Sunday, August 30, 2015

Taking Deeper Roots

It always seems like every nature-event can be tied to the spiritual realm in some way or another. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we had a major windstorm yesterday which caused power outages all over the area due to trees down, power lines snapped in half and debris all over the place. We have had a very dry summer that has resulted in wild fires across our entire state. We typically get windstorms like we did yesterday in the late fall but the trees don’t usually come down in the numbers they did yesterday.

You see, because of the dry ground, the root systems were weak so when the winds came, the trees snapped right out of the ground, root system and all. Everywhere I drive today I see trees ripped out of the ground, still attached to their roots. It reminded me of how easy it is for me to “snap”, “come undone” or “fall apart” when my roots in Christ are weak. 

It is in the storm that our faith grows stronger and we “take deeper roots”. I really had no faith in God (in fact, I wondered if there was even a God at all for many years) when my big storm blew into my life. It took me getting to the darkest part of my life, having the “power go out” on my life, to realize that my source of light and power and HOPE was in God. It was in the storm that I learned that to have FAITH meant I would have to believe in something I couldn’t see. I had to believe that God has a plan for my life and that if I can just hang on and connect more and more to Him during my storm, I would make it out better than I ever was before. 

I didn’t need God, faith, when things were going along “okay” in my life. I had it handled. But when it all started falling apart and when I really couldn’t see the light of day anymore, I chose to put all of my faith in God. I decided that believing and having joy in my life and hope that better days are ahead was far better than not believing and feeling hopeless and helpless, not wanting to keep living. Yes, you read that correctly. 

It was in the midst of my storm that I learned to root myself and everything that I am in Jesus, in my faith. I almost snapped. I was almost that tree that got ripped out of the ground by my roots. I guess, in a way, I really did. But not anymore. When the winds blow fiercely in my life, I know that the only way I am going to get through is to get really close to God and let him have control of my situation. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why Are You Single?

I think this is probably the dumbest question we can ask a person who is not in a romantic relationship. Like...what's wrong with you that you don't have a partner? I saw this question asked on a Facebook page the other day and one person's response was "I'm single because men are assholes." That's interesting, isn't it. ALL men are assholes. That's a pretty broad statement. And it's one that is used often by females (and likely it works both ways but I hear it much more from women than I do men.)

So a woman says that "all" men are "assholes." I have to disagree with that because some of my closest friends who I admire and respect are men. And they are not assholes. It would be easy for me to be bitter and to join the "all men are assholes" club considering my marriage and dating history. But of all the "less than stellar dudes" (I refuse to say assholes) I've been in relationships with, the common denominator was...ME.

The woman who believes all men are assholes needs to take a good hard look in the mirror because if all the men she is surrounding herself with are "assholes", she is the one constant in each of those relationships. She is choosing to engage with men who are not of the quality she seems to want.

So you are a woman surrounded by assholes and you want to know how to find the good men. First of all, figure out what it is about YOU that the nice/good guys aren't attracted to you. Because I can guarantee there is something about YOU that is not attracting the good men. How do you treat yourself? Do you love yourself? How do you treat others? Are you bitter or happy? Are you a drama queen? Are you controlling and dominating? Are you a "my way or the highway" kind of gal? Are you demanding and have unrealistic expectations? Are you smothering? Do you have a full life of your own or are you in the market for a man to "complete you?" Do you gossip? Are you a Debbie Downer?

The biggest thing I think that keeps both men and women from being with the kind of person they say they desire is that they have their own baggage that they haven't unpacked and sorted through. They've still got a lot of junk in the bag that needs to be tossed out before they can move on free and clear. It takes work. It takes time and patience. There's no quick fix. Work on becoming the kind of person you want to be for the kind of person you desire. A good man deserves a good woman. Are you a good woman?

There are some amazing men on the planet. And they are NOT in short supply as you may believe. But if you are not the right kind of woman, you aren't going to find them.

I know because I, too, used to be surrounded by the kind of men I didn't want to be with.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Raising Up A Dad

Last weekend was Father’s Day and my kids and I went to church in Eastern Washington to visit a church affiliated with our home church, Gold Creek, on our way to Lake Chelan. The kids area did not have a “bouncy house” like Gold Creek does and because it is smaller than Gold Creek, the “tweens” (5th and 6th graders) are in with the younger kids. My son, a tween, was not excited about this so he opted to sit in the service with me.
The last couple of years I have really tried to make Father’s Day light-hearted and about my dad for my kiddos since their own father is not in the picture. I try to keep it as happy and fun as possible to minimize any sadness and feelings of anger and bitterness that sometimes presents on days like this. I was a bit apprehensive as I sat there with my son, suddenly realizing that, ‘oh yeah, it’s a Father’s Day sermon.’ 

My son is smart and attentive and I knew he was taking it all in. How was he handling this? Was he ok? Was he sad? Should I do something? I have to be careful here because my son is 11 now and it is not cool for your mom to hug you or put her arm around you in public. I wouldn’t want to embarrass him. 

One of the hardest things I have had to learn to accept is that I cannot change my son’s reality. I can’t change the truth. I can’t undo it and I can’t box it up and make it pretty. And I can’t control his feelings and emotions around it. But whatI realized in that service is that my job is to raise this boy to be a great father. It is my job to lead him to his Heavenly Father and give him all the resources and tools and experiences that can form him into a godly man and someday husband and father. 

My son has a Father. He has a Father who will love him each moment of each day, unconditionally. He has a Father who will always be there, who will be at every basketball game, every rocket launch, every school performance. He has a Father who will never be too busy working or out of town. And it is my duty to encourage this spiritual relationship for my son. It is my not just my duty, but my privilege, to teach him that he can be the amazing man and someday husband and father that God has created him to be.

I can never be a father to my son. I’m not a man, I’m not a dad. I’m his mother. But as his mother I have the ability to lead him in the direction of his Heavenly Father and surround him with godly men who are living a Christ-cenetered life. I have the ability to surround him with men who are godly husbands and fathers to their own families. It can be difficult to acknowledge our own limitations, but if I don’t provide my son with the spiritual resources, teachings and mentors, he will be lacking the tools he needs to become the kind of man I know God wants him to be. 

This Father’s Day I realized that I am not just helping my children to break a generations-old cycle…because that’s not enough in and of itself. I realize that it is my duty and responsibility to make sure they have all the opportunities to do it differently than the generations before. I am raising my son to be the dad he never had. I am raising my son to be a strong, protective father, who will give his children the emotional and spiritual support that he never received from his own biological father. 
God has given me a great responsibility as my son’s mother. I am honored. I am privileged. I will not let Him down. 

Be on guard. Stand firm in faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 
1 Corinthians 16:13

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

If Only a Hug Could "Fix" Us

I'll admit, I used to love this quote. Used to. It just sounds so nice, doesn't it? Someday you're going to find someone who is going to hug you (not necessarily love you, care for you, protect you, respect you, honor you...just hug) so tight that it is going to "fix" all of your brokenness. Well apparently, based on this quote, I just was never hugged quite right. I guess. Because after all the hugging I've done, I am still broken. And because I am a human being, I will remain broken until the day I die.

We are all broken. I don't care who you are or what you've been are broken. Whether you admit it or not, you are. Don't shoot the messenger, I didn't make up the rules. If you're a human you're broken. It's a fact. 

It sounds really simple that all we have to do is find the right person to "hug us" and put all our broken pieces back together. Sounds like a fairy tale to me. It also sounds like a very unrealistic and therefore, dangerous, expectation to put on another person, especially if you're hoping to have any kind of healthy relationship with that person. The idea of expecting someone else to fix your brokenness seems to be a quick path towards disappointment and discouragement. Another human (broken themselves) can never hug you tight enough or do anything else, for that matter, that will ever, ever, fix your brokenness. 

How do I know? I've tried it. I've also tried loving someone enough to fix their brokenness and that doesn't work either. You cannot fix another person and another person cannot fix you. Healing our brokenness is something we must do for ourselves before we can ever be ready to be in a healthy relationship where we are not dependent on another person for our happiness. 

Healing is not easy. It's a lot of hard work. It's painful to address the things that have caused our brokenness but it's the only real way that we can find healing, and in our healing be healthy enough for a relationship where we're not expecting our partner to "fix" us. I have learned the hard way that the only way to heal is handing over every single piece of myself that is broken over to God and let Him deal with me, broken piece by broken piece. 

A tight hug from just the right person that would glue us back together and make us whole sounds like a really cool thing but it's not reality. Another person can never fix what's broken in us. Until we stop expecting others to heal us and make us whole we remain broken in a very dysfunctional way. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't Wish Me Happy Father's Day

Father’s Day is next weekend and already the quotes and blog posts and articles are filling up my news feeds about the single moms who are “also dads.” I can’t stand this, really I can’t. As a single mother of 4 children and 3 of those children who have no contact with their father I can tell you…I am NOT a father. I am their mother. And I feel the void of them not having a father almost as badly as they must. 

No matter what the situation is, a mother is not a father and likewise, a father cannot be a mother. It takes a man and a woman to create a child for a reason: children need both a mother and a father to meet their needs. Now before you jump in here and say “but, a child raised without one parent or the other can still be healthy”…you’re absolutely right, I’m not arguing that. But to make that happen takes a lot of work, which often doesn’t happen. We have a world full of broken people that likely were broken at a very early age by those who were supposed to love them the most. 

I wish that there was something I could do, maybe if I tried a little harder, that could help fill the void of a missing father (figure) for my children. But I can’t. I can only give them “mom” because that’s all that I am. I’m a woman - I look like a woman, I sound like a woman, I think like a woman. And we all know that women and men are very different creatures. I will never be able to give my son or daughters a man’s perspective. Ever. I’m not a dude. 

There are so many problems that arise when we adopt this thought that single parents do the job of both parents. It’s true, we do a lot of work. And the less involved the other parent is, the more challenging it is on the primary parent. No matter how much burden a single parent carries they are still only mother or father, not both. 

It’s hard. It’s really, really hard being a single parent. I’m not about to take that away from any single parent. Trust me, if anyone knows, I do. But we do our children a huge disservice when we think we can take on the role of both parents. My mom can never give me what I get from my dad. Never. And I will never be able to father my children. When we deny this reality, we can get into a position where we think that the child doesn’t need the other parent. 

Let me explain - it happens all the time in divorce/separations. One parent will decide that the other parent doesn’t deserve to see the child as much as they do. So they will fight to take time away from the other parent. While this is hurtful to the other parent, it is more detrimental to the child who is being robbed of his/her relationship with the other parent who he/she needs just as much. In our anger, bitterness and hurt, we use our children as pawn to hurt the other parent. This needs to stop. 

Realizing that your child needs the other parent just as much as they need you is so important to the emotional and mental health of your child. If we were designed to need only one parent, it wouldn’t require both a man and a woman to procreate. The bottom line is, we do need both. In some situations (as in our family) that isn’t possible as one parent is not healthy or fit to parent and it is better for the children not to have contact with that parent. But if the parent is not of harm to the child and wants to be involved then by all means, encourage that. Put your personal agenda aside. Work together to give your child what they need to be healthy. Your child didn’t ask for this. The least you can do is suck it up so that you are doing the right thing for your child by encouraging a healthy relationship with both parents. 

I don’t want anyone to wish my a happy Father’s Day. I’m not a father. I wish nothing more than for my children to have a healthy father figure in their life. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dating: Baskin-Robbins Style

I never imagined that I would find myself in my mid-30’s, a single mother of 4, fully immersed in the dating world once again. While I was pretty certain that my marriage wasn’t ever going to last I never projected far enough into the future to see what it potentially might look like to be single again.

It’s an adventure, to say the least. I think I’ve learned more about myself over the last 2 ½ years than any other time period of my life. I guess one of my biggest “take-aways” from being single is that life is constantly offering us choices…”do you want this or do you want that?” I’ve finally figured out that just because something is in front of me doesn’t mean I have to pick it up and carry it around with me.

The way I see it, dating in the “second chance” world is like walking into Baskin-Robbins…”31 Flavors”…which one will you choose?

The cool thing about Baskin-Robbins is that you walk in, look at the many flavors before you and they actually let you sample the ice cream before you order it. You know those cute little pink spoons that have just enough on them for you to know if this is a flavor you  might want to take a few more (or a lot more) bites of or not. Sometimes, when they put the ice cream on the spoon you know right away…”this one is NOT for me.”

For example…

The girl behind the counter hands you a little pink spoon with blue ice cream and some funky colored candy in it. Now, if you’re 6 this might appeal to you, but at 36 probably not so  much.

Or perhaps the spoon includes something with NUTS and you’re allergic to nuts or you just don’t like ‘em so much. Or you’ve had them before and they leave you with a funny ich in your mouth afterwards. A simple “no thanks.”

This is like the coffee date where you walk into Starbucks, set eyes on the dude (or chick) and consider turning around and walking back out. These are what I call the “hell no” dates…the ones when he doesn’t even have to open his mouth and you know it’s a definitely no-go. This date is the pink spoon of bubble gum ice cream that I’d rather feed to my 5 year olds than put in my mouth. (or some strange blue stuff to my 8-year-old)

Now, let’s say you try the sample on the pink spoon and it’s kind of yummy but you’re still not sure if you want a full serving…possibly the kid size but you definitely know that you’re going to need a few more bites before you know that you like this flavor enough to order a cone full of it. This is the 3-date-wonder. I’ve learned that by the 3rd date (or encounter: be it by phone, in person, email, etc) you usually have a good idea if this is someone you’re interested in pursuing further…as in, do you want a full waffle cone full of this yummy goodness or is it really not so yummy after all? There are a LOT of these…and by a lot, I mean a LOT. And in my experience, by the 3rd encounter they have met one, if not several, items on my DQ List (disqualified).

Alright, so let’s face it, by the time you are at or approaching mid-life, chances are the people in your dating pool are going to come with some kind of baggage as we’d like to hope they’ve done their fair share of living. That baggage could be kids (I don’t mean that with ANY negative connotation), scarred by an ex-spouse, ailing parents, chemical dependency, etc. We all have baggage…what are you willing to deal with? There are bags that I won’t touch with a 10-foot-pole. The bags that give me the “same church, different pew” vibe are the bags that I run from…as fast as I can! I find that I am personally more inclined to deal with a person whose baggage is in the form of people rather than unattractive behaviors. For instance, a man who comes along and asks me what I would be willing to change for him has just put himself on my DQ List giving way to the man who has 6 kids (okay, totally not ideal, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker as would the man who wants me to change for him on our first coffee date.)

In 2 ½ years I’ve dated a lot. I’ve dated so much I could write a book about it. What I have learned is that each person that is in front of me is a choice. It’s like walking into Baskin-Robbins…”Julie, do you like this? Do you want more of this? Do you want to eat a jumbo bowl of this?” Yes please! Or No, Thank You!

I find myself saying “No, thank you” a lot these days. But the great thing about that is that I’m not settling. I’m choosing to be single because I am happier being ME than being with the wrong person and trying to be someone they want me to be.

I figure with every “Nope, that’s not him” signal I sent to the Universe I am one step closer to the one that IS “him.” And I am convinced that whoever is coming my way is one seriously amazing specimen of a man. After all, they say good things come to those who wait. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"They Call Me 'Mr. So' "

A couple weeks ago I was approached by a chubby, Asian man while I was resting in the squat rack between sets...of squats, of course. He was taking the liberty to inform me that my squat form was incorrect and proceeded to demonstrate the "proper" form as I looked on with my best "are-you-f*cking-kidding-me" look. After he finished his demonstration he let me know that he knew what he was talking about because at one time he had been a manager at a Gold's Gym. Hopefully longer than the average Gold's Gym manager who lasts approximately 2 weeks it seems.

That was the first time I've seen this dude and I've now seen him several times since. When I was on the leg press last week he came up to me, motioned for me to remove my headphones and went off on some "Carpe Diem" shpeal and how this is the only moment we have for sure so we should live it like it's our last. Kinda feeling like I had just gotten trapped in a strange country song, I nodded, smiled, shot off my best "you-are-a-f*cking-freak" look and put my headphones back on and got back to work.

Which brings us to today...I walk in the gym, it's New Year's Day, I'm all fired up for a great shoulder workout. I set my stuff down next to the bench I'm going to use and before I can even grab a set of dumbbells Chubby Asian Dude (can I just call him CAD for short?) comes up to me, smiles and says "hi" then turns his back to me with his hands behind him, turns his head over his shoulder and says..."Could you?"
WHAT THE F*CK??? (that was just in my head, I didn't say it out loud)
"Could I what?"
CAD: "Could you grab my hands and slooooowly lift them up behind my back to stretch me?"
Did this creep that I don't even know ask me to STRETCH him??? Is this really happening?
Me: "Excuse me?" (pretending I have no clue what he's asking)
CAD: "Yeah. You know, could you lift my hands up. I mean, if it's weird for you, I understand. It's just that I see you in here all the time so we're kind of like friends...ya know? I mean, we're always in here at the same time so why shouldn't we talk to each other?"
Hmmmm, I can think of MANY reasons why we shouldn't talk to each other. And we are absolutely NOT kind of like friends.
As I stand there, flabbergasted, wishing help was going to come to my rescue at any moment yet realizing that all of my standard "helpers" were nowhere to be found on this particular day, CAD keeps talking, holds out his hand and says..."So I'm *whatever he said his first name is* So. They call me 'Mr. So'. The ladies call me 'So Man.' You know, like 'so what?' And what's your name."
I am trying REALLY hard not to bust up laughing. And the fact that this guy is dead serious and totally sincere makes the whole thing even funnier...and weirder.
Me: "Julie"
CAD: "Oh, that's easy. I can remember that. What's your last name, Julie?"
Oh shit, did you really ask that?
Me: "Michaelson"
CAD: "Oh, Phil Mickelson."
Me: "No. Like MICHAELson."
CAD: "Well, I really like golf. It's one of those sports that only YOU are responsible for how you play. Ya know, cause it's not a team sport. That's what I like about dumbbells."
Okay, seriously, this just keeps getting stranger and stranger by the moment. 
Me: "Yeah. Right. Well, I gotta get started cause the gym is gonna close soon. Let me show you how to stretch out your shoulders with this stick over here..." (right after I beat the crap out of you with it...)