Un-telling is the Hardest Part

“Mommy, why is the baby in trouble?”

I glanced in the rearview mirror at my three-year old daughter as we pulled out of the hospital parking lot.  Tears silently fell as I choked back stifled sobs.

A puzzled look fell over her face.  “Is the baby in trouble because it hurt you?” she whispered.

“Did daddy tell you the baby was having trouble?”

Kolby nodded yes.

It was a conversation I wasn’t equipped for.  How was I going to explain to Kolby that the baby brother (or sister) she wished for with a penny and a prayer in the fountain at Starbucks was gone? 

How do you translate an ectopic miscarriage to a toddler?

“Sweetheart, the baby isn’t in mommy’s tummy anymore.  Now he is in heaven.”

Kolby scrunched up her face and gulped.  “My baby is with Jesus in heaven? But that’s so far away and I won’t see him.”

“Someday you will.  Someday we’ll meet him.”

Kolby sighed in sadness and closed her eyes.  Within minutes she fell asleep.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  The first of many tough conversations was over.  It’s the un-telling I dread the most.  The reason we hide our pregnancies for the first three months is for this exact moment.

Because it freaking sucks to un-tell the good news we were just starting to tentatively share.

This isn’t my first miscarriage.  I’ve had six over the last fifteen years with one well into my second trimester.  And just because I pass a “pregnancy milestone,” I know there are no guarantees. 

Life is a gift and it is sacred.  My three children are miracles.

Death and loss are never easy.  It always hurts, always feels unnatural and it ALWAYS rips apart the fabric of a mother’s heart.

So when I un-tell…yet again, please give me a hug.  Grab my hand and don’t feel like you have to say anything of relevance.  I don’t need to hear a scripture verse or a platitude.  At this point, I’ve pretty much heard them all. 

Sometimes the comfort and solace of Christ is best experienced in the un-said.  It’s in the flowers sent, the bread on my door for PB & J’s, the notes and texts and fingers squeezed.  It’s the family picnic in my bedroom on a scary Saturday night where all five of us laughed and prayed and hoped for the best in the worst of times. 

So here is my un-tell…

I lost a baby.  It didn’t work out this time.  I’m a little raw.  I cry easily.  I might avoid you but only because I don’t trust myself yet to have a normal conversation.  I’m also feeling tremendously blessed and loved.  I’m sad and I’m happy.

And just so you know, the baby’s not in ANY trouble.  He’s at a party right now in heaven.

Preach the Gospel at all times… and when necessary, use words. – Saint Francis of Assisi

The Illusion of Safe

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I am lulled into thinking certain things to be true. 

(Basically I lie to myself so I can go to sleep at night)

I tell myself a good a neighborhood is a barrier from the bad guys of the world.

I tell myself I am safe.

I live in Ladera Ranch –an awesomely Disney-esque suburb.  It’s supposed to be exempt from murder and rape and break-ins and a thousand other awfuls –or at least that’s how they justify our exorbitant property taxes.

But Ladera Ranch is a place, like any other place where a “neighbor” can  commit a heinous atrocity.

The darkness of the human heart isn’t finicky about addresses.

I thought about this long and hard after driving my kid’s to school yesterday morning as I watched helicopters and police cars circling around our little neighborhood. 

A shooting rampage that began in Ladera Ranch and traveled all over Orange County was underway. 

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to drop off my kids.  Kolby’s preschool and Faith’s middle school were only about two minutes away from yellow tape and a dead body. 

Mostly I just wanted to hug my kids and hubby and hold them close and I couldn’t relax until I knew the suspect was dead. 

One of my friends whose child attends my daughter’s school confronted the administration a week ago about school security.  They claimed “stuff like that never happens here” and “we don’t want to inconvenience the parents.”

LaderaRanchFront

Hmmm?

Last week we had a massive manhunt for Christopher Dornier-the cop killer.  A few months ago a guy tried to blow up a bridge next to my office with enough explosives to take out a mile radius.   Now this teenager from my own neighborhood has gone Rambo on us. 

Am I the only one who feels like simply opening the front door these days is an adventure? 

A few weeks ago the police informed us our own block had been cased and multiple homes robbed.  One man posed as a solar panel vendor and the other as a magazine salesman.  In truth, they were going door to door assessing homes to see if anyone was on the premises.

Both came to our home.

I slammed the door in the face of the fake solar home salesman after he yelled at me for not wanting to save money on my electric bill.  Let me say that again…a man came to my door and yelled at me for not buying his product.

I was astounded any solicitor would yell at a potential customer. 

At least now I have clarity.

The other young (mid-twenties) man came to the door and met my husband. 

Tim took the young man out on the porch and sat down with him.  I offered him lemonade and he kicked back and chatted with Tim for about thirty minutes.  We ended up giving him $40 for a magazine I imagine we will never get. 

But he didn’t rob us-either because we were home or because we bought him off or maybe because he liked us.

Three other homes were not so lucky.

I wonder if my husband’s effort to build a relationship with the robber made a difference.

Did my lemonade and smile thaw out his desperation?

As my mind tries to wrap itself around the pain, I try to make sense out of the senseless.  I want to know why and how and analyze ALL the details.  I watch the news like an investigator and try to peice the clues together.  But deep down -if I am honest, I know my job is simple… it’s to pray to God, surrender and look for opportunities to love.  Because all too often I miss them.  Don’t we all?

I believe love is the only thing big enough to make a difference. 

I still feel wobbly, scared and numb almost twenty-four hours later.

And I am left with more questions than answers .

But mostly, I am sad –sad for my kids, sad for our community and sad for these lost souls who live in a fatalistic land of hopelessness. 

How are you coping with all the violence?

Teens and Faith

Kyle party

The Irvine Spectrum (an outdoor mall in Southern California) was crowded and noisy with holiday shoppers searching for post-Christmas deals. A storm was blowing in and rain sporadically swept through and drenched everyone in it’s path.

My fourteen year-old son Kyle and his buddy anguished in a long line to buy movie tickets for “Reacher” only to have the show sold out. Frustrated, the boys bought tickets for the next show and aimlessly wandered around with an hour to kill.

A group of high school students stood in the center of the bustling courtyard, oblivious to the rain, and motioned for the boys to come over. An athletic kid with spiky blond hair walked up to my son and stuck out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Shane. Do you mind if I talk to you a moment?” the young man inquired.

Kyle and his friend shrugged their shoulders and agreed.

Shane told them he was from Compass Bible Church and active in the high school ministry there. Then he asked the boys if they knew Jesus.

Shocked at his boldness, Kyle’s friend stuttered, “Uh, yeah, I mean sure…we go to Catholic school.”

Shane looked at him and said again, “But do you know Jesus?”

Kyle’s friend started laughing and confessed, “Well I do have a “D” in religion, so maybe not so much.”

Then Kyle’s friend walked away but Kyle remained. He was intrigued by Shane’s confidence and engaged in the dialogue. Kyle explained he was a pastor’s kid and told him about the church he had helped to start in Mission Viejo.

The boys talked for forty-five minutes about scripture and God and Shane’s passion for Christ.

When Kyle came home after the movie he sat by my bed for a long time and shared all that had happened. Kyle was visibly shaken by his encounter with Shane –this very cool kid, who was not afraid to share his faith.

I imagine Kyle feels like it’s something he has to hide to be accepted.

I asked him what they talked about and while he hinted at a few things he clammed up about his “private convo”.

I didn’t press.

Kyle shared that Shane had asked for his number to follow-up with him. He seemed excited that a kid his age was so passionate about God and confidant enough to share and evangelize publicly.

It struck a chord in Kyle and I loved the sparkle in his eyes.

I went to sleep in true spiritual comfort. I don’t know how many times as a parent I have prayed for my son to have an encounter with God –on his own terms. I don’t want it to be me forcing Jesus down his throat. I want my son to discover Christ’s love all on his own.

As a pastor’s step-kid, this dance of faith and church is a prickly path to navigate. If we push too hard my son will rebel, if we become apathetic he will have no anchor. Somewhere in between, with tears and prayers I hope my son will find his way to Jesus, not in spite of me or to spite me, but because God has become bigger than anything else in his world.

I know we pushed too hard in the past when we started the church. Church planter’s kids and missionary kids don’t always emerge on the other side singing hymns and praising God. They are forced to tag along for a rough ride they didn’t sign up for. I’ve seen many kids blow out and associate God with pain. When college hits, they turn their back on the church.

In the last year, I felt God sensing me to ease up on the forced free labor of my kids at church. They now volunteer and serve by choice and while my middle daughter can’t get enough, my son has been more reticent.

Letting him pull back hasn’t been easy.

I have forced myself to release the burden of his walk with God. It’s been both scary and simultaneously freeing. But as a parent of a teen it’s something I think we must all face if we are to allow our children to make their faith their own and not something they do to simply pacify us.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still drag his butt to church, pay for Christian school and occasionally make him feed the homeless, but I am confident that ultimately, I can release my son to Jesus -the one who loves him even more than his doting mother.

And clearly God is revealing himself to Kyle in ways I could never orchestrate -spiky hair and all.

How do you navigate faith with your teen?

Doomsday Eve

I feel a little discombobulated today.

The protocol of Doomsday Eve is a bit uncertain. I’ve never experienced the last day before the last day of the world –unless you count Y2K and I recall that evening as REALLY anticlimactic. Nothing exploded, NORAD didn’t go off, and the champagne fizzled. 

But back to today…should I do anything radically different? 

I’ve considered going big.  Maybe downloading some new books on my Kindle, charging a few items on my credit card (since I’ll never have to pay the bill, right?) and topping off the evening with lots of kisses and cuddles to my munchkins and hubby.

Since we are starting a new tradition here, now that the end of the world seems to be predicted every ten years or so, maybe we could light a few candles and say a few prayers to all the doomsday Jackwaggons who have profited by instigating mass paranoia, hype and fear among the nations.

I read today that the real Mayans aren’t stocking up on food or guns.  Since half of the prophetic tablet is broken, they aren’t looking for decimation but instead towards a new season where they can fill in their own calendar with soccer games and Mayan celebrations.  I like their simplistic philosophy –while they happily live in huts and avoid the rat race, we in the more developed nations read their ancient antiquities and freak out.

A comment on one of the Doomsday sites from Mike Vidovich had me in stitches.

“Calendars change throughout history.  Caesar added leap year in 45BC. The Mayan calendar didn’t account for it. That added 514 days (1 every 4 years). By the Mayan calendar, today should be near the end of July 2013. Technically the world should have ended 7 months ago by the Mayan calendar.”

Mike, that’s comforting.

If one was to predict a real Doomsday, I think we might all be better off keeping our eyes on the nukes in the Middle East, preparing for more super-storms and taking earthquake and tsunami preparedness a little more seriously. I’m more afraid to send my kid to school these days then to worry about aliens coming down to some mountain in France tomorrow.

None of us is promised another day.  Lord willing, we will all have one more day to love and serve and make the world a better place.

So today, I will write, I will love and I will finish my Christmas cards.  I will clean my house which has gingerbread cookies crumbs everywhere and I will find the time to buy more presents that I can’t really afford for my beloved family.  I will snuggle my kids and wrap my arms around my darling husband.  And if this is my last day, then I will have no regrets.

And Saturday morning I will try not to mock the people who are disappointed to see another sunrise. “Try” being the optimum word.

 

We’ve Got (the) Spirit ,Yes We Do! We’ve Got Spirit, How About You?

Sometimes the title of “Christian” makes me cringe. 

I love God.  I walk beside Jesus and I believe his Word to be true, but when I see Christians browbeat others with rules I want to hide my fishy bumper sticker and run.

In a bizarre series of events a girl on my daughter’s cheer team went AWOL.  It’s not a big deal normally when a girl quits a team, but it’s a big deal when the girl quits the team the day after the group has won a spot to Nationals.  Without the sixteen members the team would be forced to forfeit.

The coaches suggested finding another girl to replace her.  The girl was not on our roster although she was of the same age and skill.  There are rules to protect teams from adding a “ringer” or a girl with superior skills, but this instance was not aimed at gaining an unfair advantage.  If anything, the replacement was more of a disadvantage in the added effort and time spent to bring her up to speed—although the switch might not have technically adhered to the letter of the law. It was a gray area scenario they wanted to investigate further.  They acknowledged that if someone wanted to make a big deal regarding the replacement the team could be disqualified.  They asked the parents if we were willing to take the risk.

All of the parents agreed to move forward understanding the consequences.

One mother walked up to the emergency meeting late.  She had not heard the full and detailed explanation but only picked up the last few words of the conversation.  She then interrupted, “I will not have my daughter be a part of anything questionable. I am a strong Christian and I don’t think this promotes the right values.  If we decide to move forward this way I am pulling her out.”

She walked off grumbling about how the Holy Spirit made her speak up in the midst of deceit.

If she had stopped for a moment and turned around she might have noticed the havoc her words left; in her wake of righteousness stood fifteen girls –including her daughter sobbing their hearts out. 

Now missing two girls, the coaches threw up their hands and canceled the rest of the season.  All their hard work went down the drain –in the name of being a “good Christian.”

OUCH!

Now if the Holy Spirit told her to speak up then by all means she needed to voice her concerns.  We are all held accountable to God for our actions. 

But I have to wonder if this wasn’t an example of the spirit of the law vs. the law?  Were these girls hurting anyone? No.  Were they trying to steal or cheat their way into an award? No.  They simply wanted a chance to compete –something they earned. The letter of the law is the rule that is put in place “not to add a un-rostered member.”  The spirit of the law is “don’t bring in a highly skilled cheerleader to get an advantage.”

I don’t know the mind of Christ.  His will is a mystery.  But I do know he was a bit of a rebel.  He healed on the Sabbath; he touched lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans.  He messed with the money changers and turned over tables in a fit of anger. 

And I imagine he might care more for the hearts of impressionable young girls than for a rulebook made up by a bunch of business savvy/aging cheerleaders who charge way too much money to let our girls climb on a stage and perform. 

Was this an issue of integrity or legalism?  While I don’t disagree with the focus on honesty I do take issue with self-righteousness in the name of Christianity.  It seems like what the parents and the girls heard that night was “because I am Christian, you don’t get to compete.” 

Only 16 percent of non-Christian young people under 30 say they have a “good impression” of Christianity, and a mere 3 percent feel that way about evangelical Christianity, according to the Barna Group, a Christian market research organization. As recently as the 1990s a majority of non-Christians viewed Christianity favorably.”

Research reveals that young people today consider their churches as fear-based, risk-averse, isolated, shallow, antagonistic to science, simplistic and judgmental about sexuality, and inhospitable to questions or doubts.

The biggest complaint on the under 30 crowd is that “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”

Fortunately, our coaches found an airtight and “100% by the cheer rulebook” way to work in a new girl which I am confident they would have done to begin with, because their credibility was on the line too. 

God did provide another way, one I think we are all more comfortable with.  I believe the rules are in place to protect although in some instances I believe the heart trumps being right for right’s sake.

I’m thrilled my kid still gets a chance to compete, but I still have a sour taste for the damage done to young girls who will never forget the night the “Christian lady” crushed their fragile hearts.

 Source of Photo: http://pinterest.com/hannahschliep/

The Gift of Present

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Kyle, Kolby and Faith

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I’ve never been one to understand the folks who bemoan a holiday or associate it with pain. My lack of empathy, while unintentional, comes strictly from a bundle of delicious memories tucked away in my heart .

While I know there is rampant family dysfunction and a thousand other awfuls abounding in the world –it’s never touched me during the season. Thanksgiving and Christmas were my respite from the chaos of life. I still catch myself searching for Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve after so many years of wanting to believe.

I relish the thought of pumpkin pie and chats with grandma, cheesy small talk with cousins and hours of football. I dress my kids in party frocks and it’s a no-brainer that I will gain at least gain two pounds from my mom’s pecan pie alone.

Unfortunately, due to some rough patches, I’ve now crossed over to the dark side.

Just the smell of turkey bums me out.

Two years ago I lost a favorite uncle while the turkey was in the oven, a year ago my aunt (his wife) joined him and I watched in disbelief as my cousins buried both their parents back to back. But now I am hit with the hardest pill of all to swallow –the diagnosis of my father with Dementia.

I look around the table and there are empty seats where smiles used to be. My heart lurches and pangs. The cranberries taste more bitter than sweet.

As we shared our blessings at dinner this year I wasn’t honest. I muttered out the typical Jesus-y pat answer. Certainly, I am fortunate to have a loving husband and beautiful children. We have health and provision and faith. I get it. I am thankful beyond words.

But I didn’t share what I was most grateful and most greedy for –these precious and now fleeting moments with my dad.

I don’t know how many Thanksgiving’s I’ve got left with him and quite frankly, it ticks me off. I couldn’t be truthful. I didn’t dare. I would have broken down and bawled like a baby all over the green bean casserole.

It took a long time (too long perhaps) to finally have the relationship I’ve always dreamed about with my dad. But this dream is is as delicate and fragile as the ones in my slumber. I’m afraid to wake up and watch it dissapear while I rub the sleep out of my eyes.

Will my father carry the tinkle of my daughter Faith’s laugh in his heart? Will he be able to recall the golden curls of little Kolby? Will he recognize his grandson’s smile and gentle spirit?

What if he forgets me? What happens when I call and my daddy doesn’t know my voice?

How do I enjoy this moment and swallow turkey when I am mourning over the tears which I know will inevitably follow?

I am envious of the peace my dad has discovered through suffering. He has surrendered to the inevitable and placed his hope in God. I, on the other hand am stubborn. I play a tug of war.

I know God is able to heal but his will is a mystery. I don’t understand, but I trust -sometimes begrudgingly. I worship through tears coming out my nose.

Stupid turkey. Stupid holiday.

Stupid me… for not appreciating every precious second.

My favorite part of Thanksgiving? Sitting next to my dad, breathing in his familiar coffee breath and taking mental snapshots of his every single move.

Reason #28 to be thankful –finally understanding the gift of being present.

What are you thankful for?

Trophy Child

 

Perusing through the bookstore, a catchy title caught my eye and I yelled for my husband.  There the two of us stood, mouths agape, as we stared at the cover of Trophy Child…and the parents that enable them.

The book had a cover of a sports star kid and his adoring parents fawning over him.

This book hit way too close to home –in an irritating and pissy sort of way.

I didn’t even want to pick it up.  I knew what it would say and I didn’t really want to hear it.

The truth is parents of kids who excel either in athletics or sports or even the arts DO treat their kids differently. 

I know this because I have two other kids along with my trophy child.

I’m certainly not spending a fortune on private coaches and speed training and all the little extras we do for Kyle on my other two.  To some extent I even expect Faith and Kolby to sacrifice for their brother. Our whole family is behind him and together with my ex-husband we are Team Kyle

I openly admit I give this kid special treatment.  I don’t wake up at the crack of dawn to make a hot meal for anyone in my family but my son.  We drive an extra distance to his private school. I run over to the school whenever he calls to bring him little things to make his life easier.  There are late-night runs to Sports Chalet and I help him with homework when he is too tired to hold up his head.  We go out of our way to meet his needs, even if it means the other two suffer a bit in the process.

I don’t do this for my girls.  I love and adore and treasure my girls but I’m not a butt kisser to them like I am my son. But it doesn’t mean if they had a dream like Kyle I wouldn’t be willing to do the same for them.  In fact, I hope and pray they do!

Now, part of our special treatment is directly related to Kyle’s effort.  The kid has heart and discipline and strives at a level I am in awe of.  He wakes up at 5:45am every morning to stretch before weight-lifting.   He does extra workouts on his own, on top of the extra workouts we schedule for him.  He is committed and focused and I want with all my heart to help him achieve his goal of playing college football.   He works hard in school and performs at a high-caliber.  It doesn’t hurt that he also a really nice and amiable kid. 

We expect a lot and he over-achieves on every level.

But where I know we fall into the trophy child trap is putting his success before the rest of the family and sometimes even before God.  Football takes all his time and at least during the season, there is no time for extras.  Youth group goes by the wayside.  Service is missed.  It’s about all I can do to shake him out of his stupor on Sunday mornings to get him to stumble in to church with me.

He suits up for three games a week.  He practices twenty hours.  The abuse on his body by week eight of the season is intense.  Every inch of Kyle has a bruise or a cleat mark.  His pinky is a puff-ball of black and I am deeply grateful we have gotten this far in the season without any major injuries. 

I know there is probably an appropriate balance between sports and God and not allowing our son to get a big head; I just don’t think it’s as easy or trite as some make it out to be.  Commitment means sacrifice.  But God is clearly a non-negotiable. 

And so we must teach our son to weave him into every facet of his day, into each game and during the seasons where he is deeply engaged both on and off the field.

So here’s to trying to living by God’s priority and not our own in the midst of raising a trophy child. 

 

Traveling Light

This might sound crazy to some, but I was slightly depressed the day I couldn’t fit all of my stuff in the trunk of my car.  Renting a U-Haul to schlep all my junk was so…emotionally draining.

Did I really need all this STUFF? 

Need or Want?

It’s a question I battle every time I go to Target.  I fill up my cart and then before I check out, I stop and go through each item asking myself, “Is this a need or a want?”

Need: Toilet Paper   Want: Hunger Games DVD

When I saw this article on Nicolas Berggruen, “The Homeless Billionaire” something within my spirit resonated. 

I strongly believe in simple abundance and I found a billionaire who follows my ethos!

What is Simple Abundance?

Here is what simple abundance entails: It’s the idea of not being tied down to stuff or allowing THINGS to control me.  Simple abundance knows that every new thing carries a cost of maintenance and it only allows the truly important things to define me.

Nicolas sold both of his homes and his personal island, now traveling the world with “what little he owns in storage and travels light, carrying just his iPhone, a few pairs of jeans, a fancy suit or two, and some white monogrammed shirts he wears until they are threadbare.”

Now, I am not as extreme as Nicholas.  I have a mortgage and I deeply value both home and family.  I want to create a safe haven for my loved ones, but Nicholas reminds me I don’t need to collect and hoard things.

In the words of Pastor Kenton Beshore, “It all goes back in the box someday and you can’t take it with you.”

What defines you?

So instead of buying boats and clothes and more STUFF, I want to collect relationships and experiences with people.

I think Jesus would have been a simple abundance kind of guy. He traveled light. 

How about you?  What do you collect?

For a great fashion blog on this concept, check out The Twenty Pieces Project-Life With Less.

Photo Credit: From isleofviewblog.tumblr.com

An Experiment in Motives

I’m not very good at fasting.  Only once, did I manage three days without food, and it was traumatic enough to avoid repeating –ever.

But I recently came across an idea –or motto really, I thought was worthy of emulating.  It was a line in a mediocre movie that somehow made the film memorable because it stuck in my head and won’t go away, lodged in like a piece of sticky gum to the indent of a shoe. 

The depressed male protagonist reaches for a drink and offers one to the lovely lady he desires.  She admonishes him, pushes away the cocktail and states, “I don’t drink to feel better, I only drink to feel EVEN better.”

What a line!  A string of words so powerful I’m still thinking about it six months later.

Hmmmm? 

Do I drink to feel better or do I drink to feel EVEN better?

So, after much contemplation, I decided to try a little self-examination and take a month off of drinking alcohol, noting my motives and becoming self-aware of the moments I might be inclined to reach for a glass of wine or order up a frothy margarita to feel better. 

Now, I’m not a big drinker.  Some of my friends call me neurotic regarding my self-imposed limitations.  I almost never have more than two drinks unless its vacation and the effects are extended far throughout the day.  It’s a control thing, and a Jesus thing, and an issue with idiot’s thing –namely I don’t want to act like one.

But that being said, I’m no teetotaler.  I do like the mommy sippy cup on a Friday night, the skinny margarita on a Saturday afternoon, and the soothing mimosa of a Sunday brunch.  When I check off the box at the doctor I fess up to three drinks a week –maybe four.

It’s been ten days now of my self-imposed drinking fast and this is what I’ve discovered.

When it’s been a tough week of work, I feel entitled to a drink.  Stress, fatigue, kids…these all make me long for release, for the languid relaxation a good Cabernet has to offer.  If the wine accompanies chocolate…it’s even better.

On Saturdays when I am with my family and friends I want to celebrate.  I think my motives are the most appropriate here.  I’m happy, content and genuinely desire to enjoy relationships, a good meal and rejoice in my blessings.

But the toughest one to admit is I how much I long for a drink at brunch on Sunday following church.  And this one could go either way regarding the “feel better or EVEN better scale”.  Certain Sundays I feel encouraged and buoyant with joy and determination, but there are other days I feel exposed and prickly. Maybe the pastor hit a little too close to home and my emotions are in a tangled turmoil.

But out of rote habit I order a drink because it’s just what I do on Sunday –not a very good reason.

I also noticed when we cut out the drinks how I reached for sugar instead.  I wanted to stop and get a mocha coconut frappachino after church if I couldn’t have a glass of wine –darn it!

This little experiment has made me inordinately aware of my coping mechanisms and the emotions behind them.

I want to be the kind of person who takes every hurt and tension to the Lord.  But the truth is, I sprinkle a few burdens at the gym, drop off some more on a good run, hand a few over to chocolate and release the last voluntary dregs to a margarita. 

Then, and only then, do I hand over all the stuff I can’t control to God.  I can imagine him watching me carrying around my big pile of junk and chuckling at my woebegone state…just waiting for me to come and lay it at his feet.

We have about twenty more days of our drinking fast (I roped my husband into doing it as well) and it’s been deeply revealing about the state of my heart and where I turn to cope with the beautiful chaos of life.

How about you?  Do you drink to feel better, or to feel EVEN better?

 

Husband Bashing

The second the words left the woman’s mouth, floating in the air like a little bomb on the cusp of detonation, I knew I had to chime in.  While her comment was probably not malicious–if left unchecked –the game of husband bashing could do irreversible damage to the Christian ladies gathering.

I’ve noticed this sport usually starts with a hefty dose of female empowerment masked in affirmations and coy compliments… “Ladies, I have been so blessed by this group and by these AMAZING female friendships to the point where I feel like I don’t even need a man around anymore.  Don’t you agree?”

Subtle wink…dainty pout …lips parted with just a hint of an invitation.

And then each woman, happily married, bitter and single, or somewhere in between… makes an instantaneous but crucial decision –do I jump on the bandwagon and annihilate my husband’s (or ex-husband’s) character or defend him and take a stand against the crowd?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.  I was the bitter chick for a few years after my divorce that turned tea parties into toxic parties and now I cringe at my past behavior. 

(Hurt people hurt people, right?)

Just as the first few lovelies dove onto the slippery slope of male abuse, I jumped in and loudly interrupted, “Look ladies…the beauty of healthy female friendships is how it enhances marriage –not replaces it.  When our uniquely feminine emotional needs are addressed by empathetic girlfriends who understand us then we don’t place false expectations on our man to decipher our complicated hearts.”

I paused and waved my arms around for emphasis.  “This allows our husband to operate as a real man who loves to fix and struggles to listen to chick-speak without the burden of fulfilling our every whim.  My husband is a tremendous man who both refines and compliments me.  And while I certainly love all of you, I am first and foremost my husband’s biggest fan and I refuse to act like he is big dolt or a Homer Simpson wannabe.”

The table went silent and tongues poised to launch a volley of verbal assault paused and retreated.  The claws went back in and then a chorus of agreement chimed in.  “Oh yes, we do need our men…they are so wonderful…I do love my husband.”

I sat back down in turmoil –glad I had spoken up but frustrated I even needed to.  Sadly, I see this happen all too often –women gossiping loudly about their husbands faults and complaining to whoever lends a willing ear.  I know if the shoe were on the other foot and I discovered my husband trash talked me in public I would be devastated.  So why do women act like we have a hall pass in this area?

In an ideal world there would be no double-standards in marriage.  And though I far from perfect in this area and still consider myself a recovering gossiper, I try to remember I can’t expect my husband or our children to act differently than the behavior I model.  So what am I teaching my son and two girls when they accidentally hear mommy dissing daddy on the phone to her BFF?

What if we –as wives –chose to affirm our husbands instead of nit-pick?  What if we saw the best and let go of the little irritants?  What about truly forgiving and FORGETING, instead of forgiving and then repeating the offense to the gals in Pilates to get a big laugh?

I want to be the type of woman who champions her husband at all costs.  I try to speak of him and about him in the highest regard.  And I’ve found, quite inadvertently, my words and actions are helping him become the man he wants to be because he feels supported–even when he makes mistakes and even when he struggles.  This allows him to take bigger risks and move towards the best in life because he knows I am his team-mate and not a passive aggressive opponent licking his face and simultaneously peeing on his leg.

Harold Macmillan –a British politician once said, “No man succeeds without a good woman behind him.”  I think Harold is on to something.  And I think starts by being an advocate of marriage and learning the art of keeping our mouth shut.

 

 

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