Monday, February 28, 2011

Is Dysfunction Hurtful or Helpful?

I’ve given a lot of thought to dysfunction lately because it seems life is full of it and I’m learning we all have it. None of us are exempt from it it’s just part of living in a sinful world.

I have found that people respond to dysfunction very differently. Some appear to handle it much easier than others. For me, I’ve come to perceive it as a teacher a teacher of life perhaps. You’ve heard of the show “What Not to Wear?” Dysfunction teaches me “What Not to Do!” I don’t want to act this way or that way. I don’t want to do such in such because that will lead me down the wrong path. I don’t want to act too hastily because I’ll be more miserable in the long run. I don’t want to exclude people who are different than I am lest I miss out on a precious friendship

I think the idea is to channel the dysfunction in such a way that it’s helpful and not hurtful for example, my son has multiple disabilities. This isn’t something he asked for, but it is certainly the hand he was dealt. We could have wallowed in self-pity and been miserable, but instead we set the standards high for our son. We have always believed he could do anything and that God has a special plan for him. This enthusiasm and faith in an incredible God planted our feet steadfast on a journey I wouldn’t trade for the world. Against all odds, our son graduated from high school with his diploma, he has inspired me to teach others with disabilities, and I have learned nothing is impossible with God. He has also opened my eyes to a different world that people don’t all fit into a cookie-cutter lifestyle. I am able to extend empathy and love to a group of people I would have most likely dismissed as lazy, unmotivated, and welfare dependent vagabonds. God has taken dysfunction and turned it into grace, mercy, and a much more accepting heart now that’s helpful and not hurtful.

I could give you example after example of how God has transformed the dysfunction in my life into ways to glorify Him more, but I think you get the point we are constantly faced with choices. We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves, or we can allow God to use our difficult circumstances to mold and shape us into a usable vessel to further His Kingdom.

Does this mean I never suffer?? Hello reality check!! I have suffered greatly, but I have also experienced the ultimate joy as God has lifted me from despair and transformed my heart a heart that loves more, believes more, and accepts more.

I recently read a quote that reads like this: “If life hands you lemons make orange juice and others will stand in awe as to how you did it.” I love that because with God ALL things are possible. He gives us unconditional love in a world where strings are attached, He gives us hope in a world that offers no hope, and He gave us His Son, so we can be cleansed of our sinful ways and live an eternity with Him.

So, the next time you think of all the dysfunction in your life look for the good that can come from all of it. If you’re unable to wade through the muck to find it, ask God for His help He wants to take you and transform you too. He wants to take your trials and dysfunction and teach you great things! Let Him take that which is hurtful in your life and turn it into something that is helpful not only for you, but those who have the privilege of being graced by your presence.

Blessings,

Marisa








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Thursday, February 17, 2011

All the Single Ladies (and Gents)

This post is for those young gals & guys who are constantly being faced with the idea they need to be dating followed by marriage in their early twenties. It seems to be the accepted norm (particularly in the Christian communities) and leaves single, young people feeling alone and isolated. Unfortunately, this leads to dating for the sake of dating just to be “in” with the popular crowd.

Well, there are plenty of reasons to wait for Mr. or Mrs. Right. I read in Time Magazine that “according to research at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, one of the clearest predictors of whether wedding vows will stick is the age of the people saying them. Take the '80s: a full 81% of college graduates who got hitched in that decade at age 26 or older were still married 20 years later. Only 65% of college grads who said I do before their 26th birthday made it that far.”

Many people are putting off getting married until they are established in their careers and still others are opting to not marry at all if they aren’t able to find the right spouse for them. Boy, I think this is admirable. I can’t imagine rushing into this type of commitment without being absolutely sure it’s the right thing to do.

I think back on my life and I am a much different person today than I was in my early twenties and I’m eternally grateful I married a very patient man who was willing walk with me (or, should I say muddle with me) into adulthood. I was an unripe 21 year old when we tied the knot and though I thought I knew what I was doing at the time, I had no idea the magnitude of the decision I had just made. I’m convinced our marriage would have ended in divorce had my husband not been committed to us for the long haul. Twenty-five years later, we are very content with one another and are best friends. We can’t imagine being married to anyone else… we are of the minority I’m sure of those who married very young.

This post is not intended to discourage young couples, who truly believe they’ve found their soul mates, from spending a lifetime together… but, rather to encourage others who are on a different marital timetable.

Marriage in no way shape or form should be included on the college “hip list,” or ANY “hip list” for that matter. I understand that birds of a feather flock together and when we are blissfully in love, we tend to gravitate to others who are too. It’s fun to double date and to share stories we have in common. But, when we exclude (even if it’s unintentional) the single folks from our repertoire of friendships, we miss out on some of the best relationships.

Some of my most treasured friends are single. I wouldn’t trade them for anything and I certainly would never question their “status.” They are my friends because we have a mutual love and appreciation for one another and not because they have or don’t have a significant other.

The moral here (according to me): It’s okay to delay dating and marriage until someone comes along who is dating/marriage material (or forever for that matter). There’s nothing magical about the early twenties that indicate marriage is essential to hipness or happiness. Let’s not contribute to making singles feel less than adequate because they don’t have a partner. Instead, let’s admire them for who they are and open our hearts to a potential lifelong friendship… let’s not put ourselves in a position to be the losers here!

Here’s to all the single ladies (and gents),

Marisa


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Give Yourself Brownie Points


I remember as a child I was in Brownie Scouts. I received Brownie Points for a job well done. That always felt wonderful to be rewarded for something nice I did for someone else. I carried those same expectations into adulthood. If I do something nice, I kind of look for the Brownie point that’s suppose to come from doing good deeds.

Often this way of thinking leads to discouragement because people will let us down. They either aren’t appreciative of what we’ve done, or they don’t have the means to give back and on and on. When disappointment shows its ugly head, apathy settles in and it’s easy to say, “Well, fine! If your not going to scratch my back, I’m not gonna scratch yours either!” In the end, we figure out that this giving business without getting anything in return is for the birds

One strategy that I use to pulverize disappointment is to do things for others because it’s what “I” want to do for them and not because I’m doing it to win Brownie points. “I” want to rub my husband's feet, “I” want to make my son’s bed for him, “I” want to be a listening ear for a friend, “I” want to share my daughter’s burden

In my journal I write down an “if-then” Brownie point for myself. “If” I give without expecting anything in return (I usually write down a very specific scenario) “then” I can have a quiet night at home with a cup of tea, or a therapeutic massage, or a good book, or a date night with my husband, or whatever pat on the back I choose to give myself. Remember, the Bible didn’t say to love your neighbor and neglect yourself. But, rather to “love your neighbor (AS) yourself.” God uses these rewards to replenish and prepare us for the next time He needs us to uplift the life of another.

This technique seems very self-centered because there are a lot of “me” and “I” and gift giving to “me” going on here. In actuality, this works just the opposite of what one might expect because our expectations of others dissipates, the giving is enjoyable and fulfilling, and those who have nothing left to give don’t have to feel the burden of repayment.

Give this a try you won’t be “disappointed!”

Marisa

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who is the Center of the Universe?

A person near and dear to my heart shared with me that she tends to be the brunt of some of her friends jokes lately. She said under normal circumstances she just shrugs it off, but last night it was just over-the-top for her.


I read somewhere that there’s an element of truth in every tease… therefore, we need to be careful what we say to others- HELLO!!

There are a lot of shattered esteems out there and when words start flying there is often very little thought that goes into what’s said. The impulse is to say whatever is necessary to look good in the eyes of others… even at the expense of hurting someone else.

It would be easy to merely say just think before you speak, but when people only think of themselves, their words are very self-centered as well.

If scientist could figure out where the center of the universe is that would be great because these guys who get a kick out of belittling others for there own merit would realize they are not it!

Unfortunately, they will come to realize they are the losers because their insecurities have isolated them from treasured friendships… most people aren’t going to hang around long enough to watch themselves be battered.

Anyway, I suggested this young gal find different friends. She’s bright, witty, and oh so enjoyable to be around. I also encouraged her to pray for those who suffer in their own skin every day. It must be awful for them to repel friends like they’re pesky little insects and even more haunting to not understand why!

Let’s appreciate our friends and treat them with the respect they deserve and most importantly, let’s think before we speak and may what is said be helpful and not hurtful.

Marisa



Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Sweet" Fellowship


I spent last night with my crafting buddies. We have decided to get together once a month to hang out and have some fun! Who knew we were being heart healthy at the same time. It turns out, socializing with good friends is one of the keys to longevity. Check out this article.

We laughed, we learned more about one another, and we let our creative juices flow. It truly is a precious time of building and nurturing relationships. Last night we decided to make treat cups to give away for Valentine's Day. We started with 8oz. Solo cups and embellished them with craft paper, ribbons, bows, and of course lots of hearts and then filled them with goodies... the results were dazzling!









































We thought it would be wonderful to come together and finish our little masterpieces in an evening the condition: to give away our final project to someone who needs a little pick-me-up, or as a “just because” gift.

It’s a win-win idea we have a blast together and then we get to experience the joys of giving. Honestly, this is the epitome of a ministry for which I’m very thankful.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Marisa

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dare to Dream

 My vision board is complete it took some time to put my little compilation together, but I must say, now that it’s finished I really love the “warm” message it sends.

 

The idea behind a vision board is to peruse various magazines and cut out pictures that make you smile. It’s not important why they make you smile... they just do. Then embellish a poster board with your amazing pictures and other decorative items and voila!! Your masterpiece is complete.

I have my vision board in my kitchen window. I wanted to display it in a room I frequent, so I’m continuously reminded of where my life is going. The concept kind of follows the old adage of speaking something into being. According to Christine Kane, “The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or where you want to vacation, your life changes to match those images and those desires.”

Many of us, including me, are paralyzed by our fears and being welcomed by our vision boards every day will hopefully give us the confidence we need to move closer to the life of our dreams.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and to think big! Remember, it was an amateur who built the ark and professionals who built the Titanic. With God, all things are possible, my friends!!

Blessings,

Marisa

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hooters is Not the Place to Teach Our Children About Sex!

Okay so, I have a gripe. I hope it’s okay with you that I vent. I learned recently that Hooters Restaurant has a product line geared toward children. Clothing for babies have phrases like, "Sorry, I only date Hooters' girls," "Chick Magnet," "I'm a boob man," and "Does this diaper make my butt look fat?"

I have no doubt the waitresses at Hooters were hired to do much more for their customers that merely serve food. Can you just picture it: A single dad is at Hooters for an evening meal with his children. He requests a booster seat and a high chair for his two little ones. Once seated, the family is enveloped by bodacious ta tas, flirtatious remarks, occasional slaps on the back sides, and other sexually-themed entertainment. Quite honestly, the mental picture makes me sick to my stomach.

I’m sure there are those people who would find my opinions offensive, but I also know I’m not the only woman (or man) who finds this kind of thing upsetting. I fully understand if the parents didn’t take there children to dine at Hooters this wouldn’t be an issue. I find it disturbing that we have a society that would support Hooters marketing for children (obviously people do or it wouldn’t exist) and that parents would allow their little guys to sport around that he’s a “Boob Man” absolutely creepy to me!

I think there has been a huge disservice in the way society esteems women. Don’t get me wrong, I think a woman’s body is very beautiful, but it’s intended to be beautiful for her mate only and to be kept as pure as earthly possible. Instead many people are indoctrinated into believing that it doesn’t hurt to support a place like Hooters, flirt a little, and enjoy the “scenery” WITH THEIR CHILDREN!! Or, have sex with a complete stranger just for the fun of it Our society is heading in a downward spiral fast.

Hooters, my advice to you If you’re going to sell sex along with your burgers than leave the children out of it! They deserve better than that!!

Marisa


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wild Pony Kind of Faith

 Have you ever stepped out on faith to do something I mean REALLY stepped out on faith?? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. My “stepping out on faith” resembles a compulsive accountant who has to have all of her ducks in a row before venturing out to try something new. Or is that really who I am??

I didn’t think much about going to New York City by myself for several weeks one summer I just jumped in the car and went to this foreign place with foreign people (literally the church I attended had 65 different nationalities represented) and I had a GREAT time.

I lived with the most amazing family in Queens. They will forever be treasured friends! I’ve grown to love the Nitchman family very much!



I took a GPS (Gabby) that belonged to my parents along and the two of us saw everything I ever dreamed of seeing. I even DROVE downtown New York City... something the locals rarely would consider doing, but I loved it. Gabby was my tour guide and she never let me down. I would punch in, for example, “Empire State Building” and she directed me to my desired destination every time. In fact, if I decided to park my car and walk I would merely set Gabby on walk mode and together we found everything (Central Park, Donald Trump Towers, the American Museum of Natural History, Serendipity 3, Manhatten, and of course some amazing shopping).

On one of my “road trips” I decided to drive along the beach. I came up over a small hill and around a curve in the road, just under a bridge and there She was. I didn’t expect to see Her and when I did, immediate tears filled my eyes. Seeing the Statue of Liberty is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Her and I was DRIVING!! So, I pulled off to the side of the road to take it all in. My trips included one to South Hampton (wow rugged beauty like I’ve never seen before).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is if I didn’t believe I could do it and allowed fear to take over, I wouldn’t have had this experience. I would have been the loser. The sites, smells (not so pleasant always:), the food, and most importantly the people are forever etched in my heart and I will never forget NYC!

Another exercise of tremendous faith for me was my solo trip to the Highlands of Ecuador last summer. This trip was difficult because my dad was very ill and I nearly cancelled, but my mom insisted she would “keep dad alive” until I returned home. Though I appreciated her efforts, I still felt a yearning to be home to be with him. Perhaps one day I’ll go back under different circumstances because I met some of the most precious people and learning a new culture was very exciting for me. My host family was very beautiful. I slept in the same room with my little “sisters” and they prayed for me every night. My Ecuadorian family and I will always have kindred spirits and we’ll always keep in touch with one another.



The point is I DID IT! And, I did it alone with faith believing God was with me.

So, I guess I can exercise faith at times and then there are other times I sink back into my shell in fear that if I make a wrong move it could mess up my life forever. As I chatted with my husband about all of this, we concluded that our fears come out of the hurts and pains we’ve experienced in life and therefore, it’s much more difficult to “make a move” on faith because all of the “what ifs” surface and then the fear paralyzes us. I then revert back to the “having all of my ducks in a row” mentality and unfortunately, with a mind-set like this living is much more difficult to do. At least it is for me. I fully understand there are “ducks in a row” people who are perfectly happy that way. But, when you’re a “wild pony,” as my dad often referred to me, thinking I have to have everything just so before I make my move is recipe for a miserable life.

Well, this wild pony has been tied to a post for too long now. I guess it’s time to scatter the ducks and start LIVING! Hmmmm I wonder what God, faith, and my adventuresome spirit (not to mention an extraordinarily supportive husband) has in store for me now??

Can’t wait!! Bring it on

Marisa

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

God's Creations Are Unique and Beautiful

 With all of this time on my hands, I decided I would like to do something creative. I knew I didn’t want to work on my vision board because a friend and I are going to finish ours this Friday. I did come up with a spin off of my vision board, however a hanging picture made from magazine clippings.

As I perused through page by page I found a common theme in the pics that brought a smile to my face. There were pictures of the ocean, palm trees, sandy beaches, and sunshine. One by one I pasted my tropical collage until the final project resembled a paradise on earth at least for me.


I understand an earthly paradise is relative and not everyone is drawn to the same mental picture. I have known people who have lived in the same rural Indiana community their whole lives and haven’t even traveled from their community and they’re perfectly happy with that they wouldn’t have it any other way. I have family members who have lived in northern Minnesota a lifetime and have no intentions of moving from there. I have dear friends who live in the Rocky Mountains and that is their slice of Heaven. I have friends who live in southern California and LOVE it! I have family who live in the deserts of Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and I don’t see them moving anytime soon.

For me I am a very different person than I was 25 years ago when we moved to the Midwest from South Florida. As I’m getting older I am finding I don’t feel my optimum emotionally or physically in the winter. The cold, the snow, the ice penetrates my bones and I remain cold very cold and dry for several months.

Having said that, my earthly paradise would be somewhere warm and tropical. I love the warm sunshine and all of the health benefits that go along with it. It is now February and I haven’t been outside (other than to drive to and from places) for 4 months now I see no health benefits in that.

God is the Master Creator. He created His earth to be unique and beautiful. Each region has its draw for individuals. God has given me the body composition to function at my best when I'm warm I would love to “bloom where I’m planted,” but I have to thaw out first ;)

Marisa

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Zumba to Thriller

I had the day off because of this miserable weather. My little pine tree just outside the front door is blanketed in ice and those cold pellets continue to fall from the sky with no signs of mercy in the near future.

 
I thought I would turn on some retro disco tunes and do a little Zumba dancing to thaw my happy little endorphins. Of course the very best of the 70s tantalized my nostalgic soul... and I boogied out my Latin-inspired fitness workout 'til I just couldn't boogie no more... zumbatomic at its best :)

As I danced to Thriller, my attention was drawn to the words. Understand, this song was at the top of the charts right at the peak of my high school career... I loved it and Michael Jackson. We all knew the Thriller dance and it was so much fun to frolic around the dance floor imitating creepy zombies. 

One of the lines I noted in this song was, "No one's going to save you from the beast that's about to strike!" My thoughts immediately turned to God and how comforting it is for me to know my God has me in the palm of His hand and I need not be afraid of the "beast." When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for my sins and saved me from the "beast."

Though it's dreary, cold, and downright horrifying outside, with the wind howling like a creepy ghoul from the set of the Thriller music video... I need not fear because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4) and my precious God fills my soul with sunshine and warmth :)

Marisa