Friday, April 26, 2013

Ethan's Training Wheels

My grandson, Ethan, pedaled his new bike around the sparkling lake. Training wheels slowed him down for the first round, but quickly my walking alongside him transitioned into running.

"You have to be a good runner to keep up with me, Meme!" he yelled.

Even during our break (my break) he kept his eyes moving around the park, scouting out our next adventure.

"Let's climb that mountain!" he suggested, eagerly pointing to the high rocky waterfall.

Strong muscles and loud laughter took us up his first mountain climb. It was a rocky slope fit for a six year old and his grandma. Joy bubbled over with every lung full of fresh air. It was an excellent workout and a highlight in our wonderful day at the park.

The next day I thought about going for another run. I thought about calling Mark, my running buddy who paces me so that I do my best. I thought about it most of the day. I intended to run, but never ran. My new habits sometimes are as wobbly as Ethan's new wheels.

"I went back to my old habits," Lindy confessed to me yesterday. "I don't know if I got lazy or what happened, but my new year resolution has fallen apart. I was doing so great. Now I'm just disappointed in myself."

Momentum builds as we work toward our goal day by day. Skipping a day or two knocks us out of our new routine and slowly we slide back into the old habits. It isn't possible to sustain excellence daily. It is possible to sustain the training if we don't give up.

It doesn't matter how many times around the lake you have to use training wheels before you find your balance. It doesn't matter how big the mountain or how far you are from the top. It matters very much that you don't quit.

"Keep pedaling, Ethan!" I called as he soared ahead of me. "You're doing it! You're doing it! Keep going and don't stop!"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Bird's Eye View

A garbage truck bangs through the neighborhood and some papers escape the bin, blowing into the yard. Children are yelling, running about as they wait for the school bus. A tired man coming home from work glares at them as he slows to wait for a bouncing ball. The roar of a lawn mower interrupts my conversation with a neighbor.

"Sometimes people can be so annoying!" my neighbor comments in frustration. "I feel like exploding and it's not even 8 o'clock in the morning!"

And, it's true, isn't it? We annoy one another with our smirks, our shrugs and our sighs. Our decisions, politics and opinions quite quickly escalate. Instead of being people who merely annoy others, when unchecked, we quickly become harsh, rude and unkind.

A choir of birds is singing sweetly from my redbud tree this morning. The noise and fray of government and community do not bother them. Unfortunate interruptions such as an early morning lawn mower are unnoticed. Birds awaken for the purpose of praising their Creator and drawing attention to Him.

People, however, awaken with the awareness of our burdens and disappointments. Even during the night, we may battle stress and problems.We may not number our losses or brood over them, but aches and wounds, physical as well as spiritual, fill life with annoying conflict. We can be primed for irritation and frustration before we are even out of the bed.

A red breasted robin has hopped over to rest on a branch beside me. He has been working for hours this morning. His wife was injured and their home, ready and waiting for their little ones, was mangled in a recent hail storm. Yet, he is calmly watching me write, resting from his work...singing to cheer me along my way.

I smile at my little friend as he finishes his song and bobs his head at me. My eyes are directed to the heavens as he flies away into the morning sunshine leaving me with a gladsome heart.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thunder on Ellie's Mountain

Mary Englebreit
Ellie lay on the floor with my large box of crayons spilling around her, brown crayon poised at her cheek.  With her head tilted to one side, she studied her drawing in my nature journal. When the frown lines in her forehead deepened with concentration, I set my coloring aside.

Even though my frown lines also deepened with concentration as I focused with her on the picture, I could not see a problem.

She looked up at me and smiled. Her little freckled nose wrinkled up and she sighed.

"It's a chocolate chip mountain," she explained.

"Oh!" I said, nodding my head. "Like a Hershey Kiss Mountain!"

"Yes!" she exclaimed, clearly pleased that I could understand the mind of an artist. "And it's storming. I'm drawing thunder."

"Hmm. Do you know what thunder is?" I asked.

"No," she admitted. "Arthur is afraid of thunder," she whispered, even though her giant lap dog was not within hearing distance and could not be offended.

I smiled. Ellie is always eager for a new scientific fact. "Thunder is the loud crashing sound we hear when it's storming. It's a loud noise, El."

"Oh," she said, brow creasing again thoughtfully. "Well, then I am drawing limenting."


"Yes," she nodded, picking up her dropped crayon. "Limenting lighting up the sky."

Her intense focus was redirected to her work. I sat memorizing the moment.

A little child shall lead us.

We long to live our lives on a chocolate chip mountain where everything is happy and sweet. Scary uncertainties leave us disoriented. We don't know what to do so we do nothing.

Ellie is not one to do nothing. She chose the path of wisdom.

We do what we can do and we leave what we cannot understand to the God with thunder in His footsteps and limenting in His fists. We pick up our crayon and we go right on working.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cheer Up Words

Mary Englebreit
I remember my mother teaching me to write my name.  Sitting with her at the kitchen table,  I carefully wrote my name with a magenta crayon. The tip of my new crayon rounded, disappearing like magic, as I practiced.

The first letter I ever sent through the mail was written on blue stationary. My father was a rural mail carrier who encouraged my letter writing. I left outgoing mail on the kitchen table and letters disappeared like magic when he left for work the next morning. 

Emails now travel back and forth to other countries almost daily. I hear not only from friends, but from readers I have never met. They live in places I have never visited. I love hearing from people, sharing in their lives, becoming a part of their stories as we exchange emails. Ding! Just like magic, you've got mail. 

One of my favorite letters is written on a large sheet of white paper. It says, very simply, "ISAIAH". It's written in crooked, shaky letters by a little boy who wanted to say much more, but wrote what he could manage. I smile big as I remember him running into my hug, handing his first letter to me. Such love and sparkle in his eyes! He had written volumes and discovered the magic of the written word.

"Your hands look funny," Katherynn told me. "I miss your jewels." I hugged her close, explaining that arthritis swelling was not permanent. I would soon be able to color and write again. I would soon wear my rings again. 

"I would not like it if I could not color a letter," Katherynn sighed, filled with compassion for my temporary loss. "Life would be empty without coloring a letter." 

The next day I received a colorful handmade card. She read it to me since spelling and penmanship are still a bit in progress. She pointed to her initials. "K.H. See? I signed it. My cheer up words always make people feel good."

Who needs your cheer up words today? Grab a card, sign your initials and send it on its way.