Saturday, March 29, 2014

Choose Wisely

The same person who said Avery's visitation was tacky (because it was held in her school gym in an effort to accommodate the 600+ people who came to pay their respects) was the same person who left a voicemail on my phone 12 hours after Avery died talking about how worried she was for Matt and to have him call her (umm... call him on his phone? I'm sure he's sad, but I just found out my daughter died so I'm kind of busy here) and is the same person who told me that I had no respect for the sanctity of marriage (I'm divorced; although she's never bothered to ask the circumstances) and repeatedly questioned my relationship with God (because I guess you can't believe in God if you're not Catholic) and who told me I needed psychological help because I chose not to have a large birthday party when my third child turned one. (Please note: none of my children had huge parties when they turned one. Also, I'm the Mom.)

I could go on and on and on and on... in fact, several years of my life was spent getting together at her home, at dinners, at different events, and once even during a very awkward and uncomfortable vacation where I found myself constantly being passively (and sometimes not so passively but rather painfully obvious and aggressively) put down and criticized with no chance of escape. 

For months on end I tried hard to make an effort. Once, I even sat through an incredibly disrespectful conversation about how Matt would be better off dating his ex-girlfriend. Smile uncomfortably, take a sip of water, wonder if this conversation was even happening; surely there's a hidden camera.

After several years, a couple things were obvious:
           (1) This wasn't getting any better.
           (2) In fact, this is actually getting worse.

I found myself emotionally drained before I even left the house, unwilling and, truthfully, unable to handle the subtle yet obvious belittlement that occurred every single time I found myself around this woman.

And yet, doesn't God call us to be kind to one another? Doesn't God call us to love one another? Does this mean God calls us to keep company with someone who is constantly hurting us?

I knew God called me to be kind to this woman - even if I didn't like how she was treating me. I'm kind to all sorts of people I don't know: clerks in the grocery store, the man walking into the gas station at the same time I am, the waitress who takes my order and the flight attendant who hands me my soda. Obviously, I shouldn't be unkind to any of these people, including the person who treats me harshly. That whole "eye for an eye" thing? Well, I didn't think the answer to my situation could be found in trading verbal barbs and attempting to hurt someone on purpose.

But I was so confused. There was no way I wanted to keep putting myself in a situation where I was being disrespected. And there was no way I was going to submit my children to that. I couldn't sit with a fake smile on my face while my children sat confused and uncomfortable while another person said unkind things about their mom.

I wondered why on earth God would place someone like this in my life. Someone so bent on hurting me. And, it wasn't just me; the criticisms, gossip and beratement extended to many people beyond just me. Why would God invite someone like that to be near my heart?

The answer became very clear to me: if we cannot stand up to the lies a human voice speaks out loud to us, how will we ever stand up to the lies the enemy whispers softly into our minds?

Because everything this woman has said to me, about me, has been lies: Avery's visitation was definitely NOT tacky. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was a precious tribute not only to who Avery was in life, but to all the lives she so incredibly touched. And I did and can and continue to love God regardless of my church affiliation. And, you know what? Lots of parents opt to have a small, quiet birthday party instead of an insanely large one. That doesn't mean they need psychological help.

We have all come in contact with someone who chooses to spread passive-aggressive untruths; who enjoys churning up the drama and gets a kick out of seeing someone hurt. Maybe you have someone in your life like that right now and you're wondering why they're there.

Maybe, just maybe, they're there so that you can learn how to gather your strength and say, "no. No, I choose not to believe what you say. I choose not to step into your created drama. I choose not to feel dragged down, unworthy, unloved, unwanted by you."

Anyone who does not love
does not know God,
because God is love.
1 John 4:8
Because as soon as you can stand up to that visible person you're going to be better equipped to stand up to those lies swirling around in your head about who the enemy wants you to believe you are. All those lies keep you from revealing who God intended you to be. All  those lies that you're not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough - they're all being whispered just to keep you from being the amazing person you were put on this planet to be.
And I'll tell you - God's people spread love. God's people help you stand strong. God's people encourage and praise and rejoice and honor and give! If the people in your life are not doing that; if the people in your life are dragging you down, hurting your heart, making you feel defeated and unwelcome - they are not God's people.
I look at Avery's classmates. She would be in 6th grade this year - those dreaded middle school years. And I want them to learn two very important lessons: Do not BE the person who does not love, and Do not be WITH the person who does not love. If you're making little comments (or even big comments) about the outfit someone is wearing or how they're doing their hair or how they choose to spend their free time, you're wrong. Stop being mean. Just stop.
And if you're hanging out with people who are making those comments and making others feel bad, you're also wrong. Even if you're not saying it, you're hanging out with people who are and that is not the way to be. Don't stop someone from being who God intended them to be. Don't get in God's way of greatness.
I look at parents who have divorced or separated and are in a situation of co-parenting and I want them to learn two very important lessons: Do not BE the person who does not love, and Do not be WITH the person who does not love. If you cannot stop yourself from making passive (or not so passive) comments about the other parent, you're wrong. Stop.
If you're hanging out with people who are constantly making comments and rude digs about your ex, you're wrong. Stop hanging out with them. You don't need that influence of hatred. And your kids don't need that atmosphere of hatred.
Because all those rude, petty, snide, passive comments are just a breeding ground for hate. And I don't know about you, but I have no time for hate. I have no time to be attacked by it, to sit in it, to keep company with it, to be affected by it, or to learn from it.
Choose your words wisely.
Choose your company wisely.
Choose to be one of God's people.
Make no friendship with an angry man,
and with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
and set a snare for your soul.
Proverbs 22:24-25

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teaching Moments: The One In Which I Implore Mamas to Teach Their Kids Simple Home Maintenance

God continues to provide moments of humor in my life. This one comes from Matt.

Oh, I know. It's been a while since I've told a "Big V" story (as he was known in previous posts, before Avery passed away and we were outed over the interwebs), so today, Readers, you are in luck! I give you The Dryer Story.

My dryer was not drying. I wasn't too surprised, since the thing is only about 5 years old. (Insert curmudgeony they don't make things like they used to comment.) I, being the person that I am, went straight to Facebook asking for advice. Over and over I heard the same thing: MAKE SURE THE VENT IS CLEAR OF LINT!

Seemed easy enough, so I did what every independent woman does: I asked my knight in shining armor if he would please check the dryer vent and make sure it was clear. "Don't just do the part from the dryer to the vent," I directed. "Make sure you go outside and clean the vent from the outside of the house."

So, he did. Because he is nothing if not my knight in shining armor who wishes to spend his whole life saving me from disastrous situations!

But, alas, the dryer still would not dry.

Instead of taking two cycles to dry, it now took three. And it wasn't like I could go hang clothes outside in 10-degree weather. My electric bill was going to be sky high (again) and this just didn't make any sense. The dryer seemed warm - hot even - after a cycle, but the clothes were not drying.

"It's not drying, Matt." I sighed. "Are you sure that the vent is clear?"


"Was there a lot of lint in it?"


"And you cleaned the outside, too?"


I was confused. Frustrated. Annoyed. So, I did what every independent woman does: I checked it myself.

I walked outside and noticed something peculiar. While the dryer was on and operating, none of the little vent flaps were moving.

Thinking maybe they had figured out a way to be frozen shut, I pried them open with my fingers.

I was promptly met with a wall of lint build-up.

I pulled out what I could and then came up with a genius (passive-aggressive) teaching moment.

"Oh, Brody!" I called out to the 4-year old. "Would you like to help mommy fix something?"

That peaked his interest. Matt's, too.

I took Brody by the hand and showed him the vent, explaining that we needed to make sure this was clean so mommy could dry the clothes. We checked out what screwdriver was needed (standard) and we set about unscrewing the vent cover. We then proceeded to pull out enough lint to stuff a pillow.

Meanwhile, Matt was standing behind us watching the whole thing.

After Brody and I threw away the lint and put the screwdriver back in the toolbox (mamas: ALWAYS teach your children to put the tools back in the toolbox. Always.) I turned to Matt. "You said you cleaned the vent!" I accused.

"I did!" he insisted.

And that's when he told me about how he had gone out to the side of the house with a rag and washed off the vent to make sure it was clean.