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Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Maybe whoever said not to talk about politics or religion in social conversation was on to something.

Twice in as many days, I have read a string of comments and counter-comments on Facebook that have, in my estimation, amounted to a verbal spat. In both cases, the precipitating issue was political.   I must confess that I have, on occasion, “vented” in my own Facebook status or in this blog about things political.  I have also from time to time raised a question about someone’s strongly expressed opinion, just to pose another possibility. Mostly, though, I appreciate the uplifting and encouraging comments that I regularly read on Facebook–and I feel that a few minutes have been well-spent if I can be on the giving as well as receiving end of some each day.   So, I was quite surprised at the vehemence bordering on meanness that came through in the “conversations” I observed. And I was grieved.

In both cases, the “Facebook fights” I encountered appeared to have erupted over either a) a difference of opinion or b) a misunderstanding of what someone said.  What do we do in face-to-face conversations when either of those situations occurs?  If the goal is to be diplomatic or gracious or really to understand, we ask a question.  In the news feed eruptions, instead of being asked a question, the commenter was jumped on verbally, and, most surprisingly to me, was the object of name-calling.

I grieve because the “fights” were started and perpetuated by Christ-followers.  I have no way of knowing if those to whom the counter-comments were directed were also Christ followers.  But, I’m pretty sure Facebook fights are not an application of the Golden Rule or the command to love our neighbors.  And, if it matters if we are winsome in matters political, we will never get there by ugly argumentation with our fellow travelers.  Even in perilous times when the truth seems to be a rare commodity, we stand to gain more ground by speaking the truth in love to those who disagree with us than by screaming the truth at them in high-pitched voices.

We live in troubled and troubling times.  It’s putting people on edge.  It’s sending some people over the edge.  Some are lining up on the edge.  Many are lining up on opposing edges.  But, we need to seek not to let it make us edgy with each other.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man….” (Colossians 4:6)

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The resident teenager says, “Mom, you take Facebook comments way too seriously.” Not exactly sure why he says that–I operate under the assumption that my Facebook friends (most are age peers) are not that much into sensationalism (with the possible exception of Andy :-)) and, thus, will state their activities and their hearts truthfully and in all sincerity.

I jotted this post title in the margin of my journal a couple of weeks ago. Not sure where it came from. But I know I was thinking about being real. I am happy that in recent days of following my Facebook friends in the brief insights given by their daily posts I’ve learned: a friend is engaged; one has given birth to a beautiful baby girl; one’s spouse is recovering well from surgery; some are happy about new job opportunities; a few are reacting and recommending actions in light of the current state of politics and the economy; many celebrated Easter with great joy and gratitude; some are paying their taxes today; and my daughter needs a babysitter (a need creatively described as an invitation to a play date with the Granddaughter).

In recent months, I have stood on the sidewalk of Facebook Street, earnestly praying in silence, watching friends tenderly, lovingly see a dear mother and grandmother through her final days on earth. I have listened along the way to the roller coaster emotions of friends who believe God has called them to a mission and who wonder about the roadblocks they face. I hear the hopes and fears expressed by soon-to-be-graduates and persistent job-seekers as they face the unknown NEXT.

Back in the days of hand-written letters that were delivered to mailboxes by mailmen (that was in the days before they were “letter carriers”), one would occasionally get a letter that required “reading between the lines”. The rare friend whose letters described “living”, not just “life”, still had times when the words written didn’t say it all. The in-tune heart was required to “read between the lines”–to see, to hear, to feel what wasn’t explicitly stated.

Today, we communicate our lives in one- or two-line statements–sometimes in even less as we IM or text. How are we meant to be taken by those who “listen”? Do we want our readers to take our statements at face(book) value? Do we long for someone to “read between the lines”? Are we transparent enough to weep on Facebook? (Is Facebook the place for it?…that’s another post, I think…)

…Just wondering…

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It just dawned on me sometime in the last week–we are going through those teenager years again.  (For those who may not know our family so well, I say “again” because our older children are 25 and 23,  so we’ve already walked through their adolescent years.)  Granted, Zach turned 16 in February, so on the calendar he’s already been a teenager for three years.  But it has just been in recent months and weeks that some of the usual “biggies” of teenagerhood –driving, relationships, thinking about the future (i.e. college), etc.–have moved to the front burners.

Realizing we find ourselves at this stage of the journey once more, I can’t help but wonder what we’ve learned since the first time we took the trip.  I can sort out several ways that I’m hoping we’re wiser this time around:

  • I think we’re clearer on the “why’s”.  I heard myself saying last night something along these lines:  “When you’re deciding what’s right and wrong and how you will act and choose in a given situation, your chief considerations have got to be “What does God’s Word say about this?” and “How will my choice reflect on who God is?”  In the past, I hate to admit, we might have given more weight than we do now to choices based on how it reflects on the family or on the individual.  The example that the teenager had brought up (it was not the issue of the moment) was how people dress for church.  There are not any verses I know of that specifically tell me what to wear or not wear as I enter the sanctuary on a given Sunday morning in 2009.  Should my conclusion be that it doesn’t matter?  I don’t think so, even though we live in a culture that doesn’t think that much really matters as long as you feel good about what you’re doing.  There are commands that God gave worshippers of other times and places which I need to think about in terms of their broader applications for today.  The applications to my now are rooted in getting a grasp of who God is, what He is like.  Just as the teen who knows his parents well has a pretty good idea of what will fly or not in terms of choices and behavior, so as he gets to know his Heavenly Father will he be better and better able to discern what pleases Him and is in keeping with who He is and who He wants to be in that teen’s life.  That, ultimately, is way more important than what I think (hopefully there will be some matchup there) or how it reflects on our family (if it’s good enough for God, it should be good enough for us!).
  • Having said that, some things don’t matter.  The hardest part of parenting teens, for Michael and me, is the constant stream of requests from said teens  for permission to do this, do that, which means constant decision-making on our parts.  (Decision-making ranks right up there on our list of major stressors in life.  We are not naturally very decisive people–very odd, considering we are both first-borns.)   While we are very pleased that we have a  teen who respects the house rules and the makers of them enough that he willingly asks first, checks in, keeps us posted, etc., sometimes it would be nice not to have to sort out the reasons for a “yes” or a “no” in response to the “May I?”  Realizing that some things are really not a big issue lightens that load somewhat (that has to always be balanced with “choices have consequences”, of course, and the trick is to discern how significant the choice of the moment really is:  Will going to this movie instead of that one be a life-changer?  I am not big on recreational shooting, but will an evening of airsoft in the company of the guys in a physically safe environment warp my son for life?)  Learning to discern big from small, significant from insignificant is something that I think maybe we’ve gotten a little better at since round one of teenage parenting.
  • I hope we talk less but say more.  Not that we don’t spend time in conversation with Zach.  But I am hopeful that the words that come out of our mouths as parents are less fluff and more substance.  I do know that I am more inclined to be direct with the truth, rather than beating around the bush.  My goal is to be Biblical and to speak the truth in love in such a way that Zach will see it as a good thing, a loving boundary for his good.  (I know I have one former teen in our family circle who would have appreciated it if I’d arrived at this mode sooner!)
  • I believe we are more in tune to the specifics than to the generalities.  By that, I mean I think we’re more aware of the unique personality and maturity of this teen when any given situation comes up.  Not that we make the rules to fit the teen–there will always be some non-negotiables, rooted in moral truth.  But I find myself as a mom less and less inclined to say, “When Gabe and Ellen were teens…”  This is the deal:  That was then, this is now.  And they were not who Zach is.  Those are huge factors.  (I have a bit more understanding now of where my parents were when we older two kids used to accuse them of letting our younger siblings get away with murder when they were teens.)

The jury is still out on this one; there’s lots of road to cover.  We’ll travel it in the same way we traveled the first time we were here–by God’s grace.  But I’m hopeful that we are more savvy travelers for having been here once before.

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I grew up on a dairy farm (Holstein cows and John Deere tractors) in Branch County, Michigan.  My little town of Litchfield (just over the line into Hillsdale County) didn’t–and still doesn’t–have a traffic light, just signs to help one navigate around the town park where M-49 and M-99 intersect.  Is it any wonder that my hometown had an entity known as the Litchfield Farmers Club? 

dscf0994.jpgThis is on my mind because of a picture I came across Saturday when I was doing some cleaning.  The photo lives in the back pocket of a picture album my mom put together for me years ago.  In that album, my years up through college graduation are recorded in pictures that document familial and societal changes:  the growth of my family from one child (me) to five (twin siblings bring up the rear in our family line-up), the switchover from black and white to color photography.  Then there’s that 8×10 picture of the Litchfield Farmers Club.  The club members and their children posed to catch a moment in our town’s, in the club’s history (It was 1965, according to the writing on the back of the picture.  I think it was one of the club’s milestone anniversaries–the fiftieth?  It could well have been that, because, if I recall correctly, my grandparents had also belonged to the Farmers Club in their day.)  I’m guessing my parents ordered one of those pictures for each us kids, knowing that someday we’d be mature enough to appreciate them 

I remember the night that picture was taken.   I know it was hot, because I was a wearing a sleeveless dress that I’d gotten for my 10th birthday that June; that was the birthday my mom and I celebrated by attending the stage play of The Sound of Music at the Tibbetts Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan.  I’ve not worn much yellow in my life, but I liked that dress, yellow checked with navy trim, and I wore it every chance I got.  Either the IOOF Hall or the Municipal Hall above the fire station was the setting for the photograph.  I know it was one of those two upstairs places in our town where, over the years, I attended a number of banquets and wedding receptions, since, other than the school gymnasiums and the youth center, those were the largest gathering places in Litchfield.

As I look at the picture, it is in many ways like looking at a rolodex of names and places from my childhood.  Even today, I can name just about everyone in the picture, tell you where they lived, and who their kids were.  I’ve been at most of those people’s homes, since Farmers Club met monthly and the members took turns hosting the meetings.  During the summer months, the meetings were on the first Friday evenings.  During the winter months, when farmers’ schedules aren’t as demanding in the daytime since there are no crops to deal with, the group met for noonday dinner meetings on those first Fridays.  So, when we were little, before we were in school, or if the first Friday happened to fall on a day off of school (as it often did on Christmas break) we got to go to those meetings with my mom and dad.  (It was at one of those meetings that my brother Paul accidentally locked himself in somebody’s bathroom and had to be rescued.)  I can picture the kitchen of just about every lady in the photo. My parents were one of the younger couples in Farmers Club, so a lot of the kids pictured there were in high school–they were the kids who rode the same school bus as we did but got to sit in the back, who played on the high school ball teams, and who marched in the band at every Memorial Day or Wonderama parade (“Wonderama” was our small town summer celebration–now they call it “Sweet Corn Days”).  My uncle was a farmer too, so my cousins are seated near us in the photo as well. I point out to my son the Swedish couple, Gunnar and Astrid Enquist, who raised sheep, gave us orphan lambs to raise, and always let us stop by after Halloween trick-or-treating for a cup of hot chocolate and some ooh’s and ahh’s for our costumes.  I see my first 4-H leader, Evelyn Evans; my favorite club meeting ever at her house was when we brought unusual foods to taste–I had my first exposure to okra and to pine nuts in her kitchen.  I see Mr. and Mrs. Ferry whose name I always thought was cool (until I found out it wasn’t “Fairy”).  Names like “CarlandClaraDawson” and “WoodrowandLoisSouthfield” roll off my tongue–they don’t click in my mind as anything but duos, people who came as a package deal.  The names on the club roster were the last names of the 4-H members whose livestock projects occupied the stalls in the 4-H barns at the county fair each September.  When I looked at that picture on Saturday, I realized that there are a lot of single, short threads in the weaving of my life that originate with that tapestry of people. 

When I visit my hometown now, I still pass some of those farmers’ farms.  Some are now run by the second or third generation.  Some aren’t farms any more.  Most of the elders in the photo are dead, having faded one by one from the scene over the past dozen years.  

But, when I look at that picture, I still hear the laughter, still hear the singing that accompanied every Farmers Club meeting, still remember my mom and dad talking about what they would answer for the roll call question at that night’s get together, still can feel the warmth of caring and concern in that circle of friends united by the common bond of making things grow and caring for living creatures and producing goods that would nourish and supply many others outside of that circle.

And I smile.       

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Showers

April showers bring May flowers.  In this case, an April shower will bring a May wedding.

My dear friend Kris and I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday discussing plans for a bridal shower we’re giving for the daughter of a mutual friend.  It’s fun to think about how it will look, how it will feel, and how it will taste!

I used to think bridal showers (or baby showers, for that matter–maybe we’ll be hosting one of those in a few years!) were mainly about gifts.  But, the more I’ve attended them and the more I’ve even hosted a few, I’ve decided that’s not it at all–or at least not in the case of the best ones. 

Showers are about relationships.

The guest list for this particular shower is from the “friends”, as opposed to the “family”, list.  These people are a circle of family friends, mainly from the bride’s church, as well as some from work–those two circles will intertwine at this party.  Also included are the mothers of the bridesmaids–the friend circle ripples between generations.  Then there is the new circle of friends, as immediate family (mothers/siblings of the bridal pair) are included and their closest friends are on the guest list–so the ripples intertwine as two separate pebbles are plunked into the pond of life.  Kris and I are hosting this shower because our families have grown up together as we have shared the common life threads of homeschooling and of faith. 

I love being part of this weaving of a new piece of cloth. 

Question of the Day:  What ingredient should be part of every bridal shower? (Men, feel free to sit this one out.) 

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