Monday, January 21, 2008

Sister Act

My sister, Carmen and I recently spoke at her women's event in Derby. It was a journey that began two years earlier, when after a deep conversation about past hurts and some groundbreaking healing, I distinctly felt God telling me that someday we would speak about what we had learned to women and sing a song together. I called Carmen to tell her my "vision" to see if she had heard the same word from God. "Absolutely not!" was her emphatic answer. I must say I was relieved to hear it!

Now we both know that was all part of God's grand plan to give us the confidence to move forward when, two years later, the opportunity to do just as He had shown us came about.

You can read our talk at my Hide 'N Seek web site if you want the unedited version. Be forewarned, there's even more there than we said that night since we quickly realized we'd be there until midnight if we said everything we had written.

The heart of the lies we believed were summarized in this portion of our talk:

Cheri: You know how there are those people who just have a way about them. When they tell the story, it’s funnier. When they sing the song, you feel it more. When they play the game, it’s more fun. Well, that is my sister. This was obvious to me at a very young age. So I was left trying to figure out where my value came from when I didn’t have these innate, intangible qualities that brought her such attention and affection. So I became the one who cooked and helped out and tried to keep the peace. And when I became good at these things, the lines were drawn, the competition established and the turf divided up. I don’t remember Carmen having a deep desire to cook and sew and earn money for her own clothes. But I do remember wanting to enjoy music or our neighborhood friends and feeling like I had crossed into enemy territory. So I wondered, “She knows me better than anyone and she hates me. So no one else could ever possibly really like me for who I am. They will only like me if I serve them.”

Carmen: You know how there are those people who just have a way about them. They have the ability to visualize something and then create it into being with their hands; When you have a decision to make you seek their wise council; When you need something organized and planned that is who you go to to get it done right. Well, that is my sister. Man, in my eyes, she never got in trouble and was always on the side of right. I was the extreme teenager, too happy, too sad, too funny, too sensitive, too cute, too dramatic…too much! I knew me in all my “too muchness” made her feel over-shadowed and I felt judgment and disappointment from her. So I wondered, “She knows me better than anyone and she hates me. So no one could possibly really like me for who I am. They will only like me if I tone it down a notch.” In the shadow of my strengths, she felt overlooked. In the shadow of her strengths I felt misunderstood.

We have finally come to realize that God created each of us in His image for His unique purposes and that the beauty we see in the other in no way diminishes the beauty He has created in us. But it's been a long road to get there. And the road could not have been navigated in our own understanding but only though the truth of God's word and a willingness on both our parts to find truth and healing.

Our talk focused on our "Thought Closet", a term borrowed from author Jennifer Rothschild in Self Talk, Soul Talk. We identified several lies we as women tell ourselves when we wallow in past hurts and bitterness, compare ourselves to others, or envy others' beauty thinking it dimishes our own, or when we live in a spirit of fear and anxiety. We then helped the audience to understand that we must RECOGNIZE the lie, REFUSE it, RELABEL it with the truth of God's word and REPEAT this process again and again until the lie is sucked dry and the truth lives large! You can read the lies and corresponding truth on the HNS web site. There is also a version for teens/pre-teens as well as one about the media.

It was God thing and that is always a good thing, never to be missed when He brings it your way, irregardless of the fear you must push through to do it. I heard a great quote the day of the event. The speaker said, "If you don't have the courage to do what God has asked you to do, don't worry about it. Just do the thing you would do if you did." So we did.

Dreams in Disguise

When you are the mother of four boys there are certain things you grieve because you know you will likely never experience them. You may never have those long conversations on the phone when they are adults just cuz. You will never shop as many stores as it takes looking for the perfect pair of shoes or pants. (The first store that has anything that fits is good enough.) You will never enjoy a chick flick together. You will never plan a wedding or shop for a wedding dress. You know that someday your primary role will be that of the mother-in-law and hopefully grandma.

I heard Annie Chapman talking on the radio about a new book she has written called, "The Mother-in-Law Dance." She commented that her daughter helped her in her research and noticed a trend in the data. Mothers seemed to have a much easier time in letting go of their daughters than their sons. She asked her mother why that was. Annie replied. "That's easy. Mothers never really have to let go of their daughters but they must let go of their sons." I think the phrase, "If you love them, let them go. If they love you, they will return" was written for moms and sons.

Sunday afternoon I took Dean and three of his friends to the Guitar Store to pick up the bass guitar that Dean has been saving for and talking about for six months. He finally had enough money and his friends were as excited as he was. So the four 12-13 year olds and I headed off to Wichita and I'm thinking to myself, "This is the equivalent of the wedding dress shopping trip for moms with boys!" I imagined the four young men as the bride and bridesmaids and me the mother of the bride. I saw their eyes pop out at the hundreds of guitars and watched them lovingly try on one after the other and imagined sequened dresses and fine lace. I saw them deliberate with care over which guitar would be the one to accompany Dean into this new adventure. Red or blue (instead of white or off-white). Padded or leather strap (instead of strapless or with straps.) It really was very fun and heartwarming and they even expressed their appreciation multiple times for the trip and the fried chicken and ice cream that followed.

It was good to realize that my moments may not be the ones I automatically think of as a female, but they are still there if I will just remember to look for them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Christmas Traditions

I was just challenged in a blog my sister recommended to write about a favorite Christmas tradition. I actually had already thought about doing this so that encouragement was just what I needed to finally pick up my blogging "pen" again after a too long hyatus.

Every year we do a scavenger hunt on Christmas Eve. Mark writes these clues that are so corny (terrible). Half the giggles come from us making fun of his complete inability to rhyme using real words which leads to his desperate attempts to make up words to force a rhyme. (For example, “Who knows, maybe you should look in the tub. It might be in there bub.”) Dr. Suess he ain't. Anyway, these clues send the boys all over the house and doing different tasks.

This year they had to build a miniature snowman and bring it in for hot cocoa. We always stop and play a game (our new annual favorite is Whoo-Nu). Sometimes they have to clean the house or set the table along the way depending on how much we got done in preparation for family the next day. We read or tell the Christmas story. This year, each person said one sentence. After Dean's turn, the next person would have to say, "But way before that..." and go back and fill in major parts of the story he skipped hoping he could get to his gift faster. We sing songs. This year Drew accompanied on guitar and Grant on piano. That was Micah's favorite part. We also open a special gift box (thanks Des) with different items that represent the gifts we have in Christ. We try to guess the gift. For example a toy telephone represents prayer, and then you look up the scripture to see if you’re right. Depending on when we start the hunt (which depends on what all is going on with family Christmas Eve) we may watch a movie together. (The hunt can take hours or minutes depending on the clues.) A favorite has been "A Muppet Christmas Carol" but we couldn't find it this year. So this year we watched "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey" on DVD. This has been a favorite Christmas story book for several years so it was great fun to watch it. At the end of the hunt, their gift is always pajamas. Then the boys open their gifts to each other. (The part Dean couldn't wait for.)

At 15, I wasn’t sure how Drew would be with the hunt this year. But much to my delight he was just as enthusiastic as always and trying to teach 2 1/2 year old Micah what the whole thing was about. Micah was pretty clueless about where everyone was running off to next. Dean, at 12, was actually the one who was acting a bit too cool for the whole thing. It made me so glad we had started this tradition when they were all young and made me wonder if the future might involve a grand scavenger hunt with grandkids! How fun!

In my blog reading leading to blog reading leading to blog reading (hmm, is there a cool cyberword for that I'm not up on? "Bleading" sounds kind of gruesome but sure fits) I found some other great traditions. One was a "Jesse Tree" which I have always been intrigued by but they looked like so much work. This one looked more doable and so meaningful.

The other idea was an envelope for each day of December hung like a garland and inside each envelope is an idea of how the family will spend some time together. I'm thinking I should do that for a year of Sundays instead of December since December is so hectic with school concerts, games, Christmas parties, etc. Or start it on the first day of Christmas break.

I also loved the idea of wrapping all the Christmas story books and having them in a basket and unwrapping one each day of December to read.

What a blessing to have a 2 year old who gives us the excuse to create some new traditions like these. Now all I have to do is remember them for the next 300 days!