Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Personal Evangelism Tool

If you happen to be reading this at work, in a local coffee shop, or at a public library, immediately stop what you are doing. Stand up right where you are and loudly ask everyone around you, "If you are not a Christian raise your hand." (People appreciate directness so they'll love you for taking the time to ask.) Then quickly gather all these wayward sheep to your computer, gingerly play the following clip, and let The Spirit move. Oh, and make sure everyone is at least 2 feet from your monitor so they will have room to come forward. Unless, of course, you are not one of the frozen chosen, in which case you will need to amass yoga mats to cushion those being slain in The Spirit. It will be similar to Pentecost sans the original cast. Good luck and God bless.

(P.S. Are you and Jesus homies? Apparently that is an option for those wanting to upgrade their salvation package to "gangsta status".)

Now tell me. Who wants the gangsta status? It comes with a free gotee and lowrider toga.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Battle With Chronic Pain

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking in anything. James 1:4

These days chronic pain is my companion. It is the first sensation I wake to in the morning and usually the last sensation I fall asleep to at night. I didn't ask for my life to be this way, it's just something that has happened to me.

On better days - when the waves of pain part just long enough for me to come up for air - I'd call on the better angels of my nature to make a glowing spiritual conclusion about it all. Yet today isn't a better day. To tell the truth, I haven't had a better day in over a month.

To give you perspective, I can't remember a day in the last 4 years I didn't have pain. According to my doctor I have fibromyalgia, or something like it, no one knows for sure. It's not autoimmune, like rheumatoid arthritis. It's not degenerative, like, say Lupus or MS. For this I am thankful, especially since both autoimmune and degenerative conditions run in my family. God has protected me in ways I don't fully comprehend; this makes my heart swell with love for Him.

Still, I am in pain. I have never let you into this part of my life because I am afraid. First, out of pride, I don't want to be seen as "sick" instead of Stacy. Regardless of how I feel on a certain day I am still me and don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Secondly, owning up to an Achilles Heel forces me to acknowledge the situation, which hurts, but in a different way.

Usually I deal and move on. Unfortunately, this month I've been land blasted. While my pain is usually isolated to headaches, upper back pain and arm pain, the location of the pain has shifted to my hips, legs, feet, and hands. This month there have been days when I can't stand for more than 5 minutes at a time. As a mom this is bad news, but manageable because I can sit and still accomplish many things - cooking while sitting on the counter, playing board games, driving, shoveling ice cream into my mouth, etc. Then that gave out, too. For the past 7-10 days I have been exhausted and overwhelmed by searing pain. Laying down has been my only option. That's not so easy to hide.

Pain meds? Yes, there are some I can take but most don't work. My doctor suggested trying a narcotic last week. I refused. To be frank, when we know I have a pain issue that will be life-long I can't start a regimen of narcotics at 34. I've never been addicted to drugs but I'm not going to say I'm above anything. Someone told me, "When you get desperate enough you'll give up." Maybe, but that's not today. Others use them with great success and I'm happy for them. For me, I can't go there now... Maybe it's pride. Or determination to overcome. Probably both.

Dealing with pain has brought depression into my life. And guilt - there's always the mommy guilt. That sounds like, "Why can't I be like other moms? I want to run with my kids, too. I don't want to give in to pain and be grouchy, short fused, tired, etc." And of course there's the idea that my kids will remember me as Mommy Malady.

Anything that is not critically important has fallen by the wayside. When I want to be a person of my word there have been promises I haven't been able to maintain because I just can't. Then, I worry about being seen as inconsistent or unreliable. I know, I know. I shouldn't worry about what others think, but I do. Not long ago I had a Bible study leader say to me, "I've noticed Dan and the kids at church without you. That's wrong. I know you say you have pain but it can't be that bad, can it?" Slap! Though I think that's judgemental and shortsighted, it hurts to know I'm not the only one questioning myself.

Many of my disappointments with the circumstance would cease if I'd give up the idea that perfect is attainable. What I'm coming to understand is that perfect is best defined as "something I don't have right now". What I mean is, on any given day, pain or not, I've given in to the idolatry called covetousness. I want what someone else has. It's like there's this buffet of all things bright and shiny and good just waiting to be had but I've been denied access. One person noshes on "no depression" not realizing I'd love just a bite of what's on her plate. So I shut her out to protect myself. (Then wonder why I feel isolated...) Another person ladles "pain free" into a bowl and heartily eats. But somehow my ladle is just a slotted spoon. So I get mad about what I don't have, begrudge others for being blessed, and sob over all things unattained. And somehow, it never makes me feel any better.

There is only one way out: daily perseverance. The discipline of perseverance (or patience) can be hard work to maintain. It's not glossing over the circumstance, it's remaining faithful regardless of it. In other words, it's remembering that while the slotted spoon may not hold all things, it still catches meat when given a chance.

This is my struggle. It may show up as pain but it translates to whether or not I embrace "my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness". (II Corinthians 2:9)

Do you struggle? Think you'd share with me, and others here, what your struggle is? If you can't share your struggle, how do you embrace Christ in spite of it? Your answers would be so encouraging. Maybe they'd be a resource to all of us.

P.S. Amazingly, I have not lost my sense of humor. Though my posts have not been as meaty you guys still show up and that has kept me going. Here and on facebook (Stacy A. Small) our community has blessed me over and over. Thank you so much! You all are amazing. I hope you are blessed too.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wicky-Wicky Wednesday, video III

This actually goes along with this month's theme. It's perfect for anyone, married or not. Just some general advice to all the guys out there. This is video III.

Now that you've seen all three videos, which was your favorite?

Wacktacular Wednesday, Video II (made me laugh till I cried)

Probably not what Stephen Curtis Chapman had in mind, but oh well. I don't think he reads SFL on Wednesdays anyway. Here's video II.

Okay, tell the truth. Who had this in their wedding? Own up to it. Would have been better if it was this version. Just saying.

(Also, this says nothing about fruity daiquiris.)

Wacky Wednesday, Video I

Today, give my absence for the past two days, I've decided to make it up to you with 3 posts today. Hopefully, each one will be funnier than the last. Here's the first installment. See you in a couple of hours with the next video.

Special thanks to Donna who introduced me to Tim Hawkins. He's spectacular.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love Stinks or Happy Valentines Day

In anticipation of Valentine's Day I picked something out just for you! You'll have to deal with some Spanish subtitles but I think you'll be okay. Enjoy! Come back tomorrow to see what I did to Dan as a special "I Love You" surprise. There will be balloons and embarassment involved. Just saying.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Since When Are Men Stupid?

(This is an archive from SFL that has been reworked for today's post. Before reading this, please know that I am not talking to women who are in physically abusive relationships. Please, if your safety is an issue, please, please get help today.)

Boink! That's the sound of me stepping up on a soap box. Are you ready? Let's go...

Since when are men stupid? When did women let pop culture decide that Homer Simpson was the rule, not the exception; that men are, in fact, lazy, spineless, and foolish? I've seen some women treat their husbands like garbage, like subservient children who are lucky to have a wife to educate them. I've seen this on TV and in movies. It seems like this is everywhere I turn, even the church.

Now before you bounce off the page, hear this: Men are not blameless, they have their faults and I think they're the first to admit it. They have insecurities and shortcomings and they know it. I have never seen a perfect man. But I surely have seen very good men become an empty shell of their wives own styling. How does this happen?

When two people are dating everything seems perfect. She adores his ideas, opinions, and strength. They get married and somewhere along the line her attitude changes. The smiling woman he adored gives way to a person he doesn't know, who may even demean him to her family or children. Everything is suddenly fodder for a fire that burns a dark, steep abyss between them. The friendship goes, the camaraderie turns to jagged blows, and intimacy gives way to void. He clams up out of hurt and loss; he's grieving the wife he lost somewhere along the way. So, he makes due the best he can by simply and quietly enduring.

At first glance you’d think it’s because he’s just given up. But I have another theory: Perhaps because after all the chipping away at his armor, he thinks, "Maybe she's right - maybe I am stupid." Of course this isn't true, but I think people can only take so much before it starts to do damage.

So why do we sometimes do this? You know what I mean, a group of ladies get together and it isn't long before someone starts making fun of her husband. And another joins in, and another.

Years ago I listened to a woman emphatically declare that if her husband didn't do housework "her way" she would withhold sex until he did it right. "It's his reward for coming around," she laughed. She wasn't kidding. All I could think was, "What if he withheld comfort and conversation from her until she was empty? Then she might know what she's putting him through." But I'm a coward, I said nothing. Well, that's not entirely true. Somewhere during her tirade I interrupted with, "Are you high?"

Any of this sound familiar? Have you ever treated your husband like he was stupid? Men, have you ever been treated this way? It's a mistake that's common, but there's grace to cover it but the basing has got to stop.

Here are a couple of ideas that have worked for me:

- Watch how you talk about your spouse to your kids. Don't make your frustration theirs; if you do you're unfairly asking them to carry a burden for the rest of their lives. Instead of saying, (infer sarcasm) "Dad's working late again. Typical!" Try saying, "You are lucky to have a daddy who works so hard for us. He misses you, too." You may not believe it at the time. You may have grounds to be really pissed off. But children, no matter their age, are children and they love their father.

- Treat your husband like he's the man you dated. Chances are, when you were dating, you both did as much as possible to extend grace to the other. Why not try that again now? Yes, times are different and maybe you're both hurting. I'm not asking you to pretend. I'm suggesting you forgive and move on. If you spend your days waiting for your husband to suddenly transform into Mr. Perfect you'll be waiting for a long time. Let God work on you. Surrender your will to His. Let God deal with your husband.

- Enjoy sex. Withholding sex hurts men in ways women don't understand. When men have sex there is a chemical reaction in the brain that tells him to protect and provide for you. Being female, I don't quite get it. But I do know that sex is bonding for both partners. Assuming there are no larger issues like abuse in your relationship, sex can bring back the fire between you. You say you don't enjoy sex? Increasing frequency will help both of you learn about each other. Try it and see.

-Don't set your spouse up for failure. I sometimes have expectations of my marriage that don't fit my husband's personality. Hanging on to those Harlequin dreams will sabotage any fun we have. So, instead of falling for all those lies that good husbands give their wives diamonds and roses for Valentine's Day, I'm going to surprise him with a gift he'll love. This year Valentine's Day will find Dan and I blowing $20 at a local arcade. We'll have a blast because that's what works for us. Ladies, your husband wants you to be his playmate, and not just in the bedroom.

- Enjoy more sex. Be willing and have fun. Wait, did I already emphasize this? I'll just assume some body's husband will have a great weekend because I repeated myself. Now don't make me look stupid...

- Fall in love with Jesus. He made marriage and He made men and women different. He longs to love on you and your spouse. Sometimes we use God as a last resort. In a crisis we turn to Him and He pulls us through. But what if that same grace carried you day to day as you tried to love your spouse? Think about it. (Also, He wants you to have more sex. Just saying.)

-Talk to a counselor and get accountability before things get worse. Sometimes hurt piles up and starts to rot like maggoty meat. Getting the help you need today can save your marriage and a world of hurt. Don't be a hero - ask for help until someone listens.

Maybe you're here reading this and didn't get what you expected today. Perhaps this hits a sensitive spot for you. Know you don't struggle alone. The person you married (or may marry one day) isn't your worst enemy. If you fell in love once, you can do it again. By stopping the jabs you can restart the process today.

So what do you think?

P.S. I would really like to hear the male perspective on this if there are any guys willing to comment. I think "Anon" is a perfect alias, don't you??

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Need A Good Laugh?

Some of you have been stalking me about posting the following clip on our little site, so here you go. It is ridiculously funny and I endorse it completely. Hang on until minute 3:59. There's another highlight at 5:45, too. Turn your speakers up, invite your coworkers over, and make sure you're not eating anything or you'll spit it out for laughing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Insert Funny Parenting Title Here

Nearly 8 years ago I found myself in a hospital delivery room. Not desiring to be anyone's hero I partook of the sacred epidural pain block. When it came time a nurse resembling a Nazi got in my face and yelled, "PUSH!" Not to be outdone, I got in her face screamed, "NO!" Everyone in the delivery room looked at me. The doctor asked, "Mrs. Small, why won't you push?" I whispered, "Because I think when these drugs wear off all this is really going to hurt." Hospital staff exchanged glances but no one spoke. What could they say? The monitor beeped again and Nurse Lederhousen yelled, "PUSH! NOW!" Assuming they didn't hear me the first time I repeated, "NO! I can't push!" The doctor, wishing he had joined Up With People instead of going to med school, asked, "Mrs. Small! Why won't you push?!"

"I can't push because I don't know how to be a mom!" I screamed, tears running down my face. My heart was on the line, a baby was in...well, you know..., and I needed reassurance.

Instead, Fraulein Gestapo jumped on the bed, shoved my knee to my chest and said through clenched teeth, "You should have thought about that 9 months ago! PUSH!"

And I did. Twice. And my life changed forever.

Like I said, that was 8 years ago. Ironically, I still don't know how to be a good mom. Most days I fake it and so far, so good. But when ketchup stops being a vegetable I might have a problem.

As with most issues men and women can be deadly in their critique of other's parenting. It's insane. Since I'm sure my parenting skills haven't always been up to snuff, I'll just go ahead and tell you what people say about me:

"Don't let your kids go to The Smalls'. She bathes those children in High Fructose Corn Syrup. They wipe their boogers on hobos and cheat on Chutes and Ladders without repenting. I swear that woman blogs all day and the only people who read it are inmates. Her kids have cavities, they disobey, and the youngest thinks Sponge Bob is a disciple. Bless her heart. I'm only telling you because they need our prayer."

It came as as no surprise that when I asked for ideas relating to this month's topic, several of you asked me to talk about raising kids. I'm no authority on being a parent but here are some things I'm learning along the way.

- Talk in the same room. This one is Dan's idea. He'd feel disrespected when I'd yell, from the kitchen to the office, "Hey! What are you doing?" If I really cared, I would stop what I was doing and have a real conversation. So, we try really hard not to yell at each other or the kids from across the house. It only leads to misunderstandings and frustration anyway.

- Technology is not more important than real, live people. I'm writing this at nearly midnight. Why? Everyone else is asleep and I'm not taking time away from them. There are days when they beg me to get off the computer. That's a horrible example. So, today I spent 95% of my time focused on my kids. No TV, very little computer. Know what? We all enjoyed each other and no one died from being deprived of the Innernets. Who knew?

- Respect matters to everyone. It communicates value and worth. If my daughter messes up and I say, "What's wrong with you?" she is going to feel stupid and embarrassed. I have to focus on training, not demeaning. Even if she did royally screw up my discipline will be worthless words if they are harsh or hasty. I haven't mastered it, but it's getting better.

- Talk to your spouse and don't allow children to interrupt. I want my kids to know I value their dad and what he says to me. Every night after dinner Dan and I talk for 20-30 minutes. We've done this for over two years and it has been fantastic. When the kids interrupt they are told, "Daddy is talking to Mommy. When we are done we'll pop your shoulder back into socket." Ok, I'm kidding. But what they're seeing is healthy marriage. In our house kids don't come first and they know that. Mommy and Daddy set the tone for the house by loving each other. For 20 minutes, everyday, the kids see that acted out.

- Being a stay at home mom is great, but it's not for everyone. I have been a stay at home mom for 8 years. Sometimes, though, it has been drastically isolating for me. I'm sanguine and an extrovert. When I was isolated I was depressed a lot. Would a job have made that better? Probably not, mothers who work have their struggles, too. What I do know is there are some women who think being a stay at home mom is THE. ONLY. WAY. to be a mom. I've seen SAHMs ruthlessly belittle working mothers, calling them greedy, neglectful, vain and selfish. It's disgusting. God made us to be there for each other. Judging another person's calling divides relationships. Do we really need that in the body of Christ?

- Laugh. We do this. All the time. We are happily ridiculous. But we're not attractive so don't hate us. Let go of the little stuff and enjoy your family. Time passes quickly, catch as much of it as you can. (I should work for Hallmark.)

So you can see I have a long way to go. We all do. If you've got parenting mistakes you've learned from, share them here. I know I could use all the help I can get.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Women: Know Your Limits!

My husband and I had a date Saturday evening. He got ready and asked me, "How do I look?" Gently I reminded him, "Honey, I'm eye candy. No one will be looking at you." Just goes to show you that every once in awhile we all need a nudge back to reality.

Tomorrow we will venture back into relationship territory. But for today I wanted to share this insightful documentary. Watch it with an open mind. And by all means, apply what you learn, especially at church. Ladies, we can't have you understanding too much about your own salvation, now can we? Just go back to the nursery, put on an apron, rock a crying child, and think about being prettier.

For now, what's the most ridiculous thing you ever heard someone say in public?

I'll go first. A girl I went to Bible college with had a job in the school's main office. Her cubicle was plain and she decided to spruce it up. Someone walked by and said, "Katie, what are you doing?" She smiled and said, "I'm decorating my pubical." Oops.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nothing Says God Loves You Quite Like Mass Carnage

"No one was laughing at Noah anymore. Everything on the land was now under water. Every living thing on earth drowned."

This is a real coloring book page sent to me by my sister. Feel free to print it out, color it, and send it back to me. Who knows? I might just have to post it for everyone to see. Well, that is, everyone who didn't drown in a cataclysmic flood sent by God to wipe out mankind for their heinous sin and general naughtiness. Such honesty in a coloring book is refreshing, though. Can't wait for that extra special page about Abraham's circumcision. Snip, snip!

Today's assignment has 2 parts:
1) What Bible story would you like to see in a coloring book?

2) And, back to this page, let's give these drowning sinners some captions? What are they thinking or saying to one another?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Perfect Lie

The only person who ends up happy in Cinderella is the fat mouse Gus. And that's just because he's too stupid to know better. The rest of it is crap.

Now I'm not a Cinderella hater but what if Cinderella was a true story? Wouldn't you like to sit in on couple's therapy with them? Abandoned by the death of her father and made to scrub toilets with her hairbrush, she'll have trust and personal hygiene issues that'll shatter that glass slipper. And the prince? Full of himself with an overbearing father who throws chicks at him like knickers at an Elvis concert... Oh yeah. Happily never after.

Yet so many of us are delusional about Fairy Tale endings. Whether you're a man or woman no one says "I do" thinking, "I can't wait till we're both jaded and in a sexless marriage. That will be spectacular!" But it happens doesn't it?

Our society constantly bombards us with images that counterfeit romance, perfection, sex and infatuation for genuine love. This thinking sets up marriage for failure: we want much, but are willing to give very little.

Try this on for size. You've seen it before but humor me.

This movie coined the phrases, "You complete me" and "You had me at hello". When that scene was first aired in movie theaters two things happened:

Women teared up and wondered why the guy next to them never said anything remotely as romantic and if he hadn't, shouldn't she demand it of him? She's worth it, isn't she?

Men shifted in their seats and wondered if this sopping, Velveeta-logged chick flick would ever end.

Though at the time I did the chick thing, I have to side with the guys now. If you break Jerry McGuire apart you have a widowed single mom, a recently dumped fiancee with career and commitment issues, haphazard sex between two people who barely know each other, marriage on a whim and a preschooler who drops the f-bomb and wants to go to the zoo. (Now that sounds awesome, somebody sign me up. Wait. I'm already married and monogamous. Danggit! I always miss out on the good stuff.)

The underlying message here is "My life sucks. What can you do for me to come in and clean it up and make it slightly less massacureish?" But those lines don't sell movies.

Yes, Jerry McGuire is just a movie. It's entertainment. We all know entertainment is that one part of life that doesn't have to support our convictions, right?

The idea that another person - a spouse or someone you're living with because marriage isn't convenient - can complete you is one perfect lie. It's a premeditated deception that gives Satan the jollies like none other. Why? Because God is about relationships. He uses marriage to make us more like Him and to show His love for us.

Marriage isn't about making us happy, though there are happy times to be had for sure. Marriage is a relationship that brings sin to the surface. It's our choice whether or not we will turn to God to redeem us, our spouse to fix us, or our own faulty judgment to excuse us when we bail. The last two will chip away at you, your spouse, and your relationship with Christ every time.

In every relationship we've got to remember that each person is steeped in sin. In marriage, your spouse's sin and your sin will play off each other until you: A) don't recognize each other anymore, B) doubt that this person is "the one" (which could somehow justify divorce) or C) you surrender yourself to Christ and let him work on you regardless of whether or not your spouse changes. It's a narrow road to be sure.

I believe all couples - Christian or not - will deal with all these scenarios at some point. It's my hunch that the Christian couples who have marriages that thrive, practice #3 before ever saying "I do". And they keep practicing it whether they feel like it or not; they know love isn't a feeling, it's a choice.

How do I know this stuff? A few years ago Dan and I were on the brink of disaster. Kids, it was bad. Really. Why did we stay with it? Because no matter how imperfect our situation we could not justify jumping ship on a commitment to Christ. There was hell to pay and we anted up. Turns out we believed a lot of lies. These days we know more about Biblical love. We're not perfect, we're not even close. But we're in Him and we're together, always.

I don't know where you are in your life now. Maybe you're single or dating. Maybe you're married, happily or otherwise. I'd love to hear from you: What lies have tried to derail your marriage, or your idea of marriage? What truth are you basing your relationship on now? Let's get some conversation going.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Who Missed Me?

It's 3 days into February and I've missed 72 whole hours of blogging about relationships. No one is more disgruntled about this than me. Well, no one except maybe this guy:

I asked the following question on Facebook:

What makes for an excellent marriage?

Nick said, "Communication and sex ... and communication about sex, but only with each other regarding the sex and communication about sex."

Poor Nick. 3 inches of ice and no computer at my folks house made for some lonely days here at SFL. So today, we will not talk about relationships, but I want to show you something worthy of love, love, love. And I'd like to dedicate it to myself because how often do you get to dedicate something to yourself? It's kind of self-centered, but let's be frank. I can't love on everyone who reads SFL all at the same time and since my favorite person to talk about is me, why waste your time with any other sentiment?

It's good to be back!