Tag Archive | #change

What Do We Expect?

This started out as a Facebook post, but I changed my mind in the end. Did I take the coward’s way out? Maybe (although I did link this to my home page). FB is such a volatile place these days, I don’t want to add to it. But does that mean I stay completely silent? Sometimes, yes. This time, no. Will I get a backlash from some? Possibly. I have to take that risk.

First, let me say that what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is horrific. As I read the newsfeed in the privacy of my home yesterday, I sobbed for the futility in it; I cried for the families who have needlessly lost loved ones. I prayed–and continue to pray–God shows up in amazing ways; that His presence is felt; that His children in the area and beyond pour out love and support to those hurting families; that in the end, it will be shown that good did triumph over this evil.

But I do have a question in light of the following…

*Since the early 1960’s, we’ve slowly but surely taken morals, values, ethics, and the sanctity of life out of schools.

*We’ve torn apart the foundations of the family unit.

*We’ve taught children that evolution is fact…which means, to be consistent with this belief, that people are nothing more than random particles stuck together…which then means people have no real purpose in life.

*We’ve allowed children access to video games that desensitize them to the act of hurting or killing a person (video games the military uses to desensitize their troops in the case s/he must take a human life).

*We’ve allowed little kids access to pornography through the internet, as well as R- and X-rated movies (Deadpool, anyone? Fifty Shades of Grey? No, I haven’t seen them. I don’t need to, to know their negative effects on a developing mind)…which means seeds have been planted for a future addiction to porn, a desensitization to sex, and warped thinking about women and sex, as these children grow into adults.

*We’ve taught teens that if it feels right, do it; abstinence is futile; girls need to put out; guys need to act on it; and we turn a blind eye to the sex-fest that goes on in many colleges & universities (dare I say all?). We hide the statistical repercussions for such behavior–emotional, mental, physical, spiritual–and then wonder why marriages and other relationships are falling apart. To top it off, once these kids grow up and enter the work force, or even worse, should they land a government job, we then penalize them for the very actions we once condoned.

*We’ve glorified Hollywood and its on-screen actors, most of whom live broken lives off-screen.

*We’ve encouraged the love of Self above Others with the tsunami of social media.

*We’ve taught children that all truth is relative…which means, to be consistent with this claim, that for some people, adultery is considered allowable; it’s their truth. Rape is considered allowable; it’s their truth. Stealing & lying? It’s fine; it’s their truth. Murder? Why not? People are just random particles stuck together, anyway, and it’s their truth. On and on I could go. Does this sound harsh? Not if we’re being consistent with relative truth. Who has the authority to say these things aren’t allowable, if there is no absolute truth? “But it’s against the law in this country.” Says who? The government? Who sets up the government? Man? What is man? We just learned man is nothing more than random particles stuck together. Where do random particles get the authority to tell other random particles what’s considered right and wrong? Let’s be consistent if we’re going to claim relative truth.

(Er…guess I touched upon one of my hot buttons with that last one.)

Here’s my question:

Given this kind of upbringing, what do we expect these younger generations to look like once they’ve reached adulthood?

Hint: They won’t look like law-abiding, respectful, considerate people.

If the adages are true, that “you reap what you sow,” and “you are what you eat,” then the older generations have sown disrespect, a lack of accountability, a lack of self-control and self-worth, dishonesty, hypocrisy, promiscuity, a sense of hopelessness, greasy grace, among so much more…and the younger generations have eaten from that harvest. We’re beginning to see the results. It will get worse.

It could get better—if we start by re-instilling those morals, values, ethics, sanctity of life, and yes, absolute truth. It starts there. (And I would argue it actually starts before that–with the Church on its knees.)

But are we willing to make the sacrifices required, in order to weave those threads back into the fabric of society and mend the brokenness?

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Joy in Discipline?

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Welcome to 2018! Have you jumped aboard the bandwagon and chosen your word for this year yet? Last year, I chose the word purposeful, because I knew I had to be just that in how I used my time to get things accomplished between all the writing-related deadlines I had on my plate. Well, I met my deadlines, but I had to look back through my posts the other day and remind myself that I’d even chosen a word for 2017! What does that tell you? 😉

As I pondered this past year, full of extreme highs and some of the lowest of lows, two words sprang to mind for 2018. Discipline and Joy.

home-office-336377_1920Discipline in writing. After a year in which my old and new WIPs (works-in-progress) saw very little forward movement, my creative juices have begun to flow again—praise the Lord—and I must shift writing back near the top of my priorities. You see, it became easy this past year, sometimes necessary, to forgo my laptop in lieu of my knitting needles or a book or allow errands to swallow my days. Now I sense some internal resistance when I come to the laptop, even though ideas have begun to blossom in my mind. Traces of fear niggle at the back of it all. (Still? Yes. Ugh.) “What if I can’t get the words out?” “There’s an expectation now. What if my next book isn’t as good as the first?” “Um…will there even be a next book?” I’m trying to quell these little doubts; to keep them, well, little. I want, instead, to cling to what the Lord has shown me over the last six months—His love, His approval, His blessings—and move forward with confidence.

sports-1050966_1280Discipline in maintaining a healthy body. I’ve been fit much of my life and have a high metabolism, but I am in my forties now, and it’s become harder and harder over the last few years to motivate myself to go for a run or workout. And, sigh, I still don’t like my vegetables. 😉 But slacking off now is the last thing I should be doing if I want to see good health into my fifties and sixties. So…discipline. To get up at 5am to squeeze in a workout. Or put on those running shoes after I take my youngest to school in the mornings. To reach for that apple instead of the pretzels (c’mon, let’s be honest: the chips and salsa). Not much fun in the process—when is it ever fun to tell yourself “no” to something?—but I’ll be thanking myself later.

macaroni-2863299_1920Discipline in keeping house…and prepping for dinner. *embarrassed chuckle* Really, who wants to vacuum and mop floors, fold clothes, dust furniture, scrub bathrooms, and all the other nit-picky stuff I can’t remember at the moment, when I’m just getting back into a writing groove and there are new projects to knit and friends to hang out with and books to read and…and…and… And am I forgetting I wanted to be a mother and housewife? Hello! These duties are part of the job I’ve wanted ever since I was a kid. (Why, then, do they become more trying and annoying each year?) And while I might not enjoy cooking day in and day out, there are things I could do to make it easier on myself…and show hubby that I love him and appreciate him going to work day in and day out, providing us with a warm house and money for food and all the extra amenities we take for granted here in America. So, I’m pulling out my dusty copy of Sink Reflections, by the Fly Lady (anybody else remember that gem?), and I plan to implement her suggestions as I had done once before, years ago, to mild success. (Don’t ask me why I stopped, if it was a success. I don’t know!)

By now you’re probably thinking I forgot about my other word for 2018: Joy.

I didn’t.

Not only do I need discipline to accomplish these different things, I want to enjoy them while I do them. I want to write with joy. Clean with joy. Grocery shop with joy. Cook with joy (gasp!). Left on my own, I’m not a joyful person (probably why I gravitate toward people, books, movies, etc., who can make me laugh), but I want to be. I should be. Between the Bible and one of my girlfriends, I’m encouraged it can be done.

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First, James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking it would work that way for joy, as well. 😉 Second, my girlfriend tells the story of how her husband has always loved to hunt elk, but she used to hate eating the game meat he would bring home. In time, she came to see how her rejection of the meals he provided for the family hurt him at his core, and she began to pray that God would help her like the food her hubby provided. Once again, in time, God answered her prayers, and today she can honestly say she enjoys eating elk meat. She’s an inspiration to me in so many ways, so I figure if God can change her tastebuds, surely He can change my attitude when it comes to the mundane tasks of life, especially cooking dinners for my family.

That’s it. Discipline & Joy. Joy in discipline. Simple…but not easy. The two don’t have a natural connection most of the time, but for me in 2018, I pray they become so interwoven that by the end of the year, I can’t see their separation. (I’ll let you know how it goes.) 🙂

Happy New Year, everyone!

Getting Off This Roller Coaster

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I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster these last few weeks and months. I must be rising toward the peak today, because I feel excited and jubilant, though I couldn’t tell you why. Nothing has physically changed in my life. My circumstances haven’t changed. But my view of some things is slowly changing. Maybe that’s the “why.”

If I’m on a roller coaster, then two Saturdays ago, I was at the lowest point of the deepest plunge, a place I hadn’t been in a long while. Although I hadn’t planned to write that day, I ended up with a little bit of time after breakfast and thought I’d quickly write for 30-45 minutes and pound out maybe 500 words or so. They didn’t have to be stellar words. Just something to slide me a little further along on my WIP. Easy, right?

I couldn’t do it.

It took an hour to wring less than 100 c.r.a.p.p.y words from my cottage-cheese of a brain. And then…time was up. Had to move on with my day. Tears pooling in my eyes, I stood, gathered my cleaning supplies, and as I started for the master bathroom, I began to pray for God’s help—

Wait a minute. His help? He’d had the last hour to help me, and He’d remained silent.

Something black and rancid shifted inside me. I dodged it before it became a full-fledged thought. Couldn’t go there. That wasn’t “Christian.”

Then again, God knew all my thoughts, so what was the point in avoiding what He already knew?

“I hate You, God.” The words rasped against my tongue as the nylon scrubber grated against the porcelain sink. “I hate You. I thought I was a writer. Didn’t You and I have some kind of heart-to-heart a few months ago where You pretty much confirmed I was on the path You wanted me to be? Then why has it been almost a year since I’ve written anything of significance?”

Oh, sure, I’d brainstormed, I’d mulled around different ideas, I’d written a couple thousand words over the last ten months…but none of those things were enough to produce the next book.

Why, God?” Scrub, scrub, scrub. “Whywhywhy did You give me a desire to write but not equip me with the ideas needed to fulfill it? You could have taken away this passion—I’ve begged You so many times to do just that—yet still, crafting stories is how I want to spend my days. So what’s the deal? What am I doing wrong?”*

In one breath, I said I hated him, in the next I asked for forgiveness, in the next I begged for help. I tore myself down, compared myself to others, and shook my fist at God.

I had probably cried for at least two hours by the time I sank to the bedroom floor, my chest aching, my body so empty, it should have caved in on itself. “God, help me. Help me.” Over and over, I repeated those words, incapable of much more than that.

Then my phone rang. Swiping at tears, I rose to grab my phone from the bed.

My father-in-law? Calling me? A tiny part of me hoped he hadn’t dialed by accident, intending to talk to his son, instead.

“Hey, there,” I answered, pushing all kinds of “happy” past the tears clogging my throat. “What’s up?”

Now this is a man who I’ve respected all my life, the one who’d been my pastor throughout my childhood and college years, before he moved on into a new ministry. When he talks about God, I listen. And when he shares the things God’s shown him, I lean in closer.

You know what he said to me that day?

“Laurie, I just called because God wanted me to tell you something. He wants you to know how much He loves you.” My father-in-law’s voice broke with emotion. “He loves you. You can’t please Him any more than you already do right now. He. Loves. You.”

It took longer than it probably should have, but eventually, the weight of his words caught up with me.

There I’d been, throwing my little private tantrum, telling the Creator of the Universe that I hated Him, but instead of smiting me (or spanking me and sending me into a time-out), He tapped my father-in-law’s shoulder and said, “Laurie needs to know I love her.”

God loves me. My Abba—Daddy—loved me in that ugly state, and because of my father-in-law’s sensitivity to His spirit and his willingness to obey, Abba was able to wrap me in a hug that day.

There’s nothing like a Dad’s hug to begin melting a stubborn heart.

Jesus has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, so I don’t have “before Christ” and “after Christ” snapshots of how I used to live and how He changed me. But this…this comes close to it for me. To tell the Creator-God I hated Him, and for Him to hug me in return? I don’t ever want to forget that.

I’m done with this emotional roller coaster ride. I’m getting off and driving a stake in the ground. Yes, there will be days I’ll falter and succumb to the fog of depression; there will be times I take three steps forward only to take two steps back; but may I never retreat farther than this stake today.

God loves me.

If He can love a hater,

If He can love a BFF that denied Him three times,

If He can love a zealous Jew bent on destroying followers of the Way,

If He can love a king who committed adultery and murdered an innocent soldier,

If He can love a coward with a speech problem,

If He can love a drunk,

If He can love and welcome into Paradise a thief on a cross,

If He can love and hang out with the fallen, the imperfect, the hopeless, the broken,

Then there is nothing stopping Him from loving you, too.

Now it’s time for us to own it and move forward, ever closer to Him.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39, NLT

 

(*Just want to point out my messed-up theology back there. My knee-jerk reaction when I’m stressed or depressed is to think (incorrectly) that God won’t bless me if I’m doing something wrong. Hello! Fallible human being here. I’m always going to do something wrong. God doesn’t withhold or dole out blessings based on our (in)ability to get something “right.”)

Ah, the joys of motherhood. Not.

I frowned at my youngest daughter, sure I’d heard her wrong. “No? But you’re taking a shower later today. Your body’s going to be clean and—”

“No! I don’t want you to change my sheets. The more you wash them, the more pilly they get, and then it annoys me when I go to bed.”

“Okaaaay.” So the dirty sheets remained. But later that night, minutes before she had to slip into bed, out popped her question: “Did you wash my sheets?”

Seriously?

Up went my eyebrow. “You didn’t want me to.”

“Nooo!” Her face crumpled and her fists clenched. “I just took a shower. My sheets are dirty.”

“You told me you didn’t want your sheets washed—”

“I never said that!”

Seriously?

Days later, with twenty minutes to spare before heading to school, she was still in her pajamas. I pointed to her room. “What are you doing standing around? Go get dressed.”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Your bureau is full of clothes. Pick something.”

“I can’t. They’re clean and I’m not.” Pause. “Do you have any of my clothes hanging in your closet?” (It’s where I hang the wet clothes to dry.)

I jammed my hands onto my hips. “Let me get this straight. You refuse to wear clean clothes out of your drawer because you’re dirty, yet you want to wear clean clothes that might be hanging in my closet?”

These are just two snapshots of dozens of scenarios I deal with every day from daughter #2, who insists on arguing over almost anything, whether tangible, intangible, or choice of words. Heaven forbid I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went when trying to defend my position (and if I don’t use the exact same phrasing, then “you never said that!”). This is a child who will insist the sky is green and the grass is blue just for the sake of argument.

I’m mentally exhausted.

If I didn’t know I was in my right mind, I’d think I were going insane.

(My apologies to her grandparents reading this post. Just love on her all the more, please.)

For some reason, God in His infinite wisdom chose to pair up this mother with that daughter. Not only does He believe I’m the best mom for her–and that mothering her will iron out some wrinkles in her character–but He knows that having her as my daughter is the only way to iron out some wrinkles in my character. Because if it weren’t for daughter #2, I wouldn’t have realized I have such a problem with impatience. And anger.

See, scenarios like the above typically go on too long and end in a power struggle. And on really bad days, you’ll want to retreat along with daughter #1 into another room. Though it may seem like I’m being glib about this behavior from both myself and daughter #2, I’m not. I’m not proud of my actions and reactions. A yelling, angry mom is not the motherhood I envisioned when I was a child, myself.

But I share it with you because I suspect I’m not alone in this. I’m guessing many parents share my inner conflict. We think we’re decent people—kind, considerate, easy-going, polite—until we have children. Until we come up against a strong-willed mini-me who doesn’t want to obey and instead demands to do things his/her own way. Then out come our fangs, our insides curl and boil with heat, and we start doling out punishments and consequences as our voices rise in volume until it’s not one child throwing a fit…it’s two!

Lately, it’s gotten worse in this household, since my and my hubby’s tolerance threshold for her behavior is at an all-time low, and daughter #2 does not like that. So she’s pushing back. And it. Is. So. Exhausting.

Yet even this has a positive side when examined in the calmer hours of the day. In the Bible, James writes, “Consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Really? Count it as joy?

Yes, because trials—if we respond to them correctly—are supposed to draw us closer to God. It’s in our distress we cry out for His strength, His patience, His wisdom. We are reminded yet again we can’t go it alone; we need the Holy Spirit to intervene and pull us along when we can’t make our feet move on our own. My walk with the Lord will be stronger tomorrow for the strong-willed child He’s placed in my life today. And if I press into Him now, then years later my patience will be mightier because I will have had so many opportunities to practice it, and my anger will not run as hot.

If I press into Him.

Lord, may I continue to press into You.

I’ve often prayed that He would help me love my kids the way He loves them, but recently one of my girlfriends recommended a more specific twist: to pray that God would help me love those qualities about my children that drive me crazy. Because He has plans for these kiddos and their unique quirks that I know nothing about. Daughter #2’s first and middle names combined mean “defender of the faith,” and the same defiance that rears its head against my parental authority is probably just the thing she’s going to need to wield in the future against a society that’s becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christians.

Now if I can just make her realize it’s not me she needs to defend against! 😉

Lest I leave you with an unbalanced view of this precious child of God, however, here’s an incomplete list of her awesomeness:

She’s hysterically funny.

She’s extremely intelligent.

When she’s determined, nothing can stop her.

She can be compassionate, loving, and considerate.

She loves little kids.

She loves the Lord.

She’s got a fertile imagination. It’s quite possible I got the writing talent just so I could pass those genes on to her.

She can draw amazing pictures with her tattoo pens.

She enjoys school (don’t think I could manage mornings if she hated to go).

She’s a loyal friend.

She’s overflowing with possibility.

When she’s in a happy mood, she’s an absolute joy to be around, and she loves to make people smile.

Thank you, Jesus, for my children. Give me wisdom and patience to parent them. Grow me, even as You grow them. Amen.

What if We Lay Aside the Blame?

 

glass-1818065_1280These days, the nation looks more like the Fractured States of America than the United States of America. There’s so much anger and fear, name-calling and hatred, bitterness and resentment. But what if…

WHAT IF, instead of accentuating our differences, we focused on what makes us the same? Each of us at one time or another has been somebody’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, lover or friend. Each of us at one time or another has felt sadness and joy, anger and forgiveness, grief and contentment. We’ve all experienced triumphs and setbacks, and we all suffer from insecurities and pride. We want the best for our children, desire financial security, crave affordable health coverage, need shelter from the elements, and we ache find that certain somebody who will love us despite our faults.

We want so many of the same things; we just don’t agree on how best to attain them.

But WHAT IF, rather than pointing a finger at others to lay blame and accusation, we looked at ourselves first?

WHAT IF we took accountability for our own actions and the parts we each play in this fractured nation? We call for tolerance and then become intolerant of those who have different beliefs and values. We speak of love, but our actions scream “hate” when we feel threatened. We desire our own freedom…at the expense of someone else’s freedom. We frown on bullies in the schoolyard but think nothing of bullying strangers on Twitter or Facebook.

Whatever your beliefs about Jesus Christ, I think most of us would agree with him when he said in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (NLT) How many times do I say this to my children? “Don’t treat your sister the way she treated you. How do you want to be treated? That is the way to treat your sister.” Because, like as not, what we dole out over time will eventually make its way back around to us.

Do you want respect? Be respectful of others. Do you want to receive kindness? Be kind to others. If someone insults you, compliment them in return. (We can always find something nice to say if we take the time to look.) It’s hard, though, huh? The adage, “Kill ’em with kindness” sounds good in movies and reads good in books. Yet when the rubber meets the road, when you’re the one on the receiving end of prejudice or sexism, discrimination or racism (and trash-talking a white person is no less racist than trash-talking an African American), it’s hard to implement. It’s hard to show humility when pride gets stuck in our throats; hard to keep quiet when our bodies tremble with the need to scream; hard to love someone who represents everything we hate.

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But if we want to repair the hurt and disunity in this nation, then someone needs to take the first step and break the cycle. That someone is you. And me. Not our significant others. Not our children. Not the law enforcement. Not our leaders. Not in the passing of more laws or abolishing others. Not in sitting back and letting “someone else” do the grunt work. We—YOU and ME—must get up, dig in, break the cycle and move one step closer to that common ground. Day in and day out. Hour after hour. Tweet after tweet. 😉

It’s a daunting task, true. But WHAT IF the unity we find, the healing we can give, the forgiveness we experience, results in a far more attractive future than one built on anger and hatred? Isn’t that worth a try?