When I Need to Assume the Best About People

Last week, I received an email which had my stress level rising before I’d even read it – the subject title alone got me going. I was pretty sure I knew exactly what the email was about, and unfortunately, reading it confirmed my suspicions. I was also fairly confident I knew why the email had been sent, and was having a difficult time keeping my emotions from rising to the occasion.

As I began to mentally form a response, two wise voices started saying things in my head.

The first voice was Ben’s, because he always says, “You can never be too gracious.”

The second voice was Brene Brown, who says:

quoteI had to think these things over for a little while. The ungracious, defensive part of me felt the email was critical, but how could I interpret it in the best way possible? I decided to take it as someone’s well-meaning intention to show care and concern, rather than criticism, even though it was hard for me to actually appreciate their input.

I wrote the most gracious response I could come up with, and then deleted the email so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back to it.

Remember how we make up stories in our heads? It can be easy to take a comment or email the wrong way, and make up all kinds of reasons as to why someone would say or do something annoying or even hurtful. But more and more, I’m seeing how I need to make generous assumptions of other people – when they question my choices, or when I’m mentally questioning theirs! Can I assume everyone is trying their best? That doesn’t mean it’s THE best, or even THEIR best, but could I at least say that in their situation, with their current resources and abilities, they are trying their best?

I remember a friend once saying, “Nobody sets out to make really bad decisions on purpose.” We all have our reasons, our weaknesses, and our moments. I’m trying my hardest, but I fall short, and I need a lot of grace. So does everybody else.

Now, I am completely aware of the fact that sometimes, it does NOT look like people are trying their best. It was hard to make generous assumptions this morning when I went to check on my girls’ bedroom after I asked them to clean it up, and it was still a bit of a disaster. Was it their best? Probably not.

And I’ll never forget the day when my high school gym teacher made some assumptions about my performance on the basketball court. He stopped the game, and came storming over to me with whistle blowing, arms waving, and voice yelling, completely humiliating me in front of the whole class.

He assumed I didn’t care about doing my best, but what he didn’t understand was that I cared too much – I was so worried about making a fool of myself, it was self-protection to not try, because when I was purposely not trying, no one could see how bad I still was if I actually tried.

When I think back to that painful memory, it makes me wonder if people (even children who are asked to clean up their rooms) are held back in some way from doing their best. When Kaylia goes into an overwhelmingly messy room, she shuts down. She uses a variety of tactics to avoid cleaning it up, because her brain just can’t take it in. If I hand her one item at a time, she has no problems taking that item and returning it to the right place. I’m trying to teach her how to do this on her own – don’t look at the pile, just grab one item, figure out where it goes, and keep repeating until it’s all done. But that’s really hard for her. She’s held back from her best.

So let’s say we’re all trying our best, or we have issues holding us back from our best – I’d say either one calls for grace and generous assumptions.

I want to learn to expect the best from people. And when they can’t give it, I want the sensitivity to realize we are all held back with old hurts and emotional baggage, but usually, we’re all trying really hard.

What’s the most generous assumption I can make?

Let the Dead Leaves Drop

dead leavessource

This one’s been sticking with me lately….

As I’ve shared in the past, I’ve been going for counseling the last few months, to deal with the postpartum anxiety that crept up on me in spring. Time and again, when an issue comes up, whether it’s something painful from the past, a negative thought pattern, or a habit that’s not beneficial for me in any way, I want to understand WHY this is happening. What made me start hurting that way, thinking that way, forming that habit?

And always, my counselor says, “You don’t really need to understand why this is happening. You only need to recognize that it’s not serving you well, and let it go.”

It’s been hard for me, because I really like to understand why things are the way they are, and work the way they do. I love analyzing things, trying to understand the cause and effect. In some situations, I still believe this is helpful and healthy, but I’m starting to see that in other cases, it’s just a waste of time. My counselor is right – acknowledge it, and move on. Accept that it has been, but no longer needs to be.

Or more fitting for fall – let it drop like dead leaves.

leavesAmazing how there can be such beauty, even in dead leaves! We can enjoy the beauty of change, of dropping what’s no longer necessary, and making room for new growth. Fall has always seemed like a season of endings to me, but maybe it’s a lot more about preparing for new beginnings than I ever realized….

Can you think of anything you need to drop this fall?

Redeem Summer

My sweet hubby is finally back to his usual self, after his crazy allergic reaction two weeks ago. THANK GOODNESS – I don’t think I could take much more of him looking at me with those puffy, red eyes! He looked so uncomfortable, but he was awesome about everything. He would just silently scratch away, suffering quietly. We are so different that way – somehow, when I’m the one who’s sick, I feel the need to provide hourly updates, so he’ll know exactly how I’m doing all day long. Ben would rather keep it a secret when he’s sick. He’s had to be a little more open about it this time, seeing as you can’t really hide fuschia skin…

So he’s good to go, but in the meantime…we’ve kinda missed summer. We had to cancel our vacation plans, and when my mother-in-law asked me the other day if we’ve been using our deck a lot, I looked at her blankly, and thought, “Deck? Have we used our deck? I haven’t been out there in ages!! Why haven’t we used our deck??!”

Then I realized, it’s because we’ve been in survival mode for three weeks, which hasn’t been very conducive to lounging around on the deck, relaxing with a cold drink.

And I felt sad, because fall is pretty much here, and while I’m sure it will be awesome, I’m feeling like we missed out on some really great parts of summer.

I was sharing these thoughts with a friend this week, and she prayed for me – she asked God to “redeem summer”. That stuck with me.

I thought about it as I went home, and all the next day, and then I looked up the definition of redemption.

Some definitions for the word are not helpful, in this situation – “buy back, rescue”. We can’t get a do-over. It’s done, and it is what it is.

But redemption can also mean atonement, which means “to make amends, or compensate for a wrong”.

I would like to make amends with summer!

nest

Because you know what? Even if summer didn’t go the way I hoped it would, and it wasn’t the most fun we’ve ever had, it was good. Really good. There were some hard lessons I needed to learn, some hard work was done, and we made it through some hard experiences.

But it was good.

It reminds me of a quote I shared a few weeks ago:

The key to happinesssource

So here’s to making amends with summer, and letting fall be whatever it will be!

An Invitation to Live

Hello, Everyone! I’m leaving for a retreat this weekend, and have been taking the week off from blogging in order to prepare for speaking this weekend. I’ll be back on Monday to share about the retreat with you!

I bought Ben an awesome Christmas gift. I’m not sure who likes it more – me or him. Maybe me. But it’s so good!

It’s the book Love Does, by Bob Goff, and I completely loved reading it. It’s a book full of stories and examples of all the ways in which we need to stop saying we want an incredible life, and actually run out the door to start living it – going out and having adventures, finding people who need help and love, and just doing the stuff we sit around dreaming about.

I’ve never been invited to the Oscars or to Paul McCartney’s birthday party or to a space shuttle launch. I’m waiting for my invitation to National Treasure 3. If I got an invitation to any of those things, or for that matter, to the real White House Easter egg hunt, I’d definitely go. There’s nothing like feeling included.

There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distraction yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited — every day, all over again.

If there is one thing I want to learn from these years of being a mom at home with my kids, it’s to accept the invitation, and be fully here, with my girls, every day.

reading

Sometimes I need to slow down and remember that the big, beautiful life I’ve dreamed about is actually happening right now, even though it may look a little small sometimes.

Sometimes I need to be reminded about that invitation to fully live, and I need to really think about the fact that these girlies of mine are the most important part of my adventure, even when the everyday stuff starts to feel repetitive.

The little things are actually the big things.

We remember that, and then we keep going, fully present and alive, ready to experience the next adventure together.

I’m sure there will be many more amazing adventures when our girls are all grown up, and there’s no one continually hollering for Mommy, but I bet I’ll look back on this time and think it was my favorite. What is ordinary and everyday right now will someday be a very beautiful memory, but I don’t want to wait until then to see all the beauty.

I don’t want anything to stop me from showing up and being all here.

Self-Inflicted Hardships

So after I wrote Wednesday’s post about taking a break from media and entertainment, it suddenly occurred to me that I’m embarking on my third fast in four months – electricity, healthcare appointments, and now media.

At first I wondered what was wrong with me – why do I constantly feel the need to give stuff up??

But then I realized that each of these experiences has been amazing, and I feel as if I’ve been learning a lot through them.

And suddenly, a conversation from this last weekend came back to me…

A friend of mine at camp was talking about life on full-time staff at camp, and she was asking me questions about our five years out there – she was curious about what kinds of things we did to grow together as a team, and how we made sure to be continually seeking Jesus, and growing closer to Him as a group.

As I thought about it, I could clearly see how it was always the hardest times out there which had caused us to grow the most – to pray the most fervently, to depend on each other, and share life in the deeper ways.

hard times

When I shared this with her, she was a bit disappointed, because she said everything was going so well! How would they grow together if nothing was hard, or going wrong?!

But then I realized that December was a month of huge growth and development for me personally, and it was optional. I voluntarily put myself through that challenge. I did it because I felt it was what God was calling me to do, but it was still a choice I made.

I came to the conclusion that deep growth is usually the result of difficulties that cause us to depend completely on God, but those difficulties can be self-inflicted!

Like going on a missions trip. People usually seem to come back completely on fire for God when they’ve been on a missions trip. They were challenged and stretched, and saw God work in ways they had never seen before. Their joy and excitement is usually quite contagious.

Nobody forced them to go on that missions trip – they did it voluntarily, but it brought about huge growth.

So here’s the thing: My life has been fairly awesome for the last few years. After a stretch of numerous health problems, multiple miscarriages, years of infertility, and a few other difficulties that we’ve had to weather, I feel as though I’m now in a season of blessing. It would be very easy to start coasting, becoming complacent, without some crisis to jerk me awake to the reality of how much I still need Jesus, on a very daily basis.

But my new theory is that even when the storms of life have calmed down for a bit, Jesus can still lead us into challenging situations just because they’re good for us. He shakes things up to keep us from falling asleep. He continually calls us to go deeper, further in.

I want to choose growth, when the opportunity presents itself!

Want to share about a time when you voluntarily put yourself through a tough time and experienced great growth?

Do Not Strive for Extraordinary Lives…

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin

Kaylia

I think one of my favorite things about being a mom is the second chance it gives me to see the world through the eyes of a child. If you let them, children will teach you to go slow, and find much excitement in ladybugs, wading in puddles, and burying your feet in the sand.

I love the idea of teaching children to strive for an ordinary life, but I don’t think they really need to be taught to find joy in the little things – they seem to know how to do that already, quite naturally. Maybe it’s our job to teach them not to forget it….

I wish you a day filled with the wonders of an ordinary life!

Tell me – what’s one beautiful, wonderful, ordinary thing you’re enjoying right now?