Monday Mayhem: What Are You Missing?

Have you ever asked yourself why?

Why am I here…?

In this town…

At this job…

At this point in my life…

Or, ever wondered when…?

When will I move forward?

Be more, do more, see more?

When will things change?

I have.

Then one day–consumed by papers, deadlines, schedules and plans,  the clock is frowning down on me as I lean into the computer screen and try to decipher my own thinking about this afternoon’s class, I hear a knock on my door.

“Come in!” I yell without looking up and a timid girl slips in without a sound.

I glance up, “Yes?” I notice she has a strange look on her face so I stop what I’m doing and wait.

“Ms.–” there’s a distinct lilt in her voice. It’s musical even though her face is drawn and sad. “I haven’t heard from my family since yesterday and I just don’t know what to do.” She swings herself into the chair next to my desk the way I swing my tote bag down at the end of a long day, exhausted.

Whatever was planned for class that day will have to wait. I turn to face her, wondering what I should say. News reports of historic Category 5 hurricanes hitting defenseless Caribbean islands is all we’ve been hearing about lately. None of the news is good. All of the predictions are “devastating losses” of life and property. The fact that this girl has not heard from her family is a sign that, as expected, the storms have hit her home and knocked out power. There is no way to know if they are dead or alive. And here she is thousands of miles away trying to “do school” and go on, be positive and pray, but it has become more than she can bear.  So she’s come here—to her English teacher’s office—a few minutes before class—and let the floodgates open.

I whisper a prayer to myself, but I realize I don’t need to say much. It is better for me to listen and be a sympathetic ear, to tell her it’s okay to cry and that I, indeed, understand how she feels. I, too, have family in the islands. This is a scary time. I also tell her not to feel guilty for being here “safe and sound” while they are down there in harm’s way. As a mother, I tell her, it would give me great comfort to know that at least one of my children is not in the midst of this storm and I’m sure her mother feels the same way.

Then she asks me to pray for her, and because we’re here, at a Christian school, it’s actually okay for us to do that! So we do, and I ask God to open our eyes the way he did Elisha’s servant when the enemies were surrounding them and it seemed their defeat was certain, so that we could see his army that surrounded the enemy, outnumbering them!  In that moment we needed to be reminded and encouraged that He who is for us is greater than all that is against us.

She thanked me and left.

And wouldn’t you know it? After class she told me she received a call from home! There was some damage to her house, but her family was safe. I later heard from my family members as well. So, our story had a happy ending!  But that’s actually not the end of the story…

I began by saying that I often ask myself “why am I here?” And I sometimes even sink into a pit of despair as I think about where I would like to be, but then I have experiences like this and I feel like Elisha’s servant looking out over the hills of Dothan–first feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the enemy of doubt and low self-esteem–and then dumbstruck by the reality that I am, after all, not left alone to face that enemy when he opens my eyes and allows me to see the vast host of God’s army standing behind them with chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:17)

So, a few weeks later, I’m having another paper-filled, lesson-plan, meeting and worry-whirlwind kind of morning when there’s another knock on my door.

“Come in!”

It’s the sweet Caribbean girl again! “Oh, I’m glad you’re here” she says. “I’ll be right back,” and a few minutes later she reappears carrying these…

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“I just wanted to thank you for praying with me,” she says, and this time it was my turn to let the floodgates open.

I was the teacher, but that day my student taught me a lesson.   So often my time and attention is spent looking elsewhere, but is my purpose right in front of me?  How often am I distracted by what’s not while I continually ignore what is? Like Elisha’s servant, my eyes needed opening and the gorgeous blooms gave me an appropriate jolt.

Why am I here?

For moments like this.

What about you?

Happy Monday!

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Daily Post: #enlighten

Monday Mayhem: Dare to do what you love/hate!

We met a pediatrician recently who shared a story of his early days of clinical work. He and several other interns would see patients at a walk-in clinic. A nurse manager was responsible for doing the initial assessments then she would assign each patient to one of the doctors for treatment. As it was a clinic, there were no appointments, so on any given day one never knew what kinds of patients he or she would see.  However, this particular doctor noticed that he was getting all of the mental health patients while the other doctors were getting a variety, and often the “easy” stuff–runny noses and the common cold.  Annoyed by this apparent disparity and worn out by the more difficult patient load, he confronted the nurse manager.

“Why are you givng me all of these patients and not giving any to the other doctors? It’s not fair!” he complained.

“Why do you think?” she shot back. “You’re the only one who has proven you can actually help them. When I give those patients to the other doctors, they sit with them all day and get nowhere! My waiting room gets backed up and it’s a mess. I give them to you and you get them in and out.”

My doctor friend wasn’t sure how to respond to this, but vowed that once he had put in his time at the clinic and was able to open his own practice he would see to it that he would only see the kinds of patients that he wanted to and he would pass on those others…

Fast forward decades later this same doctor is now well-established and, indeed, in a position to choose the kinds of patients to treat, or not. And guess what? His pediatric patients who have come in with mental health issues have found his knack for counseling to be good medicine.  Word has spread to the wider community and his services have begun to fill a need. He now sees far fewer pediatric cases and far more mental health cases.

“Isn’t that something?” He said as he slipped into his crisp white coat and prepared to leave us. With a sigh and a shrug he waved goodbye and let the office door close behind him.

Then his nurse leaned in as if to share with us a little secret.”Don’t let him fool you,” she said. “He loves it, and he’s good with them. They come in here all down and depressed, then, next thing you know, you hear them in there laughing and talking. He’ll get down on the floor with them and draw pictures, all kinds of things. Before you know it, they’re leaving out of here all smiles and feeling better! He acts like he doesn’t like it, but he was meant to do this.”

Wow.

For some reason, her words hit me.

We usually assume that the things we’re meant to do are things we enjoy doing. Things we know we’re meant to do, not things we dread doing or things we try to avoid! Here’s a man who spent his entire career trying to avoid this type of work and yet he apparently has a gift for it. Is it possible that our gifts could be things we despise?

Might it actually be necessary to wrestle with the gifts and talents that we have as we figure out what we can and should be doing with them?

It seems to me that the moral of this story is that if we have a knack for something, if we’re naturally good at it–even if we don’t particularly care for it–we should not run from it. Maybe we aren’t meant to do it all the time–but for a time.  

But, when that time comes we must not turn away (if you’re good at it, and it can help someone, how can you say no?)… because some of our gifts we love… and some we hate.  It’s ok.  Do it anyway.

Happy Monday!

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P.S.Who’s on first? I make A Case for Second Place

Monday Mayhem: STRETCH!

Hear the audio version of this on the WLRH Sundial Writer’s Corner!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

It’s a truth that not many know about me! But there it is. In black and white now, for all the world to see. When I was a little girl my mom spoke often of putting me in ballet, but the cosmos did not align in my favor for many things that I wanted as a little girl.

Life happens.

You grow up. You tuck away your childhood dreams and go on.

I admired ballerinas from afar, attended Alvin Ailey performances and with my daughter watched the Nutcracker with awe and wonder.

Fortunately, when she expressed a desire to dance, I was able to enroll her in a little studio not far from our house and I’ve watched with awe and wonder as she’s developed grace and poise in a very short time. When I registered her for the summer the studio owner reminded me, again, that they offer “adult” classes and I told myself, again, that I’m “too old for this” now. My time has passed. I’m past my prime.

It would be a stretch to take ballet at my age…literally!

But, then I thought, why not stretch? Stretching is good! Physically, stretching increases range of motion, prevents injury and  improves balance, but psychologically? Emotionally? Professionally? Stretching can be scary. Reaching for goals that are not just beyond my reach, but beyond my zip code!  Extending myself to attempt things that are so far outside of my skillset that I have to do research before I can even start? No. My courage is a bit atrophied from decades of settling for tasks that fall safely within the parameters of my paygrade, from sticking with activities that lie limply under the canopy of my job description. So, the thought of crawling out from under that safe, yet confining space was frightening!

When atrophied muscles begin to move, the result is resistance. When we wander into unknown territory, the initial move is hard. To stretch beyond the comfort zone is to pull away from the familiar and to risk pain. That’s why it’s easier to stay where I am, to stick to what’s expected of me at my age, to settle, rather than to stretch.

But, there’s another reality:  if I do nothing I die! For years I’ve watched others do things I wished I could do. I’ve spent much of my life on the bench, observing from the sideline. At the end of my life will I be content to say, “boy it sure was fun to watch everyone else living their life!” No! It’s high time I get in the game and do some living myself!  Physically, if a person doesn’t move, they will deteriorate. Psychologically, emotionally and professionally the same is true too. Because anything that is not moving is declining; anything that isn’t living is dying!

The bottom line is, I have two choices. I can either get old or I can grow old.

If I get old I stay where I am, in my comfort zone, doing what’s safe, completing the easy tasks that I know I can do, never stretching myself to do any more or to try anything new. And every year I’ll get older.

Or I can step out of my comfort zone. Break away from what’s safe, challenge myself to tasks that seem too hard for me, stretch myself to do more than I think I’m capable of and to try new things that I never thought I could. And every year I’ll grow older.  I’ll stretch, I’ll change; hopefully I’ll be stronger and better for the effort and experience.

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So, what about you? Do you need to stretch? Have you settled into a safe space and allowed your literal or metaphorical muscles to atrophy? Maybe it’s time to peek out from under your canopy. In the meantime, if, you’ll excuse me, I have some stretching to do, my ballet class will be starting soon!

  • Learn more about the benefits of stretching from Prevention
  • Learn more about my favorite little dance studio Arabesque Dance Arts
  • Also, check out “Hi, I’m K” where I’ve uploaded pictures from my ballerina daughter’s birthday “spa” party!

*Want more Monday Mayhem? Click here!

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