Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Best Greeting

Happy Summer!

For those who know me well, you'll detect a bit of sarcasm in this greeting. I'm not a fan of summer. I don't like the heat, the bugs, the sun or the inevitable sunburn. I don't like going to the beach because it's sandy, it smells weird, its hot and there's too many people wearing too little fabric. Summer also means 73 (not that I'm counting) unscheduled, unstructured, uninterrupted days with The Wee Ones.


It was in this moment of preparing for (dreading?) the start of summer when I heard my pastor say a few words about how the early church was encouraged to greet one another. This got me thinking about those I love to see and those who I love to be seen by. I have a few friends who greet me in a way that makes me feel like a superstar. Their whole face lights up. They wave like lunatics with grins that fill their whole faces. Their eyes light up and they rush in for The Big Hug. Just their greeting alone fills my heart with so much goodness that I can't even.

Then there's those people who greet me like I'm something unpleasant that they've just discovered on the bottom of their shoe. I always feel like I'm inconveniencing those people by just drawing breath near them. I, instinctively, want to apologize rather than greet them. They may wince a smile and limply shake my hand but their whole aura screams their disdain and discomfort. I walk away from those encounters feeling like the world's biggest dork. Clearly, I'd rather be greeted by the first group I described, wouldn't you?

These thoughts tangled with my dread of The 73 Uninterrupted Days of Summer and suddenly I was asking myself a very uncomfortable question. Who gets your best greeting? My mind was instantly filled with those who greet me well (of course), those who I love and respect (naturally), those who are lovely to be with (absolutely) … those who are popular (okay), powerful (umm ..) and important (ouch). Then I asked, how do I greet those I live with verses those from the outside world? Does Mr. Awesome get The Best Greeting? Do the Wee Ones?

These questions - and answers - became very uncomfortable, very quickly. I didn't like the answers. I didn't like what the answers revealed about who is really important to me and who I just think is important. I didn't like that the truth is I often waste my best greeting on people who don't know me, like me or really matter to me and those who I really do love the most get half-hearted, lame greetings. I didn't like any of it. I don't like it.

I know that a greeting sets the tone for the encounter that follows. I know that a greeting communicates value, affection and respect. I know that the right greeting invites relationship and trust. I know that The Best Greeting offers a safe place where you are loved and accepted. So, why then don't I put more into my greetings?

Giving The Best Greeting is a risk. Its laying all your cards on the table, it's streaking through a stadium, it's opening your heart - wide and bare - and waiting to see if your greeting will be accepted and reciprocated. Giving The Best Greeting is terrifying and yet so freeing. I don't know why our culture feels that it's best to play it cool. I don't know how we got to this place of envying the aloof and non-committal. I want to live All-In. I want my kids to live, and love, that way too.

And I think the an All-In Life begins with The Best Greeting.

I remember when The Wee Ones were wee and how they'd all sit on the back of the couch, staring out the window as they waited for Mr. Awesome's big yellow work truck to pull on to our street at the end of the day. Chaos would erupt as he backed into the driveway. The kids would be tripping over each other to be the first one at the door. Often, Mr. Awesome wouldn't even be able to open the door all the way because of all the little bodies in the entrance. Dude would grab Mr. Awesome around the neck in a bear hug, Crafty would hold on to Mr. Awesome's leg, nearly tripping him up as he stumbled through the door. And Joyboy would launch himself through the air, fully trusting that the already bombarded Mr. Awesome would catch him. It was all love and hugs and shouts and laughing. Everyday. It was The Best Greeting.

Truthfully, Mr. Awesome still gets The Best Greeting from the kids even though they are now teens and tweens. He receives The Best Greeting because he always, ALWAYS, gives The Best Greeting to his family. No matter what his day has been, he enters our home with a smile on his face and his arms open to give and receive the love and comfort of his family. Mr. Awesome gives The Best Greeting to everyone. I seriously can't think of one encounter where he hasn't given a hug or firm handshake, where he hasn't smiled and said, 'nice to see you' and genuinely meant it. He never misses a chance to love well, to welcome, to make a friend. And I'm learning.

Mother Teresa once said, "It would be a shame if when we meet people all they get is us." She was talking about the need people have to know God and how our every encounter with people is an opportunity for them to know God a little better. How can I communicate God's infinite love if I can't even greet someone with joy and dignity? How can I love like Jesus f I can't even risk an enthusiastic hello? How will my kids know the unfailing love of God if their mom fails to welcome them home with affection?

Here's the thing, I don't think that The Best Greeting will cure the ails of the world but it's a good (and easy) place to start. It opens the door to friendship and understanding. It sets the tone of your home and your heart. It forces you to look outward. It makes you focus on others more than you focus on yourself. And giving The Best Greeting is like throwing a boomerang - it inevitably comes back to you.

Begin each day grateful, loving and passionate, spread love to all you encounter and greet them with a smile, the power of love and happiness is contagious so share more smiles, laughter, encouragement and joy to those around you.
~Rashida Rowe

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why Friending is Important

So, I have a fifteen year old. Let's just let that sink in for a moment.

I am the mother of a fifteen year old. A fifteen year old boy whose voice is deepening. A fifteen year old boy who has grown more than 8 inches in the past year. A fifteen year old boy who wears cravats and top hats, who showers regularly without argument, who uses hair products and cologne and who gets love notes from girls. Yes, that is the trauma of the situation. I can deal with the height, the sudden interest in hygiene and the voracious appetite but I can't handle the girls and the notes and the asking him out on dates.

Can't even!

But, at least I'm not alone on this one. I've been chatting with some pals who are in the same boat and a few who have paddled a little further down the river than I have. This has brought much comfort to my traumatized mother-heart but it's also brought a few head scratching moment … on both sides of the conversation, I think.

A couple of years ago I was talking with a pal whose daughter had just turned fourteen. I had heard through the middle school gossip grapevine that this girl had already dated two boys in grade 8 and was currently in a new relationship with the son of another friend. The girl's mom was lamenting this. She complained that she had told her daughter that she didn't want her to date yet but the girl just wouldn't listen. Another friend, who was coffeeing with us, just shrugged and said, "Kids will be kids. What can you do?"

Both moms agreed that there was nothing you can do when your teens want to date they will find a way to date. When I asked my friend with the dating daughter why she didn't want her fourteen year old to date yet she told me that she didn't want her daughter to get a 'reputation' … y'know (with a wink and a nod). Both moms tisked and chuckled. When we said good-bye a few minutes later, my friend grumbled about having to drive her daughter to her boyfriends house to hang out.


Okay. Really, what did I know? My oldest kid was only twelve, at the time, and had no more interest in girls than he did in wearing clean socks so, whatever. But seriously, this whole scenario seems off. Fast forward three years and now I'm the mom of a kid who is keenly aware of the female presence in his world and would love nothing more than to be the leading man in some girl's love story. But he's not. He's just friends. He's towing the company line and sticking to the rules - so far. But we have no expectation of him to do otherwise for the foreseeable future because he knows 'the why' to this standard.

I'm no parenting expert but I have learned a few things from some pals who have walked this road before me. One of my favourite parenting mentors told me that whatever rules or standards we set we better be able to explain The Why behind them if we wanted them to stick. Because we wanted our guidelines to stick we became very intentional about the the boundaries we set and why we set them - especially when it came to dating.

Our kids are not allowed to date. We won't even discuss the possibility of dating until they are at least sixteen. Here's The Why …

1. Teenage Brains are Only Half Baked. Teens go through tremendous change and growth during these key years - including their brains. Their ability to reason, problem solve and assess situations is an 'Under Construction' zone. For this reason alone we think it's a bad idea for people under construction to have that much access and influence on each other - never mind adding in the unpredictability of hormones and emotions.

2. Boys and Girls are Different. Duh, right? But seriously, until my kids understand how boys and girls are different, how they relate to each other in different ways, how their expectations in relationships are different they shouldn't take on the emotional responsibility of caring for another human being. In our home we talk about governing our emotions responsibly, communicating with respect and having realistic expectations on people. We talk about the difference in how men communicate and how women receive information and visa versa. We're different and until that is understood and respected it is better for everyone that we learn friendship first.

3. You Can't Take Back What's Already Been Given. And I'm not just talking sex, here. We talk to our kids a lot about WHO they are becoming - who they want to be, what kind of character they want to develop, what dreams they have for their future. We want them to have a strong sense of themselves before they enter a relationship. We want them to know who they are and what they stand for so the temptation to give important pieces of themselves away won't be so intense. We want them to be teens, to have friends and to share experiences with their peers. We want them to love deeply. To love people enough to respect them and treasure them as friends without looking for some kind of romantic attachment. We want them to value solid friendship above infatuation.

Our kids all understand this and they've seen how this works long term. There are several people in my life that I love deeply - and have loved for most of my life. At one point or another I may have had a crush on a couple of these guys but I came to love their friendship more than I desired a romantic attachment. And because of that these dudes have loved me and been part of my life for more than 25 years. These guys have all become friends with Mr. Awesome and are part of our extended heart family. My kids see true love in action through our friendships with these very special guys. And that's what I want for them.

I want my kids to have the people who they love the most in their lives for their whole lives. I want them to learn that friendship is the foundation to all lasting relationships. I want them to know the security of self-respect and dignity . I want them to be free to love with abandon because they know their heart is safe and in tact. I want them to Friend. I want them to Friend in groups and one to one. I want them to Friend deeply so that they learn to care about the whole of the other person and not just the pieces that serve them. I want them to Friend so they know safe, true love when they find it. I want them to be a good Friend as much as I want them to have a good Friend.

I'm not saying this is the only way to tackle the teen years but this is the way that makes sense to us - and so far it's working. Dude has had a few tough but respectful conversations with the girls who have asked him out and for the most part the girls are respecting his Friend requests. Some of them thought it was a brush off at first but as the weeks have passed Dude has continued to talk with them, laugh with them and learn about them. He is realizing how great it is to not feel the pressure to date yet have the option to have some pretty great people in his life.

And that's it. That's the why of Friending.

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.