Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Learning Curve

So tonight, I had to punish my daughter for something that she should have known better not to do. Granted, she's only four. Some things, she needs to be told is wrong first--like taking your arts and crafts basket down without permission. Others, she should already just know--like climbing onto your desk and pulling down the hutch on top whilst letting all of the (fragile) things that are organized on it crash to the floor. *Sigh*
Whether it be wrong or right, after we cleaned up the chaos in her room, I sent my daughter to bed early without supper. (Later, I caved and brought her in a big glass of milk.)
It was a hard night for us; but truthfully, it has been a really hard week. Her attitude has been really firey towards me, she has become exceedingly difficult to reason with, and her blantant acts of misbehavior really have me worried. At the end of every night (including tonight at milk-time) we are able to have a really good heart-to-heart. Every single night she tells me she misses her daddy.
I wish I would have been better prepared for this kind of fact, I should have known better.
I felt like we were so prepared for this deployment with Sammi. Months before my husband left, we sat down and explained it to her, and we talked about it a lot all the months leading up to him being gone. We watched the Elmo movie. We have the Daddy Doll. We made a bulletin board full of pictures of just her and Daddy for her room. My husband even recorded bedtime books for them the night before he left--and supplemented them with more that we got on Thanksgiving Day. (Thank you, Darling!) We cross days off on a calender every night and we Skype regularly.
But even with all of the preparations and stuff we gave Sammi to comfort her, I should have known that they would never be able to replace Daddy. Even with all of the understanding she has of the situation, I should have known that she would still worry about him as much as I do. The big thing is, as much good as we did for her this time around, I should have known that she was still going to horribly miss her father. I should have known that!!

And while we're on the topic of "what I should have already known," I should have known that this deployment was going to be harder on me than I thought it was.
My husband has done plenty of schools and classes where we have had to stay behind. He has even been gone for about 8 months before. I had it in my mind that this separation was going to be a lot like those, only with a little more distance in between us. I should have known better!
I thought that I would be able to handle any issues at home with grace. If something broke, I would call someone to fix it instead of breaking down myself. Then it happens two months in---I should have known better!
I thought that I would be able to busy myself with little home projects and crafts at night-time so I wouldn't lose any sleep. I should have known better!
I thought I could busy myself and the kids with a hundred different activities a month so that this deployment would fly by. Well, I'm exhausted and it hasn't been nine months yet. I should have known better!
I thought that the support system I have here would be enough to keep me chipper. And while they have been nothing but wonderful for me, I still really REALLY miss my husband. I should have known better!

So now that I have had the benefit of a little added experience, let's see how the learning curve stacks up for me...

-Your children are going to miss their father. Everyone told you that you would have to be both "mother" and "father" for your child...they were wrong. You can only be mommy. They have a daddy who is doing an amazing job of parenting from half a world away, but as awesome as he is, he still can't be there to hold his children like they want him to. That's going to be hard. If they are younger, they won't know how to handle these emotions and will probably act out. Mom is probably going to freak out. We will probably resort to bribery of good behavior with icecream and brownies. (Not perfect, but it works!)
-Deployments are different than any field assignment...even if you are used to being separated for months at a time. Field assignments are practice. Deployments are the real deal. I realize now that even though I talk to my husband nearly every day, I still don't know what he does over there--as was our agreement. Some things are better left unsaid. But now is the hard part of understanding that I will go almost a whole year and know only minimal details about my husband's daily life. All I can do is trust in his abilities and trust in God to take care of him. I realize now that I have no idea how the heck I am going to cope when my husband is actually serving under his MOS instead of working staff. I also realize that as much as I wish my husband would just stay in the stinkin' FOB, he is never going to.
-When stuff breaks, women break down. I can handle a grocery store meltdown with the best of them. If the toilet overflows, I am going to flip my freakin' lid.
-Nighttimes are going to be hard--no way around it. They are just going to be, and they are for everyone. When I had DIY projects, I was so excited to finish them, I stayed up all night working on them. And since I lost so much sleep completing them, I burned right through them and now I have nothing to do. If you have ever checked your Facebook page for an hour at 2am even though no one you know has been online for the last 3 hours, then know that you are not alone!!
-It is better to have something to do every day to help pass the time. It is not so smart to have nine things to do in a single day with two preschoolers, even if you have a handful of chaperones to help you along. Some days will be easier than others and seem to fly by. Other days, your four-year-old will pull her desk hutch down in the middle of a playdate and that single night will feel like it lasted an entire week.
-I love my friends. My friends are amazing. But they are not my best friend. And I love my family. They too are amazing. But I have begun a new family with my best friend. As much as I love my friends and family, they are not my husband. They will make me smile and laugh, but I am still ALWAYS going to be wishing he was with me in the back of my mind.

What I now know more than ever is that I don't know it all. I don't have all the answers. Right now, I don't think I have any. But I know, somehow, I am going to figure it out!! And even if I don't, I know we will still survive.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 40

Today I finished the book. The lesson, as one might guess, was a general overview of all of the things we've studied over the past 40 days.

I read the passage pretty early in the day, so I have had pretty much most of the afternoon and all evening to mull over what I thought I wanted to write about tonight. And as one might guess, I have decided to go with a general overview.

I would be lying if I said that I am a changed person, but I am certainly a person with a changed perspective. Here are some things I have learned:

-As much as I love people, as friendly as I am, as many social functions as I am always extra-willing to attend, I was not placing the highest value on my relationships. Now I know that nothing is more important than the people God has put in my life. I still want people's acceptance. I still want validation from my children, husband, and friends, but I don't do nice things to earn it. I do nice things because I love them. I still stress out over the household chores, but I have decided here lately that I would rather lose an extra hour of sleep at night than an extra round of Princess Yahtzee with my daughter. (By the way, Jack's naps are shorter now. Down to 2.5 hours instead of 3...we might have to pick a new game once Jack drops naps altogether or Dad might get a bit upset!)

-As much as I love the people in my life, they are not always especially lovable--anyone who has had to pick a four-year-old who is kicking and screaming up out of the aisle of a grocery store will know what I mean. But whether she is screaming at me or cuddling with me, it is always my job to love her. Fortunately, genetics give her the advantage of my unconditional love, but many people do not have that "get out of jail free card" to use with me. Doesn't matter. Love them I must, because love is an action and not an emotion.

-I can talk anybody's ear off, anytime, anywhere; but talking and communicating are not the same thing. I am not the world's best communicator. Sometimes, I don't listen. Sometimes, when I am upset, I yell more than I talk. Sometimes (ok, alot of the time,) I interrupt other people when they're talking. (That is why blogging works for me...nobody can jump in with a second opinion! lol)
And here lately, it has taken alot out of me to speak honestly about how I feel. I am not always "fine." Sometimes, I am sad or lonely or tired or stressed out of my mind. And while I don't want to become that person who cries to everyone "poor, pitiful me..." I do need to share my feelings honestly with some people and trust them to love me too.

-I have a whole whoppin' mess of planks in my eye. I am not perfect, but I secretly judge others as though I am. And I am awesome at looking the other way when someone really is acting inappropriately. (Those are not things to be especially proud of.) Many of the flaws I am quick to notice in other people are problems that I am walking around with myself. If I poke you with one of my planks, please accept my apologies...I am working on chiseling them down :)

-I still have a desire to be great. I don't want to be mediocre. I want to be the world's best mom, wife, and friend. I still like getting awards. I still like being recognized. It will always feel good to hear someone say "thank you" or "great job."
But the way to be a great mom, wife, and friend is to serve my children, my husband, and my friends before myself. I would rather have rewards in heaven than awards on earth. I would rather be commended by God than by man. I don't want an "I love me" wall as much as I want to hear God say to me "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

-I am a "Golden Rule Girl." But, I admit, sometimes it is much easier to treat people the way they treat you than to treat them the way you want to be treated. To this, I say, kill them with kindness :) (Sounds like someone who's done a 40-day love study, doesn't it?!)

Mostly, I've learned that there is way more than 40 days worth of work left to do in order to follow Jesus's simple commandment to "love one another." But I will take as many days as it takes to get it right...because I love Jesus, I want the rest of you to know that I love Him--and you--too.

I also learned that I just might like to blog a little more than I originally thought I did. Thank you for reading, thank you for relating to it, and thank you for not un-friending me when some of the truth about me came out in all this!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Forget the Ideal, Go for the Real

Tonight we are told that so much of what stands in the way of us having perfect relationships is our idea of what the "perfect" relationship would look like. Here is meat and potatoes of the message: "We make an idol out of the ideal. We set up in our minds a perfect image of how things should be--and end up focusing on that. It keeps us from the real thing."

I love Better Homes and Gardens magazine SO much...maybe too much. While all the rest of the world is out there reading the Twilight series and watching the movies, I am leafing through my BHG for the tenth time, marking pages, tearing out articles for my "idea book," (yes, I do have one of those. I am a bit of a decorating nutcase!) checking my emails because I am on a BHG mailing list, and frequenting the website when I want a little inspiration for a special occasion. (See, I told you...a little too much.) Everything that is pictured in their magazine captures the ideal--and I am pretty sure BHG is where the phrase "picture perfect" came from.

I love my house (even though it belongs to the Army) and I am so grateful for all of the frou-frou stuff my husband allows me to put in it. I walk into my house and feel comfortable. Sometimes I stop and stare at the rooms in my house, just because I like to look at them. And even though I am proud of my spaces and I enjoy living in them, they are still far from my "ideal." I am constantly fussing with the stuff I have, rearranging it to see if there is a way it could look better. I am always buying more stuff we don't need to try and "better" a space. The first couple of weeks after my husband left, I spent hours every night--losing lots of valuable sleep-- working on little DIY decorating projects for the house. Sometimes, I admit, I spend so much time chasing after the ideal that I forget to appreciate what is already there.

And come to think of it, oftentimes, the ideal isn't really attainable at all.

The Ideal Living Space:

What you think--You can scotch guard, slipcover, basket organize, and storage ottoman evidence of your children away so that you can have a sophisticated, adult living space that all of your friends want to hang out in.

What is real--Your children will find a way smudge peanut butter into the upholstery which must break down the chemical components of the scotch guard; the slipcover will need to be washed so many times that it will fade, shrink, and lose its shape; the baskets and storage ottomans are nice...but only if your children decide to put their toys back in them when they are done playing; and no matter what, there will be sticky fingerprints on things you swore they would have never been able to reach. Your friends would want to hang out in it, if not for the screaming children running everywhere.

The Ideal Wedding:

What you think--The weather will allow for clear skies and beautiful sunshine. Everything in the ceremony and reception will sparkle with the help of candlelight and twinkle light. The decor is fabulous, but pales in comparison to you in your wedding dress. People faint as you walk down the aisle because you are so beautiful. The event is so awesome, it is all people talk about for the next month. It is the most magical, happiest night of your life.

What is real--It will start to rain as you are driving to the venue...and you are running twenty minutes late. Everything would sparkle, except your cords on your twinkle lights are not long enough to reach the electrical outlets and you forgot to light the candles. (You will freak out and two bridesmaids and your wonderful groom will scurry around the reception hall to light them all.) Your decorations and wedding dress are lovely, but you will trip on the tutu-thing under your skirt when you are trying to walk up the steps to greet your husband during the ceremony, you will end up getting dirt all along the bottom, (it is an outdoor wedding, duh!) and barbeque brisket will roll down the train of your dress during dinner time because you still eat as sloppily as any two-year-old you've ever known. You are lovely, but your beautiful daughter will steal the show. The night is awesome, but some people may or may not have had so much to drink that they will not remember your wedding for the next minute, let alone the next month. The night is magical and happy, but it is only a fragment of time in the whole marriage that you have before you.

The Ideal Life:

What you think--You will be the perfect home-maker. You will cook dinners that will win a BHG prize-tested recipe contest...and wear high-heels and red lipstick while doing it. You will have children who behave perfectly at all times and say please, and thank you, and ask "mother may I?" Your husband will be home for dinner every night and he will bring you flowers home once a week just because.

What is real--You will spend so much time trying to clean up major messes like grape juice spills and diaper blowouts that you will forget to do the obvious things, like make the bed or do the dishes. You will cook whatever your kids will eat, because you decide it is not worth the battle at supper time each and every night anymore...Easy Mac anyone?? (You haven't even had time to shower in two days or fix your hair, so you would throw the high heel at someone's head if they mentioned that part.) Your children will climb obscure pieces of furniture to try and get the candy you've hidden away rather than ask you for please and thank you have pretty much gone out the window. Your husband is in the Army. He will make it home for dinner about four times out of every month. He totally skips the flower thing; he knows what you really want and need is the wine.
In all seriousness, I love my life. I have so many good things going for me, I hardly know what to do with myself. But it is easy to get so wrapped up in what you want next--what will bring you closer to the ideal--that you forget to really bask in the goodness of what you already have.
It's like when I talked about wanting to get out of date night ruts with my husband...I was so busy looking for something better to do that I didn't realize how great what we were doing really was.
Or I kick myself in the butt trying to be the best mom that I can-- I often harp on how I think I'm failing so much that I actually DO fail to see my children's smiling, contented faces at the end of the night.

The ideal is just an idea. Bask in the goodness of what you've really got.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Love Your Enemies

I think the title of tonight's post pretty much sums up what the focus of the book's lesson was all about.

Over a month ago, I wrote about Jesus's request that we love everyone as our neighbor. I mentioned some "everyones" that I was going to need to work on a little bit. Here they are again:

-That driver that keeps trying to run me over on the interstate
-That hoity-toity person that keeps cutting in front of me in the line at the grocery store
-The haggler at the yard sale that offends me by offering $10 for something I paid $200 for
-The punk that sold me something for $200 that I only should have paid $10 for
-The chick that is wearing the same outfit better than me
-The other person that got the job I really wanted
-The bold-faced liar
-The thief
-The person that brags about himself all the time
-The bully on the playground who pushed my precious baby, and the mom that saw him do it and didn't say anything
-The person who unapologetically tramples over everyone and everything to get what they want
-A group of people who protest at funerals of military service members who have fallen in combat, and who make me ashamed that they proclaim to be a "church" (and a Baptist one at that.)
-Child molesters
-Child abductors
-Sexual abusers
-People who celebrate that planes crashed into buildings full of innocent people and are planting explosives and shooting guns at my husband and his buddies.

Again, there are still some on this list that I can't wrap my head around loving just yet, but here is the promise I make to try to act lovingly toward all the rest.

-To the driver that keeps trying to run me over on the interstate: I will move to the right lane, pull onto the shoulder, or do whatever it is you want me to do so that you can pass. I will not honk, I will not give inappropriate hand signals, and I will not scream out at you that you are a "stupid idiot."
-To the hoity-toity person that keeps cutting in front of me in the line: I will give up my place without giving you a dirty look or making a snide remark.
-To the haggler at the yard sale: I will offer to meet you halfway.
-To the punk that sold me something for more than it was worth: I will thank you in my mind for teaching me a life lesson and to be more cautious in future transactions.
-To the chick that is wearing the same outfit better than me: I will compliment you...and mean it.
-To the other person that got the job I really wanted: I will congratulate you...and mean it.
-To the bold-faced liar: I will not rub it in your face when the truth comes out, and support you when you are ready to tell the truth.
-To the thief: I will offer up my forgiveness, without you asking for it.
-To the person that brags about himself all the time: I will help you create a blog. (Because it's helping me!!)
-To the bully on the playground who pushed my precious baby, and the mom that saw him do it and didn't say anything: I will help your child if I see he is being bullied and I will be sure to punish my own child if they are ever the bully.

-And for the others, I'm not ready to commit yet. But if you ever do an injustice to me or anyone I love, I hope that I will pray for you-- a prayer that God will change your heart, and that you can experience forgiveness and freedom through Christ--because even though I don't think you deserve it, Jesus does. And He already paid the price for each and every sinner.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Love is Sacrificial

I think the jist of tonight's lesson can be summed up in these two sentences: "Love is not reciprocal; love is sacrificial. Love gives itself without waiting for others to give."

Even non-believers are pretty familiar with the love verses from 1 Corinthians 13. (Love is patient and kind...)

Our generation has come up with its own set of love verses:

Love is patient...if you don't push my buttons.
Love is long as you are nice to me.
Love is not jealous...unless you get something better than me.
Love does not brag...except on Facebook.
Love is not arrogant...unless I have the opportunity to show you how great I am.
Love does not act unbecomingly...except when someone easily angers me.
Love does not seek its long as you are giving me what I want anyway.
Love does not provoke...unless I want other people to rally beside me on my behalf.
Love does not take into account a wrong least not after you have received your payback.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness...unless you deserve it.
But rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all long as it is still beneficial to me.

We are a generation all about reciprocity. You give what you get. What goes around, comes around. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. An eye for an eye...

Tonight we are challenged to take the fist step. Tonight we are told to give before we get. Tonight, we are told to love like Jesus loved; unconditionally. I often think about Jesus loving Judas. Jesus had an inner circle of twelve disciples, and Judas was one of them. He was one of Christ's own chosen followers, and he is the one who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

I am so glad I am not Jesus. If I knew someone I loved and trusted had just betrayed me to the people who would condemn me to die WITH A KISS, I am pretty sure I would have kicked him in the crotch--real, real hard. I am a friendly gal, and I am able to mesh with many people very well for the most part, but I certainly don't like everyone I meet. There was a lady not too long ago who I KNEW was spreading rumors about me to other people, and every time I saw her, she would come up and greet me with a hug. My skin would literally crawl. It took everything inside of me not to punch that person in the face. (What can I say?! I get my charm and "people skills" from my husband!) I was so proud of myself for containing my anger. But what I really should have been doing is hugging her back!

Jesus loves without us doing anything to deserve it. Other people shouldn't have to earn our love, either. I don't know about you, but that's really hard for me to swallow.
(A side note--Just now as I wrote that, my mind thought of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" and then Mary Poppin's "A Spoon Full of Sugar." It kind of fits though, doesn't it?!)

Here is the deal. Jesus says to "treat others the way you want them to treat you." He doesn't say, "Treat others the way they have treated you" or "Treat others the way you want them to treat you and then they will." He just says to do it. Unfortunately, more often than not, this means you will be acting out of sacrificial love. All of us are smart enough to know by now that just because you are nice to someone doesn't mean they will be nice in return. And sometimes, people will take your genuine niceness out of context and assign ulterior motives to it. But there is no sub-clause to Jesus's Golden Rule. There is no fine print. There is not a breach of contract that allows you to get out of doing nice things and showing sacrificial love for your neighbor...There is only one simple instruction: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

So I have to take the first step. And while I feel this may be one of those "two steps forward, one step back" kind of things, it is still up to me to make the move.

Are you ready boots? Start walking...(oh wait...that song probably doesn't apply here!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Big Question

Tonight the book moves out of a week about serving others and into a week about the Golden Rule. This lesson's focus was all about the big question we have when it comes to our relationships: How do I get my needs met?
And what is the answer to that question? Treat others the way you want to be treated.

I think when I began this study 36 lessons ago, I refered to myself as "the golden rule girl." I am a very empathetic person, and I feel very fortunate that I am able to notice needs in other people's lives and help meet them. But I often do this at the expense of neglecting to take care of myself.

Today, I put my children into drop-off care at the church and went from one side of El Paso to the other and back again running errands. I didn't eat any breakfast this morning because I needed to make the kids' lunches and run out the door so we wouldn't be late. I grabbed a cup of coffee instead and two breakfast items for the kids to eat in the car. (Why did I forget myself? Your guess is as good as mine.) Once I got the kids where they needed to be, I ran to three different stores on the Eastside looking for stuff for our MOPS Christmas party coming up in the next couple weeks. Afterward, I went to the mall to pick up a Christmas gift I had ordered that was ready and waiting for me. Then I went all the way to the Westside to pick up three other items. (Also Christmas gifts. 'Tis the season.)
Friday is usually the day I get to chat with my husband online for about 30 minutes, just the two of us. It has become my new favorite day of the week for this reason. Today, though, I wasn't home to take the video call.
Instead, I was heading back to post to go grocery shopping at the Commissary and pick up all the items my mom had requested for our Thanksgiving spread. By the time I had finished checking out, I realized I had to go pick up the kids (back on the Eastside) without going home to unload the groceries first. Of course, I was running low on gas, so I had to stop to gas up real quick before I could get the kids home and Jack down for his afternoon nap. By the time I finally finished unloading and putting away the groceries at 3:30pm I realized that all I had to eat or drink all day was that one morning cup of coffee.
I was hungry, but I had made dinner plans with one of Sammi's old friends from dance class so I figured it was too late to eat anything at that point. I drank a glass of coke. (I was exhausted.) Jack saw me drinking the coke and asked for some so I shared it with him. Sammi asked for a snack so I got her some crackers. (Again, your guess is as good as mine why I didn't eat some of the crackers.)
We met at the Post Exchange for our playdate/dinner date and when we ordered our food, I was so hungry, I got the biggest burger on the menu. The fast food place took FOREVER to get it to me. (Not kidding, I waited about 15 minutes longer than the person who ordered right ahead of me.) I finally got the food, got our drinks, headed to the table, got Jack's highchair, and the kids' food and their ketchup all good to go, and I sat down in my chair to take my first bite of food all day...and Sammi spilled her soda all over the floor.
As I started to get up to walk around the table to pick up my daughter's cup, my friend says, "What do you need me to do for you? You don't have to do everything all by yourself right now, you know! I am here to help you!"
I jokingly answer her, "No, I don't need you to do anything. I am an Army Wife. I can do it all by myself!"

But the more I think about it, the more I realize how desperately I depend on the kindness of others. Of course, I am too proud to ask for any help, but thankfully I am also surrounded by a whole lot of empathetic people who have my back when they see that I am in need. From the neighbors who come over to check on me when my washer breaks, to the friend who lets me borrow something when mine won't work, or the fellow-mom who knows how helpful it is to bounce my restless child on her lap so I can eat...I would be totally lost if it weren't for the helpers I do not ask for and I will not admit that I need. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

All the more reason for me to keep on being that golden rule girl.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think it is time for a bedtime snack...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Daily Decision of Humility

My mom and her husband have a saying when they are trying to get over a big obstacle that I have adopted as my own: ODAT. (One Day at a Time)
So many things in life need to be taken one day at a time. We are simple creatures, and while we sometimes think we can see the big picture, we really can't. Of course, things always seem to make sense to us in retrospect, but I believe the majority of us struggle to see the grander image as we are living through it. Thankfully, God always has a clear vision of the big picture in mind. So what can I do to make sure I am coloring in the lines to His picture as best I can? Live ODAT.

Deployments are scary, because as much as you can try to plan ahead for them, there are some things that you just are not going to be able to forsee. Before my husband left, he did a big shopping trip where he stocked us up on all of the big, heavy items we use from day to day that he knew I would have trouble lifting into the cart and carrying into the house on my own. (I know...what a sweetie!) Currently, I have about 5 economy-sized tubs of laundry detergent from Costco sitting in my coat closet. In theory, this would have been a wonderful blessing for me. But we couldn't forsee the future, and we didn't know that our washer would burn out its motor, smoke out the house, and die only a few months into the deployment. Fortunately, we were able to replace the washer right away. I now have a new, bright and shiny high efficiency washer that is quiet, clean, and eco-friendly...that is not compatible with the five economy-sized tubs of laundry detergent that my husband thoughtfully purchased for me before he left.

That can happen in our walk with Christ, too. For a time we will be humming along just fine. Then all of a sudden one of our motors will burn out. And by the time we get everything back in order, the old way doesn't work for us anymore. I think that is why Jesus specified in the Lord's Prayer that we should ask God to "give us this day our daily bread." I look at this prayer now and my heart translates it, "Lord, help me take it ODAT." Christianity is not a religion; it is a lifestyle. And it is one that I have to make a conscious decision to live out each and every day.

God said to love Him--Some days, I get so caught up in the here and now and the daily grind that I don't even remember to pray at night. Sometimes I feel so far from holiness that I just quit trying altogether. Regardless of how I feel, I still have to choose to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind. Dear Lord, please help me take it ODAT.

God said to love my neighbor--I am part of an Army community. I get new "neighbors" on a pretty regular basis. The first group of moms that I met from my daughter's dance class were wonderful to be around and easy to love. This new group that has moved in is a little harder for me. I still have to choose to love them--even if the some of the people are belittling and mean. Dear Lord, please help me take it ODAT.

God said to serve others--My husband is half a world away, and I am pulling extra duty to hold down the fort for him on the homefront. Some days, I don't know what I am going to serve my own children for dinner, let alone how I am going to find the time or energy to serve other people. And as a busy mom with two young children, it would be alot easier for me to stay at home in my protected cacoon and just worry about how I can take care of our needs and our needs alone. But that's not what God asked me to do as his redeemed follower. Dear Lord, please help me take it ODAT.

I read this passage in tonight's lesson and I really liked it. Thought I would share it with you.

"Humility is not thinking less of myself; it is thinking more of others.
Humility is not putting myself down; it is lifting God up.
Humility is not denying my strengths; it is being openly honest about my weaknesses.
Humility is seeing that without Christ I can do nothing, but in Christ I can do all things!"
We bow our hearts. We bend our knees. Oh, Spirit, come make us humble...
Dear Lord, Help us to reach your vision of humility each and every day, one day at a time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vine And Branches

Today's lesson talked about Jesus's teachings in John 15:45.
(God is the gardener.) Jesus is the vine. We are the branches.

I feel silly for saying this, but I never understood this passage from the Bible until I read this book tonight. You see, I don't have a green thumb. I once tried to grow basil on my windowsill. Someone told me that all you needed to grow basil was soil, water, and full sun. Well, El Paso has plenty of sun, so I figured I would give it a try. I grew varying stages of basil, but no basil. The seeds sprouted and formed little shoots, but then they would all flop over and die. I had a couple of mushrooms spring up, but no basil leaves. I tried on three different occasions and it was the same song and dance every time. Gardening is supposed to be an easy analogy, I guess, but it will totally escape those of us who kill plants on contact.

So in case anyone out there is like me, just know that Jesus sucks up the good stuff from the soil to help us grow. As long as we hang on to Him, we bear fruit (or maybe even a basil leaf or two.) :)

One part of the lesson tonight that really got me thinking is when the author talked about how branches need "pruning" in order to be fruitful. "It'll look like God's doing great things in my life and I'm growing--and then all of a sudden there'll be a snip!"

One of the perks that we get from living on post is a gardening service that comes out and trims all the hedges in the front every few months. I appreciate them coming out and cutting down broken tree branches and trimming back bushes that are blocking the path of the walkways, but last winter they came by and just totally hacked our beautiful lavender bushes down to a few twigs. Then, in February, we had the worst freeze in El Paso's history for decades. I thought those poor little fellas were gone for good.
In an effort to replace what was lost, last April on Earth Day, my husband planted three new bushes in our front yard. When we were plotting out where to put them, we noticed teeny tiny green leaves growing from a bunch of sticks. I thought they were weeds.
"Dig 'em up!" I said. "Then we can put the new bushes where the lavender used to be."
"Baby, I think that is the lavender," my husband corrected me. "Just in case, I will plant around them."
And I am so glad he did. Because sure enough, my husband was right. Those tiny sticks covered in "weeds" blossomed into bright, purple flowers that filled out so nicely between our new midnight bushes.
If the maintenance men hadn't cut them down as much as they had, then the freeze would have definitely killed them. Instead, they grew back just as big and healthy as they had been the summer we moved into the house. In fact, I think they were even fuller this year than they were the year before. I guess they knew what they were doing. (And I bet they know how to grow a mean basil plant.)

I always need to remember that when God is in the pruning process, He knows what He's doing, too. Sometimes I don't always understand why He chooses to snip where He does, or why He finds it necessary to lop so much off at a time. Sometimes He has so much work to do on me that by the time He's done, I feel like I am standing out there, just a short brown stick covered in little green "weeds." But somehow, I always come back bigger and stronger than I was before.

I am so glad that God is a better gardener than I am!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Humility Handles Our Relationship with God

The key point from the reading tonight was that we are either humbling ourselves before God and trusting that He will take care of all our needs or "sliding into a do-it-yourself religion."

I often find myself wavering between those two points.

The title of my blog is "crazy woman driver" and I really, really am. When you are driving down the road and thinking to yourself, "what in the world is that person doing?" are probably talking about me. So, needless to say, I have had an encounter or two where I have found myself in a dangerous situation. Once I was driving my husband's trusty rusty red truck and had failed to notice that the air in the tire was WAY too low. And when I say low, I mean that the car was literally bouncing down the highway. Most people would have noticed the tire, or at least noticed the bouncing and pulled the truck over. A crazy woman driver doesn't do this.
She keeps on driving down the highway at 65mph, cursing the poor truck for how awful it is driving, wondering what engine problem it could possibly have this time, and thinking that she will tell her husband that his truck is broken and he needs a new one immediately...And the poor tire bouncing down the road at such a high speed won't be able to take it anymore, and it will burst.
Now again, most people who blow a tire on the highway will probably grasp the wheel tightly at 10 and 2 in order to steady the car and once the car is under control, they will steer it slowly over to the shoulder. A crazy woman driver doesn't do this, either.
She will close her eyes, scream, and let go of the wheel while waving her hands frantically in in the air.
Every time I hear Carrie Underwood's "Jesus take the Wheel" I think of this moment in my life. Although, I am pretty sure I didn't say 'Jesus take the wheel' as much as I screamed out "Oh my God! Oh my God!" Luckily, He heard that as a cry for help and not a curse on His name because I somehow made it across three lanes to the shoulder without harming anyone else or myself.

But isn't that how a cry to God for help always is? When you have dug yourself so deep into a hole and your situation is so messed up that you can't see a way out of it, you say, "God, help me! Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it! I trust that you will save me from this disaster!" But when things start going well again, you stop listening to God's direction as much. When things are under control, you are confident in your own abilities again, and you start to build your relationship with God like a Burger King combo--cutting out all of the "extra" stuff that you don't want anymore or like as much.

We have no problem giving full control of our life over to God when we have turned it all to crap. We struggle a lot with letting go of the control when it's going good and we think we've got it all figured out on our own.

And I am finding that it is even harder to give over complete control when you are responsible for so many things on your own. When your husband is deployed, you are suddenly given a whole bunch of roles you didn't have before. All of day to day stuff is all up to you. All of the big stuff is all up to you too. If it's going to happen, you have to do it. I am afraid to give up control, because if I'm not running the show, then how the heck is the show going to go on?! I have never necessarily been a control freak before, but I feel like I could be turning into one.

I don't want that for myself. And I don't ever want to exalt myself to the point of thinking that I can do anything better than God could do it for me. Because here is the truth:
-When I am struggling, God rescues me.
-When I am thriving, it is because God is blessing me.
-When I am working through the bad, God is working overtime.
-When I am basking in the good, God is still working.
-When I am screwing it all up, God is fixing it.
-When I am getting it right, it is because God is in the driver's seat. :)

A little side note here, it has been years since the aforementioned incident occured. I have gotten better at driving, but it is because I avoid driving on the highway. And even so, I probably still get the finger a lot more than most people should :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Humility Handles Our Tendency to Compare

I need to be great. I need to be noticed. And in order to know that you are noticing just how great I am, I will compare myself to others. At least, that is how the book stacks all of this up. (And for the record, I agree with the book.)

It is hard not to compare yourself to others. I do it all the time. As a parent, I will watch how other children act in public. I will observe that they are acting A) Better than my child B) Worse than my child C) On par with my child or D) I am way too tired to know who's child is yelling and screaming. Then, from my quick and hasty observation, I will conclude that A) I am a terrible mother B) I am a terrific mother C) I am the same as the other mother--We should schedule a playdate! or D) Where the heck is my coffee?!?!

Comparisons are a way to self-assess, but they are not necessarily a good way. Here are three mistakes I think we will make when we are quick to compare:

1. I assume too little of myself.

It is far too easy to beat yourself up when you are comparing yourself to someone else. Give yourself some credit. You're not as big of a screw-up as you think you are.
One time when Jack was just weeks old, I decided to take the kids to the zoo on a playdate with my MOPS group. I guess Sammi was having backlash from being cooped up in the house with me and her baby brother for the past few weeks, because she was just going crazy!! She had found one of her little playmates from Sunday School and they were running all over the place. Weaving in and out of crowds of people, bursting in and out of different was ridiculous! I thought I was going to lose her! And I couldn't get her attention to stop her. Eventually, I had to go to my last resort...I ran full speed after her (with her newborn brother along for the ride in the stroller) yelling "SAMANTHAAAAA!!! STOOOOPPP!!!!" No dice. She still kept right on running along with her friend. As I was still running, I hear the other child's mother from yards behind say (at a very reasonable volume,) "Son. Come here, please." What did her little boy do? He left my crazy daughter out there running by herself and immediately complied to the controlled request of his mother. I had never felt like a bigger failure. It was like pouring salt into an open wound. I was so embarassed for myself and my child, I almost decided then and there that I would never go to MOPS again. What was I doing so wrong that my kid would not listen to me even when I was chasing after her? How was the other mother so much better than me that her kid didn't even have to be yelled at?
Thankfully, I could blame my over-reaction on my lack of sleep and jacked up hormones from having just delivered a baby...which was totally true. But I also knew that I had freaked out a little because I was self-conscious. That was my first outing as a mom of two, and I had no idea how I was going to handle it. In fact, I was worried about how I was going to handle having two kids in general, not just out in public. And because I was unsure of myself, I was too willing to compare myself to other people to see how I was stacking up. That was dumb. Am I a perfect mom? Heck no. But I am the perfect mom for my kids, or else God would have never given them to me. (By the way, Sammi does much better when we are out now. lol)

2. I assume too little of the other person.

When you make a hasty assumption about someone else during a brief encounter, you wind up looking like a fool. I love this story...
When my husband and I were still in college, he worked as an independent home contractor. He was a jack of all trades: you name it, he did it...roofing, tiling, minor plumbing, electrical, interior and exterior repair. (Yes, yes. I know. He is very handy!!) Of course, all of this hard work out in the heat of central Texas made him pretty dirty, sweaty, and smelly by the end of the day. One day after work, he went to pick up a take-and-bake pizza from Papa Murphy's.
When he got home he asked, "Do I look especially dumb to you today?"
"No. Why?"
"Because when I went to pick up the pizza, the guy at the counter looked at me all funny and said, 'Um, do you need me to read these cooking instructions for you?'"
I have never laughed so hard. My husband was about to graduate Cum Laude from Texas A&M while working 70+ hours a week to support his wife and child and was weeks away from being commissioned as an officer into the United States Army...and this high school kid thought that he couldn't read!
My husband never told me what he said to that poor kid...but I'm sure he will never make a hasty comparison like that again :)

3. I assume too much of myself.

Sometimes, we really do stack up well against other people and are given "high places of honor." But then we let it go to our head and we think we are better than we actually are. Maybe you've done this to someone. Maybe you have had it done to you. Today, someone who often discusses her husband's rank flaunted it in front of me while we were having an open group discussion. (It's higher than my husband's, but not by as much as she thinks it is. And of course, she doesn't know it because I do not give out that information to practical strangers.) I would like to think that this lady (who also happens to be the name-dropper I have referred to in the past) was using her husband's rank as a persuasive factor to make her point, or even as a bragging right. And maybe she was. But she also did it at the expense of belittling me, whilst using her "expertise" to guess my husband's rank--and she was way off. And I know with everything I said last night, that shouldn't matter much, but it hurt me. When the ranking system is used defensively against you, it's hard not to want to throw a title in there. I wanted to say, "Look here, Miss Snooty Pants! My husband is an officer too, so don't go making your assumptions about me!" But I didn't. First of all, because her husband was with her and had just returned from the War in Iraq, so I didn't want to cause a scene in front of him. But also, because it really wasn't worth it. One day, someone somewhere is going to kick her off her high horse, and it doesn't need to be me.
In fact, I feel like God put this lady into my life while I am working through this series because she totally bugs me, and He is trying to see if I am really serious about loving EVERYONE. Pray for me...and for her. She is a challenging person for me to deal with right now.
Here's what I think...if that matters at all to anyone else at this point...

It is just too easy to compare ourselves to other people; we may not ever be able to stop comparing ourselves. So why not channel our tendency to compare into looking at how we stack up next to Jesus. Because then, we will all fall short of the only acceptable standard, and we will be able to take our rightful place as humble sinners. There. Now we are all on the same level.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Humility Handles Our Need to Be Noticed

I have a need to be noticed.

As a woman, I like for people (ahem--this especially means you, husband!) to notice when I am trying a new hairstyle, sporting a new outfit, or working a new pair of shoes. When I post pictures of my family on Facebook, it is not enough to merely have you look at them. I want you to "like" them and comment about how cute my children are. I also want people (ahem--that's to you again, husband!) to notice my efforts. When the house is picked up and put together and the meal is hot and ready on the table, I want to hear the compliment. When the toilets are clean and the floor is mopped, I want you to verbalize that you've seen it. When the grass is cut, and the beds are made, and the dogs poo has been scooped, I better know that you've recognized it. When the four-year-old is counting to 100, I want to hear you say that you are proud of me for all the good work I am doing with her. When I broke the boy from bottles and made the hard transition to sippys, I want to hear you shout, "Woo hoo! You go, Mama!"

I don't know how or when I became so needy.

And unfortunately, the person I am "ahem-ing" is not here to do the noticing for me. So all of my needs to be noticed must be fulfilled by my family and friends. Sorry about that. :(

The book says we have a need to be noticed in three ways:
Our labels/logos
Our honors/recognitions
Our titles

Labels/Logos: Growing up, I remember never caring what brand my clothes were. But I specifically remember my mother buying me my first pair of name-brand shoes. There was a boy in my fifth grade class who was teasing me because I didn't wear fancy athletic brand shoes. So I did what any fifth-grade girl would do. I went home and cried to my mom about it. And that very day, my mom took me to Famous Footwear and bought me a pair of white, princess Reebock sneakers. I remember wearing them the next day, feeling so proud of myself for having something that had never even mattered to me a mere 24 hours before. Did the boy notice? I'm sure he did, but in the grand scheme of things it didn't make any difference. He was still a meanie-head, and I was still me...just in a different pair of shoes. I have since learned my lesson about labels from that scenario. Here's a little secret about my wardrobe: I don't buy anything that isn't at least marked 75% off the original sales price. If it is not $10 or less, I won't buy it for myself. And I don't think I dress all that badly! My clothes do not have to have a fancy tag or logo...they just have to fit me and be cheap! I have carried this line of thinking over to my children. I feel no shame in putting my kids in hand-me-down clothes, because they are kids. Regardless of if the clothes are free or cost a fortune, a kid will outgrow it, a kid will stain it, a kid will rip it climbing a tree, and any kid preschool-aged or younger is probably going to pee through it. It is a fact of life. And you will be a lot less angry if they do these things and you aren't thinking "Noooo! I spent $25 on that polo onesie!!!"

Honors/Recognitions: So labels I don't have too much of a problem with, but this one is going to sting a little. I like helping people. I truly and honestly do. But as much as I like helping people, I also like having people notice me for it. When you work hard, you want to hear someone say, "Job well done!" It is fun to have your picture taken holding an award. It is even more fun to have a whole lot of people see that picture. It is especially nice to have someone that you admire and want to impress notice your efforts or nominate you for the award. Everyone deep down wants to stand in a place of honor. I struggle with this alot. There was one awards ceremony at my old job where my supervisor got up to speak about the "Rookie of the Year" winner. I had been nominated for the position at the company-level (I didn't win) but I was sure I was going to nab the department-level one. As she spoke, I could feel myself blushing like you do when you think someone is talking about you. Everything she said, I thought, "Yep. That's me." People were nudging me on the side as if to say, "Yep. That's you." So imagine my surprise when she said, "Congratulations to our Rookie of the Year, [not me.]" I was so embarrassed, hurt, and a little offended. Not to mention, I was really jealous of the person who won (and who totally deserved it! She had caught a glitch in the billing system that saved the company like $300,000/mo.) It wasn't enough for me to have been nominated. I wanted the whole she-bang! I wanted the ultimate recognition. And it hasn't gotten any better since becoming a stay-at-home mom. It may have even gotten worse. Because I don't have the validation of a job, I need recognition of a job well done from my peers, my husband, and my children almost constantly. Because mothering cannot be processed in a database or completed on a form, I need people to notice that I am doing a good job or I feel like I am not.

Titles: I wear a lot of hats. None of them are all that prestigious. But when you are a member of a military family, you realize how important titles (aka rank) can be. If the husband is high-ranking, there are certain respects that are always to be paid to him. This is hard for me to adjust to when I visit my husband at work. To me, he is my best friend, the father of my children, the man I know can drink a pitcher of beer in 13 seconds...just this good old boy from Aggieland. So when I am walking somewhere with him and people stop to salute him, this really trips me out. What trips me out even more is when the courtesies they are required to pay to him are then reflected onto me. It is really a strange thing to have a person 20 years older than me call me "Ma'm." It is really, REALLY weird when their wife does it too. Mrs. Tarter--I'm okay with that. But M'am?? Just so you know, if I have never mentioned it before, if you read this blog and you EVER call me "Ma'm"...I will bop you on your noggin. :) But titles are important and they make us feel important. The first time I was called a 'mom' or got to call a little person my 'daughter,' that was wonderful to me. When I got to call my boyfriend my fiance and then my husband...that was spectacular! I love to be recognized as an Aggie. (Bring on the Aggie jokes! See if I care!) I love to be called an Army Wife. But I can see how people are able to get too caught up in titles of prestige. Don't let me ever get caught up in the title of being an "officer's wife." I am proud of my soldier, just like everyone else. But he deserves the special treatment. Not me.

I have gone on and on tonight so I think I should wrap it up. The book says that in order to handle our need to be noticed, we must redirect our focus to meeting other's needs. I know that's the truth. It is amazing how quickly I can put aside my own needs whenever my children need me. One time the three of us were so sick and my husband was on staff duty. I think that was the easiest stomach virus I ever had because I couldn't focus on how miserable I babies needed me more. The thing I need to remember for myself is that when I feel the need to be honored or recognized, I shouldn't focus on earning man's recognition, but God's. Sure, it feels nice to hear other people tell me I'm doing well but it will feel even better when one day I hear God tell me "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How Humility Handles Ambition

Yesterday, I learned of my own inherent desire to be great, and how it can cause a glitch in God's plan for me to serve others. Today, I learn about how that call to greatness is God-given, and how I can use this desire to acheive great things for the glory of God. (If you are thinking this sounds a bit contradictory, don't worry, because I thought that too.)
The book basically explains that though God has given me the desire to be great, I have muddled it with my own selfish ambitions. Yesterday, I mentioned that I had a desire to be the smarest, most elite, and most well-liked. Yep, sounds like some selfish ambitions to me! However, if we humble ourselves, God is better able to navigate our amibitions, and thus, we are able to acheive the purpose for which God has created us. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal! Sign me up for that plan, please!
Problem is, one must first figure out how to "humble" oneself. The book looks to Matthew 18:4 to provide the solution to that problem: "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

So it turns out that yesterday when I was making all that talk about learning how to manage my selfish desires with the "maturity that comes with age," I was wrong. It is better to act like a child. Go figure.

The book says that the reason Jesus spoke of children in this light is because children are completely dependent on someone else for their wants and needs. And because they are dependent, they are not demanding. I have to stop right there for a second. Apparently, Mr. Holladay has never met my children. Mr. Holladay, allow me to introduce you. Sammi is a talkative--though sometimes mouthy, smart--though sometimes smart-alecky, strong--though sometimes stubborn, and sweet--though sometimes sneaky four-year-old who has no problem telling her mommy what she wants and who occasionally will throw herself onto the floor crying and flailing her feet about in the air if she doesn't get it. Jack is my handsome, equally smart, and equally sweet 19-month-old who adores his older sister and studies her every move. And though he does not have the vocabulary to articulate everything he wants, he sure does have "NO!" down. He has also just learned to cross his arms and say "angry!" when I tell he him can't have something he wants. And just a few days ago, my precious baby looked an awful lot like his sister as he threw himself onto the floor when I told him that he could not have another cookie. So are they dependent on me? Absolutely. But that doesn't stop them from demanding anything from me, either.

But here is what I thought about when I read the verse about the humble child...

Children are wonderful, beautiful creations. I think as adults we often see them as lowly/humble because they are naive and still have so much to learn about the world and about themselves. But it is because of their naivete that they are innocent. And it is because of their innocence that they are able to see things more clearly than many adults. Life hasn't jaded them yet. Their hearts haven't been hardened. They accept truths in terms of black and white. They are able to trust and love completely.

When our church does believers baptism, they always show a little video first where the person who is getting baptized is able to give his/her testimony. I always love listening to the childrens'. They are always so cute and entertaining. They'll say things like "before I was a Christian, I was angry with my mom alot when she told me to do things. But now, I obey my parents and do my chores." But there was one child's testimony a couple of months ago that really struck a chord with me. I will never forget it.
The video came onto the projector and the child said, "My name is ... and today I am getting baptized because I love Jesus, and I want you all to know that I love Him too." That was it. That was the whole testimony. But how wonderful that in this child's simple statement, they were able to capture what salvation, faith, and believer's baptism was all about!

Reflecting on the testimony of that "naive" child has really put me in my place. Adults walk around all the time complaining about how living a life for God is so hard, but it isn't supposed to be. It really is supposed to be simple. God always meant for it to be easy. We are just complicating it all with our own selfish ambitions.

I will humbly serve others. Why? Because I love Jesus, and I want all of you to know that I love Him too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 29: The Desire to Be Great

So I have just finished up a week about judgement and I am now moving on to a week devoted to serving others. If you think about it, these really go hand in hand. When you are judgemental of others, you are thinking of all of the ways you are better than the other person. When you refuse to live your life in service to others, you are thinking of all the things you deserve more than other people. Usually, the people we see as overly-judgemental are criticized as "acting all high and mighty."
Jesus was and is the The Most High, God Almighty-- and he lived a life fully out of service to others. The key verse for tonight is Matthew 23:12- "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

I personally struggle alot with my own desire to be great. Maybe it's a first-born thing, I don't really know. But what I do know is that I am a perfectionist. (And let me tell you, it is the bane of my existance, being as I am so far from perfect!)

I've always wanted to be the smartest. I wanted to be the teacher's favorite. I wanted to be the spelling bee champ. (I wasn't, by the way. I got second because I mis-spelled the word 'bouillon.' And I still can't get it right. I just had to look it up on google to make sure I got it correctly this time!) I had to be on the Honor Roll all the time. I didn't get my first B until high school in Geography. (That's when I found out I am not very good at locating things on a map. Ask my husband about how long I thought Idaho was in the midwest. Oy!) My second B was the following semester in Geometry. (I guess the 'geo's' don't agree with me...) I arranged my entire schedule in high school in order to accumulate the maximum amount of grade points to boost my rank and graduated 6th in the class. Little did I know my rank would earn me minimal scholarships and I would have to get used to being merely an 'average' student in college. Occasionally, I will still act like a know-it-all. But just between you and me, I don't know anything. :)

I've always wanted to be the most elite. Drill team captain, head cheerleader, lead in a musical, leader of a youth group, first chair in the band, A Team volleyball and basketball, select leagues for basketball and softball, competetive cheerleading...I still can't believe my parents agreed to let me do all of these activities. How did we not all pass out from exhaustion? How did we afford to eat?! And of all of those hours and dollars that were spent on developing skills for this, that, and the other, which of these do I continue to do now? NONE OF THEM! I don't even know where my dusty old trophies are stashed. Mom, do we even still have them or are they in a dumpster somewhere?

I have always wanted to be the most well-liked. Wittiest, most congenial, homecoming court nominee...these were all titles that I lived for. And I still really want people to like me. Not that it is a bad thing to want to be well-liked. But it can be a bad thing to want to be the MOST well-liked. I remember in grade school my best friend lived right accross the street from me and her name was Rachael. We spent practically every spare minute together, as most best friends do. But Rachael also had a really close friend named Ashlee. And while I liked Ashlee, I always felt threatened that she would take Rachael away from me. I guess she felt that way too, because one day as the three of us were walking home from school, Ashlee and I got in an argument about who Rachael liked more. She called me the B-word. I hit her in the face, pushed her to the ground, and kicked her. It was my first and only fight...and it was all over who was the nicest. (lol)

The truth is, I have always wanted to be the best. Blame it on my birth order, genetics, society, personality traits, the American Dream, or whatever you want, but I want to succeed. And when you are so set on becoming successful, you hardly bother to think about serving others. Thankfully, motherhood has humbled me a lot. So has marriage. So has the maturity that comes with age. And so has my faith. But I still have a long way to go, and I know that (because I know everything, remember?!)
But what I really DO know is this: I can work my butt off for myself to be exalted by men. Or I can work my butt off for others to be exalted by God. I think I will point my efforts toward trying to acheive the latter!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seeing the Truth About Yourself

Well, this is the last day for judgement. Yesterday, I didn't write because the book told me I should take some time to think about this section on the last day, and so I did. (I also enjoyed myself some Country Music Awards...)

At the end of the lesson, the author asks a whole bunch of questions regarding how I deal with judgement/judging others in my own life and he broke them into three different categories:
Questions About Ignoring the Plank in My Eye
Questions About Removing the Plank from My Eye
Questions About Removing the Speck in My Brother's or Sister's Eye

And while I don't want to delve into all the questions he asked me here (that would take another 40 days in and of itself) I did feel compelled to answer one of the questions that I found personally intriguing and challenging. Under the "Removing the Speck" category, the author poses the following question:
"Have I first looked for this issue or problem in my own eye?"

On the first day we were challenged to think if there are any areas in our life where we have the tendency to become judmental of others. I ripped on all of these people:

-Bad Mothers
-Military spouses who cheat on their husbands while they are deployed.
-Chatty women who only talk about other women.
-Chronic whiners
-People who have posted ANYTHING on the 'Col Joe Wants To Know' page.

A couple of days later, the book had this to say about our judgements: "Have you noticed that it's easiest to notice the specks in others' eyes when you have a plank of the same kind in your eye? You see in other people the very same problems that are most common in your own life."
When I was thinking about what I was going to write today, I was really pressured to think about what makes me so quick to judge the aforementioned people. Are the people that I am "out to get" really all that different from me? Am I running my mouth about how awful these people are while I'm walking around with the same kind of specks in my own eye? I hate to admit that for the most part, the answer is yes!

-I am quick to judge people I see as bad mothers, but if you read any of my blogs, you will see that I am far from perfect. It was very recently that I have admitted to losing my temper and yelling out of anger at my children...and I am pretty sure I have written about it more than once. (And I have acted out this poor behavior many, MANY more times than I have shared with any of you.)
-Go back a couple of days to read the full-length explanation, but I have already admitted to being a slob that has only just newly converted to a life of cleanliness.
-I have not, will not, cannot, would not, nor would ever dream of having an affair while my husband is deployed (or when he is home for that matter.) However, I am nowhere near the perfect wife. I am sure I have disappointed my husband in some other way during some other point in time. And I know for a fact that I have told him I would do things I am not doing (namely not spend too much money and work to save while he is deployed)--And when you boil it all down, a broken promise is a broken promise.
-I can spot a gossip from a mile away because I used to be one...hello! I am a woman! Not only that, I was a teenage girl. A cheerleading, teenage do the math.
-I am quick to judge the constant complainer, but lately, all I have been doing is griping about the stuff that isn't going my way. My botched plans to attend a baby shower, the kids who are having accidents and diaper blowouts left and right, the toilet that flooded, the washer that caught on fire, the CD people from the last post...
Look at the subtitle of my stinkin' blog. It is self-proclaimed that all I do on this thing is roar and rant (i.e. nag, nag, nag. Bicker, gripe, complain. Make sarcastic remark. Make snarky remark. Whine, grip, complain some more.) Although, I guess at this point it would also be appropriate to throw in another 'hello! I am a woman!' here.
-I do not like people who "name-drop" to make themselves appear self-important. But maybe I would do the same thing if I ever met anybody I felt was that important. In truth, all name-dropping is, is an attempt to persuade people to listen to you. "Listen to me because I have it on good authority from this very important person that..." They got the names--I got the jokes. And I use my tactic just the same as they use theirs.
-In case you don't know what the 'Col Joe Wants to Know' page is, it is basically supposed to be a resource for the military service and family members of Fort Bliss to seek information regarding the goings-on on post. "When does this new facility open?" "When can I access this certain gate?" "When will the repairs on this building be completed?" etc. etc. But Army Spouses have turned it into a place to do what we do best: Bicker. Gripe. Complain. This one was posted 34 minutes ago:
"How is it that army spouses are suppose to get first shot at a job here? When every on post job I apply for and get told they will call never happens and then the position is filled by locals. Have 10 yrs of exp in my area and have been denied alot. Been here since nov. of last year. No disrepect but it seems as only mexicans are being hired. Thats on lawn crews, kitchens u name it?"
Not an appropriate issue for the Colonel there, buddy. I think he should get a blog so we can just complain about it amongst ourselves, because I know I have griped about that issue too; I just didn't post it on Col Joe. :)

So in answer to Mr. Holloday's question, no, I did not, in fact, look for the specks in my own eye before I started judging these people. But I see all of them clearly now. Come to find out, my eyes are pretty speckled. It's amazing I am able to see through them enough to cast any judgements at all.
But my eyes are opened now and that is the truth. And while it may take some time for me to get my initial thoughts in check, I know I will need to do some hard examining of myself first before I go to critique someone else. Because apparently I really am better at spotting the specks in others' eyes before I can recognize the plank in mine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Understanding God's Judgement

Today, we are reminded that God is the ultimate judge--not us. It is God's job to punish wrong-doers--not ours.

I will freely admit, I was totally distracted tonight when I was reading this. I was trying to load a disc onto my computer and the stupid thing wasn't opening. All I could think about was how stupid the person who formatted the disc must have been. I mean, who can't hit the "burn" or "write" or "transfer file" button on the computer when they are prompted?? Come on now! (This sounds like a person who has spent a week studying how to resist judging others, doesn't it?)
The thing that made me the most mad in all this was thinking to myself, "The place of business is closed. I can't even go in there to yell at them and have them fix my problem until tomorrow. And I want it fixed right now."

Boom. That right there is what I think traps people into judging others. It is a part of our human nature that we cannot wait one minute for justice to be served. When someone truly wrongs me, all I want is for karma to come running up on that person to bite them in the butt. I secretly smile inside when I hear ill news about that person. But if I have to wait any amount of time to hear that news, then I tell karma where it can go and I take matters into my own hands. In no time at all, I have turned myself into the victim, the witness to the crime, the jury, judge, and prosecutor. (Don't mess with me. I am one bad mamma jamma.) And here's the problem with all that--none of those are my jobs.

And it may be a bit of a shocker to other people when I say is not "karma's" job either. It is God's. God is in control. God is the perfect judge. God always gives the appropriate consequences for our choices, and he always does it at the perfect time.

That is where I need to fix myself. I have never been good at waiting for God's timing to match up with mine. There is usually not a live feed streaming between me wanting something and God providing it for me. And not that He doesn't hear it instantly...I just have to wait a few business days for Him to process my request. :)
However, I do have to say, He has earned nothing but five-star reviews from me so far. (Ok, I will stop with all of that nonsense now...)

So it is not my job to pass judgement. It is not my job to issue punishment. And it is certainly not my job to seek revenge. So what is my job? Love. Forgive. Trust in God. He will set everything right in His own perfect time. Now if only I can remember all of this when I am getting my disc replaced tomorrow...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Understanding God's Mercy

Definition of Mercy from is as follows:
mer·cy (mûrsee)
n. pl. mer·cies
1. Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power
2. A disposition to be kind and forgiving
3. Something for which to be thankful; a blessing
4. Alleviation of distress; relief

Definition of Mercy according to me:
Something you cannot earn and do not deserve, but you get anyway.

I could spend an hour composing an entry about the goodness and glory of God's mercy, but it is pretty pointless to try to recreate something that was already written so well. So enjoy :)

Leaving you with this verse tonight:
(Romans 12:18-21) 18 Do your best to live in peace with everyone. 19 My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: "I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them," says the Lord. 20 But you should do this: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head." 21 Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

Show mercy. People who wrong you don't deserve it and they could never earn it. But give it to them anyway, because this is right in the eyes of the Lord. And when you are on God's team, you are ALWAYS the victor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Say Now to Mercy

So I have recognized the plank in my own eye. I am working to remove my plank. Now I must help you remove the speck.

The book says "the alternative to judgement is not tolerance, it is mercy." That means that I am doing you no favors to look the other way while you walk around with a speck in your eye.

This makes me think of a funny story from high school...ah, sweet memory lane...
I was a cheerleader all throughout my school days. (Anyone shocked by this?!) On game days, we would wear our cheerleading uniforms, but since the skirts did not adhere to the dress code, we were also required to wear leggings underneath them. Seems pretty harmless, unless your middle name happens to be "Grace" like mine is. (I am stating this sarcastically, by the way...) After finishing up a bathroom break, I had apparently tucked the back of my skirt into the top of my leggings and was unknowingly parading around the entire school with my bum covered only by a piece of thin, white, stretchy fabric. I went around like that for about 3 hours, until I discovered it during another bathroom break.
I was mortified! I kept thinking, "Maybe nobody noticed..." Of course people noticed! But why didn't anyone tell me? As one of my dear, sweet friends later explained to me, they didn't tell me because they thought I would be too embarrassed.
Yep, you're right. That would have been super embarrassing. Much better to have me walk around the entire school with my bum hanging out for half a day, wasn't it? Smart move, buddy.

I laugh about it now, and even did shortly after it happened, just because it's funny to think about how ridiculous I must have looked. But as funny and innocent as that story is, it displays a very interesting truth about people (myself included.) It is much easier to pretend you don't see a person walking a destructive path than to confront them about it, and we are much more likely to tolerate ill behavior than to risk our own discomfort when trying to bring it to the attention of someone else.

God doesn't say, "Your sins are, Liz, as you were." He says, "You are forgiven. Go and sin no more."
Since I am created to follow Christ's example, I must too forgive others of their transgressions against me, and then help them to flee from sin or temptation.

I am not going to lie to you. I belong in the massive group of people who have gotten very good at "looking the other way," so it will take me some time to live up to showing mercy in this regard. However, I admit that it would be better for me to feel uneasy or awkward than to let someone I know and love get hurt while I stand idly by to watch it happen.

And since every road to transformation begins with a single step, Iet me begin with this promise to you: if I ever see any of you walking around with your skirt tucked in to the back of your pants...I will tell you! :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Say Yes to Integrity

Say no to hypocricy= recognizing the plank in your own eye
Say yes to integrity= removing the plank

It is not enough to merely see it and admit to it. We have to act in order to change it.

Toward the end of tonight's reading, there was the following verse:

"I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need your help, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should." (Psalm 101:2)

Could there be a clearer prayer for a mother?!
I know there is no such thing as a "perfect parent," but oh, how I long to be one! I feel like all I ever talk about on this blog is my own parenting woes--but I am a stay at home mom with two strong-willed preschoolers, so that's what you get here at the crazy woman driver! And thus, another poor parenting saga begins...

Today was not a great day for me. It was no one person's fault in particular. I just had a bunch of little things sneak up on me and it was interfering with/ altogether ruining my plans. Needless to say, I was in a pretty testy mood. Thank goodness my children were on their best behavior today, until...
...not sure what possessed my daughter to do it, but she had 2 accidents tonight within an hour of eachother. I went off on her like a firecracker. She is four. We should be over this by now.
I was so infuriated, I didn't know what to do with myself--or her. I made her hop into the shower and I did my best to clean the mess while at the same time making sure her brother didn't run right into the middle of it. I am not exactly sure what I said to Sammi as I was talking to her. I just know that whatever it was, it was said very loudly.
By the time the kid and the clothes and the bathmat and the floor(s) were all cleaned up, my throat hurt really badly...but not as much as my heart. I hate it when I let my anger get the best of me. And I really, really hate it when I take my anger out on my kids.

I should be over that by now.

After I made myself calm down, I apologized to Sammi (once again) and let her know that even though I was very disappointed, I should not have yelled at her like I did. Sammi, being the incredibly intuitive little lady that she is, asked me, "Mommy, sometimes do you get so angry that the yell just has to come out?"

There is a time to yell. When you are at a sporting event. When you are cheering for someone on a stage. When you are in a crowded room and need to get a group's attention. When your dog is chasing a rabbit through the neighborhood. When your child is running away from you into the street... but I shouldn't always let myself get so angry that "the yell just has to come out."

Dear Heavenly Father,
I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need your help, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Say No to Hypocrisy

On Day 2 of the judgement section, we are told that the first step toward becoming less judgemental is to stop focusing on the speck in another person's eye while overlooking the plank in your own. (Matthew7:4-5) Translation: check yo'self before you wreck yo'self.

There were two statements made in tonight's reading that stuck out to me and made me think about how I am being hypocritical to both my children and my friends.

The first 'aha' moment came when Holladay writes, "Hypocrisy is saying to our kids, 'Do as I say and not as I do.'"

As simple and silly as it is, I felt a big lump in my throat (and maybe even my belly) because I have been getting onto Sammi so much for diving into the holiday candy stash without my permission. I keep most of the candy in a basket on top of the refrigerator but recently I got a couple of seasonal candy dishes from the dollar store and filled them with loose candies like M&M's and candy corn. Anyway, first thing in the morning, she will scurry down the stairs and climb up onto a barstool to have her fill. Countless times I have corrected her and reminded her of my candy rules: 1. No candy until after lunchtime. 2. Always ask Mommy before you take candy from the dish. When my stern reminders do not produce the desired response, I then resort to yelling or send her to time out--or even (gasp!) throw a piece of the candy in the trash. All of this would be fine and dandy if only I would adhere to my own candy rules. Today while the kids were at their Mother's Day Out program, I had a handful of candy before lunchtime. Sammi did not eat a very big supper, so she was refused a candy for an after dinner treat. I, on the other hand, treated myself to another handful of candy right in front of her while cleaning the dishes. As foolish as it all sounds, the truth in the matter is this. I should not punish my children for rules that I myself am not willing to follow. And since I truly do not want my 4 year old binging on candy right when she wakes up that means I will need to get to work pulling the plank out of my eye---er, my hand out of the candy jar.

The second 'aha' came after reading this: "Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them." (Romans 12:9)

I am so very grateful for my friends. I love each and every one of them. And that is the honest to goodness truth. But after reading this, I caught myself thinking "but I love them with my emotions, and not always with my actions" and this just doesn't sit well with me. Whenever my friends reveal that they have a problem, I am very speedy to say "if you need anything, let me know." But they never let me know, and therefore, I don't do anything for them. And then this kind gesture becomes a mask I hide behind, purely for show with no substance to back it up. I always thought of hypocrisy as saying one thing and doing another, but after reading this verse, I am starting to realize that hypocrisy is also saying one thing and doing nothing. It would be better to say nothing at all.
Or if I want to take the loving approach (as would be ideal in the 40 Days of Love challenge) instead of saying "if you need anything..." I can say "Tell me what you need and I will get it for you." Or I could anticipate those needs and act without being asked. Instead of saying, "I'm praying for you" I could say "Do you mind if I pray with you?"

So here I stand before you, confessing that I am a hypocrite, and pledging to change my ways. I solemnly vow that tomorrow, I shall not take anything from the candy dish until after I have eaten a hardy, healthy lunch. I also vow to not hide behind cliched statements of care/concern and that I will support these claims with bonafied, genuine loving actions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Danger of Judgement

We are now entering the danger zone.

[insert siren sounds here]

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matthew 7:1) That is the key verse for today's lesson. And it is the key verse to kick off a week's long discussion of judgement.

The question to consider today asks me if there are any places in my life where I tend to become judgemental of others.

Hmmm...let me think about this a minute...BIG FAT YES!

-As a mother, I am quick to judge other mothers. I think I have mentioned this before, so I will keep it brief. If I see you struggling to take care of your child, I am most likely concocting a laundry list in my mind of things you are doing wrong and ways I would be doing it better. Problem is, I am not a perfect mother either. I have had PLENTY of instances where my child/children have acted out and where there were plenty of witnesses with front-row seats to my hasty tactics and poor decisions. Guess this is the proof in the pudding of "you too will be judged."

-I am not a clean freak by any means. I have friends whose houses are so sterile you could conduct minor surgical operations in them...that is not my house. But I am quick to notice a mess. (If there is any saving grace to this, I am also quick to forgive the mess!) I don't know why; I just can't help it. I am so attuned to noticing the messes that I wrongly believe everyone else does too. And so I will spend many an evening and well into the night making sure the dishes are done, the graham cracker trail that my son has left has been swept up, the crust from the highchair is removed, etc. fact, as soon as I finish writing this blog, I will be mopping my floors because it is Thursday, and Thursday night is "mopping night."
But here's the being so big about the messes is pretty darn hypocritical. Ask anyone who has lived with me in my childhood and they will tell you that I was a total slob! I remember my mom having to help me clean my room and it taking HOURS because we would have to fill 3 trash bags full of garbage from off of my floors before we could earn a place to put the other stuff that wasn't trash. When I was a teenager, I avoided doing the dishes for so long one time that maggots grew onto a skillet in the sink. True story! (DON"T YOU JUDGE ME!) I was not that much better when I moved in with my college roommates, either. Though I did not do as much damage in terms of creating messes, I still did not do my share when it came to keeping up the apartment. It was not until I started dating a boy that I decided I really wanted to be my husband when I figured I should start doing all those "womenly duties" to impress him. And since then, it is as if I clean in an effort to cover up the horrible mess-maker that I used to be. So yes, I am quick to judge as if I have never been there, but now you know that I have (which is likely what makes me so quick to forgive.)

-I am quick to judge military spouses who cheat on their husbands while they are deployed.
-I am quick to judge chatty women who only talk about other women.
-I am quick to judge people who turn everything into a complaint. If you are a chronic whiner, you don't get my listening ear...or my sympathy.
-I am quick to judge "name-droppers." For example, if you tell me that you live on Colonel row and take regular afternoon walks with Col Joe and his wife--you have been judged, lady.
-I am quick to judge people who have posted ANYTHING on the 'Col Joe Wants To Know' page. (Don't leave me hanging here. If you know what I'm talking about, then I know you do too!)

In all honesty, in your moment of weakness I am quick to judge you. And I think most other people are too. Why? Because in focusing on your weakness we are able to forget about all of ours, and thus, feel superior. This fuzzing feeling by no means makes the action right. It makes it even more wrong because we are pulling the wool over our own eyes.
And even as we all judge, we really all know that there is only one person who is perfect enough to be allowed to do so...and instead of condemning us, He died for us.

Time for me to start pulling the plank out of my own eye...

This could be a LONG week!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Troubleshooting Communication

This is the last day the book looks at the role of communication in our relationships. To conclude the chapter, the author gives us little samplings of Jesus's behavior when he came across people who were just plain difficult to talk to. And boy, have I ever met people that were impossible to work with, talk to, or just plain be around!

Here is how the book says Jesus dealt with them:
-When criticized, Jesus gave a clear, confident response.
-When honestly doubted, Jesus offered proof.
-When ridiculed, Jesus was silent.
-When backed into a corner, Jesus turned on the light. (Meaning he offered people a different way to look at things.)
-When rejected, Jesus went elswhere.

Here is how I admit that I deal with them:
-When criticized, I go straight into attack-mode. But since I am too "friendly" to confront them in person, I usually gripe about them to my husband...or my mom. (Sorry guys!)
-When honestly doubted, I throw the proof in the other person's face and secretly think to myself "neener-neener-neeeener."
-When ridiculed...I don't know that I have ever been ridiculed. But if I ever was, I am sure it would be handled with me yelling out a lot of incoherent sentences and then publicly blubbering like a little baby.
-When backed into a corner, I say whatever I think the other person wants me to in order to avoid confrontation.
-When rejected, I give up...not just on the people who have rejected me, but on dang near everyone.

Looks like I have a lot of work to do to fill in those gaps.

However, the author left the lesson with a happy thought and I want to leave this entry with one too. The chapter concludes with the verse "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21) and then we are challenged to think about times when someone's kind words have left a "life-leveraging impact" on us...challenge accepted :)

-Right after I gave birth to my first child, people seemed to be soliciting all sorts of parenting advice to me. A lot of it ended up overwhelming me, but then my mother-in-law said something that gave me back my confidence: She told me that if I loved my child, then I was giving her everything she needed and that we would figure all the rest out together. As a new mother who was totally self-conscious that I was already ruining my child with every wrong move I didn't even know I was making, these were wonderful, beautiful, encouraging words of truth.

-I hate venting to other people when I am struggling with a certain situation. I always end up feeling so guilty afterward. It might have to do with the fact that I always end up spouting off to someone who has dealt with the same thing I am complaining about but to a much bigger extreme. One time I was in the middle of such a rant to one of my friends when I immediately felt the guilt pile on. I think I was complaining to her about how hard it was to deal with babies when your husband is gone--and then I realized that she had done it with four, for like twelve years longer than I have and with a couple of deployments tacked on. She stopped me in the middle of my apology to say this: Regardless of what anyone else's situation is or was, that does not make your situation any less difficult for you right now. Whenever I start to fall into a guilt trap, I always play those words back in my head. It allows me to acknowledge the difficult time I am going through and to celebrate whenever I am able to work through it...and it is always empowering to recognize strength in the midst of adversity.

-The rest of these are from my husband. I have saved a couple of emails he sent and I keep them in a separate folder in my inbox to use when I am having a crappy day and need some words of encouragement. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing them.
"I love you so much babe. The few minutes I get to talk to you each time are the highlight of my day."
"I love you so much baby, just know that I only do this to keep the world safe for you and the kids. i love you and can't wait to see the three of you again soon. Hopefully only two of the three will be substancially bigger:)" (He makes me laugh!)
"I love and miss you guys so much. Wish we had more time to talk each day. I'm very proud of you and the fact that you are able to take care of the kids, the house, yourself and everything else while I am here. I am so proud that you are my wife."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 20-How to Truly Be Heard

A couple days behind, but coming back from a really great visit with my mother-in-law. I figured that in terms of relationship-building, actual conversation trumped virtual conversation. So getting back to business...

Still on the topic of conversation, the book states that a way to strengthen your communication skills is to model Jesus's example in three ways:
-Give a gentle touch
-Ask the right questions
-Paint pictures with words

Not to toot my own horn, but I felt like I have a good grasp on the last two. I am a very visual person, so I like to give a lot of examples and detail to have a story "painted" as I tell it. I am sure you've seen me get a little colorful even when I write. And this is not always a good thing. I have been known to make a short story long and a long story even longer. So if anything, I need to practice painting smaller pictures with my words--like maybe go for stick figure pictures in certain conversations...anyway, moving along!
I think I mentioned that I have a degree in Communication. My minor was in Philosophy. So I am a pretty big questions-asker also.

What I am not is touchy-feely. Yes, I am a woman and I am highly emotional and I cry during chick flicks, sweet moments, and the occasional sappy pilot for a dramatic tv show. That is not what I'm talking about...
What I mean is that I am not big on physically touching somebody (aside from my children or my husband) as I talk to them. I just don't do it. I guess it has to do a lot with our society and its views about personal space.

But I am not against using touch as a means to communicate if the moment is right for it. The books says, "There is something about a sincere touch on the hand or the shoulder that communicates, 'We're in this together.' Never underestimate the power of the human touch."

Reading this passage made me really think about all of the times a little touch did a whole lot for me.

-The first kiss: The first time my husband kissed me, it was on the hand. Tell me that wouldn't melt your heart, ladies!
-The first touch: Scientists/doctors call it "quickening." Mothers call it the first time a child moves in the womb and they are large enough for the mother to feel it. For me, it was the first time that I realized I was carrying a wonderful, beautiful, completely independent being inside of my own body. And even as they grew bigger and lodged themselves in my ribs and kicked smack-dab on my bladder, I will never forget how uniquely wonderful their touch was.
-Holding hands: When my newborn babies grabbed a hold of my finger, there was nothing else in the whole world like it. There is so much power in that little touch.
-My children's hugs: It doesn't matter what kind of a day I'm having...if my son runs up to me full-speed with a big grin on his face and nearly knocks me over as he wraps his arms around me and buries his little face in my knees--it has suddenly turned into a good day :) (Sammi's is more at waist-height now, but the same thing applies!)
-A much-needed embrace: This one was just a few weeks ago, but I was at church on Sunday when one of the women from my MOPS group came and stood beside me. I don't know if I was just really missing my husband that day or if the worship service just had me a little extra emotional, but for whatever reason I was crying. Not anything obvious--just a couple of quiet tears. Well, I guess she noticed them, because without warning she reached over and embraced me and put her head onto my shoulder. Normally, in this situation I would have felt pretty weird, but this time I just felt very loved.

People always say that actions speak louder than words. And I guess loving actions can just as easily speak in place of words. I am not saying that I am going to go around hugging every person I see on the street (don't worry, babe!) but I will try to be more aware of instances when a gentle touch is needed--and go for it.