Category Archives: Dreams

Kobe

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My brother’s dog provided the inspiration for this post.  He’s everything you want in a dog–fun, playfulness, friendship.  Mike takes him out on his ultra-marathon training runs in the mountains and parks near Denver, where he lives these days.

This dog has no shortage of energy.  He loves to run.  He loves to play and get dirty.  He especially looooooovvvveesss  fetch, but there’s one catch. (Ha, ha…get it?)

Kobe, like many other dogs (so I hear), absolutely despises letting go of his frisbee for his master to pick up and throw for him.  He will run like the wind when his frisbee or other toy is tossed into the distance, dutifully bring it back to his master, but then…does he simply drop the toy so his master can throw it again and keep the game going?

Of course not!  Kobe has to hang on, clutching that frisbee between his big, sharp teeth so tightly, I don’t know who other than my brother can dare try to wrench it away.  (Although I’ve been fairly impressed at my parents’ audacity and courage–even at their age, with four replaced limbs between the two of them, they play wholeheartedly with Kobe).

I guess it is all part of the game, to a dog.  Part of their excitement is directly tied to the epic battle between dog and human.  Who will emerge the victor, holding the frisbee?  It’s clearly not all about the throwing and retrieving.

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Kobe in action

Unfortunately for the dog, many humans will grow frustrated/nervous/tired of the battle to get the frisbee away from him to throw again.  Thus the game ends all too soon.

I wonder if  Kobe realizes in his little doggie brain that he’s shooting himself in the foot.  Does he inwardly understand that the more he struggles, the less likely he is to get what he wants–another toss of the frisbee and another chance to run and fetch it?

I feel like the answer must be no…otherwise, why wouldn’t he catch on and realize he has to play by human rules (and their pesky need to keep all limbs intact)?  Then again, perhaps it’s more an issue of wanting two things at once.  Kobe wants to run and fetch the toy.  Kobe wants to hold on to the toy, triumphantly.  Both of these goals are singularly important to a dog.  Thus, he refuses to back down.  He is tough.  He is strong.  He is playing with his master.

The only problem is, Kobe can’t run and fetch the frisbee if he continues refusing to drop it.

You are probably wondering, why am I rambling on and on about someone else’s dog?  Cute as he is, Kobe is not the point of this blog post.

No, Kobe is a creature that shows me something God may have been wanting to teach me for some time now.

Kobe is much like me.  I, too, want what I want, when I want it.  I, too, find it hard to focus on anything else at the moment I want something.  And I, too, stubbornly cling to MY way of doing things, even when it doesn’t lead to what I wanted in the first place.  Even when what I thought I wanted turns out to be unsatisfying.

Sound familiar to you, perhaps? No? Please, don’t tell me I’m the only one who hovers in the land of selfishness.

I hold on to my Frisbee, whether it may be a relationship, a sense of security, a financial gift, whatever, thinking that eventually, I will get everything I want.  Perhaps, while I’m waiting, so utterly frustrated that God isn’t acting to bring me something else I desperately desire, He is simply waiting for me to drop whatever it is I’ve been clinging to.  Perhaps he just needs me to let go, so he can be free to give me the other blessings that have been available all along.

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Mike and Kobe

 

Seeking the applause

I’m a pretty shy person.  When I tell students that, they always look a little shocked and say, “But you’re a teacher!”  I know, as a teacher I have to stand up in front of groups of people every single day and speak and lead.  This is why I was so hesitant to go into teaching in the first place.  Fortunately, I eventually discovered that once you know your students, teaching is not the same as public speaking.  It’s building relationships with students through the material, so once I get beyond those initial days of new classes each fall, the fear and shyness usually subside.

Being an introvert, I don’t particularly enjoy the spotlight.  I don’t want people looking at me for any prolonged amount of time.  I don’t like talking on a loudspeaker, for instance, or dancing in a silly video of all the teachers that the whole school will see.  I read some verses once at my church one Sunday, and the entire week prior to that day, I felt so anxious about it, worrying over what I would wear and whether my voice would sound weird. (I know, right?  As if anyone there would care.)

However, I’m starting to realize that there are certain situations in which I actually want to be recognized.  When it comes to an area where I feel skilled or qualified, I crave some attention.  While I don’t necessarily handle praise very well at times, I still desire that recognition.  I grew up doing all kinds of music–piano, flute, and singing–and I sometimes miss the praise I would receive after a successful performance.

There aren’t so many opportunities for me to sing for an audience anymore.  I sang many national anthems at the high school where I teach, kicking off their basketball games each winter.  Hearing my voice ring out powerfully through the gym gave me a sort of thrill.  I also used to sing solos at my old church, and even though my body trembled with fear each time, it was always one of those “glad-I-did-it-now-that-it’s over” situations.  I liked it when fellow congregants came up to me and told me they loved my song or that it moved them to worship.  I loved it when my then-boyfriend (now husband) said my voice gave him goosebumps and made him want to cry.  I loved feeling like I was truly good at something.

Being a grown-up with a more realistically attainable job than that of professional musician, I find myself missing the days when I could have my own tiny piece of the spotlight.  Yes, nerves were always a factor, but that anxiety was tempered by the confidence in my ability to sing, along with the pure joy it brought me.

Nowadays I feel a bit left out when I’m not asked to sing for events or groups.  I feel like I’ve lost that part of who I am, and the people who don’t know that I sing and play the piano have an incomplete picture of me.  It’s like they don’t really know me.  Even though my performing days are gone for now (other than singing silly songs for my son), I still think of myself as a singer.  Just the other day, the song “Someone to Watch Over Me” popped into my head, and nostalgia hit as I recalled how many times I used that piece for local theater auditions.

Music isn’t the only arena where I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself over the years.  Maybe it’s partly because our society is set up to praise youth and their accomplishments.  Just take a look at the constant awards ceremonies that parents today are asked to attend for their kids.  You get a trophy for practically everything when you’re young.  (Kindergarten graduation?  Okay, I know the kids must look super-cute in their caps and gowns, but still.  Really?)

I always felt accomplished in running, in music, in writing, and let those things provide me with a false sense of who I was.  I was special because I was good at those things.  Yeah, I did work hard at times, but much of the time, I just enjoyed cultivating my natural abilities.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the pride and satisfaction of a job well done.  Yet, how dangerous it can be when we let our abilities and accomplishments cloud our perceptions of who we truly are.  Yeah, this is where I’m going to get “spiritual”.  I think that gradually,  I’m learning again to rest in who I am in Christ.  It’s an ongoing process, one that can be painfully eye-opening.  I remember a similar adjustment as a freshman in college, and again as I entered the workforce.  We all search desperately for a place to belong, a place to feel talented and valuable and significant.  Perhaps the saddest part of this is that so many are trapped in that never-ending cycle of strive, strive, strive to be the best, which apart from God, doesn’t lead to satisfaction at all.  It leads to disillusionment.  I do believe that only in Christ can we find our true identity.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.  Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39, NLT

“But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”–Isaiah 43:1, NIV

What an awesome reassurance!  Even if I built up an incredible list of accomplishments throughout my life, the euphoria wouldn’t last.  It wouldn’t be enough.  It wouldn’t bring lasting peace and joy.  What I need is to know whose I am.  I don’t deserve anyone’s applause, but I’ll take what Jesus is offering–perfect, unconditional love that will never fade or disappear.

First night in Haiti

After over a year of serious planning (plus a number of years before that during which the dream took root in my heart), I was actually there.

In Haiti.

The real Haiti, the one that conjures images of dirt and orphanages and voodoo and poverty and primitive living.  Images that are, sadly, all too accurate.

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It was absolutely surreal.  I couldn’t believe I was really there, seeing the thatched-roof huts and middle-aged women peddling bananas and paintings and trinkets on the roadside.  Orphans swarming around my legs like puppies clamoring for attention.

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And yet, despite the crazy knowledge that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, in a way, it all felt rather…mundane.

I had such romanticized notions of how Haiti would be, how inspirational and heartbreaking and life-altering the experience would be for me.  I had raised support from my church family in order to go, labeling it a “mission trip” and feeling rather noble.

But then I arrived in Port-au-Prince.  My friend and I maneuvered our way through the hectic airport, met up with the orphanage staff that had picked us up, traversed bumpy dirt roads for an hour and a half in a hot, dusty Jeep, and at last arrived.  This orphanage would be our home for two and a half weeks.  Just a blip in our lives, really, but at this moment, it felt like it would be a lo-o-o-ong stay. Suddenly I no longer felt equipped to handle the physical demands or the emotional aspects of volunteering with orphans.

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The kids were soooooooo freaking adorable.  When we first stepped into the nursery, dozens of babies and toddlers met us, faces streaked with snot and dirt, reaching up grubby hands to  be held.  Heart-wrenching.  Precious.  Also kind of terrifying, truth be told.

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Who was I to do anything for these children?  Yes, I could spend a few weeks with them, playing and singing and snuggling, but then I would return to my comfortable life and they would be left here awaiting adoption.  This particular orphanage is run in a very efficient and loving manner, and every effort is made to care for the children as well as get them adopted by loving families as soon as possible.  But given the nature of international adoption and the mountains of paperwork and money required to accomplish this, it takes time.   So my purpose there was to love the kids for a short period of time as a way of bridging the gap between their arrival at the orphanage and their eventual placement with an adoptive family.

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I’m ashamed to admit this next part.

That first night in Haiti, I regretted ever coming there.  I wanted my own bed, my own hot shower, my own home, and everything familiar and comfortable.  I didn’t want to be in Haiti, sharing bunk beds and showering only every other day for ninety seconds, living with a bunch of other volunteers who were undoubtedly better with children than I was.

I was a fraud.

I had traveled all this way, planned for all these months, and now all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wasn’t cut out for this type of service.  I felt like more of a baby than the kids I was assigned to love.

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See her bewildered expression?  That’s pretty much how I felt that first night.

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I’ll return to this story in upcoming posts, but for today, I want to leave you with this thought:  When have you struggled with unmet expectations, particularly when you’ve disappointed yourself?  How do you deal with that kick in the gut, the realization that you may not be all you thought you were?  Do you back away in fear, never to face those situations again?

Or do you persevere, allowing Christ to be the strength you lack?

Zombies and Waiting

I’m so excited about the upcoming return to The Walking Dead!  Less than one more week to wait!  Four long months after the mid-season finale (wait, I mean two months, but it feels like longer), I am beyond ready to find out what’s going to happen next with this little band of survivors that have become like family to me.

Oh, so many questions beg to be answered:

How long will the smaller subgroups of the prison exiles remain splintered apart? Which groups will find each other?  When and how will Carol show up again? What sort of shelter will they be able to find, in a land where supplies and security grow sparser by the day?   How will those remaining mourn their recently departed loved ones? Who amongst them will be plagued by memories, particularly the final standoff between the governor at the prison?  Which relationships will endure?  Whose integrity will be further eroded by life and circumstance?

With the show’s return, my fellow fans and I will experience the high of getting back into the plot, but we may also suffer from disappointment.  Every episode may not meet our expectations, and even if they do, we are still left wanting more.  Whether an episode is low-key (always a sign the next one will likely be a humdinger) or the most terrifying and gripping thus far, we always want more!

Dissatisfaction can be found everywhere else in my life.  It’s probably true for you, too.  You anticipate something great, maybe you plan and work for it, and eventually, you get it.  You achieve the promotion you’ve wanted for years.  You move to the mountains where you’ve always dreamed of living.  You get married, have a child, buy a house, go on an incredible vacation…whatever the “big future idea” is in your mind.

Even with little things, we have this buildup followed by the pinnacle, then the letdown.  Remember Christmas as a little kid?  Waiting and waiting and making your lists and trying to be good and watching for Santa…then twenty minutes of frantic gift-opening and you were back to plain old boring everyday life.

What fills you with excited anticipation?  (I hope it wasn’t this year’s Super Bowl, unless you’re a Seahawks fan!)

For every event you eagerly anticipated, when you reached the end of the waiting game, how did you feel?  Satisfied?  Complete?

My guess is no.  Maybe we find temporary joy and satisfaction in these things, but of course it never lasts.  We move on to the “next big thing”.  There is always something else on the horizon.

Disappointments are inevitable.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the high points, and the anticipation leading up to them.  The Walking Dead is still my favorite show.  The waiting makes each scene and episode that much better.

May your waiting, whatever the end point may be, make your sweetest moments that much sweeter.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  -Micah 7:7