42 years to learn

22 truths that took me 42 years to learn… and, by all projections, a lifetime to perfect:

1. Get your sleep, eat well, go for a walk. These are the best first steps to solving what ails you. If nothing else, it puts your mind in a better place to tackle the problem(s).

2. Pay attention to the words of those who stammer, stutter or blush because they are spoken with courage.

3. Embrace your tears. Those who know me know I cry almost daily. One friend has taken to calling me “Tina Tears.” Their involuntary appearance STILL takes me by surprise and, truthfully, sometimes embarrasses me. But I’ve learned to welcome them. I was marked with them in my early 20s when I received Christ. In welcoming these tears, I’ve discovered that they are a good gift. Tears detect beauty, break down walls, open the heart, and speak grace. They adjust my eyes to see what Jesus wants me to see. When your tears make a surprise appearance, acknowledge this good gift.

4. Welcome interruptions. Like tears, most gifts from God are not the things we planned or expected. The things that were/are an interruption in my life: my husband, my kids, my friends, and, well, 42 showed up kind of suddenly…  I can’t rightly say what good thing in my life wasn’t born out of interruption, even the things which initially seemed troubling. So welcome it all as God’s benevolence.

5. Banish offence. I believe it is possible to live a victorious life if we rid ourselves of offence. To qualify the term, I’m referring to when someone insults you either directly or indirectly, whether real or perceived. Root it out with prayer, kill it with kindness, walk through life unscathed and free.

6. Love others by keeping a record of rights. We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that when we keep an account of offences it is unloving behaviour. We like to either hold onto our offences and nurse them and/or throw them at others like a weapon once we’ve accumulated a good number of them. Is it possible to love by keeping track of, placing importance on, and speaking of the good things we see in others? I tried it. Suddenly, my husband is the most interesting man in the world, my kids are angels, I love Monday mornings, I have the best friends a girl could ask for, and I am saying hello to strangers on the street.  Gratitude is the outcome when we keep track of the good things.

7. Practice good gossip. Get caught talking well about other people. (That Karen is so amazing. Bob sure throws a great party. Don’t you just LOVE our pastor? And so on.) Start a new trend in the workplace, build the joy in your home, revitalize your church through good gossip.

8.  Asking for help is an act of generosity. Be specific with your needs and those who love you will thank you that you’ve let them in.

9. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.” Guidelines for life and social media from Romans 12:15-16.

On parenting (teens)

10. “Good for you!” “Use your words,” and “Play nicely” remain solid parenting principles well into the teen years.

11. Your teens actually do want to spend time with you. Force adventures on them, even if they resist. Do things together that make you hold your breath, use your muscles, tempt fate (within reason), laugh out loud. You’ve all just received a shot of perspective and joy. Now repeat.

Cockram Family Adventure

12. You are the boundary your teen needs to push against. Confirm for your teens that their home is a place where are they are safe to wrestle and doubt. Parents, this is Part II of your labour pains. There will be great rejoicing at the end of it.

13.  Parents of teens, you will need to add a sense of humour to your arsenal. No doubt about it, your kids will laugh at you, but if you join in, it means they are laughing with you.  Believe me, they’ll show you just how funny you didn’t know you are!

On marriage

14. Making the bed together is the best first thing to do each day. Bravo, you’ve accomplished something together. Now go, rock this day. It’s the two of you against the world. I also highly recommend unmaking it together at the end of the day, if you catch my drift…

15.  Dissatisfaction is never the other person’s fault, it belongs to you. Once you identify this truth, you can save/build/enjoy your marriage by ending the blame cycle and attending to the necessary changes in your own heart.

16. This one is for the wives. I’ve learned this little tip over time. (Don’t tell J-M, but it works like a charm). Whatever question you want to ask of your husband, ask it three times.  This is what it takes to get: 1) his attention, 2) the jokes out of the way, and 3) his real response. Try it and report back to me. We might be onto something.

17. Lighten up. If I may generalize, I think this is one of the brilliant things a man adds to a marriage – an easy going perspective. Women can place such importance on their deep thoughts and over-processing the minutiae.  If men and women are polar opposites in their thinking, perhaps the truth can be found in the happy medium. Emphasis on the happy.

On Faith

18. Faith is our spiritual muscle we must activate and exercise or else we become ineffective and unproductive. Train like an athlete. Digest good nutrients (truth). Work it off with strength training (service). Don’t get spiritually obese by only taking it in and never putting it to use. Don’t run yourself dry by always serving and never replenishing your reserves. And, just as importantly, rest once a week.

19. Worship God completely. Like, use every part of you – your voice, your strong legs, your wingspan, your thoughts, your heart, your eyes, your touch, your gut – to love and praise him. Discover how he wants to heal and restore every inch of you.

20. Thank God for the activists. They increase our proximity to the heart of God. They help us see and love the poor, the needy, the abandoned, the destitute, the lonely. So next time you see an activist coming, don’t squirm in your EZ chair, receive their good intentions and consider how you might take action with them.

21. Trade in Karma for Grace. Jesus paid what you owe. Best deal ever.

Final Word (For Now)

22. Seek after beauty. I have spent the past two years trying to understand what beauty is, where it comes from, where it can be found, who owns it. I can say with great joy that there are very real answers to these important questions. They all lead to a Creator God who decided that beauty is the way in which he would communicate his message of love and truth.  Look for beauty, find God.


Related Post: 40 years to learn

Give Yourself Permission – Part I

Give Yourself Permission

Today, I want to give you permission to give yourself permission to:

1. Not round up to the nearest dollar when pumping gas. I don’t actually know why this is a thing. Surely filling the tank to the tippy-top with $0.37 extra gas does not get us additional mileage of any significance. In fact, the time and mental energy we waste through this exercise is of way more value than hitting point-zero-zero at the pump. When we go to a restaurant we don’t ask the waiter to round up our bill with a few more mashed potatoes, do we? “Just a bit more, a little bit more, just a smidgen, ooh–and now you’ve added too much, darn it.”  No, give yourself permission to stop when the pump stops, pay the attendant, and drive to your destination.

Unless you get great joy from rounding up, in which case, I say carry on.

2.  Stop reading the book you’re not enjoying. It is fair to say that some books require time to get into. When a book doesn’t resonate right away, it is often worth pushing through to find the gem at the centre. But sometimes it is just not working for you no matter how hard you try or how many times you re-read those pages. Maybe it’s time to put that book down for good and take the pressure to read it off your shoulders.

My personal rule is to give a book the Three-Chapter-Try. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, it’s not for me. I’ve also closed a book forever after three sentences. Be guilt-free about this.

3. Go on a vacation with your spouse without your kids. Why haven’t you done this yet? It’s the best thing in the world once you get over the initial worry or wishing the kids were with you. (Husbands, give your wives a day or two to settle in the first time you try this.) On your kid-free vacation, you will face your spouse, look at him/her in the eyes again and remember that you’re in this together and actually so in love. You’d forgotten for a moment because you’ve been so busy with the kids.

If you’re worried that your kids will be upset, I can tell you they’ll actually love it even if they whine a little because they’ll love the effect. Kids are crazy-thrilled when their parents are in love. They are stressed that you’re arguing and they are sad when there is tension. They pretend to be grossed out when you kiss, but do it anyway. I’m telling you, they’re giggling while they say “ew.”

Make this a regular thing.

4. Book NOTHING in your calendar. This is for those of us who are victims of our own busy-ness. To those of you who said yes because Tuesday was free and now you desperately wish Tuesday was free because Wednesday through Monday are filled to the brim. Get out your calendar, consider your immediate future, and write NOTHING in regular intervals. With marker if you’re a hard copy fan. Develop a wish list of breaks, find your rhythm. You can do this.

Now, when you’re over-booking yourself this fall, as you tend to do, making plans, scheduling meetings, promising phone calls, you’ll see NOTHING in there, bright and bold. (If you’re brave enough, tell the other party involved that you CAN’T that Tuesday, you’re busy doing NOTHING.) You will so look forward to that date! I’ve got NOTHING planned in my calendar for the very near future. I’m giddy just thinking about NOTHING!

5. Admit you don’t know. In a world pressuring you to pick sides, it’s OK not to know. It’s OK that you want to spend time and consider all sides without jumping on or off bandwagons. It’s even admirable. You don’t need to share an article, you don’t need to stand on a soapbox, you don’t need to find someone to be horrified at to show you stand for something. You don’t need to busy yourself gathering up evidence to prove a point you’re not sure about. You actually probably know as much as everyone else.  But your admitting you don’t know helps the rest of us understand that there are nuances and complexities to these things. We’re too busy dumbing things down into one-line slogans and memes to notice. You’re doing us all a service by admitting you don’t know yet. So be unabashed about it and maybe more of us will feel free to admit we’re not sure either. That’s where true dialogue begins.

40 years to learn

There’s less than one week till my 40th birthday. Oh, have I mentioned that already? Well, anyway, it’s on Friday, October 25th. I’ll give you a moment to mark it on your calendar.

I’m making a big deal of it. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been talking about it all over the place, reminding my friends and family daily about this upcoming milestone. Perhaps over-celebrating it will reduce the impact when those big numbers – in Roman numerals that’s XL – actually hit.

Physically, I’m noticing my age. Not just on the surface, like wrinkles and age spots, but functional things like failing eyesight and a chronically sore left knee.

But I’ve recently come to view the aches and pains not as a sign of what’s to come, but as the sign of transition. This is what trade-off feels like. Wisdom for beauty via pang, spasm and twinge. And that’s when I realized that I am going to be A-OK with 40.

Because (a) I never had this beauty thing down, certainly not in my teens.

Grade 10

Follow along the full #theawkwardyears series on Facebook!

And (b), I was a foolish young woman with regrettable behaviour. It’s taken me 40 years to learn some very important things, things I wouldn’t trade for the world. And they’ve come with age and most often they’ve come via heartache. Strangely, it’s resulted in a gift worth more to me than gold and I wouldn’t give it up for minimized pores or rocking skinny jeans.

At 40, I understand I get to be obnoxious, correct? So indulge me as I share 20 things that took me 40 years to learn. 20 things I didn’t know at 20… because I hadn’t yet had the full experience of it (which can mean doing it the wrong way one or a few times).

On Friendship

1. Life is meaningless without friendship. Therefore, work to keep the friends you have (especially your family) and be a friend to those who need one.

17877_430546365446_200261_n2. Do not fear conflict. When addressed properly, it has the potential to deepen your friendships.

On Marriage

3. .Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’ve won. I’ve bolded that because this was the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned – which cleansed our marriage – with a fantastic back story of turmoil and tension and those words coming from John-Mark’s mouth toward me. My insistence on being right (and trying to correct what was “wrong” in him) almost tore our marriage apart. It is much preferable to win in marriage than to be “right.”

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4. A nap is often the best remedy for an argument. If you feel grumpy, critical, negative, go to bed already, then we’ll talk. Again, J-M’s words to me.

On Church and Ministry

5. Church can be so very ugly… and breathtakingly beautiful. On this side of eternity, it’s a holy mess. But at its best it’s a foretaste of heaven.

6. The key to loving the church is realizing that we are the church.

7. Hope for everything, expect nothing. Hope keeps you encouraging, challenging, and loving others.  Having no expectations takes the weight off your shoulders and keeps you from taking it personally when others have their own unique journey of faith…

8. Use your gifts. God has equipped believers in a unique way to be a part of the church. How thrilling when you discover that he can use you. Also, let others use their gifts. Sometimes stepping away from ministry so that others can step in is the right decision.

On Faith

9. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.  There is nothing you have done that (a) he doesn’t already know about; (b) he won’t forgive.

10. There’s no more important thing to learn than forgiveness. God has forgiven you, you must forgive others. Walk in it, practice it daily. How about this – PRE-forgive! This is love.

11. We need others on this pilgrim’s progress – the faithful, the hopeful, the charitable – to teach us, to make the load lighter and the journey a joy. To seclude yourself is to weaken your faith.

12. God’s promises are not the mantra of the happy, they’re the lifeline for the suffering.

On Parenting

13. Neglect produces independence. Let me qualify this tongue-in-cheek statement – it’s about life skills. Let’s say that you forget to make your child’s lunch one day, they will most likely choose to make it themselves the following day.  If you don’t pack their favourite PJs for their sleepover party, they’ll want to do it themselves next time. If they run out of underwear because you haven’t yet done the laundry, they may choose to learn. HYPOTHETICALLY of course.

14. Never refuse a request for a hug from your child. Never, never.  You can’t over hug. Drop everything to give the hug. And force hugs on them from time to time, even when they don’t want them.

61911_10152334595785492_1861113051_n15. One’s role as parent has a progression from protector, to teacher, to coach, to friend. Try not to put these in the wrong order.

16. Your example will be the most powerful lesson for your kids, so love well, fight fair and make your bed too.

On Truth

17. In order for truth to be the strongest voice in your head, immerse yourself in it. Preferably daily.

On Work

18. You must put your time in the trenches. The most mundane task, done well, leads to growth and opportunity. Everything is useful.

On Decision-Making

19. Never make a decision based on fear or solely on money. That is for those who feel they have no choice. One’s choices should be life-giving.

AND FINALLY (FOR NOW)

20. Stay curious. It is the remedy to many things, such as boredom, ignorance, and self-consciousness, to name a few.

***

Of course there’s a whole bunch more, like HAVE FUN, READ LOTS, GET REST, TRAVEL, but I’ve got my forties to beat you over the head with them. ;)

And so, believe it or not, despite my ranting, I’ve come to appreciate 40. Not because it’s “fabulous” or “the new 30.” Because it reveals a gift, given through the fine lines and grey hairs. There is great value in them.

Although… I’m still inclined to cover up the evidence.

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One does not simply pretend Operation Recipe Swap never happened

I’m turning 40 in less than a month.

One of the things I’ve noticed people my age like to do is make statements about who we are. How we’re this type of person and not that type. I think it’s so that we only do the things we want to and don’t get roped into (any more) the things we don’t want to do. It’s a right at this age. And I’m trying it on for size here in this post.

So let me tell you that I am a starter.

I start things. I like to use words like “envision,” “imagine,” and “what if.” I’ve started businesses and ministry and small groups and book clubs and like 10 different blogs. I start things because I have ideas. And how will these idea come to life without starting something with them?

Sometimes being a starter can look like being a quitter because you may have to leave one or some things behind to start other things. I’ve been feeling this way, certainly in the past few months, since Operation Recipe Swap has come to a premature end, whether I publicly admitted it or not. I’ve had to make time-purges when I started a full-time job in the summer. There’s just no extra time to learn to cook, never mind blog about it.

But truth be told, I think I quit before I started my new job and it was just handy to have a great excuse.

I’d had a brilliant lesson in the spring with my friend Chelsea, who had shown me how to cook the world’s best steak and demystified mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. I sat on her recipes for a while, attempting to write about our lovely rainy afternoon together. But I was stuck on this point: I don’t want to do this any more.

My feelings were linked to an experience that happened at Easter, a week or so before my lesson with Chelsea, which had the effect of rapidly deflating my will to continue.

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Let me explain. I’d come up against some friction with John-Mark in the early stages of Operation Recipe Swap, but for the most part he was really great at saying, yes, carry out your cute little experiment in my kitchen. He gave me permission to go play. So I did.

From time to time I’d check in with him.  “Are you OK with my reorganizing the spice drawer?”  “Do you mind that I made this our ‘baking cupboard?'” His “encouragement” took on an if-you-must quality to it.

But there came a boiling point for our culinary friction. It happened over the preparation of Easter dinner.

J-M and my mom have the cutest tradition of making the family holiday meals together when we host everyone at our house. But this time I volunteered to make the meal. I’d put what I learned from the previous six month to the test. I would cook for my family. I’d do the roast beef and potatoes I’d made on my birthday with all the fixin’s, gravy just like Deb makes, and even tapis a la Tanya! I would make enough to serve 19 of us. It was going to be FABULOUS. I laid out the ingredients the night before.

The next morning, I woke up to find J-M putting the roast in the oven, seasoned and all (and not with the spices I’d chosen). “I thought it would be a help to you,” he answered my expression of shock.

This is what I heard.

Gordon-Ramsay-Angry-Kitchen-YOUR-COOKING-IS-BAD Before we psycho-analyze how I deal with (perceived) criticism. I figured out I was over-reacting internally before anyone else did, thankyouverymuch.

I know that some of you ladies reading this blog have zero sympathy right now. That a husband who cooks meals for you – especially Easter dinner – is a dream come true, right?

41iej

That’s the clincher! I wanted to be offended. In the spirit of Operation Recipe Swap, I wanted to be incensed! But I was RELIEVED. It is a dream for one’s husband to cook every meal.

That’s when I had to take a good hard look at the fact that I might be forcing myself to continue this experiment. For what, fodder for the blog? Bad idea if so, because this gets old pretty quick.

41inu Did I truly want to stir the pot and make changes to a system that has been working perfectly well in our home? I had to go back to the impetus for starting this experiment.

I DID want/need to learn to cook – I was missing out on a life skill – and I wanted to learn more it from my friends who delight in it – the best way for it to sink in, I’d hoped. I thought my discovery might be a discovery for us all.

Six months of lessons meant that I, indeed, learned the survival skill! I can safely say that I could keep myself and my family alive. If I needed to.

Plus:

  • Beyond boiling, I know almost all the ways to cook an egg
  • I can mash and roast potatoes
  • I no longer feel squeamish around raw meat
  • Cutting onions make you cry, there’s no way around it
  • I can make lumpless gravy
  • get the deal with the baking at Christmas
  • My daughter asked me just today if I would make beef barley stew again and I said yes.

I can’t unlearn these things.

Being in my friends’ kitchens was the best part. I loved learning about their philosophies about cooking or baking and seeing simple ingredients come to life in mouth-watering dishes. Their creativity opened up my eyes to a whole new world. I was fascinated by how every kitchen is different, what with tupperware cupboards, spice drawers, pots and pans “solutions,” junk drawers… This I will miss. But then again it doesn’t have to be a project to exchange recipes or take an interest in how someone makes a to-die-for pie (which Trish Taylor taught me and I’m hoping to bake for Thanksgiving!). I can participate in an idea without starting a campaign, imagine that.

I have obtained enough vocab and know-how to join the cooking community and ACTUALLY swap recipes! That in and of itself is huge and I’m owning it, OK? 

So thank you friends who taught and those who offered to teach. I love you for trying. I love you for being vulnerable by opening your cupboards and drawers and (sometimes) letting me cook in your kitchens. I love you for letting me record our conversations. And you must love me too because I am now sitting on potential blackmail material from some of you. (It’s amazing the secrets that are told in kitchens!)

So I will let you know that I’m not a cook, but I can cook. I’m not a baker, but I can bake. I’m really a starter, and I’ll start by giving J-M his kitchen back.Funny Family Ecard: Why yes, I've discovered the JOY of cooking. It's when my husband does it. P.S. J-M posted this on my Facebook wall recently. I think it’s a not-so-subtle message that he’s on board with the new plan.

Gender Rolls

P.P.S. The Operation Recipe Swap Group continues on Facebook. I chime in from time to time with some good stuff, no kidding!

Bite-Sized Wisdom – Part I

Tanya is another friend with whom I divulged my plan for Operation: Recipe Swap before it became a reality.  She had a cautious response, asking me, as a good friend would, my motivations for doing this.  I explained to her, like I’d explained to others, that (a) this was a survival skill one really should have, but more than that, (b) I want to connect with all those women who exchange recipes and food ideas.  Especially because I lead women’s ministry, I want to understand the joy women seem to get from sharing their kitchen ideas.

“As long as you’re not doing it to prove anything,” she said. “It doesn’t make you any less of a woman because you can’t cook, you know.” Continue reading

For the wives

There is a thought-provoking blog post by Lara Ortberg Turner about the “role” of pastor’s wives, Let Pastor’s Wives Do Their Own Thing, in reaction to the new TLC reality TV show Sisterhood, about wives of mega-church pastors in Atlanta, who call themselves “First Ladies.”

Sisterhood

In the trailer, one of the First Ladies says, “When you’re married to a pastor, you’re held to a higher standard.”  And yet, Turner proffers, “It is an antiquated and strange notion to view a woman as an extension of her husband’s occupation. Yet for some reason, we insist on doing this with pastor’s wives.” Continue reading