Political Fallout~

 

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As Americans we have been blessed to have the freedom to choose our government leadership based on our values and beliefs. We are so fortunate to have this right. However, the politics in this season of the United States have become divisive, angry, and relationally polarizing.   My heart is so sad when I see people behaving so hatefully with one another.

Yes, there are a lot of key issues that create concern and angst in us all; treatment of women, North Korea, a huge polarization between the Democrats and Republicans making it difficult to come to collaborative decision-making to name a few. It can surely be infuriating!

My biggest concern, however, is how people; friends and family members are treating one another. Relationships are being wounded by harmful words and indictments, accusations, and resentment between those who identify more with the Left or those who identify more with the Right ~this is the worst part of the fallout!

Our pastor has been teaching on how to radically love one another; that we can disagree and still love and respect one another! I believe this can be done; especially among those who are Christ followers.   At our core we all want to feel safe, experience peace, be free to have our own thoughts and opinions, to be respected, and to be treated with dignity, ALL of us do no matter how we vote.

Presidents will change, politics will ebb and flow, but the harm done in relationships over our differences will be challenging to repair. Consider whether you have allowed politics to harm relationships that matter to you; can we agree to disagree and still love one another?

 

1 Corinthians 13 The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

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.

       Let’s choose love.

Alpaca kind of love~

 

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“There’s a head and a foot showing!” my daughter in law exclaimed as she walked toward me from across the field. “Should we get some help?” My sister has a small ranch in our area and she has allowed an Alpaca farmer to use her farm for grazing; today there was a little surprise coming!

As my granddaughter and I walked back out to the pasture we realized a baby alpaca had been born just seconds before we arrived. As the tiny baby lay on the grass I watched all the mama’s in the field begin to close ranks; almost as if they were linking arms in protection of this precious life.

Scout and I stood quietly in amazement from a safe distance away as each of these “aunties” began to lick the face of this little one. Sweet cooing sounds filled the air as the baby was loved and nudged gently. I was surprised, even caught off guard by the instantaneous love and care each female alpaca had for this little one that wasn’t even theirs!

After 35 minutes had gone by each female began urging this new little life to stand up; careful nudging and nose-poking to move the baby to where they would stand and find mama’s milk.

It was so painful to watch this baby; wobbly legs and full of uncertainty, stand and take a few steps only to fall time and time and time again; feet flailing in the air. I wanted to jump in and help this little one yet if I even took one step toward them all the females would turn and give you “a look” that let us know we’d sure better stay put!!

Finally this baby alpaca stood and walked, still wobbly, yet stable enough to put one foot in front of the other. All the while, all the female alpacas encouraged, nurtured, nudged, and cooed in an effort to support this little one to walk with strength and confidence.

Once home I began to ponder my experience that day; all sorts of questions began pulsating through my brain! “Do we love this way?” “As human do we continue to lift up and encourage those we around us even if they fall time and time again?” “Do we speak words of encouragement when someone is struggling?” “And do we link arms in protection for those who are weak and learning to stand so that no one can enter the circle and cause harm?” As human beings do we love others in this selfless, tender way?

Nature can sure teach us some many powerful lessons; and this was certainly one of those!  My day on the little ranch truly impacted my heart as I knew that that many times we give up on others too soon, when someone falls too many times we tend to back away rather than lean further in, and frankly, we can tend to be exasperated rather than trying to building a united circle of support around an individual learning to stand.

Scout and I saw an example of the kind of love God bestows on us each and every day; those little alpacas preach a powerful sermon not soon to be forgotten.

“ Love is not a BECAUSE, it’s a NO MATTER WHAT”   Jodi Picoult

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How about a Summertime challenge?

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Day after day I go about attending to the different errands on my “to-do” list; hustling and bustling through traffic to accomplish my goals.   It’s very easy to go in and out of banks, grocery stores, gas stations, and even the post office without paying any real attention to the individual who is serving me.

It was 2 years ago when I found myself feeling quite convicted about the fact that I could be so busy minded that I rarely acknowledged those who are so helpful in the service industry. It’s been 2 years since I began to challenge myself to slow down, to take time to get eye contact and start a conversation with whoever served me in some way.

Over the past 2 years I have had the joy of hearing coffee baristas thank me for being kind or being patient. I have gotten to know any of the sweet people at my local Albertson’s store; their stories, their challenges,  even sharing stories from their family life. I was recently told that I am known as “the nice lady” there.   I have learned how powerful a compliment, a thank you, and a smile can be in the middle of someone’s workday.

Cost to me? Time, it takes more time to engage with people. It does take me longer to do my errands but I think it’s so worth it.

I don’t share any of this to make myself sound “so nice”.  I have really had to grow in this aspect of my life. However, summertime is a time when these folks work even harder, there are more tourists and activities that can put stress on those who serve our needs each day.

So how about a summertime challenge? What if you commit to taking a few extra minutes out of your day to connect with those at the grocery store, Starbucks, gas station, and eateries? Watch and see how when you encourage them you will also feel encouraged.

There’s a lot of busy, irritable people out there! How about we shine our light anew this summer?  🙂

Full Circle Relationships~

Full Circle Relationships~

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I hate conflict. I’ve always hated conflict. In fact, I believe I spent many of my “young adult” years avoiding conflict as much as possible, especially in my college years, and early in my role as a Pastor’s wife. Yet conflict is often inevitable. For me, the problem with being IN a conflict was that I felt I needed to fix the relationship as quickly as possible. My nature is to want to be friends and friendly with others to the best of my ability; conflict simply makes me anxious and sad.

Making peace, however, is not always resolving the conflict. Sweeping challenges under a rug is not helpful in sustaining long-term quality relationships. Nevertheless, I have been learning over the past 10 years that if I do what I can to bring resolve, even letting the relationship go for a season, it often comes around “full circle” where resolve and understanding are uniquely applied anew. I have been surprised by this many, many times. Watching this take place in my life both takes me by surprise and, frankly, makes me very happy.

I’ve gained a few insights as I’ve pondered all of this and I want to share just a few with you.

  1. In a conflict, especially in the heat of it, don’t say everything you are thinking. Emotions are interesting and can cause us to respond so defensively or angrily that what we say, in the moment, can cause greater harm than the conflict itself. The example of opening a feather pillow, letting the feathers fly out, and then trying to put them all back inside the pillow is a good picture of how the things we say can be impossible to retract. In a conflict it is better to cautious of what we say if we desire the relationship to have resolve one day.
  2. Be willing to let things go. In many of the full circle relationships I have experienced I have not been “justified” nor have the other parties necessarily apologized. When I look over all the goodness that has surrounded my life, all the blessings…it just doesn’t seem right for me to hang on to disagreements, necessary endings, or misunderstandings. I want to move on, beyond the conflict and be ready to forgive. Life is too short to harbor anger and resentment. Anger changes me; it doesn’t make me the best version of myself!
  3. Learn from the conflict. What was my part? What could I have done better? What should I have avoided? How can I grow from this challenge? My dad used to use the statement about finding a “pony in the poop”! J There is always something to gain from our challenges if we are willing to really dig for it! And, there are always two sides to a relational challenge.
  4. Use the conflict to grow in grace.   Conflicts are real, and sometimes, relational challenges can cause really deep hurts; real scars. And yet as I look at the grace I have been given over and over and over again; unmerited favor, I am challenged to practice grace with those around me. Some situations require more time on my knees but at the end of the day bitterness never wins.
  5. It’s okay to have boundaries in a challenging relationship. There are times when a relationship comes full circle and there is peace where there has been conflict. But~ the relationship may require more caution, even good boundaries in the days forward. Boundaries can be wise if they are applied with kindness and understanding. I have relationships that I know can be toxic; in those instances I will limit the amount of time I spend in connection with them.
  6. Last of all~ never slam the door shut on a relationship.   Honestly, life can be surprising. People Change. Time changes people. Challenges bring fresh understanding. We NEVER know what can and will happen in a relationship; keep the possibilities in front of you.

Reconciliation is at the very heart of God; starting with our reconciliation with Him. His heart is that His people would walk together in peace and understanding. However, this can prove to be a real challenge as we do life with others. In families, in the workplace, in the church, even in the community; conflict can happen. Hopefully you will see relational challenges in your life come full circle in the days ahead as you practice caution with your words, grace and forgiveness, and are willing to own your part! Dr. Phil always says “This situation needs a hero; will it be you?”

Happy Valentines Day! Keeping it Real!

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So Blissful! So in love! 

It was 1984  Greg and I had just graduated from S.C.C.  (now Vanguard University) we got married in August,  and we were headed for our first ministry post.  Greg and I loved people, loved God, and hoped to make a difference in the world.

But … we were naive and tried so hard to have a GREAT marriage without having the tools we would need to have a successful marriage!  Caring for our young sons, pouring into our church body, living on pennies, and trying to stay positive in the process became challenging emotionally and relationally.  We meant well, but we were still lacking tools to help us to find joy in our marriage!

After 16 years of marriage, 16 years of sweeping our challenges under the carpet, 16 years of living with hurt feelings, offenses, and anger in our home–I threw my hands up and realized that without a real change Greg and I would not end well. We needed tools to help us build the kind of marriage we encouraged others to have!  There had to be a change!

As I pulled out of the driveway with a packed suitcase in the second seat; the garage door rose and I saw my youngest son standing there with tears and I KNEW that my willful behaviour was not the answer.  We needed tools.

It was at this time that Greg and I put ourselves in counseling, solicited higher accountability, took a true assessment of where our marriage was, and began the needed hard work to move from where we were to where we needed to be.   Anyone who talks to me now will hear me say that I have two marriages: the one before we had tools and the one after we had tools!

Here are the tools we gained:

  1. Active Listening:  With pad and paper we learned to listen and hear one another.  After repeating what we felt we had heard one another say we would then respond by saying “In light of what I have heard you say I imagine you must feel…….”  SO POWERFUL!!  Empathy, hearing each others heart!!
  2. Timing and Tone: Greg and I have learned that conversations, challenging ones, are completely unfruitful after 9 pm.!  AND our tone of voice can sabotage a positive end result.  Therefore, our timing and tone in our marriage makes a huge difference!
  3.  We are responsible for our own self-care:  Greg and I have learned that if our life rhythms are off-balance then our marriage will be adversely affected!  Each of us needs to build our Spiritual Connection, build into our physical and emotional health, and modify our schedules in order to have quality time with one another.
  4. We must choose kindness!  Greg and I are similar and yet very different.  We compliment each other; we fill the gap for each other.  However, unless this is something we embrace we can become offended by one others differences!  Learning to appreciate our differences, learning to show kindness; even appreciation, for our distinctiveness helps to build great equity in our marriage.

It was in 2003 when Greg and I renewed our wedding vows.  We had learned to listen, appreciate one another, to value our differences, and to approach one another with a fresh understanding of the impact of “timing and tone”.  If we had not stayed the course, if we had abandoned ship; we would have missed the richest years of our lives!!

How do you feel this Valentines Day?  is it time to really dig in and grow?  to get wise counsel? to acquire tools to help you move from a strife-filled marriage to a friendship-filled marriage??  Then DO IT!! gather the tools you need and watch how the dynamics of your marriage begin to change!  It’s never too late!!

So grateful we didn’t give up; just keeping it real!

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