Chocolate Tea

I love tea. I’m from the south. I LOVE iced tea! Iced tea was something I grew up drinking year round. Through the years, I have discovered there are LOTS of options in tea. Hot teas have become a part of my regular beverage intake. I’ve even invested in the various utensils used to brew loose leaf tea. (There are LOTS of gadgets for brewing tea!)
Last year, my son gave me a tea club membership. Every month, I received two different loose leaf teas to try. I enjoyed the black and green teas and even some of the white teas. But, I’ve never developed a fondness for chocolate flavored teas. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. I like chocolate and I like brewed teas, so it would make sense to brew them together, right? WRONG! I just cannot get used to chocolate flavored teas. Chocolate in coffee is good. Tea pretending to be a chocolate treat is just wrong.

Sometimes, I pretend to be something that I’m not. When I was in a dating mode, I attempted to adjust my personal views and tastes to match those of the other person. I’ve played the games necessary to “fit in” with certain people. I’ve attempted to tone down parts of my personality so as not to offend others or to cause them discomfort due to their own beliefs or lack thereof. But, in the end, that never works. I’m still an opinionated, bossy, conservative, introverted gal that likes to do things MY way. We’re all better off when I’m honest. That doesn’t mean we can’t get along in life. It just means I will never quit trying to guide you to MY way of thinking.

I don’t think I will ever like chocolate tea.

Latest and Greatest

I’m a gadgets person. I love gadgets. I want the newest most up-to-date gadgets that are available. I don’t care if it’s a phone, a tablet, a reader or can opener, I NEED one. That would probably explain why I own an IPhone, an IPad, a Microsoft Surface tablet and 2 Nooks (black and white and color). For a few months, I also had a Kindle Fire that I won in a raffle. But, I managed to control myself and give it to someone who would actually use it and enjoy it. For Christmas, I was given an apple TV. I love the technology that is available and I want to be part of it. It’s exciting and new and different.

But still, I resist change in other areas of my life. I avoid it. Despise it even. Why can’t I view changes in my life in a positive light? What will make me look forward to the “new technology” that is available to me, personally? I have no problem with the thought that newer is better when it applies to things that will make my life easier or faster. But, when the suggestion is made that I can be improved, it hurts. Am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me? My emotions get involved and it’s often downhill from there. But, there are things that I need to change within myself. There are areas of improvement. If only it was as easy as running the latest update to my program to update my phone.

Improvement means change. Change means giving up something: a habit, a memory, a relationship. So, change means loss. And regardless of what that loss is, there is mourning. It doesn’t matter if you are giving up sucking your thumb or an hours sleep to run before work or walking away from a toxic relationship, there is loss and mourning involved. It takes time to make the adjustment. It takes a concentrated effort. Just as it takes time to learn and use the newest features of my latest smart phone, it takes time to see the benefits of any life-change.

New gadgets come wrapped in plastic, all shiny and new. They come with instructions. Life changes aren’t always pretty. They rarely come with an instruction book. But, they can be exciting. What exciting changes are coming in 2014? Hang around and find out!

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Candy Crush Life

Have you ever played Candy Crush? It’s a popular and rather addictive game. You progress through the levels by amassing points, eliminating enough jelly, and bringing down various fruit. The premise is simple: you match colors in groups of three or more to score. Eliminating more than three items nets you some additional ‘perks’ to use in the game. There are time bombs that have to be eliminated and that nasty chocolate that creeps across and blocks access to parts of the board as well as a limited number of moves for each level. Some levels were easy to conquer and then some have taken me weeks to master.

There are times that my life feels like a Candy Crush game. I can get so focused on getting a bonus piece that I totally overlook the chocolate that is taking over my board. In life, I am just as guilty of focusing too much in one area and totally missing the truly important stuff. I try so hard to get what is important in the moment and I lose everything in the end.

So how do I live in this moment but keep my focus on the bigger picture? What IS the bigger picture? That’s where Faith come into play. Too often my faith in only as strong as a three or four-color string of candy. When the chocolate creeps across and makes things difficult, I panic and fall apart. I need to have complete faith and trust on the promises God had given me through His word:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

I have to stop focusing on MY little plans and adventures. In 2014, I pray that my goals and plans are God designed, not of the Candy Crush variety. I desire my heart to belong to my Lord and Savior and follow his lead in my life. No matter what creeps in and offers a distraction, I will focus on the higher goal.

This won’t be easy. The “candy” in life is everywhere. I will enjoy bits and pieces along the way, I just can’t allow my focus to be dependent on the perks. What about you? Do you live a Candy Crush life? Is this the year to make a difference in your life?

Gifts

I’m at an interesting place in my life. My kids are (mostly) grown so Christmas at our house is different, now. It doesn’t seem that many years ago that I scoured the store aisles for the elusive White Power Ranger or the perfect Cabbage patch doll. We would make a late night trip to Wal-greens to get those last few things to put in the stockings and stay up late to assemble and wrap gifts long after the children are asleep. Those times are in my past. I still look for that perfect Christmas gift for each of my kids, but some of the excitement is gone.

Now, my kids are asking ME what I want for Christmas. And, I have a hard time coming up with any ideas. I’d rather give gifts and see the smiles and enjoyment that get “stuff” for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like gifts. I prefer gifts from the heart that truly mean something to both parties. When Terry and I were first married, there wasn’t much money to spend on each other for Christmas. So, we agreed to spend only $25 each on stocking stuffers. We had so much fun that year trying to be creative and maybe a bit practical, that we continued the tradition in the following years. My grown children still get stuff in their stockings. My daughter has told me on more than one occasion that her Christmas stocking is the best part of Christmas.

I’ve accepted over the years that it’s not the biggest or most expensive gift that matters. The gifts that mean the most are those that speak the recipients love language. The one thing Terry gave me that I will always remember was ear plugs. Now most people wouldn’t be excited about foam ear plugs. But, Terry snored. Snored LOUDLY. That package of ear plugs meant he was really paying attention to me. He listened and understood when I spoke. He was speaking my primary love language of Quality Time with his gift. He also touched on my close 2nd love language: Words of Affirmation. When I opened the ear plugs he told me that I was important to him.

I am a gift giver. And I don’t always get the right gifts for others. But my prayer for 2014 is this: I will be more attuned to the love languages of those that I care about and I will meet their needs this year. That I will demonstrate it’s not all about the gifts. It’s about caring and sharing and loving the people with which God surrounds me.

Do you know your Love Language?

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Control

I’m a control freak. I admit it. I want to know where we are going, how long we will be there and what we will be doing before I leave the house. While I don’t hate surprises, I prefer controlling the things around me.

So today, after dreading returning to the office and ending my Christmas vacation, I found myself quite calmed by the routine of work. Following days of almost frantic activity, the spreadsheets and formulas that filled my hours were very comforting. Numbers always add up the same way. They don’t break the rules. They don’t argue or get their feelings hurt. I can line them up and make the numbers tell whatever story I wish. Yes, I’m a control freak.

And that’s why I avoid new people and new situations and sometimes, known people and familiar situations. The risk of the unknown, the uncontrollable, often outweighs the attraction of social interaction. I don’t make phone calls because I begin to imagine the faces of boredom or derision on the other end of the line. I would much rather text as I find it much less intrusive. I love to go to dinner or to a movie or just to get coffee and talk with friends. And, I feel as if I’m being tortured when I’m the one extending the invitation. I’m no longer in control.

Every day is a struggle for control of the circumstances around me. I know there a balance between risk and control. But I often find myself opting for the security of riding the seesaw alone: better to stay on the ground alone rather than fly too high. I know I miss out on some excitement in life. But, I’m safe. And a little boring. You see, I’m a control freak.

A New Year

A new year. A new start. Well, sort of. It’s still the same life, the same job, the same issues. There’s nothing magic about January 1. But, it’s a starting point to think about changes. And a time to look back.

I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” yesterday. It was a good movie. I left the theater thinking about the past: my kids past. In the movie, Walter’s life was altered by the death of his father. Dreams and adventures were set aside so he could be responsible. Through most of the movie I kept wondering what dreams my son pushed aside after his dad died.

I’ve watched Zac’s struggle with teenage dreams and adult responsibility. I’m very proud of the young man he has become. But I wonder where he would be if he still had his dad’s encouragement and leadership. Yes, I’m having some
‘what if’ and ‘if only’ moments.

I can’t change the past. And worrying about it isn’t an option either. I’ve shed tears over what will never be. I hope and pray that, like Walter Mitty, Zac realizes his dreams and understands how important he is to the people around him.

Happy New Year!

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? (Isaiah 43:18/19 MSG)