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Keeping Busy

Today’s culture …

One thing about today’s culture is that it keeps me busy. Oh yes, I have many technological advances at my fingertips that enable me to do even menial tasks quickly and efficiently with the touch of a finger. I don’t even need to push buttons any more. A quick swipe of my finger across a screen gets us the latest news from my friends and family as well as quick blurbs about what is going on in the region or around the world. I can find out about pending storms, how much I have in the bank, and directions to a new restaurant. I even have a touch screen in my car. Speaking of cars, some of the newer models can parallel park and apply the brakes with little if any assistance from the driver.

Marvelous timesavers …

So, with all of these fabulous timesavers, how come I’m still so busy? Where is all of this free time that technology claims to bring? If truth be told, I think I’m busier today in semi-retirement than I was when I had 3 little kids at home. But there’s one slight difference. I don’t stress about the busyness like I used to.

Priorities …

I suppose that might be because I have gained some wisdom from my years of life experience. Unfortunately, there were a lot of candles on my cake before it finally began to register, but the fact remains: I make time for what is important to me.

We all do, even the younger set like my kids and grandkids approaching their academic finals. They may have made less than studious choices throughout the semester, but when it comes down to the last exam of the year, they will often stay up all night to ensure the information has been duly entered into their brains. Finally, it has become important to them – maybe that’s why the exams are called finals. I can’t help but chuckle at this last-ditch effort, but I certainly don’t say a word.

Too little too late …

Ok, so it may be too little too late, but even in my golden years, I sometimes do the same thing. That said, my choices generally are based on wisdom – what’s important as opposed to what I’d like to get done – an immaculate house vs. lunch with a friend, or a sewing project vs. spending time with my grandkids.

Here’s the thing. Being busy in and of itself is neither intrinsically good or evil, but the choices we make on how we occupy our time might be better spent. I still need to set priorities. You’d think at this stage of the game, I’d have this mastered, but alas, I’m still at the stage of just getting better. That said, I think that’s a good direction to go. 😊

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What a difference 7 days can make!

Last week we visited family in the Adirondacks to celebrate my grandson’s graduation – how this sweet baby grew up so fast is beyond me – but I digress. The mountains are known for delayed springs. I expected chilly weather and was not disappointed, yet when the spring snow came, however, it provided impetus to complain. Even the locals expressed their dismay. It was time for warm weather. This week, I am home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the temperature is 84, and people are complaining that they are hot and uncomfortable because of the heat and elevated humidity. Isn’t there a better way to take action and expend our energy? Why, I wonder, are we humans so prone to complain about the weather and think it is okay?

ComplaintsAccording to Wikipedia’s Free Dictionary, the word complain is an action verb meaning to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event and includes synonyms repine, grumble, lament and moan.

Although I have heard that several governments, including the US, are trying to control the weather by various means, obviously they have not succeeded to the point where everyone is satisfied. We still complain and regardless if we prefer cool or warm temperatures, we complain. It’s second nature to us. Yet it seems to me we are wasting our time. (Notice I’m including myself in these statements because I’m as guilty as anyone else.)

Wouldn’t it be more productive to complain about something we can change? What if we complained instead about the dirty windows in our house? We could get out the cleaning solution and rags and make them shine. Then we would have something to rejoice about. We could send out positive messages about shiny windows and invite our friends to rejoice with us. We could throw a party. If the windows were really bad to start with and obvious to passersby, we’d have no problem getting people to come. But no, we complain about something that it is impossible to change.

Perhaps we use the weather as a level playing field, a point of commonality, to initiate conversations – you know, break the ice. It does work because everyone will join in, yet grumbling and complaining are negative characteristics and instead of building people up, it drags people down. Who needs more of that?

It seems to me it will take an intentional effort to change my thoughts and expressions about the weather, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it takes intentionality to do anything worthwhile. So here’s the deal. You have my permission to remind me the next time I complain about the weather that there is a positive aspect that I am missing. Who knows, it may filter down to other areas where I struggle to do better.

Why is it we’re never happy?

spring has sprung Keukenhof09Appearances are deceiving. I’m looking outside my window at actual green leaves on a few of the trees, fading flowers and buds on others, grass that needs mowing (my neighbor’s yard), and perennials poking up besides the blooming bulbs. It looks like spring. The air sports an aroma of spring, BUT it’s still cool. What is up with this? We should have temperatures in the high 70’s. Although I don’t want to lose the temperatures in the 60’s we’ve been experiencing to return to the 20’s and 30’s, it’s still sweatshirt and fleece weather.

Why is it we’re never happy?

It is absolutely beautiful outdoors, yet in my way of thinking, all the windows should be open to let in the fresh air. I could do that without the heat going on, but honestly, it’s too cool to be comfortable. So I will just crack the door and let in a little. That brings me back to my – and a whole bunch of others’ – discontent. If discontent leads to improvement, then it can be a good thing, right? So I’m going to try to find 10 good things about cooler temperatures.

  1. You can go outdoors without a heavy coat.
  2. You can work outdoors without getting covered in sweat.
  3. The work is rewarding because the weeds you just pulled don’t come back overnight.
  4. The biting bugs aren’t out yet.
  5. The birds have returned and you can enjoy their playful antics.
  6. The daffodils and tulips are more vibrant.
  7. The spring flowers seemed to last longer in the cool temperatures.
  8. Nature continues to move in the direction of spring as opposed to waiting.
  9. The ground is not hard and is more workable.
  10. The air is fresh and invigorating.
  11. People seem friendlier because they’re anxious to get outdoors and share with one another.

I did it. I found more than the required 10. And I’m no longer as put out by the cooler temperatures. Maybe I will try this again when a spirit of discontent overtakes me – like when I think it’s too hot. It seems like the process is therapeutic.

How do you eat an elephant?

You’ve likely heard this riddle and may have even used the answer to inspire yourself or others to start something huge and eat one bite at a time, that is take on one small chunk of the project at a time. As great an application as this riddle provides, I think seeing someone who has not only done that but has lived an exceedingly successful life modeling this philosophy speaks volumes more.

nick-vujicicThis week I was listening to Family Talk and was reminded of the life story of Nick Vujicic. He is a man, who at this point may have crossed over into his thirties, yet he is succeeding in life and accomplishing much more than most others including me. His story is unique because of his birth.

While most parents reach for their newborn to count all of the baby’s finger and toes, in Nick’s case, the doctor hid him from his mother because not only were there no fingers to count, there were no arms or legs. Mr. and Mrs. Vujicic’s baby was born without limbs. Even ultrasounds did not reveal this possibility and everyone, including the medical staff, were taken by surprise.

The Lord had a purpose for this boy. At the age of 6, he had experienced an exceptionally difficult day at school. Kids continually bullied him so he tried to commit suicide but then reconsidered. At the age of 15, he realized that although no one else understood why he was born this way, God did. Nick decided to let God use him for whatever He had planned. And that is exactly what God is doing.

Today, Nick speaks to teens on numerous campuses and shares his story. He talks to them about bullying, directing his comment to both those who have been bullied and those who dish it out. He speaks to them about finding their identity in Christ. You cannot help but be inspired through his charismatic smile and personality, yet even more than that you’ll be amazed at what he can do and continues to do. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out this video and see for yourself.   

What happened to the best?

My daughter recently recounted an article she had read about a college professor who wanted to demonstrate the principles of socialism in his classroom. Although his students did not totally embrace this philosophy, they thought treating the rich and poor alike sounded good to them. He challenged their thinking and perhaps it will challenge yours.

College-Student2The professor announced his plan to treat everyone the same and outlined his expectations. “All of the students would come to class, listen to the lectures, do the assignments and take the tests.  That’s fair, isn’t it? Then everyone should get the same grade.”

They all agreed and nodded assent. The daily routine resembled the normal classroom experience until the professor announced the results of the first test. “Everyone received a B.”

The student responses, however, were mixed. Those who normally applied themselves, studied hard and did their best in the exam, felt they had done well. They were disappointed and claimed they should have gotten an “A.” Those who crammed the night before were satisfied with the “B,” but those who didn’t even crack a book were ecstatic. A “B” to them was wonderful. They liked the professor’s socialistic plan.

The professor announced the next test but this time the students approached the event differently. Those who previously had studied hard figured if they would get a “B” anyway, why exert so much effort? This thought process trickled down to the crammers as well, and it provided a wonderful excuse for the partiers to continue their tradition. This time the professor announced the class results. Expecting another “B,” the class was slightly disappointed to learn their score this time had dropped to a “C.”

When it came time for the next test, the diligent students were disgusted with the partiers and figured why should they study? They could go with what they had absorbed from class. The crammers also felt less inclined to cram and hit the sack at 10:00 PM instead of burning the midnight oil. The partiers maintained their course of action, and the professor announced that this time the class had earned a “D” and a low one at that.

Finally the last test of the course was at hand, however, something else had transpired. Some of the students were not only failing to turn in assignments, but now they did not always bother to attend class. When the professor announced the results of the test, everyone received an “F.” No one was pleased, but they were all treated the same.

The professor explained the same thing happens in a nation. People lose their desire to work hard if they are going to get the same as their coworker who sleeps on the job. Soon everyone becomes lazy and nothing improves and things begin to deteriorate. Soon the people don’t know anything at all and cannot think for themselves. This is when the government steps in to take over and the people become pawns in society and lives at a poverty level.

I’m not sure if the professor’s students got the picture, but I thought it was an interesting experiment.

Spring’s Redemption

Spring has sprung. The grass has riz. I wonder where the birdie is. 

cardinal-snow-snowstorm-red-bird-Favim.com-474579My son told me yesterday that he received 12” of new snow, and it was still coming down. He was expecting 6 to 10 inches more today. Not what I would have scheduled for the first day of spring. When I think of spring, I’m looking for warm sunshine, green grass, balmy days, new life poking through the ground, warm temperatures, and longer days. Did I mention warm weather?

Spring does draw my heart to consider these things, spring-flowers1 yet I think its true meaning is hope! With spring comes a full assurance I will see an end to winter with its cold and yes, snow. The daylight hours will increase and warmer temperatures will begin to lure me outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Yet here’s the looming question. If the daylight hours are increasing, will it impact the way I use my time?

No doubt spring weather also brings additional tasks to clean up from winter’s winds and wild weather. The flower beds will require planning and planting, and the lawn will need attention. Yet all of the indoor responsibilities still require time as well. Somehow it all gets done. The work level increases and yet the number of hours in the day remain static. I tend to think the difference is more of those hours contain daylight, and I can accomplish more outdoors for a longer period. Yet more likely the change comes from my perspective and the way I align my priorities. Instead of being enticed to sit by the fire and watch TV or surf the web, I need to begin now to redeem the time. If I can do it while it is still getting dark early (though daylight savings has already started), just think how much more useful I can be when the reality of spring and summer come to fruition?

Here’s what I’m learning that may also help you. When you redeem the time, it can be done in increments, and it actually works better this way because two benefits appear. First you tend to sustain your efforts because you’re not making huge adjustments, just small ones. You’re increasing a little more each day. Second, you compound your efforts, much like interest on your savings account and increase them consistently. In so doing, one day you wake up and look over your shoulder with amazement to see where you were and where you are now. The key is consistency.

I love spring and all that it entails. (My apologies to those who suffer from spring allergies. I no longer do but more on that on another post.) Today I choose to use it as my springboard to a better and more productive me. I will do better than yesterday and move forward step by step. I can’t wait to see what happens between now and the beginning of summer. Feel free to hold me accountable.

What can a shirt do?

You may have never thought much about the shirts hanging in your closet or those neatly folded in your dresser drawers. Likely you knew that shirts have personalities and can influence your behavior through their style and color, yet were you aware how controlling some of them are?

spaghetti_babySome shirts like to eat … a lot. Have you ever noticed how neatly you can consume most foods, but when you have a plate of spaghetti, some of it always ends up on the shirt? That’s because shirts, especially white ones, love, love, love pasta covered in tomato sauce. It’s their favorite meal, and they can’t seem to get enough. And you thought you were just messy.

Some shirts will take you places you don’t want to go. I recall the days when schools had detailed dress codes and they were explicitly enforced. For example, if you wore a T-shirt deemed inappropriate, that shirt took you on a trip to the principal’s office, just for a little chat – guess he didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes you even got to spend some extended quality time with another teacher after school – all because of a shirt.

But who knew a shirt could lead you out of your comfort zone, around the learning curve to mastery of something new? Sounds like a good thing, right? Actually in the long run it is, but that short run is a killer.

I have a beautiful embroidery machine, a Brother Quattro 6000, but have been so busy with other projects, family events and life in general that I have not had the time to learn what commands would make it perform its magic. Once you master the commands and know which button does what, it’s all good, but until you get there, it can be intimidating.

Recently I was tasked with embroidering the name of a certain organization on 17 shirts. Of course the shirts were not of the inexpensive variety, so you couldn’t make a mistake – or if you did, you had to know how to fix it. After stewing about it for quite a while, the deadline for delivery loomed so close I could feel its hot breath down the back of my neck. I had to do it. Those shirts were causing sleepless nights and butterflies in my stomach. Would I ever survive? I prayed about it a lot, visited the store where I purchased the machine for moral support and further instructions, and then prayed again. (The shirts didn’t know that God cares and can sew.) One by one, I measured, marked and machine stitched each shirt until finally they were finished. Hooray!

Those shirts thought they were going to get the best of me, but instead they helped me to master the machine. Now I can’t wait to start another project.