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Showing posts from June, 2009

Who are You?

I’m sure you’ve heard some version of the phrase, “Character is who you are when no one is looking.”

It makes sense, right? Everyone can put on a show, wear a mask, blend in. In fact, we wear different masks for different crowds. We may want to appear one way at church, and another at school or work. Our families may see an entirely different side of us altogether.

Who are you when no one’s looking? A better question is, do you behave differently when you are alone than when you are with people? What’s your motivation? Is it to please others, impress them, or control them?

I always thought that phrase meant you shouldn’t steal or cheat or gossip. Usually, these are things that are not done out in the open anyway. If you try to steal when someone’s looking, you’re either a horrible thief or you’ve just won an accomplice. At least that’s how it goes when it comes to the cookie jar.

Cheating is something I was rarely tempted to do in school. I hear students today say that …

Fillin' Buckets

Have you read the book, “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton? It was required reading by my company a few years ago, and I was surprised to discover my son learning the same concepts in kindergarten.

The premise is this: Everyone has a bucket. When it’s full, you feel good. When it’s empty, you feel bad. You fill others’ buckets by doing things that make them feel good. You take away from their buckets when you do things that cause negative feelings. Your own bucket is filled when you fill others’ or when they add to yours.

Although this much my 6-year old could grasp, it gets more complicated. The same things that fills some people’s buckets may not fill others. For example, words of affirmation may fill one person’s bucket more, and gifts may fill someone else’s more. Also, based on this concept, you have to make choices about spending time with people, depending on whether or not they tend to give to or take away from your bucket. You also have the …

Weeding

I don’t know what it is about a breeze through my hair and dirt between my toes that makes me wax philosophical, but here I go again!This afternoon I was standing at the corner of the “garden” I had reluctantly agreed to start a month ago.I was reluctant because the only place I have a green thumb is on the online game Farmtown, and I think all my crops have wasted away there, too.When a friend recently asked me to water her plants while she was out of town, it took me five days to remember (Sorry Lisa!).I kicked off my shoes, there at the corner of the garden, and rolled up my sleeves to avoid a farmer’s tan, as ironic as that is.Then, blade by blade, I began pulling grass and weeds from around my tiny, fragile, carrot plants.I began to think how I needed to start pulling some weeds in my life.I have some bad habits.I like to eat, pretty much whenever food is available.Sometimes I’m actually hungry, but other times I’m looking for comfort or something to do.I also have a short fuse a…

Roller Coaster 10

Continued from 6/19 post…Wendy opened the bathroom door and brushed past her mother. She found a granola bar in the kitchen and stuffed it in her purse. She even found an old Gideon New Testament she had been given in elementary school. She gave her mom a light kiss on the cheek and headed outside.The air was hot and muggy, even this early in the morning. She decided to walk. She hadn’t been in a church building since Christmas. She was starting to second-guess her brilliant plan to win God’s favor so He would grant her wish. Yet, her sandaled feel kept moving forward down the sidewalk, and the steeple seemed to grow taller and taller. It sure was pretty in the morning light. Suddenly she turned. She could have sworn she heard someone calling her name. It was coming from the parking lot of the church. Someone was waving at her. “Wendy!” he called again, as he began to run toward her.She finally recognized her greeter. It was Jason from the hospital, looking quite hand…

Anything Exciting?

“Anything exciting happen today?” my husband asked.

I hate that question. For the record, no, nothing exciting happened at the nursing home today. Or at my parents’ house. My life is full of lists and schedules, rituals and responsibilities. I am officially in a rut.

I should count my blessings, right? My husband is caring, affectionate, and one hundred percent faithful. My children are beautiful and brilliant. My family and friends are always there for me. My work provides variety and a steady income. I am in good health and have a strong faith. What on earth do I have to complain about?

TV shows are fun. Shows like CSI and House are suspenseful and exciting. It’s also usually a happy ending, at least the mystery is solved. Probably the “vic” doesn’t feel like it’s very happy. The internet is fun, but hardly exciting.

I suppose, compared to TV, I should be thankful I’ve never come down with a mysterious illness, been kidnapped, been raped, been shot at, been cheated on, wondered who my d…

“Serenity Now!”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”I’ve decided the serenity prayer could answer many of life’s problems. It is often used in AA meetings and other 12-step programs to overcome addictions and repair broken lives.There are things we cannot change. We cannot change the way we were created, including our face, body shape, and personality. We cannot change our heritage, either our family or our past. We cannot change the actions or feelings of others. We cannot change the weather or the natural laws of the universe. There are a lot of things that can be changed. We can change our appearance. We can choose our attitudes and our actions. We can choose to make peace with the past, forgiving others, and making up for our mistakes. We can influence others to do what is right. We can plan for the unexpected. How do we know the difference? That can be harder. I am sure I could have plastic surgeo…

Looking “Up”

Usually, when I leave the movie theatre with my kids, I ask them if they liked the movie, and what their favorite parts were. Tonight, I was compelled to ask a different question.“What did you learn from the movie?” I asked my children. “What did we learn?” my daughter asked, her face contorted into that “what are you talking about” look. “Yeah. What did the main character do right?” I asked.“He kept his promises,” she replied, her voice ending high as if it were a question rather than an answer. Then we digressed into a discussion of whether her brother broke his promises. After we settled that matter, I asked my son what he learned. “That a house is just a house,” was his response. I had forgotten the “people over things” theme. I could have come up with a dozen more. Carpe Diem, or seize the day. Life is an adventure. People (and animals) enter your life for a reason. My husband and I had splurged on an evening at the movies because we have so few nights together as …

Looking for Love

Fox is coming out with a show called More to Love. It’s a version of The Bachelor with plus size participants.Although I am glad that this is a reality show with large women that is not trying to make them lose weight to be more attractive, the ads show women who talk about how they just want to feel beautiful, loved, and wanted. So they decide to compete with 19 other women for the love of a stranger on national TV?Ladies, ladies, ladies! First of all, the ladies they profiled were already beautiful. They don’t need a man’s approval to feel that way. Secondly, everyone wants to feel loved, but if you don’t feel lovable, you’ll never accept love from someone else.Our society is messed up. In America, women strive for thin and busty with tanned, clear, wrinkle-free skin. The few women who are able to meet that standard go to great lengths to achieve it, including surgically altering their bodies. Why do we let a few magazine publishers and TV producers determine what we should …

First Aid for the Heart

Finished with my business at the hospital, I pushed open the massive door with the pretty green EXIT sign above it. I started heading down the three floors I had until I reached ground level. On the third step or so, my heel wobbled and I had to grab the handrail to steady myself. My imagination ran away with me. What if I had fallen? What if I had tumbled head over heels until I landed against the door of the third floor? How long would it take until someone came down that particular staircase? How long would I lay in a pool of my own blood, slowly dying? Or if I were able to make it out into the hallway, crawling on my hands and knees, dizzy from the concussion and dragging my broken leg behind me, would someone help me? With all the nurses and other hospital staff roaming the halls, would anyone stop? Or would they be too busy? Would they think I was being strange and call security? Would they stuff me in an elevator and send me to the ER? Or maybe just kick me down th…

Common Sense Dadisms

The following is a guest blog by my dad, Dallas Johnston:I’m no expert. I never read Parents Magazines. And my nature is to be short on patience and, at times, a fairly quick temper. But, I’ve always felt that most of parenting is “Common Sense”, which in general, is my forte. More important, I’ve felt from day one of becoming a Dad, that being a good parent is probably the most important thing I’ll do in my lifetime. Everyone is limited to the amount of impact they can have on the world, but your kids and their kids for generations to come can have a huge impact to make the world a better place.Become a working partner with Mom.. I learned this one from my parents. When one of you has “had it up to here”, the other needs to become stronger. When one of you loses their temper, the other needs to be the one to soften things up. There should be times when you can casually talk to each other about your kids. Take advantage of the opportunity to work as a team.Enjoy all the phases of your…

My Dad

In honor of Father’s day, I’m going to tell you about my dad. Tomorrow, I’ll let him speak for himself.My dad survived three girls growing up in his house. We always joked that he was badly outnumbered; even the dog was female.He has never indicated that he was dissatisfied raising three girls rather than any sons. His passion for sports was passed down, however. I started playing baseball when I was six, soccer when I was eight, and basketball when I was nine. I also ran my first 10K when I was nine, and started volleyball when I was ten. I believe there was also a gymnastics class, tennis lessons, and a never-ending golf game in there as well. As far as I can remember, Dad never missed a single game or meet. Sometimes he’d show up still dressed in his 3-piece suit, and find his place on the bleachers. He has a deep, strong voice, and I could always hear him cheering me on. He would often kick me off the couch at home and get me out tossing a softball, shooting some hoops, …

Roller Coaster 9

Continued from 6/12 post…Wendy slept fitfully for the rest of the afternoon and into the night. She didn’t want to leave her oasis in the dark living room. She never heard her mom come in. Every time she awakened, she would try to get back to sleep, to escape the pain. At 3:00 in the morning, her mind wouldn’t allow her any more sleep. She stared straight up at the ceiling. She felt so hollow, so desperate for answers. “God?”There was no answer. She felt a little silly, speaking into the darkness, but felt compelled to continue. “I know. I haven’t talked to you since I was a kid. I just don’t know where else to turn.”She paused, taking a deep breath. “God, I love my daddy. I can’t imagine my life without him. Please let him make it. Take away the cancer. Please, God.”She stared into the darkness. There were no flashes of light, no ringing bells, no indication her prayer had reached past the ceiling of her house. She knew it was irrational to believe that God would do…

Big Daddy

She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders
It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you
There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"
So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...
Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, Cinderella, is a beautiful portrayal of what a good dad looks like. I’ve seen some bad dads lately: dads who are apathetic, abusive, or absent. It breaks my heart, because dads have such an important role to play in their children’s lives.Even though moms are reputed to be the primary nurturers and caregivers, dads or dadlike figures a…

In His Hands

You’re in the back seat, arguing with your sibling over who’s turn it is to play with the cheap kid’s meal toy. Suddenly, your body jerks forward as your loving parent slams on the brakes. Does this sound familiar to anyone?It’s one of those parent discipline techniques I’ve kept for my repertoire. Only, today, it didn’t work so well.I was running late to double little league games and my children were arguing: “Let me see it!”“It’s mine!”“Let me see it!”“It’s mine!” This continued for at least a minute before I found a grassy shoulder, checked for any traffic behind me and then did the brake slam.The car didn’t stop. It slowed and eventually stopped in the grass. It felt like it does when you hit a patch of snow or ice and you eventually slow when the tire meets pavement. Except it’s June. The kids didn’t even stop their arguing. I wondered if it was a one-time thing. Finally I asked who the toy belonged to and pronounced judgment that she could do what she wanted with it.…

Cell Phone Safety

I wanted to share some insight regarding wet cell phones. You see, my phone is now kaput because I just didn’t know what you are supposed to do when your cell phone meets water.Don’t wait three hours to use the restroom just because you’re afraid of little league bathrooms. Don’t put your cell phone in an unzipped jacket pocket. Don’t use the restroom while wearing your jacket when your cell phone is in your jacket pocket. Have quick reflexes when your phone falls out of your jacket pocket and drops toward the toilet. Do remove the phone from the water or liquid immediately. Do not rinse off the phone because it is icky from toilet water. Do remove the battery immediately. Do not use a hair dryer set on the highest temperature to evaporate the water from your cell phone. Turns out heat is as bad as water for cell phones. Do wipe off as much water as possible with a soft towel. Do not leave your wet phone on the bathroom sink while you look up “how to save a wet cell phone” on the …

Better than Rubies

“For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” –Proverbs 8:11Wisdom is difficult to understand or appreciate. In a society where truth is considered an arbitrary subject, and tolerance is valued more highly than what is right, wisdom becomes something of past generations, gained merely be life experience.Even though I seek wisdom, I don’t ever feel wise. It seems like daily I have decisions to make and I rarely feel confident that I’m choosing the right path. I have this twisted desire to interfere in the lives of others- to give them advice or provide for them- and never know for sure what the right thing to do is.I am also horrible at organizing my time, things, or finances. I know what I value, but it’s difficult to make tough decisions. For example, I play flute in the church orchestra. I originally signed up to get my husband involved. The problem is, I haven’t played in a group since sixth grade. It’s like a 12 year old trying to …

To Date or Not to Date

It was a friendly debate. Should you go out on a date with someone if there is no initial spark of attraction?On the one hand, if you’re not attracted to someone, why spend the time getting to know him or her if you’re sure it’s not going to become more than a friendship?On the other hand, how do you know if someone has an attractive personality if you don’t take the time to find out? Or, another side of this argument may be, why not date just for fun?As a person who has been out of the dating game for over a decade, my views may be a little old fashioned. And wishy washy. After all, my answer would be, “it depends.”First of all, it depends whether you are male or female. A male’s initial attraction to someone is probably 95 percent physical. It may be the color of her hair, her smile, her eyes, and oh, yes, definitely her body. Although it will be shaped by his culture, what he finds attractive in the opposite sex will be highly individualized. On behalf of the many women who…

The Darkness

Dark clouds frame the softball field; my daughter is preparing to play another game.  I remember yesterday, when the hot, bright sunshine made the world to seem to glitter.  Colors were brighter, and shapes were enhanced by contrasting shadows.  At church, our pastor has been preaching out of 1 John.  1 John 1:5 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  Even though there is no darkness in God, there is God in the darkness.  Sometimes He’s hard to find, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.  Like the sun in the thunderstorm, God still exists, obstructed from view by the storms and circumstances of life.  When the darkness is within, seeping into our very souls, it may take a fight to find God.  For anyone else that battles depression, you know that anything can set off that downward spiral of hopelessness and helplessness.  You start to doubt that you are loved and created for a purpose- doubting the very character of God.  It takes superhuman effort (and supernatural …

Roller Coaster 8

Continued from 6/5 post…Wendy navigated her bike down the stairway, focusing on one stair at a time.  She felt numb, and that was okay.  She was tired of feeling, of thinking… anything.  She wheeled her bike past the disapproving lady at the front desk, ignoring the glare she felt emanating from that direction.When she finally arrived outside the hospital, she took a deep breath.  She felt lighter and freer, as if she had just released from a dark musty closet.  She slowly mounted her bike and started to pedal home.  When she arrived at her house, she left her bike on the front lawn.  Her dad would disapprove, but he wasn’t around right now.  She found her spot on the couch, the afghan still spilled unevenly over the cushions, the half empty bag of chips on the coffee table, the remote lying skewed on the floor.Wendy suddenly felt very tired.  She kicked off her shoes, leaving them in the middle of the living room floor.  She pulled the blanket almost entirely over her head, wishing s…

Still Raining

Rain. It’s still raining. It’s been raining almost nonstop for the last 16 hours. It’s funny how rain is a good thing when it’s been dry, or if it takes the place of snow. However, when it’s summer time, and there are ballgames to be played and swings to be swung and parks to visit and beaches to play and outside parties to plan… rain becomes the enemy.If I could stay home all day in front of the fireplace with a good mystery novel, listening to the rain drum on the roof or the window pane, I would be perfectly content with an all day rain. In fact, a colorful thunderstorm would be even better, with all the drama of booming crashes and blinding flashes of light. As it is, I got wet walking my daughter to the school so she can catch the bus to her summer art class. Although my giant umbrella was perfect for that walk, it was a little hard to maneuver in and out of the minivan when going to and from work and lunch. On the way home from child care, my daughter removed her shoes and ran t…

Daddy’s Girl

She’s a blaze of lightening on the basketball court. She dribbles down the center of the court, passing off to a guard posted on the three-point line and then running to make a pick at the baseline. She rolls in toward the basket, arms out and ready for the pass. The ball comes to her on a bounce. She takes a step and drives straight up to the basket, banking the ball off the backboard and into the hoop. The buzzer sounds. Melissa bounds toward the locker room with the rest of her team, meeting their hands with high fives. It’s half time and the Hawks are now up by two. On the way out of the gym, her coach slaps her on the back, square on her number 22.She listens intently to the coach’s talk, habitually biting on her nails as he discusses his plan for tightening the defense. As soon as he closes his speech, the team gathers around for quick cheer. “Fly Hawks fly!”Melissa runs back on to the court. There’s still a few minutes to shoot before the game starts. She plays her …

Mom’s Musings

Sometimes I worry about what kind of mom I am. I don’t spend inordinate amounts of time with my children. Sometimes I yell at them. Sometimes I say things I shouldn’t about people or situations that frustrate me. Sometimes I forget to keep up with their papers, projects, and events from school and activities. Sometimes I shut myself up in my room for some alone time. When it comes down to it, I am largely responsible, along with my husband, for the kind of people my children become. By helping support their interests and abilities as they grow, we give them tools to become what they are created to be. By instructing and disciplining, we teach them what is and is not appropriate in the social arena. It’s more than turning my children into responsible citizens, however.Whether I like it or not, their view of the world is colored by their interaction with me. When I show them affection, they feel how great it is to be loved. When I laugh with them, they learn how to find joy. …

From Different Planets?

At one point in my life, I believed there was no fundamental difference between males and females, with the obvious physical exceptions. I was a 10-year-old feminist. I believed I could play football, excel in math, run fast, become president, and win a fist fight as well as any boy I knew. I rebelled against the idea that my passions and talents might be limited by people who made up arbitrary rules about which sports, activities or classes I could participate in.I still feel the hairs on the back of my neck bristle when people, especially children, are encouraged to behave in a particular way simply due to their gender. Let them play with whatever they want to, whether it’s trucks or dolls or blocks or crayons. Don’t let “boys be boys” and allow rude behavior or destruction. Don’t make girls “act like a lady” and prevent them from playing in dirt or running around. As I grew older, I began to see that there were some general differences between men and women. While I could play foot…

Where Am I Going?

If you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there. That sounds obvious, but even in the everyday, simple things of life, it can be a little bit of a challenge to figure out your destination and the best path to get there. Suppose, for example, if someone were to be headed to church for a youth meeting, and instead started driving to work without thinking about it, even though it was a Sunday evening. That person would not have made it to the church if she had not suddenly asked, “Where am I going?”In life, you have to decide where you want to go before you start moving in one direction or another. If you don’t have a goal, you will waste a lot of time and energy doing things you don’t really care about.With summertime in northern Indiana comes construction. Even though I know that my usual route to work is blocked off, it took a few times driving to a dead end street before I learned to turn at the intersection prior to the construction site. You have to learn f…

Benefits of Sleep

Everyone knows that sleep deprivation can cause problems. When I’m in need of sleep, I feel drained and lethargic. I don’t concentrate well and I tend to be irritable. In order to persuade myself to get a few extra z’s, I’ve been researching the health benefits of sleep.Heart HealthApparently the cycle of sleep does something to keep cholesterol levels and blood pressure down. What would happen to the pharmacy industry if we treated high blood pressure with more sleep? Cancer PreventionMelatonin needs dark and quiet to be produced in the body. Without it, we don’t get sleepy, and we are at a higher risk for cancer. Sleep also allows the body to repair damaged cells and reduce inflammation in the body. Stress ReductionWhen we’re well rested, our bodies are less likely to produce stress hormones that can cause inflammation in the body and also make it difficult to sleep. Sleep also refreshes the mind to deal with problems in new ways.AlertnessSleeping refreshes the mind and the body, al…

Roller Coaster 7

Continued from 5/29 post…Wendy felt the tears fill her eyes. She hurriedly looked away and blinked, regaining composure. When she turned back, she was looking right into Jason’s eyes. The mischievous glint was gone, and instead she saw deep blue eyes, filled with concern and compassion… for her? She didn’t understand how a stranger could care so much.“I… I’m not,” she finally blurted out. “I’m not ready for this. I don’t want to let go.” A sob welled up deep within her, and she felt weak in the knees. Without a word, he drew her into a brief hug, holding her for just a moment as the tears began to fall, then gently pushing her to arms length. “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. No one expects you to be strong all the time.” He spoke the truth, but she wasn’t ready to hear it. Wendy murmured a hurried “excuse me” and brushed past him. She swiped angrily at the tears, trying to find a place to hide. Just past the elevators she spotted a door with a restroom symbol. S…

Uprooted

Yesterday, driving down the street to work, I didn’t notice all the stumps along the side of the road. I knew there was a lot of construction, and the trees had been cut down to widen the road. Their remains had been left, leveled to the ground, for months now.Today there was a big yellow excavator blocking half the street. It was making it’s way up one side of the street, apparently using an arrowhead shaped attachment to dig up the stumps of the trees that had once lined the street.The stumps, turned upside down with roots exposed, were huge, gnarly monstrosities aligned along the road.Sometimes I wish I could see people’s roots. What is keeping them upright? Where have they drawn their strength and vitality from? Did they have to struggle to get what they needed out of life? Do their roots run deep or stretch out wide? Some people are ashamed of their roots, even though they are the basis of who we are. Our ancestors, our parents, our friends, and our faith are all parts of who we …

The Thinker

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How does a treeline form? I’m looking at the trees surrounding my kids’ school, and the tops form a fairly smooth line. You would think, with the wide variety of trees, it would be more uneven and choppy at the top. Instead, the line itself rises and falls in a series of shallow undulating waves, with all the trees right next to each other coming up to approximately the same height.I wonder if it has to do with the amount of sunlight available to the leaves. Maybe once the tree grows to the height of the surrounding trees, it no longer has to fight for sunlight. Maybe all the trees were planted at the same time, although my guess is that they were here before the school or the playground. Maybe the slope of the land affects the height of the trees, since it might affect how much water is collected in each place. I’m always thinking. It’s like the little “why” that started when I was a little girl never died. Usually I think about people or relationships or problems. Sometim…

“Gotta Make a Change”

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A song on the radio has been haunting me. It seems like every day I hear it, sometimes more than once. I’m not sure why, but I wonder if God’s trying to tell me something.“The Motions” by Matthew West:This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life
I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"
No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole…
The phrase that captures me the most is, “I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything…’” Isn’t that haunting? How would life be different if it was lived with complete abandon and unbridled passion? I …

Mad Pride

He asked to talk to me on the phone. I’m not sure why. He’s a former nursing home resident, known for his sexual innuendos, talking to himself, and refusing treatment for his schizophrenia for fear of impotence. He left against medical advice almost a year ago, and is back at the psychiatric hospital, needing a long term situation.As an employee at a nursing home, we often have to consider the issue of “competence.” At what point does a person lose his or her right to make decisions because they are no longer mentally capable of making them? Who makes the determination? How can nursing home residents lose their rights to choose treatment due to incompetence when they are lots of “incompetent” people living in our community who do not make decisions that serve their own best interests. Ray Sandford of St. Paul, Minnesota, is fighting for his right to forego his monthly electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments. A lot of people don’t know that some mental health professionals still use…