Twenty Things I Would Like to Teach my Future Children

Today’s brief foray to the market, my second departure from the house in an otherwise homebound week full of flu-like symptoms, inspired me to make a list of things I would like to teach my future children, God-willing. I wanted roast beef but the pre-packaged slices contained 22% of your daily sodium intake per serving, so I opted to buy my own pot roast and make my own low-sodium roast beef, despite the fact that my current ickiness level does not predispose me to a strong desire to cook. I wanted last-minute Halloween candy, but the bulk bags placed strategically in the middle of the store with VERY large, very bright “SALE” signs proved to be more expensive per ounce than smaller bags tucked away in the candy aisle. I do not mean at all to imply through the making of this list that I have these skills down by any stretch of the imagination, but they are things that I hope to always personally cultivate, and teach to another person, in at least some imperfect way.

So here we go.  At least twenty things I would like to teach my future children:

1.)  How to read food labels.

2.)  How to read price tags beyond the “sale” sign.

3.)  How to budget in a way that intentionally prioritizes the needs of those less fortunate.

4.)  How to maximize a load of laundry or a load of dishes.

5.)  How to travel light.

6.)  How to take care of another living thing, be it a plant, a fish, a dog, or a person with special needs.

7.)  How to refrain from habitually turning the focus of conversation onto themselves.

8.)  How to wait for others to finish their sentence before interrupting.

9.)  How to say to another person’s face, “It’s not ok that you did that.”

10.)  How to recognize and respect social cues.

11.)  How to read the Bible.

12.)  How to listen to and think about perspectives radically different from their own.

13.)  To think a lot about how another person would feel walking into the space they just left behind, in the bathroom, at home, at work.

14.)  To greet housekeepers and maintenance staff at hotels, restaurants, etc. in the eye and say “thank you” often.

15.)  To tip wait staff generously for good service.

16.)  To spend at least a month in a foreign country, preferably one less developed than the United States, and preferably in living conditions equal to that of the locals for at least part of the time.

17.)  That they should never expect to be exempt from unexpected suffering.

18.)  That sometimes, it does matter what other people think of them, because integrity, influence and character matter.

19.)  That God’s love will always be greater than any negative thought or emotion they will ever think or feel about themselves.

20.)  That it is worth it to work through the hard questions about God.

a letter for my soul

I am in tears over Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Oh, my soul.

I’ve been losing sight of the Lord, slowly, subtly, surely. Life has gotten busy and ambitious and it seems my ego has risen a bit too much to the challenge. I’ve been unusually obsessed with control (and if you knew my usual level of obsession, you’d know that’s saying a lot) – trying to control things at home, at church, at work, so that all my raucous ducks are in a row, so that all that is wrong or imperfect can be made right (by me… as if), so that I don’t have to admit that I’m just so terribly uncomfortable with feeling out of control. I can’t get the termites or the fleas or the clutter or others’ opinions or others’ shortcomings or my shortcomings or my patients’ changing statuses or their parents’ anxieties or my anxieties over it all, under control. Oh dear, pour me another cup of coffee. I’ve grown convinced by some deceitful voice that obtaining control means obtaining peace, and losing control means losing peace. The resulting simmering anger and frustration has, with just a minimal increase in heat here and there, occasionally brimmed over and I haven’t been able to put a lid on it.

It is exhausting trying to usurp the place of God.

Here comes Paul. He’s in prison. His life hasn’t gone according to plan, but he’s rejoicing. Because God is in control despite the awful cliché, and so Paul assures his anxious friends in Philippi, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,” “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance,” and ultimately, “to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

His life is complicated, but so simple. He is bound up in chains, but he is so free. He knows the One in whom his life rests and that’s all he needs to know. “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

And of course, because I’ve lost sight of the One who really matters, the good and sovereign and wise King, I’ve been obsessed with my ego. I love my Facebook likes and my blog followers and all my praise. This I confess. I exploit my own self to promote myself. What depths of sin and self-deceit.

Here comes Christ, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. He made Himself nothing, of no reputation, taking the form of a servant. I nailed Him once to the cross with my pride, twice with my unrighteous anger, a third time with my envy, a fourth with my critical heart. And then He took it all and bled and wept and died from it and got buried with it all. But oh my soul, He rose again above even those depths to show that He who began a good work in me would still be able to carry it to completion. It is He who works in me to will and to do for His good pleasure now, not to make me a slave but to make me free.

And so it’s time for me to relearn how to do all things without complaining and disputing. To count all of man’s praise and approval and promotion as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. And believe me, my secret heart has counted it all, taliied my points to give myself those big gold stars. It’s time to put that behind me again and press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

It’s time to rejoice, and again, rejoice. Quell the anxiety. Hallelujah, I don’t have to be in control of it all. Lift up prayer and thanksgiving. Let generosity and gentleness and contentment be mine because He is on the throne and I am not, and so all is right with my world again.

He is the King, and I am His child.

Oh my soul, again I say, rejoice.

wherever these vows may take us

The older I get, the more my perspective on weddings changes. Don’t get me wrong. The girly girl in me loves a beautiful wedding. I still tear up, I’m still a sucker for the moment the minister declares, “You may kiss your bride.” The amateur photographer in me loves a decked-out venue with creative décor. I still love the flowers and up-dos and fun bowties and slick getaway cars announcing “Just Married”. I adore all of it.

But when it comes time for the vows, I’m less romantic. I think a lot more. I wonder if they hear themselves, what they are saying, what they are promising. I wonder if I heard myself not a few years ago when I proclaimed, “For better or for worse.”

The first wedding I attended this year happened just a month after the bride’s mom passed away after many, many years of health problems compounded by more health problems. The bride’s mom and dad remained fiercely in love through it all, as she was sick through the majority of their marriage, and he poured out his life to care for her, even as they raised their children and he pastored two churches. The bride and groom had scrambled to help plan her memorial service, so that they could then finish their wedding preparations. When they stood in front of their friends and family and vowed, “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part,” there was not a dry eye in that place. They knew, from a very delicate and realistic place, what they were committing to.

About a month ago, I received an email from one of the missionaries in Thailand whom I was able to financially support through my anti-human trafficking photo fundraiser project. She wrote of how her husband has recently been involved in some exciting but dangerous operations to help apprehend some of the perpetrators. This is a couple who met and married in the States, originally working as CPAs. Stable and successful in every worldly sense, they undoubtedly never dreamt on their wedding day that they would end up raising their two young children in Thailand, sacrificing the comforts of the life they knew, sacrificing time with one another and putting the husband in harm’s way to fight global human trafficking. “For richer or for poorer.”

Also within recent months, a beloved coworker was diagnosed, through the most divinely providential set of unforeseeable circumstances, with a malignant brain tumor. He and his wife, both exceptional athletes, undoubtedly fell in love in part due to their mutual passion for the outdoors and for their respective sports. We are all optimistic for his recovery, and I love that he has already, in faith, signed up for future races. But surely they never saw this curve ball coming at this stage in life.  “In sickness and in health.”

When two people find each other, fall in love, and persevere through the ups and downs of courtship to even make it to their wedding day, it is a gift, it is hard work, it is a miracle. When two people hold fast to their vows from that day, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in light of every curve ball and adaptation and sacrifice,

it is, at the risk of sounding cliché and cheesy,

true love.

you can find me here

In true introvert fashion, I needed to jot my thoughts down before a phone interview of sorts so that I wouldn’t stumble so much over on-the-spot questions. A contributor to the newsletter for the hospital where I work had emailed me, asking if she could talk with me about how my interests in writing and photography help me relieve my work-related stress. Here are my thoughts, on writing at least. They echo some sentiments I’ve expressed in previous posts.

As an introvert who loves quiet days more than gold, I find it somewhat ironic that I work in a profession that involves constant and often competing interactions with people for 12 straight hours in my normal work day. This, in a typically high-energy, noisy, stressful environment.  I am listening to everyone else’s story, processing all that I am taking in, and making decisions based on all of the external feedback I am receiving. My mind is in overload, but it’s about everything and everyone else. I know I’m stressed but I also know there are many, many more layers to that stress than simply being very, very busy.

Writing is the space I have to untangle my own thoughts, before they entangle me to the point where I start acting out without knowing what’s going on inside me. It is the space for me to identify my emotions: Anger at the injustice of child abuse? Anger at the person who spoke too sharply to me, when I was only trying to do my job? Frustrations with an imperfect healthcare system? Sadness for a child? Confusion about the reasons for such suffering?  It is the space for my own voice, after I have left the hospital, and all the other voices and alarms and sounds from my work slowly dissipate. Writing is also the place for me to express the hard things I feel at work, the things people honestly don’t always want to hear about in an in-person conversation. Sometimes they’re too hard, too uncomfortable, and frankly too morbid to verbally share or hear. But in writing, I can give voice to these things in a way that won’t bring a conversation to an awkward silence, thus freeing my reader of the pressure to find the “right” response, and freeing myself of some of the sadness I feel that I should probably change the subject now…even though the subject affects and shapes so much of me. For one who is constantly meshed with others’ stories, and often highly complicated ones at that, writing is the place where I can pull myself out and tell my own story, recollecting, growing and protecting my sense of self. You and I, we can find me here.