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Strong Willed Or Resolute?

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt that a friend has supplied and write for 10 minutes without any heavy editing and see what comes out of my head. Today’s word is “strong-willed.”

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When people hear the term “strong willed,” they probably jump to the idea of a strong-willed child. Oh, you know how hard they can be! They are stubborn, obstinate, tantrum throwers when they don’t get their way. There has to be special books written about how to parent them.

Nobody has ever seen a book called Parenting the Compliant Child. We think that would be easy.

But what if we started looking at being strong willed in its positive form? What if instead of being obstinate, these people were considered resolute?

I think about Jesus who resolutely set His face toward the cross. I would say His will was very strong.

Trouble is, I know with kids who are considered strong willed, their will is usually against whatever it is their parents want them to do. I didn’t have a strong-willed child, so I don’t have any parenting advice, but I wonder if a mindset change could make a difference.

Can a 3-year-old be reasoned with?

“You sure seem to have your mind made up about what you want to have for lunch. It’s too bad we’re not having that today. I wonder what we can do about that?”

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Makes me chuckle to imagine it.

I know the struggle is real, you parents of strong-willed children out there. So I would just like to offer hope. It won’t come immediately, in fact, it may take them into their 20s to figure it out, but your resolute child could be one who has great perseverance. Once they’ve made up their mind, they go after that thing with gusto.

Think about Jesus. When he was 12 he was left behind in Jerusalem because he was sitting in the temple teaching the men there. Teaching! At 12 years old. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

He knew what He needed to do, and He did it. Now, granted, He was the perfect Son of God, but what lessons can be learned from His life about being resolute?

Huge differences with our kids, I know that. But I think it’s not just a sin nature that is at play. Guiding a child to submitting their will to that of their parents is an arduous process. Parents have no easy task figuring out how to mold their child without crushing them.

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I don’t envy them the task.

But a compliant child also needs to be molded. They need to know that they have a mind of their own and that God has a plan for them. Every whim of someone else doesn’t need to be followed. It’s not a bad thing to question directives in the right manner and at the right time.

Does that make sense? We don’t want our compliant children to become doormats that others use to get what they want. And I think as parents we need to be careful to make sure our kids have a voice. Can compliance become apathy? Can these children become people pleasers?

I’m not a psychologist, so these are just rambling thoughts. But I do wonder.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Open-Heart Surgery

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I use a one-word prompt provided by a friend and write for just 10 minutes without heavy editing and see what I come up with. Today’s prompt is “surgery.”

In the evenings, my family is reading out loud the classic At Home in Mitford by Jan Caron. Yesterday’s reading including a scene where Hoppy Harper, the town doctor, was telling Father Tim, the main character in the stories, how it was when his wife died several years before.

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“I’ve been away from church so long . . . so long away from . . . believing.” Hoppy leaned against the wall, avoiding the rector’s gaze. “I’ve been very angry with God.”

“I understand.”

“He operated without anesthetic.”

He looked at the man who had lost his wife of sixteen years, and saw the sure mark that bitterness and overwork had left. Yet, something tonight was easier in him.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, p. 148

 

 

Loss can feel that way, like surgery without anesthetic. Hoppy’s wife had died of cancer, and he wasn’t really ready for it. And it hurt.

A lot.

It was a good analogy for the town doctor to describe the pain he felt.

People in the medical profession know that deep infections have to be cut out in order for healing to happen. If there is an abscess, work will need to be done. A gangrened limb has to be cut off. It’s really better to get these things taken care of before such dire measures are needed.

Likewise, God will perform surgery on our hearts whenever there’s something that needs to be cut out: idolatry, envy, covetousness. But He can also pry open our closed hearts if we aren’t letting ourselves be known by others.

We were created to live in community, and if we’re not experiencing authentic community, God may need to get our attention to let us know that we’re holding ourselves back.

Just having friends isn’t enough. We need to be willing to open up ourselves, to be real, to be known, to be authentic. If we don’t do this ourselves, we might find ourselves experiencing depression or extreme loneliness. It’s not healthy for our hearts to hide themselves.

There’s also a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Dawn Treader where the boy Eustace, who has been turned into a dragon because of his greed and generally obnoxious personality, has an encounter with the lion, Aslan. In order to be turned back into a real boy, Eustace has to undergo a type of surgery.

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After several attempts to free himself from the terrible dragon scales, Eustace hears Aslan say,

“You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I had turned into a boy again.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, pp 90-91.

Our scaly hearts need God’s attention. And He won’t always use anesthetic. But we can be assured that the outcome will be worth it.

Ezekiel 33:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (New International Version).

 

Circumstances: The Harsh Dictator of Our Emotions

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt and write, unedited, for 10 minutes and see what happens. Today’s prompt is the word “unhappy.”

A quick Google search of “God wants me to be happy” yielded several articles—more than I wanted to take the time to read—about how God really does want us to be happy. But one interesting thing I came away with in my perusal is that holiness and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the closer to God you become, the happier you will be.

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Now, the problem with many is that how they are defining “happy” seems to put it on a very temporary or shallow level. The Bible doesn’t seem to differentiate. Gladness, laughter, singing, they all seem to be wrapped up together. We rejoice in the Lord always.

So what’s going on when we feel unhappy? Are we disappointed in God, or are we disappointed in our circumstances? I can be unhappy that the store I traveled to was out of the item I wanted. (Should have called first. Always. Should have called.) I can be unhappy that someone ate the last piece of chocolate cake, even if I had called it, albeit not within the hearing of everyone in the room.

Those are circumstances that I can easily get over. But what happens when I find myself in a place I really don’t want to be? What if a job change causes me to have to live far away from everyone I know and love? What if the only job I could get is one of drudgery and stress?

If I suffer from clinical depression, does that put me out of God’s will since He commands us to “rejoice in the Lord always”? (Philippians 4:4).

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Being unhappy with our circumstances is a normal experience. Denying that we feel unhappy is simply sweeping our emotions under the rug. The key is not living in that state of unhappiness. I acknowledge that a particular situation is not what I wanted or expected, but I trust that God was not taken by surprise. He will use my circumstances for my good and His glory. But I need to let Him work.

I’m grateful that I have not suffered from clinical depression, but I know that those who do are helped by medication, and that they can find that the joy of the Lord is their strength. He holds them up, He never leaves them, He understands.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which in this season leading up to Easter will be examined by many a preacher, was not “happy,” but His relationship with the Father meant that He was loved and not abandoned. He was about to face a cruel and agonizing death. But He also knew that Resurrection would follow.

 

Beauty Before Death

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “Autumn.”

It inevitably happens. Every September and October beautiful photos start popping up on Instagram and Facebook of gorgeous, fiery trees. People oooh and ahhh about the spectacular colors.

Preston Hughes parkwayI live in Florida, so we don’t really get that here. And I grew up in California’s Bay Area, and I never really got that there either. So I’m not missing what I never knew. But the pictures are lovely.

Funny thing about Autumn: the colors are at their peak when the leaves are about to die and drop for the winter. Beauty before death.

Huh.

I don’t know quite what to make of that. I have heard that the cold and snow is necessary in order for new growth to happen underground. The snow insulates the ground and new life happens underneath. But seeing beauty in dying? That’s a really foreign concept.

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I haven’t been in a position of being with someone as they took their last breath, but I have been there for a couple of beloved pets. In fact, just within the last couple of months I held my sweet little parakeet as he breathed his last. The tears were streaming down my cheeks. I really didn’t see anything beautiful there. I only felt pain.

So this is what I see now: It is in the letting go, in the dying, in the giving up and the killing off of anything that takes my focus away from God that resurrection happens. You see, in order for resurrection to happen, death has to occur. If I want to live a new life, I have to be willing to let the old things go.

Watching someone you love pass on from this life is not easy, but there are many times in which we see this as a mercy because they are suffering here on this earth. We know they will have new life if they are in Christ, and so we assure them that they can go in peace.

I remember talking to my mom on the phone in the last minutes of her life. My siblings were with her and they held the phone to her ear. All I could hear was her heavy, last stage breathing as the cancer took her away. Through my tears I told her not to wait for me. I wasn’t going to get there in time. She could go on without me.

She left just a short while later.

But that death had to occur in order for new life to begin. Those leaves in Autumn have to fall in order for the new growth to come in the Spring.

My Word(s) of the Year: Let Go

In a departure from my normal 10-Minute Tuesday post where I take a one-word prompt given by a friend and write unedited for 10 minutes on that prompt, I thought I would take these 10 minutes today and talk about my word(s) of the year. In 2017, my word was “obey,” and that’s the year we found out we were going to be grandparents via my eldest son and his girlfriend. I had no idea that “obey” would mean showing grace like I’ve never done before.

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In 2018, my word was “trust,” and that’s when our grandson arrived and we made good on our agreement—our obedience to the Lord—to watch him every day that his parents worked. Five days a week. Not a small commitment when you’re in your mid-50s, I gotta tell ya.

So, for 2019, the theme that seems to be presenting itself over and over is “Let Go.” Don’t carry what’s not yours to carry. In the Bible, in 1 Peter 5:7 (Modern English Version), it says, “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.”

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There’s very little that God wants us to take upon ourselves. You know that old saying, “God helps those who help themselves”? Not biblical. Nope. You won’t find it in the Bible.

Instead, many times over we are told to give Jesus our burdens. “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden,” (Matt. 11:28); several times in Matthew 6 Jesus says, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow” (or your life, or what you will wear, or eat, etc.).

You get the idea. There are burdens we just aren’t meant to carry. As a mom, I can take way too much upon myself, and it causes a great deal of stress that can end in health problems if held too long.

My children are 22, 20 (in 12 days) and 16. Especially for my 22 year old who is a dad and lives with his own little family, I cannot and should not carry his choices, burdens, troubles, whatever. When I find myself worrying because they have had an argument, I lift up my hands and say, “It’s not mine to carry. Help them, Lord.” I am here if they ask for advice or help, but they need to do the adulting on their own.

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One child is waitlisted for housing on his college campus for next year. I could overwhelm myself with panicking about apartments. But it’s not mine to carry.

Another child is T-boned on his way to work and will have ongoing medical issues and hassles with insurance. I could consult everyone I’ve ever known who’s been in an accident and drive myself and my child crazy. But it’s not mine to carry.

Another child is Dissatisfied with the way friendships are being conducted. I have lots of advice I could give about that. But no, it’s not mine to carry.

Again, I am here to bounce things off of and give advice when asked, but the burdens are not mine. I have a very strong and capable heavenly Father who not only wants to carry these burdens, but to Him they are not even burdens at all, but rather opportunities for growing faith and ultimate direction that could be missed if I try to do it myself.

And so, for 2019, I will focus on this: Let Go.