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Solve it     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on March 31st, 2012

“If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it. Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it.”

Yesterday I had the privilege of decorating Easter eggs with my cousin, Aliza, and her adorable little brood: Celene, Shelby, and Ginetta. (Well, Ginetta napped, but close enough.) As frequently happens with small children–and adults, let’s be honest–squabbles arose if something didn’t go a child’s way. Aliza always* seems to manage to stay calm and patiently remind the crying child in question of the rules or the proper way to respond.

On this particular occasion, one reminder stood out to me above all the others. It came when someone was upset over the seating arrangements for lunch. Aliza reminded the child that instead of crying and yelling to get her way, she should remember to ask, “Mom, how can we make this better?”** The child calmed down enough to repeat the question, and Mom came up with a solution that had not occurred to the child and that, it turned out, made all parties happy.

I hope you all will forgive my poor retelling of this simple story. Trust me, I am trying to go somewhere with this.

I didn’t think much about this interaction until I got stuck in traffic on my drive home. During that traffic jam my mind wandered back to the little exchange, and I found myself admiring Aliza’s cleverness both in parenting and problem-solving. (Or are parenting and problem-solving synonymous?) And then–as seems to happen more and more in the past few weeks–I had the sensation of receiving a frying-pan-to-the-face reminder from God. One of those how-has-it-taken-you-this-long-to-realize-this? reminders.

How often do I throw a tantrum or a pity party, how often do I wallow in my own unhappiness instead of asking God to help me figure out a way to make the situation better? I think, like the pint-size-person from yesterday’s example, I often trap myself in my own disappointment; I’m unable to envision a solution because I can’t see beyond my own tempestuous emotions. I can’t imagine any scenario other than the one that’s just been denied to me, the one that’s currently at risk of not going 100% my way.

In the lunch seating example, there was a simple solution that pleased all parties. I think it’s easier to accept the answer to “how can we make this better?” when the answer does not really require a sacrifice or compromise of our own desires. It’s easier to stomach an alternative when that alternative does not require hard work on our part or a delay in gratification.

Is this what stops me from approaching God the Father like a little child and asking, “how can we make this better?” Do I not ask because I don’t want to run the risk that the answer won’t be to my liking? Do I reject God’s answer and tell myself that the only good or right answer is the one that perfectly complies with my desires and emotions? Do I forgo asking for His advice–or seeking His wisdom by turning to the people he has placed in my life: Chris, my parents, my family, my friends–out of a selfish, childish belief that my desires are supreme and supersede all other concerns?

I fear the answer to all of those questions is yes. In my mind I’m right. If I’m not getting my way it’s because other people are stupid or selfish and I’m the poor, put-upon soul that always gets the short end of the stick. But that just isn’t true. I need to unlearn selfishness and learn, instead, how to seek God’s solutions to my problems (big or small). I need to learn a willingness to compromise and develop an ability to imagine solutions outside the MY WAY OR BUST box.

As with everything I feel God is smacking upside the back of my head with in the past month, all of these realizations mean nothing if I don’t strive to put them into practice. I think two good starting points would be to:

1) Remember to pray. I fall into the bad habit of only praying when something big is freaking me out. I need to remember to turn to God in all things. I also need to remember to offer prayers of thanks instead of just gimme-gimme prayers.

2) Remember to lean on the supports God has placed in my life. I need to learn to lean on Chris’s compassion, calm, and steadfastness. I need to remember to respect and rely on the wisdom of my parents. I need to remember that I am blessed with a strong network of family and friends who are willing to share alternate perspectives when I am bogged down by my own.

I hope these past few personal posts don’t make it sound like I have it all together, like I’m growing by leaps and bounds. I hope I don’t sound preachy. I decided to post these thoughts as a way to work out what I think I’m learning. Publishing them on this blog is my way of saving a lesson so I can–hopefully–look back on it later, when I’m once again caught in the quicksand of my own emotions.

To lighten things up: decorating Easter eggs was great fun. It was amusing to observe the differences in Celene and Shelby’s decorating techniques. (Celene’s first born qualities never fail to make me laugh, since, as a first born, I share many of those traits.) Lunch was delicious and I’m grateful to Aliza for inviting me to share both the meal and the craft with them. We also solidified a few plans for Shelby’s fourth birthday. (We’re hosting it at our apartment.) Shelby was very decisive about the decorations and menu. Here’s hoping she’s pleased with the final result. I’m also enjoying getting to know Ginetta; she seems like such a happy little girl. During this visit she got to take her turn at the Get-Thrown-Over-Aunt-Katie’s-Shoulder-And-Spun-Around-Like-A-Lunatic game (G.T.O.A.K.S.S.A.L.L. for short). I think that was the first time she participated. I’m told she looked happy. I couldn’t see for myself as I was busy whirling around and trying to keep my balance. All I remember is laughing myself silly watching Ginetta try and regain her land legs after being set down.

All in all it was a fun and challenging day. Thank you, Aliza, for sharing your hospitality and your wisdom (whether you knew you were passing it along or not)!


Katherine Elyse


*I know she’ll argue that she doesn’t always stay calm, but she’s setting a pretty good example for her not-yet-at-the-munchkin-raising-stage cousin, so she’ll have to forgive me for shining the light on her patience.

**Not a direct quote by any means. I, unfortunately, do not have the ability to perfectly recall everything I hear. I hope the spirit of the statement remained the same, even if the words themselves did not.

2 Responses to “Solve it”     

  • aliza says:

    Thank you so much! You have no idea what encouragement you are to a mother’s heart :) Everyday I feel like I’m faced with my own selfishness and sinfulness in parenting. I’m glad you see beyond that!

  • Diane says:

    Reading your blog was my treat at the end of a long work week. What a blessing – such a beautiful writer you are. Brought tears to my eyes.

    Love you. Aunt Diane

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