Friday, April 25, 2014

V & W - Value and Worth


I’ll be honest. I’m on my last leg with this A to Z challenge. I’m barely hobbling in here. I totally skipped T and U. But I’m determined to drag myself to the finish line if at all possible. So I’m combining V and W and hoping I’ll come up with an X, Y and Z post cuz I got nothin’ at this point. But I guess the upside to all this is that I’ve done a lot of writing in the last month. Anyway, on to V and W. Incidentally, since I’m rambling, my first car was a VW bug……
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Know your value; know your worth. I think women, for some reason more than men, struggle with this. Or maybe men just deal with it in different ways or hide it better than we do. I don’t know b/c I’m not a guy. I can only speak for myself, and I have always struggled with this particular issue.

Now I’m not talking about an arrogant, princess-y, wait-on-me-hand-and-foot kinda attitude. That’s just obnoxious. I’m talking more of a deep down “I am worth it” kind of thinking.

We put up with stuff because we don’t realize how valuable we are or because we are used to being treated in less than respectful ways. It feels normal to be dismissed or belittled and we may not even be conscious of what’s happening. We get in or stay in relationships because we don’t think anyone else will have us and we’d better take what we can get.

It can be hard to believe we are enough because it seldom feels that way. We get messages from all around us that we are not. Culture’s constantly telling us we need this or that to be worth something.  We need to look a certain way. We’re just not enough the way we are. Or maybe the people who are supposed to love and cherish you are the ones who have beaten you down for so long. After awhile, in your core, you believe the lie. Because it feels true.

So what do we do? How do we change? Well, we walk in the truth that we are valuable and worth it. I’ve had to start with baby steps. When I’m being screamed at, I can tell them that I’ll talk to them when they speak to me respectfully. And then follow through by not engaging with them until they do. Sometimes it’s little nuances that can make a big difference. And of course we have to treat others, especially our children, with the respect and honor that we want to be treated with. How often do I speak disrespectfully to my children? How often am I demeaning and dismissive of them and their concerns? Yet I expect them to be respectful of me and to listen to me. Yeah, it’s a big cycle. And the only one we can change is our self. But that usually makes all the difference. And we are worth it. We are worth the work that it takes to change.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S - Struggle


If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that we all struggle with personal demons. It could be a situation we are unhappy with. It might be dysfunction that prevents us from being who we want to be. It could be health issues or relationship or financial issues. The question is not whether we’re going to struggle; it’s how we’re going to handle the battle. We can blame others. We can resent the situation. We can play the victim because we feel helpless and hopeless. Or we can look for solutions. We can look for a better way to handle things. We can mine for the lessons we need to take from our struggles and let them make us stronger. We can choose to face them from a place of strength. We can let them make us more compassionate and softer or bitter and angry. As with most things in life, it’s not the initial problem that’s the problem. It’s how we choose to handle it that matters. It’s not so much about the problem as it is about how we respond. 

Here’s an example of what I mean. A few years ago I ordered some study materials for continuing education from a company. A few weeks after I received my materials, I realized part of my order was not what I needed and wouldn’t count for credit. Suffice it to say that the whole process involved a lot of stress for me, so I was livid. I called the company. Now whether it was my fault for not being careful enough when ordering is up for debate. And certainly the company could have gotten an attitude and told me I needed to be more careful, that they can’t monitor everyone’s continuing education requirements, yada yada yada. Maybe I was the cause of the problem. But do you know what they did? They allowed me to send it back, refunded my money, helped me to find something that would work and even gave me an extra coupon. Because they handled it so well, they got a loyal customer. Out of a problem. It applies to our personal struggles as well. We can fuss and fume that we have these struggles. Or we can roll up our sleeves, decide to accept the challenge and dig deep. What’s that saying? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Be strong. If you don’t think you’re strong, because I totally get that, dig deep until you find that strength. It’s there. It is. You know… maybe that’s what the struggles are for – to bring out our strengths. Like mining for jewels.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R - Right thing


Do the right thing. Do the right thing when you see no good reason to. Do the right thing when the person doesn’t deserve your thoughtfulness. Do it when you see no possible payoff. Do it when no one will know or give you accolades. Do the right thing even though no one else is doing the right thing. Do it even if you have to do it alone. Sometimes you know in your gut what the right thing is to do. You just need to do it. Period.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q - Quiet


I was going to do a post about quiet – as in the good kind. When you have wild kids running around all the time, quiet is a sought-after commodity. Quiet can be softly flowing streams and peaceful moonlit nights.



But sometimes quiet can be bad. For example, when you put yourself out there - let’s just   say, writing a blog post or something random like that - and no one responds. Crickets. Silence. Quiet. There’s nothing worse than an awkward, quiet pause when you say something and it’s not received in the way you expected. The worst is when God seems silent, and we get nothing from Him when we need it the most.



Today is the Saturday before Easter. Not Friday with all of the commotion and tumult of the crucifixion. Not Sunday when Jesus conquered death and hell by raising from the dead. But Saturday. Dead quiet Saturday. He was just….gone. It was quiet. Can you imagine how they must have been grieving? To have been walking and living beside Jesus and then to watch Him die? Surely they must have wondered where God was. Why didn’t He intervene? Why didn’t He comfort them? Did He care at all? They were in pain, and where was He? He was silent. Quiet. Crickets.



You just want a shred of evidence that He’s there. And there’s not one. That’s tough. That’s when it takes faith. I guess it wouldn’t be faith if we could see the evidence. Maybe that’s why the verse says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”



That’s really hard for me. I don’t like it when He’s quiet. I interpret silence on the other end as not caring. I am so bad at faith and trust.



But what is the truth? We think He’s forgotten, but He’s there. He’s been there all along.

That’s what we have to cling to. The truth. Not what it feels like the truth is. But the truth itself. Over and over He tells us that He is with us. Always. Even when there’s no indication that He is. That’s what we have to hold on to. For dear life. 

----------------------------------------------


There's a song by Barlow Girl that I love. I can't get it to post, so for now, I will just leave you with the lyrics that say it all....

"I cry out with no reply and I can't feel you by my side. So I'll hold tight to what I know...You're here...and I'm never alone."



Friday, April 18, 2014

P- Peace


That ever-elusive peace. Isn’t that all we really want when it comes down to it? I know I crave it. I treasure the rare moments I actually feel relatively at peace with the world. Especially after the last week when I’ve been feeling unusually panicky for some unknown reason. When you struggle with a bunch of feelings, worries, and anxieties, it makes you appreciate it all the more when you finally feel at peace. We try so hard to attain it. We pursue wealth relentlessly, hoping that we reach the point where we are “there”, we’ve arrived and we can rest easy. But does that ever really happen? No. We buy nice houses and cars and gadgets so that we will feel comfortable and maybe at peace. But does it work? Not really. Not in the long-term.

So how do we get it? Sometimes it takes getting still and quiet and tuning out all the noise around us. But even then there can be a lot of noise in our heads. Ok, my head has a lot of noise anyway. I think the key is to know where to turn. To God. I know it, but I don’t always remember it. Or I still go elsewhere, hoping to find it. I love how my son’s Bible puts it in Philippians. “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to Him. Then God’s peace will wash over your hearts and minds…”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O - Only


When I wrote my N post, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with thoughts, feelings, panic, fear, anxiety, you name it. Sometimes life is just hard; I don’t want to get out of bed. Life can overwhelm. Plain and simple.



Only love today. That’s the mantra of one of my favorite blogs. Sometimes you just have to stop and go to Nothing. Just sit. Be still. Be content with well, nothing. You have to deconstruct and start with something simple. Like Only Love Today. Or I would say, Only God. He’s the source of love, so without Him there is no love.



It’s too easy to respond to the overwhelm and the difficulties of life with bitterness, harshness, anger, hatred and all the rest. I read a quote yesterday from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It’s kind of another take on “Overcome evil with good.”



That’s why I love the simplicity of the “only love today” quote. Remember to love ourselves, our kids, our spouses, those all around us. Only love. Only kindness. Only grace. Only good. When someone’s unkind or thoughtless toward us, choose love. It’s the harder choice sometimes, oftentimes. But it’s what we all need. When I’m hurting the most, that’s when I’m at my angriest, my meanest, my nastiest. That's when I most need someone to just be kind to me. 



Only love today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

M - Mock


Apparently there’s a new thing where parents post pictures of their toddlers crying or having tantrums and basically laugh at them. Now I have to say, I have a toddler and I get that parents need to vent. I get it big time. I will say that mine had a tantrum a couple of weeks ago because I took the string off the banana I had peeled for him. And he wanted it. What the heck? So, I get it. I do. We are frustrated beyond belief. But I don’t like the mocking thing. Who wants to be laughed at? Whether you are 2 or 92, no one likes that. I realize these kids may not realize they are being laughed at in many cases. But I have to say that kids, big and small, pick up on a lot more things than I think we realize. In any event, finding pleasure in someone else’s pain is a little on the disturbing side to me. I know that what they are upset about is, in our estimation, ridiculous. Even stupid. But it’s important to them. And they are important to us. So we should take them seriously. I think a better way to look at it is that they are frustrated when they can’t have something or do something that they want to. And I think they inherently know they don’t have a lot of control in their world. So they get frustrated, angry and upset quite easily. I don’t think it even matters what the actual issue is. They just have a tough time because of where they are developmentally. That helps me anyway to have a little more patience and not lose it completely sometimes. Especially after 4 or 5 meltdowns in one day.




Ok. Gotta say, I am hating this post. I threw it together and I don’t like my writing lately. But I’m determined to do an M post, so there you go….

Sunday, April 13, 2014

L - Listen


Janice angrily jerked the shirt off the wet floor.

 “BRIAN!” she yelled.

“Yeah?!” he yelled back.

“Why don’t you listen to me? I’ve told you at least 25 times to not leave your clothes on the floor when you shower! I am so tired of picking up your messes!” she slammed the shirt into the hamper.
”And why don’t you ever listen to me?” eleven-year-old Brian shouted back defiantly.

Janice raised her arm to pop him for speaking to her in such a rude tone. But then she stopped herself. She just stopped. Taking a deep breath, she thought about what he had just said. She exhaled and clenched her fists.

Mustering up the best tone she could, she calmly answered back. “What do you mean? When do I not listen to you?”

He glared at her, then looked down. “You just never listen!” he said and stomped down the hall.

“Wait a minute. The wet floor and messy clothes can wait ….Is something wrong, Brian?” she felt a little less angry now. She walked over and put her hand on his shoulder.
”NO!….Well, maybe,” he looked like he wanted to tell her something.

“It’s okay….Whatever you did, I promise not to get mad. Just tell me,” Janice softened her tone.

Brian raised his eyebrows. “No. It’s not that.” He looked down again.

“Ok…well…. I’m listening now,” she tried again.

“You know Susan at school? Well, she’s got a new best friend named Rhonda and now she hardly talks to me anymore. I’m so mad at Rhonda! I wish she’d just move away or something!”

Ohhh….”Susan? The girl you sort of have a crush on?” Janice remembered now.
Brian nodded shyly. “Yeah. And we used to talk all the time. And now that Rhonda’s always around, she barely speaks to me! It’s like I’m invisible or something. She acts different when Rhonda’s around. I don’t know what to do! What if she doesn’t like me anymore?” he was close to tears.

Janice put her arm around him. “That stinks. I’m sorry.”

“I’m just so mad at Rhonda. And Susan too! Why does she act like that?!”

“Well, honestly I don’t know. Sometimes girls want to have other girl friends. Or maybe she doesn’t realize she’s hurting your feelings. She may not even know you like her. I bet she’s not doing it on purpose,” Janice said.

“Well, I think she is! What am I supposed to do?”

“Well, I think the best thing you can do is just to still be her friend but maybe step back and give her some space. Let her have some time with her other friend.”

“Hm….You mean like not talk to her as much? Yeah, that might work. Maybe she might miss me and come talk to me.”
“Maybe.”
”Mom, girls are just weird sometimes,” Brian said.

Janice laughed and tousled his hair. “Yeah, well boys are too.”

“Do I still have to clean my clothes off the floor?”
”Nice try. Yeah. You do. But I’m sorry for yelling at you. I shouldn’t have screamed like that.”

“Mom, I’m glad you listened,” Brian threw back as he ran to the hamper with his clothes.

“Me too,” Janice said to the wall.

J & K - Just Kidding


I said I was going to write an alternate ending for one of my earlier posts. Just kidding. Psyche! Actually I did have a J post. In my head. But I didn’t get it written down and fleshed out. And I know me. If I don’t just move on, I’ll get stuck and overwhelmed and flail the rest of the month. Maybe I’ll try to get it in under another letter in the A to Z challenge. But for now, I have to Just Keep plodding on. Moving on to L……

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I - Iron Golem






Taking a break from my regular writing again and introducing another creature in Minecraft for my son...

The Iron Golem is a utility mob whose main purpose is to protect villagers from being killed by zombies and other hostile creatures. They do a lot of damage; when they attack, they fling their victim into the air, usually doing 3 ½ to 10 ½ hearts of damage. They may need some help with killing Endermen, though. They don’t take fall damage or drowning damage. But be aware that they cannot swim and will sink to the bottom, which pretty much makes them useless. They look a lot like villagers or so they tell me. They have big noses, a unibrow and are nearly as big as an Enderman. They naturally spawn in villages with at least 10 villagers and 21 houses. Or you can make them with 4 blocks of iron which is 36 iron gringots. (Got that?) They don’t usually mess with players but the big ole lugs don’t like it when you mess with their villagers. So a player that repeatedly attacks villagers might be on the receiving end of their wrath.

So, that’s the Iron Golem in a nutshell. I probably did not do it justice. But I am winging it at this point so there ya go. I’m going to return to fiction tomorrow and hopefully write an alternate ending for one of my earlier blog posts. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

H - Hard


Do the hard thing. Sometimes you know what you should do and you just need to do it. I believe in being easy on myself, and I’m certainly no martyr. I’m often guilty of not doing things I don’t feel like doing. Feelings are powerful, and believe me, I almost did a post on feelings. But sometimes you have to do the right thing, the hard thing, and wait for the feelings to catch up with you later.

 Take that little step. It could be as simple as shutting my mouth when I want to yell or returning a harsh word with a gentle one. (Or at least a neutral one.) Sticking with this challenge when I want to quit and see no benefit to plodding on, other than proving to myself that I can do it. It may be taking the opportunity to do a nice thing for your spouse even after they’ve been mean to you all day long. Even if it means gritting your teeth while you do it. Maybe it’s making that phone call to get the help you know you need. Or having a hard conversation you’ve been putting off. Sometimes it may mean walking away. Whatever it is, do it. Have the courage to do the hard thing. Regardless of the outcome or the opinions of others. Just do it. Make up your mind. And do it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

G - Gut Instinct



(This post is a continuation of the story for the letter F. Click the link on the right under Blog Archive to read that one.)


Twelve years later, Sandy remembered that night as if it were yesterday. What she’d called “little doubts” had proven to be big red warning signs. But she had been so happy, she hadn’t allowed herself to think too much about it. She had lived happily in a state of blissful ignorance. Besides, back then she wasn’t much for following her gut; she hadn’t yet learned to trust herself.



So she had gone through with the lovely wedding of her dreams as planned. At first, she was happy. The verbal abuse started so gradually, she really had barely noticed it. An insult here. Criticism there. He always apologized. At first. It had happened so infrequently that she hadn’t thought much of it. The first year of marriage was always hard, right? Getting adjusted to married life wasn’t always an easy transition. Tempers flared; she overreacted sometimes.



Then the yelling started. His temper got worse. She never knew what would set him off so she tried to stay out of his way when he was in one of his moods. Now after years of his verbal tirades, she was done. She didn’t even know how long she had wanted out. But she had come to a decision. She was leaving. She wasn’t trying any more. Sandy was calling a lawyer first thing in the morning. Was she doing the right thing? Even now, she wasn’t completely sure she could trust herself. After all of the put-downs, she wasn’t sure she could make it on her own.



She thought back to that night before her wedding. If she’d had the guts to do some soul-searching then, maybe she could have saved herself so much grief. But how could she have known what lay ahead of her? She had been happy and hadn’t wanted to blow what she thought was her chance at true love. Now, though, she had a chance to make a change. This time she was going to take care of herself.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

F - Flowers

Sandy glanced around the small chapel at the burnt orange, burgundy and mauve flowers. Perfect. Finally. Her dream. Her fall wedding. Everything was done. The rehearsal was history. All she needed now was a good night’s sleep in preparation for her big day tomorrow. 

“So, are you all ready?” Kelly, one of her bridesmaids, had snuck up behind her.

“Yeah, I think so. I’m just getting ready to leave. Anyone else here or are we the last ones?” Sandy asked.

“Nope. I think we are it. So…any last-minute jitters? Cold feet?” Kelly knew how to cut to the chase when she wanted to.

Sandy sighed. “What does that mean?” Kelly asked.

“I’m happy. We love each other. What more can you ask for?”

“You…. didn’t really answer my question.”

Sandy laughed. “Well, it’s marriage. Nothing’s 100% guaranteed. No one goes into it with no doubts… surely?”

“Don’t ask me. I wouldn’t know. I was just curious,” Kelly put her hand on Sandy’s shoulder. “You know you can tell me anything.”

Sandy laughed again. “There’s nothing to worry about. It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine,” she said, admiring the flowers one more time before she turned out the lights in the chapel.





Friday, April 4, 2014

E - Enderman






I collaborated with my son Elias for today’s letter. He’s into all things Minecraft. If you’re like me and have no clue, Minecraft is a video game that middle school boys are obsessed with. I’ll admit it completely confuses me, but I’ve found that if I want to spend positive time with my son now that he’s a preteen, it helps to take an interest in what he’s into. Plus, I really needed a break from my other writing, so here I go…

What is an Enderman, you ask? It’s a creature in Minecraft that’s tall and black with purple glowing eyes. It’s neutral unless you provoke it. You can do this in several ways from what I understand. You can hit it - well, that would make me hostile too. You can also stare at its upper body. Once hostile, it’s tough to battle because it can teleport and apparently it loves to sneak up from behind and attack. Its home world is The End, it makes weird noises, and it’s vulnerable to water. Sunlight can turn it back to neutral. And if you put a pumpkin on your head, the Enderman will ignore you. Ok, that part is just weird. Anyway, that is my very uneducated Mom summary of an Enderman.

I was going to try to draw some parallel to people and how we become hostile when provoked or extract some other life lesson from it. But honestly, it’s a video game. And it’s late and I’m exhausted. Hopefully I at least enlightened some poor soul out there who knows as little as I do about the game. Or maybe I entertained you with my ramblings. Either way, I got an E post out of it, so I’m good.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

D - Depend




I was working on a blog post about darkness for D, but frankly, it was… well dark. And I couldn’t really get it done the way I wanted. So I’ve been struggling to come up with an easier D word. Now I’ve got D words coming out the ying yang, so thanks A to Z. Most of them are rather depressing – demons, demonizing, death, doom and gloom, discipline, dysfunction, desperate, different, determined, dare. So the irony is that I could write about four or five D posts now.



Instead, I’ve decided to go in a more positive direction. My favorite verse  is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)



Who or what do we depend on? I depend on my own understanding. A lot. I also depend on circumstances or relationships sometimes. And of course many of us have crutches and escapes that we depend on to get us through our days – from the obvious drugs and alcohol to electronic screens and keeping busy.



Why is it so hard to depend on God? I don’t “do” trust very well. It means admitting that He knows me better than I know myself. That He knows my desires and will take care of them better than I can. I think I know what will make me happy. I’ve made choices in the past that I was sure would bring me fulfillment and happiness in the long term. But I’ve been wrong. More than once.



It’s difficult for me to be still. And quiet. And wait on God. But ultimately I know He’s the only One I can really depend on. He’s the only One big enough to handle my darkness and all those other awful D words that can consume me. He’s the only One who really knows me and is looking out for my best interests, always and unconditionally. Now if I could just remember that…..




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

C - Change


“So…do you love it?” Beth whirled Danielle around so she could see herself in the mirror. Sweeping her hand through her fiery red hair, Danielle smiled. She had never colored her hair in her life; this was big.
“I love it! It’s perfect!”
“What will your husband say?” Beth asked her.
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough,” Danielle answered softly.
As excited as she was, Danielle couldn’t help but feel nervous. As she drove home, she began to feel sick to her stomach. What had she done? He was going to hate it. He would explode; she knew it.

But there was no undoing it now. She was going through with this, with everything.
Her heart was pounding so loudly by the time she walked up the sidewalk, she could barely focus. Fighting to keep herself calm, she slowly opened the door.

“You’re late, Dani, I—“ Jeff stared at her. “What the hell did you do to your hair?” he bellowed.

Danielle inhaled slowly. “I colored it. I know it’s different, but I think it’s cute,” she said, trying to hide her anxiety.

“It’s-it’s red! I don’t like it at all. And how much did you pay for that?!” he was almost yelling. 

“ I used my own money. I had some extra left over this week.”

“How much was it?” he pushed.

“Why does it matter? I told you, I used my own money,” Danielle muttered.

He glared at her. “Because you don’t need to be wasting your money on stupid things like that! This had better be the last time you do anything like that without checking with me first. And you look ridiculous, by the way.”

Danielle turned away to hide her clenched jaw. Oh, if he only knew. This was just the beginning of the changes she had in store.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

B - Baby


She looked at the pregnancy test for the seventieth time. Positive. It couldn’t be. At her age? Marcy rubbed her temples slowly. So that’s why she’d felt so tired lately. Could she even carry this one to term? She knew she had to tell him immediately. She picked up the phone and dialed. 

”Hey, hon. Can we meet for lunch?” she tried to sound casual.
“I’m pretty busy here,” Paul answered.
“Can’t you just get away for a short lunch at Roberto’s?” Marcy pressed.
“I don’t know…What about tomorrow?”
“Oh come on, Paul. Please. You’ve worked late every night this week.” Now she was getting irritated.
”Ok. Ok. I’ll see you there at noon,” he gave in.

An hour later at Roberto’s, Marcy watched the door for Paul and sipped on her giant glass of water. He was running late, and Marcy was getting madder by the minute. Finally, she spotted his slender frame walking quickly as he spoke into his cell phone. He sat down across from her and finished his conversation. Marcy glared at him.
“You’re late,” she fumed.
“Sorry. And hey, I can’t stay for more than a drink. I’m really swamped. I just got a bunch more work dropped on me because Lanie is out sick and ---“
Marcy raised her hand and stopped him mid-sentence. “We’re having a baby!” she blurted out. She wasn’t quite prepared for the look of horror in his eyes.