Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Grudge is a Ball and Chain

Francie's definition of a "grudge": Allowing moldy old offenses to torment us while hoping that the offender will be tormented at least twice as much by our cold-shoulder payback.

Reality: When we hold a grudge, the other person sleeps well and we don't. Nobody has to drag these resentments around like a ball and chain. How can we unlock the shackles?

1. Forgive... You knew this one: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you..." (Matt. 6:14) Forgiveness is defined as follows: "The pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty. The forgiveness of enemies is a Christian duty." (Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary) When we forgive, we have agreed to call the offender "not guilty" anymore. It's the same thing that Christ did for us, only He did it a lot faster.

2. ...Or else! "...But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:15) This reminds me of when a basketball player shoots from the free-throw line and makes the basket, only to be disqualified because his toe was over the line. We are disqualified from the forgiveness that we seek when we won't grant it. We're not just over the line; we're also out of line! Bible Commentator Matthew Henry said it very well: "Those that would find mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren." Matthew 6:15 reads a lot like a threatening promise.

3. And while you're at it, P.O.A.T. "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." (Prov. 19:11) If you've ever heard me teach at a conference, you've probably heard me turn "Pass Over A Transgression" into the acronym P.O.A.T. In this case, we are admitting to ourselves that we have been wronged, but we are choosing to forgive anyway. The hurt was real; not imagined, but we are freely granting forgiveness, just as it was granted to us.

Part of our problem with getting over grudges is that we have this uncanny ability to replay events in our minds, as often as we'd like. We can automatically recall a situation, how it hurt, and why. And then we can press the mental "replay" button and go through it all over again, usually making the offender seem more shameful, deceitful and scheming with each rerun of the episode. And don't even start with the 100 different ways we can imagine to "tell them off" if only we had another opportunity! In a sense, we're role-playing sin in our imaginations. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

When we've been hurt or offended, it pays for us to turn things around and ask ourselves some questions:
1. Have I ever done something wrong to a person without any evil intent? (Yes.)
2. Is it possible that someone could accidentally hurt me? (Yes.)
3. Have I ever said something that was taken the wrong way? (Probably.)
4. Do I want to be forgiven when, not if, but when I've hurt someone? (Yes.)
5. Do I love people enough to pardon them? (Only you know the answer to this one.)

The ability to forgive is an indication of our love for others. Holding a grudge? It's a sign of a lack of love.  "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20) 

Grudges sure do take up a lot of emotional energy, don't they? Most pain is that way. And it doesn't matter if we think someone else is wrong; they can point that same gun at us and shoot their reasons. As the irritating saying goes, "Perception is reality." I may perceive that the other person is wrong, but it won't get me past their perception that I am the one in the wrong. 

Do you see how this could go on ad nauseum? We're like that unforgiving servant who was pardoned by his master, only to turn around and refuse to pardon one of his fellow servants. "But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest." (Matt. 18:28) Maybe we won't go so far as to grab someone by the neck and start shaking them around, but we're doing that emotionally when we won't forgive! And all the while, Christ is watching and wondering why we've forgotten what He did for us: "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? (Matt. 18:33) Our inability (or slow ability) to forgive is evidence that we are just as bad.

Fortunately, forgiveness is the key that unlocks the shackles to the ball and chain. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."--Lewis B. Smedes 

Sounds like a great deal to me: Two are freed for the price of one forgiving. When it comes to grudges, the best way to shed them is to pardon the offender. How can you tell when the grudgefest is over? Let's look at one more quote from Lewis Smedes for a hint: "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." In other words, you granted forgiveness and recovered your spiritual sanity in the process.

There is comfort, victory and freedom in forgiveness that comes from the heart.

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin agains me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is It Me or Is It Hormones?





 DISCLAIMER: This is not a medical article. There are gazillions of those online, and many of them are worth a read. These are observations and suggestions for women over 40 who have wondered, "Is it me, or is it my hormones?"

Women have a balancing act in life. We go from elementary school to moody in zero-to 60 seconds flat. I mean, there was no interlude; no transitional phase. Just BOOM! One day we woke up and felt like an ultra-crab and yet no one had done a thing to us. Or perhaps you weren't emotional in an aggressive way; you were more prone to crying jags and sessions where you wanted to run away and hide. Regardless, we must face the fact that hormones do affect us.

Decreasing hormones affect us even more!

Here are some symptoms proving that hormones go out with a bang:
(my comments are in parentheses)
  • Hot flashes (What an understatement. Sweat baths is more like it.)
  • Trouble sleeping (Call it what it is; Insomnia. We can take it.)
  • Emotional changes (Ooh and oh oh. Here comes Thelma Thundercloud. Run!)
  • Cognitive changes (Now where did I put those...)
  • Hair changes (Hair jumps off the scalp and pops out of the chin.)
  • Urinary tract and vaginal changes (No comment.)
  • Body changes (Hey! Who shrunk all my good clothes?)
"Complete List of Premenopausal Symptoms" by  Sandi Busch; March 6, 2011*; 
livestrong.com; http://www.livestrong.com/article/29526-complete-list-premenopausal-symptoms/

What can a woman do? For a medical perspective, see your doctor. For a sister's perspective, read on (Again, this is mainly for those who are over 40; younger women would be dealing with the hormones of PMS = Pass My Shotgun):

1. Spend more time in the Word. There may be days when it feels like you're going to need to break out a guitar and sing the blues, but this is not permanent. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psa. 42:11; see also Psa. 42:5 and 43:5) God's Word is soothing, and we can count on Him to swing the pendulum back to the balanced center. The more time spent in the Word, the less extreme the hills and valleys of the emotions. You can skip this step if you choose, but you will be shortchanging yourself if you do. If nothing else is wrong in life and yet you're feeling overly emotional, it's likely due to hormones.

2. Accept the changes and work with them. The world is lying to us about aging. In fact, the "anti-aging" campaign is alive and well...and false! We know that the only way to avoid aging is to die, right? When someone is trying to sell you something to prevent something that is inevitable, they are clever, bald-faced crooks. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." (Prov. 16:31) Did your hair lose its color? Dye it if it makes you feel better, but don't believe for a second that there would be anything wrong with you if you didn't! 

Did your shape change in spite of proper diet and regular exercise? Go out and eat cheesecake in protest! Just kidding! Keep up your good habits and remember this: You have no idea what shape you'd be in if you hadn't taken such good care of yourself. My primary care physician told me this: "A woman has to under eat and increase her activity just to maintain her bodyweight after 40." Is this fact or fiction? Your body will tell you. Mine said "The doctor speaks truth." I work with my body by getting the most nutrition for the calories, getting regular exercise when possible, and by wearing clothes that fit. The size on the tag means nothing anymore. Fit is the principal thing. If you have no other unchecked medical problems, the changes are likely due to hormones.

3. Do not compare yourself with anyone. Looking around at other women is a great way to build insecurity. If that's your goal, keep studying others. If that's not the goal, just take care of yourself and stay out of the deep diet and health discussions with others. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (II Cor. 10:12) You are you. Why would you expect something that works for someone else to work in the exact same way for you? Don't compare, unless it's to your own mother. She is a fairly good indicator of what you can expect as life marches on in the hormonal realm. If your Mom went through what you're going through and it was her hormones, it's probably your hormones, too.

4. Get some rest or else. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." (Psa. 4:8) Hormonal women who don't get their rest become hormonal basket cases. Even if you've been able to push and shove your body around on four hours of sleep for years, it's nothing to brag about, and your family is probably worse off because of it. Hormones during certain stages of life, particularly during the pre-menopausal and early menopausal years, can cause us to lose sleep either through insomnia or repeated nightgown changes from night sweats. Too many nights without sleep and nobody's sweet anymore. Pray for rest, then get to bed early enough to have a good shot at getting some. If your life is too busy to allow you a good night's sleep, something needs rearranging somewhere. Insomnia may be due to hormones, but staying up too late sure isn't.

5. Quit piling stuff on your calendar. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psa. 90:12) Francie, this one goes for you, too. Yes, we may be tempted to blame hormones when we hear that tape recording in our head that says, "I never have any spare time." But in reality, this one isn't hormones. This one is a calendar management issue. Overbooking a hormonal woman can make things magnified times a thousand, but the cause wasn't the hormones. Do you really need to say "yes" to so many things? Simple answer: No. Overbooking is not a hormonal issue, but you sure can provoke yourself to make it look that way!

6. Pray before trying any treatments. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases..." (Psa. 103:2-3) Surely you've heard the old saying, "One man's meat is another man's poison." The same goes for various remedies! One woman will thrive have great success on 500 calories of lettuce, chicken breasts and hormone drops. Another will just be a hungry maniac in under 48 hours on the same regimen. 

One sister will claim that hormone replacement therapy "transformed her life"! Another will lament that all she got was a bloated belly, swollen breasts and an unexpected menstrual period (not a prize when you thought you were done with that). And yet another woman will say that you did it all wrong because you didn't do it all-naturally. $1,400 later, you could have taken a nice vacation with the money spent on the inventory of failed products in your closet. Be careful with recommendations from others. Every human body is unique, and what works for your friend may not work for you.

If you have been feeling emotionally drained, underfed yet overstuffed, tired even after sleeping, AND if you've seen a doctor lately and received a clean bill of health, it's probably not you; it's probably the decreasing hormones that begin to go down as our age goes up. Can we age gracefully? Yes. Can we enjoy the changes that come with "the change"? Not always. Will there be times when things just seem to overwhelm us. Absolutely.

And that's when you grab your Bible, get a cup of java or tea, close yourself into a quiet room, and pray. One of my favorite prayers has only four words: "Lord, please help me." And then He does.

Sometimes it's us; sometimes it's hormones.

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust." (Psa. 103:13-14)

 www.keeptheheart.com

*Keep the Heart does not endorse everything found at livestrong.com. The source was cited for crediting purposes only.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Helping Your College Student



My husband helped our oldest son Austen move onto the campus of Golden State Baptist College back in August of 2004. I can remember how Norman thought that having me there would add too much mothering to the scene, so they got a head start without "the Momerator" in town, and then Norman flew me out to go to church with on them Sunday.

I arrived on Saturday, just in time to note that Austen had already been to WalMart and had come back to campus without his shopping bags. He purchased his supplies, paid for them, and then promptly walked out of the store without his items! Surely this was a sign that he needed Mom, right?

Nope. He just needed to pay attention. And maybe he was experiencing the type of brain-freeze that happens when a person's circuits are overloaded with a new town, new bank account, new campus, new dorm room, new church, and more, all basically overnight. As much as I may have wanted think otherwise, this wasn't a sign that I needed to put on my cape and boots and fly in to do my Wonder Mom routine.

That Sunday, I was looking forward to sitting in church with our son, but he was already working on a bus route (the bus ministry is in his blood), so he came to say his farewells just before Sunday school. When Austen said goodbye, I started swallowing hard again and again, trying to keep the eyeball-washing-machine from kicking in. Just as I thought I had things under control, Chancellor-Pastor Trieber walked up to me with a big friendly smile and asked, "Well Mrs. Taylor, how are you doing?"

An innocent question activated the eyeball-washing-machine, plus the spin cycle! Brother Trieber didn't get a chance to see this because his very alert wife took one look at my face and knew what was happening. Faster than the spin cycle, Mrs. Cindie Trieber whisked me into a side room and patted my shoulder as I did some more swallowing in an effort to "turn the water off." (Cindie, I owe you a Jamba Juice for that rescue mission.)

That was the first college student. The second student, Hillary, was easier although I still cried. Our third-born, Collin was sent off with this advice: Stick by your brother and sister and don't miss your connecting flight. And back away from the debit card with your hands in the air...

Going to college now is almost ceremonial, complete with mothers clumped in campus parking lots, hugging their children and parting with tears (usually tears only from Mom). Since I know what it's like, I hope that these tips will help those of you that are doing this for the first time. Please remember that these are only suggestions and observations:

1. DON'T be a "smother mother" (also known as a "helicopter parent," always hovering around). Now is your chance to watch your bird fly on his or her own. This is when you get to see not only what they've learned, but what they own spiritually. "Keep my commandments and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye." (Prov. 7:2) If you're constantly checking up, offering unsolicited advice, monitoring the schedule and more, how will your young adult learn how to be an adult?

Calling once a week is just right for some, and too much for others. Discuss how often you'll keep in touch, but leave the schedule up to them. In other words, when your student has time, they'll call or you can call, but remember that they're in college; not off at day camp. Let your college student breathe (and get their work done).

2. DO teach financial basics, at least. "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." (Prov. 21:20) Every college student should know how to track their spending online, how to reconcile their account (I didn't say "checkbook" because college students rarely write checks anymore), and how to use a debit and/or credit card wisely. How will you know if they're operating in the black? Have a joint bank account (this isn't smothering; it's proactive wisdom). And read the bank statements. They're great conversation starters: "So son, I see you had $104 in pizza charges last month..."

This step is not necessary with older students attending college later in life, but 18-year-olds can squander cash faster than you can read this sentence! Establish an agreement about acceptable debit card usage in advance, and you'll only have to make suggestions along the way. Money mismanagement is a common problem among college students, and if the parents aren't "richdadandmom.com," it pays to be proactive by teaching the financial basics and laying down the ground rules before Little Caesar's Pizza (men) or the Shoe Carnival (ladies) gets a month's worth of your child's tuition money.

3. DON'T be the complaint hotline. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men." (Titus 3:1-2) Two common reasons for emergency phone calls: Money problems or people problems. Okay, add a third: car problems.  If your college student calls home to complain, listen, then ask them this question: "Would you like me to help you solve this, or are you just venting?" It's kind of the equivalent to "Would you like a shot or a sugar pill for this ailment?"

There may be rules that are not favorites, assignments that test nerves, rude people, pilfering roommates, and cars that cough out a radiator, all within the first month! These events add to the learning process. I call it "Life Skills 102" (assuming that they learned "Life Skills 101" at home). Life is made up a combination of great days, not great days, and something in between. Ask your college student this classic question: "If you're not happy today, what day are you waiting for?" Encourage a pressing of the reset button, and discourage whining.

4. DO keep parenting. "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother." (Prov. 6:20) There may be times when you'll need to step in and toss a life preserver to your young person. Things can go wrong, but if we'll remain calm, we can be helpful and a good example at the same time. The college student is still your child, but the dynamics of the parent-child relationship are undergoing a major transformation. Stay alert to needs, but encourage decision-making.

This is not the time to be slack in prayer, either. If you haven't already developed the habit of praying for your children daily, it's not too late to start! Parenting long-distance is a different kind of science, and we just aren't able to be as "hands-on" from miles away. This is actually a good thing, but it increases the need to pray for your child and for the unseen events of their day. Pray as if you were the only one calling their name before the Lord. This is vital. Each day has an unknown adventure included.

And now for some unnumbered observations:
  • Each of our children had a different response to heading off to Bible college. This is normal.
  • Our three children handled their finances three different ways. We kept the tightest eye on the biggest spender. 
  • We pointed out the obvious that an "A" costs the same as an "F."
  • Birthday boxes are a big deal on many campuses. If you're going to send one, send enough to share with the roommates who will likely be watching the "opening ceremony." 
  • A periodic note with five or ten dollars tucked in was our idea of a love-tap from home. We always reminded our children in these notes that we were praying for them daily.
  • Each of our children made mistakes in college. We advised them accordingly, but without making a federal case out of a life lesson. We remember our own college days...
  • If your child wants you to fly or drive out for a visit, try to make it happen. One of my favorite trips was to fly out and visit our daughter for a weekend. She needed some "Mom time."
  • If you haven't already started one, have a fund set aside in savings to "stop gaps." Finding a job during college may be challenging, so you may need to help your student now and then.
  • If your child runs into problems with the college administration, do not automatically assume that it is the fault of the college. Wait until you've heard the whole matter, and even then, encourage your young person to handle matters wisely on their own (Prov. 16:20 and Prov. 18:13).
  • Always remember this: College life is temporary (unless they join the staff after graduation)! Whatever goes on in this stage, it's just a few paragraphs in life.
Adjusting to this new phase of life is easier if you buddy-up with a sister who has already run this leg of the race. Have coffee with another Mom who has already sent her birds off to college. She may have even more to offer than I could fit in this article. The main thing to remember is this: life is a series of adventures, and this is just one more.

"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge." (Prov. 23:12)

 NOTE: If you have "been here, done this," please add your helpful comments below. Mothers who are new at this will appreciate the feedback!

www.keeptheheart.com








Run with Patience in the Rain

I asked Norman just as he was leaving for work one morning, five measly weeks prior to race day, "Honey, could we do a 5k in Apr...