Honored to have had the privilege of delivering this message to a group of women at a Brunch this past Saturday morning. This video will give you a preview of the book I’m writing. If you’ve got 8 minutes and 27 seconds, check it out.
I’ve described my mother as a “defiant non-compliant diabetic.” She ate what she wanted, when she wanted, blood sugar be damned. After decades of neglect, her body began to deteriorate and finally shut down completely. I found a receipt in her wallet dated just days before her death. She had driven through Burger King on the way home from dialysis and ordered a BK Stacker (22 grams of fat, 700 mg of sodium.). She was suffering from congestive heart failure, taking 14 different medications and on dialysis 3 days a week, but she wanted a BK Stacker, so she got one. There were more fast food receipts in the pockets of her clothing and on her desk.
Time and time and time again she chose immediate personal gratification and a comfort zone, over long term goals, discomfort and inconvenience – and not just with food.
She bought what she wanted when she wanted it, even if she didn’t have the money.
She wanted a warm, inviting home, but she focused on the house and its contents more than the people who lived in it.
She wanted passionate relationships, but was controlling and plagued with pride.
She wanted to travel and experience new things. But instead, she booked the same vacation for years.
She loved to play the piano. But she didn’t make time for it.
She loved to sing. But she only sang in the house. And rarely.
She wanted to write. But she didn’t.
She wanted so much, but she settled for so little.
Her desire for the things she wanted made it challenging and sometimes impossible for her to recognize, much less appreciate, the blessings she had. Her inability to see that she had power to change her circumstances if she stayed true to her long-term goals kept her firmly rooted in mediocrity and the status quo.
I paid attention. And I learned quite a bit about what I want for my life by watching her choices.
I still pay attention. And I look for consequences – good and bad – so I can learn from other people’s choices. I learn a LOT about what I want as a result of my OWN choices and their consequences.
My mother had a stroke and blamed her doctors and her medication. She had a stroke and I got a personal trainer. Before and after her stroke, she relied on medications to make herself feel better and to lengthen her life. Before her stroke, I was following in her footsteps. After her stroke, I began relying on exercise and lifestyle changes to make myself feel better and to lengthen my life.
I had a choice. I could continue to go with the flow and eventually find myself at risk for a stroke or I could intentionally and consistently walk backwards against the current. If you know me, it shouldn’t surprise you that when I’m floating in a lazy river, I will at some point, become bored and walk backward against the current. It’s a metaphor for my life. I intentionally choose to view every experience God has allowed in my life – good AND bad – as a blessing. Together, these blessings fuel me with determination.
I’m a big believer in benchmarking. When I want to learn how to do something, I find people who do it well and I copy them. But I also learn what not to do by watching the things that people, myself included, do poorly. I pay attention to choices and consequences – good and bad. I call it opportunistic learning and it helps me discover what I want in my life.
I want more than immediate gratification and a well worn spot in my comfort zone.
I want MORE than the comfort of air conditioning, dry, pleasant smelling clothing, a good hair day, less laundry and an extra hour every day. I don’t consider a handicapped sticker on my car to be a well deserved ticket to a great parking space and the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded scares me more than a hurricane warning. The inability to walk up a flight of stairs at all scares me more than an actual hurricane.
I want a stronger body, even if it needs two showers in one day, generates smelly, wet laundry, “wastes” 30 minutes or more of my day and requires a longer walk from the parking lot. I want to get stronger as I get older, not weaker. I want to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with. I’ve experienced the limitations of a body that won’t do what I want it to do and I hated it so much I NEVER want to experience it again. I’ll do anything I can to make sure that my body doesn’t deteriorate due to neglect.
I want MORE than a 6 inch high plate of nachos with a phenomenal cheese sauce or the most decadent, melt in your mouth chocolate lava cake in the world. I want MORE than the thousands of milligrams of sodium and double digit grams of fat in the restaurant food that saves me from cooking dinner when I don’t feel like it. I want MORE than a bedtime snack of ice cream or a Grand Slam breakfast from Denny’s. I want MORE than a BK Stacker.
I want unblocked arteries, normal blood pressure and stable blood sugar. I want my 7 day pill case to be filled with vitamins and supplements instead medications. I want to model good nutritional choices for my children, especially my daughter. I want to live a longer, healthier life than my mother did. I’m not swayed by spoonfuls being shoved in my face along with an exasperated voice telling me to “just taste it.” It’s not that I secretly want it and am just denying myself. I really don’t want it. I’ll never be convinced to abandon my long term nutrition goals just because someone belittles me for not eating something they want to eat. I’ll never belittle them while I watch them eat – but I also won’t sanction their choice or cave to middle school level peer pressure by picking up a fork and joining them.
I want MORE than a good marriage. I want MORE than candy and flowers and jewelry on Valentines Day and my birthday. I want MORE than a husband who handles car maintenance, toilet repair, heavy lifting, jar opening and high shelf reaching. I want MORE than a “good” sex life and a husband who does what I want in order to get it. I want MORE than a husband who agrees with me to avoid conflict and who spends time with me because he’s supposed to.
I want a GREAT marriage to a man I can’t go a day without talking to. I want to be the person who respects my husband more than anyone else in the world and I want him to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I want to come to the end of my day and be confident I didn’t say a bad word about him to ANYone. I want to be the kind of wife he wants to come home to and I want to be genuinely happy that he’s home when he walks in the door. I want a partner – a LIFE LONG partner – who tells me the truth in a gracious tone of voice, motivated by love. I want us to share EVERYthing without holding back: our thoughts, our ideas, our weaknesses, our fears, our passions and our bodies. I want to share household and parenting duties and I’m thankful that I figured out early in our marriage that different isn’t wrong. I want us to be able speak in idioms and always understand each other. I want us to be able to communicate with facial expressions and eye contact. I want to stay married to my best friend for the rest of my life and I’m thankful that we are both willing to run to a marriage counselor the minute our relationship can be described as “fine.”
I want MORE than compliant children who make good grades, keep their room clean and behave appropriately at all times. I want MORE than happy, safe children. I don’t want my children to do what they’re told because I say so.
I want to hear about everything that interests them, because I know that if I don’t listen with interest, they will stop telling me. I want to be challenged by their mind, fascinated by their discoveries, respectful of their ideas, convinced by their reasoning, inspired by their passion and exasperated by our differences. I want to always strive to respect them as individuals instead viewing them as extensions of myself. I want to be comfortable with their potential to embarrass me for the sake of their (and my) learning curve. I want my children to learn life lessons from remorse and disappointment as well as from pride and achievement. I want to equip them, not protect them. I want them to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
I want to be debt-free. I want to own my home, not hold a mortgage. I want my car to start every time I turn the key, and if it does, I don’t care how many miles are on it. I want to be a good steward of my financial blessings. I want to save and pay cash for the things I want. I don’t want to pay interest. I want to teach my children the value of a wise financial choice. I want to teach them that delayed gratification ultimately makes them happier and more secure than an impulse or convenient purchase. I want to give God MORE than 10% of what he entrusts to me and I want my kids to want to do the same.
I want MORE than to help lead a “good” praise set on Sunday morning. Lukewarm makes me restless. Holding back makes me unsettled. Trying to please everyone is deeply discouraging. Settling for fine wears me down. I don’t want to give God less than my very best. No one is drawn to mediocrity.
I want to work my butt off to prepare and when Sunday morning comes, I want to block out all the logistics and make myself open and available for God to equip me for service. I want to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, not the body language of someone in the congregation who is missing His presence because they are preoccupied with what someone else thinks. I want to allow myself to be saturated with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Satan doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of distracting me from my goal of bringing as many people with me as I possibly can while I abandon myself to authentic, consuming praise. I want to go all out and see what God will do with my all.
I want to use everything God has given me – the good and the bad – to serve Him. When I write, I have no idea if the result is a cathartic purge or if someone will identify with something I say and be encouraged or changed by it. It’s just as possible that what I’ve written will alienate or discourage someone. I have no idea if God will use it to reach someone, but I pray He will. I don’t want the words I write to be in a vacuum.
I. want. MORE.
Do I always get it right? Not by a long shot. I do not find all this to be intuitive. These are determined choices I make, over and over and over again. And when I screw up, I start over, even if I have to start over multiple times a day. But I’m not going to stop striving. And I’m willing to wait for whatever God hasn’t entrusted me with yet. I’m willing work for it.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness,knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 5-8
“Never neglect what you’ve seen God do in your life. Take a careful look at these things from God’s perspective, all the way from your birth to where you stand right now. They’re all significant.”
Experiencing the Spirit
Henry and Melvin Blackaby
Watching Mythbusters on DVR tonight and that was one of the questions.
FirstHusband: “Oh, DEFINITELY a man.”
Me: “You know why?”
FirstHusband: “Spacial relationships.”
Me: “nope. it’s because we don’t care.”
Once I get the suitcase closed, my job is done.
In my previous post, entitled “I’m not your “fun” friend.” I said the reason I prefer “real” conversation over “surface” conversation is because I have “issues” and that you either get used to me or you avoid me.
(CLICK HERE to read that post – it’s short.)
I’ve been thinking about why I’m so intense about everything. Why do I prefer the deeper conversations? Why am I addicted to learning? What is this freakish obsession I have with setting and moving toward goals? Why does the word “can’t” challenge me to defy it? Why is good enough NOT good enough? Why am I so competitive, even with myself? Why am I so passionate about encouraging other people figure out what they want and GO AFTER IT? Why am I so relentless about being actively engaged in an intimate relationship with God – and inspiring others to do the same?
Why am I so intense about LIFE?
I’ve always been overly aware of the passing of time. Of missed opportunity. Lost opportunity.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about why and I immediately came up with four reasons:
1. Saturday mornings
2. TV Overdose
4. Preparation meets opportunity
Saturday mornings were the first thing to come to mind.
I grew up with a mom who loved to sleep.
When I was little, every Saturday was the same. I would wake up early, because, well, I was a little kid. I would crack open my bedroom door and slowly, as quietly as I possibly could, sneak into the kitchen for some cereal. It was slow progress, because the goal was to be completely, totally silent.
The goal was to NOT wake up my mother.
My dad usually worked on Saturday, and he was out of the house early. My mom’s bedroom door was between my room and the kitchen. The kitchen and her bedroom were connected by a wall. Another bedroom wall – the wall with her bedroom door on it – connected to the living room. Where the TV was.
All I wanted to do was get some cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Simple. Kid simple.
Sometimes, I pulled it off. Slowly and silently opening the normally squeaky metal bifold door of the pantry, getting the cereal box down, silently opening the cabinet for a bowl. Silently opening the fridge for the milk by prying the rubber seal open with my fingers instead of pulling the door handle which would have resulted in the sound of the vacuum being broken. Pouring the cereal was the tough part. There’s nothing silent about Lucky Charms hitting melmac. Sometimes, that would be my undoing. Other days, I got lucky and made it through.
Then came the most difficult part. I’d take my cereal bowl into the living room and sit crisscross applesauce, arm’s length from the TV. Volume controls were manual dials back then, so I could turn the volume all the way down before I even turned on the TV. Then came another tense moment. Pulling the TV power knob on made a click noise. Then the electronic hum that followed as the TV warmed up. Sometimes that was as far as I got.
Other days, I made it through. Then came the channel. The good news was that there were only three to choose from: 2, 6 and 9, so I stood a 33% chance that the channel was already tuned to the show I wanted to watch. Other days, I was paralyzed by the dilemma. Do I watch something I didn’t want to or risk turning the knob? Eventually, I got very good at stealth channel changing: a tight, full-handed grip with a s-l-o-w turn. The worst days were when the channel was on 2. Channel 6 to 9 and 9 to 6 were a breeze. But switch between channels 2 and 9? I’d just watch Heckle and Jeckle.
Once I made it to the channel I wanted, there was no sense of relief. The volume was still all the way down.
This part was something I couldn’t really control, but I still tried. I would sit, still arm’s length from the TV, and slowly turn up the volume until I could hear it. Watching a show required constant monitoring. Turn the volume up for dialog, down for music and effects. When I did get caught, it was music and effects that got me every time.
Sometimes, I got lucky. There was only a voice, calling my name. I would turn the volume all the way down and wait. Silently. Other times, I would turn the TV off and slink to the kitchen with my cereal bowl and silently – always silently – put it in the sink. Or even better, slip back into my bedroom with the bowl and shut the door. That way, if she actually got up and opened her bedroom door to look in the living room, there would be no evidence I was ever there. Unless she walked over and touched the top of the TV. If it was warm, I was discovered. More often than not, she would just look out and then go back to bed. I would wait for a while and start again.
For as many times as I made it, there were just as many times as I got caught. The consequences? Get into my mom’s bed with her and stay there until she woke up. Which – on Saturdays, never ever happened before noon.
The sun would be streaming through the window and my mom would be asleep next to me. Notice I didn’t say “sound” asleep. The slightest movement on my part would be immediately met with “be still.” In an effort to keep me safe and protected while she slept, she would reach one arm over and gently place her hand on my arm or my leg. The slightest movement on my part would wake her. I literally watched minutes tick by on a clock. Way, way, way too many minutes.
How has this manifested itself in me?
I hate sleep.
Literally. I just don’t like it. When I sleep, I feel like I’m missing stuff. Opportunities. Experiences. Life. Sometimes, I think that the only reason I can sleep at night is because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody else is sleeping, so I might as well get it over with. I don’t often nap. I have to be non-functionally exhausted or sick to intentionally take a nap.
I think this sense of missing out on life is one reason I’m so focused on “real” conversation with people. Why I can’t take too much “surface” talk before I start asking people questions about themselves. Why I crave conversations that make me think, that open my mind to perspectives other than my own.
It’s why I don’t “do nothing” well. I’ve done enough “nothing” to last me the rest of my life.
I know I’m not your “fun” friend. I wouldn’t make a good Bunco buddy. I prefer conversation over television. And without exception, I will choose talking about your goals and ideas and struggles over spending two hours in a dark movie theater not talking at all. I know I’m not the first person you think of when you want to get together with someone and laugh your butt off. I know I’m not one of the friends you invite out for happy hour on girl’s night.
And I’m okay with that.
I would be completely miserable at happy hour.
For me, happy hour is like reading fiction. It’s a diversion from real life. And usually much too loud.
I can’t do it.
(I have my reasons, which I’ll get into in the next few posts, but let me start out by assuring you I’m not like this because I think I’m better than other people. You’ll see. I have “issues.”)
I know I’m different. Some would say, not normal. Some might say annoying. exasperating.
You either get used to me or you avoid me.
But when you need to talk, I’m the friend who wants to have coffee with you. I’m the friend who can handle hearing about the things that keep you awake at night. I’m the friend who wants to hear about the things that keep you awake at night. Without judgement. In confidence. And be prepared for me to pray for you. Right then and there. Out loud and in front of whoever happens to be looking. (well, not so loud I break a confidence)
Sure, we can talk about surface stuff; logistical stuff, like what mechanic we trust, what we love and hate about our phones and data plans, a good (but easy) recipe or maybe even gas prices.
but not for long.
I don’t have a lot of patience for surface talk. It’s like a magazine. Little chunks of uncommitted browsing.
I prefer books. I want to spend a little more time and dig deeper.
While there’s time. Because it’s later than I think.
FOLLOW-UP: Here are two of my “issues”:
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #1: Saturday Mornings
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #3: Death
That’s what FavoriteSon is calling it.
I’m trying to consume more calories on a daily basis. Sounds crazy. I know.
But the truth is, left on my own, I forget to eat. (CLICK HERE to read why.)
Case in point? I downloaded the “myfitnesspal” app and have been tracking my calorie intake since Wednesday, February 8th. On that day, my net intake was 820 calories.
820 calories?! I know. NOT good. I had no idea.
I say “net” intake because myfitnesspal calculates the calories expended and factors them in. Since my knee is better, I’m back to exercising every day. (My treadmill readouts actually indicate I’m burning more calories than myfitnesspal says I am, but I’m sticking with myfitnesspal or these numbers would be even worse.)
How did I even discover this? I walked 30 miles in 6 days and didn’t lose an OUNCE. Not ONE ounce.
myfitnesspal described it like this:
“Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calories levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day minimum.”
After I injured my knee on December 2nd, I had to cut back on my exercise and I gained a few pounds. By the end of January, my knee was feeling much better so I set a challenging fitness goal for myself. I wanted to walk an average of a mile a day for the month of January. Problem is, since I didn’t set the goal until January 26th, that meant I had to walk 30 miles in 6 days.
When I didn’t lose even an OUNCE, I knew what my problem was. My brother-in-law,
a fitness trainer had already explained it to me. I just hadn’t been motivated to do anything about it.
Until I had to dig out my fat pants. I couldn’t fit comfortably in my clothes anymore and I had to move up a size in order to breathe when I sat down.
I set that freakish 30 mile goal to jumpstart a little weight loss.
THIRTY MILES and NOTHING? That just ticked me off.
So I downloaded myfitnesspal . . . and a new reminder app. I set multiple alarms on my phone and android tablet to remind me to eat. I already had an app, but its capabilities were too limited.
Here’s how my week played out:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1351
Exercise: -531 [Walked 3.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 820
Thursday, I did better:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1397
Exercise: -289 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1108
And yes, I did notice that the reason I did better is because I exercised less. That’s not going to be my long term solution to this problem. I need to eat more.
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1588
Exercise: -651 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 937
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1085
Exercise: -437 [Walked 3 incline miles (2 @ 4.5% incline 1 @ 5% incline]
Net Calories: 648
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1152
Exercise: -367 [Walked 2.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 785
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1439
Exercise: -123 [1 Hour Yoga]
Net Calories: 1316
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1784
Exercise: -286 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1498
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1425
Exercise: -593 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 832
So how’s it working out? I started a week ago today and I’ve lost 3 pounds.
I realize my days have been pretty inconsistent, but I’m much more aware of my nutrition, so that’s progress! And although I HATE counting calories, myfitnesspal makes it pretty easy. FirstHusband joined too, so we’re tracking together. And the phone alarms are really helping. Hopefully, this new routine will develop into a habit and I won’t have to pay so much attention to all this.
I’m DETERMINED to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with!
10am alarm just went off. I’m supposed to eat a snack now. bleh. I’ll do it, but bleh.
Yesterday, I went back to yoga for the first time since tearing my MCL on December 2nd. My knee has been feeling pretty good, so I intentionally put on yoga shorts that morning. As the time to leave the house got closer, I debated. I was on a writing roll. If I stopped, I would lose momentum. and the coffee was so good. (Joffrey’s Jamaican Me Crazy)
LazyMe: “I don’t wanna go. I’m comfortable.”
AnnoyingMe: “Come on. After class is over, you’ll be glad you did it.”
AnnoyingMe: “What is it you always say? That you’re ‘striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed you with?’”
LazyMe: ” It’s early. I’ve got all day. I can be a good steward later.”
AnnoyingMe: “Did you shave your legs for nothing?”
LazyMe: (sigh) “alright. I’m goin.”
Last night, I was really feeling the after-effects of this pose (below).
My whole body hurt – from holding it perfectly still for a total of just a few minutes.
Tonight, I’m feeling it even more.
There’s only one thing to do. Go back tomorrow.
Eleven year old PinkGirl auditioned for Beauty and the Beast this month. Of course she wanted the part of Belle. At the four hour cast call backs the week after her first audition, she sang and read for Belle. The only other character she was asked to try was Babbette, the feather duster.
She couldn’t do the walk.
In the end, she got the part of Madam. The Wardrobe.
She hadn’t been asked to sing or read for any other character, and the role of the Wardrobe wasn’t announced until just before the role of Belle, so as she heard the other parts being assigned to her fellow cast members, the process of elimination gave her false hope. When her name was called, she was completely blindsided.
The moment they were dismissed, she bolted out the door, still in her jazz shoes. She held herself together until she was about three feet from the van. Since she had run out so fast, none of her friends heard her break down crying.
I got in the van and quickly drove to an empty spot in the parking lot.
Immediately – and I mean IMMEDIATELY – she leapt to the conclusion that she wasn’t good at the one thing she thought she was really good at. The decision made by this stranger somehow represented the real truth and everyone else who had ever told her she was good was just being nice. This was a sign that she should quit. This was proof that she wasn’t as good at singing and acting as she thought she was. This was God saying no, not only to Belle, but to theater. She was just fooling herself, wasting everyone’s time and her parent’s money.
She said all these things to herself and to me through broken tears. Then she SCREAMED them again at God. At the top of her lungs, she DEMANDED to know why He was breaking her heart. She told Him that He was making her feel WORTHLESS. When she wrapped her arms around my neck sobbing and screamed “I thought you LOVED me!” at God, it wrenched me. Exhausted from the screaming, she broke down again, sobbing, telling God she was sorry. That she loved him. That she would always love him. No matter what.
This had nothing to do with being disappointed about not getting the part of Belle.
Sure, she was sad and disappointed she didn’t get the role she was going for, but that’s happened before. She played an eel in Little Mermaid – and you know she didn’t go into the audition wanting that part. She was heartbroken when she didn’t get the part of Ti Moune in Once Upon this Island – she wanted that part so bad she became the secret, silent understudy because she wanted to be ready in case the lead couldn’t perform for any reason at all. And less than a year ago, she auditioned for Annie – the role every little actress dreams about – and the part went to her best friend.
She wasn’t just sad and disappointed about not getting a part. If only it were that simple. This was a full blown identity crisis. I looked it up:
identity crisis (noun) A period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
Here it was, two months after her 11th birthday, and she was convinced her dream of a career in theater was being taken from her. And of course, GOD was doing the taking. If she wasn’t an actress or a singer, who was she?
Sitting in the parking lot, I knew she wouldn’t be able to hear me until she had had it out with God. I didn’t stop her from screaming at Him. I didn’t reprimand her for talking to Him like that.
God can take it.
I waited. I held her. I stroked her hair. Kissed her forehead. I prayed that God would give me the words to say and that I would know the right time to say them. Suddenly, she seemed to literally run out of tears and – no surprise – she had a terrible headache. Her eyes were red and puffy and her face was pale. Her blood sugar was bottomed out and she needed to eat something. There was a Chick-Fil-A in the parking lot so I went through the drive-thru and parked again.
As we sat in the van and ate, she was quiet. Still crying, but quiet. I took a chance that she could hear me, and I decided to approach the smaller issue of Belle first, before I even tried to talk to her about her belief that it meant she wasn’t as good as she thought she was. I was hoping that if I could lessen the significance of the trigger event, the resulting blow to her self-confidence would be softened at the same time.
I told her I didn’t understand why God allowed this to happen. I said that when we face a trial, sometimes God shows us why right away, sometimes he shows us why much later and sometimes, we never get to know why.
Me: “Do you know what just happened with Aunt Wendy’s (my sister) teaching job??
Me: “You know she works at a bank 3 days a week, but about a year ago, she got hired as a college instructor to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the kind of teaching job she got wasn’t the kind where you just get hired and you keep the job until you leave or get fired. For this job, she got a contract to teach for one semester and then when that was finished, she got another contract to teach for another semester. You know what happened this semester?”
(negative head shake.)
Me: “She didn’t get a contract. They didn’t even call her to tell her they weren’t going to give her another contract. She was confused and hurt and upset and very worried about how they could pay their bills when she found out. Now she only has work 3 days a week. She couldn’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Then you know what happened?
(another negative head shake.)
Me: “CutiePie (my 1 year old nephew) got very, very sick. And Aunt Wendy didn’t have to leave him and go to work. She got to stay with him and take care of him most of the time he was sick. She posted a picture of him on facebook, sleeping after he was feeling better and you know what my comment was?
(another negative head shake.) “So thankful you didn’t have to teach today. God works in mysterious ways.”
(smile and tiny laugh)
I asked her if she was ready to talk about why God might have allowed this to happen in her life. Even though we can’t see the world from God’s point of view, what reasons could we think of from our limited perspective as humans?
PinkGirl: I think it’s a test.
Me: “What kind of test?”
PinkGirl, welling up again: “To see if I would love God no matter what.”
(From the moment she found out she was auditioning for Beauty and the Beast she had been praying and telling God she would love Him no matter what part she got and that whatever part that was, she would do her very best. Her dad and I prayed that prayer again with her the night before call backs and I prayed it again with her in the car on the way to call backs.)
Me: You may be right. Could it be another kind of test?
PinkGirl: “Like what?”
Me: “Could it be that God is helping you figure out if you really love theater as much as you say you do? Because, this will definitely happen again. More than once. You will want some other part and you won’t get it. And in some cases, you won’t even get a smaller role in the show you audition for. In some cases, you won’t get any role. You will probably NOT get the parts you want more often than you WILL get the parts you want.
(silent tears on her waffle fries)
Me: “PinkGirl, I don’t lie. You know I tell you the truth. You are good at this. And as good as you already are, you have the potential to get even better. I’ve told you before that I believe you can make a very good living in theater your entire life if you just don’t quit. I mean it. But you have to figure out if you can handle the disappointments that come with the joy. Do you love doing theater – no matter what?
(silent tears again)
Me: “What about your witness? GreatTheaterCompany isn’t a Christian organization. Some of the people there know you are a Christian. You invite your castmates to pray with you before shows. How can you be part of God’s story? Because HIS story is so much bigger and better than Beauty and the Beast. We need to start praying and asking God how He can use you to work all things for good.
(the tears stopped. I had her attention.)
Me: “Do you remember the story I told you about the Princess Tapestry?
PinkGirl, crying again: “Is this a dark thread?”
Me: “I think it’s pretty safe to say it is. Do you trust that God knows what he’s doing and that this dark thread will help make the tapestry beautiful? Even if you don’t get to see it until you see Him face to face?
(positive head shake with the tears again. I got another hug.)
(to be continued)
(this was written with PinkGirl’s permission)
There’s a certain person in my daughter’s life, who if she allows it, erodes her joy. I’ll call her TheBully. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward PinkGirl is often passive-aggressive. Every day after school, PinkGirl tells me what TheBully did that day. And every day, PinkGirl and I talk about how she might handle her interactions with TheBully. I’ve encouraged her to include TheBully in her prayers.
I’ve asked PinkGirl to consider that there might be things in TheBully’s life that we aren’t aware of that make her unhappy and her unhappiness might be why she acts the way she does. I’ve explained that some unhappy people try to make themselves feel better by making other people unhappy too. They don’t know they’re doing it and while it really doesn’t make them feel any happier, it does make them feel less alone. I’ve called to her attention that TheBully is also unkind to other people and I’ve tried to help PinkGirl understand that she shouldn’t take it personally.
But I’ve also told PinkGirl that even if all those things are true, it doesn’t give TheBully the right to act the way she does.
It’s not okay.
PinkGirl and I talk about it at length and every day, I conclude by saying that I believe it’s possible for her to stand firm and not let TheBully control her actions. Every day, I tell PinkGirl that it’s possible to tell the truth – even truth that might hurt someone’s feelings – using gracious words. PinkGirl remains steadfastly unconvinced and consistently counters that TheBully will “tell lies” about her to “everybody.” “Everybody” will be mad at her. and she will get into big trouble with the teachers.
Every day, I tell PinkGirl that’s not true. And every day, she tell’s me I don’t understand and that I’m wrong.
The freakish optimist in me gets so exasperated with her. How can my daughter be such a pessimist?
And then I get smacked in the face with a little empathy.
There’s a certain person in my life, who, if I allow her, erodes my joy. I’ll call her Narcissa. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward me is often passive-aggressive. After a few years of praying about – and relentlessly lamenting to my husband about – these interactions and countless discussions with him about why God is allowing this person in my life and what I’m supposed to do and say to her with the love of Christ, I finally . . . blocked her out. Literally and figuratively.
I’ve spent the last few months flat-lined against the messages in her body language, her wounded facial expressions and the disgruntled and sarcastic mumbling. And flat-line has been working for me.
Recently, the passive aggressive behavior morphed into a face to face, non-ignorable conversation. Skilled communicator that I am, I couldn’t think of one thing to say that fell in line with God’s command to speak in love. The words of the great philosopher, Thumper the bunny, kept echoing in my mind: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
So I stood there, speechless.
A few days later, a colleague/friend, who had witnessed the encounter, brought it up. My first response was to assure her that it was okay and to explain that, by the grace of God, I was in a place that Narcissa’s behavior didn’t bother me and that my focus was on my work.
But then my friend, a fellow Christian, said, “It’s just been weighing heavy on my heart.”
I’m not in a place where I can simply block her out. And I couldn’t ignore the fact that God has used her in other situations in my life to point out things I couldn’t or wouldn’t see. As I listened to her explain how Narcissa’s behavior was affecting her, I silently prayed that God would give me the right words to say. My initial thought was to sooth her soul, to help her accept the behavior of the person who was causing her so much heartache. Not once did I consider the possibility that the issue could be resolved. When my friend mentioned speaking with Narcissa about all this, my immediate reaction was, “ohhhhh, nooooo. That would not be a good idea.”
As she persistently brought up possibilities of addressing the problem, one by one, I shot them down: Can’t do it. Never gonna happen. There’s no situation in which that would turn out well. The fall out would be too far reaching.
The next day, alone, I thought: Who was that? I’m freakishly optimistic. I believe “can’t” is a four letter word. My mantra is “Just because I haven’t thought of an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just haven’t figured it out yet.”
What kind of power does this person have over me that I would abandon such a core characteristic? What kind of power does she have over other people? What kind of power does she have?
and what kind of example am I setting for my daughter? I had to fess up.
In the car ride home from school,
I said: “So, I had an epiphany. Do you know what that is?”
Me: “It’s a realization. I realized something today. You know how every day you tell me what TheBully did and I tell you that you need to stand firm and not let her control your actions? How you need to talk to her and tell her the truth using gracious words – even if it will hurt her feelings? And how every day, you tell me that you can’t do that because she will tell everyone lies and the teachers will get you in trouble and everyone will be mad at you …
PinkGirl: “Well not my real friends.”
Me: “True. But am I getting all this right? Am I leaving anything out?
PinkGirl: “No. That’s pretty much it.”
Me: “I realized I’m doing the same thing you are. Who’s TheBully in my life?”
PinkGirl, quick as a flash: “Narcissa.”
Me: “yep. I realized that I’m expecting you to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for getting so frustrated with you when you refuse to try and work out your problems with TheBully.”
So. Now I either have to start coaching PinkGirl about how to physically and emotionally distance herself from TheBully or I have to refocus my efforts on preventing Narcissa’s passive-aggressive behavior from negatively impacting my thoughts and actions.
If you read my last post, I should probably steer clear of Narcissa for a while. Because right this minute, emotions are not a factor in my decision-making and communication. I could easily, objectively and thoroughly tell Narcissa the truth and be completely unaffected by ANY reaction she has.
Unfortunately, because there are other people involved who would be negatively impacted by the repercussions of an honest conversation with Narcissa, I think my best course of action is to keep praying the prayer I’ve been praying for years: “Lord, if you won’t change my circumstances, please change my attitude.” If I want to shake the Hypocrite Certificate, I think I need to teach PinkGirl that same prayer. And how to physically and emotionally duck and weave to stay out of TheBully’s line of sight.
CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.
Just took another – this time underhanded – hit from satan, so I’m thinking he deserves a little reality grounded in smack talk:
What’s the matter? Am I doing something you don’t like? Get used to it. I may be tired. and I may be stressed, but I have a renewable source of strength from an all powerful, all knowing, ever present God.
You? you got nuthin. not even an initial cap in your sorry name. I’m covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. You have no power over me. move along.”