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In which the “gospel” sounds a lot like me…

I’ve been sitting on this post for about a month now for various reasons. I’d thought about writing it from the first conversation I had about the subject, but held off for a time. I was sick and in my first trimester, not a good combination for forming coherent, cohesive blog posts, if I’m honest. Then it took me a while to realize there was an overarching theme to various conversations I had over the month and I wanted to formulate a good, solid post connecting the dots. For myself and for my readers.

My first conversation was about marriage. My second about parenting. The third was about modesty. The fourth about homosexuality. And the fifth dealt with heaven, hell, and atheism.

Yeah. I know. Broad topics and really? I’m going to somehow find a connection between all of them?

That’s the beauty of the particular worldview I adhere to, rather imperfectly though hopefully on a solid growth curve. The one that says God is in charge, I am not, and if I want to see fulfillment and joy in this life and the next, it’s not MY will I want to be following. It’s His.

So I’m not going to go through EVERY specific conversation and it’s conclusion. That would take me too long. I’ll focus on two of them, because at the time, they hit me hardest and were the first two I managed to connect together.

Marriage. In the last two years, I’ve seen roughly half of my friends and a few family members end theirs in divorce. A couple of those friends hadn’t even signed the papers before they were already “choosing their own happiness” with another person. I’ve seen another solid number of them struggling to stay afloat in the midst of infidelity, pornography, depression, miscommunication (or the lack of it all together), dishonesty, and the worst one, apathy. I’ve been an active part of marriage mentoring and multiple conversations with couples I know who just want to throw in the towel and are looking for the first, “Biblical” excuse to do so. Marriage, when done on our own terms, ends in disaster as the world seems to prove more and more every year. The sad thing for me is that Christian marriages, where we have an even greater reason to thrive and find blessing and joy on our journey together, seem to struggle worse than the secular unions. We could blame it on the Devil and his desire to destroy anything God creates and calls beautiful, but we’d only be partially correct. In the end, Christian marriages crash and burn for the same reason the world’s version does. We make a mockery of the sacredness and symbolism of marriage (Christ and His Bride) when we choose to pursue our own happiness at the cost of all else. The world might have an excuse. Christ Followers don’t.

Modesty. I had a couple of these conversations with people I love and this is a difficult one. On the one hand, I talked to a fellow parent who is struggling with her almost adult daughter and the lack of modesty, even in her own home. Her own brother had to get up and walk away from the dinner table because her dress style is closer to hooker than wholesome. In her eyes, it’s her brother’s fault for looking in the first place. Men are perverted and disgusting pigs, and she should be free to wear what she wants, when she wants it. So how does she explain my six year old son who sees a pretty girl and gets a physical reaction that terrifies him and makes him think something’s wrong with him? Is he a perverted, disgusting pig because his body’s been biologically wired to respond to a sensual visual?

I talked  to another fellow mom who thinks more like that daughter does. Her own seven year old daughter is wearing bikinis and she thinks nothing of it. It’s for the guys to turn away from lust and sin. Confronting a girl for wearing less than modest clothing is considered shaming and degrading.

It’s getting more and more difficult for me to find appropriate clothing for my eight year (going on pre-teen) daughter. If it’s not midriffs, butt-baring shorts, and sexy little polka dot bikinis, it’s advertising for the latest fads and unrealistic body image expectations. I’ve contemplated making her clothes myself, but even patterns nowadays are either Puritan in nature, or would need some major modification for an 8 year old with a 12 year old body.

I remember those growing up years. Nothing fit and everything pretty and decent went to my sister who’s growing form seemed to fit the typical female body type. I’d end up with baggy overalls and too-big shirts because anything in my size wouldn’t accommodate the fast-developing lumps on my chest. It was frankly humiliating and led to years of self-esteem issues. The first time I wore a (modest) cleavage baring dress, I wilted with embarrassment and swore it would never happen again. But it didn’t matter really. Even in sweatshirts two sizes too big and cargo-style jeans, I still got wolf-whistles and dirty jokes. It doesn’t take much to imagine what’s under my clothing, because I’ve got a lot of it. I ate junk food to compensate, and filled out my belly too, thinking if I was fat all around, guys would stop looking. Of course, my health suffered and it took me years to lose the weight.

I still struggle to this day with the issue of modesty. I mean, is it really MY fault that guys look at my chest? Who cares if I wear a shirt that sells my assets rather than hides them? Where’s the middle ground? What IS modesty anyway?

Seeing a connection yet?

No?

Okay. Here it is.

The Christian life is about centering OUR lives around GOD’S good and perfect Will. The two greatest commandments: Love God and Love our Neighbor as ourselves prove this. It’s about surrendering OUR will and fully giving ourselves over to be used by and up for God. It’s about Christ filling us with HIMSELF so fully, that there’s no room anymore for our selfishness and our sin and our will. It’s about spending ourselves for the sake of Christ and His gospel and taking our eyes OFF of our own petty, human wants and desires.

The gospel I see played out in my life and the lives around me doesn’t look a bit like Christ, but it looks a hell of a lot like us.

Marriage is a symbol of Christ and His mystical union with us, His Bride. The Body of Christ joined with the Son of God to form a union so beautiful and so absolutely pure. Not on any merit of ours, but through the blood of Christ shed for us and covering us in HIS righteousness. It’s ALL His work. While we were His enemy, He offered us salvation and called us by HIS name. Made us in His image, but we are NOT God. Our marriages, if they are to reflect that beautiful, wonderful, terrible story, MUST include us dying to ourselves, daily, hourly, sometimes moment by moment.

Given this Truth, it should be in the moment of our greatest woundings (at our spouse’s all-too human hands) that we demonstrate best the agape love of Christ. If Christ can forgive us, who made ourselves His worst enemy by rejecting Him over and over again, is there ANYTHING we cannot forgive our spouse, who was created in the image of God and is a co-heir with us in His kingdom?

Does this negate the terrible wounds we can inflict on one another? By no means! Physical abuse, sexual infidelity, pornography, deceit…the list goes on. None of these are light offenses and sometimes DO require us to walk away (at least for a time) until God can get ahold of the wretched sinner and change him or her. Many of these issues require counseling and mentors who can walk alongside and pray for and with you as you struggle to love and honor and remain faithful to the vows you made before God. My husband and I went to a godly counselor in our first couple years of marriage because of sin issues that we both struggled with and it was the BEST thing that could have happened to us. There is NO shame in bringing sin to light and letting others walk with you through the journey. The shame is when you hide it or hope you can deal with it on your own…or in the worst case scenario, you just give up and walk away.

What kind of a God do we represent when His first human institution, marriage, becomes a joke. What are we telling our children when we file for divorce and break up our family because we’re no longer happy or we’ve fallen out of love or our spouse has done something unforgiveable? Aren’t we telling them that God drops THEM like a rock when they make Him unhappy or when they commit what they believe is an unforgiveable offense? Do we not demonstrate that God gives up on us when we screw up and are all too human?

The hardest lie I see nowadays is when someone tells me they prayed and feel like God is releasing them from their marriage vows. Really? The God who HATES divorce told you that you’re an exception to the rule? I’ve seen friends reach ROCK BOTTOM in their marriage with NO HOPE left that their spouse will EVER repent and turn back to God. They broke their hearts weeping and praying for reconciliation, sometimes for YEARS. And their faithfulness was rewarded at long last when their spouse finally came back. Did that make all those terrible months or years go away? No. Did they have to build up trust again and fight to love the person who wounded them so bitterly? Of course. But they also found out what exactly Christ meant by the mystical union, because through Him, they found restoration and redemption in a situation that the world (and many “Christians) would have written off as hopeless, unresolvable.

Who’s Will is being done here on earth as it is in Heaven?

Modesty has the same roots, although it might not seem that way on the surface. I mean, really. Who are we hurting by wearing sexy clothes and dressing to please ourselves? And there’s such a wide range of definitions when it comes to modesty, right? This culture is open for interpretation, so we should have the freedom to express ourselves and find our own happiness, regardless of what the opposite sex thinks or how they act.

Love God and Love Others. I don’t see that in our culture today regarding modesty, marriage, or anything else, to be honest. And Christians are just as bad as the world on this issue. Because it doesn’t REALLY come down to what we’re wearing on the outside. Or how unhappy we are in our marriages. Those are surface symptoms of a deeper, and far more dangerous, root issue.

What I see more and more is us saying to God, “Not YOUR Will, but MINE be done.”

Instead of raising our daughters to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, meekness, patience, and love, we teach them to sell themselves under the guise of “confidence” and “happiness”. Instead of teaching them to be shield-bearers  and warrior maidens for the men in our lives, we teach them to wear the cloak of victimhood and blame the other gender for lack of “equality” and for what we like to call the “rape culture.” We dress to please ourselves and whore our bodies in order to feel beautiful, desired, strong.

Instead of teaching our sons to use the gifts and desires God gives them for the good of others, to bear the Sword of Truth, to defend the weak and powerless, to look after the oppressed, and to stand in the gap for the widows and orphans, we emasculate them. We tell them their biology and make-up is wrong and perverted. We shame them for their natural reactions to the beautiful and pure things in this life and tell them it’s their fault when they can’t take their eyes off the assets we’re so “generously” displaying.

Where is the Gospel of Christ in these and other issues? Where is the dying to self and seeking the good in and for others? Where is the taking up our cross and following after Christ? Where is the sharing in His suffering and the suffering of His people? Where is the Radical Generosity that pours ourselves out until we have NOTHING left to give and then continues to pour out long after that?

When do we FINALLY lay down our own lives at the foot of the Cross and say, “Not MY will, but THINE, Lord Jesus?”

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In which I grieve and mourn…

What makes a life? I know the arguments run in circles. Does it start at conception? Does it begin with that first, gasping breath after hours of labor? Maybe that’s the wrong question. I’m still trying to figure out the right question to ask.

One week ago, I was thrilled to announce that a long-awaited event was taking place. After months of trying, I got a positive sign. (Actually, it was four positives and one digital negative…I had to be sure) I probably didn’t need one, because I just KNEW it. My body was starting to feel different and I knew it was true. In my head, I was already planning out the next few months, hoping my morning sickness wouldn’t get too extreme, and praying that just this once, I’d be able to enjoy my pregnancy in full. I estimated I was 6-8 weeks. My midwife calculated a little more efficiently given my irregular cycles and said I was WAY earlier. I hoped I was later, but figured she probably knew a thing or two about this…

So I was anywhere from 4-7 weeks, but it didn’t matter really. I felt amazing, if a little tired and gaggy, and I was determined to enjoy the next nine months, come what may. Was I apprehensive? A bit. This was the first pregnancy where I was at a VERY healthy weight, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. Everything felt different, but I figured I could still safely tell others my news. I mean, I had three uncomplicated pregnancies prior to this one, right? No big deal.

Maybe the question I should be asking is, is that tiny little life real because I believe it to be, or do I believe it to be real because it is?

Friday morning I woke up. Had my coffee, spent time doing school with the kids, pondered a conversation I’d had with my mom the night before about my fears regarding pregnancy and loss. Worked out pretty hard and felt great afterward, if a little winded. I’d been experiencing a bit of an achy stretch on my right side from the beginning of the pregnancy, but thought nothing of it. It wasn’t pain and I figured my uterus hadn’t been in use for over three years, so it was natural to feel some stretching. No big deal.

That was until I got out of the shower and started to bleed.

Beyond the fact that I had NEVER experienced abnormal bleeding with any of my other pregnancies, I knew right away something was wrong. There was no pain (at least not that first day) but I knew that for whatever reason, this brief period of time where I once again was given the privilege of nurturing a new life, was now over. Call it a gut feeling, a matter of the heart, or just the facts. I knew. And I lost it.

My darling husband came home to find me curled up on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out. He held me, prayed with me, and we discussed the next steps. There was no drama (other than my tears) that day, but we both wanted to find out for sure. So I called the midwife, got in to an emergency ultrasound that afternoon, and took a blood test to find out my HCG levels.

Even if my levels were higher, and they weren’t, I would have known when I looked at the emptiness on that ultrasound. I could see all the preparations for sustaining a life in the womb, but no life. Not even a blip on the screen. I’d FELT empty before the ultrasound. Now I had proof that I was empty.

I’ve fought PCOS since puberty hit. I was told that I would struggle with infertility and irregular cycles and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. None of this was new to me. Thankfully, I’ve been managing my symptoms well enough that even the midwife noticed the lack of evidence for PCOS where there should have been. I’m not cured, but perhaps I’ve been given a reprieve.

And the three children I bore prior to this pregnancy proves that infertility isn’t that much of an issue really. I mean, we tried three times, and three times we made a baby. That simple.

Actually, we tried four times, and four times we made a baby. It’s just that now I get to tell people that one of our babies isn’t going to be present here on earth. That hurts just writing it. I’m a mother four times over and I won’t get to meet Pelokid #4 until I get to heaven. Something tells me, it’s a girl. Sweet and precocious and bubbling over with life.

There are a million explanations for why this pregnancy did not end with a live child 40 weeks after conception. Some explanations even range into the, it wasn’t really a baby idea. I’m going to block that one right now, because one, it doesn’t offer me any comfort whatsoever. And two, it brings me back to the question I asked earlier. I believe I was carrying a precious life for at least 5 weeks and that life is no longer present in my womb. I will grieve and mourn that life and then I will take joy in being chosen to be the vessel for that life for a few brief, but absolutely precious moments. All life is a vapor, some lives disappearing sooner than others.

The day after I miscarried, we watched a video on science and faith in regenerative medicine. There was a picture of a basic human cell. A basic picture from a typical biology textbook that any high school or college kid could read. As the scientist/researcher explained the components, I picked out names I hadn’t heard in years. Golgi apparatus, ribosomes, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum. I like Golgi apparatus best. The name is just cool.

Each part of these microscopic cells works in harmony to create a miniscule organic computer in basic scientific terms, but it’s SO much more than that. Put billions of these working, tiny cells together and you create things like skin, organs, muscles, eyes, ENTIRE Human Beings. If just ONE part of ONE cell is out of order, it can cause the entire structure to collapse. To decay and degenerate. The research in regenerative medicine takes these cells, breaks them down into their multiple components, tries to figure out how all the individual components work, and then attempts to recreate a cell using that knowledge. And it goes wrong, so many times. But when it works, ligaments are healed, cartilage and bone are renewed, and skin is grafted. But the original cell is what amazes me most. Because as much as a scientist or doctor can do their best to work with lab-created clones of the real thing, they will NEVER be able to perfect it to the level that our Creator God did on the original model.

Right in the middle of that talk on regenerative medicine, when I was feeling the physical pain of losing a child, struggling with the emotions and mental strain of the ordeal, I felt God wrap me up in His arms and whisper His reassurance in my ear. I looked at the three children He’d blessed Jake and I with and marveled on the fact that, of all the billions of ways it could have gone wrong, HE knit them together in my womb and breathed life into their tiny developing bodies. HE started their hearts beating and formed the neural pathways in their developing brains. HE fit every joint and bone and ligament together like a perfect puzzle and told each cell what its job would be.

I got to carry them and do the work HE created my body to do for nine months of their life. I was the vessel, but HE.

He is ALWAYS the Creator and Sustainer of life. And that little life He recently allowed me to carry for a few brief weeks was His too. He granted me the privilege of being mommy to not one, not two, not three, but four fearfully and wonderfully made children. His image stamped on each and every one of them. Three, He gave more time for me and Jake to love and cherish and raise. The fourth one, He called home. I have NO idea why He gave me the privilege of being a mommy four times and I pray that I will get that privilege again. I have no idea why I was given the privilege of keeping three of His babies, but I’m looking forward to watching them grow and showing them their Heavenly father’s love. I have no idea why the fourth one won’t be in my arms for a VERY long time, but I am so very glad I got to carry her under my heart. And I cannot wait to meet the child who is more alive now than she ever could be here on earth.

Posted in Abundance, and Love, Faith, Hope, and Love, Family, Freedom, God, Gratitude, Healing, Hope, Joy, life lessons, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family, mission, Neighbors, Transparency, Uncategorized, Winning, Writing

In which love MEANS someONE…

I’ve had some less than comforting conversations with certain people in my life lately that leave me with a pit in my stomach and a painful ache in my heart. The words spoken remind me of the devastating effect false representation and the enemy’s lies can have on God’s creation, his human creation most of all.

Ever heard the phrases, “Thanks for picking up the slack” or “If only they had been more responsible” before?

Another phrase I’ve heard a lot lately, “Love always wins.”

Without worrying about pc-friendly terminology, I have to reply to that one, what a crock.

And before I get crucified, let me tell you. I DO believe Love always wins. I DON’T believe a lot of people who say that phrase actually live like they believe it.

Let me explain. We use the word love for a lot of things that actually have nothing whatsoever to do with love. We LOVE our new car. We LOVE our presidential candidate. We LOVE our clothes. We LOVE that new movie. What we really mean is that the car, the clothes, the candidate, the movie, all give us a sensation like pleasure. We FEEL something that makes us happy when we think of that object or person, but LOVE has nothing to do with it.

In other languages, there are different words to describe various levels and forms of what we in English call LOVE. We wrap up shallow, surface sensation within deeper, more abiding context and it’s no wonder we confuse ourselves when it comes to the real deal.

We spout platitudes and tell people we’re “in love” and it leaves us with all the depth of a quick Adrenalin rush after the 100 meter dash. It’s great and it feels good, but it’s over in moments and what’s left? The come-down after a temporary high.

So what IS love?

It’s not a feeling, I can tell you that right now.

Love is:

  • giving generously without reproach
  • forgiving seventy times seven and then forgiving once more
  • laying down your life for another
  • looking after the poor and the widow and those who have been oppressed and beaten down
  • advocating for the ones who have no voice to speak for themselves
  • opening your home to the least of these, clothing them and feeding them and giving them resources to get back on their feet
  • making a vow and remaining faithful through daily, moment by moment choices to overlook the other’s faults and open your heart regardless of whether the other fully understands how vulnerable that makes you
  • making the hard decision because the easy one only leads to long term pain and no lasting gain
  • patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not puffed up with pride
  • it does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs
  • it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth
  • it ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, and ALWAYS perseveres
  • it NEVER fails
  • it is the GREATEST virtue in the entire world and yet it is the LEAST used
  • it’s an action NOT a feeling
  • brings healing, restoration, and redemption

Every one of these definitions I got straight from one source. Can you guess what source?

“Love always wins” gets thrown around when the newest law is handed down from on high. It is spoken when a special interest group “wins” a big legal battle against the “intolerant” and “bigoted” offender. Religious leaders even use it to push their doctrinal agendas.

Love ALWAYS wins because HE already won. It happened on a wooden torture device, on a hill bathed in the blood of both innocent and guilty, when a Savior embodied the greatest example of True Love as He drew his last breath and committed His Spirit into His Father’s hands.

The greatest definition of love in the end isn’t actually a decision or a feeling.

The greatest definition of Love is the person of Jesus Christ.

And anything less than what He demonstrated on that cross and in every living, breathing moment of His existence here on earth, is a pale, poor imitation of what Love actually is.

We were made in His image, but don’t for ONE MOMENT think that makes us capable of the kind of Love He pours out on us day in and day out.

When we reach out to a sick friend to lend them a helping hand, that’s a pale demonstration of Christ’s Love. When we offer our services for a hurting family who is broken and desperate for a way out of the mess, it’s just imitation and a pale one at that. When we give our time, money, and selves for a ministry that serves the poor and downtrodden, we are just barely scratching the surface of what Christ’s love looks like.

When we accept that everything we have to give in the name of love is NEVER enough, then we can accept that the only one who can is the One who defines and lives it perfectly.

And when we accept that, then He is free to infuse us with Himself, to love others through us, and to represent His love to a world that is dying without it. Ultimately, that is the greatest form of love.

Loving us enough to give us Himself in our place. When the world sees me, I don’t want them to see my paltry excuse for what I define as love.

I want them to see Love (in the form of Jesus Christ) in all HIS glory.

1 John 4

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In which I quit with the quitting…

I have about 20 manuscripts of all shapes and sizes. Out of that 20, only three are considered completed first drafts.The rest of them are in various states of unfinished.

I have five cross stitch projects. Of the five, only one is complete, and it wasn’t even framed. It’s a tiny little beaded ornament on foam backing, with no frame. The rest are in various states of unfinished. The first one I started was before my youngest brother was born. He’s now fifteen.

I have a basket with some beautiful fabric, all cut out and ready to be sewn into a medieval style dress and over dress. It was for a project I was supposed to complete my junior year of high school. I had gotten a sewing machine and in a fit of inspiration, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to sew an entire costume to accompany my oral report.

The costume is a heap of fabric that’s beginning to fray on the edges. The oral report never got presented.

My history of starting a project and not finishing is legendary. My mom would tell you I have quitting mastered. And she would be correct.

I quit 3 different home businesses, 7 jobs (to be fair, some of them were because I was moving), and various friendships throughout my lifetime.

Looking back on this rather incomplete list, I shamefully wonder how on earth I’m still managing to keep a blog going after 4+ years. Although even that has been done sporadically and not with the determined dedication of a motivated blogger.

I could make excuses. My manuscripts are a work in progress, I didn’t know how to sew anyway, and at least one of my jobs was dangerous to my health, my license, and my patients. I’ve got enough excuses to write my own book on reasons for quitting.

It’s not a book I desire to write.

I’ve tried to analyze my penchant for quitting over the years and failed. I’ve blamed it on others, blamed it on circumstances, blamed it on a lack of passion.

The one place where the blame SHOULD rest is on me, but I find myself reluctant even now, to go there.

Sure, people in my life HAVE influenced my character development and therefore, I can legitimately claim their part in my failures. It makes me a coward and a jerk though. I’ve still seen and experienced people in my life who never give up and live by the motto, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So this excuse is cheap, unflattering, and too easy.

My circumstances HAVE contributed to my quitting. Some of my jobs really were dangerous enough that I refused to put myself and my patients at risk anymore and I walked. I couldn’t change the policies and procedures that led to this situation, so it’s a legitimate reason to quit. At least one of the companies I quit is now involved in lawsuits and I cannot really regret leaving when I did. It still doesn’t explain MOST of my quits. Again, weak and flawed. A coward’s way out.

I have jumped into something, thinking, “Oh, this is cool. I really want to do this. It’s fun, it’s an adventure, I can make some money on the side.” Hobbies are expensive and I cannot justify some of them as businesses when I choose not to put the time and effort into making money instead of losing it. Again, I could justify this excuse.

Then again, I really need to quit justifying my quits.

Because it’s not the quitting that bothers me the most. It’s the mentality that I’ve held for 30+ years. It’s the concept that when the going gets tough, this quitter quits. And that, quite frankly, scares me.

I’m not advocating for staying in a job you despise or going back and finishing a high school project you didn’t know how to finish anyway. I’m not advocating for restarting those failed businesses or NEVER giving up on something. Sometimes, giving up one thing allows you to experience something else far better.

What I AM saying, is that my quitters mentality is far more dangerous and insidious than just walking away from a really bad job or not finishing a manuscript. It’s my mindset that I need to change. I can be wise about WHAT I quit, but that means having a stronger reason than, “It’s just too hard, so I’m giving up.”

I need to change my way of thinking so that quitting is an exception to the rule and not the normal MO. For some things, I shouldn’t even offer myself an out. The cost of quitting has more to do with the damage I do to my thought process and the results that I live out for those who are watching me. I’m thinking of my children right now, but I also want to count my coaches and customers in that sphere of influence.

SO. List of things I haven’t quit and CHOOSE to stay the course:

  1. My marriage. Divorce is not an option. It’s not even in our vocabulary and I’m thankful to have a husband who chooses to fight FOR us, not against us, every day.
  2. My parenting. I get exhausted and my kids are all still young. One thing I CHOOSE to never do, is quit being a parent. Some days are easy. MOST days are NOT a walk in the park. If I want my kids to grow up principled, morally upright, valuable contributors to society, I can’t use my exhaustion as an excuse to stop parenting.
  3. My Beachbody coaching. I AM a coach. I have a long way to go to make this successful, thriving, and big enough to prove myself, but this last, lazy week has proven to me more than ever that I WANT this. I have a HUGE why and I’m not going to give up the opportunity to change lives, change families, and change the world. The cost of quitting is greater than the cost of continuing.
  4. My Writing. This blog and all my other works in progress. I’m not finished yet. I DO have something to say and I am a writer. It’s non-negotiable. I will continue writing.
  5. My faith. It’s last on the least, but that is NOT because it’s the least important. Technically, it should be at the beginning of this list, but I am not always writing chronologically. However, as the culture grows increasingly hostile toward Christ followers, I CHOOSE to walk the walk. No matter what. No apologies. No regrets. The cost of walking away is FAR too high for me to even contemplate.

It’s a mindset change. In keeping with my recent lifestyle changes, I’m finding the inspiration to press on, worth the cost.

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In which my attitude gives me altitude…

This week was really rough.

And it’s only Monday. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, this week will continue to be rough. Just the facts and I’ll tell you why.

All three of our kiddos succumbed to (DUN, DUN, DUN) the winter ick. That hacky, barky cough (no not whooping, the other one) where it sounds miserable and you want to cry every time your two year old (or five year old, or seven year old) can’t catch a breath between bouts. I thought we’d make it all the way through the cold season without a, well, cold.

No such luck. Now the prayers have shifted to fast healing, and keep it away from me and Jake. The essential oils are on double overtime and we’re cleaning every surface multiple times a day. Which reminds me, I have to go over the bathroom door knobs again. And recheck the hubby’s cleaning job in the boy’s room tomorrow morning. It still smells like ICK.

Anyway, I’ve got like seven hours of solid sleep on the last 48 hours and that might be a little generous.

Two months ago, this would send me into a crazy tailspin of emotional outbursts and meltdowns. I would leave my family in a trail of wounds on the battlefield of my angry rants while I tried to come down off the ledge without slipping and falling.

This year started out with the theme of Redemption. Restoration. Repentance. I could go through the thesaurus and find more, but we’ll go with the three R’s. It’s catchier. I’ve struggled for years with a negative worldview. Everything was colored by a glass half empty (or all the way empty on some days) perspective and even after my choice to follow Christ, that perspective didn’t seem to leave. I felt burdened, heavy with the weight of my constant failures and successes just seemed to be little bumps in the road instead of the road itself. I do a “good” job of living as if I don’t believe the power of God in my life and the power to change my attitude.

Except that Restoration, Redemption, Repentance, ALL have a POSITIVE view of the world. They are words resounding with the idea that THIS is NOT all there is. That life offers SO much more and it doesn’t end six feet under ground so what’s the point.

The three R’s say that hope is NOT some wispy phantom just out of reach, but present, purposeful, and completely possible.

Apparently, I like alliteration.

So two months ago, I would have freaked out when the kids refused to eat the meal I had slaved over and the toddler threw up ALL over me, the floor, his Powoh, the blankets, and. Let’s just say there wasn’t much room space he DIDN’T manage to cover. I would have lost it when the kids, instead of being helpful, decided that was the perfect time for 20 questions, only their version is more like 1,579 questions plus 1 more. I would have reacted, no second thoughts, regretting the explosion of broken, bleeding hearts after Mount Sarah erupted.

I’m not taking ANY credit tonight, because what DID happen, had NOTHING to do with me. I LAUGHED when I tasted the food and realized exactly WHY the kids weren’t eating it. My husband decided to brave through the artery clogging, ten-times-worse-than-a-salt-block flavoring and even gave me props for the colorful meal. I called his bluff when I gagged and hacked my way through the fish taco, promptly downing three large glasses of water to allow the salt, smoother passage through my digestive tract.

I’m going to regret that fish taco tomorrow. I can FEEL my eye sockets swell up and I’m pretty sure I just went back up three bra sizes. (Why do I ALWAYS gain weight in the face and chest first?)

#22MinuteHardCorps here I come. I don’t care if it’s 9 0’clock at night, I’m not going to die of a heart attack in my sleep.

We ate bananas and peanut butter sandwiches to balance our bodies on a cellular level again.

Which brings me to my son’s projectile vomiting episode right during the bedtime routine. I only got a little frustrated when my husband didn’t move at MY speed to fix all of our world problems. I calmed down pretty fast, which doesn’t ever happen for me.

And the 1,579 questions game? I calmly, but firmly informed them the Mommy textbook was closed for the evening and packed them off to bed…once I got the toddler and myself hosed down in calming bubble bath-laden water. He held my hand the entire time and managed to look about as pitiful as a toddler can look, when they are trying to milk the pity as much as possible. Oh, I’m not denying he is sick. I’m just saying, he takes the sympathy play to a WHOLE new level.

If it had been ONE of those situations two months ago, I would have blown a gasket. And humanly speaking, I came close a few times tonight to losing my cool and letting it all explode.

I could go into all the natural reasons WHY my attitude has made an altitude adjustment. Good exercise, healthy eating, relationship building…

However…

Supernaturally speaking, SOMEONE had my back. And this tired momma is MORE grateful that you all know.

Now, I’m going to sweat it out for 22 minutes and hit the sack for my nightly ration of two blissful hours of sleep before the interruptions start. I never knew a king sized bed could be so small before I had kids.

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Dinner tonight was a real Gag! No joke.

 

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In which I enjoy a little humor and late night exercise…

My son tells GREAT stories. He makes them up off the top of his head and just spills it out. If there’s a slight change in the plot and we call him on it, he has an answer that makes a strange, logical sort of sense in the context of the story.

AND, he tells the whole thing in this sweet little lispy voice that makes you just want to squeeze him, it’s so cute. I’m going to miss that a few years from now when puberty hits.

So this story. It’s about a cotton candy woman and soon becomes a candyland, sugar infused tale that makes your teeth hurt just listening to it. And the finale is a gigantic explosion that takes off the roof of the cotton candy house and places ALL of the candy in Candy Land into little boxes to sell in a a candy shop.

That is the nutshell version. The real one took about twenty minutes long and wound its way around like the actual Candyland board game. We got stuck in the Molasses Swamp and a slight detour in Licorice Castle, but eventually Princess Lolly (or was it Gramma Nutt) found their way to KIng Candy’s castle. (Via the aforementioned rooftop explosion)

Needless to say, dinner time at our house is ALWAYS entertaining.

However, we had started late because Jake got home from work late. Which meant our workout got put off until after the kids were in bed late. So we didn’t do our workout until about ten o’clock last night.

GROAN…

When I don’t want to do something, for whatever reason, I resort to a two year old throwing a very silent temper tantrum. I grump and sit down like a stubborn a…donkey and refuse to do whatever it is I don’t want to do. The harder someone pushes me, the more stubborn I get.

My husband is devious. He’s learned this secret of mine and has decided to use it against me. Because the only thing that will get me off my butt is when I’m left alone.  Like a kid who doesn’t whine and complain at children’s church UNTIL his mom is in eyesight again and suddenly the whole HOUR and a HALF she was gone is the ULTIMATE BETRAYAL and MUST GET ATTENTION NOW!

That’s me. Only the adultier version…

So when silence happened after my stubborn refusal to move, I got curious and decided to find out why his attention wasn’t on me anymore.

When I found him, I asked him why we weren’t working out and what on earth was he doing ignoring me like this? (I’m paraphrasing here)

His devious, evil plot worked because the next thing I know I’m grumping my way through a 35 minute workout and wondering why I was grumping anyway.

I KNOW what’s good for me. I KNOW the best thing for me. Most kids do too when they take the time to really think about it. But our stubborn natures don’t want us to admit it. EVER.

Moral of the story: If you’re going to listen to a LONG, sugar-laden story at the dinner table when you have to exercise that evening, start dinner before seven.

Candyland_Game_Board

Posted in Abundance, and Love, Celebration, discipline, faith, Family, Free Fall, God, Gratitude, Hope, hypocrisy, Joy, lessons, life, life lessons, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family, Pain, soul surgery, spiritual training

In which my desire is for my husband…

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I’ve read that part in Genesis so many times, the page is marked and torn. You know the part.

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

It’s Genesis 3:16 by the way. In case anyone else wants to rub the page thin, trying to figure it out.

I’m no Bible scholar. I have passages memorized from days long past when my parents lovingly and rightly drilled them into my rebellious brain. I get a kick out of the fact that sometimes in the middle of a Sunday sermon, I will find myself whispering the words just one step ahead of the Pastor and my husband’s eyes glow with pride.

“You are amazing, you know that? To have all that knowledge in your head and to recall it so easily.”

Which is high praise when you consider it’s coming from a man who once (and still) suffers from a traumatic brain injury. I think it a source of pride for myself as well, especially when he recognizes it. I’m not saying it’s healthy for me to be proud of my accomplishment in this area. Just that, considering the topic of this post, it’s a kind of irony.

This Christmas, I came face to face with my pride (and this verse in Genesis). I strongly desire my husband’s approval and attention. So strongly, that it colors my own actions or feelings toward him.

I finally get it. The punishment Eve faced was even more insidious and cruel than I first believed and I wanted to be angry at both men and God in the moment the revelation hit me. In the end, though I struggle with wanting to hold on to my own self-righteousness, I place the blame where it belongs. On Eve’s head. And boy, does that admission hurt.

See, I always questioned why Eve would desire the very person who had, in her greatest hour of need, failed her magnificently. Why on earth would she desire him and how could he rule over her when he couldn’t even keep her from taking the fruit of the tree?

Then it hit me. Because I was always thinking the curse actually hurt Adam more than Eve (minus the childbirth part). But I was focusing on Adam. Eve would struggle (women would struggle) for the entirety of their married life with a desire for their husband that often overwhelms their desire for and service to God. It wasn’t so much that Adam would rule over her.

It was that, his action or inaction, words or lack of words, could make or break her. This was not how God designed marriage obviously. He designed it to be a reflection, a shining example of His love for His bride and her submission to Him.  And how could that be when everything in her cried out for her earthly husband’s approval and affirmation? How could she possibly seek after God with her whole heart, when her heart could break over the simplest misstep her husband made.

If he chose passivity, she would struggle over insecurities long buried. If he chose inaction, she would question what she’d done wrong and whether he still loved her.

In the end, her focus, her desire, could very well pull her away from the one thing she needed most. Her heavenly groom’s unconditional and unwavering love.

I gave in to that this Christmas. I focused so hard on my desire for my husband, that I missed my Husband’s joy and affirmation. I focused so hard on my (his) lack, that I missed out on the overflow of His abundance.

I admitted all this to my poor husband, realizing that I’m still not over it. I’m still struggling through it, but I’m aware of my struggle now. And I  pray that I can accept and take joy in where my desire should be focused.

Because I may come to a day when my husband can’t give me the desires of my heart. Not that he won’t, but that through no fault of his own (whether through death or disability or illness–temporary or permanent) he will not be able to be what I need. So I need to stop expecting that now and focus on the joy and gratitude when he does meet a need–focus on it in the right context.

As a part of the overflow of a good and abundant God. Not through any ability or talent of my husband’s, but through the blessing of a God who longs so much to give His children–His bride–good things. Who wants our eyes on His abundance, not on our own lack.