October 18 2019
I am sitting out on my patio and it is a spectacular day. The sun is gleaming and I hope to do a bike ride in an hour or so. Beside me on the table is a cityscape painting I bought from James Talon Art as well as a hand towel embroidered by my sisters daughter Mary that has the word Joy.
I love these two items because they make me smile. As I look at the painting of a car stopped at a green light I thought about how the painting is still, a moment in time, but there is an expectancy of moving forward. The brake lights are red, to match the red light that must have just turned green. Red and green in the same painting...almost like Christmas...except not quite. The light from the star of Bethlehem at Christmas was just pure white, while Stop or Go, red or green, is about contrasts or conflicting messages, not one pure message. It seems to me that we are often faced with conflicting messages in one place, absorbed by the material pictures we see that try to convince us conflict is inevitable, that Good has to include bad, that moving forward has to include stopping.
People who sit at a green light with their brakes on now days are probably distracted by looking at their phones. The light is green, they are EXPECTING to move forward, but they are not moving because they are distracted by something else that seems more real than the actual moment sitting in their car when they COULD BE MOVING FORWARD.
But unfortunately, we get influenced by what is virtually appealing but not real and we miss that opportunity to move forward. Things that are happening in a virtual experience may SEEM better, or more real, but they are just suggestions of what is real and often they are not coming from a place of substance, service or sacrifice but are coming from a place of self promotion, self will or manipulation. We would be smart to pay MORE attention to our real world and respond to IT, not the virtual reality of social media, with our full attention.
I learned about this in college, how much marketing and manipulation we are exposed to every moment of every day. As parents, we are also marketing our values and our beliefs to our children... we can CHOOSE what we are "marketing" to our children, our family, our world. Is it self serving or is it beneficial to everyone? Does it help us achieve independence from that which is material and help us connect with more of what is spiritual, maintaining our innocence as loved children of God or does it make us feel incomplete and needing of more human affections. If our parental marketing makes our kids trust God MORE and be independent of morally bankrupt influences, we have done well. I love the idea that parents are automatically their kids first and most influential teachers, a VERY worthy place of honor. I still, to this day, like to pay attention to who and what INFLUENCERS are coming into the lives of those I love and help them to recognize those that seem out of balance, disconnected, or those who seem to prey on our vulnerabilities.
When we give the people we love our full attention, instead of being distracted like the painting of cars sitting at a green light, we can see if those influences are really nurturing like they appear, or if they are actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing pretending to guard the hen-house, with questionable history and shady associations. Sometimes these influences can get very close to us because they know what we will react to favorably and unfavorably and they can be quite intelligent in presenting an appealing picture when in reality they are not safe for us to trust. God is safe to trust…but here is that conflict again…friends are a green light, but questionable influences are a red light…a seeming good and bad all in one place. How do we solve this conflict?
Jesus gave us a good example with his treatment of criminals, adulterers and lepers. He loved them and he healed them.
It is important to guard our families from evil but it is important to also teach them to ask questions, to forgive and to understand that there is good in everyone and that each friendship can be a two way street, good coming and going in both directions, not good sometimes and bad sometimes..that duality is a construct of evil and does not have to have any reality. WE can dismiss evil the same way Jesus did on the mountain top and can still focus on the good that each one does and see past any manipulations if we stay true to our foundation.
My older sister once wanted to do a trade with me. I had a beautiful gold pill box full of candy. It was given to me by my dads mom Helen. It has a big Octagonal red ruby on the top in the center and was surrounded by three rows of iridescent diamonds and full of pink candy pills..and yes to this day I think Sugar is the cocaine of the world...lol. I LOVED the sparkles on this pillbox and kept it with me. After Christmas, that year like every year, my mom would give us all her Christmas cards and we would pass them out among the five girls, me and my four sisters. The oldest, Heidi, always got the best cards, the ones with the 3 D shapes or reindeer, the ones with the snow that sparkled while my sisters and I got the boring ones with just bells or trees. My sister started telling me how much she loved her sparkly snow Christmas cards and how she had the best cards (probably because she is the one who distributed them...and gave herself first choice haha). She went on and on about her cards making the rest of us covet her "stash". At some point, when I asked her if she would trade one of her snow pictures for several of my tree picture cards she refused..but then said she MIGHT consider trading the snow picture for my jeweled pill box. You know how the story ends..I got conned into trading away my prized possession; she got my treasure..and then I went crying to my mom who told her to give it back but she said she lost it.
We can see very easily that humanly, my sister, someone who KNEW ME WELL, was able to easily implement ulterior self serving motives, and when similar situations happen I can recognize that in others who are “close” to me and avoid these situations. But at the same time, spiritually I can recognize that no one who loves me really WANTS to hurt me and prayer helps me SEE them as good in spite of themselves and see that good is always present and waiting to be discovered.
And the suggestion of LACK, that I did not have what I needed in the form of sparkly Christmas cards WHEN I DID HAVE A BEAUTIFUL PILL BOX WITH JEWELS, was what convinced me that I needed something more because I listened to that suggestion… when I already had something more precious to me than a Christmas card. When we want something that we do not feel like we have, we are vulnerable if we listen to these suggestions that come into our thinking that we lack something and when we pray we can listen to gratitude instead of those suggestions of lack.
These suggestions of lack happen to children, teenagers and adults. In marriage, for example, with so many divorces in the world, it appears that if we do not feel loved or respected, we are vulnerable to outsiders who seem to offer us what we do not seem to be getting and we stop valuing or being grateful for what we have. Maybe it is comfort, maybe it is validation, maybe it is companionship, maybe it is inspiration that we are looking to get but what is it that we are GIVING?
Many of us, when we listen to suggestions of lack instead of being grateful because we do not feel like we are getting these things from our family, we may for a time, turn away from our roots. But if we just for a moment stop to express gratitude, maybe we had those things all along! Maybe if we trust God, instead of wasting all those years paying attention to others and ignoring family , we can come full circle and realize that the INTEGRITY and TRUTH that every spiritual family tries to be centered on through God, has SUPERIOR value to other seeming benefits that separate us from family. I recognized that some of the people I admired, even some who appeared to be spiritual, DID NOT VALUE KIDS like I did, many of them did not value marriage either...sub consciously I often had a vibe that something was off or something might get my radar up. We can love these people in our experience and show them by our own living a different perspective, by valuing our own kids and respecting our own relationships. When honest in our evaluations we can see that many times those we followed, in truth were not living with integrity and were not as successful or powerful as they professed to be in their personal endeavors. Sometimes those who want to take us down the road of complaints and dissatisfaction make themselves very accessible and available, ready and willing to dispute God, purity and family values…sometimes in the name of fun and sometimes because they do not know any better. Listening to this seems to keep us on the fringes of our families. It would seem obvious when this alienation is happening, but at the time it is not always obvious to us.
At times my children suffered as a result of me personally not being smart enough to detect erroneous influences, and correct these influences by expressing love and compassion and strength of character. I did not always succeed in protecting them from every bad influence or manipulation. But gratefully, I DID put a lot of energy into teaching my kids about GOD and how GOD protects us even when our parents cannot or do not. I know now that those who feel disconnected from others can experience IMMEDIATE relief by spending more time DEVELOPING a better connection with God like my parents and sisters tried to help me do, and less time searching for human opinions or validations from people refuse to respect or share my values or faith.
I am grateful we can survive bad influences and focus on the many GOOD influences from people in our experience. As a child and as an adult there have been many who took great interest in me personally, and who inspired me when it was not convenient for them to do so. Not every trauma has to result in a bad experience and losing my dad in a plane crash might seem to have made me vulnerable but in reality it made me irrefutably dedicated to the values he taught me and it made me ready for growth and new advanced spiritual perspectives. I have learned along the way which things make me feel grounded and uplifted and connected and which things do not. I am grateful for the people who stood by me even when I made mistakes and who continued to try to help me,when it did not benefit them, just as I am grateful to be able to stand by those I love who have made mistakes and who still have a good purpose to fulfill in their lives.
I no longer feel vulnerable to any negative manipulations because I can dismiss them and refuse to see the negativity most times and focus on the good… and it is important to love and help those who continue to seem to be negative or manipulating and I want them to get that peaceful confidence that comes from REALLY TRUSTING God. After raising five children I feel I have seen the value of spirituality like I never did as a child or a young parent. With a more focused study of God and his ideas EARLIER, I believe I could have been less distracted away from my children by problems I faced and would have had more time, enjoyment and patience for happiness with them.
My kids are all still in my life and there is no time like the perfect present to rebuild any damaged relationships. If you look for the good expecting to find it you surely shall. But I have learned that the GOOD you are searching for rarely is in conflict with God or loyalty and love of family and parents… it does not go against the ten commandments and it DOES treat our neighbors as ourselves. Maybe I would have done things differently if I had figured this out sooner, but now I know its never too late to let GOD carry the burdens that seem to be too much for us in our times of need…and it is ok to reach out to others if family seems distant or unwelcoming. That is what I did and it is not always a mistake. God knows from the beginning of time what choices we will make and all of these choices will be used to propel us towards a greater good because GOD IS GOOD.
My family still needs my full time love, and I can reach out to them with good thoughts instead of expecting people to reach out to me when I find I am feeling lost or troubled..Trouble is only impersonal human suggestions and we do not have to listen to trouble =). But we can listen to TRUTH. When I trust GOD with my life, it immediately improves. IT is JUST THAT EASY to change our thinking and stop seeing the bad and start seeing the good, in our lives, in our relationships, in our kids in our leaders and in our world.
When I do this consistently, I avoid making the same mistakes I have made in the past. And I can feel refreshed knowing that any mistakes have taught me valuable lessons I will not forget and have pushed me forward. God uses mistakes to make us uncomfortable so we will change and be ready for the blessings he has for us. How great is THAT!
My family, my sisters and mom and dad and the moral fiber we are trying to maintain in our very core, is like the beautiful sunrise quilt I just bought which is hand stitched, enduring and bright. We all know people who seem to have it all together, like this quilt, every piece in its perfect place who are going about their lives, and if they suddenly surprise us by getting separated, or breaking rules, or losing their temper…it can seem to put a hole in the fabric or the integrity of the fiber. We can be the thread that stitches things back together when we are being observant, compassionate and loving. . Even in the tough times when I personally felt at odds with so many in my life, I did not ever stop praying, ...and now I know I DO trust Good because I made it past the difficulties and I can see the light is still blazing. As we see it spiritually, we learn it and as we learn it we know it, and as we know it we CAN live it and Live it well.