Monday, June 29, 2015

Don't Jump On The Band Wagon

The news over the last week has had sadness, madness, and mixed emotions for many. The recent massacre in a Charleston church left many feeling bitter, afraid, and anxious; not to mention confused. Confused about how they should try to practice what is preached, forgive what seems unforgivable, and find the ability to return to their house of worship and hold tightly to their faith.

In the midst of a chaotic moment such as that there was the news of the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriages. The media, including Facebook, was riddled with rainbow-infused photos to show support for the ruling;  as well as bitter statements made for both sides. I read what I thought were well-thought out comments and I read ignorant ones (on BOTH sides).

How I feel about the topic is basically nobody's business but my own. If asked I will share my opinion (one-on-one), but I will never purposely try to persuade you or force my opinions down your throat. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I do NOT believe that it gives people the right to be disrespectful. How some people can cry about others mistreating them and being disrespectful when they readily bash anyone who doesn't agree with them is beyond me. Tearing others down in order to build them self up does nothing; at least nothing productive.

Everyone can find a source to quote, a study, or even a scripture verse to back up their way of logic if they look hard enough. Why? Because every written word is left open to interpretation. Trust me ... I was assigned to the 'negative' side on my high school debate team. I found it difficult to be persuasive of things I didn't personally believe in. I would never make a good defense attorney (no offense), I just don't have it in me to defend something my heart and beliefs aren't into just because someone tells me to.

So what is my point? Only to be careful with your words and your actions. Don't be too quick to jump on the proverbial band wagon because it's easy and it has momentum. It takes much more courage and character to hold strong to your own beliefs. Don't be misled and don't be part of the problem; that's too easy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is It About Change?

For every person who talks about change being a 'good' thing there will be someone standing right next to them who claims that change is 'bad'. So we ask ourselves, 'What is it about CHANGE that intimidates us? Or excites us? Or scares us? Or invigorates us?'

Change and transitions could be considered the same. We all have different seasons in our lives. Nothing is ever the same forever, and I'm not sure that I'd want it to be. There are those changes that we can predict and count on; growing up and growing older, growing wiser through experience, perhaps getting married, or even becoming a parent or a grandparent. These are all good changes. But you can take any good change and either embrace it or run from it. Most changes will come with choices. We always have some level of choice; how we want to interpret things and how we want to handle them.
I read a devotional the other day on the topic of change and it mentioned there being changes that make you want to shout for joy and other changes that make you want to run and hide. So, yes, I suppose some change can be good and some can be bad, BUT even the bad can contain some good. Ask anyone who has battled an illness or a breakup or has a lost a job. It may have been a devastatingly bad change at a particular time in their life, but time heals many wounds. Over time people may have become smarter or wiser or stronger because of what they went through. Life teaches us lessons if we are willing to be the student.
Whatever you do, don't let someone else define what change is for you. Only you can decide if it'll be good or bad. Only you get to decide how it will shape you and what you will take away from it.
What's been a recent change in your life? Did you get engaged? Did you become a parent? Did you become an empty nester? Did you change careers?
How's it going?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

You Shouldn't Keep Score

There are plenty of times to keep score; in baseball, in Monopoly, when bowling, and when playing cards. Basically anytime you find yourself in a competition where there's meant to be a winner. But there are other times in life when we should NEVER keep score; in relationships and real life situations. For example, I know people who have kept a log; a list of every gift they've ever given. If they gave a relative's child a certain monetary amount for their wedding, they expect them to give the same amount back to their child when they get married. The only problem is (actually there are many problems with this) that if an aunt brought her 3 kids to your wedding in 1982 it's unrealistic to expect to give the same amount 15+ years later to one of their kids. There is a thing called 'inflation'. Goodness knows the catering halls have heard of it. The current price per person for dinner is wayyy higher than it was even a decade ago.

Generosity is something that should always come from the heart. It should be genuine. You should never give a gift because you are expecting something in return. Some people never keep track. Others always keep track. I suppose it's whatever works for you (and your conscience). It's natural to want to reciprocate the best you can, but once in a while you'll get a gift that is out of the blue and completely unexpected. A generous gift can sometimes overwhelm the recipient. Not everyone is going to be in the same place; financially or even with the level they are organized.

Reciprocate when you can, if you can and if you want - but NEVER feel pressured. Often the key is simply to set guidelines; especially when it comes to family birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Families grow and so do responsibilities. If it bothers you that everything should be even, then sit down with people and create guidelines that everyone can agree on. There's no reason for anyone to feel uncomfortable or awkward. Being on the same page and having open communication can easily eliminate stressful situations.

How do you handle your scorecard? Are you into keeping score?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Making the BIG Decisions

Every day we are faced with decisions; what time do we need to get up, how much travel time should we allow to get to our job, what should wear, or should we plan a vacation? But these are all routine, not necessarily life changing decisions. The BIG decisions are the ones that will change ours or someone else's lives; have you had too much to drink to get behind the wheel of a car, is it really ok for you to be texting while driving, should you stay in a harmful relationship, or how do you help a troubled child or an aging parent?

The BIG decisions are the ones that you will lose sleep over; the ones that will make you second guess your every thought. So how do we make those decisions? How do we know when our decision is right? Those are tricky questions and won't always have a definitive answer. We may not know that our choice or decision is right, but we do the best we can. We think the situation through, we ponder the endless possibilities and solutions, and then we pray. We pray for strength. We pray for clarity. We pray for hope. And we pray for patience and understanding; for ourselves and everyone else involved.
As usual, I don't pretend to have all the answers. When I see people struggling with having to make an important decision all I can is be supportive and be a sounding board. Sometimes just having someone listen can be helpful.
What was the last BIG decision you had to make? How did you manage?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't Miss The Laughter

Life is constantly changing; often faster than we'd like. Many of us are consumed with what's next on our agenda. We're busy planning events that are a month or more away; weddings, graduation parties, baby showers, and birthday celebrations. I'll be honest; I sometimes find it extremely difficult to live in the moment. I'm always thinking, planning, and analyzing ... it can literally be exhausting. I am a list maker - there, I said it. I've heard that the first step to changing is acknowledging who and where you are in your life. Of course, then I analyze things a bit more ... What am I unhappy with? What should I change? How should I change it? When should I change it (whatever IT is)?

I try not to get too far ahead of myself, but it's hard not to. We plan vacations for next season. We plan household projects for when we think we'll have some spare time. We plan get-togethers with friends according to any empty spaces we may have left on our calendar.

The fact of the matter is that we can be as disciplined and as organized as we can, but we have no guarantees. Life doesn't work that way, it gets messy. Things happen; unexpected things. People get sick. Accidents happen. Situations change.

So how do we create a better balance in our lives? How do we plan responsibly for our futures, but still allow ourselves to appreciate the present? If we're always looking forward with an undistracted focus, we could easily miss the magnificent sunset from last night or miss hearing the laughter of an innocent child tomorrow. These are things we may never get another chance to see or hear. How sad would that be?

As usual, I don't pretend to have all the answers or even the best advice, but I can speak for myself and say that I don't want to miss the sunsets or the laughter. I can't promise that I'll be here forever; none of us can. Lately I've been reminded that God has his unique plan for us and it may not mesh with the ones we think we have for ourselves. I've been reminded just how little control we actually have in our own lives. If it were anyone else overseeing my life I'd probably be scared or at least a little nervous, but this is God we're talking about. The greatest blessings He ever gave us was life and having a vision. Don't be afraid to live or pursue your vision. He'll be with you and give you the strength and courage you need to face anything.

Having that kind of courage helps me to live for today just a little more. I may just need the rest of you though to remind me to slow down and appreciate it.