Saturday, March 30, 2013

Skipping Easter

I'm not going to church for the Easter service for the first time in my life, ever.  I'm going to be traveling tomorrow.  I'll be flying home from Reno, NV, via San Diego, CA.  It feels weird to think I won't be attending church on Easter this year.  I mean, even marginal christians make it to church on Easter and Christmas.  Another odd thing about this event is that I haven't been all that good at attending church, period.  I'm still struggling with attending traditional church services.  I had to quit one church, because of the mean church ladies I was in a bible study with, but I found another church.  It's just hard to trust people with something as vulnerable as my faith.  I'm working on it.  And, it's coming along.  I am trying to attend more regularly.

This Easter I'll be on a plane.  I'll be thinking about how loved I am.  I'll be thinking that the love Jesus had for me is what held him on the cross.  Those nails were unnecessary.  I'll be thinking about how loved I am by my Lord.  I'll be contemplating the blessings I have in my life because I trust the promises of God.  I'll be dwelling on the hope I have because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  And, I'll be listening to this song on my iPhone.  My dad used to sing this song at every Good Friday service or Easter service I attended when I was a kid.  Btw, this guy does a good job singing the song, but my dad ROCKED this song in the day.

He is risen, my friends.  He is risen, indeed.

251.  Beautiful drive in the mountains
252.  Being treated like royalty at Harrah's hotel in Reno
253.  Looking forward to getting to my home, seeing my son and my dog
254.  Chocolate
255.  Watching children hunt for Easter eggs
256.  Hearing the words, Easter eggs, Easter, Easter bunny and not "spring" eggs and "spring" bunny
257.  Hearing news anchors being appalled that the word Easter has become offensive to some
258.  Knowing the God I serve is big enough to withstand this insult

A day on Lake Tahoe

My husband and I took a cruise on Lake Tahoe today.  I took some pics today and made an attempt at photo blogging.  I don't have a cool camera, but I'm learning how to find the light.  I hope you enjoy this.

The lake was like glass, but it was foggy

Fortunately there was alcohol available
The fog began to lift
Emerald Bay
Historic home (I can never see this house from the scenic overview on the highway)
Now that the fog lifted you can see why they call it Emerald Bay

247.  A gorgeous day on the water
248.  Thinking about the end of my vacation and being ok with going home
249.  Remembering that this is the day we remember our lord died on the cross
250.  Knowing that Jesus knew everything there is to know about me and still died for me

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm not equal to you

This week the talk has been all about equality.  No matter who we are, men, women, asian, black, white, hispanic, muslim, christian, jew, gay, straight, rich, poor, smart, stupid, ambitious, lazy, all I hear is that we are all equal. 

I don't buy it.

What does equal mean?  I certainly don't contribute as much to society as a Bill Gates or a Pierre & Pam Omidyar or a Billy Graham and on and on.  I certainly do contribute more than a Casey Anthony or a Jodi Arias.  I'm not as smart as Stephen Hawking or Paul Allen, but I am smart enough to stay out of debt, raise a family, and save for my retirement.  What does it mean to be equal?  I'm not as popular as Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.  I'm not as pretty as Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie.  Do I think I'm equal to any of those people?  I'm going to tell you, I don't.  And, I don't think you are either.

We look to the Declaration of  Independence to find the sentence we hang the hat of all this "equality" business.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Does this mean that what everyone does with the potential of that Life, Liberty, etc. is equal?  I don't think so.

Here's what I do think.  God created every person with an equal purpose.  That purpose is to give God the glory in all we do!

We don't all produce the same results with our God-given lives.  We have each been given different talents, opportunities, and influences in our lives.  But here is where we have taken a wrong turn in our God-given lives.  We live as if we are each living an individual life.  We live as if what we do every day in every aspect of our lives does not effect anyone else.  We forget that we were created to live in community.  We put our individual desires above the desire to glorify God.  We put our individual desires above the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I am a christian.  I am  sinner.  Every day I choose to resist or give in to temptation.  When I give in to my sinful nature, I plead God's forgiveness.  My desire is not to be equal to my neighbor, but to love my neighbor as God loves me.  My desire is not to be equal, but to be a servant.  My desire is to be salt and light in a fallen world.

I won't be changing my fb photo to an equal sign.  During this holiest of weeks, I will be focusing on being forgiven and reconciled to my creator God through the life, suffering, bloodshed, and death of my savior, Jesus.  I pray, as I pray daily, for this nation and the desires of the hearts of the people of this nation.  I pray as Jesus prayed on the cross, "Father, forgive them.  For they know not what they are doing."

241.  Watching storm-clouds part and see the sun come shining through
242.  Bacon
243.  Time spent with old friends
244.  Hearing my husband say he is very happy in his marriage
245.  Practicing smiling at people
246.  Vacation

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My happiness challenge

This is a challenge for me, not for you... unless you want to do it.  I listened to Shawn Achor's TED talk, here.  It moved me.  It confirmed all the suspicions I have about happiness being a choice I can make for myself.  First of all, this guy really does seem happy.  And, secondly, he appeals to my box checking nature by giving me a list of things to do to achieve happiness.  I'm challenging myself to give this project 21 days. 

Send an Appreciative Email:
Shawn suggests we search our address book and choose one of the members of our social support system (friends, co-workers, classmates, family members, teachers, neighbors) and take two minutes to write an email praising or thanking that person.  I'm planning to not only search my address book, but look at my fb friends (the ones I know irl) and send these messages.  I can absolutely see the way these emails would improve my happiness.  And, I can see they work for the recipients, as well.  I know it would be a bright spot in my day to receive an email thanking or praising me.  I can also see this is going to be one of the tougher boxes for me to check.  This is going to involve interaction.  This is not always my strong suit.  Wish me luck.   

Smiling Is Contagious:
Evidently luxury hotels know a lot about smiling=happier guests.  Many luxury hotels have a standard for their employees to smile at a person when they are walking around the hotel and come within 10 feet of a guest.  They are encouraged to say "hello" or some equivalent when the come within 5 feet of the guest.  When an employee smiles at a guest, the guest usually smiles back.  That smile is contagious.  Our brains perceive that smile as a feeling of happiness.  (evidently, you can cause this happiness response in your brain just by biting on a pen in your mouth.  the act of biting on a pen causes the corners of your mouth to turn up and your brain perceives this as a smile and feels happiness.  who knew?)

Give Thanks:
Gratitude is critical to happiness.  It shifts us from focusing on what is missing in our lives to focusing on all the blessings we DO have.  Shawn asks me to think of three things I am grateful for each day before I go to sleep.  This is another twofer in the challenge towards happiness.  I get to focus on gratitude while I think of the three things, AND I get to spend part of my day seeking out things I am grateful for while I move through my day.

Never Give Up On the Good Times:
Journal one positive thing that happened each day.  This is another twofer in the quest for happiness.  Each day I will have to notice a positive thing that happens to me.  Then, each evening, I will get to relive the positive thing that happened to me by having the opportunity to journal it.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll share some of the positive things that happen to me on my blog.  It's going to be a challenge for me to notice the positive.  I am super good at finding flaws.  I am not as good at noticing the positive.  This one will, most likely, make huge changes in me if I can do it for 21 days.  Fingers crossed.

Have Fun:
Shawn asks me to add 15 minutes of fun to my day.  This fun has to be active fun.  It has to involve movement.  Let's face it, it's exercise.  For 15 minutes each day I have to get up and move around.  I have to dance, or walk, or jump, or garden, or do yoga, or bike.  I have to train my body that movement=fun.  We all know how much I love exercise.  This is going to be a snap..., not.

Finally, I am asked to meditate each night before I go to sleep for two minutes.  Just focus on my breathing for two minutes.  Just focus on this one thing.  This is thought to help my brain calm down and move from multitasking to sleep.  Focusing on just one thing, for example my breathing, can slow the brain down and allow for better sleep.  Finally, a thing I think I can do without too much trouble.  Thankfully there is this one thing I know I can do.

This is a 21 day project.  I'm going to give it a go and see what results I find in myself.  I'm excited.  I'm going to be gentle with myself and not get too focused on box checking and get more focused on results.  I'm putting my happiness in my own hands.  Wish me luck.  :)

235.  Hot baths
236.  Giving myself permission to relax
237.  Night-time cold medicine
238.  Sunshine
239.  Learning that the absence of disease isn't health
240.  Getting ready to smile for no reason what-so-ever (yeah, I'm a little scared)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My solitude

I've been enjoying time on my own.  I've been enjoying my time and I've been feeling guilty about it at the same time.  I'm trying so hard not to allow those feelings of guilt about being on my own spoil the enjoyment of being quiet.

I'm on vacation.  I'm on vacation with my husband and my husband's good friend and former college roommate.  We are in Lake Tahoe.  The weather is gorgeous.  Spring has found Lake Tahoe, much to the dismay of the skiers.  It's been sunny every day and the temps are hanging around the 50's all day long.  My husband and his pal are still going skiing every day, even though the conditions are marginal.  This leaves me with time on my own, every day.  This is where I become torn.

I love having time on my own.  I love having hours of sitting in complete silence.  I love having time to read.  I love having time to go for a stroll to the lake and enjoying the sounds of the birds and the waves lapping on the beach.  Peace and quiet is so restorative to me.

When my husband returns from the slopes the first thing he asks me is, "whatcha do today?"  I always feel guilty when I answer, "nuthin'."  I guess I could say that I read part of my book or I took a short walk or I took a hot bath or I watched some of the Jodi Arias murder trial, but when I think about those things I don't think of any of them as accomplishments or under the category of "doing something."  I struggle.

I've been contemplating the last blog post I wrote and considering my thought process.  I have come very far in changing the negative thinking about myself.  I realize I am much too critical of myself.  I'm making strong efforts at focusing on the positive and strong aspects of myself.  I'm accepting my flaws.  I'm trying so hard to accept my body, as it is.  I read a post from Emily about writing a love letter to my body.  I debated with myself about writing such a letter.  I'm not ready, yet, but I'm working on it.

I watched a t.v. show called What Not to Wear.  There was a woman with a shape similar to mine on the show.  I noticed that her ankles were thinner than mine.  Of all the things to notice on this show... the woman's ankles.  I have a long way to go, but I'm trying.  I'm sitting here, drinking tea and munching on triple ginger snaps.  I have a long way to go, but I'll get there.

Another thing I noticed while contemplating the way I think, was that I considered being in the middle of a book a non-accomplishment and finishing a book the accomplishment.   For some reason I have this idea that the accomplishment is in the completion of the task and not in the enjoyment of the task.  I struggle to find my joy in the midst of the event.

So today I'll enjoy my solitude.  I'll enjoy my time watching a movie about a Russian love and tragedy, Anna Karenina.  I'll enjoy my book about a Swedish girl struggling with her life and love and solving mysteries in The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I'll drink tea and nibble on ginger snaps and write my blog.  I'll take a hot bath.  I'll enjoy the peace and quiet and beautiful scenery.

Today I'll learn to accept that I'm on vacation and I don't need to "accomplish" anything.  I can rest and relax.  I can be good with this, for today. 

Lake Tahoe (I took this pic)
226.  Movies in Redbox
227.  Hot tea
228.  Snow on mountaintops
229.  Clear blue sky
230.  Readers who think of messaging me when I don't write for a few days
231.  Breathing the thin air at high altitude
232.  The scent of pine in the air
233.  A comfortable condominium to vacation at
234.  Time away from my work and my home and the everyday stresses of life

Monday, March 11, 2013

Controling my thoughts

Last week I wrote about one of my difficult truths about myself.  I wrote about a struggle I have to love myself, here.  It was tough to write it out.  Thank you to those who commented in commiseration, and I feel for you because I know how much it hurts, and to those who commented in encouragement by reminding me and reinforcing my knowledge of God and my relationship with him.

I learned a lot about myself and where I fall on the "normal" scale by publishing that post.  I was happy to receive feedback and I can accept it and learn from it.  I wonder, however, if there were readers that didn't comment, but understood my feelings.  Of course, I'll never know for sure.

I've been giving a lot of thought to my thought process lately.  First of all, it's a shame that I don't think about myself more highly than I do.  Yet, nobody out there is going to be able to accuse me of being conceited or big-headed about myself.  Secondly, I don't believe we can sin in our thought life.  I believe we have to act on our thoughts in order to actually sin.  I have never acted out against my body or myself in regard to my loathsome thoughts about myself.  And, even though I may think that I hate myself at least once a day, I am still fully functioning in my life.  I'm going to work.  I'm taking care of my family.  I'm interaction with society.  I am a person that needs to check myself now and again to be sure I'm not sinking into a depressed state of mind.  After all, I'm on Tamoxifen and Tamoxifen has been known to cause depression in some people.  Finally, I know that our thoughts can lead to actions and those actions could be sinful actions.

Proverbs 4:23, "Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life."

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Even the eastern philosophers knew that our life is controlled by our thoughts.  If you correct your mind the rest of your life will fall into place.  Lao Tzu

It's hard to do this.  Yet, because I've been reborn and have the Holy Spirit in me, I know it is possible.  There are tangible things I can do to change my thought process.  I searched the internet and found some ideas, both by secular psychologists and by theological teachers.  I wrote a few suggestions down and I plan to use this list to work through my mind altering process.

  • Don't dwell on the past.  Everyday is a new opportunity to make great things happen.  Dwelling on past actions, after asking for forgiveness and making amends, keeps a person from living in the present.

  • Don't think negatively anymore. This seems almost impossible to me.  Yet, it's what I want to do.  I want to think positively.  If I begin to think a negative or loathsome thought of myself or someone else, I can remind myself to think of a positive.

  • Put my focus on the future.  Put my focus on what I want to do.  Believe that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  I need to keep reminding myself of what can be accomplished and stop focusing on failures.

  • Meditate on the positive.  Pray prayers of thanksgiving for all the blessings I have.  Meditate on the promises of God.  Do as Paul said in Philippians 4:8 and think about the pure, the lovely, and the commendable things of this world.

  • Give up the word failure from my vocabulary.  There is success and learning opportunities.  There is no failure.

  • Keep trying.  Don't give up on this process of changing my thought pattern.  I can correct my mind.

  • Think big.  Give myself over to God's use.  Don't minimize what I think God can do with me just because I'm not thinking big enough. 

  • Pay attention to my thought process.  Notice the frequency of adjusting my negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  Note the frequency of thinking or meditating on positive future events versus remembering negative past events.  Take time after meditation and prayer to notice the effort it took to pray prayers of thanksgiving over prayers of confession and humiliation.  Pay attention to my thoughts.  They are what control my life.
*An added note to this post shows what a slow learner I am.  I found this post I wrote back in January '12.  It's basically this same post all over again.  When, oh when will I get it?

220.  Knowing when my will and God's will are in line, there is nothing I cannot accomplish
221.  A beautiful weekend in Old Town Alexandria and wonderful conversations with old friends
222.  Watching my son continue to grow into a competent and confident man
223.  Having a plan to change my life
224.  Serving a God of second chances (and third and forth...)
225.  Looking forward to my small group bible study and friends that love me for who I am

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Woman's Day

Love us
Respect us
Look us in the eye, not 12 inches lower
Treat us as well as you would like to be treated
Appreciate our abilities
Pay us an equal wage
Allow us the same educational opportunities
Use your manners around us
Admire our beauty, but don’t objectify us
Honor us as human beings

215.  Having a weekend getaway with my husband
216.  Liking myself just a little bit more today
217.  Working an indoor job
218.  Indoor plumbing
219.  Being able to shower everyday
Last night I dreamed I was in the Zombie Apocalypse.  It was pretty uncomfortable.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does everyone hate themselves? Just a little bit?

I hate myself.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so.  I even say it out loud sometimes.  I try not to say it out loud at work, because it does sound a little crazy when someone else hears the words.  It doesn't sound crazy to me, at all.  I'm used to hearing the words in my head dozens of times each day.  But when my husband hears me say it out loud he looks at me like I may be a little crazy.  Or maybe he's just sad for me.  I don't think my husband ever hears those words in his head.

I try to figure out why I'm so tough on myself and I hardly ever let myself off the hook.  I mostly blame my parents.  I mean, isn't it your parents that really screw you up?  I think my kid thinks this about me sometimes.  I tell myself that I'm over my childhood.  I'm an adult and I'm responsible for my own feelings and thoughts.  My parents did the best they could with what they had.  I was a rebellious child.  I'm sure I made it tough on them.

I feel it is insulting to God to tell myself that I hate myself when I know how much he loves me.  I've been told it is the devil that is always in my ear, telling me I'm not good and I don't deserve self-love.  It's such a struggle.  That negative voice is SCREAMING in my head and the voice of God is still and soft.  I know I am to be accountable for every word I utter.  I know Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that hating my brother is the same as murdering him.  So when I say I hate myself am I committing suicide?

It's such a dilemma.  I don't hate myself enough to allow myself too much discomfort or pain.  I'm not keeping creature comforts like too much food and a soft bed and too much idleness from being in my life, but then I am so disappointed and loathing of myself because I've done those things.  When have I been good enough?  Which day will I have accomplished enough to tell myself, "well done?" 

There are bible studies devoted to having biblical self esteem.  Maybe I was born in the wrong time.  Maybe being born in this time when having high self esteem was the most important thing one could have makes it so noticeable that I'm different.  I certainly am not part of the YouTube generation.  I know I can't do anything.  I know that if pride is a sin, then pride is something done in a shoddy manner must be worse than a sin.

I'm searching for the cure.  I'm looking for the balance between loving myself and not indulging myself.  The balance between striving to do better and hating myself when I don't meet my own standard.  I can't get this self-appreciation from outside of myself.  I'm going to have to pull it out from within myself.  I've made some inroads to recovery by focusing on the things I am grateful to have in my life.  But even that is a double edged sword.  If I can't think of something I'm grateful to have immediately, I think of myself as being selfish and ungrateful because I know I am so blessed.

One thing I know for sure is that because I have the Holy Spirit living in my heart, I will be able  to find this love of self.  Maybe I can learn to accept this feeling of self-loathing and then remind myself I am completely loved and accepted by the creator of the universe, so what I think of me is much less important than what he thinks of me.  I don't want to set my bar lower.  I see too much dumbing down and acceptance of mediocrity to lower my standards.

What have you done to be an overcomer of this condition of self-hate?

I'm linking with Emily today at Imperfect Prose on Thursday

210.  Anticipation of meeting up with old friends
211.  Seeing sunshine after a gray, dreary day yesterday
212.  Daffodiles
213.  Forsythias
214.  The color yellow (it's such a happy color)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow day!

I read this blog from Barbie about taking care of herself.  She said she didn't have time to take care of herself because she was so busy with all all her responsibilities, like her full-time job and taking care of her husband and teaching her children.  She was putting herself last on her to-do list.  She was finding that most days (oh, let's not kid ourselves), every day, she wasn't making it to the bottom of her to-do list.

Even before I read her post I have been thinking about all the things I wish I would do for myself, but I don't because I'm too tired.  My list isn't even all that decadent or self indulgent.  In fact, most of the things on my list of things I wish I would do for myself are good things.

I want to:
  • floss my teeth every night
  • use retin A two or three nights a week
  • use my masque two or three nights a week
  • use lotion on my skin every night (the tamoxifen is so drying)
  • exercise my body, just a little 
  • read my bible every day, just a little
  • write on my blog four or five times a week
Today I had a snow day.  (it isn't snowing, but the school is closed anyway, BooYah!)  I woke up at 4 a.m. and saw that it had not snowed, so I wasn't expecting this gift of time.  This time is a godsend, in the true definition of the word.  So far this morning I have use my masque, slathered lotion all over myself and I'm writing my blog.  You can't even imagine how good this makes me feel.

Lately it's been very busy at work.  And, I've been sick (again).  I got whatever was going around the school a second time.  Crummy.  It's just not the same being home sick and being home not sick.  I feel like I can get something accomplished.  I'm one of those weird people that think I can get things done at home, even when I'm sick.  I can't, of course, but I think I can and then I'm disappointed in myself. 

Since I didn't really plan for this snow day I didn't run to the store for all the staples.  (you know, vodka, olives and brie)  Since I'm home with no junk food, I'm going to have to eat healthy today.  I've got more than two dozen eggs, so I see a quiche in my future.  My son wants me to hem the sheers he bought for his sliding glass door, so I see sewing in my future.  My husband reminded me we are going to Old Town Alexandria for the weekend and we only have plans for Saturday night.  Since we are going up on Friday I suggested we call some friends we haven't seen in a couple years and see if they can have dinner on Friday.  (yay! they can)  You cannot believe how good this makes me feel.  I am an introvert and making the effort to see friends can be a real effort for me.  I'm proud of myself for thinking of it and then actually making the call.  She's a teacher, so I guessed she was having a snow day, too.

I'm going to read a chapter in Job after I publish this post.  I love reading Job and being reminded of keeping faith, even when things aren't going my way.  I love reading about who God is.  Speaking of reading the bible, there is a special 5-part series on the History channel called The Bible.  It's very good.  I've only seen the first part of the series.  I'm looking forward to watching the whole thing.

I am inspired by Barbie's post to take time for self care.  I think Steven Covey called it "sharpening the saw."  I need to make my tiny list a priority for each week and not just on a snow day, but I'll take any time for myself I can get.

Look for me to comment later today to see what I accomplished on my snow day.  If you're having a snow day, enjoy yourself and let's be careful out there.  (so Hill Street Blues.  look it up.)

203.  The gift of time
204.  My restored energy and being healthy
205.  Leftover Italian wedding soup for lunch
206.  Super deal on The Walking Dead Compendium 2 on Ebay
207.  Praying for people I've only met on the blogs
208.  Old friends
209.  Blog friends