“Stop fighting each other!”

I have three cats, Oliver, Periwinkle (Stinkle) and Phantom. We’ve had them for about five years and they are all indoor cats. They have been the best of friends (mostly) for the entire time. They played together, took 18 hour naps together, took turns lying in the middle of the hallway or stairs attempting to trip and ultimately kill us humans, I’m sure. However,  Ever since we started moving our furniture into storage, and ever since an an incident that occurred outdoors, our cats have gone bat crazy. These cats hate each other now. Oliver and Phantom can’t be in the same room without fighting. Stinkle hates both of the boys. So currently, Cat Town USA is in all out war. Everytime they start fighting, I just wanna yell (and sometimes I do!) “Stop fighting each other!” They fight like they are complete strangers. Like we grabbed 3 feral cats off the streets and stuck them in a room. It’s heartbreaking because they used to be so close!

The interesting thing is that even though they hate each other, they act normally around me. Phantom lets me rub his belly, Oliver sleeps by my pillow every night. Stinkle comes and greets me in the morning by climbing on my stomach and purring. They don’t have a problem with me, they have a problem with each other for some instinctual/territorial thing only these cats understand. From my perspective, none of the fighting makes sense. It’s useless to me and I know in their little cat brains the fighting is a big deal. I don’t love them any differently, but when they do individually come to me and want me to pet them, I get irritated. I don’t know why this sweet cat turns into a monster whenever his brother and sister show up but gets all sweet around me.  I know who he is, I know Oliver isn’t a monster, he’s a real sweet cat. I’d much rather this sweet cat go and be nice to his brother first, then come to me every day/night being sweet. And then ladies and gentlemen, at that moment as I pet my cat, Matthew 5:23-24 made a whole lot more sense.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Mt.5:23-24

I heard a sermon on these two verses and the pastor compared the situation to him and his kids. When his kids would get in a fight, they wouldn’t talk to each other, but they’d come up to him all day and say “i love you, daddy!” And he would respond “I love you too. But if you want to show me that you love me, go apologize to your brother. go make things right with your  sister.” He said the same thing applies with God.   I don’t have kids, but i have 3 furry animals who are turning on each other. And I hate it.I wonder how much God hates it when we fight. When we argue, insult each other, ignore each other, purposely leave each other out..I wonder how much it pains him to see us turn on each other, like it pains me to see my cats turn on each other. God is looking at you, with love and hurt in his eyes saying “I know you. You are not a monster. I love you and want you to love others too. Go make things right.”

I’m a certified and tested optimistic idealist. I would love for everyone to get along and be best friends all the time. Conflict makes me queasy. Though, I know that on this side of Heaven, relationships will always be messy.  Because we’re messy people.  I understand some relationships can be toxic. Some relationships have the nails on the coffin, and the coffin is buried. I get it. But, this verse is specifically referencing you and your actions. “your brother or sister has something against you…”  Your actions, your responsibility. Christmas is tomorrow and odds are (if you’re not already) you’re going to be spending time with  family. Hallmark and ABC Family paints this picture of a beautiful, drama free family reunion. Hands up if that describes your family reunion on holidays? No one? Okay, so we’re all in this together. Before we celebrate the manger, the coming of Christ in flesh, Emmanuel. Let’s lay our gift down at the altar and clear the air with relatives, friends, coworkers. You’ll breathe a lot better, I promise.

And when Christmas is over? Continue to love people. I read somewhere that “Jesus isn’t just the reason for the season. He is the reason for every day of our lives.” How true is that!  So, let the Christmas spirit of love, forgiveness and joy ring true on the 26th, the 27th and all the way though the year.

Merry Christmas to you!

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How are you healing?

On Wednesday, I walked into the Dentist’s office with sweaty palms and an empty stomach. No food or drink 8 hours before a 1:30pm appointment, Doctors orders. The one day Mom said I should actually sleep in until 1pm was the one day I managed to wake up at 8am without an alarm. We all know a 1:30 appointment time really means 2:30pm. So, I anxiously waited for the nurse to call my name. When she did, I just knew i would be enduring  3 hours of torture  It was 30 minutes and was as easy as sleeping. LIterally, they stuck an iv in my arm, said I’d fall asleep in 30 seconds but continued to ask me questions. I don’t remember falling asleep. I do remember when  I woke up. I had four less teeth than when I went to sleep. My wisdom teeth were gone, and in its place were balls of cotton. 3/4ths of my face was numb. I really wanted to ride the rainbow slide that was in my dream. Instead, I was in the same chair I had fallen asleep in. The nurse helped me walk outside to the car, my dad drove me home. Then I went about life as usual as if nothing ever happened.  Nope. The surgery itself might have lasted a few moments in my mind, but the healing was going to take time. Later that afternoon, my good friend texted me saying that she had gotten her wisdom teeth removed that same day. We texted each other selfies of our swollen faces, our milkshakes/icecream meals, we talked about how ridiculous it is to try and eat a milkshake while your face is numb. We checked in on each other throughout the next few days because healing takes time. In fact my friend texted me a few minutes ago, and asked “hey, how are you healing?” And it got me thinking about community, and when tragedy strikes. And there’s two things I wanna talk about that relate to this whole wisdom tooth experience.

1. “I know how you feel!”

I am thankful for my friend that I got to share this experience with. Though the pain was never pleasant, it was nice knowing I was not alone. I could text her and complain about the pain, knowing she knew exactly how it felt.  Several others shared their experiences with me and encouraged me via text or social media. It reminded me of last September when my parent’s separated. Around the same time, I got a text from a friend saying that her parents at separated as well. We vented on the phone and expressed similar frustrations, doubt, worry and despair. Later in the semester, another friend came to me and said that her parents had separated. She had heard that my parents had separated and she wanted to have lunch. We met and talked about our situations, our pain, our questions. Hearing her talk about her feelings, and thoughts made me feel less crazy. I found myself saying, “really? me too!” in response to most of what she was saying.  Talking with someone who is where you’re at, or who has been through what you’re going through is an amazing experience. It’s a beautiful picture of what community is.

2. “How are you healing?”

My friend texted me this question earlier and it spurred this whole blog. In the last few days, my friend and i have kept each other updated on our tooth pain. It wasn’t a competition of who hurt the most. It just us sharing where we were at in the process of healing and a thought occurred. Wouldn’t it beautiful if we treated emotional pain the same way? I feel that we fail each other as friends and as a community when are not consistent. It is easy to understand and expect that physical pain takes time to heal. But, when it comes to grief, it’s a whole new ball park. For example, a friend has something happen them, you cry and pray with them on Monday. Then you check off “help grieving friend” off your list of things to do and move on. Healing is a process whether it’s physical or emotional. . Whether you got four teeth removed, you lost a loved one, your gf/bf broke up with you,   or your arm broke. There is pain. But there is also healing. And it all takes time. You don’t have to bake them a casserole everyday. Just hug them when you see them, be intentional, be real. It can be as easy as asking, “Hey, how are you healing?”

Why?

I wrote this in April. Forgot I never posted it!

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Ever hang around 3 year olds? They ask “why?” all the stinking time. I’ve heard moms deal with their 3 year olds and more often than not they’ll answer a few of the “why’s?” then when they get fed up with answering it or don’t know the answer they’ll ignore it or just respond with “Just Because!” or “That’s just the way it is.”

I’ve been asking God “Why?” a lot this past year. If someone had told me a year ago, I’d be where I was today. I’d laugh and say “No way. That’s terrible, I’d never be able to get through all that.” Here I am today, going through it. I am spouting off the Christian answers to life’s troubles to try and soothe my soul. “It’s happening for a reason.” “God will redeem this.” “You are not alone.”  Deep down having no earthly clue what to do because  I haven’t heard from God at all since any of this happened. I’ve felt really lost. Confused. I felt like he was done listening to the why questions I kept asking and has just settled with ignoring me or saying “Just because.” Believing that you are suffering for no reason is like the worst feeling in the world and this morning I had reached that point. I believed that this was all for nothing. This morning, after deciding that God was never going to answer why, I gave one last little silent plea:
God, Why am I in pain?

He answered that question with a question.

“Is it worth it?”

“Is what worth it?” I asked

“if a year, 5 years, or 15 years down the road, you told your story, this

story, with this pain. And a person was so moved by your testimony that

they accepted Christ, is this pain you are feeling right now, worth it?”

I stopped folding my laundry immediately. And thought about it. My heart pounded and I shook my head yes. There’s a lot of hurting people out there. And the more I go through, the more I struggle the more I can say with confidence to others: “Um, I went through this and this. and there is no stinking way I did it by myself. God comforted me, God gave me reason to wake up in the morning. And I know you are  struggling and I want to point you to Him who can help you too because life sucks way too much to try and do it alone. He loves you”

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When

they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has

given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT