Tag Archive | anger

Serenity prayer


There is a prayer, popularly known as the serenity prayer, that goes, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I’ll be teaching that particular devotion to the tribe early and often.

My mother has one sister, who is married and has one child.  I had not seen any of them since my Granny left us in 1990, because of a disagreement between my mom and my aunt.  Because the disagreement escalated to a point where Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin have little to no contact with Mom’s side of the family, they hadn’t had any word of me since the early 2000s.

When Pop-Pop went to join Granny in 2009, I finally learned their last name.

After a modest amount of Internet sleuthing, I located a young man who I believed to be Cousin.  Since I wasn’t completely sure it was he, and wasn’t sure he, Uncle, or Aunt would welcome contact from me, I set a couple of bookmarks so I could contact him later if it seemed advisable.

Last weekend, I happened across a post by him on a website I read periodically, indicating Aunt was in the final stage of a fatal illness.  The advisability of attempting to contact Cousin was no longer debatable.  I posted a quick summary of the situation on Facebook and asked my friends for help in finding good, current contact information for Cousin.

The Lord is good, and sometimes tells me His will by what help He sends.  I contacted Cousin through an online messaging service he uses. He was quite surprised that I had managed to find him, although not displeased, and invited me to visit.  As it happens, they live less than an hour from us.  Cousin and I agreed that whatever else happens, the feud between our mothers will remain between our mothers henceforth.

We visited them yesterday.  Uncle and Cousin assure me that Aunt knew we were there. Cousin conveyed Aunt’s request that Mom not visit her.  My husband and I agreed to honor Aunt’s wishes. We have not yet told Mom of Aunt’s condition.

I hope there will be time for me to visit Aunt again in this world.  We will make the time for Uncle and Cousin.

As it happens, Uncle and I share a profession; we are both educators, although he teaches at the college level.  Cousin shares all of our love of music, my husband’s predilection for video games, and our daughters’ enjoyment of My Little Pony.

I held Aunt’s hand, and kissed her cheek, and told her I was sorry it had taken so much and so long for me to come see her and her family.

When I went to bed last night, and when I arose this morning, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of what might have been, how destructive resentments, grudges, and pride can be.  I have an uncle with stories to share who I’ve met, now, a total of three times.  I have a bright and interesting cousin who I’ve now met twice.  I have an aunt about whom I know next to nothing who is no longer able to tell me her story, and who the tribe won’t remember.  This estrangement has been for my entire adult life.  Has been.  It’s done.

I believe that I had to live every moment of my life exactly as I lived it in order to be who, what, and where I am today.  There have been times where the price has been terrible for my daily joy.  This is one of those times.  If I can go where the Lord leads me through this trial, I know my joy will increase, but I will have to listen more carefully than usual for His voice, because my memory of a grudge with foundations that are unclear to me will be trying to shout Him down.

Please forgive this unusually terse and inelegant post.  And please read Matthew 18.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for my cousin’s post on a message board that led me back to a part of our family I had given up.  Thank You for giving them enough mercy and love to invite us to visit.

Lord, please forgive me for my unloving thoughts, words, and actions over the past two decades.  Please help me teach Your blessings that there has never been a grudge among two people that has come from You.  Wrath is among the deadly sins for a reason; it cuts off a part of my heart from reaching out in love, and instead allows a hellish brew of anger and resentment to fester where love and forgiveness should be.  Help me teach Your blessings to stand firmly with You when asked to be a part of someone else’s grudge, and when I am tempted not to forgive, or am tempted to bear ill-will because of a wrong alleged by another, please show me my aunt’s face.  When I choose anger, I am spurning Your gifts.  Kindle in me a grateful heart, Lord, one that is open that what blessings You send.  Please grant me, and help me teach Your blessings, a spirit of genuine and generous repentance, instead of useless and selfish guilt.

Corinthinking


I was having the sort of morning that begins with the sound of two little boys screeching, continues with the discovery of two diapers filled with explosive runny poop, proceeds to a snit from Bugaboo over the Sunday morning TV ban, and is escalated by the realization that the only sound I hear coming from our bedroom is my husband’s rhythmic snoring.  My thoughts started that horrible death spiral that starts off with, “I’ve been up dealing with every unpleasantness imaginable, and you’re in there getting an extra couple of hours of sleep.”  The actual thought was a little more profane than that, but my understanding is that there are some younger readers of this blog.

With a very definite anger setting its hooks into my consciousness, I slammed open the laptop and prepared to launch a little screed on Facebook.  God has a way of smacking me upside the head with a metaphorical brick when the kids’ hugs and tears don’t cause me to realize that I’m about to do something stupid, and He got me this morning with a one-line post from a young friend of mine, who is to be married Tuesday.

She had posted, “I give up stuff for you.. You won’t for me!!!”

Gee, that’s exactly what I was thinking.  I don’t know the exact circumstances that caused her upset, but I do know mine.  How humbling it was to realize that with all the emphasis I’ve put on how we can show love for one another this past week, I had missed a fairly essential part of the lesson myself.

Most people are familiar with at least part of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians; it’s often heard at weddings, and reads thusly:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor , and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 6rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. 13But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Love does not consist of expensive presents or passionate exchanges of bodily fluids.  It is a complete gift of self, a gift for which we expect nothing in return.  Granted, in all of human history, there has been exactly one Person who loved perfectly, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to give it, flawed as I am.  It is the reason I thank God for our children’s strong lungs when they’ve been screaming all day, and the reason I was ashamed of myself for letting that spiral of rage get started just because my husband, who works 60 hours a week to provide for our family, then spends most of his days off either giving me a break from dirty diapers or helping one or more of our aging parents take care of things they are no longer physically able to do for themselves, needed an extra hour or two of sleep this morning — after he got up at 3 a.m. to take care of Baby Guy so I wouldn’t have to.  The only reason I know he did it is that I saw the empty bottle in the sink this morning, and when he exited the bedroom this morning, I asked him when our tiniest tribesman awoke.  Then I found the pants stained with what the diaper couldn’t hold, neatly folded on a counter so they wouldn’t stain anything else, so obviously, he dealt with that too — all without complaining or raging at any of us.  Real love, the kind that comes from the gift of self, doesn’t worry about whether the time or place is convenient.  If I let it, it will fill the spaces in my heart where anger seeps.

After lunch, we insisted Bugaboo and Beanie take a nap to sleep off some of their crankiness, and my husband went downstairs to play with the boys.  Smudgie decided he’d had enough of being cooped up in the house and refused to come inside, so we gave him the run of the back yard for a while.  I decided to lay down on the couch for a few minutes, and, after a few minutes, the male half of our household came back upstairs.  Mr. Man, carrying one of his favorite books, climbed up onto the couch and laid down in the crook of my arm, looking at me hopefully.  I never thought it would be such fun to read a book about Cheerios, but it always makes both of us smile.

When I finished that one, Mr. Man succeeded it with a half dozen more.  Around the middle of the third book, my husband said he was still a little tired, so he was going to take Baby Guy into our room and lay down, since the couch was fully occupied.

While Mr. Man was retrieving his eighth book of the day, I closed my eyes for a moment; reading without my glasses gives me a headache, but I hadn’t really wanted to go find them and break Mr. Man’s rhythm.  Moments later, I felt a little kiss on my lower lip, then a honk of my nose, then the snuggling of a not-quite-two-year-old boy against my belly.

I suppose I drifted off, because I was startled from sleep by the sound of a Scribble ‘n’ Write crashing to the floor.  Glancing at the clock, I noticed about 45 minutes had passed since we had let Smudgie out, so I gave Mr. Man a hug and a kiss, then headed downstairs to retrieve our giant puppy.  Mr. Man followed me down the stairs, so he could retrieve his blankies from his bed.  When I came back up, the big guy was standing at the top of the stairs, crying because he couldn’t find me.  I picked him up and hugged him, sat back down on the couch and talked quietly to him while he cuddled against my shoulder.

In the meantime, Smudgie, having emptied the water dish, took up his position on half of the loveseat, using the arm of it as a pillow.  Mr. Man pointed to him and observed, “Puppy.  Muzhy [Smudgie] puppy.”  I replied, “Yes, Smudgie’s sleepy. He played outside for a long time.  He’s cold, too, so he’s trying to get warm.”

Without further ado, Mr. Man gathered his blankies, rolled off the couch, tucked Smudgie in with his beloved blankies — the best things he has, in his view — and gave him a little kiss.  Then he turned to me and said, “Shhhhhh,” before giggling his way down the hall to see what the noises coming from his sisters’ room might be.

I find a tremendous joy in realizing how much I am loved, and how many opportunities there are to learn new ways to love other people.  The Lord has blessed me with much to give.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You defined love for us, and set an example of self-sacrifice that none since has been able to approximate.  You have blessed me with a husband and children who give freely of themselves, and a husband who sets a tremendous example of sacrificing for the good of our family while expecting nothing, not even a word of thanks, in return.  Thank You, Lord, for these gifts, for these proofs of Your love, which I did nothing to merit, and for Your gentle reminders that expecting something in return for love is no love at all, but a commercial transaction.  Please keep me mindful that not once have You asked me, “What have you done for Me lately,” and help me to rejoice in the opportunities You provide me to love, instead of cursing the inconveniece.

Even God took a day off


Each year, I read the Bible from beginning to end, and I try to read a different version every year. It’s partly a faith exercise, and partly a critical thinking one; it’s interesting to see how the translations differ. One point of agreement among all the translations I’ve read, however, is the commandment about keeping the Sabbath, and that the Lord commands us to have a day of rest and worship.

What is it about that particular one that gives me so much difficulty?

Don’t get me wrong; I like a lazy day as much as anyone. Somehow, though, it always seems that when Sunday rolls around, the day on which menial work is not to be done, there is always cleaning to be done, someone who needs a helping hand, a sick child, a sick husband. On a day that should be dedicated to rest and thanksgiving for all the Lord’s gifts, I somehow always end up with a million non-contemplative tasks on my agenda.

At the risk of being self-justificatory, work can be a form of prayer. An old high school friend of mine recently posted about the beauty of folding a fitted sheet.  If, as I’m scrubbing the floor, applying stain remover to the vomit-soaked onesie, moving heavy things for someone who no longer has the strength to do so, I give silent thanks for the Lord who provided the roof over our heads, the four beautiful children who create huge messes, the strength to move the heavy things, the trust of the person who asked my help, I am worshiping.

And when I have that moment of quiet, when the tribe curls up in search of a story, I can read them their Arch books and be reminded of the wonders the Lord has wrought throughout human history.  I can offer extra hugs and kisses as a hymn of praise to Him from whom all blessings flow.  When the wee ones have decamped in search of toys or imaginary games, I can reflect on the trials frustrations of the week, and consider how I can respond to those temptations to wrath in a way that is more reflective of what Christ taught.

My Sabbaths are rarely peaceful in any outward sense.  The challenge is to turn every word and deed into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.  There are days — and this was one of them — when I allow the number of tasks at hand to turn my focus from the goodness and mercy of the Lord to the desire to duct tape the child who just woke the sleeping baby and the vomiting toddler.  I am human, and therefore fallible, but these are opportunities the Lord has sent, also, because it is in those moments, when I have lost patience with a preschooler, that I can show her what humility looks like.  I can embrace her, and ruffle her hair, and tell her that Mommy makes mistakes, too.  I can teach her that Mommies need forgiveness from God and, sometimes, from their children, for making the wrong choice . . . like yelling at a little girl who might not have known that playing with her toys would cause such an uproar.

And I can ask her forgiveness.  I can also let her hear me asking the Lord for His pardon for greeting His blessing with anger, instead of correcting her lovingly.  That is the practical reason for a day of rest, I think; if I don’t take the time to rest and reflect, my temper gets short.

Teaching rarely involves a textbook.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, when I am angry with Your blessings, please shut my mouth long enough for me to consider what the actual cause of my anger is.  Help me respond to misbehavior with gentle teaching that will draw them closer to You, instead of angry words that will push them away from both of us.  It is a difficult balance, Lord, teaching children lovingly while still making sure they have an absolute awareness of right and wrong.  I don’t know how You are so patient with me, but would You please help me follow Your example more nearly?

And thank You, Lord, for Your blessings.  Help me show You my thankfulness for the children with whom You have filled our house in every word and deed I share with them, and please help me show them that the commandment to keep Your Sabbath is, partly, a reminder to slow down and consider what brings us all closer to You.