A Little Tough Love

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I’m getting ready to kick off the new year with a four part series on time management/organizational strategies that have helped me get where I am, but I don’t think any of that has value without a little tough love.

You are exactly where you want to be.

Yes, that is exactly what I said. You are exactly where you want to be. You have chosen your life.
Now, I know some of you are thoroughly pissed at me at the moment and are thinking things like, “I wouldn’t be here if my ex…” or “I wouldn’t be here if my parents…” I’m sure all of that is true, but you made choices that put you where you are, and you continue to make choices that keep you where you are.
How can I say that? How can I be so harsh? Because I’ve been there, and now I’m not. I know how feels, and I know how it feels to break free.
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Holiday Reflections

ChristmasPresents

For the first time in three years, I’m actually getting commercials. In our new home, our Spectrum internet service comes with a TV app that has 25 channels. Now that the days are shorter, I can’t be outside until 8:30-9 o’clock, so I’ve been settling in for some Property Brothers on HGTV on Wednesday nights.

I’ve been surprised at the number of commercials versus actual show. I know the statistics, but to actually watch it… WOW.

What I find more troublesome though is the message behind all the advertisements. Your wife will only know you love her if you find the perfect piece of jewelry. Your kids won’t feel loved if you don’t by them the latest toy, cell phone, etc. Your husband won’t feel loved if he doesn’t get a new grill, toolbox, car kit, etc.

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To Santa or not to Santa?

HOT HOT HOT, HOT CHOCOLATE!There’s been a screenshot making the rounds on social media. I’ve included it below, so you can read it for yourself. It asks parents to stop giving their children expensive gifts from Santa, so poor children won’t think they’re less important or less valuable to Santa.
It seems innocent enough on face value, but if you dig in, it couldn’t be more political. It covers issues of religion, parenting, and socioeconomics all in one. A loaded bullet for sure!
As friends and family have shared the post, I’ve lurked, reading the arguments in the comments. Some parents think that children young enough to believe in Santa shouldn’t be getting iPhones and iPads. Some parents think other parents should stop coddling their kids. The list goes on and on.
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Winding Down 2018

annual-reviewOn Sunday, many Christians start a new liturgical year. I begin a new journal and a new planner. The reflection and preparation for the new year that most people start the last week of December or the first week of the new year I started last week and and will be winding down this week.
2018 has been up and down for me. There have been significant loses and struggles, but there have also been some positive changes that have set me up beautifully for 2019.
My word for 2018 was Shalom. I didn’t know everything that word meant when I started the year, but I came to understand that it was much more than peace. Shalom is the peace Christ has and spread. Shalom is a peace that passes understanding, a peace that springs from wholeness.
As I look back on the year, that is exactly what I found: wholeness.
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Struggling with my Inner Martha

Georg_Friedrich_Stettner_(attr)_Christus_im_Hause_der_MarthaLast week, one of the Gospel readings included Mary and Martha–a story that has always troubled me a little.  I want to be Mary at Jesus’s feet, but inside I’m Martha, as I think most Americans are.

Luke 10:38-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

When this Gospel reading comes up in the liturgical year, you can see people squirming in the pews a little. After all, we’re all about getting things done and to many of us, we want to complain just as Martha did that those around us aren’t pulling their weight.
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A New Direction

DivergingPaths
The last three years have been a bumpy journey of massive transformation in my life. In a way, I’ve come full circle, but I am not the same person who started this journey.
I started this journey with dreams of having a sustainable farm with rescue horses, donkeys, and dogs. I pictured building a spacious home, a guest house, and my ultimate dream barn complete with indoor arena.
In the process of pursuing that dream, my dear husband and I nearly lost ourselves and our marriage. We emptied our bank accounts and put everything in our lives on hold. Everything became stressful. There was no joy left in our lives or in our home.
I don’t regret the journey, but I’m glad that it’s coming to an end and that I have a clearer view of who I am and what I want. Continue reading

Giving Thanks

The weekend before Thanksgiving was an emotionally charged three days that I’m still emotionally processing.  Each event challenged me to count my blessings and give thanks to God for how very blessed I am.
The weekend started with shadowing my upline in Pampered Chef for an in-home party. I spent the evening with a wonderful group of women talking about one of my favorite subjects–cooking! I learned a ton from watching Wendy.  Despite getting home well past my normal bedtime, I arrived energized and excited about my Pampered Chef business.
On Saturday, Bear and I passed our Pet Partners team evaluation, which we’ve been working for almost a year. We failed our first evaluation, because I hadn’t counted on how excited he would get at meeting a new dog. I took the advice of the evaluator and spent the months in between our evaluations taking Bear to environments with a number of new dogs to train in the most distracting environments possible. Continue reading

Remembering on All Souls' Day

Yesterday, I spent the day mentally immersed in the lives of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. While MLK Jr. is not an official saint of the church, he seemed an appropriate person to remember on All Saints’ Day this year given the political climate this year.
Today, on All Souls’ Day, I find myself immersed in memories of my dear Fat Nana. (Yes, that is what we called her!) She was my maternal great grandmother, and the first person to teach me about Faith. She left this world when I was eight but continues to influence me even today.
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Jesus Christ Superstar

JesusChristSuperstar1Jesus Christ Superstar became a Holy Week tradition for me back in 1988.  Director Bob Mitchel gave me the opportunity to be a member of the cast of The Community Players production.    As a teenager, I was in general at a very formative time in my life, but having been confirmed in December of 1987, I was in particular exploring a deeper relationship with Christ.  Bob was a minister and brought to the production a reverence and understanding that extended beyond the theatrical into the theological.
When Bob first began the production, we spent some time discussing his take on the show.  He told us that, despite common perceptions, he believed that we were telling Judas’s story.  The big opening number and the finale were both his.  That really stuck with me.  Until that day, Judas Iscariot existed as flat character in the Gospels.  Judas played the antagonist and the betrayer.  Nothing more.
During the course of rehearsals and production, I developed an abiding love and compassion for Judas.  He became someone who loved Christ but ultimately failed in his faith and fidelity.  Judas became the manifestation of my failures and my weaknesses.  The struggles between Jesus and Judas embodied the struggle within me between exercising my own will and surrendering to God’s will.  Both exist within me.  Both must be acknowledged for me to choose the path of Christ.
Another reason the experience of being in that production really stuck with me…  “Remember Caesar.  You have a duty. Crucify him.  Crucify him. Crucify. Crucify. Crucify him.”

Every year, the congregation joins in the reading of the Passion demanding Christ’s crucifixion, but there is a big difference between reading the words in the comfort of your church congregation and having to act them out as a part of an angry crowd on stage.  During those months, I had to *want* Pilate to crucify Christ.  I had to be swept up with the crowd that one day sang his praises and another day demanded his torture and death.
Difficult doesn’t begin to describe that experience, but the resulting personal growth in my Christian faith was priceless.  Now, when I join in the Passion readings at church, I hear that angry mob in my head and am reminded that Christians are responsible for the pain and suffering of Christ.  The tears roll uncontrollably down my face.
He didn’t just give his life for us.  We took it.  We participated in it.  He loves us anyway.
We loved him and left him.  We lost Faith.  He loves us anyway.
So now each year, I spend Holy Week listening to Jesus Christ Superstar over and over again, walking with Judas and Jesus, feeling their pain and suffering.  I live in a place of sadness and hopelessness, and I do it because I owe Christ at least that much.  I betrayed him.  I left him.  I lost Faith in him.  He loves me anyway.  I deserve to feel the pain and suffering.  It is after all only one week.

Christ-Centered Marriage

WeddingBandsMarriage isn’t for the faint of heart.  Life really isn’t either.  At least not a life well-lived.  Both require us to have a strong foundation in Faith.  In a recent installment Ignatian Spirituality entitled The Depth’s of God’s Love, Becky Eldredge wrote

Even as my love for my husband developed, I awakened to the fact that even our relationship was not the firmest foundation in my life. God’s love was the unshakeable foundation, and it was upon this rock that our marriage was built. It was out of God’s love for us that we could love each other.

For me, this eloquently sums up why so many marriages that started out so beautifully fail.  People place their spouses or their marriages in the place meant for Christ, expecting the love of a spouse to live up to the expectations we have for the divine love of God.  We all want to love as God loves, but we’re imperfect.  We just can’t do it like God does.
When we place that much weight on our spouses, there just isn’t any way for them to live up to that.  We set ourselves up for failure.  When we’re continuously disappointed, the disappointment leads to resentment, and before we know it, there’s no love left.  We’re no longer grateful for the wonderful people we once married.  Instead, we feel weighted down by people who can’t be what we want and who often are feeling the same way towards us.

When we make our relationship with Christ the foundation of our lives and God’s love the rock on which our marriages our built, we still have bad days, but we learn to forgive and to be grateful.  We don’t allow resentments to be built.  We allow God to continually heal us and our marriages.  When we have bad days, we lean on God together to help us through to the other side.
I know a man who gave up his faith for his spouse.  He did a complete 180 in his spiritual beliefs in order to take on her faith and please her.  As an Anglican, I don’t believe any denomination is wrong.  I believe God gave us a variety of Christian faiths to be able to reach more of us.  That being said, if we walk away from our faith for another person, what does that say about our relationship with God?  Perhaps we never really believed?  Or perhaps we’re putting the other person in God’s place?
I made the same mistake once and ended up giving up the most important thing in my life for someone who didn’t respect the person I was, who would have never given up his faith for me.  In the end, I didn’t like or respect the person I became, so how could I expect him to honor, cherish, and respect me?  All true love begins in God.  Without it, we have no real basis for a life together.  With it, we can know a love and an intimacy that brings us closer to God.
How does your relationship with Christ strengthen your love for your spouse?