Bitter or Better?

September 30, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Why is it that when bad things happen to some people they emerge better and stronger at the other end of the crisis while other people shrivel up and build steel walls to keep others out?

Eight years ago, my son was diagnosed with leukemia right before his eleventh birthday. Because his age put him at a higher risk, his treatment plan was harsh and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We spent a lot of time in the hospital the first year of his almost four-year struggle.

When you’re in and out of a small isolated hall on the fourth floor of the children’s wing, bonding with other parents becomes natural. Seeing the same faces over and over makes for fast friendships. Especially when you’re taking cover in the same sterile foxhole.

Years later, a few of those moms I befriended have grown stronger, others have broken, and some are barely hanging on years after cancer rocked their world. It almost doesn’t seem to matter if the child made it to remission or not.

When something bad happens, you have two choices. Be bitter or be better.

So what made the difference in these moms? Personality? Personal beliefs? Support system?

From my experience, I would have to say none of those things.

I believe hope made the difference. But not any hope. Hope in something real. Hope in something outside of ourselves. Hope in a life-changing God.

If you choose to be bitter, you build your future on rage and hate and resentment. And really when you think about that, all that anger only hurts you. That big ball of acid tartness you’re carrying around your heart only eats at you. No one else. The bitterness steals your joy and renders you useless to reach out to anyone else.

“Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good” (Job 21:25 NIV).

If you choose to be better, you let all the bad stuff go. You ask God to take an extremely horrible situation and make something beautiful. He can, you know. He’s the only one that can turn ugly into exquisite. He uses your trials to transform and uses you to help others.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” James 1:2-5).

The next time you face a trauma, remember you aren’t powerless. You have the will to choose, will this struggle make you bitter or better?

Babysitters and Body Guards

August 14, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

What do the following positions have in common?

Babysitter.
Body Guard.
Manager.
Safety Net.
Advisor.

If you’re a parent, you’ve held them all or you will by the time your children dive from the nest. One day they will pay for their own phone lines and car insurance, schedule their own dentist appointments, drive through and pay for their own take-out, and do laundry in their own dorm rooms or apartments.

Independence.

That’s what we strive for from the moment we hold those babies in our arms. Our number one job is to teach our kids how to be strong and kind and ethical and everything they need to be to survive in our world as adults.

When each of our children arrived, they were absolutely dependent on us as their parents to care for them. It wasn’t as if Kyle could walk to the bathroom and help himself. And without any sort of hand-eye coordination to move spoon to mouth, Alek would have starved in days if we hadn’t fed him. Unable to comfort herself, Maddy just screamed 24/7, unless we held her over our shoulders.

We were their babysitters. Only the babies did the sitting, in our arms, while we met their needs.

The toddler years weren’t much easier because my kids thought they could actually do things like pour milk, and walk down narrow stairs without hanging on to the railing, and climb on the big potty in the public restroom on a toilet seat designed for a 500-pound trucker.

We were their bodyguards. Literally, guarding their tiny bodies from harm.

Elementary school and middle school years ushered in personhood. Suddenly, they brought wants, ideas, and opinions to the family dinner table. Only they lacked any kind of experience to discern things like ratings on video games and movies. They didn’t realize that watching something scary for an hour could bring nightmares that lasted for months. Or that staying up all night, three nights in a row, could make them physically ill and unable to perform on that test, or in that recital or play. We knew of course.

That’s why we were their managers. The people who nixed the fun ideas because we were able to look down the road at the not-so-fun consequences.

High School. The character-forming years. Filled with mistakes and sketchy choices. All those ideas we managed when they were younger? Now they had the ability, the vehicles, and the cash to attempt to carry them out behind our backs. And sometimes they did.

We were their safety nets. Waiting to catch them when they fell—minor goof-ups to major crisis.

Next came leaving home and making decisions for their futures. Life plans, budgets, friendships, career choices, and marriage partners. Sometimes a seemingly minor mistake led to a life we never wanted them to live. Other times, taking a chance opened doorways to an amazing future we never foresaw.

We were their advisors, doling out the wisdom of our bad choices so they could make different decisions. And mess up somewhere else instead.

I span the range from Babysitter to Advisor this year and it’s a weird place to be. I often have to remind myself that at eleven, Maddy should be making her own grilled cheese. But only under close supervision. And at fifteen, Alek isn’t old enough to decide if he can buy an M game for the X-Box but at eighteen, Kyle doesn’t need me to cut his steak when he visits on the weekends.

Where are you in your quickly shifting roles as parent?

Rest

July 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Let’s be real.

There’s a season for everything, right? Even rest? So why does it feel like rest is something to be equated with lazy?

Do you wake up wondering how long until bedtime? Wonder how you’ll get everything done by the end of the day? Do you rush to finish things early in the morning before your energy level tanks below barely registering?

Maybe you’re a ragged mom, who spends more time in the car than at home. Why can’t someone just hurry up and invent a washer/dryer set that fills itself, washes, and switches loads?

Perhaps you homeschool numerous kids in multiple grades and spend your life repeating K-12. The good news is fourth grade math gets easier every year you practice it. At least remember to cheer yourself on for the A’s you’re finally making now. Fractions are hard.

Could you be a desperate-to-be-published novelist lost and obsessed in her fantasy world, staying awake until four am to churn out pages because that’s when it’s finally quiet?

Or maybe you embody all three like me.

I push myself too much. Feel guilty when I don’t. Terrified that if I let go for a second, everything will fall apart. No more clean underwear in the drawers. No homework graded and set up for next week. No name on the cover of a book. Not my name, anyway.

But I can’t run full-speed forever. None of us can.

Enter rest.

Not retirement-like rest. Just a few hours off here and there. I’m talking about rainy days spent in smelling the roast cooking in the crockpot. Weekends used for recharging myself and reconnecting in my relationships. Nights curled up with a good book in my footy pajamas and some hot tea.

After a while, rest, like sleep, loses its optional status. I have to do it. Or I pay the price. My body gets rundown and my mind spins in confusion. Might as well take rest on my own terms.

I expect to find guilt in the cutting out process, but I know it needs to be done. Otherwise, in twenty years I’ll look back and wonder what happened to my life.

Do you know what makes it easier for me to rest? Knowing even God took a break. And He is far stronger than I am. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:1-3).
That slashes more than a fraction of guilt over carving out some down time.

Just so you know, I’m typing as fast as I can to get these thoughts on paper before I have to run out the door, yet again, to drive some kid to some thing and then go back and pick him up.

Things Change

June 20, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Lori Freeland –

Love you—the text read.

And I was doing better too. Hadn’t cried in over 22 hours. My eyes were just to the point of deswelling and the gigantic gaping ache in my heart slowed to a smaller, more tolerable throb.

Kyle’s text negated all that.

Not that I didn’t want to hear from him, because I did. But knowing he was so far away—an unhuggable, unreachable distance—made me want to wrap my arms around him even more.

Things change. Time grows our children. Life opens up new doors. I know this. I expected this. I even wanted this.

But still—change hurts. Even when it’s good.

Last weekend, my husband and I moved Kyle, my oldest child, to college. Four hours away. It’s what’s supposed to happen. I birthed him, I raised him, and I loved him—and now I let him go. It’s the clichéd natural order of things.

Only letting go is not that easy when you actually have to do it.

When you have someone in your life for eighteen years and you worry about him, pray and anguish over his relationships, his heart, and his health for 6570 days, 22 hours, 37 minutes, and 15 seconds, he’s kind of stuck to you. A part of you.

And that’s not easy to shake.

My role in Kyle’s life has changed. I know that. But it’s going to be a journey. At least for me. He’s having the time of his life and I’m glad.

I’ll let you know how it goes for me and what God teaches as I transition from hoverer to distant advisor.

Love you—I reread the text. Wiped away a tear. And straightened my shoulders.

Love you more—I texted back.

Some things won’t change and for that I’m grateful.

Have you ever have trouble letting someone go?

Integrity. You in the Dark.

June 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a dark room. No windows. No doors. Not even a sliver of light leaking through. Now pretend there’s a group of people locked in there with you. They’re counting on you to show them the way out.

Are you radiating an inner glow, a natural shine that lights up the room, chases away the shadows, and draws people toward you?

Did you cheat and bring a flashlight, faking your brightness with batteries and an artificial beam? Are you blinding the people counting on you, burning their eyes, and ruining their vision?

Maybe you blend into the shadows, meshing so well with the darkness no one even knows you’re in the room. You’re untraceable, even with night goggles, leaving the crowd to believe they’re on their own.

Integrity is who you are when no one is looking. Integrity is who you are in the middle of a black room where you could choose to stay hidden. Integrity is you, in the dark.

Jesus radiated integrity. He was exactly who He claimed to be, all the time, even when He was alone. He embraced light. He exuded light. He was light.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV).

Pick up your integrity, step into Jesus’ light, and go illuminate the world.

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