Friday, May 19, 2017

The BIG Question

Every day we face hardships, unwanted circumstances, and health scares. We often find ourselves asking the BIG question of 'Why?'. WHY did a friend have to die so young? WHY did your spouse lose the job they loved? WHY didn't you get the job you were more than qualified for? When we start asking this question it is usually because something has happened that we had no control over. We all like to know what our future holds and how we can be better prepared for the hurdles, but then 'things' happen that we simply don't understand. Then we feel a little lost. We feel insecure.
 
But what if we tried not to focus on the WHY? What if, instead, we focused on the bigger question of 'What should I do now?' There will always be things we have no control over; things that are out of our hands.
 
Any one that knows me well, knows that I love words. I love to write, but more importantly I love to hear what people have to say. Words can tell a story. Words have the power to lift us up and tear us down. When words are good I like to remind myself of them. I have a tattered piece of paper taped to the top left corner of my computer at work that says this ...
 
'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Remember that 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.'
 
We can't always stopped the unpleasant things in life from happening, but we can control our attitudes and how we handle the circumstances. We can let them define us and dictate what direction we will let them take us in OR we can take a deep breath, take it all in, and decide what we want to take with us from the situation. My pastor recently said on Mother's Day that some women are mothers who choose to stay home with their kids, there are mothers who try to balance work both inside and outside the home, and there are mothers who had a lousy example of what a mom was when they were growing up. He also said that those last mothers don't have to let their upbringing define them. They have the choice of breaking the cycle and changing what the next generation looks like.
 
We will always ask WHY? But we can also ask 'What should I do now?' The choice is still ours.
 
When was the last time you asked WHY? What happened next?

Monday, May 8, 2017

When Time Stands Still

When I was a kid, time could never move fast enough. It seemed to take forever for holidays, birthdays, and even Saturday mornings to come. It was like the sand in the hour glass was stuck. But, as a kid, I was never very patient. Ironically, not much has changed as I've grown up. I'm still impatient, but now it's because I'm busy with responsibilities, To Do lists, and busy schedules.

As a parent, time had different issues; there was never enough of it. By the time we worked, did the laundry, cleaned the house, helped the kids with their homework, got them to their functions, etc. we often didn't have any time leftover for ourselves, much less ... a full night's sleep.

But amidst this crazy journey called 'life' I have discovered something AMAZING. I've moved into my next phase; that of being a grandparent. It's proving to be one of my favorite phases, truth be told. Why? Not because I get to spoil my granddaughters and then give them back to their parents, but because when I get to spend time with them ... time seems to stand still. I can't explain how or why it happens, but just last week I played 'stickers' with one granddaughter and rocked the other and realized that over the course of an hour I NEVER looked at the clock. So, in my mind, time did stand still. It was fascinating, truly scientific (I'm sure), and completely beautiful.

If this is part of what happens as a grandparent, I am THRILLED. It may take some creative scheduling to carve out the time needed to make a trip to the west side of the mitten, but it is definitely worth it. Today I drove to my son and daughter-in-law's house to stay for a couple of days and I had time to read to the 'little ones', rock the baby for few hours, giggle with the toddler, and for a change; live in the moment. 

What am I learning? That obviously I shouldn't look at the clock quite as much as I do, but some habits are harder to break than others. Like everyone else I am a constant work in progress. I learn as I go. The good news, though, is that I keep learning.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Time For A Break

Time can be pretty complex. It's more than just a four letter word. Wikipedia defines time as the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. That may sound pretty specific and scientific, but it's more than just a combination of seconds, minutes, and hours. Time is something that can linger for days and also something that once it slips by we cannot get back.

Time has been referred to in so many ways :
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Take life one day at a time.
  • We all wish we had more time.
  • Time is precious.
  • Time is of the essence.
  • Don't waste your time.
  • Time flies by.
  • Memories can be frozen in time.
For me, lately, time seems to be going by faster than the blink of an eye. Seems like only yesterday my children were little; were seeing and experiencing things for the first time ... and now they're grown up. My youngest just graduated from college and my oldest came home to support his sister and brought his family (a wonderful wife and my two wonderful granddaughters). When did they grow up? When did my life move ahead on fast forward?

There's no way to slow it down or stop the inevitable. There's no way to make it last any longer. So what can we do? We can try to get off the fast track of life; the track that has us always looking at what is to come and what we need to finish and what we need to prepare for. Instead we need to appreciate the 'now', the part that creates the memories for later.

As a parent I've spent much of my energy focusing on supporting my children, their talents, and their goals, helping them get where they wanted to be. Now it's my turn, lol, to stand back and watch; to see who they've become and what they've accomplished. Yes, I am a proud mother. I try to tell my kids as often as I can and hope that they know how much I mean it. I am a proud grandmother. This past weekend I got to rock my youngest granddaughter and watch her look up at my face and listen to my voice. Then I would sit and watch the toddler play and giggle and talk and say 'bless you' when someone sneezed (including herself). For a moment I allowed myself to not look too far forward, but rather just enjoy the moment for what it was; both beautiful and amazing.

I am human. I will still have my moments of planning too far ahead and trying to squeeze 28 hours into a 24 hour day, but that's okay as long as I can find a balance. A balance of being in control when I can, being a responsible multi-tasker when I need to be, and being a happy grandma who can forget about literally everything else when one of my granddaughters is in the room ... at that point nothing else could possibly be a priority.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hamster Wheel

Often, in life, we make comparisons. It helps us to visualize an outcome or a process. Life goes by pretty fast as it is and often we can feel overwhelmed. Think of a hamster on a wheel. He gets a lot of exercise and generally has a clear view of where he is going without any obstructions; yet most likely he will get tired trying to get there.

Ironically, I see a lot of similarities between the hamster and myself. I have goals. I have dreams. I think I know what it will take for me to get there. I try to get things accomplished at a frantic pace, but often feel like I am going and going and going and never quite reaching my destination.

Like the hamster, I know where I want to be, yet will find myself getting tired and never quite get there.

So what is the answer? Great question. Continue to get the daily exercise of running on the wheel that never ends? Perhaps good for my calf muscles, but not so much for my brain. There are days when I swear my mind works faster than the hamster's little feet. The hamster, though, does have one characteristic I lack. He is forever focused and driven. If I weren't afraid of falling off of the wheel I would probably wander off after one distraction or another.

Okay, so this blog post probably contains too many metaphors, but that's the irony of it. Our lives can be just like the hamster's. We have self-proclaimed routines. We know there's always a chance we'll be rewarded for our efforts, so we keep trying. The hamster never hits a brick wall; the shiny silver wire wheel always provides a clear view and an open road. It always has the hope of possibilities. Maybe some day the wheel will stop. Maybe we will wear it down. Maybe we will see something beyond the wheel. Maybe we will discover why we aren't reaching our goal and we'll get off the wheel and choose a different path, one with a more direct route. It is possible. 

With hope, all things are possible.

Do you see yourself as the hamster? Where are you trying to go and, more importantly, what is stopping you from getting there?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Embrace Your Gifts

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 be 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, March 29, 2017

The Technological Chain Letter

When I was a young girl, maybe age 11 or 12, my friends and I would get chain letters. Ours were handwritten and sent through the mail with a postage stamp. We generally only got mail on our birthdays from out of town relatives, so getting something in the mail was a big deal. I did write to a pen pal during the 5th grade, a student from another school in another state (a class project of sorts), but that was the only mail I would get. It's exciting when you're 11 to walk out to the mailbox and come back with something with your name on it.
 
My, how things have changed. We didn't have cell phones or computers when I was younger, so we communicated by writing letters, talking on the phone (the kind with a cord attached to the wall in the kitchen with absolutely NO privacy), or we knocked on someone's door and then sat on the front porch.
 
Today is very different. On any given day I can get a 'forwarded' email with an inspirational story that I am invited (or gently coerced) into sharing with my friends. There's usually the promise of good fortune or prayers sent my way, but ONLY if I share. Then there is the subtle hints toward guilt if I don't; 'I know which of my friends will share this and which ones won't' or 'If you're not ashamed to share this ...'.  Really? I lead a very busy life, like most everyone. I may have time, at some point, to read through your email, but it may take a week and then what? I've missed my deadline, so now I am doomed to live the next 10 years with bad luck?
 
On most days I love my Facebook account; I get to read what my family and friends are up to, celebrate their happy moments and accomplishments, and feel connected. What I don't like is the political rants, the way technology has made it too easy for people to be bullies and say whatever mean things they want to people they know and people they don't know and hide behind cartoon photos and fake names. But, if I'm being totally honest, I also do not care for the posts that generally have a sincere message, but then attach that good message with a double dose of guilt; 'copy and paste this to your timeline for 1 hour' or 'I know which of my friends will read all the way through this message and then care enough to share'. I would much rather read your thoughts, applaud your efforts for sharing, and then form my own opinion; but the second an ultimatum is attached I will lose interest. Hopefully this doesn't make me a bad person. I will still read your message, consider your beliefs, and most likely support your cause if I agree, but most times I will not share it to my timeline or forward it to my contact list. That is my opinion and my choice, as it is yours for posting in the format that you do.
 
Will you still consider me your 'Facebook' friend if I don't? I hope so. I would hate to think that our friendship was structured around ultimatums and guilt.
 
How do you feel? Do you tend to share posts and emails that you receive, and if so why? Do you tend to send the posts asking for support? I understand that exposure means everything when you are trying to share news or support a cause. What topics are you most likely to share?
 
In a respectful and productive way, please help me understand.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Try Changing Your Perspective

We can always remind ourselves to try to think positively, to view the glass as half full, and that we have enough to worry about today without thinking about tomorrow. For many, these can just be words; words that we tell ourselves over and over again, but unless we start believing them will mean absolutely nothing.
 
I am certainly not one to give advice; my life isn't perfect and I can openly admit that I rank up there among the best of worriers. It's my nature. It's in my genes. It's what I can do with my eyes closed while multi-tasking on six other things. Of all the things I think I do pretty well, this isn't one that I am proud of.
 
So I won't give advice. I won't pretend that I know more than you. I certainly won't try to convince you that I have all the answers. What can I do? I can keep trying. I can keep listening to my pastor's sermons on Sunday mornings. I can listen objectively to conversations and see what little nugget of wisdom I can learn and try to apply to my own life. I can see what works and what doesn't and NOT give up.
 
I have a great life! I have a loving and devoted husband, I have awesome kids, an amazing daughter-in-law, the most beautiful granddaughter in the world (and I don't think I'm biased at all, lol), and a second granddaughter due to arrive in a month. I have my health, people tell me I look younger than my age, and I have a job I like and think I'm pretty good at. I have a lot going for me, but I'm human. I still worry ... a lot, about many different things. But at the end of the day I can either worry myself sick (which isn't good for me or anyone else) or I can try to change my perspective; every day and every other hour, if needed.
 
When I am stressed or find myself frustrated about something I have to do, rather than tell myself 'I HAVE to do (insert blah, blah, blah)', I need to learn to rephrase my action and say 'I GET to do (blah, blah, blah)'. Will this work every time? Perhaps not, but it might help me regain my perspective. Yes, lately I find myself inundated with paperwork and responsibilities for me, my immediate family, my extended family, and my job. BUT I need to remind myself; I HAVE a job. I HAVE a family to worry about. I HAVE a roof over my head; so what if the wind took down three big trees in my yard last week ... they didn't fall on my house or anyone else's. I can worry about my son's health or my daughter finding a job after graduation, but guess what? I can't wish my son's discomfort away and I can't send in a resume' for my super-talented and qualified daughter (but if anyone wants to hire a soon-to-be-graduate with a lot of knowledge and great people skills, please give me a call).
 
In the end, I can continue to try to make each day better than my last. I can try to create a better balance for myself (whatever that looks like). I can remind myself daily to change my perspective and make my shoulders lighter.
 
Maybe you have a nugget of wisdom for me? How do you keep a healthy and positive perspective these days?