Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year Gone By

I started this tradition in 2010 and enjoyed the process in 2011.  Even today, I anjoyed going back and reading over those review posts and contemplating how life has been going the past few years and how things have changed.

2012: A review of my year of blogging.


I chose a word of the year - Steady.  We celebrated Jeff's birthday.  I got upset (but never followed through) on something from Teagan's music class.  We adopted Buttons from the Humane Society.  I made my own guacamole.  I learned about myself thanks to a Women's Retreat at church.  I vented about marriage and how Hollywood exemplifies the lack of commitment in our society.  Teagan participated in the YMCA World Fair through her before/after school care program.


Our kids were still electronic-less and we were fine with it - mostly.  Mydaughter declared me to be amazing.  I confessed that I needed to, once again, get healthy.  I joined Weight Watchers and shared weekly updates.  I was proud of my kids at Valentine's Day.  I prayed with my kids.  I attended a healthy Chinese cooking class.  We had a family meeting to discuss the kids' choices for summer camp at the YMCA.  We worked on adjusting to having Buttons in our family.


A mom in my mom community faced a tragic loss that rocked the community.  I wrote about LOVE.  We dealt with my daughter's potential for meanness again.  Teagan turned 7 and we had a great time celebrating!   I hit up the Revolve Tour again with girls from my church - but was disappointed this time around.  Spring began to... spring!


We started the month with the kids going to Grandma's house for Spring Break - leaving Jeff and I home alone.  We welcomed them home with some fun in our own town.  I spent a lot of time being deep.  I wrote about bullying.  I wrote about my church family - my ohana.  I went on a weekend "retreat - the Walk to Emmaus - and brought back important learning from my experiences there.  I also brought back an important lesson about my job (which had been very stressful for about a year).


I wrote, once again, about how my faith drives me towards equality.  I shared ways that I find joy sometimes.  I celebrated my A-Day.  I finished the Dirty Girl Mud Run.  I also did my first (and so far last) spin class.  I chaperoned a first grade field trip and learned something about friendship.  I juiced!  We said goodbye to Buttons - and tried to make it special.  I appreciated the blessings I have and what I am able to provide for my children.  We enjoyed the opening of our local Farmer's Market.


My kids were very excited to start a summer of fun at YMCA Day Camps.  I shared more of my job stress and a little bit of my mental attempts at balancing it.  We had a great visit with family in Ohio.  I was very excited to see a local community theatre production of Rent.  I did my second annual Girlfriend Ride.  I complained about my job situation some more.  I realized I was being a mushy carrot.  I did my 3rd annual local 5K - but had to deal with unsportsmanlike conduct in our family.  I learned (the hard way) about heat exhaustion.  I wrote a letter to the survivors of Sandusky (Penn State).


I had a lot to say in July!  I got preachy with a song by Casting Crowns.  I wrote about building a healthy salad.  Expanding on the food theme, I shared what my kids were enjoying in their lunch boxes at hot summer camp.  I came to the realization that I was minimizing and denying the impact my job stress was having on me.  I recognized that I am blessed to have people in my life who encourage me.  I also recognized that the greatest of my silver linings is my husband.  I got fed up with all the hate being lobbed about.  We took a weekend to getaway from home - and had a great trip to nearby Fort Wayne!  I got fed up with the trappings of religion.  We took in an Indianapolis Indians game.  And I had yet another vent about gay people, chicken sandwiches, boycotts, and Christianity.


My favorite time of year!  Indiana State Fair time! And this year brought a great day on the Midway with my kids.  My job situation got worse and my stress level got higher.  Summer camp ended and school began.  I had a great and full of fun day at Conner Prairie with my kids.  I had a birthday!  I got important parenting advice from my kids.  I attended Women of Faith and came away with a couple of things to ponder.  I wrote about teaching my children to be the Light.


September was a month of highs and lows.  I attended a worship leadership conference at Disney World with a great friend.  But it was also the month that the layoffs completed at work and my workload officially spiked again.  As I look back at my September posts, I can see that I was really struggling to remain steady.


I worked hard to pull myself from my funk in October.  I tried to focus on being a surfing coffee bean.  I focused on the theme of birth and changes.  We decided to plan a big family vacation - our first in 5+ years - by booking a trip to Disney for the summer of 2013.    I had a lightbulb moment about anger, I shared marriage advice, and I realized how much better we'd all be if we could be more like kids.  We celebrated Zach's 5th birthday and the kids chose to move from sharing a room to separate rooms.


Life got busy again - as evidenced by fewer posts.  But what I did write was pretty deep!  I asked people to consider what it really means when someone says "WWJD?"  I had a mom fail and shared it as a learning opportunity.  I shared some thoughts on politics - mainly thoughts that We, The People are the true leaders.  I was called for - but not selected for - jury duty.  I faced personal conflict and made amends.


And here we are in December.  I am facing the truth about the ups and downs I keep experiencing.  After the Sandy Hook tragedy, I wrote about God already being in our schools - and everywhere.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gratitude Jar

I have no idea who started it, where it came from.  I'd love to give credit but I can't.  It might have come from this blog.

I love this idea.  I've been struggling with just this sort of thing - I recognize the blessings when they happen but holding on to the feeling is a challenge.  I don't know that I will wait until New Year's next year - I think anytime we are struggling with ingratitude in our family, we should break out the jar to review the good things and then add to it the things we are grateful for.

I also want to find the blessings in the hard times.  When I am disappointed, I want to remember that on the other side of disappointment was something I was excited about.  When I am stressed about my job, I want to remember my paycheck, my benefits, the people I work with.  I want to use the Gratitude Jar to focus on the positive.

Best of all, I have the perfect jar.  My good friend, Jennifer, gives cookie mixes in Ball jars every year.  The jar is packed with all the dry ingredients for the cookies and a label on the side gives instructions for adding the wet ingredients and baking.

So my Gratitude Jar will be started with gratitude for the friends in my life, the friends who think enough of me to give me a gift, the friends who surround me with love, the friends who support me in good times and challenging times.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” 
― Alphonse Karr

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.    Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”  ― Thomas Merton


Friday, December 28, 2012

Time Off

I'm getting some much needed down time this week.  A 4 day weekend, 1 day back at work, and then 6 days off.  Back to work Jan 2.

We've had a couple of totally lazy days where we stay in our jammies all day and never leave the house.  We've had a sick day.  We've celebrated Christmas.  We've played games together and watched TV together.

I took myself to a movie.

We ran errands together.

We've been cooking and cleaning.

We've been a family.  Full time.

And it's been awesome.

A complete break from work was just what I needed.

A total connection to my kids and to my husband was just what I needed.

My brothers might come visit for a couple of days and will be part of our down time,  our hanging out.

Time off.  Just what we needed!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Traditions

It's Christmas Eve!

Today, the family is laying low.  It's wonderful.  We've got 2 people a bit under the weather (Teagan and Jeff) so we are spending the day in jammies and staying cozy and watching TV.  I've done some cleaning up in the kitchen and a little baking.

This evening, we have church.  I sing with our Praise Team.  For the family service at 7, I have to arrive at 6:15 - which works well because then the family is guaranteed our normal seats.  After church, we come home.

We each open a specific present - new pajamas and this year's Christmas ornament.  Teagan is getting Minnie Mouse pj's and Zach is getting Marios pj's.  Their ornaments this year are Hallmark Mickey (for Zach) and Minnie (for Teagan).  Daddy and I get new pj's this year, too.

The kids will put out our gifts for Santa and sprinkle reindeer food out front.  We don't leave cookies for Santa since we know he gets cookies at most every other home.  Instead, we leave a few bags of groceries that the kids shop for so Santa can take that food to families who need it.  The kids weren't quite as into shopping for the Santa food this year but that's partially my own fault for not emphasizing it as much.

Then the kids head to bed and we wait a bit for them to be sound asleep before setting up Santa.

Wedding Barbie and Ken for Teagan.  Stuffed Yoshi and Mario race track for Zach.  Stockings that will be overstuffed with Dollar Tree treasures and some sweet treats.

Then I head out again - back to church by 10:15 for the 11:00 service. I take the Santa food with me to give to my friend, Jennifer.  Her parents are very involved in a local food pantry so she takes our Santa food, puts it in her trunk, and delivers it to her parents for the food pantry.

It's a beautiful service.  It is all carols and Bible readings that tell the story of Christ's birth from the Old Testament prohecies through the Gospel telling of the birth story.  My favorite moment in the service is ending with "Silent Night" as we light candles.  The lights dim with each verse until the sanctuary is dark but still brightly lit by all the candles.  It's so peaceful and beautiful.  I get the added benefit of being in front of everyone with the Praise Team so I am looking out over a sanctuary full of people that I love and who love me.

Then home and directly to bed.

Up in the morning to make breakfast - the plan is a breakfast casserole and cinnamon roll monkey bread.  While the food is in the oven, we open presents.  Then get dressed, eat, and load up the car to spend the day with my family.

Wednesday I have to work but I'm off after that until Jan 2.

I've struggled a lot in the past months.  But the past week... things have been just as busy, just as stressful but my head and heart are back in the right place.  I've got Christmas Spirit and am enjoying this down time with my family, looking forward to Christmas Eve with my church family, Christmas Day with my family, and am even looking forward to what should be a quiet and productive day at work on Weds.

Merry Christmas to you!  If you're struggling to find enjoyment this season, my prayer is that you can let go of your burdens, your grief, your loneliness, your struggles... even if you just let go for an hour.  Everyone deserves peace, hope, love and joy on this holy day.

And ending with a special holiday greeting that my kids approved:


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoughts on Our Christmas Program

Each year, our church kids do some sort of Christmas presentation for the congregation.  For the past few years, my friend and Pastor (Jennifer) and I have done this effort as a team and it's becoming a great Christmas tradition.

Last night was this year's Christmas program.

I was happy to find that I was truly excited for the evening.  We've been working for a couple of months to prepare and to come to the evening of the performance was definitely exciting.

The kids in my church are amazing.  We had a couple of kids out sick and we had kids that stepped up to cover those parts without question and they did a great job.  I was especially proud of a couple of our teenagers.  The show is done by kids up through 5th grade.  We asked 2 of the youth group teens to fill in on a part and they did .  And they did it without thinking they were too cool for a little kid Christmas program.  And they did it without complaining or eye rolling.  We asked and they jumped right in to help.  It's just what this church family does.

I am also very proud of one of the kids.  She's not really interested in being in the program, being on stage.  But she wanted to be part of it.  She's incredibly responsible and smart so she made the perfect stage manager!  She was able to cover one side of the stage and I covered the other.  It was great!  She did a fantastic job and I think we can build on that kind of job next year.

I love the faces of the kids as they finally perform what they've been memorizing and practicing for so long.  I love watching them in front of the audience.  But what I love even more is the eager faces of the adults that have come to see them!  I got to welcome everyone to the show and, at the end, thank them for coming.  And the smiles and joy and eagerness in the grown up faces was just as inspiring as what I see in the kids!

I also have to admit that I love the crazy rush that leads up to the program.  The last minute add ins of people due to kids out sick.  The last minute costume replacement.  Last minute problem solving really gets my creativity going!

This year, the sweetest and most tender moment of our program came when the kids sang Away In A Manger.  Given the events in Connecticut, the second verse the kids sang was especially poignant- especially since the first row of kids were dressed as angels.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there

I'm already starting to think about next year!


Monday, December 17, 2012

God Is Already There

There are certain debates that I anticipate with every tragedy that occurs that involves mental illness and guns.

Those debates would be about gun control and availability of care for the mentally ill.

My basic opinion, to keep it short, is that there should be more of both.

But the debate that is popping up more and more, while well intended, is starting to really honk me off.

It starts with a trite little image of a sweet handwritten letter to God... asking, pleading... why weren't You there in my school?

And it ends with a reply from the Big Guy... "You don't let me in your schools."


This angers me for so many reasons!

1. It completely implies that God is a human mastermind who is making things happen to us, for us, and around us for his fun and folly.

2. It makes God seem awfully petty and passive-aggressive and He's really come a long way since the Old Testament so that seems mighty unfair to put on Him.

3. Since when does any person, any governing body, any set of rules, any set of laws have any ability to actually control where God is or isn't?

The tragedy that happened on Friday in Connecticut is an awful, senseless, unimaginable tragedy.

God was there.

God was in that school.  God was in that school for years before the shooting happened.  God is still in that school.

That's what I believe, anyway.  That's what my faith tells me.  My faith in my God tells me that God was there on that awful morning.  That the sun shone and the day was beautiful and then horrible evil began and God wept and sobbed at the horror and He held those precious babies in His arms and He took away any pain and suffering and He carried them to heaven and He brought them to peace.  I believe that He continues to be in that school and in that community, embracing and carrying the parents and sisters and brothers and spouses and friends who lost people that they loved and cherished and lived for.

No person, no law, no rule can keep God out of that school, out of that community.

I also believe that my understanding of God isn't limited to just my faith.  My faith is what works for me and what I teach to my children.  When I send my child to school, God is with them because that is what I have taught them.  When I send my child to a friend's house, Christ is in their hearts because that is what I choose to teach them.

While at that school, if my child's teacher were to spend a day indoctrinating the kids to the Muslim faith, the Jewish faith, the Catholic faith, the Baptist faith, the Buddhist or even the atheistic-lack-of-faith... I would be pretty irate.  And I imagine that if my child's teacher spent the day teaching the kids my faith's version of God and Christ, there might be some Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist and atheist parents who might be pretty honked off about it.

Think about that before you get defensive.

If your child came home and told you that Christ wasn't the Son of God.  But that they believed in God and that Jesus was a really cool prophet...

If your child came home and told you that Christ was a man who walked the Earth and made a lot of change but that He isn't the true Allah...

If your child came home from the place where you specifically sent them to learn about reading, writing, math, science, and social studies but they came home talking about God and Crucifixion and Forgiveness and Original Sin and Communion and lots of other things that each of us as individual Christians still struggle with right up until the end... wouldn't you have a hard time with that?

When you want God in school... aren't you really saying you want YOUR God in school?  And if that's what you want, isn't that what is already happening?  The God I teach my kids about is with them all day long, no matter where they are and no matter what they are doing.

It isn't that we want God in schools... it's that we want the magic bubble of His magic protection and that isn't how this whole faith thing works.  Belief in God doesn't mean that bad things won't happen.  Hanging the Ten Commandments in a hallway won't put up shields like on the Starship Enterprise.  Starting the day with a public prayer where the kids all bow their heads because the voice on the intercom says so... doesn't mean no evil will set foot in those halls.

I teach my kids what I believe.

I pray throughout my day.  I don't always stop and bow my head and kneel.  I often pause and just take a moment to open my heart to Him before I make a decision.  When I have a quiet moment, I will lift up praises in my heart.  As long as my children and all other believers truly lift themselves in prayer to God, He will hear us at any time, in any place.

God is with me all the time, and especially in the hard times.  I've lived through some really sucky, crappy, awful stuff.  And God was with me.  During really hard to survive times, He carried me.  Other times, He held my hand, or offered an embrace.  The same holds true now.  As long as my children and all other believers truly hold God in their hearts, He will hold us in the palm of His hand.

I will respect those who have a faith base different from my own.  It might mean that there are things I read or hear that I don't agree with.  It might mean that I have to broaden my mind and think outside of my comfort zone.  But one thing I'm consistently learning is that God is so much more vast than any definition that could ever attempt to be applied.  So to limit Him to just my little human definition of my little human understanding of faith doesn't make any sense.  And when I box Him in, I set up walls that keep others out.

God is already in our schools, our homes, our grocery stores, our cars.  He might be God to me and Allah to you and the Great Spirit to someone else.  I know Him as God, Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I know His Son to be Jesus Christ, who died for my sins and rose from the dead to conquer eternal damnation.

Hard questions come up when horrible, indescribale things happen.  Hard questions that don't have answers.  And even if answers start to bubble up, is it really enough?  Is it good enough to know the reason beyond something that truly has no reason?  I don't think so.  Hard questions about faith and God and anger and blame and pointing fingers and backlash and fear...

We want answers, we want reasons, we want blame assigned.  Guns, mental illness and God are the easiest targets.

I don't know the answers for gun control.  I don't know how to fix the issues with availability of mental health care and support of the families dealing with it.

But I know this.

No one took God out of our schools.  No one can.

God is already there.


Right after posting this, I hopped on Facebook and someone had linked to another blog post that is very worth the read and along these same lines.  Please go visit Rachel Held Evans.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rhythms of Grace

I’ve been going through a hard time.  Work… well, it sucks.  My stress level is unreal and I’ve come to a place where I truly don’t like the work I do anymore.  I think I can like it again but right now – things are just really difficult.  Part of that is the job itself, the company.  Part of it is the wearing down from all the stress for an extended period of time so that my insides are actually being impacted.

I had 2 really rough days in a row this week.  Monday – hard day.  Tuesday – hard day.  Weds – really bad day.  Thursday – really bad morning which lead to a breakdown in a bathroom stall.

I posted on Facebook, asking for people to share hope and encouragement. 

There was an incredible outpouring of stories and sharing Scriptures.  My husband shared a fun way of showing he loves me.  A friend shared a story of being part of a medical mission to extract a critically ill missionary from a third world country who has since recovered and returned to work.  Friends who have been in far more difficult, personal circumstances in the past months shared the blessings they have received from family and friends.  Friends shared stories of unexpected good news received, unexpected financial help given. 

And my spirits began to lift.

I started reading the Scripture verses people were leaving in their comments and one really spoke to me, left me weeping in my desk (with my door shut, thankfully), and led to a good prayer session with God.

Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I decided to read more of the verses in the chapter.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Then I opted to read a different translation (The Message).

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Gain the natural flow of love

Be filled with and flow with God’s unending, indescribable grace, love, and mercy.

Come to me. I will give you rest.

I know God is with me.  I also know that He intends for me to be where I am.  I don’t like it – like the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years, knowing there were promises of a better life, having to trust God that this difficult path was where they had to tread.  I know God is with me.  God is with me when the work load overwhelms, when the demands are unfair and unreasonable.  I find great comfort in knowing God is here, in my office.

I’m missing that part about “learning the unforced rhythms of grace” these days.  My heart is heavy and love doesn’t flow anymore.  I have actions that are without feeling.  I’m doing the right thing because I know it’s the right thing and it brings joy and comfort and help to others – but nothing to me.


And immediately after I wrote this, a friend showed up to pick something up from me and gave me a gift.  She had just been in a store and saw this ornament and thought of me. 

An angel.  A love angel.

Then, Friday morning, a friend called to ask if I was at work and could I meet her at the front door.  She had picked up scones at Lulu’s Bakery and brought me 2.  And they were delicious.  And they brought a smile to my face.  And they were still a little warm. 

A different kind of love angel.

I’m going through something difficult right now.  And it hasn’t been easy and it’s changing me in ways I don’t like.  It’s been going on for a long time – steadily getting more and more difficult.  But there are positive things coming out of it.

While I mourn the time I don’t have with my kids because of my commitments, I value the special relationship they get to build with Jeff because he is such an involved and hands-on parent.

While I am stressed about my work load and the expectations, I know that God intends for me to be here at this time.

A lot of the changes that have happened at work have had a negative impact.  But one of the changes had led to a positive impact on how my supervisor manages our department and her direct reports. 

I’m not afraid to reach out when it becomes too much and I get hugs and support and love from my friends in ways I can’t express.  From the gifts my friends have randomly brought to me to the words of affirmation and support in a Bible study group the other night… hard times show us who we can count on in life.

I don't know where this path is going to lead me.  I don't know when it will get better or if it will get better.  I don't know if I am meant to continue on this path or if another path will open up that I am being prepared for.

I don't have to know because I have faith.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tightly Wound

My job.

I feel so tightly wound...

So stretched thin...

That I'm just waiting to...

SNAP.  Break.

I'm not sure when it will get better.  There are lots of promises that it will.  But then it gets worse again.

I don't know how much longer I can keep feeling like I fail day in and day out.  How much longer I can not take good care of my body.  How much longer it will be before I actually fall apart.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Planning for the Christmas Season

It's that time of year... time to get ready for Christmas.

Actually, I guess if I was just starting to get ready, I'd be running really late right now.  Our tree went up after Thanksgiving.  Shopping is close to being done.

I found myself thinking back to years when I wasn't so stressed, so exhausted, so stretched thin by my job.  And I miss those days.  I miss how much fun we had with our busy holiday schedule- busy because we were focusing on family fun, not because we had errands and list to complete.

Indianapolis offers so much for families in the holiday season.

Indiana State Museum: Celebration Crossing

Conner Prairie

Christmas at the Zoo

Trader's Point Creamery: Christmas On The Farm

And there's more - live nativity scenes, Christmas programs and pageants and plays, the Children's Museum, all the malls.

Everything is decked out and offering lots of fun and interesting things to do this holiday season.

We can't possibly do them all and I'm not going to even bother trying to make some crazy schedule.  With everything we have going on these days, I far prefer to pick 1 thing to do, maybe 2.  Our weekends are very important "down time" for our family - we all need time to recover from the week behind us.

This weekend is our main time to be able to go do something holiday oriented.  Teagan really wants to go to the Zoo.  I always love Conner Prairie.  We'll figure it out.

For the sake of tradition, I'm posting links to 2 of my posts that I always like to share at Christmastime.  I hope you will take a few minutes to go read them!

Refining St. Nick

My Magic Christmas


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Put Your Shoes On

There are times when I am at my limit with all this parenting stuff.  It's challenging when I'm having a hard week and Teagan is having a hard week, too.

Just wait until she's a teenager and our menstrual cycles sync up.  Jeff and Zach might need to stay at a friend's house that week.

Yesterday morning, Teagan woke up in a mood.

And decided, as part of her mood, that she was incapable of putting on her socks.  You know, the same socks she wears all the time.

As we went through the morning routine, Jeff and I each gave her several reminders to get socks and shoes on because we needed to get out the door.

It didn't happen.  At one point, as we are nearing the "out the door" part of the morning, I went out to start the car and put my stuff in the car.  I came back in to find her face down, plank position, on the carpet.  Without any socks or shoes on.

So I told her that I was taking her backpack and coat to the car and that she needed to have her socks and shoes on when I came back in - or she wouldn't like what Mommy did next.

I went out.  I even dawdled.  I came back in.  1 sock on, refusing to put on the other.

I gave her a count down... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

And I picked her up and hauled her shoeless self out to the car.  She's yelling and crying on the way.  I told her that if she's lucky, Daddy might be feeling generous enough to bring her shoes out to the car for her.  And he did.  But he brought the pair she didn't want.  Which was fine because it was the perfect reason to explain to her that she would have another chance at picking her own shoes the next day.

And here's where I get frustrated but also love my child's personality.

She's yelling and crying and pitching this fit in the backseat (being a rule follower at heart, she did buckle herself into the car without me even asking).  But before the car was at the end of the street, she was quiet.  Calm.  In control.

She can't let people at school see that side of her.

My frustration with it is that it means we get the brunt of those emotions.  My worry is that she holds in emotions until the explode.  But what I love is that it clearly demonstrates to me that this is her personality, she is in control, it isn't something out of her control.

And this morning?

She had shoes and sock on before I even got out of bed.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Loss - Part 3

This is the third post I've written in 2012 that I wanted to title with just one word - "Loss."

It's been a hard year.

In March, I wrote about a mom who lost her son.  In September, I wrote about losing my grandfather.

The year has been filled with Loss.

Back in January, we adopted a senior dog with health problems.  In May, we lost her.

Even a guest post in September dealt with loss.

Job loss has been part of the picture, too.  Layoffs in my department.  A good friend's husband losing his job.  Mom friends desperately needing employment.

And as we enter the holiday season, it seems loss is prevalent.  Friends posting about losing loved ones in car accidents, to illness.

Worst of all, I know at least 5 people impacted by suicide in the past month.  People losing friends, cousins... and one friend just lost her father.

To suicide.

Right before Christmas.

My heart breaks, my anger rises, my desire to DO something, anything, kicks in.

I find comfort and guidance in my faith.

But there is still a desire to do something, help somehow, soothe, comfort, lift.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed by loss?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Making Amends

Yesterday, I shared about some recent personal conflicts that I was facing.

Today, I am excited that there is a lot of stress that has been relieved.

Funny how making a choice to take action makes all the difference.

In situation 1, I was at fault.  I apologized.  The apology was not only accepted but also returned.

In situation 2, both of us were at fault.  There weren't apologies but the relationship is such that we both realize we just had a little temper tantrum and we are back to liking each other just fine.

And in situation 3, I was hurt and was scared to face the conflict because I was afraid of the consequences.  Thankfully, that friend read my blog, realized what was going on, and reached out to me.  We've talked, hugged, and laughed together and now things are back to normal.

Not knowing how someone will react is a level of fear that often prevents me from taking action.  And yesterday, I proved to myself that it isn't the best way or right way.

Even when it's difficult, I have to be willing to reach out.  When I've caused harm, I have to make amends.  When I've been hurt, I need to be willing to seek amends.  And when someone comes to me expressing that I've caused them harm, I need to be open to hearing them.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Personal Conflict

In the past week or so, I've managed to, well, tick off at least 3 people.

That's a lot.  I'm not one that generally finds herself in a position where there are at least 3 people walking around out in the world who are specifically upset with me.

So I spent some time thinking about it.  Because these are each people who are part of my life, who are, on some level, important to me.  I'm the common denominator and if I've done something to cause harm, I have to address it.

In one situation, I was to blame.  I let my emotions get ahead of me.  I can make lots of excuses, I can explain a lot.  But the bottom line is that I ended up in a situation where I said at least 2 things that weren't my best moments, where I let my emotions drive my words instead of letting knowledge and understanding lead the way.  I have sent an apology to that person and hope that my attempts at amends are accepted.

In another situation, both sides are to blame.  I know I can be the "bigger person" and make the first move.  I've done it before, I can do it again.  Or maybe it will just kind of resolve itself.  I suppose the right thing to do would be to reach out and apologize for my part in it.  And I guess my hang up is that I feel like I want an apology, too, and am pretty sure I'm not going to get it.

And in the third situation, I'm the hurt party.  I can try to explain it in my head but it's really just me reaching for reasons to try and give some explanation.  I don't feel like I need to apologize because I don't feel like I did something wrong.  I guess what I'm really doing is analyzing the relationship, analyzing the situation, looking at the big picture and trying to figure out what happens next.

So I've got one where I've reached out to make amends, one where I know it will be ok but I have to decide what action I'm willing to take, and one where I think I have to just wait and see and be ok with whatever the consequences end up being.

Personal conflict.  Personal conflict in everyday relationships.

I often turn to the Bible for some input.

Matthew 18:15-17

The Message (MSG)
15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

Ephesians 4:26

The Message (MSG)
26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

Ephesians 4:32

English Standard Version (ESV)
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It's funny - I feel like each of those verses speaks to my 3 situations.  In my first situation, Ephesians 4:32 spoke to what I chose to do.  I am apologizing, I am seeking forgiveness.  In my second situation, I went to bed angry.  I didn't follow Ephesians 4:26.  I'm letting the anger stay and that's ok but I'm letting it stay too long.  I need to move on to verse 32 in that situation.

The verses from Matthew are, I think, some of the hardest to follow.

I am not good at going to another person and saying "My feelings are hurt."  My pride gets in the way.  My pride wants that person to realize that they've hurt me and that they come to me with an apology.  I don't want the risk involved with making the first move.

And even as I come to that understanding of myself, my wants, and what the better path is... I'm not sure I am ready to take that step, to make that choice.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ah, Time Off!

I hadn't really intended to take a break from the blog.  But I realized yesterday that I hadn't blogged in a week so I opted to keep it that way.

This is one of the best weekend we've had in a while.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family on Thursday and with Jeff's family on Friday.

And then we did nothing.

Well, we didn't go anywhere.

It's Sunday evening and I haven't showered in days.

I've done housework, preparing the house for Christmas decorating.  I've cleaned up the kitchen in order to actually cook dinner.  And I actually cooked dinner on Saturday.

The weekend has had some ups and downs with the kids, of course.  Barely going anywhere for 2 days isn't their norm.

We ate junk food.  We played video games.  We watched TV.  We had a homemade dinner.  We put up the tree.  We decorated.  We slept in.  We spent time together, we spent time doing our own thing.  We cancelled all obligations and focused only on our family, our home, ourselves.

It was the exact kind of weekend that we, as a family, needed so desperately.

It was the exact kind of weekend that I, as a mom and wife and employee and person, needed.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Best Intentions

Today was going to be a good, fun, and productive day.

I was going to get up early and hit the gym.

Then I was going to head to church for breakfast and the annual Deep Clean of the building.

The International Festival is going on - I've loved it the last few years and planned to take the kids this afternoon.

There's a missions project at church this evening.

And my car is in the shop.

On my drive home from work yesterday, the low tire indicator came on.  I pulled over, visually checked my tires, and decided to continue the drive home.  Made it home safely and got out my mini compressor to check pressure and fill if needed.  Checked one tire, another, another.  All are fine.  Got to the last tire...

And the stem breaks off and the air whooshes out of the tire.

So our morning was spent putting the spare on and getting the car to the shop.  Breakfast, ran a couple of errands.  Killing time, hoping the shop will call.

And it still isn't ready.

Head home to wait.  It is a gorgeous day - unexpectedly warm and sunny.  Perfect day for fall yard work.  Great day to open windows and clean house.

I formed a plan on the drive home.  I'll start with the bathroom and hallway.  Small spaces that need a good cleaning.  Then the living room for a bigger project.  I'll get it all ready for the Christmas tree to go up next weekend.

Then I walked in the door.  And my husband laid down in our bedroom.  And the kids went out to play.  And I sat on the couch.

I had the best of intentions for this day.  I really did.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jury Duty

When I turned 18, I was very excited to register to vote.

I was very excited to potentially be called for Jury Duty.

20 years later, my name finally came up.

I know it's a pretty common joke - jury duty.  Groan, don't wanna go, act crazy, tell them you can tell someone is guilty just looking at them...

But I think our judicial process is fascinating.  I don't always agree with it.  Innocent until proven guilty can be hard to accept.  A jury of your peers determining your guilt or innocence based solely on evidence presented in the court room...

And now I have my first summons.

I make my arrangements at work.  I report to the jury room.  There are 60 or more people there for 2 Superior Courts.  I was assigned to a potential jury pool for a criminal case.  We had to first fill out a survey.  It was a sex crime case and there were questions each potential juror needed to answer - family or friend a sex crime victim?  Family in law enforcement?  Victim of a sex crime?

I filled out my form and sat down to wait.  After a little while, we were lined up in numerical order.  We were given instructions about entering the court room.  The first 14 people were led to the jury box and the rest of us were seated in the audience.  Also present in the court room were the judge, 2 prosecuting attorneys, the defense attorney, the defendant, a detective, a court reporter, and an officer in uniform.

The judge swore us all in.  Then he asked several questions and we all had the opportunity to answer if it pertained to us.  He read the charges.

9 counts of child molestation and solicitation.  In graphic detail.


The attorneys took turns explaining the role they play in the court room and then leading a "discussion" with the jurors in the jury box.

After about an hour, 7 people were dismissed from that group of 14.

We took a lunch break, came back, and it was group 2's turn in the box - my group.

I ended up dismissed.  You don't find out why you are excused but my hunch is that the defense attorney saw me as an "expert" once we discussed my background in social work and the field I used to work in (therapeutic foster care, working with children removed from their homes due to various forms of abuse and neglect).

I found myself deep in thought the rest of the day.  Glad my husband "gets" that side of me.  That jury... the victim is a 10 year old girl and she took the stand to tell her story.

I found out today that the girl is the niece of a woman I know through an online group for moms.

The jury, last I heard, is deliberating.  The verdict will come in on Friday, I assume.  Not knowing what was said and what was presented in the court room means I can't give a fair verdict of my own.

But what I do know is that no matter what did or didn't happen, there are a lot of people hurting.  There is a girl and her parents and their very supportive, loving extended family.  There is a man who is either fighting false charges that will ruin his reputation or who did something terrible and horrible who has to face consequences for what he did.  There are the attorneys who have to prepare, defend, prosecute, and then live with whatever they have done or not done.

My heart is mostly with this little girl.  My prayers are with her.  She is hurting, she is healing.

So if you get that summons, I suggest you take it seriously.  I was dismissed, I spent just one day in the process and it made an incredible impact on me.  You might get called for something that feels unimportant - but it is important to the people involved.  You might get called for something that will truly change someone's life.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Arby's vs Subway - Define Fresh

Last year, I wrote about a simple taste test that Christy and I did that compared the chicken salad at Arby's to the chicken salad at Subway.

We weren't all that impressed with either sandwich.  But we learned a lesson in the healthiness of the offerings that we really hadn't expected.

Now, Arby's has started a "freshness" war with Subway.  Maybe you've seen the ads?

I didn't realize that "fresh" was determined by where the meat is sliced.

Silly me - my assumption has been that the "fresh" at Subway was about things like tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers, red onions.

But apparently, fresh means "I sliced my highly processed meat substance with a meat slicing machine in the back room."

Every time I see one of the Arby's ads, I get pretty agitated.

You want a fresh sandwich from a fast food place?  Go to Subway and get a Veggie sandwich.  Subway has plenty of not healthy options.  But at least you can make healthier choices at Subway.

The only thing you'll find fresh at Arby's is lettuce, tomato... and, apparently, attiutude.


Friday, November 9, 2012

@Scholastic Book Fair

I posted this last year.  We did it again this year (today, in fact).

Even better, I know of at least 2 other moms who did this same thing for their book fairs.

It's an easy way to be a little generous, to help make a day brighter, to share some love with the world.


Our school is having a Scholastic Book Fair this week.  Our preschool has had events like this but different.  At the preschool, catalogs were sent home and links were emailed so you could order books online.  This is our first official Book Fair where you send money to school and your kid picks out what they want to buy.

First, I want to brag a little on my girl.  She knew what she wanted- A Dolphin Tale.  She showed the catalog to Zach and he got excited to see Lightening McQueen books.  I was so proud that she brought home the book she wanted, a collection of 5 Lightening McQueen stories, a Scooby Doo book for them to share, and a Biscuit book that she can read on her own.  She was very excited to get a receipt showing her purchases and to bring home 4 cents in change.

But that isn't the purpose of this post.

I'm thinking that it might be Book Fair time at your school, too.  Or maybe there will soon be a Book Fair at your school.

As a kid, we struggled financially.  My mom was a single mom and sometimes it was tough to make ends meet.  There wasn't extra in the budget for things like skating parties or book fairs.  

I loved to read, I loved books.  I felt the excitement in my school as Book Fair time approached.  And I remember the Book Fair setting up in our school library.  I remember our class having time to go to the Book Fair and look at the books and other offerings.  

And I knew there wasn't anything for me.

There were books I wanted.  But there wasn't money for them.

I missed out on many things as a kid but the Book Fair is one of those things that has always stayed strong in my memory.  

When I sent in the envelope for Teagan's budgeted spending money, I sent in a second envelope.  I included a note to the teacher and $10.  I asked her to please use the money if she knew of a student that maybe couldn't participate in the Book Fair because of struggles at home.  

I'm sharing this because my hope is that others might consider doing the same.  It doesn't take much to have a big impact on someone else's life.  It doesn't take much to show kindness to others.  This is just one way to care for someone else that maybe you hadn't considered before.  


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hey, Leaders of This Country

I'm not talking to the politicians right now.

I'm not talking to the President, the VP, the Senate or House or any Federal politicians.

I'm not talking to the State or Local Governments, either.

I'm talking to YOU.

I have voted in every election since I became of age to do so.  I don't recall that hate being so strong as it has been in the last 3 elections.

If we expect our leaders to "cross the aisle," don't we have to do the same thing?

I have family that I love and they vote differently than I do.  They hold different values from my own.  I can't possibly love them less because of it.  I might wonder at the workings of their brain... I want to know what drives them to believe what they do.  But I can't and won't love them less for voting for someone that I didn't vote for.

And because I love them, I seek not to harm them, not to hurt them.  If I start posting pictures of Big Bird saying "F You" to Mitt Romney, I risk hurting my family.

I have very dear friends, friends who are practically family, friends who are my God-given family, and they have different beliefs from my own.  But I also see how these people love others, how they love me and love my kids... and I know I can't stop loving them just because they lean in a different political direction from my own.

And because I love them, I seek not to harm them, not to hurt them.  If I post crass messages about rape, I risk hurting my friends.

There is a definite place for passion about politics.

But I think we have to step up and be the leaders our country needs.

The politicians, no matter which party they are affiliated with, aren't truly looking out for the people of this country.  The politicians are all saying whatever the crowd wants to hear at that time.  They say and do the best they can with what they have, standing in the beliefs of their party, swayed by lobbyists, corporations, and other countries.

The politicians are not our leaders.

The people are our leaders.  We are the People.

It doesn't matter who is President, it doesn't matter who my Senator is.  The choices I make to support other people will remain the same.  The beauty of this country is that the President can't decide that for me - I am still in control of how I reach out to others, how I support my local school, how I feed the poor or tend to the sick.

There was a lot of crap being tossed about on Facebook and Twitter last night and today.  Some of it was very hurtful, some was very hopeful.

I was touched by a young man who posted a thank you to those who voted to protect his rights.  He's gay and seeing the country continue to be led by someone who believes in equal rights and seeing states in this country vote to defend or extend rights to him is something deeply personal.  It's something most of us can't truly grasp or comprehend - the feeling of knowing that millions of people would prefer you don't exist, think you're choosing sin, think you shouldn't have what "we" have and then having a demonstration of the opposite.  Seeing through an election that his voice does matter and that there are millions of voices like his that stand up for him, stand alongside him.

I was hurt by someone who posted a "funny" letter to Iran, asking them to point their nuclear weapons at Ohio.  Where my family lives, where I'm from, the state right next door to where I live.  "First, do no harm."  When jokes are intended to cause harm, they aren't funny.  Given what we can see happening in New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Sandy and the arrival of the nor-easter... I don't see how anyone can make jokes about destruction.

I was annoyed by posts that over-celebrated Obama's re-election in such a way that insulted anyone who supported Romney.

I was hurting for friends who felt attacked by others who accused them of being against human rights or being against women's rights because they are Republicans.

A common theme I see starting to crop up on both sides is that we have to support and respect our leaders, even if "our guy" didn't win.  That we have to pray for our leaders and our government no matter what the election results.

I agree.  But I also disagree.

We, the People.  
In order to form a more perfect Union.
Establish Justice.
Insure domestic tranquility.
Provide for the common defence.
Promote the general welfare.
Secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity (future generations).

As citizens of the USA, we need to focus on that Preamble.  Different parties have different understandings of what the Constitution means and says and how it holds up.  But if we, the people, hold up that Preamble to the Constitution in all that we do, in all that we seek... we will be the leaders, we will lead the politicians, we will discover what we all have in common.

While we pray for our leaders and while we hold them accountable through our election process, we all have to be willing to step up and do something about our passions and do something about our convictions.

We, the People.
More Perfect Union.
Establish Justice.
Insure Tranquility.
Provide for Defence.
Promote General Welfare (the concern of the government for the health, peace, morality, and safety of the citizens)
Secure Liberty (have control over your own actions) for us and for our kids and grandkids.

Union. Justice. Tranquility. Defence. Welfare. Liberty.

We, the People.  Not "Them, the Politicians."


Monday, November 5, 2012

Recovering From a #MomFail

Friday night was not a good night.

It was supposed to be.  Everything indicated it should have been.

There was a concert at my church.  I've tweeted about it.  I gave away tickets on my personal Facebook page.  The band was Christian Contemporary group NewWorldSon.

Originally, I was planning to go to the concert on my own.  Jeff would stay home with the kids.  But then an opportunity came for him to help out with the youth group by selling concessions at the concert so we turned it into a family night out.

And it started out great.

The kids enjoyed hanging out with their friends and there was a lot of laughter and silliness.

Zach was borderline on the loud music and high energy so I moved us from the sanctuary out to the lobby.  The way things are set up in my church, this meant that Zach wasn't overwhelmed, Teagan could run around with her friends, and I could still see and hear everything.  Plus, we could hang out more with Jeff.

Except that Teagan decided that moving stuff to the lobby meant she was being punished.  And she put herself in a spot, started a pout, and refused to listen when I told her- repeatedly - that I wanted her to continue playing with her friends but that it was better if we had "home base" out in the lobby.  But she had started her loop "No, you said I have to stay here."

It was the beginning of the end.

From there, she went into weepy mode.  We went outside to talk but all she knew was that she felt sad and had no idea why or what to do about it.  Then back in and she continued to mope about.  She asked to talk again so outside we went again and she cries and tells me "I don't feel like I fit in with my church!"  Which is a load of bunk.  Girlfriend couldn't possibly fit in MORE with her church.  It was part of the melting down, part of this weepy loop.

She finally went and sat with her friends.  NewWorldSon takes the stage and encourages everyone to get up and dance and the place comes alive!  I'm in the back with 2 kids from youth group and we start jumping and dancing together.  My friend Paulette came by and jumped around with us.  The 3 girls that Teagan had been hanging out with were dancing and jumping.

And Teagan sat in her seat with her head down.

Her friends wanted to go up front to dance with the other kids.  One little friend tried to get Teagan to go, too, but Teagan just sat and moped.

And then came to me all weepy.  Again.  Tears, red eyes, huge frown.

And I knew we couldn't stay.  I knew that this was just going to continue and it was going to escalate.

So I grabbed our stuff and got both kids and out the door we went.  Time to go home and get to bed.

I was mad.  I was disappointed.  But I was keeping my cool.  Teagan was crying and yelling and begging to stay.  As we pulled from our parking space, she saw her friends run past in the lobby and began a new level of freak out - "I didn't get to say goodbye to my friends!!!"

And that's when I lost it.

I'm a yeller at different times.  I yell when I feel like I'm not being heard.  I raise my voice to get a child's attention.  I yell when I'm "serious."  I don't call names or get mean.  I just get loud.

I went beyond yelling.  This was far more... gutteral.  Psycho-mom scream kind of thing.  And it lasted about 30 seconds - from the driveway of the church to the first stop light.  Zach can tell you what I said and how I sounded.  "NO! SHUT YOUR MOUTH, TEAGAN! I AM DISAPPOINTED AND I AM ANGRY! YOU HAVE TO STOP!"  He was listening, apparently.

Got past the first light and I was back to calm.  My anger had burst out and I was done.  And this is where Teagan begged for the rest of the drive home to please please pleasepleaseplease go back, go back, go back Mommy!!  I'll change, I'll be different, I'll make good choices, I promise.

I just turned up the radio.

Got home, sent her to her room to put on pj's.  Helped Zach get ready for bed.  Made sure he knew I wasn't angry with him, that he hadn't done anything wrong.  Read him a book.  Had to send Teagan back to her room a few times.  Had to tell her I couldn't hug her right that second because I was still angry.

Got my son to bed, got my daughter to bed.  Sat on the couch in my living room...

And cried.

Cried because I'd gotten so angry.  Cried because I was still really pissed and sad and disappointed about missing out on this concert.  Cried because I couldn't hug my daughter due to my own anger.  Cried because a fun family evening had been such a disaster.

So what's a mom to do when most of her closest friends are at the concert she should have been attending?  Turn to Facebook, of course.

"Feeling like a mom failure. What should have been a great family night at church ended up being a Teagan meltdown drama that led to me having to leave to take her home. Haven't seen this kind of depressive meltdown thing from her in a while... so why did it have to hit the night that NewWorldSon is playing at my church? The night that I've been looking forward to for months? I feel like a mom failure right now - wondering how I caused this meltdown, what I could have done differently, and regretting my selfish anger on the drive home. Didn't plan on my night ending with my own tears..."

And you know what happened?  Mom friends from across the country (and even around the world) posted messages reassuring me that I am a good mom, sharing their own stories of their mom frustration moments, offering sympathy, offering to come and sit with my kids so I could go back...  And I remembered the people that evening who had watched our drama unfolding and had tried to help by reaching out to Teagan, reaching out to me...

And I realized that one of the most important things any parents can remember is that we are not alone.  While moms can be one of the most harsh and judgmental groups out there, moms can also be the most supportive, understanding, and encouraging groups out there.  Because we have all been there.  Every parent deals with a child's tantrum, every parent faces disappointment and sacrifice, every parent has to confront their own anger and frustration at some point.  And every parent has to do all of that multiple times throughout the journey of parenting.

By the next morning, I was still feeling kind of... reclusive... about all of it.  I wanted the comfort of my husband and friends.  But I wasn't ready to be all "happy family" with my child.  So we talked about what had happened the night before and we talked about the attitude issues we've been letting slide a bit at home and we came up with a method to demonstrate to Teagan exactly when she's struggling with her choices and when she's excelling.

At school, they do a clip system for behavior.  It isn't a reward system but it is a visual aid that lets kids see where they are and where they could be.  Each child starts on "Ready to learn" and then can stay at that place all day, clip up for being helpful or kind or following rules, or clip down when struggling.  And because the clip is fluid, it can always be moved up, no matter how far down it goes (even if there have been consequences).  While we won't be doing a literal clip system at home, we are talking in terms of clipping up and clipping down.  Our center point is "ready to be with my family."  Playing nicely with your sibling - clip up.  Reading to your little brother - clip up.  Being bossy to your brother - clip down.  Eye rolling, huffing, other attitude signals - clip down.  It's something she connects with (and does very well at school) that is a quick indicator to her of what direction she is heading in.

I think it took me well into Sunday before I felt fully recovered from my angry outburst.  And I am still disappointed that I missed the concert.  I wanted to be part of that event, I wanted to be filled with that music, I wanted to dance and sing and have fun with my friends and my kids.  But that wasn't how the night needed to go.  Because my child needed something else from me that night - she needed me to be her mother.

And I was.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


I find the bracelets and use of "WWJD" to actually be pretty annoying... but mostly because it seems like the message got lost somewhere along the way.

But if you go and read about it and the history behind it - and, surprisingly, there really is history - it's pretty interesting and eye opening.

Would you believe that the phrase dates back as far as 1896?  Go read that link.

There's a lot to read about Jesus - that whole New Testament thing, those Gospels that tell the story of His life and death and resurrection.  The miracles, the teaching, the compassion.

So what would Jesus do?

Would He stand outside an abortion clinic with a picture of an aborted fetus and scream at the car pulling into the parking lot?  Or would He be ministering to those who are in such a situation that they are considering abortion?  Would He be inside the walls, comforting, loving, and connecting to those making such a difficult choice?

Would He refuse to care for the sick and dying because they don't have jobs or insurance or family to care for them?  Or would He comfort, love, and maybe even heal them?

Would He donate to a food pantry, work in a soup kitchen?  Would He figure that if you don't have a job, you've done this to yourself so why should I hand anything to you?  Or would He take a loaf of bread and a fish and feed thousands?

The most common themes that Jesus preached were mercy, love, and grace.  In the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, He made it very obvious what is expected of those who follow Him.

Love your enemies.
Turn the other cheek (instead of an eye for an eye).
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Don't judge someone else's sin when your own sin needs to be attended to.
You are known by your fruit - a good tree does not produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.
Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness.
You are the salt of earth.
You are the light of the world.

Jesus was radical.  Jesus was a rule breaker, a fighter, a lover, a miracle worker.  This dude shook things up.  He took the laws of the world and tuned them upside down.  He took the laws of the Old Testament and kicked it up a notch.

That old commandment said "Don't kill."  Jesus said - don't kill but also know that words kill.  And when you speak out in anger against someone or to someone, you are killing them.

Old commandment - "Don't commit adultery."  Jesus said - yes, don't sleep with someone else's spouse.  But more than that, don't look at others lustfully, don't raise your hand threateningly.  And even more than that, just because the Old Testament gave you legal divorce, I can see that you are using it as an excuse for your selfishness.  When you use divorce wrongly, you are setting yourselves up for adultery.

Old commandment - "Don't lie."  More than that, Jesus said not to use religion to make yourself sound good.  Don't say "I'll pray for you" if you aren't going to actually pray for them.  Don't say "God be with you" if you don't mean it.  Adding religion to your words to make them sound better is manipulating words for your own benefit and that's wrong.

Jesus told people to quit being selfish, to quit protecting their material things, and to be more than they are, give more than they think they can give, and to do these things to people you don't even like or people who come after you hatefully.  What??  That's crazy!  But look at Matthew 5:38-48.  It's pretty clear.

Love Your Enemies 

 Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

So where did all this preachiness come from today?

A friend of mine from college posted about experiences he's endured lately and it made me angry and it made my heart hurt that there are people in the world who stand behind their faith as an excuse to hurt other people.

Would Jesus call some a faggot?  Would Jesus allow a child to call someone a faggot?

Would Jesus stand by and watch us as we think mean thoughts, say cruel words, belittle others with our choices?  Would Jesus hand us the stone to literally throw to go with our words?

Or would Jesus remind you not to kill... not to kill the spirit of someone else with your words and your actions and your thoughts... would Jesus remind you not to harm others but to take His commandments seriously and go out into the world and purposefully seek to help and uplift and serve?

We all want to drive our own selfish moral train and stand behind the Bible while we do it.  We yell and scream about people on welfare, about gay marriage, about health care, about food stamps, about special services for kids, about women who get abortions, about rape and pregnancies, about all kinds of things.

But who stands on the corner with a sign showing their own sins?  Who stands up and shouts and screams about their own wrongs?  If you're going to claim to be a Disciple of Christ, doesn't that include the entire picture?  Doesn't that mean really challenging yourself to get very seriously real about grace, mercy, love, and servitude?

Because isn't that what Jesus would really do?