Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Who Says We Can't Go Back?

Often I sit down to write a post, but I take a minute first to look back in my own blog archives. Sometimes I can find the answers in my past to the questions I ask today. What does that mean? Well, it could mean that I've experienced a certain dilemma before. Sometimes I can read something I've previously written and use my own advice now, but in a different way. We all grow and experience life differently and at different times. I can read a scripture verse one time and walk away with one message, but the next time I read it I may be in a different place and I grasp a whole new viewpoint. Blog posts, I hope, are the same way. Something I wrote six months ago may send an entirely different message to a reader today.

Just this afternoon I was in a meeting and we were discussing people's gifts and talents AND how they change and transform over time. I had a sort of deja' vu moment, like I'd had this discussion before. Sure enough, this same thought was on my mind just six months ago. I thought I'd share the post below with you once again. You may take something different away from it than you did before AND if this is the first time you're reading it, that's great too!

(April 2017)

Have you ever noticed how different you are from other people? Have you ever wished you were more like them? Perhaps you wish you could sing like they do, or speak in public as easily as they do, or had relationships as relaxed as theirs? It is absolutely okay to observe other people and notice what you like about them, as long as you don't expect everything to be exactly the same in your own life.

You are a unique individual. Believe it or not, God made you exactly the way you are ... for a reason. We all have different skills and characteristics: some good, some maybe not. I am known for being organized and detail-oriented (sometimes to a fault). I see others who are able to 'go with the flow' and I often envy that. At times I wish I could be more easy going and learn to just accept things and let other things go, but that isn't always me. It's easy to feel a little judged when people tell you, 'Don't stress. Don't worry so much. Just let it go and hand it over to God.' Gosh, how I wish I could do that more. But guess what? God made me just the way I am. Maybe he wants me to over-think sometimes so that I don't miss the little details. Maybe he has a reason for giving me the skill set that he did. I may not always understand it, but I can hope that all my worrying and reasoning isn't all for nothing; that positive results will come in the end.

Rather than focusing on what we are not, we should focus more on what we are. We should acknowledge our gifts more; they have purpose and we shouldn't try to sweep them under the rug just because others don't agree or understand us. We should feel confident enough to be genuine, be true to ourselves, be proud of our gifts and talents, and OWN them.

The next time I see someone who is able to 'go with the flow' more than me, I should applaud them for being able to do that, but at the same time applaud myself for noticing the details in my own life. That's what makes it easier for people to work together. If everyone was all about the details, we would probably drive each other crazy. At the same time, if everyone just went with the flow some things might get missed. BUT if we all work together more and appreciate our differences and support each other, we will undoubtedly accomplish more.

Some people have the ability to dream the dream, but don't see all that it will take to get it done. Other people might not be equipped to imagine the vision, but are more than willing to help make it happen.

Which way do you see yourself? Do you embrace your gifts for what they are and run with them or do you stand by waiting for someone to give you permission? If we are being totally honest, I can admit that I've been on both sides of this scenario. If I am confident enough in a situation I will move forward with a vengeance. If I allow myself to be unsure then I am going to wait for someone to push me in a direction (often, their direction - not mine).

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tipping The Scale

Life is all about balance, or at least that's what most of us strive for. We wake up in the morning and we anticipate what our day will bring. What will our To Do list look like? How much will we actually accomplish? What relationships will take center stage today and need our attention? What unexpected drama will we be faced with? Who will push our buttons and allow us to feel stressed? Or will we get through our day and feel accomplished and at peace?

Whew ... that's a lot of what ifs and scenarios that will most likely get played out in a 12-14 hour period of time. 

On our best days we think we'll be able to tackle anything that comes our way. Everyone faces unexpected bumps in their path, but it is how we are able to deal with them that matters most and defines our character and our strength. While I feel it is good to start our day with a general plan and a goal, it would be unrealistic to think that plans can't and won't be changed (whether we are in agreement with them or not). To ultimately get through any day we need to be able to go with the flow and tell ourselves that it is okay if we don't get through the daily list because tomorrow is a new day and we can try again.

We try to keep a handle on life and we try to keep our heads above water. Some days we are able to succeed better than others. Some days we are weary from treading. 

What tips the scale for you? What throws you off balance and challenges your strength?

  • a lack of sleep? (I totally get this one. I am an insomniac most nights.)
  • a crying baby in public that distracts you from your moments of peace? (The grandma in me wants to go and help, but sometimes it is wise not to butt in.)
  • a honking horn from an impatient driver while sitting in traffic?
  • politics and the media? (in general)
  • people who swear in public?
  • people who smoke outside, but directly in front of a door to a restaurant or business that you need to walk through to get to your destination?

Everyone has their triggers; the things that tip the scale for them and throws them off their stride. When that happens ... and it will ... what do you do to regain your balance? Do you choose to ignore whatever inconvenienced you? Do you immediately become defensive? Do you respond or choose to keep quiet and keep your feelings to yourself?

There is the old saying that we should think before we speak (sort of a take off of 'measure twice, cut once'). Always best not to react right away; but rather observe, then think, then decide if you want to fight that battle. I've always stressed that once words are out (good or bad), you cannot take them back.

The next time your scale has been tipped and you find yourself off balance, take a deep breath and think about the most constructive way to get back to where YOU want to be. Be part of the solution rather than a new problem for someone else.

Monday, October 2, 2017

I Don't Understand

Yesterday my pastor spoke in his sermon (with a reference to Matthew 21:23-32) about when 'we don't know why ...' You can fill in the blank with just about anything. We don't know WHY someone behaves the way they do, so we judge and assume. We don't know WHY one person works for a living and another steals. When we don't understand the WHY of an issue, we find ourselves looking for a valid explanation. The fact of the matter is that people make choices. Sometimes they are the only ones affected and others not. There are some simple explanations, but many explanations aren't to be found.

In today's society I find myself saying, 'I DON"T UNDERSTAND'. Very similar to wanting to know the WHY, but it goes deeper for me. I go to church regularly, I read my bible, and I pray ... daily. My faith is very important to me. I choose not to push it on other people. I choose to respect our differences, but it goes deep down to the core of my being. There are days when I read headlines and listen to people offer their non-expertise opinions on everything from why the sun comes up to why football players take a knee before a sporting event to why someone would wake up and decide to shoot hundreds of complete strangers they never met. Many people are more than eager to add needless fuel to the fire and site their right to freedom of expression. Yes, we do HAVE freedoms, but with those freedoms should also come respect and responsibilities. I will never get all the WHY answers that I seek, but I will still struggle with not understanding the motives behind the actions. I am always seeking the 'thing' that will make some sort of sense out of a situation.

Sure, some people will say that if there truly is a God WHY would he allow the bad things to happen; the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the tornadoes, and the mudslides. These are natural disasters and scientists will continue to argue their specific causes and effects. Then there are the human-related bad things that sadly take place daily.

I will never fully understand why there has to be war; sure I understand the need for laws, and rights and wrongs, and protecting each other and our country, our rights and our freedoms. But I struggle some days with how it ever got so bad. I see so many soldiers give their lives and their livelihoods for our country, for us; but am saddened when the respect is not there and when one task is accomplished a new problem always seems to arise.

I will never understand why there has to be poverty and sickness, and so much hatred.

What can I do? That is constantly on my mind. I want to be part of a solution, not part of the problem. I don't want to spread hatred, innuendos, false information, or gossip. I will continue to wake up each day, not knowing what it holds. I will continue to pray for peace, for less homelessness, for more practical solutions, and for hope. It would be so easy in today's world to live in fear; fear of being in a car accident because someone else chooses to text or drink while driving, fear of being a victim of someone else's random craziness for the day, fear of watching the world pit itself against each other, fear of getting sick, or fear of losing a loved one.

I worry enough about everything. I worry for myself, for my family, and for people I don't even know. I worry about a lot, but I refuse to live in fear of the things I cannot control. It is tough, especially with everything that is out there - but I try. I will get up tomorrow. I will continue to pray for myself and others. I will continue to try to be nice and accepting and kind to everyone I meet. I will lean on my faith and hope for better days.

What things do you find yourself struggling with and trying to understand better?

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Love-Hate Relationship

According to the calendar today is the official first day of autumn. Some people would say it's already been here for weeks since we've seen fall and Halloween decorations in the stores already; pumpkins, corn stalks, mums, and spooky spider webs. The coffee shops have already introduced their pumpkin spice flavors. The local cider mills are bustling with cider and donuts, petting zoos for the kids, and corn mazes. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE autumn. I love the color changes on the trees, the crisp mornings, and the fun of getting out my thick and cozy sweaters. But somehow it just doesn't quite seem like autumn this week. The temperatures here in the mitten have been above 80 all week, closing in on 90 today and tomorrow.

My flowers and plants are a bit confused; the leaves are turning brown but the flowers are blooming for a third time. The calendar and previous years tell me that towards the end of September it's time for me to deadhead my flowers, trim back my perennials, and start to prep my gardens for their dormant season. But this morning I had to work outside well before 7:30 a.m. in order to get my work done before it got too hot. That's right, it was already over 70 degrees when I woke up.

There is a part of me that is ready for summer to be over. I am tired of being too warm. I am looking forward to the cool breezes and the sweaters when I take an evening walk, but then it seems like autumn flies right by and we move straight into the winter months. While I may whine about the warm temperatures, I will whine even more when I have to drive on icy roads. I guess I just like to whine a lot, lol.

For all the people who love the cold or the warm temperatures year round, I take my hat off to you. I, on the other hand, look forward to the variety. Here in the mitten we have four seasons and for that I am thankful. I am not sure how I would do if EVERY month was the same. Just like shoes and a good haircut, change is a good thing.

What's your favorite thing to do in the fall?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Make The Time

How often does something happen and you wish you had more time? You or someone you care about gets sick. Your kids have grown up in what seems like the blink of an eye. There's a hurricane or a tornado. Time moves by so fast and yet we find ourselves wishing that we not only had more time, but that we had better used our time.

It is my nature to be a planner. I'm ALWAYS planning ahead; trying to be responsible and be prepared. I was a Girl Scout for many years when I was growing up, perhaps that is when the characteristic rooted. From an early age I became dependent on myself. If I wanted something done, I needed to make it happen. I learned not to depend on other people, but rather be in charge of my own destiny. Somewhere along the line though I became TOO good at being a planner. I can admit I often forget to make time for myself or the people I care most about. I tend to get caught up more in what will be happening next week and next month, so much so that I often forget to enjoy today. 

I need to learn that while it is important (and responsible) to be an organizer and an efficient planner, it is also important to learn to create a better life balance. I need to smell the roses more. I need to hold hands with my husband when we're taking a walk. I need to laugh more at witty puns and jokes until my sides ache. I need to embrace today more. If I manage to do that then I believe I will have the stronger stamina I need to tackle the responsibilities and obstacles that life will undoubtedly throw at me.

But how do I make that happen? I suppose being aware and acknowledging the problem is the first step. The next step? Great question. If you have the answer, I am all ears. I could remind myself over and over again to not worry as much about tomorrow and next week, but embrace the here and now. And if I can't remember I can only hope that my family and friends will be there to remind me, stick post it notes on my windshield, write me messages in the steam on my bathroom mirror, send me texts and emails ... whatever it takes for the proverbial 2x4 to hit me square between the eyes.

How balanced is your life? Can you relate or am I experiencing this dilemma all by myself? What helps you to keep an open perspective and to live more in the moment?

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's An Educational Anniversary

Milestones are important. They signify something monumental; the length of time you've been at the same job, the number of years you've been married, or how long you've been cancer-free. We tend to celebrate the big numbers ... five years, ten years, twenty years, fifty years. Any time you've been at something for a long time you deserve a proverbial pat on the back. Why? Because it signifies loyalty, commitment, accomplishments, and focus.

This month my husband and I are celebrating two big milestones. We will have been married for thirty-five years, which seems impossible to us (I suppose because we try to stay young at heart). We have two adult children, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and two precious granddaughters. I'd celebrate them all every day if I could. But this month we are also celebrating something else. For the first time in twenty-five years we are not driving someone to school, purchasing school supplies, attending a school musical concert or a Science Olympiad tournament. We didn't send anyone off to band camp, we didn't move someone into their college dorm, and we didn't help relocate a child off to another state. I didn't need to watch the advertisements for Bed, Bath, & Beyond or Target and I didn't make an extra trip to Sam's Club to buy granola bars or mac n' cheese in bulk. 

Yes, this is a monumental milestone for us; an educational anniversary of sorts. We've watched two children blossom into smart, talented, and God-loving adults. We'll continue to watch them find their way and their nitch in today's demanding world. We'll continue to give them both our love and our support. We'll always be just a phone call away and will always be willing to be a sounding board as they make their decisions and tough choices.

To all the parents out there who are buying new sneakers and a backpack for their elementary-aged child, we wish you luck as you and your child adjust to this week's new sleep schedule and routine. To the parents of the middle school aged kids ... brace yourselves ... they will go to school happy and come home feeling defeated because their best friend didn't say hello and someone else wore the same blouse to English class. To the parents of the high school students; pay attention to 'who' your child hangs out with, follow them on social media, and always remember that they already have enough 'friends', what they really need is for you to be a parent. For the parents that are carrying the mini-fridge up to the second or third floor of the dorm ... remember, lift with your knees! It will be easier at the end of the semester when it comes down. 

As our children hit their late teen years and even their early twenties, we always told them we would be there for them; as a sounding board, to help them study for an exam, to meet up for a burger when they were tired of cafeteria food, or to be their 'way out' of an uncomfortable situation. Trust me, when your daughter (or son) goes off to that one college party where no one was supposed to drink, but suddenly everyone was and they're worried about getting home we want them to know they can call home at any hour and we can help them work out a solution that will keep them safe and help them still be cool with their peers (which is important to them at that age).

So, here's to all the parents out there who are celebrating any sort of an anniversary or a milestone. Congrats to you for a job well done.

What life stage are you currently in and how's it going for you? Any words of wisdom for the rest of us?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Look For The Goodness

As usual, the news is full of negative things; shootings, politics, racism, controversies of all kinds, and life-threatening hurricanes. The media, and people in general, are too quick to point out the bad stuff, but if you have your eyes (and your heart) open you will also see some positive things.

Skimming through the Internet headlines and photos yesterday I saw a lot of hardship and sadness caused by Hurricane Harvey. Streets were flooded, people were forced to evacuate their homes, and the weather channels were forecasting even more rain. But I also saw strangers coming together to help strangers. I watched one video of a group of people carrying a 91 year old man down a flight of stairs in his home to place him in an inflated canoe in his living room so they could pull it out the front door and to safety. The road in front of his house, as well as his entire first floor were under water. These people were gentle, they talked to him every step of the way, and they were compassionate. This man was only one of literally thousands who needed to be rescued, but in times of crazy uncontrollable events people still manage to put their differences aside to do the right thing. It's stories like this one that give me hope; hope that there is still decency left in the world, hope that there are still times when people react from the goodness of their heart rather than being reactionary to negativity.

In the midst of tragic times, good things still happen. Babies are still born in the most dire of circumstances reminding us that there is still a tomorrow. People forget about their personal financial stresses, their dysfunctional families, their job searches, and their relationship problems and they simply put everything personal aside and pull together to help strangers in need.

I prefer to think that God doesn't cause the bad things to happen in people's lives, but rather is there giving us the strength, patience, understanding, and compassion we need to make a positive difference as we deal with all the uncertainties we are dealt. There are many, many things we cannot control in today's world, but we will always have the ability to choose how we will react. Will we allow the negativity to suck us in and hold us under or will we fight back with everything we have and overcome the obstacles? I prefer to think that everyone has an unbelievable strength hidden deep down inside. Unfortunately, sometimes it just takes the big, unpleasant stuff to push us into digging deeper.

Join me today as I pray for everyone dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. May God watch over everyone dealing with the high waters, the many uncertainties, and help to keep everyone safe.