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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Can Do It Myself

She rolled her eyes at me. 

“Mom.  I can do it.  I don’t need help.”

I watched as my eleven-year-old daughter, dressed in costume and all made up for her dance rehearsal, bend over at the waist and attempt to corral her slippery-smooth hair into a high ponytail.  “I know, but there are bumps.  Here’s the brush.  Smooth it out a little.”

She was exasperated with me; she just wanted me to leave her alone.  This was the dance we’d been doing lately – I take a step toward her and she steps away to keep the space between us.  Age eleven is when the independence starts to get real in our house.

But the hair – there were bumps.

“Look. If you just let me brush it up right here – in this one spot.  Smooth it out.  You can do the rest.”

She reluctantly let me help with the brush, but when it became apparent that I’d need to take over to get it all up in the hair band, she dropped her arms dramatically and sighed not a little disgustedly.

I threw my hands up in a display of peace.  “Okay,” I said.  “You’re right.  You can do it.  Do you want the brush?”  She gave me a quick shake of her head and disappeared into the bathroom stall.  Moments later she came out, hair all caught up in the ponytail.  I pretended not to see the bumps.

“I couldn’t get them all out,” she admitted.  “But I have to be able to do it myself.  You’re not going to be there with me for the recital, and I’ll have to do it then.  I need to practice.”  She knew she had gone too far with her initial reaction.

“I just figured that if I am here anyway, I might as well help,” I reasoned.  I left out the fact that my role as her parent is to instruct, model, and help.

“You could just go sit down and relax,” she said carefully.



It was a small battle, letting my child style her own hair.  Bigger ones are coming.  She has a strong mind and knows who she is and what she is capable of accomplishing.  I wonder how hard it will be for her to relinquish control later in life when things get tough and she is unable to rely on her own abilities.  I hope that she knows that her Father God is there for her then, to instruct, to model, to help.

It took me a lifetime to know this, to give up what I thought was mine all along, that which I compartmentalized and divvied up when I felt like it.  I meted out portions of myself when the situation called for it - I was generous to a friend who needed me for a task, but not for another who called me up when I was busy.  I showed unguarded love to my small children, but was chilly to my husband who forgot to pick up milk on the way home.  It’s an exhausting way to live, constantly assessing the worth of things and deciding how much of myself to expend.

I forget when I figured out that God gives me the ability to do just what he planned for me to do, when I learned that no matter how capable I feel, there is another level of capability in me that was fashioned by my creator.  Sometimes I catch myself having to learn that lesson again.  Like my daughter, there are bumps when I attempt to do things myself despite his constant offer of help and guidance.  God lets me go on ahead, stumbling and stopping and starting over and over again.

Thankfully he is there the whole time, watching me carefully and helping me smooth out the bumps with a different perspective, a life lesson, or simply his perfect guidance.

I regarded my daughter, proudly sporting her ponytail.  It wasn’t perfect, but this battle was not mine to win.  “Okay,” I told her.  “I’ll go sit down.  Come and find me if you need anything.”

 “Okay,” she replied.  She hesitated.  “Before you go, can you help me with the hairspray?”

I smiled at her.  “Of course.”

*******

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (NLT)


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Giving Up

Sometimes I have a hard time making big decisions.   I continue to hold onto a very strong fear of commitment that keeps me from going down a certain road – what if I miss something better and more fulfilling over there?  Maybe I should wait until something better comes along.  It’s easier to ruminate over the possibilities than to choose one direction.  I don’t want to give anything up to choose something else.

I see this quality in my children, my husband, and sometimes my friends – and it drives me crazy!  Let’s get moving, I want to say.  Make up your mind.  CHOOSE.

Lest anyone consider that sensitivity and compassion are not traits that one would readily use to describe me, I have to say that I get it.  Despite the frustration of waiting around while someone else makes a choice, I get their hesitation, their uncertainty.  When my son tries one new activity after another and deems none of them quite as exciting as sitting on the sofa with his game console, when my husband insists on yet another shopping excursion to look at gas grills, when our family talks and talks about buying new furniture or taking a trip to Disney World or going to a concert together, and instead do none of it, I get it.  Decisions are hard to make.  We don’t know how any of them will turn out.  We don’t know if we will do the right thing.

Giving up one kind of life to pursue another is one of the hardest things we have to do.  Sometimes it seems easier to continue where we are instead of change our course.  Quitting a job, exiting a relationship, or moving from one city to another, especially if the decision is unnecessary or possibly dangerous, is scary.  We move from the known to the unknown.  We don’t know what’s over the horizon, and it could be filled with obstacles and pain.

Before I really knew Jesus, I remember feeling this way about a Christian lifestyle.  People who were more religious were different somehow.  Their lives were filled with things that just weren’t for me.  Praying out loud, spending more than the required Sunday morning at church helping out, reading the Bible, associating with other church people.  These perceived differences were enough to keep me away from getting sucked into that major life transformation.  What if I become more religious and am forced to give up everything?  How will I know how to navigate such a drastic change?  It was easier to stay right where I was.

The funny thing is, when I made the decision to make Jesus a part of my life, it wasn’t a huge one at all.  It sort of just happened.  Jesus waited until I was in the perfect spot in my life to reveal himself to me, and I walked through the door of his church with open eyes and an open heart.  It didn’t seem like such a big change after all.  I didn’t give anything up, not really.  More was added to my life than was taken away when I decided to read the Bible, pray, and hang out at church with other church people.  God knew how to make the decision easier for me.  He knows that I would have resisted a stronger arm, hidden from a thunder clap of realization.

God can do this for all of us – he knows our tendencies, our personalities – and he uses the way he made us to bring us around to him.  He might bang some of us over the head with his truth, or ease us into his Kingdom through small twists in life circumstances.  Resting in his arms is what we are made for, so when we make the decision to follow his lead, it’s no surprise that it just feels right, like we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

And not like we are giving up anything at all.

*******

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.


A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.  Matthew 4:18-22 (The Message)