CHOICES

CHOICES

*** DISCLAIMER: This post is not about pointing fingers at anyone for past  mistakes. It is about life lessons. And integrity. If anyone happens to recognize any of the people involved, please refrain from commenting. This happened a very long time ago and it is just an example. All of the people concerned are people who, I’m sure, mean well. ***

Many years ago, I was in charge of all of the Wednesday night classes for the children at what was then my church. The Sunday School department was a separate department. My elementary school aged daughter came home from Sunday school one day and was excited to report that her teacher, who I will call Miss Lisa (not her real name) was going to host a class party in a few weeks, I am out on an upcoming Saturday. After granting her permission to go, she RSVPed to this teacher, who is new to that congregation, and I wrote the event down in my daily planner.

A week or so later, my daughter came home with the news that her Wednesday night teacher, who I will call Miss Sandra, (not her real name), had planned a class party on the exact same day and time. Sandra’s home was much more beautiful and bigger than the other woman’s modest house was, and my daughter reported to me that all of the girls at church in her age group we’re going to go to that party instead. Sandra was a long time member of the church, her husband was a deacon, so she was very well-known and respected in the community. She was also of the reputation of having an extraordinarily kind heart.

As the Director of the Wednesday night programs, which Sandra’s class fell under, I Felt compelled to approach her and ask her nicely if she would move her party to the following week or later in the summer. I did not hesitate, because I knew she had a spirit of cooperation. I was sure that she would understand my concern, that the other woman, a relatively new church member, might get her feelings hurt if all of the class members went to the other party.

Unfortunately, Sandra did not see it that way. She informed me that she had plans the next few weeks that would conflict with her throwing a party and she insisted on giving it the exact same day as Lisa’s party. So my daughter told me that she wanted to go to Sandra’s party with her friends instead of honoring her original commitment. I was in a quandary. My heart felt for my daughter.  

I wanted her to be able to go to the bigger party and enjoy pool time with her friends. But I also decided to use this as a teaching moment to try to instill into her a life lesson. So we sat down and I asked her if she thought that was the right thing to do? Unhesitatingly she said yes, because that is what all of her friends were doing. Then I asked her how she thought she wouldfeel if no one showed up at her party? I then talked to her about the importance of honoring her word. I asked her how she would feel, if someone canceled plans with her, just because something better came up?

We did not debate this for long. My daughter has the ability to empathize with others, and though I had presented the case in such a manner that I hopedthat she would do the right thing, I left the decision as to which party to attend entirely up to her, though she was only about nine years old at the time. She said to me this, “Momma, I am going to go to Miss Lisa’s party. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

When the day of the do parties arrived, I dropped my daughter off at the very modest home of Lisa, and said a prayer as I was leaving that someone else would show up, because my daughter was the only one there at that time, other than a handful of Lisa’s family members. On the ride home after the party, my daughter told me that she was so glad that she had gone to Lisa’s party, because only one other person from church had attended. It was just my daughter, another student, and the teacher’s family. The other party had been jampacked with almost every other class member. I was very proud of my daughter and hoped that this would be a life lesson that would stick with her throughout her lifetime. As an unexpected bonus, because my daughter and the other young lady were the only two students there, they got a lot of attention and one on one personal time with the teacher that they would not have gotten that the other party.

Fast forward many years, to when I was going through my divorce. My ex-husband and I had long since left that particular church and had started attending a different one. Lisa no longer went to church anywhere. But I ran into her at some functions with friends, and she said that she was also going through a bad divorce. We then met together for dinner a few times to compare notes and commiserate. I had known Lisa for many years, but had  never been good friends with her. Nonetheless, I was hurt, disappointed, and shocked when she betrayed my confidencesto some of our mutual friends and literally stabbed me in the back to boot. Instantly, my mind flashed back to that incident so long ago when I have persuaded my daughter to go to her party instead of the other one. I wanted to scream at her and fling that in her face. That is the human side of me.

But I did not do so. Instead I held my tongue. I simply cut ties with her and started avoiding her altogether. For she had also confided in me, and I knew that she was also suffering. It would’ve been so easy for me to turn around and breach her  confidences, as she had done to me. But I do not have a vengeful nature. So I did no such thing. And while we all sit around and laugh about the possibilities of revenge at some point or another in our lives,that is something I leave to God. I don’t know if He will ever enlighten Lisa as to the fact that breaching confidentiality is not a good thing to do. But that is between her and God.

Instead, I simply walked away with my head held high. If I had it to do over again, knowing that she would betray me on down the road, would I still have gently persuaded my daughter to go to her party, rather than the other woman’s party? Absolutely! I do not hesitate in saying that. For my grandmother instilled into me the importance of honoring one’s word. Even if it is it is inconvenient. Even if it is uncomfortable. Even if something better comes along. She taught me the value of looking at things from the other person’s perspective. From being considerate to making sacrifices, to donating her time and resources, the way she lived was a witness to me that reminds me every day of my life to this day, though she has been long gone from this earth for many years.

To me, honor is of utmost importance. There is no substitute for integrity. But having a tender heart, I know what it’s like to have my own feelings hurt, and I try never to intentionally do that to someone else. Please don’t misunderstand: I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I can sit around and plot revenge with the best of them, then sit around and laugh about those things with friends over dinner. Like when my friends used to tell me I should put Ex-Lax in my soon to be ex-husband’s food supply. We had many laughs over that – though I never did any such thing – it was great comedic relief from the pain of divorce to consider it. I recognize that this is sinful behavior, and I’ve had many long talks with God about it. For though I didn’t act upon it, it is probably not the best witness. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that I would never do such a thing. And I’m sure hoping that if my ex-husband had any gastrointestinal distress during our divorce process, that he knows I would never do that. 

The point is, that we don’t have to act upon every thought or impulse. Life is about choices! We get to choose whether or not to honor our word. We get to choose whether or not to be spiteful or execute revenge. We get to choose whether or not to consider someone else’s feelings. We get to choose to be considerate or inconsiderate. 

I hope and pray that, with God’s help, I will continue to make good choices. I am an imperfect human being, and I have made my fair share of mistakes. But I do always try to honor my word.

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher gave us an assignment of making a slogan out of our last names.  I remember a young man whom I did not think was particularly attractive in terms of the boy girl crush thing, whose last name was bond. He came up with, or borrowed, the slogan, “My word is my bond!” I just love that! After I heard him say that, he suddenly became much more attractive to me, because he said it was such sincerity.And though it is not my last name, I have tried to adopt that slogan, as well.

I am quite sure that I will mess up again soon. I will make a mistake. I will inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. I will miss the time on an appointment. I will think up a way of getting back at someone who has been unkind to me. I will do something that is not right. It is guaranteed, because I am, like the other women in this story, a human being. I may even do one of those things later today, though I pray I will have the presence of mind not to do so. But I am sharing this story as a reminder that every choice we make does count, somehow, someway, to someone. Let’s try to make them good ones!

“But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him.”

 – I John 2:5

– Lou Lehman Sams

What Treasure is in your Chest?

WHAT TREASURE IS IN YOUR CHEST?

I will have the distinct pleasure of celebrating my only daughter’s wedding in a few days, and being that this is taking place less than one year after the dissolution of my 26 year marriage to her father, I have been spending considerable time reflecting on commitments, love, & marriage. One might surmise that, since I am the victim of a failed marriage (even though I am the one that filed for divorce, I believe that all involved in divorce are victims of some sort or another), I might not be qualified to speak to what makes a good marriage or relationship. But I beg to differ. I believe that very failure is what qualifies me to speak to it, as I, like many, reflect upon my failures in an effort to learn, grow, improve, and share. If and when I re-marry, I want to make certain that the same mistakes do not happen again.

In the book, “Love Dares”, authors Stephen and Alex Kendrick issue this as one of forty dares to take to help keep your marriage healthy:
” Whatever you put your time, energy, and
money into will become more important
to you. It’s hard to care for something
you are not investing in. Along with
restraining from negative comments,
buy your spouse something that says,
“I was thinking of you today.””

I think that is one of the biggest complaints that I hear in my unofficial ministry to those who are struggling with unhappy marriages and relationships – they say that their spouse is not spending enough time, energy or money on them. While this quote speaks intelligently and thoughtfully on the topic of marriage, it also applies to life in general. Wherever a man is spending his resources, there you will also find his heart. A quick glance at an extremely busy high level executive’s social media shows where his priorities are within just a couple of minutes. His posts and photos illustrate his love for God, his Church, his job, and his family. His profile picture is one of he and his wife laughing and enjoying life. He unabashedly and unashamedly posts tweets stating that he is sitting on a bench awaiting his wife to finish her shopping. His love for her is evident.

I love reading posts by a local law enforcement officer regarding his children’s growth, antic, accomplishments and celebrations. He offers up many portraits of them involved in family activities. His love for them is unquestionable.

Likewise, a cleaning lady makes blog posts about her work, and about the struggles of being a single Mom. It is obvious that she desires nothing more than to improve her life so she can provide for her kids.

What would a quick glance at your social media by a stranger tell about you? Obviously, not everyone posts on Facebook everyday, due to a variety of reasons: some people are shy; others are private; some are too busy; some have restrictions placed upon them by their employers, etc. But one does not have to look at a person’s Facebook page in order to see where their treasures lie. Where are they spending their time, energy and money? That is the key. Where are you spending yours?

Do you spend more time playing virtual games than speaking to your spouse? Are you too involved with your ex-husband’s life to pay attention to your new husband? Do you spend hours in chat rooms talking to people who are long distance while you ignore the real live flesh and blood people that surround you? Do you spend all of your money on gambling, alcohol, hobbies, or other addictions, so that there is none left over for your family? You know, better than anyone, where you are spending your time, energy and money, and if it is not in the right places, your relationships – all of them, not just your marriage – will suffer, and risk the possibility of crumbling altogether.

A divorced friend of mine posted a link to an article written by a recently divorced man who is giving advice on how to save your marriage. Though his own marriage failed, his advice is sound, and includes things that encourage one to spend time, energy and money on one’s wife. This can also be applied in reverse, as things a woman can do for her man. You can read all 20 of his tips here:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151735776813486&set=a.81166678485.79418.696628485&type=1&theater

My daughter and her fiancé’ attended marriage counseling with a pastor who told her that one of the biggest mistakes that couples make is putting too much emphasis on the kids, and not enough on each other. I have always considered myself to be a very devoted mother, and there is no substitute for the time, energy and money that you spend on your kids. But you cannot do that at the exclusion of your spouse. As I recently told a friend that all of the pictures that you see in movies of families going on vacation show the man and wife riding together in the front seats of the vehicle, not one of them up front, and the other in the back with the kids. How can you make sure that your spouse feels like they are in the front seat with you today?

As a pastor friend of mine told me, there is a reason for this verse in the Bible:
” Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and
shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” ~ Genesis 2:23. The reason is that they are to help one another, and they cannot do that unless they are spending time together. Couples need to do their best to treat each other like the valuable, irreplaceable treasures that they are to one another.

Lest you think that the love of your spouse is insignificant, take a look at Fred, a 96 year old man from Illinois who recently lost his wife of 75 years. In his grief, he wrote a song for her, and submitted it to a songwriter’s contest. He did not win the contest, but his letter to the contest directors so touched them that they set it to music, and had it professionally recorded. I cried when I watched the resulting video. It is nearly ten minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee and a box of tissues, and prepare to be touched by his obvious love for his belated wife. I wonder, though, if he ever wrote Lorraine, his late wife, letters like that when she was still alive? Regardless, whether you have been in a relationship for 75 years, 75 weeks, or 75 days, it is important to recognize that the “good times” won’t last forever, so hold them tightly while you can. Perhaps, like several people that I know, you have lost what were once good times either through the death of or divorce from your spouse? If so, you have to let go, for, in Fred’s words, “It seems like a dream, but it was real.” Those times may have been very real, but once they are over, they are like a dream. Instead of clinging to what used to be, focus on the real relationships currently in your life. You can find Fred’s love song to Lorraine here: http://www.today.com/entertainment/man-96-enters-song-contest-pay-tribute-love-his-life-8C11004674

One of the things that impressed me the most about my daughter’s fiance’ is that he saved up for about a year to get her the exact engagement ring that she wanted, which he presented to her in one of the most romantic proposals I have ever heard of, other than in the movies. Likewise, he is contributing money to ensure that she gets the dream wedding that she always wanted. There is no doubt of his love for her – he has proven it over and over by how he spends his time, energy, and money. He makes her feel special, and she knows she is important to his life.

Who does not like to be made to feel important? How can you show your spouse or significant other that they are important to you? In the aforementioned book, Love Dares, one of the dares poses the question as to whether or not you are willing to let your relationship with your spouse be the single most important human relationship that you have. Are you?

What is in your treasure chest today?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:21.

 

 

~ L.L.S.

REFLECTIONS IN THE MIRROR OF LIFE

Is it not amazing that, when we look into the mirror, what we see reflected there does not always match the reflections that others see when they look at us? We must take time to recognize that sometimes we fail to realize things about ourselves, & accept them when others confront us with them. Conversely, we must also recognize that sometimes other’s perceptions of us may be inaccurate, or skewed by their own personal belief systems & self-esteems.

It is through much prayer and introspection that I am able to ascertain the realities of who I am. Thankful that I have the ability to change what I desire about myself, I pray to be able to delete the negatives without destroying the positives.

 

Today I shall commit to try to:

* Disagree without being disrespectful; 
* have an opposing opinion without judging;
* love without demanding; 
* accept others without acquiescence of my own beliefs; 
* hold fast to my self-respect, no matter what others may throw at me;
* speak my own truth without wavering;
* depend upon those I love without sacrificing my independence;
* listen to others without allowing them to make me question what is true, right & just;
* walk with my head held high because I am a unique person, but without losing my humility;
* be kind to all who cross my path, regardless as to whether or not they are kind to me;
* strive for excellence in myself, but knowing that perfection is impossible; 
* remember that all people are flawed & imperfect, as that is the essence of humanity, & make allowance for their imperfections;
* find a source of courage to sustain me when I am afraid;
* pray for certainty to replace the nagging doubts of disillusionment;
* believe that disappointment is often a Divine appointment;
* reach out rather than retreat;
* stay the course when the going gets rough;
* recognize that some things are just meant to be, while others are just not meant to be;
* refuse to cry over spilled milk, as tears do not make more milk;
* stand my ground when I am back up against a wall, knowing that God will make a way;
* refuse to fight if it is not in my best interest, as senseless fighting is a waste of energy;
* relinquish my past to the place where it belongs, which is behind me;
* realize that not every battle has to have a victor, that some battles were not intended to be won or lost;
* to trust whenever doubting makes no sense, but to trust the ability to doubt when trusting makes no sense;
* allow my heart the space it needs to heal without isolating it from those who would love it;
* plant seeds in the scorched earth, believing that the harvest will indeed be fruitful;
* empty my hands of past hopes, dreams, resentments & hurts in order that I may stretch them forth & grasp this day’s blessings;
* find life lessons in daily trials & tribulations & learn from them;
* go easy on myself when I fail at one or more of these things, knowing that failure is as inevitable in life as the sunrise. 

 

Today, take a look into the mirror, and compare the image you find there to the reflections that others see. Commit to change the dark shadows of your soul into light. Commit to being the best you that is possible!

~ L.L.S.