Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Year I Wanted to Cancel Mother's Day - reposted

I posted this last year, but I'm reposting because it is still quite relevant.

A letter to my children on Mother's Day:

The day before Mother's Day, I felt like there was nothing worth celebrating. All I could think about was how I had failed in countless ways as a mother. When you, my children, were very small, a friend told me that if I were a perfect mother, you would not need the Lord. That gave me some relief to know that I didn't have to be perfect.

However, sometimes I think I let that truth, and God's mercy, convince me to be lazy about mothering. I am ashamed at all the ways I have set a bad example. I have been lazy, crabby, mean, and selfish. I have set the example of hiding from my problems and shirking my responsibilities. I have complained instead of rejoicing; I have worried instead of praying; I have grumbled instead of giving thanks in all circumstances.

When I thought about Mother's Day, I thought about you giving me cards that said, “You're the best Mom in the world,” and it made me regret all the ways that I have been so much less than the “best” Mom in the world.

So, I thought I didn't really deserve Mother's Day.

But none of us deserves God's mercy. None of us deserves what Jesus did for us on the Cross. So, I have to face my failures and ask for forgiveness, from you and from the Lord.  Then, I am free to receive His mercy and love because.  And then, I have to resolve to “do better.” That doesn't mean “try harder,” because growing as a mother – like growing in any kind of holiness - doesn't come from my own sheer effort. It comes from my submission to Christ and His will for my life. If I want to be a better mother, a better example of gratitude, joy, and service, then I need Christ first. I need Him to give me the grace to say no to my desire to be lazy, my temptation to complain, and my habit of thinking of myself first.

I apologize for not putting Jesus first in my life every day. I'm sorry that I haven't worshipped and adored and glorified God the way He created me to. And I'm sorry that I haven't taught you to do so as well.  Forgive me for trying to be a mother on my own strength rather than through Christ who gives me strength.

Forgive me for all the ways I have failed you. I pray that God will help you to heal from the ways I've hurt you. I know that HE is enough when I am not. I pray mostly that I will be able to submit to His will to be able to be used by Him to be the mother HE created me to be.

So, on Mother's Day, instead of dwelling on my own insufficiency, I will rejoice that God is enough. I will rejoice that love covers a multitude of sins. I will rejoice that, even though I'm a “failure,” God brought us together as a family for a reason. Not because any of us is perfect, but because we're perfect for each other.

I love you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools

I've never been crazy about April Fool's Day.  Mostly because people expect to be pranked on April Fool's Day.  Why not just declare some random day each year to be "Fool's Day," like "August 28 Fool's Day," and the next year it would be "February 3 Fool's Day"?  That would throw everyone off, so it would be much easier to fool people.  Seriously, the April Fool's Day council should appoint me their official April Fool's gamemaker, don't you agree?

Anyway, on to more serious things.  I personally love the passages in the New Testament about foolishness and becoming fools for Christ.

1 Cor. 1:23-25: "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (Whenever I finish that sentence, I just want to pump my fist and say, "Yes!")

Christ.  Jesus Christ crucified on a Cross by His enemies.  It certainly looks like foolishness to those who don't believe or understand.  He preached and healed and claimed to be the Son of God, but He ended up dying a horrifying death at the hand of his enemies.  I can see how the world might think, "Well, that was certainly a foolish way to waste His life."  But for us who believe, Christ IS the power of God.  All of His willingness to look like a fool, to appear insane to the Jewish leaders of the time, to say some really absurd things  - all of that was for me.  For you.  For our salvation.  It is the power of God for those who believe.

1 Cor 3:18-19:  Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.

I have to admit that it's hard for me not to feel a little smug about this verse.  Compared to all of the knowledge and wisdom that has been carefully crafted and cultivated over thousands of years, God's wisdom is still far superior.  Because I know Christ and have access to all His power and wisdom, I have something far more valuable than all the annals of science and journals of medicine and books of philosophy.  I have Jesus Christ and His everlasting words to me in Scripture.

Happy April Fool's Day!  May you become a fool for Christ!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#depressionlies

I recently discovered this hashtag on Twitter: #depressionlies

That. Is. The. Truth.

Depression is a dark, ugly insidious creature that lives inside some of us. Well, maybe inside most of us at one point or another. But for some of us, depression has a permanent residence somewhere deep inside our psyche. We may need medication for it. We may need counseling. Sometimes, we may just need a scream-fest, an exercise-fest, a chocolate-fest, or in some cases, a good old-fashioned sex-fest.  (Sorry if you border on the prudish and I offended you with that comment. However, I do only recommend this approach with your husband or wife.)

The hardest part about depression is the feeling of being completely alone. This is where the lie comes in:  that voice inside our heads that tells us we're freaks, that “normal” people can deal with their problems, that we are the only ones who have these feelings and that it's best to not share any of our innermost turmoil with anyone else because they will immediately distance themselves from us because we are, I remind you, freaks.

The second hardest part about depression is encountering people who just don't understand it. The people who will tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. The ones who say, “Look at the bright side” or “Count your blessings” or “Things could be worse.” These are the people we want to punch in the face because they are, pardon my French, complete morons.

Depression is a real, medical, chemical condition. It is not just “the blues” which we all encounter from time to time. It attacks us when we least expect it, and it will often abuse us as the delicate balances of life are often thrown off; things like sleep, blood sugar, medications, exercise, sunlight, and yes, sometimes, circumstances.

I am almost constantly aware of my blessings: An amazingly patient and understanding husband, pretty cool kids who also happen to brilliant, creative and funny, extraordinary friends who help me in physical, practical, emotional and spiritual ways. Those blessings are only the tip of the iceberg.   However, I can be keenly aware of my blessings and still fall into depression when the chemicals in my brain get thrown off.

Sometimes, it only takes a few good nights' sleep to shake off a depressive episode. Sometimes it takes much longer.

One of my favorite songs ever is Demons by Imagine Dragons. If I could have played this song before my husband and I were married, I would have used it as a warning to him: “Don't get too close, it's dark inside.” But I'm blessed that he married me and has been an absolute rock in spite of the violent turbulence that sometimes shakes our life as a result of my depression.

If you suffer from depression, please remember #depression lies. And you are NOT alone.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gotta Have pi

I work part-time at a school. Therefore I am surrounded by nerdy math teachers and science geeks, all of whom spent the week reminding the rest of the staff that today is pi day. You know – March 14, or the number 3.14, which is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. (Why is this important? I don't know.) My children also reminded me, more than once, that today is pi day. That's because they are nerds, too.

However the idea got planted, I couldn't get it out of my brain that I needed to eat some pie. It doesn't take much to convince me to eat pie. Pie is my favorite dessert in the entire universe. The crust is the best part. If you put me on a deserted island and gave me lifetime supply of pie crust and water coffee, I would definitely survive.

My other mission today was to acquire some much needed groceries for the family. They can be so demanding, this brood of mine. They insist on having some “new” food in the house every week or so. “Good food,” they say.  By this they mean food that has the maximum amount of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fat, and the minimal amount of fiber or nutrients. They also regularly request food that food that hasn't expired. (I'm a bargain shopper, what can I say?) There is just no pleasing them.

That being said, I knew I could easily combine the day's two missions into one: get food and get pie. Well, pie is food, but you know what I mean. I'm happy to give in to my children's sweet tooth once in a while, especially if it involves pie.

First, I went to Horrocks. I love Horrocks, and I normally wouldn't pick on one of my favorite stores, but today they had a total of three pies. Apparently they didn't get the memo that today is pi day. None of the available flavors promised to satisfy my family.

Next, I went to Aldi, which has a little bit of everything. Except pie.

On the way home, I stopped at Quality Dairy, home of donuts, muffins, scones, coffee cake, and a wide variety of other addictive, yet legal, sugary baked goods (and, oh yeah, dairy products; hence the name Quality Dairy). But guess what? No pie.

The helpful QD staff suggested that I try Roma Bakery just down the street. Nope, no pie.

I came home and unloaded the groceries. I was tired. I took a nap. But I still wanted some damn pie!

I had to take my daughter to a babysitting gig at 2:00, so I decided I would continue my quest for pie. And then it hit me, “Why not go to the Grand Traverse Pie Company?” Really? It took at least eight hours for my brain to dig deep into its fatigued memory stores and come up with that? It has the word pie in its name, for heaven's sake!

After dropping my daughter off, I drove downtown. If you haven't been here, Lansing has a nice little downtown area:  neat shops and restaurants, brick streets, and....parking meters. Shoot. I forgot about the meters. Did I have one stinking quarter on my person or anywhere in my van? No. But instead of doing the sane thing and going inside to ask for change, I decided that I would drive a few blocks south and hit my favorite thrift store. I needed to look for some household items anyway.

I bought three pairs of shoes. And of course, I got a few quarters for the meters.

I headed back north on Washington Avenue and, just as I came up to Kalamazoo Street, I realized, “Oh, yeah, the library is just a block away.” I had been meaning to go to the downtown library to do a bit of research on a book I want to write. I parked, sloshed through the melting snow in order to feed the meter, and entered the library.

I wandered around aimlessly, looking for inspiration. I finally decided to check out Lost in Yonkers, which has absolutely nothing to do with the book I want to write.

The library is now so high-tech that I just had to scan my library key tag, then scan the book and I was on my way. However, when I passed through the security sensors, the alarm went off and I returned to the customer service desk, feeling sheepish that I had ignored the reminder on the screen that I owed $.80 in library fines. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” I gushed. “I can pay the fine.”

The library ladies had a hearty laugh and assured me that the alarm hadn't gone off because of my unpaid fines. The scan just hadn't registered yet. I got my book, and they had a good chuckle at my expense.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, I arrived at GT Pie. Another meter, another quarter, and another pile of slush to wade through. All in the name of freaking pie! (Oh, my gosh, did I just say that out loud? I'm sorry, pie, I'm so sorry. I love you. I would do anything for you.)

In the end, I bought one chocolate cream pie. The bonus was that GT Pie was not only aware of pi day, but they were also promoting it shamelessly by offering a free slice of pie with every purchase. I promptly ate my free slice of strawberry rhubarb with crumbly topping, so that I wouldn't have to share it with the rest of the family. 

I told you I love pie. Don't judge me.

And so, here I sit, enjoying my slice of chocolate cream, relaxing after my lengthy pursuit of pie and other things. The only thing left in my mind is: why is pi so important?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Neck Injury

When I was in college, I overextended a muscle in my neck. I was doing something so foolish, so extreme, that I deserved the vicious pain that followed.

I was getting out of bed.

More specifically, my loft. Getting out of a loft bed is much more strenuous than getting out of a normal bed, just so you know. It involves turning over with exact precision so as not to fall on the floor from six feet up, finding a ladder with only your feet because it's too dark and you can't turn on the light to wake up your roommates, and then positioning your body accurately over the ladder, again so as not to fall from your six-foot-tall bed.

I know, I know. You can't believe I endured such a wretched situation. But I lived to tell about it.

That one particular day, I turned over and got ready to hoist myself out of bed and toward the ladder when I felt a snap in my neck. The next thing I knew, I couldn't move my neck or head without excruciating pain. So I made my way, very carefully, down the ladder and called the campus health clinic. I canceled my morning classes and made my way to the clinic.

My car was parked in the dreaded F-lot. If you lived in any of the south campus dorms, you know that F-lot was where all cars went to die, or at least hibernate for all of the semester, because it was much easier to walk anywhere, including Detroit, than to retrieve your car from F-lot. Even if I had been able to retrieve my car, I would have had no place to park, since MSU has about 27 total parking spaces for a campus that serves 50,000 students.

In short, I walked many, many miles that day, with my head held high, and not because I felt proud. I just couldn't move. I arrived only to have the doctor tell me that I had pulled a muscle. He gave me a soft cervical collar, and probably some heavy-duty pain meds and sent me on my way.

The most embarrassing part of all this was that, during dinner in my dorm's dining hall, I was swarmed by concerned friends all asking, “What happened? Did you get in a car accident?” Imagine my embarrassment if I had told them I had sustained the injury by getting out of bed. So my response was, “Yes, it was horrible. Ambulances and fire trucks everywhere. My car was totaled.” At least I didn't have to worry about them discovering that my car was, in fact, still intact.

It was still parked in F-lot.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Beauty Wars

A long time ago, in a hospital not too far away....

Three young maidens were born within three years of one another, maidens of unsurpassed beauty:  two with golden curls and blueberry eyes, one with chestnut locks and orbs the color of cocoa.

During their young lives, they drew the admiration of nearly everyone who knew them. They wore frilly frocks of pink, yellow, and purple, with ribbons in their hair and sparkly shoes adorning their feet.

However, as with all fair young maidens, they had been relentlessly pursued by a force so evil, so insidious, that none had ever escaped its power.

The enchanting young maidens slowly and painfully succumbed to the power of....adolescence.

The sweet innocence of childhood has been replaced by moodiness and rebellion. Flaxen hair once content with a mere brushing is now subject to the heat of curling and straightening and the suffocation of a multitude of hair care products.

Cherubs who once carried the sweet scent of babyhood now battle the funk of body odor.

The home of the young maidens is now drenched in estrogen.

Where once lay fair skin, now there is acne.

The young maidens have waged war against their mother, the one who once had sole access to the beauty products in the home. The girls regularly plunder their mother's wealth of cosmetics, leaving the poor woman to her own devices. It is now a common occurrence for their mother to resort to using men's deodorant in the absence of her own feminine antiperspirant. Not only that, but she must use dried out lipstick, her husband's boar bristle hair brush, and a skin-colored crayon to finish out her look for the day.

Adolescence is a frightening time for all. Pursued by her daughter's insatiable hunger for beauty, the mother races against time to find a way to protect her own beloved skin from the ravages of age. Will she emerge victorious?

Please stay tuned for the next episode of “Beauty Wars.”

(I'm just kidding. There is no next episode. I'm going to bed. I hope I can find the toothpaste.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exercise Can Kill You

It's been several years since I've had the motivation, energy or mental wherewithal to attempt to get in shape.  If you've ever been through a trauma or a sustained period of grief, you get exactly where I'm coming from.  It takes all your energy just to survive.

Now, after three years of trial and grief and struggle, I feel like I may possibly be able to thrive.  Maybe even grow!

Unfortunately, the years of stress have taken their toll on my 44-year-old body.  I am in serious denial about this.  I still think my body should behave like it did twenty years ago.  I should be able to go out and walk a few miles without breaking a sweat.  If I don my running shoes, I should be able to jog by the end of the week and run a 5K by the end of April.

Ha ha ha ha ha. I'm so stupid.

My body mocks me.

Last week, we had one gorgeous afternoon when the sun was shining and the temperature was, remarkably, above freezing.  I knew I had to get out and take advantage of it.  I donned my running shoes (which have never experienced actual running, by the way), put on a long-sleeved shirt, and gloves and I was off.

It was quite the glorious walk/jog, I'll have you know.  Even with the thaw, there were still gigantic snow piles that I had to leap, slushy puddles for me to navigate, and icy patches to negotiate.  I even had to duck under some branches that had been broken by the ice storm we had in December.  It was like a delightfully sunny, snowy, slushy obstacle course.  And to top it off, I jogged up and down the skywalk at the end of the street.

Not too shabby for an old lady, hey?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept hearing this little voice telling me:  Take it easy.  Don't overdo it your first day.  Don't push yourself too hard.

I brushed it off, thinking it was my cynical, tired old body trying to tell me it would be sore the next day.  So what?  I could handle soreness.  I was going to beat my body into submission.

Plus, it felt too good to stop, so I pushed myself.

In addition to the inevitable soreness and fatigue that followed, I also developed a cough.  This is normal for me for a day or so after a workout like that.  But when the cough lingered into the weekend, my chest and my back started to hurt.  And I could hear funny rattling noises bubbling up from my lungs when I breathed.

I finally went to see my doctor today. 

He actually laughed as he listened to my lungs and reported, "Jen, you have pneumonia!"

Now, you have to know a bit about my relationship with my doctor to understand why he laughed.  We've been friends for years, since my husband and I met him at MSU.  Dr. P and I did random evangelism on MSU's campus.  Dr. P and I once went into the woods and built a lean-to from scratch, just for fun.  Dr. P knows that I did missionary work in the Philippines where I subsisted on fish heads.

He laughed because he knows I'm a little too hearty to subscribe to the idea that I would catch pneumonia from playing outside. 

But indeed, I caught pneumonia from playing outside. 

It probably won't kill me, but I will be much more wary of exercise in the future.