Monday, December 30, 2013

The best advice I can give...

I know it has been a very, very long time since I last sat down and typed out a post.  It's not for lack of desire to blog, but entirely because of lack of time.  Since the last post I wrote, back in June, I have gone back to work part-time, and am continuing to plow through part-time school, as well.  And that is on top of being a mom and a wife, and trying not to let my house turn into a HAZMAT-suit-required zone.

I wish I was one of those superwomen who could say in all truthfulness that they can juggle everything and still find the time.  The truth is, the only reason I have time right now is because one of the kids is off at jiu jitsu, it is Christmas break from the school (where I work), and I am between school terms.  It feels very odd to be this "free," let me tell you.

Anyway, let me get derailed before I even begin...  Sheesh...

I was having a conversation with my brother's girlfriend the other day and she said, "You know, you should really be a blogger or something.  You are full of so much great knowledge and advice on things, and your perspective is interesting."  I told her that I already had a blog, but that (as I stated above) I have lacked the time to really devote to blogging since going back to work and school.

But I thought about what she said.  The immodest part of me was, like, "Heck yeah, I do have a lot of awesome things to say and the whole world should hear it!"  Then the modest part of me was, like, "Get over yourself.  You have a lot of opinions, but that doesn't make them special or unique by default or anything.  It was a nice compliment, but don't let it go to your head."  Then the part of me that marinated on it for a few days decided, "You know what?  Your perspectives may not be new or profound or anything, but they are still worth being heard.  So, why not give it a shot and offer some advice?"

So here is is.  In no particular order, here is some of the best advice I can give.  Take it or leave it.  It's valuable to me, and at the end of the day, that is really all that should matter anyway.

1.  Be a good friend.
There is a time in my life I am not proud of.  It was a time in my life in which I thought I was better than everyone else.  That somehow, at the tender age of 20-something, I had "arrived" at the moral high ground, and everyone else was somehow more sinful (just because they sinned differently) and therefore beneath me.  I cut ties with a lot of people.  A lot of people.  And for no other reason than they were different.  Their choices, lifestyles, life paths, and/or beliefs were different.  And somehow, in my sick, twisted mindset of the time, this meant they were unworthy of being a part of my life.  I then surrounded myself with only people who thought and operated within my narrow little "thinking box."  Then, long story short, I went through a series of difficult family and personal events, and when the proverbial poo hit the fan, all those people ran out.....and I was left mostly alone to pick up the pieces and rebuild what was left of my very damaged heart and spirit.  I ate my heaping helping of humble pie, and slowly began opening my heart up again to the people I once deemed as unworthy of my love....and those people loved me back. 

That was one of the most eye-opening lessons I ever learned.  If someone offers you friendship, take it.  If someone loves you even when you are a complete nightmare of a mess, that is a true friend.  They may be very different from you, but that's okay.  If they are the type of person who says, "Call me, day or night, whatever you need, I'll be there," then never let them go.  If they are the type of person who runs out when times get tough, then let them go.  Still offer them respect and kindness, but that is not a true friend.

And be a good friend.  Don't be judgmental.  People's lives are hard enough already.  Nobody wants to be called on the carpet just because they are different, or because they are struggling with something.  Instead, be supportive.  Be kind.  Be an anchor.  Be someone people can put their trust and secrets in and know they'll be safe.  Lend a helping hand.  Speak with kindness.  People don't want to hear your version of truth as much as they want to know they're loved.  Give them love.  And leave it at that.  Save your "truth" for another day.

And offer this to everyone.  Don't limit yourself to only people who fit in your little "mold."  Because I have received far more love and support from those who have stretched my "mold" to the limits than those who fit neatly within it.

2.  Always ask questions.  Always!
I have learned that the most dangerous thing a person could ever do is quit asking questions.  If you think you know the truth, you don't.  You might think you do, but you don't.  If you don't have questions, question that.  That's an excellent place to start.  Question yourself, question others, question your beliefs....and accept that there are many questions that don't have black and white answers.  Or perhaps the answers are relative or case-specific to you and your own life or beliefs.  And that is okay.  It is okay to have different opinions.  It is okay to disagree with the status quo....or, to agree with it....whatever the case may be.

Never stop seeking more knowledge, never stop philosophizing, never stop consulting science...or faith.  You need them both.  Never stop thinking for yourself.  Never hand your brain and your convictions over to someone else....not even to science or faith.

And never fear what you don't know.  Instead, learn about it.  Quiet the fears.  Give the fears answers, and they will disappear.  But to limit your mind only to what is known and what is comfortable is dangerous. 

You are bright, you are strong, and you are brilliant....tap into that, seek after that, and never let that go.  Because the minute you do, you will be duped.  Or hurt.  Or brainwashed.  You will lose time.  You will lose your sense of self.  And it takes much longer to get it back than to lose it.  So never let your sense of wonder and your thirst for answers be snuffed out.  Take it from will regret it.

3.  Let it be.
Yes, I am stealing words from John Lennon.  But they are true, and deep, and should be internalized and applied.  Live and let live.  You do your thing, and let others do theirs.  Help others when and if warranted, but nobody likes unsolicited advice on how they should be managing their own life.  You may think you have all the answers on how you would live someone else's may think what they do is flat-out wrong....but it is their life to live.  It is their mistakes and learning experiences to make.  Or, conversely, their benefits to reap.  It is not yours.  And your interference isn't necessary, and may even rob others of the life experiences they need.

So let it be.  Keep your opinions and judgments to yourself, and focus on living your own life in the best manner you are capable of living it.  It is not your job to try and dictate how anyone else should live.  So and let live....and let it be.  Keep your actions loving and your words few.  Everyone is happier when you do.

4.  Believe in yourself.
You are you.  You are unique.  You are smart.  And you have a lot to offer this world.  You are valuable, and you are valued.  So many people you will encounter in life will try and convince you otherwise, but they are liars.  You have to be willing to do the work, but you are worth it, and the world needs you.

Never settle for less than your own abilities.  Never allow the lies out there to make you believe that you have to settle for a life that doesn't make you happy or benefit others.  Your potential is far greater than you probably even realize.  And if anyone - or a collective group of people - tries to convince you that you should ever settle for less than you were put on this earth to be and - don't walk - away!  As fast and as far as you can go! 

You are worth it.  Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

5.  It is never too late to start over.
If what you're doing isn't working, start over.  Nowhere is it written in stone that we can never make a change.  If you are unhappy, change your path.  Do something different.  Do it fearlessly. 

If your job stinks, get a new one.  If you hate where you live, move.  If people are treating you badly, speak up.  If you're in a bad relationship, get counseling and/or get out.  Life is too short to live it miserably. 

Yes, change is scary.  And risky.  But its better than living a mediocre, hum-drum life you don't enjoy.  So if you need to go back to the drawing board, do that.

It is never too late.

There are so many other little nuggets of wisdom I have, but I think those five kind of envelop all the others.  I don't have all the answers, but these are all lessons I wish I'd learned much earlier in life.  I could've saved myself a lot of heartache if I had.

Do you have any sound advice you think should be shared?  What are some tough lessons you wish you'd learned earlier in life?  Care to share?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My "dirty little secret"

So, today is the day.  I am sucking up all my city driving fears and heading into Portland to meet up with my friend, Helen, who is in the city for a week from Connecticut for a work-related training.

Okay, so that seems pretty normal, right?  Meeting up with a friend who's in my neck of the woods.  Lah-di-dah.

But here's the catch...  I met Helen online.  This is the first time I am meeting her face to face.

And Helen isn't the only online friend I have.  I have about 30 or 40 of them.  And only one other of them - Monica - have I ever gotten together with face-to-face.

Me with Monica the first time we met face-to-face, March 2012

But for some reason, I feel like I need to hide that part of my life.  I feel like it makes me some gigantic geek or something to have this whole bunch of "friends" that I don't actually "know."  I don't feel like I am a giant geek, but I feel like others probably perceive me that way when I share about my "online mommy friends."  So I keep that part of my life, that part of my friendships, largely hidden.

But why should they be?  There is something very deep and very real that I have with those women.  We "met" on a pregnancy forum when we were all pregnant with our now-5 year olds.    We now have nearly 6 years of almost-daily communication.  (And, actually, I have some that I "met" in a parenting group shortly after my now-9 year old was born, too.)  I communicate with them more frequently, and more candidly, than I do most people in my face-to-face life.

Sure, we've discussed poopy diapers and sleepless nights plenty, but what I have with those ladies is deeper, and stronger, and greater than that.  They are some of my closest friends.  We've been through trials and hardships together, and celebrated successes and triumphs together.  We've helped each other through deaths of loved ones (including a sudden death of a spouse), divorces, depression, and financial hardships.  We've celebrated each other's births, career successes, weight loss, and personal triumphs.  We've been shoulders to cry on, and best friends to laugh with.

When one of them was going through severe depression, we sent a care package to her to cheer her up.  When one needed money to help with lawyer fees, we pooled our resources and helped out.  And when I was going through a financial hardship, I posted about how difficult things were, only to have one of them send me the hugest box of clothes for my girls that I'd ever seen.  (The postage alone cost nearly $40!)  We literally put our money where our mouths are.  We aren't just friends, we're friends who take care of each other.  If one is struggling, the rest come along and help out.  Its just who we are and how we operate.  My "online" friends have some of the biggest hearts.

Yet, I still feel like if I talk about these friends, I won't be taken seriously.  So I usually don't.

I realize I don't owe anyone an explanation about my friends; about how I know them and what they mean to me.  But I feel like I owe it to them to treat them with the same pride and value I would treat any other friend.  Especially because they have been more to me than a lot of other people.  On some of my worst days, they have been my rock.

So, now my "dirty little secret" is out.  I have online friends.  There.  I said it.

And I love them dearly.  They are some of my favorite people.  Yes, how we met may be unorthodox.  It may even make me a major geek.  But they're still my friends in every sense of the word, so why should I even care how others perceive me or them or the friendship we have?

So I am done hiding them.  They are who they are, and how I "know" them is how I know them.  If people want to have a problem with that, that's their deal.  If people want to judge who we are and the very real friendship we have with one another, then its only because they can't grasp the depth of what we have.  But I assure you, it is real.  My friends are real people who are really awesome!

So.....  Karen, Ally, Julia, Andrea, Kim, Sarah C., Sarah S., Sara D., Charity, Mandi, Stacey, Bree, Tammy, Erin, Michelle, Julie, Taryn, Jen, Helen, Lori, Brit, Caroline, Monica, Teresa, Donna, Katie, Amanda M., Amanda T., Rachel, Jaime U., Jaime D., Jaime J. (yep, there are 3 Jaimes!), Christine, Betsy, Danielle, Lisa, Leah, and Allison.....this one's for you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Love is... Love isn't...

I have already touched on this topic a bit in my earlier posts, "Mr. Hyde Sits In That Pew" and "...Or For Worse.  In Sickness...," but I feel the need to address it again, and in more depth.

There seems to be a prevalent, and ever-growing, issue among the men of my generation.  Men seem to believe it is okay to treat their wives like dirt.  They think it is okay to threaten them, to hurt them, to use words as weapons against them, to make them feel small and worthless, to try and take their power and sense of worth away....

What is this?

Its hypermasculinity.  Its manipulation.  Its a power trip.

Its abuse.

It is not love.

The things I hear some women that are near and dear to my heart tell me that their spouses/partners say and do to them is heart breaking.  It makes me want to knock some sense into these men.  Today, I heard more stories from more women, and so I felt the need to get my thoughts on this topic out, because it seems like too few people give this issue a voice.  Nobody is speaking up, and I believe that allows it to keep happening.  We turn a blind eye, we ignore the problem, we don't know what to say or how to say it, and the very topic makes us squirm.  So we remain silent.  And our silence says it is okay.

But its not.

Now, that isn't to say that there aren't men who get it right.  I know a lot of men who treat their women well.  I know a lot of men who love and respect their wives and treat them with the care and concern they deserve.  And I am lucky enough to be married to a pretty darn awesome guy.  He's not perfect by any means, but he's a good guy.

But even one man who doesn't treat his woman well, is one man too many.

Sure, even the best men get angry sometimes and say things they regret.  We women do it, too.  We're all still human.  We're all still married to people who bug us.  Its human nature, its marriage.  But there are lines you just do not cross.  Ever.

If you ever threaten bodily harm, whether you ever actually follow through or not, whether its meant in jest or not, you have crossed a line.

If you tell your spouse they're worthless, you've crossed a line.

If you deny your spouse their dream, you've crossed a line.

If you send threatening texts, you've crossed a line.

If you call them a terrible parent, you've crossed a line.

If you tell your spouse they'd be better off dead -- whether by your hand, their own, or an outside circumstance -- you've crossed a line.

....And the list could go on and on.

What I don't understand, though, is this.  This is a person you, at one time, stood before God and others with and pledged a promise to.  You promised to love, honor, and cherish them.  You promised to treat them with your utmost love and respect.  For life.

And now, here you are, a few years down the road, screaming in her face that she's a worthless piece of garbage?!

What changed?  When did you start believing that?  And what, when, and how did you decide you should verbalize and/or act on that?!  Where did that promise go?  Where did that love go?

And don't you dare say its her fault!  You, sir, are responsible for your own actions!  If you are being ruthless, that's nobody's fault but your own, and you should be ashamed of yourself!

To quote 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Patience.  Kindness.  Humility.  Honor.  Forgiveness.  Honesty.  Protection.  Trust.  Hope.  Perseverance.  Those are the things love is made of.

Short tempers.  Ruthlessness.  Pride.  Rigidity.  Unforgiveness.  Dishonesty.  Disregard for others.  Suspicion.  Despair.  Hopelessness.  Force.  Control.  Those are borne out of hatred.

If you love someone, then you treat them with respect.  You treat them with honor, and kindness, and protection.  If you truly love someone, you don't treat them badly.  You consider their feelings, you esteem their worth, you value their intelligent input, and you consider them a worthwhile human being and treat them as such.

You can't treat the woman you claim to love with actions of hatred.  If you truly love her, then act like it.  If you hate her, then set her free, and spare her, and your children, the fear, pain, and heartache of living under the same roof as an unpredictable, tryrannical dictator.

And while we're on the topic of being a father...  You can't claim to be a good dad and treat the mother of your child(ren) like dirt.  Whether married or divorced, it doesn't matter.  You are setting an example for your kids.  If you treat the mother of your son(s) like garbage, how do you expect him to grow up and treat his wife?  And if you treat the mother of your daughter(s) like garbage, then what type of man do you expect her to marry one day?  If you want a positive outcome for your own kid(s), then you have to model what its supposed to look like with your own actions.  Because if you are an abusive man, and your sons end up being abusive men and/or your daughters end up in abusive relationships, then you are primarily to blame for that.  So no, you cannot call yourself a good father while modeling hateful, abusive behavior to your kids.

Men, seriously, you need to do better.  Your women deserve better.  Not because we're perfect, but because you promised us at the altar that you'd be a man we could always count on and feel safe with.  And because you promised to treat us with love, not hate.  And you need to do better by your kids.  Otherwise, the cycle will continue.  And it can't continue.  It needs to stop.  Right now.  With our generation.

So after reading this, if you need to change your ways, change them.  If you need to apologize to your wife, do it.  Suck up your pride and do it.  And then, do better.  Speak better.  Speak kinder.  If you need to set a better example for your kids, then start right now.  If you need counseling or anger management, put your selfish, foolish pride aside and go.  Don't keep putting it off.  Go.  If you value your wife, your kids, and your marriage, then do it.  Do whatever you have to do to be a better man.

And this can go for the wives, too.  If you need to change your tune, too, then do it.  Marriage is a two-way street.  Its not all on them to make all the changes necessary to make it work.  We have to be willing to do the hard work and make the hard changes, too.

And to those of you men who get it right -- to those of you who treat your wives with the love, respect, honor, and care you promised them -- my hat's off to you.  You guys seriously rock!  Keep on doing what you're doing!

Friday, June 14, 2013

To all the great teachers in my life...

Wednesday was my older kids' last day of school.  My son graduated elementary school, and will be moving on to middle school in the fall.  My middle child will be in 4th grade next year.

And this morning, my youngest graduated preschool.  She will be starting kindergarten next year.

On Wednesday, as I frantically raced all over our county trying to pull together last-minute end-of-year gifts for my kids' teachers in a 2 hour window of time (yes, I am a procrastinator....and slightly insane...), I spent my in-car time reflecting on the teachers I have had over the years and the impact they've had on my life.  Some have taught me lessons I will never forget, and they will probably never know how much they actually impacted me.

I also reflected on how much I have learned from my children's teachers over the years.  You see, this year, after an 11 1/2 year hiatus to have and raise my babies, I started school again with the intention of becoming a teacher myself.  I have tried to implement things my kids' teachers have taught me over the years of volunteering in their classrooms, but now that I am actually working toward becoming a teacher, I find it even more important to parrot the things they do and say.

So, to the teachers I have had, and my kids have had, thank you for the wise words, hard lessons, and for just being who you are and doing what you do.

To Mrs. Lucas, my senior year of high school English teacher:
I will probably never have the opportunity to tell you this to your face, but I wish I could.  I didn't understand or appreciate how hard you pushed me in high school, but I get it now.  I remember you handing me a rough draft back one time and telling me, "If you were any other student, this would be an A-worthy paper.  But you aren't.  You are a better student and a better writer than this.  You get a C for this draft.  Do it over."  You made me revise that paper 4 times.  Each time I got more frustrated, and more irritated that I just couldn't obtain that "easy A."  But in the end, I did end up getting an A.  And my paper ended up being so good that it won a 1st place county-wide award.  Like I said, I didn't understand it then, but I do now.  You wouldn't allow me to settle for less than my own capability.  You wouldn't let me skate by.  Maybe it was unfair - as I believed it was at the time - that you set up a different standard for me than the rest of the class, but you made me better.  You made me realize that my best is better than most people's best, but instead of lowering my own standard to that of others, I need to work hard to attain my own best.  So, in being so tough on me, you gave me a gift.  You made me see my own potential - the potential I didn't even see in myself - and you wouldn't let me settle for less than my best.  I thank you for that.  Truly, I believe you changed the way I view myself and my academic potential.  That is a gift you gave me that I will forever be indebted to you for.

To Dra. Maisch, my high school math teacher:
You, more than anyone, should know that math is not, and never has been, my strong suit.  But you, like Mrs. Lucas, taught me a life lesson that I will never forget or take for granted.  I shouldn't have passed your class - I went into my final with a D in your class, and then I royally bombed the test - but you passed me anyway.  Not out of the goodness of your heart or because I gained any special favor, but because you knew I was trying.  I was in your class early every morning before class officially started to get homework help.  This became our morning routine.  I was honestly shocked when you told me you were passing me, and told me I earned a passing grade.  My test scores would beg to differ.  But in passing me through, you taught me the value of hard work.  You taught me that the effort is what counts the most.  We may not naturally succeed at everything, but if we try our hardest, it will pay off.  I have passed that lesson on to my kids.  I try and teach them that its not the end result that matters, but how hard you try.  And I hope that when I am a teacher myself, I will have that philosophy with my students, as well.

To Mr. Fraise, my 4th grade teacher:
You taught me to love learning.  You taught me that fun can be found in everything, and that its okay to think outside the box.  You had the most unorthodox teaching methods, but they worked for us.  You never shot down our ideas, and in fact, you would take our crazy ideas and run with them.  Its rare to find a teacher who says "yes" more than they say "no" to their students' crazy ideas.  (Especially now that teachers are taught primarily to cram standardized curriculum into their students at breakneck speed.)  Through the freedom to be different, think different, and do different, I gained a confidence in my own ability to use my uniqueness to problem-solve and impact the world around me.  You are the type of teacher I want to be.  I want to be the type of teacher who inspires her students to use their creativity; a teacher who says "yes" to crazy ideas and finds ways to work them into their teaching.

To Ms. Glasson, both my kids' 3rd grade teacher:
You are amazing!  You have gone above and beyond the call of duty for both my kids, and all your students.  I enjoyed being a parent volunteer in your classroom, and I hope I retain even half of what I learned about how to teach from you.  You love what you do, you love your students, and it shows.  I don't even have the words to express how thankful I am for the experiences both my kids, and I, had in your classroom.  You are exceptional!

To Bill Patterson, my college philosophy teacher:
You, like Mrs. Lucas, made me work for my A and wouldn't let me just coast by.  You made me think, you made me work, and because of what you taught and how you taught it, you made me a better person.  Your class changed a lot about how I view myself, my world, and the people in my world.  There's truly no greater gift a teacher could give their student than that.

And last, but definitely not least, to my dad, Russell Terry, retired special education teacher:
It is because of you that I want to be a teacher in the first place.  Watching you do what you did with your students, and do it so well, and love it so much, has been a life-long inspiration.  Its funny...  I found my Kindergarten Memories book at your house at Christmastime and there was a page in there that asked what I wanted to be when I grow up.  I wrote that I wanted to be a teacher.  That is because of you.  You were my first, and have always been my best, teacher.

There are so many other teachers worth mentioning.  Nobody should think for a second that the list starts and ends here!  I have been so blessed to have had the teachers I've had.  Sure, everyone (myself included) has a few they don't click with, but by and large, the teachers I have had have throughout my life have been pretty phenomenal.  And my kids have had phenomenal teachers themselves, as well.

It makes me sad that our education system is struggling in so many ways, and that a lot of people take out their frustrations on teachers for that.  Because people like these don't deserve that.

But it gives me hope to see that, despite all the challenges, good teachers will continue to teach, and inspire, and change lives.  Because that is what it is all about.

What about you?  Have you (or your children) had any teachers that have been exceptional or have changed your life in some way?  Give them a shout out!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't question my faith. Just....don't.


Where to begin with this one....

First of all, I make zero apologies for what I am about to write.  Zero.  I don't want to lose friends over this, but honestly, if this blog post fractures a friendship, then maybe it wasn't all that strong in the first place.  I have spent too many years of my life keeping my mouth shut and being disrespected by "friends" who were in reality nothing more than toxic people.  I have come a long, long way in healing from that, and in the spirit of keeping myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, I have no place in my life anymore for those who are unapologetically disrespectful toward me, my beliefs, and how I choose to live out my life and my faith.  So if you get to the end of this, and you still feel the need to disrespect me and what I believe, then I guess you'll know where you stand.

So here goes....

The other night, someone called my faith, and that of other Christians, into question over the gay marriage debate.

To me, that is the single most disrespectful thing anyone could ever do to me.  Ever.

I was shaking when I read what was written, directed at me and other Christians who believe like me.  I felt the heat of anger rise up my back, then neck, then face.  It took every ounce of strength I had to fight the urge to write something lengthy and strong in response.  I tossed and turned and barely slept that night, feeling so angry, hurt, offended and disrespected.  I woke up the following morning not feeling much better.  And now, nearly 48 hours later, I am still trying to wrap my head around it and formulate the words I want to say to this person.  I know, when that face-to-face time comes, its going to be awkward.

Let me make one thing very clear here.  I am not hurt or angry or offended over the person having a differing opinion from mine.  Lots of people every single day have differing opinions from mine, and that is fine.  In fact, I welcome others' opinions.  They make me think, and evaluate, and question, and that is a normal, healthy thing everyone should be open to allowing in their life.

What I am hurt, angry, and offended by was the implication that just because I don't believe like that person, that I am somehow a "lesser than" Christian.  That somehow I am not as "good" a Christian as they are.  That somehow I am not as "righteous."  That maybe I'm not even a Christian at all....

If you want to emotionally and spiritually go for the jugular with me, well congratulations.  You just did.

Now, to most people this may not seem like a big deal.  But I come from a long history of being attacked like this.  It happened to me at Bible college.  Someone tried to get me kicked off a ministry team because I was "less holy" than them...or whatever it was....because I don't speak in tongues.  And then it happened over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again at a former church.  You name it....I was called out for it.

Do you know what that does to a person?  When you take the most sacred, personal, vulnerable part of a person's belief system and tell them they aren't good enough....over and over again....a person starts to believe it.  Do you want to know how bad it got for me?  It got to a point where I felt so unloved, so unworthy, so unaccepted, so vile, so disgusting, so hated, so worthless, so imperfect, and so insignificant.....that I believed I was all those things.  I became suicidal.  Had I not been a mother with 2 little kids at the time, I probably would've taken my own life.  I'm not kidding or exaggerating.

To this day, I don't know how I rose above all that.  Only by the grace of God.  Somehow, despite all the lies that were being fed to me, despite having my soul picked apart bit by bit by excruciating bit, I was able to put all the pieces back together.  I left that church, I left those hurtful people, and I am not looking back.  Ever.  Like I said in the beginning of this post, I have come too far and am in a good place, I am not going to allow people to tear me down like that anymore.

I know where I stand with God.  My relationship with Him, as far as I am concerned, is solid.  I got saved when I was 16, I've been baptized, I've sat through countless hours of Bible classes, studies, and sermons.  And I know my Bible pretty proficiently.

I'm far from perfect, and I fully accept that I get things wrong daily.  Shoot....I may have the whole thing "wrong!"  Who really knows?  But here's the thing....  My relationship with Him - my "rights" and "wrongs" - is between me and Him.  The same goes for you.  The same goes for my husband, my son, my daughters, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my niece, my nephews, my uncles, my aunts, my neighbors, the girl who makes my coffee at the Human Bean, my college professors, the dude who bags my groceries.....

Who are we to play God and judge others' relationship with their Creator?????

Once upon a time, I'm ashamed to say, I was a Christian like that.  Its easy, in faith, to get wrapped up in the "little things" - all the do's and don'ts - and miss the bigger picture.  I've been there, done that.  And you know what it did?  It made me a horrible witness for Christ, I lost a lot of friends (in and out of the church), and my own relationship with Christ suffered.  I became so "near-sighted" in my walk, that I couldn't even see how much I was hurting others - and even myself - with that attitude!

After my whole "crisis period" (for lack of a less ugly thing to call it), as I began to rebuild myself, I read Matthew 12:28-33, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.e 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g There is no commandment greater than these.”
32“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

I realized when I read that, that the most important thing we can do is love God and love others.  Jesus said it was the most important thing, and I believe Him.  There is no commandment greater than these!  Nothing else the Bible says is more important!  And nobody can convince me otherwise!

This verse has since become kind of like my "life compass."  If I am ever in doubt of the motives of my heart or actions, I put it to the "Matthew 12 Test."  I ask myself, "Is what I am saying/feeling/doing/thinking/believing radiating with love for God and love for others?"  If the answer is no (and sometimes it is), then I immediately re-evaluate.  It has been a pretty fool-proof compass, when I have been smart enough to use it.  It has changed so many facets of how I live my faith and my life.  I don't think it has made me a "loose" Christian, I think it has made me a more loving, accepting, kind, gentle, peaceful, understanding human being.  A human being that is closer to the character of Jesus, not further from it.

I still have my principles.  I still have my own, personal set of do's and don'ts for my own life.  But the huge difference is, I have stopped being so concerned with everyone else's life and relationship with Christ.  I focus on loving God - my own relationship with Him - and loving others - not condemning them with my words and/or attitude.  If you say/feel/do/think/believe differently than me, I let you.  I have my own relationships with God and others to worry about.  I'll worry about mine, you worry about yours.

So really....  Who cares how I - or anyone else - interpret and live out my life and my faith?  Who cares what or how much I do or don't pray, or what version of the Bible I do or don't read?  Who made it your job to police my relationship with God?  Where in the Bible does it say that its your job?  Because the last time I checked, man wasn't called to bring others to repentance.  The last time I checked, that was the Holy Spirit's job.

You have no right to call my - or anyone else's - relationship with God into question.  Not over the way I parent.  Not over my spiritual gifts (or lack thereof).  Not over my position on gay marriage.  Not over anything.

You are not God.  It is not your job.  You live your life, let me live mine.  You have your opinions, and I let you have them.  Let me have mine.  Without the guilt, without the condemnation, without the self-righteousness, without the negative criticism, without all the garbage that leads others to believe they're not good enough.  We're all horribly flawed.  I'm not perfect, you're not perfect.  But God still loves us.  That is the truth!

The truth is, Jesus doesn't love you more for believing what you believe and me less for believing what I believe.  He loves us all the same.  He doesn't have a "point system."  God loves you the same as he loves me, the same as he loves the drug dealer down on the corner, the same as he loves the Atheist, the same as he loves the death-row inmate, the same as he loves a newborn baby....  We're all beautiful and wonderful and special to Him.  There is nothing we do that makes Him love us any more or less!  Yes, we're all horribly, disgustingly flawed.  We all make bad decisions and mistakes every single day, and yes, some of those decisions and mistakes are reeeeaaally far off the mark.  But you want to know the truth?  God still loves us the same.

And anyone who tells you differently is flat-out wrong.  That is the truth!

There is so much more I could've touched on in this post.  Do you think I missed anything important?  Do you agree or disagree?  Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Want a better world? Raise better kids!

Last week, a friend of mine posed the (obviously rhetorical, but she put it out there anyway) question, "Can someone tell me why rude children have rude parents?"  My response was, "Rude children grow up and become rude parents, who then raise more rude children.  Its a cycle."

I was being rather tongue-in-cheek with my response, but I stand by what I said.  Kind people raise kind children.  Rude people raise rude children.  Self-centered people raise self-centered children.  And so on and so forth.

I have been marinating on this idea a lot this week, and then my son pulled out his jiu jitsu (optional) homework.  One question on it was, "Name five things we can focus more on to be better people."  We chatted about it a little bit, but ultimately my son came up with his own ideas.

* Working hard
* Kindness
* Respect
* Listening to others
* Sticking up for what's right

Those are the things he chose.  And I am proud.  My son "gets it."  And not just in theory, in practice, too.

I will never claim to be a perfect parent - far from it.  But I have made it my mission as a mother to raise people who will - even if only in some small, unseen way - change the world for better.  People who will live to spread love, acceptance, tolerance, kindness, peace, and goodness.  People who will live by example, and not just say empty words to make themselves look good on paper.  People who will live to be "good people" no matter who or what they are faced with.

My son, as I have blogged about a few times before, doesn't have the easiest time with being accepted by his peers.  And, like all people, there are kids in his class and/or social activities that he isn't a huge fan of.  That's life.  We don't have to like everyone, and I think that's normal.  We don't have to accept everyone or what they do.  But I have made it my mission to, anytime any of my kids complain about what someone else does, remind my kids that they don't have to like or agree with everyone, but they always have to treat others with utmost kindness and respect.  I don't do this to make my kids doormats or force them into martyrdom.  I do it because I want my kids to grow up to be good people; good employees, good bosses, good friends, good spouses, good parents, good grandparents, good neighbors, good citizens of this earth.


I just wish more parents "got it."  That's not to say I don't know a lot of parents who do "get it."  I am blessed in that the vast majority of people I associate with closely do.

But enough people in this world don't, and they are raising kids that don't.

So let me ask you something serious.  What kind of world do you want?  Think as long and hard as you need to before you answer that.

Do you want a kind world?  Then teach your children to be kind.  
Teach them about mercy and grace.  Not sometimes, not when someone is kind to them first, always.

Do you want a peaceful world?  Then teach your children the value of peace.  Teach them how to turn the other cheek.  Teach them to solve problems peacefully, and without insults and throwing punches.

Do you want a world with respect for all people?  Then t
each them to see and treat everyone the same.  Teach them not to judge other people based on their body type, their disability, their personality quirks, their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, how much money they may or may not have, their religion/religious customs, their accent, the things they may or may not own....or anything else, for that matter.

Or do you want the alternative?

Do you want a world of greed?  Then continue teaching your children that money and "stuff" is life's ultimate achievement.  Continue teaching them that it doesn't matter who they hurt, as long as they come out top dog.  Keep teaching them that being cut-throat is just part of the game.

Do you want a world of hatred?  Then continue teaching your children that anyone different than them is "below" them and should be treated as such.  Continue teaching them that its okay to make fun of and judge other people.

Do you want a world full of rude people?  Then continue teaching your children that what they say doesn't matter.  Continue teaching them that their wants and needs are more important than everyone else's.  Keep teaching them that patience is a bygone virtue.

Wait....hold the phone....  What?  You aren't teaching your kids these things?

Yes, you are.

Listen....  Every time you don't teach your kids what is right, you are reinforcing what is wrong.

Every time you make fun of someone who is obese, you teach your child to do the same.  Every time you allow your kids to say mean things about their classmates, you allow it to continue.  Every time you make a negative comment about someone else's lifestyle, you are teaching your child that living like that is not okay.  That being like that isn't okay.

I know its a hard battle.  I have 3 kids of my own.  Trust me.....I know.  But it is possible.  All it takes is conscious effort.  It takes a choice every day, in every moment with your children, to influence them to be better people.  They may be young, small, and not very influential now, but they will be "somebody" someday.  Someday, they will be someone's employee, someone's boss, someone's friend, someone's spouse, someone's parent, someone's grandparent, someone's neighbor....and an influential citizen of this earth.  Do you want your child, as an adult, to be someone who influences the world with kindness, peace, and respect?  Or the alternative?

Its a simple choice, to raise caring human beings who will make a better world, but you have to be willing to do the work.  Right now.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Next year.  In ten years.  Every single moment of every single day!  You chose to have this child, and you choose who they will become.  So ask yourself who you want them to become, and what kind of world you want to live in.  But please, choose wisely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jesus never said that!

As someone who spent much of their Christian faith under the thumb of legalism, and is now doing the hard work of recovery from the damage that did to me, I am now acutely aware of the ridiculous, and completely false, words people put in Jesus' mouth.  I can spot a "false Jesus statement" from a mile away.  You know....  Things that are not in the Bible, are counter to Jesus' loving nature, and are just plain untrue.

I hear and read things "out there" in my life just about daily that make me want to shake someone and yell, "Jesus never said that!"  Its no wonder Christians come off as judgmental, rigid, and self-righteous!  Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we just plain are.  (Myself included!)  But come on...  Can we please quit putting words in Jesus' mouth!  Its making Him look bad, and making us Christians, collectively, look like a bunch of rigid, ill-informed idiots.

 So I dare you....  Crack open your Bible, and find me the passage where Jesus said....

"If you get a tattoo you can't go to heaven."

"If you're a Christian parent and you truly love your kids, then you have to home school.  Only lazy, uncaring Christian parents send their kids to public school."

"Being gay is worse than any other sin.  Ever."

"Gay people are bad, wrong, disgusting, evil, and deserve to be treated as such."

"If you are gay, God hates you, and Christians should, too."

"If you're a Christian, you have to vote Republican."

"You're more righteous in God's sight if you vote Republican."

"Democrats are all evil, none of them could possibly be righteous, and they are all pushing Satan's agendas."

"Being pro-choice has exceptions.  Abortion is never okay, but the death penalty and war killing is totally fine.  If I think you're a 'bad guy,' then God is totally fine with me killing you."

"God thinks America is better than any other country."

"God supports America's war efforts.  Because, again, He thinks America is the best country ever, and He's totally cool with the bloodshed of 'bad guys.'"

"Being a Christian means you have to spank your kids.  Time-outs are for weak Christian parents who are raising future criminals."

"If you're a Christian, you have to own a gun.  God favors people who carry guns over people who don't."

"A woman's only purpose in life is to have children, raise them, tend the home, and cater to her husband's every desire.  If she is miserable doing this, well, too bad for her."

"Women who don't choose to be stay-at-home parents obviously don't care about their husbands, marriages, and children as much as women who do."

"Women are less capable of and less deserving of an education and careers outside the home than a man."

"Women with personal goals are selfish and don't care about their children and husbands."

"Divorce is never the answer.  Abused women should stay in their marriages.  For better or for worse, no exceptions, no matter what."

"Abuse only counts if others can see it.  If others can't see it, you're not being abused, and your spouse is justified in treating you like garbage.  Suck it up."

"If your church shuns you for divorcing an abusive spouse, too bad for you.  You brought it on yourself.  You don't deserve anyone's understanding or support.  You made a sinful decision.  Deal with it."

"Christians shouldn't pay any attention to science.  Science is bad and wrong and will lead them away from God."

"You don't need to talk to your teens about premarital sex, STD's, or teen pregnancy because obviously they will abstain til marriage.  Only non-Christians have premarital sex, so you're off the hook, Christian parent."

"Depression doesn't exist.  You just need to deal with your sin and get right with Jesus and it'll all disappear.  And don't you dare take antidepressants!"

"Addicts just need to turn to Me and they'll stop using.  Forget AA, NA, rehab, or support groups.  That just leads people to other faiths, and therefore to hell."

And there are soooo many other things I have heard and read, too, that have been shared as "gospel truth," but never proceeded from the mouth of Jesus.  

Here's what it boils down to.  Your "compass," if you will:  Jesus is loving, kind, inclusive, non-judgmental....  He is everything good and wonderful.  So, if what you hear or read is dripping with judgment, unkindness, rigidity, and just plain nonsense, then my guess is, its someone putting words in Jesus' mouth.

Ignore it!  Don't believe it!  Don't let it get inside your head!

Forget the condemnation.  Forget the judgment.  Forget the falsehood that you're "not good enough" or "not doing it right."  Because.....Jesus never said that!

Instead, read His real words.  Find the hope.  Find the healing.  Find the freedom.  Find the pure, rich, wonderful love.  That, my friends, is the real voice of Jesus!

Anything you can add to my list?  What are some things you've read, heard, or experienced?  Any thoughts?