Friday, August 10, 2012

I Can Strengthen

When I first got so tired that I went to bed for a year and a half, I kept thinking it would get better.  I kept waiting to feel better so I could get back to my life.  While it did improve, it never went away.

And when I got my headache it was much the same.  I kept expecting it to go away so that I could get back to being productive.  So that I could do all the things I wanted to do.

The fatigue has been with me for eleven years now.  The headache for seven.  There are days that are a little better and days that send me to bed.  Mostly I'm tired and hurt all the time.

If you'd told me at the beginning of either of these that I'd have them for the rest of my life, I'm not sure what I would have done.  Having hope that they'd get better helped me go on.  Having hope that I'd get my old life back made it worth trying.

But I'm at a point now where I don't think I'll get better.  I think these will be with me forever.  And even if they won't, they are now.  This is my life now.  And I can't just sit around waiting to get better before I do something with my life.

That's been a tough one.  What can I do?  There are so many things I used to do that I can't anymore.  And there are so many things I wanted to do that I never got the chance for.  It would be really easy to get angry or depressed at my situation.  And sometimes I do.

But mostly, I am grateful.  I have learned so much.  I have learned to slow down.  I have learned to say no.  I have learned to do the important things and let the other things go.  I have learned to listen to my body and take better care of it.

But that's not the best part.  The best part is I've learned that I am more than just what I can produce.  I am more than what I have to offer physically.  I have other things to give, other ways to serve, other ways to be of value.

And one of the best things is, I've learned how to better strengthen others.

In the past my service to others was always physical:  make them dinner, help them clean, take care of their yard,  take some of their work upon myself to ease their burdens.  It was good service; it was heartfelt.  I am glad I could do all those things.

My service now is different.  Now I listen.  I spend time with people.  I share my heart.  It's less obvious service.  You can't see something I cleaned or made.  But I can feel their burdens lighten.  I can see them ready to go back into the fray.  They are stronger when our visit is over.  And so am I.

There is great power in being able to do something for someone that lifts their physical burdens.  It matters.  But there is also divine power in strengthening them so they can lift their burdens themselves.  I'm so grateful I've had the opportunity to do both.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

My Dream Car is a Truck

Over the last few years I've watched several friends excitedly buy a new car.  Exactly what they wanted.  Eyes dancing with joy.  Truthfully, I just don't have this experience with cars.  I don't think a car has ever made my eyes dance.  I did like watching the joy their dream cars brought them.

As I was driving down the freeway a while back, a nice car drove by.  I have no idea what kind it was.  I wasn't really paying that much attention, I just appreciated the aesthetics of it.  And it sparked a thought.  If I could have any car in the world, what car would I want?

Let me first say all I've ever wanted in a car is for it to run and do what I need it to do.  Get me and mine and our stuff from here to there.  That's it.  We currently own four cars (remember, I have five kids, ages 14-21).  One isn't running or registered.  All of them have multiple things wrong with them.  They are all either hand-me-downs or gifts from my parents.  As long as they run, I don't care what they look like.

We haven't had a car payment in years.  I hate having a car payment.  We have no plans to buy a car in the near future.

But if the universe suddenly wanted to give me the car of my dreams, this is what it would be.  It would be a Chevy pickup from the late 70s or early 80s.  It doesn't matter what color or whether it's two-toned or not.  A few dents would be nice.  It would be partly rusted out, maybe even a small hole in the floorboard.  The shocks would be somewhat worn so that we could really appreciate the bumps on unpaved roads.  It would be a stick shift that sometimes took both hands to get into reverse.  The bed would be dented and dirty from hauling anything and everything.  You'd have to really slam the tailgate to get it to close.  The windows and locks would be manual.  And since this is my dream car and it can be whatever I want, it would have a rebuilt engine that runs smoothly and gets great gas mileage, working air conditioning and heating and seat belts, and new tires.

Thinking about this took me back to all the trips to the livestock auctions on Saturday mornings, all the rides through the canyon, all the times I had to get out and open or close the gate, and the smell of hay mixed with manure while hauling horses.  The good times with my dad.

Completely impractical but oh, so nostalgic.  Isn't that what dreams are supposed to be?

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Do You Apologize?

You did something stupid.  It was hurtful.  And now you feel bad.  So you apologize.  And your apology is rejected!

*  Maybe it is openly rejected, "Oh, yeah.  Right.  Sure, you're sorry."  Dripping with sarcasm.
*  Maybe it is accepted on the face of things, but the person still holds a grudge and punishes you every chance they get.
*  Maybe you get no response.  They heard you.  They just won't acknowledge you said anything at all.

So now what?  If you're like most human beings, now you get irritated or even angry.  You offered a sincere apology.  How dare they not accept it?  How immature of them!  How un-Christlike!  And you walk away feeling superior.  You did your part.  They were too childish to do theirs.

But have you ever asked yourself why you are apologizing?  I think our reasons for apologizing change all the time.  And understanding why you are apologizing gives great insight into the way you react afterward.

Sometimes we apologize because we feel genuinely sorry.  Sometimes it's an attempt to get out of trouble.  Sometimes it's because it's what we think we are supposed to do, even when we don't feel sorry.  Sometimes our mom or wife or friend pushes us into apologizing.  Sometimes the person we've offended demands an apology and we offer it out of fear.  Sometimes we're too tired for the fight and just apologize hoping to end it.  There are more reasons we apologize than I can list.

When I say I'm sorry I should mean it.  It shouldn't be about getting out of trouble or doing what's right.  It should be because I saw the hurt I caused, realized I was at fault (either partially or entirely), and want to make amends.

And this is why I don't make my kids apologize.  When they were little I taught them to say, "I'm sorry."  Even when they didn't feel it.  And once they were old enough to say, "But I'm not sorry," the conversation changed.  We discussed other people's feelings, how our actions affect others, and repentance.  Their apologies began to hold greater meaning.  They are 14-21 now.  When they hurt each other they are often not sorry.  In many circumstances I could still bully them into apologizing.  But I won't.  I will chastise and teach.  And if they are unwilling to try to make up for being hurtful (usually because they aren't ready yet), they won't be allowed to stay in the room with the rest of us.  And maybe I will apologize to the person who was hurt because my child misbehaved.  I won't claim the offender is sorry.  I will say I am sorry for their behavior.  Because I am.  Sometimes they later apologize; sometimes they don't.  But when they do, they mean it.

And sometimes, even after all this, even with a sincere apology, forgiveness doesn't come.  The hurt individual stays angry.  And I am okay with that.

I think a sincere apology stands on its own, with or without forgiveness.  If I offer it with my whole heart, I am more concerned about healing a wrong I have committed than being forgiven.  Sometimes it takes a person a while to heal from a hurt.  If I am getting angry or bitter with them because they aren't accepting my apology as quickly as I think they should, how sincerely concerned was I about hurting them?  If I love them and am truly sorry I hurt them, then I have to step back and allow them the time they need to heal instead of demanding that they get over is so that I feel better.

Too often we don't allow people time to process their feelings as deeply as they need to.  We rush things.  We want to feel better now!  You need to forgive me so I can feel better!

Forgiveness is important and I accept an apology as quickly as I can.  Sometimes that's immediately.  Sometimes it takes time for me to heal.  A few minutes.  A few days.  Sometimes longer.  I appreciate the offer of an apology, but I won't fake healing.  I won't pretend I'm over it when I'm not.  Very few things offend me, but sometimes I am hurt.  Often by a repeat offender.  I won't cheapen myself by quickly saying it's all okay when it's not.  My feelings and pain matter.  If I don't value them, who will?

Doesn't everyone deserve that same freedom?

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My post was inspired by this post, by Beth Ann at It's Just Life.  Thanks, Beth, for making me think.

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