Swimming Upstream

Are there times when you feel like you’re going against the tide? Or that your beliefs are counter to the world’s beliefs?

These days as a Christian, I feel like I’m swimming upstream.

I long for a time when people knew it was okay to “agree to disagree.” Everyone is different, we are created different, so we’re all not going to think alike or act alike or be alike. And by not being alike, well, that keeps life interesting!

But if I happen not to agree with someone, I’m somehow called “intolerant.”salmon-swimming-upstream-1

That’s so not true!

You don’t have to believe as I do. But I ask that you respect my views, even if you don’t understand them or think they’re outdated or ridiculous. I may not understand your views, lifestyles or beliefs, but you’re a fellow human being. Because I don’t agree, doesn’t make me intolerant. It just means I don’t agree. Feel free to live your life as you choose.

But please do me the same courtesy. Allow me to have my beliefs. We can discuss what each other believes and why, but we may not come to a meeting of the minds. Does that make us enemies? No. It means we’re citizens of this world with opposing viewpoints. Respect mine and I’ll respect yours.

This day in age though, if I disagree with someone, I’m intolerant, hypocritical or worse. All of that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love people. I may not love what you do or how you live… and in turn, you may not love what I do or how I choose to live, but don’t call me names for it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

Maybe that way, none of us will feel like we’re swimming upstream.

Family Reunions: From Angst to Fun

A note from Becky:  As a lot of you know, I come from a large extended family, and enjoy time with them, as well as with my husband’s family.  Summer time seems to bring out the occasions of family gatherings, including graduations, weddings and family reunions.  My friend, Jennifer Slattery, provides a guest post this week talking about family reunions.  Enjoy!

reunion

“I don’t want to go.” I crossed my arms, a very mature pout taking residence on my face. “Tell them I’m busy. The house is an absolute mess, and if I don’t tackle it soon, all sorts of critters will take up permanent residence in the pantry.” Except the reunion wasn’t for another month, giving me plenty of time to clean, if I chose. “Then there’s the Johnsons. They’re expecting a baby,, and they’ve already got two toddlers underfoot. What if Melinda ends up having a C-section and really needs my help? Besides, we’re on a budget, remember?”

Though the above situation is fictional, it’s symbolic of what my attitude looked like for more than a couple years. An attitude that didn’t please my husband in the slightest, nor should it have. This was his family, after all. Our daughter’s family, and, well, mine, too, thanks to the glimmering rock on my finger.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like my in-laws. Rather, I was convinced they didn’t like me. Which may have been true to some extent. After all, I didn’t attend the family get-togethers with the best attitude. Seriously, who wants to be around a scowling, defensive adult? We expect to leave those types of encounters behind in junior high with our pimple cream and blue-glitter eye-shadow.

It’s funny, how negativity worked. Convinced my in-laws hated me and thought I was the worst thing that had happened to my husband ever, I brought a swirl of negativity into every situation.

This tainted my perceptions and caused me to view normal comments as attacks and casual questions as interrogations.

Because that’s what negative thinking does-it skews our perceptions, heightens our insecurities, and leads to all sorts of miscommunication.

This continued for some time until one day, in a moment of frustration, I made a comment to my mother-in-law. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember her response: “We’re only treating you like a daughter.”

This took me aback and caused me to reevaluate years of interchange, and as I did, I realized the problem wasn’t with my in-laws, but rather with me.

It’s been years since receiving that a-ha moment, and my, how things have changed. I’ve come to see how incredibly caring my extended family is; caring and hilarious. So much so, that I now look forward to and cherish those reunions I once dreaded.

I think we all have tendencies to bring negativity into certain situations, carrying with us lies we’ve come to believe and that, if unchecked, we project onto others. But most often, when we cast those lies aside, we find those situations that gave us the most angst can actually become times of joy and peace.

What about you? Do you get along with your in-laws? I think many of us go through an awkward merging stage, of getting to know one another, meshing different personalities, attempting to unite or tweak different family traditions. But family is family, which means, you’re stuck with those people for the long haul. You might as well learn to love them. J

For those of you who don’t get along with your in-laws, did my experience resonate with you, even a smidgeon? Pause for a moment to consider your attitude and perceptions. Are you bringing any negativity in thought or action into the situation? How might things be different if you set those aside, viewing the encounter through an untainted lens?

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Slattery will be celebrating her nineteenth wedding anniversary with the man of her dreams and her best friend this summer. The two of them enjoy taking long, leisurely walks together, going on coffee dates, and foregoing dinner for a gianormous tub of frozen yogurt. When Jennifer’s not spending time with her hubby or their hilariously fun teenage daughter, she’s most likely attached to a book or her keyboard. She writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and devotions for her personal blog and Internet Café Devotions. You can visit her online at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com or dive into one of her fictional worlds by purchasing her debut novel, Beyond I Do.

beyond I doAbout the book:

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more. Will seeing beyond the present unite her and her fiancé or tear them apart?

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Transitions in Life

What’s the old saying? The only thing that is constant is change.  Something like that.

I’ve been thinking recently about transitions in life.  Although we may say we wish our kids would stay little, or that we could stay in high school or college forever, or that we could stay 25 years old and not grow older, we know that life doesn’t work that way.

And it’s usually for the better. When we don’t go through the transitions in life and go on to the next stage, we’ll miss something wonderful that God has planned for us.

My niece just graduated high school, the last of her siblings to do so. My niece was such a cute baby and I wanted to coddle her forever.  Her big sister and I were very close and I have memories of her toddling to me and lifting her arms so I could pick her up.

Precious memories.  What would’ve happened if we stopped time right there?  Obviously, things like my one niece’s high school graduation and the excitement and hopes we have for her as she moves on to college would be gone. We wouldn’t see her blossoming into the young woman filled with sky-high, wonderful dreams.

With my other niece, if time had stopped when she still held her arms up for me to carry her, we would’ve missed her wedding, and her beautiful son.  Would I trade meeting my great-nephew to keep his mother as a toddler?  Look what we would’ve missed!  No way!

Most times, we’re nervous graduating college.  The bubble of academia and college life was something we quickly got used to. What would the real world be like?

Yet, if we don’t transition, then we miss out on marriage, family, and watching our own kids grow.

Transitions are scary, there’s no doubt.  But I wouldn’t want to miss the journey going from my own wedding day, to the day I went wedding dress shopping with my own daughter to watching her being escorted down the aisle by her father. If I could’ve stayed young, I  would’ve missed too many sweet moments.

I look forward to growing old(er) with my husband. We made the transition from a house full of teenagers to empty nest.  And yes, the empty nest time has been very sweet.  But when the next transition comes along, possibly of grandchildren, you can bet I’ll be standing in that doorway ready to leap.

Life is scary. Growing up and growing older can be frightening.  But I don’t want to stagnate — and I don’t want to miss the next exciting part of my life that God has planned.

What about you? Were some transitions in your life more difficult than others?

 

Expect the Unexpected

The words “expect the unexpected” should be a familiar phrase to most of us.  It illustrates what life is all about.  Just when we think things are routine or even boring… BAM!  Something unexpected comes along.

Most who know me, know that I’m a big fan of tennis. No, I don’t play much anymore, but I love watching, especially the grand slams.  If you look back at my blog posts, there will be at least one tennis related post during the summer months.

Currently, I’m watching the French Open. And as tends to happen in the tournaments, today is looking to be “upset day.”  Already, the #1 seed on the women’s side, Serena Williams is out.  Her sister, Venus, followed shortly thereafter.  The #2 seed on the women’s side, Li Na, lost yesterday.  And the #3 seed on the men’s side, and current Australian Open champion, Stan Wawrinka (what a great inspiration from the Australian Open!) lost in his opening round match.

Some say tennis might be boring, with Nadal, Federer and Djokovich dominating the top of the game.  However, along comes Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Wawrinka and the hold at the top isn’t quite so tight.  (Watch out for Del Potro if we can get him healthy!).  Today, we saw that the Williams sisters can have their off days and are no longer invincible.  The women’s game is quite wide open these days.

I remember when Sampras and Agassi were the top players.  Heck, I go back to the days of Borg (one of my favorites) and McEnroe, who had such epic battles…with Lendl and Edberg always close.  Remember Evert and Navratilova? Steffi Graf?

As great as these top tennis players are, they all have dealt with the unexpected. Despite the routine of training and working hard at their craft, they’ll have an off day.  Is it the end of their career? No.

Serena Williams lost in the first round of the French Open a couple of years ago.  Shocking at the time. But was it the end of her time at the French Open? No way.  She came back last year and won the entire tournament!

So, she lost in the second round today.  She’ll use this loss as motivation. Watch out for the rest of this year and for the French Open next year!

On the unexpected days, we need to roll with the punches. Learn from the loss and move on to be better next time.

Sometimes the unexpected days are for good (Stan Warwrinka breaking the stranglehold of the top four winning all the grand slams or Andy Murray winning Wimbledon last year), and that should inspire confidence to move forward, striving with more confidence to your goals.

While we can get comfortable in our routines, we need to know the unexpected is coming. It can make us stronger, teach us and help us grow.

So, in life, learn to expect the unexpected.  Even if it seems to be negative, it’s something that can be turned into a positive.  It’s up to us and our attitude to make it good.

Saluting my Children on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day weekend just passed and during this time of honoring my Mom, I’m also thankful to be a Mom.

But me being a Mom is tribute to my kids.

As most of you know, I married a widower who had two children. So, I became an instant Mother on my wedding day.

We’ve all heard the stories of step-mothers and how awful they can be. Well, I didn’t want to be part of that story. But I also needed to find the balance between respecting the memory of my step-children’s mother while finding my own way in my new family. I didn’t want to take her place, but I wanted to find my own place — somehow, there had to be room for me.

I couldn’t achieve this on my own. Oh, I definitely had a part to play, but in order to make any kind of motherhood work, it was up to the kids.

Even as a teenager and pre-teen, the kids were smart enough to know there was room for me in their hearts. They knew loving me and treating me like a mother wasn’t an insult to their mother’s memory.

My goal was to love and raise these kids as I think their mother would’ve wanted them to be loved and raised. Any Mom only wants the best for her kids. It doesn’t have to be a competition between a memory and me.

By loving them how I thought their mother would want them to be loved and cared for, I honored their Mom — I didn’t wipe away her existence.

With the kids, they just had another person in their life that loved them and had their back.

But again, none of it would’ve been possible without the kids making that choice.

We had to choose to love each other and forge our own relationships with each other.

On Mother’s Day, I honor my kids — for making the choice to open their hearts and let me in. I’m the bonus mom, and I can’t imagine loving them anymore had I been their mom from birth.

Thanks, kids, for making me a Mom.  It’s a job I love.

The Need for Community

This blog is entitled “Talking Among Friends” for a reason.  I want it to be a safe place to talk about friendships, relationships and life in general.  Originally, this blog started out as “Rebecca’s Journey,” where I wrote about my experience with cancer.Friends Silhouette

After a while, I didn’t want to talk about cancer any more.  Life started again, and I wanted to break away from that dreadful disease.  Relationships are what matter in this life, whether it’s your relationship with God, your family, and your spouse and kids.

Sadly, cancer is still a fact of life for friends around me.  It’s much too prevalent in this world, and I’m sure we all know someone who has had cancer or even passed away from this awful disease.

A friend of mine is recovering now, and has finished all of her treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  She’s finding her way back.  At a recent gathering of friends, her first in a long time, she said something that struck me.  In the midst of her treatment, all she could do was sleep and focus on getting through it day-by-day. During that time, she said she couldn’t even pray.

For those of us who can’t get through the day without praying, even sending up the so-called “arrow prayers,” then we know what a dark place she was in.

As her friends, we had been rallying around her as best we could, in whatever way we could. Mostly, by prayer, emails and phone calls.

She also said something else.  She said, “Others held me up when I couldn’t.”

Talk about the power of community and friendship!  She could feel our support for her.  When I was fighting cancer, I could also feel the prayers of many.   What a comfort that was and how helpful it was in my own recovery.

Can you imagine not having friends or any type of community around you?

When life throws us curve balls, or when you’re celebrating a joyous occasion, how would it feel to celebrate alone?  Or to face the darkness alone?

We all get busy with our own families and careers, but it is so important to take the time to find that community, that fellowship and friendships in which to share your life.

We all need to make the effort, me included, to reach out more or deepen the friendships with those already in our lives.

What are you doing to take the time for friends? To find that community?

 

Being Vulnerable — It Can Be a Good Thing

Our church just had a ladies retreat weekend. I wasn’t able to go, however, two of the ladies in my life group reported on the retreat.  Sounds like I missed a good one.

The theme was about being vulnerable.  When we’re vulnerable and open to others, we also learn we’re not alone.  We find fellowship, support and encouragement with one another.

Now, this is something that I understand, but I still struggle with.  I’m not always open when I have needs. I’m not one to always request prayers.  I’ll share the joys, but don’t always share the stuff with which I’m really struggling.

This isn’t because my friends won’t be there for me.  I know they would be in a heartbeat!  The few times I have opened up when I’ve needed prayer and support, they’ve been there.

I think my issue is that I don’t want to come across whiny or negative.  Do you have people in your life that when you see their name come up on your caller ID, you almost dread talking with them. It’s going to be something negative — because that’s just their personality.  Then sometimes you end up ducking their calls.

I don’t want to be that person, the one who is avoided.  Generally, I’m a very positive person and try to look at the bright side of life (to use a cliche).  But I’m also sensitive.  It’s hard to be open and vulnerable, because you don’t want to get stomped on either.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman at the gym, who truly was trying to be encouraging, said something about me needing cuter workout clothes.  What was something that was meant to encourage me in my workouts, only hit a sensitive spot of my weight.  Now I’ve lost 75 pounds, and I feel good.  And I definitely don’t go to the gym to impress anybody else.  But for some reason, her words just hit a mark.  Stupid, huh?

But things like that shouldn’t prevent from opening up to my friends, to those who care about me.  When we open up, we learn that we’re not alone in this life and that others are going through the same things we are.  We really can share together and learn from our various experiences.

One thing to remember though, is that why you’re asking for prayer from someone and sharing your story, take the time to listen to them and let them share with you.  Let’s be there for each other.

Being vulnerable isn’t one-sided.

What are your thoughts on being vulnerable?  Opening up or trusting another? Is it easy or difficult for you to do?