A Sincere Response to No

BY: Starr Cliff

Ever seen a stubborn kid throw a fit about not getting his way?  Quite a scene, right?

I can’t quote him exactly, but a few Sundays ago our pastor said something along the lines of “Our response to ‘No’ is a measure of our maturity. How we feel and act when our expectations are not met reveals our self-righteousness.”

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I love when a truth about my relationship with Father God parallels so well with the relationship I have with my own children. Seeing a spiritual truth play out in my parenting helps me better grasp the truth of it in my own personal responses to God.

One of the greatest joys I experience as a mom is when my kids obey joyfully. It communicates so much about trust, and right relationship,  and contentment.

When my child can handle “no” without throwing a fit,  it makes me more likely to trust him with a “yes” down the road. I know he can be trusted in more mature situations (sleep-overs,  parties,  technology) when being told “no” to those things doesn’t leave him undone. He is viewing things with the proper, healthy perspective when not being able to have whatever that “thing” may be doesn’t leave him flailing. If I tell a kid to turn off a video game and he does it happily, great! If I tell him to turn off a video game and he pouts and panics, or even just quietly ignores me,  he’s probably on the road to giving that game an unhealthy place in his life (or in stronger terms, making that game an idol).

Likewise,  what is my response when feeling like I need to put down something in my own life? Do I sometimes quietly ignore prompts from the Father to quit doing something? To start doing something? You bet I do. Because just like my children, I don’t like no.  I think I know best.  And ignoring prompts from the Father messes with the relationship.  It’s not a severed relationship; God doesn’t stop loving me just like I don’t stop loving my children. But in both cases it makes for a petulant, unhappy child.  In my experience as a mom, unhappy petulant children can’t do much other than just be unhappy and petulant.  They miss out.  There is joy to be had, but they miss it.

There’s also a trust issue at hand, right? If my child is mature and accepts my love and care for him,  he can more readily accept my “no”. He wants what he wants,  sure,  but our relationship doesn’t become undone when he hears my “no” because he trusts that I must have a reason. He can experience disappointment while simultaneously trusting that I’m doing what’s best for him.  (Well, at least what I think best within my my limited,  human frailty and understanding. When God says “No”, I can trust in His perfection.)

I have been told “no” by God, and it’s hard.  Painful stuff.  Trust, contentment, maturity — the absence or presence of all those things are on grand display and it’s not always pretty.  The “no” that I received wasn’t a command or a nudging in a certain direction, or a decision I got to make for myself; but instead it was out of my hands and in the form of friendships that didn’t play out how I wanted, jobs I didn’t get to keep, and places I didn’t get to live.  When I see those circumstances in my life as directed by the hand of a loving, caring, perfect Father, they are still painful but not nearly as much so.  I trust him.  His plan is better than mine.

The more I seek relationship with God, the more I believe that He is the author of the story of my life, and the more I experience of His faithfulness, the more I can accept that “no” is always for my good and His glory.

Look for a purpose in the pain that “no” can bring.  It’s there.  He doesn’t waste anything.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Kindness

Kindness

BY: Starr Cliff

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12

Some thoughts, of late, on kindness.

To “be nice” is a very different thing that showing great kindness. Excerpt from a post exploring this idea: “…kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves…..At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others.”  So much worth for me in exploring the true intent of the energy I spend in my words and interactions with others.  More thoughts here.

People won’t always know what to do with your acts of kindness. They might mistrust your motives, or think you are being weird. That’s okay. Do kind acts anyway. Say kind words anyway.

An easy practice:  If you think something nice about someone, SAY IT. Both to them, and to others. If you think something unkind/unflattering/ugly about someone, don’t.  Don’t say it. To them or to others.

I so want to raise kind, caring children.  It starts by figuring out how to teach them to be kind to one another, and frankly, we can use some work there.  It’s always hardest to be kind to those under the same roof it seems.

I was cleaning out a file cabinet this week, and was reminded of a handwritten note I got from a hard-nosed history teacher when I was in 11th grade.  It was short but heartfelt, congratulating me on a performance in a high school play.  In retrospect, that little note really mattered to me. (Duh.  It’s been 20 years and I can still practically recite it.)  I had thought in high school that maybe I was “sorta becoming okay at this drama thing”, but that simple note made me feel like I was really good at something.  How easy would it have been for him to leave that note unwritten or those kind thoughts unshared?  WRITE THE NOTE PEOPLE.  You can’t know how it might matter to someone.

 

Rethinking Behavior Modification

FamilyPic

By: Starr Cliff

It has hit me in a new way recently,  that of the four people in that photo right there,  I can only modify the behavior of exactly one of them. Me. I can shape,  nudge,  model,  correct and discipline those other three,  but ultimately it’s up to each of those human hearts how they will act and what words they will say.

I’m trying to be ever mindful of the following: When I start to feel like there is not enough gentleness in this house,  rather than trying to figure out how to make my kids lose a bad attitude… maybe I just need to spend that energy on myself. On the self-control and prayer and consistency that it takes to be gentle in the midst of harshness. When I worry my kids are being selfish,  with their time,  their energy, their stuff – maybe instead of discussions and lectures about self sacrifice, maybe they just need to see me get up off the couch and serve with a happy heart. Choose a game with them over Facebook. Read a book with them instead of watch TV. That’s so much harder for me than just having a conversation (let’s be honest, lecture) about behavior, but so much more effective.

To teach my children kindness, I must use kind words. Not lectures about being kind. To teach them gentleness, I must actually be gentle. Not nag them to stop being hard on each other. And some days that seems like an impossibility. With a day full of “that’s my spot”, “you took my glass “, “it’s my turn”……… I finally explode “ENOUGH! WE WILL NOT YELL AT EACH OTHER IN THIS HOUSE!”

Modeling behavior really is everything, isn’t it? I know, intellectually I mean, that to speak harshly and loudly to my kids when they are being disrespectful to each other makes zero sense.To rant and rail at how horrified I am at the level of disrespect in our home does not bring down the tension level. Not even a teeny bit.And yet…. Sigh.

I’m grateful that my kids are quick to forgive, and we can even laugh about those ironic outbursts later, but I’m ready for them to happen a whole lot less.

Creating a peaceful, happy home.  It really does begin and end with a peaceful, happy mama.

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NYC Christmas Day 2014

What I Used to Care About

LessImportant

Woah, the past 12 months have been a blur. Much of what I’ve had on my heart to write, my brain has smartly kept me from posting publicly. Much of where my mind has been in this season of transition, has been written with ink on paper in a journal that I’ll treasure for the memory of God’s changing work done in my life.

In the spirit of what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced over the past few months; here is a working list of things that matter less to me than they did a year ago. Not that they aren’t still important to me as an employee, father, or husband, but I’m learning that I don’t share the enthusiasm for perfection in these areas that I used to.

My platform.

Written words that people read.

High maintenance relationships.

My reflection in a mirror. 

My internal criticism of myself.

What new people think of me.

Traveling without my family.

Email. Facebook. Twitter. 

Overthinking the past.

Loud music.

My internal criticism of others.

Organizing too far in advance.

Non-Fiction books. 

Things that Matter More

More

Woah, the past 12 months have been a blur. Much of what I’ve had on my heart to write, my brain has smartly kept me from posting publicly. Much of where my mind has been in this season of transition, has been written with ink on paper in a journal that I’ll treasure for the memory of God’s changing work done in my life.

In the spirit of what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced over the past few months; here is a working list of things that matter more to me than they did a year ago:

The places I visit.

The friends I keep.

The stories I’m telling.

The questions I’m asking. 

Silence.

New friendships.

Advice from trusted friends.

Time alone with my wife.

Time together with those that believe in me.

Adventures with my children.

Red-letter words in the Bible.

Resting on weekends.

Memories that last beyond the picture taken.

Written words that nobody reads.

Conversations that last longer than they used to.