Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

arguing with God before I even get out of bed.

Some of you know I record once a month. The deadline to submit my accompaniment track and lyrics is usually the week before the recording session. The problem is, I’ve been recording for nearly two years, and I’m running out of “good” tracks. Lately, it’s been a real struggle to get my track in on time because I’ve been having trouble picking songs. If I do find a song I like, more often than not,

a track doesn’t exist (tracks are made for POPULAR songs only)
the only track that does exist is one I can’t get a license for,
the track isn’t in a good key for my range
the track sounds like Ross from Friends recorded it using only a synthesizer

the track has absolutely no dynamics and/or the tempo would put a hyperactive child to sleep
the track sounds too much like the original recording (I want to cover a song, not mimic a song.)
the arrangement is too “busy.” (I like me some acoustic guitar.)

When I really get stuck picking a song, I cheat and look at the praise team set list for the Sunday following the recording sessions (which are usually scheduled on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon). If I pick a praise team song to record the same week the praise team is leading it, I figure at the very least, I’m getting in some extra rehearsal on one of the songs for that week.

Combine my recent song selection challenges with all that I’ve been dealing with this month, (Check out last week’s post entitled “taut-adjective-emotionally-or-mentally-strained-or-tense” to see what I’m talking about), you can probably understand why I hadn’t scheduled myself to record in February.

It would have been the first time I had missed a month since I began recording. I knew I was available for the recording session itself (the first weekend in February), but I honestly didn’t think I had time to prepare for it in the weeks prior. Then, in the middle of last week, I got a call asking if I could fill an open recording session on Saturday from 5pm to 9pm.

I said yes. Sometimes singing in a recording studio for hours is like free therapy.

The only problem was that I had absoflipinlutly NO idea what I was going to sing. The days ticked by. nothin. I’m desperate, so I check the praise team set list for the weeks near the recording session. My next praise team lead is “O the Blood” – which I just recorded in November. So, that won’t work. I check the next week’s set list. Not up yet. Every day, I check the set list. Not up yet.

No easy way out this time.

Finally, I ran out of time. The track and lyrics were due last night, this morning at the latest. And I had to be downtown on client site at 9:30am, so I had to get this DONE before I left house. I went to bed last night with no song selected. I had no plan. I was praying that God would smack me in the head with a song title.

So, this morning, my alarm went off and the very first thing I heard was the introduction to Natalie Grant’s “Your Great Name” which I absolutely LOVE and have been wanting to learn. But seriously. It’s NATALIE GRANT. Have you heard this song!? The ending needs POWER.

Me, arguing with God before I even get out of bed: “no. way.”

God: “Trust me.”

Me: “I can’t do it.”

God: “I can.”

Me: “I have no doubt that YOU can, but I don’t have time to nail that bridge – and that last chorus – AND the harmony AND the background vocals. In FIVE days. It’s too much, too fast. I can’t do it.”

I laid there in bed listening to every. little. detail. of the song, thinking: “No. I can’t do it. Not in FIVE days. Not if I’m gonna do it right. My expectations of how I want it to turn out are too high for FIVE days. It’s too hard to learn in five days. And I don’t want to record it before it’s ready.”

I could almost hear God say, “okay. Then do this:”

And the VERY next song was Mighty to Save.

SERIOUSLY? This song hates me. I wrote about it back in April of last year. (CLICK HERE to read the full post, entitled “note to self: “STOP IT.) Here’s a little excerpt:

I came in on the wrong note, but it fit, until midway into the verse, then it was glaringly obvious I was off.

Let the season of doubt begin.

After that, I had no confidence that I could come in on the right note. How could I have started on the wrong note and not even realized it? What if I did it again? How do I recover the song if I come in on the wrong note during worship? The music director offered to play my note on the flute for me. It got to the point where I believed I couldn’t do it without her.

I hated that.

I was determined to break my need for this crutch. I bought the Hillsong version of the song, with the guitar intro. I completely stopped listening to the piano version, even going to the extreme of turning off the radio if it began playing.

FINALLY.

I was able to begin on the correct note without the flute playing it in the background. I led the song multiple times over the next few months without a problem.

So what was different about the last time I sang it?

the piano.

After I came in so effortlessly at the beginning of the pre-service rehearsal, we added keyboard to the intro and rehearsed it again after everyone else had gotten there.

I couldn’t find the note. Actually, I have no idea if I could or couldn’t find the note, because I didn’t try. I just said, “I don’t have it.”

Me and “Mighty to Save.” We have a little history.

Nonetheless, after I got the kids off to school, I sat down at the computer and searched all my “go-to” track making companies. piano. piano. piano. piano. huge band. overwhelming electric guitar . . . and something new. An acoustic arrangement. It had an extra bridge and two extra choruses at the end, but the arrangement was good. Then the company’s website decided to hang on the payment screen. 20 minutes later I abandoned the purchase and looked for it on a third party seller site. Score. At 9:05am, I called my client and told them I would be late, took another 20 minutes to pick a key, uploaded the track, emailed the lyrics and I was DONE.

Drove all the way to the client site doubting my choice.

Of course, when I got home and checked the praise team set list for the following week, you know what was on the list.

Mighty to Save.

I have no idea if I can get the intro right without wasting everyone’s time in the recording session. But God can. And now he has a week of intensified rehearsals to do it.

Now I have to pick a song to record in March. Wonder if it will be “Your Great Name.”

January 31, 2012 Posted by | christian living, laugh!, music, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, praise team music, youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Am I tenacious or just stubborn? (FirstHusband – don’t answer that)

(If you’re new to Compendium, he’s my FirstHusband, my LastHusband, my OnlyHusband. It’s a joke. He gets it.)

If anyone is wondering whether I got my miles in today, that would be YES.

Treadmill readout showed:

7.02 miles,
4% incline,
1213 calories burned,
in a total of 131 minutes and 28 seconds.

The knee is feeling good. The calves however, were burnin. I took two 20 minute breaks to do some laundry and to tuck PinkGirl in bed and pray with her.

If I can log 6 miles tomorrow, I’ll meet my goal of walking 30 miles in the last 6 days of the month to “average” a mile a day for the month.

If you’re new or just catching up, you may be wondering why, if I wanted to average a mile a day for the month, didn’t I just actually walk a mile a day instead of cramming 30 miles into the last 6 days? I’d like to say it’s because I tore my MCL and strained my ACL on December 2nd and my knee hasn’t been ready . . .

I’d like to say that. But it would be a lie. I walked over 20 miles in December. And I think I did actually walk some in the beginning of January, but it was inconsistent and since I didn’t record any of it on my fitness log, I would have been making stuff up. So I gave myself one mile and, with 6 days left in the month of January, decided to walk the remaining 30.

I needed a kick-start anyway. I was getting too comfortable. And my clothes were getting a little UNcomfortable.

I’m DETERMINED to be a good steward of the body God has blessed me with!

I wonder what kind of goals I’m going to set for myself for February.

January 31, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Monday. Did you tell yourself you would start eating right and exercising today?

I always did.

Monday was the mother of all starting lines. THE day to begin.

again.

Everybody knows it’s better to start a new fitness plan on a Monday.

Even experts agree:

“We think of Monday as the January of the week. It’s a call to action built into every calendar, giving you 52 chances for success.” says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative in association with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse Universities.

I know what I always told myself on Friday nights:
“It was a long, hard week and I deserve to take the night (and day, and night again) off.”
“It’s too hard to start on a weekend, too many other (presumably fun) things to do.”
“We’re going out and it’s too hard to eat right when we eat out.”
“I deserve this glass (or three) of wine.”
“I deserve this plate of nachos.”
“I deserve to chill out at watch TV.”
“I deserve to …

What a load of hooey. Yes, I said “hooey.”

I did NOT deserve to weigh 210 pounds. I did NOT deserve to get winded trying to play with my kids. Well. Actually, the way I was eating and taking care of my body, I did deserve it.

Because those are the lousy excuses and rationalizations I used when I had the mentality that says fitness is a goal to be achieved. Something I did for a period of time until I got to a certain weight or size. When I was finished, I could go back to my “normal” life of thoughtless eating and neglecting my body.

But if I’m striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed me with, THERE IS NO FINISH LINE.

I’ve gone through different stages since I began incorporating fitness into daily life. Sometimes I focus on strength training – I’ve gone to a gym, I’ve gone to local fitness trails and now I work out at home. For a few years I worked with a personal trainer two to three times per week. Before I tore my MCL and strained my ACL in December, I was doing yoga and I loved it so much I know I’m going back. But my constant -through injury and weather and lapses in motivation – has always been walking, sometimes outside, sometimes on a treadmill with an incline.

How do YOU incorporate fitness into your everyday life?
If you currently don’t, here’s the thing. You don’t need to buy a gym membership. You don’t have to buy the PX90 or Shred DVDs and spend every minute “hating it” as I read on another blog last week. You don’t need to buy a BowFlex or turn your extra bedroom or garage into a home gym.

Before you spend a lot of money on the accoutrements needed to accommodate your latest exercise plan, I’ll give you the same advice I gave my sister: “Find out if you are ready for the commitment. Tests have shown it takes 21 days to make a habit. Do 10 pushups a day for 21 days. You don’t have to do them all in a row, break them up if you can’t get through the full 10. Do modified pushups on your knees if you’re a beginner. IF, after three weeks, you’ve discovered that you made it, THEN think about throwing money at this problem.

In the meantime, consider this: The SINGLE BEST thing we can do for our health only requires one thing: a good pair of shoes. I’m amazed at the measured significant improvement seen in SO many areas of our health!! Check out the statistics in this video! Short, but PACKED with info!

Here’s the deal. I don’t have to exercise every day for the rest of my life. I need to do it TODAY.
And tomorrow, I’m going to tell myself the same thing.

One day at a time. One step at a time.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, motivation, pragmatic practices, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

sometimes, tired is a state of mind.

I’m sure I walked more than a mile during the first few weeks of January, but since I didn’t log any fitness, it wasn’t fair to count more than I could be sure of. Then, despite my goal to log 30 miles by walking 5 miles a day in the last 6 days of the month to “average” a mile a day for the month, I found everything to do yesterday except get on the treadmill.

Today, I put off the treadmill all. day.

Until now.

And let me tell you, I did NOT want to put on my walking shoes. I did NOT want to get on this treadmill. I would rather be sitting in the sauna RIGHT NOW. But I made a commitment to God to be a good steward of the body He has blessed me with. I would rather walk outside at leisurely pace on the flat ground than 3mph at a 4% incline, but I made commitment to myself to average at least a mile a day and if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna increase my heart rate and SWEAT. I put my goal out there on the internet because accountability makes me stronger.

So I’m faced with a decision. How many miles am I going to walk today, tomorrow and Tuesday?

We’ll find out in three days, but I’ll tell you this, the decision is NOT going to be influenced by how tired I am. I’m still on the treadmill as I type this and so far, I’ve walked 4.25 miles. I’m tired, but I’m not hurting, so I’m not quitting.

The day’s not over.

Source: facebook.com via Denise on Pinterest

January 29, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, motivation, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I think I’ve decided to walk my 5 miles today.

What does this little guy inspire YOU to do?
Be a good steward of the body God has blessed you with today!!

Source: Uploaded by user via Julie on Pinterest

January 27, 2012 Posted by | exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, motivation, pinterest | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

desensitized.

I’m not one to avoid conflict. I’ve found that, much too often, constant unanimous agreement results in substandard ideas and dispassionate forward motion.

Confrontation doesn’t scare me. I don’t avoid conflict because I’m afraid of the person I need to confront or the possible repercussions of the confrontation.

That said, there are some situations in which I choose NOT to confront someone when a conflict develops. I wrote a post earlier this week entitled “Dear PinkGirl, don’t copy me.” where I confessed to being a hypocrite because I was coaching and expecting my daughter to stand up to a passive-aggressive person in her life and I was hit with the realization that I wasn’t standing up to a passive-aggressive person in my own life. It was one of those rare occasions where I recognized the contradiction between my words and actions before she did.

In my particular situation, someone in authority over me doesn’t want there to be a confrontation and I’m committed to respecting their wishes. But PinkGirl didn’t know that.

This left me with some splainin’ to do to my daughter. (CLICK HERE to read how that conversation went.)

But this entire situation has me thinking I should explain why confrontation doesn’t make me uncomfortable.

It’s not because I’m strong, though I admit I’ve been called a “strong-willed woman” more than a few times. It’s not because I have a degree in communication and have a conflict resolution model memorized and ready to mentally fill in at any time, although I do (have it memorized and am ready to use it).

It’s because I’m desensitized.

When you spend decades bombarded with emotional outbursts, ultimatums, silent treatments and guilt trips, you adapt and create a new normal. It’s required.

Because if you don’t, no matter how hard or long you climb up, you will live a roller-coaster emotional life with every drop controlled by someone else. This new normal is stable and steady and no matter who’s controlling the coaster, you remain unaffected. It’s like standing on that little walkway that runs along side the coaster – the one reserved for the people who take care of it, instead of on the tracks. You can walk along side, at your own pace, with no need to move out of the way. The coaster can come barreling along, full speed and no matter what’s propelling it – guilt, the silent treatment, tears, anger – you are off to the side, watching, protected because you aren’t in its path.

Guilt trips do not move me to action because, from my experience, when someone is attempting to make me feel guilty, they are, in reality, trying to manipulate me. I’ve had enough manipulation. I. am. unmoved.

Not because I’m strong. Or smart. Or pragmatic.

Because I’m desensitized.

The silent treatment will backfire when used on me. I’m immune. It’s like a free pass to ignore the person who refuses to speak to me. If I ask someone what’s wrong and they say “nothing,” I will take them at their word, no matter how much they continue to mope and pout.

Tears do not move me to give in. Tears do not move me to change my mind, do something that goes against the core of what I believe, or lie to someone to help them rationalize the truth and/or avoid the consequences of their choices. In the past, tears have moved me to do all of these things.

Not anymore.

When someone cries in front of me, especially someone with whom I’m involved a work relationship, I see two possibilities: (1) they are upset and they need a few minutes to compose themselves. (2) they are trying manipulate me (consciously or subconsciously) and get their way by eliciting sympathy from me.

Either way, my standard response is to sincerely tell the person who is crying that I’m sorry they are upset and give them a few minutes to compose themselves. And I really am sorry that they are upset, I just don’t believe I’m responsible for making them happy by doing what they want.

(This is only when someone wants something from me, I’m not saying that I’ve never done something I need to apologize for, because I have no problem apologizing when I’m wrong. The “splainin’ I did to PinkGirl about this included an “I was wrong and I’m sorry.” again, CLICK HERE to read how that went.)

Anger does not move me. When someone displays what appears to be an uncontrollable outburst of anger, spewing acrimonious language and accusations and sometimes even profanity?

I see them as weak. Unreasonable.

To be honest, when I’m blindsided by a verbal attack from someone I respect, my initial, internal reaction is to be defensive. I’m human. I want to “right back atcha.” But it’s fleeting. It’s a flash of adrenaline and then I let it go. Because I absolutely refuse to emulate the person who taught me that uncontrolled displays of anger are a sign of weakness. A tantrum is an irrational waste of time and counter-productive to ANY goal or healthy relationship. When my children had a tantrum, I usually had one of two things to say. Picture it:

In Walmart. Somebody wants something I’ve said they can’t have. The tantrum begins. People walking by. Staring. Sympathetic looks. Disapproving, “can’t you shut that kid up” looks. Me, leaning on the cart, elbow on the handle, chin in my hands. Waiting patiently. After a few moments, during a break in the screaming while the tantrum thrower takes a breath, I ask, “Are you done yet?” or “Is this working for you? Cause it’s not really working for me.” Sometimes, after asking “Are you done yet?” the kiddo would wail, “NOOoooooo!”

Okay then. (Just to confirm – the tantrum did not move me to buy anything.)

Because I see uncontrolled outbursts of anger as a sign of weakness, I’m able to give tantrum throwers grace. I usually don’t take it personally. When someone has an explosive outburst, I figure I’m the least of their problems. If I’m dealing with a child, I’ve got some serious character building opportunities and I usually take advantage of them if I can.

If I’m dealing with an adult, I tend to feel sorry for them. Any adult who handles a problem by throwing a tantrum probably isn’t throwing one for the first time. Somewhere along the line, it’s worked for them before and they’ve developed a pattern of behavior. Just like me. It’s just that our patterns of behavior are on opposite sides of the emotional scale.

There are a few adults in my life from whom I’ve come to expect such an attack. Those attacks are easy to deflect. Since I expect them, I’m prepped and ready.

You can probably guess that I don’t respect any of these behaviors and I can’t stomach any of them in myself. I don’t use guilt as a negotiation tool. I don’t cry or mope in front of someone who has the power to change my circumstance. I don’t gossip to garner support for my cause instead of talking directly to the people who have the authority to make decisions. I don’t scream or curse at people, no matter what they do.

But, as I explained in my post earlier this week, entitled “taut [tawt] adjective: emotionally or mentally strained or tense” it’s not because I stifle the emotions that lead to these behaviors. It’s just that, on an emotional scale of 1 to 10, I normally operate at about a 1 or a 2. I’m standing on the walkway next to the emotional roller coaster.

I’m desensitized.

I’m 47. This “lowered emotional state” is deeply rooted in my personality. Not many people get this about me without feeling sorry for me. Like I’m missing something or need to be “cured.” But keep in mind, it’s not that I’m incapable of emotion, just that I usually don’t let things get to me. I don’t want to be “cured.” I’m not missing anything. I’ve just had more than my fair share of high emotion already.

I like the calmness.


CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | christian living, crazymakers, family, intentional living, learning curve | , , , , | 1 Comment

long overdue fitness update: 1/26/12

It’s been a while since I updated my fitness log. Tomorrow marks EIGHT weeks since my partial MCL tear and ACL strain! Recommended healing for my injury was 6 to 8 weeks!

YEAH! I’m HEALED! (yes. this is how I think)

First day back to the incline treadmill walking (at an incline of 4 and a speed of 3 mph). I think I’ll take it slow and only walk a mile or two. Unless I decide to walk 5 miles a day till the end of the month to get to an average of a mile a day for the entire month. (yes. this is how I think.)

On another note, I was doing my two minute forearm plank a few weeks ago and FirstHusband said, “Ya know, I’m kind of surprised you’re still satisfied with a two minute plank. That’s not like you.”

seriously? He had to plant that thought in my freakishly self-competitive head?

So, I’m up to two minutes, ten seconds. The new goal is to be able to do a three minute plank by the end of the year.

stupid husband.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, laugh!, microactions, poor me some whine, status updates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

identity crisis. part 1.

Eleven year old PinkGirl auditioned for Beauty and the Beast this month. Of course she wanted the part of Belle. At the four hour cast call backs the week after her first audition, she sang and read for Belle. The only other character she was asked to try was Babbette, the feather duster.

She couldn’t do the walk.

In the end, she got the part of Madam. The Wardrobe.

She hadn’t been asked to sing or read for any other character, and the role of the Wardrobe wasn’t announced until just before the role of Belle, so as she heard the other parts being assigned to her fellow cast members, the process of elimination gave her false hope. When her name was called, she was completely blindsided.

The moment they were dismissed, she bolted out the door, still in her jazz shoes. She held herself together until she was about three feet from the van. Since she had run out so fast, none of her friends heard her break down crying.

I got in the van and quickly drove to an empty spot in the parking lot.

Immediately – and I mean IMMEDIATELY – she leapt to the conclusion that she wasn’t good at the one thing she thought she was really good at. The decision made by this stranger somehow represented the real truth and everyone else who had ever told her she was good was just being nice. This was a sign that she should quit. This was proof that she wasn’t as good at singing and acting as she thought she was. This was God saying no, not only to Belle, but to theater. She was just fooling herself, wasting everyone’s time and her parent’s money.

She said all these things to herself and to me through broken tears. Then she SCREAMED them again at God. At the top of her lungs, she DEMANDED to know why He was breaking her heart. She told Him that He was making her feel WORTHLESS. When she wrapped her arms around my neck sobbing and screamed “I thought you LOVED me!” at God, it wrenched me. Exhausted from the screaming, she broke down again, sobbing, telling God she was sorry. That she loved him. That she would always love him. No matter what.

This had nothing to do with being disappointed about not getting the part of Belle.

Sure, she was sad and disappointed she didn’t get the role she was going for, but that’s happened before. She played an eel in Little Mermaid – and you know she didn’t go into the audition wanting that part. She was heartbroken when she didn’t get the part of Ti Moune in Once Upon this Island – she wanted that part so bad she became the secret, silent understudy because she wanted to be ready in case the lead couldn’t perform for any reason at all. And less than a year ago, she auditioned for Annie – the role every little actress dreams about – and the part went to her best friend.

She wasn’t just sad and disappointed about not getting a part. If only it were that simple. This was a full blown identity crisis. I looked it up:

identity crisis (noun) A period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.

Here it was, two months after her 11th birthday, and she was convinced her dream of a career in theater was being taken from her. And of course, GOD was doing the taking. If she wasn’t an actress or a singer, who was she?

Sitting in the parking lot, I knew she wouldn’t be able to hear me until she had had it out with God. I didn’t stop her from screaming at Him. I didn’t reprimand her for talking to Him like that.

God can take it.

I waited. I held her. I stroked her hair. Kissed her forehead. I prayed that God would give me the words to say and that I would know the right time to say them. Suddenly, she seemed to literally run out of tears and – no surprise – she had a terrible headache. Her eyes were red and puffy and her face was pale. Her blood sugar was bottomed out and she needed to eat something. There was a Chick-Fil-A in the parking lot so I went through the drive-thru and parked again.

As we sat in the van and ate, she was quiet. Still crying, but quiet. I took a chance that she could hear me, and I decided to approach the smaller issue of Belle first, before I even tried to talk to her about her belief that it meant she wasn’t as good as she thought she was. I was hoping that if I could lessen the significance of the trigger event, the resulting blow to her self-confidence would be softened at the same time.

I told her I didn’t understand why God allowed this to happen. I said that when we face a trial, sometimes God shows us why right away, sometimes he shows us why much later and sometimes, we never get to know why.

Me: “Do you know what just happened with Aunt Wendy’s (my sister) teaching job??

PinkGirl:
“no.”

Me: “You know she works at a bank 3 days a week, but about a year ago, she got hired as a college instructor to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the kind of teaching job she got wasn’t the kind where you just get hired and you keep the job until you leave or get fired. For this job, she got a contract to teach for one semester and then when that was finished, she got another contract to teach for another semester. You know what happened this semester?”

(negative head shake.)

Me: “She didn’t get a contract. They didn’t even call her to tell her they weren’t going to give her another contract. She was confused and hurt and upset and very worried about how they could pay their bills when she found out. Now she only has work 3 days a week. She couldn’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Then you know what happened?

(another negative head shake.)

Me: “CutiePie (my 1 year old nephew) got very, very sick. And Aunt Wendy didn’t have to leave him and go to work. She got to stay with him and take care of him most of the time he was sick. She posted a picture of him on facebook, sleeping after he was feeling better and you know what my comment was?

(another negative head shake.) “So thankful you didn’t have to teach today. God works in mysterious ways.”

(smile and tiny laugh)

I asked her if she was ready to talk about why God might have allowed this to happen in her life. Even though we can’t see the world from God’s point of view, what reasons could we think of from our limited perspective as humans?

PinkGirl: I think it’s a test.

Me: “What kind of test?”

PinkGirl, welling up again: “To see if I would love God no matter what.”

(From the moment she found out she was auditioning for Beauty and the Beast she had been praying and telling God she would love Him no matter what part she got and that whatever part that was, she would do her very best. Her dad and I prayed that prayer again with her the night before call backs and I prayed it again with her in the car on the way to call backs.)

Me: You may be right. Could it be another kind of test?

PinkGirl: “Like what?”

Me: “Could it be that God is helping you figure out if you really love theater as much as you say you do? Because, this will definitely happen again. More than once. You will want some other part and you won’t get it. And in some cases, you won’t even get a smaller role in the show you audition for. In some cases, you won’t get any role. You will probably NOT get the parts you want more often than you WILL get the parts you want.

(silent tears on her waffle fries)

Me: “PinkGirl, I don’t lie. You know I tell you the truth. You are good at this. And as good as you already are, you have the potential to get even better. I’ve told you before that I believe you can make a very good living in theater your entire life if you just don’t quit. I mean it. But you have to figure out if you can handle the disappointments that come with the joy. Do you love doing theater – no matter what?

(silent tears again)

Me: “What about your witness? GreatTheaterCompany isn’t a Christian organization. Some of the people there know you are a Christian. You invite your castmates to pray with you before shows. How can you be part of God’s story? Because HIS story is so much bigger and better than Beauty and the Beast. We need to start praying and asking God how He can use you to work all things for good.

(the tears stopped. I had her attention.)

Me: “Do you remember the story I told you about the Princess Tapestry?

PinkGirl, crying again: “Is this a dark thread?”

Me: “I think it’s pretty safe to say it is. Do you trust that God knows what he’s doing and that this dark thread will help make the tapestry beautiful? Even if you don’t get to see it until you see Him face to face?

(positive head shake with the tears again. I got another hug.)

(to be continued)

(this was written with PinkGirl’s permission)

January 25, 2012 Posted by | christian living, family, intentional living, learning curve, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic communion, pragmatic parenting, suffering, women | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dear PinkGirl: don’t copy me.

There’s a certain person in my daughter’s life, who if she allows it, erodes her joy. I’ll call her TheBully. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward PinkGirl is often passive-aggressive. Every day after school, PinkGirl tells me what TheBully did that day. And every day, PinkGirl and I talk about how she might handle her interactions with TheBully. I’ve encouraged her to include TheBully in her prayers.

I’ve asked PinkGirl to consider that there might be things in TheBully’s life that we aren’t aware of that make her unhappy and her unhappiness might be why she acts the way she does. I’ve explained that some unhappy people try to make themselves feel better by making other people unhappy too. They don’t know they’re doing it and while it really doesn’t make them feel any happier, it does make them feel less alone. I’ve called to her attention that TheBully is also unkind to other people and I’ve tried to help PinkGirl understand that she shouldn’t take it personally.

But I’ve also told PinkGirl that even if all those things are true, it doesn’t give TheBully the right to act the way she does.

It’s not okay.

PinkGirl and I talk about it at length and every day, I conclude by saying that I believe it’s possible for her to stand firm and not let TheBully control her actions. Every day, I tell PinkGirl that it’s possible to tell the truth – even truth that might hurt someone’s feelings – using gracious words. PinkGirl remains steadfastly unconvinced and consistently counters that TheBully will “tell lies” about her to “everybody.” “Everybody” will be mad at her. and she will get into big trouble with the teachers.

Every day, I tell PinkGirl that’s not true. And every day, she tell’s me I don’t understand and that I’m wrong.

The freakish optimist in me gets so exasperated with her. How can my daughter be such a pessimist?

And then I get smacked in the face with a little empathy.

There’s a certain person in my life, who, if I allow her, erodes my joy. I’ll call her Narcissa. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward me is often passive-aggressive. After a few years of praying about – and relentlessly lamenting to my husband about – these interactions and countless discussions with him about why God is allowing this person in my life and what I’m supposed to do and say to her with the love of Christ, I finally . . . blocked her out. Literally and figuratively.

I’ve spent the last few months flat-lined against the messages in her body language, her wounded facial expressions and the disgruntled and sarcastic mumbling. And flat-line has been working for me.

somewhat.

Recently, the passive aggressive behavior morphed into a face to face, non-ignorable conversation. Skilled communicator that I am, I couldn’t think of one thing to say that fell in line with God’s command to speak in love. The words of the great philosopher, Thumper the bunny, kept echoing in my mind: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

So I stood there, speechless.

A few days later, a colleague/friend, who had witnessed the encounter, brought it up. My first response was to assure her that it was okay and to explain that, by the grace of God, I was in a place that Narcissa’s behavior didn’t bother me and that my focus was on my work.

But then my friend, a fellow Christian, said, “It’s just been weighing heavy on my heart.”

oh.

I’m not in a place where I can simply block her out. And I couldn’t ignore the fact that God has used her in other situations in my life to point out things I couldn’t or wouldn’t see. As I listened to her explain how Narcissa’s behavior was affecting her, I silently prayed that God would give me the right words to say. My initial thought was to sooth her soul, to help her accept the behavior of the person who was causing her so much heartache. Not once did I consider the possibility that the issue could be resolved. When my friend mentioned speaking with Narcissa about all this, my immediate reaction was, “ohhhhh, nooooo. That would not be a good idea.”

As she persistently brought up possibilities of addressing the problem, one by one, I shot them down: Can’t do it. Never gonna happen. There’s no situation in which that would turn out well. The fall out would be too far reaching.

The next day, alone, I thought: Who was that? I’m freakishly optimistic. I believe “can’t” is a four letter word. My mantra is “Just because I haven’t thought of an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just haven’t figured it out yet.”

What kind of power does this person have over me that I would abandon such a core characteristic? What kind of power does she have over other people? What kind of power does she have?

and what kind of example am I setting for my daughter? I had to fess up.

In the car ride home from school,

I said: “So, I had an epiphany. Do you know what that is?”

PinkGirl: “no.”

Me: “It’s a realization. I realized something today. You know how every day you tell me what TheBully did and I tell you that you need to stand firm and not let her control your actions? How you need to talk to her and tell her the truth using gracious words – even if it will hurt her feelings? And how every day, you tell me that you can’t do that because she will tell everyone lies and the teachers will get you in trouble and everyone will be mad at you …

PinkGirl: “Well not my real friends.”

Me: “True. But am I getting all this right? Am I leaving anything out?

PinkGirl: “No. That’s pretty much it.”

Me: “I realized I’m doing the same thing you are. Who’s TheBully in my life?”

PinkGirl, quick as a flash: “Narcissa.”

Me: “yep. I realized that I’m expecting you to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for getting so frustrated with you when you refuse to try and work out your problems with TheBully.”

So. Now I either have to start coaching PinkGirl about how to physically and emotionally distance herself from TheBully or I have to refocus my efforts on preventing Narcissa’s passive-aggressive behavior from negatively impacting my thoughts and actions.

If you read my last post, I should probably steer clear of Narcissa for a while. Because right this minute, emotions are not a factor in my decision-making and communication. I could easily, objectively and thoroughly tell Narcissa the truth and be completely unaffected by ANY reaction she has.

Unfortunately, because there are other people involved who would be negatively impacted by the repercussions of an honest conversation with Narcissa, I think my best course of action is to keep praying the prayer I’ve been praying for years: “Lord, if you won’t change my circumstances, please change my attitude.” If I want to shake the Hypocrite Certificate, I think I need to teach PinkGirl that same prayer. And how to physically and emotionally duck and weave to stay out of TheBully’s line of sight.


CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | christian living, crazymakers, family, intentional living, laugh!, learning curve, poor me some whine, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic communion, pragmatic parenting, prayer, women | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

taut [tawt] adjective: emotionally or mentally strained or tense

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I have a marriage counselor. We spent about two years seeing her regularly, but now we only go occasionally. After my mother passed away in December, we made a few appointments. We didn’t know how my mother’s death would impact me, but we figured it would.

We were right.

At some point during our two years of therapy, our counselor explained to us that on an emotional scale of 1 to 10, I consistently live around 1 or 2. She told us that, while I was capable of moving up the scale, I couldn’t maintain a higher level for very long and would have to retreat and come back down.

In an effort to help me move my comfort zone up a little on this imaginary (and unquantifiable) scale, one of my homework assignments was to frequently stop what I was doing and ask myself the question “What am I feeling right now?” I was supposed to do this for a week. or two. I don’t remember.

My first response to that assignment? “What difference does that make? That’s completely irrelevant.”

For a few days, I answered myself with adjectives like “cold” “sleepy” and “hungry.” But I knew that wasn’t what the counselor had in mind. Since we were paying her and I’m pragmatic, I tried again.

I started coming up with words like “focused” “impatient” and “distracted.”

In the end, I don’t think the base of my emotional comfort zone actually shifted, but I believe I have become more aware of the emotions I do experience.

Never more than these past few weeks:

  1. Dealing with the aftermath (estate/creditors) of my mother’s death,
  2. Politely responding to all the people who assume I’m emotionally distraught (Because when I explained how I was really feeling nobody believed me and/or I just made them uncomfortable.)
  3. Politely responding to the people who’ve been telling me they know “exactly” how I feel, when they are so completely off base that telling them the truth would make it glaringly obvious that they don’t know me at all.
  4. The problems created by Social Security because they mistakenly reported my father’s death to Medicare and his mortgage company, among others and
  5. A passive-aggressive attack by someone from whom I had previously and successfully been distancing myself.

If I were to have asked myself the “What am I feeling right now?” question, my answers would have been “Frustrated” “Exasperated” “Overwhelmed” “Angry”

I felt like a bow, being pulled tighter and tighter each day. My blood pressure went from a normal 120 over 78 to 152 over 93.

Then, three major things happened this past weekend:

  1. My daughter faced a disappointment that shook her faith and is (still) shaking her self-confidence. I listened and held her as she SCREAMED at God, saying things like “WHY are you breaking my heart!?” and “I thought you LOVED me!?” and then held her some more while she broke down weeping and apologizing to God, telling him she would love him no matter what.
  2. I led a new song in worship that I really, really loved. Rehearsing it literally hundreds of times through the week proved to be an extremely effective barrier against stress. When I sang it Sunday morning I was completely invested in offering it up to God as praise and worship in the middle of one of the most stressful periods of my life. I didn’t hold on to any of it for myself. After church I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
  3. But I had something I had to do that afternoon before I could try and rest.

  4. My husband took my sisters, my father and I off shore on our boat to spread my mother’s ashes in the ocean. As ethereal as that sounds, coming face to face with the logistics of actually doing that was . . . there are no words. (Thankfully, my daughter didn’t come with us.)

By the end of the day on Sunday, the bow finally snapped.

If I had asked myself the “What am I feeling right now?” question on Sunday night, the answer would have been “nothing.” I was completely incapable of emotion. I wasn’t sad or happy, angry or peaceful, frustrated or content. I was nothing. Negative numbers on that emotional scale.

My son was having a hard time with something and he was cranky and obstinate and sarcastic and I kept saying, things like “I’m giving you grace. I’m not going to argue with you. I’m really, really sorry you are so upset and if I could change your circumstance I would. But I can’t. But I can give you grace.”

I’m slowly inching my way back up to the positive numbers on that emotional scale. It shouldn’t take too long. I don’t have far to go to get back to my normal spot.

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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