Round Two

OK, I’m back.  Squirt some water in my mouth and hand me a towel while I tell ya something else I’m learning “in the ring”…

Anticipating pain is often worse than the actual pain.

When my kids have to get immunizations, I never tell them ahead of time.  I refuse, for one, to listen to all the whining and worrying and constant attempts to get out of the shot.  I feel just as guilty about them having to get it as they do apprehensive about getting it.  As an expert on shots (I took three each day, in the belly, for ten months while bringing my youngest son into the world) I can tell you that the anticipation of the actual shot is worse than the shot itself.  I just can’t have my kids going through a whole day knowing that in a few hours, there will be a needle stick.  Might as well stab them with a sword.  They’ll go through the same pain once they’ve agonized about the impending shot all day.  I remember as a kid what fear there was in the possible shot at the doc’s office.

But now I’m grown and I’ve given myself three painful injections in the stomach every day for a ten month period of time.  Where once I swooned at the alcohol smell and the sight of a needle, now shots are nothing to me.

Emotionally, however?  Different story.  Instead of dealing with pain, I run.  I wring my hands, furrow my brow, eat chocolate, go out with the girls, hide, ANYTHING but face it and deal with it.  I’m convinced that many, many people are eating, drinking, or internet surfing themselves sick, simply trying to avoid pain.  Eating is one of my choice methods.  I’ve even been known to pick the occasional fight with a certain gorgeous husband of mine rather than deal with my anticipated pain.

But guess what’s going on while I’m running scared, wondering how I’ll EVER live if I face the pain of adultery, of rejection, or betrayal or failure?  I’M STILL FEELING THAT PAIN, only worse because I prolong it with anticipation.  It’s still there in the pit of my stomach, waiting to hijack my emotions at the next vulnerable moment.  Waiting for that last straw so it can come exploding out like lava from a volcano. It’s not as though I’m actually escaping pain with my avoidance methods.  So why run?  Why not just brace myself and face it?

I’m not saying dealing with major trauma is simply a matter of gritting your teeth and facing up to the pain.  I know that things are much more complicated than that.  I know that some pains ARE too much to be faced all in one sitting.  I’m only making the point here that running isn’t any good either.  I’m saying that the pain is already there, and if I haven’t died from the anticipation of feeling it, I probably won’t die from the actual feeling either.  Especially since what I imagine is often worse than what actually is.

Plus, DEALING with pain actually gives me some element of control over it.  Running only makes me a fugitive and allows the pain, or my need to avoid pain, to control my life, and I end up more screwed up than I ever intended.  I may not be able to conquer it all at once, but facing up to it… simply deciding to stop running… means I’m back in the driver’s seat.

I like the driver’s seat. (Imagine my slow grin)

Now, buckle up for round three.

 

 

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A Crazy Reckless Legacy

It was late at night and everyone else was asleep.  She crawled out of her bedroom window to meet her boyfriend.  She was 16.  He was 26.  They drove to the next town and got married.  It was crazy.  It was reckless.  It made her mama really mad.  I didn’t know them at their start, but I was there 60 years later when they were parted by death.

That girl was my grandmother.  It always amazes me that the statuesque lady I knew did something insanely rebellious like elope at the age of 16.  It’s hard to picture that classy woman climbing out of a bedroom window.  Did my Papa catch her?  Did they squelch giggles and run hand in hand to the old truck?  What did she wear? 

However it went down that first crazy night, here I am because of them!!  They stuck it out and made it last.   They built a family and left a legacy.

Fast forward  around 80 years from their elopement and you’ll find me, their granddaughter, three years ago today…

ELOPING!!

It was crazy.  It was reckless.  It made some people mad.  But we’re still here!!

That sixteen year old girl grew into a major hero in my life.  I’ve always wanted, and tried, to be like her.  I’m most flattered when someone says I am like her in some way.  I know she had a daring side.  She crawled out of a window at sixteen for Pete’s sake.  She knew about taking a risk, she no doubt felt the passion and swirled in the vortex of a crazy attraction.  But she also knew commitment.  She knew how to stand her ground through life’s ups and downs. She knew her God and called on His name for her family. 

And guess what?  I do, too.

We may not get the sixty years they had.  (We started a little later than they did!) But we have the same kind of love and the same determination and most of all we know the same God.  We’ve crammed a lot of stuff into three years.  A surprise baby, two moves, serious illness, financial disaster, parenting a teenager and toddler simultaneously, wrestling with our faith and hosting a church in our home.  We definitely did not take the easy way.  Sometimes we feel like giving up.  But we won’t do that.  We’ll hang onto the crazy, reckless, passionate love that started all this.  We’ll look to God and keep going.

It’s definitely not the wedding that matters. (Even though I thought a crazy elopement was tons of fun!) It’s the marriage.  And marriage is what we are living every day.  Three years down, many more to go.

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Winn Dixie Milk Man

It was one of those days.  About 5:30pm, I was making a stop at Winn Dixie on my way home from work.  No doubt the worst time to be in the grocery store, and just about my least favorite thing to do on the way home, but with three kids we go through a minimum of five gallons of milk a week and since I’m not making my own anymore….  there was nothing to do but stop.

I approached the milk case with a sigh.  I was glad to be off of work and doing my best to keep my head up.  My job in assisted living is a passion, a calling, and a blessing.  It also has its difficult moments.  Older people tend to throw tact to the wind, and sometimes kindness too, and our residents often give a running commentary on… well, anything and everything.  We’ve all had a grandmother or elderly aunt who blurted out “You sure have put on weight,” or “Are you pregnant again?” right in the middle of the family dinner.

These types of remarks are commonplace where I work, and that’s ok.  Normally, I let them slide, especially since the occasional “You’re putting on weight” is nothing compared to all the “Honey, you made my day” and “What would I do without you?” and “Sweetheart, you are looking good.”  But on this particular day, perhaps it was my mood or elevated stress, I’m not sure, but it seemed as though everything was up for scrutiny, from my middle that needs some “toning up” to the size and placement of my breasts.  “You still nursing honey?  They’re hangin’ kinda low today. What kinda bra you wearin’?”

I stepped up to the milk cooler beside the milk man who was busy stocking the shelves.  “Howya doin” he said without looking up and I answered back in kind as I reached out for a gallon of whole.  I was pondering picking up a second gallon when he turned to me and said “You are so pretty.”  I looked up at him and started to get tears in my eyes.  “Thank you.  You have just made my whole day,” I told him.  He said “I didn’t expect you to come walkin’ up like that, and I didn’t expect to say that.  It just came out.  I’m usually shy about sayin’ stuff like that.”  Sounds like a pickup line I guess, but I wish you could have heard his tone, very matter of fact, not a hint of suggestion.  I thanked him again, not finding any better way to let him know how he had just been a gift to me.

I did grab the second gallon (maybe W/D would sell more milk with more milkmen like that one) and made my way to the checkout with a new outlook.  I knew without a doubt that Mr. Winn Dixie Milkman had been a messenger from God to lift me up.  A few weeks ago I had asked God to help me approach my marriage with more love, and one specific area I’d been working on is my arrival home from work.  My family has normally been home for a few hours and they’re ready to play, often leaving me with no time to decompress from my day and transition to home.  This can make for a grouchy wife and mom in that first half hour at home when they’re rarin’ to go and I just want to be left alone.  That day, the Winn Dixie milk angel had given me a boost, a leg up from God to help me put my gloomy day behind me and greet the ones I love with my best and not the dregs of me that are left after a long day.

I have two observations from this:

1)  How often I hold back a positive remark, and how often I’m free with negative ones.  Thank God the milkman had the grace that evening to let the good thoughts come out.  I needed to hear them.  I want to tighten the weave of the sieve that catches my negative commentary and let the positive commentary virtually flow out unrestricted.  So often the opposite is true. We never know what a kind word could mean to someone and it costs us nothing to give one.

2)  When we ask God to work in our lives, He will do it.  He’s a good Teacher, and even gives openbook tests sometimes!  He might even use a Winn Dixie milk guy to give you a hint.

 

 

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Why I Can’t Say NO

I can’t stand saying no.  My inability to refuse requests means I wind up in tight squeezes.  Often.  It also means I feel stressed.  Most of the time.

So WHY is it that I can’t (or won’t) say “no” to requests from various sources (kids, family, work, friends, church, self, society in general)?

I’ve decided to figure it out, using a series of posts, especially since I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this!

Reason #1 Why I Hate Saying No:

Somewhere along the way, a scripture verse was implanted in my mind.  Something about not withholding good from another person when it is within your power to do something.  For most of my life, I’ve believed that it’s my responsibility to do good when I’m able.  I still think so, and this verse often goes through my head when I consider a new opportunity or request for my time, services, friendship, etc.  So God wants me to do good every time I have the opportunity, and to never withhold a good deed from someone when I’m able to accomplish it.  Right?

Sounds great, but how would one actually accomplish this?  For example, I saw a man today on the street in New Orleans.  He was holding a sign telling me he’s homeless, needs help.  I had a ten dollar bill in my wallet.  It technically WAS within my power to act.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t roll down my window for this guy, and I didn’t stop the car to let him get in.  I didn’t bring him out to eat or help him find a job, even though technically I do have the ability to do all those things.

Keep going with this and you’ll have a glimpse of the craziness that happens in my head.  How is it possible to NEVER withhold good from a person when it is in my power to act?  Let’s face it:  with technology today, and living in what is still the wealthiest country on earth even in an economic slump, there’s not much that’s outside my ability.  I CAN make a call, find a resource, introduce a person, give a ride, make a meal, have a talk, buy a bag of groceries… it’s almost always within my power to do something.  Oh yeah… except for that whole 24 hour in a day limitation and all.  (But when have I ever let that stop me??)

I decided I’d better look up the verse, so here it is:

Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act

At first glance I noticed some words I’d failed to remember before:  “Do not withhold good from those TO WHOM IT IS DUE,”

Hmmm…. what does this mean?  Honestly, I’m not totally sure, but I find it interesting that there IS a qualifier in there: to whom it is due.  Does this mean the person receiving the good deed should be deserving?  Does it mean we should not withhold good when we OWE it in some way (as in payment of a bill)?  Is it a reminder that we should fulfill commitments made to do good?  Whatever it means, it’s no doubt significant that a guideline was placed in there.  Up until now, I’d interpreted the verse as a command to do good to EVERYONE, period, no matter what, when it is in your power to act.  Now, I realize there’s a qualifier.

I’m also pondering on the idea of WITHHOLDING good.  I picture myself with a bag of delicious cookies or a box of cupcakes, hogging them all to myself, refusing to share with even the hungriest of my friends or family.  The idea of having something good and refusing to share it is appalling to me.  Clearly unbecoming of a believer in Jesus.  But, if I say “no” to a request when I truly don’t have the time, the expertise, or couldn’t easily get the resources, am I really WITHHOLDING good?  Can you withhold something you don’t already have?

Scripture is also clear in other places about a wife’s responsibility to husband, a mother to children, a daughter to family, and employee to employer.  Often saying “yes” to a request that I technically COULD accomplish means I end up withholding good from those to whom I clearly OWE the responsibility: my husband, children, family, or employer.  So it becomes clear to me that saying “no” could sometimes be a way that I OBEY this command rather than fail to fulfill it, especially when the request I refuse would cost me time and energy that already belongs to my marriage, my children, my family or my job.

If my life (myself, my heart, my emotional energy, friendship, capacity for love and compassion, my time, my intellect, etc.) were a bank account, I gotta be honest with you, I stay overdrawn.  At the very least robbing Peter to pay Paul if you know what I mean.  I recognize the same condition in most of my friends and acquaintances as well, especially those among the believers.  However, I’m not sure our Father meant for us to be out of balance in this way.  Even in the above mentioned scripture verse, I’m not sure He was trying to command me to behave in the way I’ve been trying to.  I’m not sure He meant “Say yes to everything you are asked to do, make everyone your best friend, and take on every unfortunate situation as your own.”

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t be best friends with everyone.  I can’t be responsible for the welfare and happiness of everyone I come in contact with every day, and trying to do so produces a life spread so thin that no one gets anything good.  So either God has commanded us in the aforementioned verse to do something we can never, ever actually do, OR maybe He was saying something a little more like: “Be careful to share and give good things to those that I’ve given to you to care for. Don’t hold back from those I’ve given you to love, and watch closely for those times when I’ll give you the opportunity to do something that is easily within your power but is an extraordinary work on my behalf for someone else.”

And that, my friends, is reason number one that I can’t say no… only it’s not a reason anymore.  Next?

 

 

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Crazy Love

So my husband spent a few days in the hospital last week.  He’s home and getting better every day, but it’s been miserable.  I mean really miserable.  He’s got plenty of frustrations of his own, struggling to get well and hating being unable to function normally.  He’s got some lifestyle changes to make that aren’t easy.  But he’ll have to get his own blog to tell about all that. 🙂

I’ve been in a quandry about my own reaction to his illness.  I’m really struggling to keep it together.  Several times I’ve scolded myself, thinking there’s no way I should be this stressed out and uneasy.  Looking inside myself, I wondered what in the world had me so upset.  Was I THIS spoiled, used to his helping hands with me all the time?  Was I THAT hungry, missing his yummy dinners usually waiting when I got home?  Am I such a spoiled brat?

Then, a couple of days into his recovery, he looked over at me and grinned.  One of his trademark melt-my-heart smiles.  It was a glimpse of him… happy.  And for that moment, every bit of my worry and frustration and sadness disappeared.  I realized then that my problem is the same ol’ thing that got me wrapped up with this guy in the first place.  Crazy, awesome, incredible love. 

I adore this man.  And seeing him happy is when I’m the happiest.  Somewhere beyond the initial thrill of infatuation, we graduated to the kind of love that gives itself away.  The kind that delights in the happiness of another, more than one’s own happiness.  The kind that would rather take the loved one’s place than see him suffer.  The kind of love husbands and wives SHOULD share, the kind mommies and babies share, the kind that JESUS showed us so long ago.

Know what I think is SO cool?  That love… the pang in my heart when my loved ones are sad, the leap of joy when I see them happy… God’s the one who gives me that!!  That’s HIM, interacting with me, whispering about who He is and the way He treasures us all. 

I John 4:7-8  “Beloved, let us love one another.  For love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.  He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”

 

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