Bad Ingredients

“I’m on the train,” Bill said when I answered the phone. “I should be home by 7:30.”

“Sure beats getting home at 1:30 a.m. like you did last night,” I replied.

My husband puts in some crazy hours during his busy season; and every year, there’s a two-week window when I wonder how long he can keep up the pace. During this stressful time, I try to be like the woman from Proverbs 31 where her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value because she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Part of the good that I bring—literally—to the table during busy season is a freshly made dessert in case Bill wants a late night snack before going to bed. Although my family might tell you otherwise, I’m not a terrible baker. As long as I follow the directions on the box or bag, nothing gets burned and nobody usually gets hurt by eating it.

Still, I known for my kitchen mishaps. Probably because the ones that I do have overshadow even my best laid plans. Like when Bill came home to find a pan of rice crispy bars waiting for him. I made them after noticing a forgotten box of cereal in the back of a cupboard earlier that day. Although the contents didn’t expire for several months, the holiday packaging should have been my clue that the outcome would not be worth my effort. What it was worth was a laugh when Bill took a bite out of one and said: “Call the Blackhawks to see if they want their hockey pucks back.”

“They’re not that bad,” I protested.

“I’m lucky I didn’t break a tooth,” he exclaimed before good-naturedly adding, “It’s good to be home.”

This type of banter is common in our household. As a firm believer in the saying “If you want to fight, keep it light”, I rarely take jabs seriously, whether poked in fun or out of frustration. According to John Gottman, this is a good thing because defensiveness is one of what he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse because “defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.” (The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, p. 31)

Hearing that this trait—when mixed with unhealthy doses of criticism, contempt, and stonewalling—can push even the strongest marriage toward an undesirable end makes me even more determined to admit my weaknesses before anybody else does.

Why?

Because awareness paves the way for acceptance and the knowledge that, whether my family has something to laugh about or something to eat, it will nourish them either way. In the case of my rice crispy bars it was the former when Bill went upstairs and, before turning in, made a reservation to take me out to dinner that Friday night.

As soon as I received the invitation in my inbox, I replied: “Should we order dessert at the restaurant or have some when we get home?

“I have a dentist appointment on Saturday morning so I guess either is fine,” he said before shutting down his computer.

Unlike my treats (which I threw in the trash before heading upstairs), my evening couldn’t have turned out better. Bad ingredients don’t make for a good dessert, but they do strengthen a relationship if you don’t take yourself—or your cooking—too seriously and trust that with a  little humor, even the worst mistake will turn out fine.

If you want to fight, keep it light and all will be well at the end of the night.

Favorite Fifteen Quotes of 2011

In addition to lessons learned, I also like to share quotes on Twitter as I come across them. Here are my favorite fifteen out of all of the ones I posted in 2011. Because I can’t help but improve upon everything I touch (and tweet), the conclusions I reached after reading them are printed in italics.

  1. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Make time for others. – Helen Keller
  2. We need to exchange whispers with God before we exchange words with somebody else. Pray. – Lysa Terkeurst
  3. The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. Grow. – John Ruskin
  4. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. Take risks. – Tony Robbins
  5. The best way to make someone interested in you is to be interested in yourself. Take care of yourself. – Rachel Ray
  6. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Think of others. – Maya Angelou
  7. When people show you who they are, believe them. Be discerning. – Oprah
  8. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Change is good. – Albert Einstein
  9. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Be who you are, not who people want you to be. – Cyril Connolly
  10. A person who has flatlined has stopped growing. Breathe new life into your day. – Dr Henry Cloud
  11. He who looks outside himself dreams. He who looks inside awakens. Learn from what you live through. – Carl Jung
  12. If I made it in this country, the road is there guys. You really are the only shadow standing in your sunshine. Get out of your own way. – Fabio Viviani
  13. Boredom is not another mealtime. Be productive. – Valerie Bertinelli
  14. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. Have faith. – Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 10:13
  15. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. Know Christ.– Unknown

If you have a favorite quote to share, feel free to add a comment to this post and remember to …

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

Amazing

“You were a great host tonight,” I told Katie after our guests had gone home.

“I know, I’m amazing,” she replied.

As a parent, I’m always trying to find the right balance between building my children’s confidence and chipping away at signs of conceit. After hearing her latest comment, it was time to do the latter as I reminded my oldest of what Jesus said in Luke 14: “Do you remember the moral of the story about not taking the place of honor at a wedding banquet and instead waiting for the host to move you to a better seat?”

“People who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” Katie paraphrased.

“That means you’re supposed to wait for others to build you up,” I lectured.

“I did wait for you to compliment me.”

Katie had a point. I initiated the praise. What was wrong with agreeing with me?

Sometimes I think we confuse self-esteem for self-love and a lack of it for humility. How many times, for example, have you heard someone put herself down after receiving a compliment instead of just saying thank you? How many times, for the record, has that person been you?

I read once that hurting people hurt people. While this probably explains why all of us at one time or another have been guilty of tearing others down in a weak attempt to build ourselves up, it doesn’t excuse Christians for thinking that disparaging themselves will somehow make God look more divine.

We don’t have the right to put down anyone who was created in His image, including ourselves. What we do have is an opportunity to take God at His word and every compliment as a reminder that He thinks we’re amazing … and so should we.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well – Psalm 139:14a