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No gifts will be returned in this house.

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Thanks to Derek Mansker for his post:   No gifts will be returned in this house..  He discusses why it’s important for his children (and others) to learn to be grateful for what they get instead of trading it in for money or something else they like better after Christmas is over.  Stop on over and read the rest.  Leave a comment if you like.

That’s nice, but I want. . . 

I appreciate Derek’s post very much because it is something I see so often in our world today.  The store is busier after Christmas than before.  Why? Because people are returning all those gifts they received for cash or in exchange for something else they wanted and didn’t get.

I have to get what I want

Why do people do this?  Do they not recognize that the giver thought long and hard about the gift before giving it?  So what if it isn’t exactly what you wanted? Why do we disrepect the giver by returning the gifts?

Why it matters

Every year, I usually fight depression as the Christmas season approaches.  There are several reasons for this, but one of them is fear that I won’t be able to buy the right gifts and make everyone happy.  This is my issue, for sure, but the issue has been fed by others who did not accept gifts graciously.  As a child, I often thought my parents would ‘know’ what I wanted.  They often didn’t, but I still appreciated the thought they put into their selections.  Another person in my life has a hard time receiving gifts from others.  This person likes to be the giver.  One year I spent quite a bit of time and money planning the perfect gift.  His reception was less than stellar, and I ended up in tears.  This person has since tried to undo what was done, but the damage was deep.

Returns tell the tale

Most people at least fake that they like the gift, but the number of returns after Christmas tells a tale.  Many of us have lists of what we’d like to have for gifts.  We don’t leave it up to chance because we want what we want.  How selfish and self-serving is that?  No wonder Christmas has become so commercial and often cold.

Rejecting the best gift

More than 2000 years ago, God gave mankind a gift in the form of a baby, our Savior, Christ the Lord.  That gift would stay on earth for 33 years, teaching and showing Himself as fully God and fully man.  Then, he gave the ultimate sacrifice:  His life.  He was crucified, and all our sin was laid on Him.  He rose from the dead to complete the gift:  salvation for anyone who would accept it.  This gift was given out of a love so deep we couldn’t possibly fathom it.  It was thought out, planned and executed with us in mind.  God knew we could not work out our own salvation, so He worked it out for us and handed it to us, anticipating our delight in accepting this best gift ever.

That’s nice, but I want. . .

And how many said, no thank you to this gift?  Some rejected it outright.  Others tried to say, I’ll take it, but I have to do something to get it.  But God knows exactly what it feels like to offer the perfect gift and have it thrown back at Him.

Have you rejected a gift by returning it for what you ‘really’ wanted?

Has someone else rejected a gift you gave and hurt your feelings?

How can we teach our children to appreciate the gifts they are given when we return our own gifts?

Do you feel that returning gifts is fine, or do you see it as a sign of ungratefulness in our society?

What about God’s gift?  Did you remember to honor the best Gift ever on Christmas Day, or did you snub your nose at Him and celebrate yourself or your family or something else in stead?

via No gifts will be returned in this house..

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Merry Christmas

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God bless you all this Christmas Season.  Click on the link to see my message to you 🙂  <Angie>

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Your toilet water is bluer than mine!

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Mine's bluer, no mine's bluer!

Mine's bluer, no mine's bluer!

Why is it we always want what someone else has?  Some never outgrow this trend.  Look at your friend’s marriage.  Look good? In reality, you have no idea what it is like to live with that person behind closed doors.   Someone has more money than you do?  Newsflash:  money does NOT guarantee happiness.  In fact, it often guarantees a whole host of problems those of us lower on the pay scale have no clue about.

It’s Not Fair!

This often starts out in children as the “it’s not fair” mantra.  Children have a finite understanding of what is ‘fair’.   If I am 12 and my 16 yo brother has a license and gets to drive the family car and date and stay out later, that is fair.  Not many younger siblings understand that though.  What about the older sibling who says mom and dad baby the younger child and let him/her get away with more than he or she did?

Stinkin’ thinkin’    

Orignal photo via clarita at http://mrg.bz/i1Kq2B (Morguefile.com/)The problem here is one of perception. Just because it looks 'unfair' to you does not make it 'unfair' in reality. I see so many people who live in a world of pain because they are always looking at how unfair life is to them. You can ALWAYS have it worse, so grow a spine and stop whining! Seem harsh? Sometimes that's what people need. If you don't recognize you're thinking is a mess, how can you change it? Change the "think", change the stinkI can also tell you I have seen many lives turned around when the person realized he/she was believing a lie and started believing the truth. Bad things happen; no one is immune. Perception about reality does not make it reality. Instead of looking at what you don't have, look at what you do have: count your blessings!♫Count your blessings, name them one by one♫

Blessing counting changes skewed perspectives

When I talk about my husband’s accident (many years ago now) I could tell you about how hard it was.  It was hard.  But when I talk about this time in our lives, the hard times are overshadowed by the awesome blessings we encountered throughout that year he was off work.  In fact, I tell stories about this often, and you might think it was all fun and roses if you were not there and did not see what we went through.  Just like shadows point to the light, dark times often just highlight the good times and make them more precious.

 

The impact

My husband was hit head on by an SUV type vehicle.  His right leg was hanging by skin with the bone protruding, he had internal injuries and much more.   The 11 days in the hospital have horror and blessing stories galore, but we got through them.  We also got through the 3 or so months of therapy in which I had to debreed his foot/leg twice a day and take care of him.  He was off work for a whole year.  I was in school and thought I would have to drop out and get a job (that would not pay anything like his).  Believe me, there were a whole lot of hard things to go through.  But . . .

 

The multiplying turkeys

Gobble Gooble

This is the story I tell most often about that time because it shows God’s hand in a big way. The first holiday season (accident in late June) we had nothing.  One day a turkey and a few groceries showed up at our back door.  Since my husband had two small turkeys in the freezer from a previous purchase, we decided to give the turkey away.  The next day there were two turkeys and some groceries.  OK, let’s share them with others.  You guessed it.  The next day there were 4 turkeys!  That year we had 25 turkeys pass through our home.  We finally stopped giving them away because, well you can guess why, and had a wonderful spread for that year.

With boxes of food still sitting in our small kitchen, I was at the sink washing dishes and looking out our back window.  My mind was rehearsing how God’s hand had been in all of this from two weeks before the accident to now (and onward).  I was praising Him, when suddenly I ‘heard’ in my spirit something I had never heard before.  God was giggling like a school girl!  God was enjoying blessing us and enjoying doing it in a way we would never forget.  I learned something new about God that Christmas.   AND, not only did we have plenty of food, we were able to help out many other families in need with what God and some good people had provided.

 

The point of all this

There’s always a point, and the point here is that 1) We do not know what’s really going on in another person’s life and 2) Perspective makes all the difference.  Look up, not around.

 

So how has a change of perspective made a difference in your life?  Feel free to share your stories or links to articles you have written on the subject.  BTW – you do not have to be a Christian to have stories about perspective and changed thinking, so I hope no one will miss the point just because I come from a Christian perspective.     What’s your story?

Original toilet photo via Alvimann @ http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/638004  Altered by this writer. Original turkey clipart via http://hellasmultimedia.com/webimages/thanksgiving/thanksgiving_images_6.htm   Altered by this writer                                      Abacus photo via jdurham @ http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/585166

Strength & Weakness: Nurture – when self-sacrifice becomes a weakness

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Strength & Weakness: Nurture.

“Yesterday, we established self-sacrifice as a strength, but identified the same characteristic as a weakness. Natural self-sacrifice is truly a strength which furthers humanity. Self-sacrifice as a weakness is not an instinct, but instead, is learned behavior.”

In a blog post, a continuing series about strength vs. weakness, Ann Marie Dwyer hits the nail on the head when it comes to self-sacrifice and how it can be a strength or a weakness.  She puts into words something I have struggled with my entire life.

Self-sacrifice is good.   Right?

As I read this post, my mind was immediately taken back to my childhood.  I love my sister very much, but she is and was a very strong-willed person.  She often took more than her share in many ways.  My baby brother, hyperactive and adorable, often took most of what was left.  Angie sacrificed in order to keep peace (only part of the reason).

Example:  The car

We lived about 10 hours away from my grandparents, so a trip to see them often involved my dad driving us all at night, hoping the kids would sleep through it all.   The put stuff on the floor in the back seat to make it more bed-like and covered it with blankets.  The sister got in and got comfortable.  The brother found a way to get comfortable.  Angie sat in a corner and stayed awake – uncomfortable.  Self-sacrifice.

It’s called enabling

When a person sacrifices to this extent, it is called enabling.  When the quiet wheel lets the squeaky wheel get away with drawing all the attention, this leads to the wheel learning to squeak to get attention and the non-squeaky wheel to just keep rolling along, pondering these things in her heart.

Personality vs. invisibility

Part of the tendency to do this had to do with personality.  Some people are naturally less aggressive and quieter.  However.  when a person takes it to the extent that they become invisible, it has gone too far.  This writer had a major struggle in adulthood because she believed she really was invisible (figuratively).  She didn’t think she deserved to squeak or have attention.  She still struggles with this.

Whose fault is it

While my parents should have intervened, and my sister could have been a little more generous in that area (she is very generous in other areas), the problem became mine when I continued in it even to adulthood.

Self-sacrifice as a weakness

I won’t go into the struggle to overcome this in this post, but the above was to point out that self-sacrifice is not always a strength.  Sometimes, it’s a big stinky weakness!  Taken to an extreme, it becomes enabling, teaching others to take advantage and feeding their own issues.

Unaware

Many times when self-sacrifice steps over the boundaries in this way, the other people are totally unaware of the struggle going on inside the self-sacrificer.  The person may have resentment and more fermenting inside, but since they don’t express it or set boundaries, the other person has no real way of knowing.  Often, especially with this type of self-sacrifice, we want others to ‘know’, but we want them to do it instinctively; we don’t want to have to tell them.

Becoming aware

There came a point in my adult life where I realized I had to take back my own power and stop sacrificing myself to the point where I became an invisible mass of unmet needs, holding resentment for the boundary violations but never letting others know.  I remember the moment well when I told my sister NO!  and started telling others NO!  and learning how to actually set boundaries.

Boundaries boundaries boundaries

If we do not set boundaries (make them known to others) we cannot blame them for stumbling past them.  Self-sacrifice is not about becoming an invisible no-one.  It is about being very confident in oneself, setting boundaries and protecting them, letting others know where those boundaries are and when they have crossed them, and then choosing at times to give place to others.   When self-sacrifice crosses the line into enabling, it definately becomes a weakness.

As Ann Marie says in her post, women tend to be more likely to go there than men, and it has a lot to do with the nurture aspect of society’s and other’s expectations about what it means to be a woman.  Rather than taking this to the other extreme and sacrificing nothing, we need to move to the point where we are self-nurturing, giving us the strength we need to sacrifice when it is called for.

Have you ever self-sacrificed in a way that was a weakness?  Do you think others should just know when you have a need or when your boundaries have been crossed without your permission?  Where would you take this post from here?  Ann Marie sparked this post, and I hope this one (or her original one:  Read here) can spark your imagination and we’ll see a post (writing, blog, facebook) from you.  Please share.

Communication Busters: Talking to Your Child About Bullying

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This post is not what you think.

A newly released book, Twigs and the Bully, by Dennis Charlton (author) and Steve Fine (Illustrator), tackles the subject of bullying.  This is a good thing; bullying is a violent crime, whether physically or emotionally, and should be addressed.  That however, is not the topic of this post.  That is a disclaimer that this writer is NOT saying we should not promote anti-bullying.  I am also not putting down the book; I am promoting it while discussing possible issues that may happen as the discussion is opened up.  I hope you will look it up and buy it.  It is merely a spark to my muse.

Questions

One thing different about this book is that it lists several questions at the back to help talk about bullying with the child and possibly find out if the child is or has been being bullied.  Great, right?  Yes and no.

Backlash

While we need this, it is still dangerous in some ways.  When society became more aware of sexual abuse and began to make the public aware, there was a backlash.  The backlash was that people who did not know how to question children were leading them to make false accusations, destroying lives in the process.

Collateral damage – right?

We have to expect that there will be false accusations at times, whether on purpose or through bungled handling of children, but we should have learned something about the nature of dealing with children in crisis.  We can cut the collateral damage by remembering that children can be led.  It’s important to ask questions that aren’t leading when questioning them about subjects where false accusations could be made.

Children’s definitions.

Another issue is that children and others may begin to see bullies under every bush, even when there are none.  Up till a certain age, children often  have different definitions for things than adults do because they don’t have the words to differentiate between word meanings, and they tend to put negative emotions on anything that they do not like or that challenges their own view of how life should go.

Huh?  Example please.

One of the children in my life had Child Protective Services called on her family a few times.  Why?  She told someone a person was being ‘mean’ to her.  CPS dismissed the problem after investigating and finding out it wasn’t strictly true, however, a lot of damage was done.  One day we were in the car and I called her out for something she said.  Her response:  “Why is everyone so mean to me?”  As soon as I could, I sat down with her and we talked about what mean is and what it is not.

The definition of mean:  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mean

‘Mean’ can ‘mean’ many things.  In this case, however, we’ll go with this one from dictionary.com:  “to have the intention of behaving or acting (esp in the phrases mean well or mean ill)”

When a parent disciplines a child (in the absence of abuse of course), that is not mean, even though it feels mean to the child because it hurts.  It is actually a sign of love to discipline one’s children, but children may struggle with this concept.  Even adults struggle with this concept at times.

The point.

Children may see bullying where no bullying was intended.  It is important to be aware of this when reading about or talking about bullying with a child.  So, as a society, and especially as parents or people who work with children, we need to not jump the gun when it comes to this topic.  Make sure you fully understand what happened before acting.  Then, if it is bullying, do something about it.

The next step.

Other than making bullying stop, a parent, teacher, etc., needs to work with the child in dealing with the effects of being bullied (or bullying).  Bad things happen.  Teaching a child to see it as the other kid’s problem so as not to internalize it is one of the major things that will help a child recover from bullying and other hard knocks in life.  Talk to your child about bullying by all means.  Buy the book and make your child aware, but don’t stop there.  Proceed cautiously and teach your child how to handle life’s hard knocks, you’ll help him or her grow as a person and guarantee a stronger child who can handle life, no matter what happens.

*The book asks if the child has ever been bullied, how they felt about it, who the told, who they should tell.  Good questions.

What would you do if a child told you someone was being mean to them?  

Finding My Identity?

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This blog post was sparked by the post of  a fellow blogger, Ann Marie Dwyer of Momma’s Money Matters blog fame in this post:  Who are you?.   She asked “How do you describe yourself most often?”  Feel free to stop by and take the poll on the left of the screen.  It asks the above question with the following for possible answers:  by name only, as a spiritual being, by occupation, by family position, by character, by employment status, by politics, remain anonymous, and other.

Who am I?

It seems we start asking this question from the moment our brains begin to recognize that we are individuals who have to fit in with other individuals in some way.  I suspect much of our search for identity comes from our need to be significant, to be someone in a world full of other someones.  It often starts with the realization that I am not my mother and seldom ends in a life time.

Why is this?

In reality, our identity is all of the above and then some.  Our identity, at least in this context, is flexible and changeable.   When we lose a job, does our identity change?  If our child dies, are we no longer a mother/father?  If I get married, I gain a new identity as a wife.  If I divorce, I lose that identity and become and ex-wife.  You get the point.  Life changes and with it, our identity.

My story

My entire life has been a series of identity claims and having those identities pulled out from under me.  Why?  Because my God has been trying to teach me that my identity is in Him.  I am His child, His creation, His.  Having had a relationship with God from early on, and seeking to serve Him and be who He made me to be, this makes perfect sense.  However, it has not been easy, especially in the early years.

This is what I am

I have a tendency to latch on to something as my ‘identity’ and focus on that thing, seeking my worth from my ability to perform within that identity.  As you can probably guess, when I didn’t meet my own perfectionistic standards, I would have another identity crisis and look for something else to fill that need.  I had to be the best and took on responsibility that did not belong to me in relationships and more.  I was a people pleaser, everyone except me, of course, and I was devastated when I did not please said others.  Sooner or later, this way of thinking/being doesn’t work out very well for identity or anything else.  Whenever I get close to that point where I start falling into the trap, God pulls me back and reminds me this is something I door a relationship I am in, but it is NOT who I am.

A = B 

Through all this I have learned the hard way that when it comes to God and identity, A does not always lead to B.   5 years ago or so, I met someone, in a definite “God Story” kind of way, who was looking for an illustrator for her children’s book.  I did those illustrations and we became fast friends.  Together we sought a publisher for the book.  I became a “Children’s Book Illustrator”, but only in my mind.  Eventually, I sent our work into a publisher who wanted the book, but not me.  Many publishing companies only use their own illustrators.  I prayed hard about this, and realized I needed to free my friend from her contract with me and allow her to pursue publication of her book, her dream for many years.  She fought me, but in the end accepted the offer and her book has recently come out (more later:).  I went through the anger at ‘losing’ that identity and the self-esteem that comes from being able to say I [________].  But mostly, I hurt at losing this, even though I did it willingly because it was the right thing to do.   The book may have wound up looking way different than either of our visions, but it has nothing to do with me or my identity.  God had other reasons for me meeting her and doing those illustrations, etc..  He used me to bring this to fruition.  He used it to help me and to help her and to bring a dear friend into my life.

Free to be all I was created to be

When I recognized that A = B  in God’s world (His purposes are different than mine), I was able to be free from that need to seek an identity that defined my worth.  It allowed me to walk away in the above situation and many more we don’t have time for here.  How freeing to have my identity in my God and who I am in Him.  That relationship is all the identity I need.  All else is gravy.

You’re a great Mom

Another way this effected my identity was in relationships.  I spent more years than I care to remember beating myself up, and often apologizing, for the things I did wrong raising my children (or in other relationships).  If I couldn’t be what I considered good enough, I couldn’t claim the identity associated with the relationship.   I’ve come a long way in that regard, but last week, my daughter gave me a wonderful gift.  She looked at me and said, “You’re a great Mom.”  I, of course, said, yeah but….  She stopped me and said, “Mom, your not perfect, you’re human, but you are a good mom.”   What a concept.  I can claim the identity of a ‘good mom’ even though I didn’t do it perfectly.  I am not the sum of what I can do, what I have done right, what I have done wrong, or even what I can’t do.  Speaking of freeing!  At that moment, I realized that I have been doing it again.

What do you see?    

Some people look at a paper and see the 99.99% white of the paper.  I tend to look at it and see the tiny black dot that mars the whiteness.  God has had to teach me otherwise.  I’ve learned to look through God’s eyes to see my worth.  When I am working on a painting or other craft and my daughter walks in and says, “Wow!”  I know I am ready to stop.  I cannot police myself in saying this is good enough.  I thank God for teaching me that I am good enough, the things I do are good enough, and so much more.

So what do you see?  Where do you find your worth?  Do you seek an identity that will set you apart from others or make you ‘special’?  If not, how do you find your worth?  

Procrastination Saves Relationships

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Recently, I perused an article post by Ann Marie Dwyer  called, “The art and math of procrastination.”  In the post she talks about how procrastination can be a good thing when it causes us to save money or in some other way not do something that can be put off forever.  At the end of the post, Ann Marie asks a profound, thought-provoking question, something she is quite good at.  The question was:  What is the thing you are most proud to have put off and never done?

 

The following is my response to this question:

 

How about this one? During a rather hairy point in my marriage, many long years and gray hairs ago, I put off getting a divorce. Put it off long enough that we made it through the rough patch (mostly because we were both too stubborn to leave the kids or be the one to walk away). I’ve actually found that, in the absense of such things as abuse, this works well in a lot of relationship issues. Give it time, put it off, wait and see, along with a huge dose of prayer, usually moves things in the right direction.

 

Hear the gears turning.                                                                               

Image by imelenchon of morguefiles http://mrgbz/zuFAzO

 

This got my brain moving, and I decided to bring it here.  It is very true that life usually works itself out if we will just pause, procrastinate, stop, and wait.  The gift of procrastination is time.  [That statement is a mind-blower in and of itself because we often think of procrastination as something that wastes time.]  But, it is true that procrastination can be a good thing in the right context.  Ann Marie brings up that putting of certain purchases, especially those “ooo, gotta have it” purchases, can save money if we can wait until we have the money saved or avoid the purchase altogether.

 

Procrastination can also save relationships.

 

I have to wonder how often, in the absense of abuse of course, people have burned their bridges and said goodbye to relationships because they just didn’t procrastinate long enough?  In the heat of the relationship crisis, we are unable to think clearly.  We can probably say with certainty that both partners are believing lies and need time to sift through and find the truth in the situation.  Others sometimes need time to come to change, and sometimes, we are the ones who need to do so.

 

Throw-away relationships.  

Is he or she disposable?

                                       

It amazes this writer how often people treat others just as they do their latest gadgets:  if it doesn’t work, get a new one.  One advantage of society’s mores in the past on such things as divorce and etc., people were either forced to stay or forced to work on the relationship.  While that wasn’t all good, it certainly wasn’t all bad either.

 

Going through the hard times.

 

I can tell you from my own experience that going through hard times together builds a bond that is amazing and not quickly broken.  When my husband was in a major car accident years ago, he was off work for a year.  I had to take care of him in the beginning, doing things like debreeding his wounds and taking care of personal needs.  Brian is the one who gets things done in the physical world while I live in my head too much, so my physical tasks increased greatly.  Financially and otherwise, this was a very difficult time for us.

 

Thank you for staying.

 

One thing that came out of that time was that my husband told me how much he appreciated that I stayed.  He knew several people who had spouses bail on them in the rough times, and he realized how much I loved him and my commitment to him by the very fact that I stayed.  Lots of good people do, but so many do not.  When the going gets rough (again not talking abuse here) so many head out the door.  This is when procrastination is a good thing.

 

Things always change.  

Image by cohdra at morguefiles.com http://mrg.bz/exNaF0

 

Life is a series of ups and downs.  This is true of relationships as well.  If you’re doing great, hold on, it will change.  If  you’re doing poorly, hang on, it will change.  If  you hurt, procrastinate, it will change.  If you don’t hurt, watch out, it will change.   Sometimes procrastination allows a person to get to the point where healing and change come.  Sometimes not procrastinating can cause a person to miss out on some of the best things in life.

 

So, what’s your story?   Have you bailed too soon on a relationship?  Have you  procrastinated and saved a relationship?  How has procrastination, taking time to think things through, helped you in the area of communication?  Or to quote Ann Marie Dwyer of Mamma’s Money Matters  blog fame:  “What is the thing you are most proud to have put off and never done?”

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