"The one thing we can take with us to heaven is our children."
So said my preacher brother-in-law this morning during family devotions.
I was so tempted to disagree out loud with dearest one's brother but decided that restraint of tongue would not kill me and I really didn't need to throw a wrench into family devotions by giving my unsolicited opinion. After all, that's what a blog is for, right?
The prayer I do pray more than any other prayer for me, dearest one, my adult children and their partners, is that we would put God first in our lives. But it's each person who has to put God there, we can't do that for one another. And I don't even know if I can say when someone else has. It's simply not my job.
There are 50+ of us gathered for the weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law's 80th birthday. We're camping at the home of one of the siblings and it's going much better than I expected, morning devotions included. So well that we decided to stay for both nights instead of one like we had planned on.
Dearest one and I got home yesterday morning from visiting only daughter and lover boy (sorry only daughter but that's the pseudonym for him that sticks in my head) and arrived at this family gathering by supper time. And while there's nothing quite like my own bed, I am content to spend time tonight again with extended family.
It has been wonderful to have a holiday trailer to escape to whenever I need a little solitude and it's total luxury to have Internet access while I'm in it. Right now it's a way to pass some time while nearly everyone else is otherwise occupied. I've already helped cook and clean up from lunch then spent several hours visiting with family. Some are snoozing until suppertime, some are off fishing and swimming and riding motorbikes and the like. There will be a campfire tonight and more discussion, I'm sure.
My preacher brother-in-law asked for input from all of us gathered, what family values his parents had passed down to all present. Somehow the discussion got around to his mom and her disciplining the children - she had 11 of them - and how the boys would often make her run after them when she needed to discipline them and tried to make her laugh while they did so. I often think I have the best mother-in-law because she is so human and doesn't try to pretend otherwise. If you would ever see her hug someone she cares about, you would see her put her hand on their cheek and pull them close with her other hand and hug them tight. I love watching the way she does that.
I'm in the largest gathering of passive aggressive people I know. I had all kinds of conversations in my head before I got here about that. The kind where I am predicting who will say what and what my response was going to be. You know that fruitless inner conversation that wastes energy and can be so entertaining at the same time. Eventually I remembered an exercise that my therapist had walked me through the last time I saw her. First I had to list a judgement I had made of a person. Then I had to list what my presumption was. Then how I changed my behaviour as a result and what was I projecting. Finally she asked me to look at what the truth of it all was.
So I thought about one sister-in-law who has a sarcastic tongue. Barbed comments that in this setting are supposed to be taken in stride or else you're not being a good Christian.
So my judgement was that she was going to make many under her breath sarcastic comments. Then I looked at my presumption which was it was my job to put her in her place.
Next I looked at how I was going to change my behaviour as a result of these conclusions. I knew I would either avoid her or be tempted to give it right back to her. And when I looked at what I was projecting - well - I have had quite the sarcastic tongue of my own in my day. The only difference between us is that she often makes her comments under her breath to those closest by her and I just said mine right out loud for everyone to hear.
What might be the truth in all this? How could I reframe it? I was really surprised to reflect on her place in the family. She is the youngest of 11 children and most likely her sarcastic tongue developed as a coping mechanism. Probably needed it to survive the teasing and such that she would have been expected to take in stride, with no recourse to say stop it.
Reflecting on all this totally took the wind out of my sails when it came to thinking I needed to teach her a thing or two. There's nothing like believing my own sarcasm is going to help someone else lose theirs. Sigh. Let's just trade our passive aggressiveness back and forth shall we?
So after all that I prayed for humility and restraint of tongue. And also to speak my truth when need be.
Then I got in the car and drove here.
It's about supper time now, so there you go.
Not sure what the next discussion is going to be about
but restraint of tongue never goes out of style.