Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Selfishness, Instant Gratification, Fear, and "Bully"

Last night, we happened upon Independent Lens on PBS.  They were airing the documentary "Bully."  I own this movie.  But I haven't watched it yet.  Because it hurts my heart to see meanness. It hurts my heart to see people hurting.

I don't like how angry I feel toward the kid doing the bullying. Or how angry I feel toward the parent who is trying their best but doesn't realize they are also putting down their child.  Or how angry I feel toward the administrators and elected officials who brush all of it off or who blame the victim.

I don't like to see a child struggle.  To see the look on their face when they try to tell someone and are shut down.  To watch as they try to figure out how to handle this situation - with laughter or with tears or fighting back.

Or by ending their life.  Because they don't know what else to do.

And it got me thinking.

This isn't just something that happens in middle school or high school or elementary school.  This spirit of selfishness runs throughout society these days.

Just like the vice principal who wants to look like she's taking action and being firm - her selfish desire is about how she comes across.  She doesn't seek to do what is right by the students who are being harmed.

Just like the bully who wants to feel powerful.

Just like the parent who wants to push their child to open up, to push their child to stand up for themselves.

Our selfish hearts get in the way of so much.

Our desire to be strong. Powerful. Above. Over. Bigger.

We do it as adults. In our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in our online groups, amongst our friends.  We want to be in control, on top, in the know, part of the loop - at all costs, sometimes.

Our desire for instant gratification is fueled by that selfishness. We want to feel big and powerful and best and we want to feel it RIGHT NOW.  So we make choices that hurt others in order to get what we want to feel.  Even if it is short lived.  And then we move on to another target and another and another - all so we can keep feeling "on top" and not lose our status.

We fear stepping back from that terrifying yet comfortably routine place where we gossip and spread doubt and plant seeds of negativity all around us... hoping that maybe if we make everyone else look at least a little bad, we will somehow look brighter.

Maybe you are shaking your head right now and saying that it just isn't like that once you grow up.

Or maybe you are afraid to look at your circle... or to look at yourself.

What if our greatest desire really and truly was about seeking to serve and love others?  What would that look like?

In the movie, there were times that I was yelling at the TV - "Mom! HUG YOUR KID RIGHT NOW!"  "Bus driver! PULL OVER AND STOP THEM!" "Administrator! BE HIS CHAMPION!"

And I realized...

My heart yells like that every day.

When I see someone post judgemental stuff on Facebook about the guy on the street corner begging with his cardboard sign.

When I hear about private groups of online friends who spend their time laughing at and making fun of others.

When I'm in a conversation and the topic turns to disparaging someone I know.

When I find myself participating in that conversation.

When I hear myself fight with my husband or yell at my child.

When I think of a family member and roll my eyes or groan at the thought of spending time with them.

When I spend time with a group of people - any group - and in any way come away feeling like I'm somehow better than they are.

I'm just as guilty as any other person.

I sometimes think the difference is that it eats me up inside.  I can't live with myself when I find myself drowning in those kind of behaviors and conversations and thoughts.

But I want people to like me and they will like me if I agree with them.  I want to be accepted.  I want people to think I'm pretty and loving and generous and authentic and I want them to see certain things in me that maybe I don't even really see in myself.  So I try to fill that gap... and instead of filling it with love, if I'm not careful, I can easily fill it with yucky stuff.

While kids might be more physical with their bullying and might use words and language that is more directly cruel, we adults certainly know how to smoothly cut someone down with a glare or a few choice words.  We know how to ruin someone's reputation, weaken their support network... turn their friends against them.

We all have to get real.  Right now.  If we want kids to stop bullying... if we want kids to be kind to one another... if we want kids to stand up for each other... if we want kids to be friends with everyone...

If we want to be able to teach them to be that way and we want to demonstrate for them how to be that way...

We have to authentically live that way first.

I certainly don't do this perfectly.  But I do want to challenge you.

Look inside your heart. Are you being a bully? Are you making excuses for your selfish behavior? Are you trying to fit in by being mean? Are you afraid to stand up because then you become the target?

Do you feel good about how you treat others?  Really and truly? All others?

Step 1 is to recognize in ourselves what we are afraid of identifying, afraid of recognizing.

Step 2 is to change that behavior.  To not go there anymore.

Step 3? Well, I think it's to try and help shape other people's behavior.  To encourage them to make changes, too.  To stand up against wrong and hurtful choices.

Step 4?  More hugs.  Lots more hugs and healing and loving ourselves and loving each other.  Serving each other. Loving each other. Choosing to see beauty and positivity in everyone around us.

But most important is step 1.  Being really and truly and deeply honest with ourselves about how we behave, how we treat others, what we think about others, what we say about others.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Raise My Hands

I've become a very demonstrative worshipper.

I don't plan it.  I don't practice any moves or watch myself in a mirror to see how I look.  I don't plan out when to raise my hand or when to sway or when to dance.

But I've learned that inward worship requires outward expression.

I'm a very expressive person.  But in worship, in that intimate place with God, I'd always held back my emotions.  God's been working on that, though.  From starting to feel ok with my hand in the air from time to time... to feeling like I am truly reaching for God when my hand is raised or that an outstretched hand is a sign of my prayers over the congregation... to now being in a place where I don't even know that I am fully aware of everything I'm doing when I worship.

I sway. I rock. My feet move a bit.  My hands go up or out or to my heart.  Sometimes I cry.

Worship is a way of expressing that God is worthy of my praise and I am worthy of His love.

I was curious to learn more about what Scripture says about worship so I did some reading and learning.

Nehemiah 8:6
Then Ezra called out and blessed the Eternal, worshiping God’s greatness. With their hands raised to the heavens, the people called out loudly in response, crying, “Amen! So may it be!” Then they fell to their knees and bowed. With their faces to the ground, they worshiped the Eternal. 

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:19
When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God

1 Corinthians 14:26
What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community.

I'm learning more and more all the time about what it means to be a Worship Leader.  It took some time to feel comfortable with the title and sometimes I still struggle with it.  But more and more I'm understanding what it means.

Worship is personal.  It's between a person and God.  But there is power in sharing praise and worship in a group of people.  And being a worship leader means that I get to lead people into a closer relationship with Christ and to teach them *how* to worship the way the Bible teaches us.

Maybe you hold back.  Maybe you don't really like to sing.  Maybe you don't really get why people sing or why they raise their hands or move around.

And maybe now you can at least see that and realize that it's a Biblical thing.  It's not about drawing attention or somehow being a "better praiser" than anyone else.  For me, it's completely about opening my heart to the Holy Spirit and trusting Him to guide me and move me for the sake of others who seek to worship.

That's why I raise my hands.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not Sure

I'm not sure if I've avoided writing because I have nothing to say... or if it's because I have too much to say.

A lot has happened in the past month.  To look at me, things would seem no different.  Nothing shattering or damaging has happened.  But things are shifting and are shifting very quickly.

  • Disney World was fantastic.  Time with my husband was wonderful and magical and fun.  The time with my girlfriends at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom was crazy silly fun.  I've got memories that are going to keep me happy for a very long time.
  • Experience Conference was incredible.  God used that time to reach into my heart and turn up the volume! 
  • I'm going through a job change at work - taking on a new role within my department.  I have some exposure to it all but now I have to learn all the systems and reports and such. Thankfully, the person that was doing it did it very well, had it all very organized and is here to teach and train me - and is a very good teacher.
  • Teagan has started taking Tae Kwon Do.  I love it. Jeff loves it. Teagan loves it. Zach wants to do it but is intimidated so he is pretending like he hates having to go to her classes and watch.  I see so much benefit for my girl and I wish it was in the budget (money as well as time) for me to take classes.  It's incredibly empowering and rewarding!
  • School is proving to be a challenge in some different ways this year.  Both kids are showing signs of not doing their best effort and we need to figure out how to get them on track.
  • My house is totally out of control. Again. We are trying to hire someone to take care of our lawn.  And hire someone to finish the mini barn that Jeff started (the roof thing is a challenge because the building is way taller than anticipated).  
  • I went to the Gungor concert Sunday night with my friend Tiffany (who also went to Experience Conference).  It was so energizing to my soul.  I love his Christian mysticism type approach - tying God and faith in with an  understanding of nature and the universe and our position in all of it.  
Each of those may someday end up as blog posts.  Because I could write tons more on each of them. 

And then there are the Big Topics that sit on my heart.  Things that I don't yet have words for.  Things about God or love or church. Things about parenting or work ethic or marriage.  Things that churn away in my heart and my brain and things that have color and life but the words simply don't come.  Yet.

The bottom line is that I'm just not sure where I am and where I'm going these days.  But I know I'm being led.  I know that I'm on the right path.  I'm just not sure what all to share, when to share, or what the words even are for any of it.  

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on the #IceBucketChallenge

So there's this thing that has gone viral.  People post a video stating that they have been challenged and they are challnging 2 or 3 other people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads.  They say it is in support of ALS research and funding.

I've seen a lot of videos.  I've seen a lot of friends do the videos.  I've seen a lot of people complaining about or making fun of people doing the videos.

So here are a few thoughts from me about it.  Because my opinion is obviously very important.  Which is why I blog.

1. It *does* raise awareness.

There are a lot more people talking about ALS.  Most people can't tell you that it's Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  But more people have heard of "ALS" or "Lou Gehrig's Disease" now than even a few weeks ago.  If people dumping ice water on their heads means that more people are talking about ALS and more people are sharing their own exxperiences with ALS, it's definitely a positive thing.

2. It *is* raising money.

I'm just going to share what the ALS Association is sharing.  "Between July 29 and today, August 12, The ALS Association and its 38 chapters have received an astonishing $4 million in donations compared to $1.12 million during the same time period last year."

3. I don't believe it's taking away from other charitable causes.

I'll just be honest... I don't think the majority of Americans have a budget that includes charitable giving to specific charities on a regular basis.  I think most Americans don't give charitably or, if they do budget for it, it's done more as a general "where should I give this week" type of thing.  I think a lot of fundraising happens because people ask, not because the majority of folks are lining up to hand over their money.  So for anyone to think that ALS is getting money that someone had planned to give elsewhere is just silly.  Plus, if you want to make the challenge about ALS and some other charity - go for it.  If you want to do the challenge and ask people to support a different charity altogether - go for it!

4. If you don't like it... don't participate.

I will say that when I first started to see the videos, I didn't get it.  I really didn't understand the point.  But then I watched more and learned more.  And I remembered my next door neighbor who passed from ALS a few years ago.  And I remember what it did to him... he had been a very active and busy man and ALS robbed him of his life before he was literally robbed of his life.  It was heartbreaking.  When I got challenged by a friend... I went and spoke to my neighbor about it.  I told her what was happening with these videos and that I'd like to make a donation in her husband's memory to whatever organization she chose.  Maybe the ALS Association was best.  Maybe there was a local group that helped them most.  Maybe the hospital where he was treated.  Whatever she would have come up with was fine by me.  She was very touched by the gesture and she chose the local chapter of the ALS Association.

So before you poke fun or get all eye roll-y or sarcastic about people doing the challenge, keep in mind that it means something to people who are living with ALS and it means something to people who have been imapcted by ALS.  Keep in mind that money is being raised.  That awareness of ALS is growing.

It isn't up to you to decide if someone else has donated or not.  It isn't up to you to judge if someone is doing the challenge for the right reason or not.

It's just one of those things that you either participate and be part of it... make it your own if you so choose... or just slide on past in your news feed.  Do it and make a difference - for ALS or some other cause.  Or don't do it and there is no harm, no foul.  But there is no reason to slam other people who are participating and who are choosing to make some sort of a difference.

Edited Aug 20 to add:

I also just learned that ALS is very similar to SMA (which is what Scarlett has - she's my I Run 4 Buddy).  It's like ALS is for adults and SMA is for kids.  Scarlett's very incredible mom posted these tidbits on Facebook the other day - and it just drove home the importance of making people aware of ALS and SMA and what it's like to live with it.  What it might be like to be trapped inside your body.  If you would like to do the ice bucket challenge... or you just want to donate... please visit http://fsma.org/.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Days of School


Teagan - Kindergarten


Teagan - 1st grade
It was a year that started with anxiety for both kids - Teagan was leaving Little Explorers (the most awesome preschool and Kindergarten in the world) and Zach was going to Little Explorers without his big sister.


Teagan - 2nd Grade


Zach - Kindergarten (public school)
Teagan - 3rd Grade


Zach - 1st Grade
Teagan - 4th Grade

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Screen Time

For the last few weeks of summer break, we've been fortunate to have the kids at home full time.  They had been going to a local day camp that had been perfectly wonderful for them the last 2 years.  This year, something was different and they didn't enjoy it nearly as much.  We reached a point where they were both begging to not have to go.  It's summer camp - it's supposed to be fun.  It's not a requirement like school.  So we pulled them out, rearranged schedules, found a wonderful nanny - presto!

But that also means they've had way way way more access to the TV, video games, the iPod, the DS3.  Thankfully, our nanny has been wonderful about taking them to do things.  They go to the park, the library, SkyZone (trampoline place), and so on.  But there is still a good amount of TV and gaming that goes on.

And I haven't felt much need to limit it too much, honestly.  It's summer break.  And for the first time in their lives, my kids haven't had to get up early and be out the door and have lunches and bags packed and go go go.  They've been able to actually take a summer break.  So they might watch too much TV or play too many video games.  That's ok for a couple of weeks.

But now school is quickly approaching and we have to get our habits back in check.

During the school year, the rule is no screens before school.  It is too difficult to get everyone up and ready if the TV comes on.  And there is limited time in the evening for TV.  This year, they will be allowed to watch a small amount of TV to unwind when they get home and then it will be homework time, play time, create time, read time, family time.  Get everything done on time, and we can end the evening with a show.

But how to transition... and how to make sure that Saturdays don't then became nothing but a black hole of TV watching and Minecraft playing?

That's when I happened upon this awesome post from Narrowback Slacker.  It was floating around Facebook and I fell in love with the idea.  There is a list of things that have to get done - once the list is done, screen time can be unlimited.  This makes me happy because I know they've read and played and been creative and taken care of important things.  This makes them happy because they get an awesome reward - unlimited screen time.

The timed stuff like reading?  That can be broken up.  Read for 10, brush your teeth, read for 10, eat breakfast, read for 10, get dressed.  Or all at once.  Same for play time.  Break it up or all at once.  Your choice.  Just as long as the list is done *before* any screens are turned on!

I didn't put certain chores on the list.  Teagan unloads the dishwasher and has started to do dishes.  Both kids are expected to put away any clean laundry that I've folded (some days, they have to fold it on their own).  But chores are expected to get done when they need to be done.  Sometimes the dishwasher runs overnight so it needs to be unloaded in the morning.  Sometimes we run it in the morning so it would need to be unloaded in the evening.  I don't have consistent daily chores for my kids - it's just not how we roll.

Once school has started again, this will be our weekend/days off rule.  On school days, we'll have a different pictoral list that the kids use to get themselves ready and to complete needed activities each evening.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Indiana State Fair 2014

And what a great State Fair it is (yet again)!

I think something that makes the Fair a success, for me, is when I discover something new or do something I've never done or taste something I've never had before.  There was one year where I left feeling disappointed because it had just been all the same old same old stuff.  Don't get me wrong - I have my Fair traditions and things I must do.  But it's the unexpected moments and finds that make the Fair special.

I spent 12 hours at the Indiana State Fair with my kids and husband and part of that time with a group of bloggers/friends.  And then I went back on Tuesday evening for a few hours of fun with some of my co-workers.

Celebrating Indiana Pork!

We started the day being silly!

Miss Indiana State Fair 2014.  And some lady with a crown.
Enjoyed seeing some very hard working 4H kids showing their "fuzzy cows."
This was the first year in decades that alcohol has been allowed on the Fairgrounds.  Rather than just having a beer tent on the Fairgrounds, I really like how our State Fair has handled the reintroduction of alcohol.  instead of just drinking beer, the exposition is in a single building and is focused on Indiana produced beer and wine.  There were about 6 vendors there when I visited with my friend, GotchaBaby.  There were 2 wineries, an orchard (hard ciders), and 4 breweries.  We each paid $5 dollars and received 4 tasting tokens.  If we'd found something we'd liked, there was a bar and sitting area where you can buy a glass for $5.  When you enter, you must show ID, you get a wristband with 3 stubs on it.  When you buy a tasting or a glass, they remove one of the 3 stubs.

A actually did 2 tastings of the Apricot Sour from Tin Man.  Tin Man is located in Evansville.  And the Apricot Sour was good enough that I might need to plan a road trip!

Y'know... just hangin' out with Al Capone.
One of our favorite areas is the Family Fun Park.  Teagan is almost too big for Little Hands on the Farm but she did still enjoy it this year.  We had fun strollin gthrough while the kids did the set up farm chores.

Grapes of Wrath of Khan

A visit to Pioneer Village found a new treat - a real barber!  He asked that we just pay him whatever we would pay to get a haircut elsewhere.  Zach enjoyed his old fashioned haircut and loved getting a matchbox car when he was done.  I think he also liked all the attention from people walking by.

Earned hats at the Glass Barn after completing BeanGo (a scavenger hunt type game).

Always fun to feed the goats at Goat Mountain outside the DNR Building

Good Daddy - holding Teagan's purse
One of the few foods that I *must* eat each year.  Ya Ya's Tomato Balls.  It's like a moist hush puppy with chopped up tomato and onion and such.  Served with a yogurt type dipping sauce.  This is the $2 Tuesday portion.

One of my all time favorites at the Fair - the Circl City Sidewalk Stompers Clown Band

Outside the very very crowded Dairy bar - handing out free samples of Superman ice cream

Gorgeous old heater at Hook's Drug Store

 Zach took to the giant slide all by himself.  He went once.  And then swore to never ever go again.  His faces crack me up in this series!

Teagan hung out with a friend and they enjoyed racing from ride to ride on the Midway.

 And one of the highlights of the night - for Teagan - was attending the free Bridgit Mendler concert on the Freestage.  The night was mad emore special when we ran into 2 families from church.  We had a great time hanging out, waiting for the concert to start and hoping the rain and storms would pass by quickly.

Unfortunately, the concert was way too overwhelming for Zach.  As soon as the first song started, he covered his ears and started to freak out.  So I took him out of the tent as quickly as possible and we went to find something else to do.  And that something else, surprisingly, ended up being the Three Hills Rodeo.  Zach really enjoyed keeping track how long a cowboy stayed on the animal - got excited by them staying on the full 8 seconds.  And he laughed at the rodeo clown, Danger Dave.  We even started to leave for the night but then came back to watc more!

This horse had no interest in playing.  She came out and gave a half buck... and then just walked.  The cowboy got to ride a different horse.

The amazing thing is that I've spent about 16 total hours at the Fair and still haven't done everything that I want to do.  I haven't had a glass of tomato juice in the Ag/Hort building.  I haven't bought honey.  I haven't walked through the Expo Hall.  I haven't stepped foot in the Home and Family Arts Building.  I haven't had roasted corn on the cob.  I haven't ridden the shuttle all the way around the loop.  I haven't gone on the Ferris Wheel.

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