Apr 30, 2015

Because I Can?

I have donned a new Hat of late. Or maybe just a new element to an existing Hat. My Homeowner Hat has shifted slightly to be a Home-builder Hat as well. My husband and I have found land and are now trying to find financing and a contractor. The combination of excitement and nervousness during this process is overwhelming. We are constantly second-guessing ourselves.

God gave me an aha! moment recently to prepare me for this process. I was reading the verses in Matthew about when Jesus was betrayed, and Peter had cut off the high priest's servant's ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and told him that, if he had wanted to, he could have asked God to send down angels to rescue him. Jesus had the full confidence of success and the ability to do so. But he didn't. As I read these passages, I heard God whisper to my heart, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." Since then, the saying, "because I can," makes me cringe. I love the urban dictionary website's definition of this phrase.
"An absolute and valid verbal justification of any action that is seemingly without a clear goal or purpose..."
When I hear, "because I can," my mind goes to a movie scene where a billionaire is purchasing a Lamborghini for no other reason than because he can. 

I know the phrase doesn't always mean cruel or careless intent. I even found a church online who uses "because I can" as the reason for helping people. Some find the statement motivating. Paul used the words "I can" in Philippians 4:13, which states, "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (NLT; emphasis mine).

The "because" part is what bothers me. Although "I can" has the ability to be an empowering proclamation, if used correctly, it is not a explanation. I don't even tie my shoes simply because I can. I tie them because otherwise they would fall off my feet.
At first, when God gave me this aha! moment, I worried that he was trying to tell us not to buy the land. Now I believe God was preparing my heart against the temptation to build above our budget. By this I mean we might have the capability to stretch our finances to the max and built a 4000 square foot house, but just because we can doesn't mean we should. Not that a huge house is an evil thing, but my husband and I have agreed on something much smaller.

However, there was a moment of consideration, seeing the expectation of certain people around us, when I thought to myself, "Should we? Because...well, we can."

Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Mar 20, 2014

Beauty: What and Why?

Yesterday after church, I put on my Shopper Hat and went to the grocery store. I was still dressed in slacks and a nice sweater. My hair was done and my face was well covered in makeup. Yet, despite looking my "Sunday best," a lady approached  me in the fruit/veggie section to give me a advertisement for her business, which involves botanical wraps of some sort that magically--err...naturally--reduce cellulite and surface fat. When she'd walked away, I asked the air, "Do you look like I need this?"

My prompt book is starting to be a staple for this blog. I found the following question intriguing: Would you rather be less attractive and extremely intelligent or extremely attractive and less intelligent? This, plus my Sunday afternoon encounter, motivated me to put on my Research (Google) Hat and search for how the definition of beauty has changed.

For one thing, being voluptuous used to be an attractive quality. Nowadays, a mere inch of excess fat is forbidden. Makeup, which was once a product exclusively for prostitutes and showgirls, is now a daily obligation. Nothing less than perfection is acceptable. Models that have obtained this "perfection" are a tiny percentage of the female population, yet we see them EVERYWHERE. Oh, and if their flaws are showing, there's always Photoshop.

I've often said that I'd like to hurt the person who decided women should have to shave. Apparently I need to injure the whole razor industry. The razor manufacturers pushed the idea through ads beginning in 1915 (armpits first, then legs later) until women were sufficiently brainwashed. Now it's practically a rite of passage. What exactly is wrong with hair? The stuff grows for a reason!

I'm such a hypocrite. Even as I write these words, I plan to shave during today's shower.

Paleness used to be a sign of the elite. The rich stayed inside while the working class baked in the sun. Soon enough, the roles were reversed. The wealthy could sit out and enjoy the sun while the poor were stuck inside factories and the like. With all the warnings of skin cancer, you'd think paleness would be popular again. But no, we now have chemicals that temporarily change our skin tone. I've tried them...and I prefer white over orange.

Here's a question with no easy answer: What's the point of beauty? Being beautiful is useful in gaining a husband. God used Esther's beauty to put her in the right place at the right time to save her people. To a point, beauty is used to gain employment. A good first impression can go far. There's value in professionalism (which includes clean clothes, tamed hair, and often times makeup). A certain amount of personal care is expected in the workplace.

But why should I attempt to retain my beauty? According to Proverbs 31:30, it won't last anyway. I'm married, and I work at home, so can I just let myself go? I mean, unless an event calls for a little dolling up, why should I bother? I know I still need to be healthy. Therefore exercising is still a must. Likewise, I can't go crazy with junk food. This prompt question challenged me to look deep within and ask myself, "How enslaved to society's opinion and my own insecurities have I allowed myself to become?"

So, would I rather have extreme beauty or intelligence? My answer is no to both. Either usually leads to a over-sized ego, and some of the smartest people are the dumbest. Average is best, I think, so I'll stay the way I am. I might, however, consider wearing makeup less often as a way to fight against my insecurities. What do you think? Which would you choose? Let me know by commenting below.

Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Mar 6, 2014

Who Would You Be For a Day?

My mom and I didn’t agree on a lot where entertainment was concerned. In fact, I missed out on some amazing movies due to my determined mindset to not like anything mom seemed obsessed with. However, mom and I did mutually agree on a few shows and films. One of them was Freaky Friday.

To me, remakes are comparable to leftovers; they taste fine but aren’t as good as the original meal. So when I refer to Freaky Friday, I mean the one starring Barbara Harris and young Jodie Foster, not Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. For those who haven’t seen either movie, the premise is that a mother and daughter switch places mentally for a day. The mom’s mind is in the daughter’s body and vice versa.

If you are a devoted reader of this blog, you’ll know that I haven’t written in over two weeks, which is a definite blogger no-no. For whatever reason—perhaps responsibilities, the weather, lack of energy, or depression—my passion for the written word has diminished to mere embers. Having no wind to fan the flame, I looked at a book of writing prompts for an idea. The one I picked was, “If you had to be someone else for 24 hours, who would you choose and why? What would you do?” In other words, whose hat rack would I rather have for a day?

First I went to historical times. How I’d love to be Jesus’s mother for a day! Especially when he was young. What would I do all day? I’d cuddle with my divine toddler, that’s what I’d do. Being any follower of Christ during his ministry would be unbelievable. I’d sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from the savior himself.

Finally I thought about my current family and friends. Would I choose to be a mother of eight and see if I could survive the day? Might I slip into the body of a pregnant friend to experience the miracle of a life forming inside my womb? Would I live in another country for the day? Of course, I also played with the idea of being my favorite singers and movie stars.  

As I thought and thought about all the possibilities, I realized how content I was with my life. No other hats seem quite as appealing as mine. As exciting as experiencing other people’s blessings would be, I’d also have to endure their burdens. I heard a spin on the grass-is-always-greener quote the other day. It said something like, “The grass is greener on the other side because it's fertilized with manure.” I wish I could remember the phrase exactly and who said it. Anyway, the message stuck. There are things I would like to change in my life, but I wouldn’t trade my life even with my best friend. I’m truly content.

 Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Feb 13, 2014

Love: Eros or Agape?

Tis the season for chocolates, flowers and cards. Oh, how the florists are busy this weekend! And whoever replaced diamonds with chocolate as far as woman’s best friend is concerned is probably swimming in the profits. Me and Valentine's Day have a love/hate relationship. On one hand, my Wife hat enjoys the annual supply of flowers and chocolate. On the other, the holiday exalts a lesser type of love.

Here’s a little historical insight. Valentine’s Day originally honored the highest form of love found in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." The feast was about a Christian martyr who died on February 14, and no more. It wasn’t romantic until the middle ages.

Today, Valentine's Day doesn't emphasize the love truly worth celebrating: agape. The definition for agape is not found in the dictionary but in 1 Corinthians.  
If English was a more sensible language, we’d have multiple words like the Greeks to describe the diverse types of loves out there instead of clumping them all into L-O-V-E. I love my dog, my daughter and my husband, but all in completely different ways. The beauty of agape love (a.k.a God) is that it’s appropriate for everyone. Eros, however, is not. The World is very confused on this issue.The phrase, “You can’t help who you love” is only true with eros. You can’t help who you’re attracted to and emotionally drawn to. That being said, you can choose whom to have a relationship with.

Young ladies everywhere, don't confuse the two types of love. Boys will use eros to convince you to go too far physically, but they don't necessarily love you with agape. Reverse that statement as a warning to young men as well. Some may actually mean agape, but the only way to know for sure is to wait for that ring and ceremony. Until then, he or she has made no commitment, so why give away what can only be given to one?

You may think I'm really knocking romantic love. No way! I'm a sucker for romance. But unconditional, sacrificial love is where it's at. This weekend I plan to watch a chick flick, and I know without a doubt if Jon watches the movie with me, agape love is involved, not eros.

 Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Jan 29, 2014

Unleashed Tongue

I love my dog. Okay, sometimes I don't. She's kind of a big, untrained nuisance. Taking her on walks is impossible without her choke collar. Without accountability around her neck, she would take off, dragging me across grass and concrete alike. I've tried to train her, but she's just a big, overgrown puppy. Forever young...and annoying. Still, how can you not love this face?

My dog reminds me of my tongue. When I wear my Wife hat, I feel like I'm the lead in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, but in my case, the production is called, Taming of the Tongue. James 3:8 says no human can tame the tongue, and oh, do I agree! The day I found out my husband's love language was words of affirmation, I knew I was in for a life-long lesson. While growing up, I saw words used as weapons. My father had a terrible tongue. Yes, he cussed like a sailor, but it was more than that. He knew exactly what words to say to cut the spirit. Fortunately, he had only wonderful, uplifting words for me. But monkey see, monkey do, right? I learned quickly how to use my tongue to harm instead of heal.

Now, almost ten years into my marriage, I'm still making gigantic messes. Just a couple days ago, I dropped an atomic bomb of nasty words on my hubby's head. I tore him down when my job is to build him up. For whatever reason, I have more difficulty biting my tongue when with the people I love most than anyone else.

Silence is often key. Proverbs 10:19, 11:12, 17:28 all say that holding our tongue is a wise move. Psalm often compares our tongue to that of a sword. Thank God His word is a sharper sword that can cut out our rotten parts, including our tongues. I bumped into a verse that really hit home for me. Psalm 4:4 says, "Don't sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent" (NLT, emphasis mine). 

I'm sure you've all heard this analogy some time during your upbringing, whether in church, home or school, but the illustration is so true, I can't resist using it. Words are like toothpaste.
Once squeezed out, there's no squeezing them back in.

To end, I choose lyrics from an ageless children's song:
"Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down with love, so be careful little mouth what you say."

Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Jan 14, 2014

People Need People

            Most, if not all, my hats require people. How can I wear my Wife hat without my husband or my Mom hat without my daughter? I can’t. And how useless would my writing be without any readers? People need people.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

God’s perfect design involves people needing people. Eve was created for Adam because God knew man shouldn’t be alone. The extent of people needing others varies greatly. Introverts recharge their batteries by themselves while extroverts energize with a crowd. I’m not saying people don’t also need time alone. Even Jesus needed time alone.
            During American Lit in college, I had to read a book about a hermit entitled Walden. The most exciting part of the plot was the observation of ants. Ants!  Needless to say, I had a hard time reading through the book without falling asleep. I asked myself many times why anyone would find pleasure in complete solitude. I mean, we use isolation as a way to punish our worst criminals. Granted, being alone with nature is nothing like being alone in a cell.
The idea of safety in numbers has been drilled into my head since elementary school. During field trips, we would always pair up to help keep our group together and protected (or corralled—whatever your perspective). When I was in the Dominican Republic for a mission trip, we were told never to go anywhere by ourselves when not at the home base. All these examples reaffirm what the Bible already tells us in Essclesiates 4:12, which states, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

The last part’s my favorite; so much for the saying, “three’s a crowd.”

            So, if people in general need other people, how much more do Christians need each other? I believe the verses in Ecclesiastes can apply to spiritual falling and attacks as well as physical ones. Paul encouraged his readers to “not neglect our meeting together, as some people do… (Hebrews 10: 25)” God has a purpose for all of us, and part of our purpose is being a useful part of the body of Christ. Don’t see the value in such a “religious setting”?  Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
            I understand that some of you may have been burned or abused by a church. All I can say to that is I’m sorry. Unfortunately not every church out there is healthy. Some are sick, just like people. And I can honestly say that every church is filled with hypocrites. The body of Christ is built with humans, and humans (expect for Christ himself) are imperfect. I’m sure your family isn’t filled with perfect people, so why expect a church to be? After all, that’s what other believers are: FAMILY.

Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)

Jan 2, 2014

One Step at a Time

Often, as I enter a new year, I feel the weight of every resolution I make. I’ve tried calling them “goals” to make them seem less burdensome, but in the end, I feel like a piano is hanging over my head ready to drop as soon as I fail. Following through with resolutions is difficult for me. I start out strong but then putter out about 2 weeks later. In the end, the piano (a.k.a. guilt) flattens me like a pancake. 

In theory, to form a good plan, you need to set small goals on your way to the big goal like a step ladder. I’ve known this for all long time, but the concept didn’t fully sink in until I read Kayla one of her stories. Although my daughter didn’t understand anything beyond the illustrations, I had a powerful “ah-ha!” moment.

In Ben’s Big Picture, Ben wants to make a work of art for his grade school’s wall. Unfortunately he knows he is lazy at times and is afraid the principal won’t choose him due to this flaw. He is determined to become more “reliable and organized.” I related to this fictional boy immediately being a procrastinator myself.

Ben must also execute a plan for his art project to be done in a month. He sits down with a blank monthly calendar, but no ideas come, and he just doodles in the first day’s square. Soon he realizes that the drawing he made in day one could be part of a bigger picture. He draws on the entire calendar until every day is covered. Then he sees that if he divided the work and painted each day’s portion on the correlating day, he’d have the project completed in exactly one month. I thought, “I should do that!” Here I’m reading to my toddler, and God is using a children’s book to reach me. Wow.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “Finishing is better than starting…” There is no point to my jotting down a first chapter without eventually having a last one. No agent will pick up unfinished work. The summer I worked at Wal-Mart, I ran with a few coworkers every week. Running long distance is not my forte, but one guy advised me to make tiny goals. I’d see a mailbox a couple yards away and set my sights on it. Then, once I passed the mailbox, I’d find another marker to focus on. Before I knew it, I had run the whole way without stopping.

Keep this in mind as you seek to accomplish this year’s resolutions. The big picture may seem overwhelming, but little steps are far more manageable.  Pray for me. With most of my hats having a least one goal each, I will need to do a lot of high-quality planning.

Hats off to you, my friend. I will write again, but until then...
hang on to your hat! ;-)