I’m a bull in a china shop. A klutz. Growing up my mother recommended charm school. Perhaps she was kidding. Perhaps not. I rolled my eyes back then and to this day I’ve wondered if charm school really is a thing. Our compromise resulted in some dance lessons.
The Dance Lessons
I did enjoy dance, but I think it was ” The Fine Dance Studio”, appropriately named, that made me like it. My friend’s mother transformed their home to accommodate us dance prodigies. The Great Room, before open concept was common, was GREAT with glossy polished hardwood floors. The room smelled of lilac, because everyone knows dancers don’t sweat, they glisten with violette eau de parfum.
The dance floor was flanked on one side by a massive plate glass window framing the serene pastures of the Meyer’s Dairy farm. The other wall had floor to ceiling mirrors, broken up by one solitary ballet bar. Mrs. Fine, an accomplished dancer, was an even more accomplished encourager. When I shut my eyes and think of my dance days, it’s Mrs. Fine’s voice that I hear first. “Luuuuvely, beauuuutiful, stunnnnning, maaaaaavalous”. Even us klutzy dancers received her praise. Each class ended with a delicious mug of homemade apple cider clinching our desire to return in a week. But let’s be honest, my dance career barely made it through middle school.
Foot in Mouth
My klutziness wasn’t limited to my feet. Not to be outdone, my mouth would get in the way too. I have stuck my foot deep into my mouth on plenty of occasions. There was the time during coffee hour as the brand new minister’s wife when I met Judy. Judy was a pleasant fifty – ish woman. While we were conversing, a woman with her likeness except much older, joined us. “And this must be your mother” I said, with the conversational skill of an oaf. You guessed it, it was Judy’s sister. YOUNGER sister. Ouch. The conversation moved on to hair and the importance of going natural. They were both gracious, but I would have preferred that the floor open up and swallow me.
And there was the time when chatting with a bunch of girlfriends about God’s timing. I mentioned how excited but inconvenienced I was to get pregnant with Ian. At 33 and newly married, I was warned how long it could take. I wanted to get pregnant in a year or so. Instead it happened in a blink. Here I was complaining to a group of women, one of which was in the midst of expensive and heart wrenching IVF. I might as well have had INSENSITIVE LOSER emblazoned across my forehead.
I like this advice… THINK before you speak.
A SOFTER HEART
In this Christmas season, due to my less than typical circumstances, my sensitivity seems keener. Perhaps it’s because my skin is thinner. I feel more and notice more. And the bonus, I have a softer heart towards others. Coming from my bull in a china shop beginnings, this surprises me. And I credit the Lord. Another example of how he uses all things for His purposes. Romans 8:28
She meant nothing by it. It seemed so very harmless and others reacted in complete agreement. From her vantage point it was understandable. I would have been right there with her had Ian’s accident not happened. She was whining about her impending empty nest. She joked about how she wanted to house her soon to graduate son in her basement until he was forty. I completely understood her sentiment. Her kids had moved out and she missed the familiarity of what was. This new chapter was challenging the identity she knew as Lauren and Mark’s mom.
Isn’t it just like us humans to want what we don’t have. I have straight hair, and would love some curls. I’m short and would love to be taller. My adult son remains dependent and I covet my peers who get to enjoy an empty nest.
There, I said it. I want what you have. I’m teased into thinking …aw yes. An empty nest, that would make the difference.
The Grass is Greener
The grass is greener thinking is a subtle ploy satan uses. It keeps us dissatisfied and wanting what we don’t or can’t have. It keeps us focused on what we lack instead of grateful for what we have. And it’s the quickest route to discontentment.
From my experience, when you’re going through tough stuff, joyous Christmas merriment has a way of making things tougher. Almost like a spotlight shining down on that green grass of your neighbor pointing out your deepest longings. We feel exposed. Our once thick skin, becomes paper thin.
I don’t like feeling fragile. I don’t like my vulnerability in the face of my bull in a china shop well meaning friends. Frankly, I would prefer to return to my bull days instead of being where I am now, the fragile china plate.
But God has brought me here. Sensitive. Fragile. Vulnerable. Softened. And seeking Him with all my heart. What now God? This is new territory. What do I do with this?
2 Corinthians 1:3,4 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
He has impressed upon me that it’s my chance to bring compassion to another. And I am blessed in the process. Amazingly my own disappointment doesn’t sting nearly as much and I see that green grass for what it is… a temporary substitute this side of heaven.
To my bull friends…. THINK before you speak. I expect one day you may be that fragile china plate.
To my fellow china plates…. Resist that grass is greener lie. Instead take the comfort and compassion the Lord has granted you and pass it forward. Because of your struggle you bring a unique hope. You’ve earned the credibility to understand like others often can’t.
I love how Lysa Terkhurst puts it in her book It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way “The compassionate soul who has hurt deeply and has come out loving, YES, she is one of the super stars of Gods grand story AND she’s the one you want near you in the battles of life. She wears well the scars of suffering and can’t wait to tell you her survival story so you too can survive.”
I must go. I have my marching orders.
Margie Frey says
This is so beautiful, Debbie. We’re all Bulls in a China Shop at times. Thanks for the reminder to stop and think before we speak.
True, true, true. Thanks Margie.
John Reith says
You have been posting some great blogs. Those compassion thoughts are much needed in society and the church. I have found A.W. Tozer to be quite right when he said something like this: God seems to use people most effectively when they have been deeply wounded. The wounds hurt like crazy, but they also sensitize us to be more aware of other’s hurts. The Holy Spirit works through us and our hurts and we become better comfortors, more like the Comfortor. My guess is that this is part of the process of becoming conformed into the image of Christ.
Thanks for your comment John. I’m humbled but that truth makes alot of sense. Debbie
Betsy Everett says
So true John. I am much more sensitive to those with drug and mental health issues, especially young girls; and to older folks on the other end of the spectrum in the fragile and aging process because of my family and life experiences.
Yes… That is the body of Christ at it’s best. When people use their places of pain to bring about good in another. Redemption!
Love this Debbie!
Thank you Gail. Here’s to a compassionate Advent season.
Karen Chalmerss says
Once I was being introduced to my friend’s family & said Oh this must be your grandmother & it was her mother! Stuck my foot in my mouth so many times! Thank you God for loving me in spite of myself.
The lie of the grass is greener…..is a tough one. But God puts us right where he wants us as grit our teeth!😁
Aw yes, Karen. Thank God for grace! Love you fellow ‘foot in mouth-er’.
Leana Wilson says
Great message! I’m often the Bull…. a well meaning Bull but a Bull nonetheless! And have as of late found myself in the china plate category.
Meant to be teachable moments on my journey I’m sure…. But in this world of politically correct and not offending anyone because of my position on who I voted for, if I believe in vaccinations or flu shots, or if I eat meat or don’t…. all that thinking before I speak, well it’s exhausting! A different topic for a different day/blog! Thanks for beautiful words!
I agree sister. It’s a fine line. We shouldn’t have to walk on egg shells either. But sensitivity in the places of deep pain is crucial. That’s my prayer, that He would give me eyes to see in those situations!
Debra Harbaugh says
The more I get to know you the more we are alike! I also can be a bull in a china shop at times! Hang in there Deb as we love you and support you and your family. I am so glad we are friends and you have a great blog which lets us know and support you through the good times…and the bad! Be patient with Ian as recovery will be very very slow! Decisions will not be thought out and he will do things impulsively! He is doing the best he can and the more therapy you can get him the better but try to give him a break! He may not be who you want him to be but he certainly can make a living as an artist!
All my love,
Thanks Debra. Friends even if you spell your name incorrectly. 🙂
Debra Harbaugh says
At least we both spell “Deb” correctly.
All my love from Debra (not Deborah) Harbaugh.
Anne Kole says
Oh Debbie, your are not alone either being the bull in the china shop or the broken china! I have been (and still am) both sometimes. One leads to another and hopefully I learn from both experiences to rely on God as he puts me back together as he wants me. I still have a tendency to talk too much. I want to be a better listener. Thanks again for sharing your struggles and your heart. Love you and am praying for you!
Thanks Anne. Being a good listener is so important. Thanks for you constant support.
Betsy Everett says
I recently have been reminded not only to think before speaking, but before acting or doing something inappropriate! Very humbling.
And have been told how badly I have hurt someone very close to me, family member, by the things I have said for a long time. As a “fixer” of what I perceive as a problem, I have said unkind things. It is not my place to correct everyone’s faults!. So the reminder to think before speaking, “is it kind” is a great one for me!!
Is it kind. It takes a moment and it’s so simple. Sometimes my intent is nothing more than to get a chuckle. In those instances I like the follow up… is it necessary! THanks Betsy.
Carol Waye says
We moved to Florida to be able to help my brother who has Parkinson’s. His health and mental state are declining daily. His wife in particular is not handling this well. She resents that her life is changing and that she will not have the retirement she dreamed of having. As his sister, I have become her punching bag. I walk on egg shells everyday as she criticizes me, snaps at any form of help and will not share what is being done for his care. I thank you for your wise words and continue to pray that I can be of comfort to them both. I look forward to your blog each week. The Lord is my strength and your words are reminders of that when I get down. Thank you.
Heartbreaking Carol. I can’t tell you how many times a counselor has told me, hurting people, hurt people. And usually their hurt is directed at people they are closest too. It is sad dynamic. Prayers for YOU and your stamina, encouragement as you try to do the right thing. I KNOW how ruthless Parkinsons is. I am so sorry. Thanks for your brave and honest comment. And I’m especially pleased you appreciate my weekly posts.
Bridget Behe says
A good reminder for each of us, especially at the Christmas season when so many are suffering in silence. THINK is a great reminder to take the focus off self and onto others!
Great to hear from you Bridget. Indeed. Slowing down to think takes a moment and I think more are suffering in silence than we know.
Judie Dwyer says
“THINK!” – I like that; so much great advice in one little acronym. I plan to post on my frig and on the bathroom mirror as a reminder. It is so much easier to blurt out a response (that could unintentionally be hurtful). I could give you examples, but it would be oh so embarrassing; just know we all relate.
Amen Judie. It’s not original. But use away… definitely helpful universally.