Saturday, August 11, 2018

I Love You My Friend!

One morning on the train in Chicago, I was people watching; because that’s what I do. Studying people, because nobody was really talking; so I couldn’t eavesdrop. 😉😂 I was looking at all the different faces thinking...isn’t it simply the most flabbergasting thing to think of all the people you will see one time in your entire life and never see again? Seriously think about that...so many lovely and interesting people that we only see once and maybe never even speak to.  Think of what you could be missing and what they could be missing in you.  They have purpose, they have worth, they have love; and so do you!
As the week went on, I studied people everywhere we went. I saw some kindness and some unkindness. I saw some quiet people, loud people and all in between. I saw a lot of people without much.  Some with smiles and joy and some without. I always wonder about their journey. I wonder how someone with no place to go, no food to eat, nothing but the few things in the plastic bag beside them can be smiling so big.  And I wonder about those who don't smile or make any eye contact.  I wonder about the one who holds the sign that says "Homeless and Ashamed" and the one who shakes his cup full of rocks to make it sound like it is full of change.  I wonder about the ones who have animals.  I wonder about the ones who don't.  And then I wonder about the people who pass by, the ones who I saw cruelly making fun or teasing the people who are trying to make a few bucks.  What journey are they on?  It doesn't seem any better than the one who is "Homeless and Ashamed".  We are all children of God. He loves us all the same.  The ones in need, the ones ashamed, the ones who are cruel, the ones who smile, the ones who don't.  If we could just remember that we look different on the outside, but we are mostly the same on the inside; I think things might be better.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

GIVE IT TO ME

Sometimes you have to make a choice, that you don't want to make, because you don't have any other choice.  Honestly it is terrible, especially when it effects your family and people you care about.  I've had to do that recently, and it hurt my heart so much....still does.  I'm learning that it seems to be leading to a few other choices, that I don't want to make, because they seem to be the only appropriate choices.  I've been praying about this pretty regularly, and I feel like God is saying:
GIVE IT TO ME!! GIVE IT TO ME!!  So I'm trying so hard to do that, but I'll be honest when I say I'm fearful and a little a lot controlling.  I hear myself saying these types of things to God:
"So I really know what's best here, let me handle this my way."
"They don't understand, so just let me explain it."
"Let me clear things up with a few folks, and set them straight while I'm at it."
"If you just let me do/say this one thing, I promise you can take it from there."
"Listen....this is effecting my family, and I think I know what's best for them."
"My heart really hurts, I'm really angry, and I feel very wronged; so what are You gonna do about that?"
But still He says, GIVE IT TO ME!  So I'm getting closer, but I haven't relinquished it completely.  We are about to leave town for 9 days, and I hope not to think about this once (insert sarcasm here); but I know that's not true.  I think one of the things that is the most difficult is knowing that other choices have to be made as a result, and they're not favorable either. I feel like they're ones that have to be made, and God keeps saying GIVE IT TO ME!  So God I'm trying, I just want You to know I'm really trying.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Quiet

I'm going to be an empty nester soon, sorta.  All of my babes will be in school pretty much all day next year, homeschooling has ended for us....at least for now; so there's not really a reason for me to stay home anymore.  I also feel like it's time I contribute more financially to our family.  This is a total me thing, not a Neil thing.  He would be okay with whatever I decided to do.  I decided I really missed being part of a community in a work environment as well.  The places, where I taught school or served as an administrator, in the past are where I made some of my best friends in the world.  I miss that type of community.  So I applied for several jobs in the field of education, and guess what?  I got called in for a bunch of interviews....a bunch! It was kinda cool and kinda intimidating.  I lost out on one, never got called back for one and was offered a few....which meant I had to choose.  Through the whole process, I felt certain that God would lead me where I was suppose to end up.  Many of the interviewees asked me the same types of questions, and they all started with...."Tell us about yourself" and then went from there.  The question I always dread is the one where they ask you your weaknesses or areas that you need to improve upon.  I don't dread it, because I think I don't have weaknesses or have areas of improvement.  I dread it, because I feel like this is could be a "make it or break it" answer.  The night before my first interview, I asked Neil if he asks prospective employees this question and what he thought the worst answer would be.  Then I prayed about it for a long time, and I heard God say....Just Be Honest, so I was.  My second interview, was the most challenging.  The questions seemed a little more in-depth, and I was a little more intimidated than in the others.  This was partly due to the fact that it was for a position in which I have never worked before....high school special education.  I was a kindergarten teacher forever....5 year olds and 16 year olds are very different!!  I have no "official" training or education in this area, but I have 19 years of life experience raising a special needs son.  One of the interviewees asked me that dreaded question....What do you think are some of your weaknesses?  And although I don't particularly feel like being a quiet person is a weakness, I know that many people do.  In fact, I was reprimanded in a previous job for being a quiet person, so that was one of my answers to this question in every interview.  However this was the only interview where the interviewee looked me directly in the eye and said, "I don't think being quiet is a weakness"; and then he smiled at me.  So needless to say, that's the job I accepted.  I'm so grateful for this new challenge, where I feel like I'll fit like a glove, and be able to offer so much of myself....being quiet and all.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

You Do You

You know how sometimes something that's been really hard pushes you to do something unexpected, in a good way?  Well maybe you don't, but this has happened to me a few times in my 51 years of life.  Tonight was one of those.  I was listening to our youth pastor give a message when it occurred to me....that I put way too much energy into what other people think of me.  This isn't really a surprise to me, because I've known this for a very very long time; and it's a struggle.  Now this next part might sound kinda harsh....but I found myself thinking....I don't care what people think!  I know I'm a good person, with a good heart who tries to do the right thing for every single person I meet,  which can be very challenging sometimes.  I'm an empath, so I feel people's hurts so so hard.  It often leaves me feeling like a failure, because you just can't please every single person in the world.  But let me tell you how often I have tried to do that. Not every single person is going to be happy every minute of every day as much as you want them to.  Life is hard!!  This can also leave me feeling unworthy, insecure and very lonely; because hurt and sadness....even other people's....can be very isolating.  But tonight I felt this release and some tension leave my body, and I thought to myself....you are worthy and good and loved, and the only thoughts that matter are Jesus's; and He adores you.  So go on and keep doing you, because Jesus knows where you're coming from.  And then I thought, I hope this sticks for a while.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Nobody To Listen....

Lately, it seems like everybody is talking and nobody is listening.  I have a lot to say, and I know many of you do too; but I haven't felt like anyone is really listening.  Everyone has their own agenda, and I'm including myself here too.  But I have this longing feeling for some quiet....for some seeing and hearing....deep meaningful seeing and hearing.  I feel like my words are lost on many and that much of what I would like to say would be taken the wrong way, misinterpreted, taken out of context or just ignored.  There's so much going through my brain that I have been feeling a bit frozen. It's like I have so many things to say that I can't even get started.  I'll admit that fear, uncertainty and disappointment has been a big thing for me lately; and I'm really trying to get past those things.  I've also been hurt and confused, and all these things have left my brain & heart in a tizzy.  Some of these feelings I have definitely felt for myself, but I have also felt them deeply for others; and I feel things really hard whether it's good or not so good.  I've been missing people a lot lately too....some who have passed, some who I don't see much and some who I have lost contact with. I like to think of myself as an optimist, and I look for something to be grateful for every day and always always find many things; but really I may be just the opposite....a pessimist and that's disappointing to me too.  I've been having a hard time seeing the good in the world, so when I do....I rejoice often through tears and thanksgiving.  Still....here I sit, reading, writing, contemplating wishing many things were different, many were the way they use to be and many were the same.  I know that God's plan and timing is great, and I trust Him.  I'm praying for our world to be the way He intended....whatever that may be.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Waiting Is Hard

So many things have changed just in the last few days, and my head is reeling in it.  Some positive....some negative....some indifferent.  Change is hard for me, almost always, but I know that it  oftentimes has to happen.  It doesn't mean I like it.  A few years ago, I felt a very strong calling for us to move.  We didn't.  I was the only one who felt that calling or maybe who listened to it.  Either way, I can't move by myself.  As things have occurred over the last few years, it has been evident to me that we should have obeyed.  Feeling ungrounded and like you don't belong somewhere is an extremely difficult feeling to navigate.  I have wonderful people in my life right here, but that doesn't mean that God wants me/us here.  Oftentimes, most of the time, He calls us to the uncomfortable or difficult.  It would have been an adjustment for us all, but I still think it is what we were/are suppose to do.  In a way, I feel like I've disappointed God for not obeying.  I've read a lot about obeying a calling.  Does God call you to something and not call your people? I kinda think He might, and part of the calling is for me to convince them to obey.  Obviously, I didn't do so good on that part; because here we are.  Then I wondered if it was really a calling from God or just my own strong will, but so many things have indicated that it was and still is a calling from God.  Does God want you to obey even if it means disappointing your family or leaving them behind?  I just can't grasp that He does.  I've read a lot about this over the last few years.  There are many things, in The Bible, to support leaving everything behind including your family; but there are many that don't.  I started praying that God would put Neil and I on the same path, in this calling, but so far He hasn't.  This makes me wonder even more if it's my will, Neil's will or God's. Our lives are good, our family is good, our friends are good, most everything is good; but there are things that are a direct result in our disobedience to follow.  So for now, I will still wait and pray for God to put us on the same path.  It's truly one of the most difficult things for me to do....WAIT....especially when I KNOW deep in my heart that we don't belong here.  We are called to something much greater, much simpler, to bring us much closer to each other and to Jesus!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

How Can You Love Your Neighbor If You Aren't Sure How To Love Yourself?

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40!  

This has been on my mind constantly. We’ve recently discussed this in my SS class, I’ve read it on social media, I’ve heard it mentioned a lot lately. Yet I wondered...about the part that says “Love your neighbor as yourself”, what about all those who find it difficult to “love yourself”.
How can you “love your neighbor” or anyone well, if you don’t love yourself? So I did some research, and this is what I found.
 
An article written by Danielle Bernock from Crosswalk describes it like this: 
Loving your neighbor as yourself is found eight times in the Bible. Not once. Not twice. Eight times. Loving your neighbor as yourself is so important to God that He not only repeats Himself, He makes it a command. And not just one in a list of many commands. Jesus coupled the command to love your neighbor as yourself with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 
James calls it the royal law. It sounds beautiful, and it is when we obey it.
But loving your neighbor as yourself isn’t always easy. That’s why God made it a command. He knew we’d struggle. Making it a command is actually to our benefit. How is that? We have to do it on purpose, be intentional about it. Sometimes even out of our need. 
This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself:
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/JacobAmmentorpLund
1. Loving your neighbor means receiving God's love.

1. Loving your neighbor means receiving God's love.

Too begin to love your neighbor as yourself, you need to know two things: you need to know what love is and that you are loved. 
The Bible tells us “this is love. Not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son as a propitiation…” (1 John 4:10). You are the object of this love. God loves you. Knowing this is imperative. And not just loved in a general kind of way, but deeply loved and unconditionally loved. We tap into this when we understand that God loved us first. He’s the source of our love. God loved us even before Jesus gave Himself for us. God the Father is the source of all love. Before we can give this love we need to receive it for ourselves. You can’t give what you don’t have.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock

2. Loving your neighbor means loving ourselves as well.

To love your neighbor as yourself as commanded, you need to measure correctly. The measurement within this command is—as yourself. To love your neighbor as yourself you need to love yourself. This is something that gets misunderstood in the body of Christ often. It gets mixed up with dying to self and denying self as if we need to destroy our self. This is not true. 
Jesus died for each and every one of us. If Jesus valued us enough to go through what He went through, we owe it to Him to value what He values. We need to love what He loves – us. The Bible even tells us that the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23). How dare we not love what the Father loves. Learning to love ourselves prepares and helps us to love our neighbor.  
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/razyph

3. Loving your neighbor means showing grace.

Knowing God is love and that this love is for you is not enough. It needs to be developed. Imagine if you had a field of good soil and a bag of top notch seeds. Would they produce a crop all by themselves? No. The seeds must be planted and cared for. Grace takes the seed of His love and the soil of our heart and creates fruit for the kingdom of God. 
The Bible says, “it’s God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2.13). Loving Him and our neighbor pleases Him. Grace helps us do this. Grace teaches us proper love and respect for ourselves and for our neighbor. Freely receiving His grace empowers us to freely give it. 
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock

4. Loving your neighbor means acting with compassion.

When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He responded with a story: the Good Samaritan. Even those who have no love for God see the value of the story. What is the bottom line of this story? Who did Jesus say was being a neighbor? The one who had compassion. 
Compassion is not simply a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts. Compassion does something. A heart that’s moved by compassion cannot sit idly by while someone suffers a need. Loving your neighbor as yourself is being moved to help to the full extent of your ability. 
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/LightFieldStudios

5. Loving your neighbor means looking out for their wellbeing.

The NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 says, “love protects.”In Philippians 2:4 it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Loving your neighbor as yourself is to look out for other people’s wellbeing. 
To look out for them is to pay attention. You notice if they need something and then you help. For example, their clothing tag is sticking out or they have food on their face so you let them know. Or something more serious like when my neighbor’s toddler got out and crossed the street. Concerned for his safety, I headed over there. I was almost there when the grandma came out to intercept him and thanked me.
Photo courtesy: @Thinkstock/AntonioGuillem

6. Loving your neighbor means serving them.

Serving from the heart is kindness in action. Kindness is one of the attributes of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13. The funny thing about kindness, though, is you can do acts of kindness without kindness residing in your heart. If the kind thing is done out of duty then it isn’t love. 
Jesus said he came to serve (Matthew 20:28). God, who is love, came to serve. Love serves. For you to love your neighbor as yourself, you’ll have a heart to serve them. Let them know you’re there for them. If they need a ride somewhere, you drive them. If they need their dog or cat checked on while they’re out of town, you do that for them. Other examples are getting their mail for them or taking them a meal if they’re not well. Examples in a public setting are to let people in front of you in line at the store or in traffic.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/David Sacks

7. Loving your neighbor means speaking kindly.

The childhood rhyme about stick and stones versus words is not true. Words build up or tear down. God created the world using words. The Bible says Jesus IS the Word (John 1:1). 
To love your neighbor as yourself is to use words to build them up. Speaking words of encouragement to someone who’s down is the most obvious example but there are others. We can be more intentional with our words by looking for and magnifying the good. We can always find something good if we’ll take the time to look for it. Examples of this are giving someone a compliment and telling someone you appreciate them. 
Photo courtesy: 

8. Loving your neighbor means making allowances for other people's humanity.

We live in a day and age when offense is as common as breathing. Criticism is running rampant. Love is not easily offended or critical. Everyone does dumb things; no one is always right or knows everything. We’re all a work in progress. 
I remember sitting through a green light. I wasn’t trying to inconvenience anyone. I got stuck in grieving daze because a family member died. I remember that when I encounter people driving too slow, sitting at lights, or even cutting me off. Maybe they have a reason. Maybe they’re just being human. We’re imperfect beings that do dumb things often. 
Giving people the benefit of the doubt is loving your neighbor. For example, I had a lady flailing her arms and cursing because I didn’t go through an almost red light. She was behind me so got stuck at the red light with me. I don’t know why she was so angry but she may have had other circumstances surrounding her that day. I prayed for her.

9. Loving your neighbor means sharing in their joys and sorrows.

The Bible says we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). 
Celebrating can be difficult for us at times, especially if our neighbor is getting something we have longed for. For example, a new job, a raise, or a pregnancy. Celebrating with them in spite of our own pain is a strong show of love. 
Likewise. mourning with our neighbor can be hard if we don’t know what to say, or have recently lost something or someone ourselves. Loving your neighbor as yourself is showing up and being there with your heart open, allowing them to be what they are and support them.

10. Loving your neighbor means forgiving.

Forgiveness is a big deal to God. The Bible says He planned it for us from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus frequently spoke forgiveness over others that resulted in the healing of their bodies. 
Forgiveness is freely given to us and to love your neighbor as yourself you’ll pass the forgiveness on. Jesus highlighted this in His story in Matthew 18 when Peter asks how many times is he to forgive. He tells the story of a king who forgave an enormous debt to one of his servants. This servant failed to pass the forgiveness on. He demanded payment of a small debt from his neighbor. When the king heard of it, he had his servant remanded for his debt, revoking the debt cancellation. Jesus’ story tells us that love always forgives.
We all need forgiveness, so loving your neighbor is to forgive them as you have been.

And this came from Gotquestions.org:


"Question: "What does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself?"

Answer: 
An expert in the law tried to test the Lord Jesus by asking Him to declare what was the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses. In one masterful statement, Jesus condensed the entire law that God had given Moses: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

When we read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, we are struck with the realization that they focus on these two issues. Certainly we are to love God supremely. But what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Jesus is quoting here from Leviticus 19. Let’s look at its context:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:9–18).

Notice that loving our neighbor would include sharing with the poor and the alien; compassion and absolute honesty and justice in our relationships with others; impartiality; a refusal to be a party to gossip or slander; an absence of malice toward anyone and a refusal to bear a grudge; taking care never to put another’s life at risk and never taking private vengeance upon another. It is also interesting to note that when we have an issue with anyone, we should strive to make it right by going to him or her directly. James calls this the “royal law” (James 2:8). Our Lord taught that we should do to others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12).

It is a fact that anyone who does not have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ will die in his sins and face eternity in hell. Therefore, we owe it to our neighbors to lovingly share with them the good news of the gospel. True believers have been forgiven, possess eternal life, and have blessings forever as the result of others who have shared the gospel with them. God’s love is evidenced in us as we communicate this precious gospel and love others as we have been loved."

I read several other articles regarding "loving yourself" and how it impacts "loving your neighbor".  What I took away from them was that Jesus loves us all equally and enough, and the commandment is really about trying to love people the way Jesus does, including yourself.  Of course we, as humans, can not fully do this; but I think a very important part of the commandment is to remember that He loves us all....every one of us....even those who might be hard to love, including ourselves sometimes.  I also feel like a very important part of the commandment is reiterating that we are loved, and that accepting this love is part of the greatest commandment....even when we don't feel like we are worthy.  Jesus loves us....everyone! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Happy 26th Birthday To Our Marriage!!

Let me tell you about Neil aka NPayne aka Superman aka my better half aka my person.  Let me start with this disclaimer....I don't believe you should count on people to make you happy or blame them for being unhappy, however I do believe that people can attribute to your feelings of happiness.  Now onto NPayne!  A long time ago, in a land far away, there was this boy and this girl....and this girl was in a dark place and really just trying to get through each day.  This boy came along and through the grace of God, he "rescued" her.
Neil is gentle and kind and thoughtful.  He has always treated me with nothing but respect.  I don't think Neil makes me happy, but I do think he greatly attributes to my happiness.  With that being said, I'm not happy 100% of the time.  When I'm not happy, Neil doesn't make me unhappy. Now he can get on my last nerve and make me mad, but he has never once contributed to my unhappiness.  I've had people, in my life, who have contributed to my unhappiness, but never Neil.  It took me a long time to realize that people can control their words and actions towards you, and you cannot control that...you can only control how you react.  I truly believe that God intervened in my darkest time to show me who I could be through Neil, and he brings out the best in me.  If you have had the pleasure of knowing Neil, you surely know this about him too.
The other day I was stressed....as I have been a lot lately....about many things:  my kids, money, school, trying to find a job.  I just sent him an email that said...."What if I can't find a job?"  He sent me back an email explaining how we will be okay, and I replied with "I'm nervous."  He replied with, "Don't be!  You only need a part-time job to pay for couches and donuts." ;)  It made me laugh and lightened the load I've been carrying, but it also made me realize something that I have been struggling with.  He has been working so hard and long hours, and it's been tough on me; because I'm use to him being around.  I know that's a first world problem, but it's still a struggle for me.  I like him being around.  Our daughter has been very sick.  I've had a lot of my own health issues.  We have crazy things going on in our house.....yes, I know first world problem.  But what I didn't think about was how it's been tough on him too.  What I realized is that he has been putting in all of this time at work, so he could make sure I'm taken care of....we are taken care of.  He has always worked hard and been amazing at his job.  Neil didn't go to college, so he has had to work extra hard to earn recognition and pay that he deserves in the industry he's in.  The fact that he has been working hard to provide for his family, since he was barely a teenager should be enough to prove himself in the work place; but it doesn't.  He's had to prove it, and he has done so effectively.  It has just taken a long time, and that is purely because he doesn't have a a degree.  The fact that he has been working even more shouldn't surprise me; but I had the reason wrong.  I thought it was just for a possible promotion, pay increase; but in reality it was for a possible promotion, pay increase to help me....so I didn't have to worry about money and bills and debt and medical expenses.  It all made sense, and I was reminded again how much Neil loves me and that what he does is never for him, but always for us.  Someone asked me recently how Neil handles it when I get mad at him, and I laughed a little when I thought about it; because I'm a hot head and have ranted over lots of things.  My reply was that he remains calm and listens to me rant....most of the time not even about anything to do with him....and that he balances me out better than anyone else I could have ever imagined.  Then I said this, "He's the best thing that ever happened to me"; and he is.  Without him, there would be no us, no Payne Train.  I realize that I was key in making 5 babies, but I also realize that without Neil as my husband; they would be very different people.  Because you see....he balances them out too.  So Happy 26th Anniversary Superman....you're my favorite, my person, my forever boyfriend; and I adore you!!

Monday, May 28, 2018

May 28th....The Best Day of 1999





Happy 19th Birthday Callahan Leigh Payne!  Our Lone Ranger.  My only son.  I've been thinking about you as an adult this past year and how it is very different than what I imagined when you were born.  Never in a million years did I realize how much you would need me over these past 19 years, and never in a million years did I realize how much I would need you.  Having you has brought me, and all of us, a different perspective on life....appreciating the little things, the things that many take for granted.  Those first years were sweet, then confusing, then sometimes really really difficult, but always always worth it.  Things have changed with you the most for me.  Early in your life I found myself setting my expectations for you low due to things I read, researched, had been told and my own inexperience in knowing how to parent you.  When you were little, I questioned my parenting and choices so much more than I did with the girls.  Was I doing anything right? Why did being "special" sometimes not feel so "special" in some of those really hard and confusing days, but mostly in how some people treated you, my darling little boy?  As you've grown and accomplished so much more than I ever would have even dreamed, I now question myself the least in parenting you. I still do find myself questioning society a lot.  I have wondered why people want you to conform and be "normal" or "like everyone else"?  Sometimes I even find myself falling into that trap of how "normal" is defined, and then I look at your face and those big soulful eyes and think about all the things that you do that "normal" people don't; and WOW OH WOW I'm grateful for what I've learned as your mother.  I wonder how many of us can remember every single person's birthday once they learned it the first time and have a calendar in their brain for total recall whenever needed.  I wonder how many of us do their "chores" without being asked and with the utmost gratitude and perfection and pride.  I wonder how many of us pick up after ourselves every day...like never ever leave a mess.  I wonder how many of us can say they have never ever lost a sock in the laundry, and I'm not even kidding....NEVER LOST A SOCK!!!  What? I wonder how many of us have never felt the effect of peer pressure.  I wonder how many of us have never told a lie...ever, not even a white lie.  I wonder how many of us are not affected in the least bit by social media.  I wonder how many of us say what's really on our mind, like "Why is there no kissing in school?" or "Why doesn't Cal want to work this summer?  Why does Cal want to stay home and watch TV?" 😂 or "Why does daddy say you're a man, go in the man's bathroom?" 👀
I wonder how many of us are truly "what you see is what you get".  I wonder how many of us truly embrace our passions.  I wonder how many of us wholeheartedly love with complete and total uncondition.  I wonder how many of us get some of our greatest joy out of the littlest every day things like shaking someone's hand in church, or throwing a frisbee in the front yard, or taking out the trash for our neighbor.  I wonder how many of us are really living our best lives, truly the best life you have, because I know you are; and that, my boy, is one of the greatest gifts in the world to witness.  God doesn't make mistakes.  No matter some of the cruel things I've been told, or read, or seen, or overheard over the years; you are not a mistake.  In fact, I think you're closer to what God intended the human race to be like than most of us "normal" people....kind and loving and accepting and friendly (maybe a little overly friendly at times, hence the kissing in school 😚).  And who really wants to be "normal" when they can be like you?  Anyone who has taken the time to really know you has learned leaps and bounds about humanity, this I know for sure.  You are one of my greatest gifts, and I adore you my son.  We all do!  You are so adored and loved.
Mama
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"  Dr. Seuss

Monday, May 21, 2018

Forgiveness

Forgiveness School
quoted directly from Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker!

"Forgiveness.  
    Oh, it is so terrible, isn't it?  Just awful.  It is the one thing we don't want to give.  Maybe it helps to discuss what forgiveness is not first.   Let it be said:  forgiveness is not condoning evil, not forgetting, not brushing something under the carpet, not a free pass.  It does not mean minimizing the injury and, consequently, your pain.  It doesn't shrink an offense down, making it smaller in memory, in impact.  It doesn't shrug off loss with a "no real harm, no real foul" response.  It does not mean conceding, surrendering to a different version, or yielding your right to dignity.  It never communicates that this didn't happen, it didn't matter, or it didn't harm.
    Furthermore, it might not mean reconciliation.  Some breaches are restored and relationships mend, but some are not safe.  They may never be safe.  The other person may be entirely unsorry, and there is no path to harmony.  Forgiving chronic abusers does not include jumping back into the fire while it is still burning; that is not grace but foolishness.  Forgiveness operates in an entirely different lane than reconciliation; sometimes those roads converge and sometimes they never meet.  Forgiveness is a one-man show.  
    One last thing:  forgiveness rarely equals a one-and-done decision.  Very few decide one day to forgive and never have to revisit that release.  In most cases, it is a process that takes months and sometimes years of work, and just when you think you have laid an offense down, it creeps back up in memory and you have to battle it anew.  Just because this work is stubborn does not mean you are failing or will never be free.  Forgiveness is a long road in the same direction. 
    Do you ever get the impulse to hang on for dear life?  Like someone should stand guard over your injury, and if no one else will, you better?   Nurturing anger feels fair, a witness to injustice, like it might hold an open door for acknowledgment or forthcoming repentance or confirmation.  If you forgive, where is your justice?  Where is your apology?  How will this ever be made right?  Keeping an offender on the hook leaves room for judgment, which we want deferred for our own sins but rigorously applied to this inflicted on us.  
    But I've learned keeping someone on the hook really only keeps me on the hook.  In attempting to lock up an offender, I imprison myself, captive to anger, defensiveness, and pain, replaying a story that becomes a mental loop I cannot escape from, trapping other innocent relationships and scenarios in a toxic spiral that poisons everything.  I act out of woundedness instead of freedom, which makes me paranoid and suspicious, crushing everything Christlike and tender and creating a worse mess than I had in the first place.  God called us to a forgiving path, not only for a mended community but also for mended human hearts.  
    Brennan Manning wrote, 'This is the God of the gospel of grace.  A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin.  He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.'  Jesus walked this sacred road first; we cannot claim His mercies without also claiming His practices.  We mustn't expect a resurrected life when we skip over the cost, the commission, the cross. 
    Back when I was nurturing my anger, I'd spend a good half day replaying, remembering words, conversations, correspondence.  I practiced comebacks and defensive maneuvers, poking holes in the other story like a State Champion debater.  I'd reread e-mails and talk through it all yet again with Brandon or whoever would listen, God bless and keep anyone near me during that season.  I expended a great deal of energy, getting worked up again, re-furious, re-hurt.  I mourned fresh an apology that was never coming.   If I was feeling it, I worked up some tears.  I tidied up the narrative a bit more, removing nuance and defining motives, leaving me cleaner and the offender dirtier than we actually were.  I imagined catastrophe befalling that person, which made me profoundly happy.  
    You know what that other persons likely did that day?  Ate a sandwich, answered some e-mails, had a meeting, returned some pants to the mall.  I was the only one paying the piper, spending energy and mental space not on healing but on imagined vindication.  What a waste!  That person was not on the hook in the slightest, but I sure was, day after day, month after month, disastrously, year after year.  I deferred my own peace, and the only loss was mine. 
   The work of forgiveness is so challenging---the actual work of it.  The naming, grieving, empathizing, releasing.  It's like a death.  A death of what we wanted, what we expected, what we'd hoped for, what we deserved and didn't receive. Burying those expectations, because they are indeed dead, is truly cause for grief.  Expect to feel profound loss as you put them six feet under.  Into the casket also goes control, exoneration, maybe even resolution.  Those don't belong to you.  We don't get to control other people or outcomes.  I am as devastated about this as you. 
    How to begin?  Oh heavenly mercies.  There isn't a template for this work, but I can tell you my early steps to forgiveness.  God was super clear:  Pray for this person every day, which was the meanest thing He ever said to me.  I was furious.  I think I even said something petulant to God like, 'The hell I will!' and He was all, 'Do it Potty Mouth.'  So my prayers started rather, well shallow:  Please don't let this person get hit by a car today.  Amen.  That was as far as I could go.  The anger around my heart was still stretched tight.  I was obedient to the letter of the law only.  
    But as that practice went on, something started to happen.  God loosened that old anger bit by bit, and the prayers gave way to deeper, more meaningful requests.  Mind you, the increments were small and took more time than I wanted to give, but I started thinking of that person as the kid they once were, whose story I knew included loss and abandonment.  God began showing me triggers I had ignited carelessly, tapping into lifelong wounds that set off a disproportional reaction.  Prayer awakened enough humility to own my contribution to the free fall, a difficult admission.  And would you believe after staying the course long enough, I developed a tenderness toward the person who hurt us, and it was sincere.  Prayer didn't heal the relationship, but it healed me. 
    God is still in the miracle business, and sometimes those miracles are in us. 
    While forgiveness might feel like abandoning justice, it actually sets us free.  It liberated us from the crushing responsibility to oversee the resolution, which may or may not ever come.  It removes any authority another person holds over our wholeness; it steals its power.  Surprisingly, it can even bring us to the point where we wish our offender well, where we desire his or her peace too.  It gently takes our minds and hearts and attention and brings them back to the present, to be with the ones who are here.  Forgiveness gives us back our life and gives us back to our life.  It is holy and hard work that says to God:  Here is this sad thing.  It is all Yours to fix or mend or redeem or simply bear witness.  I am praying my hands off and freeing them up for other work. 
    We bury what we wanted and accept what we have.  
    But then, new life.  Rising up from the grave, like tender little shoots.  So small as first.  So fragile.  But forgiveness clears the way for new growth, even if the other person is completely unrepentant.  We can still live.  We can still be vibrant.  We grow and develop and find beauty again, shoots of hope pushing up through the rubble.  And soon enough, when we nurture grace and release instead of anger and resentment, a bloom, an unfolding of life again. 
    Two quick words:  If the person who hurt you has a history of mainly healthy behavior, if they've  been mostly safe, by all means, press not only into forgiveness but reconciliation.  A broken relationship mended by forgiveness can be even stronger than it was before.  Henri Nouwen wrote, 'Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.  The hard truth is that all people love poorly.  We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly.  That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.'  Confrontations, difficult conversations, these are hard, I know.  But better to prioritize a restored relationship than let it go down without a fight simply because we are conflict averse.  Earth is indeed Forgiveness School. 
   Second, forgiveness comes easier to people who regularly ask forgiveness themselves.  It is mature Christian practice to own our offenses and remain humble enough to apologize when we've wounded, intentionally or not.  This posture makes a tender people, a softer family with softer edges.  All of us love poorly at some point, and infusing our community with ownership and repentance is contagious. Say you're sorry.  Ask forgiveness.  This leads not only to stronger relationships but to better humans, and this world needs better humans.
    It is worth the work.  Beth Moore wrote on Twitter:  'God is raising you mighty and mighty doesn't come pretty.  Pay the price.'  The cost of forgiveness is high but the payoff is higher:  health, peace, wholeheartedness, grace.  It goes on:  resilience, maturity, compassion, depth.  God raises us back up mighty in love, through the pain, through the mess, stronger than before.  Forgiveness does not erase your past--a healed memory is not a deleted memory--but it does enlarge your future, increase your love, and set you free.
    It's worth it."