Stealing Faith

humor for relationships, family & life

Providence vs. Coincidence

Coincidence Fate ConversationProvidence vs. Coincidence: To recognize that our circumstances do not exist by chance but instead by intention for our good. (Ephesians 2:10)

The word Providence has not been a regular part of my vocabulary. Last year when we listened to an audiobook about the Pilgrims I realized that the Pilgrims attributed everything to Providence and I thought that was proof that they had an almost mystical perception of God’s activity in their lives but I didn’t see how that applied to me.

Up until now I have absolutely preferred the word “Coincidence.” Inexplicable things happen as a coincidence all the time and if you use the word coincidence you have very little chance of offending someone of a different belief structure. Coincidence is a safer word that (I have believed) still covering the sentiment put forth by that old-fashioned and dreary word, Providence.

These word choices came back to me this morning as I came across the idea of Providence again in my quiet time. I did a google search for word definitions and the first thing search result  for Coincidence was the dictionary definition: “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. from the Latin coincidere, which means to coincide or agree.”

In contrast, I had to scroll WAY down the page past blurbs about Providence, RI before I found the definition for Providence: “divine guidance or care, God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny. From the Latin providentia, which means to provide or care for.”

While both Coincidence and Providence offer a glimmer of the mysterious and inexplicable, after looking at these two definitions, I realized there is no way I should be supplanting Providence with Coincidence in my daily word choices. They mean totally different things! Additionally, if I apply the differences in the definitions to my every day, my perspective shifts.

For example, if it was simply a coincidental meeting of egg and sperm that just happened to develop into my daughter, then I can consider her personality, growth patterns, and being a chance of nature – she just happened to be the luck of the draw that encounter and I get to deal with the results.

However, if I consider that that fertilization was PROVIDENCE it means that my daughter is not in any way chance, that her personality, growth patters, etc., are all designed specifically for my life, my family, and our stewardship of the child/parent relationship. She is specifically fitted for our circumstances and blessing right this moment. (Reminds me of C.S. Lewis writing these are not “mere humans” we work with in our schooling!)

Removing “coincidence” and replacing it with “providence” changes everything about the heart of how I parent.

Further, if I stop believing that things are happening in my life by coincidence and chance, but instead embrace everything I face as providence – whether it’s a challenge or a victory – then I begin to see that what I do right this minute has significance and purpose. My family, my profession, my community – they are all in my life by providential design. How cool is that to consider when I’m loading the dishes or folding the 20th load of laundry this week during our laundry marathon?!

13 Ways to Practice Hospitality Every Day

A. Burton /

A. Burton /

My facebook feed has blown up in recent weeks. Between SCOTUS decisions and vaccine soap boxes the everyday back and forth between intelligent people I typically see has take on an ugly life of its own.


I have seen more statements of “unfriending” than ever before and I have heard many real-life confessions of online hurt feelings.


I don’t have a solution for this – let’s face it, I rarely have answers! While I might sometimes have a humorous observation, I mostly see my writing as a way to recognize and process the world around me.


Right now, in the wake of all I see on facebook and hurt feelings in real life, my mind is deeply engaged with the concept of hospitality.


The Google gives the definition of hospitality:

  1. 1.
    the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
    synonyms: friendliness, hospitableness, warm reception, welcome, helpfulness, neighborliness, warmth, kindness, congeniality, geniality, cordiality,courtesy, amenability, generosity, entertainment, catering, food

    “we found nothing but hospitality among the local inhabitants”


While this outlines a working definition of hospitality, my brain is coming to see hospitality as a broader term: the ability to show value to others by how I welcome them into participation in my own life. The welcoming may take a physical nature, but more importantly to daily interaction, I think it must take a philosophical bent.


Henri Nouwen in Reaching Out says it like this:

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”


How do we extend hospitality to others in our daily interactions in order to create a safe space? I recently attended a talk presented by Monica Irvine of the Etiquette Factory. I’m changing a few words, but the bulk of these practical definitions come from that session.


13 Ways to Put Hospitality Into Action


Hospitality is Graceful. Grace assumes the best and Doubts the worst. Stop and park on that for a minute. What if you were surrounded by people who actually live this philosophy. Wouldn’t it be liberating?!

Hospitality Does What’s Right. Even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable, a hospitable person will still do what they are called to do.

Hospitality is Kind. Kindness is a most desirable quality! It bears ones another’s burdens, listens attentively, and encourages others to live according to their ethics.

Hospitality Does Not Gossip. Hospitality always speaks the best of a person. If the words you say will cause others to think less of another…. do not speak it. Even if it’s true.

Hospitality Does Not Complain. There is a difference between airing a genuine and truthful grievance and casually complaining about everything from the weather to the business of your day. Casual complaining displays a lack of gratitude and becomes a burden on the people around us.

Hospitality Does Not Conform. It is not necessary to compromise your own standards in order to be hospitable. It is okay to “agree to disagree,” but that disagreement should still come from a place of valuing the other person and does not always require a confrontation.

Hospitality Keeps Commitments. Consistent people are trustworthy people. Choose the best “yes” out of all of the many options available to you and when you say you will do something, do it.

Hospitality Admits Flaws. The moment you see a mistake, own up to it. “I’m sorry, but…” is not a real apology that takes ownership, so when you apologize for something, own it completely and simply.

Hospitality is Confident. A confident person is one who can quickly, easily offer genuine compliments to other people. Before seeing a person think ahead to the meeting and prepare a kind and thoughtful compliment you can offer to them.

Hospitality is Trustworthy. A hospitable person works to make others fee valued. As such, they do not reveal confidences. If you are tempted to reveal a “secret,” measure the motivation for why you are sharing the information against the damage created to your own integrity.

Hospitality is Honest. Some studies state the average person lies at least four times a day. Most of us don’t see ourselves as habitual liars, but what about hyperbole? What about when we might omit details of a story to make ourselves look a little better to the listener? Honest takes hard work!

Hospitality Avoids Being the Center of Attention. Hospitable people avoid extreme behavior that will cause them to be the focus of a group. Clothing choices, hair, actions, etc. all of these things can be used to grab attention and force it to ourselves, whereas a hospitable person is always looking to the comfort of others. Extra attention is not necessary to receive value.

Hospitality Strives for Balance in Conversation. People who are hospitable ask questions of others. In person they lean forward with attention, make eye contact, mirror facial expressions. Strive to not speak without passing the conversational ball for more than two minutes at a time. Hospitable people also work to remember key elements from previous conversations so they can follow up on those points.

What Do You Have To Prove?

A. Khatir /

A. Khatir /

A few months ago as I was out and about I ended up having a conversation with an older gentleman I’d never met before.


He was old, the kind of old where his skin had given up on the whole concept of elasticity and instead folded in upon itself in valleys and peaks across his face. He was a World War II veteran and I thanked him for his service in the midst of our talking. He didn’t want to talk about his service in the military and instead looked at the four children I had on display and turned the conversation toward them.


“Where to they go to school?” he asked me.

“We homeschool,” I replied. He looked affronted. With so much skin available to him for use his expressions were magnified. It was obvious he was reevaluating my placement on the “normal” to “psychopathic killer” stranger scale.


“Well, what do you use to teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic?” he asked. I explained our educational plan and how we are careful to meet the state standards in these areas and go beyond the standards when it makes sense.


“Hurumph,” said my octogenarian friend. His face showed that he was trying to help me see the error of my support of home education without being rude. “Well, what about socialization?!” he asked me.


A little part of me was amazed that I was getting all of the stereotypical complaints against home education in one conversation, but I responded with an explanation of our civic groups participation, our weekly gatherings of youth activities, and how the flexibility afforded by homeschooling allows us to visit interesting places like museums regularly.


He was unimpressed and equally unwilling to let go of his belief that home education was foolhardy. So he finalized his questioning with what he saw as the knockout question:


“So, I guess you got your degree in education to be a teacher, then?” he asked me suspiciously.


The reality is that no, I don’t have my degree in teaching. I shared this with him, including the research that most home educating parents don’t have teaching degrees, yet their children are able to perform as well or better than their publicly educated peers on standardized tests and ultimately are able to find success as happily employed adults. I mentioned the studies that cite example after example of hiring professionals valuing skill sets encouraged by the home education lifestyle: autonomy, ability to respond to changing situations, problem solving skills, etc.


But then, seeing his interest had completely faded in the barrage of information I was using to convince him our family is educating “properly” and he wasn’t going to change his suspicious nature regardless of anything I said to validate my perspective… I just stopped talking.


He didn’t notice. He looked the other way for awhile. Eventually we said goodbye and went about our respective business. I don’t expect we’ll ever see one another again.


As I played the conversation over in my head later, one question echoed:


“What am I trying to prove, and to whom? Why?!”


Having just returned from our state’s homeschooling conference, I have educational models and methods on my mind. I am inspired and challenged, convicted and overwhelmed. I feel supported in this educational lifestyle choice we’re making, and like I’m part of a larger group of likeminded people.


I learned that there are more children homeschooled in this country right now than there are in parochial schools. The pendulum is swinging.


That being said, we must figure out what we are trying to prove with our home education and to whom. We must know our why are explore the underlying motivations.


If we homeschool because it’s the new trendy thing to do we will not be successful. We will simply be sheep following the next new thing.


If we homeschool because that’s how you prove to others that you’re a real Christian, we will fail because real Christians educate their children in all sorts of different ways. This isn’t a competition.


If we home school because we are out to prove the public education system wrong, to prove our kids are all little geniuses, we will ultimately be left with an empty spot in our heart because we push so hard for our children to “succeed” we push them right out of our homes with our perfectionism.


I’m of the opinion God blessed us with these children and we are called to be stewards of their individuality, to shine the spotlight on the ways they are gifted to be unique, they ways they can be used to impact this world.


It’s our job as educators to give them the skill sets necessary to allow those giftings to bloom.


For example, if I have a child who is gifted in design it behooves all of us to teach her the skills necessary for engineering so that the visions in her head can find a place in reality.


If I have a child who has a gifting in leadership it’s my educational responsibility to expose her to reading so that the stories of past great leaders, of people who learned to use their leadership not to “boss” others but to “empower” them, will be present in her brain and she can learn from their wisdom.


It is not my job to convince others to home school. I don’t know their stories or what they witness in their own families. I can’t compare.


It is my job to sacrificially educate our children with the tools needed to accomplish the work God has laid out in advance for them to do. I need to educate and then get out of the way… because this is the task God prepared for me to do!
And when it’s all said and done:

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” — Erma Bombeck

Denim Jumpers are Out, Rolling Crates are In

Times are changing...

Times are changing…

Friends, I’ve just returned home from my very first visit to a state homeschooling convention.


First, it was awesome. There’s no way to get around the fact that we were surrounded by several other thousand people who were strangers and yet like-minded and that was pretty cool.


Going in to the experience I was a little nervous, as I assumed I would be entering into a sea of calico yoke-dresses and denim jumpers. I was confident the women would all have very long hair and sprinkle their conversation with adoring mentions of their families, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”


I was wrong. While there were definitely old-school homeschooler sighting out and about, I am surprised to report the vast majority of attendees would not be immediately identifiable as home educators in a police line up (or airport people watching marathon, for that matter!). They pass as normal, friends! The face of homeschooling is changing!


That being said, one thing did become crystal clear during the experience: while the Age of the Home School Denim Jumper has passed the Age of the Rolling Crate has arrived.


The rolly-crate is the new denim jumper.


From a practical standpoint I totally get the rolling, collapsable carry all, especially as a practical aid for the home schooling parent purchasing a year’s worth of curriculum in a frenzy of conference discounts and new educational model exposure. Who really wants those plastic bags cutting into your arms constantly when you could instead scoot along the convention center hallways unburdened by texts and workbooks and penmanship guides, paper airplane models and STEM aids and safety-dulled pocket knives?! That’s right. No one.


But a word from the perspective of the person who wasn’t dragging a rolly-cart here: stop running over my feet with your wheeled, heavy carriages of educational doom! Accept the inevitable fact that if your crate dimensions are 16″ x 16.5″ x 14.5″ it will never, ever fit down a row of auditorium seating leaving only 12″ of space from chair front to seat back. Don’t even try to squish yourself down the row of the workshop. It’s not happening.


I don’t intend to be a downer, but facts are facts and if you can’t identify that your rolly-cart isn’t going to go vroom like a greased Rubix cube … well, I know there has to be a perfect math curriculum available for you in the exhibitor auditorium just down the hall. Go check it out.


Homeschoolers used to look like this:

Homeschooling used to utilize copious lengths of fabric... now, not so much.

Homeschooling used to utilize copious lengths of fabric… now, not so much.


But now, with the changing of the old guard, homeschoolers look like this:

The rolly-crate is the new hallmark of the home schooler.

The rolly-crate is the new hallmark of the home schooler.


And we’re all the better for it.

Bento Box Bondage

I’ve done something I’ll probably regret forever. I googled “Bento Box.”


Stop the presses, folks. There are some lunchbox shenanigans afoot.


bento 1

Sponge Bob has always scared me.

Because everyone needs a bunny in their box.

Because everyone needs a bunny in their box.

The music notes add just the right touch.

The music notes add just the right touch.


Along with feeling a sense of chagrin about having to literally google a term that apparently the mothers of North America have become creatively familiar (my excuse? We homeschool!), I’m also comically distraught that we are now supposed to exhibit creativity, thematic originality, and consistently entertaining lunch attire to children who do not yet understand why it’s a questionable idea to wear a banana clip and mis-matched knee socks with plaid shorts?!




I’ve previously written about my deep-seated distrust for Family Fun magazine and Pinterest, this discovery has brought all those emotions up to the forefront once again, as it seems like we keep setting completely unimportant standards up for ourselves, just so we can feel like we stink as parents when the ideals are not maintained. #firstworldproblems


I know there are some people who are wired to make art with their sandwiches and carrot sticks; strangely enough one of my very best friends has a brain like this and I respect her for it as much as I shake my head in confusion as her creativity. If this is what makes you thrive, so be it and here’s a virtual smack on the back for your awesomeness!


But then there’s the rest of us folks, the ones who can appreciate a beautiful sunset but have no idea what shades of colors make it up… these are the ones I think need to be freed from Bento Box Bondage.


Someone needs to exercise a dose of common sense, my friends. Every last bite of food, from the simple pb&j to the gourmet hummus and grape leaf will end up in a heap on the down side of the porcelain dumping grounds. Why kill yourself to create autumn leaves out of cheese slices and Rapunzel braids out of egg noodles?


Anyone can be perfect for a little while. No one can realistically be perfect all the time. Happiness does not come in the form of a well-cut piece of cheese.


Honestly, if our children grow up believing that life is supposed to come decorated stunningly and packaged perfectly, what expectations are we setting them up for as adults? This living of life we have does not come wrapped in beauty and bubble wrap; eventually something comes along like miscarriage or cancer, job loss, or relational disaster. There is always a challenge.


With that in mind, maybe we should teach our children to enjoy the nourishment and flavor of the ordinary rather than reach constantly for the spectacular to set them up for overall emotional and physical health success.

26 Responses to “Are You Pregnant?” When You’re Not Pregnant At All

I’d like to talk about something close to my heart — literally. The lard baby.


Last week Jennifer Garner – yes, that Jennifer Garner who is able to pull of a seriously crazy Thriller dance imitation in the movie 13 Going on 30 and is married to Ben Affleck – blatantly stated that she has a baby bump… without a baby inside.


Friends, Jennifer Garner has a lard baby, too! She told Ellen Degeneres all about it, summing it up with these words: “I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump,” she explained.


“From now on ladies, I will have a bump. And it will be my baby bump. And let’s just all settle in and get used to it. It’s not going anywhere. I have a bump. Its name is Violet, Sam, Sera.”


I’m not sure there is a way for me to like a person I’ve never met more, but if there is, Jennifer Garner has just paved the way.


I haven’t had to deal with magazine readers scrutinizing my midsection, or bold headlines discussing my fertility. But I have had strangers ask me when I’m due with my next child. The only thing is… I’m not pregnant and we’ve made it medically unlikely that I my uterus will ever again house a rapidly growing tenant.


Perhaps you, too, have experienced that awkward moment when people break the law of never asking a woman when she’s due without visibly seeing her stomach lurch, making it blatantly obvious there’s either an demon-possessed intestinal tract or a fetus fighting for space in that midriff. My lard baby has been celebrated while waiting in line at a Love’s rest stop, in a sporting goods store, at a homeschooling conference… at all of these lovely locations when you’re really not thinking about sucking your gut in.


No one really wants to be on the receiving end of the situation, but it still happens — and what are you supposed to say in response?


I typically try to take the high road and explain to people I had four tenants in my uterus in a space of six years, I love potato chips, and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to the function of my own sweat glands. I try to smile and encourage them that I’m not upset and lately I’ve been telling myself that (now that I’m nudging 40-years-old with my tippee-toes) it’s a compliment these strangers think I’m young enough to be in the process of replication.


But, my friends, I also feel the need to prepare some creative come backs. If you have any, please leave them in the comments. In the meantime, here are twenty-six clever, tart, and/or hilarious responses to “When Are You Due?” when you aren’t due at all I’ve found (and embellished):

1. “I’m not pregnant, but I just ate a meal the size of an infant hippopotamus.”

2. “I’m actually not pregnant — perhaps that’s just one of the many things you can’t tell by looking at my body’s size and shape.”

3. “Oh no, that’s not a pregnant glow. I’m just super attractive. Thanks for noticing!”

4. “Don’t worry.  You’ll be the first to know when it happens because I always tell strangers before family.”

5. “Why?  Do I look fat?!”

6. “Actually, I just gave birth…but my body doesn’t realize that yet.”

7.  “I don’t have a baby in my tummy. It just looks like I do, thanks for encouraging me to support the Spanx brand.”

8. “I prefer not to talk about that. It’s bad luck.”

9. “My OB once said he never assumes a woman is pregnant until he sees a head coming out. Maybe you should do the same.”

10. “Nope, not pregnant yet, but we are having so much fun practicing! Would you like any tips?”

11. “YES, I am going to have five fat babies and name them all Dave! They shall be known as ‘The Daves’.”

12. “Wow, that’s awkward.”

13. “That’s a rather… personal question, isn’t it? What other personal questions would you like to ask me?”

14. “Oh, enough about me – let’s talk about you! When are going to >insert overly-personal life event here<?!”

15. “I hope not… it means my birth control isn’t working.”

16. “We’ve been trying for so long… (looks away) I think I might be barren.”

17. “Why do you ask?”

18. “Actually I’m infertile. Do you think you’d like to donate your eggs? I could pay you.”

19. “Oh, Heavens, no, I can’t *stand* children!”

20. “My insides are a rocky place where [husband’s] seed can find no purchase.”

21. “Not yet, but the night is still young!”

22. “Are you really that interested in what goes on in my bedroom? You don’t look like that type.”

23. “No baby, just fat!”

24. “I am not pregnant, but I will assume you are admiring my lovely glow.”

25. “I’m not pregnant, just wearing a tummy enhancing dress.”



Again — I’d love to hear your own comebacks in the comments. Jennifer Garner, the lard babies of the world, and I both thank you.


Can of Boogers

alex27 /

alex27 /

So we’re going to Vegas for Thanksgiving this year.


Yes, I know it’s a little non-traditional, but not everyone can aspire to the Eiffel Tower (Vegas) and jumbotron (also Vegas). (Anyone know the movie reference I just made?) Nope, it takes a special sort of family to step away from the traditional and belly up to the buffet, but I think we’re up for the challenge.


Nothing was set in stone until just this morning. We’ve talked about getting out of town for the holiday but hadn’t confirmed anything in particular. When Uno asked what we were doing I told her we would be sitting around, picking our nose, and eating our boogers.


She looked unimpressed. Then she got a little gleam in her eye.


“I don’t think I have enough boogers to fill a platter, Mommy,” she said. “But I probably could fill a can and give it to you to serve everyone.”


Yes, folks, she’s my child. It was a proud moment for me. I mean, it really wasn’t that long ago that she couldn’t even string three words together to form a sentence and now, now she’s using sarcasm! Be still my beating heart!


The funny thing about rearing these children is that you’re never really sure how they’re going to turn out. You’re not even certain they’re going to make it out alive! So when they do something that warms your heart and makes you proud, my, oh, my, those are the moments to savor!


So that’s our big news of the day. We’ll be praying for reasonable water and the ability to splash in a pool, and I’m not actively seeking input on great (cheap) things to do with a passel of kiddos on a national holiday. Thanks in advance for your advice!


The Posts That Brought You Here Over the Last 8 Months

I don't know the who or why to this photo but it's going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

I don’t know the who or why to this photo but it’s going to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

My dear friends. In my blogging break the past eight months I had completely forgotten the joy I receive when I take a look at the search terms that people put into The Google that bring them to StealingFaith.


It’s hard for me to believe that people will pull up their search engines and type these phrases. And then, they arrived at this website as a response to these search terms.


Oh, the sweet, humorous joy of it all is hard to contain! I had forgotten the great variety of topics I’ve blogged about in the past that would make these quirky phrases relevant!


Today I will continue in the tradition of The Posts That Brought You Here and share the 10 most intriguing search terms of the last quarter… and my best guess for the posts these terms discovered.


1. Samwise gamgee. So maybe this isn’t the funniest search term to start with, but it may be the most inspiring. I don’t know anyone who can’t love on the grand ideas presented in the Lord of the Rings, and the true friendship offered by Samwise Gamgee. The quote in this post helps us remember It’s Worth Fighting For.


2. Suppository stories. I’m not sure how I feel about this search term, but it came up in more than five variations on the search list. I’m guessing it has something to do with Dos and the Thunder Poop. This story just never gets old. I can’t wait to tell it to Dos’ future spouse. It will be memorable.


3. stealingfaith family planning. Though some might clai with four kids it’s unlikely that we did any family planning at all but that’s just not the case! We strategically opened the door to kiddos using Natural Family Planning and I share our reasons why in this post, Going Natural.


4. trapper keeper kittens. I’m certain this search term had something to do with my memory of a Trapper Keeper with kittens on the front I got for Christmas one year, because who doesn’t fondly remember presents from the Revco?! My memories, on display, in The Christmas of the Guinea Pig. But, just as a bonus to all who care, I’ll share this lovely video of kittens: CLICK HERE FOR KITTENS. Lucky you.


5. is classical conversations a cult. The quick answer? No. But the reality, I love Classical Conversation quite a bit. This organization makes homeschooling possible for our family and we’ve bought in hook line and sinker! Just in case you’d like to drink the CC Kool-Aid, too, here’s a link to their website, Classical Conversations. You can thank me later.


6. help stepped in dog vomit barefoot. My initial reaction is that there are more problems than dog vomit when you turn to Google before the Bounty quicker-picker-upper, but that might just be me being judgmental and all. Despite my faith in your emergency decision-making skills, I can comfort you by sharing I’ve been there, done that. Then I blogged about it. It’s not fresh like Teen Spirit.


7. thongs at the minnesota state fair. Oh dear heavens. I pray this is talking about the thong on your foot rather than the thong in your… ahem. I’m scared, though, knowing the crazy things that can happen at a state fair. In order to venture into safer anatomical territory, I’ll just redirect you to the three part series of the best fairs, festivals, and funny events in the United States.


8. how to tell roommate not to borrow my underwear. Dude. This is messed up and I’m just sorry you’ve had this experience. I’m guessing this term turned up a post where I interviewed Kikolani with Three Simple Questions, but can I just say… I’m sorry? Underwear is an intensely personal item and it’s a bummer you had to share. I suppose you might find some thongs at the state fair if you’re really in the market, however.


9. can tape get the hair from underarms. Well yes, duh! It can also make you scream like a little girl who just saw Elsa Let It Go in person. I believe it’s about as much fun to use duct tape to remove armpit hair as it is to compare yourself to the standards put forth in Family Fun magazine, but you be the judge.


10. identify dogs by tongue. So… I searched this term myself and all I got was “Apologies, but no results were found.” I don’t know how to identify a dog by it’s tongue but I do know some random facts about the tongue like the fact that the blue whale has a tongue the size of an elephant and the hardest tongue twister in the English language is, “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.” Those won’t really help you in the real world but this post on 5 Worst Ways to Start a Conversation might get you a date. Or something like that.

What I Learned from my 20-year High School Reunion

hbobis /

hbobis /

I recently had the privilege of attending my 20-year high school class reunion. Considering the amount of angst I felt while considering my participation, it seems reasonable that a blog post is in order about what I learned from the event.


(I’m still in a state of shock that there’s a “zero” after that “two,” but that’s beside the point.)


I didn’t attend my 10-year reunion, as I was newly married and didn’t want my husband to realize he’d married one of the class nerds. The 20-year reunion was a little less threatening to me as I’m more comfortable with myself and who I’ve become. Even so, it was nerve-wracking to wonder if these people were going to be mean and petty or decent adults.


Here are my observations:


1. We’ve all gotten fat(ter). May I just say it’s unfair that Spanx has not yet gotten around to marketing their products to the masculine demographic because wearing a panty with the squeezing capability of turning a newborn calf into a squirrel was a large part of my willingness to appear in front of people who only remember me as a girl all elbows and knees and frizzy hair. The dudes just don’t have access to the same physical aids. Such is life.


Our diets and lack of physical activity have taken their toll on us all. I blame childrearing and an abiding adoration for potato chips. Perhaps others can only say their jobs keep them too busy to spend the hours working on their physique. Whatever the excuse, all of us (some a little more than others) are an inflated version of our 18-year-old selves. That’s alright. We’re all still in there and we’re all pretty forgiving of the occurrence because we’re all guilty.


But really. I wore Spanx and even though I almost gave myself a black eye trying to pull them up after a potty break, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


2. We’ve realized this getting older thing isn’t black and white. I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the members of my graduating class talking to one another. By the end of the night they traditional stereotypical groups did tend to separate out again, but it wasn’t in an exclusive way – it seemed to be a natural process of people catching up with those they spent the most time with in high school.


People shared pictures of their kids, mentioned divorces, talked about jobs won and lost… and were generally supportive of one another whether they were talking accomplishments or failures. There were many different life paths in one room for a select period of time — and I don’t think anyone there thought they “had it all figured out.”


3. I’ve moved past high school. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone I spoke with was genuinely friendly and cool but at some point through the evening I realized it doesn’t really matter what my high school comrades think of me and how my life turned out. I have nothing to prove to them.


I am absolutely accountable to my husband, family, and close community… but not to people I see once every twenty years. They are welcome to have whatever opinion they’d like of how my life is turning out but that opinion is not needed for me to continue with my own adventures and lifestyle. What liberation!


4. It’s worth going. If you’ve been hesitant about whether to attend, based on my own experience, I’d encourage you to do it. The reunion was most certainly a surreal experience in many ways but it was also enjoyable and I was genuinely happy to spend time with people I haven’t stayed in touch with over Facebook. Not everyone shares openly on social media, face-to-face conversations are quite helpful!


5 Tips for How to Help A Grieving Friend

foobean01 /

foobean01 /

I wrote this five months ago, published it as a status update three months ago. This week a friend asked me to send it to her and I realized it has never made it to StealingFaith. Hope it’s useful to you – five months post-event it still rings true to me.


My father passed away four days ago.


His passing was in many ways a relief, as now he is free to be in heaven, away from the decline that kept him confined to bed and unable to care for himself. We miss him desperately but are also at peace with the reality that death is an unavoidable companion to life.


The post-death days, however, are a little different. I tend to believe that there are as many ways of grieving as there are people. I, myself, have cycled through sadness, anger, laughter, joy, and tears many times over each day!


I have always had a fear of what to say to people who are going through the loss of a loved one.


I don’t want to say nothing, because obviously it’s a big deal. Yet I feel uncertain because I don’t want my words to cause pain to the survivor, I want to honor the life of the person who died.


It’s scary to me!


Now that I’m on this side of the death experience, I have a few ideas of what might help.


1. Acknowledge it. Death is uncomfortable. I know it’s awkward to you and it’s hard for me to talk about it, but at least say something. A stumbling comment is more appreciated than silence.


2. Don’t require a response from me. So many people I run into will say, “How are you doing?” in the kindest way possible. I want to answer them. But our non-thinking cultural response is, “Fine,” and that’s an outright lie. I’m not fine. I’m broken-hearted. So I scramble to find an appropriate response, which is a little like popping the lid on a soda can that’s just been dropped – you might get more than you bargained for coming out!


Another way to greet me might be, “I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I’d love to talk about him with you when you’d like.” Give me the freedom to break down with you or walk away still smiling and worried about my grocery list (or whatever I was doing when I ran into you). I truly appreciate that you care, but the feelings are too raw to open up to every casual acquaintance.


3. Tell your stories. I’m in a season of coveting every memory possible. If you have any memory of the one who passed, share it! Simple statements about my dad like, “He always smiled like he was genuinely happy to see me,” is like a healing ointment to my soul. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, it can be an observation of their character, a physical characteristic, or work they completed while alive. I do love the stories, but I’ll take anything you give me with joy.


4. Let me tell you stories. I realize that right now I’m a broken record and I’ve got one thing on my mind, my father. I want to preserve him in my memory, to make sure there are still elements alive of him through the skill of remembrance. I need to tell memories, even if I’m crying through them. Be my listening ear, don’t be afraid of my tears, just sit with me for a spell.


5. Remind me it won’t always be like this. There will come a time when I don’t sting all over with loss. Gently, softly allow me to wallow in my grief now and then gently, softly, remind me it won’t always feel like this. Invite me to do things. Don’t be offended if I say no. I can’t tell you what I’m ready to do from one hour to the next right now! So please, Just keep inviting and when I do come out – rejoice with me!

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