Saturday, December 28, 2013

Resolutions from My Hole

We had a wonderfully blessed Christmas. Though our extended family remained far away for the holiday, they were with us in spirit...and through FaceTime. The gifts are opened, wrapping paper is put away for another year and it's time to start thinking about 2014. What resolutions am I going to make for next year?

Of course there's the resolution to become more organized. After all, that's something I've struggled with for years. I'm tired of the clutter and the hassle that comes with disorganization. I received an awesome juicer for Christmas, so I'm resolving to drink more veggies. I'm tired of not treating my body right.

I'm also tired of being hurt. Of getting close to people only to be rejected. I'm tired of giving and giving both physically and emotionally. I'm tired of being the second fiddle or the person people hang out with because "well I have nothing else to do."

These are the times I want to crawl in a hole and not come out. My children and husband are totally welcome to visit because they make my heart smile, but why make connections with anyone else? All they'll do is break your heart into a million pieces.

So do I resolve to do that? To remain at arms length with everyone? If people can't get close, they can't put a dagger in your heart (or your back). When you open yourself up to people you show them where you are most vulnerable. Oh, how dangerous that is. An open book, when not shared with the right people, gets passed around and torn up. The pages get torn out and all that's left is an empty cover.

On the other hand, living in the hole would be pretty torturous because I am such a social being, but that's what makes social interaction so difficult. I am extremely relational and it hurts deeply when a lesser value is placed on the relationship I've created with someone. Do I place too much value on that person? Is my trust and love misplaced? I don't know. I just know the pain sucks.

I don't have an answer. I know that relationships are bittersweet because no matter how close two people are, the love between them will always come to an end. Whether through distance, discord, or death, the relationship is going to end.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Tis the Season...for disenfectant

I thank God I'm not a germaphobe, because this time of year would likely send me to the psych ward.

Victim of a nasty cold; his fever reached 103.
Between fevers and snotty noses, doctor's visits and nurses calls, sickness is keeping me busy, busy, busy.

And I don't like it.
She should be singing "Five Little Christmas Trees,"
But instead she's singing the "I've Got the Winter Vomiting Disease Blues"

My baby girl had to miss her Christmas program (and feast) because of the stomach bug. All the while, I'm trying to keep a very active 18-month-old away from his sister and the nastiness that surrounds her. While I was dealing with her, he managed to climb up on the dining room table, spill my coffee, and help himself to some waffles. Why not? Mom's not around.
Hey! I wonder what else I can get into?
But this year HAS to be better than the last. My entire family was sick on Christmas. I don't mean Christmas break. I mean CHRISTMAS. Eva was opening presents in between bouts of getting sick. It was awful. Three had it Christmas Eve, and two had it Christmas day. I don't know how I avoided getting sick except for the grace of God and a whole lot of hand washing.

'Tis the season for a lot of things (love, joy, peace) and a lot of other things (colds, flu, gastrointestinal issues). But I take heart that this too shall pass. It never really lasts long, though, with four kids, five days can feel like an eternity.

To you young mom's out there who are cleaning up remnants of tummy bugs for the umpteenth time: It DOES get easier. The kids will eventually make it to the bathroom...eventually.

This too shall pass!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What's Your Record: 10,000 in One Day? - Guest Blog by Jason Ince, Husband Extraordinaire

I am pleased to have a guest blogger today. My husband, Jason. He's a wonderful writer, and a published author as well. (Even though it was a trade publication, it still TOTALLY counts). Enjoy.
I attended a Christmas Party tonight, the traditional holiday gathering of friends and acquaintances, and happened to take stock of one of the books on a table in the room: The Guinness Book of World Records. Now, at the time, it wasn't that important, but it stuck in the back of my mind.

Funny where inspiration comes from... After the party, I headed to the grocery store to pick up necessary baking supplies, since my wonderful wife "didn't know the next time she'd be able to make it out." Busy day, I guess (there's a blog post in her future, I can see it.).

As I was leaving, I happened to notice a woman right ahead of me exiting the store. She headed the same way as my car, and got into the one parked immediately next to mine. I noticed because I happened to see 3 young children in the back seat of the same parked care as I was coming in to the store, and having kids near that age, I thought to myself "they are really well behaved considering."

As I put my groceries in my car, I paused and looked into my back seat. I had some "Dirty Santa" gifts left from the aforementioned Christmas Party. As I came around to get in, the idea popped into my head... Why not give these children some random early Christmas gifts? (Note - these were pretty decent gifts, no old holey socks or a box of rocks. Ask anyone who was at the party.)

I wish I could say I acted on what I am coming to believe was Divine Intervention, something that, as I get older, I more fully accept as direction in our lives. I do not believe in coincidence. "Luck" or "Good Fortune" are only things to me that are directed by a higher power. To me, there are too many variables in life to not have some sort of direction. A string or chain of events in someone's life that are just random? Come on.

Back to the kids in the car... I blew it. I missed an opportunity to make a real, tangible difference in someone's life. Even for a few moments. I think we can all imagine what the reaction of those kids might have been. That's where the true joy is in life. Delight in a person's face upon receiving an unexpected blessing.

The missed opportunity did set me to thinking though: What if we all sought out the opportunities in life to bless those around us? And how many different people in one day could be truly Blessed? Not saying "Have a Blessed Day!" or "God Bless You!" Really working to find ways to change someone's life and the perspective of your fellow man.

Now, don't get me wrong... I am in no way attacking folks who say those things, even though I think for some people they have become a little cliché. But who sets out each day to improve life for those around them? Not me. I have a bad case of the "Selfies."

No, I don't take a million useless photos of myself and post them to Facebook for everyone else to see. That's just a great example of a bad case of the "Selfies." My problem is a little tougher to see, but became painfully obvious at work recently.

I was feeling rough. The kind of rough where you just want to be in bed and sleep for about 4 days. Sparing you the gory details, I mainly was looking for a little sympathy from those around me. Ever stop to think about the conversations you have with people? When you pass someone, you say "Hey! How's it going?" and not really care to hear their response? Or have you been on the other end of it and someone asked you, and you complained about something, but never bothered to ask them how they were?

And I was surprised by the lack of sympathy from those around me... never bothering to think of giving some sympathy to someone who might just have it a LOT worse off than me.

That's where I'm coming from in all this... how do we change our own lives by changing the lives of those around us? Remember that book of World Records? They measure all sorts of crazy things like "Most Tennis Balls Held in One Hand" or "World's Largest Mobile Phone Gaming Party." Seriously?!?
Now what if they had one for the most people Blessed in one day? Abstract, I know, but imagine the implications: 10,000 lives legitimately bettered for no purpose than to just help out your fellow man. That's only 1/60,000 of one percent of the world population. Big goal I know, but even starting with one person would be an improvement for me.

So, do you accept the challenge? Do you start each day seeking out even just 1 person with the goal of making their life better? Carrying an armful of books for a colleague? Paying for a Veteran's meal at the local fast food joint (after all they made it possible for you to enjoy your McHeartAttack Burger.) Or simply taking the time to ask someone who seems like they are having a tough day "How Are You?" and ACTUALLY LISTENING.

Consider that as a world record... the number of lives positively impacted in one day. Something worth being remembered for? I think so. A lot better than eating the "Largest Serving of Dried Bean Kurd," which by the way, took 10,000 people to eat.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Walking a mile...

There's this family who is very close to us, and they're struggling. Times are really hard financially, they have small children, and it's just very painful to watch. Things seem ok on the outside, I mean, others know times are tough for them, but I don't think anyone really knows HOW tough. And no one will ever really know how tough it is for them.

The mom said something to me that really got me thinking. She said, "I know now why some people sell drugs."

It seemed like sort of an off- the- wall comment, but she went on to explain that when times are this desperate, folks will do almost anything to provide for their families.
How would you see the world differently
if you had to wear someone else's shoes
for awhile?
Hearing a Christian woman talk like this was an eye-opener for me.

One of my many faults is that I can be super judgy. I say things like, "I don't know how anyone could do THAT." or "If only they did THIS, they wouldn't have to do THAT."

I have considered drug dealers pretty scummy. And while the act of selling drugs is deplorable, I stopped to wonder, "what would happen to make someone start doing that?" It's sometimes hard to see through the act to see the person.

It usually bothers me to no end to see families on food stamps with a cart full of chips, sodas, snack/junk foods. But that "food" costs a whole lot less than the healthy stuff and sometimes you'll do what you have to do to make the hunger pains go away. (I can get a whole lot of chips for the price of organic carrots. Just sayin'.)

It comes down to not judging a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Would you see the world, and the folks living in it, a little differently if you had to live their experience? Walk their walk?

Yeah, me too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Not the Post I Planned to Write

Let me just say, I had an entirely different post planned for today. Something about how Facebook breeds passive aggressiveness. And while I still believe that (and plan to write about it soon), my heart is heavy.

Last night my church celebrated Advent with the Hanging of the Greens ceremony. I was reminded that Christ's coming is the reason we celebrate Christmas and not the superficial reasons the world wants us to cling to. Joy filled our sanctuary as candles were lit and the congregation sang Silent Night. Smiles were on our hearts as we went home.

Today, I was reminded that life is painful. But when pain comes around the holidays it's magnified.

A young man who goes to the church across the street from me is dying. In fact, last Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) he was given two days to live (He's still kicking, as of right now). He's 31, has a 12 year-old daughter, is newly engaged and has aggressive adrenal cancer.

What do you do with that?

A little girl who volunteered at the youth camp my children attend had a gall stone the size of a baseball removed along with several other stones. She is in serious condition in a hospital two and a half hours away. Her mom is not with her. The "mother's" words were apparently, "I signed the papers, THEY'LL take care of her." She's scared and alone at Christmas.

What do you do with that?

I am at a loss as to why these things happen. They happen all the time, but in the middle of July it's a little easier to stomach. Christmastime should equal joy, not aching sadness and loss.

I texted a friend to ask her to pray for the girl I mentioned. My friend had been the one to bring the young man to my attention, so I guess we were doing a prayer request swap. My heart is torn in two over these (and many other situations) but her reply gave me a glimmer of hope.

She said, "Just keep remembering how good God is."

Yes, how easily I forget that.

I am ashamed to admit the times I've prayed for someone or something and I realize I'm talking AT God rather than talking TO him. I don't take the time to remember WHO I'm supposed to be praying to.

He is good. And he is faithful.

Does that mean this man will be miraculously healed?


Does this mean this girl will get the family she deserves?


Not saying those things can't happen, but God doesn't always give us what we want. Rather, he gives us what's best for his plan.

I do know that God will be in that hospital room. He'll be at that hospice bedside. His Spirit will permeate hearts so solid a sledgehammer couldn't get through.

He is good and his goodness shines through during Advent.

Advent is derived from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming." So during this season we're to wait with excited anticipation the coming of Christ. The Bible said that God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus. (John 3:16) He sent Jesus to be the sacrifice we could never give on our own.

If that ain't good, I don't know what is. Would you give up your son for another's transgression? Not me, brother! But God did. Because of love; because of goodness.

Come Jesus, come. Come into our hearts this holiday season. You are knocking, may we open the door and never forget the magnitude of your goodness.