Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Foolin'!

Let me get a couple house-keeping things out of the way up front here.

#1-I recently had a friend ask my permission to share the blog with others. Wow! (Here's me, nodding my head up and down, silly grin on my face.) Please do! My writing is my hobby, my passion, and my career, so the more people that read it, the better for me. Share this site and share my fan page on Facebook.

#2-As you know, on Fridays we look at character. We have finished our overview of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and this week we will review Judger/Perceiver and I'll give you some more info. on the Indicator. Then, starting next week, we will begin to look at the sixteen types starting with ESTP. If you follow Getting Into Character and would like to read about your type sooner rather than later, drop me a note and tell me your label. We'll study each one in depth, looking at possible career choices, spiritual disciplines by type, strengths/weaknesses, and lots of other interesting stuff.

Okay, enough of that. Let' move on to today's topic, no foolin'.

Have you ever played a really good April Fool's prank? I mean, like people-still-talk-about-it-years-later good? I pulled a fast one on my family a few years ago and every year they still laugh about how I fooled them. It also got me to thinking about God and His steadfast devotion to us and our welfare.

On April 1, I made dinner for my family like usual. On the menu was homemade pizza, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes. I know, that sounds like an unusual combination, but hear me out. For meatloaf, I used aluminum cupcake liners and baked them. Then I whipped up a batch of mashed potatoes, divided them into three bowls, and tinted one pink, one green, and one blue. I "iced" the meatloaves with the mashed potato "icing".

Next, I rolled out sugar cookie dough on a pizza pan and baked it. I spread a mixture of strawberry jam and apricot preserves on top, shredded white chocolate with a cheese grater, and added "toppings"--cashew "mushrooms", green fruit roll-up "peppers", and black licorice "olives".

I called the family to the table and asked who would like to eat dessert first for a change. All four of them (the kids and hubby) yelled a resounding "Yes!" I brought out the "cupcakes" and they each chose a colorful, foil-lined handful. I waited a moment as they each took a bite.

"Hey! These aren't cupcakes!"

"What is wrong with these?"

"These are meatloaf!"

"You tricked us!"

They laughed when they realized I had fooled them and clapped when I revealed our "pizza" for dessert. A fun night, a harmless trick, and nobody the worse for wear. But I'm sure the next time I ask if they want dessert first, they will not be taken so easily. Did I ruin my trust with them? No, not really. They understood it was a joke. But, in some ways, did I place doubt in their minds about their ability to trust me? Yes, somewhat.

Fortunately for us, God never tricks, teases, or fools us. He is always trustworthy and we never have to doubt His Word is true or that His promises will ever fail us. He gives us good gifts and blesses us with life abundant. He never changes--His mind, His ways, His love for us as His children.

Matthew 7 tells us, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" That doesn't mean God gives us anything we ask for, it means He gives us all we need.

And even though I can tell my kids that I changed our long-standing rule of eating our healthy food first before our dessert, we never have to wonder if God has changed His mind or changed the rules on us. He says in Numbers, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
Make sure if your kids play an April Fool's prank on you, you laugh right along with them. And if you decide to play one on them, make sure you remind them of the Father who is always trustworthy and always fair.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Moved My Mom?

Growing up I slept in a double bed and I slept right in the middle. I loved stretching out and finding the cool spots for my feet. When we married over sixteen years ago, for the first time I had to share a bed. Now I possess a "side" of the bed. After the honeymoon, when we returned home, my new hubby insisted I take the side farthest from the door, so he could protect me if an intruder broke into our home. My hero! This continued when we bought our first house, requiring a move to the opposite side of the bed because of the position of the door.

You know how the song goes: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...switching sides of the bed once again so I could be closer to the hungry little hippos all through the night. Unfortunately my protector can sleep through nearly anything, so for the past 12 years (the entire time my kids have been alive), I've slept closest to the door. When they tremble from a nightmare--they know where to find me. In the middle of the night when they stand over me in the dark and whisper "I think I'm gonna puke", they know they will get immediate results. And when they were smaller and wet the bed, they knew all they had to do was make a stop at Mom's bedside and I'd aid in the clean up.

That was until recently. You see, my husband, who can find his way out of any Walmart regardless if he can see the door and who always seems to know which way is south, can't seem to find his way around our bedroom in the dark. When the puppy wouldn't stay out of Jewel's bed at night and I gated her in the room with me--he fell over the gate. When we put up a small Christmas tree in the room, he knocked it over. And I can't count the times he has stubbed his toe on the bed or ran into the closet door. So a few weeks ago when we put the new treadmill in the space beside his side of the bed, I knew better than to even go there. "I think we should switch sides of the bed. The kids don't need me in the middle of the night anymore. And you could literally jump from the doorway to the bed if you wanted to--no detours, no booby-traps on the way."

So with the only ceremony being the exchange of pillows, we switched sides of the bed. Only problem--we didn't warn the kids. So when they crept in to ask if school was delayed, they got no response from the side of the bed where always before they experienced immediate results. "Mom? Mom! Where are you?"

This taught me once again to be thankful for a God who never moves. When I tremble from fright in the middle of the night, I know where to find him. When I am sick and tired or just sick of being tired, all I need to do is whisper for him and he immediately flies into action. And when I need help with a mess--even one of my own making--he waits patiently until I ask for his help then comes to my aid. He never switches sides of the bed and, unlike this tired woman, he never sleeps.

Sometimes we feel like God abandons us. Sometimes we wonder if he nods off to sleep. But he is always waiting, watching, and willing to come to our rescue. But we must humble ourselves enough to ask. We must become like little children and admit that we need help. We must bow the will of our heart and confess we don't have it all under control; we don't have all the answers. God never moves--but sometimes we do. Sometimes we forget where we left him. Sometimes we refuse to admit that he is right down the hall. And he is waiting to be our hero.

Psalm 121:3-5 (New International Version)

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

Friday, March 26, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Perceiver

Drum roll, please... It is once again Friday and we have arrived at our final letter of the MBTI alphabet of labels. Last week we looked at the first half of the "how do you run your life" couple--the Judger. Let me just remind you that Judgers like to have a plan and stick to it. They are follow-the-book people who are not fond of surprises.

Let's take a look today at The Perceiver. Remember, just like Judgers were not judgmental, Perceivers don't have some innate sense that always allows them to perceive the truth accurately. And remember, often with this pair people tend to try and pick what they think they should or what others would want them to be.

So what is a Perceiver? When it comes to running their life, Perceivers plan not to plan. They prefer to live life as it comes, one day or opportunity at a time. Perceivers might be described as flexible, spontaneous, unorganized, laidback, fun, adaptable, tolerant, or adventurous. If Judgers are the slow and steady turtle in the race, Perceivers wouldn’t be the rabbit—they don’t like to commit ahead of time—they would likely be in the crowd. That is unless something else better to do comes up that day. For my writer friends, these are the Pansters.
Perceivers prefer it if work and play can co-exist. When it comes to making decisions, they would rather not have to at all, but they do enjoy gathering information, because Perceivers also enjoy discovery and they like to have options. But don’t give them too many options or they get overwhelmed. They are also mind-changers because they are open to new and late-breaking information. Perceivers like to experience as much of the world as they can and are don’t like to plan ahead. They would rather have tentative plans in case something more exciting or appealing presents itself. Judgers stick to to-do lists and calendars, but Perceivers live in the moment. Perceivers like to start things, versus the Judgers that like to finish. That is not to say that they don’t get things done, but they are those need-a-deadline people. They get lots done at the buzzer.

If you see yourself in this description, rejoice because you keep things fun and exciting. You add spontaneity and adventure to the lives of those around you. You are easy-going and tolerant. You love surprises, interruptions, and changes of plan so you are usually available when your friends need you. You keep us from taking ourselves too seriously and give us some of our best memories. You need to be careful that your procrastination doesn’t cause problems for other people. You tend to be forgetful, so you can take a lesson from your Judger friends or family and get a calendar. You also need to be aware that you often hurt others when you ditch your plans with them when something better comes up.

If you see your honey, but not yourself, in this description, first take a deep breath. Now relax. Not repeat after me: “S/he is just different, not wrong.” Judgers have a hard time with Perceivers because they seem so unorganized, random, and scattered. But God gives both types because they each have good traits to offer. Rejoice that they get you out of our calendar and into life. Think of all the adventures, memories, and stories you wouldn’t have if it weren’t for your Perceiver sweetie. You will need to learn the art of “planned spontaneity”. That is when the Judger knows when things need to get done, what things can be left till later, and what things can be left undone so that they are open to the Perceivers next great idea. You will also need to remember that they don’t like making decisions, so you will need to narrow down the options, present them in a concise way and then back off a little and let them think it through. You may also need to ask for an answer by a definite deadline.
If you see your son or daughter in the Perceiver you can rejoice because they are likely tolerant and adaptable. They go with the flow and enjoy changes of plan. They live life to the fullest, never missing anything and never say no to an adventure. S/he will need your help to manage time and to get organized. You will also need to help them see how to reconcile their desire to stay uncommitted and the desire of others to plan ahead. Don’t allow them to become the friend who always bails at the last minute.

My husband is a classic Perceiver and so is Jewel. Jot is still a little of both. I have had to learn to not squash all their plans for adventure and to temper their love of spontaneity with the tasks of real-life. I’ve also had to embrace their zest for life and let the dusting go for another week or allow the grass to grow a little taller.

Who do you see is this description and how can this information help you make your relationship better?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Muscle Man

My boys love to wrestle. They bare their chests, take their corners and go at on the living room rug, wrestling until some takes the pin and counts to three. The other night they were wrestling when I called them to the table for dinner. They arrived, red-faced, huffing and puffing, and shirt-less. The rule at our table is you must where a shirt. (We have other rules about clothing, too, but that is for another post). So I told the boys that after we prayed they needed to go and find their shirts.

Now Justice is getting old enough that he no longer has that little boy look, but Jot still has the pot belly and scrawny limbs of a little guy. Sitting across from me, minus his shirt, he looked pretty small. “Hey Jot, let me see your muscles,” I said.

He held his breath, puffed up his chest, and made a fist, bending his arm, forming an “L”. A little bump of muscle stood up between his elbow and shoulder. “Wow! That is quite a muscle!” I said and he grinned, pleased with his effort.

I imagine that is how God sees us. In our own minds, we feel strong. We puff out our chests, make a fist, and take on the world. Just like we smile at our kids because we know how weak they really are, I imagine God shakes His head at our own foolish displays of valor and strength. He knows how weak we really are. He knows our fears and our faults. And just like we do our own children, He loves us anyway.

In the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, we are told to “be strong and courageous” because the Lord goes with us. And in the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”. And remember the ultimate strong guy, Samsom? No one could match his power--until the Spirit of God left him. Then he became as weak as any man.

We need to remember that no matter how strong we think we are, if our strength doesn’t come from God and if He is not with us, we are as weak as a little child showing off his muscles.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Training

I run. I don’t really call myself a “runner” because I don’t train for races or have a subscription to Runner’s World. But I try to run three miles, five days a week. I like to run outside, if I can, on a gravel farm track that leads to our “back forty”. But when the weather is bad or when there is ice on my path, I run on the treadmill in the basement. That is until a few weeks ago when my treadmill pooped out on me. My husband thought he could fix it or replace the motor, so we held off on buying another one. That put me into a dilemma—how was I going to get my running in?

This also happened to be during the time my kids had like 4,083 days off from school for snow days (okay, that’s a little exaggeration). They were house-bound and I was getting a little stir crazy. So a couple days I braved the cold, bundled them up in snow gear and we headed to the school so they could play in the snowdrifts while I ran a tiny circle of sidewalk that remained clear. One miraculous day when they happened to have school, Justice had basketball practice, so I walked the circuit of hallways and got my three miles in that way. Finally it became apparent that we were not going to be able to fix the old treadmill and would need to buy another. It was Friday, the kids went to school, and I had one more day to finagle three miles out of so I could take the weekend off.

I needed to get groceries and run some errands, so I decided while I was in town, by myself, I would run my three miles on the River Greenway before I came home. The wind howled and the temps where bitter cold, but the sun shone high in the sky and it sounded like a good plan to me. That day God reminded me of a lesson I’ve tried to learn since becoming a mom—parenting is a hard job—some days are easier than others, but the effort is worth it.

I parked my car in the lot beside the bridge at the end of the trail. I stretched a minute, popped my iPod ear buds in my ears and started off. I wore my long-johns under my jogging pants and polar fleece jacket, my hands warm inside my gloves. I don’t like the feel of my ear buds in under earmuffs and the sun in the car had been warm, so I left my head and ears uncovered. The wind pushed at me and I could picture myself like those TV weathermen who report from the shore while a hurricane makes land—leaning into it, hair whipping around, face stinging at the cold breeze. When I don’t have the treadmill to gauge my speed, I start out too fast. So there I was, only about a third of a mile in, fighting the wind, the cold, and a beginning of a side-stitch. That’s when I started to doubt. It’s too cold out here. I should go home and skip today. This stinks. Why did I ever start running in the first place? This is no fun. This is too hard.

I still had several miles to go and if I had any hope of getting this done, I needed to dig deeper and figure out how I was going to do it. The first thing I did was slow down. I cut back a little on the speed and the side stitch vanished. Then I did what I often do when I need to get my mind off of myself—I prayed. I started with A and began to work my way through the alphabet. One last thing helped my make it to the little pavilion that marks my turn-around: I focused on what was true. You are going to be so happy when you get done. You can rest the next two days, just finish this one. The sun is out, there are ducks on the river, and look at how the icicles sparkle on the trees. Just get to the end and then the wind will be at your back.

I am happy to say that I made it. On the return route, with the wind at my back, I could easily keep the pace I had started at the beginning. The sun warmed my face and I could focus on the geese and ducks on the river, the icicles in the trees, and the rhythmic pounding of my shoes on the path. It seemed to take no time at all before I approach the marker that meant I had only one-third mile left—the same place I wanted to quit just thirty minutes before. I rejoiced in the sight of my car. It signified a resting place, the end of my journey, and Reese’s peanut butter cup Valentine’s candy—a reward.

That day reminded me that often the things most worth accomplishing come with a price. Parenting, marriage, writing a book, living a righteous life, mastering a skill, building a career, running a race all take perseverance and often suffering. There will be days when you just think you can’t do it anymore—the wind pushes against you, the cold stings your eyes, and you are just too weary. Then there are the days when everything goes right—the wind pushes in our favor, the sun warms your back, and chocolate is within your reach. How sweet will be your reward if you just press on! How far you will go if you keep your eyes on the truth!

My days of running in the cold are over for awhile. I have a beautiful new treadmill and the weather is turning warmer. How about you? What race are you running? Are you burnt out? Can you keep running just awhile longer? Tomorrow may be the day the wind changes. Spring is a time for new beginnings. What do you say you give it another try?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Judger

It's the last Friday of winter. Are you looking forward to spring as much as I am? Since it's Friday, we will be discussing character today. If you've been following along in our look at the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, then you know we've covered three of the four pairings. You should be able to give yourself the label of either and I or E depending on whether you are an Introvert or Extravert. You can also say whether you are an S (Sensor) or an N (iNtuitive). And after the last two weeks you should now be able to say whether you are a Thinker or a Feeler.

If you cannot decide between Thinker and Feeler, here is one last test to help you figure it out. Imagine this situation: a friend comes to you with a relationship problem and spills her guts about it. Now what would you do with the information? What would be your first response? If you analyze the problem, offer advice and possibly point out errors on her part, you are probably a Thinker. If you sympathize, point out the positives, and don't offer advice unless she out-and-out asks for it, you are most likely a Feeler.

Thinkers and Feelers are represented equally in the population with 50% being Thinkers and 50% being Feelers. However, this couple shows a marked difference between men and women. Of the 50% that are Thinkers, nearly two-thirds are men. And of the 50% that are Feelers, nearly two-thirds of those are women.

Today we will begin to look at what you do when you plan--plan your day, plan you career, plan your life. How do you like things to go? Remember that with personality, we look for our preferences--not what we think we should be or what people expect us to be. The first half of the pair is the Judger. This does not refer to people who are judgmental. Rather, Judgers like to have a plan and stick to it. They might be described as settled, orderly, scheduled, controlled, organized, predictable, or systematic. For my writer friends, Judgers are Plotters. Like the turtle in the fable, they believe slow, steady effort accomplishes what needs to be done.

Judgers enjoy completing tasks, so when they are given work or chores, they will set a goal or make a plan so they can finish it in the allotted time. They don't like having work hanging over their heads, so they live by the rule "work first, play later". They concern themselves with "tying up loose ends" and consider themselves goal-setters. Judgers are not kill-joys, but if they want to see a movie on Friday night, they will arrange the rest of their day or week so they complete the tasks that need done before movie start-time.

Judgers usually employ a to-do list and find satisfaction in crossing things off their list--so much so that they may even add items already completed just so they can draw the line through it. Judges handled the family calendar and are the students who actually use their agenda books without having to be told. Those with the Judging character are quick decision-makers and often impose regulations and restrictions on themselves to accomplish what they've set out to do. Judgers dislike surprises and desire fair warning for changes in plans.

If you see yourself in this description, rejoice because you keep things moving along in life and in the family. People get where they need to be and reach goals they set because of your efforts. You set a course and continue on it until you reach your goal. You make decisions and never turn back. You keep us up-to-date, organized, and moving steadily toward our goals. You get a lot done in your day and can account for where your time was spent. You need to be careful to not be so goal-oriented that you close yourself off to changing your mind when new information becomes available. People may accuse you of being too rigid, of not knowing how to have a good time, or by making decisions too quickly. Listen when you hear these complaints, because there may be some validity in them.

If you can't relate to this description, perhaps your significant other is the Judger. If so, rejoice in the fact that you have someone to keep you on the path toward completion. You have a schedule-keeper and someone who always knows where everything is. Judgers enjoy making decisions so relax and let him/her take the lead in this area. You will also need to remember that Judgers get stressed when things are left to chance. Give him/her fair warning of change of plans so he/she can adjust.

If you see your child in this description--you can breathe a sigh of relief. Your little Judger will likely have no trouble getting assignments in on time or completing chores within deadline. S/he is organized, efficient, and responsible. Your junior-Judger will benefit from your guidance in the area of breaking the rules. It is difficult for them to go off the plan, but life sometimes throws us curve-balls and they need to learn how to deal with that. Teach them how to reorganize to make the most of impromptu activities.

I am a classic Judger and so is Justice--have you noticed yet that he is nearly my clone? The other three in the family are not. That leads to some interesting times (read: fights). Justice goes by the book, no matte what and that drives his brother and sister a little crazy, but it totally sets off his not-in-any-way-a-Judger dad. We have a set breakfast schedule--cereal on Monday, waffles on Tuesday, etc.--and if my husband happens to be home at breakfast time, his usual question is "What do you want for breakfast?" Well, Jewel and Jot are all for breaking out of the mold and will request what sounds good that day. Justice nearly faints with thought of going off schedule. He yells, he cries, he points to the posted schedule on the bulletin board--all while eating whatever is on the schedule for the day--a guy's got to make a point! But if I see we are out of milk the night before cereal day and warn him, he has time to adjust his expectations and will eat waffles even if it is not Tuesday, with no complaint. That's why character is so important. It lets you work with the natural inclinations of the people you spend your days with, to your benefit!

Who do you see in this description and how can this information make your relationship with them better?

Next week we will look at the other half of this pair--the Perceiver.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

National Forgive Mom & Dad Day

Take a moment to remember...way back...go farther back... all the way back to when you were a teenager or even when you were a child. You are probably in your room, face-down on your bed, head covered with your pillow. And you are mad. Really mad; like furious. You could be crying, but the tears are those of anger and frustration, not sadness. Now, what are you thinking? Go back; try to remember the words that bounced in your head. Let me help you out. It probably went something like this:

They don't understand what it's like to be a kid/teenager at all...

When they were my age, they didn't have it as rough as I do...

I can't stand them; I hate them...

I'll never be like them...

When I'm the parent, I won't...

I'll never forgive them...

Okay, are you with me? Did you ever do that? Think that? We probably all did. One of the first and biggest lessons my kids have ever taught me is to appreciate and understand my parents and what they went through to raise me. Not until I brought my own bundles of joy home did I realize the sacrifice, agony, sleepless nights, patience, wisdom, and so many other things that go in to rearing a child. Did my parents do everything right? Nope. Do I? Not hardly.

That's why a day like National Forgive Mom & Dad is so important. Parents are people too and now that we are adults, we need to cut them some slack. They messed up. They sinned. They fell short. They made bad choices. They failed. They were selfish. They didn't understand. But for the most part, they tried to do the best they could.

So, I have two challenges for you today. The first one is for anyone. What do you say? Think back over your childhood and remember the things your parents did RIGHT. For some of you, it may be more difficult than others. But look at your mom and your dad through a lens of grace. What did they try to teach you? What did they sacrifice for you? What good choices did they make? Choose today to forgive their short-comings, their failures, their faults and celebrate the good things. When we forgive, we don't acknowledge the rightness or wrongness of an action--we acknowledge our release of its power on us. You can do this whether your parents are living still or not; whether you tell them or not; and whether they acknowledge their own guilt or not. Forgiveness is for YOU.

The second challenge is for those of you who are parents. Do you want to take a risk? Up for something bold? It could hurt. It could also lead to great healing. The challenge is this: Ask your kids to think back and tell you a time when you hurt them. Then listen. The trick is not to allow yourself to get defensive or to argue. It doesn't matter if it makes sense to you. It doesn't matter if you think it is trivial. It doesn't even matter if they remember it wrong. What matters is that your child was hurt and they hold you responsible for it. So, first ask; then listen. Now, ask their forgiveness. Allow your child the opportunity to release the hurt now instead of dealing with it the rest of his/her life. Swallow your pride and be the grown-up. Hard to do, isn't it?  (Now would also be a helpful time to revisit number 1. It might make it a little easier to forgive your parents now that you've put yourself on the other side of the parental forgiveness table.)

Embrace forgiveness today. The alternate option is just too ugly.

See you on Friday when we spend another day Getting Into Characterby looking at The Judger.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Pledge Allegiance to the Treadmill

Pledge dusting spray is not conducive to fitness. Let me explain. When the kids were small, before they were in school and I completed all my housework with them underfoot, I doled out jobs they could do with me. For instance, if I paid bills, they colored their own “mail” that consisted of the unused envelopes and address labels. When I emptied the dishwasher, they were responsible for the plastic bowls that went in a low drawer. And when I dusted, they always got their own dust rag sprayed with a bit of Pledge. No amount of Pledge ever seemed to satisfy them. I’d spray; they’d dust. Within minutes, there they were, little hands clutching dirt-smudged cloth diapers, asking for “just a little more”.
To keep them occupied a little longer, I would give it a spray and off they would go. But after the seventh swipe over the same shelf or windowsill and several re-fuelings of dusting spray, I would cut them off. At this point their attention would wander somewhere else or they would attempt to steal my can of Pledge.

After one morning of dusting, I thought I had escaped the usual requests for “just a little more”. The kids were in their beds or their rooms for a little quiet time when I hopped on the treadmill for thirty minutes of exercise. The belt jerked and slowly picked up speed as I moved my feet from the side rails to the deck. What normally felt sturdy and solid slipped away and I grabbed for the handholds. Walking on ice-covered sidewalks was not as difficult. It took my only moments to realize what had happened—my diminutive dusters had Pledged my treadmill! It took a scrubbing with mild soap and a good dousing of baby powder to absorb the conditioners that are so good for my wood but so bad for my footing. Needless to say, my arms were the only thing to get a workout that day.

But I learned a lesson that day. A lesson about life and about faith. I learned that just like you don’t throw in the towel on exercising because your treadmill gets slippery, you don’t stop living—or believing—when life gets messy. I needed to focus on what was TRUE in the situation:

*My treadmill had served me well in the past and just because today we had troubles, I knew it would continue to serve me well in the future. I couldn’t let myself believe that this would be the way every exercise session would be forever. It was a passing problem.

*The fault of my missed exercise session didn’t rest with the treadmill—it came from outside factors who didn’t even know their affect on our time together.

*Even though I couldn’t walk that day, I still exercised my body and experienced a time of quiet. The interruption didn’t foil my plans, just changed them for a time.

We live in a world where some days are going to be difficult, other days are going to be bad, and some days just don’t go the way we plan. But we must press on, believing what we know to be true, loving to the best of our ability, doing everything within our power to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the life we’ve been given. Don’t stop trying; don’t stop believing--just because it gets a little slippery.

Come back on Wednesday when we will talk about Moms & Dads—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Feeler

Happy Friday! Let's dig into Getting Into Character. Last week we looked at The Thinker. Did you see yourself in the descriptions? If not, you will most likely find yourself here in today's. To review, this set of labels reveals how we make decisions. Remember, Thinkers decide based on what they know in their heads. They look at the facts, logic, data. They can appear cold and hard sometimes. Thinkers are NOT unfeeling, they just prefer to base their decisions on things that give them proof.

So today, let's look at the flip-side--The Feeler. Just so we are clear, Feelers are NOT total emotion-driven, touchy-feely people. Feelers can be intellectuals too, but when making decisions they will rely on what they can "feel". Feelers base their decisions on people and the impact it will make on them--on needs of themselves and others, on things they hold valuable, or on variables (exceptions). While Thinkers look at criteria, Feelers look at how that criteria affects them or other people. BOTH Thinkers and Feelers use a rational process in coming to their conclusion; they just do it using different means.

Feelers include priorities and values in making their decisions. They often prioritize based on the needs of others. Feelers focus on harmony and making personal connections. They have ideas for people and that include people, rather than facts. They make exceptions and try to put themselves in the other person's shoes. They sympathized and are subjective, often finding the positive in a decision or situation. Feelers decide based on what they feel in their heart, even if it doesn't make sense with the facts others see.

Feelers look at how their decisions will impact others. Making choices that will hold meaning, allow them to be with people they care about, or allow them to help people. They seek the opinions/feelings of others rather than seek out data. They give people the "benefit of the doubt" and try to "read between the lines". Remember our example from last week about when your daughter baked her first cake AND cleaned up the kitchen? Remember, Thinkers are likely to spot the one thing she didn't do right. Feelers, on the other hand, will pay attention to all she did right. They are also likely to notice that she picked her dad's favorite flavor or that you were running late from work and her baking has the oven already warmed up for your lasagna.

Okay, if you see yourself here, rejoice because you are the champion of the underdog. You model grace and connect with people on a heart level. Your decisions don't leave people feeling cold or abandoned, but often make people feel understood. You will need to resist the urge to let everyone off the hook and to listen to every sob story thrown your way. People enjoy your "glass half full" attitude.

If it is your honey that you see here and not yourself, you can rejoice too. S/he has a knack for pointing out the good points in any choice. They cut you slack like no Thinker can. They will likely ask your opinion and take into account how their decisions will affect you. They may need your help to see that not every situation has a silver lining or that sometimes if someone looks like a crook, acts like a crook, and smells like a crook, it is a crook--not someone who just forgot to tell you something or that was having a bad day. Resist the urge to discount their feelings as "not logical".

If you see your child in this description, rejoice because you likely have a sensitive boy or girl who seeks the best interest of their family and friends. S/he will look for the good in others and believe people are worth listening to. They will likely be your helper because they notice when people need help and they may develop tact early on. The Feeler child focuses on people as individuals and often overlooks people's negative qualities.  You will need to tread lightly with your little Feeler because s/he will likely be a people-pleasers and sensitive to others' emotions and changes in mood. You can count on him/her to take things personally because anytime our heart if involved, there is the opportunity to be hurt.

My husband has strong Feeler tendencies and Jot is an all-out Feelings guy. He is my helper and looks for ways to make life easier for all the family. From an early age he could "read" people's faces and would tell me things about people based on the look they usually wore.  He is sympathetic and enjoys harmony in the house. He is a fun-loving kid at both church and home and has lots of friends. But his choice of who to play with at recess is purely Feeler. His buddies include: the boy who has been held back a grade, the boy with a serious speech impediment, and the boy with the eye patch. When you ask him why he likes to play with those boys, he never misses a beat and answers, "Because nobody else will."  The world is a better place because of Feelers.

Who has blessed your life with their Feeler ways? Thank them today and then join me next Friday as we begin to explore the last personality pair.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Peter Parker Picked a Peck of Prickly Problems

I don't watch a lot of movies, but the other night I did get to see the last half of Spider-Man 2. I'm not well-versed on my Spider-Man stories, but in this movie, I gathered that, of course, Peter Parker was the hero and Dr. Octopus was the villain. I came upon the movie during the scene when Dr. Octopus attempts to destroy Spider-Man by running an elevated train off into nothingness. The train hurtles along at top speed, filled with passengers, right toward a gaping hole in the bridge. They will surely plummet to their death if Spidey can't do something about it.

So, Spider-Man, being the unflinching hero he is, throws strands of silk at nearby buildings in an effort to stop the train. But the strands ping and snap just like guitar strings during a heavy metal concert. Not to be detterd, Spidey shoots more and more cords of webs and thankfully, the train begins to slow. But the hole in the bridge is approaching too fast and it appears it will be too late. Spider-Man holds on tightly, his arms aching, the fabric of his ultra-tight hero outfit stretching and tearing. Just at the edge of the precipice, the train stops and a spent Spider-Man crumbles out the broken front window of the train. The grateful passengers slowly and gingerly pull the Speedo-wearing Spidey back in and lower him to the floor.

But Dr. Octopus is not through with him. He squirms into the cab and threatens to finish off the now-exhausted hero. This time the occupants of the train don't take it standing powerless. They step in front of their hero and attempt to take on the tentacled villain. Okay, so now if you've never seen the movie, you are caught up to speed. And if you've seen it, hopefully you can picture it again in your mind.

I thought to myself, "This scene is a perfect example of how we live life with our kids. There are two responses when they come across obstacles and trials". Both responses are valid and good. The wisdom comes in knowing when to use which approach.

There will be times when our kids face an obstacle, trial, or situation that they must tackle on their own. It may be a situation that comes upon them or even one of their own making. They will be served best by coming through it in their own strength, on their own terms, and learning the lessons that only can be gained by experience. We can stand there and cheer them on, but we must take a hands-off approach. When they have survived the trial, we should be there to help them down, tending their wounds, letting them rest and refocus and supporting them in any way we can. But we can't fight the fight for them. They will only be stronger in making their own mistakes, standing up to their own fears, and having ultimate responsibility for the outcome. That's easier said than done and it may take a lot of nail-biting, tongue-holding, and hand-wringing on your part. Everyone needs a cheerleader.

But there will be times when situations come along and our kids are not in a position to fight them alone. They may not be strong enough. They may not be mature enough. It may be a situation that is too dangerous or the consequences of failure too high for us to allow them to fight it alone. That is when we need to step in. Stand up to the "villain" and say, "If you are going to do this, you will have to go through me first." Independence is one thing, but the guardianship of our kids' hearts, souls, minds, and bodies is our responsibility. Take that responsibility seriously. Guard them fiercely. Everyone needs a hero.

Friday's post Getting Into Character: The Feeler

Monday, March 8, 2010

National Celebrate Your Name Week

This week is National Celebrate Your Name Week in the U.S. I love names and naming things. One of my favorite things about spring is when the barn cats deliver their kittens and we come up with names for them. We give them names that all start with the same letter or rhyme (Sallie, Callie, and O'Malley). Or names that go with their mother's name (Holly, short for Halloween Cat has had babies named Bones, Shadow, and Jack O'Lantern). Or we name them all a category (one litter or four males were bestowed with the names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

But as much as I love naming animals, choosing names for my kids rocked my world. What pressure to choose just the right name! What power! What fun! We liked unusual names that weren't weird or unpronounceable. We checked to be sure the initials didn't spell out unsavory things. We looked up meanings to be sure we weren't sticking our kids with a less-than-desirable prophecy to live up to (I mean, who willing names their daughter something that means "hairy woman with no teeth"? Or their son something that means, "girly man who is scared of bunnies"?) I love my kids' names and have never wished we had chosen something else. But the older they get, they are making their own names. They are developing their own reputations and histories with the people on their journey. Not only do people form opinions of them as people, they form opinions about us as a family and about anyone else who shares our last name.

In the book of Proverbs, it says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold". I don't think it is talking about having a name people like or giving your kids the most unique name you can make up. Rather, I think this means what people think when they hear your name. (A funny story--when our mutual friend told me David had asked about me, I asked what his name was. We had a lot of mutal friends, but had never met before. When I heard his name, it was familiar, but I seriously thought he was a drug dealer. He wasn't. And isn't.) But that is important for us and for our kids. When my kids go to a friend's house, they are a reflection of me. When my kids play sports or perform musically, people look at their name on their jersey or in the program and make a mental note of who they believe them to be. My desire for them is that when someone hears their name, they will smile. I know we can never please everyone we come into contact with, but they need to do whatever is in their power to have a good name.

That's how it is with us as adults too. What names do you wear? Mom? Dad? Sister? Brother? Wife? Husband? Friend? Daughter? Son? Christian? Do people smile when they hear your name? Do you have a "good name"? Maybe you were given a common name--can you live so you will stand out for good? Maybe your family name has been tarnished--can you change the perception by the way you live your life?

Decide today who you want to be--then start living it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Thinker

Okay, I’m back from The Bahamas and ready to tackle character, of course, since it’s Friday. The last two weeks we have studied the second set of “couples” in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—Sensors and Intuitives.

Hopefully you were able to see yourself, someone you love, or your characters in one of the two descriptions. Now you can assign a second letter to your own or someone else’s personality label. This time you will use either an S for Sensor or an N for Intuitive (since we are ready used I for Introvert). There is an unbalanced representation in the population as a whole between Sensors, who make up roughly 70%, and the Intuitives, who comprise only 30%.

If you are still unsure, you can ask yourself how you approach details. Do you observe what you can see through your senses or do you rely on what would better be described as using your intuition. Let’s take a meeting at the coffee shop with your best friend. Do you notice her earrings, her outfit, and her shoes? Do you focus on the guy behind you who smells like cigar smoke? Does the squeal of the metal door against the frame claw at your nerves? Can you still taste the Pumpkin Pie latte you ordered? If so, you are most likely a Sensor.

Rather do you remember how, even though your friend said she wasn’t hurt by her mother’s remark, you felt the pain radiating off of her? Do you remember how the man ground out his cigar in frustration as he snapped his phone shut before entering the shop? Can you not recall what earrings, outfit, or shoes she wore, but remember the frequent sighs, negative tone, weariness she wore as a testament to her not sleeping well? If so, you are most likely an Intuitive. If you are following along, you should now know you are either ES, EN, IS, or IN. By the time we are done looking at the MBTI you will have one of sixteen labels.

Today we will begin the third pairing of the four—Thinkers and Feelers. This label tells you how you go about making decisions. When you have a choice to make, what do you focus on and how do you decide? Both Thinkers and Feelers go through a rational process when making a choice, but they center their decision on information coming from different places in their being. So let’s take a look at The Thinker.

Thinkers make decisions based on their heads, minds, and intellects. This is not to say that they are free of emotions, that they can’t be caring people or that they are “smart”. We are just looking at what they will continually use when trying to make a decision.

Thinkers use logic, impartial standards, and personal criteria when faced with a choice. They are pro vs. con people who have clear-cut goals and objectives. They analyze facts, ideas and reasons behind the decision. They enjoy clear expectations, rules, and standards when compiling information and make few exceptions. Thinkers can be described as fair but firm, business-first, impartial decision-makers. When a Thinker makes a decision, and it usually happens quickly and they don’t look back. Did anyone watch the most recent Bachelor? Jake, the Bachelor, displayed characteristic Thinker behavior when he chose who would stay and who would go. When he knew a girl was not right for him, away she went—sometimes two at a time. And remember Alli? When the show aired the teaser about the possibility of her coming back the next week, I told my husband there was no way Jake would allow her to come back. She had made her choice and he would abide by that. Yep, I’d guess he’s a Thinker.

Thinkers are usually task/goal oriented and desire fairness and truth over tact and sensitivity. They may live to argue and can fight for either side of an issue. They are quick to poke holes in scenarios and can find the flaw in any argument. If you are a Thinker and your daughter bakes her first cake AND cleans the kitchen, you are more likely to focus on the spot of batter she missed on the counter than all that she did do right.

If you see yourself in this description, rejoice because you can be counted on as being a fair, logical, and objective person. The people in your life probably come to you for advice when making decisions. You often decide and never look back. You are known for having good ideas for facts and things. Resist the urge to argue just for the fun of it and make conscious decisions to praise first (and after) pointing out a flaw to someone else.

Maybe it is not you whom you see in this description, but rather your significant other. If that is so, rejoice because you have an ally in the decision-making process. Two heads are better than one and two personalities are an advantage (unless they are both in the same person, then we have problems). If your honey is a Thinker, you may wonder why s/he always seems so negative—they always point out the flaw in anything you do. But if you have a Thinker, use that to your advantage when your manuscript needs editing, you are planning a vacation, or you are remodeling the house.

If you see your child in the Thinker description, congratulations—school will likely be easier than for his/her Feeler counterparts. Thinkers enjoy being recognized for going above and beyond any job, assignment, or situation. Make sure you praise their efforts beyond just getting a job done. If you asked her to sweep the garage and she did the patio as well, she will appreciate when you noticed the extra work. When you ask him to pick up his coat and hang it up, he will beam when you notice that he also grabbed his brother’s. Steer your little arguer toward speech or debate team and let him/her word-wrestle for a purpose.

I’m a classic Thinker and so is Justice. I mean, that kid will argue with a tree! Don’t mis-speak in front of him or you will never hear the end of it. However, often it is easier to parent him when it comes to spending money or making decisions about friends or school, because you can lay it out for him and he will reason it through. Makes for some interesting discussions in our family riddled with Feelers.

Who do you see in your life that is a Thinker and how can this information help make your relationship better?

Next Friday we will talk about all you Feelers and see what you use to make your decisions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You Sweet-Talker (or The Dog Ate the Soap)

The dog ate the soap the other day. Actually, that's not entirely true. I should say the dog has eaten the soap on several occasions. But the other day, she ate the whole thing--gone but for the miniscule sliver I managed to dig from her jaws. One morning, just for kicks, she hopped into the tub and devoured nearly the entire barely-used bar. What would possess a dog to eat soap, you ask? Well, considering some of the other things I've observed my dogs eating, it could be worse; but I digress. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a mouth-washing, you know that stuff is putrid. But for some reason, my dog thinks a little lunch of Lever 2000 really hits the spot.

In the book of Ezekiel, he ate something unusual too--a scroll covered with God's word. Did he like it? Was it some awful punishment? Yes, he liked it. No, it was not a punishment. Ezekiel says it tasted like honey. (Maybe my dogs think soap tastes like honey--or chicken.) I can learn a lesson from Old Zeke--and can pass it on to my kids. God's words--good words-- are sweet.

When I want to cheer my kids up after a fight with their friend, I can give them a taste of God's word. When I mess up and say or do something that I shouldn't have said or done, I can offer the offended party a bite of God's word. When I want to celebrate or encourage a friend or family member, I slip them a smackeral of something sweet (to quote Pooh) from the pages of God's word. And even when my kids need correction, I can leave the soap-eating to the dog and, instead, apply a coating of God's word. God's word is an all-purpose product!

Learn to be a Sweet-Talker with God's word and your kids will learn it too--then maybe you can leave the soap to the dog.

"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight..." Jeremiah 15:16

Join me Friday for Getting Into Character when we will explore The Thinker.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Everyone Wants to Belong, Eh?

The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat. That about sums up the whole Olympic experience. I thoroughly enjoy watching the Olympics, even though I've been tired for the whole month of February, it seems, from staying up to watch "just a little more". I love to watch it all--the sporting events, the behind-the-scenes stories, the tales of adversity and come-backs from injury. But it is the reports the anchors do during the "down-times" that I so anticipate. You know, the stories they tell about the hosting country to fill up time until the next event where the US has a chance at a medal? I'm saddened to see another Games come to an end.

One report I heard last week told the story of the Canadian expression "eh". They told about how far it could be traced back, what it can mean, the proper way to inflect when you used it. It is the way native Canadians recognize each other the world over. No other country uses it and they can tell in just a few minutes of conversation if they are talking to a fellow Canuck. The reporter went on to say that when Americans were pouring into Canada to avoid the Vietnam War, border guards would engage a suspicious young man in conversation. They could tell within fifteen minutes whether he was a native Canadian or a draft dodger by his use--or omission--of the phrase "eh" at the end of his sentences. If he didn't use it, they would send him right back to the US, eh?

Did you know there is a similar story in the Bible? In the book of Judges, the Gileads fought against the Ephraimites. The Ephramites were conquered and Gilead took control of the fords leading over the Jordan River back to Ephraim. The Ephraimites would attempt to sneak their way across and when the guards didn't recognize them as fellow tribesmen, they would give them a little quiz.

"Are you an Ephraimite?" they would ask.


"Well then say 'Shibboleth'," the guards would command.

"Sh...Sh....Sibboleth?" the stuttering Ephraimite would mispronounce.

"Off with his head!"

The Gileads knew they weren't who they said they were because they couldn't say the "magic word". It would be comical except for the fact that 42,000 Ephraimites were killed because of a little 'h'. Now that's harsh, eh?
Last week we talked about the language in our homes. I challenged you to look at the type of language legacy you are leaving. But today I want to focus on the positive side of this. Every family has codes, pet names, and "inside jokes" that make them unique. This is something I've learned: kids thrive and find security in traditions.

Does your family have nicknames for each other? (We are a family of nicknames. Even the animals have them.) Do you have things your kids couldn't pronounce when they were younger that now even though everyone could say it, they still use the funny word? (My kids still call chicken pot pie "Chicken Putt-Putt Pie and chicken enchiladas "Chit-chin Itchy-la-las".) Do you have traditions that you keep for holidays, birthdays, or for special days? (Sundays are always popcorn, cheese, and grapes for dinner and they know we always have finger foods the night we put up the Christmas tree.)

Kids find security in knowing what to expect. They have a sense of belonging when traditions are implemented. They rejoice in being part of something bigger than themselves. They identify with their family and its unique place in this world. It helps them remember where they are from and look forward to knowing, at least in part, what the future holds.

What traditions or special things does your family do? What is something you've always wanted to do, but haven't yet? Why don't you commit to trying it today, this month, or in 2010?

See you on Wednesday when I tell you about what I learned from a Caress-eating canine.