When You Want to Fix the World [Spoiler: You can’t.]

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[Note: This post first ran on August 27, 2014. Two years later, not much has changed as far as regarding the world as a pretty big mess. Rather than be discouraged by that realization, I continue to take heart in remembering that it’s not up to me to fix the problems of this world, tempting as that may be.]

You don’t have to be an avid newshound to recognize that the world’s in a pretty big mess. Terror groups running amok. Nations at war. Racial discord. Economic crises. Earthquakes and other disasters, natural and man-made. It’s easy for me to read or watch news reports and play armchair quarterback for a while, ruminating on ways that I’d solve the world’s problems, but I’m usually pretty quick to give up trying.

Closer to home, when a friend or family member is going through turmoil, it’s a bit harder for me to not try to fix things. I don’t want to see those I love hurting. I want to do whatever I can to alleviate the pain, to make things better. And it’s tough sometimes to realize that, despite my best efforts, I can’t fix things. In fact, if I’m not careful, my good intentions to help can even become a hindrance–something my ego doesn’t like to readily admit.

When I’ve got loved ones dealing with messes in their lives, here are a few reminders I try to take to heart when I’m trying to play handyman (or handywoman).

• Remember that God is in control. Oh, this is so hard to do sometimes, isn’t it? Especially when it seems like a troubling situation isn’t getting any better (or is getting worse by the day). Not only do I try to remind myself that God is in control of the situation and nothing is happening without His notice and allowance of it, but also that, as much as I love my friends and family, God loves them and cares about them even more.

• Do what I can… First and foremost, I need to pray for my loved ones and their situations. I hate to admit it but sometimes I subconsciously view prayer as a last resort rather than an immediate response. Although it may seem passive, praying for someone is one of the most powerful actions we can take:

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16b)

Even if I don’t know what to pray for regarding particular situations, that doesn’t make my prayers ineffective. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have an interpreter who can pray for exactly what’s needed at that time:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)

In addition to prayer (which we can ALL do), there are certain gifts and abilities that God’s given me to help others. One of those is the gift of encouragement–He often prompts me to send cards or emails to check on those who I know could use some encouragement, and I am thankful for being used by Him in that way.

• …but accept the fact that I am not equipped to do everything.  Although I’m trying to let God use me in whatever ways He sees fit to help those in my life, there are times when I’m frustrated with the realization that I can’t be there for my loved ones in all the ways that I want to be there. Sometimes I can’t be physically there for them, when we live in different cities; I can’t be there in the flesh to give a shoulder to cry on or a comforting hug, and that is tough.

In other cases, my loved ones may be dealing with situations that I have not myself experienced and am therefore not able to offer the wise counsel that they need. Again, that’s a tough pill for my enlarged ego to swallow sometimes. But I’m learning to trust that God does not expect me to do everything; He brings other people into my loved ones’ lives to also walk alongside them and offer help in ways for which they are uniquely equipped. It is a beautiful thing to see God bring people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences together to minister to and comfort one another. When I stop trying to be the sole provider of everything that I think my loved ones need, I can take a step back and see how God’s providing many sources of help and support.

Do you, too, struggle with trying to be Mr. or Ms. Fix-It? What are some reminders that you lean on to rein yourself in when you’re tempted to strap on the old tool belt?

Who’s Got Olympics Fever?

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Confession time: I LOVE the Olympics! Perhaps that’s not a big shocker, considering my professed love of sports, but it’s not just the amazing athleticism on display that makes me so enthusiastic (although that certainly plays a part). I love the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, the drama of the torch lighting (and wondering what unique/innovative/crazypants method they’ll come up with for lighting the Olympic flame this time), and the emotional stories of little-known athletes who are achieving their dreams on a world-wide stage.

Of course, there’s the added drama of the host of problems that the host city, Rio, is  experiencing, from the seemingly unending construction issues to the Zika virus outbreak to–ahem–less than sanitary conditions for many of the water sports, not to mention all of the political and economic upheaval that Brazil is facing. Given the myriad of issues, I suspect that many will be tuning in to the Olympics just to see if disaster’s going to strike. Let’s hope that the Olympic spirit rises above the potential problems and these games turn out to be memorable for happy reasons.

I’ve been reading and watching a few stories to get me into the Olympic spirit:

• The other night I happened to catch “The Last Gold” on NBC Sports. It’s a documentary of the 1976 U.S. women’s swim team, a team that was expected to take home a truckload of gold medals at the Summer Games in Montreal. Instead, they were largely trounced by the East Germans, who were later confirmed to have been doping. It’s sad to think about what might have been if there had been a level playing field. It’s also sad to see what the East German women–just teenagers who really didn’t know what their coaches were giving them–went through.

• Aside from Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta, perhaps the most iconic moment of the ’96 Olympics is Kerry Strug’s vault that helped the US women’s gymnastics team win its first ever gold. This oral history gives a behind the scenes look at what the “Magnificent Seven” went through that day.

• In addition to Team USA, I’ll be cheering for the refugee team. After reading this I think you will, too.

Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? What’s your favorite event at the games?

Book Review: I Don’t Wait Anymore

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I chose to read and review Grace Thornton’s book,  I Don’t Wait Anymore, largely based on the book’s subtitle: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You. Like me, Thornton is a single woman who has found herself single and childless much later in life than she expected, but I think that we all–regardless of our marital or familial status in life–wrestle with times when our life dreams and our reality do not match up. While the book is largely autobiographical, I think that it could speak to many readers across all different walks of life.

I appreciated Thornton’s openness in sharing her frustration and disappointment with life turning not out who she thought it was “supposed to”. Although she is a few years younger than me, there was still much I could relate to in her struggle to let go of those lifelong expectations and be receptive to whatever God has in store.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Thornton in the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Favorite Finds

 

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Here are a few recent discoveries that are making life a little more enjoyable for me (and hopefully will for you, as well!). For what it’s worth, I’m not being compensated in any way for any of the following recommendations; I just believe in sharing great finds with others!

ThredUP: My sister introduced me to ThredUP, which is an online consignment shop where you can both sell and buy gently used clothing in good condition. They carry women’s clothing in a wide range of sizes and brands, from high-end designers to more mainstream brands. They also sell maternity clothes, kids’ clothes and accessories, all at bargain prices. You can easily search by clothing item, size, color and condition of the item (ranging from “New with Tags” to “Like-New” to “Gently Used”).

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I was surprised at how cute the box and inside wrapping were–I’m a sucker for great packaging.

I’ve placed a few orders and have been very pleased with the quality of items. I’ve gotten a couple of items that had never been worn before, but the majority have been in “like-new” condition and I’ve not noticed any stains, rips or other wear. So far I’ve mainly stuck with brands that I’m already familiar with (such as Banana Republic, J. Crew and Ann Taylor Loft) since I know their sizing pretty well; however, I have had to return a few items that just didn’t fit right and that was a simple process.

You can use this link to check out ThredUP for yourself, and if you use it to place an order, you’ll receive a $10 credit in your account (and I’ll receive a $10 credit in mine as well).

• New recipes: I’m one of those people who actually tries many of the recipes that I pin on Pinterest (crazy, I know). This time of year,  I especially love recipes that are quick, easy and don’t involve turning on the oven, so I was thrilled to find a couple of new recipes that I’m adding to my summer meal lineup.

 

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New favorite recipe #1: The Pioneer Woman’s Asian Noodle Salad

I’ve made this Asian Noodle Salad by the Pioneer Woman twice in the past month and anticipate making it many more times in the months to come. It’s one of those recipes that is so versatile; you can easily change it up to suit your tastebuds. Next time I may add some edamame or snow peas.

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New favorite recipe #2: She Wears Many Hats’ BLT Macaroni Salad

Another new favorite recipe is this one for BLT Macaroni Salad by She Wears Many Hats. As far as I’m concerned, the BLT is the perfect sandwich, and translating that to a pasta version is genius. I made a couple of slight amendments to the recipe, namely using shell pasta instead of macaroni (since that’s what I had on hand) and adding fresh basil (which makes pretty much any pasta dish even better).

• Podcasts: I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to podcasts when I’m getting ready for work in the morning and when I’m driving. There are several that I rotate among, depending on my mood, and I’m currently enjoying two new (to me) finds.

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The HopeWriters podcast offers practical advice from a Christian perspective for writers (and aspiring writers) on topics ranging from utilizing Instagram to share your message to what authors wish they’d known before they wrote a book. The podcast is hosted by popular authors, bloggers and sisters Myquillyn Smith and Emily P. Freeman, their dad, Gary Morland, and fellow tech and marketing guru Brian J. Dixon. I just started listening to their podcast and already have picked up some valuable lessons.

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As a longtime fan of “The West Wing”, I was thrilled to learn about this newly-debuted podcast devoted to recapping episodes of the iconic political drama. I did not actually watch “The West Wing” when it originally ran on NBC but picked it up when it was in syndication and am now able to re-watch it thanks to Netflix. One of the hosts of The West Wing Weekly is actor Joshua Malina, who played Will Bailey on the show, and it’s fun to hear his perspective. The podcast frequently features guest appearances by other cast members and production staff who share some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories. If you’re a fellow “TWW” fan you’ll want to add this to your podcast lineup.

• This cup:

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Cost: under $10! (No, that’s not a typo.)

Love the functionality of Yeti cups but hate the high prices? High-tail it to your nearest Walmart and pick up one of these Ozark Trail tumblers. Like the Yetis, they do a fantastic job of keeping your drinks cold (or hot, depending on your preference) all day long–and they cost just a fraction of the price. (As in under $10 for a 30 oz.!)

I’ve now got one that I use at home and one I use at the office, and I’ve also introduced them to my family and several friends. A word of warning–I’ve heard that Walmart has a hard time keeping them in stock, so if you see one there you might want to buy it while it’s still on the shelf. I found them at my local Walmart in the camping section.

 

Now it’s YOUR turn to share–do you have any great recipes, podcasts, or other fun finds that you think we should know about?