It All Starts Here

0110151933b-1-1I recently heard someone say “evangelism begins with relationships,” and it got me thinking that really, just about everything comes down to relationships. Think of the most important purpose of your life and see if you could replace the word “evangelism” in the motto above with that purpose.

I’ll start – Parenting begins with relationships. Nothing else we do as parents has a chance of being effective if we don’t have good relationships with our children. I can be the best mom in the world according to the best parenting book. I can say just the right words and have just the right behavior charts and just the perfect consequence for every bad choice, making sure of course that I never, ever say that my child is good or bad, just that his choices are good or bad, but, if don’t have a good relationship with my child, I have nothing. Everything I say will fall on deaf ears. Nothing I do will be received as intended if I am not able to relate to my child.

For a computer science and math nerd like me, realizing it all comes down to relationships is tough. You can’t apply a formula to people. You can’t write enough “if then” statements and “for loops” to make sure you’ve got all the possible relationship scenarios covered. Even if you theoretically could somehow figure out how to have a great relationship with one person, what works for one person isn’t what works for all people.

What works for one child isn’t even what works for another child when the children are in the same family. The key to relating to my son is to spend quality time with him, doing activities he enjoys. First, it was trains, then Legos, then drawing pictures, then Super Mario Brothers, and now, it’s Minecraft. I relate to my daughter, on the other hand, not by sharing quality time, but by sharing conversations. She could care less if I play Barbies with her, or sit side by side and write or draw with her. No, she needs to have my ear for at least a half hour a day. She needs me to listen, and she needs me to talk and share with her who I am through our conversations. She also likes cuddling almost as much as I do. Not surprisingly for anyone who knows me, the relationship with my daughter comes pretty easy.

Relating to my son is another story. When my son’s Minecraft obsession took hold, I decided I was out. After all, while I’ve been known to get into a good RTS game and have occasionally played a FPS game to bond with my husband (for those never exposed to the exciting world of gaming, RTS stands for Real Time Strategy, FPS, First Person Shooter), I am usually the person in the game who can’t quite get my bearings. Directions are hard enough in the real world, let alone in a video game world. A game where you just move around and build things, like in Minecraft, really does not interest me. Navigating in Minecraft actually makes me somewhat anxious. Certainly, I could still have a great relationship with my son without having to play it, right?

Wrong! Once I took my “I don’t play Minecraft” stance, my 5 year old became even more attached to Daddy, though I hadn’t thought that possible. When I asked him the leading question “You still really love Mommy too right?” he just looked at me and said innocently and matter-of-factly, “but you don’t even know how to play Minecraft.”

Ouch.  Once again I was reminded that to relate with my son, it isn’t enough to just watch him do things. Whether it’s drawing or playing with Legos or playing the dreaded Minecraft, I have to do it with him for it to really count as quality time relating with each other.  Since I got over my fears and started building houses, spawning weird creatures and fighting three-headed monsters in Minecraft, my little boy is back to holding Mommy in pretty high esteem. Of course, I still don’t hold a candle to Daddy, but I firmly believe that my ability to impact William in a real, meaningful way has been restored now that I am back in the “knowing how to play Minecraft” category.

What areas in your life rely on your relationships? Are you investing enough in making sure those relationships are solid? Here are a few more examples to help get you started. Good performance at work depends on your relationships with those you work with. Effective writing begins with making sure I know and can relate to my audience. Eating right and exercising begins with an individual’s relationship with himself. I’m sure you can add many more examples.

And, of course, just like everything else, evangelism really does begin with relationships. You see, this isn’t just something I heard in passing, it’s one of the founding principles of the To the Moon Sisterhood organization. I’m thrilled to be part of this group, that brings together women from all walks of life through activities ranging from Bunco to coffee to Girls’ Night Out.  Ultimately, the founders, who are all Christian, hope to use the group to share the love of Christ in a new way. Instead of preaching, instead of being exclusive or judgmental, instead of insisting on our way, we are focused first and foremost on establishing and maintaining real relationships, regardless of faith. Because that’s where it all starts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the To the Moon Sisterhood, look out for more details about their biggest event of the year coming up in Tyler, Texas on May 8th.

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Contagion

DrillTeam

Sometimes I think God sees us like people watching a drill team performance.

For those not from Texas, when I say “drill team,” I’m talking about a dance squad that performs high kicks at High School football games, not a military unit.  Sure, we were under the direction of a Captain and Lieutenants, but they gave “demerits” for things like your lipstick not being bright red enough or your hat not having enough bobby pins to hold it in place.

In almost every routine, we did something called a “contagion.” One person would do a move, like moving her arm in a circle, or doing a kick. Then the next person would do it, then the next, etc., until all fifty of us had done the exact same move in order, usually while shoulder to shoulder in a line. The more precisely each dancer repeated the move, the better.  When done correctly, the contagion would create a ripple effect that was pretty fantastic to watch, especially from the highest rows in the stadium.

Last Friday morning, in the midst of the DFW blizzard of 2015, the events of our family’s day followed a similar pattern. First, instead of sleeping in that extra fifteen minutes like I normally do, I got up right when the alarm went off.  My husband, who does not have the compulsion to push the snooze button but who has recently also been sleeping in, also got up right away. I got everything ready for the kids like I had said I would the night before – breakfast, papers signed for school, help getting dressed, finding jackets, etc. Jeff got ready and was out the door with the kids at exactly 7:15AM as planned, beating traffic and having everyone where they needed to be on time.

Because of these choices, the whole morning had a different feel. Instead of people frantically searching for coats, cursing under their breaths, rolling their eyes in irritation, and crying about getting a tardy, we were smiling and happy and nice to each other. We actually all hugged and kissed before everyone left!

The positive energy continued to be contagious for all of us.  I was much more focused as I worked from home. Instead of procrastinating what really, really needed to be done and working on easier things instead, I tackled the toughest challenges first. By early afternoon, I had put in a full day’s worth of work and was done with my most critical work items. Because I made good choices at work, I was able to leave a little early to pick up my daughter and go to the store to stock up on food.  Normally, my daughter hates going to the store with me, but this time, she was in a great mood and stayed in a good mood the whole time we were at the store!

My husband took the positive energy with him as well. When everyone started leaving work because of the snow and ice, a drive that normally took him a half hour turned into an over two hour commute. Being from Canada, he certainly knows how to drive in bad weather, and it would have been easy for him to get frustrated as he watched and dealt with a sea of drivers who didn’t know what they were doing. One driver in particular didn’t wipe the snow off his back window, causing him not to see my Jeff’s car and to cut him off. When he did finally see Jeff’s car, he gave him the middle finger for following too closely! In many cases, these kinds of simple misunderstandings trigger escalations in road rage that end in tragedy. Believe it or not, this was not the only person who unjustifiably flipped off my husband on his trek home! But instead of reacting as he might have if his day had started differently, Jeff was able to maintain his calm. He even had a sense of humor about the drive.

When we all got home, everyone was in a good mood. The kids played in the snow.  We made a fire, had some hot chocolate and called our Canadian relatives to bond with them about the snow.  (In full disclosure, before the end of Friday night, an entirely different kind of chain reaction had occurred at the Henricks household – I’m not sure exactly what triggered it, but both kids had melt downs, and although we didn’t all start crying, we definitely all four felt like it.) For most of Friday though, within our family, we realized a “contagion” of good choices. Our positive decisions in turn caused additional good choices. The smallest kindnesses were returned in kind and paid forward to others we encountered throughout our days. I have no idea what good choices we inspired outside of our family, but I hope there were others.

And I hope that we continue to make and inspire good choices by remembering that sometimes what God wants to see is not each individual person living up to his or her God-given potential, but the overall effect of His children working together and inspiring each other.  When I was part of the drill team, sometimes being part of creating a contagion meant doing a move slightly worse than your best. For example, if we did a high kick contagion, most of us did not kick quite as high as we could, so that all of our legs were at the exact same angle. The key and critical thing was not each individual wowing everyone with her amazing flexibility or dance skills, but the group’s precision and discipline in repeating a simple move.

Sometimes in life, I get stuck because I think I have to do everything perfectly. I don’t do the next right thing but instead procrastinate and try to escape by watching TV, playing a game on my phone or doing a myriad of other things that avoid my having to face that what I put out into the universe next is most definitely not going to be perfect and may not even be my very best. It helps to remember that maybe what God sometimes wants to see is not ME doing something that shows off just MY talents, but a drill team of His children doing one simple, good thing after another in repetition. And whether you’re talking about the incomparable Richardson Eaglettes, or the New York Rockettes, I imagine the effect of this kind of contagion is infinitely more incredible for God to watch.