Tag Archives: love

3 Ways to Recover Quickly from Hurtful Comments

Oh, the holidays.

So much fun.  So cozy.  So sparkly and delicious.

And sometimes, so very painful.

Whether it’s family, friends, or total strangers, we get thrown together with lots of people this time of year.

And, often, we get thrown together as we are planning or attending gatherings that are stressful for some reason–either just happy people trying to put on a beautiful event, or really crabby people feeling the pressure of time and debt and dysfunction, or some combination of the two.

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Clearly, many times, this is not a good thing.

And we can get caught in the middle, in the way of someone who is short on patience and time.

And words can hurt.

Below are three ways you can overcome hurtful words quickly.  Life is too short to hold on to someone else’s bad decision.

1.)  Know this:  It’s not about you.

Really.

Nine times out of ten, a person’s statements reflect their own mood or situation.

One time, I was in a big box store a few weeks before Christmas when I nearly had a head-on cart collision with a white haired gentleman.  Even though it was an accident–both of us were pushing carts around a blind corner–I smiled and apologized.  I thought he would do the same, and we would move on.

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I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”

He scowled at me and shouted, “SORRY? OH!  YEAH, I KNOW YOU ARE!!!”

For some reason, typing this today makes me laugh out loud.  But that day, I was devastated.

I was in my twenties and had my little ones with me. When he shouted at me in front of them and called me “sorry,” I almost cried.

But it was not about me being “sorry,” it was about him having a bad day.

Maybe his wife sent him to the store, and he hated it or was afraid of letting her down.  Maybe he was just a mean man.  I have no idea.  But it was his problem, not mine.

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That day, I just kept telling myself, it’s not about you, it’s not about you.  Which brings me to number two.

2.)  Say out loud that you don’t receive the hurtful comments.  Speak up and replace them with truth.

Say, “This is not about me.  I do not receive those words.  That person’s problem does not get to tell me who I am.”

I love the verses that talk about what we hear, that faith comes by hearing.

And not only does faith come by hearing, but we develop faith in the things we hear most.

If we listen to lies, we will begin to believe them.  If we listen to truth, the same is true.  We can’t control what other people say to us, but we can control what we say to ourselves, and so, control what we hear, and so, what we believe.

Joyce Meyer suggests starting your day by saying “God loves me” one hundred times.

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Get ahead of any lies that might come your way by filling up on a beautiful truth first thing in the morning.

When that man called me “sorry,” at one time, I would have said to myself, “Why did he say that to me?  What did I do that made him be so mean?  I must really be a sorry excuse for a human being if he felt like yelling at me!”

But I had learned that I had a choice.

So instead of beating myself up because of something someone else did, I said, “I do not receive that.  And I forgive that guy.  And I bless him.”

Which brings me to number three.

3.)  Forgive quickly, and bless the person.

I cannot tell you how many times people have said things to me that cut me to my heart.  Things that kept me up at night.  Things that made me feel sick, that gave me a pain in my stomach, things that I remembered that made me cringe and sweat.

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But, over time, I learned that they hurt me partly because I agreed with them and because I kept asking “why?”

“Why would they do that to me?”

There is so much in that little question.  The “why” looks for a way to make the hurtful comment make sense.  But abuse never makes sense.  Trying to force sense out of abuse will wear you down.  It is an unanswerable, never-ending spiral of a question.

And asking, “why would they do that to me?” makes the whole scenario about, well, me.

And most of the time, again, what other people say is not about me.  Or you.

I also love the verse that says “from the fullness of the heart, the mouth will speak.”  Some translations say, “from the overflow of the heart.”  The verse doesn’t say “from the way everyone else acts, the mouth will speak.”  It is clear that what comes out of a person comes because it is what was already there.

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In the same way that if someone spills a drink on you, it is not your fault, neither are the words that “spill” out of a person’s mouth to be blamed on you.

In a very few cases, you might need to listen to the heart of a matter, even if the presentation was less than kind.  Especially if you hear the same thing over and over again from different people.  But, most of the time, a person’s words only reflect one thing:  the state of their own heart.

***

Occasionally,  if we are very tender, or the person is very close, or the comment strikes an insecurity we already have, we have to be more persistent.

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I have had times when I had to repeat these steps over and over and over.

But I realized that I would repeat something to myself over and over, even if I didn’t try. It could either be their words, or God’s.  I learned to choose truth.

I choose to speak over myself words of life, even if I don’t feel it.  I repeat them until I do.  Sometimes, it has taken one time.  Other times, twenty.  And some hurtful words did not leave my soul for years, but I could feel them loosening their grasp as I stood on truth.

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It gets easier the more we practice.  Speak life.  It’s better.  It works.

And, bonus:  The more you speak life over yourself, the more life you hear.  The more you hear, the more you fill your own heart with love.

And by filling your own heart with love, you become more likely to speak love to others.  It’s a win/win.  You will bless everyone around you as you bless yourself.

***

I am a child of God.

God loves me.  God loves me.  God loves me.

I forgive.  

I bless.  I bless.  I bless.

What words do you need to trade in for truth today?

The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

Thanksgiving, How Sweet the Sound.

My grandmother’s love language was food.

Biscuits and gravy.  Bacon and eggs.

Pancakes, stacked high with butter and syrup, sausage on the side, mixed and crispy-hot in the pan just before daylight.

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Home fried chicken.  Ham and beans.  Cornbread in an iron skillet.  Mashed potatoes, perfectly white, whipped to an inch of their little lives.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, homemade ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Banana splits.

My grandma made iced tea so sweet it crunched, and then she sent me out to the garden to pick little sprigs of fresh mint. She laid the green leaves gently on top, and the smell of that sweet mint tea was as fresh as the sun.  We are Southern after all.  There’s really no other way to drink it.

In the winter she made hot chocolate, and cappuccino from a tin.

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She made grilled cheese.  Macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches with three slices of American cheese.  Cheeseball.  Pimento cheese.  Fruit and cheese.

Oh, and pepper jelly on a Triscuit.  With cream cheese.

Fresh.  Everything so fresh.  And almost all from scratch.  Pie crusts rolled out early in the morning.  Fruit picked from her own trees and sugared by her own hands.

Berry pie.  Cherry pie with whipped cream.  And apple pie with melted cheddar cheese.  The first time she handed me that delicacy, I thought someone had gotten confused.

But it was good.  Like all of it.  So good.

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And Thanksgiving?

Move the chairs out and bring in some tables.  Turn yourself sideways to make your way through the bounty, stack up your plate, and don’t be shy, honey, come back for more.

On Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked for days around her teaching job.   Deviled eggs could be done early. The pies too, they could be done ahead.  Salads, chopped the day before and tossed in the morning.

She still made jello molds, maybe the only thing she made I didn’t love, but they were pretty and somewhat gravity defying, and what kid isn’t entertained by carrots jiggling in gelatin?

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My grandmother was a schoolteacher and a children’s librarian.   Besides cooking, she dressed in costumes on the holidays.

On Christmas, she was Mrs. Claus, Santa hat, red sweater, matching skirt, and a huge black belt with a shiny gold buckle.

And on Thanksgiving, she alternated years, one year a Cherokee maiden with construction paper feathers in her hair.

And, other years, a pilgrim in black and white, complete with a little collar and funny hat, flaps around her ears.

And she did it all while caring for my grandfather, wheelchair-bound from polio.  My grandmother sold everything she had after he came home from the hospital, and she went to school to become a teacher.

She was loyal to him until he died in his fifties, and she never remarried.  She still wears her wedding band, even though I’m not sure she remembers why.

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She doesn’t know us anymore, and she gets upset if she forgets where she is.

But her love language is still food.  She got afraid at my house the other day, and I said, “Grandma, do you want a cookie?”  She nodded.

I gave her two cookies.  “One for each hand,” I said, like I do for my kids.

She smiled and took a big crumbly bite.

It wasn’t until I had my own kids and tried cooking for a family, day in and day out, that I realized what a gift she gave us.

After I had stayed home for ten years, I realized that I had prepared over 10,000 meals, many of them spit out and proclaimed “disgusting” by children who had just been eating dog food.

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I know they did.  Dirt, too.  I saw it with my own eyes.

Even so, I baked and meal-planned and hunted recipes to delight them.

One time as a young mom, I tried to make beans.

I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to make the whole bag at once.  When the water boiled, I happily watched the beans soften and swell.

Until I realized they were swelling right out of the pot.

I called my grandmother.

“What do I do?”  I asked her.

She laughed so hard.  Couldn’t even talk.

“Grandma, stop laughing,” I said, “they are seriously coming out the top!  What do I do?”

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“Just get another pot, honey,” she gasped.  “Start spooning them in to something else on another burner, add more water.”

“Ok, Grandma,” I said.  Her laughing made me laugh.  I spooned some in another pot.

The beans kept swelling over the top.

I called her back.  “Grandma, I think I should just throw it away.  There’s too much, it’s still overflowing.  I give up.”

She thought this was hysterical.

“No, honey,” she said.  “Don’t you have four burners?   Just keep adding pots, keep spooning it out.  You can fix this.”

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It was a vote of confidence from a woman who knew her food.  I did fix it, on the phone with her, laughing and spooning and babysitting beans.

She kept asking, “What does it look like now?”  and laughing.

I wish I’d had a cell phone back then.  I would have texted her a picture of the four bean volcanos erupting on my stovetop.

I think she got the idea.

It’s a little memory.

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But I’m so thankful for it.

The food is a small thing too in a way, but in another, it’s the soundtrack of my childhood as much as any music.

A soundtrack of flavor and love poured out and laid before me by a servant of God and family who lived to bring us comfort.

My grandmother worked hard in her gardens and at school to provide the food for a big family she fed all the time.

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And then, unless you’ve planned meals like she did, and gotten up at all hours of the day and night to make sure it came out right, and tended to every little bite like it mattered, it’s hard to explain the time and the effort, the cuts and the burns and the sweat and the tired arms over a hot steamy stove.

I remember conversations at these meals.

Conversations that often ended up with someone raising their voice and walking away mad, and the awkward silence that followed.

And I remember my grandmother leaving the angry adults and swooping us all up in her arms.  She had holiday books that she read in the most soothing, sweet voice, a voice and a cadence made to order for children’s stories.

I’m sure the conversations mattered to her, but her babies mattered more.

She had worked hard to make a beautiful meal and space for gathering.  She was not about to let them ruin it for her or for us.

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She was a woman who never stopped smiling.

I’m amazed by her restraint, and inspired by the way she always chose love.

I want to give that same gift to my kids and my family.

I’m planning what I’m cooking this year.

My kids have never seen a jello mold.  This may be the year that changes.  That jiggly delight just might find itself a place on my table.  Some old things are worth resurrecting.

And I’m planning what I’ll say.

“Hey kids, want to read a story?”

And.  My sister has this hilarious game.  Telephone pictionary.  Great for a crowd.  Directions here.  Might play that, too.

There’s a time and a place for everything, it’s true.

But Thanksgiving is about making a joyful noise, not an angry or fearful one.  And about making memories that will still be sweet for a long, long time.

***

I’m praying for love, words of love, sweeter than honey, and more savory than turkey, and sweeter than music, to grace your lips, your ears and all your gatherings.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Prov16:24

Shoplifting, Lego Robots, and the Brené Brown TED Talk on Courage and Vulnerability. {WATCH}

One time, I shoplifted.

Actually twice.

Once, when I was twelve, I took a lollipop from the candy store.

I ate it, but it tasted like death.

The second time, I was 18.

I know.  My character should have been more developed by then.  It was not a proud moment.

I was with a friend when I saw a package of six tiny Christmas bows.  They were the size of a penny.  So shiny and cute.

Tons of kids shoplifted in high school, but I never went along with the crowd, until that day.

I don’t know why those little bows stole my heart.  When my friend saw how much I wanted them, she said, “just take them.  They will fit right up your sleeve.”

So I did.

I stole.  Christmas bows.  At Christmas.  To put on Christmas presents.  To celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

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I could never open them.  I did not know what to do with them.  I never knowingly took anything again that wasn’t mine.

I was reformed.

That package of Christmas bows sat in my Christmas box until after I had kids.  I finally gave them to Goodwill.

Confession is good for the soul.

And not just the person confessing.  Allowing each other the freedom to fail is a gift.  And accepting each other, failure and all.  And loving, in spite of it.

Fears of failure and of rejection break relationship.  Fear of being left out or misunderstood because of imperfections we can’t control, our body shape, our age, our family tree.  Fear of being unlovable because of screw ups and missed opportunities and bad decisions.

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These fears cause us to try to cover up and act like something we’re not.

And healthy relationships can’t be built on lies.

I don’t know why humanity still struggles with this.

Like we think anyone is perfect.  Like it’s a surprise that people make mistakes and don’t know everything.

It shocks me when my kids cry over something new they learned at school, and they can’t do it perfectly the first time.  Like, kids, seriously, it’s school.  The whole point is finding out how much you don’t know and learning how to do some of it, right?

But when their little egos confront their own ignorance, that bubble of thinking, “I’m the best Lego builder in the world!” gets busted. They discover that, not only can you build awesome Lego structures, but you can also mechanize them.

Lego robots.  A whole new level.  Dang.

And they have to do the hard work of focus and self discipline until they achieve some level of mastery.

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And then, when they conquer that thing, they are elated.

It’s a cycle.  That is repeated often.  And it makes me look at myself.

How often do I encounter my own weakness and suddenly hate my life?

Like it’s a surprise.  Like it’s never happened before.

Right.

There is a thing that well meaning people do sometimes when you confess a failure.  They will say, “Oh, you didn’t really steal.  Or, let’s reframe that.  You didn’t really fail/sin/screw up.  You are a great person.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  God loves you just the way you are.”

I love the heart of encouragement, but it seems to me that there is a hidden fear of failure in that kind of response.  Pushing back the idea of failure with both hands so that no one has to be embarrassed, or not know what to say, or see each other with eyes wide open.  Like when you walk in on someone in the toilet.  That one awful moment of being frozen with the door open and seeing that thing you can’t unsee.

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But, um, you know, people go to the bathroom.  Is it really that shocking?  And people screw up.  All the time.  Really good people.  Pretending we don’t and being afraid of admitting it makes for some seriously pointless conversation.

I love when I say, “Wow.  I did this thing.”

And the person next to me says, “Amen.  Thank You, Jesus.”  Or, “Oh.  Yeah.  Me too.”

Like they are happy for me when I see something I need to see.  Like they aren’t afraid of it.  Like they might even like me more, because I was willing to go there.

I appreciate that level of real.

It’s why I love Brené Brown.

I’m a huge fan.

Her viral TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” was one catalyst in my walk away from fear and shame.

It’s my favorite ever TED Talk.  The guy who plays eleventy million  pop songs on the ukulele is a close second.  And the lady who power poses like Wonder Woman in the bathroom.  If you don’t know yet, I love when people maximize time in the bathroom.  It’s just so efficient.  People go there.  Might as well admit it and use the time wisely.

This talk is funny, deep, honest, and life changing.  Seriously.  If you only ever watch one TED Talk, this is the one.  Click here for link.  Over 26 million views and counting today, for a reason.

Courage, shame, and vulnerability.  I’m praying for all of us to get that breakthrough.   

Courage, the original definition of courage..it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart.”   And the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. . . the courage to be imperfect.   

–Brené Brown

***

If you find yourself wanting more of Brene’s insight, her follow up talk, “Listening to Shame,” where she discusses dorm room break-ins, vulnerability hangovers, and the fear of shame, can be found by clicking here.  

Empathy is the antidote to shame. . .The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me, too.  

Brené Brown

Confess your faults to each other, and pray for each other, that you might be healed.  Jas5:16.

For Lupé, the Beautiful Dancer.

Last week I locked my keys in my car in Echo Park.

Echo Park is lovely now, but it was known for gang activity in the not too distant past.

Rush hour was easing, and the sun was setting.

My friend, Gloria, and I stood on the sidewalk and waited on the locksmith.

Gloria is a great person to be locked out of a car with in the middle of a city.  She just stood there laughing.

No stress.  No anxiety.  No worry.  No fear.

We were trying to visit the Aimee Semple McPherson Parsonage and Angelus Temple.  Everything was closed, so we couldn’t go in.  But we walked around and took a few pictures.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.

I looked at Gloria standing by my mini van in high heels on dirty concrete.  It was hot.  We were thirsty and tired.  And the crowd around us was changing as the sun went down.

I started singing.  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It seemed appropriate standing outside that temple.  It seemed a declaration of a choice.  Also.  I once saw Jen Hatmaker sing it in a moment of exasperation, and it really made me laugh.

Gloria started singing with me, and we stood there on the sidewalk with people walking by all around, just singing.

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We made it through a couple of verses and then couldn’t remember the third.  Gloria said, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.  I wish we had some water.”

As she said it, a woman in a pink sports bra walked right up to us and said, “Do you work here?  I really need some water.”

It was so odd, like she almost repeated what Gloria had said.  And she came out of nowhere.

She appeared.

Her arms and chest were covered in scars and faded tattoos.  She was a beautiful woman, but older than she seemed at first.  The short top was a few sizes too small.  She was bursting out of it on every side.

“I tried to get a drink of water at the pharmacy.  They said they don’t serve hookers in there.”  She was indignant.  “I’m not a hooker.  I’m a dancer.”

We asked her name.  “Lupe,” she said.  We told her ours.

She talked on in frustration of how she had been treated all day.  As she walked through town because her car broke down.  She was going to sleep in it that night.  She had been to the temple before, and the people were nice, she said.  She thought they might give her water.  She was visiting from Vegas, looking for a better job.

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Gloria asked Lupe if she felt safe in her line of work.

“Oh.  Well.  No one’s ever tried to kill me, but they try to rape me in the parking lot when I leave.  I learned to change clothes before I go.  Now I just wear an old sweat suit, and it’s fine.”

“Wow,” we said.  And we just kept chatting.  Kids.  Shoes.  Lupe liked Gloria’s dress.

We were just three women talking.  She said she was thirsty and hot.  We were, too.  She said her feet hurt.  Ours did, too.

As we stood near the church, two other women and their children walked up and tried the door, and found it locked, like we had.

They had tourist maps in their hands.  The gold crosses around their necks shone nearly white.  They walked by us.

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Gloria and I are always friendly, we can’t even help it.  We spoke to the women.

They sped up walking.  They would hardly look at us.  I saw them staring hard at Lupe, and they almost covered their faces with their maps.  They mumbled something in reply to our greeting and walked quickly away.

Lupe just glanced at them and then back at us.  She seemed unfazed, but their behavior was so unnecessary.  It was weird.

We talked a little more with Lupe, but she wanted to walk in a public bathroom outside the temple.  We felt like we needed to wait with the car.  We told her we would give her money.  We wanted to pray with her.  She said she could use prayer.  We said to just meet us at the car when she came out.

She walked in the bathroom, and  we walked back to the car.  A few minutes passed, and we wondered if we should check on her.  We walked back to where we could see the bathroom door, and we saw two men walk in.

Gloria and I always find pennies.  They remind me of something Heidi Baker always says, “Stop for the one.”

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As we left Echo Park, Gloria bent down and picked up the filthiest penny I have ever seen from under a bus bench.  It looked like it had been wrapped in bubble gum and rolled in dog hair and dirt.  But, under it all was glowing copper, no doubt.  Still a penny.  Still forged with a purpose.  Still valuable.

I don’t know if Lupe had planned a meeting with those men or not, but she never came back to us.  We met some policemen later, near the time we finally got the car unlocked, but they didn’t seem worried about her.

I pray she is safe.  I pray she knows she is loved.  I pray she sometimes thinks of two women who enjoyed spending time with her outside of a church.  I pray she goes back there and tries again.  And the doors are open.  And she finds what she’s looking for.

What she’s really looking for.

I pray I get another chance.  To love well, to reach out, to go one step further in serving and in boldness.

And I pray for the women who passed us by.  As lovely and clean as those women were, they were the opposite of pretty, dressed in judgement.  Walking in fear.

We can always do better.  I pray they can try again, too.  That they get another chance to minister to a stranger.  That they find what they are looking for.

Really looking for.

***

God is love.

The Necklace.

I fail a little bit every day.  Sometimes a lot.  Sometimes in front of the most important people.

A couple of summers ago, my kids wanted to try archery.  Our gym offered it, but it was a low priority.  So low, that no one there knew how to take money for the class.

A girl named Angel worked the front desk.  She couldn’t sign us up, but she helped.  She searched the computer. She looked up phone numbers.  She smiled.

Every time I called the manager, Deb, she would tell me to come on a certain night, and she would help me herself.  So I would go in.  But no Deb.

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This happened three or four times.  I started to think that my kids weren’t going to be able to take that class.  It stirred my inner Mama Bear.

Not good.

The next time I talked to Deb, she said she would leave instructions at the desk.  Now anyone could sign the kids up for archery.

Ok.  Great.  Good solution.

I used to wear a certain necklace all the time.  A supercool, relevant, Christian necklace,  It was stamped metal.  It said “Pray.”  It had an image of two folded hands.

Artsy.

I had it on that night, which was, by then, the fifth or sixth time I had taken my kids into the gym to sign up for archery.

Angel stood behind the counter. “Hi, Angel.  Your manager said we could sign up for archery tonight?!”

One problem.

Angel looked confused.  She shook her head.  There were no instructions, and still, no one there knew how to take money for archery.

After weeks of going back and forth and coming to the office with this same old thing, I hit that ugly limit.  Yes, I did.

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Oh, Mama Bear.

I said plenty.  How unprofessional they were.  How I would never use that gym for anything again.  How I could not believe such and such and blah blah blah.  I will say, I was not actually yelling, but I was angry.  I was harsh.

I was loud.

I stomped out to the van, kids trailing behind me like ducks.  We all got in and buckled our seat belts.  And in my mind, I saw Angel’s face.

Dangit.

I turned off the van.  “Everybody, out.”

I failed in front of them.

I had to apologize in front of them.

And to them.  “I’m so sorry, guys.  I just acted so bad.  I know it stressed you out.  And that lady is the only nice person in there.  I have to go tell her I’m sorry.”

Those fails come with the worst feelings.  Sadness.  Embarrassment.  Shame.

I walked back to Angel and said, “Um, excuse me.  I’m so sorry.  I am out of patience with this thing, but it’s really not your fault.  I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.  Thanks for being so great every time I come in.”

She smiled.  Like always.  And she said, “Oh, I understand!  It’s ok.  I would feel the same way.”

I left, and my kids said, “It’s ok, Mom!  You said you were sorry. Everyone gets mad sometimes!”

Dear God.  I love kids.

A few months later, I got online to research local ministries.   I saw a  group home for teens aging out of the foster care system.

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I clicked on the link, and on the first page, was a picture of Angel.

Her story was under the picture.  She had grown up in bad places.  She had never known a loving family.  But she said her life changed at that home.  She loved Jesus.  She was thankful for the women there.   They had become like a family to her.

I cried.

The archery thing eventually got resolved, and the kids loved taking the class.

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But, I took that artsy “pray” necklace, and I hid it from myself.  I may have even given it away.  I still don’t know where it is.  I said, “Lord, You know I can’t wear this and run around acting like a jerk.”

A few people have given me Christian jewelry since then, and I wear it sometimes.  But I take it more seriously now.

And, I’m not religious about it anymore, like it’s my duty to wear a cross.

I don’t know what people are dealing with when I meet them.

I do know that I love this saying.  “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

***

Dear God.  Help us to be kind.  Kinder than necessary.  

And when we fail.  Help us say we’re sorry.  

No fear of missing out.  No fear of being wrong.

Just love.  And kindness.  Even more than is necessary.

Never Shaken: Thoughts on The Media and the Dallas Shooting Tragedy.

For one second last night,  I was afraid to walk through my neighborhood.

My husband wanted to take me to dinner.  There are several restaurants close by, so when we go, we usually walk.

But for one second, I felt glowing white.

Like a ring on a bullseye.  Shoot here.

When I recognized the way my mind was wandering, I was so mad.  Mad at the situation.  Mad at myself.

Bullies make me mad.

There are many bullies in this world, but, today, I think the biggest bully is the media.

I’m not even convinced the young man in Dallas shot those officers.  “I want to kill white people?”  It just seems too convenient.

Whether he did or didn’t, I guess the point is that I don’t believe even half the news I hear.  I don’t know anyone who does.

And yet, it just rolls on and on.   And we keep watching.

And we know we are being manipulated.  And we keep watching.

We absolutely need to deal with issues at the roots.  Especially as the church.  Every voice needs to be heard, and there is no doubt that there is work to be done.

But the endless irresponsible newsreels are not helping.  They are bullying us into a corner.

I was encouraged to hear of a report on NPR that most people interviewed are sick of the sensationalism and ready to turn it off.  They just haven’t turned it off, not quite yet.

The headlines always seem to disintegrate.  From simple facts to screaming emotion.  Anything for ratings.  Anything to keep the audience reaching for one more view.

In the Dallas headlines, today, I see words like “division, fear, and terror.”

It is a tragic thing.  The victims deserve our honor and our grief.

But division?  Fear?  Terror?

That’s not news.  That’s bad prophecy.

Honor and grief and even outrage are part of this process.  But, division, fear, and terror–these are my choice.

Not to diminish the pain in Dallas in any way, but tragedy happens every day all over the world.  Why should the media dictate to me what my emotion is supposed to be today?

I will not let the media tell me that I should be anxious and worried today.  I will not let the media tell me that my world view should be different today, and then change again tomorrow, based on the ever-shifting sand of ratings.

I don’t allow anything to tell me that I should be anxious and worried on any day.  Why give the media special power or authority over my emotion and my state of mind?

Unity and love.  Deep solutions.  Conversations.  Voices heard.  Changes made.  These will not happen in the climate that the unchecked media will create.

I did walk to dinner with my husband last night.  “If  I die, I die,” I thought and put on my lipstick and marched out the door.

And strolled through crowds of beautiful people.  Every possible expression of Divine Creativity.  Every imaginable shade of skin, every impossible color of hair.  And we smiled at each other and said hello.  And we ate together.  We broke bread together.

I could have stayed home.  I could have changed my plans.  I could have missed a great night enjoying the people around me.

As a friend of mine says, there really is only one race.  The Human Race.  Breaking bread together.

***

I pray we can get the facts we need and filter them through the eyes of love.  I pray we know when to turn off the news and ask The One Who Made Us what He has to say about it all.

I pray we do not let ourselves be bullied, by media or any other thing.

I pray we are filled with the courage that passion can bring, passion for something bigger than our own personal safety or desires.  And do what it takes to see real change.  I pray for miracles.  We are catalysts for miracles.  I pray we focus on love and are willing to look inside ourselves and do the hard work that has to be done. 

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Psalm 112:6-7

Calling Forth Pancakes

“I want  pancakes like my mom makes, please.”

I looked down and into my five-year-old nephew’s huge brown eyes.  Those long eyelashes.  Be still my heart.

Blink.  Blink.

He had stayed the night, and I was trying to get in some mega cool auntie points.  I told him I would make anything he wanted for breakfast.

So.  Ok, then.  “How does your mom make pancakes?”  I asked him. 

He said, “a whole bunch, stacked up, with real maple syrup, and whipped cream, and a strawberry on top.”

My sister does everything to perfection.  I was not surprised.  I put on my apron and got to work.  

I made stacks and stacks of buttery, photogenic, cream-covered, strawberry-topped pancakes, and he was so happy.  All smiles.  

My sister called to see how everything was going. I said, “It’s going great!  I made your special pancakes, and he is so happy!”

She said, “My special pancakes? What’s that?”

“Oh, he told me all about it!  You know how you stack them up with real maple syrup and whipped cream and a strawberry on top?”

She said, “Umm, is that what he told you?  I have never made pancakes like that in my life!”

I looked over at my nephew eating a giant stack of pancakes, whipped cream on his nose.  Smiling at his strawberry.  I had cut it to look like a heart.  Pancakes say “love” at our house.

He looked at me.  “Want some more?”  I asked him.  He gave me an emhatic “yes!”

These pancakes are now known as “Henry’s Special Pancakes.”  He has forgotten the story, but my sister and I most certainly have not.  We still laugh at his boldness, and he still loves these pancakes.  And I still make them for him, years later.  I made them today, and he ate two giant stacks.  Nine pancakes.  No kidding.

He was really little when he first asked me for them.  Big enough to know what a lie is, but  young enough that a fantasy seemed real.    Or at least like it could be.

I write a lot about kids because I see so much of what we were created to be, still so fresh in them.

I love that my nephew called those pancakes forth as though they were a real thing in his life.

 My sister and I assumed he had seen them on a pancake house sign or a commercial and dreamed that he had a mom who made them like that every day.

I should call them something else, like “Deep Thought Pancakes,”  or “Amy’s Devo Pancakes,” because every time I make them now, they make me all introspective.

How many times do I sigh and complain and wish and feel sorry for myself because no one ever makes me special pancakes.  Or whatever.

How often am I afraid to ask or want or wish for something because I am afraid it will be denied, that a person I love will say “no” to the desires of my heart?

Why don’t I remember more often to got to the One Who Made Me, and just ask?  Why don’t I call things forth, as though they are?

I learn so much from the children in my life.

Today, I’m calling forth pancakes.  I’m calling forth so many things.

With whipped cream.

And a strawberry on top.

What have you been longing to see in your life so much, that you were afraid to ask for it?

Where could you be more like a child who expects love and is not limited by “facts,” and just call a thing forth???

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Ps 37:4

A Good, Good Father.

These dads.  The difference they make for mothers and for children.

A great father brings identity.  The lack of a good father can steal it.

A study published in 2013 says that the absence of fathers in mice   causes brain damage in offspring, in the part of the brain that controls social and cognitive behavior. The implication is that the same could be true for humans.

But, we already know that.

Children do not need scientists to tell them how much pain is caused by an indifferent or angry parent, how they question everything about  who they are and why they were born when a parent is cruel or habitually careless.  Or how much fun a Dad’s love can bring, and confidence, and courage.

The wonderful inverse of this fact is that the presence of healthy fathers encourages healthy brain development in children.

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The good news is that, no matter the condition of our earthly fathers, each one of us has a devoted father in the form of Abba God.  He made us and loves us and likes us, even in our brokenness and mess and mistakes.

No exceptions.

And in that unconditional love, we get to see our worth. Our value.

When my husband came in to my life, he saw me for who I was.  He saw my wounded and damaged heart.  He saw my hopelessness in relationships.  He saw my cynicism and my anger.  And he promised to love and cherish me in spite of all of it.  And he has done so, every day since.

I knew he was the one when he came over to paint my house.

I was in the middle of trying to fix up a horrible dump that I was renting in a terrible neighborhood.  I was young enough to think that painting the brown walls a pale yellow would make up for the strange man that walked through my yard at night, whistling ballads from another time under my window.

That one act of kindness would have been enough to show me who he was, but then he showed up with a box of tools.  And he went through the whole house fixing everything.

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He worked two jobs during the week, and, on the weekends, he drove two hours to come to my city. When he wasn’t working on my house, he came to the mall and waited for me to finish my shift so he could take me to dinner.  He walked the mall while I worked and bought me presents to pass the time.

He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t a smooth talker.

He was good.

He was quiet.  He was tall and tan.  He was dark-haired, but there was such a golden glow about him that my mother always called him blond.

He was generous, and he was a caretaker.  “He would make such a great dad.” I remember being surprised at the thought.

A great dad. That was one of the most important things to me that he could be.

I wasn’t even dating him at the time, and he still wanted to be around me, no agenda.

I felt safe with him.  I didn’t feel that queasy twinge of regret, vaguely wondering why I was with him.  I didn’t feel a mania either, but something different, something deep and sure.

He was unexpected.  And yet, he felt like someone I had known all my life.  He always says he wished we met and played in the sand box as kids.  He wanted to share his whole life with me, even the moments that had already passed.

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I was dating someone else, and once, just once, he told me, “I hate to see you with him.  You deserve someone who treats you better.”

And then he waited.  And he worked on my house.

And I came to my senses, and I left the other guy.  And I went with him.  And he treated me better.  And we got married.  And we had a bunch of kids.  And he’s still treating me better, all the time.

And watching him be a great dad to our kids is one of the best gifts of this life.

So thankful for my good man and for all the good men.

You make a difference in this world just by doing your best, giving your all.

You can be so hard on yourself.  Please know that just being here means you are helping us live our best lives.  Even in situations where you can’t be there all the time, thanks for making yourself known with cards and calls and texts and gifts.  Everything you do to reach out, we notice, and it has an impact.  Nothing is wasted with a child, with relationships.

Early mornings and late nights at jobs that are sometimes boring and challenging and infuriating and uncertain.  Trading your time to pay for football helmets and baby food and stuffed animals and college tuition.  For the things a family needs, for houses and medicine and braces and cars.  Thanks for fixing everything around here, for opening jar lids and for cleaning all the yucky messes.

Thanks for being generous with yourself.  For giving your all and not giving up when women are moody and the kids are testing.

There is a song about the way the love of a good father influences his children.  I love this line,

You’re a good, good father.  

It’s who You are,

It’s who I am.

It’s who I am.

The love of a good father defines his children as good.

Thanks for your love and for all that it carries.  Thanks for showing us that we are good.

Thank you for everything.

Happy Dog and Pony Show. For Father’s Day.

My father was so tall.  The way he threw back his head to laugh, he could make anything look like fun. I was about four, still in ruffly pants and shiny curls.

There are pictures in an old album of that day.  I think my uncle even had a mustache back then, so dark and swarthy, he looked like a Spanish pirate. In flannel.  With glasses.

I remember their hilarity, they laughed out loud all morning.

I was curious, peeking around corners, watching the construction.  With my little red wagon, horse bridles and buckles, and maybe some duct tape, they built a small buggy and hitched it in on to my uncle’s Doberman. They planned to take me for a wild ride.  It sounded fun.  It looked fun.  And I loved their handsome giggles, dimples showing.

The laughter, I loved, the joy and the silliness of these grown men.

On the other hand, I had always been a little bit afraid of that dog.  She never hurt me, but still. She had a “liver” coat, a color which, to me, was about as appealing as its name.

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And looking down her long sloping snout, all I could see was a swirling vortex of drool and steam and pointy teeth.

The wagon was good, I was used to that.  It was a little bumpy, but sometimes they put a blanket in for a cushion.  I liked it.  The horse bridles were fine.  I hadn’t had the great fall yet at that time, and I loved everything about horses.

But the dog, she and I kept our distance.  She was so hard and sharp all over, and jumpy.

By the time they finished the cart and harness, they were laughing so hard they could hardly stand up, and someone had out a giant camera, a silver box that blinked and caught time.

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They came into the house.  I took one look at that liver-colored dog, the straps and the wagon.  No blanket.  And, just like that, I changed my mind.

I did not want to get in that wagon.  I did not want to put my life in the control of a dog that was, at best, a toothy acquaintance.  I did not trust her.  Too many angles, too little fur.  Suspicious.

I did not want to put myself in the hands of these near hysterical men.  I had seen their exploits and bucking stallions.  My heart pounded.   Mayday, mayday!

As a mother, I now call that feeling “Daddies do it different!”  And I smile brightly and make sure I know the location of the nearest ER, and I send them on their way.  A bandaid here and there is worth an adventure with Dad.  Dads have a way of planning these beautiful disasters that usually turn out alright.  And the kids get tougher.  And the memories are priceless.

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But I didn’t know that then, and I shook my head.  They laughed and said,  “Come on, come on, it’ll be fun!”

“No.” I whispered, a mixture of wanting to, but not, a sick feeling at disappointing them, and fear of the dog, and of bravery at saying what I felt, a tiny voice in a room full of deep and boisterous sound.

My grandmother was there.  She must have agreed with me, because when I whispered “no,” she grabbed me up and hugged me against her plump chest, and said, “This little baby does not have to get in that wagon.  You boys take it right back outside!”

She tucked me next to her and got out a lapful of books.  I felt some relief, but I peeked out from under her soft arms at my uncle and my dad, giving up, disappointed, no more laughing, sighing out loud the way that big boys do.  The last thing I saw was the tail of that liver colored dog walking out the back door.

I was a tiny adventurer who got afraid.  I wanted to do it, but I didn’t.

I wish someone had put a stuffed animal in the wagon to show me it was safe and familiar.  I wish my grandma had said she’d hold my hand and walk next to me if i wanted to try it.  I wish I would have known that a chance to ride in a Doberman-dog-and-pony-cart would not come again.  I wish those men had tried harder with me.  Not just that day, but every day since.

But it’s hard when a child is pushing you away, and the women around them circle to protect.

I think I would have said ok, and I think it would have been crazy fun.  Bumpy, yes.  But, then, Daddies do it different.  Gloves off.  Rub some dirt on it.  Get back on.

It can be hard for moms too, when something looks like a danger to a child, a child they looked death in the face to bring into this world.  Like I always say, if men gave birth, you would never see a baby on a motorcycle.

There is a balance in this child rearing thing.  And it’s a challenge to find that balance when we don’t know how to be a team and the moment takes us by surprise.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and try it, that dog and pony show.  The wild ride the men had planned, holding on to my grandmother’s hand.

We need the men and women both, in our lives.  It’s important that moms and dads look at each other and know it, that we all look at each other and know it.  And love and respect . And help.  And share.

Fathers are so important.  

Mothers are so important.  

Blessings on all your efforts.  

Thanks for all you do.  

Lady is Born

An old woman sits under a tree, eyes closed.  Her long silver hair catches the moonlight and holds it like a cool fire.  She looks asleep, but her mind is alive and awake.  

She murmurs under her breath.  To anyone listening, to the chipmunk and the deer, it sounds like gibberish.  But her spirit is calling forth dreams and visions.  Her eyes flicker under her eyelids.  Her blood makes a humming sound in her veins.

As though it can hear her, the sky responds.  Not an ending, not in brimstone and fire, but a beginning, in shimmer and in stardust.

Lightning flashes, and a nearby tree blazes.  The old woman comes out of her trance, and the flames reflect in her eyes.  She stares hard into the tree and then removes her outer robe. 

As the flames die down into smoldering coals, the tree opens up, and a younger woman walks out, all muscle and bone and shining.  She wears a blanket made of night, but it will soon fade.  She needs the clothing of this world, and the old woman wraps the robe around her.

They look at each other.  The old woman reaches out her hand, and the younger woman takes it.  “Lady,” the woman says, and points to herself, and then, to the girl.

The girl nods and looks up at the sky.  The woman looks too.  And the moon smiles back at them.  

***

One day I sat praying about horrible, horrible things.  And I got really, really mad.

Mostly about people hurting kids.  But other things too.

I sat on the  floor, and I told God, “Ok.  So, now I’m really mad.  Here’s what  I’ll do.  I’ll get a machine gun and go to Thailand and get some kids out of some brothels.  I will fight human slavery.  I will do it.  Don’t think I won’t.  My kids can live with Grandma.  Just say the word, God,  and I’ll get a machine gun, and I will go.”

And I heard this:  “Start a blog.”

And I said, “God.  I don’t think you heard me.  I said I would get a machine gun and go save some kids!  Don’t you want me to get a gun and go save some kids!?!”

And I heard, “Um, yeah.  Go start a blog.”

I was like, seriously?  I said I would go!  Doesn’t the Bible say “who will go??”  I’m telling you, I WILL GO.

Machine guns?  Blog?  Seriously, Lord?

“Yes.  Start a blog.”

I have only touched a gun twice in my life.  I have no idea how to shoot a gun.  And, if memory serves, guns are heavy.

My kids are young.  And I was sick for a long time.  I’m just now getting back to normal.

God knows what we can do.  He knows what is ridiculous for us.  He will show us our paths, especially when we pray hard and get serious like I was that day.  And I was serious.  I was just out of my mind with grief.

I will probably never be a machine gun preacher.  But, I do have a degree in English.  I can blog from my bed on my laptop.  I can write while I help my kids with their homework on the couch.  It’s realistic for me.  It fits into what I already know and what I already do.

Blogging makes sense for the life that I have.  It is something I can do right now, wherever I am.  I still don’t exactly see how I’m fighting human trafficking from this blog, but I trust Him to show me at the right time.

The Fearless part came later.  I’ll tell you that one another day.

Thanks for being here.  I saw you in a dream.

We are fighting together.

What is the issue that makes you weep?  What is the issue that makes you want to scream?  What can you do about it with the skills and the life that you already have?  What could God send you from Heaven right now that would help you get started?

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Eph 2:10