Sunday, September 26, 2010

What would you say to her?

"To give life a meaning,
one must have a purpose
larger than one's self."
~Will Durant

"I need to learn to live life to the fullest, so I need your help to give me things I should and should not do while living life."

I stared at this new email message in my in-box.

I had no words of inspiration for this woman, this searching soul, who needed my help, my guidance. Nothing.

Why couldn't I answer her? For heaven's sake, I publish an inspirational website. If you google "living life to the fullest," my website is ranked #1 out of 700,000 websites. I should know something about this.

Maybe I worry that what works for me won't work for her, or what I had to go through in living a full life is too much to ask of someone else. 

Maybe until this moment, I really haven't believed I was living my life to the fullest. Certainly, I was living my life at a dead run...too tired to care if it was "fullest" as long as it was "full." Still, there have to be some shared experiences we can all agree define fullness.

I try to have more good days than bad, more tears from happy moments than sad, more kind than hateful actions in a day, each day. But is that life at its "fullest?"

I know I soak myself in my children's interests and activities. I work passionately at causes I believe in, maybe too passionately at times. I fret when those who have refuse to give to those who don't have. But is that life at its "fullest?"

I know what My Lord asks of me and though I do many of those things right, I sometimes do things wrong. Am I still living life to the fullest when I fail to live life righteously?

So, tell me, what would you tell this woman? Really, I want you to comment here on the blog and tell me. She's asking you what she should do and not do in her life. What will you tell her?

I know my "ahhhhh" moment won't be the same as yours or as hers, but maybe, between you and you and you and me, we can inspire this young woman along a path of finding joy in the journey we call life.

Photo credit: Not sure who took this photo at Jen's wedding, but little Lily certainly seems to be living to the fullest.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I have finished the race

I know, I know. You've all wondered where I've been and how I could marry off a daughter and take a son to college without a single word on the blog. Well, I've been thinking. And, thinking. And, thinking.

What does one say when someone who has lived her life solely for her children finds herself without a child in the house?  My children are my life. Their activities alone filled my social calendar. They have been my confidants; I their cheerleader. They have been my companion; I their buyer of track shoes. They wiped my tears as I wiped theirs.

On August 14, my daughter, Jenny, married the love of her life, Scott. On August 19, I took my son, Wil to college --- and left him (or he left me may be more appropriate).

So what do I say?
"I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

There were times over the years I wanted to give up, give in. You've been there, too, I know. Life is hard, too hard, at times. There is never enough money. Anger robs us of joy. Evil sways us to be ugly to others. It seems that as soon as one challenge is met, another is waiting to take its place.

I didn't cry at Jenny's wedding because I finished the race. I saw parenthood through to the end when I handed her over to someone else whose job it now is to care for her. (He has to buy her track shoes now.) This is the moment I worked so hard for all those years of raising her.

I didn't cry when I left Wil. Okay, I did, but not when I left. I cried when I kept trying to help him (get the room organized and get the computer working and get the electronics hooked up) and he didn't want me to. He was ready for me to leave so he could do for himself what I kept trying to do for him.

He knew what I needed to learn. I had finished the race ... whether I knew it yet or not.

He had become the young man I raised him to be.
He knew it. I didn't until that moment he said, "I can do that when you're gone."

I found this story on the Trinity United Reformed Church of Visalia, Calif. website.

It was 7 p.m. on October 20th, 1968. Only a few spectators remained in the Mexico City Olympic Stadium. The winner of the 26 mile marathon had crossed the finish line more than an hour ago, and now, the last of the marathon runners were across the finish line and leaving the track. As the last few spectators began to leave, those sitting by the entrance suddenly heard the sound of sirens. One last runner appeared at the entrance. The man, whose leg was bloody and bandaged, was wearing the colors of Tanzania. The Tanzanian runner, experiencing intense pain, hobbled around the 400 meter track in the stadium, and the few remaining spectators rose and applauded him as though he was the winner. After crossing the finish line he slowly walked off the field without turning to the cheering spectators. In view of his injury, and having no chance of winning any medal, a curious spectator asked him why he did not quit the race. The Tanzanian runner replied, "My country did not send me 7000 miles to start the race, but sent me 7000 miles to finish it."
So, don't worry that I'm sad. I'm celebrating my victory lap.

Photo credit: Who knows. Whoever had the camera at that moment during the wedding.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just a bit farther down the road

My new job has me traveling to new places, so my friends at my old job got me a TomTom as a going away present. Only problem is, if you don't have an address, the TomTom can't get you there.

I was headed to the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, so I called the office there to get directions. I scribbled some notes and headed north. I turned west as the directions indicated when I realized my notes were a little fuzzy about just how far I was supposed to go. Surely I can't miss a fairgrounds, I thought, so I kept going. . . and going . . . and going until I thought apparently you can miss a fairgrounds, so I turned around.

I watched both sides of the road, certain I would find a fairgrounds this time, and had faith until I drove all the way back into Lawrenceville.

I turned around again. And, again I started off and went as far as I thought I needed to go and stopped. With no fairgrounds in site, I called a coworker who gave me directions. Armed with knowledge, I returned to the path until I got to the point where my coworker said "if you get to here, you've gone too far." Somehow, I had missed it again.

Late beyond repair, I stopped at a house where a man was mowing his yard, and I asked for directions.

"You have to keep going," he said. "You've stopped too soon. The fairgrounds is farther down the road."

It was then I realized that the directions from my coworker were from HER house. I was coming from the opposite direction, so what was "too far" for her was only the beginning for me.

I had to keep going.
I stopped too soon.

How often do we do that? Stop too soon. Fail to take one more step. Fail to do the one last thing that will put us where we need to be. Fail to plot our course. We misinterpret signs and take the advice of friends who aren't where we are and aren't who we are, and we miss the place where we're supposed to be.

I got back in the car and drove, and then drove more, past the point where I had stopped before and there, just a little bit farther down the road, was the fairgrounds. It was there all the time just waiting for me to find it, claim it, enjoy it.

What is waiting for you, just a bit farther down the road?

Photo credit: Tyler Ackerman, CWCHS cross country runner who understands what it means to go just a little bit farther down the road. Sorry, can't remember if this was my photo or his mother's photo, but too good not to share!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Live Out Loud

For years, I've been a bystander of the Fourth of July.

After the divorce, the kids always spent the holiday with their father's family. I knew they enjoyed their cousins, so I never fussed over it. The first couple years, I would walk uptown to watch the fireworks display, but it just wasn't the same as before.

Fireworks are a "two-persons-minimum" event.

The beauty of fireworks isn't the spectacle in the sky; it's turning to the person next to you and saying "ahhhhhhhh" and "ooooooooh." You can't experience it the way it should be experienced by yourself. I tried, but without someone to interact with, I was merely a bystander, someone who, although present at something, didn't take part in it.
Lately, I've realized that, in many ways I've become a bystander of my life, present, but not taking part. I've become a spectator of my own game of life. I've let life dictate to me,  and I've just gone along for the ride.

It's time to stop.
It's time to actively choose where I go.
It's time to participate fully in the rest of my life.
It's time to go watch the Fourth of July Fireworks and Live Out Loud.

Photo credit: Judy Mae Bingman, 2010 Fourth of July Carmi Car Show

Monday, May 31, 2010

No mountain is climbed with one step

It isn't pretty to watch me run, but since both my kids run, I learned if I ever wanted to spend time with them, I needed to learn to run. So, I run.

I changed my course through town a few days ago. The final quarter mile includes a steep hill, and the first two days, I stopped running and walked to the top of the hill. It was just too much, too high, and I was just too tired. After all, I had already run over two miles and from the bottom of the hill, it was just too much.

Yesterday, I tried a new strategy. No, I didn't change my route. I didn't walk before getting to the hill.

I simply didn't look up.

I looked right at the sidewalk in front of my feet. Each step was simply the one step I needed to take to make it to the next step. And I did that over and over and over again ... until I made it to the top of the hill and over.

Now, nothing about me changed; I didn't suddenly drop 25 pounds. I didn't become a runner overnight in my sleep. I didn't take a magic pill. I simply changed my mental perspective on the task. I stopped looking at it as a whole, and started looking at it one step at a time. From the perspective of my feet, this stretch of road was no different than all the steps I had taken to get to this point. Just put one foot in front of another. And then, do it again. See you at the finish line.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The wind has changed

I feel as if I'm Mary Poppins.

Remember that moment when the children first heard that Mary Poppins was leaving. She turned to them and said "I only promised to stay until the wind changes."

Well, the wind has changed. . . in my life and in the life of the 4-H program where I've had the honor of playing a real-life Mary Poppins.

I had the best job in the world. I got to spend most of my time having fun with kids, and along the way, got to see them grow and excel and mature and become better than they ever thought they could be.

With a spoon full of sugar, the kids completed tasks and grew a little taller while they did it. They helped others with their tuppence or two and learned to think about what others needed before they worried about what they wanted. Along the way I met some of my best friends who weren't above jumping into some sidewalk-chalk adventures with me. 

I left the office Friday evening knowing that there is a favorable wind blowing now in White County 4-H, and if everyone continues to think the best before assuming the worst, think of others before thinking of themselves, think twice before bickering over the unimportant, then things will be just fine. My only request is that you continue to give all you have to keep the wonderful program thriving in White County.

As for me, I'm ready for the next step in my life. Haven't got a clue where that will lead me yet, but oh the fun it will be finding out.  My umbrella's open and I've caught a favorable wind.

Photo credit: Wil Bingman in Chicago

Saturday, February 27, 2010

There will always be time for one more thing

I have lost control.
I have allowed life to take over my life, and I did it without even putting up a good fight.

I'm beat; plain and simple, I am beat and ready to put some white undies on a stick and wave surrender, only I haven't done laundry in days, so there isn't a clean pair to be found. Henry Kissinger may have said "The urgent takes all the time from the important," but I'm living it.

When did I lose control? Has it been slipping away a bit at a time, or did some big catastrophe set my world wobbling? I'm not sure. All I do know is that when I heard the words "I'll be glad when my kids don't need me so much" came out of my mouth, you might as well have slapped me in the face.

Since when did I become so self important that anything became more important than what my children need from me at any moment?

I know it's been a tough week. Disappointments in my career, piled on top of scholarship deadlines for Wil, worked in around wedding planning with Jenny, added to an already ambitious work schedule has put me teetering on the edge of collapse (others would claim I've already tumbled over that edge with a mighty thud).

How selfish of me to complain and pout and throw a tantrum because my children needed more of me than I thought they should this week. One day they'll be busy with new lives they create, and I'll ache for the day they needed me, wanted me.

I taught about phytochemicals in nutrition this week, except I call them "fighting" chemicals. Each phytochemical gives fruits and vegetables their super-hero fighting powers. Just like Spiderman can weave a web and Superman has his x-ray vision, phytochemicals have secret powers that make them superheroes against disease.

So, I asked the third graders at NCO who their favorite superhero was.
"You," exclaimed one young lad.

Yep, I think there's still time tonight to proofread one more scholarship, check out one more wedding bouquet website and play superhero for a bunch of kids who just want someone to love them. Besides, clean underwear is really overrated.

The next time I wish my children's childhood away, you have permission to wash my mouth out with soap.

photo credit: By me of my two great kids! May you always be kids in my heart

Thursday, February 18, 2010

There's an app for that

Sometimes life just slaps me in the face.
Today, it was a good slap.

Facebook, the online social networking service, operates a lot like the old party-line telephone. Pick up the phone at any time (or log on in the case of Facebook) and find out what your neighbor is doing, what friends they're talking to, or who's over for a visit. It's almost like being back in Green Acres. Sometimes, it seems as if you're peeking in the windows of your friends' lives.

You can play several "games" on Facebook. One lets you pretend to be a farmer. You "click" to plant and harvest crops, build barns, and more. Other games allow you to send "gifts" to friends, receive daily horoscopes, or answer quizzes about your friends.

So many of my Facebook friends play these games, their antics often clutter up my Facebook diary, but Facebook allows me to "hide" these game postings with a simple click of my mouse. Today, a friend posted her results from a game called "Gifts From God." As I went to hide this posting, a message popped up asking me to verify the action. The message stated "Are you sure you want to hide "Gifts From God?"

How many of us do that every day; how many of us hide the gifts God has given us?
We fail to share the gifts of the spirit. We fail to find joy in little things. We fail to see the beauty of life around us. We fail to lift up our fellow human being. We fail to forgive and forget.

We fail and fail and fail again.
We fail to use our voice to lift up His goodness. We fail to give our wealth to the care of others. He fail to pray for our adversaries.

We choose complaining over comforting. We choose sarcasm over sympathy. We choose bickering over blessing. We choose self over sacrifice.

We choose to hide our "Gifts From God."

And, we choose it day after day after day until we forget we ever received any gifts. Stop hiding your gifts. I, for one, would like to see what God has given you to share. I'll be right here on the "other end of the party-line."

Photo credit: Judy Mae Bingman. Photo of Emily & Jenny, best friends who aren't afraid to share the gift of music God has given them. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Passing on my way

When the time comes, just say "I'm passing on my way."

I had never heard death described quite like that. The radio DJ, announcing the death of a popular singer, said, the artist "passed on his way."

Passed on his way . . . how fitting a description.

"Passed on our way," as if to remind us that we began in one place, spent some time in this place, before heading  on to the next place.

We weren't just here then gone.

There was a purpose to our journey, or as Og Mandino said in The Greatest Miracle in the World, "You are not the momentary whim of a careless creator experimenting in the laboratory of life . . . you have a purpose."

We are on our way from somewhere to somewhere, and, along the way, we pass by here.

We do not "pass away," for that implies what legacy we left passes away. We do not "die." That is so final, too final.

We pass on our way, and along the journey, have the time of our lives.

For whatever reason, my "purpose" seems to be enlightening children to the potential inside of them. It's there as infants, and somehow, through all the trials of life, we begin to forget, to doubt, to stop believing. Be the spark that rekindles that hope in others. Don't hold back.

"And I leave you now, not with sadness but with satisfaction and joy that we came together and walked, arm in arm, through this brief moment of eternity. Who could ask for more?" The ragpicker in The Greatest Miracle in the World

photo credit: Judy Mae Bingman

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Matter to someone

In an episode of Star Trek, the crew members of the Enterprise were thrown back in time, picking up an Air Force pilot from the mid-twentieth century along the way. When it was time to return to their own time, Captain Kirk debated whether to keep the man on board or risk returning him to the past with all he had seen.

Spock checked the history files and deduced the man would make no contributions to the world . . . his life was insignificant . . . nothing he had done--or would ever do--mattered to the way the rest of the world would unfold.

In short, he would not be missed; the world would go on unchanged if he did not return. 

How many of us are living just like that man? If Scotty beamed us up right now, would the world be any different without us?

It's awfully easy to be insignificant. It's safe. If we never reach out to anyone, then no one talks about us, no one hurts us, no one takes advantage of us. We stay in our little world and tend to our own things. We believe we have little to offer the world, so we don't try. We're content to let others be the heroes.

I recently sent an email to a pastor I had while I was a teen-ager in Iroquois. Its one-line message was simple. It read, "You will never know the impact you have had on my life."

He did no great thing for me, only little things with great kindness. That is really all we can ask of ourselves. I will not be the one to cure cancer, but I know my writings have eased the pain of chemotherapy for at least one person. To me, that's just as good.

Matter to someone.
Lift somone's burden.
Bring joy to the sad.
Comfort another's grief.

And when you're gone, let the world say that your life mattered.

"Don't wait for some magic gift. Share what you are, dare to be vulnerable, and you will find people who count you among their deepest friends." Let God Love You

photo credit: Wil Bingman, Star Trek Enterprise at The Smithsonian 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Calling it even

"Come Friday, we're even," the man said. "That's how I look at my job."

The man had worked for years and years at his job, and though the hours were often long and the pay was not so good, he said he picked up his pay check each Friday and considered his account even.

Paid in Full.

No matter how difficult the task may have been each week, in his mind, the check he received at the end of the week covered the debt. Each week, he marked the account paid in full and moved on.

Do you?
Or, do you, like me at times, look at your compensation for a job well done and complain that it isn't enough, complain that you aren't appreciated more, complain that the task was more than expected, complain that the glory doesn't equal the effort?

To make matters worse, each week we keep carrying that balance forward, adding a little more to the "what's owed us" column.

We will never be paid what we think we're worth. We can never be appreciated to the extent we think we should. Friends will never be as loving as we think they should. Traffic will never go as fast as we think it needs to.

Peace of mind can only come when we change what we think . . . 
. . . when we get to the end of the week and mark it even.
. . . when we get to the end of the day and balance the books with our friends and family.
. . . when we realize that give and take sometimes means giving more and taking less.

And when you're okay with that, you're finally okay with everything.

photo credit: Jenny Mae Bingman - Puerto Rican Parade, Chicago 2009 during American Idol Auditions

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Waiting for bad

This morning's unexpected snow reminded me of one anticipated snowstorm years ago which never came. The salt truck was parked at the rest area between Carmi and Crossville waiting ... just waiting ... waiting for bad weather which never came.

Some of us live our lives just like that, waiting for bad stuff which never comes. We worry that we could become ill; we could lose our job; we could lose our marriage.

We could, we could, we could.

But maybe, we won't. Maybe it just won't snow that day, but like the man in the salt truck, we are so focused on waiting for the bad, we fail to see the beauty happening all around us. That day turned out to be a lovely day. Every day is a lovely day for those who have learned to give worry no more time than it deserves.

I have found comfort lately trusting in "the plan." Life is tough, tougher than I can figure out at times. It's in those times, I've learned, to quit trying to steer the boat. Sometimes you are just supposed to enjoy the ride and leave the details to the One who knows the plan, the One who designed the plan.

When life just doesn't make sense, quit trying to make it have sense.

Trust that when the pieces are all fit together, a beautiful picture will emerge.

One of my favorite books is When God Winks by Squire Rushnell. I encourage you to read it. I quote from it: "Our view of life is limited. We go from day to day, looking at one puzzle piece at a time. But there is another perspective. While we are trying to make sense out of one odd-looking piece after another, we can take comfort knowing that all of the pieces do fit into a plan that could only have been created by a higher power. Only when we near the finish and begin to attain a more global perspective does the whole composition have clarity."

Photo credit: Judy Mae Bingman

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If you never came back home

My sister left her house in early August 2008. She never came home.
What we had hoped would be a short hospital stay turned into a three-month journey from which she didn't return.

After her death, we went to the house to gather things for the funeral and there, at her piano, right where she had left it, was her church hymnal opened to the song "Victory in Jesus."

I played that song this morning at worship services at Wabash Christian Retirement Center, and I couldn't help but think what people would find in my life if this day I didn't return home.
What would be open on my piano?

"Victory in Jesus" was a statement of how Brenda lived her life. She was confident of her eternal home, impatient with those who courted anything except a righteous lifestyle, and faithful in her service to others in need.

What would my statement be?

My little sister and I have an agreement that if anything happens to either one of us, the other will go to her house to "clean up" things before anyone finds the less-than-desirable elements of our life we keep hidden from the rest of the world.

Perhaps it's time, though, for each of us to begin living our life as if we weren't coming home; as if what we said that day would be the last thing people remembered of us.

What song will you be singing when you sing the last time?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It comes down to faith

No doubt there will be much debate over the movie "The Book of Eli." For my family, it inspired many questions about just what we believe and how we respond to those who believe differently.

The star of the movie is Eli (ya think short for Elijah?) who has spent the past 30 winters (after war destroyed most of the world) listening to a voice guide him . . . guide him first to the last remaining Bible in the world, then guide him "west" where The Book would be safe and used for good by the good. His biggest challenge comes from a  man who wants to use the knowledge of The Book for personal gain and power (like that hasn't happened before).

There are great moments in this movie. Some will go unnoticed by the unknowing.
  • When asked if The Book would save the world, Eli stated some believed The Book is what caused the final war.
  • Early in the movie, Eli stayed hidden while a person is attacked and killed. "Stay on the path; this doesn't concern you," he mumbled to himself. Later, he confessed his mistake and admitted he got so wound up protecting The Book, he forgot to live by what The Book taught: "to care for others more than ourselves." How often could we say that of ourselves?
  • I won't spoil the movie for you, but it was touching to see at the end a copy of the Bible placed in the last remaining library between a copy of the Torah and a copy of the Quran.

Throughout the movie, Eli performs amazing feats of physical strength which become even more unbelievable with the revelation at the end of the movie. "How could he . . . " we heard from movie-goers as they left the theater. It is the same thing repeated by unbelievers --"How could God . . ."

Faith. The movie comes down to faith, just like your personal beliefs come down to faith, and that's why some people just won't "get" this movie. One reviewer stated the movie "stretches believability," but isn't that what faith must do? Faith is one step past what we see and what we know.

How do we know? We don't. We simply have faith.
"Show me proof," some may demand, but we have none. We believe in a God who wants us to believe in Him without promise of proof. On the ride home, Jenny said she once explained it to a friend: "If there were proof, everyone would believe."

Faith is not knowing; it's simply believing and that's a tough story for some to accept. Do I know there is a heaven? No, but in faith I believe it to be true. Do I know there is a God? No, but in faith I believe Him to be true.

I don't have all the answers, and thus, some of what I believe may be wrong. I'll take that chance and, like Eli, let my faith carry me through the journey.

Photo credit: Wil Bingman, The National Cathedral

Friday, January 15, 2010

Living a life triumphantly unnoticed

I've struggled what to blog to note Wil's 18th birthday. I want a story that is uniquely Wil. As most moms have learned, you can raise your kids exactly alike; yet they still turn out to be different. So it has been with my two kids, and it seemed that what came easily for Jen, Wil sometimes struggled with. I recall vividly the night of Jen's eighth grade sports night where she came home loaded down with awards. It was the same day Wil found out he didn't make the cut for Little League (or one of those competitive baseball divisions). Still, as Jenny's biggest fan, he hid any disappointment he might have felt as he supported her triumphs.

I believe that is one of Wil's most endearing qualities; to be comfortable in his own skin, to not need fuss or attention or recognition, to work with no thought of reward. To be a Michael Collins.

In 1969, the Columbia Missourian newspaper interviewed Michael Collins, the third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, after their historic trip to the moon.

"While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.

"His great achievement -- his fondest hope -- is to be triumphantly unnoticed."

It is easy to become discouraged when the lion's share of the attention falls on one or two. Some folks seem made for attention. They thrive on it, work better in the midst of it. But all the attention in the world wouldn't have helped Neil Armstrong get back to earth if Michael Collins had decided to grab a little attention of his own and fly on home without him.

We need the Michael Collins in this world.

We need the Neil Armstrong's too, but too often, while the Armstrong's are retelling their stories to whomever will listen, the Collins' of the world are still out there plugging along, doing their work, "triumphantly unnoticed."

Sometimes we forget that.
Sometimes we forget how important the little things we do are to people. I teach nutrition to children every Wednesday and Thursday, and every time I walk into their classroom, little children run up, hug my belly and tell me how happy they are to see me.

Am I changing the world? No.
Am I changing theirs? Yes, and you can bet they change mine every Wednesday and Thursday.

I'll never be famous.
I will never be Neil Armstrong, and that's okay.

Wil's choice to join the military is just another example of the way he's lived his life all along, but his unselfish actions will never go unnoticed by his loving mother.  There is no greater compliment I hear than when people say "Wil's a good kid."

Happy Birthday to my Good Kid!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A salute to Gumby, unsung hero

At Christmas, Wil lamented that I never read to him as a child. I was shocked and hurt. No one likes to have their motherhood challenged. I remember spending hours talking with the children before bedtime. It was after reading today's obituary of Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, that I realized why Wil doesn't remembered having books read to him. It's because instead of reading books, I made up stories, new and different adventures each night.

That's what Art Clokey did with his children, and the stories he told them became many of the 233 adventures of Gumby we enjoyed on television.

Childhood lost. I was Gumby for Halloween when I was six. My sister was the beautiful bride. Since this picture, my sister has been a bride three times. Me, well, there are days I certainly feel like Gumby.

To me, Gumby was the ultimate defender of the little guy. says that Gumby's focus was on doing "what is right and good. Because of his faith in following his heart, everything always works out for him in the end, whether that means a triumph or learning a lesson."

Gumby was a hero. Heroes, they're the people who made us who we are today. They may be the leader we patterned our lives after, the beacon who steered us to our career, the spiritual leader who crafted our moral inner self, or the cheerleader who never gave up on us.

Heroes. If there are fewer today than in our younger days, it is only because we have demanded too much from them. We have come to expect perfection, not only from our heroes, but from our business associates, our political leaders, our neighbors, our teachers, our friends, ourselves.

Maybe the problem in today's world is you can literally find out just about everything there is to know about a person. Knowing everything includes knowing the less than hero-like qualities in each of us. We all have them, so the longer you look, the more you know and the less heroic they become.

The ordination ceremony in the United Methodist Church used to (and maybe still does) include a question to all incoming preachers: "Are you striving for perfection?" One year, a preacher-to-be replied, "No," to which the bishop responded, "I didn't say 'are you going to reach perfection,' but, 'Are you striving for it?'"

True heroes strive for perfection, acknowledge they'll never reach it and forgive others when they fall short of it.

True heroes act like Gumby. Rest in peace Art Clokey.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Promises to myself

The new year is always a good time for resolutions. I prefer to call them promises, promises I make to myself. Unlike many, though, my promises have remained the same for years, and I use the new year to remind me to be more kind to myself. Here they are if you also need reminding as well.

I will not let small, simple minds make me doubt my own worth or capabilties
I will not look to others for my strength.
I will not allow the size of my worries to determine the depth of my joys.
I will not throw away my belief in the goodness of humankind because of the cruelty of a few humans.
I will not expect miracles, but I will accept them.
I will not expect my children to act, think, respond or love like adults.
I will not cry in sorrow, only for joy.
I will not try to get even; who wants to be equal to an idiot.
I will not allow money to dictate my decisions.
I will not allow my problems to be an excuse for not helping others.

I will look upon the morning sunrise as if it were the last one I'd see for eternity.
I will believe in fairness, knowing it rarely, if ever, happens.
I will remind myself how lucky I am to have children who wear jeans to church (because at least they're going), who leave dirty clothes on the floor (because at least they came home that night) and who tell me I'm not being fair (because at least they asked for permission first).

I will do without and realize how much better I am without it.
I will marvel at how the world works and chuckle at those who think they discovered why.
I will remind my children that perfection is not their mother's desire.

And, I will look at this list whenever the world causes me to forget.

Photo credit: Jenny Mae Bingman

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going nowhere fast

I visited my sister in northern Illinois, and it didn't take me long to remember what driving in the city was like. The children and I were taking a leisurely pace, looking here and there.

The people behind us were not interested in anything except getting around us. One after another, they whipped around us, hurrying, it seemed, to merely beat us to the next stop light.

They were working so hard at getting nowhere.

Later I tried to make a left-hand turn out of the grocery store parking lot and cross four lanes of traffic. I couldn't. While I waited, drivers behind me honked their horns, impatient with my patience.

So, instead of going left (the direction I wanted to go), I had to turn right and drive in the wrong direction until I found another stop light where I could turn left, find another parking lot, turn around and head back to the light. Only then could I finally go the direction I wanted to go.

We laughed about how much time we wasted going the wrong way . . . and how long it took us to get right back where we started.

Another life lesson--it's hard to cross traffic.

It's hard to be an individual and ignore the honking from behind while you wait for your moment to cross. It's easier to give up all together and go the other way, the wrong way. Only trouble is, some of us never turn around. Years slip into the next and you're still heading in the wrong direction.

If you ever hope to get to where you really want to be, ignore the well-intentioned "honks" of your friends and family who try to tell you what you should or shouldn't do or how you should or shouldn't feel. Only you know the direction you want to go, and only you know when it's safe to cross.

When the moment's just right, floor it. Don't think . . . you've thought long enough. Don't worry . . . you know the way is clear. Don't give up . . . it's worth the effort.

Go the direction you were born to go.

photo credit: Picture Perfect Photography

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In search of one moment in time

 Photo by Wil Bingman 

"At what point will I be content?" my dearest friend asked.

We talked about dreams and plans and fate and dumb luck, all the while wondering when each of us would be able to say, "This is where I want to be."

Maybe we're reaching for something we'll never achieve. Maybe we're never meant to be totally content. Maybe it's that unsettled feeling which keeps us striving each day; maybe that's what makes us get out of bed each morning and do it all one more time, a little better than the day before.

Or, maybe, contentment comes from making the most of where we are that day. Maybe that peace we're looking for is what we feel each night before we drift to sleep when we realize we lived the day the best we could. It may not have been great, may not have even been good, but it was our best effort.

Or, maybe, if we're lucky, there will be a point where everything lines up; where good is good and always good and always right there at your side.

I hope.
A firefighter from the Champaign, IL area spoke at a state 4-H awards ceremony and he said it much better than I ever could. "We are all moving toward that one moment in time where you're more than you thought you could ever be."

That's what I want. I want to be more than I ever thought I could be, and, more importantly, recognize the moment when I get there.

I want more contentment than I ever thought I would have.
I want to love more than I ever thought I could and be loved more than I ever dreamed possible.
I want more laughter than tears.
I want comfort without extravagance.
I want more friendships than one lifetime can fill.

In "The Bridges of Madison County," Clint Eastwood turned to the woman he loved and said, "It just seems like everything I've done up to this point in my life has led me here." That was his "one moment."

I wait for that one moment in time when I say "here is where I wanted to be; here is where I was meant to be; here is where I feel content; here is the place where all the twists of my life have taken me . . .  and it is a good place to be."