Love Wins – Last Two Chapters

I’m finishing up the review today so that my husband can take the book back to the library. I finished reading the book over the long weekend but we were very busy as a family and I didn’t have time to sit down and write much.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and wasn’t sure what all the controversy is about. The few people I specifically talked to about the book who had read it also couldn’t tell what the controversy was all about. My best guess is that those with the biggest problem with Bell’s book haven’t taken the time to read it. Isn’t that usually the case in Churchianity, though.

In the second to the last chapter, <em>The Good News Is Better Than That</em>, Bell takes a look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. I rather like what he does with the parable–I think it’s supportable and consistent with the bigger picture being conveyed in the Parable. He basically suggests that both of the sons’ problem is rooted in their story of their life being inconsistent with their father’s story of their life.

The youngest son’s story, at the time of his return, is that he isn’t worthy of being a son anymore. He’s too “bad”; he hasn’t lived “right”; the best he hopes for from the father is to be hired back as a slave–he knows his father treats his slaves better than he was being treated in the world. But the father says to him that the real story of his life is that he is the son and what he is worthy of is a party with the finest.

The oldest son’s story, when he returns from the field and finds the party being thrown for the younger son, is that he has been there the whole time, slaving away, and the father hasn’t acknowledged his good work and how unfair is that? Not even a goat for him to throw a party with his friends–nothing special has been rewarded him for doing what he was supposed to do. But the father informs him that while he has been there all the time everything the father had was available to him.

Ultimately, when our story about ourselves is wrong we can’t appreciate the awesomeness of someone else’s story. So many people need there to be a hell because they can go yet another day suffering and struggling to do what is expected of them as a Christian with the assurance that at least all those people out there doing what they aren’t allowed to do are going to get theirs someday. But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

Lots of people have their hope tied up in a Rapture where they get to escape all the suffering of the Great Tribulation because they’ve done what they needed to get out of that–and that Fire Insurance is going to pay off for that high price they’ve believed it to cost. All those people who wouldn’t listen to them about Jesus are going to know who had it right in the end! But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

If it turns out after we die that we find there is a hell something like traditional Christianity adopted from the Greek and Roman mythologies then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be broken-hearted and tormented to learn that anyone has gone there? If there is going to be a Great Tribulation the likes of what is described in Left Behind theology then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be a desire to STAY and help them through it since you have the hope of Jesus and they don’t?

And maybe, just maybe, no one will need that kind of “reward” for themselves or “come uppance” for their neighbor if they really understood the message that God has written in His Word about them. Because those of us who have been in the Father’s House all along are not slaves–we’re His Children. And those of us who have gone out into the world thinking we could do things better if we followed our own ideas aren’t so damaged and broken that the best we can hope for is a position as a servant in the Father’s house–we’re His Children. And maybe, just maybe, THAT is the kind of love and the message of hope that would cause people to rush in droves to the Father. I know it has transformed my life.

Ultimately I don’t hear Bell saying that there isn’t a hell, or a heaven, or judgement–what I hear is Bell challenging why so many in the Church NEED there to be these things. Most of what people believe about these things comes from a handful of verses that may or may not be talking about what they are constructing them to be about–like a lot of doctrinally “sure” things people are convinced of. But if God wanted us to really understand the afterlife–and wanted that to be the reason we live however we live in this life, I have no doubt He could have been very clear about what would be awaiting us. Yet He wasn’t. I think that is because when we know Him we can trust Him. And when we don’t know Him we often don’t care much about what happens to us. I’m all about loving my neighbor enough to share with them that they can enter heaven now–the Kingdom of God can be in their hearts NOW! And I love God and trust Him enough to trust Him with the neighbor who seems to not want anything to do with Him in this life. If there is something akin to hell in the afterlife I’m convinced that those who go there will really have to want to be there–and if God were to choose at the last minute to let everyone stay with Him, I’m okay with that. I don’t believe that scenario is given in Scripture, because I do read of not everyone wanting to be with Him–but I do believe that the opportunity for everyone to be with Him has been extended. And I think a lot more people are going to be there than some people seem to think.

And I think when we see what the real plan is for eternity we’re going to be so amazed–and whatever we have thought about it will seem so silly to us. Every time we humans think we have the mind of God I figure that will be the case.

The “M” word . . . Modesty

I somehow got the idea, growing up in the church, that humility meant making myself as small as i could be and taking up as little space as I could. There was this idea – especially and specifically attached to women – that the smaller I could make myself the more I was honoring God.

This inevitably meant laying aside the gifts and talents He had put into me so that I didn’t cause men to feel that i might be wanting to usurp their authority. It meant silencing my voice and trusting that God would take care of me when those around me didn’t see the need. And the more I suffered the more God was being glorified because when we are weak then He is strong.

Then I learned the understanding of the Hebrew words addressing ‘humility’ and not only was my mind blown but my life was forever changed.

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up – no more (as that is being arrogant and trying to steal the space that God gave to someone else) AND NO LESS (as that is false humility that says God did not create me to be who I am and I must give more of my space to others because they deserve it more). Both taking up more space and taking up less space are BOTH a violation of God’s intended purpose and plan for our lives.

Revolutionary! Life altering! No going back!

This meant that living a life of humility really means:

  • exercising the gifts and using the talents that God gave me in the situations in which I find myself for the good of the Kingdom and the glory of the King!
  • not allowing others to steal my space, and when they try to I can trust God to be my defender and know that vengeance is His and it is actually Him that they are violating
  • And, this is important as it pertains to the issue of breastfeeding and modesty, when I am feeling offended it is because I believe myself to be entitled to space that was not given to me.

Modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

The way this relates to modesty is this . . . modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

Think about that for a minute.

If we believe ourselves entitled to more space than we deserve we will make a show of what we have and even attempt to create the illusion that we have more.

If we believe ourselves to be unworthy of what we have then we will present ourselves as less than and either give everything away or try to hide that we have it.

Both of those are immodest. One draws undue attention to ourselves and the other tries to give away something that God intended for us.

Modesty is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Modesty that the Bible speaks of is living out healthy humility – it is about us simply being who God created us to be and doing what God created us to do without any extra effort to steal someone else’s space, or refusal to step up and fill ours. When this is expressed in dress, and all of the ways we present ourselves to the world, it is not about meeting some checklist of criteria for “modesty.” Rather, it is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Is this modest if it's in the wrong period of time? What are my clothes inviting you to do with me? Nothing - they say I'm having fun!

Is this modest if it’s in the wrong period of time? What are my clothes inviting you to do with me? Nothing – they say I’m having fun!

Modesty and the Breastfeeding Mother

IMG_0541I have been beyond my own breastfeeding days for several years but I often find myself in an advocate role on behalf of Breastfeeding Mothers in a variety of settings. It’s a passion of mine and, honestly, I’m tired of the judgements, accusations and, frankly, so much ridiculousness that has come to swirl around this topic in our culture, and, especially, within churchianity.

Inevitably the attack argument comes down to this:

Of course a nursing mother has a right to breastfeed, but I have a right to not be offended. If her breastfeeding in any way offends me then she’s doing it wrong. It’s really an issue of modesty and if I’m uncomfortable (or aroused) she must be immodest.

It might be worded all manner of ways – some more eloquently and magnanimous than others – but it’s the same argument. So I want to respond to it by sharing some things that I have learned over the years that I hope will encourage some and challenge others.

I somehow got the idea, growing up in the church, that humility meant making myself as small as i could be and taking up as little space as I could. There was this idea – especially and specifically attached to women – that the smaller I could make myself the more I was honoring God.

This inevitably meant laying aside the gifts and talents He had put into me so that I didn’t cause men to feel that i might be wanting to usurp their authority. It meant silencing my voice and trusting that God would take care of me when those around me didn’t see the need. And the more I suffered the more God was being glorified because when we are weak then He is strong.

Then I learned the understanding of the Hebrew words addressing ‘humility’ and not only was my mind blown but my life was forever changed.

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up – no more (as that is being arrogant and trying to steal the space that God gave to someone else) AND NO LESS (as that is false humility that says God did not create me to be who I am and I must give more of my space to others because they deserve it more). Both taking up more space and taking up less space are BOTH a violation of God’s intended purpose and plan for our lives.

Revolutionary! Life altering! No going back!

This meant that living a life of humility really means:

  • exercising the gifts and using the talents that God gave me in the situations in which I find myself for the good of the Kingdom and the glory of the King!
  • not allowing others to steal my space, and when they try to I can trust God to be my defender and know that vengeance is His and it is actually Him that they are violating
  • And, this is important as it pertains to the issue of breastfeeding and modesty, when I am feeling offended it is because I believe myself to be entitled to space that was not given to me.

Modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

The way this relates to modesty is this . . . modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

Think about that for a minute.

If we believe ourselves entitled to more space than we deserve we will make a show of what we have and even attempt to create the illusion that we have more.

If we believe ourselves to be unworthy of what we have then we will present ourselves as less than and either give everything away or try to hide that we have it.

Both of those are immodest. One draws undue attention to ourselves and the other tries to give away something that God intended for us.

Modesty is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Modesty that the Bible speaks of is living out healthy humility – it is about us simply being who God created us to be and doing what God created us to do without any extra effort to steal someone else’s space, or refusal to step up and fill ours. When this is expressed in dress, and all of the ways we present ourselves to the world, it is not about meeting some checklist of criteria for “modesty.” Rather, it is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Here’s where I share how this relates to breastfeeding and as I do I want to point out 7 things I have learned about this issue in our culture today.

1) Because every person was created by God to take up a certain amount of space in this world, when a mother has a baby the amount of space that she will take up has increased to reflect the addition of another person (or more if she has multiples). Her taking up more space is not immodest and does not reflect a lack of humility or a desire to take space away from others and draw undue attention to herself.

2) Very often, it is the act of becoming a mother that provokes a woman to stop trying to stuff herself into too small a space while the men around her manspread themselves into any space she is able to be pressed to relinquish. The presence of this baby in her life – this person for whom she has been entrusted by God to care for, protect and nurture – is one of the things that the Rabbi’s wrote about causing women to intuitively and experientially learn things that men would need to study to learn. When this happens she often realizes she must find her voice in order to accomplish the responsibilities newly given to her and when she finds her voice for her baby she often finds her voice for herself. If she did not already have her voice, the experience of finding it may be challenging and she needs incredible grace for the missteps she will have. A healthy community wants women to have a voice and needs to support them in learning how to use it.

3) I know it changes a man to become a father, but it’s not the same thing and when you really look into the fully systemic changes that a mother experiences as she grows a life within her and then labors to bring that child into the world, the oxytocin cocktail of love hormones that she is flooded with when that child is born and they gaze into each other’s eyes, the experience of producing milk to nourish the child and providing them sustenance from her own body, regulating their breathing and body temperature as they sleep beside her, or on her. Every act of mothering is an act of walking out self sacrifice for the sake of the other. Every act of mothering is learning what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

4) Being uncomfortable does not mean someone has wronged you and does not mean someone is sinning. Our culture seems to worship the idol of personal comfort and anything that makes us uncomfortable must be wrong and needs to be eliminated. Except we have become the princess and the pea and we simply cannot get a good night’s sleep if even one legume is present anywhere in our lives! We need to look to Scripture to determine if something is really a sin before we even dream of going to another person and speaking about it with them. Even then we are instructed, according to Matthew 18, to go and talk to them about what they are doing that is a sin and how it is affecting us. This is not a power play and we do not get to demand anything of anyone.  Any effort to shame them for what they are doing or blame them for our own struggles is an expression of our lack of humility, our immodesty, and we are sinning against them.

All too often women, especially breastfeeding mothers, are being held accountable for someone else’s sins of lust.

5) All too often women, especially breastfeeding mothers, are being held accountable for someone else’s sins of lust. Breastfeeding is not a sin. Lusting after a woman is. The appropriate application of Matthew 18 would be for the breastfeeding mother to sit down with a man who is leering at her and confront him about his lust issues and how they are violating her and her baby. If he does not acknowledge the issue and make action to change, then she would be right to call in others to go with her and help her make her case to him. Eventually, if a man continued to gawk and leer at her, it would be appropriate for the church leadership to step in and speak with him about his sin issue and how he is wronging women by how he is using them and refusing to show them the respect they deserve as fellow believers and fully participating members in the community. If they insist they are helpless in this area of their life or refuse to acknowledge that they are wronging the women of the community by their refusal to address this area of sin then they might need to be removed from the community until they are ready to take responsibility for this sin issue and seek to be free of it without blaming others for their struggles. He is free to censor his own life and capable of leaving the area if he is facing the moral struggle lusting and coveting. If a man knows he has a struggle and he is working to be free of it and surrender it to the Lord, and is taking responsibility for this being his issue and not trying to blame others for his struggles, he might choose to go to a woman and share that he has a struggle in this area. By owning the issue and not blaming the woman for his struggles he is honoring her and exercising modesty and humility – he is not trying to steal her space for himself or asking her to shove herself into less space for his comfort. I do not know a woman who, if approached in such a sincere way, wouldn’t act in sensitivity to the man before her. Perhaps he will suggest she let him know if she is going to be nursing so that he, being the one with the issue, can leave the room. Perhaps she will offer to nurse away from where he is. By humbly sharing his struggle with her and asking her to support him in his efforts at righteousness, he has honored the space she was given by God to take – and the space her baby was granted by the Creator – and given her an opportunity to act in love for him as other as well, without it being a burden and without the implication that his issues are in any way her fault or responsibility.

6) If you are offended by what a nursing mother is doing as she breastfeeds her baby then it is you who lacks humility and is at risk for being immodest. If you find her breastfeeding to make you uncomfortable or you feel as though she is trying to take space you believe was intended for you, then it is you who is mistaken about how much space you were created to fill. Healthy boundaries mean you get to decide what you will and won’t do – and that you have no say at all in what another person does or how they do it. It may be that the woman before you is being immodest and has an agenda and is trying to steal space not intended for her and/or her baby. That does not mean you have to give it. If you are uncomfortable you have a beautiful opportunity to practice humility as you avert your eyes. If you do struggle with lust then do not gaze on something that is provoking you to covet or lust. If you are prideful and arrogant then it may be that your emotional response is revealing this to you. Develop the discipline of staying within your space and not trying to steal space from others.

7) Mothering and caring for a baby – even while breastfeeding – is not inherently immodest and no mother should be asked to put the needs, much less the WANT of comfort, of every adult in the community ahead of the very real needs of her baby. When you truly love your neighbor as yourself you will not put your personal comfort above theirs, you will not blame them for your sin, you will not try to steal the space God created them to occupy, and you will want them to care for that new baby in a way that honors and nurtures their arrival in your community. That mother and baby are your neighbor.

I know that becoming a mother feels like taking the weight of the world upon your shoulders, but it shouldn’t come with an expectation that you will actually be responsible for everyone around you in a way that hinders the real responsibility of caring for that new person.  My journey of mothering that started as a breastfeeding mother means I am raising children who are becoming adults in this world and if my daughter and future daughters in law have babies I want them to have an experience free of having the baggage of others projected onto them. I know I can’t create that completely, but I can do what I can to make it a little bit better. It will happen as God changes one heart at a time.  Thankfully, He can do that!

A dance mom’s gotta do what a dance mom’s gotta do

Anyone who knows me knows how proud I am of my children. They’ve been subjected to the random dance videos and the recital recordings.  They’ve been invited to the shows my children do all around town and told about the times they were the kickoff performers for the Fiesta Bowl Parade, danced in the Disney parade, all the times they performed at Disneyland, early morning TV spots, etc., etc.

And they know about all the times I’m off working football or hockey games, or NASCAR weekends, or even Super Bowl on Central, with the Booster Club.  The more my children get involved in competition dance, the more it costs and the more I have to find ways to pay for it.    I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I have to earn money for their dance.

At our first competition this year – Dupree Dance Convention – my daughter was awarded an All Star Scholarship!  This means she was chosen to attend their 3 Day Intensive in Chicago and will be on their All Star Dance Team that is performing for everyone there.  It’s an amazing opportunity to work with the professional dancers and choreographers who are part of the Dupree team and all we have to do is get her there.

That “get her there” is why I have relaunched my Adorned By Crystal Etsy store!

Adorned By Crystal is now carrying Cool People Ponchos, Scrumptious Scarves, and, being added as I finish them, original beaded jewelry.  I’m going to embed a storefront here on the site and wanted to make sure everyone knows why it’s there.

All of the profit from the Etsy store will be going towards the goal we have set on our Go Fund Me account “Dancer To Chicago!”.  If you would like to be a patron of the arts, please consider supporting my daughter in this.

My children who dance want to dance for life. It is the careers they are working towards and it is the gift that God has put into them.  I am grateful that they found their passion so early in life and it’s a privilege to support and guide them in their efforts.  I’d love to have you on my team!

10 things I have learned from living with chronic health issues

Photo Credit: Padurariu Alexandru

I have shared some of my struggles over the years, but not all of them because of the very thing I’m calling out here and now . . . when I talk about chronic health issues there is always at least one person who feels the need to tell me that if I just had enough faith I could be well.  I’m sure they think they are helping me, but they aren’t.  Why not? Because I have amazing faith and I also know that faith is not magic – it’s trust.  I can’t muster “enough faith” to move God’s hand. God moves His hand when He wants to move His hand!  Not a moment before – not a moment later!

If you’ve dealt with chronic health issues – or you’re currently dealing with them – you know exactly what I mean.  I want to give you a big hug just because I know how that feels!

This list is for you – believe it!  Remember it! And feel free to share it with anyone who needs the encouragement or anyone who needs to learn this so they can stop blaming people for being sick as though it’s their fault God hasn’t already healed them.

Without further ado, here they are, 10 things I have learned from living with chronic health issues:

  1. I am not sick because of a lack of faith – that is a lie from the Enemy!
  2. Every strength we have been given is balanced by a weakness – focus on the strength and learn from the weakness.
  3. Take ownership . . . if I feel unwell then I tell those around me that I am feeling unwell and assure them that if I seem distracted or grumpy it is not them – it goes a long way to help them understand and not jump to conclusions.
  4. The choice to smile isn’t about being happy, it’s about choosing happiness – and it really does change my mood.
  5. Every time I have the choice to experience and express joy, I make that choice!
  6. God’s Church is a Body which means someone somewhere is hurting like that part of my body is – I’m learning how to nurture and help them heal when I learn how to nurture and help my own body.
  7. Taking care of myself isn’t selfish – my body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit and God has only given me one to dwell in so I want to keep it clean and holy.
  8. Know when to say ‘no.’ I can’t be everywhere, doing everything, for everyone, even if I were the healthiest person alive! I’m learning from Jesus’ choices to go away by Himself for prayer and rest.
  9. Observe Sabbath – all bodies need rest; bodies with chronic health issues need more rest. God knows what He’s talking about and it made the Top Ten – observing Sabbath is, among other things, an important reminder that God is capable of keeping it all going without me.
  10. Living with health issues every day has given God even more opportunities to show Himself in my life in personal, intimate and healing ways – my faith is STRONGER because of health struggles.

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Holiday Planning – Step 5 – Recovering Excellence from the Excess!

944233_94159959Introduction to Holiday Planning

Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

Step 2 – List It All Out

Step 3 – Express Yourself

Step 4 – Break It Down

 

This step is the real turning point where you will find all your work beginning to pay off.  Step 5 is the big AHA moment where you will know with confidence that your hard work is going to make all the difference.

You have your processing thoughts on how this last year went — what you loved, what you hated, what you wish you’d had and you’ve been brutally honest with yourself (here’s a tip:  if you have gotten this far and are still convinced that your fantasy holiday is still within reach, go back over the first couple of steps, but have your family do them with you — you might be surprised to learn that you are spending a ton of effort on something they all hate — or, at least, could do without.)

You have your list of everything you’ve been trying to do in your holidays — you’ve highlighted the things you have to do, and made note of your top several things that you want to do, or  things that you love and that give the holiday special meaning for you and your family.

You have the detailed lists of what is required in order to do those obligations and most meaningful things.

Now you will put it to work for yourself.

For this step you need to pull out your calendar and open it to whatever month you are planning — whether it be December for Hanukkah or Christmas, or November for Thanksgiving, or you want to start with a Spring celebration like Passover or Easter.  Whatever holiday you are working  on organizing, it’s time to make a plan.

Before you actually start planning, though, take a few minutes to fill in the regular obligations you have in that month.  For instance, do you attend a regular place of worship?  Put that on your calendar!  Do you have family obligations that are ongoing (classes, sports, activities)? Put them on your calendar!  Make sure the holidays and any extra important days are marked. For us this includes park days for our homeschool group, any coops we are doing, as well as any educational plans I have scheduled for that time, dance classes, work for my oldest child, church services, and several other things.

Let’s say, for the sake of an example, that you are planning your Christmas and let’s use, for example, a Cookie Exchange you go to every year with people from your office.  I’ve chosen this example because something like this can be an obligation and a huge source of grumbling, or it can be easy breezy and you can show up ready, well rested, and with amazing cookies!  Since we’re making this up as we go, let’s say your event is set for December 8th, which happens to be a Tuesday in 2015.  Make sure you put it on the calendar and now we work back.

Now take your list where you broke down everything involved in this event.  For example, you might have a list that looks like this:

Cookie Exchange

~bake 8 dozen cookies

~ choose recipe

~ buy ingredients

~ make special wraps and recipe tags (and, let’s admit it, this is the part you probably forego when you’re up at 4 in the morning burning your last dozen cookies)

So we know our target date – December 8th – and we know what we need to do to get there!  Now we work backwards.

When it comes to a treat like cookies you want them to be fresh so you can’t cook them too early, unless you are going to freeze them far in advance.  You might opt to prepare the cookie dough in advance and freeze it, pulling it out to bake the cookies fresh. For the sake of this example, let’s say you are going to try and do them fresh and you know you can bake them on Sunday, December 6th.

In order to bake them, you have to have bought the ingredients. If you wait until the 6th to do that, you will find you spend so much of your day at the store that you are cooking late into the night.  So let’s make sure you have your ingredients before the 6th!

Sprouts has double discount Wednesday, so let’s decide that we’re getting high quality ingredients and select a Wednesday prior to the 6th when you will be buying all of your ingredients. Then put a note on the calendar for when you need to have your shopping list compiled.  Let’s say we’re doing December 2nd for our shopping and we are going to make the list of what we need to buy on the 1st (Tuesday).

The only thing left to work back to is choosing a recipe for our cookies.  You might have a favorite and you could do this step now (if you’re really wanting to get a jump on this year, you can do your shopping list for the cookie ingredients and save it in your computer with a note to add it to the grocery shopping trip prior to the 2nd!), or you might want to look around for something new.  I love going through the Living Without magazine for the holidays when it comes out and trying new things.  After doing this for a few years I’m inclined to select a recipe and have it ready and then if something really wows me with enough time to adjust my plans, I might.

Honestly, after doing this for enough years I’ve come to find solace in the things that can be regular and ritualized. I leave my wild and impulsive urges for what I wear to the Cookie Exchange or how my hair looks for the holidays! But not everyone is as crazy busy as I am and there were many years where the latest idea for fancy cookies would totally make it fun for me!

Now we have cookies, made in advance, on a schedule that lets us get enough rest that we don’t have bags under our eyes or flour in our hair! We also have an entire year to decide what kind of fancy wrapping we’re going to do and whether we’re going to attach recipe tags or not.  If you decide you really don’t care, buy some holiday saran wrap (make sure it’s on the list for your shopping in advance of the cookies).  If you decide you really do care, spend some time here and there on Pinterest or in your local craft store and come up with some wonderful ideas!  What you can put on your calendar for now is a date by which you will choose your awesome packaging, a date by which you will have them made, and a date between those two where you will buy your supplies.

You have now successfully woven a holiday obligation into the course of your year in a way that will allow you to attend the event successfully ready, and you will not have to stress about it at all!

The most exciting thing???  Every part of your holiday — and every part of your year! — can be this relaxed and enjoyable.

You can decide today to make 2015 the year you throw your stress away for the holidays!

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Holiday Planning – Step 2 – List It All Out

786818_91524700Intro to Holiday Planning

Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

This step involves making a list of EVERYTHING you want to do for the holiday next year. If you are planning out more than one holiday, you will want to list everything you want to do for each holiday — it might be easier to complete this process for one holiday at a time.

On this list you will include:

  • the things you HAVE to do
  • the things you try to shove in every year
  • the things you wish you could do and never make it to (or even try to drag the family to, but end up frustrated with them that they can’t get it together) 

Make the list!  Put it all down.

The list is key because many of us have pictures in our head of what the holiday will be like.  Some of us have utterly unrealistic expectations of what is reasonable to do in one short period of time.  Some of us are pushing so hard to pack every ounce of fun into every moment of the holiday that we are creating a season of stress and misery for the very people we’re trying to force to have fun! The irony is huge!

The first time I listed out everything I was shocked!

Once we hit the first of September, and through the first week of January, we have:

4 family birthdays (including a birthday for twins that involves gift buying for two people)

4 birthdays for the family we are closest to and with whom we coordinate all of our birthday planning so as not to overlap

3 Feasts and Festivals

Thanksgiving (which we normally host)

Hanukkah

Christmas Eve with my family

Christmas Day movie attendance

New Year’s Eve

A New Year’s Day Wafflethon that we attend every year and for which we provide the Gluten Free/Allergy Sensitive batter

In addition, the last two years I added working at football games and a fundraiser that has me working at least 3-4 shifts a week (4 hours per shift) and unable to do much crafting/gift making at all because of the impact to my hands.

I do this step by going through last year’s calendar and looking at everything that is there. This way I’m not relying too heavily on my memory.  Then I added all of the things I thought I should be doing and was still beating myself up for not including.

Step 3 will be what to do with this list, but for now, just make the list.  If your list does what mine did and grows to over 6 pages, remember this is not a time for beating yourself up — the go-to response of people who struggle to stay on top of their lives.  Rather, use this opportunity to realize why you’ve felt so stressed in your efforts to get on top of things.

Set yourself up for success

None of the people you have compared yourself to — the people who always seem on top of their lives and have it all organized and are ready when the holidays come around — none of them are trying to do all that you are trying to do.  They do these things intuitively or learned them at some point.  You didn’t.  They aren’t better people — they just have these skills!

If you have unrealistic goals, it’s not fair to beat yourself up about not being able to meet them! Set yourself up for success! Extend yourself some love and grace!

As you do this step, please share anything you find enlightening or amusing — it can be super encouraging!

 

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Holiday Planning – Step 1 – Let’s get real!

Photo by Anton Belovodchenko

Photo by Anton Belovodchenko

The intro for what we’re doing will be something you want to check out if you haven’t already.

Once you have your list of holidays together, you can get started with the process of the planning steps, starting here.  I’m counting this as Step 1 because making your list, while technically a step, is really more about identifying your problem!

The first thing I do after a holiday is evaluate it.  Honestly, critically, sometimes even as it’s happening, if something stands out as wonderful or as horrible!

  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What did I want to do but didn’t get done?
  • What did I get stuck doing that I didn’t want to do and will resent if I end up doing it again?

A real honest evaluation of how the holiday went is about embracing the reality of how things actually are.  Accepting what is may be one of the hardest things for some of us to do when it comes to holidays. We have the fantasy in our heads and we strive for that fantasy. If the holiday stinks, we blame ourselves for not being able to accomplish the fantasy.

What if the problem is the fantasy?

What if you are not the problem? What if you have unrealistic expectations of yourself and your family? What if  instead of what you think you are doing (trying to pull off the best holiday ever!) you are just stressing yourself and everyone out doing something you don’t even want to do — something you think you have to do but you really truly don’t?

So be honest with yourself! What do you wish your holiday had been? Say it even if you think it’s wrong and horrible! Say it even if it leaves you feeling guilty! Say it because it’s the truth!

The truth is that there is not one right way to celebrate a holiday.  Yes, some holidays do have things that are supposed to be a part of them — especially if you celebrate Biblical Feasts and Festivals. Beyond those things, though, there is a wide array of options for how to create your celebration.

If you don’t like turkey, for instance, then serve something else for Thanksgiving.

One year we decided that we did’t have room in our tiny house with growing children to put up a Hanukkah Bush for our decorations. So we strung lights around the ceiling and hung our decorations there instead.  Yes, we had more broken decorations that year than ever before or since (and, no, we didn’t do that again), but it was beautiful and it made our holiday special!

If there are holiday “treats” that make you gag, stop making them!  It will be Christmas without the fruitcake (trust me on that one 😉 ).

You are not celebrating a post card holiday. You are celebrating a holiday — you, with your family, and your friends.  What do YOU want the holiday to be? What do they want it to be?

What if you are putting a whole bunch of effort into trying to make memories that no one wants?  What would it look like if you just relaxed and did things you want to do and only things you enjoy?

Take a few moments and let this all sink in.

When it has sunk in, move on to Step 2.

 

 

 

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Holiday Planning . . . NOW if you want to be on your game in 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a very random person by nature — artsy, flitting from one hobby to another and then finding ways to mix it all together… I create experiences. I set the mood.  I am in tune with the people around me and when I’m in charge of something I try to anticipate needs, adjust the environment to suit the people… and 10 years ago today when my twins were born, I was terrified that we would never have a holiday or a celebration again!

I was invited to join a group that was all about organizing for Christmas. While we don’t celebrate Christmas in a traditional way, we do include some Christmas things in our Fall and Winter celebrations.  (That might make for another topic, but it’s not my focus today 🙂 ) Needless to say, the group was amazing and I learned so much!  We had a wonderful Fall/Winter holiday season and I was at the park with friends mid-November handing out individual pumpkin breads wrapped in holiday saran wrapping, tied with ribbon and handmade name cards!

Since then I have encountered the same approach to holiday planning in books and other resources and I’ve adapted it all into my own sort of planning.  Some years I don’t do much planning at all and just go with the habits I’ve got in place now. Other years feel a bit more chaotic or I know that things are going to be really busy and I will mentally go through my checklists and adapt things.  After last year, and realizing it’s been 10 years, it’s time to reexamine the whole system and adjust it for our lives today, since they are so different than 10 years ago.

How do you do it?!

As I was coming to the realization that it was time to look hard at our plans for Fall and Winter holidays, one of my friends posted on Facebook the very simple question, “How do people do it?”  How do they pull it all together in the busyness of life and pull off holidays without losing their minds or breaking their banks?  How does anyone get to the end of the year and, despite their exhaustion of energy and funds throughout the year, find the resources to go out with a bang of celebrations?

These questions are answered by the approach I’ve learned.  The heart of the answer, though, is that you don’t do it at the end of the year.  You start at the beginning of the year if you want it to go really well!  Well, you start at least mid year for the end of the year holidays, but I don’t only want a great Hanukkah!  I want great celebrations throughout the year!  Because my current reality involves many hours of working a fundraiser in December, I’ve come to the realization that I must have EVERYTHING completed by Thanksgiving — at least everything except the things that must be done in December.

The first thing I want you to do is make a list of all of the holidays you are going to be preparing for this year.  If you just want to do the end of the year holidays, that is fine!  If you want to include Spring holidays, birthdays, family reunions, whatever you celebrate throughout the year, put them on the list!  The more you do, the more intense each step will be. You even might want to start with one holiday (like Hanukkah, Christmas or  New Year’s Eve since they just finished and are the most fresh in your mind) and then go back and do the process with other holidays.  You know yourself, do whatever is going to help you internalize the process and not overwhelm you!  The whole point is planning things out so you won’t be overwhelmed — no point in overwhelming yourself in the process 🙂

Next I’ll tell you what to do with the holiday(s) on your list, but for now, just pull your list together.  If you feel a bit of panic realizing how many celebrations you’re trying to pull off in a calendar year, relax and be glad you’re going to be getting on top of them this year and think about how much you are going to get to enjoy all of these events compared to years past.  This year you get to be the one impressing others.  How cool will that be?

 Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

Step 2 – List It All Out

 

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Why are we surprised?

Minnesota Running Back Adrian Peterson was indicted in a child injury case in Texas.645084_22587626

According to the articles and statements that have been released, he used a tree branch to “spank” his 4 year old son.  The case involves alleged “reckless or negligent injury to a child.”

I do not want to focus on the details of this case, because I am not the judge or jury. I also don’t think that another voice needs to weigh in on it.  Considering Texas’ general hands-off policy, and their absolute love of all things football, the fact that this case is moving forward indicates that this is a case that has to move forward.  If I’m understanding Peterson correctly, he hasn’t denied any of the facts in the case – he just insists they don’t constitute abuse.

So what is abuse?  And, perhaps more importantly, what is a  “spanking?”

Where is that line?

Lots of people claim to know where it is – often tossing out there that common sense can guide you.  So do we just decide that those who cross the line have no common sense?

It is in situations that seem to cross that line that we find the loudest people screaming that it was only “discipline.”  That’s why this case has pushed the issue of spanking back into the forefront of the national dialogue.  Some say Peterson crossed that line, but Peterson insists he did not see the line people are upset about.

There is no agreement among parents, theologians, and “spanking experts” about how to spank.

The Bible does not teach how to spank. There is no definitive “line” we can all point to.  It is a 100% subjective line based on far too many things to go into one blog post.  But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  If there is no line we can all agree upon, we will continue to have parents who insist that any injury caused was unintended and does not mean they were abusive.

The thing is, someone who intends to abuse is a sociopath.  Actual abusers are using unhealthy/dangerous actions and words to exert control on someone who should be able to trust them.  Abuse isn’t about intention – it’s about control.

Disconnect

This is shaping up to be another great example of why a literal reading and application of the rod verses in Proverbs is resulting in great harm being inflicted on too many children.  I know Peterson’s son isn’t the only child being “disciplined” this way – nor is he the only child being injured by this type of discipline.  I addressed issues with how the rod verses are being interpreted and applied here. http://crystallutton.com/you-keep-using-that-verse/

According to his attorney, Rusty Hardin, “It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintended injury.”

I don’t think anyone is arguing that Peterson “intended” to harm his son. I’m also sure he does deeply regret the “unintended injury.”  The problem is that the “unintended injury” is a predictable outcome of the action of beating a 4 year old child with a tree branch.

The problem I see in this case is the incredible disconnect between the actions of a grown man, the size of an NFL player, procuring a tree branch and beating a 4 year old child with it and, while getting the branch and moving to the action of beating him, not realizing that causing him injury would be a very probable outcome.

What can be learned?

Peterson has stated that this is how he was “disciplined” and that is why he believed it to be a reasonable choice in “disciplining” his own son.  The sad reality is that in order for Peterson to come to terms with what he did being abusive he will have to wrestle with and accept that he, himself, was abused as a child.

And that means he is perpetuating the abuse that was inflicted on him – which is what abuse victims so often do.

I am heartbroken at reading these words in his statement made on Twitter:

“But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids who was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives.  I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.” https://twitter.com/AdrianPeterson/status/511586600346599424/photo/1

Which brings me to the lesson I think we need to learn as a society.

Ultimately we, as a society, failed Peterson when no one stepped in and stopped his parents – and other relatives – from abusing him.  We will continue to fail him if we fail to loudly declare, in response to his defense, that his own actions are abuse.

We cannot imagine that this case is as simple as an isolated event with yet another NFL player who is caught up in the aggressive reality of football.  We cannot convince ourselves that this is just about him at all.

We will continue to fail OURSELVES if we don’t understand that our own failure to stand and speak up for children and their safety is because we are as immersed in a culture of abuse as Peterson is.  Every time we do something because it was done to us, or excuse something because it happens all the time and lots of people turn out fine, we are doing exactly what Peterson is doing.

I hope that we can take this as an opportunity to wrestle with the reality that how we treat our children says a lot about us – about how we were treated, how we think we deserved to be treated, and how we were taught to treat others.  Like Peterson, we cannot continue to say that we’re only doing what was done to us and act surprised when someone gets hurt based on the fact that we turned out fine (or even great).

No one “deserves” to be treated that way.

No one is better because of having been treated that way.

No one is doing a good thing to their child when they treat them that way.

We have to stop being surprised when there are “unintended injuries” to children who are spanked.

And we have to stop imagining that the only times spankings result in damage are when the injuries are visible or when the parent doing the spanking is caught.

 

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