Me. Myself. And I.

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When I think of selfishness, I think the most common form is an unbalanced attitude that has been promoted by the idea of self-care. Taking care of ones needs and simply paying attention to how we function best isn’t a bad thing. If you know you need times of solitude, or are one who knows you need a lot of socialization, sleep, exercise, independence, or partnership, etc.; those are personality traits that make each person unique, enabling them to live to be the best they can be, when practiced in balance. That isn’t selfishness, that’s just smart, self awareness.

Although, it never ceases to amaze me the level of selfishness people have achieved. Just do a quick internet search of the word selfish. Especially if you look it up in images, you will see every quote and philosophy of why selfishness is such a wonderful thing. I’m sure there are many of life’s experiences and circumstances that cause people to become selfish. Maybe it is past hurts that have caused them to build walls so they won’t be victimized again. Or it could be a false belief that having it all and being number one is what success looks like. The biggest lie is that we have to care for ourself first, above everything else. For whatever reason made them that way, I know two things: It is hurtful to those who love them; and nothing about selfishness is even close to being Christ-like.

Those who love selfish people are never put first in their lives. At some point, everyone who is in relationship puts the other first – except selfish people. Every interaction, whether it is as small as a text message or as large as marriage, will always be at the convenience and only in the best interest of the selfish person. One of my extended family once had their outgoing voicemail message say, “I’m probably here but I don’t feel like picking of the phone. Leave a message and I’ll call you back if I feel like it.” That’s a pretty funny message to be sending to a telemarketer, but this family member really meant it for everyone and it’s actually how they felt. Now that is selfish. (Or they’re just a jerk.) It was hurtful to people who called and really wanted to talk with them. Selfish people do things that could be detrimental to their own well-being, just because they want to. Never mind that it causes worry and concern for those that love them. At the very worst, they risk their own lives through selfish behavior of NOT taking care of themselves, or other life-controlling behaviors or actions, without considering the effects it will have on those who love them.

Selfishness is contrary to everything Jesus stood for. There isn’t any place I know of in the New Testament where Christ followers are told to be selfish and put themselves above all else. As it applies to relationships with others, and people who love, the most obvious scripture is in I Corinthians 13:3-4; the love chapter.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

I can’t find anywhere that the Bible tells us to do what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, and everyone else can go kick rocks! The very basis of Christianity is selflessness. It doesn’t get much more selfless than to die for the sins of every person. John 3:16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die, so that anyone who believes in him would have life forever!” God is the only one who is worthy to consider only He, Himself, and His. Even though he could, he didn’t.

Be Picky About Who You Entertain

I want to talk about entertaining. My giftings are definitely not the kind that can capture the attention of others with music, stories or hilarious jokes. When people speak of me, I’m pretty sure entertaining isn’t one of the words they use to describe my personality. 

However, I am pretty darn good at entertaining guests by preparing the most desirable atmosphere and setting possible. I always do my best to make sure my home is clean and presentable. I want them to be confident that I’ve prepared for them with cleaning, shopping for amenities, cooking to their tastes and planning activities they might enjoy. I want my guests to feel welcome, right at home, and happy to be here.

Unfortunately, my gift for entertaining extends to my thought life. I struggle with entertaining thoughts and imaginations that are of no benefit to me or anyone else. It’s those thoughts that have fear at their basic root; the ones that start out with “what if…?” Then they begin to snowball and grow into huge imaginations of all the worst possible scenarios. It’s what people today call “in your own head.” And I have come to understand that it’s because I am entertaining them, it’s that thing I am so good at. It’s a gift!  I’m making them feel welcome, feeding them and making them comfortable and right at home in my own mind. 

Sometimes these thoughts are legitimate things to be concerned with, but even those are not supposed to be consuming us or occupying our mind.  There are many scriptures that teach us a better way. John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled; Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, I am with you; Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; Philippians 4:6 Be anxious about nothing. The list goes on and on. It tells us that even legitimate worries shouldn’t consume us. 

That is s a lot of what NOT to do, and much easier said than done! But then what do I do? Because if I could just stop it because I wanted to, I would have conquered this a long time ago. Well, continue to read in Philippians 4:8 it says Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things. 

In other words, go ahead and entertain! Just make sure you have the right guests invited into your head.

I Didn’t Sign Up for This

How many times have we made the claim that “I didn’t sign up for this”? For me, it seems that when I’ve made a commitment to something it eventually transitions into being something more, something different, maybe more difficult or more of a challenge than I anticipated. The problem is in the expectation, not in the outcome.

The truth is, I actually did sign up for this. (Whatever “this” is.) Expectation versus reality is most evident in marriage. We are pie-eyed and full of dreams for the future on that magical day. The bride and groom are so full of love that they sign up for the whole deal: for better, for worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health. It all sounds so noble until that worse is far more worse than our expectation – it might be addiction, a mid-stream career change, or a new calling. The poorer may be the loss of a job, unplanned debt, even bankruptcy. And sickness isn’t always a terminal illness. It could be chronic pain, a mental illness, or an accident that resulted in a complete physical change. But yes, we did sign up for this.

The great news is that we also signed up for better, richer, and health. The times when life is good, satisfying, free of financial worries, and enough energy, time and health to have great fun!

I’ve found myself saying “I didn’t sign up for this” in a work environment. When my peaceful, quiet office turns in to mayhem of freight, or when twenty five people all decide that I’m the person with the answers to their questions all at once! But yes, I signed up for this. It was in the interview process when I said I was flexible, that I wanted to be in a position to serve, and when I prayed that I would get the job that was where God’s best plan for me would be.

When I base my commitment on an expectation that is only an idea in my mind, then I can be sure it will turn out differently than I thought it would. I can’t anticipate every possible scenario for every situation in order to make a decision whether to commit to it or not, so I move forward with the understanding that whatever comes, that yes, I did sign up for this.

 

 

You’re gonna miss this.

When I was a new mom I was quite convinced that if one more well-meaning, mature woman told me to “Enjoy your children, they grow up so fast”, I might just slap them. Of course it turned out to be the absolute truth but it’s not the kind of advice you can just receive and put into action.  Not understanding what the future will look like is part of the process of living.  So much is only understood in 20/20 hindsight.

Children growing up too fast is only part of life that you’re gonna miss someday. For some reason, this week I’ve been especially missing my parents. They’ve both passed years ago; dad has been gone 21 years and mom gone almost 16 years. How old does one have to be to quit craving a long-distance phone call with their mom and a big bear hug from their dad? I don’t have any guilt or regrets about our relationship because we were very connected and close. Sure, I would have spent even more time with them for my own sake if I knew how much I was gonna miss it.

Maybe it’s the era of Social Media, but reconnecting with friends of my youth actually adds to wishing for the past. Reminiscing together is fun for a minute but then it starts to gnaw at my heart in a longing way for those days gone by; the easy, care-free days of no responsibility with all my life ahead of me. I would have skipped the wasted time wishing I were older if I had known how much I was gonna miss it.

The lesson I’m learning is that it’s okay to visit the past but I can’t set up camp there. I have to find the new normal, the purpose, and the joy in today because it no longer takes well-meaning people to tell me that I’m gonna miss this.

Some People’s Parents

Because my own peers are mostly in the same boat as me, I come in contact with a lot of empty nesters. Lately I’ve been more aware of couples who have reclaimed their lives with selfish abandon as soon as their kids are grown. Granted, there are many perks to having an empty nest but to always prefer it over the opportunity to spend time with my kids is such a foreign and unfathomable concept to me.  We will rearrange our plans and make ourselves available when they want our company.  Why wouldn’t we?  They’re independent, happy, well adjusted young adults who are fun and interesting to be around and let’s face it, at their age their lives are much busier than ours.  There isn’t anyone that I’d rather spend time with than my own kids!  I really, really like them.

The flipside to that coin is that we are still kids, too.  At least to our parents we are, if we’re lucky enough to still have them with us.  Being the parent of grown kids has made us more conscientious toward making an effort to spend time with our aging parents. Now we understand how treasured it is to have your kids around – no matter how young or old they are. 

What makes a parent separate themselves from their grown kids?  They may be grown, but they are still setting goals and working toward them, establishing life relationships, and making career decisions. Just because some magical number says they’re adults now, doesn’t mean they should have to do all of it without us.  When they come around, it’s because they love us and they really do want us to be part of their lives, and they show us honor by showing up.  We’ve modeled what we think is a decent example and then sent them to find their course but our part isn’t over and neither is the joy of doing it.

Parenthood continues – be present for it.  Being a child of an aging parent continues – be present there, too.  Enjoy being honored and always be honoring.

Another Clip of the Apron Strings

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Trying to tie my apron strings behind my back, blindly, with arms twisted and fingers working as nimbly as possible, I find that if I tie it very loosely it’s easier but that only works if the apron strings are really long. It stays in place without being too tight, and it keeps me safe from whatever mess I might get into.

While I was raising children, it’s a good thing my apron strings started out long because they got a regular trimming. As my children grew, I clipped my apron strings according to how far they’d have to stretch and how tightly a grip they needed to hang on to me. As they grew more independent, it became less of need for them to hold on to me, and more of a comfort for me to have them there at my heels. Eventually, I had to clip them so short that neither of us could benefit from the ribbons that kept us within an arms reach . Even though I still wear the apron, the string are barely long enough to tie; just enough to hold my printed, fabric armor in place. It’s the protection I wear when I’m facing the heat and sloppiness of creating something wonderful. 

Simply navigating through life throws children into messy and sometimes heated situations. My hope is that my cut short apron strings that help keep my protecting armor on, will somehow protect them, too. And I hope they always know that the comfort of my apron and that it has just enough length of the strings left to tie my children to my heart forever.