Monthly Archives: November 2015

The meaning of “thank you”

196-kristin peeking

We say “thank you” many times a day – in interactions with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, even strangers. “Thank you,” for holding that door open for me, for handing me a pen, for taking my money so I could buy and have groceries. But I probably say it less often in my home than is definitely needed. (It’s terrible how I often take for granted those who are closest to me.) During this week of American thankfulness, I thought Iʼd reflect on what giving thanks means, especially when comparing it to another culture.

I spent three weeks in India my junior year of college. The first words we asked how to say in Hindi were “hello” or “namaste” and “thank you” or dhanyavaad” (daan-ya-vaad). I did not know it while I was there, but in India, saying thank you often can be rude. To give thanks to another person is a much grander gesture, as if to be sincerely grateful for what someone has given you along with saying, “Iʼm so thankful for this that it only seems right for me to return the favor – in a grand way as well.” It does not mean returning the gesture out of guilt. It is giving because you have been blessed and want to offer others blessing too. It’s a very mature place to be in, in my opinion.

But my interest of this revelation was more on questioning which is better: saying “thank you” often or rarely? I began to recount when people told me thank you. A stranger saying it as I let them walk ahead of me into the store first. My husband saying, “thanks, babe,” when I brought home his favorite drink. A co-worker thanking me for completing a simple task. And I recalled when I said it to similar people for similar actions. These were generally not anything of great importance. (Shoot, half the time I don’t know why I even said it. It just seemed like the best and quickest response so I wouldn’t look foolish standing there quietly.) So should I stop saying thanks as often?

Several years ago, I read a great book from Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts,” which was about the simplicity of all the things to be thankful for around us. She kept a list of things she was thankful for everyday – and they were very simple. The sounds of laughter from her children, a sunset, the taste of lemonade on a hot summer day. I was impressed by her ability to focus on and keep up with this task. Then I remembered reading somewhere a while ago to keep a gratitude journal, where you write 3 things you were thankful for throughout the day. It seemed easier to just thank God for those three things in my daily prayers, but the beauty of a journal is that you can go back and see how your life was in a given time period, and, similar to a prayer journal, see how God had interacted with those thing you were thankful for.

I really enjoy when people thank me because I feel like I’ve helped make their life a bit easier. I can appreciate why Indians do not say it as often, but for Americans, I feel like we could say “thank you” every hour and it would still not be enough to make each person feel appreciated for what they offer to our society. So expect to continue to hear my thanks for the big and small ways you help me and my family. And many thanks to you for experiencing the Recovering Martha journey with me.

That guy.

that-guy

You know who I mean. You remember in elementary school when the teacher threatened to take away recess time because of the one kid who wouldn’t stay quiet in line? And then we all had to suffer? Yep, “that guy” (or girl) is alive and well in adulthood too, but on a new level. The police officer who uses too much force. The teacher who has a relationship with a student. One person who has to ruin it for everyone else. The one person who tarnishes the integrity of an occupation, religion, ethnic or racial group, etc. And last week, it was a Christian pastor who likes to get attention.

With the recent Starbucks Merry Christmas ridiculousness (and my fav article on the situation – bazinga!), it has been weighing on me how silly people – and, some days, I – sound when trying to be “good” Christians. Then I had my own “that guy” moment this week when I read this article about “4 ways the modern church looks nothing like the early church.”

I offer this reflection with a caveat – I’m not an expert. I definitely don’t think I know it all. And please, please, offer your replies via the link above. I would love to have my worldview widened by readers’ knowledge and experiences.

Every day I am a hypocrite. I don’t serve others the way Jesus served. I put my selfish needs first most days (except when it comes to taking care of Baby O, and then I don’t care for myself as I should; and I think many parents are the same). I don’t trust God enough – or not at all, some days. I don’t read my Bible every day, and most weeks I only open it at church at Sunday. I struggle with being the kind of follower Christ would be proud of.

As silly as this may sound, I think it is difficult to be a Christian in a rich country like the U.S. The tenth commandment is being violated like crazy: don’t covet what others have. I’m continually jealous over the things ads encourage me to buy, and many of us attempt to “keep up with the Jones’s.” I want to clarify: this is not me whining about how tough I have it. My life is so good – there are people all over the world who live in fear of their lives due to violence, malnutrition, disease, and the list could go on and on. But we each have our sins to deal with, and for many, that sin is trying to reach the American dream.

It can be hard to not feel…defeated. And what a sad world to live in if that’s your reality! But I don’t have to feel like I’m fighting a battle! Because Jesus knew everyday would a struggle for us. He knew all people would face challenges each day, and he hopes that we will rely on him when the burden feels too heavy. Like when I get road-ragey. (I’m not proud of it.) Or when I have to deal with another Christian, woman, wife, mother, daughter, educator – name any identity feature about me, and there has definitely been a “that girl” who has likely embarrassed that group of people. Because none of us are perfect. And we shouldn’t expect each other to be perfect. But we certainly shouldn’t get all crazy on each other when we mess up. Because negativity tears people down. And Internet rants, where faceless beings feel empowered to strip away the dignity of people they don’t know, are getting silly. (Case in point: Celebrities read mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel. Watch out – rough language involved.)

With that in mind, we’re all going to mess up. I might even have an embarrassingly silly online rant or two in my future. And I know I’ll be “that guy” – and you will too. Please just be kind to me. And I’ll try to extend the same courtesy to you.

Ghostbuster photo credit: http://genius.com/920529

Kid or Dog?

Some of my closest friends and co-workers know this secret about J and I…several years ago we were discussing building our family and I was feeling unsure about expanding – right then, or really ever, for that matter. I felt good about where things were – we had a home, good careers, and I felt like I had plenty on my “plate.” But J explained he wanted to add something more and he requested that in a time frame of two years, I pick: kid or dog? (and for the record, he wanted a dog – he told me to write this!)

For those who know me well, animals are not exactly my favorite living creatures. I attempted to find a photo of me at about age 12, holding a caught fish as far away as possible (and yes, this is how I still catch fish when I’m trying to be a team-player with my fishing-loving husband). Compare it to the other photo of my sister, Rachel, with a dead pheasant in her arms, a prize from one of my dad’s many hunting trips. Neither my sister or I turned out to be good hunting partners, so it’s a good thing my parents had my brother and I married an outdoors man.

Rachel

As a child, my two siblings and I went through some pets:

  • a multitude of fish who met death and then the toilet bowl
  • a hamster named Sarah (we later learned “she” was a “he”) who suspiciously died while we on a family visit (turns out my murderous mother requested its disappearance and my dad “took care of it.” I learned of this evil plot as a teen – and reacted similarly to any number of poor children who are victims of the annual “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy” scheme (and which I obviously plan to do to Baby O someday – the candy scheme, not the hamster death; I’m not a monster!)
  • a couple hermit crabs from some mall kiosk
  • a pile of outdoor cats that started with two females who got frisky in the neighborhood, leading to a litter of five, which we naturally named after the Spice Girls (now referred to as the Spice Cats). This population exploded to 20 cats roaming our in-town neighborhood at one point, and the shame of us being “that cat house.”

So why would I be opposed to a dog? Well, the trauma of my animal avoidance can likely be linked to that whole hamster incident. Just kidding! (kind of) I mean, sure, everybody has a few sketchy animal run-ins. But the real reason I’m opposed to a pet: they make messes. Hey, I’m a self-proclaimed “Martha.” Don’t act like this surprises you. Dog hair on the furniture, leftover food and doggie prints on the floor – it’s just too much! I like dogs just fine – simply in your house, and not mine. And I fear a dog would be really lonely in our family. J and I both work full time and neither of us work close to home where we could go visit over lunch. And many times we are gone in the evening – especially with J working high school athletic events or coaching the girls soccer team.

So how did I respond when J requested we expand our family with a kid or dog? Without missing a beat, I picked kid. And I’m glad I did. Because even though he’s messy, at least I get to take him into public places with me.

Seriously, I’ve been surprised at how much joy he’s brought to our life. And O has really given me perspective to care less about the to-do list. I only have so much energy to spend everyday and I want to play with that little boy. He’s taking steps now and falling into my arms as he crashes, and giggles so hard when I scream for joy, making him want to do it over and over again. He loves swinging. He’s figuring out how to put objects into bags or buckets. It’s exciting to watch this little human discover new skills and abilities. And I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

I’m sure someday little O will ask me if he can get a dog. And I’ll probably melt with his cute little lip stuck out, looking sad, and say yes. But until then, I’ll enjoy this messy life with a kid – and not a dog.