Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maybe silence is better

It's so easy to talk about people behind their back - especially if its something that has annoyed you or made you angry.

I think a line exists between being OK talking about someone, describing what happened or how you felt about those happenings and saying inappropriate things.

It's hard to listen to people say bad things about others who they don't like, without adding to the conversation. I know often that it's not my place to correct them, but I also don't want to add to the conversation. I find myself saying, "Yeah," or "Uh-huh," trying not to add anything beyond what they say.

Often times when we talk about people behind their backs, we have to bite back our words anyway.

I am not huge talker, unless it's with someone I am very close to. I like writing, because it gives me the opportunity to think through my words and even change them after they come out. With speaking, I often don't say what I want to say or want to change the wording after it comes out.

They always say think before you speak. Sometimes though, I think silence is just better.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew?
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two
The candyman, the candyman can,
The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good

"Who can take a rainbow,
Wrap it in a sigh?
Soak it in the sun and make the stra'bry lemon pie
The candyman? The candyman can
The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good"

"Who can take tomorrow,
Dip it in a dream?
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream,
The candyman? The Candyman can, the candyman can
The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good
And the world tastes good
'cause the candyman thinks it should"

It sure sounds a lot like Willy Wonka is God isn't it?

A lot people, and things, disguise themselves as sweet and good but are really nothing but wolves in sheep's clothing.

Sometimes it's good to remember that God is the only one that can do miracles. He's the only ones that we should rely on. He's the only one that can separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You never know

I haven't seen a robin yet this year.

That is, I hadn't until yesterday.

Driving home from the office yesterday, I was listening to the radio when two wings flapped in front of me, and I saw a flash of orange. Then, a thud.

The bird hit my grill, splattered blood as it rolled up my windshield and went over the car to bounce on the road behind me.

I gasped and laughed all at the same time. The situation was ridiculous, but it was kind of sad too.

The other day, I was reading in "Angel Train" by Gilbert Morris, about a man who once saw a bird fall out of the air for no reason at all.

To us, the death of a bird doesn't seem like a big deal. However, we can easily compare ourselves to these birds.

When these birds woke up, they didn't realize that this was their last day on Earth. They couldn't have realized that they would get sick and die or die of old age or would get hit by a car. Really, all of those scenarios could happen to any of us.

We never know when our last moments could be.

I believe that God has all of our lives in his hands. When people die in odd ways, ways that should never happen, you know that it was definitely that person's time to go. However a person dies, it's their time to go.

God has a plan.

We just need to remember, we don't know it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A pair of caring ears

Sometimes all you can do is care.

I have friends who are going through some hard times - family difficulties, loneliness, questions about how to deal with people who despise you. A lot of the time, I don't have any answers of how to fix problems.

I listen. I tell them I'm sorry they have to go through that. I tell them I'm praying for them.

Somehow, when people tell me their problems, they seem to feel better. I don't give out many answers, but I try to encourage them that at least I care. That seems to be the best medicine for problems that don't have easy solutions.

When people have hard decisions to make or big problems, usually they aren't looking for people to tell them exactly what to do. When they get advice from a variety of sources, sometimes that can make a time even more confusing and difficult. They have so many opinions rolling around in their head that they don't need one more voice chattering away up there.

Also, I know that I don't have all the answers to life's problems. I've experienced problems, but not everything. I know that God is the only one that can truly tell them what the correct answer is. I don't want to be a stumbling block, giving them advice that doesn't coincide with what God wants, because I will never know the entire situation.

Usually, what people need is to talk it through. I know that when I have a problem, often I just need to talk about it out loud. I can usually figure out the answer if I just have someone who will listen and be supportive. I want to be that person for others.

Next time someone comes to you with a problem, stop and listen first. You might feel led to give some quiet advice, but listen first. Offer a set of caring ears and see where that leads.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A little too introverted?

I don't think I have an answer for this - not something inspiring for other people. This has just been an everyday moment for about the past two years.

I have never been a really outgoing person. The night Nate first asked me out, it was a Friday night. I was in high school. It was about 9 p.m. I was in my pajamas getting ready to go to bed.

I've always kind of been a homebody.

This has been the most difficult part of working in the journalism field. I don't naturally put myself out there to get to know people who could become potential sources. I don't enjoy making conversation with random people that I don't know.

I have struggled lately with trying to find story ideas with personal touches, because I haven't met too many people since I have moved. I have friends, enough for me. However, I don't seem to have enough friends for the newspaper business.

Nate is an outgoing person with lots of friends. After making close friends in college, I have taken on some of Nate's friends as my good friends. I'm not motivated to talk to people to find more friends - I have the best friends and all that I need.

In preschool, in elementary school, in junior high, in high school, in college - my friends were ready-made. They were the people I had classes with, the people I played sports with, the people I went to Sunday school with. Now, I don't have ready-made friends. I don't really know how to go about making these friends.

My college friends all seem to struggle with the same sentiments. We have our close-knit group of friends, but we don't seem to know how to meld into the communities we have moved into.

Growing up, I was also surrounded by people I had known my whole life. Now, I'm in a community where I don't know anyone, and no one knows me, but everyone else seems to know each other. Why should people want to know me when they have all the friends they need?

Moving to a place where no one knows you and being expected to make connections quickly has never been easy, or fun, for me. I honestly don't know how to go about it. I'm perfectly content with all the friends I have, but how to make contacts for work beyond that is a mystery to me.

I guess the longer I live here, the more people I will meet. The more I give out my business card, the more people will have my name. The more people who have my name, the more story ideas I will get.

Like I said, I don't have much inspiration in this topic, but maybe you also feel like me and can get comfort knowing that you're not the only one a little lost in a new transitional time in life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Look on the bright side

When Lent started, I wanted to give up complaining.

I went a few days never having to correct myself, and I thought, maybe I just don't complain as much as I thought I do.

Then, I realized that I just don't realize it when I complain! I think I complained so much that I didn't even realize what was complaining. It's hard to give something up when you don't notice that you're doing it enough to correct yourself.

I'm still trying to give up complaining, but I don't know how well it's going. I think I can practice though, here's some things I can look on the bright side about:

Complaint: It's rainy outside.
Bright side: I would much rather see it rain than have snow or ice.

Complaint: Work is long.
Bright side: I'm so thankful that I have a job. When I think about it, I don't know what I would do with all my time if I wasn't working.

Complaint: I'm always cold, especially my feet.
Bright side: I can turn on the space heater whenever I want, because I don't have to pay utilities. I also can put my feet on the battery charger for my computer, which keeps them warm when I'm working.

I'm sure I could think of many more complaints, but I'm going to stop trying to think about parts of my life to complain about. Maybe, like me, you just need a reminder to think on the bright side before you realize that you complain way too much!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dwell on what is good

A man named Bill and his wife, Jean, were out with a group of couples, who all started to rag on each other.

One wife laughed about her husband's tendency to get so involved in TV that he doesn't notice when she is talking to him.

One husband talked about his honey-do list, or his honey-do book as he called it.

When Bill and Jean stayed quiet, not adding stories about each other, their friends questioned them about it.

"What bothers you guys?"

Bill answered that he didn't know what bothered him about his wife.

"We try to not think about what we don't like about each other. Instead we like to dwell on what is good about the other person."

Bill and Jean are an actual couple that I read about, although I made up these names. I found it the best possible way to keep a relationship strong. If you let things go so easily and only dwell on what is good, you won't have anything to hold against your loved one.

I was talking with Nate's mom when she was in town, and she told me that she tries not to say anything bad about her husband when she is around other people.

Women tend to rag on their men - and men tend to rag on their women - when they are around other people. It's fun to laugh about things that annoy us. Although that may not harm some relationships, I think concentrating on the things you love about people and not insulting your loved ones in front of others can do nothing but strengthen your relationship.

You might not even realize you do it, but it's something to think about.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Like mother, like daughter

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I'm a chip off the old block. Like mother, like daughter.

They wouldn't be cliches if they weren't true so often.

My mom e-mailed me a quote from a Joyce Meyer book she is reading this morning. "I trust God completely; there is no need to worry. Worrying doesn't change the situation, but it does change us. Worse than that, by worrying we end up helping the devil in his goal of tormenting us."

It didn't take any explanation as to why she sent this to me.

We're both worriers. We've had to address those issues over the years and have worked together to try to overcome our faults, but we both still struggle with it.

The parts of life I worry about have changed over the years, however, I still worry. I try to trust God, but often, when I can't see the answers, I find it difficult. That's not really trust at all.

Last night, I got an e-mail from my boss detailing upcoming projects that go on top of my normal work. I was OK with it, because I have gotten used to the number of extra projects to take on. At the end of the e-mail she said, "I hope I haven't overwhelmed you, but I see how it could."

After a little bit, I started worrying about not feeling overwhelmed. Should I be overwhelmed? Am I not doing a good enough job that this isn't overwhelming?

My mom said the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

It's not great that we both worry so much, but I guess at least we have someone to encourage us in the struggle - each other!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a day honoring St. Patrick.

Now, that seems obvious with the name. However, in America the holiday has turned into a green-infused drunken celebration.

I read today a little about about St. Patrick. In my twenties, you would think that I would know the history of this holiday that has been part of life, celebrated with pinches for everyone who doesn't wear green. However, I have never thought about the man behind the day.

I found that St. Patrick brought the gospel to Ireland. He also had something to do with snakes. However, the biggest note I made was the way the shamrock made its way into the holiday.

St. Patrick used the shamrock as a tool to describe the Holy Trinity - three separate leaves that are really one stalk.

Americans are really the ones that have changed the meaning of the holiday. In Ireland, the Catholic Church stresses the day, and even the bars there are filled with mostly Americans.

I talked with my friend about how not many people know about who St. Patrick is. At my dance class, my kindergarten students mentioned making green items but not learning about the meaning behind the holiday.

Few holidays celebrate saints. We have holidays celebrating veterans, presidents, moms, dads - but St. Patrick has his own day. That should mean that we really should learn more about the man and his mission rather than glossing over what the day is and celebrating it with a color and some alcohol.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Little Pieces of Life

Here are some little slices of life that have made me happy lately. What in your life is overlooked but gives you a little bit of joy?

(In no random order)
1. Green eyeshadow
2. Light at 7 p.m.
3. Homemade smoothies full of fruit
4. A coffee-scented candle that smells even when it's not lit
5. Open evenings to relax
6. A 3-course meal at a fancy restaurant for no reason
7. Turning the heat off inside
8. Seeing my friends on Skype
9. Getting to pet puppies but being able to leave all the work behind, because they're my friends and not mine
10. Smiles from Nate for no reason

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not any better

I was reading last night in Luke about the times before Jesus' death, and a few items hit me.

The title of the beginning of chapter 22 is "Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus." Right when I read that, I thought, "How can someone choose to betray God?"

Then it hit me - I choose to betray God regularly.

Not choose to kill, but make death worse and died because of our sins. A definition of betrayal can be to fail someone, and I know that my sins are signs of my failing God. Some I don't mean to do, and that is not really betrayal, but some sins I knowingly commit, and that is definitely betraying my God.

Then, I thought about how my sins still aren't deciding to kill Jesus. However, Jesus only died to forgive our sins. He would have died to save one of us, and my sins really did send Jesus to his death.

I didn't hang around with Jesus and then decide to kill him at least. Yet, when contemplating that, I also could have a close relationship with God. I could be his best friend. He is there in everything I do, yet sometimes I purposefully go against him. I betray him just like Judas.

Although Judas seems like the worst kind of person, he was influenced by Satan and did something stupid. He obviously regretted it later as he threw his reward away. Really, as I look on the situation, I finally realized that I am no better than the man that helped to kill the Son of God.

Then the next section in the chapter is about the last supper. In verses 31-32, Jesus says to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And WHEN (caps added) you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Wait, Jesus prayed that Simons faith won't fail, and in the next sentence he tells Peter that his faith will fail?

I find it amazing that Jesus says that so calmly. He knows Peter is going to deny even knowing him, but he doesn't get angry or bitter, he just accepts it. He knows Peter is going to stumble and fall, but he also knows that he has a job to do after that.

I think this statement is a huge statement of redemption. Many people focus on the story when Peter actually does the denying of Jesus. I love this section that shows that you can do something terrible, but yet you can still be redeemed and help others in their lives.

Judas, Peter - These are two people who were closest to Jesus during his ministry. Yet, they made terrible mistakes, one which led to Jesus' death.

I often think I am better than people who make bad decisions. I used to judge people very harshly. In high school, I set myself above a lot of people and said I would never do what they did.

However, I have learned not to judge, because even if you think you are strong in that area now, you have no idea what you will struggle with in the future. Looking back on what I judged people harshly for, I have done pretty much all of those things.

Even as we read about the decisions Judas and Peter make, I have to really stop and realize that I am not better than them either. If you look closely, you might realize that you are more alike than you ever wanted to be.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Robins Mean Springtime

It's so funny to realize what parts of you life think are normal, what phrases you say, are really only something normal in your family.

In college, we used to laugh all the time when one of us would say something that seemed so normal to them that seemed odd to everyone else.

My friend Lindsey called cupcakes cuppycakes - something I had never heard before.

I raved about Christmas oranges. During the Christmas season, oranges are always delicious, and they have a distinctive smell that sets them apart. However, when I talked about Christmas oranges, no one knew what I was raving about.

Another family tradition I have that seems normal to me is guessing when the robins will show up every spring. My mom and I always pick a date that we think we'll see the first robins. The winner doesn't get a prize - and I can't even remember who has won year to year - but it's still a fun way to watch for the coming of spring.

This year, my mom has already seen tons of robins, but we have not had any up here yet. I guess they have made the trek up those few extra miles.

My mom guessed they would show up March 12 here. I said March 15. Nate joined in on the guessing and said March 17.

I don't think spring ever comes until after March 12 - my brother's birthday and notorious for terrible weather - so hopefully my guess isn't too far off.

Even if I'm wrong though, I just hope that the coming of the robins really does mean spring and that spring is just around the corner.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You can't take it with you

I've always been a saver.

I have never been great at spending money, because I know there are other things in the future that I will need money for. I have always enjoyed watching my money grow as I add more and more to my bank account.

However, sometimes I have to realize that you can't take it with you, and you might as well enjoy it while you have it.

Taking trips, eating out, getting new clothes - those are fun experiences that take a little money.

Just tonight, we spent almost $100 at a restaurant, but it was a place we had never gone, and we had three courses, and it was delicious. It was a great time, and we didn't even have to travel far to get it. We made a memory and found a new spot to eat out when we want a nice time.

If it were me a few years ago, I never would have done that. When Nate and I started dating, we went to Red Lobster and spent about $40, and I thought that was insane. I was much more for the dollar menu at McDonald's before I realized sometimes restaurants can be as much about the experience as the food.

Nate has taught me that sometimes it's worth it just to spend the money and enjoy the experience. When I decided to move last fall, I was really uptight about what I would have to spend in the new town. However, my mom also reminded me that money is necessary to live. I mean, why else would I work except to make money to spend?

Although I still try to be frugal and get good deals, every once in a while, it's good to spend some money and just have some fun.

After all, you can't take it with you when you go.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You have a story all your own

Everyone has a story to tell.

As a journalist, when I call people to interview, people often say they aren't worth an interview, that they're life is not important?

What makes a life important enough to share with others? Do you have to sail around the world, brave death to bring the Word of God to people in the jungle, have won a medal in a war? What about the people who make a difference by not working so they can raise their children or who have lived 90 years in one town and have seen it grow up and change?

Everyone's life is important, and everyone has learned lessons and made a difference somehow. Some people might have wasted part of their life, but can now talk about how they have realized the importance of small moments. Some people may be able to share the importance of everyday family life.

It's like the little, everyday moments in life - they may not seem important at the time, but everything has a story to it, and everyone has something to share.

Think about your life - and do it in a positive way. Stop thinking about being unimportant and really contemplate how you have made a difference and what you have learned. Don't even try to say you're not important, because you are. In the eyes of God, in the eyes of people who care about you, you are important.

You have a story that is all your own. No one will ever repeat your exact life, so you have something special to offer.

Your story is important.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunny Days

I was driving in to the office yesterday, and the weather was dreary.

The sky was the same dull gray it has been most of the winter. The gray roads were covered in a gray slush. The little towns looked just as gray and bleak as the rest of their surroundings.

I looked up into the sky and caught a glimpse of the sun through the clouds. It wasn't bright, and it wasn't doing much. However, I realized that even though I could hardly see the sun, it was doing plenty for the day. It was obviously daytime; I could see easily. Even though the sun wasn't making a huge difference it was definitely creating a brighter scene than the moon does at night.

I thought about how the sun could be doing even more if the clouds would just clear up. It could warm up the landscape and give everyone a smile, just because it was bright and cheery.

Sin is kind of like the clouds I saw. When we sin, it puts a barrier between us and God. It's not so much a barrier that means we aren't Christians; he is still making a difference in our lives, turning night to day. However, he could be doing more.

If we would only clear away the clouds in our lives and let the son do his job, it could be bright and cheery and a type of weather that we all cherish.

Instead, much of the time we are living in a dreary day. We can live with it, but no one really enjoys it, and enough dreary days in a row can really get you down.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

True Friends

Accepting people for who they are, now that's true friendship!

Credit: Disney Pixar

Friday, March 4, 2011

(It's not) All About Me, All About I

They say opposites attract, however, I've heard from many people that you need someone like you to make a relationship work.

Well, Nate and I definitely are going with the first thought, as we are opposite in many ways. One of the biggest differences we have is our social personality. Nate loves spending time with other people - online, on the phone, playing video games on Xbox Live. I could spend all my time with him and him alone and probably be just fine.

Through the years, I have gone through spurts where I have struggled with his need to spend time with other people so much. I want to monopolize most of his time, but he needs to get out. Sometimes I get frustrated when I start thinking only about what I want and not what he needs.

That's the thing about relationships - even those people who are the most similar are still different in some ways - we all have to make sacrifices.

When we start focusing on our own wants and desires, we tend to overlook what our love wants and desires. The happiest moments I have are when I am doing what Nate wants, because it makes me feel fulfilled to fulfill someone else.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Sometimes that means loving people the way you want to be loved. Sometimes that means loving people in the way that they need to be loved, even if that is not the way that you feel loved.

Like I talked about with the different love languages, we all have different needs and desires. And it's important to realize that what you want may not be what you partner wants. Creating a successful relationship isn't about pleasing yourself, it's about focusing on the person that you love, just as Jesus focused on us instead of himself.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cheating the system

When I worked as a waitress at a country club during the summer one of my years in college, we clocked in and out on one of the computers where we placed orders.

The clock rounded to the nearest 15 minutes. So 3:07 would round to 3:00 and 3:08 would round to 3:15.

People would stand in front of the computer waiting for the clock to get to the next minute that would round up so they would get paid for those few extra minutes.

Now, I don't clock into a system, but I am supposed to keep track of my hours to the closest 15 minutes as well.

I am not one of those people to get off at 4:53 and count is as 5:00 though. If I say 5:00, I will work until 5:00. I'm not going to say I'm perfect and then I've never taken off two or three minutes early, but I really try to stay until the exact time that I write or make sure that I work a couple extra minutes tomorrow if I work a couple minutes less today.

It might not seem like a big deal to grab a few extra minutes, but I think about it as more than just a day. Let's say you take off 5 minutes early every day, and round that to the nearest quarter hours.

Five minutes times five days a week means 25 minutes you took advantage off that week. Twenty-five minutes times four weeks per month means you took 100 minutes that you didn't work. One hundred minutes times 12 months a year, means 1,200 minutes. Your work is paying you for 20 hours that you didn't actually work.

As Christians, we should hold ourselves accountable to not even steal a few minutes here and there. Not stealing is so important to even be one of the ten commandments.

Even if everyone else is grabbing five minutes here and there, you don't want to steal money for 20 hours that you didn't put in each year. You don't want to steal anything.

So, even something that looks small right now can add up if you think about it in the long run.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I don't feel like it

Yesterday, I just didn't feel like working.

Now, to be honest, there are plenty of days when I don't feel like working. I don't think I am alone in this. Unless you are truly blessed, you probably don't ever look forward to going to work. However, there are just those days when you say, I don't want to!

Instead of working I could have slept late. I could have watched movies or TV. I could have gone for a walk in the sunny weather. I could have read a good book. I could have gone shopping. I could have colored a picture. I could have painted some picture frames. I could have taken some pictures.

I could have done anything I wanted to.

Instead, I had to put in my time on the job, raking in the dough (not). I didn't have a choice. As I work on a deadline, I don't get days where I can just sit back and laze around. I have to start my work whether I want to or not. Sometimes, that is frustrating.

If life were based on feelings, I don't think we would get anything done. We wouldn't want to work or clean or volunteer or donate money or work out problems or anything.

Sometimes, feelings are hard to overcome. Who knows where feelings even come from. It seems like they are in the pit of our stomachs or the bottom of our hearts, but really they somehow come from our minds.

I know that listening to feelings is not the way to live. Feelings are a part of our sinful nature for the most part, and I have to do what is right, what I am supposed to do instead of listening to the whimsy of my feelings.

But sometimes, many times, I just don't feel like doing what I am supposed to do.