Inspirational

But, what about MY plans today, God?

So much to do each day
So much to do each day

Like most people today, I have a schedule that keeps me running. Yes, even us retired folks have to be good time managers. Who knew, huh? Today’s schedule was tight, tight, tight. True, I had allowed an hour for devotion and prayer, but that was really all I could spare because I was just so darned busy.

While waiting for my coffee pot to signal that the fuel for all this busyness was ready, I took a gander out my front window. Keith and I have a large, beautiful maple tree in our front yard that is surrounded by a circular, built up, brick edging. There, on the edging, under that tree and sitting with her back to me, was one of my neighbors.

I looked at her for a moment and then I heard a voice clearly say, “Go out and greet her.”

I hesitated because after all this was a busy day and my day timer was packed. Did I have time to chat with a neighbor? I presented that question to the voice.

The response was, “Would you like to compare your day timer to mine, little one?” Ah, I knew who was talking now.

I went out, trying to figure out how I was going to work one more thing into my day, and she looked up at me. She seemed to be flushed, so I asked her if she would like a drink of water. She just nodded her head and thanked me.

I brought her a glass of water and then sat down next to her. The brick edging was wet because the sprinkler had been on earlier this morning, and it was not exactly comfortable. Ignoring my now wet britches, I asked her how she was doing.

“It has been a bad summer, Laura,” she told me. Mentally, I saw my day timer’s entries begin to diminish in importance.

She went on to explain that she had lost several of her family members this summer, including her only son. She was in deep grief. Her tears began to fall as she told me the details. Then my tears began to fall. It was the broken heart of one mother pouring out her grief to another mother in an attempt to lessen the pain.

I have stood with several mothers who have buried their children. Through these times I have learned one very important lesson: I cannot make it better so I do not try by giving advice or smooth clichés. The best thing I can do is stand in the pain with her and give her my ears, my hand and my silence as she unpacks yet another layer of grief.

During our time together, clouds moved above us and then moved on. One cloud, however, stayed directly overhead, releasing tiny raindrops that fell through the leaves of the giant, sheltering tree and onto us. I realized that God too was crying, crying for the pain of His children. Death is part of life. As humans, we do not know when it will come or, in some cases, why. And it hurts, especially for the loved ones who are left. God knows the whys and whens but I believe, like all parents, He hurts when His children hurt.

I do not know how long we talked about her loss, but I do know that her decision to stop and rest under my tree was not an interruption of my itinerary for the day. It was my itinerary for the day. I was given opportunity to return to the most important thing in this life – caring about and for others.

She finished her water and said she had to go home. We hugged and she started walking up the street, still wiping the tears from her eyes. When I came into the house, I read my devotional and began to pray. The devotional lesson today was about trusting God and giving everything we have to Him and, in faith, to offer ourselves in service to Him and to others.

During my prayer time, I heard Him say, “Write this experience down and share it today.”

So I did. The funny thing is, I can’t even find that list of all those things I had on this day’s to- do list. I believe I did what He asked me to do. And that beloveds, is all we ever really need to complete in our so, so busy lives and schedules.

Copyright
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, CO
July 25, 2013

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Christian insprirational, Inspirational

Yes, I Do – Again

I do
I do

Twenty years ago today I married my husband, Keith. A friend of mine recently said that by today’s standards, 20 years seems like a long time to be married to the same person. She asked me what makes our marriage work. I told her that of course there are many things and there is no “secret.” But, honestly as I thought about it more I truly believe there are two very important elements to making any relationship work, especially a marriage.  Those are authenticity and letting the other person be the other person.

Keith and I met in 1991 at a church Bible Study. We dated for two years and then made the decision to get married. We both had been married before. We both were blessed in many ways by the previous unions including by having our children. We both had been deeply hurt and disappointed in love as well. We both brought friends and family from different walks of life. Some friends and family accepted the union with great joy and others … well not so much. As we embarked on a second marriage we both were certain, uncertain, delighted, scared, confident and insecure. In other words, we came to a holy union wholly human.

Over 20 years there have been times and situations when we have indeed seen things differently. I learned a long time ago that it is vital in relationship to let others be well……. others. I never had the words to express this before until reading it recently in a book by Dr. James Hollis called “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life.”

Dr. Hollis, who has been married to the same woman for many years, says that when we go into relationship expecting the other person will change to be like us, we end up disappointed and usually embark upon a course of miserably coping or separating from union with that person. This is paraphrase of course, and I encourage you all, even if you are not in the second half of life, to read Dr. Hollis’ work.

How simple huh? We fall in love with someone or fall in love with being in love as it were and after the first year or two we begin to move from the hot blooded, can’t be without a person into a richer, deep, companionship of completeness. But what does that completeness look like? I am sure it is different for every couple. For Keith and me it has been acknowledging that we are opposites in many ways, we have grown because of our differences, and that neither of us has the prescription for “right and wrong.” We have no need to change each other and in fact delight in and learn on a daily basis from our union.

Now, do we disagree? Yes. Do we sometimes get frustrated with one another? Yes. Do we sometimes become irritated with the little habits of the other person? Yes, of course. In fact, some days I wonder if Keith would like to put me in a box outside the King Soopers with a sign around my neck that says “Free to a good home. Doesn’t tolerate gluten. You will need a large truck to transport all shoes, jeweler, CDs and clothing along with various panda and Mickey Mouse paraphernalia. I will personally pay for hormone replacement therapy as a form of apology for teaching her how to shoot a gun.” Naaaa. He wouldn’t. I don’t think. Just in case, I destroy most boxes that could serve this particular purpose.

We realize that our differences on many issues, from politics to music, have served to grow us into people richer and more diverse in our abilities to navigate this ship of matrimony through this sea called a shared life. To say that at 61 and 71, after 20 years of marriage, we hang on every word the other says, float starry-eyed through the day while awaiting the other’s return, never have a lively discussion where we each need to take a break for a few minutes is just plain crap. It is being unauthentic to the hilt.

Here is the good part.  We have learned to treasure instead of feel threatened by our individual authenticity and are grateful for the trust needed to bring our true selves to the relationship.

Perfect this marriage? No. (Whose is?)  Perfect these two people? No. (Who is?)Willing to totally become someone else in order to be in relationship? No.  (Talk about courting resentment.)  Willing to work, work, work to let other be other, especially on the days when love just does not seem to be enough? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes!

Here’s to us, baby. I pray God grants us another 20 but if He chooses to call one of us home before another 20 years together – what a great time He has given to us. He handed us abundant blessings in our sameness and our differences, as well as the tools to keep going. But it is up to us to stay authentic and to keep doing the work individually and with each “other.”

Copyright February 2013
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Inspirational

Living Strong

Living strong
Living strong

Man today we hear a lot about living strong. Messages come at us everywhere from Kaiser Permanente commercials to shows where personal trainers beat the liver out of people to make them the “best they can be.” Yeah, buddy, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to state that strength often times is seen as a physical trait in our overly zealous “body beautiful is everything,” society. But not long ago I was introduced to a different kind of strength, one that takes effort to develop and maintain. It is called spiritual, emotional and mental fitness.

I recently attended the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. During the luncheon, following the service, I stopped to greet a group of folks who attend a church Keith and I used to attend. One woman at the table looked at me and said, “I am so glad you are putting on weight. I mean you are not fat, dear, don’t get me wrong. I always thought you were just too skinny, and it is nice to see you packing on the pounds.” I hear a collective gasp from all the females out there. Right.

Wow!! Who says things like that to anyone at any time, but especially in public? The other people at the table stared at her with their mouths open. Yet even in this sea of obvious communal offense, she continued to chatter on about my weight gain. Actually I still fit into my size 10 jeans, and as far as I know I am not tipping the scales more than usual (sorry just had to say that – vanity is a ceaseless nag). To say I was surprised by her lack of tack and class would be an understatement. To say she did not hurt and embarrass me and everyone else at the table, for that matter, would be an outright lie.

I walked away from her (as quickly as good manners would allow). During the meal, I mentioned it to my husband who laughed out loud and said, “Oh my, she never changes does she? She is just so socially inappropriate. The sad thing is, honey, she really does not know it. Seriously, she is clueless.”

I am going to admit right here that over the next couple of days, I spent more than a few sessions looking in the mirror at my now past 60-year-old body and wondering if I really do have a weight problem and just can’t see it. While thinking about this surprising public slap in the face, I asked myself why some people enjoy putting others down. I also acknowledged that a few years ago I would have come back with an insult and “put her in her place.” After all how dare she? But to tell the truth, I really didn’t feel a need to respond with another put down. Age and experience are teaching me that it would have made me feel no better and in fact would have made me feel worse. That puzzled me too because as some of you know, I can be quite formidable when it comes to verbal combat. I am my father’s daughter. Albert had a black belt in tongue. Sorry I digress.

Then a few days ago a friend of mine, Carrie Obermeyer, put the saying on Facebook by Michael P. Watson, courtesy of quotediary.me, that accompanies this blog entry. It hit me between the eyes. This not only answers the questions I have about the put down artists in the world, it encourages me to honestly admit that I too can easily join their ranks. And it takes conscious exercising of good decision-making muscles to not do just that. Thank you my friend, Carrie.

We have all heard it said, and it makes perfect sense, that folks who do not feel good about themselves need to direct those negative self feelings towards others to feel better personally, right? Sometimes they even have the bad taste to do it in a public format. Who hasn’t had this happen from time to time? But to see putting others down as evident lack of personal strength just never occurred to me. And it challenged me to not only overlook this woman’s offense in my direction but to understand that by refusing to respond to her I was exercising some pretty serious emotional/mental weight lifting. Yes, one can change – oh hope abounds.

Please don’t think that I am blowing my own horn here. My struggle to keep my mouth shut was intense. But today, in retrospect, I feel better about me. I know that I have no control over the behavior of this woman or anyone else in my life (including family members) when they are sarcastic, unkind or even unfair towards me. But I do have the opportunity, when those things happen, to truly rise above it and be the stronger person. Sounds a little silly to some out there, huh?

Well, try it my friends. The next time someone makes a joke at your expense so they can look cool/funny or cleaver just look at them, smile (lips only) and change the subject. The next time someone aims an insult in your direction, even because they are just “kidding around,” or “clueless as to their being classless,” respond with silence. It doesn’t have to be a stony silence because that might also serve as a retaliatory put down. Then walk away, refuse to look in the mirror to see if in fact it is your problem and know in your heart that you are the stronger person. It just feels so good, can keep from escalating an unpleasant situation and helps you realize that in fact it is “their problem.” No kidding, it works, really. And the big payoff? Just like continued strengthening exercises for the body, the mind and emotions get stronger with every good choice to exercise strength.

If there is a chronic verbal abuser in your world please be prepared to be accused of being too sensitive or having no sense of humor if you choose to ask them to please stop their hurtful behavior. Here is where we get stronger all the time. Posture yourself to do some heavy lifting by mentally recalling that a strong person does not need to make others feel weak. It is a reflection on them. And, really they are giving you opportunity to get stronger by refusing to engage in the dance of unkindness, whether they are intentional in their comments or not. Can I hear an Amen? Ah attitude of gratitude.

Okay, okay I admit that sometimes this doesn’t work and we have to clean out our close circle a little or limit the amount of exposure to the hurtful units in our life. Truth be known, friends, there really are some just plain ole mean people out there or those who believe they have a right to make everyone else pay for their particular issues. It is equally true that some folks do not mean any harm and would be outraged at an attempt to make them see the harm they are doing. In those cases, where possible, it may be necessary to remove them from your life. I personally have had to do this. When all is said and done, that is one of the biggest exercises in mental/emotional and spiritual fitness I can think of.

Basically it shakes out to a positive personal affirmation that says, “I don’t need to deal with this and I sure don’t want to resort to being like this.” Now that is living strong, baby, strong.

Thanks again Miss Carrie. You are one of the strong spirits and uplifting people in my life, and I appreciate you, darling. Yes ma’am I truly appreciate you.

Copyright February 2013
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Inspirational

When He was Little

Always on the go
Always on the go

I offer this blog posting to the moms out there who are running to prepare for another school year. My son is way past the age of worrying about going back to school. But I still remember the days when I felt overwhelmed by all that moms do to care for their offspring. I wanted to encourage you to take time for yourselves and keep your wonderful senses of humor. Here is my offering in honor of you beautiful gals.

My only child saw his 29th birthday a few years ago. We had a lovely celebration which included a trip to Downtown Denver, an exceptionally delicious dinner and then a live production of the Nutcracker. That evening, after the festivities, I thought about those 29 years and remembered many wonderful times, especially when he was just a little tyke.

Like all mothers, I have gone through the period of time with my son, when he was little, where I heard, “Mom, mom,” nonstop throughout the day. Sometimes it seemed like the demands were so many, I was unable to keep from getting dizzy while spinning from one thing to the next. His calls for “Mom,” for the most part, were not accompanied by urgency. Still paying attention to his needs was, of course, my first priority.

One particular day, however, Gabe was following me around with continuous chatter and requests. This is the way with little ones, and I really didn’t mind. But at the end of that day, say about 4:00 in the afternoon, I began to get weary. My son’s grandmother was there and she said, “Laura, why don’t you go and take a hot bath, have some wine and read a book? I will take care of Gabe for a little while.”

I gratefully agreed. While sweeping Gabe onto my lap, I explained, “Gabriel, mom is going to take a long bath. When I get out of the tub, we will help Grammy make dinner. Then we will all play later tonight, okay? I am going into the bath now. I just need to rest for a while. So for the time I am in there I don’t want to hear the word mom. It will be just a little while and no hollering for mom okay?”

He smiled, kissed my cheek, wiggled down from my lap and went happily on his little way with his favorite action figure. I felt pleased that it appeared he took the instructions quite well.

I ran the bath, filled the tub with fragrant bubbles, poured a glass of white wine and settled into a luscious half hour to read and relax without the little voice calling for mom. About 10 minutes into my bliss I remember thinking that my son was being very good to not come calling for mom. Then a knock came at the bathroom door accompanied by Gabe’s little voice on the other side.

“Laura, Laura.” How could I be annoyed or angry? He had obeyed me to the letter.

You know, in those days, I treasured the few small patches of alone time when I could find them. But today, when I have more solitude than I have ever had, I rejoice when I answer a ringing telephone and hear, “Mom?”

Copyright January 2013
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett
Check out my book: “Dolores, Like the River” http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000662647/Dolores-Like-the-River.aspx

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Inspirational

Yes, kindness and hard work do pay off

Try it, you’ll like it

Recently, I have been waking up in a funky, rather dreary mood. This happens naturally I’m sure to most of us sometimes, but these episodes have become more frequent as of late. I let this sort of slip by for a few months. I thought it was just seasonal change, or aging (always a good catch-all category), until I became alarmed when realizing the one thing I really looked forward to each day was watching reruns of The Big Valley on MeTV. True, Peter Breck, Richard Long and Lee Majors were some of the most attractive cowboys I ever did see sitting in saddles, (except of course for the Oklahoma cowboy whose last name I share). Still, I was becoming less and less joyful and more and more heavy in spirit. Some might even say I was grouchy, what?

But, what’s a person to do? Like many others, I turned to social networking to read how others were coping in a time of toxic election ads, news of young people killing young people in fields and theaters and natural disaster after natural disaster all around the globe. To my great sadness, I found many entries on FB were brutal, vulgar, accusatory and disrespectful. This of course did not apply to all entries, but enough so I felt doubly brutalized by social networking, (the communication tool of the future? Oh goody!). I kept asking myself what happened to respectful dialogue even in differences? And why did discussions have to result in loss of dignity and integrity for the speaker and the listener?

Then yesterday a friend of mine, Mike, offered something on Facebook that answered my questions with such deeply palpable truth, I asked him if I could share it with my blog readers? He granted me permission. Thank you, Mike.

He posted a picture of a sign that said, “If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.” Really? Is that possibly true in a world where it sometimes appears our efforts make no difference and that we are already working harder than ever just to stay sane? As I read the thread of comments, including a few from Mike, the light went on. I understood that from his point of view, the work isn’t about what is outwardly and physically available for public viewing. The work is inside of him.

I got to thinking about this. Now, could it be that I was working hard on externals and expecting my rewards to result in the cowboy always riding off with the pretty girl or the family always sitting down with laughter at the end of a trying day to enjoy imported sherry and roasted hens? Well, that’s what the Barkleys did in the Big Valley. Or could it be about putting efforts into cultivating an individual posture that discourages returning unkindness for unkindness and encourages work at retaining and protecting integrity, dignity and respect in our world, period? Well, that is very hard work indeed.

I was reminded that this personal, internal work needs to be done regularly so the stuff and stuff coming at me from all angles will not diminish my integrity and lead me to justify diminishing the integrity of others. I admit that sometimes this work is harder than what I want to engage in. I would much rather watch every disagreement or problem resolve itself by trotting happily into the sunset without a lot of effort on my part. After all, no effort on my part means minimal blame on my person, no?

I saw this FB post as an interesting challenge. Mike, in essence, said working hard and being kind in all his interactions allows him, at the end of the day, to look in the mirror and be satisfied that his personal integrity is intact. That is a pretty amazing gift he can give to himself. And what a payoff for his labor.

Oh, how right you are my friend. It is a gift no one else can give us and when strengthened, no one can take from us. If we reflect this inward self to the outward world, maybe, just maybe we can stop the exchange of toxins robbing us all of our humanity. I’m rolling up my sleeves, friends. I’ve got some work to do. Wanta join me?
Thanks again, Mike.

Copyright November 2012
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Inspirational

Wearing Beige and Sitting in Back

My family of origin was somewhat of a battle ground more times than I care to remember. An atmosphere like that can make one really good at survival skills such as being able to defend your own position or opinion and ensure the other party believed you to be right or at least valid. Perhaps in a dysfunctional family, these are skills worth acquiring. But the unfortunate fact is that we all carry habits from childhood forward whether or not they are useful for the rest of our lives. Sometimes it can take a lifetime to unlearn strategies that have proven useful or indeed vital in the past. But, sometimes it just takes yielding to the words of a wise friend.

While watching one of my friends deal with an interpersonal conflict, I stood on the sidelines and observed her reactions. In my opinion, the situation would have caused anyone to be insulted, defensive and perhaps even a little combative. Not this fine woman. She remained silent, responded with kindness and used minimal energy in the face of provocation. Her voice was even and she was economical with her words and body language.

She confided in me later that she was somewhat confused by the other person’s interactions with her, but there was no need to do anything and probably there was nothing to be done. “What?” I thought. “How could that be? She was right and should have stood up for herself. Is there ever a time when there is nothing to be done?”

I offered my two cents worth and then carefully listened to her next words. She said, “Sometimes it is best to just wear beige and sit in the back.” Wow!! That gave me something to think about.

Wear beige and sit in the back? Hmmm. You mean just stay low-keyed, benign and don’t add fuel to a fire? You mean allow neutrality to be your posture because you are not interested in converting another’s opinion or striving to be right? Wow!! Wear beige and sit in the back, huh? I was so impressed, I asked her if I could blog about this.

However, a concept like this was so new to me, it took me days to process it and come to see the beauty, wisdom and amazingly powerful value of such a choice. Now I am not saying that I should try to be something or someone I am not. And no doubt, it goes without saying that being passive is not a good idea in an abusive situation. But I believe most interpersonal conflicts do not come under the heading of abusive.

The blessing is in the fact that I have a choice in most conflicts. It is my choice to make by tapping into the wisdom of another and allowing intuition to guide me as to when it is better to do or say nothing and let another think what they will. I not only spent time reflecting on this concept but asking myself why I never considered this form of reaction or lack of reaction in some of my own interpersonal conflicts.

First of all, I reasoned, I never sit in the back of the room because then I cannot see what is going on (a challenge for those of us 5 feet tall and under, no?). So now the question is, “Is it ALWAYS necessary to see what is going on and try to grasp an understanding of every current culture or situation?” Probably not.

Second, I looked in my closet and found I own not one beige piece of clothing. Zero, nada, nothing. That in and of itself is not necessarily bad. Just never thought it suited my style, although I don’t think my wardrobe is flashy or garish. So now the question is, “Is this a good time to mentally go shopping?” Probably so.

I too am facing a tough interpersonal conflict in my world right now. I have said my peace, tried to convince another of the soundness of my position, and felt entitled to recognition that I am valid. That has to be enough, I think. Whether or not I am right is unimportant. And whether or not I am valid in this person’s opinion is becoming less important daily.

So, if you will excuse me for a while, I am on my way to change clothes and go to the back of the room. And I am finding that I look fine in beige and do not need to have a full view of the current situation. Ah, deep breath now, peace –that’s better. Yes, that’s better.

Copyright June 2012
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Inspirational

Sharing Our Gifts as Mission

Open and share your gifts
Open and share your gifts

I love to travel. I am not crazy about flying. In fact, I think it is safe to say I am more than a little afraid to leave my dear friend, Mr. Gravity. I have gotten better about my reluctance to fly, however. For instance, I no longer get on the plane and look for an empty seat next to a person wearing a clerical collar or nun’s apparel. I also made my first flight recently where I did not sit next to my husband, (a seasoned traveler from a way back). He sat in front of me, and I only bothered him one time – for a gluten-free snack that was in his back pack.

I have read all the statistics that say we are more likely to perish in an automobile accident than in an airplane crash. But still, there is always that little nag in the back of mind when I am on a plane. And I can’t say I am particularly afraid of dying because I know I will then be in Paradise with my Savior. But still, that human side of me creeps in to cause anxiety and, as I recently observed, I am not the only one.

At the beginning of a scheduled four-hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale this week I noticed other folks kinda jumpy and fidgeting too. You know what I mean. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, looking out the window like this is the last time we will see land, frequent clearing of the throat to make sure there is a lot of room for air needed in relaxing with deep breathing, intense listening to the flight attendants as they run through the safety features of the plane and what to do in an emergency, and stares of annoyance at others who are not listening closely because they have heard it a thousand times and think they just might have it down by now.

During the instruction session of this particular flight we were blessed with the presentation of those instructions through the lens of comedy. The flight attendant instructing us used very funny language and images to convey a speech that frequent flyers can recite in their sleep. Believe me, everyone was paying attention because this man delivered the intricacies of float pads, emergency exits, seatbelts and drop-down oxygen masks with lines that would be envied by many of our modern day comedians. And he used no foul language -thank you very much.

As we listened to and laughed with the attendant and each other, I could see people physically relaxing as their anxieties gave way to the release produced by shared humor. The laughter served to put people at ease and help them relax their death grip on the armrests (this last part included yours truly). As a want to be stand-up comedian myself, I could not help but admire and even envy this man’s way with words and his ability to use wit and humor in a missional-type way. No doubt he had run through all of this before, but each line was delivered with a freshness that showed relaxation and confidence. That stuff is contagious I tell you. This guy really has a gift, and he uses it every day to help others.

Sure, sure you might say, “His job is to put people at ease.” That is true. But to use a gift like this to not only inform but also entertain people while addressing what happens if the plane goes down is truly remarkable.

Throughout the flight I sat there thinking about the use of gifts. So often we are told what it means to be a “missional” person for our God and we overlook those natural abilities and passions God has given us for service to Him and others. We look to others to define and construct a life lived for God and others. Sadly I think we often accept the definitions we are handed. While doing this, we not only rob ourselves of the opportunity to be natural and generous with our gifts, we make three other big mistakes.

First, by not recognizing God’s gifts to and in us, we demonstrate an ungrateful heart. When we don’t recognize our own giftedness, we also miss the opportunity to recognize the gifts He has given others. Then we fail to be grateful for their willingness to share those gifts with us. That has to smack God right in the eye. Have you ever given something to someone and they discounted it and never even bothered to say “thanks.” Worse yet have they said they would have rather had something else? Ouch and double ouch.

Second, we waste time looking, looking, looking and fail to be doing for Him and being the person He made us. Reading books, talking, “having dialogues,” and embarking on the quest to find gifts can all be very helpful. And I personally encourage you to seek out a method to find your gifts, if you do not know what they are. But please remember, there is only one author of the gifts and only one definer we must listen to. There are times when we need guidance, but we cannot stay stuck in the opinions of others or the well-meaning tools of the search. Ask God and He will tell you. More importantly, there comes a time when we all need to get out of the starting blocks and run the race. Academics are not so willing to do this I find. We like our books, our stats, our charts, the latest author, and the philosophy of ourselves and others by cracky!!

Third, when we are not mindful of our gifts and grateful for them, we do not give them away. That is why God gave them to us to begin with – to share and share and share with our human family members. To do less is simple disobedience.

As we exited the plane, many people thanked the attendant, told him they had a great time and he was a big help to them – beyond delivering snacks, beverages and the occasional pillow. You can imagine that this sort of slowed down the deplaning process. Yet, there was not one person complaining. Everyone wanted to say thank you to him. As I shook his hand I said, “You have a wonderful gift my friend. Do not stop sharing it. We need laughter today for many, many reasons.” He smiled and said, “Thank you, my friend.” He winked. I winked back.

Moral of the story folks, we all have gifts and you may already know what yours are or need a little help finding them. Acknowledge those gifts by using them and refusing to be told they are not the right gifts or acceptable for helping you or me live the mission of Christ on this earth. Please accept yourself and don’t spend a life-time in the search. It is not necessary. Ask God, and He will answer. And for goodness sake, acknowledge the gifts of others by thanking God for them and then thanking them for being willing to share. Go out there, find your gifts, give them away, and be thankful to God and others. Happy traveling beloveds.

Copyright February 2012
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.

Inspirational

Culling the Friendship Closet

Time to cull?
Time to cull?

This past weekend I attended a Women of Faith Conference. I love these conferences because I always come away with nuggets of wisdom and new ways to look at life’s issues. This year was no exception. One of my favorite speakers talked about finding and keeping friendships among women. I won’t repeat all that she said, but truly she told us to give ourselves permission to make healthy choices around friendships. She shared many wise and honest insights but the one that stuck with me most was that we have to feel “safe in our relationships.” That means we need to be able to feel free to be who we are with friends without the threat of them trying to make us over, criticize our person or disrespect our interests. We especially need to know they will keep our confidences. The content of this presentation reminded me of a conversation I had earlier this year.

I sat with a friend a few months ago enjoying a luncheon and celebrating her birthday. She and I have been friends for over 15 years. She is one of the people I know I can be authentic with and not fear judgment. We talked about our kids, our interest in dance and music, books we have been reading and health issues. During the course of the conversation she said something that really struck a note with me. She said, “You know there are not many people we can be authentic with. There are few we can have truly satisfying relationships with as far as friends go.” Even though we were celebrating her birthday, she gave me an amazing gift. Once again I was reminded that this woman is a treasure in my life.

In that moment I began to define a new attitude on the subject of friendships. Here I sat, enjoying time and conversation with a woman who inspires and encourages me, gives me the gift of her authenticity and accepts me just as I am, flaws and all. I had to ask myself a couple of questions. Why do I spend time with people who I cannot be authentic with and who try to make me into something that is more acceptable to them? And why do I hang onto friendships that I do not now or perhaps never have found satisfying for me personally? Being in the company of a true friend helped shed light on some work I needed to do in my life where unhealthy relationships were concerned.

First stop on the road to finding answers was to pray and ask God about this dilemma. After reading scriptures on treating all people well, the answer still was not forthcoming. So, I filed it for further thought and began to work on some house projects while continuing to chat with God about this and other things. (Some people think I am just talking to myself, but God and I know better.) One of my projects was cleaning out a few closets. Eureka and Hallelujah!!!!! God, in his wonderfully creative way was offering me my answer in a form that appeals to the writer in me and I have grown to love – the metaphor.

While gleaning items, I found some that no longer fit, or that I no longer feel comfortable in. I found several items that were given to me but they were not items I would have picked out for myself. This revelation led to a further investigation into my closet and my friendships.

In my closet I have things that were given to me by someone else and I have felt the need to retain them so I don’t hurt that person’s feelings. This is true of a couple of “friends” in my life. They basically came when I married my husband. He had known these women for years before I came along, as they are married to friends of his. Every time I have an encounter with one of these two women, I come away feeling bad about me. I cannot wait to escape – just like shedding a poorly fitting garment. I swear I will never wear that item again and then with time and perhaps memory loss, I return to that same ill-fitted piece of clothing.

I also discovered clothing pieces I was hanging onto because at one time they worked for me. But now I am not comfortable in these items because my body has changed, my tastes have changed and frankly the garments simply no longer fit me. This is true of some relationships. We change, outgrow, alter opinions or tastes and so do other people.

Please understand I am not saying the garments are “bad.” They are just not right for me. The entire time I wear them I feel confined, constrained and ill at ease. So, if I can go through a closet and remove, give away (or release if you will) items that simply do not work for me, why can I not do the same with relationships? Ah, you say, “Laura, people are not things, items or dispensable garments.” I agree, and we should never treat anyone in that manner. But I will argue that relationships can be examined and if need be, relinquished. I believe the principle is the same.

Enter the idea of the friendship closet. When examining personal relationships I asked myself these questions.

1. Do I walk away from a personal encounter feeling good about me or bad about me? I am not talking here about disagreements or conflicts. I am speaking of chronic patterns. Now please hear me when I say that true friends will tell us the truth when we ask and it may not always be what we want to hear. But they do it out of love and with gentleness – not jealousy, resentment or a need to criticize. It can be tough to tell the difference. One clue, however, in discerning a true friend from a critic is that we seek and respect their advice. It is not thrust upon us unsolicited from a posture of superior wisdom, laced with insensitivity.

2. Does the other person refuse to listen to or just dismiss my point of view? Some people never ask what another person thinks, and they practice the philosophy, “everyone has a right to MY opinion.” Is my encounter with them one of win/lose or is it one of honest dialogue with all points expressed and examined with mutual respect?

3. Do I find myself trying and trying to please this person or be in company with them only to come away feeling or hearing rejection and believing that I will just never measure up?

4. Does this person enjoy pointing out my flaws claiming they are just trying to make me a better person (in her opinion)? Worse yet, do they point out my faults publicly to others and perhaps behind my back? Remember folks when you are tempted to gossip about others – if someone will talk to you about others, they probably will talk to others about you.

5. Do I feel obligated to be in company with this person because of a relationship my spouse has with their spouse or with them? In other words, is this a relationship I would choose to be in without the influence of say a husband or perhaps even another friend?

If I answer the questions above honestly and come up with a picture of a poor fit for me, then it might be time to gently (now notice that word) put that relationship aside. Just like clothes in the closet, I cannot make some pieces fit. The point is this. When I have clothes that I love to wear and friends I love to be with, why spend serious and quality time in clothes or with people that simply do not enhance the quality of my life? And if the ill- fitting pieces of my life are taking up time and energy, then how much time or room do I have for adding new pieces to my life that I find satisfying and healthy?

So, when evaluating friendships that may not be good for me, I am trying to do this. First and foremost I pray and ask God for guidance. He will never let me down. Second, I have made a mental box for giving ill-fitting and unhealthy relationships away. I don’t nurse a desire to hurt the other person, just bless them on their way with, “I know you will work for someone else, just not for me.” Sometimes I may have to actually say this in a way that portrays boundaries. That is hard to do and only with God’s guidance can I personally find the right words and/or actions to stand my ground. Third, I have found it helpful to have a mental box called “acquaintances.” In this box I place relationships with people I know on some level, but they are not in my inner most circle of trusted girlfriends.

I cannot always avoid being in situations with people who do not like or accept me. And guess what? Not everyone I meet or know will like me. That is fine. But I can limit the amount of influence those folks have on me. I believe I am always called to be courteous. But mentally and emotionally I have let go of a need to be in ill-fitting relationships or allow them any power over me regardless of obligations, tradition or others’ expectations.

On the surface, I may have laid out a simple plan here. But believe me, there is nothing harder than drawing boundaries around our own health and keeping at bay those people who do not fit into the plan for our well-being. And no doubt this may seem harsh to some folks and I may come under fire here. Likely that may afford me opportunity to return to the friendship closet, have a closer look, pray, pray, pray and once again glean and pack away those pieces of my life that I have outgrown, never were or never will be a good fit.

Copyright October 2011
llpadgett
Lakewood, CO 80401

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.