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Archive for June, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about the questions I posed in yesterday’s post.

(This might start to veer off on another course from where you thought I was going, but it was a pretty important realization for me, so I thought I’d share it in case it helps anyone else. Plus, writing about it helps me clarify things in my mind, too.)

I finished yesterday asking these three questions:

At what point do you move on?

Do you just keep loving?

Or do love in a different way?

As I wrote that post, I was referring to the people in our lives who don’t respond (at least in the way we think they should) to our offerings of love, friendship, and kindness.

I am a person that aims to please.  Yes, my name is Malinda and I’m a people pleaser.  So when people don’t respond to what I’ve done to please them, it’s disappointing.  Yes, there is a part of me (a hopefully shrinking part) that wants to please people so they like me, but I also do it because I like how I feel when I do it.  I like how it feels to put a smile on someone else’s face.  I think this world is largely lacking in kindness and I try to be someone who provides a bright spot in someone’s day.

But here’s the startling revelation I had while I was thinking about all of this – I aim to please myself, too.  The even more startling part?  Just like other people don’t always accept my kindness, I don’t always accept my own kindness.  Just like there are some people who don’t always have my best interest at heart, I don’t always have my best interest at heart.

Hmmmm.  What do I do with this?

Well, here are my thoughts…

I’m called to love others and myself.  I want to love others and myself.  But in life, there are people who for whatever reason aren’t ready to accept love.  Their thoughts and actions don’t always have my best interests at heart because, well, they are busy with their own stuff.  My best interests aren’t at the top of their list to worry about.  In the same way, there is a part of me that is busy with its own stuff.  My overall best interest isn’t at the top of its list to worry about either.

And that’s when it all clicked.  I think the answer to those questions from yesterday lies in loving in a different way.  Loving one another doesn’t mean I have to attach myself to someone’s response.  I can be interested in the welfare of others regardless of how I feel about them.  I don’t believe I’m called to love anyone – including myself – in a way that takes away from attaining the best life God has planned for me.

So I think the question I need to ask myself is, “Is this thought or action going to express my love and is it a step toward attaining the best life God has planned for me?”  If I can’t answer yes to both parts, then I need to rethink it.  Because if I think my thought or action expresses love but it moves me away from being my best, it can’t be in my best interest.  Or should I say God’s best interest for me – because this isn’t about being selfish – it’s about knowing that God has a picture of what the best me looks like and trying to reach it.  I can even ask these questions when it comes to taking care of myself – because sometimes something feels good but isn’t moving me toward being my best.  Or – and these are the scary ones for me – sometimes it doesn’t feel good but it is moving me toward being my best.  That may be the hardest act of love there is.  For myself and for others.

It seems like this is a long way from where I started yesterday and it may not be the clearest expression of my thoughts, but I think as it sinks in, it could be something that changes how I approach life.  What do you think?  Does it make sense to you?  Can you see any application for your life?

~mwe

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A few weeks ago my daughter came to me because she was upset.  She felt like she was always being nice and trying to make someone happy but this person was never nice to her.  After agreeing with her that this was frustrating, I gave her this piece of advice: It’s wonderful to be nice and try to make people happy, but only do it because you want to – not because you expect something in return.

I don’t know how much that little nugget sank into her head since then.  After all, when you’re 12 you don’t really run and write down the wisdom that drips from your parent’s mouth.

It did, however, start to sink into mine.  Or should I say it keeps creeping up.

You see, there are a couple of people in my life who I’ve recently found myself thinking the same thing.  Without going into details, let’s just say I’ve done the grown-up version of, “Hi, I’m Mindy – want to be friends?”  Since they publicly look like they are warm and friendly, I expected to hear, “Sure! Let’s hang out!” (Or some sort of grown-up equivalent.)  But I got nothing.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  (I know people can be different in groups and individually and that some are more comfortable in one setting.  But I know these people stay “on” for a select few and go noticeably “off” at other times. I can respect the need to turn off.  But that’s another discussion for another day.  You’ll see that I’m actually more interested in convicting myself than others as I go on.)

This bugs me.  It probably bugs me most because it gets those pesky insecurities going.  Am I not nice enough? Funny enough?  Engaging enough?  Pretty enough?  If you have that voice in your head, you know how it can keep going.  After going down this road a few time, I found myself saying, “Fine.  I’m done trying to be nice.  If I’m not going to get anything back, why bother?”

AHEM.  It’s wonderful to be nice and try to make people happy, but only do it because you want to –  not because you expect something in return.  Um … yeah.  I guess that whole “love one another thing” didn’t quite sink all the way in yet either.

So now I’m trying to find where the line is between loving one another and being a door mat.  I think I’ve learned to not be a door mat, but I wonder how much you love without getting anything in return.  At what point do you move on?  Or do you just keep loving?  Or love in a different way?

What do you think?

~mwe

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It’s Gratitude Tuesday on Dendrochronology.  The day when I share with you some of the things I’m thankful for over the past week.  If you don’t have a day devoted to gratitude on your blog (or, if you don’t blog, in your life), feel free to add to the list in the comment section.  I think we all benefit from taking a moment, a deep breath, and reflecting on even the smallest details of our lives that we’re thankful for – or – for which we’re thankful 🙂  And, reading what other’s are thankful for sometimes reminds me of something I missed.

So here’s my list for the past week …

I’m grateful …

  • that a broken garage door was the worst of our problems and that we had the means to fix it
  • for fast and honest repairmen
  • puppy curls
  • a productive day
  • the sound of the guitar being strummed upstairs
  • adults outside our family who love my kids
  • Sunday afternoon naps
  • for businesses that are more interested in keeping customers than making one more dollar
  • summer days when I can cross things off my to-do list … things that have been there since last summer
  • the smell of the pool
How about you?  What would you add to the list this week?
~mwe

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The Diary Within Me

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.  – Oscar Wilde
My mother and I recently attended a memorial service for a gentleman who was a close friend of my parents.  It was held at the church I attended until I was about 14 years old.  I still live close to this church but I don’t think I’ve sat in the sanctuary since my family decided to join a different congregation.
The moment we walked into the church for the memorial service, memories started to seep up to the surface of my mind.  Memories that were there, somewhere deep inside, but hadn’t been visited for years.
They started when I saw the friends of my parents.  I could recall visiting their houses, listening to conversations as they played cards.  The son of one couple was there, now looking so much like his father looked when I was a child.
As we sat in the sanctuary, I remembered sitting on the steps leading to the alter when the pastor invited the children up for children’s time.  The choir loft, where my parents sang and practiced one evening a week while I would slide on my stomach under the pews on the cold, tile floor, was unchanged.  I listened to the organist and remembered how I took my first piano lessons from our organist at the time, who has since passed away.  I felt a smile on my lips as the pastors, in their robes, sat in the stately chairs next to the alter.
The church has had some structural additions and changes since I went there, but I could still picture it as it was.  The Sunday school rooms I walked to, the room where we had the coffee hour after church, the little coffee table that my friends and I would sit at to eat our cookies.  I even saw, tucked into the corner, the benches that sat next to that white, formica table.
I know none of these memories mean anything to anyone else who would read this.  And I think that’s why I love them so much.  They aren’t the big events of my life or anyone else’s.  No one can answer the question, “Do you remember what you were doing the day Mindy slid under the church pews during choir practice?”  These memories are part of my own personal diary.  Like the one my grandmother kept where she recorded what seemed like the mundane routine of each day.  I now think I understand why she would take the time to write the occurrences of the day.  This is where life happens and precious memories are made.  Yes, I remember my sister’s wedding in that church, but it’s the thought of sitting at the little table eating a cookie and drinking red punch that makes me smile.
If I had to depend on the “big” events of life to fill my heart with memories it would be sadly shallow.  I’m so blessed to have these life memories – the little things that slowly, unknowingly fill my heart and sometimes overflow in a smile as I remember the diary within me.
~mwe

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Lily Love

Last spring I bought a bag of random bulbs from my daughter’s flower sale at school.  I chose it not for the flowers that were in it, but because it was one of the least expensive things available.  (I know, I know, but after all the fundraisers my kids participate in, they’re lucky I bought anything.)

So the bulbs came, I put them in the ground, and forgot about them.  This spring, I noticed their little green heads starting to sprout.  Unfortunately, so did the bunny who lives in our backyard.  He munched most of them down to the nub.  But for some reason he never found the ones in the other corner of the yard.  This week, I was greeted with this glorious lily.  As you can see from the number of pictures I’m sharing with you (which is less than the number of pictures I took), I was taken with the beauty of its detail.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

~mwe

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Why is it so hard to give up your old ways for new ones, even when it’s clear the old ones aren’t good and the new ones will be?

Why does what’s comfortable seem more appealing than what’s good?

Why do people (me included) cling to what we know even if it’s clear that something else would be so much better?

How do I move what I know in my head to what I live in my heart?

Those are my questions.

~mwe

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(Note: The sentences in italics at the end of the second paragraph were added after publishing to clarify my thoughts.)

The other day I was reading an article written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in response to an evangelical minister’s attempt to “win” Anthony Weiner over to Jesus.  First, let me say that when I started reading the article I expected to agree more with Rabbi Shmuley than the Baptist minister.  I have a great deal of respect for the Rabbi.  He is a wise, thoughtful, man of God who rises above popular opinion to speak his mind about this society we live in.  Above all, he is kind and always seems to believe in the goodness of people.

So I was surprised when I was reading this article and came to a sentence that stopped me dead in my tracks.  “Redemption comes about not through anything we believe but how we behave.”  Whoa.  It’s very seldom that I read something from someone I respect that is the complete opposite of what I believe.  But this one sentence did.  Because I believe that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3: 28)  In the same way, I believe “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)  Of course, actions are important.  But I don’t believe we can ever hope to “win” God’s favor by our actions alone.  We make mistakes.  We make bad choices.  We do stupid things.  If and when, however, our heart is God’s, we try harder to do His will – not because it adds to our “good acts” column, but because we want to please Him.  And it is our faith that draws us to this point in our lives.

I’m not writing about this because I want to do to Rabbi Shmuley what the Christian minister did to Anthony Weiner.  I respect the Rabbi’s beliefs.  I have no doubt that he has a strong foundation for them.  But, I’m thankful to Rabbi Shmuley for stating his belief in this article, because in doing so, I am able to stand firm in mine.  When I read his words, it was like the two similar poles of magnets repelling each other.  At first, that feeling bothered me.  But then I realized I felt this way because he contradicted my core beliefs.  And it feels good to know there is something I believe that deeply in my soul.

There are times when I wonder if my faith is strong enough.  There are days where my questions outnumber my answers.  But thanks to this article, I know some of my beliefs can’t be shaken.  And I’m glad this is one of them, because if I only had my works to save my soul, I’d be in big trouble.  I believe I have a Lord who will be at my side when my works are counted and stand in the gap for my salvation.

(And Rabbi Shmuley, if you happen to read this, I’d love to talk to you about our beliefs.  I promise to only tell you my reasons for my faith and not try to convince you to try Jesus – unless I’m so convincing that you decide Jesus is the answer 🙂 )

~mwe

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