Day 50: Happiness

Happiness is a  codependent emotion.  It is completely and totally dependant upon a right set of circumstances.  The right gift.  The right friendship.  The right marriage.  The right home.  The right job.  The right small group.  The right relationship with your kids.  The right car.

The list is endless.

Let one piece of our circumstances change and our happiness meter gets totally out of whack.

I even hear my little four year olds say, "I'm not happy." 

And when I inquire as to why, they say, "Btuz I want that doll," or "Btuz I wanted apple juice."

Even in their short lived lives, they have learned that happiness, their happiness, is dependant upon getting what they want or what they think they need.

We, as adults, are equally conditioned to think that our happiness is dependant upon getting what we want or think we need.

But happiness is fleeting and fickle and self-serving.

Joy, on the other hand, is completely different than happiness.  Joy is a contentment that defies the weighty gravity of conditional happiness.  It's an inner peace that passes all understanding.  It's a support structure for our spirit.  It props us up on really bad days, and it delights us and compels us forward on really good ones.

Joy is a gift that we are given. 

I think it is why we are told in Scripture to "count it all joy."

All that to say, I choose joy.

Day 49: Telling the Truth

I wrote a blog over four years ago entitled, "Real Friends Tell You the Truth."  It is my all-time most read single blog entry with over 2500 hits.  People are directed to this blog from all over the world for one reason, they are searching for a way to be honest with their friends or because someone was honest with them.  I know this because of the words and phrases they type in as their search.  Words like, "honest friends" and "telling the truth to your friends" and "friends tell the truth" and "friends don't lie" and "when a friend tells you the truth and it hurts."

Sometimes I feel bad that people are directed to my original post about friendship and truth, because it is such a "tongue in cheek" post, and they are obviously looking for some help.  So I thought I'd say something a little more to the point.

Let me begin by saying, real friends tell the truth.  They tell you the truth because they love you enough to do so.  I'm not talking about the kind of truth that is mean-spirited and intended to deeply hurt you.

Real friends won't tell you things just to hurt you.   But a real friend will tell you the truth, even if it does hurt, because they love you enough not to ever let you die your hair brown again or wear that stupid dress that makes your butt look huge or date a guy that is B-A-D for you, or take a job just because it pays well even though it's totally wrong for you, etc.

Most likely, if you are reading this blog because you googled, "telling the truth to your friends" it is because you have something hard to say to a friend and you want to know how to do it.  And most likely not something lighthearted like any of the above examples I gave.

I wish I had a how-to for you.   (I'm sure there probably is one online somewhere for you, but this isn't it).

But I can tell you that before you speak the truth to your friend you must weigh several factors.

Have you built the kind of friendship, over time, that has given you PERMISSION to speak hard truth into the life of your friend?

Have you and this friend spoken simple truths to each other? "Girl, that is a bad haircut.  Get a hat."  And if you have, how did that go?

Is this actually truth, or just your strong opinion about the issue?

Have you prayed about this? (I"m a Christian, so this is an important step to me.)

Is telling your friend worth risking your friendship over? (You need to feel THAT strongly about it)!

Is there a better person to speak this to them?  Are you the RIGHT person?

And lastly, are you telling them the truth because they need to hear it, or because it will make you feel better to say it?

All that to say, friendship is too important to let things go unsaid that need to be said.  But not everything you think needs to be spoken either.  Real friends do tell the truth, because they're real friends.  But they speak the truth in love, with gentleness, and your best interest at heart. 

Day 48: Kool and the Gang?

If you know me at all, then you know that I deeply love my family.  

I love their flaws.

I love their character.

I love their senses of humor.

I love the way they love each other.

I love many things about them, too many to list.

But most of all, I love that at the end of this week, I will be spending a whole lot of time with them.

We are celebrating the 4th birthday of our twins.  And that is incredibly noteworthy, and something worth celebrating.  Because we have traveled this very long road to adoption together.

We have worried together, cried together, laughed together, prayed together, been angry together, been hurt together, rejoiced together, and now . . . now it is time to

CELEBRATE together.

All that to say, for some reason Kool and the Gang is going through my head right now.  And that makes me smile.

Day 47: Crisis

When I think of the word, crisis, I tend to think of things of a global scale.  The hunger crisis.  An earthquake.  A flood. 

Or I think of personal tragedy.  The death of a child.  A terrible car accident.  Divorce.

Rarely do I think of small, seemingly insignificant events, that in the heat of the moment seem large, but in hindsight seem tiny and trivial.

For most of us, if we are lucky, we are never going to experience global crisis, or even incredibly serious personal tragedy.

So the crisis we know IS the day to day, seemingly insignificant trivial events.

But I would guess that strung together, it is the day to day crises that takes its toll on a family, a friendship, a marriage, a relationship.  They elevate our heart rate, our blood pressure, our cortisol levels, our adrenaline and our survival instincts.  Strung together, these small daily crises can become epic in our lives.

Enjoying the moments that are filled with laughter, therefore,  becomes all the more important. 

Cherishing the small victories,

laughing at our own mistakes and the mistakes of others,

and letting go of the stress of the crisis of the moment becomes critical.

All that to say, a rich, peaceful, abundant life will be filled with daily crisis.  It's what we do during the crisis and beyond that determines how epic the impact will be.  I find a big deep breath and the ability to laugh at myself keeps things small and in perspective. Usually. :)  And when that doesn't work, wine and chocolate help.

Day 46: The Backstory

I'm still kind of on my "facebook isn't reality" kick.  I was thinking about it again last night because Mike and I were talking about a story I posted on my wall.  He commented that he didn't remember the story being quite so funny in real life.  And he was right.  It wasn't funny at all.

The written word is an incredibly powerful tool.  It affords us the opportunity to tell the story we want to tell, sometimes completely altering the reality of the situation.  And facebook is an incredible place to practice this art.  For example, here is a retelling of a story that I recently posted on facebook.

Me: (Sitting at restaurant as fajitas are served on skillet) "Girls, do not touch this plate, it will burn your skin off."
Shannay: (appropriately in aww and horror of something that could burn your skin off) "It will burn my skin off?"
Me: (very serious) "Yes, it will."

Long period of appropriate silence as the girls stare at and think about something that would burn your skin off.

Shannay: "Mama?"
Me: "Yes, baby?"
Shannay: "What's skin?"


Even as I reread this retelling I am laughing.  Everyone who commented on facebook commented about how funny it was.  The way that I put the story together in writing, my word choice, the emotion I injected, the dramatic pause in just the right places all worked together to make this a very funny story.

The reality of this story wasn't actually funny.  As our food was served, we were  quite frustrated that the waitress placed the cold plates of condiments in front of Mike and me, but chose to place the burning hot skillet of fajitas in front of our two 3 year olds.  What insued was a flurry of movement by Mike and I to keep the girls from burning themselves.  In the midst of this flurry of movement was a very agitated me saying in a very agitated tone, "Girls, do NOT touch this plate.  It will burn your skin off!'

I'm certain I frightened them, but not nearly enough to keep them from reaching out at least once, causing Mike and I to flip out!  In the midst of the rearranging of the food, Mike said, "Really Carol?  It will burn their skin off?  Did you have to be that dramatic?  You had to go there huh?  You couldn't just say it would burn them?"

As Mike and I were having our, er . . . . "intense fellowship" over my word choice, the girls were staring at the steaming plate of fajitas.  As I continued to discuss why I chose to say "burn your skin off" instead of just saying "burn you" Shannay said,

"Excuse me, Mama . . . ."  "Excuse me, Mama . . ."  "Excuse me, Mama . . ."

Finally I stopped arguing with Mike and said, "Yes, baby?"  and she said, "What's skin?"

Mike and I both looked at each other.  Mike's look totally said, "See.  You didn't need to say skin. She doesn't even know what skin is!"  And my look said, "See, you don't need to get all upset because I said skin because she doesn't even know what skin is!"

Now, the way I put the story together in the first place (on facebook) is a completely accurate retelling of the story.  I did not rearrange the details in any way.  But I left out the backstory.  And the backstory is important to the truth.

And that's my point.  Regardless of what is written on facebook, most of us are not privileged to the backstory.  So we form "truths" based on what we read, but in reality the truth could look very different.

All that to say, facebook is a great thing.  It has so many incredible uses.  It has the power to do such good.  But it also has the power to do harm.  And that's a lot of power.  So we must be wise, not only in what we write, but in what we read and in what we believe about what we read.

Day 45: The Chicken Dance

I find that I am often frustrated by Christians response to things.  I'm not saying we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, or that we shouldn't have the freedom to speak our minds.  I'm not.  There are plenty of things I feel strongly about, and I'm certainly entitled to my opinion, and  I'm equally entitled to speak about those things (based on the Constitution of this country where I live), and I'm equally entitled to "take a stand" about those things.  I'm okay with all of my friends who wanted to sit in stupid long lines to go buy a chicken sandwich because you felt like it was your way of taking a stand. (Not saying it was particularly productive in my way of thinking, but I support your right to do it!)

But what I am not entitled to do is to be hateful.  I am not entitled to be hurtful.  I am not entitled to misrepresent Jesus and His love for ALL mankind, regardless of race, or gender, or political orientation.  I am not entitled to make you feel like you are less than me because we do not share the same religious beliefs.  I am not entitled to judge you.

I am called to be different.  I am called to use my powers for good ("Do not withhold good to those whom it is due when it is in your power to do so.")  I am called to love, unconditionally.

And if I am going to raise up and cry out and want to make a difference in the world . . .

If I am going to put my energy someplace . . .

If I am going to try to change the world to be what I believe God would want . . .

I'm going to rescue babies, and help dig water wells, and help rescue modern day slaves, and feed the poor or at the very least I'm gonna spend some time getting to know my neighbors and loving them better.

I could go on.  But I won't.  I don't want to join the melee.  (I think I just did).

I just want to say that I love Jesus.  And I love people.  And if my love for Jesus and you isn't the first thing you notice about me, then I need to work on myself before I even THINK about what you need to change about you.

All that to say, before you act . . .before you speak . . . ask yourself, "Is what I am about to say or do going to be a beautiful reflection of Jesus or a hateful reflection of myself?"

Day 44: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I have come to the conclusion that we are all liars, meaning that at some point in our day, week, month, year, lifetime, we lie.  We just don't like the word "liar" and so we work really hard to justify the reasons we lie.

There are probably just as many reasons for the lies we tell as there are lies themselves.  We lie to avoid conflict. . .   well, now that I type that . . .   I realize there is only one reason we lie; we lie to avoid conflict.

People tell all sorts of lies to avoid conflict.  Here are a few . . .

The "who's gonna know" lie.  The lie we tell when we cheat on our taxes or something similar.

The "white" lie.  The lie we tell because we believe it is in the best interest of the person to whom we are lying.  This is the "I love your new haircut" lie or the "no, your butt doesn't look big in those pants" lie. (just for the record, I will straight up tell you your butt looks big if you ask me . . . if it does indeed look big. . . so don't ask me if you don't really want to know.)

The  "flipped it" lie.  The lie we tell when we have forgotten something, but we blame the other person instead.  This is the "I told you weeks ago that I had a meeting, but you never remember anything I say" lie or the "you never told me to schedule that dentist appointment.  You do that all the time; think you've told me something but you haven't" lie.

The "cover-up" lie.  The lie we tell when our best defense is a good offense.  This is the "that's my story, and I'm sticking to it" lie.  Teenagers are the best at this one!  Even when they know the story they are telling is completely illogical, they will stick to that story no matter what!

The "negative belief" lie.  The lie we tell  because we believe that if we tell the truth about something, the other person is going to blow up about it, so instead of trusting them with the truth, we choose to tell a lie.  The "no, I didn't buy new shoes.  Those are old shoes.  I've had them for months" lie. (but in our head we're saying, "If I tell you I bought new shoes, which clearly I did, you are gonna freak out about it and yell at me for spending money.")  I may or may not do this.  Sometimes.  Maybe frequently.  (I SAID MAYBE)

I think at the end of the day, we lie because we do not trust the other party enough to tell them the truth.  We do not trust that our relationship, friendship, marriage with them is secure enough, safe enough, loving enough, to trust them with the truth.  And perhaps we don't want to have to speak the truth aloud because it makes us have to face things about ourselves that we don't like either.

And so we lie.

To avoid conflict.

Just imagine, though,  if we cultivated relationships of truth telling?  But how do we do that? 

We must begin by telling the truth.  By helping the other person know that no matter what, I will always tell you the truth. 

And secondly, by creating an atmosphere of grace, by helping the other person know that no matter how unpleasant the truth might be to hear, I want to hear the truth.  And when you tell me the truth, I'm not going to blow up about it.  I might not be happy.  But I'm not going to explode.  I'm going to be a safe person for you.

All that to say, truth telling . . . it's underrated.