Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The World's Barometer

It used to be that anything I wrote in this blog had been so completely and thoroughly thought through that the words took care of themselves once I finally sat down to write.  Today my thoughts are all in a jumble.  I hope I don't sound like a high school drop-out as I try to make sense of them. 

I have been doing some thinking and praying about the whole god-of-skinny business, and I am beginning to realize how much more of a stumbling block it has been for me than I've admitted to myself before.  I know God doesn't care about my size, He cares about my heart.  And what an affront to Him that I care about my size, that I have given in to the world's barometer of value.

I read a little tidbit online this morning that when women are looking at online dating sites, they're afraid the prospective date might be a serial killer.  Men are afraid their prospective date might be fat.

Case in point: my brother-in-law, whom I love dearly, hadn't had a steady job in more than a decade.  He didn't own a car, drove borrowed cars (his ex-wife's or one of his kid's) without insurance, didn't even have a place to sleep at night that was his own -- he bounced around friend's couches.  He has a drinking problem. He gambles.  He has a lot of wonderful qualities too, but these qualities, even just one of these, would immediately knock him right out of contention for any respectable woman.

So, he was doing some handyman work for our next door neighbor, a divorced woman.  She is attractive, well-educated, a working professional, owns her own home, has successfully raised her son on her own, comes from a financially well-to-do family, all in all, the picture of hard work, intelligence and stability.

Now brother-in-law got it into his head that she might be a candidate for some romantic attention.  Ahhh, but no.  She's a little overweight.

Huh?  He actually thought she was not good enough for himHe would not lower himself to date her because she was overweight???!!!  It relieved me greatly that the embarrassment of him asking her out on a date was thereby averted, because, of course, she would never have considered spending time with him personally.  No thinking woman would!  But what kind of screwed up world do we live in that he actually placed himself above her, just because she was fat?  (And only a little fat, at that!)

I can be aghast at his audacity, but truthfully, in large part I also have given in to the same barometer of worth.  So I fight it, fight it, fight it with diets and meal plans.  I try avoiding sugar and Diet Coke.  I try homeopathy.  I go low-fat, then I go high-fat, low carb.  Drink more water.  Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Ephedra.  But the root of the problem is elsewhere, so all these things are like reining wild horses.  They might be controlled for a time, but in the end, they're still wild horses and will not be tamed.

So I've been struggling with Galatians in our CBS Bible study.  I struggle because it says that I'm free in Christ, and must not again submit either to my base nature, the elemental things of the earth, or to the Law -- not the Judaic Law, not the Christian law of the Baptists, and not to the law of virtuous eating.  I am free in Christ.

But, then the line of thinking is that because He has saved me, I want to obey Him.  I want to do all that is virtuous, because He loves me and I love Him. 

I do want to obey Him, but I don't find it that easy just because it seems to make sense.  I don't feel that power that Ephesians talks about, so living to please Jesus just becomes another law.

That's the big issue.  The big point of my posting anything at all today in such a confused, hurried manner.  How does living to please Jesus not just become another law?

It seems like we jump from the frying pan into the fire in this.  We say, You're not constrained by the law, you're free!!  Wooho...  But wait there's more: Obey Jesus as if you were constrained by the law, because it pleases Him, and you do want to please Him, don't you?  Oh.  Okay, well, yes, I do.  But now I'm back where I started.  I stink at keeping the law.

I sensed a glimmer of hope this week in Matthew 11:28 though.  Come to Me, He says.  I will teach you and give you rest.  Learn from Me.  My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  That I understand.  That I can do.  Forget all the craziness, forget the diets and eating plans.  Come to Me and I'll fix it for you.  I do believe that.  He is good.

Gotta run.  Will edit later!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Diet Power

2 Corinthians 5:9  
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

Eeee-yup.  My ambition is to be pleasing to Him.  But everyday one thing trips me up, and I've struggled ineffectively for years to conquer it.

Did you know that there are a lot of  diet blogs out there?  One gal, bless her heart, Shauna Reid, has made quite a name for herself blogging.  At one time she weighed 375 pounds, and over the course of several years lost more than half her body weight.  She is is a witty, fun read, and now her journey as recorded in her blog has been turned into a book, The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl.  I've read it and loved it!  It is funny, heartwarming and inspiring.  And she still keeps her blog up,

I've tried to divorce my fat-identity from my cyber-identity, and I especially do not want this to turn into a diet blog.  I understand how it happens, but I do not want to give my weight problem that much power in my life, that much voice.  The problem is there, but it doesn't have to define who I am.

The other day I took my daughter, L, the ballerina, to a consignment shop to get a party dress to wear to the Daddy-Daughter Dance this Saturday.  ($12, woohoo!)  What an experience to watch this lithe little thing slip size 6 strapless little ditties over her head, only to have them completely fall off.  (She was wearing a leotard underneath, having just come from dance.)  This store had a plethora of size 6's for some reason.  So we had to hunt for size 4's.  Finally found a cute black size 4, which was also too big, but she will wear her black leotard under it and we'll pin the dress to the leo.  That way those shoulders and arms aren't quite so bare and, thank you, the dress stays on.

That shopping experience reawakened my longing to be able to slip into clothes easily and have them drape beautifully.  I don't want to turn this into a diet blog, and I don't want my whole life to revolve around "fat woman needs to get skinny."  I want to live first and get in shape along the way, as an aside.

Having said that, after all my years of wrestling, I think it is time to give up.  Weight Watchers worked well for me for a time.  I have the Lose It app on my phone which is also good.  I have a FitBit and have the FitBit app talking to the Lose It app.  I've belonged to four different gyms over the years.  They all work.  It is I that do not work.  I am broken.

So no great insights here, only that it's time to pray.  I am broken, I cannot fix this, and I am going to ask my heavenly Father to help me.  He has all the power, and He can help me.

Ephesians 1:19
...and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe...

I have known this for awhile, but I haven't been ready to ask.  Maybe I haven't been ready to forsake my sin, but I am ready now.

The real question, once I get Him involved, is what is my primary ambition?  Is having a skinny body the first love in my heart?  Or is walking in fellowship with Him my first desire, without this sin interrupting our fellowship? I think I'm getting there now.  I want to walk with Him and shed this sin.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Check Out Happy Moments!

I decided that while the Happy Moment Journal is an insanely good idea for maintaining sanity, I didn't want to clog up my Small Dog blog with the daily ramblings.  So I created a new blog which you can access to the right under "Other Blogs I Follow."  Shhh, I'm being stealthy.  I made it look like I am selflessly promoting another blogger, when really it's just more of moi!

Just in case your scroller is broken or you have a sore finger or you're feeling timid, I'll link to it here too.  (Really, I'm just excited to try that fun looking "link" button up there in this blog-processor to make this a hotspot.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I've been thinking lately about sadness.  Is it really as bad as it's cracked up to be?  Does it deserve its bad reputation?  And what loon would even be asking these questions?

Well, this loon is.  If anyone were ever to read this blog, they might get the impression that I am an excruciatingly, exasperatingly happy person, verging on either obnoxious or intoxicated.  I realize that.  However, the real truth is, I find myself sad.  A lot.

The other day I was walking into my Bible study discussion battling some piercing ache in my heart.  Not a physical pain, an emotional one.  And I thought to myself, I am so tired of hurting.  Lord, why am I always hurting?  Why do I always have to hurt?  And I felt like the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear: it gives you understanding.

I have, I'm ashamed to say, often been amazed at the lack of understanding among various women I've met over the years.  Some simply don't understand how Scripture and God's love for us impacts our lives and relationships.  And others have a depressing way of making the wonders of Jesus trite and banal.  Their verbiage exposes that their emotions are not engaged even as they are encompassed on all sides by God's truth.  They lack understanding in a different way.

So this touch from the Holy Spirit helped.  It was a drink of cool water, and I am thankful. 

For the record, I am not in the habit of taking thoughts that run through my head and attributing them to the Holy Spirit.  This touch was different.  It wasn't me; it was Him.

I am so thankful for His touch, for His gentle words, His comfort, because I was on the verge of asking Him if I should just go to the doctor and get an anti-depressant.  I know I could have it for the asking.  Basically, just medicate the ache away.

But I'm not depressed.  I'm really not depressed.  Hurting, even often, is not the same as being depressed.  There is plenty of joy in my life, my happy moments are truly happy, I believe everything I say about the marvelous truths of Scripture and how much God loves and cares for me.  I am not unhappy in the least. I am happy!  But things still hurt, even often.

I have typed out, more for my own benefit than anyone else's, the verses we all know from Romans, James, Hebrews and 1 Peter that talk about the blessedness of trials.  Eh.  Although I would never dispute the unerring truth of these Scriptures, they don't really hit at what I am talking about here.

Well, the Hebrews passage is definitely relevant.  You know it -- it talks about how God disciplines His children as a father does his son.  He disciplines those He loves for our good, so we can share in His holiness. While it is unpleasant at the time, it later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Psalm 34:18 comes closer:  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

My heart has been broken, and because of that, I have been blessed to feel God's presence.  He has been near to me and has saved me.  Not any nearer to me than He is to anyone else, but hurting has made my heart sensitive to know His presence, and I have been blessed.

No antidepressants for me.  When sadness comes, I will welcome it as a friend and take my delight in the Lord.

 Hebrews 12:5-11
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?  "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.  For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." It is for discipline that yo have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Romans 5:3-5
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect. that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Happy

There were some definite ups and downs today, but because I set myself the task of noting a happy moments, the day has a more positive glow about it than it would otherwise.

All in all, I'd have to say my favorite "happy" of this day was a brief few minutes I had with R this afternoon.  There was nothing unusual about it.  Four days a week I leave to take L to dance just before R gets home from school.  So I usually call him on my way back home just to touch base.  We have a script we follow, and every day it sounds exactly like this:

"Hey bud, how you doin'?"
"How was school?"
"What happened today?"

The beauty of mother-son bonding.  Sometimes I have errands to run, but usually I head back home for more bonding of the same variety.  About once a week the script is lengthened by a few seconds:

"Did you get something to eat?"
"No.  What can I eat?"
"Well, you can make a turkey sandwich or nachos. There are pizza rolls and corn dogs in the freezer."
"Will you bring me McDonald's?"

For the record, he has never made himself a turkey sandwich after school.  But being a mom I persist in suggesting it;  it is such a reasonable choice.  By McDonald's he means a McDouble and a strawberry shake.

So today was a McDouble day.  I walked in with his sandwich and shake, and we had about 15 minutes of completely meaningless banter.  I think I pointed out the amazing difference in price per ounce if one buys a larger bottle of perfume versus a small bottle.  He was duly impressed and countered with advice on the best knife to use when sizing down a shake cup so the dog can get his muzzle all the way to the bottom of the cup.  We discussed the best gym membership option for me and T, especially given that neither of us has made it to the gym yet this year.  And we ended our time together playing a silly game of "What'd you say?", asking each other to repeat him/herself for no good reason at all except to win a smile for silliness. Completely inane but gently amusing, and  somehow it worked with the rhythm of the moment, causing my heart to swell with happy.

There were other happy moments today.  I found a beautiful party dress for L to wear to the Daddy-Daughter dance this Saturday for $12 at a consignment shop.  She is only 80% pleased with it, but for $12, who could beat it?  That was a happy!  I went to the dentist, had a cleaning and a repair job done and nothing hurt.  That was a happy!  I had a fun conversation with my sister on the car ride home from the dentist.  And the sun was out and the sky was blue.  Happy, happy!  I created a yummy jambalaya-type concoction for dinner because I had nothing else prepared, and everyone liked it.  Happy.   

But those few moments with my R stand out as the best of the day.  He is a quiet kid, a still-waters-run-deep kind of kid.  When T is home, the TV is on, L is chattering away, the pressures of dinner, homework, and various chores consume our attention, he can easily fade into the background.  Even when I'm alone with him, he's not quick to volunteer his thoughts.

So I cherish those moments of connection, of eye contact, smiles and light hearts, of affable interaction. Today, he was my happy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Moment Project

So, in spite of my quasi-bashing of the Happiness Project book a post of two ago, I'm becoming a disciple.  My sister has an idea she's implementing from her journey through the Happiness Project that I think is just a stroke of genius! Every night before she hops into bed she is taking the time to think through what the happiest moment of the day was, and writing it down.  Just a line or two.  But what a fantastic discipline!  First of all, it forces us to remember that, no matter how heavy our burdens seemed that day, there was a happy moment.  It forces us to dwell on it, even if just for a minute or two, and be thankful.  Additionally, it will allow us to see a pattern in what makes us happy, and that pattern, I'm guessing, may surprise us in the end!

So what was my happy moment for today?  It had to be the 30 minutes in the hot tub with the family (T and the younger two kids, R and L).  It was cold enough that the boards of the deck creaked as we walked on them, the sky was clear and full of stars, and we were all relaxed, talking about nothing, just being together.  Oliver was alternately playing in the snow or under the deck, and then coming up to nuzzle someone's neck or lick an arm.  We discussed which hot tub light color we liked best and why, deciding ultimately that red and blue were the favorites.  R ran out into the snow for a bit just for the thrill of coming back into the warm tub.  We discussed that although the challenge of making a snow angel in a wet bathing suit might sound fun, it would not be advisable with all the poop accumulating in the yard right now!  And we saw who could lift their straight legs furthest out of the water while seated.  That was probably the most important issue at hand.  It was a happy moment!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Strange Week

It's a odd occurrence indeed when the quintessential homebody, yours truly, is bored on a relaxed evening at home, but such is the case tonight.  Nothing on TV, can't eat anymore, and it's not time for bed yet, meaning the family's all still up so I don't feel right secreting myself away to read a good book.  And actually, I have nothing to say, so I shouldn't be blogging, but like I said, I'm bored.

So I will entertain you with the strange emotional upheavals in our home over the past week.  It all began last Monday when we went out to dinner, just the four of us, T, R (son), L (daughter) and me.  L, an 8th-grader, announces that her friend, Mary, asked a guy she liked, Teddy, out on a date to a movie this weekend.  Her mom said she could as long as another friend went with them.

That was as far as she got, and T said, "NO."  Whew!  Go T!  Up with dads!

Much to my surprise, however, L's face immediately clouded over and her eyes welled up with tears.  Now I, being the parent who can usually "track" with the kids emotionally, was lost.  Bewildered.  Confused, perplexed and stupefied.  Rattled, snowed, stumped and befuddled.  (Nah, I'm just having fun with  =)  )  Why would this be so important to her?  She sees her small group of friends almost everyday.  What could possibly be the big deal about not being allowed to go to this movie?  I knew she was showing a rather new interest in guys, but I couldn't believe she actually liked this guy.  Besides, it wasn't her date -- she was just to be the chaperone. I hoped that maybe it was nothing more than being tired or hormonal and the whole issue would evaporate with a good night's sleep.

No such luck.  The issue was not only alive and kicking the next day,  it was morphing before our eyes, changing shape hoping to take on a more acceptable form.  I had told L that I had nothing against guys coming to be a part of her social landscape, but I preferred it all happen in a more natural way, slowly ingratiating themselves with her "homies" until they were all just a big gang of friends, guys and girls together.  I told her this just seemed forced.  Mary wanted a date, so she was trying to pull her friends onto the scene, rather than going out with friends and inviting a friendly guy along to get to know everyone too.

After a bit of haggling I agreed that if there were more girls than guys in the party, she could go.  So her friend went to work, calling all the girls they knew, trying to massage the numbers in their favor (because now there were two guys involved -- Teddy wanted to bring his friend, Tony).  As it turned out, T and I were so distracted by the social dynamics of the situation, we hadn't worried a bit about what movie they had chosen.  The other moms, having no idea of the origin of the gathering, were all saying 'no' because they were proposing to see the PG-13 movie, Chronicle.  Thankfully, those moms looked up the review and saw that the movie included multiple references to teen sex, including a scene where a teen boy leads a teen girl up to his room, and then there's a shot of his pants down around his ankles.  Another teenage boy complains he hasn't had sex since the previous summer.  Wonderful.  And this is PG-13.

But the strange thing was L's emotional attachment to this outing.  She cried every time I brought it up, and there seemed to be no talking reason with her.  I just couldn't figure out what was going on.  I mean, I get it.  She's a full-blown teenager now, and I've felt the full force of the crabbiness for more than a year now.  But this was different.  Never before had we come to loggerheads over value judgments.  She has always agreed with our ideas of right versus wrong, wise versus foolish, smart versus stupid, careful versus reckless, judicious versus foolhardy, sagacious versus naive, perspicacious versus ignorant...  =)   (just bein' silly)

Finally this morning, at the eleventh hour, she revealed her perspective, and all the missing pieces fell into place.  After more tears even before 9:00 a.m., we were on our way to her once-a-week homeschool classes, Palaestra, where she would have to either finalize plans or bail completely on Mary, and she reached over to turn off the radio.  (I had turned it on just to diffuse the obvious tension between us.)  She said she had been praying that God would provide a way for her to get to know more homeschooled kids from Palaestra, and she really believed that this was God's answer to her prayer.  She had no interest in either of these guys, and she didn't approve of her friend trying to work the back door to have a date, but she was really just wanting her social world to be able to expand a bit.  And having prayed, she had been so happy to have this opportunity.  That was all.

Ahhh.  Now this made sense.  For several weeks she had been talking about wishing she knew more people at Palaestra, feeling a little confined with her small group of four or five girls.  Maybe a little caged, constrained and hemmed in.  Hog-tied, repressed, restricted, held back and trapped.  Cramped, enclosed, hindered, stifled.  (More  =P  )  What a wonderful balm to my soul that she had brought her trouble to the Lord!  All the pieces came together happily.

We are so blessed with this daughter, our most social little peanut, that her friends' parents have such great relationships with their daughters and are so intimately involved in their daughters' lives.  I dropped her off at Palaestra, did a couple errands and returned an hour or so later.  When I walked into the mom waiting area, Mary's mom, Lisa, and another friend who had not been willing to let her daughter see Chronicle, were sitting together reading the movie's review online.  And, don't tell L, but I filled them in on all the upheaval this "date" had caused in our family.  Lisa had no idea all these social contortions had been going on, and was very glad to read to full scoop about the movie.

We talked openly about our ideas about how to handle the whole "dating" scene with our kids, various challenges, wanting to guide the kids in wisdom yet without being so restrictive that we actually incite rebellion.  Lisa searched out the girls and talked to them about changing the movie selection, and to her daughter about the wisdom of all these awkward machinations just to get a "date" with Teddy.  (Do you think Teddy has any idea what's going on here?)

T and I always told our kids that the purpose of dating is marriage.  If they're not ready to get married, or if marriage is not at least somewhere in the foreseeable future, then they're not ready to date.  Our older two children definitely saw the sense in that line of thinking.  So far, I believe the younger two do also.  Thank you, Lord!

So the social engagement is on.  A better movie selection has drawn a few more girls, and I'm sure the whole thing will be fine.  Mary is still sweet on Teddy and will enjoy a little time with him, but I'm sure, whatever chemistry exists between them, prudence will prevail.  L has a great group of friends and her friends have great parents.  I am so thankful to go through these tumultuous years with them.


Date turned out to be quite anticlimactic.  The boys arrived at the theater, bought their tickets and sat down a good 10-15 minutes before the girls, who arrived just in time to buy a ticket and find a seat.  After the movie, the boys mumbled something about having to use the bathroom, and were off.  That was that.  So much vexation for so little return.  Ouy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Happiness Project

My sister, Becky, called me yesterday, the one who won such strong accolades in yesterday's post, the one with the majestic advice for me in my time of crisis. Yesterday, however, her ideas filled me with a smidgen of childish perplexity.

She just finished reading the popular book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin.  She loved it and said she couldn't help but think of me the whole time she was reading it.  Apparently the author reminded her of me, of the way I think.

I'm going to paste the product description from the Amazon website here because I'm too lazy to try to summarize it myself.  (Besides which I haven't read the book yet! That would make it tricky to summarize!)

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference. 

Like I said, I haven't read the book, although I promised my sister I would.  My bet is that I will like Gretchen Rubin's "voice" and the way her mind works.  And from what I understand about the content, it sounds valid.
It's the premise I'm struggling with.  I don't want to live for, to pursue, happiness.  Which, you understand, is different from not wanting happiness, right?  I want to live to please God, to be a worthy servant.  And that will make me happy!

I hate to be such a wet blanket here.  I hate to feel like I'm over-spiritualizing, to be always pounding away at the spiritual, but somebody's got to say it!  I just can't swallow this, as much as I want to be excited about my sister's new enlightenment. I cannot wrap my mind around how or why any Christian would even buy a book like this.

Okay.  Now for some honesty.  I have been not happy in my days.  In fact, I have been not happy even recently, and I have, quite by accident, stumbled upon some of Gretchen's recommendations as a result.  They do work!  I am happier since I began my closet/cabinet/drawer purge at the beginning of the year.  I have a plan to methodically work my way through every nook and cranny of this topsy-turvy house, and it has made me immeasurably happier since I began! And I've been happier since I've been blogging more regularly.  It's a crazy, inexplicable happiness with no basis in rational thought.  

Yesterday I spent a little time with a friend, a time when we usually catch up on each other's weeks.  I found myself with absolutely nothing to tell her that was new.  But inside I felt like I had had such an amazingly colorful week, so full of riches and lovely nuggets -- how could it be that I had nothing to tell her? But the rich, lovely nuggets have been my opportunities to write here, and that's not much of a conversation starter.  The blog makes me happy, and apparently (per my sister) that fits into one of the happiness factors she describes in the book. 

And -- I think this is also something Gretchen mentions --  I do, I really do, want to run a 5k race again before I die.  I've been thinking I may as well get started on that this year.  And that will make me happy!

So, without reading the book, I unwittingly stumbled onto some of her ideas, and they have helped.  A lot!  So what's my problem with the book? 

Well, I feel a bit pouty about it because I had been nurturing the warm fuzzy notion that it was the Holy Spirit who, in love, had nudged me in these right directions, who had lifted me up out of the morass of my own self-centeredness and aimlessness, who saw and had compassion on the tangled quagmire of emotion that is me.  But in addition, I had been nursing a flicker of hope that there may have been a good purpose in some of these things other than my own happiness.

So the idea that without Him I could have stumbled onto these remedies through some self-help book is discomfiting.  It makes me pout.  And furrow my brow. These were my special treasures from the Lord, and now they've been made cheap, like from the bargain table outside a bookstore.

And THEEENNNN, my good sister says to me, "Hey! I think the reason you've been feeling better lately is the (homeopathic remedy) you took!" 

So, NooooOOOOOoooo, it couldn't be the Lord, it was a homeopathic remedy!  And whatever that remedy doesn't cure, please read my self-help book.  That will do the trick.

I was heading into full-grump mode at that point.  "I think I gotta go now," was all I said.  I made all the appropriate noises along the way (girl vomit, come to think of it -- see previous post), because this sister is as dear as life to me and I'd never want to burst her bubbles -- she's all about homeopathy these days.  But I really prefer to think of Jesus as the more direct source of all this goodness in my life.

Well, vent complete.  That's all I got for today.  Have a good night!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Girl Vomit

So last night B, my college-age daughter, called me from school.  She has been frustrated for awhile with the Christian fellowship she's involved in just because she's a ~deep~ kind of gal, and well, her friends just ain't there yet, y'know?  But she's good for them.

The other night she was at their life group meeting, and one of the girls was brooding over the one thing most girls that age have on their minds: marriage.  "Ohhhhhhhhhh, I just don't know if God has someone for me to marry/ what if I never get married/ I want to get married/ what guy would ever want me/ when will that guy I like ever notice me/ no he never will notice me because I'm not desirable/ I'm not pretty/ what if God means me to be single all my life/ will anyone ever love me/ no no one will ever love me."  That whole dialog.

And the other girls were "encouraging her in love," right?  That means they were all about, "Ohhhhhhhhhh, I know God has someone for you/ you're beautiful/  no really you are/ yes yes you are/ God has His timing/ you're very desirable/ yes someone will love you/ God has the perfect guy for you/ just wait on Him."

Well, I get the feeling B has been very tolerant of this kind of talk for quite a while, very patient with all the girly stuff that she just can't identify with right now.  But apparently she reached her breaking point the other night.  She said, "Mom, I blasted them, and I'm kind of proud of myself.  They just stared at me.  But I'm so sick of the way girls are always vomiting rainbows and flowers and unicorns. I had to set them straight!"

Vomiting rainbows and flowers and unicorns???  No wonder she's an English major!  I about fell off the couch laughing!  That is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time and an absolute TRUTH about the way women talk to each other!  I love my B, and I'm so glad she has such a wonderful spiritual head on her shoulders!

Basically, and I hope I do her thoughts justice, she told them what a completely self-centered view they have of it all.  Their hearts need to be wholly His, anxious to do His bidding, not wondering what He has in store for them.  It's all about Him!  They need to be all about falling in love with Him, and He can fulfill all their heart's desires completely.  No man can ever do that, and they're in for some bitter disappointment if they're waiting to be fulfilled from marriage.  Jesus will not settle until He is their everything.

Boy, what was the verse she quoted from Song of Solomon?  I can't find it exactly, but she pointed out how the bride rose in the night and wandered about searching for her lover.  She was distracted from everything else, and troubled until she found him.  And that will be their lives too in marriage.  Marriage will bring with it the troubles of the world and distractions from the One who does fulfill.

Wooooohoo!  You go girl!  I can only say, I sure wasn't there when I was 19!  And as much as that may not have been what some of them wanted to hear, it does beat the rainbow, flower and unicorn vomit they expected!

I have to admit, I've been guilty of girl vomit myself in my relationships with other women.  As I thought this over this morning, I decided that some women need to hear vomit, and some would be better off if I gave them the truth straight up, the way B did.  For example, my sister Becky, happens to be very hard on herself, and she doesn't have a lot of people in her life to remind her of the rainbows, flowers and unicorns.  So I consider that my job.  =)  I have another friend, however, who could use a little more straight up truth, and I've been guilty of giving her the girl vomit she likes. Very guilty -- I'm ashamed as I think of it.

I'm not sure she could handle the straight up truth, actually.  I guess I pretty much assume that if a woman isn't facing the truth on her own between herself and the Lord, if she's out looking for schmoozy, schmaltzy sympathy rather than (wo)manning up and steeling herself for the hard business of faith, then she just doesn't have the strength or the will to do it at all and my words will only irritate, not help.

You would think there would be a happy medium, something between blasting people's socks off and kissing their feet.  Sadly, though, I don't think there usually is. It's a paradigm shift that is usually required, and that's a little harder to ease your way into.

For example, at my stage of life, the dialog about wanting God to provide the husband has sometimes shifted to whining about the husband God provided. For some, B's admonition comes true: only Jesus can fulfill their heart's desires completely, and if they had hoped to find fulfillment in marriage, they have now been bitterly disappointed.

So I listen, completely, thoroughly, wholly understanding their pain -- because I was not where B is spiritually at 19...or at 26.  I was one of those girls pining away for marriage, and I am living proof that Jesus does not give up on us until our hearts are wholly His.

I understand pain in marriage.  (So does T, by the way.)  So having been there, and being one who still hangs out there occasionally even now, you'd think I'd be better able to hear their pain and then point them in the right direction. 

But how do you sneak up on the idea that they need to stop crying and quit being so selfish.  That they need to let their husband be who he is, warts and all, and make the desire of their heart to be nothing but God's glory.  They need to say to themselves, "Lord, I am here to glorify You, whatever that means.  My desire is not my happiness, but Your glory here on this earth.  Please show me how to do that."  And God, being who He is, will not fail to fill their hearts to bursting with the very joy they had been looking for in the first place.

That's a big leap from the perspective of the woman annoyed with hubby.  It's much easier to listen to the list of minor grievances and nod sympathetically.  When trouble looms on a grander scale, however, say divorce is on the table, then it's easier to skip the girl vomit and go right to the spiritual reality.

One day years ago my world was rocked by something T said to me.  We had just learned that my niece had been dating a married man 17 years older than she was.  She broke up his marriage, and now they were living together.  The man was about our age and had two kids approximately the ages of our two oldest kids.  It would seem that the man got a pretty good deal:  my niece is hot, makes good money for herself, and doesn't ever want kids of her own.  In other words, lots of sex and no responsibility.  You can see why this might have caught my attention.  I mean, what would keep T from going to find a deal like that for himself???  So I asked him, and he said, "I don't know..."

Hel-lo!  That was not the right answer.  I called my sister, Becky, sobbing, and her response was not girl vomit.  It was majestic.  She said, "No matter what T does or doesn't do, your job is to glorify God.  Nothing can keep you from that."

Oh, how the weight lifted!  I have never experienced such immediate emotional relief.  It was truly joyous, and I have never forgotten the principle.  She reminded me that God was still on the throne, and I needed to keep Him on the throne in my heart.  My commission is to serve Him, He is my first love, and nothing T would ever do could change that.

Do you see what happened though? I had taken God off the throne in my heart and put my own happiness and security there instead.  Really, I was hoping God would be diligent to keep my happiness on His throne.  Share the seat, maybe?  No, our God is a jealous God.  He will not share the throne of our hearts with anyone or anything else.  But our happiness will never be an issue while He is seated there!

It's a tough assignment to tell a hurting woman these things, but I'm so thankful my sister did.  The truth brought about a joyous healing and relief.  Rainbows and flowers and unicorns would have only deepened my pain.

Psalm 81:8-10
Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
Let there be no strange god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god.

I, the Lord, am your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

[ P.S. - T has never given me any reason to think he's out chasing hotties, just so you know.  I can't imagine what would account for his answer, except that he's just a guy.  =}  ]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speaking of Oliver...

So, Oliver has been a big hit in the family.  Everyone loves him.  The boys have forgiven him for not being a German Shepherd or a Husky.  Even Edison, the cat, has come to terms with the interloper now that he's sure Oliver understands his subordinate position.  Oliver is properly cowed by the 9-pound cat thwapping his nose with a de-clawed paw, so all seems good. 

Only one cloud darkens the sky as far as Oliver is concerned, and that involves my youngest daughter, L.  I can't quite put my finger on how it all got started, but L and Oliver butt heads.  For one thing, she's a much more nervous mother than I have ever been, so she jumps and scolds at the first suggestion of misbehavior on Oliver's part.  All he has to do is sniff at a granola wrapper left on the floor, and she's sure he's ready to down the thing in a flash and inconvenience us with a blocked intestine.  Come on, the dog swallowed an athletic sock whole the first week we owned him.  I'll admit, that had me concerned when it happened -- it was down the hatch before we could stop him.  But he passed that thing just fine and hasn't seemed inclined to do it again. So I can't get excited about shredded Kleenex and french fry wrappers.

Taking him for a walk with her in those early days was enough to send me to the doctor for blood pressure medication.  She insisted that this happy ball of puppy energy walk at her pace and not pull on the leash.  Very authoritarian.  Very adamant that he know who was the boss.

I solved that problem by training him to walk well off leash, much more fun for everyone.  We only walk when there are few people out, in the middle of a weekday or at night, so he can dash back and forth at his own pace, sniffing away to his heart's content.  He is nervous about losing us, so the minute he can't hear our feet crunching along behind, he darts back to find us.  He learned quickly to stop at corners and wait to see which way to go.  He waits at my feet until I give him permission to cross streets.  And if I see another person or a dog and call him, he's great about coming back right away.  (He charges back to me and hurls his little body against my legs.  So crazy cute!) 

Somehow I think it has been L's determination to show him who's boss that has set up a bit of a tension between herself and Oliver though.  She annoys him, but she thinks his very status as DOG means he is not allowed to be annoyed, and definitely he is not allowed to show he is annoyed.  He isn't allowed to have preferences.  The minute he dares to "smile" when she touches him, or breath a little loudly (the precursor to a low rumbly growl), she gets more authoritarian and demands he stop.  Moreover, she demands that I make him stop.

I say, "Well, L, you're laying your whole head on his chest while he's resting.  He's not liking that.  He'll stop growling if you stop annoying him."

Or on a car ride with Oliver in her lap, "Well, he doesn't want you poking him every 10 seconds just to get a reaction from him.  He'll stop growling if you stop annoying him."

Or, "Can't you just leave his bone alone?  He'll stop growling if you stop annoying him!"

To which she says, "But he shouldn't be allowed to growl even if he is annoyed!  If he's annoyed he should just get up and walk away."

She's right.  It's tricky.  We can't have a dog think he can growl at a family member under any circumstances, so in that sense she's right that he is not allowed to have preferences.  But at the same time, I think we command more respect from him if we're willing to respect his preferences because we love him.  I can nuzzle him with my whole face while he's resting and he either nuzzles right back or ignores me, but he never growls.  In the same minute, she can do it and he growls.  There's a tension already there between them that he's responding to, and I think she's created it by pushing his buttons on purpose and by being ridiculously authoritarian.

Oliver arrived in our home after having lived 7-months with another family, and we noticed right away that he had certain "sensitivities."  I suspect that these sensitivities were not inborn, but were helped along by the 5-year-old girl in this other family.  Specifically, he cannot abide his tail being touched.  If anyone so much as brushes the fringe of his tail with their feet as they pass by him, he's up like a shot.  And he was nervous about his paws being touched. 

So guess what.  I respect that.  I'm very careful about his tail and his paws.  As it happens, over the year I have worked with him on it.  I'll very gently stroke the fur on his paws, and more lately I'll tease him by taking a bit of paw fur between my thumb and forefinger and giving it a gentle tug. He responds by nibbling or licking my fingers, just enough to say, Hey, I'd prefer you not do that!  He seems to know there's no threat, that it's all in good fun. But I'm careful not to ever squeeze any of his feet.

And like most dogs, he feels protective if we give him a bone.  And he's smart enough to know when he's being teased for fun versus being teased to be made fun of.

So although in general he is a happy little lover, Oliver is not completely issue-less.  He does have "buttons," a few certain preferences, that I feel need to be respected.  L would never squeeze his paws, but she does take a certain delight in pushing his buttons in other ways. She laughs that he gets annoyed, but then gets mad when he ends up growling. 

What is a mother to do????  And more importantly, what will happen when she has kids of her own???  She'd better send them to Grama's house!

[To be fair to L I must add that in general she does have a good relationship with Oliver.  She loves him, although less than her cat, and in general he responds well to her.  They just bicker, like the youngest two children in any family I suppose.]

Monday, February 6, 2012


Isn't he a doll?  We're coming up to the first anniversary of Oliver becoming a member of our family, so it seems appropriate to tell the story of how he came to be ours.                      

With the four kids getting older and more independent, T is thrilled that I am more available to go out and play. He seems to have great plans for our empty nest phase of life. But if you read this blog at all, you know that playtime is not the first thing on my mind as I watch the kids slip away into adulthood.  I wanted a new bitty buddy to care for!

A puppy has been on my mind for years, probably since my oldest went off to college.  T wanted nothing to do with that though.  Are you kidding me?! I am finally almost available to trot off up north with him at a moment's notice, or come with him on business trips.  Why would he want me burdened again with the care of another needy creature?

"Yes, but it's all about having dog-loving friends who would be willing to provide a second home for a puppy when we want to get away.  That's no trouble!" I pleaded.  Nope.  No dice.  T wanted nothing to do with another burden. 

Eh.  So I'm a grown up.  I've not had my way before and it's never killed me.  But it didn't stop me from dreaming, from perusing the internet for the perfect breed of dog if we were going to get one -- which we weren't.  I knew that.  But after hours of surfing, I settled on a Miniature Goldendoodle as the exact designer breed of dog I'd get if I could.  (And if money were no object!  They can cost $1000.  At that price, I would've been the one to put the kabosh on any plan to buy one, even if T allowed it!)

And I prayed.  I planned it all out for God, informed Him of exactly how He could get T to agree to a dog, just in case He needed ideas.  I know T, and I know how his mind works.  Don't read too much into this, but I knew that for me, just because I wanted one, he would never budge.  But if it happened that there were a friend or acquaintance that he could help out of a tight spot by taking a dog off their hands, he'd do it.  I told God all about this, in case He didn't know.  But for the most part, I put the thought out of my head and contented myself.

Then one day, almost exactly a year ago, T calls me in the afternoon from work and says, with no prefatory explanation at all, "You know, Goldendoodles are not that cute.  I think they're kind of ugly! Have you ever looked at pictures of them on the internet?"

"Ummm, well yeah.  I think they're cute.  That's fine if you don't think so."

"Yeah, well, they're not."

"Why are we talking about this?" I asked.

Well, it turns out there had been an e-mail.  A friend of a friend had a Miniature Goldendoodle puppy she needed a home for!  She was recently divorced, was traveling a lot with her three kids to sporting events and just didn't fully appreciate the time and attention this dog was going to need when she bought him.  She had paid $1000 for the dog, $350 to have him flown out from the breeder in Arizona, had taken on another $4000 in other expenses (electric fence, shots, vet bills, a trip to the doggy ER), but wasn't asking any money for him. She only wanted to find him a good home!

AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!  WHEN, I ask you, WHEN does God ever do things the way I plan????  Of course T was all for taking the puppy.  Okay, to be completely honest, he wasn't all for it -- but he was willing.  I think even he saw the unmistakeable hand of God in the situation.

And guess what else.  The puppy's name was Oliver!  Oliver was the name of my dog when I was a kid.  How sweet was that?  It's like God had Oliver picked for me from the beginning, and even had them name him in a way that I'd know it.

Who can deny God's goodness and care for all His own?  What a wonderful God we serve!

That's our happy little guy!  The new force of personality in our home.  Even T, Mr. Bah Humbug himself, can't deny he likes this cuddle bug!  =)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Charles Spurgeon Devotional

Why do we work so hard to make complicated what is simple?  I read a devotional by Charles Spurgeon this morning and it excited my heart. I've typed it out at the end of this post so you can read it, but the gist of the message is, Jesus loves me.

I'm going to CBS (Community Bible Study) this year, and we're just finishing up a study on the book of Hebrews.  So the question asked us to write out some differences between the covenant of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament.  Of course one of the differences is that the priests of the old covenant had to offer sacrifices repeatedly for sins.  Jesus, on the other hand, offered one sacrifice, Himself, for all sins for all time.  And somehow the words came out of my own mouth to add to the discussion, "It's done.  He has done the work."

How obvious is that?  How many times have I heard that before?  How many years have I taken communion to celebrate that very truth?  And yet when I said it aloud last week, it hit me anew.  It's done.  He has done all the work.  There is nothing left I can contribute to the relationship, except to rejoice and love Him.

How is it that we manage to make this simple, glorious thing hard and burdensome?  I don't memorize verses. (Bad!) I don't pray enough. (Bad!) I don't wake early to have regular quiet times. (Bad!) I am not in a small group.  (Bad!) I am not involved in Christian ministry. (Bad!) I don't share the gospel enough. (Bad!) I don't give time to the prison ministry.  (Bad!)  I don't tutor underprivileged children.  (Bad!)  I don't visit nursing homes. (Bad!)  I overeat. (Bad!) I under-exercise.  (Bad!)  I drink Diet Coke. (Bad!) I eat sugar. (Bad!)  I don't give enough money. (Bad!) I don't keep a budget.  (Bad!) I do use credit cards. (Bad!) I like Harry Potter.  (Bad!)  I listen to deep theological types and I come to understand how deficient I am in my understanding of God, yet my obdurate heart refuses to yield to any broader understanding.  I remain common and stupid. (Bad.)

STOP.  Please stop.  It is finished.  HE has done the work.  Let us rejoice and love Him.

I reread a post I wrote last July called "Beauty."  Wow, was it good! (Did I write that?)  You should go read it!  ;-)  But I ended it with a challenge: do I dare to believe how He loves me?  It will change my life if I allow myself to believe it.  He loves me and He has done all the work to make a way for me to be with Him.  Dare I believe it?  Because that's the whole enchilada.  That's what it's all about.  It's not about how I love Him, it's about how He has loved me. And it's not about how others love Him, it's about how He loves them. If I understand that, everything else, my love for Him, my actions, my understanding, my love for others, will all fall into place of its own accord.

Our pastor, Bob Shirock, spoke on a similar theme this morning at church. One thing he talked about was how we Christians have a well-deserved reputation in the world as harsh, condemning and unloving.  We're known more for what we oppose than Who we support.  As a result, the unchurched of the world have less a problem with Jesus Himself than they do with His people.  (After you read my post, you should go listen to Bob's teaching:, teaching from February 5, 2012.)

But I would take it even one step further:  not only do we Christians beat up unbelievers, we beat each other up just as soundly.  I'm a believer, and I find Christians hard to be around.  Of course I have Christian friends, a hand chosen, rather select group.  But, sadly, for better or for worse, I've been much happier since I've learned to steer clear of Christians when they collect en masse.

One step further yet?  Many of us beat ourselves up!  What does that tell the world about the attractiveness of Christ?

Where am I going with this? I am only trying to say that all this mess falls away when we remember, it is done.  He has done it all.  Let us celebrate HIM wholly, forget ourselves, and more importantly, forget passing judgment on others.  Again, it's not about how I love Him.  It's all about how He has loved me, and how He continues to love me everyday.

Here is Charles Spurgeon's devotional.  It is wonderful.  Take the time to read it!

The love of the Lord.  ~ Hosea 3:1

Believer, look back through all your experiences and think of the ways in which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness -- how He has fed and clothed you every day; how He has tolerated your bad manners, put up with all your grumbling and all your longings after Egypt's pot of meat; how He has opened the rock to supply you, and fed you with manna from heaven.  Think of how His grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles -- how His blood has been a pardon for you in all your sins, how His rod and His staff have comforted you.  When you have thus looked back on the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ's covenant and blood have something more in them than the past.  He who has loved you and pardoned you will never cease to love and pardon.  He is Alpha, and He will be Omega also.  He is first, and He will be last.  Therefore, remember, when you pass through the "valley of the shadow of death" (Ps. 23:4), you need fear no evil, for He is with you.  When you stand in the cold floods of the Jordan, you do not need to fear, for death cannot separate you from His love.  When you come into the mysteries of eternity, you do not need to tremble, "for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).  Now, soul, is your love not refreshed?  Does this Scripture not make you love Jesus?  Does a flight through the unlimited plains of heavenly love not inflame your heart and compel you to delight yourself in the Lord your God?  Surely as we meditate on "the love of the Lord," our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Party 2012

Today is the third annual mega-blast-your-socks-off Superbowl Party, known galaxy-wide for fun, adventure and excitement.  Are we ready? YEAH! Are we pumped? YEAH! Are we going to party like we're still 17??? YYYYEEEAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!


I'm not a partier.  I am the quintessential homebody.  I even love to vacation at home with and only with my very favorite peeps.  So today is a stressful one for me.  I can't let on though.  Gotta keep up the game day face.

There's an irony here in that before I was a believer, my moral scruples wouldn't allow me to party.  I just couldn't find anything alluring about the whole scene.  Girls dressed to impress, standing packed shoulder to shoulder in a small room, music too loud to talk (by design), drinking until their minds were glazed over, the only possible activities being to dance or to hook up with a guy. 

Besides the scruples though, maybe I was also just a bit of a nerdy snob.  I didn't feel like partying was very classy.  Not that I was outwardly classy in the least.  I could've used way more class in the way I dressed and made myself up. (Still could!)  But inwardly I felt like partying was beneath me.

So now I am a believer, which alone should keep me out of the party scene.  Added to that, I am a 49-year-old mother of four children!  It is CRAZY that now, NOW, I enter the party scene with a fury, as if to make up for lost time.

Okay, not to beat a dead horse or continue the melancholy tone of the past couple posts unnecessarily, but this is part of what has me a little blue about the kids growing up.  I'm afraid this is what I'm left with.  Partying with T and company for the rest of my days.  Don't look, I'm crying.

Now, to be clear, there will be, of course, no women hooking up with guys at this party.  And the women at this party will all be very tastefully dressed.  I have come to know most of these people well enough to genuinely like them, even care for them a lot.  I enjoy them.  In fact, some of them are my very favorite people.

It's only that I hugely prefer more intimate gatherings of two or three couples at a time, as opposed to the big party scene where everyone talks to everyone about nothing all night.  By about 10 or 11, I've totally run out of nothing to talk about.

Now, T's nothings are very fun.  He can talk about nothing all night with everyone, and keep everyone in enchanted.  He's in his glory as long as there's nothing to talk about and lots of people to say nothing to.

So don't mind me.  I'm just a little pouty today.  I'll report back after the party and tell you all about it, and I'll probably be able to report that I had a much better time than I expected to, as is usually the case.

~ By the way, the careful observer will note that there is no Superbowl game today, only the party. The organizers of Superbowl parties across the country have a bone to pick with the organizers of Superbowl games, I understand, which are always scheduled for Sunday nights. Who can properly party on a Sunday night? So this year the party is scheduled for the Saturday night before the actual game, testament to the expectation that attendees of this party will be in no condition to be up early for work the next day.  It is also a comical statement about the role the actual Superbowl game plays at a Superbowl party. ~


12:41 a.m. Sunday

I'm back from the party.  Yes, it was actually a lot of fun.  I, also, am getting better at saying nothing to lots of people for long periods of time and finding genuine merriment in the process.

I have stumbled on a simple truth that may help me navigate these stormy waters in the future, which is this:  once I am happy with what I'm going to wear to the party, the prospect of actually going to the party becomes a much cheerier thought.  Today I realized that most of my dismal attitude was due to the fact that I didn't have the right coat to wear, and I didn't have the right necklace to wear with the turtleneck that I'd decided I needed to wear.  It was going to be an outdoor party, if you can believe that, notwithstanding the February date.  In previous years this warranted my lovely, long down coat, boots, scarves, mittens and a hat.  (This party is a yearly tradition.) But this year our February has brought us sun and 42 degrees, and my lighter weight coat wasn't going to fit comfortably over the cute fleece vest I needed to wear over said turtleneck.  [Um, no, I don't think it was because I've gained 40 pounds since I bought that coat.  Definitely, it was that poofy fleece vest that caused all the trouble.]

A quick trip to Kohl's for a piece of costume jewelry and a clearanced coat turned the tables completely.  T was a very good sport about the new coat too.  He kept my secret that I'd actually been so silly as to buy a new coat because of the party, and even told me it looked cute.  =)

Moral scruples, my eye.  You didn't actually buy that, did you?

Off to bed.  Sweet dreams!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cutting Ties

My precious mother-in-law finally cut ties with her employer a short time ago.  She toyed with retirement off and on for years, reducing her hours, then getting bored at home and taking on more hours again.  Then she'd get exhausted from the extra hours and reduce her hours again;  she'd get bored at home again and go back.  Then she had several bouts of sickness in one form or another and would decide it was time to quit altogether; then she'd worry about money and go back.  Finally, finally, finally she pulled the trigger and retired.  They had a big party for her and clapped her off the floor (she worked in a hospital) -- so sweet.  She was very popular there.

But the problem of boredom at home was not going to go away.  So for Christmas, T and I invested in an oil painting class for her, along with all the requisite materials.  She had mentioned once that she took an oil painting class decades ago and loved it, but would never go back to painting because it was just too expensive.  The gift was an enormous success, and she's spending hours upon hours painting at home, along with the weekly three hour class.

Now the 6-week class is coming to an end and the question of whether to sign up for the next session is upon us.  She loves to paint, but doesn't feel she really needs the expensive class.  But our goal was to get her out of the house with other people, as well as indulge a personal interest, so we definitely want her to continue.

A couple days ago she stopped by and as we were discussing it she said, "But what am I going to do with all these paintings?  Just pile them up in my basement?"  She was suggesting she should STOP DOING THIS THING SHE LOVES, just because it served no practical purpose!  From my perspective, that's crazy!  I told her, C'mon! You've worked all these years and haven't had the time or energy for hobbies or personal interests.  Now is the time to do what you enjoy simply because you enjoy it!  So, yes, display the ones you love most, and the rest can absolutely pile up in the basement!

I think it was God who reminded me of this conversation even yesterday as I ventured back into blog-land again after a long hiatus.  The same thoughts went through my head: why should I do this?  It serves no purpose, makes no money, is stupid, self-indulgent and potentially embarrassing.  But I enjoy it.  That's all.  It gives me inexplicable joy to write out my thoughts.  So I should do it for the same reason my mother-in-law should paint, and I'll let the thoughts just pile up in the basement along with her paintings! =)

And yesterday posting that blog entry helped me sort out the war of emotion in my heart.  I did pray after I wrote that post about our friend and the dance scholarship, and God helped me see the root of the problem, as He always does.  That's fodder for another post, but I feel much more at peace with the situation now.


Okay, well, heaven forbid I should ever shut up in a timely manner.  The root of the problem had to do with changes in the emotional support structure of my life that have crept up on me over these past years.  When that first baby was born, my whole world blossomed.  I didn't even know happiness or joy or love before compared to the happiness and joy that baby gave me.  And then I had three more.  I loved loving those kids.  All these years since, my whole world has revolved around loving those kids and loving to love those kids.  They have been my happiness.

(Of course you know I'm painting with a very broad brush here.  There was plenty of stress and exhaustion mixed in the picture, plenty of crabby moments and crabby days.  But the overarching theme was...I loved loving those kids.)

Things are changing now.  My older two are off to college, the oldest on the verge of graduating from college and entering the real world as a full-fledged adult.  And the younger two are full-blown teenagers, with all the hormonal upheaval that entails.  So, my oldest, a son, is a pretty typical young man.   He's good to me and kind and calls me regularly because it's important to me that he stay in touch.  But emotionally, he's severed ties in a lot of ways.  He doesn't need me anymore in the way he used to.  He has his life and his friends; there is a dynamic there that I have no part in.

I peeked at his facebook pictures the other day through my daughter's facebook page which was left open.  Actually, relevant to this discussion is the fact that if I had a facebook account, he would not even want to "friend" me.  He told me he would find that weird.  As I looked through the pictures and saw him with all his friends doing their crazy, goofy stuff, having a ball, I saw that he was right.  It would be weird for me through facebook to even vicariously take part in that aspect of his life.  I'm his mom and that's just not my place.  But the pictures were evidence of what I already knew: he's moved on from me.

My college-age daughter, bless her heart, has also moved on from me, but at the same time, being a daughter, has also moved back to me emotionally.  As a teenager she was the very picture of SURLY.  She spent her life in her room.  Now she is happy, independent and ready to rock the world, but calls when she needs to talk.  That is a salve to my soul, truly.  But still, I have to let her go.

And the other two are on their way down the same path.  I remember when the first two were crabby teenagers, just beginning the process of pulling away, I consoled myself with my still-happy younger children.  They were still pleasant to be around.  They still liked me and wanted to be around me.

Well, now they're teenagers too, and Mom is not nearly so popular.  The whirlwind of joy and happiness and purpose that consumed my life with the four kids for so many years is definitely taking a different shape now.  They are all in the process of moving on from me, and I have to allow my relationship with each of them to grow into something more mature, more distant, if it's going to remain healthy. 

So, there is a sadness there.  A tearing.  A void.  Nothing God can't hold me through, but it's best for me to acknowledge what's going on so I can identify and get to the root of irrational feelings, like yesterday with the dance audition.

Maybe I'm overplaying this, maybe the connection between that audition and this emotional hiccup is tenuous.  But as I prayed, one thought led to the next.  I am a little too invested in this youngest daughter's dance.  Why am I too invested?  It's the last vestige of her childhood that I can hold on to. My last child's last glimmer of childhood.  I love it.  I love watching her dance.  I love that she's good at it.  I want to enjoy it and bask in it and eek everything out of it that I can before it's over.  Because it will be over all too soon.

But God will fill this void I feel as this last child grows up, I know.  He will provide other, more healthy sources of joy for me as I embark on a new phase of life.  In the end, I am raising a beautiful young woman, who may or may not do anything with dance as an adult.  Either way, dance is a wonderful part of her childhood.  I will enjoy it while I can, but recognize that it is the girl herself I love, and I will always have her.

Just like my mother-in-law cutting ties with her work and moving on to other endeavors, I have to be willing to cut ties with my former life of Tasmanian-supermom.  Not quite yet.  But soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rotten Ruminations

I love reading blogs, two in particular that I follow.  I have come to love these women.  I love reading about their husbands, their kids, their financial woes, just their general spins on life.  I quit writing in my blog last July, as you can see.  I guess I decided it was worthless and stupid.  Although it has been a source of joy for me, there is so much I can't say here.  I know no one reads it, and it's very unlikely that if anyone did read it, it would be anyone who knows me or would be able to identify me -- or would care enough to even try to identify me.  But I still have to be so careful not to say anything negative about anyone.  Some days that leaves me with precious little to say!  Sometimes it's hard to be a Pollyanna.

Lately, however, as I've been reading my favorite bloggers, my heart is drawn back here.  I just have to write, even if it is stupid and worthless and no one reads.  Actually, I'm drawn back here partly because no one reads, so it's safe.  And maybe I don't have to be quite as Pollyanna-ish as I've been. 

So, what's the dirt?  I'm frustrated and a little stressed over something trivial.  My daughter has auditioned with two of her ballet friends for a scholarship to their ballet summer camp.  It would be a joy to win!  It would also be a financial boon since the camp costs $1300, but really, I don't worry too much about that end.  I do believe that if God wants any of these girls to go, He will provide for them.  They are all from believing families and all have (I presume) the same perspective.  The real joy would just be in the honor of winning.

Here's the rub though.  My daughter joined this small class of ballet students and quickly emerged as one of the stronger dancers.  She had a few years of previous experience with a different studio, which gave her an advantage, along with her natural ability.  One of her friends had had virtually no experience at all -- maybe a little, but not much to speak of.  Well, bless this girl's heart, she has improved quickly and all but caught up to my daughter.  She is a good dancer!  Good for her.

What's hard though is that one of these three girls will probably win that scholarship.  They were clearly the best in the audition, according to my daughter.  (The audition was for kids in (ballet) grades I-III, and these girls are on the verge of taking their grade IV exam.  So they still qualified for this audition, but it isn't surprising they were the best ones there.)  The one friend is a sweet little dancer.  She has always been very good, and if she wins we'll be genuinely happy for her.

This other friend, however, the one who came with little experience and has improved quickly, is a different story.  Apparently, she thinks she won it.  She thinks the judges were watching her.  Well, maybe they were, and maybe she did.  But if she wins this scholarship instead of my daughter, my evil heart will turn itself into a raging, rabid, jealous wolf.  Just like in that movie, Alien, it will burst out of my chest and do unspeakable damage. If I have to put a smile on my face and feign joy in congratulating this girl on her success, I cannot be responsible for the havoc wrought upon all around me.  I'm dreading the whole thing!

Argh!  We'll find out on Monday who won.

[Please know that the only problem in this situation is my raging, rabid heart, jealous for all the best to go to my daughter and no one else.  I cast no aspersions on the innocent girl.  She and her mother are good friends of ours.)

In the end I have to trust God with my daughter.  His plans for her cannot be thwarted.  I told her that on the way home from the audition, and I need to heed my own wisdom.  There is no need for worry.  Her times are in His hands, whether or not she wins the audition, whether or not she has to be humble in congratulating her friend on winning a scholarship she wanted for herself.  My most ardent prayer is that she have a heart to live for Him, to glorify Him with her dance for as long as He has her dance, even if it's only for the next four or five years through high school. 

I feel dirty. All this has definitely tainted my warm and fuzzy feelings toward this girl who is doing nothing but trying her best, just like my daughter is trying her best.  Gotta go fix my attitude, pray and trust God.  Clean up my act.  This has my soul all in a twist and I don't know what to do about it.  =(


We found out today that L did not win the scholarship, and neither did the friend against whom I would have had the rabid, raging heart. (Although I did get that cleared up;  really, I did!  You can read about that in the next post.)  But the first friend did win it, and we are truly happy for her!