Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dream Medium

Am I the only one getting a little overwhelmed by all of the inspirational New Years posts, quotes, goal lists and otherwise Rah-Rah messages?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

MAKE THIS YOUR BEST YEAR YET!

LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL! (I particularly love the ones that throw in a dig about my mortality. That's uplifting.)

DREAM BIG!!!!

I am all for living with intention and purpose. I fully support anyone striving for and reaching their goals. I absolutely believe it is always best to set your mind on all that is good, excellent, lovely and wonderful (Philippians 4:8). I would much rather see people go into the New Year with energy and enthusiasm than with dread and dismay.

But...

What if I don't want to dream big?

What if I really just kinda want to dream medium? Or even small? Or even teeny tiny?

Is that so terrible?

First, let's just get out of the way that ANYTHING is not possible. No matter how badly I might want to (and I so badly do NOT want to) I cannot get up out of this chair and go run a marathon. I cannot. No amount of wishing or determination can make it so. I have not trained, prepared or planned to keep these legs moving at an above-walking pace for anywhere close to 26.2 miles. It will not happen. At least not today (or ever, just so we are clear).

I am not going to go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and find that Jack's room has been painted. (Yeah, I'm going to keep beating that dead horse until someone shows up here demanding to paint his bedroom just so I will stop talking about it. Sherwin Williams "Mindful Gray" looks nice. Just in case you were wondering.)

We are not children. We all know that in reality ANYTHING is not possible without adequate planning, preparation, skill, talent, opportunity and good luck. Certainly faith plays a critical role in the realization of any dream, but God gave us each unique gifts for a reason. He doesn't expect a duck to go out and try and be a wolf (thank goodness, because the duck would be eaten immediately). We gotta do the best with what we've been given. We have to be the best gosh darn duck we can be.

I admire the people today and throughout history who have dreamed really big dreams. People who shake up and transform the world. Truly, thank God for the big dreamers.

But I keep hoping that God didn't mean for every single one of us to shake up the world. I mean, if you have too many world shakers wouldn't we all start feeling like we are a bunch of kernels of corn in a bag of Jiffy Pop? Everybody exploding and bouncing into one another with no rhyme or reason until we are just a big pile of ideas and plans and programs with nobody left to simply cook dinner, or teach a Sunday school class, or meet a hurting friend for coffee?

Life is in the small stuff, too.

In fact, I would say most of life is in the small stuff.

I dream that this year my children will continue to succeed and be happy in school.

I dream that the children I teach at church will know that I love them and, more importantly, that God loves them.

I dream that my husband will reap a bountiful harvest from all the seeds of diligence, steadfastness and devotion he has sown.

I dream that we will all laugh a lot this year.

I dream the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl. (C'mon...I had to put that in there!)

I dream that both myself and others will be blessed by my One Word.

I dream that Ben will let me get another dog (what is wrong with me?!)

I dream that through my words and actions I will help to make my corner of the world kinder, safer and more abundantly joyful for everyone.

Those are my medium dreams.

I have this idea that maybe if enough of us dream and pursue and attain a whole bunch of medium dreams, those medium dreams will join together to create one big mega-dream! Don't you think?

I do.

I think that's how we medium dreamers make our own mark on the world. We each tend to our little corners of the world and pretty soon you add 'em all up and we circle the globe. One corner at a time.

Dream medium. I believe in you.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That word

A few days ago I realized that the hands of Father Time were ticking along and that soon we would be closing the books on 2014. I don't know what tipped me off first, the fact that New Years always arrives a week after Christmas, or my multiple calendars all faithfully counting down the last days of December, but at some point I finally clued in that 2015 is just around the corner. I'm quick that way. 

For me, the arrival of a new year means the arrival of a new Word. As in, a One Word resolution. Or, a Word of the Year, if you will. Call it what you like but for the past two years this has been my approach to heralding in the New Year in lieu of a more traditional list of resolutions. 

Essentially, the goal is to choose a word that will help you to grow or change or improve in a certain area and make that your focus. It's more about big picture thinking than a list of narrowly defined goals you are likely to abandon by Jan 10th anyway. I also choose a scripture verse that complements my one word and commit that to memory as well. My verses from the past two years continue to be of enormous benefit to me and I repeat them to myself often. 

You can read more about my previous words and verses here but suffice to say the past two years have had a similar flavor. While different in some respects, both 2013 and 2014 carried an intention to combat my somewhat complacent nature and encourage more productivity. And I have to say, I was encouraged by the improvement I saw in 2014. I'm still a work in progress, and Jack's room still isn't painted (ahem), but there has definitely been growth. 

(And I have come to the firm conclusion that until Jack can keep his room clean for more than five minutes when he's home, I think he deserves a room with spring green walls.) 

For 2015, I knew I wanted to go in a new direction. As much as I continue to wish I had a more task-oriented, Energizer Bunny personality, at some point I also have to acknowledge that just isn't who I was created to be. I get all the important things in my life done. My family is well cared for, my home is relatively neat and tidy (ignore Jack's room), I exercise regularly, I am a reliable and conscientious employee, and I make time for family and friends. I continue to strive for growth but certainly there are other areas I could devote my energy to. 

So, a couple of days ago I opened up my mind and heart and started asking myself some pertinent questions. There is no magic formula to arriving at your One Word, but these are the sort of questions I ask myself: What do I like about myself? Where do I struggle? What makes me feel happy? When do I feel lost? At the end of 2015 what would I like to be able to say was different this year? How do I want to be and feel different? What do I want more of in my life?

Many words popped into my head in the course of answering these questions. They were all useful, interesting words but there was one in particular that kept elbowing all of the other perfectly good words out of the way. And, in response, I kept shoving it back down. 

It wasn't that I didn't like the word, I just didn't know what I would do with that word. It didn't make sense to me. Or, deep down it did but it wasn't a word I wanted to have to spend much time with. Certainly not a whole year. 

So, I kept thinking and made lists of other words. Better words. Words that made sense. 

But it was still there. Quietly knocking on the door of my heart. That word. 

I decided to ask Superdad what he thought. Part of me felt silly asking for help in arriving at my One Word but who knows me better than the man who shares my life every single day, year in and year out? Plus, I knew he wouldn't just make something up to placate me. He would only give me an answer if he had one to give. He's annoyingly honest like that. 

I told him what I needed. I stammered out a bunch of rambling thoughts about my answers to my questions. How I want to feel more comfortable in my own skin. That I want to feel less burdened by the feelings and reactions of others. I want to own my feelings but let other people have theirs without feeling responsible for them. I want to feel less guilty all the time, as though anything that ever goes wrong in the world is somehow my fault. I want to stop thinking, and analyzing, and pondering, and worrying so dang much and just BE. 

I want to be free. 

Superdad nodded along to my painfully long stream of consciousness and when I finished he looked at me steadily for several looong seconds. Then he turned back to his iPad and said, "Okay. I'll think about it."

I went upstairs with Annie and we both got in our pjs. We settled in on my big bed so she could watch a show and I could read. She burrowed into my side and I opened my book. I didn't expect to get a verdict from Superdad quickly (if he would have one at all). I fully expected him to take a day or two to mull things over and then let me know whether inspiration struck. I figured by the time I heard back from him I would have figured it out on my own. I would have found my One Word. A word that made sense. A good, solid, sensible word. Certainly not that word. 

But then I heard my text chime on my phone. Superdad.

There was only this:




And there it was. That word. 

I stared at it and felt this odd mix of shock and relief. Shock that he had so quickly arrived at the exact word I'd been avoiding, and relief that maybe it wasn't so crazy after all. Superdad is many things but among his varied gifts and qualities he is most decidedly sane, sometimes maddeningly so. And yet, somehow, in whatever way it came to him, he was nudged by the same word that had been pestering me for days, refusing to go away. 

I wish I could say that was all it took, but even after what most people would consider a pretty crazy, clear sign, I still fought it. I decided it was best to seek counsel from two more people, what with three being such an ancient spiritual number and all. So I texted two dear friends who know me well and I knew wouldn't call the loony bin when I gave them the condensed version of my story. But even as I typed the words, even knowing they would never judge me, I still felt hesitant to tell them the word that kept popping up. That word. 

Their responses?

Wow. That's awesome. That's a good one. Yes. I get exactly what that means. 

Really? You do? Alrighty then...

And it was at about that point that I swear I felt the Spirit smack me on the forehead and say, "Look. I can't really make this any more clear without doing something that will completely freak you out like writing the word in steam on your mirror so could you just trust me on this one?!"

Yes. Gotcha.

So that's it then....my word for 2015 is Loved.

Gulp.

I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do with that word for an entire year, but I have a feeling it will come to me in ways I least expect. 

Maybe, for now, I will just try to take the focus off of always trying to do better and be better and instead live out of the knowledge that I am loved. Right now. Today. Just as I am. Unfinished painting projects and all.

Loved.


That's my 2015 One Word. Whether I like it or not. :)

My 2015 verse.
I like to create a graphic of my Verse of the Year for
the wallpaper on my phone, hence the strange shape.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Come darkness, Come light

I think it's safe to say that my biggest weakness is my sweet tooth.

Actually, it's probably even safer to say that my biggest weaknesses are pride, impatience, slothfulness, selfishness....but let's just start with my sweet tooth. That's a bit more manageable. Baby steps.

Oh my, do I love sweets.

In the interest of good health, moderation and all things holy, I do manage to keep my sweet tooth in check most of the time. I am very aware of the dangers of sugar and the importance of eating real, whole foods. And that is what I do eat, most of the time. My meals do not consist of old fashioned donuts topped off with a sprinkle of M & M's. (But...yum, right?) I'm not Buddy the Elf pouring maple syrup on spaghetti. But truth be told, when I finish off my healthy meal of mostly high fiber, vitamin-rich, minimally processed, heavy-to-the-vegetables foods...I kinda want a little something sweet.

Maybe just a small handful of Christmas colored mint M & M's?

So, you can see why the holidays pose a particular challenge for someone like myself. When we enter into the season where every meeting, gathering, classroom function, or social event comes with a plate of Christmas cookies laid out front and center, it's time to pull out all the stops for sweet tooth dysfunction management.

It's not that I'm not capable of forgoing sweets. I once gave up sugar for a full two months. I like to refer to that period of my life as The Dark Ages.

I mean, really. What is life without a little sweetness?

So, given that any full ban on sweets is ultimately doomed to failure, my strategy for the past month or so has been to eliminate sweets on weekdays, only allowing myself a moderate amount of sweet treats on weekends. The only exception to this restriction are bonafide holidays that fall on a weekday. I mean, like, Thanksgiving and Christmas, not National Potato Chip Day (although who needs sweets if you can celebrate with potato chips?)

I realize that for some people my personal Operation-Cut-The-Sweets plan is probably an eating regimen that is second nature for you. I don't want to hear it. I'll warn you that every time someone primly say, 'I don't really care for sweets...' I am pretty sure an angel loses its wings. So, just keep it to yourselves you salad-loving-health-nuts.

I was walking the dog yesterday (distracting myself from Annie's candy bar she had left half-eaten on the counter), listening to Christmas music, when a song came on that literally had me almost skipping down the sidewalk. I was overcome with such merriness that it was almost silly. The only thing that kept it from being more-than-almost silly was that I did not actually skip down the sidewalk (my children are thanking their lucky stars right now).  But I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that one little Christmas song turned my day, and my mood, right on its heels. I went from melancholy to joyful in about twenty seconds flat.

And it occurred to me that one of the reasons I embrace the Christmas season so enthusiastically is because it is my little something sweet.

For those of the Christian faith, we are really in the season of Advent. The Christmas season does not truly begin until Christmas Eve. And Advent is traditionally a time of reflection and repentance, not unlike the season of Lent. It's an introspective time in which we travel through the stories of our faith, reminding ourselves of why the Christmas story is indeed good news and something to be celebrated.

I'm good at that part. In truth, my heart and mind are all too often inclined more to the heavier stuff of life. Things weigh on my heart easily. I am too willing to carry burdens that aren't mine to hold. I lean into Advent with all the pondering and praying and repenting and sometimes get so far into the darkness that I forget that the light is coming. And, in fact, that the Light is here.

I think that is why I encourage an atmosphere of festivity and jolliness in my home by decorating early, playing Christmas tunes 24/7, and moving that blasted Elf around the house every night to the delight of one nine year old girl. It is because I need to be reminded of the light that is coming, the Light that is here- even as I acknowledge the darkness that is also the truth and reality of this life.

Being honest about the darkness awakens us to be compassionate with ourselves and others. But remembering the light, keeps us hopeful. And hope is the source of joy.

Wherever your heart is this Advent season, I hope Christmas will be your little something sweet.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life." John 8:12

P.S. And if you see me on a weekend, be sure to offer me a cookie...or candy...or brownie...I'm not picky. Just watch out for your fingers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Common losses

Years ago, I was attending the bridal shower of a young woman who had grown up in our church. It was hard to believe that this funny, smart girl who babysat our boys when she was a teenager was old enough to be getting married. I was honored to be included in the event but I also carried into it my own feelings of awkwardness because at that time I had been away from our church home for a few years.

I needn't have worried. The people who had drawn us to that small church family (and would ultimately draw us back again) were still the same. They offered nothing but warmth and happiness in seeing me after so much time apart. They wanted nothing more than to know that I was well, what my family had been up to and to thank me for joining them in this special day. They were grace personified.

One of things that had set us adrift during that time was the loss of our infant twins. Many people find comfort in familiar places in the aftermath of loss but for me my comfort was in solitude. Going back to what had been was all too often a reminder to me of what would never be. So, there were people at this gathering whom I had not spoken to in the time since our loss.

I found myself seated next to one of our elderly matriarchs of the church. A stately, dignified woman not given to showy displays of emotion. She was typical of her generation. She had known and weathered hard things in her life but never wavered in her faithfulness to family, church and community. I admired her but even more so, I liked her.

We talked, catching up on our families and laughing over shared memories in the church choir. Still, in the small talk I felt something deeper, something much heavier than our light, breezy words. She seemed to want to share something. I sensed a story that needed to be told. The words started to bubble up, then she hesitated and I wondered if she would lose her nerve. Eventually, she pressed forward in short, hurried sentences. She told me of her grandson who had been born into this world medically fragile and clinging to life. He died within a few months of his birth. He had been able to go home. He was nursed by his mother, and loved deeply by his family. His was a blessedly full and yet painfully short little life.

I sat close and leaned in wanting to convey my profound sorrow and sympathy without causing undue attention from the rest of the party. I knew this woman would not want to feel as though she had disrupted a festive, happy occasion.

She stiffened then, sniffed and tried to shift back to the moment at hand with some brusque words about how "these things happen" and then looked right at me saying apologetically, "well, you know." She fell silent, stared at her hands in her lap and mumbled, "It happens to so many people."

I sat quietly for a moment. Wondering what words I could offer to this woman who had seen so much more of life than I had. This woman who had known so much more loss in her lifetime than I had.

But I also knew I didn't believe her dismissive words for a minute. I knew she had told me this story for a reason. I knew she carried it with her everyday and that it was a relief to be able to say his name out loud. To tell at least one person that he had been here. That he mattered. That she missed him.

I put my hand on her knee and said gently, "Yes, it does. These things do happen. But that doesn't make it any less sad and it doesn't mean we don't miss those babies."

She didn't look up or meet my eyes. She just squeezed my hand, nodded quickly and said in a whisper, "That's true. That is very, very true."

And then we both turned back to the celebration of life and love in front of us.


We are each of us angels with only one wing. 
And we can only fly embracing each other.
~Luciano De Creschenzo

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What comes next

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, I was making lists, circling important dates on the calendar, stressing over meal plans (how many times a day will he need to eat?!) while also purchasing bedding and towels and toiletries and text books and boatloads of pens and pencils (because he couldn't go buy more?) and paper and everything I could possibly think of that my baby bird might need as he flew from the nest to go land all of two miles away from home where I could have easily brought him anything that we might have forgotten. There is a good chance he would have been able to ascend Mt. Everest with all of the provisions I sent him off with.

We were prepared.

Yesterday, Jack and I had the following conversation when we crossed paths in the kitchen:

Me: Are you still here? 

Jack: It seems like it. 

Me: Do you actually know when you are supposed to be at school? Because I haven't looked at the school calendar.

Jack: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.

Me: Like, do you know your actual move-in date?

Jack: Yeah, the 26th. 

Me: Oh, okay good. So....do you need anything? Stuff for your room? Does anything from last year need to be replaced? Should we go shopping for... anything?

Jack: Nah... I'm good.

Can you tell we are headed for a highly warm, fuzzy and tearful goodbye?

Since this whole writing exercise started as a way for me to process how best to prepare my children (and really, let's face it, me) for their inevitable departure from our loving home, I feel like it is only fair to warn those of you who are just now launching your firstborn, or anticipating launching your firstborn in the near future, that the first flight out of the nest is only the beginning.

Because, you see, in most cases, they may fly away for a little while...but they aren't really gone gone yet. For most of us mama and papa birds, these are still just test flights for our baby birds. They are spreading their wings, going farther and staying away longer than they ever have before but...for most of us...at semi-regular intervals...our baby birds come flying back.

Vacations. Holidays. Maybe weekends. Summer. Right about the time you finally start getting used to the change in dynamics that comes with having one less member of the household that giant, messy, food-eating, leaves-his-Starbucks-cups-everywhere man-child will come strolling back in again.

And in some ways it's the same as it always was, which is great and fun and happyand in some ways it is totally different now.

See, this baby bird is not the same baby bird you booted out of the nest a year ago. This baby bird has been living life more or less on his own terms for the past nine+ months. This baby bird hasn't heard the word "curfew" in what feels like a lifetime, or had to "check-in", or been asked to leave a note as to where he might be going and when he might be back. This baby bird has been flying solo, People, and there's no clipping his wings now.

A year ago Jack and his friends wanted to take a road trip to California. We said, 'no.' It was too far. They had never done anything like that before. We told our son that he needed to start smaller, build trust, and then we will see. So, they didn't go. The trip was limited to the Washington/Oregon coast and all was well.

This summer....


He flew.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

It isn't that having them come home isn't wonderful. It is. We miss Jack when he's gone and we all love the energy and stories and laughter he brings when he returns. We love his presence. But we have also grown more and more accustomed to his absence. We have established a "new normal" when he is gone. So when he comes bursting back in (And I swear trumpets sound when he comes through the door. Seriously, the fanfare of that kid...) everyone has to find their bearings again. And none more so than the parents who are having to learn how to live with a child who still has one foot in childhood while the other foot is inching closer and closer to adulthood.

We discovered that the first summer home is when you negotiate new boundaries. You have discussions about the kinds of things you do simply out of courtesy to the people who care about you, not because you have to. You figure out where to give some latitude and where to draw new lines. And, hopefully, everyone can do this peacefully knowing we are all on the same side.

You end up having text conversations like this:


And you learn not to wait up anymore because we are not all 19 and actually do require normal amounts of sleep.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

None of this is bad. It really isn't. 

It's just another transition.

And like the first initial launch, it can be both thrilling and sad.

But this is what all of those years of mothering and parenting and loving and scolding and training and hoping and worrying and wishing have been about. They have been about raising a child, your child, to become an adult. Eventually. Step by step.

Mine is not there yet, and that's okay. There is still time. In fact, I'm glad we still have some time.

But this summer I have seen glimpses of the adult he is becoming and while I fear he is destined to live in squalor surrounded by his empty glasses and soda cans, I am also very proud of the man he is becoming (for other reasons unrelated to his housekeeping skills). 

So, this is my message of encouragement to all of the moms and dads watching their baby birds take their first flight out of the nest this fall. I see you as you wipe the tears from your eyes and wonder how the house suddenly got so quiet. I feel your anxiety. I hear your hopes and dreams even as they are mixed with worry and concern. I am with you completely.

I know it's hard.

But try to remember, they will fly back again.

And that will be even harder. :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On the inside

I know I can't be the only adult who feels like an impostor. I mean, how old do you really feel like you are? On the inside? 16? 18? 21? Maybe you are lightyears more mature than I am and you feel like you are even pushing 25?

Or, perhaps you are 25 in which case I'm not sure how old you feel...10?

I have no problem saying I am 44. Heck, I'm proud of that number because it means that somehow I have managed to go to college, go to graduate school, become employed, get married, and raise three kids all while camouflaging my actual existence as a barely 20-something. It means that somehow I have been fooling everyone for over 20 years into believing I am an actual adult.

Shhh...don't tell anyone.

But lately I have been having a hard time even feeling comfortable as my inner 20 year old because I keep seeing all of these 18...19...20...year old girls who look so freakin' effortlessly pulled together and cool! What is up with that? On my best day I have never looked as put together as today's average 18 year old girl. I was a bonafide ragamuffin as a child and never really outgrew it (you'll remember my issues with irregular showers and an inappropriate reliance on yoga pants).

The other day I ran into a 19 year old girl who went to grade school with my oldest son. I hadn't seen her in years but she remembered me and immediately gave me a hug and launched into the most poised, mature, friendly conversation I had had in days. As my head was spinning from the shock of that I noticed than in addition to her brilliant conversational skills (I had a hard time keeping up because I was so wowed by her girl-woman adorableness) she was also in just the cutest summer outfit and her hair was perfection and she managed to pull all of this off while making it look as though she had hardly given any of it a minute of thought.

Did I know anyone at 19 who was that together? Was I?

The short answer is, no. For sure I was not but maybe some of my friends were. Forgive me if any of my childhood friends are reading this thinking, 'Thanks a lot, Friend! I was totally all that and a bag of chips at 19!' but my memory fails me at times (which is how I know I really am 44).

Later though...after the wooziness passed and I texted my son to tell him he should really get in touch with this girl again because she is so stinkin' cute (he loved that)...my head cleared and I remembered that no one has it all together at 19. No one. Even the most adorable, smart, personable girl in the world. I'm sure on any given day, including that day, this darling girl battles hidden insecurities and hurts and wounds that can't be seen when you are only looking at hair, clothes and a smile. It made me want to go back and find her and give her another great big hug and tell you her, "YOU ARE SO AWESOME JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!!" Which might have scared her a little so it's probably best that only happened in my head.

And then I look at my own little ragamuffin.

My daughter has inherited my less-than-put-together style. She is starting to care about her clothes but thankfully leans more toward athletic, modest styles then attempts to look "grown-up". She likes her hair long but would never brush it if I didn't tell her to. She prefers it down but mainly because she doesn't want it fussed with. In fact, 9 times out of 10, it's hanging in her face, something she scarcely seems to notice.

She never looks in a mirror.

She doesn't worry about getting her hair wet while swimming.

She doesn't mind getting dirty or sweaty.

She will sleep in the same clothes she wore that day and get up the next day and wear them again (until I tell her to change).

She is far more interested in figuring out what she wants to do each day and who she want to be then how she wants to look.

The other day I was grumbling about the chronic problem of her hair hanging in her face and she said to me quietly, "I don't think my hair should matter so much. You always tell me what matters is what is on the inside. My hair is on the outside." 

And in that moment I decided I was going to practice biting my tongue a lot more and fussing over hair a lot less.

How many more years do we have of her being so blissfully accepting of herself and utterly lacking in self-consciousness? How many more years will she spend all day playing in the lake without the slightest concern that her hair looks like a mound of seaweed on top of her head? How many more years do we have of her wanting the sporty swimsuit so she can play hard without a care in the world? (Hopefully forever).

Every mother and father hopes that somehow with conscientious parenting and unconditional love and positive affirmations our kids can escape the angst and insecurities of adolescence. But anyone who has any accurate recollection of those years at all knows the chances of that are one in a million. Because most of us realize that even though you hopefully leave a lot of that behind the older you get, that awkward teen lives on in all of us making herself known more often than we would like.

So, for now, I will try as much as I can to just let her be. Let her be messy. Let her hair fall in her face. Let her clothes be mismatched. Let her play hard and dream big.

I will let her be....Annie.

Our beautiful girl.








Thursday, June 19, 2014

Say nothing

Say what you need to say... ~ John Mayer

Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out... ~ Sara Bareilles

Say something... ~ A Great Big World

I'm going to offer a thought here and I want to acknowledge right up front that there is more than a little irony in blogging about this...but...I'm going to say it anyway.

I think we are losing the art of saying nothing. Being still. Listening without comment. Hearing perspectives that contradict our own and opting not to voice our dissent.

The number of ways in which we are able, in fact encouraged, to share our opinions these days is staggering. We can review products we have purchased. Restaurants at which we have dined. Hotels where we have rested our weary heads. Books we have read...the plumber who fixed our pipes...the carpet cleaner...our dog groomer... There is virtually no service, product or business which we cannot publicly shame or applaud should we so choose.

It's true...those reviews can be helpful when searching for the perfect landscape artist to clip, prune and shape your ordinary shrubbery into a menagerie of circus animals, but the commentary doesn't stop there.

We can comment on news events. Editorials. Articles. We can offer our opinion in response to someone else's Opinion Piece. And we can do all of this regardless of whether or not we actually have even a smidgen of expertise in the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly. 

A few days ago, I read about a local news event that was in my mind nothing short of inspiring and heartwarming. I clicked on the link because I wanted to read more about it but in doing so left my vulnerable eyes open to the string of comments next to the piece. I tried not to look, believe me. I made it my own personal policy a long time ago not to read the comments section for any news story or article once I discovered it was the fastest way to send yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole into Crazyland. But the way these comments were positioned next to the news story, it was unavoidable that a few caught my eye. And sure enough, there they were.... The Opinionators. The people who simply must express their contrary viewpoint no matter how ridiculous or how much in opposition to the majority viewpoint. 

I get it. I know there are those "trolls" who do this just for the fun of it. But the one that really grabbed me was the comment of a "girl" (I say "girl" because her name sounded like a girl and her profile pic looked like a young woman in her early 20's, but for all I know "she" could have been a 70 year old man from Iceland), who wrote, "I don't care. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."

Oh, sweet mother of pearl. 

Yes, Princess, you are. But I pray that someday you might learn there is a richness and a peace to be found in stepping back from your own perspective and deciding to hold it quietly. Perhaps even holding it loosely, staying open to the possibility that over time it might change. Life has a way of changing a lot of our "opinions" that we once thought unchangeable.

Recently, I had an opportunity to practice silence. I had every reason to want to have the last word. I felt I had been unjustly maligned and had been dragged into a messy situation against my will, and worst of all there were kids involved who should have never been put in that position. Many, many people would have thought me completely justified if I had taken to whatever megaphone was available to me to pronounce my innocence and trumpet the truth.

But when faced with the choice, everything in me told me to do and say nothing. I did not respond. I thanked the people who reached out to me and let them know that I appreciated their support but I said nothing more. And I felt complete peace about it.

It's the peace part that is shocking. I don't enjoy conflict so it isn't unusual for me to back away from it but generally I am left feeling unsettled and as though I should have been braver in standing up for myself. 

Not this time. 

This time the decision to let my silence be the last word felt like.... grace.

It was a way to let it end for myself and everyone else involved. 

I was choosing peace.

And it was a lesson to me that perhaps I need to start looking for other opportunities to be quiet. How many other times would I be better off to listen more and pontificate less? 

And then, just as I was pondering all of this, I read something that literally leaped off the page and grabbed me by the ears (okay, not literally....that would be super weird...but it was still so jaw droppingly awesome).

Being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly. That's why nobody likes to sit next to the kid in class who's right all the time. One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it. 
~ Dallas Willard 
Wow.

Amen.

I do not deny for a minute that there are principles and people worth defending boldly and loudly. There is a time to SPEAK!

But let's give silence it's due.

And if I have my way, that silence will spread to every comment section on every news source on the Internet.

That would be so awesome.

(Cue LEGO movie 'Everything is Awesome' music).