The Only Good Choice

“I’m pretty sure this is one of my best gifts ever,” I told my husband as we laid peacefully in my hammock I received for Mother’s Day the previous year.

Not ten minutes later we heard a snapping sound and Jason and I found ourselves flat on our backs on the ground. Luckily, we walked away relatively unscathed, except for our heads feeling a little rattled.

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That night, after the lights were turned off, I couldn’t help giggling repeatedly at the thought of our experience. It was just so shocking, especially after my initial comment.

Fast forward about two weeks. The hammock was rehung with new and improved cord and clamps. Jason and I decided to try it out once again. I felt just a wee bit skeptical after the previous catastrophe, but the evening was perfect for relaxing.

You can probably guess where this is going. Not five minutes into our brief siesta, boom, there we lay flat on the ground again, this time falling from a slightly higher distance and feeling even more scrambled in the head. A choice word escaped my lips. Sadly, I cannot even say it snuck out without thought. In reality, I had already had a minute or two to process the situation and I very deliberately let it fly. This was just getting ridiculous.

My fall struck a nerve. I sat down on the bench on the deck and had a good cry. Jason was probably more than a bit baffled by my overreaction. After inquiring why I was completely losing it (my words not his), I informed him that some days I just get worn out from trying to be positive.

“So don’t,” he replied.

And there’s the rub. I could quit. Throw in the towel. Give into my desire to wallow in the negative. But where would that get me?? Unbearable to live with. No fun to be around. Constantly depressed. Overall a bitter and unhappy person.

So, in my mind, there is no alternative to finding joy in the mess, but there is a small caveat. I must allow myself to be sad sometimes, and acknowledge that at times life does indeed stink…sometimes a lot, and some of us face  way more difficulties than others.

Recently, I took my boys to see Inside Out. I was probably more excited than them to go see it. The movie did not disappoint. I shed a few tears…quite a few at one point. During one scene I was engulfed with the realization that I try too hard to avoid sadness. However, sadness is a necessary part of us. Through sadness we can find healing. This emotion is our brain’s way of coping with the negative in our lives.

I’ve lived long enough to know this truth, however I think it is one I have somewhat forgotten. I try so hard to see the bright side that I often don’t let myself go through the grieving process in a healthy way.

If you are experiencing a difficult time right now, I encourage you to dig for the joy, but not before recognizing and mourning over your trials. Emotional pain is profoundly real, and it isn’t wrong to be mad, sad, or fearful, we just don’t want to stay there permanently.

So, will I get back in the hammock? Yes, once I am convinced it is indeed safe. Anyone out there a knot tying expert?

Blessings,

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Bad Theology and Forgiveness

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Exasperated, my son spewed at me, “Why can’t you just be like God?!”

Well, isn’t that a loaded question. Hmmm…would I want to be? In many ways yes, but I certainly wouldn’t care to hold the role of the ultimate judge and director of the universe.

This comment occurred in the middle of the process of me doling out a consequence for a small infraction. Deception had been involved, and luckily the perpetrator acknowledged his offense, which definitely eased his punishment. However, he was still offended that there had to be any kind of disciplinary action. My forgiveness was supposed to be enough since he recognized his offense and was sorry, according to him.

I gently tried to explain that while God always forgives our mistakes, we still have to suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

He insisted I never have to face any punishments for my actions. If only he knew!

I tried to point out the “F” I got on a paper when I cheated in 8th grade social studies in a moment of sheer desperation. (Those of you who know me may be shocked and appalled, but we all have our moments of weakness). He assured me that example didn’t count, because it was the teacher who punished me, and not God.

Clearly, I wasn’t making headway in this conversation, and clearly my son is going to be a lawyer when he grows up.

I love that my sweet boy sees God as the ultimate forgiver. But, what he was missing is that God is also the ultimate parent. He allows us to suffer consequences. He wouldn’t be a very good parent if he rescued us from every situation. I saw parents who did that for their children when I was a teacher and the results were not pretty, trust me!

Scripture tells us:

“And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined. If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:5-11
If you have children, and you’re like me, you don’t enjoy disciplining them. But we do so knowing that ultimately it will be for their own good.
I have been deeply troubled by the events surrounding the Duggar family lately (TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting show). I’ve read a lot of things that I feel are bad theology regarding this controversy. I feel this is one example where forgiveness becomes a tricky issue. My sense of justice collides with what I know about forgiving seventy times seven and not being judgmental.
God forgives. We should forgive one another, which is easier said than done for life-long victims of sexual abuse. But that does not mean consequences shouldn’t be suffered. And sometimes those consequences are long term, and sometimes they come back to haunt us, especially in the eyes of the public.
So, back to my son’s original comment. Why can’t I be like God? Because I’m human, life is messy, and it is my job to parent. Thank goodness I only have to figure out the punishments for those who live under my roof. And thank goodness there is a way for me to be forgiven, no matter what I do.
For a good article about forgiveness, I recommend this one by Brene Brown: Imperfect Parenting – Forgiveness.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
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Elusive Peace

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The pounding, hammering, and whir of the machines felt shocking in light of my expectations.

A few weeks ago I wrote a little about my trip to St. Meinrad’s, a monastery in southern Indiana. I looked forward to a couple of days away focusing on solitude and reflection.

After breakfast, on what was one of the first truly beautiful mornings of spring, I decided to take a walk around the campus. I couldn’t wait to find a quiet place outside to do some studying and enjoy the fresh air.

What do you picture when you think of a monastery? Close your eyes for just a moment and visualize it. I imagined a place where it was extremely quiet everywhere. For whatever reason, I simply pictured a place where sound became nearly muted. The clamoring of the outside world would cease to exist.

I already knew quiet is hard to find, but I held deep conviction that this experience held a rare opportunity.

As I left the guest house, this is what I nearly immediately encountered:

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IMG_2277IMG_2278IMG_2279Oh, the clamor! My heart sunk a bit. I had not expected this at all. I continued my walk and made my way down to a large pond. The noise was at least in the distance. My beautiful view here:

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was interrupted with this:

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Finding peace outside of ourselves is a nearly impossible endeavor. Things break and need repair. Lawns need mowed. Various machines grace our world performing important jobs. Ambulances, police cars and fire trucks must rush to the rescue multiple times a day, sirens blaring. These things are necessities in our damaged world. Even nature itself can produce quite the racket, like the birds recently at my house at 6:00 or so in the morning.

As I walked, it occurred to me that the only way to achieve peace is from within. I must strive to make my inner life peaceful, because if I look for peace outside of myself I will only be disappointed. 

I finally made my way into the church. Surely I would find quiet there. Nope. Someone was practicing the pipe organ. At least it was good noise, so I found a seat and settled in to do some reading. About a half hour in, the gentleman practicing came over to me (I didn’t even know he knew I was there, because I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting). He looked at me and said, “Maam, it’s fixin’ to get real loud in here. I just didn’t want to scare you.” I thanked him for the warning and grinned to myself as the organ proceeded to belt out Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. You know, the one that makes you think of horror movies? I just had to grin to myself.

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If we rely on things of the world to calm our spirits, we will walk away deprived. We can travel hours away, spend lots of money, and still leave empty.

For me, in my experience, there is only one source of true peace. John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you are struggling in this area, this article has practical examples of things you can do to deal with anxiety and worry. These problems are on the increase and in a world where noise only increases with time, we need to work harder than ever to maintain a positive and peaceful inner life.

What works for you?

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