Let’s Bounce

When you hear the word “resilient”, what first comes to mind? I think of hard working, driven and disciplined. For me, the word ignites images of an athlete in training with pouring sweat erupting, gritted teeth showing and fierce effort being expended. However, synonyms listed for resilient are: elastic, expansive, rebounding, snapping back, flexible and adaptable. These words evoke images of a bouncy ball, a slingshot or a stretchy wad of play dough.

What if real Resiliency isn’t so much about trying hard with teeth pressed, what if it’s more about letting go and bouncing back like a free rubber ball? What if it’s about being adaptable, flexible and even whimsical?

What got me exploring the word “resilient” you ask? A visit with a woman who lives it. Her name is Cassandra.Cassandra has type one diabetes and has faced health challenges for years. Surgeries, transplants, strokes, countless moves, hospital stays … more hospital stays, job changes, job losses, disappointments, successes, tears, celebrations, questions, frustrations, faith, hope, nieces, family, church … more disappointments, more questions, doctors, ambulances sirens and innumerable blood sugar readings … For Cass, this has been life – for years. The wading through the ups and downs of life is resilience.

Has Cassandra been a disciplined workhorse every moment of the battle? No. Has she consistently decided to search for the positive and soldier on with faith? Yes. Amazingly. Her bounce back astounds me! For all of us, there will be aspects of life that feel like an uphill climb. As long as we have breath, we will be getting bounced around. Sometimes, we will make mistakes, and sometimes, life will kick us in the pants. Resilience is the bounce back.

Resiliency looks like the unsexy rising to your feet after taking a big fat fall on the sidewalk pavement – open wounds and all. It looks like the bumbling that happens right after you showcase a clumsy moment on the ski hill.

I think this is why we often miss the beauty of resiliency in our own lives … and in the lives of others. We are looking for the perfectly toned athlete gracefully hopping over hurdles – when true resiliency is the ability to rise again after a hurdle brings you down … because if we are honest, sometimes, they will bring you down … and that’s ok. Before heading for Heaven, Jesus said, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” – John 16:33 msg

So, let’s bounce. Let’s defy false notions of resiliency, recognize the ways we have rebounded over, over, and over again in life – and celebrate the unique beauty of our own ups and downs! The true dazzle of resiliency is in the decision to bounce.

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A Heart Start

“I’m in a hurray to get this done, Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

I remember hearing these lyrics slide down the hallway as a little girl. The 1992 Alabama hit was often the beat that blared on my parents’ radio alarm clock. I remember hearing my parents plodding footsteps in response to the jingle. The stillness of our home was brought to life by the pulse-pumping tune.

In the same way this song brought life to my home, the hearts of people wake up when they play. To play is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” Sometimes, our adult responsibility radar tells us that we don’t have time, energy or any good reason to play. We become experts at “Getting things done” and we can forget to “Be a real person.” The good news is, in the famous words of the Big Shakes himself, we get to choose “To be or not to be.” When we choose to play, we choose to be … To be real, instead of simply doing all that needs to get done, as a robot would.

As a kid, my feet moved freely and flamboyantly and I was constantly in exploration mode. My mom would keep me occupied in grocery stores and doctor’s offices by instructing me to use my mind to scheme and envision captivating stories. When I was lost in creative recreation, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I pranced around with awkward boogie moves and came up with the most outlandish tales. One time, as any theatrical, pudgy pre-K student would, when my mom asked me what I was doing, I responded by saying “I am imaginating.” Yes, I knew how to ham it up, and goofing off was my middle name. I felt secure, loved and free to be me.

In one sense, it is a positive thing for a human to outgrow this kind of oblivious behavior and to recognize appropriate behaviors for appropriate settings. However, if we outgrow playtimes all together – something inside us dies.

God made you with imaginative curiosity, and when you go too long without play, you pay. Sometimes, the waves of life erode a person’s desire to play. However, if you only play when you feel like it, you may go far too long without this soul-splashing heart start. Sometimes you simply need to work to play.

While the Alabama country music crew had a point, things do need to get done, we get stuff done with more joy when play times are interspersed throughout the work. Play and productivity are not at odds. Research says that play (doing things for the wild fun of it) is critical for healthy human development and fulfillment.

It takes a secure person to let the old guard down and goof off. We were crafted to feel secure in the love of God. We were made with the capacity for whimsical expressions and unrestrained originality. God made us so the exploration of new ideas and thoughts ooze oompth and vigor into our souls. As we develop our imagination muscles, we can think of all kinds of ways to solve problems in the world – big and small – from spheres of medicine to poverty to education to politics. We make space for this when we play … when we be. So, if you are looking to trade mundane for marvelous –whether it be through ping-pong, scrapbooking, dancing, chess, yahtzee, photography, or cross word puzzles – schedule in a good heart start!

Die Laughing

I am convinced we are all dying to die laughing. In the past, I have taken myself too seriously. I have approached too many tasks feeling like the world depends on me (thinking myself rather important wasn’t I?), and have really wanted to be thought highly of. Therefore: I have avoided errors and humiliation like a bride evades a downpour.

This week at my workplace, after allowing my words to jump far ahead of my thoughts – I found myself shoving my foot in my mouth more frantically than a mouse scurries from a pouncing cat (Yes friends, it was THAT ugly). In fact, right after the ill-fated event, two of my co-workers made the following comments in between taunting and teasing snickers, “That may be the worst social interaction disaster I have ever been apart of” and “You just lead us right into a train wreck!” There was a time I would have felt rather insecure and stupid in this moment, however – it’s times like these – I am learning to appreciate this kind of ludicrous discomfort. Instead of giving myself a personal scolding, I made the mental note not to repeat the blunder and let myself laugh rather uproariously along with my taunting comrades at my own clumsy social skills … It felt amazing. Because laughter feeds life. Because I am not all that important. Because no one is going to remember my mistakes or embarrassments tomorrow. (Well… this one might last until next week – but my point remains) Laughter is like a good soul sweat – it purges and cleanses in the most mysterious ways.

Fortunately, God’s assessment of our value has nothing to do with us avoiding blunders, possessing great social skills, or being liked by people. While it’s nice to stay clear of slip-ups, converse smoothly and to be liked, these things do not increase a person’s value – or dictate identity. God does. And we, ladies and gentlemen, are His magnum opus.

In order to live freely and fully, we need to stand firm in the truth: we are wondrously valuable right in the midst of missteps, oversights and embarrassments. So be brave enough to believe God, and next time you stumble into an awkward comedic moment like this one – don’t crawl under a figurative rock … Stop. Breathe. Give yourself a break. Kick the inhibitions and self-conscious feelings. Make space to laugh, dream imagine and explore. Let your chortle rumble, your abs jolt, your shoulders dance, and your snort fly free (Ok – maybe assess the situation before releasing the snort). It has been said, “Laughter is poison to fear” … and God has good reason to tell us “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

Check out the health benefits that accompany a Hardy chuckle:

  1. Lowers blood pressure
  2. Increases vascular blood flow
  3. Oxygenates the blood
  4. Gives a workout to the diaphragm and abdominal muscles
  5. Works out the respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles
  6. Reduces stress hormones
  7. Increases the response of tumor and disease killing cells
  8. Increases memory and learning
  9. Defends against respiratory infections
  10. Improves alertness, creativity and memory

The truth is, deep down, we are all dying to die laughing.

 

 

A Full Piece of Peace

Peace is not quiet or stillness. It is not always found by stopping, resting, slowing or ceasing (In fact, tension and stress can find a great breeding ground in a numbed or dormant mind). Peace is a state of being – It is about who you are more than what is going on around you.

Last weekend, a big sizzling BBQ and two birthdays brought family and friends together to celebrate. I started with a tiny piece of cake – thinking it would satisfy. (Honesty: If the cake is chocolate, a little bite doesn’t cut). Similarly, when we are seeking peace in our lives, we don’t have to be content with a tiny nibble here and there, God has given us peace in full.

At the birthday, there were many parts moving, swirling, screaming and cruising. There was laughter, balloons, cake smears and juice spills. There were muddy-kid moments, raindrops, teardrops and frazzled hair dos (Saskatchewan humidity can do that to a girl in July). The truth is, if you throw your heart into life, you can expect the mess.

No – peace cannot be found by avoiding the mayhem – because peace is about fullness of life. By staying out of the muddle, days may become quiet and pristine, but empty. Peace never means empty, it means to flourish, it means full.

Peace comes from the word shalom meaning wholeness or completeness. Oh yes – this kind of peace can actually stand strong and mighty in disarray, mayhem, havoc and outrageous pandemonium. Peace is here. Peace is now. When Jesus exhaled his last on a jagged tree, He made it possible for you to release the broken and scattered pieces of your own life moment by moment and seize His wholeness –His peace.

Before leaving the world for His seat in Heaven beside God Himself, Jesus said, “I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” – John 14:27 msg

Peace is the Spirit of God, and we have been given His Spirit in full. We have peace in the muddy boots on the clean floor, in the construction on the freeway, the conflicts at work, the alarming news stories. Peace in relationships, purchases, volunteering, entertainment, cooking, thinking, celebrating, and even in the mourning.

It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul loved to begin His letters to the early Churches with the fortifying words, “Peace to you.” Today, recognize the full piece of peace God is serving you.