Maybe it’s a tad dramatic to say I dreaded the conversation. But it did kind of put my stomach in knots and make me want to look at the ceiling and take a few deep breaths. 

It’s just… I was so sure I knew how she’d respond. And I didn’t like thinking about that.

You see, when everything went upside-down and I had a kiddo in the ICU, a very dear, very sweet, very qualified friend of mine took over a responsibility that I had committed to in our homeschool community. And not a small responsibility either… weekly tutoring a language, grammar and writing class that required preparation and planning and time.

Once the fog began to settle and our whole family was under the same roof again, I slowly, carefully tiptoed back to the dear homeschool community that supported our family, cared for our children and loved us in a million ways, big and small, through our difficult journey. It was hard to figure out what moving forward looked like.

We felt so welcomed and loved. When I asked the other Moms to sort of prepare their kiddos and maybe try not to overwhelm Blake, they heard and responded. Blake was so gently and lovingly cared for. What a relief!

Eventually, the question came up: When might you start back? When might you start tutoring that class?

And suddenly, my heart felt like a really heavy rock. Like the rock they tied to Aladdin when they wanted him to sink to the bottom of the river. Sink-to-the-bottom heavy.

At home, I began processing the idea. And “yes, I guess maybe I should ” floated through my mind. And “perhaps after Christmas break.” And, “I did commit to it, I should follow through.”

But with each of those thoughts, the rock just felt heavier and heavier. Thinking about it for too long made me want to cry. Can I do that and still focus on the kiddos at home? And keep learning how to help Blake continue to make progress?

So I needed to talk to my sweet friend and ask: How is it going? Is it awful? Are you dying for me to come back so you can stop carrying that responsibility?

I thought perhaps she was avoiding the conversation because she didn’t want to put any pressure on me to start back, even though she was SO ready to be done.

And I felt like I could already answer for her:Yes, I’m tired and I don’t want to be doing this job right now, and please, when are you starting back?

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,

But a man of understanding draws it out.

{Proverbs 20:5}

Here’s something I should’ve learned by now but obviously haven’t:
You cannot know for sure what another person
is thinking or feeling until you ask.

The things going on in a person’s heart? They’re like deep waters. It takes time to dive down and see what’s there.

In a moment that seemed like happenstance, but was clearly the goodness of the Lord, we had the perfect opportunity to have a conversation about how things were going.

I have a feeling you know what I found out.

She was NOT dying for me to come back. She was enjoying the class. She was having fun. She was willing to help for the whole year, knowing what our family has been through and that it would take time to recover. She was even looking ahead to next semester and wanting to begin preparing for one of the fun events towards the end of the school year, but (GET THIS!!) she was worried that I might be feeling like she was trying to control everything!

Can you even? 

I’m at one end of the line, biting my nails over a conversation I don’t want to have because I’m completely sure she feels like this, (and I’m way off) and she is at the other end, yes, trying to be careful not to make me feel any pressure, but also secretly worried that she’s caused offense!

I was so grateful God brought us together for that conversation — and suddenly the very heavy rock inside my chest miraculously disappeared. And I cried anyway.

So here’s a question that holds a lesson for all of us.

Are you convincing yourself that someone thinks this or feels thatwithout anything but the evidence you’re compiling in your own brain based on what you are thinking they’re thinking?

Are you perhaps having conversations (maybe even arguments) in your head? And you’re thinking what you’ll say, how the other person will respond, what you’ll say next in response to that?

A wise friend of mine once counseled me before Mark and I married:

Don’t have a fight in your head, because it’s not a fair fight.

Instead, we have to do ourselves a favor and ask questions. They can’t be leading questions, either. We have to ask honest questions that give the other person a chance to say how they honestly feel without being told a) how we think they feel or b) how we think they should feel. 

When we make assumptions about what other people think or how they feel, we can be angry with them for a fight that never happened — because it just happened in our heads. Or we can feel hurt for something we think they believe about us or about something that matters to us — but once again, they haven’t said that and we’re only basing our hurt on our own perceptions of reality.

When we build a notion on our assumptions about someone else’s thoughts or heart, we are building sand castles too close to the water, or stepping onto a tight rope above shaky ground. The best way to find out what someone else is thinking is to ask questions that don’t lead or push or corral someone toward one camp or another. Then we can move forward with making plans or finding solutions, standing on solid ground.

This funny little surprise interaction with my friend was a fantastic reminder of a bigger life principle that I want to nestle into my heart and hold onto: 

Start a real, good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. That’s the absolute best way to know for sure what someone else is thinking.



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Update on Blake

This evening we read our Christmas devotional as a family. The title was “Surprise Gifts” and the story was about Joseph, his famous colorful coat, his mistreatment by his brothers, and his eventual realization that what had been intended for evil, God worked together for good. As Blake brought me his carefully colored ornament, he said, “It is like the story. The devil meant my eyesight problems and what happened in my brain for evil, but God worked it out for good.” {I later discovered he and his Dad had had a little conversation about how God worked out his brain surgery for good.} He followed that up with a comment about how he didn’t need to color around the edges of his picture in order to see the whole thing. And lo and behold, the picture was colored, all the way to the left, all the way to the right and all in between. 

Blake continues to show signs of physical improvement, but I sometimes wonder if the most important things aren’t perhaps happening in the unseen places of the heart. Blake’s heart, our hearts, and the other hearts who’ve been touched by his story, too. He is taking his Math lessons one problem at a time and he is managing to process and retain information with more and more precision and accuracy. (A friend at church taught him “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers” and he memorized and repeated back the whole tongue twister almost perfectly in one sitting!) 

We continue to pray (and hope you will join us) for Blake’s eyesight to improve, his memory to continue to strengthen (and how glorious it is to see those prayers are being answered!) and for the complete disappearance of his AVM. What a joy it is to say Hallelujah! We are so grateful at the Collie house these days — with four children coloring ornaments at the coffee table and four stockings hanging by the chimney. God has been so good to us!

Did you catch this post with some of our family’s favorite children’s books this year? {If you’re thinking of putting books under the tree, it might help!}

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