Lil came in the front door with her hair soaking wet and in a pickle. She'd been out swimming with a friend and they had plans to go and watch the friend's brothers play in a basketball tournament at the local high school.
Her request to me went something like this.... "They are all out in the van waiting on me to go to the ball game. Can you go out and tell them I changed my mind and I want to just stay here?"
For most of my life, this conversation would have left me in agony! What to do? What to do? I would have wanted her to be happy. I would have wanted to be happy. I would have wanted her friend to be happy too! The question of "Who do we make happy?" would have given me so much STRESS!!!!
My response to her was....
Did you commit to going with her? Yes. Then you need to go! And hurry up! They are all waiting on you. You need to be a person of integrity. You have to keep your word. You could offer for her to come in here and play, but if she really wants to go to the game, that's what you need to do!
A few minutes later both girls came bouncing through the front door, smiling from ear to ear. They'd both agreed to stay at our house and play. Both were filled with Joy and they had a blast together.
It seems so simple, but I have spent a bazillion hours of my life trying to make decisions. Do I go or do I stay? Do I make myself happy, or stick to my plans for someone else? Oh the agony! I put myself in a no-win situation time and time again. If I chose to please myself, I'd feel overcome with guilt. If I chose someone else, I might have been annoyed about it. Decisions about "your" happiness verses "my" happiness have wrecked me!
"Value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of others." Philippians 2:3-4.
This verse is what I want to teach my kids. You think you'll be happier if you demand your own way, but that only leads to misery. You cannot find Joy trying to please yourself. There is a non-existent finish line to that path. Of course you should work hard and take care of yourself, but when you have the opportunity to make someone else happy, take it! God will fill you up with the Joy that you are really looking for.
We sort of laughed with Lilly when she came back in and said, "See! Put others first and God will take care of you."
My life is filled to the brim with evidence of this. I could write a book on how much Joy we've been given in December simply by giving our life away. (Time, money, resources, etc.) Everything that we've let go of has boomeranged back to us in ways that we never dreamed of and brought us so much Joy. Every time, we took a leap of faith, God saw it and blessed us in unimaginable ways.
"Be easy on people; You'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back -- given back with bonus and blessing. Giving not getting is the way. Generosity begets "leads to" generosity." From Luke chapter 6 The Message.
I want my kids to be generous with their time. Their money. Their kind words. Their love. I want to make life easier on them by saying, "Just put other's first. God will see it and bless it and he'll give you the Joy that your heart desires." We are not born this way. It has to be purposefully taught. I'm reading "Strong and Kind" by Korie Robertson right now. It has been a fantastic reminder to me that raising "Happy" kids should not be our goal. Giving our kids opportunities to experience the Joy of Loving others well should be. And I think it has to start right in our home.
We have a Looooooooooooooong way to go in learning that here. I mean, a loooooooooooooooooong loooooooooong, loooooooooooong way. So long that it almost looks impossible. But that is our goal in 2018.
I keep driving past this church sign that says .....
"J" Jesus first
"O" others next
"Y" yourself last.
Just so I am not confusing, I never want to give my kids the idea that they are responsible for anyone else's happiness. And I don't want them to make anyone else think that their happiness lies in their hands. That's too much pressure either way. Our real Joy is a gift from God for trusting in his ways. I don't want them to be consumed with pleasing or being pleased. Certainly, they MUST learn to say "NO!!!" It healthy and life saving to choose wise NOs! In no way do I want them to say YES to everyone and everything that comes along. But, I do want them to have Peace with themselves that comes from being a person of your word. If you say you'll do something, make every effort to make it happen. Of course, things come up. People get sick. Emergencies and unexpected things happen. No problem! But when it's appropriate and acceptable, give yourself and others the Joy of putting someone else first.