Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mess With One ...

Our family is really close. Some have even described the relationships as "creepy close". Now, before you picture all of us as toothless, dueling banjo-playing, backwoods hillbillies, please know that is not true. We all have our teeth, none of us know how to play the banjo, and we live in the suburbs. We just have a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY deep-rooted value and understanding of family.

When someone loves and brings joy to one of the members of our family, the other ones will immediately embrace the joy-giver. In fact, we've been known to bring adopted members in to our family circle who are "honorary Allens". When one of our family members dates or marries, get ready -- because we're part of a package deal!! Our intent is not to intrude, but we want to love on the people our family loves on. Our family members are our best friends, and we want to include and love who they love.

On the other hand, when someone hurts or wounds a family member ... hmmmm. Yeah, that's not good. I'd like to say that we all handle that well, but we don't. Some of us handle it better than others. A few members of our family want to maim confront the offending party. Some want to totally write the "bad guy" off and ignore his existence. Some of us are big on forgiveness and continuing to pray for the person. But all of us, without exception, deeply feel the hurts and wounds of our family.

A perfect example of this is when our sons were quite young. We were at a softball game watching their extra-studly dad pitch and play when I saw our middle son (who was three) square off with another little boy who was five. The five-year old had been picking on our son, and since our son grew up in a house full of boys, there wasn't any backing down on his part. Our 6-year-old son saw it as well and immediately ran over and began defending his younger brother by grabbing the older boy, throwing him to the ground, and pounding on him while younger brother joined in. In the meantime, our youngest boy (who was 18 months old) was running as fast as his short, chubby legs could go, and jumped on the pile of brawling boys, swinging his arms and punching the non-Allen as hard as he could. By the time I got there, the 5-year-old was crying and I had to drag all of the Allen boys off of him. Mess with one, you get them all.

Another example? All through junior high and high school, our poor daughter was constantly supervised, watched, and harrassed by her older brothers. If a guy liked her and was brave enough to get past the brothers, that was pretty impressive. Her brothers made sure that didn't happen too often. They confronted, bullied, and basically harrassed any young man who they felt like would not be appropriate for their sister. And since their sister was the princess of the family, it was highly unlikely that any boy ever created in time would be appropriate, let alone good enough for their sister. She hated it but loved it at the same time. Her sense was that family is there to watch out for you.

As I write this, I'm struck with the fact that we're a pretty good example of a 1 Corinthians 12 family ... with the exception of maiming and harassing, of course. 1 Corinthians 12 compares the physical body to the spiritual body of Christ, discussing how the parts are all equally important. What affects one, affects all. When one suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice. Our little family (which continues to grow by marriage and births) is a perfect example of that. The best part? We're our little family within the bigger body of Christ's family -- watching out for each other, loving each other, protecting each other, serving each other, caring for each other. Whether we're talking about our physical family or our spiritual family, we were created to be a part of one. Family is a-w-e-s-o-m-e!!

I'll leave you with the song that our kids grew up singing. In fact, ask them to sing it to you. They all still remember the words. And remember, mess with one of us, you get them all.

Na na na na naaaaa
Na na na na na na
Na na na na naaaaa
Na na na na na na
From city to city
From state to state
Don't mess with the Allens
Cuz we're really great
Na na
Na na na na na na

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Good Thing/Bad Thing

I've been thinking about the "good thing/bad thing" today.

The good thing is that I tend to let go of the past (eventually!). The bad thing is that I can get overwhelmed with what's in front of me.

The good thing is that I'm short enough that I don't hit my head on low hanging branches when I walk underneath them. The bad thing is that technically I'm not tall enough to ride the go-carts at Celebration Station (but I have a driver's license, so they let me).

The good thing is that I know I don't walk this road alone. The bad thing is that I fear that even though I'm not alone, it can't be handled.

The good thing is that I like to cook. The bad thing is that I like to eat everything I cook ... and then some.

The good thing is that I walk with God, and He's bigger than anything out there. The bad thing is that I often don't believe He's big enough.

The good thing is that I'm getting older. The bad thing is that I look it ... and please don't offend me by offering me a senior citizen discount (although that has never happened yet, but I'll definitely be offended when it does!).

The good thing is that God reminds me over and over and over again of the times that He has been sufficient. The bad thing is that I tend to forget.

The good thing is that my husband and I think we're hilariously funny. The bad thing is that we're the only people who think that.

The good thing is that God is extremely patient and gracious with me. The bad thing is that He needs to exercise that patience and extend that grace moment by moment (but I'm sooooo thankful He does!).

The good thing is that I've been given an incredible family ... and they're cute, and funny, and smart, and dang near perfect. The bad thing is that I often take them for granted.

The good thing is Jesus loves me ... and there's nothing bad about that.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
-this version is credited to Mother Teresa

I love this piece written by Mother Teresa. It speaks to my heart. Probably because I often feel like people are unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered ... that there are unfaithful people around me ... that there are deceivers and ungrateful people surrounding me ... that it doesn't matter how much I do, it's not enough. All of that is focused on me though (did you notice that?!). People are self-centered because they're not looking out for ME. People aren't faithful to ME. People are deceiving ME. People aren't grateful to ME. Each line of Mother Teresa's piece starts out that way, but the second line  is an encouragement to look outside of ourselves.

The best line? "In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway." It's what it all comes back to in the first place -- Who I'm serving, why I'm doing what I'm doing, what the ultimate focus is to be. It's all about God. That's the beginning ... the middle ... and the end. Anything else is not enough.

It all comes down to this. Dealing with people is hurtful. They're not always nice. They are often stupid, without remorse, refusing to change. I can be the Judge -- weighing the evidence, finding them guilty, and walking away. And who on earth would blame me? People don't deserve mercy or grace when they're determined to continue doing wrong, right?! But where do I fit in this picture? Am I really the Judge (especially when I try to sit in that seat) or am I one of those people determined to continue doing wrong? Where would I be if God had refused to extend His grace and mercy to me? Like Mother Teresa says, He "did it anyway".

As He did for me, so I must do for others. Because He forgave, so do I. They don't deserve it, but neither did I. God does, though. He deserves my best. And the most amazing thing? When I look at people the way God does, I see their need ... I see their hurts ... I see their potential. It makes the "doing it anyway" a special blessing, because I'm serving those that He loves ... the ones that He's given me a love for as well. How can I do any less when I consider all that He's done for me?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sci-Fi 2012

Another new year? You've got to be kidding me! I've just NOW gotten to where I consistently remember to write 2011. I don't know if I'll ever totally remember 2012. And doesn't 2012 sound really sci-fi? Like it's not a real date ... just a number that's been thrown out there in the cosmic future.

Okay, enough of my ramblings about how I can't believe it's 2012. Since it's my tradition to review the past year in a blog -- well, if tradition accurately describes the second time I've done this -- then I'm ready to get started showing you all of the wonderful things going on in our lives. Now that I think about it, this might take the place of a Christmas letter! Aren't you excited?!?!

Biggest news? We had a wedding in our family and added another wonderful daughter-in-law. She's a Texan that has adjusted well to Oklahoma, and we're blessed to have her. She fits in well with this wacky family and helps to class us up a little bit.

We got to keep our littlest grandbaby for a week. Oh my goodness, we're definitely older than when we had our own babies!! But, it was a fun time for all of us -- well, at least, it was for me! I loved the time with her and hated to give her back to her mommy and daddy.

After years and years and years of being an Oklahoma State Cowboy fan ... after years and years and years of being disappointed or dismayed after football season ... after years and years and years of being on the losing end of the spectrum (you get the picture!), we celebrated with an incredible football season. Man! I get excited just thinking about all of those games! Seriously, I'd like a repeat of the 2011 football season for 2012 ... and 2013 ... and 2014 ... and so on.
Wes's dad went home to be with the Lord this year. Sometimes it seems like it's still not real. We find ourselves telling different stories -- about how he liked to play card games, about his competiveness, about his love for sports, his dry sense of humor, his "grampa" sandwiches. We miss him a lot, but know that he wouldn't trade places at all. He's seeing Jesus' face!

Our oldest granddaughter was the star of her ballet recital ... and the star of her soccer team ... and the star of her choir program ... and the star of her Christmas program ... you get where I'm going with this, right? Yes, she's OUR little star. Oh! And she's learned to read this year. I've heard her! She likes to read books to her Nammy, and Nammy loves hearing her!

And just because I love this picture, I have to include it. It's my precious little family ... all of those kiddos that grew up in our home, some of whom have gone on to create homes and families of their own. There's never a boring moment when we're all together, especially when they all come home and manage to bring all of their dogs along with them! It's always a highlight of any time for Wes and me when all of our kids are around.

We've had two different major surgeries in our family this year (unfortunately, having a surgery DOES seem to be an Allen family tradition) ... moved kids from one place to another (several times!) ... Wes and I celebrated 33 years of being together (from our first blind date in Stillwater in 1978) ... we became actively involved with an incredible group of young mommies and their babies in Teen MOPS ... and life is once again very good in the Allen household.

We're assured of God's love for us, convinced of His provision and protection, and grateful for His blessings. Even more, we're looking forward to what He's going to do in the future. The comfort is knowing that He already has it planned out and the prayer is that we'll be sensitive to seeing His fingerprints over all of it.

Bring it on, 2012!!!