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What Mess?

tile

We are in the middle of a major house renovation. Maybe major isn’t the accurate term, but for a couple who has never done this, it feels significant. In the next few weeks we will have new wood flooring installed, new cabinets and paint, new appliances. The works.

Meanwhile, in order to get ready for the new wood floors, we have been removing so much tile on our own. Yesterday I came home to a torn up main floor with huge shards stacked all over and a dust and small pieces of tile everywhere. So I did what you do, I started cleaning. I swept and vacuumed and dusted for about three hours, only to find every flat surface covered in that fine dust all over again this morning. My guy informed me yesterday that it was useless to clean at this point, but I felt like I had to, and when they were done with the excavating for the day I placed the furniture back where it goes to give some semblance of order.

Why do we do this? It would be really hard for me to have someone arrive at our home and see our furniture piled into one room and dust everywhere, to know that we are currently living in chaos. It occurred to me that I feel this way about a lot of things, I often want to sanitize the situation and give the appearance that we have it all under control, when sometimes nothing could be farther from the truth.

I have tried to get better at this; I lost a lifelong friend to cancer earlier this year and mourned her passing in front of our children, friends and people I don’t know so well. I rationalized that she was worth it. I have also had three young adult children spreading their wings and beginning to fly on their own over the last three years and anyone who tells you this isn’t a hard adjustment is lying. I have heard the pain is like losing a limb that you are convinced you cannot live without, but over time you learn to do just that. Those first few weeks of change are devastating, and I shamelessly felt it with each child, crying at the grocery store and over coffee with well-meaning friends. Again, completely worth it.

But what about when life is just hard? When you have no money, or your marriage feels like a sham, or anxiety is gripping you at the throat? Do you find yourself cleaning up the place, trying to give the impression that things are great, even when all evidence says it is definitely not? I want to live a life of authenticity but don’t want to be the downer in the room who is always struggling. And yet, we are, right? Struggling, I mean. I think the answer for me is to have my people I can be totally honest with, and to work on not trying so hard to appear to be unaffected by the stresses of life.

If you want to see the state of affairs at my place, come on over, find a chair you can sit in and stay a while. You will leave covered in a fine white powder and dog hair, but while you’re here we can honestly share what’s going on in our lives.

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X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

We have done something similar for years, but without spelling it out quite like this. Please parents, be this for your teens.

Bert Fulks

Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery.  Yes.  Young people.  I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions.  I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.  This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.

Recently I asked these kids a simple question:  “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”

They all raised their hands.

Every single…

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Behind Every Great Man…

great

What were you thinking??

Are you serious??

I just don’t trust you.

Three statements that can crush a man. There are many more, but they all share similar characteristics; from the woman they love, these words inflict wounds that do not heal.

I don’t think most women understand how much impact we have on our men. There are so many jokes floating around about selective listening and how men tune out our words, but I think they listen very carefully. At least, early in the relationship I am quite sure of it. Over time they may feel forced to close you out in order to survive.

Your guy is looking for support, encouragement and grace that only you can give. He doesn’t need judgment or doubt, he hears that all day already. When he shares a crazy dream for your future together, instead of telling him all the reasons it won’t work and belittling his ideas, say something like, “I don’t think I understand. I’d like to hear more about that.”

When he asks if he has what it takes, instead of using the opportunity to share your doubts in his abilities, try, “I believe in you.”

And when he messes up and asks for your forgiveness, instead of reminding him of all the past hurts inflicted, respond with, “I forgive you.”

I have talked with so many men over the years who share that they feel paralyzed with doubt in their own abilities, afraid that they do not have what it takes. The difference can be the words that you are speaking into his life, detailing his strengths and potential.Your response to your man is incredibly powerful, that saying, ‘behind a great man is a great woman’ should be, ‘behind every great man is an encouraging woman.’

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 21:9

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

What Does She Want for Valentine’s Day?

img_2378Guys…..if you’re starting to feel some pressure from all the Valentine’s Day ads but have no idea how to proceed, I think I can help. You have the universal question looming right now….what does she want from me? Okay, here we go….

1. She doesn’t want you to ask her what she wants. Ever. If you have to tell someone what to get you, it doesn’t feel like a gift. And honestly, there’s a good chance she doesn’t expect something specific. She wants to see you looking confident and like you have this one covered. Seriously.

2. More than likely, she doesn’t want you to spend a lot of money. She is aware this is a cheesy excuse for a holiday, but deep down a token of your affection is much appreciated, even if she says otherwise. Want some ideas? If she normally secures the sitter, you do it, and have a plan for the evening that involves something she prefers. Or send her for a manicure and pedicure while you’re home with the kids. Or sign her up for piano/foreign language/cooking lessons – anything she has mentioned before that she is interested in. Or list out the Top 10 things you are most grateful for in your wife and read them to her over dinner in front of the kids, teaching them how to shower someone with love. Or buy her something in her favorite color and tell her why you chose it, and notice when she wears it.

Bottom line: she wants you to hear her, to see her, to love her and to know her. And then she wants you to communicate it back to her. And you thought we were complicated!

So Real

real

I went to the community center to work out last week, I don’t have a set schedule that I keep, so sometimes I work out first thing in the morning but I’m more likely to find my way there mid-morning or right at lunchtime. If I wait till much later in the day, I can talk myself out of going. Way too easy to do.

Anyway, I was sick with a chest cough for many weeks, went to the doctor several times and was given shots and prescriptions but ultimately it was time and rest that was needed most to get better. I was unable to work out for twelve weeks. Three months. There have been seasons in my life where that meant nothing at all, but I had been very consistently visiting the gym for the nine months prior, and I felt this absence.

I finally declared myself well enough to hop onto the elliptical, knowing that I would not be able to stay on it for the length of time I had prior to being sick. I was fine with this thought, I’m really in no hurry, but I quickly saw that it did matter to me after all. There was an older man on the machine next to mine, he was at least 15 years older than me, and he had a great pace going, looked over my way and greeted me and it was obvious he had just started because he wasn’t sweating or tired. I got on and felt the familiar movements that I had been missing for so long. It felt good to be moving again, but in no time I was soaking wet and sputtering for air. I made myself stay on for half the time I had been able to do prior, and I was counting down the minutes to accomplish it.

As I was hopping off I looked at my neighbor who was still going at the same cadence with no sign of stopping. He waved good-bye as I cleaned off the machine and I wanted to explain to him all the reasons that I was stopping so soon. Like he cared. This little situation forced me to acknowledge that I still worry too much about what others think of me, when I’m the only one who needs to be concerned about where I am. It’s a lesson that I would have thought I had mastered by now, but obviously not fully. This week I will go back to the gym and climb on that machine and give it my best shot, no matter who else is in the room.

Do you struggle with this area of pride sometimes? Please tell me you do.

 

Your Move

wow

In the early years of our marriage I had the ability to run a gamut of emotions in the first hour of the day; my guy never knew what to expect because I could show signs of bitterness and frustration and enthusiasm and charm without thinking about it. I believed it was my right to do this, to be able to express all my feelings – and I had a lot of them – whenever and however I pleased.

This left my husband with a decision of how to respond to me; he had the choice of matching my crazy or remaining consistent even though I was not. If he mirrored my level of…ahem….enthusiasm, we could quickly find ourselves in a scary place of accusations and ultimatums. But if my guy remained constant and true to himself, he would often be able to bring me back to reality, helping us to remain civil and kind.

Fast forward a few years and I can see the opposite is true as well; my man tends to worry and can get down sometimes without cause. When this happens, I have a choice to make, I can lay down in the pit next to him and mirror the fear and we can quickly find ourselves in a scary place of darkness and isolation. But if I can remain constant and true to myself, I can often bring him back to reality, helping us to remain steady and calm.

This is the beauty of being so different in a relationship. We each provide consistency for the other, rounding off the edges and filling in the holes. But only if we choose to. When you know your spouse will be coming home from a tough day at work, do you steel yourself with possible reactions and counter arguments, or do you prepare yourself to be what the other needs, no matter what? I am not suggesting becoming a doormat, submitting your needs, but I am suggesting a laying down of your rights to poke the bear and make matters worse. If this seems foreign to you, like it was for me for so many years, I want to encourage you to simply experiment with your response and see what can be.

 

All Day in Bed

imageSounds glorious, right? It’s on the list of things the experts say to do for your marriage; get a hotel room and stay in bed all day. We went one step further, flying to a romantic city in Spain first. Except there was a catch, we were forced to spend the day in bed because my guy was too sick to go anywhere.

We are in Barcelona for a couple of days, then leaving for northern Spain for twenty four hours and on to southern Spain for the rest of the week. We had very little time to see SO MANY things in Barcelona, our first day here we walked more than 11 miles just drinking it all in. That’s who we are, even on vacation, we don’t sit much. Or really at all. And then sickness set in, forcing us to cancel tours and plans, and sleep a lot and watch Spanish television.

It was a good reminder that we need to slow down and relish this gift of vacation, time away alone together in Europe. Seeing everything a city has to offer isn’t necessarily the most important thing to do. Lying with my sick guy yesterday, I was reminded of a simple truth spoken years ago: I don’t care where we go, as long as we go together. Those marriage experts would be so pleased.

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