When I got married and we started having kids, I was careful to assess regularly how my children treated others. I wanted to make sure we didn’t raise any bullies. I wanted to make sure my children never made others feel the way I had been made to feel occasionally during my childhood.
When my daughter was mistreated by some friends for not going along with the crowd, I felt those feelings from middle school starting to rise up from the pit of wherever they had been packed away. The anxiety was real, my teachable moment for my daughter heartbreaking. In the aftermath I was left exhausted, worried and afraid. I couldn’t figure out where that stuff had been hiding all those years, and I let my imagination run wild.
There is always a person who thinks they must have control over others.
This person will skip from family to family, making demands about things others never even think about. It doesn’t matter where you go, if you are sharing any type of space with them, you will be sure to have some kind of unwanted connection. Their manipulation is extreme, making each moment of contact victimizing. When it happened to me, I surprised even myself.
Just like when I was thirteen, I felt the anxiety start to rise up within me. I felt the burning in my throat and the hot tears filling my eyes as I tried to process the negative comments and sometimes threatening demeanor. I had already hung up the phone mid-sentence. Now I was ignoring a barrage of text messages sent to intimidate and upset me and those around me. The choice I made next was everything. I considered lashing out, giving this person what they “deserved.” But, I didn’t understand what was behind the aggression in the first place. So, I made a different choice.
I chose not to respond because this person hadn’t earned my time.
None of our family members deserved the aftermath a war of words would surely spark. There was no reason to continue a fight for power over something that didn’t exist. I had wasted enough time being upset, worried and anxious. I wasn’t going to give him anything more.
Regardless of how old my kids are, they deserve to have the full attention of their mother, not a distracted hot mess due to someone else’s social ignorance. They need to know the adults they depend on to be examples to them are- well- adult like when it is absolutely necessary and take the proverbial high road. They need to know at the end of the day, I would never expect them to cave into a bully, and neither will I.
I used to think standing up to a bully meant turning around and giving them a taste of their own medicine. I used to think the only way to stop someone from being an antagonist in your life was to tell them off, or to make them accountable in a public setting. I still think there are occasions when this works. Unfortunately, some people only respond to or learn from a dose of their own behavior, turned back on them. But for now, I take the high road, handing my anxiety over to the one who can handle it. I have found through experience, silence and walking away non-reactive has been the best course of action.
And something else.Always keep them guessing.
Always keep them guessing.
Updated on May 16, 2017
It occurs to me there are some things we never outgrow from our childhood.
For some, it is the reaction we have to others. Our insecurities never completely go away. We are sometimes surprised by the natural responses we feared when we were younger. Those feelings creep up and before we know it, we are right back to our twelve-year-old self.
For others, it is the actions we take to get a reaction from other people. The need for some type of control over our environment or our fear of looking weak to our peers drives some to be intimidating. It makes us feel empowered for a moment.
Both perspectives are things some of us would rather have left behind.
We don’t all live in our childhood neighborhoods. If we do, it isn’t filled with the same exact people from twenty plus years ago. We have new friends, new family members and we belong somewhere. Whether it’s our church, our kids’ activities or our community in general, we come into constant contact with other adults.
Once in a while, there will be some jerk who never grew out of the antics he possessed in junior high school.
The possibilities for him (or her) to evoke havoc on our lives are very real, and the anxiety we are left with is almost traumatic. It is a catch twenty-two because even though we want to avoid, the jerk is always going to be there because this is the community we both live in. He makes it feel as if it’s not big enough for all of us. His constant badgering of people around him leaves us feeling bullied and anxious.
There, I said it.
The jerk is nothing but a bully. He is looking for control
It sounds so basic, so simple an explanation. He is looking for control in an area of life where he has no place. These things can come about for a variety of reasons, but boil down to one fact- sometimes a person never grows up.
When a community catches on to the pattern of issues, how should it respond?
The majority of people just want it to go away. We choose to live in communities where we can “do our thing” without the constant drama others interject. Standing up to an adult bully is not an easy task, and a lot of people do it alone. Many will agree something needs to be done for resolution, but few will commit to the task of doing the right thing.
Just like in John 8:1-11, the locals did not try to interject in the stoning- or the not stoning- of the adulteress. They were just resigned to go along with whatever decision thePhariseess came to. First, it was “She’s guilty, stone her”, then it was ” they all dropped their stones and walked away one by one”. It only took one man, Jesus, to make the decision. It only took one comment from him,
There are solutions to this problem which are both effective and immediate. Join me next time when I share my personal story, and how I surprised even myself.
Updated on April 17, 2017
Good Grief, Charlie Brown.
Boy, Lucy was not kidding.
Grief is the weirdest most constricting feeling I have ever experienced. I already had no idea what the future held for me, and once grief entered the picture, everything suddenly became a Russian roulette. A game of chance with my emotions makes me nervous at best. Grief is one sneaky character.
Let me digress and say, I am normally a crier. God gave me tears a few years ago, and they have been an adjustment. They are a beautiful gift for me, personal and perfect in every way. But having tears as a gift, and bursting into tears because of grief? Two entirely different things.
My poor husband. He is such a champ, fighting through grief himself. We hold one another up well, during this time of loss and sorrow. But sometimes we are tooling along, and out of nowhere, the tears start falling, anxiety raises and I feel a sense of panic overcome me.
Usually, I see something I want to share with my mom and dad. Except, it’s only mom now, here with us. Dad moved on to a much better situation a few weeks ago. I can’t be angry about that- he is with Jesus now. Who doesn’t want that? Isn’t it the goal?
But the turmoil and rollercoaster of emotions makes me want to punch someone. It catches me off guard every time. I sometimes forget he isn’t here. I sometimes think I will call and tell him something funny or weird I saw. Then I remember. So the grief takes hold and laughs at me, while I sob and the wave of emotion overtakes me like the ocean during a storm. My heart pounds in my chest and everything just hurts.
The truth about grief is simply this- it’s dirt we can’t shake off, no matter how we try. We can only go to Jesus and pray for relief. Sometimes we just have to collapse on the kitchen floor and cry it all out. Sometimes we need to run, work in the yard or take a long drive. In the end, we must remember our faith carries us through, with mercy following close behind. Our hearts are broken, but not shattered. This grief is temporary because one day we too will follow my dad’s footsteps and move on to the promises laid out for us long ago.
On March first, my grief became a reality, but it didn’t become a way of life. For those of us struggling through, remember Jesus is coming for you too one day. On that day, all despair, grief, loneliness and heartache will be washed away. There won’t be anything left to do except laugh, love, and worship.
Posted on April 16, 2017
These hands. The pair of them has held up my own when I was too weak to do it myself. They have worked until calloused, bruised and raw. They have pushed pencils, cars, and life. These hands have been gentle to my newborn children and solid to their teenage behinds. They have been Papaw. They have been through the best life has given us and the worst when death has cheated us.
These hands. They represent all that is good in the world of being a man, a father, a husband and a friend. They have taken in my husband as one of their own. These hands have respected him as he has navigated being married to me, fathering our children and now moving toward empty nesting. They have also loved my sister in law through moments when she needed a father because she already lost her own.
These hands. They have taught countless hours from a chalkboard to a whiteboard then a smart board. Influencing the lives of an unknown number of students and peers.Listening, teaching, mentoring, loving and standing up for what was right in the classroom when few wanted to lead.
These hands. They have held my mother for 44 years in marriage. They have removed mice and birds. They have shoveled snow and mulch, planted flowers and grown tomatoes. They have held her through sickness, loss, and pain. These hands have been a partner to her hands for my entire life.
These hands. This pair has clapped in applause and approval. They have shaken hands with others in deals, condolences, and celebrations. They have paid tribute to fallen men and women and sacrificed for a time as a veteran. These hands have always loved being a patriot and always respected our flag.
These hands have turned pages of books and magazines, and have loaded bait and bullets. They have been cut, scraped and smashed. These hands have spent their entire life strong and brave, holding up family and friends, mentoring peers, loving strangers and being an example.
These hands belong to my daddy. They are the most beautiful pair of hands I have ever held. They have been a gift to many, a force to behold. I miss them fiercely today, as every day. I am sure they are perfect now, but it doesn’t make me miss them any less. If these hands could tell their story, what a tale it would be.
Posted on February 19, 2017
We find as we get older it is as hard as when we were in high school. Women are judgmental creatures, and we don’t do a lot of changing for one another. When we need something, it can sometimes come at a cost for those who care for us. This is not an intentional price to charge for friendship, but sometimes a necessary one to pay. Read More
The Real Dirt
The truth is I feel like a failure most days as a parent.
Now, before you go saying a bunch of positive things you don’t mean, let me explain.
Information has been kept from me. Vital information I could have used on a daily basis as a mom. I was green you guys. GREEN as a blade of grass, a dollar bill or the Grinch. I mean, I had no clue. The best part? I was really good at faking it. I mean, I could successfully breastfeed and eat spaghetti at the same time. I could talk on a corded phoned (do I need to insert a picture of that?) while I changed a poopy diaper. I could fold laundry and rock a cradle. I could fix dinner while rocking a cranky baby to sleep.
And I was frustrated the entire time. For a long time I didn’t enjoy being a young momma. I was so overwhelmed. I cried a lot. And those babies- they just kept coming. We had 4 kids by the time we were married for 8 years. Please, let me do the math for you.
1993, baby boy #1.
1995, baby girl #1
1997 baby boy #2
1999 baby by #3
This equals 4 kids in 7 years. FOUR of them. I was always outnumbered. Even with an amazing, hardworking husband, I was completely out of my league with this entire stay at home mom gig. Sometimes I don’t know how we survived it. I may still need some therapy.
I may still need some therapy.
Survival of the fittest is my joke when I talk about having four kids, but the truth is, it’s no joke. This is the dirt of my younger days that on occasion haunts me still. This is the stuff that life is made of. It’s where my kids learned to be loyal to one another. It is also where they learned expletives and how to shove everything under their bed in less than five minutes because company was coming over in ten, and I needed the rest of the house picked up. These “formative years” we read books, learned to write our names and played in the dirt.
There it is again.
We all start out so innocent, yet we always return somehow to the dirt we came from. For kids that age, it was in the playing, the falling down and the getting back up. The way they learned what “no” meant, and how they learned about hurt feelings in the backyard. They also figured out when you call nine-one-one, a nice officer comes to the door, and she isn’t happy when she finds out the call was because the goldfish crackers were spilled everywhere and someone was in big trouble. (all while mommy was in the shower for three minutes) Incidentally, that was the longest shower I took for several years.
The dirt showed my children how to get messy, then find redemption in the water hose, washing all the mess away and down the street. It showed them how the blades of freshly cut grass could cover their feet one minute, and be traveling down a small river to the street the next, picking up more grass and leaves and debris in their path. Washed in the water, cleansed by the hose.
Just like Jesus does to my soul every time I think I am a failure as a parent. There is so much more to this part of my dirty story- this is just the beginning. We still need to talk about all those things I could have been warned about, yet- silence.
The dirt taught me to grow things, like our children, into adults who can be independent. It started out with dirty shoelaces and all that tying practice. It ended up with me being a Mimi to some precious babies, that belong to my babies. Three with us and one already waiting for us on streets of gold, no doubt holding onto Jesus smiling at our dirt being washed away every time we come before him. The dirt has become a sweet perfume as I grow into motherhood, after almost 24 years of practice.
Intentionally setting ourselves apart is generally no picnic.
In Cindy Bultema’s book, Live Full, Walk Free, we find the direction applicable to our lives today in 1 Corinthians. Covering the letters to Corinth written by Paul, this study guides you through the perils and warnings of living a sin filled life. It also points you in the direction of where God wants you to be, specifically in your personal life.
More than a book to read, I enjoyed very much having a study intertwined in the reading. It was nice having one copy to work from, and the pages are meant to be written on. This book also has some extras like a 1 Corinthians reading plan, A-Z scripture cards and scripture memorization.
For more information or to purchase Live Full, Walk Free, visit Cindy Bultema at her web page.
In scripture, Jesus made sure to take a time-out. He intentionally pulled away from his followers to pray and eat. He spent this time preparing for what would come next. Jesus set the example for re-booting ourselves in a simple manner. Therefore, the February calm is important.
Matthew 14:22-23 (NIV)
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he dismissed them, he went up to the mountainside himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.”
Read more at The Glorious Table