Thursday, October 27, 2016

Notes From My Daughter - Rushing Won't Make You Ready

Occasional notes from my second daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes but I am always blown away. Did this child come from me? Read on!
Hi friends. Welcome back to my random contributions on my mom's blog. Earlier this week I found an old notebook from 3rd grade and might I say it was the best laugh I've had in a while. In honor of my 6-year-old writing dreams I've decided to make a list of 5 things I've learned (because 23 and  2+3=5) this past year that can be applied to any reader.

1. Rushing won't make you ready: Matter of fact, rushing leads to repeating. Because most of my life has been accelerated outside of my control (i.e: being 6 years old in the 3rd grade) my goals have often been informed by what I thought others expected of me and not necessarily what I wanted for myself. For me the golden age of which I should have had my life together was 22 (6 years after graduating high school), so when my birthday came last year and I realized my life was not what I expected it to be, plus the overwhelming nothingness that occurs after graduating college, I went into a bit of a depression. While a lot of people met me with support, many people wanted to rush me through this process. I understood their intentions but I had to protect myself by being present. I could not, and still can't rush the timeline of my growth if I wish for that growth to be sustainable.

2. God's voice overrides any sound advice: This one is self-explanatory but I'm reinforcing it for anyone who struggles with courage. Second-guessing is the first step to confusion. Never stop seeking God's voice; it is the clearest guide for your entire life. If His instructions are repeated, follow them. If his answers are unclear, ask more questions. But a hunger for an abundant God should never be fed by anyone else but God. I've had to question this year, "Do I really care what God wants for my life?" When I'm unsure, I think about my commitment to Him and His to me. It's not enough to be a "good person" who does "good things". It's best to be God's, no matter where He has you.

3. 75% of the people you dislike love God and God loves 100% of them back: My mom and I had a conversation yesterday in which I talked about driving in LA. "I'm a good driver, it's just annoying that I constantly have to be a good driver in the midst of terrible ones." Life isn't linear, it doesn't happen in a vacuum of pure joy, and it surely doesn't occur in the midst of perfect people. Just because challenges arise doesn't mean that all the growth you've experienced has been thrown out the window. Quite frankly everyone's obsession with being a "healthy" person these days is kind of funny to me because their endurance can be so low (mine included). Yes, remove toxic people from your life but don't expect the people you're left with to be perfect. Don't expect the new healthy circle you attained to exist without challenges. Idealism is not healthy. Also, it's ok to address your own toxicity which leads me to the next point.

4. You can't run away from yourself: God is Alpha and Omega, here from beginning to end. He's is eternal. You are not (yet), but for as long as you are here, you will always be with you, from your beginning to your end. God is growing you and in that growth, you must be an active participant. The partnership of God's being and your being is a progressive one. Every time you run away from Him you stop the process, just as every time you run away from yourself. There is some solace in knowing that God would never run away from you; that His covenant and His choice are one in the same, but we cannot just settle for this. It's a beautiful thing to face yourself in order to see just who God is in your life.

5. Celebration is more than praise: Humans forget. Laughing at my old journal this week was wonderful because it showed I've been consistently Gabrielle Nicole Miller all of my life, even when I forgot who I was. The previous point was about mindfulness, this one is about remembering. All celebration and gratitude really are, is choosing to focus on memories of goodness. Goodness has happened over a series of time and will happen again in seasons to come. It's our mental incentive to keep going. It reminds us that there is more. More than we can imagine even though we try to imagine accurately every day. It's a reminder of how small life is and how incredible life is. Celebrating yourself, others, accomplishments, God, etc. is key to building a lifestyle that has no need to rush because you understand that every season brings it's fruits even if you don't see them yet.

I hope you all enjoyed my reflections. If you can relate please comment below and let me know which point really stuck with you. Lastly, thank you all for being on this journey of growth with me. I've been writing on my mom's blog for at least 4 years now and the community here is always a blessing :) And thank you, mom, for bringing me into this world on this day 23 years ago.

Marriage Ups and Downs

It seems at a certain point everyone wants to be married but once married, marriage doesn't live up to their expectations. Could it be that we have warped expectations around marriage? It seems our experiences, culture and fantasy fuel what we think marriage should look like. Once we put "should" in there we're in for a whole boatload of disappointment.

Marriage in its simplest form is two people - man and woman, who make a commitment to each other that no matter what, they will stick together. That's what you mean when you say your vows which try to encapsulate the spectrum of most human experiences. It doesn't mean that the good feelings will always flow, or that you'll always think kindly towards each other. Living with each other can bring out the best and worst in each other, but ultimately love wins and we are better for it.

So here's what I mean - as a couple we have been dealing with a couple of things recently - grief and aging bodies (you know, things change as you get older but you learn to adjust). Grief doesn't help any of this as a matter of fact because we grieve differently we may feel temporarily isolated from each other.

But (literally) at the end of the day - we're still here and it's because of the commitment we have to each other. We may be hurt by each other but we forgive and move on. We may feel lonely, but one person in a marriage can't be everything to the next person - so we look up. You learn to talk and communicate the best you can. You also learn when to be quiet but still be there. However, the longer you are with someone you learn how to navigate the rough and the smooth rides together.

Love covers a multitude of sins has taken on new meaning recently. To personalize it - I am a multitude of sins - a multitude. But I'm a sinner saved by grace. So my husband keeps loving me, in spite of everything I do or don't do and I do the same for him.

As my good friend/blogger, Slimwavy says - "Make no mistake -- marriage is not for dummies. It is not for sissies, wimps, and punks either. It is not for the flighty or the easily distracted. Only those who respect the long haul -- and all that it brings -- will survive. But the funny thing about survival -- the marriage actually gets sweeter with time. But both members of the couple have to be willing to stick around, committed to one another to add the sugar."

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 

We are sticking around and adding the sugar.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grace and Mercy

Have you ever heard the expression - "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them" that's attributed to Maya Angelou? I have great respect for Maya Angelou but I've often wondered about the context of this expression.

This expression is multi-faceted in that everyone that you meet won't be a part of your life - so the first time you show me who you are, you show me who you are. I may like it or hate it - but it is who you are. If we never have further interactions, good or bad it's fine. If we have additional interactions, depending on what I see, I must rely on God's grace and mercy so that our interactions aren't negative. Interactions may eventually lead to a relationship; this has more of a chance of happening if I view you in a positive light. If we're a family I may not have a choice and may have to deal with you regardless.

In order to know what you're seeing you have to know who you are - some of us only see the good and some only see the bad and then some of us are realistic. Particularly in relationships, people may become jaded and not see a person for who they are even though their actions indicate otherwise.

People change; people change drastically for better or worse; people change incrementally or have total character changes; people change all the time. The person I was 10 years ago is not the person I am today and I would hate for someone to treat me today the way I was yesterday. It's almost like a parent choosing to treat a child like he is 10 years old even though he's 30.

Many people throw this phrase out as a way to be unforgiving or to place themselves on a pedestal.

I guess the real question is, once you believe them, what do you do with this belief? 

I believe in grace and mercy; I believe in bestowing it to others because I've been a recipient of it.
Grace is defined as divine love and protection bestowed freely on people; the state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God; an excellence or power granted by God; a special favor.
Mercy is defined as compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency; a disposition to be kind and forgiving; something for which to be thankful; a blessing.

In our society, we're not big on forgiveness. We say it but we don't live it. If a person was imprisoned and he is reformed he/she has the hardest time being accepted. We don't focus on rehabilitation and reformation but on disposal.

We are all fallen people, but God can change any life and turn it around for His glory. We've seen it in the Bible in the case of Paul, but I've also seen many instances of this in my life. I know people that used to smoke or drink and now they don't. One particular person attributes it to God drastically removing the desire for cigarettes and since that day he's never smoked. Like Paul, your passions were channeled in the wrong direction. God can and does change lives, even ours. It's up to us to believe this and treat new creations as new creations.

I want my life to be overflowing with grace and mercy towards others even if I'm sometimes hurt by it. I want to be a lightning rod to affect change in others. I want the Light that is in me be a bright light to all. I don't ever want to write people off or have this as a standard way of operating. I believe in all of this that God has and will guide and give me discernment so that I know how to interact with whomever I come in contact with.

As Christians, we are recipients of God's grace and mercy; may we bestow these gifts to others also. When people show you who they are, but allow for the possibility of change.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4-5

How often do you grant grace and mercy to others? Pray that God would give you opportunities to increase in this area.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Life Happens

Ironically, around the time I booked my flight to go to NY was the day my friend found out about her dad's cancer diagnosis. I was hemming and hawing about booking my trip and was having a pretty emotional morning - one minute laughing, the next tears running down my face - all because I was thinking of Mummy and what I would be facing in NY.

So she saw me crying that day and then when she heard the news regarding her Dad, the tables were flipped. We both thought it no coincidence that we were together for the bulk of that day.

Comfort those wherewith you have been comforted....these words keep coming back to me now.

I find myself looking at things through a new lens - a lens of greater empathy due to the loss of a parent; a lens of dealing with medical staff at this difficult time; a lens of trying to keep your wits about you when everything seems to be going wrong.

Comfort those....

I always feel inadequate yet I've been able to share just the tiniest bit of information that may be helpful. For example, you can appeal a discharge since when you are being discharged from a hospital it should be what is considered a safe discharge. That there are agencies and programs that exist so that you can get long-term care at home for elderly or ill parents. That taking care of a sick parent at home is not just a physical endeavor but an emotional one as well. That the social work team at a hospital is very important as they provide beneficial information outside of what is provided by medical staff.

Comfort those....

I may be in some sort of fog right now navigating my way out; but as I do, I'll remember that I'm not in this alone; that I'm not comfortless and even now I can help and encourage others.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 [NLT]

Do you need comfort? Are you making yourself available to comfort others?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mornings With Children

It seems that no matter how much you plan, organize and strategize mornings with children can sometimes be chaotic. Since the Little One missed a week of school she has had to make up a boatload of schoolwork. (BTW, what's the point of missing school due to an excused absence and still having to make up all the work? Isn't that why it was excused?! rant over).

On Friday she found out that she had to do a project in a weekend that everyone in the class had at least two weeks to do. She decided that she would tackle this project and get it done. I don't know if you know, but 8th-grade work nowadays is not like when you and I were in school. They're expected to know how to use technology well and incorporate into their assignments.  She's done more PowerPoint's at 13 than I did at 20. What was a PowerPoint back then?! (Second rant over.) Of course, there's always the Mac vs PC argument, and this teacher wanted the assignment completed in Keynote which is the Mac version of PowerPoint. Well, we're not a Mac house, so that's that. Anyhow she does the Keynote part of the project on her phone very tediously and eventually gets frustrated. The first part was to write a 600-word report.

This morning she wakes up and realizes that there is a capability in PowerPoint to add a voice recording, so she attempts to complete the presentation this morning. Let me add the presentation was completed but part of the assignment was to record an interview as part of the presentation. (As I type this, this all seems a bit much for one weekend.) So she was going to record the interview this morning, This recording took at least 5 minutes. She did it once, she did it twice, she even attempted it a third time but it would not work. Each time she played back the presentation the recording was not included.

It is now 7:50 and we must leave because school starts at 8. She eats breakfast in the car as I drive to school.

She is so sad as she gets to school. She asks, "Why do I miss her so much?" She is just a mess and I pray with her and let her know that she can take her time. We hug for a while until she eventually regroups. She eventually gets out of the car, and I continue to pray as I make my way home.

Even without the specter of grief, mornings can be crazy. I know that she has to go through this and I'll do my best to continue to guide, support and comfort her. Sometimes in spite of our best efforts, things fall apart in the morning. Laundry is misplaced or worse no clean underwear; can't find a shoe or a book that's needed that day;  lunch is forgotten;  homework did not make it to the book bag. There's so much that can go wrong.

As a mother I've learned to take it easy, because unfortunately yelling or making empty threats just does not all. Also, if I wake up early before all this mayhem, I'm better equipped to deal with it. Thankfully, this is not every day or even most days.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3[NLT]
I hope tomorrow brings a better morning.