Someone Sedate Me!

(I found this post in my “drafts” from early 2016. I didn’t realize I hadn’t published it, and it gives such a picture of Owen’s development at the time that I couldn’t change it. This post is nice to reminisce on today.)

In typical Martha fashion, I found myself cleaning out old Facebook quotes I posted while in college. I found one from a favorite show that my roommates and I watched religiously on Thursday nights. Seriously, we locked our quad/suite door and hollered at anyone who bothered us. Don’t mess with Grey’s Anatomy night. One particular episode had intern Christina Yang yelling, “Someone sedate me!” Apparently for some reason, it resonated with me. Probably all the stress from classes, etc…

But now this quote caused me to consider the question: What am I choosing to “sedate” myself from? What all are we choosing to dull, and consequently miss in our everyday lives?

I love routine (I know, you’re not surprised). But sometimes, and forgive this obvious observation…it gets old. At our house, we wake up, get ready for the day, make lunches, distract baby O so he won’t put his hands in toilet bowl water (it’s lots of excitement at our house), and J and I also give a quick kiss and “I love you” before we walk out the door (an essential routine in our marriage that I don’t ever expect to change). When we come home from work, it is get dinner on the table, clean up (sweeping the floor under O’s chair every night is required), a little bit of family time, then baby’s bedtime. Sometimes I get frustrated by the same schedule every day, but other days, I feel like God flicks me on the ear and points out how good we’ve got it: to see what new thing baby O can do (right now he’s becoming a stronger walker), and to look at my husband and remember why I married him six years ago (because he makes me a better person and I feel so happy when I’m with him. And he’s smokin’ hot).

Sometimes I get so caught up in my Martha-ness routine and get-stuff-done mode, but God knows what I need and always has a way of reminding me to not miss this time with my boys. So I stop myself and watch my little boy put the block in the bin again (putting small objects into bowls, buckets, etc. and then pulling them out again is pure entertainment for him). And I watch J cheer baby O on when the applesauce spoon is facing up and at least some of the food gets in his mouth, but mostly ends up on his nose, chin, and bib. Or, we watch a complete meltdown (see said meltdown in photo). And I smile at the little things that could get lost in the mundane routine.

I also feel a blessing mixed with a curse, with an overwhelming sense of my eternity. We won’t be on this earth forever, and I don’t know my last day or the last day of those I love, so I need to stop wasting it away! Now, I am still going to clean the kitchen floor tonight, y’all (it’s truly disgusting). But maybe I could just sweep it after O goes to bed, and leave the mopping for another time.

What are some great observations you have made when you take a moment to recognize the little blessings happening in current time around you?

Would You Wanna Hang With You?

That was the question I posed to myself last fall as I again went on a rampage against my husband – but not in real life (…this time…). Only alone in my own thoughts.

I contradict nearly everything my husband suggests.

“I’m going to go hunting on Saturday.”

“We really need you to mow the yard, finish the deck, and sand that picnic table.”

 

“I think we should get those retaining blocks another day.”

“What other day? We’re not home together again all week.”

 

“Will you pick up something for dinner and we can eat quick and have a quiet night at home?’

“Well, we planned for pork chops and we could really use the leftovers.”’

 

Ugh. I am so annoying!! And I realized it on an “off” day.

I struggled to focus on any task at hand. I spilled food at dinner. I was basically acting like a normal human, which is not my strong suit, considering I’m a perfectionist. I looked at Jim and said, “I know what it feels like to not have things go well – and have what seems like everything fight against you. I know what it feels like to be you. And I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you to be you when I’m being critical.”

The man about. fell. over. He just looked at me with those big, defeated eyes and gave a breathy, exasperated, “Yea!”  

This revelation led to a single, simple thought: would you wanna hang out with you?

My simple answer: no.

I’m mean, critical, judgy, and definitely not a grace-giver. I’m everything Satan loves some days. And while we all know Satan is super fun to hang with (e.g., the dancing and drinking I did in college – which aren’t always sinful, but in my case…probably were a bit), we also know that Satan only provides a short term high, which ends in feeling totally lonely, isolated, and empty. And it got me thinking about when I’m more pleasant: when the devil’s on my shoulder, or God is guiding my thoughts and actions?

This seems like a no-brainer answer: when God is #1 in your life, right? But I honestly don’t know that I’m super fun in that mode. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got a lot great qualities that come out when I’m focused on a demeanor that is God-honoring. I’m actually pretty authentic, a decent listener, and quick to serve. But when the devil’s on my shoulder, I’m more likely to take risks, speak before thinking, and let my cockiness overpower my confidence. Maybe those aren’t great qualities, but haven’t you noticed people who get attention have those qualities? It starts as young as grade school, with students who act out getting the most teacher time. We’re drawn to sensational reality TV shows, and we are living in an era of a narcissistic president. Everything in our world screams to us: be louder and bolder than everyone else. And get rewarded.

As reflected on that, I thought: being a follower of Christ is BORING! No wonder so many don’t spend their time with Him. But then I reflected on those times I feel lonely, isolated, and empty as a result of shrugging off God and choosing the Devil. And I realized I feel more fulfilled, at peace, and calmer when I’m in strong relationship with Christ.

It’s tough to be counter-culture. It’s tough to not want to feel the high of hanging with the devil. It’s tough to stop being critical and love on people like Jesus does for me over and over again every day. Luckily, my two-year-old is my consistent reminder of this love Jesus offers. And yet it is amazing how quickly I can go from adoring love for this beautiful, constantly-in-awe human…to complete exhaustion and on-the-brink-angry-meltdown (that my husband and I call tapping out – “He’s yours. I’m tapping out”).

But today I was reminded that long-term, consistent joy is so much better than exciting, short-term happiness. People flock to that attitude, and can see Jesus living in you (which, is kind of the goal, Christians). And…no one likes a crabby, critical curmudgeon. So today I choose joy. And I’ll need to be reminded of this month after month for likely the rest of my life. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to a point where more often I’ll be less critical to those I love the most, and want to hang out with me than not. And maybe others will feel the same too.

If that fails, I’ll just buy wine. Friends always show up when there’s free wine, right?  🙂

I tried spiritually reaching out to my husband

I love growing in my faith. I love learning new things about God and new aspects of stories and situations in the Bible. But it’s really difficult to get excited about opening the Bible and just start reading, when I need context explained to me to really understand the passage. And a daily devotional doesn’t go deep enough to meet my need for learning.

I took a day off between Christmas and New Years, while my son went to daycare. I needed time to realign with my spiritual needs. So I went to a Christian bookstore and bought a few devotional books. I found a few and quickly swept them up for an inexpensive $30 (hurray, sales!). And I got started. But there was no one else reading with me. I wanted to have conversation about what I learning; that helps me process it and make it stick. And it is usually difficult to be motivated to do this reading after 9:30pm…once I’ve helped put the 2 year old in bed, finished any necessary household chores, attempted to do yoga (half the time I get sucked into other YouTube videos on the way to Yoga with Adriene), touched base with the husband, and accomplished my ready-for-bed routine.

So, I chose to be bold and ask my husband if he wanted to have a quiet time every evening together. We’d start small: read anything Biblical-focused for 10 minutes then pray together. He was a bit hesitant (due to nerves for what this might “look like” – and let’s be honest, probably more fearful of what a huge deal I might make it. I am an overplanner. That’s not always a good thing.) The only problem: I had material from the bookstore and he didn’t have much to work with. He asked me if I’d be willing to seek out something for him, or us to read together. I didn’t prioritize that action; I simply kept it in the back of my mind. But we stuck with this 10 minutes or reading and praying as best as possible – and only missed one or two nights per week. But it felt very separate. I liked the reading, but I was missing the “growing by talking about it” piece, and the actions we were taking weren’t totally helping us grow with God either (granted, this was a month-in, so a bit preliminary to make those kind of accusations).

Fast forward to the first week of February, and my decision to spend a Friday evening and most of Saturday attending the IF:Gathering in Lincoln. This was a choice I agonized over for weeks. When you work outside the home and away from your family full-time, evenings and weekends are extremely coveted time for the three of us. In addition to the mom guilt I feel for being away from lil O, do I really want to spend this time away from my boys? Jim, like the dreamy husband he is, encouraged me to go. And I got a friend hooked in too, so there was a bit of accountability factored in as well. 

But when I made the decision to commit, God showed up. IF:Gathering is a large women’s conference held annually in Texas – and live streamed across the globe. It’s just what I needed: to be reminded of God’s presence in my life, via inspirational speakers who are clearly walking close to Him. I learned about the many IF tools, and noticed their IF: Gathering app, a totally free resource with devotionals that involve reading, a short video, and a place to comment and connect with others in that community. It was designed for women, but I approached Jim with the tool to see his interest in it potentially being our “together” thing.

The verdict so far? I’d say it’s working. We connect most nights sometime between 9 and 10 o’clock to read a short IF:Gathering devotional (we’re in the Acts study right now) and, more importantly, use the one discussion question to spark conversation. Jim has said he’s enjoyed having something intentional to talk about that isn’t “the schedule.” I couldn’t agree more. When you’re in the day-to-day grind of who will pick up the kid from daycare, what meal to put on the table, and setting up numerous appointments, your brain runs out of energy for anything meaningful. The one conversation-starter question typically leads us onto other topics that challenge us, but best of all, reminds us of why we’re together: to grow together.meg-6-27-2010-wed0292

I was reminded of my favorite verse that can be related to married couples. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

We symbolically put this verse into action during our wedding ceremony, with us braiding a cord with three ropes. And it hangs in our bedroom as a reminder of our need for God in order for our marriage to survive – and, hopefully, also thrive.

I was really nervous about reaching out to Jim and asking him to do a quiet time with me. I was afraid of his rejection and also fearful he would be intimidated by me taking initiative on this ask. He knows I’m a very independent person (I can practically see him raise his eyebrows and speak under his breath, “you think?” to that statement), but I know I can be a little overpowering. But just like sex, money, or what to have for dessert at a restaurant, spiritual matters can be tough to bring up. Jim was all-in.

But God was at play in our circumstances. He knew we both needed time with Him and each other, and I’m thankful for his presence.

What it Really Means to be Blessed this Christmas

I use the word “blessed” to describe my needs being met, and more likely, my level of happiness with my current life circumstances. Which means I might feel blessed on Tuesday because Jim and I had a great conversation, but not so blessed on Friday when the kitchen is a giant mess. But this past weekend of advent, our church pastor gave a very different definition of blessed:

“Strengthened and repaired in every one of our human capacities, to be utterly transformed.”

Forgive me for not writing down his source, but it led me to check out dictionary definitions. Of course, descriptions ranged from “of or enjoying happiness” to “bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune.” But then others struck me: made holy, consecrated. Being blessed is a continual journey to reach out to Jesus in our good and bad times – all the times – every day, in an effort to grow to be more like Him.

Jeez. Talk about a slap in the face of this mama and wife who wants a candlelight Christmas eve service with the exact songs I want sung, in which we walk out into a beautiful, soft snow coming down. Then walk into a hot-and-ready dinner (where Owen doesn’t refuse to eat

potatoes), followed by all children quietly watching an old White Christmas movie with Bing Crosby (an old 2 hour musical) eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate in their Christmas pajamas. My expectations are always incredibly unrealistic…and we haven’t even nestled the children all snug in their beds yet.

 

It was a dang good reminder to recognize our reason for celebrating at all: the birth of our Savior.

Perspective is a powerful thing, isn’t it?

So this Christmas, may you sincerely be blessed by Christ the Savior who came to this earth for our salvation. And to come help a recovering Martha who is always in need of being reminded this life’s struggle is less about making Christmas perfect and more about continuing to find ways to involve Jesus.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

How Am I Formed in the Image of God?

Ever try gardening with a toddler? I spend most of my time saying, “Over here!” “Not that!” “Don’t pick the peppers; they aren’t ready!” I’m feeling all flustered and slightly ragey, then lil O hands me something that he’s so proud of picking, and my frustration melts away because he just looks so darn beautiful and curious! And that is how God has likely felt about me the past 32 years. “Wow, you’re a real catastrophe, Kristin. But dang, I love how cute you are.”

Raspberry picking - most are eaten on the spot, with very few left for...anything else.

Raspberry picking – most are eaten on the spot, with very few left for…anything else.

Since becoming a parent, I feel a new bond with God. I knew how it felt to be a daughter, and as I read Bible verses about “Father,” it was easy to relate the relationship between an earthly parent to a Heavenly One. But I never totally understood how God felt as my Heavenly Father until I became a mother and had feelings of fear for everything in Owen’s life. Fear for his safety (kidnapping, dying, you name it), fear for his physical and mental growth (we are just a bit slow on the “talking” front but I know it will come), fear of completely screwing him up by imposing too much “time out”/not enough “time out” and by not spending time with him because we both work full time. (I asked Jim what he fears for Owen, and he was along the same lines, although he did throw in a curve ball: “I fear Owen will like dance.” You know, like ballet classes. Spoken like a true dad, honey.)

Does God feel this same fear for me? Does he worry about safety, my development, my ability to play nice with others? (Still working on that one…) God knows everything, right? But if he is all-knowing, how does my free will factor in with God’s nervousness that I’ll make the right decision? Does God get scared and worried over me? What characteristics of parenting stressors do we truly share, and which are distractions from the devil that draw me further from Him?

Genesis 1:27 tells us we were formed or created in the image of God. So if we’re made in His image, is fearfulness part of God’s personality? I really sat and pondered this for a while, y’all, and did my typical Millennial action to find an answer: I Googled it.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us we can’t add a single hour to our life by worrying. And there are numerous other verses that encourage us to stop worrying (a struggle of mine that will never cease, mind you, but at least God does give me permission to calm down). So God is a total chill guy that never worries? Whoa. Just let that sink in. That is intense! And awesome! And why am I not friends with this guy and learning his tactics?

Oh. Because I’m not in the Word. Because I struggle or choose to not pray with Him. Because I let the devil take hold in my life. But mostly, because I won’t let Him. I can choose to let God take control of my life by letting go of my control. Hard to say. Even harder and crappier to do. For me, that means letting the little things go. Balancing the list and relationships. Smiling more. Choosing happiness. And giving grace.

I didn’t fully understand “grace” until a few short years ago. I got a recommendation from a friend to read Christian author Francine Rivers’s novel, “Redeeming Love.” It is based on the Bible story of Gomer, a prostitute who continues to run away from a man, Hosea, who never stops loving and forgiving her. The analogy is obviously describing our running away from a gracious God. But while reading it, I always thought of how giving and forgiving my husband is.

My husband is the second best grace-giver I know (after Jesus, of course). He told me “no big deal” when I forgot to make potato salad tonight to accompany dinner tomorrow. Y’all, I’m a Type-A Martha. I don’t give myself a break when I forget to make potato salad. I talk down to myself and I twist my stomach in knots with worry that those boys will have a miserable dinner because I didn’t make potato salad. (I’m extreme; I know.) But Jim honestly could not care less that I didn’t make potato salad. He didn’t want me to start the process at 9:30 at night because He wanted to talk to me, spend time with me (and go to bed early because we are parents of a toddler! T-I-R-E-D is an understatement). I’m beating myself up about potato salad and he could honestly care less.

Since becoming a wife, I know God a little better. I better understand God’s affection for me because of the grace my husband gives. And I honestly believe my relationship with my Savior is stronger because of my husband’s love for me. Jim’s words and actions continually reminds me that he is made in God’s image, and therefore everyone has a little piece of God about them. And I don’t know about you, but that man praying or talking about anything spiritual gets me more hot and bothered than a menopausal scientist on a volcano. I never thought a man with a heart for God would be my “turn-on” (that as well as romantic comedies and wine. You’d think Jim would have figured all this out by now and be getting more action, but I think romantic comedies are pretty painful for him).

God creates all of us with a little bit of Him invested in our personalities, and we get to experience His true heart when we have a mindset to let go and give. My boys give me grace every single day, and that in turn allows me to feel like I’ve been given permission to not be “on point” in every moment. And in those moments, I think God and I are closest because our hearts are becoming more knit as one. And thank God, because I need all the help I can get – especially when gardening with a toddler.

Taking My Blog to the Next Level

The past several months, I’ve joined a writing group, where a group of five women post a piece they’re writing and receive feedback on it. Some are blogging, others are book-writing. But we all have a faith in Jesus Christ as a commonality.

This writing group is getting me feedback that I hadn’t ever considered. Carmella reminds me that I’m not crazy (we all have similar experiences!). Kate is great at asking what take-aways I can share with readers. Kerry wants to know my feelings! Deb finds Jesus in every scenario. They’re always forcing me to “up my game” and take my processing to a next level.

And sometimes the feedback comes across a bit harsh – and I love that. I’m a “tough love” girl myself and tend to not soften criticism – a problem in my marriage, but not in a writer’s group!

I’ve invested more time and energy in this endeavor and submitted blogs to be published to a couple blogging communities. After many rejections, I got my first “yes!” Her View From Home (a Nebraska-based blogging community) published this post that very few close to me know anything about: our first miscarriage. And I bragged about it to everyone. A story that only a handful of people knew was suddenly available to the world – or at least to my Facebooageton-fall-2016k friends and those that followed Her View From Home. I took a big risk, and received nothing but support from my own community.

The writing group has made me grateful for the ways I’ve been stretched. I’m grateful for the critical and loving eyes on my deepest thoughts. I’m grateful for the ways I’ve been encouraged to risk – and feel all the feels. And while I’m not sure we’ll ever meet in this world, I’m looking forward to seeing them at that big party in heaven. Where there will be lots more writing. And wine. Lots of wine.

My Late Election Reaction

Y’all. The past two weeks have been wild. And I’m definitely not praying about it like I should be. I’m reading blogs and news articles in shock with opinions from all different directions.

The reaction to president-elect Donald Trump has been mixed as I scroll my social media feeds. I voted for Hillary Clinton, but I wasn’t necessarily a supporter: I was definitely one of those “lesser of two evils” voters.

img_1235I did wake up with fear on Wednesday morning after I learned Trump won. I feared a little for myself, but mostly I feared for non-whites, LGBT, non-Christians, and the list goes on. Because I have friends, co-workers, and former students that I personally know in every “minority” category. But I also recognize that I have white privilege, and therefore, while I am fearful of the negative culture Trump has now determined “ok,” I know my fear doesn’t compare to those who may be seriously affected as a result of his rhetoric.

These weeks have been a process of taking in the reactions of the world and sorting out my own feelings for myself. I’ve read liberal bloggers shake their heads in disbelief as to what America has deemed “acceptable,” and tried to understand the point of view from conservative bloggers. Two helpful conservative articles on that front include:

An Open Letter to Democrats, from a Millennial Republican – Micaela Meadows

I love this line: Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Open Letter to All the Whiny Safe Space Liberals Crying over our ‘Racist’ and ‘Sexist’ Country – Hannah Bleau

Even though this post has some serious anger issues, I appreciate Hannah’s ability to say (in a not so P.C. kind of way) the same as Micaela: just because Trump makes racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/etc. comments, does not mean she is those things. There were certain issues that were really important to her. And that deserves to be validated.

And while I appreciate the positive dialogue some are processing and sharing, others are headed down a negative path. One conservative posted photos of Democrats looking sad with one-word commentary: “Priceless.” And I absolutely support protesting, but this AJ+ video (a liberal media outlet) seems to encourage violence and extreme reaction. Everything Democrats appeared to work for, like openness to all, appears to be completely forgotten.

So what I do with all this information flying at me? How do I absorb it? And, honestly, how I do not despair with the division among people seen in their angry comments online?

First, I’m choosing to move forward. The votes are in. Donald Trump will be our next president. And I’m going to accept that and wish him the best. He needs all the hope and prayers he can get. Anyone would. That has got to be the toughest job on earth. So I ask you to pray with me.

Second, I’ve been encouraged by several social media posts that guided me to not put all my hopes and fears in a single president. Rather, recognize that God is almighty King of all. At first, that seemed a little hokey and denial of reality. But then I realized this is absolutely the response God calls of us. Earthly leaders will come and go, but the way we treat others is a legacy Christians leave with so many. And I hope those of us that believe God is bigger than an election will keep Him at the center of our thoughts and interactions as we usher in a new era: a Trump presidency.