Monthly Archives: January 2019

I’m special. And so are you.

Not the special snowflake thing ! Not a fake kind of learned specialness that actually hinders your personal growth because you are obsessed with yourself. Not an inability to cooperate, cope, and communicate in a meaningful way with other humans.

What then? Well let’s look up Webster’s definition of  special. 


special

adjective

spe·​cial | \ ˈspe-shəl  \

Definition of special

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1distinguished by some unusual quality especially being in some way superior our special blend
2held in particular esteem special friend
3areadily distinguishable from others of the same category UNIQUE they set it apart as a special day of thanksgiving
bof, relating to, or constituting a speciesSPECIFIC
4being other than the usual ADDITIONALEXTRA
5designed for a particular purpose or occasion

While it’s nice to have unusual or superior qualities and be esteemed by friends, and and/or be unique or unusual, I especially like number 5: designed for a particular purpose or occasion. 
Everyone needs a purpose in life and that does not mean, to be served by others or to ‘get what you got coming to you’ or to ‘eat, drink and be merry until you die’. Some people seem to figure out their purpose at a young age, work straight towards the goal, pursue that purpose, and live very fulfilling lives. But that seems less common these days, at least it seems that way to me. I find that many young people and even older people feel lost and unsure of any meaning or purpose in their lives. They fill up their time with mind-numbing pursuits but they feel rather empty and depressed. Depression, drug addiction and other addictions are often a result of having no direction or purpose in life.
Why are so many people so unhappy, bored, seeking meaning in the wrong places, staying numb? I believe that the so-called special snowflake mentality leads to those things. Focusing way too much on one’s own feelings and desires and entitlements can ONLY lead to disillusionment with life. It’s simply not realistic or even desirable to expect to have the whole world cater to you and make you happy.
 I won’t blame this on one political party because I think both parties are responsible for pushing the idea that everyone should get what they want, how they want it, in words that don’t offend them, at the price they like, in the color they like, etc, etc, and that this is possible and affordable and will happen if you just vote for them! Reality, logic and patience  has become a thing of the past. Too many people are living in fantasy land. Of course, that fantasy land is mostly in what many people think SHOULD happen, not what they are actually experiencing, which leads to a major disconnect between what they have been told to EXPECT and what they are actually getting. This leads to anger, discontent, comparison with others, ingratitude for the good things they do have, constant searching for ways to get this fantasy life, blaming others that they mistakenly believe are responsible for their situation, even more escapist behaviors and the terrible division that we have in our country. That is the bad kind of special.
The good kind of special is that you are a unique, God-created human being that is not exactly like any other human being and you were born with a purpose! Your purpose is to grow, learn, and eventually become an adult that will use the majority of their time serving God and OTHERS with your unique talents, skills or knowledge. Not stay a perpetual child that expects to be treated like mommy’s favorite. The most fulfilling activities are those that help others in some way. Your job title may say something basic like customer service, teacher, manager, driver, nurse, or teller. Or you may be a CEO, business owner, or scientist. You can find a way to serve and make a difference in people’s lives in any job. And if possible, you can also volunteer and serve in your community in various ways. Even stay-at-home moms can contribute so much in many different ways to the lives of others. In fact, being a parent is one of the jobs that is impossible to do well if you are selfish.  The idea is to have the attitude of JOY, that we learn in Sunday School. JOY = Jesus, Others, You,  the correct order of importance in our lives.
Putting others first and using our special talents to serve seems to come naturally to some and harder for others. But there are things you can do to improve.  I read an interesting article that said that in one study, if people were shown a photo of money in the beginning of an experiment, they were less likely to act helpfully to someone who pretended to need help. They didn’t know that was the test , of course. The hypothesis is that our brains get ‘primed’ and that can set us up for a certain way of acting and reacting. They suggested to prime your brain with positive thoughts and images in the morning to start the day off right.  You can Google it and find tons of articles on the psychology of priming. I suggest priming your brain with a prayer of gratitude before you even get out of bed. Then read some Bible verses either in your Bible or on your social media feed that you are reading on the toilet.  Haha! Yes, I do that, too.  Set your social media feed up  so that you see that kind of positive input instead of negative articles, memes, and other junk that will prime you for anger, entitled feelings, self-loathing, discontentment, and hopelessness.
Then evaluate your life and think about how you are spending your time. Or you using your special personality, knowledge, understanding, skills, talents or financial resources to help others? Are you taking the time to talk to someone who might need a kind word or some helpful information that you have? Are you willing to give up some of your self-focus to discover the true joy that comes from focusing on others ? Maybe you are still in high school or college or barely into your first job. That’s okay! You can still help create a positive environment for others by choosing to think of how your words and actions affect others and considering other people’s perspectives. Be the person who brings peace and calm to a tense situation. Be the person who gives honest compliments. Be the person who asks the new person to go to lunch. Be the person who doesn’t complain, gossip, or create drama.  All of those things can make a huge impact! And you will feel good doing the right thing with your special touch.
Lastly I’d like to add that there are messages all around us that want you to put your needs first, have ME time,  be number one, all that. Those messages appeal to our selfish ego or flesh as God calls it. It takes effort to ignore and overcome those messages. Why do they push it so hard? Because they are SELLING things that they promise will make you happier. It’s a lie. Things will not make you happier if you are a selfish miserable person. Things can be fun and are not bad. But shopping and accumulating bigger, newer and more things is not your purpose in life! There is a whole segment of the world that doesn’t even have basic necessities like clean water and food.  Do some reading on poverty in this country and you might be shocked.  If you are young and single, consider doing some kind of work for a few years to help the less fortunate in this or other countries. If you are not so free, maybe consider donating to the causes. But even if you can’t do that, you can be a good citizen in your community by picking up litter, voting, and finding ways to contribute with your unique personality.  God made you for a reason. Don’t miss out on the blessings you’ll get from serving others. Remember, You are special! You have a lot to GIVE.
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Passenger

The current picks up speed

As it heads downhill

Closer to the sound

Of a waterfall

Around the bend

Where everything goes over

Ready or not.

Head to shore

Before it’s too late!

Swept away with the wild flood.

Or safely carried in His boat.

Through the rocks and rapids.

The bank is steep and hard to see

But the river is lonely and long.

What’s around the bend ?

Of sleeping in my clothes, eating too many Snacks, and Quiet Vigilance

After years of this routine, I have come to know what to expect when my daughter is hospitalized with pneumonia. We enter a strange world where nurses and respiratory therapists and on-call physicians come in and out day and  night and  I attempt to maintain some semblance of normalcy.  There is no privacy and I have no control compared to my regular life.  At home I spend my days doing things of my own choosing, lots of cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, running, walking the dogs, errands. I go to bed pretty early and I get up with the sun and repeat . But  here, I am basically just biding my time waiting for her to get well. I stay here almost 24/7 so I can make sure she gets good care and to be able to talk to the doctors and keep up with how she’s doing.

For example, the doctor on call just came in to take a listen to her lungs and tell me the plan for the day. I think she is getting close to being well. They are being very conservative in their treatment NOW, after trying to rush her last week and she not doing so well with that . But now I think she is could actually handle more aggressive weaning off oxygen. We will find out today because they are going to cut back on her breathing assistance. Today is Day 11 of our, hopefully, only 2019 visit. I see a light at the end of the tunnel, but I must remain patient or I will just get miserable. So far since I started writing this, she has been fine on the reduced support. But the question is how long can she last? They don’t want to wear her out and make her have a setback.

The cast of characters in this never-ending live drama is constantly changing as they  do not work the hours or days that most non-hospital  employees enjoy. The shifts last 12-16 hours.  Most of the nurses seem to work 3 days then they are off again.  The doctor that was just here, John, said he’ll be here for the next four days. He had the weekend off. I can imagine he spent it in his nice house, maybe golfing or cycling or antiquing, with his partner or friends.

The nurses are mostly young and attractive, seriously some of them look like models, of all races, and both genders. I have not had a bad one so far. There have been a couple of less than ideal, less friendly respiratory therapists. Maybe that job doesn’t pay as well. But most people smile and talk to me and all of them are trained to ask if I need anything every time they come in, but normally I don’t . There was one nurse that I spent quite a bit of time chatting with, actually there were two. The first one was when we first got here and he was very talkative and interesting and we discussed hiking and travel. The other one is in her early 40s and dealing with some weight gain so we discussed diet and running and children and how they pay attention to what we say about food and the difficulty of cooking healthy food while working.

This hospital is a smaller, suburban version of the main children’s hospital , providing the same excellent quality, free parking, closer to home, and as the nurses have said, more laid back. The main campus is extremely busy, large, and attracts patients from all over the state and even the world because of the availability of complex and expert care and is located in the middle of the city. This building, however,  is surrounded by green space. I am treated to a 4th floor view of freshly planted saplings and older pine and oak trees ,  small retention ponds with fountains in the middle and the setting sun, as well as the busy interstate which is full of slow-moving commuters and big trucks on weekday mornings .  Pastel colors, children’s art, and comfortable waiting areas make the experience feel less institutional and scary for families who come to the emergency room, outpatient clinics and specialist offices. The first floor has a small cafeteria that is not open on weekends, a coffee shop with Starbucks coffee and pastries, and a gift shop. The patient rooms are private and offer a bathroom with a sink and shower and a pullout couch/bed for the parent, plus a small desk, a TV that is mounted way too high on the wall for these old eyes, and a reclining chair. When my daughter was in PICU at the main campus, things were not so cushy. The rooms were not private and we had to sleep in a main waiting room in recliners or if we were lucky we might get a bed in the Ronald McDonald House family center for the night.

So what do I do all day and night? Mostly I stay occupied and distracted on my computer or phone, but I have also watched movies both on my laptop and on the room TV. So far I have watched Bird Box, loved it, Wonder, Ready Player One, and just half-watched about 20 children’s movies. I also spend time texting my best friend.  I have written a few blogs, read a bunch of them, and spent way too much time on Facebook. My sister brought me some books so I read one of them yesterday, a short book by Gary Paulsen called Mudshark. It is written for children, but I love that Paulsen’s  writing is never dumbed down and includes wonderfully interesting words and creative themes that many children’s authors evidently are afraid to use. I recommend this book.   I have attempted a few runs around the building,  but I’m sad to report that my legs and energy are still recovering from my 121 mile run  so those attempts were mostly walking. Yesterday I managed 3 miles running and walking, but my feet are still bothering me with some numbness and tingling so I am not going to run today, just walk. I also spend way too much time thinking about and eating food that I have either brought to the room or go purchase downstairs. So far I have had several omelettes and two patty melts with fries from the cafeteria, a couple of salads from the nearby grocery store, and one wonderful trip to a Mexican restaurant while dressed in my sloppy hospital clothes. I think the waitress was an angel or maybe she could tell I was very sleep deprived because she seemed extra nice. Free coffee is available , which is pretty terrible tasting, but I still drink it to save money. I brought my own stevia and creamer. I am trying not to gain weight while we are here.

I try to sleep at night, pulling closed the dividing curtain that hides the parent area , wearing ear plugs and an eye mask, but it can be very noisy and I wake up often and just listen to what the nurses are doing. My daughter has had noisy breathing treatments every four hours since we’ve been here plus constant temperature checks.  She does not like the deep suctioning and protests accordingly.  Today and yesterday I was awakened before 4 AM. I nap when I can, but I’m not much of a napper.

The rest of my family is doing okay and  getting by without me at home. I did go home for two nights and while there I cleaned, cooked and replenished the pantry.  I seriously don’t think they miss me that much, except maybe for my utilitarian purposes. Since we spend pretty much all of our time together, I think we all enjoy a little separation from time to time. Of course I was already gone for three days at my race right before this hospital trip, so it feels like I have been gone a long time now.  I am supposed to be volunteering at a trail race in two weeks, but I don’t know if that will be a good idea being gone again so soon. I expect that we will be home soon, so maybe I can still go to the race. But for now, I will try not to think too much about life outside these baby blue walls and try to enjoy this strange vacation where I have few responsibilities, but I am not able to truly rest or do much of anything fun.

How are you doing with the Greatest commandment ? Love !

I heard a creative and convicting message on Jonah today while driving , which is when I get to listen to Christian radio. In summary, the prophet Jonah seemed to meet all of the qualifications for an effective missionary and was sent out by God on a mission to save a city that had turned to pagan habits. But Jonah failed miserably in many ways! He didn’t obey God until after first running away, being caught in a storm in a boat, swallowed by a whale and then after 3 days, finally repenting. Then when God decided to forgive the city full of people, Jonah got mad and wanted to die. He also chose to focus on a shady plant that God provided him, instead of the lives of the people who had been spared. In short, he was selfish and stubborn and self-pitying.

The preacher showed how despite his outstanding resume, he was lacking something that did not show up until he was put to the test, love for his fellow man. How could this be? He was a religious person! He knew and quoted scripture! But evidently, he thought God’s ways were not fair and just. He didn’t like that God forgave these sinners. He had no compassion!

How many times have I done the same, chose to judge a person instead of loving them like Christ does, in spite of their sinfulness and possibly very unlikable personality, or physical repulsiveness, and often repeated offenses against God and mankind , or just generally dismissed someone as being beyond God’s help and not even bother to pray for them because I thought they didn’t deserve it? Hopefully I am better about this than I used to be, but the urge can still arise in my flesh to be less than compassionate for people that flaunt their sins or just do self-destructive things over and over and seem to be fine with living in chaos. It can be hard to love and feel empathy with someone whose values are so messed up ! But Jesus did it before he saved us. He forgave us and died for us ‘while we were yet sinners!’ .

Jesus was asked by a sneaky religious person what is the greatest commandment. Jesus recited the usual Jewish response, then added something they weren’t expecting.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Later, the apostle Paul defined love for us.

I Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It’s not easy loving like this! But it should be our major goal since Jesus says it is the most important thing besides loving God! May we resolve this year, above all other resolutions and goals and plans, to really demonstrate love and to be ready to tell why we do it, because we are forgiven sinners and we now serve the Lord Jesus who saved us from judgment, despite our sinfulness.

But how ? This is impossible for those under the control of the flesh. But ALL saved believers are given a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other.

Notice that Paul did not make excuses for sin, but still tells us to love. That must mean that excusing and normalizing sin is NOT how we show LOVE.

Just a little head’s up, if you determine that you want to do better at loving others, you should expect that Satan will make it difficult. Don’t get discouraged. 🙂 Rebuke the Devil and keep on loving!

In Jesus name, I pray that the Lord will strengthen your faith and help you love your neighbor, dear reader. Amen.

Exercising in God’s Gym for Mental Health and Peace

Everywhere I look I see broken people  searching for relief from the mental pain, anxiety and depression brought on by living in this dysfunctional world. Some choose medications, some choose the more natural option of exercise, whether it be yoga, running, weightlifting , team sports, cycling, or other physical activity, As a runner, I get a runner’s ‘high’ when I run long enough and I enjoy it, crave it, and depend on it to stave off physical depression caused by stress and low endorphins. It makes me feel awake, alert, and ready to take on the day.  I also try to eat according to what my body can tolerate, which means no gluten and few other grains, and plenty of protein, including meat. The routine of the exercise program also provides a feeling of control and accomplishment in my otherwise often out of control day.

However, as a Christian, I am aware that this type of feeling good is not something I can count on to last or even always be accessible to me. When I can’t run, I would be lost if I didn’t have something more powerful and more real to sustain  me through tough days, of which there seem to be many since turning 50.

Last night I watched a very positive, uplifting video about some military veterans who work out in the gym with their peers . This was just one of many similar programs that have been started by caring individuals and groups with the goal of improving lives and preventing suicide from PTSD.   I applaud the many volunteers and others who are involved with helping veterans become active and literally saving their lives. I hope these programs continue and grow and more Vets will give them a try.  My only concern , as a Christian, is that I know things can happen and sometimes people get injured and can’t exercise or run or do the things that are keeping them from going over the edge. In that unfortunate situation, they are going to need something else.

That something else is the peace that only comes from knowing Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit of God can comfort and heal in the middle of chaos and trials. Only this great supernatural power from outside ourselves can calm the storms in our minds. I’m not talking about religion or reciting a prayer at age 12 or walking the aisle. I’m talking about really spending time to get to know God through his Word, hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and learning how to turn away from one’s own mental car wreck of thoughts and focus on the promises of God, trusting and relying on the truth that God is with us and loves us and will carry us when we can no longer walk. Nothing else can bring calm like Jesus in a life crisis or mental storm. It takes practice to look up instead of at what is happening in the moment  and only a true believer can depend on it when things are really crazy. A weak or new Christian who has not exercised and developed spiritual muscles will fall into fear, anger, worry and hopelessness as quickly as a non-Christian. It’s a process called sanctification that we must work through with God’s help. We will get opportunities to ‘exercise’ our faith and trust and each time we do, we will be able to do it even easier the next time. Of course, first one must believe that God is real, that Jesus is his son come in the flesh to bring salvation to a lost world, and that unseen things in the spiritual world actually exist and can affect humans. Just as evil forces actually do exist, angels are real. There is no risk in trusting this statement, but there is a huge risk in rejecting the truth. God is worthy of our trust! When things seem bad, instead of thinking that all is lost, remember that God can do anything. He may not fix things right then and there, but he has it under control and in the long run, it will be okay.  You can rest in that knowledge! Even if your physical body dies, your spiritual body will be okay if you are a forgiven, redeemed child of the Most High God. Christians can depend on the promises of the Bible, especially the promise that Jesus is with us until the end of the world and that He is coming back for his people. This earth is not going to last forever. We are not to expect it to be perfect or our lives to be perfect. Only in Christ can we have the peace that passes understanding, because we know we are part of a much better kingdom than this earth.

I hope and pray that the Vets will continue in their physical fitness and mental rehab programs and continue to heal and grow and live happy lives. I also pray that they will seek and know the Lord because he offers greater joy and peace than any gym can ever provide.

Phillipians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Exodus: People moving to states with lower taxes and cost of living

I live in Texas, the destination of millions of people leaving states where they can no longer afford the costs of housing, child care, property taxes, and business costs. According to this article, sixty-six people per day moved into San Antonio from July 2016 to July 2017.  And somewhere around 100-150 a day are moving into Austin according to this article. Other states with low taxes and housing costs and plentiful jobs are seeing the same influx.

People seeking Economic Freedom

Just wondering how long until my birthplace  is ruined or if those other state’s voters will wake up and make necessary changes. Social programs are not meant to be the foundation of a state’s economy. People need jobs. They need power over their own lives and finances. When too many people are dependent on the government for basic necessities, the foundation begins to crack. Signs of problems include long waiting lists for subsidized housing, schools without funding, poor road conditions, idle able-bodied men and teens, overcrowded free clinics and public hospitals, closed down stores and factories, and companies moving business to other states.

Houston traffic congestion bumper to bumper

In Texas we are straining under the burden of the constant flow of new residents. The city and highway traffic is bad and the schools are crowded. There is not enough low-cost housing available in many cities and middle class job availability is shrinking. I have been searching the job listings and I am shocked at how little some of the jobs pay that require a college degree, not enough to pay rent or live on.

I have sympathy for these people, but I also worry about my state. It’s time for Democrat leaders to stop the destruction of their own state’s economies.  Stop catering to the rich and making promises they can’t afford to the poor. Rebuild their manufacturing and industry and create a technology infrastructure. Attract businesses by making it profitable to do business in their state. Conservative policies create jobs!

UPDATE: This popped up in my Facebook feed after I wrote this blog. https://fee.org/articles/new-census-data-show-americans-are-migrating-from-tax-punishing-states/