Saturday, February 23, 2013

Whining, Part 2

When I wrote the post last week about whining, I realized that there are so many aspects to whining that I hadn't covered.  It’s not enough just to enact a Pollyanna solution. (For the record, though, her solution- find something to be thankful for- wasn't really all that bad.)  Gratitude is a great practice, but sometimes, we need more than that long-term.  If we want to grow in our lives, we shouldn't just stuff complaints and pretend like all’s well when it isn't.  We need to learn to listen to our inner “whiny voice.” If we feel like whining, we need to stop and consider why.  Is there a problem that should be fixed?  Is there a change that we need to make?  Is the Lord trying to teach us something? 

Sometimes, our complaints have a theme:  job responsibilities, conflicts with others, a packed schedule.  If we can dig a little deeper, we might find that there are things that we can change.  Change, though, is hard.  Whining is easy.  That’s why whining becomes a trap.  It keeps us from actually taking action.  We keep doing the same things over and over again, complain about how things are, and then go back to doing the same things.  We’re trapped in a never-ending cycle. 

The first step in breaking the cycle is taking responsibility.  A lot of the things I whine about, I brought on myself.  8 AM basketball game the morning after 8 PM gym practice?  Whose signature is that at the bottom of the basketball sign up form?  Ah, Aimee Bain.  (Perhaps they should put a “no whining” clause in the release form:  “I, the parent of above listed participant, recognize that only I am responsible for the stress that this season is going to create.”  And, yes, I’ll probably sign them up again next year.)  If we take responsibility for the decisions we've made, then we can decide whether or not to change the situation or just live with it for the time being.

Often, we feel overwhelmed because we've over-committed.  We’re able to get everything done, but at the expense of our health and energy.  Once I've made a commitment, even a small one, I do my best to fulfill it.  It’s awfully hard on the people around me if I back out because I suddenly realize I shouldn't have committed to begin with.  If you’re finding yourself in a situation (job, friendship, volunteer work) that is different than you had envisioned, it’s not always wise to simply throw in the towel just because it now seems inconvenient.  We need to “consider one another as more important” than ourselves.  But how can we get through it without whining?  Make note and learn lessons for the future.  Turn that energy into saying “next time, I will make a different decision.”  And then change whatever small things you can to make life smoother in the meantime.  Persevering when things get difficult will make you stronger, and knowing that the future can be different makes the present seem less crushing.

Another step in breaking the whining cycle is surrounding ourselves with overcomers.  These are the people who whine the least, not because they have no difficulties, but because they know that although life can be brutal, God is abundantly gracious.  They can encourage those around them because they find their strength in the Lord.  These overcomers aren't pie-in-the-sky idealists, they’re realists.  They have faced difficulties and come through them (or are in the process of walking through them.) 

And that is the third step in breaking the whining cycle:  Be realistic.  Let go of striving to find perfection- in yourself, in others, in situations.  It’s a fallen world.  While all Christians should be seeking to be more godly, expecting life on this earth to be perfect is a recipe for failure.  In our current state, God uses all those imperfections to mold and shape us.  If everything went exactly as we wished, we’d be little baby weaklings indeed. 

The final and most important step is to take our whinings to the proper place.  There is One who knows our every thought and looks with compassion on our frailty.  We have to pray, honestly and frequently, and, like David, “pour out” our complaint before the Lord and “declare before Him” our trouble.  Then, we can say,

“I cried out to You, O LORD:
I said, ‘You are my refuge…
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.’”
From Psalm 142

Thursday, February 21, 2013


The blogosphere abounds with guides.  Guides to running a marathon, planning dinner, picking a doctor, and making scarves out of old t-shirts.  It seems like this blog ought to have a guide.  But what about?  After all, if I’m going to write a guide, it has to be about something I have mastered.  A practice in which I am an expert.  So, after much careful deliberation, here you have it.

The Bainster Adventure Guide to Being Late

  • ·         Practice, practice.  Practice makes perfect.  You can’t perfect being late unless you’ve done it lots of times.
  • ·         Overschedule.  This is key.  If you have too many things to do, you’re guaranteed to be late!  Very little effort is required on your part.
  • ·         Believe what you see on paper.  When you’re making out your schedule, be sure that you have complete faith in what is written down.  If you allot 30 minutes for the grocery store, there’s no way it’ll take 45!  Remember, if it works on paper, it works in real life, every time.
  • ·         Believe you can make up for lost time.  Don’t let the fact that the first two stops took longer than you planned make you think that you can’t make it up at the third.  You can always make up for lost time.     
  • ·         Be an optimist.  There will be no red lights, no slow tractors, no two year old fits, no missing shoes.  Everything will go along as planned.
  • ·         Believe you are invincible.  If you’ve decided you want to do it, you can do it!  Go ahead!  Nothing will stand in your way.  Only mortals are limited by time.
  • ·         Speed.  There’s nothing like getting stopped by your friendly neighborhood policeman to prevent punctuality.
  • ·         Expect perfection.  Refuse to leave until everything is perfect: kids, hair, house.  That can make you late every time.
  • ·         Screens.  Surround yourself with devices with screens: phones, computers, tablets, TVs.  Distraction is a very important element in being late. 

And, when all else fails, and you are still, despite your very best efforts, finding yourself arriving on time, then just have kids.  They’ll make you late every time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


"My ears don't hear whiny voices!"  I can still hear my grandmother saying that to us when we were little.

Unfortunately, saying it doesn't make it true around here.  My ears still hear whiny voices- lots of them- and the loudest often turns out to be my own.

Why do we insist on whining?  It starts before we can talk (even our sweet baby Austin can whine) and the history of whining stretches way back to the earliest recorded stories.  The tale of the Israelites in the wilderness could be subtitled, "People Delivered from Bondage Whine about Freedom."  But at least they had some pretty good things to whine about.  They were, after all, in the middle of the desert, there wasn't any water, and they did have to eat the same thing every day.  I generally pick the most minute and inconsequential things to whine about.  Most of the stuff I can't even remember a few days later.

Whining, unless you're a three year old with a very exhausted mother, doesn't usually accomplish anything.  Think about it.  When has whining ever fixed a problem?  Generally, the whinier we are, the less willing we are to do anything to change our circumstances.  Why change if you can whine?  So, not only does our whining suck the energy out of the people around us, it also has the potential to make the situation we're in worse.

So, how do we pull ourselves out of the whiny pit?  The kids and I were talking about that this week.  I think that the best remedy for whining is gratitude.  I've written about being thankful before, but since it's a lesson that I seem so slow to learn, I figure it bears repeating.  After all, if we can "do everything without complaining" then we can become "blameless and pure children of God." (Phil. 2:14)  Replacing whiny thoughts (and words) with thankful ones is difficult, but the reward of peace that the practice brings is worth the struggle.

  • The house is dirty?  Be thankful for shelter when so many are without.
  • The kids are wild?  Praise the Lord that they're healthy!
  • Your job is hard or just plain awful? You are employed!  Rejoice!
  • People being difficult?  Give thanks for the opportunity to grow as you work through conflict.
  • Grocery store crowded?  Slow down and be grateful for easy access to food.
  • At home with sick little ones?  Be thankful that yours will recover and pray for the moms of those who won't.
  • Too busy?  Be grateful for the many things you have to do.  (And remind yourself who signed up for all those good things.)
  • Annoying family members?  Be thankful that they put up with you.
  • Trouble making decisions?  Having options is a blessing!
And when family, health, and life itself fails?  

"Let us...fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith, 
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross...
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:2-3

Saturday, February 9, 2013


"That's it, young man. No technology time for you today," I declared as the projectile clattered to the floor right next to his brother's foot.

"But, Mommy, that's no fair!  I MISSED him."

"Your poor aim, my dear son, does not make you innocent."

Perhaps that's precisely what God is saying to His children.  He is never fooled by our poor aim, or by our carefully crafted cover-ups.  He discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, and no matter how much we control our behavior on the outside, He knows every attitude and desire that we harbor deep within.

When we surrender our lives to the Lord, and ask Him to change us, we tend to think of the outward changes:  We'll stop drinking, smoking, gossiping.  We'll be nicer to our family and give to the poor.  God, however, looks deeper.  He wants to change our hearts.  He wants all those good actions that we plan on doing to come from pure motives.  He desires "truth in the inward parts."  (Psalm 51:6)

As we move along in our Christian walk, it's easy to became a bit self-satisfied.  After all, the world is full of some pretty shady characters.  We have plenty of opportunities to compare ourselves to the more sinful.  "God, I thank You that I am not like other men," we say (though perhaps not out loud.) (Luke 18:11)  But, the Lord is not content with our outwardly righteous behavior.  He sees past all of that, and reaches into our hearts.  He looks at our thoughts and our attitudes.  He loves us too much to settle for a good-looking exterior.  Through time and circumstances, the Lord continually pushes us to examine our intentions, to truly transform our souls.

If we decide we want to be mature Christians (and consider that decision carefully- the road is harder than it looks), then we have to surrender not just the things that we do, but the things that we think to God's refining fire.  It's not enough to not hit our brother, we have to forgive him and let go of the desire to hit him.  We're human, and our thoughts and attitudes are unruly, but God is faithful.  He will complete the work that He starts in us if we let Him.

Our Father is, of course, concerned with our actions.  And we should be too.  Thinking something isn't the same as doing something.  (I'm sure the targeted brother was relieved that he missed.) Contemplating adultery and committing adultery are two very separate things with very different effects.    But Jesus said that He wasn't willing to only say, "You shall not commit adultery."  His calling was higher:  Don't lust.  Stop the action at the heart.  Why?  Because our heart thoughts are what lead to our actions.  It might be possible to cherish desires for years without acting, but eventually, something will have to give.  Our hearts determine what kind of people we really are.  And God focuses on our hearts because He knows that only He has the power to change them.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you...
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes...
You shall be My people,
and I will be your God."

Ezekiel 36:26-28

Sunday, February 3, 2013


After Nathan did his first triathlon back in October, he was hooked on racing.  Kids' tris, however, are few and far between, so he started to think about running a 5K.

And I told him I'd run with him.  No problem.  I run six miles in the mornings, I can certainly do a little 5K walk-run with my kid.  Such a supportive mom.  A friend sent me a link to the Redemption Race calendar, and when I saw that there was a 5K at Natural Bridge Caverns, I signed us up.

This morning dawned clear and crisp, and the Cavern property really does have some spectacular scenery.  (The half marathoners got to start in the cave!  Something worth training for.)  We got our race bibs on and set off.

And he beat me!

The child who has never run three miles in his life beat me!  In fact, he beat everyone except for the all-around male and all-around female winners!  He was first in his age category and third all around with a time of 27 minutes and 49 seconds.  I couldn't believe it.

He is so very competitive that I quickly realized it wasn't going to do me any good to try to run with him.  No matter how fast I ran, he ran faster.  Couldn't let mom get ahead!  The hills were getting me.  (There are no hills on my treadmill unless I put them in, and, really, why would I do that?)  I also hadn't anticipated how challenging a trail run can be.  (There are absolutely NO rocks on the treadmill.)  And then there were the downhills.  Nathan ran downhill like, well, like a kid.  Arms out to the side- full speed ahead.  Wheee!  I saw him pass five adults (myself included) going downhill.  He asked me later why adults are so cautious going downhill.  Maybe because we fear sliding down on our faces?

Nathan was fascinated with the cool race chip technology.  He headed over to check his results.

Then, he polished off about 1000 calories worth of pastries in just a few minutes.  (I ate an orange.  The No Meat Athlete shirt did not stop them from offering me a sausage wrap.)

I didn't do so bad myself, I suppose.  First in my age category (thanks, Nathan) with a time of 28 minutes and 53 seconds.  Racing was a lot of fun and I can see why people get hooked.  Looking forward to more racing (and probably more defeats.)