Monday, April 30, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS

"Dream more. Complain less. Listen more. Talk less. Love more. Argue less. Hope more. Fear less. Relax more. Worry less. Believe more. Doubt less. Play more. Work less."
~ Author Unknown

Some seasons are chock-full of loss. The shifts and changes going on inside and around us can throw off our emotional equilibrium, leaving us spinning. Can any good come out of these dark seasons? The answer is a resounding YES! There is a world of good that can arise from the ashes. If we hold on tight and ride out the storm, the beauty that awaits us can be so bright, it's blinding.

How do I know? Because I've been there. And I'm there now. But this time, as my life feels like it's spinning out of control, I can catch glimpses of the road ahead of me. And it's good ~ it's very good. I am learning along the way that we can refuse to get consumed by the losses that shadow us. We can determine to not give in to the sadness, the weeping, the all-consuming grief. We can let it run its course without being swallowed up by the pain.

Instead, we can put our thoughts and energies onto embracing the changes and discovering all the treasures we can excavate along the way. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can have a huge say in how we respond. At any point in our lives, we can begin to discover and explore who we want to be and how we want to live our lives, regardless of our season in life. Today, my focus shifts to adverbs and proverbs. Remember adverbs from English class? I always think of them as words that end in "ly", but a more formal definition says, "adverbs typically express some relation of place, time, manner, attendant circumstance, degree, cause, inference, result, condition, exception, concession, purpose or means".

For the next month, I'm going to plow through my list of ADVERBS FOR LIVING, with a proverb or two sprinkled throughout. I will begin tomorrow with the adverb "BRAVELY". This new climb in my journey isn't for sissys. If I don't approach it bravely, I may give up and turn back.

How about you? Feeling brave enough to join me? Don't worry ~ you can just come along and watch from a distance. Or you can join in and trail blaze along side of me. Maybe it's not your time. Either way, I hope this gives you food for thought. The trails we encounter may be treacherous at times, but the adventures along the way will be worth it...and the views will be breathtaking.

"A manual for living...written down so we'll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it's going."
Proverbs 1, The  Message

"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."
~Kenji Miyazawa

Sunday, April 29, 2012

DELIGHTED

"Most of us miss out on life's big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oscars. Tonys. Emmys. But we're all eligible for life's small pleasures. A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset...Don't fret about copping life's grand awards. Enjoy its tiny delights. There are plenty for all of us."
~United Technologies Corporation Ad

I don't know about you, but I spend far too little time dwelling on the things I find delightful. My day-to-day responsibilities, problems, and routines can squeeze the "delight" right out of me. I think it's worthy of my time and attention to pause and give some thought to these things.

The writer in me insists on a list ~ Things That Delight Me. I've been amazed at how painstakingly slow the process has been to compile this list. Is it because I have neglected this part of my life? I don't know. So I take it a step further and ask my husband what delights him. His loss for words hits home, and I realize I have stumbled onto something. How many of us are out of touch with this part of our lives? When did we lose sight of the delightful?

I want to open my eyes...my ears...my mind, and tune in to these gifts. I don't have to go out for an expensive meal, travel the world, or live in a storybook home to experience delight. Everyday that I live ~ from the mundane to the celebrated moments ~ I am surrounded by opportunities to be delighted.

What delights you? How about fresh flowers on the table...the scent of rain...browsing in a book store...hiking the local trails...the sound of birds chirping in the garden...watching a sunset...rearranging a room...funny movies...holding a baby. These are just a few of mine, but you get the picture.

Here's the thing ~ life is whirling by and we won't live forever. Shouldn't we be more mindful of the things that delight us? Let's take the time to bask in them...savor them...and realize how very blessed we are.

"The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention."
~Julia Cameron

"Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
~Psalm 37:4

          

Friday, April 27, 2012

LESSONS LEARNED

"I think we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives. But all of life's experiences, bad and good, make you who you are. Erasing any of life's experiences would be a great mistake."
~Luis Miguel

Have you ever thought to yourself, "If I could do THIS over again, I'd do it so differently"? THIS can be anything. Sometimes, we replace THIS with THESE. "If I could re-live THESE moments, I would make better choices." Hind-sight can be brutal because we can't go back and rework it. And the "should-haves" haunt us.

I have my share of THESE in my own life story. Some are small and insignificant ~ I wouldn't waste my money again on that pair of pants...I wouldn't eat the extra serving of dessert that sabotaged my diet...I wouldn't have gone to bed angry over such a silly disagreement. You get the picture.

Others are big...and life-changing. I would have continued my education...I would have budgeted better and saved more for retirement...I would have kept in touch with people I let slip away.

I can't turn back the clock to get a re-do. You can't either. But we can see each experience as a life lesson and LEARN. None of us lives each day perfectly. We all make choices we later regret. What separates us is that some ruminate in their regrets and allow them to steal the present, and even corrupt the future. Others grab hold of the lessons, forgive their own mistakes, and move on with a positive attitude. We can make today better. We can glean from the mistakes of yesterday. We can have a bright tomorrow.

It's a beautiful new day. Who knows? Maybe today I'll get it a little more right that I did yesterday. Maybe I'll say the right thing...use my time and resources wisely...make choices that feel good at the end of the day. If not, there's always tomorrow.

"If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."
~Mary Pickford

"It is what it is, and it was what it was. Don't fret the could-haves because if it should-have, it would-have." 
~Author Unknown

"Live life with no regrets. Laugh at the confusion. Smile through the tears and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason."
~Author Unknown

"God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course."
~Psalm 119:33 The Message

        

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"LIST" GIRL

"I choose...to live by choice, not by chance. To make changes, not excuses. To be motivated, not manipulated. To be useful, not used. To excel, not compete. I choose self-esteem, not self-pity. I choose to listen to my inner voice. Not the random opinion of others."
~Author Unknown

I have a confession to make ~ part of me wants to walk away from my computer and forget about writing today's message. I feel vulnerable and uncomfortable sharing so much of my personal journey. But little growth occurs when we stay huddled in our comfort zones. My prayer is that this will bless and inspire you in your journey as I press forward in my own.

I have always been a "list" girl. It's not enough for me to think about something ~ I have to write it down. This week I began to compose a list and titled it, "Who I Want To Be". It was a bit intimidating at first. What if I wrote out my ideas, only to realize they were unattainable? Would this exercise inspire or depress me? I've had my share of cowardly moments, but I knew this couldn't be one of them. So I determined to tackle this mindfully, with the goal of focusing on the "being" aspect of life, and save the "doing" for another time. In many ways, we let what we do define who we are. But really, we are so much more than a spouse, parent, sibling, friend. Those are valued roles we hold.

This exercise was meant to zero in on character traits I want to possess, regardless of what I am "doing" in my various life roles. Like I said in yesterday's message, some of the things I want to be, I already am. Other traits on my list are going to need to be bathed in much prayer and hard work to come to fruition.

I won't bore you with my whole list, but will share a few things I wrote down ~
*positive in my thoughts and words
*creative in my environment and my writing
*studious, always learning something new
*wise, discerning, frugal, money-smart
*liberated ~ free from guilt, shame, regret
*compassionate, kind, thoughtful
*organized, uncluttered, focused
*strong, active, energetic, productive
*adventurous, brave, open to new experiences
*prayerful, God-focused
*passionate and purposeful in how I live each day...
If you know me well, you are probably shaking your head and thinking, I would not use THAT word to describe her! That's the whole point. I haven't arrived yet. But I'm not going to stay content with status quo. I need to know what my aspirations are before I can stretch myself. I have a long trek ahead of me, but at least I am at the starting gate.

How about you? What would your list look like? Did I mention anything in mine that struck a chord and got you thinking? I hope so. Tomorrow I will share my next step ~ thinking about the things that delight me. I can't wait. Who doesn't like to dwell on the delightful?!

"My business is not to remake myself, but make the absolute best of what God made."
~Robert Browning
             

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WHO I WANT TO BE

"Live life with no regrets. Laugh at the confusion. Smile through the tears and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason."
~Author Unknown

Lately I have been giving a lot of serious thought to my life and how I want to live it. Perhaps it's because I am entering into a new chapter. I am gearing myself up for some major changes during the coming year. For the first time in our married life, I will know what it means to be an empty-nester. Adding to that will likely be a change in residence. Even my career path will take a sharp turn in a new direction. There are many uncertainties looming on the horizon.

I have a choice. I can cower in fear and dread over what awaits me. Or I can jump in with both feet, arms stretched wide open, and embrace this new and very different season. I choose the latter.

When I think about it, I get excited. True, there are moments of sadness sprinkled here and there. Tears spring up out of nowhere, and I can't always tell if they are tears of sorrow or joy. But the way I see it, I am faced with an opportunity to hone in and define who I am...and who I want to be.

If I live to the age that my maternal grandma did (104), that means I still have one half of my life left. That thought alone energizes me. How do I want to spend these years? Who do I want to be? I don't have to let the first half of my life define the second half, do I?

One thing seems clear ~ much of how I live will be based on choices. And my first choice is deciding to not just coast along, maintaining status quo, going with the flow. Time's a-ticking, and I want to make the most of what I have left.

Yesterday I began a list and titled it, WHO I WANT TO BE. As the words flowed onto my paper, I began to see the possibilities. Some of the things I want to be, I already am. Others will take some serious effort. That's okay. The hardest part of any task is getting started. I've already done that.

Today, I encourage you to do the same. What do you want the rest of your life to look like? Who do you want to be? Afterall, you are the main character in your own life story. Isn't that reason enough to invest some serious thought?

Over the coming weeks, I will share what I discover as I venture into the unknown. I confess I am a bit nervous about being an open book as I press ahead. But my hope is that it will inspire you to do the same. Are you ready? Here goes....

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
~Author Unknown

"Sometimes you have to forget what's gone, appreciate what still remains, and look forward to what's coming next." 
~Author Unknown

             

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EARTH DAY

"Nature is the art of God." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday was Earth Day. I'd like to say I celebrated it in some grandiose fashion ~ planting some trees or picking up trash on the beach. The truth is I let the day slip by with just the comment to my husband, "It's Earth Day."

I am a bit miffed at myself. The great outdoors has always been a refuge, an inspiration, and quite frankly, holy ground to me. I don't consider myself to be a tree-hugger, but I absolutely love God's creation. I have a hard time understanding the casualness in which many treat it. It makes sense that we should be good stewards and care-takers of this beautiful planet God has given us to live on and enjoy.

When I think about the amount of pleasure I have received from nature, I feel inadequate. How can I possibly give back, even a fraction of what I've been given? I don't think I can. But I can certainly be mindful of how I live my life, and make changes that will benefit our world and honor our Creator.

I encourage all of us to do the same. If you doubt that this is important to God, I challenge you to read His word on the topic. I think it saddens Him when we neglect, abuse, and mistreat this beautiful planet Earth, His glorious creation.

"Dusk and dawn take turns calling, 'Come and worship.' Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with Living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this!"
~Psalm 65:8,9 The Message

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."
~Rachel Carson

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
~John Muir

"Keep close to nature's heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."
~John Muir

"To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be."
~Rachel Carson

  

Monday, April 23, 2012

GAME STOP

"It is never too late to have a happy childhood."
~Tom Robbins

"I don't want to hear another word about death, or killing, or weapons," I told the three teenagers who sat in my dining room. Their conversation was centered around a couple of video games they liked. Though they moved onto a different topic when I made my position clear, in a matter of minutes they were back to the games and their levels of destruction.

So I challenged them. "Do you see how these games might be harmful? Is it possible they desensitize some into thinking that violence and killing is okay? Take a moment before you answer. Really think about it." I was surprised when all three admitted the games could potentially be detrimental. They agreed that some players might be swayed to behave violently if they spent hours each day blowing people to bits.

"Then why do you play these games?" I asked, bewildered. "It's fun," was their response. I was baffled. What could be so fun about sitting in front of a video game for hours, acquiring artillery and killing as many people as possible?

Whatever happened to the definition of fun that I grew up with? When did violent games replace a bike ride, a game of tennis, a day hike, or curling up with a good book? The more I listened to these boys and thought about their conversation, the more it saddened me.

How about we kill the notion that our kids need to be engaged and entertained with violent video games in order to be happy? Why don't we just blow up the mindset that it's safer to sit on the couch for hours strategizing over a game than it is to be out and about, moving and breathing in the daylight? Why not put to death the sedentary world of video games and open our kids' eyes up to all that the world has to offer them? Just a thought...

To be fair, my children are grown, and they did not show a strong interest in video games when they were growing up. I haven't had to wrestle with this issue as a parent. But I know parents who do. And I can see both sides to the argument on the safety and value of these games. I cannot adequately cover both sides of the fence in this blog. If you want to research it for yourself, you can begin at videogames.procon.org.

"We cannot and will not ban the creation of violent video games. But, we can prevent the distribution of these disturbing games to children, where their effects can be negative."
~Herb Kohl

"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
~Romans 12:2, The Message    
    

   

FIRST AND FOREMOST

"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts."
~Eleanor Roosevelt

As I opened my eyes to greet the new day, my mind was bombarded with a to-do list ~ things I had intended to accomplish the day before. Left-over chores would have to come first ~ cleaning the living room and kitchen, running to the market, and so on.

Before making my first cup of coffee, I delved into it, sweeping the floor as I wrestled with three hungry pets. I turned the dishwasher on, then paused, looking out the kitchen window. A beautiful day was unfolding outside, and I was missing it.

I thought about our son. He was due to arrive for a visit in a couple of hours. I wanted the house to be clean and inviting for him. But then it hit me ~ would he even notice the thin layer of dust on the furniture, or the less than sparkling kitchen countertops? No, he'd be more apt to notice a harried mood and a tired spirit brought on by a list of chores. I realized that my most important preparation for his arrival had nothing whatsoever to do wth cleaning my home.

I grabbed by devotionals and a cup of coffee and headed out the door. Soaking in the morning sun along with words written to edify and encourage were now first and foremost on my list.

How much better to have peace and calm and contentment than a house that passes the white glove test. I think I finally get it.  

"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
~Matthew 6:33

"Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from His perspective."
~Colossians 3:2, The Message

Sunday, April 22, 2012

THE FAMILY TABLE

"I'd rather have roses on my table, than diamonds on my neck."
~Emma Goldman

I grew up with a mom who was gifted at the art of presentation. It was a rare occasion when our dining table wasn't adorned with fresh cut flowers, lit candles, and a lovely tablescape. Paper napkins were a rare and unwelcome guest at our table. Even a soda can or beer bottle was frowned upon. Condiments were served from pretty dishes, never out of a bottle or jar. My mom was a stickler for detail, and she made every meal an enjoyable dining experience.

When I got married, I longed to carry on her example and make dinner for my own family equally as special. But the odds were stacked against me when I married a man with two very active boys. I remember many frustrated nights when I'd put the time and effort into trying to create the same wonderful dining experience I grew up with, only to have it interrupted by a soccer practice or t-ball game. Don't get me wrong ~ I knew how important these were to the kids and to my husband. But I resented their infringement upon our dinner hour, and the fact that sports in general seemed to rule so much of our lives.

I was fighting a losing battle. I compromised, setting aside my visions of our family sitting around the dining room table together on a regular basis. I put aside the notion of creating a lovely and welcoming presentation. And I gave in to casual dining.
That set the tone for our dining experience as a family. Eventually, I was able to revisit my desire for a more idyllic family table as our younger two got a bit older. But it was short-lived by the onset of adolescence and conflicting schedules that arose.

For years, we have been a household that eats different foods at different times, in different places. One is a vegetarian...one likes red meat...one likes chicken and fish. Some prefer an earlier meal, others like to eat later in the evening.

I look back on the family dinners I grw up with, and I still long for the same in my own home. Perhaps this is because some of my warmest memories were formed at the table my mother prepared so lovingly each night. But here's a thought ~ maybe I can put aside the frustration of not having what I want (my family eating together each night) and simply create a warm and inviting family table. Perhaps they will be drawn to it; they may even sit and dine at it. If not, at least I have had the pleasure of creating something I enjoy. Even if I sit down by myself, isn't it better than curling up on the couch with my meal?

I feel inspired to get out my favorite recipe books. I know just the linens I want to use. The camelias blooming along our driveway will make a sweet centerpiece. I don't know if anyone will join me. That's okay. Either way, I am reclaiming the family table.

"The body must be nourished, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We're spiritually starved in this culture ~ not underfed but undernourished."
~Carol Hornig            

Friday, April 6, 2012

WEIGHT LOSS SYSTEM

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
~Matthew 11:28-30

There have been seasons in my life when I was so consumed by my circumstances and the emotions they triggered, I had little to give to others. Though I was walking with God, I was still holding onto my burdens. I didn't know how to release them into His care. I had the Strongest of Strongs walking in step with me, offering to carry my heavy load for me. Yet I held on tightly, not knowing how to let go. I was yoked to my problems.

What are you carrying around today? What burden is weighing heavily upon you? Do you want to pass it on to God and let Him carry it for you? He's right there, ready and willing. Ask Him. Just like me, He will show you how to set it into His all-powerful hands...and leave it there.

I was amazed how much lighter I felt when I finally released it into His care. My circumstances didn't change right away, but they no longer felt like a weight pressing in all around me. I was able to once again look around and see the beauty in each day. I was freed up to think about other people for a change and reach out to them. And I couldn't help but ask myself what took me so long!

I can't unlock the secret for you. Only God can show you how to cast every worry, fear, problem, and weight into His care. I can only encourage you to begin today. Begin by consciously giving it all to Him. Breathe in the freedom. Focus on the beauty around you. Begin the process of relinquish and trust. It's the best weight-loss system there is...and it's free.

"God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must be woven into Jesus."
Mother Teresa