Mirror Moments

Have you ever looked at an image in a mirror and wondered, “Who is that, and where did that person come from? When did I get to look like that??!!??”

I had something of that experience recently. I was getting ready for work. Sitting at my vanity, reaching for something, my glance hit the mirror and I saw something I hadn’t seen before. When I moved my arms forward to reach for things, the skin on the lower part of my neck got wrinkly.

My glance then happened across my hands. While grabbing things, my skin was the smooth, even texture I had always seen. But when I just held them in a resting position or was using them in other ways, wrinkles appeared where none had been before.

Where had these come from? When had time done its inexorable march on my physical self to cause me to start to look so much older than the me inside feels??

Now, lest you think these thoughts are rooted in the mind of someone so selfish and vain all I care about is my image and appearance, allow me to correct that assumption. I wear makeup because as a business owner, it makes me appear more credible. I put it on as a necessary chore, not a pleasurable one. After years of searching, I finally have a hair style that doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort to look good in the morning. I wear coordinating clothes and jewelry because of my creative, artistic sense, not to be fashionable or to please anyone else (except my husband, who gave most of it to me!). I tend to wear the same necklace (my husband gave it to me for our latest anniversary) and the same bracelet (he gave it to me for Christmas last year) every day. In other words, my appearance is something I give about 1/2 an hour of my day to in the morning, and only scant attention to any other time. It’s an issue of practicality, not vanity.

So, why did the wrinkles bother me? Because when I saw them, I was instantly reminded of a conversation I’d had as a child with my grandmother. And I suddenly realized what an egotistical, self-centered jerk I had been, and how loving and gracious my grandmother had been.

I was no more than 8 or 10, and visiting their home in Syracuse, NY. I was there for the week with my older brother for Vacation Bible School, which we often did in the summer.

We were in Grandmother’s kitchen, and I was helping Grandmother and a friend of hers with some baking. At some point, I looked at their hands, compared them to my childish ones, and made some comment about the wrinkles on them. I then further compounded the immense insult by remarking about the wrinkles on their faces!

Grandmother and her friend could have rightly chosen to be offended. They could have chosen to become upset. They could have chosen to speak harshly to me. They chose none of it. They answered with love, kindly and graciously, simply saying these were signs they’d so far lived long and well, and someday I would understand.

There was something thing I realized as I reviewed that conversation in my memories. Looking at it now, from the adult’s perspective, Grandmother and her friend were likely around the same age I am now! At the time, they seemed immeasurably old. Now, at the same relative age, I look in the mirror and see someone still young looking back (except when I see wrinkles!). But I have a calendar awareness of the passage of time, as well as tangible proof like grandchildren, arthritis and gray hair (just ask my stylist).

When I look in the mirror, I see someone who could have 30, 50 or 100  years left to do all I want to accomplish in life. Okay, I admit it, 100 is pushing it! Or, I could be hit by a bus, get into an accident and my life would be over tomorrow. Don’t believe me? See When Life Turns Upside Down, in which I talk about life after a near-death experience last year. The point is, you never know.

I realized I needed to repent, and say I was sorry to God and the memory of Grandmother for being such an obnoxious, selfish and self-centered jerk of a kid. I know what you’re thinking. Kids have no filters. I certainly didn’t that day. But if time has taught me anything, it’s that a heartfelt “I am sorry” is never out of place when your conscience hits you with a guilty sting.

Finally, I realized as I reviewed that conversation the passage of time has done its work. I understand what Grandmother and her friend meant that day. I have tried to live well, for as long as I’ve had so far.

The Bible has a lot to say about aging and the experience and potential of wisdom that comes with age.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. Job 12:12

My absolute favorite on the topic, however, is this one:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:20

I know, you’re asking, “Number our days?!?!?? What does that mean??!??” It means more than that calendar awareness of time I was mentioning before. The ancient Greeks called that calendar awareness of time Chronos time. It’s the time of clocks and calendars, that we can understand, quantify and measure. What we need is an understanding that our lives, that we see as so long, so significant, so important to us, are really just blips and specks on the timeline of eternity. In other words, what the ancient Greeks called Kairos time. Kairos time is not something quantifiable, understandable or measurable because it’s eternal. It’s all that was before and all that is and all that will be, all in one package, all in one big picture. It’s God’s view of eternal time, as He Who was and is and ever will be.

When we get a Kairos view of time, when we learn to “number our days,” as the psalmist says, we understand our own insignificance in the vastness of God’s perspective. That sounds like it would be something to bring down our self-image and not give us wisdom, right? Well, God’s views are different. When we look at things the way He sees them, we look at ourselves and our lives through His plans, His purposes and, most importantly, His immense and overwhelming love for us. We see our faults, our failings, our flaws and yes, even our wrinkles, in the light of what He has taken us through, and where He is taking us to.

One of LIFE Leadership co-founder Chris Brady‘s favorite quotes is by noted author Henry David Thoreau:

It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?

In our lives of Chronos busy-ness, getting a Kairos view of things from time to time gives us a perspective to understand what we need to be busy about. Day to day living can smother purpose, gobble up passions and devour dreams in the minutiae of things that just have to get done. An eternal view from time to time realigns our perspective, sharpens our focus and reminds us what is truly important.

So, where do we go from here? For me, going back to the start of the post, I’ve earned my current set of wrinkles, and hope to earn lots more. I want to earn more doing things that matter in life, things that have a Kairos impact on a Chronos world. For me, these are things like loving people, sharing the Gospel, and being all the light I can be wherever my life’s candle is placed, just to name a few. On a more selfish level, I want to have some more adventures, a bit of fun, and maybe even acquire a few more gray hairs (for my stylist to hide) by doing exciting things in incredible places with wonderful people.

What about you? Who do you see in the mirror each morning? How are your “mirror moments” lately? Our “mirror moments” are the best when we see not only who is physically looking back, but who is looking back from within. I wish you joy in your journey of discovery.

 

Competition

Are you competitive? Do you play cut-throat Scrabble, or Monopoly, or cards? Do you have a killer instinct on the softball field, the hockey rink or touch football field? Or do you race ahead even if it’s just in traffic?

I will confess to being extremely competitive. Whether I am driving, playing Yahtzee or softball, I want to get ahead, to win. I grew up in a highly competitive family. Cut-throat games of Monopoly were how my siblings and I would spend long evenings on winter vacations when our parents didn’t want us watching television. Card games and competitions to see who could toast the best marshmallows marked evenings on family camping trips, after racing one another in the lake or on hikes.

I think competition is built into us and is part of what makes us human. The drive to compete, to excel, causes people to go beyond the efforts they think they can otherwise do, to find levels of performance in themselves and inspire it in others. Competition causes people to look for new ways of doing old things, and to invent new things entirely.

I started thinking about the role of competition in our lives when a friend posted what turned out to be a humorous hoax article on FaceBook. It was from a Canadian radio program, This Is That. At the time he shared it, my friend didn’t know it was a hoax, and took it seriously, as did the rest of us. It was about a Canadian youth soccer league, who supposedly removed the ball from competitions, to ensure every child would be a winner. Here it is: This is That – Youth Soccer

Reading this story, before I knew it was a hoax, I began thinking about competition in the light of my grandchildren. The older ones are almost 8, almost 6 and just turned 4. They are even more competitive than my siblings and I were. These kids compete about everything! Living with them on a daily basis as I do, I see them compete for who can clean their rooms, who can eat dinner the fastest, who can hug their parents first and anything else they can think of at the moment! Competition is in their DNA.

When we attend a football or soccer or basketball game, the first thing we look for is the score most of the time. A game without a score would be missing a significant part of what makes it a game. When someone we love is competing, we want them to do well, to win. But without a score, there is no winning, and the competition is pointless.

In the past couple of years, there has been a movement in youth sports for children to play, but for no score to be kept officially. The reasoning behind it is all kids get a chance to have fun, and no one “feels bad” when their team loses. But short-sighted organizers failed to realize the children, lacking an official scoring system, time and again come up with an unofficial one of their own. While the wins and losses may not be publicized, the knowledge is still known to everyone. 

Competition can also teach us lessons. Not just the obvious ones of what you learn in how to win at whatever you are trying to do, but less obvious ones, too. Lessons like good sportsmanship, fair play, honorability and even the inevitable lesson of being gracious in a loss are all learned when we compete if we are careful to pay attention to them. There is a mindset to winning, and another one in losing. Consistent winners develop positive attitudes, endurance, self-discipline, and perseverance. Many learn teamwork and  the value of putting shared goals over individual ones.

Baseball great Derek Jeter once said,

If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose.

Derek Jeter’s comments sum up what I’ve been saying. I don’t think it’s just him, though. Deep down, if we truly examine ourselves, we all hate to lose. Don’t we?

Preserving The Magic

Have you ever looked at a child and thought to yourself, “Never grow up! Never lose the innocence and belief I see in your eyes!”

Dear Readers, as you know, I have 4 grandchildren. What you might not know is as of the first weekend of July 2015, they and their parents (our daughter Beth and son-in-law Tom) all live with us. They moved in with their cats for at least a year. So overnight, my interactions with my grandchildren went from an occasional event to a daily normality.

Allow me to indulge myself for a moment and refresh your memory of them, as I do some Nana-bragging on them. (“Nana” is what they call me. “Papa” is my husband.) Keyna is 7, a talkative 2nd-grade drama queen. She loves playing video games and reading. Ariel is 5, and in preschool due to being born 12 days past the deadline to be in kindergarten for our school district this year. She is stubborn and often unintentionally very funny, and loves to take risks and try new things. Tommy is 3 1/2, and in the same preschool as Ariel. He is opinionated and loves all things with wheels, from cars and trucks to trains. Samantha is 1 1/2 and not in school. She likes to be tickled and to have people make faces at her, as well as her “blankie.”

Something happened recently between myself and Keyna that prompted this post. As a 7-year-old, Keyna has begun the process of losing her baby teeth in favor of her permanent ones. Currently, she is losing one about every two weeks or so, and the pediatrician told Tom and Beth this process will continue until she is about 10.

When Beth and her brother David were small, we kept the tradition of the Tooth Fairy alive and well for both of them, rewarding them for every lost tooth. To our pleasure, Tom and Beth continue actively in the tradition. To our complete delight, they have also chosen to involve us whenever possible.

Recently, it was my turn to help out. Keyna’s attention was diverted with breakfast before church. I was heading upstairs to our bedroom to finish dressing. Tom pulled me aside and gave me the tiny envelope they use for the Tooth Fairy’s work. He asked me to put it under Keyna’s pillow and call her upstairs. I did as requested, and called her.

However, when I called Keyna, I decided to dramatize the event for our tiny drama queen. I called her up the stairs telling her I’d heard noises and needed her to come and investigate. I described the noises as, “twinkles and sparkles.” I asked her, “Keyna! Do you know what makes the sound of twinkles and sparkles?!?!?” Keyna replied in all seriousness that stars do.

Smothering back a chuckle, I said, “Well, stars do make those noises, but they’re so far away we can’t hear them. Do you know what else makes the noises of twinkles and sparkles??” Keyna looked puzzled and said she didn’t. I told her it was Faries! I said, “I bet the Tooth Fairy heard you lost a tooth recently, and came to take it! I bet the Tooth Fairy thought we were all downstairs and it would be safe, and I caught it! Go check under your pillow and see if I’m right!”

It was an ecstatically excited 7-year-old who went next racing for her bedroom to find the envelope from her father I’d placed under her pillow. She squealed with excitement and happiness and flew downstairs to show off what she’d found, hollering the story the whole way. Keyna couldn’t stop talking about how Nana caught the Tooth Fairy in the act.

In this day and age when middle schools have to have rules for cell phone use, when clothes in the children’s’ section make little girls look like mature sexy women, when political correctness and fear of sexual harassment run amok, it’s always good to preserve the innocence in a child just a little bit longer. I believe it is the job of parents and grandparents (and other caring adults) to be the adults and to let children be children. We are adults far longer than we are children. This hurry to make them grow up is incomprehensible to me.

So my little adventure with Keyna and the Tooth Fairy is about me striking back at this pervasive attitude in our culture. As I said in the title of this post, it’s about preserving the magic, encouraging the wonder that is Keyna’s childhood, just a little bit longer. 

And you know what? Maybe we adults need a bit of that wonder, mystery, and joy ourselves. Maybe that’s why our culture is so cynical and jaded because we’ve lost so much of it in our headlong rush to be adults. May we all find and enjoy wonder and joy like a child on our journey together.

Are You Laughing With Me, Or At Me?

Did you ever do anything just for the fun of it? You know, just to make others laugh, even if it might be at your own expense?

This year on Halloween, I did exactly that. I deliberately dressed for the fun of it. I dressed to make people smile and laugh along with the fun of my outfit. I wore a tam-o’-shanter (that’s a type of beanie, or hat, for those who don’t know) that looks like a large orange pumpkin (including the green stem out the top), black cat earrings and a white sweatshirt with Jack O’ Lanterns and the words “Trick Or Treat” embroidered on it. It’s my traditional Halloween outfit if it’s not a workday, and the only time of year I wear orange. (It’s not a good color on me!)

The shirt usually doesn’t cause much comment. The hat, however, can only be worn by a person who has what my late mother once described as a generous sense of humor and a hearty dose of chutzpaChutzpa is a Yiddish term which means, “shameless audacity, boldness, temerity, cheek, nerve, and guts,” all of which my mother often said described me!

As a business owner, I don’t often get the chance to break out of my professional mold and do crazy stuff. Halloween is a rare chance to get a little goofy, and invite the world along for my slightly crazy ride. I donned my shirt, hat and earrings with pride, and off I went as if I was dressing for just another normal Saturday of errands.

I got my hair cut, ran errands at 4 stores and finished the night with going to dinner and wandering the mall with my husband. Except for when I had to take if off to get my hair styled, the hat stayed firmly planted atop my head, as if there was nothing abnormal about it, and it wasn’t there at all.

I got looks. Did I ever get looks! Fellow shoppers looked at me. Some stared. Others smiled, and a few chuckled. Some commented they liked it. Even other drivers did double-takes as they passed me in parking lots! As I moved through my day, I looked for reactions. Sometimes, I was disappointed. Most of the time, I was not.

Normally, when I go through my day, I try to brighten it for the people I encounter wherever I go. I tell people I like what it says on their shirts, or that the color is flattering to them, or I like their shoes (women get that one a lot), or how much I appreciate their customer service or helpfulness. Wearing the Halloween shirt and hat wasn’t a rebellion against wearing a costume, as much as it was giving in a little to the spirit of the day while doing it in a way that would brighten others’ days as well. While laughing at myself, I encouraged others to laugh at me and with me, making them happier in the process.

In a deeper sense, it’s also good to remember sometimes we are seen as fools and laughed at, not for celebrating an innocent day with the world, but for going against it with our convictions. I Corinthians 4;10 talks about being made fools of for the sake of Christ. In I Corinthians 1:25, it says,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The world often laughs at and mocks what it cannot understand. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely something the world cannot understand! The world is befuddled and bewildered by it and uses mockery and derision as a defense against what it can neither defend against nor explain away. 

As a Christian, I cannot allow the mockery and derision of the world to cause me to falter or fail in my faith. I must always keep in mind that Jesus was hated by the world, too, and He is my example. As He said in John 15:18,

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

“Hate” is such a strong word, isn’t it? We almost want to modify it to “Ignore” or “tease” or something more innocuous. But in every translation I checked in English, those words of Jesus Himself are translated to “hate.” It’s because often we have to step up to the harsh reality of the world that completely opposes Jesus and decide on which side we’re going to stand. It’s a choice we all have to settle in our minds and hearts once we are clearly confronted with the salvation message and its truths.

Once we settle where we stand, what the world thinks becomes unimportant to the point of insignificance. Settling where I stood took care of knowing where my place was, who my “Daddy” was, my identity as my Heavenly Father’s daughter and my security of belonging to His family in the Church. Settling issues like these freed me emotionally from needing to desperately belong anywhere else, or with anyone else. Wherever His people are, I am home, due to the acceptance found in the knowledge of who I am in Christ.

And when I settle such deep human needs like those, I am then free to satisfy an impulse to indulge my whimsical side, such as I did this Halloween, with a pumpkin tam-o’-shanter to make people who saw me all day smile and laugh. Because when they were laughing at me, I was laughing right along with them!

Simple Pleasures

What do you do in life that brings you simple pleasure? Is there something you own that just makes you smile when you see it? Or is it a past time you enjoy?

We all have stuff we enjoy to differing degrees. For me, writing is one of them, hence this blog. However, this time I want to talk about another one. It might seem a bit silly to some, and a whole lot silly to others. But don’t we all have things in our lives that are that way to others, really?

My simple pleasure is my collection of solar bobble-dolls in my car. I cannot call them bobbleheads because only 2 of them have heads, the turkey, and the scarecrow. The others are flowers (4 of them). They bob up and down in different ways in the sunlight on my dashboard, mostly ignored while I sit daily in my office at work. They are a bright spot of color on dreary days and they never fail to make me smile when I see them. Image result for solar bobble head images

My husband thinks they are completely silly. However, as long as I limit the collection in his van to its current 4 (2 flowers, and a similar turkey and scarecrow), he puts up with them because he loves me. He also allows it because I only buy them at the $1 store and don’t buy all I see. I’m picky in my additions, particularly as the dashboard of my car gets more and more crowded!

I was thinking about them because I was listening on the radio the other day to the K-LOVE Morning Show. The hosts (Craig, Amy, and Kankelfritz) were talking about simple pleasures. They mentioned things that gave them pleasures and invited people to call in. I heard a couple of callers mention theirs. I thought about calling and telling them about my solar bobble-heads. But as I was getting ready to get out of my car at work, they said something that stopped my calling idea cold and prompted this post.

Craig, Amy, and Kankelfritz said our pleasures are good things in life because they are things God has put into us to make us uniquely individual. We all like different things because of our uniqueness. Then they said God has simple pleasures, too. Because God takes pleasure in us.

So many people believe God is an angry judge, ready to slam down on us for real or imagined sins we may or may not have done, or left undone. I used to feel that way. I was convinced every time I did something wrong, there He was, mad at me and ready to punish me. My strict upbringing probably had a lot to do with that feeling. But how I ended up with that feeling is not as important as that I had it.

It was not until I realized the immensity of God’s love, the joy He takes in loving me and in me loving Him and my fumbling efforts to please Him, that I was able to escape this trap. The point was brought home in my Bible when I read

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Do you see what I saw? The God of the universe, the One who put it all together, rejoices and exults over us with gladness and loud singing! God takes so much pleasure in people who love Him, He throws a party over them!! Image result for party images free

I don’t know about you, but I love it when people throw a party for me. I mean, they take time, trouble and usually money and spend it on me. Who’s not going to be appreciative?? It’s the same way with God. He takes pleasure in us so much, He throws a party over every fumbling effort to obey Him, every time we get it right, every time we come back and repent when we’ve blown it. He doesn’t throw a fit when we’ve blown it, like we do. Instead, He throws a celebration when we get it! That sounds about as far from the image of the harsh Judge I used to have as I could get!

So I will continue to take joy in the simple pleasure of my bobble-dolls, secure in the knowledge of God taking even greater pleasure in me. Come along and enjoy God’s pleasure as we enjoy our simple pleasures in life on our journeys together.

On Being Married 35 Years (And Counting)

I originally posted this 3 years ago, for our 32nd anniversary. Well, a few things have changed since then, and I thought it was time for an update and repost. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How do couples who have been married a long time stay together?  What are the secrets to a happy marriage, and where can we learn them??

Marriage Day

June 7, 2015, is our 35th anniversary.  Here’re a few things we’ve learned about one another along the way:

He can sleep anywhere, under almost any conditions.
I need darkness and quiet.

He makes the bed.
I pull up the covers.

He thinks tools should be kept where he last used them.
I think they belong in the toolbox.

We both agree dirt + mud + hardwood = NO-NO.

He thinks dinner consists of lots of meat. And hot.  Vegetables and Carbohydrates are optional.
I think dinner has all food groups, with meat as a side dish. Salad dinners in the summer are acceptable. Menus should read, “Take it or leave it.” “Silly Suppers” (pancakes/waffles or omelets) are acceptable at the chef’s discretion. Picnics are acceptable. (Update: I think bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other high carbohydrate items are a no-no. I began a low carbohydrate and high-fat eating program just after Christmas 2014 to get better control of my diabetes and weight. I am having good success with it, and these changes are a big reason why.)

He thinks cooking measurements are done with the spoons one eats with, and the glasses one drinks with.
I think we own multiple sets of measuring spoons and cups for very good reasons.

He thinks ice cream is a food group, and chocolate is a dessert.

It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

I think chocolate is a food group, and ice cream is a dessert. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

He thinks cheese is optional.
I think cheese is a necessity, even mandatory.

He thinks toys for our 4 grandchildren belong in the living room, where they play with them when they visit.
I think toys belong in the room where they sleep when they visit, and can be brought down.

He thinks any towel hanging from the stove is acceptable to use on hands, dishes, cookware, or whatever.
I think hand towels are for hands and dish towels are for dishes, and that’s why we have both kinds.

He thinks dirty socks go on floors and the guest bed is an acceptable closet/bureau when unoccupied.
I think all dirty clothes go in the laundry basket, and clean ones should go on my closet door.  (We both have issues with putting stuff away!)

We both agree physical mail is for greeting cards and packages. Whatever can be done online, should be done online.

He thinks ice cream is eaten from the box, in the living room.
I think ice cream is eaten from a bowl, at the table or a soft serve stand. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

We both think strawberries are the world’s best fruit.  We both love asparagus. (Update: I have also become incredibly partial to low carbohydrate blackberries!)

He thinks our backyard needs a cover for our pool filter and a shed for our garden/lawn supplies to be perfect.
I think it also needs a gazebo down to be perfect.

He thinks our 3 cats are enough pets.
I think we need to look for a small-ish dog. And set back up the fish tank.

New Living Room(Not our living room!)

He thinks leather, velvet and modern are best for decorating our house.
I think English Country is best for every area of the house except his office.  He can do what he wants in there.

He thinks a painting with fake water and motion in it would look great in our living room.
I think they make me seasick.  If he wants one, he can keep it in his office.

He has a talent that is a total genius for packing large spaces. Need to move or going on a trip? He’s your guy to pack the moving van or car.
I have a talent for packing small spaces. Need to put away leftovers? Don’t call him. Call me. I know exactly what size container will work for what leftover every time.

We laugh at a lot of it, talk over some, agree to disagree on some, don’t make major decisions until we have come to a conclusion we can both live with and don’t go to bed mad. We understand if we agreed on everything in our marriage, one of us would be unnecessary.  We know compromise is an essential part of living happily together.

We don’t talk over potentially stressful stuff when we’re tired, hungry or distracted. We try to talk to our spouse’s personality and say and do things that show them we love them in their love language.

We both think shouting just makes noise and more upset. No one can talk to someone else if they are busy shouting at them. We both think communication is essential to the survival of any healthy relationship, and most particularly to a healthy marriage. It’s something we’ve been working hard on lately.

We tolerate each other’s families and sympathize when they drive each other nuts. We back each other’s decisions about our kids/grandkids, and we try to talk those decisions over first. If one of us is away, we talk several times daily.

We tolerate each other’s foibles, faults, and failings.  We remember why we fell in love and what we still love about each other and finding new stuff to love about each other at every available opportunity. We look for humor in every disaster, knowing a funny story makes suffering worthwhile in the long run. (Tragedy + Time = Humor, and you get to pick how long the Time part lasts!) We cherish our friendships and accept each other’s friends. We begin and end every day thanking God for each other.

Sometimes, it’s been work. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s always been worth it.  And we’ve learned all of this. How? Ask me about LIFE.  All comments asking for information will be kept confidential.

Oh, and one more thing:

He thinks “Happy wife, happy life.”
I think, “Happy spouse, happy house.”

PS — He not only content-approved this post, he encouraged it!

PPS — Happy 35th Anniversary to Bob Kilpatrick, my loving husband, my Editor in Chief, my business partner, the one who makes me the most nuts, and the one I make the most nuts! Through all the laughter, tears and everything in between, I would do it all again only if I could do it with you! Here’s to another 35 together!!

A Girl Worth Fighting For?

What kind of expectations do we place on ourselves? How about what we expect of others? Are they true and real ones, or are they more often based in fantasy or unreality?

I’ve been exploring this topic for myself lately, and I’d like to share a few thoughts about it. While sick with a horrible cold, I decided to take a couple of hours over a few days and watch the charming Disney movies Mulan and Mulan II. There is a song in Mulan that reprises in Mulan II, and it became the subject of my thoughts, and thus this post. Here’s a video link to the song in the first movie: A Girl Worth Fighting For

The song is charming, expressing the longings of men heading into a dangerous situation, who only want to know what they are about to face is worth it for someone back home. They express their hopes and dreams of what each believe is their ideal female, and how much they want the presence of these ladies in their lives when they go home. In the second movie, the song is taken further, by heroes come home who still don’t have the women of their dreams by their sides.

At first, I listened to the music and just enjoyed it. It speaks of what Wild At Heart by John Eldredge details. It says how all men really want is a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and to be a hero. As a woman, I find these concepts somewhat foreign, but I’ve studied enough on the differences between men and women to understand these compelling needs. After all, as a woman, I find myself often yearning to be the beauty to be rescued, to nurture my hero and guard and care for the helpless, particularly those closest to me.

The problem came as I thought more about the song. Because as I did, I started to change the lyrics. I started to make them personal. Instead of a man wanting a girl worth fighting for, I wanted to be that girl worth fighting for.  I started to think of whether or not I was worth fighting for, if I wasn’t slender enough, pretty enough, smart enough or just enough of whatever. I started to wonder if I was too much of whatever. I started to think the expectations of the lyrics to be a girl worth fighting for were on me.

It was then I realized I was giving in (yet again!) to our culture’s domineering critical nature against women, and my own self-doubts and fears I battle daily. I next realized as a daughter of God, a born-again Blood of Christ covered repentant sinner, I am enough! I am enough in the sight of God, and if HE says I am enough, it ends the matter.

The problem next happened that I started to put it on my poor long-suffering spouse. Now, instead of thinking why I couldn’t be a girl worth fighting for if there wasn’t a problem with him seeing me as a girl worth fighting for. So I started ladling unrealistic expectations on him, instead. I wanted him to be instantly something he is not, instead of who he wonderfully is and allowing him the same process he allows me daily to change and grow.

How often we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others, instead of simply realizing we’re all a work in progress and being patient with everyone’s process, including our own!! It’s so subtle and sneaky, too! I thought I had it beaten, but then this darn song went and proved me oh, so wrong, giving me yet another opportunity to repent, change and grow. As I realize what happened and what I did to both of us, I feel so absurd. But then, that’s what unrealistic expectations are, really. They’re absurd, and the sooner we recognize them for what they are, the happier we’ll all be.

Now, I need to go watch another movie and find a new song, so I can get this dratted one out of my head!!

Impossible!

What seems impossible to you? What idea or plan or dream seems so unlikely as to be almost impossible right now?

In the 1965 version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother (played by Celeste Holm) told Cinderella (played by Lesley Ann Warren) it wasn’t impossible for her to go where she most wanted, to the prince’s ball. In my favorite song from the show, the Fairy Godmother sings “Impossible.” Here are some of the words:

Impossible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage! Impossible! For a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage! And four white mice could never be four white horses! Such folderoll and fildeedeees, of courses! Impossible!

 

But the world is full of zanies and fools who don’t believe in sensible rules! And won’t believe what sensible people say! And because these daft and dewy eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes . . . Impossible! Things are happening every day!!

In the musical, because Cinderella believes what the Fairy Godmother says, she goes to the ball. Because she goes to the ball, the prince sees her and falls in love with her, and she falls in love with him. They go through trials (what good story doesn’t?), and eventually celebrate their love by getting married.

Wouldn’t it be great if all our impossible dreams worked out so well (and so quickly!) as Cinderella’s? However, the story tellers had only a scant hour or two (including commercials) to tell a tale. Real life usually takes quite a bit longer, unfortunately.

According to the Fairy Godmother, what was the key to Cinderella dropping her dirty appearance and socially unacceptable status, and walking into the ball like she belonged there? It was in Cinderella’s own beliefs the world could be, and should be, a better and kinder place to her. Cinderella was a princess in her heart and soul before she was one on the outside. The Fairy Godmother just supplied the magical window dressings.

We can apply the same principles of belief Cinderella used for ourselves, if we learn how and properly use them! Now, mind you, I’m not advocating some hokey “Name It and Claim It Because You Tell God (or the Universe) You Should Have It” kind of mumbo-jumbo. I am talking about real belief, real faith and real trust that you can and should have what you earn and deserve in life.

It’s a mind-set, really. So many of us get ourselves convinced for whatever lousy reasons we don’t deserve good things in life, so we self-sabotage ourselves into not getting them. We want them, we yearn for them with all our hearts. But until we convince ourselves we’re worthwhile and worthy of them, until we believe they are possible in our lives, they won’t happen. Because until we do, all our work will be in vain, as we continually self-sabotage all our efforts.

I have been an expert at this. I see good things in life and I want to work to get them. But my underlying image of myself always told me I didn’t deserve them, so I would self-sabotage any efforts of working toward them. It hasn’t been until I’ve begun to deal with my self-image that my efforts are finally starting to bear fruit.

So, if we get our self-sabotage under control, how do we believe? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to believe. I only know it’s necessary, and it’s a decision.

It’s like the boy who is the main character in The Polar Express. The boy is on the train because he’s a skeptic about Santa Clause. He’d like to see before he believes. When he gets to the North Pole, he sees all the evidence around him, but cannot see Santa for the crowds of elves. He cannot hear the sleigh bells, either. Finally, he just decides to believe, saying,

Okay! Okay! Okay! I believe! I believe! I believe!

It is in that magic moment of his decision to believe that he hears the sleigh bells, and sees Santa Clause, too. His belief opens the door to a personal encounter with Santa, and a life long joy.

During the closing credits of the movie, a song sung by Josh Groban plays called Believe. Here’s the words of the chorus, in hopes you can believe, too:

Believe in what your heart is saying

Hear the melody that’s playing

There’s no time to waste

There’s so much to celebrate!

 

Believe in what you feel inside

And give your dreams the wings to fly!

You have everything you need

If you just believe!

As I write this, it’s 3 days before Christmas 2014. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

May your 2015 be filled with impossibilities, because you believe . . . 

Be Still And Know — A Not So Perfect Family Christmas

Have you ever received what seems like an impossible suggestion or request or even command? How do you deal with it?

It was late December. I’d been sick for about a month, and found out the previous Tuesday I had a sinus infection. I’d probably been sick with it most of that month, but at least now I was on antibiotics. The Friday after my diagnosis, we learned my husband, who had also been sick all month, had one, too. He was given the same antibiotics.

Being sick, however, didn’t stop the massive, out-of-control freight train that was my “To Do” list and schedule. I tried to delegate some. I asked my husband (who was home and retired while I was still working full-time) to wrap the gifts. Our son took on a majority of the cookie baking, as he had every year (whether I wanted him to or not) for the past 4 or 5 years. (I still had to do the ones for the Cookie Exchange at work, and of course I’d signed up for the most complex and painstaking monster of a project imaginable!!.) The pair of them even decorated the house and yard with lights, and put up the tree, though it stayed without ornaments for over 2 weeks. My husband helped me stuff the stockings. I asked our daughter to make our traditional Christmas dessert which her husband adores, Pumpkin Cheesecake. But I was still rushed, frazzled and quite frankly, worn out. There was just too much on that “To Do” list, too little time to do it, and I was still sick . . .

Finally, at church on the Sunday before Christmas, a friend read a Scripture that touched my heart. It spoke to my illness, my “To Do” list, my hectic schedule and my lack of joy in what is normally my favorite time of year. When I heard it, I felt like God was speaking the words to me, gently slapping me upside my head.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.” The words spoke life to my rushed, troubled heart. Sweeping aside my “To Do” list, my schedule and my self-imposed Christmas insanity, the words of Psalm 46 demanded a paradigm shift of my priorities, my schedule and my life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to rest. Not just sleep, which my still sick body desperately needed. No, these words were calling me to true rest and peace in God. To know that perfect isn’t required, and okay is good enough. To know that the menu isn’t important, it’s who is eating the food, and making sure was Jesus our Guest, too.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to remember the Reason for the season. They reminded me again of what I’d known since childhood: Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior. It’s about His life, His sacrificial offering of Himself for us so that we can have a relationship with Him and His Father. It’s not about the food, the presents, the lights and all the other trappings, no matter how good they are. Because they are the “good” of the season, while the gift of Jesus was, is and always will be God’s greatest and best.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They insisted I deal with the emotional weight I’d been avoiding, of that first Christmas without my Mom being among us after her death the previous March. I was reminded she was celebrating the holiday with Jesus, and even though it’s different without her, and always will be, that’s okay.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They reminded me I’m not in control of my life, and God is. Even when I tried to give in to the illusion and deception of being a (recovering) control freak, the words cut through my feeble efforts to direct my life and reminded me there is One who is ultimately in control. And He is in control not just of my life, but of situations and circumstances beyond my comprehension, even reaching to the far-flung galaxies of the universe. The words reminded me I can trust the One who spun it all into existence, and holds it together by His will.

That last reminder was very helpful 2 days later (and 2 days before Christmas), when I got a call at work, telling me our daughter and 6 month old granddaughter had influenza, despite having gotten flu shots! (CDC says the shots don’t cover every strain, and they got one it didn’t, of course!) Our daughter and son-in-law wanted us to take the 2 older children (who were not sick), and have them stay with us from that day, through Christmas and for several days after.

“Be still and know that I am God.” These words ran through my mind repeatedly as I spoke to my husband, working out first if we could do it. Then, when we decided we could, we discussed the logistics of my work schedule and transportation needs, all now more complicated by the presence in our house of 2 girls, ages 4 and 6, for a few unexpected days.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Stuff I’d planned and we “always” do didn’t get done. Our daughter didn’t get the cheesecake baked before she got sick. Since small granddaughters prefer Christmas cookies to cheesecake, we were okay with that. My husband and son decorated the tree with the help of 2 small girls. As long as my delicate, breakable ornaments were put high by one of the men, I didn’t care what it looked like.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  The 4 year old and I started having coughing fits on Christmas Eve. I suspected exposure to my daughter (for me, prior to her showing symptoms on Sunday) was the culprit. Instead of the “perfect” family Christmas, we had one that was a different and not so perfect kind of family Christmas. We were missing Mom, and almost 1/2 of us were ill. But in its own way, it was perfect, because those ancient words prompted me to remember Christmas is perfect when we are with people we love and we have invited God and His presence and peace to be in our midst.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I pray your holiday season will be filled with the gentle stillness of God’s loving presence and at least some of the people you love.

Merry Christmas!

When Pain Mocks The Song — Even In The Christmas Update Letter by Terri Brady

Happy Mother’s Day (guest post)

I was just rereading Terri Brady‘s amazing job with her Shout Out to Moms! from 2012. It reminded me of the late great humorist Erma Bombeck, who wrote a special piece one year for Mother’s Day. I have read a lot on mothers and Mother’s Day, but so far, no one has been able to duplicate it.  I laugh and cry every time I read it. I hope you enjoy this Mother’s Day gift as much as I do.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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“When God Created Mothers”

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said. “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?” She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 movable parts…all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said. “Six pairs of hands…. no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked, “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…and can get a nine-year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”

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Terri Brady — Shout Out To Moms!