Fights, Flights, and Frames

The same seven picture frames hang empty on our hallway wall. They’ve been that way for over 6 months. A friend came over the other day and thought that the stock images in the frames were our extended family. They are not our family, but are beginning to feel familiar as such. If they were digital frames I could fill them with over 300 different photos of Benton eating pasketti. But these silly analog picture cases require effort. I have no time to find the perfect photo, have it printed out, pick it up, and then orient it in the frame.

Well that seems silly, doesn’t it? Putting photos in frames is not nearly as hard as I just made it sound. Honestly, there are probably 11 different San Francisco startups that will size, print, touch up, and deliver my Instagram photos to me (all such companies will likely be acquired by Yahoo). So why do I leave them empty?

A clue. On a Christmas time Southwest Airlines flight to Phoenix, my 20-month-old son threw a fit. He was upset because the armrest did not come equipped with the remote control that he was accustomed to when flying Virgin America. A bit stunned, Taryn and I started doing the math on how many flights our young son had flown. He would have more frequent flyer miles than you. Guaranteed. He should be pre-check. He’s been on 36 flights.

Disjointed stories perhaps, but as Taryn and I listened closely they were telling us the same thing – you two are cray.

Thus going into 2014 we decided that we were going to be more intentional about being home and present in San Francisco. We decided we were going to finish projects, such as the picture frames, which make our house feel like a home. We decided we were going to do more Bay Area travel and stay away from planes.  We wanted to get more connected to our neighbors and church community.

So…we didn’t do it. The frames hung empty. I have an unfinished coffee table in the garage. We flew to LA and Phoenix already this year (Benton has acquired numerous SWA free drink coupons). We didn’t listen to those stories. We remained at the pace and lifestyle we had grown accustom to.  To paraphrase Parker Palmer, we were too busy telling our life what we were going to do with it, to listen to what it was telling us to do.

Then on February 7th our life grabbed a megaphone, a couple of crash symbols, and with Fran Drescher’s nasally tone screamed to us that we were expecting twins. TWINS. TWINS! Two babies at one time!

Of course this news is a great gift. Taryn and I are so excited to have more curly headed charmers running around our house. And I am going to have a daughter who I will one day walk down an aisle (which explains why at a recent wedding I wept like a baby during Butterfly Kisses). But having three children under three years old is a gift and a significant limitation. Our future family won’t even fit in an Applebee’s restaurant booth, let alone a row of an airplane.

Your friend Chaz says that limits (like blood alcohol, speed, the law of gravity, etc) are meant to be broken. Cicero, the great Roman orator and philosopher, famously says that in order to be free one has to surrender to a set of limitations. Cicero is smarter than Chaz. Parker Palmer agreeing with Cicero says,

“When I consistently refuse to take no for an answer, I miss the vital clues to my identity that arise when way closes – and I am more likely both to exceed my limits and to do harm to others in the process”

You can listen to your life – its gifts, surprises, limitations, and liabilities – or you can fight them. In my experience, fighting against the clues, insights, and out right declarations that your life gives you leaves you sick, broke, tired, and lonely. And that is only the cost to you. When we exceed our limits we do disproportionate harm to our families, teams, and organizations. None of which they deserve.

Have you been sick for months with no medical explanation? Listen to that. Has eight hours of sleep avoided you for the second week in a row? Listen to that. Can’t remember the last time you and your spouse shared a glass of wine and a candle? Listen to that. An inbox over 1000? Listen to that. A painting or poem that has sat unfinished for over a year? Listen to that. Where are you most alive? Where are you most drained? What pisses you off? What fascinates you?

Listen to it all. Get real close. Grab a stethoscope even. Take notes. And do what it says.

We have no flights booked for the rest of the year. There are pictures in the frames. Things are changing. I have not met the Shappell twins yet but they are already talking to me. Already teaching me things. Already transforming me. But I had to let them. I had to listen.

Jarrod

4 Comments on "Fights, Flights, and Frames"

  1. Mackenzie says:

    Beautifully said. And Congratulations!

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Kenz! I hope you are doing well. All of your NYC photos make me desperate for a visit…but the three little ones may have something to say about that. Maybe work will get me out there soon.

  2. Kari says:

    Sigh. Three baby tears (one for each of your children).
    I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share this.
    Also thank you for the reminder that I also have a stack of empty frames at home – wedding photos seem like the obvious choice.

    Your words also reminded me of a song I used to play over and over. It is haunting but good!

    Stand still,
    and you will not have to feel so fragile.
    Stand still.
    You won’t have to be afraid of all the time
    slipping behind.

    http://davidberkeley.bandcamp.com/track/stillness

  3. Christy says:

    Love this Jarrod and so true with our lives as well (I remember Chad and I counting Noah’s flights in his first year of life and being ridiculous). I have recently been convicted about the same thing after hearing a sermon from Dave Lomas about receiving the gift of limits. Never thought it as a gift. So excited for you 5!