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.”

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! 

Life Takes a Village

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but our society doesn’t seem to work that way. Don’t get me wrong, we support each other in little ways, but there also seems to be another side. Over my nearly nine years of parenting I’ve noticed a lot of comparison and competition. Under the surface though I see something else entirely. Beneath it all I hear, “I don’t have a village, so neither should you”.

I’ve heard it disguised in conversations more times than I can count, and it makes me sad. I know that I often want and need a village. Maybe you didn’t have one, or maybe at this moment you’re all on your own, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our very best to be a village for each other now.

In Luke 6:31 Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV). When I think of this verse I think of a village. I know I could really use one. See a village isn’t just for the child, it’s for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each of us. So maybe it should be, “Life takes a village”. It takes a community of support and care. It takes people reaching out to each other to encourage them and walk with them through their darkest days.

The enemy wants us to live for ourselves, and try to do life alone. He lies to us and says, “Life is a competition. Show no weakness. You can do it on your own. Better yet, show them you can do it even better!” I’ve fallen for it before. Trying to paint a picture of the mom of four who makes it look easy. I’ve tried to earn my status in life by powering through, because that’s how it’s done. Truth be told though, on the inside I was drowning. I was trying to prove I could do it on my own, but really I was dying for a helping hand, and yet I felt so ashamed for it.

As I’ve listened to these conversations around me, touting independence and strength, I can’t help but wonder how many people are just playing the game too? How many are like me? Playing a role, and yet wishing someone would see through the act? Somehow over the years independence has become the definition of strength. Like the holy grail of life achievements is proving you can do it by yourself. Sometimes though, I can’t help but wonder if true strength is in admitting you are weak and you can’t do it on your own. Maybe strength is actually found in seeking community, for wisdom, encouragement, and support for when it’s too difficult to stand on your own two feet.

If you were treated how you wanted to be treated would you have a village? What would it look like?

I’d like to build a village. Not just to raise my kids, but to raise me up in hard times. I’d like to build a village where I can do the same for my people. I’d like to build a village where we don’t have to pretend like we know what we’re doing or we have it under control. Beyond that I’d like to go further, because talk is easy, I want to build a village where we go the extra step, to give each other just what we’ve needed to get through those tough days or weeks or years.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus had in mind all along. The problem is the enemy tells us we can’t do it. We’ve got too much of our own to add in the needs of other people. He tells us that this world is everyone for themselves, but I’m tired of living that way.

So let’s drop the lone wolf act; leaving our comparison, competitions, and pride in independence behind. We can build a village, and together we can raise each other up!

When It’s All Too Heavy

Lately  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how overwhelming it can be for so many of us. How heavy life can feel with work, family, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy . Right now, my life is just a little crazy, but there have been seasons when I was in way over my head and just plain drained.

When my kids were very little I was living in a season of exhaustion. I remember feeling tapped out, like I had nothing more to give. Josh and I didn’t have the extra cash for any kind of a trip away, so there seemed to be little chance of a break. It felt hopeless, like I was doomed to a perpetual lack sleep and running on empty. In my desperation, I used to fantasize about being hospitalized for something minor like dehydration, just so I could have a good nights rest, and binge watch Netflix in peace. Crazy? Maybe, but it was my reality. I was burnt out with life!

Around that time when I was worn out and having a hard time coping, we were given the opportunity to go on a retreat in Quebec City at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac hotel. It was all expenses paid, no kids, and just what we needed. I remember at the end of it ugly crying into a mic in front of three hundred people about how much it meant to me. It was such a blessing, and was the rest I needed as a weary mom. A much needed refresh button when life felt too heavy.

Fast forward to today, life is pretty good. It’s hectic at times, but it’s slowed down a bit, and I’m finally getting some sleep. Would I love a vacation, sure, but I can manage okay without one. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve spoken to people who have a lot on their plates, and as I thought about them I was reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:28,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It made me think of that retreat. Or a couple of months ago when money was tight and I was working crazy hours tutoring English online. One day I logged on but my internet was faulty, so I had no choice but to rest and be encouraged by a good friend. It made me think about shortly after, when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and someone gave us an extremely generous cheque, so we were finally able to breathe without the pressure of finances on our shoulders. 

That day when my internet went glitchy I was able to get together with my friend Lisa. It’s not often that we can get together and have a good chat, but I was so stressed and panicked, I couldn’t enjoy it. “I NEED to work!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got bills to pay!”. She looked at me as the tears fell down my cheeks and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of making you take a break, so you can rest and spend time with Him”. I never thought of the technical issues as a gift, I was too busy worrying, and yet it was just what I needed. A free day where I had no choice but to rest and to listen to God. Maybe thats your rest too. Maybe it’s not obvious, it could be a blessing in disguise, but when we go to God he refreshes us in unexpected ways. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and when we surrender to Him He provides. He takes the weight off our shoulders, even if it’s just for a few hours, and sometimes He even lightens our load.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but I do know what rest in Jesus looks like. It may not be a free retreat to a glitzy hotel or a generous cheque, it could as simple as peace, wisdom, and the support of friends and family. Whatever season you’re in, whether one of balance and simplicity or one of chaos, I encourage you to seek after God, and pay attention to what He’s doing. You might be surprised with the rest your given, and how it not only refreshes your body, but your soul. 

Even as I finish writing this I’m feeling tired and a little weary. I stayed up too late (yet again) milking every second of peace and quiet to watch tv. Just as I finally surrendered to my heavy eyes and snuggled into my pillow my daughter woke up crying in her bed, so up I went, to tuck her in and wipe her tears. Now it’s nearly midnight and I know I will trudge through the next day tired, but I will press on because I know tomorrow holds it’s own little blessing. Tomorrow I get together with Lisa for a mom’s night out and tacos. It’s only a little rest, but I’m gonna eat my fill and soak it all in!