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The Core Four

by: Jen Harbin


What do Legoland & my dog have in common? It’s all about the bricks.

Recently Brian & I took our boys to Legoland for a few days during spring break. There was no shortage of smiles, laughter, or junk foods. One day we went to the water park & it was fantastic…until it wasn’t. The rain came. The cold air came. The lightning came. It wasn't anywhere that we could see, but close enough that everyone had to exit the water. The weather was supposed to be gorgeous today and I was not prepared for this. I tried not to focus on how cold I was, but the urge to succumb to my negative attitude was getting stronger by the minute and growing with each complaint from my children. "This is the worst day ever! I don't even see any lightning! Why can't we go back in? Why can't we just go on the waterslide?" Miraculously I fought the urge to snap back at them with my usual passive aggressive "Um...you're welcome for bringing you guys to Legoland". There was nothing to do but wait this out & help the kids focus on how to make the best of the situation. One of my husband's many great qualities is his ability to make us all laugh in these scenarios and this day was no exception. After a long wait through the storm, we got back in the wave pool & I noticed a dad feverishly trying to build the largest floating “tower” out of Lego foam “bricks” that were made to float on the water. These things were a far cry from those tiny hard plastic building blocks that can cause a grown man to scream out in agony if unexpectedly steps on one. They were way too soft and squishy to hold together with any real strength. He clearly needed a solid foundation and without one, his tower was doomed to fall apart. This poor soul was just like a hamster running on a wheel and he couldn't stop. The larger he made the tower, the more it fell apart, and it just got worse and worse each time he tried to fix it by adding more bricks to the top. The more I watched him desperately try to add more to the top to hold it together, the more I saw myself in him. It was a reminder that I needed for myself, my family, and even my dog. I needed better bricks in my foundation.

The solid bricks stand the test of time. They are principles that guide you to do what you should do instead of what you want to do. They are the purposes that drive you to do the next right thing. " Accept your situation & find a way". "Control the controllables, like your attitude". "Do not give up". "Choose to be positive." I have spent many years striving to build a foundation that is made of these bricks. We have to constantly be checking the bricks at the bottom to be sure we have not replaced them with those sad foam ones that fall apart in the wave pool at Legoland. Too much screen time, junk food, alcohol, news stories, political debates, or any number of things can damage our foundation. A bit too much indulgence in anything robs us of our joy and potential because it erodes our self discipline. Football player JJ Watt famously said "Success is never owned. It's leased and rent is due everyday."

This brings us to Daisy. We got a dog during COVID. I mean, c’mon, who didn’t? Our 12 year old chihuahua, Kiwi, had passed away two years ago & ever since then all five of us were excited to add a new pup to our family. Here came Daisy, a Vizsla who is basically Usain Bolt on 80 cans of Red Bull. She was full of energy, enthusiasm, and more energy on top of that. We fell in love with her! We started basic obedience training and she was doing great. Sit, stay, come. Rinse and repeat. Walking with manners on the leash. Once she was old enough we began running together. It was fantastic…until it wasn’t. I slowly spent less and less time consistently training her and more time running miles with her to wear her out instead. Simultaneously she hit her dog "teen age" and an attitude to match. I was in over my head & what I didn't want to admit was that I had replaced what I needed to do with what I wanted to do. I had traded in my solid, strong foundation bricks for some foam squishy blocks that would float on the water, but certainly not allow me to build a solid tower. It was time to pay up for all that back rent I owed on my success lease.

Our oldest son, Stone, has always been quite discerning in choosing his friends. He recently commented to a friend’s mom how grateful he is for the “Core Four” friends. Their friendship has a foundation of solid bricks of their faith, their values, and interests. In that Legoland wave pool, I thought of my core four: my family, my relationship with God, my commitments, and my health. I'm always humbled and made grateful when I choose those four and say no to the indulgences. Daisy is family and we have re-committed ourselves to her success! We all stumble at times, but we get back up again to pay the rent. What is your core four? What kind of bricks are at the bottom of your tower? What are the principles that guide you? What are the purposes that drive you? Here's to your bricks staying as strong as a thunderstorm at Legoland!

Pictured below: Our sweet dog Daisy, who we love, and often like... Our family enjoying a cold, rainy, and fantastic day at Legoland's water park.


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