Here We Go

I’ve come to a crossroad in my Christian walk where the is this humbling realization that I have thought very highly of myself. Where actually I’m not as versed in Bible stories and Scripture memory as I actually thought myself to be. Realizing where I’m actually at and being okay with that information is a relatively new concept for me. I can be ok with knowing where I’m at and I can hate it enough not to stay there.

My fear was if I questioned the fact that this whole Christian thing was a sham then I denounced my faith and when God turned out to be real I was pretty much done for. Grappling with that fear and these questions I’ve found is pretty much a necessary step in the this journey where I have to utilize my own head and heart knowledge to arrive at a conclusion that this faith is something worth losing friends, not being liked, and possibly even dying for. The core Truths of Christianity are being sewn into my children because I firmly believe Jesus lived, died on a cross, rose from the dead three days later, and will return to bring us home to Glory. However, the faith aspect of having to accept that I wasn’t one of the Twelve Disciples, I didn’t grow up with the Lord and see Him work miracles has lately been something for me to stop and ponder.

This season of starting over and being leveled down to just myself and the Lord has brought me for this new journey. One of battling a mild depression and trusting God to bring me out on the other side more sure of who He is and who I am in Him. Learning things like Pilate is pronounced “pilot”, the racism involved in the story of The Good Samaritan, to name a few, is honestly just embarrassing. Like, I should already know this very basic stuff if I’m going to train and raise up my children to love this God I talk about so much. Watching K’s Bible story shows and reading her Jesus Storybook Bible has taught me the Christian fundamentals right alongside her. As someone whose pride had puffed her up into some Pharisee, just accepting that the foundation for my faith is still being built is monumental.

I don’t have to have all the answers to be an effective leader for my children. Nor do I have to know it all to be assured of my salvation. There’s no Old Testament Pop Quiz you have to get at least a 70% on to spend eternity in Heaven. That removes the need for grace and the cross. If all I had to do was memorize the names of all the New Testament books and tell you which author of the Gospels was a doctor (Luke, by the way) then I’d be set and could go on not investing in deciding for myself why it is that I believe what I do.

And maybe it’s not even doubt about the existence of God. Whatever it is, I’ll journey through the grappling of what it means to have a relationship with Christ that’s more important than girlfriends, social media showing me what you did this weekend, or a date with my husband. Maybe it looks like kicking it old school and watching some Veggie Tales and picking up my on version of a children’s Bible to highlight and make notes in the margin. But there has to be a deeper foundation than this. And there’s going to be.

So here’s the premise: 40 days to a deeper foundation. 40 days to read all I can get my hands on starting with A Hunger For God by John Piper (there’s a free PDF download if you don’t want to shell out the cash on Amazon for a hard copy), The Ragamuffin Gospel, Desperate, and obviously, the Bible. To abide with Christ and disconnect from the world as best I can. 40 days to limit distractions, to Sabbath frequently, and be all in. I’ve gotten really good at having one foot in the world and another in The Word. It’s a horrible place to be. I’m so over it.

Tangibly speaking:

Social media-blogs (besides my own to track progress, insights, etc), Facebook, Instagram, and the like are unnecessary distractions. The desire to sit idly on my phone or computer spacing out is just a behavior with no edifying purposes. In fact, for me, it’s a huge stumbling block to not be present with my family. So my phone will stay in my room and during times of boredom or a desire to escape the screaming of my children my prayer is Scripture and Biblical commentaries will help not only validate the convictions in my heart that I need to make leaps and bounds in my faith, but also allows for Christ to reveal to me my anger, discontentment, and desire to be most anywhere but where He has me.

Desserts/Drive-Thru Latte’s- It’s so not a secret that my addiction to food and emotional eating is a huge part of my life. May I find that the sweetness of time with the Lord far surpasses some Starbucks or lemon cookies. And I love me some lemon cookies. This should be fun.

Unnecessary spending- This one is the hardest for me. But I have to do it. Not only from a financial standpoint does it just bless my family but the level of discontentment in my life is at a record high. I’ll have to discuss some in depth ways to get some accountability from Chris here but initially my thought is I create a list, discuss the list, and buy only what’s on the list one day a week. Emergency trips or added items to the list are to be discussed beforehand. This sounds a bit controlling and legalistic but if I have you a glimpse into my spending habits you’d wonder why I hadn’t put myself on lock down before. I don’t do well with grey area. Chris put it perfectly to me this week: “Just because we could use something doesn’t mean we need it.” Touche, yo. I can use 80% of what’s at Target. I don’t need extra throw pillows and storage bins and clearance coffee mugs. They spruce up our home but do nothing more than feed my addiction that’s, quite frankly, out of control

It’s not about legalism or in some way seeing how holy I can be. It’s about denying myself the things I ultimately idolize in an effort to recognize the goodness and fulfillment of Christ. Loving the Giver, not the gifts. Ultimately phones, technology, food, and possessions are gifts-good things. But over time they’ve distracted me and I’ve begun checking the box of what I think God wants from me instead of just listening. And obeying. Because I don’t obey very well. At all. Ever.

All in hopes of having God make Himself more real to me. I’m reminded of Matthew 4:7: “Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  If He chooses not to do so in the confines of my little experiment then then that doesn’t disprove Him. I’m not testing the Lord. I’m earnestly seeking Him, so incredibly optimistic that He’ll show up and totally wreck my life for Him where I can find joy and rest instead of trying to be my own means to that end. Because God will not fit into my genie bottle. But I’m praying with great hope and expectation specifically that He delivers me from fears and anxieties, lays aside my doubts of my salvation, and genuinely builds a love for Him above all His gifts.

My fear in verbalizing any of this is that God will call my bluff. That He WILL stretch me. That I WILL face hardships and opportunities to depend on Him alone. I’m afraid I’ll actually NEED Christ because for the past 28 years things have gone alone fairly well and I’ve lived in this comfortable bubble where I’ve managed to get through life pretty decently. My fear is I will have a Job experience and my world will be turned upside down. Deep down it sounds like I just want Christ to come alongside me and let my life continue with prosperity and menial growth as opposed to realizing that regardless of my home, our income, my marriage, children, or health going along swimmingly and committing to saying, “God You alone are enough. You can have my stuff. Even my new shoes. And my health,” sounds a lot like “Take everything I love and then make me love You more.” Real talk: I don’t know how to say that. I have no idea how to face my own mortality and lack of control and whole-heartedly mean that apart from Christ I have nothing. But I’m optimistic that it’ll happen. Maybe not in 40 days or 40 years but ultimately Christ will be enough and I’ll be kicking myself for idolizing the meals I create and my Target trips for so long.

How can you help? Please pray God will show up in ways I can’t even put into words. That I’l be more accepting of myself and all the quirks God created within me. I’d love to persevere and look back on this time sweetly and be reminded of all the ways God has infinitely blessed my life without looking for my own ways to add to His provisions. Please check in and be kind to me as I deny myself in an effort to grow deep roots in Christ and decrease my reliance on the world to fulfill me.

I already jacked up the “don’t buy coffee rule” today so tomorrow we start tomorrow.  I’ll probably not return phone calls and text messages promptly. I’ll forget to tell you happy birthday or congrats on your pregnancy. I’ll maybe even get a bit catty without my sugar and my Target  but I trust you to be gracious to me, spur me on, and allow me to disconnect in an effort to reconnect to what matters. I’ll document and update as I feel led and would love encouragement along the way. It’s in God’s hands. And I’m so looking forward to what He’s got in store. Come on with it, May 25- I’ve got high hopes that as I wrap this up and reflect that the post will be so good, so full of thankfulness and insight that my world will be less about repeating what I’ve been taught and more about making this faith my own. Here we go.

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And I Am Thankful

My goal of this blog has been to glorify the Lord with the gifts and talents he’s given me. I can’t very well do that by keeping His provision to me as of late to myself.

I’ve been reduced to tears all morning.

Not pregnant.

Not hormonal (maybe a little hormonal).

Not sad.

I’m just so very, very thankful. This season of isolation and trying to find a new normal has been so hard. So very difficult. And yet here we are. The morning after a dinner with God’s people-people I served in a former home church with. My first community. Our youth pastor. His beautiful wife. These people for years were my people and here God has allowed them to be my people again. To have them to my home. To be hospitable. To just fellowship together.

And I can’t stop crying. So much happiness and gratitude from having dinner. Being in the company of people who are just lovely has touched my soul. I am encouraged-I see a light in the darkness-a gorgeous light of God’s goodness-and I can’t help but be overwhelmed.

As if dinners weren’t enough our dearest friends, and K’s best friend, are spending the weekend with us. They’re coming into our world and helping bring some sense of comfort, of being known, of being admonished and encouraged. We’ll have people here to just be. As if I’ve been in prison in solitary confinement and I finally get to go outside and interact with others.

I can think of no better gift right now.

God has shown up. Has made Himself so beautifully known. And I am thankful.

The Park

In between buying a jumpsuit half off at Target (because, duh, $15 well spent) and reading The Ragamuffin Gospel I’ve realized that starting over in a city knowing NO ONE is a whole lot like dating. And as a happily married woman I dislike that very much.

Making friends as an adult is a whole level of awkward. I thought all that small talk and totally awkward attempts at ambiguous compliments were over. Apparently not.

I’ve found that there’s always a few of the same types of moms at the park that fall somewhere on the following spectrum: Victoria Beckham Posh and Hot <—————————–> I’m Just Here So I Don’t Lose My Mind. I fall a little left of center here and the day I roll up to the spiral slide in a pair of strappy black sexy shoes you better punt me.

It never fails. I always start with the “Hi! How old is he? He’s tall/active/smart/so sweet!” That’s about as far as I get before I comment on something my kid’s doing in an effort to break the awkward silence when it’s just me an another woman haphazardly pushing our kid on a swing.

There’s only so many ways I can non-creepily talk about your kid or your Tory Burch flip flops (that you paid entirely too much for, by the way) before I realize this isn’t going anywhere.  I don’t even know if I’m supposed to shake your hand at the end of our conversation by the swing or give you a side hug. Full frontal hug? That’ll get you arrested. Or certainly avoided the next time your kid wants to swing on the monkey bars that are pretty much the the temperature of the surface of the sun.

And forget asking for your number. Then I have to ask for your name again because I was too busy yelling at my toddler to stop eating mulch that I forgot to actually listen. Of course you’ll tell me again (“It’s Sara”) but I have to decide if it’s with an “h” or without as I type it to store in my phone. Because those things matter to people whose parents went all creative and spelled “Sara” some way awesome like “Cerahh.” I can’t even deal with this nonsense. Of course I can’t even tell you my name and give you my number in return because my preschooler is such an elementary Cross Walk Leader Hall Monitor In Training that she refuses to touch her bike without her helmet on. Because rules are rules. And your kid now thinks she’s a fuddy duddy because she values her skull.

Our kids will play together for awhile and we’ll make pleasantries about what our husband’s do and how we really should exercise more- You hear T 25 is legit. I assure you it is. But ultimately someone’s kid loses their ability to regulate emotions and everyone in adjoining counties knows it. So I smile and give you the “I feel for you, Mama” eyes because it’s DEFINITELY not my kid, and off we go to the our homes where demands of fro yo and insistence that naps are NOT needed don’t end until Daddy gets home.

I go home kicking myself because I kind of liked your Nike’s and that must be a sign that we’re destined to be best friends, or at least Park Acquaintances. I may even let you give my kid a push on the swing while I tend to the tantrum of the other. We’ll be cool like that for awhile. Maybe snag some Starbucks or Chick Fil A after (or lie and say it’s nap time….at 9AM).

Either way it’ll be awkward. Maybe not so much for you as for me but on the off chance it is let’s just assume the other really likes a good glass of wine and moments of silence that aren’t while being barricaded in our bathrooms. And if those aren’t things that can bond us mama’s together I don’t know what can.

Sometimes I Can’t Blame Them

I’ve been a professing Christian for as long as I can remember. I sang songs about Jesus in church, said “the prayer” for Salvation who knows when, and pretty much did what I want thereafter.  I slept around, I cursed, I drank to the point of vomiting on entirely too many occasions, and lived a life that was, for the most part, showing everything I claimed to believe about Chris was just hypocrisy.

I was a liar.

Let’s not pretend that getting married suddenly made my halo a little less crooked. I just became a hypocrite who tried harder not to be. My interactions with men were not honoring to my husband, my language was vulgar and I became frighteningly aware that I had an anger problem. After a year of recovery in a church-based 12 Step program I put some safeguards in place and confessed horrible truths about myself.

The process of discovering what it means to “be a Christian”  has become more relevant as I see more and more what it means to not be. Creflo Dollar for example convincing people that he needs an exuberant amount of cash flow to spread the Gospel infuriates me. Don’t get me started on Westboro or Joel Osteen. For the love, y’all, no WONDER so many are turned off to the Gospel. Had God not opened my eyes sooner assure you the last thing I’d want to do is be part of a religion that says my pastor needs enough money to fund several small countries just to fly some ridiculous jet or screams profanities at the LGBTQ population. So much hate and greed is being spewed from the pulpit ( or streets) that, frankly, sometimes I can’t blame non-believers for turning away from the crazy false doctrines they hear. My heart breaks for the fact that so many of us who try diligently to be a light in this world are being overshadowed by the crazy and the chaos that doesn’t come close to anything that can be defined as Biblical.

We need to get one thing straight: the prosperity gospel is not the Gospel. This is. God’s ultimate desire is not for you to live a life of material luxury. Prosperity comes in abiding with Christ, not with Christian Louboutin. Christianity isn’t behind this bill. It’s like somehow all Christians hate gay people unless they’re your family then they’re the exception. Or maybe not. Maybe you just hate everyone that isn’t a white family who makes more than $200,000 annually. As if someone who’s had an affair has committed an unforgivable sin and isn’t worthy of love or compassion. The lie that giving $100 to some church somehow forces God to give us $1,000 later on diminishes the Creator of the Universe to some genie. We’re so high and mighty to preach on all these sins but when it comes to divorce we’re aloof and think that particular part of the Bible doesn’t apply to us. It’s hard to promote what constitutes marriage when all the time Christians are getting divorced and trying to convince everyone around them that their marriage was the exception and no one should judge them. The twisted thought that if I’d just prayed harder for my grandmother to be cured of cancer would have taken it away makes me livid. What kind of crap is this?!

Church, no wonder there’s so much scrutiny of us. No. Wonder. This is not the teachings of Christ. I can agree that some of the Bible is offensive-it forces us out of our hedonism and into a standard of living and treating others that’s often against our own desires. I get the thought process of doing what you want as long as it’s not hurting someone. I struggle with that a bit myself. But I have to trust (and it’s not a blind trust, mind you) that the God I profess to believe in knows better for me than I do and therefore I’ll refrain from the second or third glance at the guy running without his shirt on and do my darnedest to not believe the lie that buying more stuff will finally make me happy. That if I just drink one more glass of wine my anger toward my situation will dissipate.

We have to be better than this. We have to call out false teachings. We have to admonish one another when we judge ever so harshly those around us. I’m not saying encourage harmful behavior but, for the love, could there be some seasoning of Grace? Can we stop with our Holier than Thou already? Stop with doing things claiming them to be loving when really it’s just a distortion of Truth and just carries out our own prejudices and fears? Stop giving those around us another chip to use to say Christians are unloving and judgmental people? I’m so over it.

Are you?

We’re Not Home Yet

I’m like a child whose parents made them transfer schools the week before their senior prom. I am dramatic and have kicked and screamed (quite literally) for the past 5 months. I’ve been plucked from comfortable and cushy to isolation and grasping for normal.

I am not home.

I knew going into this relocation that God was preparing me for some solitude to rely on His sovereignty instead of a quick phone call to a girlfriend or a Chick Fil A meet up to pass the time. All my safety measures and things that gave the illusion of control are gone. I’m left in 2,629 square feet of counter space and hardwoods to dwell on just how crap this is. I’m surrounded by physical beauty and yet remain so very bitter.

At home I had a schedule. I had quiet time. I home schooled my child (sometimes). I had Mom’s Night Out. I served in the church. I wasn’t even just checking the boxes-I was full on loving Jesus.

My optimism ebbs and flows and my childlike response to having no one but the Lord to talk to and invest in truly at times makes me angry. Like, I’m yelling at the Lord that I just need REAL friends. Human friends. Who get my humor and will entertain my kids so I can binge watch Parenthood. Friends who like my cookies and understand the sass that comes from a four year old. I’m yelling up and down that God got this all wrong and if I could just move home  then I could re-strengthen my Jesus roots.

See, if God would just listen to me things would be all good. Because I’d have homies. Homies who like sweet things. And salty things. And sweet and salty things TOGETHER. 

Because those are my people.

Because I know better.

Because I tend to think I am God.

(And lets all come together with an “Amen” that I am not.)

My prayer has been for God to just make Himself ever abundantly real to me. That my doubts would subside and my days wouldn’t be filled with mindless monotony and overspending at Target. I’m getting in the way of that.

So here we are, trying to make this place home. Chris is all “but it is home because we’re all together.” So insightful and drama free, he is. And then there’s me with my hysterical sobs because I’m missing out on post-prom and a corsage stuck at home with frumpy ‘ol mom and dad in the form of my preschooler and husband who are content to just watch movies on the big TV with surround sound while I wallow in self pity and hide away reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” (highly recommend, yo.)

The parks here are not yet our parks. We don’t have our date spot. We’re lacking community and I’m focusing in on all the things I don’t have. That’s what Negative Nancy’s like myself do. They get stuck in a pessimistic rut and try to spa day and cheese board date night themselves into being thankful. There is no joy-and I’ve been OK with that. I’ve accepted this new “Everything is NOT awesome, everything is only cool when you’re part of a team” way about me that is so counter intuitive to everything I am and stand for that it’s MADDENING to watch myself whither away into an angry ball of yuck.

See, what I’ve realized (but not begun to change because I want to be mad for just a little while longer) is that all of this is just sin and gross and I’m a very selfish person. My desire for community is Biblical-my ongoing anger about my circumstances is not. Even my cold brew latte- with sweetened condensed milk, mind you- just gives me a cup to pour my sorrows into and continue my Woe Is Me season.

It’s all good, though. If there’s anything I learned in recovery it’s that it starts with one step, so here goes.

My name is Elizabeth, and I am discontent. I am angry. And I don’t like it.

I’ll start digging out of that rut now. My tantrum’s lasted long enough.

Joy

It has taken me living in a hotel with two kids for nearly 6 weeks to grasp the fact that at any given moment I have about 39 people I can let down. With my life so full of chaos there’s been nothing even close to resembling a normal routine, much less one where I can make plans for even several hours ahead. This blows my mind. As a planner (and a control freak) I need to know everything that’s going to happen. My travel plans are laid out months in advance, dinner plans the week before, and birthday celebration ideas are constantly circulating. Being in this season of essentially being flaky and not being able to let my yes be yes has been tremendously difficult, yet freeing.

I’ve extended myself grace. I’ve allowed myself the flexibility to be present with my family and prioritize them over being social and filling the calendar. We’ve just floated along together and tried to make sense of the madness. My inability to plan my life has created room for resentment by fearing others won’t be gracious. By fearing that I’m somehow no longer a woman of integrity who can be taken at her word. The upheaval from my friends, my church, my home has been a process that oscillates between my heart being encouraged about a new adventure for our family and one with deep, deep pain, anger, and loneliness.

My hopes were high for this season. I had plans to teach K to read and write more words. I had plans to wake early and become this Biblical scholar. Chris and I were going to be rock solid. For the most part none of this has been so. I’ve felt largely alone and put on the game face for my family. It’s so difficult to be on the side of things where you feel the pressure to keep up appearances for your children in an effort to smooth the transition from having multiple play dates a week to suddenly being stuck in a hotel room with just your stressed out mama. The Lord has been gracious to me in helping me control the anger that so frequently rears its head when I’m overwhelmed but it has not been easy. I’ve internalized my sadness and have grasped for straws to attempt to bring some sort of predictability to our daily life. My desire to pursue oneness with my husband has been overshadowed with my attempts to do 27 different things, giving each about 9% attention.

My desire for comfort, routine, and my perception that I’m in control has me living in the realms of some theology that’s not sound. As if Christ wants me to have an exuberant amount of material wealth and happiness. I’ve finally concluded being happy is not synonymous with having joy. The amount of excitement within me when I think of our new home (and kitchen) is overwhelming. My frame of reference of leaving a two room hotel into a two story house has been sobering. My standards are low. And the house isn’t going to fix anything. Sure, more space will allow us to breathe a bit, but ultimately regardless of living in a box or a house my security should not not fluctuate.

This place is not yet home, in fact, nowhere we live this side of Heaven will be. The longing for socialization and stability is intense and my prayer is for the Lord to continue to sustain me as I pour out my heart’s desires for this life we will lead here. It’s so very evident of Christ’s hand in all of this-making the process a seamless one with abundant blessings and provision we could have never imagined. It’s clear to me that this is where God has us and for reasons I don’t yet understand.

So I’ll be a bit out of character for awhile. Texts, phone calls, and planned get togethers will not happen. I will play an exuberant amount of Candy Land. I will stare at a refrigerator full of food and declare we have nothing to eat and send Chris to pick up some pho. I’ll probably have great intentions and wake up early to finish this week’s Bible Study but will get distracted with furniture shopping and planning ways to decorate the upstairs game room. I’m letting this all be alright for a season because I just have to. Things will not go as planned, I will live without structure, but I will not live without joy.

Food for Thought

Let’s start with some humor before the serious, shall we?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNPLuSx_06U

Funny, no? Relatable, yes? How about this one?

http://www.minglingofsouls.com/videos/what-if-my-spouse-let-himself-or-herself-go/

I’m a wreck over that video. Over the fact that it’s just so true. Over the simplicity of it. And over it’s honesty. I am that video and my husband is not the one who has done the proverbial “let himself go.” It’s me. If I needed proof K gave it to me the other night when she pointed at my stomach and said “Hey,  you’re really big right there. It looks like you have a baby in your tummy again.” I am not pregnant and informed her as such. We also took the opportunity for her to ask for forgiveness because she hurt my feelings. It was also a chance for her to learn that some things you just don’t say. Even if they’re true. We lack tact in this family and, as Chris puts it, instead of seasoning his words with salt as he should, he just leaves his seasoning duties in the kitchen.

The relocation of our family has created much chaos. There’s no schedule, no roots, no friends. We eat out at least once, and sometimes several, times a day because the kitchen capabilities are minimal until we get a home. Those hidden calories from restaurants have destroyed my waistline-but, if I’m being honest-I haven’t really cared. I’ve been so overwhelmed with what’s happening to my pretty little world that the comfort of chips and sundaes has been a band aid on a gaping wound.

And has been for the past 19 years.

Well, oscillating between over and under eating. There’s no healthy lifestyle just binge or over-restrict. Over eat or don’t eat at all. Such a crap place to be.

I came to Chris about this in a highly emotional moment a few weeks ago and basically laid it out like this: ” I know I’ve gained weight. It makes me sad. But not sad enough to fix it.” What a terrible, lazy, horrible statement.  Honest, but very aware that I’m so deep in a mess that no step forward could even register to me as progress. Thankfully I have an accountability buddy who I text and let her know that the urge to stress/bored/happy/excited/sad eat is strong. I still go for the empty calories but feel a bit better about it knowing I’ve at least reached out. I validate my addictions. I validate the fact that I substitute carbohydrates for intimacy with the Lord. I would rather spend time at a restaurant then engaging with much of anyone.

I have stewarded my body poorly. I have created a horrific lifestyle that translates into “deserving” desserts and does nothing but show my children that this type of behavior is normal, OK, and even encouraged.Food as a coping mechanism may not show it’s effects as quickly as if I were turning to alcohol (and trust me if I drank as much as I ate we’d be in some serious trouble.) It’s more socially acceptable. Everyone eats. You need to eat. Have to. But the relationship, the obsession, is, frankly, just so sad.

This is such a sad position to be in. One that no one has put me in so I can’t lean on my usual tactics and project blame elsewhere. I certainly can’t sue Nabisco for making delicious processed foods, not that I would anyway. There’s such a level of deep, deep embarrassment that strongly rooted from years of bullying in my adolescence that keeps me in various aspects of my life as a 11 year old little girl. Realizing that I own a home, have children, and am otherwise an adult just doesn’t connect with me. The twisted relationship with food goes so deep that even beginning to chip away at the root, to give it all to God, and to see healing and growth is grossly overwhelming. The time and energy it would take to unravel and unpack nearly 20 years of a habit makes my head spin. This is far too serious.

So here’s the cycle of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. What makes it all so different is realizing that my choices are simple: they’re sin. I’m using food as a substitute for Christ. In ignoring the prompts for change and continuing with a comfortable (but is it really?!) lifestyle I hinder the Lord’s work within me. I remain a functioning member of society who merely goes along without thriving. I choose disobedience. An active pushing away of the One I love just because I don’t even know where to begin. I show over and over again that I don’t even comprehend the Gospel because I put all the pressure on myself to do it all-leaving no room for Christ to work within me. This is a difficult season-one of pruning and sanctifying that I knew was coming, I was just ill prepared for the work. Ill prepared for the deep heart change that needed to happen. And, ultimately, ill prepared to obey.

Maybe today when I’m happy and I know it I won’t eat Blue Bell. And tonight when I’m bored and I know it I won’t have chips. Perhaps when I’m content and I know it I’ll have rest.

Respect

Respect is subjective as far as I can tell based off the interactions I have so frequently with my husband. Apparently sighs and eye rolls do not convey love to my spouse. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. What I intend for them to mean is that I’m frustrated, not that I think Chris worthless or otherwise not worth my time.

For the past six years I’ve really wrestled with what it means to convey how I feel (even when it’s not nice) and do so in a way that isn’t going to shut my man down. Our communication styles could not be more different. The fact that we’re completely aligned on important things like home decor yet have crazy intense disagreements over where to eat for dinner is mind blowing.

I’m really good at tearing down with my words. I’m a queen at low blows. Thankfully I’ve had enough experience with them that I can feel one coming and stop it before I say something I have to later apologize for. Heck, sometimes knowing that I’ll have to humble myself later is enough in itself to not say something hurtful. Clearly I’m a child.

This particular area has been a rough one for me, and one lately I’ve found to be something I need to be diligent in fixing. The sanctification process is rarely fun, but I’m thankful for a husband who comes alongside me and is far more eloquent in communicating than I am so I can draw a circle around myself and fix everything inside (shout out to Todd Wagner for that little tidbit of wisdom.)

Because I’m a fairly complex woman I’ve decided I could use some simplicity in my life to balance out the crazy. There’s so many areas of self improvement I could start with, especially in being a loving wife and mother, but I figure I can’t have everything or excel at more than one thing at a time (this week’s winner is carb eating-I’ve done a tremendous job at eating carbs, mostly in the pretzel and ice cream form.) That being said, I think acronyms are a little bit weird-like me- but a lot a bit helpful so in an effort to really dive in and make headway in this area I present to you “RESPECT Yo Spouse.”

R-Realize Fault

E-Empathize

S-Share

P-Pray

E-Engage in Sexy Time

C-Commit

T-Together


 R-Realize fault

I’m never wrong. The sooner Chris would just be on board with everything I say the sooner our arguments will go from weekly or so to zero. This is not rocket science….and it’s certainly not Biblical. Generally my issues come from unmet expectations (doesn’t everyone’s?!) He should read my mind and he should quietly sneak out of the house on Saturday’s with both kids without returning til noon with a latte. But he doesn’t because I’ve got a million pieces of crazy that he can’t put together so my natural inclination to assume he knows my needs typically put me in a position to say something catty and, in turn, be the one at fault for doing so. The more I blame my spouse for the way I treat him the more I dig myself a pit of pride and we’re just all in a disaster.

E-Empathize

90% of the time I can empathize with anyone in the world except Chris. I can talk lovingly to, help out, and put myself aside for strangers but you better believe that Social Welfare degree I have stops at the door far too often. My ability to empathize with Chris is minimal at best because I simply can’t relate. I have no idea what it’s like to be a Senior Manager in a thriving and growing corporate business. I have no idea what it’s like to learn a new job, work with numbers and answer questions about those numbers all day. All I focus on is that for 9 hours a day my man is out of the house and talks to adults. He is WINNING. My ability to put myself aside and just listen to the man could use drastic improvement. Unfortuantely I get caught up in this game of My Stress Trumps Your Stress Because My Stress Talks Back And The Other Can’t Wipe His Butt. It’s a rather clever game if I do say so myself, but one that’s detrimental to the health of my marriage. I’m no quitter but I’d like to bow out of playing that one forever.

S-Share

This goes hand in hand with “Realize fault” but it’s worth mentioning again (just so I REALLY get it) that Chris can’t read my mind. Sharing my stresses (which are many and valid but should never be expressed as somehow superior to his) is essential. Expressing my heart, my loneliness, the sadness I feel about gaining weight or what have you is exactly what the man needs to hear. I should throw the poor guy a bone (or an IPA) every once in awhile and just be vulnerable. Then we can walk alongside one another through the chaos and truly create some intimacy instead of living in my head with wine and Oreos.

P-Pray

I’m thrilled there’s so many of you who diligently pray together with your spouses. Props. We do not do this with any frequency or consistency. We share prayer requests and pray individually for one another but instead of letting the crux of our spirituality happen apart I’m inclined to say there’s some serious growth that happens on the Spiritual front when we’re aligned in such a way. Will work on this.

E-Engage in Sexy Time

Thanks, “50 Shades Of Grey,” for ruining my news feed with blog posts that are basically the same on sex. Without getting all on my over sharing soapbox (out of respect for my very private husband) (Did ya catch that? I’m being respectful on the interwebs!) I’ll just say there’s a definitive direct correlation between our conflicts and our intimacy. Even hand holding or a hug when he gets home. Physical touch communicates love (which is basically respect to my man) and in seasons where this isn’t high on the priority list you can pretty much guarantee someone’s sleeping on the couch. And it’s usually me. Sex is good. Cuddling is good, unless your man is like mine and approximately a trillion degrees at all times at which point you may want to settle for holding each other’s pinkie finger. Anything to communicate your spouse is more important than Real Housewives (is that even still on?) or Jen Hatmaker (and God Bless Jen Hatmaker!) is bound to lead to some sort of relationship cohesion.

C-Commit

Marrige is not for wienies. This is not easy. Heck, it’s frequently not even fun. The thing about marriage and one that thrives is being committed. Not being committed to simply being undivorced but committed to learning one another and embracing differences and working, albeit slowly, to unity. If I throw out threats of divorce (which I’ve done frequently in the past) there’s no commitment, no respect, no love. Our first two years of marriage were rough on the streets, man. Seriously. There’s not much more that communicates respect to my husband than knowing that regardless of the hardship I’m down for him, for our marriage, and for the covenant (not contract) I made six years ago. My word means something, my vows are valid, and that reassurance is highly valuable.

T-Together

If we’re not pursuing one another outside of our roles as co owners of a home and parents of two crazy adorable kids then we’re just in a business relationship. This is executed differently for each of us as I desire desprately to be taken out and having kid-free time alone with my good lookin’ man. He’s content to watch a movie on the couch. I’d rather have my eyebrows plucked than sit through a movie. There are few things I dislike more. I’ve learned, however, that it’s not all about me and if my needs to be out of the house are going to be met I’ve got to give a bit and pretend to be at least 30% interested in what Denzel Washington is blowing up next. For him it’s not about my interest in the plot lines as much as it is disengaging from my job and my phone long enough to put him first.

Clearly this isn’t a one acronym fits all approach but it’s worth a shot to plant seeds (and reminders for myself) that being diligent to work at communicating that I not only value and cherish my man but am deeply thankful and genuinely appreciative of the teammate I have in him. At the end of the day I’m still going to want to eat sushi for every date night and take a massage instead of vegging on the couch but my commitment to my marriage and to not staying stuck in a selfish rut sure is incentive enough to make a few changes, and maybe even enjoy them in the process.

That mom

“I’m so glad you’re my friend.”

As soon as my daughter happily spoke the words to some girl at the playground whose name neither she or I could ever remember, I cringed. “Friend? She’s not your friend. As a matter of fact, she’s kind of rude.”  was my internal response. I’m a 28 year old who passes judgment on preschoolers. This is not my finest trait.

I realized that K’s demeanor to love others, to see trust as something that’s given and not earned, and to jump into any new situation with both feet is something she got from me. And I see her getting hurt over and over again as a result. It starts early, that rivalry and insecurity business. I see it with toy envy with my toddler and with Anna and Elsa envy with my four year old. Everything everyone else has is so.much.cooler. Heck, I’m even walking around wondering how people spend thousands of dollars on these space ship style strollers and am thoroughly unimpressed with my plastic contraption that keeps my caffeinated goat kid in one place so I can take a four second sip of my Caramel Macchiato before I have to snap back to reality that I’m not currently alone on an island.

Somehow my stroller, my kids shoes, and their personalities are all up for debate as to whether or not they’re good enough. I pray I never voice these insecurities and, in turn, put them on my children. Instead of being thankful that I have a child who’s confident in who she is, who sees past clothing and race, and just wants someone to listen to her sing the same song twelve times, I get caught up in the fact that her outgoing nature will be perceived as abrasive.

What if the other moms don’t want their kids to play with her because she’s helping herself to their toys uninvited? What if her mismatched socks and bed head are putting ideas in the heads of those kids that conformity is overrated and soon they’ll rebel against what outfits Mama picks out all because of the girl with the rainbow knee high socks at the park? Then I’m that mom whose kid has their belly button pierced at 16 and let’s friends stay over on school nights and suddenly no one can be friends with my kid because I have no boundaries.

I’m a hot mess.

A hot mess who needs to shave her legs and cut back on the Blue Bell.

I guess this makes me a less than hot mess.

There’s so many aspects of parenting and even just being an adult (which is totally not as cool as I thought it was) that I just have no CLUE about. Like sweeping for example, or escrow accounts. This whole process is just chaos and I feel ill equipped to be responsible for the lives of two little people much less pour into them enough to make them thrive. At this point it’s the survival of the fittest and, honestly, there’s no guarantees anyone’s going to make it out without any serious issues.My poor kids are going to tell me stories asking if I remembered the time I let them wear shorts and t shirts out and about to run errands in the middle of winter because I was too focused on just getting out of the house to have regard for warmth. Or about the time that had to call poison control because some how one of them got ahold of the bottle of Benadryl and took a long nap afterwards. In my defense we now check the weather before we leave and all the medicines are in cabinets immediately after use. Something tells me that these things are common sense to most people. Sometimes I’m late to the party…

If there was a full time job to get paid to concern myself with things that are likely to never happen I’d be the front runner. My own people pleasing and insecurities are creeping into my parenting and it simply has to stop. I can’t parent out of fear and I can’t choose friends for my children much longer. Left to their own devices I’m sure they’ll choose much more wisely than I. My track record for the first 18 years of my life was nothing to envy, I tell you that much. I’m optimistic that being aware of my own pitfalls and shortcomings will stop the crazy, or at the least, minimize it to a more manageable level. Then I can lay off the ice cream and pretend for a second or two that I’ve got it all figured out.

Five Days

We’ve been living the high life in a hotel for five days and already I’m becoming well aware of where I end and the Lord absolutely MUST begin. Unfortunately, I just feel so spiritually dry. After 10 days or so of flying solo with both kids while Chris went all colonial on us and paved the way for us to come to our new home, I had dove in deep with Bible study, prayer, and genuine closeness with the Lord. Nighttime anxiety and fears were non existent. I truly rested in Christ.

And yet, here we are, in 700 sq ft of living space. Space that’s filled with my family unit together again, but with a void I can’t seem to pinpoint. Is it the fact that C is waking up three times a night and starts his day at 5:30 AM just to go down for a nap again by 8 because CLEARLY no 11 month old child needs to be up at the crack of dawn? Perhaps it’s the juggling of deciding where we’ll live. Apartment life? Overspending on a new house because house prices are inflated? Decisions be tough, yo. I guarantee you at least 38% of the issue is being homie-less. My people aren’t just a hop, skip, and 30 minute drive away. I digress. Solitude is rough for the extrovert.

There’s nothing profound to report. Nothing significant like “I haven’t yelled at my kids and I’ve done a marvelous job of choosing the grilled option over fried when dining out.” Certainly have reigned in the temper (thank You, Jesus) but the fried options are just so APPEALING. Who orders a grilled fish po boy sandwich, anyway? No one, that’s who. Except maybe someone from Missouri. I digress. We’re taking it hour by hour-literally. I don’t know how many highly unnecessary trips to Target a woman needs to take before she can finally accept her issue is not with needing new cups for the kids and bottled water, but the true issue is genuine discontentment. A heart issue that continues to be in the works, one that’s sadly with minimal progress.

So here we are. It’s quiet around here so I think the kids are asleep. Or unraveling all the toilet paper (true story), helping the other unravel toilet paper (true story), or licking the side of the toilet where the aforementioned toilet paper hangs (sadly, also a true story.) Either way the quiet is welcome and I can gather my chaos into one document that will help, if only for a moment, allow me to be present and focused without being distracted by the 18 perpetual gnats that take my energy so low even an Iced Caramel Macchiato can’t bring me back to functioning.

This life I lead is one filled with a job I adore, kids that are pretty cool, a husband who puts up with my all-to-frequent unloving tone of voice, and some checking-of-the-box Bible reading. To get out of the rut (besides reading Beth Moore’s book on it) is agenda item #1. Let’s consider this some cyber accountability and my hitting “publish” will put me in a position to be hyper aware of my entitled way I desire to live and tone it down a notch to be able to see the blessings of this season.