on the occasion of my 100th post

The 100th post is a lot of pressure.

I feel like there should be cake. Picaken to be exact.

(This one was a blueberry pie encased in lemon cake. The Queen of Desserts.)

Or maybe there should be a present under your seat . . . go ahead. Look. 🙂

How about a picture of my cat? Who could apparently be making me crazy??? (DO NOT click that link if you love your cat. Don’t. Don’t do it. But if you must, bookmark it and get right back here.) Inside joke for those who chose to read: So now the new question is Crazy Cat Lady: which came first the crazy or the cat? Also, like any of us needed one more thing to worry about. Or to add fuel to the cat-haters’ fire.

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Apparently, she’s into reading now.

But seriously, thank you for reading and for coming back to this piece of cyberspace again and again. There’s a lot to read on the world wide web and so little time to read it. So thanks! I appreciate every read, every like, every comment (well, except spam and the few hater comments I’ve received), every share.

I started this blog three and a half years ago. (Don’t do the math. I am definitely an inconsistent blogger). “Addiction, recovery and faith” is where this piece of writing began. You can read about that here.

Every now and then though, I find that I need to write something different. Because that’s heavy stuff.

Besides you all seem to like it when I write other things . . . ironically, my most-read post of all time is about skipping school to go to the Super Bowl parade . .  . you know everybody loves a rebel.

Anyway, I’ll get back to the heavy stuff, but I do like variety. And joy. Joy is good. I hope that readers who come looking for encouragement in their battle with addiction — whether it’s their’s personally or a loved one’s — see that it’s possible to have joy again. Because in the middle of it, everything seems so hopeless.

So tonight, if you are willing to play along, and in honor of Throwback Thursday (how convenient is that?), please choose one of the posts below to visit.

Thank you!

most read posts about addiction

there’s something I have to tell you

most read post about recovery

a note from Dave

most read post about faith

when I fear I have lost my flavor

most read post of all time

12 great things you learn when you skip school to go to a Super Bowl Parade

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Thanks for reading!

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hope from a season of despair

I’ve been a writer at a marketing agency raising money for nonprofit organizations for the past six years. I’ve written for prison ministries, for family ministries for humanitarian aid, justice ministries, rescue missions. The stories entrusted to me help spread the word about what our clients do and raise money so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

Several years ago, on my first interview trip, it struck me that even though my life had been Sunday school, Church, mission field, Christian family, and I had had zero exposure to illegal drugs, when these men and women talked about coming to the end of themselves, I got it. Though our lives couldn’t be more opposite, the end result was the same.

The devastation that drugs and addiction bring to a person and a home are universal. Neither Dave nor I went to prison, we didn’t get a divorce, our kids weren’t taken away, and yet we came to the same breaking point as an addict on the street: God, I need help now.

As wonderfully fitting as my work is, I confess that I get discouraged. I feel like I’m writing everyone’s words but my own. My name doesn’t go on anything I pour myself into. The fruits of my creative labors are for somebody else’s benefit.

But on Thursday night I sat at a round table with co-workers and friends in an enormous room, dining on filet mignon and jumbo prawns, and witnessed contagious, hilarious generosity.  Just the sort of evening to breathe new life into a tired writer.

Items up for bid at this included float plane excursions, U.S. Open tickets, and time doing various things with people like the Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor, the Sounders soccer team, and Macklemore.

And they didn’t go cheap. The minimum bid for anything in the live auction, hosted and called by local television personalities was $1,000. A night on the Mission’s Search & Rescue Van with Macklemore sold for $25,000. A donor called in from his hospital bed to pledge $100,000.

I don’t know who these people are, but I know they believe strongly enough that broken people can be renewed to open up their wallets and give $1.5 Million to help heal them.

A man named Richard told his story. He’d been homeless and a meth addict for years, and he laid on a park bench for five days and asked God to take his life. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s Search and Rescue Van found him there and when they asked if he’d like to spend the night in the mission instead of on the streets, he said yes.

A year later he’s standing up on stage at this event telling 500 people that God did take away his life. He took away the life of addiction and drugs and hopelessness and gave him a new life in Christ.

I also witnessed the very thing I wrote about two days ago. That thing about monks and how we defeat discouragement and depression and acedia with serving and working with our hands.

The keynote speaker, with a net worth of $100 Million, famous for his role on a successful TV series surprises us, “Tonight, I’m going to tell you my story.”

And his voice breaks and he says, “I’m not afraid of anything, I’m known for being a shark, I don’t have weaknesses. Except . . .” And he weeps out words of devastation, of losing his kids in a divorce.

And he says all the money and fame and prestige could not heal the most painful hurt in his life. He was in such deep despair he went to the balcony and contemplated ending his life.

Afraid of himself, he called a friend and said, “I need to help someone else right now, or I’m going to die.”

That friend sent him to Seattle where he labored at the Men’s Shelter, alongside men like Richard. Through choking tears, he tells about going out on the Search and Rescue Van with Richard and how they found a man who was crying in a park and the two of them prayed over him and served him, millionaire on one side, homeless meth addict on the other.

And in the end of his story, this broken mega millionaire says: simple acts of service fixed me.

Stories of hope and revival lead to other stories of hope and revival.

No way in my life did I ever dream that our worst season of despair would turn into a season of philanthropy. Impossible that I would heal while writing words that help raise millions of dollars to help hurting people. I suppose about as impossible as a grateful meth addict reviving a billionaire.

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of pride and pompousness, part one

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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The cat and I found a bit of sunshine this morning. I, to trim an overgrown bush, which is bent on blocking my porch swing view of the trampoline, she to watch me wear out my arms.

We have learned, the two of us, to bask in sun while it is sun. Already, the spotlight has made its way across our patch of woods and shade covers all but a sliver of the sparkling grass.

Perhaps I am avoiding the house. It is all at sixes and sevens — a phrase for which, out of curiosity, I have now had to consult the OED . . . or rather, the Wikipedia, as it appears there is an annual subscription rate of $295 for the Oxford English Dictionary.

And so, Wikipedia must suffice this morning for the meaning of the phrase, which is derived, roughly, from: a French dice game (6 & 7 being unlucky). Chaucer. Shakespeare. Gilbert & Sullivan. Which is pretty much the evolutionary path of all English words.

I suppose I am in an especially English mood this morning. Sipping tea because I’ve had far too much coffee. Imagining petticoats pant legs six inches deep in mud if I follow my flight of fancy down to the beach (which smells particularly of sulfur this morning). Wishing I had housemaids to right my messy house. Counting hours til I see my daughter in Whitworth University’s Pride and Prejudice. . . . and pondering one’s opinion of oneself

* * * * *

I wish I knew classical Greek. Really knew it. Lexicon skills only take you so far. Because I think there is a depth of poetry to the Love Chapter, and I am only skimming the surface.

Saul of the New Testament was a Jewish scholar. A Pharisee. Memorizer of the entire Torah. Expert in the Law of Moses. But God chose him, Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles. Chose Saul specifically to take the story of Jesus — whose followers he had persecuted to death — to the Greeks.

I read somewhere that the church at Corinth, to whom St. Paul wrote love is had become competitive. They bragged about their gifts and knowledge and enlightenedness. Exalting self — just like their city’s vain goddess, Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The worship of Aphrodite makes you realize why the Christ followers in Corinth needed a full, detailed explanation of love . . .

Which brings me back to Greek. St. Paul used a word here that most of us read in our Bibles as brag or boast. But this particular Greek word is used no where else in the New Testament, not even in any of St. Paul’s other epistles. It’s a word used by Greek philosophers and historians of gods and goddesses — translated into the English language (making the usual trek through Chaucer and Shakespeare) originally as vaunteth:

  1. a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively

Vaunteth puts on a parade of self. 

In vaunt, I see the actions and words of the king of the humble brag — Mr. Collins (Pride & Prejudice), the pompous and stupid Mr. Eliot (Persuasion), the name-dropping Mrs. Elton (Emma), the preposterously selfish Fanny Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility), the vain and aristocratic Aunt Norris (Mansfield Park). Ridiculous, boastful caricatures.

I would like to leave boasting in an arrogant Aphrodite’s court and in the pages of Austen. I know vaunteth doesn’t belong in real life love.

Oh, but it’s there.

“Boasting is often a sign of my deep insecurity and need for others to validate me with their approval.”**

Maybe, sometimes, we pat ourselves on the back because no one else ever does. Maybe we were starved of praise by parents, teachers, coaches who didn’t want it to go to your head. Maybe we flaunt our accomplishments or beauty or talent or possessions because it’s the only way we’ve ever received attention. And maybe, sometimes, we’re entirely unaware that by inflating ourselves, we’ve eclipsed someone we love.

* * * * *

I’ve paraded myself with my own lips. More times than I care to confess . . .
Maybe love does not boast means you don’t need to prove how much you deserve love . . . because you are secure in the love of a God who loved even the formerly murderous St. Paul. You are loved because you are the beloved.

I think it’s lovely that don’t boast comes right after don’t envy. Love doesn’t try to make people jealous.

Sometimes, in this day of posting words everywhere, our boasts and milder “humble brags” are in our friends’ faces all the time. Things we used to keep to ourselves so quickly typed and out there . . . Sometimes, just asking ourselves why we are saying it stops the me parade.

Sometimes, though, we’re too sensitive, taking outbursts of joy as vaunting. I know I have. And I have to ask myself if I am envious because I’m competing, comparing gifts, discontent . . .

And I have to stop myself from getting up and taking a turn — my turn — about the room so that my figure may be seen to the best advantage.

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** Dr. Ralph Wilson, Jesus Walk

22 ordinary kindnesses to keep a marriage going

22 years ago, we were 22 . . . and we got married on a day that only “exists” (as one of my boys says) every four years.

And we’ve done a lot of the shoulds of marriage wrong.

Like date night . . . we rarely did/do date night. We were put-the-kids to bed-at 7-so-we-can-enjoy-the-evening people — before they all became teenagers. And now, it seems everyone has something going on always, and the nights we aren’t going five different directions, we’re so tired that going to bed at 9:30 is far more appealing than dinner out. (We do have date days now, now that we both have Fridays off — which is awesome.)

But somehow, as of the non-existent February 29th, we’ve now been married half our lives . . .

So, maybe there are more important things than a regular date night to make it in marriage?

Maybe it’s not the once a week, once a month, once a year date that glues a fractured marriage together. Maybe it’s the every day. And there is nothing more every day – more ordinary – than kindness.

But kindness is a thing you have to practice, I think. Because it’s all about tone, about truth and sincerity . . . and timing. Especially when you’ve had bitterness, selfishness, anger, and resentment between you.

And sometimes, the practice looks a little rough. You make mistakes. You misunderstand.

Like with helping . . . there’s a “let me do that” that’s genuinely kind and there’s a “let me do that” that’s frustrated and snarky. And sometimes, a tone isn’t there at all but just a figment of our own anger. So we hear a gentle “Why don’t you let me do this” as “You’ve failed so miserably as a mother, it’s best if I take over.”

We’re still learning, too, that sometimes you need to let it pass and let it be. That not everything has to be corrected, confronted, discussed. That it’s wise to overlook an offense. To make allowance for each other’s faults. That sometimes, it’s just better to not say a word til a mood has passed.

And that sometimes, kindness is simply doing the unexpected from your heart, sincerely, expecting nothing in return. 

Lately, I’ve been noticing the little kindnesses that are mending us. I’ll give you just 22:

1. Cleaning up the cat’s hairball mess in the middle of the night so he doesn’t step in it when he gets up early to make the coffee before he takes the oldest boy to zero hour.

2. Getting up early to make the coffee fresh even though the pot has a timer.

3. Driving the oldest boy to zero hour this year so I can sleep longer, drink coffee longer, or write longer before the day begins.

4. Putting down the book to listen while he divides errands for the day, promising to at least get the baggies we’re out of if I can do nothing else.

5. Going to the store late at night on his way home because I forgot the sandwich bags for the third day in a row, and the boys are tired of wrapping their food in parchment paper and packing tape.

6. Leaving him alone while he works on his car, letting him mutter without asking for clarification or doubting his skills.

7. Noticing my tire — because he’s like that about cars — and changing his early morning alone-time plan to take my car to town and fix the tire before I am even out of bed.

8. Sharing his hashbrowns even though I should have ordered my own –because I actually kind of did want them more than a pancake — but I always order poorly, and we both know it.

9. Greeting him with a happy hello and a kiss when he gets home (in the middle of dinner making) no matter what I have in my hands, unless it’s a knife, and then — he has informed me — I should probably put it down.

10. Taking the boys to get pizza because I’m working on something creative and meals have completely skipped my mind.

11. Doing the dishes because the one who makes dinner shouldn’t also have to clean up.

12. Dropping everything to wash the dishes 15 minutes before he gets home because I let the boys skip chores and it makes us all feel less stressed when there is actual counter space on which to eat when the dining room table is covered in projects.

13. Making the phone call about the bill because he knows I hate phone calls — especially about bills.

14. Surprising him by being ready on time for once so we can all ride together to church.

15. Getting to know the mood cycle but not letting me know he knows.

16. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he did not mean it that way.

17. Hugging me gently and telling me it’s okay and when I’m ready to talk, he’ll listen.

18. Holding my hand while we walk down the street (even though we are still awkward hand-holders after 22 years . . . but it’s our anniversary so we at least have to try).

19. Smiling patiently for the twenty-seventh time because this picture is really important to me.

20. Indulging my whim and making homemade ice-cream when it’s so, so much less work for him to just go buy it from the store.

21. Keeping my I told you so to myself (which has maybe never happened, but I think he’ll appreciate that I at least think about it).

22. Appreciating his efforts to think of me more than of himself, and letting him know I do by being generous with the thank yous.

Ephesians 4:31-32 * Proverbs 19:11 * Colossians 3:13

22nd Anniversary

Kindness is needed in every relationship. 

What ordinary kindnesses are you practicing?