What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Boundaries, Part 1


It’s been almost a year. Last January, I set a boundary for myself. A new boundary. A productive boundary.

I have set other boundaries for myself. I thought they would keep me safe. Many of them did just the opposite and put me in grave danger. I lived by a set of rules I developed to keep me from being hurt, physically and emotionally. The rules determine when, where and how I set boundaries. One of the rules tells me, “Don’t trust anyone.” By not being willing to trust I set myself up to be skeptical, paranoid at times, and to keep everyone at a distance. This one rule led to dysfunctional relationships and behaviors. Some rules convinced me there was no hope and death was a viable escape.

In the last 11 years setting “good” boundaries has become possible, although not easy. The good boundaries set a limit, a line drawn in the dirt, which I will not go beyond. An example might be something like: “Drinking (alcohol) is not an option.” It tells me where I cannot, will not go. Setting a boundary like that is healthy. Making unhealthy behaviors not an option has kept me from crossing the line in several areas of my life. Eleven years ago I made alcohol use not an option. Any time I think a drink sounds good, I dismiss the thought because it is not an option.

A few years ago I decided self-harming behaviors were also not options. The thoughts still come, but they don’t keep running around in my head gaining power with each turn. The boundary is there, like a fence. I can see through it, and see the consequences of my behavior, without jumping into the desperation before looking. The fence keeps me safe. I will not hurt myself. No more to think about on that subject. It is not an option.

Last January, I set another boundary. Suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide and/or planning ways to commit suicide) is no longer an option. I hung onto thinking suicide was okay for a long time. It felt like the last thing I had “control” over. I could determine whether to live or not. I could decide to leave this world permanently. I got so wrapped up in lessening my pain – emotional pain – I didn’t see the pain my death would cause my children, husband, friends, siblings, and my mom. I have heard people say that suicide is a selfish act. In some ways it is, but what outsiders cannot see is the depth of pain and desperation, and the sense of worthlessness and uselessness (“They will be better off without me . . .“) It took me a while to see how suicidal thinking was adding to the problem and not a solution to the problem. I’ve heard it put this way: It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Last January I made a commitment, a promise, in writing, that I would not allow suicidal ideation to be an option for dealing with the pain in my life. Thinking about suicide had been a well used past time for as long as I can remember. I made it a six-month commitment. When June came around, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue the commitment. After talking to several people I came to the conclusion that suicide had not been a problem in those six months because I had promised not to cross the boundary line my commitment had put in place. I recommitted to making suicidal ideation not an option – for another six months.

So that brings me to now. It’s December and in a couple of days the last six-month commitment will expire. I will have to determine what I’m willing to commit to for the next six months (maybe I can stretch it out to a year?)

This is not meant to be about doom and gloom. It is about the hope we have in the Savior. Who does not give up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. Check in next week to see what I decide.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Treasuring the moments


Monopoly. My generation played it as kids. We introduced it to our kids. Apparently, both generations have yet to outgrow playing it. My “kids” are now young adults, but this last weekend, we played Monopoly. I suggested we play a game. My daughter and son bantered a bit about what to play. Scrabble. Pit. Risk. Euchre. Trivial Pursuit. Cribbage. Pictionary. Boggle. Finally, they settled on Monopoly.

We love playing the games, but I love doing something, anything, as a family, parents and children, together, that doesn’t involve the television. I’ve heard there’s research out there saying that playing such games is advantageous for the mental and social development of children.* However we were playing games together before I heard about that research. We started by playing Hi Ho Cherrio, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Memory, Trouble, and puzzles of all sizes and shapes. My “research,” noticing the anecdotal evidence of my children playing with us and as they interact with others, leads me to believe the research might be accurate.

Games require math skills, critical thinking, planning, strategizing, logic, give and take, listening, talking, honesty, fair play, courtesy, vocabulary building, patience, humor and increasing levels of knowledge. You can probably think of more skills. If I had time, I could too. Giving my children a chance to develop these skills is, however, only a positive by-product of our game playing. Our reasons for playing stay the same. We enjoy each other’s company. We have fun – lots of fun, complete with hysterical laughter causing pop to come out our noses! I can’t wait for the next time. Maybe a couple more times this Christmas break. Maybe we will invite some of you over to play, too.

*Web sites about some of the research:

http://www.srcd.org/journals/cdev/1-2/ramani.pdf

http://www.srcd.org/journals/cdev/1-2/ramani.pdf

http://www.radicalparenting.com/

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Parades

Life around the holidays in Small Village, USA is different than in Big City, USA. I’ve experienced both. The Small Village celebrations have grown on me. The Big City had more lights, longer parades, huge balloons shaped like Under Dog and Charlie Brown, famous people, expensive looking decorations, and crowds. As a child it was all an adventure holding tightly to my daddy’s hand. It would have been overwhelming except for the strong grip of my daddy holding onto me for dear life.

Then I became the hand-holder for my children. We live in a rural area (rapidly becoming developed.) The parades are much shorter, but more personal. We know, by name or reputation, most of those walking handing out homemade baked goods. We know many of those riding the lighted floats. In elementary school our son walked along next to our church’s nativity scene float. He was dressed up as a shepherd, complete with a shepherd’s hook. He may have done that a couple of years. Then he was in the high school marching band. They marched along, wearing gloves with the fingertips cut off so they could play their instruments. He participated in the parade all four years of high school.

The Village celebration has grown over the years. It started with a tree lighting. Local businesses started to add sidewalk sales before and after the lighting. Then a parade was started with humble floats (like the ones my son walked with.) A nearby city has a “light parade” tradition. Some of the decorated, lit up, floats, trucks, etc. started coming to our parade.

This year hot air balloons were added. Several took off from our community park, flew over town, and landed in a field south of town (we still have a few farmers’ fields around.) At parade time, just after dark, some of the balloonists lined up along the parade route with their baskets and burners and lit up the town during the parade. Others were actually in the parade, turning on their burners as they passed. Those burners warmed anyone within 50-feet.

Even with all that growth, our Village parade is still only a fraction of the Big City ones from my childhood. I feel like a participant, even standing among the spectators. I want our Village Christmas parade to always create that sense of belonging.

Parade 2010 Pics



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gentle Reminder of the Point of Christmas

I’m feeling rather melancholy of late. I get fired up for something related to the holidays, and then struggle to remember anything good about Christmas. I want to rant and feel sorry for myself. Is that Christmas? Does anyone really want to listen to my ranting? Obvious answer: “No!” I need to take a mental step back, take a deep breath, and gently remind myself of the real point of Christmas.

In December of 1978, I was struggling to figure out what Christmas was about. On the 4th floor of Siedschlag Resident Hall at Western Michigan University we organized a “Secret Santa.” The week of finals we each were surprising and being surprised as we left and found trinkets and notes of encouragement. The woman who had my name included with each gift, a small card with quotes from the Bible describing the birth of Jesus. I wasn’t so na├»ve about the Christmas Story that I had never heard these passages before. Yet for some reason the point of Christmas became much more clear. Now in 2010, there are a couple of verses found in the book of Luke, shared on the small cards in ’78, that always help me take a step back, take a deep breath, and gently remind myself of the real point of Christmas:

“The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” [Luke 2:10 – 11, New American Standard Bible]

Another way I take a mental step back, followed up with the deep breath, is listening to – sometimes singing along with – the beloved Christmas carols. I first heard my now favorite Christmas song during the same December of 1978 (I especially like the first verse; it met me right where I was at):

O HOLY NIGHT

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Shortly after hearing the verses from Luke and hearing, and singing, “O Holy Night” I made a decision to give my life over to the Savior whose birth as a baby is celebrated at Christmas. This is the gentle reminder I need whenever the ho hums of melancholy strike.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Memories


Snow. Lights. Evergreens. Red. Green. Bows. Colorful paper. Carols. Sing Along with Mitch Miller. Candles. Midnight church services. Manger Scenes. Ornaments. Stars. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Stockings. Roast Turkey. Homemade sugar cookies. Homemade pies. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Hot cider. Miracle on 34th Street. Advent calendars. It’s A Wonderful Life. Parties. Guests. Charity. Family. Love. Warmth. And, of course, gifts.

These are the things I expect every Christmas. Every Christmas, since I was a child. One of my earliest Christmas memories involved going to a big place, maybe to the downtown Detroit Hudson’s store or Cobo Hall. My parents gave each of us four kids some money (it seemed like a fortune at the time.) We would all go off by pairs – my older and younger brothers one team and my younger sister and myself the other – to explore the special, kid-friendly displays of possible gifts.

We would buy our little knick-knacks (animal-shaped soap, handkerchiefs, small stuffed animals, crayons, etc.) for each other and for our parents, sometimes switching partners so our purchases could stay secret. There was a wrapping table – they did it for us free. There were decorated shopping bags in which we put our secret gifts. Finally, Mom and Dad would hold our bags and we would go play in the indoor winter wonderland playground. I remember climbing up the stairs on the inside of a big snowman. When at the top, I found a very high and long slide. I was afraid to go down but my older brother sat behind me and we soared down the dark tunnel emerging into the light at the bottom, landing on a huge pile of cotton snow. I was hooked and impatiently waited for my turn to climb up again and soar down, by myself this time.

Once we were all tired, or once Mom and Dad were tired, we went to stand, or sit on the floor, waiting our turns to tell Santa what we wanted for Christmas. My parents were listening carefully, hoping they guessed well because they already had their shopping done. I imagine now, as a mother to my kids, there were times when they had not gotten anything we asked Santa for, so they would take one more trip to the store to pick up the least expensive asked-for gift. (I remember poring over the J.C. Penney’s Christmas Catalog each year, bending the corners of the pages where I wanted something. Maybe they didn’t miss anything – of course there was always the chance that we told Santa a completely different list of stuff from than what we marked in the catalog!)

The long day over, we would fall asleep during the 45-minute drive home. We were happy and content. We were excited and expectant. We impatiently waited for Christmas morning.