Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tone deaf

I started re-reading C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" this week because I need a reminder of the subtle ways we, Christians, can tear each other apart, almost without knowing it.

I've been thinking heavily about this passage lately:

In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you ... must see to it that each ... has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention.

Sometimes I forget how easily a tone can change a conversation, and I wonder if the way I say something often makes it difficult for the other person to actually hear what I'm saying. And vice versa.

One afternoon this week, I walked into the house with an armload of groceries. Everyone else in the house was napping. Until I walked in. The first words out of my husband's mouth were "I need to teach you how to enter a house." His tone wasn't cruel, but I sensed some annoyance, because the door slammed behind me and everyone woke up. My reaction was less than cordial and for a few minutes, until I realized how childish I was being, I sulked around the house and began compiling my mental list of grievances against my husband. All because of how I interpreted his tone. All he was really saying was that I could have entered the house more quietly, and he was willing to demonstrate. I blew it out of proportion.

Maybe this is why Scripture tells us: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

And: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

I'm hoping to be a better listener, tuning out a person's tone to get to the heart of what they're saying. I'm not sure it's easy, but I'm willing to try.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Grace in the common place

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." -- 2 Corinthians 12:9

I've been learning, recently, through the book our women's Bible study is reading, "Lies Women Believe," that God's grace is sufficient for me. Since becoming a Christian, I think I've known this about the big things of life, but I'm learning that it applies to the everyday, common things as well. In the book, the author describes several circumstances and then writes after those descriptions, "His grace is sufficient for me." Here are some of mine:

When dinner was supposed to be ready 10 minutes ago and I haven't started it yet, His grace is sufficient for me.

When the toddler is screaming, "Mommy, mommy, mommy" from the top of her lungs and I'm sitting right next to her, His grace is sufficient for me.

When the baby is crying and won't go to sleep while the toddler just filled her diaper with poop, His grace is sufficient for me.

When the house is a disaster and I've spent my last bit of energy, His grace is sufficient for me.

When I just want to scream because the stress level's high, His grace is sufficient for me.

When I'm tired and hungry and trying to get dinner on the table and the water boils over and the baby needs attention and the toddler is patting my butt saying, "Mommy, mommy, mommy" and I'm ready to throw in the towel, His grace is sufficient for me.

I'm sure there're are many more, but those are what rise to the top tonight. Feel free to add your own.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life In Progress

A place for everything and everything in its place. Our motto these days is more like "no place for anything and nothing in its place."

Thanks to Christmas, the addition of a new baby and traveling, our house is far from orderly. We still have suitcases (empty) in the bedroom, mounds of laundry that seem to multiply overnight, toys in every room of the house and piles of papers and other miscellaneous objects that seem to have no home.

This bugs me. I like order. I enjoy putting things where they go. I want to be able to walk through the house without worrying about tripping over a stray toy or cup.

I'm thinking that's not going to happen until Phil and I are empty-nesters. Realistically, it's probably possible sooner than that, but when I look around the house, I wonder if it's always going to be like this. When we lived in our first apartment, our stuff was packed into it in an out-of-control, embarrassing sort of way. Then, our daughter was born and the disorder was more like chaos. When we moved to the house we now live in, we couldn't believe all the room we had. We've learned, though, that when you upgrade, you find a way to fill the space you have. Add to that the birth of our son and we're back to feeling a little like sardines.

Maybe that means we have too much stuff. Thanks to ample storage space in the attic, we have a few boxes of things we haven't used since we've been married. They're mostly decorative things, I think, like picture frames and wall hangings, although there's also a box of music boxes I've collected since I was a girl that haven't seen the light of day in close to 10 years. I've never been much of a decorator, but I want to be able to display these things and create a homey atmosphere. Right now, the atmosphere is modern toddler, at best; messy family, at worst. I fear that our kids will be 16 before we're able to show off their baby pictures or that Phil and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary before I get around to putting up our wedding pictures.

We're definitely a work in progress when it comes to our home, and I know this happens to most families with young children. It's just hard for me to accept because I'm not a work-in-progress type of girl. I like to finish what I start. This was the hardest time management lesson to learn as a reporter. Most of the time, I had to have three or four stories "in progress" while I waited for phone calls to be returned or interviews to be scheduled. If I had waited until one story was finished before I started the next one, I would never have made deadline and probably would have been quickly out of a job.

Most of the time my life feels like a work in progress, too. Some days, I wish I was a lot closer to complete than I am. I'm often reminded of how much work is left to do, especially when I say something I don't really mean, become overwhelmed by the little things, or ignore a need when I could help meet it.

I'm grateful for other work-in-progress people in my life, who even if they're a little closer to complete than I am, remind me that nobody's perfect and nobody will be this side of Heaven. I'm drawn to those kind of people, who easily admit their faults and acknowledge they don't have it all together.

Maybe that's why I've always loved Philippians 1:6: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Someday I'll be complete. Until then, I can rest in the truth that every day is bringing me a little closer to that end.

Friday, January 8, 2010


It's been too long. Those of you who know our family well or follow us on Facebook know that on December 2 we were blessed with a son, Corban Ranard, who weighed in at 9 lbs. 10 oz. and was 21 inches long. After the weeks and months of anxiety and waiting, he arrived just a few hours after his due date, via C-section, which was a fearful prospect before it happened but actually turned out to be not so bad. The last month has been full of family visits, holiday celebrations and adjusting to life as a family of four.

Even though we live 700 miles from family and most of our friends, we were truly blessed to have our parents present before and after Corban's birth to help with household chores and even to give Phil and me a week without a toddler before we traveled home for the holidays. I don't know how we would have done it without them. We delayed reality for a while, but it was a great help to have so much support during my recovery.

I've had lots of time to think, even if I don't have lots of time to publish those thoughts. One thought I wanted to share came to me while I watched my dad try to fix our strands of Christmas lights as we decorated our tree. Of the two strands, only half of one worked, which would have made for a dimly lit tree. While Phil was out running errands, and picking up two new boxes of lights, my dad set out on a search for the lights that were causing the problem. After a diligent search of both strands, he found the problem on one strand and fixed it so that all the lights worked. The nonworking half of the second strand was beyond repair, so he cut it off and wrapped the exposed wire on the working strand.

The second strand reminds me of the church or what the Bible calls the body of Christ. The purpose of a strand of lights is to shine, as is the purpose of the body. "You are the light of the world," Jesus tells his disciples. And like the strand of lights, we're all connected. So, if one member experiences a problem, it affects the rest. Yet, I wonder, how many of us are like the half strand that was working, happily shining our lights, not knowing that the rest of the strand was dark, affecting the overall brightness of our light?

"For the body is not one member, but many. ... And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it." -- 1 Corinthians 12:14, 26-27

The body of Christ, His church, is only as bright as the weakest member. I can't effectively show the light of Jesus if other members of the church are struggling to even light in the first place. I'm praying for open eyes to see the unlit lights around me and for wisdom to help them shine again.