It's hard to live in the shadows. It's hard to try and understand the person you have committed your life to when there are so many missing pieces from his life before he met you. And when his dream is greater than anything you could imagine, how do you keep up?
Loser! Failure! Freak!
Dear Reader, have those words ever rung in your ears? Maybe they weren't audible, and yet they screamed in your brain. Rejection wears many masks, has endless voices.
Don't worry, Dear Reader, I'm not stumbling into the minefield of money topics. My friend, Jeanne, has been doing a series about choices, and she got me thinking.
With the new year creeping around the corner, I'd like to share one of our investments that can bring major dividends.
I'll admit I have my share of unreasonable fears: heights, speed, snakes, just to name a few. I carry my share of emotional baggage, too, that leads to fears like fear of failure. Who among us is free of faults?
In light of my fears and failures, I wonder if God keeps checklists for our perfect mates. If He does, He certainly went out of His way to ensure I married the man perfectly suited to me. I love Tom to absolute distraction; he brings out the best in me.Then there are other times . . .
When Tom, James, and I took a tour of Western Europe several years ago, Mary said her dad must be the only person to come back thinner. French pastries and Italian delicacies held no charms for Tom. Thank goodness we'd taken along granola bars.
I'm not saying Tom's a finicky eater. but he's afraid to try anything new. Okay, almost anything. And Dear Reader, sometimes it drives me a little crazy.
For years, it seemed like shortly after we found a restaurant we liked, it closed, burn to the ground, or was ruined by flood. I'm not joking. If that wasn't bad enough, Tom seemed mired in mourning their losses instead of discovering new restaurants we might like.
And don't even get me started on tv shows or clothes. If there's a John Wayne western, MacGyver, or M.A.S.H. on, he's there. And probably wearing the same thing he did when they originally came out decades ago.
Foods, restaurants, tv shows, clothing styles . . . Seriously, sometimes I think I married a coward. And then I remember.
I remember how brave he's been through the losses of children, siblings, parents, friends, letting me scream and bawl until I was spent, mindless of his grief.
I think about the times he's followed me into crazy: going back to college when we could barely pay our bills; uprooting our family to move across the state to follow my dream; believing in my calling enough to invest time and money into my journey.
A new dessert, a different style of shirt, oh Dear Reader, how petty my heart and mind are sometimes. And how ungrateful!
I frequently tell Tom that I wouldn't want to be married to me, and it's true. This frail flesh is so selfish and demanding. But Tom loves me anyway, and perhaps that's the bravest thing he's ever done.
May God who gives patience, steadiness, and encouragement help you to live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other.
Dear Reader, Tom's love for me is the second best gift he's given me. The absolute best gift is the model of unconditional love that gives me a glimpse of the Father's love for each of us.
The apostle Paul doesn't mince words in his letter to the Ephesians. He begins chapter four talking about how we are all to work together, recognizing and celebrating each others gifts.
Now Paul really cuts to the chase.
... you must no longer live as the Gentiles do,... 22 Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Wait a minute, wasn't Paul writing to Gentiles? Yup! And yes, he's telling them to basically abandon their culture, their friends, neighbors, family members, business associates. Our guy, Paul, doesn't make this Christianity thing easy, does he?
But Paul launches into a list of specific do's and don'ts to clarify and help the Ephesians. Most of the items deal with "anger issues".
My cynical brain wonders if some listening to Paul's letter may have been wondering, "That's just great, Paul. First you tell me to give up my way of life, and nearly everyone I care about. Now you're telling me to get over it. How am I supposed to do that?"
Good thing Paul knew his "audience", even if he doesn't know us, because he breaks it down even further. He gives the Ephesians a 3-step prescription for anger management:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, ...
Who doesn't get angry? I know I do (although not nearly as often as I did as a young Christian). A coworker, a child who smarted off once too often, an overworked, underpaid snippy clerk at the store, a spouse who forgot, again, to bring home milk.
Dear Reader, this is one of those passages where I think God is saying, "Look, kids, I know it's hard. But holding on to anger just isn't good for you,or for each other. So here's what I want you to do:
What do you think, Dear Reader? If we, as Christians, began to practice these prescriptions for anger management a little more consistently, would we begin to see less...
God knows His children aren't perfect, that's why He gave us some tools to help us out. Maybe we could stretch the love card and candy companies are making big bucks off of, by promoting Valentine's Day, if we simply take our medicine. The Great Physician is on call 24/7, and His pharmacy never runs out of what we need most.
What makes you angry, Dear Reader? What are your strategies to manage anger? How are you teaching kids in your world to manage anger?
What if we all pitched in to give God a huge box of the kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness? Let's start with receiving God's love, followed by showing His love, and end with giving Him more love than we knew we had.
Stuff happens. Not necessarily from intention or negligence, it just happens.
I must confess I have not totally read or totally understood the Bible's Books of Law, or Pentateuch. When I do read them, I must remember they come from a time and culture much different from ours.
Part of God's law was how manslaughter was treated. I don't understand that kind of "amazing grace." If one of my "babies" was killed, no matter the circumstances, I'd probably be screaming for blood. But how infinite our God is! And how high his bar of integrity and welcome.
My suggestion to newspapers everywhere is to give the public a reason to read them again. So here's an idea: get on a big story with widespread public appeal, devote your best resources to it, say a quiet prayer, and swing for the fences.
Originally this post was entitled "Don't fence me in!" As I was searching for an appropriate quote, I discovered "swinging for the fences". After checking some online resources to find out what it means, I decided I liked it so much better. True, some of the connotations were negative, but mostly it sounded like going above and beyond, doing your best.
Yeah, I like that a lot! Maybe it's our corner of the world, but at family gatherings, conversations frequently roll around to how the lack of swinging for the fences seems to have seeped into school, workplaces, sometimes even relationships and worship. Tom and I were talking the other night and I told him the saddest part is the ones who don't consistently do their best are teaching their kids to settle for mediocre, too.
Do I think it's fair to the ones diligently, consistently demonstrate responsibility? No. Does it mean that I will stop swinging at the fences? Absolutely not. Does that mean I'll always hit a home run? Absolutely not.
We get pretty exasperated at the lack of attention our new neighbors give to their yard, and our adjoining fence. (Their insanely loud dobermans don't help either.) Our previous neighbors kept their yard looking like something from a magazine. I didn't think it was possible, but the new couple seem to know even less than Tom and I did when we moved in about landscaping.
But the other day I noticed these delicately beautiful rosebuds hanging over their ratty fence into our yard. Really, it almost took my breath away. It also made me think about the parade of parents that drop off and pick up their tiny ones every day at their front door. If Kelly (the neighbor) wasn't swinging at fences, those parents probably wouldn't keep depositing their precious cargo with her every day.
Time for an epiphany: WE DON'T ALL HAVE THE SAME FENCES TO SWING AT! Tolerance and acceptance towards those in my world, that's a couple of things I should be swinging at the fences for . I'm learning that's a lot more important than what my yard, or my quarterly report, or my car, or anything else so menial show the rest of the world.
What do you swing at the fences for? How do you know when you've made a home run?
Colossians 3:17 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Our daily decisions and habits have a huge impact upon both our levels of happiness and success.
I'm a child of the Iron Age. Oh, not the prehistoric period (although, some days it feels like it). The age before permanent press, polyester and the wrinkled look. We weren't learning to load a dishwasher when I was growing up, we were learning to iron.
In one of my earliest moments of rebellion, I asked Mama why did I have to iron Daddy's handkerchiefs if he was going to stuff it in his pocket and use it to blow his nose on. Let's call it a bent towards efficiency, not lazy, rebellious kid. My Aunt Betty was nuts for a lot of reasons, but one of them was for ironing her sheets and nightgowns. Whew! At least Mama didn't go down that road.
My brother, Buddy, was a great influence on my life, not always for good reasons. But one thing he did was learn to iron. When Mama asked him why, he told her, "Because I may not have you or the girls (my sister, Nancy, and I), or a wife to do it for me." What a liberated guy! Consequently, I have stalwartly refused to iron for Tom for lo, these many years.
When Mary was a toddler, Mama and I loved putting sweet dresses like this on her. Honestly, Mary looked like a little doll! Unfortunately, they were nearly always cotton and required ironing to look halfway decent.
One day Mama came by while I was ironing and wanted to know why I wasn't "crimping" the sleeves on the dress like I was supposed to. Blank stare, then rebellion kicked in again. "Mama, I'd rather spend more time with Mary than her clothes. She'll look just fine and she really doesn't care if the sleeves are crimped. And by the way, that's also the reason I don't polish her walkers (white leather high tops) after every time she wears them."
Holy guacamole! Now it was Mama's turn to have a blank stare. Don't get me wrong, I didn't say it harshly or disrespectfully, but I knew what was important to me, and it wasn't spending more time on laundry than my precious baby.
I was ironing curtains last week. Every summer I launder all the curtains in the house. It was kind of a Mama thing until Tom told me that he appreciated the way it made our house look and feel. That's important to me, too, and that he feels the same way. But it started me to thinking about other things I do out of habit instead of importance, kind of a priorities check up.
I don't mean brushing my teeth or not leaving dirty dishes on the counter. Getting hung up on dumb things like making sure the towels are folded a certain way (because that's how we had to fold them to fit in the linen closet in our house when I was six). I'm all about having an orderly desk, but seriously, as long as we can find what we need and the door closes, who cares what the linen closet looks like?
Tom and I are also all about good stewardship. We believe we should take care of what God has blessed us with, houses, cars, stuff . . . kids, family, friends. But He also blessed us in order for us to enjoy those blessings, not fret over them.
Do you have any habits that make you ask yourself, once in awhile, "Who does that anymore?" I'm not sure I can always differentiate between being OCD and being a good steward, can you? Where do you draw the line?
1 Corinthians 4:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
Hi, my name is Alice. A Way with Words is about sharing faith,
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