Perhaps you’ve noticed that I love spring.
Recently a friend pulled near a branch laden with cherry blossoms in order to take a close-up picture of the intricate beauty. What she didn’t realize at the time was how the camera was also capturing the background. The result? A stunning photo of the individual flower in the foreground with sharp contrast to the distant whole tree providing a gently blurred backdrop.
The shot reminds me of how focus matters.
I recall the professor of a brain and behavior course I took a few years ago using the analogy of a spotlight. He told us that when we key in on one topic, our mind illuminates that thought and other subjects fade from immediate awareness. Made sense to me.
But so does a perspective I heard about from my pastor last weekend. He shared this quotation from Frank Lauback, a missionary and founder of a seminary in the Philippines.
In a letter dated March 30, 1930 Lauback proposed: “…are there periods when business, and pleasures, and crowding companions must necessarily push God out of our thoughts? ‘Of course, that is self-evident. If one thinks of God all the time, he will never get anything else done.’ So I thought too, until now, but I am changing my view. We can keep two things in mind at once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous return to the same problem from a million angles. We do not think of one thing. We always think of the relationship of at least two things, and more often of three or more things simultaneously. So my problem is this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and percept? I choose to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering this question.”
As I consider my new job with reams of new information saturating my brain cells, am I willing to intentionally invite God into this learning curve? When I observe a hummingbird suspended mid-air will I choose to thank God for the mysteries of His creations? Will I routinely listen to the Spirit and ask for His guidance as I navigate conversations?
And in all the moments that reside within this “mind-flow,” will I allow God to be in the foreground of my awareness?
I, too, want to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering these questions.
With love and gratitude,
“You and I can hang out and clear some dysfunction.”
Now there's an offer that’s hard to refuse.
My rehabilitation trainer spent her weekend in a course targeting the jaw and how it connects to other muscles in the body. And, more specifically, how to address issues arising when one’s TMJ isn’t normal. Clearly I came to mind.
In the gym on Monday she reviewed a few new insights and then said, “Everyone in the class agreed that you and I have a lot of work ahead of us.” Observing the look on my face, she quickly added, “In the best way, of course.”
Of course. Would I really believe that 35 years of musculoskeletal dysfunction could be fixed in one session?
Years ago I heard someone say that dysfunction works until it doesn’t work for one person. (Sadly, I can’t recall who said it!) The statement significantly shifted my view on the topic and God continues to use my physical circumstances to illustrate.
For three decades my TMJ slowly broke down and over time other muscles began to compensate. My neck bore the majority of the added strain which pulled on my shoulders and misaligned my back. The effects followed down to my feet. Prior to jaw surgery everything hurt and nothing worked as originally designed. One area of dysfunction permeated the whole.
But surgery happened. The intervention took place.
My entire body felt the ramifications of change as old strategies for coping no longer worked. Asking it to adjust to new patterns of correct movement and stability is arduous. Shifting impaired or abnormal functioning to healthy behavior and choices requires commitment.
It began with identifying the source of the problem, or, at the very least, the symptoms of dysfunction. I continue to make decisions to strengthen one muscle knowing that others will be impacted and react. Some will ease into their new role while others spasm and fight every move toward health.
I appreciate the metaphor this systemic awareness provides and find myself asking, “Are there other areas of my life where the principles apply?” “Am I willing to endure some ‘muscle strain’ for the good of growth in both myself and those I love?”
I’ll ponder those questions as I head back to the gym.
With love and gratitude,
I witnessed a first this week.
The campus of Trinity Western University is at the peak of spring splendor. Flower beds burst with daffodils and tulips. Lawns are lush carpets of emerald softness. Mature cherry trees line walking paths creating a blossom canopy of brilliant, dappled sunlight. I walked through these beautiful corridors thinking, these students get to study here.
Three days later I returned to campus. The sun still shone but a strong wind whipped through the trees sending millions of petals dancing and swirling, our West Coast version of an April blizzard. Eventually the pink dots descended to the ground forming six-inch swaths along the sidewalks’ edge.
In that moment I experienced the first.
There stood a faithful maintenance worker using a leaf blower to address the fallen blooms. She corralled the exquisite debris into feather-weight piles, moving them along like three foot waves of cotton candy. I stood enthralled while others smiled and took pictures. I wish I had too.
But even without a digital capture, the image sticks with me and I have been asking the Lord what He wants to show me.
Beauty is fleeting, ran through my mind, but didn’t seem to capture a deeper meaning. So I waited.
A couple days later I caught myself trying on different interpretations of the experience and am wondering if this is the point…or at least one of them. The story could be told many ways.
I walked through a wonderland of delicate petals cascading to the ground and felt transported. Heaven must have cherry trees.
What a job to keep on top of clearing this enormous dropping of blooms. Students track them into buildings making a mess on the floors.
Individual petals are pretty. Piles of them carpet walkways creating a runway fit for royalty.
When the leaf blower hit petal mounds it effortlessly burst the pile of fluff filling the surrounding air with a cloud of loveliness. The lightness of the mass surprised me.
Good grief. My hair is full of nature.
So which line of thinking will I stick with? How will I tell my stories? How will I choose to direct my thoughts in matters big and small?
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
With love and gratitude,
I made an unexpected trip to campus last night...and took a picture this time.
I taught interview skills for almost a decade. You’d think I would know when I’m in one.
Six weeks ago I received an email from my previous employer introducing me to a CEO and the statement, “Shelaine, I was thinking that you might want to do some training for Bernie…”
I understood that to mean that the organization was looking for a trainer to do a personality session or perhaps a day on conflict management, so I contacted Bernie to discuss their need. Two weeks later I went in for a chat.
About ten minutes in - and multiple questions later - I became suspicious. This is not the way we discuss consulting, I thought, he is putting a position on the table. I’m in a job interview! At that point a second meeting began, with myself.
Perhaps all those years of making up mock answers on the spot for my class participants helped but I also know that God’s peace prevailed. There is something to be said about going into an interview blindly.
That appointment rocked my world.
In January I put together this website as an act of faith believing God wanted me to step out and offer – as a consultant - the skills He has honed in me. I wrestled with how to portray my various interests and not appear to be a “jack of all trades and master of none.” God gave me specific confirmations that He wanted to celebrate the variety of how He made me, and so I published the site.
If you look on my services page you’ll see one column for coaching, one for training workshops, and one for event speaking. If you return to my home page you’ll read that “I believe in the power of walking alongside one another as we live and learn.” And I’m a writer.
And the beautiful thing? The position I didn’t know I was applying for requires someone to write curriculum, lead workshops, train and coach other trainers and speak in churches and retreat settings. And, the organization walks alongside the most vulnerable communities throughout the developing world.
So Bill and I prayed. We asked many questions of the Lord and each other, and on Tuesday I signed a contract to join Food for the Hungry Canada as their half-time Manager of Education and Professional Development.
It feels like a hand-in-glove fit on worldview and values, is purposeful work in categories I’m passionate about and it even affords me time for other consulting. Amazing.
Obviously having a new job is exciting and I am thrilled to be part of an exceptional team doing powerful, life-changing work. But even more, I am humbled to have been so specifically led by God through four years of unemployment, pain, waiting, surgery, rehabilitation and re-entry into the world of career.
This provision underscores to me the importance of taking a next step and leaving the outcome to God. He goes before, stands beside and is present through it all. He is faithful. I am blessed.
With love and gratitude,
Spring is upon us in BC.
Thousands of tiny white “snow in summer” flowers cascade over our retaining wall while brilliant orange tulips stretch for the sun. The neighbor’s magnolia provides a backdrop to our yard with its purple-blushed, white, saucer-sized blooms. Lime green growth is everywhere.
It’s hard to believe that two short weeks ago the heavy gray sky pounded the earth with a deluge of rain and wind gusts up to 90 km per hour. But reminders remain.
This week I drove by a field where a mature plum tree, still covered in pink blossoms, had succumbed to the elements and lay across the grass with roots exposed. And shallow.
In the middle of my jaw pain years, I wrote a piece about growing up as a teenager in the Arizona desert. I have long loved the Saguaro cactus and researched it for my story. It came back to mind as I pondered the fallen plum.
A Saguaro grows one core root reaching straight down about three feet to anchor it beneath the desert floor. Two other radial root systems exist, one tightly networked and the other spread out only as far as the cactus is tall. These roots remain close to the surface, sucking in scarce ground water and directing it to its pleats for storage.
This cactus is designed for adversity and survives in some of earth’s most hostile conditions. Summer temperatures soar to 48 degrees Celsius and less than 15 inches of rain annually provides little moisture.
By contrast our local trees are saturated with 60 inches of rain each year and flourish with roots that remain close to the surface, spreading more like a fan.
The beauty of lush green times in life are rich but I have also come to value the splendor of desert seasons. The process of drilling down into the heart of God during pain and difficulty, when circumstances more resemble sand and tumbleweed than emerald lawns and budding leaves, give root to faith.
When I compare these plants I find myself asking, “God, how can I have a root system that goes deep, anchoring me solidly and one that remains close to the surface, storing up the treasures of daily nourishment?”
Perhaps some time on the deck today in glorious sunshine will give opportunity to consider this matter more fully.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst