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Conversations That Matter

scared

What happened to talk of the weather and the latest story of what your dog swiped off the counter and consumed? Where is the easy cadence of saying not much? Of bringing up what you read about or watched on the news and not feeling like you are making a political proclamation, but just discussing a current event.

It feels like the conversations I am a part of are all big these days, talking about future plans and current fears and past regrets. We may start off in the safe zone, only to quickly delve into the murky waters of what if and what now. Please understand that this is the place where I tend to be most comfortable, I am notoriously bad at small talk, but the weight of our words seems to be so much heavier lately; the sentences that I am stringing together can truly cut someone deeply, or sway their decision or even let them off the hook. It feels like a huge responsibility.
In today’s society it is easier to offend or get offended than ever, so we can be tempted to choose to say nothing, believing that we are keeping the peace. I have been guilty of this, but the truth is that this crazy world needs your words, especially if they are not reckless and reactionary. We need to share our deep thoughts and ideas, and be okay with the fact that everyone will not agree. There is no license here to pound our thoughts on others, but we must, at the very least, be ready to give a reason for the way that we view a topic. Sometimes I can say that I don’t have an opinion on a prevalent issue, but the truth is that I probably have not taken the time to research and form one. That doesn’t mean that I should shout it from the rooftops, but I should wrestle with it until I have a clear opinion.
I don’t understand it, but God has trusted us to emulate Him with our words and actions. Talk about a huge responsibility! He assures us that He is with us in these conversations, and if we will trust Him, we will be guided through. He also promises to give us understanding if we pursue it. I am going to keep going with the deep conversations that seem to be happening more than ever, I’m not going to shy away from them or the people who are behind them, and I’m going to do my part not to get offended when someone sees it differently than me. Will you join me in the quest for deeper understanding, richer connections and thicker skin?

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Still Learning

lovelifeRecently my guy was telling me about an interaction with a colleague where the other person was incredibly rude, swearing at him, making accusations and issuing ultimatums. The guy is known as a hothead throughout the organization, but this was beyond his normal antics. I found myself getting agitated as he described the discussion that had been going on for days at that point. I was not able to offer any kind of resolution, in fact, I reminded my guy of several times in the past when the co-worker had done similar things and tried to get my husband to see that this was not going to get better. I resolved in my mind that the next time this jerk came to our home, I would make it very clear how I felt about him.

A few days later my guy walked in our door while laughing and joking with someone on the phone. When he hung up I realized he was talking to the same guy that had said terrible things to him days before. I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe that my husband could just let him get away with that! Apparently they had talked it through after the man had cooled off and everything was all right. But it wasn’t all right with me! I wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Have you ever done this? It’s called a secondary hurt – the pain you feel when someone you love is unjustifiably hurt. You conjure up enough emotion for the both of you and want to do damage to that person who hurt your loved one. As strongly as I feel this sometimes for my guy, who can certainly take care of himself, the feeling is exponentially greater when it happens to my children. This is exactly the reason that we counsel young couples not to go to their parents or siblings when they argue within their marriage; those who love you most cannot hear your side of the story and reasonably conclude that you both were at fault, and need to work it out together. Family members react just like I did with my guy, reminding you of all the times your spouse has done something similar and worse, and probably predict doom and gloom for your whole situation.

Not helpful. But understandable.

When you are in the midst of an argument with your spouse, who do you talk to? Your parents, who know your faults but are loyal no matter what? Your high school best friend, who predicted this would never work years ago? Your co-worker, who perhaps has never even met your beloved? We should all have someone in our lives who champions our marriage, who can listen and withhold judgment and turn you back towards home to work it out. I have personally both failed and succeeded at this very thing over the years, and when I fail I have to admit and seek forgiveness. If you have children who are married, the best thing you can do for your adult children (beyond praying) is encourage them to have a mentor couple in their lives, someone who wants them to work it out as much as they do, and will help them do just that. It’s normal to empathize with those we love but sometimes we need to extricate ourselves from a situation in order to help the very people we love most.

Find the Humor


SurpriseThis will be short, I’m on a trip to visit our girl at missionary school, phones and laptops are allowed but not encouraged at this point. Today my guy sent me a picture of our living room after a couple of large dogs spent some time alone. Somehow they found school supplies (I’m not sure where those were) and they placed them strategically throughout the main floor of our home after chewing on glue sticks, pencils, pens and markets. The plastic containers holding the supplies are completely gone. I took one look at the picture and laughed.

Normally I am the one coming home to find the carnage and it’s never funny. Sometimes it’s irritating, other times it’s infuriating. Never funny to me.

I was reminded of so many times over the years when my guy would be out of town and call to check in, only to get a detailed list of the ways our children had upset me. His reply was almost always to try to calm me down and help me see the humor in the day. I rarely saw it.


It’s easier to have grace when there is some distance from the one needing it; your perspective changes and you see that whatever happened in the moment isn’t the whole story. Maybe I need to travel more, but I wish I could keep this long view and relax more about the chaos I find myself in, and maybe even laugh about it sometimes.

Growth Spurt

Ever have a day or week when everything you knew suddenly changed? It’s happened to me a few times with our kids over the years, when everyone seemed to make a big change all at once. It happened again.This week my daughter went on a road trip with her friend, in another state, all by themselves. And my son drove a motorized vehicle without his mother in the passenger seat or anyplace else close by. And today my baby got her braces removed, along with any traces of being my baby.

These are the same people who once fit inside my belly and counted on me for every possible need they had. I can remember holding each one in my lap while rocking them, trying to visualize that their legs could ever actually be as long as mine. Now it feels like when they were toddlers, pushing my arms away while climbing off my lap to walk on their own. I can remember the bittersweet feeling of them not needing me to be quite so close anymore, it was exactly what we had been working toward and now that it has arrived, I’m not convinced it’s what I wanted at all. But that doesn’t matter really because time has continued to move on.

Just like when they were little, I will celebrate the milestones and not resent them for growing up and growing away, but I sure would like a little more time in that rocking chair after these last few days. Lord, I thank you for my treasures and for letting me be their mom.

Jumping to Conclusions

jumpingHave you ever talked yourself into believing something was true with no real basis? You notice your teenager is especially surly one morning, so you start researching drug rehab programs, or a friend doesn’t acknowledge you at a social gathering, so you convince yourself that you are no longer friends? It’s called jumping to conclusions, and man, is it dangerous for me.

Recently I convinced myself that my Mom was not going to make the trip to see her granddaughter graduate from high school; there was no real basis for the feeling, except that we hadn’t talked for a while and I realized it would be a difficult trip for her to make. I knew I should call her and make sure but I was afraid I would be confirming my fear, so I stewed on it for a couple of days. I had conversations in my head, with her rationalizing her choice and me ending up angry and hurt.

Finally I got so tired of feeling this way that I called my Mom, only to be reassured that she wouldn’t miss the occasion for anything and details of when she would arrive. The negative emotions evaporated immediately and I was relieved so all was well, right? Not really. I felt the need to confess to her what I had been feeling, because it wasn’t fair to her or to our relationship.

 This just happened a couple of weeks ago, so you can see that I haven’t mastered it, but I am realizing it and trying to learn from it. From my own research, there are some clear ways to avoid jumping to conclusions:

1)      Rely on history – is my fear in line with what I know of this person? My surly teen is not a morning person and has never shown signs of doing drugs. Perhaps she is tired. Wait a little longer before calling the authorities.

2)     Remember it’s not all about you – ouch. Maybe my friend is in the middle of something I have no knowledge of, that has nothing to do with me, and she just didn’t see me at the concert.

3)     Seek the truth – I could have spared myself hours of bluster if I had simply called my Mom when the thought occurred to me. I cannot rely on my intuition with all matters, sometimes I need to go to the source.

 

Buddy Tape

broken toeA few years ago my son came home from playing at a friend’s house with a hurt toe. He had dropped a weight on it, and thought he had broken it. He mentioned going to the doctor but since he didn’t make a big deal of it, neither did I, until I noticed that it was a deep purple and he was still talking about it days later. When I finally responded, it was pretty embarrassing to tell the doctor it had happened three weeks prior!

The toe was x-rayed and confirmed that it was indeed broken, so they did the only thing you can do for a broken toe: buddy tape. The offending toe needs an example of how to grow straight again, so you tape it to the one next to it and live life for a couple of weeks with taped toes. No need for medicine or a cast, just a constant reminder of the way it should be.

It wasn’t a big leap for me to see the application in my own life. When I am broken, beaten down or low in confidence I need someone who is stronger and healthier than I am, living life right up next to me, reminding me what it looks like to be healthy.

I learned a couple of lessons from this incident; when my son says he needs to see the doctor, he really should, and that we all could use a buddy right up next to us, reminding us of the way we should grow.

Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

 

Who Are You Mentoring?

journeyAre you waiting until you become wise to mentor someone? Waiting to have more time to spend? The wisdom won’t come, and neither will the time because in your own mind, there will never be enough of either to get involved. Mentoring can be messy and uncomfortable. I can remember calling our pastor at our previous church, whining about how hard it was to simply stay in the relationship with a particularly messy person. His response? “Now you’re doing ministry, Jen!” Not what I was looking for, but I still remember it, eight years later, because he was right. If it was easy, it would just be a relationship. This had turned into mentoring.

Can anything good come from mentoring? Anything bad? Are there boundaries or rules to it? First, the good. Mentoring is an effective way to encourage someone else and to pass on the wisdom and experience you’ve gained from walking on this earth. I have found that I often learn from the relationship, and get just as much out of the time spent. There can be some hard parts to mentoring as well; when the person doesn’t seem to want to learn and grow, but just to vent, or when you have to make the hard call of pulling someone else into the relationship for help. It can get a bad name if both parties don’t have a stake in the relationship or want similar outcomes, so boundaries can be important. In some mentoring relationships there is structure with a timeframe, curriculum and goals to be achieved, and in others, the people agree to come together regularly and do life together. I believe the latter can be successful if there is a foundation of trust and some prior relationship.

Mentoring can be a very satisfying part of life, and we are called to do it as believers in Christ. If you aren’t actively mentoring someone now, ask God for the wisdom and the time you need, take a deep breath, and invite someone to walk down the road with you.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

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