**If you want the whole devotional (and the next three Advent Sundays) including spiritual exercises and reflection questions, sign up BY CLICKING HERE**
**If you want the whole devotional (and the next three Advent Sundays) including spiritual exercises and reflection questions, sign up BY CLICKING HERE**
Want to know what I’ve been reading?
Want some reviews so you can figure it out for yourself?
Check out these books I’ve spent some time with (and keep doing so).
Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist (4.5 stars)
I lived my life pursuing the “sweet” side and avoiding the “bitter.” Shauna helped me to embrace all of it and she did it by telling her own stories of heartache and hope. Very short chapters. Easy to read one at bedtime or in the morning. I used it as a devotional and in my women’s group. A wonderful gift for the women in your life (any age and stage).
Inspired, Rachel Held Evans (4.9 stars)
I worked through this book slowly with a women’s group recently. It is brilliant. Evans, one of my new favorite authors, examines some familiar Bible stories, retelling them in new ways and drawing out ideas that resonated with me. As Amazon says, “Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world.” I couldn’t recommend this more.
Sooley, John Grisham (4.3 stars)
I am a huge fan of Grisham and have read almost every book he’s written. This book is in a league by itself. It takes you on a journey into war-torn South Sudan and a young man who gets the chance of a lifetime: “a trip to the United States with his South Sudanese teammates to play in a showcase basketball tournament. He has never been away from home, nor has he ever been on an airplane. The opportunity to be scouted by dozens of college coaches is a dream come true.” (so says Amazon) It is heart-breaking, riveting, hopeful, and a serious page-turner. Definitely worth the read and if you know anyone who loves Grisham, it would make a great gift.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero (4.2 stars)
Looking to dive deep? This book explores how our emotional and spiritual well-being are very closely tied together. I went through this book with about 60 other people and it was fabulous. It explores the more contemplative side of faith as well as working through our own wounds from our pasts.
The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman (5+ stars)
I am reading through this a second time. Slowly. And journaling. It’s that good. Emily’s wisdom and ability to communicate through story about how to make decisions (which we all do about 35,000 times a day) couldn’t be more effective. She is gentle and kind, strong and helpful. I’ve recommended this book to every single person I’ve come in contact with. Short, yet very packed-full-of-goodness chapters.
Reading brings me to “far away” places including my very own heart! I am changed by what I read. I hope you are too.
PEACE. “The absence of conflict.”
There is a battle that rages inside of me.
It’s in every decision.
It’s in every moment.
It’s in every relationship.
It’s the never-ending clash of freedom and safety.
Will I fall if my dad takes off my training wheels?
Should I try out for the part in the school play?
What will happen if I ask that boy to the dance?
What should I major in?
Should I send that follow-up email to my coworker about the missing information?
What will my friends think if I take a break from traditional church?
Should I let my kids ride their bike to the neighbor’s house?
Can I tell my spouse about my overwhelming fear?
Should I quit my good-paying job and follow my life-long dream?
Is it too late for me to _____________?
SO MANY QUESTIONS.
All followed up by the three more questions.
Will this keep me safe?
Will this make me free?
Which is more important?
Much of the time, I choose safety at all costs.
What does it really do for me? What does freedom do?
Here are my humble findings so far.
SAFETY swallows me up.
It says, “Do what’s easiest, no matter the cost.”
It keeps the real me at bay, playing “nicey-nice,” telling me over and over again that “I’m fine” is the answer every morning, no matter if it’s remotely true or horribly false.
FREEDOM releases me.
It says, “The choice is yours to make.”
It calls the authentic me to come out to play, reminding me that any answer I give in the morning is good as long as it’s true.
SAFETY keeps me small.
It says, “You just shouldn’t.”
It prevents me from feeling it ALL, tells me I am only allowed to feel SOME and I need to do whatever it takes to get the HAPPY and stuff down the HARD.
FREEDOM enlarges me.
It says, “You can.”
It allows me feel ALL of it, from the angry to the anxious, from the sappy to the happy, from the painful to the pleasant. ALL. OF. IT. Nothing is too much or too hard or too this or too that.
SAFETY says protection is my end goal.
It says, “Don’t let anything bad happen E.V.E.R.”
It stomps out the beautiful possibilities of wonder and ensuing joy and leaves me lifeless and hopeless.
FREEDOM says I am designed for fullness.
It says, “Your adventure is waiting. Dive right on in.”
It opens me to grandeur, summons me to imagination, bids me to beauty and leaves me wholly alive and able to dream.
SAFETY shuts others out.
It says, “You will be hurt and it will be terrible, 99.9% guaranteed.”
It perpetuates disengagement and sometimes shouts a loud or whispers a soft “NO!” to any kind of closeness. It leaves me lonely and loveless.
FREEDOM invites others in.
It says, “You will be hurt, but it will be worth every teardrop, 99.9% guaranteed.”
It welcomes vulnerability, openness, intimacy, and gives room for my most basic human need to be fully-known and fully-loved. I feel my own long sigh exhaling, “Aaahhh! YES!”
SAFETY downright enslaves me.
It says “Don’t you dare.”
It dictates decisions that lead to an endless and fruitless attempt to control my world, my husband, my kids, my friends, my self.
FREEDOM grants me permission to really LIVE.
It says, “I triple-dog dare you!”
It urges me to ask myself the scary question: what is the truest, most beautiful life that you can imagine?* It doesn’t stop there. It implores me to then actually answer and act on that question.
There is a battle that rages inside of me.
It’s in every decision.
It’s in every moment.
It’s in every relationship.
Which might win today? Tomorrow? Next week?
I don’t know for sure.
But which will ultimately win in the end?
I know. I know. I really know.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” Galatians 5:1
*asked by Glennon Doyle in the book Unashamed.
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man and his wife were naked and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:7, 22, 25)
The first marriage story ever told goes something like this:
God makes a bunch of creatures, including a boy and a bunch of animals.
Boy checks out all the animals, but there is no one that “floats his boat.”
GOD: “It’s not good for the boy to be by himself. I’ll make the best fit for him”.
God makes a girl from the very flesh and bones of the boy. God sets up a not-so-blind date for the two of them.
BOY (after seeing girl for first time): “At last! She is all that I’ve been looking for! Thank you God! She is beautiful! She is part of me!”
Boy and girl are naked and they feel no shame. Boy and girl become one.
Time goes by and after working in a beautiful garden and enjoying companionship with each other and with God, girl meets up with a destroyer of all the goodness. Girl is convinced that God is holding out on her and not giving her what she needs.
GIRL: “I don’t need God. I’ve got this. He’s not to be trusted.”
Girl acts from that place of disconnection from God.
GIRL: “Come boy! Do what I do. We really only need each other.”
BOY: “Okay. Sounds great to me.”
Boy acts from the same place of disconnection from God.
Boy and girl now realize they are naked and they feel shame. Boy and girl cover up and hide.
GOD: “Where are you boy and girl?”
BOY: “I am hiding from you.”
BOY (blames the girl): “She made me do it.”
GOD: “Why girl?”
GIRL: “Someone else made me do it.”
Disconnection → hiding → shame → blame. This is how Allen and I lived for many years. The cycle repeated endlessly. We lived how Albert Einstein defines insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It wasn’t like we weren’t trying hard. Believe me. We were. We just didn’t know how to get off the hamster wheel.
God designed us for the opposite of the above cycle. His original design for marriage is connection → vulnerability → responsibility → grace → intimacy. It’s the same as His perfect plan for His relationship with us, our journeys of FAITH in Him (there it finally is…the F you were waiting for…see the rest at the end of the post).
God longs for each of us to be “naked and unashamed” (fully-known and fully-loved) with Him. But why does it matter?
The vicious cycle of disconnection → hiding → shame → blame is a destroyer of souls, hearts, minds, even bodies. That’s why it matters. It does NOT work for good. It does NOT bring wholeness or healing. God wants something better for us. He has actually created us to have the same relationship with Him that He does with Jesus, the “I and the Father are One” kind of relationship Jesus speaks so freely of. He wants us to be One, naked and unashamed. How can this happen?
CONNECTION: It starts here. God wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved by Him no matter what. This is not an easy undertaking. We have had voices of fear, guilt and shame that have permeated our lives and many times, we have associated them with God. Repenting (which just means “changing your mind or thinking a new thought”) is the first step. The truth about God, not what you’ve heard and assumed all your life is that He loves you. No matter what. His great desire for you is that you live from the place of this unconditional loving connection with Him.
VULNERABILITY: When we struggle and fail, he wants to deepen that connection without hiding, but with vulnerability, putting ourselves in the place of trusting Him and His love for us. Vulnerability is when we make ourselves susceptible to the judgment of others, when we let our guards down and relinquish control. It’s scary. It involves risk. We might be rejected. The good news is that God will never reject us. He is safe because He can be completely trusted with our struggles and our strengths, our trials and our triumphs. He isn’t going anywhere. He will never leave us or forsake us.
RESPONSIBILITY: This safe place with God allows us to be free to take responsibility for our lives, our actions and our emotions, instead of playing the blame game. Taking ownership of our own brokenness, without the self-deprecating place of blame and/or shame is a tricky path to walk. Recognizing our own humanness and frailties and then bringing that out into the light with God is a wonderful giant leap on this journey towards intimacy with Him.
GRACE: God responds to this out of His own complete goodness. He responds to us with grace, which simply means unearned favor. Instead of shaming us, He is kind to us. Instead of cursing us, He blesses us. Instead of turning His back on us, He turns His face towards us. Instead of sending us away, He pulls us close.
INTIMACY: Naked and unashamed. My favorite phrase in the English language. Fully-known and fully-loved. The definition of intimacy. What we all long for at the depths of our being. This is the end result of all the hard work. Completely worth it. It is the healer of souls, hearts, minds and even bodies.
As you can see, our marriages are designed to reflect this beautiful cycle of intimacy, the oneness we all long for, with God and with each other. Marriage is unique, the only human place where this can take place in all of its fullness. We are designed to know and be known, fully without shame: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. How amazing of God to have invited us to experience this with another human being in the covenant of marriage. I have been given the gift of Allen. He has been given the gift of me. We both have been given the gift of this life-long union. Here’s to opening our gifts every day for the rest of our lives.♥
Thank you for reading today! Please feel free to “like” out on social media or here! Thank you again!
For the rest of the “F’s” in the series on marriage, click on the following links:
“Conflict creates the fire of affects and emotions; and like every fire it has two aspects: that of burning and that of giving light.” (Carl Jung)
Allen and I have our fair share of FIGHTS (the seventh F in the series). We are certainly NOT the couple who can say, “We never argue. We agree on everything.” Nor do we want to be (well, Allen wants to be secretly).
Allen is kind and gracious. I am sarcastic and I like to say, discerning (others may call me a bit judgmental). Allen is a hard-worker, quiet and reserved. I am quick-witted and loud. He is methodical and analytical. I am passionate and decisive. Allen is a supporter and a peacemaker. I am a leader and aggressive. As you can see, blending our personalities lends itself to conflict. It is inevitable.
We bicker about (super important things like) how to pack the car, load the dishwasher, and fold the laundry. I hear myself saying just last night, “I’ve told you not to fold my dresses. They just go on a hanger. You are wasting your time.” (I know, ladies. The man was folding the laundry and I still had something to say about it.)
We argue about more serious things like where to spend our money, how to handle the latest “children issue” and what to fill our calendars with, the things of life that have big implications. There’s just no way around it.
We also have more tender “discussions” about how we’ve been hurt, misunderstood, and disrespected by the other. These stem from places of abandonment and shame, and our lack of the ability to “stay with the uncomfortable” parts of ourselves. Allen has an especially hard time with this, deeply desiring the absence of conflict. It does not make him feel safe inside or out. On the other hand, I love exposing all our shadowy parts (or maybe just his if I’m truthful) and bringing them out into the open for the gaping wound to sometimes fester and other times heal. Allen tends to be the avoider. I am the chaser. I fight and he flees when we feel threatened.
For many years, we had no idea that all this conflict CAN actually lead to intimacy (being fully-known and fully-loved). But it CAN also lead to disconnection. The trick is knowing HOW to argue, how to fight fair. Allen’s calm and quiet during our times of conflict appears like marital harmony, but without resolution, the problem just brews beneath the surface. My love of “getting it out into the open” many times degenerates into insults and harm. This breeds the perfect environment for disconnection.
Dr. Gottman, the expert marriage researcher, says that how a couple handles conflict is directly related to how likely they are to have a happy marriage. There are four disastrous ways of interacting that will cripple attempts to resolve conflict, one feeding into the next (he calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse): criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. They are the FIRE that destroys.
Complaining (not to be confused with endless nagging – Allen likes the idea of challenging the status quo) is a healthy marital activity. It’s not pleasant, but it brings things into the light. Many times, and this is where I personally struggle, it crosses the line to CRITICISM. Criticism involves attacking someone’s person, rather than their behavior. Complaints usually start with the word “I” and criticism with the word “you.” For example, “I wish we spent more time together” is a complaint. “You never spend time with me” is a criticism. Criticism produces blame and multiplies shame, never resulting in closeness.
CONTEMPT brings criticism to a whole new level. Many times, criticism, as bad as it is, is born from a place of frustration. It tends to be a “crime” of passion. Contempt is a clear “premeditated” attempt to harm your partner. Its aim is to cause pain. No matter if you have been married for four days or forty years, this monster sucks away every positive feeling spouses have for one another. It appears in the form of name-calling, hostile humor (sarcasm) and straight up mockery. I always associate it with the “rolling of the eyes.” This is the most dangerous “horseman.”
Once contempt has entered the picture, each of us has a natural inclination to defend ourselves. In fact, DEFENSIVENESS can result even from proper forms of communication like complaining, especially if there is unresolved shame in either party. However, it is completely natural to resort to this place when there is CRITICISM and especially when CONTEMPT has taken hold. This being said, defensiveness only escalates a conflict instead of resolving it. Denying responsibility and making excuses only separates a couple further.
The last horseman is STONEWALLING. Allen struggles with this. Overwhelmed by emotions, his natural inclination is to withdraw, protect himself. Even though it might look on the surface like “peace-making,” it actually is a very powerful act, conveying disapproval. The example that comes to mind is when one of us “stops talking” to the other. When this happens, the ability to connect is seriously thwarted and intimacy is beyond reach.
All this sounds so horrible and hard and probably completely relatable. Even writing this is making me a little discouraged. I need a little good news, how about you?
There is great HOPE! All of those horseman come into every marriage, even happy ones at some point or another, especially when there is intense marital conflict. But they don’t have to be the norm. Just like fires can bring harm and destruction, they can also produce light and warmth.
Conflict in marriage can be the fire that produces light and warmth. It can bring life and vitality into a relationship. It is the price you pay to have deeper intimacy. WE CAN FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE! Here are basic “rules” (not a huge fan of that word) that govern how to move from harm to healing:
I keep coming back to the image of fire. “Keep the fires burning” and “Keep the flame alive” are mantras for good marriage. Fire destroys or gives light. Conflict is the same. Fighting harms or heals, brings intimacy or disconnection. I’m sure another “discussion” is right around the corner for Allen and me. May we fight the FIRES of destruction and harm with the FIRES that bring light and healing!
If you’ve made it this far, can you go back to Social Media and “like” it (but only if you do like it…LOL)!
When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago, and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later. I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).
When we meet couples who are on their second marriage, sometimes we feel like we can’t relate. After all, what do we have in common with them? But as Allen and I joke, we aren’t only on our second marriage, we are on our third…it just happens to be with the same person. Very different and also somewhat the same.
Our “Three Marriages” have been loosely marked by the decades we’ve been together. This past weekend, questions were posed to us by our Pastor when we were interviewed on stage at our church, “Tell us about the early years of your marriage. What came naturally… and what was a challenge for you? Any Points of Conflict?”
My answer to him was hard for me to say and even harder for me to hear out loud and share with the audience. However, it was worth telling because vulnerability breaks strongholds and provides undeniable freedom. (Sorry. I have kept you in suspense long enough with how I answered, so here goes.)
Our first Marriage was characterized by HIDING. We so longed to be the perfect Christians, the right kind of wife and/or husband, the ones everyone would look at and say, “We wish we could be just like them. They have it all together.” Needless to say, with this kind of pressure to perform, we hid from ourselves, our families, our church and mostly, from each other. We had lots of manners, not a lot of meaning. Lots of talk, not a lot of truth. Lots of outer, not a lot of inner. During that time, we actually did NOT have a lot of CONFLICT (which probably made my conflict-avoiding, peace-loving husband a happy camper), but we also did NOT have a lot of CLOSENESS. And to be honest, it felt good.
Thank God He didn’t leave us there. It all “hit the fan” at the end of those 10 years. Our first marriage came to an abrupt end. With the help of some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me. I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace. Not so much. His reward was judgment and anger. After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.
Over the next months, my heart began to slowly change. Allen’s risk affected me. I was free to explore the ways I was hiding, the “not-so-perfect” parts of me. For the first time in our marriage I felt safe and free to share those things with him. If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either. What a relief!
This was the beginning of our second marriage, one characterized by a lot of HARD WORK. Transparency and authenticity came to the forefront, and was mostly met with forgiveness, grace, and compassion, which required long talks and much conflict. We plunged headlong into books on authenticity, life groups that offered mutual transparency and trust (we have a couples’ group and we each have our own group comprised of just men and just women), and fought for these everywhere in our life: each other, our kids, and our friends.
As that decade came to a close, and our second marriage felt fairly successful, God called us to another, even deeper level in our relationship with Him and with each other. With the help of a very safe and close-knit group of friends who regularly meet together and the decision to go to counseling, we found out that we “married the wrong person,” to quote Pastor Tim Lucas’ book on the subject. We began a slow undertaking towards HEALING, wholeness (I MEAN SLOW), another marriage, our third. Our small group went on an inner journey together exploring our pasts and how those played into who we are today, for both good and bad. Counseling revealed to us that we each had core wounds that effect most aspects of our lives and especially each other. That was tough. There was even one very scary night that stands out vividly in my memory. We were lying in bed, seeing very little light at the end of the tunnel, and asked each other, “Will we make it? Is there any hope for us?” We actually weren’t sure and this made for a very dark time.
We pushed ahead with our group and with counseling. This journey for HEALING seemed endless. One evening during a session, we came right out and asked the question, “Do you see any hope for us? Is this normal, that it gets much worse before it gets better?” Thankfully, our counselor answered with a resounding, “YES!” to both questions. That gave us the spark we needed to move (albeit slowly) forward.
We have found a few things during this time that have been huge for true HEALING in our marriage:
We wonder if we will have even another marriage, one where HIDING, HARD WORK AND HEALING are over. It actually sounds a little bit like HEAVEN to me!
(MANY OF YOU HAVE ASKED FOR THE LINK TO OUR “ON-STAGE” PERFORMANCE WHERE WE SHARE MUCH OF THIS. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE WHOLE MESSAGE (which was fantastic and so worth watching) AND OUR INTERVIEW IS ABOUT 26 MINUTES IN AND LASTS ABOUT 10 MINUTES)
Here are links to my other posts about Marriage:
It’s not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. (Friedrich Nietzcsche)
This weekend marks the 27th anniversary of the date Allen and I said “I do,” May 18, 1991 (cute pic, don’t you think??). The weeks and months leading up to the big event were filled with all the romance human beings can muster: a promise ring given as the sun rises in the east and George Winston’s “Pachelbel Canon in D” plays in the background, love notes communicating the eager anticipation of our future lifetime together, passionate dates ending with lingering kisses , celebrations of our love in the forms of showers and parties with family and friends, and hearts that long for the knitting together of our bodies and souls.
The day finally arrives and the romance continues in all the typical wedding fare: songs declaring promises that “I Will Be Here,” vows exclaiming our undying love and commitment to one another, pictures of eyes gazing into each other, a big celebration with family and friends where I was told that the three most important words in a marriage were the following (from Allen’s dad, our very Pittsburghy Best Man): “Pirates, Penguins, Steelers” (okay not so romantic, but I digress), and a wedding night filled with dinner, candles and “you know.”
The romance is prolonged for the next 10 days as we spend our Honeymoon in a cabin nestled in the heart of the Smokey Mountains exploring underground caverns, dining at white-laced tablecloth eateries, white-water rafting, watching “The Hunt for Red October” (again, NOT so romantic and NOT one of Allen’s finer moments), bike-riding, long, lazy talks about our future, hiking to water falls through quiet walkways, spending uninterrupted time together (no cell phones in those olden days), and more “you know.” Life is just as I imagined it should and would be for the next 50 years: filled with the excitement and mystery of these things called love and marriage.
Enter reality: home rental with option to purchase, unexpected pregnancy only two short months in, long work hours, church commitments, and normal, every-day activities like paperwork, food prep, and yard work. Not sounding too romantic anymore. My dream is mildly shattered. Is this really what makes up marriage? How will we last? This just seems like a lot of hard work. And yes, yes it was and still is.
So without all the constant romance (which we still have after 27 years in fits and starts and are committed to), where does the rubber really meet the road? What is the force that weaves our hearts tightly together? I would hazard a guess that it finally dawned on us on our 10th anniversary, the first weekend we spent away from our four young children: FRIENDSHIP (there you have it, the 6th of the 10 “WTF’s” for marriage…see first five at end of post). I remember it like it was yesterday. We were hiking the Appalachian Trail, running desperately from a swarm of mosquitoes, hysterically laughing at ourselves and we just looked at each other and one of us said, “This is why we are married. We actually like each other.”
Without even knowing it, we had spent the first 10 years of our marriage cultivating a long-lasting friendship. We had, as Elisabeth Foley, describes, forged a relationship that “doubles your joy and divides your grief,” and we encountered the beautiful discovery that “true friends can grow separately without growing apart.”
Friendship is absolutely VITAL to the health of any marriage. It is forged through mutual trust, unconditional support and selflessness, all things that must be fought for and worked through. Marriage requires these marks of true and abiding friendship: equality, attachment, honesty, companionship, emotional safety, respect, understanding, vulnerability and closeness. There’s just no way around it.
To be candid, I am not always a good friend to Allen, nor he to me. We tend, in our humanness, to find fault, treat each other with contempt, push each other away, become too busy, listen half-heartedly, hide and shut down. And for these times, just as any true friendship needs, grace and compassion must flow out of our hearts for ourselves and each other. After all, this is really the stuff that makes up a lifetime of babies and home ownership, job changes and heart-breaking losses, bill paying and love-making.
So on this 27th anniversary (such a weird, random number), I write what I texted a friend this morning:
“I am actually in Pittsburgh spending the weekend with Allen, celebrating our anniversary. So so so thankful for my long-lasting friendship with him. That’s what my post will be about this weekend: our friendship in our marriage. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without his constant companionship and friendship.” 😊
I love this man, my husband, from the depths of my soul. He has all that it takes to make a great friend: loyalty, kindness, compassion, grace, integrity, respect and understanding. What a gift he has given me.
One last aside. There is another piece to this puzzle that our Pittsburghy best man understood about marriage: entering into and embracing what is important to the other person is paramount to true and abiding friendship! It is telling the person: I will love what you love! As you can see below, I have done my best to make it a reality!
Happy Anniversary, Allen John Goetz! You have truly “doubled my joy and divided my grief!” Here’s to 27 (at least) more!
“Some days I amaze myself. Other days, I put laundry in the oven.” (Moms Everywhere)
I am not sure if you will be horrified or happy when you read these. I mostly hope you feel like you aren’t the only one. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Here goes nothing (make sure you read with snarky voice in your head):
I hope this has brought you much laughter and grace for yourself and all the other moms you know (especially me). I need grace and kindness and love and to be told it will all be okay and we are all just a little desperate and nuts sometimes! Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who love your little, or not-so-little-anymore, kids and grownups. You are doing a great job (and if you aren’t today or weren’t yesterday or might not tomorrow, take a moment to laugh at yourself just a little).
(SINCE I’VE PUT MYSELF OUT THERE AND FEEL BASICALLY LIKE I SHED SOME OF MY CLOTHES IN PUBLIC, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ONE OF FUNNY EPIC FAILS! PLEASE COMMENT HERE OR GO BACK OUT TO SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMENT THERE. I NEED SOME GOOD LAUGHS TODAY!)
A Word of the Year is “intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.” (The Dolly Mama)
Three months have gone by. Winter is moving out like a sloth, but 2018 is barreling down the tracks like a freight-train. My Word of the Year (referred to lovingly as WOTY from here on out), “TEND,” silently shouts from my computer screen each time I sit down to send an email, check Facebook or do paperwork (the picture above is my background). There are some days when I stop and listen and others where I just glance and shut it out of my mind and move on with my day.
Because I am an avid to-do list follower (okay sometimes I am a slave to it), “WRITE UPDATE POST ABOUT WOTY” appeared on my iPhone reminders about a week ago. Inside, I sighed a little and thought, “Nah. Not happening. After all, what would I even talk about? It’s not like this “gentle friend” has been happily guiding me and I have this awesome relationship with said friend.
But here it is, my Sabbath, the day I make “room” on my plate to ponder things like this and allow restoration and creativity to enter my soul. And today, I am spending on this word “TEND” once again. Come with me on this journey over the next few hours. Take a peak into my probably not-going-to-be-perfect day.
9:56 am Check out my piece of paper that I scribbled all over on January 1, 2018 in order to find my WOTY. First question at the top. WHAT DO I NEED? Get out another piece of paper. Write “WOTY Update April 2018” at the top. Ask myself the same question. Scribble some things down.
Peace. Wisdom. A house that’s in order. More connection with Allen. Clear direction on next steps with this whole blog/writing/communicating thing. Support from others. The sun. My kids to be okay. To “TEND” to the right things – to find the balance between others and self. Compare notes. Many are the same. Some are different already. I wonder why.
(Take a break and make first cup of tea with cream and sugar in 46 days. (It’d better be all I dreamed it would be.) Be back at around 11. Need to go sit and stare and drink for a while.)
(Tea is okay and I am distracted by phone call from insurance company and FaceTime with Sarah and Broden. Flip on TV and watch CSI for 15 minutes. Tell myself this isn’t what I want to be doing right now. Turn off TV and come back to paper. After all, I am going to write this down and share with world.)
10:43 am See next question. WHO DO I WANT TO BECOME? Add this: WHAT DO I WANT TO BECOME?
WHAT? Wise, gentle, tender-hearted, less judgmental and more gracious. Integrated. Free.
WHO? A better wife. An influential communicator.
(Rachel walks in the door after breakfast with Allen. Have a sweet heart-to-heart for a few minutes. Insurance company calls back. Sabbath is hard to come by.)
Compare notes again. Notice that tender-hearted, wife and communicator are on both lists. They must be important this year. How does “TEND” fit in to them? Hmmm. Let me think on that. No rushing.
(Pee and send a “happy birthday” message to my sweet friend Annie! Make myself a smoothie. Watch more CSI while I drink my smoothie.)
(Didn’t work out so great watching CSI. Sarah needed me for a few minutes. #babiesarehard)
12:26 pm Look at definition of “TEND” again. “To apply oneself to the care of, watch over, cultivate. To stand by something. To take charge of as a caretaker, overseer.” Those three words: tenderhearted. wife. communicator. Am I to tend to these God? Oversee them? Take charge of them?
The phrase, “GO DEEPER BEFORE YOU GO WIDER” keeps coming into my mind and heart. I can’t seem to shake it. How does that play in? Half-thought: Roots of plants need to go deep into the rich and nourishing soil (see pic above) before they go wide and bear fruit. I want so desperately to bear fruit, but I probably need to “tend” to receiving the rich nourishment from God Himself in the deep places of my soul first. Sarah had that whole phrase in college from Colossians 2:7 about this very thing. “BE ROOTED (in Christ).” More hmmm.
(Call insurance company back. Check in on Sarah again. All is well there. Lay down and finish this one dang episode of CSI.)
(A friend texts. Ask her if she can wait a little while before I call her back. Head back to process.)
1:41 pm Review my final notes in the process of choosing my WOTY. Rewrite all the “tend” things that I don’t want:
preTEND – ingenuine
conTEND – try harder (doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this just does not work)
disTEND – enlarge from internal pressure (this goes along with try harder…ugh!)
hyperexTEND – expand beyond a safe point (this is the hardest for me)
Also, rewrite the things I do want:
atTEND – be present
exTEND – make wider (Be careful on this one. Deeper before wider.)
inTEND – direct mind on
I think I am done for this quarterly check-in. My heart is directed to these three: tenderhearted (oh my goodness, that even has the word TEND inside it), wife (be present, go deeper and direct mind on this one), and communicator (write to “express not to impress”). I believe I might just be friends again with my WOTY. I need to take a nap now (but first, that phone call with a friend who needs some tending…I know it’s my Sabbath, but I’m not the most perfect at keeping it as you’ve all just witnessed). Then a much-needed nap.
UPDATE SAT 7:38 am
I am glad that my iPhone reminder app did its job this week. I needed the little kick in the pants to stop avoiding my WOTY and check in (as scattered as it was). I want this to be your kick in the pants (I mean tender push) to do the same. Some of you are thinking, “I never chose one.” It’s not too late for this kind of friendship. With winter slowly fading into the background (please God, let it be so), there’s never a better time than spring for new thoughts and renewed hope! You could do a WOTM (word of the month) or even a WOTQ (word of the quarter). Just follow the steps I outlined for myself in January by clicking HERE. And if you are renewing your relationship with the one you’ve already chosen, I hope this post is your gentle guide as to a super realistic and very “not-so-perfect” way to approach it. I would love to hear from you what happens, from your heart to mine!
Do me a huge favor and go back and “Like” my post if you came from social media! It’s one of the ways I can get more views (I guess only do that if you actually like it…LOL)!