'Vegetable hole' and other terms of endearment
Photo by  Jon Tyson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I’ve often wondered about Nick. Not Saint Nick, and not the one who almost ran out of time. The other Nick. The one who must have been incredibly skilled at terms of endearment. 

Everyone in this Nick’s hometown most definitely had the name on their birth certificate, and the name Nick gave them. I picture him as a jovial wielder of words whose labeling felt like a verbal hug from your best friend.

He was a friendly guy who walked around with blank name tags, waving the ancient equivalent of a giant Sharpie and issuing nicknames, maybe like the United Kingdom knights people. Can you see it? 

As Nick, the naming monarch, moves the oversized quill from your right shoulder to your left shoulder, you wait expectantly to hear what would follow the words “I now dub you…” As he speaks, the crowd that has gathered begins to nod with approval and admiration at how perfectly the name fits you. Nick writes the name on a piece of cloth, pins it to your shirt and shakes your hand. You stand, smile and start repeating your nickname with excitement as you hurry to tell your friends. 

The nickname force is strong with my family, although I fear it’s mutated significantly since the imaginary scene described above. Names other than the ones given to people, places and things roll off our tongues like a fluent second language. To be fully forthcoming, I should note that many times that second language is actually jibberish. We often see blank stares and confused expressions if we slip up and use these odd and affectionate titles in public. 

So, get your brows ready to lift or furrow, because I’m bringing you into the family. Here we go!

How it began

The gene grows stronger over time, but it was a slow start for me. In elementary school, I called my sister Foopy for a couple of years and she called me Acapulco. Not very creative, I know.  Foopy is clearly just a rip-off of the more commonly known Schmoopie. We were young and apparently had just looked at a map of Mexico.  

Our dog, whose given name was Blessing, was christened by my dad as Bud-nicky Peatums. Bonus points for that one. Five syllables, straight-outta-nowhere and made us laugh really loud.

There were a few more typical terms in the mix. My mom often called my dad Daddy-boy, and he answered her with a Baby-doll. To me, my Mom was Mamma Schmamma, and eventually, I started calling her Marmie after one of our favorite movies to watch together, Little Women.

How it still is

Even as an adult, I still conjure up fun things to call people. During one visit to my parent’s house, I stood at the top of the stairs calling out to my dad. “Daaaa-aaad!” No answer. “Dad!” No answer. He couldn’t hear me over the radio he had blasting downstairs. I resorted to calling him something close to his given name Richard, “Ricky!” “Rick!” Still no answer, and I couldn’t be bothered to walk downstairs.

It started somewhere deep in my belly. I felt it surging up through my chest and shoulders. My neck began to sway and my bottom jaw flexed open wide. “Rrrriiiiiiii-tcheeeeeeeeey!” It was a high-pitched, gargly bellow, like Scuttles from Little Mermaid. I was channeling the matriarch from All in the Family. Can you hear it? “Aaaaaarrrrrrrrr-cheeeeeeeey!”

It worked, and the moniker Ritchie was born for my dad. It stuck, like a nametag from our patron labeler Nick himself. 

Places are also not off limits. Ritchie not-so-affectionately refers to a soup and salad restaurant as the Vegetable Hole. I think he equates it to culinary solitary confinement with no access to red meat or apple pie. No hunter wants to be drug to that leafy, green hole. 

Mom, Marmie, and Dad, Ritchie

Mom, Marmie, and Dad, Ritchie

As I reflect on nicknames, it’s clear to me that my father is a blackbelt. He should advance to the elite ranks of those individuals who hand out one-of-a-kind aka’s. In fact, I think the original Nick would be OK with me coining the term rickname. Congratulations, Ritchie, you’ve earned it.  

I appreciate most nicknames I’ve been given over the years by people I know and love. These playful and sometimes goofy names make me smile. 

What nicknames have you given to people or things you love?

Catch up: If you’re new here, check out some of the previous blogs. We talk about verbal processing, finding comfort in God, and His incredible love, along with several lighter attempts at humor. You can get to know me on the about page. Glad you’re here!

A Red Bull and a warm blanket

A few weeks ago, a friend gave me a gift, and it was the nicest gesture. It made my day. As I reflected on the gift, it reminded me of one of my favorite movies - The Mirror Has Two Faces, with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. 

The scene that came to mind is one where Rose (Barbra) and Gregory (Jeff) are enjoying dinner at a nice restaurant. At this point in the story, they have been in a platonic friendship for quite a while, and he is starting to realize he loves her. The waiter asks what they want for dinner, and Greg orders for Rose. She’s pleasantly surprised as he orders her favorite menu items, even down to her ride-or-die “extra glop of salad dressing.”  

When their salads arrive, Greg begins to narrate how Rose eats her salad with perfect precision. He refers to her “loading of the fork” as his favorite part. The look on her face as this unfolds gets me every time. It’s the look of someone who is known and appreciated, quirks and all.

There have been a handful of times when I’ve had a similar experience of being known or understood by another person. It really is powerful. It says very clearly, “You are not alone. I see you.” It’s like a Red Bull and a warm blanket at the same time straight to the heart. 

One memory that never fades is when a close friend told another friend why I wasn’t participating in a physically strenuous activity with the larger group. My decision was related to a health issue, and he knew it. He didn’t overshare or disclose too much information. He shared just enough to keep additional questions from being asked, and to make me realize he really saw me. I was incredibly grateful. 

The gift that was given to me a few weeks ago had a similar effect. I was under a lot of stress with things happening at work. Long hours, lots of details and quick deadlines. 

On the verge of tears, I was talking to two friends, and I felt like I needed to laugh. You know those moments? The ones where if you don’t lean back into a belly laugh you’re going to slump forward in a mess of tears?

I asked them if I could share a funny story. They indulged me and even laughed with me as I recounted something that amused me. My shoulders relaxed a little as the endorphins flooded in and the tears dried up before spilling over. My friends’ listening ears and chuckles of solidarity helped me so much. 

As our conversation ended, I said, “I think laughter is one of my love languages. It just helps me let go of things and makes things better.”

the card I received a few weeks ago :-)

the card I received a few weeks ago :-)

The next day, one of those friends gave me a very sweet card and a book full of lighthearted, amusing sayings and snarky wordplay. As I flipped through the book and laughed, it almost brought tears to my eyes. 

When was the last time you felt this way? Who notices what you say or the way you load your fork at dinner? What is it that makes you feel seen and known? 

If anyone out there is feeling invisible or unknown today, you’re in my prayers. I’ve been there and no doubt will be again. It’s hard and lonely. I encourage you to ask God if he sees you and knows you. There’s no one with better vision or more intimate insight into who you are and what you need. 

Up next: I come from a long line of nick-name loving people. It gets down right silly and odd sometimes. Naturally, you’ll want to hear about it.

Catch up: If you’re new to the blog, you can get to know me on the about page. Glad you’re here!

The gym is my kryptonite

Anyone hitting the gym or the walking trails this summer? I’m not right now, because I’m working through some foot pain. It’s like tiny people are stabbing me with freshly sharpened knives with every step. Hopefully, I’ll be back into working out soon.    

While I’m not going to the gym these days, I was thinking about how many embarrassing moments I’ve had in health clubs. There are times I’ve walked in the gym feeling bold and energized and promptly hurried out feeling insecure and traumatized.

One time, I asked the guy on the treadmill next to me why he was wearing thongs. Where I grew up, a thong is a flip-flop type shoe. The type of shoe he was, in fact, wearing. To him, and many others, it’s a thin piece of cloth snuggled between two pillows down south.

Another time, I desperately tried to avoid a conversation with an old acquaintance. An aerial view would have shown a Pac-man like pursuit and escape to the ladies room. Complete with me talking into my wallet like it was a phone and having a lively conversation with myself. Pretty sure I fooled no one at all.

It happened last fall

But one of my worst health club blunders happened last fall when I was on the treadmill. I was highly motivated to get my walk/jog groove on. I walked for about 10 minutes and was gearing up to go faster. I was feeling great!

My arms swung in perfect rhythm. My new blue running shoes struck the rubber belt loudly and confidently. My breathing was focused, and my inner monologue was full of things like, “Look at me go! 40 is the new 20!”  

All of a sudden, the screen flashed a message that it was time to do the cool down program. It was not time for me to cool down anything. I was just getting warmed up!

The speed decreased instantly to 1.0. I had not pushed any buttons to make the machine to slow down. I didn’t know what was happening, but I was determined to finish my workout. My right arm shot forward, my pointer finger furiously jabbing the up arrow at least 30 times to increase the speed. Picture a reality show chef racing the clock to finish chopping ingredients. That’s how fast my finger was punching the display.

Fast forward a few minutes. After increasing the speed, the same thing happened again! And then severe deja vu hit because it happened a third time. I was really irritated.

I looked around and wondered if there was a hidden camera somewhere for a new version of the Biggest Loser reality show. One where they prank unsuspecting fitness club members to see how quickly they give up on a workout, run to their cars and make a beeline for the nearest drive through.

The big reveal

The treadmill was almost completely stopped at this point. I took a step backward on the belt and glanced down to put my hand on the bar at waist level. Literally out of nowhere a button labeled “cool down” appeared at the center of the bar. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Where was this button 5 minutes ago, 10 minutes ago?

Are you ready for what’s coming next? Are you ready to hear how this button was mysteriously not there, and then there? I’m actually not sure I’m ready to tell you, but here goes...

Apparently, the cool down button was previously hidden by this thing that had latched on to my waist and wrapped terrifyingly strong tentacles around to the back of my ribs. This thing that refused to let go. This thing, sigh, was the extra 30 pounds that has slowly become one with my mid-section over the past decade.

And it gets worse. As I was jogging, this amoeba-like mass around my middle was traveling up and down so violently with each stride, that somehow it had been hitting the cool down button! And, I, had, no, clue. Really?! Really?! I could have just melted into the ground right there.

I was really glad I hadn’t asked the trainer at the front desk for help. I mean, how would that have gone? I try not to think about it. It just makes me cringe and yell out, “NOPE!”

If you want to witness these events that prove the gym is my kryptonite, you're welcome to tag along with me for a workout when I’m back at it. The more the merrier.

Exercise, I know it does a body good, but it also does an ego in.

Up next: I recently spent time in a doctor’s office waiting room. Lots of related life analogies have been on my mind. The next post might dig into some of those ideas.

Catch up: If you’re new to the blog, you can get to know me on the about page. Glad you’re here!

Meet my friend, Kristin!
Kristin Nave.PNG

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend, Kristin Nave!

We met in 2002 while living on Maui. We only lived in the same place for about eight or nine months, but we’ve stayed in touch off and on over the years, and I’m so glad! Kristin can pray with me about hard things and laugh with me about silly things.

She’s the real deal. Genuine and earnest, and she smiles with her eyes, which I find so endearing. She’s all about the fun too and quick to join me in a belly laugh. She lip-synced to the Christina Aguilera song ‘Come On Over Baby’ at her wedding reception! With dance moves and everything! I mean, come on, how fun is that?!

Even if a few years have gone by since we’ve spoken, I know I can text her and ask for prayer, and she’s on it. Once when I was going through a tough season, Kristin answered my request for prayer with an offer to let me live with her and her family. That’s the kind of person she is. The kind who prays and then gets to work being part of the answer to that prayer. God’s love and care for others shines brightly through her and her family.

We’ve been connecting more frequently lately because we both began to feel the pull to write around the same time. It’s been such a blessing to have Kristin as a partner in prose these past few months. She has a heart to love God and people, and she encourages others beautifully on her blog.

Kristin asked if I would share on her blog about a season of discouragement and how I came out of it. Of course, I said ‘Yes!’ You can read the story here, and while you’re on her site check out her other posts. Whether it’s thoughts on marriage, parenting or faith, you’ll always find something to make you think and spur you on to truth.

Riding waves and climbing trees
I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

“We ought not leap in prayer and limp in praise.”

This quote from Charles Spurgeon paints a vivid picture for me. Can’t you feel the vast difference between the two descriptions of movement? Steps where your feet barely touch the ground, your arms swing high, neck craned upward to make sure you’re heard, versus dragging your feet slowly, moaning and groaning while staring at the ground.

The quote came to mind earlier this year as I traveled to both U.S. coasts and found myself noticing the lack of limping in nature.  

Do the waves reluctantly make their way ashore while wishing they would never crest? Definitely not. In February, I was mesmerized by how the waves off the Florida coast rolled in beautiful rhythm and seemed to take joy in crashing ashore. It’s almost as though they happily trip over one another in anticipation. Each one breaks and gives energy to the next. It’s a wonderfully collective chorus of praise.

Do the impressive Redwood trees cower and slump? After visiting Northern California in April, I can confirm they would dare not do such a thing. They stand tall and confident like they’re stretching for the sun. Their branches spread wide and overlap as they seem to pat each other on the back and plead with each other to reach higher.

It was like a gratitude adrenaline rush to see the water and trees and how they speak of, and to, the Creator. I found myself wanting to jump in the ocean despite the cold temperatures - toss me a wet suit already! I had the strong urge to climb a Redwood despite the fact that I couldn’t fit my arms around half of one - strap me in whatever they strap you in to climb those beautiful, bigger-than-life trees!

To leap or to limp

On days like the ones in my travels, I think I follow somewhat in nature’s footsteps as praise and gratitude readily roll out of my heart and off my tongue. Other days it crosses my lips a little more reluctantly, or gets stuck altogether in my throat and never registers a sound wave.

If I regularly seem to have enough energy to ‘leap’ and devote most of my focus and effort to asking for what I want and think I need, and then find myself depleted to a ‘limp’ when it comes to praising, I know I’m headed for trouble.

Why is that? I think it’s because saying thank you and marveling at who God is and what he’s done reminds me that I am, in fact, talking to a living being. He is a kind and caring God who hears, moves and responds, not a vending machine, concierge or genie. There is no relationship in those transactional type of interactions. I’m talking with the God of the universe who knows me and wants me to know Him.

Sometimes we need a running start

It’s been a bit of a challenge this past month not to drag my feet and glance down when it comes to praise. Some unexpected health challenges arrived on my doorstep, and I’d like to label them return to sender and be done with them. Even though I’ve seen God show up in these unsettling circumstances, being grateful and praising can just be harder when facing frustrations. It may require a running start, but it’s worth the effort.

One of the things I’m praising God about is how he scheduled a doctor appointment for me, literally. When I called to make an appointment, at first they told me it would be a two month wait. I wasn’t concerned about the time frame and was going to take whatever was available. While talking to the receptionist, she interrupted me and said they just received a cancellation for the next day at 2 p.m. In the days and test results that followed, it was clear the sudden opening in the schedule was the Lord taking care of me. How is that for evidence that God can handle the details?

I would say I’m at a steadily increasing praise leap right now as I continue to focus on God’s love and faithfulness. And this effort has in no way diminished my leaping in asking for full resolution. In my mind, Spurgeon’s quote is not a reprimand for bringing persistent, spirited requests to God; it’s a call to apply just as much heart, soul and time to thanks and praise. It’s a check and balance on my motivations and view of our Heavenly Father when it comes to prayer and praise. The admonition doesn’t dwindle my asking, it stokes my praising.

So, I’m leaping pretty high in my requests right now, and by God’s grace, will leap just as high with thanks and praise. I aim to ride some legit barrel waves and swing my way through Redwood branches reaching higher and higher for the Son.

What about you?

Are you leaping or limping in praise right now? What do you think about Spurgeon’s quote?

Up next: Next week, I’m excited to share that something I wrote is being posted on a friend’s blog. I’m looking forward to introducing you to her and her site. She is a joy and has so many helpful things to say.

Catch up: If you’re new here, check out some of the previous blogs. We talk about verbal processing, finding comfort in God, and His incredible love, along with several lighter attempts at humor.

Bagging the DC bugs

I’m so glad it’s spring! In Texas, spring only lasts for a few minutes and always includes light-up-the-sky thunderstorms, like the one we had last night. This season also means beautiful weather, time outdoors, allergies and noteworthy encounters with bugs.

I remember one such encounter last spring after returning home from a trip to D.C. I was 100% convinced that creepy, crawly things had hitchhiked in my luggage and moved into my apartment. Actually, I was beyond convinced.

Photo by  Erol Ahmed  on  Unsplash

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

I would have bet my chocolate, chocolate chip mini-bundt cake on it. That’s no small wager for me. If I could eat one every day and not gain weight, I would have my paycheck automatically transferred to Nothing Bundt Cakes to support the habit.

Before I digress too far on these magical cakes, I must recount for you my battle with the D.C. bugs.

On a Monday morning, I had small bites on my legs and arms and constantly felt microscopic things crawling on me. I kept searching my skin for the minuscule critters but couldn’t see them. I was like a dog chasing its tail. Luckily, I didn’t over-react. Not one bit. I just hauled my suitcases and large area rug to the trash, Lysoled everything that wasn’t edible, washed the bedding and vacuumed the floors and furniture

On Tuesday, I found small, brown, barely visible bugs on my sheets. I attacked them with clear packing tape while yelling, “Gotcha!” and put the tape in a gallon size Ziploc bag. My exterminator would thank me. He was going to figure out what type of bugs were harassing me and kill them dead.

On Thursday, the exterminator arrived with poison in hand. By that time, two bags of suffocated bugs lay waiting for him. He did an initial inspection and sprayed a general pest repellent around the baseboards. He promised to look at the perps I bagged under a microscope at the office. I felt better.

Photo by  Benoit Gauzere  on  Unsplash

ID-ing the perps

The exterminator came back the following Monday with no poison in hand. I hesitated when I saw him. The name of this bug that had hitched a ride with me to Dallas from D.C…. this bug that had decided to feast on my flesh and invade my abode...the name, is what pest control professionals in today’s modern society officially call, lint. You read that correctly. I was being chased by and providing a healthy blood supply for the ominous, piranha-like lint.

I was confused and stunned. I emphatically held out my arms, pointed to my ankles and told the exterminator I was fairly certain I wasn’t biting myself. He agreed and nonchalantly noted that I didn’t seem that flexible. Thank you, observant exterminator. Note to self, check out a Pilates class soon.  

As he left I wondered why I wasn’t sighing with relief and downright happy. Isn’t this truly a hashtag blessed moment? I had just avoided spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars ridding my home of a colony of nasty pests.

I think I was disappointed because I had been telling myself, and others, for seven days that I was a victim. I was ready for a battle and there didn’t seem to be one. At one point, I began to wonder if I was flexible enough to shove my ankle in my mouth. If I was, then at least I could call other exterminators until I found one that would lie to me. One that would tell me they found a rare breed of Amazonian bedbugs, charge me $1,000 and tent my apartment. Then I would feel better.  

Let it go, let it go (like Elsa, our Frozen friend, can you hear it?)

Our thoughts and perceptions have such a powerful influence over our ability to let the truth inform our reactions. And when we’re convinced with dig-our-heels-in certainty that we’re victims, we often won’t let go without ample commiseration and a fight.

Please don’t misunderstand, sometimes we are victims of great injustice and flat out unkindness, and battles need to be fought. But other times, it’s either all in our head or exaggerated in an unhelpful way. It might be just a self-pity flesh wound that we’ve diagnosed as lethal.

Maybe instead of acknowledging that we feel left out through no malicious intent of others, and taking steps not to be, or turning our thoughts to helping others, we lather ourselves in ketchup and marvel aloud at the blood spatter. We get out the white chalk, trace our bodies, call the medical examiner, and tell as many people as possible how we were taken out.

I’ve for sure done that before, and it does absolutely no good at all.

Life has enough no-kidding, hurt until we can’t breathe, victim moments that have been, and will be, part of our stories. It’s part of being human. I don’t want to add to them unnecessarily. Strength will be needed to fight the real battles and heal from wounds that have plunged past the epidermis to the bone.

Processing offenses with God and a trusted friend who can be objective is incredibly helpful. I find it important to pray about every single offense no matter how big or small, and trust that God will bring clarity and have compassion. He helps me walk out of offense, and he offers wisdom and healing for the smallest flesh wounds, the ones that cut deep, and self-inflicted ones too. Even the rare and venomous lint bugs.

What about you?

How have you let go of the victim mindset when you realized it was an overreaction? Equally as important, have you ever mistaken lint for bugs? It’s easy to do, right?! Right? I really hope I’m not the only one who has called an exterminator to get rid of tiny flecks of material. Please leave a comment below so we can form a club. We can call ourselves The Lugs.

Up next: I’ve been trying to provide hints at what I’ll post next. Sometimes it holds true, other times it doesn’t. The hint from the April 2 post is not at all what today’s post was about. As far as what truly is up next, I’m not sure. We’ll find out together in a couple of weeks. :-)

Catch up: The last post was titled “Is love on the list?” It was one of the best received posts yet. That made me happy! I was so grateful for the reminders from God that are captured in that post. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Is love on the list?
Photo by  KEEM IBARRA  on  Unsplash

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

I recently made an error in judgement and was feeling sick to my stomach over a decision. You know how it feels when you’ve eaten bad seafood? The queasiness and the churning? It was escalating toward that.

As I played back the events in my memory, it became clear my vision had been clouded. I didn’t intentionally make an unwise decision. It felt like it made sense at the time, but the passage of more time and hindsight were slowly bringing clarity.

I like to think of hindsight personified as a kind, forgiving uncle or grandfather. He waits silently and patiently until I can see him, and then he smiles and pulls out a chair for me to take a seat beside him. As we sit down, I start to see the truth even before he speaks. As my eyes brim with tears of regret, his eyes glisten too, out of compassion.

Around the time I was processing my exchange with hindsight, I found myself reading Psalm 31. The author is crying out for help in a desperate state. He feels like he fell into a trap and is greatly distressed. As I read his words, I was thinking, I know a little bit how you feel.

Granted, I’m not hiding in Middle Eastern caves and stepping in traps set by ancient warriors. My trap was unintentionally set by none other than yours truly, but, to some small degree, I felt like I could relate.

As I commiserated with the Psalmist and echoed his cries for assistance from God, I stopped suddenly when my eyes fell on verse 16. In the Message paraphrase version it says, “Warm me, your servant, with a smile; save me because you love me.”

Those four words - because you love me - made my chin start to quiver. The Psalmist’s life was in danger, and he was asking for God’s help not only because God was powerful and capable, but because he knew God loved him.

The Psalmist had the presence of heart and awareness of relationship to appeal to the love of God as he pled for rescue. I find that beautiful, bold, and to be truthful, not easy to do.

Let me count the reasons

How many times have I come up with long lists of reasons for God to intervene on my behalf? Plenty, to be sure. How many times has His love for me been on that list? I’m not sure I can answer that, which leads me to think very few, if at all.

My reasons tend to appeal to God’s power, grace, and mercy, and rightly so, but they stop short of addressing His heart, and mine.

Many of the cries for help in the Psalms are bold and raw, and they’re followed by such confident declarations that God will show up. Sometimes, I’m tempted to scoff a bit and think, “Well that was awfully resolute. Are you sure? Don’t you want to hedge your bets even a little?”

But on this occasion, I was seeing it differently. I was less a scoffer and more of an audacious pleader and a work-in-progress-proclaimer.

I heard myself say, “Save me because you love me.” I know God loves me, but to list that as a reason for Him to help me was a little uncomfortable.

The words came out of my mouth again, “Save me because you love me.” It still felt somewhat presumptuous.

This went on for a while with a tad more courage each time. It was like a steadily growing drum beat, and before I knew it, the brashness of the Psalms were starting to make more sense.

I wasn’t sure what my saving in this situation would look like or whether my prayer would be answered in the specific way I asked. But, what I was sure of is that through prayer and Scripture, God’s reassurance of His love for me had taken away my fear and built my trust.

And that, all by itself, was a rescue.

I want to remember this and be bolder in my cries for help next time. And next time, as I make my plea, love will be on my list. After all, wasn’t love the leading item on God’s list?

  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV

  • John 3:16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” The Message paraphrase

How easy or difficult is it to remember that God loves you? What helps you remember?

Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” ESV

Psalm 86:15 “But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit.” MSG

Up next: Coming up in the next post, we may dig a little deeper on the idea that whatever God’s answers to our prayers might be, we can trust Him.

Catch up: If you’re new to the blog, start here, and then check out the first few posts. You’ll get a glimpse of how I process life. Glad you’re here!

Ode to TPS reports and steak holders

The past two weeks, I’ve talked about God as a faithful listener and source of comfort, as well as shared a bit about verbal processing. Today’s post continues with the theme of words, but it’s the first post in a category called ‘the lighter side.’ It’s an attempt at humor. Please do let me know if it was successful or not. Enjoy!

After work one day recently, I was thinking about the idea of ‘shop talk.’ It’s the words we find ourselves using that mean something only to those we work with, or others in our field or profession.

Shop talk shows up in all industries and can be helpful when it has a clear meaning and builds camaraderie for those who use it. A good amount of my work experience has been in Corporate America, which has a jargon all its own.

The terms can hover like a thick fog disguising meaning with big, nebulous words. You find yourself rubbing your eyes and thinking awfully hard to understand what’s being said. I’ve fallen into using corporate jargon many times. It takes a lot to resist when it’s all around you.

Before you know it, you hear yourself say things like, “The team is committed to strategically fostering continued development, enhanced engagement and upward mobility.” Translation: “The team will make sure everyone has well-planned opportunities to continue learning new skills, gain rewarding work experience, and be considered for promotions.”

Jargon is real, and sometimes, it’s real funny.

One of my favorite ways to break up a dense conversation full of jargon is to mention TPS Reports. These reports are not real, but they played an unforgettable supporting role in the 1999 movie Office Space, a popular spoof on corporate life. If you’re looking for a solid punchline in most any office environment, TPS reports are a sure bet. Everyone chuckles and gives a knowing nod that we’ve fallen too far down the jargon rabbit hole.

A friend of mine has a unique way of injecting relief and amusement into the day at her workplace. She and some of her coworkers discreetly play Buzzword Bingo during meetings with a certain team known for their mastery of corporatese. They eagerly listen for words like leading-edge, capital efficiency, leverage and optimize. Such a fantastic idea!

Letting out a good laugh is the best feeling during long days filled with meetings, charts and jargon. In the spirit of joking with jargon, here’s a made-up exchange between a waiter and me, if I were limited to corporate jargon. Bon Appetit!

Made-up exchange between me and a waiter

Setting: A mid-priced steakhouse. I’m seated at a table toward the window. The waiter approaches with a smile on his face and welcomes me to the restaurant.

Me: Hello. What’s your body of work?

The waiter doesn’t understand my question. I point to the menu. He nods, hands me the red, bound pages with gold lettering and begins to tell me the lunch specials. He’s going into great detail about unrelated items, and it’s taking too long. I glance at my watch and prompt him to provide an executive summary.

Me: Can you provide an executive summary? I need you to boil it down for me.

The waiter proceeds to tell me the lobster can be boiled, but the steak and chicken options are only available seared and grilled, respectively. I decide to move the conversation along and inquire what his recommendation is for the best meal selection.

Me: What dish will have the most scalable impact on my hunger? What really moves the needle?

Photo by Daniel Norris on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Norris on Unsplash

The waiter shrugs and replies that the lobsters vary in weight from 2 to 4 pounds. They don’t use needles to administer anesthesia to the lobsters when they’re boiled. The temperature increases slowly, and they don’t feel any pain. While this was interesting information, I wasn’t any closer to learning the restaurant’s core competency. I try again.

Me: What dish is a real game-changer? What shifts paradigms for palates?

The waiter conveys that the lobsters don’t seem to like playing games even though he’s tried to engage them, prior to their demise, in Candy Crush, Fortnite and cricket. He continues on to say that he doesn’t recommend paragliding at all, much less shifting around in the paragliding harness after eating lobster. I decide to modify my approach and try again.  

Me: Listen, if we leverage best practices strategically, I’m confident we can reach an understanding. Synergy is essential, and I’m your primary stakeholder. Now, what is your recommended solution?

The waiter pauses. He practices reciting the body of work frequently, he says, and apparently is quite good as he wins memorization contests with the other wait staff. He thought I wanted boiled lobster, but he’s happy to bring me a steak to hold while I’m enjoying my lobster. Although, he supposes I’ll need both hands free to eat said lobster. I decide to make one final attempt by acknowledging my role and asking him to answer the original inquiry.   

Me: I see. Well, I’m trying to stay in my swim lane as the customer, but you still haven’t answered my request for your input. Could you please do so?

The waiter apologizes. He says they don’t have a pool, but the community center is right around the corner. It isn’t possible for him to serve lobster there due to food safety health laws. He asks if I can wait until after dinner to swim laps in my lane and recommends waiting one to two hours for proper digestion. I decide to mitigate further delays and suspend my efforts to uncover the restaurant’s core competency. Schedule is now the main driver in this exercise.

Me: Yes, I can wait to swim my laps, and I’ll have the lobster. Boiled down. Please do not bring me a steak to hold. Thank you.

The waiter retrieves the body of work from my hands and hurries off to the kitchen. I make a note to file a TPS report with the waiter’s manager. Clearly, they need to hire an outside consultant to evaluate their value creation strategy. Their competitive advantage was in dire straights.


What about you? What type of jargon do you catch yourself using at work? Any amusing terms to share that would confuse the rest of us?

Up next: Coming up in a couple of weeks, I think we might touch on the topic of love. We’ll see how the post ends up. Until then, take care, of yourself, and to avoid TPS reports.

Catch up: If this is your first time to my blog, you may want to checkout the first post to learn more about me and why I blog. So glad you’re here!

Long drives, deep thoughts and bees
Photo by    Matthew Henry    on    Unsplash

Last week we talked about what verbal processing looks like to me. Today, I unpack one of my processing road trips. Who’s ready to hop in the car? Let’s go!

Between Dallas and Houston are about 260 miles of flat, wide open spaces and big, blue skies. I make this drive fairly often and find it’s a good time to think.

And, sure, I let Jesus take the wheel occasionally so I can sing at the top of my lungs and gesture, although what I do really isn’t dancing. It might qualify as an Oscar-worthy impression of someone caught in a bee swarm, but it is definitely not dancing.

An especially meaningful drive happened early one Friday morning as I headed out of town for the weekend. Asphalt, dotted white lines and solid yellow ones flew by in my peripheral as I began to wrestle with some questions.

I was coming out of what seemed like a prolonged season of slumber in which I had been reluctant to engage in life and with people. A couple of months had passed since I began rubbing the sleep out of my soul, and I was gradually waking up again to the purpose I had in life and in God.

Against the background of engine noise and tires on the road, I was talking myself through uncovering the ‘why’ for my recent hibernation. The metaphor of slumber was really helping me make sense of things as I looked inward. What deceptive lullaby had I listened to or sung to myself? What smothering quilt had I wrapped myself up in and burrowed into that allowed such apathy and distance?

I rounded an overpass to take the next highway and began to pray out loud, eventually recounting some disappointments and things that hurt. There wasn’t any bitterness in my words, but there was sadness and a sense of depletion. At this point in my prayers, I usually don’t linger. I move fairly quickly into quoting scripture and asking God for help.

This time was different

This time, I didn’t have the strength to ask for help. And in that moment of exhaustion, traveling at 70 mph with the car on cruise control and my hands at 10 and 2, something happened. For the first time in recent memory, I found myself lingering, sitting in my sadness and asking God for comfort, instead of help. Help was still very much needed, but comfort was higher on the soul’s Maslow hierarchy of needs.

As I asked for comfort throughout the drive, it dawned on me that I wasn’t exactly sure what my request meant, but I knew I needed it. With each passing mile, it felt like that weighty quilt I mentioned earlier was being slowly lifted off me by giant, gentle hands. Turns out, it was much, much heavier and more suffocating than I realized.

After arriving in Houston, I took the key out of the ignition and sat quietly for a little while. As I unfolded myself out of the car (I’m 5’9”, it was a little car) and began to walk across the pavement to the hotel where I was staying, I had the strongest sense of being known and loved. It wouldn’t be long before I could say the sleep had finally fled my soul.

I was awakening to the discovery that I had been familiar with receiving conviction, guidance and help from God, but asking for and receiving comfort was altogether unfamiliar.

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word

One of the lullabies that had helped me drift off to sleep whispered that I could manage my own comfort. The melody amounted to little more than distractions in the form of work, play, entertainment, and even in going through the motions of prayer and attending church. At first the dissonant chords of insufficient comfort were cringe-worthy, but eventually they no longer grated as I decided God could not be trusted with my comfort, which was no comfort at all.

The difference in comfort and help might be semantics for some. But for me it was more than that. My pleas for help focused on external relief and an almost surgical removal of sadness. While pleas for comfort invited God to sit with me and love me in the midst of sadness, and eventually to tunnel through it carrying me to the other side.

It’s a vulnerable embrace better than any temporary distraction or activity. It’s about being, and letting God do the doing.

It’s the truest expression of companionship as the author of life gathers us up mind, body and soul. It builds our confidence in God and releases us from futile efforts to comfort ourselves.

If you find yourself in need of comfort, and we all do at one time or another, it’s my hope that you’ll reach toward God and loosen your grip on insufficient comforts. Even if all you can do is lift one finger or cast a single thought His way, please lift, and cast. He is safe. He is sure. He is the God who comforts.

On my drive home to Dallas that weekend, there was much gesturing of gratitude. I think it was some contorted combination of the Charleston, the Macarena and an original sequence of creative movement called ‘the-bees-are-coming.’

How has God comforted you?

It’s always helpful to hear how God shows up for others. Feel free to chime in by posting a comment to share how the Lord has comforted you. If you need comfort, below are a few scriptures to consider and pray through. You might also want to give this song a listen. It’s been a great encouragement to me. I’m praying this week for all who need comfort.

  • Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me.”

  • Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

Up next week: Coming up in the next post, we have a bit of fun with words. It’s the first post in the category ‘the lighter side.’ It includes lobsters and make believe, and I’m having so much fun getting it ready for you!

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A thousand words paint quite a picture

For my first post after launching the website, I wanted to share a little insight into how I process life. Love to hear how you process too in the comments. For me, a thousand words really do paint quite a picture. I’ll explain.

One Saturday I was in Walgreens to pickup a few things, and I saw a young mother pushing a shopping cart down the makeup aisle scanning the shelves while talking to her toddler. The little girl was in the cart and she was repeating everything her mother said, elaborating with great enthusiasm and wild hand gestures. Her ponytail was swinging, her lips were moving and her eyes were dancing.

It was amusing and brought a smile to my face, until it wasn’t and it didn’t.

I started to hurry my pace to the next aisle to escape the constant chatter, and it hit me. I had just traveled back in time to 1980. That toddler was me and that mother was my mother. As soon as I got to my car I called my mom to apologize and say thank you. Mothers of verbal processors deserve medals for endurance in listening and Emmys for their smiling and nodding even if they don’t catch every word.

I’ve been a verbal processor for as long as I can recall. This doesn’t mean I talk incessantly, but it does mean if I need to wrap my mind or heart around something the only way that’s happening is out loud.

The puzzle pieces of my thoughts snap into place as the words come out of my mouth. Put me in a room, tell me to gather my thoughts, and then tell me I can’t speak. Chances are I’ll make remarkably little progress. I’ll have the same blank stare no matter how much time passes.

What it looks like, sometimes

One winter I interviewed for a job in another city and was considering what I would do if I received an offer. My sister, who is one of my closest friends, was sprawled out on her couch earning an endurance medal in listening as her eyes and ears followed me around the room.

I was pacing, wearing a hole in the carpet as I talked through no less than 13 possible best case/worst case outcomes. I repeated these phrases over and over, “Best case scenario, this could happen…worst case scenario, that might happen...”

As I inhaled to begin rattling off yet another option, I suddenly realized from the dazed look settling over my sister’s face that I was wearing her out and pushing the limits of sane reasoning. Also, the heater was on high in the apartment, and I was sweating profusely. It was obviously time for a ridiculous comment and a laugh.

I pivoted mid-rattle and with auctioneer-like speed said something along these lines:

“Best case scenario, the offer comes in next week, I take it and get off to a great start with the new team in a month. Worst case scenario, I wear too many layers on my first day and end up in the ladies’ room furiously tucking paper towels in my blouse and armpits to absorb the perspiration. Then, as I tour my new work site, I unknowingly leave a trail of damp, fragrant paper towel bits behind me as I go!”

We laughed until we almost cried and may have experienced other leakages, having just consumed Route 44 Diet Cokes from Sonic. Cackling, re-living the moment and trying to one-up each other with ridiculous worst case scenarios became the challenge for the remainder of that weekend.

As exhausting as it may sound to those who are internal processors, working my way through those scenarios aloud helped me identify what I wouldn’t do, and ultimately, what I would do. The help my sister provided was not in solving the problem or giving direction, but in listening and asking a few helpful questions.

It doesn’t have to take two (people) to do this tango

Verbal processing doesn’t necessarily require another person. Talking through things by myself on long road trips works like a charm too because I’m confined and there are limited distractions. In fact, long drives often lead to moments where something clicks between head and heart, between thoughts, faith and emotions.

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

I wish I could say these moments were as picturesque and majestic as Michelangelo’s God and Adam reaching toward each other on the painted clouds in the Sistine Chapel. A more accurate depiction is Michelangelo’s God reaches out toward me, and I’m grasping for a cloud with one hand, the other thrashing about, body dangling toward the earth craning my neck heavenward to see God. All the while, I’m thinking out loud in halting sentences and rambling metaphors.

It’s like a verbal, Cirque du Soleil while I’m driving down Texas highways or headed to the midwest on I-35 to see family. I actually quite enjoy it, regardless of what truck drivers or future sirloin steaks in my peripheral may think.

God is the most faithful of listeners. He out-medals all the moms, all the sisters, brothers, friends and spouses. He can handle all of it – the questions, the ‘what-ifs’, the scenarios, the exasperation, the rabbit trails, the dreaming, the things we feel like we can’t say to others.

No matter how we process what’s happening in our lives, God hears and He will provide guidance. It may not be at the time of our choosing, or exactly what we want to hear, but He will speak.

And in His voice we find what we need. Reminders of who He is and who we are in Him.

Any other verbal processors out there? What’s your go-to method for thinking out loud? If you’re an internal processor, love to hear from you too. What do external processors need to know about how you think?

Catch up: If you missed the first post where I talk about why I started this blog, catch up here.

Up next: Coming up in the next post, I unpack one of my verbal processing road trips. The word bees might be in the title. Sounds fun, right?

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