Friday, April 22, 2011

Second Chances

To balance out my previous post, I want to discuss second chances. I think most people deserve one.

Many, many years ago when I was a mom with an infant, a two year old, and a four year old, I had a casual luncheon that gave me a unique perspective on second chances.

My four year old son had made friends with a boy in his preschool class and wanted a play date. The other boy's mother seemed normal enough, so I invited the family to lunch after school one day.

The other mom also had an infant (8 weeks old), a two year old, and a four year old. We had greeted one another when we'd pick up our boys, and making another friend seemed like a nice idea. We set a date.

When the day arrived, she and her children came to our home. The boys and even the two-year-old girls seemed to be having fun playing. The other mom and I were in the kitchen as I prepared lunch.

Our date wasn't at all what I'd expected it to be. The other mom seemed unfriendly, distant, and only answered my conversational questions with one-word answers. To say the luncheon was awkward is an understatement. I was tremendously relieved when it came time for our guests to go home.

We continued to smile and greet each other at preschool when our paths would cross. A few weeks later, she invited me and my children to her home for lunch. You can imagine how thrilled I was with that invitation. I tried to politely say no. But she wouldn't have it.

I couldn't imagine why she would want to repeat our miserable first get together, but she was adamant, so I gave in and we set up a date.

Honestly, I even hoped one of my kids would get the sniffles to get us out of that meeting. But that didn't happen, and we joined them for lunch. Again.

The kids were all thrilled and immediately wandered off to play while I sat with my baby in her kitchen, watching the seconds tick by, counting the moments until we could leave.

She poured us some tea and pulled out the chair next me. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. "Thank you for giving me a second chance," she said.

It turns out the morning of our first luncheon she was abandoned by her husband. He told her early in her pregnancy that he didn't want to be married. She hoped it was a phase. It wasn't, and he'd stayed only until the baby was eight weeks old. Her son was so excited at the prospect of coming to my house, she didn't have the heart to cancel. She was so heartbroken, she couldn't even speak. She told me how grateful she was that I welcomed them and that I kept up an ongoing conversation, even if it was one sided.

We enjoyed a nice friendship until my family moved out of town. She got her life together and seemed to become happy again.

Although I can't recall her name, I'll never forget her story and the lesson I learned about always giving someone another chance. You never know the trials someone else is enduring.

Too often we pass by others and never know the hardship that is coloring their lives. So the next time someone seems awkward or unfriendly consider that they could be waging a very private battle, and a simple smile from you could give them a moment of relief.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If fences make good neighbors, do boundaries make good friends?

A few weeks ago I saw an article that says 84% of Facebook users admit to being annoyed by friends on Facebook. Perhaps I’m blessed, but I’m rarely annoyed by my FB friends and am often blessed by people I connect with (mostly) online.

I wonder though, in the frenzy to cultivate and interact with online friends, if we sometimes forget the meaning of true friendship. Ideally there’s a give and take to a relationship, an intention to make your friends as happy as they make you, a desire to be treated as well as you treat your friends. And herein lies the rub: That doesn’t always happen.

If fences make good neighbors, do boundaries make good friends? Should you erect a fence to surround your heart and protect it from careless comments and hurtful behavior? Now I don’t want to have the Great Wall of China encasing my heart, but maybe a pretty picket fence with a lovely design stenciled on the pickets and a pretty gate that opens to true friends.

I am generous to a fault with other people. I always give them leeway. If a careless word is tossed my way, I think that it was unintentional. If someone does something that wounds my heart, I tell myself that they really didn’t mean it that way. If a joke cuts too deeply, I chide myself for being too sensitive. I know that part of the problem is dysfunction from my childhood. I pretty much had to take whatever was thrown my way and swallow it, regardless of whether it made me choke going down.

This image pretty much sums up the way I’ve responded to hurtful actions and words:

Now don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not inundated with awful people in my life. And I believe that often my excuses are spot on. Most people don’t intend to be hurtful. But I’ve had some hard knocks in my life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life’s too short allow myself to withstand needless pain. If someone wants to be nasty, I don’t have to be a willing victim.

I’ve grown to be an optimist. I’ve concluded that I always want to see the glass as half full, no matter how much liquid is left. I know that the sun will rise tomorrow, and at the end of the day I’ve got a great life.

But still when that little voice from deep within tells me it’s okay to not be a doormat, I often don’t have the courage to stand up for myself. I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this, my friend (and wonderful author) Courtney Walsh posted about boundaries recently.

So what’s the point, you ask? The point is that I think I’m beginning to gather the strength and dignity to kindly not allow others to roll over me. Now don’t expect an overnight transition--I’m a project, and I’m working on me.

What about you? Do you protect your heart?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2011 ACFW Colorado Writers’ Retreat

I had been looking forward to this year’s writers’ retreat for months, longing for some spiritual refreshment and encouragement on my writing journey.

The retreat was held last weekend, and it was wonderful. The speaker throughout the event was Cec Murphy, an all-around good guy and author of 150+ books.

Cec used his book Knowing God Knowing Myself as a springboard for instruction and discussion. It’s a great book, and I continued to read it after I returned home.

We discussed our significance as both people and authors.

I expected to have an easy, relaxing retreat, feeding from nuggets of wisdom that were easy-to-digest, low-hanging fruit. Instead I got a generous portion of truth and encouragement that was sometimes difficult to swallow. It was a weekend with both tears and laughter.

Some jewels we received:

*What we do doesn’t determine our value. What we are determines our value.

*To find your author’s voice you need to discover who you are.

*Writing gives readers access to your private world. (That’s a scary truth.)

*Where’s nothing wrong with being who you are.

*God uses both our strengths and weaknesses.

*You are more important than what you do or don’t do. (I really needed to hear this!)


Monday, April 04, 2011

Reading and Writing

One of the best things a writer can do to grow in their craft is to read -- to read all kinds of books in all kinds of genres.

I recently had the opportunity to read Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer. Tricia was kind enough to put me on her influencer list so I got an advanced copy from her publisher.

Having read other books by Tricia, I was eager to read another. I loved her historical romance novels, she creates interesting characters and puts them into emotional times and settings. To tell the truth, I was surprised to see that she'd written an Amish novel.

As expected, Beside Still Waters was beautifully written. I had read a few Amish novels before this one, and they are usually set in an Amish community. This novel is different. The family at the center of the story leaves their closed community to travel to a Amish community that is surrounded by and a part of "the English" world.

I love that Tricia has her characters grappling with their faith and recognizing faith in those who don't live under their strick rules. For me the story boiled down to this issue: trusting in your faith or trusting in God. The habits of a lifetime are firmly ingrained, but a seeking heart and a loving God are powerful motivators.

This book makes you realize that the object of our faith is much greater than our faith itself. I enjoyed visiting a world less hectic than mine and watching characters grow and discover a firmer and truer relationship with God.

Beside Still Waters gave me hours of enjoyment. You should consider putting it on your TBR (to be read) pile.