Have you ever watched a TV show or movie, or read a book, where the father was a strong and silent type that did not know how to encourage and compliment his kids well, yet in following the story you knew that he completely loved them? That somehow, he just didn't understand how to express his thoughts in the moment to build up those around him. By the end of the movie a crisis has happened that perhaps gets him to open up and demonstrate his love, and the relationships that were strained, by kids who felt they could never live up to their Dad's approval now knew that they did.
There are probably a thousand characters that fit this description, and I admit I am probably much more like them than I care to admit. I am sure that I don't compliment others in the moment often enough. Perhaps I am seen as critical because of not speaking up, when the fact is I am completely devoted and appreciative of who they are. I just need some work on this topic. So this post, is part asking for forgiveness, part resolving to be better at this, and part celebration of the people and groups that I should have been complimenting!
Marriage definitely has taught me lessons in how much I need to improve my encouragement and compliments for the sake of another person. I love Amanda with all my heart, but I realize that she needs affirmations regularly and genuinely, in the moment, as to how special she is. Being the un-smooth guy I am, I severely suck at telling her she looks amazing in an outfit before going out. With her work schedule being opposite of mine, the difficulties of our different schedules often waylays my best intentions to lift her up and make her feel special (like when she is so tired she can't stay awake or want to hold a meaningful conversation to where I wanted to compliment her in the first place!). I'm really not trying to make excuses, because the bottom line is I she needs to understand what an amazing nurse and wife she is.
If we can remember and take time to look at the funny things we argue about, then we need to have just as many moments of validation and support. Amanda has been working in a level 1 trauma ICU for the past 2 years, on night shift in an area of town that sees more than its fair share of traumas, and she has not only survived but is thriving. Time and again there are evidences from work, and elsewhere, that she is doing a tremendous job. When it comes to the rest of life, she likewise is doing an amazing job at trying to balance the various aspects of life. Having such an irregular schedule, church activities and dinner with friends infringe on the same time as just "relaxing" at home as well as our much needed date time.
One thing I love about Amanda is that I know we actually do listen to each other. Sure, we're both a bit stubborn, so it may not always seem like it right away, but Amanda does listen and work on improving herself and meeting my needs, just as I do for her (I hope!). Its one of the aspects of our relationship that I find to be the most appealing to me...that we are still mutually yielding to one another in this life. We actually like hanging out together, and are willing to put certain things aside for the sake of the other person. Not all relationships are like this, and for this I deeply intend to thank Amanda.
I could probably continue to go on and on about Amanda, but for the sake of this post, I want to move on to others that I am sure I need to compliment.
I value and honor my parents, for all they taught and pushed me to do in learning and approaching life. There are many life lessons and aspects that I cherish and will pass along to our kids (whenever that happens). They did an amazing job, I think, of letting me make decisions and simply push me to reach my potential in making them.
Joe & Heather, you are great to have as brother & sister and setting a high bar for what parenting in the McFarren family looks like!
I want to thank my friends from childhood, West Point, church, and the Army that no longer live near me, and so communication is limited - Joe Lacanlale, Nathan Helms, Adam Zoll, Barry Friesen, Wes Luzadder, Wade Gardner, Jeremiah Colon, Tony Lahr, James Warren, Jamie Pope, Will Hunter, Marcus Forman, Curtis Hanson and many many more as the years go on. Your friendship, kindness, and insights (even in making fun of me) demonstrate the positive side of how life can be lived.
For those I went through seminary with at Fuller, I am amazed at the capable hands and amazing hearts and minds that are working for God. The many insights, genuine care, and pastoral considerations give hope not only to those who agree exactly as you do, but to the world. Hope exists in the way that you have been willing to allow God to direct you to love Him and love others better. For those in my cohort especially - Susan, Carrie, Matt, Eric, Michael T. Michael C. Dairus, Amber, Ken, Krisi, Chris, Richard, and Steve - thank you for all you poured into not only me, but each other as well. I hope and pray that God will continue to guide and direct each of you in the way you should go. I love hearing you preach, teach, speak, and listen to each other. Thank you for demonstrating how civil discord can take place, especially in the midst of differing opinion.
Steve Metro, you genuine leadership of a faithful group of Christ followers through the intricacies of life is an inspiration and definitely helped me not only during the testing fires of seminary, but continue to provide hope and affirmation that the Kingdom of God is "already but not yet." You've heard Amanda & I say how much we love being a part of Emmaus Road, and we mean it so much. The fact that a community has been fostered that genuinely cares for each other, walking through the difficulties of many lives in the faithfulness of God, and not compromising that call for the sake of success is awesome. I also thank you for seeing in me what you have seen and given time and opportunity to develop. (And that goes out to the rest of the church leadership team as well!)
To all those at Emmaus Road, you are amazing people who are genuine and real. I look forward to continue walking alongside you! You have a lot of giftings and talent, and it will be great to see how it develops!
For those at the Refinery Christian Church, I also thank you for the opportunities and support you provided as I began to pursue this call to service. Chad, Kevin, you have provided good insight and practical wisdom in many aspects of faithful service to the Kingdom of God. Lanni, James & Alyssa, Rick & Shirley, Rich & Cathy, and others, your love, support, and discussions are always appreciated and insightful! I felt so honored to be able to lead the small group and learn from all of you empty-nesters!
The Choplins, for watching Sonora while we're gone and letting us watch Haven while you are! You do so much service and deserve God's best for you and your children's lives.
I'm sure I could, and should continue on to compliment others, but I don't want you to think that you need to call a hotline on me or anything...
The bottom line is I hope I can do a good job of affirming other people, because if I know you, then I know I am honored by that interaction. I have learned from each and every one of you how to be a better person.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.