Category Archives: Love

Mean Girls

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“Mean Girls”…. if you haven’t watched the movie, more than likely you’ve heard of it or at least have a good idea what the plot might reference.  For the most part, human behavior follows a predictable pattern.  As a child, a person is typically loving and trusting.  As a teenager, that same person becomes self-centered and critical of others, almost certainly to the point of mean.  Then, usually during college years, a responsible and consistent adult outlook and actions develop.  There are those few, however, who are and will remain – MEAN. In the movie, a group of teenage girls band together to form an elite (at least in their eyes) group.  They proceed to mock and torture anyone else who does not meet their lofty standards.  Predictably, they turn on each other, disband and the process of maturity begins after feelings have been hurt and consequences have been suffered.  In real life, the same plot plays out in every middle school and high school across America.  Basically, it’s a right of passage that every person participates in, whether they want to or not.  Most people outgrow this stage, but there are those few “mean” girls and boys who never manage to grow up.  It’s always disheartening when you have to interact with these people.  Unfortunately, they live and work among us.  It is an unavoidable, unpleasant experience of life.

Recently, I had the disappointing misfortune to cross paths with a few of these malcontents.  Human nature takes over during moments like this and propels me to levels of great revenge plotting.  Fantasies of lightning bolts flashing from my eyes to zap and torture these “mean” girls run rampant through my mind.  Alternately, deep and gaping holes in my heart weigh me down and crush my spirit.  At some point, in every person’s life, an experience like this will take you by surprise and will come from someone who should have grown up and from whom you least expect this action.  Catty, infantile, mean, hurtful and juvenile are all words that aptly describe these individuals.  In the last couple of years, a person who becomes prey to a ‘mean’ girl or boy is actually labeled a victim of bullying.  The media has ensured public awareness for this growing problem.  Despite this knowledge and labeling, meanness still exists.  We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, so the only thing we can do is to choose to respond with love and kindness.  This is completely contrary to my first instinct to plot revenge.  In order to repay hatefulness with love, I have to actively choose to die to myself and let Jesus love through me.  If I react in anger, which is that first human instinct, then I not only do not reflect Jesus and His love, I also become a victim, because anger is a self-consuming emotion.  Anger is an active pursuit.  It is not passive, but rather is a driving force of reaction to something perceived as insulting or damaging.  As a Christian, I am called to a higher standard.  Romans 12:2 says that we are “not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  It’s not natural, nor is it easy to react to a negative situation with love.  The only way this becomes possible is to have a mind that is focused on Christ.

Think for a moment about Jesus’ three years of ministry on earth.  We have only been given a small glimpse into the activity that took place during these 1095 days.  Over 60% of our known history of Jesus’ actions is based on His healing of other’s hearts and bodies.  The last verse of John says that if all that Jesus did was to be written down, he supposed that there would not be enough books in the world to hold all His activity. This tells me that Jesus loved and He loved a lot.  It’s one thing to say you love someone, but actions are the proof.  Angry people don’t usually help those to whom their anger is directed.  Conversely, someone filled with love is guaranteed to help all.  In the same way that anger is an active emotion, so is love.  If we are to be like Jesus, then we are to love with our mouths and our actions.

Matthew 5:43-44 ~ 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Mark 12:33 ~ “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

These are the verses that I am focusing on to ingrain the spirit of love in my heart (the renewing of my mind) in hopes that my first reaction to meanness will become love.  I am not quite there, and I am not sure that I will ever get to that level of Christianity, but I strive towards that goal.  I can hear the Apostle Paul cheering me as I run the race, pressing toward that mark.  The finish line is still in the distance where Jesus sits with crowns and trophies and is ready to say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”.  I want to be found faithful on that day.  Lord, please help me to love as You have loved me!

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Spa Day

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This post makes me a little bit sad and I think you will be sad as well once you have heard this story.  After waiting as long as I could, trust me when I say it was long and overdue, I ventured into my favorite local nail salon this morning. I have been getting manicures and pedicures on occasion for many years and have frequented several different locations, so I feel qualified to say that this salon really ranks with the best.  They are clean, professional, quiet and, based on all of  my experiences, very nice.  That being said, if you have ever visited a nail salon, you know the ethnicity of most of the technicians is Vietnamese.  English is usually not their first language.  Seinfeld had a roaring success of an episode based on the language barrier and the rapid fire conversation that takes place between the workers in their native language followed by the halting English spoken to one of the characters of the show.  That episode is very true to life.  Sometimes, if you close your eyes, you can almost transport yourself to Saigon as the ambience and sounds are so cultural.  I feel fortunate to have grown up in my generation where segregation and racism is not as much of an issue as my parent’s generation faced.  That is not to say that racism  is not something that still needs to be addressed, but from my perspective I don’t see race as a defining trait but rather a part of someone that is unique and interesting.  This will be important in a minute.

Today was busy at the nail salon.  Every nail station and pedicure chair was full and technicians were working with multiple clients.  Next to a dentist, I can’t think of many other jobs that I would not want to perform.  Washing feet for a living just does not sound like fun.  The ladies who work at the salon, though, are always cheerful, joyful and diligent.  These are hard workers!  They typically open at 9am, after driving an hour in traffic, work through lunch and stay until 9pm or later only to drive back home and take care of their families.  The pay is not fantastic and from my observations, tips are not that great either. I like to people watch so having to wait is not a frustrating thing for me to do if my feet are soaking in hot, soapy water and I am sitting in a chair that massages my back.  As a matter of fact, this is one of the main reasons I go to the salon.  There is nothing like this experience and I always hope for a delay to extend my stay.  This morning, I had a coffee in one hand and a magazine in the other while I enjoyed some quiet time, interrupted only by sincere apologies from my manicurist for being too slow.  Despite my reassurances, she persisted in begging forgiveness.  It was not long after this encounter, that one of the owners walked up and thanked me for being so nice to his sister.  I had never talked to him before and really was not sure what he was talking about in the first place.  Then he continued speaking and I am quite certain that I will not soon forget his words.  He said that his family escaped from Vietnam when they were little and children were being taken from their homes during the days of the Vietnam conflict.  He has not seen his parents since that time.  They came to America, where they lived in a community and managed to take care of each other.  They could not attend school as they did not speak English but rather worked to support their “village”.   They are able to learn English now as their children attend school and come home to share their education with the adults.  He said that most people do not have patience and are either mean or rude to them about the language barrier.  He said that often his sister cries because women are so hateful to her.  He then said that she always remembers me because I have been nice to her and take time to ask about her and her family.  Wow!  I was not expecting this type of conversation this morning or really, anytime.  I am ashamed to say that I am not always patient or nice and immediately wondered how many people I might have hurt in the past on account of my frustration or irritation because a conversation did not go the way I anticipated it should.  It’s so easy to have an entitled feeling.  I am not sure why as I am certainly no better than any other person that I may encounter.  This applies to shoppers in the grocery, other patrons at the DMV or even to family members.  God is no respecter of persons.  Matthew 23:11, and subsequently all the other 3 Gospels, states that “if we want to be first, then we must be servants to all.”  This is pretty self-explanatory language.  I have no right to esteem myself higher than any other person and actually am not acting as a Christian if I am not serving others.  This does not translate to literally mopping floors as a slave but rather the motives and actions of my heart toward others.

I felt my heart break a little this morning thinking of how difficult it must be to come to a place where you know no one, speak not the local language and further receive treatment that is hostile and unwarranted when you are literally washing the feet of those who are so mean.  Sound familiar?  Yup, to me also.  Jesus felt this way on my account.  He teaches me lessons all the time in ways that make it ever apparent to my finite mind how much He loves me.  How can I not be a reflection of Him to others I encounter.  This is my daily prayer, “Lord, make me like you!”  Today I also added a prayer for my “nail girl” and asked God to help me continue to share His love with her.

Wicked Words

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My husband has created a visual paradise in our back yard.  He has a green thumb and the ability to execute his vision perfectly.  The result is a scenic and relaxing area that the entire family can enjoy.  I walked outside this morning though and noticed that there was something not quite right about the area that usually greets me.  After a minute of soaking in the total scene, I was able to zero in on the conflict that was disturbing the usual flow.  There was a scattering and an additional lump of white wood shavings on the deck surrounding one of our Adirondack chairs.  This was perplexing and irritating.  Irritating because I not only had to clean the area but the chair would now forever be marred and would bear the reminder of this incident.  Perplexing because I could not imagine what caused this to occur.  We have been dealing with a woodpecker who likes to peck the metal at the opening of our fireplace.  This has been comical because I like to sew in the room that has the fireplace.  When the sewing machine is engaged, the sound emanating from the engine creates a noise that the woodpecker must assimilate and connect to another woodpecker.  This causes some frantic and staccato sounds while the bird tries to communicate.  Meanwhile, my chocolate lab gets excited and starts to whine in her efforts to communicate.  It really is quite humorous.  But this matter of the deck chair was not as funny.  When my husband came home from work, he looked at the markings on the chair and determined it to be a chipmunk’s handiwork.  He cleaned the area and sprayed something that would deter the animal from his effort at remodeling our furniture and hopefully will put an end to this damage.  Preventative but not reversible.

 

This got me thinking.  One of my favorite books in the Bible is James.  The author writes in such a way that is straight forward and easy to understand.  There is no mincing of words.  The message is not easily misunderstood:  Words are not to be used casually and without consideration.  They are like missiles that are aimed at a target.  There is not much that can be done to take them back once you have released them and the damage from contact is immediate and long lasting.  I have a short temper and a quick fuse, inherent to my red hair gene.  At least that is where I comically place the blame.  Internally, I know this is a character defect.  The problem with a quick fuse and an open mouth is that words fly like bullets, hitting their mark and wreaking havoc before rationalization and calmness can overtake the initial onslaught of destruction.   I find myself in this battle zone frequently.  This is an area of correction that I need to work toward perfecting but that I am sure will take a lifetime to accomplish.  These thoughts were running through my mind as I considered the white paint flecks and damaged wood on our deck.  It seemed to be a metaphorical message aimed straight to my heart.  Each swipe of the chipmunk’s teeth into the chair, left a mar that would require some reconstruction by a carpenter.  One bite would have been close to unnoticeable, but the amount of marks left on our chair are very evident and had taken some time for the chipmunk to create.  The parallel life message is that one errant, unkind word said in a moment of unguardedness or anger leaves a mar on the inside of someone’s heart.  The damage on the outside may not be as evident.  If these words continue, however, they will quickly create a downtrodden and hurt person whose wounded spirit becomes evident to all.  It has been said that “you only hurt the ones you love”.  That may be true but it should not happen.  Why are we nicer to those we don’t know?  Why can we filter our mouths around colleagues but not our family?  This is not the behavior that Christians are called to exhibit.  No, completely the opposite, as a matter of fact, should be the actions of someone who has experienced ultimate forgiveness.   We are called to a higher standard for we are the words, actions and representative of Christ on earth.  How will others know Him if we profess to be Christians, yet live worse than someone who has never darkened the door of a church.  The good news for those we have hurt with our unkind or hateful words is that there is a Carpenter who can reconstruct and heal a broken heart or wounded spirit.  The best option is to avoid the need for reconstructive surgery by remaining strong in our walk with the Lord and allowing Him to season the words we speak.

 

My goal:  keep my mouth shut if I have nothing good to say AND think carefully before I release my bullets of words.  There is no friendly fire when words are the weapons.  Please leave feedback or suggestions that have helped you to be cautious when you speak. 

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Tuesday Traffic

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You would think that Tuesday traffic would be better than Monday traffic, but you would be wrong.  My take on this theory is that drivers save their Monday frustration for Tuesday in hopes that other drivers used their road rage on Monday thus giving them the home court advantage.  Whatever the reason, Tuesday traffic is like the terrible twos.  It’s loud, annoying and frustrating.  There is some good take away from this unavoidable time slot though and for me it is the “me” time.  I have almost uninterrupted time to pick my own radio stations or to, my kids would be mortified, just listen to silence.  This morning I was distracted and ended up sitting through the same traffic light for two cycles so it gave me time to observe the pedestrians and other drivers adjacent to me.  Maybe fate orchestrated this opportunity.  I recognized my own irritation mirrored in the expression of most of the people I saw but I caught the eye of one particular man on a bicycle.  He was not like me.  His clothes were dirty, his hair uncombed, greasy and long.  He looked tired and sad and completely like someone that I would not want to sit next for any extended period of time.  This was a complete chance encounter and I doubt I will ever see him again but I believe that God allowed this scene to act out in front of me.  The radio was playing Casting Crowns and I happened to catch the lyrics to this new and unfamiliar song just at this moment.  “No one knows what we’re for only against when we judge the wounded.”  In that quick space of time, I felt as if God had singled me out to tell me that I was not like Him.  It was a needed reminder that I am no better than anyone else and have no more rights than anyone else.  I need to be reaching out instead of closing myself off.  I see a lot of smiling Christians in church but, yet, the same Christians shield their eyes and guard their hearts in a different setting.  I am ashamed to say that I frequently do the same.  My intentions are always to be reaching out but I typically fall short of those goals and stay to myself instead.

As I continue on my journey to “know” Jesus, it occurs to me that the best way to know Him is to be a friend to sinners in the same way He was – and they are everyone.  “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God,” Romans 3:23.

This was my Tuesday traffic adventure.  Share yours!

Loving Myself

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Amelia Island
Teeing off and posing. What a great time we had on that vacation!

 

I love me, I love me not.  I love me, I love me not.  Do these words sound familiar?  Every time I think that I have come to grips with who I am, I catch a fleeting glimpse of myself in the mirror.  The horror of seeing, or rather not seeing, myself in that sideways glimpse that really puts everything in proportion drives me into a total downward spiral of self-criticism.  Gravity is not my friend!  If only I had the arms of Jennifer Anniston, the behind of Jennifer Lopez and the legs of any of the professionals on Dancing with the Stars, then I could be truly happy with myself……like a conveyor belt, these self-loathing accusations float through my thoughts until they have me convinced that because I am not pretty like the models and actresses that I must also be unlovable and undesirable.  Then I move to the closet and, well, let’s face it, my middle-class wardrobe does not compare to the couture of Beverly Hills or even the store front windows in the mall.  Several changes of clothes later, I move to the counter to start the transformation of my hair.  Maybe I should just throw in towel, so to speak, or just grab my nearest hat which is so well worn that it comfortably conforms to my head while deftly hiding my unruly locks.  This vicious cycle is one that has repeated itself way too many times to count.

Thankfully, the me I see in the mirror is not the me that really matters.  For obvious reasons, I need to take care of myself with good nutrition, exercise and grooming, but how I look or dress is not the be-all, end-all that defines me.  As I learn to place my focus on how God sees me – a perfect reflection of Him with a unique purpose and plan – then I can easily be comfortable with loving myself.  This body that I am in right now is just a shell that carries the real me for the short time I am on earth.  My real journey begins when I reach my heavenly home and eternity starts.  This life is a dress rehearsal for so much more.  Here’s the thing though, I cannot truly love others or God while I’m here, if I can’t love myself.  How can I love God yet not love myself when He says I am perfectly and wonderfully made?  Herein lies the battle between what I know and what I see.  I have been so conditioned to look for aesthetic beauty that I rarely look beneath the surface to see the diamond that is hidden within.  I am striving to consciously look beneath the surface in hopes that this action will become an unconscious habit.  Wish me luck as I perfect this newly started habit.

 

What do you do when you feel the doubts about your self-worth?  What words of advice can you share?  Please let me know!