Category Archives: Daily Happenings

What Box do you belong in?

 

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“Are you Catholic?” The straightforward question from the stranger in the row behind me at church caught me off guard, but I smiled as I turned to answer him. “You have a lace thing on your head and Catholics wear them.”

I struggled to know how to answer him as I knew that he was simply trying to figure out why I obviously did not belong where I was. His question formatted in a different way than many others before one, was one that I have faced pretty much all my life. Yes, it is one I expect will happen. Generally the odd comments come from children who have not learned social skills yet or the people that simply state what they have on their mind. I used to want to answer sarcastically, or could come up with something very pious.

In their mind, there is something here that does not belong. I am in a Baptist church. I don’t fit in. As I generally sit alone in a pew, engaged in my thoughts, I thought about what I could have answered, than how I did.

The truth is, I have never fit into any box that people have tried to put me in. Thankfully, I hope I never do.

I grew up among Mennonites, and loved it, but as an imaginative tomboy of a girl, I didn’t quite meet the standards given to me. I read too much fiction, made up stories, loved playing alone, and my dresses were not always neat or tidy, and my hair even less so.

Among other groups, I tried to do what I could, polite, kind, but things didn’t always make sense in my mind as far as belief systems.

I had to ask myself, “Who am I?” and “Why am I doing things to meet others standards instead of living how I believe is right?”

I am a conundrum to many people, including the man in the pew behind me today. He may have walked away today thinking he found the answer, thinking I was a Mennonite girl that somehow was there on accident. But in reality, in his eagerness to place me in a box, he missed out. He didn’t learn anything about me or who I am as a person.

Many people do that with others we meet. We place them in a box, and put a label on it. We struggle to allow them outside of that box. We see mistakes they make, the way they dress, the words they say, and we assume they are something associated with that.

What if we forgot the boxes and labels we place on people, and get to know them without trying to place them in a box, I think we would discover a whole new way of living.

I totally get wanting to be with people of similar lifestyles, belief systems and culture. But for me, when I get outside of that, I learn so much more.

I don’t want to be stuck in the box that someone puts me in. I don’t want to place people around me in boxes.

Sometimes we place ourselves in a box as well, close the lid up and wait to be discovered. We are angry when others don’t open it to find out who we are, and instead read the label we wrote in fury on the side. Sometimes the angry letters scare people off from opening up the box and discovering the real you. Then there are other boxes that place themselves high on a shelf, refusing to allow themselves to be opened. Fear stops them, or belief that we are of no value to others or fear of being contaminated by others.

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Whatever box we are in, whether someone put us there or we did it to ourselves, let us open up the boxes of our hearts and allow other in.

Let’s not try to define someone by what their appearance gives us, but instead learn to know what is behind that exterior, words and the public persona.

No, I am not any of the labels that people love to place on me. In fact, most of the people that really know me are surprised when they dig into what is beneath the exterior.

The curious gentleman and his companion walked away today thinking they had me figured out. In truth, they tried to put me in a box, and one where I didn’t belong.

Thankfully, I am really good at jumping out of boxes, and making something else out of them.

I would encourage you, the next person you see that you think from their exterior, you got them all figured out, stop yourself. Ask yourself what you can learn from not putting them in a box, instead of assuming you know everything they are experiencing.

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The Passion of Life

What is your passion?

I was asked this question yesterday. I almost didn’t hesitate in my response, as I answered what I love to do.

However, as I thought about it more in the quiet moments of my work hours, I realized I had not answered correctly.

What am I passionate about?

My life has been filled with many wonderful things. It has also been filled with many moments of pain.  In both of those times, I have found that my passions became small and at times, I could not even articulate what I enjoyed, let alone had any type of passion. That sounds really bad. It does, because it was really bad. I will spare you the details.

So, what did I discover was my passion?

I have many things that I enjoy. I love literature. I love reading. I enjoy writing. I thrive on visiting bookstores, discussing books and living through the experiences of others to educate and learn.

So while I said that my passion is reading and writing, I realized that in truth it more about the passion of learning and helping others not only desire to learn, but to enjoy experiencing the process. This extends far beyond just fiction, which is a big love of mine. It extends to childbirth, to education, and the reason I write on Quora. 

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It is why I love volunteering my time when I don’t have extra time to give.  It is why I seek to offer service in many ways on a weekly basis for education and building the community.

It is why I am there for my kids even when it is hard to get everything done.

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I believe that if I want to complain about the abuses in life, I need to do something about it, to change it on the most basic levels. It means starting with the small people that get overlooked in every aspect of my life.

It also means I get a bit worn out at times. Sometimes you feel like a superhero, but most of the time, you feel like the gum stuck on someone’s shoe. You might have been good at one time, but now you are nothing more than something to be scraped into the garbage.

So, how can you combine your passion with your work? How can you prevent yourself from being swallowed up by your passion until you are too tired to follow it anymore?

For me, I am finding that step by step, setting some good guidelines for yourself to follow is so important. If there are not guidelines in life, we fail.

-Make a plan

-Don’t try to be the savior for everyone, let others help out as well

-Watch out for the “White knight syndrome”.

-Realize that it is okay to fail sometimes

-Follow your passions, but make sure you don’t let them drive you. Always realize it is okay to make a U-Turn.

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Homeschool Enrichment Classes

For the past few weeks, I have been very busy. My life has taken some major turns and twists, but I am keeping it full.

One of my life challenges was to teach enrichment classes to other homeschoolers! It has been a fun challenge and I have really enjoyed it.

 

In the middle of the first class day, my aunt dropped off boxes of books for me to sell. I have sold a few boxes, but still have several to get out of my living room.

Below, we learned the Chemistry of fat by demonstrating it with making butter cookies, as well as the importance of following a recipe carefully. Messing up the order your ingredients are mixed can change the chemical makeup of your dough. We are loving using Guest Hollow’s Kitchen Chemistry.

 

I am also teaching an American history through fiction class. Last week, we had skits acting out some of what we had learned.

I am also teaching an outdoor PE class with yard games to a large group of children. That gets rather exciting and I get a little exercise too. I am thankful to have some helpers.

We started out with some stretches to warm up and end usually with Duck, duck goose as everyone is a bit tired!

We have read Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow already and will be moving on to “Sarah’s Land” by Ann Rinaldi in the next section. I am working to come up with fun, hands on activities that really cement American history into their minds during the hour I have. Last week, besides the skit, we examined documents from the time period and tried to relate to the authors of them.

In all the changes that take place, it is always good to know that perhaps you can share your talent!

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The Truly Important things of life…

What is truly important to you?

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Is it your job, your house, your kids, your family?

What do you hold in highest regard?

I do a lot of observing of other people. I see families that are close to one another, but seek to portray absolute perfection to others. I see other families that show their flaws, are open about their shortcomings, and don’t let it stop them from seeking to be better. I see those that spend time with others as well.

This last month my grandmother was ill, and passed away in the middle of the month. The funeral was last weekend. I spent several hours sitting by her bedside. I was reading or just observing, sometimes visiting with other family which she said made her happy. It took more emotional strain to know that she may not have long with us, but in the end,  the time was worth giving up. I left my meetings, my garden, my children, all things that were important to me to spend time.

We live in a time of culture where spending time is anomaly. We push achievements. If someone fails, we badmouth them or avoid them. We don’t seek for change and success.

Instead I see people focused on the latest fad or diet. Everyone has kids, little ones that are not eating normal diets. In fact, if someone does not have a million food restrictions they are the unusual ones. It is totally a first world issue, and most of the time science is not being used in these many food restrictions. But it does appear to help some people. But again, I noticed that this can limit the time those people spend with others. Their time is spent cooking, avoiding others that eat foods that they cannot eat, and working hard to just focus on what they can eat. The social isolation of people, down to young children is tremendous right now. Or if you eat normally, you feel odd that you can eat a slice of bread and cheese.

If you are someone that has to restrict your food choices, make a conscious effort to not isolate yourselves. Work to have an alternative food so that you can join in social activities occasionally. If you are introverted by nature, it can be easier to just isolate.

I realized though, the gift that others bring into our lives is something we should cherish. We may not realize how little time we have left with them. A 23 year old young woman died this last week, and another person lost their 28 year old cousin. While my grandmother lived a long full life, it still did not seem long enough.

You never know when you will lose someone. If you can spend time, do it. It may mean picking berries alongside them or unpacking boxes for a friend. It doesn’t always have to involve talking. =)

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Who can you connect with this week?

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What is Enough?

Are you enough? 

What is enough? 

Today, all over I saw people saying, speaking and sharing the idea that because one person was focusing on one wrong, it meant that they were neglecting other wrongs that needed to be addressed.

It made me ask.  What is enough? What truly means we are doing enough?

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There are times it seems we look into the wide expanse of the universe and the enormity of it is overwhelming. It seems that as far as the eye can see there is something that needs to change, someone that needs support and some item that there is never enough of.

Are we enough?

Can we change lives from our small corner of the universe?

I like to think we can.

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It might mean that while we cannot impact everyone, we may take one small smiling face and impact them to make change later.

It might mean having tea with a friend when they are having a bad day, to impact our corner, so they have strength to do their daily tasks, raise their children whom are growing up to impact their corner of the world.

It also may mean for you, that you are involved in politics. You may be a foster parent. You may adopt. You may support those in abusive situations. You may go to court rooms with those that need support. You may be a counselor that lends a listening ear.

You may write books, articles or report on news in the media.

Whatever you are doing, don’t ask yourself if you are enough. Ask yourself what you are doing to impact your corner of the world.

When you see the answer, ask if you can do more. If the answer is no, realize you are enough. Do we need to push ourselves a bit more? We are still enough if we are listening to that inner call.

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Let us stop telling everyone that they are not enough when they seek to impact their corner. We can all grow, change and work to be more impactful individuals. But in the end, the way we act towards others often is the greatest impact we can share.

Instead, let us seek to encourage them in their impactful journey each step of the way!

When they seek to go in one direction and you are following another, know that this is how those with different visions make up the universe and give us each our uniqueness.

We are enough. We can have an impact from the smallest corner to the broadest audience.

 

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The Slow and Simple Life…

Is it reality?

Can it be achieved?

From my perspective, it seems like a dim reality. But as with so many other things in my life that I have sought after, I know that often we choose to accept the reality we have, rather than seek to change it. We see it as something we are trapped in, rather than looking for ways to find freedom.

As I am filling up the empty calendar days, this feeling in the pit of my stomach begins to rise. You know the one? That sinking feeling of, “How on earth am I going to do this and not lose my mind.” feeling.

I was watching an old movie about  Francis of Assisi and was struck by his desire for simplicity. He had everything. Riches, power, women, and everything. AS the movie aptly puts it, “Power, riches, women, even God. He just sauntered out of his house one fine morning and plucked God out of the air as easy as catching a butterfly. It is all too simple.”

His friend was jealous of his peace, the ability to forsake every standard that was set by society and live a slow, peaceful life, serving others. While much of the movie is fiction, I am sure, it teaches me something.

It may have seemed impossible for Francis to escape his duties to his country, his father, the church, and go against what the normal standard was. He forsook marriage, took to living as a beggar or what we would consider “homeless”. That is not what I want, but the peace is something I envy.

I live pretty simply. We eat simply.  We don’t drive fancy cars. We don’t accumulate debt. We serve others. But in all of that, comes a lot of responsibility and workload.

I would say, ask of yourself questions when determining where something falls on the priority scale.

  • Am I putting my service to others above my own responsibilities?
  • Are good things causing me stress?
  • What is on the top priority list where it is a need for survival?
  • What relationships are causing more anxiety than peace?

When we ask these questions, some of them may be hard to answer. They are not the same for everyone. We may need to cut back on good things. We may have to limit interactions with some people that we truly care about for a time.

But there is also a time when we need to ask other questions as well.

  • Am I limiting myself from being hurt because I don’t want to deal with it?
  • Am I caring for myself in a way that I can be of service to others?
  • Would it be easier to set healthy boundaries if I maintained them?
  • What things do I need to move off the top priority list because they never belonged there?

These questions are not always easy to answer as well as they constitute change we have to make. Change is not always comfortable. We may wish to protect ourselves from pain, when sometimes serving others is on the top priority list and it might cause pain. Perhaps we need to cut out sugar, so we have more energy, or allow ourselves to eat frozen pizza once in awhile so we don’t have the stress of cooking all the time to perfection.

The answers are not the same for everyone, but realizing that simple and slow might vary for you, but it can be obtainable in your own way.

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Value. Worth. Inspiration.

What do those words mean to you?

“I am valued.”

“I am worth something.”

“I inspire others.”

While they may sound like a bunch of self help statements that you are supposed to tell yourself, what if you actually started to look at how you could tell others those messages?

Today I had the experience of being beat up by words. I have many thankless jobs that I don’t get paid for. I have a few that I get paid for, that also are quite thankless, but in the end, I am the person behind the scenes that most people don’t see. I am blessed with people that are grateful and do thank me, even when they don’t have to.

Today was not one of those days. In fact, I felt rather like giving up. I wanted to take a break from life. It doesn’t really work like that though. Life is generally not something you can just “take a little break from” as it is all there to catch you when you come back.

My sink was piled with dishes. There was food that needed to be cooked. The yard was overgrown, breeding mosquitoes and mail was piling up. I am scheduling work at different rentals and there are three of us sharing one car. My husband prefers that we do not use his car, so it makes life a bit challenging and we have to get creative. Yesterday, I walked 5 miles to get my errands done. It was nice, but my feet sure hurt when I was done.

When you sit down, you think, “I can do this. I am doing this for others. I am of value to others. I can inspire them. I can make their life better because I am here.”

Sometimes though, that is not enough. There are times when I have to want to live life because of not what I can give to someone else, but because I have determined to stay alive. A friend challenged us this last month about making a life pact with ourselves. This life pact was the fact that we would stay alive without harming ourselves.

“I would never kill myself.” you might say. “Sure, I might think about it, how nice it would to not have to face tomorrow. But I wouldn’t act on it.”

How many times have you not taken care of yourself though? Unhealthy eating patterns?

It is easy when those hard days hit and you realize that not only are you not making a difference, you are kind of messing with everyone’s lives too. You start to think that maybe this is not worth it. That is one of the reasons you have to live, because you believe in yourself, as cheesy as that sounds. You were created with purpose, to live, to serve, not just for others, but as an individual.

I get in trouble a lot for reminding others that we should think about what we say. Words have value. I was crushed by the actions of others recently towards other people. They may have felt they had a right to do and say what they did, but indeed, it changed the way I think of them. When we claim to have a relationship with God, then treat our fellow human beings with contempt using pious words to make it sound good, well, it is like a sounding brass and a clinging cymbal. It means nothing.

So, two messages… think about why we are living and the whole picture. See value in yourself, not just what others need you for, but who you actually are. Secondly, love others, not just how you think  they should be loved because you dislike what they are doing, but actually seek love for them. It might look different than you think it does.

 

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Helpful vs. Not Helpful

You know, we all have those days. You know the ones when everything irritates you.

I think of Michel on Gilmore girls saying, “People are particularly stupid today; I can’t talk to any more of them”

Those kind of days, when you just can’t even think of a way to reply, I found, that it is so important to take a deep breath and really try to listen.

Sometimes people are ignorant, but how often have you ever heard someone say, “I was really ignorant about such and such, but then some stranger on the internet or moderate acquaintance  reamed for it and I completely changed my ways.”

I bet you haven’t. Yeah, I haven’t either.

 

It made me think though, how often do we see something and want to reply sarcastically, when truly on the other side of the keyboard, there is a person in need?

Yes, they might be asking for something that is hard to find, maybe impossible.  Or perhaps it could be a post discussing  their latest read, the carseat they chose for their child, what mode of education their child is enjoying or perhaps the kind of car they drive. No matter the topic, there is always someone that will have something to say to the negative if they listen to the temptation to criticize.

A friend was looking for child care recently. He is not paying a high wage, but a decent one, and based off state standards, above normal rates. In looking for child care, someone decided to take the time to make sure he knew how stupid it was to even think that someone would be willing to work for that amount of money in taking care of his child. Since they were replying to me, instead I got to hear it.  It stung a little. Why? The person had not a shred of kindness in her replies. It was not said to be helpful, but to mock, cut down and make you feel like an idiot. You know what? Maybe my friend was needing to change the approach. However, there could have been ten dozen ways to tell me that, that could have been helpful, and the way this woman went about it was not one of them.

Another family was looking for housing and it is hard to find in the area. There are a million and one ways to reply to an inquiry, but I always hope that in the end, someone inquiring of me, even if I cannot help them, goes away feeling like maybe there is a little hope and human kindness out there.

It is hard in a world of digital words, to remember the people behind the keyboard. We tend to encourage others, “Oh, step away from the screens. Get out into the “real world” The meanness is all on the social media sites.”  You know, while that may be true, it is even worse when you hear it from the lips of a human standing before you and it is plentiful out there.

Both online and in person, let us seek to be more helpful, and not cut others with our words. They might not have asked a question you thought was very smart, or ignorance might be bubbling from their ears. In the end,  look into their eyes, think of the person behind the screen, find a kinder way to say what you need to say. Or if you can’t, skip it. There is often no use in saying anything if you can’t say something nice.

 

 

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The Rules of Communication

“No More Quiet”

A bumper sticker that our local library gives out, loudly proclaimed the message of change, but the carefully penned words underneath gave voice to the way some of the users felt about it.

“Talking is okay. But no cell phones.”

Who makes the rules?

It seems everywhere I look, read, turn, I hear a rule about what you should say, shouldn’t say, how you should visit, how you should talk, and so on. I was struck by the above statement as when I was a young mom, sometimes the only quiet time I got was at the library.

I would take my children and they were occupied by the activities, the computer, new books, and toys and I got a moment to sit and read for a minute. The way the library is set up now, it is conducive to visiting, children playing, reading, learning and all that combined.

As I read the message about cell phones, I have noticed that people have a lot of anger about what they believe to be out of place or wrong. I encouraged someone recently, whose life was jam packed with impossible expectations, to take 5 minutes in the car and call someone. She needed it to regain some focus. But when you were the car passing her in the turn lane, and saw she was on her phone, anger could strike you. “Why is she on her phone? She didn’t speed through that light with the speed that I think she should have. I am now 10 seconds later than I would have been otherwise.”

No, we don’t really say all that, but we might think it. What if we instead looked at the young mother on the phone in the library, while her kids playing and realized that might be the first minute she had to talk to her mom all week. Maybe we can see the person in the car and realize that this is the first time her grandmother had heard her voice in several months. It could be that it was a phone call from the doctors office, letting her know that her tests had come back with questionable results.  Perhaps that student you called out in public, was answering a phone call from her mother that she had to take or checking the text to see that her grandma died.

Cell phones, social media, computers, technology are all a part of our lives now. When we react to others that use them with anger and frustration, we become part of the problem. We set rules that are impossible to follow.

I would ask. Do you think before you react?  Do we stop to listen to the conversation to see what it is about? It may not sound important to you, but who are you to say that you are more important than the phone call?

I recently had a text letting me know of a death from someone I knew. I was in a public place, in a bible study. I knew I had to answer it. I could not ignore it, yet it would be rude to withdraw from the group. It took me 10 seconds to send condolences and comfort. I did not explain to the group, but it is hard to not wonder if someone wonders why.

My job ends up putting me in the path where I am a bit tied to my phone and social media. I hate it sometimes. But I have learned to have mercy on those on the phone in their cars, in public places and lend a little love when they are distracted.

So, as I seek to find grace, I also seek to not make more rules of communication for others.

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The visible invisible person…

What am I talking about?

I know, it sounds crazy. A person that is completely visible, yet invisible at the same time.

Who is the person that you first think of when you need help?

Who do you turn to when you know that something has to be done?

When information is needed or things need to be gathered, there is always that person you think of.

What about when you have something personal to celebrate in your life.

Are they that person you think of? You know you can count on them for everyday needs, but when you celebrate, are they the one you invite or do you find they are not the one you usually think of?

Invisibility is a gift at times. It can be a relief for someone that get overwhelmed by too much social interaction. But at times, it is hard when you are the person everyone needs, but no one wants.

How can we change this? How can help those that are visible in our daily life, less invisible in our social life?

It is possible to be visible to all, yet lonely and invisible in so many other ways.

I was thinking about connection one day, trying to bring up ways to connect with others, who to befriend. I realized that often connection requires giving of yourself. It requires the invisible person to become more visible. Vulnerable. It is hard on both ends to connect. For those on the outside, they may think, “Oh, that person is so busy. They may not want to come to my birthday party, baby shower, tea or get together. I won’t put that on them.”  The visible/invisible may think, “I am glad I was not invited, as it would be another thing on my list, and besides, I would likely not be someone that would add to the day anyhow.”

I think there has to be a balance from both sides. The visible/invisible has to allow themselves to move past the surface at times. I don’t just mean fun mom stories, or stories of messes your children made. I mean sometimes opening up and addressing the depth of the life you try to keep inside at times. Of course, that has to be done in a safe way, but opening up even a little can be scary.

Think of someone in your life, that you may not know that well that opened up a bit to you. Then think of them and how have you been able to be a friend to them?

I don’t mean a FB friend. I have many FB friends, that honestly barely know what my real life looks. But I am thankful for them, it just looks different than friendship. This doesn’t mean you need to have 567 friends. It is impossible to connect on a deep level with anyone that much. But maybe choose a few people and step out of your comfort zone a little with them. It might mean getting together for coffee, doing an activity you both enjoy together, or listening when they have had a hard day.

Think of that person you know you can turn to when times are hard for info or help. Do you know what they are going through right now? Maybe it might be time for you to take the time to listen and be there for them.  What is funny, is sometimes that is how we find the best friends, when we turn around and be a friend to them.

What is one thing you can do this week to be a friend to someone?

Please leave me a comment if you think of someone when you read this post, that is visible, yet invisible. You know them, but don’t really know them. Let me know how you are going to reach out this week and let them know they are visible to you.

 

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