Mind Wars: Entitlement

There is a possibility I may have learned about the mentality of entitlement without Pine Cove, but it would have more than likely taken me a long time to process it in a healthy way.  I have been fairly privileged my entire life. We did have to count pennies at times. We went shopping every once in a while for clothing and toys.  There were many times my mom would have to say no when I asked for something.  Yet…although we watched the bills, we never went a whole winter without heating or a summer with AC unless mom wanted to keep the expenses down. We went on a few family vacations, not nearly as many as a lot of the families I know…but we did have the ability to go those few times. We have always had just enough. I did not get everything that I wanted, but I had plenty. We are blessed.

My first dose of entitlement had to do with my own selfishness.  I cringe at the memory, but here we go. I was a bossy and strong minded girl (still am in many ways), but the black tendrils of entitlement had encaged my heart with the notion that I deserved a car no matter the way I treated my parents. I was not a bad child, but I was a terrible early teen. Everyone should just take a moment to pat my parents on the back for making it through that war zone. My mom asked me something along the lines of “Do you think you should get a car?” or she may have even said “do you think you deserve one?” All I know is in my heart there was nothing in life that I had done wrong, so I deserved a vehicle as a thanks for being a normal child who did not do drugs, steal, treat people terribly. (My definition of treating people terribly was skewed. Instead of looking at good examples to follow, I was looking at the bad examples and comparing myself.)  

I did receive a vehicle, but I think this was more so my parents did not have to taxi me around and less about me needing one. If my mom were anything like me, there is no way I would have gotten a vehicle after stating the condition of my blackened and selfish heart. My mother is much more forgiving than I am.  

[Side note: The car I got was my grandmother’s 1987 Grand Marquis. I am so grateful for that car because it has given me a good perspective on needs and how to parent. No 16 year old should get a brand new vehicle that is worth more than 10K, and a 10K car is pushing the limits. My dad found me a truck about 7 months later.  I had to earn the right to drive that one though by learning how to drive stick. Let me tell you, that was another battle to overcome. There were many tears. Like Rocky, I overcame the struggle though and through the training of my patient family members, I became quite skilled at manual driving.]

My second or third dose of recognizing entitlement was when I got back from Zimbabwe. I had spent a couple weeks in Harare seeing how a culture could function differently and with so little. It was sad but beautiful. These people’s lives were not run by electricity or celebrities. I would even say it was not run by their possessions, but their possessions were all they had to live on, like a house or a bed or supplies for merchandise to sell. I cannot romanticize the Zimbabweans; they are still human and capable of being just as dark as Americans. You cannot stop at a stop sign without looking at your surroundings even though you are supposedly protected in a vehicle. If you are not aware of your surroundings, you may find yourself robbed of possessions, the car, and possibly your life.

When I returned to Kansas after spending a couple weeks in Zim, I discovered I had culture shock, not while I was in the foreign country but when I returned to what I had called home for 18 years. I went to Wal Mart shortly after returning. I remember looking at all the overstocked shelves and closing my eyes to see a vision of the empty shelves in the Zimbabwean markets. When I opened my eyes again, I had a hard time being sympathetic for my fellow Americans, especially when I overheard a child whining about not getting to keep a toy she had picked out and deceptively placed in the shopping cart hoping her mother would not notice. Oh the ruckus she made when her mother refused to buy the toy. Thankfully my mother was usually pretty clear about what we were in the store to get. I asked for things anyway, but I do not remember throwing a major fit in a public place because I could not get the toy I wanted. My usual route of persuasion was debating about why I needed the toy, hence my parents’ desire for me to become a lawyer. (Correct me if I am wrong, Mutti. I’m in a humble mood this year.)

I was absolutely disgusted with our culture’s obsession with what we deserve. We deserve the brand new car. We deserve the three story house. We have earned our right to party and “drop it like it’s hot.” Absolutely not, my friends. I consider myself to be a good citizen, but do I deserve whatever I want? No. I can be a terrible human being in my heart and my mind. I can be judgmental and rude and unforgiving and selective about who I will talk to. Not only do I have the ability to, I have been these things!

Thankfully God did not give me the opportunity to move away from America just then because I would probably still have an aversion to our culture today if I had taken off to travel Africa. Like I said earlier, Pine Cove has helped me see entitlement and change my attitude in a healthy way, not in a spiteful way where all I can do is tear another culture or person down in order to feel like I got my point across.

God has used Pine Cove to keep me in America and help heal my poor opinion on the American culture. We are different than Zimbabweans, but that does not mean we do not need ministry. Our country is blessed with constantly stocked shelves, but our sense of community is broken. Pine Cove is religious but not exclusive to particular doctrines because so many doctrines focus on things that are not important. Do you love Jesus? Have you accepted Him as the Way to God? Those two things are important, so stop being so haughty if someone disagrees with how many times you should take communion or who in the congregation should be allowed to. Christians are not supposed to have an air of entitlement, but many do. I hate it when I recognize it in myself. We are supposed to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” (Eph 5:21).We are supposed to be the servants.

Currently I am reading through the book Esther in the Old Testament. God is hardly mentioned in the book of Esther, but you can see Him at work in all the little details. King Xerxes is an entitled ruler, his culture is sexist, and he does not understand how to be a servant leader. As a leader, you need to be able to lead with authority, but you most definitely need to be a servant. This is what I look for when I look at voting in the country. There are many things I disagree with in the two main runners for the 2012 candidates. This will be a difficult choice for me because of this. My parents will shudder at the fact that I am even considering Obama, but I would rather look at him with open eyes than with a blind rage just because he has more socialistic tendencies. I think our constitution is fantastic, and I would like to keep it the way it is for the most part. I see Obama as a good friend, but not necessarily the one you want as a parent. On the other hand, I see Mitt Romney as the parent who cannot relate to the kid because he hasn’t been one for a good while. Can he make good decisions? Yes. Is he what we need right now? Maybe. Is he the good provider of the family but an absentee father? Both candidates have made decisions and changed their minds because they have grown in their beliefs. Which is better? Could I maybe do a write in?

I may be stretching to make the above paragraph relevant to the rest of this blog, but I think it does fit in. We should be looking to serve each other regardless of our social status. If a gay man or woman walks up to me and asks me for help, I am not going to turn them away because their sexual orientation is against my beliefs. They are human. If a homeless person needs money, but you don’t trust them, take them out to eat…pay for groceries, get their contact information so you can keep in contact. Treat them like the individual they are and not a statistic. People are constantly screwing up by forgetting whom Jesus reached out to. He reached out to the people the Pharisees turned their backs on; he broke bread with them and preached about God to them. He loved them, and they could see that because He did not ignore who society deemed to be the least saveable. Is this blog about converting people? No. It is, however, about how Jesus is a great example of how to not be entitled. He is God’s Son and did not consider himself to be greater than the people He lived amongst. He even listened to the convicted felon on the cross beside Him.  

The church has failed here. We do charity outreaches, but the congregation does not reach outside of our privileged bubble enough. It is not a lifestyle but an event in our life to love on those with less. If we all took care of our community, kind of like in Acts 2, we would not need our government to do all the work for us. We all, including Republicans who want a smaller government, rely too heavily on our government to take care of those in need of healthcare, the unemployed, and those without the means to live. It isn’t all just about education for the underprivileged either. The educated need to be re-educated on what it means to be a good member in society and how to serve, not just look out for number one. I will step off my political soap box for the moment.

There are some things you can earn in life: like a degree or a job over another person due to conduct or experience. Do I deserve a roof over my head, a car, or an education over the orphan down the street or in Africa? Do I deserve healthcare over my neighbor? Some say if I am a contributing member to society, then yes. I like to believe I am a good citizen, but I have really contributed to society? I donate clothes periodically, and I pray for those less fortunate than I. Like I said, I cringe when I think of all the ways entitlement has influenced me over the years.

Opinions welcome!

Live long,

L

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Angels

This expierence happned to my dad when I was around five months old.  It’s a beautiful thing he describes, so I’m just going to copy it word for word as he wrote it.  If it sounds choppy or jumbled it’s probably because as soon as this happened, he sat down and wrote the whole thing down so he would never forget.  I know he went back and tweaked it in places to make it flow more like a story.  I hope you enjoy this as much as our family does

Angel

It happened late one night in the summer of 1986.  My wife and I were house sitting fora couple who were in Jamaca for eighteen months with the United Way.  We’d had our first child in February that year and she was a delight to us.  Especially since the first few months of colic werenow only a fading memory.  We named her Katherine and called her Katie.  She had been ill and wasnt breathing well at all.  As we stood over her bed and watched her sleep we could hear her labored breathing.  Any parent knows the sound, you wonder whether or not they’ll take their next breath.  Or, how in the word they ever get enough oxygen in their little lungs to sustain life?  Of course, now after three other children have blessed our home I realize we may have had some of those “first child” jitters that go along with being a first time parent.  None the less we were concerned, wondering whether or not to call the doctor.  As we stood over her bed we asked God to please watch over her, keep her safe and allow her to breathe a little easier.  After that we went to bed ourselves. 

I recall going right to sleep being tired from the days activites.  The next thing I remember was being awakened by a knock in the direction of our bedroom door which was open.  Two distinct knocks.  I awoke lying on my left side with my back to the door and facing the digital alarm clock on the night table.  The clock was flashing 12:00 like it does after the power has gone out and come back on. I’m sure you know what I mean.  I also noticed a light in the room coming from behind me.  I rolled over on my back and looked in the direction of the door.  There I saw an angel.  It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.   He completely filled the doorway being quite large.  He had long golder hair and was wearing a robe that was white.  One thing I remember really well were his wings, so very majestic and powerful looking.  The fold in the wing that came up behind his head reminded me of the smooth fold you see in the wing of one of the large birds of prey only much larger.  His eyes reflected total, undeniable peace.  Absolute control.  A slight smile on his lips, his expression was one of knowledge too wonderful for words.  In his arms was Katie.  Although I didn’t hear her I could tell she was giggling, happy to be playing with his long curls.  Feeling not the least bit alarmed at this scene, I just lay there taking in this experience.  I can’t say how long the moment lasted, there was really no sense of time passing, only the blissful realization of the absence of fear.  Katie, I could see was having the time of her short life in the arms of someone she adored.  I turned to look at the clock which was still blinking and as I did the light in the room faded.  I turned back to the doorway to find it empty. 

I lay there for a few minutes contemplating what I had just witnessed.  I slowly came to the uncomfortable realization that our Katie and her companion had gone Home to be with Jesus.  And that allowing me to see the angel was God’s way of lettings me know it was okay, that Katie was as happy as we could ever hope for her to be.  I slowly sat up on the edge of the bed knowing I had to go into her room.  As I walked toward her room I fully expected to find her lifeless little body lying in the crib.  I thought about how Rosie and I would second guess our decision regarding a trip to the doctor for the rest of our lives.

Now, to fully appreciate what I found you have to know a little bit about Katie first.  She was a child who, from the first breath she took, was going to let the world know she had arrived.  She had boundless energy, constantly on the move and this held true even as she slept.  She moved all over her crib, rolling around, scooting this way and that, never staying covered. 

My apprehension increased as my bare feet hit the cold wood floor of Katie’s room.  I stood there a moment just inside the doorway.  All was dead silent.  I slowly walked over to the crib.  From the light in the hallway I could see Katie lying on her tiny tummy with her knees pulled up under her just the way she liked to sleep.  She was lying in the middle of her crib with her blanket spread out perfectly over her as if she’d been covered.  I leaned down very close to her face, she was breathing!  Breathing as free and easy as I’ve ever heard her breathe.  I stood there a while as my tension melted away into thanksgiving to God for answering our prayers. 

To this day Rosie and I are not sure what it all meant.  Some folk we’ve shared the experience with have felt it was a sign that God has some special plans for Katie in the future.  Maybe her angel just knew she needed some play time to feel better!  Maybe it meant none of that, maybe it was a way for God to show how very much he loves us, how intensly He cares for us.  Regardless, Rosie and I feel very blessed to still have Katie with us, along with Hannah, Tanner, and Ethan.  Each one is a unique, precious gift entrusted to our care for a brief moment in time.  May we bring honor and glory to our Lord by the way we nurture these gifts.

Bruce Speake 

And with that, I’ll leave you with a verse about angels that I love 

Hebrews 1:14 – Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. 

Mischief Managed

 

Mind Wars: Confidence

This has been quite a year for reflection. I don’t think I have spent so much time really thinking about myself in a productive manner except for in this year, which is sad because aren’t you supposed to have done all these things before you pick a degree for college? I still agree with my choice of degree—there are times I wish I had continued studying sciences to become a veterinarian, but really I am very happy to have a different focus for my life—and this isn’t a post that will be filled with regrets. 

I was recently fed a good dose of humility through the discovery of some unsent references. “Why did I read references about me?” You may ask.” Isn’t that a breach of confidence or trust?” Another may inquire. If you must know, the envelopes were stashed away once I decided I was not going to apply for a job overseas through a ministry. I was cleaning out one of my boxes filled with files, and I found these mysterious and intriguing envelopes. I thought to myself, “Maybe I did something and wanted to surprise myself for later, and I apparently forgot that I even did that?” it’s been known to happen. Sometimes I’ll put money somewhere, forget about it, and am ecstatic when I find it months later. Anyway, so I read the references, and most of them were pretty nice and encouraging, yet honest and humbling in a constructive way. Then there was this one where my confidence from reading the nice and encouraging ones was taken, strung up, beat with a bat, let down and thrown into the river. Wow was this reference a doozy. I should have thrown the reference out before finishing it because by the time I had read the answer to the first question, I knew this was not going to be constructive…but really, who does the wise thing in these situations?

I like to think I can handle a lot anyway.

Apparently this manager did not like me. Okay, not everyone needs to love me and want to be my best friend. That is fine, but to think so poorly of me that the only positive thing that is said is “she’s friendly, I suppose” ??? Either I need to have a growing experience and change of character, or this person has some serious grace issues with people who a) do not have the same personality as she  and/or b) is not perfect. Really, I think the issue here was personality differences and maybe a bad impression was made by insensitivity somewhere either on my end or on hers. This is unfortunate because while I was not super fond of this particular manager, I do not remember having ill will toward her, nor did I have any chance to improve in the areas where she was disappointed with me. I like to be challenged and grow, so this would have been beneficial. Then again, if she actually did find me awkward then she might not have known how to approach me.  

The reason I am even sharing this with the cyber world is not because of a need to vent to a veiled audience. One of my friends asked me what having confidence looks like. Lately I have had quite a few conversations about confidence and a huge part of my reflection time this year has dwelled on what I have learned while working at PC for 4 years and becoming a barn manager in the last 3.

Some people think that a person who always needs to be in the limelight is probably insecure. Okay. Maybe. There have been times I have been verbal just to avoid thinking or allowing people to see that there was an actual war going on in my mind. Other times I am verbal just because I genuinely want to talk with someone. I am a terrible person to talk to on the phone, but Katie, Monica, and I are as close as ever in spite of the fact that I live 500 miles away from them. Same goes for Whitney, and I have never counted up the mileage between East Texas and Northern California. Katie calls me almost everyday at 5, and if I cannot talk I call her back later that evening. Monica and I sometimes go weeks without speaking (really we can blame it on phone tag and living outside of the city on both our parts), but there are times when we talk for hours about our lives. Sometimes Monica calls at 5 just to spite Katie. 😉

Some people think that a person who does not talk often must be shy. Yeah, meet Annie, my coworker. She is not shy. She just doesn’t need to say much in order to be awesome.  Seriously though, she is not shy. If you ask her a question, she’ll reply with something well thought out, sometimes profound, usually wise, and always with an open heart. Quietness can be insecurity, but people cannot just assume that is the case. We condemn people by assuming they are shy or insecure so we have to baby or stay away from them.

Really, we condemn people when we are not sensitive to others being different. This world is so diverse, and it would be a shame if we were all conformed into one type of personality. You can be quiet and still praise the Lord more passionately than any outgoing person can. You can be typically loud and silly but serious the next moment. I constantly feel as if I am being criticized for thinking differently or gravitating toward different interests. Don’t go to Africa, Lauren. That’s crazy. Don’t you know what is happening there? Stories are not real, Lauren. Those people are not real. Okay, I know that, but they feel real, and you can still learn from a fictional story. Fictional stories can be great sources for psychology and human experiences.

Battling nay-sayers is tiring. I am getting off topic though. Now, back to confidence:

I have learned these things:

  • Confidence to say something and stand firm in this opinion because it was formed from a solid foundation. I knew this before, but I think the confidence could be more correctly defined as “stubbornness.”
  • Confidence in changing my mind. I can make a decision and decide it isn’t the best route and change it! No big! Not the end of the world. My poor wranglers experience this all too often.
  • To tag onto the above, being okay with failure but not being comfortable enough to not grow.
  • I don’t know everything, and that is okay. If I do not know how many MB go into GB (1,000 apparently. My techy friends told me this summer.), then I shall embrace the fact that I get to learn new things everyday.
  • To be comfortable with myself. I am very different. Sometimes, depending on how it is done, people have been hurtful in their opinions of me (i.e. said reference from above). I have been called random and weird and looked at as if I was some lost puppy or nonsensical because of something I have just said.  I do not need to be the expert in everything or the smartest person in the room in order to be confident,  but it is hurtful when someone looks at you as if you just started wearing real undergarments as opposed to pull ups.

Some of these lessons are surprisingly brand new, some began back in the day of spandex shorts and steel-toed cowgirl boots, and some of these lessons have been learned and unlearned along the way.

Anyone else with thoughts, feel free to add! This is nowhere near a finished thought.

Live Long,

L

Here are a few pictures I drew for viewing. Forgive my lack of skills on paint:

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Above: After reading first references… cloud nine from the encouragement.

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Above: The results after reference of doom; notice how the TARDIS disappeared. You can view this two ways: negative: I felt like I had been separated or abandoned by The Doctor or positive: No one can ever destroy the TARDIS. Live on, TARDIS!

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Above: Defiance. Lauren the Lion roars again!