The Parent-Child Relationship

My parents are coming for a visit.

When I tell people I haven’t seen them in almost three years, their eyes bug out, and their jaws drop. It makes me feel like a terrible daughter. I go into a long explanation of why a visit in either direction hasn’t taken place sooner. Life happens.

I called my mother this morning to firm up plans for picking them up at the airport. I could tell from past emails and her voice today that they’re excited to see us and the kids – who are now young adults, on their own.

My mom is a great cook and an excellent housekeeper. Her home is always spotless. I’ve grown up with the same tendency to keep a clean and organized home, and my daughters have followed in my footsteps.

Even at my age, I still feel the pressure to please my parents. I still need that, "good job" from them. So, I’ve cleaned more than normal and have planned healthy and delicious meals while they’re here. I've worked hard to make everything as perfect as it can be.

I’ve tried to never put any pressure on my daughters to perform, but I’ve recognized that they, too, in their twenties, still seek my approval. They need me in their cheering section, trusting that I’ll think they’re the best, no matter what the situation.

I just want them to know that I love them as they are, whether they succeed – or fail. They don’t have to be perfect. Ever.

And then there's the relationship with God, our Father. Don't we often try to win His approval by being “good?”

Sure - we should try to please Him in how we live, but we don’t have to impress Him. There’s a difference.

He loves us despite our failings and imperfections.

Just like a parent.



Need Directions?

I’m frequently asked to give directions over the phone to people coming to the dealership where I’m employed.

I’m sympathetic to customers who have taken a wrong turn and call with, “Can you help me? I’m trying to get to you, but I don’t know where I am.”

When it comes to driving, I’m directionally challenged myself. Don’t tell me to turn north or south. I need left or right and I never leave for foreign territory without having map quested.

With lost customers, I ask questions until I can get a visual of where they’re located and then talk them through until they arrive. We’re not a difficult place to find, but some people come from a distance, and if not familiar with the area, anyone can get turned around.

Once they reach our location, many seek me out. “Are you the nice lady who gave us directions? Thank you for the help.”

Directions are necessary if you’re going to arrive at your destination, try out a new dish on the family, or assemble anything technical.

Direction is also important in making life decisions and choosing the right path for our lives. We’re fortunate to have such help at our fingertips. It’s called the Bible.

And if we ever feel totally lost? God is only a prayer away, willing to help us find our way.


Ask God for What You Want

Okay - so I’ve been hit over the head with the same message within a few days of each other. I heard it while listening to a pastor on TV one morning, and read it in a devotional I keep at work.

Quite simply, we’re to ask God for what we want, believing we’ll receive it.

Why don’t we ask God for more? Are we afraid the answer will be no? Are we afraid He’ll think our requests too trivial? Or that we’ll appear selfish?

You want something, but don’t get it…You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives… James 4:2-3 (NIV)

We can’t expect God to answer requests we haven’t made…or made in faith, believing they’ll be answered.

We’re not only to ask, we’re to include details. When desiring a husband or wife, wouldn’t it be better to ask for a person with specific qualities as opposed to just asking for spouse? If you’re willing to take any man or any woman, you might not like what’s included in the package!

That doesn’t mean He’ll automatically give us everything we ask for. He only wants what’s best for us. And, if we ask for something purely out of selfish reasons, we may not get the answer we’re looking for.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart. Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

God wants to be good to us.
Tell Him what’s in your heart.


That Ugly Word - Discipline

I groaned as I looked at the alarm clock next to my bed. It read 5:00 am. Time to get up if I was going to work out before leaving for my job.

I’m not a morning person. I repeat. I am NOT a morning person.

But, if I’m going to fit exercise into my hectic day, I have a better chance of accomplishing it first thing. Unfortunately, too many mornings, I shut off the alarm, roll over, and go back to sleep.

I threw the covers off, forced myself to put my feet on the floor, and moved like a slug to my home office. I put on headphones and turned on the small TV on the wall in front of me. Listening to Joyce Meyer keeps me distracted from changing my mind and crawling back into bed.

I like Joyce. She’s direct, but humorous, and her preaching speaks to what we experience in our daily lives.

This morning she used a rocking chair to illustrate a point.

Wanting to accomplish something, but never taking any steps needed to reach the goal is like rocking in a chair, putting forth some energy, but going nowhere. And then wondering why we don’t make any headway.

Have you ever heard yourself moan these words?

“I wish I wasn’t overweight.”

“I wish I wasn’t in debt.”

“I wish I had a better job.”

“I wish my house was clean.”

“I wish I was in better shape."

“I wish I felt closer to God.”

If we want something to happen, we need to get off our butts and move. God is more than willing to help us – He wants the best for us. But, He also expects some effort on our part.

He expects us to implement that word.
What was it again?
Ahhh…that’s right. DISCIPLINE.

I’ll never look at a rocking chair the same way again.
And yes…I’ll be back on the treadmill tomorrow.
Whether I like it, or not.



A Reminder to be Thankful

A woman carrying a large stack of newspapers, dressed in dowdy clothing, and looking tired and worn stood in front of me.

"Could I have a job application?"Her voice lacked any enthusiasm and no smile graced her face.

“Sure.” I handed her a small packet. “We don’t have openings at this location, but I’ll send your application to our HR department at our corporate office. You can bring it back later, or take a seat and fill it out while you’re here.”

She opted to complete the application on site and I pointed to a seat where she could fill out the papers. Later, after she turned them in, she slumped out the door, probably to catch a bus or walk the streets, seeking possible job opportunities.

I scanned her information. Any form of education she’d attempted, traditional or technical, had never been completed. She’d never worked at one job for more than several months and the reasons for leaving or being asked to leave seemed trivial. I forwarded her application to our HR department, just as I promised, knowing there would be no way she would be hired.

After a rough day, I returned home with knots in my neck and shoulders. Dinner simmered in the crock-pot, thanks to my husband, so I was free to have a little time to myself.

I climbed into the hot tub on our deck and sunk into the warm, soothing water. Tensed up muscles began to relax. The sky clouded over and without the sun’s blaring light, the colors surrounding me became even more vivid. Details of the pine, birch, and cheery trees were striking. The sound of water flowing over the sides of the fountain in the yard added to the peaceful feeling. I had a refuge at the end of a not-so-good day. A place where I could relax and let stress slip away.

The eyes of the woman I’d seen earlier came to mind. Eyes that lacked joy or hope. And I wondered if she had a refuge of any kind. How was she spending her time that evening? What had caused her life to become so erratic? What were the real reasons for not finishing anything she started?

I looked around me.

My day had been a nightmare, but I was still blessed in so many ways. I said a prayer of thanks.

The woman had been a reminder of how much I had to be thankful for. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.


The Importance of Community

My oldest daughter, an actress, works with various Seattle theater companies. This summer she’s playing Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, with Shakespeare in the Park. The program provides free theater in twelve parks, bringing the arts to the people.

My husband and I drove to one of the parks last weekend to see the play. It turned out to be a beautiful day and almost two hundred people arrived with blankets, folding chairs, and picnic baskets to enjoy the show.

The performance was scheduled to start at 3:00, but at 3:15 one of the actors announced a lead actor was missing. They were attempting to reach him and would let the crowd know soon as to the situation. At 3:30, they still had not heard from him.

The cast offered two options to the audience. They would either cancel the show, or perform what scenes that they could without the missing actor in order to give a taste of their presentation.

The crowd cheered at the second option and the cast put together a condensed version of the play. They did such a fabulous job entertaining the audience for over an hour, we’re going to venture to another park this weekend to see the show in its entirety. And yes – they did finally locate the missing actor and were able to announce that he was okay.

The cast pulled off a good performance, despite important missing pieces, because they rallied as a community.

Members of our church recently worked together to create a float for a parade, part of a big city celebration. The float, on a long flat bed of a truck, wasn’t constructed until the morning of the parade. But, with everyone contributing various pieces and working together, by the time the parade started, we were ready with a beautiful presentation. Live music from the worship band, church members on the float waving and greeting the parade viewers, as well as teens from the youth group handing out candy and talking to children, made our entry enjoyable for people along the parade route.

The float was successful because we, as a church community, worked together.

We need community.
We need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.

Community is important in God’s eyes, too.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 (NIV)


The Problem With Trying to be Perfect

Doesn’t the location in the photo look like the perfect spot?
Beautiful. Secluded. Romantic.
Sometimes perfect is…well, perfect.

But, there are times when seeking and desiring what is perfect may not be the best choice.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism my whole life.

As a student, I wasn’t satisfied with anything less than an “A.”

As an adult, the house needed to be spotless before I could be comfortable with inviting people in. I stressed over meals prepared and worried that guests might think the meat was a tad over-cooked, the mashed potatoes could have been creamier, and the vegetables fresher.

As a writer, I look back on pieces that have been published on this blog or in various publications, and wish I could rewrite them. I continue to see ways in which sentences could have been written better grammatically or with more vivid and exciting details.

It’s stressful being a perfectionist. You’re convinced that you must always perform well. Anything less than perfect is not acceptable. The disease doesn’t allow for flaws or relaxation.

But, here's the problem. No one is perfect. It's an impossible feat.

Then why do people strive to look like they always have it together? It probably comes from an ingrained untruth. In order to be accepted or loved, you must be perfect.

I’ve worked hard and have made great strides in letting go of perfectionism. Maybe it comes with age. Maybe it’s because I have a husband who is accepting of my defects and helps me laugh about them. Maybe it’s having friends who allow me to be myself without fear of being rejected.

I no longer thoroughly clean the house every week and I remind myself that the company shared is more important than the food cooked.

As I work in our front yard, I climb up and down ladders to water hanging baskets. I have a tendency to trip over hoses as I pull them from one end of the yard to the other. In my tattered T-shirts and paint-splashed shorts, I can’t be making a very graceful impression on the neighbors. But, it’s okay.

The more I stop worrying about doing everything perfect, the more fun I have. It frees me to try new things without having to do them right.

God knows and understands that I can’t be perfect…but loves me anyway. So much that He provided a way for me to be perfect in His sight. Forgiveness and the gift of salvation.


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