True or True for You?

I wasn’t really eavesdropping. I was in Chick-fil-a with a cup of coffee and a stack of tests to grade. Three moms sat behind me discussing their children and school. I heard one mom say “Girls are so good about doing their school work. You don’t even have to worry about them.” The other moms made sounds of agreement. Now, I have no doubt this was true for these women. This must have been their experience with their own children. However, I know one very intelligent thirteen-year-old girl for whom the exact opposite is true. Yes, that would be my oldest child.

I had to smile at the huge discrepancy between what these women stated as absolute truth and the reality of my own life. I love my oldest child. She is an amazing young woman, but staying on top of her school work has been a challenge these past two years. She is perfectly content to spend her days reading or writing while homework assignments sit awaiting completion. “C is for content,” is a very telling quote from her this year.

Of course, these women sitting behind me have no knowledge of my daughter. They are unaware that “You don’t even have to worry about them” is not true in our house.

You see, there is a difference between something being true and something being true for you.

True or True for You?

If we use only our own experiences to form a belief of truth, we will often be wrong. We need to expand our questions and thoughts and seek truth to actually find it. If the women at Chick-fil-a had expanded their view just a few tables over, they would have found a fuller truth than what they believed.

I know there have been times that I have based my idea of truth on my own experiences. I’m sure we all have at one time or another. My youngest daughter believed for a long time that boy cats had tails and girl cats didn’t. Why was that? We had two female cats who were born without tails. That was the world she knew. My sister had two boy cats with tails. Then we got a male cat, Pickle, who also had a tail. You can see why a five-year-old would draw this conclusion. However, her belief didn’t make her conclusion true. By expanding her view just a little to find a girl cat with a tail, she discovered that what seemed true to her was not actually true.

Finding Truth

To find truth, we have to seek for it. We have to be willing to expand our view and ask questions.

Our God who created us wants us to know truth.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4

He sent His son to fully explain His truth to us.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Finding truth is a life-long process. It takes being willing to look beyond our own personal experiences. Listening to those moms in Chick-fil-a was humorous to me. Before my oldest child hit middle school, I might have made the same comments myself. I smiled at how much my own view on that subject has expanded these last two years. 

However, some false beliefs can be harmful instead of humorous.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6

One of my prayers each day is that God will help me to see and correct any beliefs I have that are false. It’s so easy to be deceived into believing only what we see and experience.

I turn daily to God and His word for truth.

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17

I don’t want to believe something is true when it is actually only true for me in my limited experience. If there is a discrepancy between what is true and what I believe, I want to know. Thankfully, God has promised that if we seek, we will find. (Matthew 7:8)

He will help us. We just have to be willing to think, ask, and desire to know truth.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:5

An Exercise in Gratitude

Christmas did not go as we planned this year. A quarter of the way into our 800 mile drive to visit family, our van broke down as we exited the interstate. As my husband sat and waited for the tow truck, I took off on a walking adventure with my three children. The breakdown occurred near a large shopping center, so we had something to entertain us while we waited.

Several hours passed as we walked, snacked, visited stores, and answered a dozen questions about when we would be able to continue our trip. It was then dinner time.

As we sat in Chick-fil-A eating dinner, I began to list all the ways it could have been worse. It could have been cold or raining (It was actually a beautiful day), we could have broken down in the middle of nowhere (with no food, stores, or bathrooms), it could have happened at night when everything was closed (instead of 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon), etc.

The children began listing other ways the situation could have been worse. (“We could have been attacked by aliens,” was my son’s contribution.)

“It’s an exercise in gratitude,” my oldest daughter commented.

An exercise in gratitude. I like that.

Exercising Gratitude

When you exercise a muscle, it makes it stronger. Our ability to be grateful also grows stronger as we exercise it.

However, exercises are not always fun. In the days that followed, I found myself repeating the phrase “An exercise in gratitude” over and over in my head to remind myself what I needed to strengthen.

The first shop we took the van to could not fix it. We had it towed to a second shop. It was late. We got a rental car and a hotel room for the night. It took two trips in the rental car to transfer all of our belongings.

We reserved a larger vehicle for the next week so that we could continue our journey to Ohio. Then we had some family Bible time, prayed about the situation, remembered all we had to be thankful for, and went to bed.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Colossians 4:2

Weakening Gratitude

The next morning did not bring good news. No one slept well. My husband had pulled a muscle in his back while loading and unloading all the luggage. Also, it turned out that we did not have a large vehicle reserved after all. We instead got a full size sedan. My gratitude muscles were beginning to grow weak from being overworked at this point. We prayed about it. Immediately we decided that if we went through our luggage and took out just what we needed for three days, we could leave the rest in our van in the shop and still make the trip. We would pick up our (hopefully) fixed van on the way back through.

The kids were troopers through this all. They left behind some of their favorite things for the hope of getting to Ohio to see family. (A week later, those possessions are still sitting in that van 200 miles away.)

We loaded up, ready for adventure.

Then we talked to the shop that had our van. They could probably fix the van, but it wouldn’t be until the middle of the next week at the earliest. My husband and oldest daughter had to be at a youth camp the middle of the next week. It was too much. Have you ever worked muscles so hard that they finally give out?

We sat in the car and just cried.

Stronger Gratitude

It just felt like this trip was not meant to be.

We were tired and disappointed, and decided the safest approach was just to go home until we could figure everything out. We drove in silence, with the three kids crammed into the back seat crying.

Gratitude does not come easily in times like that. However, that’s when muscles grow the most.

We made the best of our Christmas at home, trying to find the good. And the trying is what makes us stronger. It’s the choice to not give up that makes it easier the next time. Although our gratitude muscles were pushed to the point of exhaustion, they will be stronger in the long run. By choosing gratitude, we become closer to who God wants us to be.

An exercise in gratitude.

It’s not what I was asking for this Christmas. However, it may have been just what I needed.

 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

To my children: Focus on who you are becoming

To my children,

I love being your mother.

Each of you is an amazing miracle, created with your own talents and quirks, your own strengths and weaknesses, and with your own purpose in this life. Our home is filled with so much laughter, and most of your days are happy and easy. However, as you continue to mature, some days are more challenging. As you grow and change, you sometimes struggle. Things don’t always go as you planned, and there are often tears mixed in with the laughter.

I love watching your successes. I rejoice and smile with pride during those times.

Watching you struggle and fail is hard. I hurt and cry for you then.

Those times of struggle are necessary, though. The hard seasons in life are the times when you grow. During those times I will remind you of who you are and who God created you to be. I will remind you that you are loved and precious. I will not give up on you or let you give up on yourself.

You see, the most important thing is not what you’re accomplishing, but who you are becoming.

Are you becoming someone who reflects God’s light? (Matthew 5:16)

Are you becoming someone who is happy to receive glory from God instead of the world? (John 5:44)

Do you live a life of thankfulness for God’s blessings? (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Do you use your time to draw near to God and seek Him? (Matthew 6:33)

Are you learning to praise God in the good times and the bad? (Psalm 30:12)

 Are you being transformed into His image daily? (2 Corinthians 3:18)

If so, the rest doesn’t really matter. Maybe you got a bad grade or didn’t place in a competition, but you handled yourself with grace, kindness, and gratitude. Maybe you got back up and tried again.

Then I’m proud of you.

Don’t get me wrong – accomplishments are great. I want you to use the talents that God gave you and to work hard, and when you do, accomplishments will follow. Success will follow. But when it doesn’t, remember that you are not defined by your accomplishments.

The important thing is not what you’re accomplishing, but who you are becoming.

You will make mistakes. Some of them may be big and come with tough consequences. Life is not over when this happens. Mistakes are part of the journey in becoming who God created you to be. During those times of struggle you will come to appreciate God’s mercy and forgiveness, and then be able to extend that forgiveness to others. Learn from your mistakes, accept the consequences, and move on. You are not defined by your mistakes any more than you are from your accomplishments.

You see, you are still a work in progress. And guess what? So am I.

My greatest hope is that ultimately we will all be together with our heavenly Father. That’s all I really want for you. When that time comes, these bumps along the way will be forgotten.

I love being on this journey with you. You make it fun and so rewarding. You give me purpose when I want to give up.

I can’t wait to see all the things that you will do in this life. There will be good days, and there will be bad days. When you have those bad days (or weeks, or months), remember to set your eyes on the eternal. Remember that you have a goal that transcends this earth. Growing is never easy, so don’t be discouraged. Remember that you are loved, and you are not yet done with your journey.