Saturday, December 30, 2006

Look at what's left

Excellent two-parter from Joyce Meyer's TV show about overcoming grief and loneliness. Go to her website and download it (December 27 and 28 shows).

I don't remember a lot of details from the months after my husband's sudden death (full story starts here). A few things stand out, like writing thank you notes while sitting in front of the TV on September 11th thinking that the world was ending. And then there were the looks on my new co-workers' faces when I told them entire story six weeks later in a staff meeting so I could get it all out and not have to tell it over and over.

But what Joyce's preaching reminded me of is a quiet moment at home (my new home at my sister's house). It was a few weeks into my widowhood, and my sister came into my room and gave me a hug. She was distressed because she didn't want me to have to live my life alone. I assured her that I would never be alone, since I was never moving out of her house (ha ha).

Jokes aside, I remember thinking at that moment how fortunate I was. I truly would never have to be alone. I had so many people loving me and praying for me, and not everyone has that. I had my faith, and by God's grace I was able to see all that was left, and not just what I had lost.

That doesn't mean it was easy to go through the grief. Some days even knowing all I had left wasn't enough...the loss overshadowed everything. I cried in my car. I cried in stores. I cried at work. Some days, frankly, I had to fake that everything was alright. But the "glass half full" moments gradually increased to where most of the time I realized my glass wasn't just half full, it was overflowing.

Those of you with new grief, please take heart. The days will get better, I promise. More importantly, that's God's promise. Look at what's left in your life. Cherish it, cling to it, and be grateful for all your big and little blessings.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Today's Our Daily Bread talks about a Christmas song that I haven't heard at all lately. It compares the arrival of Christ with the blooming of a rose in the dead of winter. As the essay says:

The song speaks of a season when roses don’t bloom and of a night half gone, a time when people often give in to despair.

Imagine how God's people felt after all those years of waiting for their Deliverer. They might have been ready to give up. Then in the middle of a winter night, when they least expected it, their prayers were answered.

God knows the hour and moment of your deliverance from your burden.

Don't give up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka

My long-time readers may recall that last year my family had the first "theme" Christmas. It was "Pajama Christmas", and we had a great time!

This year the theme was "Christmas in Hawaii". Since we could not afford to actually go to Hawaii, we brought Hawaii to us! The house was decorated with flowers and masks and a plastic totem pole and a palm tree window cling on the patio door. Our special project was making leis from real flowers flown in from Hawaii. Here I am with mine (can't find my regular camera so this is from the webcam):

I know, Christmas doesn't really need a theme (it kinda comes with one built in). But it's just a way to add a little extra fun to the day.

As for dinner, everything was FABULOUS as always! We had ham, meatballs and rumaki (two varieties - liver and scallops) along with lots of side dishes including Hawaiian salad. Dessert was cookies and a tropical version of my brother-in-law's famous creme brulee.

It was an almost perfect family day. The only thing that could have made it better was to have everyone there. But alas, miles and other kinds of distance prevented it. But you were all there in our hearts.

Well, gotta get the leis into the fridge and get myself to bed (work tomorrow). As they say in Hawaii, Mele Kalikimaka!

Go tell it, any way you can

Merry Christmas, and God's blessings to you today and always!

Yesterday at my home church we had a special Christmas Eve mass devoted especially to children. There weren't many people there. Several songs got messed up. The pianist and the guitar player got their signals crossed on one, and another one the words were too small to read. I sang solo several times, and since I have a cold my voice cracked a few times.

This morning I walked to the big church in my neighborhood. It was beautiful and almost full (and the place seats about 600). The orchestra played wonderfully. The soloist sang like an angel. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

And you know what? I LOVED both services!

Worship is one of those rare things in life where your intentions matter more than the results. God knows your heart, and if you sing loud and off-key but you are sincere it makes Him smile! He doesn't care if we make mistakes, as long as we come to Him.

Both services ended with a rousing rendition of "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Well, there are no mountains around here, so I'll have to settle for the internet.

JESUS CHRIST IS BORN! May He be born again in your heart today.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Shopping surprise

It was a quick trip to pick just a few last-minute items for Christmas. And the first thought that entered my mind when I saw this was "NOW I've seen everything".

Yes, that is a Hello Kitty Coffee Maker!

I've got nothing against Hello Kitty. It just seems to me that kids are growing up so fast these days (geezer moment here) and it pains me to think of a kid young enough to love Hello Kitty looking for their java fix first thing in the morning.

But then something else occurred to me. What if it was thirty-somethings buying this just trying to put a little memory of their childhood into their morning routine? Picture a young executive about to leave for her high-stress job. She's got a meeting with her toughest client at nine and performance reviews to finish after that. For most of the day she will have both feet squarely in her adult world.

Nothing wrong with stepping back into childhood for a little while and a little smile. As long as you don't try to live back there.

But then what's next? A Polly Pocket radar detector?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Be a blessing

A friend of mine was trying to get a gift for his wife the other day by taking a quick lunchtime trip to the nearby mall. He was working on an important project and couldn't be away from the office for long.

He never made it into the mall, but perhaps his real mission for the day was accomplished. A woman was stuck near the entrance to the parking lot in her stalled minivan. He helped get her vehicle off the road. What a wonderful blessing he was to that woman! By the time he was done he had to turn around and get back to work.

Helping her was an inconvenience, not to mention a difficult and dirty job. But to a guy like him it was a no-brainer. He saw several other men in cars pass this woman by on their way into the mall. None of them stopped to help.

It reminded me of more than one occasion when I chose not to help out somebody when I could have. In particular was the time I saw an older woman trying to shovel her car out of the parking space where the snow plows had buried it. I was running late for a church meeting and quickly decided that the meeting was more important. Turns out that particular meeting started a half hour late. But even if it didn't, stopping to help her would have certainly been a good use of my time.

Every day we encounter situations where we have the opportunity to be a blessing. Sometimes it's pushing a dirty minivan in your good work clothes. Sometimes it's as simple as giving a smile instead of a frown (especially to store clerks at this time of year).

When that little voice inside gives you a blessing alert, listen to it. You can make somebody's day, and add a little light to your own.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The hidden 'fense

I watched those last two Joyce Meyer TV shows about how damaging taking and giving offense can be. Before I go on let me just say...podcasting is SO COOL! I don't have TV right now (a personal choice), but I can get some shows over my computer if they are available via podcasting, which Enjoying Everyday Life is.

Besides giving and taking offense with others, they talked about "offending yourself". Huh? What does that mean? At first I thought it meant hurting my own feelings then apologizing to myself (sorry, Judie). It's sort of like that, only not so "split personality".

Not loving ourselves is offensive. After all, if God (the Creator of the Universe, the Big Guy, Numero Uno) loves you (and He does whether you believe it or not) then who the heck are you NOT to?

What a radical thought! I have wasted a good portion of my life not loving much about myself for various reasons (no time to list them all). Somehow I got the notion in my head that "loving yourself" was vanity and therefore a sin. But a quick look at the Thesaurus gives us synonyms for vanity such as arrogance, conceit and narcissism. That's not love.

What we're talking about is believing in your worth as a human being, and loving yourself, even if there are things you currently don't like about yourself. That's not to say that we don't have anything to improve upon (that would be vanity). But right here today, as you are, you agree with God.

It never occurred to me that not loving myself meant that I disagreed with God. But I was in effect saying "well, You might love me but I have higher standards". Higher standards than God? Yikes!

So it's very important for me to break my habits of telling jokes at my own expense, putting myself down, and being super-critical about the things I want to change about myself. I need to remember that each step I take in the right direction is progress.

Time to knock down those 'fenses once and for all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The other side of the 'fense

OK, let's say we are able to turn our thinking around and make the choice not to be offended. There's another side to this. What about the things we say and do that offend other people? Shouldn't they be cool like us and just let it go?

Well, sure, in an ideal world. But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where some people's first reaction upon being offended is to kill. Or start a riot. Or call a lawyer.

That reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows - Ally McBeal (1997-2002). It was about a law firm. One of the partners was Richard Fish, who had a clever way of offending people and assuming forgiveness from them in the same breath. He would say something outrageous, knowing it would offend, and follow it with a single word - "bygones" - short for "let bygones be bygones", meaning to let past offenses stay in the past (as if two seconds was "the past").

In a TV show, that's funny. In real life, Richard would more likely have been slapped or worse before he got the "bygones" out. We have to be as careful not to offend as we are not to take offense. I almost think this is more difficult, as we cannot always know what might offend somebody. But let's be honest, we usually do know. How often are we like Richard? We say something then follow it up with "I was only joking". Or "they shouldn't be so sensitive". The point is, we are ultimately responsible for every single word that comes out of our mouth.

For one summer back in the 1980's I worked for a man who always (and I mean always) took at least several seconds to form his thoughts before speaking. This was weird and sometimes very annoying, since the concept of thinking before speaking was completely alien to me. He had to have consciously developed that skill. And although I don't remember much else about him, my guess is that he rarely said something he later regretted, since he always preceded his words with so much thought.

We cannot change other people, only ourselves. And I'm not saying that is easy to do. But if we learn to stop and think first before speaking, and before reacting to other people's words, we can build new thought habits that will lead to a more peaceful life for ourselves and those around us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Offense: take it or leave it

What kind of fence only exists in the mind of the beholder? Offense.

Not my best word-play, I'll admit. But it came to mind recently as I was talking to a group of young people about an ongoing hurt-feeling situation amongst them. The idea didn't originate with me...I read so much that I pick things up and sometimes forget where they came from. It might have come from several sources. But it boils down to this:

Being offended is really our own choice.

Think about it. Somebody does or says something and you "take offense" or "are offended". Both those common terms reflect action on our part. The way I see it, when we feel offended one of three things is happening:

The person intends to offend us. In this case, if we choose not to be offended, we have taken away that person's power in the situation.


The person did not mean to offend us. They said or did something that they thought was funny or harmless but did not realize it might be taken personally or the wrong way. In this case, if we choose not to be offended, we have avoided hurt feelings and a damaged relationship.


Someone is "pushing the envelope" for the sole purpose of getting a reaction. Vulgar movies and song lyrics, political cartoons and talk shows, hate speech, "No Fat Chicks" bumper stickers, pornography and the like would fall into this category. When we turn it off or choose to ignore it, again, we are taking away the power that person or organization has to offend us.

At work, I used to feel offended when certain co-workers would (seem to) ignore my emails. But not too long ago I realized that, among my peers anyway, I probably get fewer emails by far than anyone else. One of my co-workers can sometimes get 20 emails an hour! Most are real, must-read-and-respond emails (not just notifications of system activity, junk mail, etc). I realized that it's more likely that I'm being lost in a flood rather than purposely ignored. I've learned to adjust my communication methods (and my thinking) to get the answers I need and be more at peace at the same time.

I personally think that maybe 90% of the time we are offended, it is unintentional or a misunderstanding on the other person's part. How much better off would we be if we could dial-down our sensitivity to things and learn to summon peace in our own minds? What kind of affect would that have on the world?

One of my favorite preachers is Joyce Meyer, and she will be talking about this subject on her TV show this week with author John Bevere, who calls offense "Satan's bait". Can't wait to see that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Thrill of the Chaste

The Thrill of the Chaste is the first book by our friend Dawn Eden at The Dawn Patrol. Ever since I heard she was writing a book on the subject of chastity, I knew it would be something I would want to read and write about here. For chastity is the lifestyle I have chosen (with some difficulty) since the death of my husband five years ago.

Although we are constantly barraged by sexual messages in television, films, magazines, newspapers, music and the internet, this is still (as it should be) a subject that one does not discuss lightly. Dawn makes her case for a chaste lifestyle effectively because she has the courage to tell us about her own experiences. Anyone who wants to someday have the most awesome human relationship possible--a spiritually and physically fulfilling marriage--should read this book and thank God for giving Dawn the calling, the talent and the guts to write it.

As I read, I used a highlighter pen and some of those little Post-It Page Markers to mark sections that really spoke to me and that I would want to quote. Good idea, except that I had used 30 of them by the time I finished Chapter 8.

So I decided to pick one thing to share with you here, and it comes from my 13th Post-It Page Marker. In Chapter 5, Dawn talks about the loss of innocence which starts not with the first sex act itself, but with the crossing of a certain boundary and what happens after that if you make sex part of your dating life:

Yet, as you explored further, you could never recapture that feeling you had before you took that first step--the feeling of hopefulness and unexplored possiblities. You might try to repeat the same thing you did before with a new man, but in your mind you would always compare your new date to those who had preceded him. Whether he was better, worse, or just different, he was coloring on pages that already contained the outlines of other men.

This is where I have to admit that there were "outlines of other men" on my pages before I married. I bought into the lie that it was alright as long as you were "in love" or that you at least "respected" the other person (whatever that means). And I was not my husband's first lover either. It still makes me sad to know that my husband and I were never truly the only people in our bed, because the memory of others would always be there (deep down and unconscious most of the time, but still there). Sex is such an intense, bonding experience that it can never really be "casual". Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves.

What I can tell you that Dawn couldn't is that, having experienced sex both inside and outside of marriage, I know without a doubt that there is simply no comparison. Saving yourself for the husband or wife God has picked for you will be worth the wait.

Since He designed it that way, how could it be otherwise?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nativity Story

I did make it to the theater last night to see The Nativity Story. I have to agree with a lot of the reviews I read yesterday...the movie seems pretty slow and boring. But unlike them, I shed a few tears at the end.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially in the case of Mary, Joseph and even the shepherd. We are so far removed from the way of life in that time in history that it is very difficult to relate to the motivation of the characters. But in the end it is a very simple story. The real drama will come during Jesus's ministry and in His death and resurrection.

As a Christian, what made me cry at the end was watching that baby and family, knowing what they would go through in the next 33 years...the thought of God coming down to Earth to live in a human body, just to die a horrible death, for me.

And as for that 100 mile journey on a donkey? Mary chose to go with her husband, and the trip was not fun (to say the least). She chose to accept God's will for her life, just as we have that choice. We will never be asked to do more than we can bear.

Mary was truly blessed amongst women.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Supporting "good" Hollywood

With movies available on DVD sent to my home at my request (Netflix is so cool), I don't often actually go to the movie theater much anymore.

But unless it is closed due to bad weather (and it just might be), I'm heading to popcornland tonight to see The Nativity Story.

With so much junk coming out of Hollywood on a regular basis, it's not enough to avoid paying money for the stuff I don't want to see. I'm doing my small part to encourage Hollywood to make better movies by supporting them when they do come along.

And maybe when Mary is told she has to travel 100 miles on a donkey when she is about to give birth, this time we will actually hear her say "are you KIDDING ME?!?"

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A belated thanks

I don't have time this morning to list all the things I am thankful for this season. However, one person in particular has had my sincere gratitude for the last several days.

That would be Felix Hoffman, the inventor of aspirin.

Why? Well, when a 46-year-old-out-of-shape-body is forced by a young-at-heart attitude to play touch football for the first time ever, that body is gonna ache something fierce.

Yes, it hurts. But it sure was fun!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

To those who mourn

This year, many in my circle of friends will be experiencing the "firsts"...first holidays after the death of one or more dear ones.

When I lost my father, husband and cat (all sudden and unexpected) within just a few months in 2001, and ended up moving several times and changing jobs, plus experienced 9/11 with the rest of the world, my life was a whirlwind of grief. On any given day, I was in several different stages of grief for each of those losses (and more). Some days, these feelings blended together into a big fat black cloud that blocked every ray of light.

Talk about confusing! I didn't know what stage of grief (shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance) I was supposed to be in. I couldn't tell if I was "making progress" or sinking. When I got to the point that I felt I was in danger of never recovering, I reached out for professional help.

The most important thing I learned from the therapist is that grief is a unique experience for human beings. Each person experiences grief differently, and each loss for that person is experienced differently. It's also unique in the sense that it doesn't follow a linear path like so much else in our lives.

Grief is a spiral. Picture a spiral staircase, only instead of it being the same width top to bottom, it gets wider as you take steps. Oh, and it goes both up and down (this is some whacky staircase).

At the beginning of your grief journey, you may experience the loss acutely every minute. You wake up thinking of your dear one. You feel like crying all the time. But then one day you realize you woke up and had breakfast and were on your way to work before you thought about it. A while later you are back to crying, but it's not all the time. Then a holiday or milestone hits and it seems like you are back to the first step.

You're not. You are on a different step, higher up and farther out from the center, with a bigger gap between episodes each time they come around. The first Christmas (birthday, anniversary or other milestone) is horrible, the second one awful, the third one not as bad, and so on. If you are walking up that spiral staircase, you're making progress.

But if you're walking down the staircase, you find that it ends in a dark circle. Your grief stages rotate and you experience them over and over again and the gaps between them never get wider. You're stuck. That's where I was when I reached out. The therapist helped turn me around, sending me back up that staircase.

I'm still on that staircase. I am on the step where I mostly smile when I think of Dad or Daniel (I'm pretty much over the loss of Stanley the cat). But I still wish they were here. Dad would be getting a kick out of giving the little ones Christmas gifts that their parents would not like (drum sets, trampolines). Daniel would eat too much and give me a lame gift (like the $2 bill I still carry in my wallet).

To my friends who mourn, know that you shall be comforted. Know that it will get better. Know that the pain you are feeling now is normal and healthy and will lessen in time, as long as you keep walking up. If you find yourself walking down, reach out. Help is available. Prayer, of course, can bring comfort. But God puts people in our lives to help too. People who write things like this.

And if you are already stuck in the dark at the bottom of the staircase, it's never to late to turn around. As long as there is life, there is hope of recovery.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

How do you define success?

The other day a young man I know was pondering the level of "success" he has achieved so far. He is just out of college, working two jobs and living on his own. But he seemed to be down about his life because he was comparing himself to an acquaintance who was a bit older but had many more (worldly) achievements - owns his own house, runs a business, is engaged to be married.

Many years ago a friend of mine was mocking a family we knew. She said that their idea of success is being able to take a two-week driving-trip vacation every year. I remember thinking "good for them...they are successful".

So how do you define success, when it is all relative...either to somebody else or your own idea of what success means? By making the right comparison.

Every day, measure your success by comparing your life to the life God wants you to lead. If God gave you a report card for your day, what kind of grades would you get? How did you use the gifts He gave you today? What kind of Spirit did you project to those around you? What did you do for others?

Somehow I doubt there would be grades on God's report card for how much money you made, what kind of car you're driving or the size of your house. These are worldly measures, always relative and always fluctuating (you get the nice house, but then your brother gets a nicer one, so yours isn't good enough anymore).

It's not easy to ignore the world's idea of what constitutes success, especially in our country. But knowing you are measuring up to what God expects of you is a much more peaceful way to live.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A special day and a special man

Veteran's Day is one of those holidays that I used to jokingly refer to as "pseudo-holidays" because, if I didn't get the day off of work it couldn't be a "real" holiday, could it? But this year I had reason to reconsider my selfish, stupid attitude as I said goodbye to a very special man.

I knew my father-in-law Teofil had fought in World War II, and had been injured in Italy. Daniel told me a little, but his dad didn't like to talk about the war. It wasn't until his recent passing when I got to see his medals and hear more of the story that I truly understood what men like him were made of.

World War II was the biggest war in history, spanning much of the globe and resulting in the deaths of more than sixty million people. Teofil was almost one of them. He was shot and put back on the front line twice before his final injury. He was left for dead in one of the biggest campaigns of the war, the Battle of Monte Cassino. Fortunately for so many of us, his story didn't end on that battlefield. He was found, he recovered, and went on to live a long life.

Although his war experience was no doubt a defining factor of the man he was, it was only one part of his life. The man I will remember is a composite of that quiet war hero plus the hard worker (35 years of hauling the mail), dedicated churchgoer and generous father and grandfather. Beyond all that, my memory of this fine man will always be colored by love stories.

As Daniel told it, his father had to wait four years to marry his mother. Lottie had tuberculosis and had to spend a long time in a sanitarium. As a woman, the thought of a man waiting that long because he had chosen me...well, it makes my heart flutter.

But my favorite image, the one that makes me smile to this day, is from my husband's childhood. I once asked Daniel what his happiest memory was. Without hesitation he said that he never felt more happy, more safe, more warm, than when he would curl up on his father's lap. He wished he was a boy again so he could have that feeling just one more time.

Teofil, Lottie and Daniel are together now, resting in communion with our Lord. Their earthly lives are over, but they live here still in the hearts of the people who loved them.

The story of this man is not unique. The people of his generation fought one kind of war, and the people of our time are fighting another kind. All veterans, especially those who saw battle, deserve our respect, honor and and every day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

God Bless America

I have purposely not looked at the election results yet this morning. No matter who the winners and losers are, no matter who runs Congress now...we still live in, what Michael Medved calls every day at the end of his radio show, "the greatest country on God's green earth."

I proudly wore my "I Voted Today" sticker on my sweater all day yesterday. It reminded me that, while voting is a right, living in this country is a privilege. I vote because I can. And I can because of people like my father-in-law, who passed away a few weeks ago. I'll write more about him soon.

My thoughts of him yesterday were of the sacrifices he and others like him made. His blood was left on the fields of battle in World War II, which allowed me to walk into a room and cast a vote for the kind of country in which I want to live.

And I thank God every day that I live here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy happy happy

Happy belated birthday to my niece Krysta...19 and fabulous!

And Happy birthday today to Father Paul...ageless and priceless!


Monday, October 30, 2006

Wanting what I can't have (yet) - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

This is the day that the Lord hath made.

I don't know what will happen today. But I can be pretty darn sure what will NOT happen. I won't be getting married today. I won't be a size 10 today. Today I won't have a healed friendship with my former roommate who hasn't talked to me in 10 years. I won't run a 5k today.

These are all things I want but cannot have, yet. (OK, maybe I don't actually want to run a 5k, but I want to be in the kind of physical shape it takes to run a 5k.) Is it possible that I will never have these things? Yes. Does that mean I give up wanting them? No way. But to be sad or resentful that I don't have what I think I want is no way to live.

I'm happy today because I have decided to be grateful for God's many, many blessings in my life. And I'm happy because each and every day is a new chance to do a little or a lot (as guided by the Spirit) to build towards the things I want. I can drop a "thinking of you" note to my ex-roommate. I can pray for willingness to eat right and exercise today. I can rest in the knowledge that if God wants me to be married again someday, I've got the best Matchmaker in the history of the universe working on my behalf.

The Bible is full of God's promises. Seriously...there are hundreds in there (check out this list). And I choose to believe that God will fulfill His promises, in a way that is the very best for me.

And who could want more than that?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Wanting what I can't have (yet) - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Elisabeth Elliot wrote this book thirty years ago as a collection of advice for her daughter, who was about to get married. I'm almost done reading it. So far, the paragraph that speaks to me most, the one that could almost have been written by me, is this:

I had been a widow for thirteen years when the man who was to become your stepfather proposed. It seemed to me the miracle that could never happen. That any man wanted me the first time was astonishing. I had gone through high school and college with very few dates. But to be wanted again was almost beyond imagination. I told this man that I knew there were women waiting for him who could offer him many things I couldn't offer--things like beauty and money. But, I said, "There's one thing I can give you that no woman on earth can outdo me in and that's appreciation." The perspective of widowhood had taught me that.

I was an older bride...just shy of 34 when I married Daniel. Before the nature of our friendship changed, I had pretty much resigned myself to the belief that I might remain single my entire life. I don't remember being scared or saddened by that thought; I just accepted it.

Now, having experienced marriage - what Daniel referred to as "the ultimate" human experience - I know I want it again. And I have been scared that it wouldn't happen again. But I'm coming to realize that I don't need to worry about it. I don't need to "put myself out there" in the dating world or otherwise "move the process along".

All I need to do is keep my eyes on God, seek and do His will for my life, and let Him lead me to my ultimate destiny. Whether it includes another marriage for me or not, it is certainly the best plan for living.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wanting what I can't have (yet)

I just got back home from a quick trip to Michigan (the reason for which I'll write about very soon). My drive home was blessed, as I narrowly avoided a potentially dangerous situation caused by what I think was once a car's bumper being flung around the highway by passing vehicles. I tried to avoid it, but the object hit the side of my car as I passed. Fortunately, it appears all it did was put a scratch in the dirt (time for a car wash).

Besides those few seconds of hyper-alertness, my drive was filled with something that seemed pleasant but has the potential of being more dangerous than a flying piece of metal.

It's natural for me to think of (and miss) my husband when I'm with his family. Daniel was on my mind a lot these last few days. But the seed that was planted by my thoughts of him bloomed into a romantic fantasy about somebody else. So what's so dangerous about that?

Daniel has been gone for over five years now. I've written a bit about the subject of dating, and my feeble attempts to "get out there". And, of course, the subject inevitably comes up when I'm with friends I don't see very often. Which leads me to daydream in idle moments (like six hours in a car alone).

There is a special man in my life. He is a good man, and one of the best people I know. He is a long-time friend with whom I have shared more about myself than perhaps he ever wanted to know. That kind of closeness can be comforting, and at times a little scary. And it can also lead to the kind of mind games I experienced today.

You may think that a little fantasy is no big deal. But when we indulge in a fantasy, it can have a detrimental affect on our reality. I don't want to ruin my friendship with this man by imagining us in situations that will probably never happen. Could he be a potential mate? He is single and a Christian, so yes. But what if he is not intended for me? By letting my imagination run wild, I could be setting myself up for (at best) disappointment or (at worst) a serious fall.

When I find myself wanting what I do not (or cannot, or may never be able to) have, I know it is because I am trying to fill that hole in my spirit that is meant for my relationship with God. So when I got home I went online to search for some new books or web sites to help me get my mind, heart and spirit back where they belong. Which in turn led me to a quote that I think says it all for us single women of faith:

"A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man must be seeking the Lord to find it." (Elisabeth Elliott)

So now I'm off to the bookstore.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My head is a jukebox

UPDATE: Wednesday morning - today's song is "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother".


For the past couple of weeks, every morning when I wake up I have a different song in my head. This morning it is "What Kind of Fool" by Barry Gibb and Barbra Streisand. Yesterday it was "Kung Foo Fighting".

I think I'm working too hard.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bless Yourself

When I start my day with quiet time for prayer, reading God's Word and personal reflection, my day is better than when I don't start it this way. It doesn't matter what happens during the day, I just seem to be able to "handle" everything better when I have sought that spiritual connection first.

One part of my morning "time with God" routine is reading the day's message from my Joyce Meyer "Starting Your Day Right" calendar. Today's message made me realize that I have perhaps been doing my morning routine with the wrong please God. I'll quote the whole thing:

I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me. (Proverbs 8:17, Amplified Bible)

Our motives are misplaced if we think we read the Bible and pray to please God or to keep from making Him mad at us. Every single thing that God tells us to do, He tells us to do so to bless ourselves. He doesn't ask us to devote ourselves to study and prayer for Him; it is for us. The good life is our choice.

The good life is our choice. Think about that. Does it make sense? How can the good life be our choice when so much of what we experience is out of our control. Guess what? Everything we experience is out of our control! The only thing we can control are the choices we make.

When we choose to pursue conscious contact with God, seeking him through our own free will, we can experience those "fruits of the spirit" that Paul wrote about to the, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And aren't those the things that make it a good life?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sin makes us stupid

Ever wonder why you do things that you later realize you knew you couldn't possibly get away with? Here's one explanation from Our Daily Bread.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Rae of Hope

It's been another wildly busy couple of weeks for me. I'm just back from a 10-day business/personal/business trip. Each time I travel it seems I try to squeeze in more and more activity. Which is fine, except when I wake up and forget what town I'm in.

This trip included a stop to help out a friend by working at a charity golf outing. It was lots of fun...I got to meet many nice people and watch how they act on a golf course (not bad...only one F-word all day). I got to drive a golf cart for the first time in my life (I'd like to get me one of those, but I don't know where I would use it). But, most important, the event raised a good amount of money for a very worthwhile cause.

Sammi Rae of Hope is an organization dedicated to helping families facing severe financial pressure, and the possible loss of their home, due to a family member's life-threatening medical crisis.

It's something you might not think about when you hear of a family in this horrible situation. With everything else going on, they can find themselves at the brink of bankruptcy or foreclosure. Sometimes it only takes a grant of several hundred dollars to prevent a family from losing their awful experience at any time. Imagine how that devastation is compounded when you're also fighting for life.

When you think about charities you support, consider adding Sammi Rae of Hope to your list. And if you know of anyone that needs this kind of help, tell them about a little girl named Sammi, her wonderful family, and the organization she inspired.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Life is lived today

You know how you can be having a dream, and it seems like the dream is lasting for hours or days, and when you wake up you realize you've only been asleep for a few minutes? That's sort of how I feel right now about the past 46 years. Just like a dream, I remember some things very clearly. But most everything else is foggy or forgotten. And all those years seem to have gone by in minutes.

But they didn't. Those years went by in days, one day at a time, just like today will. God willing, tomorrow I'll look back on today and it will melt into the dream state which is the part of my life that is behind me. The only day that I'm consciously living is today...not all the yesterdays and not all the potential tomorrows. Just today.

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The King is dead (long live the king)

Li'l Wally, the Polka King, has passed away.

Wally and his family lived across the street from us when I was very young. My Dad told me that on Saturday nights they would close down our block and the band would play and everyone would dance in the street. I wish I remembered that.

What I do remember is that I had a crush on his son Jimmy. Sweet thoughts of a simpler time.

Rest in peace, Li'l Wally. And thank you for the music.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part VI

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

I'm not a biblical scholar, a preacher or even a particularly good Sunday School teacher. But I know effective leadership when I see it, and the Bible is full of it.

Who were the big-time leaders in the Bible? From the Old Testament I tend to think of Moses first. He had to lead an entire society through the biggest changes in their history! And for the Hebrews, it was not just a physical change (their location), but also an emotional change (from slavery to freedom) and a spiritual change (God answering their prayers). That's a lot of change!

But the ultimate leader, of course, was and is Jesus Christ. Seriously. Imagine trying to convince people that you are the promised Messiah when you are absolutely nothing like what they expected.

In the book Leading Change, author James O'Toole introduces his case for values-based leadership by discussing a painting called "Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889". To give you sort of a nutshell version of his interpretation, Christ comes back and everybody is too busy, self-absorbed and distracted by the world around them to notice.

That must have been what it was like for Jesus the first time around. Your people have faith and are expecting you, but they have been for thousands of years. Every day they go about their business - working, raising the kids, feeding the animals, washing their clothes in the river (that must have been fun) - and every day most of them find time to pray and worship and ask, once again, for the Messiah to arrive.

And one day He is there, but he's not a powerful king that slays your enemies, puts you in a nice house with indoor plumbing and tells you exactly what to do. He's poor, humble and (my guess is) usually soft-spoken. No wonder they didn't notice at first.

(to be continued)

Monday, August 14, 2006

A prayer of thanks

Thank you, Lord, for protecting our friends whose house was gutted by fire. What they lost can be replaced. They, on the other hand, cannot.

Comfort and keep them in this trying time. Help us to show them how much they are loved.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Writus Interruptus

It's been one busy week. I worked overtime, made some new friends, had an urgent filling-replacement at the dentist. I also went to the driving range and watched too much TV. Not excuses, just reasons why I haven't been writing.

I'll resume my Powered by the Son series tomorrow. For today, enjoy this.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part V

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV

Life is full of contradictions. We have to plan for the future while also living in the moment. We have to make amends for the past but not live there. We want to know what will happen tomorrow, next week or next year, but if we did it could drastically change what we do today, which would change tomorrow (the whole time travel dilemna from science fiction shows comes to mind).

In this work situation, I tended to live in the moment in a negative way...if things seemed stuck today I could not see how they would change. I assumed that if I wasn't being patted on the back today, or if my tasks were mundane, or if somebody else was advancing, that it would always be this way. It seemed like there was no hope that it would ever be my turn.

Of course I was wrong! There is nothing more constant in this world than change; it happens in and around us all the time! It's just sometimes hard to see, especially when we put the blinders on ourselves. Think about it...think about where you are today. Have you always been there? In the physical sense, I could never make that claim because I have moved 19 times! In the emotional sense, I am not the same person I was even a month ago. And in the spiritual sense, I change every single time I pray alone and every time I worship with others.

So what does all this have to do with leadership training? Well, at the core of leadership is the ability to prepare people to respond to change and to guide them through it. When you think of the word "leader", who do you think of? What situation do you recall that makes you feel this person is a good leader? Wasn't there change going on?

We are no longer being called the management team at work. We are the Leadership Team. Because, like my boss says, you don't manage people, you manage tasks. You lead people.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

But wait, I forgot to tell you about the leadership training program week which came before the picnic! It was an important week for me in many ways.

The promotion I received was, if I can be less than humble, well deserved and long overdue. So how could it have been so unexpected? Because even after all these years of working (30-plus...yikes), I lacked perspective. I was, at times, so blinded by resentment and self-doubt that I could not see the obvious signs that I was being groomed for a leadership position.

Several years ago my department was reorganized. It went from a two-team, two-boss structure with little staff input to a multi-team structure with middle-managers who participated in the goal-setting and daily operational decisions of the department. Since then I had attended the manager meetings for the sole purpose (I thought) of taking notes and running the projector. I participated in some of the discussions, but did not have a vote when it came time to make decisions.

Most of the time this did not bother me. But as the years went by I became convinced that I was just being used; that I would always be considered not quite good enough for full membership in the elite group. This stinkin' thinkin' was all in my head and, as it turned out, bore little in common with reality. Should my boss have done more to let me know that I was being groomed for advancement? Maybe. Should I have talked to him, or someone else I trusted, about the situation. I did...many times. But in hindsight, my tendency to think the worst about myself may have clouded what was being said. That, combined with the sometimes excruciatingly slow way things change in the work world, made it seem like I would be stuck in the same position forever unless I left the company.

But change was on the horizon, as it always is.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

The day after the picnic, we piled into our cars and drove south to Cleveland for the church youth convention. This is a fun event that I've been going to semi-regularly since I was a teenager. Of course, it was more fun when I was the "youth" and not a chaperone.

The most important objective of a youth convention, in my opinion, is the friendship. I met some of my best friends, including my husband, as a result of the youth of our various churches across the midwest and the entire country meeting, playing and worshiping together. I wrote a long time ago (here, here and here) about my friendships that started at these events.

As I watched the young people interacting last week through the lens of middle age, I felt joy and hope for their futures. I wondered who would end up together, and tried to picture them in 25 years being at a convention as chaperones while their kids were making new friends. It was the circle of life playing out before my eyes.

But this isn't just a bunch of people getting together for the sake of gathering. What makes it so special, what brings us there in the first place, is our common faith. We came together in the name of the Lord. We came to a place and time that was Powered by the Son.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Teacup

Why is it that I never sleep late except on days when I have to be somewhere early? Maybe it's just the weather turning, but I woke up late this morning feeling like a lump of clay.

Reminds me of the Teacup story. I've read it several different places, but I picked one for you that has a soundtrack.

Back to the Powered by the Son tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part II

Read Part I

One of my character defects is perfectionism. It's what prevents me from writing and posting every day, causes me to procrastinate even on the most routine of tasks, and makes me the worst delegator in the world (see...I think if I'm not the best at something I must be the worst).

A classic example is when I volunteered to chair a dance marathon back in high school. There were lots of things to do, and I remember clearly sitting there handing out assignments and saying "I'll just do that" to most of them. Of course the thing never got off the ground. The group didn't have anything important to do, so most of them didn't show up for the next meeting.

When I suddenly had no way of doing this whole picnic thing by myself (as if I ever had to in the first place), I felt that God was sending me a clear signal. Over the years I had certainly become better at working with other people and letting go of the need to control everything. But my new job responsibilities will include being a supervisor for the first time, so I absolutely had to learn to delegate effectively.

Sarah stepped up and took charge of the local end of things. She came up with ideas, worked with her mom and brother on logistics and shopping, and did a lot of the communication and coordination. We had early morning planning meetings on the phone and she worked on her assignments while I worked at my job. We were more a team than leader and follower, which is how I want to be with my new team at work.

God uses situations to teach, and both Sarah and I learned a lot from this experience. And because we prayed for guidance and shared the load, the picnic was a huge success! This was an especially sweet day for me, nestled between what I will remember as two of the most important weeks in my life.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part I

I am just now starting to recover mentally from the intensity of the past couple of weeks. I'm back to work, back to the normal routine of my life.

But I don't want to lose the power of the feelings I've experienced. Maybe writing about them will help me remember and to take action on them every day.

It all actually started back in June. I was in Michigan for the graduation of my niece and nephew, having a great time visiting with friends and family at the party. I asked about the annual church picnic (which I try to make every year if I possibly can) and was told that there might not be one because nobody had volunteered to run it. Well, I couldn't let that happen! So I volunteered to run it from 300 miles away! No problem, that's what I do in my professional projects. We set the date, made the announcement, and launched the picnic project.

A few days later, to my ultimate surprise, I got a huge promotion! Cool! But the promotion came with a requirement to attend a week-long leadership training seminar the week before the picnic! This meant I couldn't be in Michigan until the day before the picnic, so I couldn't do the shopping or the decorating or anything. I needed help!

I quickly recruited my niece Sarah to be my co-project manager for the picnic.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Wow! This is the first spare moment I have had this week to write. I'm at the church youth convention...a week of chaperoning over 100 teenagers.

Not enough sleep. Emotional sessions. Fun in the sun. I'm exhausted!

It seems like just yesterday I was on the receiving end of "LIGHTS OUT!" and now I'm the one getting the whining "oh, can't we just stay up a little longer, please?" Actually, the kids here are great. All I can say is that this week has been totally awesome.

Oh, and I got a tatoo.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Seeing Through God's Eyes

In the movie Shallow Hal, Hal is temporarily blessed (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to see a woman's inner character manifested as their physical appearance. He sees Rosemary as a lovely, sexy thin blonde when the rest of the world sees her as obese. And he sees a young, sexy nurse as an old hag.

Our Daily Bread from the other day talks about how God sees differently than us. He sees into our hearts, and warns against judging people by their appearance.

I spent almost every spare moment in the last couple of weeks looking for new clothes, preparing for a week-long meeting for work which ended yesterday. As I mentioned in my last post, it is important to look professional and dress appropriately for your job.

But no matter how you much you spend on clothes, or what your hair looks like or how much you weigh, the heart of you - your character, your values, your actions - is what really counts.

God sees you as you really are. And the people who truly love you do also.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Devil(?) Wears Prada

Today we begin what may become a semi-regular feature here - Aunt Judie's Guide to the Movies. I'll leave the formal reviews to the professionals. Here, you'll just get my take on what a movie says about life. And unlike other reviewers, I am going to assume you have already seen the movie (so don't read any more if you don't want to know what happens).

The Devil Wears Prada had a lot of funny moments. But I was left wondering what the huge deal was...I have certainly had worse bosses than Miranda Priestly! Maybe it's because I've had almost 30 years of working in offices, and Andy in the movie was just starting out. But here's what I've learned.

Having a boss who tells you what they want is a good thing. Yes Miranda was bossy and seemed unreasonable at times, but for the most part she told Andy what she expected. You would be surprised at how many bosses don't.

Everyone is motivated by something different. Andy didn't "get" Emily because they had different goals and priorities. Andy treated her job as an unwelcome necessity and a temporary situation until what she really wanted to do came along. Emily, on the other hand, treated her job as one step in the long road of a career. She didn't have to be so mean, but that came from fear.

You need to dress properly for your job. Actually, in the business world you are supposed to dress even better than is required for your job. That tells your bosses you are serious about your work and have respect for the company. But you don't have to break the bank. Andy was lucky...she appeared to get her expensive duds for free. (Where do I get a job like that?)

All (legal) work is valuable. I guess the message the movie was trying to send at the end was that writing for a newspaper was a more honorable or valuable pursuit than working in the fashion industry. That is elitist baloney. Treat every job as honorable and worthy of your best effort. If I had to have brain surgery, I would be as grateful to the surgeon for doing his job right as I was to the guy who mops the floor.

Business is business. Did it make Miranda a witch that she knew her job was on the line and used her influence to keep it? No, it means she was savvy and knew the business. Was it unfair to Nigel? Yes, but life is unfair. Get over it. He could have left anyway to start his own business. There are a lot of things I don't like about the business world, but until I am in a position to change them, I have to play by its rules. Which, by the way, Andy didn't. She walked out without notice and threw what I assume was the company's cell phone into a fountain...very unprofessional (I hope they docked her pay).

Finally, I cannot believe that in this day and age anybody in their right mind would think that a woman is fat because she wears a size six! Maybe the Miranda character does, but why couldn't the movie had shown Andy being herself and staying a healthy size six? No, she had to end up a four as if that's more virtuous than a six.

And speaking of virtue, why did they have to have Andy living with her boyfriend? And why did she sleep with someone she barely knew when her relationship hit a rough patch? And the guy she slept with was a work colleague! A definite no-no!

I love the work of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci, and I basically liked the movie despite it's skewed view of the value and realities of working. For a more realistic view and tips on surviving and thriving in an office job, try reading this instead.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A life well lived

by David Alan Redwanc

I know something that you may not
Little problems we have in life are
Meaningless in the ultimate order of
Events in life
Some gifts can be taken for granted
Most abilities go unappreciated and
Unnoticed until that ability has been
Stripped away
When the opportunity for new life
Has been granted the little miracles
Each day shine brightly and each
Breath received is like wondrous
I have a secret and I only wish you

David died last month just a few weeks shy of age 32. He wrote the poem above after his double-lung transplant in 1998. It appeared on the memorial cards given out at his funeral.

Cystic fibrosis did not stop him from playing every sport he liked when he was a kid. His health problems did not stop him from falling in love and marrying, moving to California to try his luck at an acting career, becoming a real estate agent and even a World Series of Poker champion. He had tremendous faith in God, and lived his life in an attitude of gratitude for everything he could do.

Well done, David. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Would you say that to someone else?

Self-talk is the stuff we say to ourselves, which we do all the time. It's part of our thinking process, and sometimes it can be more damaging than anything anyone else could say to us.

I sometimes catch myself saying things like "I've been stupid with my money" or "I'm too fat for those pants" or, when I'm really feeling bad, "no man will ever love me again". But I would never dream of saying any such thing to someone I loved, or even liked!

A good friend recently reminded me of this verse:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, New International Version)

Remember, if you would not say it out loud to somebody else, don't say it to yourself!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dependence Day

We call today Independence Day because a long time ago our young country declared its independence from Great Britain.

Pastor Greg Laurie talks about why we might want to also consider today Dependence Day.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Wondering about your life's work?

In the excitement of the wedding and things going on at work, I have not yet written on this year's crop of high school graduates in my family (two nephews and two nieces). I will, I promise.

For now, as you ponder college or work, and wonder if your career choice is meaningful in the big scheme of things, read this.

All work is honorable. And anything you do can be a ministry.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Plastic beads or precious pearls?

In today's post, Dawn talks about men of character. I agree with Dawn, and it is something to keep in mind as I venture into the dating world.

When I contemplate dating and am tempted by the idea of sex outside marriage, the same thought always comes to me. What if giving in to this temptation causes a detour on the path that is leading me to the man God intends to be my husband? If I get distracted by what appeals to me at the moment, am I saying to God that I don't trust Him to eventually lead me to the prize?

It would be like grabbing onto the plastic beads thrown at Mardi Gras, while God is standing there with the precious pearls He wants me to give me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Back to "normal"

Today's the day my life gets back to normal after the wedding. Yesterday was sleep, out to dinner with my Boston cousins, and some post-wedding let down blues. Today I go back to work at the office, back to my regular eating routine, and back to working out at the gym.

But for the bride and groom, and for the homes they left to start their own, there is a new "normal" beginning. For the parents and siblings, their new normal means one less bird in the nest. Might be that the vacated bedroom gets turned into an office or a sewing room. Or if it was the bigger bedroom, maybe the remaining sibling moves into it.

The bride and groom, who at this moment are about to board a plane bound for their Hawaiian honeymoon, have a big time new normal waiting for them in their new home when they get back. I remember what it was like for me to adjust to my new life as a wife. Fun...and a little scary too. It's like installing a new operating system on your computer...same computer, but you're not sure where everything is and how it's supposed to work.

Change is a part of life. What's funny is that the biggies - like marriage - can sometimes be easier to deal with than the seemingly smaller changes. Because you know they are going to be big, you prepare to adjust. The little changes are often unexpected and throw you for a loop.

The key to handling change is to remember that life is full of it. At times you will wish for change, and at times you will wish for everything to stay the same. Change can come from inside you (a decision you make to change something you can control) or from outside you (circumstances beyond your control). Either way you need to be ready and willing to adapt to change.

If you aren't, you will find yourself sad, frustrated or angry a lot of the time. And you don't want that to be what's "normal" for you.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wedding Week - The Big Day is Here!

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV
Read Part V

Today's the big day! My outfit is laid out, my hair is touched up and trimmed, my nails are done. I only hope the bride is as ready as I am!

We have only touched on a few things that I feel are important in marriage. I don't have all the answers. I just know what I have seen, and experienced, and what I hope to experience again someday (God willing). I am going to end this series with the most important thing I have learned about marriage:

Men and women are different.

That noise you just heard was a collective "duh"...but don't be so quick to "duh" me! We are living in a time of great confusion. Society's attitude toward the traditional roles of men and women has shifted dramatically in the last 50 years. Some of that is shifting back now, and it may be hard to know exactly where we are at any given moment.

There will be days when you look at your spouse and realize you don't have a clue what they are thinking or feeling. This is normal. As you get to know each other those times of confusion will lessen, and you will think you have it figured out, but then confusion will hit again.

Fortunately, we have a guide to marriage (and everything in life) that has not changed with the winds of society - the Bible. In it you will be reminded that God made men and women different for lots of reasons. We compliment each other's strengths and fill in for each other's weaknesses. We complete each other.

Take time every day to pray for your spouse, and for your own understanding of them. Go to God with your big problems, and the little ones too. Remember that you are different, but that you were made for each other.

The Beatles sang "all you need is love". That's a nice thought, and love may be all you will need some days. But to have a truly successful and happy marriage, you also need patience, kindness, respect, faith, and an understanding of your role.

I'll conclude with a sentiment from a poem I read long ago. I cannot seem to find the origin or the author, and I'm not sure I have it exactly right, but here it is:

God made woman from the rib of man.
Not from his feet to be below him, nor from his head to be above him.
But from his side to be equal with him, from under his arm to be protected by him, from near his heart to be loved by him.

Love God, love each other, and love your marriage. Treat it like the most important thing in your life. Because starting today, it is.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wedding Week - Part V

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV

Just a few more things to tell you...for now. I reserve the right as your Aunt to offer unsolicited advice to infinity and beyond! (Just be grateful I offer it here so you can read it, then take it or leave it.)

Get to know each other. Sure, you think you know each other now. But living together is totally different from dating. What I'm talking about here are those little things that can make a huge difference in the quality of your day to day life.

I have a friend who absolutely needs 15 minutes of solitude when she gets home from work. Her husband and children know that she needs to put her things away, change into comfortable clothes, wash her face and take a few minutes to unwind. Then she's all theirs. They know and respect this need, and life is better for everyone involved.

Be smart with your money.
Before I got married I knew money could be a big issue for couples, but I didn't understand how damaging bad financial habits can be in a relationship. Danny was actually much smarter than me about money when we first got married. Unfortunately, my bad habits rubbed off on him and we got into trouble more than once. Remember the difference between want and need. And be honest with yourselves and each other in all things, but especially in this area.

Build each other up. Sometimes it's fun to make fun of your spouse's cooking or driving skills. Or to put them down about what they do or don't do. Or berate them for starting yet another home project when the first ten they started have not been finished.

But think about it...every time you do that, especially in front of others, you might be planting a seed of doubt in your spouse's heart. A husband needs to feel that he's your hero, your provider and your protector. A wife needs to feel loved, cherished and attractive. Every little negative comment chips away at the foundation of a marriage.

Imagine that your spouse consistently praises you to others. Think about how that would make you feel. Then do it for them.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #7

We interrupt our series on marriage advice to bring you the following Helpful Hint.

If you are fortunate enough to have a job where you can work from home occasionally, and if working from home means you choose to work in jeans and an old t-shirt, with no makeup, and you are also trying to meet a man that might be your next husband... might want to pick a day when the fire alarm won't go off in your building before you have had a chance to brush your teeth.

Always look your best. You never know when you will find yourself in the company of five or ten manly-men-fire-fighter-guys.

Thank God I wasn't working in my pajamas.

Wedding Week - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

Today's advice is a paradox...

Keep yourselves only for each other.


It is good to spend time apart.

Let me start with the second part. Just because you are now "one" does not mean that you should spend every moment together. You have a lot of things you like to do together, but it's healthy to have activities that are your own. There is no hard and fast rule on this, but maybe one evening a week it would be OK to pursue your own hobbies or interests (as long as they don't violate the first part of the paradox, which we will get to shortly).

If you like scrapbooking and he likes paintball, make that your night apart. If she likes to sit alone and read a good book and you like to cheer on your favorite team, set aside time to pursue those things. Once a year, my husband's cousins and their spouses take off in different directions - the men to a "manly men's fishing trip", and the women to wherever they want. It might be a week or a long weekend, but it's something everyone looks forward to.

Just everything else, moderation is key. At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump...time apart for a married couple is sort of like chocolate - a little is a sweet treat; too much gives you a tummy ache and zits.

So if you should spent time apart, how do you keep yourselves only for each other? By being faithful, of course. But what does that really mean?

This goes beyond adultery, the ultimate sin against your marriage. Fidelity is gone long before a spouse gives in to temptation and crosses that line where there is no doubt they have cheated. A person doesn't just wake up one day and decide to have an affair with a co-worker. It happens gradually, starting with seemingly innocent activities like going to lunch, drinks after work, flirting and fantasizing. The point is, none of this is innocent.

Your loyalty to your spouse is an everyday thing. All of your sexual attention belongs to them. All of it. From day one. When you are in a questionable situation, and you are not sure you should be there, pretend your spouse is there and act accordingly.

Just remember, from the day you say "I do" the most important person in the (earthly) world is your spouse...not your mother, not your kids and not your boss. And as such, your spouse deserves your utmost respect, love and attention. They deserve the best of you, because they also have to put up with the worst of you.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wedding Week - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

I'll try to do this one and still keep this a PG-rated blog.

Make the bedroom your sanctuary.

It's not just a room. It should be a pleasant escape from the world. It is the place where the two of you come together as husband and wife. It's the place where you sleep and dream and love. (I know you might "love" in other rooms too, but when I visit I would like to pretend that you don't, thank you very much.)

Here is my advice about the bedroom:

NO TELEVISION. Seriously. The bedroom is where you experience one of God's greatest gifts; the gift he designed specifically (and exclusively) for marriage. Do you really want the bedroom to be the place where you also get tomorrow's weather forecast or play Donkey Kong? Watching the news or a hockey game or "All in the Family" reruns can be done elsewhere. (Especially you who have a TV in every other room in the know I'm talking to you.)

Decorate it together. I don't know for sure, but I suspect the bedroom on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (which I never watched in the bedroom) would have been decorated by both Ray and Debra since it was done in florals and plaid. However you do it, make sure it has elements - colors, textures and scents - that you both enjoy.

Keep it clean and fresh. Everything about the room should be warm and inviting. Clean sheets, fresh flowers and freshly-showered bodies are welcome. Dirty underwear on the floor and going to bed smelling like bug spray because you've been gardening are not conducive to a good night's sleep (or a good night of anything else).

Don't fight there. As I mentioned in Part II, don't go to bed angry. But as much as you can avoid it, don't be angry at all in your sanctuary. It should have only happy memories.

Remember what the bedroom is for. Make it your favorite room in the house. Sweet dreams!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wedding Week - Part II

Read Part I

This wise piece of advice comes from the Bible:

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
(Ephesians 4:26-27, New International Version)

Notice it doesn't say "don't get angry". Anger is an emotion, and God chose not to give us the ability to just turn our feelings on and off. But He did give us free will to make a choice of how to react. What this passage says is don't go to bed mad.

If Danny and I had practiced this, the early months of our marriage would not have been scarred by weeks of me giving him the silent treatment and a cold shoulder. As I look back now it was ridiculous. But at the time I didn't know how else to handle it.

He had hurt my feelings. I was trying to be playful in a newlywed kind of way, and he told me flat out that he wasn't interested. His words made me feel rejected and unattractive. I was hurt and angry. I could have just told him how I felt. It could have been over within hours, and we could have gone to bed at peace and started the next day in a good place. But instead I shut him out. I let my anger fester and dig in deep all those days and nights I clung to it. This black cloud polluted our marriage (and our marriage bed).

Making an agreement up front to never go to bed angry puts a deadline on the situation. You are forced to talk it out. You may have some late nights, especially in the beginning, but a late night is better than days or weeks of pain and the scar it leaves.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wedding Week - Part I

It's wedding week in my family. The first wedding of the next generation. And we're all very excited and proud.

So let me take this opportunity to really lay it on thick - my unsolicited advice, that is. These are just some thoughts from somebody who has been there. In my circle, I've seen many happy marriages, some awful marriages and too many divorces. And I was married for just over seven years. Here's the first and most important thing to remember:

Marriage is hard.

My parents were divorced when I was eight years old. Later in my teen years, I remember telling more than one person that when I got married I would MAKE IT WORK NO MATTER WHAT! I once said this to a divorced guy who could barely stifle his laughter. He wished me luck, and then told me I didn't know what I was talking about.

He was right.

When I first got married I knew that we would face challenges, but even at my advanced age and wisdom (ha ha), I expected that the two of us would almost always want the same things and would naturally work toward them together. I knew that the big challenges would come our way, but I expected that the day-to-day living would be easy because we were in love.

Expectations. Each one of us starts each day, each new adventure, each trip to the grocery store with expectations. We are unhappy (and sometimes angry) when our expectations are not met. I expected my husband to act a certain way, to say he was sorry when he unintentionally hurt my feelings, and to understand me (without me having to explain myself). Needless to say, I was disappointed a lot.

The best advice I can give you is to be aware of your expectations, recognize them for what they are, and adjust them when you can. When you find yourself angry or disappointed, think about what expectation was not met, and ask yourself not only if that expectation was reasonable, but also if your spouse had any idea of what you expected. Because neither of you is a mind reader (as far as I know).


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lasting friendships

I just returned from another trip to my second home, with my late husband's family in Michigan. I got to see a lot of friends, and we figured out that we all met about 30 years ago. Thirty years!

What makes friendships last for decades, especially when you are hundreds of miles apart? Friendships start with having things in common, of course, but why do they last?

True friends, the ones who will be there for you no matter what, the ones you can pick up with after years as if no time has gone by, are the ones you can be totally yourself with.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” Dr. Seuss

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A time to heal, a time to date

As you might have guessed from my lack of posting, yes...I did chicken out of the singles event at the local church two weeks ago. But my lack of attendance did lead to some interesting things.

When talking about my interest-turned-reluctance about re-joining the world of dating, I got a variety of feedback and (believe it or not) a couple of propositions! I guess the modern term is "hook-up", which is what two different male friends offered after I joked about what I really missed about being married (wink wink). I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted. What I was 100% sure about is my values, which do not allow for casual sex.

Then a few days later I was at a wedding. I met a man who used to work with the groom, and we got to talking about dating. He's recently divorced and going on a lot of "first dates". I told him my story and that I hadn't dated in the almost five years I've been a widow. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked what the heck I had been doing for the past five years.

I didn't have a good answer for him, so I said "nothing much". Which isn't true. I have been healing. I have gone to school. I have been furthering my career. But I have also been hiding from a part of life that scares me.

For the first couple of years after my husband died, I was positive I would never, ever wish to get married again. That feeling was natural, and it has passed. I now know I do want to get married again. God may or may not want to give me the gift of a new husband, but if He does He's sure not going to deliver him to my doorstep with a big red bow and a tag that says "Judie's New Husband" (wouldn't that be convenient).

The events of the last two weeks have had a profound effect on me (and the hook-up offers kinda freaked me out). A trusted friend suggested that this might just be God's way of telling me that it's time to move on to the next chapter of my life. You see, God wants the best for us and wants to answer our prayers. But we have to take steps too. The outcome is up to Him, but we have to do our part as well.

So watch out dating world, here I come!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Be where you are

My life isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn good.

This weekend is the start of wedding niece-to-be's shower. I would not want to miss it for the world. But I also want to be somewhere else. At this very moment, a large group of friends is gathered 500 miles away for a fun weekend, and I had planned to be with them. I had to make a choice.

If life were perfect, we would not have to miss doing the things we want to do because of other things we want to do. Our schedules would never clash. But you cannot physically be two places at once. So I will make the most of where I am.

And who knows? Maybe there is a reason why this happened this way.

If I don't lose my nerve, I will do something tonight I could not have done it if I was 500 miles away...attend a social for over-35 singles at the local church.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Strange New World - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

Why would I want to leave a very good job where I am highly valued? The key word in that sentence is "want".

I want to make more money.
I want to have an office instead of a cubicle.
I want to be considered a "real" manager.
I want to travel.
I want to advance.
I want to punish my boss when I don't think he's treating me right.

Some days the desire for those things is so powerful that I cannot imagine staying in my job one more day. And the next day those desires are gone, and I am perfectly content to be where I am.

That's the problem with "wants"...they are so tied up in emotions that they can change from one minute to the next, even when the underlying situation has not changed. So how do we know what's the best move for us to make? We don't.

But God does.

When I started this series a few weeks ago, I was absolutely sure I wanted that new job. And I did go to my boss to discuss it. Unlike the last time, he was reasonable, calm and professional. We discussed the details, and guess what? I'm not so perfect for the position after all. In my excitement, I had not fully considered what I would have to give up (school, my ability to work in Michigan when I want to so I can visit my family, my level of contact with the executives of the company). I gave it a few more days thought and decided not to apply.

But I didn't just give it thought. I prayed about it. I gave it to God, and was reminded that I am where I am because He wants me here. If God wanted me to change jobs, an opportunity would present itself in such a way that there would be little or no doubt about it.

So the strange new world I am exploring? It's not the next cool job that comes along. It's the world in which I take time every day to pray for God's guidance.

My meditate on and do His will, not mine.
To trust that I am right where He wants me to be.
To boldly go where God sents me.

Even if today it is just to my little cubicle, to do the work the company pays me for, and to do it in a way that glorifies God.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Strange New World - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

What I had not considered, due to my sometimes self-centered nature, is that maybe my boss was just having a bad day. Maybe I approached him at the worst possible time to tell him I wanted to apply for another job. I didn't really know him that well at the time, and perhaps could not read his moods.

An important part of interpersonal relations, whether at school or at work or at home, is knowing the right time to discuss a potentially difficult subject. Or how to deliver bad news. Not that we all have to be experts in human behavior to have a discussion with someone, or that you should put off bad news (because, as we say in project management, "bad news never gets better with age"). But knowing the right time and place can sometimes make the difference.

Looking back, I must admit that we were in the middle of a very important project. The pressure was high, and losing a member of his team at that time would have been very difficult for him. That does not excuse his behavior, because someone in a position of authority should never lose control like he did. But I think I understand why he was upset.

Fast-forward four years. We have been through a major reorganization of the department and many successful projects. Our department's reputation in the rest of the company is stellar...we are known for being on the leading edge of technology management. And I am a highly-valued member of the team.

So why would I want to leave?

to be continued

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Strange new world - Part II

Read Part I

The thing is, I talked to my boss four years ago (after working for him for about six months) and discussed the need for me to be on a career path that included advancement opportunities. Since I was widowed and my only source of income was my own job, I had to make sure he knew that when opportunities for advancement came along I would be pursuing them.

It was a good discussion. I felt we came out of that meeting "on the same page". But I was in for a shock when that first opportunity came along just a few months later. I went for it...and immediately and angrily got shot down.

You see, in my company it is policy that before you apply for a new position you need to discuss it with your current manager. It's a good policy in the sense that the manager should not learn from somebody else that you are looking for another job. It's a bad policy in the sense that it can prevent people from pursuing opportunities for fear of offending their boss.

Which was what happened in my case. My boss seemed to take it as a personal slap in the face that I would want to leave his team. He got angry and defensive. He brought up our conversation of a few months prior and (from my perspective) twisted it to have meant that he would let me know of opportunities that might be suited for me, and that I was NOT to pursue them myself.

Since then I had resigned myself to the belief that in order to advance I would have to leave the company. Which was not fair! Why should I have to leave a company with 30,000+ employees and plenty of opportunity for growth because my boss did not want to let me go? Why did he say that he would not stand in my way and then do exactly that?

(to be continued)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Strange new world

One of my favorite old tv shows was the original Star Trek. I was talking to a friend at work yesterday about mission statements, and he reminded me that Star Trek started every week by stating it's mission:

Space...the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Her five year explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Nothing like knowing what your objective is when you show up for work in the morning!

My personal mission is to live long and prosper (God willing). So I'm about to explore a strange new world in my career. A job opportunity at my company appears to fit me perfectly. Had it come along even just a few months ago I might not have been ready for it. But today I am ready to overcome my fear and put myself out there.

My current boss does not think I am right for it, but that's OK. His opinion is no doubt skewed by the possibility of losing me. If I get the job I will proceed to prove him wrong (again) by exceeding his expectations.

If I don't get the job, that's OK too. What would NOT be OK is not moving forward because I'm scared. You sometimes have to take risks in life, and this is one of those times for me.

Wish me luck!

(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Make today a masterpiece

I'm reading a book by John Maxwell called Today Matters. Not done with it yet, but I know I'll use a lot of the advice in there.

The main theme is that we only have today. Yesterday is over, behind a locked door, the key destroyed. The things I ate, the money I spent, the mistakes I made, the good things I did...all over and done with. Some consequences linger, but I cannot go back and change anything I did.

Tomorrow is a possibility, not a certainty. When co-workers say goodnight and "see you tomorrow", I always say "God willing" because we can hope for it, but we just don't know if we will see each other tomorrow.

But today...ah, what can we do with today? We can make it a masterpiece by practicing our faith, nurturing our relationships, learning, thinking, being responsible with the gifts God gives us, having a good attitude, and building on our knowledge and experience in our work.

Or we can just go along, living with regret, do the same thing over and over again expecting different results, harbor resentments for past hurts (real and imagined), not invest any time in learning and growing and fall into bed wondering what the hell was the point.

The decision is ours. Every minute of every day.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Schoolhouse rock

Yep, I rock! I got a big fat "A" on my very first college paper! 48 out of 50 points rewarded. The two points were withheld due to a lack of details in a couple of spots.

I am currently ranked #2 in my class (I get to log into something called MyGradebook to see my scores). That will change, however, when last week's test scores get posted (didn't study enough and I know I didn't do well).

Sitting in class for three hours every Tuesday night can sometimes be less than fun. But the overall experience is great. I'm loving school!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wish you had an early warning system?

In 2001, the year my father and husband both died suddenly, lots of other bad things happened. I had to remind myself not to think things like "my life cannot get worse" or "what will happen next". But I did sometimes wish I had a warning that something bad was going to happen.

But did I really want that? Even if I had warning, I might not have recognized it. And if I did, and there was nothing I could do about it, it would have just caused more pain.

As described in today's Our Daily Bread, God doesn't have a giant siren that screams to warn us that we are about to be attacked. But He does give us tools to remain alert and deal with whatever comes our way.

And He sometimes sets things up to make it easier when the horrible happens. I only recognized in hindsight that the moves on my life's checkerboard put me on the exact right square when my husband died.

Yes, bad things happen. No, we don't always get a warning. But we can work daily on our relationship with God and trust Him to give us what we need, put us where He wants us to be, and shine just enough light to see the next step.