Making Proverbs 13 Your Mantra

This weekend at church, the most adorable little girl stood on the seat in front of me. She was wearing a beautiful silver dress and had a pair of velvet Mickey Mouse ears perched on top of her head. Her headband reminded me of the year that Bill and I took our daughters to Disney World on the Fourth of July. It was crowded and stressful and I told myself that we would never do that again.

No one wants to be so busy during the holidays that they have no time to enjoy them, yet so many of us pack our pre-Christmas days with an overwhelming number of To Dos. This year I resolved to not to fall into this trap, largely out of necessity. On the day before Thanksgiving, I had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur and repair a tear in the labrum of my left hip.  Several people who have seen me hobbling around on crutches have commented on how awful it must feel to not be able to walk over the holidays but I don’t see it that way because knowing that I would spend all of December on crutches motivated me to get ready for Christmas early.

Proverbs 13:4 teaches us that the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied, but sometimes God works through circumstances to drive home the lesson. With presents wrapped, cards ordered, and decorations up before December 1st, I had none of those distractions to keep me from serving and spending time with friends and family.

Diligence is the earnest and persistent application to an undertaking, not a frenzied  race to December 25th, so let’s make Proverbs 13 our mantra for 2013 and lean on God’s promises every day.

Proving People Wrong

While looking through the selection of DVDs available at my local library, I came across the title Flight Plan and considered checking it out for my daughters.  I love introducing Katie and Hollie to movies, especially films that I have seen several times.

I believe that the mind cannot resist answering a question;  so when I asked myself why I was drawn to a plot about a grieving widow and her missing daughter, I put on what Hollie calls my “thinking face” and waited for the answer. It came when I realized that I watched this 98-minute movie again and again for the one minute when the main character showed everyone on the plane that she was right and they were wrong.

Proving people wrong sounds like a bad thing, especially after coming off a summer where I often felt misunderstood and always made the situation worse by trying to explain myself. What was it about Jodie’s character that allowed her to look like the victor, instead of a villain?

This question motivated me to compare the movie to my own situations. When I did, I found that one key difference emerged: Not once did she say “I told you so” to anyone.

Proving people wrong is a good thing: Gloating is not. Maybe that’s why Proverbs 10:19 tells us that when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

I want to be wise. To let my actions do the talking and let go of the need to explain myself to everyone. Jodie’s character held her tongue as she walked by her fellow passengers in the final scene of the movie and I have to think that my summer would have been a lot less stressful if I had resolved to do the same. The only thing worse than a sore loser is a smug winner. And in the pursuit of justice, it’s the telling—not the proving—that is wrong.

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Road Maps

At the end of our driveway stands a new mailbox. Its presence marks the end of a long road of frustration that began when the mail carrier drove up to our old one and opened the lid with such force that a hinge broke, causing it to fall to the pavement below.

When repeated attempts to fix the hinge failed, Bill wired the top of the lid to the box to keep it from flopping open every time the carrier forgot to treat it with care.

I read once that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. What I didn’t catch was: When? When does the pain of ‘what is’ become enough to motivate us to work toward what can be? For me, the moment came when I tried to squeeze an armload of letters out of a half-open mailbox and imagined how hard it must have been for the postal worker to slide them in there.

I’ve met a lot of people who refused to start a project until they knew exactly how it would end. The problem with this approach is that God never gives us a complete road map. Instead, He wants us to step out in faith and trust that the journey will eventually lead to the finish line.

My first step was to call a customer service representative from Frontgate, because I had seen a mailbox that looked like ours in their catalog. The person I spoke to gave me the name of the manufacturer and, after confirming that ours was made by the same company, I called them about replacing the lid. To my delight, the one that our builder purchased came with a lifetime warranty.

A few weeks later, the broken lid was a distant memory and it wasn’t just our mail carrier who noticed.

“I need to fix mine too,” a neighbor said when he saw Bill replacing ours.

After seeing the bad condition that his was in and comparing it to the flawless appearance of ours, it occurred to me that people, like mailboxes, stand side by side. Some looking more worn than others: All able to be made new with a single leap of faith and the decision to say ‘no’ to the status quo and ‘yes’ to the delivery of God’s very best in life.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

Favorite Fifteen Quotes of 2011

In addition to lessons learned, I also like to share quotes on Twitter as I come across them. Here are my favorite fifteen out of all of the ones I posted in 2011. Because I can’t help but improve upon everything I touch (and tweet), the conclusions I reached after reading them are printed in italics.

  1. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Make time for others. – Helen Keller
  2. We need to exchange whispers with God before we exchange words with somebody else. Pray. – Lysa Terkeurst
  3. The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. Grow. – John Ruskin
  4. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. Take risks. – Tony Robbins
  5. The best way to make someone interested in you is to be interested in yourself. Take care of yourself. – Rachel Ray
  6. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Think of others. – Maya Angelou
  7. When people show you who they are, believe them. Be discerning. – Oprah
  8. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Change is good. – Albert Einstein
  9. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Be who you are, not who people want you to be. – Cyril Connolly
  10. A person who has flatlined has stopped growing. Breathe new life into your day. – Dr Henry Cloud
  11. He who looks outside himself dreams. He who looks inside awakens. Learn from what you live through. – Carl Jung
  12. If I made it in this country, the road is there guys. You really are the only shadow standing in your sunshine. Get out of your own way. – Fabio Viviani
  13. Boredom is not another mealtime. Be productive. – Valerie Bertinelli
  14. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. Have faith. – Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 10:13
  15. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. Know Christ.– Unknown

If you have a favorite quote to share, feel free to add a comment to this post and remember to …

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

Enjoying the Ride

Last Sunday my daughters and two of their friends spent a fun, but rainy day at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The amusement park was closed for Deloitte’s Friends and Family Day, and even the rain couldn’t keep me and the mom that I was with from giving our girls the chance to experience big roller coasters with shorter-than-normal lines.

“We’ll stay as long as you want,” I told the girls as they raced to their first ride.

Eight hours later, we were taking one last rain-pelting turn on the Raging Bull before heading to the van. Everyone was chilled to the bone but, surprisingly, no one complained. We had made the most of this opportunity we had been given, and no amount of shivering could take our sense of satisfaction away. Especially mine.

In the weeks leading up to the event, I’d had several chances to back out of taking the girls to Six Flags. Like when my husband and I learned that the NASCAR race in Joliet was scheduled for the same day. And when our small group announced that the first meeting of the year would be held while we were at the theme park.

Some might see these conflicts as reasons to put off going until next year, but I couldn’t do that to the girls.

Follow through matters.

Being a person of our word matters. So much so that years ago I made up a rhyme to remind my daughters to always do what they said they would do because God rewards those who follow through.

Henry Cloud agreed on page 159 of his book, Integrity, when he had this to say on the subject: “Perseverance takes courage, stamina, emotional reserves, judgment, creativity, and other aspects of character to do. But without it, great things just do not happen.”

Great things like breaking our record for the number of thrill rides ridden in a single day (which now stands at twenty).

And the look on my face when I learned that the American Eagle car I had just buckled into was about to travel … backwards.

Life is a lot like that wooden roller coaster every time it threatens to take us in directions we never intended to go. Whenever this happens, it helps to remember that what some see as a reason to hop off, could also be a reminder to hold on and get ready to enjoy the ride.

“The ability to keep going when we hit an obstacle, believe that there is a way to get it done, and keep going until we find it is one of the most important character abilities that we can ever develop. It is one of the most important aspects of character that leads to success.” Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity, p. 159


Van Problems

Hollie has no idea that we’re locked out of the house, I thought to myself as she happily played with a friend at a local indoor playground.

It all started when someone from the dealership called to say that they would not have my van finished in time for me to pick Hollie up from Kindergarten. Actually, it started a few weeks earlier when the keys were left in the ignition (in the on position) after returning home from a family vacation. The dead battery required a jump start and the jump start shorted out the airbag system. Now—three trips to the dealership later—I was still digging out as I realized that I didn’t have a key to the house and the only garage door opener I had access to was the one that was built into my van.

Who would think that one decision (leaving the keys turned on in the ignition) would create so many challenges? More than that—who would want to? Maybe it’s best to have just enough information to keep moving. Although inch by inch, life’s a cinch—knowing every yard can seem overwhelmingly hard.