Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for May, 2012

Church is Like A DoJang

Growing up we moved around a lot and I went to a lot of different places to study the martial arts. Some were ‘just fine,’ average. They taught their style and that was it. Once in the dojang you were unaware that any other style of martial arts existed.
A few dojangs were exceptional. They interacted with other martial artists. We went to tournaments, demonstrations and seminars that were given by a wide variety of different martial arts styles. When we returned to our dojang we examined what we had learned. Some techniques were deemed ‘good’ and were added to our list of self-defense teachings. Other techniques were discarded. Some, when more thoroughly examined were found to have flaws in them that showed they only worked when your partner went along with it. Still others were ‘okay’ but did not fit in well with how we did things. We learned much in these schools.
Another group of dojangs not only isolated themselves, but felt the need to put down all of the other martial arts schools in the vicinity. In almost every class we heard why our school was better and why the teaching at the other schools stunk. How our instructor knew this, since we never interacted with the other schools, was beyond me, but most people bought it, felt proud, and repeated it to others.
Churches are like this too. Some churches keep to themselves. They are nice places to go, and everyone behaves pleasantly, but there is little interaction with the greater body of Christ.
Some churches however do more than keep to themselves. They put down the other churches. Sermons frequently mention some other church, or people group, with the intention of putting them down. The church, or people group has done nothing ‘new’ to deserve comment, and typically no one in the congregation was even tempted to join that group in doing whatever they are currently ‘bad’ for doing. For this reason the preacher gets a lot of ‘amens’ because no one is questioning anything he is saying. He is speaking on a topic no one in his congregation is confused about or needs clarification on. They already know how the church feels on this subject and agree. This is not Christ-like. This is puffing yourself up for no other reason than to make yourself feel good that you are not like them, the sinners.
Other churches do not mind interaction. They will encourage their members to go to concerts, seminars or other events in other churches because they are a good opportunity to learn, or worship. But, like the Bereans, they will also be open to honest discussions. Some are theological, but others are more mundane, like ‘Do you think we should have a coffee bar?’ Either way the church grows and functions more like the church that was described in the New Testament, giving hospitality to people who traveled far to share what they have learned and to learn from their church as well. It is this type of church that we should strive to be.

Things We Did Wrong, And How We Could Have Done Better

Now, before I get started the things we did wrong also made us stronger and brought us closer together. While we could have avoided some of the tough times, it was working through the tough times that brought us close.

1. We did not set good boundaries with our extended family. When family came over our attitude was to live and let live. Everyone got the idea that they had a say in our lives. We became a punching bag (or it at least felt that way due to all of the helpful criticism) and when we tried to put a stop to it people were offended. A new marriage is a new thing. The Bible says that a man is to leave his mother and father and become one with his bride for a reason. Make sure that other people, even parents, aren’t allowed to have authority (or think they have authority) over your house. It is a tough transition to make, but politely telling your parents ‘thanks, but (insert spouse’s name) and I have decided to do it this way’ is a good thing to do.

2. We made a few unilateral decisions that would have been better made together. It is not that we would have necessarily decided to do anything differently in the end, but when the decision affects both people, it is easier to jump on board when you have been a part of the discussion rather than when you are feeling blind-sided by it.

3. We stayed in a church that was unhealthy for us a little too long. When your children are grown you have the energy to help a church through the rough times. When church problems directly affect you, and your children are young, your children need your energy more than the church does. Since church problems have a way of consuming our lives it is best to try, but know that if the problem is more than a bump in the road, it is not the right time of life for you to be tackling the issue. Because you have little extra time in your life, you will get cranky and blow things out of proportion and just make everything worse. There are times to step back and let others take the lead.

4. We got goats. Goats seemed like a good thing, but were actually a handful. Be wary when people are giving you things for free. Pets can be great, but make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. This goes for buying big toys like boats, RVs, pools, hot tubs and starting other hobbies. Some things require more work than you wanted to do for the amount of enjoyment you will get from them. Ask people who have been there, done that for advice.

5. We spent a lot of money on music lessons for children with no musical talents or interest. I love playing my saxophone, but my children don’t. It does not take long to see whether, or not, your child has a gift in this area. Don’t waste their time pursuing something they will never use as an adult. This goes for sports as well. It is okay to be fit and have fun, but competitive leagues are for those who enjoy it. Get to know your child and give them training in the areas God actually made them for.

6. Tim did all of the computer stuff for me. After we were at seven children (which happened quickly since we adopted a family group of older children when ours were pre-kindergarten) Tim took over the electronics. This left me frustrated, and feeling stupid when he was not home. This did not make for the best homecoming for the man who needed to fix this now. The electronic age is here and moms need to deal with it too. Everything that comes into the home must be learned by all adults present, especially if children will become upset when they have been promised something and the thing does not work…

I’m sure there is much, much more… but you get the idea.

So, How Did We Get to 40 Happily

  1. We worked hard. We worked in our jobs so that the pay became more than enough to live on. We worked on our marriage so that we understood each other well and we worked with our children so they behaved, because poorly behaved people are not enjoyable.
  2. We lived through things together. We did not split up the tasks into his and hers. Almost every decision was made after talking, and talking and talking. We are now a team, and can step into each other’s shoes when needed. If one of us goes somewhere, the other is not lost.
  3. We trained the kids to be adults. Adults need to know how to clean, cook and take care of their every need, so as soon as the children could, they were learning to do. The boy’s roof collapsed a few weeks ago thanks to high winds and heavy rain. I did nothing. Tim was at work, but my teen-aged boys took care of everything, and their sisters helped. Why? Because they saw a need and took care of it instinctively.
  4. We helped others in front of our children, and with our children whenever possible. They now help us, and others, because that is what they saw growing up. This isn’t volunteering at the food pantry. (Though there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not personal.) This is seeing a neighbor with a need and taking care of it. It’s not hard. Last week our neighbor was hit by a drunk driver so we lent her our car. Simple.
  5. We did what was right, even when people did not like it. We did not appease people and act like doormats. When we did give in to pressure, we explained why this was not a battle that needed to be fought at the moment. The children learned that love was not getting your own way, and that sometimes ‘no’ was reasonable. They also learned that people that cannot be told ‘no’ without getting upset are immature. This was easy to teach because they saw the fits people threw when they did not get their way. The people made themselves look bad, and my children learned that they did not want to be that way. If you never say ‘no’ you never have this experience and your children will not see what unreasonable people look like when they throw an adult-sized tantrum.This behavior also kept us from being constantly under the unreasonable expectations of the ‘adult-children’ in this world who like having everything their way.
  6. We had long night-time devotions. Our family talked, and talked. While the devotions began with scripture, they often veered off course, onto real life. This is okay. Since we home schooled, family talks that lasted past midnight were not a problem. We did not merely lecture, we all talked.
  7. I allowed my husband to be a part of the household. The house is messy and comfortable because that is the way he likes it. He may also do projects in the living room (even ones where saw dust abounds) because it is his home too. Of course he cleans up his own messes. If I were left in charge, the house would be spotless. Not because I like it that way, but because it would have gotten the cattier women off my back! He has kept me from the insanity of pleasing that group of people.
  8. My husband is an adult. He does not come home and do things that I would yell at the children for, like leave his socks on the floor, or ignore the messes he made. He respects me and my time by not contributing to the messes and then leaving the home.
  9. Both my husband and I speak highly of each other. Spouse bashing, especially husband bashing is a social norm. I am not sure people even notice they do it anymore. I did not realize how little we participate in this until my teen aged son experience his first ‘let’s put the men down’ session. He started defending himself and became a bit upset. Most guys are used to it, but should they be?
  10. We are not passive-aggressive. We confront things and talk boldly when needed. This takes a lot of trust. That is the beauty of being married for more than a year or two. But it comes from years of fighting well. If you fight well (fairly, not trying to ‘win,’ but actually trying to explain and understand) then you will grow. Unfair techniques like changing the past, making lists of every sin the person has ever committed, name calling and saying things you don’t mean only get you off topic and prolong the fight. Further they keep you from trusting each other. No one wants to feel like anything they do can be twisted and used against them whenever the other person gets a little cranky. Fight fair. You can show that you are upset, if you are, but talk only about the things that actually upset you, and be honest about it. No lying to make the other one feel better, or worse, and absolutely no silent treatment. That solves nothing. And listen. Actually try to understand what your spouse is saying. Even though you are the one upset, it is not all about you. The two of you are in this together. Listen to his side. It may help you realize that it was not what you thought it was, and now that he knows it upsets you he will never do it again. Many arguments last past the point of the guy saying this because guys don’t tend to elaborate under stress and the girl is not listening.
  11. We lived within our means (mostly). Many relationships are stressed because there are always financial pressures. Even with the best planning financial pressures come, but there are things you can do to make sure they do not come frequently. (Check out Dave Ramsey for excellent advice on this subject.) For us it once meant living in a mobile home park while Tim was a young doctor until we could afford the house we wanted. (Our neighbors loved talking about the ‘doctor’ who lived next door and watching people look totally confused.)

Now remember, this is a list of what we did right. Maybe next week I will compose a list of what we did wrong, and would have done better if we had realized this sooner… ‘Hope this helps!

Why I Like Being Over 40

I came into our small group and sighed, ‘I am so glad I am over 40 right now.’ A male friend smiled and said, ‘You know I was just thinking the same thing today.’

So what makes ‘over 40’ so good? No toddlers, no relationship dramas, great sex and you’ve already seen so much bull that you can spot most of it a mile away. Your children are old enough to help, and hold an intelligent conversation. Your home routine (or lack thereof) is fairly well established, and no one expects you to be super-mom anymore. In fact, if you do sit on the ground with the kids people are asking if you need any help getting up! (Not that I do need the help, but its nice to know that if I don’t feel like getting back to my feet there’s assistance without judgment.)

And that’s the best part. I don’t know if it’s because most of us grew up, or because I just no longer bother wasting my time on these things, but there are a lot less people judging me. The women who are good at hair, make-up, decorating a home etc now offer to help rather than criticize. (And one day I may take them up on their offer… It’s not that I don’t decorate, but hippy/ dorm room is as far as I got in life.) Believe it or not one of my new best friends sells Mary Kay! (Now I know my twitter pic is of the one day I actually did dress up with my daughters, but if you knew me you would know this friend is my antithesis based on this fact alone.) And she doesn’t care that my idea of getting ready in the morning is hopping out of the shower and throwing some hopefully appropriate clothes on.

Now back to the sex. (You thought I just threw that in there and forgot?) Being married for years upon years means you know each other well, that you are comfortable with each other and now that the children are no longer waking you up every night you actually have energy. In fact some nights bedtime comes and you’re not all that tired yet! (Imagine that young moms…) It’s not just the sex though. It’s the absence of fights that are really all about each person not understanding what the other is saying. It’s about being able to say anything you want without the other person taking it the wrong way because they know you and trust that you love them, and always will. It’s comfortable, and comfortable is good. Really good.

Why Do Good Workers Leave?

I was recently talking with a few friends and the topic of volunteering came up. Now these friends are great people, successful in their jobs, and all of them would drop anything in a minute to help anyone if needed. But there are people and places they will not help anymore. Here were some of the reasons given.

1. The place was disorganized. They did not mind helping, but many times they showed up and had to stand around waiting for someone to make a decision. The people in charge did not respect their volunteer’s time. They would have stayed and helped for hours, if needed, but they did not like having their time wasted when they have other important things they could be doing.

2. They felt like there was a bait-and-switch. They volunteered for one thing and then were roped into doing something totally different. Again, they may have volunteered to do whatever they were roped into, but they did not like being ‘tricked’ and were left feeling that the organization was not ‘upright.’

3. Once you volunteered you were ‘on the list,’ which meant you were going to be called for everything. They felt taken advantage of because they had helped before. The frequent comment was, ‘I am not the only person who attends this church, whose kids go to this school etc., so why am I the only one who seems to get called?’ Many organizations burn out their best volunteers because they ask too much of them. Whenever there is a need, they know who to call, and then they can’t figure out why that person either won’t help anymore, or the family leaves.

4. They did not feel appreciated. When they volunteered they were treated poorly. There was a list of rules that seemed to assume they were either mean, lazy or immature. Or the leaders yelled at their volunteers frequently. Even if they were not the ones being reprimanded, the environment was oppressive.

5. The things the organization did to appreciate their volunteers were weird and not enjoyable. Know your audience. There are people who never want to be up on stage, so don’t make them. Others do not see being invited to watch an hour-long teaching tape you thought was ‘edifiying’ as fun. Still others do not want to be involved in ‘group participation’ games. If you are going to thank people, try to make sure it is in a way that they will appreciate. If not they may be thinking, ‘I would love to help but if I do I am going to have to live through that again.’

6. They were made to feel bad when they said ‘no.’ They did not feel that they had the freedom to say ‘no’ without people becoming upset. They did not want to break a relationship over this, but they also had very real reasons for not being able to do things at the moment.

7. They were pressured to do things that were unreasonable, even after they explained why. Many people have professional skills, and do not mind sharing, but at times what is being asked cannot be done for a variety of reasons. It could be that their insurance only covers them on the job, and you are asking them to put themselves at a steep financial risk. It could also be that they need equipment that it not available to them at home, or that what you are asking is not in their area of expertise. (ex. My husband is an ER doctor, most dermatology concerns require a dermatologist. I have heard lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers etc have the same problems.)

8. They have to put up with jerks. While this does not sound charitable, it is Biblical to deal with problem people. Unfortunately many organizations do not and people get tired of being mistreated, even if it is by other volunteers. Since they are not getting paid, the volunteers eventually stop putting themselves through the misery. (When they are getting paid, this is a reason they look for another job…)

9. It looked like there was enough help already. Busy people don’t mind volunteering- if they are actually needed. Having a bunch of people standing around doing nothing makes it look like there are already more workers than you need. If the reality is that there are a bunch of people who show up and then do nothing, you may need to motivate the people who are standing around before others get the wrong impression. One place we do not volunteer at for this reason had us stop working after 2 hours even though the job was not done so that they could get the next group started. We assumed that they had more volunteers than they knew what to do with, so we did not feel the need to volunteer there again. This may not have been the case, and may have just been poor planning on their part…

Remember, professional people who have skills you might want to use are used to being treated well and not having their time wasted. They do not have all day to stand around waiting for you, they do have other things they could be doing and they are used to being paid well for their time (and usually thanked as well) so they will expect a thank-you when they are done. (Not that this is why they do things, but it is proper behavior to thank someone who has helped you and they know it.) If you want to keep these people involved, you need to keep these things in mind.

If you think of anything else, please feel free to share.

Lines Guys Use to Get A Girl to Sleep With Them

My friends and I were talking and decided someone needed to do a public service announcement to let naïve girls know he is lying to you to get you into bed! So here it goes.

1. You know I’m going to marry you. Yeah, well where’s the ring? When there is a ring on my finger then I’ll believe you. The gold one, not the diamond. Engagements fall through, so I am waiting to be certain I can count on you.

2. I love you. Really girls? I know sometimes this is all that it takes, but you must admit you are going to sound pretty silly as an unwed pregnant mother when you say, ‘But he said he loved me…’

3. You are so hot I just couldn’t help myself. Really? So this means that when your older and they hire a really hot secretary to work with you I can expect you to sleep with her too?

4. I thought you wanted it too. This is emotional blackmail and a bit of date rape rolled into one. The guy is blaming you for ‘tricking’ him into sex by sending the wrong signals. He knew what ‘no’ meant, trust me. He also knows that you will let him if he pushes because you love him. (And in your mind love means never saying ‘no’ or anything else that might upset a person. Don’t be this girl. She is easily taken advantage of and suffers because of it. And bad boys can spot you a mile away.)

The list is short and I am sure there are many, many more lines out there. Feel free to help me out by sharing any you can think of!

Things Marriage Books Don’t Tell You About Real Marriages…

It is early morning. Your husband has left for work and the children are miraculously sleeping in. You roll over, lifting the covers to snuggle more deeply into the comfy goodness and… What is that smell! It seems that your wonderful husband has left you an early morning surprise. A smell, previously trapped by the covers, that wakes you with a jolt and ruins whatever thoughts of getting back to sleep you would have…

Or, you wake up. You are all cuddled up with the one you love when he says, ‘Oh, by the way, I drooled all over the back of your head last night.’ So romantic.

This is marriage. Oh there are good parts too, but there are the raw, real realities of two people, who are not perfect in every way sharing a life together. (I would add the female counterpart to these stories but they are really gross, much worse than this- trust me. And all the married guys said, ‘Yep.’)

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