Friday, September 26, 2008

Blessings or Curses?

I had one of those "Aha!" moments during a Bible study yesterday. We are discussing grace and all the meanings behind that word. Anyway, it came up that many times the words we speak to others (namely, our children) can either be blessings or curses. Not that we are actually cursing AT our children (or others), but that what we say can be poison to the soul of a little child, or our words can bless, glorify and lift up. I've thought a lot about this since I became a mother, and particularly since I've been increasingly dealing with sibling rivalry. Oftentimes, (I'll admit) my reaction to my children bickering or fighting is not exactly a blessing. I'm working on getting better at this, but I'm a work in progress, as many of us are.

One of the ladies at our group study mentioned a retreat/conference she attended several years back. She told the story of a young lady (teenager, I believe) who was very helpful and had a smile on her face no matter who she was helping/serving. One woman commented to the mother of the teenager that the girl had such a joyful spirit and seemed very happy and content. The mother stated that the young girl had not always had such a sweet, giving spirit. Apparently she was quite a handful when she was a little child. However, when she was young, the mother and father decided to pick a scripture from the Bible that could be a daily blessing to the girl; something that was opposite how they viewed her grumpy little spirit. They prayed over her every day and gave her the blessing they had chosen. Soon, her attitude and, I'm sure, the attitude of the parents changed!

This, for some reason, really hit home for me. I thought this idea might have some merit, and it might also change how I pray for my children. Last night I prayed for a while, then started searching for a couple of Bible verses that might fit for a blessing for my kids. My intent is to turn them and their spirits over to God everyday with the blessing of their scripture. Melody's is from Proverbs--gotta love Proverbs--and Gannon's is from the Book of Jude (Jude??? I'm not sure I've ever even read a verse from Jude before..).

I'm being a tad selfish in my hope and desire that these blessings I give my children will help me, too; however, I think a happy, peaceful and BLESSED family is worth it!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today I decided to go for a walk during my one free hour. It's a beautiful day, and I could definitely feel the hint of Fall. Very nice indeed, since Fall is my absolute fave time of year. It always reminds me of football, walking across the Quad at UA and watching leaves dancing about from the wind.

While I was on my walk, I was reminded of some of the thoughts I always have when I'm out enjoying a bit of exercise and pretty weather...I tend to always enjoy it so much, that I begin concocting grand plans to make long walks a habit. I start imagining a life filled with long, glorious walks. Not only will I get exercise, but I can immerse myself in God's lovely creation. Then I start thinking that if I go for enough long walks, well then I should just go ahead and train to walk a half marathon! I tend to become a bit grandiose in my thought process, and I can really get carried away. Well today I noticed this beginning to happen, so I decided I would self-analyze a bit and try to figure out why I have a hard time following through on some of my goals. No harm there, right? Heh.

I've participated in 2 half marathons to date, the latest one being in April 2007. I didn't participate this last year, because I just couldn't see myself being able/willing to devote that much time to training. Having two young children makes it challenging to go for LONG walks without incorporating a babysitter. My parents are local, but I feel guilty asking them every Saturday to babysit for hours on end while I go for a walk (they have a life, too). Jamie has joined me in both half marathons, and we really enjoy it. Both walks we did were at the Country Music Marathon/half marathon in Nashville, TN. Neither of us care for country music much, but along the race route they have lots of bands playing, not all of them country. The route leads one through the music district of town, so it's pretty neat going by all of the recording places and such. Anyway, it's a great atmosphere and it really helps the 13.1 go by fast. Today I was thinking back to the last half marathon we did in Nashville, and I remember that around mile 11-12 we saw a woman who had obviously been involved in a tragedy that resulted in the loss of her legs. She had prosthetics on, and she RAN past us. She was in the full marathon! Amazing in and of itself.

So here's how a typical (of the 2 I've done) half marathon walk goes for me: we get up at the crack of dawn to drive to a big stadium so we can stand in line for about 30 minutes. We get aboard a bus that will take us to the start line for the race. We arrive in the vicinity of the starting line (about a mile away), and meander through the throngs of people (I think there are generally around 30,000 in the race, not to mention vendors, family there to cheer on the racers, etc)who are also making their way to the start line. We find our corral (usually in the back b/c we are walkers) and we stand around for approximately one hour for our corral to get to the start line (they start the race in waves at this event). By the time we actually REACH the STARTING line, I've been on my feet for about 2-3 hours already! Then I get to walk 13.1 miles. Okay, so off we go and we're very excited to finally start. Once I get to about mile 1, I'm in my pace and going pretty good. About mile 5 is when the hills start...ouch. By mile 8, I've got a blister. By mile 11, I'm starting to hit my wall, but by the grace of God, my feet just keep moving and it's mostly downhill from there, so I'm about to limp to the finish line. It hurts. Both years, I've commented that I'm so happy I'm only walking the half marathon and not the full!!

Anyhow, this last time, we saw this lady who ran past us, and I remember commenting to Jamie, "If that lady can RUN a FULL marathon, surely I can run a little bit of a half marathon! I'm going to train better next time, and try to run a little." Okay, so there's my goal and I ended up not even participating the next year. I did start to run a little, though. However, I was quickly reminded that I've never actually enjoyed running. It doesn't feel natural to me, and it never has. I much prefer to walk. But, my point was that I could get across the finish line quicker if I alternated running/walking. If a lady with no feet can do it, why can't I?

Well, this morning I realized that maybe she has something that I don't. First of all, she probably has some form of motivation that I've not yet tapped into. Secondly, she has a level of perserverence that I don't have. I've never been faced with the reality that I may never walk again. Therefore, I haven't been forced or even wanted to tap into the part of me that absolutely needs to overcome an obstacle such as not being able to walk. I'm very lucky, but she is also lucky because she has risen above her tragedy and turned it into triumph. Of course, all of this is "assuming and supposing" part of her life, but I'm just putting it out there.

So, instead of feeling guilty and beating myself up for not meeting my goals (even if they were made somewhat flippantly), I'm going to just do what I feel comfortable doing. If that means I get out and walk a few miles every day, every week, or every month, then so be it. I will be okay with this.

I don't know when my next quest for the 13.1 will be, but for now I'll enjoy the few miles I get here and there. :)

Monday, September 15, 2008


I've been thinking about groups quite a bit lately. I've been on-again, off-again reading Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth" and some of the concepts in his book have led me to think about groups and roles. I think Tolle is leaning more towards the roles we play as individuals, but I really enjoy learning about and studying groups, so his book has been a catalyst for me to examine some of the groups of which I am a part. One of my favorite subjects in undergrad was Social Psychology. I loved it! I think that class was one of the reasons I was led to go into social work, because it is all about learning how people function in social situations, groups, and how they process the world around them.

Okay, so in my processing, I've been thinking about not only the roles I play as an individual, but also the roles I play in groups. I'm a self-proclaimed introvert (and Myers-Briggs agrees with me!!), so groups have always been more challenging for me than not. I've found that once I'm fully enmeshed in a group, I can function quite well. However, it really depends on the group. Groups are typically made up of folks that have the same beliefs, attitudes, and/or values. They have a common purpose. I recall one time I attended an AA group, because it was a requirement of my internship at a drug recovery program. Well, if you've ever been to any type of recovery program, visitors are always noticed, and usually called upon for introductions. It goes something like this:
Leader: "I see we have some visitors today! Please introduce yourselves and let us know why you are here."
Visitor: "Hi, my name is _______. I'm here for _____."

When I attended this group and it came time for me to introduce myself, I simply stated my name and said that I was observing the group as part of my graduate work as a social worker ( in hindsight, I could have handled this much differently!!). Not only was there a stunned silence following my proclamation, but I also noticed immediate tension in the room. I was officially an outsider. The people who had become enmeshed in that group could not see that I might have a single thing in common with them, and therefore I did not Belong. Has this ever happened to you?

Even within groups, there are sub-groups of people that might have their own thoughts about things. It reminds me of my church: we have two services. One is traditional and one is contemporary. While we are all Christian and all Methodist (thereby part of the same "group"), some folks from either service feel as though they are different from the other. I don't know if this thought process leads them to think that the other group does not Belong, but perhaps it comes close.

My thought is this: how can we function in a group with a common purpose if others in the group have their own agenda? This happens in every group, and I think that sometimes it leads to dissolution of the group. In some groups, the leader of the group maintains the general "voice" and this can sometimes drown out the subgroup. I believe it can go either way: either the subgroup can weaken the group and it's purpose, or the subgroup can strengthen the group's purpose. I think it depends on how strong and competent the subgroup (or individual) is, as well as the competency level of the leader on group processes.

All in all, I find it fascinating to observe the multiple groups to which I belong. They are all different, and I learn from each one. They all help me grow in my respective "roles" as an individual, and our world could not function without groups.

What do you think? Have you ever observed a group that did not have some form of sub-group? How effective was the leader of the group? Have you ever been a leader of a group and felt the group losing it's commonality, and what was done about it? Have you ever been part of a group that "evicted" the sub-group or individuals which had their own underlying agenda? And how can we overcome these issues within groups while still maintaining a level of cohesiveness?