Well, actually it started in a coffee-fueled carpool to school, followed by a long-overdue workout and lengthy shower. But AFTER THAT — I had a zoom call with a friend I’ve known for a super-long time, but had not — until this morning — actually met. It was the sweetest time!
I have no photographic proof (because it was a rather gloomy morning weather-wise, and I did not look cute, thanks to the aforementioned work-out), but it happened and, hours later, I am still reveling in the joy of it.
We talked about work and dreams and answered prayers. We talked about frustrations with family and politics and a deep desire to see the Church truly walking in the way of Christ. We talked about books and home decor and how to properly pronounce the name of someone you’ve known for years, but only in print. I loved every second of it.
I’m being a touch effusive here, but I can’t help it. DELIGHT and REFRESHMENT filled my soul. And I so needed that today! A smile hasn’t left my face.
This has been a crazy year for all of us. It’s been a crazy season, and we’re all feeling weary. We’re emotionally drained and struggling to make it one day after another.
LISTEN TO ME. This is really important.
Take time to connect with your tribe.
Find those kindred spirits who will fill you, encourage you, celebrate with you, lament with you, pray for you. It may sound lavish or even selfish, when the world pushes you toward measurable productivity, but just do it.
We all need safe spaces to breathe and laugh and remember we’re not alone and that there is much, much more to life than mere survival.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
My mama used to use a phrase: “walking on eggshells.” Do people still say this? Having moved around so much, I’m not always sure what is true vernacular and what is just my family or my generation. I may not know the origins or journey of the phrase, but we all knew what Mama meant. She meant one of us was being too sensitive, resulting in her needing to tread carefully. When she said it, she let us know she felt the environment was unstable, and that one wrong move could make someone (or some situation) fall to pieces.
A similar, though slightly more graphic phrase: walking through a minefield.
That time I almost stepped on a landmine…
In 1998 I moved to Bosnia as an intern with CrossWorld (UFM International, it was called back then). This was a church-planting mission built on the foundation of humanitarian aid and the practice of loving our neighbors. The war had ended just two years earlier, but evidence of it remained everywhere. You could see it not just in the pock-marked buildings or damaged infrastructure, but in the people as well. Reconstruction takes time. Governments, buildings, and property can be restored much quicker than human hearts and minds.
In some sections of the city or the surrounding countryside we would find mine tape. You know the yellow CAUTION tape law enforcement or construction workers might use? Picture that but with MINE written across it. Far more sinister than the seagulls of Finding Nemo, this marked property where they suspected landmines had been buried. They had not yet had the opportunity or resources to sweep the field. To make things a bit more dangerous, there wasn’t always enough tape to circle the suspected area.
I remember walking with a friend one day when she suddenly stopped. Thinking only of the photo I wanted to capture and how to position myself right to get it, I took five or six more steps up the hill before turning toward her.
“What’s wrong?” “Mina.” The Bosnian word for landmine.
She needn’t say anything more. She stared in the direction I had walked, her feet cemented to their spot as fear filled her features. As awareness filled me, I slowly backed up, surrendering all cares about photography. We never walked that way again.
Parenting teenagers is hard. Some days we’re walking on eggshells and other days we’re traversing minefields. Some days, like this weekend, we’re doing both in a matter of hours.
Let’s be honest: this doesn’t apply only to parenting teenagers. We could say the same about raising toddlers. Or sustaining high-maintenance friendships. Or attempting a political discussion in any sector of America.
We could blame hormones or stress or social climate. We could blame education, communication skills, or even incomplete discipleship. I’m not a psychologist and, while I believe we often have very good explanations for what triggers us, I’m not interested in diving into those root causes today. Rather, I want to just talk about our reactions.
Believe it or not, we do have a choice in how we respond. We can decide to be the eggshell, the mine, or the foot.
The eggshell is delicate, easily broken. This would be the person who gets crushed under pressure. If confronted or (seemingly) threatened, this person will crumble emotionally, likely internalize the situation, and deepen her insecurities. She’ll collapse on herself. She may become sharp, poking here and there in her pain, but mostly she allows the impact of whatever force comes against her to destroy her.
The mine, like the eggshell, can be tremendously sensitive, but the effects go out rather than in. This person often seems fine on the surface. A lot can happen around him, and the ground may appear stable, but if you hit just the right spot with just the right pressure, he’ll explode. The reaction may end just as suddenly as it begins, but the damage goes far and wide, sometimes inadvertently setting off other nearby mines with their own spheres of destruction.
You might think that the problem in all these situations is what’s underfoot. Maybe. Maybe not.
The eggshell is responsible for her reactions. The mine is responsible for his reactions. The foot is responsible for where it steps and how hard it stomps.
And all three can take some responsibility for clean-up.
So which one are you? And what will you do about it?
Are you fragile to the point of having your personal worth damaged easily by the words and steps of others?
Do you appear safe, but then explode at simple, but specific provocation, often hurting others around you?
Are you careful about how you approach others? Do you stomp around like you own the world and everyone else can just deal with it?
You may be all three, choosing a primary mode in different seasons or situations.
Now, I don’t really like suggesting that we “ARE” any of these. It’s a metaphor. We are not defined by our reactions, but by who God says we are. This is just an exercise to evaluate the choices we make. Because we do have choices.
The point isn’t which metaphor fits best, but what we do about it.
“A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
Proverbs 15:3 (NET)
“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”
Philippians 2:3–4 (NET)
How might we apply these verses to situations that find us underfoot? What about situations we (unintentionally or purposefully) provoke?
We can opt for the gentle answer. We can give the benefit of doubt. We can employ words and compassion that deescalate or even diffuse a potentially volatile engagement.
We don’t always do these things, but WE CAN.
Good news: one reaction doesn’t need to destroy everything. We can prioritize healing, for ourselves and those around us. May we promote peace and communication. May we pursue understanding and unity.
Remember, unity doesn’t mean we must agree on all matters. It simply means we favor the relationship over the issue. It means we value the person more than winning the argument.
Let us exude grace with patience. Let us be known by our love for one another.
Once upon a time there was a lovely lady, the mother of both a prince and a princess — Let’s start over.
Once upon a time there was a hot mess girl struggling to keep her stuff together after having two kids in quick succession.
Okay, that girl is me and those two kids came 17 months apart. That means different nap schedules, different eating schedules, different developmental schedules, and twice the diapers and crying and emotions and fun and cuteness and all of that. It was a LOT. Let us also take a quick nap moment to remember that the Boy Child (born second) did not sleep for three years. Yes, my friends, this hot mess girl (and her long-suffering, faithful husband) did not sleep for a very, very long time.
In the midst of all this, the castle fell into disrepair. The house was also a hot mess.
Around that time, someone encouraged me to identify what ONLY I could do and outsource the rest. ONLY I could be a mom to my kids, a wife to my husband, the voice for my teaching and writing, or the right confidant to my sisters. But ANYBODY could mow my lawn or clean my house or do my grocery shopping. She encouraged me to think through what I really NEEDED to do and what I might be able to delegate to others on my behalf.
This was a huge shift in thinking for me. My upbringing idolized independence. Intended or not, the lesson I learned was: If you couldn’t do it yourself, you were lacking in some way. As such, the idea of hiring someone to help felt to me like failure.
While wrestling with these thoughts and feelings, I approached others for perspectives. I craved insight. A couple of those conversations went like this:
Me: “I’m debating hiring a cleaning lady.” Other Person: “What — you’re too good to clean your own house now??”
Me: “I’m debating hiring a cleaning lady.” Other Person: “What — Are you too good to hire help??”
These diametrically opposed reactions have stuck with me for years.
Both accused me of being arrogant for different reasons. In truth, I felt far more uncertainty and insecurity than pride. While it may look like both were asking questions, they were really proclaiming judgment without inquiring about my thoughts or attempting to hear or even acknowledge my debate. They both took sides, assuming where I stood. At that moment, I only stood stunned.
We could look at this and decide: “Wow, Tanya. You have terrible friends.” (Absolutely not true.) OR we could choose to see ourselves in this story.
This isn’t about cleaning house. It’s about clearing preconceptions.
We live in a world of instant judgment. We see a meme or a social media post, a yard sign or a t-shirt, and instantly declare our approval or disdain — not only for the idea, but for the person behind it. We rage over headlines (even if we’ve not read the articles they title) and label groups of people based on assumptions that may or may not be based in fact. We question everything; not because we want to learn, but because we want to argue. We want to be right and prove others wrong. Isn’t it exhausting? Are you as tired as I am?
What might happen if we stop assuming what people mean? What might happen if we stop assuming where people stand? What might happen if we stop judging and start loving?
HOW? Breathe. Listen. Hear. We all need to listen more.
Let’s go back to me and my friends. I know now that these two friends were projecting their own insecurities into the conversation. Both felt threatened. The first because she believed independence proved greater status. The second because she had watched her mother work incredibly hard cleaning others’ houses and then be discriminated against because those same people who hired her help treated her of lower status.
Knowing this, I can understand their knee-jerk reactions to my statement. It doesn’t mean either of their assumptions were correct, but it gives a frame of context. Once I heard and understood their perspectives, they were willing to hear mine. We could correct errant assumptions and move forward.
We don’t have to un-friend each other.
Stop. Listen. Hear. Your assumptions may be wrong. There may be much more behind the words than you realize.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” — James 1:19–20 (NET)
Let me offer a caveat here. You are totally allowed to unfriend toxic people. Do not stay in an abusive relationship. You do not need to keep unhealthy or destructive people in your life. You get to choose who influences your space and mind and heart.
While you are choosing who needs to go and who gets to stay, choose prayerfully. Carefully. Wisely. Be sure you’re not the destructive one someone else needs to un-friend.
Learn to listen. Offer second chances on those first impressions.
Listening isn’t easy. Especially when we think we already know what the other person thinks or is going to say. So practice.
Choose not to interrupt.
Deliberately refuse to craft your response while the other person is still speaking.
Actually LISTEN before you cement your opinions or judgments.
And PRAY. Pray a ton.
Before and after and through: PRAY
Don’t just pray for the right answers or the right responses. Pray for the right heart. It’s amazing what a little humility can do for a conversation and relationships. Pray that we all might love one another well; that we might know which arguments we must engage and which ones are best left alone. Proverbs speaks of fools that can be taught and fools that waste our time. I’ve found myself lately praying that God would show me the difference.
Pray also for your “opponents.” First: remember that being of different opinion or position doesn’t automatically make us enemies. We may very likely be on the same team, just approaching issues differently. Refuse to easily surrender to “us vs. them” mentality. Second: pray for their blessing. (It’s really hard to continue hating someone for whom you genuinely pray blessings.) Pray the same things for them as you pray for yourself! Pray that you might understand one another and work together in unity toward what honors God and serves our world in need.
“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6–7 (NET)
In case you’re wondering, I did eventually hire help and it was worth every single penny. My only regret is that I wish I’d listened sooner.