Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Praise God, I hurt my back!

I was trying to clean the dead algae out of our above-ground pool on Saturday, hoping to keep from having to empty the pool and refill it. The dead algae powder is so fine that the pool filter can’t get it out of the water, and the leaf-vacuum bag doesn’t sift it either.

As I was laying in bed half-asleep one night last week, the brilliant (I thought) idea came to me to use a pillowcase to filter the water. So I found an old unmatched pillowcase and threaded a wire hanger through the top seam to keep it open while in the water.

Common sense should have told me how stupid this plan was. A pillowcase full of water is quite heavy, obviously heavier than this back can handle, especially when the pillowcase is being held away from and to the side of the body. I was happily dragging this very heavy bag of water (which only continued to get bigger because the pillowcase was made out of stretchy T-shirt material) through the water, I twisted wrong just once, and CRACK!! – It was all over.

Saturday evening I could hardly walk. Movement of any kind was excruciating. But I couldn’t help laughing through the pain at my own stupidity and the goodness of God in opening my eyes to see yet another area of pride in my life.

My husband has struggled with back issues for the last few years. During the times of his worst pain, I’ve tried to say and do all of the appropriate things, but in my heart of hearts, I really thought he was being a big baby and making a bigger deal of it than it really was.

Sunday afternoon I was sitting on the couch in our family room, and I looked at my husband and said “Sweety, I repent of every horrible, wicked, thoughtless, prideful word I have ever said or thought about your back pain.”

Mind you, the pain I was experiencing, as bad as it was, was only a shadow of the pain he has endured. When I went to the doctor on Monday, they did a bunch of tests and concluded that there wasn’t any actual damage to my spine, but only to the muscle tissue in my lower back, and that it should heal quite nicely on its own.

It’s been It’s been four days now, and my back is probably about 70% better. The best things about this experience have been feeling the closeness and the presence of God, being prayed for by wonderful friends at church on Sunday, and learning just a little bit more how to recognize the voice of pride in my heart.


It’s officially been an entire week since I last checked my blog or anyone else’s. (Thank you, Lord!) The temptation the first few days was very powerful, but as the week went on, it got easier to look for other things to do. My kids and I played some games together, our family watched movies together, and I’ve actually managed to cook a real dinner for my family almost every day. These are just baby steps, of course, but it feels good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Taking a Break...

Blogging, email, 2-dimensional internet connection with other people--they've all become an addiction in my life. I spend hours and hours reading, writing, commenting, checking, and searching, when I should be getting out of the chair and learning how to really be the wife and mom my family needs.

So I'm hoping to limit myself to once per week. If that happens, it'll be by God's grace, because I've proven over and over again how woefully pathetic I am at keeping commitments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The ghastly monster called Pride, the battle of the Bulge, and other incidentals…

See this tree? This is how I think of the pride in my life. The tree is beautiful, just like I have tried to make beautiful the parts of me that are visible to everyone else--My words, my actions, my face, my attitude. But under the tree is a vast root system. It’s not readily visible, but it permeates much of the ground under the tree and makes its way into and around anything that is in the ground under the tree. Rocks, cables, soil, the roots of other plants, everything. Plus, as useful as they are, roots are really ugly and dirty.

I know there are a million positive connotations to root systems, but for the purpose of this illustration, I’m talking about the roots of the pride in my life. They are ugly. They are everywhere. Removing them is going to be a miracle and an excruciatingly painful process. By the time God is done, I don’t know what will be left of my life. I trust Him completely, in spite of the pain I know is coming, but I know that even that trust is a gift from Him, for which I am inexpressibly thankful.


People who know me and see me frequently are well aware that I’ve gained a considerable amount of weight in a short amount of time. When we got back from our Florida trip in May, I weighed in at 168 lbs and was wearing a size 12. Today I weighed in at 184 lbs and am wearing a size 16. I don’t know when this weight gain will stop, but I do know why it’s happening.

The few times in the last few years that I’ve been able to lose weight, I did so with the help of diet pills that contained ephedrine. They increased my energy, decreased my appetite, and sped up my metabolism. Only a very few people knew that I was taking them, and the reason I didn’t tell many people was because I knew that they would try to talk me out of taking them, and I didn’t want to be talked out of it. I wanted to lose weight, no matter what the cost – to feel confident and attractive and to be able to wear stylish, feminine clothing. As I would lose weight, the compliments would flow in, with their addictive rush, and fertilizer for my already-flourishing pride. (As far as I can see right now, of all of the problems in my life, pride is by far the worst, the most subtle, the most invasive, the most pervasive, and the one that most powerfully impacts all the rest.)

It was exceedingly stupid for me to take those pills. Ephedrine is addictive and has a whole host of possible side effects (some of them deadly). Even more than that, there is a history of bi-polar disorder in my family, a disorder which is hereditary and which I am at a high risk of. For me to consciously put a brain chemistry altering substance into my body without the supervision of a doctor was utterly foolish, and had consequences that are so far-reaching, I haven’t even discovered all of them yet.


Keith and I have been married for almost 12 years. To my shame, most of that time, I’ve felt like I got the short end of the stick and he got a really good deal. I’ve consistently felt like that, until recently.

With my husband, what you see is what you get. When he’s mad, you know it, and you know why. When he’s depressed, same thing. Sad, same thing. However he’s feeling or whatever he’s going through, whatever he’s hoping for or planning for, whatever he’s comfortable with or not comfortable with--he lays it all out for everyone to see. It’s utterly impossible for him to be fake.

I, on the other hand, am a seriously confusing mess of conflicting emotions, wavering decisions, misplaced desires and selfish motivations. For the first time ever, I feel sincere gratitude that he’s decided to stick it out through the long haul, and compassion for him because I’m just beginning to see how having someone like me as a life partner is actually more of a burden than a blessing in many ways.

The way most people view me and the way most people view him is completely backwards and utterly unfair. He is a diamond in the rough—a compassionate, hard-working, generous person who loves righteousness and is a good person in absolutely every way that he knows how to be. His outer shell might be a little rough, but on the inside, he glistens.

I am exactly the opposite. The outer shell that most people seem to like so much, only serves to hide the confusing mess on the inside. It’s like tooth enamel that on the surface is white and seemingly-impenetrable, but it hides the inside of the tooth which is full of rotting decay.

I learned a long time ago to become good – or at least to appear to become good - at things that seemed to be difficult for most people. Things like taking the blame, apologizing with sincerity, turning the other cheek, overlooking offenses, graciously receiving criticism, loving and praying for my enemies, submitting cheerfully to authority, etc.

Those pursuits still seem honorable to me, but I went about it all wrong. I decided what those characteristics should look like and made myself act that way. But the actions didn’t flow from a sincere heart, they flowed from a heart that wanted the approval of people and thought it could earn points with God by behaving a certain way.

I learned to school my emotions and literally glided through life without allowing myself to feel anger, frustration, hurt, sorrow, disappointment, and a whole host of other unpleasant emotions. But of course, there are many times in life when it’s appropriate to feel those emotions and inappropriate to not feel them. They energize us and motivate us to press towards change in areas where change is necessary.


I love my job because it fits me, I’m very confident in it, never bored, and I feel like I’m pretty good at it. I tell people all the time that I love all the days of the week the same, because I love being at work as much as I love being at home. The truth is, I love being at work even more than I love being at home, for the reasons I just listed. At home I feel like I’m floating in an ocean of inconstant waves, which I am. I so desperately want to be faithful with everything God has trusted me with, but I’m too tired, too lazy, and too scared to do what it takes to figure out what that really means and apply it. So I stand in the kitchen and eat, and think about all the work that needs to be done, and all the relationship-building that needs to be done, and all of the character training that needs to be done, and allow myself to be immobilized by the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all.


Keith and I went to the recovery program at our church for the first time last night. It felt really great to be there, to finally be taking this step. Plus, we were in a room full of people we love, who love us, and who will continue to love us no matter what. Praise God for taking care of His children so faithfully. Only He knows how much we really have to recover from, but I know it’s a lot more than what I originally thought. God uses the weak and broken to accomplish His work, though, so I’m looking forward to see what He’s going to do with these fragile shards we’re handing Him.

Monday, August 18, 2008

“He who exhibits no faults is a fool or a hypocrite whom we should distrust.” – Joubert

I have been a people-pleaser for as long as I can remember. In my desperate quest for the love and acceptance of my peers when I was a child, I learned the kinds of people other people like to be around, and tried to become one of those people. I found out how much I disliked being around complainers and whiners, back-biters and braggers, and determined I would never do any of those things. Which might all be good things to try to avoid, but my motivation was all wrong. To be loved and accepted by other people was the idol I bowed to, again, and again, and again.

I learned how to hide my feelings and deny my desires and to do and be and say exactly what I thought the other person or people in the room wanted me to do and be and say. I became quite good at lying and speaking in half-truths and not speaking at all, even when what I had to say really needed to be said. And when I lied, it was with what I thought was the noble, self-sacrificing attitude of a martyr. Yeah, I was lying by denying what I really wanted or liked, but I had honestly deceived myself into thinking it was okay because I was letting the other person have what they really wanted or liked and they didn’t even have to feel guilty about the sacrifice I was making for them.

Guess what, Mel… There’s no such thing as a noble lie.

I weaved a web of lies and deceit and lost myself in the process. Who is Melanie Coe, really? I don’t even know.

So because I don’t want to be a fool, or a hypocrite, these are my most glaring faults, in a nutshell:

I’m proud.
I’m a liar.
I’m not a very good wife.
I’m a pathetic mother.
I’m lazy.
I’m weak.
I’m exceedingly selfish.
I’m a really good faker.

I know these words sound like the words of someone who is feeling persecuted and sorry for herself, but I’m not feeling either of those things, actually, not at all. It’s freeing and cleansing to have the ugliness that’s inside me exposed to the light of day. Here you go, God. These are the ashes of my life. Please, by Your infinite grace, make something beautiful out of them and bring glory to Your name.

(The photo came from the internet, and the beginning quote came from Fred’s blog.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

I received an email from a very dear friend of mine. It was painful to read, but it was appreciated. He shared some constructive criticism that really hit home. One of the things he said related to being authentic. I do love God, with all my heart, more than anything or anyone. When I’m walking in the Spirit, He is my source of everything – faith, joy, peace, contentment, power, wisdom, etc. When I’m walking in the flesh, I struggle with being tempted by other things. Sometimes I give in to temptation. May God forgive me for portraying other than an accurate picture of myself.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been pondering this morning, after shedding many tears last night over pain my own mistakes have caused, to others and to myself.

“It’s better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for who you are not.” – Author Unknown

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” – Proverbs 27:6

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.” – Proverbs 27:9

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:10