Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Give the Pounds Away

As I was perusing the articles at www.happynews.com, I came across a fantastic idea for everyone who has “lose weight” as one of their New Year’s resolutions.

For the last two years, Weight Watchers has had a “Lose for Good” campaign in which Weight Watchers members donate one pound of food to their local food pantry for every pound that they lose. In a 7- week period, the organization donated approximately two million pounds of food to local food drives.

I invite everyone who reads this article to do the same thing this year. For every pound you lose, donate a pound of food to the local food pantry. A pound of food is a can of green beans, a box of cereal, or a jar of peanut butter. It will help keep you on track for your own goals, and help you realize that food is primarily for sustenance, not necessarily for comfort or something to do or something to celebrate.

If you’re in, please join the Facebook group, Pound for Pound, Lose for Good. I was going to start my own, but Joaninha had already started one… so let’s join up! It will be interesting to track how much good we can do as a group.

Best wishes for 2010!

See this link for the story that caught my attention: http://us.cnn.com/video/?/video/health/2009/12/17/gupta.lose.for.good.cnn

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions

I know a lot of people don’t do resolutions, because they’re all broken within the first 30 days (if not 30 hours).

I do them, and I actually spend some time thinking about it.  Even if I’m not able to keep any of them, it still provides goals for the future.  It’s more of a reorientation toward what and who I want to be.

Of course, being the highly idealistic and perfectionist person that I am, I’ll create resolutions that can’t be reached, but that’s okay.

In 2010, I want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Healthy:

  • I want to lose 15 pounds by the end of the year.
  • I want to exercise 3 times a week.
  • I want to sleep 7 hours a night. 
  • I want to not get sick.

Wealthy:

  • I want to start my own writing business.
  • I want to tithe weekly.
  • I want to pay off credit card debt.
  • I want to create a budget and stick to it.

Wise:

  • I want to read my Bible everyday.
  • I want to read books about starting a business.
  • I want to read classic literature.
  • I want to organize my house. 

I actually can think of a lot more, such as doing more good when given the opportunity, not yelling at my kids, and watching less television. 

I know my life won’t look exactly how I’d like it to in one year, but if I take a few steps forward, then I’m better off than I am today.  So bring on the new year and the new decade!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Way It’s Done

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  Have you read the book or seen the movie?  I’ve loved it since I was a child.

The book starts with the line:  “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”   The author goes on to describe the Herdmans- six children with virtually no parental supervision who are dirty, dishonest, uncouth, mean, and feared by their peers.  They end up in church looking for snacks, and find out about the annual Christmas pageant. 

The story pokes fun at church traditionalism- the Christmas pageant has been done the same way by the same person with the same children in the primary roles for years.  When a family of children who knows nothing about church rules or even the Christmas story itself decide they want to be a part, the entire congregation is thrown into a tizzy.  The woman drafted to take charge of the pageant fears that no one will even come to watch.  

The miracle is that finally, people do watch the pageant, and actually see it, perhaps for the first time.  It makes them think about the fact that maybe Mary wasn’t some pristine, rosy cheeked girl with long eyelashes and a serene expression.  Maybe Mary was a poor, dirty refugee with no money and no place to spend the night. 

All human institutions are going to be imperfect, even when Christ is supposed to be the head.  Like people, churches can miss the mark or even go astray.  Sometimes they get caught up in the way things are done rather than the reason that they started being done in the first place.

I want to issue a call to all churches in the new year to take a moment to evaluate what they’ve done in the past year.  Has it honored Christ?  Has it served others?  Has it increased growth among members?  What can we do in the next year to make the best use of our resources and reach the most people? 

We really don’t know how many Herdmans are out there- people who misbehave, because they’ve never been taught differently, who no one bothered to reach out to, because they seemed unreachable.

This year, may God open each of our eyes, to see the world and the church, as He sees it, and use us for His glory, to make both places a little brighter.   

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Take your Candle

I’ve witnessed it a dozen times, but it never ceases to amaze me.  The Christmas Eve service ended with candlelight.  The lights in the sanctuary were dimmed, and four individuals with tiny lit tapers made their way from the front to the back of the sanctuary, lighting the candles of the individuals standing on the aisles.  The light was passed from candle to candle.

Although it was gradual, it suddenly seemed as if someone had turned the lights back on.  Instead, it was the tiny candle-flame-sized lights, a hundred or so, spread throughout the large room, that had illuminated the room to an unbelievable brightness.

In the same way, it sometimes seems like our small contribution doesn’t make a difference in a cold, dark world.  A single candle in a dark room only illuminates a small corner.  Yet, when we share what we have- whether it’s love, joy, encouragement, or service- the light is shared among many and gets a little brighter. 

As trite as it may sound, the world would be a brighter place if we kept the spirit of Christmas- the giving, loving, sharing, and general goodwill- year round.  With Christ as the source of the flame, even one small candle can make a difference. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Wishes

I wish…

Christmas candies and cookies were calorie free.

Christmas gifts would teleport themselves to my home.

I could read minds when choosing Christmas gifts.

There was a special shopping time for just me so I could avoid the crowds.

Snow stayed on the grass and trees and off the roads.

I had more red to wear.

For an automatic gift wrapper.

Everyone knew that I love their Christmas cards, even if they’ve never received one from me.

Everyone could be home for Christmas.

All houses had outdoor Christmas lights.

People still caroled to their neighbors.

Everyone could be healed for Christmas.

A new pair of gloves.

A super-deluxe car scraper.

An automatic car warmer.

Safe travel for everybody.

A Christmas Eve service to make you think.

Joy to the world.

Peace on Earth

Goodwill to men (and women)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Talking Snow People

I was ill-prepared for snow at my in-laws’ house.  Even though I tried to step in my husband’s shoe prints, my suede flats were damp before I made it to the minivan. 

As the windshield wipers pushed away an evening collection of snow, I noticed it was a heavy snow, the nice wet kind of snow that is perfect for creating snow men (or women).

It has been years since I’ve tried to make a snow man.  Having an extreme distaste for cold in general, I’ve never found the right combination of mild weather, wet snow, and opportunity. 

As a child, our yard would be criss-crossed with lanes in the snow where my two sisters and I rolled snow balls from baseball size to exercise ball size.  We never planned ahead, and it wasn’t too long before we were traipsing through the house in our snow-covered boots, asking for a carrot and a scarf and hat to complete the snow man.

Sticks from the yard and rocks from the rock garden completed the look.  I’d position the arms and make eyes and a great big smile.  My snow men always smiled. 

Although I always imagined it could happen, I would have been shocked if my creation came to life, moving and speaking to me, maybe even saying, “Happy Birthday!”

What if my snow man did come to life, but wasn’t a wide-eyed, playful person like Frosty?  What if he complained about the color of his hat or the length of his arms?  What if he decided I had created him too fat or too tall or forgot to give him hair?  What if the created began to question the creator?

I know I’ve been guilty of questioning my creator.  I’ve wished for better looks, more talent, and more opportunities. 

The words from a hymn, “Have Thine Own Way,” by Adelaide Pollard, came to me last night, as I was praying for guidance.  "Thou are the Potter, I am the clay/ Mold me and make me after thy will/ While I am waiting, yielded and still.” 

I know exactly what I want for my life.  It doesn’t mean it’s the best for me or that’s what I’m created for.  My view is tainted by the world I live in.  Only when I allow the Creator to build me up from a patch of wet snow to something wonderful, will I be able to come to life and reach my full potential.  Happy birthday!

Friday, December 18, 2009

On the Road Again

Random thoughts while traveling down the highway on the way to a family gathering six hours away:

What do truckers do on Christmas?

Delilah on the radio says she’s going sledding and skiing this weekend, and wants us to take her along whatever we’re doing this weekend.  Is she going to have a radio on her while she skis down the mountain?  I doubt it. 

How many different Christmas traditions are there?  Christmas lights, Christmas trees, exchanging Christmas gifts, baking Christmas cookies, Christmas parties, Christmas Eve services, Christmas cards, Christmas concerts… is it more admirable to be able to get them all done, or to do as little as possible?

Why do business owners have “OPEN” signs if they leave them on when they’re clearly not open?

“Am I toxic?”  asked the billboard.  I don’t know, but I’m not getting a colonic!

Is a Christmas tree really a tree when it’s just a cone of lights topped with a star?

I love that someone’s put words to Pachabel’s canon!  “On this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night…”

How come the lane of traffic you’re traveling in is always the slow one?

Why is the abbreviation for the pancake house IHOP when you can not hop or hardly walk when you leave there?

Why is there a bench sitting at the corner of a US highway and State Road?  Is anyone really going to sit there?

A snowman on a motorcycle.  In real life, that would be a bad combination. 

I wonder how much plane tickets for this trip would have cost me.  Twelve hour trip squeezed into a weekend?  Sheesh.

I wonder if people get freaked out when their insurance company puts their faces on giant billboards along a major highway.  I would.

When you’re sleepy, and the road is curvy, it can look like cars on the other side of the highway are coming right at you. 

I feel a lot more comfortable when I’m using a cell phone while driving than when I’m the passenger and the driver pulls out his cell.

How come a store called “All About Brides” has tuxedos and prom dresses?  It’s not really all about brides, now is it?

Do I really have to get vaccinated from diseases like whooping cough as an adult?  When did that take effect?  Didn’t I do that once already?

“O Holy Night” is a tough song to attempt if you’re recovering from laryngitis. 

Well, 2.5 hours down.  3.5 to go.  *Sigh*  Good night!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does He Exist?

Legendary figures have a hard time around our house.  Santa has to borrow our wrapping paper to wrap presents for our kids.  He also does not have elves equipped to make electronic toys, so a Nintendo DS is out of the question. 

The tooth fairy is a late riser.  In fact, she sometimes wakes up after the child who has lost his or her tooth, and has to sneak in the dark hours of early morning while the child is busy in the restroom. 

The Easter bunny doesn’t even come to our house, but goes all the way to my parents house to hide eggs for Easter.  The Great Pumpkin, Cupid, Father Time… my children don’t even know they exist. 

What would childhood be like without all our fun friends?  What would it be like without staying up late on Christmas eve to try to hear reindeer on the roof, or trying to figure out why Santa’s handwriting on the thank you note for the cookies is so similar to Dad’s?  What would it be like to not believe that your teeth were really worth money to some winged collector?  What would it be like to not imagine the devious plottings of a giant bunny who knows more hiding places in your backyard than you do?

Sometimes I miss the freedom, wonder, and imagination of childhood.  I miss living in a world where anything is possible, where toys talk, where reindeer fly, and wishes come true.  I miss the stories and the play where the possibilities are endless. 

So, I’ve grown up, and realize that some characters are fictional, or at the very least, alive in the hearts of children.  I know there are limitations to what I can physically accomplish, and that sometimes a wish remains a wish.

Grown or not, I still believe in love, in giving, and in miracles.  That is the real spirit of Christmas.  Because over 2000 years ago, God gave us the miracle of His son in a tiny human package, out of love for His people, a desire for a relationship with them, and redeem them as His own. 

I have my own Christmas miracles I am praying for, and they can’t be wrapped in paper.  May God continue to richly bless His children this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do Over

I love a fresh start.  I love the start of a new day, with an expanse of time stretched before me, a list of “To Do”s in hand that may or not get done.  I love the start of a new week, full of promises that I will begin a new habit, such as exercise, again.  I love it when the calendar flips and there’s a new month, with it’s annual celebrations and traditions.  I love a new year, a starting point for destinations unknown, a renewal of vows to accomplish new things.

Even though I can’t travel backwards in time, there’s a sense of “mulligan” when a new period of time begins.  What has been done is done and can’t be changed.  What is to come, I have some control over.  Whatever I didn’t like about the way I handled a situation or managed my time yesterday or last week, I can do better this time around.  I can learn from my experience and make today better than yesterday.

Of course, it’s probably one way I tend to procrastinate, also.  I’ll plan to start to work on that project or that habit when I can have a fresh start.  The problem is that there’s always a new time to come that seems more promising than the present, and as the saying goes, “Tomorrow never comes.”

A New Year is approaching, however, and I have big hopes for it.  Instead of making a long list of resolutions, however, I think I’ll buckle down and make some actual goals.  I don’t mean airy, vague goals like “lose some weight” or “read more.”  I mean, looking where I’d like to be ten years down the road and figuring out what I can do today (not tomorrow) to get there.

Maybe I’ll start working on those goals next week.  This week’s way too full!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Banana Bandit

It was my last stop for the day.  The parking garage at the hospital had been more crowded than usual.  I didn’t stop at the information desk but headed straight toward the designated elevator.

As I passed an older couple going down the ramp, I gave them the usual nod and smile.  My smile broadened into a grin, however, when, the gentleman, trailing slightly behind the woman, pointed a banana at me and gave me the semblance of a menacing look.  I wondered if his wife knew that he was playing “stick up” at passersby with a fruit behind her back. 

As I contemplated the incongruity of the situation and headed up on the elevator, I thought about how nice it was for someone to have a sense of humor in a place that can be marked by dour expressions.  As a dropped off a get well card for a resident, I noticed the family members gathered in the waiting room for the critical care unit.  I hoped I never had to spend a day there, waiting anxiously for news about my loved one.

As I turned to get back on the elevator, I noticed a bowl of fruit and snacks beside the coffee machine.  A banana was conspicuously absent from the bowl.  Was my wannabe outlaw friend returning home after a long day of supporting a family member in need? 

A sense of play and adventure may be the best medicine for times of stress.  In fact, being playful is actually one of the characteristics of a resilient person.  Not only does a little play relieve stress, you can take life’s challenges in stride when you’re willing to laugh at yourself or the situation.

In addition, a little play may brighten someone else’s day, like the Banana Bandit did for me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Motherly Focus

I was walking through the hospital entrance, and I noticed an adorable Hispanic boy, probably about two years old, with a red cell phone pressed to his face, his mother hovering nearby, monitoring the conversation. 

I completed my business and headed back the same way about half an hour later.  The two were still there, keeping each other occupied.  I wondered what would keep a young mother sitting by the hospital entrance with her young child.  Were they waiting for a ride?  Was another family member visiting someone in the hospital, with the “no minors” visiting rule in effect? 

Whatever the reason for the extended stay, the mother was perched on a backless couch right outside the sliding doors of the main entrance, surrounded with a diaper bag overflowing with toys and other child paraphernalia, totally focused on meeting the needs of her child.  She didn’t seem bothered by the situation, or the looks of passersby like myself.  Her concern was that child, and nothing else seemed to matter.

I remember as a new mother how easy it was to be so focused on the needs of my young child that nothing around me mattered.  Even though my children are now school aged, I will not hesitate to do the right thing for them, no matter what anyone around me might think about my words or actions.

I wonder if that’s how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was.  I’ll bet she didn’t care what people thought about her bringing a child into the world inside a stable.  She was most likely more concerned about the well-being of that newborn baby than her own pain and exhaustion.  I’m sure she was nothing but proud as she and her new family were on display to a menagerie of strange visitors, both animal and human, that came to see the newborn Messiah.

This Christmas, I will also try to keep my focus on Jesus.  Like the first Christmas, there are a lot of things going on to distract me.  It’s tempting to view the Christmas season as something to survive:  to attend the right parties and buy the right gifts and keep all the traditions.  Instead of worrying what other people will think about how I choose to celebrate or share Christmas, I’m just going to focus on Him. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Y Not Here?

For some reason, writing at the Y while my daughter has basketball practice is harder than I imagined. 

I’m not in the gym.  Cold metal bleachers were not designed for the human seat. Instead, I’m in the main hallway that leads to the aerobics and cardio rooms, seated on a tall stool at a tiny glass table with my laptop.  I’m watching some entirely too energetic people engaged in step aerobics. 

To my right are old pictures from Y days gone by.  I see a bowling team, a calisthenics class or two, several swimmers, and team pictures of young boys that could be from today if it weren’t for the baggy uniforms and horn rimmed glasses.

To my left is the service counter where four employees are talking.  They’ve started talking about computers, and I wonder if it’s because of me.  I always think people are talking about me.  I wonder how much they get paid and what their hours are and how much work they actually do.

I’m feeling guilty for not thinking ahead enough to bring some workout clothes for myself.  I could use a good run on the elliptical or the treadmill, or maybe do a circuit in the weight room.  I haven’t run for five days.  I feel like a big sloth… a big sloth with a sick husband and a messy house and three days until the big sleepover party.

There are all kinds at the Y.  There are the totally sculpted girls who make workouts seem effortless, couples in sweats, teens wandering the halls, muscle-bound men in sleeveless shirts, older folks, heavier folks… all kinds of folks.  A little girl just came from the gym telling her mom, who is still clothed in scrubs, about what she learned in gymnastics. 

There’s something to be said for a place where different kinds of people can get together because they share a common purpose.  I think “kudos” is the word.  Too bad I don’t share that purpose right now!