Friday, May 15, 2015

Truth About Marriage

After almost eighteen years of marriage, I've learned some things. Not all the things, but some things, and after watching a sweet, young couple in front of me in the check out line a few days ago, I think I'll share a few of those things in the hopes that other young couples may read this and hear.

The young couple appeared to be in their very early twenties and still had the doe-eyed look of young love and I wished in my heart-of-hearts that they would hold tight to that love and never let it go, even when the doe-eyed look fades...and it WILL fade.  

It's the nature of new love. Those first flushes of excitement wear off and suddenly the fact that she actually does fart and doesn't always spend an hour on her hair or that he occasionally leaves his underwear on the floor and doesn't particularly care if the grass is higher than his knees begins to grind the rose colored glasses down to the real.  The real is where the good stuff lives, though, even if the Harlequin romances and 72 day marriages of Hollywood tell a different tale.

So, here's the truth of what I've learned after loving the same man for almost two decades of for better and for worse:

1. Sex matters.  Sex matters a lot. Too often, though, women use sex as a weapon and men use sex as a measuring stick for love.  Too often the world tells us that sex is only about the physical and we believe the lie.

To the women:  Sex is not a tool to get your man to do what you want, when you want.  Sex is not a toy that you withhold like your man is a dog there to perform tricks or finally have sex "if he's good". I have zero friends who play this game because I can't tolerate this kind of woman. 

Sex isn't like those stupid novels make it out to be. (Thank God)  Sex isn't going to always be up to the man to initiate nor should it be.  He wants to feel wanted, too. 

And to the men: A woman doesn't owe you sex because you took out the trash or washed the car or for any other reason. Sex isn't a reward system by which you can determine if she loves you or not.  If you only do the things you should already be doing in the hopes that you'll get laid, then your wife, and you, deserve better.  

You should do the things you should be doing because you love your family. Sex will follow because her heart feels warm and soft toward her husband who happily cares for her and what's theirs. 

This is basic stuff, guys. If your girl feels cherished and loved and knows you value her, your sex life will increase exponentially but only if you do those things BECAUSE you love her, not because you want sex. (read that again, guys)

Sex is designed to create intimacy with your spouse in a way that you can not, and should not, have intimacy with anyone else on the planet.  And, if done correctly, sex not only feels good, but also conveys a level of trust and love that nothing else can imitate or replace. A man's needs are different than a woman's but with the right level of communication and trust, sex can become the bridge by which many other obstacles can be overcome in a long-term marriage.  

PS....After 20 years of marriage, I will also share with you that "the more you do it, the more you do it and the less you do it, the less you'll do it".  

Sex, like everything else, must have a place in your marriage.  You must prioritize being intimate with your spouse!  

And here's another secret not enough long-term married couples discuss, especially among Christians (which is wrong!!):  Sex with my husband is better NOW, after almost twenty years, than it ever was when we first married and he fully agrees. Sex gets better with time!!

2.  Communication may be the key, but HOW you communicate is everything else:  We've all heard the saying that communication is the key to a good relationship and I don't disagree. You must communicate with one another. However, I think there should be a blurb after that statement that says "And HOW you communicate may determine if your key works or not."

 Ever heard someone use a tone of voice that lets you know they actually mean the OPPOSITE of what they said?  Your tone of voice and inflection matters when you communicate. It matters even more when you're speaking to your husband or wife.  Why?  Because your spouse can push buttons no one else even knows exist. Your spouse can find buttons that YOU didn't even know exist. Amen?

The tone of voice and the way that my husband communicates with me (and vise versa) determines if we're going to ACTUALLY communicate or if we're going to go around and around and around until we're both just about ready to vomit...or stab each other.  Not in the face or anything. Just in the arm or something. (just kidding...mostly)

Wait until you can communicate in a tone of voice that matches what you want to say before saying anything, even if you have to say, "I REALLY need to speak with you about what happened, but we're going to have to wait for an hour or two because I simply can't do it rationally right now."  When you feel rational, talk it out, tell the TRUTH about how you feel and recognize that the entire point of arguing is to find a compromise you can BOTH live with. 

Here's an example of something that happened in my marriage to give you a visual:  My husband is a toucher. He likes to sit cuddled on the couch and is always rubbing my back as he passes or basically just touching me in some way. He's like a super toucher.

I'm not really that way. You know what?  I'm the opposite of that, actually. But, he NEEDS to be touched. It's his love language. 

After we'd been married a few years I noticed that he got quiet when I'd sit in the love seat and read while he sat on the couch and watched TV.  I'd learned his "pout" and that was it. 

When I asked him what was wrong he didn't shrug and say, "Nothing".  (Stop doing that if that's your idea of communication. You're lying and your spouse already knows something is wrong if they asked. They live with you. They KNOW when something isn't right.  If you don't want to talk right then, then say that.  But, stop saying "nothing" when there's something. You're making the problem worse.)

When I asked him what was wrong, he didn't begin the conversation by accusing me or being angry at me. That wouldn't have ended well for either of us. He just told me the absolute truth in a conversational tone of voice. (Tell. The. Truth.)

What he said was this: "I feel rejected right now." 

I was horrified. "WHAT?!"

He went on to explain that when I distanced myself from him in that way, he felt rejected. We didn't need to have some big psychological discussion about why he needs to be touched to feel loved. We didn't need to have some long lecture about why he needs ME to initiate that intimacy sometimes. 

The simple truth is this:  I NEVER want my husband to feel rejected by me and if a simple thing like sitting beside him on the couch makes him feel better, then that's what I'll do when I can.

Oddly enough, I not only learned to initiate snuggling together on the couch, but I enjoy it.  This wasn't some big life change or sacrifice I had to make.  This wasn't "the little woman" having to change myself for my man.  This was a wife who loves her husband being told that something as simple as sitting side by side on the couch made him feel loved and cared for and wanted. And I WANT him to feel loved and cared for and wanted, because he is. Period.

Find the compromise, then go have great sex.(I'm not even kidding here.)

3. Prioritize your marriage into the #1 spot on your list:  Marriages fall apart every single day because one spouse or the other places something above their marriage on their list of priorities.  Whether it's a job, or money, or other family members, or activities, or friends or whatever else matters to you, nothing comes before the person you're sharing your life with. 

This one is much harder than it sounds.  It's easy for an ambitious person to place their job into slot #1, all the while thinking...Just as soon as I get this promotion, I'll come home earlier. As a woman who not only home educates her children but is also a real estate broker believe me when I tell you this:  You won't. You'll come home earlier when your marriage matters to you. 

It's easy for a Mom to place her kids above her husband and all the while be thinking...I'll spend more time with my husband just as soon as the kids are a little older. You won't. You'll spend more time with him when you make him a priority.  

It's easy to say to yourself...My friends were here before my husband and I shouldn't just drop them for him.  No, you shouldn't, but when you made vows to your spouse, your friends are behind your spouse on the priority list and everyone in that circle should realize and honor that position.  

Friends are VERY important and I want to clarify that if your partner tries to guilt you out of having ANY friends, you have a problem, but your friends should never try to guilt trip you into spending more time with them than with your spouse. Those people are not your friends. Period. 

I love him.

PS on prioritizing:  Dear men who play video game for hours after work every day even after your wife has asked to spend time with you:  Please put them down. No woman wants to look over at a man child who has callused thumbs because he plays games all evening. Gross. Your wife should matter more than Zelda or Call of Duty or whatever pretend world you think is cool and if she doesn't, stop looking shocked when she has no interest in you.  WAY too many women out there are having to discuss this issue.  Honestly, I'm not sure how I would have dealt with this one. My man plays games with our kids on occasion, but other than that, he lives an adult male life.

4. Never Gossip About Your Husband, Mostly:  Never is a strong word, so I want to clarify.  I think every person needs someone who knows them well enough to be able to share the good, the bad and the ugly, apart from their spouse. (This someone should ALWAYS be the same sex, too! More on this later.) 

 I have two friends that I trust enough to vomit most of my ugly onto when I'm about to explode.  These friends know me well enough, and have known me long enough, to know how to pray with me, guide me and when to just listen and let me rant it all out.  I don't discuss my husband with anyone else. Ever. EVER! 

 I don't gossip about him, I don't tell his secrets and I don't bad mouth him. I am his confidant and he is mine. I love him. 

Sometimes we scrape each others nerves, but I love him all the way, all the time, with all of my heart.  My two female confidantes know this and have witnessed this and would never lead me AWAY from my spouse, but always point me back TOWARD my spouse. If you're sharing with friends who do anything other than that when you're having a difficult time (and you WILL have difficult times), then stop allowing those people into the inner circle of your heart.  They'll break it, and your marriage, eventually.

5. Married Individuals Should Not Have Private, Individual Friends of the Opposite Sex:   I know I'm going to get emails about this one, but go ahead...bring it.

Married men and women divorce every day because they "just wanted someone to talk to and she/he was there for me".  Or what about this one: "We started out as friends and, you know, she/he just really got me. They're my soul mate".  No, they aren't.  They're the person you gave your emotional intimacy to because you stopped giving it to your husband or wife. This happens entirely too often to ignore. 

Married men/women should not be consistently hanging around alone with someone of the opposite sex. The ONLY exception here is a business lunch/meeting that your spouse is fully aware is happening.

Human beings are designed to make connections and we should. However, it is way too easy to spill a hurting heart to someone of the opposite sex that we've always just viewed as "a friend" and form a false emotional bond that is based on secrecy and lies.  It's exciting and reminds us of the time when we were still in the doe-eyed faze with our spouse.  

This is not love. This is lust, infatuation and the rush of adrenaline everyone gets when someone we find attractive thinks we're attractive, too.  Don't buy it!!! Walk away!! They fart and leave their dirty underwear on the floor, too!!!  Love is NOT a feeling. It is a verb. Put love into action, and walk away from anyone of the opposite sex who distracts you from your spouse and the vows that you made to them. 

6.  Money:  Lots of divorces happen because of money. We all know this and yet we still fall into the trap.  You have to talk about money.  Say it with me:  You MUST talk about your money.  You must know where it is, who is spending what and why.  You have to have a plan with your money and follow the plan.  The. End.  I don't care if only one or both of you work. The money, by law and, hopefully, by heart, belongs to BOTH people in the marriage and you must discuss your money. 

If money is ripping away at your marriage, you need counseling.  You may not believe that, but it's true.  Money issues will destroy your marriage if they aren't dealt with properly.  There is no shame in asking for help. 

7.  Recognize that marriage is work:   Marriage is work. I know you've heard this but you need to hear it again. Marriage is WORK. There is sacrifice involved in marriage, but it's beautiful sacrifice.  There is nothing I've sacrificed that hasn't been returned to me three-fold. 

Marriage isn't a singles dance, but a partnership that only works when both sides do their part and honor their partner.

It's hard work that can sometimes drain you and make you wonder why in the world you stay.  I've been there.  My husband is an addict. He fell into a three year addiction almost seven years and four kids into our marriage.  I know what it feels like to want to leave your spouse, and their heart, writhing on the floor. Maybe even kick it a bit after its on the floor writhing...

But, I stayed and we worked. WE worked. (No marriage will work if BOTH people in the marriage aren't willing to work) 

We went to therapy, both separately and alone. We talked. We fought. We loved. We made love. We fought some more and we found out that love has never been, nor will it ever be, a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is a verb. And marriage is work. Beautiful, difficult, satisfying, life-altering work. 

Another PS here:  My husband put down his demons through hard work, therapy and faith. Period.  If he had continued to abuse drugs I would have left him. 

If he backslides, I will leave him. 

This is not information he doesn't know and I'm only putting it here for all those women and men out there who are in a relationship with an addict.  The addiction is THEIRS. Only THEY can defeat it. You must take care of yourself or you will NEVER take care of your marriage. 

8. And finally, this:  Love isn't perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. 

Your spouse isn't perfect and neither are you. Give yourself some grace, cut yourself and your partner some slack.  We're all learning and growing and trying to figure this thing out. You absolutely MUST show one another grace and forgiveness. Do unto others...

That is the real stuff, people. That's real, dirty, messy love, which, as it turns out, is pretty freakin' awesome. 

NONE OF THIS APPLIES IF YOU'RE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP:  Because I know someone very closely who was in an abusive relationship I always feel compelled when I'm writing about marriage to include this statement:  You must leave if you or your children are being physically abused. 

You must get away from the relationship if you are being physically abused. 

Call the national domestic abuse hot line at : 1-800-799-7233.  They will help you and they will do it anonymously. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Praise for the Pain and Letting it Go!

Letting go is probably the hardest thing in the world for me to do. Letting go feels like I'm ripping off some vital organ and beating myself with it.  Who knows?  Maybe I was.

 I used to take the worst relationships in my life and cling to them like they were the last crack dealer on the entire planet and I was a hard core addict. 

Part of what makes it hard for me to let go of anything is flat out co-dependency, which I have in spades. Ask a codependent to fix something relationally broken and watch them break out into a cold sweat of pure longing while their broken interior voice whispers maliciously into their ear that if they fix it...then they will be loved.

Psychology says this is typically because co-dependents view others behaviors as a reflection of their self-worth.  In other words, if I can fix this, THEN you'll love me.  If I can be "good enough", THEN you'll love me.  If you can accept me, THEN I'll be good enough. This is not love. This has nothing to do with love.  This is the opposite of love.

 But, the other part that makes letting go of bad relationships very hard for me is that I've been listening to the world's idea of what I should be doing for a very, very long time.  I want my life to look like what it "should" look like.  I was taught that how things look matters.  A lot.

 I wanted my life to look like a beautiful rainbow of peace, fun, loud mouthed family meals and people who love me with the same rabid passion that I loved them. I wanted them to trust in my goodness and love as much as I trusted in theirs. 

When people that you trust and love don't trust in your goodness and love, then you begin to question if you have goodness and love in you. This is crippling. This will cost you thousands of dollars in therapy later in life. Trust me on that. 

 I want the people in my life to think the same happy thoughts for me that I think for them. I want them to include me in the same way that I include them.  This is dangerous territory.

Learning that you must let go of those relationships, possibly even the idea of those relationships, will free you and cause you intense pain. Intense pain that must be endured to heal and come out the other side more whole than you've ever been up to this point.

Alas, one of the reasons it's been so quiet around here is that I've been dealing with loss and I don't deal with loss very well.  Frankly, I suck at it. 

I don't want to lose anything. Ever. I want to WIN!  I want to win at everything all the time in every way that winning can happen, especially when it comes to loving someone and having them love me in return. 

But, here's the thing:  Winning relationally had a very specific pictorial set-up in my head. What my relationships "should" look like had blinded me from seeing how they actually WERE. This is dangerous territory and every therapist, even the bad ones, agree on that. 

Refusing to see the reality of the relationships in your life is dangerous territory, no matter who that relationship is with.

Life HAD to look like that picture in my head or I wasn't OK!!  I was happily willing to lie to myself about the health of a relationship if it meant the relationship wasn't over yet. 

So, I've had to re-learn what relational winning looks like because the way it looked in my head was entirely different than what was happening in my life and it caused me intense pain for a long, long time. Pain that opened the door for me to be abused and mistreated. The pain of staying in the relationship finally became more than the pain of losing the relationship.

God Himself says that if you do not honor the relational rules He has laid out as acceptable, then you may not enter His house.  He still loves and He still cares, but there are boundaries.

So, I took a step back. (the first step is ALWAYS the hardest, by the way)  Then recently, I took another step back.  And suddenly, the picture becomes more clear, more manageable.  More healthy.  More true.   

And I realized that I cannot love anyone if I am not loving myself.  Loving myself includes removing people from my life who are either incapable of loving me or unwilling to love me. 

It does not mean that I wish them ill-will.  It doesn't mean I don't care for them. It simply means that I am choosing to limit the access certain people can have in my life and into my heart.  It means that I am the boss of me and as an adult it is my responsibility to take care of myself.  

Once that decision was made in my heart, it was like the sun came out from a long, gray winter and spring was near. 
Not long now...

I realized that I am surrounded by love.  

My incredible husband and our four precious children. They love me.  They love me fully and allow me to love them fully.

My absolutely bombastic friends who are there for me in a "we're going to rise together" kind of way.

A cousin whom I love like a true sister and I know she loves me that way in return. We have been friends and soul sisters since we were children playing together at our grandmother's home more than 40 years ago. She knows me all the way down to my deepest heart and she still looks at me like I'm better than chocolate. 

That same cousins children, who are very much like my own. They make my heart actually sing they are such fabulous young people.

 My church family who seriously should win some kind of award for being the most awesome church family in the history of church families.  It's like the church family lottery up in here, people.

Some homeschooling mothers who are always, always encouraging and uplifting and inspiring to me. Every. Single. Time. 

Another cousin who models what a loving aunt truly is.  She brings me to tears with the genuine affection she consistency showers on her two nephews. She values them in much the same way she values her own two boys and it's positively a beautiful thing. 

I had been surrounded by real, true love all this time that I'd been chasing love from people who simply cannot love me right now.  I had been telling myself that it was all my fault that they did not love me.  It was my fault that they simply did not like me.  

And the truth is that maybe it is my fault.  Maybe who I really am is simply not the kind of person that they can love or like very much.  That's OK.

The harsher truth is that I don't like them very much, either. I had to learn that that was absolutely OK, too. 

 I love me. I like me. And I am surrounded by love.

I am surrounded by people who know me intimately and who allow me to love them with crazy passion and joy.  There is no fear involved in loving the people that I have chosen to allow into my life.  THAT is what love should look like.

Pain will always accompany letting go and loss, though. I think it should.  

Praise should accompany the pain.  Praise that we have loved someone. Praise that we still love them, even if it's from afar and the relationship is gone. 

And then the pain begins to lesson because love is forever, even when it isn't. 

This is Grace. This is still Love. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Books...All the Books

I love to read.  I would rather have books given to me than any other gift on the planet. They make me happy and, if I'm lucky, they make me wiser.  Here's a few of my favorite books that I think everyone should own and read more than once:

This was the first book that my therapist suggested that I read when I began therapy and of all the books I've ever read, this one has had the biggest impact on how I take care of myself relationally.  It's incredible. 
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No

This is the book I'm currently reading.  It's the most clearly thought out book I've read on The Beatitudes and has impacted my walk with Christ in a very real way.  I'm re-reading part of it before I've even finished the book. And all my book lover readers get that that says it's pure awesomeness.

The Sermon On The Mount  

If you do not own this devotional, buy it now. Click the link and buy it right now.  It is powerfully Spirit filled and I re-read it almost every single year.  Mine looks like it's been through the laundry.  Buy this if you don't click on another thing on this page!

My Utmost For His Highest 

If you're in a place where you've forgotten just how much in love with you God really is, then this is the book you need to read.  It reminds me again how crazy it is that God loves me so much that He'd die for me.  I cried about every other chapter.  But, they were the good kind of tears.  

Crazy Love

And if you're looking for some light fiction reading that makes you remember why you like fiction, then Odd is a good choice.  It's Dean Koontz's finest work, in my opinion.  I call these kinds of books, brain-dead reading. You won't get anything out of it but a good read. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Odd Thomas 

And this last book is one that I call a watermelon book. It's really, really good and holds great truths in it, BUT it also has some seeds that you have to spit out. After reading this one, my husband and I re-read it with our children one chapter at a time and then had discussion time. It was powerful family time that led to some beautiful words with our children that I may not have thought to have otherwise. 

So You Think You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore

Happy Reading!!!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Looking For Purpose

Ever feel a need to have a defined ministry? Most Christians that I know seem to have that need. Almost every person, Christian or not, wants a defined purpose, a definitive compass that points them in a specific direction with a clear directive.  Can I admit that I don't know tons of people who seem to have perfected that ideal?  

Last year, there was a lot of transformation in my life and lots of change.  During that time, God really began to bring to light what His Word has to say about the ministries in my life and what those should look like. I think some of that had to do with the fact that I'm one of those people who really need to feel like I'm being purposeful. 

But then I began to notice that in God's Word there is rarely anyone running around looking for ministry or trying super hard to make "church" happen....except the Pharisees. 

The heros of the faith weren't searching out fifteen ways to serve or signing up for committees at their local church building. (I'd like to point out that they didn't spend 100's of thousands on a church building to house the lists, either.) I couldn't find a single instance in the Bible where there was a list in the kiosk to notate who wanted to do what or who was bringing what to the next get-together.  

Now, I'm not saying those lists in and of themselves are bad things. They aren't. What I'm suggesting is that maybe we're a little more churchy in our ministries than God intends for us to be. Maybe our ministries, our purpose, are the things God has placed right in front of our faces. Maybe we're so busy looking for ministries that we're missing the Christ opportunities that are right in front of us. 

So, I started praying and asking God to show me what ministries HE has for me. What is my purpose, Lord?  He answered me very clearly:

My ministry is the four lives He allowed me to bring into this world.  My purpose is the marriage covenant that I have entered into with my husband.  My purpose is to serve my family with joy and purpose and love.  

My ministry is to uplift the precious friends He's brought into my life over the last year.  It's to be real with them and encourage them in their walk and love them right where they are today, while encouraging them to love Jesus and always keep Him as their first love. 

My purpose is to pray.  Pray for my children, their future spouses (if they decide to marry) and my children's friends. I am to pray for my husband and lift him up before the Lord every single day.  I am to encourage my friend's in their marriages, with their families and with their prayer life. I am to serve each of these people with joy and humility.  I am to walk the path placed before me and make His Word a lamp at my feet to light the path and His voice the one I listen to when I choose to go left or to go right.

I am to pray for my church, its leaders and my church family. I am to open my home to these people and love them. I am to hear them in love and speak to them in love. God love, not people love.

My purpose is to open my eyes and my heart to the ministries that God has already placed all around me.  Like that hungry guy standing at the side of the road while I have a take-out bag filled with yummy left overs sitting right there on my leather passenger seat. 

"To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away."  Mathew 25:29

Noah was not a storm chaser, but built the ark as he was instructed.  

Moses did not seek to be a leader or the center of attention, but walked over to the burning bush that stood before him and waited for God to speak.  

Paul did not first seek to spread the Good News, he met Jesus on a road trip to Damascus. 

Peter, James and John were just running their family fishing businesses when Jesus showed up and said, "Hey, let me show you how to REALLY fish." 

David did not fight to become King, he watched his flock with diligence and asked God to create a pure heart within him. 

Mary lived her life quietly, in a teeny town that no one else paid much attention to, when the angel of the Lord brought her great news of her child, who was also God Himself. 

Our purpose is not to seek purpose. It is to open our eyes, see the ministries and blessings all around us, and submit to God. He'll do the rest.  If we do this, we'll find our ministries are plentiful and our boredom, our restless hearts, will settle and be full.

You already HAVE a purpose. You are created in the image of God and He doesn't mess up. You can trust that.

PS....this post is as much as "note-to-self" as anything else. I don't have much figured out, but I'm praying to know better, do better, be better.  I'm praying every day for eyes that can see and ears that can hear.  Amen.  


Monday, December 29, 2014

An Open Letter to My Body

A New Year is coming around soon and with it, the inevitability of all those promises by women everywhere to get "healthier".  I used to make those promises, too.  I was a total liar.

What I really meant to say was I want to be skinnier. I want to be thinner and therefore, in my once warped brain, prettier. More appealing to...somebody?

What I really meant was, "I promise to become completely obsessed with my body and sometimes starve so I can look like what society tells me a "real" woman should look like to be accepted and beautiful".  What's really sad is I've never worn anything larger than a 12 in my life and I am currently in a size 8-10 and that's been my average size other than the four times I've given birth! 

P.S.  If you're truly not the size you want to be, stop berating yourself to death and be honest with yourself and your health.  You do not have to be a size 8 to be beautiful!!! Find your healthy life and LIVE it, but stop obsessing and being mean to yourself.  Stop being mean to yourself!!

So, I thought I'd write a letter for 2015 to remind myself that I love the body I've been given and I'm thankful for it, because it's time we stop with the self hate and loathing, right?

Dear Body,

I'm sorry for all the mean things I've said to you through the years.  I'm really sorry I called you fat. I'm even sorrier that you believed me a little bit.  Mean things have a way of sticking to us, don't they?  

I'm sorry that I starved you sometimes.  I'm sorry that I gorged you other times and made you feel like crap.  Thanks for not giving up on me even when I gave up on you every once in a while. 

Thanks for having legs that work and run and walk and do all the things they should do. Thanks for hands that can hold my children and comb their hair and hold books and write stories.  Thanks for arms that wrap around the people I love and squeeze.

Thanks for having five senses that work properly and allow me to see, hear and appreciate all the beauty of the world around me, including the image in the mirror that for so long I avoided.  

Thank you for carrying four of the most awesome human beings I've ever met and keeping them safe and healthy and whole.  Thank you for the stretch marks that remind me they were there. They're like medals of honor, aren't they?  

Thank you for not aching too much even though we've made it through almost 44 years together. I appreciate that you only creak a little and that you still do all the things you're supposed to do.  The older I get, the more I realize how truly blessed I am that all my parts still do their thing.  You rock!

Thanks for being patient with me when I abused you because I wasn't satisfied with all you are.  I'm sorry for that.  It won't happen again. 

Thank you for being patient with my brain when it was sick and didn't appreciate you the way that it should have.  I was doing the best that I knew how at the time. 

I'm thankful for you and I see now that being made in the image of God is a powerful, beautiful honor.  I promise to do my very best to take care of you without obsessing over you.  

I promise to never start a New Year with promises that include berating you because I didn't take responsibility for you. I promise that each New Year will include being healthy on the inside because those always seep through to you, my outside. 

I promise to look in the mirror and tell you that you're beautiful and fierce and competent and awesome, because you are.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Having a Day

I had a great day today, but two days ago....well, I had "a day".  Ever had one of those?  That's what my Grandma Jolley used to call it when she was having a hard time.  It went like this:

"Hey, Grandma."

"Hey, baby."

"How are you?"

"Oh, I'm having me a day."

And I knew that meant things sucked a little bit for Grandma that day. I didn't really get it as much when I was younger, but I get it now. I also get that it'll pass, but when I'm having "a day", it feels like the day is longer, bigger, stronger than the Great Wall of China and everyone can tell. If they can't, then they aren't paying me enough attention, darnit. 

And when I'm having a day, I tend to focus on ANYTHING that will confirm the day's status as being a no-good-very-bad-day. 

Things like this:

--Where did all this crap in my closet come from?  I can't wear any of it and even if I could I wouldn't.  I mean, who wears this junk?  Ever?  Why did I even buy any of this?  I shouldn't have even bought a house with a closet. It's wasted on me.

--What is happening to my chin?! It's possible I'm getting two of them. EVERYTHING is a reflective surface that confirms I am, in fact, getting two chins. No. All the no's.

--And who's knees are those?  When did they start looking like that?  Have they always looked like that?

--My hair. The end.

--Look at the piles. There are piles in the corner and under the beds and in the closets and stuffed behind the TV.  Have I ever put anything away? In the history of ever have I bothered to clean this house?  It's possible I could win awards for worst housewife. At least I'd get an award.

--My husband is tolerating me. I'd rather be ANYTHING than tolerated. I might hit him with a cast iron skillet, which once belonged to Grandma Jolley and wouldn't THAT be poetic justice?! Surely that will snap him out of toleration and into something completely more invested like shock or anger. Or unconciousness. I mean that is ALL IN, people.

--And my kids. They are going to need therapy.  They may already need therapy. Hell, we may all need therapy until the therapist needs therapy and then we're all screwed. I have already been to therapy. It obviously didn't work. I want my money back. (If you're reading this Dr. Trey...I only feel that way when I'm having a day. Otherwise, I think you're incredible at what you do.)

--Speaking of kids, why did I EVER think I could manage this many?  If one of them asks me for One. More. Thing. I'm going to lose it.

--And ovaries. Who needs ovaries anyway?!  (that's rhetorical)

And then something happens:  I realize that the only thing happening is me. I am having a day. A day where I can't see my blessings.  I'm having a day where everything feels overwhelming.  (or maybe I'm getting my period?)

Don't get me wrong. I've gone through times when life WAS overwhelming and if you're there right now, I want you to hear me:  This WILL pass. It will. And you will be OK and life will swing you back around on it's pendulum and you will be OK.

 This is coming from a woman who has been divorced (surprise to some of you, I know), lost a baby between babies one and two and who almost divorced her second husband because he's an addict who relapsed once during our almost eighteen year marriage. For three years.

I know hard, people. I understand it. You'll be OK and you'll make it through. You will.

But, you have to make it through the days. You have to do the hard stuff and the small stuff and the big stuff and you will be OK. More than likely, you will surpass OK and stumble your way right into awesomeness, but you have to make it through the days that feel bigger than you.  They aren't. You have to take care of yourself by loving yourself.

 Here's a few of the things that pull me away from all the days being "a day".

My house is warm and cozy. We are all fed, even if it's just beans, and I have friends who love me. Really love me. (even with Crazy sitting over in the corner waving at me)

I have a Savior who died to bring me into relationship with Him and He never ever forgets me.  Even when I'm having a day.  He remembers me and He never tolerates me.

I have clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. I have four, healthy kids who love me and know, without a doubt, that I love them more than anything in the world, even if I don't always answer every 3895 times they say my name in a day.

I have Grace. I have been shown mercy. I have joy. I have been forgiven and have had opportunities to forgive. I have opportunities to serve others and hands and feet that work properly. I can see the sunrise and the sunset and hear my wind chimes and the fireplace crackling. I have a husband who just walked by and ran his hand down my hair because he loves me. I am blessed.

And before I know it...I am having a different kind of day, but I acknowledge the struggle is real. I hear you. I know there's days when we feel like being a Proverbs 31 woman is about as easy as concrete. But, then...

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why so Serious?

I saw an elderly woman pushing her seemingly more elderly husband around Wal-Mart today in a nifty wheelchair/grocery cart.  And then I saw them again. And then, we almost ran slam over each other in the bread aisle. We laughed and side stepped each other. 

And THEN, they slipped in behind me in the check out line and we smiled at each other and I was sure they were thinking what I was thinking:  Lord, are you trying to show me something with these encounters with this sweet couple?  

But I guess God was showing them something else entirely because they started playing with the compulsion items and laughing and talking and basically ignoring me as I was staring them down. And stare them down, I did. He tossed her the items he could reach from his wheelchair and she slowly lifted the other items from the bottom of the wheelchair/grocery cart onto the belt as I began to load my final bags into my cart and whip out my debit card. And then, I stared some more. I don't think they noticed. They were still goofing around and being happy or they may have been whispering to ignore the lady who keeps staring. I don't know for sure.

After I pushed and pulled all the bags from my buggy into the back of my SUV, I climbed into the driver's seat and started to cry.  I cry more now than I did when I was younger. I guess it could totally be hormones but I think I cry more now because life and all the things in it just seem more important to me now. 

Things like sweet elderly couples who are having a blast in Wal-Mart even though his legs don't work anymore and are kind of crooked.  It makes me realize that perseverance is underrated and that running the race sometimes means being faithful and good and kind in the simple things that are often the hardest things.

 It's important to remember to run the race in such a way that we remember that all the runners are running, but only one can have the prize. Only I get the prize in MY life and perseverance will often determine what my prize will be and how my blessings pan out. That's serious stuff right there. 

Things like a bread aisle that is packed with so many kinds of bread that I actually get to mash around on the loaves to see which one is the softest before picking one. I mean, for pete's sake, who wants a loaf of bread that will be old in like three days, right? Major 1st world problem there, but I forget sometimes and I don't want to forget because it's the little things that sneak up on us and make us ungrateful. And being ungrateful is serious to me (just ask my kids when they're ungrateful) but not quite as serious as being grateful (just ask my kids when they have grateful hearts). 

Or things like fresh fruit in the winter. Ya'll they had ORGANIC bananas in Wal-Mart today of all places. I may have done a weird dance for a second but I don't think anyone saw me. The older I get, I'm not sure I even care. It was like the food lottery up in there.

That moment of thankfulness stayed with me all day and I don't want to miss being thankful. That is SUPER serious to me. I want to share all the things I'm thankful for with others and I hope God will one day give me a change to do just that.

And then, my brain goes like this:  People are hungry.  People are lonely. People are lost. People are cold. People are killing each other. Mothers have lost their babies. Fathers have lost their sons. Wives have lost their husbands. People are hurt. And people are hurting.  And I'm worried about a freakin' piece of bread being fresh and whether I have organic bananas!  And then I cry.  

...I already know it's neurotic...thanks...

But, here's the thing: I think sometimes the world could be a little more serious. I think we could care more. Love more. Live more. Give more. I think we can not only do the hard things, I think things are going to get harder if we don't get serious about doing the hard things right now.

I think if we don't start finding joy in simple things like organic bananas at Wal-Mart and sweet elderly couples who haven't lost their love for one another, we're going to lose our joy at the big things. We're going to forget that there are big things and our hearts get hard and our attention gets sucked into ourselves like a big 'ole fat, narcissistic black hole instead of looking outward at a world that is starving not only for food, but for love.  

We need to get serious about where we find our joy and what makes our hearts break. We need to remember that only broken hearts let anything into them. The cracks and breaks are where the love and empathy and compassion live. 

Our world is turning into a place where people just can't take focusing on the heartbreak of the world because it gets them down. I've heard more than once in the last few months that I just take things more serious than other people. But here's the thing:  If our hearts don't break, then whose will?  If we don't take the broken, lost, hurting world and believe that the broken and the lost and the hurting people are serious business, then who will? 

I think that we must surrender ourselves to something other than ourselves. And watching this elderly wife push her husband around Wal-Mart today made me remember that.  She was happy serving him, pushing him along, being his legs when his no longer worked.  She glowed. And you did he. 

I want to believe that's how it works. I want to believe that through serving, even when it's really hard, we find our joy and our purpose. I want to believe that when we choose to seriously love, we experience God.  I need to believe it. There is joy to be had in being serious about something outside ourselves. And that's a serious thing.

I'm going to own up and just admit that the older I get the more I realize I don't know. Every day I feel dumber, y'all.  I realize how little I actually understand and how little I grasp fully.  I realize that my belief that I could change the world almost killed me, but...

But here's one little thing that I think I've finally got by it's hem:  We're in this thing together and we need to take that seriously. We need to just wake up tomorrow and be kinder.  We need to wake up tomorrow and serve something outside ourselves if we're going to make our world a little bit better, even if it's just me one day pushing my elderly husband around in a wheelchair/grocery cart thing in Wal-Mart and laughing in the compulsion aisle while a younger lady looks on and smiles (neurotically) at our joy because we persevere and we have faith and we took our part in this world seriously.