God Story: Ponder This Before Black Friday

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you get a big win, a new purchase, a grand gift, that there is often a loss that follows shortly after?

I am thinking of Salem’s birthday gifts.  She got an unexpected amount of Legos, new and used.  She was naturally delighted and overwhelmed. But a couple of days later, she was nearly distraught because she had lost one of her old favorite sets, a small motorcycle.

I saw myself in this real life parable. God gives me so much, new and wondrous, that I didn’t even know I was getting, and the glow of that quickly fades as I lament over a much smaller, insignificant “treasure” from the past.  And as I was trying to comfort Salem, because I really was sad with her that she had lost this favorite toy,  I felt like God was teaching us both.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain,” I told her (1st Timothy 6:6).  It is not just godliness, for that can be self-righteousness.  It is not just contentment, because many a monk missed the abundance of our giving God through self-denial.  It is not just great gain, because there are many who have much, but live in misery.

It is the perfect blend of all, godliness, contentment, and great gain.  They balance each other, like a chemical reaction.  Too much of either one, and the recipe is ruined.  And I believe that God loves to tinker with our ingredients to help us develop a taste for more of Him.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

Real Question #5: What About Boredom?

May I be candid?  Boredom is often a lack of vision and gratitude.  Hear me out.  When you lack vision and purpose, then you can easily feel like what you are doing is beneath you or insignificant.  But when you know the greater good or goal, then the mundane (which is still mundane) becomes part of a bigger puzzle rather than the end result.

For example, laundry wears me out.  It is tiresome, boring and never-ending.  But it is not the sum total of me as a woman, wife or mother.  It is a piece of the mundane that simply gets done.  Here is where the gratitude kicks in.  The other day, I literally said out loud as  I was changing the clothes over, “Thank you, Lord, that I don’t have to carry all these clothes to a river and pound them with a rock.  Thank you that I have machines that wash and dry them.  Thank you that I have clean water to wash them in.”  Granny always said, “Count your blessings.”

If you find you are “bored” with your life as a whole, then that is a great invitation to go back to the Lord to discover your strengths, dream and passions.  I am currently reading the  book, Your Strongest Life.  It is specifically written for women who want to live life to the fullest.  I highly recommend it as a temperature check on whether you are checking out, wimping out, or launching!


Okay, okay, I am un-American…

Or am I?  We decided to break away from our traditional family gathering and head to the beach instead.  No problem, right? Wrong.

Traditions and perceptions of traditions are very, very weighty issues. Let me try to explain.  If you are born in the South, and you have a big family, and you cook, and you have birthed “grandchildren,”  then you go home for the holidays. If you don’t, this is almost grounds for stoning or disowning. Or both.

No one told me this. It is just what I have always perceived as truth. It is after all, the point of traditions. You do it the same way every year. From Hallmark to relatives’ comments and expectations, there is a credo of family rituals.  This credo is sometimes spoken of kindly or demanded at all costs.  Sometimes it is communicated in a cold, silent chill.  Attached to this credo is a guilt-producing factor that rings something like, “This ritual is a way of showing appreciation and love for your family.”

I don’t think I really got all this until I decided to forego the credo.  The pit in my stomach as I thought about telling my family that I wouldn’t be there was a great revealer of both the credo and my willing buy-in. But as I wrestled through this drama, I realized just how crazy all this pressure is.  The duty, the obligation, the guilt, the strain — it simply doesn’t add up.

For example, my friend is from Ohio and she doesn’t want to go home. So maybe it isn’t a Southern thing. My other friend has a big family and she’s not going home.  So maybe it isn’t a big family thing.   All of us have children (read grandchildren), but we are seeing their grandmas and grandpas at other special times. And the cooking thing, well, they don’t have Sister Schubert rolls for nothing.

What are we all doing instead of going home for Thanksgiving?  Being quiet, resting, spending time with “our” families. That doesn’t sound so evil does it?

Sure you don’t want to miss out on family gatherings every year. But you sure don’t want to go (and be miserable) just so you can check off a box. Maybe — just maybe — the credo has bullied us around long enough. What did my family do when I told them?  They said they would miss us. No threats, no dramas, no manipulation. That was all in my head. I know for some that would not be the reaction. For some it is downright emotional blackmail. But we always have a choice.

Here is the Scripture the Lord gave me:  “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened calf with hatred.”  I love my family, and they love me. Of course we will miss each other. But when I finally got the guts to tell them that I was breaking out of the mold, I felt really free. Free like I had actually chosen to love.

I chose to love “my” family by investing real down time with them. I chose to love my extended family by being honest —”I am tired and need a break.”  Besides, I wouldn’t be doing my family any favors by going out of duty and obligation. I chose to love myself by tending to my own heart instead of stuffing everything and pretending to play along.   And my own kids? They are learning that there are lots of ways to celebrate and be thankful.

Isn’t that the whole point?  To be thankful?  So take yourself off the hook. Use your voice and your spine if that is what it takes. And Be Real. . . Real about what you can and can’t do. Real about what you really need. Real about being thankful. Be thankful for times together and times apart.  One of my mom’s favorite verses is from Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for every season.”

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. I know I will.