Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Strong & Bitter Words Indicate a Weak Cause."

-- Victor Marie Hugo

If there's one thing I've learned by doing what I do for a living it's this: Bitterness is a marriage killer.

Last week while typing my 600th divorce transcript, listening intently on the words of a woman scorned, it was yet again confirmed to me that our thoughts and feelings END marriages. They end love. They end friendships. They end hopes, dreams, thousands of intimate moments shared. They end what God honored. They end the idyllic childhoods of many innocent children. Shattered by our thoughts. Thoughts that turn into feelings that turn into actions that turn into a hardened heart.

I'm truly grateful that I do what I do, because I think more than once it has saved my own marriage. Listening to angry, angry, hurting people in the lowest point of their lives helps me to remember how easily the cords of marriage can be cut. Snapped by too much strain. Unravelled by carelessness.

My job is a constant reminder to me to keep myself in check. Too often I find myself harboring bitterness towards my dear husband. I get angry at him for not doing this or because he did this or. . .

But bitterness isn't alone in her devastation, no, she has a friend who goes by the name of selfishness. Oh, selfishness, how I love to love you. How many times have I thought to myself, "I deserve better." "He doesn't know how LUCKY he is." And on and on and on she roars in my ears. Why do we convince ourselves that we're entitled to be number one? Why do we believe that our wants, desires, needs should be placed above anothers?

But what is the tap root of the weed of bitterness? I believe it's hurt. We've somehow been failed by another human, the one person on this Earth who should never fail us. I hear this over and over again in the transcripts I've done. Underneath the bitterness I truly think lies a beaten up and battered and weathered love. I think sometimes the people themselves don't even realize it. They've declared war and to wave a white flag means that yet again they've been kicked in the gut.

But in world filled with divorce, how do we protect our own marriage? The odds are against us, that's for certain. In my county alone the divorce rate is 73 percent. 73. Do the math on that one, kids, and you'll find that there are more divorces taking place then there are marriages. So how will you guard against the cancer of bitterness? It takes a concerted effort, I believe, to keep from going down the one-way, wrong-way street of having a bare third finger. It takes a game plan. Guarding your heart against the evils of bitterness, selfishness, narcissism. Admitting when you're wrong. Confessing those feelings to the good Lord above. But more importantly, having grace with our spouse. Never taking for granted the things they do. Embracing the way they choose to love us, even if it's not exactly what we had in mind. Choosing to dwell on the positives, not the negatives. Praying for your spouse daily. Momma always said it's hard to hate the ones you're praying for. And maybe biting your tongue when you don't want to.

Listen, I don't proclaim to be an expert on marriage, and I've never suffered the loss of my own divorce, although I have suffered the loss of my dear family and friends' marriages. Love hurts, I know. And I know that there ARE times when things happen that are outside of your control. But after ten years of marriage, after two years as marriage leadership in our church, after 600 divorce transcripts typed I do know that I've learned a few things.

One of the most important things I've learned is this: Standing and proclaiming to your spouse and the world around you: "DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION."

Not for my marriage. And hopefully, not for yours either.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Proof that I am downtown WAY too much/What would you do?

As part of my job I am frequently called to "go downtown". This phrase is kind of slang to me, and if you're around me at all you have probably heard me use expressions like: "I have to go downtown". "I went downtown today." etc.

On an average basis at least once or twice a week I travel from my home on the northeast side of town to the county courthouse or the federal courthouse, depending on what I'm doing. On a typical trip I will drive past several of our local homeless people. Every once in a while I am approached by one. The benefit is that I now am unafraid of the less fortunate, which for some reason (which I feel foolish admitting to you now) I used to be. The fear I used to have was more than likely bred into me because I am a female (the weaker sex) and because I am not exactly the strongest female. (Okay, I'm a weakling.)

Anyway, today as I was parallel parking my car I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a man was approaching my vehicle. I parked the car and then pretended to dig around in my handbag for a while, hoping that he would move on. A quick check of my locks notified me my door was not locked. I wasn't afraid of him, but I was afraid that he might be wanting to car jack me. Not that this would bother me either, but since my car payment is substantial I would hate to continue making a payment on something I no longer owned. (Especially a substantial payment on something I no longer owned.) Trust me, I'm not bragging that my car payment is substantial, just the opposite actually. (Note to self: Never trust the words of a finance manager at a car dealership ever, ever again!)

Okay, so back to my story. Mister is still standing there, obviously waiting on me. I roll down my window and give him this "Can I help you?" look. He starts telling me his down-on-my-luck story and it strikes me that he's wanting cash. But then the oddest, strangest thing happens: I get a case of de-ja-vu.

"Wait a minute!" I think to myself. "I have definitely heard this story before." In fact, I've heard THIS story from THIS man before.

Proof that I frequent downtown way too much. I got hit up for money by the same homeless man.

So what would you do? It's clear that his story is nothing but lies. He told me six months ago he was just needing some cash for a bus ticket back "home". Six months later he's telling me that again.

I won't tell you what I did this time, but I will tell you that last time I did give him some money. But now I want to hear what you would do. Would you give this man more money? Would you call him out on his blatant lies? Would you lie yourself and tell him you have no cash on you? Leave a comment for me, I'm truly interested in your thoughts.

Monday, October 8, 2007

My Spectacles Spectacle

So, after about four years of having the same glasses I finally took the plunge (and the ungodly amount of time) and went "frames" shopping. Since it's more about the destination than the journey when it comes to these types of errands, it didn't take me long to find a pair I considered suitable.

All excited, I sit down with the sales clerk as she writes up my order. "Okay," she says, "all I need from you is $299.00." WHAT??!! "You must have forgotten my $200.00 for insurance." I politely reply. "No, the $299.00 is AFTER your $200.00 insurance." Oh.

So I quickly make up an excuse as to why I won't be purchasing said glasses today. Flying out of the store more than a little embarrassed, I decide I'll have to either find a different, WAY cheaper pair, or I'll do what any cheapskate does; I'll find the exact thing on ebay for pennies.

No such luck on the cheapskate route.

Plan B goes into effect. I'll find the same pair, but I'll find them cheaper at a different store. Doing a little Internet research goes a LONG way, my friends. I was able to find a store that offered a forty percent discount on frames. Sign me up. I printed the coupon and headed to the store.

Enter stage right the stereotypical bird brained but lovable character.

I talk with BB (bird brain) about ordering the above frames, then whip out my coupon. My $299.00 out-of-pocket becomes $50.00 --whooo whooo!

BB becomes even more bird brained as a week passes and STILL no frames have been ordered.

Enter Plan C.

I decide to go back to Store Number 1 to see if I can get the same pair of frames, but mention to them that Store Number 2 said they would give it to me at this unbelievable low, low introductory, one time limited offer of forty percent off. "Will you price match?"

"Sure!" Sales Clerk replies. Jackpot, I think to myself. (Along with several other compliments to me about how cunning and clever and smart and so on and so forth I am.)

We order them up, I hand her my prescription, she tells me that they probably won't take but a couple of days because of the ease of the prescription.


Unexpectedly, Sales Clerk calls the next day and informs that that they've already arrived and that I can pick them up between the hours of this and that.

I arrive shortly thereafter and she does all the adjusting, complimenting, yada yada. I put them on and think to myself, "Wow, these are different. I must have been really blind because of not wearing the other ones in so long."

Pulling out of the parking lot I'm halfway scared I'm gonna wreck, 'cause I'm having a hard time adjusting to the newness of them.

Two days pass and I'm wearing them pretty constantly, but I don't seem to be adjusting to them. Weird.

On Day 3 it hits me. I quickly dig through my purse to find the prescription I had given her.

Then I realize just what had happened.

I gave her Paul's prescription by mistake.

"Here, put these on." I tell Paul. He puts them on. He lifts the newspaper. He can see exceptionally well.

On the following Monday I go in to Store Number 1 and sheepishly tell them what happened. I hate when I make myself look stupid. (Unfortunately this kind of thing happens more often then I'd like to admit.)

Sales Clerk tells me that it was a mutual mistake, that she should have caught it as well, being that it wasn't my name on the prescription but my husband's. "This has NEVER happened in the history of our store!" Sales Clerk says. Great, thanks for making me feel even more dim-witted.

She promises to reorder them and again comments that it shouldn't take long to remake, since my prescription is even easier than Paul's.

That was a week ago.

Three phone calls and one "stop in" later, they call me this afternoon and announce that my glasses are ready.

I haven't done the math yet, but I'm pretty sure that my forty percent savings has decreased slightly when offset by the mileage and gas consumption that my mistake caused.

And to think I called BB a bird brain!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Well if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack. . .

Do you remember singing songs at church camp and vacation Bible school? One that I think I will always remember goes like this:

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart (Where?)
Down in my heart (Where?)
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart (Where?)
Down in my heart to stay
And I'm so happy
So very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart (down in my heart)
And I'm so happy
So very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart

Dictionary.com defines joy as: 1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation. 2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated. 3. the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety. 4. a state of happiness or felicity. 5. to feel joy; be glad; rejoice.

And a quick search Biblegateway.com using the keyword "joy" returns with 242 uses of the word joy in the Bible.

So what's my problem?

I'll be the first one to admit that I haven't been very joyous lately. I guess I didn't realize it until it came staring back at me. Let me explain. There's a woman that I know, although I've never had a conversation with her, but I see her on average two or three times a week. I don't want to be mean, but the woman doesn't look happy. In fact, in the two years I've "known" her I can honestly say I've NEVER seen a smile grace her face. She was pregnant not long ago and gave birth to a son. I kind of thought her disposition might change after that, but it didn't. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure she's a perfectly nice lady, and I'm not trying to put her down. Not my point at all. Anyway, recently I came across a little "blurp" about her, written by her. I have to say I was shocked at what I read. She was saying how her husband was currently in school, a Christian school, studying for a degree in Christian ministry. Whoa. Who'd of guessed her to be a Christian?! Seriously, that's what I thought when I read it. So often I am critical and judgmental. I will condemn someone in a matter of seconds, based merely off our exchange with one another, whether it be verbal or not. I walk away from the checker at a store thinking to myself, "Lord, please help that person come to know you. To have a deep and personal relationship with you. To acknowledge you as their Lord and Savior." That's automatically where my mind goes, that they must not be a believer, otherwise they wouldn't be acting like that.

Which brings me back to my point. How many people have walked away from me with the same perception that I had of that lady? Many, many I'm sure. So often I forget what God has promised all who live in Him. In my times of trouble I forget that I know who wins in the end. So why do I allow the enemy to oppress me? Why do I walk around with my heart so downtrodden? I KNOW WHO WINS IN THE END. I know who wins. When I repeat that to myself it makes all my troubles, all my worries, all my burdens seem really trivial. I am set free in the fact that Jesus wins. And because I'm a part of that "team" I win too. Think of it. When the star quarterback wins the game even the people who sit on the bench win too. Just for being part of the team. If we could just manage to keep that thought in the front of our minds always then wouldn't our whole life reflect it? Shouldn't our whole life reflect it? So where's my joy? I guess somewhere along the way I stuffed it into a box and taped it closed.

I'm not talking about having a good time, laughing, etc. I'm talking about the joy that comes from deep within. The joy that comes with being confident in who you are as a follower of Christ. My place in heaven is sealed. I am a daughter of the Lord of lords, the King of kings. My crown and my mansion await me.

Time to go find that box.