Friday, March 30, 2012


Caution: Rant Ahead.

This ad bothers me. It's certainly not the only one, but is a representative example.

See those faces? Nope, me neither. Their faces -- so central to how we recognize and interact with each other -- apparently have nothing to do with "the real you." Instead, this ad paints a very narrowly defined picture of what we are to aspire to be; that is, thin and well-toned. Grrr.

This company offers such significant results easily -- no pain, no loss of valuable time, no loss of coolness. Just like all the important things in life, right?

A quote I saw recently:
"In the factory, we make cosmetics;
in the store we sell hope."
(C. Revson)

I am reminded by this ad and by the quote to consider more deeply my own purchases. Am I buying something worthwhile, or am I grasping for hope, for distraction, for too much ease? Hmmm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Space in Between, Part XIII: Clouds

We went to Disneyland when I was a kid. Characters of all kinds had human legs, and flying carpet rides involved neither carpets nor flying. It was certainly fun, but not really magical.

But the flight to California? That was magical. Dad guided us all confidently through an airport with lots of lights, a bazillion corridors, and more people than I'd probably seen before in my life. Forever later, we turned into another "corridor" -- which I began to realize was actually the inside of an airplane -- and found our seats. Much settling and many words later, that big people-filled tube began to move, and a few minutes later we were flying. We were flying!

View from plane, 2012
I spend more time these days in airplanes and airports, and it does not hold quite the fascination it did that first time, but there is still something magical about it. I still love ascending, especially when we reach the altitude of the cloud-bottoms and it looks like they have been poured out flat onto a massive glass canopy in the sky. I love the way light interacts with the water to form white rays and diffuse colors. I love the wispy streaks and the fluffy-looking cotton and everything in between, and I especially love seeing the different patterns forming in the sky.

The clouds captured me while driving to Oregon a couple of days ago. I watched as they formed and re-formed, creating patterns at once familiar and new. I spent several quiet hours driving and pondering the clouds. What is there that captures my heart?

Clouds are a sign of an often-unseen reality, of forces invisible yet powerful, life-changing, life-sustaining. They form at the borders of air masses, and they themselves become border places. Clouds symbolize those times in life when opposing forces meet. They are metaphors of boundary points. They are reminders of moments when a veil is lifted and previously-unseen factors become visible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hazardously Askew

During the big windstorm back in December, Mark saw a shed from elsewhere in the neighborhood rolling rather spectacularly down the street. We had some damage, but our shed was still in place.

Mostly, anyway. It had wiggled several inches to the side and sat a little crooked, and the doors weren't quite straight, but it wasn't wildly catawampus. And in the midst of everything else, it was pretty to ignore the shift. So we did.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I returned home to find our shed flipped upside-down in the back yard. We certainly hadn't had the hurricane-force winds of December 1, but because the shed wasn't quite aligned, the wind had a way in. And because it wasn't anchored, that was enough. Even being just a little askew was enough to throw it off.

It's a pretty big shed, and heavy. Mark and I certainly couldn't manage it on our own. We called friends, who came over to help roll it back. The structure had been weakened a bit in the process, and got just a bit further askew, but not much. Our shed back in place, we were grateful for our friends, and happy and at ease again. We hoped we could get the doors back on and all would be well.

Hoped. As in past-tense. As in something that was true at some previous point but is true no more.

Hoped, past-tense, because it is windy again. Specifically, "Wind from SSW at 15mph gusting to 21mph."

And, once again, even just that little wind was enough to pick up the shed and roll it over.

I am reminded, yet again, of Susan Scott and Ernest Hemingway and Jon Acuff. How did our shed get into our back yard? "Gradually, then suddenly," I am reminded, too, of times when I have felt flipped suddenly like a turtle -- sometimes through no fault of my own, but other times clearly the result of my own small steps.

Metaphor abound.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy-ish Birthday-ish

The letter began: "Let me be the first to wish you a happy birthday." Coming five weeks before that pleasant occasion, it was indeed my first "happy birthday" of the year.

And then -- a life insurance quote, given "in honor of another promising year."

I'm guessing this letter looked better in the idea stage, because the implementation stage was just odd.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Leaving Things Undone

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials." (Lin Yutang)

It is only in recent years that I've engaged in the season of Lent, or have even really learned much about it. It has become a significant time for me each year, much more than I'd expected.

One of the Lenten traditions is to give something up for these weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter -- sweets, coffee, soda, one meal per day, fiction books, car radio, computer games, television, movies, Facebook, or whatever.

A few years ago, I committed to what might be considered an anti-fast, in which I had an actual lunch every day, usually fixing it myself, and ate it while not working on anything else. (Yeah, this was a definite adjustment.) It didn't look like the traditional practices of Lent, but this discipline was an act of intentional slowing and reflection, a sacrifice of time -- challenging and influential in that time of my life.

Joshua Becker shaped my considerations this year in his post on The Opportunity of Lent, and especially his description of choosing "one controlling influence" to abstain from for forty days. I pondered that, recognizing truth and wisdom for me in those words.

It took a few days to reach this conclusion, but the "one controlling influence" to step back from for a time this year? My to-do list. Not the roles or responsibilities, but the list which had begun to rule my days. It was distracting during times of engagement and lurked in the corners during times of rest. Somewhere along the way, The List had ceased to be a tool and had integrated itself into my very being.

It's been a week now, and I'm still a little concerned about missing an important deadline. The world has continued to spin, though, which bodes well for the next five weeks. Perhaps the List of Important Things... wasn't.

More importantly, I have found myself free to be more fully present this past week with people I love. This is a very good thing.

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials." (Lin Yutang)

As with previous Lenten fasts, I think I've got a pretty good understanding of some of the ways I will be shaped during these six weeks. And also, as with previous Lenten fasts, I trust I'll be surprised in the process, too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Lent and a Traffic Accident

There was an accident on the freeway several years ago which wasn't fatal, nor even (it seemed) very injurious, but it certainly did muck up traffic. Best I could tell, a truck hauling a trailer filled with port-a-potties was the primary involved, and the ensuing spread of chemicals required hazardous materials cleanup. The freeway was completely closed -- every lane -- for hours. Added to that, the accident took place north of where I-215 splits from I-15, and Legacy wasn't in place yet, so the closure effectively eliminated the only significant road from Davis County into Salt Lake, and it happened near the start of morning commute, which made things exponentially worse.

I happened to be driving north on I-15 around 10am that day. Cars had been stopped on the freeway for a very, very long time -- literally parked, bumper-to-bumper, from North Salt Lake to somewhere around Farmington. Drivers had long since quit idling their engines and were milling about on the freeway.

I turned on the radio and listened to a station which does traffic updates. Probably their reports of "yep, traffic is still stopped" had gotten old, so they decided to be creative. They asked folks on the freeway to look in their cars and see what odd things they could find, and to call in with the results. There were many calls and much laughter.

Two things I noticed that day: First, a bit of creativity and a sense of fun made a bad situation a little better. Second, people drive around with some really random stuff in their cars.

And what brought this story to mind these years later?

I've been working to declutter our house. (Influential thoughts here, by the way.) When actually stopping to look at the things we own, to hold them in my hands, I have thought several times recently, "why on earth do we still have this?" It's not that the stuff is bad; I'm not embarrassed so much as confused. It's been a good confusion, though, and a good process.

The season of Lent is one of introspection, remembrance, humility, and growth. It is a time to examine the various aspects of our lives, evaluating and making changes where needed. It is ripe for cleaning out the literal and figurative closets so we can move forward with greater clarity.

By the time Easter comes around, I intend to have a little bit of organizing done and a lot of de-owning -- in our home and in my soul. It's a challenging process, and I am already grateful for what God is doing along the way.