Real Friendships

He flew over 3000 miles to be in my wedding.

She reminded me about the glucose gel packs I had bought for my husband.

They helped me raise $1500 for a mission trip to Nicaragua.

She corrects my spelling, grammar and usage every chance she gets.

Each of these people hold a special place in my life and heart. Most friends do. I have made many friends over the years, but I have made the above mentioned friends in the least likely of places. I didn’t meet them in a bar, at the grocery store, during church or while I was out on a morning walk.

I met them in a place that some say is “not real” or “scary”. I met them… online…. GASP! I discovered the joy of online friendships way back in 1989. I wasn’t even 15 years old yet when I struck up a friendship with a boy from Chicago. We were pen pals and we were best friends. The internet was unknown, but not scary back then. You had to be careful, but there wasn’t the stigma that there is now.

People tend to minimize the value of on-line relationships. Friendships made via the World Wide Web are written off as “not real” and the internet is “not real life”. While I have never sat at the same kitchen table with some of my friends, I have Skyped, messaged, texted, laughed and cried with these friends that are said to be not real. We have shared our secrets, sorrows and struggles with each other. We’ve celebrated the victories of life together.

When I was panicking over my husband’s low blood sugar, it was an online friend who reminded me of the glucose gel I had just bought, because we share that kind of stuff with each other.

I’ve struggled to find and join a bible study for years. I finally found that community online. My maid of honor was that boy I met in 1989.

My online friends have turned into real life friends, and I may have met more of my friends online than at church, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Few of these friendships have fallen away, because we are pretty okay with going long,periods without talking to each other. We know that with the click of a mouse or a text message, the other person will be there.

Being there, wherever you meet, isn’t that what friendship is all about?

Life and Changing

It’s funny, just a week ago I was distraught over my husband’s vasectomy. I was in tears and I didn’t know when, if ever, I would get over feeling the way I did. We had put the deed off for over 8 years. He was going to get it done when our almost 9 year old was born. Things consistently got in the way – money, finances, losing jobs. Reasons kept coming up and we kept putting it off. Thank God we did, because this little cutie joined our lives in January of 2013:

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Some things are just meant to be. :)

A week ago, I wrote this. It was hard for me to admit that I was upset. I kind of felt like I was supposed to suck it up and move on, but I was mourning. Not only was I mourning, but it brought up all the grief from when my brother died, so I felt like I had been hit with a double whammy. 

That post brought some healing for me. Friends messaged me and shared their stories. They showed me that I was not alone in how I was feeling. One friend said that she got her tubes tied and when it was done, she laid on the table and CRIED because that stage of her life was over. When I knew it was her choice and she still mourned, I felt a lot better about the sadness hovering in my heart. 

That stage of my life was over. I have always had a bit of difficulty with change and moving on. I don’t even want more babies. I’ve gladly accepted my surprises, but I am okay with not having more. I am at a point in my life where I am realizing how fleeting life is. My parents are aging, my brother has died. I’m not looking forward to some stages of life and saying goodbye to this stage brought all that up.

In the past week I have cried, mourned, and been a little more pissy than I should be, but I can tell you, now I’m okay. I’m looking forward to this next stage of life and this next stage of my husband’s and my marriage. A friend messaged me and said “This next stage will be okay. The exciting part is it will be about just you and your hubby. You won’t be trying to get pregnant or trying to prevent pregnancy”. 

And, honestly, friends, that’s something I can get REALLY excited about. <wink, wink> 

And for anyone who goes through this and mourns, it’s okay. It’s normal! For some reason this isn’t the stuff people talk about. I NEVER knew that people mourn this stage of life. I’ve always heard the “Whoo hoo, it’s done!” and never the “boo hoo, it’s done”. 

In the Word

The longer I am a Christian, the longer some very well meaning catch phrases annoy me. There are plenty of blog posts on the ol’ blogosphere talking about “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “God must have needed an angel” or any other similar ones. 

The phrase that really bugs me involves the words “In the word”. It is a catch all solution to every problem that comes our way. I agree that great wisdom can be gleaned from the Bible and I think that we should spend time renewing ourselves in His word. I live with someone, though, that has had this phrase said to him on more than one occasion by other men who are considered to be “holy” or up there with Christ. They might say “You need to be in the Word” when he says “I’m struggling, I’m depressed, God feels so far away”. He hears “you’re a failure, you’re not doing enough, if you were in the Word, you wouldn’t be afflicted by these issues”.

It’s just not true. 

I imagine it’s something like this: I fall over board, I can’t swim, I’m losing hope, my head is sinking beneath the waters. I yell out “Help me, help me!” and even though someone on the boat has the tools to get me out of that water, they lean over the side of the boat and say “You just need to be in the Word!” No hand out to bring me out of the water, no life vest, nothing. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even throw me a bible. 

Yeah, yeah, I know that’s a little extreme. I think in pictures. I visualize everything!

Christians have a Savior, not a guaranteed easy life. I mean if we all spent time “in the Word”, would our problems magically disappear? NO! Although our time on earth is temporary, we still have to live here and we have to deal with the curveballs thrown to us and the lemons handed to us. We get depressed, discouraged, frustrated, lost, angry, confused, etc. I could go on and on. When I am any of the aforementioned, I get lost in “the Word”. Things blur and I am so consumed with my issue that I don’t even know what I am looking for and I am certainly not finding it. 

What I need is a friend to pray. Someone to say “Lord, she feels far from you. Please show yourself to her, remind her that she is never alone and that you have never left. Use people like me to minister to her when she can’t minister to herself or others”. This is what everyone needs. Someone to pray, someone to come along the side of us, someone to throw us a flotation device, to hold our head above water. 

In the Word is a great solution, however it is not the only solution. Sometimes God sends one of us to stand in the trenches for our struggling loved ones. Let’s not abdicate our responsibilities as a follower of Christ by saying “You need to get in the Word”, then washing our hands and walking away. 

Let’s show what the Word is all about by doing, being and praying. 

Amen? 

 

Sweet Home

I wrote this Friday morning. I held on to it and only shared it with a few friends, because I wanted to have my husband’s permission to share something so personal. I didn’t realize how emotional the experience would be for me. In the days to come, I will share, with permission, some of the conversations and emotions that have happened since.

One of my favorite movies is Sweet Home Alabama, with Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsey. The scene that causes me to catch my breath every time is when Mel’s lawyer runs in and says “But you didn’t sign them”. He points to the paper, Mel looks at it and gasps. “Does anyone have a pen?” Nobody does. Well, nobody except her almost ex-husband’s mother. Stella hands her the pen, Melanie leans down to sign and hesitates.

Yeah. I feel like I almost lived that scene this morning. Of course there was no divorce in the works, because THE FIRST ONE TO LEAVE TAKES THE KIDS!

Sorry. I’m shouting. :)

Today is the day. My husband is going for the big V and I don’t mean victory. This morning, he couldn’t find the paperwork that he needs, because this is what we do. We lose paperwork, panic and then someone steps in and saves the day. Today, I was that someone, which is fitting considering how many times that man has saved my butt by finding what I need. So I found what he needed, I choked back the tears and I handed them over.

This might sound like I am not okay with him having the surgery. I am. I know that this is where he is. I know this is what he needs. Honestly, I am a little sad to see this chapter of our lives closing. I can cite a few reasons why it’s a good idea though. 1. Condoms suck. For real. 2. Chad is 48. 3. We have 5 kids already. 4. Money. We never have enough! And on and on and on.

All of those reasons make sense and seem right.

BUT

I have never been one to plan life. I kind of take it as it comes. It’s been a little easier for ME to roll with the punches, because I never had a plan anyway. When I was a kid, my only plan was to not get married or have kids. We can see how well that has worked for me. I pretty much realized a long time ago that my plans suck. Charlee, our one year old, was not in our plans. I mean, we’re adults. We know that sex can lead to pregnancy which leads to a baby, but as far as saying “HEY! We’re going to have a baby 8 years after our youngest”, that did not happen. It just turned out right.

Now this chapter of our lives is closing. There will be no more babies from my body. There will be no more sweet surprises. There will be no more excitement of the risk being there. I know that many people have gone before us and had a vasectomy or tubal ligation. I absolutely know that they have moved on from that point of their life. If Chad had been able to have a vasectomy five years ago like he wanted, we wouldn’t have Charlee. He said that to me. “If I had done this when I wanted, Charlee wouldn’t be here”. That thought just seems inconceivable to me. She is truly the best surprise I never planned on. (Checks to see if “on” is a preposition. Finds out it is. Doesn’t care)

There are some people that think I shouldn’t be sad, because of the above reasons, but none of those reasons stop the sadness. I can know something is right and still not be okay with it. (Case in point… my daughter going to high school. Yes, it’s right, but it’s OH SO WRONG at the same time) This is a stepping stone in life. It’s a process I have to go through. The decision has been made, the reasons are valid, but my heart mourns the loss a little. That’s totally okay.

I’ve heard of people spending a life time of regretting their decision. I’ve had friends who have paid big bucks to reverse their tubal ligation or vasectomy. I’ve never wanted to be in that situation. I won’t be in that situation. Please, God, don’t make me eat my words. They taste yucky.

So, today is the day and I’ve shed some tears. I have some hesitation and I’m totally okay with it.

How’s that for a woman that can’t make up her mind?

Shut Up. Just Shut Up

The day after my brother died, I spent the day with my parents. Relatives had gathered at their house, presumably to show their support in the midst of grief. It was so normal, and it wasn’t. We gathered, we talked, we told jokes. No one ever really said or even talked about why we were there. My brother’s death was the elephant in the room. There was a point that I lost it on the inside. I wanted to stand in that crowded room and scream “SHUT UP! Just SHUT UP! This is not normal, this is not okay. Please, please shut up.”

I didn’t do it. Not because I didn’t feel like it, but because it just didn’t seem like the trait of a normal person. Even in my grief, I wanted to appear normal.

Today was another one of those days. I didn’t feel normal on the inside. I was feeling grief, but everyone around me was carrying on as we always have. The kids were laughing and joking and telling me about their day. My husband was making incredibly small talk. All the while, there was an elephant with us. He was around us, there was barely any room to move around him. Every once in a while he would crawl in my lap, lay on my chest and I could. not. breathe.

Even though most people knew he was there, no one wanted to talk about him. Once again I wanted to scream at everyone to shut up. And I can’t. It’s not normal and it’s not right.

Damn elephant. Go away. :( Everyone else, please shut up. I don’t feel like playing normal.

Kids and Money

I have long been opposed to giving my kids an allowance. I like them doing chores and I like them having their own money, but it just seemed like too much work to keep track of what they did and appoint a dollar (or quarter) to it. I’ve tried it before and I usually fizzled out before the first paycheck. Hey, I admit that I am horrible about follow-through. HORRIBLE!

About six months ago, I changed tactics. My primary reason is because I was tired of the kids asking me for things at the store. Every time we went anywhere, I was inundated with “Can I”, “Will you” or them throwing stuff in the cart. My kids are good kids, for real, they just want stuff like the rest of us. 

I didn’t think we could afford it, but I was willing to try this anyway. Every two weeks, to coincide with my husband’s payday, I give each child a set dollar amount. It’s not as much as you think. :) The younger kids get $10 ($5 a week), my teenager gets $20 and our adult daughter receives $35-$40. (She has an income, but she is also disabled and unable to handle her own money) My husband also takes some spending money. I don’t, just because. I mean, if I want it, it’s there, but generally I don’t need it for anything. If I ever find a purse I want, I may cash in on all that cash I haven’t been taking though. 

Surprisingly, this works! It has drastically cut down on the “gimmes”. My kids are becoming excellent bargain shoppers. They are understanding that their dollars will stretch further if they wait for a sale. One of my children saved her “allowance” and money from babysitting and bought her own tablet. Our expenses have also decreased, because I am not finding extras in the cart and if there is something they want that I won’t buy, they use their own money. 

It took a few months for them to really get used to not asking me for money. We are still working with our oldest on budgeting for a period of time so she knows she has enough for her extra-curricular activities. 

Although I do not tie the allowance to any specific chores, there is a definite expectation that the kids will help around the house. They do a daily 5:00 clean up, keep their rooms clean, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, bring groceries in from the car, watch the baby so I can take a shower. In short, they are part of our family and realize that to make our home life run smoothly, they need to jump in and help. My kids also feel that they are of value to the family and I am not just the no-monster. 

I am really glad that we tried this method. It has definitely worked for us!

A Gift from God

Have you ever wondered what kind of “gift” God has given you? If you know, do you wonder how you are supposed to use it? I think gifts can come in many different packages. You could have the gift of discernment. (You know, because I’m a believer and using that word makes me feel up there in the heavenly kingdom) In all seriousness, you could be gifted in dance, music, writing, finances, running, children, etc, etc, etc.

My dear friend, Meredith, used her gift and LOVE of singing on the stage during church service today. For the first time. I can’t even imagine how nervous she must have felt, but honestly she looked and sounded great! She appeared as if she believed that “I’ve got this!”.

As she stood up there, worshiping God and using the gift He gave her, I thought about all the other people who are also gifted in singing. I thought about how Meredith could have said “There are plenty of people who are gifted in singing and who sound better than me, so yeah, I’ll just leave this to them. If you have heard one singer, you’ve heard them all”. We all know that isn’t true. Many of us enjoy listening to more than one singing group or singer. Although they are all gifted in singing, their gift is a little different from others. It may be the songs the sing, the subject they sing about, or we may just plain like the sound of their voice over someone else. Different strokes and different folks. :)

I am so often tempted to not use my gift and LOVE of writing. Writing clears my head and helps me to process life. Other people tell me that they enjoy my writing. I DO say “There are many writers and a lot of them are more gifted in this area than me, so I’ll just leave it to them”. I’m not Lisa Jo  or my brother-in-law, Mike. I really enjoy both of their writings, their style, the things they think, the things the say, etc, but I tend to measure myself against them. It’s not a competition. It’s not a matter of one of us being a better writer or communicator than the other. We each have different styles and different audiences. One person may like my writing and not the others. Some people will like all of them for different reasons.

All of us have gifts. I am committing to not only USING mine, but IMPROVING it too. (I have the community education catalog out. I’m circling classes and making it work!) I’ve had a life long dream of writing a book. Here’s to realizing that dream, before I don’t have the chance.

What’s your gift?