Here is a worthy read, by my friend, Lesa.
Oh the weather in northwest Pennsylvania! Warm weather teased us in February inspiring all manner of motivation, and wreaking just bit of havoc. The crocus bloomed,
daffodils sprouted, grass greened up, and algae grew like crazy…in the pool under the winter safety cover. Ugh. Some pool openings are better than others and this is why. Unseasonably warm sunny days wake up every living thing that chilled out over the winter. Had we thought to peel back the cover and add algaecide in February we’d have fared better. But alas. And yet, it’ll clean up like magic, quick as can be, once we (and by we I mean Tom) put some effort into it. Every year I despair. Every year he makes it beautiful.
Back in February we played pick up sticks in the front yard. Even got the little neighbor girls in on it, until they figured out it wasn’t so much of a game as it was work. Apparently I didn’t pull off my best Tom Sawyer. No matter, there was still wind and heavy snow to come adding more debris to be cleaned up on another day.
The nice weather provided a number of opportunities to clean up Johnstown Road. Puttering a mile up and down the road on his Kubota tractor, Tom single-handedly filled up his front bucket twice with trash and recyclables. Neighbor, Carol Thumm, and I picked up another 3 plastic bags full in the same stretch — doing our small part to tidy up this corner of creation.
I believe all that gorgeous weather came before the St. Patrick’s snow, which was followed by the March in-like-a-lion snow and then the out-like-a-lion snow. And finally — as in the grand finale — we were graced with a few inches of white stuff these past two mornings. And that’s it! That counts as our token April snowfall. The absolute last snow of the year. Finished. Done. The End. Now, away with the snow equipment!
Funny I don’t remember ever working on the pool opening before putting away snow shovels and skis. So this is an April for the books.
The crocuses are about done. Yesterday, I picked a vase of yellow daffodils for the kitchen table. And today I will put away the skis and snow shovels. Without fail. I will.
Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity. ~John Ruskin
I have a rule. If you (and by you, I mean me) are near the beach you have to get up before dawn to watch the sun rise at least one time.Tom and I did that this morning. Here on the east coast the sun seems to rise right up out of the ocean and no matter where you place your sand chair you’ve got a front row seat. We were front and center today — for a glorious show.
We woke at 6:15, dressed, put a couple of sand chairs in the car, drove to a bakery to pick up a coffee for me, orange juice for him, a couple of pastries, and headed a mile up the road toward Litchfield Beach, South Carolina.
Ah, the beach. Gently rolling waves, birds riding on gusts and skittering along the shore, sea gulls begging for a bit of whatever we’re having, big dogs and little pups taking their people for a walk, wind blowing our hair every which way. A little communing with God, a little deep breathing, sighing, smiling, conversing together, feeling content, sated, and grateful for these gifts of rest and refreshment. A storybook start to a Sunday morning.
We’ve been away from home, away from routine day-to-day on a road trip–from Pennsylvania to Florida and half way back again in two weeks and a day, so far, relishing time spent with family in Georgia and Florida, as well as time with friends. I caught up with an old friend on the way to Sebring. I think I can safely call someone I knew in elementary school an old friend without offending either of us. We are indeed friends from the old days, and we also have lots of years under our feet.
We picked a great week to be in Sebring, Florida. Everyday was in the high 70’s or 80’s. We spent time with Dad and Wendy, enjoyed the pool in their new complex, walked in the cool of the morning catching gentle rays and again in the pleasant evenings. Tom golfed with Dad, I shopped with Wendy. We visited with friends from Cambridge Springs who winter for three months in Sebring, toured Solomon’s Castle, took in a movie, road bikes with Dad’s old neighbors and our once a year friends, the Brandons, who winter in Florida and live in Minnesota the rest of the year where they run Little Norway Resort. But maybe the most delightful thing we did was to take Dad and Wendy on a picnic on the island across the little lake from their house, which you can only access from the country club side of the water. There are picnic tables, grills, and a big pavilion. We brought charcoal, burgers and other picnic fixings, watched a couple of alligators swim around the island while waiting for the grill to heat up, and then ate and talked and watched the sunset…and when it was dusk we packed up and went home.
Currently Tom and I are enjoying accommodations in South Carolina at a friend’s close-enough-to-the-beach rental house near Pawleys Island. There’s a golf course in our backyard surrounded by a myriad of small streets posted “25 miles per hour or $225 fine, you choose” — perfect for walking and biking. We’ve done both. What could be more fun than taking in the sights on this bicycle built for two?
Or walking the beach, under the sun, finding shells in the sand, watching the waves, feeling the wind, entertained by birds…that might be equally fun. Yep, it was all fun!
All that was fabulous, but still, I’m pretty sure the best by far had to be seeing a sunrise at the beach…
See how it comes right up out of the ocean. Amazing, isn’t it?
And we were lucky enough to have front row seats. Front and center, for this!
My son loaned me this very small book, and I haven’t returned it because…well, it found its way to my bookshelf and I reference it frequently, and okay, you got me. I guess I’ve stolen it from him. It’s THE UNDERACHIEVER’S MANIFESTO, The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great. I don’t know who you are, but in the event you are a perfectionist — or like me, a perfectionist who is not very good at it, which means you have to try even harder — I highly recommend Dr. Ray Bennett’s little book. A snippet from the intro reads “We’ve been brainwashed over many years to believe that striving for success is essential to our well-being.”
That’s all I want to do…my best. The problem is I don’t really know what my best is, and so I push, I work, I expend energy, effort and brain power. When I meet with failure, I try harder. And therein lies my problem. Maybe what I accomplished back there was my best, and perhaps I should quit striving to top it. Perhaps I should be satisfied. For the sake of my own well-being perhaps I should be satisfied and content.
One chapter in the book is all about the dangerous addiction of achievement. Following that chapter you’ll find The Ten Principles of Underachievement. Principle number 7 — “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Shocking, right?
Not to spiritualize a book that’s absolutely good enough — I am struck by how these principles relate to my Christian life.
Years ago I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll where he shouted in his own always kind very encouraging voice, “If you are a perfectionist…REPENT!” I took it personally and then rationalized my way out of repenting.
Well, Geez, Chuck, I’m just trying to do what the Bible says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Bible Hub cross references that with Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.'” Holy equals perfect, doesn’t it? (Aside note, I believe this verse to be a statement of what is, not a command to work for holiness. It is beautiful foreshadowing that under the blood of the Lamb…holy and righteous we’ll stand. But we overachievers take verses like this as a call to work harder, or die trying.)
The Bible says no one is good but God, no one is perfect except our Father in Heaven. Surely scripture does not contradict itself, but we, the readers, are prone to misunderstand…perhaps led astray by the interpreter or our favorite preacher/teacher. Either way, I’m not perfect, I’m far from perfectly holy, but I want to be. So I’ve spend much of my life trying to reach the unreachable star. This was my quest…no matter how hopeless.Wait, it’s an amazing song, but in this case it’s not good for my well-being.
The Underachiever’s Manifesto is not totally without a nod to religion. In Dr. Bennett’s chapter on Faith, he writes, “Would that underachievement were its own religion, holding as it does the keys to contentment, happiness, and a well-balanced life.”
Apostasy? I mean, as a Christian I hold to the belief that in Christ alone we find contentment. Hm, correction– in Christ alone we are content when we agree with and rest in God’s will.
Everlasting contentment I get. However, as a guest on earth I’m not brash enough to claim to be content in all circumstances. Unlike the Apostle Paul, whether imprisoned, beaten half to death, shipwrecked, stoned (not that kind of stoned), insulted, mocked, discriminated against, penniless, hungry — still, he was content. I haven’t experienced most of those, but content in hard circumstances? Content when my feelings get hurt? Me? No, not so much. Paul? Always. Always content. Alas, tiny difference between me and Paul. Maybe he wasn’t an overachiever, but if he was I’ll bet he got over it thanks to the Blinding Light on the Damascus Road.
If I were more like Jesus, I know I could hack all manner of adversity and in the midst of it give glory where glory is due. Or if the people I live with on this planet were more like Jesus I could be content, always. Which is easy to say, because if we were all like Jesus there would be none of the above nonsense. There would be no violence, no bullying, no insults, no discrimination, no misunderstanding or hurt feelings, no need for prisons. Everyone would treat each other the way they wanted to be treated. Ah yes, utopia. Heaven.
And that brings me back to perfectionism in faith. The overachievers in religion are all about living lives worthy of God’s attention and striving to live more worthily than others. But here’s the enlightening part — by not striving to be better than someone else, I’m freed up to be my best self.
We all know the story about the farmer who had such a large harvest he planned to tear down his barn and build a bigger one. He was an overachiever and an under-giver, which didn’t work out for him. If you recall, he died in his sleep dreaming up plans for a huge barn where he could hoard his crops. Before falling asleep he said to himself:
“Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:19-21
The writer of Ecclesiastes laments, “All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?” Eccl. 1:2-3
Lighten up, relax and enjoy, and be generous.
Underachieving is not an excuse to be lazy. Beware.
How long, O sluggard, will you lie there?
when will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the arms to rest—[a]
11 Then poverty will come upon you like a robber…
Never once does Dr. Bennett equate underachieving with doing nothing. “It’s about the right effort at the right time, in the right place.” Overachievers of the world…REPENT! Underachievers of the world unite! Lead the way. Bring me (us) into your fold.
Already I sense myself a step closer to fulfilling the reason for which I was created…to love God and enjoy this world, this life, all things and people. And while I learn to appreciate every gift from a phenomenal Creator may I continually be inspired to love my neighbor and serve people in need. This, according to my calling, and not striving for anything more.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Disclaimer: there are natural born underachievers in the world. They don’t strive for it, and yet somehow they are perfectly good at it. One of them is my knight in shining armor.
Life changing…one by one people came up to the microphone and stated this as their experience over the weekend….but I am getting ahead of myself. Trying to put into words what I experie…
Source: On holy ground…
We’re busy selling Christmas trees. Most of our friends know we run a cut or dig your own Christmas tree farm. It’s a small time operation. Just a hobby really. But this year you can buy already cut Henning Christmas trees in downtown Venango at the General Store. What fun to join in the “buy local” efforts of our little community and the next door littler community of Venango.
This is where you want to be to experience an “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of Christmas. A step back in time. Many people who come to our house to get their tree bring their families. Yesterday a fella with a van load of children came back to the house to pay for his tree and told Tom, “We got the sqauttiest, ugliest tree you had out there. The kids picked it.” All I could think was, I hope mama ain’t disappointed. She wasn’t along. Another family came with a sled, left their car in our driveway and pulled the little ones down the drive, up the road, across the field (not over the river, but sort of through the woods) to go get a tree. They’re in it for the full experience. God bless ’em! Wish I’d snapped a pic.
I’ve got our traditional two trees up. The one on the porch just has white lights. The other has colored lights, red and gold bulbs, cloth angels, and pine cone ornaments which our dear friends’ daughter put together, spray painted gold and affixed red bows when she was a teenager. She’s turning 40 soon. Where did those years go?
In church this morning we lit three candles. “Light three candles to watch for Messiah. Let the light banish darkness. Lift your heads and lift high the gateway for the king of glory.
In just a couple of weeks the preparations will be complete, the watching and waiting will be over. We’ll celebrate! But wait, I’m not quite ready yet.
The house is decorated, cookies baked, stockings hung, cantatas sung, presents purchased, waiting to be wrapped, so it would appear there is nothing left to keep me from writing a Christmas letter and getting it in the mail to friends and family. And I have two weeks to do it. Don’t worry, I’ll think of something to put that off. That’s what I was thinking a couple of hours ago. Then it hit me, I know, I’ll write a blog post.
I don’t have the hang of re-posting someone’s blog…it seems to come across as my post and makes me feel like I’m stealing rather than sharing. But share I must.
I have so many things I’d like to say, but the jumbled mess in my head is exhausting and too much for me. Rather than write, I lay my confusion at the feet of my Savior who soothes and brings comfort.
I found many of my unwieldy thoughts woven into a friend’s post — someone who has sorted his own tangled threads and made a beautiful tapestry. And so, I share…