Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Names have been changed to protect the ridiculous

Once I had a blog comment that was so mean and nasty that it made me a little bit sad - for the person who wrote it,... not me.  But then I breathed and decided, WHAT THE HECK?  

It was basically a full page rant about how I portrayed our life in such a way that made dear reader feel bad.  So I tried to figure it out and couldn't so basically replied to said reader that I was confused.  More so than usual.  I also told her that I wholeheartedly believe my children to be three-fourths rotten and that my shower is held together with duct tape, so her comment must've been a case of mistaken identity.  

Then this week I received this one from a reader named Jim. Names have been changed to protect the ridiculous.  This was in response to me mentioning volunteering a few hours in the concessions stand at school over spring break.   Y'all - the post was about Jesus!  And I just don't remember Jesus stopping by for a hot dog that day.    Anyway, basically,... here's what I opened up for dessert on Friday night while on weekend away with Fireman Dave.

  "Spring break!?! For the past 8 years mine and Kate's life from February thru May has been spending countless hours in that boring concessions stand. ....... Blah, Blah, Blah  ....... We have learned to put our desires aside for the needs of the boys because before you know it they will be gone! .......  We have never tooted our own horns but did this out if necessity for our boys. Thank you and Fireman Dave for stepping up for such a meaningless task as the boring concession duty."

Good Lord.  What if I had suggested we add organic and vegetarian options to the concessions stand menu?  I shudder to think.  ....   

So I replied with words of confusion, plus some others.....and really just wanted to ask him what Jesus would do if he was irritated by one of my blog posts. 

"Hi Jim, thank you reading the blog and joining hundreds of others who are looking for humor and community in the every day. I try to respond thoughtfully to each comment and especially wanted to spend some time on this one. This post had zero to do with baseball and nothing at all to do with parent involvement. I just liked the picture of the concession stand so it made it into the post. The post, however, was entirely about recognizing our weaknesses in this season of Lent - and giving those over to the power of the risen Christ in all his Easter glory. But you did give me an idea for a future post about how to chase away new parent volunteers and discourage the future progress of established programs. I was hoping I could quote your above comment?"

Y'all....  as a writer, I want people to react.   And I want people to see themselves in my words.  But I lean toward hoping that might happen in a positive way.  But no matter what, it's always a bit enlightening to me to see how a reader can find himself lost in the details of the topic, yet totally miss the topic. So today, this particular exchange made me think of a couple of things,... things that I think are important for all of us, no matter your stage of life.   

1.  Bullies love to hide behind screens.  

I've seen it before and God bless them all, I know I'll see it again.  But y'all, here's what matters - I get to choose my response.  And I get to choose how much head space things like this will take up in my brain.  I also get to choose to aggravate a situation or to calm it.  With what you say?  With grace.  Grace of the etiquette and politeness variety, and a big ol' giant helping of grace from above.  Let me remind myself here exactly what that word, grace, means.  Grace is what is given to us by God though we do not deserve it.  Though we did not earn it or work for it or even warrant time in his heavenly appointment book to ask for said grace.  Because you know what?  He just gives it.  And on this occasion, as with so many others, I choose to accept it.  

But I hope you'll especially remember one thing - whatever your calling, your purpose or your mission, you just go ahead and do it with pride and confidence because someone out there needs it.  And it takes a thousand times more courage to put yourself out there to share your gifts than it takes for someone to sit at a keyboard and try to break your spirit.  Grace, y'all.  Give it to others and then take some for yourself.  

2.   The good, bad and ugly of volunteering - or in other words, No.  I don't need a bigger plate.   

Y'all, I have always enjoyed working for the good of the school or the church or whatever comes along that calls my name.  And though I can list a thousand things my parents did wrong, in this area, they were amazing.  They taught me how to give to others by investing in the success of our school.  

But when it comes right down to it, I've had to learn over the years to say no.  And then to not feel bad about it.  I give what I can.  I do what I can.  But when its time to draw a line between volunteer work, and time given to my family,  I will always choose my family.  I'm of the firm belief that years from now, on my dying day, and over the sounds of angels singing, ... I will not look back and regret all the volunteer hours I failed to do.  But I would so regret even a minute not spent investing in this family.  

I've heard it said that I need to get a bigger plate to hold all my commitments.  Have you heard that one?  OH MY GOSH - That's just crazy talk.  Don't you dare believe it.  Not even for a second.  We all have the same 24 hours in our day, and what we hold close as our personal values never has to compete or even match what someone else holds as theirs. 

And on this point, I actually do agree with my blog reader, Jim.  Yes, before I know it, my boys will be grown and gone.  Which is exactly why I try to spend as much time with them as possible.  My priorities have always been to make a comfortable, safe and happy home for this family.  Loving with food is my game, and I love to play it through expressions of cakes and cookies and the like.  And I adore whatever time I get to watch TV or just sit on my bed with one of the boys and hear about his day.  I actually do these things in between yelling at them to clean their room and to get that pile of wet towels from behind the commode. 

I've always likened myself to the furniture around here - particularly the couch - not because it's sagging in the cushions and starting to show some wear - but in the way that everyone loves the couch, but takes it for granted till it's gone.  I want to be the mom that is so present in the home that I would be missed if I were gone.  That is my priority.  Because, yes, one day the boys will be gone and I can't get these times back.  Today is the day I need to invest in these relationships so I can still have one with them in years to come.  And if that means that I don't get to PTA as much, or help with every sport my kids play, I'm totally okay with that.  I don't need a bigger plate, I just need to fill the one I have with what matters most.   

Am I saying that you shouldn't volunteer?  Absolutely not.  I fill my days writing for several local publications, working, writing my own ministry right here, and trying to do what I can to help the school.  So no, I'm not at all 100% doting on my angels, pirates and thieves.  I'm just saying I think it a good ratio of time invested in and out of the home, if we devote only our available time and energy to help with our chosen activities.  So yes,.... teach Sunday School, be on the PTA board, and sell the heck out of those concessions.  Because you're building something wonderful in those areas where we can all benefit.  

But I'm standing firm in my power to say no.  No to over commitment, no to feeling pressured to accept someone else's priorities as my own, and most of all, my power to say a well placed NO, to make room for the things that matter. 

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