Monday, February 28, 2011

A Psalm of Shane

Lord, I'm angry at ______________ (feel free to customize this Psalm and make it your own prayer, rant, whatever). You're probably going to say something like "Forgive __________ because they do not know what they are doing," but I want to argue that. Yet, I know you're right. You're always right! How annoying is that? If it's annoying at all then I'm an idiot because, logically, which I'm not being completely right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. Me being right and You being wrong would be a disaster. I want to set _________ straight. I want to yell at ____________. But that wouldn't do anybody any good. That would only serve the justice-oriented side of me, which is basically flesh. And I am commanded to walk according to Your Spirit, and not my flesh. Sigh (I'm allowed to write "sigh" in my Psalm because it's my Psalm). Now that I got that off my chest, may I focus on the good in my life, the blessings You've given, and teach me to not expend energy on things I have no control over. You are good. Your mercy endures forever. Selah (whatever that means, just seemed like a good way to end a Psalm).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Man vs. Chips

     When I worked in the grocery store I occasionally had to take a night shift, 11PM to 7AM. And when the customers tapered off, it was shelf stocking time. On one particular evening, the night manager rolled out a pallet stacked with cardboard boxes containing potato chips. The boxes reached towards the ceiling towering over me and I was immediately intimidated by the visual. "How am I ever going to get through all that?" I thought. The task at hand seemed impossible to finish. There were way too many boxes, that stack was unbelievably high, and the potato chips seemed unconquerable as they silently taunted me: "You'll never finish, you'll be here all night, look how tall and mighty we bags are in our impenetrable boxes. Just keep gawking because that's all you can do in our presence." The night manager must have noticed my expression at the sight of the chips because he pulled a box down, emptied the contents on to the shelf in about 2.5 seconds and said, "They break down pretty fast," and walked away leaving me to finish the job. I was done with the pallet in about 15 minutes.
     Certain tasks in life are like that pallet of potato chips. They seem impossible to complete. They're intimidating. They look way harder to conquer than they really are. And we stand there gawking at them, allowing them to make us feel inferior and useless. Yet, here's what I learned from the potato chips:

  • It's always helpful to have someone who knows what they're doing get you started. All I needed was the night manager to show me how to do one box and I was on my way. That whole men don't stop to ask for directions thing because they're men... that's garbage. If you need some help, ask for it. 
  • Take your task one box at a time. You only have to start with one box out of the stack.  The important thing is you start it, then chip away at it. 
  • Your "Rome" does not need to be built in one day. I wasn't going anywhere that evening. I was on the night shift. There was plenty of time to finish the task at hand. Completing tasks takes time, some more than others, but you'll get the job done quicker if you just start rather than wasting time thinking how long it's going to take you to finish. 
  • Potato chips aren't the enemy. Insecurities, self-doubt, past failures and fear of risk-taking are the enemy. These foes live inside of us, but only if we feed and nurture them by dwelling on them. Forget the past and focus on the task at hand. 
     I'm facing another pallet of potato chips at this juncture in my life. And maybe you are, too. Let's start just one box at a time. I'm sure we'll discover they break down pretty fast. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love On a Budget

     As it is for many, money is tight for the Couch's, but holidays will not go un-celebrated in this household. One of Marty's love languages is gift giving so there are presents to be distributed on days like these. I wouldn't be surprised if one of these Arbor Day's she gives me a shrub of some kind. Over the years, I've learned to speak her language, and when we're pinching pennies, I've learned to be creative. This was Marty's first Valentine's Day gift for 2011...

      ... a cheap box of chocolates.  When I was a pre-teen, I used to walk the Valentine's Day aisle at Payless Drugstore and admire the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates they displayed. I thought to myself, "If I had a girlfriend (and the cash), I would buy her the fanciest heart-shaped box of chocolates this store had." Of course, in the early 80's, chocolate came in large, gaudy packages. So, to show my love to my bride this year, I bought her the largest, gaudiest heart-shaped box of chocolates I could find.

     Gift number 2...

     ... two weeks worth of laundry washed, folded and completely put away in dressers and closets. Not a stitch laying around, all done. Of course, laundry is my job every Monday, but when expressing your love on a budget, two weeks worth qualifies as a Valentine's Day gift.

     And finally... dozen roses. I don't have a picture of said flowers because they're dead. I bought them last month, under the guise of an "early Valentine's Day present," when roses still cost $9.99. When love is being expressed on a budget, one would not think of making such a purchase in February.

     To be honest, I could have saved even more money. When I picked up that box of chocolate, I was tempted to wait for the day after the holiday when it would be marked down 50%, but I didn't want to be sleeping on the couch the night of February 14.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Have You Hot Sauced Your Kids Today?


     There's a news item going around about a mother of 6 in Alaska who was at her wit's end with her adopted 7 year old son and poured hot sauce in his mouth for lying to her about pulling three discipline cards in class. She made him hold it in his mouth as she continued to berate him for lying, and then proceeded to put him under a cold shower to punish him for his bad behavior at school. Before she carried out her bizarre forms of discipline, she interrogated him in the hall and asked him why he lied to her about pulling the three cards at school. Through his sobs, he said "Because I did not want to get in trouble." Then she asked him what is the punishment for lying. "I get hot sauce." And what is the punishment for pulling cards at school? "A cold shower." I watched in horror as she not only made him hold the hot sauce in his mouth, but even told him to swish it around. Then my heart broke as I heard him cry as the shocking cold water hit him in the bath tub while his mother continued to yell at him and make him repeat what his offenses were. And all filmed by her daughter!
     Did this mother ever stop to think that her unusual way of punishing her son was probably more of a cause for his behavior than a deterrent? What seven year old boy goes to school and thinks, "Now I don't want to pull a discipline card today because that means I'll get a cold shower at home. And if I do happen to mess up, I better not lie about it because then I'll get hot sauce on top of it." If that kind of terror was waiting for me at home, I'd do whatever I could to avoid it as well. Seven year old boys mess up sometimes, but one sample of this kind of discipline would make any kid start telling lies. That's all he knows to do to protect himself.
     I couldn't fall asleep after viewing that atrocity last night. Yet, in a way, I was glad I saw it, as uncomfortable as it was to witness, because it made me reflect on my own parenting. I'm not trying to paint this particular mother as a monster. I get frustrated dealing with my three kids at times and I know I haven't always handled discipline exceptionally. But the image of that boy is not going to leave me any time soon, and it has made me analyze those times I've lost my temper and raised my voice and I will think twice the next time I'm facing a frustrating scenario with my kids.
      As a result, my kids, especially my son, were getting extra hugs and kisses this morning.