Family Dynamics

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Montgomery Gentry sings a song entitled Tattoos & Scars. The key line says “tattoos and scars are different things. And yes, they are. Kind of. But one of the things that makes them similar is the story that they carry.

Have you ever seen someone with tattoos and asked them to tell you about them? It is usually an amazing experience to hear what prompted the tattoo or the story behind it. The same is true of scars, but often, we don’t see people’s scars because they are hidden or may not even be physical scars.

In November 2016, I got my first tattoo at the age of 42 after thinking and crafting and trying to decide if this was something that I was willing to live with for the rest of my life. It has a story, and deep meaning for me. It is a heart because everything that I do in my life I want to do in and with love. There is a cross at the center because I choose to put Christ at the center of all that I say and do. My children’s initials are there because they are a gift of love from God. There are 3 smaller hearts that signify Father, Son, Spirit; health of mind, body, and soul, and Mike, Anne, and Ty.

I also have scars. Physical ones that remind me of running down the rocky alley in flip-flops, and our childhood cat, Fluffy, that was NOT meant to be an inside snuggle cat (but don’t tell my sister Stephanie, she still won’t believe you). I have incision scars from fertility testing, gall bladder removal, and appendix removal, that remind me of not only those procedures but all of the circumstances that surrounded those times.

But then there are the scars that you can’t see, the ones that I carry with me from words harshly spoken, friendships broken or lost, and many other hurts that have come from different situations over the years. These are the ones that tend to be hidden away in the deepest recesses of ourselves and every now and then something happens to bring our attention to them. Maybe the memory is just that, a memory, because we have been able to heal from the experience. But sometimes the scars are nasty because they keep getting ripped open and never heal properly or completely.

When we look at others, there may be some who carry some of their stories on their body as tattoos, but most people carry their stories within themselves, in places that we can’t see. What we can see is someone who is sad, angry, aloof, removed, attempting to cover their hurt with a smile and a joke, pushing their kid to do more and be more, or a host of other actions and emotions.

What if, instead of judging them we offered them grace?

What if, instead of assuming we know what’s going on, we asked them to share their story?

What if we are the balm that helps them to heal from whatever gave them their scar?

It’s easy to see and feel our own scars. It’s harder for us to acknowledge that others have them as well. It is harder still to recognize that some of those scars we have inflicted upon others or we have reopened by ignoring the story and the person behind them.

When we love our neighbor as ourself, we give them the same kind of care we would give to ourself. I think that means that we listen to their stories and help to heal their wounds in such a way that the scar brings a reminder not of the hurt the caused it, but of the love that helped it to heal.

What do you think?

I would love to see/hear some of your tattoo and scar stories in the comments!

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Seminary. Church work. Family. PiYo/Beachbody work. Volunteer work. BoCo RunCo work.

My life is crazy these days without much margin. I won’t say my life is not my own, because it is my own. I am here because I have chosen to follow this path. It definitely isn’t easy, and I have to be honest and say that I am struggling with the demands on my time, but it is exactly where I am supposed to be.

I was reminded of that very fact just this morning. During my prayer time I was working through some of the discipleship tools being offered to me through one of my seminary courses. I listened to Rachel Platten’s Fight Song (below), both this version and the version done by the Piano Guys, read Rachel’s back story about this song, and then spent some time with Psalm 84.

Through this and some insight from our professor, I was reminded of what it took for me to get to this place. I have fought with God over whether or not He really meant to call me to be a pastor. I have struggled with verbalizing this call to my family and friends. I have ben knocked down by things like lack of support and imperfect systems. I even went through a very tough time of simply waiting for three years and seeing no forward progress at all.

Through that time I had a post-it note that stuck on my computer monitor reminding me, “Your calling is sure,” words that the Lord had given to me through a variety of sources.

When the time of waiting was over and movement began again, it didn’t always feel like forward momentum. In fact, there was a period of time that felt like I was punched in the gut and left for dead. But God was still at work marking out a new journey on new pathways.

The new journey hasn’t moved quickly and easily either. My husband says, “It seems like anything worthwhile isn’t easy,” and I agree. There are still many fears to conquer, mountains to climb, and opposition to face, but I cannot let the fight go out of me. I have to push forward (in God’s timing), follow-through, do my part, and watch as God fulfills His promises.

Part of Psalm 84 (VOICE) says “Blessed are those who make you their strength, for they treasure every step of the journey…They journey from place to place, gaining strength along the way; until they meet God in Zion. (Bold mine.)

These words were especially important today as I feel weak and worn down, trying not to fall into the “just get through” mentality that can sometimes plague me into not treasuring every step of the journey. So the reminder that I will gain strength along the way is a beautiful one for me today. I won’t continue to wear down as I go, but I will gain strength as I go.

This fight that I have to finish the journey isn’t one I fight alone, but rather one that God fights right along side me. He gives me the strength to fight. He gives me the path to follow. He gives me the truth to believe.

I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

Bring it on.

Fight Song
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe
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Summer of FitnessSometimes amazing things happen.

After years of watching me workout and not wanting to have anything to do with it, except what she had to do for volleyball/cheer/track, my daughter has decided that this summer she and I will be working out together. Daily.

After years of watching me set goals and work towards them and not wanting to do so herself, my daughter has set a goal for herself which is why she is willing to work out with her mother. Daily.

After years of watching me eat right and do my best to eschew junk food… Oh, who am I kidding, she’s not quite there yet.

Anne has decided that she wants to have six-pack abs by the time she goes back to school this fall.

Anne has decided that she wants to stay in shape for – are you ready for this? – THE REST OF HER LIFE!

When we were taking a run the other day (a run that she totally kicked my butt at), she told me that my pace was so slow compared to what she was used to running. I told her that when she was 42 and running with her 15-year-old daughter, she would see that her pace would be slower than her daughter’s pace as well. Her reply was along the lines of, “Nope. Cuz I am going to stay in shape. That’s why I am working out with you.”

You guys, you have NO IDEA how awesome it is to see your teenage daughter starting to get the importance of a healthy body! Add to that, my SON has agreed to daily workouts as well (as long as they aren’t ‘PiYo or 21-Day Fix or anything like that”), so push-ups, sit-ups and running are his daily dose of fitness.

This morning, this title jumped into my head and I texted it to Anne as a name for our summer challenge. Her responseDo I have abs yet?e? “LOL! YASSS!!!”

This was yesterday’s text.

The answer is yes. And no. We have the abs, and they are strong. But they aren’t to six-pack status because they need to be stronger, they need to be defined, and yes, they need to be not covered up by a layer of fat. And that means more work, both in the workout and eating portion of our Summer of Fitness.

So here’s to working out with my daughter, having my son join in the fitness routines, and FINALLY seeing that being an example to my family DOES PAY OFF!

I will keep you posted throughout the summer on our quest for the six-pack and the joys and struggles of working out with your teenage daughter!

 

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IndividualismI know what you are thinking. “What the heck is she talking about? It is good that I am an individual! That makes me my own person, different from everyone else, able to stand out from the crowd and makes what I have to offer the world special!”

And that is all true. We do need to lean into our giftings and our talents. We do need to make sure that we are not just trying to “fit in” and be like everyone else around us. But there are some aspects of our individualistic societal norms that are hurting us, and lately I have been bombarded with the reality of this.

Years ago, it was a common thing to hear, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and it was not only a saying, but a reality. If a child was misbehaving, it was common to see whatever adult that was around take care of the situation by stepping in and offering the necessary correction. That was because the name of the game was community. Everyone was looking out for the good of the community.

When the focus is on what is best for the community (any size – large or small, family unit or social unit) the criteria for decision-making is different from when the focus is on what is best for the individual. With one it is all about the group. With the other it is all about “me.”

When the focus becomes all about “me,” certain things begin to happen. No longer does anyone else matter. No longer does anyone else even make it into the decision-making process. When the focus is all about “me,” the basic tenets of The Golden Rule are all but forgotten.

“She did it to me, so I am going to do it to her.”

“He isn’t meeting my needs, so why should I meet his?”

“This makes me feel good, so who cares who it hurts in the process.”

This is the mindset of the individual who has lost the ability to live in community.

It is this mindset that is dangerous to our society.

When this mindset permeates a community, a major breakdown of that community occurs, and I think we are increasingly seeing the results of that breakdown in both social and family units.

The school parking lot is one area in which I see this at work. Parents are so focused on their to-do list and where they have to be that they can’t stop to let a child cross in front of their car, much less let another parent pull into the line in front of them.

I see this happening in families where the parents are so focused on themselves that the kids are left to their own devices, which not only models to the children that they can make life all about themselves, but also breaks down the family unit into a group of individuals rather than a collective, which is what the family should be.

I see this happening with kids who have never been taught respect for other people because they have parents who have raised them to believe that life is all about themselves and what they want. And I see adults who think they can bully and intimidate anyone to get what they want, because they think they are entitled to it.

I see this happening in relationships where one spouse doesn’t feel like they are getting their needs met, and instead of reaching out and working to meet the needs of their spouse, they go looking elsewhere to get what they think they need, never mind the potential (and inevitable) destruction of at least one other person.

I see this happening when it comes to health. This attitude of “I deserve to eat whatever I want whenever I want,” despite how it affects others is part of the problem with the obesity crisis in our country. Never mind how one’s health effects their family. Never mind how one’s chronic disease affects everyone else’s health care costs.

I see this happening when it comes to business. “We can go ahead and market this food (or any other item) that we know is terrible for people because we are only concerned about our bottom line, not how it affects people; and even if it does harm them in some way, we can blame them for not taking responsibility for themselves.”

But one of the saddest places I see this happening is in the church. “I know right from wrong and I know that I am good when it comes to my faith and relationship with God, and that is enough. I don’t need to help anyone else. I don’t need to offer them hope. I don’t need to give to the work of the Lord, because I need want the money more.”

I could go on and on with the ways that individualism is detrimental to our society, but I think you get the point. I hope you get the point.

During this season of Lent, I have been thinking about self-denial, preaching about self-denial, and now blogging about self-denial. As a follower of Christ, I am told to take up my cross, deny myself, and follow Christ. That means that my needs don’t come first. In fact, they come third. God and others come before me. My to-do list takes a back seat to God’s. My wants take a back seat to serving others. That is not always a fun place to be. Sometimes I feel stressed out and taken advantage of when I am living life this way; but every time God provides what I need – whether that is time to accomplish a task, rest, someone to care for me, or just a reminder that I am doing what He has called me to do.

I am trying. I am learning. I am working to teach my children. Life is not all about me. Life is not all about them. The way we view life, the way we make decisions, and the way we contribute to society has to be done through the eyes of the community and not through the eyes of individualism. That is the only way that our society will thrive, and as goes the community, we go as well.

 

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I have been turning this idea over and over in my head lately, mostly because I can’t seem to create any.

Balance.

Work. Kids. Kids’ activities. Kids’ activities for which I need to be present. Husband. Home. Bills. Business. Fitness. Health. Cooking. Friends. Facebook. (We have to be honest, Facebook is a thing on the balance list.) Sleeping. Laundry. Netflix. (Yes, Netflix is a thing, too.) Running. Social life. (Wait – do I have a social life?) Hebrew. Did I mention Hebrew?

There’s probably more. I am sure I am forgetting something. I can’t keep all those plates spinning all the time. Some of them come crashing to the floor. Hard. And often. And when that happens, I tend to beat myself up. Hard. And often.

I like what Jen Hatmaker says about balance in her most recent book, For the Love:

If I had to recite the top questions I’m asked in interviews, conversations, and e-mails, certainly included would be this one: How do you balance work and family and community? And every time, I think: Do you even know me? Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing. Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served neighbors/ church/ world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior. You can’t balance that job description.

unicorn

She’s right, you know. Balance is like that mythical unicorn. It doesn’t exist. There will be times in our lives when we are more attentive to one or two areas of our lives and less attentive to others. And those areas will naturally change as our lives progress.

The problem comes when we start the ugly comparison game. This game was a losing one before social media, but has become downright destructive in the current online culture. We see everyone’s best posted on Facebook. We see all the great ways to be a wonderful parent, sexy wife, efficient worker, gourmet chef and bikini model all over Pinterest. We see everyone else’s selfies of girls nights out on Instagram. And when we do, we start comparing our lives to everyone else’s and assuming we fall short. But what we don’t realize is that we are only seeing a small sliver of everyone else’s life through a filtered lens. Sure, they may be doing a great job homeschooling their children, but behind closed doors could be suffering a severe bout of depression. Maybe they have a fantastic relationship with their husband, but they are struggling with an enormous debt load.

The point is that we all struggle with balance and none of us achieve it, or if we think we have, it lasts a millisecond and is gone. The real problem isn’t balance, but rather giving ourselves permission to focus on what is the most important and, to quote a song I am sure we are all tired of hearing, say “Let it go” to what isn’t on the top of the priority list right now.

For me right now that might mean that I have to study Hebrew instead of watching an episode (or 10) of House on Netflix. It might mean that I don’t get to go to the 50,000 in-home parties that my friends have because I have a volleyball game to watch or a PiYo class to teach. The important thing to remember is that we can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. Living a busy life with many commitments is hard. Living that same life under the shadow of constant guilt for not doing or being enough is impossible and eventually will take its toll.

So, take heart and remember that while the picture of the unicorn is beautiful, it is in fact fictional, just like the idea of balance in the life of a busy human being. Give yourself grace, stop with the guilt, and do your best at what is most important today. Tomorrow you can re-evaluate what needs to be most important then.

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Consequences and Grace

As a parent the fine line between consequences and grace is one that I find myself sitting on often.

It also happens in other relationships as well – spouses, friends, co-workers, church goers, and random strangers who don’t know how to drive others.

No matter how we look at it, there are consequences for our actions. When a child behaves badly discipline is necessary. When we make bad choices with our money, we pay the price.

It doesn’t matter how much we don’t like the consequences, they just are.

Except when they are not.

Sometimes we don’t punish our kids for something because we see their heart of repentance and we offer grace. Sometimes we receive unexpected and undeserved grace instead of paying the price for our bad choices.

This is a hard one for me! I want to show grace. I want to receive grace. But I also want to see people who have made mistakes have to learn to deal with their consequences. I want justice.

Is this how God feels about us? Is he torn?

In 2 Samuel 11-12 we see a good example of consequences for actions. King David, who should have been off at war with his troops, is at home and sees this lovely woman bathing next door. He sends for her, has his way with her, and sends her back. Not long after, Bathsheba finds herself pregnant, but since her husband was off at war (where David should have been) it will soon be obvious it is not Uriah’s child. When David gets word from her about the child, He sends for Uriah to bring news from the front lines. David tries, unsuccessfully, to get Uriah to go home to his wife, but Uriah will not go. So, David sends him back out and orders that he be sent where the fighting is fiercest so that he may be killed in battle. David’s plan succeeds, and he brings Bathsheba into his home.

But the problem is this, God saw it. He knows what happened and He sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront David about it. David repents of his sin, but there is still a consequence to be had. David’s child dies.

There it is. Consequences for his actions. Yes, David had more children, and Bathsheba even bore Solomon, the heir to David’s throne, but there were still consequences for what he did.

But what about us?

In the New Testament we hear over and over of the story of Jesus, God’s Son, who came to this earth as an infant, grew up and lived a pure life. He was charged for crimes He did not commit and suffered the consequences for not His actions, but ours, as He died a criminal’s death on the cross. He gave us something that we didn’t deserve – grace. We shouldn’t be forgiven, but we are. We shouldn’t be loved and cared for by a God that we turn away from, but we are.

How are we any better than David? Why did we get to experience such significant grace?

And yet, there are still sometimes that we get what we deserve in the short-term – consequences. And other times we get what we don’t deserve – grace.

I don’t always know how to reconcile that. Especially the justice-seeking side of me. Especially the grace-giving side of me.

I guess what it comes down to is there is a fine line between consequences and grace and I will never, on this side of heaven, understand why sometimes we have consequences and sometimes we have grace on this earth. But I do know that if we will receive it, ultimately we are all eligible recipients of the eternal grace of God. And that is more than enough.

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Coming off of a weekend of craziness tends to lead to a Monday that is rough. So, in order to combat the “Monday Blues” here are some of my thoughts today.

  • Theme parties are fun. Plan one. Invite friends – old and new. Plan a fun menu. Throw in some silly dress-up items. Have fun. Last month we did an 80’s party. This weekend was Hawaiian. Don’t stress over it. Just let it happen. You will be glad you did.
  • Pineapple Cheese Ball Hawaiian Party Friends
  • When was the last time you tried something new? I went down to Forest Park and watched a movie on Art Hill Friday. It was the first time I had done that. Was the traffic terrible? Absolutely. Was the parking situation less than ideal. Most certainly. But watching “Clueless” with friends on the hill outside in the beautiful weather was so much fun and worth the trip.
  • Sometimes you just have to kick off your shoes and dance. Even in the summer heat. Even if you get soaked with sweat. Even if you and your friend are the only two on the dance floor. It does wonders for your soul.
  • And my public service announcement for the day via Jen Hatmaker is this:

Happy Monday everyone!

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I had a great month of blogging in October 2014. It is now June 2015. Since the end of October I just quit blogging. No real reason, just haven’t done it.

But I need to do it. Blogging helps me process ideas. Blogging keeps me motivated. Blogging makes me work on my writing.

So, I am adding it back to my to-do list. At least once a week. Baby steps to get me back into my routine of three times a week.

Here goes. And it’s Monday, so here are my musings for today.

  • My daughter graduated from 8th grade last week which means I have not only a teenager, but one that is going into high school. Not to mention my son is headed to junior high. It blows my mind how fast time has gone, but I am so grateful and proud of the young woman and young man that they are becoming. Spending the day with each of them for their end-of-school-year trips gave me another opportunity to watch them interact with their friends and be thankful that they are making wise choices in friends and in life.
  • Planning events is amazingly fun for me. I love to pull together details and people to make something happen. But what is even more fun is watching it come together to make a memorable event. I got to do just that last week for my daughter’s 8th grade class. Watching them dance, laugh, take silly photos, and otherwise have a great time made my night.
  • In 37 days I will be at 1 year since I began (again) a journey of transformation following my knee injury and surgery. PiYo became for me a gateway to a life-change I could never have anticipated. I had a goal of becoming certified to teach this extraordinary class in 2015 and realized that goal at the end of February. I have been teaching for over two months now and I LOVE it. In addition, PiYo, 21-Day Fix, 21-Day Fix Extreme, Shakeology, and various 30-day challenge groups I have run have helped me to achieve a 50+ pound weight loss.
  • This summer I am excited to be starting a health and wellness program for the youth in our community. I am in the midst of research and writing curriculum and planning schedules and in two weeks we will begin. I am looking forward to teaching and sharing what I have learned with them, hoping and praying that we can help them see how important it is to care for both their physical and spiritual health. Partnering my passions for Jesus and for health is amazing, and being able to do this program by also building partnerships and relationships with other organizations in the community makes it even better!
  • I love lists. I love to check things off of lists when they are complete. And when I make lists, I am very good at following through and completing the tasks listed. But when I don’t make lists, I get all kinds of distracted by whatever pops into my head. So I am working on my list-making this summer. When I am working on one task and another one pops up, instead of chasing that rabbit, I will simply add it to my to-do list for later, and keep focused on the task at hand. And my new favorite app for lists is Wunderlist. Not only can I make myself to-do lists, but I can also SHARE the lists with others. My hubby and I are currently sharing our grocery list so whoever has a chance to run to the store can grab what is on the list. When we think of things we need, we add it to the list. When we purchase something on the list, we check it off. Simply amazing.

What are you musing about on this Monday? Questions in your mind? Things you are grateful for? Fun you had over the weekend? Goals you are setting for yourself this month? Let me know in the comments!

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2014 Top 10

Happy New Year! We made it to 2015! It seems impossible to be 15 years in to the 2000’s!

Looking back over the year, there are so many things I have to be thankful for, but here are 10 of the many:

  • My husband, Mike.
  • My daughter, Anne.
  • My son, Ty.
  • My parents moving in just 5 blocks from us.
  • A new job crafted just for me, provided by the Lord.
  • More time with my family.
  • God’s provision in multiple areas of our lives.
  • New epically uplifting friends.
  • Ending the year over 20 pounds lighter and 17 inches smaller, despite losing running as an outlet.
  • And God, who has blessed me abundantly.

Here are the 10 blog posts that you liked the best during 2014:

Why don’t you take a moment and make a list of at least 10 things that you have to be thankful for from the last year. And look forward to all the potential 2015 holds!

 

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Fragile

I am feeling fragile today.

I feel like if someone were to touch me I would just shatter into a million pieces.

This is how depression feels sometimes.

Some people think that if you can get out of bed and function than you can’t possibly be depressed.

They are wrong.

Some of us have such strong personalities that we don’t want anyone to know we are struggling.

Some of us have such a strong sense of responsibility that even though we want to quit, we can’t.

Some of us have children to get to school and jobs to do, so we don’t have any other choice.

I can’t explain it. I don’t know why I can be fine one morning and by that evening the depression gets the upper hand. I don’t understand why I can’t just make it go away. I don’t get why my chest hurts and I can physically feel the heaviness settle in.

But I do understand that I am not the only one who feels this way. I know that those of us who struggle with this illness are often misunderstood by those who don’t. I know that we can feel isolated and alone when the bottom drops out.

And that is why I am writing this post: to let you know that you are not alone. You have comrades-in-arms to help you in the battle. You have friends who know how you feel. And even when it feels like it will never get better, you need to be reminded that depression lies. (Thank you Jenny The Bloggess for keeping that truth in front of me!) No matter what you feel in the moment, know that it will get better. It may take some time. You may need to take some time for yourself. You may need to seek counseling. You may need to get or tweak medication. But it will get better. Don’t let the lies of depression win. Keep fighting. Even if that means you need to stay in bed for a day and start over the next day. Keep fighting. You are worth it.

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