The Queen Of Weird

Sometimes I feel like the Queen of Weird. Things that never happen to others inevitably happen to me.

For a few years now, I’ve been receiving text messages from a group of people I don’t know. They are obviously friends with each other, which makes it odd that my phone number made it into their group. Regardless of how it came to be, here I am, a complete stranger, privy to all their closed conversations.

Have you ever eves dropped without intending to? That’s what happens every time my phone chimes indicating that I’ve received a new text. Sometimes this message truly is intended for me, but at other times it’s from someone in this group of strangers.

I must say, they sound like interesting people. Their ongoing conversations go something like this:

“Hey. I have a week off next month. Thinking about flying to Nashville or something. Anyone game?”

“Sure,” comes a reply. “What dates? I’ll check.”

“Nashville? How about Vegas?”

“Been there, done that. Thinking about someplace new.”

“Third week? Works for me.”

“Me, too. I’ll book my flight.”

“Anyone find good rates?”

“This time of year? You’re crazy.”

That’s a typical conversation when they are planning their get-away. Then there are the ones when they start arriving at their destination.

“Just landed. Where are you guys?”

“At the hotel. Traffic is a bear so it may take you awhile to get here.”

“Got it. On our way.”

I disliked receiving these texts for two reasons. Maybe three. First of all, do you have any idea how many texts a group can make trying to arrange a vacation that works for everyone? Not to mention how many it takes for them to find each other once they arrive at their destination? I’m afraid my phone will over heat with all the chiming.

Secondly, they are vacationing in Nashville in March and I’m watching the snow cocoon me in once again here in Michigan. I’m jealous, pure and simple.

Thirdly, it’s creepy. I’m uncomfortable knowing intimate details about people I don’t even know.

So, on one particular snowy spring day when I had just had it with all their merry-making while I was buried under a foot of snow, I decided to put an end to it. Their endless texts to each other and the inevitable chiming on my phone were driving me crazy. So, I texted them. “Hey, guys. You sound like you’re having a lot of fun, but you don’t know me and yet I know where you are and what you’re doing. So, for the comfort of all of us, would you please delete my number from your group?”

Their surprised responses came immediately.

“Who are you?”

“Who’s that?”

“Do I know you?”

“That’s my point,” I wrote back. You don’t know me and I don’t know you so please get me out of your group. I’ve tried from my end with no luck so maybe you can do something from your end.”

One of them said they’d try. Another one invited me to join them in Nashville!

My point is this: This conversation thread had annoyed me for years. But when I finally took action to do something about it, I discovered that they were a very nice group of people and I actually enjoyed the back and forth banter I had become a part of.

We never figured out how my number made it into their group. They did tell me, however, that a friend of theirs, an NFL football quarterback who I knew of because I had met his parents and brother at my church, was always left out of the thread while I was included. He and I both had Jacksonville phone numbers since we lived there around the same time, but other than that we couldn’t figure out the connection. We may never know how it all came to be, but what I did find out is that I actually liked being a part of their group once I started communicating with them.

When someone finally found a way to remove me from the group, or perhaps they just started a new thread, I was sad. I knew an awesome group of people were in Nashville, Tennessee, having a wonderful time together, but I no longer knew what they were doing. I felt left out.

Isn’t that the way it is with much of our lives? What irritates us for years, when given a chance, actually proves to be an opportunity. And once that opportunity is gone, we’re left feeling sad and full of regrets. We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

It also proves something else. I am still the Queen of Weird.

The Law Of Big Cherries

I allow myself two indulgences on a regular basis. Kirkland brand Dark Chocolate Covered Super Fruits, and hot chocolate. Now, before you remind me of the potential adverse effects of dairy and sugar, let me explain. I rationalize that indulging once a day in these somewhat nutritious treats keeps me away from the really bad stuff. Most of the time, anyway.

So, like I was saying, a bag of this yummy chocolate covered dried fruit seem to find their way into my cart whenever I shop at Costco. From there they go into a glass canister in my pantry. If you have any questions as to their exact location, my three-year-old grandson would be happy to show you!

Every afternoon I swoop my hand into the canister, snagging the largest pieces which are, of course, the Bing cherries. After a few days the cherries are all eaten so the next to go are the cranberries. By the end of the week, only the little blueberries are left. They all taste good, but somehow I’m a sucker for those big beautiful cherries. Just one will fill my mouth with chocolatey yummy-ness that triggers serotonin in my brain to take me to my happy place. Somehow this feeling just can’t be duplicated with the smaller, although just as tasty, cranberries and blueberries. It’s a tactile thing. In this case, bigger is better.

A few weeks ago I had a brilliant idea. Since the cherries are my favorite and will inevitably be eaten first, why not just sort them into two groups to save myself the hassle (and un-sanitary-ness) of raking my fingers through the canister? When I pour the fruit out of the original packaging, why not just pick out all the cherries at that time and put them in a separate bowl?

So, that’s what I did. I put this bowl of cherries on my desk (for convenience sake) and the cranberries and blueberries in the usual canister in the pantry.

But a funny thing happened. As I perused my bowl of cherries, they seemed to have shrunken. They didn’t look big anymore. They all looked small. I actually found myself searching for the biggest cherries in the bowl full of big cherries! By then I realized I had reached an all time low.

I also realized something else. Drawing upon my limited knowledge of physics and psychology (that’s reassuring, isn’t it?), I came to this conclusion: Without the little ones, the big ones don’t look big. I call this the Law of Big Cherries.

Profound, huh? So, why don’t the big cherries in a bowl full of big cherries look big? Why does big only look big when compared to small?

I don’t have an answer for that. It’s human nature, I guess. Even if life was the proverbial “bowl full of cherries” we all long for, we probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. We seem to need the boring times and even the bad times to fully enjoy the good times. It’s as if, without comparison, we don’t recognize true worth. It may be unfair, but it’s true.

We apply this not only to snacks, but to all areas of life. Comparison is a valid way of determining what we want most. It’s a method of choosing what we consider to be the best for us.

But sometimes we take it too far in ways that don’t benefit either ourselves or others. That’s when our preference for the “big cherries” becomes a mode of judgment against ourselves and others.

Comparison may prove to be in our favor: “Um. Compared to him, I’m not fat at all.”

Or, comparison may prove to be condemning: “Wow. Compared to her, I’m fat.”

We use logic every day to judge people and circumstances. But this logic is almost always based on comparison.

While comparison may prove useful in a number of situations, we need to be careful that we don’t let comparison become the standard. It’s too easy to judge something’s worth based on how it stacks up against something else instead of making a determination based on it’s own merits.

When my cousin and her husband recently shopped for a new motor home, comparison  was a useful tool to find what worked best for them. Comparison separated the “too expensive” from the “do-able,” and the “not necessary” from the “needed.”

In some cases, comparison is based on absolutes. As in, “It would be unwise to extend ourselves that much.” Other times it’s based on preference. “I really like the casual feel of that decor rather than the traditional feel of the other one.”

In my case, I prefer big cherries. Someone else may prefer the medium sized cranberries because of their tartness. Another person may prefer the cute little blueberries. These are preferences.

Absolutes are different in that they do not change, regardless of our beliefs or opinions about them. Comparison neither elevates nor diminishes an absolute. The sun rises every morning whether or not we want it to. If we jump off a ten story building, we will die, regardless of whether we think we should or not.

Wisdom knows the difference between absolutes and preferences.

In God’s Word, we find the one, true standard. It isn’t based on comparison.

God loves us. He doesn’t love me more or less than you. His love is true, all encompassing, with everyone every day.

God forgives us when we ask. It doesn’t depend on whether I sinned more or less than anyone else. It is full and complete, every time.

God promises to watch over us every day, even in the midst of our problems. It doesn’t matter if my problems are bigger or smaller than your problems. He sees and cares about them all.

I’m so thankful God doesn’t operate by the Law of Big Cherries. For, when He looks down upon us, He doesn’t play favorites. Each one of us is the apple of His eye.

In case you’re wondering, I got rid of the bowl of big cherries and dumped them in the canister along with the rest. I discovered I prefer searching for the big ones while they look big. For me, that’s the challenge and that’s where the reward is found. At lease as far as chocolate covered cherries are concerned.

What Is Success?

Dorsal Fin Alert

I was treading water off the coast of Honeymoon Island Beach, Florida when two dorsal fins off to the right caught my eye. They were swimming parallel to shore a few yards from me. I froze.

Carefully slipping my air mattress between them and me (yeah, like that’s really going to help), I headed for shore. As a Floridian, I knew better than to frantically swim – churning water excites sharks, reminding them of injured fish ripe for the picking. I also knew enough not to jump on my air mattress and paddle. I would then resemble a turtle and sharks love turtles. Becoming a tasty afternoon snack was exactly what I was trying to avoid!

In the split second I had to decide my best course of action, I knew the safest route would be to slide onto my air mattress and lie absolutely still. I also knew I couldn’t do it.

So, I continued walking toward shore as calmly as possible, trailing my mattress behind me. Noticing me, my two unwanted guests changed direction and headed directly for me. I cried out, “God protect me! God protect me! God protect me!”

Not more than a body’s length from me at that point, I thought, There go my legs. It was nice having them. I’ll miss them.

Then, just as quickly as before, the would be predators changed course and headed north.

As they left me behind, I realized with regret that they weren’t sharks, but dolphins! I had it within my reach to touch them and because of fear, I missed a once in a lifetime experience. How sweet would it have been to touch two dolphins in the wild?

I will never know because fear clouded my vision when I should have stayed still and observed the signs – straight, pointed dorsal fins for sharks, slanted, curved dorsal fins for dolphins; vertical tails swishing back and forth for sharks, horizontal tails flipping up and down for dolphins; gills on sharks (because they are fish), no gills on dolphins (because they are mammals). Granted, some of these signs would not be easily seen while the creatures were under water, but still, a little attention to detail would have been helpful.

So, then I thought, How many times in the circumstances of my life have I seen sharks when God sent dolphins? How many blessings have I missed while blind-sided by fear? I may never know. But, of this I am certain: From now on, I’m looking for dolphins!

Bless Me?