Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Standing As A Sentinel

It would seem a rather lonesome job. A sentinel often stands alone, always at the ready; to watch, to guard, to raise a voice of warning. 

A few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to visit a part of the world in which my husband and I witnessed a startling juxtapose.  It wasn't where one would expect to find knights in shining armor standing as sentinels atop fortress walls, but there amid the beauty of the Aegean Sea where it flows into the Mediterranean, we found this anomaly.  We found Rhodes, one of the splendid islands of Greece.

Perhaps many already know of  its unique history, an amalgamation of mythology and legend, but I didn't. I was startled to see that along with the expected sandy beaches, jagged cliffs, lush mountaintops, and ancient ruins of Greece, we found the astonishing preservation of medieval fortresses, a lingering tribute to the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem that came during the time of the Crusades to protect against Turkish invaders.
I have been reminded recently that among the many roles and responsibilities of parents, there falls a supreme accountability as sentinels for the family, as guardians upon the watch tower to be ever vigilant and faithful in protecting and giving a warning voice when necessary against the challenges and dangers of the world.
When those once-protected children leave home to make lives for themselves, does that role as watchmen upon the tower diminish and fade away?  Often that is how it would seem.  I recently read a reminder that put things into perspective for me:

"...at times the sentinel misses the essence of his existence.  To man the outpost, it is not.  Maybe rather it is to pen the revelations found in the solitude of introspective adventure."

This old knight sometimes gets a little rusty and weathered from being left out to stand alone in the rain, but perhaps my job is not to merely "man my post", obediently, quietly, solitarily.  As I watch ever-cautiously, maybe I can use my enhanced perspective gained from extra years of living to be the watchman on the tower, and those long hours standing alone need not be wasted.  I can be a much more effective sentinel if I use this time to study and learn and grow and fine-tune myself.  Then I can be better prepared to teach and counsel and advise and warn of dangers ahead.

And I am certainly not alone.  I am aided by others who are brave enough to share their insights and discoveries.  Let us unite together and look out for one another.  I will not desert my post, and I will try to learn something while I am here.  And if I happen to gain any enlightenment, I will pass it along.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

To Faith and Fish: Swimming Upstream

Do you ever feel like you are going one way while EVERYONE else is going the opposite direction?  Do you ever feel like you are the odd man out, the square peg in a world of round holes?  Do you ever feel like everyone is flocking to see the latest blockbuster bust-'em-up movie, and you are discovering buried treasure in a quirky, obscure indie film that no one's even heard of?

If you are willing to step out of the expected box and take a chance on Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt as they work together to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen, then I highly recommend this movie.  It is not filled with superheroes in skin tight suits. There is not one flexed muscle in the whole show, nothing blows up; but there are heroic efforts manifest in unexpected ways, there is affection shown with tenderness while remaining within the parameters of respect and courtesy.

There is genuine friendship showing the promise of budding love. There is coming to understand and embrace the faith that we all must have if we want to break out of the dullness and pedestrian lives that we become locked within. There is beauty, courage, hope and just the right balance of charm and humor.

Sometimes it takes courage to be the one to make the turn and begin swimming upstream.  While everyone else goes with the flow, takes the easy course, great rewards can be found in being the odd man out.

And the lines are much shorter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Well Pleased

Thankfully, we are never too old to learn.  I received an important lesson this past weekend.  It doesn't change what I do, but it has made a major change in the way I think, and hopefully in how I express my feelings.

As a delightful Mothers Day gift, my husband took me to Idaho to be with all of our children.  It was the only thing I had wanted.  It was a weekend filled with love and laughter and warm fuzzies and opportunities to see my grown children in action as outstanding young people.

We were able to hear one daughter speak in church, giving an eloquent address on the motivating force behind service, that being love as taught by the Savior.  Brilliant.

We were able to gather for a family dinner prepared by my innovative daughters who found a place big enough for all of us, who served wonderful homemade food, and who made it as lovely as it could be.

We were able to also attend church with my son and his family, witnessing his great contributions in leadership and music. 

This was when I received my significant learning moment.  Following the meeting we were able to visit for a few moments with my son's bishop and I expressed to him how proud I am of my son, a rather trite and hollow-sounding, yet sincere sentiment. This good man took a moment to teach me a more significant expression.

Being proud of our children is good, but more importantly, it is good to "be pleased" with them.

I was taken aback.

Surely he was absolutely right. 

Being pleased with our children bespeaks something even greater than pride.  I can be proud of what they do; proud of their achievements; but on a higher level is this idea of being pleased with who they are, being pleased with their choices, being pleased with the development of their character and their integrity.

So today I pay tribute to my children and express to them how pleased I am in who they have become.  I may be proud of how hard they work at becoming educated and independent.  But of more significance, they are outstanding, thoughtful, virtuous young people in whom I am very pleased.

And to add a bit of wisdom from Emerson, I hope my children will always remember:

"I wish the man to please himself, then he will please me."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Being True to Myself: A Free Spirit!

My first thought:  I've been duped!!!  Second thought:  Really? Do people really live like this?  Third thought:  It's just not me.  It may be fine for someone else, but that is just not who I am.

I'm actually proud of the progression.  I went from feeling taken advantage of, to trying to be understanding of another's point of view, to finally recognizing that I don't have to be like anyone else and that is okay too.

I have been very conscious of time management lately.  Is it because I am so busy with so many things and I can't find the time to do all the things that are required of me?  Quite the contrary.  I have a lot of free time. Imagine summer vacation.  Long days without many direct requirements on my time. No requirements? Of course not, just freedom to use my time as I choose, filling my days with family and home stewardships, church assignments, personal study, self-improvement and creative exploration.

I purchased an ebook this morning about effective management of time because I had heard that the main idea of the book was about spending more time doing what one was made to do rather than doing merely what one needed to do.  I liked that idea a lot.  Mainly, I liked the idea of discovering what one was made to do.  Unfortunately, this little book was all about charts and graphs and labeling each hour of each day and adhering closely to the schedule (of one's choosing of course).

Blah........ I can see what this would bring.  I would (unwisely) use way too much time analyzing and thinking and planning and imagining and creating a schedule which would then become a dismal excuse to be frustrated with myself while at the same time eliciting copious amounts of guilt for NEVER once using the dumb thing.

Because that's just not who I am.

I was prompted to remember summer vacations when my children were growing up.  I believe it was one of the things I happened to do right as a mother.  Were our days scheduled to the max with goals set and strict routines?  Heavens, no.  But we did find a way to bring some order to our freestyle summer living.

We simply had "Days".  I'll bet if I asked them, my adult children could probably remember, quite accurately, what those days were.

     Monday:  Cleaning Day.  This insured that we would start the week off with clean rooms.
     Tuesday:  Library Day.  This gave us a much-needed outing, while instilling within them a love of books. Win, Win.
     Wednesday:  Cooking Day.  Nothing fancy, just some fun, little yummy project to do together so they would feel that I love them.
     Thursday:  Craft Day.  Again, nothing fancy; just a little "get your hands dirty in a fun way" project.  Who doesn't love that?
     Friday:  Trip day.  This was anything to get us out of the house for awhile, give us something to look forward to, something which told my kids that they mattered to me.

I am a firm believer in giving children free time to be a child, along with the necessary structured time to help them become productive, contributing members of society.  New ideas are not born without time to dream, to imagine, to explore, to play.

How are adults any different?

I feel blessed to have latitude in my days to explore my own agenda.  I feel doubly blessed to have a husband that encourages me to go in search of my own dreams and talents.  Freestyle living is great, but to be truly useful requires some structure as well.

I am implementing a grown-up version of "Days".  It will contain some parameters, not to be restrictive or keep me in check, but to boost my productivity while giving me the freedom to spend all day on Thursday being crafty, if I that's what I want to do.

In some ways I wish I was the type that could follow a strict regimen to the letter and to the minute.  I'm not.

I must have the liberty to drop everything when I get that important call.  You know the one.  When my husband calls and says:  "Let's have lunch!"