Wednesday, June 20, 2012

True Self Esteem

I have a few questions for you, my reader.  I'll keep this short and sweet... no, really this time!

Has anyone ever paid you a compliment?

If you answered that with a yes, then let's get more specific.

Has anyone who really likes you paid you a compliment?

I'm not talking about some flatterer who says something nice about everyone.  I'm talking about someone who spends time with you when you aren't feeling very well.  I'm talking about someone who has seen you cry.  For girls, I'm talking about someone who can tell you honestly if that dress makes you look fat and you won't get angry at them.  For guys, I'm talking about someone who can beat you, but still wants to play with you anyway.

Have they ever paid you a compliment?

Now my final question.

Did you believe them or did you listen to what they said and then blow it off?

Here's what I've learned.  If someone you trust pays you a compliment, it's probably true.  It's time for you to stop shaking your head, or denying it, or thinking, "They're only saying that because they like me."  Yes!!! They are saying it because they LIKE you.  If they didn't like you then they wouldn't say it.  In order for them to like you, you must have been like-able at some point.

The next time someone you trust pays you a compliment, OWN IT!!!  Say to yourself, "Yeah, that's me."

Now, here's the most important part... I'm not saying all this to turn everyone into prideful morons.  Because once you truly believe that you are awesome, your job is to make everyone around you feel awesome too.  True self esteem is not just walking around feeling great about yourself.  It's being so confident in your unique abilities that you don't waste time thinking about yourself anymore.  It's being so confident in your unique abilities that you start using that awesomeness to help others find their unique abilities.

So from now on:

If someone tells you you're awesome, smile and say thank you... and mean it.  Then think about someone you love, someone who trusts you, and tell them they're awesome.  And, once you convince your friends that they're awesome, start making new friends, and convince them that they're awesome.

Oh, and by the way... all my friends are awesome.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Being Neighborly

I'm curious about everyone's opinion on this one...

I came home at 2:00 today with a splitting headache.  One of my good friends had a group garage sale this morning, and I took some stuff to sell.  It was hot out.  I mean, we are talking about summertime in South Florida.  I probably didn't drink enough water.  The garage sale went well, and I dropped off all the stuff we didn't sell at a thrift store on my way back home.

When I got to my house I heard music emanating from a neighbors house.  It sounded like party music.  I'm thankful that there are plenty of kids in our neighborhood because it gives me and my children more of an opportunity to minister to our community.

I was happy that we just had new windows put in that were sure to help deaden some of the sound.  To my surprise when I got upstairs to my room I could still hear the music.  I discovered that the party was in the yard directly behind our house.  The music was so loud outside that it sounded only slightly subdued in my house.

I tried not to let it bother me.  I watched a movie after I took some painkillers, hoping that a little rest and hydration would help me feel better.  I turned the movie up louder than I like in order to hear it without the distraction of the music.  Even then I could still feel the bass.

After an hour or so one of my daughters came in and asked if they could play on the bounce house.  Apparently the neighbors had one set up in their yard and my daughter thought she could invite herself over to play on it.  I explained that we weren't invited to the party so we wouldn't be able to play in the bounce house.  Still the music played on.

When my movie was over it was harder to ignore the music.  I think they had turned it up.  They were switching back and forth from mexican rock n roll to techno to almost mariachi music.  The few songs that I could understand had lyrics that talked about sexual encounters and "love" which according to one female vocalist is spelled L-U-V.

Eventually I got up and started prepping dinner.  The music was even louder downstairs, as we haven't replaced our sliders and they are traditional glass.  I decided to make a point with my girls (who were all playing in the living room) as to why we don't play loud music at the parties we throw.  I opened the slider and demonstrated the volume at which they would have to talk to their friends if they were at the party.

The music continued.

Now I'm writing this blog post and the music is still blaring.  It has been over five (5) hours!!!

So here are my questions

1) Is it appropriate to play music with sexually graphic lyrics at a children's party (perhaps not technically explicit, but definitely obscene)?

2) Is it kind to play said music at volumes that make it impossible for your guests to converse at a reasonable volume? Or, am I wrong in thinking that part of the fun of having people over is to socialize in a way that involves actual conversation?

3) Is there an appropriate limit to the amount of time that you expose your neighbors to loud and obnoxious music before you should expect to be asked to turn it down?

4) Finally... Is it appropriate for me, as a neighbor, to ask them to turn down their music after an appropriate amount of time or would that make me an intolerant jerk who just likes to ruin kids' parties?  Or, would you rather your neighbor walk over and ask you to turn it down, or just call the cops?

WOW!!!  They just turned their music down.  Literally, as I typed that last question, the volume dropped so that I can hardly hear the music at all.

*** (5 minutes later) My 7 year old just came in and told me that she went over and told them, "My mom is getting tired of listening to the music," and they turned it down.  I love that girl!!!  :)

Woman Conquers Fire

During spring of 2011 our family decided to go camping at Disney World.  We stayed at Fort Wilderness campground.  Before this trip our family had only gone camping one other time.  We stayed at a state park for a weekend, and only brought the bare minimum of necessary gear.  For our Disney trip we would be staying a week, and therefore need a lot more gear.

I took several trips to our closest Bass Pro Shop and our local walmart trying to amass the necessary items for "roughing it" at this resort.  For someone as interested in survival as I am, it was difficult to maintain a balance between the minimal equipment I wanted to pack, and the luxury items I knew would be important to my fellow campers who aren't as buzzed about survival living.  I made my list, checked it twice and then tried as much as possible to stick to it.  

For some women, shoes are difficult to shop for.  They hoard them in their closets and under their beds.  For some women it's gourmet kitchen equipment.  They drool over catalogs filled with images of cast iron pots and combination mushroom/egg slicers.  For some women it's organizational supplies.  They have their paper clips and rubber bands color coordinated.  Their desks are neatly arranged with little cups and boxes for writing implements and post-it notes.  

For me it's camping gear.  Not just your usual run-of-the-mill gear, but survival gear.  I purposely avoid the outdoor equipment section when I head to Walmart for groceries.  I'm glad it's off in the corner of the store, because if I were to accidentally wander down the wrong aisle with a little extra change in my pocket, you can bet I'd end up with an emergency survival kit thrown in with my frozen foods.  

The looming camping trip gave me all the excuse needed to finally venture down those paths.  I made every purchase with cash to keep me within my budget.  The only thing I bought that wasn't on my list was a little metal rectangle with a tiny serrated blade tethered to it.  Flint and Steel.  In retrospect I probably looked a little like Wallace when I found it.  As much as I laughed at my son's desire to learn to light fires with a magnifying glass I felt the same way about my new toy.  

It was much colder in the mornings than I had anticipated.  I didn't want to waste time on practicing with my flint while my little girls teeth were chattering, so most mornings I left the fire building to my son, and allowed him the privilege of using a lighter.  

Finally about halfway through the week my opportunity came.  I worked steadily for about an hour.  The serrated blade scraped most of the epidermis off my left index finger.  Before long I could empathize with my son over his first attempts with a magnifying glass.  My problem was that my fuel was damp.  I had plenty of Spanish moss, and even had scraps of a cardboard box to use for kindling, but I couldn't get anything to light because it had been left out overnight and the dew had gotten to it.  

I tried again that afternoon, and again the next day, and finally the blisters on my fingers made me give up in despair.  I let my son have a go, and he didn't do any better.  When we got home all the camping gear was packed away in the garage.  After a few months our fire pit rusted out (it was the cheapest one available) and it went to it's final resting place on nearby trash mountain.  

Fast forward a year and a half.  

Last week my son told me he wanted to buy a fire pit.  He did some pricing online and found a portable charcoal grill for $15.  I knew he missed playing with fire.  I was planning to buy a new pit eventually, and his determination helped me prioritize things a bit differently.  

With the new one fresh out of the box he started collecting kindling once again.  He tried to get his magnifying glass to work, but the last few days were too cloudy.  I still had the rule against matches and lighters, but now we had a flint buried somewhere in our camping gear.  I suggested he get it out and try it.  Within a few minutes he was putting it back in frustration.  

Later that afternoon I got out the flint, determined to try my hand once more.  I scraped off a pile of magnesium, grabbed a wad of dryer lint and began to strike the flint.  It took seconds, and the lint was in flames.  I had finally done it!!!  Not only had I lit a fire with a flint and steel, but I had impressed my son.  Any mom of a teenage boy knows that those moments are few and far between.  

To be Continued.   

Friday, June 15, 2012

Boy Conquers Fire

I have a 14 year old son.  Like every other teenager in the history of mankind, he is getting dangerously close to pyromania.

A couple of years ago he asked for a magnifying glass for his birthday.  At the time I naively thought it was for observing smaller objects.  Fortunately I thought to ask him what he planned to do with it before I gave it to him.  He proudly announced that he was going to use it to start fires.

The day of his birthday he opened the tiny package and did his best Wallace impression as he laughed gleefully.

He dutifully opened his other gifts (objects that cost money which I probably could have saved in retrospect).  As soon as he finished he asked if he could go outside and try to light a fire.  I told him he could as long as he kept it contained.

About ten minutes later he came in crestfallen.  His master plan had failed.  The weeks and months of research (watching a handful of YouTube videos of fellow pyro-enthusiasts with their lenses) were a bust.  My husband told him that it takes a long time to get it to work, and that perhaps he should try again tomorrow.

He did try the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.  Eventually he learned the nuance of lighting fires, but he was limited by how big he could build them.  I wouldn't relent about their containment, and he didn't have much space to build them in.

Once I knew he was trustworthy I bought a fire pit.  My main reason was to have a designated location for my son and his friends to build their fire for a camp-out in our backyard.  For the camp-out I let him use a lighter since it was evening,  early spring, pre-daylight savings time.

After surviving a night without constant adult supervision, and now that we had an actual fire pit, he began a daily routine.  He got up early, finished his chores and rushed outside as soon as the sun was high enough to kindle some coconut husk.  During the afternoons he would scavenge the neighborhood for dried up coconut husks.  He would search the overgrown areas at the park for pieces of rotting wood.  All of these were fed to his growing skill.

To be Continued...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Doctor Who

Have I mentioned yet that I love Doctor Who?  I took the last couple weeks and watched all of the recent seasons.  I've known about it for years, but only recently got really attached to it.

I watched an episode with my dad when I was a kid.

I remember like it was yesterday.  It was a Saturday afternoon.  One of those rare days when my dad had the day off, and we didn't have any real plans.  One those days I felt kind of dizzy.  I walked around in a fog because I was so used to having every moment planned and filled, and then suddenly there was no plan.  It was one of those days when lunch and dinner aren't on time and so you go to bed wondering if you ate all the right meals, but feeling full.  It's such a groggy, relaxed kind of feeling.

Anyway, my dad was watching TV, so of course, I was sitting right there with him.  I wanted to grow up to be like him so I had to do everything he did.  He had this show on.  It was black and white and I asked him what it was.  He said it was Doctor Who.  I sat there patiently, waiting for the story to make sense, and it never did.  I just remember these weird fake looking bad guys and the Doctor and his beautiful companion fighting them off, and trying to make it back to the Tardis. (or should it be written TARDIS since it's an acronym?)

The "bigger on the inside" element escaped me apparently because I didn't bat an eye when they stepped inside the little blue box and it was an entire spaceship.  Maybe I had given up trying to understand it by then.  I just remember that the doctor reminded me of Gene Wilder on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (a movie that gave me nightmares).

I don't remember watching more than that one episode.  I don't know if it's because my dad just didn't have time to watch it, or if it was a one day special.  Maybe he watched it, but that first experience was so confusing that I wasn't interested in watching it with him again.  Regardless, when it was re-released in 2005, I was oblivious.  I heard about it a couple of times on late night TV, when I couldn't get to sleep and there wasn't anything good on.  I heard some references to it from friends of mine, but for the most part I could only remember this strange Gene Wilder type character, a cliched pretty helper, and a confusing storyline.

All that changed when my best friend mentioned that she was watching it.  Well, it was more that she was watching it, and enjoying it.  This was the last straw.  If she liked it, then I knew I would too.  I did!

I suppose I do the same thing to a lot of people.  I love them and so I want to know everything about them.  I want to know what makes them tick, what interests them and why.  I look for connections, and make them.  If there's something that interests my best friend or my father or my husband or my children I want to experience it as well, so that there is one more bond connecting us.

What are you willing to try in order to connect on a deeper level with those you have relationship with?  The Bible says, "A man that has friends must show himself friendly. (KJV)" The second part of this verse is even better.  It says, "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  Jesus was willing to give his life so that our sins wouldn't separate us from God.  Now all we have to do is make a connection.  Make an effort to know your creator, and He will show you what He loves.  He will show you that what He really wants is for you to be with Him and love Him.

If you want to know more about this relationship, start reading the Bible... Start with the book of John, and then if you want to keep going read Romans.  I'll warn you though, there will be things that you probably won't like.  Our natural bent (also known as a sin nature) doesn't like some of what the Bible says.  If you can keep in mind that God loves you, and that His greatest desire is for you to be truly happy (not just for a little while, but forever) then you will be able to see that everything written is to help you have a better connection, a better bond with God.  Trust, and have patience.

Oh and you can always leave a comment and I'll answer any questions you have the best I know how.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I've tried about three times now to write this blog, and every time I've gotten derailed.

I'm learning a lot these days about how the enemy works... it's funny when you think about it.  God can use any means to create relationships with us.  All we have to do is start wanting it bad enough.  And when we finally start seeking Him he opens our minds to show us the deceitful plans of the enemy of our souls.

This is one I've been made aware of recently.  One of the greatest attacks Satan uses on us (and by us I mean all people everywhere... not just Christians) is separation.  The more he can isolate us, the more he can keep us in the dark.  God created us to be His companions, and as such we are also in need of companionship.  That is what we crave.  That is why even the most secluded souls reach out to objects for companionship.  Even those who have been hurt time and again by other people turn to animals for friendship and consolation.

The funny thing is, when you start seeing the plans of the enemy from God's perspective they seem so silly.  They seem so stupid and weak that we are surprised that anyone gets sucked in.  That is the key really, to see everything from God's perspective.  So here are just a few of the tactics I've seen recently.

1) misunderstanding. Suppose you are in love... perhaps with a spouse, or perhaps it's just a really great deep friendship.  You enjoy being together, and can't wait to connect again and again.  Then this person says something inane.  I mean really inane.  Not even intentionally mean spirited, just stupid because they aren't even aware of how it's going to affect you.  They aren't inside your head, and they don't know every single thing about you.  They can't read your mind, but somehow they've picked at one of your old psychological scabs without meaning to.  Suddenly you start to dislike them.

For some people, this little tick is enough to end the friendship right then and there.  You are convinced that they did it intentionally, and are just like everybody else... out to hurt you.  For others, this is a small wound that doesn't get taken care of properly.  The event is lodged like a microscopic bit of shrapnel oozing infection until the whole relationship dies off.

The funny thing is, if we truly think about it, the comment or action or whatever started the whole thing wasn't meant to be hurtful... why would anyone who loves you so much intentionally hurt you?  Until we have our eyes opened to the weakness of human nature, we cannot realize just how silly we are.  Take a step back.  Really think about all the time you've spent with this person.  They love you, and they want to be with you.  They didn't say or do it to hurt you, and the only way to get past it is to shrug it off, and love them back and tell them that it's a sore spot.  When you open up to someone like that you aren't displaying a weakness, you are strengthening the bonds between you and the enemy can't stand that.

2) distraction.  I can't think of anyone nowadays (at least in any moderately civilized country) that doesn't know what facebook is.  Why do you suppose it was created?  It certainly wasn't so that people would plant cyber farms and raise electronically generated vegetables.  It was created so that people could maintain relationships in a busy world, where it's hard to spend time together.  So, then, why would folks log onto a social network and spend all their time worrying about recruiting total strangers to their pirate crew so they can unlock special quests? or why would folks get angry at a silly computer development company for promising them pretend units of money so they can make fake pickles?

Looking at it from God's perspective, it feels kind of foolish to spend so much time caring for pretend people when we could be building relationships with real ones... unless of course, you've had enough "misunderstandings" with real ones that you've written all human beings off completely.  If this is the case, go back and read #1.

3) busy-ness.  I suppose some could simply use the word "business" because that really is the word's intended meaning.  You're so busy with your work that you don't have time to maintain real relationships with people.  Think about it.  It's the perfect plan.  Make the human race think that everything they do is so vitally important that if they stop for one second they'll fall behind.

If you're a parent, think about every moment you spent with your child.  For some that won't take very long because they are so busy with everything but their child.  They can count the number of truly meaningful, focused moments with their child on one hand.  For others, they have spent their whole time worrying about their child instead of building relationships.  Instead of taking time to explore the psyche of this incredible being they helped to create, they are worried about making sure this being doesn't fail (as if somehow God is incapable of keeping this from happening).  Instead of relishing the time spent in deep communion with these unique individuals, they rush them from moment to moment in the hopes that enough exposure to enough experiences will help shape them into the perfect human being, capable of total freedom from pain and disappointment.  In turn these individuals grow up thinking that staying busy is what keeps them from spontaneous combustion, and they can't understand why they aren't fulfilled.

Now, I realize that not everyone who reads this has ever experienced parenthood.  I also realize that not everyone God created desires to raise children.  So think of it this way.  There is someone out there, someone who you can connect with on an incredible level.  There are amazing individuals who can open your mind to incredible thoughts, show you incredible things, share with you incredible experiences.  The only problem is, you're so worried about maintaining your hectic life that you haven't met them.  You do as you're told, in the hopes that your job will fulfill you, but you lack the deeper companionship that you truly crave.  You know deep down this is true because the spirit God gave you wants companionship more than anything.  More than money, or power or excitement.

4) abuse.  This is the last one I'm going to expose today.  There are plenty of others, and as God opens my eyes with His vision I'm sure I'll see plenty more.  This is the most painful of all.  The others are like anesthetics.  They keep you dull and unaware.  This one is like torture... you are aware of it the whole time, but you don't know how to stop it.  

For the abuser, it is a pain they cannot help but inflict.  They are tortured, wanting companionship, but unable to maintain it because of their actions.  They strike again and again, and are left afterward feeling the guilt and shame of their behavior.  Some are so afflicted they have to be locked up.  Separated even further from the companionship they desire most.  Don't get me wrong... they need to be separated.  God weeps over their condition like a father weeps over his murdered child.

For the abused it is a different kind of pain.  The most obvious physical reactions are not the only affects of abuse.  The abused suffer for years after the attacks stop.  They not only question the actions of their abuser, but they question themselves on such a deep level, I'm in awe at anyone who can reach them.  Of course, their Creator has the power to restore, but in giving mankind free will, the abused must at some point ask for restoration.  Unfortunately many do not ask because too many of those who could show them the way are stuck in #'s 1, 2 and 3.

So there it is, the plans of the enemy revealed.  Simple, yet tricky.  Sometimes painless sometimes cruel.  Our job now is to decide what to do with this information.  Will we continue to believe his lies, moving toward our appointed date with eternity without trying to stop the deception?  Or will we determine not to let him have the upper hand?  Will we decide that it's so much better up in the heavenly realm seated with Christ, communing with Him and building relationships with other imperfect human beings that it's not worth it to keep succumbing to the enemy's lies?

Psalm 119:165 says, "Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing shall offend them (KJV)."  I used to think this was something I had to decide... some will on my part to not allow anyone to offend me.  Now I realize that if I am viewing the world from God's perspective, then I simply will not be offended by things.  It's like getting angry when someone wearing a blindfold bumps into you.  It's not like they realized they were doing it.

Seek First God's Kingdom.