Judgmental or Jealous? The argument against “brutally honest”

So either August has nearly passed me by too quickly or I’ve been a bit too introspective on this topic… We’ve set up this truth-telling dichotomy in the American culture: brutally honest or two-faced yellow-bellied liar.

You must “own” your faults or be ready to have them shoved in your face. And that honesty usually comes with a side of crass and an I-know-it-all smirk. Burn. Or if you’re dishing it out, you try smooth over hurt feelings with phrases like “I’m just being honest” or “it’s the truth.” But let’s be honest: you get a warm-fuzzy feeling inside when everyone else chuckles or agrees with your blunt honesty.

I think sometimes people who have a loud inner critic tearing them down maybe try to build themselves back up by lashing out at others who seem to be stronger in an area that they perceive themselves as weak.

The woman who always looks like a supermodel. Instead of thinking, I bet she didn’t spend time with her kids this morning. Thank her for her volunteer work.

That other mom puts down her phone to play with her kids. Instead of thinking, she is such a helicopter mom! Consider that she may dislike the fact that her kids are in daycare while she works and wants to spend just a few more minutes with them.

The woman chatting and laughing with a group of men. Instead of thinking, I wonder how her husband feels about that. Bring over a cup of coffee and see if you have any shared interests.

I just ate three cookies. No, that won’t help my (54-month) post-baby body. You’ve gained a little weight… Why yes I have…

Winter is coming.

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It’s being honest. It’s true. But is it loving?

Paul implores us to assess our selves with sound judgment:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (NASB)

If we are to love others more than ourselves (Philippians 2:2-4), then how much more lovingkindness are we to use when we think of and speak to them.

But if we do not love ourselves, how can we humbly love others more than ourselves?

So when that inner critic rants and you start asking questions like… How can I teach kids when I just had a meltdown on my own? How can I even think about encouraging another marriage when I feel like mine is on the brink? How can I claim the hope of salvation when I feel so overwhelmed by life?

Remember that, honestly, you are not qualified. (2 Corinthians 3:5)

While you are never going to be the best at everything, that’s no reason to take anyone else down a notch, not even yourself.

But remember that there is grace, and it is the only qualifier that puts all of mankind on a level playing field.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

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Motherhood Dare: Wear those love glasses

This is to you, Mom. The mom who’s busting her buns getting it done.

It may not be that you want a career or to climb the corporate ladder.

Maybe you just want your sanity.

Or to financially support your family.

You want to give your children the best you that you can.

And I don’t think that’s wrong.

For years I struggled with my desire to be that super stay-at-home mom who, while homeschooling her children, blessed them with her kindness and patience, made-from-scratch meals and snacks, and pin-worthy decoratives. If you truly want to be that mom, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be harnessed to help you grow into that. I’ve poured over articles and books and tips promising to change my life through the wonders of organizing and crafting. You can learn how to meal plan, find a house-cleaning schedule template, and even step-by-step instructions on how to hand knit a sippy cup cozy (I’m being a bit facetious with that last one, but if that’s you, then do you).

I struggled not because I didn’t know how to be the kind of mom and wife I wanted to be, but because I really didn’t want to be that woman.  I was focused on all the “should be” and condemning myself when I couldn’t or when those things didn’t fulfill me like everyone said they should.

Now that I’ve come to grips with who I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead, life is starting to make sense again.

I had to assess myself, give real answers, and beat down a new path. Is it loving if you do all those things for your family? Absolutely. Does this mean that you can’t work outside the home? Absolutely not. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty or condemned if you work outside the home–whether it’s due to your circumstances or by choice. Your circumstances and your choices are likely to vary through the 18 years your child is at home. The question is not so much what you do.

The Real Question: Do you love?

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (MSG)

Mom, don’t feel afraid to take the steps you need to take. If you’re a boring square, don’t force yourself to fit in a round hole. (Unless you believe God is calling you to that, and may you be blessed by this change.)  Remember to look beyond the quantity to the quality. Show them love in a way that only you can.  Love your family by being kind to yourself.

the emotional atmosphere a child is steeped in at home will pervade their adult mentality

We are called to by like Jesus. Jesus is called love because he loved. He didn’t love by doing things for people…

He loved them by accepting them,

by listening to them…

by comforting them…

by acknowledging them when no one else would…

by putting his arm around them when others turned away…

What matters most is that you are love.

These Two Worlds

It’s as if from the very start,

our two worlds have been tearing us apart:

these two worlds of YOU and ME.

Our souls cry with yours

and our hearts mourn,

but we don’t understand what’s taking place.

We maintain silence because we wonder if it is our place

to cry, to speak, to feel the loss and the ache?

We can’t.

We’re colorblind–not to your skin,

but of the world you live in–

because there are two worlds.

We reach across hands to show our own pain,

to say that we want to try to understand this chain…

the chain of events that have continued this hate.

Is it for any of us to embrace the past we didn’t create?

We’re sorry, so sorry for the ages of hate

but we’re not here to assassinate.

You see, the blood-soaked weight of tears is on your back and mine.

Can our worlds ever align?

What if, when we looked across this divide,

we saw a mirror from which we couldn’t hide?

And when we screamed no justice no peace,

we were calling down a pain that wouldn’t cease?

Or when we admonished people to follow the law,

it was as if we turned deaf ears to the call?

Please, please look into this mirror and see

that there’s no you and there’s no me?

It’s us–just human beings.

There are two worlds

but they are not what we think.

We can no longer bury our heads in the sand.

We have to open our eyes if we’re to save this land.

Peace can be now if we would let it be.

 

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

Hearts Ripped Open and the Power of Hope

Death.

If I was God, I would strike it down. I would bar it’s way.

It’s not death that kills. It’s hate.

And age and accident take a toll.

I’m not God. I’ve heard people compare belief in God to a crutch, something to prop you up because you are too weak to handle life. I can’t even make sense of violence or sickness. I could never find a way to take that pain and use it for anything. Not when I sit here crying over a friend’s father on his deathbed. A relative being prepared for the grave. A woman shot. A child dead. People killed for no reason at all. Smiles dimmed.  A nation with a heart ripped open.

But I know of a man who was questioned by his family, rejected by most of his peers and doubted by his friends. Who saw the pain in others and handled their hearts tenderly. Who was a good man with no past, present or future discrepancy to his name. Who called out the ugly hidden roots of pride in those who would showcase only their own goodness. Who exchanged shame for grace. Who showed mercy, love, and acceptance to those who had been rejected and called them out of their loneliness into beauty. Who was humility and strength. Who threw the world upside down when he threw his heart wide open. He gave us a choice, a new way.

God himself stepped in the way. Death no longer has to win the day. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Christ who suffered, bled and died–he rose up–he’s captive to no grave. He gives us a heart that is open and grieves at the pain but does not despair. He gives the power of hope, a new way. 

No magic words can change your fate. It’s your choice. Upon choice. Upon choice.

 

[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes,[f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses,[g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be [h]disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

To the moms who have it all–breakdowns allowed

Have you heard about the mom (Australian celebrity Rachael Finch) who sends her child to grandma’s house every weekend? Leaving your child with a trusted sitter for 36 hours straight while you have some down time by yourself or with your mate… Sign me up!

Or how about the latest with Canada’s Prime Minister’s wife (Sophie Grégoire Trudeau) who publicly stated she needed more help to fulfill her role? But she doesn’t hold an official title and is expected to perform duties of such an office while also making public appearances with her husband and taking care of their three young children.

If these women were “real moms” they would be available for their children’s every need, be able to perform well at their jobs (unofficial or not), and keep their marriages intact. The one caveat is that to have it all they must do it all by themselves.

Before we feed these women to the unrelenting “real parents,” let’s consider that maybe they are doing the best that they can. The hardest thing to do is let your children go when you love them but you have nothing left to give.

Disclaimer: This isn’t one of those “I wish you were still little” letters about my children. This isn’t a post that diminishes your role as a mother by giving everyone and his brother’s cousin a best-mom ribbon nor a it’s-not-that-bad patronizing pat on the back . This is to you–you, in the trenches.

What’s a mom to do when the stomp-stomp of little feet sounds like the drumbeat of war and the shriek of “mommy” is the battle cry?

I have an ugly confession… This Mother’s Day, in a culmination of stress and defeat, I cried out “Happy Mother’s Day?!? Uh, I hate being a mom!”

But I love my boys. They are why I stay a mom. It’s not all fields of wildflowers and inspired projects and mind-blowing successes at potty training and the letters of the alphabet (in order). It’s the “failing” part that I hate.

I am painfully aware of how much I struggle at liking being a mom because I fall so short of some unspoken June Cleaver code of forever calm in heels with a plate of warm cookies in hand. In many ways, motherhood has helped me to find and define my voice because I’ve had to fight for it. I have to fight the guilt when leaving them with a trusted sitter or even my stellar husband, their dad… the haze of another sleepless night, whether I was taking care of them or working to provide for them… the sadness that a friend has miscarried or is dealing with infertility (and shame that I am not grateful enough).

Struggle is struggle no matter the cause.

Instead of pouncing on perceived weakness of others to boost our sense of accomplishment, we women need to try a new tactic. Let’s throw out the comparing and belittling. Let’s be a safe place for the boundaries of sanity and breakdowns from stress.

This is to you moms who mother–and everything else–the best you can. To you who are there and stay and refuse to give up, even if you struggle or have help along the way. Me, too. You struggle through because you love them. And let me tell you: it’s OK.

It’s OK that you struggle.

It’s OK to admit it.

And it’s OK to have help.

Hang in there.

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His Mistake Was His Red Flag

So why did I share this story of betrayal?

My immediate reaction was anger and the thought that our relationship was built on lies. When I took a minute to reflect on the course of our relationship, I realized how good this mistake was for him. He had been a great friend but when we started dating, he became… kind of a jerk. Because hurt people, hurt people.

A mistake is a mirror, a red alert for self assessment.

When he crossed his own line, he was left with a choice: to submit himself to the self-destructing habits that led to the circumstance or submit the circumstance to God. I’m happy to say that he choose to submit it to God because I noticed an immediate change in his attitude even if I didn’t know what prompted it until years later.

We can all predict the future: our hearts will be broken again and again.

Be it betrayal, loss, failure or bad decisions, pain is the nature of life.

We can’t change pain but it will change us.

It’s our choice to submit our hearts to God each time or to sacrifice ourselves to the circumstances.

Reminders to Submit the Circumstance

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

To the one who (I thought) broke my heart

Almost 10 years ago, I found pictures of you in a plastic tote.

tote; college students; storage

One of those 30 gallon ugly-blue ones that college students buy en masse for those summer moves back home.  Image

It was clear that you were attracted to him from the way you had your arms around him, that you wanted to be more than friends. Like a lionness spotting a competitor for the prey, I eyed you warily.  Continue reading

Does Target Value the Sanctity of Life?

When I saw a beautiful little pregnant calico cat a few weeks ago, I had the sudden urge to scoop her up and take her home. Having grown up in rural America, I knew life was tough and fragile for barn cats. And sure enough, I learned a couple days ago that a bigger animal came along in the middle of the night and snuffed out the life of the new kittens and their momma. I burst into tears last night thinking about it. I wish I would have followed that prompting and taken her home. I wish I could have protected her and those three babies.

I don’t blog about headlines so what does that have to do with Target? This blog is more of my creative outlet for musings on life, my family and my faith. I’m not throwing down the gauntlet because I hate those who identify as transgender. My faith values the sanctity of life, the protection of the weak and that’s why I’m sharing my thoughts on this. I don’t want to look back after some horrible incident and regret my silence.

My faith values the sanctity of life, the protection of the weak…

Even if fathers start standing guard at the women’s restroom to prevent cases like this one, where an adult male accidentally entered the wrong restroom, will they feel the need to stop a boy? What about those teen girls shopping for clothes alone? My concern with Target’s new bathroom and dressing room policy, is that it won’t stop with Target. If there is little outcry, and this becomes standard operating procedure, major corporations, public venues (think children’s museum or zoo), and government facilities (read parks and schools) will follow suit.

I will absolutely continue to protect my children when I am with them, but what happens when the I am not? What happens on that field trip to the museum? What happens if school bathrooms become gender neutral? Trust me, it takes just one incident to haunt or at least color the perception of life for the person who is attacked.

This is bigger than gender identity.

When I ask if Target values the sanctity of life, I’m asking about the vulnerable. No, those who identify as transgender are not evil, nor are they the problem. (Men who sincerely identify as women through outward appearances are at risk with this policy, too.) The problem is people intent on doing evil who will take the opportunity to do so when it presents itself. This is bigger than gender identity. What about the children and women who are at risk for assault? Those who would have to live with the effects of an attack for the rest of their lives? We must speak up to protect their future.

There cannot be a free-for-all, as Target seems to now offer.

 

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Life Stinks, Sing Anyway

Perhaps you read my last post about real life. Music has such an incredible power to reach us in our mess of life.

What is it about some songs that speak to the deep emotions–on both sides of the spectrum–that we feel? The lyrics bring us to that place of being able to acknowledge our emotion and take us through the process of speaking it to God.

You know the writers come from a place of experience. They didn’t take a sabbatical off to the woods or a seaside cottage before putting pen to paper. The words were written during everyday life, and so many were written from that desert place of pain, when they’ve tasted the bitter waters. And when played with a modern, yet acoustic sound, the music breaches our cultural boundaries and reaches the heart. Some of my favorites:

  • ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – The author wrote this in the years following her husband’s death. They had been married only a handful of years and had a small daughter when he died trying to rescue a drowning boy.
    • From my few years in the traditional, fundamental church setting as a young child. I had to search for the title because my soul was crying out this one phrase from the song: “Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus.”
  • It Is Well with My Soul – The author’s only son died and his business was destroyed by fire in the same year. Two years later, only his wife survived a shipwreck at sea; all four of their daughters died. The story is that he wrote the song while at the site of their deaths.
    • Another from way back when, but has been redone by modern bands.
  • Worn – This song from a contemporary band was prompted by the singer’s personal story and struggles as a father.
    • A few years ago, I hummed this song mercilessly to my inconsolable toddler while pacing the floor of his room during one of those many upon many sleepless nights (and fighting a tough battle with exhaustion while unknowingly pregnant with our second).
  • Trust in You – This young author, inspired by the words of Mother Teresa, penned this song while grieving the loss of her grandfather.
    • I think sometimes we get into this mindset that God is Santa God, passing out to us beautifully decked packages of everything we ever wanted but this mirage shatters when life steps into the picture. When we don’t receive the healing from chronic pain, when we keep failing, when we are deserted or betrayed, God is still there, in the midst of it all with us.

No, sometimes I can’t appreciate the beauty in a sunset, in my children’s smiles, or in a symphony but I’m learning that God wants me to trust Him enough to sing anyway. He still wants to hear our tear-cracked voices declaring that He is sovereign.

The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
~Psalm 118:14 (NASB)

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Let’s Get Real: Life Stinks Sometimes

Oh, let us count the ways:

  • neon blue highlighter on a white wall (seriously, nothing takes this off, I’m going to break out the white paint)
  • spending your bit of cash on that questionably-fresh bag of chips, which gets stuck on it’s way down
  • the husband’s out-of-town trips, be they through the week for business or a long weekend at the golf course
  • when all the best-laid, perfect-fit plans come crashing down because of one tertiary person’s stupid decision
  • that potential diagnosis spoken over you child but you have to wait months for assessment; and ironically it’s the one that your family of origin can’t seem to handle well
  • my constant failure to meet my own standards (the tub of blocks should be separated by brand for the love of all that is organized!)
  • and (drum roll, maestro!)… my bad attitude

Since connecting (after decades of being sheltered and self-imposed seclusion), I am realizing how messed up life is for everyone. God can still reveal wonderful truths to us in the mess but sometimes we don’t take the time to latch on to them. We continue to stumble through in the tried-and-untrue ways and feel the pressure. I’ve learned a couple of other things:

  • When our minds and hearts are in chaos, we must hand over those emotions to God or we risk causing more havoc when we share our woundedness with others.
  • We can’t pretend to be something we aren’t, but God… he can replace our jerkiness with joy.

Are you trying to handle situations and reactionary emotions or are you handing them over to God?

Most times I probably look like the person trying to shimmy the vending machine around to make the snacks fall out. And when I can’t get it to work out (and I never can), it’s a kick-the-stupid-thing kind of frustrating. When I don’t have answers or solutions, I remind myself (repeatedly) that God does and I should make space for the proper authority before I destroy something. And we just need to hang in there

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus ~Philippians 1:6b (NASB)

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