Friday, February 17, 2017

Beating the Odds

Transparency is something people desire - real people in their real lives being honest about their dirt.  Here is a glimpse into my marriage and how we are beating the odds stacked against us before we ever married.  What odds? 

For starters, while this is my first marriage, it is my husband’s second marriage.  Right away, our marriage is categorized as higher risk. 

Another factor that increases our odds of divorce is the fact my husband already had children.  To make that increase even higher, they lived with us!  Why might that increase the odds of our marriage failing?  Numerous articles and personal testimonies talk about adding children to the equation.  Learning to adjust to the relationships your spouse has with his/her children and the extended family that were “pre-you” is complicated.  Tensions rise when loyalties are questioned and conflict closely follows.  Children struggle with the changes that come with their biological parent’s re-marrying, and the separation that naturally occurs with their extended families.

As the parent of the children, learning to value and honor both spouse and children is difficult when a choice has to be made.  Someone is going to end up hurt and angry, creating the tension mentioned above.  Most cases feel like a lose-lose situation, especially in the early days.  We remember those early days well and they are not fond memories, either. 

Let’s take a look at a check-list of things that make relationships higher risk for divorce:

ü      Previously divorced
ü      Having divorced parents (he does, I do not)
ü      Parents re-married after divorce (significantly increases divorce rates)
ü      Children from prior marriages/relationships
ü      Alcohol and/or drug abuse – thankfully we met in recovery
ü      Extreme financial difficulties (make less than $50,000/year)
ü      Experiencing economic recovery
o       Co-habitation
o       Premarital pregnancy
o       Marrying at a young age (statistics state marriages before the age of 21 have a higher divorce rate).
o       No religious affiliation
ü      Age discrepancy of 8 or more years
ü      Bi-racial couple
o       Either or both smoke
o       Either or both drink two or more alcoholic beverages a day (average)
o       Either or both have a cancer diagnosis
ü      Live in America
ü      Raising daughters (as opposed to sons)
ü      Chronic pain (him)
ü      Depression (me)

This list is in no way complete.  Active alcohol and drug use, abuse, and infidelity are not mentioned above but those high risk factors certainly increase the odds of a marriage ending in divorce. 

It is overwhelming looking at the list above and how many check-marks there are.  How are we beating these odds?  Some of these odds have significant increase percentages, so high that if we added them together we should have divorced long ago.  So what are we doing (and what have we done) to protect our relationship?

Church Home.  We are invested in a church family and they invest in us.  Having a home church, studies say, decreases the odds of divorce.  We have had a church family since before we were married and we see the benefit of having them in our marriage and in the health of our family. 

Counseling.  Not only pre-marital counseling, but counseling through different times of our marriage.  We see counseling getting a bad rap for couples.  That it means you are on the verge of divorce.  A last ditch effort to save your marriage.  We see it entirely differently!  We see it as marriage maintenance!  Getting a different perspective, creating a safe place to discuss hot topics, and seeking the counsel of another are helpful in working through stressful situations and decisions. 

Financial Peace University (FPU).  We are not joking when we say FPU likely saved our marriage.  Financial strain and stress is a HIGH divorce factor.  This course, and the people in our class, made a significant impact in our lives.  We consider three of these couples ones we can share our financial woes without fear of judgment.  Having a budget and talking openly with one another about financial fears is ongoing.  Not allowing our finances to determine our happiness was HUGE!  We may be broke but we are not poor.

Recovery.  For two people who met in Alcoholics Anonymous, we cannot ever afford to forget that we are in recovery.  Self-care and accountability are needed and support of the other to keep their own recovery as a priority is needed in our relationship. 

Medication.  Being willing to seek medical attention for my depression is an ongoing self-care decision.  Taking my medication keeps the various hormones and chemicals in my body more balanced and makes daily living easier. 

There are some factors we have never had control over, like our parents.  We cannot change our age difference, our race, the gender of our children, and where we were born and raised (we can chose what country we live in). 

Let’s be honest, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  While we knew what issues we were starting with, well most of them anyway; we did not know what struggles were in our future.  None of us do.  Being real with one another, other people, is a way we can learn from each other. 

We did not know what secrets the other kept, that things from our past would raise their ugly heads and knock us down.  We knew we had scars but we did not know how deep those scars went and what healing still needed to happen.  We did not know we would need to have emotional and spiritual surgery and re-open wounds we thought had healed.

We did not know the number of fights we would have over money, children, and decisions we were making.  We did not know the number of tears that would fall because of the harsh words said by the other.  We were two people, two broken people, who were trying to making a whole couple. 

In order to make something whole from broken pieces, you need all of the pieces, or at least something to fill the missing area.  Once we learned we could not be whole, we learned God could and would fill the broken areas and we could be broken together.  The first time I heard the song, “Broken Together,” by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms, I bawled - tears streaming down my face, snot too.  It was us. God healed us.  God heals us, still.  Daily.  


So, here we are.  Beating the odds, one day at a time; some days are good, some not-so-good, and some are flat out awful, but here we are.  We made a commitment to one another and to God.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  As long as we keep God in the center of our marriage and each of us are willing to put the other before ourselves, to be on each other’s side, each the strongest supporter of the other, praying together and dying to self each day, we will continue to beat the odds that have been stacked against us since before we married.  

#BrokenTogether #EgalitarianMarriage #BeatingTheOdds

Monday, February 13, 2017

Expressing Love

Valentine's Day is dreaded by many people for different reasons. One of those reasons is it serves as a reminder that they do not a human professing romantic (eros) love. For some, February 14th is "National Singles Awareness Day." Some joke about it, some cry about, but the fact remains - our culture has made romantic expressions of love a priority, when in reality, it is just the surface!

Another reason is they feel it has become commercialized and the people benefiting the most are in the flower, card, chocolate, and jewelry businesses. They see Valentine's Day as an "industry."

A third reason has been raised - we should express love 365 days a year and not just one. That expressing love should always be our goal and by setting one day aside we excuse lazy expressions of love for 364 days.

WHAT IF.... We changed the way we view love?


There is more to love than eros! We have phileo, (friendship) love, as well as agape (commitment) love.

Of the three Greek words for love and their meanings, eros is the more selfish love ("I want you") compared to phileo ("I like you") and agape ("I love you unconditionally). There is nothing wrong with wanting (or having) all three but at the end of the day, I want to know my friends, including my husband, are committed to me and love me unconditionally; and that is what I want my friends, including my husband, to know. I will work on having and expressing that kind of love.

WHAT IF... We changed the way we expressed love?

Here are some ways we can express love deeper than eros.

Phileo - mutual love:

  • Spend time with people you love versus seeking their attention.
  • Give them companionship versus pleasure.
  • Instead of "wooing" them, work at improving areas of communication.
  • Show them you want to walk side-by-side; not wanting them by your side (mental shift of how you view them).  
Agape - unselfish love:
  • In addition to giving them time, give them your trust.
  • In addition to giving them companionship, give them yourself.
  • In addition to working at improving communication, see their worth, independent of anything they do (or don't do).
  • While being side-by-side, be on their side. 


Change begins with us, as individuals! Let's show phileo and agape love to those around us. We can make Valentine's Day more than a day for lovers. We can make it about showing the love of Jesus to those around us, family, friend, acquaintance, and stranger.

Jesus loves us with agape love. Take a moment and soak these lyrics in, "O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus," written by Samuel Trevor Franics, arranged by Tom Fettke:

For my single family and friends, if this day reminds you of something/someone you don't have but want, I am sorry! My prayer is you are shown love by others in abundant ways that remind you of our Father's love. I pray people express their love to you in powerful ways that leave you cherishing those relationships. I love you.

For my family and friends in romantic relationships, I pray you are challenged to look beyond flowers, cards, chocolate, and jewelry and give the ones you love your time and trust. Find some chore you have put off and do it because it means something to your loved one. Tell them how much they mean to you and affirm their gifts. Remember, "love unexpressed is love unknown."

For my family and friends who mourn the loss of their lover, I grieve with you. Many widows and widowers impact my life and my marriage from your life experiences of love. Thank you. I love you.

#ValentinesDay #NationalSinglesAwarenessDay #Agape #Phileo #Eros

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mommy's Happy Pill


Yesterday was a bad day.  Now, bad is relative.  For some, having another snow day makes it a bad day.  I'll be the first to admit to groaning when I learned we were having YET ANOTHER snow day today!  A bad day for me usually means my responses are a bit snippy, everyone and everything is on my nerves, but I can pull out of it.  



A bad day used to mean something entirely different.  It was dark.  Heavy.  Unmanageable.  Interfering with daily life.  After exhausting every non prescription idea and remedy, I finally got to the desperation place to try an antidepressant; much to my family's relief.  I hated the first ones I tried as they made me not feel anything.  When I finally found one that made the highs not so high and the lows not so low, I kept taking it.  Then, we decided to start a family so I stopped taking it for several years while I was pregnant and/or nursing.  

Fast forward to depression interfering with daily life again and getting back to the place of admittance that an antidepressant is needed.  Which brings us back to yesterday...

Due to a situation with our insurance and a mistake they made, I was delaying filling my Rx until my co-pay was back in working order.  I started decreasing my dose and getting two days per pill in hopes of any day the co-pay would be back and I could fill my Rx.  Well, without talking to anyone (stupid pride), my bottle ran out and I went a couple days without - cold turkey (a big no-no).  After several hours of misery yesterday, I called the pharmacist and found out my Rx was not super expensive!  I then found a coupon online that reduced the price by a third!  Prescription filled and full dose was back in order.  YAY!  


This post is not a Rx pusher but a "real life" post about life with depression.  I learned several things this past week.  One - my Rx is needed.  Two - Should I decide to stop taking said Rx, I need to do so gradually so I do not have horrid withdrawal symptoms (shakes, skin crawling, skin itching, skin tender to the touch, foggy head). Third - I need to get the facts of my situation before making decisions (price was affordable and this whole thing could have been avoided if I had called pharmacy 10 days ago).  Four - I need to tell my hubby when I start messing with my dosage so he is at least aware my mental health is being compromised.

Sometimes depression is for a season.  Sometimes it is because of a season.  Sometimes it just is.  There are MANY things one can do to ease the symptoms of depression and these help the overall mental health of people in general: spiritual disciplines, exercise, eating healthy, vitamins, and essential oils to name a few.  I feel better in every way when I am disciplined in those areas.  For some of us, though, that is not enough.  And that is okay.  Sometimes medical issues can be controlled without prescriptions.  I manage my cholesterol without an Rx (through diet and exercise), another family member controls high blood pressure through diet and exercise; so sometimes mental health issues can be controlled and managed without a Rx.  Sometimes, a prescription is needed to get things under control faster (high blood pressure or cholesterol, for example) and then the number can be managed without the Rx.  All this to say, sometimes a prescription is needed and sometimes it is not.  It does mean the person who chooses to take a Rx is taking the easy way out nor does it mean they are less of a person for taking said Rx.



Anyway, yesterday was a bad day.  Today is better.  Tomorrow will be better yet (especially if the kids go to school).  Mental health issues do not need to be taboo.  I love Jesus and He loves me and our relationship is not based on whether or not I take a pill.  Conversations about depression and other mental health issues are needed in the church so we can better support one another.  We talk about other health issues - it's high time we talk about this one, too.

Here is a snip-it of Scripture that is currently speaking to me.  Feel free to read the whole section, though, for the bigger picture:


O  lord, you are my lamp. The lord lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. “God’s way is perfect. All the lord ’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. 2 Samuel 22:29-31

#depression #mentalhealthawareness #semicolonproject 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Christmas 2016

I had a wonderful Christmas season.  Our children got us some amazing gifts that I admit make me a super proud moma.  For starters, they know we enjoy having date nights at home so several of them got us gift bags to help us enjoy our home date nights!  From movies to snacks, we are set for several home date nights.  LOVE IT!

Another favorite gift we received was from T & N, who live in Portland.  They surprised us with a Portland getaway to come see them!  We cannot wait to redeem this gift and the opportunity to spend time together with them in their stomping grounds.

Through the years we have changed our gift giving from when we started our family and were overspending on needless gifts so our kids would just have more things to open to gifts that mean something.  We have done several different challenges through the years and while we did name an official challenge this year, I am content with how our gift giving turned out.  Here's a sampling:

Most of the kids got books, either to complete a series or starting a new one.  One daughter got silverware since she is getting married this year; the other daughter got a new pair of boots that should help her out with her student teaching this semester.  The little boys got fleece blankets in their favorite sport team's fabric and sport bags to store their stinky sports stuff in.  HA!

I am also super excited that I got special quilt square rulers and a 2011 NIV Bible!

Anyway, I have posted through the years about gift giving and thought I should keep the tradition going.

Merry Christmas 2016!

#giftgiving #Christmas2016 #frugality #FPU

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Distractions




Distraction.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a distraction as: something that makes it difficult to think or pay attention; something that amuses or entertains you so that you do not think about problems, work, etc.; a state in which you are very annoyed or upset.  I was distracted this week.  While not a new occurrence, I usually handle my distractions exactly as Merriam-Webster describes!  I had a hard time thinking and paying attention to what I needed to (school and research project) and I was very annoyed or upset (not that uncommon either).  The difference this week, though, was what I did while “distracted.”  Instead of spinning my wheels and wasting time, I read verses over and over again.  I re-read emails sent as encouragement to me as a Quaker woman called to pastoral ministry and others reminded me of God’s provision.  I looked up things I had prayed for and saw some AWESOME answers to prayer that I had not gone back and thanked God for.  So, I did it this week.  I looked for ways to remind myself of God’s provision and care in my life and the lives of those I love and care about.  I claimed them as assurance and promise for the plans He has for me.  One lesson I learned this week was while some distractions are negative and serve no other purpose than to take our eyes OFF Jesus, some distractions are needed to stop thinking about unimportant things and focus ON Jesus!  Not all distractions are bad – this week the rabbit trails I went down took me down paths of hope, assurance, affirmation, and calling. 

Like others, I can get caught in a cycle of selfishness, thinking if something is connected to me in some way then in must be about me in some way.  Thankfully, I learned another lesson this week in which the Holy Spirit stepped in and made it very clear to me that what I was worried about was not about me at all but about Satan fighting for me.  It was AMAZING to hear the Holy Spirit say, “This is my battle.”  I am not sure I have ever felt the Holy Spirit physically stand between me and Satan but I did this week.  There was a physical barrier and I just have to say, it was “goosebumps” awesome! 

I John 5:18, “I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me!”

“I have been rescued from Satan’s domain and transferred into the kingdom of Christ” (Col. 1:13).

“I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22).

At the end of the week, I can say, with assurance, the words to the song I have been singing, “It is well!”

 
 References

Distraction. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distraction
 
#HolySpirit #QuakerWomen #Deliverance

Sunday, September 11, 2016

This is My Song - A Song of Peace



This is My Song - A Song Of Peace 

(Finlandia)

By Sibelius and Stone


This is my song
O God of all the nations
For song of peace
For lands afar and mine
This is my home the country where
My heart is here are my hopes
My dreams my holy shrine
But other hearts in other
Lands are beating with hopes and
Dreams as true and high as mine


My country's skies
Are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams
On cloverleaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight
Too and clover
And skies are everywhere
As blue as mine
O hear my song
Thou God of all the nations
A song of peace for
Their land and for mine

I will never forget 9/11, and the aftermath that occurred.  I believe the same God who holds me in the palm of his hand is holding my brothers and sisters of every nation in the same palm.  

Falling to my knees.  Break this spoiled American girl so she can see through humble and loving eyes to the hurting people in her path each day.  

#peace #anthem #myprayer

Friday, September 09, 2016

Worship - Our First Response?

(Bible journaling by someone else)
Job 1: 10-12: Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

I'll call this next section, "Round 1."  Messenger after messenger came, before the previous one was done speaking another arrived and told Job of yet another calamity - each one being life-altering experiences.  Three different occurrences against his livestock where they were either stolen (Job 1: 15, 17), or burned (v. 16); his servants were killed at all three of these blows and finally, a monstrous blow to Job, all of his children were killed (v. 19).  


There is no preparing for some news: the dreaded call from the doctor, the news your family is being broken through divorce, death, expected is hard; unexpected death is debilitating.  





For some of us, we see different seasons of our lives as times of hardship, growth, or misery but for most of us, the season ends and with it, we find new life.  Some of us have one long season of pain - chronic pain with no end in sight.  


I am in a new and different place right now.  It is unknown and uncomfortable and honestly, I like the known and I am a tad embarrassed to admit it, but I am partial to comfort.  


I am strategically praying for God to move in some mighty ways regarding this crazy financial situation we find ourselves in (broke; not poor), and I selfishly pray that I will not succumb to asking God, "Why?" and question His ability to care for us.  You see, what Job does right after hearing that all of his children are dead, is worship God: 


20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
While all of these verses are worthy of attention, particularly worship being the first response when we are hit with life-rocking news, God keeps drawing me to verse 22, not charging God with wrongdoing.  While this little bit from the entire book is not an exegesis by any form, it is where God spoke to me today and reminded me what I should be doing now:

1) WORSHIP GOD


2) Do NOT complain to God about what He is doing - this would be charging God with wrongdoing. 


3) PRAY


4) Give thanks - live eucharisteo!     




I do not know where you are today, but if you, like me, have been knocked down and are trying to figure out where your life is going, just stop and spend time worshiping God.  You will not regret the time spent in worship; at least I don't.  Even though I have a list that needs done a mile long, worship realigns my heart to God's and if nothing else changes, that is more than I could ask for and more than I deserve.   


Here is a two-hour set of worship songs (with lyrics) for you to sing along with.  Just click on the arrow:


 #worship #eucharisteo