The Wonder of An Imbalanced Life

I’m giving a speech in a few months entitled The Wonder of an Imbalanced Life.

Surely, that’s a typo.

Ellen DeGeneres knows the value of a balanced life: “…life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”

Ha. The ultimate goal we all want is to live a balanced life, right?

I don’t think so. Not anymore anyway. The deeper I study of the life of Jesus Christ, the more I realize He was an extremist. He overwhelmingly tipped the scales in favor of love. Other extremists I admire include: Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Maria Klawe, Father Abraham, Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Buddha, Michelangelo, Nelson Mandela, and my friend Lisa, at least when it comes to her kids. I mean, injure one of hers and she’ll rip your head off your shoulders. I’m in awe of that kind of extreme devotion!

This past little while my tiniest g-baby has been in the hospital very, very sick. In order for the nurses or doctors to keep poking and testing the babe, they have to pry her from her mother’s arms. Literally. Taylor Lee won’t let go, not for a single second. She doesn’t leave that baby’s bedside. In those harrowing hours there is no balance in any of our lives. Every ounce of faith and every good wish we can muster goes to that child’s healing.

Does that mean someone or something else has to be neglected?

Maybe. Probably. Yes. Indeed. (Never fear…little Miss Adelaide is safe and spoiled with Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Bob).

Imbalance is part of life. I’ve got six kids and I tend to run to the one who is bleeding. I think that lets the others know I’d do the same for them. Anyway, it’s the best I can do in that moment, and I’m weary from piling guilt on my shoulders and carrying it around because I can’t be everything to everyone all at the same time.

So I’ve got a new take when it comes the theory of a balanced life—do it all, but not all at the same time. I mean love everyone you can. Travel everywhere you can. Learn everything you can. Be all you can be. But for heaven’s sake, from time to time pick something to go overboard about. Something or someone that makes you teeter to the edge and feel desperately alive!

My friend Sharlee has set our community on fire lately with her impassioned call for ethical government. She’s got people clawing to get on her life raft, sailing out into the high seas, rescuing refugees and causing mighty waves all the way to Washington D.C.

I live among a community of good souls who called, “Enough!” when they realized that over 60 percent of the gay kids here have attempted suicide. Now there’s a place for those kids to gather and feel safe and loved. All because someone went to an extreme.

I’m blessed with friends who taught me that going to an extreme in the wrong direction can be deadly. They’ve got me waking up before dawn to work out and to love the taste of kale and quinoa. That tells me how much we need each other to keep the balance.

Radical change requires radical action.

And yes, I understand the basics of balance. The majority of life is doing the mundane and working to pay bills and tending to the same chores again and again. Rote is a form of balance. Remember though, while everything and everyone has to be tended to, you can’t do it everything at once.

I also understand that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I know that a butterfly with just one wing never gets off the ground. I also know that everything is in perpetual motion. That means you’re always moving and changing. The foundational theory of quantum physics allows for particles to be in two states at the same time.  Guess what? You and I are made of particles. We are only beginning to glimpse our own existence, but we do know that we’re always in motion, even when we think we’re still. That means we’re always doing a balancing act.

I believe it’s how life was intended.

I met a woman named Gerda who is a high wire performer. She calls this balancing act rotational inertia. It means the wire beneath her feet is rotating all the time and only changes from the torque she applies to it as she moves forward.

Forward, friends. That’s our only direction.

If there are days you have to fall back, that’s okay too. Every good warrior knows when to advance and when to retreat. If someone has to be neglected while you tend to someone in need, that’s okay. If everyone has to set aside so you can tend to YOU, that’s more than okay. It’s only for a season. I know because the wisest mortal who ever lived, Solomon, said so: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Please, friends, if you’re feeling stressed and overloaded, know you’re living through a season. It’s only a season. If it’s a good one, savor every second. If people are upset with you because you’re unable to give them all they demand, let it go. You’re walking a tight rope. You’re balancing all that you can. Drop something if you have to. But keep moving forward when you can. I love you. I believe in you. And I think you should celebrate every step.

Thanks for letting me rant. Right now I’m in a season of recuperation and reflection. My next season might be high adventure. Who knows? But while I’m trying my best, and you’re trying your best, let’s let our personal balancing acts be one step at a time, doing our best to do it all—eventually—but knowing we’ll fall, and that’s okay, because we know Who is holding the safety net to catch us so we can climb back up and start all over.

Baby Brain Miracles

Yesterday I was honored to be present while my daughter ever-so-gracefully gave birth to my newest G-baby, Tomlyn Abree Rayne. I’m kinda squeamish, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch…you know, the actual birth part. But what an absolute wonder it was!

It took months of worry and curiosity…then it took anxiety filled days of anticipation, and an expectation that it would take hours and hours more, but in the end the whole thing happened with doctors running, nurses running, and Taylor championing through two minutes of the greatest imaginable miracle. Then she was here. Little Tomlyn blinked and looked around and found her mommy’s face and that was that. Eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart-skin-on-skin. We were all awestruck that something so tiny and new could be so wise and in charge. And so so so beautiful.

How can you NOT believe in a loving, all wise and perfect God when you’re privy to such wonder? Only four weeks into gestation, a baby’s brain is developing 250,000 neurons per minute. Billions and billions of links form between neurons and trillions of circuits weave their way right where they need to be. This is no haphazard act. This is perfection at its divinest.

Depending on how much stimulation lil’ Tomlyn can handle, her visual cortex and eyes will continue to develop. They are her introduction into this big ol’ marvel of a world. Over the next three years her brain will triple in size and develop more than 1,000 trillion neural connections. Her brain will prune itself of the connections that aren’t needed. Seriously. Prune itself. Her developing brain will hog half the calories Tomlyn consumes. Until she’s about five years old. When she starts to babble, the left side of her brain will literally “light” up. When she listens to her mommy and daddy sing to her, the right side of her brain will glow.

Tay has been using the right, or emotional side of her brain for the past months, preparing to bond with Tomlyn. If she’s been more forgetful than usual, that’s why. If she was more sensitive, that’s why. But now that the baby is here, her left or logical side is going to step it up. She’s going to recognize the baby’s facial expressions and the nuances in her cries. They’ll all sound the same to us, but not to Mama. She’ll know what Tomlyn needs. Her brain will tell her.

I could go on and on, but who wants to hear about neuroscience when there are baby toes to count? And cheeks to kiss. Check ‘em out. Tomlyn’s got cheeks for weeks. So I’m off, but I just had to pause long enough to share the great news that after all the fears, mother and baby are fine and dandy and our hearts are busting with gratitude. Hope that you’re all equally blessed.

The Best Christmas Ever

It’s Christmas Eve and I want to share one of my most cherished Christmas photos with you. It’s a portrait I took of my son, Dallas, when he was two. I am infamous for dressing little ones up to create a meaningful memory. For a long time this was just my precious “Little Drummer Boy.”

Not anymore. Dallas is all grown up. I think of him as my son, a wondrous young man, and a superhero all in one. He loves Jesus and teaches me what that means.

Because of Dallas, now when I look at this portrait I ask myself, “What can I lay before the King?” My finest gifts aren’t all that fine. Especially this year. 2016 been brutal and seems to be ending as wickedly as it began. I’ve never worked so hard to have so little to show for it, so little to lay on the altar…or to put beneath the tree.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m going to do what I’ve seen Dallas do…and his brothers and sisters do. I’m going to share what I’ve been given. I’m going to be grateful that I’m still alive to celebrate the birth of Christ. I’m going to stop thinking how hard life is, and focus on how glorious it is.

Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

That does not mean a heap of presents beneath the tree.

It means a heart full of love. It means gratitude for the wonderful people who step in to fill in where I fall short. It means marveling in the light of the season. It means helping those less fortunate than I am. And believe me, I know how very blessed I am.

So today and tomorrow, I pray that it’s all about Christ and nothing else.

“I played by best for Him,” says the song.

That’s what I’m going to do—my best. If all I can do is beat a drum, then I’m going to beat it the best I can. That’s all that’s required of us. God knows our hearts. He knows our circumstances. When we have “no gift to bring that’s fit to give a King,” He knows better. He knows it’s not the price tag on the outside of the package that matters—it’s the cost our hearts pay.

That means we not only show Him how much we love Him, but we allow His love to fill our hearts and our lives.

So today and tomorrow, friends, may you accept and feel the love of the God of Love. May all the beautiful things about Christmas bring you closer to Christ.

The other night the manager of a bookstore told me that she was only allowed to wish me “Merry Christmas” if I wished her a “Merry Christmas” first. Otherwise, all she could say was, “Happy holidays.” Or risk losing her job.

I get it. Let the tinsel, the trimming and trappings belong to the holidays. Let the “Ho, ho, ho,” and “ca-Ching” echo through the holidays.

But let Christmas belong to Christ, and only to Him. After all, it’s His birth that we celebrate.

So I wished the bookstore manager, “Merry Christmas!”

And with all my heart, I wish you “Merry Christmas!”

May it be your best ever.

Pa rum pum pum pum

Why Our Christian Family Celebrates Hanukkah

My son has a tiny rescue dog named Zeus. Whenever there is a lightning storm, Zeus races through the house barking to keep us safe. It’s both funny and fitting. Zeus, after all, is the Greek god of lightning.

Because we celebrate Hanukkah at our house, we know something else about Zeus. We know that when Syrian-Greek soldiers seized the holy temple in Jerusalem, they dedicated the sacred edifice to the worship of Zeus. If that wasn’t enough, emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.

Many of them wanted to fight back, but they were too afraid.

Except for a High Priest named Mattathias. He refused to bow before an idol. He refused to eat the flesh of a pig, something his faith forbade him to do. In short, he resorted to the sword to defend his beliefs, and he began a rebellion by followers known as the Macabees. Eventually, they were able to retake their land and reclaim their holy temple.

But it had been desecrated, used to the worship of Zeus and other idols, and it had been turned into a slaughterhouse for swine.

Jews were determined to purify their temple by burning ritual oil in the menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. In faith, they lit the menorah anyway.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that the flame continued to burn because that small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.

To my Jewish friends, I hope the story is accurate.

We tell it every year, as family and friends gather to help me celebrate a holiday that does not belong to me. I am Christian, but I celebrate the faith and traditions of other religions, especially those beloved traditions and holy days of Judaism.

Not long ago when I was in Miami I sought out a rabbi and asked him if it was okay to do what I’d been doing for so many years. “Not only is it okay, but it is delightful and wise of you,” the rabbi said. “After all, your Jesus celebrated Hanukah. In fact, if it were not for Hanukah, there may not have been a Christmas.”

I thought about that. Antiochus was obsessed with the demise of Jewish faith and its people. He halted the services, the sacrifices, the Sabbath observances, and the teachings that were part of Jewish temple worship. He murdered the High Priest Onias III and slaughtered 40,000 Jews.

If it hadn’t been for Mattathias and his family and followers…how would history be changed? The Maccabean revolt was a turning point that saved the Jewish people and their religion from the very threat of extinction. If not, would there have been a Jewish woman named Mary? A temple setting where Luke begins the nativity with an angel announcing to a priest named Zechariah, that he will soon be the father of a son named John?

I whole-heartedly believe that God is in charge and will always find a way. But I also believe that our actions make a difference. My simple little act has been to prepare a traditional Jewish feast and to celebrate the story of Hanukah with friends and family. Many of you reading this have probably lit a candle on our menorah. If not, you’re welcome to join us.

Last year, in a strange mix of faiths, Santa made a Hanukah appearance that surprised even me. This year the eight days of light begin on Christmas Eve and end on January 1st. So there’s time to make room for a truly meaningful tradition if you choose.

2016 has seen a lot of darkness and divisiveness in the world. There’s too much fear and anger in the air. To counter that, I’m going to gather my loved ones from all walks of life, to unify our spirits and figure out what we have in common, to remind us that we’re all children of God, and to light a candle in honor of His miracles in our lives.

100 Unlikely Things To Be Thankful For

I’ve always thought that thankfulness is expressed in words, while gratitude requires action…deeds…we’ve got to do something or it’s not true gratitude. My deed is to drag out this image of my son Eli and our neighbor’s turkey Gobbles. Rest assured no turkey was harmed in the taking of this photo, but the deranged look in little Eli’s eyes is what draws me in, knowing that his gentle soul would never harm a living thing, makes me laugh. I share it with you because it means a lot to me and so do you…all of YOU who sacrifice 90 seconds of your day to read my blog. I’m grateful. Thank you!

To get the holiday week in gear, I came up with a list of things that I have no business taking for granted. Most of them are not typical items on a “thankful for” list, so I hope that a quick read will generate your own thoughts, and I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share with us what you are thankful for.

  1. Tweezers
  2. Public libraries
  3. TED Talks
  4. Friends who have more than you do, and are willing to share
  5. Mentors to you and to those you love
  6. Teachers and all smart people
  7. Anything or anyone that makes you laugh
  8. Antibiotics
  9. Duct Tape
  10. Science and its discoveries
  11. Children’s picture books
  12. Flush toilets
  13. Exercise
  14. Heat
  15. Grocery stores
  16. Toilet paper
  17. An accessible God
  18. Aviation
  19. Opportunities
  20. Clean sheets
  21. Windex (trust me, we’ll get to this later)
  22. Memories
  23. Mother Eve’s courage
  24. Toothbrushes
  25. Fly swatters
  26. Refrigeration
  27. Someone who listens to you, really listens to you
  28. Forgiveness
  29. Our ability to change
  30. Movement, all kinds of movement
  31. Books
  32. Ancestors
  33. Bubbles (Don’t ya just love bubbles?)
  34. Fresh fruit
  35. Zoos
  36. Auto mechanics
  37. Karma
  38. Silence
  39. Mountain trails
  40. Good, brave cops
  41. Differences
  42. Music
  43. Balls, the kind that bounce
  44. Snow capped mountains
  45. All forms of freedom and the soldiers who fight for ours
  46. Self-discipline
  47. Phones
  48. Miracles
  49. Clean warm showers and baths
  50. Technology
  51. Flowers
  52. Farmers
  53. Sleep
  54. Intuition
  55. Order
  56. Dance
  57. Photographs
  58. Transportation
  59. Chairs
  60. Pillows
  61. Dishwashers
  62. Schools
  63. The movies
  64. Toys and games
  65. Light and darkness
  66. Animals
  67. Sun, moon and stars
  68. Faith
  69. Internet
  70. Baby diapers and wet wipes
  71. Travel
  72. Your brain
  73. Your body
  74. Mother Earth
  75. Your health
  76. Medicine
  77. Stories
  78. Storms and rainbows
  79. Second Chances
  80. Sunrises and sunsets
  81. Beaches
  82. Human touch
  83. Doctors
  84. Waterfalls
  85. Clean blank sheets of paper
  86. Paint
  87. Carpet
  88. Mirrors
  89. Safe drinking water
  90. Children, everything about them
  91. Healing
  92. Unpolluted air
  93. Honesty in people
  94. Colors
  95. Progress
  96. Museums
  97. Abundance
  98. Children’s playgrounds
  99. Love in its endless forms
  100. This very moment

This Might Just Make You Happier Than You’ve Been In A Long Time

This is my precious G-baby, Adelaide. We like to swing together, so this week while I’m pumping my way to the sky she says to me, “Did you feel that? Something just sprayed me.”

We’re in a forest in Florida so it could be anything, but I go with, “It’s probably just tree sap.”

“Or bird sweat. It could be bird sweat!” Her shout startles a flock of fowl skyward.

“Or bird sweat,” I concede.

We swing side by side for a few more pumps when a warm, wet glob plops down on my forehead. While I’m wiping it away lil’ Miss A turns to me and makes a face. “I know what it is, G-Mom.”

I don’t even dare to ask.

“It’s squirrel pee. It’s raining squirrel pee!”

Mercy me! Squirrel pee.

I start to giggle. Then I laugh. And then I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

Know why? Because I’m feeding my brain all the good stuff. Look up a hormone called prolactin. It’s usually associated with female milk production, but since my lactating days have long since dried up, this is the cranial magic that breaks down barriers between individuals and allows us to bond. Mother/baby, G-Mom/G-baby, Stranger/Friend, etc.

We humans are not meant to live life solo. We’re meant to bond by dancing and singing and thriving in tribes. Survival depends on it.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my heart is with my “tribe.” It’s also with those who are without a tribe. I’ve been there. I was raised in foster care. Some homes made me feel welcome and safe. Others made sure I felt isolated and inferior.

No child should ever feel those feelings or be that vulnerable to predators.

So here’s what I hope we’ll do this week. I hope we’ll seek for ways to include others. It’s not hard to find lonely people. They’re on the streets, in nursing homes, and in our own homes. Next I hope we’ll find a way to better bond with each other. To pardon old trespasses once and for all. I hope that we’ll invest in experiences rather than things. Make memories. Shop. Cook. Create. Laugh. Reminisce. TOGETHER!

Nourish our bodies with healthy food and our brains with healthy neurotransmitters that come from bonding, laughing, being grateful—from tossing stress out with that nasty, soggy little giblets package you find when you violate a turkey’s cavity by sticking your hand where it doesn’t belong.

Here’s the deal. You are meant to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Happiness thrives when it is shared. So I pray that you’ll find yourself showered this holiday week with unexpected delights. Maybe not squirrel pee, but then again…it worked wonders for me.

A Wretched But True Poem About Twitter

I write a blog that few eyes see

So someone said, “If you Twitter, you’ll get as many followers as you please.”

Now I’m an old woman whose ears hear mutter

So I asked my grown daughter, “Can you help me to twutter?”

When that didn’t work I put it aside

Until a friend nudged, “Go on, give it another try.

My teenage son knows all about social fodder

So I smiled and said, “Teach your mama to twatter.”

Out through both nostrils spewed the milk he was drinking

“Mom! Shh. What the heck are you thinking?!?”

In time…and with help, I got the account

Am just now discovering  what Twitter’s really about

A chance to stalk Ellen, Oprah even Jay Z

And 140 measly characters to entice anyone to stalk me.