Adventures In Buckland

Making hawks doves, stopping wars with love, and making liars tell the truth.

Disappointing Your Kids

Parents today have too many pressures heaped upon them.  We are bombarded with “expert” opinions and unrealistic expectations on how to raise perfect, well-adjusted, brilliant, beautiful, talented, morally immaculate children.  It’s more than even our Bible heroes could achieve!  Formulas abound.  Plug in these variables and presto!  Get perfect kids!  As if raising children was as simple as following a recipe; baking the perfect kidcake with all the best organic ingredients.

On top of all that, I see parents who will go to great lengths, moving heaven and earth in order not to disappoint their kids.  They somehow, along with caring for their kids, feel responsible for their total and complete happiness.  As if parents don’t already have enough heaped onto their plates managing homes, families, schedules, work, school, bills, etc., since when did it become our responsibility to placate each and every whim and desire our kids have?

I love my kids.  I would lay down in front of a bus for them.  In fact, in many ways I kind of already have.  I have endured natural labor and delivery for all four of them, nursed them all for at least the first year of their lives, and now I homeschool all four!  It definitely feels as if, at times, I have indeed been hit by a bus.  I am with them all the blessed time.  And did I mention there are four of them?  Sometimes I feel like I am playing a constant game of Whack-a-Mole; just when I get one kid settled and one need met, up pops another one!  At some point, I have to tell them to entertain/occupy/feed/talk to themselves.  Very early on with four children under the age of 5, we learned that someone was just going to have to pout/be unhappy/cry for a moment…and many times it was me.

Now because of the sheer volume of children in our house, we’ve had to lay down a few rules.  They are never, under any circumstances, to ever utter the words “I’m bored” in our presence.  We have trained them well, because whenever they have said this to us in the past, we have responded by handing them a broom or a toilet scrubber, or pointed them in the direction of a stinky litter box.  And we’re not ogres.  We don’t just use manual labor.  We have preemptively provided them with plenty of options, because we love them.  Quite often we tell them to go read; we hand them a book and tell them to study it and come back and tell us what they have learned.  They can draw or paint or practice piano, putting their art and piano lessons to good use.  One of our homeschool philosophies is teaching them to be self-directed learners.  Ren and I do not exist to make them happy or spoon-feed them everything.  We love them.  We care for and about their needs.  We provide for them.  But there comes a point when we have to put our foot down and say no, simply because we have limits and cannot do everything for them.

As parents we feel that one of our main goals is to teach them how to be independent and self-reliant, and self-directed, and not continually looking to other people to meet their needs and make them happy.  My daughters bought their own American Girl dolls mainly because we didn’t want to set the precedent of having to buy all 3 of them a $100 doll.  Now they are saving up for their own iPods.  Now, of course we want them depending on God and relying on His direction and His Spirit, first and foremost.  But when it comes to other people, they really need to learn to be be content and happy with themselves (and God) before they can operate and function in any healthy relationship.

Obviously, our kids do indeed depend on us, and rightfully so.  But far too often I see an unhealthy codependency between children and their parents. I believe that our primary goal is to teach our children, as they grow and mature, to separate themselves from us.  They are not “us.”  They are their own individual selves, whom God created with each their own unique individual purpose.

I truly believe that’s what Jesus is talking about in Luke 14:26 when He says, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”  Or in Matthew 19:29 when He says that everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”  On the surface, those verses can be tough to swallow.  They certainly aren’t ones you’ll see on a Mother’s Day card!  But I think that what Jesus is getting at is exactly what I’ve been saying.  I am not God.  I would make a pretty terrible god for my children.  They are supposed to see my inadequacies, and be left longing for more than I can give, as I humbly point them in the direction of the One who can give them a Living Water and be satisfied. 

My oldest daughter recently had an opportunity to go to Disney World with her best friend.  It was truly an opportunity of a lifetime for her.  Her friend’s grandparents work at Disney World for half the year, so they get to go for free, get perks on reservations, hotels, discounts on merchandise, etc.  We went to Disney World as a family last year, but we had more of a commoner’s experience, the layperson’s if you will, in which we had to wait in long lines and pay full price for everything.  The kids enjoyed it, but I was truly happy when Isabel had another opportunity to go and this time have a more VIP experience.  But there was one small problem…my other kids weren’t invited.  Do I keep Isabel home for fear of my other kids being too devastated because their big sister got to go without them?  HECK NO!!!!  Trust me, that was not a pleasant family discussion. Were they disappointed?  Sure.  Well, my 5-year old wasn’t because all she remembers about Disney is non-stop walking for 5 days, but that’s not the point.  I simply couldn’t imagine denying my daughter an opportunity simply because I would be disappointing my other children.

It actually turned out to be an excellent teaching lesson for them, and for all of us.  First of all, Isabel had to wait 10 years for her very first trip to Disney.  All of her friends had gone before her, while her parents were too busy taking care of her baby brother and sisters to do anything crazy and frivolous like make a pilgrimage to Disney!  Also, it gave us a chance to talk to our other kids about how Isabel is going to do a lot of things BEFORE them, simply because she is older.  She will drive before them.  Graduate before them.  That’s one of the perks of being the oldest.  However, those of you who wear the oldest crown in the family also know that there are so. many. responsibilities that go along with that.  Especially true of children of large families, a lot of chores get heaped on them by necessity.  My 10-year old does her own laundry, loads and unloads the dishwasher, vacuums her own room, makes her bed every day, bathes the dog, makes us coffee when we ask her too, and knows how to make a mean Shepherd’s Pie.  In other words, she works pretty hard for a 10 year old because we need her help.  Plus she’s cheaper than a maid.  I saw the chance for her to go to Disney with her friend as an opportunity and a true gift from the Lord.

And here’s the thing:  I didn’t feel like I had to “make it up” to my other kids somehow.  They have all gone to Disney.  And they will very likely go again.  And they will have different opportunities in life.  Life is not equal.  Life is not always fair.  But the goal is to make the most of what you’ve got, and be grateful and give thanks for all the wonderful opportunities that do come your way.  No, my other kids didn’t get the VIP trip to Disney.  And that is perfectly okay with me.  They will have other chances to do and be a part of great things in this life, I am sure of it.  I believe that, because I believe in a great God.  With Him, there is no scarcity, only an abundance of blessing, and I look forward to seeing all the exciting and creative ways He is going to bless each one of my children.

It’s hard to say no.  It’s hard to disappoint your kids.  It’s hard to disappoint anyone.  We all want to be loved and applauded for all our choices, but that’s just not realistic.  Teaching your kids to deal with disappointment in life is a much greater gift to them than continually giving them everything they want.  Because, honestly, I have met those kids as adults, and they aren’t people that I want to spend a lot of time with!

I think that our unwillingness to disappoint our kids can sometimes be rooted in our own pride and insecurity.  We want to be our kids’ savior.  We want to rescue them.  We want to satisfy their wants and needs because if we don’t, we fear that it will somehow reflect poorly on us.  Sure we all love them and want to take good care of them.  But, I am talking about the guilt we feel when they get sad or unhappy about something, and we somehow feel responsible.  Or maybe, we are still bitter over ways our own parents have disappointed us and then we overcompensate with our own children and go overboard in trying to please them.  I see parents who do that, and no matter how much they do for them, their kids are still miserable.

A friend of mine once said that she never wanted to be the reason her daughter ended up on a therapists’ couch.  And at the time I agreed with that.  We were both young mothers, and I felt the exact same way.  Well now that I have 11 years of parenting under my belt, I realize that I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve made many mistakes.  And if in the future my kids find themselves on a therapist’s couch as adults, and I am NOT the reason or at least one of the reasons, then that would probably make me the very first parent ever to accomplish such an amazing feat!

So here’s my charge to you, parents!  You have have my permission to disappoint your kids.  Tell them no at least once a day.  It will be tough at first, but it gets easier, I promise.  Trust me, I am an expert at it.  Part of our responsibility as parents is to teach our children how to make themselves happy, and not always rely on us to constantly do it for them.  Our world needs more people like that.

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One Thing

I have a question for you:  What’s the one thing you know you should be doing but aren’t?  I’m not talking about everyday things, things that may be important but on a much smaller scale, such as doing the dishes, taking out the trash, or paying the cable bill.  I’m talking about the ideas that you have.  The big ones.  The ones that won’t leave.  The ones that have been with you for months, maybe even years.  Maybe ever since you were a kid.  They linger like strays on a doorstep.  You want to write a novel.  Or travel the world someday.  Or start your own business.  Or run a half marathon.  You get the idea.  We all have at least one thing.  Maybe it’s two or three things.

Call me crazy, but I believe we were all created for a unique purpose.  Every single one of us.  I believe that there is something inside of us, that we were designed to do, that burns deep within us.  Maybe the thought of doing it strikes fear and terror in our hearts.  Yet the thought of not doing it is even more than we can bear.  We know we won’t be fulfilled until we do it.  Our mission here on Earth isn’t complete until we follow through.

(Maybe she watches too much sci-fi…)

We have a goal.  We have a dream, a vision.  But so often life happens and with all of its many curveballs it throws, we find ourselves way off track.  Whatever that one thing is for you, most of us know that what got us here:

fat-cat-pictures-001

…won’t get us there:

Disappointing, I know.

The problem with this, is that these ideas/goals/dreams/visions look so big in our mind’s eye that we often don’t know how to get them started.  We start to feel suffocated.  Paralyzed.  We are at the bottom of Mt. Everest, staring up at its peak.  We see the summit, where we want to be but just not knowing how to get there.  And so we continue to walk around the bottom of that mountain, all the while staring longingly, wondering if and when we will ever make it to the top.

What we so often miss are the tiny, insignificant little footpaths up the side that would lead us all the way up, if we would just recognize them and faithfully climb.  One step at a time.

I want to write.  Most of the time, I have no idea what I am supposed to write about.  My ideas, at times, seem so small and insignificant.  I’m not an “expert” at anything.  Eventually, though, I would love to write a book.  I have that pesky vision, you see.  I have no idea how I am supposed to get there.  All I do know is that for now I have an assignment:  Write 500 words a day.  One blog post up every week.  That’s it.  It sounds ridiculously simple.  So why would I not do it?  Because it can feel so tedious.  So boring.  So unglamorous.  It’s not how I imagine it in my head.  Plus, the chances that some publisher in shining armor will gallop past my blog on his glimmering white steed and be so taken in by the sheer beauty and poetry of my words are slim to none.

I know that I am also supposed to run.  I don’t know why.  It is just somehow a part of me.  I am more fully ME when I do it, if that makes any sense.  It’s one of the things that makes me tick.  It’s like it was somehow written into my DNA, imprinted on my genetic code, or hardwired into my programming.

(Okay, now we KNOW she watches WAY too much sci-fi…)

I just recently signed up for my first half marathon.  I never really thought I was capable of even attempting such a feat until I saw the training schedule.  Two short runs twice a week for 30 minutes and one long run on the weekend.  I can do that.  It’s taking that monstrous task and breaking it into smaller, more manageable steps.

I don’t know why I’m supposed to write, other than to offer my fellow readers hope and encouragement in these tough times that we live.  And if that’s all I do, then it will have been enough.  Because I accomplished what I was supposed to do.  Just do it.  Blog it.  Write it.  Get the words out there.  No matter how boring it seems.  No matter how miniscule it may appear.  Just.  Do.  It.  Even if it sucks.

I don’t know what “it” is for you.  It may be a weight loss goal, or a dream that you have buried because of setbacks or disappointments.  Whatever it is, it’s still there isn’t it?  It’s still alive.  It’s barely breathing, and it may need a little resuscitation, but with a little kickstart of some hope and some prayer, we can get this old rusted thing moving again, you and I.  Together we can do the things we were created to do.

Because when I do those small things, take those small steps up, I know I am doing the right thing.  I am making the small steps toward my goal.  No matter how much it hurts.  Take that wonderful, beautiful, pure idea, the one that excites you beyond words, and take those small steps to see it through.  Don’t let the idea itself intimidate you from even trying.  And if you fall, so what?  Pick yourself back up and do it again.  And again.  And then again.  Until you’ve made it so far up your mountain that it doesn’t make any sense to go back down.  You just have to keep going up.

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Why I Run

Me and my dad, August 2012

If you know me at all, or follow me on social media, you know that I love to run.  Let me say up front, I am no Olympic athlete.  I have never run a marathon, and in the past my running schedule has been sporadic at best.  I have run several 5ks, a few 10ks, but mostly I love to go for a 30 minute jaunt around the park or my neighborhood, giving this desperate introvert a much needed break from parenting and homeschooling 4 children!  Running clears my head.  It gives me time to recalibrate, to think and focus, meditate or pray.  Another bonus:  I get to listen to my music of choice, uninterrupted.  That might not seem like such a big deal to some, but for me it is a rarity these days.  A daily dose of Vitamin D from some good old-fashioned sunshine (remember that stuff?), along with some fresh air (that too?), can help me rise above and transcend whatever problems I may be facing.  I feel capable.  Strong.  Healthy.

My love of running began while I was in high school.  My dad is a runner, and I watched him prioritize running throughout the years, from jogs in his free time to participating in various races, including the Detroit Marathon.  For quality father/daughter time we often ran together around the high school track.  My dad and I share a lot of similar passions in life, and pounding our feet on the pavement is definitely one of them.  I didn’t appreciate running then as much as I do now.  I didn’t really take it that seriously.  I wish I had, because I think it would have really made an impact early on in my life.  My family history is one filled with tough battles, fought and overcome.  Running is one way that my dad and I have both conquered some ugly personal demons.

I understand that running is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Maybe you feel about running the way I do about swimming, which is definitely my least favorite form of exercise.  Let me put it this way:  I do not enjoy any strenuous activity that involves periods of HOLDING MY BREATH.  This also explains why, if I must swim, I enthusiastically over utilize the backstroke.  My husband was a swimmer in his younger years, and to this day, it remains his exercise of choice.  It’s probably also the major reason our children participate on the swim team every summer.  That and they truly do love it.  But it’s definitely not my favorite sport.  I faithfully cheer them on from the sidelines.

All that to say, I truly understand that there are many out there, for one reason or another, that don’t “get” running.  For you, it’s torture.  And I certainly don’t advise that just anybody get up off the couch after reading this and run two miles, especially if you have never done it before and haven’t conditioned yourself to do it in the first place.  It does take some getting used to, for sure.  However, that being said, I think that more people are capable of running than they think they are.  Also, our ideas about running are often wrong, and that may be what’s actually keeping us from getting out there and doing it.  For instance, anyone can get out and start walking.  We are biologically engineered to be able to walk several miles a day.  But most of us aren’t doing even that.  Here is something you can try:  Next time you take a walk around your neighborhood, just pick up into a gentle trot for about 20 seconds.  That’s it.  Then take a break and keep walking.  And if it isn’t completely horrible, do it again in another couple minutes!  The problem is, most people just assume that they will hate it without even trying.  If you try it and hate it, then you can legitimately tell me “I told you so!”

What I simply do not understand is the person who scoffs at other people who run.  Chad Stafko, over at the WSJ, apparently has that particular axe to grind.  And maybe, like Chad, you are annoyed when you see someone’s time/distance running stats pop up on your news feed.  And if that’s the case, I am truly sorry.  I am sorry that you are following me to begin with, and that you think I should care that you’re annoyed.  Let me let you in on a little something, I am not posting them for you.  I am posting them with the hope that maybe someone else will be inspired, someone who has maybe never tried running before.  Someone who might be struggling with their health.  Someone who might be wrestling with depression, and needs that boost of serotonin to get them through the day.  Besides, which would you rather see…my running stats or my political rants?  Suddenly the running stats don’t seem so awful!

You see, we runners all have a story.  And I am one of those crazy people that “like” and cheer for other runners when I see their stats.  I like seeing those stats in my news feed.  I get excited when I see someone else getting out there and doing it.  I am genuinely happy for them.  It makes me want to get out there and join them.  I am excited for them because I can feel what they are feeling.  I can feel the adrenaline, the rush, the power of getting off your butt and doing something AMAZING with our bodies.  What I find absolutely astonishing is that ANYONE would lambast an entire group of people for doing something HEALTHY!  What kind of a crazy world is this?!?  In a world of rampant cancer, diabetes, and obesity, people who run (or walk, or swim, or bike, etc.) are being proactive about their health.  And by sharing their stats, maybe they are simply inviting others to join them to take charge.  I share my stats for that reason alone.  I don’t do it to brag.  Seriously, have you seen my times?!  Right now I am running over a 10-minute mile, certainly nothing to brag about.

Mario Fraioli offered a beautiful, inspired response to Mr. Stafko’s article, so I won’t spend any more time on that issue.  You should seriously go read the article, whether you love running, and the former article made you mad, or whether you never run at all.  It may give you a glimpse into the crazy mind of a runner.  Or maybe this will help.  It’s a clip from one of my all-time favorite movies.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Chariots of Fire.

*sniff*  Gets me every time.

Call me crazy, but that’s how I feel when I run.  When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.  Your reasons for running may be completely different from mine, but I can honestly say that it is just something I was born to do.  I don’t know why.  I know I will never win a gold medal.  I don’t do it for the praises or accolades.  I do it for the way it makes me feel.  I do it because I. JUST. FREAKING. LOVE. IT.  So much.  So the next time you feel a little annoyed by someone’s run stats, just pass over it.  Hide it from your news feed.  It won’t hurt my feelings.  I am a big girl, I can take it.  Or better yet, why don’t you take my stats, get out on the road and try to outrun them?  Who knows?  You might even LIKE it!

That’s why I have officially signed up for my first half marathon in February 2014!  I am running in the Xterra Thrill in The Hills half marathon sponsored by Dirty Spokes Productions.  And now that I have gone public with it, you all can help keep me accountable.  And you better BELIEVE that I will be slapping that white oval 13.1 on the back on my car when I finish, and posting my stats along the way!

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Earth Wind & Fire, Sinead O’Connor, and Miley Cyrus

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I am willing to bet money that I own the only blog post in the universe containing all three of these incredibly diverse musicians in one title.  What could these three possibly have in common with one another?

Well, last night I had the privilege and great honor of attending an Earth Wind & Fire concert at the Fox theater in Atlanta with some dear friends.  Now let me just preface this by saying, up until last night I would not have classified myself as an Earth Wind & Fire fan.  I am an angsty white girl who finds solace in bands and musicians like U2, The Ramones, The Clash, Jack White, The Cure, The Smiths, and Aimee Mann.  I am not the biggest fan of 70s era music, and in the rock versus disco debate, I am sure, judging by the aforementioned list, you can guess which side I am on.  I have many friends who enjoy disco, and I’ll be honest, I have never understood you.

Until last night.

For those of us young whippersnappers who have never been acquainted with the music of EWF, this is probably their most famous song:

They have many other hits; songs like Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star, Got to Get You into My Life, and Let’s Groove (my personal favorite), just to name a few.  There are only 3 of the original members left in the group:  Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Philip Bailey.  I distinctly remember Philip Bailey’s solo career from the early 80s; I confess that as an eight-year old, I was a huge fan of “Easy Lover,” a duet with Phil Collins.  Due in large part to the influence of my parents!

In short, the concert was AMAZING. The music started.  I recognized several of their songs.  I grinned from ear to ear the entire time.  My cheeks hurt by the time we left.  As I looked around the packed Fox Theater, I was amazed by what I saw.  These gentlemen were able to draw one of the most incredibly diverse crowds that I have ever seen gathered under one roof.  Young children with parents.  White folks.  Black folks.  80 year old grandparents.  Entire families.  30 year olds decked out in sequins and go-go boots.  And everyone was so HAPPY.  It was some of the most joyful music I had ever heard.  For a couple hours everyone forgot about government shutdowns, racial tension, and political differences.  And they just had a darn good time.  That’s the power of great music, my friends.  The fact that these men have been doing this for FORTY-TWO FREAKING YEARS, is nothing short of amazing.  Philip Bailey is known for his 4-octave vocal range, and he proved last night that he’s still got the goods at age 62.  Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right.  They have staying power, the enormous talent to back it up, and a devoted crowd that still loves them to this day.  They seemed so genuine.  They are doing what they love to do and they are experts at it.  It is now my mission to listen to as much EWF as I possibly can.  I am a believer.  I went to bed feeling so happy.

And then I woke up.

No, last night wasn’t a dream, even though it kind of felt like one.  I literally woke up this morning and read the news about an open letter from Sinead O’Connor to Miley Cyrus.  Back to reality.  Back to the music world of today.  Where it’s all style and absolutely no substance.  Superficiality is queen.  Everything is auto-tuned, and every Disney starlet has a record contract, regardless of whether or not they can actually sing.

This is the music of today.  And it makes me so sad.

First of all, I love Sinead.  I was a fan of hers back when “Nothing Compares to You” came out.  I remember her shaved head and combat boots.  She was so different.  And yet so genuine.  And, of course, she satisfied that angsty white girl itch of mine.

You should read the letter.  It’s really beautiful.  She comes across as an angry mama bear who is trying to protect someone she sees being taken advantage of by a music industry that is completely out of control.  I really can’t do it justice.  I love that woman.  In an age of relativism, and everyone being too afraid to have an opinion about anything in the name of “tolerance,” political correctness, or open-mindedness, she is going out on a limb.  I am sure there will be a backlash.  There will be those who criticize Sinead as a washed-up has been; someone who isn’t relevant anymore.  And old, outdated relic of a music world of days gone by.

Or maybe…
The reality is that she has a few things to tell us.  A few things for us to learn.  Maybe, just maybe, she’s made some mistakes, probably quite a few.  And she’s trying to warn Miley, and others, NOT to go down that path.  Maybe Ms. O’Connor is truly brilliant (as a few of us have always suspected), and decided to live her life, privately, out of the limelight, in order to SAVE herself, and protect her family and her own integrity.

I’m listening, Sinead.  I always have been.

I am saddened when I see my generation, and younger generations, throwing off the wisdom of those who have gone before us.  Like we think we are going to reinvent the wheel.  I had the sad thought last night during the show, in the midst of all the fun and the joy, that I just can’t think of ONE musician or band that will still be around in 42 years.  Who, that you are listening to right now, has that kind of staying power?  I honestly draw a blank.  The music industry today is a chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out machine.  Get them in as young as possible, make stars out of them, and then sit back and enjoy the celestial show as they explode.  Think Britney.  Think Bieber.  Think Miley.

Does it have to be this way?

As I watched the guys of Earth Wind & Fire last night, I realize that it just doesn’t.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Somehow, they have figured it out.  Maybe we should be looking and listening to the greats from the past and learning from their wisdom.  In all areas.  Now I am definitely not saying that younger generations have nothing to offer or improve upon!  But somehow we must find a way to make progress without completely throwing out the wisdom of those who have gone before us.  Looking at those who are making it work, and following their example.  We could learn so much, if we would just be willing to stop and listen.  You just might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

Last night I learned from listening to a bunch of men in their 60s that I actually really like disco.   Go figure.

Wisdom belongs to the aged,
    and understanding to the old. –Job 12:12 (NLT)

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The Dregs of Summer

The crowd has gathered -

It is only days until Autumn makes his triumphant appearance,

With wreaths and garlands of gold adorning his comely head.

We anxiously await his inauguration,

As we wave good riddance to his predecessor,

Suffering now the dregs of Summer.

She has given us her best, but her reign is nearing its uninspiring end.

Fruits have ceased their bearing, and vegetation has withered and withdrawn.

Hibernating underground; soothing, placating.

Pool gates are closed, and children have returned to their cells,

But the temperatures deceive us.

Searing heat, drying and suffocating the last drops of life and vitality from the vine

As we wait.

We yearn.

For a different kind of harvest; a new kind of wine.

We wait for Summer to take her final breath.  To die.

And we openly applaud her passing.

Celebrating as her rival steps up and establishes his term.

We hold our breath as we crane our necks to witness whether she will step down peacefully

Or leave us violently; clinging and grasping for one final, desperate but feeble display of vanity.

All the while, we ignore the fact that our new king will abandon us in similar fashion -

And he will leave our beds before we awaken from our drunken sleep.

Not even casting a glance in our direction as we alone face usurpation by the cruelest of all kings.

Leaving us

Bitter. Empty. Hungry.

Cold.

When we will wait.

And yearn.

For Queen Summer.

Harkening back to her warmth,

Her luscious fruits,

Her promises whispered, sweet kisses, and her carefree embrace.

As we long for her glorious return.

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And That’s the Truth!

I am passionate about the truth.  For as long as I can remember, I have always had an intense interest in searching for, discovering, and communicating truth.  As a senior in high school, a teacher presented our English class with an assignment asking us to describe our major life goal.  My answer?  Well, to seek and find the ultimate truth, OBVIOUSLY!  That’s not too lofty for an 18 year-old, is it?  In college, I studied political science, thinking I might one day go to law school to become an ardent defender of truth and justice.  That was until I learned that’s not what lawyers actually do!  I must confess to you that my life goal is still somewhat the same today.  Nothing gets me more excited than discovering the truth about something.  Anything.  Facts and right answers thrill me.  Being right thrills me even more, although that doesn’t happen as often as I would like!

I have opinions, sometimes strong opinions, and I have a hard time keeping them to myself, because I have weighed them, prayed about them, and have found them worthy of being held.  I have a passion for sharing the truths with others.  It’s how I am wired.  This also means that I happen to be the world’s worst liar.  I have a very difficult time feigning interest in something with which I am not totally absorbed.  I tend to be very transparent, wearing all my emotions in my facial expressions and my heart on my sleeve!  I’m pretty much an open book.  Biting my tongue is not a particular strength of mine.  Unfortunately, In this day and age, this doesn’t always attract very many “followers.”

As a young college student, my search for Truth led me to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  At 19, I became a Christian.  Before then, nothing had ever satisfied those hunger pangs for Truth.  Nothing had ever quenched that thirst.  And this Truth remains my foundation to this day.

Fun fact:  My name comes from the Greek word “angelos” meaning “messenger of God.”

So, I am politically passionate, Jesus-loving, opinionated woman living in 2013 who feels that it is her purpose in life to preach the Truth.  What could be so wrong with that?

As you can probably imagine, however, this little character aspect of mine can be quite problematic.  Because of my truth-seeking tendencies, I tend to be a little bit of a skeptic.  How can you be a Christian and a skeptic, you may ask?  Exactly.  It’s pure torture.  I am rarely satisfied with pat, pre-packaged answers or neatly explained theories.  Even if those answers may be right, I hold out.  I am definitely not what you’d call an “early adopter.”  For instance, I usually discover “new” bands three years after they’ve broken up.  I am slow to get on board, which sometimes means I altogether miss the bus!  But when I do get on board with something, I am on the ride for the long haul.

Sometimes I spend HOURS scouring the Internet, reading books, magazine articles, anything I can find searching for some nugget of truth that I can use to change even my small corner of the world.  Often, though, my search leaves me dissatisfied.  Corrie ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”  This is so very true.  The world is in shambles and doesn’t seem to have any solutions.  I am human and I certainly don’t have all the answers.  Therefore, God is and continues to be my source of comfort, hope, strength, peace, and joy in this broken, disillusioned world.

It is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to know what the truth is anymore.  We are told that truth is relative and everyone has to find their own version of the truth.  Well, I 100% percent believe in a universal Truth.  1+1 will always equal 2.  The color red is red, no matter what country you’re in.  We may use different words to describe it (“rojo,” “rouge”), but it’s still red.  There may be even be slight variations in the shade of red.  The diversity of shades that exist within just one color are numerous.  But red is red.  Good is good.  Bad is bad.  Fair is fair.

You get the idea.

You see, I have this ongoing struggle, and it is evidenced in my blogging.  I often debate about what to write about so much that I end up writing nothing at all!  I can shut up and be quiet and be liked, but never be heard.  I can write about benign things like football, movies, or just focus on the things about Jesus that everybody likes, like His teachings about love.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things, but then I am not writing from my passions.  Or I can open my mouth (or in this case, type my thoughts) and risk turning people away.  You see, the things I most enjoy talking about are the things that are, according to the old adage, deemed inappropriate for polite conversation.  However, in this current cultural climate, it seems no one wants to hear the Truth any more.  We just want to feel good.

I think that what our world needs now, more than ever, are Truth bearers.  People who aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right, speaking the Truth while we still have breath in our lungs to anyone who will listen.  Even if we are laughed at.  Made fun of.  Even when the world sticks its fingers in its ears and disagrees and calls us names.  Even if it means we won’t be very popular.  You see, I’d rather die knowing that I stood for something.  I would rather be in the ranks of those who went against the grain of their contemporaries, adding to the voices unafraid and unashamed to speak the Truth, sacrificing their time, their comfort, their resources, their reputations, and some even their very lives in the pursuit.  People like Galileo, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, St. Francis of Assissi, Mother Theresa, and Ron Paul.  Just to name a few.

I leave you with the words of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Voice of Truth:

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

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Well, I Did It

On May 21, 1927, American aviator Charles Augustus Lindbergh emerged from a single-seat, single-engine monoplane called The Spirit of St. Louis after completing a 33.5 hour non-stop solo flight from New York City to Paris.  While many others attempted this feat prior to Lindbergh, it was the first time that such an endeavor was ever successfully completed.  Lindbergh’s famous first words after his amazing flight were simply, “Well, I did it.”

And though I haven’t procured a pilot’s license (Although my husband has!  Way to go, Sweetie!)  or completed any transatlantic flights, I have done exactly what I set out to do since my last post just three years ago.  So I am feeling a little Lindbergh-ish as I ironically declare from my Laz-y-Boy that I have indeed made some necessary changes and am currently reaping and enjoying the rewards of a much healthier lifestyle.

I am also blogging again.  Miracles truly never cease.

Now I could bore you with the nuts and bolts of my weight loss journey, but I’m not going to do that.  I have learned that when most people ask about your own personal weight loss, what they are hoping to hear is that it involves a bizarre yet intriguing ritual of cupcakes, vodka, sex, and maybe hula-hooping.  We all want that magic bullet.  We want the easy-out.  I witness this every time I burst someone’s bubble by telling them that weight loss indeed involves some sort of semi-starvation and/or brutal physical abuse.  A dazed and distant look settles in on the listener, and he or she eventually finds something else more interesting to focus on in the room:  a paint chip; a dust bunny.

I am no different.  Yes, I was able to drop a few pounds, and for some strange reason I am one of the weirdos who actually does enjoy exercise.  But there are things in my life that I would just rather snap my fingers and make happen.  I don’t want to have to work hard for absolutely EVERYTHING.  Case in point:  Blogging.  You see, I have a dream.  I want to write.  I want to write a bestseller, and go on a book tour, and do a speaking circuit.  If I lived alone on a mountain top in Tibet, I could probably accomplish this goal.  Although the WI-fi might be a little iffy.  The sheer number of interruptions I experience during a single blog post composition would BOGGLE YOUR MIND.  And so I wake up.  And reality sets in.  I have four kids, ages 10 and under, who haven’t eaten yet today.  I have laundry piles that nearly reach the ceiling.  I have no idea what we’re eating for dinner tonight.  I haven’t been able to consume anything today except a Coke Zero.  Also, I haven’t yet brushed my teeth today.  Hey, something has to get sacrificed if I am going to write this blog post!

Most of the time we put off what we know we need to do today because we see where we want to be in 5 years, and it feels overwhelming.  The road looks long, hard, and ugly.  Many times it even looks tedious and boring.  And I think this is what trips me up the most.  I can handle hard and ugly.  I have delivered four children au naturale, after all.  It’s the long, boring, and tedious that I just cannot stand.  Will the sweaty, fumbling workout I do today really make a difference in the long run?  Will this one measly little blog post gain the attention of an editor and get me that long-awaited book deal?

Most likely, no.

Thomas Edison once said, “There is no substitute for hard work.”  This is a truth we all know deep down.  Human beings aren’t afraid of hard work.  He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” And “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Want another one?  “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

We may not always love hard work, but I don’t necessarily think we are afraid of it.  What we are afraid of is failure.  Working hard for no return.  Spinning our wheels only to find ourselves stuck even deeper in the mud.

And so, we give up.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future.  I know that we have been given Today as a gift.  Time and space are ours today, our gift from God.  What are we going to do with it?

Thinking too much about the road ahead makes us weary.  We will stumble and fall under the enormous weight of it all.  We are too weak to carry that burden.  If we look at how many pounds we have to lose, instead of how many we’ve already lost, our perspective gets skewed.  We get discouraged.  We give up.

Today, I’d like to encourage you to pick it back up, whatever “it” is for you.  One. More. Time.  Because maybe, just maybe, this one small, seemingly insignificant step will be a catalyst for great change in your life.  It’s been said that big changes start with small steps.  And we will reap a harvest if we DO NOT GIVE UP!

The present is God’s gift to us.  Let’s open it and see what’s inside!  Make that phone call.  Finish that workout.  Write that email.  Craft. That. Blog post!  Do whatever is on your heart to do today, so that when you lie down at night to rest you, too, can confidently say, “Well, I did it.”

I just did.

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I…I Will Be Thin Again

Hi.  My name is Angela.

And I’m…overweight.

There.  I said it.

I’ve actually known this for a while now.  Now I am not saying this because I am fishing for compliments.  I am saying this because I am finally coming to grips with it.  I’m quite fascinated by this sudden realization, actually, because I’ve never struggled with my weight until now.  Now, I am not grotesquely overweight or anything, nor am I considered obese.  But I recently entered my weight, height, and age into one of those BMI calculator thingamabobs, and there it was.  It very plainly and very clearly, albeit very politely, told me I was chunky and needed to drop a few pounds.  Dang.

Like I said, I’ve known that I was a little overweight for a while; more precisely since the birth of my third child.  I was thin when I got pregnant with the first three, and lost the weight very quickly and very easily after the first two.  And then this funny thing happened to me after the third kid:  My body kinda liked the extra padding and invited it along for an extended stay.  Then I got pregnant with #4 before I could even drive myself to the gym.  And I’ve been carrying that weight around with me ever since.

It was easy for me to have a couple of kids and drop the weight.  I was young and in shape when I started having children.  Prior to my stint as an Olympic procreator, I was an AFAA certified aerobics instructor who taught 12 classes a week.  I’ve run the Peachtree Road Race twice and loved every kilometer of it.  But that was four kids ago. And something something pounds ago.

You see, I am actually one of those weirdos that, deep down, really enjoys exercise.  I love aerobics, running, hiking, biking, you name it.  I’ve just gotten really tired lately, and the idea of adding regular exercise, on top of everything I already do feels impossible.  Maybe it’s because I’m taking care of a family of six, and as is typical of moms, I give myself the leftovers.

To make matters even worse, not one single member of my immediate family has more than an ounce of fat on them; which, unfortunately, makes me the “fat one” in the family.  My father is a retired Army Ranger who’s idea of a good time is fasting for long periods and running in sub-zero temperatures in the ghettos of downtown Detroit.  I’m totally not kidding about that, either.  And my brother is a…well, let’s just say he works for the government and he does a bunch a stuff I’m not allowed to talk or write about.  Needless to say, you wouldn’t want to piss that dude off.

And both of my little sisters look like supermodels.  Seriously.  It’s actually quite sickening.  In fact, I think I might hate them because of it.  Not really.  Only slightly.  But that’s okay.  Neither one of them has any kids.  So if and when the day comes that they decide to embark on the journey of motherhood, I will be right there offering my help to both of them as the older, wiser, fatter, sister, and silently laughing at them as their petite little nubile bodies balloon to the size of small freight carriers.  ;)

And my mother doesn’t help matters either.  I seriously think she’s a size two, and whenever I ask her if she’s hungry and would like something to eat, she responds with something incredibly annoying like, “Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.  I ate a couple of grapes a few hours ago.”  Psssht.

So I’m the stereotypical skinny white girl turned fat, frumpy housewife.  Awesome!

I think I’ve been feeling particularly sensitive about all this since my dear friend Holly recently started a brand new photography blog of pictures that she’s taken of her friends throughout the years.  She’s a wonderful photographer.  And as you might have already guessed, I’m one of those friends.  Go ahead and peruse her blog.  No, really.  I STRONGLY encourage you to look at all her pictures.  Several of them are of me.  And I ain’t gonna lie…I LOOK GOOOOOOOD.  In fact, I’m smoking hot, if I do say so myself.  However, I was also 20 years old and childless.  I’m now 33 and have four.  So the old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.

What I find particularly hilarious about all this is that this is what I still look like in my head.  And then I’ll see a recent photograph that someone has taken of me and think “Dear God, is that really what I look like now?!?!?!?”  It’s like my appearance is forever frozen in my mind.  So while the version of me in my head is actually better than the real-life version, I am realizing that I have some delusions about my physical appearance.  And I’m finally ready to do something about it.

I tend to think of the world in terms of shoulds and should nots.  As in, this SHOULD NOT be this way.  That SHOULD NEVER have happened.  This is what SHOULD have happened.  I tend to be a little bit too idealistic and therefore not very realistic at times.  I am a tired mom of four who used to never have to worry about her weight.  I SHOULD NOT have to make a special effort just to exercise.  People in other countries don’t spend hours in the gym, why SHOULD I?  Well, here’s the deal:  People in other countries don’t consume massive quantities of high fructose corn syrup and processed foods either.  We do.  This is America.  And in America, if you don’t exercise, you’ll get fat.  Period.

My friend Erin and I were discussing this not too long ago.  She said, and I agree, that there are two types of older people in this world:  The kind that exercise and eat well, and those that do not.  And they’re either thin and healthy or overweight and unhealthy.  When you’re young, you can eat Cheez Whiz and Fried Snickers Bars (hopefully not together) and still look pretty good on the outside.  Your bodies are so much more forgiving.  But eventually that stuff catches up to you as you get older and manifests in your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels, etc.  It sucks.  But that’s just the way it is.

So, as a family we’re resolving to eat better and to exercise at least 3 days a week.  Ren’s actually way ahead of me.  He’s been exercising faithfully for about month now.  One of the ways we’ve chosen to eat better is to buy locally and organically through Athens Locally Grown, which deserves its own separate blog post all to itself.

So, is it fair that I had to get up at 4:30 this morning to head to the Y in the freezing cold to end my relationship with sedentariness?  I personally don’t think so.  But I’m realizing that my waistline doesn’t give a crap about fairness, and the longer I continue to gripe and moan about it, my waistline will continue to increase, and then the weight will be even harder to lose.  So I’m doing something about it now while I’m feeling inspired.  Feel free to pray for me as I embark on this endeavor!

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A Movie Review, an Epiphany, & a Birthday Wish

I saw Julie & Julia recently.  Before I’d seen it, several people told me I needed to see it, and that the movie reminded them of me.  I don’t know what exactly about the movie reminded each person of me, but nevertheless I was intrigued.  Now, as you can probably imagine, as a woman with 4 small kids, I don’t really get to the movie theater much these days.  Pretty much if it’s not available to watch on Netflix’s Instant Streaming feature, I haven’t seen it.  A few opportunities to see the flick passed me by, so I simply resolved that I would eventually watch it once it came out on Netflix.

So back in December I went on what was supposed to be a 4-day cruise.  It was fabulous.  But then on the day of supposed debarkation, we woke up to find ourselves parked in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by a thick as molasses blanket of fog.  So our 4-day cruise turned into a 5-day cruise.  Now before you start rolling your eyes and thinking to yourselves “Awww, poor babies,” we were, at that point ready to go home and be with our husbands and our kids.  At that point in the trip, I was incredibly thankful that I was in fact married to a dude, as I had tolerated as much estrogen concentration as I could possibly handle.  ;)

Enter Julie & Julia.  The cruise director announced during breakfast that they would be playing movies in the Universe Lounge (a Vegas-style “show” room, where we’d witnessed a brutal massacring Beatles’ tunes which appeared to be performed by high school students just the night before.  I believe they were trying to keep the captives entertained in an effort to prevent us from all going stir-crazy.  We were elated:  Julie & Julia would definitely be a step-up from the Beatles review.  I would finally get to see the movie that everyone had recommended to me.

Once the movie started, I was immediately taken in.  Meryl Streep is utterly brilliant as Julia Child, for whom I must say I’ve always had a soft spot.  As a 6-year old, I used to watch episodes of “The French Chef” with Julia and “Louisiana Cookin’” with Justawn Wilsawn on our one available channel on a military base in Germany.  You see, I come from a family who loves to cook.  All my memories of my paternal grandmother, who was from Malta, were of her standing in the kitchen.  In fact, I don’t remember her ever entering any other part of her house.  My dad followed in her footsteps.  He even taught my mom how to cook.  And I am proud to say that each one of my siblings is a fearless artist in the kitchen.  These are my humble beginnings as a foodie.  I love food.  I love to eat.  I love to cook.  Food is a passion.  Cooking is therapeutic.  I already loved the movie before I’d ever even seen it.  Similarity #1.

Then you’ve got Julie Powell played by Amy Adams (you probably know her as Giselle from “Enchanted”).  A 30-something young wife who finds herself in New York City living with her husband in a cramped apartment above a pizzeria.  We find her working as a frustrated secretary in a cubicle, whose passions include cooking and writing.  Similarity #2.

In summary, she decides to embark on a project that involves cooking through Julia Child’s famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year as she blogs about it.  536 recipes in 365 days.  Then she gets a book deal, becomes famous, and they make a movie out of her story starring the most insanely talented actress of all time.  Yeah, that’s not really a similarity.

Needless to say, I loved the movie.  In fact, I loved it so much and talked endlessly about it to my husband when I came back home that he bought me the DVD for Christmas.  Yet, I haven’t even touched on my favorite aspect of this story.  The movie was about two women, but it was equally about the men in their lives who stood by them and helped them achieve success–their husbands.  These women were married to loving, kind, supportive, and dedicated husbands–Julia to Paul and Julie to Eric– who, it could be argued, were the driving forces behind each woman’s success.  The movie was incredibly pro marriage.  Had it not been for their husbands, we probably wouldn’t even know who Julie & Julia are.  Don’t get me wrong.  These weren’t “she wears the pants” kinds of relationships.  Both marriages were healthy, loving, stable, communicative, intimate…Equal.  They moved when their husbands jobs required them to, even if it meant sacrificing comfort and giving up lives that they loved.  They moved as a unit.  One.  They functioned together.  They were a team.  It was incredibly beautiful to watch.

Similarity…number…3…

You might say it was a recipe consisting of 1 woman who hadn’t seen her husband in 5 days, mixed together with a dash of estrogen overload.  Yet, as I watched these men dedicate themselves so fearlessly to their wives, I realized that that’s exactly what I have.  I married a man who absolutely loves seeing people become everything they were meant to be.  At times, his ambition and his fearless optimism drive me absolutely nuts.  But then again, I honestly can’t imagine living without them.  Today, I love the person that I’ve become.  And I would have to say that 85% of that is because of Ren Buckland.  The man is a visionary.  He believes in me.  He believes in people.  His hope is endless.  He pushes me to become who God created me to be.  Even when it’s not convenient for him or me.  He is patient when I am feisty.  He is calm when I go crazy.  He is sweet when I am…not.  He listens to me.  And he loves me.  He is dedicated.  He is faithful.  He is gentle.  He is kind.  He’s selfless.  He doesn’t demand his own way.  He’s a perfect gentleman.  And he’s mine.  Till death do us part.

I don’t know why it took a movie to help me see all that.  But since I’ve been home, I feel differently.  I look at him and I see these things.  Even when we have a disagreement.  Even when he’s late coming home from work.  Even when he’s tired and cranky.  Even then.  I count my blessings.  I am more in love with him today than I was the day I married him almost eleven years ago.  And who was born 42 years ago today.

Happy Birthday, Sweetie.  I love you more than I can say.

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Suffering Better

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  Yet, I find myself reflecting on some things as we enter 2010, thus leading me to a couple resolutions conclusions.  2009 was a really good year for the Buckland family in many ways.  While it seemed that storms were raging all around us, we remained sheltered in what, at times, felt like a protective bubble.  Our kids thrived, our marriage thrived, and our lives were, for the most part, pretty peaceful.  During one of the worst economic crises our country has ever seen, Ren’s company also had its most profitable year.

Oh, and Zoloft is AWESOME.  But I’m sure that has had absolutely NOTHING to do with it.  :)

Please hear my heart, I am certainly not trying to brag about any of this.  Just reflecting.  If it makes you feel better, 2008, on the other hand, was the exact opposite.  In fact, I will just go ahead and say that 2008 pretty much sucked.  I won’t depress you with all the details.  Those of you who are closest to us know all of them anyway.  And for those of you that don’t, read this and you can get an idea of the fact that I pretty much lost my mind.  I really feel like I suffered some sort of mental, emotional, and spiritual collapse that had me questioning absolutely EVERYTHING I’ve ever believed.  So 2009, for me, was a year of reconstructing.  Rebuilding.  Piece by piece, picking up shards of shattered illusions and putting them back together to form a stronger, more durable, and healthier reality.  This past year, I’ve relied heavily on a foundation of simplicity.  If I liked it, it stayed.  If I didn’t, it went out the window.  If I wanted to do something, I did it.  If I didn’t want to, well, I didn’t.  I got back in touch with the things that made me tick.  I started listening to myself more, all in an effort to take better care of myself, my husband, and my family.  And what I realized in that process was how much I absolutely loved what I was doing.

So I’m here.  I’m happy.  All is well.  Yet, I have some regrets.

I’ve been following Matt Chandler‘s journey as he, together with his precious family, courageously battles cancer.  He was diagnosed with anaplastic oligodendroglioma (an aggressive, malignant brain tumor) this past November.  What I find simply amazing about Matt is his attitude.  He’s just a little bit older than me, has three kids, a lovely wife, and is the pastor of an incredibly successful and rapidly growing church in Flower Mound, Texas.  By all outward appearances, the guy “has it all.”  Oh yeah, except for that whole brain tumor thing.  And yet, I’ve heard him refer to his illness as a season that God has “called him to.” He doesn’t ask God, “Why me?”  That’s pretty amazing.  I must admit that, all things considered, I probably have very limited experience with suffering.  I mean, I’ve been a part of a sub-culture of Christianity that will rebuke a demon for getting the wrong order at Taco Bell.  I don’t know if it’s a product of living in America, as a member of a wealthy society or what.  Maybe we’re not really taught about suffering.  In a land of “rights” and privileges, does anyone ever believe that it might be good, even beneficial to, heaven forbid, do without something?  Or perhaps go through a trial?  In fact, I think most people you talk to would agree that we shouldn’t have to suffer.  And yet we do.  Whether we should or should not is irrelevant.  We do indeed suffer.  Each one in our own way.  No matter what laws are put in place.  No matter what institutions are formed.  There will always be suffering.  It’s one of the few guarantees in this life.  As Rob Bell famously says in his Nooma video, “It rains in our lives.  A lot.”  It’s not about whether or not the storms of life will strike.  They will and they do.  Just because.

The Bible is actually chock full of stories of suffering;  deserving people as well as undeserving people suffering.  Sometimes suffering comes as a result of one’s own selfish and harmful behaviors.  And other times it simply comes to those who merely get caught in the crossfires of others’ selfish and harmful behaviors; they are merely casualties of injustice.  Other times, it just simply happens.  I’ve learned that there isn’t always a direct correlation between good or bad behavior and unfortunate circumstances.  We live in a world where things are not perfect, and yet we yearn for perfection.

So much of what we do is done in an effort to try to buffer our suffering, cheat death, get rich quick, and numb our pain.  But pain is part of the deal.  It always has been.

Now, before you go and jump off a cliff, I’ve actually discovered hope in all of this.  I realize that even through it all–through all the pain, the suffering, the hurt, the evils that this world sometimes throws our way–God is always good.  And He is always doing good.  No matter what darkness may come, there will never be enough to eclipse the light of His great goodness and love.  He is always there, behind the scenes, at work, weaving together all our messes to make a finely crafted work of art.  I feel as though that in this past year, I was allowed to see that first hand.

As I look back on 2009, I realize that it’s easy to be thankful, praise God, and find contentment when life is easy.  I am embarrassed as I reflect on 2008, when I did a lot of cursing, crying, whining and complaining.  I want to learn to suffer better.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those flaky Christians who begs God to send them through fiery trials to make them more like Jesus.  Heyyyyyyyyl naw.  I am not asking for more suffering.  I am not a masochist.  I am not even asking to suffer perfectly.  Whatever that means.  I am, however, simply asking for God to help me suffer better.  In order to bring Him more glory, because I see as a sign of respect.  It’s letting Him, and those around you, know that you know that God will bring you through this.  Because that’s what He’s good at.  He will not leave you in this mess.  You may not come out looking all shiny and sparkly.  But what you will become will be something even better.  Something proven.  Something stronger.

The next time a storm comes, it won’t do any good for me to ask “Why me?”  I should be asking myself, “Why not me?”

And finally, we that believe in Christ have this blessed hope through our suffering:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  (Romans 5:3-5, Living)

God, please allow me the privilege of holding my head high no matter what happens, knowing that all is well, knowing how dearly you love me, and how well you will keep me throughout this coming year and every year after.

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