Friday, February 20, 2015

Things I Suck At: #Lent - 2015 Version

It is that time of year again. You know.....Lent!!

Woohoo??

This is a tough one for many of us Christians. And as a chronic over-thinker it drives me to the brink. I mean this is serious business. Seriously. As Christians we are marking the last 40 days(ish) leading up to Easter when Christ DIED FOR US. Seriously - how much more serious can we get here? This is IT - THE REASON FOR IT ALL. Did I mention how serious this season is?

Let me just say that I am not making fun of my faith or those who choose to follow it with me. (Ok - maybe just a little.) It is just that Lent is HARD. It is not happy like Christmas. We don't give each other gifts and look forward to the birth of a baby and sing happy songs. Although we can all whine about how both Christmas and Easter have been tragically commercialized. But I digress...... Lent by it's very nature is solemn and dark and contemplative. Like Advent it is a season of anticipation - but what we are anticipating is kind of difficult to wrap our heads around. See if you can follow this with me..........Jesus DIED for us - by choice. And this is heart-breaking and humbling because why would He die for Me? But then again, wait, no, it's not sad because now we have new life in Christ - the ultimate second chance and that is a cause for great joy!! I sometimes feel like I get whiplash going back and forth between these thoughts.

I have been a Christian all my life - and I still don't have it all figured out. For instance....how do we celebrate Lent? Or is it even a celebration? Maybe I should say, how do we observe Lent? It is supposed to be serious right? Or should we even bother with Lent? I grew up in a tradition where Lent is regularly celebrated/observed (you decide which word you like). But as I got older I realized that many Christians don't bother with Lent. They think it is unnecessary or narcissistic or too Catholic (gasp). As Protestants anything Catholic is the ultimate example of what NOT to do in Christianity.  My apologies to my many beloved Catholic friends and family. You better know I am being utterly sarcastic here. I love you and I think you rock. Just pointing out what I have observed. And I am a Methodist. We love everybody - whether we should or not. Jesus said to, so there.

So, anyway, for those of us who do observe Lent - just how do you do it? Many of us give up something for those 40(ish) days in honor of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. I can offer many examples of how I have failed in the approximately 30 years I have made a point of "doing" Lent. I have with varying degrees of success (none 100%) tried giving up television, coffee, soda, chocolate, cussing, desserts and so on. In later years I have tried being more mindful and instead of giving up something I have attempted to ADD something to my daily routine. Yeah - that hasn't gone so well, either. I really do love God. And I really am eternally thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me. But if He is grading my gratitude on how well I have observed Lent then I am afraid I am an abysmal failure.

And, as if Lent isn't hard enough there are other Christians out there who will tell you that you are doing it wrong. It is a sad reality that Christians can be really mean and judgmental and well, down-right UN-Christian to each other. They will tell you that either what you choose to sacrifice or add on is not good enough. Or they tell you how you go about observing it is not the "correct" way. Do we keep what we are doing just between ourselves and God? Do we share it with a trusted a friend? Do we tell anyone how it is going? Does that make the narcissism argument true? In today's world...are we missing the point if we share anything about it on Social Media? Or are we being honest and real in sharing a part of our faith journey with others? Aren't we supposed to do Christian life in community? What about accountability? What about people like me who feel like we are letting Jesus down when we realize three whole days have passed and we forgot to read our devotional? Do I just tell God or do I confess to a friend and keep trying? Please tell me it counts if we get caught up and keep trying!!!!

I feel that I have to say this here. Because I know this is to be true with my deepest being - God and Jesus have NEVER been as hard on me as I am on myself. Thank HIM/THEM for that. Amen and Amen. I have come to believe that for me - doing/celebrating/observing Lent is an important part of my personal faith tradition. It is good for me to make a point every year of being intentional about observing my faith. During Lent that means being reminded of my Christian story and remembering what Christ has done for me. Which, seriously, was HUGE. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." If I really let myself sink into that thought it makes me weep. I don't deserve it. But I am grateful for it. And, even though, I always feel like I will never get Lent "right", I don't ever want to give up trying to let God know I love Him. I can never repay what has been given to me by giving up chocolate for six weeks or reading my Bible daily for six weeks or doing pretty much ANYTHING for six weeks. And God knows that. He also knows that I need many opportunities to get things right. I am grateful He has given me many, many Lents to try, however inadequately, to do something good. God-willing I will have many, many more Lents to keeping trying for Him.

So, how am I failing at...errr, observing Lent for 2015? I will tell you because it helps me be accountable and, yeah, maybe it is a bit narcissistic, but I will let God judge that because, like I said, He is much nicer to me about stuff like that than I am. This year I am participating in Rethink Church's Photo-A-Day Project. Feel free to check out the link. I like it because it makes me think - and it is intentional - and it is fun. And I even read here that is ok to have fun during Lent. (#mindblown) Assuming I make today's post before midnight I will be three for three - for the first three days of Lent with only 40-ish more days to go. Given my history chances are good I will play catch-up up with photos for a few of those days. But God knows my heart - and He knows I will keeping trying. And that makes it worth it to celebrate/observe Lent once again this year.

'Til Next Time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For My Guy - on our 4th Month-Aversary

Feb. 11, 2015
Me & My Guy Dancing on Oct. 11, 2014 (aka The. Happiest. Day. Ever.)
(Swoon.)

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Today marks the 4-month-aversary of our marriage. For some reason this day has me thinking a lot. Maybe because it is so close to Valentine’s Day and everywhere you look Hallmark’s version of love and romance is being thrust relentlessly at you. Ugggg.
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This is not the first rodeo for either of us. Comparing my first marriage to my second is like comparing apples and oranges. I learned a lot the first time around. Thankfully, My Guy, is patiently helping me to unlearn much of it.
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I used to think celebrating month-aversaries was rather, well, juvenile. I had to learn the hard way that joy is not always guaranteed and that it should be celebrated as much as possible. So, go ahead, count those months, days, hours, minutes and CELEBRATE. They are precious and we all need more joy and happiness. Like the Happiness Fairy says: Take that Happy Dust and spread that sh*t everywhere!!
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My Guy looks really good in a tux, don’t you think?
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He hates having his picture posted. So, I try not to do it. You know…tooooooo often.
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Those wonderful, incredible my-whole-life-is-amazing moments that we have need to be cherished because we know they won’t last forever. The good news is that those crappy, the world-sucks-and-so-does-everyone-in-it moments won’t last forever either. God-willing we will get to experience more of the first than we do the second.
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I really do know which way he prefers the toilet paper role to be hung. It is just fun to mess with him by doing it “the wrong way.” It’s the little things that can bring joy to a relationship. :-D
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Yes – I am the harder one to live with. But he seems willing to put up with me and all my craziness. That in and of itself makes me want to be a better person.
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I will always be grateful that he accepted my friend request on Facebook because I was too shy to talk to him in person. Who knew that out of that one click with a mouse I would find a lover and a best friend?
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Happy Feb. 11th!! Now go spread that Happy Dust!!

'Til Next Time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Things I Suck At: Valentine's Day

You can't miss it. Everywhere you look there are signs that Valentine's Day is approaching. Uggggg.

Ok. Don't get me wrong. I am not a hard-core Valentine's Day hater. I admit that I do have a problem with society demanding that we must express our love for someone - ANYONE - on a certain day of the year - or else. I have 365 days or so every year to let my loved ones know how much I care for them. I try to make sure I do just that. My problem with Valentine's Day is that I am a recovering people-pleaser. Over the years I have failed so many times at getting Valentine's Day "right" - at least in my mind. My expectations always far outweigh my abilities and I am sent into another spiral of self-flagellation - at least mentally. Well, that is what USED to happen because I am in recovery now and I try very, very hard to cut myself some slack. It is a day-by-day thing.

So, my biggest challenge with Valentine's Day is not on the romantic front. Fortunately the men in my life never seemed to have huge expectations of how this day should be celebrated. A hug and a kiss, maybe a card, but don't count on it, and a promise for more intimate fun once the kids are in bed usually covers it. No, my worst nightmares have happened as a Mom. Because my kids attend school. And these schools insist on celebrating Valentine's Day. Every. Single. Damn. Year.  I also struggle with being extremely unorganized. Due dates constantly rise up to bite me in the rear - usually the night before - or worse - right AFTER they have passed. I have been tempted to be the Mom who takes a political stance AGAINST Valentine's Day and declares that MY CHILD will not be forced to give into any holiday thrust upon us by Hallmark and all of its consumerist allies. But then I look at how excited my daughter is at the idea of a party with her school friends and my dreams of political grand-standing evaporate.  My problem really isn't Valentine's Day - it's that I am Me. My worst Valentine's Day nightmare happened 20 years ago when my oldest daughter was just three-years-old. She was in pre-school and one day in February came home with a paper bag filled to the brim with Valentine's cards and candy from all her classmates. She happily showed me each one while telling me about the party they had that day. I smiled at her and nodded, but inside my head it was a completely different story.

"Crap - that party was today?!!"

"Double Crap - Cody didn't have any of her own Valentines to give to her class."

"Son-of-a.......was I supposed to send cupcakes or something?"

"Dear Lord, the Room Mom already thinks I am a flake. This pretty much confirms it."

"Hey, I feed her every day and make sure she has mostly clean clothes to wear. What more do they want from me?"

"God, please don't let them celebrate St. Patrick's Day or ANYTHING else the rest of the year. I just don't think I can handle it."

I wanted to blame her teacher for not giving me enough warning. But, of course, her teacher had sent home notes about it every week for the last several weeks. And Cody had been excitedly talking about it. No matter how hard I tried I just didn't have a good excuse for not having my shit together - again.

I think sometimes God spaced my children out as far as He did because He knew that I was going to need a significant amount of time to figure out some of these parental responsibilities. I am happy to say that ever since that first disastrous pre-school Valentine's debacle my kids have always had their own Valentine's cards/candy to share with their classes. Of course, because I am Me, there were some (several) years when we were out scavenging for them the night before or the morning OF the class celebration. A few times we even tried making them ourselves. Sweet Jesus, I am glad that Pinterest did not exist back then. Homemade crafty cards sound so nice, don't they? Reality constantly clashes with my dream world and it is not pretty.

Thankfully I was blessed with incredibly forgiving children who are willing to love their mother despite all of her short-comings. And I have been given several years to learn one very important lesson which is this: I am not the only Mom who constantly lets her kids down. Nope. It is not just me. For every mom I meet who hears my stories and tries to tell me "All you have to do is X, Y, Z and you will never miss another deadline", I find twenty others who say, "Oh, dear God, yes, Me, too!!" There is nothing like finding a kindred spirit who can truly relate. But don't get me wrong. I love organized moms. They absolutely rock. And they can make great friends. I have one in particular who helps me keep my act together - and I help her loosen up. It is a win-win.

I no longer dread Valentine's Day parties for my kids. My youngest is now in 5th grade and I have already marked on my calendar that her party is next Friday. AND - I marked on my calendar that we should get her cards and such ready by next Wednesday. Even better - I have learned the habit of actually looking at said calendar on a daily basis. Oh, yes, give me twenty years or so and I can master almost anything.

You don't suppose my grandkids (who aren't even born yet) are going to want Valentine's cards from their Grandmother? Crap. I better find someone's kid to start practicing on now.

'Til Next Time.