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Porch Talk

porch

One night we were sitting out on the porch and a friend shared with me that she and her guy had been trying to get pregnant again. This is nothing new, I spend time one-on-one with a lot of women and am often privy to such information. But this situation was different; my friend is in her forties and has already raised her children. I was completely floored, because I can’t think of anything I would less like to be today than pregnant, except maybe the mother of toddlers. I asked if she was excited at the prospect and she sighed and said two words: not really. What??

You see, her guy loves having kiddos around the house. And over the last few months he kept hinting that he would like to have more. They finally sat down and seriously talked about it and he confessed that he felt that they were supposed to have more children. He said he had prayed about it, hoping the feeling would dissipate but it came on stronger, would she consider it? This friend of mine is a fantastic Mom, she is all in on the parenting gig right up until they fly the nest, and is so close to having it be just the two of them. And yet…..she said she would pray about it.

My friend asked God about having more children and did not feel what her guy did, she basically got no answer, and yet she agreed to try to conceive for a few months. She said she never prayed against having another baby, and even got excited at the thought here and there, and yet in her heart, really did not want to start over again. At the time that we talked about it, there was no baby news and as a couple they agreed that the time had come to stop trying. She was sad that her guy did not get what he wanted and believed was right, but she was also so relieved. Bittersweet.

I sat with my mouth hanging open as she shared her story; what would I have done in her place? Can I honestly say that I would be open to such a departure from my plan, just to appease my guy? In my opinion this is an extreme act of service and sacrificial love. And trust, in her guy and in her God. Over time I have watched many friends being taken on adventures that they never could have imagined, because they were open to God’s calling, even when it seemed inconvenient or even reckless. What crazy idea is stirring in your heart these days, or in the hints of your spouse? How are you going to respond?

What Do Adult Children Need?

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What do they want from me? Sometimes our youngest will gush about how cool someone’s mom is, or how much money somebody’s parents spend on a friend’s wardrobe and I can start to feel anxious about the way I am viewed by our daughter and her friends. If I’m not really careful, I can feel like a failure because we don’t go on fabulous cruises with our kids or know all the latest jargon. This past week my daughter was very amused at my complete inability to take a selfie and at the fact that my phone is always at less than 10% charged. Always.

What do my adult children need from me at this point in life? Obviously, they are very capable in most arenas; they can get themselves from place to place, cook their own meals and hold down jobs while attending school. They have relationships with each other and with other people without needing me to referee, and each can stand up for themselves without needing my approval or permission.

So as I am quickly working my way out of a job, what is my role at this point? It has taken me some time to answer the question, but I think I have it now. My job is to remain consistent. Whenever possible, I need to be accessible to my children, available to answer the many questions that are asked about establishing credit, how health insurance works and if a check is written today, do I still have money in my account? I need to be consistent in my values, so when my young adults are questioning their own, they know they can rely on their parents to be true to what we have taught them. I need to be consistently open to new ideas and perspectives, so our children know they can voice theirs to me and not be shut down or judged harshly. My children need me to be their biggest cheerleader, ready to throw a big party in their honor. And I need to consistently love my brood, whether they disappoint, frustrate or thrill me, they need to be able to rely on the fact that their mother is crazy about them, no matter what.

I may not be everything that my children would like, but I can say that I work hard to continue to be what they need. In my opinion, it’s cool to be consistent.

 

Conversations That Matter

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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 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?

Encourage

 

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Our pastor has told us before that he gets some pretty heavy condemnation on Monday mornings, critics of yesterday’s sermon or people with better ideas of how church should be done will often unload on him via email. I can imagine he dreads opening up his laptop at the beginning of each new week. He says the only thing worse than that is to receive it in person before, or between gatherings on Sunday mornings! Can you imagine?

I think we all have some idea of how he feels; does everyone have at least one person in their life who at any given moment, could be releasing harsh words on you as readily as encouragement? You take a look at your phone and see that a call/text/email is coming in from that person and you need to take some time before even touching it. Yuck.

There isn’t much I can do about that person in my life, except limit the access I have with them, out of a need for protection. If it were someone who I completely trusted, maybe I wouldn’t need a barrier, but if it were someone I completely trusted, maybe they wouldn’t need to bash. Right?

There is one thing I can do. I can resolve not to be that person to others. Can I have the self-discipline to communicate encouragement and positive observations when I am reaching out with the help of my phone? Of course I can, but it will take intentionality. If I truly feel the need to correct or critique someone, I want to do that with kindness and if possible, in person.

So when my pastor sees a text message pop up from me on a Monday morning (or any other day, for that matter), I want him to eagerly see what I have to say because he can expect nothing but encouragement from me. Heck, I want that for all my friends.

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

Notice

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On the way home, taking a route that I drive 1-2 times a week and noticed something was different at an intersection. You know how you walk into a room and know something has been moved, but you can’t immediately put your finger on what it was? Just like that. I kept driving and it actually bothered me, it felt like it was important to remember and notice.

And then I saw it in my mind; an old house with a dilapidated porch rotting on the front, dirt driveway, no sign of life in the building but almost always a vehicle, maybe an old truck, was parked out back. Lots of junk and brush around the house, what may have once been bushes or landscaping. Then I remembered seeing someone walking towards the house one time. Man or woman? Had to be a man, no…..I don’t remember. But today this house, this structure was completely gone, as if it had never been there. In its place was a huge field ready to receive the grocery store that will be built there in the next few months.

As I put more distance between myself and this scorched earth, I tried to understand why it mattered to me. I have moved many times over the years, lived in 9 very different states, and each place holds so many memories. Each house was important. There are some that I haven’t seen in decades, that would be difficult for me to even find. But they are no less important, and neither are the memories made there.

I felt a strong need to remember that old house that was just torn down. It was so gone, there is not even evidence of the dirt driveway anymore. Nothing to show that it was just there. But I know that it was, and I am certain there is at least one family, if not several, who made memories between those walls. Yes, you mattered, and so did your time there.

Nothing that seems permanent in this world truly is. It can all be torn down, removed and replaced. But the very things that can seem so iffy – love, memories and relationships are what cannot be taken away. Just because life changes the details, doesn’t mean it never happened. I want to remember what is truly important and take notice, and feel the loss when something that was so real is gone.

Photo credit: John Clayton

 

Special Effect

superpower Have you ever noticed how some people seem to get the good seats every time? The best parking places, tables at a restaurant, or just the permission to go where others cannot? I am not one of these people, but I am married to one, and it’s a great perk to join in with a person who has access. People allow him to go behind the curtain, or upgrade his hotel room, or tell him about some great deal that is only available to some.

And then there are those who can simply suggest an idea and before long it becomes a reality. You know this type; excited and excitable, kind of a cheerleader who can motivate the hearts of others. A person who has influence tends to have people around them most of the time, just waiting to see what’s going to happen next. We have a child with this tendency and it is fun to watch the wake.This person is often successful in sales.

There is another type that seems a lot like one with access, but it is the person who is often let in to the hearts and minds of others. This one is allowed to speak into people’s lives because they have permission to do so. You will often find this type sitting off to the side of a large group, talking with one person at a time, either giving encouragement or saying hard things.

Finally there are the people who take command of a situation, who speak in proclamation, not in questions and make statements with confidence. People rely on the one with authority to take a stand and point the way, bringing clarity and either relief or frustration to those around them. This person is often polarizing because they have the ability to see all the issues and comment on them while others are still processing the situation.

Which of these tendencies describes you best? This isn’t really about personality, it’s more of the effect you have, and I believe these are areas of strength that we use all the time, but not always for good. Have you noticed that you are allowed information or special circumstances more than most? You probably have access. What can you do with it? Do you find that you need to be careful endorsing ideas publicly because others are taking notice? That sounds like influence. What can you do with it? Maybe you are the type who people open up to and share their deeper hurts or fears, even those you don’t know well. That would be permission. What can you do with it? Or perhaps others rely on you to lead the charge and speak for them. This could be authority. What can you you do with it?

We can use these super powers for good or for our own good, it’s a daily choice.

Behind Every Great Man…

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What were you thinking??

Are you serious??

I just don’t trust you.

Three statements that can crush a man. There are many more, but they all share similar characteristics; from the woman they love, these words inflict wounds that do not heal.

I don’t think most women understand how much impact we have on our men. There are so many jokes floating around about selective listening and how men tune out our words, but I think they listen very carefully. At least, early in the relationship I am quite sure of it. Over time they may feel forced to close you out in order to survive.

Your guy is looking for support, encouragement and grace that only you can give. He doesn’t need judgment or doubt, he hears that all day already. When he shares a crazy dream for your future together, instead of telling him all the reasons it won’t work and belittling his ideas, say something like, “I don’t think I understand. I’d like to hear more about that.”

When he asks if he has what it takes, instead of using the opportunity to share your doubts in his abilities, try, “I believe in you.”

And when he messes up and asks for your forgiveness, instead of reminding him of all the past hurts inflicted, respond with, “I forgive you.”

I have talked with so many men over the years who share that they feel paralyzed with doubt in their own abilities, afraid that they do not have what it takes. The difference can be the words that you are speaking into his life, detailing his strengths and potential.Your response to your man is incredibly powerful, that saying, ‘behind a great man is a great woman’ should be, ‘behind every great man is an encouraging woman.’

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 21:9

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

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