Monday, December 29, 2008

My Personal Self Help Book

Recently I've been looking back over the last few months of my life (Probably because I'm aging even as I type --- Birthday countdown 29 days January 27 for those not sure of the math) and I've been trying to determine if I really have changed, or if it's all in my mind. Well, I'm going to go with I've really changed. All because self help book.

Some of you may have just gasped. Those are the books that everyone hears about, everyone is reading, but no one will actually ADMIT to being a reader. Well, today I am standing unashamed in saying, oh I have one. Now in my opinion, since that's the only opinion i currently have to hear, most people have at one point or another either, considered buying a self help book (paying of course with cash only), considered reading a self help book (except if you check it out at the library and they are electronic, it would be down in history that you checked it out!), read the cover and the back cover and a few pages throughout of a self help book, borrowed one from a friend...I could continue. My point being at some time, most people believe that they are in need of "self help." If that is not you, I'm impressed that you are bothering reading, because I will tell you I need all the help I can get!
Anyways, I have recently taken on an appreciation for self help books. There are a few things though that I think should be observed:
  1. They don't say anything we don't already know,
  2. They don't say anything our friends and family haven't already tried telling us- you just paid to hear it again from a stranger, and
  3. Numbers one and two sum it up, so I guess I only have 2 points.
That being said I have also discovered that a book I already owned in my possession was actually a self help book. Amazing! I know I OWN one.
And to top it all off- It's all inclusive.
My self help book discusses any topic you ever might could need! (Yes, I said might could):
  • Relationships- Check.
  • Money- Check.
  • Time Management- Check.
  • Self Value- Check.
  • Being kind to others- Check.
  • Anger problems- Check.
Over the last few months I have gained a new appreciation for my self help book. I would say that by consulting it frequently I have really learned more about myself, and more about others.

Sometimes we just need a new perspective outside of ourselves to really see the truth and really see the light. I will close my rambling with one additional thought. Sometimes we place our value in the opinion of another. We decide on our "beauty" or intelligence or whatever simply if someone decides to look at us and grant us his/her attention. It is a powerful thing when a person can determine that he/she is beautiful or intelligent or WORTH IT simply because God made us.

That my friends, is what I have learned. And, it's been worth the trip getting here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

All I want for Christmas...And World Peace.

I know I know, I'm a few days late. But, here it is nonetheless.

Christmas is, at least for my family a time of tradition. I'm sure that to some, our traditions are trivial and probably not too exciting, but for me and my family, they are ours, and something I look forward to every year. For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve would come, and with it the arrival of our tried and true tradition. We'd have our meal of chips and dip, popcorn, cheese and crackers, and whatever else sounded good, something salty and something sweet. We'd break out our comfy pajamas, sometimes new, sometimes old, and we'd then settle in for a night of movies. The movie choices always varied, except for the final movie- A Christmas Carol (with Alastair Sim, and only him). This year was no different. Oh, the meal was different, but just as always my family settled in for a quiet night.

This year I sat wrapped in a blanket on the couch, the only light the Christmas tree lights and watched the story that I've seen over and over. It never fails me how a movie, a black and white movie, fifty some years old speaks to me in some way or another. This year I was reminded of how Christmas is not just a one day celebration. Oh, it's true that it's the holiday marked on our calendar, and it's true I go home to my family and we open gifts and sing carols and dance our old traditional folk dance (hahahaha, kidding, there is no singing or dancing). But the real reason I celebrate isn't all shoved into one day. The "Spirit of Christmas Present" really summed up the whole movie and the whole holiday for me. "Mortal! We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year. You have chosen not to seek Him in your heart." I, however, want to choose that very thing, and choose to seek Him each day of the year. What I have found is that when I do that I experience peace, that's my world peace.
Ah the holidays.
Until next year Mr. Scrooge, until next year.

A few miscellaneous Christmas notes:
  • When I was around six, we lived in an apartment. That Christmas I remember very vividly asking my mom how Santa would be able to drop off our presents. We had no chimney, AND we lived on the bottom floor. My mom was very quick with her response. "Santa, has a really big key for all those houses without a chimney. It can open any lock in the world. No worries. Santa will be here." Wow, that Santa is a genius. A pure genius.
  • My favorite quote came out of my brother's mouth one year as he ripped open a present. He held the box in his hands and started yelling, "Oh, oh, oh, I love it! I love it! What is it?"
  • This year my cousin Jake made our desert- Pumpkin Cheesecake. Props to you Jake! It was amazing!
I leave you with a miscellaneous picture:

(This was a picture from my drive home a few weeks ago...the snow really looked like this!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Over the two months I have drafted and begun writing ten, (I actually counted them) ten posts and didn't finish any of them. I have thought of combining all of them into one big mega post, but that sounds like a lot of work; a lot of copying and pasting, and then a lot of editing and then, quite frankly a lot of reading. Then I thought maybe it would be fun to take the first sentence of each draft and putting it together into one big messy paragraph, just to see the fun chaos that would result. That also sounded like a lot of work. My third option, which is the option that I am going with now, is to actually FINISH each of them, one at a time and post it. Because I'm actually the writer, and because I didn't know what I was going to be doing with each and every one of them, I reserve the right to not post them all!
So, tonight, in the middle of a snowstorm, I give you my first redo, of a never been done!

Original post 10.24.08
Tonight I spoke with an old friend. And, in that phone call I felt a great chasm between the old and the new. To clarily, when I'm mentioning the old and the new I'm referring to the old me versus the new. Is it possible that within a two month time period much of the old can be chipped away and removed? Is it possible for things once painful to be erased and wiped away just by the presence of space and time?
Much of life is a decision. What to eat, what to wear, where to go, what time to get up in the morning (Or to sleep on Sunday afternoons)... And we decide these things on our own. Oh, sometimes we blame others. We can say, "Everyone else is doing it," "Mom said," "My brother told me it was a good idea," "The devil made me do it," but it's all on us. We decide. And today, or tonight, I was struck by the reality of my decision. There are these things that I have held onto, feelings, emotions, the lack of belief, belief in something false, whatever it is, that have in a sense held onto me. Like a noose around my neck I have been strangled by
things. And tonight I realized the desire and ability to shake off these "things" and restart anew.

The Monkey and the Pickle Jar by A. Ullrich

There once was a monkey who lived in the forest who always bragged about how smart he was. One day the monkey found a pickle jar with a handful of pickles left inside. The monkey was extremely fond of pickles. The monkey put his hand in the jar and grabbed all the pickles. When he lifted his hand, it wouldn't come out. He wasn't sure what to do, so he started yelling, "Help, help, my hand is stuck!" Then suddenly a little rabbit came by and looked over the situation. After carefully reviewing the jar and monkey's hand, the rabbit said, "Poor, poor monkey. Trapped by your own greed and stupidity. Let go of the pickles and you'll be free." And he was.

I read this story and I realize how often I do this. Oh, I've not literally stuck my hand in a pickle jar, but I have in another sense. There are days when I feel as though I have my hand in a trap-not necessarily greed but other things like an unnecessary stress or weight on my back, or an enveloping of fear and concern and worry, but just like the monkey, I have made it my choice to hang on, rather than to let go.

Revert to present day 12.18.08
Today two months later, I have found that I have begun to release the fear and unertainty that I've gripped onto for so long. The monkey, in some ways (I think) held onto the pickle because he thought it was what he wanted. But, he didn't know for sure. Instead of going out and looking for something new and better and really available, he stuck with what he thought he knew, what he thought he wanted. And I've done the same for a very long time. My thought is that as soon as the monkey got out of the "pickle" (hahahaha) by letting go of the pickle, the world became a different place. I just bet that the monkey never found himself in that same predicament again.

You know what, neither will I.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Ticket

Oh, today was a Monday alright. From the snow, right down to my food falling out of the fridge at work and busting the container right open. My work day ended with me, throwing on my warm coat, trotting outside to my car, which started, and me driving home to my home warm and waiting for me.

I was 16. Never been out of the country before, and yet there I was, sitting in a structure literally made out of tin and cardboard. I was sitting beside a small girl and her brother. In her hand she held a small ticket crumpled in her hand. See, the structure I was in, was built on a hill, where people lived in homes also made of tin and cardboard. I was there with a feeding center that brought food to those who lived on the hill. The tickets were passed out to as many as possible. Once passed out those with tickets would stand in line and what for their food. The meals consisted of rice- plain rice- and beans, and a tortilla. Bland, but full of nutrients. We ran out of food. The entire time I was there, sitting with the girl, talking with her. (I use the word talking loosely, as I tried to talk using my broken Spanish.) She never mentioned how hungry she was. She did not comment on her growling stomach or her disappointment. There were no words as she played with her two year old brother. She laughed and watched the puppet show. She gave hugs and kisses. She had nothing. I had everything.

That night at the mission house it was time for us to eat. My plate was filled. And, I couldn't eat. I couldn't stand how the food smelled. I couldn't handle how it looked. And, I was ashamed. I threw my plate to someone, and begged him to eat it for me, and I walked away and cried. I didn't eat the rest of the night. I took comfort in the fact that my stomach growled. But, hungry is only ever a temporary state of being for me. I ate the next day, and once again was filled.

I had a friend pass away last week. She was elderly. From the time she was eleven she suffered with arthritis, crippling arthritis. Yet, this woman, who at times could not even walk, always welcomed everyone. She gave hugs freely, and always had a kind word. And when you'd ask her how she was doing, she'd smile and say, "Honey, I am just thankful I am here."

Each day I can roll out of bed. I can walk down my stairs, carry my things. I can wash dishes and clap my hands. I am, alive. And moving. I should be glad to be able to get out of bed. But, sometimes that's not even enough for me.

It should not take a starving child, or a woman in pain to remind me of how much I have to be thankful for. It should not take a disaster or tragedy. Each day when I open my eyes I should remember that I have a new day that God has given me. Each day, I get a ticket.

It's my choice if I use it.

Psalm 126:2
"Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."