Family

Things I wish I would’ve known when I was 20

20I was thinking the other day of some of the things that, had I known them when I was 20, would have made life much more enjoyable.    Here are some of the things I would tell my naive 20 year old self, if it was possible-

1.  Let it roll. If someone says something that offends you or doesn’t buy you a gift (even though you bought them one) or steals your boyfriend or simply says something that just irritates you just let it roll. Because life is just too short for grudges.

2. The greatest personal satisfaction comes from giving–not getting.

3. You are not overweight! Just because you don’t look like a magazine cover or a movie star doesn’t mean you are overweight. Appreciate the body you have now, because it won’t last.

4. Stepping out of your comfort zone will often yield incredible rewards.

5. Appreciate your parents. They have given more of themselves than you could ever realize. Don’t take that for granted. Don’t be so wrapped up in your own affairs that you forget they have feelings, too.

6. Expect good times less often. Appreciate them much more.

7. Don’t assume you know why someone is acting or reacting in a certain way. It is hard enough to understand your own motives, much less someone else’s.

8. Face your fears head-on!

9.  You don’t need a loan to buy a car or a piece of furniture. Live on what you make.

10. Just because someone tells you your nose is too big or your feet are too small, doesn’t mean its true. Find your worth in Jesus Christ, not in the opinions of others.

11. Money doesn’t make you happy.

12.  Don’t dwell on your fears and worrisome details of life. Figure it out as best you can, do what you can to resolve the problem, pray hard, and then think about something else.

13. You will blink and life will be half over. Savor every single moment of it.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Feel free to comment below and add some of the things you wish you would have known!

Floating the right direction

It was so HOT.  Even in the mountains.  So we grabbed some tubes and headed to the creek.  We were floating gently along, feeling the warm sunshine on our faces, when I felt someone bump into me.   My good friend had purposely pushed her husband’s tube away from hers inadvertently towards me.  She quipped, “I meant to push him away but not towards another woman!”  and we joked about the symbolism of that and I told her it would probably end up in one of my blogs.  And here it is!

I couldn’t let that one go.  We do that, don’t we?  We gently push our spouse away.  We don’t plan to push them towards someone else’s arms.  That is truly not our intention.  Perhaps we just are struggling through something we don’t want to share with them (which is never a good idea, anyway) or maybe we tend to be more solitary and like to be alone or maybe we work too much or focus too much on the kids instead of our spouse.

Sometimes we just would rather watch TV than listen to our best friend talk about his golf game or her trip to the mall.  We are too lazy to get up off the chair and look at something they created or fixed or found.

Or perhaps we have become much more comfortable at sharing the negative about them and the positive about others.   When men tell their wives they are too fat or too skinny or their feet or nose are too big…that is like giving his wife a giant push away from him.  And when a wife tells her husband that “you don’t know what you’re doing” or jokes about his faults in front of their friends…she is doing the same.   We need to be so very careful with our words.

And, finally, one day, after years of bad communication patterns, we wake up and our spouse is in someone else’s arms.  They are looking towards someone else to meet their needs for love and respect and passion.   If they aren’t needed at home then they will go somewhere else.  It happens over and over again…each and every day.  It is one of the most tragic events in existence.  Families crumble, children suffer.

A successful marriage takes so much work.   And we make choices to keep our spouse close or to push them away every day.  Every marriage goes through cycles, but if it is made up of only pushing away it means your inner tubes are floating further and further away from each other.  And the further you float away, the harder it is–the more work it is– to swim back towards each other again.

But it is worth the work!  No matter where you find yourself.  And today is a good day to start!  If you have been struggling giving attention to your spouse, make today a new beginning!  Listen to them today.  Be kind.  And keep that inner tube close to yours, before they float away out of sight!

When right feels wrong

It is so much easier to do the right thing if our percentages for a positive outcome increase.  For example, drinking and driving leads to a much greater chance of an accident…succumbing to a fit of anger leads to strife within your family…stealing could lead to an arrest and jail time.

But…it gets a little harder to do the right thing when the percentages for a positive outcome look a little fuzzy…or even downright nonexistent.  What happens then?   When you have a friend who is living in sin, do you confront them in love, like the Bible tells us to?  Or what about a child who says they will “hate” you if you don’t let them do “X”?  Do you stand up for what’s right, even in the face of that heart-breaking statement?

You see, when we choose to do what’s right, we do not always have instant gratification.  We do not always see the benefit of that right away.  And, frankly, sometimes we never see the benefits.

Many, many years ago, I watched someone confront someone about something that was sinful in their life.  It was done with love and grace.  But it didn’t really matter…because that person’s heart was hard.  And the relationship between them was affected permanently.   To my knowledge, it was never restored.  So, did the person who did the confronting do the right thing?  Yep.  Did they have a positive outcome?  Nope.

But sometimes you just have to wait for awhile to see the positive outcome.  Like, take me, for instance.  I have written in journals since I was in 6th grade.  One day, while dealing with my own teenagers, I decided to read over what I had written as a teenager. What I found there was surprising.  I did not remember the anger…true anger…I felt towards my parents when I was not allowed to do certain things.   The anger was shocking!  But here I was, 30+ years later, and it had all faded.   The only feeling that was left in me was deep appreciation and a grateful heart for my parents’ solid commitment to be obedient to the Lord above all.

So often we find ourselves caving in to the “possible outcomes”  instead of doing the right thing.  We think through all of the possibilities.  And then we grow scared.  And we do nothing.   But, in the long run, we pay.   That friendship you are guarding will grow weaker as you and your friend travel in different directions.  That child, who is crying out for boundaries (no matter what their mouth is saying), will often walk away from God, figuring it just doesn’t matter.

But not everything needs a conversation, either.  After much experience, I have learned to speak up with much more hesitation and discernment.   Let’s be honest–some things…many things…are not worthy to be confronted.   And many people who are outside your intimate circle have no interest in listening to you (unless you are their pastor or another spiritual leader).  We need to be wise!

If we determine that we need to take the step for a conversation, here are a few other questions to ask that are helpful:  Is the sin I see habitual?  Is the person committing the sin truly committed to the Lord?  Will this sin destroy their life if they continue on in this path?

Doing the right thing is not always easy.  In fact, it is often the opposite.  But we need to strive to do the right thing in all circumstances.   Not just when we can rely on positive results.   Easier said  than done.

2 Thessalonians 3:13  But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

On traveling to a third world country

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I spent last week in Haiti with my family.  When we arrived at Port Au Prince, it was with great fear and trepidation, as none of us had ever been to a third world country.  As we traveled from the airport to the compound where we were to stay, our eyes beheld unbelievably sad conditions.  From the makeshift tent communities set up everywhere to the little boxes they called “bathrooms” to the men standing on the streets because of a 75% unemployment rate.  It was hard to take it all in.  As our eyes scanned the countryside, we saw half built buildings, the place where they buried 200,000 victims of the earthquake in a mass grave, and cattle, donkeys, and goats anywhere and everywhere, all with their ribs clearly showing.  As we observed, we talked about the hopelessness we saw in the country. Can this country ever be “fixed”?

But during the course of the week, we realized that our job (and the job of the missionaries serving there) is not to fix the country.  It is to share the gospel and minister to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

It reminds me so much of that story where the the father and daughter were walking along the seashore among thousands of stranded sea stars.  The father started throwing them back in the ocean one by one.  The little girl looked at her father and sadly said, “you aren’t even making a difference”.  And the father, with great wisdom, replied: “it makes a difference to that one”.   I thought of that story often this week.  It makes a difference to that one.  We were there to minister to whomever God put in front of us.  In is His sovereignty,  He knew whose heart was ready to hear the gospel.  He knew who needed encouragement to keep going.  Because He knows everything.

And the interesting thing was…while we were there to minister to the Haitians, they in turn ministered to us.  The joy in the lives of the Christians there is a wonderful thing seldom seen here in America.  The warm hugs given without reservation to a stranger would be unusual here.

Sure, they have lots of problems, even in their Christian communities.  And only being there a week gave us little insight into the working of the communities.  But it was with great humility that I observed the grateful eyes and heard the soft spoken “mercis” with which they took a bag filled with rice and beans that would feed their family for at least a month.   And I felt great shame over the things I find myself complaining about.   We are living so far above survival here in the states that we have lost track of what truly matters.

You see, life is really not about us.  Most of us Christians will walk around saying that with our mouths…but do our lives match our words?  I know that I, personally, love my comfort zone.  But what if that comfort zone is not where God wants me?   Are we willing to go where He asks?  Whether it be to a different country,  the inner city here in America, or to bring foster children into your home?  What are YOU doing to further God’s Kingdom?

Luke 12:48b says “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”  No matter your economic status here in the United States…even if you are on welfare…you have more than 80% of the rest of the world.  You have been given MUCH.  What are you doing with what you have been given?  It is a question that should truly be considered by all of us.

5 Things We Can Learn from Children

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The other night my daughter was babysitting a one year old. The adorable little girl came into our home, looked around, and made herself at home. She smiled at all of us, started eating the dinner that was being fed to her, and was content. It led to a conversation at our dinner table about how little children can just come into a strange home and feel right at home and how we, as adults, can’t do that. It got me thinking about a few things we can learn from children who are blissfully unaware of all of the social implications of their actions–

1)  No pretensions.  Have you ever talked with a little child? They are who they are. They are not strutting around pretending to be someone they are not. There is no wondering if the child is upset or happy or angry. We always know, don’t we? There hasn’t been years of wall-building and hypocrisy to dig our way through. While I am not suggesting it is healthy to express our emotions at every opportunity, I am suggesting that I think this world and our churches would benefit greatly if we would stop trying to impress one another. So many of us have built these thick walls around our hearts and lives. What would happen if we would tear our walls down and get real?

2) Live in the Moment. Have you ever seen a little guy dance to a tune that was playing? It is a joy to see the little legs bouncing up and down, as they try to move to the beat. But somewhere along the way, we forget to dance. We forget to enjoy the moment. We get wrapped up in taking kids to soccer, in paying the bills, in doing the housework. You know the old saying–Stop and smell the roses? Perhaps we should do that more often in life. Just stop and enjoy the moment. Enjoy watching the birds in your backyard. Enjoy petting your dog for a moment.  Watch your child chase butterflies and hunt bugs. Stop and really watch your husband wrestling with the kids. Grab a hand and dance joyfully to the song playing. These are beautiful moments the Lord gives us. Let’s not take them for granted. Those fleeting moments are what make up  the tapestry of our vaporous lives.

3) Eat until your full. Children do not continue to stuff themselves after they are full.  They only eat when they are hungry.  They obey the mechanism that God so intelligently designed and when their bellies feel hungry, they eat. And when they feel full, they stop eating. Somewhere along the way, many of us have stopped obeying that mechanism. It’s breakfast time? Then I have to eat, even if I am not hungry. I am at a party with a table full of delicious food? I have to try some, even if I just ate a complete meal before I came. I wonder what would happen if, as adults, we continued to obey our hungry and full signals?

4) Don’t Let the Fear of Others’ Opinions Rule You.  Some of my favorite “mommy” moments were when I could get my babies to start giggling. They would give this big belly laugh, filling my heart with pure joy. They didn’t worry what anyone was thinking about them.  They didn’t worry about if they were cool or look around, wondering if someone noticed that they “snorted”. Because it didn’t matter.  They were having fun! So often, we let the fear of others’ reactions dominate our choices. While I understand that we do need to be concerned about others and about our Christian testimony, sometimes we may be concerned about unimportant things. Does it really matter if the neighbor thinks you are crazy for catching fireflies at dusk? Does it really matter if you play a game and people make fun of how you run (personal experience on that one!)? Does it really matter if you fall on the ice? Or if your hair gets wet?  So often we let the fear of people’s opinions and reactions keep us from enjoying our lives.

5) Be okay with the way God made you. Ever see a baby wear make-up? Or get plastic surgery?   So, let’s be honest. If you are like me–aging quickly–you are not feeling so adorable. Many of us won’t even leave the house without make-up. But why not? Why do we feel the need to have something on our faces to face the public? Why do so many feel the need to enlarge or reduce areas of their body through plastic surgery? Why isn’t the way God made us good enough? Instead of being grateful for the incredible body God designed, we complain that our noses are too large, our hair is too curly, our legs are too short, our hips, too narrow or too wide. But children are not conscious of this yet. They just are.  Sometimes I wish we could appreciate the amazing body we have been given without the constant attitude of criticism that almost every woman (and man??) feels when they look in the mirror.

Unfortunately, real life takes its toll and, sooner rather than later, we all learn some pretty hard lessons. People can’t be trusted. The way I look isn’t good enough. You know the dialogue. But perhaps we can learn just a few things from the children in our lives.

Just a thought for today…

On love and respect…and tone of voice

The other day, as I was shopping in the store, I heard a woman’s voice say, “You bring too much junk food into the house.  You have to stop it”.  Or something like that.  But her TONE of voice said “You stupid idiot, what is wrong with you?! ”  I turned to see who she was speaking to and found an older couple.  The woman was speaking in this condescending, holier-than-thou, tone to her husband, who was shuffling behind her with his head down.  What is wrong with this picture?  This is one of many times I have seen a person treat someone who should be…at one time probably was…the love of their life with condescension and unkindness.

Have you ever seen spouses treat each other like this?  Have you ever treated your spouse like this?  I know I have.  I recognized the tone of voice the woman was using, because, sadly, I have used it on occasion.   But if we get in the habit of treating our spouse this way, we are essentially adding bricks to a wall that will grow taller and stronger with each incident.  And, if we are not careful, it will end up casting a dark shadow over the relationship, eventually drowning out the light.  We need to constantly be on guard against treating our spouses in this way.

And this goes for your private moments, too–just because you are a model wife or husband in public does not mean you are treating them with love and respect at home.  Many is the couple who look so happy on the outside, but their true relationship is quite the opposite.   And, oftentimes, the breakdown in these relationships started when we stopped treating one another with respect and kindness.

The other day, I came across a couple I had never met.  The woman had to leave for a moment and the husband proceeded to spout off several unkind remarks about his wife, then rolled his eyes when he told me they had been married 50 years.  I got the impression that he felt like the last 50 years had been a mild form of torture.  The only thing that made him light up was when I asked about his grandkids.  When the woman returned, she gave me the impression that she was unpleasant and bossy.  From the outside, it looks as if this couple has lost all respect and love for one another.  It was heart-breaking.  I wonder if all of those years of treating one another with disrespect and unkindness had changed a couple who had pledged to love one another for eternity to two people that couldn’t stand one another?

If this is something you struggle with (and, if we are honest, many of us do, at least on occasion), why not sit down and have a heart to heart with your spouse and ask them if they feel like they are loved and respected?  And, if not, why not?  Find out if your words have degraded them…discouraged them…disheartened them.  And if they work up the courage to be completely honest with you, do not make excuses.   Do not grow defensive.   Listen carefully.  Apologize.

Treat your spouse with love and respect.  Honor them.  Be grateful for the way God made them.  Remember why you fell in love.  And, in the process, let’s be a shining example of marriage as God created it.  Let’s show the world that it is possible to be in love for a lifetime!

Ephesians 5:22-33

In a Heartbeat

I can’t help but remember that last year at this time my uncle was rushed to the hospital after a tragic accident.  By the end of January, he was with the Lord.  I know of another woman who lost her battle with cancer this year.   And several others who are fighting the battle of their lives against the “C” enemy.   This time each year, I can’t help but look around me and thank the Lord for granting me another year to spend with my family and friends that are still here on earth.  Because life can change.  In a heartbeat.

I think we so often get caught up in the things that irritate us about those we love.   Or maybe we focus on the political or spiritual disagreements we have with others.  But, if  we stop and think for just a moment…we realize that if that person wasn’t with us next year, we would miss them dreadfully.  We need to remember to be thankful for the people in our lives.   Because life can change.  In a heartbeat.

Instead, we so often let things fester.    Ephesians 4:26 says not to let the sun go down upon your wrath.  How many of us obey that command from scripture and never go to bed angry?   How many of us would rather hold on to our pride than heal a relationship?   Or how many of us speak before thinking and say something unkind, not thinking of the hurt we are inflicting?   Why do we make such a big deal out of the little things?  What if that person was no longer here?  Think of how ridiculous you would feel about holding such stupid grudges.

You see, we only live once.  And life is too short to hold grudges and have broken relationships.  The holidays are a time for family.  And lots of times families are the ones who irritate us the most.  But I encourage you to let the annoying things roll right off of your back– don’t hang onto them.  Yes, this can sometimes be hard to do.  But as you practice it more and more it will become easier.  Instead, turn your thoughts towards the good things.  The love that you have.  What you have in common.  The way that person has been a blessing to you.  Because life is short.  And life changes.  In a heartbeat.

Psalm 104:14-16   As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.

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