Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Mother of All Motivation

Grandma's backyard, sometime in the summer of 2010.  Two youngsters eagerly, or at least obediently, helping out. One youngster basking in the sun.

Now, I think the boy in the foreground is hamming it up a bit, but I thought this picture so perfectly represented what many of us face on a daily basis:  "someone" (a child, co-worker, student, church member, or or me...) who needs motivation.  At our house, I like to pay tribute to my Native American heritage by calling the "one" in question: "Him Who Need Fire Lit Under Bottom."

It's hard for me to keep myself motivated, let along be the Oprah of anyone else's life.  What's even harder, is for me to actually be a motivator and not an aggravator.  Or even worse...a nagger.

I am in a season of life where my own children need motivation more in areas of sending out resumes and filling out scholarship applications.  A couple of nights ago, while my youngest (and only offspring left in the house to nag on a consistent basis) unloaded the dishwasher, a visiting friend - who happens to be a young mom - appeared to marvel at his good deed.

I had to point out, and hopefully encourage with, the fact that the good deed rarely happens without some maternal motivation.  Darn it.

When I think of parenting, I obviously think of a lot of things.  But, the fact that I am the main motivator in another person's life is heavy.  Daunting.  Gargantuan.


We can approach motivation in a myriad of ways.  I've already hinted at aggravation and nagging. But, we also have manipulation, intimidation, begging and in very desperate situations...crying.  I know of these as I'm sure I've tried them all. And while some or all may seem to work from time to time, they don't produce the long-lasting effects we all desire to see in our kids.  Or students.  Or employees.

Sometimes the thought of a bad consequence is actually a good motivator.  For instance, "I don't work...I don't eat.  Wow, think I'll go to work!"  And I've sat through enough "teacher" classes to know there's been gobs written about positive and negative reinforcement. As a matter of fact, I'm going to leave the "how to" motivate to you and God.

I just want to encourage you today to motivate.  Or, at the very least, to simply remember that you it or not...a motivator.

We've all heard that saying, "...the hand that rocks the cradle, rules (or rocks) the world..." a time or two. And as sentimental and sappy (and scary) as it may seem to does ring a bit true.

I'm not a morning person.  I mean, I have to be, but it's not by happy-jump-out-of-bed-choice.

What motivates me is the very fact that I am a motivator.  I became one the day the nurse handed me that first baby boy...all nine pounds of him.  I had a reason.

My children aren't the only people God has put in my life to motivate.  As a matter of fact, seeing how powerful the smallest influence has been in their lives has only made me more passionate about doing my best to do what I can...when I also encourage others.

Motivating myself is a loser.  I'm not that motivated by me.  Maybe you're a little disenchanted with you as well.

If you need motivation today, remember those around you.  Remember your impressionable kids.  Remember your hurting friends. Remember your struggling co-workers.

Somebody needs your encouragement today.  Your kind word. Your smile.  Your understanding.  Your funny, "Been there, done that...survived!" story.

As always, I pray you're blessed.  And always, I pray you're motivated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

How Do Ya' Like Me Now?

It's not like I'm 15, or even 27. My vanity level has certainly waned in recent years. I've got varicose veins that mimic the great waterways of the United States, and a neck that is so looks like thrice-used tissue paper.  Seriously, I care...but, there isn't enough anti-aging serum in the world.

This all started with needing new pictures.  Of me. I don't mind a ridiculous pic like the one you see posted here, but I do mind having one taken for real.  So, the picture I've been using for all of my "writing & speaking stuff" - taken several years ago when I had only a few, small rivers represented on one leg, and no tissue-neck whatsoever - really needed to be replaced.  False advertising, indeed.

I have a friend who met me last Saturday and we snapped some new ones.  She's really good and I wore a lot of black.  And kept my coat on.  And wasn't broken out.  (I tend to break out when I'm teaching middle school as my way of empathizing with the pubescent students and their acne issues.  I know, I really go the extra mile.)

It's not even been a week since the big photo-shoot, and I'm completely broken out.  My hair has grown half an inch, and the new growth is the ugliest shade of dull silver you have ever seen.  Not that you're ever going to see the "map" in pictures, but the Mississippi River represented on my left thigh is bulging and quite uncomfortable.

So, when a dear friend saw one of my new, fancy, professionally done pictures on Facebook Saturday night, she texted me.  I was washing my face when I got this very flattering message about the picture and my looks and how she was so glad to be my friend.

It took exactly five seconds to take the "glasses" picture, send it and ask her the question that is now the title of this post.  She fired back that she feared my phone had been hijacked. 

I know she was laughing on the West Coast and I was laughing here in rural Kansas. I also know she probably now loves me more than ever.

We often think of appearances as something our young people have angst over.  Grown-up, mature, educated, well-adjusted women - and men - don't worry about such trivial things. Right.

I'm not saying don't take care of yourself.  The hubby and I have both dropped some major poundage in the past several months, and it feels really good. I also am trying to sleep more.  Man, did I underestimate the power of the Z's for many, many years.

I'm not saying walk around looking and smelling like you slept in a kennel all night.  We need to be good stewards of what God's given and we need to try to put our best foot forward.

But, there is a wonderful nugget from the Bible reminding us that charm is deceitful, beauty is vain...but, when you serve the're golden. (My paraphrase...and I'm in the middle of reading "The Outsiders" with 7th graders, so you know...trying to prove "gold" can stay, Ponyboy!)

I know God always loves matter what.  I know my friends and family do, too.  Whether the world deems me physically attractive, or not.

I not only walk through life with the above assurances, but with something I've learned the hard way (I won't take time to expound on the now, well-known waxing story).

I'm most lovely when I'm serving the Lord.

I pray for you.  I really, really do.  Serve with all of your soul.  Love with all of your heart. Put God above all else in your life.

Stay gold, my friends.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

If You See This Person, Please Call...

Natural disasters.  School shootings.  Terrorists threats.

"Where's God in all of this?"  That seems to be the question of the day.

Actually...I don't think most people even need major tragedies to ask.  

Traffic. A cold. Cranky co-workers. Hot water pipes that keep freezing up.  Broken dishwasher.

I haven't written in a while.  And some of you may have asked...if I may be so self-indulgent to assume... "Where is she?"

 I've been asking myself the same thing lately.

And it's a good thing.

You see, we can always know where God is at...we're the ones who are often missing in action.

Truly, where am I?  Am I right in the middle of what God wants me to do?  Am I where my kids can reach and be reassured by me? Am I where my husband can call out to and count on me?  Am I where my friends can turn to and be comforted by me?  Am I where my students can listen to and learn from me?  Am I where other parents can see, hear and be encouraged by me?

Am I where God can use me?

Where is God?  Here.  Like always.  I've worked with children and families for going on three decades now.  Trust me, if God wasn't in the would be seeing tragedies of epic proportions each and every day. Maybe each and every minute.

We live in a fallen world and sadly, as long as we inhabit this place...we will experience tragedies.  In all shapes and sizes.

God's grace, hopefully coupled with those of us who can be "found,"  is what will make a difference.

Where are you today?

Don't make God come looking for you.  Make sure you're already where He wants you to be.