by Jen Hatmaker on February 25th, 2014

Listen, friends. You know I care about the struggles of this world. I have deep thoughts and big feelings about important issues like orphan care and human trafficking. I realize the world is suffering and we only have so many days on this planet and if we aren’t careful we’ll just waste them all and then die. But I just have to add one more tragedy onto the pile:
 
Trying to figure out technology by myself.
 
Is it so much to want to listen to Pandora on my TV while I’m “working” (Facebook, Twitter, articles, blogs, Pinterest, Amazon, and Voxer certainly DO count as work. They take time and energy, which I am expending and thus am working on them. I don’t know why I have to explain this).
 
The problem is that I am dumb in these areas and Brandon is smart, so he does all this “setting up” and “programming” and “downloading” then he gives me tutorials while I am “working” so its hard to “listen” and plus there are so many buttons and they make me sad. There are usually kids around who are like freakish little technology elves who yank the remote(s) out of my hands and make the music and the shows and the movies magically appear.
 
But the elves were all at school and Brandon was leading “staff meeting” and wouldn’t answer my text about the Pandora crisis because he is incredibly selfish, and I was left to my own devices, which I’ve tried to explain is always the beginning of bad things.
 
So I went to my one-stop shop for important news, tutorials, advice, and information: Facebook. "Will Facebook please help me get Pandora to come out of my TV? Because I’m listening to the Ben Howard station on my iPhone speaker and it sounds slightly worse than a radio transmission from a World War 2 plane." I will sum up the advice I received:
 
Turn on your Blutooth through your Smart Samsung with the VeVo app and run it through Chromecast (THE BEST!) and pull up the Pandora app on your phone/Direct TV/Apple TV then push the menu button or the Extra Button or the App Store and there you will find the Hub button and also the arrow button to select your device, and additionally the things with the Bluray and Xbox and the HDMI settings. And obviously, if it is FiOS, try widgets (obvs).
 
Because Jesus is still in the miracle business, I clicked a bunch of buttons and found some special place on the TV to download Pandora and login with our account info. Perhaps you remember me mentioning that Brandon does these things, so all our “account information” is somewhere in his brain. Of course, I sent a second emergency text to access this knowledge, but he was still locked in a quagmire of self-regard with his “work” and ignored me again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, sleep on the couch, man.
 
So I used my mental powers to imagine what his login choices were. Here is the important place to mention the absolute suckfest it is to use the arrow buttons on your remote to “type” in long bits of information on a virtual keyboard. Let’s see, when I need to use the @ sign or a . or an uppercase letter, I have to click down to access a different screen which is like every fourth letter and then FOR THE LOVE OF TINA TURNER I hit "enter" on the wrong character and have to go to the “delete” key and back up four letters and apparently it is too complicated for the TV to have a ".com" button and would rather us switch screens four times to enter that rarely used bit of information, so it takes me approximately 73 hours to enter Brandon’s email address. (Really, dude? You have to include your first AND last name? Do you know how angry I get every time I have to fill out your long email address on the 983,343 forms I’ve filled out for our children since they were born? Never mind. You don’t even know what I’m talking about. They just magically get enrolled, signed up, sent to camp, sent on field trips, adopted, medically released, educationally assessed, treated, registered, and logged into the system. You may be the Technology Person, but I AM THE FORM FAIRY.)
 
So because this little game was a GUESSING GAME, after finally entering his email address which required approximately 91 buttons, I tried a password because this man may be a smart about these things but he is a Predictable Password-Picker, so I knew I had three to choose from. But after entering the email and password and hitting “log in,” if it is wrong because some helpless, ignored wife is trying to break into your account,  it reverts you back to GROUND ZERO and you have to start over and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth and also curses and damnations.
 
Of course the correct password was the third one I tried out of three, so I basically turned old and shriveled while hunting and pecking for forever, thinking, you know what? We have figured out how to fuel cars with corn, and we can’t do better than this? Why don’t our TV’s have Siri? Do they hate her? She IS a terrible speller and subpar listener, but I would like to be able to say to my TV, “TV, please figure out how to play my Pandora. Thank you and have a nice day.”
 
But then a miracle happened. I finally entered the stuff correctly, and Pandora popped up on my TV. It was, certainly, how Peter must have felt when he walked on water. These are identical scenarios. I rescinded all the bad thoughts I’d been directing at Brandon who wasn’t there for me in my time of need and sent him the good news because sometimes I need him to know that I am a Smart Person and Have Useful Skills and Can Do Things:

This reaction was underwhelming. I have to praise my own self with Emojis?
It’s like he doesn’t even understand me.

I see my future as a grandma for whom technology has long outpaced her and it is terrifying, since that is basically who I already am. I will be like my dad who once told me my website “wasn’t on his internet.” My people will make fun of me and text each other the questions I ask and take dibs on who has to help me next time. Brandon already can’t stand me in this department. (You guys, as I type this, my phone is blowing up with all the events and appointments Brandon has been putting into our iCalendar the last 10 minutes. Bless him. How on earth have we stayed married for 20 years? I just fielded a phone call from my dentist about a missed appointment this morning because I lost my paper calendar two weeks ago and have no idea where I am supposed to be for the rest of 2014.)
 
So as technology marches onward, someday I’ll be that baffled, confused grandma who is a recurring character on “When Parents Text” and Brandon will probably have lost his mind and I will have no music or emails or whatever newfangled thing the young kids will have invented. But you know what?
 
I made my TV play Pandora LIKE A BOSS today. Don’t cry for me yet, Argentina. 
 

by Jen Hatmaker on February 13th, 2014

I’m probably not supposed to reveal this because of the manliness and machismo and tattoos and Harley and whatnot, but I married a gigantic romantic. He is mushy and cry-ish and I love it. He thinks up ways to surprise or thrill me. I mean, he threw me a surprise party for my 27th birthday, a year with absolutely no significance whatsoever. It took me five minutes to stop being confused why all my friends were there.
 
We'd been dating six weeks. Please note: No one had taught me about eyebrows yet.
And also? I would kill for those earrings right now.

Sidebar: I am a notoriously horrid gift giver. I call as my witness the front-row tickets I bought for Jamie Foxx’s “stand up comedy show” which turned out to be his “concert” (I am also lazy with details) in which we were the only white people in attendance and couldn’t hear for three days. (On the final song at a billion decibels and 36 inches from the speakers, I finally surrendered to White Girl Lameness and plugged my ears with my fingers only to tentatively glance behind me and find every single sister behind me doing the same. SOLIDARITY.) If ever I attempt to defend my side of the marriage equation, Brandon just says “Jamie Foxx” and the argument is dead in the water.
 
So I am going to be loved on V-Day, and in keeping with our marital rhythm, Brandon will receive such affectionate tokens like my delightful presence and shaved legs.
 
But I’m thinking through this weird holiday in which love is forced upon us all, and it occurs to me that it is a sorrow to so many. Even though we all know it is cheesy and commercialized and INVENTED, there is a part of every one of us that just wants to be loved on Love Day.
 
So for those of you planning to avoid V-Day and its declarations and precious pictures and Public Love Fest because you are certain none of it is aimed at you, here goes:
 
To all the single parents:
 
No spouse is going to force help your kids make you lovely Valentines, and as for love of the romantic variety? You’ve turned back into a virgin at this point. Well guess what? I see you and the incredible work you do and I honor you. Brandon has been out of town for four days and I’ve considered ending my life. You are a marvel. You are both mom and dad and there is never any relief, and yet here you are: raising beautiful, amazing children. You are doing it. You are a hero.
 
I give you a Valentine for being brave and strong and faithful to your little family. Don’t imagine that your children will not rise up and called you blessed. You are writing commitment into their stories, and they will never forget it. You are doing the grueling, faithful work of parenting alone, and we applaud you. Standing ovation. I am so proud of you. May the rest of us love you well and be your village and tuck you and your people into our homes and hearts.
 
To the discouraged single guy and gal:
 
What narcissist invented this holiday, right? Now, I do not assume every single person wishes they were part of a set. Of course not. Some of the happiest, most satisfied folks I know are single, and I often look at them with their free lives and think: TAKE ME WITH YOU.
 
But for those of you who are lonely and this day sucks, I see you too. You are amazing. You are independent and brave, and I marvel at the dreams you are chasing, the gifts you are using, the life you are building. I do not know how to turn on our grill, I couldn’t guess our average electric bill within $250, and I have never mowed a yard. Do you understand what a dimwit I am? Because I got married at NINETEEN (you read that right, gentle reader), I failed to develop adult skills that you are stunning at.
 
I give you a Valentine for being courageous and smart and resourceful. Look at what an amazing human you are! When forever love finds you, and the stats say it will, you will be an exquisite, capable partner who brings so much to the table and enriches your marriage beyond belief. I am proud of you. Your life is already beautiful and doesn’t need a Hallmark card or reservation at PF Chang’s to validate its worth. (And hey, if you decide to go to a movie that starts in 17 minutes on a random Tuesday, YOU JUST CAN. Revel in that please. It takes an act of God to get out of my front door.)
 
To those who lost their Valentine:
 
This used to be a happy day for you and now it is a reminder of what you’ve lost. Everyone else’s happiness is a dagger and it seems the world is out to further ruin your shattered heart. Well, I see you, friend. Imagine me sidling up next to you, slipping an arm around your shoulders, acknowledging what was and mourning with you.
 
For those of you who lost a Valentine because you parted ways, I honor your loss. My gosh, love is so hard and confusing. All the books and systems are crap. More often than not, lasting love is a mystery we stumble into. If your love didn’t last and you are heartbroken, just come here to me. *we are hugging and I am petting your hair* You have full permission to feel how you want on V-Day. If you want wine and Casablanca and an unbridled ugly cry at home alone, have it. If you want your best friends and high heels and an expensive dinner and laughter, do it. If you want to write a dramatic, angry, emotional email to your lost other, do it then delete it in the morning (trust me on this one, Pet). I give you a Valentine. You are going to make it. You are precious and your story is not over.
 
For those of you who lost a Valentine to death, I celebrate your life of loving well and being loved well. I embrace your priceless memories and honor your story. I won’t dare attempt to minimize your grief. I only sit by you as a sister and agree that a Scheduled Day for Love is so hard when you miss your person. Whatever you loved most about your Valentine, I receive it here with grateful hands. If you want to remember them well in the comment section, we will hold your memories with reverence and thanksgiving here. You were loved and you still are. I give you a Valentine, dear one.
 
To those struggling with their Valentine:

 
You are fighting for your marriage or devotion or commitment, and along comes V-Day with its artificial affection and you want to burn it all to the ground. When you’re struggling to stay in the same room as your Valentine, a day of cards and flowers and affinity can tempt you toward despair. You hate everyone. You hate yourself. You hate your partner. You hate love. You hate Cupid, that snot-eyed flying baby.
 
I’ve been married twenty years. I know it, friend: marriage is hard. Ohmystars. Fighting for commitment is no joke. It is the grittiest work imaginable. Don’t believe the love hype you see on V-Day for a second. We’re all posting our best material. You are not the only couple struggling to see another day, I swear. You are not alone. I see you and honor your fight for love. Mercy, you are so brave.
 
I give you a Valentine for working hard. Us marrieds sit in solidarity with you. Getting together is easy; staying together is the work of a lifetime and sometimes it blows. Every hard conversation, every humble apology, every effort to listen, understand, compromise – standing ovation. You may not have the feelings but you are doing the work, and that deserves honor. Please reach out to us. May we come alongside each other’s marriages in support, counsel, wisdom, and backing.

..........................

With something as complicated as love, none of us should believe its mass commercialization. Don’t despair, friends, if it feels like salt in a wound. It’s just a fake day, but you are still loved, precious, valued with or without a $2.99 card.
 
Speaking of $2.99 card…Dear Brandon, V-Day is upon us and I am sorry to tell you that I suck again. Please reference the above-mentioned shaved legs and try to make your peace.
 
 
Your stories and memories and feelings are safe here. I love you and your people love you and God loves you. That’s enough love for one day. Happy Valentine’s Day, dear one.


by Jen Hatmaker on February 11th, 2014

I suppose most kids have a Christmas list a mile long, but Remy Hatmaker only had two things on her wish list: monkey bars and high heels. It is literally all she spoke about for weeks. So for $38, Brandon built her a set of high and low monkey bars and we got her wedge shoes that she clomps around in like Imelda Marcos.
 
Around the same time, she got her “first new room” in our farmhouse. It is cute as a punkin, and the piece de resistance is a fireman’s pole in which to exit her loft bed. It is the envy of the entire family, and I’m not ashamed to admit that all seven of us have slid down that thing a zillion times.
 
Because these are her favorite things, she made a list of activities she planned on enjoying. I hadn’t seen this until my friend was checking out the house last week and came out of her room saying, “Uh, Remy has some…interesting activities on her list.”
 
So my daughter will be visiting the bar and the pole in her high heels.
Parenting: NAILING IT.

 
After I ran for my camera because this is GOLD MATERIAL, I got to thinking about her list. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. It appears we are raising a gin-swigging stripper (with a surprising reading and art habit and a mysterious activity called “house”). Jumping to conclusions would be so easy.
 
How often do we hear or read something, or we’re told a juicy bit about someone, or we make assumptions based on loose observations or fill in the blanks information that isn’t actually true? All the time. I cannot tell you how often I project feelings and attitudes onto people because it is what I think they think. It is especially easy to pull one piece of information out of context and spin an entire yarn with it, creating a whole persona, an assumed worldview with only one small piece of the puzzle in hand.
 
The internet has become so mean. I don’t know if the web has made us nastier or simply displayed what has always lurked in the lowest forms of ourselves. People have written the worst things about me you can imagine, describing me in ways that would drain the blood from your face, and they have never even met me. Or they’ll take one 1100-word blog and draw conclusions about every corner of my life: parenting, discipleship, theology, everything.
 
Lest I martyr myself, I’ve done the exact same thing to others.
 
What would happen if collectively we decided to give one another the benefit of the doubt? What if we agreed that there is always more to us than one essay, one conversation, one moment, one admission? People are nuanced and complex; we are not just the organizations we lead, the coalitions we identify with, the drums we beat, the churches we belong to, the friends we keep, that one thing we said or did.
 
When stung/surprised/confused by something I read or heard, years of dramatic overreactions have taught me I have two choices:
 
Go with the knee-jerk reaction. Just open mouth, let words fly. Every vague feeling, all the emotionally charged words that flood my mind…just let loose. Conclusions? Jump to them. Don’t let it all settle. Don’t think it through. Don’t ask questions. Better yet, talk about it disparagingly to others, because the only thing better than thinking badly about someone is talking badly about them to others. Imagine that me and mine have it all right, all the time. We cannot be led. We cannot be taught. We cannot be stretched. We cannot be wrong.
 
Assume I know everything that went into this: all the feelings, all the opinions. Paint with the widest brush possible. Write them off, obviously. If it was something directed at me, don’t take the humble approach. Don’t turn it into a productive conversation. Just go all defensive lineman and the sooner the better. Time cools indignation, so better strike back while the iron is hot. Reel in my indignation and go down in hot, angry flames. Feels so good on the front end.
 
Or:
 
First of all, wait. Just wait. The first response is so rarely the best one. I burn hot and fast. I cannot trust my initial emotions, because they exist in the fight-or-flight part of my brain where instincts overcome reason. They see “bar” and “pole” and spaz out, creating something out of potentially nothing, or at least something less than the Defcon 4 it seems. I have a 24-hour rule on all things emotionally charged: no responding, no pontificating, no gossiping, no lines in the sand, no conclusions. Just sleep on it. Revisit it again tomorrow; it is almost never as dire as I originally thought. I am able to find the nuances, hear the subtleties, tamp down my visceral reaction, act sane.
 
Begin fresh the next day with this: Benefit of the doubt. I will assume the best here and move forward accordingly. This position creates space for respectful dialogue, sincere questions, valuing people over principles and building bridges rather than widening divides. We do not have to burn everything to the ground every time we get our haunches up. It would be so refreshing to become a people of reasonableness again. Grownups are able to come to the table respectfully; children pitch fits, lash out, take their ball and go home.
 
I have never regretted a humble response. It injects respect into charged conversations, taking the wind out of angry sails and setting a new table for the discussion. It can make friends out of adversaries and blaze a new path forward, creating a road where there appeared to be none. It is so disarming, and we need fewer armed people in this violent world.
 
Of course, we will sometimes come to a crossroads where a relationship is simply unhealthy and we have to walk. But let that decision come after laying down our arms, walking in the way of humility and respect and empathy first. Let us surprise each other with grace, emulating our Savior who blew past stereotypes and assumptions and gathered around the table with sinners, outcasts, misfits, all those "others." Let us shock people like Jesus did, inviting ourselves to the home of the tax collector, defending the accused with gentleness while everyone else holds rocks, sharing a cold cup of water at high noon with someone tangled in sin and despair, refusing to disparage though it is the easiest, most popular option.
 
Benefit of the doubt to strangers we perceive as adversaries.
 
Benefit of the doubt to individuals rather than guilt by association.
 
Benefit of the doubt to folks from other ideologies, worldviews, value systems.
 
Benefit of the doubt to our spouses, choosing grace, grace, grace.
 
Benefit of the doubt to our children; shock them with mercy.
 
Benefit of the doubt to our pastors. They are just people.
 
Benefit of the doubt to our friends. Assuming the worst is the worst.
 
I literally dream of this. I dream of this table where people pull up chairs and pass the bread, slow to speak, quick to listen. What a beautiful community that would be where we assume the best in people first, extending respect, withholding judgment. It would be so contagious, so disarming. We could rise up to our best selves and in doing so, raise others up too. The lowest common denominator need not be our measure. Every bar is not a bar, and every pole is not a pole.
 
At the very least, it is the community I’d like to nourish here at this little blog and in my little life. I’d like to imagine that We are a Basement People, and perhaps we could create something beautiful to bear witness to. We can speak kindly and patiently. We can bravely cross lines and find common ground. We can suspend assumptions and do the hard work of communicating instead. How lovely to lavish that on others, and I suspect that we send that outward long enough, and we’ll find it coming back to us in waves of grace that speak of heaven and bind us together in unity.


Can we do this? Do we need to make amends with anyone and start anew? What else can we do to make this our way?


by Jen Hatmaker on January 20th, 2014


The other day, discussing a man friend who travels all over the world for some sort of fancy business job, I told my girlfriend: “Why do these companies fly someone in to do all this work? Surely there is someone right there who can do what he does. It seems dumb to have to ‘fly in an expert.’”
 
She deadpanned, “Do you not understand the details of your own life?”
 
I fly places. A lot. Apparently no one has figured out that local teachers and leaders right under everyone’s noses can do a better job than I can. This is not false humility, trust me. Your Aunt Louise can teach the Bible better than me. Your neighbor is funnier. Your pastor is wiser. Seriously, I have no idea why this is my life.
 
But it is, and as I type, I’m grateful I’ve deleted all completed events off my website so you cannot evaluate my travel schedule last fall. Let’s just say that as I wrote that sentence, tears slowly started leaking out of my eyes. I have never allowed such a grueling schedule. With a handful of poor boundaries and some late adds, last fall become a marathon, and I am weary beyond belief. My family has paid the price as families do, and we are all a little shaky, battle worn.
 
I miss my actual life.
 

In my actual life, there are friends who know your middle name and easy, lazy afternoons watching football. There are kids everywhere; mine, some extras, some ne’er-do-wells, clamoring and hollering and eating all our food, which I am cooking because, well, I’m there and that is what I do in my actual life. There is tons of community stuff, because our people are the best, my favorites, but I have no time for them because I am always in someone else’s community. I adore my city and my heart is to serve in it, to love people here, but I’m gone too much for consistency. I pulled out of mentoring through Young Lives this year because I would miss half the meetings. And hey? Do you remember when I used to write? Me neither.
 
Actual life is where it is at. I’ve decided. I love the same people in my face every single week. I crave deep roots, longevity with people, home. I love to live in my real life, with my real neighbors and real friends and real church. These are my people. This is my place. I actually love shooting the HGTV show right now, because every second of it is at my house (with its rats and gas leaks and I DON’T EVEN CARE BECAUSE I AM HOME).
 
So. With excellent counsel and sound advisors, I’ve made a two-year plan to land my feet back into my life. My travel schedule is totally closed. I am going to catch up to my calendar (because only the most insane lunatic books events two years from now…hi), and then we are gearing this baby down. I plan to cut my travel in half, and I am officially saying ‘no’ to the seventy billion small things that consume the rest of my life away.
 
I’m like you; the things we want to do are all good things. There is no end of good things. I want to endorse books and write forwards and pop into your Bible study and have coffee with everyone and meet you while you’re in my city and write guest articles and do all the interviews and Skype into your thing. But none of those positions me in my actual life; they just take me further away from it. I can splinter my time and energy away until there is nothing left for the people I live with, live by, live for.
 

That is exactly what I’ve done, and I have to deboard this train.
 
Is there anyone out there who gets this? Your life may play out differently than mine, but even social media can take us out of our actual lives and into some consuming cyber existence where everyone is an avatar when what we need is flesh and blood. Any number of good things can pull us away from real people and community, and after awhile, we feel starved, malnourished, lonely.

It has never been easier to be non-present in real life.
 
To the men and women I travel to, to those at my conferences and events: I sincerely love you. My fatigue is not your fault and I hope you don’t hear resentment in my tone. You are real people too, and through the marvel of the printed word, I have maybe played a bit part in your actual lives, and I’ll never stop being grateful and stunned by that. You matter, and a part of my calling will always include teaching in your context, in your community. It is with gratitude I receive that mantle. You are precious to me.
 
It’s just that the scales have tipped, and they need to tip back. I am less present in my own life than ever, and I can’t live that way. I feel like I’ve let my friends and family down; I am absent from my church and community and that is actually where I matter most.
 
It will take awhile to unravel what I’ve constructed; there are many commitments to see through, and I will, with joy and diligence. But I need to land the plane in my real life, literally. To my friends and family and church and community and kids and husband: I’m coming home, yall.


Does anyone get this? This fragmented, absent feeling? Like Oswald Chambers said: "The good is always the enemy of the best." Do you need to set some boundaries? If so, I'm with you today. Let's land our feet back into our actual lives.
 

by Jen Hatmaker on January 7th, 2014

I know I’ve let on that I’m perfect, like how I’m a meticulous gardener and fantastic house-seller and poised guest on TV shows. It appears to the ordinary reader that I am one smooth operator. I realize that seems clear to you. But may I let you in on a little something?
 
I am hard core struggling in the parenting department right now.
 
Particularly with one child.
 
This one child o’ mine, who is precious and beloved and a darling little thing, well, she is freaking wearing me out right now. She hasn’t a negative bone in her body, and I don’t believe she has ever said a disrespectful word to me. It’s just…she is relentless and obsessive and inquisitive beyond comprehension and never, ever, ever stops asking questions and never, ever, ever lets anything just be and this is every second of every day on all the days and sometimes I want to rip the ears off my head with my bare hands.
 
Because my readers failed to diagnose me as an introvert all these years (I’m somehow making this your fault), I realize that my need for quiet, non-talky space is exactly the parenting match for an extroverted, sensory-seeking, emotionally needy 2nd grader, except the opposite of that, like this conversation the other night:
 
Brandon: Do you just want to be by yourself?
Me: Yes. Or you can come in, but I don't want to talk or think thoughts. I want no words, no questions. I am suffering from Needy Child Fatigue. I am on the verge of homicide. You've been warned.
Brandon: Noted.

Consequently, because of the NCF, I’ve been a jerky, irritated, short-tempered, impatient Icky Mom to this child for a few weeks. I’ve been my worst self. Where loving attention was called for, I gave short answers. When a simple answer was required, I sighed. When the last dregs of daily parenting just needed a short book and a few (more) minutes of conversation, I said we didn’t have to read on Christmas break and hollered in a six-second prayer from the other room.
 
It’s like I can’t dig deep enough for the requirements of this relationship lately. Whether the well is just dry or my selfishness is simply unbridled or this child really would shatter the patience of Job, it doesn’t matter. Because she is unhappy and I am unhappy and apparently I am the grown up and something has to give.
 
I wonder about you today, dear reader. Do you have a relationship that is bringing out your worst self? Does the patience and gentleness you manage for others evaporate at the sound of a certain person’s voice? Do you catch yourself responding to someone in a way that would make your Mama snatch you baldheaded? Maybe it’s a spouse, or a certain child, coworker, boss, neighbor, family member…you know what? This list could go on forever, because PEOPLE ARE DIFFICULT. I mean, we’re not. Other people, I’m saying. These difficult people are making us act bad against our will.
 
So I’m going to share with you my attack plan on getting this relationship back on the rails, and maybe one of two of these ideas might work for you. And if not, ripping our ears off with our bare hands is still an option. (For the record, I am not talking about an abusive relationship. That is an entirely different conversation. The following does not apply to people who are abusive or destructive or violent…just difficult.)
 
1.) Every morning, absolutely every morning, before my feet hit the floor, I will pray for two things in regard to this child: love and selflessness. Dear God, give me a heart overflowing with love and banish my selfishness with your awesome magic powers. One of the greatest tricks to prayer is that it miraculously brings us in line with God’s feelings. The longer we pray for an enemy, the less of an enemy he becomes. The longer we ask for courage, the less terrifying a situation seems. The longer we ask for love and selflessness toward someone, the sooner we see that person as God does: beloved and worth all this work. He changes us in a sneaky way. We often don’t end up with what we wanted, but we somehow end up with a different heart. 

What do you need to ask for every single morning for your person? Patience? Forgiveness? Empathy? Dig deep and figure out what you have the least of and need the most, then storm the gates of heaven for it every morning. Help me today, Lord. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
 
2.)  I will settle something: This cannot be about making her change; this is entirely on me. If I’m waiting for my awesome prayer vigil to slow down the hourly interrogation tsunami, I’ve missed the point. This isn’t about behavior modification, because the second she regresses or holds me hostage in her bizarro time-clock-calendar-countdown-schedule lair, I’ll despair. The only person I can change here is me. I cannot pin my emotional burden on her behavior; that is unfair. 

Are you tormented waiting for your person to change? That is a fool’s errand. Imagine your person is never going to change. Not one bit. That thing you hate? It’s forever. Those habits and attitudes you can't stand? Make your peace. NOW, you can deal with you. Take someone else’s reform entirely off the table. Do you want to live angry or frustrated or naggy for the rest of your life? Because the fact is, we cannot change anyone else. We are only in control of our reactions, our emotions, and our perspectives. The ball is in our court, and the only one keeping us in Emotional Prison is ourselves.
 
3.)  Meet her neediest need intentionally once a day. For my girl, it is undivided attention and time. The opposite of me, she would prefer constant conversation, engagement, and interpersonal activity from morning till night. There would never be a break, a need for space, the urge to be alone. NEVER. I cannot meet this insatiable need, because OHMUHGAH, but it is shocking what 30 minutes of undivided attention accomplishes. It fills her tank to the absolute brim. I can do this. I can play Candyland or gymnastics or whatever sort of mind-numbing super fun activity she loves in addition to the regular attention I give all the live long day. 

And you? What fills your person’s tank? Attention? Specific praise? Sex? Some habit? We can do these things once a day, and we may be shocked when they start coming easier and more frequent. So what if these affections are forced at first? Who wants to play freaking Candyland? This is part of that pesky “putting others first,” and there is no other way to do it but to do it.
 
4.)  In the last two weeks, I’ve told my closest friends how badly I’m struggling. (I just pulled up our text thread, but I can’t post it. It is too raw and horrid, but just trust me, I was HONEST. And also, if private texts ever become public, I will need to move to Istanbul.) Friends help everything. The only thing worse than struggling is struggling in secrecy. Every emotion and failure becomes worse when hidden. 

Why do we think we’re the only one who has struggled in marriage? In parenting? The only one who doesn’t like a kid right now? Who is acting horribly toward someone and can’t pull out? Please. Asking friends to advise and pray is so healing; we are not alone anymore. Do you need to invite someone in to your relational struggle? I have never one time regretted confessing to my friends about anything. On the contrary, they make me stronger, healthier, kinder, better. Every time.

-------------
 
When it comes down to it, I’d rather work hard on a difficult relationship than flounder in frustration over it, waiting for it to miraculously improve. Inertia is no friend of healthy relationships. We must press in, refusing to accept “toleration” as our best option.
 
The careful attention we give can absolutely change a challenging dynamic between two people, inserting patience and grace and love where there was once apathy and anger and irritation. But even if the relationship remains unchanged, we are still better when we aren’t behaving like our worst selves. That release alone is worth the work, mitigating the shame of Being Icky to Someone.
 
Hopefully you’ll find me in a few weeks patiently answering questions and smiling easily and not clenching my teeth with my wee one. And maybe if I stay the course, God can even work a miracle, like transforming me into a person who wants to mete out all the weeks, hours, and minutes of my next six months on my daughter’s Days Until app while patiently explaining Daylight Savings Time (again) and discussing the difference between real people, cartoon people, and TV people (again) and thinking to myself: THIS IS THE LIFE.

It could happen. You don't know.


Do you have a difficult person? Aren't you tired of just "enduring" it all? What are some of your tools for getting a relationship back on the rails?





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