Tag Archive | resentment

The evil ego and the vice of pride


Yesterday was the last game of Beanie’s maiden soccer season.  I don’t know how much she’s actually learned about playing the game, but I do know she’s had a stellar time running around the big field with a dozen balls, twenty-some little kids her age, a half-dozen or so teenaged girls, and the boundlessly encouraging Coach Jackie.  As soon as she had wolfed down her breakfast, she sped off to her room to change into her royal blue shirt, white soccer shorts, tie-dyed socks, and her pink shinguards over her socks but under her Hello Kitty sneakers — then proceeded to carom around the house, knocking into things and shrieking randomly.  Her excitement was hilarious, if a little nerve-wracking.  Poor old Bo fled downstairs and curled up against the washing machine.

Since Beanie was the first kid on the field, Coach Jackie let her pick her own “coach” for the practice and the game.  It was hardly surprising that the smallest player picked the tallest teenager to be her coach, to a cascade of giggles from her adolescent compatriots.  While coaching Beanie is definitely the most physically demanding job on the field, as she has predilections for sprinting off towards the woods if she sees butterflies and climbing the net anytime she finds herself within arms’ reach of a goal, I’m told that the benefit of abundant Beanie hugs and kisses for the person who fetches her back are a good offset.

While Beanie was cavorting on the soccer pitch with the rest of the boisterous midget mob, Mr. Man was exploring the perimeter of the field, Baby Guy was cheerfully disassembling my diaper bag, and Bugaboo was pouting because big sisters of players don’t get medals or trophies on the last day of soccer season.  I tried to engage her with an extra soccer ball, to no avail; instead, she informed me that she needed to find a potty.

I’ve missed a lot of soccer practice this season taking Bugaboo to find the potty, which is inside the school building, about 200 yards from the soccer field.  At roughly yard 199, Bugaboo informed me that she did not actually need to use said potty, but had merely wanted to go for a walk with me, and that she was tired of everyone playing attention to Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy.

I took a deep breath.  Then I took another one.

As we headed back to the soccer field, our oldest daughter and I had a bit of a chat.  I reminded her that, last spring, Beanie had faithfully stood on the sidelines for each of her big sister’s games, and no one had cheered louder.  I also reminded her that when she needs help with her schoolwork, I gently ask her siblings to wait while she gets the assistance she’s requested, that she is the only one allowed to use the shower unassisted, the only one who has a stash of books she doesn’t have to share with anyone, was the first to go roller skating, the first to have a drawing grace the wall of our upstairs hallway — it was a pretty lengthy litany of special attentions paid to our first-born child.  Then I explained, as gently as I could, because this is a very, very big flashpoint in our extended family, that being born first does not cause the world to revolve around a given child, that we love all our children, and that while each one of them will have moments when she or he is the center of all our attention, that centering in no way diminishes our love for the rest of them.  I also reminded that part of being part of both our family and the Lord’s family is that we share in each other’s joys and sorrows, choosing a share in our collective happiness instead of choosing to sit, sour-faced, on the sidelines.

I’m not sure how much of it penetrated Bugaboo’s cranium, and I’ll wager the speech will be repeated, perhaps with different verbiage, several thousand times over whatever years the Lord sees fit to grant me.

After a brief stop to pick up a couple of lunch necessities, we headed home to share a meal, with two tired and hungry little boys singing a wordless duet about their troubles in the middle of the van. As I was flinging plates and food towards each child, the phone rang, with a call that, while it was not unexpected, was no less sad.  My Aunt, of whom I wrote in a previous post, had passed away while our branch of the family tree was on the soccer field.  I stumblingly asked my cousin if there was anything he and my uncle needed, kicked myself mentally for stumbling, and told him I love him.  If you have the time and the inclination, please pray for him and my uncle.

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, please have mercy on Your child, Geraldine, and welcome her to a joyful reunion with the family who preceded her into Your Kingdom.  Please comfort her husband and her son, and all of us who mourn her passage from this world.  Please soften the hearts of those who refuse to mourn, and fill them with Your loving grace.

Lord, thank You for the four blessings You have given us to raise.  Please help us teach them that while we are all part of a greater family in You, their first and best friends are the siblings with which You blessed them.  Please grant them hearts that are humble and forgiving towards all people, but most especially towards each other — and please, Lord, grant my husband and I the grace to show them, daily, what mercy, humility, and love look like in action.  Keep us mindful that no one of us is greater than any other in Your sight, and that to believe otherwise is to make the grounds of our souls fertile land for the seeds of envy, wrath, and pride, all of which serve to separate us from each other and from You.

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.

Moments matter


There was no single “blog moment” yesterday, primarily because it was one of those days filled with small delights.  It wasn’t that nobody whined and everyone ate meals without complaints or food-throwing, it was just that I took my own advice and decided to answer the small, everyday transgressions with a song instead of a stout voice.

It may help that I’m spending two weeks on the parable of the prodigal son with my daughters.  We’d been having some problems with petty squabbles and resentments, so it seemed like it might be helpful to spend a little extra time talking about Christ’s infinite mercy, and the joy we should feel when someone seeks to atone for wrongs committed.  This took on a little extra poignancy over the weekend, when I received the news that my estranged aunt is dying from stage four lung cancer with brain metastases.  Tidings like those tend to make all the reasons I find to hold onto anger and grudges seem even more foolish than they usually do.

We were talking today about how the father in the parable greeted his returning son with great joy, and threw a party to celebrate his safe return — and his change of heart.  The task of showing them that remorse isn’t just mouthing a few syllables, but an actual change of heart, will continue for many years, but it made a big impression on the girls that the son was reduced to wishing he could eat the pigs’ food.  There are opportunities for lessons in stewardship here, too. It’s such a great parable for teaching so many foundational concepts that I’m beginning to think we may have to return to it every six months or so, as they grow and mature and the boys start to join in the actual instruction.

This is Beanie’s newest workbook.  For weeks, I have struggled to find a way around her mulish resistance to coloring her assigned coloring pages.  We are talking about a girl who colored every single page in a 288 page Hello Kitty coloring book in a single day (and colored them well, I might add) when left to her own devices, but flatly refuses to complete a single assigned age of coloring.  Saying this is frustrating would be a grievous understatement.  At any rate, I remembered that the only thing Beanie loves more than coloring is stickers, and happened upon this book in our little stockpile.  Since she is still working on some of the basic skills, she and I made a deal — if she colors her assigned pages within a reasonable amount of time (say, 30 minutes), she gets to do ONE page in this book.  I let her do a page today just so she could see how much she would enjoy it, and immediately found myself with a lap-full of not quite four  year old jubilantly exclaiming, “Mommy that is the best schoolbook ever can I have ‘nother page I really like the stickers and did you see it was three different fishies and one of them was yellow and yellow is my favorite color . . .”

If you’ve ever read Roger Hargreaves’ Little Miss Chatterbox, you have read a reasonably accurate description of an excited Beanie.  Hopefully, this will result in less mayhem at lesson time tomorrow.

Later in the day, while Mr. Man and Baby Guy were napping, Beanie had wandered off to see if she could build a cave for her Care Bears with her Lincoln Logs, and Bugaboo was slumped on the couch, pouting a little because I would not let her go back outside to play until her brothers awoke.  Wanting to avoid a mutiny that would wake the wee guys anyway, I asked her if she would like to do a craft.  Thanks to Grandma, we have a ridiculously large supply of foam craft kits in the house, and Bugaboo loves to assemble the little projects.  For the record, glue dots are the greatest innovation in the history of children’s crafts.  Thoughtful girl that she is, she decided not to use the magnets that came with the kit; after scrutinizing their size, she advised me, “No, Mommy, I don’t think those magnets are a good idea.  Mr. Man likes to pick those off, and they look small enough for Baby Guy to swallow.  Can we save them for something we’re going to give to Grandma or Grandpa?  I want to keep these to play with my Strawberry Shortcakes.”

Not long after Bugaboo finished her project, Beanie ambled out of the girls’ room, having tired of both solitude and Lincoln Logs, and decided to brush Smudgie and read a couple of board books on the couch.  I love that she reads to Smudgie.  Bugaboo disappeared and, after a quick stop to make sure she hadn’t fallen into the commode again, I poked my head into the girls’ room to  see if she was, perhaps, napping, as the house was unnervingly quiet, even taking into account the sleeping boys.  There sat our oldest daughter, playing with her sister’s dinosaurs and her own Strawberry Shortcake cafe, pretending a family of giant lizards had dropped by for cakes and milkshakes.  I believe Orange Blossom (bottom left) probably fainted from fright.

After a dinner that actually was eaten without any complaints about the quality, quantity, or preparation of the food, the three ambulatory members of the tribe skittered back out into the yard to run off their meal and desserts.  Baby Guy decided to check out the toys that reside in the bottom of the entertainment center, and happened upon the toy that has been all four of their favorite at the age of ten months –the animal wheel.  He was smiling and laughing, spinning the wheel as fast as it would go, then stopping it himself to see what animal noise would issue forth, even trying to imitate some of them. While his siblings were exploring a world with broader boundaries than his, he seized the opportunity to investigate the possibilities of one single toy, without worrying that anyone would try to “help” him with it.  He passed a very giggly half hour indeed, and I laughed right along with him — and imitated the animal sounds, too.  The Lord God made them all, you know, and it’s fun to spend a little time appreciating His handiwork with a baby.

When the animal wheel lost its allure, he crawled across the living room and checked out Beanie’s drum and its stick.  It did not take Baby Guy long to determine that the sounds the stick made when rapped smartly against the wood floor or pounded against the couch were significantly more interesting than the noise produced by hitting the drum. Another half hour passed while I watched our youngest son explore how many sounds he could make, by himself, with a wooden stick.

Around the time Baby Guy tired of experimenting with the drum stick, Mr. Man wandered in with his newest rock.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that he loves rocks, and can be counted upon to bring me several specimens whenever he ventures into the yard.  After I captured him and his treasure on camera, he proceeded to show Baby Guy that you can make even MORE noises by banging rocks on things than you can by banging a stick on things.  Some of those noises come from Mommy, who is several feet away from the rock in question.  The boys found this pastime particularly hilarious.

In the meantime, the girls were busily swinging and singing, “One, two, buckle my shoe” at the tops of their lungs.

In the midst of the rock-banging and counting song-singing, my husband came home.  We changed the boys into their pajamas and settled in for prayers and lullabyes.  It’s rare that I’m able to get a shot of all five of my brightest blessings together.  From left to right:  Mr. Man, Beanie, Daddy, Baby Guy, and Bugaboo.

We had a full and wonderful day.  Smudgie, however, was exhausted from running to and fro, watching over and playing with all his tiny people.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a day of simple pleasures with Your blessings.  Thank You for the grace of a heart open to wonder and arms open to comfort.  Your Scripture warns us of times when people will turn their face from You and become “lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, irreligious (2 Tim 2),” and we would raise Your blessings to honor You above all things, to praise You for your glory and the beauty of Your creation always.  Please grant us the grace to teach them to delight in every small moment of joy, for every second in which we are happy in Your love and each other’s company, and teach us to pray for those whose hearts are hardened against an appreciation of Your people, Your law, and Your works.

Little Miss Sunshine


Bugaboo and Beanie are both big fans of Roger Hargreaves’ “Little Miss” series, and since the books are quite inexpensive, I periodically order a few to add to their library; usually, I tuck them into the top shelf of the bookcase in their room and await the squeals of delight when they’re discovered.  Today, while Mr. Man and Baby Guy were napping, I invited the girls to bring me some stories and we could have a special “big girls only” storytime.

As it happened, this was the magical day when they realized Little Miss Princess, Little Miss Giggles, and Little Miss Sunshine were the newest members of their formidable book collection.  Two delightedly chortling little girls came pelting over to the couch, their treasures in hand, and tried to simultaneously leap into my lap.  Since they are both over three feet tall now, this resulted in a fairly spectacular mid-air collision and subsequent thudding to the floor of a tangle of flailing arms and legs.

Once we sorted out all the body parts and ascertained that the worst injuries were to their dignities, the three of us snuggled up on one couch cushion to enjoy a little lighthearted reading.  We saved Little Miss Sunshine for last; Beanie has been asking for that one for some time, as that is one of my nicknames for her.  It also happened to be the one out of three stories I had never read.

I will not ruin the story for those of you who have not read it, but there’s a salient line that the King of Miseryland utters near the end of the book, to wit:  “But I don’t know how to be happy!  I’ve never tried it!”

Well, now.  I went through a period of my life where I wasn’t trying to be happy.  I was trying to find reasons to take offense, reasons to be angry, reasons to resent and to hate and to blame.  For that matter, I still have days when I do that.  Being happy really is a choice, and I put the book’s lesson to good use later in the day when Bugaboo was rebelling against her math assignment.  She exclaimed, in a wretched tone, “I’m very unhappy!”  I gently replied, with the ghost of a smile in my voice, “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy.  Have you tried being happy?  You have a nice sturdy kitchen table, good schoolbooks, a freshly sharpened pencil, and Mommy right here to help you if you have a question.  Plus, the backyard is waiting for you as soon as you’re done.”

That earned me a sour little scowl, but she did the assignment, and was giggling at it (she had to draw 20 arrows on a target) by the time she was halfway through.  After she had finished, she cheerfully claimed a hug and kiss from me before cavorting off to join Beanie in ravaging the clover population in the back yard before supper.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You’ve been making it pretty obvious lately that You choose what messengers You will.  For many years, I disregarded those You sent to remind me that I can choose joy at any moment, and reject it at any moment.  Help me teach Your blessings that we can bear even irksome tasks with a happy heart, or choose to listen to Your adversary’s exhortations to resentment and anger.  Thank You for Your reminders, for Your blessings, for my soul that chooses to sing so loudly my mouth must repeat the song.