The TV Show “The Middle” is Funny! Everything Else “Middle”… Not So Much


Middle
Sure we all like the show The Middle.    But I like little else involving “The Middle”. How about you?

Middle Age is surprisingly everything everyone older than me said it was. There really are aches and pains when you wake up in the morning. You really do notice that your skin is not what it used to be. I haven’t read, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, but the title makes me say, Amen Sister!

Middle of The Road or Middle Ground is not something I like to take. Although my job as a college teacher (and being a parent) forces me to accept and examine the “gray” areas of life, I like black and white. Right and wrong. I’m a rule-follower and life just seems easier when I choose one or the other. However, Middle of The Road is occasionally necessary.

The Middle of My Long-Gone Waist Line is flab and this makes me mad! I already don’t eat all the M&M’s and potato chips that I really want to, and I exercise a few times a week, and I STILL have a ridiculously soggy, mom-of-3-kids middle!

The Middle School Years… ahhhhh!!  Well, if we’re being Mommy-mushy, there are certainly priceless, beautiful moments between 6th and 8th grade. Lots of really nice days and fun events are now part of our family memories, but often, those years were challenging as I painstakingly sorted through daily questions, tears, and frustrations. Can we just camp on the Middle School years for a minute?

The Middle School Gym Class is where many girls decide that messing up their hair is so not worth actually trying to compete and win a game.

The Middle School Hallway is where walking to your locker feels like you’re being bounced through the center of a pin ball arcade game.

Middle School Staff sometimes forgets that the emotional maturity gap between a first-born 6th grader and a last-born 8th grader is the width of the Grand Canyon. Yet, we crunch them altogether and expect the 6th graders to feel welcome and safe. Some 11 year olds haven’t been raised on Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. If you’ve read my blog awhile, you’ll remember Desensitize My Kids?! This leads me to…

Middle School Assemblies. Sometimes, good intentions are ill-timed or go too far. Kids are ready for outside world information at very different ages. If they didn’t know prior to the assemblies, these events have taught kids where the best drug dealers can be found, how to roll, inject, snort and hide drugs. They introduced alcohol frozen pops and how to hide alcohol in your flip flops. Perhaps this information would be better suited for the parent assemblies in the younger grades. The Rachel’s Challenge assembly was much too early for my kids. My daughter’s eyes blazed at me that afternoon, “How can you EVER send me back to school?  Did YOU know that kids get shot at school?!” At 11 years old, the precious lesson from Rachel’s life which was well intended by Middle School administration, was buried by guns and mental images of terrified children. After that, I requested my children not attend any assemblies without a note or call home first regarding its content.

The Middle School Cafeteria is where lunchboxes stop being cool. Thankfully, my 9th grader still carries hers at the high school!  

The Middle School Church. Disclaimer: I delicately, respectfully and generally speak only of my small-world experiences!  We are in the Northeast and we can’t boast truly Christ-centered churches “on every corner”, as my southern friends have. Getting youth to come on a regular basis to church is challenging. That said, the desire for my kids to experience a thriving youth group led me a few years ago to visit several church kids programs, and similar organized events.  What I discovered was between nursery and 5th grade, the spiritual growth opportunities were plentiful. At 13, the kids are sometimes dropped off the edge of a spiritual cliff.

When kids are 0-12, they have little say about whether or not they’re going to church with Mom and Dad. When kids are 13-18, they can make dental surgery preferable to Sunday mornings.  Yet, at 0-12, my kids had more VBS, Sunday morning theatre shows, holiday events, and spiritually-driven girls and boys programming in one year than they’ve ever had as middle teens.

When they are little, we smile into those cherub faces saying, “God loves you!”  At 15, we shy away from telling them they are accepted and loved, often because their serious faces scare us off!  Leaving them alone just makes it easier for them to leave. The book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, claims that approximately 90% of kids leave church in the middle teen years.

Not to mention that the best-intended parents who say church will come before sports when their kids are 5, find it terribly difficult not to break that family rule when the kids are 15 (myself included). When they do get to church, there needs to be connection. Important to note: we can be in the best spiritual environment possible and kids will still make their own choices-I know that. I’m also deeply grateful for the godly people who devote their time to the often thankless job of serving our youth at churches across this nation.

The Middle Teens: Aren’t Always “Cute”. Remember when your little ones did something mischievous or blurted out “no!!” to you? Their cuteness saved them.  During the middle teens, their moodiness and complaining is just ugly.

The Middle Teens: Puberty My son turned into a completely different species. Did you read, Moms of Teen Boys Be Encouraged?

Kids in the Middle of a divorce turn into adults who still identify themselves as such. Thankfully, there are programs, such as Kids in the Middle, Children in the Middle, and Divorce Care, which help children navigate the “two homes” “four parents”, etc., but living it out as a child is tough, no matter how well parents think their kids are taking it. Some interesting information is located in the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

The Middle of the Night. Or should I say 2am?  Anyone have the occasional insomnia? Just because I know it’s always “live”, QVC keeps me company!

The Middle Finger.Nuff said.

The Middle Class and being Middle Child are up for debate! Have I bummed you out or can you relate? The Middle is not always great, so I keep striving for better. Because I hate ending anything on a downer, some good things about The Middle? Middle America! Malcom in the Middle! (I never saw it, but I hear it’s good). The Middle of an Oreo…:)Oreos

Christian Differences

Evangelical Christians do not usually make the sign of the cross across their body. Catholics always do. My husband and I grew up doing so until we changed churches after we were married. Recently, as we prayed over a holiday meal, the people eating at our home thought it wasn’t “right” that we don’t make the sign of the cross. I don’t mind if they do, but it bothered them that we don’t…

Someone I met does not watch the television show Modern Family because they believe that their viewership rating will add to the promotion of the acceptance of homosexuality. This same person supports a profession that requires all women to wear to short skirts and plunging necklines.

One person believes that making copies of rented or purchased DVD’s or CD’s is theft and is absolutely against God’s law. Another devoted follower of Christ burns copies of everything she can get her hands on.

Why is there so much diversity among Christians regarding right and wrong?

The answer often lies in the interpretation of God’s Word. The Ten Commandments are familiar enough, but the interpretation varies. The same holds true about the entire Bible. People – right or wrong – cultivate their own perception, or develop their own meaning or explanation of the Word. God leads our understanding. Our longevity in the faith can also affect our convictions of right and wrong, and how we interpret His Word.

Before casting judgment upon another regarding what’s “wrong”, it’s probably wise to actually read the Bible. Second, it’s just my humble opinion, but maybe we should let God speak to us individually. Conduct that feels right for someone at one point in their life, might not be okay for that exact same person after five more years following God. Sometimes it takes years for a person to mentally undo all the mistruths they believed since youth, or break their habits which were well-established prior to accepting Christ.

Obviously, I’m not supporting blatant, intentional sin here, nor am I promoting the false teaching that “all paths lead to God”. There is only one way to the Father and that is through His Son. I’m just saying that people are at different points in their spiritual walk, and as long as they are moving in the right direction, why cast profound judgment upon them, solidifying what many already think about us:  that we are intolerant?

As we walk across the landscape of life with our fellow sojourners on this planet, let’s become the light, not the dimmer switch. May we focus on our own sincere walk with Christ.

Choose My Battles?

boxing-gloves-picLast week my husband suggested that I more carefully “choose battles” with my twin 16-year olds.  Spending so much time together during the summer apparently had me criticizing them about “stupid things”.

While I might have dismissed my husband’s comment ;), I was convicted while reading a statement from Ruth Graham, located in the book: Billy Graham in Quotes.  She writes, “Never let a single day pass without saying an encouraging word to each child…” (pg. 41).

That hit me hard because my son was nearby looking sad.  Not mad, not angry, just disappointed that I suggested he get a haircut.  His hair is one of the battles that I’ve (for the most part) kept quiet about because he is a hockey player and having “sick flow” that sticks out of the back of the helmet is quite the rage.  I looked up from my book to see his expression which probably had less to do with the haircut and more to do with the previous hour.

“Your bedroom floor is always a mess.  Why don’t you bring the laundry when you go upstairs?  Did you seriously just leave the door open again, letting out the air conditioning?!  Can you please, just once, put the wet towels in a separate laundry basket?! Did you read anything today or just watch TV?”

His response?  “Mom, I cleaned all three bathrooms, did the dishes, and took out the garbage.  Did you notice those things?”  I had, but instead of praising the good, I focused on what needed “improvement”.

I had wet eyes as Proverbs 10:19 jumped into my head.  Just to make sure I got the hint, God dropped Colossians 3:21 into my mind:  “…do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Leaving my kids with heavy hearts due to “unnecessary comments” is a change I need to make.  So, I decided to abandon criticism and my drill sergeant tone of voice.  Within two hours, my resolution was a vapor and I promptly had something to say about my daughter’s shirt neckline being too low.

Her response? “Go ahead, make me feel bad again about the clothes I wear!”  All I heard was “again…”  I immediately tried to diffuse the situation, but she waved me off and stormed down the hall.

I have three really good teenagers and the four of us are particularly close.  This fact makes it especially terrible that I don’t always think before I talk.  I questioned why I am continually in their business and realized that although they have grown into young adults, often, I still attend to them as if they were ten.  There’s a major mind shift required by parents when kids become “upper-teens”.  Where monitoring the amount of texting and TV time was previously a sign of good parenting, during these years, such things become “battles”.

My daughter was recently watching “baby videos”, as we’ve been transferring old VHS tapes into DVDs of the kids when they were little.  All you hear are praises and encouragements spewing out of my husband and I on those tapes.  “Good boy!” “Great job!” given with serious enthusiasm from both of our “big” personalities.  Staring at the screen, I was reminded that those adorable cherub faces at 4 years old are the same people, just in bigger bodies…needing the same encouragement but less micro-management.  I again resolved to eliminate criticism.

It’s been a week since my resolution went into effect and it has been exceedingly more influential upon me than my kids.  I’ve picked up the laundry several times to find wet towels on top of good clothes.  The door is continuously left open on 80+ degree days.  They’ve plopped down to watch television while a mountain of clean laundry the size of Everest sat directly in front of them, waiting to be folded.  My mouth has either remained zipped or I’ve gently asked they take the clothes upstairs to their rooms.

What an enormous exercise in self-control.  About “choosing battles”?  There is already a societal and spiritual battle raging to destroy our kids.  I’m not “choosing battles”.  While I’m still making suggestions, I’m “choosing encouragement”1Thess5:11

10 Things I Believed at 25 That Proved False by 45

Ahhhh, to be 20-something… Like most during those years, I had very definite impressions about how my life would progress. I would eventually learn, and after serious resistance – accept – that life has a way of detouring, surprising and wearing down a person, leaving a few disappointments along the way.

You may detect a touch of mid-life cynicism, but however you label the post, women I know in their later forties are experiencing a few discontents. We tend to hide them, worried that if we share our disappointments, it will replace the otherwise pleasant image people have of us. We fear earning a reputation as a complainer if we dare talk about the thoughts that dominate our 2am insomnia. For those of us “in the church”, we definitely don’t want to be judged as being ungrateful.

At 25 I believed…

1. What goes around eventually comes around.
What you send out often does come back, but life is unequal.
Some really bad people live into their 70’s without consequences.
Some really good people get really bad cancer.
Life is unfair in many ways for many people.

2. Maturity will finally belong to everyone – women will stop gossiping and men will stop gawking.

I was the naive 20-something who sincerely believed that once everyone became an adult, immature behavior would cease entirely.
Most often, what you see in someone at 25 will hold true at 45.
The scarce numbers of people who become better humans practice self-discipline and work hard to change. The effort is worth it, but few will bother.

3. My life would be anything but ordinary.
While marriage and parenting are adventures all on their own, it’s not the cocktail parties, fancy dresses and life of relative ease that I expected.
My life has been largely conventional. And there is blessing in ordinary.

4. Being nice always pays off.
I was stunned for many years that no matter how caring, nice or genuinely thoughtful I was toward a person, some people were still unkind.
I’ve tried to jump start my kids on this truth: people will find fault with anything-even good things. Not everyone will like you and that’s ok. We answer to God, not them.

5. Blood is thicker than anything.
Many people have sweet, fun and tender-hearted relatives who would rather die than upset each other.
Other families go out of their way to intentionally hurt each other. After years of confusing heartache, I learned that spending time with blood out of obligation is just wasting time. Perhaps not entirely applicable here, but even Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mat. 12:48) Friends are the family you choose.

6. That one, brilliant pastor would finally be able to explain to my inquisitive, deeper-than-most mind the harshness of life.
No one can.
I’ve met some intellectually gifted, deeply genuine pastors whose hearts eventually lead to the same place as mine: on this side of heaven, we simply will not understand the unconscionable suffering.
While a significant amount of earthly sorrow is the result of a person’s poor behavior, much suffering is simply enigmatic.

7. Unlike everyone around me, I would enjoy a pain-free marriage. Hands down, my husband and I are among the most normal and committed couples you’ll meet in a world of truly crazy marriages. We have been married for 22 years, and are both utterly devoted to our family. But marriage has peaks and valleys and all couples are imperfect.
I love Hallmark movies and every Disney princess story, but real life is not a fairy tale.

8. Those 40-something women were eating way too much McDonald’s.
Hormones-schmormones. That’s what I thought at 25.
After going through early menopause at 40, I gained 10 pounds in a month and never ate fast food. Then, clothes that fit the new me 10lbs. heavier, suddenly didn’t fit me at 45.
Hormonal changes are real. The weight can go up or stay the same, but the dispersion of the weight is fearfully unpredictable.

9. Those 40-something women weren’t exercising.
It takes double the effort at 45 to earn the same physical results I did at 25. Who has “double the time” while raising three teenagers?
At 25, I was only doing three things: working on my Master’s, working, and working out.

10. Having faith will eventually get easier.
I know my bible better than I ever have and for me, faith is harder.
Years of observing our global, moral deterioration. Depraved abuse, abductions, perversion, lies, seemingly endless unanswered prayers…
Living in a society that names what is blatantly “wrong” as “right” makes it seem like the dark side is winning. Of course, the days are numbered and we know the Good One wins. (Rev. 22:20)

Nike? No thank you, Dad

Last summer when my daughter’s sports season got underway, my husband surprised her with a new pair of super-cool field hockey cleats. They were hot pink and this child loves anything bright. I mean, these cleats were a visual delight to any female teen and her friends would have coooed over them.

Her eyes grew big as she observed the color. Within seconds, she politely thanked him, but she clearly wasn’t thrilled – and he noticed. As soon as he left the room, she whispered to me: “I can’t keep these.”

I knew why but my husband didn’t. I also knew that she didn’t want to disappoint her Dad who took time out of his work day to stop at Dicks and pick them out for her.

The reason? She had recently overheard my son and I talking about Nike’s past reputation for using child labor in third world countries. The company has worked to erase this image after it went viral several years ago.

The point is that my daughter, who really, really would have had the coolest cleats on the field if she kept them, did not.

For my youngest, when she saw the Nike symbol on the shoe, the bright pink instantly faded into a dreary sweat shop where she saw six year olds sewing for hours on end. While we certainly have had our share of Nike sports shoes over the years while raising kids, this one time, now familiar with Nike’s past, my daughter could not keep them. She simply overheard a conversation about a school project and corporate practices related to child labor. She is no advocate of boycotts, and is the most quiet of my three children. Yet, she has an immovable foundation of what is right and wrong, and a strength that enables her to say “no” in a world where most people say “yes” to keep the peace.

I have little knowledge of where most of my household brands are made. I will look for the Made in the USA stamp when shopping and support Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A, who promote conservative values in a culture experiencing rapid moral decay.

What prompted this quick story and post was a news piece I saw last week called a “Christmas Buycott”. It reminded me of the Nike conversation but it’s unrelated to child labor :). Instead, it is directly related to conservative Christian values. The news story led me to the Faith Driven Consumer website. Their most recent list of the most and least faith-friendly companies can be found here.

Faith based reviews of a variety of companies here.

Christmas Buycott story on Foxnews here.