Thursday, February 9, 2017

My February Idols

Although I do not read nearly as much as I used to (thanks ADULTHOOD and all your exhaustion), I still love my books and how they have shaped my life. I love a good Netflix binge or movie as much as the next person, but they don't have the same kind of power to change my soul like a good book can. One book that especially shaped my thinking is Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Basically, it taught me to notice those if/then thoughts. You know, "If I did/had/was ______, then I would feel/be happier/better."  I have filled in those blanks a thousand different ways, but it's really only one thought expressed in different ways depending on my most obvious failure of the moment. These thoughts clue me in to the idols that I've nurtured in my heart.

First, as I've already said more than once, February sucks as a month. I can't speak for anyone else, but in the homeschooling world, we all feel the pain. We keep getting sick. The weather is especially schizophrenic. We still have months left of school. Our hope is nearly exhausted for the school year, yet we still have months before we can plan for the next thereby refueling our hope tank. This is when those If/then statements take hold. I've had a quite a few If/thens rolling around my head lately.

  • If I wasn't so tired, then I could keep our house cleaner.
  • If I was more disciplined, then we'd be getting more school done.
  • If I had more self control, then I could stop eating all the sugar. And chips. And exercise more.
  • If I only had that Ikea drawer thing, I could go back to workboxes and stop forgetting to do math facts with Matthew.
  • If only I could be thinner/more pleasant/get more done around the house/generally be better, then my husband would be happier.
  • If I could schedule things a little better, then the kids could do all the activities they want to.
See all these things swirling around? No wonder I'm exhausted. These are heavy thoughts that weigh on me. Now let's break this down. What am I really saying to myself? What is my idol? Well, as usual, my idol is my image. My idol is myself. 

While none of these things are bad, the desire behind them is less than noble. I want so desperately to "have it all together". But I don't. And I won't on this side of heaven.  So what standard am I comparing myself too? It's all those Facebook pics of people getting their school work done. It's HGTV and Food Network with their spotless homes and gourmet meals. Obviously those are not attainable or real standards, but don't we all fall into that trap from time to time? If I'm being honest with myself, things are not really all that bad. Our house is not spotless, but it's not the scene of a Hoarders episode either. This school year has actually been one of our more successful ones. I'm not a pig with food, and I can still wear the same shirts that I've had for the last 10 years. (I don't shop much). The kids do stuff. They see people. My husband is happy to come home. He likes me, and he doesn't complain about the house or the food I provide. Ikea? Well, life really would be better with a few more bookcases and cabinets. 

At this point in most blog posts, this is where I usually read that I actually am enough. I don't need the things I think I need because I'm already enough. That's another lie as well. I am not enough. I could do with some more discipline, self control, organization follow-through, and Ikea drawers. I guess it's both. What I'm doing is the best I can do at this time in my life and it actually is enough. It is also never enough because I will never be enough on my own. Ultimately, I'm trying to make everything work with my own easily distracted mind and strength. That's where my failure is.  I cannot do this life on my own. I cannot white knuckle it long enough to become the person I'm supposed to be. A stone cannot chisel itself into a statue. I cannot make myself into the kind, competent, loving person that I want to be. Only Jesus can do that. 

Maybe I should be thankful for February. It seems to bring out the worst in me every year. I mean, nobody likes the worst side of me, but the only way that God can work on that part of myself is if it's brought out of the dark. Since I very much want to change, I have to go through that painful process of having an idol grow large enough for me to take notice. Then I can allow the Holy Spirit to do what He needs to do to shape me into the person He is creating me to be. 

So...I guess I should thank February for being the crappy month that it is for helping to shape me into a person that hopefully looks just a little bit more like Jesus. 

Oh, and everyone should read Idols of the Heart. It's really good. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why do January and February have to be so rude?

Wow. January was rough and the first week of February has not been kind. I was somewhat prepared for this because I've finally learned that October and January/February are my struggle months. I was ready for the dip in morale this time, armed with optimism and wine. I was not prepared for a month of sick people. Sick kids. Sick husband. Sick self. Never at the same time and one of them got hit twice. Then the exhaustion of 3 birthdays hit. School morale dipped a little bit, but I have not resorted to my yearly online school scouting yet.  By the end of the month, the germs were defeated, and I thought I'd made it through the worst. Then January 31 came and had a little conversation with February. I imagine it went something like this.

      January: "Hi February! I feel like Mindy has had a rough Me, but not nearly as rough as usual. Care to help me out in crushing her for a few weeks?"
      February: "You know what? I can do that!"  
      January: "Okay, I'll set her up then you go for it."
      February: "I. Got. This."

So Tuesday started off with a broken dryer, wet clothes, and the last class day for one of my 3 favorite students. (I have 3 in my class so I can have 3 favorites).  And a nearly flat tire. And running late for our homeschool group. 

The rest of the week included grape jelly everywhere. Every. Where. Dentist visits for all 3 kids that all ended with the same conversation: "You need to go to the orthodontist!" The insurance office. Chickfila for a Matthew Hangry breakdown. Oops, I had an important phone call scheduled at 2mp. Let's just do that as we hurry to the car. Back to the insurance office. Lots of "But mom!". Then there's the wonderful conversation where my husband tells me he gets to go on some unexpected work trips to amazing places that will equal a month out of our year of him being gone. I forgot to block out my dates on the church volunteer calendar and got scheduled on the days I'm going to be out of town. Then the figuring out childcare for other things. Realizing that next week is a logistical nightmare with a million things to do in multiple places at the same time. Don't forget school is still happening. People still need to eat. And they all keep looking at me like I'm supposed to be the adult in all this. 

Then my mom called yesterday. Most people would say that's a good thing, but my mom only calls with bad news. She texts and messages otherwise. That sounds terrible when I write it, but it's not. We are cut from the same introverted cloth. Anyway, terrible car wreck. One extended family member dead, the other in the hospital. It's not like it was someone I was super close to, but it was someone I grew up with in my life on a regular basis so it hit me surprisingly hard. And the circumstances were just awful and tragic. So there went Friday.
Friday night at Pet Smart, Charlotte started crying because, as she said, "I just want a pet so badly and I've wanted one for so long and it will never happen because you won't let me!" 

And now Saturday. I'm taking half a day off. I know so many of these things are inconveniences. Most of them are not even what I would consider real problems. Just bumps. Not the car accident, because that's just awful by anyone's standards. But otherwise, I know it's a blessing to have a dryer to break and the means to repair it. I know it's a blessing to have a vehicle that needs a tire repaired and the means to solve the issue. I know it's a blessing to have so many opportunities in our lives that I have to prioritize them. I know how privileged I am to be able to take my kids to the dentist with the knowledge that my insurance will cover it (and no cavities!). But it's also exhausting to manage it all sometimes. And I'm jealous about some of the work trips. There. I admit it. I'm always jealous when he gets the trips. I am not far enough along on the sanctification process to have moved beyond the most base sin of jealousy. I'm glad he gets to go, but seriously. Couldn't a work trip be in Idaho for once? There would be no jealousy for that trip. 

So in closing, I think there is no better group of people to quote than my very own children. One of their favorite exclamations is "BUT IT'S NOT FAIR!" It feels fitting. I feel this on a deep, spiritual level. And I also recognize the absurdity of it. I probably need a nap. And a secretary. An extra driver would be helpful next week too. 

(Obviously, I will be praying for peace, patience, and a better perspective for next week. I'll also be praying for better sleep. Although I don't think God wants anyone to stay in this kind of place for long, a good chunk of the Psalms are David complaining or calling for death and destruction on his enemies. Then he laid it all at God's feet; both the big and the seemingly stupid things. If it was good enough for David, then God can handle my First World rough weeks. I will rest in the knowledge that I am merely walking through this week and not planted in it.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I'm sick and I took cold meds...

I thought I was on the upswing of what was a mild cold. But no. I was sliding into the deepest, darkest pits of what we call the common cold. So...that's not clever at all. I'm sick and bored. You're not getting Grade A material tonight. It's a cold and I already took two horse-size pills of decongestants. I apologize to all the people I talked to today. I didn't mean to be Typhoid Mary at the homeschool meeting. But there we go. Call me Mary.

A couple of weeks ago in my class, we talked about how our body never fights the exact same virus twice because our body makes anti-bodies to fight them. That's why viruses are always changing so they can continue to infect us. I hate viruses. So at this very moment, my body is fighting an epic, once in a lifetime battle against an army of viruses that I am naming The Orks. Oh yes. We're going Middle Earth. If this virus is made up of Orks, then I am the thousands of Rohan people trapped inside Helms Deep. It looks bad, folks. It's dark. I've got no groceries. The Orks are trying to break down my system one assault at a time. In other words, I realized I had a fever when I started shivering for no reason.  I'm holding on to...

"Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east." Gandalf

In other words, this thing started on Wednesday so I'm hoping I wake up feeling much better tomorrow morning. You know, darkest before the dawn? Gandalf (aka my immune system) will show up with his army of elves and destroy this virus.  I know they'll regroup and attack in the next movie, but I just want them to go away now!  

Okay, the meds are kicking in. It's not safe for me to write anymore. If you stuck through this rambling piece of medicated fan fiction, you're good people. You either truly love me, or you're really bored in which case, can I recommend a few Netflix items for you? First, The Crown is excellent. There are a few nude scenes of Matt Smith from behind, just FYI. Also, Sherlock has new episodes to watch (but I am way behind on Sherlock so don't talk to me about it). The White Rabbit Project is fun if you like science Myth Busters type stuff.  If you have Sling, I came across 10 Things I Hate About You last night which is one of my FAVORITE 90s movies so it might be on again. Gladiator has been on a lot too. I forgot how good it is. 

This makes it seem like I watch a lot of TV. Um...I do sometimes...but I also read books. Don't judge me for this. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

On "Why I Quit The Church"

Last week my church started a new series called "Why I Quit The Church", and it has been speaking to my heart. But before I go into that, I have a few random thoughts/updates.

1. I started my baby runner program last week! I almost waited to start because of the cold weather this weekend, but I'd already told people I was going to do this. If I didn't start, I'd have to tell those same people my lame excuse for why I backed out. So I started. It's the most basic running program ever. The goal is to be able to run a mile without stopping. It will take me about 4 weeks to get to this point. I've been walking 2 miles and throwing in the short runs in the middle according to plan. I need lots of mini successes to give me the momentum to keep going. And I've hidden my stash of dark chocolate covered cherries which has greatly reduced my sugar intake. Lots of baby health steps going on this week.

2. I ripped a huge hole in the only pair of jeans I owned that I could wear my tall boots with so I bought a new pair of jeans this week. They're the Rockstar Skinny jeans from Old Navy. They mock me. Rockstar? Skinny? I am a 35 year old woman. What am I wearing Rockstar Skinny jeans for? They should make jeans called Mom Wants to Wear Boots jeans. We can call them MWWBs. At least they'd be honest. Unless we're going with my imaginary version of myself in which case they should be called Rockstar Skinny Published Olympic Ice Skating Gold Medalist Jeans.

Okay. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me tell you about this "Why I Quit the Church" thing. If you've had any kind of real friendship with me over the last 7 years or so, you know that I've gone through a long period of church...frustrations. They were admittedly more my problem than any church's. I've moved on and can actually say for the first time in 7-8 yrs that I actually love the church. Today's message had some really good points that I need to talk about. Since I have no one to talk to today, I'm blasting this out here instead.

First, "Churches are not meant to be perfect little utopias of sinlessness." I just really liked this quote. Although I know all to well that the church is made up of broken people, it's easy to think of the church as a destination we've arrived at instead of a gathering of people on a journey. We're people meeting at a way station for some refreshment before going on our way again.

Second, we covered cliques. Although the word has a bad connotation, it's really another word for a circle of friends. Every organization/school/workplace will have circles of people that are in some kind of relationship together. The important part is to not close ourselves off to new people. Although I would never describe myself as cliquey, I have to admit that a couple of years ago, I was kind of done with adding new people to my circle. Letting people into my life and getting into theirs is exhausting, and I'd spent that last few years expanding my circle with every move. To really have relationships with people inevitably means that it will cost me something, and I'd overspent in that department for too long.

I am a big believer in the slices of life philosophy. When I compare my life to pie (obviously I go with a food analogy), I have to recognize that certain slices are going to involve different things. A couple of years ago when I was in the "my life pie slice just fell on the floor and someone stepped on it" phase, I had nothing to offer anyone. I needed people to see my metaphorical self smooshed on the floor and help put me back together. Thankfully, my circle was there to get me through everything. Unfortunately, my church wasn't really a part of that healing process. It was disheartening, but I also knew that I'd spent some time being standoff-ish so really, what did I expect?

After spending most of last year trying hard to grow relationships within our church, I believe things would be different now. It's a hard thing to balance though. So many times, people enter the church because they're empty, broken, and don't have it in them to work hard at building friendships with new people. BUT it's not fair to ask people to love, listen, and care about you if you're not willing to do the same for them. BUT again, as people that follow Christ, we should show love and compassion to everyone whether we deem them deserving or not. As if we can make that determination in the first place. There's a tension that everyone needs to recognize. If you're happy and whole, you have the privilege and ability to be watchful for those people that are barely making it through the door. If you're the person white-knuckling it through life at the moment, you have to push just a little harder to let someone in, to let them know what you're dealing with.

Personally, I never actually gave up on church even if I did spend too much time going out of obligation. I definitely took my time to just be at church every week. And I think that's okay. We can't always be on. We can't always be in the middle of everything. Sometimes we need to take a time out to prioritize and rest. Don't quit because you're "just not feeling it" for a few months.

During the message, in that same vein of relationships costing us, our pastor specifically mentioned marriage. About one's spouse, he said, "One day you wake up and think 'I don't like you! You're costing me a lot. Time, money, energy...'". And this is true. If you haven't had this thought about your spouse you haven't been married long or you're not doing it right. Obviously we don't stay in that place. The gain is greater. Everyone is annoying sometimes, but we stay committed to find a greater joy and reward. My relationship with my church is the same way. Sometimes I look at it and think "I don't like you right now!" But I keep at it because the reward is great.  And..probably people at my church have looked at me and thought the same thing. It's okay. I can be annoying sometimes. But it's a relationship worth working through. The church is the bride of Christ. I can't just look at someone's bride and say, I don't like who you picked. You should have held out for better. Especially since I'm part of that package.

Okay, that's all. I'm done. Go enjoy your Sunday evening before Monday morning hits you like a wrecking ball between the eyes.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Goals

I am so excited for this year to start! That's not even a sarcastic statement. Last year was really good for us. It was so good that I'm looking forward to 2017 with anticipation instead of my usual trepidation. In the past few years, I've stayed away from specific New Years Resolutions because I always quit them. I switched to broader overarching goals that have actually worked better for me. Yearly themes offered the kind of flexibility that I needed to succeed. 

However, as I've considered things I want to focus on this year, some pretty specific things keep coming to mind. They still fit under my major life goals of marriage, personal growth, spiritual growth, and family, but I'm getting into the details this year (Geez. I sound like a life coach or something).  So here's what I'm thinking for 2017.

  • My husband loves gifts. Presents speak to his heart. They do not speak to my heart. My excitement over a gift is that a person spent their time on me. I like experiences and gifts of service. But you see, there's this weird thing about marriage. It's not all about me. I know. It seems so unfair, right? So in the spirit of speaking love and life or whatever into our marriage, I'm committing to giving Jon one wrapped gift a month. I love Jon. He's an amazing guy so I'm going to work extra hard to speak his language this year. 

  • For personal growth, that's easy for me. I will spend the first half of my year preparing for living my lifelong dream of going to France!!!!!!! OHMYGOSH I'M SO EXCITED!!!!   I'm going to brush up on my French, take my exercise seriously again because I do NOT want to be the chubby American girl in Paris. I also want to be ready to enjoy all the foods France has to offer without guilt. And I'll be reading some books on the things I'll see, watching movies set in Paris, etc. All the France Stuff!!!  

  • As for Jesus, this one may sound a little strange, but I'm going back to bringing my actual Bible to church. I started using my Bible app on my phone years ago. Honestly, it was just easier. I can't tell you how many times I dropped my Bible because I was holding a toddler, a diaper bag, a sippy cup, and another child's hand. I've really noticed a difference in my retention though since I made the change. I need to physically hold the book and flip to the page. It makes such a big difference in how much I get from reading or listening to a sermon. And I don't have all the extra little kid detritus to deal with anymore so I'm without excuse. This year, I'm ditching the app and going old school with my physical Bible. 

  • Family...Okay. I don't have a specific one for family. With Tommy, I'm starting to feel the urgency that comes as a child gets closer to leaving the nest. I'm trying to act cool about it, but I keep thinking of all these things that we might have missed teaching him. Or worse, what if we taught him how to do life ALL WRONG?!?!  Charlotte is closing in on middle school. Matthew is...well, he's Matthew. It's hard to nail him down in a word. I guess my goal for this year is to spend time trying to see who they are individually and speaking what they need. It's so easy to treat them as a group, but they're individuals with their own specific needs, talents, dreams, and struggles. I want to zero in on them as people and help them along on their own path, whatever that road may look like. 

So that's my plan for 2017. Feel free to ask me how things are going. I'll warn you now that I will find a way to drop France into my conversations on a regular basis. I'm too excited to keep it inside. I'm like a pregnant mom that talks about her baby and pregnancy all the time. I'm pregnant with a dream. I have to talk about the dream!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve!  To finish out our year, I did what any other thrifty person does and took advantage of 75% off sale of all Christmas decorations. We're now fully loaded with lights and wrapping paper for next Christmas. I took Charlotte out with me and hit up Chicken Salad Chick for lunch. It's our new "ladies lunch" place. We rounded out the day with a trip to Staples to buy more school supplies for tutoring so that I can write them off on my taxes. It was a weird mix of proactive and procrastinated purchasing all in one.

So while Charlotte and I enjoyed our lunch, I asked her what she thought were the best and worst moments for her in 2016. She gave me a list of best moments, but neither of us could come up with a decent worst moment. We both came up blank. I know the year looked awful in the news, but for the Dumonts, it was full of normal, happy moments. I think this was a year of depth for us. After spending the last 15 years widening our experiences, lengthening our list of former addresses, adding actual humans to the world and getting them to the point that they can dress, feed, and buckle themselves in the car, this year we grew deeper.

I hope everyone has a wonderfully safe, peaceful, joyful celebration of the end of another year!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

So this thing happened to me one time...

Well, I was wrong. Donald Trump actually became the President of the United States of America. Since I did not foresee any election result that would end with me feeling satisfied, I did not fall apart upon his win. It was more of a surprised resignation. I'd hoped the worst would be over once the election was decided, but alas. That was not to be. Now I turn on the news or facebook to see faces and words twisted in rage and fear, disgust and hubris. And the thing is, there is no good side and bad side. Both sides are spewing the same venom at each other. Still.

But this isn't really what I wanted to say. Fair or not, Trump has brought a lot of controversy with him, especially with his treatment of women. His statements throughout the campaign, the hot mic, and now the backlash that includes protesters supposedly holding up signs advocating violence towards our soon to be FLOTUS are unavoidable. The part of all this that's troubled me the most is the defense of these statements, the accusations being written off as fake without consideration, or the "she was asking for it" mindset.  I cannot abide by these things because I know why a woman wouldn't make a report when someone has physically assaulted and threatened her. At least I know why I didn't make a report.

 This thing that happened to me is not something that I think about all the time. Honestly, I was completely caught off guard when the memories started hitting me again, and I realized that I had not dealt with everything as completely as I thought I had. I will spare you most of the details, but here's what happened to me when I was 16. In high school,  I briefly dated a guy that was very controlling. I was at least able to see the warning signs early enough to break up with him after a few months. Unfortunately, that did not seem to deter him. He became fixated on me. He would call repeatedly at night. He would show up wherever I happened to be. I felt unsafe, but I couldn't have given you a concrete reason as to why I felt that way. Even after he started dating another girl, he still continued to repeatedly call, swear he loved me, and follow me. I made it very clear that I did not want his attention nor did I want him to call. On this one thing, he ignored me.

We were in a class together, and at the end of class one particular day, the teacher stepped out of the room leaving us students alone and waiting for the lunch bell to ring.  After he was told by a mutual friend that I might have some proof of what he'd been saying to me, he was enraged. He flew across the room, grabbed me around my upper arm, and dragged me to the other side of the room where he then slung me around so he could put his face right up to mine. I was barely 115 pounds at the time, and he was very strong. His hand wrapped around my upper arm so tightly and completely that I couldn't pull away. I begged him to let me go. I pulled at his fingers to get free. I tried to drop to the ground, but he pulled me up by my arm. He demanded that I give him whatever proof I had. When I told him I didn't have anything, he put his face so close to mine that we almost touched noses, and he said he would kill me if I ever tried to get anything on him again. And in that moment, neither of us had any doubt that he meant it. Then the bell rang, he let me go, and I went to lunch with my friends.

Oh, did you forget that part? Did you forget that all of this happened in a room full of people that watched the entire thing? I don't think anyone heard him threaten to kill me, but they saw and heard every bit of the rest. And no one did a thing. No one said a word. The room was silent throughout the entire experience. Maybe they were shocked. Maybe they didn't know how bad it was. My friends certainly realized when they saw my arm that was swollen and badly bruised within minutes of it happening. By the time I sat down at the lunch table, you could see a very distinct black and blue hand print around my red and swollen upper arm. I'd never known that a bruise could show up so quickly.

A few minutes into lunch, he walked into the cafeteria, saw me, and came over to my table. He looked pleased when he saw me. He smiled with pride. He leaned in to threaten to kill me again, but that time it felt like it was more for dramatic effect. The next day I was told that most of the school knew what happened (small town and a small school of course), and everyone was split on whether or not I deserved it. The day after that, he got me alone in another classroom (seriously, where were all the teachers?!), pinned me up against a wall, and asked to see my arm. He looked at the bruises that were now less swollen but varying shades of blue, black, purple, and yellow, and he looked proud. Finally he said, "I hope the scars on your heart last longer than the bruises on your arm." Then he sauntered off.

It was an awful time for me. I'd never been treated that way in my life. I had already been told that half the school assumed I'd deserved it, and I was scared to make things worse. So I didn't tell any adults at first. The bruising was too much to hide for long, especially since it was still hot and long sleeves would be suspicious in its own way. A teacher saw it first and made me tell them what happened. The incident was never reported officially, possibly because that teacher would have been in trouble for not being in the room when everything happened. Ultimately, I don't know why it wasn't reported. The teacher talked to the ex-boyfriend, and he did back off a little bit after that. He was never really out of my life until I moved away. There were some scary moments, but nothing like what happened that one particular day. The teacher did insist that I tell my parents, but by now I was insistent that nothing be done. Why should anything be done? At that point, I was convinced that I must have done something wrong, and I had no confidence that anyone else would take it seriously. I wasn't sure if it even needed to be taken seriously. After all, what are a few bruises really?

And now. Why does this come back to me now? It was such a long time ago. I wish I had a good answer for why now, but I don't. I do know that it wasn't until two days ago that I finally knew that I had not deserved or earned any of what happened. I guess it took 19 years to realize that I was not responsible for what happened to me. No one deserves to have their life threatened. To be so completely dominated physically that you both know that he is in complete control. To be the violent show for a silent audience. And no one should have hand prints bruised onto their body.

As for our soon-to-be President, I don't know what he's done or not done. I don't know what is bragging, what is miscommunication, and what is true. All I know is that he's brought this topic to the forefront of the news cycle again and again whether he means to or not. And in doing that, I was forced to deal with my own issues. So yes. I'm extra sensitive about the mistreatment of women and children whether it's rape or physical abuse. And no, I don't count a woman's slow resolve to report abuse to be a cause for disbelief. The guy doesn't hit the first time he gets angry. It's a process of convincing her that she's less and making her question herself at every turn. It takes time to overcome that kind of mindset.

This is not a story I've told many people. In fact, I think the only people I've told other than my parents are my husband and my college roommate. It was one of those things that I didn't want to talk about, thought I'd dealt with and moved on from, and was deeply personal. Even now, I've reread this at least 20 times looking for all the ways that I might be blamed. I know this story is incomplete. I've given you a summary of one chapter of a longer story that covers 2 1/2 years.  It became a defining moment in my life whether I wanted it to be or not. It changed me as a person. And now I share it with you in case someone else needs to hear that it's really not their fault.