Almonds, hair dryers, & other important stuff…

I’m off today – which means doin’ laundry; dishes; vacuuming; book-selection; travel bag cleanup; & then time to pack. One of my chores in preparation for “the Trip” was finding out what sort of amenities would be in the mini-apartment where we’re staying.

Coffee pot? Check.
Ironing board & iron? Check.
Hair dryer? Check.
NAX? Check. And they are actually personalized according to what both the Bean & I like. Almonds, jerky o’beef, peanut brittle, & wasser mit koehlensaurer (bubble water.)

Wow. Sweet.

Next: directions to all the places we’re headed.

To & from the airport? (Charlotte, NC is approx. 2:40 from Christiansburg, VA) – Check.
To & from Salem, VA, home of the Salem Avalanche, Single A affiliate of the Astros? Check.
To Monticello, home (or should I say “Plantation”) of vastly overrated founding father, Thomas Jefferson? Check.
To the Cracker Barrell, probably the sweetest restaurant in all of the Southern US? Check.
To Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech & discount Michael Vick jerseys? Check.
To the nearest wifi connection so I can Skype my kids, blog, & change my Fantasy Baseball lineups? Pending… Hmmm.

Found out yesterday that a good friend & his family are relocating because of a job offer. Bittersweet. It’s sweet, as we’ve been praying for a job for him… And yet bitter is because when one lives 90 minutes away, even in Nevada, life circles don’t seem to connect much. Sigh.

One of the things I reminded myself is that in times like that, it is ok to grieve – maybe even necessary. And if grieving doesn’t happen, the emotions, feelings, pain, angst, etc. will end up coming out in other, less constructive ways. So I cried yesterday & didn’t try to stop it. And again last night. Hmmm. Probably got a couple more of those in me. & that’s ok.

Not gonna drink the Sweet Tea. You could make Rock Candy from that stuff.

Had a great coffee talk yesterday with Earl & Brother. Spent a big chunk of time talking through the burgeoning industry that has evolved around Church. And how this ‘business of Church” leads to Christian people coming up with all kinds of funkiness about what makes Church good. And how a ‘good Church’ or even better, a ‘cool Church’ has stuff like a ‘smokin’ hot band’ & ‘cutting edge speeches’ that make non-Christians want to alter their Sunday a.m. routine so that can come & feel the coolness.

And somehow we think its really about Jesus & not about us… Hmmm.

WIthout interconnected, authentic friendships & relationships, is it still Church? I wonder.

I hope to blog our experience, but I am going to be at the foot of the Appalachians :)


Getting ready for a trip…

This coming Saturday, the Bean & I are off to Virginia – actually a little town called “Christiansburg.” Holy, huh? I’ve been doing some research for any down time that we might have – so that I can offer the Bean a PLETH-ora of options if & when she wants to get out & explore America’s version of Bavaria…

One place I know we’re going is the Floyd, VA Country Store – for the Friday night clogging & bluegrass… I know we’re going, because my friend Chuck, (the guy who oversees the Pastoral Care for Foursquare) has recommended it, will be going, & has said that he loves it because it is a great picture of what church could & should be like. I’ve never clogged, but I am familiar with a rocking chair & Southern food. Hmmm.

I found that only 25 miles away is a genuine, Class A Minor League team, the Salem Avalanche. They Avs happen to be in town for 6 of the 10 days we’re there, & the Bean has already given approval to a road trip or 3 for the night games. $7 General Admission to get in. And Koby Clemens catches for them.

Our days will involve the two of us meeting with Chuck for counsel, then maybe 1 or the other having some solo time; in preparation for this, we’ve both been doing our ‘homework’ which means reading & listening to a lot of background material that Chuck will be bringing up with us in our talks – a lot of great, great stuff from the store at Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, with resources from Peter Scazzero et al. Stuff like: “The Courage to Pursue Emotional Health;” “Accepting the Gift of Your Emotions;” “Living Faithful to Oneself;” “Going Back In Order to Go Forward;” & “Enlarging Your Soul Through Grief…” to name a few.

We talked about it a bit yesterday in the tag-team speech; but we’re both approaching this time as a gift. We’re not going to Virginia because everything is coming apart at the seams, or because our relationship is on the rocks. We’re going because we’re fortunate enough to have a leadership team at Hillside & also in our District that believes in us, & in giving us opportunity to grow, change, & work on our relationship proactively, before we’d get to the danger zone.

Maybe its because ‘counseling’ had been so stigmatized… spoken of in hushed tones about people who had come to the end of their rope, & as a last ditch effort, were going to counseling… That may be true for how others look at it, but for me & the Bean, its for the hope of growth & new life.

I’m hungry – so I’m going scavenging. Until later… Ciao!

Boundaries in Marriage, #4

The previous 3 posts in this series can be found here: #1 and #2 and #3.

As I read through Boundaries, something clicked; something that had been circling the gray-matter for a long period of time, but that had been undefined & way too nebulous to be coherent & understandable…

Of course it made sense: Boundaries are established in me, by me, for me, that I would live according to & congruent with my values. That I would be able to say “Yes” & “No” according to what I really believe, think, & feel, without attempting (needing?) to attempt the futility of making others happy with my decisions. To no longer try to avoid real/perceived conflict by making decisions/living life in such a way as that these ‘significant’ people in my life would approve. Just to be.

Real boundaries deal with self-control – in that they deal with ME. Boundaries are definitely not lines drawn in the sand in thinly veiled attempts to control others by putting restrictions on them, using guilt, threats, &/or the withholding of approval or affection. Not calling something ‘boundaries’ that is really just an attempt to punish others into changing. Or to manipulate their decision making using the ‘silent’, (or is it pouty?) treatment. Or to withdraw from relationship & call it a boundary. That sort of behavior would only be exchanging one form of relational unhealth for another. (NOTE: Boundaries can only be worked out & on in the context of relationship. To cut someone out of your life isn’t a boundary. It’s retreat. It’s based in fear. It’s immature.)

Self-control sounded good, as did personal responsibility. Then I started realizing & thinking through the consequences & potential loneliness in making such decisions. Claiming & owning responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, & actions, while no longer using the familiar scapegoat of blaming others for my circumstances. Even my wife. I wanted something different for me, & for my marriage, & so did the Bean.

Taking personal responsibility was like unwinding a string from a sweater that just keeps unraveling. In my marriage, I’d seen myself, for better or for worse, as a victim of circumstance; a victim of the decisions & choices of another; & I often felt sorry for myself because of those choices, & how they “kept me” from making decisions that were in line with how I really thought & wanted to live. It was no longer ok to live in the status quo, silently (usually) bemoaning the state of our relationship, without delving into real depths of transparency & communication. Displaying little of the unconditional respect, love, honor, & trust that we’d both promised to extend to each other “as long as we both shall live.”

I discovered the pseudo-safety in being the ‘good guy’ (self-proclaimed) because of my spouse’s relational choices. It was a place I loathed, but one where I stayed because of fear. No more.

Instead of complaining & being miserable about my wife’s choices, & blaming her for what amounted to my own inaction, I resolved to make my own decisions. Not to bail on my wife or the relationship – but to choose & live differently. To be my own person, & more importantly, to let my wife be HER own person too. To no longer feel or live like I needed to ‘compensate’ for what I saw or interpreted as her weaknesses, or to attempt to cover over her decisions that had bad consequences (for me.) Call it enabling, call it codependent, call it being afraid of being alone, or being responsible for me. Whatever. No more.

At the root of what had to be overcome was fear – in particular a paralyzing fear that I tried to ignore & avoid, to no effect. In a nutshell:

I feared that if I made the decisions & choices that were consistent with the boundaries I set with myself, if I lived in this manner, I would be rejected, abandoned, & no longer loved by my wife.

There was nothing in our past or present that would support that conclusion, but it was real to me. And I wrestled. It seemed wrong. But I knew it wasn’t.

In the middle of the decisions to change how I lived, to set & live by boundaries, I had to be ok with whatever ‘consequences’ came as a result of the choices I made. And to let the Bean make whatever decision she would make. And love & accept her unconditionally, no matter what. And to know that she’d committed the same to me. Now we just had to live it.

Boundaries In Marriage, #3

Boundaries are misunderstood – as though they are some sort of special ‘fix-all’ that are applied to ‘other people’ to magically change another person’s behaviors or to modify their actions.

That’s not setting boundaries – that’s try to control others… Boundaries are set on ourselves. Boundaries are about self-control. Learning to self-regulate, & take responsibility for me, my own wants, desires, choices, & actions.

Boundaries are about truth – me being truthful with myself, & with others with the choices I make; what I will do & won’t do. It might be easier to blame others for our internal dissatisfaction, &/or the situation that we’ve found ourselves in, as connected to them, but in reality, our life situation is largely (not totally – as I’m wanting to avoid blanket statements :) due to what we’ve allowed/tolerated/gone along with because of our people pleasing issues. Or our desire to avoid conflict.

Creating & applying boundaries is taking responsibility for myself in the context of relationship with others. It’s making consistent choices to affect personal change so as not to continually place myself in a hurtful, damaging, controlling situation.

Boundaries are not withdrawal from relationship either:

Boundaries are only built & established in the context of relationship. To run from a relationship as the 1st step of boundaries is not to have boundaries at all. It is a defense against developing boundaries with another person. The only place boundaries are real is in relationship with another person.

So, every relationship is affected by the boundaries I set, because the boundaries I set have to do with me. And that’s a great place to start affecting change…
To be continued…

Boundaries In Marriage, #2

A few things happened in a pretty short period of time that exposed & uncovered thoughts, beliefs, & mindsets – maybe that I’d not articulated before – or ever owned up to.

What came up were thoughts about what it means to be ‘nice’ – be a ‘good Christian’ – to ‘respect & honor’ others…

The lie that was exposed (ala theophostic before I knew what theophostic was)

to say “no” to someone, even if I really wanted to, is un-Christian

Think about that.

It will pop up with total strangers, door-to-door religion salesmen, close friends, extended & nuclear family… & it centers on living for the approval of others (&/or for the absence of real/perceived conflict) while violating (sinning against) myself.

Functioning with few/no boundaries is like having no fence in the yard around my property. And then having friends, neighbors, strangers, consistently utilize our area, our yard, our driveway to park their cars, clutter, garbage, dog poop in my space… And to say anything about it, to say, this isn’t ok, is to be thought of, in reality or in our own minds as being “not nice.” Selfish. Un-Christian.

SIDE NOTE: This can end up sounding a lot like a series of “Sabbath” posts. That’s ok – as drawing a line (boundary), saying Yes & No congruently with our heart, embracing limits – is a bit of what goes into the Sabbath, & what I know in retrospect that God used these experiences to kick start the response in me to the leading of the Holy Spirit – & His reminders about entering His Rest.

A part of boundaries is knowing me – really knowing who I am; my identity, personality, strengths & weaknesses; what I want – my hopes, dreams, & desires – & what I don’t – meaninglessness, loneliness, lack of fulfillment… It’s knowing & choosing to live for God’s purpose in & for my life. Boundaries reminded me that I’m accountable for how I ‘steward’ – utilize – the time I’m given; this means living with purpose & determination, even in seemingly small things.

I can’t do everything – I can’t please everyone – I can understand that I have limits. And embrace them – not as a character flaw but as a part of being human.

Because if I don’t live this way, someone else will come up with a purpose or plan for me – maybe not intentionally destructive – something that uses me for their purpose or plan. If/when this is happening enough, the resulting chaos, self-loathing, relational conflicts, & discouragement are deadly to self & to close relationships.

So, the question: How can I have, nurture, maintain my relationship with my wife & close friends if I’m consistently not honoring myself or those relationships because I either won’t establish any clear boundaries, or won’t ‘enforce them?’ Is my marriage worth prioritizing as the primary relationship on the planet? For me, yes. And, it takes two to tango…:)

More to come…

Boundaries In Marriage, #1

A few years ago, (ok, now that I think about it, its more than a few. About…7? 8?) I came across a book that eventually ended up transforming my life & my marriage – it was Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (which sounds like a great name for a ’60s folk group. But I digress…) Its one of the reasons that me & the Bean are probably going to lead a small group this Fall 2008 semester called “Boundaries In Marriage.” (I ripped off the title from another book. But that’s for later.)

The high point for me was that it articulated very clearly & concisely something key for enjoying life in its fullness: we need to be able to say “Yes” & “No” – in a way that our outward declarations jive with our inner values, thoughts, feelings, emotions, & to me the most important – our relationships with the people closest to us. That a lot of us struggle with ‘people pleasing’ & end up functioning in an incongruent way – we are saying Yes to stuff we really want to say No to. And vice-versa. Because we want the approval of the one we’re speaking to. Or something like that. We’re afraid of being rejected. Minimized. Thought to be inferior in some way. Mocked. Derided. You get the idea.

I’m going to blog about this in the context of marriage, but please don’t check out on me if you’re single – the concept applies across the board for close friendships/relationships. One of the biggest issues that this exposed was the very common choice in marriage relationships for one person in the relationship to choose to say “yes” to a person not in the immediate relationship to avoid conflict (or any of the above negatives,) knowing full well that it means that the person they’re married to will have to bear the brunt of their decision. In effect, they will ‘choose’ to fight it out with their spouse etc. rather that with the person of lesser status (meaning that the spouse takes #1 spot in life. Or should.) They ‘prefer’ the person that is not the spouse over the spouse. Which stinketh, because the whole ‘leave & cleave’ part of the marriage vows have to do with the ‘preference’ of spouse relationship over all others – not rejecting other relationships, but recognizing that if we’re marrying, this relationship takes preeminence over the rest.

Hope you’re still with me – I’d never heard of Boundaries before, but I understood the concept – believing that we all need/have a set of life-guiding values that help us know what to say “Yes” & “No” to. And why. Maybe not everyone has these. The values help us to not be tossed to & fro by someone else’s ‘vision’ for our life – no matter how influential or significant the role they play (or want to play) in our life. Or have played in the past. Seems it usually pops up with extended family (parents, siblings, & others of that ilk) & close friends, but it sometimes happens elsewhere…

This isn’t a unique issue that only a few ‘weak’ people struggle with; from my experience in pre/post marriage counseling, the area of ‘preference of spouse’ & knowing, establishing, & maintaining healthy boundaries is a major, major issue for a lot of couples. And if it isn’t for one spouse, it often is for the other. Which means its a problem for both. (Kind of along the lines of “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Or something like that.)

Why did it change my life/marriage? I’ll get there. It’s dinner time – & I’ll pick up my ramblings when I get a chance. Ciao!

stubbornness as a character trait (or flaw)…

Thursday, the Bean went in to the friendly neighborhood Cingular/ATT store in order to get an issue with Pasty’s phone taken care of… at least that’s the main reason. She happened to come out with a brand spanking new celly from Palm. Since we’re on the same plan, I was surprised to hear that she had been able to upgrade her now old phone already, as its usually at least 24 months between ‘free’ upgrades. (Don’t get me started.) BTW: it’s a Palm Centro that has just joined the family.

Seems that the local neighborhood ATT guy helped her get around the little “24 month til you can upgrade for free” by using one of the other lines on the account that WAS NEWLY ELIGIBLE for the upgrade to get her a new phone for just $***, (after the 356 month rebate, of course.) Guess who’s newly eligible line was appropriated? If you guess anyone other than me, you’d be wrong.

So what’s the rub? It’s not like I was looking to get a new phone – though I was enjoying my status of being “out of contract.” I have found ATT to be very willing to negotiate group rate & feature prices, as well as offering free stuff, good phone upgrades etc in order to “woo” you into signing over your life for Yet Another 24 month period of time.

The catch in this process came when i was on my way home to the little woman, & thought I’d bless her with a warning call – one of those, “Hi Honey, I’ll be home in 20 minutes…” calls. My line went directly to ATT Customer Service where I was told that in order to use my phone, & as a part of the upgrade that I had just received, I would need to agree to surrender my long-awaited “out of service” status to be once again, enslaved by the corporate giant that is ATT. And, until I did, my phone privileges were suspended.

I arrived home to find only Cubby (the nickname I’ve given to the 13 year old after a recent bout of In-School Discipline for something that Wasn’t His Fault.) I used Cubby’s phone to call ATT & talk to a live person. 2 different people took 30 minutes to describe the WHY behind my line suspension. Why MY line suspension? Because “i” had recently upgraded my phone. I tried to explain that no, I hadn’t upgraded my phone, but someone in their retail store had pulled a switcheroo. As you can probably imagine, they don’t care.

So now – I have a cell phone that is suspended until I agree to the 24 month contract extension. And, to me, it makes perfect sense that I will not agree to that contract extension. On principle.

If you’ve tried to reach me by cell, it’s not that I am “not taking calls” as the nice lady with the psycho-recording voice stated – its that unbeknownst to me, my right to freedom from a celly contract was violated in the name of getting the Bean an upgraded phone. And my line is suspended until I do agree. Which might be a while…

is it a social disorder? or am I just anti-social?

Tonight is the Big Dinner – its a low-key event at our church building where people get together to eat dinner. Not a pot-luck – it’s BYOF – everyone brings their own food – what they’d be eating for dinner. We’re sitting “hof-brau” style at long tables, & just interacting with our family & with the others that are around us. My wife has been excited about this for, oh, a jillion years. The opportunity to eat, drink, & be merry with friends is exactly the sort of thing that floats her proverbial boat.

But me, well, that’s a different story. The idea of sitting down & eating together scares me. Why? you might ask… I’m not quite sure.

I’m not much for crowds – standing in line – getting stuck anywhere; I’ve been known to get a bit claustrophobic. I like to sit at the end of the table, because then I have at least one right/90degree angle in front of me. Somehow, that is comforting. I was trying to explain what my emotions & thoughts are on this topic to the Bean, theMoses, & Brother. I really like the idea of the Big Dinner & eating my own food. Of seeing friends. Making new ones… but the practical working out of it makes me feel a bit reclusive.

However, in spite of the fear, I will be there. At the Big Dinner. Hopefully sitting on an end.

date night…

Friday night is date night… not because Friday is a regular date night, but because the 8-11 of February is Hillside’s Winter Camp at Zephyr Point, Tahoe. And, for the 1st time ever, all 3 of our spawn will be at camp. We will not be at camp, but will most likely be enjoying some Firecracker Wings from Pinocchio’s, a bottle of red, & hanging out with friends who are in the same situation we are.

I’m not just reveling in the good fortune of the promise of a fun evening, but am also thankful that my kids can spend the weekend at camp – & for theMoses, No..el, & the people who’ve planned & are carrying out the camp… & help my progeny get to know God in the context of friends…

Ringing it in…

What does that mean? To “Ring in” the New Year? Does one need a bell to “Ring it in?” Hmm.

Reminds me of a time, two or ten that I spent “praying in” the New Year – the splanation being that it was a great way to start the year off. Perhaps, but it always felt contrived & forced to make the prayer happen, esp. if/when it required getting others to shut up from their deep ‘meaning of life’ conversations that they were having, & making them stop their games, loud happy interactions in order to join the somber prayer group (usually a circle) that would take turns trying to out “our Father,” each other. I tried so hard to make God happy… & to do what I thought a good Christian should do…

Looking back, I have regrets – I know that everyone does, but mine usually center on:

  • -things I’ve done that kept me at a distance from really knowing God, & from being myself
  • -things I’ve done, regardless of how well meaning I was, that ended up putting blockades between people being able to see Jesus as He is, replacing Him instead with religious verbiage, activities, & the like… I work hard & try intentionally not to do that…
  • -my relationship with my family – esp. my brother Moe – my talking too much, listening too little, & trying to make life & relationships fit into nice boxes. That one keeps me awake at night.
  • -pain caused to the Bean because of my desire (need? control issues?) to work my way into peace…

    I pray for the redemption of relationship with Moe – & that those that I violated, tripped up, put an obstacle course in front of would find their way through all the junk to the Real Thing that is the Word.