Monday, July 29, 2013

Encouraging Word July 29, 2013

“…I have heard people rant and rave and bellow

That we're done and we might as well be dead,

But I'm only a cockeyed optimist

And I can't get it into my head.”

 I woke up with this song from “South Pacific” in my head today. I don’t know if it’s because it was Monday or if I’m just tired of all the pessimistic news all the time.  I like keeping up on the world and what’s going on, but why does it seem like it’s always bad news all the time?  So when this song broke into my head first thing I thought I’d go with that attitude this morning at least for as long as I could!
Cockeyed optimist sees the world in a different way. Granted they may not always be happy or optimistic, but just as a way of life try to look at the sunnier sides of things. Like the silly mother rabbit who decided to have her babies in a very shallow depression in the middle of our fenced in yard. Smack in the middle of dog country.  We thankfully discovered the newborns before the dog did and moved them outside of the fence.  Our poor spaniel, in which is bred the instincts of hunting exactly such little creatures is going nuts.  He knows exactly where we moved that nest and he keep trying to dig and chew his way through the fence to get at them. He just wants to play… but his way of playing with our nine year Siamese cat inside the house is to grab her head and wrestle. Luckily for our cat, she goes along with him until he gets too rough and cuffs him one in the nose when he pulls too hard.  Somehow I don’t think baby bunnies would have that kind of resilience. So we moved the nest.

Next, in an obvious effort to keep our poor dog entertained, Mother Nature told a momma cat to have her new litter under our deck. So now we have new bunnies AND new kittens all over the place. Cockeyed optimists that we are we just keep telling the dog to stop chewing the boards, move whatever bunnies and kittens that escape from their safe homes into the dog’s part of yard and try to appreciate all the new life that is apparently finding our yard a nice “home”.
Isn’t that what cockeyed optimism does though? It takes something seemingly silly or unimportant and makes it seem like the right thing to do. While others may scoff at our Pollyanna point of view, it helps us to view the world with good cheer and hope. Because what is optimism? It’s hope. Hope in the future, hope that things will get better or that we can deal with it if it doesn’t. Optimism tells us that we have a reason to get up in the morning and most importantly that God is in charge.

 Why does God put two seemingly diverse creatures together in the same yard?  He knows the dog is going to go after the bunnies.  Is it an opportunity for my family to feel like we are having a positive impact on the world that in some small way we are “coming to the rescue” of small innocents?  So when we read about the horrible things people do to one another we feel we are in some small way trying to make the world a better place even just in our own yard?  It could be the lesson too that even if we try our best, bad things may happen? The dog may yet act on his instincts and hurt another creature and we just have to live with the consequences also known as the circle of life.
 Creatures and people are born and die.  Yet they all have meaning especially to God. We may not know their purpose, but He does. Doesn’t that make being an optimist, cockeyed or otherwise, a good thing?

I believe it does…
“…I could say life is just a bowl of Jello

And appear more intelligent and smart,

But I'm stuck like a dope

With a thing called hope,

And I can't get it out of my heart!

Not this heart”


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

Encouraging Words July 14, 2013

July 15, 2013

“Change pushes us to get out of ourselves and rely on God.”

   Abe Lincoln once said that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  And you know, it’s true, happiness doesn’t just happen. Sometimes you have to really work at it. Sometimes, you just have to make up your mind, make a decision or a choice to be happy because life doesn’t always play fair, give you all the right cards or go your way all the time.

   We just got back from traveling almost 2,000 miles to see daughter, Laura and her hubs.  As I was putting away the five loads of laundry that awesome daughter, Cait, did while I headed right back to work, I thought about how much the change in our lives can affect our moods.

   I miss having her closer, being able to visit physically more often because I am a homebody and I like to have my family close, but if I mope around wishing she was closer to home,  what good does that do her or me?

  Instead I need to be thankful we had the most wonderful time visiting them. We lived adventures while we were out there, going to the ocean, hiking up mountains, playing frenetic outdoor laser tag and those things should all be foremost in my mind.

   The same thing goes for our other two kids. They are growing up, meeting new people, finding jobs or going to schools that may lead them not so nearby either but that is change.  Change can be good if we can look at that way. Change can mean fun, happiness, adventure, memories to make, stories to tell. Change pushes us to get out of ourselves and rely on God.

   It seems to be a tendency for us humans to see the sad, bad or gloomy especially when things change. When family members or friends die, when someone becomes very ill or we lose a job or a child moves out of the house.  Sad change really takes work, a lot of work. There’s no getting around the fact that losing someone is a huge mood changer.
    When I read about saints it seems they were always extolled for their ability to be happy during bad times or the way they could bring good out of bad.  I’m not very good at that yet. Change sometimes makes me sad and wish for other days, long ago days or better times.

   But change forces us to choose. Sometimes I don’t choose well.   While I don’t always have control over body chemistry, illness or injury, I can choose to deal with it with a good attitude and even then when I fail I know that at least trying is what counts.

   I encourage you to choose to try to think of change as a positive challenge, even if it is not happy or is painful. It begins with you.  Let’s rise to the challenge together!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Encouraging Words, July 8, 2013

E-words July 8, 2013
This week I am focusing on fun. My dad had a way of using little sayings that always cracked me up. I don’t know where he came up with these things, if he read them somewhere which could be very true because he read books like crazy. But it was fascinating listening to them. Things like, “Well, you’re cuter than a little spotted pup trotting beneath a red wagon!” or “They are slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter.”

He always made me laugh with these so I found some to share with you too!

1. I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sounds they make as they fly by!

2. Someday we’ll look back on all this and run into a parked car.

3. Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it!

4. I hate when my Reality Check bounces.

5. When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

6. I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.

7.  Everybody is somebody else’s weirdo.

8.  Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have film.

9. I poured Spot remover all over my dog. Now he’s gone.

10. Just remember, you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

Have a great week. I love you!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Encouraging Words July 1, 2013

The Gospel reading at Mass yesterday was about the apostles being frightened during a storm in their boat. Jesus uttered that well known phrase, “Oh ye of little faith.”

              How little my own faith was six years ago when my husband, Mike and I were embarking on a new path in life. He was being downsized from his job, my job was only minimum wage and we had just started a family business we hoped would help even out our finances.

We had been planning a family trip to Colorado Springs to go hiking, sightseeing and whitewater rafting. Despite what seemed our impending financial doom or at least it was going to be very questionable, we decided that making family memories superseded any financial woes. Mike and I have a way of looking at things like this.  Memories can never been recreated when the kids are young so our credit cards may be a little full, but we never regret the fun we have had on vacations with our kids.

On the third day of our Colorado adventure we headed two hours west of Colorado Springs to Buena Vista to the Arkansas River.  For those of you who have ever gone rafting down a cold mountain river, you’ll understand what we were going to face. But WE didn’t know what we were facing. We had seen pictures, watch videos on television. It looked like fun, like adventure and that was what our family needed this summer, some adventure to get our minds off worries.

First we began early in the morning at the barn where the rafting company had their headquarters and signing release forms. It was then I had my first twinge of lack of faith.  While signing a form for each of the kids, Mike and myself, I noticed the disclaimer, “not responsible for life threatening injuries or death” as part of the contract.  If you have ever been on a roller coaster and felt that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach just as you crested the hill at the top of the coaster and you see the sheer drop you are about to make you’ll understand the feeling I had at that moment.  I truly hadn’t realized there was this much risk to myself much less to my own children.

As I started to voice my doubt, the kids who were 19, 17 and 15 at the time looked at me like I was crazy.  This was the mom who took them river tubing, climbing rocks, and other activities.  I mean I was very protective and careful, but it seems I’m always involving us in some activity I did as a teenage which involved water, climbing or hitting each other in martial arts. I was tough and so were they. They weren’t scared of a little water.  But deep down I was.

We rode in a bus to the put in point upstream all the while our guides explained rescue techniques, what happened if you fell in the water, lost your paddle and something about getting stuck under the raft. The windows were all open on the bus and squished into bus seats two by two with life jackets on it was hard to hear. I looked at my husband, “I can’t hear anything he is saying.”  He shook his head and said, “Something about self rescue if you fall out of the raft, but I can’t hear very well either.”  Another omen.  All those times in school when I should have raised my hand and asked the teacher to repeat the directions, I should have raised my hand and asked the guide to talk louder.

We got to the river, got off the bus and helped carry our heavy rafts to the gorgeous Arkansas River. The first step into the water made me scream it was so cold!  The girls and I got on the left side and Mike and Ryan sat across from us. The guide, whose name was Brian, called us girls “Team Estrogen."  Brian thought he was a comedian. He was in his late twenties, loved the river, had graduated from college with an agricultural degree but decided the running the river was better than sitting in a field in the Midwest looking at corn weevils. He laughed and joked, made fun of us squealing at the cold river. We headed downstream practicing our paddling techniques. It was not easy. You sat on the side of the raft with your feet inside but your bum on the tube.  And there were no seatbelts! So while digging into the water with your paddle you had to make sure you didn’t fall off the tube into the water.

            On TV it always looked like it was easy to paddle, but we were sitting really high on the raft, the water was actually like two feet below us and you had to lean over to dig in with the paddle. It felt off balanced and precarious.

As we moved down river, our very colorful guide pointed out gold in the river, an old mine bridge which he said was good luck if you were able to reach up and hit with your paddle. While doing so, Mike’s paddle came down and bonked Laura on the head. Good luck?

The first of several rapids approached and we were ready. The boat dropped over a ledge of water and almost dumped all of us into the bottom of the boat.  “Steady on!” Brian yelled, “Paddle!”

           We paddled, like it made any difference. The rapids slammed the nose of the boat straight up in the air where your paddle got no purchase in the water. When you leaned over enough to catch water, the boat slammed back down into the water. The drop then almost dumped us out of the boat into the churning water.

We made it through several smaller rapids successfully and were proud of ourselves. Now Brian warned us, were the 7 Staircases, a series of rapids one right after the other. But hey, we were doing really well.  Omen again.

As we rounded the curve, we skillfully missed hitting this ledge and slamming a head into that boulder. We bounced down several smaller rapids when suddenly we rounded a curve. My side of our raft dropped Laura and I fell out backwards over the side of the raft into the icy water. Ryan flew over my head and also fell out.

When Laura and I hit the water backwards, she fell on top of me. I went deep in the cold water with a gasp. I didn’t even see Ryan come flying out. I felt a huge weight on top of my shoulders and head and assuming it was Laura and began to push her up toward to surface. Trying hard not to panic all I could think about was getting her to safety. But I kept pushing and she was going nowhere. Running out of breath I opened my eyes for a split second knowing I could lose my  contact lenses doing so. But all I could see was murky frothy water. I pushed up again and still got nowhere. Finally I decided I couldn’t do Laura any good if I passed out so I tried to head up and get air so I could pull her up with me. I hit something hard and unmovable.  What the heck was that? I hit it again and again and got no where. It was then I realized I was stuck beneath the raft.  I began to pull myself to one side, in a crablike walk trying not to panic, running out of breath.  Finally I my hand came out from under the boat and suddenly something grasped my hand. Brian reached down and grabbed the shoulders of my life jacket and yanked me up. I saw my husband and Cait in the raft but no Ryan. I turned and saw Ryan in the water hanging onto the raft with one hand and the other holding on to his sister, Laura.  Just as relief washed over me that everyone was safe, Brian yelled at me to swim for shore and quickly dropped me back in the water.  “Swim?” I was coughing up river water and still trying to see.  Relief turned to panic once more as I wondered how I would have the strength to help my two kids swim to shore.  I looked to see both of them swimming hard already! I was never so proud of them!

We climbed up the rocky shore scraping our knees but glad to be safe. Brian came running across the rocks and helped me stand. As soon as he ascertained we were okay he laughed and gave us high fives.  “You are official Arkansas River Rats! Way to go!”  Mr. Good Time River Guide had gone from having fun to Mr. In-Charge of a Bad Situation back to Mr. Good Time again within minutes!

It wasn’t until we drove two hours back to our hotel, had dinner and got ready for bed that I thought about the events of that day.  My husband and I had learned a huge lesson about trust that day. We learned to not only trust in our guide, who that day was Brian but to begin trusting our life guide, the Lord, a little more. Trusting in Him through the storms of our uncertain financial future was kind of like coming up for air and trusting our river guide knew what he was doing when he threw me back in the water and told me to swim. He knew what was best for me, for my family in the boat and my family in the water.  If I had hung onto the side of the boat I risked being crushed by the rocks ahead. And Brian had to get back to paddling to steer the boat to safety.  Clinging to our shrinking finances, and panicking about jobs wasn’t going to get us ahead either. We had to let go and explore new avenues and try building a business.

Trusting in Jesus even when what He is telling you doesn’t make sense at the time can be really hard. Like the apostles, the Lord is trying to build more faith in us. And that faith doesn’t come without some trust!