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Roller Coaster Rides

Can you remember your favorite ride at the amusement park or carnival? Mine was the roller coaster. I can remember bubbling with excitement as I’d get into the car and finding it difficult to contain my anticipation as I waited for the other cars to fill so the ride could begin. I could hardly sit still, yet I had to wait until the ride operator made his rounds checking to see everyone had fastened their seat belts. In the meantime, I pictured myself flying at break-neck speeds with the wind blasting in my face. I focused on the fun I’d experience and certainly gave no thought to the seatbelt. Surely I wouldn’t need it.  Seatbelts? They were merely a proactive measure to avoid liability, something you were supposed to do, a necessary evil.

roller coaster maverick_airtime1Finally our cavalcade began to move, slowly at first and then increasing to gain momentum to climb. By the time I reached the top of the steep incline, I had no time to do anything but hold on tight and scream with emotions racing between fear and delight. It was so much fun. Even after experiencing several episodes of these peaks and valleys eventually leading back to the starting point, I lacked appreciation for the protection my seatbelt provided. It never crossed my mind. I took it for granted, yet had it not been securely in place, I’d have been flying through the air, all right, but not with the greatest of ease.

Don’t you sometimes feel like life is like a roller coaster ride? You start out at the bottom, learn a few things, gain momentum then all of a sudden you’re going in a different direction, and it feels like that path is headed down. Change is like that. It hits you smack in the face – sometimes without warning and the cycle is often repeated many times before the ride is over. The ups and downs aren’t much fun, and you begin to ask yourself, “What measures have I put into place to keep me secure as I hang on for dear life?”

If you have made wise choices along the way, especially placing your faith in the Lord, you will have the security and perspective you need to focus on the voyage and not the ups and downs. Reflecting on your selections and making adjustments to compensate for the change will help you to have joy in the journey like I did on the roller coaster ride.

Happy Valentine’s Day

tullips t11z104aNo doubt Hallmark, FTD Florist and Hershey Chocolate stocks are up today as millions of men and women seek to honor their special someone with a Valentine. Other retailers and restaurants will also increase their business, yet these displays of affection beg the question, will my significant other feel loved as a result? In other words, does the gift given match the person’s personality and help them to feel loved?

My husband loves roses and though I don’t send him flowers for Valentine’s Day, he knows that I enjoy them, and he lovingly sent me some (Thanks, Honey! J). Valentine tradition says roses are the perfect flower to say, “I love you” and spark romance. Although I too adore their beauty, this time of year I’m looking for spring, and a bouquet of tulips perk me up. My dear husband looked at what I liked rather than what he liked and selected an appropriate gift. And, he chose my favorite color.

Dr. Gary D. Chapman contends that each person has a predominant love language that speaks volumes to his/her heart and when another person speaks their language, they feel totally satisfied. It’s like their gas tank is full and their engine is purring like a kitten. It makes sense. If someone tried to speak to you in Portuguese or Russian, you’d have little idea what they were trying to say, even if the message were critically important. Chapman lists the five languages as

  • 5 love languages communication04Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Although each person has a combination of preferences, usually they have two that stand out. If the needs in these areas are met, the person flourishes and grows. Chapman has provided a free online assessment so that you can discover your own love language or that of your spouse or children. It’s especially crucial for teens. Check it out to see if you can find your spouse, kids as well as your own special love language. Be sure to let others know what it is so that they can fill your love tank appropriately.

By the way, have a super Happy Valentine’s Day!

Which do I want — a donut or a radish?

I have always found teens to be fantastic people, which is one of the reasons I so loved teaching in our local Christian high school. Of course these students still struggled with growing pains in lots of areas, but I loved to listen to their ideas and offer resources to help them reach their potential. Yet there ensued a problem in these conversations.  The students came to know me as well, maybe too well.

Donuts anyone?

jelly-donuts-11299689394INgFrom our more light-hearted conversations, it did not take long for them to discover I had a penchant for donuts, especially cream or jelly filled ones. On holidays, they’d often bring me a whole box of these fried and sugared cakes oozing with various jellies to take home. I remember my mouth watering at the thought of devouring these delicacies. I could not wait to dive into them. They were that good. Fortunately for my figure, I had teenagers of my own at home who helped to polish them off.

During those years, we lived in a rural area with no Yum Yum or Dunkin Donut shops within a 45 mile radius so when you got a real donut, it truly was a treat. Later when we moved to the suburbs of a larger metropolitan area, you could find a donut den on almost every corner. Now I could indulge more frequently. Alas, you know what happens to those sweet snacks that are so delicious on the lips. Yes, they end up on your hips. So as I dieted to try to lose weight and even as I strove to eat healthier – reduced sugar, natural fruits and vegetables, just because I should – I gave them up but the donuts still called my name. More times than not, I could pass them by, but they had not lost their appeal until just the other day.

What’s up with the radish?

bunch-of-radishesThat day I ran into the grocery store on a mission – trying to find the soursop fruit.  As I headed to the produce aisle, a bunch of the largest, most beautiful radishes caught my eye. And whoa! They called my name, just like the donuts used to, and I REALLY wanted those radishes. You will be proud of me as I did wait until I purchased them and returned home before eating them, but they really were GOOD and not just something good for me.

Moral of the story

This experience was really strange, but I think I can find a moral to this story. The more I focused my eyes on the right foods and chose them over the sugary unhealthy ones, the less attractive the empty calorie items became until I really desired the good ones. Can you imagine the transformation in my life if I fix my eyes on Jesus? Wow.

Reflection … a day late?

Martin Luther KingSince yesterday (January 21) actually served as only an observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and did not reflect the true day of his birth (January 15, 1929), I figured I could be late as well in mentioning one of his quotes.

This champion for African-American civil rights and Nobel Prize winner said many outstanding things throughout his life and nonviolent campaigns for freedom, but in review, this one popped out at me. He had to have said it at least 45 years ago (could have been longer), but see if you don’t think it still speaks volumes.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As one who gained my college degree later in life, I saw a new philosophy propagated that emphasized telling students what to think as opposed to teaching them how to think and evaluate situations in order to come up with a viable plan of action. Mirroring King’s description, many of the  students settled for the easy answers and half-baked solutions, i.e. what was the teacher looking for. And this to me is scary as young people, enamored with their professors credentials, listened attentively and soaked in some of the most illogical and irresponsible philosophies this country has ever heard. They engaged quickly and employed their boundless energies without considering the impact or influence on the future. With their lack of knowledge and real-life experience, these teachers could easily lead the next generation down a path to bondage and destruction both personally and nationally.

But rather than end on a negative note … Check it out for yourself and look at the verbiage below taken from posted signs and headlines. You’ll see just how the quality of thought (or at least proofreading skills) has deteriorated. If you take these words at face value and don’t engage in hard solid thinking, you’ll likely find your reflection will cause a chuckle and brighten your day. (Thanks to my son for sharing.)

Outside a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW — yuk, what a mess

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT — I hope the heat stays on, it could get chilly

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS — wonder if it is like the audio greeting cards

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK) — anything except doorbells

And these published headlines:

MAN KILLS SELF BEFORE SHOOTING WIFE AND DAUGHTER – This guy had talent he did not know about.

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN JET CRASH, EXPERT SAYS – Really?

POLICE BEGIN CAMPAIGN TO RUN DOWN JAYWALKERS – Sounds like King nailed it here – a half-baked solution.

Crawling with Crullers

powdered donut 89691937If you’ve ever turned to chocolate or another form of sweets after a particularly stressful day, you understand that it works – albeit temporarily – to boost your morale. Well, other than a lingering cold, I had nothing particularly stressful in my life yesterday, so why did I eat not one, but two cream-filled Dunkin Donuts? It was not because I was hungry – I had just eaten a healthy snack of almonds. It was not because they were calling my name. I really had no desire for them, but eat them I did – at least I did not eat them together.

In trying to make better eating choices in 2013, I am trying to take baby steps to move forward to eliminate sugar from my diet – especially refined sugar and the kind found in the donuts. This is one of my first priorities. I’ve already moved to using honey and other forms of natural sweeteners, so I figured this would be easy. Evidently not.

I am trying to create more self-awareness in this area, however, so this is a start. Instead of making a giant leap forward, I realize I’m not even taking a baby step. I’m crawling, and I’m crawling with crullers, no less. But here’s the real lesson I learned and maybe it is helpful to you. I realized I had no plan and without one, I would do it again.

In this particular case, I did not get into my car and go to the store to purchase them. They were brought to the house as a thoughtful gesture and special treat from someone dear to me. Yet in these moments of weakness, I definitely realized several things – it was a deliberate choice to put them on plates and wolf them down. Was I thinking about the money spent or the thoughtfulness behind the gesture that I did not want to waste these fluffy, fresh, powdered pastries? Probably yes on both counts; nevertheless, I need a plan so that these demons don’t find their way into my mouth at the wrong time again. Any suggestions you have are warmly invited. In the meantime, here are some of the ideas that came to mind.

  • Receive the gift appreciatively and wrap it in plastic, freeze and serve later
  • Cut them into smaller bite-sized pieces before wrapping them in case a treat is warranted at a later date
  • Share them with someone else

Hopefully, today will be better and I’ll take a baby step forward on my way to the giant leap of living sugar free.

Humbug to New Years’ Resolutions

Happy_Newyear_Wallpaper_2013_11Although we celebrated Christmas last week, Scrooge’s holiday greeting of “Humbug,” holds more truth in reference to New Years. At New Years’ we feel almost obligated to write down a list of resolutions that will improve our health, appearance or success, but unfortunately, most of the resolutions just don’t stick.

This year I did not write a list of resolutions as I have in the past, and based on my email inbox, a lot of others are feeling the same way. What usually happens is we see the New Year with all of its potential for a clean slate and a fresh beginning. We relish the thought of putting past failures behind and moving forward. It sounds good in theory, but by January 5th most of our grandiose ideas of becoming thinner, fitter and more productive have already been replaced with our former habits. And the list? It’s usually buried in a pile somewhere and never seen again. No matter how strong the initial motivation, it doesn’t last long enough to incorporate the work required to make a permanent change.

Developing a new habit or life practice requires an internal change. Some might call it an attitude adjustment or change of heart, but the power to make a lasting change comes from God. So that’s the first step. We start by submitting our desires to Him because He delights in seeing us succeed.

But here’s another thought. The Chinese claim that 2013 is the Year of the Snake, some of the South American countries have dubbed it the International Year of Quinoa, and the UN has declared it the International Year of Water Cooperation. I’m proposing that we call 2013 the year of the Baby Step. Instead of taking a huge leap forward, we just start moving in the direction we know we should go. Each of us can take a baby step forward to make the changes we need. We can repeat it later today and again tomorrow and the day after that. We can write it down. We can post it on the fridge or mirror, and we can review and practice it until it becomes part of our lives. The key is to make it intentional.

Once we see results, we can add a different baby step to the mix, but keep a record of the first measure of success in a prominent place. It will spur you on as the steps get harder. Hmmm – maybe the steps won’t be as hard if we’re doing them in increments. And if we fall down, we’ll get up again. That’s what baby’s do when they’re learning to walk. We have no shame in falling unless we don’t get up.

Most of all, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

We’ve got today …

Kids-getting-on-school-busThis morning, I watched from my office window as the local school bus stopped to pick up the children to take them to school. I was too far away to see their faces, but I noticed more parents waiting with their children. Instead of making casual conversation with the other adults, they spoke to their kids and crossed the street with them to make sure they got safely on the bus. They lingered as the bus pulled away, perhaps wondering if this was how the parents of the children in Friday’s tragic shootings felt saying goodbyes to their kids. In their case, it was farewell.

We never know what tomorrow will bring, yet too often we humans bank on the fact that we will have a tomorrow and another one after that. Yet we have no guarantee. We often become paranoid and surround ourselves with protective devices or try to think ahead to prompt proactive behaviors. Although looking ahead and trying to remain safe are wise actions, we could easily go overboard. The bottom line is that it is out of our control, but our faith in the Lord must remain strong.

If one thing good is to come out of this sad tragedy, it might be what I saw demonstrated this morning and see on so many Facebook posts. Treasure the people in our lives now. We’ve got today.