Loyal to the King

Today we welcome guest writer Jonah Lange to our fire. With two published poetry books to his credit he is now enjoying the world of short stories. Jonah has a BS in psychology/social science and will continue his education pursuing a degree in career counseling. We are delighted to welcome him to the growing circle of story telling friends around the fire.

Loyal to the King

The message was important. That’s one of the few things he knew about his task. He was to deliver it immediately to the kingdom just south of where he lived.

He didn’t know why he’d been chosen for the task. He was no one of particular importance in his city. The local ruler had just come, given him the message, and told him to hurry to deliver it. With little time to think or consider it all, he rushed on his way. 

The way to the kingdom was a rough one. There were high hills, low valleys, and the threat of running into some unfriendly creatures. As he made his way through, he was constantly looking left and right to keep an eye out for any trouble. 

He hoped the message he was delivering was a favorable one. Though the ruler of his town was respected, he also had a reputation for being awfully harsh with his subjects. It had been out of fear as much as anything that he was going to deliver this message. 

Suddenly, he tripped over a tree root. Stumbling down the hill, he lost his grip on the important message that he’d been given. Hopelessly rolling out of control, he only thought that he might be fortunate enough for the message to end up near where he’d stop.

Eventually, he ended up at the bottom of the hill. Though dizzy, he trudged back up looking for the message. When he found it, the seal had been broken and the message lay open before him. He was shocked to see what it said. He was bringing a message of his own execution.

The man was shocked at this. He didn’t think he’d done anything that would warrant this; however, as his loyalty was to the town and to the ruler, he went on with it, thinking that if the ruler saw it better for the town for him to die, then he’d honor that decision.

Before long, he reached the kingdom and walked up to the king’s palace. There were two guards at the front. One talked with the man about why he had come and the other went in to tell the king. Eventually, the man delivering the message went in with the guard that he’d been talking with to deliver the message of his death.

The guard brought the man up to the door of the throne room. He told the man to wait while he spoke with the king. After a few brief moments, the guard brought the man in and had him stand before the king.

“I can see that your journey here was a rough one,” said the king.  

“Yes,” said the man.

“And, as the seal is broken, I assume you know what it was you have delivered to me.”

“Yes,” said the man, preparing himself for the worst.

“Well,” said the king “I’ll let you know that you were not the only man sent to deliver such a message. Others were sent and went the quickest, yet roughest, way as you did. Similarly, the seal broke on their messages. Upon seeing it they fled. Others did not take seriously enough the message that they were given and went a longer, safer way. They made it here, but upon seeing that their messages were still sealed, I knew they did not give it the importance that they should have. But you have come before me today, sweaty, dirty, and scratched up from your journey with the seal of your message broken and with full knowledge of what it says. Thus, I see that your loyalty to me, as I gave your ruler that message to deliver, is great.”

The king then stood up, walked over to the man, and put his crown on his head. 

“As you were willing to take on death for loyalty to your ruler and for the good of your people, you have proven yourself worthy and a true servant to others. I therefore make you king of all the land. May you continue to be a man of loyalty to all you serve.”

welcome to the fire, Jonah!

Jump Ship

Seven weeks.

Then the next was 4.

Then 3.

Then maybe an every other week scenario.

Unheard of.

At least in my mind and heart.

But apparently in 2021 I dropped the ball…

Possibly needed too..

but no more.

As I looked back over the Sign Up Genius I use for friends to commit to a week of sharing around this virtual campfire I noticed in 2021 there were some gaps. BIG ONES. Season 3 of this blog felt like we were barely holding on and as the writing captain I was ready to jump ship. And I did …. for weeks on end. The longest – 7. I thought season 2 /2020 was hard to keep the fire going but 2021 actually proved worse. Interesting. Concerning, really. The realization that something that had once held so much joy had turned into a….

“Meh.”

You know –

the feeling you have when you just don’t care.

A missed week would have never happened in Season One. If I knew that no one was scheduled to share I would personally find a way, a time, a story to share. I would prioritize writing over dinner or laundry. I felt a responsibility to show up every week because I promised we would. And then the every week felt too much.

Just.

Too.

Much.

Thank God for New Years.

And Fresh Starts.

And new mercies every morning.

And God’s word that always gives me what I need.

As I turned the calendar to 2022 I turned to the words of the book of Hebrews. Tom and I have been reading a chapter a day for our after dinner devotion time and I’ve been going back on my own. The voice of the unknown writer of this book seemed to be yelling.

“Goodness – turn it down” – I thought.

The words leapt off the pages of Chapter 6 in an effort to get my attention.

Get.

My.

Attention.

“But we long to see you passionately advance until the end and you find your hope fulfilled. So don’t allow your hearts to grow DULL or lose YOUR ENTHUSIASM, but follow the example of those who fully received what God has promised because of their strong faith and patient endurance.” Hebrews 6:11-12 TPT

As I thought about this blog and the dimmed desire for keeping it going – I realized it wasn’t just a blog thing. It was an over all numbness that had grown in all areas of my life in a sneaky, subtle way. It’s the way the enemy works. Often discouragement can come from one tragic event but in my case it seemed to slide in, unannounced and settle in making itself comfortable enough so that I didn’t even notice. My heart felt a bit dull and my enthusiasm for life in general a bit dim. Not stay in bed all day dull and dim…. just dull enough and dim enough that the energy needed to find writers to fill slots or write myself was gone.

The words of Chapter 6 were like a blast of cold air on my warm, cozied up in my comfort zone self.

Can you hear the longing?

“But we long to see you PASSIONATELY ADVANCE UNTIL THE END.”

Can you hear him begging me to not settle for a dimmed, dulled version of myself or my fellow writers?

“So don’t grow dull or LOSE YOUR ENTHUSIASM…”

Can you hear him prodding me now more than ever to shine bright with all the enthusiasm I have?

“Follow the example of those who fully received what God promised because of their strong faith and patient endurance.”

I could feel the writer pointing my face in the direction of the many that have endured life and pushed through the temptation to coast.

And the tough love felt so good.

So needed.

Like a good coach that won’t let the team member play small.

Like a parent that will not let their child out of a responsibility.

Like our loving God that needs us to stay in the game…

Til the end.

I have two friends that became widows this year.

One because of cancer.

The other because of Covid.

Neither planned on this.

I know they would give anything to have another day with the men they loved.

The two men used their lives to shine and they each stayed as bright as possible until their life on earth came to a close.

Its people like them that I look too. Its their wives that now must chose daily to keep on that I remember. I recognize the true gift of each day I have been given. I shake my head of the fog that wanted to lull me into complacency. I boldly dismiss the lie that it’s just not worth the effort to push past comfort and the safety found in not creating, not stretching, not sharing, not growing.

The hope we have is too good. The promises we’ve been given too precious. The strength we receive so needed.

Shine bright friend, the world so needs what you have to offer.

Every.

Single.

Bit.

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and NEVER. LET. GO. Hebrews 6:18 MSG

New Year. New Mercies. Shine Bright.

Here.

Today we welcome Guest writer Brooke Lange. Brooke is a sophomore at Concordia University Nebraska majoring in Psychology and Social Science. She is one of the best question askers I know and always challenges me to think out side of the box. My life is better because she is in it.

A few weeks ago, as people were preparing (in several senses of the word) to embark on Thanksgiving break, there was a lot of talk of “here.”  

I hate it here. 

Here lies my motivation to do schoolwork. 

*I don’t want to be here anymore.  

We haven’t been very fond of “here” lately. 

I (and maybe you too) have a tendency to think that the goodness I want in life is just outside of the bounds of Here, that if I just moved There or was There in my relationship with that person or if I got  a job There, then There will become my Here and finally, I would be at peace.  

 When we believe that we are prone to the circumstances of Here, that we are mercilessly thrown from one place that is not quite where we want to be to another that is not quite where we want to be, life can feel helpless – joyless even.  

David Foster Wallace addressed this circumstance in his commencement speech given at Kenyon College, This is Water. 

“It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same thing that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” 

I’ve seen that fire before. It’s the feeling that comes in sparks, usually during Events Engineered to Ponder Life, otherwise known as weddings, funerals, graduations, confirmations, and bar mitzvahs. The ones that make me think about all the people who have gotten me Here and how far people have traveled to come Here. This Here, if approached correctly, invokes a great sense of comfort and joy that is almost overwhelming. The connectedness of my life to what the people in my life have done on the behalf of my well-being in Here, makes the physical Here, no matter where it happens to be, seem sacred.  

Unfortunately, life is not all Events Engineered to Ponder Life – often it is not that. But we can take our own physical Here and mental Here and recognize the work and the changes and the sacrifices people had to make only for us to be Here, in both senses of the word. 

Here is fleeting. We may frequently return to the same places, but who we are changes constantly. Find what makes your Here good and beautiful and sacred. Hold on tightly to it and use it to make Here a good one. It’s all we can do.  

*Overheard while walking through that nasty Nebraska wind. It’s not that deep.  

Dirt.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them. I was transferring the wet clothes to the dryer. It was intended to be a quick stop in the laundry room on my way back to my office to finish my tasks for the day. I was originally drawn to the laundry room by the smell of a too full cat liter box, in the same room as the washer. After cleaning the liter box I remembered the wet clothes that lead to the clothes transfer. After pushing “start” on my dryer my eyes drifted up to the warm box of Lacroix that need to be loaded into the refrigerator that when moved revealed the forgotten package of tulip bulbs that had been hiding behind the LaCroix…… which lead to….

my afternoon in the dirt. whew.

Missouri dirt is no joke. It is actually more like clay. When combined with water it becomes a mass of sludge that forms to what ever it touches. It is shocking to me that anything grows in it. It is equally surprising that anything put in Missouri dirt in November would survive through a cold winter and emerge as a beautiful beacon of hope with the first glimpses of Spring. But they do. They have and they will.

Which is why I spent some time …..

in the dirt.

Fall planting is an investment in my future joy. It is my last horticultural act of a season that begins in early spring and fizzles by late September when I pull up all my summer flowers and replace them with one red mum. The mum holds me over until November when I put the mum in the garbage, grab my shovel and my bag of tulip bulbs and start to dig.

A shovel, hard ground that forced me to work to create a warm place for my little bulbs and a bit of time in late afternoon was just what my soul needed. The first turn of the soil unleashed a fragrance that brought me back to afternoons of my both my childhood and those of my own children.

Dirt from my moms summer garden.

Dirt from the campsite we where we vacationed in Northern Michigan.

Dirt that held the worms my sister and I dug up in preparation for fishing with my Dad.

Dirt from the playground behind my elementary school.

Dirt from the fire pit we built on a youth group weekend canoe trip.

One of my favorite dirt memories with my own children was the afternoon my oldest two dug for roly- poly bugs in our back yard. They hunted and dug and hunted and dug and filled their bug catcher with what looked like hundreds of little bugs that had the ability to roll up in a ball. Their smudged faces and beaming smiles when they presented me with their work brought me such a feeling of mom pride. I loved that my kids weren’t afraid to get dirty. I love that I’m not afraid to get dirty… to embrace the joy of messing up my physical outside appearance to bring a future beauty that will last for weeks in the spring. There is nothing like the first pokes of green through thawing flower beds to give hope needed to make it to summer.

Brother Sister Bug Hunt – I love their focus

The warm, soapy water felt good as I rubbed my hands together in an effort to clean my hands following my afternoon in the garden. I stood at my kitchen sink and let my mind wander to my favorite dirt memories and I realized that my love for dirt goes much deeper then the 12 ft wide flower bed in my front yard. As I watched my dirt caked hands return to their clean, flesh colored state I was reminded of the one who loves me, dirt and all.

Miriam Webster gives some interesting clarification of the meaning of the word Dirt.

NOUN

1.a. excrement

b. substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something,

c. archaic: something worthless

d. : a contemptible person

2. Loose or packed soil or sand: EARTH

3.a. an abject or filthy state

b. CORRUPTION

c. scandalous or malicious gossip

d. embarrassing or incriminating information

In John chapter 8 we are introduced to a woman who was covered in a thick layer of the kind of DIRT we see in definition 2.d and 3. c and d above. a contemptible person, scandalous, embarrassing or incriminating information.

“The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red- handed in the act of adultery. “

Wait, I need to pause for a moment – Did they even let her get dressed? Was she standing in the middle of the Temple wrapped in a sheet?

So.

Much.

Dirt

The story continues…

“Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the DIRT. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the first stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the DIRT.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

Jesus wasn’t impressed nor afraid of the woman’s dirt, as ugly as her persecutors wanted her to appear. He was also very clear that the dirt in the temple that day did not just rest on the woman. He called out every single finger pointer in the room. In one simple sentence he shown a light on the ugliness that covers all of them and us and he just kept…

drawing in the dirt.

I’ve often wondered what he was doing. I’ve had long conversations with friends over coffee deliberating the message he was scripting. Until we get to heaven and can ask him face to face, I don’t think we will ever know.

But I can take my best guess.

I imagine as he was swirling his fingers in the dirt he was talking to his Father. He was asking for the words, the ability to love, the divine wisdom that would clean up the mess in front of him. As he patiently swirled he eagerly listened. As he knelt low he lifted his prayers high and he gave the most beautiful words, the woman and you and I could ever hear.

“Does no one condemn you?”

“No.” she replied.

“Neither do I.”

Neither

Do

I.

Seriously.

As I dug in my own dirt, in my yard and in my heart, I rejoiced in the lessons I have learned in my dirtiest seasons. The times when I deserved punishment and was given grace. The times I felt shamed, discouraged and disappointed in myself. The times when I stood at my sink and couldn’t rub hard enough. I remembered the times I was the one doing the dragging of someone elses dirt into the public square. It was disguised as a prayer request or prefaced with a “just between you and me.”

And I weep.

I shed tears of repentance.

I shed tears of gratitude.

I inhale deeply of the fragrance of the grace that rises from the dirt swirled message that our Father God gave his Son, our Savior….

and I pray for its transforming power to take root in the depths of my heart,

dirt and all.

.

Romans 8:1-2 The Message

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

Put it on my tab.

“You want to join?”

My husband was attempting to pay for our first round of golf at the ‘country club’ located 4 miles from our new home. The gal behind the counter/bar in the club house was trying to convince us that a membership to the club was the most fiscally responsible thing to do. The amount we would pay for one round for each of us would more than cover a month of membership fees. Our entire family of five could enjoy unlimited golf for less a month than the two rounds we were about to play. But…. I’m in sales – I know how this works and I wasn’t about to jump into a long term commitment. We are in the most expensive years of parenting – called the college and wedding years- and I keep a pretty tight lock on our budget. A Country Club membership sounded excessive. My immediate response was a firm, “No thanks.”

My husband wasn’t so easily convinced that this was a bad idea. He loves to golf.

Loves it.

He will go play a quick round as a form of stress relief. A walk on the golf course does wonders for his attitude. I, on the other hand, need to be pretty happy and relaxed before heading out to play. If I am stressed or pre-occupied, attempting to hit a little white ball is that last thing I need to do. We stood at the counter – he formulating his sales pitch and me running some numbers to prove him wrong. In the end it actually did make sense to make the jump into Country Club life. Membership would also give us unlimited access to a pool – a nice perk during our hot Missouri summers. The extra special touch is that our names have now been engraved on a brass name plate on display for all to see on the club house wall.

After almost 5 years of enjoying our membership privileges this past summer we were granted an upgrade. I guess we have proven our trustworthiness because we have now been given access to ……

A Tab.

You know, the thing that allows you the privilege of enjoying some type of food or drink without actually paying for it at the time you consume it? You order and simply say….. ‘Put it on my tab.’ You can sit around with friends after 9 holes, enjoy a cold one and say – next round is on me! Yep – just put it on my tab. It feels free, and fun and important. It shows you can be trusted. It announces to the world that you are part of the community…

and isn’t that what we all want?

To know that we belong?

I’ve been told that I will never get over the feeling of being ‘new’ in my small town. I have friends that were born, raised and now are raising their own children who are also raising their own children here. All in the same place. It’s something I will never understand. It does not mean it is wrong. It just means its not my experience. They know they belong because this is all they know. They have a lineage that goes back generations. Their good old days happened right here – not some far away place with even farther away memories. The difference between their life experience and mine feels vast.

Until.

Until I start asking questions.

And I start listening.

It turns out that no matter what path of life you have meandered, you can still….

Find your forever soul mate that becomes your spouse.

Enjoy great success in your professional life.

Fill photo books with countless happy memories.

Fill hearts with deep hurts from loss and regret.

Endure both financial windfalls and financial ruin.

Receive a cancer diagnosis.

Lose a child.

Get voted High School homecoming Queen.

Save up and buy your first car, your first home.

Struggle with the choices of your children.

Feel the void that comes when all that the world promises to offer keeps falling short.

When it comes down to it, we are all really more alike that different – in the most humbling way.

We all, no matter where we’ve lived or where we havn’t lived, all have a need to be filled. A need for completion. A need to feel loved. A need for peace. A need for forgiveness. A need for redemption. A need to belong.

I’ve just started a 10 week journey with a group of friends through the book of John. It’s one of the four gospels – or accounts of the life of Jesus. If you are not familiar with his life and mission – some time in this book is a great place to start. If you are familiar – this is a great place to re-visit. In just the first 34 verses of chapter one I have been reminded of the gift that he was and is to me and all that chose to follow him. I’m reminded that from the creation of the world he was. I’m reminded that when man blew it, the plan was for Jesus to come and clean up our mess. I’m reminded that Jesus was a light in our darkest places and that he did his most profound work outside of church walls.

At a wedding.

With a parent whose child was dying.

In a crowd of hungry people.

He touched people whom others shunned.

He dined with the scum, the forgotten, the sinners.

When entrance into eternity held a price tag large for us to pay,

Jesus came to pick up the tab.

Pick.

Up.

Our.

Tab.

My tab.

your tab.

He walks into the clubhouses of our lives and covers it all. No matter what we add to our bill, through poor choices, past regrets – he promises to cover it all. He wants you to know that you can belong.

That you can be loved.

That you can be redeemed.

He’s got you covered – for eternity.

It’s on…..

Him.

To God be the glory.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Sunset at the Country Club: Membership has its privileges

Know Your Audience

It’s one of the most important pieces of advice for speakers, writers, teachers, communicators of all sorts….. get a good read of the room before you open your mouth, or pickup your pen or open your lap top. The opening story or joke one may use at an orthopedic surgeons conference my fall flat at a similar event for dentists. Two groups of people with different experiences, skill sets and possibly personalities. Knowing your audience – its key to connection and It’s a skill, dare I say it, I own. I believe it was developed over a lifetime of watching my father start and grow a church in the suburbs of Detroit. It continued as I moved into full time ministry with my husband and then for the last 18 years have built a business with hundreds of team members and customers…I’ve honed my people reading skill.

Or at least I thought I had.

This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with many people both personally and professionally. After a year of needing to intentionally disconnect, the summer of 2021 was full on – meet the people. I spent one week rekindling relationships with business connections around the state of Michigan. I stayed in 5 different homes in 7 days. I shared space with some of my favorite humans on the planet. My love language is coffee and connection (or as Gary Chapman Author of “The 5 Love Languages” would say – Quality Time) thus, my cup was filled. I took several long road trips with my 18 year old daughter and later in June our entire family travelled to Utah for a week with 80 + members of our extended family. My husband and I ended the summer with a trip to Indiana to watch our oldest daughter receive her Specialist Degree in Education, a full on graduation ceremony, in person. It was the cherry on the top of a really fantastic summer.

Any place I go with this crew is amazing… but Utah ! Wow!!

In this return to travel, and people, and gatherings I found myself needing to dust off some skills that had gone dormant since spring of 2020. Booking hotel rooms or scheduling Air bnbs. Checking schedules of friends to see if they would be home when I would want to visit. Budgeting for gas and food. Reading my GPS when rerouted in crazy Chicago traffic in the rain. Planning extra travel time for road construction. Packing appropriate clothing for weather changes and a variety of activities.

There was one skill, the one I thought I had down, that I discovered was most important. It required much time and patience. I learned it first in college so many years ago – that people really don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. I remembered that before I speak I should listen, listen, and listen some more. I had to Know my Audience. And what I learned is that my audience is diverse, and passionate and caring and concerned about our world despite the glaringly vast differences of opinion on everything we are all currently navigating.

As I sat over numerous cups of coffee, or dry red depending on the time of day, I listened to the concerns of my people. I asked questions about what their last year of life had looked like. I worked hard to get a read on their level of peace or lack there of. We struggled together to answer questions that seem impossible to understand. We laughed over crazy things we had done to pivot on a daily basis, we cried over the loss of both our normal routines and also actual human beings. We prayed for the future of our world and often we agreed that on some issues we may need to disagree. In many cases I realized my audience that I thought I knew so well, had changed. And I guess, so had I.

And thats the real rub isn’t it? The one we all may be trying so hard to ignore. The fact that people we know and love and trust have chosen an opposing side to our own. We read peoples social media posts or watch their face covering activity ( or lack there of) in an attempt to understand. We then quickly make value judgements and form opinions that feel heavy and yucky and divisive. I’m watching my two college students navigating a list of written and unwritten rules now that they have returned to campus. The struggle to understand simple daily activities and relationships continues.

This past week I was with a friend that was sharing a news headline about a current hot topic. Her tone was one that communicated she had bought in to the “evidence” of the writer and was wanting my ‘Yes and Amen’ but I couldn’t give it because just the day before…

I had listened.

Twenty four hours earlier I had a conversation with another trusted friend on this same topic. She had shared data that completely opposed the information in the article my first friend had shared. I asked lots of questions to clarify and later went home and did my own research. When I shared my findings we were then able to have a healthy conversation about the issue – neither of us coming to a firm conclusion on the topic, but agreeing that there is usually always more to the story.

And that is the lesson I am taking from the summer of 2021 – that there is always more and getting to the “More” takes time and listening, and more time and more listening. After the time and the listening and the More time and the more listening there may come understanding but (and this is important) there might not come agreement.

You may not agree.

You.

May

Not.

Agree.

And it’s ok. It really is. It has to be. At least it does for me.

If I’m going to continue showing up in my work, my friendships, my faith community, my grocery store….

I have to come to grips with the reality that I may not see eye to eye with people I deeply know and deeply love.

As I walk out of my house today I look to the one that I’ve always looked to for wisdom and guidance and truth. Jesus. He rocked the world of many as he lived his short life with one goal in mind – to pay the price for the mess humanity had made of the perfect world his father had created. He was ok with disagreeing. He met people where they were at, not ignoring their issues, but loving them in the midst them. He broke rules, he listened to the questions of doubters and answered with love, grace and blunt truth when appropriate.

He was so willing to carry out His ultimate mission – to die on a cross – a perfect human in the place of imperfect humanity for one reason….

He knew his audience.

He knew they were desperate. He knew they were hopeless. He knew they were beautiful creations of his Father that loved them deeply. He knew them because he spent his lifetime correctly reading the room through countless hours of listening and answering questions and loving .

And the good news is… he still does.

He knows us.

You and me – members of the current audience, the ones filling the room of this stage of history.

He understands our questions.

He feels our sorrow.

He mourns the evil and the pain.

He sees our splintered relationships….

and he promises to walk with us in it,

through it.

He promises to bring peace, and wisdom and discernment.

It’s the hope I’m holding on to today – how good to know its available for you as well.

Good conversation takes time… thankful for many of these moments in summer 2021.

A guide to ambiguous college decisions

Today we welcome Brooke Lange – special guest contributor to the fire. Her decision making wisdom grown from her recent college choice process is helpful for all of us making any kind of big or small life decision. She is a regular contributor to her college blog and this post was recently featured. Enjoy more of her work at http://www.cune.edu

Published by Brooke 2 weeks ago on Thu, May 13, 2021 4:41 http://www.cune.edu

My visit to Concordia began and ended with little drama. I talked to people, I toured the buildings, I observed people doing college things. The day was entirely normal, which was the issue.  

I got coffee with my mom and contemplated and went for a quick run and contemplated more and ultimately continued living my life.  

After a while, I decided to accept Concordia University Nebraska into my life. It was about the spring of my junior year. For me, it was because of my major. There were few colleges that offered a quality English as a Second Language program, and Concordia was one that was not ridiculously expensive, and conveniently located in not Hawaii.  

When I would tell Concordia alum and some of my own friends why I made the decision to go there, they had the tendency to ask me with wide eyes and bated breath, “Didn’t it just feel like home?”  

It did not. It did not feel like anything.  

As an ardent lover of pros and cons lists, Freakonomics, and the phrase, “based on past experiences,” the notion of choosing a college based on how it made you feel really perplexed me. There was no reason! There was no system! I felt simultaneously justified and unjustified in my college decision. Justified because I felt I had logic on my side, unjustified because I did not have this P(S)aul on his way to Damascus type revelation that everyone was speaking of.  

So, I thought, and I concluded that people are diverse enough to make decisions using a variety of methods. Crazy, I know.  

Maybe you’re like me and you’re choosing a college based on what you believe to be logical reasons. When I was making my college decision, my main goal was to be an ESL teacher and work overseas. I had a clear picture of what I wanted my future to look like, and in my mind, Concordia was the most logical way to get there.  

Despite what I might want to think, this absolutely could change. I could have arrived at Concordia and realized that I hated teaching, (has not happened yet, I will keep you posted) or that there were better opportunities for me somewhere else. We can use logic and reason as a means to get to the ends we want, but sometimes those ends change.   

Maybe you don’t really have a specific plan going into college, but you visit, and you like the campus and the people, and truly, you just want to be a part of it.  

This can also change. Although there are lovely people at every college, you might eventually find that your goals and aspirations don’t align with the university or the community you’re surrounded by. Emotions are also important in making college considerations, but let me tell you, those also change a lot during college.  

Essentially, you can make your college decision in the way you are comfortable. But saying that you have made the absolute right decision when these big decisions and changes in life occur can be pretty limiting.   

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved from Michigan to Missouri. It all seemed very sudden. The high school I was planning on going to was such a big part of my life. My dad taught there, my siblings went there, and attending high school basketball games and plays was a staple activity in my house. I already knew a lot of the teachers, coaches, and I had a vague outline of a friend group. When we decided to move, my future at that school, so seemingly meticulous in the making was gone. 

  The high school I attended in Missouri had a sizable percentage of international students, and during the summer of my sophomore year, I went on choir tour in Europe. These opportunities I had to connect with  people from other cultures made me realize that I wanted to be able to help people to make these connections. It was then that I decided I wanted to teach English as a Second Language. 

I was truly on the cusp of living an entirely different life. My life in Michigan had all the trappings of being happy and successful, but for whatever reason, the fabric of my life changed. 

However you make the big decisions of your life, or perhaps, have the big decisions made for you, do not limit yourself to simply what appears to be the right choice. Our brains are a maze of discovered and undiscovered passions, aspirations, and talents. The world is similarly complex. It is honorable to bloom where you’re planted, but please do not believe you are incapable of growing anywhere else. 

Brooke

About Brooke

Halloo! I’m Brooke, welcome to the blog!
I’m a freshman education major who enjoys encouraging my plants, watching The Office to destress and great movie soundtracks.

Read more from Brooke

A guide to ambiguous college decisionsSome Helpful…And Not So Helpful College Purchases

Space for you

I see you.

You, the one reading these words.

The one who woke up today.

The one thats been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice, mourn….

and write.

One of the unexpected gifts of creating this space for friends to gather and share stories are the handful

of new friends that have quietly asked if they could share as well.

One request came in an email.

Another with a friend in a conversation we enjoyed over lunch.

and one more in a late night ding to my facebook messenger app.

They all shared the same thing…..

“Beth I think I have a story to share around your fire.”

They did.

And they shared.

And many were blessed.

Friend – you, the one reading these words.

The one that has been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice , mourn and

write.

I believe you have a story as well. If you’re alive – you have a story. And if your heart is beating a bit faster

right now at the though of putting it in writing and sharing with our fire….

It may be a sign that you should.

Friend – your story, your reflection on the crazy or simple ways God has or is working in your life

is important.

And there is space for you…..

Here.

This is your invitation ( if you havn’t picked up on my subtle hints yet:) to send me an email, ask me to join you for lunch or send me a late night FB Message .

There is an open seat at the fire……

for you.

Is it time to share YOUR story?

The way I see it

“I can think of 10,000 other things I can spend $30 on that would be more fun than this.”

It was hot. We didn’t have water and I didn’t know what I was doing- or actually I wasn’t good at what I was doing. The most logical response – whine and complain and quit. And so we did. We walked off the course on the 5th hole because I was done, with a capital D.

Golf or anything that costs money that results in frustration, discouragement and silent rides home in the car with your spouse feels like an exercise in futility. At least it did 27 years ago when my husband was trying to convince me that this sport would be something we could do together for the long haul. I was perfectly happy with our rhythm of playing tennis. We both enjoyed it. I felt like I got a good workout and occasionally I would get a shot past him. I understood the game, had a decent serve and could hold my own. Tom reminded me that as much as we enjoyed tennis the likelihood of us playing into our later years was probably not going to happen. Golf was easier on the body and there was always the option of taking a cart. So, Tom was all in to improving his golf game, investing in equipment and lessons and I was all out.

Somewhere along the line of our 27 years of marriage – my perspective changed. It may have had something to do with the women’s golf league I joined. We affectionately called it “Golf and Giggle.” The swings of the club were secondary to the conversations we had as we met each Monday, rain or shine, for our girls night out. We didn’t keep score ( I still don’t – important golf hack for all you newbies) and we cheered each other on in only the way girls can do. This experience opened my eyes to the joys this sport can bring. Tom paid for golf lessons and I now feel like I understand the rules, the reasons for the club numbers and when to use them, and also when to pick up my ball and throw it ( without shame) when needed. We have enjoyed many rounds of golf in some beautiful locations and even enjoyed a 3 day golf trip in northern Michigan – something I would never have agreed too early in our marriage. This shared enjoyment of the sport had us imagining the fun of possibly living on a golf course. You know, the homes that back up to a green or fairway. The ones that have extra homeowners insurance covering the cost of broken windows due to a stray ball going off course.

Someday, we would say.

Well, 4 years ago – that dream became reality. Not only do we live on a golf course but we are proud members of the Tri- City Country Club located in Emma, MO. Heavy emphasis on Country. $60 a month gives us unlimited golf for our family. We have several friends that are members and we will often join them for a round. Last summer we worked to make every Friday night a golf date with another couple in town. We are living our dream. Our backyard sits on the edge of the fourth fairway. It’s really glorious.

our backyard

I posted a picture of our course side view on facebook last week and asked the question “What do you see?” What is interesting is that out of the 100 + responses to my question not one person said – golf course. Our friend Jim and golf buddy of Tom’s from our days in Michigan was closest when he said “Look’s like a nice day for golf…” My quest to prove a point that I hope to make by the end of this blog (I’m getting there) poked some deep emotion that I did not expect. Some of the responses made me laugh and others brought tears to my eye. Here is a sampling of just a few.

Horizon

Peace

Endless possibilities/opportunities

The coming storm.

The calm after the storm. Clarity, peace.

Freedom.

Clouds.

Stairs leading to a mystery in the sky.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Emptiness. A vast nothing awaiting something.

A shark.

God and love.

Hope.

My question was inspired by a quote from American poet and essayist, Henry David Thoreau ,

“The question is not what you look at…… but what you see.”

Not what you look at but what you SEE.

As I read each response I imagined each person taking a moment to not just look at the picture but to see it. I was so pleased that so many paused even for a few seconds to take in the view and offer me a different perspective. I also loved that not one person saw what I did – an important reminder for me today.

When I look at that picture I see a water tower. If you squint your eyes and look to the right side of the picture – under the clouds – it is there. That water tower proudly displaying the name of the small town of Emma, sits next to the fourth hole of the country club where Tom and I belong. Did I mention our names are engraved on a brass name plate and mounted on the member board in the club house? Yes – we are all that and a bag of chips;). The water tower, on the 4th hole is visible from the deck in our backyard. Thus the logical conclusion that we are indeed living our dream of living on a golf course. This picture and this reality makes me so happy. I also love that between us and our golf course are fields of either corn or beans. I know the farmers and their families that work these fields and their addition to our golf course living makes it even better.

In contrast – this is what I don’t see (but I could).

I don’t see the field mice that storm our house each fall after harvest. I don’t remember the pain of job loss that was necessary to move us across the country to need this home. I don’t see the 4 miles that separate us from the 4th hole of the golf course. I don’t see it because I choose not to.

When this blog posts I will be far from this backyard view of the 4th hole of our country club. I will need to decide what I see when I take in the circumstances around me. I will choose to write the story of the picture in front of me and this will make all the difference. I will wake up on Thursday in Texas – in the home of my parents. Odd for me since I was there just 10 days ago. My quick journey back was inspired by my moms recent cancer diagnosis and my desire to be with her during her chemo treatments. I will have many decisions to make during this visit on what I see.

Will I see moms hair loss or the opportunity to shop for fun hats and scarves?

Will I feel the effects of travel in the middle of a busy month in my business or will I celebrate the fact that CO-VID has forced me to work 100% virtual and I can work anywhere life takes me?

Will I see the challenge of my sister and I living thousands of miles from our parents or will I see the incredible local support my parents feel with caring neighbors, friends and church family?

Will I see the stop on my flight home in Orlando (the opposite direction of my home) as an inconvenience or the opportunity to do some fun Disney shopping in the Orlando airport?

It’s not what I look at…

It’s what I see.

The skeptics out there – I see you and honestly sometimes I need you. The ones that are thinking I’m to polyanna – ish. The ones wanting to shake me and tell me to join the “real” world – the ones saying …..

“Beth – you don’t live on a dang golf course. “

To you are I say – “You’re right.”

To you I say,

“But so am I.”

My hope as I look at my surroundings – wether its my backyard or the hospital with my mom – comes from a God who promises to give me eyes to see the good. He promises that he will never leave or forsake me. He promises that he uses all things for our good and for His glory. He promises that even in the hard he will reveal his perfect gifts. It is His power that changes my perspective. It is His promises that gives me peace. It is His love that prompts me to pull up a deck chair, prop my feet up with a cool drink on a hot day and imagine I see the great shot by a fellow golfer on the 4th hole.

Living the dream.

Living His dream

And that’s the way I see it.

The gallery on the 6th fairway – We love the Country Club life:)

On Watching

Welcome special guest to the fire Amber Beuschel. Amber is a free lance writer from souther Indiana, mother of 5 and a member of a writing community I recently joined. If you want to read more from Amber you can find her at Higher Thoughts and Other Things abeuschel.wordpress.com.

“Mom,” my oldest daughter cried out. “I just saw a huge branch fall!” Her finger was pointed at something I couldn’t see through the front room window. A large branch from a tree over our house had dropped from the weight of ice.

I opened the front door and five sets of feet pattered out onto the porch, despite the freezing rain driving against their faces. Fascinated with the ice storm, they stood, unfazed by the wet, the cold, and the slippery.

After coaxing them back inside, they decided to set up a watch. This after a full day of eLearning activities. I was impressed. Their goal was to watch and see. What else might happen? Would other branches fall? Would they see a car slide? Would the wintry mix change over to snow? The possibilities seemed endless to my brood.

Watching their faces I was struck by their joy in the waiting. Why can’t I be more like that? I think it’s because I don’t start off attentive in the first place.

My daughter doesn’t normally position herself in front of a window to watch for twigs and sticks to fall from the sky. But today there were new things happening, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see just what else the sky might bring.

I want to be more like that, to listen, to anticipate, to watch.

We have a finite number of moments and minutes anyway. Many of them are dedicated to doing. But some of them should be given over the watching.

Maybe it’s a twig I’m watching for. Maybe something more, less, worse, or better.

What can I gain from watching?

Attentiveness. I notice more when I watch. Like the 9-year old, when I take time to observe, I make space for both the familiar and the new. Aware of these things, I am prepared to adjust, accept, respond to the changes around me. I am focused.

Alertness. With better focus, I see what is happening around me. Not only that, I am primed to act. Ready, I can move. I can do. How often do I find myself thinking about how I could act better after a matter? When I am focused to begin with, I begin to act better beforehand. That’s a skill I wouldn’t mind to have sharpened!

Appreciation. My attention and response in sync, I receive a third gift. I get to enjoy a moment. I was prompted by my daughter’s attention to the single branch to notice the entire backyard, to take in the sight of dozens of shrubs and trees coated in ice. We sat watching cardinals dart from tree to tree, wondering if birds ever slip. We judged the speed of cars entering and leaving the neighborhood. Wasn’t that too fast? Or wow, look how slow! The appreciation for how ice impacts nature, human behavior, and our entire day was at the front of our minds.

We might have checked off the 24 required eLearning activities today, but the one that stood out above all the rest wasn’t an assignment at all. It was simply the observation of a child, and it gave me plenty to think about. Plenty to watch for. 

I’m definitely setting aside more moments and minutes to watch tomorrow.