Why we have to stop asking “Why?”

The other day, a good friend and I were out walking together. (Actually it was back in May but it took me 5 months to post this!).

This friend is a really good friend. As in a really good, HONEST friend. We have one of those relationships where we can be really honest with each other about everything. Even our junk.

If you don’t have one of these friends, I highly suggest you get one! It’s not easy to get a really good, honest friend. Because to GET a good, honest friend, you have to BE a good, honest friend.

Funny how that applies in other relationships too – like marriage for one.

Anyway, we were walking and I commented on a parenting thing I had done the week before. I had already told her the same thing the week before knowing deep down that it MIGHT be something she would be judge-y about because we’ve been down the judgment road before. Both ways. And we are usually very cool with it!

She hadn’t said anything the week before but this time she immediately said, “Let me ask you something. Why DID you do that?”

Why? The dreaded “Why?”

I’ve heard it said in marriage talks (by me for one) and books, that “why” is a challenge word – especially for men. In fact, when you ask a question starting with “Why”, you might as well just tack “you idiot” to the end of it because that’s usually the way it’s received.

What I honestly heard from my friend was, “Why did you do that, you idiot”?

And, I immediately launched in to full-blown defense mode! And it wasn’t pretty!

Maybe it started with me having that all-too-common feeling we moms have that we just aren’t succeeding at the motherhood thing and she was touching on a tender nerve.

Maybe it was that a little while before that, she’d commented negatively on something else I had done in the parenting arena and I put myself inside her head and assumed she was getting ready to come down on me again.

Maybe it was simply the well-known theory behind how “why” makes people feel!

My friend immediately looked at me and said quite firmly, “Geez! Calm down! Don’t get all defensive!” (She is allowed to talk to me like that so don’t judge her 😄)! I said, “Well, maybe it was your tone or maybe it’s just that you started it with the dreaded “why” or maybe it’s because of some parenting stuff you came down on me about a while back, but it seemed like maybe you were questioning me in a judge-y way”.

We then did something very rare! We had a very open and honest conversation about the whole thing!

She responded by totally being the bigger person. She defused the situation by telling me that she often asks me “why” because I usually have some pretty good answers to that question that make her want to do things differently herself – as a mother or as a wife.

Geez, talk about me misinterpreting her “why”!

I thanked her for calling me out on my defensiveness and once again admitted that I know it’s something I struggle with. And I need to be called out on it!

She was open and honest about her tendency to sometimes be judge-y 😄.

Here’s what we took away from the whole thing:

1. We realized that we were seeing first hand why almost every good marriage book says NOT to ask our husband’s “why”? It’s a “disrespect” word and almost always gets a negative/defensive response.
2. We realized how insecurities can cause us to react differently than we should.
3. We realized that we need to get out of other people’s heads and try to take things at face value.
4. We realized that a gentle/soft answer turns away wrath/deflects anger, but a harsh word stirs up anger/makes tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1
5. We realized that she’s judge-y and I’m defensive (which is a kind of lethal combination when you think about it! But God is using it to help us sharpen each other). And we realized, once again, that despite these flaws, we love each other. And we thank God that we have a friendship where we can talk about our faults so openly.

And guess what, all of those things can be applied to other relationships as well – marriage to name one!

So check your “why’s” in all of your relationships.

Replace them with something like, “That’s cool that you did that – what made you think of that?” Or use “I’d like to hear more about that.”

And sometimes if we don’t agree, we can say it a little nicer. Like maybe, “I’m not sure I understand that decision you made. Can you help me understand it because maybe it’s something I should consider myself?”

Yeah, it’s a lot more words and guys don’t love words. But believe me, in this case, your husband won’t mind!

And you know that the more words you use with your girlfriends, the more they will love you 😃!

Merrie Beth

Malaysia, Dysplasia


On March 25, 2014, the day before I found out that I have esophagus cancer (see that story here), I made a plea to a friend who is going through a nasty divorce.  Things are just going terribly and I’ve been privy to many of the details.  I found myself being too caught up in the disaster right along with my friend; sometimes feeling as though I was being swept away by the current.  A time or two,  I almost felt like I was being dragged under the water.  It wasn’t so much the sad facts that weighed me down but mostly it was the speculation that was getting to me.

I’m a marriage speaker and I’ve walked through some serious stuff hand-in-hand with some women.  But on this particular day, I  felt unusually weighed down by the “what ifs”.

I have never been a news watcher.  Truthfully, I hate the news.  I don’t even care about the weather unless I’m getting ready to go on vacation and I’m trying to decide between a light jacket and a winter coat.  For the most part,  the news is really just “Bad News”.  So it’s a total downer to begin with.  Maybe it would be okay if they just reported the facts.

But usually when tragedy strikes (or MIGHT strike), the news stations figure out a way to spend unbelievable amounts of time saying what might happen, what might have already happened, what probably happened and why they think it happened or will happen, etc.

Being from South Florida, the best example we have of this is before a hurricane hits!  We watch model after model after model of the projected and re-projected hurricane’s path.  The reporters suit up in their yellow rain coats and go stand in the windiest, rainiest spot to talk about the impending DOOM that’s getting ready to hit.  They warn us over and over again about the possibilities awaiting us.  This goes on 24/7 for 5-7 days straight.

The most current display of ridiculousness surrounds the disappearance of  Malaysia flight 370.  I’m not totally unaware of what’s going on in the world.  I do catch glimpses of what’s going on now and again on AOL or Facebook or as I’m walking by the TV when my husband has the news on.

Flight 370 went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.  The search shifted from waters off of Vietnam to the strait of Malacca and then finally to waters in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The fact that the airplane disappeared is an undisputable tragedy!

But the news stories about what MAY have happened to flight 370 have been so varied and crazy that I’m not going to spend blog-time repeating them.  The hype causes confusion to the families with loved ones on board and strikes terror in to the hearts of anyone else listening to the speculation.

The media’s handling of the missing flight was the subject of the plea I made to my friend.

I told my friend on March 25 that  I just couldn’t do the “Malaysia flight 370 media-frenzy” thing anymore.

As gently as I could, I used that example and then I  just said “I can’t take the speculation anymore.  I want to be here for you.  I really do.  I want to help you through the facts of what’s taking place and what’s next and what’s happened and how you’re handling it all.  I want to pray for you and I want to pray for your marriage and I want to trust that God is doing what He needs to do to bring about whatever He has in mind for both of you and anyone else involved through this trial.  But I just can’t take the speculation anymore.  Can you please just try to stick to the facts?”

As believers, we need to be careful not to spend time wallowing in negative speculation and hearsay!  We are supposed to do the best earthly-good we can with the bad news and the trials that come our way but we have to ultimately trust God with the process and the outcome.

I shared a couple of verses that came to mind.

Philippians 4:8 says we are supposed to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy.

This is right after we are told in Philippians 4:6 not to be anxious about anything.

That doesn’t mean we sit around in la la land or in our “happy place” ignoring what’s happening around us.  But it does mean that we have to purposefully steer our minds away from the stuff that is NOT true and that produces anxiety!

And there’s Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding.

This means we don’t speculate!  God’s ways aren’t our ways!  We don’t understand all of what He’s doing, maybe none of it!  But we are called to trust!  We aren’t trusting when we are spending a bunch of time putting up models of what “might” happen!

Hebrews 11 talks all about faith starting with Hebrews 11:1 which says that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Lastly there’s the verse I had to recite in front of my whole church as a child.  Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

If we love God and we’ve been called by Him, we KNOW for sure that whatever He’s doing is going to work out for good.  Maybe not for our own personal, earthly pleasure, but for the good of the Kingdom.  So why question and speculate about how He’s going to achieve his goals?  We are to trust Him!

So I had that tough conversation with my friend on March 25.

And then on March 26, I got some open-ended, speculation-worthy bad news of my own.

“We found some cancer (in your esophagus).  We think we caught it early.  But you need to have this test and that test and see this doctor and that doctor and then we’ll come up with a plan to treat it and these are the ways it’s treated from best to worst case scenario.”

I found myself face to face with a test of my own.

And I immediately felt my own advice, from the day before, wrap around me like a warm blanket!  (How may times do we give advice to others that we need so badly ourselves!?)

My husband and I drove home from that appointment and thought about how we’d tell the kids (teenagers) or if we even should?  We decided he would tell them.

I cried a little when he broke the news to them because I was thinking about being in their shoes.  My daughter has a classmate who lost his mother to cancer and we had just attended the funeral of a much-loved pastor and teacher (and husband/father/grandfather)  from our church/school who had lost his battle with cancer the month before.  So I knew that the kids knew first-hand what the word “cancer” can sometimes mean.  And we had little to go on at that point.

So after I mopped up the tears, I found the same words coming out of my mouth to them that I shared with my friend the day before.

I said, “This isn’t going to be like that Malaysia flight where we are going to make up a bunch of doom-and-gloom stories about how this MIGHT turn out.  We are going on the facts and we have very few of those right now.  What we do know is this – God knows what he’s doing.  He has a reason for this.  A purpose.  A plan.  Right now we see it as a total miracle from Him that I went to have that test with your Dad and they think they caught it early.  We don’t know if it will stay that way but no matter what the outcome is, I’m not worried about it and I don’t want you to be either. I trust Him!”

And with that, my son just matter-of-factly told us that his plan was to not worry.  He said, “Well, I’m not going to worry because I can see that you aren’t worried.”  Boom.  End of story.


So, other than rhyming with Malaysia, where does dysplasia come in to this post?  That’s part of my update.

Since my last post about the “good news/bad news” (again, that’s here) , I’ve had a PET scan and another round of biopsies.

The purpose of a PET scan is to find out if there is cancer anywhere else.  And the good news is that there isn’t!  In fact, even my esophagus didn’t “light up” on the PET scan – which meant it’s probably still really early.

The biopsies were to get a better idea of the overall state/stage of my esophagus.

The first biopsy had shown cancer.  The second round of biopsies showed pre-cancer or “dysplasia” in some nearby spots.  Some was low-grade dysplasia (“someday I’ll be cancer”), some was high-grade dysplasia (“I’m going to be cancer pretty soon if you don’t do something about me”) – all of it, including the first biopsy that was cancer, is NON-invasive which means what they’ve seen so far doesn’t appear to have gone deep in to the layers of my esophagus.  More good news.

I have something called Barrett’s Esophagus which is what happens when acid-reflux or GERD starts wearing away at your esophagus causing it to start to have some cell changes.  This is a condition that has become more common over the past couple of decades.  Supposedly you only have a 1% chance of this condition turning in to dysplasia or cancer but it’s a situation that warrants watching.  And it’s more common in men.

When you get something that you have a 1% chance of getting, do you consider yourself lucky or unlucky :)?

There are still some unanswered questions – like what do we do next (search the ocean floor where we heard the pings?).  And I should have some of those answers in the next week.  I am meeting with three different doctors who have been recommended by different sources.  And then I’ll have to make a decision who is going to treat me.

For now, I ask you to join me in praying for wisdom to make these decisions.

But I also hope that you will consider the above analogy the next time you either get or share some bad news.  Especially if you’re a believer.  Will you trust God during your wait?  Will you trust Him while you are waiting for the facts to emerge?  Or will you speculate and worry about all of the horrible things that “might” happen even though you know that God can use even the worst outcome for good?


Merrie Beth Day











You have to have the Good News before you get the bad news!

1080946_24278190You know how when someone has something rough to tell you, they always ask you what you want first?  The good news or the bad news?  And then you have to decide if you want the good news first to cushion the blow of the bad news or if you want the bad news first so that the good news brings your spirits back up?

Well, 10 days ago I was presented with some very unexpected bad news.

In my case, the bearer of the news didn’t even ask me if I wanted the good news or the bad news first.

I knew there was bad news coming because I got the call that went something like this:

Nurse: “We have the results of your biopsy (the one I hadn’t even thought about since the day I had gotten it and was told everything looked fine) and the doctor wants to see you.”

Me (confused): “Oh.  Umm.  Okay.  Sure (what doctor is this again?).  When does she want to see me?”

Nurse: “Now.  Can you come right now?”

Me:  “Umm, no, I’m sorry, I have a nail appointment this afternoon”.

Just kidding :).  Is there any answer to that question other than “I’ll be right there!”?

Of course my mind immediately went to “The Big C”.  Isn’t that what biopsies diagnose?  What could be worse news than that?

So, I already knew there was bad news of some sort coming.

But, before I even crossed the “which news do you want first” bridge, I already knew I had the capital-G, capital-N Good News and that whatever bad news there was coming my way, I knew that HE had his hands all over it!

What Good News is that?  Who is HE?  Well, the Good News of Jesus Christ, that’s who.

The Good News that gives us strength when we don’t think we can do it and peace that surpasses all understanding and faith that He will work all things out for good for those who love him!  Not that things always turn out for what we believe is our earthly “good” – but that He will use whatever comes our way for His good!

I was with a good friend when I got the call. We had just come back from an 8th grade school field trip with our sons and were getting ready to part ways, grab our kids from school and head home when the phone rang.

I immediately started to cry after I hung up.  I told her what had happened and she immediately grabbed both of my hands and started to pray.

She prayed for peace and strength and for the bad news to be somehow tempered with little-g, little-n good news when I got to the doctor.

I got the kids, ran home and grabbed my husband and he and I headed to the doctor’s office.  I told him on the way that I hoped the doctor would start our meeting with, “There’s no need to worry but….”

Before we went in, my husband threw up a quick prayer that we would have the strength to deal with whatever the doctor had to say.

Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t start with “Don’t worry but….”  She started with, “I have some bad news.”

And then, “We got the results of your biopsy and I’m sorry to say that it showed some cancer“.

As I sat there kind of stunned, she followed that up pretty quickly with the little-g, little-n good news.  “I think we’ve caught it very early.  It’s very RARE to catch it this early.  Thank God you had the endoscopy with your husband!”


A couple weeks before I got the bad news, my husband was scheduled  for an upper endoscopy.  He was having some digestive problems that had him thinking he was having some heart issues.  I thought the issues were all tied together, but mainly digestive issues,  because of some stuff I was learning in an Anatomy class I was taking (which made me an expert :)).  So I asked my husband’s cardiologist if he thought that we should look in to the digestive issues before jumping to any conclusions about heart issues.

So we went off to the gastroenterologist  together and she ordered an upper endoscopy for my husband.  He was anxious to get it done right away and scheduled if for the following week.

I had been having heartburn/GERD issues for YEARS – as in like 20 years!  So during my husband’s appointment, since she was ordering an endoscopy for him,  I asked the doctor is she could do an endoscopy on me too – just to be sure I wasn’t doing any damage to myself with the years of heartburn.

I would have probably put up with it for 10 more years if my husband and I hadn’t been sitting in that office that day for him!

My grandfather actually passed away from esophageal cancer (at 94 years of age!) almost 5 years ago, which is what put it on my radar screen.

I didn’t know this then, but esophagus cancer is a rare cancer to begin with (about 12,000/year in the US get this type of cancer).  It’s one rarely caught early because there usually are no symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to interfere with swallowing.  And at that point, it has a very low survival rate.

My husband ended up getting a cold and couldn’t get his endoscopy on the day he had originally scheduled.  So in the meantime, I had my appointment with the doctor to set up my endoscopy and we ended up getting the procedure done together!

You’ve heard of couples massages?  We got couples endoscopies on March 14.  We literally followed that up with a couples massage on March 23rd.  I know, kind of crazy right?  We sound like those annoying 16 year olds that wear matching shirts :).

We each got diagnosed with acute esophagitis and gastritis (inflammation of the esophagus and stomach) from our couples endoscopies – yes, matching diagnoses.  And we were each put on the same prescription proton pump inhibitor.

But thank God, only one of us got the bad news.  And as corny as all the couples, matchy-matchy stuff above sounds, I was honestly glad it was me.

For one thing, I was getting ready to have some time on my hands to deal with it.  I had a final Physics exam the day after I received the diagnosis and then I would be done with school for 5 months until my core program starts.

Secondly, God blessed me with the ability to grin and bear medical poking and prodding.  I don’t like it.  Nobody likes it!  But I can tolerate it.  And I don’t worry too much about it.  My husband, not so much!  So it’s not like there was a choice who would receive the bad news, but if one of us was going to go down this road, I was glad it was me.

Fast Forward to today (10 days later):

I’ve been poked and prodded. I’ve read no less than 100 articles about esopahgeal adenocarcinoma (mostly about the unbelievable rarity of catching it early and having a good prognosis).  I’ve had a CT scan that, praise God, showed nothing has metastisized nor is there lymph node involvement in my chest and stomach.  I’ve been to an oncologist, a gastro specialist and back to the original gastro doctor for appointments and a repeat endoscopy and biopsies.  Tomorrow I have a PET scan which also checks for any distant metastatisis.  By Tuesday or Wednesday (April 8th or 9th), I should have a pretty clear picture of where I stand.

But so far,  it seems to be a miraculous discovery with a good prognosis.

But wherever I stand when the dust settles, I know that God has me in the palm of His hand!

As an aside:

In 2010, I had a trial in my marriage that seemed bigger to me than the diagnosis I received on March 26.

The trial did a few things for me.  It grew me in Christ like nothing ever has before.  While I was walking with the Lord already at the time, I had a microwave conversion of sorts where my walk was concerned.  It showed me that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God can be trusted to give us what we need when we need it and that He is with us every step of the way.  My marriage was not only restored, but  it became more than I could  have imagined in my wildest dreams – and it’s exactly what I need for “today’s” trial.

God promises that He will do more than we could ever hope or imagine.  He promises that he has a plan for us – plans to give us a future and hope.  And he says we have no need to fear!  He kept all His promises in 2010.  And I know he will do that for me in 2014, even if it doesn’t include the outcome that I hope you will all join me in praying for!

I could not have made it through last week’s bad news without the trial I went through in 2010.  That trial has been the gift that keeps on giving and I know this one will be too.

So am I worried about last week’s bad news or any bad news I may receive this coming week or beyond?


Why? Because no matter what the bad news is, I already have the capital-G, capital-N Good News!  And you can handle any bad news if you have the Good News first!




A sad state of affairs (or even the reason for some?)!

Hands I don’t know about you, but when I see an old married couple out in public, I always find myself thinking really nice thoughts about them.

I’m talking here about a couple in their 70’s-80’s who just by the nature of their age and my assumptions, have been married 50 years or more.

I think about how they’ve weathered the good and the bad and they’ve somehow made it to “happily ever after”.

I assume their kids are long-ago grown and now there are probably grand kids that they enjoy together.  They have accumulated a lifetime of special memories – and maybe a few difficult ones – but they made it through them together.  I assume they’ve come to know each other very well and have grown to be extremely tolerant, perhaps even fond, of the things that long ago bothered them about each other.  I assume that they have a comfort together that surpasses anything I can understand with only 16+ years under my belt.

And many times, the above is true.  They have made it to a place we all long to go with our spouses.

But today, I saw an older couple that reminded me of what’s, sadly, more of the norm in marriages these days – even among those in their golden years.

I was in Ross Dress for Less picking up some pants for my son.  I think this is the most successful Ross on the face of the planet because the check out line is usually about 25 people deep and often, on the weekends, the line goes all the way to the back of the store.

I was about 10th in line and there were about 15 people behind me at 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon (I have no idea when people in Fort Lauderdale work but it’s not at 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon)!

About 5 people ahead of me there was a nicely dressed woman in her late 70’s.  A couple minutes in to our wait, a nice-looking elderly man, clearly her husband, came up to the cart with a nice set of decorative wall hooks.  I don’t have any idea what their home decor is, but these weren’t tacky in any way.  They were muted gold, about 18″ long, with about 5 or 6 useful hooks and some decorative scrolling above the hooks.

The elderly woman/wife took one look at the hooks and LOUDLY said to him, “What’s THAT?  What is that FOR?”, as if he had just walked up with a bag of chocolate covered dog poop.  He very nicely said, “Hooks.” (because clearly she had never seen hooks before and he was trying to be helpful) “For my closet.”  He almost said it kind of proudly – like maybe she was actually going to think it was a great idea!  She, again VERY LOUDLY said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!  NO!  Put those back.  What are you THINKING?? You are NOT getting those.”

You could almost hear the golden-years-dream-couple-bubble pop above my head.

Everyone around me was watching this as if watching a train wreck unfold. You wondered if the next move was going to be him telling her angrily that he most certainly was getting the hooks.  That he hadn’t worked his butt off for 50 years to have her tell him what he can and can’t put in his closet.  He was a statuesque man.  Was he going to use his stature to intimidate her back?  Or maybe she was going to calm down and apologize?  Maybe she would tell him that getting the hooks for his closet was a good idea (which is a good starter response to anything your husband says) but maybe they could shop together for something closer to the decor of the house when they weren’t so rushed?

Keep in mind that decorative hooks at Ross Dress for Less are like $7.99.  You can pretty much buy stuff there and throw it away if it doesn’t work out (if you’re wasteful and return-lazy like me).  AND, he was buying the hooks for HIS CLOSET!  Not for the entry way of The White House! Furthermore, the cart was filled with (another?) purse for the woman, (another?) pair of shoes for, I think, her and 4-5 women’s tops.  All of this was for HER closet that can contain whatever she cares to buy!  The cart didn’t have a single man-item.

Anyway, I bet if you have observed anything like this in the past or maybe even if you are her, you know exactly how this turned out.

The man, already trained how to respond (this is a BAD thing ladies), turned and quietly walked away with his hooks. He didn’t talk back (maybe he made that mistake in 1964),  stomp away (1975) or show any other sign of  having just been humiliated and treated like a bad child in front of 25 bystanders.

He calmly walked away and set his “dream hooks” down out of the way.

Then he quietly walked to the front of the store and took a seat on one of the chairs which, I guess, are conveniently placed there for scolded man-shoppers.  And he patiently waited for his bride to check out.

I watched him walk to those chairs without so much as a sour look.  It was almost robotic.  Like he’d been in this situation many times before and he knew just what to do.

And my heart broke for him.  And for every man like him.  Including my own husband who had his share of humiliating experiences before I could see the above situation for exactly what it is.  Horrifying.  And wrong!

I was DYING to ask her, “But why can’t he have the hooks?”  “Aren’t they just going in his closet?”  “Could he pick out some different ones?”  “Do you have any idea how much you have just humiliated him in front of this whole store?”

But I didn’t.

I don’t know their story and I don’t really care.  I don’t know what horrible, unspeakable things he may have done to her as they made their way to “happily ever after” that causes her to feel justified to treat him like that.

But I know a few things the bible has to say about how we are to treat our husbands:

1 Thessalonians 5:7 says to encourage one another and build one another up

Ephesians 5:33 says that women are to respect their husbands (no if’s and’s or but’s)

Proverbs 14:1 says that the wise woman builds her home, but the foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands

Matthew 12:36 says that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for in the day of judgment

Believers or not, I assure you that a marriage with no encouragement or respect and lots of careless words is neither blessed nor fulfilling.

Ephesians 5:33 also says that men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church – even if she doesn’t deserve it.

I kept watching that couple.  The husband watched as his wife checked out with the cashier.  And when he could see that she was almost done, he got up out of his “time-out” chair and walked over to her.  He took all of the bags from the cashier and quietly carried them out of the store for his wife.

Which spouse are you?  If you’re like the lady I saw in Ross, would you want to be married to you?

Don’t Let Criticism Define You

I was recently talking to a friend of mine.  She had just heard, second-hand, some pretty mean (and generally untrue) things about herself!

On the surface, the stuff sounded really harsh!  I felt such compassion for her!

Her immediate reaction was to defend the criticism with her version of the truth.

I listened as she explained to me all the unkind things she had heard about herself.

When she called me, she was MAD!  She called them all LIES!  TOTAL LIES!

As she started to calm down, she recounted each lie and then told me how some of those lies might have come about.

The more she talked, the more we both realized that there actually was a little bit of truth in each thing she’d heard.

The problem was that the little bit of truth had been heavily embellished with “always” and “never” statements.  And each half-truth had its own untold back story.

As she found a tiny bit more truth in each statement that she had initially defended vigorously, and as the anger started to melt even more, it gave way to self-doubt.  She started to doubt herself in big ways.  And she started to say things, kind of to convince both of us, like “I’m NOT a bad mother!” and “I’m NOT a bad wife”!

She was VERY concerned about what others thought of her who may have heard the same lies.

She felt like she had this stamp on her forehead defining her as a bad mother and a bad wife even though much of what was said was only half of the story, at best.

I found something come out of my mouth at that moment that I must have gotten from a pastor or some speaker somewhere because I don’t recall ever saying it or thinking it myself – but I liked it!

I said, “Friend, don’t let this define you.  Let it refine you.”

I told her she was right.  She is NOT a bad mother NOR a bad wife.  And that she definitely had every right to be hurt and angry.  For a time.

BUT, I also felt that she had been blessed with the information!  It was information that had never been shared with her directly and that she might have NEVER known!  And it was VALUABLE information despite the harsh and over-exaggerated way that it had been delivered to her.

The fact was that this was someone else’s PERCEPTION.  And while the facts may not have been totally true from a “never” and “always” and “you-don’t-have-the-whole-picture” standpoint , perceptions are very true to the person perceiving them!

I told her that she would be missing a HUGE opportunity if she didn’t allow SOME of what was said to REFINE her!

By the end of the conversation, she was still angry.

But she saw that there was definitely a reason that God had brought this information to her – and that she had to look at it as an opportunity to grow.

I had a controlling person once get in to a heated argument with me about how controlling I am!  It was a friend.  And she was mad at me for suggesting that a table could be put “here” instead of “there” at a school outreach function.

She said some really ugly words to me like “nobody likes you” and “you need to stop telling people what to do or they are going to quit” (I was in a VOLUNTEER leadership position at a Christian School – you know the kind right? :)).  She even brought up a personal thing I was dealing with and said I was getting “too involved” there too.

Man, the words stung!  I was really, really mad at her at first.

Then I calmed down and sent her an apology.  For my part.

But I realized a lot of things from that interaction.   At that point in my walk, thank God,  I was mature enough to know that I had to get some lesson from the interaction.

I wasn’t going to consider myself a “failure” and quit my “job” (tempting as it was :)) or define myself as a “bad leader” because I suggested a table be moved at an outreach function.

So, once the pain subsided and the tears dried up, this is what I walked away with:

First is that I struggle with control 🙂  There, I’ve said it.  Considering that I used to be a “Corporate Controller” for about 10 years, I should have already known that – I came by it rather naturally – but this woman cemented the awareness part for me!  In corporate america or when you’re trying to lead the PTA, it has its definite pluses.  In most other relationships, it can be a problem!

Not long after that interaction, I realized that control was not only eroding my relationship with God, but it was eroding my most important earthly relationship – the one with my husband.  So maybe I owe this woman more than an apology – maybe I owe her a thank you for the wake up call!

Second is that others tend to criticize, in others,  the very things that they don’t like about themselves.   So I started to be more aware of that character trait in myself – because I’m the only one I have any control over (hmmm… there’s that word again).

Third is that you need to set boundaries in your life around certain people.  It’s one thing to turn the other cheek.  It’s quite another thing to keep making your face available for the smackings.

Lastly, hurt people hurt people.  It took me longest to learn this last one.  And I think it’s most of what my friend above was experiencing too.  Sometimes people have to make you feel small to make themselves feel bigger because they feel so small to begin with.  I’ve learned to have a healthy compassion for people who are struggling with this instead of spending all of my time whining about the wounds that they’ve inflicted on me from their place of brokenness.

The next time you hear something about yourself that has you immediately in defense or offense mode, take a step back and remember that you are either experiencing a test or a blessing and there is a reason why God is allowing you to walk through the process.

It’s to refine you.  To make you more like Him.

Don’t let criticism define you.  Despite how you’re feeling at the moment of delivery, it is only God’s opinion of you that matters.  And he thinks you’re really awesome!!

I follow the blog peacefulwife.com.  If you want to read more about this topic as it relates to marriage, she has a great post here about accepting constructive criticism from our husbands!

Merrie Beth

Breaking the Disrespect Addiction


August 6, 1996, I had one of those “defining moments”.  I decided that I just couldn’t smoke another cigarette.

Oh, I still WANTED one.  Badly.  But I was done being a smoker. Mostly, I was sick of how it made me feel.  Not at the moment I was smoking the cigarette – but the next day.

The internet was really just catching on then (with me anyway) and I was staying up late at night smoking one cigarette after another while on the computer.  Every morning, I’d wake up with an ashtray full of cigarettes and a feeling like, well, like I had smoked an ashtray full of cigarettes!  And so I decided I’d had enough.


People start smoking for lots of reasons.  To be cool.  To be rebellious.  Because their parents or grandparents did and it was just the “norm”.

But once you’re hooked, the destruction begins.  And it’s so hard to stop!

Well, on October 15, 2010, I had another “defining moment”.  That was the day that I realized what a disrespectful, dishonoring, critical wife I was.  And that was the day I decided that I just couldn’t be that wife anymore.


I was done being disrespectful.  I was sick of how it made me feel.  Not at the moment I was spewing my poison – but later – afterwards.

And I was sick of what it was doing to my marriage.

When I realized what a CANCER my habit of disrespect had been to my marriage over the years, I was DONE.

Wives start being disrespectful for lots of reasons.

Some of it just has to do with personality (aggressive versus passive, uptight versus easy-going).

A lot of it has to do with “the fall”.  In the garden after Adam and Eve ate the apple, God said (to the woman) ” Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”.   This takes the form of woman’s resistance to headship of the man (control by the woman/resistance of man’s leadership) or her co-dependency on the man (idolatry – relying on her husband to meet all of her emotional needs).

Some women were actually taught disrespect.  Not on purpose.  But by watching their disrespectful mothers.

A lot of disrespect is a natural (but unGodly) reaction to feeling unloved.

And a lot has to do with feminism and the distorted view it has given us of “equality”.  It’s like it started this ridiculous competition in marriage that was really just meant for the workplace – equal pay for equal work.

It’s all sin.

Whatever the reasons are why we become disrespectful, the problem is that it can be as addictive as the nicotine in a cigarette.  And although, on some level, we know that it STINKS, we find ourselves taking a drag once again and often feel powerless to stop it!

The only way you CAN stop is with God’s help.

The first thing to pray for is awareness of  what you are doing now that IS disrespectful.  Being aware is like 90% of the battle (not a researched statistic :)).

Pray Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart!    Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

I highly recommend the books Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs and For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhaun.

But the book that had the biggest impact on me in the area of disrespect was The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.  I wish so badly that it was a Christian book but it isn’t.  The closest Christian book to this one is The Politically Incorrect Wife by Connie Grigsby and Nancy Cobb.

But if you have control issues – which comes out as BUCKETS of disrespect to a man – and you only have time to read one book, read The Surrendered Wife.

As you read these books, you will see this big, huge lightbulb go off over your head and you will WANT to stop.  Pray for God to give you the strength to stop the disrespect and the wisdom and courage to start being respectful.

You are going to be amazed at what respect does for a marriage!

I’m happy to report that I have never picked up another cigarette since quitting over 17 years ago.

The respect thing, while HUGELY improved,  is a work in progress and will be until “death do we part”.  But as Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I’m supposed to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

When I slip up, I recognize it the minute I’m doing it, apologize, brush off the ashes and try again.

Thank God we serve a God of second (and third and fourth…) chances!

Merrie Beth

What if we stopped making Valentine’s Day all about US?



I’ve been reading a lot of blogs this past week about how much pressure we put on our husbands to perform on Valentine’s Day and how our expectations set them up for failure (see link below).

So I want to share a different idea with you. This won’t work for every family but it might just work for yours.

First of all, let me tell you that this Valentine’s Day idea is NOT something I came up with because I’m the best wife or mother ever.  In fact, in between the start of this tradition and now, my marriage almost totally self-destructed because I wasn’t the best wife ever.  And if it had destructed, that wouldn’t have helped my best-mother-ever status any either.  This is something I wish I’d have come up with because I was already the best wife ever!  Nope.

The almost-self-destruction that I mentioned was for a million different reasons that aren’t part of this post.  I just wanted to mention it because while I wish this was part of an original plan to give my husband tons of honor and show my ability to selflessly serve him on a consistent basis (like we should be doing), that’s NOT how this all got started.

But I propose to you, in hindsight, and taking no credit, that this idea is brilliant for many different reasons!

This Valentine idea to take this “chick holiday” and use it to serve our guys (instead of sitting around waiting for them to do what we do best!) got started by my daughter. When she was about 7 years old, she was really in to all of the Valentine’s Day stuff (like any little or big girl would be!).  She was just getting in to decorating and baking and whatnot.  So she asked if we could decorate for Valentine’s day.  One thing led to another and we came up with this idea to decorate FOR the guys and serve THEM on this Holiday!

That first year (and every year since), we asked the guys to go out for a little while so Haley and I could prepare the dinner and the decorations.  The first year it was a surprise but now they know the drill.  While the girls are preparing, Dad takes Steven out to bond with him over last-minute-holiday shopping for the girls so that he’s getting some good training in there too!

Here are some pictures from our first year:

Welcome home heart streamers

Welcome home heart streamers

The table

The table

And we made a big deal of decorating the table with all kinds of little details.

And we made a big deal of decorating the table with all kinds of little details.

The Peaceful Wife blogged about how Valentine’s Day puts a LOT of pressure on guys (see The Peaceful Wife’s post here about that).  This might be your husband’s love language (to shower you with homemade dinner, gifts and decorations) but I’m guessing it’s not!  If it is, please don’t even think about taking this pleasure away from him!  But if your husband is like most men, this idea of my daughter’s would take a TON of pressure off of him and also THRILL your sons or other children.  My son love, love, loves Valentine’s Day because of us!  He squealed the first year he came home to this as a 6-year-old!  His future girlfriends will probably hate us for it – I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with that one!

And guess what?  Serving takes your mind off of those pesky expectations you might have about what you’ll be RECEIVING.

Here are some more pictures from other annual dinners that we hosted for “our guys”:





This year we even made our own edible fruit bouquet!

This year we even made our own edible fruit bouquet!

In 2012 we got matching aprons!

In 2012 we got matching aprons!

We made our own gourmet strawberries!

We made our own gourmet strawberries

My husband provide the roses!

My husband provided the roses!  Each person gets a gift bag from the hosts (us girls).

Haley even decorated Steven last year!

Haley even decorated Steven last year!

So far, this year, we have purchased some heart-shaped cake pans and a LOVE cake pan from Target.  We are going shopping for groceries and decorations on Monday.

Your family make-up might be different.  You might have all boys or a mixture or just one child – or none!  But you can adapt this however you see fit.  The key is to get in to service mode and not be sitting around waiting for your husband to do it the way you’ve envisioned in your head.

A commenter on The Peaceful Wife blog said that “expectation is premeditated resentment”.

So stop thinking about what your husband is going to do for you and start thinking about what you can do for him!

Love Me Like My Dog

Friday, February 1, at our monthly MOM’s meeting, Marcy Beaupied guest-spoke for Vickie in the Happy Heart segment. She mentioned the book “one thousand gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  The book, which encourages you to focus on seeing the beauty/God in everything, encourages you to start keeping a gratitude journal (looking for one thousand “gifts” to be thankful for).


one thousand gifts ~ Ann Voskamp

At the meeting, Marcy took it one step further and suggested we start a gratitude journal with our kids.  I loved this idea!

Marcy had actually given me this book two Christmas’s ago as a thank you gift!  I was immediately on fire to list 1,000 things I was thankful for!  I found myself keeping my eyes so much wider open for all the little things we usually take for granted.

Unfortunately, as I do with many things, I got started and then kind of lost my motivation.  I even downloaded the app on my phone that encourages you to take pictures of things that you are thankful for.  That was right up my alley.  But the journal and the book, and even the app, kind of disappeared in to the bowels of my house.  And so did my motivation.

gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Well, guess what I ran across when I was getting my marriage books ready for MOMs last Friday?  The gratitude  journal that I had no idea Marcy was going to talk about!!

Guess how many “gifts” were listed in my 1,000 gifts journal?  15!!!  How lame is that??  I was 985 short of my goal!  I did, however, also find that deeper in the journal, I had listed my “Top 10 things of 2011” and my daughter had made a list too.  It was fun to look back on those lists (consider adding that to your journal since 2012 is still pretty fresh in your mind!).  I think that extra “top ten” list brings me short of my goal by only 975 :).

Well, having rediscovered the journal, I decided that I had a second chance to get immersed in gratitude.  So I immediately started adding to the list and quickly got it up to 20 (yeah, I’m a high achiever).

After Marcy told us about getting the whole family involved, I was even more excited to get the whole thing going again with all of us.  So I added a section for each family member.

I got the opportunity to run it by the family the following Tuesday at dinner.

That night, my son had piano lessons after school.   My husband, Courtney,  usually gets home around 5:30, give-or-take.  He had gotten home while Steven was at his lesson.  Well, as we came down our street from the lesson, Steven saw Courtney’s truck in the driveway and, as excitedly as a 5-year-old, said  “Dad’s home”?  He said it like he had just won the lottery!  And he’s not 5.  He’s a 5′ 6″, 12.5 year old man-child that looks like Justin Beiber :).

My 12-year-old man-child

My 12-year-old man-child

I wondered if he and his Dad had some plans or something and he said no – he was just excited that Dad was home.   He said, “Aren’t you?” (again, he said this like we should both be jumping up and down doing a happy dance).  And I said, “YES”! (minus the happy dance because I reserve that for the specialest of occassions-like in the middle of the grocery store when I’m with my horrified, eye-rolling,  teenage daughter).

Well, we went in to the house and right to the dinner table.  I pulled out the now-family gratitude journal because I was dying to share with all of them what had just happened in the car (my son’s excitement that Dad was home) and to tell them what I had written in the journal just days before.  I saw it as a great opportunity to affirm my husband!

So I shared my son’s excitement over his Dad being home and then I told them about the gratitude journal.  And I read to them what I had written only days before.

16.  When I get home and Courtney’s truck is in the driveway!

Does this impact you the way it impacted me?!    Steven put kid-like words and enthusiasm to what I feel in my heart when I see my husband’s truck in the driveway-a feeling I had just “documented” in my gratitude journal!

And now we had an opportunity to let my husband know what he does to us inside!!  Alhough my daughter is a bit more reserved, she also is a gigantic fan of Dad’s truck being in the driveway-but her happy dance happens on the inside!

Well,the whole thing reminded me of a country song – and not just because my husband drives a pick up truck!

Billy Currington sings a song called “Love Me Like My Dog.  I don’t know where I heard this song but when I did, I was overwhelmed with a “that’s it!” feeling!  I mean who doesn’t want to be loved like their dog loves them??  You can leave for 5 seconds to run and grab something  out of your car and when you get back in the house, your dog acts like you just got back from a 2 year military deployment!  He literally “smiles” with his tail and his tongue and his paws!  He doesn’t know how he lived without you for the past 5 seconds!!!  And let’s be honest, when your dog treats you like that, you can’t help but pick him up and pet him and rub his belly and let him lick your whole face (which is really gross if you pay attention to what he does with that tongue on other occassions-but that’s beside the point).



Here’s the chorus:

I want you to love me like my dog does baby
When I come home want you to just go crazy
He never looks at me like he might hate me
I want you to love me like my dog

My son and I realized this week that seeing my husband’s truck in the driveway makes our tails wag!  And we told him so!

We should be loving our husbands like “his dog” does.  Or like his son does.  Or like his daughter does.  Or how about this – like Christ does.

If your tail isn’t connected to your heart right now, just start wagging anyway and keep praying.  Eventually God will connect your heart to your tail!

I’m so thankful that God put that excitement in my heart for my husband (I had to fight to get it back a few years ago with God’s help!)!  I pray that He will do the same for you.  I think I’ll make that #21 in my our family gratitude journal….

21. For putting a new heart in me so that I can love my husband like his dog does.

Pop Pop Dave’s Orchid

Pop Pop Dave’s Orchid
A Story of Hope
As told to Merrie Beth Day by Mara Mulder Bonsanti (paraphrased)

In May, 2007, Dave Mulder, Bethany Christian School’s headmaster, was diagnosed with cancer. After a courageous battle, he went to be with the Lord on May 19, 2008, at only 53 years of age. He was survived by his parents, 3 siblings, his wife of 34 years, Mara Mulder Bonsanti (Bethany’s current music teacher!), 6 children (1 who predeceased him) and 7 grandchildren (with one on the way at the time).

2008 05 12 03 for web

The Mulders in 2008

Dave and Mara were blessed with 5 girls and 1 boy. Their son, Jeremy, and his wife Christi (back row, 2nd and 3rd from the left), a pastor and social worker, realized after many years of marriage that the chances of having their own biological children were slim.

Right before Dave received his diagnosis, Jeremy and Christi decided that they would open up their hearts to adoption.

After several foster care placements, they started caring for a set of twin boys who were born prematurely and were placed in foster care because of the biological parents’ ongoing struggle with addiction. Jeremy and Christi became foster parents to the 3 lb. boys with the intention of adopting them.

Less than a year later, while still fostering the twins and working through the adoption process, the mother of the boys called Jeremy and Christi to say that she was expecting another child and she wanted Jeremy and Christi to take the new baby too! On the day of her delivery, Jeremy and Christi brought Michael and Anthony’s sister Jada home with them.

Three months later, Jeremy’s father Dave went to be with the Lord.

At Dave’s funeral, the Bethany PTF put out orchids on each of the tables in the fellowship hall. Dave’s wife, Mara, took one of the orchids home and mounted it on a tree in their yard in Miami. South Florida is blessed with a subtropical climate which lends itself to the cultivation of tropical plants. It usually takes about a year for orchids to bond with the trunk of a tree. But years later, Mara’s orchid, now shriveled and lifeless, had never bonded!

In the summer of 2011, after more than 10 years of inability to conceive, a series of God-incidences led to news that the family had thought “impossible” – Jeremy and Christi were expecting! As the adoption of Michael, Anthony and Jada was being finalized in the Fall of 2011, they learned something more – Jeremy and Christi were expecting another set of twins! This time, twin girls!

Avery Grace and Nora Abigail Mulder were born on April 20, 2012. Mara was able to fly up to New Jersey to join Jeremy, Christi, Michael, Anthony and Jada as they welcomed their miracle babies!


Mara said that with every new grandbaby, there is always a sadness that Pop Pop (Dave) can’t be there. She says that she always wonders if he knows. If maybe he can see? Or if maybe Dave somehow feels the grandbaby’s arrivals up in Heaven.

Well, remember the orchids that Mara planted on the tree from Dave’s funeral? The orchids never bloomed in the almost 4 years since Dave had passed away. In fact, a few weeks earlier, Mara and her husband had discussed removing the dead vines and wire from the tree because it was clear that there was no life there – not unlike what Jeremy and Christi had experienced in their journey to concieve.

But Mara couldn’t bring herself to remove the dead vines because, to her, they were a part of Dave.

The day that the twins were born, Mara’s husband, who had stayed behind in Miami, emailed this photo to Jeremy and Christi:








This is a picture of Pop Pop Dave’s orchid on the day the twins were born. Four years later, after absolutely no sign of life, God sent this undeniable sign to them that nothing is impossible with Him! And that He cares about every little detail of your life!

Are you struggling with something “impossible”? A “dead” marriage, “dead” finances, a “dead” relationship, a “dead-end” quest to be parents? Feel like there’s no hope? Then you haven’t given your situation to the Mulder’s God!

God CAN do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or imagine! (Eph. 3:20)


Jeremy and Christi Mulder with their 5 children