Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Real Story - Grief

Well, this is a terribly depressing topic. I went back and forth on whether or not to include it, but I heard a song today that made me realize I had to write about this subject.

Grief is something we all face in our lives. And its something we can't really, truly understand until we've faced it. And its something most people don't spend a lot of time processing out loud. I don't know if I can either, but I'm determined to give it a try.

Sometimes its a loss that is expected. My grandmother (paternal) died after a long battle with cancer when I was a 12 or 13. We knew it was coming. We were relieved that she was no longer suffering. But we still cried. We still grieved the loss of her in our lives.

My grandfather (maternal) was killed in a car accident when I was 10. That was a shock to my family. A reeling, breathtaking, unfathomable shock. I will always remember walking in from the backyard to find my mom laying flat on her back in the floor, her hands over her face, sobs seeping from between her fingers, tears running down into her hair.

Everyone says there are stages of grief. I can't remember what they all are, but I know anger is in there, and denial, and acceptance is the last one listed. I know this, because somehow in my mind I just assumed that once you'd gone through all the steps...grieving was over.

Boy, was I wrong.

Losing a grandparent is hard, and I can only imagine how hard losing a parent is. Losing my 26 year old sister...breathtaking, unfathomable shock.

The Real Story about grief is...it takes a while to really sink in. At first, there is sadness and tears and pain and loss...but there is a significant amount of numbness too. The adrenaline is pumping, because you are suddenly having to think about funeral arrangements and accommodations for out of town family members. There is quite a bit of distraction which keeps the numbness from wearing off or the adrenaline from dying down.

But after the funeral is over, and after people stop bringing meals, and all your family members go home...

That is when grief sets in. The soul ache, the deep, dark pit of pain and loss, the hurt so all-consuming that you can feel it in your bones. You can't eat, you can't sleep. When you do eat, it goes straight through you and makes you sick, when you do sleep you dream about your lost loved one and wake up sobbing in the middle of the night.

Every single moment you can remember with the one you loved and lost replays in your mind. Every unkind word or deed causes you to feel nauseous. Every moment you were less than interested in them carries a surge of regret - regret that you were so blasé in your time with them, regret that you can never get a do-over, regret that you didn't hold them close and never let them go.

The searing loss and pain are also marked by unexpected things. The children take care of their parents. My mom did it for her mom after the car wreck that killed my grandfather. I did it for my mom when Joy died, and my sweet little daughter, only 8 at the time, cared for me. She would sit beside me and hold my hand while I cried. She would run to turn off the radio if a song came on that might remind me of my sadness and/or my sister, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) she would crawl out of her bed late at night after I was asleep, and sit beside her daddy on the couch, crying out her own tears of loss and pain that she kept back from me because she didn't want to add to mine.

Also unexpected was the fact that acceptance of my grief didn't, in any way, mark the end. Truly, that was the beginning. Because accepting it meant I had to figure out a way to live with it...

You lose a part of yourself when you lose someone you love. Because the part of you that they brought out...can't be brought out by anyone else. You are now missing a piece of who you are, literally. The closer you were to that person, the bigger the piece you lost. And it's gut-wrenching...and that never goes away.

And I guess that's one really shocking REAL fact about grief, and the one nobody wants to tell you, because there doesn't seem to be any hope in it.

Grief doesn't end, once it's started.

I'm 3 years and 2 months into my life since I lost my sister, into trying to be the new person I am without the part of me that died with her, and I still have moments, and days, when I cry a lot, and I miss her, and I can't stop wishing and regretting and hurting.

There are fewer days like that than there were at first. But I still have them. I made a greeting card last week that was something she would have loved. As soon as I finished it, I thought "I have to send this to Joy." And then...the reality. The ache. The strength sapping remembrance.

So the reason I didn't want to share the real story about grief is because it seems, at first, like a DOWNER beyond compare.

But...

There are more real facts. They aren't fact you can really understand until you have lived them. But if you've never experienced a deep loss, I want you to read this, and I want you to store it away in your heart, because someday...someday you will need to know.

You will never feel God more clearly than you do in your deep pain. You will know Him more intimately than you ever have before. You will find comfort in His presence. You will be held.

And, you will turn and rail at Him...and lash out in anger at Him...accuse Him of making a mistake...doubt His goodness...

And He will still be there.

You will be so tired of feeling pain that you will shut your emotions down, and you won't be able to feel anything at all...

And He will still be there.

And when a long, painful, battle scarred road stands behind you, and you know there is still more of the  journey to live through...you will be able to say to the person who is still numb with shock...

"Never once will you ever walk alone."
"You don't have to feel Him. But He is still there."
"It's okay to be angry. He isn't afraid of your pain. He's there with you in it."
"He is with you in this moment. You have enough grace for right now, and that is its own miracle."

He is faithful.
He is good.
He is true.

The Real Story about grief...it's where you find Him. He's in the weakest, hardest, darkest moments of our lives. And in His mercy, He holds us. And in His grace, He blesses others through our pain. And in His love, He heals our pain so that it's bearable.

I have several songs that I have listened to on my own grief journey. If you need some reminders, listen to them. If you are filing things away for when you do need them, add these to your list.

"Sovereign" (Chris Tomlin)
"Beauty Will Rise" (Steven Curtis Chapman)
"Never Once" (Matt Redman)
"Arms That Hold The Universe" (Fee)
"Faithful" (Steven Curtis Chapman)
"In Christ Alone" (Avalon Hymns)

There is hope in grief. There are promises so faithful that we can drop our anchors in them. There are Arms mightier than anything we can ever face. There is a story that is eternal, and our journey is only part of it. There is more to this life...after this life.

And so, The Real Story about grief has two parts:

It doesn't end once it starts...until it ends
for good,
for everyone,
forever.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Real Story - Exercise

There are people who work out consistently, and people who don't.

There are people who never gain weight, despite the fact they never work out and they eat whatever they want, and there are the rest of us.

There are people who enjoy exercise, and there is the normal, not-crazy, majority of the world.

And the people who never have to work out or watch what they eat to stay the shape and size they want to get dirty looks from the rest of us.

And the people who LOVE going to the gym or going for a run or going to yoga class are usually on the receiving end of silent hatred from the normal people in the world.

Most people don't like to exercise. I know I don't. I hate sweating, especially since I am the kind of girl who sweats till it pools in my belly button. It's gross, and smelly, and I DO NOT enjoy it in any way.

But if I could receive instant gratification from a good hard workout (like, maybe my jeans would fit a little looser the first time I used the stationary bike) (or, maybe my arms would look a little less like flabby, saggy skin, and a little more like Jillian Michaels' biceps after 10 push ups) then I would probably be more prone to working out on a regular basis.

But those things don't happen.

I just get a belly button full of sweat, and my jeans still give me a muffin top.

I don't eat a single dessert, or drink a single sugar-filled soft drink, or eat the bread that comes with a restaurant meal...and I still hold onto the flab in all the places I wish I could shed it.

The Real Story about exercise is...it sucks.

Most of us walk quickly up a flight of stairs and then tell ourselves "that counts as my workout."

I consider house cleaning a workout. And walks with the kids. And (clears throat suggestively) one-on-one time with my husband.

I know people who park at the back end of the Wal-mart parking lot and walk briskly to the store, so that they "got in their exercise for the day."

And if we are honest, we all wish we had one of those muscle-shocking machines that they sell on infomercials. Then we could sit on our butts on the couch and the machine could shock our stomach muscles into flat, six-pack loveliness, and we could avoid sweaty belly buttons altogether.

I secretly wish I could take expensive, magic diet pills, and that they would work.

I DO NOT secretly wish for a personal trainer to get me into shape, because that would require the belly button sweat.

I work out (sometimes) because otherwise I'd have to buy new clothes in a bigger size, and the only thing I hate worse than belly button sweat is trying on jeans in a store dressing room, and not being able to button them.

But, most of the time, I avoid working out, and I also steer clear of full length mirrors, and I try not to look at the size-tags in my clothes.

 I do my best to avoid sugar, which I then use to make myself feel better about the exercise avoidance.

And when I get belly button sweat from walking up and down my stairs...I count that as a workout.

And anyone who doesn't have to work hard to stay the shape and size they want to be should never, EVER, tell the rest of us about it.

And the people who really enjoy a good hard workout shouldn't be allowed to encourage the rest of us to try it. Seriously, keep it to yourself, weirdos.

And THAT is the Real Story about exercise.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Real Story - Parenthood

Alright, in preparation for this post, I have taken the liberty of enlisting some truly wise help. Please, take a moment and watch this clip.

**Disclaimer: the sound dubbing is slightly off. I'm sorry if that drives you as crazy as it does me. I find this a valid bit of insight and have decided to share it, regardless.***

***Disclaimer number 2: there is cursing in this video.***

http://youtu.be/oxo9rO0qouk

Hehehe. Giggle. Chuckle. Hold sides to keep love handles from jiggling while gasping for breath. Wipe laughter induced tears from eyes. Repeat as needed.

I. Laugh. Every. Single. Time.

Because anyone who doesn't admit to having that EXACT day as a parent...isn't being honest.

First of all, I wouldn't put quite as many 'awfuls' into my overall description of parenthood.

But I also have days where that wasn't nearly enough uses of the word.

The Real Story about being a parent has a lot of similarities to the Real Story about marriage.

It's shockingly different than you think it will be, both in a wonderful way, and in a "what the holy crap did I get myself into?" way.

If you're not a parent, I have a few of the shocking, REAL facts for you, just so you don't say "No one ever told me..."

1. You will have no privacy, ever again.
2. You will learn the theme song to every cartoon imaginable.
3. You will come to despise shopping and eating at restaurants.
4. You WILL say "because I said so" regardless of how much you hated it being said to you.
5. You will not be permitted to be sick, and if you are, you will still have to be a parent, complete with diaper changing and nose wiping and butt wiping and toy fixing and blanket hunting and food preparing. You might be able to fit a minute in the middle to puke, or cough, or blow your nose, or medicate...but you might not. My advice- Don't. Get. Sick.

Kids are loud, and messy, and way too curious, and altogether too much work.

And also, they are loving, and forgiving, and hilarious, and helpful.

The moments of AWFUL are absolutely present, I am here to tell you. If you meet a parent in the store that says otherwise, and they are smiling with recently brushed teeth, and holding the hands of their perfectly dressed children, and those children are reading educational books while standing quietly, and that parent with the clean teeth also has combed hair, and they are wearing socks that match, and they tell you that being a parent is the most wonderful, rewarding, easy thing they have ever done...

Run. They are aliens.

Being a parent IS rewarding. When your child tells you they love you with their little grubby hand pressed to your cheek...that is one heck of a reward. When you witness them putting into practice a discipline or attitude or action you taught them...you feel such pride and joy that its impossible to describe. You can only know it if you are willing to brave the WHOLE parenthood package.

I have four children. A daughter and three sons, in that order. And I know, without doubt, that I am blessed abundantly.

Without them in my life, I wouldn't laugh HALF as much.
Without them, I wouldn't be able to look the Target cashier in the eye while buying fruit snacks.
Without my kids, I would feel a lot less cool, because somehow they think I ROCK, and knowing someone thinks that about you never gets old.

They love me, even when I screw up. And boy do I screw up.

They know, when I am standing in a room with my face buried in my hands, and they can hear me muttering, that I am praying for the strength not to kill someone, and they better run away, FAST.

Here is the truest thing I can say about being a parent: It will shine a light on how SELFISH you are, like nothing else ever could, and it will give you a glimpse into what unconditional love truly looks like.

I have been peed on, pooped on, puked on, spit on, slobbered on, snotted on, cried on, farted on, climbed on, burped on, sneezed on, and bled on.

I have been the recipient of back rubs, of hugs so tight I couldn't breathe, of kisses that tasted like heaven and Cheetos, of wild flowers picked just for me, of homemade cards with half the letters written backwards, of smiles that light up my heart.

Parenthood is awful, awful, awful, awful, awful.

And...it's priceless.

You can believe me, because I don't have recently brushed teeth, or combed hair, or matching socks, and my children are watching cartoons instead of reading books, and in ten seconds they will be eating candy they found on the floor, and my youngest will probably pull down his pants and pee on me while I am telling you this...

I am not an alien.
I am a mom.
And being a mom is FREAKING HARD.

And...it's worth it.

And yes, I do tell my children it's not okay to play with other people's s*%#.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Real Story - Marriage

Marriage...

If you are married, you can HEAR the tone of voice in which I thought the word, and I don't even need to say more, because you totally understand.

But I'm going to say more, because the point of this whole series is to tell the REAL story. And most people who aren't married never, ever, hear the real story when it comes to marriage, and once they get married they are SHOCKED, and wonder why no one ever told them what it was really like.

Here is what my mom told me when I got engaged: "Everyone has a full list of expectations with regard to what marriage will be like. You have a list, and he has a list. They probably don't match up in very many places, and neither of your lists of expectations are likely to be met. You need to decide what is really important to you, and what is just some romanticized notion. Because that is what marriage is really about. Figuring each other out as you go, and making changes and adaptations accordingly."

Right...blog post adjourned. Because what else is there to say, really? That sums it up.

Still, lets marinate on this for a second.

We have expectations, and they have expectations, and where did we get them in the first place?

Well, Hollywood has done a fantastic job of making marriage look like a fairy tale. And they have done a wonderful job of showing how marriages fail. The highs and the lows, that's what they are good at showing.

But...those aren't marriages. Those are moments.

I am going to tell a couple stories on my parents. (I cleared one with them, and the other one is a story I don't think they know that I know, but I doubt they will mind. (gulp))

I was twelve-ish when I witnessed the one and only full blown FIGHT I have ever seen my parents have. They profess to having fights, of course, but they were usually pretty good about having them behind closed doors instead of in front of us kids. But this day must have been a really low day, because they were arguing while we were setting the table for supper. Now, as only kids can, I have forgotten most of the details. I wasn't tuned into whatever they fight was about, and that is unimportant.  Here is what I remember: We were having tacos for supper that night, and as we were carrying things to the table, Mom and Dad were having a heated discussion. Mom said something, and it was clearly the last straw, because Dad turned away and tossed the bowl of toppings for the tacos against the wall. It wasn't a glass bowl, thankfully, so it didn't break, but there was a lovely smear of tomato juice running from the wall to the floor, and lettuce leaves were everywhere.

Mom left the house. Seriously. She went outside, and then she got into the car and drove out of the yard. Dad went to their room and closed the door. I cleaned up the lettuce and tomato and us kids ate supper, shocked into silence by the whole episode.

We laugh about it now, of course, and I have even been known to say "Don't make me mad while I'm holding the lettuce and tomatoes."

The other story happened at the same table. Its a much shorter story. We sat down for supper, and after Dad said the blessing, and we all started shoveling food into our mouths, he leaned over to Mom and whispered "I love you, and I think you are sexy."

Okay, pause for a moment while I shiver. (these are my parents after all) (blech!!) My mom was undoubtedly tired, and sweaty from cooking, and she had given birth to FIVE children. And my dad still found her sexy. For some reason that is a moment I will always smile about, and remember with a combination of heart-warmth and gagging.

That is a high-low glance at the marriage of my parents, which now has 35 years under its belt. But neither of those stories make up their marriage. They are only moments along the path.

We say "for better or worse" when we get married, but we don't specify what that means. We say it that way BECAUSE we can't specify what that will look like, but I can pretty much guarantee that none of our wildest imaginings can tackle what marriage is like.

So, what is the real story about marriage?

Laundry.
Bills.
Dishes.
Exhaustion.
Flu.
Grief.
Business trips.
Misunderstanding.
Irritation.
Sex.


Laughter.
Friendship.
Snuggling.
Comfort.
Date night.
Whispered endearments.
Companionship.
Inside jokes.
Back massages.
Sex.

Yes, I put sex in both categories. And because I do have a brain-to-mouth filter (contrary to popular opinion) I will leave it at that. But it wouldn't be the real story if I only put it in one category. If you're married, and you've never had a fight about sex...Im' calling b.s.

I've been married for a little over 15 years, and I in NO WAY have anything figured out.

But I think that's possibly the point I am trying to make.

We can't figure it out, not really.

When I married my husband, I said "for better or worse" just like everyone else. But I didn't know how wonderful better would be, and I certainly didn't know how hard worse would be. We have had years of bliss, and years of pain, and you know what? None of the bliss years were filled with bliss, and none of the pain years were only pain.

It's not all highs and lows. Its all just a step. And another. And another.

Its dirty socks on the bathroom floor, and stolen kisses in the hall when the kids aren't looking. Its crying on each others shoulders, and laughing so hard you pass gas.

It's still finding them desirable after witnessing them vomiting, or giving birth, or snoring so loud they wake you up from a dead sleep THROUGH a pair of earplugs, or being a really big jerk.

It's listening to them when they say they think YOU are being a really big jerk, and attempting to change whatever you did that was jerk-ish.

It's whispered come-ons at the kitchen table, and lettuce and tomato tossed against the wall.

It's waking up every day and choosing, with every breath and decision and action and moment.

Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of your will.

Marriage is not a feel-good romantic notion. It's a choice you make.

Some days I choose not to speak to my husband for multiple hours because I am furious with him, and when I finally do speak to him, he is shocked to learn that I am mad at all. He "just thought I was busy with the kids." (clearly my cold-shoulder technique needs some work)

Some days I choose to listen while he tells me about a big acquisition he's been heading up at work and how great it's going, and I pretend like I know what he's talking about, and I grasp hard for facts I can ask follow-up questions on so he feels like I really do care about what he's saying...when all I really WANT to do is go to sleep or read a book or watch TV.

The point is, I said "for better or worse." And even when worse kicks us in the teeth, we still choose it. And we all have to decide to ACTIVELY grab onto better when it comes, and choose to see the better even in the midst of the worse.

My parents have been having many of the same disagreements for years. My mom still fusses at my dad for eating food that isn't healthy, and my dad still reprimands my mom for worrying about stuff she can't change...

And they still get up every morning and choose, one high-low-normal-uneventful-tragic-painful-joyful-boring moment at a time, to be "Dan and Patty Bausum."

I got up this morning, woken by the snores seeping through my ear plugs, and I made coffee. Not just enough for me, but also enough for the snoring blonde guy in my bed who woke me up at 5:08.

And he goes to work every day, not just for himself, but for the family he leaves at home to consume all the money he makes.

I choose. He chooses.

And we love better today than we did the day we got married, and hopefully we will love even better 20 years from now. One choice at a time.

And we don't ever put lettuce and tomatoes in the same bowl.

And that doesn't tell the WHOLE story on marriage, but it's a little bit of REAL.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Real Story - Christianity

This has the potential to be really long, but I don't have time for that today, and I'm sure you don't either. So, I will keep it short and simple...err...I'll try anyway.

Being a follower of Christ is easy. And, its hard.

I was six years old when I asked Jesus to live in my heart and wash away all my sins. I remember it very clearly. I also remember being 12, and deciding it wasn't enough anymore to just have Him in my heart, washing away my sins. I wanted to know Him more, and hear Him speak to me, and understand His Word, and live a life that was pleasing to him. Those desires came from a childhood of watching my parents model for me what Christianity should look like.

My parents have different stories. My dad grew up in a Baptist preacher's home, and also got saved as a boy, but he had what he would call "a wild youth," followed by a rocky divorce between his parents when he was in college. By then he has reformed his wild ways, though, and had met my mom, and if you know my dad now, you know him as one of the most deeply rooted men of God you've ever known.

My mom did not grow up in a Christian home. Her parents didn't take her to church, and they didn't tell her about Jesus, and they didn't model a life that is devoted to Christ for her to see and desire for herself. No, she was invited to church by a friend from high school. And she went, and she accepted Jesus as her savior, and she began inviting her parents and siblings to church. And if you know her now, you know that the rest is history. She models for everyone around her a life lived to serve her Lord.

So, how did two people, from such different upbringings, manage to make such an impression on their own child that she wanted to have exactly the same kind of relationship with the Lord that they had?

It was easy. And it was hard.

It wasn't a prayer they prayed and then that was it. It wasn't a long drawn out ritual of purging their life of every single thing that didn't have Jesus written on it.

It was, it is, a walk. It's a journey. Its putting one foot in front of another, and it's knowing that sometimes you can't walk, you have to crawl. And sometimes you have to be still. And sometimes you stumble, and sometimes you take steps the wrong direction. And a lot of times it feels like you're hurtling along with no idea where you are going or if you're even on the right path.

It's screwing up. It's reconciling. It's messy. It's whiter than snow.

Its the ultimate sacrifice. It's the deepest depths of love.

Walking with Christ will require nothing from you except your willingness to accept Him.

Walking with Christ will require every single ounce of your life.

The Real Story about Christianity is this : it looks different for everyone, and it looks the same. And no matter how bad anyone thinks they have been in their life, the blood of Jesus is thicker, and covers it all. And no matter how good someone thinks they have been in their life, their sin is black enough to require the same blood, covering over it all.

And there are days when a walk with God looks a lot more like a stroll off a cliff wearing a blindfold. And days when it resembles an opossum playing dead in the road. There are days filled with laughter and peace and blissful joy. There are days when we doubt...there are plenty of days of doubt. And there are days filled with relief and forgiveness and thanksgiving and reconciliation.

The point is...to walk.

Fail. Succeed. Keep trying. Cry. Scream. Laugh. Dance. Forgive, because you have been forgiven.

***The Real Story about Christianity isn't our story at all.***

It's the story of a love so powerful, so overwhelming, so all consuming, that it couldn't do nothing while we drifted away. Love had to ACT.

And if that Love lives in you, then it will compel you to act as well.

It will be simple. It will be impossible.

LOVE tells His story through your life.

That's what Christianity should look like. That's the Real Story.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Real Story - Housework

So, I decided to start off safe, with a topic that will make you smile, I hope, and make you all feel a little better about yourselves and your home after reading.

My mom taught me about house cleaning when I was young. She had five children, and she didn't want us to grow up believing that toilets and floors and dishes cleaned themselves, so she taught us how to clean them, and how often, by giving them to us as chores. I am grateful for that idea now, because I have done the same with my own children. They each have assigned house cleaning jobs that they do, not to earn allowance, but to earn a place to sleep and a meal to eat. My daughter unloads the dishwasher, as well as being responsible for 2 of the 4 bathrooms in our house. My oldest son son does the dusting, the next one takes up and empties the trash cans, we all work together to pick up clutter periodically, and the youngest...well he goes behind the other kids and un-does everything they do.

Here is the real story, though. There is a LOT more to housework than dusting and dishes and trash cans and clutter.

A. Lot. More.

There is mopping. And laundry (which should really have it's own category because there is no way in "the demon's lair" (this is what I say when I mean 'hell' but don't want to say it)(my daughter came up with the code name for me) that I can roll laundry up under the 'house-cleaning' umbrella and still stay sane). And organizing. And vacuuming. And organizing again.

And dusting doesn't just cover the tables and bookshelves. What about the corners of the room? The baseboards? The pictures on the walls? The fans? The curtains? The exercise equipment? (oh man, that's touching on another real story topic - exercising...or lack thereof, which leads to dust on the equipment.)

And what about the windows? Isn't there some rule about spring cleaning, and how you're supposed to clean your windows, inside and out, every year?

And then there is what is UNDER all the stuff you're dusting and de-cluttering and vacuuming. Like under beds, and couches, and couch cushions, and refrigerators, and stoves, and area rugs. Seriously, you want to see how tough your gag reflex is? Pull out your stove or refrigerator. Oh. My. Word.

And if you have small kids, or boys of any age, or ANY PEOPLE at all living in your house, there will also be dirty fingerprints on the doors and light switches and walls.

I am a bit of a perfectionist. I'm not one of those people who can rotate house work. I want to get the whole house cleaned all on the same day, because then I can sit and bask in the clean rooms...for about 10 minutes until my kids escape from prison (aka their beds with video games). But...no matter how clean the bookshelves are, or how much the floors sparkle, or how much like bleach the bathroom smells...my house is never really truly clean. The work is never, ever, ever done.

And the real story, the legitimate truth, is that I have decided not to care. Because if I attempted to stay ahead of the grime under the stove, or the crumbs between the couch cushions, or the dust bunnies in the corners of every room, or the blasted WINDOWS...then I would never shave my legs or brush my teeth or eat a meal or go pee or speak to another living soul. All I would do for my entire LIFE is clean.

The only way for all the deep cleaning to get done is for me to hire a house-cleaning service, which I wouldn't do even if I could afford it, because then they would come in and pull out my refrigerator and I would die of humiliation.

Want to know a few fun, REAL facts about the Martin home? (insert deep, fortifying breath of courage here)(and now insert a moment of prayer that people will still come to my house to visit)(and finally, a raised eyebrow that means 'don't even pretend like this stuff doesn't happen to you too')

1. I have lived here for 4 1/2 years, and I have never, ever, cleaned the windows inside and out...or even just inside.

2. This morning there were some crumbs on the floor as I was walking through the kitchen, and I kicked them under a chair with my foot, then kept on walking, already having forgotten what had just happened.

3. Once, there were two spiders in webs in the corners of my bathroom. I named them, and told them hello every time I went in there, for over a month.

4. My son, Nate, has been known to throw food items he didn't want to eat underneath his dresser. I have never once pulled out the dresser to vacuum behind it, even though I am aware of the above mentioned fact.

5. Out of sight, out of mind, is my favorite saying in the world. In other words, a guest in my home could potentially be bodily restrained from opening closets or drawers or cabinets or the garage.

6. I mop my kitchen fairly often (because otherwise I would have things growing in the dirt, and my feet would stick to the floor when I was trying to cook) but I cannot remember the last time I mopped the hardwood floors in the rest of the house. Seriously...it might have been within the last year...maybe.

7. The blinds on my uncleaned windows also remain uncleaned. Sometimes I write notes in the dust. It's fun.

8. I don't iron. Ever. If you have an article of clothing that is rumpled, the only thing I can do to help is throw it back in the dryer with a damp wash cloth in an attempt to knock out the worst wrinkles.

9. The fingerprints on walls and doors and light fixtures make me smile, because they are reminders of the little hands that live here, so I leave them intentionally, and plan to never, ever, remove them. (the first part is a lie. The second part is the God's honest truth.)

10. A few weeks ago I found a petrified banana in a window sill in my living room. I was really happy, because I had finally solved the mystery of why we had ants in our house.

Okay...you would think that this REAL look into my own house-cleaning habits would make me feel like cleaning all day, but you would be wrong. I might do some laundry. I might do some dishes. But I will not be cleaning underneath any pieces of furniture, and since there are no longer visible crumbs on the floor, I will not be sweeping or vacuuming either.

The real story about house-cleaning is this: Its impossible for it to be the ACTUAL definition of clean, so why stress about it?

Clean up the petrified banana when you find it, kill the spiders before they have babies, turn your blinds up instead of down so you don't have to look at the dust or the notes written in it, always have natural oak floors so that dirt doesn't show and you don't have to mop, and every once in a while remind yourself that, however bad your house might be, it can't possibly be as bad as mine.

I hope you are all feeling better about your houses now. And just in case you're wondering, I still feel fine about mine...although my mother will probably call me sometime today and tell me its high time I cleaned the windows, and my spider-shy friends will probably never come over again.

But at least now you know "The Real Story."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Real Story - Introduction

This week, as I was enjoying a rare and wonderful conversation with my sister-in-law, Sarah Ashley, I devised (with her help and through our enjoyable conversation) a series. She and I toyed with the idea of making it into a series of books, and while I love that concept, I am too recently removed from the all consuming, overwhelming task of my most recent book taken from rough draft to publication, and the idea of doing it again right now makes me want to DRINK, so instead I am creating a series of blog posts with this title.

"The Real Story"

The possibilities are endless with this title, truly. I already have several in my head, just waiting to form into full blown blogging confessions. Parenting, marriage, homeschooling, Christianity, friendship, house cleaning...and because I am known (by ALL who know me) for my brutal honestly, this series promises to be revealing, shockingly so, and will almost certainly land me in trouble with someone...probably more than one someone.

I would like to say, as a disclaimer, that I will probably share stories told to me by a random collection of people, not just my own personal life experiences. I will change names as needed (maybe) and I will attempt to draw from a wide variety of ages and stages in an effort to get a more REAL real story on a given subject.

So, anyone have a topic they want to hear 'The Real Story' address? Anyone have a story they think would benefit the blog world, that they want to share with me in the hope that I will share it in this series?

Just to get your juices flowing, here is a preview, a teaser, a glimpse extraordinaire  into the coming series...The REAL Story.

"No one talks about it, but there is no denying that we all feel it at one point or another: This is NOT what I envisioned it would be like. When I (got married, had kids, became a Christian, decided to home school, made friends with this person, picked up a dust rag, went for a run) (you fill in the blank) I had all kinds of dreams and ideals and visions of what it would be like, look like, feel like...and it ISN'T. Why the heck didn't anyone tell me? Does that mean I am the only person who feels this way? What is wrong with me that I can't make this turn out the way it SHOULD?"

Alrighty, if you have any subjects to add, or thoughts on any of the possibilities listed above, shoot me a message on Facebook.

Hold onto your butts, people, we are telling the REAL STORY.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Melodies and Reminders

There's a country song that has this line in it: "It's funny how a melody sounds like a memory..."

Isn't that the truth?

Don't you hear "The Time of My Life" and remember Johnny and Baby dancing with her in a pale pink dress, or "My Heart Will Go On" and imagine Jack putting Rose up on the plank while he is slowly freezing to death, or the first two notes of the theme song from Jaws, and recall teeth, and screaming, and bloody limbs, and an unrealistic looking, demon-possessed shark?

You know you do.

Something about music always triggers memories.

Whenever I hear "Shout to the Lord" I smile, thinking about it playing during my wedding. (yes, that's an old song now, but 14 years ago it was pretty awesome to walk down the aisle to, so stop judging)

All bluegrass music transports me back to my early childhood, and I have vague, treasured memories of my late grandfather playing and singing.

I read Mother Goose poems to my kids these days, and when I start singing them in the same tune my mom used to sing them to me in, (which she made up, because it had to get boring reading the same poems over and over...or maybe just because she's the greatest...) I suddenly feel like a girl again, sitting in our freezing cold living room, wrapped in afghans, listening to her voice.

Every country song about bare feet, and worn out jeans, and sweet tea, and fried chicken, makes me remember our old house at the Pisgah Crossroads; the red roof, the front porch, the big oak tree, the tiny bathroom, the idyllic childhood.

Every old school Carmen song makes me want to get up and dance. (now I know you're judging me, and I don't care. "Addicted to Jesus" is still a legitimately fantastic song. Deal with it.)

When I listen to the cd of my Uncle Tom singing, I have about 750 life flashbacks, all of them wonderful, of family sing-alongs.

And there are songs that give me heartache flashbacks too. The songs we sang at Joy's funeral, the ones sung in her honor since then, and the ones I listened to over and over when I was just trying to find something to cling to in my sadness.

There's a verse in Psalms (I can't remember the reference, and I'm too lazy to get up and go search for it in my Bible, so you'll just have to take my word for it) that says "Songs of praise and victory are sung in the camp of the Godly."

Hmm.

I wonder if they sang the songs even when they weren't feeling victorious or in a praising mood. I mean, it doesn't say they only sang them when they were feeling it. It says they sang songs of praise and victory in their camp.

Probably because the melody sounded like a memory of victory. Possibly because a song of praise reminded them of times where they FELT like praising, even if they weren't feeling it right then.

Last night, members of our church gathered together in our partially renovated building, ducking under hanging light fixtures and stepping around piles of insulation and construction materials, and we prayed, and we sang. We haven't seen the victory yet, but we still sang about the goodness of our God.

And those songs will be attached to those memories now, pictures in my mind and heart of people who are hurting, but still chose to praise; people who are sick, and still smiled and danced; people who are feeling hopeless, but still lifted their voices to magnify the Lord; people who are TIRED, but still gave their energy to songs of victory.

Today I am going to pull out the melodies that bring back the memories of praise, and hope, and love, and peace, and I am going to play those melodies over and over, and I am going to remember...

And my camp, the Martin camp, will be filled with the songs of praise and victory.

What melodies sound like the memories of victory in your life? Sing them today. And be reminded.