Columns, Positive Parenting

Reframing: surgery, laundry, and lay off

Behold, I make all things new.

—Revelation 21:5

This Jesus is always stepping into our lives, declaring something new and unexpected. Sometimes we are delighted, sometimes dismayed, sometimes overwhelmed. No matter our initial response, Jesus fills us with his presence. These God-surprises have taught me that, indeed, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28). God does not cause the hard things, but joins us in facing them. These changes, seen in the rear view mirror, often offer something good. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize it.

Recently, three beloved people in my extended family all had surgery on the same day. (My brother received a kidney transplant from his oldest daughter and our precious four-year-old granddaughter had her sixth major hip surgery.) The day before, I felt so deeply sad that these three beloveds all faced such significant events. In the midst of this sorrow, it occurred to me that 50 years ago there would have been no surgeries — my niece would feel physically well, but be watching her father die of kidney failure, and our granddaughter would be crippled by pain and immobility. This realization reframed the surgeries, and my sadness was transformed into prayers of thanksgiving. (All of them are recovering very well.)

Marilyn Sharpe

These changes, seen in the rear view mirror, often offer something good.

Two decades ago, our six-year-old next door neighbor was diagnosed with leukemia. At the end of his first week in the hospital, a close friend and I cleaned their house. I took their laundry home with me. It was such a paltry pile; just a few changes of clothes for each parent. There were no kids’ clothes, since the six-year-old was in hospital gowns and the two-year-old was staying with friends.

I took the pile of clothes to my laundry room, where I faced our haystack of dirty clothes, including a muddy pair of jeans from my nine-year-old that looked as though he was still in them. I hugged the jeans and wept, so thankful for a family healthy enough to make dirty clothes. I’ve never viewed laundry in the same way again.

As with many of you who have faced your own life transitions in this economy, I was laid off from my dream job a year ago. My wonderful husband held up a mirror, reminding me that this had never been a job or a place I worked, but it was what God had called and equipped me to do and to be. So, the first day of 2010, I got up and continued doing this ministry in a new way.

This year has been filled to the brim with opportunities to do the ministries with homes and congregations for which I have such passion. I have been joyously busy, working with wonderful people — some old friends and some new — and bringing me to my knees every day in thanksgiving for this sign of God’s abundance and presence in all of life.

At the beginning of this new year, look at your life through the lens of faith, wondering what God will be up to with you now. It is a wonderful opportunity. Blessings on your reframing.

Family activities

1. As a family, name one daily or weekly chore. Wonder together out loud about how this chore provides a reason to give God thanks.

2. Before we are ready to find reasons to celebrate the new, we need to grieve what we have lost or not been able to do or the hard things we have experienced. Invite each person in your family to share, “I felt really disappointed (or afraid or sad) when … .”

3. Looking in “the rear view mirror” of your life, share an experience in your past that was really difficult. Talk with your kids about how it prepared you to be the strong person you are today and to reach out to others who are wrestling with similar issues.

4. Ask your child to share an example from his or her own life that was hard and has grown strength and gifts in them. If they are stumped, offer an example you have seen.

5. As a family, talk about one new thing God is doing with each of you. Together, thank God.

Sharpe is an author, teacher, presenter, and congregational coach for Marilyn Sharpe Ministries, LLC. Her recently published book is For Heaven’s Sake: Parenting Preschoolers Faithfully. E-mail: MarilynSharpeMinistries@comcast.net; phone: 612/202-8152.

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