Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living a thoughtful life

I think it is fairly obvious that when you become a parent you start looking at the world from a different perspective. As your child grows older and sees the world differently through every stage a parent does as well. I was 26 when I had Nora and I had stopped noticing the world for the most part. I knew what was around me, but did I really stop and notice it? No. But I started seeing things again when she did - the complete wonder she had when she took a walk - seeing the grass, seeing a roly poly bug for the first time, feeling a worm crawl on her hand, feeling the wind in her face and catching raindrops on her tongue. All of these things I experienced again through her. And I'm lucky enough to experience them all again through Ryann and Georgia - in addition to the things I can get excited about through Nora's 5 year old eyes.

Beyond that, though, we need to see other things through their eyes. We need to remember how things look through a 5 year old's eyes. She asked me yesterday why the girl on Dancing with the Stars wasn't wearing all of her clothes. I told her it was a costume and that it is not okay to dress that way. But you know what? I hadn't noticed. I had not really taken note of the fact that this girl had little more on than a bra and a slip. I will notice now.

So how do we live intentionally? A big part of it is being thoughtful in our lives. Not thoughtful like sending flowers when a loved one dies or sending a thank you card when you receive a gift or buying someone a present when its their birthday.

* Thoughtful like we're actually thinking about what we are doing and what we are saying. Is it okay to have guilty pleasures? Why are they called that? Are you embarrassed to tell someone about it? I can tell you that I was very embarrassed every time I bought Soap Opera Digest or got "caught" watching one of my soaps by Cornbread. He didn't care. He honestly didn't, but I was embarrassed. I'm pleased to say that I no longer do any of those, but the point is this: why was I embarrassed? Likely because I didn't think it was okay to do - even though I enjoyed it.

* Thoughtful as in are my actions or my words affecting my children and the world around them in a positive or a negative way? Are the things I do or say affecting my children's perspective of the world in any way? Is the tone of my voice such that I will hurt someone, offend them or put them on the defensive because I sound as if I'm accusing them? I cannot tell you what a difference being in tune to the tone of my voice has made in my marriage. This is one example of being thoughtful and intentional - purposely dialing down the emotion in my voice so that I don't start an argument just by the tone of my voice. It is so easy to just flippantly respond to someone or just say things off the cuff - believe me, I am very guilty of it. In fact, I'm so guilty of it that I got into some serious trouble at my previous job for it. Its taken a long time and a lot of work, but I understand now that I need to think about and be intentional in what I say and HOW I say it.

I make 400-600 phone calls a week for my new job. So many people sound unhappy on the phone for the 15 seconds that I speak with them. I feel sorry for them. I don't think that it has anything to do with the reason I'm calling, they just sound genuinely unhappy in life. Then there are the people that are down right rude to me. I understand being impatient with solicitors or getting sick of them, but I had one phone call where it was pretty obvious that the mom was actively teaching the son to be rude. I'm not saying that we have to put on a sugary sweet tone of voice for every last person we speak to, but think about how your impatient voice to the cashier or waitress makes him/her feel or how it is taken in by your kids and becomes okay to treat other people that way because mom or dad does.

* Thoughtful as in determining if by listening or buying certain music we are furthering a culture that denigrates women and society. Oprah had some rap and hip hop people on her show yesterday. They had a difficult time admitting that there is a problem in the hip hop culture that results in a societal view of women that is very harmful. One comment that one of her staff made was that she listens to rap - she doesn't listen to the words, she just likes the beat. Is this okay? I don't think it is. If we're listening and buying music that is harmful and has a negative impact on ourselves and others we're promoting it and giving our okay to the artist who performs it. We are essentially paying them to continue to do it. We need to think about what we're listening to and if it is appropriate - regardless of whether or not we listen to the lyrics - just because I don't listen to the words doesn't mean that the person next to me doesn't, and when they hear the inappropriate words coming out of MY radio, they can assume that I agree with them because they have no idea that "I just like the beat".

* Thoughtful as in remembering that the way we act and the way we talk affects other people around us. We need to be sympathetic to people - even the people that we don't know. If we can do this I think that we can change society a little bit. If we always give people the benefit of the doubt - even that cashier who was totally rude to us, even that person who drove like an idiot - everyone - then we, ourselves, will no longer be the person who feels like everyone is out to get us and we need to pay them back in some way, we'll no longer be so cynical about people and situations, we'll no longer assume the worst of people.

* Thoughtful as in looking at the world through positive lenses. Has someone done something to you or done something for you? You may be in the worst situation of your life, you may be miserable, you may feel that it is all coming down at once - but can you find the blessing in it all? Can you be positive about it in some way? Is there even one small area that you can thank God for throughout it all? When looking at life through those positive lenses we happen to notice more positive things and the world seems much happier and life seems better. Its not easy - it needs to be intentional at times. We need to THINK about being positive. We need to be thoughtful about our situations and what is going on and what we can learn. Just like when you weight lift - muscles grow by being broken down so in serious weight lifting you fatigue the muscle to the point where you can go no further, that way in the resting days your muscle repairs itself and grows larger and stronger. The same thing with all situations in life. We need to see where we are being broken down and have the opportunity to become stronger. We'll never see it if we're negative and cynical.

* Thoughtful in the way we are portraying ourselves to our kids and those around us. How do I feel about myself? Am I totally unhappy with the way I look and the way I am? Am I always complaining that I'm too fat or my bum is too big or I need to lose weight or I can't fit into this or that? I feel this is especially important to me as a mother of 3 young girls. If I have low self-esteem and talk openly about how ugly and fat I am they are going to pick up on that, too. If I constantly comment about how this person has the perfect body or that person is so beautiful they are going to see that as important and strive to be that way, too. I think that with the way that the Hollywood culture furthers these ideas in society that it is my responsibility to counteract that with my children - and I have to be thoughtful in how I do it. I have to think about what I'm saying before I say it. I have to think about what I say about them and their looks before I say it. I have to determine if anything I am doing or saying about myself or about them is harmful or destructive or could lead to bad self image. This won't be easy, but it is important.

We need to be thoughtful about living life. We need to remember that our children are seeing what we see and seeing what we do and hearing what we say. Its not okay to just live life and try to explain it later or try to fix it later. One other thing that Nora taught me - it may be difficult to do something now, but if I don't do it now and let it go its going to be much tougher to fix it or reverse it later. Much more difficult. I need to live like this now so that it isn't so hard to make the changes when I think she's old enough to know better. But not only for her - for myself and those around me. Its time I remember that I don't live isolated in this world. My actions - even if it is as simple as turning left on this street or right on this street - affect other people around me.


Amy 10:27 PM  

In my Spiritual Formation class I took in college (actually I took in Indonesia) we studied the verse in the Sermon of the Mount that says, "If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off...if your eye causes you to sin etc." We talked about how the "cutting it off" can mean certain music, TV shows, etc. We should be bold enough to tell others - "Hey can you change this station." or "Can we watch something else?" Rob and I kind of went through some of the things you've mentioned. There are shows we don't watch anymore...not just for Hailey's sake but for our own. I, too, gave up the Young and the Restless which I used to watch on a regular basis. Really some shows that seem so harmless have terrible messages if you look deeper like The Bachelor. I struggle more with music because I don't listen to a lot of Christian music...I find some of it fake and hyperspiritual. Obviously we should know our limits--we don't have to totally isolate ourselves from everything secular.

i am not 9:03 AM  

Amy - I don't listen to Christian music either - I have never really enjoyed CCM although that isn't to say its bad. I don't really listen to a whole lot of music other than P&W on occasion. We mainly listen to talk radio - usually sports radio. But I think the messages that are being sung by many of our artists are horrible. In addition the images they portray are destructive.

I hope that you didn't get from my post that I think we need to isolate ourselves from everything secular. Quite the contrary - my point is we need to THINK about what we're watching, doing, saying, hearing and decide for ourselves whether or not it is appropriate.

mom 9:00 PM  

Jana, I just had to expound on what you were saying about how the tone of voice affects other people.
You mentioned all the crabby people that wait on you at Walmart (in our earlier conversation).
I was at Walmart yesterday and this lady said: How are you today in such a lilting, pleasant way that I practically skipped out of the store (that's quite something considering my awful feet). She changed the drudge of buying necessities and the gloominess of the weather into walking out of there feeling better.
I'm not plugging Walmart, by the way, that's just where it happened. My point is, is that that simple thing made a huge difference. We don't necessarily have to do wondrous things to live intentionally, simple changes - small changes, can be so important to others and ourselves.
I'm finding out from certain people that have come into my life lately how important it is to have a good outlook on life (they don't have one and their lives are miserable). Kids not only hear what we say and see what we see, but they see how we react and how we handle things. I am seeing the importance of living intentionally in all aspects of my life.
What I'm working on now is to be 'intentional' in how I see life the way God made it and the way he wants me to use it. I hope my grandkids will be able to see me as someone who loves life and enjoys living the life God intends for me. I want to live my life so they will respect me for my integrity, look up to me as an example of how a Godly woman should live and to love me for being genuine.
That's a lot to live up to, but life is a journey.
Course I want them to think I'm a fun grandma, too! :)
Keep up your good thoughts!

heidi jo 7:03 AM  

hear hear. :)

and i do happen to like a LOT of Christian music... it's not all perfect. not all my favorite. but it is quite uplifting and i have found some incredible artists in the Christian music genre - of all styles too. i'm pleased to support so much of it.

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