The other day I was doing a little reorganizing, and I ran across something that I wrote on March 1, 2005.  I wrote it for my own eyes only, as it was an assessment of my life at that particular moment.  It was an acknowledgement of the fallacies in my life, a chance to vent about things that were bothering me, a list of goals for my life, and a commitment to go after those goals.

As soon as it was written, I hid it away and never read it again.  It was enough that I had written it.  It was a cleansing act, if you will.  A new day was dawning.  All the dust and grime that was clogging my soul was transferred to that piece of paper, and I was clean once again.

When the writing was discovered the other day, I was hesitant to even read it.  I didn’t remember the specifics of my life at the time I wrote it, but I did remember that I was in a very bad place.  I took a few deep breathes and began reading.

It was remarkable the insight that I had by reading that document.  As I began to remember details of my life at the time, I realized how far I’ve come since then.  When I got to the list of goals, I took another deep breath fearing that I had not even made an attempt to reach them. I was pleasantly surprised at the success that I’ve had with those goals.  There is still work to be done, but I can see that I’m on the right path.

It occurred to me that by not reading it over that long period of time, I could have entirely missed the mark.  Then I realized that I didn’t need to reread them.  I had truly committed myself by writing them down, and just the very act of writing them down had embedded them in my soul.

Just about a year ago, my life dramatically changed.  It was a very difficult period for me–maybe even the most difficult period of my life to date.  I came out unscathed for two reasons: 1) I have some wonderful people in my life who gave me constant unwavering support, and 2) I kept my commitment to those goals I had written down so very long ago–without even remembering that I had written them down.

It was good to find that document, look back, and discover that I have progressed.  I’m not at the finish line, but I’m making it over the hurdles with the goal in sight.  I’m grateful that no matter how badly we mess things up, we can set goals and do better tomorrow.


When It’s Uncomfortable, Be Honest

When asked to teach children, it can sometimes be uncomfortable.  I grew up in a generation of trust.  We trusted the adults.  There were times when I discovered that adults were teaching me principles which they were not following themselves, and it shocked and hurt me.  I felt duped.  I was extremely disappointed in the hypocrisy.  I no longer trusted the individual who duped me.

As a struggling, confused teenager, there came a time when I felt so badly betrayed that I not only removed myself from the dishonest adults, but from the organization they represented. Unfortunately, the untrustworthy hypocritical adults represented my church.  When I was 17 years old, I wasn’t able to sort out the difference between correct principles and imperfect adults.

After many years, I came back to church, realizing that I had wasted a good portion of my life that I will never be able to retrieve.  If only I had been able to understand that people are people, but correct principles never fail.  If I’d been understanding instead of bitter, things would have been much different.

On my return to church, I was immediately asked to teach a class of ten-year-old children.  I was terrified.  At that point in my life, I was struggling with my own dragons.  I knew firsthand the danger those youth faced by having me as their teacher.  If they put me on a pedestal, they were doomed.  They would eventually discover my inadequacies, and I’d fall off the pedestal with a bang.

I had always been a private person, and I didn’t like what I was about to do, but I had to tell these children the truth.  The curriculum was clear, and I had to teach each lesson in the manual.  Some lessons I had no problem teaching.  Other lessons were very difficult for me.  I taught the children to learn from my own mistakes.  It was the only way I could possibly teach certain lessons.

As the year progressed, I often laid my life with all its imperfections in front of the children and said, “Here is what I did, and this is how I am paying for it.”  I taught them the right principles, but made very sure that they could never place me on that pedestal.

It was only a year or so before I was called to lead the children’s organization in my church. Again, I was terrified.  This meant that I would be teaching lessons to all the children in the congregation–but there would also be other adults present.  If I were to continue to make my life an open book to the children, the adults would also be privy to that same information. Privacy would be a thing of the past.  I accepted the call to lead, and my privacy was gone.

Many times since then I’ve been asked to teach, lead, and speak in church.  Although I’ve received training on a number of occasions which included a variety of teaching techniques, the only way I know how to teach is to use my own life as an example–and often that means an example of what not to do.

I may not be the best teacher.  Those I teach may not go away with a warm fuzzy feeling at times.  Sometimes, they may even come away feeling that I’m a crazy whacked person.  I’m okay with that.  It’s okay because I know that they will not discover later a fault in my character that I haven’t already exposed.

Teaching is very uncomfortable for me, but I’ve spent a number of years teaching in some capacity.  It seems no matter what I am called to do, there is an element of teaching involved. I just keep remembering that when it is uncomfortable, be honest.

Standing Alone

In the heat of the day, I crashed for an hour in the recliner under the air conditioner.  My daughter crashed in my husband’s recliner, and she turned on a television show on TLC called “Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids.”  The show was about brides who go with their bridesmaids to pick out dresses.  This is not something I would have watched on my own, but hey, I was just trying to cool off and revive so I could cook and wash dishes later.

One of the brides wanted the bridesmaids dressed in sleeveless, strapless gowns, and one of her bridesmaids (her best friend) objected to the lack of modesty and was not going to wear the dress.  I found myself cheering her on and hoping that she stood her ground.  At one point the bride gave her an ultimatum and told her that she could either wear the sleeveless dress or be a hostess instead of a bridesmaid.  Her friend said she would rather be a hostess than to wear the dress.

I wish that was the end of the story, but there is more.  The bride cried, the other bridesmaids rallied around her, and in the end her friend relented and wore the immodest dress that she was not comfortable wearing.  To make matters worse, the television show played up the idea that friendship is more important than modesty.  I walked out of the room in disgust.

I won’t come down too hard on the friend for buckling under peer pressure.  We’ve all been there.  It is extremely uncomfortable.  It is often very tempting to just give up under pressure.  I felt sorry for her.  However, I wish she had stood her ground.  In these difficult times, it is increasingly difficult, but immensely important to stand firm on principle.  If you don’t stand up for your principles, no one else will.

Many years ago, I was a Camp Fire leader.  There was a Camp Fire program that I taught to fifth graders called, “I’m Peer Proof.”  Oh, how I wish that program could be taught in every school in this country!  The kids were taught to decide where the line should be drawn, and then not cross it.  They were taught how to combat “put downs” and disparaging remarks from those around them.  If that bridesmaid had been “peer proofed,” she would have known how to stand up to the bride and say, “You know what, I love you as a friend, but I need to stand behind my beliefs.  I’m sorry you are upset with me, but I need friends who understand my beliefs and will stand behind me.  If you’d rather I step down as a bridesmaid, I will do that, but I hope we can remain friends.”

No one, not even a bride, should have the power to coerce someone into deserting their principles.  It is time for all of us to stand up and be counted!  Sometimes it is necessary to stand alone, but we won’t be alone for long.  There is always someone peeking around the corner who will notice and say, “Wow!  She’s a rock!  I have so much respect for her!”  True friends want you to stand by your convictions.  True friendship isn’t coercive.