Listen closely.

“I learned something really cool today in biology,” my freshman son stated as he began to search the pantry for an afterschool snack.

His words caught my attention. This was better than the grunts and shrugs that often follow my “How was your day?”

“What did you learn?” I asked as low-key as possible.

“Did you know that humans have a faster reaction time to sound than we do to sight because our eardrums are 3 centimeters closer to our brains than our optic nerves?”kisspng-tape-measures-ruler-adhesive-tape-measurement-clip-measurement-tape-5b1665d7538f80.2881284015281945193423I thought about this for a moment and felt my eyes and ears in an attempt to measure how this was possible. Then I decided to take his word for it. He went on to explain how it was tested and proved, and I enjoyed the science lesson, glad I wouldn’t have a test.

Later in the evening, I began to doubt this fact as I watched this same boy, stretched out on the couch watching a baseball game, reach his arms behind his head and accidentally knock over a glass of water on the end table behind him.

Tink. Tink. Tink.

The sound of the glass hitting the table was easily audible. Yet, my son’s reaction time was almost nonexistent. He propped himself up on an elbow and glanced apathetically at the water that was running across the end table toward my husband’s phone and various papers.

“What are you doing?” my husband said. “Go get a towel! Quick!”

Of course, it may not have been the best timing, but I was happy to add, “You heard that spill before you saw it so you should have had a quicker reaction time, son.”

He rolled his eyes at me on his way to the kitchen. Science does sometimes come in handy.

But here’s my point.

Perhaps technically, we should react faster to sound than to sight, but we still have to make a choice to do so. We have to not only hear the sound, but listen.

Listening requires action, whether it be in the form of a nod, or a response, or a thought you file away in your mind for later. We can hear something, but not truly listen, and sometimes, that can be detrimental to those around us.

Listen. It can make all the difference. Three centimeters at a time.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: LISTEN

If it ain’t broke.

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It’s one of our family’s favorite “home videos.” Our middle child, then two-year-old Karly, attempting to drive a small motorized golf cart.

Attempting is the best word for this scenario.

She pushes the gas pedal with her little purple shoe, and the cart lunges forward. Karly’s hands are resting down by her sides. She moving, but not controlling where she’s going.

At the prompt of her big brother yelling “Stop!”, she lifts her foot off the gas and narrowly misses driving into a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!” She claims as she climbs out of the cart (the cuteness of it all multiplied by the fact that she can’t pronounce her ‘r’s’ and rhymes the word ‘working’ with ‘looking.’)

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

It ain’t broke.

You ain’t doin’ it right.

I’m guilty of it too. No, not driving with my hands by my sides (Geesh! Give me some credit!) but of getting off course.

I wish to get somewhere. To head in a new direction.

Toward better conversations with friends. Talk that is rich and uplifiting, not gossipy and self-focused.

Toward better understanding of who I am in Christ. Life that is lived free from worry and fear.

Toward a healthier body. One that makes wise decisions to eat well and exercise regularly.

But, sometimes I end up in a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!”

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

I can’t just wish to be somewhere. If I really want to get there, I must steer myself in that direction.

Steering rarely requires large movements. It’s tiny corrections and changes that put you on a different trajectory. 

Little changes, small tweaks, tiny adjustments. They can add up to big change, and put you in a whole new place.

You just need to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your foot on the gas.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for five minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: WORK

 

Just visiting.

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The pictures in my iPhoto library scrolled in front of my eyes like credits rolling on a screen at the end of a movie. Only faster.

I was feeling a little uneasy in my stomach. Granted, I could have been getting motion sick from the quick movement (No, really. I’m serious. This happened to me once at the library in the 1990’s while looking at microfiche), but the real fact of the matter was that I was nauseous from nostalgia. Sick from sentimentality. Pained from pondering.

You get the idea.

I had to sort through the memories for a reason. All three of my children have had the same woman as their kindergarten teacher. My youngest is now “graduating” from kindergarten, and our tenure in her class is over. Just like that.

This teacher is amazing, and in an effort to make her a gift containing a photo of her with each of my kids when they were in her class, I had to search through approximately 12 billion photos in hopes to find three. Eventually, I did find them, but in the searching, I found many more that pulled on my heart strings.

My now twelve-year-old’s third birthday party with the Thomas the Tank Engine cake that I spent HOURS making.

My now eight-year-old’s first pigtails.

My soon-to-be first grader’s birth. The first time her siblings held her in their arms.

Chubby cheeks.

Little toes.

Birthday parties. First days of schools.

My seven-year-old’s store-bought birthday cake.

The time my girls got their pigtails cut off to donate to children in need of wigs.

The three of them arm in arm at a baseball game.

I found myself lost in a world of memories, yet feeling like these events had happened in my life almost as quickly as the photos on the screen were whizzing past me.

And in a few more minutes, it seems they’ll be more photos in the camera roll.

Graduations.

Weddings.

Grandkids.

Another generation of chubby cheeks and little toes.

More firsts. More lasts.

The knot in my stomach was now fully tied.

The moments of this life are so fleeting. I try to hold on to them. To keep them. To at least make them slow their pace.

I mentally place the events in my bucket as I cross the firsts and lasts off my list. But I must have a hole in my bucket because as fast as they pile higher, they’re gone.

Each moment is only here for a visit. No, they can’t linger for long. The are just passing through.

But regardless, I’m going to keep inviting the moments of life in. I’ll keep putting them in my bucket, my iPhoto library, and my heart.

And I’ll enjoy each visit, for as long as it lasts.


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: VISIT

 

Math is easier without numbers.

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I don’t have a beautiful mind like the guy in the movie by that title who is a brilliant mathematician. In fact, when it comes to math, my mind is anything but beautiful. Equations go into my mind to scoff and mock.

“Larry, get a load of this mind! She’ll never get us. We’re safe here!” (Yes, math equations are sometimes named Larry.)

I’d say instead of a beautiful mind, I have a busy mind. It sometimes serves me well. Minds need to be busy, right? We have places to go, people to see, things to do.

But there are times my busy mind is not a good addition to life, but a subtraction. (Wait, did I almost make a math problem? Larry, is that you?)

When my mind is busy with the wrong things, things like worry, irrational thoughts, fears, imaginary scenarios, I suffer.

But I have a little equation that helps me pull out of it. (Okay, maybe I really CAN do math- just not with actual numbers.)

Truth + Trust = Peace

When I find my busy mind is focused on questions like,

“What did my friend mean by that comment? Does she hate me now? What did I do to offend her?”

“What if my daughter doesn’t know how to navigate this difficult situation at school today? What if I’ve completely failed as her mom?”

“Is this health symptom weird? Am I dying of some rare disease?”

When those questions haunt me, I go back to my equation.

Truth + Trust = Peace

Truth. What do I KNOW to be true.

Trust. Who do I KNOW to be in control, no matter the circumstance (spoiler alert: it’s God).

Peace. Ahhh. There is it. The wonderful resulting exhale of relief and hope filled inhale of comfort.

When I go back this equation, this simple formula without numbers, my busy mind becomes more beautiful after all.

That’s right, Larry. Deal with it.

 

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This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: TRUTH

See Now.

dsc_0451Why do I have to use the scissors to cut the tape off this dispenser? It’s designed to tear off easily on these little pointy things. Annoying.

Should I wrap these gifts in one box or separate them so he has two presents to open?

Where did I put the scissors? How do I always manage to lose them?

“Mom!” my son yelled. His eyebrows raised and his tone firm.

“What?” I said shaken from my mental dialogue.

“I asked you three times what to put on this cut.”

“What cut?” I asked.

“What do you mean what cut? I just told you! I have a cut on my foot and you said ‘You do?’ and then I asked if I should put a Band-Aid on it and you said ‘Yes.’

“I did?” This was not ringing a bell. How long had Karson been sitting there?

He continued, “Then I asked you if I should put anything on my cut before the Band-Aid and you’re not answering me anymore.”

My hands ceased moving. I held the lame tape dispenser feeling a bit dysfunctional myself. I willed my mind to catch up with the present.

“I’m sorry, Buddy. Even though I was answering you, I wasn’t really listening. Now, let me see your foot.”

It’s not the only incident of multi-tasking malfunction I’ve experience this holiday season. Unfortunately, my distracted and poorly executed interactions are piling up faster than gifts under my tree.

I swerved right into a retail parking lot from the left lane because the conversation on my phone was trumping my defensive driving skills.

I unloaded groceries from the trunk only to realize I forgot the one thing I went to purchase.

I clicked off the computer tab of a work project to open Amazon to search for the gift that’s been eluding me.

I’m distracted in the present.

And when I see pictures from Christmases past my heart hurts as I realize how quickly chubby toddler cheeks have given way to little girl faces. How gifts of blocks and rocking horses have changed to those of video games and craft supplies. Ornaments with globs of dried glue and too much glitter remind me of sweet little hands that now color inside the lines.

The present will soon be the past.

I don’t want to miss life in the future as it plays out in front of my face.

I want to appreciate moments as they happen.

I want to live in the now.

To stop my train of thought and still my hands. To look. To see. To notice.

To pause my typing fingers and wink at my youngest child and study the way her whole face squishes up in such an adorable way as she tries to wink in return.

To look my oldest in the eye and laugh with him as he recounts the antics of the boys at his lunch table.

To hold my second grader’s hand as we walk to the mailbox and to remember how soft her mitten feels in my cold, bare hand.

To feel. To smell. To taste.

To watch. To laugh. To hold.

To notice the now.

To see the present as the gift it truly is.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for approximately 5 minutes about a topic based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: NOW

Finding Sense In The Common.

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I pull the spoon out of the dishwasher and stack it with its fellow tablemates in the drawer. My motions are robotic. I do this same thing almost every single day. It is such a common task that I don’t even have to concentrate on what I am doing.

I push the clothes into the drum of the washing machine and reach up to grab the detergent. My mind is thinking about something else. There is no need to pay attention to each motion of the laundry routine. It is a common work in my life, and I have memorized the actions it takes to complete it.

“Grab your book bag.”

“Where are your shoes?”

“You will need a jacket today.”

All common phrases heard in my home each weekday morning. The same idea. The same routine. Over and over. And then almost always, I see the same results.

My life feels so common.

Being common doesn’t feel very empowering. It’s just so plain and normal. So mundane and run-of-the-mill. So regular. Isn’t that basically the definition of the word itself?

Common.

How can being common be significant?

How can my common life make a difference in this world? How can God use my common routine for His glory? How can common amount to anything at all?

But surely it does.

It just sometimes hides behind the extraordinary.

For example, in the Old Testament, Joseph does an amazing work of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in regards to a coming famine. He leads the Egyptians in the storing up of food for seven years in order to survive the impending drought. His ability and his leadership is so uncommon. He saves a nation from starvation.

But behind his uncommonness are the common. The farmers. The men and women who each day do the work of planting, and tending, and harvesting. The people who put their hands to the plow. The people whose mundane and run-of-the-mill tasks brought up the very food that was stored and that saved.

The common work provided daily bread for the saving of many lives.

Solomon, in his riches and splendor, in his uncommon life as a King of Israel, built a temple in Jerusalem that stunned the onlooker. It was majestic and extraordinary. But behind the amazing structure hid the men who cut the stones in the quarry. Who day-in and day-out did the heavy lifting. Whose brows dripped with sweat and whose muscles grew strong. They did the common daily difficult labor.

The common work laid the very foundation for the House of God.

A crowd of 5,000 hungry men sat waiting to hear Jesus. They then witnessed a wondrous moment when the lunch of a small boy fed them all. Their stomachs were full because of an uncommon miracle of God. Yet, behind the miracle, there was probably a mama who had simply packed her son’s lunch. She did the mundane, robotic task that she probably had done hundreds of times before. She did not know that the very hands of God would take the fruits of the labor, as meager as they were, and multiply them for the glory of God the Father.

The common work fed a multitude and pointed many to the power of God.

So my hands will continue to do the common work. To unload the dishes and reload the washing machine. To pack the book bags and tend to the growth of the children. To complete the mundane tasks that seem insignificant.

Because in the hands of God, the common is extraordinary, after all.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: COMMON

Temporarily derailed.

I walked through my kitchen this week and the sight I beheld across the room into my family room caused me to stop dead in my tracks. My body’s physical reaction is difficult to put into words. It was mixture of nauseous and weakness along with a heightend sense of adrenaline.

Cue the emotional and dreadful music.

Hold your breath.

Wait for it.

Thomas and Friends was on my tv. My 6th grade son was laying on the couch covered in a blanket and staring at the screen.

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Granted, this may not sound like your typical horror scene. I don’t think the little blue train with the happy talking face has been a villain in many settings. He and his colorful train friends are actually quite cute and sweet.

But it’s not them, it’s me. I associate those talking trains with something else. Something painful. Something sad.

The same lanky preteen boy who now lays on the couch fighting pneumonia was once a toddler diagnosed with leukemia. We spent over three years watching this boy get chemo treatments and we lived in isolation. Our most frequent companions were the colorful trains from Thomas and Friends. James, Percy, Gordon, Thomas, Edward… I can still quote many of their friendly British lines.

But it has been over six years since our son finished chemo and he is now a happy and cancer-free middle schooler. He’s active in sports, does his homework, and rarely sits still.

That is until this week when he caught a nasty virus that decided to settle in his left lung and cause him to miss several days of school. It’s pneumonia, but it’s not cancer. It’s “one of those things” that he probably caught from the germ smorgasbord known as public school. It is unrelated to the cancer. It is going to be okay.

But as I walked through the kitchen and saw him sick on the couch not caring enough or possessing the energy to change the channel when Thomas and Friends came on PBS, I stopped and took notice.

Not this again. Please!

After I caught my breath, I took a picture on my smartphone and texted it to my husband. He understood its meaning without much explanation.

“This makes me sick too,” he replied. “But remember how far we have come and that this is not our norm anymore.”

Yes. Another quote I want to commit to memory.

This is not our norm anymore. Time has passed. Change has come.

Our son is healthy. Our God and brilliant doctors helped to heal him.

It took me a few minutes to calm my heart rate and sooth my nerves, but the moment and the perspective I gained have stayed with me.

Sometimes, remembering where you’ve been brings gratitude.

Sometimes, seeing how far you’ve come brings hope.

Sometimes a little blue talking train can remind you that healing does in fact come with the passing of time.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where writers are encouraged to write on a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: HEAL

 

Together.

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The five of us knelt by the couch in our family room. Our hair was blonder and our skin more tan than three months before when summer began. Now it was the night before school started back in session. The eve of routine and alarm clocks.

My husband asked if I’d be the one to pray aloud for the family as we prepared for the next morning and new season of life. I agreed, but took a deep breath first as the thoughts of all the transitions to come filled my mind.

Our oldest child would be heading to middle school in the morning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Many days he’ll leave before the sun comes up. He had practiced his locker combination and reviewed his new schedule sufficiently, yet it felt like the unknowns still trumped our preparation.

Our middle child was off to second grade, where reading skills and independence increase at a surprising but encouraging rate. She’s turning into a little lady right before my eyes.

And the biggest transition that was looming over me and causing my shoulders to be tense with dreaded anticipation was sending our youngest child to Kindergarten. After twelve years of staying home full-time with my children, I felt a sadness about my impending empty day-time nest.

Finally I began to pray aloud. My voice quivered a few times as thanked God for His goodness and the gift of a wonderful summer. I had to swallow several times and clear my throat as I asked Him to guide our children this school year and to give them each the two things I most often request on their  behalf: wisdom and courage.

Wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. 

As I said “Amen” my son glanced my way to verify his suspicion that I was holding back the tears. I shrugged and made small talk about getting up to bed. Transitions are hard enough for the kids without them realizing Mommy is about to melt.

Before they got their last drinks of water for the evening and headed up the steps we gathered in a circle and put our hands together. We were as ready as we could be to face the newness.

Now five days later with a week of school under our belts we’ve dealt with a few highs and lows. We’ve rejoiced about sitting next to best friends and eating really good middle school cafeteria lunches (really?). We’ve also had sobbing at the bus stop wishing for more days at home with Mommy. My heart and neck muscles have been wrenched even further. We’ve had excitement over new opportunities to play in the school band, and disappointment for getting scolding for taking too many grapes in the 2nd grade lunch line. Oh, the grapes of wrath!

But we have each other still.

We’ve got each other’s back and we’ve wiped each other’s tears. We’ve delivered forgotten items to the school and slapped each other on the back with joy over new successes.

And so dear family, my favorite home team, here’s to a great school year and to acceptance of all the transitions that comes our way.

May we have the wisdom to know how to live well, and courage to make it happen!


This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Each Friday a one-word prompt is given here and bloggers are challenged to write for about five minutes about whatever come to mind based on the word. This weeks’ word: TEAM

 

 

Island Issues.

My dad called me earlier this summer and sent me on a mission. He was out of town and afraid Costco would sell out of a large raft he’d seen and he thought we needed it for our upcoming lake vacation.

Operation vacation floatation accepted.

And then I stood frozen in the aisle at Costco. I stared at the box that contained the said raft and dialed Dad’s number. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word raft. The thing comfortably seats seven adults and boasts six cup holders. It may be visible from space.

“You know this thing is ginormous, right?” I said into my phone with raised eyebrows as I tried to figure out how to lift the box into my shopping cart.

“Yes, it will be fun. Just grab it. I’ll pay you back.”

Never mind the story of how I got it into my van with only my six-year-old’s assistance, and how we blew it up and got it into the water and anchored at the lake.

Bottom line: we’ve got our own island now. Zip code not included.

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But here’s the problem. There’s no good way to get on this thing. No ladder. No handles. No flight attendant holding out her hand for assistance.

My process to board the island resembles a walrus rolling onto shore, only not nearly as graceful.

One time my son, who was already on the island, offered his assistance. He pulled me up and our momentum continued until I knocked us both over and landed on top of him.

“Are you okay?” I asked once I found which way was up.

“Yeah, you didn’t hurt me, you just held my head under water for awhile.”

Oh, that’s all. Glad it wasn’t more serious.

The kids are the most successful at boarding the island, but teenagers and grandmas alike have had some serious island arrival issues. We’ve laughed at each other and cheered our successes. Sometimes we tell others to look away so as to save some embarrassment. Other times we own the hilarity.

And as in life on dry land, it helps to know we’re not alone in the struggle.

Sometimes we help each other by offering a hand. Other times we make life better by laughing together at our failures and encouraging each other to try again. Sometimes we take each other down in our desire to be a team, and sometimes we lift each other up in triumph.

But we’re in this life full of struggle together. It’s a lot better that way.

No man is a floating island.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are invited to write for about five minutes about a topic after being given a one-word prompt.

This week’s word: HELP

 

 

 

Snail Spa

I’ve heard it said that no lake vacation is complete without a man-made snail habitat. Er, something like that. But I can’t argue with the saying, because it certainly rang true for us.

While spending a week with our extended family, my daughters and their cousin not only discovered the snails in the shallow water of the lake, but “rescued” them and carried them a good twenty feet from the water to our deck railing. The girls then spent hours caring for the snails and building a natural habitat out of paper bowls, water from a squirt gun, leaves, scissors, and dish soap.

Of course the scissors and leaves were part of the snail clothing design unit and not so much the living quarters, but useful nonetheless.

The habitat was complete and the snails were quite spoiled with their own bathtubs, showers, and even a hot tub. I can’t speak for the snails, but who could really dislike such a variety of hygiene and relaxation options?

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As I watched the girls bathe the snails for the forty-second time it occurred to me that as parents we really don’t need to create fun for our kids as often as we think we do. Sure, sometimes it’s good to play a family board game or a round of “I Spy” in the car, but most of the time, kids just need a little freedom and maybe some Palmolive.

It’s a delight to watch a child’s imagination at work and to see their little hands design and create- even if it leaves you with a mess and a few less paper bowls in your stash.


This post is was inspired by the Five Minute Friday blogging community where bloggers are invited to write about a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. To see more of this week’s post from other bloggers visit here: http://katemotaung.com/2016/07/14/five-minute-friday-create/

This week’s prompt: CREATE