Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What lasts....doesn't come easy

This weekend I was digging in one of my ‘costume’ boxes in the garage for some items to use for my Halloween costume. While doing so, I noticed my first…..well, I guess ONLY….stereo system that is currently being stored out there. It is a turntable; radio; and 8-track player combo (Yes, I’m aging myself).  I purchased this stereo “with mostly my own money” when I was in high-school for $79.00. I think my mother donated $20.00 towards the purchase, but she insisted that I would take care of it if I had invested my own funds, earned by babysitting, in the purchase. In fact, she used that principle for most of the major purchases in my young life. Oh, the joys of being the “first-born” child……sigh…..because I was the recipient of all of the “I’m going to be the kind of parent that teaches my child things like ‘responsibility’; ‘work-ethic’; and other life lessons. At the time, of course, I thought it was unfair and ridiculous….especially when those “parenting practices’ weren’t practiced with my younger siblings.

 I harbored a lot of negative feelings as a teenager when I had to work for many of the things I got and my siblings seemed to just be ‘given’ things. It didn’t seem fair to me then…..but…..today, if my mother were still alive, I would tell her “THANK YOU!”  Here it is, more than 35 years later, and the stereo system is still working and still in my possession.  She was……gulp…..RIGHT….and I did take better care of it…..and value it more…..because I worked for it.  I guess a true sign of maturity is admitting that your parents were right.  I don’t know what ‘goes on” in heaven, but I hope my parents are looking down and smiling!

The principle I learned with the stereo….and my 3-speed bike…..and my first car…..and many of the other ‘non-essential to life” purchases, ‘to die for’ pieces of clothing; make-up, etc…is more valuable than anything she could have ever bought for me. To learn that, “If you want something bad enough, you must be willing to work for it” is one of the lessons that continues to motivate me on my journey.  While some people seem to have it easier than others and things simply seem to just “fall into place for them” with very little effort; the reality is that most of us have to work hard to realize rewards. Hopefully, we find jobs and/careers which are life-giving and meaningful so that the time we spend ‘earning a living’ is as enjoyable as possible; but it is still WORK and, very likely, most of us would rather be on vacation or retired if given a choice. This applies to ALL area of life…..relationships; physical health; mental well-being…and our physical surroundings.

I was/am blessed as a student and I earned good grades in college but I worked/work (still take classes for personal enrichment) REALLY hard to earn those grades. I’m one of those “read everything assigned; go the extra mile; spend hours and hours doing homework” kind of students……but I reap the rewards. Hard work pays off….but it doesn’t come easy.  I have beautiful, but not perfectly manicured or landscaped, gardens in my yard and I enjoy them immensely. They require a tremendous amount of physical labor, though. I dig my own beds because I don’t have a rototiller (or a gardener); I plant my own plants; I pull my own weeds…..but I get so much joy from watching something grow; bloom; and produce….because I know how much work is involved in the process. Yes, I could just buy a few “already planted pots” and set them on the patio and they would be beautiful, but there is great satisfaction in ‘being invested; working hard; and patiently awaiting for ‘due season” when I will be awarded with glorious blooms.  Hard work pays off and I value things more when I need to work for them, and as a result of that hard work and investment in perennials, my rewards will last. Nothing that lasts comes easy…(or cheap).  Thanks mom!

This principle, absolutely, is key to my personal journey. Over the years I’ve tried some of the ‘quick-fix” weight loss gimmicks. The miracle “diet pills” of the 90’s that were supposed to just make one lose weight painlessly. While they certainly ‘seemed to work for a while” if I were willing to endure those wonderful side effects (anyone ever try Xenical or Phen-Phen….can you say “anal seepage”…YUCK…WHY...WHY…WHY would any of us take that stuff when words like that are on the label???)  I’ll tell you why: because it promised to be an “easy fix.” Today’s ‘fad diets’ fit the bill. How long, REALLY, can you live on protein milk shakes or meal replacement bars?  I’m not judging your journey because I hope it works and lasts for life; however, things that come easy, don’t often last. Sometimes they do: there are exceptions to every rule….but most of the time, they don’t.  

While some have an easier time than others when it comes to weight loss….NONE of it is easy. Even those who have elected to go the weight-loss surgery way will attest to this. All of it requires work and effort….if it is to last. So many people…( I am one of them)…think that life would be so  great if there were a product or plan that would allow one to just lose 50 pounds in a couple of months with very little effort….but honestly, how many do that…and are able to keep it off?  Some do; but most don’t.   Slow and steady…..making daily choices…..hard work and commitment for life...day-in-and-day-out….combined with the incredible grace of GOD have been important principles for my journey. “What comes easy won’t last….what lasts won’t come easy.”  Thanks, Mom!

While we can all identify people that appear to have it all: great relationships; perfect children; gorgeous homes; wonderful jobs….money, health, beauty, success…..whatever we value…..the reality is that the majority of those people work really hard.  My grandparents had a wonderful marriage, spending 58 years together before my grandmother died….but they invested a life-time in each other; respected each other; prayed together; spent time together and loved each other through the tough times. While they made it “look easy” to a grandkid; I’m sure it took a daily commitment to each other and it wasn’t always easy. What lasts doesn’t come easy……. My sister and her husband have a beautiful home, nice vehicles, and take nice vacations, etc….but they both work VERY hard; go to work when they don’t want to; spend weekends doing housework and maintenance; and struggled for years to get through college.  “Perfect” children are not just born; they’re nurtured; taught; prayed for and with.  Sobriety doesn’t just happen; weight just doesn’t fall off; people don’t just ‘wake up happy, grateful, or peaceful…..It’s a daily choice… and a combination of good days and bad. But lasting joy……life-long change…..peace beyond understanding……and a gratitude that transforms one’s life…..doesn’t come easy. What comes easy doesn’t last…..and what lasts won’t come easy.   Thanks, Mom!

Today, my friends….ask yourself what you want more…..EASY….or LASTING?    If you’re blessed to have it both ways, then rejoice and thank your God…..but realize that for most of us, it’s one or the other!  I choose lasting. What about you?  Hard work pays off……