Friday, September 24, 2010

***Whine whine whine***

I hate whiners. The incessant chorus of complaining drives me nuts on so many levels. First of all, what’s the point in complaining? Don’t waste your time or mine. Get out there and do something to make things different, or suck it up. Second of all, what do we really have to complain about? Do we not live in a country with an obesity problem while 2/3 of the world is malnourished? People in Greece are still storing their TP in the trash bin to preserve the country’s fragile sanitation system, while I have fresh, clean water that comes out of my faucet on demand – hot or cold. I drive on paved roads, organized with traffic signals and colored stripes to keep me safe and well directed. I shop at grocery stores that are stocked to the rafters with a wide variety of tasty food, offered at reasonable prices. I put my clothes into a machine that cleans them for me and call it “housework.” Sure, illness, sickness, and the stupidity of our fellow humans can befall any of us at any time, making us uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or impoverished, but what does a short temper, and high pitched nasal vocalizing do to correct that? Nothing. So, please, save it.

I feel like I’ve earned my callous indifference, at least to some degree. I can handle pain – I birthed two kids naturally, with none of the crazed screaming of the lady across the hall to “GET IT OUT! GET IT OUT!” I hope Dad got that on video so Junior can someday enjoy the warmth of his welcome. I’ve worked hard – I took on crazy, exhausting challenges like commuting 3 hours each way to school while working the other four days a week with my daughter in my office. I’ve lived on nothing – I even got stuck on an island with no money for a week and had to subsist in a hostel, eating beans and fake peanut butter while sharing a room of bunk beds with insane homeless people. And that’s just a few examples of the stupid binds my “never say die” attitude has gotten me into. I know there are much harsher adversities out there for humans to endure, but I do figure I’ve been uncomfortable, inconvenienced, and impoverished enough to have empathy, if not compassion, for most of the whining I hear around me. But even in the midst of those experiences, I forced myself to keep it together, to make the best of it, to assume there was something better for me on the other side. I really tried not to whine.

Whining never got me anywhere, and I try not to let it get anyone else anywhere, either. My lousy attitude towards whiners has led me into quite another predicament, these last couple months. I am, at this very moment, torn between my desire to vocalize all my discomforts and the internal self-loathing that such a vocalization causes. Instead of rallying against the nausea, fatigue, and mood imbalances of these 14 weeks of pregnancy, I have found myself, instead, surrendering to them. I’ve spent more time languishing on the couch with a pile of crackers than loading up the machine so it can clean my clothes for me. I’ve been impatient with my two sweet girls, criticizing instead of nurturing them, when they fail to meet my expectations for picking up after themselves and getting their homework done. I’ve broken every rule of eating well, and living well (except for not drinking – which I would truly love to do)! I am such a pathetic bundle of WHINER!

And really – there are so many people around me who would give anything to have two such healthy and beautiful daughters. I pursue this greedy desire for a bigger family, get pregnant with ease, and then have the audacity to whine about the symptoms of pregnancy? Don’t think for a moment that I don’t realize what a horrible human being I am. I have such a deep respect for this process; I get to co-create with God! I feel such an intense love for this little person I’m cooking up. I have such high hopes for my friends and acquaintances who want to have a family and struggle to make it happen. But, at the moment, I just needed to complain a little. The fact of the matter is, and has been for weeks, I just don’t feel very good. And I hate it when I let that get the best of me.

For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. Isaiah 42:14
(I refrained from adding the next verse, but you may get a laugh if you look it up.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Married Up

When my loved ones act shocked that I landed such a smart, good looking, and put-together guy, I get a little insulted sometimes. Of course, I, too, think my husband is fabulous, but do they have to act like I pulled something off? What kind of schlump did they expect me to end up with?

It’s quite the opposite of how they acted, back when I was single. Back then, every guy I took interest in was fatally flawed, and I needed to show more self-respect. His hair style was too feminine. He owned too many guns. He wasn’t funny. He tried to be too funny. He just wanted sex.  Time after time, my treasured family and friends warned me off a potential love interest and suggested that perhaps I didn’t realize how smart, beautiful, or wonderful I was, because I should not settle.

Then along came my husband, and suddenly the tables turned. “How does he put up with your…?” “You should really cut him some slack about….” “Doesn’t he need a guys’ night by now?” Somehow, they can’t seem to believe that my husband tolerated the sound of my voice, let alone my fashion-sense, family values, sense of humor, or ego long enough to meet me at the altar. There was an overall wave of shock when we announced our engagement and I didn’t change my plans to teach abroad for a year before the wedding, “You mean he’s going to wait for you?” Imagine that – a guy so great and so in love with me, that he would give me space to fulfill a dream before settling down together.

Well, as you can probably imagine, I’ve developed some perspective about this as the years have gone by. I’ve been part of my husband’s family, as my brothers-in-law have sought and found love, and witnessed the process through my siblings, cousins, and friends. I’ve even (I’m sure you’re not surprised) developed a theory about it.

When you are with someone that your loved ones think might not be right for you, all they see are your attributes and their flaws. They are fearful that you might have to live out your life burdened by those flaws. When you are with someone that your loved ones think is really the right one, they are fearful that it won’t work out and you will miss this amazing chance at happiness. They begin to focus on your flaws, but not because they think any less of you. They’re your loved ones; they knew your flaws all along. They’re just amazed to find that there’s another soul in the world who can see you for who you are and love you the way they do. They probe your flaws to confirm whether it’s really true and probe his attributes to figure out if they’re for real, too.

As insulting as it can be sometimes, I’m thrilled that the most important people in my life think my husband is such a catch. They see what I see and they’re happy for us. I’m so glad I didn’t settle. My dearest hope for my own children is to someday believe in my heart they married someone as perfect for them as he is for me; hopefully I can communicate that to them someday without making them feel like comparative schlumps.

Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. Jeremiah 25:6

Friday, September 10, 2010

Islam is not the Devil, but Mental Illness is Demons

What would possess a man who claims to follow Jesus Christ to incite anger and promote hatred, despite the opposition of fellow clergy, and the pleas of multitudes of rational people? Let me tell you, folks, this guy might be hearing voices, but it isn't Jesus or the Holy Spirit talking. What can a person do, if they have a delusional need to be heard, and no one wants to listen? They want to be heard, not to say anything worthwhile, so they pick any hot button topic that stirs up people's most passionate emotions and get themself in front of a camera.

Whether it's holding up signs that say, "God hates fags," or assaulting troubled women with pictures of dismantled fetuses, what you are seeing on display is not the love and hope that can be found in the greatest story ever told. It is the demon-possessed ranting of a small number of people with an incredibly persistent drive to be acknowledged.

Now, I realize that it is no longer en vogue to call mental disorders "demon possession." I also realize that many people are able to have their issues diagnosed and treated, or short of that, at least brought under maintenance. I am in no way arguing for a return to institutionalization and "leeching" of people whose behavior falls outside of cultural norms. But there is probably no human frailty that inspires hopelessness in me more than mental illness. It acts just like demons. Where relationships and the love of others is the strongest life line to keep each of us connected and thriving in the world, that seems to be the first thing these disorders attack. So often, by the time it is clear that there is a disorder, and not just rampant bad behavior, the victim's strongest allies in the fight have already fled to safety.

I am no clinical psychologist, but I can tell you with some certainty that church life brings me into contact with more than my share of individuals with mental issues. It feels like demons, when troubled people refuse to acknowledge their problem and get help. Imagine if your cancer attacked your brain and convinced you not to get chemo. It is also much easier to tolerate the pain these disorders inflict when I can remind myself that it is the demons, not the person, spurting ugliness; I can hate the demons and still love the person.

I sometimes feel trapped in this dilemma. Maybe someday the voices in my head will give me a solution, beyond fervent prayer and strong boundaries. In the mean time, those of you who hold a deep respect, possibly even a love, for Christ in your hearts, but choose not to express it through the institution of the church; I understand your hesitation. It breaks my heart when the Body of Christ, who reached out with love and healing to those who were marginalized, becomes known for hatred and division. It also breaks my heart that there are people out there so full of pain and hatred, who claim to know the source of deepest healing, yet somehow don't tap into it.

For now, I really wish they would quit putting cameras in those peoples' faces and giving them a voice so loud that it drowns out everyone else. I'm a behaviorist, after all: if it quit working, even demons would quit doing it.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. Matthew 8:16

Friday, September 3, 2010

I Wish I Could Play Football

Insight 2009 - we won!
Understand me, I am pleased as pleased can be to be a woman. I've never had a moment's envy for men in their manliness. But I just love the idea of pouncing on someone as hard as I can and savagely dragging them to the ground. Where, in a woman's life, does she find such an outlet?

We weren't really into sports growing up. My dad was a gymnast and my mom was in the marching band. Most bandies I know are die-hard football fanatics that know every chant and song; my mom was not that kind of bandie. I could bet she hasn't been to a live football game since 8th grade. I lettered in swimming, just for fun, and took a whole season on the JV Tennis team to figure out how to serve into the box. Watching ice skating and gymnastics, while very enjoyable, hardly awakened my competitive drive.

My husband, however, changed everything. Before I could name more than three NFL teams, his family had me picking winners each week in the family league. Bewildered by the flurry of energy around me during games, I listened to his patient explanations about 3rd downs, pass interference, sacks, and late hits, and found myself slowly getting sucked into the complex strategy of this brutal game. The next thing I knew, we were buying season tickets to cheer on the Iowa State Cyclones, I was nursing my first baby under a Cardinal & Gold blanket during half time, and we were planning our holidays around kick off in Shreveport, Houston, or Phoenix.

Our First Bowl Game: Independence Bowl 2001
The NFL can be fun, but it's really college ball that won me over. The electricity, the way the fans get into the game, those guys down there who are still playing for their team and their love of game, not giant paychecks. So sometimes I can get a little carried away. Sometimes I yell louder than the other fans around me and it embarrasses my family. Sometimes I keep my brother on the phone an extra 20 minutes savoring the strategic brilliance of a 4th and 1 call. I should probably cool it a little, but, hey, I think it's a blast and it's the closest I can get to what I really want. Someday, somehow, someone's going to have a spare set of football pads around the house and I'm going to get my chance to put them on and take someone down. No broken bones, no blood; all perfectly safe. I'll most likely be humbled by a dirt meal, but I will finally know what it's like to feel the crashing impact of all-out human passion.

The man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That's why your name will be Israel." Genesis 32:28