Are You Settling or Choosing?

Sometimes you hear a phrase that speaks volumes to you. That really makes you stop and think. That makes you pause and reflect and say to yourself…”I need to think about this…”

The other morning that happened to me.

What was that phrase?

“10 years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life. Not that you settled for it.”

That’s a tough one to think about, isn’t it? Because in all honesty, most of our lives are a combination of both.

Sometimes we make good decisions, good plans. And sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we think carefully about our plans and decisions, talk them over with friends or family, weigh the pros and cons, and come up with what we think is the best plan. Sometimes it is; sometimes we find out years later it really wasn’t.

Sometimes we make long term

plans based on spur of the moment decisions, jumping into something because at the time it sounds perfect, almost too good to be true. And then find out we made a terrible mistake and have no good way to get out of it.

Many times we all look back at times in our lives and realize the plans we made, the decisions we made, were the wrong ones and wish we could undo them and start again.

Sometimes we make decisions because we don’t think we have a choice, don’t think a better opportunity will come along, and decide to make that step, even though we know deep down inside it’s not the right thing to do.

Does this resonate with any of you?

We may not have necessarily chosen the life we have right now. It may be the way it is because some one or some people made it the way it is. It was not our choice.

But….

We can choose how we handle today in order to make tomorrow more of our choice than settling for something else. Something easy. Something we know isn’t right for us, but we don’t think we have any other choice.

But let me tell you, we always have a choice. We can settle for status quo, decide that where we are now is where we’re always going to be. We can decide to just say “I’m done” and stop striving for more. And settle for what we have.

We can remain in the same place and give up trying to achieve what we know we want, because we’ve lost our hope.

Or…we can say to ourselves “I’m not settling for second best. Or third best. I’m not settling until I have what I know I deserve, and I’m choosing right now to make it happen. Somehow.”

You may not know how you’re going to do it, but just by making that determination, you’ve already started making it happen.

Yes, realizing our hopes and dreams, making our choices a reality, isn’t always easy. There are bumps along that road, but in the end, it’s worth it.

It won’t happen overnight. Anything worth waiting for never does.

But do you want to say in 10 years you settled, or do you want to say you gave it your best shot, and made your best choices?

You’re too old, you say? My friends, we’re never too old to make choices that we will live with the rest of our lives.

It’s your choice, and it’s up to you to make it. Do you settle or take a chance?

I know which one I’m taking.b

Are You an Ostrich?

We’ve all heard the stories about ostriches hiding their heads in the sand. It’s associated with people trying to avoid dealing with problems by ignoring them. That way, they just hope they’ll go away.

Well, listen to this story and see what you think.

One day a wise older flamingo out for a stroll on a warm summer day happened to walk past an ostrich whose head was obviously buried down a hole in the sand.

“Curious,” thought the flamingo. “Why hide your head in the sand on a beautiful day like today?” So he asked the larger bird that question.

“Excuse me, Ostrich, but why is your head buried down in the sand? It’s a glorious day and the sun is shining, and I even hear other birds singing as they splash around in the water. You’re missing out on all the fun!”

“Fun?” Said the ostrich. “Fun?! How can I have any fun? You don’t know what I’m going through. There’s no fun around me. Everywhere I look there are problems. My family’s a mess. My job doesn’t pay enough. I have bills I can’t begin to pay. There’s no fun in my life! None!”

Puzzled, the flamingo replied, cocking his head at the ostrich, “So what are you trying to accomplish by standing here and sticking your head in the sand? You can’t see anything around you, and I’m even surprised you can hear me speaking to you.”

“Ahhh,” replied the ostrich, “that’s simple. If I can’t see the problems, I can forget they’re there. And they go away. It makes me much happier.”

“But that’s ridiculous,” said the flamingo, “ignoring your problems doesn’t make them go away. They just get worse the longer they’re ignored.”

“But I don’t totally ignore them. I pull my head out of the sand once in awhile. I have to eat and breathe, you know. But the problems are still there. And I really think they’re getting bigger. It’s really much easier to live with my head here in the sand. It’s actually cool here. And quiet.”

The flamingo shook his head. And looked around. He saw sea gulls flying over the water and dipping down every so often to grab a bite to eat. He saw groups of pelicans flying over the waves, obviously with fish in their pouches. He saw sandpipers scurrying across the beach, occasionally dipping their beaks in the sand to pull out a tasty insect.

Some of the birds even came up to the ostrich as if attempting to make friends, and have him pull his head out of the sand. But to no avail.

Once again, the flamingo tried to reason with the ostrich. “Do you hear all of the other birds flying and splashing around? I’m sure they have problems, too, but they’re obviously dealing with them. They don’t have their heads stuck in the sand all day. They’re living their life, making things work. They’re going places. You’re just stuck here, with your head in the sand. You’re going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. Is that fair to your family? Your friends? Are you happy?”

The ostrich pulled his head out for a moment. He looked around, and simply replied. “If I don’t see problems, don’t think about them, or don’t worry about them, they just don’t exist for me. So I’m happy. Why deal with something that upsets me when I can ignore it?”

And he put his head back in the sand.

And the wise older flamingo just looked at him sadly.

“One day,” said the flamingo quietly, shaking his head sadly. “One day you’ll understand. And hopefully it won’t be too late.” And he walked away.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier being an ostrich. It’s sometimes a lot easier to bury your head in the sand and not deal with problems that come up. But they unfortunately don’t go away by doing that. They usually get worse, and actually become so much harder to fix the longer you ignore them.

If you’re like that ostrich and keep burying your head in the sand, you’ll never solve any of your problems. Face them head on. Deal with them. Don’t rely on a friendly flamingo to try and convince you to do the right thing, because flamingos, like people, get tired of giving advice that isn’t acted upon.

What are you hiding from today? And why?

What’s it going to take to face it head on and fix it?

Believe me, you’ll be a lot happier when you do.

P.S. Ostriches don’t really hide their heads in the sand for long periods of time. They couldn’t, or they wouldn’t be able to breathe. Since they lay their eggs in the sand, because they can’t fly into the trees to make their nests, they actually do that to keep their eggs warm. Or they’ll sometimes do it for camouflage because their enemies can mistake that huge body for a big bush and move on. They’re actually very intelligent birds, even though they can’t fly. And they’re a lot more likely to face a problem head-on then run away or hide. Take a moment to read about them. You may be surprised.

Too Many Lemons

We’ve all heard the saying about when life gives us lemons, it’s time to make lemonade.

But did you ever feel like you’re getting so many lemons that you have to find other things to do with them?

Sure summertime is great for making lemonade, and so far this summer I’ve had to make more than my share of it. So much of it, we just can’t use it all. And when we try to share it with others, they have all they can use as well, and don’t need any of ours.

We’ve even found ourselves adding strawberries to that lemonade to try and give us a break, a change from everything going on, but even that isn’t enough. Because the strawberries don’t last that long, and we still end up ankle deep in lemons and lemonade.

In fact recently we’ve had so many lemons thrown at us, I’ve resorted to
making other things with them.

Lemon meringue pie takes a bit more time to make than lemonade, but the end result is a bit sweeter, and you can actually envision yourself throwing said pie at someone who may have given you a lot of those lemons. Not that I’m advocating such a thing, especially not violence, but let’s face it, it is fun to think about. And it would be a safer – and tastier – way to get even….

I’ve even used some of those lemons to bake lemon cookies to go with that lemonade. However, many of my friends actually prefer tea with their cookies, and of course tea is very often served with…you guessed it…thin slices of lemon!

But we still have a lot more of those lemons. Just when we think they’re about gone, all of a sudden we get another delivery of them, or, like a few days ago, it seemed like a car load full of them! And there aren’t enough friends to take them all off our hands.

So we’ve now made lemon dessert bars, lemon pound cake, and lemon muffins. We’ve used them as garnishes. We’ve used them in table decorations. We’ve used them to season poached shrimp, which was delicious, I might add, and in a lemon wine sauce with grilled chicken.

And I’ve even seriously thought about cutting them in thin slices and floating them on top of the pool. Now that would be interesting and make for a great photo op, but then we’d still have to figure out what to do with them!

Now you all do realize I’m not talking about real lemons…the ones you buy in the store or garnish your meals with, or use to make real lemonade or pie. I’m of course referring to those proverbial lemons we all get from time to time, the ones that bring bad news, medical issues, financial and emotional problems…those parts of life that seem to hit us randomly from out of the blue, from places we’re not expecting, and even sometimes from people who disappoint us or make decisions that completely turn our lives around.

Yes. Those lemons. And we’ve certainly had our share of them. More than our share, if you want to know the truth.

Just like you.

Like the proverbial lemons I wrote about being used for lemonade and lemon meringue pie, lemon cookies, and other creative uses, although it’s difficult, and certainly at times more difficult than others, those lemons that come at us still have to be dealt with.

And you have a choice.

You can turn those lemons, those unfortunate and sometimes almost devastating circumstances into something new. Something positive. You can refuse to deal with the news and either drown in depression and misery, feel sorry for yourself, and let the lemons pile up around you, or you can turn the situation around and change it.

And no, you can’t change things back to the way they were right before the situation happened, but like using those lemons to make something new, you can decide to take those circumstances, no matter how bad, and find something positive to do with what happened. Find something good to come out of it, even though it may be a really long stretch to find that positive angle. But it will be there. Eventually.

Life doesn’t remain static; it constantly moves, constantly changes. Like stirring that lemonade you made, it goes around and morphs into something different. And to go a step further, lemonade is much easier to drink when it’s flavored with a little extra sugar.

And maybe in some of these circumstances a little extra sugar, a little extra sweetener, might be needed to help the situation. Note I didn’t say make it right, but help it. Not all of these situations can be made right, but with the help of family and friends they can be turned around to become bearable.

Lemons, lemonade, or lemon meringue pie.

Which are you going to have today?

The Things We Can’t Control…That Make Us Unique

We complain a lot. We do, you know. We complain a lot about things in our lives we have no control over, or even things we can control but choose not to.

One Sunday morning our pastor listed three things we cannot control, because the Lord determined those three things when we were born. We had absolutely no input into them. It was not our choice to make.

Do you have any idea what those three things are that we have no control over? If you think about it, it’s really quite simple. But I’d never thought about it either.

1. We have no control over where we are born. I’d venture to say most of you reading this were born in the United States, as I was.

How often do you think about that, and thank the Lord for where you were born?

You could have been born in a country with food shortages and lack of clean drinking water. Where there is very little infrastructure, sparse electricity; where you may not always know where your next meal is coming from. Where health care is almost non-existent.

You could have been born in a country where there are very few freedoms; where talking openly against the government could literally get you killed. Where practicing your faith could also literally get you killed if you did not believe as the government told you. Where a dictatorship controls your entire way of life.

2. We have no control over the family we were born into.

Many of us come from a loving family, and are fortunate enough to stay close to our family through the years, even when miles separate us.

But many others are not that fortunate. Many come from broken homes, in which one parent doesn’t really seem to care about their children and hardly ever, or never, see them.

Many have families who want nothing to do with each other, or who literally spend time putting down other family members because none of them want to get along with each other.

Many have families who have ostracized them because they don’t agree with their choices, their lifestyle, their chosen faith, or even their politics.

But that’s the family you were given. You can’t change it.

3. We have no control over what we look like, how tall/short we are, our hair/eye color (well, the hair we can do something about later in in life), our skin color, our body shape and size, and its physical characteristics.

Most of us at one or more times in our life want to change something about how we look because we think it’ll make us happier, more acceptable to others, more attractive, and bring us more luck in finding a spouse, a better job, even.

Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with having our teeth straightened, our hair colored, exercising to keep our bodies in shape. But many people decide they want to drastically change how they look because they just don’t like themselves the way they are, and they’re sure if they make those changes, maybe even try to look like someone else even, they’ll be happy.

But God determined these three things for a reason when He individually created each one of us and determined our life by giving us each these three distinct elements. No one else has exactly those same three elements. Now you and your siblings usually share the first two, but the third, well, unless you’re identical twins, you’re not completely sharing the third one. And even identical twins have a few characteristics that make one just a bit different from the other.

We are all created as individuals, unique individuals. There is no one else exactly like us in this world, and there never will be. Not ever. When we were created, that particular mold was broken, never to be used again.

I am also adding a fourth thing we have no control over, and that is our talent. We all have a special talent; a gift that we were given that is in no way exactly like anyone else’s. Yes, we can learn things like music, writing, or one of the trades that are so important to our every day life. But if we don’t have a special talent, a gift, for that particular thing, we won’t excel in it.

Now we can’t all be a famous scientist like Albert Einstein, a master artist like da Vinci, a master composer like Beethoven, a singer like Barbra Streisand, or a successful writer like Stephen King. They all have a master talent. But each and every one of us is talented in some way.

We each have a gift for something, although we may not know what, may have not yet discovered it. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. But that is certainly not my gift! As much as I’d like to have that talent, it’s not there. And it’s not something I can really learn, although I’ve tried and tried. But I can write, and I think I’m fairly good at it. And I can use my words to draw “pictures” in other people’s minds.

The surgeons who will be operating on my husband this week have a unique gift for cardiac surgery. They are the best in their field in our area. They may not be famous, but we’re sure glad they are using their gift in the way God intended.

What about you? What is your unique gift? Have you discovered it yet? And if so, are you working to develop it? Because that gift is also specific to you. No two musicians sing or write music in the same way. No two writers have the same exact style. And no two physicians have exactly the same talent, even in the same field.

Your gift is very identical to you, and you alone. Find it. Develop it. And use it in the unique way it was intended for you.

Because you are unique. There is only one of you born where you were born to the parents you had, with the same physical characteristics and the same special talent that’s your special gift.

Celebrate who you are! There’s only one you!

Never Be Ashamed of Your Scars

It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.

Everyone has scars. Some we see, and some we don’t.

A friend of mine recently had a serious surgery. It was going to involve a 6-8 week recovery time, and most likely a lot of pain for the first few weeks afterwards. But that wasn’t her biggest concern. She was more worried about the scar she’d have on the front of her neck, even though the surgeon assured her it would be so tiny no one would notice it after a few weeks.

He was absolutely correct. It’s so small, and unless you’re looking for it, and it’s pointed out to you, you’d never notice it at all. But she still does.

Another friend of mine has a scar on her face where she was hit by a tree branch. The doctor who repaired it did such a good job that I never noticed it for the first several years I knew her. It wasn’t until she pointed it out to me that I saw it, but it’s certainly not noticeable to anyone else unless you look for it. But she sees it every day.

I have a scar on my wrist from surgery to repair a fracture. Yes, it was ugly at first, but by taking care of it afterwards, you can barely see it. No one else would unless I showed it to them. I don’t even think about it any more.

My husband has a huge scar down the front of his chest from two open heart surgeries. At first they were red, and puffy, angry looking, even. Now you barely notice them unless you’re really looking for them. But they are a reminder of two vital procedures that were necessary to sustain his life. He wears them proudly.

One of our daughter’s good friends has a son who needed open heart surgery when he was just a few months old. It was scary, but he’s fine, and that huge scar he had at first is already all but faded into oblivion. She and her husband still see it, and it reminds them of the miracle they experienced for their son, but like my other friends’ scars, I barely notice it.

These physical scars are our badges of honor. We wear them as reminders of things we’ve gone through. And they remind us we’re survivors, and that we can handle what comes against us.

But there are a lot of scars we all keep hidden. Emotional scars that are on the inside that no one will ever see. We don’t even see them, but we know they’re there, because they can come back to haunt us when we least expect it. Those scars aren’t erased except by time, experience, friendship, love, and faith.

Like most of our physical scars, no one notices them except us. We hide them. We know they’re there. But very few other people will ever see them, or even know what we’re battling with.

But the emotional scars are just as real as the physical ones. They just don’t show….physically. But like physical scars, they are reminders of difficult things we’ve gone through in our lives and survived. Whatever caused those emotional scars wasn’t fun, wasn’t easy, but they’re a reminder of a battle hard-fought…and won.

But unlike our physical scars, the emotional ones hurt for awhile. The relationship scars especially. We try to ignore them, but sometimes those scars decide to throb, to turn bright red, and remind us that they’re still there.

And we feel like we’re starting over again.

Our emotional scars are real, and they last for years, and sometimes a lifetime. No matter how deep they’re buried, certain events can trigger emotions related to those scars, and you feel like you’re back where you started.

There’s one important thing to remember, though. Those scars are there as reminders only. Because scars are only the remnants from situations. They represent the healing that took place after the event, albeit surgery, injury, or an emotional trauma. The scars cover over the hurt, the pain, and cause us to heal. They’re supposed to bury that pain and trauma.

So why do we keep opening those old wounds? They only cause us to create new scars over the old. And I don’t want that any more than you do.

Once a painful event in your life is over, there’s no reason to re-open that scar. Like the physical scars I have, and I’m sure you have as well, opening them up again only makes them bigger. More visible. More pronounced. And more of a constant reminder of pain that’s long gone and over with. Why open it up and cause more pain? Let it go. Put it behind you once and for all and watch it fade away to nothing.

As the first paragraph of this says, scars show us you were stronger than what tried to hurt you. Because you survived, and have your badge of courage to prove it.

I have mine, and so do my friends.

Where are yours? And how did you earn them?

Can I Just Skip this Chapter?

Sometimes that would be nice. But unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. You can’t just skip over the parts of your story you don’t like. You have to read every line, and meet every character that’s connected to your story, whether you want to or not.

You’re not going to like all of it. Just like a good book, there are always things you won’t like. Things that upset you, make you cry. Things that make you mad. Things you want to change. Things you wish you’d never read because you can’t forget them.

There are things you really enjoy, really love. Things you want to keep reading again and again so you can bask in the moment, and live it forever. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way either. Because our story isn’t stagnant. It is ever moving, ever changing.

Each day is a brand new chapter, a continuation from the chapter before, but it’s still new. Because characters change. Their storylines change. One day you’ll be going with them in one direction, and the next day everything has changed, and you’re in a brand new story. Whether you like it or not.

And no matter how much you want to skip the rest of that chapter, you can’t. One chapter leads to the next, and if you skip a chapter, you’ll never understand what’s happening in the new one. And unlike a book, these chapters in life cannot be re-read to better understand the outcome. Because the author of your story keeps writing, and as the new chapters are written, the old ones quickly fade, not to be available again. They become only memories.

You don’t have much to say about how the chapters are written. Sure, you know how you want them to be, but there are other characters in your story that know how they want their story to intersect with yours, and that changes the way your next chapter is written.

There’s another part of this as well. You’re not the only one whose story is being written. Every character who interacts with you in each chapter of your story is also interacting in theirs, and so are you. Because even though you’re the main character in each of your chapters, the people around you are also the main characters in their own chapters, their own stories.

And since so many characters intersect with yours in a daily basis, we’re all connected in some way, and whatever happens in a chapter in your life will eventually affect a lot of other chapters in other people’s lives.

Confusing? Too much to comprehend?

That’s how life is. That’s how each of our chapters are. Day after day is a new adventure. If you didn’t like how the last chapter was written, there’s a new one today.

Don’t skip over it, because it just might be the best one yet!

How do you think your chapter will be written for today?

Yes, I Made a Mistake

Why is that so hard for us to say?

We all make them. We make little ones every day. Fortunately for most of us, most of those mistakes are minor.

We make decisions every day, and some of them were wrong, and didn’t turn out the way we’d planned. Sometimes they only affect us, and sometimes they affect others as well.

We feel bad, we beat ourselves up. Sometimes we tell ourselves how stupid we are, how incompetent. Sometimes we go so far as to fall into depression, our self-confidence ruined, convinced that no one will ever trust us, like us, or want to be around us again.

That’s a bit extreme, but it happens.

And it shouldn’t.

We all make mistakes. We’re human. We weren’t made to be perfect. And we never will be.

While most of those mistakes are small, and more of an “oops!” than an “oh no!”, there are those big ones that all of us have made as well. The ones we don’t like to remember or think about; the ones we push to the very back of our minds and hope they’ll never resurface again.

The marriage we should never have entered into which ended in unbelievable heartache, and sometimes financial devastation.

Or the person who swore they’d always love us, that there was a future together, and then suddenly, without a hint of warning, left for no reason at all, making us wonder what we did wrong.

The job we quit because we thought we’d found one so much better which didn’t work out almost as soon as it started. And we couldn’t get the other one back.

The job we lost because we made really bad decisions or trusted the wrong people.

The people we trusted who lied to us and eventually betrayed us.

The friends who said they’d be there no matter what, and then turned away from us when we needed them because they didn’t have time for us any more.

The ones who stole from us because we were too trusting.

The time we lied about doing something to avoid getting in trouble, but when the lie was discovered, we were in more trouble!

The time we blasted someone on social media because we thought it was aimed at us, only to find out it wasn’t about us at all, and lost a friend in return.

The people we trusted with our deepest secrets who then told those secrets to other people in order to make themselves look good.

The times we asked trusted friends or family for advice on a serious matter and didn’t listen because we didn’t like what we heard. And later found out we should have done what they suggested.

Those mistakes are hard to recover from. It might take years before we let ourselves trust or love again.

Making mistakes is part of being human. Our very nature causes us to trust others because we want to be loved, to be cared for. We love and care for those people until they hurt us. And then wonder what we did wrong.

Most of the time it wasn’t our fault. And sometimes it was. It doesn’t make any of us a bad person. It means we learn from our mistakes and don’t make them again.

None of us are perfect. We each make mistakes of some sort every day. It’s part of being human, of being who we are. We learn from our mistakes and we grow from them.

But we have to admit to making them when we’re wrong. We have to understand them and not make them again.

We have to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, because if we don’t, how can we expect anyone else to forgive us? And if we don’t forgive others who make mistakes, why should they forgive us?

What mistakes have you made? Have you learned from them? How are you going to make things right again?

“I’m sorry” goes a long way, but it only goes so far unless you follow up on it to make things right again. Don’t wait for the other person to make things right. Take the first step yourself. You may be surprised to see where that step leads.

A Woman Needs a Man

Like a fish needs a bicycle.

One day when Marsha Mackerel was swimming around in the sea, she happened to see some kids riding their bicycles along the boardwalk, laughing and joking and having what looked like a lot of fun.

They had brightly colored bicycles with baskets on the front filled with all kinds of colorful shopping bags.

“That looks like fun,” she said to herself. “They aren’t stuck just swimming around in this salty ocean, never going anywhere new. Never meeting anyone interesting. I bet there’s a whole new world outside to explore on one of those things. I bet if I had one my whole life would change.”

So she decided she’d get herself one and see what kind of fun she could have. A fish on a bicycle! What an idea! She just HAD to have one. It would make her life perfect!

Taking a deep gulp of watery “air” thru her gills, she ventured out of the water, and flip flopped herself to the bike shop on the boardwalk. She looked at all the cool styles that were available, and selected a bright pink one with a flower covered basket on the front.

She flopped up to the counter and pointed her fin first at the salesperson behind the counter, and then at the bicycle, just visualizing herself riding away on that gorgeous bike, living an entirely new life of fun and adventure! Oh the people she’d meet…!

But then….she realized her dream of having a bicycle was just that. A dream, all in her mind, as the person behind the counter explained to her the problems of a fish riding a bicycle.

“How are you going to sit in the seat? You’re not exactly made to sit down, you know. You’re shaped different than we are. And you certainly can’t pedal it; you have no feet, and your fins aren’t strong enough.”

“Plus you live in the ocean, not on land. How will you be able to breathe on a bicycle? I know you have a storehouse of oxygen in your gills right now, but it’s not going to last much longer, and you’re going to have to go back into the sea. You can’t take the bicycle into the sea with you, because it’s not designed to go underwater. Just like you’re not designed to live on the land.”

“You live in the water and swim all day. You can go places I could never go,” said the salesperson. “I envy you because I can’t even swim. I’d trade places with you if I could. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m who I am and you’re who you are.”

“A fish doesn’t need a bicycle. A fish needs to be what you are. And enjoy being what a fish is. A fish needs to be happy in her own scales, and they’re beautiful iridescent scales, too, with shimmering colors that make you beautiful. Just the way you are. That bicycle you think you want, no matter how attractive, would only take away from your own beauty, and tie you down. You don’t want that, do you?”

And he continued on. “You need to be happy being yourself. And you don’t have to have something you can’t use to make you happy. Don’t be envious of what others have, because you have things they don’t have. Like me. You can swim and I can’t. And I guarantee you wouldn’t want to lose that ability just to be able to ride this bicycle for a few days. Would you?”

Maggie thought about what he’d said. “No, I wouldn’t. I just thought I’d be happier if I had some of the things other people have that seem to make them happy. I feel like I’m missing something….”

“You’re not missing anything,” said the man. “You just think you are. Go back to the ocean and be who you were made to be. I guarantee you’ll be happier when you think about what I said. Because you have to like yourself to be happy with yourself. A bicycle can’t make a fish happy; only you can do that. And then watch what other good things will happen when you make yourself happy!”

So Maggie Mackerel headed back to the ocean and jumped back in. She took a delicious gulp of air and felt it rejuvenate her body. Maybe that man was right. She enjoyed feeling the waves around her body, and hesitantly headed out to new adventures.

A fish doesn’t need a bicycle to be happy.

A woman doesn’t need a man in order to be herself, or who she’s destined to be. Like Maggie Mackerel, she has to like herself, be comfortable in her own body, to be truly happy.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and being yourself is so much better than being someone else.

There’s only one you. Don’t try to make yourself someone you’re not in order to make yourself into someone you think you should be. The world needs you, not another copycat of someone else. And you don’t need anyone else to get you there.

Did Maggie Mackerel get her life together? What do you think?

I can tell you this much. She didn’t go back and get that bicycle. She found out she didn’t need it!

Neither do you.

What Do You Say?

About six years ago, I visited a friend in the hospital….again. She’d already been in there for a little over two months. She had endured three separate surgeries, as well as a bout of pneumonia. She was on a feeding tube because the doctors still hadn’t gotten her system to where it could properly digest food. In the months she’d been in the hospital, she’d only had real food three or four times, and hadn’t been able to keep it down.

Her first diagnosis was a blockage in her gall bladder; then that diagnosis changed to a tumor in the pancreas. She was transferred from the smaller hospital she’d originally been sent to a larger facility where they were more equipped to handle such cases.

The diagnosis quickly changed from a tumor to a cancerous tumor, but still the doctors said it could be cured by removing it, and then follow-up chemo or radiation. That first surgery went well, and she was on her way to a quick recovery, or so we thought.

Until another surgery was required for a twisted intestine, and then another for a blocked bile duct. And still she’d had no solid food. We all watched her grow slowly weaker. Physically, that is. But the one thing that remained constant was her faith.

Even in the midst of all the surgeries, the discomfort, the inability to even get out of bed by herself, the one thing that kept my friend going most of all was her deep and abiding faith in her Lord. Because she
knew the God she served, and she knew His promises, and she knew He would never leave her or forsake her.

Did that mean she didn’t get discouraged? Not at all. She was human like the rest of us, and no matter how strong our faith, I do not think any one of us could say that we would never waiver, never have our moments of doubt.

But then came the day I went to visit her in the hospital again, and found she had been transferred to the oncology wing, I have to say my heart sank. And I KNEW, regardless of what else we were told, that it wasn’t good.

Then came the late night text three days later. A new prognosis. The doctors couldn’t do anything more for her. She was going to be sent home with hospice care. Her daughter was flying in from out of town to help take care of her.

What do you say? And what does it do to our faith?

I remember the last time my husband and I visited her at home. She was dressed up as best she could, laying in her rented hospital bed, wearing her best earrings and favorite necklace, with a colorful scarf knotted around her neck. And slowly enjoying a taste of ice cream.

“Don’t you dare cry for me,” she told us. “Not for a moment! I’m going to meet the Lord soon, and I’m excited! He’s taken care of me this far, and He’s still doing it! I’ll see you all again. Don’t you worry about that!”

Wow! And she meant it, too. That, my friends, is faith. And I hate to admit, I don’t know if I’d have that attitude of faith or not. I certainly hope so, but none of us know how we’d react.

My friend went home to be with our Lord about a week later. Yes, we mourned. We cried. So did her family. But I couldn’t help but remember the words she spoke the last time we saw her.

How would I react? How would I handle it, if it were me, or someone I dearly love?

I honestly cannot say. My faith is strong, but strong enough to not doubt in the midst of a storm like this? To not say, “why me, Lord?” To not try to make a deal with Him to allow me or my loved one to be healed? To give them…or me…just a little more time?

I’ve had other friends, close friends as well as acquaintances, who’ve gone through this situation. Each handled it differently, until very close to the end when they finally realized their time on this earth was short, and they would soon be going on to meet their Lord.

To me and other friends and family, they said “it’s ok. God’s got His plan. It may not be the same as mine, but that’s the plan, and I know it’s going to be ok.”

But at night, in the quiet and stillness of an inability to sleep, what were they thinking? What were they praying? Were they scared and afraid to admit it? Or did they truly believe everything they told us all?

I really don’t know.

I remember my mother’s last few days, especially the last time I was with her. She was so adamant that all she wanted to do was go home to the Lord. I remember her saying very strongly to me, “Don’t you understand? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I just want God to take me home. I’m tired and I’m ready. You’re going to be fine without me. I just want to go.”

And she did four days later. And in her case, I can almost guarantee she wasn’t scared. She was just ready.

Why write this now? First of all, I’m not sick with a catastrophic illness, and neither is anyone in my family. But we do have several friends who are going through some very serious illnesses, as well as friends whose loved ones are also.

And sometimes I just don’t know what to say. Because I’m not in their shoes, and I’m not going through it. I cannot say, “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. I can try to imagine, but after I imagine it, I go back to my reality. A reality in which I’m ok, and so is my family.

All I can do is support them and their loved ones, be there for them when they need to talk, or cry. And love them through a tough time. And realize that unfortunately this is one of those parts of life that most of us have to go through at least once.

If you or a friend of yours is going through this, don’t ignore them or avoid them because you don’t know what to say or do. They just need to know you’re there; to know you care; and know that if they need something they can ask you without feeling like they’re bothering you.

You may not know exactly what to say or do, but sometimes a smile, a hug, a bunch of flowers from the grocery store, can do more to brighten someone’s day in such times than you’ll ever know.

Is someone you know going through a serious tough time? Do something unexpected for them. See what happens.

Living In The Past

It only keeps you from your future. And isn’t that where you want to go?

Do you really want to stay in a time in which you know the end of the story? Because you can’t change the ending, you know. The past is already done. Gone. There’s no changing anything.

Yes, there were lots of good times. And it’s sometimes easier to dwell on how great those good times were, rather than remembering the events leading up to the end, and the ending itself. And how awful it was. However, sometimes in our memories we change the ending so it’s not as bad as it really was.

In fact, sometimes in our minds we change the ending and make what happened someone else’s fault instead of our own. Or we wrongly blame ourselves for something someone else did to us. That way, we can continue to live in the past, in our own mind, and change that unhappy ending to something that makes us feel better.

But that ending only exists in your own mind, while everyone else around you is living in reality…in the actual here and now. You’re just not living there with them. You’re living in your own reality, but no one else is living there with you. So you’re even more alone.

Living in the past is like living with a ball and chain around your leg. It prevents you from moving on, from going anywhere new.

It keeps you from moving into tomorrow; into your future. Sure, you want to go there, you really do. But that piece of the past you’re still dwelling in just won’t let you. Like someone with that short length of chain attached to that huge heavy ball around their ankle, you can only go so far. And no farther.

Until you decide to free yourself from the past…to let it go and not go back to visit…you’re not going to move into your future. And you know that’s where you want to go…where you NEED to go. Because staying mired in the past won’t accomplish anything but making you miserable. You’ll watch everyone else moving into their future, and you’re still left behind. Where it’s definitely no fun!

So try it. Be adventurous. Stop dwelling on what happened in the past; on what you could’ve done differently. Stop thinking about what’s gone and won’t be again. After all, no matter how much you look back and think about the past, it’s not going to change one thing. Not one detail. So why do you keep doing it? Do you enjoy the pain? I sure wouldn’t.

Instead, look at what’s ahead. There’s a brand new adventure coming. No, you don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be so much better than where you are now. All you have to do is put the past behind you once and for all. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t do the “what if…” Don’t look backwards, because that’s not where you’re supposed to be going.

Because if you do, you’re not going to ever get rid of that ball and chain. And you won’t be able to go into your future.

Where you’re supposed to be. And tomorrow is that future.

And it’s going to be amazing! And beautiful! If you only let it be that way.

Yes, this is a shorter blog than I usually write, because I want you to start planning your tomorrow instead of reading too long. I want you to close that door to the past and leave it shut! Lock it and throw the key away! And take off that ball and chain and throw it away! There is absolutely nothing there in that past for you any more; if it were, it would be your present. As well as your future.

So don’t wait any longer. Don’t waste any more time, because you have something very special waiting for you.

Making That Ultimate Decision

In the past several months we have had two friends in that ultimate life or death situation. A situation that none of us would ever want to be in, on either side.

Two people experienced catastrophic medical events which resulted in irreparable brain injury. Their bodies still functioned, but brain activity was minimal. Their loved ones had to make a choice; the most difficult choice any one could make.

Medical science has progressed in so many ways, and continues to do so on a daily basis. Today people are being saved from any number of horrible accidents and diseases that even five years ago would have been fatal. They may have life altering injuries which require months of rehabilitation to enable them to return to an active, although sometimes changed, lifestyle, but they are able to continue their life with their family and friends.

Unfortunately medical science cannot repair damaged brain cells. It cannot rejuvenate them, or replace them. When the brain is denied oxygen during a major medical crisis, brain cells begin to die. And although doctors can do amazing things to pull people through these horrific episodes, sometimes they just cannot.

Their brains are still functioning enough to operate most of their organs, with help of advanced medical equipment, but the essence of who they are, who they were, cannot be restored. They cannot breathe on their own. They cannot “eat” without a feeding tube. They cannot see what’s around them, because their eyes can no longer open, or if they do, we have no idea if they are seeing, and if what they do see even registers on any conscious level of their minds.

Yet their bodies function, and the minimal brain activity tells us they’re still living; still with us. Our minds tell us they can get better, because we desperately want them to. We want them to be who they were before that catastrophic event that changed everything.

But sometimes it just cannot happen. And we are forced to make decisions that no one should have to make.

There are two sides to this issue, and I can understand both of them. There are many people who say that under no circumstances should their loved ones be shut off from any chance of life; that there can always be a miracle, and that person can wake up and be him or herself again. I appreciate their faith, and I understand it. I totally get it. In that circumstance I’d probably feel the same way, at least in the beginning.

Unfortunately in such severe cases as I’m describing, there is no miracle on the horizon. Yes, it always could happen, and I don’t dispute that.

But let’s talk about the person in the hospital bed who is the one hooked up to life supporting equipment; the person who cannot function at all without that equipment. If he or she could talk to us, what would that conversation be like?

What would you want to tell your loved ones if you were in that situation? Trapped in a body that would never work properly again? And your mind, the essence of you, if any part were still functioning to understand what was happening, what would you say?

Would you want to be trapped in a body that you have absolutely no control over? Would you want to exist not being able to speak, to move, to see, to do any of the things you used to enjoy? Would you want to exist in this new world in which you found yourself, with no chance of ever leaving this new world because of medical science? Confined to this one small space?

Or would you want to go home to the Lord, finally free of the suffering, finally and beautifully restored with a new body and a whole intact mind?

That’s the choice we have to consider. Because when our loved ones cannot decide any more, we are forced to make that decision. And it’s a gut wrenching, grievous, and irreversible decision. One that we can wrestle with for days, sometimes weeks, before deciding.

While our loved ones remain trapped in that twilight world we cannot imagine. And we have no idea what, if anything, they consciously know. We know we don’t want to make a final irreversible decision; but sometimes we have no choice.

We pray. We cry. We talk to the doctors. We pray more. We ask others for guidance. But in the end, we are forced to make that ultimate decision. And it’s far from easy; far from simple. And it’s a decision that must be lived with the rest of our lives.

It’s extremely hard to do the right thing, and no matter what decision is made, it will be questioned many times over. Because we’re human and we will always have those moments of self doubt.

In these two situations, neither person had an advanced medical directive. They had talked about it, but like so many of us, they just “didn’t have time” to get it done. They thought they had all the time in the world. Until their world irreparably changed, and they could no longer make that choice. One person passed away on their own, before the choice had to be made. The other, well, loved ones had to make the choice.

My heart cries for all of those involved, not just in these cases, but in the countless others every day. And I cannot judge anyone’s decisions in these situations.

I know what I would want done, and both my husband and I have advanced directives which clearly spell out our wishes.

It wouldn’t make such decisions easier, but it would make it better for our loved ones. I pray they will never need to be used.

Think about it before you judge or criticize. Put yourself in their places.

May the Lord bless each and every person who has or is going through this situation. May you be comforted with the hope and assurance that one day you will all be reunited. And know that the decisions that were made were the right ones.

When Busyness Continually Takes Over Your Life

It’s already started. All the commitments, all the plans are already filling up the first part of my 2019 calendar.

But then I started to think about what I’d written a few years ago. About busy-ness. Not business. Busy-ness. Being busy all the time, but getting nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

It all started with a post from an acquaintance about how busy busy busy they’d been. Doing this, doing that. No wonder we hadn’t seen them in ages. Plans were half made but never confirmed. Either something else always came up, or time just marched in and changed things in its own inimitable way. Plans were juggled here and there, and eventually just fell thru the cracks into an abyss, and nothing was ever done. Sadly that’s still the case quite often. With several acquaintances.

We’re all guilty of that, though.

Many times we think our busy-ness is for all the right reasons. “We had to volunteer at church for this or that.”

“I know we made plans, but this meeting came up, and we felt guilty because even though we’d made other plans, this is really important, and we couldn’t say no. I hope you understand.”

Or, “We arranged to take our parents to dinner, but then someone called and asked us to help them with a project that same night, so we re-scheduled our parents, and I guess we hurt their feelings because they said they guessed they weren’t as important as our friends.”

Or how about, “We ‘forgot’ to discuss plans with our spouse, and he/she had already made plans for that same night. So we’ll pick another night.” And it takes forever to get that “another night” scheduled.

Or we have plans for a big project we want to accomplish. Something we’ve wanted to do for quite a while. We talk about it all the time, but talk doesn’t accomplish what we keep saying we’re going to do. Something else always comes up, and we lose our focus.

And it never happens.

Busy-ness. Or, busy-mess as I just accidentally typed. But it fits!

Remember the song “Cat’s in the Cradle”? That line, “I’d love to if I can find the time.” The dad in the song never did, and because that’s how he was raised, neither did his son. It was always, “but we’ll get together soon. And we’re gonna have a good time then.”

We’re all busy with our lives. My previous job took me away from home 11 hours a day, and I was always exhausted by the time I got home, and when the weekend came around I didn’t want to do anything. It wasn’t fair to me or my family. Now that I have a job I truly enjoy which is only a short half hour commute each way, I’ve actually been able to catch up on the things I missed out on. Some things fortunately waited patiently for me, but sadly, others didn’t.

Those are the things I miss the most. The ones I cannot recapture. The missed opportunities. We mean well. We say let’s do this or that, but we don’t always follow up. And then one day we realize people we really cared about are out of our lives. And we didn’t even realize it. Or the things we really wanted to do have been on the back burner so long we just give up, because we don’t think we’ll ever have enough time to do them. And another opportunity is missed, because we were just too busy, with things that actually weren’t all that important when we look back on them.

That’s unfortunately how life is these days. We don’t make the time we need for ourselves, or for those closest to us, because we’re torn in so many directions by other things, usually things really not as important as we think they are.

Maybe the busy-ness is a substitute for something missing in our own lives. Maybe we think we’re only liked, only appreciated, only useful if we try to do everything everybody else wants us to do. But most of the time that thinking is at the expense of ourselves…and our friends and family. We can’t be everything for everybody all the time. Because then there’s nothing left for ourselves.

Think about it. What’s important to you? Who’s important to you? Now what are you going to do about it?

Is your busy-ness/busy-mess going to keep you running in several directions at once, or are you going to take the time to slow down and re-think your priorities? Before it’s too late.

Take time to smell the roses, and the gardenias. Walk in the rain with someone you love. Enjoy a quiet dinner with friends and laugh at each others’ jokes until your stomachs hurt. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and renew a fading friendship. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents around, go visit them. Play a game of catch with your children or grandchildren. Be spontaneous instead of filling up your calendar weeks in advance, with no nights free.

Those meetings can wait. Someone else can coordinate that luncheon. The world won’t stop if you say “no” to being on one more committee.

But your world will begin to change. And you’ll wonder why you ever let all that busy-ness take over your life. And suddenly, you’ll have a life again.

It’s a new year, and the first month of it is already almost over. But we can still start it off right!