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It’s a new year. Time for another installation of Friday Five – five totally random bits of wisdom to jump start your year.

  • One mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

Fallen off the New Year’s resolutions wagon yet? Hope not. But, if so, get right back on. Just because you ate something unhealthy, skipped a day at the gym, forgot to read your Bible, sat around all day watching Netflix, doesn’t mean you can’t right the ship. The author (James Clear) of my 2019 favorite book (Atomic Habits) gave me lots of great advice, but one thing that really stuck with me:

“If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.”

So…change your system. If putting your new habit for going to gym isn’t working at 6 AM, move it to 5 PM, or whatever time will work better. If your new resolution to eat healthier is failing, put a better system in place to give yourself a chance at success.

You are not the problem – your system is. This stuff is gold, people. Total game changer for me.

  • Volunteer your time somewhere.
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Annual bell ringing in December

As we enter this new year, make a choice to volunteer to benefit someone less fortunate. So many wonderful organizations could use some of your valuable time. And trust me on this, you will benefit more than anyone else. If you struggle with depression, grief, or just plain old “winter blues,” sign up to help out at the local women’s shelter, Salvation Army, or my favorite pay-it-forward restaurant, Groundswell Cafe, in Cedar Rapids. Of course, there are loads of other places to help out – your kids’ school is always looking for extra help, the local library could use assistance shelving books, the animal shelter will never turn away someone to feed or play with the dogs and cats. Got a knack for construction? Check out Habitat for Humanity. Somehow, when we take our minds off ourselves and our own circumstances, and place them on someone else, we end up feeling better. This won’t cure clinical depression or anxiety, but volunteering just plain feels good.

  • Be anonymous.

Do something for someone else and don’t tell them it was you. Allow someone else to take the credit for your bright idea. Share a social media post without adding your own two-cents. Give a gift without a “from” label. If you have the funds, pay for someone’s groceries in line behind you…and don’t stick around to see how they respond. Clean up the break room at work without looking to see who is watching you. I think you get the idea.

  • Go to a museum and read all the stuff.

A few years ago, I convinced my husband to go with me to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. It was fun and we really enjoyed it. We had lived here for over 25 years and never taken the time to see the exhibits. Now I have a long list of other museums in the area that I’d like to see: the National Czech and Slovak Museum (always mean to, never have); the African-American Museum of Iowa; the History Center; and Brucemore.

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The view of the Czech and Slovak Museum over the 12th Avenue bridge

I just clicked on the National Czech and Slovak Museum link – their current exhibit is the art and evolution of the guitar, open until January 26th. Sounds like a good mother-son activity!

  • Don’t text and drive.

My public service announcement for the day. This isn’t a joke – this is serious stuff. Please consider others before yourself. You can wait to check that text or take that call. Even a half-second of looking away from the road (including changing the radio station) can result in an accident. I’ve set my phone to “do not disturb” while driving so any incoming texts receive a message that I’m unavailable to respond until I stop driving. It may be annoying to the sender, but it helps me stay more focused on what I need to be doing – driving. And focus is my 2020 word.

Have a great weekend!

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img_2978Our youngest son got married on Saturday. It was beautiful. Of course, when the bride is absolutely gorgeous and the husband is GQ-worthy (someone else said this first, not me…his mother)…it’s tough to have a bad wedding. But we learned a lot from the planning process and throughout the day into the evening. I’m passing along a little wisdom.

Five Things to Make Your Wedding Unforgettable.

img_2943(1)  Have an outdoor wedding. No matter what you do to out-think the weather forecast, the weather always wins. Always. Maybe it’ll be sweltering hot. Maybe the gnats & mosquitoes will dive bomb each guest. Maybe the storm clouds will gather behind the wedding party as they try to look cool and calm. Maybe the storm sirens won’t go off during the ceremony. Maybe the wind will blow the decorations into the next county. Maybe some of this happened to us.

(2)  Ensure you lose electricity during the reception because of weather. Everyone eats by the flickering candlelight. Toilets won’t flush. Band can’t play. The mother-of-the-bride’s best friends hold their camera flashlights over the food line so people know what meat they are putting into their tacos.

img_2944(3) Make sure the mother of the groom hurts her back the night before. With so many friends and family members in town, there’s a plethora of advice (and painkiller options) made available. In order to remember the day, keep the drug options to Tylenol and ibuprofen. And peppermint oil.

(4) Torrential downpours. Nothing like a little (not little) thunderstorm to keep everyone inside the building instead of enjoying the beautiful grounds of our venue. But we also didn’t lose anyone. Keeping our loved ones close makes for a very memorable day.

(5) Live band. Let’s be real – a live cover band with no electricity doesn’t sound good. Pun intended. But our venue staff (Koru Aronia Berry Farm) worked tirelessly to pull off miracles and the band (Strays) went live only 20 minutes behind schedule. We danced (not me) and sang and swayed and tapped our toes (me) for almost three hours. I loved watching my adult nieces and nephews enjoying themselves right alongside my little great-nephews dancing away the night.

I could add so much more because it truly was a wonderful day. No matter the glitches that could have ruined everything, Sean and Ellie planned and pulled off a magical wedding.

Huge thank you to all that came together to work, play, dance, serve, and celebrate this special couple. Sean and Ellie made it to Italy (eventually – but that’s another story) and you can see some of their travels on their Instagram pages. And I’m down to only two ibuprofen a day.

 

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I’ve been entertaining a house guest this weekend. Stanley arrived a unexpectedly on Friday. I had heard of him from other people, but had never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He’s a pleasant fellow, always smiling. He travels very light – no suitcase and basically just the clothes on his back (or more accurately, his front). He’s no fuss…he will go with whatever plans we have for him. Never a complaint and always that same smile.

It turned out to be a great time for Stanley to visit. We had plans for a weekend visiting family and friends, so I tucked Stanley in my purse and away we went.

Our first stop was in Ames to visit our son Sean. We hadn’t seen him since January when he returned to school so it was nice to hug his neck and take him out for breakfast. In all the excitement of seeing Sean, I forgot Stanley in the car. But he didn’t seem to mind – he was still smiling when we got back in.

From Ames, we travelled down Interstate 35 to Des Moines, Iowa’s capital. I picked up my good friend Danette and headed to the west side of the city to attend my future daughter-in-law’s first bridal shower. This time, I remembered Stanley and though he was the only male in attendance, he kept to himself and no one seemed to notice.

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While talking with Danette about Stanley’s visit, she suggested we stop by the beautiful Iowa State Capitol building before returning home. I’m so glad we did! Stanley seemed to enjoy the fresh air and open front lawn, though we had to prop him up with a fork to keep him upright. Maybe he was a little carsick from riding around in the backseat all afternoon?

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The next day was  Sunday and we saw no reason to leave Stanley at home, so he attended church services with us in Troy Mills, Iowa. It is a small but friendly congregation so I knew Stanley would be welcome. I even asked if he would help me teach the kids’ sermon and he gladly agreed, again with that same smile

.IMG_2180 I talked about the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives – that He goes with us wherever we go, comparing him to my good friend Stanley. I was curious to hear how Stanley would do singing unfamiliar hymns, and I did notice he was flat most of the time. Oh well…he stayed smiling through the whole service.

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With the weekend over, I wasn’t sure what I could do to keep Stanley entertained. My Monday morning routine begins with a visit to my local Curves for a 30-minute workout. Stanley slipped in, even though Curves is for women only. But no one seemed to mind and we didn’t stay long. I don’t think he even broke a sweat and always with that smile.

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I had to work all day and Stanley sat quietly watching me…never a peep out of him. But I wanted him to see a little of my city so we went on a walk through Cedar Rapids at lunch time. First stop was the new Cedar Rapids Public Library. I thought he’d enjoy seeing the city from the rooftop but it wasn’t open yet – too windy. Wind and Stanley probably don’t mix well.

IMG_2185 I showed Stanley the beautiful view from the 2nd floor windows overlooking our new Greene Square Park. He was impressed. He kept his face right up against the glass the whole time.

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IMG_2187 The next stop was the somewhat famous Five Seasons symbol on the banks of the Cedar River. Looks a little like a tree, doesn’t it? Stanley was impressed by the size of it – showing me it was “this big,” with his arms outstretched and another big smile. That guy loves to smile.

IMG_2188 I had to get back to work soon so we moved pretty fast through the rest of our tour. I took him to see the NewBo City Market – a wonderful place for local, homegrown foods, art and events. We couldn’t stay though – time to head back to work.

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I’ve loved hosting Stanley for these few days. He’s a delightful guy, still smiling even after all the locations I placed him. I enjoyed his pleasant personality, and especially his willingness to embrace my Cub fanaticism during his visit. I hope he can come back again soon.

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If you’ve made it to the end of this photo journey of Flat Stanley’s visit with me, you’re a trooper. This was a class project for my beautiful niece, Morgan, and I wanted to make sure she got everything I could give her. She’s adorable and I love her bunches!

Morgan

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Willie Robertson

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend this morning’s Good Friday Prayer Breakfast in downtown Cedar Rapids. It was held in the newly-renovated DoubleTree Hotel in their very large convention center…and it was packed. I’d like to think it was because the people of Cedar Rapids recognize the importance of prayer, or the significance of this day in the life of Christians, or that we love to get together with one another to seek the Presence of God. And maybe all those things are true, but I really think that today, that huge convention center was filled because the special speaker was Willie Robertson.

Unless you have lived under a rock for the last few years, most of you know Willie Robertson as the star of the cable TV reality show “Duck Dynasty.” He says he’s known more as Sadie’s dad. Sadie Robertson is his teenage daughter who competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” throughout the competition standing firm in her belief in modesty and purity. She seems to be a very sweet girl and I’m sure Willie and his wife Korie are very proud of her. The various members of the Robertson family are admittedly redneck, quirky, and entertaining. I first heard about their TV show from the woman who cuts my husband’s hair. My sons started watching and soon after, we did too. It’s a scripted reality show, meaning there is a definite plot to each episode though the family members don’t consider themselves actors and most notably, each episode ends with the family sitting around a large table with patriarch Phil saying grace before they eat together. Each show has a moral and it’s usually Willie who serves as narrator. Each member of the Robertson family is an outspoken follower of Jesus and has never apologized for their show or their stance on moral issues.

The other main speaker this morning was Willie’s friend, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Gov. Jindal is another strong believer in Jesus Christ and freely gives his testimony. He’s a pretty smart guy too, having completed a Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University, specializing in health care systems. Though he has not announced a run for the presidential race in 2016, he visits Iowa a lot.

I could say a bit about Willie’s and Bobby’s remarks from this morning. And though both had great messages to the assembled Christians, I was most encouraged by something they never really said. I was encouraged to listen to two men who have gone against the established precedent and are scaling mountains formerly held only by non-believers in Jesus. You see, often we, as Christians, are told to concentrate our efforts on the church, on ministry. We esteem pastors, missionaries and evangelists for speaking out about Christ but we never acknowledge the day-to-day efforts of Joe and Janet, Rick and Laurie, Susie and Adam…those people who head out the door to work in hospitals, businesses, government buildings, or schools, or those moms who stay home every day to raise up godly sons and daughters. We’ve given up ground to our culture in past years by not encouraging our kids to reach beyond religious ministry and embrace who God made them to be – actors, congressmen, judges, scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, musicians. People like Willie Robertson and his family will reach people for Jesus who will never enter a church or listen to a televangelist. Government leaders like Bobby Jindal have people who watch him closely…what better way to live for God than in that microscope called a presidential campaign.

I’m mostly encouraged because I can freely exhort my own two sons to pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be. Maybe it won’t be as a full time pastor, like their dad. But maybe it’ll be as a journalist who travels the globe, living for God and reaching people his mom and dad never would. Maybe it’ll be as a musician who writes songs and performs for audiences who would never listen to a spoken sermon. Push your kids to live their dreams while living for Jesus. Let’s be salt and light in a world that needs the flavoring influence of Christ.

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