A Better Way

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makeupI’ve stayed in more hotel rooms these past six months than in the past ten years of my life combined. As one who is often all too willing to subscribe to marketing ploys, I generally keep my Hilton Honors card pretty close (points speak, you know). But these travels have brought me to a variety of places to lay my head for the night, and to two specific A-ha moments that today are causing me to ask:

What if there’s a better way?

But before you dial in for deep thoughts, two not-so-weighty illustrations from my travels must be shared…

Every bed I slept on in Europe defied my understanding of the limits of linens. To be specific, it blew my mind that every two-person mattress was topped with two separate comforters! One fitted sheet. No top sheet. Two duvets stuffed into their own duvet covers – one for each sleep-mate.

Exposure to this one idea has revolutionized the way I make my bed! Don’t laugh! Gone are the days of blanket tug-of-war. I can stick my toes out for air on either side of my small blanket – even on my husband’s side. And I can launder the top sheet/duvet cover as often as I used to change the sheets, giving my touch of OCD a bit of a reprieve as I climb into fresh bedding and switch off the lights.

I always assumed that sharing the bed meant sharing the covers. Well – didn’t you?

Never mind that she’s a cover-hog and he wakes up shivering in the dark.

Never mind that his favorite quilt is too warm – or not heavy enough – for her.

Never mind the onset of menopause and those pesky thermostat-changes in the middle of the night.

We’re married. We share a bed. We share the covers. For better or worse. End of story. Right?

I never stopped to consider that there just might be a better way.

One of my favorite recent stays was in a funky boutique hotel. Not part of a huge conglomerate, this quirky place has an enormous hot tub that seats about 50 (seriously) and a fabulous organic Mexican restaurant curbside. The rooms have black marble tile in the bathroom and cuddly robes hanging in the closet. They give you bottled water or soda, candy bars & snacks for free – yours for the asking – and each room has a Keurig with to-go cups and lids. If you’re checking in for just one night, you can request a 24 hour stay! Check out time is 24 hours from the time you check in. Sweet!

But the coolest feature in my opinion shows up on the towel rack. It’s a black washcloth. Embroidered with the word ‘makeup’.

Now, this will be totally lost on the gentlemen, but a black cloth for removing makeup is totally brilliant! Especially for a hotel. While it hasn’t stopped me from engaging in my hygiene routine, I have often felt bad about using those pristinely whitened cloths to remove mascara at the end of the day. After all, I see my own white cloths with black stains at home, in spite of the bleach-maintenance system I’ve devised. Yet it never occurred to me that there was another option for hotels other than white!

Who knew? There is a better way!

I know, I know… Comforters and washcloths don’t exactly have the power to change the world, but what if there’s a better way to do other things, too, and instead of being ready for inspiration and open to new ideas, I’m at home on the couch? TV droning. The world at arm’s length. Firmly fixed in my comforting little routines.

What if there’s a better way to love people – and I miss out because I think I know it all?

What if there’s a better way to meet the needs of the lonely – but I fail to meet the lonely because I’m content to hang out in my own little world?

What if the God of the universe hasn’t stopped creating – and yet I’m missing His handiwork out there by choosing instead to hole up in here?

It doesn’t take a European vacation to see that there is a way of life that leads to death – where minds are shut tight and there is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing brilliant to be discovered under the sun.

Likewise, you don’t need a hotel loyalty card to discover that, as the United Church of Christ has said so well, “God is still speaking!” And inspiring! And creating! And saving!

So, open your eyes. Pay attention to the world around you. Watch for clever improvements on the dull and monotonous. Look for better ways to do the little things, but more importantly – look for ways to improve on the meaningful work you have been placed here to do.

Don’t settle for what works. Find a better way.

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Afterthoughts: Reflecting on the Road Just Traveled

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Some people barrel through life in a constant state of ablaze-for-what-comes-next.

Some people live very well in the moment, but when the moment is gone, so goes its power. No lesson learned. No lingering sense of the holy in what just happened.

And some people put down roots – deep and extensive roots – in the events and relationships of yesterday, never entertaining the possibility that new adventures may spark important ideas or birth exciting connections with today. Maybe even with tomorrow.

As for me, I want to be like Mary.

Upon her baby’s birth, after the angel choir had summoned the shepherds to the humble birthplace for worship, Mary wasn’t dwelling on ‘what happens next?’ She wasn’t whining about having given birth in the straw with animal-onlookers; not complaining about inadequate medical care. And from all accounts, we don’t get the feeling that Mary was cringing at the way her story – and that of her son – was unfolding. Nothing in the narrative suggests a Mary who would have preferred to go back in time to a simpler, more ‘normal’ and less mind-blowing existence.

In fact, we get the feeling that Mary was all-in for this God-created adventure! How do we know? Luke 2:19.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV)

But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. (NCV)

But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. (HCSB)

Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. (ERV)

Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. (CEB)

But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart. (AMP)

Mary treasured and pondered and meditated on the events she found herself living. Not only while the mysteries unfolded, but later, too – committing these things to memory and weighing them. Considering them. And my personal favorite – making Mary human and limited, just like me trying to understand them.

What just happened?

We ask this question because the lives we live matter. The words that are spoken and the people we meet, the adventures (and even the mis-adventures) we experience – all of it has the potential to shape us into the best parent, the most thoughtful friend, the most faithful expression of the presence of God in a world where pondering and treasuring are nothing more than ancient practices found in the dusty pages of a rarely opened Book.

Now, I am clearly not the mother of Jesus, but I am the mother of Joffrey and Britton, and I have been the wife of Dallas for nearly 25 years. My life’s adventures can’t really be compared with Mary’s, though that is often what we do, isn’t it? Compare our lives with others?

My family has just returned home from a three week European vacation. Three countries. Eight hotel rooms. Trains. Planes. Taxis. Boats. Buses. Mountains. Oceans. Rain. Snow. And people.

While living this recent adventure, we had to stay in the moment – there was so much to see, and it was ALL new! It wasn’t until I was sitting uncomfortably on the 12 hour home-bound flight that I began to ponder the events of the previous weeks, remembering a word spoken here or a mind-picture there, weighing and mulling over and trying to understand what had just happened…

Because this adventure – this road we’ve just traveled – matters.

At face value, it was a fun trip! We did lots of things, saw places we have only read about in books or seen in movies, met new and interesting people and were reunited with family and friends that we haven’t seen for years.

But I want to be like Mary. I want to hold onto what has happened for awhile, turn it over in my mind, and see what happens. I want to be teachable, but I am also a teacher – and I want to share some of these Afterthoughts with you.

Will you walk with me for awhile, down this road I’ve just traveled?

After all, one person’s Afterthought could very well be another one’s treasure. Just ask Mary.