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If They Don’t Like Me. . .

I have heard people say, many times and in different ways, “This is who I am. People can like me or not.” One of my favorite interpretations may be my late Grandpa’s version-“He’s got a real ‘go to hell’ attitude. If you don’t like it, you can go to hell.’” Maybe not the most appropriate, but my grandpa wasn’t known for his propriety. He was known for cleverly saying what other people were thinking, but in such a way that you laughed at yourself. But this post isn’t about my grandpa. Though this quote highlights the fact that rarely a day goes by that I am not reminded of him in some way-whether in my thoughts or actions.

Back to my point. I have actually said versions of that. I used to be a great deal more concerned about what people thought of me. I also used to keep much of myself behind a wall, worried that if people got to know me really, they wouldn’t stick around long. I’d like to say that I have completely overcome all of that, but I still continue to work it out. This is why I have said in recent years things like, “They’ll either like me, or they won’t.”

While I completely agree that there is validity in that statement, I don’t think that it can necessarily be a hard and fast rule. Let’s see if I can make my point this way.  I had someone say to me recently that I “used to allow myself to be offended by” things they would say.  Now, unless I am hearing that wrong, there is absolutely no responsibility on that person’s part. It couldn’t possibly be that he/she came across harshly, or maybe said something he/she shouldn’t have, or at least in a way that he/she shouldn’t have said it.

It got me thinking about our approach with people. Most people act a little differently depending on who they are with. They know what specific people will and will not appreciate, what may or may not offend people, and how they may need to act to keep the peace. If done correctly, it isn’t an issue of not being true to who we are.  It is actually Biblical. Romans 12:18 reads, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” If there is someone we simply cannot get along with, or continue to offend, the answer is to make sure it is in no way our faults.

It may take a little finesse on our part to get along with certain people.  “I’m not changing who I am just to get along with someone,” people might say. I think we all have different aspects of our personality that come out at different times. God spoke to people in many different ways. He spoke to Moses in huge spectacular ways. Yet, he spoke to Elijah in a gentle voice. In which case was God not being true to Himself? If God altered His approach based on who He was speaking to, and how He believed they would respond, shouldn’t we do the same?

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The Strongest Thing

 

There are some strong things in this world.  Some things are almost unbreakable-or at least labeled as such. Certain metals, certain rocks and gems-natural and manmade things-some things are tough and can take a beating. However, after being a mom for 15 years, I think I know what the most durable thing in the world is. I know what outlasts Tupperware, is stronger than a diamond, and could even make Adamantium metal alloy look cheap (that’s for you son).

It’s a mother’s heart. Seriously. It breaks over and over again, is repaired and filled with joy, is emptied and broken again, is repaired and filled again-and sometimes all in one day.

It’s been a long week in our house. My daughter stayed with my sister for the week to help out while my brother-in-law was out of town for work, so a piece of my heart was there as well. Meanwhile, my little guy, the two-year-old, had a pretty nasty virus that he is still recovering from. All week he wanted to be by my side, either nursing or cuddling and watching his favorite movies.  It broke my heart to hear him whimper and whine and feel his hot little body.

As he recovers, so does my heart-and something my 12 year old did helped fill it back up. She brought me Tupperware she found at a garage sale while she was gone. She spent the money she was given on her mommy. That little lady has broken and filled my heart countless times, and the love I have for her only grows as she does.

Kids do it without realizing it. A mommy’s heart can crack a little when an immature child says the wrong thing. A mommy’s heart can crack a little or even break when she has to give a punishment that she knows will be tough to handle. I have denied my children certain things that they have been looking forward to for a long time to correct a long term character issue, then gone into my room and shut the door and cried.

I have held my daughter while she cried and tried to explain why people are just mean sometimes: why the neighbor kid who doesn’t even know her would call our family weird; why her friend would talk about her behind her back. My heart would break as hers did.

My heart would break a little as I tried to explain to my sweet spirited boy why he would be overlooked and forgotten about, or why someone would steal his Kindle from the Y.

Then there are times in which my heart couldn’t be fuller. Like when I see the back of my man-boy’s head in the front of the church raising his arms in worship to God. Or when my youngest daughter turns off a show she was watching because she thought it may be inappropriate.  Or when my middle girl, the 12 year-old, tells me, “Even though you may be a little strict for my liking-because I’m 12-I think you’re a good mom.”

It’s amazing how durable God made a mother’s heart. How no matter how many times it breaks, it can be restored. How the very little-or big-children who contribute to its destruction are the very same ones who contribute to its restoration. And how no matter how many times it happens, the love for them only grows. It’s an amazing dynamic. And no matter how insane it may seem-most of us wouldn’t change the process for anything.

 

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What Joplin, MO Taught Me About Contentedness

I never imagined I would look upon the first two years of our marriage with such fondness. We were two broke college kids living over 800 miles from home. My husband had been there for college for a couple of years already, but I had no one there but him. We were both strong and stubborn, and learning to compromise while navigating our new roles as husband and wife was sometimes quite ugly.

We lived in a beautiful town-Joplin, Missouri-but I couldn’t see the positives at the time. I called it “Misery” because all I wanted was to be home in Michigan.  To me it was a burdensome detour on the way to the rest of my life. In hindsight I know I was bitter toward my husband because I had to move there so he could finish his degree. It hadn’t been my plan. I had a university in Michigan picked out.  I was already accepted and had scholarships waiting for me.

I knew before I married him that moving to Missouri for a time with him would be necessary, but as I said, I was stubborn and I would have preferred to have things my way-a trait that I unfortunately still haven’t grown out of.  My life growing up was out of control and chaotic with no stability. This left me wanting to control everything, which has caused me more problems and stress in life than if I had just relinquished control to someone as capable, or more capable.

In Missouri I could only see what I was being kept from-my family, my college, my state, my plan. I looked to the future and what I would do when I got back to Michigan. Then my life could really start.  It is good to plan for the future and have goals, but not at the expense of the present. This was a toxic looking ahead.

This push in me led, not surprisingly, to some hasty decisions that had very negative results. As soon as my husband graduated Bible College, we left for Michigan.  We had been offered a position at a small church with someone my husband had known for a very long time, and I thought it was the perfect, safe opportunity to ease into ministry, as I was still nervous about being a pastor’s wife. My husband was hesitant. He wanted to stay a little longer to be mentored by our pastor in Joplin, who, incidentally, told us that he didn’t feel we should go yet. I am embarrassed to admit that I pushed for it against all of this, and my husband, wanting me to be happy, took me back “home.”

As is so often the case when we make decisions based on emotion, and ignore wise counsel, things did not turn out well. We left the position with hurt and hard feelings, and it set us back in ministry for years.  Instead of feeling better about being in ministry with my husband, I felt even more unsure of it.  It did something in him too.  He had been passionate about becoming a minister and the light in him faded some.  He had had such high hopes for stepping into a role as pastor, and it was nothing like he had imagined.

Through the years we have healed. We are involved in ministry again, as youth pastors, and my husband takes every opportunity he can to preach.  God is like that. In His infinite Grace, he restores the things we ruin. The question I have asked myself often though, and that I find myself for some reason dwelling on recently is-if not for that one bad decision-how would our lives have been different?  I visualize in my mind a starting point with many different paths.  There is one that staying in Joplin a few more years would have taken us on, and one that moving back to Michigan when we did took us on. In my mind they veer off into completely different directions.  Would they actually have?

The point I started with is this-Joplin was great. I just couldn’t see it.  In hindsight, my mind’s eye sees it differently than when I was living it. We were all young and all had the whole future ahead of us. Every one of our couple friends seemed happy and full of hope.  It was a special time. The blessings outweighed the negatives, but I refused to see it. I found a great college in the city that I ended up loving.  I did attend that state university in Michigan and missed my Missouri Southern.

My ungratefulness and inability to count my blessings early in life cost me. Just how much, I’ll never know, but definitely the joy and excitement I could have had the first couple years of my marriage.  Would I change a lot? No.  I would still want the most important things to be the same-the same husband and the four best kids who were ever created, and with whom I have had the privilege of staying home as to not miss a moment.

What Joplin taught me though, unfortunately in a big way, was to be grateful and to be content where I am placed, and to not move onto the next thing until I am directed by Someone much wiser than I. I’m not going to lie, 16 years later I am still working on it. I gain more and more tools along the way to help me count my blessings instead of my disappointments, and I try to let God make my decisions.  Things go smoother that way.

 

 

 

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Trusting Your Parent’s Wisdom

Sometimes I get that look from my kids when I tell them “no.” It’s the look that says, “Why don’t you let me have any fun.” If I’m in the mood, I explain the reasoning because I want them to understand that there is a “why,” and that there are natural consequences to certain activities that I want to help them avoid. I don’t just enjoy saying “no.” But I really wish they just trusted me. I mean, haven’t I proven my love for them? Can’t they just trust that I’ve been around a lot longer, experienced a lot more, and know what I’m talking about?

Sometimes people give God that same look.  Sometimes the Bible can look like a big book of “don’ts” and “thou shalt nots.” Being a Christian can look boring-like we can’t do anything fun.  But God just wishes we would trust Him.  Can’t we just trust that He knows what He’s talking about-that He’s been around a lot longer and experienced a lot more and wants to help us avoid disastrous negative natural consequences to certain activities?  Hasn’t He proven His love for us?

As crazy as it sounds, following God’s “rules” and directives is actually freeing. We can have fun while avoiding a lot of the trouble others find themselves in as a result of making bad choices. Being in God’s presence, seeking to follow His will, aiming to please Him is what brings true joy and peace. Isn’t that what we are looking for when we engage in many activities? We want to have fun because it will bring us joy, right?

We would all be a lot better off if we quit giving our Father that look we see from our kids.  Let’s just trust that He makes “rules” out of love and in an attempt to help us avoid the trouble He knows will come from making certain choices.

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

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Middle Sister Syndrome?

Being a middle child is often lamented.  It is spoken of in terms of something to overcome.  “Middle Child Syndrome” and its effect on the emotional development of children is studied in Sociology, Psychology, and Child Development.  I even know of people who had only two children, or made sure to have a fourth to eliminate this factor for one of their children.

I am not technically a middle child.  If you consider the four of us who grew up together, I am one of the middle children.  If you add in my brother who has a different mom, I am second oldest.  If you just look at the sisters, I am the middle sister.  So, in a lot of ways, I grew up feeling like a middle child.  I wasn’t special for being oldest, or babied for being youngest.  I did fade into the background a lot.

However, as I have gotten older, I have seen the merit in being in the middle.  I am five years younger than my older sister, and five years older than my younger.  This has given me a unique opportunity to bond with them both in similar ways.  I shared being pregnant with my older sister. She was pregnant with her second, and I with my first. She shared her knowledge with me; including the little things you would be mortified to tell anyone else.  Then, I was able to be pregnant with my younger sister (she with her third and I with my 4th) many years later.

As the years pass, I think I can relate to them both well.  My older sister and I share the joys and frustrations of raising teenagers, while my younger sister and I share the joys and frustrations of raising  toddlers.  I glean wisdom from a sister who has already been there.  She jokes that I can learn from her mistakes, but I am constantly impressed with the mother she is, and I learn from what she does right.  I then pass that on to a sister who will be approaching it in the blink of an eye (with a little of my own thrown in.)  Although, if I’m honest, my younger sister has taught me a great deal as well.  I am continually amazed with how much she accomplishes with excellence.

I feel that I am in a very blessed position-sandwiched between two of the greatest women I know.  Good or bad, the position I hold in my family has a lot to do with the woman I’ve become.

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The Golden Rule: Simplistic and Challenging

Have you seen that poster? The one that reads,” Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten?”  That has a lot of truth to it.  Okay, maybe you don’t learn everything you need to know; but you learn a lot about how to treat people.  Go to any Sunday school, daycare, or preschool and the instructors will be teaching some form of The Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated.  It isn’t just a good saying.  It’s Biblical.  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12)  And, it isn’t just for children.  It is relevant into adulthood.

I see people all the time who portray an enlightened attitude.  They want to include everyone, accept everyone, support everyone in doing what they feel is right for them. You know the, “Can’t we all just get along,” analogy. While that definitely has its merits, sometimes it stops there.

Sometimes comments can even come across as condescending if someone gives an opinion contrary to this “enlightenment.”  Sometimes we forget about the Golden Rule as it applies to everyone; not just people who agree with our philosophies.  Sometimes we can be so passionate that we lose our composure.  Sometimes we can become so consumed in the chaos of our own lives that we forget that other people are like us inside.  They have hearts that break, brains that ponder, and longing spirits.  They feel like we do.

I forget this; or rather choose to ignore the fact sometimes. Especially when I am mad and feel that an injustice has been done.  As a matter of fact, I had a couple of people in mind specifically as I wrote this post. I was going to give you specific examples of their inconsideration (without using names). I didn’t think they would ever read this, but still, I felt convicted even as I was writing this. How would I feel if I were used as a negative example in a blog post? Even if I were in the wrong? And, as you read this, you will notice that I didn’t end up including those examples.

I don’t think I have it all figured out by any means.  I mess up multiple times a day. As I remind my children of these principles, I remind myself.  That’s why I am exceedingly and continually thankful for God’s Grace.  It covers a multitude of sins; it is sufficient.

God knows what He’s talking about when He gives us specific commands. And at the risk of sounding altruistic: the world would be a better place if we treated others the way we would like to be treated.