Posts Tagged ‘Family’

image from toddstocker.wordpress.com

image from toddstocker.wordpress.com

Many of you have probably seen others posting daily notes on social media this month about things they are thankful for. Perhaps you, too, are sharing your “30 Days of Thankfulness”  messages publicly. The timing of the thankfulness theme is tied to the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

I have not done that, but it would be unfortunate not to reflect in a series of posts here about those people, circumstances, things, etc. for which I am most thankful. So today I begin a daily reflection on the theme of thankfulness. I’m not going for any set number of posts on the topic. I’ll write about those that most readily stand out to me over the next several days and then I’ll stop. Simple as that.

In the long list of that for which I’m thankful, it’s difficult to start with anything besides family.

I was blessed to be born into a family with wonderful parents who still are a source of great joy, pride, and good times together. If I was to start saying “thank you” now to my parents for all that they mean to me, and if I was to repeat it every second for all the years ahead of me that I have life and breath, it would not be enough. There is no way to repay such an example of love.

I am thankful for the memory of my sweet sister who succumbed to cancer many years ago. Her face may be frozen in time in my thoughts at the age of 40, but life with her for nearly four decades still brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

Living on the same street growing up as both sets of grandparents was a treat that few enjoy, and a source of countless times together. A childhood of very close extended family connections and frequent get-togethers made family a core part of who I was and am and always will be. Life with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents and more in the small town of Winchester, Kentucky was a way of life that shapes a person and his/her familial expectations forever. I would not have it any other way. I realize many on this earth did not have it so lucky growing up with a close, extended family. I am thankful to be one who did, and I am especially grateful that many of those relationships continue.

As an adult, the meaning of family expanded. I’ve been married to Linda for over 34 years. I am thankful for a faithful, loving wife and for a marriage that will last til death do us part. We had some skeptics in our college days when I asked her to marry me after we had only dated for two weeks. Of course, she took three months to answer the question and we didn’t get married for over a year later, but I think we’ve proved the skeptics wrong after 34 years.

We have two grown sons – Brian and Jason. Jason extended the family by marrying Lauren and then the two of them gave us our first grandchild, Abby. I am thankful for the family joined to ours through the marriage of Jason and Lauren – good, good people who are a pleasure to be around.

I am thankful for Linda’s parents, Jean and her late husband, Chuck, and Linda’s sister, Jill. I am thankful for memories of Linda’s wonderful grandmother and the times at her house in St. Louis.

With most families, things like jobs, educational pursuits, marriage and wanderlust can eventually limit the frequency of times family members get together. We inevitably end up feeling closer to some than to others for a variety of reasons, but the bonds of family are still lasting. The impact of earlier years together continues. The potential of future endeavors with new family members creates new opportunities and defines what family looks like to the next generation.

Anyone without a family is missing a critical component of life as it is meant to be. Those estranged from their family are missing out on greater possibilities and experiences that only come through those familial ties. With so many around us in such circumstances, consider reaching out this holiday season and inviting them to experience the holidays with your family. You may just redefine “family” for yourself and others by doing so.

I am blessed in many aspects of life. I am truly thankful for family past, present, and future that make up the core, enduring relationships I have on this earth.

Thank you, God, for my family.

AloneA few weeks ago I saw a Facebook post from someone I follow that read: “Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.” A Web search will reveal other slight variations of the quote. I’m not sure to whom the quote should be attributed, but it’s wise regardless of its origin.

Relationships can be tricky. Obstacles arise and barriers get erected over time that can easily become permanent if we aren’t careful. We can become satisfied with the new normal of broken relationships, allowing them to continue because in one sense that is easier than trying to mend what is broken.

There is a cost that comes with broken relationships, however. The distrust, the ill will, the emotional toll of failing to forgive, and the distraction of living in the past rather than working together for a better future are just some of the costs of failing to be reconciled with others. It’s hard to imagine many (if any) scenarios where the cost is worth it.

I saw the above quote about the same time last month I finished reading again the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After being sold into slavery by his older brothers, Joseph eventually revealed himself to his surprised and frightened brothers years later when Joseph was the #2 man in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in power. The brothers were immediately terrified that Joseph might take revenge for their awful action from years earlier, but instead he forgave them, saw the good that God had worked in the midst of a bad situation, and was reconciled to his brothers.

You and I probably don’t have dramatic stories like Joseph to tell, but chances are good that we have some relationships in need of reconciliation. The damage may be due to the action of the other person. We may be perfectly justified in the eyes of the world for not having anything to do with others who have knowingly wronged or harmed us. The broken relationship may be between you and a (previous) friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, etc. But because continuing to reinforce barriers between yourself and others consumes time and energy best spent on other more positive endeavors, isn’t it better to put an end to such negative chapters and then move forward in a fresh way – if not for the benefit of the other person, at least for your own mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health? Isn’t that the more mature response, even if it requires you to swallow a little pride along the way? It may not be easy to do, but most worthwhile endeavors aren’t easy.

“Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.”

SchedulePerhaps the biggest lesson I am learning this year is one that I’ve known for a long time, yet must continually re-learn. While it has been good and helpful for me to spell out my many goals for the year related to body, mind and spirit, and to post monthly progress updates here, I have increasingly felt as the year has progressed that I simply have too many of them. I did not allow myself time to relax or to do many unplanned things for fun either by myself or with others. I’ve been busy and I’ve accomplished most of what I set out to do. I suspect all but my two reading goals will be met by the end of the year.

But being busy doesn’t prove that any of that time is meaningfully spent. Filling all of one’s waking hours with activity is no guarantee of significance, either in the short term or long term. So, in a nutshell, here is the lesson I have had to learn again for the umpteenth time:

Do not equate busyness with significance.

This applies in any area of life…

In work, are you doing a lot of things that keep you busy and seem to keep the boss happy? If so, that’s good in a way, unless you have a sense that your time could be better spent doing something with greater significance and long-term impact. Different people can find satisfaction in about any kind of work, so what others consider significant may vary from what you consider it to be. Do what you think is significant.

In education, we can spend so much time studying, pursuing degrees, and learning more for that next certification or license. A real danger is that we eventually look back and wonder where the time went and if it was all worth it, especially when so many graduates don’t even end up actually working in fields that they spent years and tens of thousands of dollars preparing to do. Is such an education a smart path, or could a more significant path be chosen?

In home and family life, busyness can easily be the enemy of relationships. With everyone in the household having their own busy schedule, little time is left for each other. That can’t be what is best for the relationships and for modeling healthy families to the next generation.

In volunteer involvement with other organizations, it is possible to get so busy that we do harm to ourselves in our perceived effort to serve others. I see it all the time in the church when calendars are filled with activities and people feel like they must participate in as many as possible to be a good church member or faithful Christian. Trust me when I say that being super busy inside the walls of the church may be the worst thing for Christians, keeping us from being salt and light outside the church walls in a needy, dark world. Certainly many avenues of volunteer service are significant in improving the lives of others, but it can also be an unhealthy drain on the one giving all the time as well as a potential distraction keeping you from doing something more significant.

Whether the busyness that fills our lives comes from work, school, extracurricular activities, or even volunteerism, we must evaluate the significance of how we spend our time and not just assume we are making a positive, significant difference in our world just because we’re busy. A genuine analysis on that basis might lead some of us to radically change our involvement in activities and organizations. It might cause us to alter our schedule so that we do what is most important instead of what we or others deem to be the most urgent. It might help us actually move from mere busyness to true significance.

And somewhere in that schedule change there must be some down time for rest, relaxation and personal renewal. Without it, you will wear down and burn out unnecessarily. How will you continue to be significant at all if you allow that to happen?

PieSome of the best days of my life – past and present – are days spent with my parents on their farm in Winchester, Kentucky. We moved there when I was in sixth grade. I live about 90 miles away, so at best I get there once a month to spend a day. It is always a good day when I’m there. I should be there far more often than I am.

I’m writing this at the end of the day September 30th – my dad’s 79th birthday. I wish you could know my dad. He’s a great, great man which is only fitting since he’s been married for 60 years to a wonderful woman, my mom. They are kind, generous, funny, active, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. If you are a guest in their home, you will be treated right. You will definitely be fed until you just have to refuse any more.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day of my vacation there. As expected, the food was plenteous, but I knew that would be the case. I was somewhat prepared by eating light the day before the trip. The first meal came within a couple hours of arriving. Various snacks and bottomless Ale-8s to drink were readily available between meals. Evening saw another full meal with bigger portions than anyone ever really needs.

At the end of the evening meal, Dad cut me a piece of pie. Well, it was more like 2-3 pieces of pie – a Dad-sized portion. When he put it in front of me, I remarked, “That’s crazy!” I won’t forget his response as he walked away: “That’s not crazy. That’s love.” And he’s right.

We all have our ways of showing love for others. One of the precious lessons of life is to be able to recognize such love in whatever form it takes when it comes your way. We are different in how we express our feelings for others. Some are more verbal than others. Some do little acts of kindness. Some do periodic big things for those they love. Many do a combo of all the above. Whatever unique ways your loved ones have of showing love, I hope you recognize it when demonstrated, and I hope you return it in a way they recognize as well.

Some ways of showing love may not make a lot of sense to others, but that’s OK. They only have to make sense to the ones giving and receiving it.

That’s not crazy. That’s love.

WorkIsnotFamilyYou may have heard a business owner or manager at times say something to the effect of “We’re a family here” when referring to the relationships among employees.  I can’t recall the last time I heard it (thankfully), but I know that I have in years past.  I confess, though, that it simply doesn’t ring true in any business I’ve ever been a part of except the one that my wife and I ran out of our home for a number of years.  I recall hearing such comments and thinking to myself, “No, this isn’t family – only family is family,” yet everyone heard the sentiment, smiled or nodded and went on their way, probably thinking like I did that such sentiment was wishful thinking on the part of management.

For several years, my current company used the Gallup Q12 survey to measure employee engagement.  Many employees shook their head unsure what to do with the survey item “I have a best friend at work.”  While many may have been able to answer affirmatively, many others were befuddled by it and felt nothing wrong with truthfully answering negatively to the item.  They didn’t expect to have a best friend at work.

Except for family-owned businesses that really are made up of relatives, let me say clearly that groups of employees in businesses are not family nor should they feel like they ought to be.  Work relationships may well include some very dear people that become friends for life, but most coworkers – especially in a large business – are colleagues with whom you will never communicate again once you leave that place of business.

And that’s OK.

My company has nearly 50,000 employees.  Is that a family?  No.  It’s a workforce.  I do not know and will never know individually most of my fellow employees.  I know well and thoroughly enjoy the friendship of my closest colleagues.  I have many good working relationships across numerous departments and locations, but the only family I have at work is my youngest son, Jason, who happens to also work for the same company.

The word “family” is special.  It is reserved for those few who are united forever with me because we are, indeed, relatives.  As a Christian, I am also comfortable using the term to refer to the larger body of believers in my family of faith with whom I expect to share eternity.  To use the term “family,” however, for environments where the focus is something as mundane as a temporary career which could change by choice or force in a moment is to cheapen the meaning of the term.

This is not to say that work is not important – far from it.  Many of us spend more waking hours at work with our colleagues than we do at home with our real family.  Having good relationships at work helps make the experience more meaningful and fulfilling and should be a goal of every employee.  Frankly, though, I am quite fine with trying to have a well-oiled machine at work made up of professional colleagues who strive together toward the same goals and who show professionalism and emotional maturity along the way.  That is what the business employs us to do – not to be best buds along the way.

Managers and leaders, please think twice the next time you are tempted to say in a talk or email or elsewhere that your business is a family.  The hearers may not openly disagree with you, but they will probably not believe you, either.  Just work on getting everyone moving in the same direction, working toward the same goals, demonstrating the same core values, showing emotional maturity and professionalism in whatever they do, and you will be doing what the business is intended to do.  Leave the term “family” for that one-of-a-kind institution that we come home to after work.