Archive for May, 2014

My Secret Identity is the Source of Your Power

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  • Mild-mannered Clark Kent
  • Newsboy Peter Parker
  • Recluse Tony Stark
  • Millionaire Bruce Wayne
  • Scrawny recruit Steve Rogers
  • Scientist David Banner
  • Gentle Ben Grimm

We know them all, but we wouldn’t know any if it weren’t for their alter-ego. The Superhero they turn into when they put on the suit and strap on the mask (or take off the glasses, or burst the seams on their shirts; thank goodness not their pants). All of them are mild-mannered and unassuming in real life, but when they put on the mask…Super!

Funny that Marvel comics has us rooting for these masked heroes. I wonder if we would if we didn’t know they were real people like us. Mild, timid, reclusive, shy, scrawny, nerdy, temperamental. We are tempted to put on many masks in life, attempting to be who we aren’t, hiding from things we don’t want to see, pretending so other people won’t know the real us under there. What if we used our masks to put on our “hidden” identity instead?

F2F-logo-color - JPGPeople may mistake me for mild-mannered Soccer mom, but really I am Fit2Finish!! (cue music for takeoff) Crusader for stronger, faster, safer athletes! I am even getting a suit made (aka putting my logo on sportswear) so I have it for training. When I put it on I will know I am a Superhero, clothed by God in shades of blue and green. No one needs to know I am Soccer Mom, Wendy LeBolt, except me.

Let’s keep it a secret. Because no one believes in a Superhero unless they have a secret identity. Unmask him! is what their nemesis always wants. Because once their identity is known, the gig is up. Their power seeps out from the suit; in street clothes, they are nothing. It’s the duality – the Super together with the human underneath – that is powerful.

Whoa! How did she know that? Wow! How did she do that? Geez! Where did that come from?

I don’t have Superpowers, just Fit2Finish knowledge and experience. But if they believe in what I am doing they discover the power in themselves. That’s the secret.

The power is not really in the mask. Don’t tell.

Learning to walk, all life long

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When do we outgrow our smallness? I mean the sun and the moon and the stars and the planets and the grains of sand and the…well, the earth and everything about it dwarfs us. A constant reminder of our unimportance in the scheme of things.

When do we see ourselves big? grown? fully mature? like God sees us with His expansive vision. God, who has every right to dismiss us or even accidentally step on us or overlook us, but doesn’t. He sees all of us – circumstances, hopes, dreams, suffering, hardship – on the big screen. He expands us to God-sizing.

The world says, Act your size. You’re nothing. Sit down and shut up.

God says, You’re the most important thing. Stand up and speak up.

So many are afraid of getting called on or getting called up. We cower in our seats remembering the second grade when we prayed not to be exposed for the answer we didn’t know or the homework we didn’t do. We recall, only too completely, the shame of being summoned to the teacher’s desk to be admonished for our poor behavior or our poor performance.

And what of the alphabetical firing squad? Rat-a-tatting through the roll. Waiting our turn, our hearts jumping into our throats, our minds working overtime racing through the facts and figures. Will I be ready when she calls on  me? Competitive academics extracts a great price; no wonder we are afraid of standing up.

Much better to be small, stay out of the way and let the Giants, the over-achievers, and the smart kids, fight it out. But God says no. We are to stand when we’re ready to walk without falling. When we can stand without pushing off and without looking down. Because the fear of heights surely would kill us. Certainly it would stop us dead in our tracks.

So we spend our whole lives learning to walk.

We tip and lean and race our way to Momma.

We trip and fall over our own two feet at the dance.

We stumble over our gown.

We stagger under the weight of demands.

We hoist ourselves up under pressure.

We hang on for dear life

until we’re rescued.

We reach up and take the hands extended to us and

We are lowered, softly and gently to find our footing.

And we stand, without looking around, or looking down, or even looking behind, but only looking ahead, and we take our first step.

Come to me, my beloved Child.

With no fear and no hesitation, we come running.

How you say Goodbye makes ALL the Difference

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Please allow me one moment of parental pride. Our daughter, Stephanie, graduated from the University of Virginia this weekend. She “walked the lawn” along with thousands of other students en route to their destination: graduation. It has been her objective for four years. Poof! You are a graduate.

It doesn’t seem real to her. “My friends and I agreed,” she tells me, “we’re prepared to graduate, but we’re not ready to leave.”

She loves her university. Loved it from the start. She engaged, excelled, drank fully of the Wahoo cup. The last semester just couldn’t contain her. So many things she wanted to do, try, be part of, experience, before she left. Alas, every good thing must come to an end. And so it has.

She walked the lawn, found her seat among all her classmates, and sat behind many, many rows of graduate students, professional students, nursing students and others. LeBolt, Stephanie Diane, there in the middle of the masses, most of the way to the back. So far back, in fact, that she couldn’t hear the graduation speaker, or the president of the University who stood and spoke the words she had waited four years to hear: “I confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and all privileges belonging there in.”

IMG_5471

I sat approximately 100 miles away, in the ticketed seats for ‘special guests.’ We saw it all on Jumbo-trons placed strategically along the lawn. I could hear just fine. It was an event. A spectacle. The advancing of a tradition. The pomp and circumstance, regalia and formality were right for the day.

Still, I came to celebrate my little girl. One in the crowd. Incredible blue eyes and the biggest, kindest smile you will ever see. I was glad that the departmental diplomas would be awarded in a small ceremony after the event.

Rotunda at UVA

Here, in the Rotunda, the symbolic landmark of the University.

Except we were prevented from entering by a tall, serious man behind blue velvet roping. His stance, frown and hand wave meant No Trespassing. We asked a nearby faculty member (you can pick them out by their colorful graduation gowns) where to get in and she directed us down and around and up 2 flights of stairs. This time we talked our way past Mr. No (from the inside) and were the first parental arrivals in the upper room.

Steph gets her diploma
IMG_5510

The ceremony was more personal, albeit brief. Just a handful of grads to receive their scrolls and their handshakes. A few hugs and hearty well-wishes later, we are snapping last photos from a window atop the Rotunda looking out onto the lawn where many of the crowd are still gathered below. 

We descend the steps and, reluctantly, make our way to the exit. “Thank you for coming,” says Mr. No, now pulling aside the roping so we can depart.

I chuckle at the irony. Four glorious years end with, “Thanks for coming.”

Our small procession, Mom, Dad, shiny new graduate and her 2 sisters, makes its way past the statue of Thomas Jefferson, past the steps of the Rotunda – well, around, because the nursing school grads are gathered on the steps – on the path toward homeward bound. We are ushering her off the premises, pausing for the traffic light at the corner. A police officer punches the walk-request button. We wait.

A baby blue convertible accelerates through the intersection. Its driver, a young Asian woman, waves happily at Steph and shouts, “You look smashing in your gown!” We all laugh as this driver disappears around the corner.

Steph smiles awkwardly, turning to us. “She probably thinks I am someone she knows.”

UVA Dean Woo

A blue-clad, betassled faculty member waiting at the light with us says wryly, “That was the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.” 

The Dean knows you, Steph! You’re the one who looks smashing in your gown. You’re gonna knock ’em dead! She can tell by looking. Even in drive-by, on her way outta town.

You look smashing!
You look smashing!

The world says you’re worth more today than you were yesterday. They’re wrong. You had infinite value yesterday and you do today, as you will always. A pearl of great price. Worth selling all that I have to buy back. Smashing, indeed!

The bread machine of life?

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I just love a great bread workout: kneading and folding, punching and pulling, tucking and tossing. Or at least I used to until we got the bread machine. Lookie here! We can pour in the ingredients, close the top, flip the switch and, in a few sumptuously fragrant hours, voila! Crispy crust and golden bread.

I did that until the starter packets ran out. Then the machine took its place in the corner and gathered dust until I reluctantly took it to the donation station.

Something about the ease of automatic left me wanting. Sure, the bread tasted marvelous but the attraction wasn’t in the tasting, it was in the processing. I was missing. I was missing my workout.

Today I read “Work out your own salvation which God has worked in you already” from Oswald Chambers. Never really been clear on the whole working out my own salvation. I mean, should I really be in charge of that? But the working in part, God’s part, the raw materials and the yeast, seem very like God. Have I been taking a bread machine approach to life? Hoping that if I just open the lid and let God pour in the goodies, all will be well on its own.

I sure hope God isn’t inclined to give up on me after the starter packets are done. Shove me in the corner, let me gather dust and ship me off to the Goodwill. I’d deserve it all. Thank goodness He’s a bit more patient. I expect he’s waiting for me to come back to the old fashioned way: knead, cover, let rest, let rise, punch down, cover, let rise again. Aha! Rise again! God’s been in charge of this process the whole time!

Figures it would take the bread of life to give rise to the life of God in me. Good thing it’s not automatic. What meaning would there be if I were just pre-programmed by the machine? I guess that’s the workout part. My part. Hope that yeast hasn’t expired.

Droopy but so not dead

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I chose church over soccer this Sunday, and the show went on without me. Apparently, it was quite a physical affair, the Reston team persevering in the end by a 4-1 final score. My daughter Olivia scored one of the goals, so she says, and assisted on two of the others. But what she’s most proud of is defending the honor (and bodies) of her teammates. one in particular, whose playing style can be a bit annoying to the other team, I am sure. Apparently, annoyance turned physical and led to cautions and ejections.

My child sees her self as the “enforcer.” Really she is the defender. Any underdog, any where, is a cause for her concern. On this day that played out on the soccer field.

But I didn’t see it. What I saw instead was one droopy, white Mother’s Day flower which walked in with my sweaty but pleased daughter. IMG_5401 The flower is a tradition with the Bobcats. Hand it to their big-hearted coach who makes sure the mother’s are recognized on their special day – which is always a travel team’s soccer day because it falls on a Sunday mid-May. He arrives with a dozen and a half and the players distribute them to their moms in the stands before play begins.

Of course, I wasn’t in the stands. I was in the pews. So my flower waited to greet me some hours later, droopy but not yet dead. My daughter and I both laughed as I got out the vase and stuffed it in, hoping the neck would be support enough for its fragile stem. But no, it drooped sadly.

Have no fear, Olivia to the rescue. Toothpicks, tape, twist-ties and a bit of ingenuity later, she has the stem stabilized and the droop managed. She learned this, she says, from her paternal grandfather who was a renowned Bonsai expert. splinted flower

Next day, wouldn’t you know, the little lady is standing up almost straight. There, stabilized by a splint, wrapped with twist-ties, my flower beams happy Mother’s Day to me. And I beam back. It looks so like the newly repaired knees of the young women athletes I dearly love to train. Fragile to look at but so strong on the inside. A bit of special attention and they spring back to life. standing tall

 

This morning, my Mother’s Day flower greets me with yet another expression. Its pedals spread wide, so pleased to be beautiful, it is hugging me hello. Or maybe thank you. But probably, “Look out world, here I come!”

 

spread your petals

Never underestimate a rose. Or a child with a mind and heart to rescue.

The least common denominator primes us

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Every class has those kids. The smart ones, the curve-breakers, who pick it up early and run with it. They get it on the first go around. Hardly need our help at all. They have natural aptitude. Sit in the front of the class, graduate first in their class. They are on their way. Hardly need us. Did they ever need us? this is easy.

Then there are those other kids. The struggling ones, the faltering ones. They don’t pick it up early, so they come for extra help. We don’t see eye to eye. They just don’t get it. I tell it to them again and again. The other kids got it, why can’t they? They are stumped. They need us to see it the way they see it, so we can help them. this is hard.

Then there are those kids. The defiant ones, the failing ones. They don’t pick it up at all, but they don’t come to us for help. They’ve given up, not on us, but on themselves. These need our help most of all, but we don’t know how to help them. Don’t know how to reach them. If they’d come, we’d talk baseball or girl friends, we’d share movies we like or programs we watch. Maybe we would get to telling stories. this is harder still.

Teaching, lacing up the sneakers and going one on one with our world’s greatest natural resource, is the hardest job on earth and the greatest gift we can give. The capable ones will get it without us, but the others stretch us. Sometimes nearly to the breaking point.

And there’s no guarantee. They may fall away anyway in spite of our efforts, but let it not be because of our efforts. Never, ever, because of our efforts. We reach and keep reaching. We re-invent and re-organize. We create new ways to approach an old concept. We make models and draw diagrams. We sketch and color, paint and draw. We use our bodies and our boards. We use our minds, hearts and souls. We call on all the resources we have at hand to teach this one. The least common denominator. Who sits across from us…stumped, frustrated, confused. Who fumes and throws up his hands. “I’ll never get this!”

And we take a deep breath and smile an honest, sincere smile that reflects the truest of hearts. “You will. Let’s try again another way.” And so you do.

One day the quality of my work will be judged by my attention to the least common denominator.

If I Had My Way I’d be Out of a Job

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My goal in life is to retire

because the work I do no longer needs doing.

 

To become obsolete.

Walking the fields, strolling the sidelines,

and as far as I can see

children are playing:

determined and skillful, sweating and graceful,

completely exhausted, and deliriously happy.

 

No yelling. No carding. No injuries.

No knee braces. No ankle wraps.

No ice. No crutches. No splints. No ambulances.

No tears.

No stoppage time.

Every game starting and stopping at the whistle,

according to the running clock.

 

Oh, there would be running.

And jumping and kicking and passing and shooting

And tackling and intercepting and tipping over the bar.

The game would go until the final whistle.

A winner named. A loser declared.

Players, both elated and defeated, celebrating

because they get to play again.

 

How I long to stand by and watch,

silent, smiling and unnecessary;

to hang up my cleats, stack my cones, closet my ladder and rings.

To take a seat and watch the children play,

as I was meant to do.

 

If I had my way,

I’d be out of a job.

Where measure has no meaning

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  • Toss or save
  • Full or empty
  • In-fashion or out
  • New or old
  • Useful or useless

How we are people of the dichotomy. One or the other, thanks. Don’t both me with the muddle in the middle. Just get rid of it! My goodness, the safe shredding industry has taken root over night, to help us feel better about our waste.

But what about want? And what about age and injury and illness? What do we do with those? They’re not quite used up but so inconvenient.

Re-purpose. Can we talk about this? It was good for this; now it’s good for that. The common denominator: good. The operative word: for. Now that takes some creativity. Good is what we are. Good for is what we will be, what we’re becoming. There’s a reason there’s no such word as gooder. Because we were created with a purpose, completely supplied with the raw materials.

A popular expression in my line of work is: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” There’s that dichotomy again: can or can’t. The young are very sure they can, until they discover they can’t and need help. The old cannot until asked for their wisdom, and they supply the young so they can again. From can — to can’t — to can again. Can it be that simple? — dashes and arrows connecting our dichotomy? One shows the other how to be. We’re not used up, we’re used for.

It’s not a vicious cycle that spins and dizzies, but a plentiful path that supplies as we go along. Complete at any point on the perimeter because quantity, volume, and age are nonsensical. Measure has no meaning. We are completed by the connection, continuously.

Sewing Order

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“We will so order our lives after the example of Christ…”

That’s the beginning of the prayer we offer to newly baptized children or just confirmed young people in our church. This phrase always catches me. It’s that word: order. Not just act like Christ. Not just dress up like Christ. Not just have Christ as a playmate or an imaginary friend. I am promising to order my life after His example. Whoa! Now there is a tall order.

I am pretty sure I have been getting this wrong. Normally, I place my order. I’d like this healing and this protection and this special consideration, and maybe toss in a few of these extras, if it’s not too much bother, Lord. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a resounding, “Would you like fries with that, ma’am?” from heaven.

But God’s not about giving orders, just establishing order. Re-ordering things that have fallen away or gotten out of line.

How about instead of giving orders I “be the order.” That is, take it upon myself to be this very thing, to actually personify the very thing I want to bring. Hey, writers do this all the time. It’s a figurative language technique where non-living or non-human things are given human characteristics.

  • The trees clapped their hands
  • Amber waves of grain
  • The sun smiled
  • The earth melted
  • My winnings evaporated before my eyes

It’s a very powerful way to make a comparison. Effective. Gets you right there. Simile is such a weakling; metaphorical language lassos you. Gotcha!

So, why not “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. I can seek to be order, be healing, be patience, calm, wisdom. Not act like I’m the doctor or pretend that I can wait or put on a veneer of calm or an air of wisdom. Bolder than any of these, I can be them. Not impersonate these qualities, but personify them. Become them in my very person.

Then I will stop asking how can I establish order, stop trying to orchestrate the world around me and turn to the One in me who knows my circumstances and put me here as His emissary. By Be-ing what’s needed I will act differently because the one who’s behaviors I can control, I do: mine. They’re mine to manage and His to guide. I can Be because the Great I Am, is. I feel like He can work with this. Probably all my relationships are heaving a huge sigh of relief right about now.

This all sounds good until you have one of those days. Too little sleep and too many things pinging from too many directions have you scattered and turning in circles. I had to hang up on the guy calling with the quote I wanted because I couldn’t focus on one thing at once. Yes, that bad. The gibberish my brain was feeding me was so disordered, I dared not venture out into the world.

Just then, my handbag glared at me. It was sitting on the seat of my desk chair, snickering. The small compartments to the side had collapsed and were spilling their contents into the black hole of its middle. I could live with this except for one thing: in that black hole was my cell phone. UGHH!

Be the order. 

What?

Yes, Wendy, you can return this bag to its ordered self by supplying a few stitches to the side compartment. 

photo (2)-003Yep, I pulled out that sewing kit, squinted to thread that needle, applied a few running stitches and poof. A few, rare, domestic moments later, I had two functional pockets with cell phone, pens, business cards, and sticky notes all in their customary spots.

God knows I need order. But this isn’t something I need to seek elsewhere. God has made it available to me in Himself. As I complete the row of stitches I marvel at the order. I haven’t just sewn stitches, I’ve sown order. With God’s help, after the example of Christ, it’s a simple fix. Whoa! Who would have thought God with bother with something so terrestrial?

But hey, if a writer can bring life to story by giving human characteristics to non-human things, is it so far-fetched to think that God can bring His story to life by investing human things with Divine characteristics?

… perhaps we can do this …

With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ… that all His children, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.

Signs and Wonders Still

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In the old days, God made himself known through signs and wonders. Jesus worked miracles. Prophets dreamed dreams and had visions. But what about today?

Well, if we can keep this just among ourselves, I’ll tell you…God gets my attention through little stuff no one else would notice.

Panera Receipt 11:11

Like 11:11. It’s the date of my grandfather’s birthday: 11/11/11. A cool number. Amazing how many times it comes up on my cell phone or digital watch just as I have made a decision or am departing a challenging event or wondering whether I have done the right thing. I even got it on a Panera receipt. The cashier probably wondered why I was so excited.

Then there is my chiming watch. (I’ve written about it here before.) It chimes the exact hour, every hour. Amazing how many times its sound coincides with just the moment I begin a new thing or wonder whether I should take a different tack.

Smiling Kiwi

Then there are the smiling faces in my food. Come on, who can deny that was put there just to make me smile? I probably have 100 of these photos.

Or the whirligig that landed on my writing table, just as I was beginning the last book edit? I remember watching those helicopter down to the ground, fascinating me with their flight.

Whirligig
I Heart You

Or the heart-shaped leaf that warms my heart.

Let’s not forget the deer grazing – sometimes one, sometimes several – who seem oblivious to their message for me: I am with you in this.

I headed out to collect the paper yesterday and my eyes fell upon this.

Our house

Come on, this is the stick figure house I always drew, well, still draw because I am not much of a draw-er. Can you believe the detail? No other twigs or branches or greenery or mulch in sight. Just this, smack dab at the end of my driveway, as if it was placed there, for my pleasure. It even launched a ditty in my head. “our house … is a very, very, very fine house…”

God and I have developed quite a few “signs and wonders” in our special language over the years. These things wouldn’t probably attract any one else’s attention. But they do, mine. But where did they come from? I’m not talking superstition, here. I mean really, who gave me these ideas?

Well, Bampa gave me 11:11. I accidentally activated the chime on an excursion my youngest and I took together to a crazy event. She also introduced me to faces thanks to Dairy Queen’s curlicue softserve. The whirligigs are a product of my childhood friends. Observing deer arrived first on the way to deliver one of my children by scheduled C-section. Thank goodness for that doe. All these, and so many more, are the collection of stories that have left a memento. Other peoples’ stories that have intersected with my own and become a part of mine. Entwined as sign and wonder.

So, the small twig house at the end of the driveway? Do you suppose God was just showing off? Or do you think He intended me to sing? Sing/sign? Pretty close. Might just be coincidence.

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