Tag Archives: letting go

Lessons I learned from the circus

My education and upbringing really emphasized having a game plan and goals in life. Leadership was presented as being strategic, setting goals, and working your plan. I thought that being a leader would mean having success. What I apparently didn’t spend enough time thinking about was what type of success would really fulfill me as a person. I honestly never took the time to think deeply about “success,” what it was, what it means, or why I should care. Here I was pursuing it, yet not really even sure what I was pursuing.

I share all of this to say that I am experiencing what my wise friend calls “hang time” right now.  I went to him for spiritual guidance and he always has just the right example to help me visualize what my real problem is. He talked about the circus, which at first, I must admit, bemused me. I thought to myself, “The circus? Really? What does the circus have to do with this serious issue I am having in my life?” But he explained with patience and kindness: “When the trapeze artist swings from one swing to another, there is a point in time when he has to let go of the first swing, hang in the air, then catch the second swing. He has to trust and have faith that he will be able to grab that second swing.”

Sometimes in life, we are in that moment where we have let go of one thing and are waiting for God to show us what’s next. We have to “suspend” between two things. This feels so unnatural, especially for someone like me who has been groomed to have goals and plans and strategy. It feels like letting go of the steering wheel while driving 100 miles per hour. It feels dangerous! Now, I have long ago worked through my view of success which is probably quite different from a worldly view of it. Money, power, status, and position no longer matter to me. These are passing things that definitely do not bring me fulfillment. I am trying to follow God’s strategic plan which has a much longer vision for me, as in eternal! However, in these moments of “hang time” when I am waiting for the next prompting of the Holy Spirit, it feels like a wasteland and seems to last for eternity, even if it is only a blip on the timeline of my eternal soul.

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Being a helpmate of my husband

Being the head of the household must be a challenging job, especially when you have a wife like me. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul makes it clear that just as Christ is the head of the Church, and we are the body, so the husband is the head of the wife. Of course, many people overlook the next verse of this important message. To sum up, Christ loved his Church so much, that he gave his life for them.

I think my husband is much like Christ. He works hard every day at a job that doesn’t necessarily give him warm fuzzies and is surrounded by a materialistic, worldly, self-interested group of people. But he continues and perseveres, always doing the right and honest thing, even if it hurts his paycheck or chances of promotion because he is a man of integrity. That’s why I married him and I hope and pray that never changes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He grumbles and stresses and worries. He is not perfect, nor am I. At times, he thinks that I am trying to run the show. Honestly, both of us have issues with trying to run our own game plan instead of listening to God’s plan for our life together. So instead of turning to God, we sometimes are like two people in a tug-of-war, feeling as if one or the other is winning or getting their way. God must be looking down at us and just shaking His head. I know how I feel as a parent when my children behave this way, and God loves us more than a parent loves a son or daughter, but I am certain at times He must be amazed at how we choose to use our free will.

A dear friend of mine shared some insight into the life of the Holy Family. I have developed a devotion to St. Joseph because he lived with two people who were like no other on earth, and had the responsibility of being the head of their household. My friend shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary was without sin, she still deferred to St. Joseph as the head of the household. This made me stop in my tracks. It is making me take a long, hard look at myself and my willingness to serve and be subject to other. I fully understand that marriage is a mutual self-giving, a communion of persons. I just had not realized how much my own pride and will get in the way of fulfilling that ideal of marriage. I need to let go of my plans, listen to God more, and be the helpmate to my husband I am meant to be. Sometimes, this will be a giving up of self and of control. I really don’t like the thought of having to do this, but I will do it out of love.

A two-year-old lost in the woods

I have a bad habit of filling my day way too full. My view of time is totally unrealistic. A task that takes an hour, I seem to think takes about 15 minutes. I tell you this as a background for my next story.

I had exactly 1 hour. It was to be both my lunch break and my chosen time to mow the lawn. At this stage, we didn’t own a riding lawn mower, but thankfully we had a self-propelled push mower. (In college, I actually used a hand mower with no engine at all, the real oldie kind.) The only problem was that it was very hard for this delicate gal to start our mower. I don’t exactly have great arm strength!

So, I gobbled down a quick sandwich and headed to the yard. It took me at least 10 minutes to get the mower started and I was already sweaty. Our yard loomed quite large at that moment. I started mowing in rows, back and forth, back and forth, praying as I went, “Please God, let me get this finished. You know that it is supposed to rain this afternoon. I promised to have this done. I have a meeting that I have to be ready for and I really just need this all to work.”

I have no idea how long my prayer went when I heard a sound from the woods behind me. It was a lady’s voice calling, “Jeffrey, Jeeeffff-reeeey, where are you?” I see her coming out of our woods. She looks like a regular Mom, so I am not too afraid, but I immediately start praying, “Dear God, please don’t make me stop and help her. I mean, how I am going to get this mowing done? I don’t know if I will ever get this silly old mower started again. I really don’t have time for this.”

But as I say those words, I realize how futile it is to ignore God. I turn off the mower and ask her if I can help her. She tells me that her friend’s two-year-old son has wandered off from a playdate down the block. There were a group of moms and toddlers meeting for fun, and Jeffrey managed to take advantage of this and go on an adventure. Her face screams the panic that she feels.

I tell her I will help. I immediately say, “Did you check the cars?” I don’t know why I say this, but I do. She says, “Yes, we did and didn’t find him.” I ask, “Did you look under furniture?” She gives me a bewildered look. I explain, “Sometimes, my toddlers liked to find a small space and curl up and fall asleep. Those places were not always easy to find or were not places I would have thought they would see as comfortable.” She tells me she is going to head back to the playdate house, which she points to as she leaves. I start calling all my neighbors who are home during the day and get them looking with me. I see two police cars arriving on the scene. Oh boy, this is not looking good.

I head towards the house where the toddler had been playing. I start looking at our neighborhood from the eyes of a toddler. Yes, definitely headed this way because of the cool play set in that backyard. No, didn’t venture there, too deep of a gully. Maybe headed up this way. I feel like Sherlock Holmes, but look like a sweaty, grass-covered mess. Just as I am seeing all the acres and acres of common ground woods that would be a lost child’s nightmare, I notice a grandfatherly-type neighbor walking from behind his house holding the hand of a two-year-old. “Jeffrey, ” I think to myself. Just then, I hear his Mom, “Oh Jeffrey, dear boy!” as she comes running up the hill from the direction of the house where they had been playing. Tears fill my eyes as I watch this reunion.

Later, I heard the rest of the story. Jeffrey apparently had been going in and out of the house along with all the other kids. However, when the kids ran inside to get lemonade, he took off in the other direction, unbeknownst to the adults. He found his way into the garage of the neighbor three doors up the hill. That neighbor, who was in his early 70s, had come home for lunch with his wife. Imagine his surprise when he got into his car to go back to work, and found a little two-year-old boy in the back seat! (Remember when I said, “Did you check in the cars?!”) I happened upon the scene as the elderly neighbor was walking down his driveway to find Jeffrey’s Mom.

Little Jeffrey was returned safe and sound! And yes, I was able to finish my lawn. I called and had to cancel my meeting. The rain held off just long enough for me to finish, thank God!

 

 

Letting Go and Spring Fever

I seem to have been hit with early spring fever. Today, I cannot stop cleaning and decluttering. I really do not see myself as “attached” to many things, until I have to start making decisions about what stays or goes. I finally hit desperation and called in my youngest two children. “Which of these videos should we keep, and which ones should we get rid of?” I asked them both.

“Ooh, let’s get rid of this Gulliver’s Travels because it was creepy,” said the youngest. Followed by, “But let’s keep this version of Gulliver’s Travels because it may be old, but it’s good,” declared the sibling.

“What? How did we get two versions of the same movie?” I say out loud.

My children suggest we get rid of Dora the Explorer, but I remind them of a friend who visits and loves these movies. We finally find three movies that we all agree that we can get rid of–one of those gift sets from a bachelor uncle-type who thought they were kid movies, but they really were not.

Then very nonchalantly, my dear children actually suggest we get rid of Care Bears.  Now, those are fighting words! “I’m not ready to get rid of those yet,” I reply, as I pull each Care Bear video out and sit down to look them over. I am thrown back to a time when my children were toddlers, and goldfish were treats. By the time I look back up from looking back, the children have left the room.

I put the videos back away and move on to the next area to clean. So much for letting go! I sure hope this gets easier as I get older.

 

Side-seat driver

I’ve been teaching my son how to drive these past few months. I definitely have let my husband do the lion’s share of the teaching. My husband is much more patient than me and can communicate clearly when it comes to immediate action needed. This is really helpful when our young driver is about to run a yellowish/red light! In these moments, I go into “soup” mode. That’s what I call it. I want to respond quickly, but feel like I am swimming in soup. What comes out of my mouth doesn’t even make sense.

All this driving got me to thinking about God. Okay, let me catch you up. When my son is driving, I’m focused on remaining calm and keeping my voice level and easy. I am blessed with a pretty cautious son, so things usually don’t get too challenging, until I insert myself. For example, I needed to mail a letter, and at the last minute said, “Turn here,” forgetting that he needs ample time and space to accomplish this. Yikes! Being a side-seat driver didn’t help him at all. Suddenly, I realized that I’m like that with God. I let Him drive most of the time. But right when things get going well, I insert myself and demand immediate turns, sometimes in the totally wrong direction.

Here’s the good news. I’ve learned a thing or two.  God used to only be my side-seat driver. I had the steering wheel and my own navigation system, although who knows where I was heading. He would just yank the wheel to avoid immediate danger. So, although I have plenty of room to improve, I am sure thankful I am no longer driving that car. But don’t let me fool you– it sure was hard letting go of that steering wheel!

Peanuts in a Jar

Sometimes in life we face situations that feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath us. Often times, by the people we least expect. These situations require prayer and advice to know what is the best course of action. My husband and I are lucky to have older and wiser people in our lives to turn to for this type of advice. One of them shared this story with me:

A monkey sat in front of a jar full of peanuts. The peanuts were still in the shell, the kind you buy at the baseball game. The jar was broad at the bottom, but had a narrow neck. Just narrow enough that the little monkey could fit his hand and arm down into the bottom to grab the peanuts. Now, the monkey, being a monkey, was greedy. He wanted as many peanuts as he could possibly grab. So he slipped his hand and arm into the jar and tightly grabbed lots of peanuts from the bottom of the jar. His tight fist was full of peanuts and he felt happy! Of course, now, his hand was stuck because his fist was quite large and he could not bring his hand out of the jar. This infuriated the little monkey who began to scream and jump around. He felt trapped and didn’t know what to do. Finally, he LET GO of the peanuts and was free of the jar.

Three lessons I learned from this story:

1) Sometimes in life, it is hardest to know when we have to let go. It is in our nature to hold tightly, but that doesn’t always serve us or others around us well.

2) Being greedy can lead to other bigger problems.

3) If you stop and ask wise counselors for advice, they may show you a whole new way of looking at the problem. The monkey could have easily taken the jar and turned it upside down, thereby getting a peanut, just one peanut at a time.