A Little ‘Attaboy’ Goes a Long Way

Zeke is good to go!

He stood there behind me in the checkout line at the Habitat Restore clutching two 10’ pieces of 2” PVC pipe. Wearing a cut-off sleeved flannel, dirty ball cap and jeans, he looked every bit the redneck Hoosier stereotype. He yelled across the store to a lady pushing a cart full of sundries, “Sarah! If I cut these in half I will have two 5’ pieces each. All I need to do is paint the ends with some bright orange paint and I am good to go.” She didn’t say anything. A moment later, “If I cut these in half, I will have two 5’ pieces!” No response. Another few moments, “Two 5 footers each!” 

My first response was to roll my eyes inwardly because clearly she was not interested or was embarrassed by the spectacle. Like dude, stop. I laughingly messaged the little story to my friend Kaycee and her response was on point. She said, “Dude was proud of himself. He was just looking for an ‘attaboy.’ All he wanted was a pat on the back. We all like an ‘attaboy’ or an ‘attagirl’ and some things that might seem so easy or simple for some of us are actually a big deal to others.” 

Well. Shut my mouth. 

There’s a lesson here for me. Maybe for you too, if you are reading this. People — humans — are all looking for some sort of affirmation, especially from those who are significant in our lives. Those moments in my life where I accomplish some little thing or figured out something and I just want someone to notice and mention it are important to me — sometimes illogically so, but they are. Likewise, I am trying to be the one who notices those moments in the lives of those I encounter and try to compliment or make mention of what I observe. Whether the cashier tried a new hairstyle, or the barista is happy because he got a new lady in his life, it’s fun to smile, engage with them and be an encourager. I have been going to see Zeke play T-Ball it’s a bunch of 4 year olds. They have no idea how to play this game yet, but they are learning in a safe environment, surrounded by coaches and parents who are encouraging and cheering them on — “Run to first! Good job! Ok, now when she hits the ball, run to second!” And I see Zeke smile and nod and  give the thumbs up. 

I know that I appreciate being encouraged — whether it is a simple “go you!” message from my friend Stephanie, or a heartfelt thank-you from Bob, those words of affirmation – the ‘attaboys’ give us all a little light and hope to carry on each day. 

A Day in the Life of

The Michigan City Lighthouse with Chicago’s skyline in the distance.
  • 7:30 Alarm. What that what?! Shut up!
  • 7:37 Text from Bob re: electrician’s arrival.
  • 7:40 Sigh. Get up and get ready.
  • 8:02 Arrive at The Camp. Glad I live next door!
  • 8:03 Open the office and check emails.
  • 8:05 Start working on finances for my weekly meeting.
  • 8:50 Have a clarity meeting with Electrician.
  • 9:00 Start researching lighting options for room.
  • 9:20 Talk with builder about inspections, plans, etc.
  • 9:45 Take photos of construction progress. (This happens throughout the day, actually).
  • 10:00 Jake arrives to work outside in the amazing weather. Meanwhile, I am inside wishing I was outside.
  • 10:10 Simultaneously work on finances and researching lighting.
  • 11:20 Brief staff meeting.
  • 11:35 Discussion with Bob re: building project. (We actually have several of these per day, typically).
  • 12:00 Run Payroll and put checks in boxes.
  • 12:20 Help Jake get pond up and running. He did a great job cleaning it all out. Found the goldfish that did not, sadly, survive the winter.
  • 1:05 Lunch … mmmm … toasted bagel with spinach greens and chicken.
  • 1:30 Meet with Electrician and make some changes to design. Flexibility is key, isn’t it!
  • 1:45 Finalizing lighting choice. Electrician approves. We are good to go finally!
  • 1:48 Meet with Bob after his return with new permits. Good communication with the county is always helpful.
  • 2:00 Finish financial report for the week. This helps me keep everything straight with payables and how things function each week.
  • 2:30 Rake leaves with Jake. Yes! I get to go outside for a while. Good conversation too. I have missed having this guy around!
  • 3:15 Take apart and load up old boards from the wall demo into truck and take to Denny’s. He will use these for his zipline project in the playground.
  • 3:35 Take photos of construction progress. Yup.
  • 3:37 Clean up job site. Errrrryday. Today was cursory. Usually I am more thorough.
  • 3:45 Christie calls all area Menards to find out how many lights each one has on hand. Thank you for doing this… so helpful!
  • 4:00 Make some phone calls.
  • 4:15 Send email to HVAC supply. That’s the next leg of my research journey.
  • 4:40 Run to Bank to cash paycheck. I only have $13 in my account. Yikes!
  • 5:05 Grab a water and a Clif bar at the gas station and then drive to the South Bend Menards to get the lights they have.
  • 6:05 Hi Scott and Traci! Met these two cool kids in the parking lot and discuss politics for a few minutes. Because, why not? And you know… the Great Lakes are very deep! And big! Right?
  • 6:06 Drive an hour to Michigan City Menards to get the lights they have. Very helpful lighting lady who remembers Christie’s call.
  • 6:31 Talk to Liz Carey as she waits under the canopy (it’s raining today in FL) for Dave and Anna to get done with the Avatar ride at Disney.
  • 7:40 Drive to Washington Park to catch an amazing sunset. Michigan City has a bazillion stop signs.
  • 7:55 Take photos. The beach is beautiful and it is so warm. So many people out just enjoying the day. Lots of laughter, kids playing, couples hugging and holding hands. Life is happening all around and it is a beautiful thing.
  • 8:30 Stop at Starbucks as I am heading out of Michigan City.
  • 8:40 Drive an hour home. Good time to just drive and breathe and be.
  • 9:31 Stop at Meijer for groceries. Quick trip in and out! I want to get home!
  • 10:15 Make something to eat.
  • 10:17 Download photos to process.
  • 11:45 Finish processing and post photos to albums on Facebook.
  • 12:04 Finish writing a post about a Day in the Life of.
  • 12:10 Head to bed… do some reading first before lights out.

Google God and the Power of Slowing Down

Immediate gratification is the hallmark of our society. From instant information, overnight shipping, uber-eats delivery, diets, fitness, FaceTime, to YouTube, virtually any product we desire is at our fingertips. We can know anything in microseconds. It’s an incredible age. So it goes that because of all this, we tend to expect the same response of God, as if He is a Google search. 

Google is incredibly fast. It has become so interwoven into our daily lives that honestly, most of us would not know what to do without it. Need to figure out a pressing computer problem? Google it. Bam. Answer. Car is acting weird or you need to know how to change that headlight? Google it. Bam. YouTube video. Can’t remember what song you just heard? Google the lyric. Bam. Metrolyrics and YouTube. It’s how we roll these days. So much so that if you happen to ask someone a question, you might get a scornful, “Hello, you have Google. Why you asking me?”  Truth is, we don’t have to know things or even retain them because there is this massive repository of knowledge and information at our command. I read that Google can return 3.44 million results in a about a quarter of a second. When you think about what went into that, it is pretty staggering. Google had to “accept your query, parse it, figure out the word order, look up the information in its database, personalize your results by taking into account what it knows about you (which is A LOT), rank the results, ad send the result back to your browser (Source).” Because of that, we are now accustomed to having information within a second. When we dont get a response, we growl at our phones or whine impatiently at the computer, “Why is this taking so long!”

So it is with our relationships, specifically with the Divine. God exists in a realm beyond our time and space and doesn’t respond or operate the way our culture of instant response often demands. Because of our fast-paced-information-saturated-need-to-know-and-have-now-instant society, we quite literally practice impatience. You know how is when you text someone and they don’t respond for a few minutes, or (gasp) even worse, a whole day! Suddenly your emotions are all out of joint and your mind creates ridiculous scenarios as to what is going on. And then they respond with, “Oh yeah, sorry, didn’t have my phone on me.” [Did you know that one of the biggest causes of anxiety today for millennials is phone-related.] So the change in society to the demands of this barrage of communication and expected response might make the idea of talking to God seem ridiculous. Most times, we either throw up quick prayers of desperation or need in urgent situations, or we actually quiet ourselves and pray. Because God is not bound to our time or level of urgency nor does He respond audibly (most of the time), our culture can quickly dismiss the concept of “waiting for a response from the Lord” as archaic or silly and probably a waste of time. 

How then in this age of instant, do we communicate with the Divine? And when we do, how do we know that it is even Him when we get a response? I think there is something to be said for waiting. For slowing down. For centering yourself. For meditation, reflection. Getting into a place where you breathe and begin to listen. When you read the scriptures and begin to pray and meditate about what you are reading — I mean really start breaking down the words and phrases — and when things start to come alive and you start pairing those concepts and stories to what your heart is feeling and what your mind is praying for; it’s incredible how you can receive such illumination [and even revelation] that directly correlates with the questions you are asking or situations you are facing. The truth is that the reality of instant is fostering impatience in all of us as a culture. We all know that anything that is beautiful and intricate — art, sculpture, song, architecture, a good book — took time to create; sometimes years or sometimes even a lifetime. In the scriptures, we read the Noah story and how many years he labored building a giant ark. We read how Moses waited for 40 years in the wilderness before being called into a leadership role. Some of the stories are about people who never even saw the results of their lives of faith, yet they chose to endure (Hebrews 11). They were in communication with the Divine in ways that we struggle with today because of the distraction of … well, everything. It reminds me of the story in I Kings 19 where Elijah the prophet stood at the edge of a cave and witnessed a massive windstorm and a dramatic earth shaking followed by the sound of a gentle wind; and it was in the sound of the whispering wind that He heard the quiet voice of God. Not in the big show of thunder and lightning. Not in the moving and shaking. In that peaceful moment of quiet. That is a picture of how God wants to speak to me. Where the distractions are minimized. Where I quiet down my busy mind and seek out the truths, like hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4).

 God does not always choose to respond immediately. And that’s hard for me. Inside, I naturally want to do what is right and make wise decisions. Yet so many times, I have gotten ahead of God because of my own “make it happen right now” mentality. I have chosen to not wait and I wonder if I might have missed out on some cool blessings because of my own impatience. More than once I have said the words about foolish decisions (like going into debt for a vehicle that I really couldn’t afford) “God, if you want me to have this Jeep, then the bank will approve the loan and I will take that as an open door that you want me to have it.” Yeahhhh…. No. That’s not how it works. God has given us wisdom — in fact, the book of Proverbs alone is an incredible resource of common sense, practical thinking. We often have men and women in our lives with years of experience (in both good and bad decisions) that we can ask for advice. We have mentors, teachers, bosses, and the stories of people throughout history who have walked roads and made choices from which we can learn valuable lessons. So when I don’t “hear from God” as quickly as I want to or believe that I should, I think it is a good idea to press pause. Take some time. Pray. Meditate. Talk to some people who you trust. And sometimes your answer will come in unexpected ways.

In the case of that Jeep that I couldn’t really afford but I realllly wanted… well, I went to the bank (a guy I knew was the manager) to apply for the loan.

BANKER: “Yes, it’s pretty tight, but you can do it, and we will approve the loan, but the interest rate will be higher because of your debt-income ratio.”

ME: “Awesome! This MUST be of God!” 

BANKER: “Ok, I never do this, but even though we approved the loan, I just want to tell you that I don’t think you should do this. I know you are a Christian, and I am feeling that this is not the season for you to go into this much debt. Why don’t you give it a day and pray about it.”

ME: “Uhhhh ok. Thanks.”

So I go to another bank. You know, because I was irritated because I really wanted this Jeep. I just chose one at random and went in.

BANKER 2: “Yes we can do the loan. No problem. Your debt-income ratio isn’t great but you have a good job so if you are careful you can pull it off.”

ME: “Yes! Confirmation!” 

BANKER 2: “I don’t know you at all, and this goes against what I do as a banker — you know, giving out loans — but I am feeling that this is not the time for you to do this. If I were you, I would really take a few days and think about this.”

ME: “Seriously?!”
 
Needless to say, that caught my attention, and I am grateful to both of those men for telling me truth because it was shortly after that I left Grace and moved to Voice, where I had no income for a while. So even though I thought that “God was opening a door,” (He wasn’t, that was all me), God was actually using two men to speak some wisdom to me about what I needed to do.

Wow, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but to bring it all back to the beginning, we want the instant. We want the immediate breakthrough — those ah-ha moments of enlightenment. David Perkins, a research professor at Harvard said, “If you look historically at breakthroughs, the story is never just about the key insight. It’s also about what led up to it and what followed it.” That’s called process. That takes time. In fact, our character is formed though the process. I was talking to my friend Deanna about this idea a few months ago, and she said, “Part of what I am processing is that we have been waiting for breakthrough for many years. But I am understanding that the process, the formation of our character into Christ-likeness, into humility, purity, and love are so important to the Father. It’s that inner transformation.” Refining takes time. Creation takes time. How many pots and vases are sculpted and reformed again and again until it is right? My demand for instant change or instant answers bypasses the essential part of life — the daily living in steady forward motion, enduring trials and tests, experiencing joys and sorrows, being formed and reformed, like Deanna was saying. Thus my communication with the Divine is constant. When I cultivate a level of communication where I am always conversing —  not just when I’m hurting or in urgent situations — then I begin to understand the voice of God as it speaks to me in my inner-man; as others speak His truth to me; as I read the pages of scriptures and writings of others who have walked roads before me and with me; and as I walk the trails in the quiet woods and stand on the shores of Lake Michigan. 

God’s not Google. He’s far beyond that. His algorithm is much more complex and his perspective is infinite. Yet He is speaking all the time. It’s all around me. He’s all around me. I am learning to slow down, breathe… and really listen. 

Footnotes: Two very interesting resources I used were about Google Results and The Power of Slow.

St. Patrick’s Day Hike

A sunny, warm afternoon spent hiking the hills and trails with my sturdy Oboz Sawtooth trail boots led me along the great expanse of a beautiful blue lough. The singing birds and the sun glinting off the waves was the perfect backdrop for a St. Patrick’s Day walk. The air was brisk though, and I was indeed grateful for my Irish SeaFaring Sweater. This 100% Shetland wool garment was hand spun in Bonniconlon, County Mayo and it’s roomy ribbed design provides warmth for even the most active deckhand. It’s rich emerald color evokes memories of Ireland’s rolling hills and brought a tear to my eye as I just, for a few moments, heard the lilting sounds of a tin whistle in the distance. 

“I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
— W.B. Yeats,The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I should write for J. Peterman. Seriously.