Choose to love someone when you would prefer to kill them

It’s no secret that those closest to us are able to inspire us to the greatest feats but they are also more able to press our buttons and render us quivering molten wrecks more effectively than anyone else.  As for me, I can maintain a professional, rational demeanour all week in a high stress, demanding, quite conflictual job and come home and be at my wit’s end with my 7 year old in less than a day.  I’d prefer not to admit this, but on a really trying day I have to fight the desire to inflict pain on her…..and to see what price I might fetch for her on Ebay.

It’s then that I need to choose whether to let her wear the full intensity of my disapproval and frustration or whether I choose to work hard to try to figure out the underlying reason for her behaviour and find a way to connect with her and resolve the issue.

I will not tell her that her sister is the “good” one in the family.  I will not tell her that she is the “trouble maker”.

I will remind her that I love her to the moon and back.

I will try to remember that the consequences imposed for her behaviour need to be reasonable and not disproportionately punitive.

I will try to help her understand how her [completely over the top] melt downs affect the whole family and that there are different ways of dealing with things that trouble us.

I will try to focus on the fact that although this little one may not have been a planned addition to our family, I cannot imagine what life would be like without her.

Full stop.

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Unity not Uniformity

Uniformity is when everyone needs to look the same or appear as if they are the same in order to be included or accepted.  Unity, on the other hand, is where a group of people share similar values and a common goal.  The emphasis is not on how everyone looks or what they are like but on working together for the common good.

We naturally gravitate to people who are like us and when we feel comfortable in a like-minded group we find it difficult to open up the boundaries to allow others to join.  But giving others a verbal or implied message that because they look different, think differently or have a completely different cultural outlook they can’t belong is choosing and promoting self-protection rather than love.  There is such richness in belonging to a community where there is diversity.  Having our views challenged, learning to see things differently, opening our hearts to people whom we would naturally avoid enables us to grow in depth, in humility in love and gentleness.  It promotes a much greater quality of life…for all.

Without getting political about the asylum seeker issue, what worries and disturbs me more than anything is a prevalent fear of what we would lose as a nation by allowing asylum seekers to live in Australia.  What about what we could gain?  What about a thought for what so many people have suffered and lost, that they are internationally homeless and that they just want to feel safe?  How might it be to try to see things through their eyes?

Choosing to love means fighting the innate tendency to choose uniformity and instead to challenge ourselves to include in our circles those who look or act differently.

#Choose to love

 

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#ChoosetoLove

Today marks the first day of Lent, 40 days of fasting and devotion leading up to Easter.  The point of Lent is to think about giving up something as an element of sacrifice to “share with the sufferings” of  Jesus Christ, who suffered in the most inhumane way, having been convicted without trial of a capital offence and then being crucified, one of the cruelest, most painful and sadistic methods of execution.  It’s also about trying to let go of things that get in the way of focusing and meditating on God’s love as we approach one of the most holy and sacred events in the Christian calendar.  So I’ve been thinking about what I will give up for Lent but more than that – I’ve also been thinking about what I’m going to take up for Lent – that is the positive steps I can take to focus more on my Lord and on things of importance, taking time out of my busy lifestyle to quieten and centre my spirit in the things of God.

One of the things I plan to do is to meditate on what it means to choose to love, for love is indeed a choice and a necessary choice if we are to connect to the Divine and also if we are to fight against the fear mongering of current politics and much of the modern ethos.

In 1 John 4:18 the Apostle John talks about “perfect love casting out all fear”.  Perfect love is not possible but we can all strive to stand with open arms to all those who feel excluded and who don’t fit in with the “ideals and expectations” of modern society.  We need to choose love if we are to shift the balance from exclusion and fear to open-hearted love.  I want to stand with open arms.  I want to #choose to love.

 

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My 9 year old daughter

So I was sitting on a train today on my way into the city.  It’s not a working day; it’s a Saturday and I’m with my 9 year old daughter, going into the city to buy a birthday present for her friend for the sleepover birthday party she’s going to tonight.  We get on at one station and at the next station 2 teenage girls get on.  They’re fidgety, standing rather than sitting, ricocheting from one side of the train to the other, getting ready to get out at this station but staying on the train.  I wonder if they know where they’re supposed to get off.  We get to the next station and one pings out the door like she’s been shot out with a sling shot.  Two more teenage girls get on and the one left on the train explains: “Annie got on the train without a ticket.”  They all fixate on a spot outside the door.  We all fixate on the door.  Annie springs back on the train just as the doors are closing and they spend the next few minutes giggling.

My 9 year old daughter rolls her eyes and sighs, “Teenagers!”

While I’m dissolving into laughter and wondering how a 9 year old has any insight into teenage mentality, she explains.  “Those girls are acting as if there is no one else on the train.”

And I marvel at how 9 years seem to have disappeared into thin air, barely the blink of an eye, and my previously completely self-absorbed child is now able to see that in others and reject it.

And for the first time in her life I have hope for her teenage years.

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Changing Family Culture

When you think about your family culture, what do you think of?  Are you intentional about what forms a part of what is important to your family or does it kind of morph into a set of values and practices that become important to your family and what you do year in year out?

I am generally an intentional person but I confess that I find that time zips by so quickly that our family values and practices do often develop out of daily habits and just what we tend to do.  That’s why what I’m writing about in this blog kind of surprises me.  I’m writing about the year I decided to have a go at changing family culture – it was a combination of being intentional and reaching the end of my tether over certain things.

It was Easter 2011..or 2012..to be honest I can’t actually remember which year it started.  It actually started in 2010 when our church, to which we had just returned, having lived away from Perth for 5 years, announced that it was no longer celebrating Easter.  Instead it was going back to the Biblical festival of passover, a Jewish practice but one oozing with symbolism and focus on how the last week of Jesus Christ’s life had fulfilled a number of the aspects of the celebration of Passover.  It was a big announcement, a big adjustment and the catalyst for me to consider why our family celebrated Easter.

Truth be told I had been growing increasingly disenchanted with the fact that Easter eggs were appearing in stores barely 2 weeks after Christmas was done and dusted, and that it was possible to buy hot crossed buns in February!  Just what was it about Easter that was spiritual?  My children fixated on the whole notion of chocolate and spent far too much time poring over catalogues figuring out which mega eggs they wanted.  When I tried to talk to them about what else Easter might mean they were simply not interested.

In 2011 (or was it 2012?) I drew a line in the sand.  NO. MORE. EASTER. EGGS.  I simply could not bring myself to give my money to companies who had no compunction into flooding shelves with chocolate bunnies 2 months before it was necessary.   I announced to my family that we were starting a new tradition and that I had told the Easter Bunny to give the chocolate destined for our house to families who needed it more than we did.  Instead, we would be doing something special together as a family.  In fact that year we all rode the Fremantle Ferris Wheel together and visited the mini fair on Fremantle esplanade.  It was fantastic.  The Freo Ferris Wheel did at least 7 revolutions, giving views across to Rottnest, over Fremantle harbour, over the town and across the ocean as far as eye could see.  It was beautiful.  The girls loved it and did not particularly miss the chocolate.

We have kept to that tradition since.  I do not object to others giving them chocolate at Easter and this year my parents did an Easter egg hunt with them.  I think they each received 4 or 5 mini eggs and a small Lindt bunny.  I am writing this in June and both girls have 90% of their Lindt bunny left in the fridge and one of the girls still has some of her mini eggs left.

When I drew my line in the sand I was a bit worried about how the girls would go.  It’s tricky for kids whose families practise different cultures to the norm.  I was conscious that I didn’t want them to appear too different from everyone else.  The reality is quite different however.  They don’t seem to be overly bothered by the fact that their friends get mega eggs or are visited by the Easter bunny.  They mention it from time to time but not with a notable degree of angst.  They enjoy the family time – this year we spent a day at the zoo.  And clearly they don’t miss the masses of chocolate as they both still have most of their Lindt bunny still to eat.

So….if you’re contemplating a change of family culture, be daring and take a step into the unknown.  You never know what the result might be…..

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I Let Down my Football Team

Today I let down the local football team.  As well as my many parenting duties it appears that I should also have supported the Dockers today.  They lost because instead of choosing loyalty and watching the match I chose to go the Royal Show with the kids, thinking and hoping that it would be quiet because the game was on.  It was not quiet and my disloyalty had dire consequences.  The Dockers lost their first grand final.

It is years since I have watched an AFL match but since the Dockers started I have been a nominal follower.  Whenever they played the Eagles it was of course essential that they win.  Being a Fremantle resident it was natural that I follow their progress with interest.  But watch a match?  Hmmm, not sure.  So little time, so many things to fill it with.  

It’s years since I’ve watched an AFL match.  You would think the Dockers making the final would change this but it didn’t.  I guess it shows that my priorities do not really rate football games as worth my precious time.  And that’s OK.  It’s OK to be interested in a football team without having to watch  a match.  It’s OK to swim against the flow and choose to do something else with my Saturday than to watch the match.  It’s OK to choose something that my family would prefer to do than sit down in front of a screen.  And we did engage in the local cultural experience as we stood at North Fremantle train station,  watching people at every train station on the Fremantle line cram themselves in the already packed carriages, carting people into the centre of Fremantle.

Football is the religion of many parts of Australia but it’s not my religion.  I have other things that get in the way of my worship of God but it appears that football is not one of them.  And I’m not saying that choosing to watch a football match today amounts to idolatry, not at all, but choosing not to watch it is just as valid a choice.  

The Royal Show was fun, by the way.  It was far busier than I expected of a football dominated Saturday but it was fun, a nice family time.   And now that we’ve been, now that we’ve managed to survive a Dockers loss, life will go on.  It will now be another 10 – 11 months before I have to deal with more nagging about going to the show (next year) and also another 10 – 11 months before we’ll know whether the Dockers have another shot of the finals next year.  I hope they do.  I hope they win next year.  I might even watch the match.

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So much more to life than TV….

In the name of encouraging my children to prefer outdoor pursuits to television and computer games, I took my neon-white, hairy, winter-flubbery legs down to the beach today…..and the children of course. It’s August so the majority of winter had preceded us and the water was COLD, but the sun was shining gloriously and it was a great day to picnic and play on the sand and in the water. The thing is, my girls love the beach. Miss C was not the least bit fazed by the water temperature and went in on her boogy board. Miss N was considerably more reticent but was also persuaded to “swim” as long as Mummy kept a firm hold of her. It was too cold for me to swim but I did go in thigh high so that Miss N could have her go. When the water became too cold for all of us, we spent time making sand angels and checking out the variety of shells, finding artistic bits of seaweed and generally enjoying the sunshine after quite a few bleak days of rain and cloud.

There are a lot of things I could say about today’s outing. For one, it was nice not to be so busy with other things that we didn’t have time for a beach expedition. Secondly, to my mind, this was a far superior option to staying home and watching tv. I’m sure my girls agreed, but the second I mentioned heading home it was “can we turn the tv on when we get home?” Arrgghh! It’s such an ongoing battle to avoid the terrible screen! It’s so much easier to turn the thing on and let the kids sit, mesmorised, so that I can get half an hour’s worth of jobs done. If I say no to the tv, then I’m faced with either having to come up with something to entertain them or, if they do manage to come up with something to entertain themselves, it’s only a matter of time before I have to step in as mediator.

Still, I’ll persist with the outdoor activities because I’m determined that my children will develop a stronger and stronger taste for it. I’m determined that, growing up, they’ll have lots of fond memories of time spent outside and adventuring. I’m sure they won’t particularly remember what they saw on tv or the computer games they played, but they will remember time at the beach and the different parks we’ve picnicked and played at. They’ll remember feeling fit and free. They’ll remember the feel of the sun on their backs and the sand in between their toes; even the shock of the first toe dip into freezing water. And that’s what I’d prefer to remember too.  I want memories with my children, of being with them and having fun with them.  I don’t want to be so bogged down in domestic details that I don’t manage to have these times with them.  I don’t want to use the tv as an excuse to avoid contact.  These girls are precious gifts, as are the amazing weather in this town and the beautiful beach that is a mere 5 minutes’ drive away.  I don’t want to waste them!

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