Monthly Archives: November 2014

Peace is a choice this holiday season

Phill4My turkey is already thawing in my fridge. Ready or not, the holiday season is coming and with it comes all the expectations, traditions, and general busyness that is wrapped up in the season.  The music, the food, the togetherness, the shopping, the explaining to an 8 year old that Santa is real and then trying to “prove” it to them. Do these things come as welcome interruptions to our normal lives or as intrusions? Or do they fall somewhere in between?

I am generally a calm and peace loving person by nature, that is my role: the peacemaker. I go out of my way to avoid conflict when it is at all possible: it’s a sickness.

However, there is something about the holidays that brings out a side in me that is not something you would brag about in a Christmas letter. I have a lot of expectations for the holidays, they need to be special and inviting, include the many traditions that are important to me, include the foods that I have deemed “right,” include fast moving compitent cashiers and free delivery. I know that the song says “the streetlights blink bright red and green,” however, I’m really only interested in the green ones, the red ones are for the rest of you.

I become incredibly opinionated during this “most wonderful time of the year.” I’m easily offended. I tend to sped my precious girlfriend time to sit and chat about how disappointed I was or outraged I had become or shocked I am…

The complaining can go on and on and it doesn’t stop when I’m alone. Sometimes the most avid listener to my complaining is myself. I can reck havoc on someone’s character and worth inside my own mind for the benefit of making myself feel better or simply enjoying a good rant.

I think it has to do with the fact that I fear disappointment during this season. I want the magic and the mystery and the “Ah-ha” factor. I work so hard at engineering the holidays that when someone disagrees with me or simply has another opinion or heaven forbid slows me down in this quest, watch out!

I’ve discovered that becoming offended, angry or frantic during the holidays and just in general, is a choice. Crazy is not inevitable. It may feel like the season is out of control but I certainly don’t have to be.

This year, I’m choosing not to be offended, not to get angry, not to be frantic. I’m choosing to put others needs in front of my own. I am choosing to refocus how I view stress, people, and expectations. Why? Because that is where peace hides and I want peace in my life. I don’t just want to talk about how I want a more peaceful life, I’m going to choose to be intentional about it.

Philippians 4:5-7 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I need God to guard my heart and my mind this season. Friends, don’t lose sight of the fact that God will help you through this season. He can teach you gentleness. He will bring you joy. He will give you peace that transcends all understanding but you need to ask him.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This Christmas song is a beautiful reminder of how we can effect the world around us, God helping us.

Marriage is tough, are you in it for the long haul?

o-COUPLE-HOLDING-HANDS-facebook    I sat with a group of women for dinner last Friday and we talked about balancing the tension of married life and raising kids. These two things seem to fit together like peanut butter and jelly, yet in reality, it’s much messier and requires more than anyone at the table ever imagined.

A common theme we all shared, was being desperately lonely and feeling separated from our spouses. This was a group of mostly SAHM’s, many reported that although they were constantly surrounded by children, the loneliness coupled with a sense of being unappreciated or misunderstood was a weight they seemed never able to put down. The role of mom and wife required being a maid, nanny, accountant, cook, and master scheduler. This role however, was not the problem. The problem was that the role of “friend and lover” was either anemic or nowhere to be found. Two people who had at one time dressed in their finest and promised to “love, honor and cherish” each other had settled on being room mates or house parents or worse, strangers.

The passion that was once shared between the two had been replaced with whiny kids, demanding bosses, work schedules that created exhaustion and a tenseness that never seemed to go away. The common questions seemed to be, “Is this all there is? Can I ever expect anything more?  And even, why is this so hard?”

One thing I can say to young moms is that the pressure cooker you are living in now with small children is not a life sentence… it is a phase. You will not always be as physically exhausted, sleep deprived or mentally unstimulated( Yo Gabba Gabba, Team Umizoomi for example) as you are now. These little people that seem to demand all of you and your husband’s attention all of the time until you are completely spent will not always be this way. That’s fairly obvious but I know that when you are in the storm, the end is not always in sight. As your kids get older, the demands of the job and on the marriage change. It does get easier in a way but the danger is that by the time the phase is done your marriage is too.

It amazes me how many marriages fall apart around the 15-20 year mark. I used to think that if you made it that long what followed was easy, coasting. However, years of neglect and relational abuse will eventually take it’s toll on a marriage. After the kids are “old enough” and don’t require so much attention I think people start to look around and decide if the marriage is worth staying for. If you are lonely, unappreciated, unconnected and uninvolved in the other person, why would you stay?

A solid marriage is not a fairy tale but I also don’t think it’s a still-life picture either. A solid marriage ebbs and flows with good times and bad. It’s a living thing that requires constant care and upkeep, health check-ups and sometimes critical care. Please don’t ever believe that taking a break from your relationship with your spouse to raise the kids will work. In fact, taking a break from growing together as a couple at any stage in your marriage is a mistake. Your relationship health is important always. You may never be in danger of divorce but I think we are constantly in danger of complacency.  Who wants to live like that?

This isn’t rocket science but it is demanding and difficult. It requires self sacrifice and humility, two elements that don’t come easily to any of us. Many times we, as parents, believe that the most selfless thing to do is to put the kid’s needs above our own, but that is relational suicide for marriages. There are so many people in your world that are counting on your marriage to succeed. Prioritizing your relationship with your spouse is the selfless thing to do. You have to stay in the fight, keep pursuing each other, work at staying in love…your relationship touches too many lives for you to get lazy, stop caring or give up.

Don’t be locked in shame if you need help, go get it.  Let’s hold ourselves accountable for how we think and talk about our spouses to ourselves and to others. Let’s get creative and dream of ways to fall in love all over again. Let’s put relational intimacy back to the top of the “to do” list.

Let me simply encourage you. Let me give you the challenge to take notice of the man you married, to stop being a martyr, the passive spouse waiting for him to notice you. Give him something to notice, invest in yourself and in what you are interested in.  Then turn around and also start to notice what he is interested in. Spend precious time and resources to reconnect. Hold hands.

Marriage is tough. It’s hard work. It sucks sometimes. It can also be great. Don’t let go of the longing for a great marriage.

The end game is a lifelong relationship, growing old together and finding a forever best friend.

Don’t lose sight of the goal when things get tough.

Put the goal right in front of you and work like crazy to get closer each day.

Can you answer this question?

who-me1My youngest son plays football in what can only be described as the longest season of the year. I know many of you might disagree with me and tell me that other sports are longer and more involved and I will believe you, but for me, football takes the cake. It probably has to do with the fact that I am the sole method of transportation and so I attend every one of the 5x a week practices and all of the weekend games. This is our second year in the program so I don’t know too many of the families and to be honest, there aren’t a lot of moms hanging around the sidelines, it’s mostly a man thing. Practice can either be a wonderful time for me to wind down from a busy day and enjoy the solitude or more frequently be a lonely 2 hours when my extroverted self needs to be conversing with someone. So, when I do scope another female on the sidelines, I’m a bit of a creeper. I don’t mean to be but I hate not knowing people and I really do like making small talk, it’s a gift and a curse. Small talk can be frustrating though because if you never get beyond, “Hi, my name is, who is your kid and isn’t the weather nice/horrible/hot/freezing/windy/etc” you don’t really know anything about the person you are talking to. Getting beyond small talk is a hard and arduous task, it’s often bulky, it’s awkward and I’m simply not that good at it.

I had met a mom at a game who I seemed to hit it off with pretty well. We had the same age kids, she laughed at my jokes and talking together helped pass the time. As we talked on the sidelines and we were getting to know each other I asked her, “What do you like to do?” And suddenly the conversation halted, “what do I like to do? Wow, no one has asked me that since like high school.” she told me. She had to think for quite a while before she finally came up with the answer, “I guess I like to read.”

Do you know what you like to do? I think that somewhere between high school and adulthood we stop thinking about this and it’s a shame really. I used to think it was only a Stay At Home Mom problem or a female issue, but honestly I think that it’s an adult issue. Between diaper changes and car pool, job demands and getting the laundry done we stop paying attention to what we like to do and start just doing whatever needs to be done. It’s so easy to walk on the treadmill of life’s demands and just exist from sun up to sun down and not ever think about joy, pleasure, what interests us or ignites our passions.

As a mother, I like watching my boy play football or listening to my daughter sing but honestly those are things I like for other people. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly me either. What do I like to do? This is a much more difficult question. The truth is I haven’t expended much energy on this lately. And if I truly look at myself in the mirror there are days that I don’t recognize the woman staring back at me. Who is she? What is she interested in? What is she passionate about? Do I think I’m important enough to invest the time needed to discover these things?

I have a girlfriend who recently started going back to school to get her degree and it has required a tremendous sacrifice from her and her family because she no longer has the time to attend the the countless needs that her family has. They have had to pitch in and roll up their sleeves, do without or make do with what they have. I have seen her give up things like sleep, exercise, peace of mind and control. But I have also witnessed an almost “rebirth” of her mind, her thoughts, her confidence and her interests. She has found something that she is passionate about and she has something to talk about now. She stands taller and more proud because she knows she is working hard to accomplish something important to her. It’s a beautiful thing. She would have no problem answering my question. Does she like what she is doing all of the time, no, but she has tapped into a part of herself that was sleeping and now she is awake.

Answering the question doesn’t have to require drastic efforts or tons of time or lots of money…but it does require investment. It requires that you look at yourself in the mirror and see someone worth getting to know, someone who deserves more than small talk. Look into the mirror today and ask yourself, “What do you like to do?”

Then, take the time to do it.

It’s your turn:

Write what you like to do in the comment section and share with us a little of who you are. If you don’t know, just say that. If you do know, tell us what it is and how you discovered it. 

I’ll go first, I like to write and cook. I like to listen to people and encourage them. I like to spend time with friends and I like to learn new things.