Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Santa Brought Forgiveness and Mercy

I wrote a post about getting angry at my preacher, and I ended up taking it down until he and I worked it out because my intention was never to be polarizing and that's what was happening. With that said, I'm putting it back up right before I post this one. I have edited out some of the more unkind things I said, but I thnk it serves a purpose too so I'm posting it.

It wasn't written as a "he said she said" type of thing. I write one side of the story, my side, that's all I'll ever write. I don't try to be fair and balanced most of the time, because this is about my feelings, memories, and perspective. Occasionally, I'll say things like "in his/her defense" but usually, this blog is about me.

I also don't write things to get people on my team! I don't mind disagreeing politically or personally. I don't expect everyone to agree with my views or opinions, I'm not trying to indoctrinate anyone, or persuade anyone. I've admitted that I will even write things that may not be flattering, about myself and that anyone in my circle is vulnerable. I don't do things like put people's last names and and I didn't write what church I go to when I was complaining about my preacher, those are details that no one needs and they neither make or break what I'm saying.

So, with that said, I did say some unkind things about my preacher and how angry I was. I made assumptions about his logic and reasoning, and I was wrong. It's another one of those times when I lost my cool, blurted out something, and ultimately apologized. (I have been forgiven and we have moved on.)

The funny thing about this predicament is that I make a lot of mistakes. I feel like I'm apologizing to someone for something stupid I've done pretty regularly. It usually doesn't take me too long to realize that I've done something I shouldn't and I'm more than willing to admit that and apologize. I know a lot of people who think they never do anything wrong, and I'm kind of the opposite of that. (Here comes the funny part) The thing I forget is that other people make mistakes too. So wow, other people make mistakes too! I also learned that I'm not the only person who is willing to apologize when a mistake is made. I'm so used to being the one apologizing that being on the receiving end threw me for a loop!

So, I approached out minister on Monday and told him why I was so mad. I spent a solid 10-15 minutes telling him all the reasons I was angry, hurt, and disappointed. I spent a lot of time praying about this interaction before it happened, because I knew it could go in any direction and I knew my approach could dictate that direction. A friend gave me some great advice before I spoke to him and I remembered it!
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV) I also recognized how mad I was and didn't want to stomp in his office and fly off the handle, screaming and throwing things is even less attractive at the church office than at home, ha! I kept a cool level head, but I wanted to be sure to emphasize my frustrations.

He listened, quietly, taking it all in and really considering it before responding. (geeze, I wish I had THAT ability!) Anyway, when he did speak, he was so humble and genuinely apologetic. He admitted that his comment had been a mistake and he wanted us to work together to repair the damage with Hadley.

We talked quite a bit longer and realized our lives had crossed paths before. We took the time to get to know each other and he's a good guy, and I'm not as scary as he anticipated. We decided that the best way to get Hadley past her hurt would be to give her a chance to get to know him as someone other than "the big mean man who lied about Santa." What we decided was that we should have dinner together sometime and later in the conversation he mentioned that his wife was out of town so I said, "why don't you just come over tonight?" He politely accepted and that was that, he was sitting beside Hadley at our dinner table last night.

I told him that I never want to be the person who is a discouragement and that I have a huge respect for what he's doing. My intention was never to be confrontational or problematic and I really want to be an encouragement but with that said, I have to put my daughters first. My first obligation is to raise good christian daughters. Steve told me that my approach wasn't discouraging and he appreciated my desire to address it. I had explained that I am incapable of holding it in, I knew if I didn't address it it would build up inside of me until I couldn't stand it anymore, and I have enough respect for him and appreciation for my church family that I wasn't willing to let that happen.

So yes, my first blog was a little harsh, and maybe I should have tempered myself a little better but before anyone judges who I am now, they should know who I was a few years ago. If this had been five or six years ago I probably would have stomped up to the pulpit mid sermon or I would have left angry and never gone back to the church again. So no, I'm not perfect-I never will be, but I'm trying to get better! I care enough about people to fix it, and I don't always approach things in the best way, but I approach them in the best way I can.

Hadley made her feelings very clear when I told her Steve was coming for dinner, she wasn't happy. She agreed to be on her best behavior anyway and have an open mind and heart. By the end of the night, she wanted to know when Mr. Steve could come back or when we could go to his house!

I told Steve, when I left yesterday, that as far as I was concerned this whole thing was over. I said my part, he listened, we both apologized and it's done. This is not something that will come back, it's done. We even hugged when I left and Hadley (and Lydia) were sad to see him leave after dinner last night!

I'm sorry this happened (for many reasons!), and I'm sorry that my honesty and bluntness upset some people, but I'm not sorry that an opportunity presented itself to both learn and teach about forgivness, humility, and mercy. I'm also not sorry that I got a chance to know Steve and he got a chance to know me or that Hadley and Lydia made a new friend.

So, we still believe in Santa in this house and for valentines day he brought forgiveness and mercy, all around!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

HO! HO! HO! and God Bless!

For the first time, in my entire life, I left in the middle of a sermon because I was so mad at what the minister had to say. Ironically enough, what I've been kicking around in frustration all day had nothing to do with the Bible or Bible principals or anything to do with Jesus or God. The thing that caused me to stomp out of the auditorium in anger, with a crying eight year old on my heels was Santa Claus. Yes, you read that right, Santa. And, just for the record, I wouldn't have stomped out in anger if the timing had been better or had this sermon taken place in a room full of adults, or if my daughter's heart hadn't just been broken.

This morning we had our baby dedication service so there was no children's church. I've been working with Hadley and encouraging her to listen to what goes on in the auditorium. Today, I wish I hadn't. The part of the sermon that I heard revolved around being honest with our children, which I totally agree on. More than once, I've told my children that I will always tell them the truth, even when it's really hard an uncomfortable, and I do. Sometimes it downright hurts to tell the truth to them, but when they ask, I answer.

So, when the preacher said, "this may bring some uncomfortable questions to some of you but I'm going to tell you anyway" I assumed he was going to talk about being honest about sex. We've been there, done that in this house, so I didn't even blink. Then he says "Santa! When my kids asked us if Santa was real, we said NO, Santa is not real but it sure is fun to believe."

This is where I should mention that his kids are college age and up, mine are ages four and eight, and the auditorium was filled with ages newborn through adults.

Hadley looked at me with big tears in her eyes and said "Why would he say that mommy?" at which point I nearly lost it. Yes, the hormones make me a little crazy but Hadley has had a rough few months and now one of the people we teach her to trust has yanked the rug out from under her with zero regards to whether or not she's prepared. That's when I stomped out of the auditorium, dragging my bawling eight year old behind me.

I'm not mad over Santa, let's be honest, every parent out there knows that there's an expiration on that fairy tale. I'm mad over this man's insensitivity towards my children and lack of consideration for my choices as a parent. I agree 100% that when our children ask us questions we should be honest, but MY CHILD DIDN'T ASK!!! HE made the decision on when she would find out.

What's even more disappointing is that Hadley is at the tender age where she's starting to make memories and things that happen now are the things she'll remember for her lifetime. What's the most upsetting of all is that this will probably be one of her earliest memories of church service. We teach her to trust and respect our minister, we pray for his family and life, and, without thinking, he chooses to make a bold statement that will forever be imprinted on her memory as one of her earliest church experiences.

I was about Hadley's age when I remember my first real church experience and fortunately it was a very positive one. Long story short, our minister taught us to love one another and all of our differences. He taught us that as long as we weren't doing something sinful or hurtful it was perfectly okay to have fun and enjoy our life and we shouldn't judge others for doing the same.

Up until this point, I've appreciated most of what our minister has to say. I've respected his sermons, some have been both thought and conversation provoking, and I've kept a very open mind. I've also been impressed that he's bringing some heavy hitting sermons while still settling in. He's both acclimating to a new congregation and a new area, all while bringing his 'a game' to the congregation. My sweet eight year old has prayed for his family during this time, because she agrees that it's scary.

When Hadley, tearfully, asked why our preacher would stand in front of so many people and lie, God gave us grace with what to say.

We said, "Honey, he's not lying."

"Yes he is, I know Santa is real, how would he leave that note on our Christmas tree if he wasn't real?"

"No honey, Mr. Steve doesn't believe in Santa."

"Well, I believe and he's wrong."

"It's okay if you believe, but we've talked about this before, not everyone believes."

"Well I believe, mommy, Santa is real and Mr. Steve is wrong," with big tears in her eyes

"Sweetie, it's okay for you to believe and it's okay that he doesn't."

--mommy was thinking that Mr. Steve should have kept it to himself but through the grace of God, I kept that to myself.

"Do you believe in Santa, Mommy?" Hadley then asks.

To quote Joy's mom, from many many years ago, I said something that God gently reminded me of,
"I believe that Christmas is a magical time. I believe that there are lots of blessings and lots of things to be thankful for and people tend to notice them more at Christmastime."

"Does that mean you believe or not?" Hadley insists.

"It means exactly what I said it means, sweetie, I love Christmas and all the magic that surrounds it."

"Well, that's fine mommy, but I still believe in Santa."

So, despite the fact that none of this really has anything do with Santa, Hadley is hanging onto the magic of Christmas as tightly as she can. I'm planning on having a discussion with the preacher regarding all of this. I don't know what outcome I'm hoping for, but if I don't get this off my chest, it will eat me alive and I'm praying that this won't jade Hadley's opinion of every minister from here on out.

Until then, HO! HO! HO! and God Bless!