To a Successful New Year

It started with one. Just one little piece of cereal in two tiny fingers. Squirrely fingers. Little boy fingers.

Those little boy fingers flicked that little round donut shape just a few short inches from a bowl full of them – not far, but far enough to let me know my precious grandson wasn’t interested in eating the thing. He just wanted to make a mess with it. And see what I would do.

I smiled. And watched. One little piece? No biggie. Let’s see what he does next…

He shifted his attention to the rest of them…little fingers digging through the bowl as they spilled all over the side. I could have sworn I saw a gleam in his eye that hinted this was feeling really darn-good to his soul. His gap-tooth smile confirmed it.

So I smiled back. And asked him to please put them back in the bowl.

He smiled back too. And started dumping more out. Oh, geeze.

I told him I’d count to three and if he didn’t clean up, he would have to go in time-out.

One, two, three…

Thus began forty minutes of hell on earth. Have you ever had to “correct” a too-smart-for-his-own-good, hyperactive toddler going on three? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But alas, a Nana must do what a Nana must do. And so, this Nana put her Boo in time-out, screams and all, with the instruction that as soon as he was ready to clean up his mess, he could come out.

He could give a rip. So I waited five minutes and then had a little chat with him. He still refused to comply so I gently walked away.

His tantrum went on for another few minutes, until I went back and nicely asked him to clean up. He stopped long enough to look at me, but once again refused and resumed his screaming. No tears, mind you; just short, blood-curdling, make-your-neighbors-think-you’re-torturing-him screams. Fun times.

After about the third or fourth time of doing this, I sat down in front of him and softly whispered, real serious-like, and asked him to look me in the eyes. That got his attention. (Whispers do that, you know – make you lean in to hear. Yelling only repels.) I told him I was so bummed he was making this choice because I wanted to play with him! And as soon as he made a healthy choice to clean up, we could play! It sounded so reasonable, so positive, so appealing; I was sure he would make the right decision this time.

Yeah, right. All he did was resume screaming.

My mom happened to be there with me at the time and, God bless her, supported me through this whole drama…You’re doing the right thing, honey. Hang in there. Don’t give up. I wanted to; oh, how I wanted to! I would have had the instant gratification of a quiet house and calmed nerves. We could have played cars and eaten that evil cereal.

But I am so glad I didn’t give in. Because I would later come to realize that this was a huge learning moment. Oh, not for him.

For me.

You see, it would only be a few, short days later, when I was complaining to God about how hard a situation was and how badly I wanted to give up, that a question would be whispered to my heart and catch my own attention:

Are you willing to wait forty minutes, Sherri? Are you willing to put up with a long, hard period of time for a better pay-off in the end?

Ugh.

It is so hard to go through hard stuff. Why does that always surprise us?

I’ve never been much into New Year’s resolutions, but this coming year I want to lose that four pounds I put on at Christmastime. FOUR POUNDS.

But I still want those See’s Candies sitting on my counter, and the yummy cobbler I made, and banana bread with butter…

This coming year I want to continue to better my marriage.

But I’d rather tune-out after a long day of working…watch television…and not have to put in so much time and effort…

This coming year I want to read more, exercise more, learn more.

But I love going out with my friends, doing computer puzzles, and chatting on the phone…

I don’t want to have to put in effort. I don’t want to have to keep going. I don’t want to wait forty minutes. And I sure as heck don’t want to wait a tortuous forty minutes. I want instant gratification. A quiet life; an easy life. With calm nerves.

But, as the old saying goes, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. A carbs-filled tummy never made a healthy body. An effort-less relationship never made a healthy marriage. A tuned-out brain never made an improved mind.

And it makes me think…

Maybe any goals I make next year will have a much greater chance at success if I ask God to help me be willing to wait the forty tortuous minutes it takes to reach them and push through the hard, uncomfortable stuff, rather than centering my prayers on fulfillment. Maybe they should be centered on asking for strength rather than satisfaction; endurance rather than ease; self-discipline rather than self-gratification.

After an agonizing forty minutes of him screaming and me just about losing my sanity, my grandson finally decided to clean up. At first, he handed my mom – his great-grandma – a piece of cereal, insisting she put it in the bowl for him. Little booger.

As if someone else can do the hard stuff for us and we reap the benefits.

But as much as I’d have loved to let that be okay, I knew I could not – for his sake. He would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of putting it all back himself, and I would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of making sure he did.

In the end, through lots of high-five’s, we celebrated our strengthened characters and humbled hearts from pushing through. I think those are the absolute best results that can come from our New Year’s resolutions anyway. After all, they are the only ones that we will take with us into forever.

Wishing you a blessed and fulfilling New Year!

 

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Daring to Think You Might Be Okay


I got a little irritated with God a few days ago. Not the first time, mind you. We have this cool-enough relationship where I am like a kite…bobbing around, way up there in the sky, surrendering to the whim of every breeze and care of life that blows my way; while He is below, patiently holding on to my kite string. Never taking His eye off of me; no matter how far away from Him I go.

It can get a little crazy up there, in this place I do life…sometimes I get a little sick to my stomach from giving in to every high and low the air current brings; my feelings as temperamental as sudden changes of weather. And sometimes I get frustrated; my kite string wrapped tightly around something I so desperately want resolved. I can’t get unstuck and free; too tangled up in another one of life’s worries.

I’m so glad He never lets go.

I know He won’t, you know. Well, in my head, at least. Lots of theology classes…Scriptures memorized…Bible reading…Sunday school when I was a kid…they’ve all told me that He will never let go of that kite string; no matter how hard the winds blow.

But, oh, my heart… Sometimes my heart just hurts too much and feels empty and alone, and I wonder if He’s not there anymore; especially when I’m being whipped around by another storm. And I’m looking for Him. And waiting for Him. And trying my hardest to hear what He is saying to me…

It’s at those times, that I question myself most: Have I created this storm? Did I do something wrong? Something to deserve this? Am I not seeking truth enough? Change enough? Honest introspection enough?

I am high up in the sky, being battered by the fiercest winds, and I look to God for answers… show me the truth that will set me free. Show me truth that will give me peace.

Like the other day. When I asked Him these very questions – and then waited for Him to show me what was wrong with me (like I often do), what I did to cause the storm, what I could do to alleviate it. I wanted, so much, to hear what God had to say to me so I could fix it. And I waited…and waited…and waited…and waited…

Nothing.

And so I asked Him again, please, show me what I’m doing wrong, God. I can’t hear you way up here. It’s cold. And lonely. Are you there?

And I waited…and waited…and waited…and waited…

Nothing.

This went on for a few days; my kite tale quite tattered and torn by now. Seeming to be almost beyond repair.

I begged God a third time. A fourth time. An umpteenth time.

Nothing.

Until, one day, I got real still. You might now what kind of stillness I’m talking about, if you’ve read the story of Elijah trying to hear God (1 Kings 19). It’s the kind of still that only comes after you’ve been exhausted by all that’s going on around you. And I finally heard God…barely…but I heard Him…

What if you’re okay with me, Sherri? What if I have nothing bad to say to you? Could you hear that?

Wait, what?

He spoke to my heart so softly, like a whisper, but as clear as day nonetheless:

Why do you assume I always have bad things to say to you? What if I’m pleased with you? What if you are okay? That is why you can’t hear me oftentimes. You’re always straining to hear the bad. The corrective. You’re constantly looking to hear what you assume is the truth; not always what is the truth.   

Gulp.

And then peace.

No wonder I sometimes have a hard time experiencing God. I assume, because I’m so hard on my own self, and because He’s holy and I am obviously way not, that His main objective is about correcting me rather than loving me; disciplining me rather than caring for me; improving me rather than celebrating me. As if the former can be separated from the latter.

What an ugly, distorted, untruthful, picture of God.

And I wonder…how many other people have a distorted view of God like I sometimes do? Assuming He mostly has bad things to say to them…afraid to spend time with Him, and get to know Him, lest He only affirm what a failure they are.

Oh, I know. Some people have the opposite problem. They can’t hear anything corrective or hard. It would pick a scab off a wound way down deep and assault the core of who they are, rather than what they do. I get it. I’ve been there too.

But I have a hunch most people are just like I was last week – ever-ready to hear the bad and ever-suspicious of the truth.

I am so sorry for us. I think we’re really missing out.

It takes a lot of bravery to search for what God is really saying to us rather than searching for what we assume He is saying; to look for truth rather than assume we already know what that truth is; to dare to believe God has great, affirming, life-giving things to say to us just because…well, He really means it.

This week I decided to choose bravery. I dared to believe God had good things to say to me – without any bad. It was hard. But, man, what a difference it made! It’s amazing what can happen when you let a few life-affirming words enter who you are…and how much those words then affect what you do.

Your kite flies higher – and further – and freer than you ever thought possible.

I need to dare to believe God has many more good things to say to me, much more often.

I dare you to believe that, too.

 

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