Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Put Down Your Smartphone and No One Has to Get Hurt

Dear Driver,

Hello! I hope you have enjoyed the introduction of spring weather thus far and i pray this letter finds you well.

This afternoon, my children and i were coming home in the early stages of rush-hour traffic. We had the advantage of being able to drive in the HOV lane, though, which was super awesome as i had a stomach ache to beat all and needed to hurry home. The problem is, while we were over in that lane, my son, who was in the passenger's seat, looked over and saw you staring at your smartphone. While driving.

Then he saw YOU doing it, too.
And then YOU.

I argued that maybe you were placing a call, but when we leapfrogged back and forth a couple of times, it became obvious to both of us that not one of you was placing a call. Or putting down your smartphones. Two of you were casually perusing your smartphones while paying partial attention to the traffic ahead of you and probably no attention to the traffic all around you.

According to my son, it looked like you were on Pinterest or Facebook.

Look, folks, i know there's some FAB-u-lous recipes for the perfect, 30-minutes-or-less, weeknight dinner on Pinterest and you're on your way home to a house full of Ravenous Rugrats, and there are trending stories on Facebook that you've just got to catch up on, but not one of those things is worth the inconvenience of a car accident, the increased premium on your insurance, or (dare i say it..?) - SOMEONE'S LIFE.

My oldest daughter is 15 and studying to take her driver's test to obtain her permit. She saw you, too. Are you setting the best example for her or other teens? Because they.are.watching. Always.

My youngest child is 8 and she is happily playing with her flipflops in the backseat, chitchatting about her gymnastics class yesterday and the skills she is obtaining from her favorite teacher. Are you prepared to be the one to take away her ability to continue with her love of gymnastics because you cause an automobile accident that damages her precious little body with your careless disregard for both safety and the law? Because some accidents are preventable. And some wounds don't heal.

In our house, i practice what i preach. I mean what i say. I ask for forgiveness when i mess up. And i try to do what's right. Because these kids are tomorrow's leaders. 
Did you catch that? KIDS are tomorrow's LEADERS. 
And unless we show them how to fight against the temptation to break the rules, they will take the easy way out. 

Just like you did today, Driver. You took the reckless, selfish route today when you made your smartphone more important than your driving - and everyone else's safety. [Here's a thought: carpool if you must use your phone on your commute.]

Concerned,

AngieV
Mother of 3 in Middle Tennessee


Smoke and Mirrors

Over the past 18 months, my life has been pretty non-stop upheaval and stress. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the list of Top Life Stressors has knocked nearly constantly at my door. And they aren't really polite about waiting to see if i want them to hang around!

During this time, i have prayed, begged, wept, screeched, sat in stony silence, and lost myself to hysteria too many times to count over the drama that has become my life. I have enlisted many prayer warriors for many situations beyond my faculties, and i have cried in the front row (with friends) and the back row (alone) of my church. Winter has become my New Normal, and i'm not talking about the weather.

So, this past week, yet more drama came to call. And it was followed closely by... yep, you guessed it, more drama. Gah! I was pretty sure i had been hit by more than i could handle, i got pretty depressed, and when i thought i couldn't take any more of it, God reminded me that i was not alone and that He would get me through all of it.

I spent a few days with Him between messes and He spoke confidently and sternly to my heart. I realized that as much as i have leaned on others this past year and a half, i really only need God. I am tired of whining, tired of complaining, tired of sounding like a broken record. Things aren't really changing, at least not fast enough for my liking and not in any direction i want them to go!

So... i am going to stop focusing on the things that are a mess and start turning toward the parts of my life that i can do something about. The parts that satisfy my soul, soothe my spirit, calm my mind, and bring me joy.

I'm going to walk into the Fun House and play with Smoke and Mirrors. That junk the devil wants to throw at me? Yeah, it's not really there. It doesn't own me. It can't control my day or my mood or my reactions. That mess the world keeps creating around me? Can't see it anymore for all the Smoke from my praise music and gluten-free flour puffs and watercolor paints. All of the tough stuff that has become part of my daily living? It's impossible to see in a room of Mirrors that reflect my service to the Lord and my love for others.

I'm lifting up my head, turning from the negativity that tries to bring me down, and walking in the light. Just a tiny amount of light casts out the deepest darkness! And i know i am not anywhere close to "the deepest darkness" life has to torment us with, so i know i'll be okay.

Sometimes, the best way to handle the hard stuff of life is to play games with yourself. I'm not beyond tricking myself into discovering joy. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Gossip (Psst!)

Gossip.
What is it?
I mean, what is it really?

One definition is "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true."

Another is "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others."

So, gossip is first, about someone else. Second, gossip is generally speculation. And third, gossip is often about another person's private affairs.

I have been the victim of vicious gossip.
And i have been the deliverer of gossip.
I have also been an unwilling participant of gossip, trying to get away or encourage the deliverer to stop gossiping.

Here's what i know:
- gossip is talking about something that isn't your business.
- gossip is talking about someone who isn't present.
- gossip is passing on someone else's problems disguised as a "prayer request."
- gossip isn't necessarily based on any facts.

Here's what i've ultimately come to see about what gossip isn't:
Gossip isn't telling a friend about your personal experience with someone. But that line gets fuzzy, so it's okay to err on the side of caution there.

Gossip isn't asking questions about something that involves you in some way so that you have a better understanding of what is happening, what will happen, or what you can expect going forward. But it is wise to keep those questions to the facts and centered around your area of interest or influence.

Gossip isn't confiding in a prayer partner about a problem you are personally having, even if it involves another person. But a trusted prayer partner who can keep your confidence is essential when speaking of delicate situations involving others, to be sure.

Am i The Gossip Guru? Heavens, no. But i have experienced the good, bad, and ugly of gossip and seen all of the confusion that comes with that word. And i figured it's worth talking about.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers?

I have to say that i am noticing something lately about the kindness of strangers. And it is both surprising and obvious at the same time. Especially if you live in the South, as i do. ;)

Strangers will let a car go in front of them in traffic, offer a handshake and a smile in the church lobby, and exchange pleasantries while lingering in a waiting room. I see these behaviors all the time. And i think they are well done. We should be kind to one another! And as a Christian, i know that God calls us to love one another, that He rebukes us in the holy Scriptures to love even "the least of these" [Matthew 25:40] and the ones who are less lovable [Matthew 5:43-47].

Lately, though, with Social Media, i am noticing another trend in the kindness of strangers: we praise, encourage, and compliment one another in the public forum. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. But it hit me like a ton of bricks this week that we are not as good at performing those same kindnesses amongst our own families.

In the same way that we can have heated debates on Social Media and say things we would probably never say in person, we are also quick to offer lengthy encouragement, hearty praise, and flowery compliments - in the Social Media forum, at least. And yet... are we using those same gifts in our own homes?

Here's what i mean...

Are we offering the same flowery praise to our children? Our spouse?
Are we encouraging our children and spouse as much as we encourage others on Facebook?
Are we speaking words of praise over our children and spouse enough to fill their Love Banks?
Are we quick to speak life when a child or spouse has made a mistake?

Or... do we save those sides of ourselves for strangers (or practical strangers)?

The truth is, on Facebook, you can get encouragement back. You get "Likes" and words of affirmation after being a public cheerleader. But you don't exactly get that with your kids, do you?

I've read a lot lately about our culture becoming narcissistic, and i believe this may be part of it; we long for praise, encouragement, and compliments (it's human nature). But is it driving us to demand that sort of positive reinforcement from one another in any way we can get it? Are we less able to hear constructive criticism because of it? Are we becoming less interested in pouring positivity into the lives of people (like our children) who cannot pat us on the back for every good word? Are we less invested in the long-term satisfaction of a job well done and more focused on the immediate gratification Social Media offers?

Something to think about, anyway.
What say you?