Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Will Your Holidays Look Like?

Holidays come at the same time every year, just like seasons. You can pretty much predict when they will arrive and what they will look like, but often things like 'life' get in the way and change things for us. 

Just like the weather can be unpredictable, things can happen in our lives that will change the flow from what always was to what will be now. Some events are glorious and what we've always dreamed of and others are unexpected and unfortunate.

We remember holidays as being times when families get together; there is tradition and laughter and food and card games ... times to make memories that we will always be able to hold on to. My holidays this year and for some people I know are changing. I know people whose adult children have married or relocated; the scenario of every other holiday will now begin. It's not a bad thing, just a new thing. Then I know families who have lost a loved one this year and their holidays have unwelcome adjustments. Their days will be different; they might be lonely or quiet. For some it will be hard to get into the festive spirit. Things will get better with time, but it will be a process - one that will require patience and optimism.

What will your holiday season look like this year? Will you have additional guests at your table? Will you have the sounds of new little feet running through your house? Will you have a quietness that is deafening? Remember that Christmas is the season of giving. Give of your heart. Give of your time. Give extra hugs whenever needed. Whatever your holidays look like make the most of them. Create new traditions for yourself and your loved ones and you will have a multitude of memories for years to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Give Like You Would Hope To Get

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day when we hope to be with family, share fellowship, good food, and football. For many, though, it is just another day; a day to go to work, a day to be without family, and a day to do nothing special. For everyone I would hope it is a day to reflect and be thankful; for what we have been blessed with. But, also as the Christmas holidays draw nearer it is a time to consider how we can give.

At this time of year you will see bell ringers with the red Salvation Army buckets, boxes in banks and businesses set up for canned food drives and Toys For Tots, and many 'giving trees' in schools and churches. Take tomorrow to be thankful for what you have and think of how you can pay it forward, BUT give like you would hope to get.

Over the years my family and I have packaged food, filled gift bags for children, visited nursing homes, and sorted pallets of canned food items to check the expiration dates. I cannot begin to tell you how many giving and thoughtful people there are in my neighboring communities. Sadly I can also tell you that people will donate used winter coats that are stained and torn and drop off boxes of canned food with dates that are grossly expired. I kindly pointed out an expired date to a person once who dropped off a case of soup only to have them tell me, 'That's o.k. Whoever gets it is poor and they'll be grateful for whatever they get." OMG, really? How sad and selfish is that?

My point is that if you, yourself, would no longer wear a blouse or a coat or a pair of pants because they are stained or torn then WHY would you expect someone else to? Perhaps the recipient is in need and has had a run of bad luck, but that's no reason to strip them of their dignity as well. If YOU would not eat a can of beans or soup with a date that was 10+ months past its expiration date then WHY would you expect someone else to?

Yes, take tomorrow (and every other day) to be thankful for what you have and when you ponder the idea of giving during the holidays remember to give like you would hope to get.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Embrace Your Talents

If you are like me you sometimes compare yourself to others, at least from time to time. Even the most confident person can occasionally have doubts. Maybe you think someone is smarter or skinnier or they sing or speak better than you. That's o.k. and I would even venture to say that it's normal. It's easy to feel a little intimidated when you sense that someone does something better than you. Mostly I don't let it bother me, except when it's something I've been striving to improve upon. But then I remember that God didn't give all of us the same gifts and talents. You won't have the same gifts as your brother or your spouse, or your neighbor or even yourself from 10 years ago.

I continue to work with my own gifts and talents and remember that 'I can do all things through him who strengthens me.' (Philippians 4:13)
  • I TRY not to compare myself to others.
  • I TRY not to put larger-than-life expectations on myself.
  • I TRY not to knowingly set myself up for disappointment.
  • BUT I do TRY to work with what I've been given and not waste it.
  • I do TRY to use my gifts for good.
  • I do TRY to make a difference.
  • And I do TRY to bring joy to others whenever I can.
The key word, for better or worse, is TRY. That's really all any of us can do. When we quit TRYING the battle is already lost.

We all need to be lifted up at times and we all need reassurances. In Psalm 139:14 it says, 'I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.' This verse reminds me that I am not alone, that the gifts and talents I possess were given only to me by someone much bigger than me. Who am I to argue with the One who created me? If we keep this in mind perhaps we will embrace our gifts and talents more than we do. We will embrace who we were created to be and use these gifts for the Glory of God. Sometimes we need to pause and take a long look on the mirror and accept the things we are, yet improve upon the characteristics that need some work.
  • I can accept that I am a stickler for details.
  • I can accept that I would sometimes prefer to write rather than speak.
  • I can accept that I am creative, that I will skip through a pile of autumn leaves whenever I can, and that I would eat pizza 5 days a week if given the chance.
  • I can accept that I have an inner child that still likes to color with crayons.
  • I can accept that I will always dot my 'i's' and cross my 't's' and find the grammatical errors in published books.
  • And I can accept that my faith journey is a work in progress.
Here is one verse to leave you with and remember ... Your talent is God's gift to you - what you do with it is your gift back to God.

Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)
For just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we, though many, form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
if it is serving, then serve;
if it is teaching, then teach;
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;
if it is giving, then give generously;
if it is to lead, do it diligently;
if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Make A Difference

It's that tricky time of year. There are still some golden leaves left on the trees, the weather is giving us a taste of what winter temperatures will be like, at least one radio station is playing Christmas music, the Hallmark movies are in full swing, and some of Santa's helpers can already be seen in the mall. So what does that mean for you and me?

Christmas is a very special holiday for me; as well, so is Thanksgiving. Christmas is a time for family. For me it is more about celebrating the birth of Jesus, but 'YES' I will admit I also like the season. The twinkling lights, the smell of cinnamon and evergreen, the laughter of children, and most of the decorations (still not sure I understand what the flying pig with a Santa hat is supposed to represent). There are those who will cringe and protest and say that it is all happening too soon. There are those who will say Christmas has gone completely commercial ... and they'd probably be right. BUT ... the season is what you choose to make of it. If you don't want to shop now, then don't. If you don't want to send out Christmas cards this year, then don't. If you don't believe in shopping on Thanksgiving day, then don't (I know I won't). BUT, don't be mad that the season is starting early. 

My suggestion: Set a budget that YOU are comfortable with (don't go overboard and don't go in debt over it), make your list of what you'd like to buy or how you want to celebrate the season, and start now ... slowly and at your own pace. I have my short list and will be shopping early. There are bargains and sales out there NOW. My goal is finish before Thanksgiving. Then I have the month of December to truly enjoy the Christmas season. I will write out some Christmas cards, I will bake a few cookies, I will try to gather with friends and be social, we will put our tree up and decorate, and my family and I will try to make a difference.

On Thanksgiving (and every other day) we will pause and remember all of the things we have to be thankful for; a roof over our heads, food to eat, family that we love, good health, our faith, and our values and priorities. We will think of ways we can give back during what can be a busy, chaotic, and lonely season for many. How can you be there for someone else? The list is endless.

  • You can bake some cookies and visit a home bound friend or neighbor.
  • You can buy an extra winter coat and donate it to a coat drive.
  • You can take a tag or two from the many giving trees you'll find at your school or church.
  • You can pay it forward and buy lunch for the table next to you or the person behind you in line.
  • Or, since it's not all about money you can simply call someone you haven't talked to in a while and not only talk, but listen.
Combine your holidays ... Thanksgiving AND Christmas. Be thankful for what you have and what you have to offer and MAKE A DIFFERENCE this season. And more importantly, don't be embarrassed to say 'Merry Christmas' in public.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's Good Not To Be Alone

If I sit back and read through some of my own past blog posts even I can notice some common themes ... doing what's right, honoring values, helping your fellow neighbor, and holding on to traditions and what some would call 'old-fashioned' ideas. Last night I tuned in for a portion of the CMA Awards on TV. I don't tend to listen to country music all the time, but when channel flipping in my car I have been known to stop on the occasional country song because it has a good beat, great harmonizing, and some amazing musicality. I like to think that my music tastes are varied.
I listened to a few of the acceptance speeches from various artists; some have won the awards repeatedly and for others this was their first time. It's not always why we do what we do in life, but truth be told I think we'd all like a little validation at times just to let us know that we're not alone and that we're on the right track.
We all know that I have no problem sharing my opinion, when asked. I've often written in my blog about technology being both a blessing and an opportunity to make us lazy. I've written about today's society having an 'instant gratification' mentality. Whether you, as the reader, agree with my viewpoints or not isn't the point. We all have opinions and they may all be different, but how refreshing it was to turn on my radio this morning while driving to work and hear a recap of last night's award show followed by the playing of a Miranda Lambert song called 'Automatic'. For me it was an epiphany. I always try to listen carefully to the lyrics; after all I love words and how they're used and the impact they can have. This song (that I'd never really heard before this morning) validated my views and let me know that 'I AM NOT ALONE'. That's a nice feeling to have.
Listen for yourself. Miranda may or may not have been the songwriter (I don't actually know so I wouldn't want to say), but for me the words are absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Polls Are Now Closed ...

Today was election day. The absentee ballots have been turned in, the in-person votes have been cast, and the predictions will now roll in as the votes are tabulated. For me, election day has always had its pros and cons. Pros being that we can witness democracy in action; people voting and hoping that their voices are heard, and the campaigning drawing to a close. Cons being the manipulation of the campaign circuits and the sometimes disrespect of many voters.

Today on Facebook I saw graphic after graphic posted to people's pages saying that they had voted ... which was great. What I also saw was various TV media stations making early predictions based on exit polls in attempts to influence one party or the other that one side was winning over the other and they needed to get out and vote. I guarantee you that anyone could poll any targeted group about a pre-selected topic and come away with the result they were looking for. Ironically the early exit polls all start coming out in the middle of the day ... seriously? I've been voting now for over 30 years and I have not once been asked who I voted for as I left a poll; which is probably good because if asked I would have to tell them that it was none of their business. It's all manipulation no matter how you look at it. As if the last several weeks haven't had enough TV & radio commercials with content that did nothing more than bash the opponent, we now get to observe Facebook and Internet 'comments' from people who hide behind cartoon and fictitious profile names. I always seem to quit reading after about the 8th or 9th ignorant comment because my stomach starts to roll. It continues to amaze me how freely the disrespectful and ignorant words can flow from one stranger toward another stranger.

I am all for exercising our right to vote. I am all for fighting for our freedoms and our rights; freedom of speech being one of them. But with every right and freedom comes responsibility ... or at least it should. 

Late tonight or tomorrow morning there will be both acceptance and concession speeches. As with any competition there will be winners and losers. At this point all I can hope for is a brighter, more positive tomorrow for ALL of us.

How did you fare during today's election?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's All About Change

Today has been a day about change. Last night we changed the clocks back an hour. I, for one, appreciated the extra hour this morning to get ready. 30 minutes of extra sleep and 30 minutes extra to get ready for church without rushing. 

Sometimes change can be good; other times not so much. Some people will say that if you do the same thing day in and day out you'll find yourself in a rut. Others might say that changing up the routine will keep things fresh and exciting. I guess that depends on whether you're a 'glass is half empty or half full' kind of person.

There are the changes that we choose for ourselves like which job will we take, which house will we live in, which outfit we will wear, and which person will we choose to marry. Then there are also the changes that we have no control over ... Daylight Savings Time (lol), having to pay taxes, being diagnosed with a disease, or having someone run a red light and come into our lane.

Some changes we will embrace and grow from, others will be be thrown right at us and we will do nothing more than try to cope with them. Those are the tricky ones. Trying to make important decisions that we don't want to make and keeping our heads above water. It can be tiring and heartbreaking at the same time.

This morning, though, the church I attend began a new chapter. We have a new pastor which is a change in itself. I was glad to see a worship center that was full once again. There was a definite sense of community and a high level of energy. It was good. I pray that people will embrace this change as a positive one.

What kind of changes are you presently dealing with? Are they good changes or bad? Do you feel like you're adjusting to them or are you hanging on by your finger tips?