Reflection

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Reflection is looking back. Just like looking into a mirror, what you put in front of it is what is reflected back to you. But if you stand off to the side of the mirror and look, you don’t see yourself but everything that is behind you, and that kind of reflection can be a good thing.

Reflection is good for seeing how far you’ve come. How things in life have changed for the better. Looking back also helps us to see how once we’re out of the fire, it’s easy to admit that what seemed to be causing that fire might not have been the case at all.

When those lovely “memories” pop up on social media, sometimes it is truly that, memories of an event or a photo, or even a craze that was making the rounds. It isn’t a bad thing to remember those times with fondness and nostalgia. When memories cause us to reflect on a more difficult time, that is when thankfulness can come flooding in because we didn’t get stuck there.

Sure, many people are looking back right now to when days were better. When times were different. When life seemed simpler. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought that life was simple at any stage of my life. It seems that life is just hard, no matter what.  In reflection, it certainly was a simple time when my responsibilities were fewer and I didn’t have the worries or concerns for the future that I have now. But at that moment and at that stage of life, I wouldn’t have called it simple. A 6-year-old me had responsibilities and worries and concerns for the immediate future and they were huge! Or so it seemed to a 6-year-old. Or when I was experiencing the struggles of college life, young motherhood, or more recently, the empty nest. But in reflection, each stage seems simpler than whatever the current situation is. It would be impossibly soul crushing to carry the worries of every stage of life with us as we move to the next. Even so, remembering them can be good.

Today I was reflecting on one of those social media memories. It was only by the date that I originally posted it that I was able to connect the dots. I was obviously feeling all kinds of unappreciated and now I remember what it was all about. This is also when looking back isn’t really such a bad thing. I can see how I came through it stronger and how I learned to stand up for my worth. I also remember the people involved and can now see that was the circumstances of the situation, not the people at all. It’s a different stage of life now and reflecting back, it wasn’t so bad after all and what came from it was better anyway.

The sayings and famous quotes about moving forward from the past are true for the standard of daily living. For example, “Don’t look backward, you’re not going that direction.” “You can’t drive forward by looking in the rearview mirror.” A glance back, a moment to reflect, a memory that warms your heart or a condition that has helped move you forward; these are still good reasons to look back sometimes. Just glance, reflect, remember, then focus on what you’re doing now and take heart! Soon this will also be a time to reflect on and you’ll be able to see that what comes from it is better anyway.

Good Intentions

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Have you heard the phrase “Good intentions are like rocking in a rocking chair – you think you’re doing something but you’re accomplishing nothing”? If we mobilize our good intentions however, then we can see some actual results. It’s like the difference between the movement of a rocking chair and a car.

How many times have you been strong in your well-doing only to feel like you have sabotaged it all by failing in some way? You’ve gotten up from the rocking chair and bolstered every ounce of bravery in order to take up your cause and put your good intentions out there, then wham! You feel like you’ve been smacked down because you blew it. Now all the good has been wiped out and erased with one swift stroke of thoughtlessness.

A girl we’ll call Betty, was excited to make a difference by making it her cause and her goal to be especially kind to the people in the service industry that she came in contact with. It wasn’t just a goal, but an effort and a real sacrifice to be ultra-complimentary, focused on courtesy and smiles, letting others go in front, and not complain – ever. She was sure that every waitress, grocery clerk, and post-office worker was going to be blessed by her kindness and truly see Jesus in her. Because the community was small and choices limited, it was generally the same people she came in contact with over and over again. Then one day her response in the grocery store was, “The line is back there.” “I put the groceries on the belt the way I want them bagged. If I wanted my bleach in with my hamburger, I would have put it up that way.” Then at the fast food drive-through, after repeating her order 3 times through the squawk box only to be given the wrong order anyway, she tells the 16-year-old in the window, “It’s not rocket science.” Suddenly, all the dozens if not hundreds of times she stayed true to the cause to be kind was ruined. Wiped out.

There are so many encouraging things I could tell you about feeling like you’ve blown it. There are many quotes and Scriptures to tell you that it’s just not the case. I can tell you that love will cover a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8); or that the blood of Jesus blots out sin (James 5:20). Maybe something pithy like “failure is an opportunity to begin again” will help ease the guilt.

However, we still feel judged by those involved when we blow it. Our enemies seem to have the upper hand now, because our cause seems to be left in ruins. But this is where I read that good intentions, being carried out in action, will not go to waste and because of them, we will succeed!

My enemies turn back;
They stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
Sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
Psalm 9:3-4

When our good intentions are carried out with drawing others to Jesus as the goal (if not a great by-product) and we’re operating with the Spirit of the Lord inside of us, then our enemies will turn away because they perish in the presence of the Lord. If He is in you, then they are in His presence. Your enemies are those who will try to condemn you and tell you that you’ve blown it beyond repair. The lies that say your good intentions were a waste.

God will uphold our right and cause. Even if your cause is simply to show kindness to your community. Only God is a righteous judge.

So let’s get off the rocking chair, take up our cause – whatever it might be – and put our good intentions into action. Let’s not be afraid of not doing it right or blowing it because done with a right heart, God will uphold us.

Don’t Give Up

When people say “don’t give up,” they’re usually trying to encourage someone who is working toward a goal. Maybe they are trying to reach their best time running, or highest score in a sport, or reach a desired weight. There is usually an attainable goal in mind that can be accomplished with perseverance.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to not give up on those intangible, ongoing challenges that are day to day living. It’s a very broad stroke to just say “don’t give up” on life. The alternative is pretty drastic! Everyday life is a challenge all by itself as we navigate relationships, homes, family, money, feelings, thoughts, and quite frankly, all our personal baggage. And that’s without adding any specific, personal goals to the load.

Seriously, don’t give up. Just keep pressing on, plugging along, putting one step in front of the other, and before you know it one of those things you wanted to give up on has found its’ resolution. Then the load is a little lighter and now it’s a little easier to tackle the next challenge that life is throwing at you. As simplistic and naive as it sounds, it was an effective enough of a solution that God even tells us to Don’t Give Up.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Yes, I can!

I struggle with the concept of self-care. It’s not that I don’t believe we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because it’s critical to our well being. Our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health depends on taking care of ourselves. Long before there was the pop-psychology term we know as self-care, people always encouraged each other to “take care of yourself.” It’s a basic need for a balanced healthy life.

It’s when self-care blurs the line over into selfishness that concerns me. I was recently reading a series of answers to the question, what will be your word for the new year? The one-word responses ranged from Productive, Focused, and Giving to fun words like Caffeinated, or Clothed. (I’m assuming someone’s goal was to get out of their PJ’s.) I was a little disappointed at how many people chose the word NO as their mantra for 2020.

I once worked for Radisson Hotels and their slogan was Yes, I Can! There was no such word as no, only many different ways to make it happen. There’s so much to be gained with saying Yes! In it’s selflessness, you will find joy and satisfaction. In your relationships, when you don’t feel like another coffee date or leaving the house in the evening, your yes to an invitation can mean the world to another person. As the saying goes, in being a blessing to someone else, you were the one who received.  When your supervisor asks you to take on a project, say yes. You can work out the when and how later but just agreeing to it can be a boost of confidence. When that family is need of a meal-train, but you can barely get dinner made on time for yourself, say yes. (Again with the blessing others.)

Yes is also a wonderful word for taking care of yourself. Say yes to treating yourself to a massage, a whole Saturday on the couch, that art class or dance-workout class, or reading that novel – even if it’s just a few pages a day. Saying yes to the things that improve your life will do you much more good than becoming selfish and practiced at saying no.

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.