Thursday, July 19, 2018

Say Something

I watched as she swiped at the escaping tears.  With a pained expression, he rubbed his forehead a second time.  They sat looking straight ahead.  Neither of them able nor willing to see the other.

This isn't the beginning of some silly novel.  It's the real life action I observed early this morning while waiting at a traffic light. Always people watching, I happened to be in the perfect spot to catch the interaction taking place between a dad and his teen-aged daughter.

"Did you know these people?" you may be asking.  No, I didn't.

But after so many years of studying people and body language and relationships, a few suppositions were obvious.  The girl was too young to be his wife.  It was too early for a joy ride; he must have been taking her to a summer job. 

Remember, we also have a lot of experience riding in cars with teen-age daughters.  Even if those guesses were wrong, the tension was visible to anyone taking time to see.

When I see someone in traffic who appears to be in distress, I try to offer a short prayer for them.  Something like one of these. . .
  • "Father, let your peace come into that vehicle."  
  • "Dear Lord, give them grace to be forgiving."  
  • "Heavenly Father, may they sense your love right now."
It doesn't matter if I know them or not.  They're known by our Father and there may not be anyone else to lift them in prayer just at the moment they need it.   I look at it through the lens of Solomon's admonition in Ecclesiastes, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might."  I am the one who noticed them; I should pray.

For the two minutes that I was part of the struggle between this dad and daughter, I did pray.  But I also wanted to shout to the dad, "Say Something!"

Most likely he was thinking he didn't know what to say.  That's normal.  We seldom ever have the perfect words during a moment of disagreement.  Perfect words don't matter.  Shattering the barrier of silence does matter.

Professional counselors may have another perspective and that's fine.  I'm just a mom who has ridden in the Cone of Silence with a frustrated teen-ager many times.  And I can tell you this, silence hardens hearts. That's true between spouses and friends, as well.

Especially if you're dealing with a daughter, remember there is never a waking moment that a woman doesn't have words happening in her head.  If you leave that young woman to silently argue through the situation in her own thoughts, it only grows more negative with each passing moment.

Interrupt that train of destructive thought with some word of quiet reassurance:

  • "I do love you."
  • "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."  
  • "I hope you believe I want what's best for you."  
  • "You don't feel like talking now but can we pray together before you leave?"
Do something to break that barrier.  Even if you have to take a step back when they unleash their frustration, it's important to keep communicating.  Silence can become an escape and eventually even a habit.

When our girls were little, we taught them a secret communication.  The first person would give the second three quick squeezes.  That meant, "I. Love. You."  The second person then responded with four little squeezes meaning, "I. Love. You. Too."  

No words were used but we had communicated with one another.  Their faces would light up.  And sometimes they were so excited participating in the secret code they would then announce it.  "Mom, I just told Daddy, I. Love. You.  He squeezed my hand and said, I. Love. You. Too!"  

Can you hear the giggles of joy that followed?

One afternoon, I had to discipline one of our daughters.  It had been a severe breaking of the rules and the punishment was equal to the offense.  When I went back into her bedroom later to talk over the situation, she refused to talk with me.  

After waiting a few minutes I said, "Okay, that's your choice.  You don't have to talk right now.  Just remember, we have to deal with this before you go to sleep tonight."  I reassured her of my love, stepped out and quietly closed her door.

The girls all knew our routine after any discipline.  We gave them time to think over their actions.  We went back to discuss the offense.  We made sure they understood the punishment, then prayed together.  

But bedtime was coming quickly and still no closure.  The silent daughter had already climbed into her bed when we gathered to read their Bible story and say nighttime prayers.  We couldn't let her go to sleep with the struggle unresolved but I was all too familiar with the resolute look on her face.

What was I to do?  I offered a quiet prayer while Dad read the story. 

That's when it hit me.  While someone else was praying, I reached over to the silent daughter and ever so gently squeezed her foot three times.  "I. Love. You."  

With only a slight hesitation, she gave my hand four distinct pats.  "I. Love. You. Too."  The silence was broken.

It was the next morning before we were able to have our follow-up discussion.  Our daughter still wasn't happy but her frustration level had dropped and we were able to talk calmly.

What's my message today?

Simply this: if you find yourself in a frustrating moment, don't go silent.  Say Something.  Pray for wisdom and speak up.  Don't use silence as a shield or as an excuse or as a wall.  That relationship is far to precious.

They can not read your mind, Dear Friend.  If you love them, say it.  If you're sorry, ask forgiveness.  If you regret the misunderstanding, express yourself better.

Paul gave a helpful warning to us in Ephesians 4.  "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."  In other words, deal with the situation.  Don't go to bed silent and angry.  Say Something!

That's my word of encouragement for today and I'm sticking to it!  Blessings!



How about you?  Any experience in this area of struggle?  Any tips to share with our other readers?  We'd love to read your thoughts in the comment box below.














Monday, July 16, 2018

Still No Baby

Many of you have been checking in to see if Meagan and Nathan's third bundle of joy has arrived.  The title says it all, "Still No Baby!"  Without a doubt this is the most unusual of the eight pregnancies we've lived through with our girls.

Meagan's first two pregnancies were good experiences with small complications here and there.  Both babies came early; Madi required a bit of bedrest before arrival time. 

Noah was born around 9PM on a Thursday.  Meagan taught school all day; went for her check-up; moved to the hospital and birthed a little boy......all in time for us to be home before midnight.  It was like he processed it all then asked, "Is now an okay time to make my appearance?"  Such a thoughtful kid!

Don't get me wrong.  When she was in the hospital at 29 weeks with this little guy, we were all extremely concerned.  Every extra week this baby stays in place is a good week.  But Meagan has had so much pain and so many unexplainable problems since then, it's definitely been perplexing.

Still, she and Nathan keep finding reasons to smile and express gratitude. It's all about the Attitude! Thank you for your prayers.

In other news, we are honored to be hosting a lovely young lady from China for three weeks.  Her Chinese name is Wan Gind but she told us to call her "Barbara."  She also seems to like Audrey Hepburn but I think "Barbara" was easier for everyone to pronounce.

She is here as a course leader with a wonderful program called Education First.  It's an international group providing cultural learning opportunities for children and adults.  My friend, Janet, became a liaison for EF and asked if Frank and I would serve this month as a host home.  What better way to touch the nation of China than by offering a safe, loving environment for one of their visiting citizens?

Barbara is responsible for 17 students who call her at all hours to tell of everything from home-sickness, to great adventures, to injuries and such.  She speaks really good English (thank Heavens.)  I hear her switching back and forth easily between the languages as she talks with students and American host families.  I'm impressed!

We're all praying these students (ranging in age from 8 to 12) will have a positive experience while here in the United States.  So much going on.  So many moving parts.  And our July heat index has been topping out daily in the three digit range.

It's been nice for Frank to be able to share with Barbara his positive memories from visiting her country.  She was surprised when he said,  "I visited China many years ago and things have surely changed so much.  But the people were genuinely helpful and kind to me.  I loved being there."  

I don't mind saying I was rather nervous getting ready for her to arrive.  I mean, she's a stranger from half way around the world.  A culture totally different from anything I know.  Customs and habits completely different from my own.  Sharing our home for three weeks.  Apparently, she was a bit anxious as well.

We went to the grocery store her first full day so I could prepare food she could eat and enjoy.  We talked casually about many things.  After an hour or so, she looked directly at me and said, "I'm so glad you are happy," she hesitated, searching for the right words then put her hand on her heart.  "I wondered how you would be.  Thank you."

Two browned-eyed girls.  One older the other younger.  One American the other Chinese.  Both struggling with exactly the same questions and concerns.  More unites us than separates us in this world, Friends!

I'll close with a quick story about Noah, the 4 year old.  Last week, I met Meagan at the obstetrician's office to pick up Madi and Noah while Meg was being checked out.  Our wires had crossed about the time to meet and I was rather frazzled when I finally starting pulling out of the parking area.

Too sharp a turn and Meagan's unsecured tumbler fell over, lodging behind my back while dumping it's iced contents all over my bottom.  I jumped forward on the seat and pulled to the side of the road as quickly as possible all the while yelling, "Oh, No!  Oh, No!"  

As I opened the van door and hopped out, I remembered the babies were riding with me and started adding in, "It's okay!  Oh, no!  Oh, no!  It's okay!"  

It took a minute to get the tumbler back into a cupholder.  Fortunately, Meagan already had a towel on the passenger side seat.  I grabbed it and mopped up as much of the formerly free-flowing liquid as possible.  This included mopping Noni's backside as well as the driver's side seat all the while trying to reassure my little charges, "It's okay!  Oh, no!  Good heavens!  It's okay, really!  Everything is okay!"

Traffic continued to pass us.  Each driver craning their necks and trying to see what was going on with the lady on the side of the road.  That's when I heard Noah's little voice wafting from the back, "It's not the worst that's happened." 

I threw my head back and laughed out loud, "You're exactly right, sweet boy!  It's not the worst that's happened!"

So there you have it, dear reader.  Still no baby. A cultural exchange happening in my home.  Extreme heat of summer.  A baptized bottom.  But hey, it's not the worst that's happened.




Friday, July 6, 2018

Announcement!

My trip to Michigan this past week was simply amazing!

I was privileged to once again attend Speak Up, the speaker's/writer's conference sponsored by my friend, Carol Kent.  Several hundred women (and a few brave men) from 35 different states and three Canadian provinces came together for one fantastic time of learning, worshipping the Father and connecting.

My roommate, Dyann, was from California.  We met via email before hand and became quick friends as we shared our writing challenges and dreams. Simply Fantastic!

A publishing company held an advance contest then chose 21 articles to be included in an anthology entitled: Faith and Freedom.  The article I submitted was one of those chosen!  That was exciting and will now move me into the "Published" category.  Woo Hoo!  Thanks for being excited with me.

The best news is this - I came away with a contract for my new book!!

No.  No, I did not.

I did not come away with a book contract.  I came away encouraged about my book.  I came away with ideas for improvement.  I came away with renewed passion.  But the announcement of a contract will have to wait for another time.

Once I got home, life was rolling at full tilt.  It was four days before I could look at the comments sent to me by one of the agents I met with.  She had carefully reviewed my proposal and a sample chapter I'd emailed her before the conference.  Our actual meeting time was brief so her overview had to be succinct.

She encouraged me to keep working at it and highlighted a couple of points.  Needless to say, I was eager to get back home and read through her longer explanations.

But reading through her comments yesterday afternoon had the same effect on my enthusiasm as helium that's slowly leaking from a shiny balloon:

"I don't see anything unique here."  

"Same comment as above."

"This story is too long; where is your focus?"

"What do you want the reader to see in this section?"

"I've read three proposals this week on this same topic.  What's unique about your slant?"

"Same comment as above."

"Is there some other topic you're passionate about?  This is too broad; too common."

(Can you hear the squeaky, high-pitched sound of air leaving a balloon slowly?  Yep, that's what my heart sounded like as I read.)

I met Frank at home and gave him the cliff note version.  Then I cried.  Fortunately, we had company coming for dinner so I couldn't indulge in a full-blown pity party.  There was a meal to finish preparing and a table to set.

This morning, Frank just pulled me close and let me cry again for a little while.  He's a Good, GOOD man!

We talked some more about the review.  Then finally, I was able to paint a word picture to help him understand how I felt.

"Honey, this editor has taken my manuscript, which feels like a baby to me and she has looked it over very carefully.  These comments sound to me like she has said, 'Lady, your baby is ugly!  You can't fix ugly.  Maybe you should just try to have another one.' "  

He looked at me with such a startled expression that it struck me funny.  I reacted by doing the laugh/cry thing we women are so famous for.  I'll always believe laughter truly is the best medicine.

We prayed together and I ran on to do a hospital visit while he started cleaning our yard.  It's been an introspective kind of day for me.  When someone declares your baby is ugly, you have to take a step back and regroup.

Fortunately, I have company that stops by this blog site on a regular basis.  (That's YOU!)  A new post was overdue.  Still no time for a pity party.  Thanks, dear readers, for being the catalyst I needed to make me get busy and write again; right now.  Today!

Home-spun wisdom has always quoted the old cowboy.  "Horse bucked you off?  Grab those reins and get back on right now.  Best cure is to ride again!"

Eventually, I'll be able to report to you:  "I came away with a contract for my new book!"  That isn't for today; but eventually.

Until then, I'll just keep loving on this "ugly baby" until it grows out of the ugly stage and finds it's place in the printed world.  Who knows, there may even be a unique slant in that concept.

If you've been hit with some less than encouraging news this week, take a step back.  Allow yourself time to regroup.  Things are never quite as impossible (or ugly) as they first appear.

Choose to sing along with me the theme song from Lil' Orphan Annie, "The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow!"

Besides, we know the One who holds all our tomorrows in His loving hands.  Set backs are really more like set ups for a better outcome.

THAT truth is definitely worth an announcement!








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