed off the fears with a slight smile and gripped the steering wheel with more confidence. Laugh at me or not, my wife is happy, and my Father loves me. That’s all that matters.

Where are you finding your identity? Are you living in the security of a loving and accepting Father? If not, try having a conversation with him. He’d love to mend and fill your broken vase.

Authenticity

Yup. I gave up social media. It’s been a long time coming, and in fact, I once made fun of people who did this. Turns out the joke is on me.

Before you get out your pitchforks and torches, I freely acknowledge that social media has done a lot of good in my life. I have used it to maintain contact with friends and family throughout my college and early career years. It’s been a great means of facilitating communication and finding friends I hadn’t seen or heard from in many years.

But there came a point when I realized that almost the entirety of my relationships existed only on social media, and these relationships were typically very superficial. When I argued with my wife, yelled at my children, or had a bad day at work, there was no one on social media to whom I felt I could turn. I also noticed that I was spending a lot of time simply scrolling through my “news feed”; not interacting, merely observing. My relationships had devolved into little more than watching a parade of what I like to call “Pinterest moments”.

So what was the effect of that parade? Jealousy. Anger. Irritation. Depression. My life didn’t look like everyone else’s, and I wished it did.

This is a natural side-effect of a very human condition. We are all broken on the inside, but we don’t want anyone else to know it. So we put forth our very best, all the time. Anything less makes us fear rejection. We are all hiding, like Adam and Eve in the garden, hiding behind our “Pinterest moments” and perfect plastic lives.

When I finally realized the truth, I decided I had seen enough. The world doesn’t need more faked perfection; the world needs authenticity. Admission of brokenness is a scary thing, yet it’s the path to healing. On the battlefield, wounded soldiers don’t hide their injuries; they scream for a medic. Why do we act differently? When we admit that we are just as messed up as everyone else, there is freedom. People let their guard down, become vulnerable, and allow healing to occur.

We are all fighting the same battle, but the enemy’s strategy is to divide and conquer. When we realize we are not alone in our struggles, we can band together to find strength. For me, that means reducing my consumption of social media, increasing my investment in personal relationships, and being more authentic in what I portray to the world. My hope and prayer is that you will be encouraged by what you see here as you are reminded that we’re all in this together.

I’ll leave you with this final encouragement from Hebrews, remembering that there is One who knows and can help with every struggle you and I encounter.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)