please like me.

Fresh out of college, I was given a killer opportunity.  I was hired by a telecom giant at 22 years old.  I had a great salary, amazing benefits, and opportunities to travel all over the United States.  But I wasn’t that great at my job and after only 2 years with the company, I was laid off.

I had a killer severance package and I told my husband that I wanted to do something fun while that severance supported me. Somewhere in those next three months I shifted from, “I am competent and smart and will do a great job” to “Please like me!”  Oh, Ann.  Yikes.

I got a job at a local craft store where I catered to and assisted a lot of people. It was clear right out of the gates that people liked me.  And DANG that felt good!  After only a month, I was promoted to a management position and I thought things were going really well for this college graduate (who was working retail to hide from the fact that she royally screwed up her opportunity of a lifetime).

But trouble started when I began to notice some inner workings that I didn’t like, and certainly didn’t agree with. But remember I wanted people to like me, so I chose not to ruffle feathers. The talk about customers behind their backs made me feel dirty.

Even more mortifying than hearing the conversations was PARTICIPATING in the conversations, which easily led to conversations about co-workers behind their backs as well. I crossed the line, just to be liked.

I drew the line when I overheard and witnessed conversation about ME.  Funny, isn’t it? It was so easy to participate in the conversation until I knew they were talking about me too.  Only THEN did I draw the line.  At about this time, social media was starting to pop up here and there (no smartphones yet thank the Lord) and I found out that I was being talked about via email and social media mostly because I stood up and said “hey – this isn’t cool – at all.” (However, I’m in my young 20’s at this point and I probably had the complete package of entitlement with a red bow of attitude to go along with my soap box speech.)  Before I knew it, my entire goal to get people to like me turned into a 911 call-to-arms to put out all the social media fires.  I was crushed.  I BAWLED over the phone to my college roommate.

But I thought they liked me!
I thought they liked me.

As the book of Joshua starts, Moses has just passed away and the leadership “torch” has been passed to Joshua.  One of the first few things he has to do is conquer Jericho.  I could have learned a lot from Joshua back in my early days of adulthood.  Joshua didn’t care what everyone else thought, even though he was about to ask them to act a little crazy.

 “Ok guys, we’re going to walk around this sucker once every day – but you can’t say a WORD.  Then on the 7th day, we will walk around this sucker SEVEN times, the priests will blow their horns and we’re going to get crazy up in here with our voices!  I mean, I want to REALLY hear you, people!  Then the walls will fall down and the Lord will make it easy for us to defeat our enemies.  Trust me on this, He personally told me this is how it will go down.” (MAJOR paraphrase of Joshua 6:1-11)

Joshua did what he knew was right, even though he was about to ask for his troops to commit to a crazy battle plan.  He didn’t care if the people didn’t like him.  There was work to be done.

It has taken me years to overcome this people-pleasing problem.  I think I’m fairly close to conquering it, and then I fail miserably again in a single conversation.  But this is what I love about scripture: I’m going to change, but scripture isn’t.  The truths within will still be applicable to me 3 years from now when I’m wondering where I went wrong… again.

Father, fill me with your spirit so that appreciation from people has no room to soak into me.  Bring me back to scripture to see how to live and how not to live.  THANK YOU for believing in me, even though I screw things up over and over again.  That kind of love is inspiring, refreshing, and so very comforting.  Remind me that I don’t need others to like me because you LOVE me more deeply than my mind can understand… and that’s all I need.   AMEN 

 

pain is lonely

Photo from: http://inspiyr.com/chronic-pain-and-anxiety/
Photo from: http://inspiyr.com/chronic-pain-and-anxiety/

Pain sucks.  It just does.  Today was one of those days — and it’s still going.  I tried medication.  I tried stretching.  I tried a neck massage and a back massage.  I tried a nap.  I tried a detox bath.  I tried sticky pain lotion.  I tried more medication.  I tried drinking a ton of water.  I tried moist heat.  And finally I just gave in and accepted the fact that my pain wasn’t going to budge.

Here are some things that make me roll my eyes when I’m in pain.  Some of them might be TMI, but just whatever…. I have nothing to hide:

  • I can’t even bend over to sit on the toilet without my head throbbing or my feet cramping up from holding my weight.
  • It’s hard to connect the eye-hooks on my bra without my fingers cramping up.
  • I clench my teeth in an effort to not frown, which has led to new problems in my jaw… awesome.
  • I’m nauseated but I have to eat to take medications that should help me.
  • My family is loud.  The clock is loud.  The air conditioner is loud.  The fan is loud.  It’s all TOO LOUD!
  • Facebook posts make me roll my eyes.  I’m happy for people and the fun they are having — just not at that particular moment.  (just keepin it real)

Can you relate?

It’s after 9pm and I am starting to feel some relief.  For all you non-chronic pain people, when I say “I feel some relief” it doesn’t mean I’m ready to take a lap around the block.  It means I can walk across the room and get my own glass of water instead of asking for assistance.  There is no miracle drug or therapy or food regimen for me (although being in the mountains seems to cure 95% of my ailments!).  But do you know what gave me joy and was more calming and helpful than any of the things I tried today?

My husband said, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting like this today, honey.”

When he said that, I melted.  In that instant, all of the following things went through my head — and again, if you’re a non-chronic pain person you might not understand where I’m coming from here, but hear me out:

  • Thank GOD, he doesn’t think I’m faking this or think that I’m just lazy!
  • He loves me and he cares about me.
  • He can’t fix this, but it’s ok because I don’t expect him to.

If someone close to you is hurting from a chronic ailment PLEASE do not ignore her pain.  I pray away Satan when I am in pain because he LOVES to whisper lies about me in hopes that I will believe him.  He whispers things like:

  • You’re so lazy, just get UP already and do something!  You’re wasting the entire day!
  • Why do you even bother trying to work?  You aren’t reliable.
  • You’re crabby all the time – you’re going to drive your husband away.

Satan isn’t creative, folks.  He just hits my weak spots and digs right in.  So stand in front of your loved one and don’t let Satan creep in.  Crowd him out.  Don’t attempt to fix everything, just tell her that you see her and you acknowledge that her pain is real.  She knows you can’t fix her pain.  She knows.

Pain is lonely. So don’t let her feel like she’s alone.
All you have to do is acknowledge her pain.
That’s it.

there’s doo-doo on my cape

photo

It’s not easy to keep healthy boundaries when you’re a healthy human being, statistically speaking.  It is 200 times harder (remember, I never exaggerate… ever) to have healthy boundaries when your physical abilities are already compromised.

If you’re a Christian and you study scripture often you already know that we aren’t supposed to judge others; it’s not our job to judge.  But, we do it anyway.  Often.  Need examples?  No problem…

  • we think that overweight lady is just lazy
  • we think the mother in the grocery store just isn’t a strong parent because her toddler is freaking out and cleaning the floor with his shirt and his tears
  • we think the guy who always cancels has messed up priorities
  • we think homeless people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job
  • we think that brand new teenage driver has no business being on the road

I can give you a million and two scenarios and legit reasons why all of these judgments are grossly inaccurate, but I won’t – because I bet you can come up with a list all on your own.

Our judgement of others is detrimental to our own self-worth.  Perhaps I have unrealistic boundaries and I try to do, do, do, do, do (and usually doo-doo on others in the process) because I have a nasty habit of judging others who DON’T “do.”

I would like to apologize in advance for letting you into my brain so you can see my thought process.  This always frightens my husband and he feels like he needs a helmet before we open the doors.

  1. I would love to be part of this cool new ministry at church, I’ll sign up for it especially since no one else is. I mean SOMEONE needs to help it get off the ground!
  2. The school needs parents to help sell ice cream on Thursdays?  YES – I am absolutely going to be there for my kiddo’s school, he will be so glad to see me every week!  Wait, where the heck are the other moms?
  3. I can’t believe no one else is signing up for this ministry!  I can’t do all this on my own, where is everyone? Being lazy and sleeping in? Playing tennis and golf???
  4. That mom I sell ice cream with is a total flake, she never shows up on time and she’s a complete mess when she does show up!
  5. I know honey, we need milk… and bread, and meat, and fruit… and toilet paper… but I’m SO busy serving others that I can’t actually serve my own family.
  6. Our neighbor is having surgery next week so I am going to take them a meal.
  7. I don’t have time to make a meal for my neighbor, I’ll get just them pizza.
  8. Man, I am exhausted – I don’t have time to go to the gym… I need to find a quick fix to get this weight off, then I’ll get back to the gym.
  9. “Yes, I read scripture every day!” <—- flat out lie, I don’t have time for that!
  10. Son, can you just NOT NEED ME for 10 minutes?  Do your homework on your own!  GEEZ, I already passed 4th grade, your turn!  Quit being so selfish.
  11. I just need to get away, I’m completely stressed out and I can’t handle all this anymore!  And you know what, dear husband?  YOU are perfectly capable of stopping at the grocery store too!  Seriously, can’t you see that if I don’t show up to sell ice cream that NO ONE WILL?  All the other moms are so selfish with their time.  If I don’t do it, ,NO ONE WILL!

WOAH Nelly.
Just…. woah.

I put my most important priorities last, and filled my schedule with things that were not absolutely necessary because I think I am superwoman and can save the day.  And in the end, I burnt myself out, I bad mouthed other people, and I dropped the ball on multiple responsibilities… and I did it ALL BECAUSE I let my judgement of others dictate how I was going to prioritize my own schedule.

I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t THAT important.  

If you don’t sell ice cream at the school, someone else will.  Or God forbid, they don’t have ice cream one Thursday.  I think our children will all survive.

Maybe I am afraid to say no because of the fear that people will call me lazy, or call me a flake, or un-involved, or selfish — or any of the other words I use to describe others.  It pretty much came back to bite me in the …. donkey.  I really don’t believe those things about my family – but stress jades my judgement and my capacity to love with my words and actions.

So yes, I can do anything…. but if I am doing them all for the wrong reasons then I’m going to burn myself out.

I can’t do everything … especially if I am a martyr donning a superwoman cape, expecting others to thank me for saving the day since everyone else was too lazy to step in to help.

In the process I completely doo-doo’d all over my own family — the people I love the most.  And I doo-doo’d all over my reputation as a Christian — you know, a Christian? Someone who is supposed to “Love God, and love others.”

Does that sting a little?
youbetcha

First up … change my attitude and see people the way Jesus see’s people.
Second … priority check. God first (that includes reading scripture), then family, and then everything else.
and Last … lose the cape…. it has doo-doo all over it anyway.

 

 

it’s a two-way street

What kinds of friends do you have?

  • I have friends who meet me at Starbucks and don’t care if I show up with wet hair and no makeup.
  • I have friends who tell me when it’s time to do my hair and put on makeup.
  • One of my friends lives in another country and we’ve only met face-to-face once.
  • A friend of mine has seen me, and aided me, during my absolute lowest points on my health journey, and she still loves me despite witnessing incredibly gross things.
  • Multiple friends just came and sat with me after a yucky surgery last year… just sat with me.
  • My husband and I have amazing friends who have moved to follow one of their dreams, yet we pick right back up where we left off every time we see them.
  • I am celebrating 25 years of friendship with one of my friends this Saturday, and she could probably still beat me in the original Super Mario Brothers.
  • One of my friends constantly reminds me to pray for myself. And there’s no sneaking by this friend, she is a Major Pain in the A…. Accountability department.  Which I happen to need.
  • I have a group of friends who would join me in singing the National Anthem in just about any elevator with no questions asked, then when the doors open they would proceed as though nothing happened.
  • I have a group of friends with whom I vacation twice a year for a weekend of sewing and crafting… and LAUGHING.
  • Ihaveafriendwhotextswithmelikethisandweboththinkit’shilarious. Andwearebothgrownups. Sorta.
  • I have friends who understand chronic illness because they too are suffering.
  • A friend of mine prayed for my salvation for YEARS, and I didn’t even know she was doing it!

What do all of these people have in common?  They are my friends because we encourage each other.

It’s a two-way street.
It’s give and take.
It’s grace.
It’s hugs.
It’s cards in the mail with stupid humor on them that make us laugh.
It’s patience and growth.
It’s forgiveness.
It’s tears and laughter.
It’s making mistakes.
It’s trips to the ER.
It’s a WHOLE lot of inside jokes.
It’s caring for each other’s children.
It’s illness and death, and new life and new loves.
It’s the excitement of new things and the comfort of the old things.
It’s praying together and urging each other to make wise decisions instead of running away when life gets tough.
It’s meals and coffee, cake and ice cream… and drinks from Sonic (rolling my eyes — you know who you are!)

Friendship is all of these things and more.

Are you struggling with your friendships?  I urge you to seek out what you can do to strengthen those relationships.  Is it time for forgiveness or confessions?  Is it time to pick up the slack because your friends are going through incredibly difficult times?  Is it time to ask for help because you feel like you’re drowning?

All relationships are built on honesty.  I have screwed that up many many times in the past because I was too proud to admit I was hurt or frustrated.  Don’t be that person.  It won’t work out well for you in the end.  I have lost friendships over my pride and a loss of words is no crutch to lean on.  It will crumble.

Pray about it.
Be honest and share your feelings.
Or stand up and pick up the slack because you adore your friends who are hurting.

What stumbling block do you see resurfacing again and again in your friendships?
What are you going to do about it?

can your kids do tricks?

Cowboy takes a bow
Cowboy takes a bow

Anyone can teach a dog to do tricks, and often times in parenting that’s what we teach our kids to do … tricks.

I firmly believe that when we teach people to do something just for the sake of doing it, or to make them look good or fit in society, we aren’t giving them life skills.  We are teaching them tricks.  Now I fully admit that teaching them tricks is easier and can be done from behind the wheel while racing to school and everyone is still eating breakfast in the car.  I know, I get it.  But what I’m saying here is that I’ve seen some results of my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-parenting, and I’m not impressed with the results.

I don’t want to teach my kid tricks anymore. I want to do heart-work with him, not behavior-work.  Behavior modification is exhausting and he still misses the toilet anyway.  And YES, I know this will take time and I will have to put my phone down to do it.  In fact it might even take prayer and seeking wise advice from those who have already been through this parenting stage.

So …how do we do it?
That’s always our next question. (Other than, how long will this take?)

As school ramps up, don’t teach your elementary aged kids the trick of keeping their mouths closed while the teacher is talking. Instead talk to them about what it feels like when someone talks over us.  Because I am an awesome parent and I read “all the books”, I’ve been known to turn the table on my child every now and then.  When he gets in trouble for being disrespectful at school, I’ll shake things up at dinner and talk over him for about 3-5 minutes.  When I can see he is getting the picture, we talk about how it FELT to be talked over and interrupted.  Prize winning parenting?  Probably not.  A new found understanding of empathy?  Score one for mom. 

I stink at praising my son for HIS work – he loves to draw, I love to draw… perhaps you can see the problem already.  I tend to judge his work based on how I would draw something and I question his placement of weaponry (for more reasons than simply artistic).  I’m sending the message that I think his drawing stinks (high five to those of you who said “drawering” in an SNL sort of way) but that’s not my intent at all!  Instead I should say, “WOW, that’s a creative way to make the blood drip from his nose!”

Please tell me my son is not the only one.

Actually, don’t.
Don’t tell me my son is the only one.Because then I will have to take action and I’m only capable of one step at a time here, people.

Kids are verbally brutal to one another in this generation (aw snap, when did I turn into my mother?!?!). They pick on each other for their clothes or how they speak or because of their lack of athletic abilities. Sure, being kind to another’s face is important, but teaching your kids that what they say about others after they have left the room is what shows true character.  The bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  So every time we speak, people see more and more of our heart-nature.  Talk about x-ray glasses!  If I had a post it note stuck to me from all the things I said recently which revealed pieces of my heart, I would desire a shredder and sunglasses.

A grown-up “trick” in this scenario would be putting a smiley face after a rude comment on Facebook or saying “you know I’m just kidding” when really you did mean that those pants were hideous and you wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

Yuck.  I don’t like how it feels when I do things like that.  I don’t like saving face, I don’t like the way gossip makes me feel, and I really don’t like that heavy feeling of “dang it, I yelled at my son AGAIN!”   I would love to spare my son this adult grief and just teach him about heart-nature from the get-go.

The bottom line here is that if we keep putting band-aids on our kids’ behavior, we won’t ever encourage their heart-growth.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have been known (a few minutes ago) to say things like “DUDE!  Just … SHUSH!” or other uplifting mothering comments such as “If you aren’t ready in 3 minutes I’m leaving without you.”

I, Ann, vow to make an effort to quit parenting on the fly, to speak from my heart instead of from my pool of witty and sarcastic come-backs, and to stop nitpicking the choice of sub-machine guns sketched in 2B pencil,  I didn’t say I was going to change overnight, I said I was going to make an effort.

Who’s with me?

stuck in a grace rut

Photo courtesy of http://www.canadianfamily.ca/

The vacation cycle:

  1. Wow, vacation is close – it will be so great to just be together and enjoy each other’s company!
  2. How on earth am I going to finish all this work before vacation? Is it a problem if we pack dirty clothes instead of clean ones?
  3. I know – we are always late because I can’t juggle it all … WAIT, I forgot my phone charger!  TURN AROUND!
  4. No, we aren’t there yet.  Sure, watch another movie. Yes, I know you’re hungry … again.
  5. Oh yay!  We’ve arrived … I can’t wait to get out of this car and get some distance from you people.
  6. Oh wait, I actually AM excited to be with you people!
  7. Work?  What’s that?  Emails?  Haven’t checked them. I’m too busy laughing with my kid and having great talks with my husband.
  8. I love you guys so much!  This is the best vacation EVER!
  9. When we get home, we are going to change how we do things… no technology nights, game nights, stop saying yes to every commitment, watch our spending, make a weekly menu and stick to it, save for a king sized bed because I don’t know how we have survived marriage this long without one…
  10. Ok, we’re home … tomorrow I have to do this and this and this … guess I’ll see you in passing.

This year we broke the cycle.  Maybe it’s because the three of us didn’t drive 800 miles together on the way there or maybe it’s because we were starved for family time.  Maybe, but here’s what I think happened…

My perspective has changed.  Having a chronic illness has altered perspectives that I used to have, but the biggest one is appreciating what is right in front of me.  It’s SO EASY to get stuck in a rut of focusing on what hurts and how bad and if I need pain lotion or if I can make do without it, or calculating out what things I can/should accomplish in a day making sure I don’t over-do it to create problems for the following day.  Now I try to do the following:

  • allow myself to be honest and assess my pain throughout the day, giving MYSELF grace along the way
  • when I feel myself sliding into that rut, I recite memorized scripture to remind me that God loves me and that I am wonderfully created
  • focus on the things I CAN do and things I DO have, and thank God for those things
  • I am honest with my husband and I don’t hide my frustrations

Transparency and grace are the key components.  My husband and I have given each other permission to be honest and transparent with each other.  Neither of us know how to do this chronic pain thing (our manuals got lost in the mail). Purposefully hurtful statements are not allowed, but honest confessions of frustration are totally game.  There’s no need for anyone to be on the defensive, this isn’t a blame game, it’s a grace game.

We don’t get do-overs.  Every moment in this life counts.  This year we recognized our frustrations on vacation and communicated appropriately about them.  We gave each other space when needed.  We loved more than we bickered.  It wasn’t perfect but it was so much better than last year.  Memories are made both at home and on vacation.   I want to be stuck in a grace rut, because those are the memories I want to remember.

So what kinds of memories are you making?

mend your wall

Today I did something that was very hard to do.

I addressed part of my wall that needed mending.
Let me explain…

For several years I have had someone in my life who I have really admired, but I didn’t always make the wise choice to respect her.  She is smart, witty, and outwardly loves God more than anyone else I had ever met in life.  And at one point in my journey, she was my boss.

Now, I don’t know what happens inside of us when we lack the discipline to keep jealousy and frustration from penetrating our hearts — but I clearly lacked it.  I started to feel attacked because she could see the vision of what we needed to do and I couldn’t.  I felt frustrated.  I lacked enthusiasm because my pride got in the way.  I hid it from her, but I wasn’t afraid to share it all with my friend because my sinful human nature needed someone “on my side.”  UGH – why do we DO that?!?! (See Psalm 64 reference below … and PS: that was totally gossip on my part which is completely uncool.)

What was happening, unbeknownst to me, was that I was slowly kicking rocks away from one section of the wall inside of me.  My “wall” is what keeps me from doing the things that I know will not bring any good to me.

“Wall” – also known as healthy boundaries, willpower, and courage.

When your wall is strong you can fend off fits of rage and jealousy.  When your wall is weakened you create a big hole, and much like a dog who knows how to masterfully sneak out of his yard, you start going to that weak spot as an outlet for your negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s like you’ve taught yourself “it’s ok to be ugly when I’m over here, because that’s what this spot is for!”  If you aren’t careful, you begin to congregate with other people who also use that weak spot in the wall to unload their negativity. I have had friendships like this in the past and it made me feel dirty after we were done gossipping about other people.  If you’re in those kinds of relationships try addressing how it makes you feel.  If that doesn’t work, it’s time to seek out other friendships.

Psalm 64 says that an evildoer is someone who plots with others to hide their snares saying “who will know? No one but us!” — uh yeah, about that.  God knows.  He sees it all.  So you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

It’s never ok to hang out in your weak spot because it’s comfortable there, and never ever because “your people” are there.
I’m just going to leave that hanging for you to think about…. “your people.”

So what do we do about it?

Recently in church we’ve been learning about David and how he respected Saul EVEN WHEN Saul was trying to kill him.  (1 Samuel, chapters 18-28) David had multiple opportunities to slander Saul and even to kill him, but every single time he would say, “yeah but, God anointed this dude and I respect God’s choices and God’s chosen people so I’m not going to kill him.” (obviously that’s my own interpretation – but I think the next bible translation absolutely needs the word “dude” in it)

DUDE … could I still respect someone who was trying to kill me?  Um, it’s not likely.
So why couldn’t I respect someone who cares for me and who has always wanted the best for me? Seems easy enough.

I realized I was mending my wall from the top, down.  I glossed over the real issue and made nicey-nice with myself by saying it wasn’t that big of a deal. In actuality I was avoiding attending to the foundation.   But guess what happens if you don’t have a good foundation for your structure?  Yeah, your walls come tumbling down.  So, I chose this morning to start at the bottom.  It was time to begin repairs on the wall correctly, starting with the foundation.

I called her and asked for forgiveness.  

Even though she hasn’t been my boss for some time now, it has been eating away at me.  I needed her to hear me say that I was sorry, that I was in the wrong, and that I was weak then but didn’t want to be anymore.

Was it hard?
Yes. Terrifying actually.
It’s never easy to admit you have been wrong, especially when you’ve grown so used to that weak spot that the thought of the labor required to rebuild the wall feels overwhelming.

But you know what?
It was life-giving.
It was a conversation filled with grace and forgiveness and prayer and sharing … and love.

I’m not “fixed”, but I am forgiven.

She forgave me and I prayed to the Lord my God for forgiveness as well.  And now, I have the first few stones of my foundation set in place to mend my wall.  Now I just need to keep it up and keep making wise choices.

What mending do you need to address?
What is stopping you?

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there’s a time to tear, and a time to mend.

Go mend your wall.
You won’t regret it.