Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Savior, Please

I like to think of this song as my life's theme song. It has even more meaning if you listen to it before or after reading Philippians 3:7-14, which I also like to think of as my life's verse.

Monday, October 26, 2009

His Love Through Me

We recently had a run-in with someone. It is someone who we feel we have done a lot for. Maybe they don't see it that way, but we do. We feel like we have put up with so much from this person and circumstances surrounding this person. They have brought us to tears at times, but we kept giving because we really do love this person.

We have confronted them when we felt they crossed the line, and several times Van has had to go head-to-head with them. There have been times when they have seen the affect they've had on us and have apologized. Other times, they just don't get it. All they see is their perspective, and it can really hurt.

Our most recent issue occurred yesterday. Accusations were made against us that were true, but there was so much more to the story than what this person could see. Childish threats were made to us regarding their involvement in other aspects of our relationship. It made me angry. It made me want to lash out and tell them they were throwing a juvenile temper tantrum because they did not get their way, and when they were done throwing their little childish fit, they could come join us again. Kind of like I tell my six-year-old daughter sometimes.

This person proposed the way that they thought it should be. Their way infringes on our way. Their way is not bad, but there is so much to their way that makes no sense. Their way seems to be an attempt to sabotage our way. Something about that makes me want to dig my heels in and refuse to go along. It doesn't help that this person has annoyed me one too many times. It would be so much easier to go along with them if we didn't already have somewhat of a stand-off going on between us.

This morning I read Philippians 2:1-11. I already knew what it said, but I read it again because I needed to.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

I do have encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion in my relationship with my Father. He is my strength and the one I can run to when other people let me down. He is my rock and has wiped many a tear from these eyes of mine.

Therefore, all my rights as a human being are met in him. Actually, he has gone beyond my rights and given me more than I deserve. I can trust him to take complete care of me, body, mind, and spirit. I do not need another person's approval or permission to be whole and complete in Him. No amount of unfairness from another person can cause God to abandon me for that person's agenda. I will rest in his unfailing love.

Because of these truths, I can give in to someone else who may not deserve my compliance. I can allow another person to be right and do things their way instead of mine. These things cannot shake who I am in Christ and what secret whisperings we share between us. He says, "You know they aren't happy. Give them a reason to smile."

I giggle and say, "They're kind of cute in their own little frustrating way, aren't they?"

Then he says something that takes my breath away. "What they've done to you, you have done to me so many times in our relationship. I have loved you and loved you and served you and served you and bent over backwards for you time and time again. Yet, you still get grouchy with me sometimes and ignore me and deny me and throw fits. You refuse to do things my way so many times because you think your way is better. You have made accusations against me that I cannot refute because they are true, but there is so much more to what I am doing that you cannot see.
Even though you have done and still do all these things to me, though, I will still choose to love you. I will still choose to serve you. I will still move heaven and earth to help you be a better person. It is not because you deserve it. It's because that's who I AM."

I answer back in a humbled whisper, "You are so right."

I will give in to them. I will do it their way. I will consider them better than myself. I will look to their interests. I will smile at them and help them to feel the unconditional love I have felt so many times before. It is not because they deserve it. It's because that's who I am.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Loving Memory of Susan Kennedy Brande

Here is the eulogy that my mother wrote and read at my grandmother's funeral. I am so amazed by this wonderful lady and the legacy she left behind.

Mom, Mimi, Aunt Suzi, Suzi, Mrs. Brande: A woman who would not have wanted a eulogy, but we have come to celebrate her live & celebrate I shall.

She lived well & loved well to the max.Even at the end of her life, her mind was full of the things she had lived for - her husband, her children, her home and her garden& her travels. Her memories were sweet because she was a kind, sweet woman.
Mom never had a harsh word for, or about, anyone - even one of us. She was such a
positive, upbeat lady. From a teenager's perspective, I thought she allowed herself to be used as a doormat. She always shrugged her shoulders & said she preferred it that way. I just couldn't understand that. But she did it for the love of peace & contentment.

And I think of the 3 meals per day that she cooked for 8-10 hungry mouths (never did she send out for pizza or Chinese); all the whole wheat bread she made (6 loaves a week); all the homemade yogurt (4-8 quarts per week); homemade power drink every morning for breakfast with brewer's yeast, fresh milk, vanilla, honey , or molasses - that we kids had to eat because Dad said so. Do any of the rest of you consider these all as “comfort foods” now, as I do?

The things she did for Dad - (incomplete) besides cooking all those natural foods - attending monthly VNFFA meetings, attending weekly Small Holders' breakfasts, milking, haying, moving cattle, running farm errands.

The things she did for us kids - her biggest thing for us was making sure we all got to our activities that she wanted us involved in & riding lessons, piano lessons, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, violin & cello lessons, ballet lessons, after-school activities, theater activities, soccer, hockey, & she joined us for rousing games of football, baseball, soccer, & ice hockey in our backyard. She was an
incredible athlete! And remember the woolen ski socks, hats & mittens she would knit for us? And they were not “have to” items. She could have bought them, but she wanted to knit. Where did she find the time for this? And she even took a quick nap in the afternoon. She'd sit on the couch & doze off in the midst of us kids & our eternal chaos. But, of course! She had been to bed late, risen with a troubled child or 2 in the night & then gotten up early. Good thing she could fall asleep at anytime and any place!

And the incredible, un -trumpeted things she did for this community:
1. Girl Scouts
2. Smith Sales
3. The Middlebury Food Coop
4. Making & delivering soup to shut-ins
5. Court diversion for 1sst-time offenders
6. Assisting refugees at assimilating into community
7. Crop Walk assistant
8. ACCAG - Add. Cty. Community Action Grp.
9. Sheldon Museum docent
10. Cornwall school Board
11. School bus driving - “Mom, you've raised all these
kids, & now you choose to drive school bus!”

Mom gave so much of herself to us (her family) & to her community. We have so much to celebrate. I praise God for this mother & friend of ours.

I have some big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of such hard-working, sacrificial, and life-embracing women.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Poor Girl

I have this problem with people thinking I have taken their stuff when I haven't.

One time, this lady I know came up to me and asked me for her old black-and-white family heirloom picture back. She said she had loaned it to me for a project I was doing on period costume. I was stunned. I did not have her picture nor was I doing a project on period costume. When I informed her of these facts, she was insistent that I indeed had borrowed her picture and she needed it back because it was very important to her. What was I to do? I couldn't produce her precious picture, and she was not happy with me about it. It wasn't until later that she remembered it was someone else she had loaned it to.

Another time, I got a call from a friend of mine who wanted to use the Halloween costume she had loaned me for my daughter. I was at a loss because she had not loaned me a Halloween costume. She was so sure she had that I began to doubt myself and started digging through all of Allika's clothes looking for a bumblebee costume. I was relieved when I got the call that my friend remembered it was her sister-in-law she had loaned it to - not me.

Still another time, I returned a bowl and lid in which someone had given me some food. A few weeks later she asked me if I still had the lid to her bowl because it was one of her favorites and she would really like to have it back. I was horrified because I knew for a fact I did not have it, but there was no way to prove that. Fortunately, she did find her lid tucked away somewhere a few days later.

And do you all remember the incidence with the academic adviser, who believed me to have the schedule that I never received from her and proceeded to make it very difficult for me to get another one? I guess that's kind of a different category, but I'm still a little sore about it.

I actually have a few more stories along these same lines, but I'm sure you are getting the picture.

I don't know if this phenomenon happens to anyone else, and if it does, whether it bothers you, but I can attest to the fact that it causes me great stress and discomfort. I do not like people thinking that I am deliberately or irresponsibly keeping something of theirs that I never had in the first place.

I have thought about a policy of never being in possession of anyone's property. That way when someone accuses me of having kept their valued possessions, I can simply say, "That couldn't possibly be me. I have a "anti-other people's property policy." The only problem with that solution is that it doesn't work. You cannot exist on this earth and never borrow anything, have a loan thrust upon you by some well-meaning friend, or somehow come in contact with another person's stuff.

I guess, technically, you could if you wanted to be really mean and grouchy to everyone, but I don't. Thus, I came to the conclusion that I shall valiantly suffer this burden of being falsely accused of keeping one's heirlooms and the like. I will smile, try to reason with them, and endure their anger with me.

This was until yesterday, that is.

My daughter and I made the twelve-hour trip to Oklahoma this weekend to attend a friend's wedding in which my daughter was a flower girl. It was a lot of fun to see old friends and visit a little bit. I just wish we could have gotten to spend more time with people. That's just not possible when there is so much going on during wedding preparations and all. I enjoyed the little bit of time I got, though.

What does this have to do with the pocketing of people's possessions policy (PPPP)? I am about to tell you.

My daughter was an absolute angel for the whole trip. I couldn't have asked for a better traveling buddy. She was nigh unto perfect. I say "nigh" because there were no issues the whole way down and all the way back until we got a little way from home. It was then that we had our first incident, and would you like to know what it was about?

She had been listening to her Ramona books on tape (which I secretly enjoy, as well). Instead of putting them back in the tape case, however, she was tossing them around the car and getting the next tape out to listen to(not in order, mind you, much to my chagrin). Finally, I insisted that she give me all her tapes strewn around the back seat, and I put them back in their cases. I distinctly remember that their was one tape slot which remained empty because I had not been given the appropriate tape for that slot. This is a very important piece of information.

A short time later, Allika said, "Mom, why did you lose my Romona the Brave tape?"

"I didn't."

"Yes, you did. I gave it to you, and you lost it."

Then, something happened that I cannot explain. It was like all the emotions and feelings came tumbling out which had been bottled up inside of me for all those years of being accused of keeping something I had never had. It was both an extremely traumatic and healing moment for me.

"I did not, Allika, and don't accuse me of losing a tape that you lost because you didn't put it away."

"No, I gave it to you. I know I gave it to you."

This is about the time that I snapped and became overly emotional about the whole situation. "How on earth do you think you can know that you gave me that tape? Did you read every single one of those tapes before you gave them to me? I'm the one who knows what tapes you gave me, and you did not give me that tape. Now, you better sit there and be quiet and don't talk about it again or I'm going to take every single one of your tapes away, and you won't get to listen to anything!!!"

Silence ensued.

So, I figure it was a great trip other than that one little psychotic display by this very delusional mother.

My poor daughter is stuck with me for a long time. Bless her heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Cultural and Spiritual Experience

Remember a while back when I mentioned my Liberian friends coming over and singing and praying over me? Well, they did it again. The day I found out I was cancer free, one of them called to hear what the report was. When my husband told her, she informed us that they were all coming over. At first, I didn't know quite what to think because it was 10:00 at night and my daughter was in bed trying to go to sleep. Once again, I was a little less than thrilled about their timing.

There was a pretty good-sized group that came over and sat in my living room waiting for me to get out of the shower. I could hear them in there singing and couldn't help but smile. When I came out of the bathroom, my daughter had gotten out of bed to see what the commotion was all about, and she was sitting on a chair in the living room, along with my husband, taking the whole scene in.

The group of them surrounded me with hugs and tears and were so happy that I had been healed. It was quite a demonstrative and dramatic response - very different from any of the reactions I had received from my American friends.

I did get some of the singing recorded, but I didn't want to seem too disrespectful by recording while they were praying. They took it very seriously and were not trying to entertain, so I didn't want them to think I thought it was all a big show. Here is some of what I recorded.

Just like before, I was blessed beyond anything a quiet night at home would have accomplished.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blessings and Cursings

The sexy computer technician fixed my computer. It's nice to have such a sexy computer technician to live with. Now, I just need to make him some stuffed jalapenos.

I went to a Ladies' Retreat this last weekend. It was just what I needed. It was actually something I helped to organize so I was a little stressed out going into it (and even secretly wanted to play hooky from it), but I am so glad I went. The theme was on being a blessing, and I was very convicted of how much I need to bless others. The definition of blessing is to bestow favor on someone. Our goal should be to help each person with whom we come in contact to realize the favor that God has for them. Whether it is a smile, a touch, a gift, an extension of grace, a kind word, a soft re-direction, etc., we should try to remind others of how important they are to God no matter who they are. One thing that really made an impact on me was hearing that criticizing others is the equivalent of cursing them. I had never heard that before, but the Bible verse makes more sense now when it says,  "How can blessings and cursings come from the same mouth?"

It really made me stop and think that I pride myself in the fact that I don't cuss people out, but I am a very critical person. In light of the new meaning of cursing, I have a tendency to bless people one minute and curse them the next, or to bless them to their face and curse them behind their back. This makes me a very fickle and unstable person. So, I am really going to try to be less critical of others and of circumstances.

I also learned that favor is not dependent on a person's behavior, and bestowing favor can actually transform undesirable actions into desirable ones. The Israelites blessed their children every week on the Sabbath from the time they were born until they grew up. They compared them to their ancestors and reminded them of their heritage. Can you imagine the difference this positive affirmation had on these Jewish children? I realized that I need to bless my daughter more instead of constantly correcting her. Not that correction isn't warranted, but when it is not mixed with blessing, it becomes criticism and is detrimental.

When I got home from the wonderful time at the Ladies' Retreat, my husband had surprised me with tickets to the Michael W. Smith concert (but I had already figured it out because I'm sneaky like that). It was so nice of him, and I had an amazing time. M.W.S. is one of the best facilitators of worship I have ever seen. I think I was getting caught up in analyzing the dynamics of the event instead of just participating in the event, but that is sometimes more fun for me. I like figuring out why things work the way they do in people's brains.

It has been a very busy month and will continue to be, but I promise I will do better at posting. So check back over the next couple of days to see a video of my Liberian friends singing and praying over me after hearing the news that I was cancer free and to read my grandmother's eulogy, written by my mother.