From Our Kitchen Table

Oh, How I love dinner! It’s my favorite meal of the day, but not because of the food (though that’s awesome too)-my family all sitting at the table enjoying each other and having great conversations. It’s amazing what I have learned about Jim and the boys while eating dinner.

Ever since Jim and I moved in together we have sat at the table to have dinner. Now, some 16 years and two kids later we still rarely miss a night at the table. Even when on vacation we still all sit down for dinner together. Everyone can do pretty much whatever all day, but dinner time is family time.

So what makes our dinner time so perfect? The conversation.

About a year ago we instituted “Bag Questions,” simple and yet fun. Heres how it works: We each write (at least) 5 questions on index cards (one question per card). The questions can be on any topic the writer chooses. Then, at dinner time the drawer of the day pulls out one question at a time (no more than 3 a day), they read the question, answer first and then we go around the table giving our thoughts on whatever the subject may be.

Here are a few of my favorite questions that have come out of the bag:

*If you are stranded on a deserted island with only one book what would it be?

*If there was a zombie apocalypse where would you find refuge?

*If Jesus comes back during the zombie apocalypse do the zombies turn back into humans and go to the New Jerusalem too?

*What’s your favorite book of the Bible and why?

*What’s your love language?

Dinner time is precious time. We have laughed, cried and grown as a family around our dinner table. For that space of time nothing else matters. I’d like to think that our special dinner time tradition will one day have paved the way for the next generation of memory making.

I double- no, I triple dog dare you to make dinner time (or lunch, or breakfast-whatever works for your family) your special time too. Busy lives and fun activities are fantastic, but you’ll find that connecting at the table is so much more life-giving!


The Ugly, Beautiful Truth

Today I’m going to tell a not-so-private story. Some of you have heard it before, others have heard pieces, but I’m going to try and tell the whole thing. It’s not exactly my story, it’s Jim’s. This is the one that changed him and our family-for the better. Heres a little secret: God redeems even the worst of us and the worst of our stories. Messy is beautiful to Him. Ugly is just an invitation for Him to step in and fill the holes with grace. He is a true Mr. Fix-It. We can take our broken pieces to Him and He will restore the ugly in all of us to something extraordinarily beautiful.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve gotten permission to tell Jim’s story. In fact, I interviewed him for this blog. If you’ve never tried to interview your spouse or someone you’ve known since childhood, you should give that a whirl. We had more “shiny thing” moments than a 2 year old at Disney! Some of it was hard to hear, but to us that was all the more reason to share it. Our prayer is it makes a difference to someone. Anyone.

** Thank you, Jim for allowing me to share you story. For being fully open and honest. For allowing God to use you for HIs glory and others good.

In I spoke about Jim’s and my separation and eventual divorce, but what I didn’t tell was that during that time Jim had developed a drinking habit. It wasn’t “a problem” it was a habit. It didn’t start out that way though.

The Beginning of Ugly

Lets go back about 9 years ago. (Oh and let me warn you now, everything is in order, but actual time of the year is loose up to a certain point)

We knew about a month before he actually left that he was moving out, we were waiting until the kids finished the school year to make the transition. Sometime before he moved out he started grabbing a beer on the way home. I wasn’t a fan of that, but he didn’t care. Then it was two beers because “it was cheaper that way”. It didn’t take much time for him to realize that the even bigger cans were even more economical than the bottles.

After he had moved out he was living with one of his Grandma’s that had early onset dementia. Along with his failed marriage, living with Grandma was just another catalyst in aiding to his drinking. Now, it was 2 of the large cans a day- again he reason was “economics”.

The time frame gets hazy here. I obviously wasn’t there and Jim’s memory is foggy about the when. What I do know is Grandma was escalating in her agitation with memory loss and simple confusion. If a pot or pan was out of place she would lose it. It was at that time that Jim started walking across the yard to his parents where there was sanctuary and vodka. So between bouts with Grandma and simple existence Jim would make several trips over to his parents a day. He fed the lines about Grandma and everyone ate them up. No questions asked.

There was one night that especially bad, Grandma didn’t like how Jim (who did all the cooking and cleaning) was taking care of the house. In her mind something was out of place and it made her very upset. She chased him down, screaming at him and well he lost it. In the interview Jim confessed he now realizes the impact that night had on him; he admitted that was the night over drinking became a reality.

“I remember the kids asking me from time to time if I was drinking water or “my water”.” Jim said. His drinking became a way of life. A permanent, albeit unquestioned, part of who he was. I believe the kids unknowingly were the only ones who had a clue Jim had a problem. He admits that much of his kid free time was spent drinking because “I had nothing better to do.”

Not long after Grandma’s meltdown Jim moved to a condo in town. So now he was totally alone with a gas station just across the street for the “blind guy convenience,’ which I am sure you guessed was super helpful.

His Undoing

The condo was only about a mile from work so Jim would walk home in the middle of the day if he didn’t have another client for awhile. On one particularly rough day we were fighting about something and all but two clients cancelled: the first and last one (2pm) of the day. Grumbling about how crappy his life was he as walked home for lunch and a beer. He went back to work after lunch (it had been about 2hrs). He finished his day and returned home to find running water. A pipe had burst between his condo and the one above causing a major leak in his hallway. Instead of immediately calling a repair man he got a beer and then called the repair guy. Between dumping and switching out buckets he finished off 4 beers and a shot of vodka. Once the guy finally got there to shut off the water and start the repair it was dinner time. Jim, who was just buzzed from the beer, walked to Dollar General to pick up a couple frozen pizzas. Upon returning home he called the kids and talked to me. After that he watched tv and simply consoled his misery with more beer. He yelled and cried about how his life was nothing that he had planned for it to be. His Dad was dying, his marriage died and life simply sucked.

He passed out at some point only to wake up to having consumed EIGHT large beers, a brand new 1.75liter bottle of Grey Goose Vodka was gone, and all the nyquill in the house was gone. What woke him up was vomit all over his chest. He has no memory of any of it, not thinking it was a bad idea or even thinking it was a good idea. Complete memory failure. Upon seeing all that he had drank he wasn’t alarmed just thought “whoa,” almost as if it was just another day.

Rock Bottom

“I was at the point where if it hadn’t been for the boys, I would have killed myself. I remember thanking God for the boys. I was done. The one thing I always wanted to do was make you happy and I couldn’t even do that.” Hitting the shower floor, praying and calling out to God begging Him to show Jim how to fix his broken life. “I told him to just let me get through the night and feel okay in the morning so I knew He was with me.” His brokenness had him doubting everything, even God. God seemed so distant and unreachable. A continuous cycle of standing and washing himself to hitting the shower floor crying and praying went on for awhile.

He woke up the next morning hangover free with complete clarity. “I knew two things: I needed to quit drinking and I needed to fix things with you.” Throughout the day and following weeks he dealt with the shakes, night terrors and cold sweats all due to lack of alcohol, but cleaning up the house of his disaster brought a sense of perspective on how bad things were. I believe that cleaning helped him to really see how deep in he was. Throughout that day he never thought a drink was a good idea, despite all he knew he was up against. “Lists and excuses were my biggest problem, I had to own up to all that I had said and done. I didn’t know what would happen when I told you. I mean, you could have taken the kids, thought I was cray, who knows, but I had to tell you.”

“My faith wasn’t where it should have been,” he admitted. For those that didn’t know Jim back then I would imagine it’s hard to picture him, but he was timid, angry and lost. He was learning to lean on God in a tangible way. Learning to lift his hands not only in the Sanctuary, but in life. Giving it all to Him. He was learning to let God be in control of the life he (Jim) always thought that he had to be.

The After

Heres a bit of an update after that day. Jim did not drink any alcohol for well over a year after, even on a cruise he completely abstained. During that year his Dad passed away, we reconciled and he moved back in. Even now Jim drinks one (maybe two) a day, but never days in a row and never one of the big cans. He talked to me about his desire for me to keep him in check. About a year ago now someone said to me “Whatever you allow him to have,” but the reality is I don’t allow him to do anything, he does. I simply act on what he asked me as his helper to do. He has a want/need policy. If he “needs” a beer he never has one because that’s the lie: he needs it to get through, but what he really needs is God’s help. If I am having a glass of wine and he’d like to have a beer with me then he will because it’s a simple want. Jim shares this story fairly regularly with people in hopes and prayers that he can be a light and a help in a dark place.

The scary truth is we could have lost Jim that night. Everything could have been totally different than it is now. Jim is now thriving, about to graduate from RT school and is an amazing leader to our family.