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Cure

Criticism Prevention?

There’s no cure, recipe or how-to book created can prevent criticism – deserved or un-deserved.

You can’t prevent your children, your spouse, your family members, your friends – and even you from catching criticism.

You can only learn how to live through it.

What needs to be done?

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

Have you ever done that? Tried to prevent your children from receiving criticism? Eating dinner at someone’s house – and your child won’t eat what’s served? A toddling 2 year old wanting to touch all the knickknacks on great Aunt Ruth’s coffee table? A teenager wanting to wear grunge to church or school?

A criticism preventative doesn’t exist.

“How can she live like that,” my mom’s friend asked her when they’d dropped in town for a pop-up visit.

I was a young, married, full-time college student, working 20 hours a week at a local newspaper – and Finals Week was closing in – meaning 10+ page research papers were due, projects had to be complete, and exam preparation.

My apartment living room had been literally covered in projects – the couch, the chairs, the kitchen table, the coffee table. Paper carpeted the floor in organized chaos.

I don’t know if we went to lunch or whether I cooked it. All I know is that by the time they arrived, the carpet was cleared – and the piles – yes, there were still piles – but they were tidier.

For the next 20+ years, if someone came to visit, they could find drawers reorganized, laundry folded and put away, the kitchen sparkling – and no piles lurking.

That day, long ago, I needed some grace. Instead, I put on a shield of perfectionism The shield protected me from criticism and judgementalism that labeled me not enough – I thought. One hand held the shield, the other held the not-enough club.

I would beat myself with for not being perfect enough. The sad irony is that I probably beat myself up much more than anyone else ever did.

This spilled over into my parenting. This time, I was a human shield. I didn’t want little hands getting smacked for touching knickknacks. I didn’t want someone else telling my boys how rude they were to not eat someone’s hard-cooked meal. People did, you know – fuss at them for being too little to know better. I know I just didn’t want them made to feel like they weren’t enough.

I don’t say I protected any of us well, living like that, living perfect for all the wrong reasons. Living to intercept and stop criticism isn’t really living.

The more I understand how God designed me, the more I have been able to lower the shield.

The more I have lowered the shield, the greater role I have given Shaddai – the God of more than enough – in my life.

“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done(2 Cor 9:8)

Did you read that? Ready for anything and everything. . . . for what needs to be done.

Only what needs to be done

Needs: Necessarily; indispensably; generally used with must.

Criticism prevention is not something that needs to be done. As a matter of fact – it has as much chance of being achieved as having everyone in the world see me as God sees me.

Only what needs to be done

I only need to do what God has called me to do. I don’t have to also do what God has called you to do.

I don’t have to have an immaculate house because someone who drops by can’t live like that.

What needs to be done – not prevented, blocked or misdirected.

God didn’t design me – or you – to be a strategic defense initiative to stop in-coming missiles. God tells me, “I’ve got it.”

“They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.'” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame” (Isaiah 45:24)

What needs to be done?

What needs to be done . . .
The baby needs loving
And the boy needs a band-aid
Tummies need some yellow, green and orange
A glass of milk and chewable protein
bluesy teens need hugging
skin sweating, heart beating ideas
that need hearing needing
a mom to just listen
My husband needs time for unwinding
Some problems need solving and some just need
Time to untangle

What needs to be done
Is the coming together
In the mess, this beautiful mess
Even in paper stacks under chair legs
a sink piled-high with dishes
Laundry that needs folding
Socks that need matching
Tea that needs pouring
While stories take time
In the telling
In the mess, this mess
Made beautiful
When things of God grow
like grace and faith
peace and joy,
kindness, goodness faithfulness
and waiting with hope

What needs to be done
is one-on-one time with the one
who shields us
and takes the beating stick away from us
one-on-one time full of prayers
for all we’re called to reach and love,
and invitations, daily, minute, second
invitations to Shaddai – who is more than enough
who surrounds us
lives in us
and he never says, “How can I live in a place like that”
By living in us
We become the best place of all.

I’m not trying to live this life perfect anymore. I’m trying to live it God’s more-than-enough way.

If you want to break the strangle-hold perfect has over your life, check out The Cure for the Perfect Life by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.  Maybe you just need encouragement to let go of perfectionism and be who you were designed to be. I’m pretty excited about their book  – 1) because it encourages me to change bad habits in such warm, funny, real supporting ways, and 2) I’m a contributing writer. I’ve been doing the happy dance over here.

A quote from my contribution:

“Coax a child out of the doldrums, you make him happy for a moment. Teach a child to find his own, you’ve given him the tools to be happy for a lifetime.”

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My two-year-old granddaughter walked across the yard beside me with a plate of strawberries. Maneuvering over Sadie, our golden retriever’s inconvenient mole-holes and balancing a plate of rolling strawberries, Ava was in danger of either losing her dignity or her strawberries.

“Can I carry them?” I asked, being careful of her heart and her confidence.

Concentrating on her journey, she confidently answered, “No.”

A few more steps later, she let me carry the plate of strawberries. Carefree, unburdened, she made it across the yard without falling into evidence of Sadie’s favorite pass-time – digging a few inches into the ground, stuffing her nose into the dirt, huffing air out of her nose hoping for evidence of a bona-fide mole.

Ava, like me, wants to do it herself.

Words like “Let it go,”
“Get over it,”
“You might as well forget about it”

Those are hard words to wrap my mind around. I’m not talking about forgiveness. I’m talking about giving-up something important, something heart important, something not quite tangible.

How do you let it go, get over it, forget when you live in hope, like the journey of a prayer sent out?

How do you live in the middle of that prayer-journey-in-the-wait – because in the wait – hurt still happens, the challenge still exists.

I’m an obsessive thinker. That doesn’t mean I think well, just obsessively.

Obsessive thinking works well for my writing. It works well for problem-solving, too – for things like math, reading, finding the perfect white cake recipe, how to teach our golden-retriever Sadie to stay, stomach pain for a son that took 5 years to get a correct diagnosis(severe esophagitus), another son who kept getting directions wrong because he heard 2 out of 3 words correctly (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), how to draw Benjamin Bunny on a chalk board.

I am a problem-solver, a solution-seeker, an information gatherer.

Obsessive thinking doesn’t work well for heart-challenges that I don’t have the ability to change. For example, I cannot persuade someone who doesn’t like me, who has their heart set on not liking me – to change their mind.

Sometimes I cannot change a parent, child or friend’s decision, even though I know that decision may hurt them in the long run.

I cannot make someone believe God is real, though I can tell them what He means to me.

“Give it to God,” – I hear it over and over again – in sermons, in posts, in encouragement, in grocery aisles.

Like Ava, God is walking beside me. “Give it to me,” He says, as I maneuver through the figurative mole-holes life brings.

It’s hard for an obsessive thinker to give thoughts over to God. It’s hard for the problem-solver, the solution-seeker in me to “give up.”

God’s been personally training me this Spring – on giving my challenges to Him.

When thoughts start creeping in for heart-hurts I cannot change, I look at the 2 scriptures on my desk:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side.

  1.     I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.
    Don’t panic. I’m with you.
        There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
    I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
        I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you”(Isaiah: 41: 9b-10).
  2. “Be Still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I take a deep breath, trusting the prayer and visualizing the challenge as a boxed gift, wrapped with a beautiful bow. I take a deep breath and picture myself handing that gift-wrapped box to Him.

Through the rest of the day, I repeatedly grab it back, only to return it to Him – and this goes on and on – shoving it in His hands, snatching it back.

Except each day, I let Him keep it longer. It gets easier to let Him keep it. Just last week, I grabbed it back, ruefully smiled at Him – and before it had totally left His hands, took my hands off. He didn’t “tsk tsk” me, didn’t taunt me with “No Takesy Backsie’s” –  My soul felt like He smiled encouragement.

Giving it to Him doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It doesn’t mean hope has died. It just means He’s walking beside me taking care of it better than I can.  Like Ava – it’s much easier to get across the yard with sturdier hands carrying the important stuff.

He doesn’t tell me I need to be stronger, better, smarter, more lovable, find the solution myself. He just asks me to trust Him.

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin” (Psalm 55:22).

I’ve learned in the past 5 years that hope and faith are the wings of prayer – and love is the heart-beat of that prayer. The answer to that prayer might not be what I was expecting – it might not even be answered in my lifetime – but it will be the perfect answer.

I’ve learned that the real living that refines us into who God designed us to be is in the daily living of the wait of a prayer sent out – and the daily living should be in the assurance of a prayer answered – in God’s time.

If I am assured, I need to live joy-catching all the other things going on in the daily that He gives me – like the smile of a 16 year old surprised 3 weeks before his birthday, in the yellow of an evening primrose replanted from my aunt’s garden, in the good-morning phone call to my mother, in the happy snort of Sadie’s nose underground, in a little girl walking beside me with a plate full of strawberries.

God is teaching me this dance, this living carefree before Him – He is most careful with me (1 Peter 5:7b) – in this giving to Him and taking back.

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