Showing posts from 2017

Shiny, Fake Christianity

Recently, I stopped attending the church that I've focused so much of my life on for well over a decade. It made no sense. I help in a bunch of little, fulfilling ways, and I didn't really want to go at first. Well, after God told me to go, I asked my husband and my mother-in-law for their opinions. Of course, it made no sense to them, either. So, I shook it away, like a stray thought.

Fast forward a few years. Yes, years. I held on for far longer than I should have because it simply made no sense to me. But over the past two years, I have bumped up against a ton of walls. Everything seemed to tell me that I was in the wrong place. I felt so tired. Everything just seemed to go wrong. Yet, now I felt stuck. You see, I had asked the opinions of other people, and they were certain that I was wrong. I said to myself, " If I go now, I'm going in opposition to their advice." I couldn't handle that kind of choice.

Now, I am going to explain a little more about my st…

The Struggle and the Joys

This afternoon, I’m more aware than ever of the richness of my life. During our entire marriage, I think we lived 6 to 8 years above the poverty level, and even then, we always seemed to be struggling financially. We’ve always been technically poor. We’ve never had an excess of money. But oh, we’ve had joy! I need to put it into context for you. You know when you run out of toilet paper and you have to make do with napkins until payday? Well, we spent whole years with neither napkins nor toilet paper. No, we didn’t have paper towels. Coffee filters could be awfully convenient at times like those, since we were out of coffee, too. Might as well put them to good use. Are you getting a clearer picture? I’ve never been open about this online because it makes us uncomfortable to share such details. During those scarce years, I took my 3 year old daughter into a friend’s beautifully appointed bathroom once and she shouted, “Look, mom!” I thought she’d exclaim about the thick towels with…

Wrecked but Trying

I feel like a fake. I haven't arrived even close to the face that I portray. You see, I can use big words. I can talk about the right path to take. I can begin doing the right things. But I have never consistently done the right things. I freeze. My whole being goes into a sort of suspended animation, a hibernation of the soul. During those times, I sit on my couch, watch TV, and give up on trying hard. This is my usual existence. I do almost nothing. Other people help me clean. Or the mess stays. Other people feed the family. Other people help with laundry. And I sit. 

Okay, usually, I do the laundry myself. And the dishes. I even prepare food for the helpless ones in the house. I cover diaper duty and midnight feedings. But boy I'll tell you that I stick to doing just the bare minimum.

I get stuck just like my car. In a traffic jam, the car has gas, is in good working order, and is fully capable of accomplishing its purpose of providing transportation. Like that traffic jamm…

Trusting People Is Insane

That title had two parts: Trusting People Is Insane, but Forgiving Them Is Mandatory

Faith in man has made a fool of me. Over the years, I've given my heart and my faithful friendship to people whom I later discovered weren't ready to be trusted with my confidence. It's a painful experience that we can't even fully mourn because the shame about how foolish we were takes over and makes us feel even worse. So, we decide to put it all in our past. After all, we reason, we are over it anyway! That person didn't deserve our trust. Anyone who asks us hears about it. And now, we're bashing and gossiping about someone who we had been willing to trust with our very lives. But there has to be a better way. Shouldn't there be?

To begin with, let me share my old plan for dealing with betrayal. First, I acted like I never felt any love for the person even from the beginning. I told people I had kept the friendship out of pity. Then, to show how little love I had, I reve…

Self Help Books

Through the years, I've read some life changing books. "Finding God at Every Turn" by Catherine Marshall was a huge influence upon me as a woman. Even though it was about a life lived decades upon decades before my own, it resonated with me. Another one was "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer, which I'm reading again at the moment. Ruth Bell Graham has an autobiographical book, and the title escapes my mind right now, but in it, she talked to me like a best friend.

"Lord, Change Me!" by Evelyn Christensen was amazing. Like her, I eventually got some time alone with God and begged him, not to fix my life, but to fix me. But lately, as I tried reading through a few more modern books, I hit a wall. They're bestsellers from people whom I admire, but I can't make myself wade through them. Something is missing, and as I think about my favorite books, I think what they lack is introspection.

These days, we talk about keeping it honest, real,…

Am I Good Enough?

I've spent my life trying to please others and to do what's expected. Now, notice that I didn't say that I was trying to be good. Yes, I've tried to be good. Of course, I've really made an effort to be godly, kind, and a generally good person. But sometimes I just begin to get overwhelmed by the fact that I'm not going to accomplish that goal at all. In those moments, I just give in to the idea of living up to a standard set among respectable mainstream Christians. I rest in the assurance that I don't drink, smoke, or have intimate relations with anyone but my husband. I'm holding down a job that really makes a difference in people's lives. I rarely miss a Sunday at church. See? I'm pretty good as far as the basic rules go.

Then, I spend a little time in the presence of God. There in his presence, I realize all over again that I'm not even close to good. I'm not free of rude attitudes or unkind thoughts. Besides, my job truly fulfills…

On Being a Former Homeschooler

I don't think the term works -- former homeschooler. You see, I'm always going to be a different kind of parent and grandparent for the rest of my life, and much of it is due to my background in homeschooling. For example, I can imagine that everything in life will become a chance to teach a lesson as long as I can speak. Every experience is going to include the compulsion to enrich it by packing it with meaning and depth in a way that most ordinary experiences from my childhood were lacking. I'm always going to want to make things into "events" and "experiences" in ways that other moms simply don't even consider doing.

While raising my kids, I wanted every trip to McDonald's to include the park and ice cream. Similarly, every trip to the library had to include the most exciting book, the most epic classic, and some time picking a movie from the library's collection at the end of our trip. It's just the way we did things. Later, every tr…

Blessings in Poverty

I'm having a great day. I started the day having a good breakfast, enjoying time with my son, Javi, and then going to the food bank. Wait, what? Wouldn't a person be in perpetual torment if they needed to visit a food bank and essentially accept a handout? I used to believe that, back when my pride was always at stake. Now, I'm trying so hard to live a life where I simply go with the flow unless I have a reason to resist. And, thankfully, this trip to the food bank was a LOT of fun. I got to see some folks I haven't seen in months, and I got some awesome, healthy food.  All in all, it was great.

How about you? Are you facing some situations that might break someone else? Someone with less strength of character? If you've been broken by your life's circumstances, believe me when I say that I understand. I've struggled a lot, and I've wept longer and harder than I thought possible. In fact, my temper tantrums as a child pale in comparison to what I sounde…

Taking Offense

There is one thing that breaks my heart. Disconnected relationships. If my son and his daddy aren't getting along, I'm miserable. If my daughter and I haven't spent time together in weeks, I'm lonely. Why? Because family, and familial love, bring healing to us all.

Family is the one place where we can escape and rest. It's a place of recovery. My family is restorative to me. And I seek to be a blessing to them, too.

Tonight, however, I realized that I had allowed bitterness to come into my family circle, and that it had stabbed a hole into that protective barrier. We faced danger from that broken space, because anything could fly in through that space and do harm to our members.

One phrase awakened me to this breach. "You'd better not eat again," my husband said tentatively as I grabbed another big bite of food that I seriously did not need. And as it always has, that phrase made me want to go to the kitchen and cook myself an entire meal. Bitterness …

Hecklers & Life Goals

I've been trying to change my health habits. As in, I've been trying to develop some, since for most of my life, I've done stuff that should eventually kill me. I've eaten bad food and huge quantities of it. I've sat around and not moved much at all. I've snacked all day long on stuff that's designed to make you a food addict. And I've rewarded myself with food every single time I was having a bad day, a good day, or an okay day.

So, enter my first few days as an avid workout-er. As I began my Yellow Team workout that morning, I became pretty confident. There was some lower body movement, a little light hopping, and though I was modifying my positioning, some of the modifications I was making were a little tougher than the modified moves they provided for us on the video. I was really getting excited.

Just then, family came through the door. Now, if you are ultra sensitive to teasing, and your family members like to make lighthearted jokes, then your fi…

Aches, Pains, and Fitness Goals

I've tried for years to lose weight alone. Then, I tried again alone but in a different way. Surely, that would work? Nope. I asked people to help keep me accountable. Then, I made excuses for why I was cheating -- just this once. They would quit trying to hold me accountable. So, I'd end up cheating more than once, and then more than twice. Finally, in my mid-40s, I decided to get real help.

Okay, so this person, a Beachbody coach, has been gently encouraging me for months. I did well for a few weeks. Then, I kind of fell off of it. I was determined, but then I decided to give it all up when I faced a bunch of setbacks. This kind lady sent me a message, so I tried again. She added me to an accountability group, and now, I was more focused. Then, more setbacks. Another decision to forget about it.

This week, she got back in touch at just the right moment. I signed up for a 30 day trial to the workout videos. I did the easiest one I could find. No weights, low difficulty, a gre…

Praise, Floor Tiles, and Balaam's Donkey

Why is it that when I'm in some real tough situations, all I seem to be able to do is to praise my God? I mean, I'm not as spiritual as that sounds. I'd rather watch TV most evenings than pray. I'd much rather talk to my best friend than listen to a deep theological lecture. Furthermore, I'm just as selfish as they come, and I like getting my own way. Finally, I'm bored right now. I'm trying to be productive, but it's much easier to be creative and to blog than to be hard working. 

Okay, let's get back on track, here.
I'm not devoted to home repair. Not in general, anyway. But one evening, I found myself laying vinyl tile in my bathroom. I was tired and overheated, and the last thing I wanted to be doing was laying tile. But I finished the job, and I was still pumped about it days later. 
What does one have to do with the other? Why is laying tile like praise and worship? Believe me, it was a hard project. First, I peeled and scraped up all …

Why Cultural Differences Are a Good Thing

The best part of life consists in the experience of learning to navigate a new environment. When I've walked among people that I don't understand, I have found my inner self stretching and being renewed. Every new horizon opened to me also opened me up to a new understanding of life. 
When I was a little girl, I spent the summers with my mom. She lived in a building for people with special needs. Several frail elderly people lived there, but the young ones were mostly developmentally disabled or in wheelchairs. I met people who were just folks, but if I hadn't spent so much time with them, I might have thought that their wheelchairs, speech impediments, tremors, or their wrinkly skin made them foreign or somehow other than human. I'm glad for this experience, and I'm often shocked when a disabled person avoids eye contact with me. I guess outside of their world, they're used to being ignored. That's sad to me.

My mom worked for a few hours every day, and s…

Misuse, Abuse, and Healing

When I was a very tiny child, the people who should have cared for me the most did a lot of harm. I loved my kids. I did my best. But I messed up a lot, too. I was angry and yelling when I should have been gentle and consistent. I wasn't a great mom all the time, but boy did I wish that I could be. So when I write this, I'm not judging harshly. I'm just telling the facts.

Love covers a multitude of sins. But there's so much under the surface. Sometimes in hiding an action, we're not actually covering a sin, but continuing a legacy of evil acts. I tried to cover the sin. My family was full of people who loved me, family friends who wanted to do right, and they all sought to do their best. They had blinders that made them think that somehow this behavior wasn't wrong. And even when they knew that it was wrong, they couldn't seem to stop. I know that. I love them anyway.

Charming, outgoing, friendly people used my body for their sexual gratification. They also…

Bikinis and Jean Shorts

As a 13 year-old, I firmly believed that bikinis were only for supermodels, but on the day my aunt brought home a red and white polka-dotted string bikini, I became a bikini wearer. At first, of course, I decided that she must be unaware of my cellulite. I put it on to show her what I meant, and all she seemed to see was perfection. Well, getting me to wear the bikini to the pool was a struggle, because I didn't think that the one inch of cellulite that showed at the bottom of the panty was acceptable. My 4'11" skinny little aunt was undaunted. She said, "You have long legs and curves. Do you know what some women would give for a body like that?" She made me feel so silly about my self-conscious attitude that I wore the bikini and went swimming every afternoon for hours. 
Years later, I was an overweight young mom, and once again, I felt impossibly hideous. Now, my cellulite had spread, my curves were even curvier, and I had stretch marks. For years, I swam wit…

Failing Big

I had a neighbor who suffered a stroke. She was a sweet elderly lady who always waved at us and we at her. She worked cleaning houses, and she went to church faithfully every Sunday. She had a son who was mentally ill, and she walked with dignity and a poise that seemed to bely her years. She was an extraordinary lady, and I wished to be that awesome when I reached her age.

When she had a stroke, I felt certain that God was nudging me into preparing meals and taking them to her. However, I let my self-doubt get in the way. I asked myself why she'd want to eat my cooking. I decided that since the neighbor from the other house opposite hers was taking her food, she'd be fine. I told myself it was none of my business. I told myself that I had three kids and a husband and I could barely handle what I was dealing with in my own life. Yet, every day as I watched the man take a plate of food into the house, something within me screamed that I should have been the one doing it.

The la…