Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your Response

"Your response is your responsibility." That's not my quote, but it's one I remember hearing at a Bible study last week, a remark that was stated by a competent family/marriage counselor. In fact, as I watched this previously taped seminar on a DVD, the quote appeared this way on the screen:

Your R-E-S-P-O-N-S-E is your R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y.

There it was, staring me squarely in my face. What a wake-up call. *Blink.*

We cannot change our circumstances, but we are responsible for how we react, and how we respond to each circumstance. Sounds so simple, I know, but the quote made me stop and think, and it caused me to really ponder about my own responses to various situations. When tested, do I react with patience? Am I level-headed when pressed for time? Am I slow to anger, and quick to listen to others' points of view? Do I exude an appropriate amount of confidence yet portray humility when the opportunity arises?

No. Too many times, I'd have to answer "no" to those questions listed above. I have such a long way to go, but that quote was a good reminder to me. I repeated it to my girls, and to my husband. My thirteen year old daughter listened, but kinda rolled her eyes. She's heard me preach that type of sentiment in the past. I hope that she absorbed it, even though it appeared to roll right off her face and onto the floor ... with a nearly audible thud.

Your response is your responsibility. I plan to own that sentiment and practice it - and keep reminding myself of my "responsibility" - for as long as I possibly can! How about you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Looking Back And Listening

It's funny how looking back at the little things in life can make such a big difference in how you feel right now. While cleaning out the bird feeders yesterday and removing the old, dried seed that was caked along the inside after months of my own neglect, I then refilled them with the new, sweet-smelling seed. All around me, it seemed, the birds chirped loudly from the treetops, as if they were scolding me, asking me to hurry up and finish this task so that they could enjoy their new food. I couldn't help but remember the days when I'd felt too weak and tired to do such a mundane task. Four years ago, while going through the chemotherapy treatments, I remember thinking that because I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer, I would probably die - and die soon. During those long days, filling the bird feeders was not only physically difficult for me to attempt, but my emotional strength was tested in ways that I never thought possible.

At that time my three children were 15, 9, and 6 years old. I remember praying that I would live long enough to see my son graduate from high school, and then when that occasion passed, I prayed to live long enough to see him enjoying his college years. Which is where he is today, a sophomore in college, soon to be a junior.

Looking back four years ago, I remember filling those same bird feeders on that brisk March day, and I recall crying as I prayed to God for Him to give me another season of Spring, or another vacation with my family, or another Christmastime with my children. As I prayed, I could almost hear my kids laughing along the beach. I could hear them tearing open the wrapping paper of their Christmas gifts. But the one thing I really remember hearing is my own voice, as I begged God - day after day - for more times to be with my family.

I still pray those prayers, but at this time in my life, even though the prayers are just as genuine as they were when I was going through the awful treatments, I am now able to pray the prayers with less tears. And with less pleading.

And with more gratitude for what God has given to me.

So today as I look out my kitchen window and notice a few birds enjoying their brand new seed, chirping and flitting about from one feeder to another, I need to remind myself to do something very important. I need to remember to pray to God - each day - and thank Him for giving me this time with my family, with my birds, and with my life.

Looking back makes me look forward with a new song in my heart, and a new outlook on life. I don't ever want to get to a point where I forget to look back. I don't ever want to forget to stop and listen to - and really hear - the songs of the birds.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Is it?

Well, well, what have we here? Any idea what this thing is? I'll let you know what it isn't. It's not a balloon, or a plastic bottle, or anything else man-made.

I'll give you some clues: We found several of these while we were strolling along the beach in the Bahamas. They normally float in the water, waiting for unassuming prey to swim by. Here's the clue that will give it away: They typically have numerous, very long tentacles, stretching out to more than 50 feet in length!

Now do you know what it is? It's a Portuguese-Man-of-War! Quite amazing, isn't it? Just stop and think, for a moment, and ponder one of God's unusual creations. That bluish, air-filled sac enables it to float and drift upon the surface, effortlessly and smoothly, much like a sailboat relies on its sails to navigate across the waters. This creature never really has to search for food, or hide, or retreat, or even think. It just rides the waves ... and waits ... then drifts some more ... and eventually, its tentacles sting a poor, helpless creature, which dies.

I am so glad that I didn't go snorkeling while I was there. In fact, I preferred to stroll in the safety of the water that was merely ankle-deep.

I examined this creature, though, and I couldn't help but wonder about it. I wondered what significance it could possible have in our world. I am sure that it is part of the necessary food chain, and I haven't really researched this animal at all, but I have to say, I just can't appreciate it for anything else than its uniqueness. That's it. Nothing more, just that it is so exceptionally different, and odd, and even sinister, that I can't really understand that it could possibly have a reason for being here at all. No, I just cannot comprehend it.

But then, I don't understand a lot of things. I am content to rely on God, however, for His design is perfect, even down to the existence of this Portuguese-Man-of-War.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We just returned home after a week's vacation. It was spring break for my son, so we'd decided to take a cruise, something we'd never done before, to the Bahamas. Here's the issue: it happened to be spring break for about 85% of the other vacationers on our ship as well.

I have nothing against young men and women enjoying themselves during spring break. I'd done it too, years ago. But for some reason, it had all seemed so much different this time. How different? Well, for starters, shortly after we checked into our cabins, it was time to line up for safety instructions on the fourth level of the ship. Many of the spring breakers joined in, as instructed, and lined up around us. Lines and lines of people, dressed in nothing more than small bathing suits, filed in alongside us. Rows of people everywhere. The smell of alcohol was everywhere, too, along with the verbal disinhibition that goes with it. Lots of curse words were tossed about, as well as laughter, and college kids yelling from one end of the row to another, as if we were in the middle of a tailgate party. I occasionally looked down toward their hands hoping to see wedding bands, wondering if perhaps some of the young couples were celebrating their honeymoons. No dice. Belly rings uniformally replaced wedding rings. And after our safety session ended, laughing young couples strolled arm-in-arm into their cabins. It seemed like they hadn't a worry or care in the world...

Let me backtrack a bit. I have nothing against belly piercing. In fact, if I had been a college kid along with these young women, in the year 2010, I probably would have been marked as an outcast without one. So, given my need to conform back then, I most likely would have had one, too. But any metal post and gem that I'd pierce into my stomach these days would most certainly get lost within the layers of the fat there, so belly piercing is not something I want to do at my age. I'm not one to judge others, however.

But the one thing I noticed was that the majority of the wait staff was comprised of humble individuals who were, for the most part, foreigners. Alex, for example, our waiter for the four days, was from India. Alex served us our three meals, never wavering in kindness, patience or promptness. We quickly became friends with him. I asked Alex if he had a family, and he replied that he did not. I couldn't help but think how lonely it must be for him to return to his cabin, alone and tired, well past midnight each night after a long day of waiting on tables. How lonely he must feel each night. I wondered if he felt at all like an outcast.

I also wondered what he thought of "us," as Americans. I wanted to tell him that we don't all act the way those college kids do, that we don't just live lavishly off of our parents' credit cards, that we don't all party on cruise ships, or walk around in public wearing practically nothing, and that we don't swear in lines or act disrespectfully to others.

The truth was that in a way, we had more in common with Alex from India than we had with the American college kids. Ironically, during the days on that ship, I began to realize that my family and Alex were on the same boat, so to speak: we were all somewhat lonely "outcasts" on a tossing ship.

Times have changed. I just hope that Alex doesn't think that those college kids represent what Americans are really like. Being an outcast can be lonely. Behaving with respect and honor is, too.