Last time I published a post on garbage in, garbage out, and it’s been bothering me ever since.  Most of what I used as examples weren’t true garbage.  If you walk around eating Pop-Tarts and bacon all day (yes, I’m waiting for the haters) or reading Playboy and watching Showtime, yep, that’s garbage.

We usually just settle for marshmallow fluff.

I have a Bible app on my phone that lets me select a devotional I can read each day.  It’s uber-easy and uber-fluffy most of the time; I usually read 1-3 actual verses in the Bible, get a little pat on the head/back from a known teacher, and go on my merry way.  While I may feel a little challenged, a little convicted, or a little happier after reading, I rarely have actually had much to reflect on for the day and I rarely make any changes.

Sometimes I read Christian novels by authors like Beverly Lewis, Karen Kingbury, Ted Dekker, or Tosca Lee.  These are all great authors and I enjoy their writing.  However, as much as these books are better than some of what I read, they’re still– generally– fluff.

I fill my life with fluff because fluff is easier.  Go to the store.  Marshmallow fluff is relatively inexpensive.  It tastes good (to some people).  It can give you a certain amount of energy.  For roughly the same price as a can of marshmallow fluff, I can buy a carton of eggs.  Same price.  Tastes good (to some people).  Gives you more energy, as well as fun little things like choline and protein.

If I can be smart enough to buy eggs over marshmallow fluff, why am I not smart enough to choose meaningful activities to fill my time over the fluffy ones?

I work 80+ hours a week and deserve a little downtime.”  (Little side note: if you’re working 80 hours a week, how are you possibly serving God with the best of your time?  Bigger side note: I’m not doing this either, so I’m nudging myself as much as I’m nudging you.)

“I really like xxxxxx (TV show, book series, author, web-zine) and I don’t want to give it up.”  (Am I asking you to give anything up?  I might be asking me to give some things up.  I’m just asking you to think about what you’re doing.)

“Without a little marshmallow fluff, you can’t make Rice Krispy Treats.”  (Fair point.  I didn’t say to give up Rice Krispy Treats or marshmallow fluff… wait, maybe I did.  Let me complete the actual thought I was getting at.)

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat or break.  God provides for those in the Bible.  But when the whole purpose and/or goal becomes to get that treat/break, then you’ve let your priorities get skewed.  When that happens, you end up with Cain and Abel:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  (Genesis 4:3-5)

Cain got upset because he was giving his offering for favor.  He wasn’t doing it as a sign of gratitude; he was doing it because he wanted God to look down and give him a deitific gold star.  Surprise!  God saw through that and gave the gold star to Abel.

So, here’s what I’m looking at:

  • I need to figure out my priorities before I can do anything else
  • I need to actually prioritize those priorities before I try to fit in anything else
  • I need to keep the “anything else” limited to things that aren’t going to mess with the priorities I just figured out

I’m a big Buffalo Bills football fan. (Cue the comments about four failed Superbowls here.)  The Bills are an east-coast team and I live on the west coast, so the games usually start around 10 a.m. local time.  This means I’m generally at church for the first half of the game.  Is it tempting to miss church for a game now and then?  Yes, it really is.  But it’s a matter of priorities.  It’s far better for me to spend my time in church, being fed and fellowshipping with other Christians, than it is to root on my team.

An occasional Rice Krispy Treat isn’t going to hurt me.  An occasional lapse in mindfulness also won’t hurt me.  However, overall, I need to be focusing on what’s best over what’s okay.

Time to get those priorities figured out… and to apply this principle to all areas of my life.

 

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Prior posts in this series:

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-f

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-j

So, if you’ve been reading along, at this point you know that I’ve messed up my relational priorities pretty badly.

I’ve given up my strong faith in God to be the woman needed to become someone’s wife.

I’ve trivialized my marriage to be a mom, first and foremost.

Then I left my kids behind in a welter of confusion when I no longer had a good compass to steer me.

I spent the next couple of years trying to get my relationships prioritized correctly.

I was in a relationship that again subverted God, my kids, and even myself to be who he needed.  That relationship ended badly.

I kept flip-flopping between trying to survive and trying to do what was best for my kids.  My ex managed to get full custody of the kids and I suffered intense depression over the loss of my “north star”.

Only when I finally started getting my priorities straight did I once again start finding some peace and joy.

I’m trying to put God first.  I still fail miserably more than half the time, but I know that’s what my goal is.  I’m working for it.

For now, my children get the second place in my life, BUT should I ever again be in a relationship that leads to marriage, I will have to learn to balance that with the requirement to “love him above all else”.

Never again will I change who I am to be right for someone.

Doing so led to a nasty divorce (for a woman who despises it), huge debt (for a woman who was only late twice in her life on any bill), loneliness, and the loss of my kids.  That last one still hurts the most.  But I have it straightened out now.

Every decision goes through the priority filter first.

That’s really what relationships are all about.

Previous posts in this series:

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-f

In my last post, I talked about how my priorities in relationships got all out of whack in my intense desire to have kids.

I have four kids.  They are still the sunshine in my life.  Right now, though, I don’t get to be their mom.

I never did anything terrible.  I had some anger issues for about a year.  I did a self-help counseling book and learned to direct my anger appropriately.  I was sometimes a little too persnickity about my angels being perfect.

But I was a good mom.

Until the day my husband told me to get out of our house.

Now, on his side of the ledger, I was having an emotional affair online.  I flat-out told him I was no longer interested in saving our marriage.

On my side, he hadn’t been involved in our marriage for at least eight years.  Date nights that I planned were fine, but as soon as we got back to the house, he checked out.  We spent evenings sitting side-by-side without talking.  If I called him at work (and I tried very hard to not call often), I was a nuisance.

On his side, I made vows.

On my side, he’d already broken our vows and I had chosen to forgive him.

Equally shared fault, really, in the demise of our marriage.  I should’ve just filed for divorced, but I had this crazy idea that my kids needed both parents together more than I needed out of my marriage.  I was trying to stick it out, even as I learned to dislike the man I’d married.

When he told me to get out of the house, though, he reinforced it with a threat.  He wasn’t even living at home during the week, as his job required him to live 3 1/2 hours north.  He had already been engaged in low-key emotional abuse for about five months.

I started packing for me and the kids.

Then he dropped the bombshell.  If I took the kids, first he threatened me with kidnapping charges.  I was scared (and naive), but still kept packing.

Then he told me he wouldn’t support me if I took the kids.

That one stopped me in my tracks.  All I wanted was for my kids to be happy.  They were my priority, after all.  There was no way an unemployed woman who hadn’t held a full-time job in nine years could support four kids right out of the gate.

I was stupid.

I agreed to leave without the kids, but made him sign a note that said that I was only going to set up a home for my kids and intended to come back for them.  Then, in the worst decision of my life, I left.

And my relationships got even more skewed.

See my next post for the conclusion to relationship priorities.

All my life, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a mom.  I had career dreams here and there: oceanographer, fighter pilot, world-famous author.  But in the end, it all came down to wanting to bear and raise children.

It skewed my priorities a bit.

When I dated, I accelerated my relationships into high gear because my primary goal was marriage and kids.  When I married, I married the guy who proposed to me, even though he didn’t share my faith and I had enough doubts to break off the engagement once.

Then the kids started coming.

I quit my job, clipped coupons and budgeted voraciously so that I could stay home with my kids, even when we still lived in California.  I planned, scheduled, and constantly kept learning new ways to better organize and run my child-centered life.  When the kids were old enough, I started homeschooling.

For a little while, I was in my personal version of vocational heaven.

I remembered to spend time with my husband.  I set-up date nights.  I tried to take care of all the things around the house.  I never once said “no” to him.

Eventually it was not enough.

First, I’d drastically rewritten my internal expression of my faith just to marry and have kids.  God wasn’t my focus.  Marrying and having kids was.  I didn’t go to my church’s pre-marital counseling and I got married in Las Vegas.

Second, although I loved my husband in a friendly way, I was never “in love” with him and we never had the right kind of husband-wife relationship.

It just wasn’t enough.  And it never will be, when priorities get out of whack.  In my next post, I’ll try to explain my understanding of why.