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Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “practice.”

Everyone has heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s a lie.

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Let’s say you are learning to play the piano. You have a piece of sheet music in front of you, but you have never actually heard the piece before. So you do your best, practicing and practicing to memorize the music.

Then a music teacher comes along and asks you to play the piece you’ve been working on. So you pull out that music you’ve been practicing and, lo and behold, you find out you’ve been playing parts of it incorrectly the whole time!

So did all your practice make that piece perfect? No. So, I am thinking the saying needs to be “perfect practice makes perfect.” You really need to know that what you’re practicing is the right thing.

My sister in law and her husband just divorced after more than 30 years of marriage. One of their main problems was that neither of them knew how to communicate. She would point out things that he was doing wrong; he would acknowledge that and work to change his ways. After awhile, he would think, Huh, I must be doing OK because she hasn’t said anything. Meanwhile, she’s seeing him slide back into old habits and think, He’s just doing things the way he always did them, so he must not care! Why even bother saying anything?

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The problem was that he had been practicing imperfectly. And he didn’t have anyone around to show him where he was going wrong. If you take two broken people who spent too many years playing the piece the wrong way, and only one of them wants to put the work into learning the music correctly, well, giving up is inevitable.

Coaching—in music, in sports, in life, in marriage—is essential.

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Make Me An Offer

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “offer,” and this post is completely stream-of-consciousness, without form, and unedited. My thoughts were pretty jumbled so feel free to let me know what you think.

In order for an offer to be worth something, the person being offered it has to accept it.

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Someone can make an offer on a house that’s for sale, but the owner’s have to accept the offer.

When Cain and Abel made their offerings to the Lord, Cain’s was accepted, but Abel’s wasn’t. I have always wondered about that. Someone has probably preached a sermon on that over the years, but I haven’t kept it in my memory long enough.

I can offer to help someone with something, but they have to accept that offer, or it goes to waste. You know that saying, “It’s the thought that counts”? Well, I’m not sure I’m convinced of that. I think that the offer has to be appropriate, sincere and accepted in order for it to mean something to the other person.

I also think offers made in such a way should be seriously considered before they’re just turned away.

My husband likes to say, “I come from a long line of people who don’t want to be an inconvenience.”

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That’s something we want to work with our kids on. You don’t need to, nor should you or can you, do everything on your own. Ask for help and then accept it. There are members of my family who will turn down offers all the time, even when they are in great need. Especially offers of financial help. Somehow they think that they must do whatever it is they need to do on their own. But I remind them of how easily they would offer their help if the shoe was on the other foot.

Don’t keep someone else from experiencing the blessing of giving just because you’re too proud to receive.

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There’s A Place For Us

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for five minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “place.”

In the last month or so, we have been in the process of wondering where our second son is going to live next year for college. We are in the same city as his university, but he has lived on campus his first two years. The university has a housing lottery, however, and this time, his name was not chosen to have on-campus housing in the Fall.

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So, we waited until the second drawing and then when his name still wasn’t picked, we knew we would have to seek another place. He could always come home, but his financial aid covers housing, and the daily drive + parking madness would not be ideal for him. And lo and behold, even University affiliated off-campus housing would be cheaper than the dorm he’s in now.

So on Wednesday he and I set out to tour apartment complexes. Wow, are these places ever nicer than the one I lived in when I was in college.

We settled on one that is affiliated with the university and we signed the lease yesterday. It’s nice to know that he’ll have a place to live near campus in the Fall. Who he will live with is still up in the air.

All this got me thinking about how much comfort we find in having a place to call our own. We know at the end of a long day, or after a vacation, we can come home. Ideally, that place is safe, restful, comfortable, peaceful.

I’m not ignorant enough to believe that everyone’s home is this way. I know there is strife, noise, clutter. And I also know that there are so very many who have no place they can call home at all.

I’m so grateful that, eventually, I will be able to call heaven my home.

No more tears. No more sadness. No more sickness.

Indeed, as the children’s song goes, “Heaven is a wonderful place.”

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Open-Heart Surgery

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I use a one-word prompt provided by a friend and write for just 10 minutes without heavy editing and see what I come up with. Today’s prompt is “surgery.”

In the evenings, my family is reading out loud the classic At Home in Mitford by Jan Caron. Yesterday’s reading including a scene where Hoppy Harper, the town doctor, was telling Father Tim, the main character in the stories, how it was when his wife died several years before.

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“I’ve been away from church so long . . . so long away from . . . believing.” Hoppy leaned against the wall, avoiding the rector’s gaze. “I’ve been very angry with God.”

“I understand.”

“He operated without anesthetic.”

He looked at the man who had lost his wife of sixteen years, and saw the sure mark that bitterness and overwork had left. Yet, something tonight was easier in him.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, p. 148

 

 

Loss can feel that way, like surgery without anesthetic. Hoppy’s wife had died of cancer, and he wasn’t really ready for it. And it hurt.

A lot.

It was a good analogy for the town doctor to describe the pain he felt.

People in the medical profession know that deep infections have to be cut out in order for healing to happen. If there is an abscess, work will need to be done. A gangrened limb has to be cut off. It’s really better to get these things taken care of before such dire measures are needed.

Likewise, God will perform surgery on our hearts whenever there’s something that needs to be cut out: idolatry, envy, covetousness. But He can also pry open our closed hearts if we aren’t letting ourselves be known by others.

We were created to live in community, and if we’re not experiencing authentic community, God may need to get our attention to let us know that we’re holding ourselves back.

Just having friends isn’t enough. We need to be willing to open up ourselves, to be real, to be known, to be authentic. If we don’t do this ourselves, we might find ourselves experiencing depression or extreme loneliness. It’s not healthy for our hearts to hide themselves.

There’s also a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Dawn Treader where the boy Eustace, who has been turned into a dragon because of his greed and generally obnoxious personality, has an encounter with the lion, Aslan. In order to be turned back into a real boy, Eustace has to undergo a type of surgery.

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After several attempts to free himself from the terrible dragon scales, Eustace hears Aslan say,

“You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I had turned into a boy again.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, pp 90-91.

Our scaly hearts need God’s attention. And He won’t always use anesthetic. But we can be assured that the outcome will be worth it.

Ezekiel 33:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (New International Version).

 

Beauty Before Death

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “Autumn.”

It inevitably happens. Every September and October beautiful photos start popping up on Instagram and Facebook of gorgeous, fiery trees. People oooh and ahhh about the spectacular colors.

Preston Hughes parkwayI live in Florida, so we don’t really get that here. And I grew up in California’s Bay Area, and I never really got that there either. So I’m not missing what I never knew. But the pictures are lovely.

Funny thing about Autumn: the colors are at their peak when the leaves are about to die and drop for the winter. Beauty before death.

Huh.

I don’t know quite what to make of that. I have heard that the cold and snow is necessary in order for new growth to happen underground. The snow insulates the ground and new life happens underneath. But seeing beauty in dying? That’s a really foreign concept.

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I haven’t been in a position of being with someone as they took their last breath, but I have been there for a couple of beloved pets. In fact, just within the last couple of months I held my sweet little parakeet as he breathed his last. The tears were streaming down my cheeks. I really didn’t see anything beautiful there. I only felt pain.

So this is what I see now: It is in the letting go, in the dying, in the giving up and the killing off of anything that takes my focus away from God that resurrection happens. You see, in order for resurrection to happen, death has to occur. If I want to live a new life, I have to be willing to let the old things go.

Watching someone you love pass on from this life is not easy, but there are many times in which we see this as a mercy because they are suffering here on this earth. We know they will have new life if they are in Christ, and so we assure them that they can go in peace.

I remember talking to my mom on the phone in the last minutes of her life. My siblings were with her and they held the phone to her ear. All I could hear was her heavy, last stage breathing as the cancer took her away. Through my tears I told her not to wait for me. I wasn’t going to get there in time. She could go on without me.

She left just a short while later.

But that death had to occur in order for new life to begin. Those leaves in Autumn have to fall in order for the new growth to come in the Spring.

Confident In My Construction

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. I write on a one-word prompt for just 5 minutes without any heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is the word “confident.” Check out the other posts this week.

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I’m a big fan of the podcast by Ryan O’Neal, aka the musical artist Sleeping At Last. He takes apart the pieces that he creates to let his listeners in on the process he goes through to build his music. It’s fascinating.

He has a series of songs he’s based on the Enneagram. If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, click above for some info.

He invites as his guest on each of the podcasts about the Enneagram songs writer and activist Chris Heuertz, who is the author of The Sacred Enneagram. Chris helps break down each type and explain a little more about them and what makes them unique and special. He also gives tips for each type on how they can grow to be the best version of themselves.

enneagramI’m a Type 9, so I’m still waiting to learn more about my type. Ryan has only written up through Type 8. Nine will be Ryan’s last piece in this series. What comes to mind for me in listening to these songs is what the Apostle Paul told the Philippian church after saying he was thankful for them and was praying for them: “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, New International Version).

Isn’t that great news?

He’s not finished with me yet.

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Sleeping at Last podcast image via the SAL Facebook page

Home, Sweet Home

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “cross country.”

I have a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on my Discover Card, so I get to see it often.In 1991, my husband, David, and I moved from California to Florida. We were working as missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ (known as Cru in the U.S.) and the leadership had decided to move our headquarters.

I wasn’t in favor of the idea.

IMG_8307I’m a Californian born and raised. All of my family lived no further east than Colorado. I was leaving everything familiar to relocate across the country. Even my husband wasn’t yet all that familiar. We’d only been married for 6 months.

But move cross country we did. The organization provided a moving company that packed up what we wouldn’t need in the immediate, we had both our cars loaded on to transports, and we headed to the airport in Los Angeles with my kitty in a carrier, drugs at the ready to keep her calm.

Only, we missed our flight, so the drugs wore off halfway through the trip. The stress finally got to me, and I cried there at the gate of the airport.

IMG_5453But, we made it to Orlando and found our way to our new apartment sometime in the wee hours of the night. We were starving, but this was in the days before there were so many restaurants on the road from the airport, so we couldn’t find anywhere to eat.

When we got to our apartment, we noticed that it was not the one the complex had promised us. The teal carpet gave it away the minute we walked in the door. So, we somehow camped out on the floor (the details are fuzzy after 27 years), my cat hiding behind the washer and dryer, and tried to get some sleep.

The next morning, we visited the office and notified them that they had given us the wrong apartment. After asking whether we could live with the teal carpet (no, it would clash with every piece of furniture we owned), we were relocated to a slightly bigger apartment with a lake view at the same price because it was their error.

Everything worked out and we lived that first year plus a few months in that apartment with the grey carpet and the lake view. And we have now been in Orlando for 27+ years. My parents have passed away, my brother is my only family left in California, and our 3 kids call themselves Floridians, though each one of them seems to think they were born for a colder clime.

Go figure.

I love my house, I love my church, I love my friends. I still long for California.

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If I could pick up everything that I have here (minus the humidity) and move it back to the hills of Oakland, I would do it in a minute. But that’s not where I’m supposed to be. Everything that matters is here in hot, humid, flat Orlando. I can allow myself to be discontent, or I can embrace my space and trust that I am exactly where God wants me.

After 27 years, I’ve lived in Florida almost as long as I lived in California. My heart would be very cold and hard if I allowed my yearning for a state to overshadow my joy at being “home.”

I can always pretend the cloud formation in the distance are mountains if I squint long enough.