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A note on political shaming

I don’t know who will hear this message but I need to say it.

This is aimed at those who consider themselves Christians. I have seen too much hate and division and I’ve seen it coming from Christians and even from religious leaders and “Christian” publications.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man to kindling strife. ——Proverbs 26:21

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? —James 4:1

Hatred stirs up trouble, but love forgives all wrongs. —Proverbs 10:12

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. —Proverbs 13:10

What is it that sets us apart from non believers? Is it the great works we do? Is it the way we carry ourselves, far above our less than holy brethren? Is it our excellent wisdom in who we vote for? Is it our ability to use Bible quotes to try to shame those who vote differently than we do? Is it to share articles that support our views and bash those that don’t? No.

What sets us apart is that we know Jesus died in our place. Jesus died because of YOUR sin and because of MY sin. This is what makes us Christian. Not the works or service we do. Not because we wear a mask or because we didn’t vote for this terrible person or with THAT particular issue.

So now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some other truths. The most loving thing we can do for others is get them to believe the gospel truth. That is how we care about their eternal soul.

Taking care of people in this life is nice too, but it is not near as important as taking care of their soul and we do that by sharing the gospel.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

As Christians, our love for one another should be so extraordinary that those who don’t know the gospel will know that it can’t be from man alone and they will believe.
It’s not easy to love everyone. Sometimes it’s beyond what we are capable of doing. That’s where God comes in. That’s what should definitely set us apart. Love doesn’t mean not holding people accountable. People who commit crimes should be held accountable to their actions, this IS love. Love looks like giving them a fair trial and punishment that doesn’t strip away their dignity.

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.— Corinthians 14:4-8

When we tear other people down over the way they vote or the reasons they vote, we are not loving them.

In 2020, these were the presidental options Christians had:
1.) Do not vote for a president because all choices are evil in some way or another
2.) Vote for Donald Trump
3.) Vote for Joe Bide 4.)Vote for a third party candidate or write in

That’s it. Those were your choices. Those were everyone’s choices. Can anyone tell me that among those choices there is one of them that brings the voter salvation and one that does not? There’s not. Because who you vote for and your reasons for that vote are not what saves you. With choices like the ones listed above, thank God for that!

Thank God that our salvation does not depend on any of the things we do except accepting Jesus as our personal Savior.

Now, if we want to bring others to salvation, shaming them for how they voted in the 2020 election for whatever reasons they made that choice doesn’t seem to be an effective way of going about it.

Sure, there are times that we as Christians are to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ from erring with Biblical truth. Since the 2020 election and the correct choice are missing from the Bible, I don’t really see how someone can legitimately point out to their brethren, what the wrong choice is. There is no perfect choice because we live in an imperfect world. Some may argue well this is the least evil choice, but that’s all personal opinion based on what is most important to your imperfect heart.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? —Jeremiah 17:9

If we want to change people’s hearts for the better, why not allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in them? Again, the best way to do that is to let them hear the true gospel message.

We should be very careful as Christians that we are not slipping into the hearts of the religious elite that Jesus warned us about. Remember the prayer of the sinner?

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” —Luke 18:10-18

Once people have received the Holy Spirit, they will want to do good works. However, we need to be careful that we don’t feel righteous by the things we do or believe. Even good works when done for the wrong reasons will be counted against us. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

In the parable, a father has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance and leaves his home to pursue a life of wild pleasures. He spends every last dime on drinking and women and gambling. When he runs out of money he goes back to his father.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The son who had worked diligently with his father all along was angry that his father would celebrate and throw a big feast for his brother when he had been there working and living rightly all along.

This is exactly what we do when we think we are justified by our good works and good causes against those who live differently than we do or even think or vote differently than we do. Our works are good but there’s no love in our heart or grace or mercy for those that we feel are less deserving.

The true believer extends grace to all sinners because they humbly know that they too are undeserving of grace, but that it was given to them anyway.

I know it’s not easy to love people who act in ways that are hateful towards us. Remember, loving someone does not mean we invite them into our lives and let them spew hate at us. We should have loving boundaries but it does mean treating them with kindness and dignity when they are not doing the same for us.

I’m fortunate enough to have some good women in my life that remind me of these Biblical truths when I want to bite back. Instead they remind me that I need to be praying for these people and they are so right.

So you may feel good in the moment slamming someone else’s political view on social media. You may feel righteous sharing that religious article that agrees with your viewpoint to try to show others they are wrong. But maybe the best thing you can do is pray for those that hate you and pray for your own heart as well. I ALWAYS think I’m right. So I’ve learned that I need to pray for wisdom to know when my heart is deceiving me and for the humility to admit it.

If anyone wants to know more about the true gospel of Christ, I would love to talk to you. If you are curious or maybe have had a really bad experience with “Christianity” you are not alone. There is much out there that’s fake or false. I am more than happy to help you find the truth. Hint: it’s in the Scriptures.

Much love to all of you, even to those with whom I disagree.

The beauty of depletion

Though I’m not exactly logging lots of miles these days, I can still remember very vividly the long miles of marathon training. There’s something that happens at the end of a 20-22 mile run that is downright beautiful.

Those last couple miles are hard work. You’re tired and likely running low on fuel. Your legs and lungs maybe burn as you push yourself to your absolute limit, knowing that it will all be over soon.

Once finished, you experience that complete and total depletion. You’ve left it all out on the road and now your body is completely empty. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s sort of this wonderful feeling. It takes effort to walk around and stretch your aching muscles and that moment right before that first sip of water or first bite of food is sort of magical. It’s that emptiness and depletion and knowing you’re about to replenish, and that you’ll be better than you were before…

And the next time you run further, it’s because you gave all you could before. It’s this emptying and rebuilding stronger that makes it possible to get through 26.2 miles. You don’t decide to just run a marathon one day and go out and do it. You must go through the depletion and rebuilding, over and over again to get strong enough to run the whole thing.

This depletion has happened for me in other aspects of life too. I went through most of my life as some what of a watered down Christian. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. When I finally was ready, I took it all in. I had to go through that same depletion in order to really build back better. I had to give up everything I was and everything I was holding onto that was holding me back to let Jesus’s saving grace make me new. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing it is to feel completely wiped clean and start over without any baggage.

The last several years I’ve been going through this process. Tearing down so many of the walls I had built up because of my past and my misguided understanding of it. Healing takes time, and it involves the constant depletion and building back anew.

2020 was a different year for all of us and it’s interesting to see where it takes people. As we go into the new year, I’ve felt this depletion going on inside of me for some time. And, if I’m honest, it feels just as magical as it did after those long runs so many years ago. I feel like 2020 finally gave me the courage to get rid of so many of the things I had been holding onto for too long.

I took a couple of breaks from social media and learned a lot about both social media and about myself. I noticed how much I had been censoring myself because I didn’t want to offend anyone or for anyone to be upset with me because my opinions are not necessarily in agreement with theirs. But I’m done with that.

I’ve found in my little community people that love me exactly the way that I am and I enjoy it so much because I’m 100% myself. It’s so freeing.

So I’m planning on saying goodbye to the unnecessary guilt, the second guessing, the worrying if I’m liked enough by people that I maybe don’t even like myself. I’ll apologize for my mistakes and not wallow in guilt afterwards. I’ll spend time with people who accept me, all of me, for who I really am, and not some image I portray myself to be to appease them. I’ll speak the truth, even when it’s hard. I’ll be kind, even if people are not being kind to me, and even if I’m still telling an unpopular truth.

I’ll let myself be emptied of all the negativity and fear and humiliation and mockery. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, it matters what God thinks of me and only He knows my true heart. I’ll allow myself to be replenished only with truth and light.

In 2021 it’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me. And I’m not going to worry about it. I encourage others to do the same. Let yourself completely be emptied of all the judgments and false guilt and responsibilities you’ve taken for other people’s lives and happiness and fill yourself back up with the things that will allow you to build up better in 2021.

This world has become a completely toxic place. Acknowledge that fact, and things will be easier. You can’t change it or fix it, but just knowing and accepting that it’s toxic will help you to not let it abuse you too. Stay away from the toxic things that want to suck you in and build the things that are light and truth. For me, that looks like God, family, friends, exercise, nature, knowledge and giving/volunteering.

Cheers to the new year!

Preparing our hearts

When I started maturing spiritually, initially, things in my life seemed to be getting much better. Relationships improve when you’re able to humble yourself and see your own faults and then able to truly love those around you. Then something unexpected happened.

Sometimes when we start growing spiritually and feel convicted of so many of the issues in our own hearts like pride, envy, and greed just to name a few, we also start to see with a new clarity these same struggles in others.

This is where another trap is set to ensnare us in pride and self righteousness. If we take the bait and allow ourselves to condemn others. Again though, if we are living in the Spirit ourselves, we should know this too is wrong. So what do we do when we see our loved ones getting caught up in sins that our eyes can plainly see but theirs cannot.

This was truly something I struggled with as my faith was growing. I didn’t want to be judgmental as I knew I too was guilty and in truth still struggle with those same sins. I started having this internal struggle in some relationships where I realized things were maybe not as they seemed.

What kind of things am I talking about? Well, pride is definitely a big one. It has been one areas I’ve felt convicted of maybe more so than any other. It is pride that causes us to resist loving correction and justify our own faulty thoughts and actions. Once I could see it in myself, I started to really see it in others. People that will not submit to Jesus or to anyone else, so convinced they are in the right.

I also see a lot of idolatry. No one I know is worshiping a golden calf but they definitely have their hearts set to the gains in this world more than they do for pleasing God. Vanity, wanting the approval of men and boasting are all things that have come to light in some of these relationships and I’ve struggled with how to deal with that.

The Bible tells us that we should first remove the log from our own eyes before removing the spec from our brothers so I believe we need to take a harsh look at ourselves first. If we feel convicted on these things and continue to strive to overcome our biggest struggles I think we have a right heart for wanting to help others.

The Bible also tells us that we should deal with these issues with the person directly and if they don’t listen, we should bring other witnesses. This is what’s hard. I truly can’t imagine pulling some of these people aside and saying “I really love you but I think your faith is severely lacking”. I really just can’t imagine that going well. Now if a friend were caught up in some truly horrible scheme that seems very different but I’m talking about these things that are so hidden from their hearts that I truly don’t think I or anyone else can convict them on. I know how it would have gone over had someone approached me years ago about these things. Not well. I would have justified my own faults all the more and thought them to be rather arrogant.

So what can we do in these relationships? Here’s what I think.

1.) Pray. Pray for these people you care about to have their eyes opened and to feel convicted of God. Pray hard and pray specifically for these things and leave it in God’s hands.

2.) Try to lead by example. This goes back to making sure the log is out of your own eye. If you are living a life that doesn’t worship these false gods it can be a motivator to those around you. You may not see it having an affect but remember that God holds the power to soften someone else’s heart and we never know in what way He May use us.

3.) Speak truth, not flattery. When we are around these people make sure we are staying in the light. If they start gossiping near you, walk away to send a message that you will not participate. With your tongue do not speak harsh words against someone else. Do not try to show off with your friends or boast. Be kind with your words without flattering just to be liked and accepted.

4.) If you find yourself tempted in these relationships to fall back into old patterns that are harmful you may need to make some difficult decisions about what relationships you can stay in and which ones you may need to move on from. You can still act lovingly to people and not allow them to harm you spiritually by setting good boundaries.

I hope this helps someone. It can be difficult growing spiritually while others in our life remain stuck but with the right heart we can love them and love God.

Finding truth

These are my thoughts. You may disagree with them. You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mind. I will respect your views, please also respect mine.

As the contentious election draws nearer and nearer, I see so much negativity all around. People are suffering because it’s just a lot to handle. Families and churches are fighting. What for? Is it really worth it? I see Christians using Scripture to back up their opinions on both sides and it’s easy for people to feel lost and alone.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s not.

I’m going to talk religion here for a bit. The number one thing we as Christians are supposed to do is LOVE! Love God with our whole hearts, and then to love our neighbors. Not love our neighbors that are good people. Love ALL our neighbors. I can almost here the objections piling in. Love our selfish neighbors? Umm, yep, now let me explain.

Loving someone doesn’t say becoming friends with them or breaking bread with them. It doesn’t even mean we have to try to persuade them to our views of things. Loving someone means treating them with dignity, as a human being created in God’s own image, even if we are arresting them or holding them accountable. So for example, I can abhor someone’s views and still love them by removing them from my life if need be, but not calling them names or talking about them behind their backs, etc.

We’re fighting about masks and about politics and people are making it about who is a better person and they are justifying their own unloving and degrading behavior towards others because they hold their positions to be morally superior!

But have some of you fellow Christians asked what Jesus would actually do if He were here on Earth today? I have. I’ve seen some people say Jesus would wear a mask and I honestly don’t see why? If a masks purpose is to protect others from the wearers germs, why would He need to wear one? He healed the sick, did not spread disease. And we know that He couldn’t GET sick from anyone else! Don’t think that means I’m anti-mask! Hold on a minute!

As Christians, I believe we should feel compelled to do everything we can to protect life and the sanctity of it. We are not Jesus and are not immune to catching or spreading the diseases of this world! So I believe in some situations it IS the right thing to wear a mask. But everyone has different ideas of what those situations are.

The issue has become so heavily politicized and I see so many Christians acting like Pharisees, putting on their masks when no one else is around them and posting pictures on social media just to show how good they are. They complain loudly on social media about those who don’t wear a mask and blame them solely for the spread. God sees their hearts.

I have a son who is too young to wear a mask (and good luck keeping it on him even if it was recommended, I can’t keep a hat on his head when it’s 40 degrees out). When we go indoors, my family physically distances from strangers to prevent the spread but that didn’t stop me from getting mask shamed by a woman who I never got within 12 feet of. And I’m not the only one this has happened to.

Suddenly, having children that 100% comply with the mask requirements is a sign of being a good parent. My girlfriend witnessed me carrying out my 4 year old literally kicking and screaming from a store on vacation because she just would not wear the required mask. I guess that makes me an abysmal failure as a mom because Karen’s two year old is trained to wear his perfectly.

Kids are kids. Sometimes they make us proud and other times they are embarrassing the heck out of us. There is also a full spectrum of children with conditions like ADHD or autism to sensory disorders for which complying with the mask mandate may just be impossible.

I also know medically fragile adults that are not supposed to wear a mask yet do because they don’t want to face all the hate.

We should all do our part to not contribute to the spread of Covid 19. Understand that this may look quite different for some people than it does for others. Be loving. Question your own heart and what’s really driving the bitterness beneath it.

The media is pitting us against each other. We have this 24/7 news cycle that is constantly telling us to hate. We don’t have to abide. We can again, question the feelings of our own hearts when we start getting angry at a group of people for whom our views differ. We can listen to the other side instead of talking so much.

My son cut his upper lip a few weeks ago and it looked really bad so I took him to the ER. He was SCREAMING the entire time we were there, and wouldn’t let me set him down so he was screaming right in my ear! As the doctor was trying to talk to me with his mask on while my toddler was screaming in my ear, I couldn’t get anything he was saying and I was pretty close to tears myself! When he left, I was in the room with the nurse and I was trying to listen to her and my son kept angrily pulling down my mask. I looked at the nurse as I kept trying to fix it and apologized and she smiled at me with kind eyes and said “don’t worry about it. I don’t care if you have your mask on right now, you are dealing with a lot!” And she saw me as a human and she saw me as a mom and this is why I love nurses.

Jesus ate with the most obscene of society and was hated for it. Because the religious elite at the time couldn’t stand His message that the content of their hearts was of more concern than the things they did. And a dirty sinner that knew he was a dirty sinner and needed saving received the bigger reward than the religious elite that did everything right but was arrogant and had hate in his heart.

What’s in your heart? Are you contributing to the hate and negativity in the culture or are you giving out love and grace? I know I need to be reminded constantly of what my priorities are which is why I have to value reading the Bible and hearing the Word over reading the news.

Fall is here, back to school?

“If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever homeschool my kids, I would have laughed.” I was telling my high school friends this just last week. Welcome to 2020 and all the other crazy things I never would have believed would happen this year as I stared it down December 31st of 1999 when everyone was freaking out about Y2K!

I have decided to homeschool my 2nd grader this year. It was by no means an easy decision. If you see the dark circles under my eyes, a lot of it is from lost sleep over this decision. That said, as we edged closer and closer to the start of school in some form, I’ve felt more and more confident that it’s the best for our family.

There are many reasons that in person school didn’t feel right to us this year. There were also a lot of reasons the online option didn’t appeal to us. Now that more information has been released, it’s even less appealing. To be clear, I’m not blaming teachers, administrators or schools in any way for their decisions. Family and friends of mine are teachers and I know some of what they have been going through lately too and wish everyone could understand the impossible situations they are facing.

I thought our teachers did a fantastic job this spring with no training and no time and many of them small children at home to take care of. Even with the fantastic job they did, the online format just did not work well for us. For one thing, we don’t have reliable, fast internet. It seemed with Tim working from home and using it too, we had daily issues.

Then there was the whole computer aspect. If Alex accidentally clicked something I would have to help her get back to wear she was.

Then there was just the fact that she hated watching videos. She’s a bright girl and I don’t say that to brag at all, rather to try to explain the depth of the frustrations she faced. She hated watching a 15 minute video lesson when she knew how to do it. I would catch her yelling at the screen.

We also don’t do a ton of screen time and it’s not an exaggeration when I say that I saw some very clear anger issues rising up that I believe were a direct result of all that screen time. For older kids, the online learning might be better, but for my very active 7 year old, it’s just not what she needs.

So I never thought I’d be homeschooling but here we are! Now let me talk about the positives. Maybe this can help another parent who is struggling with what to do. Maybe I can encourage someone that they can do it!

The first positive is that I live in a wonderful neighborhood with amazing neighbors, many of whom will be homeschooling for the first time too. Not everyone has that so I feel so very thankful. My kids will still be able to socialize during the day.

Next, I can work to her pace. In an online setting the teachers can’t tell who is following along and who is stuck. I can take extra time on the areas she is struggling with and also move more quickly in the areas in which she is excelling.

It’s not as much “work” as I thought. When you remove riding the bus, having the kids stop by their lockers, getting the class ready to learn, moving to and from recess and specials there is a lot of time spent on that that doesn’t happen at home. For second grade it’s about 1.5 hours a day of schoolwork. Not 6 hours. And there are so many parts we can make fun. So much learning happens in just living. And if you are very intentional about it, you can turn many every day activities into learning. My kids love exploring nature and I’ve been more conscious about the conversations we have.

Our set up will not be affected if the schools need to shut down again. We won’t be thrown into a new online program and trying to change our home dynamics completely again. I do anticipate this new adventure will be difficult at times. I don’t think it will be easy. That said, I don’t anticipate it to be more challenging than the spring was for our family.

Finally, my daughter’s and our family’s mental health is a huge consideration. While I noticed some times of stress in Alex during the online schooling in the spring, as a whole, she has been thriving. I say this with humble gratitude of the neighborhood community in which we live. If I was upset or stressed out about the state of our country, my kids didn’t know it. I’m not saying they don’t know there’s a pandemic going on, they do. It’s still affecting many aspects of our lives. However, I don’t believe it benefits them (or really any of us) to live in that constant cycle of stress.

Also, our family has the flexibility to travel as we wish without worrying about her being pulled out of school. We purchased a new camper this summer and there are plenty of great fall camping opportunities both near and far and sometimes when the stress of the world is getting to be too much, it’s been great to get away and unplug for a bit.

I’m getting more and more excited the closer we get to starting! I know there’s a lot of strong opinions about what parents should do. I want to stress to other parents that there is no right decision and there is no wrong decision. You have to do what works best for your family and not allow others to make you feel guilty for your choices. I know some people won’t like that my daughter is not going to the public school. Hopefully they will be happy to know I’m doing a partnership. What this means is that my daughter will count for the school to receive money from the state and in return the school pays for a couple of classes. We chose for Alex to take a ninja class once a week (this is entirely dependent on the facility being able to hold classes which has not happened yet) and then we chose a monthly box subscription. The subscription box is a nature kit and we just received the first one and it’s so cool!

I plan to write about and share some of our experiences, hopefully to encourage others! One of the things I’ve found is that the homeschooling community is amazing and the parents that have been doing it have been more than willing to help us first timers get started. They are so so nice and welcoming!

For those reading who are not making these difficult choices, my only request is just to be supportive of the people in your life that are making these decisions with their kids. Their choice may not be what you would do, but trust that they know their kids and family dynamics the best and that likely there is no perfect option. I do get emotional when I think about my daughter missing out on art and music and PE class. I think about not hearing her sing at Christmas, and how she was so brave to go out for and sing a solo last year. I think about the football games she went to and the various parties and events we went to. Then I remind myself that these things are likely not going to happen this year if she were going to school anyway. We are all doing the best we can with a very difficult situation. I’m hoping that we end up having lots of fun and enjoy some extra family bonding and make the sweetest lemonade from these sour lemons.

Lastly, I’m thankful. It’s worth saying again. The children and teachers very much need our love and support and prayers right now. Nearly 4 years ago when Tim and I were thinking of me leaving my career and staying home this was not a situation we ever thought we would encounter. I remember something my aunt said to me, “The Lord will provide”, which I clung to during those first couple really tough years. Additionally, when I look back at us purchasing our house 12 years ago, we just liked the house and yard and the fact it was in a court. I couldn’t have imagined then how our neighbors would become like family to us.

Parents, I wish you all the best this school year with whatever you chose!

Boundaries

cyclone fence in shallow photography

Photo by Travis Saylor on Pexels.com

This is part 3!  Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

To recap, once you know you’re in a relationship with an abuser and you’ve realized you need to hold them accountable, the next step is developing some healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are healthy and keep us physically and emotionally safe.

It’s so important to teach children about boundaries from a very young age. They don’t have a ton of property they own but they absolutely own their own bodies and have a right to decide how to use them. Don’t force a child to be affectionate with someone if they don’t want to be. Once your children are old enough to be independent in the bathroom they absolutely have a right to privacy! I’ve heard stories about dads who remove locks from bathroom doors because he doesn’t want to allow his children any privacy! Remember, abuse is all about power and control.

Abusers hate boundaries!

To protect yourself from an abuser you MUST enforce boundaries. They will do everything they can to convince you that you shouldn’t have boundaries or that your boundaries are unfair. This is further proof that you are dealing with an abuser.

I was watching re-runs of the Office last night and in the episode Jim was in Florida for work with some co-workers and his wife Pam was back at home. He befriended a woman but one night she came to his hotel room in a t-shirt and shorts with a story that they were fixing the heat in her room.  She wanted to hang out in his room while she waited. Jim said yes, but his guard went up immediately when she hopped right onto his bed. She continued to test his boundaries by taking a shower in his room, coming out in a robe and then snuggling up close to him under the sheets. That was the last straw and he finally jumped up and told her he was married and that her behavior was unacceptable. Before he finally confronted her we could see him growing increasingly uncomfortable and this is how we know someone is violating our boundaries.  We can feel it!

Other examples of boundary violations include financial “gifts” that people give expecting control in return. It is not a boundary violation for a parent to threaten not to pay college tuition if a kid can’t get his grades up, but it IS a boundary violation to only pay a kids college tuition if they go into the program of the parent’s choosing.

If a kid wants to be a teacher and the parents only will pay for med school, the kid has to decline the money and pay his own way or take out loans to get out from under the abuse.

As an adult, we leave our father and mother and become one with our spouse, therefore starting our own family unit. Your parents do not have a right to make demands of you and your new family that do not align with your values on your time, money or children. You have to say no to financial gifts that come with strings attached.

Back to my story with my abuser; one day he lost his job and arrived home drunk and he and his wife got into an argument and he took off on foot. Once again, many people were very worried about him and tried calling to check on him and he waited until the wee hours of the night before letting anyone know he was ok. I was finally at the point that I could no longer just accept his apology and pretend everything was fine.

I made it clear that I believed he needed to go through an intense, in-house rehab. Of course he had all these excuses for why he couldn’t go.  The truth of it was that he didn’t want to go. He wanted to apologize for getting caught again and then go back to hiding and lying.

When abusers are caught or know they went too far they often go through “compliance” for a bit to try to win you back. In their heart, they KNOW they have no real intention of changing but they know they need to be on their best behavior just long enough to get you to let down your guard again.

My abuser said he was sorry and started going to AA meetings and to a religious counselor with his wife. This is the same old song and dance he had been doing for years and I didn’t believe him. I had no reason to!  If someone is a repeat offender, they absolutely should understand that they have to EARN your trust back.  If they demand you to move on right away, that is PROOF that they are not changing at all.

So I stuck to my boundary. I told him he was not welcome at my house anymore unless he went to rehab or I saw some real changes in his behavior.

So a couple months passed and not spending time with him proved to be very good for me! I was less anxious, sleeping better and felt I was a better mom and wife without him in my space. He texted me one day and immediately my mood darkened. He said he had been sober for 8 weeks now and he was going to counseling and AA meetings, so couldn’t he come visit? That wasn’t my deal. He was trying to get me to break my boundary. I held firm.

So how do you know when someone is really changing? How does the church sometimes hurt instead of help when dealing with abusers?  I’ll cover that next.

You’re in an abusive relationship, now what?

close up photography of leaves with droplets

Photo by sohail na on Pexels.com

My last post was about figuring out you’re in an abusive relationship, read that post here. If you are in danger, please, please get help from the professionals. My experience is not so much about abusive partners, but relationships outside of my home, so that is the depth of my experience.

Get help if you are in an abusive relationship here.

Abusive relationships can happen with parents, siblings, bosses, friends, co-workers, neighbors or people within the church. Sometimes adult children can even become abusers to their parents. (Abuse is all about power and control of another person and starts in the person’s heart/mind)

I’m going to speak from experience here and talk about my particular case, though I will not be naming who the person is.

Some time ago, after my middle child was born I became upset with this person for a lack of communication issue. It was a completely forgivable offense on his part but I needed him to know that it put me in a difficult position and I hoped he would just apologize and we could all move on. Instead, he told me that none of it was his fault, started blaming others and told me he shouldn’t have to apologize to me.

My husband immediately came to my defense and this person started yelling at both of us, in our own home, in the presence of our children and telling us that we think we are better than everyone else, and going off about how he’s so tired about having to walk on eggshells around us with our perfect life. Then he took off.

This left a huge mess. Some people were crying and others were scared.

I thought I was doing the “right thing” by calling him and apologizing. I was wrong, and understand that now. This is just another way I was enabling the behavior by trying to diffuse what had suddenly become a very dramatic situation. So when I apologized to him, he didn’t soften his heart at all. He took it as another opportunity to further ridicule me. He said “Fine. I’ll come back but you know you really (expletive) me off and you need to know that I will not put up with that!”

So he returned and instead of coming in the house, he sat in our driveway in the car for 15 minutes. My husband had made dinner and everyone was pretty much not sure what his next move was so my husband decided to go talk to him.  (This is a power move too.  He knew that his presence in the driveway was intimidating and he was going to sit there until someone else came to him)

As soon as my husband got out there and asked him if he was ok he got out of his car and started swearing at my husband and throwing things around in his car in a rage. Then he drove off again. My husband was convinced he had been drinking and we should have called the police, but we didn’t. He turned off his cell phone leaving other members of his family completely stranded. My husband had to drive them home, 45 minutes each way, leaving me home with a 3 year old and 3 week old baby.

No one slept that night worrying about him, which is what he wanted.

I got a text several days later where he “apologized” for his behavior but pointed out that someone else in my family told him that my “postpartum hormones” were likely the cause and that he had no idea postpartum hormones could cause me to behave that way because his wife had NEVER had that issue!! So…basically, “I’m saying sorry because I know I have to, but really it’s all your fault, and in case you’re wondering someone else agrees with me about that too!”

This is abuse! He completely justified his behavior to himself! Instead of taking responsibility for his actions he made excuses and pretty much made it clear it was all my fault. And threw in another family member as evidence, causing me to then be upset with that person too!

But it’s effective. I had to ask my husband and tell a few other trusted confidants my story to ask if I was in the wrong or was he? Truthfully his behavior had been so outrageous that I was embarrassed to tell many people about it.  

Conflicts can occur in ANY relationship.  There is NOTHING wrong with telling someone that their actions upset you or caused you strife.  His reaction to my confronting him was the problem.  This had NOTHING to do with postpartum hormones.  We can own our tone.  I may not have expressed my frustration with the best tone, but that in NO WAY excuses anything he did next.  And women, we need to be very careful of people that will criticize us for bringing up any kind of complaint when we are pregnant or post-partum or have PMS.  Abusers absolutely will use this as an excuse to confuse us by telling us we are over-reacting, over emotional, etc.  Anything to take the blame off of them.  Its abuse.  Plain and simple. 

Now I made a huge mistake in letting him off the hook. I believed that I was doing the right thing as a Christian because we are told to forgive others, as we have been forgiven. This is absolutely true and it’s a requirement, BUT, and this is a huge BUT…forgiveness takes place between the victim and God, not the victim and the abuser!

To forgive someone it means that you go to God and give it up to Him. You don’t try to get revenge against that person and you don’t go around bad mouthing them to anyone that will listen. It means in your heart you have no malice towards that person, and you wish them well. That is forgiveness. Christians and even the Christian church get confused sometimes between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness as a Christian is REQUIRED, but reconciliation is not.

So the first thing you have to do once you realize you are dealing with an abusive person is to hold them accountable.

Once again, I will reiterate that this is specifically NOT in reference to those being physically abused. It may be dangerous for them to try to do these things. Also, if this person is your boss, you may not be able to hold them accountable so I highly recommend carefully looking for a new job.  If they catch wind that you are looking to leave they might do everything in their power to discredit you and tarnish your reputation.  Get out!!

By allowing my abuser off the hook so easily he did not have to go through the process of genuine repentance, and it’s no surprise that the relationship continued to deteriorate.

I told my abuser that he was forgiven, but I really wasn’t over it. His actions and even his apology were very hurtful and he seemed perfectly content to act as though things were completely fine, as though nothing had ever happened. I was not fine. Whenever he was around I started to feel very uneasy. And that feeling is very much an indication that everything is NOT ok!

Remember how I said that my husband and I both thought that this person had been drinking? Well he completely denied it and held tight to his denial. I wasn’t until a month later when he was caught red handed, that he finally admitted it. I absolutely believe 100% he would have NEVER told the truth about this if he hadn’t been caught. He felt completely justified in his lying because of that internal justification he was going through. Further proof that he was NOT convicted on his own and coming clean as a choice.

My sin, and yes, I do believe it was sin on my part that didn’t hold him accountable, allowed him to continue in his sin. And it started to take its toll on me.

Whenever he was around over the next year I became very anxious and uneasy. I was afraid to confront him about anything, which is exactly what he wanted. So when he was at my house and not following my rules with my kids I would speak to my kids about the behavior instead of confronting him directly. I would get so frustrated with him but I had no outlet.  I often took it out on my husband because my husband was “safe”. Instead of telling this person it was time for him to leave, and confronting him when he continued to get my kids all riled up and completely ignored my authority, I would tell my kid “Guys, I said it’s time to say bye!” I started to dread seeing him at all. I became anxious a lot of the time and at holidays and birthday parties, I became really uptight and had a hard time even enjoying these moments.

This is the result of forcing “forgiveness” before the proper conditions have been met. True forgiveness is a wonderful thing and can restore the relationship to a better one than existed before. The uneasiness and anxiety I felt around him were proof that this had not occurred.

So to recap, it’s crucial when dealing with an abusive person to label it for what it is, and hold the person accountable. Next, you need to create and enforce boundaries to protect yourself. I’ll write my next post about that. 

Abuse, forgiveness and reconciliation

It’s been about a year since I spilled my heart out writing about my separation from my dad. There’s not really a great word for that I guess, so separation will have to do.

In the time that has passed, I’ve continued to feel that my decision was the right one. I’ve also done a lot more soul searching and growing and felt inspired to write about the things I’ve learned.

Let’s start with the word abuse. What does that mean to you? I used to believe it meant physical or sexual abuse. These were the things they mostly taught us about in school. I had no idea that verbal and emotional abuse were even a thing. (Parents, talk to your children about these things and from an early age)

At the very heart of abuse is the mind. It’s a mindset of gaining power and control over another person by whatever means are at the abusers arsenal. That includes physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. Oftentimes in the worst cases it includes ALL of the above.

It all starts with the abuser believing they are entitled to some form of control over their victims. While many abusers use their physical strength to over power their victims into submission, others will manipulate by other means. Often, this doesn’t happen immediately into the relationship but it builds slowly over time. For example, if you are dating someone and they start trying to convince you that something is wrong with all of your friends or family. They don’t do it overtly, but slowly over time they begin pointing out all their “faults” under the guise that they are just trying to “protect you” from these people. It’s less to do with the people and everything about getting you isolated so that they become the person you rely on for support.

Secular and religious counselors have different explanations for the errors in thinking that drive this mindset. However, the end result is much the same.

The secular theory that we all have a set of morals that we feel we should live by parallels with the Christian view that we all have been born with this sense of right vs. wrong. The secular view says when we behave in ways that go against this inner feeling of morals, we start this justification process of internally justifying in our head what we did to avoid the feelings of guilt. In Christian terms we would call this guilt from our transgressions or sins.

In Christianity when we feel this guilt, we have two choices. The first is that we start justifying our actions in our hearts and minds. Something like this…

“I didn’t mean to get so mad at her. She seems pretty upset, maybe I should go apologize. But I wouldn’t have blown up at her like that if she hadn’t disrespected me! Who does she think she is! I was right putting her in her place a little. Maybe next time she’ll think twice about asking me questions like that!”

So he started off knowing he was wrong for losing his temper. Then he started listening to the voice in his own head telling him he had every right. He was justifying his actions. The Bible tells us that the more we do this, the easier it becomes. It’s called hardening of the heart.

The second choice would be to allow ourselves to feel convicted. We messed up and we feel bad because we know we messed up. Instead of trying to justify our actions to ourselves we allow ourselves to feel convicted and take responsibility. It looks like this…

“I really shouldn’t have blown up at her like that. I can see I really upset her. I hate feeling so lousy, I should go apologize and make sure she knows I care.”

When we allow ourselves to feel convicted and take responsibility we are humbled and absolved of the guilt we feel. This is called softening of the heart, and likewise it makes it easier and easier to respond this way in the future.

We are all guilty of messing up in our relationships. It’s a part of life and a part of loving. Their is conflict in even the most healthy relationships. In Christianity we view this as a result of living in the fallen world, in our fallen selves.

In abusive relationships, eventually the abuser has such a hardening of their heart that they are NEVER able to empathize with their victims. They’ve justified their own need for power and control for so long that they don’t really even need to justify it any longer, they truly BELIEVE they are entitled.

So how do you know if you are in an abusive relationship? Obviously if there is physical abuse of any kind that is NOT ok and you should plan a safe exit strategy. I will link some resources at the bottom. Other forms of abuse are not always obvious.

Think about your last several conflicts with this person. Did you feel like your grievances were heard? Were they able to admit fault in any part of it or does everything wrong in the relationship get blamed on you? Do they take responsibility for their wrongs or are they always making excuses or blaming others? Again, we all do this from time to time but abusers do it ALL the time. Notice how they act in other relationships, this can be a big clue.

I had a boss once that was a narcissist/abusive personality. I observed her around her own daughter one time and it absolutely confirmed all of my suspicions. Her daughter was a grown woman with a family of her own and her mother was treating her like a child, chastising everything the daughter said and did. I was humiliated for this grown woman being treated this way by her mom!

Abusers will use whatever means they can to keep their victims compliant. It could be a financial “gift” they hold over your head to convince you that they need to make decisions in your life. It could be something embarrassing they have on you that they threaten to release. It could be piling on the guilt, threatening suicide, whatever! It’s all about them getting power and control and that is abuse!

We think about it so often in terms of the abusive husband or boyfriend but these people can be parents, adult children, siblings, friends, bosses, co-workers, neighbors, doctors and even leaders in the church!

The first step is to identify them. Label what is happening and believe it. Other people often don’t see the abuse, especially if it’s not physical. Abusers are great at hiding the abuse and unfortunately the church is not always great about recognizing it. I’ll write about that in another post.

Abusers are so great at the art of manipulation they often have their victims convinced it’s all them.

I’ve dealt with abusers/narcissists like this in my life and can say with certainty that sometimes it’s very obvious and other times I was so entrenched in it that it took decades to see this person for who he really was and even then I didn’t want to believe it.

Once my eyes were finally opened I could never go back.

Each abuser is different in how they act. Sometimes abusers WILL apologize! Sometimes they will even experience genuine remorse. My abuser had apologized over and over and over again over a span of at least 10 years. He sounded so sincere and he sometimes cried and promised he would change. But time after time again he always responded to things the same way.

I thought I was “helping” him by always forgiving him and allowing him to be a part of my life. I’ve since learned what I was doing was in fact “enabling” him. We often think of this as an act of love, but it’s actually just the opposite because the abuser isn’t held responsible and required to really change.

In my next part I’ll talk about what to do next when you realize you are in an abusive relationship.

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, please go to the following website to get help.

 

Empathy

So much has changed in our world in the last 10 days. I really don’t want to add to all the noise but I also think this is a message that people need to hear right now.

I’m privileged. My life hasn’t changed much during all of this and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to be home with my kids and that I have the resources to provide them with food and with education.

I feel so much for our brave healthcare workers that are going to battle without armor and have to find child care for their children and also worry about bringing this virus home to their families.

I feel so much for the small business owners that will not ever recover from this.

I feel for the service industry who relies on tips and for whom even unemployment will not be enough for them and their families.

I feel for the police, ambulance, firefighters, military who never know what that next call will be but go running to it all the same now as they always do.

I feel for teachers who are being asked to work, even when they have their own children at home to take care of. I feel for the parents who are forced to work at home and care for their children. I feel for the children that are now being put into abusive or neglectful environments, some of which may not even survive this.

I feel for the children who are missing their beloved teachers and friends. The seniors that are missing out on their rights of passage. The kids who won’t get to compete in their last season of sports.

I feel for our friends who won’t get to take their kids to Disney. I feel for the immune compromised (which includes my mom). I feel for the elderly. I feel for kids who already have to deal with cancer who now have even stricter rules about visitors.

There is just so much sadness. Some of it is big sadness and some of it little sadness, but it’s all sad.

I feel for me too. I know I’m not on the front lines and as I already explained, I have a lot to be thankful for. But that doesn’t mean this is easy.

The truth is that I was already going through somewhat of a tough season before all of this hit. I love these children dearly but the winter months and flu season meant we were already sort of living in isolation and Ethan is a very high needs baby. I love that I GET to be home with these children but I felt myself envious of my husband sometimes as he left for work and I had yet another day of a fussy baby and a preschooler that didn’t get enough of my attention and a house that I felt like I could never keep organized and clean.

What made it worse was the guilt I felt over my own feelings. I’d tell myself how lucky I was to be able to be home and how quickly this time goes and how I should “enjoy every minute”. I had zero empathy for myself and felt like I should just be positive.

What finally DID help me was acknowledging that what I was doing every day was hard and it was ok for me to feel sad, overwhelmed, frustrated. It didn’t mean that I didn’t love my kids and it didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate things. It just meant that I’m human and part of being human is struggling. I had to sit down with my husband and tell him that I needed more time to myself. I needed to talk to him and good friends about my feelings and stop feeling guilty for having them.

We are a society and culture that doesn’t do sad. We would rather distract ourselves and do anything to “feel better”. We are a society addicted to alcohol, drugs, pain killers, pornography, shopping, food, going from one relationship to the next just to avoid sitting in our sadness for a bit. We don’t do sad.

Our family watched Inside Out recently. I highly highly recommend that movie to everyone right now. It illustrates perfectly why we can’t just be happy all the time and why we need sadness too.

Our kids need us to empathize with their pain. They are sad right now. Their lives have changed in major ways too and it isn’t helpful to them to tell them that they shouldn’t be sad about missing their friends because some kids have it much worse. We shouldn’t feel guilty for our own feelings and we shouldn’t make our kids feel guilty for theirs either. There’s so much psychology into this that I won’t go into, but if we don’t help our kids learn healthy ways to deal with unpleasant emotions, we are setting them up for addiction later in life.

“I know, this IS sad guys. I’m so sad about it too.” Can let them know that their feelings are valid.

It IS hard. Even just trying to go about our daily lives, feeling completely helpless over all the suffering going on in the world and with people we care about IS hard. And someone else having it worse than you doesn’t make your own feelings irrelevant.

Its important to give ourselves the space to grieve but then to find ways to bring joy into our lives still. Show your kids these things as well. “We’re going to see if our elderly neighbor needs us to get them groceries because they are probably scared to go to the store.” “We are going to spend our money and use our Amazon Prime membership to send games and toys to children in the hospital that are not allowed visitors right now. Can you imagine how they must feel during all of this?” We are going to pray for all the medical workers during this extremely difficult time.”

It’s a hard time right now for everyone. It’s harder for some than others, but everyone is a little sad and a little stressed out right now. Be kind. Be empathetic. Don’t make pain a competition. We are all in this together and we need each other to lift each other up.

To all the parents at home with kids right now, I feel you. You’re trying to create a sense of normalcy when they can’t even play with their neighbors in their back yards. You’re trying to be calm even while the world is a stressful place. You’re trying to be there for them. It’s so easy task. I’m sorry. I’m here.

For us Christians with Easter right around the corner, let’s remember that none of us gets through this life through our own good works. So as we accept the grace of others, let’s extend that very grace to ourselves and to others.

Running Love

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Just 8 weeks ago I was in the hospital trying to have a baby. Tonight I went for a run. It was one of those ideal days for a run. 65 degrees and sunny. The leaves are starting to turn and the sun starting to go down this time of night means it peaks through the trees casting everything in a golden yellow.
I had my headphones on with good music pumping through my ears because truthfully it helps me get through this 1.5 mile run that I so desperately crave throughout the day. Yet when I’m actually out there running it doesn’t feel easy. Not yet.
I ran through my pregnancy to 36 weeks and 6 days and most of the time I was running 8:30 pace. The first time I ran one mile, at 6 weeks postpartum, i ran 8:30 pace! The same as I ran almost 37 weeks pregnant!

I’m a bit faster after nearly 2 weeks of running 3 times a week, slowly having built up to a whole mile and a half, but honestly, it still doesn’t feel “natural”. My body just feels awkward like I forgot how to run and I get side stitches and it feels hard to run under 8 minute mile pace. But…it’s ok. I actually read that it can take up to a full year for your pelvis to shift back into position and you can have relaxin (that hormone that loosens all your joints) for just as long. So it’s going to take some time. And this being my third pregnancy, it seems it will take longer this time than the previous two. I signed up for the mommastrong website to try to regain some strength and one of the things they tell you is to figure out how to “win ugly”. Basically, you may look terrible trying to get back into shape with your face red and grimacing but if you can get over all that and do it anyway you’ve won ugly. That’s what I felt like I was doing on my run tonight.

I love running. Especially this time of year. I love the feeling of my heart pounding. I love taking in so much oxygen and I love the freeing feeling of just me being out there in the streets getting there with my two feet. I love the release of the sweat pouring out of me and I love how without all the noises and distractions around me my brain can just focus on my own thoughts. I love how most of the time it feels so effortless. I can look at the trees and smell the houses that have a real fire going in their fireplaces and those that are grilling out. I love seeing people out in their yards, mowing their lawn, kids playing, people out for an evening stroll. Something about it makes me feel so connected, yet far enough away to just be an observer.
I love my life and my family. I pour myself out to them day and night and I’d never trade it. Often though, it leaves me completely exhausted, depleted. There is always someone with needs that I need to meet. Not too many moments for uninterrupted thoughts. There’s constant noise and some of it is joyful (laughing, playing) and some of it is, well noise (bickering, screaming, crying). There’s always laundry, dishes, toys everywhere and most days lately I’m not even close to staying on top of it. That’s why I crave running. It keeps me sane when life is chaos. Even when at the moment it feels like another thing I’m failing at.
I know with each run I’m getting a little closer than I was before to those “effortless” runs. Even if these runs right now feel awkward, I still love feeling my heart pounding, feeling the sweat pour and being able to have my thoughts uninterrupted. And I’m always so happy to see my children when I get back because believe it or not, I actually miss them. Less than 12 minutes of running and I miss them. It’s good for them too because I come back relaxed and happy.
These days with an infant go by fast, but they are also all consuming. It’s a level of shear exhaustion that has so far gone unmatched in the other stages of life with children for me. Running helps me to see glimpses of myself again as a person, not just as mom.

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