Have you ever stopped to think how your actions affect others? REALLY affect others. If you’re married, perhaps you’ve thought about this relative to your spouse. If you have children, maybe the same thing. But have you ever looked at the things you do…the quirky stuff…and realized you’ve picked it up from someone else?

A simple observation prompted my thinking down this path, the power of influence others apparently have in my life. I was visiting my sister and her family this summer before our school had started but after theirs had begun. I was sitting in the kitchen with my brother-in-law and nieces, and as part of their morning routine, Jody pulled out a devotional, read through it with the girls, prayed briefly, then headed out for their day. Jody didn’t say a word to me about it. He didn’t make a big deal out of it or suggest that we needed to be doing something similar with our kids…it was just them living life. It reminded me of the oft-quoted thought by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

Jody had no idea I was watching them; heck, I didn’t even know I was watching them! But, before school started for us, I found a devotional that suited the age range of my kids. Reading it, the companion scripture and praying has become a part of our morning routine every day this school year. In spite of its routineness, it’s a good thing. I’m not sure the kids are being greatly spiritually impacted, but at least they see it as priority for our family, to begin our day setting our eyes Godward (lol, they hear me pray EVERYDAY for them to THINK before they SPEAK, to love the unloveable, to show grace and mercy instead of criticism or judgment… wonder when I’ll learn those lessons!).

This was what began the bunny trail in my mind about how countless others have their fingerprints all over me–friends, family, and in some cases complete strangers! Simple stuff. I cut brownies with a plastic knife and cut pizza with scissors thanks to Carol; I iron on the “wrong” end of the ironing board–the square end–thanks to Deana; when we have company, I ALWAYS think about Isabel if I even THINK about putting condiments on the table in their containers instead of a cute little dish; I wish I had the fortitude to fold our socks instead of rolling them, because as Gina says, the cuff of them won’t stretch out that way; when I hand-pick the “curly” chips out of a bag of Lays, I’m thinking of Christi (& her mom); when I smash scrambled eggs through the tines of a fork, that’s daddy; can anyone leave a shopping cart in the parking lot after spending any time w/the Ezzo’s???

Maybe the place I MOST see it is in the kitchen. I don’t have an original recipe in my repetoire! Dina’s apple pie & homemade crust, Anne’s sour dough loaves and corny cornbread, Beth’s parmesan chicken, Laura’s roast or grilled chicken salad, Shannondoah’s tetrazzini, Haley’s sweet & sour green beans, and my mother-in-law for just about everything from squash casserole to homemade butter mints.

A million other things, too many to capture……..but this little exercise causes me to pause and consider my influence over others. Am I influencing for good…or evil? I’m spicy…rebellious…stubborn.

The thing is, “influence” speaks most loudly when you don’t realize people are looking. None of the people listed here ever intended for me to pick up their “habit”, it was just them living life. But I observed something in them I must have liked, and parrotted their behavior until it became my own. I mean, some of these things I do every day!

For me, the place I see my not-so-good influence is when one of my children says or does something I do, that I wish I didn’t do. UGH! When I’ve heard some things coming out of my kid’s mouth, talk about failure as a mom!! Not beating myself up here, but I did seize that as a “teachable moment”. Great conviction in my own life to examine a sin area that affects others, talk about it (in this case, with my son), look at what God says it, then pray for change.

Because we can’t exactly choose the behaviors or habits our kids pick up–that anyone picks up!–doesn’t it make you wanna live rightly?? I’ve had several friends begin a sentence with “I remember something you told me a long time ago…” and I cringe wondering how they’ll complete it. Sometimes I remember saying it, more often not. The point is, you can’t control what people remember about you. AND, like I pray with our kids, you (I) should THINK before I speak; although I might be making a casual comment not intended to be highly regarded, the person(s) hearing me might take it to heart (maybe in a way I never intended).

Geezaree, I can be all over the place when I start writing, lol. But, man……when I think about this stuff, THIS is when I soooo want to be like Jesus. If anyone hears me say anything or is watching me, HE is what I’d want them to see…HE is the one I’d want them to imitate.

And so I end with the cry of my heart, “Oh, Lord, make me more like you, not for the glory of man, but for your glory alone!”

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