Thankful for Imperfection

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell

A few days before Thanksgiving you are probably picturing what your day will look like. I think its safe to say that most of us won’t look like Norman Rockwell’s version. 

I’ve been thinking a lot of how thankfulness and grace are related or how it needs to be. (grace = unmerited favor, giving good to be people when they don’t deserve it.) When it comes to our families, I think we have to embrace a degree of grace to be thankful. To be thankful for what our family is, we must find a way to have grace for what they are not. Grace for what our parents weren’t to us. Grace for decisions that our kids made that we don’t agree with. Grace for conversations that were never had or for stinging words said. 

As Americans, we have really high expectations for everything.  We expect the best and believe that we deserve it. We need to be better at accepting things that aren’t perfect. The truth is that all families have failures and hurts. To be normal is to be imperfect. 

I don’t mean that we should ignore hurts from our families. Its not possible and its definitely not helpful. Its finding a way for hurt and love to coexist. In your case, there might have been much more hurt than love and that should be addressed maybe with your family or with a counselor. If you are going to continue to have a relationship with those who have hurt you, you must find a way to value something about them or that relationship. Otherwise, all you will have is the hurt.  

When that “oh no” moment happens, remember that this is just how family gatherings work when there are imperfect people involved. I hope we can have grace for that, maybe address it in our best adult manner, and strive for better next year. 

-Jennifer 




What is Love?

What is Love?

The scenario is not uncommon to the counseling room: teenage girl who has found her first true love and her parents are less than impressed by the guy which she writes off as they just don’t understand their love. 

One of my favorite things to talk about with adolescents is what is love. I have asked many teens and parents to give me a definition of love. At first, I get the that’s a silly question look and then people get a little stumped as they try to construct a definition. The best answer I’ve gotten (not kidding) is love is a feeling that two people share. Mostly people just say you can’t define love; you just know it when you are in it. 

I believe that most people think of love in this way – just having that feeling, just knowing. However, this creates some problems for relationships in the future. It is shown in divorcing couple who says we just feel out of love. Now love is an undefinable feeling that can come and go without warning. From this perspective, it would be hard to love one person for a life time. 

Romantic movies are giving teens and young adults a slim picture of what love and being and staying in love takes. We will give Hollywood a break because its much more fun to watch the Bachelorette on a date in a sailboat in the middle of a sparkling bay than to watch a couple with small kids sitting slumped over besides each other watching the Bachelorette (she is watching, he is sleeping). 

I love to talk to teenagers about thinking through relationships, evaluating a partner, and what makes a relationship work in the longer run. Of course, that exciting feeling is great but they often don’t know the spark isn’t all that a relationship needs. 

Some things we talk about are:

  • What is love?
  • How should a partner act towards you and those you love (i.e. family, friends)?
  • How do our values, beliefs and goals align? Do I even what mine are?
  • What are we doing? Are we dating? Do I want to date? Do they want a future together?
  • When should things happen like saying I love you? meeting close friends and family? having sex? getting married? moving in together?
  • How would you know they are not the right person for you?
  • Are you different around them than when you are around your friends and family?
I could keep listing areas but the goal is to get people thinking and working more on their love than just floating with the feeling. If you just rolling on the river on love, it will eventually dry up and usually not in a place you would chose. 

-Jennifer