Saturday, June 27, 2015

Loving Your Spouse on Social Media: 3 Do's & 5 Don'ts

I wear my heart on my face. (My sleeve is reserved for my kids' boogies and cheese doodle schmutz.) What I mean is, I'm pretty good at buttoning my lip when I'd rather not share what's on my heart—but it doesn't take a detective to glance at my expressions and gather what's under the surface.

My husband, Chris, is especially skilled at seeing straight through my cellophane poker face. If you were a fly on the wall during my nightly scroll through social media, you'd get the picture.

Now and again, Chris glances up from his iPad and rolls his eyes. "What is it now?"

"Nothing," I reply. But the flare of my nostrils tells a different story. I'm either smelling a sour mozzarella ball or I've encountered something disturbing on Facebook.

With no fermenting formaggio in sight, he leans over to peek at my screen. "Oh, that's some close-up."

"What do you mean? I think it's a very nice picture of her," I defend. "Okay, maybe it's a tad too close, that's all. It just caught me off guard because her nose looks bigger than usual. I mean, not that she has a big nose! I should talk! I just mean, we don't usually see her so close that we notice her mustache hairs. I mean, it's great that her mustache hairs aren't ordinarily that noticeable. I have to use bleach for mine, plus a tweezer for my eyebrows. She, on the other hand, hardly has any eyebrows. Which, isn't a bad thing, really. Just an observation—"

That's a slightly exaggerated account of a very real struggle I have with sharing an honest opinion. If I don't have anything nice to say, I don't say anything at all... not intentionally, anyway.

Sometimes, though, the disturbing sight on social media goes much deeper than a poorly chosen profile pic. As I thumb through status updates, I occasionally come across posts and comments from my married friends that I wish I hadn't seen.

Marital squabbles used to happen behind closed doors, but social media has changed all that. (Granted, if you grew up in New York or really any American city, you've been privy to domestic arguments wafting out the windows and into the streets along with the smell of ethnic foods and clothes softener, but that's all part of urban charm. Moving on.)

I'm not sure what it is about social media that dulls our ability to discern right from wrong, but I'm concerned. I can't hide my scrunched face behind the screen of my smartphone any longer, so here it is: a list of 3 things that loving couples do on social media, followed by a list of 5 things they don't do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mighty Mouse Syndrome (Part III): A Testimony

"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced."

PSALM 105:1-5
To conclude this post series on Mighty Mouse Syndrome, I'd like to share the story of how God led me to my first career job (the position I still hold today). I felt led to record the details of this testimony as a sort of digital stone of remembrance (see Joshua 4:4-7).

Unqualified, Unprepared, & Unhappy

"This is a complete waste of time," I grumbled as my '94 Camry rolled along 30 West, the morning sun glistening on the Susquehanna to my left and right. It was the first time I crossed the dividing line from Lancaster County to York, and I was certain it would be one of my last.

In my final semester of college at Millersville University, I had my sights set on Harrisburg—not York. It was a class requirement that dragged me across Route 30 painfully early that morning. I was on my way to a portfolio review hosted by York College.

The inconvenient drive and the glare from the river weren't the only things that irked me on that trip, however.

I was mad at myself. The portfolio in my backseat wasn't prepared for a scrutinizing critique, and the only person I had to blame was sitting in the driver's seat, her chewed-up fingernails digging into the steering wheel.

Susquehanna River - Photo credit:
The portfolio work I'd pulled together represented an exasperated decision I'd made to switch majors in my senior year, from Art Education to Graphic Design. Although I only needed one more pedagogy class and student teaching to fulfill the course requirements to teach, I backed out and decided to become a designer instead.

Two factors led to the tough choice to switch majors:

(1) I'd been grappling with a sense of calling to ministry since childhood. I lacked the confidence to stick with Bible school, so I decided to pursue art teaching as a safer option. As graduation drew nearer, though, I didn't have peace about dedicating my life to teaching art. I realized that I needed to come away with a degree that would lead to a more 9-5 schedule than teaching, allowing more time for volunteering in ministry.

(2) In my junior year, I learned that art teaching jobs were nearly impossible to come by (in the wake of "No Child Left Behind" and the resulting cuts to specials programs in schools across the country). I had faith that God could open a door for me to teach despite the odds, but understanding the difficult job market was enough to tilt the scales for me in my decision making.

A graphic design degree seemed like a decent Plan B... at first. My boyfriend (later my husband, Chris) thought I might have some potential as a designer. Plus, the job market was better in that field, and the switch to graphic design still allowed me to graduate on time. That meant I could follow through with my plans to spend the upcoming summer wedding-planning and job-searching in the Harrisburg area (where Chris worked).

But there was one problem. I wasn't qualified for a design job.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mighty Mouse Syndrome (Part II): Pride & Timidity

This post is a continuation of my last post on Mighty Mouse Syndrome (click to read).

What if God answered all the prayers that you lifted up in the past week? How dramatically different would your life and the world look today?

If your faith flow is running low (as mine often has), the culmination of your answered prayers might bring about safe travels, blessed food, and skinny jeans that allow you to exhale. That's sad. Especially when we're invited by our Heavenly Father to ask, seek, and knock (see Matthew 7:7-12).

What keeps us from praying for the BIG stuff—the needs and wants that cut so deep to the core of our hearts that we can barely find the courage to breathe them aloud?

Reasons might vary from person to person, but I'd say it's a sad slurry of both pride and timidity that can gunk-up our souls and clog our faith-flow:
Backup? Why would I need backup?
Original artwork:
Pride: I think we get hung up when we confuse spiritual maturity with self-sufficiency.

Growing from childhood to adulthood involves increasing levels of independence as we learn new skills and venture farther from our parents to explore our environments. Children of God, however, are called to remain childlike—to be humble, full of wonder, and ever-dependent on our Heavenly Father (see Matthew 18:2-4).

It almost sounds like we're forever needy... which makes the Mighty Mouse in me cringe. But if we're mature enough to swallow our pride, we recognize that needing God isn't a bad thing. We bring glory to the Father whenever His strength shows through our weaknesses (see 2 Corinthians 4:7 & 12:9–10). Of course, there's always a balance between praying for God's help and doing our part. St. Benedict called it "ora et labora," or pray and work.
Timidity: What if God doesn't come through in the way we ask? Does that mean He doesn't care? Does that mean we're not good enough to see our prayers answered? Keeping our prayers bottled up often seems like a safer option than testing what we claim we know about God's character—it gives God an "out" and it allows us to manage our deepest desires on our own. If things don't work out as we hoped, then it's merely our Mighty Mouse efforts that failed. God isn't to blame. 
But that's absurd. If our desires are rooted in right motives, we have no reason to hold back (see James 4:3). Yes, it's always difficult to grapple with unanswered prayers, but childlike Christians understand that prayer isn't all about seeing wishes come true. We pray because we long to draw close to the Father, to understand His ways, and to rely on His strength (see James 4:8; Psalm 139:24; Isaiah 41:10). And yes, we pray believing that He can "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20–21).
I'd like to share a study on a woman who initially qualified for an Old Testament Mighty Mouse badge of independence. When God answered the unspoken prayer of her heart, however, there was no stopping the shameless audacity of her faith.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mighty Mouse Syndrome (Part I): Here I Come to Save the Day!

Do your ears perk up at the faintest squeak of someone is in need? Does the thought of coming to the rescue make your heart pound as you rush onto a scene? Do you gladly pick up new responsibilities when someone is struggling to keep up? Conversely, do you cringe at the thought of ever being needy enough to allow others to help you?

If you replied, "Yes" to most of those questions, then get your cape and fist pump ready. You may just have a case of Mighty Mouse Syndrome!

While there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be helpful (in fact, "helps" might be a spiritual gift of yours), it's possible to cross over the line into pridefulness when we resist help from others in our own times of need.

We don't usually reach for the "prideful" label when attempting to describe our need to be self-sufficient, though. More often, we say that we "don't want to trouble anyone," or that we have all the resources we need to handle the situation.

We may not possess the breadth or strength to tackle an obstacle on our own, but like Mighty Mouse, we're sure that we've got it all under control.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hello Again

Hi there. I'm going to start blogging again. I took a break for a few months, but now I'm back. Sort of. I think I've changed quite a bit since July 2014. I'm really liking this motherhood thing. I'd say it's changing me from the inside-out for the better.

Karen (22 months) and her newborn brother, Ethan
I like being a mom so much that we decided to have another kid. His name is Ethan Alexander, and I love him. Today we slow danced in the living room to Perry Como and he didn't even tell me to shush when I sang, ha.

I'm not sure who's still out there of my devoted 9-person audience, but stay tuned! My next post will be a study on praying with faith, based on the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weight-Loss Wisdom: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Nine months ago, I wrote a blog post detailing how I lost all the weight that I'd gained during pregnancy. Since then, I've lost about 10 more pounds, but gained some wisdom along the way.

3 Questions
To Ask Yourself on a Weight-Loss Journey

Question 1: Why do you want to lose weight? For real.

If you'd asked me this question shortly after I gave birth in May 2013, I would've jabbered something about wanting to be heart-healthy and have more energy to raise our family. That response would've been genuine, but not complete.

Here's the honest truth: I wanted to lose weight because I couldn't stand looking at my rolls in the mirror. I felt like moose. I moved like a moose. I even sounded like a moose when I had to hoist myself out of bed in the morning.

But that's not all. Let's excavate a little deeper and shine our mining hats into the dank depravity of my soul. Get a load of these gems:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Discovering Your True Colors

I'm trying something new with this blog post. It's an experimental exercise, so please bear with me through the change in tone.

I'm going to write this entire thing as a stream of consciousness. I'm not going to pause to backspace and delete. (Funny thing: I just misspelled the word "delete," so I had to backspace. But no more! I'll have to go back to add Bible verses and formatting... but not till I get all these words down.)

Here's a confession: It normally takes me about 6 or 7 hours to write each blog post, not including the preliminary research. It's not because I'm a slow typist. It's because I'm a paranoid perfectionist. I can't get one sentence down without second-guessing the word choice, and cadence, and whether or not people will read it and be inspired... or impressed.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

If I'm honest, it's all about impressing you. Whoever you are out there, I want you to read this thing and be impressed. I want you to think, "Gee, this girl really has it all together. She's smart, and deep, and funny, and by golly, I'd like to be her friend!"

Blah... I really want to go back and delete that last paragraph.  That was way too vulnerable. But I just learned from a TED talk by BrenĂ© Brown that vulnerability "is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love."

I want to have joy, I want to unleash creativity, I want to belong... and yes, I want you to love me. I'd rather have a few deep, but genuine relationships than a lot of shallow ones.

But I'm finally realizing that we'll never get there if I don't let you SEE me. All of me... even all the imperfect stuff. (Just misspelled "imperfect" and had to backspace... oy vey.)

Here's some more vulnerability for you...