My dad taught me many things in this life. Like, how to change a flat tire.
And how to do things right and well, not the 'mickey mouse' or the 'deskin' way.
He taught me to respect others. And to pick up after myself.
My dad taught me many things in this life, either by word or deed.
Some say may dad could be strict and sometimes it seemed that way.
But, the older I've gotten, this much I have learned:
My dad kept me protected and safe with his rules and boundaries.
Without them, life could have been full of regrets, guilt, and shame.
My dad could have changed that tire for me or paid for someone else to do it,
but then I may have grown up expecting the world owed me something
(and I wouldn't have known how to change a flat tire).
My dad made me do things right and not 'mickey mouse',
give it my best, finish well, be responsible and to take pride in what I do.
I could have ended up an uncaring, selfish, disrespectful, lazy person who expected others to clean up after me and to do what I could do for myself but, my dad cared too much for that to happen.
So, thanks dad.
I realize now that the times you said no when I wanted to hear yes, when I said 'good enough' and you said 'not yet', when I said 'help' and you guided as you made me do it myself – you weren't being the meanie — you were loving me.
A few things caught my attention today. Some good, some mundane, some simple, some incomprehensible. Okay, maybe that's too harsh a word for that which I am about to share, but see what you think.
There is an old, blue, rusty metal trunk that sits on my back porch for decorative purposes. It measures 18″ x 36″ x 12″. This is the very trunk that my father in-law carried all the things in which he would need for college. Amazing. Every time I see that trunk, I realize how crazy our society has become with 'things'.
I was reminded of that again today when an ad came up for one of the more renowned department stores in our country. It was advertising wares for 'back to school' shopping. What caught my eye was a tea set that was listed under this sale banner. A tea set that most people I know don't even have one as nice.
So, for the fun of it, I went to the site to find the other 'essentials' (the term they used) that a person going off to school would need. After all, if it's an 'essential', it's needed, right? Essential does mean crucial and/or necessary. Here was the list of essentials:
twin/twin XL sheets
AeroBed inflatable bed
USB flash drive
paper towel holder
pots & pans
Am I the only one who finds this list a little over the top?
My daughter went to college with a van load of stuff that I thought was a bit over the top and she came to that realization later, but even she didn't have all the 'essentials'. I know they aren't meaning that you have to buy ALL the essentials to make it through school (though I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you did), and the list is convenient so you don't forget what you really need, but seriously. After all, did you notice one tiny thing?
They forget pencils and paper. And hygiene products and the latest fashions. Oh, and don't forget the iPhone and the iPod and the iPad. Gotta have those, with a latte to go.
Sometimes we beat ourselves up when something goes wrong. We convince ourselves that if we had only done it this way instead of doing it that way, things would have been better. If we had only said something different, we would have been more helpful. If we had only…
It is so much easier to listen to the negative tapes recorded in the recesses of our brains than to listen to the truth tapes.
My daughter in-law tells the story of when she was young and sitting in the living room where her dad was watching a baseball game. Every now and then she would glance up from her book when he would holler for his favorite team or express disappointment over an error made. For the most part, she was inattentive to the specifics of the game.
The game was almost over and it was tied. The pitcher threw a ball, a hit was made and an easy catch was missed. She was watching.
“He lost the game for the whole team,” she exclaimed.
“What?” her dad questioned. “Weren’t you watching the game?”
“Yes. But he lost the game for the rest of the team at the end.”
“No he didn’t. Didn’t you see so and so in the third inning miss that catch? In the fourth inning one of their best hitters struck out. There was an error in the fifth. It takes the whole team to win and it takes the whole team to lose. The sole responsibility of whether they win or lose never rests on one player alone.”
For some reason, she took that tidbit of wisdom to heart and shared it with me the other day. It was something I needed to hear.
Often when things take a bad turn in someone’s life that I am closely connected to, I examine what I could have done differently. I examine what I might have done wrong. I often tend to blame myself for the bad stuff because, if I had only…
The truth is that the consequences in the lives of those we love, do not rest on the teachings and training of just one person. It does not rest on the influence of just one individual. A popular saying a few years back was, “It takes a village to raise a child.” There is much truth in that.
It takes a whole lifetime of different people, from different walks of life to have an impact on one person. A life is not carved, influenced, or impacted merely by one individual.
Parents are responsible for the care, nurturing, training, protection, and upbringing of their children. Though we try to train them up in God’s truth, with wisdom gleaned from our own personal experiences – try to protect them from harm of any sort – the fact is, others are influencing them as well, whether for good or for bad. Kids are constantly hearing differing opinions and beliefs and deciding for themselves what they want to accept as truth… or not. They eventually come to an age where they will make their own choices, sometimes regardless of what they were taught as a child at home. There is no room for ‘if I had only…’ because at that point there were countless others who had an impact on that one life.
There are many things, if given the opportunity, we would most likely go back in time and do differently. Since we are not able to fix what has been done, we have to accept that we either did the best we could with what we had and what we knew – or yes, we goofed big time. Yet still, we need to move on, admit we may have been able to do better, and apologize if it is needed. Make the wrong right. That is where the responsibility ends until the other party responds. You cannot make them forgive you. However, you can forgive yourself and move on.
There is no room for the ‘if only-s’ in this life. They only serve to keep us bound to the past instead of living in the present and learning from our errors so that we can be better in the future. The errors others make in their lives do not rest on the shoulder of one single person. We all make mistakes and we all have watched others make some of their mistakes. We can either learn from them (and some are doozies) or blame someone else (including ourselves) for the poor choices made by someone we love.
If we would stop beating ourselves up, we would realize that we are not the only person that has had a significant influence in another person’s life. The entire village did. In some cases, the ‘village’ (family, church, group, classroom, sports team) needs to gather and make a wrong, right again and realize they all may have had a part to play.
When a coach sits with his team after a game of defeat, he does not single out one specific player, pinning the loss on just him. The entire team gets the talk. The entire team is told where the errors were made. They review where others on the team might have been able to step in and help.
The next time the ‘If I had only’ tape turns on in your head, remember that we can have a significant impact on the life of one individual, but so can many others. Good or bad. If you honestly feel you’ve had a part to play in another person’s troubles, take what you’re responsible for, deal with it in a healthy way (ask forgiveness, seek counseling, etc) and then… move on. You will not do your team any good just sitting on the bench, telling yourself, “If I had only…” Get up and get back in the game.
Last year I took my daughter over 1,000 miles away to college. It was about 9:30 pm. The ceremonies for new students were just ending and I needed to head to the car and begin my trek for home. Taking her face in my hands, and with tears in my eyes, I let her go.
“God gave me a verse to constantly pray for you. ‘He knows the plans He has for you – plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future. Plans that you will not be harmed. Seek Him and you’ll find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart.’ [Jeremiah 29:11] Lately He’s been teaching me that if I don’t let go of you, then He doesn’t have all of you. So, I’m letting go.” She cried. Of course, I cried. I do not even need to mention that.
“Besides, He can do a much better job of taking care of you and knowing what you need.”
After many hugs and tears, I left.
Trying to leave Los Angeles afforded many distractions to the moment but after about an hour or so, traffic died down and so did my thoughts. I turned on the radio to KLOVE, a Christian radio station, and one of the then new releases was playing. It was then that the tears came in abundance.
‘This is what it means, to be held,
how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
and you survive.’
I knew that my daughter was not torn from me, not like how that song was most probably written for, but it felt like it. It also felt as if I wasn’t going to survive. I felt as if I had a huge, empty hole in my heart and couldn’t breathe. I had never known such emptiness. How could I let her go? She had become my best friend. And I just let her go! I knew I should have made her stay and go to a college nearby that she hated. Yeah, right.
So, on that dark night, I cried some more, for on that long, quiet stretch of highway, there was really nothing else to do at 1a.m. in the morning. (For those concerned, I did have a friend with me, but she was sleeping in the seat next to me while I drove.)
I listened to more of the song in between as-quiet-as-possible-sobs, trying not to wake my sleeping friend, having to explain why I was creating a puddle of tears.
“This is what it means, to be loved,
and to know that the promise was when everything fell,
We’d be held.”
That’s when I knew I would be okay. However, it wasn’t soon enough because my friend awoke, concerned whether I was okay enough to be driving.
God promised that in the dark times, He would hold me. I knew he would because He always had. I drove on and cried some more anyhow. My friend never did go back to sleep but instead, cried with me.
It has been a year now and I just left my daughter back down to school again. We unloaded the car in less than half the time as last year, and after a day and a half of unpacking boxes, Togo’s sandwiches, thrift stores and Targets, it was time for the dreaded good-bye.
I told her I would continue to pray the same prayer for her that God had given me. After all, God had kept up His end of the promise of taking care of her if I prayed the verse He had given me.
We hugged and once again, I let her go. I didn’t let her see my face as I walked away and headed towards my car. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. I didn’t
want her to see the tears streaming down my face that my sunglasses no longer could hide.
I got on the highway, repeating the same drive as the one from the year before. Getting past the congested areas once again, I turned the radio on and tuned into KLOVE. As crazy as it seems, it was playing,
‘This is what it means to be held,
and to know that the promise was when everything fell,
We’d be held.’
And so, following tradition, I cried again.
This year, however, as I listened to that song, I did not cry from a bittersweet heartache. I cried because of God’s faithfulness and mercy. Without fail, He has held me in the dark times of missing my ‘little girl’. He has been faithful in every way imaginable. This year, it was tears of thanksgiving that flowed. I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing just how faithful God has been, not only to me, but also to my daughter.
He is there when we are lonely and alone, down and discouraged, troubled and afraid. He is there to fight for us when we have no fight left, to hold us when we are weak and to pick us up when we are knocked down.
On that long stretch of highway that lay before me, I had a thought. If He is always there, in every moment, every situation, then I am always being held.