1. Don't stop trying harder. On June 25th, White Bear Lake set a Guinness world record for the longest ice cream sundae. And in August, over 1,000 people in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, got together and beat our record by over 100 feet. We did something great, then other people outdid us. That's competition, and it's all good, and it should inspire us to keep trying to improve. In the end, we still feasted on free ice cream sundaes, scored fabulous bracelets to commemorate the event, and put a few bucks in toward cancer research. Nothing wrong with that.
On that same front, Ellen got braces last week to further enhance her already lovely smile. We're not trying to repair horrible looking teeth or a gruesome overbite, just making some minor changes to make a really good thing even better. In the archery sessions, they drilled in on focusing on the basics, to keep improving the next shot. I'm trying to put this concept to work this week as I prepare for Bible study training, looking for ways to make the time more effective and interesting.
2. Don't let fear get in your way. On the 4th of July, we were all enjoying some minor backyard fireworks, laughing and playing together. On the one hand, Andy, our awesome dog, was probably delighted to have his whole "pack" outside with him. However, after about 20 minutes, he decided he had had quite enough of the loud noises and smoke, and in a first-ever event, he went to the back door and whined to be let IN while we all stayed OUT. Don't worry, when we went back in later, he got nonstop baby talk and was coaxed onto every bed and couch that he's not normally allowed on, and comforted within an inch of his life. But he missed out on time with family because of his fear, and that seemed a shame.
In a similar vein, while at Trout Lake Camp, I opted to go with Sadie on the tubing ride, which felt remarkably like someone spraying me in the face with a fire hose while simultaneously slamming a plastic tube against my torso and scrambling my internal organs. Sadie was screaming, "We're going to die!!!!" as we clung to the hand holds, until we finally agreed to let go and drop off the tube, to get the boat pilot's attention. But as hard as it was to hold on to something scary and painful, it was nearly as hard to just let go of it. I often struggle with letting go of habits or attitudes that I know are causing me pain or are not part of God's plan for me, because the alternative of letting go of the familiar seems even harder. Which leads to the next idea...
3. Try something different. I actually love to try new and even scary things on a regular basis, but they aren't nearly as appealing when it involves self-discipline or creating a new routine. I bought a hummingbird feeder a few years ago, but never hung it up because I knew it would require weekly cleaning and refilling. But it was one of my favorite summer gifts, seeing different hummers buzz up to our front window, hover for a few moments, have a few sips, then zoom away again. It took a little more work, yes, but the payoff was tremendous. It's possible that there may be further application of this principle in certain other areas of my life, such as paper organization, house cleaning and meal preparation.
Another first was finally taking the girls for a day at Taylors Falls to wander the Franconia Sculpture Garden, and hike along the river. Something we should have been doing every summer, I realize now, but I'm grateful that we finally got started with it. I'm pretty sure it will become a regular part of our summer plans in future years.
And why all this change and rethinking habits? Because I'm not getting any younger, as the birthday unicorn has shown me. My dad wrote an amazing document a few months ago, in answer to a younger man's question - "What do you wish you had known when you were my age?" There are two pages of things that my dad wishes he had done more consistently or started earlier, and the vast majority of them have to do with his walk with God (more Bible memorization, more time in prayer, etc.) or being more expressive and intentional about his relationships. I look at this list and marvel, because I think he's lived his life incredibly well, but I appreciate that he's still looking for ways to improve. In these last months, he's talked with each of his kids and grandkids to ask specifically how they would like him to pray for them. And he's been more expressive and emotionally honest than ever, which has been beautiful and heart-breaking.
In the end, our relationship with Jesus Christ and how we loved others in His name and His power are all that is going to carry over into eternity. So I'm continuing to ask for His help to draw closer to God, which grows my heart for others. And those school papers just might have to sit on the table for one more day, while I focus on hearing about my girls' first day of school.