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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Because Life Is Messy

Note: I started this post (along with many others) weeks ago, but I just couldn't tell where it was going. I couldn't get a handle on my own thoughts. Funny how God is never early but always right on time with His lessons. When will I learn that??

Life is messy. Isn't it?

Baby eating an Oreo messy.

Photo: Holy Oreo!

And sometimes, even with the greatest of intentions, stuff happens and you have to get your hands dirty.

Relationship conflicts happen.

Neighborly disputes take place.

Family arguments blow up.

People disappoint you.

Loved ones hurt your feelings.

Your kids break your heart.

And the little bubble you've worked so hard to insulate yourself within pops.

And you are forced to do the hard thing. Dig in. Get involved. Make some conscious decisions.

That being said, though (and I actually HATE that phrase...) I am learning that I don't always have to take responsibility for the hurts or wounds.

I can still aid in supporting or facilitating healing without taking on the burden myself.

But life is messy.

No matter what you do or how you try to protect yourself, life is messy.

Relationships where we actually put ourselves out there are messy.

Parent-child relationships are messy.

Neighbor involvement can be messy.

Any time you are allowed into someone else's life it can get messy--and usually does.

And while I believe this to be a fundamental truth, there are some things that we don't have to take to heart and get all flustered over.

Maybe this is just me.

I can't even comment on a Facebook Page (think USA TODAY) anymore without getting raked over the coals by people with a different opinion.

Posting something controversial? Forget it. There are sure to be some who will feel invited and obligated to share why your view is wrong. To insult you. To tear you to shreds.

So I have started to live a little bit behind a shield.

I've stopped getting involved where I see controversy.

I keep my mouth shut when I see people making horrible, life altering decisions.

I keep it to myself when I witness injustice because it's not my place. I don't need to be involved. It isn't my business. 

To each his own. 

Judge not lest ye be judged.

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. 

Right?

Safe. Insulated. Un-involved.

Non-judgmental. Unbiased. Impartial.

Or is it?

Are we keeping our mouths shut because we truly don't want to offend or is it because we're too afraid to speak up and stand our ground on something? Are we trying to let others "find their own way" or are we simply too scared to speak the Truth?

I'm watching a situation play out on Facebook right now. I've seen MANY situations like this play out in real life and on social media.

Blasted, confounded, wondrous and beautiful Facebook.

I've watched as families are destroyed and children are left behind and I've said nothing.

I know these people.

In many cases, I care about these people.

I see the wreckage.

I see the horrible example they are showing their children.

Friendships have been broken. Families torn apart. And children left wondering what happened to everything they've been taught.

And I've sat silent.

Or worse...I've been the one cheering them on with "Yeah! Don't listen to anyone else! As long as you're happy, that's all that matters!"

or

"Don't let others make you feel bad! They're just jealous!"

or

"Kids are resilient. They'll bounce back. They know you love them!"

And I've smiled and eagerly welcomed them into my life while throwing up my hands and saying things like, "Who am I to judge?"

But when I step back and get very quiet with myself, I see the truth.

The truth is that there is a DIFFERENCE between JUDGING and SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

Not only SHOULD I speak to these people in my life who I have a relationship with, but I am OBLIGATED to do so if I have ever proclaimed to care about them.

But I think where I get all tied up and become paralyzed is when I FEAR that I will be met with anger or hostility. And I probably will. I find that when confronted with an area that I am lacking in, my defenses pop up immediately. I think that's true for most of us. So, if I go poking sticks in people's hornet's nests, there's bound to be an angry bee.

But should that stop me?

No.

As long as I am actually speaking the truth in LOVE.

How do I do that?

I'll look to 1 Corinthians 13 for that answer. (Message Version)

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

And I tell you what...after reading that I realize going to someone in anger, in exasperation, in disgust, in prejudice, in annoyance, or in any other way than complete humility, will lose them before I even open my mouth.

So it is kind of a balancing act in how we approach people. And I think it's perfectly understandable why the "Church" has given up so many times in doing so.

If you speak up, you're labeled "judgmental". If you sit silent, you're labeled "passive" and "watered down."

There is no winning.

Unless we seek to see others through Christ's eyes and pray for wisdom and guidance in how we open the conversation. Unless we pray for the others' heart to be softened so that they "hear" us without having walls of defense lifted. Unless we genuinely care about the people we're speaking to. Unless we put our thoughts and desires second to Christ's.

Easy Peazy Lemon Squeezy.

Not really. One of the hardest things I've ever done. And there is no room for pride. I'm usually so busy tripping on my own pride and rehearsing all the reasons why I am better than the other person that I fail to offer the Love that makes these conversations effective and genuine.

Today I'm making a decision to seek God's will first and pray that I can swallow my massive pride in these situations and know that I am protected by God when I engage in these conversations--if He is truly leading me to them. If it's just my own nebby-ness or selfish ambition, that will be sorely evident the moment I open my mouth.

I'm not so hot at this. In fact, I am a HOT MESS at this. But I think it's part of what God has been working on in me for the past...forever. One of the reasons He has made me fall silent on the blog. In that time, I have had some situations pop up in my life that offer me an object lesson in this. And I hate it. As far as tests from God, I'd much rather be offered a mirror and be told to make "fog" than given a comprehensive Final on everything I've learned from the beginning. But God is nothing if not thorough.

So...here I go. Weaving my way through this minefield of relationships using faith.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Put A Comma In Your Life

com·ma

  [kom-uh]  noun
1.
the sign (,), a mark of punctuation used for indicating a division in a sentence, as in setting off wordphrase, or clause, especially when such a division is accompanied by a slight pause or 
is to be noted in order to give order to the sequential elements of the sentence. 


I had a comma in my blogging for a little over a month. It was so long that I worried it would be a period. 

But through different scenarios over the past month or so, I'm learning to appreciate adding a comma to certain situations and to my life in general. 

A pause.

A moment (or hours, days, weeks...) to collect myself, assess, and most importantly pray. 
Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for discernment. Pray for all involved. 

It's too easy to snap and react. Sometimes emotions get the best of me and I react rather than respond. 

I want to be someone who responds in a measured, non-manipulative, non- confrontational way. Trying to diffuse rather than incite. 

Not everyone feels that way. I'm learning that not everyone cares when their biting comments or overtly mean actions affect someone else. 

Sometimes it's necessary to address these people and sometimes, it's a better use of your time, energy and effort to let it go. 

Now...determining which time to do which thing is hard. At least for me. 

I found this pin on Pinterest and it resonated with me:

And this one:


And I have decided that I will use that metaphorical comma to not only weigh and measure my actions and responses, but also to evaluate who is actively in my life and who is taking my energy. 

I wrestled with whether cutting people out is Biblical or something Jesus would do...and then I remembered Jesus telling His disciples: 

"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way." Matthew 10:12-14, MSG

Jesus also was known to retreat from everyone and go be alone when the crowds got to be  too much. I'm hardly in the same position, but there are definitely times when there are too many people sapping me of energy with demands, expectations, and poor treatment. 

I am finding that it is not selfish, but necessary to remove them from my life or remove myself from theirs in order to focus on my family, in order to be the wife and mom I'm called to be. When I don't, when I allow myself to continue being treated or spoken to in a negative and damaging way, I internalize it all and that ends up coming out on those who are closest to me: My husband gets a crabby wife, my kids have to deal with a mom who is unglued and it breeds chaos and strife in our house

I'm certainly not against reconciliation or working through things. If I was, I'd have no relationships in my life at all. But, like in the image above, when someone is repeatedly treating me in a way that is harmful and has zero desire or makes no attempt to change or even acknowledge your feelings, something has to give. 

So, from now on, in that situation, I am choosing  to shrug my shoulders and move on. Not making a scene, but going on my way. 

And pray for those who I am walking away from.

I cannot fix every problem and I cannot address every issue when it's one-sided or when the other(s) involved don't wish to hear. But God can and He will in His timing.

Walking away or distancing myself does not mean that I wish them ill will or that I have to be rude or beat a drum down the middle of Main street announcing the separation. It just means placing distance in between and drawing a boundary. And it doesn't have to mean forever.

So if you are someone who is struggling in this area, I encourage you to pray for God's guidance. Pray asking Him to help you see in what areas you may be contributing to the conflict. And pray for Him to reveal to the other parties involved their part as well.  

And know that you are not alone. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Got Nothin'

I have been away. More than a month, I think.

I've sat down about 100 times, it seems, to write and...nothin'.

It's not that I don't have things on my mind or things I'm thinking through, but I have started at least 4 separate blog posts and abandoned every single one after a few paragraphs.

I don't know why, but I am having some kind of internal struggle about what to say and how to say it. I am fighting that voice inside that says "Who are you to think you have anything at all to say? How self-important are you that you write a blog and have the nerve to post a link to it on Facebook and Twitter?"

There have been some great conversations between myself and others that have lit a fire inside me and I think, "That would be a great blog post!"

Only to have it fizzle and die in no time.

So, this entire post here is to say how much I have nothing to say.

Poignant, I know.

I just miss you...all 3 of you that read. ;)

I miss talking through things on here and hopefully letting others know they are not alone in the everyday stuff that can bog us down.

I miss having a coherent thought come together on paper (or in this case...in helvetica size 12 font).

So, if you could pray that I will figure this out? That would be so awesome. I have constipation of the mind right now and it is awful.

I know God is working on something in me...and whether I'm just slow in getting the message or He's simply taking His time...I don't know.

But I would sure appreciate any intercession!

Thanks in advance!

xoxo

~Mandy
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