Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fear and Faith

There are a few events from my life that can make me cry just to think about them. One was when I watched Abby say good bye to her life-long friend and next-door-neighbor, Mary, when Mary headed off to college. The two of them stood in our living room, arms around each other’s shoulders, and bawled. I'm tearing up just writing about it.

Another event was when Kate left for college. She loaded all her necessary belongings in her red Ford Taurus, sat down next to her pet fish, who was swimming laps in the cup holder, and drove away. I cried so hard I couldn't speak, even to tell her good bye.

Then there was something that happened just a few weeks ago. Eric (17) needed surgery to correct a problem with his skull. Yes, his skull. He needed the opening at the base of his skull enlarged to allow more room for his brain and relieve the pressure on his spinal column. The neurosurgeon would actually see Eric's brain during the procedure. The surgeon told us it wasn't brain surgery, knowing that a parent's mind could easily go there. Yes, I told myself, but it is next-to-the-brain surgery.

Hearing the words "neurosurgeon" and "spinal column" in the same sentence as Eric's name scared me. Scared me a lot.

I thought I was masking my anxiety pretty well, but then I heard Eric tell someone I was a basket case. I guess he saw through me. I don't think I've ever been so scared. I managed not to cry until Eric was being wheeled down the hall in the hospital bed toward surgery. Then I couldn't hold back the tears. And once they started, I didn't know if they'd ever stop.

I told myself all the things I knew to be true about the situation. Eric was strong, able to handle the procedure. The surgeon was skilled and experienced, having done this procedure many times. And beyond all those things, there was God. The God who loved Eric, loved our family, and was in perfect control of all things. Whatever the outcome, it was all in God's hands.

So why was I crying?

We'd learned about Eric's condition just a week before, but in that week I’d managed to build up a pretty high level of anxiety. I feared that the surgeon's knife would slip and Eric would suffer a debilitating injury.
That's all in God's hands, I repeated. Even if that happened, God would give us the grace to handle it. My mind couldn't convince my heart, though. I didn't understand why I could have faith in God and still be so scared. Can faith and fear coexist?

I emailed some friends during the week of Eric’s surgery, admitting to them that I was struggling with the idea of fear and faith. They offered some helpful perspective.

“I think letting go and having a good cry is appropriate. You are a loving mother expressing great concern for your son. So in my limited wisdom, which I think I am slowly acquiring with each gray hair, and each trial, you can have faith in God and still be scared, because you were also scared and yet still have faith in God.”  

"Remember, you don't need perfect faith. You just need faith in a perfect God."

“Fear is a normal reaction of the body to danger. Faith is the normal reaction of the body of Christ to God's ability to use everything in our lives for His glory and our good. The two go together.  We take our fear to the One who can do something with the source of our fear.”

Eric's surgery went perfectly. It took him a couple weeks to get his stomach and head back to normal. But he's fine. My fears were for naught.

I continued to struggle with the whole faith and fear thing. Why had I been so fearful? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)?

As I quoted that verse to myself it shed new light on my struggle. I was expecting my faith to be perfect. I figured that by this time in my life I should have “perfect” love and “perfect” faith. I expected I should have the kind of faith that left no room for doubt or fear. But guess what? Even at my “advanced” age, my faith is imperfect. I’m imperfect. Why was that such a news flash?

Faith is something that grows throughout our lives. I'd never faced anything quite like this, so my faith was untested in this area. And when it was tested, it came up short. I’m not perfect.

I thought back to the first time Doug faced unemployment. It was early in our marriage and the idea of Doug losing his job had me pretty upset. But I remembered God loved us, and if Doug lost his job it didn't mean God didn't love us. And, when Doug did lose his job, God took care of us. Then, 20 years later, he faced unemployment again and guess what? I wasn't nearly so concerned. I'd seen God prove Himself to me in times of unemployment so it made it easier to trust Him when unemployment came calling again.

I'd like to think that if I face something like this again--God forbid--I'd handle it with a little more courage. But it's okay if I don't. I'm not perfect. I get scared sometimes.

During my times of fear surrounding Eric’s surgery I found myself praying a familiar prayer from the New Testament: "I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). 

I smiled when I remembered that prayer had been uttered by a man asking Jesus to heal his son. And Jesus healed the man’s son, even though the man’s faith was imperfect.

Yes, Lord, heal my son, too. And help my unbelief.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mothers: They Deserve an Increase in Their Allowance

Mothers deserve generous allowances. I'm not talking about a stipend to spend on purses and shoes, although that isn't a bad idea. I'm suggesting mothers should be "allowed" to do certain things simply because they are mothers.

Mothers are allowed to think about their children almost constantly, whether those children are 2 or 22. We can't help it. We will always wonder where you are, what you're doing, if you're safe, if you're happy, . . . It's not always worry, it's just thinking, wondering, hoping. And praying.

Mothers are allowed to hug at will. I understand this can be awkward for 17-year-old boys, so sometimes we mothers learn to control the urge in certain circumstances. One way children can help mothers control this urge is to occasionally initiate the hug themselves. Mothers will never be embarrassed by a hug. Ever. Ever.

Mothers are allowed to correct their children. Rudeness is offensive to mothers, and mothers will do what they can to stop it. Even if the person being rude isn't their own child. It's kind of a reflex. So watch it.

Mothers are allowed to make their children do chores. It's part of that whole "making you a better person" deal that mothers sign up for. Mothers also have the right to expect those chores to be done well, and without complaining. So just do it that way.

Mothers are allowed to call their children by a variety of names. They may use the name they decided to put on your birth certificate, or they may use "Sweetie," "Honey," "Peanut," "Buddy," "Snickerdoodle," or any variety thereof. They might also call you a name they decided to put on your sibling's birth certificate, or combined syllables of various names. Please respond to whatever name they use.  Don't complain if your mother wants to call you something besides the name everybody else uses. She's your mom. She's allowed.

Mothers are allowed to make you eat things you don't like. It will make you a healthier person and a better human being. Someday, when your new mother-in-law serves brussel sprouts, you'll impress the socks off her when you ask for seconds.

Mothers are allowed to think their children are beautiful. If your mother tells you you're pretty or handsome, don't respond with, "You have to say that; you're my mother." Just say "Thank you, Mom," and engage in hug initiation. Be grateful there is someone in this world that thinks you're beautiful. And smart, and talented, clever, funny, . . .

Mothers are allowed to be their child's perpetual driver's ed instructor. Not that they should always exercise this right, but on occasion it will be necessary. Sometimes we'll use subtle non-verbal cues such as gripping the dashboard or stomping on the imaginary passenger side brake pedal to communicate "slow down" or "you are following too closely." But, on occasion, we will just have to use our words and say what is necessary to make you a better driver. It's for your good, you know. And the protection of mankind.

Mothers are always allowed to cry. They probably cried when they first saw you, and it becomes somewhat uncontrollable from that point on. They will cry when you get shots at the doctor's office, when you start your first day of school, at your elementary band concert, at track meets, when you go to prom, when you graduate high school. And when you leave for college. Don't worry about it. It's just what moms do. If they somehow manage to hold back the tears it could, well, I don't know what might happen because I've never been able to do it.

Mothers are allowed to embarrass their children now and then. If they cheer like a howler monkey at the soccer game, if they shed the aforementioned tears at your junior high play, if they take video of your science fair presentation, just pretend you like it. Besides, you know you do.

The list of allowances could go on. But just remember this overarching principle: You need to give your mom generous allowances because nobody is going to love you more than she does. She'll love you even when you fail, make bad choices, disappoint her, anger or frustrate her. Yes, she might overstep her bounds now and then, and she might do something embarrassing. But just smile and engage in hug initiation. She'll never turn down a hug. Ever.


© Rebecca K. Grosenbach;

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sisters Getting Healthy

Say what you will about Facebook, but I've seen its good side in the last few weeks.

Facebook offers users the option of creating groups around a common cause or shared interest. I joined a group a couple of months ago called Sisters Getting Healthy. It was started by three friends, two of them sisters, who decided they wanted to get serious about their health. Eating better, getting exercise. They created the Facebook group thinking there might be others who would like to join them. Anyone who joined the group became a "sister" to the rest.

I work with one of those sisters, and I'm friends with both of them on Facebook so I was invited to join the group. And I did.

For the first month or so I just watched. I read about their successes and failures. Read the articles the group posted about juicing or the benefits of exercise. Chuckled at their humor, like the photo of one sister on her mini-trampoline with cleaning supplies in hand--she was exercising between chores.

I noticed they started adding weekly challenges--things like "exercise 20 minutes a day for four days this week." One of the requirements of each challenge was to post something on the group's page on the days you met the challenge.

Then the sisters started offering sweet handmade charms as little rewards for those who completed a challenge. They also gave charms for each five pounds of weight lost. But still I just watched, fully aware that I needed to do what they were doing.

Then, a couple weeks ago, my co-worker-sister-friend, sent me a sweet message encouraging me to get more involved with the group. I promised I would at least write an "atta girl" now and then to encourage the group. But then, I took on a challenge. And everything changed.

I took on the challenge to "make one small change." I chose to eat more fruit, something that is easy for most people but requires a conscious effort for me. I also took on the bonus challenge to "do something active for 20 minutes a day for four days."

The first day I realized it was bedtime and I had yet to do something active. "I can't go to bed without exercising; I want to tell the sisters I did it." So I did some aerobics in front of the TV.

It's been the same every day since. I confessed to the cookies and candy I consumed, too, but the sisters' loving acceptance of my successes and failures has made a huge difference.

Without meaning to over-analyze things, let me share the genius of Sisters Getting Healthy:

1) Love is a powerful motivator. This is a positive "you-can-do-it" group of women. Like the proverbial fly, I'm much more drawn to "honey" than "vinegar." I don't know a lot of women in the group, but I'll take a "way to go" from a friend of a friend any day of the week!

2) Failure is okay. Very few people make changes in their lives without a few missteps. I feel free to admit my own slip ups, and I encourage others not to let their bad days overwhelm them.

3) Success is motivating. Reading that others have met their daily challenge encourages me to stick to mine. And when I can write that I ate my fruit and exercised for 20 minutes, it makes it even easier to do the next day.

4) Personal invitation is hard to resist. When my sister-friend sent me a personal note encouraging me to get more involved, it was the little boost I needed to get going.

5) Specific goals help most people get things done. I'm surprised how much it helps to have someone say, "Do this with me for a week."

5) Little incentives go a long way. I want the charms! It's a little thing, but it's one more motivation.

6) It's better together. That's the big idea, of course. Successes, failures, laughter, education--they're all better shared.

I hope I haven't written this post prematurely. I often start healthy endeavors like this only to lose steam after a few weeks. But I have a feeling this time is different. This time I've got the sisters.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

More Than Party Games

What's the biggest compliment you've ever received?

That was the question I had to answer during a party game played over dinner with some girlfriends not long ago.

I sat there for a minute trying to think of something.

"I can tell you the worst 'compliment' I've ever received," I told them.

"Once a woman came up to me and said, 'I'm sure you hear this all the time, but do you know who you look like?'

" 'No,' I said.

" 'Susan Boyle,' she said with great enthusiasm.

" 'Oh,' I said to her, while thinking, You mean I look like the woman who became famous for being unattractive?"

My friends around the table laughed with me, and they quickly assured me I do not look like Susan Boyle (though I can see a resemblance, curly hair, round face).

It's funny how our minds work, isn't it? I could quickly think of a non-compliment, but I struggled to remember something someone said to support and encourage me.

My friend, Ann, sitting next to me at the table, gave me a wonderful compliment. "Becky spoke at our women's retreat a few years ago. She was down-to-earth, I felt like I could relate to her. She had me laughing one minute and crying the next," she said. That was really nice.

When I had time to think about it, I remembered other times people said things that helped me believe in myself a little more.

I remembered my friend, Chris, telling me I was her favorite writer. I found it hard to believe—her favorite? But it meant a lot to me.

I remembered my junior high choir teacher writing in my yearbook, "You are full of potential." I'd only been in his class for one semester, so I was surprised he'd write that. Maybe he said it to everybody, but I remember thinking, He sees potential in me? Wow!

I remember my father talking to a new family at our church when I was in junior high. They had a daughter my age, and my dad, not knowing I was standing behind him, said, "She'll enjoy my daughter Becky. She's a 
lot of fun." What a nice thing for my dad to say.

My friend Jane signs her emails with a quote from one of her teachers: "You never know whom you'll influence nor when nor how" (Sue Mousseau).

She's right. But while you may not know how or when you might influence someone's life, you can be sure you won't make a difference if you never say anything nice to someone. So do it. Today. Tell someone they did a good job. Acknowledge a strength. Pay someone a sincere compliment—one they'll remember even in the middle of a party game.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Last December, I attended a few Christmas parties, and for each one, I dressed up a little bit. Just a bit. Black slacks, sweater, jewelry. For one party, I decided to wear a necklace I'd picked up at a second hand store a few months before. It has six or seven rows of faux pearls, shiny beads, and chains. My friend Michelle calls it my "bling." It does make a statement.

It's pretty, but it is heavy. The last time I wore it, the weight of it on my neck gave me a headache. I didn't want to risk a headache at a Christmas party so I got creative. First, I pinned the necklace to the collar of my shirt. That just made my shirt ride up the back of my neck.

Then I had a stroke of genius. Or a stroke. Not sure which. I decided to tie the necklace to a belt loop on my slacks.

Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I got the fishing line from the desk in the kitchen and measured off a length of nylon string to run from my necklace, down my back, to my belt loop.I tied the string to my belt loop, and then tied the other end to my necklace. Once I got the necklace on, I discovered the string was just a tad too long. I called on Abby to help.

"You want me to do what?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's heavy. It might give me a headache," I explained.

"You could just take it off if it starts to give you a headache," she suggested.

And have no bling? I thought. What kind of statement would that make?

"Just retie it to my belt loop," I told her. "Make it a little shorter."

She did as I requested and sent me on my way to work.

I was so proud of myself. I made a point to sit down carefully, so as not to over-stress the string. Everything was fine. I looked blingy, and no headache worries. I was a genius.

Yes, everything was fine. Until I needed to use the ladies' room.

I soon realized my genius plan wasn't quite so genius. I ended up taking off the necklace, feeding it down my back, and sticking it in my pocket. When I returned to my desk, I cut off the nylon string and decided to risk getting a headache. Besides, I could always take it off if I started to get a headache. Why hadn't I thought of that before?

So, yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time.