Friday, January 6, 2017

I. Am. Entrovert.

This Father's Day 2013 photo was taken because of an upward-soaring eagle,
the dark spot is the eagle, and it is what an entrovert sees
and the unexpected surprise of a Father's eye is what an entrovert senses.
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror
 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like

(James 1:23-24)

My brain is the way it is. It is a streamlined and crowded circular expressway, with many entrances and exits. It processes things horizontally, vertically, and diagonally and uses metaphors... because that is what an entrovert's brain does. Like my experiences driving on busy LBJ Expressway in the Dallas area or on the complicated Beltline in St. Louis, I might miss an exit or two and become lost on one of those expressways. And my thinking and the way I write might take an extra turn or two.

Within the paragraphs and sentences in this blog and my other blogs is a vulnerable weakness. It is sensory sensitivity with stuttering "I, I, I's". This snap-chat begins after watching the movie, Martian, and thoughts about life's purpose. Martian is about a fictitious astronaut stranded on Planet Mars and his story of not only surviving, but thriving. 

Many thoughts swirl, with questions that come to mind. If push came to shove, and I ended up cast-away on a deserted island, or stranded on an uninhabited planet like Mars, alone, who would I be? What would I do? Pitch a fit because it was not what I was expecting? Deny my circumstances and die? Or maybe, on the island, dig deeper and dialogue with an imaginary friend created from a volleyball. And build a legitimate saving plan and escape raft. Or, on Planet Mars, resourcefully figure out how to communicate with anchor NASA, and on that frigid planet somehow grow vegetation.

If left stranded and alone, what, or with whom, would I communicate to thrive?... and how? I would really prefer to have a personal anchor, because that is what an entrovert wants. And I want one who is greater than NASA. I live in comfortable Hometown, USA, surrounded by distractions and people, not merely wanting to survive. But to somehow discover and unearth my deep-down gifts and strengths. To fulfill purpose in life. To state it bluntly, I expected more purpose-wise than that with which I ended up. Because an entrovert feels entitled in that regard. 

In The Ugly Duckling fairy tale, a swan egg hatches with 10 duckling eggs. Being raised with ducklings, he searches for identity and purpose. With no appropriate role model, swan naturally attempts to be duckling. But a long neck is unusual for a duckling, so confusion and even teasing occurs. The story line is the now-and-not-yet; the within of the duckling is beautiful and blooms to swan. A long neck actually perfects the role of regal swan and swan's purpose.

Ugly duckling/underdog stories are common. One girl's scrawny figure matures, for her to hone the future advantage of sleek model. Weakling boy's disciplined nature matures to buffed Ninja Warrior. A study of three successful higher education presidents reveals that all three had alcoholic dads. With dysfunctional starts in life, they could have themselves ended up as highly dysfunctional. But as adults, all three ACoAs overcame this and adopted identities of their own. They became leaders, and all three took on the challenge of turning around struggling learning institutions that were headed for financial disaster. Something within drove them first to take on their challenges, and then to press on to hone leadership identities.

But what happens if the pattern plays out in reverse? If duckling is raised as regal swan? A King Edward VIII story occurs. It is a tale of two brothers; a tale of two kings. Charming Edward was raised to take the throne after his father's death, with years of preparation and expectation. After less than a year as king, he abdicated the throne to his stuttering "Ugly Duckling" brother who was actually a swanDespite his verbal impairment, dutiful younger brother was able to rule for 27 years. He was a most beloved king, until his premature death. 

King Edward followed his passions, throwing to the wind royal protocol and marrying a three-times divorced woman. Finding love, but never fulfilling his gifts. He felt like an odd creature who had lost his purpose: Half man, with uncontrollable passions; and, half crown, with a sincere belief in its continued existence.

When a person believes that he or she is regal swan, raised with that belief for years, and actually within is not, the misdirected early-bloomers, like King Edward, can end up taking unplanned dives or unhealthy diversions. Troubling insecurities create abdicated thrones and coping mechanisms, like numbing addictions and/or cynicism. Disappointments occur because expectations exceed reality.

If a child is disappointed, because he or she expected a wrapped birthday package to be a hoped-for Pokemon-themed gift, that 6-year-old is understandably caught off-guard when the gift turns out to be an ordinary game. The child momentarily feels entitled to Pokemon, because the package had the look. But he or she must learn to face reality and unfulfilled expectations. Maybe charming Edward's winsomeness would have created entitlement in other avenues than just marrying whomever he loved. A long-term position as king might have been more restrictive than he preferred, in a variety of ways.

Now, for a sharp curve on black ice with a safe donut-spin that segues to personal identity. Because sharp thought-turns are an entrovert's area of expertise. If talents lie dormant because of distractions, or entitlement is denied, or if there is communication interference, flailing and failing can occur. For 55 years, I dabbled with busy, but ultimately ended up facing feelings of failure. Expectations were unmet, and cynicism was knocking at the door. Introvert was never my identity, and as much as I felt entitled to it, neither is extrovert. Glamorous duckling/swan, runway model, Ninja Warrior, astronaut, king, and higher education president are identities of the few.

Through the years my identity has varied, as satisfactory-level student, assistant pastor's wife, worker, and mom. It would help to include introvert or extrovert to the list, because a succinct adjective or category helps provide, at some point in life, an "aha" moment. When a disposition is sensitive and different, or more challenging to uncover; or, when a young child is left motherless with no role model (as was kindred-to-me ugly duckling/swan) if the sensitive one is misdirected or stifled, relationships are either uncomfortable or ingenuous.

At times, a longer than expected 4-year work sabbatical felt like I was on a deserted island, or on an uninhabited planet, partly because most everyone my age works outside the home. I had time to process. Without even being aware that it happens, extended and purposeful alone-times, like that experienced by the Bible's entitled (adopted) Son of Pharaoh Moses in the desert, or a fictitious astronaut stranded on Plant Mars, help to put together bits and pieces of a self-puzzle. Forced solitude can actually bring with it very good gifts. I am finding my found, finding myself, as my knees and my ego hit the ground; as I lay my entitlement crown down.

I still face now-and-not-yet. Being suddenly and unexpectedly left motherless, at early and immature age 35, and role-model-impaired, I was an odd creature. I floundered. In need of a mother or some sort of finely-knit direction. Sabbatical time brought that. Now, it feels comfortable to be back in the work saddle again, opening one very oddly-wrapped purpose package. I am half crown and half person: I organize, but misplace things. I write, but I am not a writer. I have ideas that belly-flop. 

Through God's eyes and serious determination, I will be accurately useful anyway. The jury is still out whether or not I will fulfill my purpose(s). I. Am. Entrovert. In other words, a mash-up of focused-entitlement, hyper-sensory, validation-seeking, and (as corny as it may sound, but surviving cancer brought death so close I could almost taste a fifth dimension) a child of the King. I love my King and my Savior, with a passion. 

Don't worry, Houston. In faith, before hell freezes over or I experience my last breaths, God, the deep Anchor, will provide clearer coordinates and maybe a kindred rescue crew. And possibly less obtuse blogs, but I hope not. 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb
(Psalm 139:13)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Fulks Christmas 2016 Letter

Recently running into a couple at the lake that are friends from way back in our young-married, early-20s days; last night's Netflix binge-watching with another friend; and, today's months-delayed brunch at Village Inn with a special friend all help to define the gift that relationships are to us. Though from our perspective, in ways, time seems to stand still; yet, days, months or even years pass since last conversations, with tangibles like wrinkles and grandchildren and struggles and blessings that visually punctuate the passing of many moons. 

2016's six supermoons came and went. And so did Jeff's May 2016 missions trip to the Philippines. It was the highlight of his year. He always returns bearing gifts, fun stories, and meaningful memories.

A few more moons brought welcome change into our lives. In May, after 4 long years of sabbatical, Diane returned to the workforce, part-time in Evangel University's Housing Office. Working side-by-side with none other than... a treasured friend. The learning curve has been great, the workload challenging, but the complaints are few.  

Our little "Grand's" September baby dedication
The week prior to starting her new job, Diane helped with Shayna's move, to home ownership. Shayna and family now live just minutes from Mark, her cousin. Her two "Sons of Thunder" love thundering from room to room, having brother-fun. Intuitive, 6-year-old Jackson began kindergarten, and Dad walks him to the bus most weekday mornings. Ever-curious, 3-year-old Will attends pre-school 3 mornings a week. So at times, sensitive, 20-month-old Isla actually has Mom to herself.

Chillin' at Nathan's

Day trips to Tulsa visiting Nathan are always highlights. One visit occurred for his April birthday, another in August, and still another for Thanksgiving. He has sought both our decorating advice and our meager plumbing skills, with what ended up being a tiny shampoo label backing up the tub's drain. Oh, the magic of a Dollar Store gadget. I suppose a clothes hanger would have worked just as well.

On April Fool's, Diane rejoiced for 10 years of cancer freedom, and she prays for close-others who fight their recent battles. 

At a friend's wedding we reminisce 40 years together
Most of Jeff's six brothers and sisters and Nathan visited in the spring. In June, Jeff's aunt and uncle celebrated 70 years of marriage. Wow! and in August we quietly celebrated our anniversary. We attended one family wedding, and Jeff's Mom looks forward to another great-grandchild in 2017.

Our house was full for Christmas. Exactly the way Diane likes it. Eating together, walking at the lake, exchanging gifts, attending Christmas morning service, and playing with the grands. That was Christmas 2016, with a few hours of Silver Dollar City rides somehow tucked into 4 full days.

Diane can't help but recall one memorable car ride this year. It was the big Moving Day for Shayna and family. Diane accepted the critical mission to safely transport "Grand" #1 a mere 40 minutes to his new home. He was apprehensive about the house change, yet he quietly sat, in the backseat of Diane's SUV, safely tucked into his car seat. At every signal light, because of her GPS, Diane knew whether or not to turn. And when a turn was necessary, which way to turn. She answered questions and rambled aloud about much of everything, yet much of nothing, singing Mary Poppins songs to reassure her momentarily fragile "Grand": You are brave. 

That car ride reminds us of the many moons that will pass and the turns that will occur in 2017. With the now-and-not-yet of a new President leading our country and the many changes which that change will bring. We want to embrace our days and trust that our lives are in God's hands. He knows the route, and He's provided his Word in the Bible for calm assurance. A few therapeutic conversations with friends might help too. 

Mary and Joseph's safe guidance during their long trek to Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and then God providing a protected manger for their newborn babe, reminds us of His power balanced with creative and unimaginable provision. God is good. Be safe. Happy New Year. 

And... ¯Supermooncalifragilisticexpialidocious¯(Mary Poppins).

For God so loved the world...  (John 3:16)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More Thoughts About Voting on the 8th

We the people have chosen our Final Two, and only one can win this coming Election Day. The final vote-casting for President of the United States in this bizarre election is almost here. Unlike anxiously cheering for my Chicago team's "W" during the recent World Series playoffs, the fate of this drama feels like a grueling no-win dog fight.

Why should I even vote when it is a toss-up in almost every way? But I will, because others have fought for my right to vote, and I and others have prayed. My mind is finally made up, with these closing thoughts:
Chicago: 10 innings/8 runs

  • My entire voting life, which has been quite a few years, I have been a die-hard voter for "Dad's party." Through thick and thin, he supported his political party and passed the baton to me.
  • In the primaries, my party (which was Dad's until he passed in 2006) chose a particular candidate. I did not vote for that candidate. 
  • It took many-a-moon to psych myself up to support my party's winning candidate. And finally, I thought that I had, and believed for the best.
  • I have key beliefs. My party's candidate verbally aligns with those beliefs. But then again says lots of things and then denies them.
  • Many times in the past month I wished that I could have talked with Dad, asking what he would do. 
  • Everything within me wants to stay on-board. I am loyal. But I can no longer recognize my party. Its identity has changed.
  • Rather than me jumping ship on them mid-stream, I now realize that they actually jumped ship on me. The base has majorly morphed. They don't own me.
  • A key video released in 2016 on 10/8, plus a plethora of televised temperamental rants, reveal serious character flaws. To me, more serious than the other candidate's flaws, and even more serious than the issues.
  • I hate what this election is revealing in me. It has profoundly surfaced from within the ugly discrimination-factor. Forgive. Me.
  • I feel compelled to make a fine distinction. Rather than voting for, my vote is against. 
  • This is where the rubber meets the road. Instead of trusting in our new leader, I will instead trust in a Steady God.

A mere man or woman cannot save U.S.
There is only One
The Steady One

Job 39, The Bible

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Election Thoughts

Presidential election coverage screams 24/7. On network newscasts and especially on CNN. I am confused, so I write at this critical "Now-and-Not-Yet" moment. If my thoughts represent a flower, they are oval-shaped wild ones with tiny soft spikes... Purple Allium. The ones added to wild-flower bouquets that add variety and texture to pretty daisies and soft greenery. My thoughts, like those spiked ovals, have many points, and each point gets to the point.

With November 8th just around the corner, it is time to make a final decision about my vote for President. Neither candidate comes across as true blue, honest, nor contrite. Each appears to have equal flaws. One refuses to reveal income tax forms (and other things), and the other has chosen to delete revealing emails. It's a draw.

One appears to be more than rude to women; the other is no respecter of persons. In fact, the candidate appears to have a natural tendency to be nasty to a variety of people (actually, they both do). The difference is that one candidate pretty much has a sixth sense for when to suppress those ugly tendencies... the other does not. It's a draw.

One of the platforms supports a key issue that is dear to my heart. The other platform supports just about everything except that one key issue. And health care is important too. Although those issues are important to me, they alone do not tempt my vote for this bizarre election. It's still a draw, because I need a grounded reason.

One candidate builds towers and gets things done, but uses railroading tactics that are highly questionable. The other has a few clear accomplishments. But both candidates are older than I would prefer. I come to a stalemate in this paragraph.

So, I look for the candidate who will be a level-headed leader. One appears to be somewhat passive, and would likely take that same posture as a world leader. And, this candidate has never been a true leader. The other uses openly divisive tactics and is a reactive inciter. Media, and the rest of the world, and somewhere out there a crazed world leader or two... all watch with binoculars and view with figurative microscopes the topics that will push our buttons, and "they" puppeteer us through WikiLeaks. Both candidates are far from flawless as leaders, with ways or responses that are unsettling. Add to the leadership portfolio the daunting global aspect, and again it's a draw.

I step beyond all of those factors and look at what the election process has revealed about we the people. There is anger to the point of rage. I see division and hostility fueled by neediness rather than selflessness. Level-spirited differences of opinion are escalating. No matter who wins this election, we the people of the United States are anything but united. There are deep fissures. I look for the humility-factor, but it is vanishing. Post-election 2016 America might have one vengeful loser. And that concerns me greatly. Hell hath no fury like a particular woman again "scorned" of the Presidency or especially a particular man trumped. Again, it's a draw.

The balance of power has always been our fail-safe. If one portion of our country's leadership is out of whack, there are checks established. But strongholds and divisive ways are chipping away at that constitutional check and balance. Otherwise called political stalemates.

History reveals many no-win leadership situations. Pharaoh enslaved the Israelite nation, to build his kingdom with free labor. A narcissistic idolater king was smart enough to utilize the wisdom of humble Daniel. A divorced Gentile King was wowed by the beauty of humble Jewish Esther, and she was basically forced to hide her Jewishness or face difficult consequences. There were times of cruel Roman rule and the Holocaust, where Jewish people in particular experienced submissive situations. God allowed all of these seasons of humbling times.

Red, White & Blue
But on Election Day, my color of preference will be..
Years of Presidential election after Presidential election have brought us to this moment. Prayerfully bracing for "Now-and-Not-Yet"... November 8th... and beyond is the similar posture that was modeled in the Bible by humble Prophet Jeremiah and also by the ultimate Good Leader, the Steady One. They were able to embrace a supernatural perspective.

I know I should feel unsettled, but I don't. Rattled balance is more my feeling of the hour. Neither candidate and neither party can "save "America. Not the way it needs to be saved. Only humbling before the flawless One, Almighty God, will show the way. It is not too late to do that, or continue to do that, and face our country's 2016 elections. And afterwards face the music.

I will trust the system and vote for one of the major candidates. As one TV celebrity recently said, in a lighthearted yet serious way: "You don't have to like the candidate for which you vote [pregnant pause] you won't be having them over for dinner."

However, I will continue to see him or her on the evening news at mealtime, for at least the next 4 years. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Exciting times are ahead.

Jeremiah 28-29
Mark 11

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Bumpy Shoulder is Better Than No Shoulder

Yesterday while driving to work, I believed I would either be a witness to tragedy or an innocent victim. For perspective, I was in the middle lane of three-lane US-65, heading northbound. Which for only a teasing stretch turns into a four-lane highway, with one and a half lanes of vehicles merging onto the highway.

A 16-wheeler in the fast-lane on the left passes me, barreling down the highway going at least 70 mph in a 60-mph zone. It then quickly changes lanes. Like a race car driver. The truck is directly in front of me, and it again changes lanes. Jumping to the slower far-right lane, behind another 16-wheeler, as the large trailer literally rocks. I know I saw streaks of light between those wheels and the pavement.

Again, the truck driver switches lanes, to the right, to what he doesn't realize is basically no lane. It is the short, merge-only lane. Lawless knows he deserves a ticket or death. The unexpected quick ending of the smooth merge lane turns into a wider than average paved shoulder, only for a short stretch.

Tightening my grip on the steering wheel, I am flabbergasted. The two 16-wheelers are neck-and-neck. Their front doors are so close, for a moment, the outside mirrors look conjoined. The tires of Lawless barely hold onto the highway's ever-diminishing shoulder. With a narrow bridge in sight, Lawless turns daredevil. In a very dangerous situation.

Stuck between a truck-and-a-tight-place Lawless and Steady will either crash-and-burn or they will somehow make it. It is a Now-and-Not-Yet, or a Now-or-Never moment. Instead of decreasing his mph mania, he increases his speed, and debris flies. Cooperative Steady has no choice but to hold back and considerably reduce his speed to prevent disaster. All somehow plays out within the span of a few nail-biting seconds. Lawless drives away, on the road again, and so does his counterpart. Steady. Born-ready.

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work;
but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
(2 Thessalonians 2:7)