Friday, December 27, 2013

Aging with Grace

My mother grew old pretty gracefully, and it was a blessing to us all. She chose a retirement community to move to where she would be taken care of as she gradually lost the ability to care for herself – completely accepting the fact that she would gradually lose the ability to care for herself and not wanting my sisters and I to be burdened with that. She didn't seem to have a lot of problems selling her house or the bulk of its contents. Giving up the car was a bit of a struggle, my sisters told me, but overall, she took her declining years in stride and sought to enjoy what she had rather than mourn or rage over what she had lost.

That's how I want to do it.

My dad had Alzheimer's for twenty-one years, and since there is a genetic component to that, I'm preparing myself. I've already made it quite clear to hubby and the kids that I don't need them trying to pull any heroics about taking care of me in their homes long past when it makes sense. Find me a good nursing home, keep close tabs on me, but don't put my life or your lives in jeopardy or make yourselves miserable trying to “do the noble thing”. Yeah, I'll want to be with my family, but I wouldn't want to be there if I knew I was making your life hell.

My brother-in-law's dad was at our family Christmas this year. My sister and her husband have just recently moved in with him because he can no longer take care of himself. He has a form of dementia, and -- please don't think this was crass -- he was kind of entertaining. I think he asked me four or five times who I was (he's known me since I was a kid). “Oh, you're from San Antonio? There's someone else here from San Antonio . . . “ Yep, that would be my family. Dad B also asked his grandson if he had a girlfriend yet. “Yes, Grandpa, I'm married, actually.” "Oh, would you like me to perform the ceremony?" “Actually, you already did, Grandpa.”

If I have to get loopy when I get older, I hope I at least provide holiday entertainment for the family. And I hope they don't feel so sad about it that they can't enjoy the humor.

In my mind, when I imagine losing it, I figure that if I know it's coming, it won't be as upsetting as it was to my dad and to so many people I see getting old. If I just accept that I can't remember things as well . . . I can't do things as quickly . . . I can't understand some of the stuff that's being discussed . . . and simply, like my mom, enjoy what I have rather than mourn or rage over what I've lost . . . I'll be fine.

In my heart, I know better. I know there comes a point when you forget the grace you intended to remember. Hopefully, it will only be for short spurts.

I suspect that the best way to prevent becoming an angry, miserable old woman is to be certain that I'm not now an angry, miserable middle-aged woman in disguise. Sometimes, old age changes you. But I suspect old age more often simply takes off your masks and reveals who you really are. Which means now is the time to let God do the painful work of remaking who I really am.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


And so this is Christmas . . .

For all my talk about focusing on Jesus during Christmas, like everyone else, I get far too caught up in all the doings. So caught up that I missed my last two blogging days. But that's okay, because I probably would have ended up blogging about Phil Robertson, and these two people (here and here) said it all more eloquently than I would have.

But it's Christmas Eve now, and everyone is still in bed after a late-night Dominion binge, so I'm considering this morning the significance of what these next couple days are all about. God becoming a man and living with us.

This is, of course, a mystery whose depths we will never really be able to explore fully. In our limited human capacity, we will never completely understand the hows and whys of divine incarnation. But we get glimpses of truth . . . usually the glimpses that God needs us to see for some reason at that point in our lives.

I blogged recently about Jesus teaching us to be human.  This is the glimpse God has had for me lately. That Jesus came to live in human flesh to show us how to live. I know, I know -- didn't I learn that in fourth grade Sunday school? Well, yes, I learned that fact in Sunday school . . . the reality of what that fact means takes the instruction of the Spirit to sink in.

Consider some of the things Jesus did on earth:

- He slept. All the work he had to do, all the needs around him, all the burdens on his shoulders, and he took the time to sleep when his body needed it. And to sleep soundly -- the disciples had to wake him up to point out the raging storm that was about to sink their boat.

- He socialized. And not only with "his own kind". The Pharisees got on his case for hanging out with the sinners and low-lifes. He cultivated relationships, and apparently did it well enough that people -- especially those sinners and low-lifes -- sought him out to be with him.

- He separated himself on occasion, spending time alone with the Father to get re-juiced. And I doubt he felt guilty about it.

- He prayed. Again, we can't ever really comprehend the relationship within the Trinity and what this kind of prayer was like -- but Jesus, in his human form, spent extensive time in prayer. Before he chose his twelve disciples, he spent all night in prayer. If Jesus needed that kind of connection time with the Father, what makes me think I can get by on the occasional shout-out?

- He fasted. Despite his divinity, there was still something about existing in human flesh that meant that flesh had a pull on him which required a conscientious effort to deny once in a while to get his focus back where it needed to be. Again, if Jesus needed to fast, for crying out loud . . .

- He devoured Scripture. As I said in that blog, he didn't call down the angels to battle Satan during his temptation in the wilderness.  He used the same weapon we have available to us -- the Word. He showed us how it's done.

Hebrews tells us that we don't have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our human weaknesses, but one who was tempted in every way just like we were, but succeeded in not sinning. I think we need to remember what a gift that is. That when we are struggling, he's not standing over us clucking his critical tongue, shaking his aggravated head, wagging his accusatory finger. He GETS it. He's been there. He knows.

Thank you, Lord, for willingly becoming our Emmanuel. Pleased as man with man to dwell!  Merry Christmas, all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Ugh

One week 'til Christmas Day.

If you've read my blog for more than a year, you've surely picked up on my frustrations over the holiday season. I get so aggravated at the commercialism . . . but I also get aggravated at the secular anti-commercialism, especially when it is spouted by religious people and sources. If you're a believer, Christmas is NOT about "family", "giving", "the kids", or any of that stuff. Christmas is about a specific historical and spiritual event -- an event of profound significance that is worthy of deep and joyous worship on our part.

But the way we celebrate Christmas in America these days makes it almost impossible, it seems, to remember that event in any meaningful way. Try as we might, our efforts to "put Christ back in Christmas" really are so shallow. We have special programs at church . . . but in the end, those are usually just about putting on a show (often "for the kids"), eating holiday food, fellowship (the churchy word for socializing), and perhaps a single poignant moment seeing the manger scene portrayed once again -- then back to more food and fellowship.

We do some volunteer work one night with the homeless or a group of needy kids ("giving") . . . but what does that have to do with Christmas, really? We should be doing that all year long. And from what I hear, most of those organizations would actually be more grateful if we stopped by to help in January when everyone suddenly forgets about them again.

We listen to the traditional Christmas carols on the Christmas music station in the car . . . and get a momentary emotional rush from the power of the music and the memories it invokes (rarely, if we're honest, to the ideas behind the words), and then immediately turn around and start bouncing to "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree."

We maybe read a brief "Advent devotional" each morning during December . . . another thing on the full to-do list for the month.

We send Christmas cards and letters and make sure they have a scripture reference in them and make mention of Jesus somewhere . . . but we're really just doing this to keep in touch with folks.

On the big day, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and say a quick prayer . . . just touching base with the heavenlies before the orgy of gift-opening.

Putting Christ in Christmas kind of feels like putting bunko in the neighborhood bunko night: it relieves our conscience by giving us a legitimate excuse to put time and energy into doing all the things we REALLY want to do.

I have a dream of a Christmas one year where there are no presents, no decorations, no Christmas specials on TV, no fattening Christmas goodies -- where I spend the Advent season with me and God (and occasionally with the family of believers corporately) worshipping and studying and praying and meditating on the amazing fact that the God of the universe chose to take on human flesh and become one of us. And to wake up on Christmas morning genuinely overwhelmed with the joy and awe that such a truth should inspire in humanity.

Because that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Controlling the Mama Grizzly Within

On the one hand, kids always complain about their teachers.

On the other hand, her complaints seem quite legitimate.

On the other hand, I'm only hearing her point of view, and when she's this stressed out and upset about something, her point of view can get warped by her emotions.

On the other hand, the mom I met at the ball game the other night told me her daughter's complaints about that teacher, and they were the same.

On the other hand, she is learning a lot about self-discipline and working really hard this semester.

On the other hand, those lessons now seemed learned -- and I'm not sure continuing in this vein is worth the hell she's going through.

On the other hand, it's an AP class. It's the highest level of English class one can take in high school. She's got to expect it to be tough.

On the other hand, the difficulty should be in the content, not in the back-breaking workload and lack of support. And it shouldn't bring her to tears as often as it does. And it shouldn't be discouraging her from wanting to go to college "if this is what college classes are like".

On the other hand, she hasn't gone to the teacher to ask for help or to explain the problems she's having: the reading assignments nobody knew about but were still quizzed over, the quiz questions that seemed to have more than one possible right answer, the essays whose correct punctuation was wiped out by the website she had to turn it in on (and she has her hard copy to prove it), the inability to figure out where she's supposed to find all of the work she's supposed to do (the school website . . . another website . . . the board in the teacher's classroom . . . texts that sometimes are received and sometimes aren't . . . there doesn't seem to be a consistent system here).

On the other hand, she has seen the teacher's interactions with other students and their complaints and concerns enough to believe that all such issues will be made to be her own fault somehow and not addressed satisfactorily.

On the other hand, she is almost eighteen. She'll be on her own at college next year. She needs to learn to confront people on her own and stand up for herself when she feels like she is getting a raw deal.

On the other hand, she's never had to do that before, and how is she to learn how to defend herself against a powerful, intimidating authority figure unless it is modeled for her? And isn't the parent supposed to be her child's advocate when no one else will?

On the other hand, if I step in and tell the teacher what my daughter is feeling about her and her class, it may make the teacher angry . . . or make her think badly of my daughter . . . it may make things worse for her rather than better.

On the other hand . . . no, that's it. That's the rub, right there.

Grrrrrr.  The Spirit of wisdom and revelation. That's what I need, Lord. Soon, please.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Okay to Give Up Traditions. Really.

I'm trying to decide if I'm weird. My girls were watching a Christmas movie the other day where some tragedy was happening (I wasn't paying close attention) and they weren't going to be able to do something that they always did at Christmas -- and the whole family was absolutely despondent that Christmas was now ruined. And I'm thinking, Seriously? It's not like Christmas doesn't happen every single year. You can do it again next year. Buck up. I mean, a little disappointment, yes -- but a ruined Christmas?

For some reason, the idea that someday, we won't be doing Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house came up this year, and my girls find that quite upsetting (and even Hubby, to an extent). "It won't be Christmas if we're not with the whole family opening presents at Grandma and Grandpa's!"  Uh . . . yes, folks, it most certainly will be. Not that I don't enjoy our Christmases in Lindsborg with Hubby's family, but Christmas will most certainly not be ruined when that tradition has to end. That tradition does not define Christmas for me.

Maybe I feel differently because of my own family Christmases. We had our traditions, but we often mixed it up, too. In fact, for most of my life, we haven't celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. One of my sisters put her foot down one year and said she was done trying to decide which family to be with (or trying to get to both families in one day); her brood was not leaving the house on Christmas Day. We could have them before or after -- take it or leave it. (Wise woman, she was . . . )

So we usually celebrated on Christmas Eve or the day after. It was a bit disappointing the first year (because I was pretty young), but I quickly got over it when I realized everything was still just as fun . . . just on a different day.

My mom, also, was one to try new things a lot. Let's put the tree here this year. Let's have barbecue brisket for dinner this time. (That one became a yearly tradition 'cause we all liked it so much.) Let's make this craft with the grandkids after dinner. One year she bent a hanger into a wreath shape and stuck peppermint candies on it where you could just pull one off at any time to eat, and she offered mints to everyone who came in the door all season. I loved that.

And actually, it's the different things we did that I remember the most. The year mom put only the top half of the tree up on a table with the gifts around it so the then-tiny grandkids couldn't get into it. The year my sisters, their husbands, and I went to see "Superman" on Christmas afternoon while mom and dad stayed with the napping grandkids (THAT was so cool!). The year we prepared music ahead of time and did a little concert for each other (that one didn't catch on . . . but it was memorable!).

Several years ago, for a reason I don't recall now, my whole family met in Kansas City for Christmas. We went ice skating and opened gifts in one of our hotel suites. One year, we spent Christmas Eve at a sister's house and had cheese soup and home-made donuts. And I have vague memories of a Christmas Eve when I was very young that we spent at a downtown church listening to a big choir concert -- something I was too young to appreciate then but would love to do now.

THOSE Christmases I remember. The rest of them are a muddled memory of sameness.  Don't get me wrong -- very enjoyable and happy sameness. I still treasure those times. But it was when we were willing to, "just for this year", give up something we always did and try something new that Christmas was really special. By NO means, was it ruined. Sheesh.

We had friends in Missouri who packed up one year and spent Christmas in New York City -- just their family. And they all LOVED it. It sounded like so much fun! Maybe I can talk my family into that one year.

But . . . I kind of doubt it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thoughts While Listening to the Christmas Music Station in the Car

- Who doesn't like Karen Carpenter's voice? Such a sweet, natural, pleasing tone. And we only hear it in December.

- "Mr. Grinch" = linguistic brilliance that could only have been written by Dr. Suess. And brilliantly performed.

- I know I should be okay with artists doing the traditional songs and giving them their own personal flare -- I mean, some of these interpretations are great, and they become the new classics.  But some are really awful. And most are hopelessly forgettable. I most get annoyed when they do a classic ("Let It Snow", anyone?) and don't make it their own -- when their version is orchestrated and paced and everything just like everyone else's.  They apparently think that their fabulous voice and their minor melody changes here and there make it better than what's been done before and worth the audience's time to listen to. Yeesh.

- And speaking of . . . I don't ever quite get over the sound of Hall & Oates singing "Sleigh Bells". It's just . . . odd to me.

- Now, there are a few artists that get it right. James Taylor on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  Whitney Houston on "Do You Hear What I Hear." (Oh, Whitney . . . seriously, the lady had pipes.)

- I know how many people love "Christmastime is Here", the Charlie Brown song. I don't. The vocals make me cringe. Call me Grinch. Your heart's a dead tomato squashed with moldy purple spots . . .

- My favorite this year (and for a few years now): "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  This is the one Christmas song right now that completely transports me, that I get totally lost in. I'm air-guitarring, air-pianoing, pounding out the drums on the steering wheel . . . I'm downright dangerous. I asked for the CD for Christmas so I can enjoy it in the safety of my own living room at home.

- Fascinating the many, many different styles of music we listen to during the holiday season that we would never deign to listen to in, say, July.

- I'm noticing something interesting this year: I find myself rather bored by the traditional mid-20th century crooners and their classics (Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing -- you know, with the cheesy sounding choir in the background). But when Harry Connick Jr. does the same song in the same style, I'm enthralled. And I usually don't even know I'm listening to Harry Connick Jr. until the song's over. If I had the musical knowledge, I'd try to analyze exactly what it is he does differently that appeals to me. Gotta love Harry.

- I have yet to hear "O Holy Night" anywhere this year. I love that song.

- One of these years, I'm going to have to pick what I think are the definitive versions of each Christmas song and make my own personal Christmas CD. And to my surprise, I think one of those definitive versions would be Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You". The first time I think I heard that song was many years ago, during a morning newscast when they were showing her live giving a concert to troops overseas. She was singing with passion and gusto and blowing it away, and I was just flat out impressed.

- And for the umpteenth year in a row, I find my favorite Christmas hymn is "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing". The whole song. All the unfamiliar verses, too. Glorious in sound and glorious in sense. Just glorious.

Except when some uber-hip modern poser who has no sense at all of the meaning of the words just butchers it trying to "make it their own". Step away from the microphone, buddy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

8 Things I Have to Say About Enumerated Lists

It's no secret that I'm on Facebook a lot (more than I should be, truth be told) and that I like to read articles that friends post there (you may note that they are often fodder for my own blog posts here). So, allow me to make a few enumerated observations about these articles:

1) A large number of these articles are enumerated lists. You know, "6 Things I Learned From Slamming my Finger in the Door".  "8 Reasons to Buy an Eight-Track Tape Player This Holiday Season". "The 40 Best Gregorian Chants of the Decade". Not only that, but I've noted that . . .

2) The number of enumerated lists seems to be increasing. In fact, I believe the majority of FB articles I see posted are these types of articles, and this was not always so. But I see a reason why, because personally, I find that . . .

3) I am more likely to click on and read an article if it is an enumerated list. Even if I might not necessarily be that interested in the topic otherwise. I'm not sure that I would have normally cared about pictures of dogs and their recent misdeeds, but the fact that the title informs me that there are 30 such pictures here available for me to see, for some really bizarre reason, draws me in. In addition . . .

4) My blog posts which are enumerated lists seem to get more hits than normal. Every once in a while, I post a list of three's:  "Three Lies".  "Three Reasons Not To Date".  "Three Things NOT To Do When a Woman is Crying".  I'm always surprised at the traffic they get. And it's not because they are more brilliant than the other things I write. Nobody knows how brilliant they are until they read them, and they have to click on them to read them. People are apparently more likely to click on them when they see the number in the title. In other words, I'm not out of the mainstream in that regard. Now this fact leads to the following . . .

5) I find myself wondering why we are more likely to click on enumerated lists to read. As I said, I don't even have to necessarily be that interested in the topic at hand, but a number in the title draws me. And clearly, others have figured this out, too, or there wouldn't be this plethora of such articles popping up. And I have a theory . . .

6) Enumerated lists are easy to skim. Most of them are formatted the way I have formatted this one: the main point is in bold with an elaboration of that point following. This means that I can just read the points in bold if I choose and get the gist of the thing and decide if it's worth deeper reading. Or I can pick and choose the items that I want to hear more about and read more closely there. And because of how I think, I jump from this fact to a larger observation about our modern world . . .

7) Our attraction to enumerated lists reveals a shallowness in our society . . . or at least in the subsection of society that makes frequent use of social media and the internet as a source of information. We live a mile wide and an inch deep. We revel in sound bites and catchphrases and witty captions plastered over photos of angry-looking cats. If you didn't come to Facebook with ADD, you are likely to leave Facebook with it.  No, that's incorrect -- you're not likely to leave at all.  And a final note . . .

8) My wondering about our attraction to enumerated lists is not in the least bit strange . . . no matter what my eldest says about it. She is always telling me I wonder about the weirdest things.  "Why do you want to know who Wurzbach Parkway is named after?  Who cares? What difference would it make if you knew?" No, this is a very normal and practical wondering I'm engaged in. It speaks to effective communication and the nature of humanity. Nothing weird about it. "Weird" . . . please . . . this from the girl who pondered last week why the rear wheels on school buses are placed so far forward, leaving so much of the body of the vehicle suspended over air in the back.

And she made me wonder about that, too. If anybody can answer that one for me, I'd be much obliged.

Friday, December 6, 2013

You Didn't Hear It From Me, But . . .

A book I'm reading describes the various approaches Christians have used to deal with “being in the world but not of it”. One of these approaches is to cocoon themselves in their own little community separated from the sinful world. Problem with this, the author states, is that they take their own sin into the cocoon with them. 

My eldest might be getting a taste of that at her new school. It's a rather prominent Christian school here in town, but she says there seems to be a gossip epidemic on campus. Everyone knows it; the teachers bring it up in admonition on a frequent basis . . . although many of those teachers are themselves some of the biggest culprits.

My daughter doesn't think she personally has much of a problem with gossip (“although that may mostly be because I don't talk much at all”), but her observation did lead to a discussion of what constitutes gossip and what doesn't.

Because, really, why wouldn't kids at school talk about each other? And why shouldn't they? If merely passing on second-hand information about another person is a crime, how would we ever know anything about anybody? What distinguishes gossip from casual, harmless conversation? Is it the content of what is said? Is it the way the information could be used or perceived? Is it the motive of the informer?

When I google a definition of “gossip”, it tells me that gossip typically involves details that are not confirmed as being true. But this is easily turned around to create an excuse: “It's true, so it can't be gossip.” In fact, we can come up with all sorts of excuses to justify this behavior. “She didn't say it was a secret, so I'm sure it's okay to share.” Or the grandmama of them all: “I'm just sharing this with all of you so you can pray for her.” Mm-hmm.

Another Google source gives a more specific description of what the Bible says constitutes gossip. We are gossiping when we:

- tell a secret (Prov 11:13)
- talk too much about others (Prov 16:28)
- use our words to add fuel to a fight (Prov 28:20)
- discuss topics we shouldn't (1 Tim 5:13)
- cause division with our words (Prov 16:28)

That helps. (Although "too much" is still pretty subjective . . . )

Curious about the school's approach to the problem, I asked my daughter if the teachers' reprimands were simple scolding or if they included suggestions for how to identify what's gossip, how to direct conversations away from inappropriate topics, what else to talk about instead. No, just scolding. In my BSF this week, we read this teaching of Christ's in Matthew 12:

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, “I will return to the person I came from.” So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.

When dealing with our pet sins, getting rid of the bad is not enough – you must replace it with the good so there is no room for the bad to return.

Hmm . . . excuse me while I apply that teaching to my own little pet sin . . .

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Las Nuevas Tamaleras

Our family saw the most interesting play last Friday. It was called Las Nuevas Tamaleras (The New Tamale-Makers). What was so interesting about it?

1) It was bilingual. One character spoke all Spanish; another spoke a mix of Spanish and English (probably what one would call Spanglish); the other three spoke English with some Spanish words thrown in here and there. The person who invited us (my husband's assistant at work, who was one of the actresses) told us that we would be able to figure out what was being said in Spanish from the context and gestures and stuff. Not quite. We got the gist of what was going on, but we surmised from the audience's laughs that a lot of the funniest lines came from Spanish-speaking Doña Mercedes, and we missed them.

2) At first, I didn't like the delivery of the actresses. They seemed to be speaking so slowly, it all felt very over-acted. And maybe it was. But it occurred to me later: even with my very limited Spanish vocabulary, I was picking up on a lot of it, and I think that was because the Spanish-speakers were speaking slowly, not rattling it all off like so many Spanish-speakers do. (Or like it sounds to us English-speakers -- I suppose to those who don't speak English, it sounds like we're talking fast, also.) Maybe the actresses were told to speak slowly -- Spanish and English -- so the native speakers of each in the audience would more easily understand the other. So, okay. I can appreciate that.

3) It was about a Mexican tradition of making tamales for Christmas, one we are aware of but unfamiliar with. A couple of elderly Mexican ladies, who have been in heaven bemoaning the fact that they can't make tamales in heaven, get sent down to help three clueless young Latinas at their first attempt at the task. 

As I said, this was a new cultural thing for us, the tamale business, but the audience was loving it.  In fact, this is a play they perform at this theater every December, and it has apparently become a family tradition for many in San Antonio to see it every year. I can imagine why; if this is a part of your culture, there was a lot here to appreciate. We appreciated it, even from the outside.

And wouldn't you know, we seemed to be inundated with tamales for the rest of the weekend! The church we visited on Sunday had a strong bilingual ministry (in fact, the associate pastor who preached at our service was from Mexico). They had a "tamalada" scheduled for the next day -- an open cooking class for anyone wanting to learn how to make tamales. And many of the tamales made there were apparently going to be served at a Posada Dinner later in the month.

Then our youngest picked Mamacita's for lunch after church (our favorite Mexican place we've found in town so far). The furious appetite we all had for some Mexican food after we left the play may have contributed to that choice.  I decided to be adventurous and try the tamales. None of us had ever had them before (well, hubby might have tasted one). I thought they were fine. Hubby and youngest were kind of, "meh". Eldest almost gagged. I'm not sure why, although she's not a big Mexican food fan anyway. I guess it's just as well I didn't go to the tamalada and bring home more tamales -- I'd have been eating them all myself.

All in all, a fascinating cultural weekend for us. And it got me psyched to start learning my Spanish again. Still looking for a Latina friend who will talk Español with me . . .

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prideful Shame

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. - Proverbs 31

I've always wanted this to be true of me. And I've always been frustrated by my efforts. No matter how hard I've tried to be a good “helpmeet”, to make my husband's life easier for him, I always seem to screw up and cause him more trouble. (He, of course, tells me otherwise, but what does he know.)

Over the weekend, I made our Christmas letter (a handwritten scrapbook page that I copy to mail out) and realized I'd left something out he wanted in. So I redid the page, made all the copies and stuffed them in the envelopes . . . and then realized I'd messed up his new job title. And then I opened the newly-arrived mortgage bill and found that I apparently didn't get the mortgage paid last month somehow.

I put down the mortgage bill and went out for a jog around the neighborhood with tears in my eyes. I hadn't slept well or eaten well during the Thanksgiving holiday, which may have contributed to my emotional state, but my pity party was real. How could I have missed getting the mortgage paid?? Forget about whether my husband was disappointed in me – I was now disappointed in myself.

I read something recently about spiritual pride. We usually think the proud person is the one who thinks they are so righteous, that God must be so happy to have them on His team. But it's just as prideful to think God is dreadfully disappointed in you.

Consider: I know that all of humanity is sinful, so sinful that we can not possibly live up to God's righteous standards apart from His Spirit making that happen within us. But I know that God is great. That He knows we are dust. That He loves every person despite their sins and foibles and failings, and He forgives us when we come to Him. That He casts our sins has far as the east is from the west.

Everyone's but mine. My particular sins are SO bad that God just can't get over them. They are far too heavy for that east-to-west casting. He knows that I, being more than dust and better than the dusty world, was capable of better, and so His disappointment in me continues beyond my repentance. He can forgive everyone else – but not me. MY sins are greater than God's capacity to love and forgive.

You see the pride there?

There was a day in my life, when my eldest was a baby, when I had done something to make my husband mad at me. I don't remember what it was, but I remember just hating myself and how I always messed things up, even when I was trying so hard to do the right thing. And I remember thinking to myself, “I'm always going to screw up; I just have to hope that someday, he will decide to love me anyway”.

Don't think I'm crazy or anything, but I swear I heard a voice that was almost audible: Long before you were born, I knew every screw-up you were ever going to make . . . and I decided to love you anyway.

I cried. And my life was changed. But I still need to be reminded.