Am I Crazy?

the crew

Of course the answer to that question is almost always yes, otherwise, I wouldn’t need to ask. But really, am I crazy or are people seeming nicer these days? Are people seeming to come out of their narcissism or cynicism or what ever kind of -ism they find themselves, and notice the whole world around them? It seems that way to me, at least, in my little community, at least.

Peregrin Happy Bubbles

There was a time when I dreaded leaving my house. And not for the usual mom reasons. It wasn’t about someone will inevitably pee their pants and it will never be the child you brought a change of clothes for. Someone will start crying that they are hungry and refuse the only snack on your person and proceed to whine for 45 minutes straight. There will be someone who will loose a shoe, a dinosaur, a book, a hair bow, a quarter- something they just can’t live without and you’ll spend 30 minutes in Target searching for said item. It wasn’t about those things. Those come with the territory. It was about *them*. Those mean people who would make jokes about my family size. (*Ahem.* Not funny.) Those people who would act shocked and make rude comments about me within earshot or directly to me. Those people who seemed to always seemed to send my kids the message that they were unwanted in my community; that our family was the wrong kind of family. They could turn a simple run to the grocery store into a nightmare for me. I have six kids, which means I do not need the added stress in my life of meanies. Not that anyone with one kid , two kids, twelve kids, or no kids needs that kind of meanie stress.

aidan 3

But slowly things started to change. First, it was just a few people. The random person who would tell us we had a lovely family. The passing stranger who would comment how lucky my kids were to have so many siblings. The outrageously generous person who paid for our meal last year around Christmas because she remembered how tight things get with having kids around the holidays, particularly for large families. Suddenly there were small sparks of light out there. And going out and mingling with the community didn’t seem quite so bad anymore. (As an introvert with General Anxiety Disorder, it is always somewhat of a difficulty for me to be new places talking to new people. However, I am talking about this added stress that made it almost unbearable to be part of life outside our safe walls.)

imogene 4

We went from having the worst experience imaginable at one Waffle House where the waitress was downright rude and nasty to my family. To a few months later experiencing a wonderful brunch at Waffle House because people were just so kind. (By people, I mean the other customers. The waitresses were at least not rude this time.) One older gentleman even paid for every kid’s meal because he said they were so polite.

Ransom 2

Something changed out there. And I don’t know what it was. Maybe the people in our community are just used to us. But I think people are just becoming nicer. I know that sounds completely naïve, but I really believe they just might be nicer. People are finally realizing what an impact they have on others, on complete strangers. They are finally seeing the power in their words and glances and interactions. And they see they can make the world better, happier. They have the power to change their world. They can help a stressed mom out by telling her they appreciate her efforts in raising the next generation. (Yes, I have been told that by a complete stranger. I was having a hard time getting my kids to behave like normal people, you know those days. So I felt like I was doing nothing but correcting them and correcting them and correcting them. It was getting old. Then someone acknowledged the work I was putting into getting my kids to sit in that waiting room. They told me that I was doing a good job in raising the next generation and my kids were lucky to have a mom who cared enough to help them.)

Topher

So what changed? Are there less jerks in the world? No. I highly doubt there are. But those neutral people, those people who minded their own business before, they are stepping up in a big way. Those little lights are burning bright out there. I now see more light than darkness. The darkness is still there, but people are kindling their fires. Why? I think social media has a little to do with it. We see articles and posts all the time about the downfalls of social media and how it is removing our ties to one another. And maybe that was true, but I think we’re starting to build them back. We see uplifting videos, get inspirational words send to us daily, and we kindle our fires, burn a little brighter, and pass the light on.

Emery

We look at the news at say “Where is God?!” But I see Him out there. I see Him in my neighbors. I see him in a teenager helping an elderly lady in the parking lot by returning her buggy (I’m Southern, I don’t know what the rest of y’all call those things) to the store. I see Him in a lady stopping to help another woman at the store when she knocked over a display of cheese. I see Him when I am greeted with a smile and not a scowl, when the words on the lips of others is not scorn, but encouragement. Those bright lights, they’re the sparks of life in us, the breath of God. We share the grace we receive. Sure, bad things happen all around the world. I have honestly had one of the absolutely worst years of my life- I’m not even kidding, it has been truly awful. I have no idea how I can even hold my head up with how beat down I have been this year. Crushed and then crushed and then crushed a little more. But then I’m offered some grace- some word of encouragement, some pleasant compliment, some hope- and I see God is with us. I see that God is with me. I see broken people offering hope and light, even when they need some themselves. That is self giving love. That is God.

pip hand

So, keep it up people. Your words are powerful. Even when you can’t help in other ways, words are free, and words are healing. When words fail you, smiles and friendly looks will suffice. A small act of kindness to help you fellow man (or mama). I can see us changing and I like the change in us. “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”- St. Francis of Assissi

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Grateful for Enough

flowerEnough is not a concept we’re very aware of in Western culture. We want excess. We want more. Enough to us is just not enough, and that desire for more transforms our prayers and our perception of God’s answers to our prayers.   We have no concept of daily bread. Our perception of need is very off.

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So we end up adopting one of two theologies. One theology we use to bridge this gap is to say that, if we’re not getting what we pray for, the fault is ours. We’re just not doing it right. In our heads, we say that God gives all things requested to the super-spiritual elite. If we’re not getting all we’re asking for, it is because we just haven’t made it to VIP status with God yet. Clearly, the problem with this theology lies in everyone that isn’t Western. Very real poverty exists in much of the world. Are we really willing to say that is their fault? The Christians in Third World countries are just not as loved by God as we are. Saints who spent their entire lives living in poverty for the sake of others are just somehow not among the spiritual elite, as evidenced by their poor surroundings and lack of wordily goods. The Christians in Egypt are just missing out on some secret that puts you in God’s “favorites” column. So we swing the other direction and embrace an opposite theological assumption: God doesn’t care about your happiness. He wants holiness only. Your enjoyment of life or lack thereof is none of His concern. Your emotional needs don’t matter. You just need to put your head down and run the race He sets before you without complaint. Carry your own cross and don’t complain about it. With this, we’re willing to say our Heavenly Father cares nothing for us except that we do as we are told. He’s apparently a “children should be seen and not heard” type of Dad. Your obedience is all that matters. Not sure where we file the God-is-love bit under this theology.

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There is a middle ground we overlook– something between the extremes we forget. God does love us, and God does want us to be happy. We just have to readjust our goals, our vision. We’ve got to learn what provision really means. We’ve got to learn to be grateful for enough– to turn off the cultural impulse to have the most, to live with excess. We have to learn what it means to have daily bread. Our prayers for half a million dollar homes need to be replaced with gratitude for a safe place to sleep. Instead of prayers for extra money for our saving accounts, dream vacations, and big screen TVs, being thankful for paid bills, comfortable surroundings, and jobs to support our needs… I’m not saying there is anything wrong with nice houses, vacations, and comforts. But those are not proof that God loves you. It is simply proof you live a very privileged life.

God clearly wants you to be happy. Look at the flowers, clouds, stars, birds. This world has plenty of enjoyments– holy enjoyments. God wants you to be happy with His provision. You just have to change the terms of your own happiness. Learn to be grateful with enough. Learn to be grateful for the privileges we have as Westerners.

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I may not own a big, fancy house, but I have  a safe, comfortable home. I may not have a huge amount of money in the bank, but my needs are all met. We may not go on elaborate vacations, but I have a lovely family and time to spend enjoying everyday life with them. I have enough. I even have more than enough. I am grateful.

40 Holy People

For Lent this year, our family devotional is centered around holy people… people that used their lives for others, people that inspire us to be more. Since there are 40 days in Lent (not counting Sundays), we’re looking at 40 Holy People. Some are Saints, some are missionaries, some are evangelists– all are examples of what we can do in Christ. I’m praying that the lives of these 40 individuals inspire my children (and honestly, myself) to get out of our comfort zones and do something for God, to deepen our faith, and to press us toward holiness.

40 holy people

Links will be updated throughout Lent.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven