Sunday, December 14, 2014

28 acts {2014 edition}

Image taken from

Ever since the tragedy at Newtown two years ago today, (which I wrote about here), my family has completed random acts of kindness to honor the 26 lives lost that day.  I always complete 2 more acts in memory of the shooter and his mother, for we must force ourselves sometimes to have compassion and understanding for all people involved in unimaginable violence. 

(For a recap on our past random acts, go here and here.)

Each year, even with trimming the tree, decorating, and baking, this is the tradition that most puts me in the holiday spirit.  

Here's our list for this year:

1. Give away toys & DVDs to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store
2-3. Send Christmas cards to soldiers
4-7. Put quarters on gumball machines
8. Cookies to fire station
9-10. Cookies to garbage men
11. Cookies to mail carrier
12-13. Encouraging note to teachers 
14-16. Kind notes in library books 
17-19. Treat to grocery check out person 
20. Sit next to someone who looks lonely on the bus
21. Invite someone who looks lonely to play at recess
22. Donate food to our church's backpack ministry
23. Send a card to Kaitlen
24. Leave a positive comment on a blog
25. Leave a quarter in the shopping cart corral @ Aldi 
26-28. "Jingle" our friends and neighbors

Will you join us? Kindness is contagious! 

Friday, December 12, 2014


Let me start by saying this is not a post bashing my marriage, your marriage, or the institution of marriage. I'm not going to bad mouth my husband, your husband, or any husband. I'm not going to try to make men look bad to make myself feel better because, as you probably know, it's wrong and it doesn't work. This is not about me or my marriage. Every marriage is as unique as the two people who are in it. 

I just have a few thoughts about all the marriage tips that squeeze themselves into my newsfeed every. single. day.

Yes, seriously.  The headline alone made me face palm.

These "helpful tips" are almost always directed at women: how to adore/spoil/respect/seduce your husband in 5 easy steps!
As if one person can single handedly rescue or maintain a marriage.

A little self awareness and improvement goes a long way, but these articles assume that the woman is always unhappy or the "poor, long-suffering husband" is feeling unloved or lonely.  I don't know about you, but I think those are pretty big assumptions about our feelings.  If my husband is unhappy, I trust him to tell me, just as I'd tell him if I was struggling.  

These articles reinforce stereotypes.  Here's a good example: 4 Things You Can Do When You're Not in the Mood .
These types of posts assume the husband is always the initiator of sex and the woman is always trying to sidestep the issue. What if he's not?  What if the wife's sex-drive is higher than her husband's?  She's left feeling alone and confused and frustrated. And honestly, advising women to have sex with their husbands even if they don't want to sounds dangerously close to assault to me. That's when putting someone else's needs ahead of my own goes too far. It makes the man look incapable of respecting his wife's wishes, like he's a slave to his urges. 

This is one more way the world tries to tell women we're not enough. If we could just be more, do more, get out of our comfort zone more our husbands would love us more.  

It's a lie.

There was a time when I would read these kinds of articles looking for the solutions to my marriage problems. But absolutely nothing I've ever tried after reading one of those articles has ever made a lasting difference in my marriage.  I'd hope that's because my husband married me for who I am, not who I could be with some coaching from an online marriage guru. 

Not that there isn't some sound advice in these articles: live within your means, listen, communicate, consider your partner's needs in addition to your own, don't get so wrapped up in your kids that you forget you are more than just a parent. These are all behaviors that people who have strong marriages (and other relationships, too!) exhibit.

Marriage takes work. That is truth. It always has and it always will. But it takes TWO to make a marriage. And it seems awfully one-sided when the blame or responsibility for a struggling marriage falls on women. 

I guess what I'd love to see is an equal amount of these marriage articles directed at BOTH men and women. When I asked my husband if "5 tips to satisfy your wife" ever showed up in his newsfeed, he nearly choked on his coffee. The answer was no. 

When the literature is targeted at only women, it makes us feel inadequate and doesn't give enough credit to our men. It feeds stereotypes and dissatisfaction. And when the article states that it's biblically mandated that a woman behave a certain way to please her husband?  Well, my brain nearly explodes.

What ever happened to serving one another out of love? That marriage goes through seasons, especially during early parenting years? That it's hard work, but good work? That two imperfect people showing up every day for each other (and their children), even when it's hard, is about as spiritual as it gets?  That love can be messy, but it's far more beautiful than fake?

Does ANYONE else feel this way?  Have you read any truly good articles or books on the subject lately?  

Men, do you get any good direction (social media driven or otherwise) about improving yourself and your marriage?
Ladies, what kinds of sources do you find helpful (and less rage-y)?  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

(Un)Happy Holidays

It's the holidays! Time for friends and food and family and fun, right? For traditions and memories and warmth and love, too?

Well, yes and no. 

In the last week, people close to me have experienced job loss, illness, uncertainty, disappointment, death, and injustice. It's enough to question the very existence of God. For some, this "most wonderful time of the year" doesn't feel so wonderful. This advent season of joyful anticipation and light is often as cold and dark as the weather outside for those dealing with difficult circumstances.  

When faithful people go through tough times, they often use Christian mantras like "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" or "It's all part of God's plan". These phrases indicate a hopefulness and faithfulness at their core, and in the past I have used them to comfort myself, friends, and family. But I try not to use them anymore.

Here's why: I don't think God causes bad things to happen. Bad things happen because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. We do not treat others as we wish to be treated. We are selfish and willful. That's not God, that's us.

God is not up in the clouds throwing thunderbolts to Earth to teach us lessons or punish our wickedness. That's not Immanuel, the God with Us, that we are promised by Isaiah.  

Image from

I do believe God is with us. In the hurt. In the uncertainty. In the loss. He is there. Like a good friend or parent, He is there. And He often uses our sad situations for His good, in His time. But not because we have passed some kind of test or prayed hard enough.  

So what can we do for those who are hurting during the holidays? The same things we should do for our people the rest of the year: show them love. Maybe that means bringing over a plate of cookies. Send a card. Call. Invite them to dinner. Have a cup of coffee together. Just listen. Say a prayer.  

If you are hurting right now, I hope you feel the warmth and light of the season very soon. And if you know someone who is hurting, be that warmth and light.