Leveling

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

There is more than one way to skin a cat. OK…first off, we love cats so that is not about being mean to a cat. It’s more for me to get your attention :). It’s an old saying and simply means that things can be accomplished in many different ways and still be effective.

We are women…I know, this is deeply profound, right :). We often have words in our home that are not great. Unkind, one upping, condescending, etc. It’s all very normal women conversation, sad but true. I’ve lectured on it, disciplined for it, gone round and round on it with little actual moving forward in my opinion. But just this week we’ve had a break through.

It’s worth documenting…

This week I watched a short video on empathy vs. sympathy how the one hears a situation and says “well at least_________________(whatever they think the silver lining should be.)” It comes off condescending. It’s rude. We all do it far too easily. The other way is to just listen and sit with a person and not need to add anything except presence or a simple response letting the person know they’ve been heard.

So often in our home we all get talking at the same time and things get said and the other two people do the “at least” type of statement or the “you know______________” statement. Which is really annoying to the person who shared. Lydia…I’m going to be honest, as the youngest in our home it happens most often to you. I guess Lauren and I feel like we’re older and wiser and need to set you straight pretty regularly. We don’t mean to or plan to but it just happens which doesn’t make it any better.

This week it happened again and as you tried to explain how you felt we all got a little giddy and started one upping each other on purpose just to be silly. In fact you went around one upping yourself, even though you could hardly do it with a straight face :). Last night we literally sat in the Steak and Shake parking lot eating our dinner in the car (not healthy…but real) seeing how much we could one up each other. It was hilarious. It was a great way to take a bad habit and way of life and exaggerate it to the extreme to prove a point to all of us that any time we give silver linings and one upping and “at least________” comments we are being condescending…thinking we know more and are better than someone else.

If anyone could have heard our conversation they would’ve thought we were insane :). But it was absolutely hilarious and has definitely made us all aware of how often we make ‘leveling comments” to each other. Lydia, that’s what you called them last night and that term is exactly right. We worked so hard to make leveling comments to each other in humor that it actually got hard to do. What happened in the humor is that we suddenly realized that none of us is better than another. Nobody is helped by someone else’s leveling comment. We stripped away pride and arrogance and laughed about how foolish the whole thing really is.

Empathy is exactly that…a stripping away of ‘knowing more than” of ‘being better than’. It’s actually a blessed relief to set that whole pretense thing down.

I want you to remember the humor of this week for the rest of your lives. I want you to hear leveling comments said in the world and in our home and immediately know what they are. I want you to know how to have empathy rather than false sympathy that really doesn’t care for anybody but oneself.

Humor is far more powerful than we realize. When lectures fail and punishment and repeated redirecting…sometimes humor provides a break through. Last night that’s what happened. God was there with us. Teaching us how to set aside our pride and arrogance and helping us to learn to see how foolish those kind of comments really are and how hurtful they can be.

We’re making a change…we’re being the change. No more leveling comments. No more false sympathy. No more thinking I’m better or you’re better…we are all sacred creations of God. No more arrogance or pride. More connection. More listening. Less talk.

I love you girls…I will remember last night’s conversation and silliness for a long, long time :)

Love your momma

Good and bad

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

It’s so easy to try and put all of life into neat categories. Saying…’this is good’, ‘this is bad’. It makes life easy for us to control. We can choose how we will respond and what we will accept and what we will fight against. It’s not the way to peace.

As you live there will be things that happen in your life that seem very bad at the time and yet God will redeem those things and turn them for your good. These things could be things that are very painful at the time…loss, sickness, death, pain, sorrow. No one is going to say they are glad they’re sick or glad to be in pain in the moment. That would be crazy. But do trust that with God even seemingly bad things and situations are actively being turned into good. It’s what He does. He redeems.

And on the flip side…sometimes the things that we think look so good aren’t really all that great for us. Career choices, major purchases, the way we spend our time, our energy, our money, our resources…sometimes we spend our whole loves doing what is fine and ok but not what is really best. How can we be sure that what we think is good is really…good? We must seek wisdom and direction from God.

This is most often done through prayer, counsel from trusted advisors, friends, family, and time in the bible.

When you pray…I think it helps to lift every situation, even just the name that comes to your mind to God and just try leaving it there. Allow Him to sift the situation and the people involved and allow Him to have free reign in the whole thing without having to categorize what is good and what is bad.

Over time…if you release control of good and bad to God and His leading, His ways, I think you will be surprised when you look back and realize that things turned out for the best.

We are not wise enough on our own.

On Sunday another part of the sermon beyond what I wrote about yesterday was the reality that ‘we are the enemy’. ‘You are the enemy’. ‘I am the enemy’. Which means that although we would like to look at stories like the crucifixion and think that we wouldn’t never put Jesus to death…yep we would’ve. We are the ones who spit in his face, who hit him and put the crown of thorns on his head. We are the ones who deny Him. We are the ones who put the nails in his hands. It would be far easier to just call those people evil, whoever they were…but we are that enemy. Just as we are the ones who sin…it wasn’t just an Adam and Eve problem. We are Eve.

God could’ve very easily said…’you are bad’, I’m done with you. And yet…He does the complete opposite. He sent His only Son to die for us…to be abused by us. To save us. We can’t comprehend that kind of love. I would not give up your life for people who seem bad to me. I’m a kind person, but I have my limits and I can tell you…I would not sacrifice your life for people who were so terrible. And yet…that’s what God does…willingly.

He looks our ‘badness’ in the face and responds with love and grace.

That’s why categories don’t work. Our categories and ways of looking at life don’t match God’s. Praise God they don’t or we would be doomed.

Ask God for wisdom. Pray. Listen to good counsel. Read the bible. And then trust that even the seemingly bad things in your life will still be good for you and to you in the hands of a God who redeems everything. If He can redeem me…which He has, He can redeem everything.

I will never write that I’m glad or that I think it’s good that your dad died at age 36. That would be crazy. But I will tell you, I’ve seen many good things happen because of or in spite of that happening in our lives. I know that God is actively redeeming that bad. Not in a way where I don’t grieve or feel the loss. I do. But in a way where I know with confidence that God is able to do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine. Nothing can separate us from His love.

We just don’t know. And as much as I like to know most of the time…when it comes to life and our relationship with God, sometimes we have to be alright just not knowing. We don’t have to understand everything.

Love your momma who knows that I don’t have a clue when it comes to good and bad and judging between the two…but I know God redeems it all. He has redeemed me.

Speak Peace

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

This past Sunday at church our pastor told a familiar story, one that I’ve heard a 100 other times, but something different caught with me this time. It was the one about Jesus sleeping in the boat when the disciples were struggling with the storm. They finally woke him up because they were afraid they were going to die. They panicked. Who wouldn’t?! And then they witnessed Jesus speak 3 words “Peace, be still” to the wind and waves and watched first hand this Jesus who even could command the wind and the seas calm the storm.

I thought the story was about faith, trust, not worrying, Jesus quiet in the storm, Jesus not immediately rescuing them from the storm, or maybe a whole host of other lessons but this past Sunday our pastor was talking about non violence once again. He was talking about creation and how God brought order out of the chaos and how when Adam and Eve sinned their ‘fruitfulness’ became barrenness, destruction took over creation and how even now it’s far easier for us to naturally default to destruction rather than creation. Just look at any two year old and how easily they knock down rather than build. Our pastor has an uncanny way of tying scripture together all over the place, we touched upon Job, Genesis, The gospels, the crucifixion and a few other scripture for good measure and it all made sense to me. Like a thread woven through a beautiful tapestry all connecting.

God has been in the business of creation, bringing order out of chaos forever. When Jesus is in the boat and we see him stand and say “Peace” we see how God handles chaos. You’ve gotta bet there was some serious chaos going on in that boat. Wind, waves, panic, screaming, etc. How Jesus was sleeping is beyond me. And what does Jesus do…speaks a word and what word does Jesus speak…’peace’.

Peace is the answer to the chaos in our lives. Having faith in God to put things into order and bring something out of our chaos is what we are to be about.

No weapons required.

No anger.

No crazy.

No panic.

No over the top reactions.

Just peace.

We look at that way of life and so easily think it couldn’t possibly be effective. Aren’t we supposed to build up more weapons and protection than our enemies so that we can intimidate them into submission?!? Isn’t that how we have our best defense?!? Logically it makes some form of sense. But it’s not God’s way.

God’s way is peace. One word…peace.

I’m still stunned by that new thought, that new revelation a couple of days later.

Everything in you will want to fight, to push, to strive, to make it happen, to force, to work, to defend. And it’s all pointless. The only solution is peace.

I used to think the idea of world peace was ridiculous. People would pray for it and I thought…what a waste of breath…I was cynical and had come to a place where that just seemed far too unrealistic to even ask God for it. I’m beginning to think it’s a good prayer. And more than that it’s an excellent way to live.

Chaos is everywhere. EVERYWHERE. In our homes. In our neighborhoods. In our schools. In our towns. In our government. In our churches. EVERYWHERE. All we need is for God to speak peace. All we can do is trust that God will speak peace when it needs to be spoken. I’m not completely sure what the disciples should’ve done. I think waking up Jesus was not the problem. It wasn’t like he was a cranky waker upper or something. I think it’s reasonable that in a life and death storm they felt the need to involve Jesus. I think the problem was…when they woke Him up they also chastised Him and let Him know they didn’t think He was aware or on top of the situation. They didn’t trust that it would be enough to voice their situation and trust Him to handle it.

What if they had woke Him up and said. Jesus…we don’t know what to do, but we know we need you? Jesus might have not felt the need to chastise them if they had just expressed their need for Him and didn’t express their distrust in His way of handling things.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the way of peace is right. I also realize that the way of peace could very well have cost to it that I don’t even realize right now. Most people who are peace people end up doing great things but also end up becoming martyrs at some point. Not saying this will happen to me. But I think we have to be willing to go there regardless of what it might cost us.

The kind of trust this requires…is over the top trust in a God we can’t see or physically hear. A God we barely know. And this is why we must become like small children, trusting radically in a God who will catch us and provide for us and love us always.

I caution you to not spend your life fighting, striving, pushing, shoving, working, defending, and overall going crazy. I encourage you to instead be a peacemaker…and more than just a peace maker I encourage you to look for peace, for people of peace, for glimpses of peace. Peace is always there no matter what it looks like to your eyes. When storms swirl around you, ask Jesus to speak peace, trust Him that He will in the right moment. And when you have opportunity with Jesus in you to speak peace into other people’s lives…speak it.

An encouraging word.

A prayer.

A rational conversation when emotions are running high.

A different perspective.

A focus on believing the best about others.

Thinking on things that are lovely, praise worthy, honorable, etc.

There is far too much violence, hate, destruction, sin, and negativity in our world. Don’t add to it. Learn to steer the boat, the conversation, the circumstances in a direction that expresses peace and acknowledges that Jesus is in the boat and capable of even controlling the wind and the seas.

We were made to create. We were not made to destroy. We were made to be fruitful and multiply. We were not made to live empty and barren lives. This must become an intentional way of living. Nothing is brought ‘up’ by accident. If you give it no thought or just go along with your natural self you will find yourself in negative thoughts and conversations, gossip, slander, malice, hate, and violence. It is our natural bent since The Fall. But that is not the end of the story. You have a choice.

Create.

Be fruitful.

Multiply.

Be at peace and speak peace everywhere you go.

Your one life could change the world! It will definitely at least change your corner of it :)

Love your momma who is still basking in the word Jesus spoke on that boat. He still speaks peace today.