I’ve been wrong, re-visit

This post, first written in October 2015, is an early layer in a lesson I’ve been working on. It’s worth re-visiting in April 2019.

Early in our marriage, my husband and I attended a workshop on personality types. Everyone in the room was broken into four groups based on responses to a questionnaire. The groups were illustrated on a four-quadrant chart, each quadrant labelled with a catch phrase. My responses landed me in the quadrant labelled with the catch phrase, “I’m right.”  My husband landed in the quadrant labelled “I know.” I reflexively looked over at him and said, “As long as you know that I’m right, this marriage should work out beautifully.”

Yeah, it has been a long painful fall from that kind of pride.

During my first year of teaching, the seasoned teachers on my hallway were keeping their distance from me. One morning, after a huge mistake resulted in catastrophe, I indignantly marched down to the other teachers and said, “Why didn’t you say something? How could you let me do this?” They quietly replied, “Well, you seemed to have everything figured out for yourself.”

Ouch.

In the early years of parenting, I was intentionally ‘getting everything right’. This belief was evidenced by my judgmental glances toward others who ‘didn’t have it all together’. I harshly judged another mother whose son punched my daughter, but winced weeks later when my daughter bit another child in the church nursery.

Yup, it happened.

I would like to say that it stopped there, but it’s hard to quit “being right”. Often in my classroom I have joked, “I could be wrong; it happened once in 1973, so I imagine it could happen again.” Of course my students roll their eyes. In fact, I have had students who document in their notes every time I make a mistake specifically for the purpose of reminding me whenever I tell that joke.

I’ve gotta laugh at myself. I mean, really, it’s ridiculous to think that I would be right all the time. Yet, I’m always shocked when my humanity shows through.

The most painful falls have come through parenting, of course. I guess, as a mother, much of my identity comes through my children. It shouldn’t, but it does. I pride myself on their accomplishments — their success in school, sports, the arts, and their careers. I sternly corrected their failures when they were young — failing to turn in assignments, treating friends poorly, or –gasp– sassing their parents. They are, in my mind, a reflection of me.  So, it becomes very painful when I see them struggling because of something that I have directly, or more often indirectly, taught them. When they adopt the patterns that I have modeled for them, the very ones that have caused me so much pain, I ache. I tend to see these times not as their failures, but as mine. If only I would have taught them that it is ok to fail, that it is healthy to admit our mistakes, that it is freeing to apologize, that it is not helpful to rationalize your sins. If I had done that, then they would have learned to apologize quickly and forgive quickly.

When they were toddlers and misbehaved toward one another, I taught them to say, “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.”  I prided myself in that. My kids were going to learn how to forgive quickly, darn it. But here’s the thing — kids don’t learn what you say, they learn what you do. So, when they misbehaved and I stomped through the house slamming doors and muttering under my breath, they were not learning that I would readily forgive them. When I explained away my misguided parenting decisions instead of admitting my error, they learned how to explain away their decisions — to rationalize them, to somehow make them seem ok.

Along the way, instead of me teaching them, they have taught me about apology and forgiveness. Kids do that. They teach us the lessons that we most need to learn. They are worlds ahead of me in this process. However, from time to time I see my stubbornness in them — the stubbornness I taught them. That breaks my heart.

So, let me go on record and say, I’ve had it wrong, guys. I haven’t always admitted that I have made a mistake. But here let me say that each of my days are full of mistakes. I am hobbling along in life, sometimes trying my best, sometimes doing my worst.  And, I’m sorry.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.

Psalm 86

Here’s to our health

I’m sitting here in the middle of the afternoon nursing my last cup of black tea for the next seven days.  I’m pathetic, right?

Why are breaks in routine so hard?  Why do I like things to be ‘just so’? Why am I such a creature of routine?  Why is it so hard to go with the flow?

Am I alone here?

I mean routines are good, right?  ‘The experts’ advise us to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, to eat our meals at regular intervals, to take our medications on a schedule.

But we also get advice from other ‘experts’ to vary our routine — don’t take the same route to work every day, choose from a variety of fruits and vegetables, and mix-up our exercise routine.

You could say I listen to both schools of thought– I always drink caffeine; I mix it up by choosing from either coffee or tea.

But this week, starting tomorrow, is going to be a bigger mix up than I have had in a while.  Not only am I putting all black drinks to the side, I am choosing, of my own free will, to drink things like extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice with hot water, and green tea.

In preparation for this experiment I purchased two kinds of green tea.  I have tried one, and I can honestly say I kind of like it.  It’s Yogi Green Tea with Goji Berry and my internet sources tell me that it has 52 mg of caffeine per serving!  So, guys, I won’t be caffeine-free after all!  You can send the troops home! The ‘ultra simple diet’ allows for me to have up to two cups of green tea per day.  Problem solved!!

So, see, going out of our comfort zone, varying from our routine, doesn’t have to be scary!  We can, like Miss Frizzle said, “Take chances, get messy, make mistakes!” If I weren’t willing to take a chance with this doctor and her ‘ultra simple diet’ for one week, I might not have learned that I like green tea with goji berry.  Who knows what else I will learn this week?

I am going to go out on a limb and say I probably won’t like drinking olive oil, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. After all, it’s only two tablespoons per day and you mix it with the juice of 1/2 of one organic lemon.  (I am really not making this up.)

I’ll try to bring you along on the journey this week, especially if I am thrilled and amazed by the results.  I feel  bit like a guinea pig, but it is encouraging know that I might be learning stuff that benefit more than just myself, that I’m ‘taking one for the team.’

In the mean time, I will continue my daily prayers that God would heal me completely — body, mind, and spirit — through whichever means He chooses.  I pray that for you, too.

3 John 1:2

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health

and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Bye, bye, for now, Joe

I just finished half of my caffeine supply for today.  Sigh.  I’m going to try not to dwell on this too much, but guys, it’s a loss. Maybe just a temporary loss, but still a loss.

I used to give up caffeine for Lent.  Sometimes I would give up all caffeine, sometimes just coffee.  Somewhere along the way, I switched from giving things up to adding a lifestyle change during Lent that would last beyond the forty days — daily exercise, prayer, Bible study, healthier eating.  But, as I am sure you can guess, my intentions didn’t always match the outcome.

I vaguely remember giving up all caffeine right before we moved to the Seminary ten years ago.  Not only did I give up my coffee and tea, I also cleaned up my diet, added some exercise, and trimmed down a little.  Granted, it probably was out of anxiety for the move, a way to get some control in a tenuous time, but I think I remember feeling strong and healthy.

Well, a lot of things changed at the Seminary.  For one, there was a fabulous little coffee shop adjacent to the campus. My husband and I began to frequent it.  I also began running again after several years’ hiatus. I went to work full time while continuing to do my best as a mother to three school-aged children.  And the soldiering began.  Soldiers do drink coffee; everyone knows that.

In fact, my students and colleagues were well aware of my love for java.  I wrote sonnets about coffee — it’s true.   My husband would sometimes surprise me with a classroom coffee delivery — forget flowers! My colleagues and I would often escape during our prep period for fifteen minutes to run out for a cup of Starbucks.  In fact, I had one student teacher who regularly volunteered to go pick up our orders for us! My love for caffeine was so well-known that during my last month at Lutheran North, several students brought me Starbucks gift cards tucked inside thank you notes.

Over the last two years, as I have been on and off a variety of medications, my tastes have changed:  I often now prefer a strong cup of English breakfast over coffee;  I used to drink my coffee with cream, now I drink everything black and unsweetened.  But let’s be clear here: I always, I mean always, drink caffeine.  Usually three or more cups of the stuff.  Every day.

So, in anticipation of the ‘ultra simple diet’ experiment, I am tapering off.  I am allowing myself two cups of tea today.  Two tomorrow.  One cup each on Thursday and Friday.  I think I have established Saturday as Day One.  I gotta gear up, especially when the first instruction for each day is to “drink two tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil mixed with the juice of half of an organic lemon.”  Who does that?   It’s supposed to “help flush the toxins from your bile and liver into your gut to be excreted.”  Good morning.

It’s weird.  So is washing yourself in the Jordan seven times.  When Elisha sent the messenger to tell Naaman to do this, Naaman was ticked!  “Come on, I could’ve done that at home!”  He stomped off in a rage.  (Sounds like something I would do.)  But his servant ran after him and said something like, “Is it really gonna kill you to give it a try?” (That’s the Rathje Revised Version.) Now, I am not saying my doctor is a prophet.  But she’s not asking me to have surgery, to take daily or weekly injections, or to acknowledge that I am going to be in pain for the rest of my life.  She’s just asking me for seven days.  Is it really gonna kill me to give it a try?

Sigh.  Probably not.

Psalm 6:2

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;

heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.