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.

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.

Run In Your Own Lane

Run In Your Own Lane. It’s an inspirational, team-building, catch-phrase that is overused but probably because it is so true. Sometimes our lane doesn’t look as much like a track and field type lane but instead, a single path that is full of obstacles. But many of life’s races are just like a relay. We only need to run when it’s our turn and the baton is handed off to us. Then we begin to run our part. All the runners on our team behind us will cheer for us and urge us along because without you and me, they don’t win either. Each person’s leg of the race is critical to finishing the course. One person can’t run the entire race on their own and that is why each runner’s strengths are essential to continue the forward motion.

It impedes the overall progress when people are in the wrong lane or running when it isn’t their turn. These are the people we need on our team to run a good race.

Visionaries; They have a great vision for purpose, the end goal, and the are inspirational to the whole team. Detailed People; they are going to set the map, plan the rest stations, get all the equipment in place. Worker Bees; They are the long-distance, in-it-for-the-long-haul runners. Without them nobody would be there to hear the vision or follow the map. (Just don’t ask them to lead the way.)

So let’s not get in each others lane or try to take the baton when it’s not our leg of the race or we are going to royally jam things up! Run in your own lane in your appointed time.

A Collector of People

I’m not much of a collector of things. I have a small figurine collection that was built entirely because they were given to me. The same thing happened with a collection of unique salt & pepper shakers: I mentioned I’d like to start a collection & suddenly it was what everyone bought for me. But I decided that I am a collector of people. When I came to this realization I looked it up to see if it was a real thing? There are a few people with different takes on the concept but this is mine.

The general concept of collecting is to gather & cherish things of value. I have gathered so many valuable people throughout my life that I think I could consider them a collection of people. It started from the beginning of childhood. I remember family friends from when I was very young and I still try to keep in my sight, today. Childhood friends, family of any sort no matter how distant or far-removed, adult friendships from different places I’ve lived, high-school, college, former co-workers, – they all build this unique array of people who I cherish and value.

When people are new in my life they are front and center where I’m constantly aware of them, learning and seeing new details as time passes. Gradually, I get to know all their colors and am very aware of how their presence impacts me. But the very most important ones are those that came at great cost and sacrifice, either by myself or by someone who gifted them to me. Other special treasures are those that, old or new, have been present during significant seasons of life. They were just there, ready and willing to do their part.

For whatever reason, I lose some of my collection from time to time. Maybe there’s just been too many moving days – too much packing & unpacking and they have gotten lost in the shuffle. The risk of carrying extra baggage, I suppose. I remember what they look like and how I felt when I was with them, but it’s a bitter sweet memory, realizing the loss of something so valuable with such fondness. As much as I miss those people, it seems appropriate to add to the collection with new ones!

As a collector of people, I don’t posses them or own them. I’ve been rewarded with all their best qualities and learned a lot about grace. Any part of a collection has flaws that we have to overlook in order to see their real value to us, the collector. I don’t display them or show them off to one another and oftentimes they aren’t even in the same place at the same time, except in my heart.

Loves me. Loves me not.

He loves her, she loves him not. She loves him, he loves her not.  And so it goes with teen romance all the way through young adulthood.  There are crushes, dates, and actually sometimes love but there’s never been a time that one of these relationships didn’t produce character and gained maturity and understanding.

I was criticized behind my back and surprisingly to my face about the freedom with which we allowed our teenagers to date.  The boyfriends and girlfriends came and went at a pretty regular pace.  The permissive approach to dating didn’t come without rules and a lot more discussion than our kids would have probably wanted. I’m not naïve enough to believe the rules were always obeyed or the truth was always told but enough of it got through to provide them with a foundation to weigh their options when they faced making good decisions on the fly.

With each relationship, however superficial or heartfelt, they learned more about themselves and other families than if they had not been allowed to explore their role with other people.  Every boy my daughters dated, in some way helped them form their standards.  They learned behaviors and attitudes that were real deal-breakers, they saw qualities that they looked for in their future relationships and ultimately their husbands. Every girl my son dated allowed him to see the value of a good mate and in contrast, to see the pitfalls to avoid.  He too, will know what character qualities he’s looking for when he reaches the place in his life that he will choose to be in a relationship.

I’ve been criticized, or at the very least raised a few eyebrows, at how we welcomed each boyfriend or girlfriend into the family.  I can show photos of Christmases, birthdays, graduations, and even vacations where one or another of these extras were present.  We included them in order to know them, in order to be able to give guidance and know when our intervention might be necessary.  We also wanted to know what it was in these young people that captured our kid’s hearts and it often captured ours, too.

Every now and then there was a real conflict. On occasion we did a lot of agonizing over one of them and that’s when we played the parental trump card and put a stop to it. Everything is not always a negotiation, especially when as parents we could see the disaster ahead.  Our kids were no worse for wear from these teenaged dating experiences; only wiser and more aware.

I don’t believe they were wounded, scarred,or that they created any sinful “soul ties” that bound them to that ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.  Rather, they’re stronger and more secure in who they are in Christ and how grace works in their lives.

I’m happy they love to love. And I’m really, really happy that all that experience lead them to their very best loves as our two daughters grew into confident women and have added two amazing young men to the family. Ultimately, they chose well.

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.

My House Has A Crack

My house has a crack. Just over the doorframe, creeping to the ceiling. I see it every time I come down the stairs. I asked how this happened and the answer was, “collateral damage.”
Collateral damage is defined as damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. Nothing was slammed against that wall and we had no major earthquake.  But something else, probably underneath, at the foundation had shifted, causing the crack above door.
Oftentimes I find myself being the collateral damage; a by-product of other people’s cracked foundations.  When criticized, neglected or have been rude to, I have to remember that I am not their intended target.  Something that is amiss in their foundation is creating damage all around them. 
Like the crack in my wall, no amount of putty and paint is going to fix the source of the problem. Even though the collateral damage is well hidden, repairing the foundation is the only true fix. 
Psalm 147:3 promises God can fix these broken parts. As He heals our hearts, He will show us that the cracks weren’t the source of the problem. By taking our eyes off the cracks and opening our hearts to God, the more God’s grace will repair our damaged foundation.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3