The Ideal vs. The Ambassador

In nine minutes I’m supposed to be out the door and on my way to work. My breakfast is cooking on the stove, my shoes on sitting by the door, and I’m perched at my table tapping away at the keys as I sip coffee.

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This spring I read a book that talked about how sometimes we can make idols of our ideal selves – we know who we want to be, and if we don’t hit that elusive dreamed-of-person we fall apart.

I think about that often.

There’s a Lydia that I see in my minds’ eye and I want everyone else to know that Lydia, too. It’s a driving force that keeps me going, working, and striving. And it’s not all bad. But like with most everything else, without balance it is bad.

Ever since reading the aforementioned book I’ve been working at giving my image to God, and working at showing His love, instead of running towards who I want people to think I am.

Quarantine was a good time for me to realize that I’m not nearly as good of a person as I thought I was. When my world went inside-out and upside-down I turned into a grumpy person which was rather horrifying since I consistently consider myself a joyful, happy, positive person.

This morning as I sat down with my Bible and prayer journal I prayed as I often do that God would use me to be His hands and feet – to share His love with the people around me. Because now more than ever I realize that if I’m working on perfecting my ideal Lydia instead of seeking to glorify God, that it’s a waste of time.

My ideal Lydia is a pretty cool person, but the real God I serve is so much better. And so today, as I head to work, it’s with the hope and prayer that I can be an ambassador of His love.

That Thing Called Growth

As it turns out, I like summer a lot more than I thought I did.

Summer has always been my least favorite season – mostly due to the heat. It took me twenty-seven summers to figure out that my real probably was just not getting outside early enough in the morning. Sure, I heard plenty of people talking about how wonderful summer mornings could be, and I would concur. Yet, we were talking about two different things. They were talking about five and six am, and I was talking about seven and eight am – and as it turns out in the summer those two hours can make a vast difference.

Appreciating summer mornings isn’t the only place where I’ve experienced monumental shifts in thinking. Apparently, I do a superb job of forming an opinion and then sticking by it until someone challenges my presupposition.

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For instance, I had a co-worker last year who kinda just got on my nerves. There were various reasons for this – justified reasons, I might add. So, I pretty much just went through my days of working with this co-worker being nice, but not reaching out more than necessary.

Then one time I was talking to a manager who I really respect and he kindly mentioned that said co-worker really just needed someone to draw them in and make them part of the team. I took his words to heart, repented of not showing love like I should have, and changed my attitude towards the co-worker. Instead of allowing myself to be annoyed, I began searching for my co-worker’s positive traits – and wouldn’t you know, there were a lot of them. Before long that co-worker and I were friends and instead of half-dreading working with them, I began to look forward to the shifts we shared.

Growth is happening everywhere.

It’s easy to miss it. Easy to not see the little sprouts poking their heads up in the herb bed. Easy to miss the changes in a friend or family member. Easy to put my head down and charge forward. Focused. Forceful. Full-speed.

But that’s not who I want to be. I want to see the growth. I want to experience the growth. Growing is an important part of life and learning to let go of my old presuppositions and opinions isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding.

Today I thankful for the reminder that change is good. Growth is good.

Have a wonderful day, y’all!

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. {Philippians 1:6}

When Flowers Aren’t Practical

I bought flowers.

Like, the kind that are in a pot and you plant in soil and then you hopefully watch grow and spill out over the sides of the container and bring beauty to all.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I’m an ever-practical kind of girl. I grow veggies (because flowers are a luxury, not necessity). I make main dishes for people (because desserts are delicious but not necessary). I take long walks after walking miles at work (because it’s a productive way to relax). I have probably as much fun saving money as most people have spending it (because, well, saving money is logical).

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And flowers. They’re delightful to look at. I’ve always been thankful to live around people who did grow flowers because I freely admit that while I couldn’t envision myself spending time or money on them, I did enjoy looking at them.

Last week I spent way more than what was practical to reclaim a little patch of weeds and fence it in to keep the raccoons at bay, then delightedly planted a few vegetable plants.

One of my teammates from work lent me his gardening tools and an impressive amount of knowledge. He also showed me gorgeous pictures of his own flowerbed which left me amazed. “Don’t get your hopes up, my little garden isn’t going to look anything like that” I told him. And true to my word, my vegetable patch was nothing compared to his cultivated garden.

My slip-shod work left him shaking his head and me shrugging my shoulders. I had a garden and that’s all I really cared about. I could go out in the evenings after the heat of the day was past and weed, water, and eventually harvest dinner.

Then another co-worker invited me to her house and showed me her lovely back porch with flowers artistically arranged in beautiful planters. It was peaceful. It was inviting. And suddenly I began to rethink my stance on being a practical human.

Yesterday was my day off. I had to go to the store for a few groceries, and while I was there I picked up a few more things for my garden – spending more money than I had planned to. But, as it turns out, some things are worth a $20 splurge. When I got home I took down my sagging fence. Stood on a bucket to pound in more stakes. Found twine, tied bows, and worked in the hot sun until my garden looked presentable.

I added soil to the beautiful blue pots my parents had given me (that really were too lovely for a simple tomato plant), then placed the flowers inside.

Being practical is good. Saving money is important. But balance is, too.

And that’s a big lesson I’ve been learning. I’m driven to being productive. I want each moment to count. Sometimes I can’t help but feel the pressure of needing to do build up inside me. Because sometimes doing isn’t the most important thing in the world. Sometimes it’s far more important – and harder – to simply be. To let go of the plans to accomplish that seemed so grand in my head and take the time to stand and listen for a minute.

This lesson has become real for me time and time again when I have a question or issue to discuss at work. My bosses are busy. They have a lot on their plates. And yet they take the time to listen. To stand there without glancing at their full inbox or piled high desk and be present as I bring questions or concerns.

Time and time again I’ve been blown away by how people – busy, hard-working, must-get-things-done-or-else-there-will-be-big-consequences people – have taken the time to sit, be still, and listen. It’s not practical. But it adds beauty to the world, to my world. And it makes a huge difference.

And so, I planted flowers.

Flowers to remind me that sometimes the practical isn’t the most important. Flowers to remind me that while vegetables might keep you alive, flowers have a way of making you thankful to be alive.

Today, I don’t want to focus only on the practical. Today, I want to focus on whatever God places in front of me. To take the time to be instead of just doing.

This is Home {Return to the Museum}

A hundred and three days.

That’s a long time, my friends.

When I left the Museum to go help my family for a week back in March, I was sad to be leaving for a whole eight days. If you would have told me that it would nearly fifteen weeks before I returned to my favorite place in the world, I’m really not sure how I would have reacted.

Like the rest of the world plans that I’d held so tightly and seemed of supreme importance crumbled before me. Ideals I’d worked towards, goals I’d hunted, and dreams I’d chased all dissipated in the wake of the pandemic.

The last 103 days were good, hard, amazing, tearful, delightful, and oh so confusing at times. During these months I experienced some of my best days and some of the worst  – at least in recent years. I grew a lot. I found out I needed to grow a lot more.

And finally, at long last, I’m back.

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Back in March, no one was really sure what was going to happen. The future stretched before us in a foggy mist, scary and vague. And there are still things that way in my life, and I’m sure that other people continue to have that as their daily reality.

At times I wondered if the Museum would re-open. And if it did, would I get re-hired? And if both those things happened, would everything else be different.

And yes, things are different. But it’s okay, because now everyone is aware of how different it could be. Of how much we do have to be thankful for. There’s a lot of stuff that’s difficult to do at the museum nowadays. So many added steps to run things in a way that hit those just-post-COVID-pandemic-world-guidelines perfectly.

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And yet, we’re here, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

I’ve tried for the last ten minutes to put into words how it feels to be back. To be home. To get to spend each day at the Museum, serving the guests and co-workers. I’ve tried to express the emotion that comes along with having a whole host of people excitedly welcome me back and make sure I knew I was missed. I’ve typed and re-typed what it was like to get to see everyone in person again and jump right into the activities that I am comfortable with, plus learn a whole new protocol which I’m not quite getting the hang of yet…

But I can’t. The words escape me.

I’m still processing. Processing the joy of being back. The thankfulness that the museum is still here. The delight of the work I get to do each day. How right it feels to dive back into my responsibilities. The excitement of getting to see my co-workers each day. The sadness of missing co-workers who won’t be returning.

Each night I return home with my heart full of thankfulness, my legs tired from miles of walking, and my face relieved to be maskless.

I love my job. My co-workers. My teammates. It’s delightful to get to interact with guests. To get to make life a little easier for my bosses. To learn new things and grow. (Like yesterday when I made an announcement over the Museum loudspeakers for the first time.)

There’s a lot of new stuff to learn, but that’s okay because grace is freely given around the museum. So is love and care and laughter.

The Museum is my favorite place, and I’m so thankful to be back.

Yellowstone Ft. the Geysers

I tried writing a post where I told you all about the amazing geysers in Yellowstone, but the internet wouldn’t work and the post didn’t save, and here I am, with a blank screen in front of me.

We’re nearly two weeks into our trip now, and it’s been nothing like I imagined, and yet also so much like I imagined, both at the same time. Crazy, right?

There was a lot in Yellowstone that I was unaware of until last year when I read a book that took place there. After I read the book I realized all my preconceived ideas about Yellowstone were just that – ideas. So I was really eager to get there and see it for myself.

Visiting Yellowstone is probably my oldest traveling dream, and so to see it realized was mind-blowing and amazing at the same time.

The above vlog is about the thing that I didn’t think about when I thought about Yellowstone, next will come a vlog of the things that I did imagine when thinking about that wild and wonderful place. Things like elk and bison, bears and birds, mountains and waterfalls.

Yellowstone is huge. Huge, beautiful, and beyond what I had imagined. There was so much wilderness to simply gaze at and soak in. We spent two days there and could have spent a hundred more and still not see everything.

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It’s funny seeing how the pictures I imagined during a childhood full of reading don’t quite match up with reality.

Nowadays, when I read historical fiction I have fun Googling the places I’m reading about, researching the historical figures, and delving deeper into the real-life account behind the fictional story.

As a child of course I had school books to look through, but even the best of books (or especially the best of books) leaves a lot of room for the imagination to take over.

Following the Oregon Trail and seeing all the places that I read and dreamed about for so many years has been fun, enlightening, and quite surprising at times.

Following the Oregon Trail {in a RV}

So. I did this thing. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for eighteen years, so I’m pretty excited. I had a whole seventeen days to plan it, and I wanted to share the process with y’all, but the first stop included surprising a friend, therefore I couldn’t post about it on here.

Anyway. This thing is so amazing that I decided to vlog it. Please join me on the adventure! I’m excited to have you along. 😉

Relationships or Accomplishments​

The birds are trying to out-do each other outside my open window as I swirl around the last of my coffee, dredging up the sentiment at the bottom of the mug. (Hey, I like a few coffee grounds in my coffee…) Various shades of green cascade from the trees – from the brilliant hues of the maple up close to the backdrop of a dozen trees that form the entrance of the woods further away.

It’s Monday morning, one of my favorite times of the week.

Accomplishing things makes me happy. Being able to see where I’ve made a difference is enough to get me out of bed each morning. I’m goal-oriented, competitive, and most times would rather clean the house then do something ‘fun.’

Each morning when I wake up I let myself stretch and yawn, then set my stop-watch and see how quickly I can complete my getting-ready routine. Throughout the day I find myself constantly trying to find balance as I look at the list of things that I really want to get done, compared to the things that are maybe more important to do. (For instance, relationships are much easier to ignore than a messy kitchen sink. But in reality, which has a greater eternal value?)

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One thing that I often remind myself is that I do have enough time. I do have enough energy. I do have enough.

Maybe not on my own, maybe not in the ways that I dreamed of, maybe not to do what want. But I have enough to do what God is calling me to do, and when there’s a discrepancy and I find myself getting stressed, that’s not because God has given me too much to do. It’s either because I’m not doing the right thing, or doing it the right way, or doing it with the right motive.

Having a sparkling clean house around me might be exactly what’s supposed to happen. But maybe it’s not – maybe God wants me to let go of that ideal for now and focus on other things.

I used to think – and say – things about never having enough time. And then I realized that’s a lie that society praises, not the truth from God’s Word. Subconsciously, I think I’d rather appear busy and productive than resting and at peace. It feels so…important to have a list of things checked off a piece of paper and yet still have people who need your help. Maybe not every personality feels this way, but I want to be needed. To be doing. To swoop in and save the day.

Being busy can be addictive.

And yet we’re commanded to Be still and know that God is. We’re commanded to care for the widows and the orphans. We’re commanded to love our neighbor. We’re commanded to pray. So many of these things require me to let go of my pre-conceived (and society-fed) notions of what I’m supposed to be doing with my time and ask God to lead me in the way He wants me to go.

Recently this has included doing things like leaving the counter messy to sit down and read a book to my little nieces. Or setting the milk bucket down and cuddling the kittens my nephew wants to show me. Letting go of accomplishing and taking ahold of relationships isn’t easy for me, but it’s rewarding.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful to know that God has given me enough time to accomplish what He wants me to do.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

And Yet

Yesterday the seven-year-old killed a snake that was longer than her (while holding a stuffed animal). Several days ago while milking with the nine-year-old the goat kicked over her bucket of milk, drenching the child and milk stand. Last week a late frost killed most of the tomato plants, despite our best efforts to cover them sufficiently. This morning the one-year-old got ahold of a folder full of important papers for one of the puppies that is being sold, scattering them all over the floor and scribbling on the folder.

When the parents had a date the other night chaos erupted around the table, complete with a pile of rib bones being pushed towards me (I have a phobia of bones for some strange reason). Squabbles take place, half-done jobs sometimes slip through the cracks and the same bib that I’ve washed four times (and have yet to see anyone wear) ends up in the dirty laundry again. 

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And yet.

Yet my sister shoos me outside to enjoy the hammocks for a few minutes. “Take your mid-morning snack out and blog in the sunshine,” she encourages. As I sit here three of the children come over to join me. One of them places a white fluffy puppy on my arm, another one climbs in the hammock with me, and the five-year-old pulls a chair up to within an inch of me then peels an orange while regaling me with stories of how he and his brothers are going swimming in the creek later. “You can swim, too. And swing out on the rope swing!”

Yesterday the children carefully rearranged who would do what chores and when so that they could take turns swimming during their free time. The work was done eagerly and early and not one but two meals were eaten out on the picnic tables, the warm sunshine and cooling breeze creating the perfect atmosphere.

The hustle and bustle of family life on a small farm slows to a standstill and pauses twice a day as each morning the family gathers for devotions where the children take turns choosing what hymns to sing, and the evenings close with John Bunyan’s classics being read out loud.

Watching my nieces and nephews remind me of my childhood. A childhood filled with siblings, school, chores, and excitement. The children here are building a little pond complete with dikes and dams. When I was a girl my siblings and I sectioned off the creek, then each of us created our own little island. My nieces and nephews display the same joy and delight in finding where the mama cat hid her kittens as my little sisters and I were fifteen years ago.

Nearly daily the nine-year-old asks the same questions about being able to plan and cook a meal all by herself that I did when I was her age. Their mama reads them the same books that my mommy read to me when I was a girl. And the outside world is their kingdom, waiting to be explored, conquered, and claimed.

“Aunt Lydia,” comes a little voice behind me. “Do you want some of my oranges?”

I smile. Because I look back on my gardening, animal-y, books-being-read-to-me, tipi-building, woods-exploring, big-family happiness of my childhood and see it happening in the next generation.

And that is wonderful.