Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Confidence

Last night I had a dream that has really stuck with me. I had been brought into a room by an old friend of mine who told me he wanted to sit me down and talk to me about something I probably didn't want to hear. "Great," I thought, while trying to look for the quickest escape. But I sat anyway and waited. Finally he came in, sat down, and went into this speech about guys and gals who like each other but never ask each other out...or maybe they finally are together but the guy is too scared to ask her to marry him. After letting it sit there for a minute, I finally asked...
"What does this have to do with me? I asked Wes out for our first date and Wes proposed to me...and we've been married nearly 8 years."
"Mary, why do you think these people didn't have the courage to ask each other out or propose?" he asked in reply.
I sat there for a minute thinking...what was he trying to convey to me? Then I realized what it was.
"They lacked self confidence."
My friend nodded and took my hand as though he knew I would need comfort at that moment. I turned my head away and slightly shook it. He was right. At one point in my life I was very confident...confident enough to ask out a guy I was head over heels crazy in love with...knowing a rejection might follow. Wes was confident enough to propose to me, knowing a "no" could be an answer. I sat there thinking about the ups and downs with confidence I've had over the years and I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Instead I felt angry at myself. My friend patted my hand and told me how I was going to get this make over. I was going to get the haircut I've had a few times, but have lately not had the confidence to get it though I've really been wanting it again. I was getting this crazy printed dress and a pair of really funky shoes...things I would have loved but never would have purchased for myself because people who see me like to see me in "safe" things. I absolutely loved the shoes in particular and commented how great they would look with a pair of jeans and my super cool retro Rainbow Brite tshirt (oh yeah, I love that shirt of mine!). My friend said that would be awesome, but right now, I'm wearing it with a new shirt. So I chose this teal colored short sleeve satin shirt that had various designs on it that I can't quite remember. My hair was done, I had my shirt, my jeans, super cool shoes, and big earrings and a chunky bracelet on...I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "so this is where I've been hiding!!" I loved how I looked. Shortly after, I woke up.

The dream has been on my mind all morning. I thought about things I have passed up because I wasn't confident enough to do them. When I was getting new glasses last summer, I spent forever looking at the same three frames. I really wanted these green frames, but I kept thinking about how ridiculous people would think I I sat them back down. Then it was down to a pair of maroon-ish frames or a pair a light brown pair. Wes & I really liked the maroon-ish one, but I eventually settled on the light brown pair, justifying it by said that it will go with more things. I like my frame, but I wasn't confident enough to get either of the other two pairs that I liked even more. But thing is, it's not just my clothes or my glasses. It's so many things in life. I've been invited to join the praise band at church a few times. And each time I'm invited, I sit in the pew watching them as they practice, never once going up to join them. Our music minister asked one time after practice if I was waiting for any particular reason. I knew what he was hinting at and was asking in a delicate way. Why didn't I join them? I told him I just felt awkward and didn't know if he was just asking me to join just to be polite. He told me that he wouldn't have asked if he didn't think I was good enough...that if he knew someone who wanted to join but didn't really have the skill, or still needed lots of practice, he wouldn't ask. So I felt better, but I still doubt myself when it comes to joining them. I sit there in my pew on Sunday mornings thinking "I'm glad I didn't join this week because that song reaches too high for me and I can't figure out where to pick up the harmony." I justify my lack of self confidence.

Why do I do this? I do things because they are safe, not because I necessarily enjoy them. That's not to say I always dress in this funky manner...there are some "safe" clothes I really like. But there's also this part of me that likes what some would consider "weird stuff"...heck, one of my favorite shirts is my Nightmare Before Christmas shirt that I wear along with these big Jack Skellington hoop earrings. For the record, I have never received so many compliments on any clothing item I own more than I have my Nightmare shirt. I feel that if I dress a certain way or do things in a particular manner, more people will accept me and I'll have all these friends, blah blah blah. It's a need for validation. But why can't I validate myself? Why can't I be content in what I like and can do? Why have I lost the self confidence to accept myself? It's ridiculous! I should be praising God for how He made me rather than try to conform myself to how others think I should be.

I'm telling you all this in confidence. Not in the sense it's some secret, but in the sense that I finally realize that there are changes in my life I need to's time to start growing in the confidence God wants me to have.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Definition of a Family

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'...So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:18, 21-24

For the last several years I have contemplated what "family" meant. Stop and think for a moment about the word "family." What immediately comes to mind? Many people go directly to the poster image of a mother and father with their daughter and son. Some families may include a single child or more than two, some may be all girls or all boys, or a mix. Whatever the case may be, you'll rarely, if ever, hear someone say "a husband and wife." I think about how often Wes and I feel excluded from various "family" days at whatever location, family photos in which only parents with their children get that special picture while we look on and think "maybe if I hold the camera with this hand and in this position, we'll be able to get a picture of ourselves together," and the list goes on. has the first definition of family listed as parents with their children. Merriam-Webster first defines a family as "a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head." I like M-W's definition a lot more, not only because it doesn't define it as having children, but also defines it as being under one head. Talk about a biblical approach, in spite of it being a dictionary!

I've been thinking about the above passage in Genesis and how the real first family came to be. God realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone, that he needed someone. So does God put Adam to sleep and POOF! there's his wife and kids? No! He creates a wife for him...and that's it. Adam is now complete. Adam didn't need kids for God to know that the situation was now perfect. And the passage doesn't go on to say, "but Eve felt incomplete and desired children in order to become a family." Again, no! They already were a family! Notice that kids didn't enter the picture until sin did... Ok, please don't twist my words there, I am not saying that kids are a result of sin and anyone who has children are sinning...what a laugh that is! But what I am trying to point out is that so many people miss the fact that Adam and Eve were already complete before kids entered the picture. It's not like God saw them as any less of a family and thought them incomplete. If that were the case, I doubt Eve would have been the only one created when He put Adam to sleep.

Wes and I may never have children. It's a reality we have to face. But we are no less a family. So when you're organizing a family event for something, perhaps think of activities that the not often thought of family groups can participate in. When you're snapping family portraits, ask the husband and wife family if they'd like one too. If you have some sort of family support group, maybe include a small group for the families that don't have children. Just think of ways where the childless ones can feel included.

We're a family too. may not say so, but the Bible definitely does.

Photo by Kara Guffey

Friday, March 14, 2008

For the Love of a Piggy

My precious baby Mocha passed away on Wednesday. Over the last few weeks, he struggled with two upper respiratory infections. But the worst news was when we found out he had a stone in each ureter and needed emergency surgery. We left him with our vet on Tuesday, with his surgery scheduled for Wednesday. Tuesday night, at almost midnight, we made a 20 minute trek to the vet office to visit him and to bring him his most cherished possession, his cuddle cup. The cuddle cup is about 3 years old, so worn and ragged from several washings, but he absolutely loves it. We spent about half an hour with him, taking turns holding him, feeding him blueberries (his favorite treat), singing to him (he always looked at me and purred when I sang the song from Dumbo, "Baby Mine," to him), telling him what a good piggy he was and how much we loved him. He purred away in contentment as we rubbed him and held him close. We asked the vet if it was ok if he had his cuddle cup with him so he had something familiar with him and she said it was fine. As I was preparing to give him back, I held him close and breathed in his scent several times. I felt at the moment that it was so important for me to just breathe him in. I looked at him and said "precious, you smell like Mocha." He purred, I told him I loved him...and that was the last time I saw him.

Wednesday afternoon around 1pm, our vet called and said he made it out of surgery, but that one of the stones went back into his kidney so she'd need to go back in for it in another day or two, but he was resting well in the mean time. Three hours after that, she called again...the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm sorry." She explained that his intestines started to bloat and they couldn't stop it...and finally he "went to sleep" as she delicately told me. She kept apologizing and through my sobs, I told her how much we appreciated that she did all that she could for him. The drive to pick up his little body was painfully long, but it was even worse when we got there and they handed me a little box with his name and a heart drawn on it. I also got back his cuddle cup. When we got home, I opened the box, took off the towel he had been wrapped in, held him close, and just cried. I think even the other piggies knew something was wrong as they all were incredibly subdued...and still remain so, Eggnog in particular.

Piggies can live anywhere from 5-10 years. Mocha would have turned 3 in June.

We've lost three piggies. One died in my arms, one died due to the fault of a former vet, and now Mocha. With each, we wrapped them in a shirt of mine so they'd forever be wrapped in Mama's arms. We also put in clippings from the other piggies' fur, as well as little things they loved. Mocha will be no different. And as much as I want to hang on to his cuddle cup, he deserves to have it with him. Some people can't imagine why I would do this. After all, I've been told, it's just a guinea pig. Why do I do it? Because I loved him. I adored him. He trusted me. He was not a disposable pet to toss to the side when things went downhill. He was a creation of God, entrusted to my care...and he deserved to be cared for. Mocha was an incredibly affectionate piggy with such a sweet disposition...and anyone who "could care less" truly doesn't deserve his love.

I realize that the entire world is not as passionate about animals as I am, and some barely even care. I realize that not everyone cares about creation in general. I think what saddens me even more is when Christians are the ones who could care less. We are the ones who should be front and center when it comes to caring for God's creation. Instead, many Christians look at me and Wes and we're considered "moderate" or "liberal" because of our beliefs regarding conservation...and some have used the term "tree hugger." For the record, I have no problems being a tree hugger...I do have problems with people who use that term in a derogatory manner towards me. When Adam and Eve were created, the first command was to be fruitful and multiply. The second command was a charge regarding our rule over the earth. Why do so many Christians happily accept the first command while completely ignoring the second? They're both in the same verse. I'm not saying that everyone needs to be right where I am regarding my passion for the environment. It just makes me sad that the very people who are called to be stewards of the earth are the ones who look down upon those who actually take the job seriously.

For you Lord of the Rings fans out there...remember Denethor? He was called to be the Steward of Gondor. He was to take care of the kingdom until the king returned. And what happened? He let it get to his head...he stopped caring about his kingdom and refused to give up "his" throne for the return of the king. He declined into madness. We, as Christians, have been called to be stewards of this earth with God as our High King. This world is not our's not ours to mess up. And yet, some stewards could care less about it. While we are anxiously awaiting the return of Christ, what kind of earth are we having Him return to? Have we seriously declined into madness like Denethor and refuse to give up our throne for the rightful King? Are we really proud of what we're offering to Him? Can we stand tall when asked "what did you do in your role as steward?" When we chase after animals to scare them, throw things at another animal for fun, care less about the plight of an animal in need...stop and think about just Who created that animal...and Who we are hurting when we take delight in their suffering.

Mocha, I love you...and I feel blessed that God gave you to us...even for a short time.

Photos by Mary King

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thankful for...Snow?

It's not uncommon knowledge that Wes and I hate the cold. We both grew up in Chicago where below zero temperatures are commonplace during the winter months, and frankly, we have had enough of it. Here in Louisville, below zero temps are pretty rare and the snow tends to be "snow dust" that melts within a day or two. It's amusing to see the locals freak out and rush to the store for milk and bread as though the end of the world arrives when the forecast predicts even an inch of snow. But cold weather is not our thing. We hate it. This is part of the reason why we love Florida so much and we can't wait to move there. HEAT! Boy, do we love heat!

But this weekend was different. We were supposed to attend a youth conference in Missouri, but the trip was canceled due to an expected 4-8 inches of snow. With a three day weekend off work and nothing to do but stay at home and wait for the snow to pass, I wondered how boring this weekend could get. You see, I can be a homebody, but there are also times I want to go out and do things...and that seems to be prevalent during times we can't go out and do things. But the weekend turned out to be much different than I expected.

It snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed some more. We had an average of 10-12 inches of snow. We didn't venture outside one time on Friday and we figured, why should we? We had nowhere to be and it was cold outside. May I remind you that we hate the cold. So instead, we played computer and video games. Wes brought the tv and DVD player to our bedroom and we watched movies while eating dinner on the bed. Well, understand the's cold on the first floor and our bedroom is on the second floor. It was a lazy day. It was wonderful. Then Saturday came and we did the same thing, only this time we did go outside, but only to play. That's right, Wes & Mary in their ultimate hatred for the cold, played in the snow. We had a snowball fight, made a snowman, literally jumped in the snow, and made snow angels. Warm delicious stew was a perfect dinner for the cold day, and to top it off, I made snow cream for dessert. That's right, a dessert made with snow! Think vanilla ice cream, but snow-like. We received a call from our pastor telling us that church services had been canceled for the next day (understandably since a foot of snow and a church sitting on a hill doesn't exactly make for safe conditions)...which meant another day for just me and Wes. So we continued in our journey of laziness of games and movies. We did venture into the real world one time to eat out. It felt different this day, though...the weather was a bit warmer (if you consider the 40s warm), the snow was melting was all a reminder that the weekend was coming to a close. By the end of Sunday night, Wes told me, "it's back to the real world now." And so it was.

It's Monday now. Wes is back in class and even though I didn't work today, I was on call which meant work was a possibility. It feels different today. Today we're no longer living in our bubble where only Wes & I existed. But for three full days it was perfect. There was no one else but us and we were free to be lazy, to play, to eat snow. With our move to Florida coming up soon, we knew an opportunity like this...a "snow day" as some schools call it...would not come up again, so we took full advantage.

This weekend, in spite of my undying hatred for cold,
I was thankful for snow.