Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Deeper Level of Thankfulness?

Over the years, I’ve mostly gotten used to not having the nicest stuff, or even having a lot of flexibility in our budget to afford spending much money on new “things”. Being unemployed for six months certainly didn’t help, and now although I have a good job with decent pay, we’re still trying to get caught up from the unemployment time, our relocation expenses, our recent trip to Florida for my brother’s 30th birthday, and on and on.

This morning though, the Cincinnati Enquirer has “5 pounds worth of savings for Black Friday” in it. So I looked in the Target ad, and instantly wanted the 50” 1080p TV for $350, and the 61-key keyboard for $70, and to get the Canon Rebel camera package for Amanda (including memory card and telephoto lens) for $500. Man, what deals! And I started to see how people get so caught up that they wait in lines overnight or longer to conquer these savings and get this new stuff!

I have no doubt that the perspective of our financial status is based on our culture (what we see on TV, in the ads, etc), and on those around us (our neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc). So it’s difficult if not impossible to think that we ever have “enough”, or to not want more, because we see all of the things around us that we don’t have.

The perspective of our gratitude though, is dependent of our heart, and of our relationship to God.  I’m currently reading a book (that Amanda has already read), called “One Thousand Gifts”. In it, the author talks about the original text that is written to describe Jesus “giving thanks” at the last supper in Luke 22:19, which is eucharisteo. Jesus knew He was going to be tortured, crucified, and (even worse?) separated from God, yet still He was able to be grateful for what He had at that very moment.  Numerous other verses are cited too, where Jesus thanks God after or during difficult times. Then too, when Jesus healed the 10 lepers in Luke 17 and only one came back to thank Him, Jesus replied “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you” (the most literal translation).

They were all physically healed, but the one who was thankful was saved. Of course, this doesn't mean that thankfulness is the source of salvation. But our ability to focus on God is very largely dependent on turning our attention and our desires away from our culture and/or our friends. Then we can be thankful for all of the things that we have, instead of looking longingly at that which we do not.

And you might want to put down those ads.  They'll get you every time!  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Exercise vs. Entertainment

I recently went to Florida to be with my family for my brother's 30th birthday and also my oldest daughter's 6th birthday. After eating one helping of pizza (3 slices) at my daughter's birthday party, I complained to my brother in-law about wanting to go back for more, but choosing to be sensible/disciplined instead.  We both reminisced about "back in the day" when we could eat as much pizza as we wanted to, without any regret or negative repercussions.

I then commented that maybe if we were as consumed by exercising and body building as a friend of ours is (who is also close to our age), then we wouldn't have to be as concerned with restricting our consumption.  Daniel then said something about us having to sacrifice so many other important aspects of our lives (like family, dedication to God, etc).

A few minutes later he was telling me about several TV shows that he and my sister have been enjoying.  The Walking Dead was one of them (that I am now hooked on too).  But as we were talking about this, I connected our previous conversation to this one, and thought about us feeling like it's impossible to dedicate ourselves to exercise, primarily because it seemed like it would require so much sacrifice.  And now here we were talking about spending what sounded like at least an hour per night watching various TV shows.

I know, I know - we all want to just "relax" after a long day of work, or kids, or school, or whatever.  And we already have to get up too early for all of these things as well.  And it's so hard to wake up and exercise when you're tired, and/or it's cold out, and/or we stayed up too late (watching TV or surfing the web).  But with all of these (sometimes valid) excuses, I keep coming back to the idea that we really just can't resist feeding our addiction to entertainment.  It's a habit that we can't break any more than a long time smoker can stop sucking his own life away through the end of a paper roll.

What it really comes down to for most of us, with the exception of a very small percentage of people, is that the incentive to exercise is just not significant enough to get us up off of the couch or out of our desk chairs.  We just aren't motivated enough to sacrifice our entertainment.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Some Nights, Some Days

I know I lead a blessed life and most of my problems are "first world problems", but there are some moments when I get really annoyed that I can't escape my responsibilities.

Last night, for example.  It was Friday night, and a much needed payday too.  What I really wanted to do was celebrate - go out with Amanda to grab a beer at a sports bar with some friends.  Hang out, socialize - just relax and enjoy life a bit.  But instead we went to Panda Express for dinner to go, and we introduced the kids to "Willow" (they only finished the first half before it was bedtime).  And that was fine and fun.  Then the kids went to bed, and Amanda and I went downstairs to mess around on the computers (Amanda is addicted to 365project, and I like enjoy browsing through the cleaner posts on The Chive), followed by us watching an episode of "The Walking Dead".  Then we went to bed.

I know, I know.  We could have gotten up and done something different.  It's not like we didn't have any choices in the matter of what we could do at home.  But there are some nights when I just don't feel like doing anything here at home, in the same, normal place. Especially when it's just so easy to default to our routine.

I also miss spending time with friends.  I love being with my wife more than anyone else in the world, but sometimes I really want to be with other people too.  Also, I seriously enjoy my family here (Mom and Dad C., Katie and Jimmy, etc), even more than I thought I would before we moved here.  But sometimes I want to be with peers - people of my age group, in similar circumstances (kids, etc), and maybe even of the same faith as us.  Don't get me wrong - I don't want any less time with our family here, I would just like to have some time with friends too.

This is the trade off of moving to Ohio though I guess, at least for now.

Then, this morning when I woke up to hearing the kids walking around upstairs at 6:20am, I thought about how I get up to my alarm every morning at 6:20 - 6:30am, and today I just want to sleep in a bit, damnit!  I got out of bed and let Amanda get ready for the gym (we would both go later if the kids weren't sick), then took care of getting the kids' a snack, pouring their drinks, fixing the girls' hair, and helping Lucas use an inhaler because he keeps coughing.  But oh how I would love to just sit down and ponder what to do with my day.  Or for Amanda and I to share a quiet cup of coffee together and figure out what we can do together, without having to deal with our little people, who happen to be BIG responsibilities.  Then there's the dog too.  Ugh.

Again, I know these are first world problems.  I'm sure that I sound like a whiny little brat to God, who gave me so many wonderful choices and blessings, including a job that I enjoy, a fantastic and beautiful wife, and my children who are truly freakin' awesome and incredible.  But there are just some days when I would like a little bit less responsibility, and to be able to enjoy the freedom associated with it.
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