Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Zest

Don’t lose your zest for life. Find your passion. Find that thing that will keep you up at night (in a good way). Don’t let it die. Help others. Make that a priority. Whether it’s being a better parent or volunteering for a cherished cause. Reach out to others. It will keep you feeling alive. You will have purpose.

Life is hard. The older we get, the more we get worn down. Don’t let life break you. Maintain or regain that zest. Be like a little child. Live in wonder. Enjoy the moment. Don’t get discouraged. Be eternally hopeful. Rise above the pettiness. Don’t apologize for who you are. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Choose to be good, loving and kind. Overcome evil with good. Live with zest.

A to Z Challenge: You

Be you. Be yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others. You’re you. There’s a good reason for that. No one else can be you.

I don’t have as many degrees as that person. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not as successful as so-and-so. My career sucks compared to hers. I wish I was that witty. I don’t make enough money.

It’s so easy to look at others and feel inferior in a hundred different ways. But we’re not meant to be anyone else. And you never know what other demons someone else is battling anyway.

 If there is something you really want to do in order to better yourself, by all means do it. But stop beating yourself up because you are not as _______  as someone else. We’re all different. And that’s okay. That’s how it should be. Be you. And don’t apologize.

A to Z Challenge: Experience

Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment – Rita Mae Brown

Ok, I really had to cheat for X. But hey, it’s all about being creative, right?

Experience failure. That’s another way of saying embrace mistakes. Yes, I’m really pushing it to make it fit the letter X. But ignore that long enough to read on because it’s very important. I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is that it’s really okay to make mistakes.

Being afraid of making mistakes stifles learning. I know from experience. This one can be hard to push through, but it’s worth it.

When I was sixteen, I was learning to drive on a Volkswagen Beetle. Not the easiest car to learn on. A stick shift and a new driver. Enough said. But what made it even worse was that I was yelled at with every mistake I made. I was a nervous wreck and dreaded every time we’d go out in the car. I was scared of driving to start with because I knew I had this big hunk of metal at my control and no experience to go along with it. I was petrified. So I made lots of mistakes. And was yelled at every time I did. You can imagine how well that worked. It didn’t.

It was so bad, at one point I literally believed I would never learn to drive. I felt so incompetent, I wondered how I’d get along in life if I could not drive a car. How did I finally get past it? Well, I went out to a parking lot where I could drive by myself around and around and around over and over again. I’d give it gas, stall it, give it gas, stall it, try again, etc. I did this over and over who knows how many times. I just made mistakes for maybe an hour or so, I don’t remember. But all of a sudden, I started getting it. In a matter of minutes, I could put it into first gear and go smoothly. I never had problems again.

I got in one afternoon what I could not master in weeks under an experienced driver. Why? Because being shamed for my mistakes did not work. Plain and simple. If anything, I think it made it *harder* to learn. When I could mess up and keep trying again and again, I had the freedom I needed. And I finally succeeded.

It’s still something I struggle with – embracing mistakes. What do you think? Do you stress over your mistakes? Do you avoid doing anything you might make mistakes at? Or do you see them as part of the process of learning and growing?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Waiting

Waiting. Why is it so hard? We don’t like to wait, whether it’s in line at the bank, for our tax refund or even for food to warm up in the microwave. Heck, most of the time we don’t want to wait 10 seconds for our children to do what we told them.

Why? I think we want that control. We want to decide how things will go. And we will not be kept waiting. We have a plan and waiting doesn’t fit into it.

I guess that’s why it’s extraordinarily hard to wait on God. That’s the ultimate test of faith. If we can’t wait two minutes for our food to warm up, how in the world are we going to wait on God to provide us a job in His timing? We’d rather worry. At least then it feels like we’re doing something. Or we work at solving the problem. But there are times, and probably more often than we realize, that we just need to wait. Wait until we hear from Him how to proceed. Just wait. In faith.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t do anything. But it means we slow down, listen and quite possibly wait for an answer before going ahead. Wow. That’s scary. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Vessel

Since it’s V, first a vent. I’m so tired at this point in the challenge. My writing is going downhill these last few posts. But at this point, since I’ve made it this far, I am determined to finish. So just fair warning that I am rushing through the posts now.

Ok, now a few thoughts for the V

  1. Value – everyone wants to be valued. We need to stop devaluing others by belittling, insulting and gossiping. None of these things have ever done any person one bit of good or made a situation better. Treat everyone, especially children and spouses, as if they are valuable. It can be so easy to treat each other like inconveniences or even burdens. Fight that urge vehemently.

  1. Validate – people have a right to feel the way they feel. Don’t tell them otherwise. Validate feelings; don’t dismiss them.

  1. Victim – don’t be one. It’s so easy to wallow. And maybe we have been victimized in some way. But get up, get healing and move on. Don’t stay in victim mode. You’ll always be waiting for someone else to come rescue you.

  1. Voices – oh, the voices in my head. No, no, not those. There are lots of voices out there vying for our attention. Know which One to listen to above all others.

  1. Vulnerability – we have to be vulnerable to be real. I don’t mean make yourself vulnerable so you are victimized. But if we always keep up walls and put up fronts and pretend to be something that we’re not, we’re never really ourselves. At some point, we have to be okay with being vulnerable. Knowing we may get hurt, but we will be okay. We are okay as we are. Flaws and all.

  1. Vessel – we need to be one. A vessel for God to flow through. Remember we are not here for ourselves. We’re here to point the way to a bigger Someone than ourselves.

A to Z Challenge: Understanding

We all want to be heard and understood. We want to feel like someone “gets” us, understands where we’re coming from. Not feeling understood causes a lot of frustration. Sometimes I tell my husband something that’s bothering me and he’s dismissive or tries to solve the problem. But all I really want is for him to understand how I feel, to vent, and his reaction just angers and frustrates me more. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t explain it away or tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way. Just understand. Empathasize. Feel what I feel.

This happened recently with my ten-year-old son. He had a very strong reaction to something that, to me, was relatively minor. He was very angry that his weekly piano lesson interfered with part of his lunch time. At first I tried to explain why it made sense for the school to schedule it that way. To an adult, his being upset about this seemed silly. But I realized this was a big deal to him. He was really mad. Turned out it was because it meant he had to miss ten minutes of time he got to talk to a friend that he didn’t get to see much anymore. Talking to his friends is extremely important to him, and this ten minutes once a week was a big deal to him. And if you know ten-year-olds, socializing is huge for them.

Making an effort to understand where others are coming from goes a long way in healing relationships. And preventing hurt feelings to begin with. Sometimes that’s all we need to do. We may not be able to solve a problem. But make some effort to understand what’s really going on. It’s worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Thoughts

What do you think about? Do you just think about whatever pops into your head? An important truth I’m learning is that we can choose our thoughts. We *need* to choose our thoughts. And maybe just as important, we don’t have to think every thought that comes into our head.

It’s easy to say that ‘Oh, I’m just a pessimist by nature’ or to make excuses. But we really do have a choice and it makes a difference in the quality of our life.

When my older son was two or three, my husband was working some long hours and I was a stay-at-home-mom. All day long, I’d think about how angry I was that he was never around, how I never had any relief. I thought he must not care about us or that he was doing it on purpose. I really focused on how bad I had it and how unfair the whole thing was. That’s what I filled my mind with all day long. I would work myself into such a lather, that by the time he did finally get home, I could barely stand to look at my husband. And I was miserable.

Confession time. This is embarrassing, but this is how bad it got. It made me so petty that when my husband would call to say what time he’d be home, I’d try to get my son to sleep before that time so that my husband couldn’t see him. Why? I wanted to punish my husband. Yes, I was that petty and angry. Now, did I have a right to be angry about the situation? Yes. But is that the kind of person I wanted to be? Petty, bitter and angry? No.  

I finally realized I was spending all day thinking bad thoughts about my husband, and that even though I may have had a right to be upset, I was creating this horrible atmosphere for myself. I couldn’t change his work schedule; that was his responsibility. But I could change what I thought about all day. When I stopped dwelling on what a bad person he was, it changed my mood. I didn’t change my situation, but I definitely was happier when I changed what I thought about.

In fact, he still works a lot; that hasn’t changed. And frankly I still don’t like it. There are days I want to scream quite honestly. But now I try to look at the positives. I’m grateful he has a job. I’m grateful that my husband loves us enough to work so hard so that we can have all that we do. It changes things immensely for me. Those miserable days for me are few and far between now. And I appreciate what he does for our family; my feelings for him are much improved. All because I’m thinking different thoughts about the same situation.

Don’t underestimate your thought life. Be intentional with what you think about. It can make or break you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Slow Down

Not long ago I tried being still and listening for God. The two words that came into my mind: Slow down. Was that from God? I don’t know. But I’ve always had this tendency to go through life in some sort of unexplainable hurry.

Being a parent has only magnified that feeling at times. Hurry up and get the kids in bed, hurry up and get their bath over with, hurry up so we can get here or rush there. Just gotta get through the grocery shopping or get dinner done. Living in a perpetual state of urgency. Life can become one giant To Do list that I have to get through in order to get to some Me time.

Jesus probably had more to accomplish in His short lifetime than anyone else on earth. Yet we never read of him rushing here or hurrying there. He was “interruptible” as someone recently put it. He made time for people.

I think this hurriedness, this frenzy signifies a lack of faith. We think we have to take care of every detail or it won’t get done. It takes faith to slow down, to believe that it will be okay even if we aren’t hurrying a mile a minute, that everything will get done. 

When I can slow down and live in the present moment, even if it’s something that I don’t particularly enjoy like grocery shopping, I have a little more peace. I enjoy life more.

Constantly rushing through this moment to get to the next doesn’t ever really bring satisfaction to either moment. Children get this much better than we do. Just yesterday we were (of course) running late and hurrying to get into the church. We’re making a beeline to get inside as quickly as possible. What was our son doing? Admiring the flowers on the way in and showing us a helicopter he found as he was walking by. He was enjoying the sunny morning and the beauty in front of him.

Or I get so caught up in rushing him to get ready for school in the morning that I shut him up as he’s trying to talk to me about something that happened to him the day before. It’s not on my agenda right now, so I don’t want to hear it.

 Slooowww down. Have a little faith that it will all get done. And even if it doesn’t, it will be okay. Cherish those around us through the journey of our day. Take the time to put people first, our agenda second. Or third. Or fourth. Have a little faith. It will be okay. Take a lesson from a 10-year-old. Stop and pick up a helicopter on the way into church. Enjoy the moment in front of us right now. It’s all we really have anyway.

Woo hoo. I'm caught up on the challenge. For five minutes anyway.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Rely

All of the life lessons I’ve posted about in this A-Z Challenge so far are all fine and good. But I feel like they’re a little misleading. It’s all about lessons *I’ve* learned. But really it’s not about me or my “wisdom”. I haven’t touched on the most important lesson yet. To me, this might be the most important thing we need to know in life. And hopefully we learn this lesson sooner rather than later. What is it?

We were never meant to “do” life on our own, in our own strength. God wants us to rely on Him. We all have bad things that happen to us – some worse than others. Some face fierce tragedy; others not so much. But we all have our demons, we all have our struggles, we all have our personal tragedies. I think the point of them is to point us to God. To show us that we cannot handle things ourselves. And we’re not supposed to.

I mean really. Having a good attitude, not blaming, letting go of control, being deliberate, all the way up to Q – those are all great lessons. But let’s face it, we still forget all the good we know to do. We mess up over and over again. No one can live by all those good lessons every day. We just can’t. We need a strength bigger than our own.

No matter how rich, educated, good-looking, smart or powerful we may think we are, we are not enough on our own. We need God. He wants to be our strength, our very life in fact. He wants us to rely on Him and not all those other things, including our own wisdom.

How exactly do we do that? I don’t always know. But I think it starts with focusing on Him. With going back to my letter Q and taking time to get quiet and spend a little of each day with Him. Asking Him for help and guidance. Listening to what He says to us. Continuing to seek. He is our heavenly Father. He knows we are frail. He knows we are fragile. I think if we are honest with Him and honestly seeking Him, He will lead us. He will show us how to rely on Him.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Quiet

Growing up, I was taught the importance of having a “quiet time.” This is where you read the Bible and pray every day. Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve realized the “quiet” part is very important.

Too often we go to God and we do all the talking. Not that we shouldn’t talk to Him. We need to. But we also need to listen for Him to speak to us too. And we do this by getting quiet.

We lead busy, loud, chaotic lives. And that’s even more of a reason to get quiet. Our church recently had a conference on listening to God. One of the ways to listen to Him is through silence. It can be hard to get really still and quiet. We may find it awkward even. We did an exercise where we sat for fifteen minutes or so in silence. My thoughts raced. I found it tough to not think about this or that; to really quiet my mind was difficult. But there are so many voices vying for our attention, pulling us here and there, it’s crucial to get still and quiet.

I think God usually speaks in the quiet places. Problem is, I think sometimes we like the noise. We like to keep busy so we don’t have to face things. Or listen. But as the saying goes, we are human beings not human doings. Sometimes we just need to stop and be. It takes some practice, but this is a habit I’d like to continue to pursue. In this crazy world full of screaming voices, a little centeredness and calm is an invaluable commodity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Perfection

P is for Pretty tired of this challenge right about now. And yes, I’m a day behind. But at this point I’m determined to Push through. So, on to P.

Sometimes it’s okay to do things “half-assed”. I know. That sounds slack and lazy. But hear me out. We do want to do things with excellence. But sometimes the best way for me personally to do better is to embrace mediocrity. What I mean is, when I stop striving for perfection, I actually end up doing better.

This A to Z blog challenge is the perfect (sorry) example. Several times I’ve gotten behind and had to post the next day or post two in one day. If I’d decided to either do it perfectly or not at all, I would have given up the first time I messed up – probably around day 3. And I’ve been less than satisfied with some of my posts, but I’ve just had to let it go. And just do it. Imperfectly.

I read an excellent blog about perfection in parenting recently. 
We let our perfectionism interfere with our relationships with our children. We’re so imperfect, yet often we expect our children to be perfect. We fuss at them for getting dirty or for bad table manners or for not listening. But they, even more than we are, are growing and learning. Expecting perfection from them frustrates everyone. Instead, we can embrace them exactly where they are and then lovingly guide them. (Instead of screaming at the top of our lungs, “This is the 50th time I’ve told you to clean your room! What’s wrong with your hearing?!” Not that I’ve ever done that.)

I can keep expecting to walk in and find his neat, perfect room cleaned exactly to my standards after having been told to clean it once. But all that’s really going to do is drive me insane. Accepting him and loving him in his imperfection is where I have to start if he’s ever going to be able to learn and grow.

One of the best gifts we can give ourselves and our children is to let go of perfectionism. We never reach it anyway and end up beating ourselves up half the time for falling short. Let it go. You’ll enjoy life more. I know I do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Open

I used to hate it when I heard someone say, “You need to be more open-minded.” Usually it meant they wanted you to accept something that you believed was wrong or immoral. But it is important to be open. To new ideas. New ways of thinking. New ways of looking at things.

Learning keeps life interesting. One area where I’ve learned a lot and changed my entire paradigm in fact is parenting. I used to be very set in believing there were very specific ways to parent well – you had to spank, you had to force them to behave the way you wanted them to, etc.

I’ve learned that there are so many better alternatives. I’ve learned that situations can be win-win with our children, instead of the win-lose scenario we often blindly accept. It’s opened up new worlds to me because many of the ideas can be applied to improve other relationships as well.

Being open to other points of view is a good thing. Often when we really stop and listen, we learn. I mean, REALLY stop and listen. This is needed in politics right now. Unfortunately, both sides are usually so busy demonizing and attacking each other, that valid points get lost in the shuffle. And it makes finding solutions to our sizable problems nearly impossible.

Openness is crucial - unless you just enjoy going around in frustrating circles. It can be scary to allow yourself to question established thinking, but oh, how rewarding it can be when you do expand your world. When you know better, you do better. Isn’t that what we all want?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Nurture

If you have a dream or passion, nurture it. Protect and preserve it. Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing what’s important to you just because they don’t “get” it. Nourish it, feed it. It’s part of who you are, what makes you *you*.

Nix the naysayers. I started writing stories when I was six. But for a long time I listened to the negativity of those around me who were “realistic” and “practical”. I thought that if I could not make money at it, it was not worth pursuing. But I finally realized I should be writing. Period. Just because. No matter what anyone else thought I should be doing. For me. I let other people define me for too long.

 Realize that if it’s important to you, it’s important. No matter what anyone else thinks. Sometimes those around us can deter us with negativity. It can be hard to tune out well-meaning parents or spouses and friends and their negativity. It doesn’t mean we can’t be realistic. Quitting a job to go write novels when you have a family to support may not be the wisest thing to do. But writing every day or joining a writing club supports your passion and keeps you moving toward your dream. You may not be a million-dollar
Hollywood actor. But you can act in your local theater. Don’t let anyone kill your dream.

And don’t be a dream-killer to your children either. Don’t squash their dreams or passions just because they don’t line up with your own. Life rains on every kid’s parade soon enough. We as parents should never be the ones to douse the flames. Instead, we can fan the flames by encouraging them to pursue whatever it is that speaks to them. And when they fail, and they will, we can encourage them to get up and keep going.

Nurture your own dreams and those of your children. Nurture creativity, imagination, curiosity and excitement. Treat them like precious jewels because they are. Our dreams and passions are part of what makes life worth living. Don’t ever let them die.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Money

Money. What a loaded topic. Sometimes it just feels like a necessary evil that invades every area of our lives. Our society is so obsessed with it, that our value and worth get tied up with our financial status, how much money we make and our “stuff”. If somehow validates us; it defines who we are.

I understand all too well. I’ve have been unemployed for 3 or 4 years now, and it can be really easy to feel badly about myself because I haven’t contributed financially in a long time. As if my ability to bring in a paycheck determines my worth as a person. I'm having to learn - and it's not easy - that I am valuable whether or not I earn a paycheck.

So many of us think money is the key to happiness. We work for a bigger house or a nicer car. When we buy that next cool gadget, we think we’ll be happy. Or when we retire and no longer have to worry about money, all will be well. But it’s never enough. Never.

You’d think we’d learn lessons from all the celebrities in rehab. They have more money than you can throw a stick at; they have success and everything a person could dream of. And still, it’s not enough. They have to drink or do drugs or get married 4 or 5 times. And still, they’re not happy. It doesn’t make things all better.

So why do we place such a high value on money then? I think when it comes down to it, it’s because we place our trust in money. For our security. For our happiness. We trust in money, not in God. So we’re always insecure because it’s not ever going to satisfy us. No matter how much we hoard, no matter how much we spend, it’s not the answer to our problems.

I also think it’s one more way we think we can earn love and acceptance. It’s a nice little way to quantify it. We just can’t grasp the concept that we are loved period. Period. No strings attached. Just because we are. Just because God is love. We somehow are always trying to earn love, to earn our worth as a person.

So what’s the proper attitude toward money? Well, it’s a tool. Like many other things, it can be used for good. Or it can be misused. As long as we keep it in perspective, we can have a healthy attitude toward it. We need to learn to manage our money instead of letting it manage us. We need to stop trusting in it above all else. Only God is worthy of that. Of course, that’s scary. Trusting God with our future. Especially for those of us who like to be in control. Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s about anyway. Control. Trust. And what is trust? Largely, letting go of control. Hmmm…

Friday, April 13, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Laughter

Jennifer Aniston was asked in an interview once about her childhood. She said there was lots of laughter in her home growing up. Wow. Someone with a happy childhood. And a Hollywood someone at that.

But it made me stop and think. How will my children describe the atmosphere in our home when they are grown? I want them to look back and see a happy childhood and a home that was filled with love and laughter. Too often our house is filled with yelling and impatience.

Children bring laughter and happiness wherever they are, but often I am so focused on the daily duties I’m trying to accomplish that I miss out. I forget to have a sense of humor.

This is something I need to work on. I’m trying to be more conscious of taking time to laugh and make the atmosphere in our home more conducive to fun and happiness. Things don’t have to be perfect or even okay in order to have fun and laugh. I need to laugh in the chaos, laugh at the chaos. And laugh at myself. I tend to take myself too seriously.

I want my children to look back on these years fondly. I know I can’t control my children’s perceptions, but I want to do my part to make these fleeting moments as joy-filled as possible. Big hot mess and all. 


Incidentally, I had no idea that the baby in the above video has the same name as my baby.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Kindness

You won’t win any awards in our dog-eat-dog, Me-Me-Me society for being kind. But a little kindness goes a long way in making someone’s day a little brighter.

Several years ago, a coworker and I were talking about marriage. She said, “After awhile, you just forget to be kind to each other.” We do. Especially with our spouse and children or those we are in close contact with. The people we supposedly love the most often get the worst treatment from us. We need to be ourselves with those we love, but it doesn’t mean we have to utter every little thing that comes to our minds. Belittling comments and sarcastic words don’t do anyone any good. That kind of talk is better left unsaid.

It doesn’t have to be difficult or fancy. My husband is really good at thanking me for some of the mundane things I do. When we first got married, I remember he thanked me for cleaning the bathroom. I didn’t know how to react; I wasn’t used to being thanked for doing tasks that had to be done. And all these years later he will still occasionally thank me for making dinner. It’s not like I prepare five course meals; it’s usually something like spaghetti. But that makes it all the more special that he thanks me for it. It’s taking a little extra effort to show each other that we care. Like my neighbor bringing us a loaf of bread she had baked today. Or offering to watch a friend’s children so she can run errands one afternoon. Or stopping by someone's blog and letting them know you liked it. :-)

Life can be tough. There are enough people out there who make it even more difficult. I’d rather not be one of those people. I’d much rather choose kindness and maybe make someone’s day just a little bit better in some small way.

Don’t forget to be kind today.  

A to Z Challenge: Journey

Life is a journey. How cliché. But it is. It’s an ongoing process of growth. A messy, chaotic journey with lots of potholes, road construction where we least expect it and prolonged stays in towns we’d rather not visit in the first place.

When I’m going on a trip or on vacation, I usually enjoy the car ride or plane ride; I like the anticipation. But not so in life. Often I just want to hurry up and get there. When I was a kid, I just wanted to be an adult so I could do whatever I wanted. And we all have our “things”. My life will be better when_____. We can fill in the blank with just about anything. When I finish school. When I’m married. When I have a child.  When my kids start listening to me. When I get a job. When I get a job I actually like. When I’m single again. When I retire. When I can afford a nicer house.

It can be hard to embrace where we are on the journey at any given time. We’re in a hurry to get somewhere else too often. But each point in our journey has its own advantages as well as disadvantages. Getting married is great, but it doesn’t solve all our problems. Often it creates new ones. Same with having children. If we don’t learn to be happy right where we are, chances are we won’t be happy when we get to that next destination either.

 It’s those tough spots where we usually learn the most anyway. We can embrace the good parts and look for the lessons in the not-so-good parts. We might be hoping to get away from a difficult person, but maybe we need to learn lessons about choosing to love when it’s hard or how to forgive or cultivate a positive attitude in the midst of ugliness. Maybe we desperately want to be married, but need to first learn how to be happy with ourselves or trust God to bring us the right person at the right time. Or maybe we need to learn some empathy or to have our heart softened. Maybe we just need to be brought down a notch. Whatever it is, if we look for the lesson, then we won’t have traveled through that bad place for nothing.

But the best part of the journey is that we’re not on it alone, though sometimes it feels that way. There’s One who walks with us. We’re usually so busy worrying about how to get from here to our next destination, that we may miss Him. We’re so busy trying to avoid the potholes of life or fuming about the unexpected construction in our path, that we ignore Him completely. But He’s there. He’s always there. He’s waiting on us to notice. He’s waiting for us to stop and focus on Him, to talk to Him, and more importantly, to *listen* to Him. He’ll help us navigate this crazy, chaotic journey if we will let Him. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Investigation

Ok, I'll just apologize right off the bat. I am completely going off course with this post. I was getting a little bored with my theme and needed a breather, so this is a bit of flash fiction. Completely unrelated to my other posts. Just call it an Interlude. Or call me Insane. Whatever makes you happy. I may go back to my regular theme tomorrow. Or I may not. Depending on my mood and any feedback.


That was odd. Her cell phone was ringing. He never called her. Something must be up. “It’s starting! I told you it would happen! I told you,” Stan began.
“Wait a minute. Slow down. What’s starting? What happened?” Marge asked.
 “I’m under investigation.” His voice was serious.
 “ Investigation? What for?” Marge couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“They claim I’m dealing drugs.”
 “ What?! You-you’re not, are you? I mean, what evidence do they have?” Marge stumbled for words.
 “Of course I’m innocent. This is no coincidence. They’re after me. This is their way of warning me. They want me to back off. I’m reaching too many people.”
 “But – I’m. Confused. How can they possibly make such an accusation?” Marge tried to wrap her head around what Stan was saying.
“They must’ve planted something at the store. In my office. They had to. Marge, it’s an inside job. This isn’t an insignificant accusation. I’m a small business owner. I have a reputation in this town. I’ve staked my livelihood on my integrity. This is all I have. My business is all I have and they’re going to take it away from me. Do you believe me now? Do you finally believe me? Do you still think I’m insane?” Stan was talking so quickly, Marge could barely keep up.
“I-I didn’t want to believe you. But I don’t know what to think anymore. What are you gonna do?”
“It’s time. I’m going incognito. I’m going into hiding.”
Marge gasped. “This is what you’ve been planning for all along. You said you thought you’d have to leave everything behind and go. Is this it?” she almost whispered.
“This is it. It’s begun. Here we go. You need to contact Darrell and the others. We have to start to work on The Plan immediately.”
Marge was silent. This wasn’t a dream; it was real. She was shaking. “Are you sure this is the only way? Don’t we have any other options? Are you sure?” she pleaded.
“We are out of options. It’s time for action,” he ordered.
Marge dropped the phone and sobbed into her hands. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Hurt

Hurting people hurt people. Ok, I shamelessly stole that from Joyce Meyer. But it’s true. I’m the meanest and tend to lash out the most when I’m tired or worried or feeling unappreciated or stressed or scared or all of the above. Just this morning I about lost it with my kid because I was exhausted from a bad night’s sleep.

And many of us carry around deep, lasting wounds too. We may not even always realize it because we’ve built up so many defenses around ourselves over time. But unless and until we acknowledge them and try to work through them or allow God to bring some healing, we’ll probably end up either taking it out on someone else or taking it out on ourselves. Yes, it takes effort and can be painful, but it’s so worth it to get out of these hurtful cycles we perpetuate.

It’s also helpful to remember this when we encounter difficult people. I’m not in any way condoning taking things out on our kids. We do have to take responsibility for our behavior regardless of the pressure on us. But maybe the lady in the checkout line snapping at her kid is a single mother who has no help and whose ex is behind in child support. Maybe she has worked 10 hours of overtime already this week and has no idea what she’s making for dinner. And now her kid is asking for candy that she can’t really even afford for the 12th time today. Maybe instead of a disapproving glare, she could just use an encouraging word. Or a smile. There are hurting people all around us. Maybe, just occasionally, a little kindness might go a long way in easing someone’s pain. You never know.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Grace

I’ve heard my husband tell my son when he’s asked for something, “You don’t deserve that after the way you’ve been behaving.” The truth is that none of us really deserve much of the good things that we get. We yell at our kids, we’re mean to our spouses, we keep messy houses, we gossip about people we don’t like, we hold grudges far too long, we complain about everything, we work too much, we pray too little; the list could go on endlessly. We fall short every single day.

If we’re so imperfect, you’d think we could extend a little grace to those around us. But for some reason this can seem to be the hardest task. Fact is, most of us are doing the best we know how. Why can’t we remember this when our kids spill or drop something? Do we really think they do those things on purpose so they can get yelled at?

We all make mistakes. And we all need to extend a little grace to those around us. Especially when we consider how much grace God shows us every single day of our lives.

A to Z Challenge: Fear

Fear. I feel like an expert on the subject. I’ve spent a good portion of my life ruled by fear. Fear of big things. Fear of small things. Fear of just about everything. Fear is paralyzing. After awhile, it’s just easier not to do much of anything.

Yet the more we succumb to it, the more it boxes us in. Our world gets smaller and smaller. We get more fearful, not less. I find that the more I step out in faith and choose not to live in fear, the less power it has over me.

The opposite of fear is love. I try to remember that it’s not God who puts fear into my heart; it’s the evil one. Knowing the source of fear helps to put things in perspective.  I love I John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out (casts out) fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” And 2 Timothy 1:7 is extremely helpful to me too. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Elias

I was going to use “empathy” for my word for today. But Elias, my ten-year-old firstborn son, has taught me so much, I would be remiss to leave him out.

Being a mother has changed me in ways I didn’t expect. It’s brought out all sorts of fears and anxieties, but it also helped me rediscover my creative, fun-loving side. I do things for Elias that I would not do for anyone else, even myself. He’s curious, enthusiastic, kind, smart, generous and forgiving. I could go on all day, but I will spare you too much of the proud mom talk.

He makes me want to be a better parent, a better person. He teaches me more about forgiveness and kindness than I could ever hope to teach him. One day when he was in first grade, I was walking him to his classroom. If you have a boy, you know that when they see wide open spaces, this screams to them RUN! So instead of walking nicely beside me all the way to his class (and what boy does that anyway?), he ran ahead of me. When I finally caught up to him, I took him aside and lit into him with a lecture about walking with me, not running down the hall, yada yada yada. He said not a word the whole time, just stood there and looked at me. When I was done, he stood there for a second, looked right at me, and gave me a big hug before going off to class. Talk about feeling like a schmuck.

Now that he’s ten, he does get mad at us more often, but it never lasts long. In five minutes, he’s back to normal, asking ten million random questions a minute.

Kids have so much to teach us if we’ll pay attention. They cry freely, they laugh often, they see life as a great adventure. They’re just themselves. Somewhere along the way, we as adults often lose these qualities. What a shame. But how blessed we are to have children to remind us what life is supposed to be about.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Deliberate

Life in general and parenting specifically can be hard. There’s a lot of negativity out there – both inside my own head and outside. I’ve picked up a lot of bad habits along the way. If I just float along on autopilot, I tend to revert to those habits. I yell, I blame, I become controlling.

I’ve found that I have to be deliberate, intentional about changing what I think about if I want to handle things differently. One of the ways I’ve found helpful recently is starting the morning with encouraging thoughts. I’ve got them on a sheet of paper and I add to it as I find thoughts that inspire me. Some of them are Bible verses: “Love is patient, love is kind.” Some are reminders that what I’m doing as a parent is more important than I know. One’s a note to name things I’m thankful for. Then there are declarations that I WILL find the humor in my day or I WILL have a good attitude. Often I even speak my list out loud.

I try to do it every day because negative thoughts and old patterns tend to creep up on me and get me bogged down. I obviously still fail quite often, but the practice of starting the day deliberately setting my mind keeps me focused on the positive and helps me to remember that each new day is a fresh opportunity for growth. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A to Z April Blog Challenge: Control

So this is the third day of the A to Z April Blog Challenge. Let me just say, it rocks. Of course I have neglected other things like housework and BIW to do it, but I am loving it. I just happened to find it on Sunday via another writing site (BIW). So I had to jump “write” in (I crack myself up). I suppose my theme is lessons I am learning/have learned. So, on to day 3: C is for Control.

I can be such a control freak. Especially when it comes to my kids. I think a lot of parents are the same. We must be gluttons for punishment because if you have kids, you know that trying to control them is pretty much a fruitless endeavor. There are so many things I can’t make my child do. I can’t make him sleep, behave, get good grades, or care about keeping a clean room. And I just frustrate myself and him when I try. We can set them up for success; we can guide them and teach them. But when we try to control the outcomes of every single scenario they might encounter, we usually fail and end up wearing ourselves out and creating conflict with our child.

This whole letting-go-of-control idea can be applied to so many other areas as well. The truth is there’s really so much we cannot control. That sounds like bad news, but it really isn’t. It takes a lot of pressure off when we realize we don’t have to go around trying to make everything and everyone be exactly the way we think they should be. It’s also very freeing.

It can be hard though. Because ultimately it requires faith – faith that we can handle an outcome we don’t necessarily want. Faith that it will be okay even if it doesn’t go the way we planned. And faith isn’t always easy for me. Hmm. Maybe I have my topic for “F” already.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A to Z April Challenge: Blame

“It’s all his fault!” Kids love to blame others when things go wrong. I wonder where they get it. I know a few adults who like to blame too. Sometimes I’m even one of them.

We blame our spouses for marital problems. We blame our unruly kids for our short tempers. We blame our bad lot in life on our bad childhood or controlling parents. “If only I’d had a happy childhood, I wouldn’t be so dysfunctional.” We see it all the time in politics. Both sides blame each other, and nothing gets done.

And it may very well be true. We may have had a controlling parent or lousy childhood. We may have kids who don’t listen to us or an angry husband who is hard to get along with.

But the problem with blaming is that it propels us to victim status. If everything is always someone else’s fault, we don’t have to take any responsibility. And maybe that’s okay for awhile – we never have to actually do anything. Except maybe complain. But after awhile we realize we’re stuck, unable to move forward.

Focusing on solutions is much more productive. When your kid spills his juice, blaming him doesn’t get the mess cleaned up. Giving him a paper towel and showing him how to use it does. Being angry all the time at your spouse accomplishes nothing. Trying to find ways to improve your marriage accomplishes a lot.

When was the last time we made a situation better by blaming? I would venture to guess probably never. What if the next time we’re tempted to place blame, we try something different? What if we focus our attention on looking for a solution or an alternative we hadn’t thought of before? It might just save us a whole lot of angst, frustration and stress. And wouldn’t that be worth it?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z April Challenge: Attitude

If there’s one major thing we can control in life, it’s our attitude. Lots of things happen to us – good and bad. Life can feel overwhelming and out of control.

 I used to think that having a good attitude meant you had to go around being all perky all the time, kind of like a cheerleader or something. Frankly, most of the time I don’t have that kind of energy. It’s not me. And I can’t muster up that much excitement when I’m having a bad day anyway. 

However, it’s not about being someone you are not. More often it’s about choosing not to be grumpy when something bad happens – like when your kid doesn’t listen for the fiftieth time that day, you lose your car keys or a friend lets you down. Or maybe it’s something bigger. Maybe we go around with a general lousy attitude because we weren’t born with a pretty face or money or a nice figure. 

 The truth is that everyone can find things to be unhappy about. We can really make ourselves miserable if we try hard enough. Or, like the April showers that bring May flowers (I almost used that for “A” today), we can let the rains of life allow us to grow and blossom into a better person than we would have been without them. It’s really up to us.