Reconciliations and Honoring a Dream

Reconciliations and Honoring a Dream

I woke up an hour ago to nurse a crying a baby. It’s the middle of the night…..and my creative spirit is lurking. All is quiet. And the pen and paper beckon. The pen and paper turned computer, that is.

Have you ever honored a dream?

Even when others told you not to?

Even when people thought you had left your rocker?

Even when haters said it would never work?

I’ve been doing this for myself; it’s a form of self-care. Nurturing a dream is like a tall glass of living water in a desert.

Somehow in this world of do’s and don’ts; in a place where we’ve tried to find holiness and perfection ourselves, I think we’ve lost our greatest asset.

Honoring our dreams. Reconciling that which was lost.

It’s been my finding over the last few years (as I’m a novice at this practice), that I’ll never look at a dream as silly any longer. Bucket list items matter. And not only because they are fun and thrilling and something to do but because they transform us and cultivate newness in our spirits. They give us the prospect of hope and of empowerment.

I spent a lot of time trying to push my dreams and my soul to the side, trying to tell myself that what I really wanted to do was selfish or silly or that someone else had already done it. It left me feeling depressed and lost. I listened too much to what others said instead of taking the risk of being myself.  Somehow birthing children gives you this sense of strength, this sense of “nobody’s gonna tell me what I can’t do; I birthed three kids out of my body.” Somehow in birthing children, I’ve given birth to my dreams.

And somehow in honoring the smallest request of those children, I see the fulfillment of joy and peace and character growth in their midst. Sometimes it’s not about doing it all right in order to get the reward; sometimes it’s about the ask. It’s about the movement toward what’s stirring in our souls. Sometimes going after the reward actually creates the strength inside of us that develops our humility, and our character, and our joy.  Holiness and wholeness are multi-dimensional. Purity is found in taking risks and daring to be ourselves in the midst of a world that is dying of self-perpetuated boredom and copy-cats. I want to see something new and fresh, something full of hope and laughter.

I want to see people chase their dreams.

I want to see God show up.

Not only for myself, but for everyone around me.

“I have a dream.” It’s famously spoken and creatively inspired. I can’t wait to hear more people agree…

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The Process of Forgiveness

The Process of Forgiveness
I’ve been writing the last couple months. With all the transition from selling a house to building a house, to moving into a new house, to decorating a new house, it’s been a whirlwind. A whirlwind of goodness and of faith and of dreams come true but also a whirlwind of justice and of beauty and of facing ourselves. It’s true that when we find a new space to live, there are adjustments to be made.  Old patterns can’t survive in new spaces. Freedom requires change and discipline but most importantly, love and forgiveness.
In the process of all this moving, I’ve had to catalog my thoughts. I get stuck inside my head without an avenue to release all the ponderings and revelation and ah-ha moments. When I felt God say my next book was at bay, I was a bit relieved and also a bit nervous. I knew the effort the first one took, but this time I also knew the freedom it brought and continues to bring–as well as the hope.  I have many ideas for books to write, but sometimes a good idea is that, just a good idea.  But when the idea flows out of the Heart of God for me and for others, then I know it’s not just a book– it’s Presence. And before I even asked Him what I should write about, He said it: “Forgiveness”. My spirit leapt in excitement and in terror. If I write on forgiveness, I’ll be responsible for forgiving. And in the best of ways, that is exciting and terrifying and self-sacrificing.  But the more and more I look for ways to understand Jesus, the more and more I see what beauty there is in laying down my life for another person. Forgiveness. To give in advance.  To cover shame.  To make a way where there is no way.
Scriptures say that “Love covers a multitude of sin”. That’s where I want to live. I want to live in a place where people offer to cover my shame with comfort and words of life and steps toward the right direction. I want to live where people tell me the Truth because they honestly want the best for me, not because they are trying to control or manipulate or feel better about themselves. I want loving correction and soul nurturing. I want community. I want the simple act of listening to understand, being heard because our voices are valuable, and sharing because light heals darkness. And, so here-in lies forgiveness.
God asked me to write my own process. I’ve been working toward whole-hearted forgiveness intentionally for years. I am always willing to forgive. But sometimes willing doesn’t quite cut it. Many are willing, but few are able to follow through. Few are able to make forgiveness a lifestyle, not just an event.  I want to be one of the few–though I hope there are many.
And so I write. It’s a lofty topic, I understand–but I keep hearing a phrase over and over again in my spirit: “Who will cover my shame?”  Adam and Eve were in the Garden, unashamed. Naked, vulnerable and fully alive.  A serpent steps in.  Deception occurs. And now they live in shame. As do we all.
In a world perpetually trying to find one thing after another to cover our shame, where can we go to find dignity? I need new clothes, don’t you? I need someone to love me when I see sin in my life. I need someone to offer hope. I don’t need someone to make fun of me, shame me, or make me feel bad about myself. If we’re living in sin, we’re already punishing ourselves. What we need is someone willing to carry our shame. And there is He. Fully vulnerable, misunderstood and rejected……carrying my baggage. Stepping into the gap where there was no way, giving in advance when He could be fully denied, and loving to the point of death.
I’ve been practicing this. I’m far from being like Jesus in so many ways, but as I step into this place of listening to Him, of trying to understand His nature, of wanting to see Him perform miracles in my life, I touch this place of forgiveness. He reaches the places of shame that I only I know about–and then He gives me opportunities to do the same for others. He gives me eyes to see. They aren’t eyes of judgement, they are eyes of empathy. They are eyes of “I see you. I’ve been there. I am there.” And in this place of uncovering, light is exposed and lives are transformed.  We become family by carrying each other’s burdens and by choosing wisdom instead of quick retorts and unexpressed grief.
When we share our grief, we share our comradery. We give the grief a place to empty and to bleed out of us and to open up new spaces.  And in new spaces, we get to forgive. Give in advance. Create something beautiful. Cover a multitude of sins.
Forgiveness is becoming one of my favorite places to live. I die a lot there, but I’ll never stop living…
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Welcome to Our House

Welcome to Our House

“If you build it, they will come.”

That’s what we’ve told ourselves anyway. More than six months ago, we searched out plots and chose our field of dreams. And, now, we live in the reality of the bloom.

We’ve been in our new house for a bit over a month now, and as I walk through the open space that our new home affords us, I am still embracing what it’s like to soak it all up. All-this-space.  Not to mention all the clutter we ditched and all the furniture we transformed and all the decor we’ve bought–we’ve been blessed.

In the quiet, I can feel the rooms humming. The energy of the day still looming inside each of them.  Everyone is sleeping, except me.  It’s just how I like it; it sets the perfect stage for me to write.  It’s in the early mornings and the late nights when I take some minutes to pause, and to breathe, and to give thanks.  And in the giving thanks, I always start to dream.

We’ve had visions of guests coming and staying with us for a time of rest and a time of play, of cooking meals and drinking wine and spending late nights sharing stories.  It’s the B&B nature we’ve just become accustomed to. It’s the Life that’s been given to us.  It’s been in those moments of breaking bread and of sharing silence where we’ve seen our spirits come alive, our souls heal, and our relationships bloom.  It’s been the times when we’ve been with people who share their brokenness and their fullness, who give of their talents and receive with great grace, that we’ve truly breathed eternity. And now we have a place to continually do so.

We’re so excited about our new season, and we are equally excited to have guests. We’ve been preparing and sowing and working toward it for years. We hope you’ll stop by………especially if you’re tired or weary, especially if you like coffee and desserts, and especially if you like to dream and to do. You’re welcome here. We can’t wait to have you!

 

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If you ever decide to write…

If you ever decide to write…

 

FINAL UPDATED COVER-2

Ya’ll–I am in it. The final-est of the final stages of self-book publishing. In fact, the publishing part is actually done; I’m just in one of my very last i dots. I’ve already crossed my t’s, and now I’m i dotting….

And I never ever thought I was going to get here. I mean, I believed I would get here–but my thoughts were always fighting with my belief.

But now, I can see how real it has become. And I am so excited to share it with you! I am also EXTREMELY grateful for your support of me as I charted completely new territory–and also for your patience with me as I’ve had several delays I haven’t expected. Let’s just say, I’m learning quite a bit in this process–and I am hating it and loving it all at the same time! I’m so grateful for those of you who have come along for the ride with me because it’s been SO nice to have the comradery.

With that, I know several others out there who want to write a book (or do something else), and so I thought along with my “marriage and parenting blogs” that I’d add another one on writing a book.   I often find it quite boring to go with the “guidelines”, so yet again, I have taken the “long” way and wanted to share for any of you that may want a I-learned-the-hard-way roadmap to publishing your own book.

1. If you decide to write a book, my first point of advice is this: TELL EVERYONE. And I mean tell everyone– before you finish, tell them while you are writing, tell them when you’re feeling the euphoric writer’s high, tell them! Because there will be days when you are terrified of what you just wrote and also days where you will be discouraged beyond belief, and you will need these people to be there to ask you how it’s going.  You will need these people to remind you what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you tell no one, it is so much easier to quit. Especially if you are self-publishing, SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS like a child who just learned how to ride her bike. I promise you, you will be glad you did! Don’t keep it a secret because it feels easier to “play it cool”. It is scary writing a first book, and the thing is, if you aren’t scared to write (I don’t believe you)….and second, I wonder if your book will probably be all that interesting and impacting. :) Writing is a key to the soul, and it is the vulnerability in it that makes it so beautiful!

2. Don’t let anyone read your book until you are ready for them to make comments. And if you aren’t ready for comments, if you just want someone to “be with” you, let them know that ahead of time if you choose to share it. I selected several friends who I unleashed my rough draft onto….and I said at the beginning, “Would you read this? I don’t need feedback necessarily, I just want someone to read me.” Even though these people were very close to me, it was still scary–but I thankfully chose wisely! They did exactly what I needed; they-read-me. They were with me. And after I grew from my first step of bravery, I was able to look at my draft again and let go a bit. From there, I could start letting other selective people in to see if I should add anything. Let me be clear though; I was very select in my invitations! Because, again, at rough draft stage, it is very vulnerable–so you’ll want to choose the people who know you best or who you trust most. With each person you share with, your confidence will start to grow and you can then start adding to the list of who can preview it (and perhaps help guide you to make it even better).

3. Go with the flow but also force yourself to write. I am very inspiration-oriented, so most of the time I like to write when I get that “feeling”. The problem with this is, I have small children and a house to take care of. So, I was not often inspired at the moments that were convenient to write.  In addition, I didn’t have much time to write either. Evenings are my brain dead hours, so I had to choose to use early mornings and nap times as my writing time. This often meant I had to force myself to sit down to write even if I didn’t feel inspired.  Often times, though, all the post-it notes from my inspired times (between diaper changes and making meals) came together quite nicely when I finally had a few minutes to sit down and put all the “random” thoughts together. Even if I felt too tired to write during kid naps, I’d often make myself. And then, I actually felt more energized to continue. My book was written from “30 minutes here” and “45 minutes there”. I don’t know that I ever sat down for a full day to just write. That wasn’t realistic for me in this season, but I chose to keep going in those small moments and in the small steps, because I couldn’t help myself.  My book needed to come out!

4. Give yourself days off. It’s so important to have days where you don’t think about the overwhelming “responsibility” of what it’s going to take to finish. The days where you take your brain completely out of the game will be the days that propel you into writing your best chapters. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that overworking doesn’t produce quality. The rest will do you good.

5. Don’t be surprised by delays–especially if it’s your first book. I chose to figure this thing out on my own (I’m crazy and bull-headed) because I really wanted my manuscript to be authentic. I refused to change things that I felt were crucial and meaningful, and I most wanted to be my true self in my writing. I didn’t write to make millions, but I did write to be real.  And if I had to delay because I wanted it to be excellent instead of mediocre, I chose to yield to the delay.  To be quite honest, I ended up loving these delays (after kicking and screaming)–because I learned more and healed more and gained more ground.  When a delay comes, a surprise always comes soon thereafter if you can allow yourself to rest and just let things go. Time always has this way of working things out…..

6. Have so much fun! Soak up the process like a big wet sponge. This has been one of my biggest breakthroughs personally. I have come to LOVE process and to relish in good and in difficult and in unknown. It has been so triumphant to put my heart in writing and to leave something for my children. It has been so freeing and exciting and adventurous, and it has been so fun to see God provide through it all.    Though the product is so rewarding, the quiet moments and the thrilling moments in the process are even richer. You go into the experience one way and come out metamorphasized!

All this to say, it’s-almost-time. I will release my printed copy and ebook/audiobook copy at the same time! (Sorry for the delays–I was “planning” to have already released it….but you can just go back to #5). I will announce it on FB, like a child on Christmas, as soon as my last i is dotted. So, I promise you won’t miss it! You will be able to get the links to all copies on my website under Books. I encourage getting both the written and audio–the printed copy is full color, a workbook, and a devotional. The audiobook is my own voice with music and sound added. There’s nothing more powerful than voicing your reality, and I had so much fun doing both!

So, thanks a million for coming along on my journey! I couldn’t have done it without you all!

 

 

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Parenting 101

Parenting 101

My friend asked me to do a follow up on my Love and Marriage blog. I quickly abliged and thanked her because I had no idea that my thoughts on marriage would be so well worn! It was food to my soul to know that what I had learned the “hard way” could be articulated to others who were also hoping to be lucky in love.

This one, she asked, would be on parenting.

(And a hush fell over the crowd.)

At least in my house.

What the heck do we know about parenting? Until we looked back, and realized how far we had come, we had no idea that, yet again, what we learned the “hard way” may benefit someone else.  So, as I pondered the topic in my heart and as I lived my normal daily life, I started to scratch down a list (as events occurred) that might not only help me when I say them, but also help you as you read them.

Before I start, a little background would probably help as well as some disclaimers. My first disclaimer is that I am not a family therapist or counselor, though I’ve had more than several people ask for my opinion on inner healing and the like. My thoughts and my process I will generously dish out, but I won’t give a formula as much as I can give suggestions.  And in the suggestions, they are just that–things that have worked for us.  As far as background goes, I can share this: My husband is the keen administrator, I am the highly sensitive artist, my oldest is a combo of the two on steroids, my middle is Christmas every day of the year (except we’re entering the two’s), and my youngest is like a teddy bear that you just can’t stop holding–yet he nurses like a baracuda while teething. They are also extremely close in age. The oldest just turned four, and the youngest just hit 5 months. There’s also some other information I’ll choose to leave out, but let’s just say: We’re a hurricane. We are passionate and loud and fun and quirky and deep and partly wounded and partly healed….and we talk really fast because we never know when someone is going to scream or interrupt us or throw something or spit up or crush cheerios into the carpet.  We also wait for our dog to “kiss” us and steal our dinner off the counter.

But we’re learning how to rest in the eye of the “storm”.

And, if anything, this is what we’re learning when it comes to being a parent:

1. Listen to what you’re children are saying. Whether they are whining, crying, wanting to play, asking for a treat…listen. And then tend to it as best as you can. My children have become some of my greatest teachers. One of the utmost important things I’ve learned as a human being and as a parent is to allow and encourage others to have a voice. This is the most powerful and honoring thing we can do for one another. As a child, it teaches a standard of what the world should be like. It teaches that everyone gets a vote, a right to be heard, and the worthiness of connection. Even if the child isn’t asking “correctly”, he or she is still asking to be heard. After they are heard, the need can be assessed. I’ve been shocked at how many times I thought my child was just being “whiny” when really, she was right! She had a legitimate need; she just was unsure how to communicate it. And the more I listened, the more I could connect with her. This isn’t to say that every answer should be “yes”, and it also doesn’t say that we throw respectful communication out the window. But what it says is that everyone gets heard. After a person is heard (it goes for parents as well), then technique can be worked out. We can get to a point where we make some boundaries if communication isn’t going very well. But sometimes as parents, we focus so much on technique and manners that we stop listening. And that’s where the chasm begins. It can be a balance of the two. We still try to teach our children not to whine; in fact, we try to teach them what overcoming looks like instead–but we also listen to their little voices because they rarely ask for things or say things that aren’t expressing some sort of need.

2. Choose your battles. I think this is common parental advice. Here’s what we all learn the hard way: Our kid, no matter how much we love him/her, is not perfect! There will be power struggles. There will be disobedience. But what matters more than winning is love. I refuse to say no more than I say yes (learned that the hard way). I lay my right to be right down often, because it often teaches my children how to learn for themselves. I set limits, yes, but I also choose what is most important to correct. No one likes a micromanaging boss. Parents are designed to be stewards of life and nurturers of spirits, not task masters and rule makers. Tasks and rules do come (and for good reason) but obedience should always be understood through the lens of love and nurture. They learn to obey because my instruction starts to prove itself as care. And in the care, they start to trust. On the same note, a controlling parent cripples creativity and freedom of expression. Often times, a creative child is much more intent on obeying when they feel they have been heard (Point #1) and when they aren’t always being told no. We can still say no–because it is definitely a good and important practice, but “no” can be fostered through a place of freedom and not hindrance. When everything is “no”, no one has any fun. And chaos abounds. When “yes” is heard more often and when there are safe limits, “no” doesn’t usually turn into the battleground that it could be.

3. Let’s talk about housework and chores (because we have to). No one wants a disaster of a house and no one wants to feel like he/she can’t live in a chlorox-ed house. When kids come about, there has to be a balance otherwise everyone will go crazy.  Long story short, here’s what I’ve learned: Make a chore schedule for Monday-Friday. Make sure it’s realistic. Do the small chore list daily, and let the rest go. I can easily neglect my children by attempting to clean all day, and I can easily lose my children in their piles of toys if I never choose to clean up. I’ll have a spotless house again when they graduate. For now, I’ll make my situation live-able while being responsible (teaching them to clean up, too!), then I’ll let the rest go and play with my kids.

4. Simplify. Everything. Like your whole entire life.

5. Find ways to cope with the frustration, exhaustion, and the learning curve of parental living. Laugh when you want to yell (because it really IS funny). And when you hit your limit, get out of the house and rejuvenate yourself. Your rejuvenation is KEY to being a great parent! And so is chocolate.

6. Don’t get caught in debates over clean eating/vaccinations/discipline tactics/stay-at-home vs. work outside the home/ homeschool vs. go-to-school, etc. with other parents. It won’t help. Everyone starts with a different stack of cards. Everyone has a unique and intricate pathway that will work best for their family. It doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion. It just means that you are a sensitive human being that realizes that there are (more than) two sides to every story, there is balance and wisdom to be had, and there are lots of options for different circumstances. Would I like my kids to eat organic every day? Yes. But you know what? We hit up Dunkin Donuts today because I-needed-a-break before I went on a major rant. Would I like my kid to have the best healthcare possible? Of course. But that doesn’t mean that I have to refuse to ever go to the doctor because my child will be forever traumatized by one dose of antibiotics–nor does it mean that I don’t think about natural remedies before I constantly induce my children with medicine containing Red 40. We can have a balance. And what works for one person may not work for another….and that’s ok. Take wisdom from each parent’s experience. Don’t judge other parents; make friends with other parents (there is strength in numbers). Don’t assume you know everything or that your way is the “only” way and that your research is the only research; this is a real headache. It’s also really annoying. ;) But give and receive wisdom that is shared–and then go with your gut. The hospital has saved me many times and so has my alternative therapy; yelling has saved my child sometimes (because she did something dangerous) and so has grace (when I let something slide). Donuts have saved me many of times and so has organic green food. We really are lucky in this country to have the best of a lot of worlds! Make many other parent friends and refuse to be a judger before being a listener; we can help one another out by sharing our perspectives and also by opening our listening ears–we don’t want to show our kids how to fight. ;)

7. The young years are often all about putting out fires (when there are multiple children close in age). I’m putting out a lot of fires these days when I have all three children and the dog together. So, we try as best as we can to separate the kids for special one-on-one dates. Dad takes one child to Home Depot when he needs to run an errand; I’ll take another child to Target when I want to buy nail polish (let’s be honest). And we try to get in special dates that require dessert and dresses and special date “pictures” every once in awhile too. It’s so worth it; the one-on-one connection time is so refreshing and makes me appreciate some of those idiosyncrasies that can be frustrating when all three children are together.

8. Have fun. Accept where you are. Accept where you’ve come from. Look forward to where you are going. Let your child “be” while challenging them to grow. Pray (you’ll need to). And then have more fun.

If I could give any counsel on what I’ve learned and am still learning (because things change every day), it would be these! Be patient with yourself, be patient with your kiddos (and spouse), never stop listening, and play really really hard. This has been the best journey of my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love and Marriage

Love and Marriage

A friend from high school asked me to write a piece for her non-profit’s newsletter about healthy marriage relationships. She and I haven’t seen each other since high school, but because of the fabulous world of social media, we’ve been able to “keep in touch”. She noticed some interactions between my husband and I on our Facebook pages, and she asked if I would write. When my husband came home that evening, I told him about it, and I have to admit we giggled for a minute. “Us? The crazies who just had three babies in less than four years? Us? The one’s with the gigantic dog who slobbers all over everything and wants to go outside five times a night? Us? The one’s who both have big dreams and goals for our family and our careers and are currently ravenously sleep-deprived?”

Yes, us.

Don’t get me wrong. I was flattered.

But then I thought about it. It’s easy to see snippets of people’s lives on a social media platform and believe that that is all there is to their relationship. The happy love notes and funny gestures, I mean. And it’s true, we have our fair share of those in this house; we really are in love with each other and we really do laugh a lot.  But on the other side of that love and laughter, there has been a lot of hard work. And a lot of ugly.

I’d say when we got married (right out of college) that we were both very selfish and broken people. Who isn’t? We had a very sweet college experience and love story, and when we got married, we were totally infatuated with each other and all kind of mushy stuff like that.

And then a few days into being married, we both had thoughts like “Oh-my-gosh. This person I married is crazy. Wait a minute, I’M crazy.” But even with that, when we got married, we committed to one thing that was for sure. And that was this:

This marriage is going to last forever. No backing out, no breaking up. We are gonna stick this thing out through the happy and the sad and the ugly and the sleep-deprived.

And so far, we are on 10 years plus, and I think we’ve done pretty well. We’ve fought a lot, made up a lot, moved a lot, changed jobs a lot, experienced loss, and gained joy. And if I can attribute any wisdom to this experience, aside from the obvious of the absolute Grace of God, it would be these three things:

1. Promise each other that you’re going to stick it out. Make your marriage a covenant. Breaking up isn’t optional. So many times in our society, we’ve seen “commitment” mean nothing. People cheat, people leave, our favorite bands break up. You get the idea. This has done a number on all of us if we want to be honest. So, David and I decided that we were bringing old school back. This marriage was the “Grande Finale” for both of us. Because we said those vows in front of our friends and family, we have what feels like a “promise umbrella”. And in that promise umbrella, we can have freedom with one another to be real, to be vulnerable, and to be honest. The other person isn’t going anywhere, so we can put all the cards on the table. We’re living this life to-geth-er. It creates safety and intimacy—and the perfect breeding ground for a lot of really hyper kids. (And it’s important to make that promise before the kids come around, because that’s the perfect time for you to possibly reconsider if you really like one another.)

With this umbrella, there are a few ground rules though. No one needs a promise umbrella full of abuse. So, in order for everyone to have a voice in this forever love, we do gently call one another out on bad behavior. We also listen to each other for understanding and not for debate, and we put one another’s needs in front of our own. We also are honest with one another (unless it involves a surprise party)–even if we might feel ashamed. Because in honesty, we have the ability to let go and to move forward.

2. Always look for and assume the best in each other. If he comes home and our house is a disaster, he’s learned to assume that the kids were tornadoes that day instead of that I sat on the couch and ate bons bons.  Likewise, if he doesn’t answer my text for several hours when he’s at work, I assume he’s in an important meeting or has a busy agenda and not that he doesn’t make time for my voice. Even though we are committed as a single unit (the two become one), we still have independent work days. And in addition to the work day, we also have our own history of life, and woundings, and process. So in choosing to assume the best in each other, we can stop an argument before it even starts. That means, as we see lack in the other’s attitude or environment, then we first look at why that could be. He didn’t get sleep last night? Check. The kids are teething? Check. Our St. Bernard did the “Beethoven shake” on our bed upstairs? Check. Check. This is life. Sometimes our environments reek chaos, and we have to give one another grace. But if it’s a continual problem, then we also have to give one another a different type of grace, which is asking if there is something that should be discussed. Are there underlying issues as to why his attitude is bad? Are there underlying issues as to why I can’t keep a clean kitchen? This is all important because it leads us back to the foundation in number 1. A promise has been made to one another. Yet inside that, bad behavior is manifesting. So, it’s time to be honest and real about the facts. With that, we can then create some space for a process, and we hopefully can work toward a better solution. Guaranteed, this is way better than nagging, badgering, or passive-aggressive comments to one another. It’s also better than saying nothing and allowing resentment to take root.

3. Be willing to own your stuff. Honestly, I think this has been our biggest ally of all.  Somehow or another, both of us have been born with an innate conviction wiring. When one of us knows we’re wrong, we apologize. Maybe not right away, but eventually it happens (usually within a few minutes to a full day). Sometimes people just need some space to think. We both have realized that an apology isn’t really genuine if it is forced or if it is being used as a band-aid (which will manifest as an explosive hand grenade later). So, we give ourselves some time to work through what the other said if needed, and then we offer an apology when we are in full understanding. Likewise, sometimes we can demand an apology when it really isn’t warranted. So, boundaries are also good. Knowing what isn’t your stuff is often as critical as owning what is. Old wounds of rejection and hurt can be triggered in confrontations, and what one person may think demands an apology could really be a need for comfort from a past wound. So, we can comfort one another’s wounds while not taking responsibility for a previous wrong that is being stirred up.  Being aware of ourselves, our previous history, and our partner’s previous history can be the roadmap to great communication and a really enjoyable relationship.

With all this being said, I realize that when we got married, we really didn’t know much about how to be married. But because we have such a fervor for making our lives more happy and efficient, we really were able to put the effort into creating a great marriage through a lot of trial and error. And it has really become quite beautiful as we look back at where we started.

I know that everyone is in a different situation and everyone has a different starting point.  But no matter where you are, there is hope! Perhaps you’re reading this, and you’re divorced. That’s ok! It is possible to pick up and start over. If you choose to find another husband or wife, you have the opportunity to find one who will complement your forever promise. If you are in a marriage where communication is really difficult, maybe just start by reading this article together. Choose to listen to one another in order to see each other’s vantage points–not to win–but to receive a full scope of what is possibly going on.  If you’ve made some mistakes, apologize. An apology is always good–even if it’s way late. And if your promise umbrella is full of abuse, you can get help from a professional outlet. There are so many great churches and counselors with tons of experience and grace to support you in your journey.

The point is, love and marriage is a great gift that we each have the privilege of stewarding.  This is not only for ourselves but also for the children that will come down the line, and the children that are already present (whether they are small children or adult children). It’s never too late to make strides from a fresh start. And if your partner doesn’t want to change, you can always be responsible for yourself. Sometimes it’s a good example that starts a revolution. People often respond to purity and genuine love, even if it takes some time.

And that is it! Our not-so-secret secrets about a healthy marriage.

Enjoy the gift of loving one another–through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sleep-deprived. It will be one of the most blessed walks of life if you do!

 

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Hello there, Lady Wisdom

Hello there, Lady Wisdom

My word for 2013 was purge. Oh my gosh, it was a year of purging for me. I think it brought up every nook and cranny of anxiety or fear, and it shoved it in my face until I finally gave it the big old barf.

Thank God.

And thank God it’s over.

Now it’s 2014, and it’s time for the do-over. I love a good do-over and fresh start. After having three kiddos in the last four years, I think I have become somewhat ADD. Or rather, God was highlighting to me my already ADD tendencies. I don’t say that lightly, but I do say it honestly. I don’t need to go into the details, just trust me on this one. A preschooler, a one year old, a St. Bernard, a husband who got a nice promotion and travels sometimes, and me super pregnant and writing a book. We were a hot mess, people.

But I’m so thankful for it. I’m so thankful for the chaos that pruned me and healed me and helped me listen for advice for this next year. Because Lord knows this year needs to be easier than last year. I’m officially detoxed and ready to work smarter not harder.

So, here’s what we’ve been doing…..Proverbs.

David and I decided to read one chapter a day. It’s easy enough that even in the fact that our time together is really limited in this season (as is alone time), we can definitely still read one chapter. And one chapter of Proverbs is enough to make me think the whole day through.

Because of this, I’ve been pondering on organization and also more creativity for this year. The more kids that come into our lives, the more I realize we have way too much stuff and way too much for them to get into and destroy. This not only makes me constantly anxious of what they are doing the moment I hear “quiet”, but it also makes me increasingly frustrated when I’m cleaning up nail polish off the floor or spilled water all over the carpet. It’s also made me say “no” or “don’t do that” way more than I ever want to as a parent. I’d much rather say “yes”. So, as it is with me, it is with them. I’m clearing out some space and making way to hear some more “yes’s” from God and also say some more “yes’s” to them.

First step, remove all clutter (I think this was 2013). I made a billion trips to Goodwill last year. Toys, clothes, spice racks, whatever.

Second step, only keep select toys downstairs. The rest go in the attic for rotation on a rainy day. (This goes for mom and dad, too.) I’m being intentional this year about using what I have. When I have a billion toys around, I don’t usually “play” with them intentionally nor do I get full use out of what I have. If I have a few things going on, I can be present and intentional. I like this SO much better. I also don’t have to chase my tail all day cleaning up a billion messes I made because my toys are everywhere! (This also goes with friendships–I’m being intentional about the ones that are healthy for me in this season! It’s ok to ebb and flow in relationships, and to focus on the ones that are helpful or that I want to develop, instead of having a billion acquaintances with little substance. I’m substance–all the way. But I DO love Facebook because I still love seeing acquaintances–ya know, from a distance. =) ).

Third step, keep the messy activities inaccessible to little people. If Ella or Lucy want to do a puzzle with a ton of pieces or paint or color, they have to ask. If it’s a good time for this, we can do it together. That means, I don’t try to wash dishes while they throw a puzzle all over the house….because, um, this is frustrating for us all. They need the help putting it together, and I need my sanity. And we all enjoy it and each other this way. If it’s not a good time, it’s out of reach until it is a good time. And this is the time I get to practice following through on my “I said no.” ;)

Fourth step, spend more time on what matters. I’m not about to say that social media doesn’t matter, because I believe it does. I think it’s a great tool for connection and community, but I also think that it’s easy to run to because I like to read every interesting article someone posts or see what everyone else is up to–and then I become overstimulated…when I was already tired to begin with. All I know is that whether people want to admit it or not, social media IS an exchange of energy (just like any relationship is), and there are lots of things in my news feed that suck me dry or make me annoyed or just make me plain tired because I don’t need any more going on in my head than there already is. So, I’m choosing to limit the extra stimulation (whether that means narrowing my “friends” or just checking once or twice a day instead of all throughout the day). I’m learning to listen to myself more than what other people have to say, and I’m also listening to God. He likes to speak when it’s quiet….

And fifth step, I’m going to do what I want more. Yes, what I WANT. I’m going to take trips to see friends, I’m going to write more and draw more and dance more. I’m going to take all the extra energy I have because I’m less stimulated and more happy, and then I’m going to give it away to everyone I encounter because I think happy is good–and way underrated. And I think more people need to see what happy looks like.

And then, when my next trial comes along (because we know it will–this is life), it won’t seem like such a big deal. I won’t be so overstimulated that I want to shut down or hide or eat a whole box of Oreos. (Ok, I might still eat the Oreo’s). But you know what I mean? More balance. More enjoyment.

I know everyone is talking this way because it’s the New Year and all, and I get that. But I feel like this has been brewing in my heart for a long time, and I’ve finally climbed my way out of a huge black hole to actually grab hold of it. So, I’m excited…..and hopeful.

What are some things you’re doing differently this year?

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Shaming is Bullying

Shaming is Bullying

I’ve written about shame before, and I’m choosing to write it about it again because…….well, frankly, I’m just really sick of it.

I could go on and on about how much I hate the phrase “Shame on you”. I could go on even further and further about how much I hate the application of those words even more.

I’ve been watching this shame game play out for at least seven years now, and last week I went through an amazing amount of breakthrough regarding this very topic.  Here’s the thing. I would consider myself usually very out-of-the-box. I am the creative type, get bored easily, and I don’t usually love the idea of coloring within the lines. I rely a lot on inspiration to move forward with things, and I also enjoy the spontaneous when it comes to life. I thrive off of adventure.  I’m not always as chronological as those who are more linear-focused, but I usually always come through just in my own freedom of process.

One of the things I’ve noticed about this scenerio is this. I’ve been bullied. Big time. There have been many occasions during my 32 years where I have been pushed around, made fun of, or shamed into being “disciplined” or compliant. I put “disciplined” in quotation marks because I don’t think it really helped at all, and I believe discipline is supposed to help. I may be out-of-the-box, but I can say with all humility that I have fantastic work ethic. So there is also a huge difference between discipline and work ethic. There’s also a difference between discipline and “order”. I also put “order” in quotations because order does not have to mean chronological. That’s a whole different bunny trail, though, so back to my main point…..

Shaming. It’s really about our lack of understanding and our lack of seeing.  We see it in every arena of life–parenting, sibling rivalry, business, politics, the media. It’s everywhere. If someone has a different perspective or opinion, we often expose and then shame. If someone makes a choice differently than we have, we shame. If we are jealous? We take something someone did wrong, and we shame them.

I would like to point out that this does not work. Never has, never will.

It does not mean that we don’t use discipline or correction if something has gone array. By all means, we need correction! All of us. We also need confrontation, no matter how horribly awkward it is, to grow and to learn. But what we don’t need is shame.

I’ve found that the ones who usually shame the most are often the ones who have been rejected the most in their own ideas and lives and careers (and have not dealt with it). It’s because it’s the repetitive cycle of abuse. Hurt people hurt people. And I think it’s legitimate to say we’ve all been hurt.

And then there is the other aspect of shame where hurt people become defensive almost all-of-the-time.  For example, you give a gift and they “read between the lines” about why. You encourage them, and they “read between the lines” about why. You share an thought, and they automatically share opinions back without truly listening first. And then there is the all-out horrific “confronting a behavior”, and the previously shamed person automatically defends themselves. And then not only defends but often shames back the person who is telling the truth. Oh my goodness, if this isn’t the worst of the shame cycles….and we see it everywhere!

We’re in this season of confrontation. Can’t you feel it? Everyone wants a voice. And I’m very big on everyone getting to have a voice. It’s freedom of speech, it’s the right way to learn.  However, if we don’t get our shaming and blaming under control, I’m fearful that we won’t ever move forward in our relationships. And that makes me sad.

I once was with a consultant who told me that I had a gift to correct people. She felt like God had shown her that I would be used to help expose things that had gone wrong and help confront people in a loving way about changing the damaging behavior. When she said that, I wanted to barf. I thought to myself: that is the LAST thing I want to do.  For me, after being shamed so much, it was easier for me to not confront. I would rather just ignore the person and move on with my life. Not to mention, I was actually scared to hurt the bully’s feelings.

But God seemed to have other plans. Instead, he wanted the voice that the bully’s in my life had stolen to come back in the opposite spirit. It took time, and it still takes time….finding my voice. Breaking the cycle of Hurt People Hurt People. I’ve been writing and dealing with this for the last 7 years, and I am still learning about it.

But what I’ve found is this, I can stop a bully in his tracks by walking in the opposite spirit. It may not be immediate. In fact, the bully often manifests horribly before any truth is actually heard. But when I’ve done my own work first and am walking out of love and also out of that vulnerable and fearful tremble before God, you know, the one where He asks you to “do something about it”….I have a choice to give the greatest gift. It’s the gift of correction without shaming. Brennan Manning says, “Forgiveness lies in finding where your enemy cries”.

God says He disciplines the ones He loves. I have been terrified of discipline (even by God) until the last few years. During the last few years, I have come to see a whole new understanding of why He disciplines. He wants the best for me. He doesn’t shame my behavior, He validates how it got there in the first place. And after I see how it got there and why I act out, I often want to give it up. I want to change. I want the correction, and I feel closer to God because we’ve dealt with it.  I’ve learned to love discipline and to adore correction, and also to yield to it’s beautiful working out process. And I’m realizing that to confront and to correct and to change really is a gift.

So, we get to bridge a gap. Shaming is bullying. Correction is loving. We all have a right to have an opinion. We all have a right to a voice and to sharing a perspective, and we all can have enough love for someone else to constructively confront them if we’ve done our own work first.

If we’ve been bullied, we now have a chance to stand up for ourselves. To stop the bully and love the person. We fight not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities in high places. Bullies are wounded and hurt people themselves. I’ve found myself up at night creating a covering of prayer against shame over the exact person who was bullying me. It’s a whole new way to love. If we’ve bullied, we have an opportunity to apologize and to ask for forgiveness. We also have an opportunity to grow in grace by watching our healing bloom because of it.

Shame really isn’t so tricky once it’s been exposed.

It’s really just a big bully. And I’m calling its bluff.

 

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Resentment.

Resentment.

I was praying for someone this afternoon who has a lot of kids. And I mean A LOT more than me. And in a matter of seconds, it seemed the conclusion was this: How can we come and be thankful in just a few short days–when we don’t feel thankful at all sometimes? I can say that I am thankful for turkey and for family togetherness and for my Starbucks coffee…..but really. I’m not too good at surface anything. If I’m going to cultivate thankfulness, then I’m gonna search deep and wide to be thankful. So, I prayed for this friend. And this is what came out….

I don’t know about you, but I often have to do the inside work if I want the real “thanks.”

And all the Mama’s said: “Happy Thanksgiving”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Resentment.

It should be a four-letter word.

Really.

 

Creeping up on me when I least expect it–when I thought I had already dealt with it. Ha!

How rude. I’d like to say.

How rude.

 

I’m catching people in the waves of my heart. Resentment.

Clutters up those who are overwhelmed and underpaid.

Creeps in when life doesn’t seem so good–when the appreciation may be lacking.  Or even if not appreciation than just acknowledgement.

The “I see you”.

Oh me. Oh my.

Resentment.

Perhaps even more stinging than unforgiveness.  Maybe not so heavy–but definitely more on fire.  Makes the nerves twinge and the heart cry.

 

Re-sent.

To send again what message wasn’t received to begin with.

How many times do we re-send before we just rest? Rest in the arms that love us and validate us and see us.

 

To be seen is to be healed.

He sets me free when He tells me I’m not invisible.

He tells me I’m known.

Cared for and loved.

Adored and cherished.

 

He sees me.

 

No poopy diaper, late night feeding, screaming toddler, or not-listening preschooler gets by His glance.

He sees me.

It’s overwhelming, you see.

To care take.

To take care of another.

To love.

It’s hard work.

Unseen often.

Taken for granted a lot.

When really it is Kingdom.

Everyone wants power and accolades—

yet who wants the life of the Sacrificial Lamb?

 

Come and See.

The grave is deep–but the Well is deeper.

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So let the Wheat grow with the Tares…

So let the Wheat grow with the Tares…

So let the wheat grow with the tares

That His glory would be manifest in me

This has never been about my performance

But about His Goodness

So I offer up my Death of self–

Not because I am unworthy, or not enough, or nothing–that is religion–

But because when I see the emptiness of man-made effort,

I absorb the worth of God-made Design

He never made me nothing

He always made me something

And as the wheat grows with the tares

I see His beauty over me, in me, through me

So let the Wheat grow with the tares…

 

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