To Let Go Is To Fully Grasp

Although we have quite a few immediate family members in the Orlando area, the rest of our clan are spread out, in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. For the cousins to connect or the siblings to see one another, planning is required, an activity that often appears insurmountable.

But my good fortune allowed the daughters from DC and Denver to fly up for the same weekend. We missed our Pennsylvania party, but we’re grateful for anything we can get.

Courtney brought her son Beck with her. A joyful little guy at two and a half, he’s not quite used to the crowds and noise level our family consistently delivers.

But the sisters loved it.

They are as diverse a group as you can get; I look at the five of them in awe, recognizing I gave birth to each of them, raised them pretty much the same way, and yet each of them have a remarkably different personality and perspective on life.

Our family discussions run the gamut from the humorous and spontaneous to the deeply political and theological. We laugh a lot over ridiculous jokes, poking kind fun at each other, having learned the limits of each others’ sensitivity. We go too far at times, but everyone is quick to ask forgiveness and to forgive.

Politically, we differ because of the viewpoint of varied generations. Our life experience has shaped us with times we’ve lived through. I enjoy hearing my children speak from a vantage point different from mine. I trust them as responsible adults.

From a biblical point of view, we all believe Jesus to be our Savior, the One who paid a price for us that we could never be able to pay. These are heartfelt convictions, not mere opinions, and yet each of us live out our faith differently. Same values; distinctive expressions of faith and faithfulness. Some are more outspoken and evangelistic, some are quieter, working behind the scenes for change.

Our differences create conversations which are thought provoking. Coming together as infrequently as we do, the time together is of greater value than how we agree or not. We’re still in process–relationships are always messy, no matter how close. But we’re learning to extend grace instead of goading.

If my family can’t agree, why would I ever think that people, unrelated and unknown to one another, could possibly agree?

Agreeing to disagree is a sign of mutual maturity. To get anything done, to move forward with efficiency and effectiveness, we must learn to listen without judgement. How people respond to us very often has nothing to do with what we’ve done, but is sparked by something in their story.

The apostle Paul stated:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

The biggest burden in our world today is a lack of forgiveness. If families can’t get along, how can anyone else? And how do we forgive the one that often hurts us the most–ourselves?

Jesus. He came to offer forgiveness and teach us how to forgive.

This world is one big messy family. All made in God’s image. All connected by a Creator who loves us each well.

Listening and letting go of what we think we deserve may be our best choice.

It’s In The Genes

“Dad, I’m tired and hungry and thirsty. But we will not quit, because finishing is what we do.”

This from five-year-old Sloane who is a bit of an old soul and has become a real student of her parents. She hears constantly about responsibility and following through with what you say you’ll do. There’s value in finishing well.

She’s also quite dramatic.

Nobody taught that little girl to strike a pose for a camera. She is unabashedly friendly and outspoken–she’s her mother’s daughter. Her ability to process and come up with logical arguments for anything that strikes her fancy is a trait that comes from her dad.

There’s a reason Sloane is the way she is.

Our personalities are shaped fairly well by the time we reach six years of age. Our brains grow magnificently in those first years, and we take in information quickly and grow in our ability to understand and synthesize what we’re learning.

We are a product of our stories and of the heritage we’ve received from our parents.

None of this is new, but we too often forget that where we’ve been, who we know, and who has impacted our lives has made an indelible mark on us individually.

We’re not only who we are in the moment, when we meet someone or make a comment about something that’s been said. We bring a history of input and investment that others have intentionally or unintentionally made on our lives.

Yet too often we try and “fit” a mold that’s been heralded as the “right” way to be acceptable. Somebody who isn’t social-media savvy may say something that reflects a background different from their listeners. Instead of pursuing conversation, it’s easier to label and lambast for words said rather than love the person and choose to understand where they’re coming from.

Sloane may know how to strike a pose for the camera, but we’re all real posers in life, fearful of letting others see our doubts and questions, of being thought different or questionable by those we respect and admire. I find it amusing that those fashion setters on Instagram and other social platforms are called “Influencers”, merely because of what they wear or buy.

What’s far more significant is what and who is influencing our hearts and minds? Who impacts the way we think or process what we see? If we only look to those who are like us or who we want to be like, we lose the ability to be individuals adding to a collective IQ that helps all of us.

We become a herd of sheep, all alike, following one after another.

The Bible speaks to the reality of our identity. King David made this glorious claim:

“Oh, yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank You, High God–you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!” Psalm 139:13-14

We are each known fully by God, made in His image, beautiful in His eyes. Each of us unique, each with value beyond our comprehension. We were made to be different, not cookie-cutter people who look and act the same.

We don’t need to strike a pose for anyone, least of all God. He sees us and loves us fully, if we let Him.

I’m more than one of the flock.

It Pays To Be Curious

With Halloween a month away, the excitement of dressing up ignites the imagination of many children. And adults.

Beck loves monkeys; they’re his favorite animal. He’d join them on any kind of excursion if he could. With several options given as to what he’d like to be for fall festivities, he was adamant about being a monkey.

He has the activity level down well. And he’s curious, just like my favorite children’s book character, Curious George.

Reading these stories to my children, I used to feel sorry for the man in the yellow hat, his friend and caretaker. George was never hesitant to check out things he didn’t understand or situations that were unfamiliar to him. His curiosity led him into some wild adventures, but each of them tended to be a new lesson learned. What my kids loved about these books was his willingness to risk because discovery was worth it.

I see that in Beck. He’s captivated by the new and different–people, places, and experiences. Risk for him is an adventure.

Not a threat.

I long for that unquenchable curiosity that allows me to move past any hesitation to discover that which needs to be known. The things that will enrich my life, take me beyond my comfort zone, and allow me to learn the things that I’ve not yet encountered.

Or considered.

Our culture worldwide has become very narrow-minded. We view the world with self-made blinders, blocking those things that don’t fit with the way we see things, that are different from our vantage point.

Especially in regard to other people. Rather than being inquisitive about those who are different from us, we choose to ignore, marginalize, or condemn those who aren’t like us.

We’ve lost interest in being open to something different. Rather than ask honest questions of one another, it’s easier to send out a sound bite on social media and condemn that which we don’t fully understand; to jump on a band wagon of disagreement and cancellation rather than seek answers for ourselves by asking questions.

If only we’d inquire to determine what people need from us.

There’s a story in the book of Mark that depicts a blind man sitting by the side of the road, begging. He hears that Jesus is passing by with His disciples. He yells, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The disciples, bothered by this interruption in their journey, try to ignore him or tell him to be quiet. But he continues to call for Jesus’ attention.

Jesus stops and has His men bring the blind man to Him. He simply asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man answers, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus heals him.

Jesus paused to ask a question that seemed to have an obvious answer. But He asked. Because He wanted to hear how this man saw his need.

It’s easy for us to assume we know others, their needs, what motivates them. But how often do we take the time to ask and listen?

If Jesus, who is God, respects an individual enough to ask what his need is, shouldn’t we be as gracious?

Our curiosity may actually promote new relationships.

Closed Doors Hide Nothing

I’m not a decorator, but I do get bored with the way things look in our home.

With a tight budget, we’ve often changed the appearance of rooms with a can of paint and a little creativity.

Back in the day, we sponge painted rooms; not a thing anymore. We’ve painted a whole room a wild color, one wall a really dark color, and each one of them has been pleasing in the moment.

After the first go-around of color craziness, we stopped painting closets.

Who looks into closets?

Nobody wanted to take everything out and unavoidably declutter whatever was found in there.

After over twenty-five years, we decided to replace carpets in bedrooms. Time and use hadn’t been kind to them. After clearing everything out, we decided to repaint all the rooms the same color.

Simple is our new creative.

With everything out of rooms and closets, there was no longer a reason to not paint those small spaces.

It would be so much easier to ignore them and allow them to stay hidden. Closets are dark, there are more corners that are the greater challenge, and walking away would save time and energy.

I have a dark closet in my life; I believe we all do. Those things we don’t want anyone to know about, the pieces of shame and guilt that we hide from the world and even our loved ones. Those things that, if exposed, may cause others to question whether we’re worth knowing.

Hiding is easier. Not sharing those dark places helps me manage an image that I can sustain. Where I can justify people liking me because I show up as a specific person that’s acceptable.

Even in our closest relationships, it’s a struggle to be fully vulnerable and honest. To show the shadow parts of who we are. Fear of rejection, of being misunderstood, of not having the chance to explain all combine to make veiling our true selves appear to be wise.

But like any dark closet, when things are revealed, the ugliness of what’s there could blanket the good of the whole person.

There is One who knows us fully and isn’t disgusted with the dark parts of our lives. He came to save us from the darkness that leads to death.

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the Light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

He spoke these words right after religious leaders wanted to stone a woman for adultery. Jesus had told them that if they were free from wrongdoing, they could cast the first stone.

They all left.

We’re all caught up in the darkness of our souls. We long to do right, but we continue to do wrong. Jesus came to let us know that it isn’t what we do that makes us right; it’s what He’s already done. Made payment for something we could never afford–life.

Dark closets exist. But inviting Jesus in and exposing our worst allows Him to blanket us with His best.

No paint required.

It’s All About Influence

Drew Daywalt is an ingenious author who has written books on the trials and tribulations of crayons. His canny presentation of the relationships between the colors and how they engage the world reflects our interactions with one another.

We’re all a crayon color, a shade that allows us to leave our mark on the world in a way that lets others know we’ve been here, each in our unique way.

We imprint the world with our presence, illustrating who we are where we live and the kind of singular impression we’ve left on those around us. Some are emphatic and intense, lives more noticeable. Some are subdued and muted, known by those closest to them; they haven’t made a big splash in the world, but their influence is powerful in the way they lived.

My friend Jacque would have been a lovely azure blue, a color of calm and brilliance, clearly seen, and deeply appreciated. She died recently, and I’ve been able to consider the impact she had on my life.

She lived with our chaotic family for a period when we moved to Orlando. I was pregnant with our sixth child, but the five we had were rambunctious and fun, and Jacque took it all in stride. She was a calming influence with all of us, a woman who was very present with those around her, who cared about how she interacted with others, who valued the needs of others and sought to meet them.

Jacque had beat cancer once, but it came back with a devastation that was relentless. Her death has impacted many; her loss is deeply felt and grieved by many.

Her memorial service was a picture of her azure blue impact on the lives of those she gently came in contact with. Her family and friends commented on her calm demeanor, her compassion for others, her ability to see the needs of others and do what she could to meet those needs–often without considering the consequences to herself. She leaves behind a husband who adored her, five kids who will deeply miss her love and support, and a multitude of friends who know we’ve all become better people by knowing this amazing woman.

I have confidence that I will see Jacque again one day because she and I both have a relationship with Jesus.

“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying.'” Matthew 11:25

What Jacque knew and lived out loud was that she loved Jesus, and Jesus loved her. That He was her Enough.

One of her favorite songs was “Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr. It was her story.

“I’m changed by Your mercy, covered by Your peace, I’m living out the victory; doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat. You’ve walked me through fires, pulled me from flames. If You’re in this with me, I won’t be afraid.”

Life is full of the deep reds of fire and pain, the black of smoke and loss. But Jesus is the Shepherd that walks us through the hard times to experience His joy in the moment. He alone is the substance of beauty and color, the Master Artist.

Jacque made her mark with elegance and grace. Indelibly.

What mark are you leaving?