Control & Judgment

December 28, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Recently a friend and I were discussing life, and we talked about how people want to control others.  I think that control is a subtle form (or maybe not so subtle form) of living on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We think we know what’s best for ourselves and those around us, and we spring into action to fix the situation or to control it so it turns out the way we think it should.  Of course, others often have their own ideas about how their lives should go.

Witness children for example.  When they are little, if they are compliant, you can generally get them to go along with the program.  However, the older they get, the more they get this crazy idea that THEY are supposed to be in charge of their lives.

My oldest went through this stage from about 11 1/2 to 13.  I was at the point that I didn’t think I could take it for another six years.  Then, all of a sudden, she hit her stride, figured out what she wanted and how best to get it without wrecking things for everyone else, and the storm passed.  Her teenage years have really been very uneventful in terms of control.  I know she’s in control, and she’s doing a great job of it.

But it’s hard to relinquish that control when you really don’t think they can handle it.  Same is true for spouses, parents, co-workers, friends…  We want to run everyone else’s lives.  Which is strange because we’re also very good at completely messing up our own!

However, when control doesn’t work, we shift quickly to judgment and then to out-right criticism.  They are not doing what we want them to so first we try to control them, then we judge them, then we criticize, then shame and guilt if none of that works.  If we keep gorging ourselves on that Tree, we will end up very bitter, hurt, and lonely.  The truth is, no one likes to be controlled, judged, criticized, guilted or shamed.

When someone is going off the rails, that is often the time they need the most compassion, not a nose-in-the-air.

In this season of light, I challenge you to put down the judgments, shelve the control, and learn to just be… be a friend, be kind, be love.

You might be surprised what comes of it.


I’m Really NOT Ignoring You

December 21, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

This is one of the downsides of trying to do a blog by yourself.  There are just inevitably times when life takes over, and the blog comes to a screeching halt.  This apparently is one of those times.  So I’m declaring a temporary hiatus for the rest of this week.  I will do my best to get back to the keyboard after Christmas.

In the meantime, good luck with getting all of your preparations handled.

Have a very Merry Christmas… and most of all, remember to keep Christ in the center of it!

Two Steps Forward…

December 6, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels like this–especially at this time of the year.  I know I’m making a lot of progress.  If I look back at my lists, there are dozens and dozens of things crossed off, and yet, why do I feel so behind?

Need to blog, upload one book to Kindle another to the printer.  I get one half-done, and then hit a snag.  I get the other 3/4 done, and hit a different snag.  I’ve got eight projects going, all waiting to overcome some snag.

Christmas feels doable until I remember the Christmas cards aren’t out, the presents aren’t wrapped, I haven’t bought anything for candy or for the dish to bring.  I have no decorations up, and nothing bought for our meal here.  I guess when you have so little done two weeks out, you figure some magic elf is going to come do it all or something.

Then there’s the outside projects–like the Sunday School game and the notebooks I haven’t graded.  Ready writing is just a blur at this point.  I’m supposed to sub on Friday.

Between now and then, we’ve got pictures with Santa, dresses to buy, at least one more present to get, a Christmas program, gymnastics… Oh, and I forgot homework–spelling test, reading test.  And then the real fun begins with semester tests for two of the kids!

I’d love to get the book I’m working on finished, and I’m only 180 something pages from doing that.  My house REALLY needs cleaned.  Laundry is stacking up.  It would be nice to eat off of clean dishes too.  My van hasn’t been cleaned out since Thanksgiving, so there are about 10 games in various states of together in the back.

At this point all I can do is the task that’s right in front of me at the moment.

I told my mom the other day when I had to hem my daughter’s choir dress that she (my mom) made all of this look so easy.  I was wondering if she was really winging a lot of it.  She just smiled.

My only hope is that I’m winging it somewhere in the vicinity of how she did because she sure had me fooled.

So, to you, have a blessed Advent season, try not to get too frazzled.  Just do the thing in front of you.  Somehow, everything will either get done or it won’t.  Either way, it will be what it is, and that will be good enough.

Take the steps forward you can, and don’t worry too much about those steps back.  I’m beginning to think we all do it, and with God’s help, somehow, it works.

Criss-crossing time and space

December 2, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I’ve now been through this at least three times–finding ancestors, putting names to people–some I’ve met, some I’ve only heard of.  Some are easy, that’s my side of the family, because I grew up with them.  I knew most of them.  I remember both great grandmothers on my mother’s side, and one vaguely on my father’s.  The great grandpas I know from pictures.

The great-greats are a little more fuzzy, but I know most of those names and many of the stories as well.  That’s why this assignment–for my second grader–came as such a shock.  Never before have I ever been asked to tell WHEN each family arrived here.  Where did they come from?  Germany on three sides and Czechoslovakia on one.  But WHEN?

So I had to start digging.  I knew all but one name on my husband’s side, and that name was easily found.  But dates?

Digging and digging, I got to wondering some very basic information.  Sure, they were from Germany, but where in Germany?  So I pulled up a map site and started plotting.  That’s when I figured out that lo and behold!  My ancestral families lived only about 25 miles from one another in Germany.  Okay, in the mid-1800’s, that was a long way, but still…. 25 miles?  And it took another two generations and thousands of miles for my two parents to meet?  I mean, what are the odds?

And then it got even crazier.

I found out that one family moved here when the couple was first married–both 21, no kids.  The year was 1864.  The other side I have only one account of the father, who moved here at the age of 13, coming alone on a ship, in 1870.  Then those two families trekked across the United States to both end up in a little Texas town.

On my husband’s side, one family came when the father was 49.  He brought a wife and 7 kids in 1848.  Can you imagine?!  “Honey, I want to move.”  “Oh? Where do you have in mind, dear?”


I wonder if she freaked out.  I would have!

And then there’s that fourth family.  My husband’s family.  This is the one that really did me in.  If I knew this story before, I don’t remember it.  The father, with a wife and two kids, decided to leave Czechoslovakia in 1914.  Now none of the family books point this out, but I know from my history books that World War I started around 1917.  So the father moves to America–and leaves his wife and two kids in Czechoslovakia… for SIX YEARS!  During a World War!

I don’t know about you, but I complain when I have to drive kids across town to gymnastics or choir and it’s inconvenient.  Wow!

THEN, six years later, he sends for his wife and two children.  This is where the map got really scary to me.  For some reason, I always thought, they hopped a carriage and rode maybe a few miles, got on a boat, and wa-la!  America.

But there are a LOT of miles between the Slovakian area and the ocean.  In fact, to be honest, I’m not even sure how I would GET to the ocean from there.  Did she go through Germany?  Or France?  Did she ride a train or some other form of transportation?  What and how did they eat?  I mean, there weren’t McDonalds to stop at along the way.

And can you IMAGINE the whining?  Or maybe they didn’t whine.  Maybe they were scared or fascinated.  But they traveled and traveled and traveled, and then they got to the ocean.  I can’t even imagine that.  I would be sending a cable, “Dear, Honey.  Thanks but no thanks!”

However, this strong woman got on that boat with two kids and sailed across the world to start a new life.  When she got here, they lived in a tiny little house.  I’ve seen it.  It would make an efficiency apartment look big.  And then they had five more kids.  Seven in all.

Then their youngest daughter left Pennsylvania and struck out on her own, finally ending up in a little town in Texas married to a good man who farmed.  They had eight kids.  The sixth was my husband.

And in that little town where the lives of all of those people came together, we met and fell in love.

My mind likes to play things backward and forward.  Backward, I wonder at how many little decisions and big decisions each of those people made so that I’m even here today, that this is my life, that I have the things I have, the husband I have, the children I have.  And then I wonder forward into my children’s future.  When their kids are in second grade, will I get calls saying, “Now, what was great grandma’s last name before she married?”

Will they appreciate even to a small degree how many miles their ancestors traveled?  And what will the stories from the other side be?

Life is such a vast mystery.  Sometimes it feels so real, you can almost touch it, and other times it feels like we’re just somehow here, criss-crossing through time and space.  Someday, I hope to ask God about all of this.  To meet these amazing people and sit with them and ask them how they had the courage to do what they did.  Someday…

For now, I’m recording these things for the next time this assignment comes up.  It will, you know.  Now or in a few years when my grandkids hit second grade.