Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Be Encouraged- Part Two

I guess you already know that it's taken me a little while to get back to the blogging world. What was supposed to take me a day has turned into almost a week since our family has gotten some really upsetting news. Last week my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer (it appears to be in his lungs and lymph nodes). He went yesterday for a biopsy and is going to the doctor today for his prognosis. I have been told it doesn't look promising.

I guess all that stuff about encouragement was not so much meant for you as it was for me. Funny how God works sometimes. Regardless, I'm so pleased to know that he cares enough about me to reach out and give me the things he knows I need, or will need, as the case may be. As promised, here is the article by Walter Albrittton who is a family member of a church friend, as well as a retired minister. It was written for the Opelika-Auburn News on July 19, 2009. I hope you enjoy it and get as much encouragement from it as I did.

The Journey May Be Hard But Encouragement Helps Us Endure

The recent serious illness of my wife caused me to take a fresh look at my priorities. Such wake-up calls are always helpful. Human nature being what it is we all tend to lose focus on what really matters. The jarring prospect of losing someone you love dearly can clear the cobwebs from your brain.

Putting first things first is never easy. But it is possible. And it is necessary if we are to live well. Now and then we must stop the merry-go-round, look in the mirror, and take an honest look at how we are living. Are the choices we are making everyday helping us to make the most of our brief span of life?

Trouble reminds us that the journey of life can be long and hard. None of us is immune from suffering. Our personal problems may be difficult but we quickly discover that others are hurting too. To be human is to suffer.

Life is hard. But it is also a mixture of good and bad. There is pain and there is pleasure. We may be laughing one day and crying the next. As we grow up we learn to accept the bitter with the sweet, the rain with the sunshine. Reasonably mature people find a way to handle this mixture. Otherwise they become cynical, allowing bad stuff to rob them of their joy.

Maturity does not come easily. It comes gradually, usually the result of a lifelong search. None of us reaches it without help. The help we all need is that strange thing we call encouragement. It is hard to describe but when you receive it, you know that you have been given something more valuable than money.

Oddly, the only people who can offer us encouragement are fellow struglers, friends who step outside their own troubles long enough to come alongside us and cheer us up. So often the people who come to comfort us when we are hurting are themselves in pain. The fact that they do not speak of their own pain makes their comfort all the more wonderful.

Encouragement is like oxygen; we will die without it. People do not die from loneliness; they die from lack of encouragement. Everybody needs somebody who will encourage them to persevere and not give up. But we soon learn that it is foolish to expect encouragement from everyone. Those who become cynical are simply unable to encourage others.

All of us have some people in our lives who are examiners rather than encouragers. Examiners constantly evaluate us. They enjoy pointing out what is wrong with us. Examiners try to convince us we are inadequate and that we will never make it no matter how hard we try.

Encouragers offer us affirmation instead of criticism. They are our cheerleaders. They give us hope that "we can do it." Their praise inspires us to believe in ourselves and to reach for the best that we can be. And it is good news that every person has the potential to be an encourager to some fellow struggler. Each of us can choose to live as an examiner or an encourager.

During recent days of soul-searching many encouragers have come alongside us with hope and comfort. They have laughed with us, hugged us, prayed for us, and made us feel loved. They have generously blessed us with food and flowers. They have put their own pain aside long enough to care for us. And they have made a profound difference. We have been cheered far beyond our deserving. Love does indeed ease one's pain.

Once more Dean and I have been reminded that though the journey home is sometimes long and hard, the loving encouragement of friends helps us endure. And what is true for us is true for others. As strength returns, we must be up and doing the things that matter most. As long as we have breath, we too can make the hard journey of others more bearable by offering the precious gift of encouragement. Doing so will help us to put first things first.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Be Encouraged- Part One

Many of you will remember the story I shared a while back about the nurse at Children's Hospital who gave me a little packet of inspirational poems and such, one of them being "No Excuses," that I posted here a couple of months ago. Well, today I'm going to share with you another little gem she gave to me and I think it's SO fitting because I feel that God is impressing on me to speak about encouragement. Just yesterday, a dear sweet lady from our church e-mailed me an article from a relative of hers on the subject as well. I plan to post his article tomorrow as the second part of "Be Encouraged."

I think so many of us get down and out because we forget to be thankful for all the blessings that's been bestowed upon us. Sure it's easier to focus on the negative because usually that's what is requiring our immediate attention. And let's face it...really bad things happen in life: sickness, unemployment, divorce, and death. It may be that your particular issue is not as severe, but I guess that would depend on what side of the fence you're standing on. Dealing with a wayward child, the loss of a friendship, or this unstable economy can consume us with all that's "wrong" in the world and really get the best of us. Choosing to focus on the positive may seem trite and a little too "Pollyanna" for you at first. I mean, how can you possibly think about something positive when (insert catastrophe here) is consuming you...mind, body, and soul?! Well, it's simple. It's a choice.

When I get really down and out and need a spiritual "kick in the pants," I resort to doing what I do best: I make a list. You may be scoffing, but it really works. Go get a pen and a piece of paper. Right now. I'll wait. :) Okay, now write down EVERY SINGLE THING THAT IS GOOD IN YOUR LIFE. What are you thankful for? Write it down. I'm talking about the little things too. And don't cop out on me with the "I don't have anything" garbage. What about that computer you're looking at? Pretty nice to have, right? And how about that central air that is so wonderful this time of year? What about that one friend who always seems to have time to give you when you really need to talk? And let's not forget Jesus, who gave us the ultimate sacrifice and continues to give to us even when we don't deserve it. The bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from above (emphasis mine). So EVERY thing that is good and right in your life... God has given it to you as a gift. Isn't that just amazing when you think about it?

That's why I think this little poem is so fitting. ALL of us can and should be thankful to God for filling our our cups to overflowing with the wonderful things he has chosen to give us. Now lets choose to be thankful and meditate on these things. It won't make "said catastrophe" go away, but by changing your focus, you can change your attitude... to gratitude.

I'm Drinking From My Saucer

I've never made a fortune
And it's probably too late now
But I don't worry about that much
I'm happy anyhow

And as I go along life's way
I'm reaping better than I sowed
I'm drinking from my saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

Haven't got a lot of riches
And sometimes the going's tough
But I've got loved ones all around me
And that makes me rich enough

I thank God for his blessings
And the mercies He's bestowed
I'm drinking from my saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

I remember times when things went wrong
My faith wore somewhat thin
But all at once the dark clouds broke
And the sun peeped through again

So Lord, help me not to gripe
About the tough roads I have hoed
I'm drinking from my saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

If God gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I'll not ask for other blessings
I'm already blessed enough

And may I never be too busy
To help others bear their load
Then I'll keep drinking from my saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

Thursday, July 16, 2009

If You Fail to Plan...

I've been seeing this little adage around a lot lately. Perhaps someone is trying to tell me something and as usual... I'm hard of hearing. I blame it on all the Big-Hair-Band music I was blaring in my Walkman in the 80's. :)

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Sounds simple enough, right? So what's the problem?! I think I'm just not as disciplined as I need to be. Especially in the summer when everything is just kinda "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" and there is no real schedule for us. And I've TRIED to create one for myself: for cleaning, projects, bible study, but none have really stuck.

Then the other day during one of our trips to Wal-Mart, I stumbled across a great book: "Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be" by Donna Partow. It's a 90 day guide to living the Proverbs 31 life. This was particularly timely as I have been doing a lot of reading about the Proverbs 31 woman on the Internet and have become compelled to try and follow her lead.

I found it quite interesting that the first thing Donna Partow asks you to do is to buy a planner. Ah... a-paper-and-pencil woman after my own heart! Complete with a calendar, to do lists, a menu planner, shopping lists, and a health and fitness tracker... I'd say I'm well on my way! Now I know some of you may think this is a little "type A" for your day to day life, but don't knock it 'til you try it. I haven't used a planner since I owned my own business and sadly, I don't think us housewives (or workingwives for that matter) put as much emphasis and importance on the tasks at home as we do/did our outside work. Home management IS very much a job and one that I've been slacking on if the truth be told. At least compared to the Proverbs 31 woman. If you have never read about her, I urge you to. It's very eye-opening.

So anyway, I'm now armed with my pink planner and I'm carrying it everywhere I go. It's just the first step, I know, but at least I feel like I have a jumping off point and it's amazing to see how much you can accomplish (or not accomplish) when you have your days mapped out right before your eyes. How about you? Does anyone else live by a planner or "home management binder"? I'd love to hear how the rest of you keep it all together, especially during the summer months and vacation times during the school year.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Are You Feeling the Love?

I bet the LAST person you thought who would be talking about Michael Jackson would be me, right? Yeah, me too. I mean, I get it... he was a musical genius and forever a legend. But I must confess I was so OVER it and him practically a day after he died. The media, as they so often do, was getting on my nerves with all their non-stop coverage and continual play of EVERY SINGLE VIDEO the man ever made. I guess I was a little angry too that he was stealing Farrah's spotlight after her long fight with cancer. Then I caught some of his memorial service on the web...

I probably wouldn't have started watching it if Brooke Shields had not been speaking when I tuned in. I don't know why, but I've always admired her ever since I was a little girl. I listened as she spoke of a dear friend and honored him, choking back her tears, by reading an excerpt of one of my favorite books, "The Little Prince." It hit me then that no matter what we may have been coerced into believing about this most tormented and gifted soul, the bottom line is that there lying for all the world to see was a child of God, taken entirely too soon, surrounded by the grieving left behind who loved him. Then it became really real for me.

There was a mother, whose grief I could not imagine, facing a task that should never had to be made by a parent. There were brothers and sisters, whose pain I can empathize with, watching the life of their own flesh and blood, flash upon a screen for all to see, knowing that he had so much more life to live. There were his children, faced with the hard reality of life way too soon, and having the end of their innocence marked forever by June 25, 2009.

There were many renowned speakers with so many wonderful words to say about a man who lived in controversy until the day he died. My hope is that Michael Jackson knew how these people felt about him, how they respected and supported him, through it all. I also hope that his soul is finally at peace with the Lord, who one speaker reminded the family, IS our Shepherd. Thank God for that.

For all the wonderful music that he gave us that will be eternal, and for all the great things he did as a humanitarian, I applaud him. But the gift that he gave to me in his death was eye-opening. Death is the great equalizer. We are all the same. We are born, we live, and yes, we will all eventually die. We are all given opportunities and talents and wonderful friends and family to share our lives with, no matter how much or how little time we are given. The most important thing we can do is to tell those that we love that we do. Tomorrow is not promised, so tell someone if you're thankful for them, that you're proud of them, or that you ARE really sorry. The bible tells us that love never fails and, truly, it is the only things that lasts and inevitably transcends time. Thanks, M.J., for helping me feel the love. Now let's all pass it on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Ol' Gray Mare... She Ain't What She Used To Be

I'm sending you a personal invitation to my pity party today. Come on and humor me. It'll be fun. For all you 20-somethings, it may be more FUNNY than fun... but just you wait. Your days are numbered sista!!
What exactly is this cruel joke Mother Nature decides to play on us when we hit our thirties? Seriously, somebody should write a book and warn the rest of the world! It probably wouldn't be well received... kinda like when a mother tries to explain (warn) another poor, unsuspecting soul what's in store for her as far as pregnancy and child rearing are concerned. I guess we think that we'll be different or maybe it's because we are so wrapped up in the moment that we can't see farther than the end of our own nose to think life could be any different than it is now. Ah, youth. It really is wasted on the young. :)
I guess everybody expects to get crow's feet at some point. After my first gray hair (at about age 32) is when I noticed the little lines around my eyes starting to grow in prominence. I told myself they were laugh lines, although now I don't think they are so funny. Now my only reservation about getting Lasik eye surgery is that I'm convinced my glasses camouflage any crepiness going on. Yeah, I know...old AND delusional!
But speaking of crepiness... nobody tells you that the look of wrinkled tissue paper will eventually continue all the way down to your chest! You know, the cleavage ain't worth showing if it looks like you need to take an iron to it! I'm beginning to feel like my skin is like a balloon that has been blown up one to many times... all that tautness and firmness of my youth is beginning to fade right before my eyes. Or at least that the way it appears. I can't see a THING without my glasses.
And since the old metabolism starts to drag somewhere in our twenties, a healthy dose of exercise would seem to be a logical resort, right? Well, it would until you realize that moves that seemed so effortless when you were younger (dancing, kickboxing, etc) now are so...difficult. It's like your brain is sending the message but the body is not cooperating... or at the least it feels like it's on delay. And then there is the recuperation from said exercise. What used to take a day now requires a weekend. That goes for a little overindulgence as well. Cough. If you know what I mean.
I remember three years ago when Chuck and I were looking for a house. We came upon a new construction that had a nice deck on the back. It was after hours, so we just decided to peek in the windows and look around. The steps to the deck had not been built, but we just hoisted each other up for a look-see. As we were leaving, Chuck hopped down from the deck, and I followed. I cannot describe the jarring sensation that swept through my entire body. There was no bounce...no spring. Just the sensation that every joint in my body was going to crack. I let out an "UGGHH!" We exchanged some comments about how we used to jump out of trees and off swing sets and how now we could barely make it off a three foot deck. Laughing at how our bodies had failed us, we got back in our car and vowed to never do that again.
I don't know what bothers me more: the things we can't see about our bodies as we age or the outside appearances that leave no doubt. Like those cute little freckles I used to get every summer. Now they have changed somehow: growing together and not going away at summer's end. You think there would be a more pleasant name for them than age spots, right? I'll make a mental note to work on that. And speaking of working, that's exactly what I need to be doing to these feet of mine. Is anyone else scrubbing and filing their feet before they get a pedicure? It's like a little gremlin takes some old lady's feet and switches them with mine while I sleep, honest to God!! Chuck's feet are smoother than mine and that's an true statement. (I'm sure he'll be proud I shared that!) I can remember my grandmother telling me when I'd go to Florida as a teenager that walking on the beach would make my feet smooth. I didn't understand then. My feet were smooth at one time, honest. There's not enough sand on the beach to take care of these puppies now. Tip your pedicure person well. Especially if they perform the miracles mine does.
I could go on and on, I guess, but I'm kinda making myself sad (I thought pity parties were supposed to make you feel better :/ ). On the bright side, at least I've lived long enough to have all these things happen to me. I've laughed a lot (as the crows feet tell), nursed two babies (as my boobs can tell), I've danced above and below the equator and climbed many mountains (both literally and figuratively). If my body wants to slow down a little, I guess it's earned the right. With age comes many maladies, sure, but there also comes experience and wisdom. And there's no doctor, or procedure, or miracle cream that can make that claim. So rise up all you 30-somethings! (If your knees will let you!) Let's be proud of just how far our bodies have taken us over the years. We don't have to put ourselves out to pasture just yet! ;)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot...NOT!

Thought I'd jazz up the ol' blog! Whaddaya think? I'm not sure if I'll keep it this way, but I like it for now.
I've been on the computer a lot today. This afternoon I've been trying to create a spreadsheet for our bi-weekly budget. I'm just an old "paper and pencil" kind of gal, you know? Chuck says everything will be easier once I get it all set up, but right now, he's not here and I'm tempted to revert back to my trusty green-tinted ledger and multicolored ink pens. It's official: I've become old and set in my ways. Aye!
On a brighter note, something wonderful has come from tracking all our expenses lately (in conjunction with a little experiment I've been conducting). I made a concerted effort a couple of months ago to quit playing with the thermostat (my step-dad would be so proud!). This has not been easy for me since having kids has made my internal temperature fluctuate like a menopausal madwoman. But, alas, for the sake of science (and the all important dollar), I set my thermostat to 72 degrees and that is where it has been for a couple of months now. To help me from spontaneously combusting I have also ran the ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms pretty much non-stop. NOTE: Just be sure that the fans are turning counter clockwise in the warmer months and clockwise in the colder months (I just read recently that if your ceiling fan is running clockwise, it is actually pushing the warmer air from the ceiling DOWN and warming up the room. Good to know... thank goodness mine was turning the right way!). I've also closed the door to the spare bedroom (but left the vent to the room OPEN) since we hardly ever use that room anyway, and I can't believe what our power bill has been... and all without sacrificing any one's comfort. June's power bill was right at $10 LESS than May's, and July's power bill was almost $9 less than June's. And it's just gotten HOTTER... can you say "Ka-Ching?!" I'm so proud of myself! Though it's not a HUGE dollar amount, over the course of a year, it could really add up! How about you? What's your thermostat set on? Are you cranking it up and down and throwing your hard earned money out the window? I challenge you to do this little experiment with me and see how much money you could be saving.