What’s the Gossip?

I’ve got to confess something, I struggle with gossip. I’m not sure when it all started, but somewhere along the way the line between healthy and toxic conversation got blurred. As I started to notice this about myself I realized a few things. Gossip grows bitterness, anger, and pride, none of which are beneficial.

There have been times in my life when I have needed support. I’ve needed a friend and that’s okay. I don’t have to do life alone. I can share my pain, grieve, and work through my circumstances gleaning advice.

With the right person, this can be fruitful. I have friends who have offered me so much wisdom and perspective. That’s great! The thing is, a good friend won’t let you live in your hurt and pain. See bitterness grows when we stay there. When our lives become one big long rant our perspective becomes narrow. We can’t see past ourselves, so no matter the situation we’re in we are always the victim. Even if we are the victim, gossip keep us from working through it. It traps us in self pity and makes it impossible to move on, forgive, and extend grace.

Not too long ago, I was ranting to my husband about someone who hurt me and he said, “You can’t just talk bad about someone to make yourself feel better.” His words hit me hard. He was right! I’d felt slighted and belittled and I wasn’t just hurt, I was angry! The words said to me by this person made me feel small, so in return I was picking them apart. Who am I to do that? What does that even achieve?

Over the years as I’ve wrestled with this, I’ve wondered where the line is. I’ve heard it said, that it’s not gossip if it’s true, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Like I said, we are all entitled to a little support, but just how big is your circle? Do they challenge you? Or are they always on your side? Why are you telling the story? Is it even your story to tell?

I’m proud to say that though I sometimes gossip, I am a good secret keeper. Confidentiality is important and I respect that. Yet I’ll admit I’ve found myself participating in conversations I have no business being in. It’s an easy trap to fall into. How many times have you been in a room when somebody told you the latest news in somebody’s life and you just sat there and listened or chatted away with your opinion. It kinda feels good doesn’t it? Except when you feel the little twinge that somethings off. That maybe the “latest” wasn’t for your ears. Or even worse that awful feeling that it’s wrong. That you wouldn’t want someone else to be discussing all of your business, so maybe you shouldn’t be discussing theirs.

It takes intention to avoid gossip these days, discomfort even. The fact is it’s become such a natural part of so many conversations that it’s almost awkward to avoid it. As I recognize this struggle of mine I’m learning just how big a part of life it is. In fact avoiding it has meant being far less chatty with certain people than I was before. As a talker, the default is to discuss everything and anything. The thing is conversation can easily become a dangerous rabbit hole, and its not healthy. Avoiding it isn’t a simple task either. It might mean changing the conversation or boldly calling it out. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I’m working on it because it’s necessary.

In Proverbs 27:19 it says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” I want a life reflects the heart of God and if I say that my speech needs to be loving, peaceful, compassionate, and controlled. I’m not there yet, but I’m glad that I have God to guide me along the way.

I will no doubt have to continue to remove myself from certain discussions, but I can’t wait to see what fruitful conversations open up along the way. If I want my reflection to be one that shows the heart of God, my words must honour not just Him but those around me. If I believe in God’s grace and love, my speech needs to reflect it. I need to be an advocate for people instead of adversary.

As with any struggle, the first step towards change is admitting you have a problem. Assess yourself. Think about the things you discuss, and evaluate. Are you constantly venting about how somebody wronged you? Do you find yourself chatting about other peoples business? If so join me in the decision to intentionally avoid gossip. Lets be careful with our words, and the conversations we find ourselves in. If by chance you struggle with what that looks like, follow the sage advice of moms everywhere and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

There’s More to Love than the Fall

I got married young, like really young, and because of this I had a lot of opinions come my way when I was engaged. People would say, “You’re too young … it won’t work … you’ll change too much!” The thing was, I didn’t really agree with the way they viewed marriage. I still don’t.

Really at the root of it, I don’t agree with the way the world views love.

Love is and has always been a hot button word. People are obsessed with the idea. They search for the euphoria that is “falling in love”. I think the problem when it comes to love is that it is viewed simply as an emotion. Love is an emotion, but it’s so much more than that, it’s also a choice. It’s a decision to love them when they have swept you off your feet, AND when they disappoint you, or drive you crazy. That’s why I can’t buy in to the traditional view of love. Falling in love is amazing, but there is so much more to love than “the fall”.

See my friends were right about one thing. I would change, I have changed, so has my husband Joshua. Some of our changes have been great, but others have been pretty difficult to navigate.

We have both matured and that’s great, but I’m pretty sure the old pre-kids me was more fun than the mom of four I am today. Not only that, but our lives have changed. We’re busier and we have far more responsibilities than when we first met. Four kids, church, multiple jobs, studying for courses, and the never ending housework. It takes a lot to keep us connected these days. It’s hard!

I feel like marriage has its seasons. In some seasons of life I have felt so in love (emotionally) with my husband. I have felt so impressed and amazed with him that I was giddy. Times like this love feels easy. Everything he does is cute, and I can’t help but be thankful for how blessed I am. Other seasons haven’t been so rosy. When life has gotten the best of us, and all the stress and disappointments of life have stolen our joy, I have chosen to love him through anger, frustration, and pain. Sometimes I can go through this cycle of emotions in twenty four hours. Swooning, infuriated, giddy, hurt, but I choose to love him anyway, no matter what emotion I’m feeling or how much he changes.

See Josh and I HAVE changed, and we WILL continue to change until our dying day, but we are choosing to love each other and show love in the good seasons and bad, for better or worse. We are choosing to be vulnerable with each other and trust each other with our love.

That’s the other thing about love, it’s risky because it can’t be controlled. You can’t force someone to choose to love you, and thats scary, but there is beauty in the surrender required. When you trust someone with your love and invest it, you have the chance to build a relationship that is powerful and strong.

Marriage isn’t about avoiding change, or staying on an emotional high. It’s about navigating all of the changes and the highs and lows together. After all, if I waited until we would no longer change, that day would never come.

The other problem with that mentality is that change is bad. Many changes are positive, and even the negative ones encourage growth. Some of our toughest changes have pushed us out of complacency. In those seasons we have had no choice but to confront our issues head on and put in the work, and guess what, we’re better for it!

What my friends couldn’t understand about marriage and love, is that it’s about more than today. Real love holds weight, because it’s bigger than our circumstances, moods, and mistakes.

Is it risky? Sure!

Is it hard? You bet!

But the reward is a relationship that holds up through the storms of life and a best friend to stand by your side through it all. Marriage is tough, thats true, and sure it’s unpredictable, but it’s a beautiful place to build a relationship that is safe and lasts a lifetime.

Over the years we have changed a lot, and that hasn’t always been easy, but this crazy life of ours has been beautiful, and I’m so glad I took my chances and chose to love.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

Choose to Celebrate Your Spouse

Yesterday I read a long post where a woman was ranting about her husband. Other wives joined in adding their marital grievances. It was as though they were all forming an unofficial angry wives club. 

I understand that some people are in bad marriages with abusive spouses or cheaters, but this was different. This husband certainly didn’t sound like a peach, but for the most part, it just seemed like he was being annoying. Like maybe this man had some growing up to do. 

As I read through the rant and comments, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Sad for this woman who didn’t feel comfortable talking with her husband about her frustrations. Mostly I felt sad for what rants like this do. They cause us to look for the bad in our marriages and feed our dissatisfaction. Simply put, rants like this are a trap. 

One piece of advice I was given early on in marriage is to be wary of airing your dirty laundry. It’s not that you can’t talk to anyone when you need support or wisdom (that would be some bad advice), but you must be careful. If you’re struggling with your marriage and you must talk to someone, choose a mentor. Talk to a friend. If it’s serious, choose a counsellor. Carefully choose someone with some wisdom and discernment. Someone who values your marriage and respects your spouse. Above all please choose a friend who doesn’t always have your back. Confusing? Maybe, but I mean a friend who will be unbiased for your benefit. One who loves you enough that they are willing to challenge you and call you out if (Shocker!) the problem is you. Choose the friend who if need be can talk you down from your high horse and give you some perspective. 

Don’t only choose that friend, be that friend!

And here’s the thing, choose to celebrate your spouse. See if I’m not careful, even on our best days I can find something to pick at. I can easily join the angry wives club and find my husbands flaws. I can hold a grudge and keep my list of grievances like the best of them, but the truth is I’ve got a good one. 

Does he drive me crazy at times? He sure does, but he manages to make me laugh even when I’m mad at him. He volunteers to make dinner and always cooks it with flair. Though he’s not always about romance, when he is, he does it right and makes it memorable. The man never fails to amaze me as a dad. He volunteers at our kids school, prioritizes family dinners nearly every night, and sometimes he plays his guitar and sings at bedtime. When it comes to the house he washes dishes, folds laundry, and once Marie Kondo’d my whole wardrobe because I was in desperate need of some organizational help. I think I’ll keep him!

I can choose to nit pick all of the things that drive me crazy about him and keep a mental pro/con list, or I can make a choice to focus on the things that make him wonderful. Nit picking will send us down a dangerous path of anger and resentment. Celebrating him will help me to appreciate him more and make him feel more valued in our relationship. It’s a choice of how we choose to see and speak about our spouse and it really impacts the health of our marriage. 

I realize some of you may not be so lucky. Some of you may be in abusive relationships or have a spouse that has been unfaithful. Maybe your marriage has some serious issues that need addressing and if that’s the case, do what you must and please get help. 

Chances are though that most of you have got a good one. Or a pretty good one at least, and I’m tired of watching dissatisfaction in marriage increase as we gather our silly pet peeves and treat them as deal breakers. Marriage is so much more valuable than our need to be right. 

So, when your all fired up with your righteous indignation, choose your words carefully. Talk to your spouse. If you must talk to a friend. Talk to someone who will offer you wisdom and an unbiased perspective. And for the love of well … LOVE, choose to celebrate your spouse! 

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.