I’m Not 40 Anymore!

21 09 2013

I turned 41 yesterday, hence the title. I must say, being “over the hill” has been a great ride so far. I am in far better health now than I was 20 years ago. My cholesterol continues to decrease each year and is at an all-time low of 133. I can still do 180° right and left leg splits. My 5K speed continues to get faster. Spiritually, I am more in love with the Bible than ever and find prayer calming and humbling. Professionally, I continue to revise my curriculum every year. I am not content teaching the same stuff just because it’s easier. I just started working on my MBA. In terms of behavior, I am more patient all around and am much calmer in the car. When it comes to my family, I am ridiculously blessed with an amazing husband and two incredible sons.

I am also very goal-oriented, so I decided to take stock of my “40 Things to Do in the Next 40 Years” list that I wrote a year ago. (My updated notes are in parenthesis after each item.)

Physical
1. Do 40 military style pushups at one time, no breaks. (Still working on this)
2. Successfully finish a Tough Mudder. (Tough Mudder teased us with a Nashville race in May 2013, then moved it out of state.)
3. Swim freestyle for 50 meters without stopping. (Nope, practicing would help)
4. Run a sub 30-minute 5K in an actual race. (I’ve done several races this year, but not a straightforward 5K, not yet. I have 4 more races before 2013 is over, so I’m really hoping this will happen. I ran a marathon relay not too long ago and PRd with an 8:28 minute mile at one point.)
5. Do ab ripper at least twice each week, preferably three times. (Nope)
6. Bike once each week. (Nope)
7. Run two-three times each week. (Yup! I’m averaging 10 miles per week over 4 runs)
8. Swim once each week. (Nope)
9. Always remember to wear sunscreen. (Almost always)
10. Hike the Appalachain Trail. (Maybe next decade?)
11. Still be able to do 180° right and left leg splits 40 years from now. (Yup!)

Diet/Nutrition
12. Eat at least two servings of fruit each day. (Yup! Except on my birthday; then I get all my calories from sugar and lard . . . and maybe some cheese)
13. Eat at least two servings of vegetables each day. (About half the time)
14. Remember to take all my supplements each day—multi vitamin, calcium/Vitamin D, fish oil. (Usually)
15. Cut back to one sweet/dessert item each day (except on birthdays). (I’m down to two per day which is way better than it was a year ago.)
16. Try one new recipe each month. (Yup!)
17. Drink more water. (About the same)

Spiritual
18. Fast 40 hours straight once each week. (I still fast, but not for 40 hours—my body did not take kindly to that. I was getting too dizzy and lightheaded.)
19. Memorize one scripture each week. (Sadly, nope. I do read the Bible every day, and my knowledge of scripture is growing, but I just don’t officially memorize verses.)
20. Give half our income away, probably through Compassion International child sponsorships. (Well on our way!)
21. Teach my children to pray in all circumstances. (Working on it; this will be a lifelong lesson.)
22. Teach my sons the importance of sexual purity and protecting and honoring their bodies and the bodies of any girls/women they have relationships with. (Praying about this regularly and having age-appropriate conversations as they arise.)
23. Watch my sons grow into their own faith in Christ. (Yup! So cool to see my sons coming into their own faith rather than living out simply what we tell them to do and say and believe.)
24. Go on a mission trip. (Yup! Texas in March 2013 and India in June 2013)

Mental
25. Get my MBA. (Just started my classes! Graduation = fall 2015)
26. Get my PhD. (Maybe next decade; need to finish the MBA first.)
27. Not go crazy. (Debatable)
28. Read on average one book per week. (Pretty darn close)
29. Become fluent in another language. (If sarcasm counts, I’m fluent.)
30. Learn to play the piano. (Too busy; maybe after my MBA and PhD?)

Miscellaneous
31. Have a weekly date with my love. (Desperately need to do better!)
32. Play more games with my family. (Same #32)
33. Visit all the Wonders of the World. (Five down, two to go—Petra and Angkor Wat)
34. Travel to a new country each year. (So far, so good)
35. Grow my hair out to my wedding day length. (Almost there!)
36. Join a community choir. (Too busy with #1-35)
37. Watch no more than 1 hour of TV each night, except when Dancing with the Stars goes for two hours. (Yup! I have almost cut out TV completely, probably because I’m reading so much. I honestly don’t miss it . . . except Dancing with the Stars.)
38. Re-invent/re-paint/re-design several rooms in my home. (Consulting a friend who is an interior designer is on my to do list for the summer of 2014.)
39. Build a library with floor to ceiling book shelves in my home and fill it with great literature. (Also on my—as in my husband’s—to do list for the summer of 2014.)

Most Important
40. Remember that each day is a gift and to live a life that reflects how grateful I am to be alive. (I’m better at this than I used to be, but there will always be room for improvement. Can we ever be too grateful?)

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40 Things

20 09 2012

 

40 & Fabulous

40 & Fabulous

I turn 40 today, and until a short while ago, I dreaded being that number.  It was so old.  Half of my life was over.  Then it hit me . . . I was at the age where I realized I turned into my parents.  Upon reflection I realized that wasn’t a bad thing.  How blessed am I to be able to say that?My attitude began to turn around from being negative and dreading this birthday to wanting to celebrate in grand fashion, which we did.

As the day approached, I also began to think about the next half of my life.  What do I want to accomplish?  Who do I want to be?

So being an ultra-organized, detailed-oriented, goal-setting, to-do queen, I did what came naturally.  I created a list.

This wasn’t merely a Bucket List.  I already have one of those.  There is a difference in this new list and my bucket list.  My new list is realistic.  My bucket list isn’t.  For example, I really want to throw a live grenade and watch something blow up.  I know that will never happen.

My new list is comprised of things I want to do in the next 40 years of my life.

Physical
1.       Do 40 military style pushups at one time, no breaks.
2.       Successfully finish a Tough Mudder.
3.       Swim freestyle for 50 meters without stopping.
4.       Run a sub 30-minute 5K in an actual race.
5.       Do P90x ab ripper at least twice each week, preferably three times.
6.       Bike once each week.
7.       Run two-three times each week.
8.       Swim once each week.
9.       Always remember to wear sunscreen.
10.   Hike the Appalachain Trail.
11.   Still be able to do 180° right and left leg splits 40 years from now.

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

40 & Fabulous (and still quite flexible)

Diet/Nutrition

12.   Eat at least two servings of fruit each day.
13.   Eat at least two servings of vegetables each day.
14.   Remember to take all my supplements each day—multi vitamin, calcium/Vitamin D, fish oil.
15.   Cut back to one sweet/dessert item each day (except on birthdays).
16.   Try one new recipe each month.
17.   Drink more water.

Spiritual

18.   Fast 40 hours straight once each week.
19.   Memorize one scripture each week.
20.   Give half my income away, probably through Compassion International child sponsorships.
21.   Teach my children to pray in all circumstances.
22.   Teach my sons the importance of sexual purity and protecting and honoring their bodies and the bodies of any girls/women they have relationships with.
23.   Watch my sons grow into their own faith in Christ.
24.   Go on a mission trip.

Mental

25.   Get my MBA.
26.   Get my PhD.
27.   Not go crazy.
28.   Read on average one book per week.
29.   Become fluent in another language.
30.   Learn to play the piano.

 Miscellaneous

31.   Have a weekly date with my love.
32.   Play more games with my family.
33.   Visit all the Wonders of the World.
34.   Travel to a new country each year.
35.   Grow my hair out to my wedding day length.
36.   Join a community choir.
37.   Watch no more than 1 hour of TV each night, except when Dancing with the Stars goes for two hours.
38.   Re-invent/re-paint/re-design several rooms in my home.
39.   Build a library with floor to ceiling book shelves in my home and fill it with great literature.

Most Important

40.   Remember that each day is a gift and to live a life that reflects how grateful I am to be alive.





Open My Eyes

17 07 2012

I woke up last Wednesday morning and asked God to open my eyes to see whatever it was I needed to see.  In just a few hours, my husband and I were to visit child #3 of 8 whom we sponsor through Compassion International.  Based on our first two visits—Santiago in Lima, Peru in 2009; and Liset in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2010 (read about that visit:  A Day in the Life of Compassion)—we knew this could be a life changing experience.  (photos at the end)

 During my normal morning routine, I began to wonder. . .

  • Did Ashling (age 5) have the luxury of her own bed?
  • Did that bed have a pillow top mattress with Egyptian linens and too many pillows to count like the one in our hotel room?
  • Did she have a window that opened to a gorgeous setting of palm trees, beautiful and lush tropical landscaping, and a pool?
  • Did she have air conditioning?
  • Did she have a shower?
  • Did she have hot water?
  • Did she even have running water in her home?
  • Was the water she had access to even safe to drink without being treated first?
  • Did she have shampoo, conditioner, and body wash readily available?
  • Did she have as many changes of clothes in her entire wardrobe as I had in my suitcase for one week’s worth of travel?
  • Had she ever seen as much food in one place as was available at our breakfast buffet?
  • Did she have the luxury of pushing aside food items because 1) she didn’t like them and 2) simply because she could?
  • Did her little belly ever get truly full after a meal?
  • Was she ever able to go back for seconds?
  • Did she have the luxury of beginning her day in silence, reading her Bible and having her own solitary quiet time?

So many more questions ran through my mind as I prepped for the day.  God certainly opened my eyes and made me consider all those normal daily activities I take for granted.  I don’t remember the last time I thought about whether or not someone had running water in their home or how many pieces of clothing were in her closet.

No detail this morning escaped examination and wonder as I thought about what Ashling was doing.  That lady cleaning the floors, she might have been Ashling’s aunt.  That guy picking up trash in the street, he could have been her father.  So many things, so many people I normally overlook suddenly mattered. 

I was at once convicted and humbled and grateful and overwhelmed.  God was certainly opening my eyes.

Sabina, one of Compassion’s 35 translators in Managua, Nicaragua arrived and we were en route to Ashling’s neighborhood Grenada Managua.  It was a much shorter drive than I anticipated from our hotel.  Poverty and excess (our hotel falling in the excess category) were only a few feet from each other.

Ashling’s neighborhood was literally one turn off of a main thoroughfare, but upon leaving that nice smooth, paved street for the mostly packed dirt road leading to her community let us know we in a very different place.  The trash flowed on the streets more freely.  Malnourished dogs slept in the middle of the street or dug through the garbage for a scrap.  Young boys and old men driving horse-drawn carts were as numerous as the cheap taxis.  Women carrying baskets of fruit and bags of cashews perfectly balanced on their heads walked the streets, hoping to sell their goods, earning at least enough to feed their family at dinner.  Bars and iron gates covered every door and window.  A motorcycle with a family of four—all four!—rode past us. 

Once we stepped out of the taxi, we became the main attraction for a short while as we waited outside the Compassion Project.  Once the project’s secretary, Raquel, arrived, we were ushered into the office.  We were shown Ashling’s “file” which contained information about every letter written or received, her academic progress, family information, medical data, etc.  The saddest note was realizing Ashling had formerly been sponsored by another family.  We didn’t know she lost her sponsorship when we began sponsoring her earlier this year.  Thankfully though, she was only without a sponsor for a few months.  Some children go for years before being chosen.  (Please consider sponsoring a child who has been waiting for over six months or ask for one who has been waiting the longest.  Too often sponsors go for the cutest face.)

We chatted with Raquel about the project while waiting for Ashling and her mother to arrive.  We learned:

  • There were approximately 150 Compassion projects in Nicaragua, and Compassion had been in the country for only 10 years.
  • There were 150 students at Ashling’s project, “God in Action.”
  • The project focuses on four main areas of education and growth:  spiritual, physical, academic, and hygiene.
  • In the past two years, there had only been four sponsor visits—our visit being number four.  This saddened me.  Supporting Compassion and sponsoring a child is an amazing commitment and blessing to these children and their families, but I have been convicted that God calls me to much more than just writing a check each month.  That is one of the reasons Matthew and I are on a mission to personally visit each of our sponsored children.  Simply writing a check is too easy.  I need to get out of my comfort zone in my attempts to bless others.
  • The project does have running, potable water.
  • There were 12 people on staff at this project—six teachers, four office staff, one cook, and one maintenance person.
  • The project provides the school uniform and supplies for all students as well as necessary medical checkups and treatments.
  • All students get a hot meal during their daily time at the project.

When Ashling and her mother, Maria, finally arrived, I don’t think I could speak for several minutes.  I completely overcome by this incredibly beautiful five-year-old girl standing in front of me with the sweetest, shyest, smile.  Ashling was radiant!  Clearly, this day, she was a princess and the star of the show—something way out of her comfort zone.  She was in a new dress they bought just for this occasion, and she shyly, yet proudly, showed us the “high heel” shoes she bought with the birthday money we had sent.

Ashling presented us with a photo of her in a frame she made as well as a necklace of blown glass.  We also gave Ashling a gift bag consisting of a notebook, note pads, pencils, crayons, pens, balloons, toothpaste, a tooth brush, hand sanitizer, a US map (so we could show her where we live) and a world map (so we could show her where we are in relation to one another).  As a last minute addition before we left Nashville, I added a doll from my doll collection from when I was a little girl.  The look on Ashling’s face when she pulled out the doll was priceless.  Her eyes got wide, she was speechless, and she hugged and sang to it for the entirety of our visit.  At first she named it Maria, after her mother, but she later changed it to Kelly.

We spoke together for a while and toured the rest of the project building which mainly consisted of the church and one large room partitioned off with shelves in order to make three smaller areas for the classes.  In speaking with Ashling and her mother, we learned:

  • Ashling is an only child.
  • Her mother is studying to become a baker and wants to open her own bakery someday.
  • Her father is a barber.
  • They live about a 15 minute walk away from the project.
  • Ashling’s birthday was just a few weeks prior to our visit.  For birthdays, the project takes all the kids who have a birthday in that month to a local restaurant (think McDonalds or KFC) where they get a meal, games, and a piñata.
  • Ashling’s family does have running water at home.
  • Maria has a sister who is mentally handicapped.  Maria commented that her sister will be very happy with all the paper and pencils we brought for the family because her sister loves to draw.
  • Ashling loves to paint and sing.  With a little begging, we got her to sing us a song.
  • Ashling loves to play teacher with her dolls and friends.  She also enjoys putting makeup on her dolls and friends, and it doesn’t matter if her friend is a girl or a boy.
  • Ashling is very bright, but she is also quite “delicate” as Raquel told us.  She gets sick often, usually around the changing of the seasons, and she misses a lot of school.  Thankfully, the project helps provide any medicine she needs.

Our time together was short, and we couldn’t visit her home as we had hoped.  Regardless, those few hours together will stay with me for a very, very long time.

I left feeling overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with gratitude that we are able to sponsor Ashling and actually meet her.  Overwhelmed with a knot in my gut as I compared my life to hers. 

I asked God to open my eyes, and He did.

I take for granted so many things.  I don’t think twice about indoor plumbing, air conditioning, readily available and safe drinking water, or the fact that my children can get a free education.

My home is probably 4-5 times the size of Ashling’s home.  We have one car, one van, and one motorcycle.  Our children attend one of the finest private schools in middle Tennessee.  We have disposable income that allows us to shop at Pottery Barn and travel internationally.  My running shoes probably cost more than Ashling’s family makes in a year.  God has abundantly blessed my family, and we do give generously of our resources, yet I feel unsettled inside.

If you are reading this, I consider you blessed, too.  Not blessed because you are reading my blog, though I hope it is a blessing, but rather blessed in that you have access to a computer and the Internet.  You are blessed with abundant time if you’ve made it this far with me, and blessed that you’ve had an education because you are literate and are able to read this.  I also imagine you are sitting in a comfortable chair, probably in an air conditioned room—more blessings.  I could on—a full refrigerator and pantry, a chest full of toys for your kids, a linen closet full of more towels and bars of soap than people in your house.  Even credit card debt or a car loan, curses that they are, demonstrate the easy access you have to everything and anything your heart desires, even though you can’t afford it but feel entitled to it.

If you are feeling convicted, join the club.  I’ve just described my life, minus the debt.  This is why I am unsettled.  I feel I need to be doing something differently with my resources.  While I don’t know exactly what it is yet I am to be doing, I know God will continue to open my eyes.

(Click on a photo to see a full size version and run through the slide show.)





Developing a Servant’s Heart

25 01 2012

A couple weeks ago, I bought a Contributor newspaper from a homeless man on our way home from school.  This is a monthly occurrence, and Caleb is almost always in the backseat when I purchase a paper.  The exchange typically goes something like this:

     Me:  Caleb, quick!  Get my wallet and see if you can find a $5.00.

     Caleb:  Okay!  (fumble, fumble, fumble)  Here!  Did we get it in time?

     Me:  (Rolling down the window and signaling to the vendor) Yes.  Thank you for your help, Caleb.

     Vendor:  Thank you Miss, and God bless!

It’s usually short and sweet, but two weeks ago, the conversation didn’t stop there.

(Caleb is well acquainted with the Contributor and its mission.  The Contributor is a street newspaper that seeks to provide diverse perspectives on homelessness as well as provide the homeless and formerly homeless with a source of income as they sell the papers.)  Our conversation continued:

     Caleb:  I can’t wait till I’m older.  I’m going to buy one of the newspapers every time I see someone selling it.

     Me:  Why wait?

     Caleb:  What do you mean?  I can’t drive.

     Me:  (laughing out loud just a little)  No.  That’s not what I meant.  Why do you have to wait until you’re older before you can help them?

Silence ensued, but I knew a seed had been planted.  The wheels of Caleb’s mind were furiously turning.

     Caleb:  What if we took my giving money and I could buy them a meal?  Or, we could go shopping, and I could buy a bunch of snacks and make a bunch of bags and give them to a bunch of people.

     Me:  I like this idea.  What would you put in the bags?

As we talked the rest of the way home, we settled on the following items for each bag, figuring this was within his budget from his Giving envelope:

  • 1 bottle of water
  • 1 apple
  • 1 travel-sized container of apple sauce
  • 2 granola bars
  • 4 snack-sized candy bars
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 1 napkin
  • 1 note from Caleb simply saying, “God bless you!”

Caleb was SOOOO excited by the time we got home.  He couldn’t wait to tell his Dad that night or his teacher the next morning.  (I also couldn’t wait to brag on my son to my friends, either.)

We went shopping at both Walmart and Publix.  Caleb was able to double some of his offerings in each bag thanks to Publix amazing BOGOs that week.  Then we set up a little assembly line on our kitchen counter.  When all was said and done, Caleb made 15 bags.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

grocery list and receipts

grocery list and receipts

assembly line

assembly line

working on the assembly line

working on the assembly line

the goodies for each bag

the goodies for each bag

completed bags

completed bags

We handed out the first three bags yesterday on the way to and from school.  To say Caleb was excited is an understatement.  I actually got a little teary-eyed seeing witnessing Caleb’s pure joy when the last guy came back to the van and personally thanked Caleb for blessing him.  Caleb now keeps his eye open for anyone on the side of the road we can help.

Over the past couple of weeks while talking about this and planning it with Caleb as well as sharing about this with others, God has reminded me of a few of my responsibilities as a parent.

It is my duty as a parent, before it is anyone else’s duty, to develop my child’s heart.  

  • If I want my sons to be giving, generous, servant-hearted men, I must model those same attributes for them.  Caleb joins me on just about every volunteer excursion I undertake, from serving meals at the Ronald McDonald House, Hope Lodge, or Safe Haven Family Shelter to dropping off items at Goodwill to bringing food to families with new babies to helping pick out food to donate at school food drives.  I must be willing to give of my time and resources to bless others if I expect my children to do the same.
  • If I want my children to be financially responsible adults, I must set the right example with how I spend my money.  Do we live in debt, or do we purchase only what we can afford to pay for in full with cash?  Do we use our financial resources for selfish gain, or do we choose to honor God by giving back to His kingdom work a portion of what He has given us?  Caleb will be the first to tell you he didn’t initially like the idea of having to stash away some of his money for Saving and Giving.  He will also be the first to tell you now that he’s seen how that money can be used to bless others, he is completely on board with the plan we set up for him. The plan:  Caleb puts $1 away into his Giving Envelope and $1 into his Saving Envelope for each $10 he receives through his allowance, extra chores, or gifts.  Since we began this financial discipline system for him a little over a year ago, he’s amassed about $30 in each.  This was his first major Giving project.  (Read more about How to Train Your Child in the Ways of Financial Discipline.)
  • Developing a servant heart and financial responsibility are not one-time conversations.  Today we discuss the importance of giving and saving as well as spending wisely.  In the years to come those conversations will morph into more complex issues such as balancing checkbooks, whether or not to use credit cards, taxes, etc.  My parents and I still talk about money issues, for which I am very grateful.  The positive example they set for me in my youth is now being passed on to the next generation. 

I am so proud of my son and his developing servant heart.  He thought of this idea on his own, paid for the food with his own money, put together the bags himself, and only needed minimal guidance to bring it to fruition.  I eagerly look forward to his future and what God has in store for his heart.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
–Proverbs 22:6





2012 Resolutions

5 01 2012

Being the list-maker, goal-setter, and all-around do-er that I am, I LOVE coming up with New Years Resolutions.  I actually began thinking about my list in November.  My focus verse for the year is from James 3:17-18.  I want to be the kind of woman that embodies this type of wisdom, and yet I struggle greatly in so many of these areas.

 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;
then peace-loving, considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Spiritual/Relationship Goals

  • Have a dynamic marriage.
    • Stop what I’m doing and greet my husband with a hug as soon as he/I get home from work each day
    • Pray together every night
    • Monthly dates
  • Read through the Bible
  • Fast 1x/week
  • Give at least 16.5% of our pre-tax income to charitable organizations (hopefully more)
  • Volunteer somewhere at least 1x/month

 Exercise/Activity Goals

  • Participate in an average of 1 race/event each month (I actually have 13 on my radar for next year and am looking for more!)
  • Run/walk 2-3x/week (6-9 miles)
    • Get back to a sub-10-minute mile
    • Do a sub-30-minute 5K
  • Bike 1x/week (6-10 miles)
  • Swim 1x/week (.25-.5 miles) 
    • Learn to swim freestyle (Out of everything on my list–this one is the most daunting to me.)
  • P90X Ab Ripper 3x/week
  • 40 perfect pushups by my 40th birthday

Nutrition Goals

  • Eat 2 servings of fruit
  • Eat 1 serving of vegetables (not counting potatoes)
  • Consume less sugar
  • Drink more water

What are your goals for 2012?





Re-Thinking Gift Giving

21 11 2011

A few weeks ago, I received the following text in an email from my dad, its title was “The Birth of a New Tradition.”  I don’t know who the original author is, but it is not me.  I do however, agree, with the sentiments and ideas expressed in it.

As we gear up for another Black Friday in just a few days, let’s consider how and where we spend our money.  My gift giving will look a little different this year.

The Birth of a New Tradition

“As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide us with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods—merchandise that has been produced at the expense of local labor.  

This year will be different.

This year we should give the gift of genuine concern for others.  There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by local hands.

Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box.  Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone gets their hair cut.  How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber?

Gym membership?  It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed?  Small, locally owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking down big money on a Chinese made flat-screen?  Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run local restaurants—many offering gift certificates.  And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half-dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.   Remember, this isn’t about big national chains.  This is about supporting your local businesses.  Their financial lives are on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck, or motorcycle done at a local shop?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom?  Maybe she would love the services of a local cleaning lady for a day or a spa treatment or her nails done at a local salon.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I know I can find some shop that is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal.  Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves.  They make jewelry and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.  And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre?

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Do you have money to spend on a nice family vacation across the country or overseas?  Why don’t you leave a nice tip for your mail carrier, trash guy, or babysitter?

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining local pockets so that China can build another glittering city.  Christmas is now about caring about our neighbors, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams.   And, when we care about our neighbors and family, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

This could be a new Christmas tradition.”





This I Believe

10 04 2011

I just finished reading This I Believe:  The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.  This I Believe is based on NPR’s radio series of the same name that was wildly popular in the 1950s.  Eighty essays by famous and not-until-recently famous Americans each complete the thought that begins the title of the book.

 

I received several gems of wisdom and conviction that I am not likely to forget.

  • In an essay titled “Always Go to the Funeral” by Deirdre Sullivan, an attorney in Brooklyn, Sullivan writes of the values her father instilled in her by making her attend funerals of people she knew.  Sullivan writes, “In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil.  It’s hardly so epic.  Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.”
  • In an essay titled “When Ordinary People Achieve Ordinary Things” by Jody Williams, the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Williams touches on the same idea.  “I believe words are easy.  I believe the truth is told in the actions we take.”

These essays, among others, caused me to really think about what I believe.  If I were asked to write such an essay, what would mine be about? 

 

None of the following thoughts are essays in and of themselves.  Some are core beliefs, others are not. 

 

Regarding my spiritual beliefs:

  • I believe there is only one way to eternal life in paradise, through acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6
  • I believe Satan is real.  I believe his powers are limited.  I believe he is defeated by the name of Jesus Christ.
  • I believe in the power of forgiveness.
  • I believe that only through grace and faith can we truly find “peace that passes all understanding” –Philippians 4:7, even in the darkest of circumstances.
  • I believe in that through prayer, we have the power of the creator of the universe at our disposal.
  • I believe God can redeem any situation—the most miserable marriage, the longest-held grudge, the hardest of hearts.  “Nothing is too hard for you.” –Jeremiah 32:17.
  • I believe in fasting to draw nearer to the heart of God.
  • I believe in the power of community and teamship.  Jesus did not live in isolation; neither should I.  I believe in being transparent and honest and with my team members, and I believe living this way will lead to blessings.
  • I believe life begins at conception.  As such, I believe abortion for any reason and at any time is the murder of an innocent human life.
  • I believe God created sexual intimacy to be an incredible blessing for the covenant of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage.  I believe that remaining sexually pure until after the wedding offers the most amazing blessings  God has given us in this gift.

 

Concerning parenting:

  • I believe parents should be parents first, not friends—until much later in life.  I believe in setting boundaries for your children and enforcing discipline.
  • I believe I am my sons’ greatest role model in all areas of life.  I believe it is my duty, first and foremost before it is anyone else’s duty, to train my children to make good decisions, to value education, to be financially responsible, to be sexually pure and honor their bodies (among many other things.)  I believe none of these issues is a one-time discussion, but a life-long continual dialogue.
  • I believe that parents should not live vicariously through their children.  Be an adult and get a life of your own.

 

In terms of education:

  • I believe that parents play a crucial role in their children’s education.  I believe a teacher can only do so much.  I believe testing can only accomplish so much.  I believe new resources and free lunches only go so far.  I believe extraordinary facilities and modern technology cannot replace a parent’s influence on the home front.
  • I believe in memorizing the multiplication tables.  I believe America is in a sad, sad state when high school students need a calculator to multiply 72 x 2.
  • I believe tenure is a bad idea.  (This coming from an educator of 15 years who has taught in both public and private institutions.)

 

Other random thoughts:

  • I believe in serving others as much as we possibly can.  I believe giving of my time is as important as giving of my financial resources.
  • I believe in the supremacy of the First Amendment.  I believe that all people should be allowed to freely and peacefully express their opinions and beliefs without threat of persecution.
  • I believe that sometimes it is best to agree to disagree.