Monday, May 9, 2011

The Lost Art of The Thank You...

Some days life can seem so...  Thankless.  We wake up,  do what we do, and then we crash into bed.  It can feel like the never ending cycle of simply meeting the needs of those around us.  This is especially true of working with youth.  Add the reality of ministering to kids who come from a city or "unchurched" background and this epidemic seems to multiply.

Yes,  we are supposed to be focused on our treasures being in heaven.  No our focus should not be on the "thank you."  However,  it doesn't mean that there aren't days when being taken advantage of  doesn't hurt.

One of my favorite examples of this was a canoe trip my husband took.   He, three adults and six young boys from the city, took off one Saturday morning for the adventure of a lifetime.  Leaving early.  My husband and the other guys loaded the canoes.  They then drove two hours away to the river.  

Being from the city the young men spent most of the day hiding in the bottom of the canoes,  petrified a "wild animal was about to attack."  The adults did all the work.   Lunches had been packed.  After a long day of canoeing the adults did most of the packing up.  Stopped for dinner.  Drove two hours home.  Adults gave up a Saturday for this. Boys rolled off the van without a word.

The last boy climbed out of the van and into his home.  One of the adults looks at my husband with indigence, "Not one of them said thank you."  My husband simply shrugged, "They never do."

"Thank You, " are not words that grace our ears often.  No matter how many things we "do" for our students, how much time we spend,  or how much of ourselves we pour out.  In almost 20 years of ministry I have received exactly 3 cards from students thanking me for anything. I can count the "thank you's" in my head.

We go home we focus on Christ and in our humanness our feelings are still hurt.  When you are a parent you remind your kids to say thank you.  In this case you feel like, "Well, they should know better,"  or, "This isn' my child what do I say?"

There are a few things we can do to combat the "thanklessness,"  of it all,

1. "Thank You,"  is an art.

Truth is when you grow up in any environment where you live as a "survivor"  you become singly focused on yourself.  At other times that attitude can simply be, "Well, you are my youth leader you are supposed to do this stuff for me."  It could just be the nature of being a kid that you only care about YOU.  Start with modeling a thankful attitude.  Allow your students to see what it is like to be grateful.  However, there are times when simply "showing," isn't enough. Don't be afraid to remind your students when a "thank you,"  is warranted.  Not because you need to feel good about yourself,  but because this is an important life lesson. Thankless youth, can become thankless adults.  As Christ changes our heart we become more thankful, but we may need to learn the art of saying it out loud.  Teach your students HOW. 

2.  They are not "just this way."

Be aware when you give up on expecting your students to be different.  The one problem with the "canoe story,"  was that my husband had no expectation of a thank you.  We should be teaching and waiting.  Recognizing who they are and allowing them to be stuck there are two different entities.   Expect your students to say thank you.  The "how,"  can take a lot of repetition.  Years as a matter of fact for some.

3.  It smarts.

Being "self righteous,"  never helped anyone.  Avoid pretending like there are not days when the lack of "thank you," doesn't get to you.   It does.  Find accountability during these times.  Find people that will pray with you and point you back to Christ.  Yet, a pity party helps no one.  Simply finding others to wallow in your frustration only breeds greater frustration.  Admit to yourself that it hurts.  Bring it to the Lord.  Find others who will love on you.  The truth is that we do need the body to build us up.  This is the essence of "loving our neighbor as our selves."

4.  You don't have to.

Sometimes we can get in a cycle as youth people.  "If I just do this one thing they will finally thank me."  I know that  I can feel guilty when I say no.   Take a look inside.  Why are you doing what you do?   Are you hoping that this time they will be grateful?  If that is why you do anything then the motives are out of whack and we need to stop and say no.

5.  Get over yourself.

Teaching the art of the "thank you," is a process that doesn't happen over night.  You are going to get your feelings hurt.  You will feel like this is a "thankless job."  You will want to quit a million times since Sunday.  This is normal.  We must remember when we "feel" this way,  that it is just a feeling.    We must come before the Lord and ask him why we are called to do what we do.  We must constantly check our heart on who we are in this for.  Is it us?  Is it the kids?  Then it is time to leave.   Is it the Lord?  Then we must ask him to fill us up once again.  Dying to self is a constant cycle. 

The whole "Thank You Art,"  is just that,  process.   We must be in a continued  state of teaching and looking to Christ.  We must be honest with him on where we are and what we are doing and why we are doing it.  The bottom line is that we need to be about our relationship with our Lord first before anything else. Model the Thank You.  "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ " Phillippians 3:8

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Talent Shows

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

At home he was hilarious. Bunky had practiced his rap over and again. He had a dance that went along with it. He meant for it to be funny. I am not biased when I say that he is one talented kid. But, last night as the minutes got closer to his turn on stage at the school talent show he began to have a melt down. He began to sob and declare that he was not going on stage. We reassured him and told him firmly and lovingly that he WAS going on stage.

The first time I was able to run for school office was in fourth grade. My parents helped me make posters and write my speech. Many of you who know me may laugh at this now, but left on my own I am painfully shy. I could hermit away quite easily. That first year I won. That is the only year I won. Apparently, I learned years later, I had made some promises about changing school lunch that I did not make good on. My classmates never forgave me. Most years I did not want to run. Every year my parents made me run for class office. I hated at the time. But, now in this day where am I comfortable? In front of a crowd speaking. I train people. I speak at conferences. It is what I love. All those years of speeches forced me beyond my fear. Of course my Mom always reminds me that my Senior year of High School I only lost by 2 votes.

So you can understand why I knew that Bunky needed to get on that stage. "Courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing it anyway," I told him. Boo and Lee lee had gone up first and although very nervous themselves had done great with their duet. Boo gave him a huge hug and told him he was going to do great.

Trepidaciously, he took the stage. You could see how scared he was. The crowd roared. He got through. It was not as animated at home, but it is always easier in front of the mirror. But, he did it.

The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear. Fear will come. I don't believe that it is about pretending that we are not afraid. I believe it is about getting up and remembering that what God intends for us is love and power and a sound mind. In Christ we can do it.

All three of my kids did a great job. I am proud of them. They amaze me, my kids. Oh and thanks Mom and Dad for all those speeches. Now I am doing it to my own kids...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our Life

So I walk in to tuck the kids into bed tonight and Bunky declares, "I stink." I think I have the smelliest farts in the whole world. Honestly, from the way the room smelled, it was true. Except LeeLee who likes to teach her brother the fine art of fake burping.

This can only be summed up in our son's budding rap career. He likes to beat box and make up raps with his sisters. Here is the work of art that we overheard in the car the other day.

"I'm huge, enormous
I like to eat cars
I don't like to fart
But, I'm Lactose Intolerant"

After we died laughing we asked him if he even knew what that was. "Sure, it means you can't drink milk." he declared Come on- you have to admit it is pure brilliance.

Yeah- I think that pretty much sums it up...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Water Torture

My husband John and I call it "Water Torture . " That is the form of torture that took place when the enemy tied you up and stuck you under a slow drip of water with no way to move . At first it doesn't seem as if things are "that bad . " You can just lie there and deal with a little water right? Nope after several hours of this you are ready to SCREAM . The sound of the dripping water, the anticipation of it dripping on you, the puddle that you are now lieing in makes you want to just die, literally . That is how the enemy breaks you .

Well, this is where this little band of missionaries finds themselves right now . In the middle of water torture . I know that we are supposed to be strong . I know that we are supposed to go to the Lord in prayer and just believe . I know know that the stuff that is happening is not as bad as what others endure . SO what happens? You go on by yourself and you don't ask for help . What we have realized is that this is just plain old pride . You start off very noble not wanting to share because well "it's not that bad . " The truth is when all the little things start to stack up, it becomes one big stinky pile . We need to get a clue and ask for prayer more regularly . It needs to stop being when the spiral heads down that we reach out . So please help us . Prayer is powerful . The body drawing together is powerful . We need you . We admit it, lay down our pride we need some help .

If it can break in our household it has . My laptop died a hardened death a couple of weeks ago . This is a huge need to what I do for work . Even more disheartening I have been writing a book for a while now and had not backed it up recently . Therefore, I am starting over in some places . Both our house phone and both cell phones are broken . Both of our cars need fixing and we woke up this morning to a flat tire on one . The dryer is broken . John has been walking around with one of the arms of his glasses glued on for months and they need to be replaced . My glasses need to be replaced . I have been having severe dental problems and am heading to the dentist next week . That has been a whole debacle on its own . I need a root canal and a cap replaced . John fell this weekend and seriously hurt his knee (Thankfully he is on the mend :>) The DVD player broke on Saturday . I have been sick on and off for months . Both of my parents have been very ill .

The ministry is financially unstable do to the times . Many of us are in this same position. I believe that we are under attack. Satan is attempting to render us broken and ineffective. Ministries aroung the country are financially destitute. Marriages, finances, our kids are all under attack. Enough!!
It has honeslty gotten to a point when something goes wrong that our response is, "Of course . . . " The list continues on and on . . .

Now are we the worse off? No . There has just been a lot of struggles as of late and we have felt the enemy sucking our joy . We are clinging to the last piece of wood from the shipwreck . We are thankful for that piece . We are not drowning . The Lord does take care of us- we just need some help . We need the body . We need you . Please remember us in your prayers . It always helps everytime .

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Change is hard..

A good friend of mine is moving away. Just today the reality of this really began to sink in. You know what? It makes me sad, really sad. Oh sure, we have talked about how often our families will visit each other. Maybe, we will turn a corner of fresh memories. Oh, sure it isn't like we haven't lived far away from each other before, or like we are able to spend every moment of every day together. However, this change is still hard.

There are new friends who are in the process of learning all the nooks and crannies of who you are. They are fun and fresh and very much needed. They are growing into those people who WILL know you forever. But, then there are those people who HAVE known you for so long they have become an extension of who you are. At your best, worst and every where in between they have seen you.  You have fallen out of grace with each other over the years, but the bind of Christ has reminded you that this person is family. Therefore, they have never really been very far away.

The truth is that I have about three friends who fall into this, "have known me forever, but love me anyway," category.  Two of them already live far and it hurts.  I think I always had this comfort knowing that at least one was close at hand.  Now they will all be far away.

You know the friends that I am talking about. They are the ones that you can call and vent about your weird quirks, like the way that you can't just understand why others can't get the public bathroom etiquette of  "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie." COME ON NOW!!  These are the people who KNOW that you CAN NOT stand it when people chew loudly... SOOO.. They either A) Do not call you up and chew loudly in your ear, or B) Do not mind when they forget and do, that you make a rude comment about cows chewing their cud. There is no expectation of niceness there.  All of your idiosyncrasies have been out in the open like a bleeding sore for way too long, and they know you and love you for it. As a matter of fact when you blog about how weird you are, they call you up and remind you they don't love you in spite of yourself, but because of who you are.  These are the ones that let you stand tall on your soap box and rant about the injustice of the world. The plight of the poor, the orphans, the  hurting and the  hopeless, are not topics that they tire of because they are the burden of your heart.  They never tell you that you are crazy and they love your insanity.

We laugh together and we weep.  There has literally been triumph and tragedy. The memories are rich. You have secrets that no one else is allowed to know, except Jesus who knows everything anyway. Whenever you get together you laugh until you cry.  My closest friends have a way with Nacho Libre, Napoleon Dynamite, Abba and Ishtar like no one else.

I never have to explain myself.  They have seen me grow through so many seasons of my life. Some of them have not been so flattering.  It is not that we never judge each other. It is that we have and have survived to grow past it in forgiveness.  They are the ones that call you up and remember your dreams.

Today I stand on the crux of all three of these people living too far away. Sure, there is the phone,  the email, the blog, the visits and the history.  Thankfully, the Lord has knit us so tightly that they are family. There is the future.

As the old refrigerator magnet reads, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future." I can rest assured that my Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever. He cares that I need these people in my life.  But, as much as I am an advocate for change, I am not liking this one at all.  Maybe,  I can get the other two to move to Florida, if one is moving away???

In the meantime, tonight I am just a little melancholy.  Yes, it will be alright. But, these three amazing women know who they are.  Tonight, I am missing them all very much.

I can't wait until heaven when we can stand hand in hand all in awe of our Lord.  That thought tonight comforts me and brings thoughts of when we will all be together at "home."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another bad day...

So I am going to step over that blog line and be totally and brutally honest. Today, already, at eight o'clock in the morning has already turned into yet another bad day. Sure I am wallowing this morning. Yes, I know for those of you who read this, I may even get a bunch of, "It will get better, chin up, Keep your eyes on Jesus," comments. Yes, I know there are others out there who are having worse days than I am. My bad day is just a little speck in the spectrum of badness.

The truth is, this morning, I am not sure really how I will handle those realities. For I am tired. I am tired of bad days. It reminds my of my favorite children's book, "Alexander and the terrible,horrible, no good , very bad day." It is all about how there is a day in the life of this life boy Alexander and nothing seems to ever go right. His brother gets the toy out of the cereal box, he has to buy ugly shoes at the shoe store because all the "cool" ones in his size are out, his Mom forgets a treat in his lunch box and so the list goes on and on. It is sad when you feel like your day has reached this potential, before it has even begun.

Yet, this is where I sit this morning. Honestly, happy to wallow in the depths of my own idiotic ramblings. What has gone so bad you might ask? Unfortunately, it is the worst kind of bad day. The one when you have been chipped away at until you have nothing left. The one where it is the same old stuff you deal with every other day, you are just exhausted with it.

At the end of Alexander's meanderings, he crawls into bed thankful that tomorrow is a new day. I think that is where I am at now. I will be thankful when it is a new day. Thankful that Christ does love me, even in the midst of all of this.. Thankful to be reminded that I am supposed to keep my mind on things "above" and not on earthly things... Thankful that in the end my feelings are really not what makes the world go around.

This morning I just might have my little temper tantrum. I might swing my fists at the air and rage out against my bad day. I might step back and realize I need to be sensitive to others with the bad days... I am sure there is a lesson in this somewhere... Truthfully, it is comforting to know tomorrow will be different. But, it is more comforting to know I have a God who cares I am having a bad day. My day might still be bad in the end, but with Christ holding my hand it really is how you look at it...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Oldest...

I so distinctly remember being 10 years old. It was the year that I began to understand that soon I was leaving childhood behind.  I did not want that.  

You see just a year or two more and you truly understand what lies ahead. There is a moment that comes when you really know that getting older is a good thing. You can look ahead to the world of the "teen years" and sort of  romanticize them. However, the point just before this all you can see is what you are leaving behind.

 At 9 this is the place that our oldest finds herself now.  The other day sitting on the couch it all came out.   John had been swinging K around in the living room.  "Boo" (as we love to call her and always will)  was watching from the couch. Looking just a little too fun, she of course wanted to be next. Now bless my husband, he tried. However, the reality is that she is just gotten too big for moments like this. None of us have wanted to admit it, but this time his arms just gave out and he had too declare, "You have gotten too old."  

Collapsing on the couch Boo broke out in sobs.  "Why?"  The tears streamed down her face as the emotions flooded out.  After weeks of suspecting this was what she was feeling, finally she admitted it.  All of the things she felt she had to leave behind came out.  It was harder to carry her to bed after she falls asleep.  Mommy and Daddy don't rub her head to sleep as often as we once did.  The list went on..

While she is still a child, I understood exactly what she felt. I can recall it so vividly.  Honestly, the hard part is that she is struggling so hard.  We took a moment to remind her of all of the wonderful "perks," that you get by being the oldest.  Her and I may even take a special trip this Fall, to celebrate her age.

In the midst of it I have to remind myself to be patient. She wants to hold my hand EVERYWHERE we go. She needs to practically sit on me each time I am sitting. "Baby talk" has become a favorite game. This is a moment where I truly have to put aside my selfishness and show her the tenderness she needs.

She is growing. In the meantime she has the Lord and he is guiding her. We have to keep reminding her that she doesn't have to look behind or forward, because the Lord will, and does use her right where she is.  I have to view her as a parent as Moses' parents saw him, 
"By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict." Hebrews 11:23 

Truly she is "no ordinary child"  the Lord has a plan for her as she grows.  Not when she "grows up," but as she is growing. It is my job to held her see each step of the way that this place she is, is beautiful... She is beautiful on the inside out.

I am not quite ready for her to be "grown" yet. I think we are both mourning just a little what we have left behind. However, it is the promised land that it just ahead. We know where we are headed, and we will enjoy the journey together..