Sunday, September 7, 2014

On my 3 favorite stories from teaching kids about Jesus...

I have been working with kids at our church for about two years now. When I started I told our (then) kid’s leader to throw me in a room and let me go – so she did (thanks Beth). Some Sundays I held babies in the nursery (LOVE babies). Other Sundays I taught art to fourth graders. A few Sundays I did snack time and sang “Clean up, clean up….” with pre-schoolers. Now, for the last year I have been leading Kids Journey at The Hub, which is small Westwinds plant located in Jackson, MI. Every Sunday for the last year I have been teaching Jesus to kids through art, science, stories and music. In the process, they have taught me more about Jesus and myself than I ever thought imaginable.

I love being around kids, and I love volunteering at our church. After doing it for a while, I thought it was kind of selfish not to share some of my stories with others. If you belong to a church, I feel like it is important to share your talents and experiences with others. This intent of this blog is to do that. I am good with kids, and I have a bunch of amazing experience. Jesus didn't put us all together because he wanted us to be alone, right?

Here are my top three experiences from hanging out with kids in the last two years. I could’ve written dozens, but these came to my heart first.

#3: The worst class ever.

One day, I had the worst class EVER. I had about thirty fourth graders from hell that descended upon me in the art room of chaos. It was supposed to be a lesson about Moses and his family, but it turned into some crazy kids spilling paint and saying mean things to each other. At the end, there was crap everywhere, none of the kids were listening to me, and I never taught a word about Moses. I felt like an utter failure.

I started to clean up the room as one of our pastors walked by. He took one look at me and said, “Are you okay?” Then, I started balling my eyes out. I told him I felt like I sucked. I told him the kids were crazy, and I just cried. He told me I was doing ok. Then, he prayed with me (thanks John).

I told our kid’s leader Terri about my experience, and she told me that I didn't suck. She told me I was amazing, and that I was doing the best I could (thanks Terri).

Then, the next week, I came back to help. I stood around waiting for Terri to throw me in a room. Terri, being far wiser than I, walked up to me and said, “Are you kidding, go home! You have had enough.”

I learned two important things from the class. First, I learned that in teaching – sometimes you fail. In reality, it wasn't that bad. No one got hurt, most kids finished their painting, and the kids had a really good time. I just felt like a failure because my perfect plan didn't go as planned. That is how life is. Sometimes you have these beautiful plans, and then sometimes – it all goes to shit. While you are in it, it feels terrible. However, if you take a minute to look around you quickly realize… life isn't falling apart, it just feels like it. Second, I learned that my church has some amazing leaders. When I felt like poop, two people were there to tell me I was doing great, and to tell me to sit out when I needed a break.

#2: The worst kid ever.

In one of my first weeks teaching, I met a kid that I really disliked (oh man, I probably shouldn't admit that). I was frustrated that he didn't listen, and mad that he broke every rule I had laid out.

After teaching, I called one of my friends and told her about the kid. My friend said, “It is your fault. You have the ability to help that kid, and you didn't do it.” Face. Slapped. Lesson. Learned. Then, my friend gave me some tips to try the next time I had the kid.

The next time I had the kid, I tried a different approach. Instead of telling him what to do, I gave him options (duh…). When he got bored, I found little tasks for him to do (duh...). I gave him TONS of positive affirmation every step of the way (duh...).

Today, this kid is my favorite (oh man, I probably shouldn't admit that either). Whenever I teach, I hope he is there. Now, I understand his sense of humor, and I get why he tries to break rules. Now, I understand his brain. Now, when I get to be around him, we are super sassy to each other. When I am explaining rules, we give each other a knowing look. I know he is waiting to try to break every rule. He knows I am waiting to tell him… “Hey…. No……”

The worst kid ever, is now, my favorite kid ever. The longer I help out, I know I will get to meet even more kids like this. I will get to see them grow, evolve, and change. If I am lucky, I will get the chance to understand them.

#1: Jesus. Every time.

Today was a full day of kid’s ministry. I got to hang out with twenty kids. I got to hold a two month old baby and a sixth month old baby. I got to hold three toddlers that were sad or crying: one missed his mom (welp), one missed her friend, and one missed his dad (bahhh). I got to do a science experiment with elementary kids where we played with spit. I got to play Battleship with an awesome kid. I got to do so much cool stuff! Next week, I get to do it all over again.

Every week, I get to be Jesus with these amazing children. Now, I don’t mean that like “I’m God! Listen to me!” (I’m not a surgeon). I mean, I get to hold precious babies, and hold crying toddlers. I get to spend time talking with children about Jesus. I get to see these amazing people grow up. In turn, these children have helped me be a better person.

When I started with kids, I was very impatient and incredibly anal. In two years, my patience has grown tenfold, and I have chilled out a TON. I’m still kind of impatient, and a bit anal – but hey – its about progress not perfection.

I am more patient, because you cannot always rush children. If I rush them, I won’t get to see what they create. If I rush them, I won’t get to hear about what they did this week. If I rush them, they won’t feel cared about.

I am way less controlling, because I've learned to let go. One day we were doing a play about the parable of the mustard seed. The kids were supposed to pretend to throw some seeds on the ground while dressed like a farmer and his wife. The old Stephanie would've picked out the kids outfits and told them where to stand. The old Stephanie would've found some seed prop and told the kids exactly what to do. Instead, I didn't do either of those things. So, the farmer wore an army outfit and a cowboy hat, and his wife wore a prom dress and a masquerade mask. And instead of seeds, they threw crayons (half of which our now broken). If I had tried to control everything, it would've been boring. When I let go of control, the kids came up with something better than I could’ve imagined. And, I’m sure they had more fun in the process.

I have had the chance to be Jesus to dozens of children. I have gotten to be kind, and patient, and loving. In return, I have gotten more back than I have ever given. I am a better person now than I was when I started, and I have children to thank for it.

If you are a Westwinds or Hub person and you want to grow through volunteering, I hope you talk to someone about that. Please talk to me, or Del, or Paul, or Jess (seriously - Jess is AMAZING), or anyone. We love you guys! I hope you find a way to connect with others like I have.

If you don’t have a church at all, but feel called – I hope you find some place that you love as much as I love my church. If you ever want to try out a church, you are always welcome at The Hub or Westwinds.

If you hate church or loath organized religion, I hope you find something in your life that helps you feel loved and fulfilled.

More than anything, if you have something you are good at, I hope you find a way to share it with others. If you have some good experiences, I hope you can tell someone (like maybe me) about it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

On going on...

I went to school in a very small town.  This means, that between kindergarten and the time I graduated high school – I knew a whole lot about my classmates.

I know that Riley’s mom left their family when Riley was five.  I know that Riley’s mom leaving broke his heart.  I know that Kathleen’s parents got divorced when she was in high school.  I know that this divorce made Kathleen bitter and angry.  I know that Jake’s mom died when he was a baby, and he grew up with an alcoholic father.  I know every day that Jake went to school he was laughed at, made fun of, and belittled.  I know that every single person I went to school with had multiple painful events happen in their lives.  I know that none of us goes through our lives without suffering.

In the past few months, an amazing family that I know has suffered some tremendous losses.  When I think of the pain they feel, my heart aches.  I couldn’t sleep at all last night, because I kept thinking the same thing that they were probably thinking…. “Why? God?  Why this family? How do we go on?”

When I think of all of the pain I have watched people experience, one person stands out above the rest.  Several years ago I met a man named David.  When I met David, he was on top of the American Dream.  He was just finishing grad school, he had just married a kind woman, and his wife had just given birth to a son.  Three years later – David lost absolutely everything.  One week after starting his new job – he was let go when the business suddenly closed.  A few months after that, David found out his wife was having an affair.  David and his wife tried to fix their marriage, but their relationship ended in divorce.  Less than a year after getting divorced, the worse thing hit: David’s son died unexpectedly.  In a very short amount of time, David went from everything – to nothing.

I watched David’s life unravel before me.  I thought then what I thought last night, “Why? God?  Why this man? How does he go on?”

A few years ago I volunteered at hospice, where I would go around and talk to patients that were dying (geez, I promise I’m not trying to make this super depressing – it gets better).  Jan was one of the first patients with whom I visited.  I asked Jan “How are you doing?” and she said, “You know, I feel so very alone, but I have all of these CDs that talk about dying and being alone.  One of the CDs said it is good to feel alone, because you can only feel alone if you have experienced love.”

I am not sure why some people get the short end of the stick.  I don’t know why some people experience more death, more pain, more suffering, more hurt.  I don’t know why there are some people that are rich, some that are poor, and why there is so much inequality in the world.

However, there are three things for which I am certain.

First, I am certain that the only reason I know pain, is because I have experienced joy.  I am certain that the reason I can enjoy life’s mountains, is because I have swam through the valleys.

Second, I know that there is always redemption: in this life and in the next.

David’s life unraveled before my eyes.  However, somehow, David remained faithful to God.  I hope that if I were in David’s shoes I would have as much faith.  David kept going to church.  David kept praying.  David wrestled with anger, and hatred, and every other emotion you can imagine.  Although David’s life was never the same, it went on.  Today, David is happy.  He has a job.  He has new people that love him.  Although life can never replace what he has loss, his loss is redeemed with new things.  Where he felt loss, he now has peace.  Where he felt anger, David feels calm.  Beyond right now, there will be redemption in the afterlife.  All we have lost will – somehow – be redeemed.  I have faith in that.

Third, I know when to go on. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I suffer from severe depression.  Several years ago I tried to commit suicide.  The day after my failed attempt I woke up in a hospital and felt like crap (um, as expected).  The moments after I woke up, I decided to do something important… I just stayed still.  I stayed very still and I looked down at my chest.  Amidst everything I was feeling, and amidst beeping machines and loud hospital tvs, I heard one of the most important things in the world – my breath. I had tried to end everything, but my lungs didn’t let me.  A few hours beforehand, I didn’t want to be alive, but my chest kept rising and my lungs kept filling with air.

As long as there are air in my lungs, I am meant to be here and I am meant to go on. I am not always sure why.  Sometimes I don’t feel important.  Sometimes I wonder if I am contributing to the kingdom.  Whenever I feel self-doubt – I lay still.  In that quiet moment, I find the peace that surpasses all understanding.  If God can fill my lungs with air, He wants me to go on.  Not for me – but for Him.  So I do.  I might be angry, or hurt, or full of pain; but none of this is for me. Everything is for Him, and if He wants me to go on, I do and I will.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On the color orange…

Today, on the way home from church, my husband said something to me that made my week.  He looked at me and said, “I can see that you are almost back to being yourself.”

I guess I should say more about that.

When I was in college, I was as active as humanly possible.  I was president of the student senate, I was vice president of my sorority, I was a little sister to a fraternity, I tried to join every club I could, and I tried to meet as many people as possible.  I was loud.  I was commanding.  I was crazy.  I loved every, single, beautiful moment.

My junior year of college I met a boy.  The first year we dated was lovely.  However, by year two, everything started to crumble.  The boy became controlling, emotionally abusive, and downright mean.  I was ignorant, and I thought that if I married that boy he would change.  So when I was 22, I got married.  As you can guess – things went from bad to terrible.  The boy became worse and worse.

Before I started dating my now ex-husband, I started out as a bright shiny orange sculpture.  Gradually, I was painted over with colors that dulled me.  My ex did not like that I was active, so he dulled the orange with some bland yellow. Then, he didn’t like my friends – so he put some green over the yellow.  Then, he didn’t like my hair, my clothing, how I spent money, my cooking, my cleaning, my family, my love of baking, my religious beliefs… so layer by layer paint got added on until I was the dullest tan you could ever imagine.  I wasn’t allowed to cook what I wanted, bake what I wanted, see my family, talk to my friends, or attend church.  I was finally palatable to my ex, but I felt dead on the inside.

They say that when you have post-traumatic stress disorder you do not just shut down the tough emotions (like fear, anger, or sadness).  In order to cope with traumatic events, you shut down everything.  I did that too.  In order to cope with being in an abusive marriage, I shut down everything.  I no longer felt fear when I was yelled at.  I could not cope with the sadness of not being able to do the things I loved, so I even shut out my grief.  My fear was gone, but so was my happiness, my joy, my light.

After years of hoping things would getting better, and seeing them gradually get worse – I decided that I either had to die or I had to leave.  I decided to leave.  I asked my ex-husband for a divorce, and we parted ways (I’ll write more about that whenever I am ready).

Everyone experiences or feels the love of God differently.  Some people feel God’s love when they walk through nature.  Some feel God’s love when they sing.  I, however, see the love of God when I am by people.  I see the love of God the most when I get to interact with children at church.

Children are the best thing in the world. In particular, I think toddlers are the most amazing miracles ever created.  They are amazing, because they are all bright, and shiny, and orange.  They scream when they want something.  They cry when they have to.  They are not afraid to be exactly who God intended them to be.  My favorite children (although I probably shouldn’t admit this) are the ones that are super crazy.  They won’t sit still, they run around like crazy, they dance, they sing…. They know they are perfect – because God made them that way.  Every time I teach Sunday school, I try to soak up a bit of the perfection. 

Two years ago I started baking again. I started with simple cookies, and now I’ve worked my way up to expensive cakes (eek!).

A year ago I started teaching Sunday school.  I am active in my church, I get to read my Bible whenever I want, and I am growing in my faith.

Now, I get to talk to my new friends and my old friends as often as I want.  They love me as I am, and they support who I am trying to become.

Now, I get to talk to my mother whenever I want.  I love hearing her voice.  She makes me feel calm.

Now, I get to be exactly the way that God intended me to be.

I still feel like I am covered in a few layers of paint.  Yet, each month, I shed a layer…

I am now happily married to a wonderful man named Del.  He is, quite possibly, the best husband in the entire universe.  My identity is not centered on my husband; however, with my husband’s love and support I am learning to let myself be the woman God created me to be.  Sometimes I am saddened by the fact that I am not the same person I use to be.  I miss the days when I was brave enough to talk to any stranger, and the days where I could command a room.  Some days I cry because I feel like I missed out on years of my life, buried under a terrible marriage.  I can either choose to wallow in pity, or I can move on and be happy that I am here – and that God has given me a second chance.  I choose to take the second chance.

With this second chance, I choose to peel away all of the layers. Surrounded by great friends, the love of my mother, some chocolate cake, an amazing husband, the grace of God, and some bright orange children – I know that I am on the right path.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On the week we broke the internet (and got a new water tower design in the process)...

Two weeks ago, my husband and I broke the internet.

Well, not really.  What we did do was try to make positive changes in our community via the internet.

Two weeks ago, I noticed the city council’s pick of a design for a new water tower.  I jokingly asked my husband to make a new design – because he is hilarious and I knew he could do a better design in less than five minutes.  He posted his new design on Facebook.  By noon that day we started a Facebook group claiming the water tower design was lame.  Then we asked people to submit new water tower designs, and asked people to vote on the design they liked the best.

Mlive (a local news source) did a few stories on our group (thanks again Mlive – especially you Will!).

The city council held a special meeting –where one of the topics was picking a new water tower design.

Last night – the city council picked a new design based off of submissions from our Facebook group.

The designs people submitted were beautiful.  I feel so incredibly proud of Jackson, and so incredibly proud of the level of creativity that runs throughout our city.  I am also incredibly thankful that the city council was receptive to reconsidering a new design.  Overall, I am just thankful and grateful.

I also learned a huge lesson about the internet: people on the internet can be jerks.  I go online and read three newspapers a day, and I peruse the comments section.  I always knew that there were a select group of people that were incredibly cruel.  It is one thing to read the cruelty when it is directed toward an op-ed piece on a news site.  It is entirely different to have people rip apart and denigrate the creative work of others for no apparent reason other than to be a jerkface.

When my husband and I created the group we had two rules: we would be positive about Jackson and we would never be mean to people that posted cruel things.  For the last two weeks, I think my husband and I have had several nose bleeds from taking the high road.

Foucault’s discourse analysis looks at how power can take form via language.  In other words, the moment you put something into language – you give it power.  By talking about the water tower design, we gave that power.  By talking about the negative comments via the water tower, I am giving them power.  We heard one guy ranting about how dumb our water tower Facebook group was.  I giggled thinking “We won.  You just gave us power.”  Then, I caught myself in my own ironic trap and thought “Damn, did he just win because I gave his conversation power by talking about it?” 

It is easy to get lost the power of it all.  So – let’s not get lost.  Moving forward, there are three things my husband and I want to do with our new found “power”.

First, we want to give power away.  The worst bosses are the people that sit atop of their knowledge and never disperse it.  Those bosses make you feels scared and intimidated.  We don’t want to be that type of boss.  Through this Facebook group, and through voting, my husband and I realized we have the ability to help people’s voices be heard.  We want to give more power to that.  We have an entire generation of people who feel like no one in government cares about what they are saying.  We want to help end that.  We have a bunch of residents who love Jackson and are waiting to see where they can help.  We want to give power to those positive voices.  We want our generation to be active and engaged.  We want people to feel like their views and voices are important.  We want to take the power of people’s voices on the internet, and channel them into streams where a positive impact can be felt throughout the communities in which people live.

Second, we are going to die of nose bleeds.  By that, I mean we are always going to keep our integrity.  A few days ago my husband looked at me and said a level of annoyance, “You ALWAYS take the high road.”  He is right.  I always do and I always will (well, more like 95% of the time).  I would rather die being kind to someone than live knowing I have the power to tear a man down and make him feel like he is less than I.  There is no love in that lifestyle.  There is no real victory in that lifestyle.  When people are mean to my husband or me it hurts my heart.  My human reaction is to punch that person (we are all human first).  However, because I have the ability to exercise control, my reaction will never be to punch.  My reaction will be to remain kind.  That does not mean we will be doormats to people whose only action is to tear us down.  I will walk away from cruelty and I will remove myself from abuse. 

Third, I pray that everything we do is to honor God and help people feel the love and compassion of Christ.  Over the past two weeks, I have never felt so torn down in my entire life.  Fortunately, every time someone said something mean – we had 10 people on our side lifting us up.  We had friends writing to us sending us words of love and kindness.  We had strangers defending us.  Despite feeling torn down, I do not know if I have ever felt so much love.  More than that, my husband and I had some amazing reactions with complete strangers.  One person wrote saying that he was disappointed that he missed the deadline to vote and that he had tough personal day.  My husband wrote back and sent the stranger kind words.  My husband and this stranger then proceeded to have an amazing conversation.  God’s grace came through in that moment.  Wherever we meet anger with kindness, we find God.  Whenever we meet dissent with compassion, we find God.  Whenever we find God in any of these moments, we honor Him in what we do.  I pray that we continue to do that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On paying student athletes...

I'm a sociologist by heart.

What does that mean?

It means that when I see a social problem I try to do two things.  First, I try to understand the issue as it stands today as well as how it evolved to its current state.  Second, I try to understand how powers outside of the individual are at play within the issue.

Student athletes are trying to unionize at Northwestern University.

If I were teaching a social problems class, I would have students debate this article.  This article illustrates the intersection of so many amazing issues.

Student athletes are stating that they would like to unionize for two key reasons.  They state that decisions are being made about them, like their health and conduct, yet they have little to no input in those decisions.  They state that colleges and universities make a lot of money off of their performance, yet the compensation the athletes receive off of that is minimal.  The athletes argue that they put in around forty hours a week of work, so they should be given union rights comparable to someone that puts in a solid work week at an auto plant or as a teacher.

I am a firm believer in trying to solve the problem at its source.  I see no point in creating expensive band-aids that stop a leak, when you could prevent the wound from ever occurring.  The problem with this approach is that stopping the issue at is source typically involves changing social structures that are old, firm in their beliefs, and have the power to topple over anyone that gets in their way.

So what is the real issue here?

Well, I think the real issue here is capitalism.  When academia was founded, the entire purpose was not to get an education so you could make money.  What was the purpose?  Learning and the creation of knowledge.  Boom.  Yes, that simple.

However, we have evolved since then.  Instead of families subsisting on farms by their lonesome, we now have factories that make stuff.  When we shipped those factories to third world countries our economy began shifting to more services and the creation of the inanimate (um – see  In order to feed this beast our education system changed.  No longer do people go to school just to learn.  People go to school so they can learn so they can get jobs so we can feed this beast that we created – even though we don't even remember why the hell we created it in the first place.

This begs the important question that no one is asking.  Why do we have student athletes?  The original intent of student athlete was rooted in the notion that it was important to be a well-rounded person.  Being a well-rounded person involved being both well-informed and a well-tuned semi-athletic person.  Colleges began having people (ok – mostly men) do athletic activities.

We seemed to have moved far away from this notion of a well-rounded college person.  Why?  Well, colleges have changed in their purpose and thus changed in how they are run.  Specifically, how colleges are funded has changed drastically over the last few years.  Colleges use to be paid for by the wealthy elite that could afford to attend their institutions.  I mean, let's be real here – what 1700's farmer could afford to send their kids away for several years to attend college?   It isn't like Joe Farmer had Pell grants.  Now colleges are funded by a weird mix of stuff.  The elite colleges sit on a huge pile of endowment monies.  The private semi-elite have a mix of endowment/tuition.  The private less than elite just keep raising tuition.  Public colleges pray have a mix of endowment, tuition and some government funding. 

Over the years, non-elite private colleges and public universities have taken a hit at their money belts.  The economic divide between the rich and poor continues to grow.  The economy crashes.  The middle class that could afford to pay tuition lost their jobs.  Public universities saw their government funds slashed.

Let's move to private colleges and public universities.  You use to have a good middle class base (well – for a few decades anyways).  You use to have more government funds.  Now both of those are slashed.  What do you do to get money?  Well, you develop a sports program (I don't have enough space to write about that history).  You make it popular.  You charge people to watch games.  You sell shirts and stuff.  You get your own tv network so people have to pay to watch your games.  You rake in billions.

The pro of this is that private colleges and public universities now have funding.  More non-athletes can attend.  College athletics helps to subsidize costs for many other programs.  The con?  Well, student athletes are pretty much treated as cheap slave labor.  Granted, many times their education is paid for – and let's be honest – they pretty much get a degree without actually having to attend class (shut up – you know it is true).

Okay.  So how do we fix this?  We have thousands of college athletes that are getting pimped out for their talents then thrown away when they are done.

Honestly.  We don't.  Short of changing the structure of capitalism (hahahahahahaha…. Never gonna happen) there is no real fix for what we have created.

We could pay higher taxes to public universities so we don't need college athletes to subsidize the cost of college… but who is going to vote for higher taxes?  We could raise tuition costs to offset the cost… but who is going to pay for that?  We could tax media organization's profits from these costs so that money could go pack into private/public university costs… but isn't that just furthering the problem?

We have created an entire system that tells people they need to be educated to work so they can create stuff so that they can buy stuff so that we can maintain this system.

There is no fix for this.  Nothing will happen.  College athletics are worth billions.  The networks that play NCAA games are worth billions.  Do you really think they are going to let some silly athletes have rights?  They aren't.

If you don't like what is happening, that is ok, but that is as far as this goes – a fleeting emotion.  The system that created this happened a long time ago, and it is only getting worse.​

Saturday, March 8, 2014

On giving up complaining...

For the past few years I have tried to give up something for Lent.

Five years ago, four years ago, and three years ago I tried to give up swearing.  Honestly, it just never took.  I would drop a four-letter word and never think twice about it.

Last year I decided to go for something different.  Rather than give up something like sugar or chocolate, I decided to give up saying critical things about other people.  If you want to know whether you are critical of others, I recommend trying to give up saying negative things about people.

From that I experience I learned two key things.  First, I learned that if you give something up it is exceptionally healthy if you have something to replace that thing.  Second, I learned that when you are trying to give something up, you become incredibly aware of that thing.

This year for Lent, I decided to give up complaining.  I spend about three hours a day driving to and from work, so my first thought was to give up road rage (oh yes, I have road rage).  However, on the first day of Lent one of my friends sent me an article on complaining.  The article stated that complaining is – despite common thought – totally unnecessary.  You may be asking yourself, “Don’t you need to vent or get something off your chest?”  It turns out that the happiest people complain the least.  Further, research has found that individuals that complain are usually upset longer than people that internally process.  

When I was younger I remember being told that the point of Lent was to suffer.  Christ was tempted by the devil for forty days and forty nights.  I was told that we give up something for Lent so we can understand that suffering.  The thing is, if you are a human you know what suffering is because we are alive.  We have all experienced loss, pain and suffering.  

Twenty some years later, for me, the point of Lent is to remove something from your life, and replace that thing with Christ.

I had no idea how much I complained.  I made it one entire day without complaining.  Then, on day two I started complaining by 10:00am.  By noon I started feeling heartburn because I felt the complaints boiling up inside my chest.  When 2pm rolled around I started noticing my co-workers complaining about other people, and felt jealous that I could not join in.  By the drive home, I was concerned I would not make it to day three.  Thankfully, by 7pm I remembered the point of Lent.  Rather than start complaining, I took quiet time to pray to God.  I told God all of my complaints for the day and asked for peace in my heart.

Since Wednesday, I have complained one time.  What have I learned so far?

I have learned that there is a big difference between describing and complaining.  I have a bad neck from an old car accident.  My neck hurts quite frequently.  I have to tell my husband if I am in pain so he can help me.  Describing my pain is way different than complaining about it.  On Friday I told my husband that my neck was hurting and I needed him to help me by carrying something heavy.  That was descriptive.  Complaining would have been if I said, “I am so annoyed that my stupid neck hurts.  I am so sick of this crap.  Blahblahblah.”  The difference between describing and complaining is where you place the power.  Describing is stating how something is or was.  Complaining is putting the power of the situation onto someone or something else.  It complete removes your power as an individual from the situation.  I had no idea that I had been giving my power away.  When I complain, I remove my responsibility on an incident and place it on something else.

The best thing I have discovered so far is that because I cannot complain, I have to address problems immediately.  For example, today I was frustrated that my husband did not wipe off the counter.  Typically, I would have held on to that and told him sometime in the future that I would like him to work on that habit.  Instead, I told him right away that I was feeling frustrated.  He told me he was happy that I was upfront with him and told him right away.  I was shocked.  I thought I would be a nagging wife if I complained about something as unimportant as wiping the counter.  Now, I am wondering if I have been complaining for years about things I could have addressed right away?  

I am only four days in.  I cannot say that everything has been easy.  It has felt challenging not to complain.  However, I know I can do it.  If I fail every now and then that is ok.  I am trying my best.  Most importantly, for the next thirty six days I have the opportunity to turn to Christ to help strengthen me.  I am excited for the adventure.