Monday, April 20, 2015

"Spirit, lead me." - A Lifer's Prayer



The other day I came to the realization that I have been working in food service for 20 years.

TWENTY.

YEARS.

For those of you doing the math at home, you are asking yourself a very legitimate question right now. "Wait just a hot second," your smart little brain is chirping, "I thought she was only 29!"

First of all, bless your heart. If anyone out there actually thought I was only 29, consider your faces cyber-kissed. Nah, I crossed into the next decade a while back and I will be turning 32 this summer. So yeah. I started working in food service when I was 12....which is technically illegal. I guess.

But when your super-cool, slightly older than you friend helps out at a catering company owned by a family friend and asks if you want to come along and you really desperately want this friend to keep hanging out with you, you go to work! I remember coming home from one of my first days at the catering company and being absolutely beside myself with pride - "Mom!" I yelled, "I only worked for one day and she paid me TWENTY whole dollars! Cash money, baby!"

I probably didn't say "cash money baby" to my mother in 1995, but you get the picture. Just like that, I was bringing home the bacon whenever I could. I worked at that catering company off and on for years. Catering evolved into fast food which eventually led me to waiting tables at a BBQ joint as soon as I got to college. Ribs led to lobster which led to pancakes and homemade pie and after a move to the big city, it became spaghetti and lasagna which led to veal and farm suppers.

20 years. 14 of those years have been spent as a server in a restaurant.

There are plenty of stories to tell from those years (it will likely be a whole chapter in my book one day), but I can honestly tell you that I feel like those years are beginning to wane. I've been wanting to take a step back from serving for a while now, but I really hit that breaking point last week when I realized how I had become a "Lifer."

Now, a Lifer is a person who works in a restaurant who has been waiting tables longer than many of her co-workers have been alive. She's the one who knows all the regulars by what their typical order is, how they like their eggs cooked, which booth they like to sit in, and the names of all their children and grandchildren. She's the one know exactly how she likes to do things and will get a little salty if someone tries to tell her differently. Little Miss Lifer will have a short fuse trying to train someone because she's likely to get frustrated if her trainee isn't ready to rock and roll after five minutes as her apprentice. She walks fast, she talks fast. Her feet hurt, her back hurts, and I promise you that she was ready to quit doing this years ago, but she couldn't really see any other way. What else is she supposed to do? There's nothing else out there for her where she could replace her server's income and still give herself a breather. Instead, she picks up shifts when the young guy would rather go to a concert than work. More money for me, she mutters, as she ties her apron strings once again.

Lifers smell like french fries.
It's hard to go out to eat with a Lifer because when we look at our server, it's like looking in the mirror. We are uber-critical, but laced with a lot of grace. If it comes down to a conflict between the server and the person we are dining with, we will take the server. Every time.
Lifers secretly toss an extra $5 on the table when someone else pays the bill.

And the really scandalous secret? Lifers love what they do.

We love interacting with so many people. We love the fast pace and the mental challenge of having to multi-task at a constant pace. We love making people happy. We love talking. We love being on the move and efficiency. It's fun, really fun.

But it gets to be tough when you become a Lifer. You start to ask those "what if?" questions and it gets downright frustrating when you ask you co-workers where they were when they heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and the response is, "I dunno. I was three."

At one point or another, that still small voice starts to whisper of bigger things. Adventures that may exist out there without apron strings or free refills. True Lifers will hear that voice whispering time and time again only to turn a deaf ear and keep on keeping on. Someone has to pay the bills, after all. Dreams don't buy the groceries, son.

But that voice doesn't relent. It only grows stronger while the Lifer's knees grow weaker. And then that day comes when a twelve hour shift ends with the realization that it is finally time. Time to listen to what that voice has to say and really consider the crazy schemes it whispers about. Listening becomes praying and praying leads to bold requests for others to join you in your search for a new adventure.

So now this Lifer will listen a little harder to that still small voice. I have a lot of exciting possibilities that are beginning to show up and to be honest, it is overwhelming an scary. Serving has always been my safety net, but is is crystal clear to me that soon that safety net will need to be pulled and I will need to step out in complete and total faith that the path laid before me is the one the Lord has set out for me.

The closing song at church yesterday was Oceans by Hillsong United. Many of you know it. With all this stuff swimming around in  my heart, it was all I could do not to crumple at these words:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, 
let me walk upon the waters 
wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.



I still have so many questions, doubts, and hesitations. I am afraid to close that door, try something new, and fail. My prayer is that I will let go of that fear and grab hold tight to the hand of my Savior, listening closely for his voice so that I can step safely out on to the waters with confidence. Only then will any efforts of mine amount to anything.

Friday, April 17, 2015

#whatiwishmyteacherknew



There is a viral movement sweeping the Internet right now called #iwishmyteacherknew. You can read all about it here, but the basic story is that a third grade teacher wanted to get to know her students a little better and wanted to actively cultivate an environment of trust in her classroom. It was as simple as a stack of Post-It Notes and a question - What do you wish your teacher knew?

The responses she got were powerful and sometimes heartbreaking. Kids who admitted they didn't have pencils at home to do their homework, feelings of loneliness because they didn't have any friends to play with, struggles with abandonment and missing a father who was deported when the child was a toddler.

What was at first a simple classroom activity has caught fire and exploded into a movement where kids are using the hashtag #whatiwishmyteacherknew to fess up about personal struggles, barriers to their learning, difficult home situations, bullying, and more. It's given adults the opportunity to thank their previous teachers for the impact they had on their lives, whether it was for pushing them to be their best and never settle or that word of encouragement when everyone else had quit. Of course, there are always going to be the exceptions to the rule who jump at the chance to let their chemistry teacher know that they always have lipstick on their teeth, but in general the response to this seems positive and uplifting.

This got me thinking.

What would I have written on that Post-It note if it had been me? I don't remember much of third grade, but as a former middle and high school teacher, I can't help but wonder how powerful it would be to do with that age group. What if it had been me? At certain point, my answers obviously would be much different than others, but the question remains.

What would I have written? Would I have signed it or left it anonymous, a decision that this teacher left up to her students.

Would I have been authentic or would I have been more interested in pleasing my teacher and maintaining my goody-goody reputation? In all honesty, I'm pretty sure I would have chosen the latter. I don't think I would have had the guts to write the brave things:

  • I wish my teacher knew that I try so hard in school because I'm desperate for others to like me.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I barely get any sleep because I work a job after school and then stay up until 3 am doing homework.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I have a bottle of diet pills in my backpack. I swallow those instead of eating because I am so sick of feeling fat.
  • I wish my teacher knew that anything less than perfection feels like failure.

High school is hard, isn't it? But that's a post for another day.

As an adult who actually went into education, my current post would look very different.

  • I wish my teacher knew that what they do matters. It is life-changing, soul-draining, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, awe-inspiring work. You are brave and awesome.


How about you? What is your #whatiwishmyteacherknew moment? 




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Star of the Week



Ugh, you guys! I am over here lamenting because Micah's Star of the Week Poster is due on Monday. It's this huge poster that goes into all kinds of detail about his favorite movie, favorite food, favorite book and the like. He gets to hold it up in front of the class and talk all about himself and what makes him so special.

So, his fancy poster is due Monday and we're not done with it yet. There is still coloring to be completed, photos to be printed and glued in place, and apple juice to be purchased. Oh yeah, the Star of the Week is responsible for bringing in three jugs of apple juice for the class. See how they get ya?

Micah's teachers gave us this poster at the beginning of the school year, way back in September when the sun was shining and I was naïve and optimistic about the level of parental excellence I was going to achieve. Now that the temperatures have cooled and my expectations have come down to earth, I'm panicking because I still don't have that poster done.

Micah did fill it in once. I got home from work one day and our babysitter said they had worked on it together and it was all done! Sweet, I thought. One less thing for me to do. Did you happen to buy apple juice?

Unfortunately, Micah's idea of "done" meant that the entire poster was covered in a series of red scribbles and he had answered that his favorite movie was "Chicken Little" and his favorite food was something ridiculous like Popsicles. Maybe it was cantaloupe. Either way, the thing was teeming with straight-up lies.


I had to crawl back to Micah's teacher and ask for a new poster, lying though my teeth while I explained that we needed her to find him a new poster because his little brother clearly must have gotten a hold of it because there is no way that a 5 year old under direct, loving supervision would destroy their poster like that. It looked like something that you'd find in the childhood scrapbook of a serial killer.

Micah's teacher ever-so-sweetly reminded me that I could bring in his completed poster as soon as it was done and they would hang on to it until April when it was his turn to be Star of the Week, ensuring that no harm would come to his masterpiece.

That was in November.

Now here we are, mere days away from his big day and the stupid poster isn't done.

I'd like to say I have some sort of fantastic excuse, but I don't. For someone who carries a day planner around with her like a fourth child, you'd think that I would have a good handle on all these little details that need doing around here. If you could be a fly on the wall, you would often see me forgetting permission slips, realizing I didn't pack a lunch and shooing a kid out to the bus while attempting to convince him that the school lunch today will be delicious, signing off on  reading assignments I'm not sure were actually completed, digging through piles of papers for that ONE that listed the date that one of these kids (God only knows which one) will need to bring a sack lunch in an actual sack of some sort and be sure to wear sneakers because we're going on a field trip and by the way, can you chaperone?

No way, Jose. Mama don't chaperone.

They'll be lucky if I remember to buy the juice.


Now where did I put that darn poster?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Creativity Made Simple - Kiwi Crate Sale

The week before Easter, I came home from work to find two glorious pieces of artwork drying on the kitchen counter. Our nanny, bless her heart, had helped the boys use paint and their thumbprints to create these super-cute crosses with beautiful colors and swirls. Right in the middle, both pages proclaimed "Jesus is alive!" Micah and Thomas were so proud of their masterpieces and I did the appropriate fawning all over them for a solid 45 seconds.

Then I threw them away.

What?

Oh, sure.

I tell you all about my anxiety issues and idiotic moments like the snowblower incident, but the second I admit that I'm a "Tosser," I can already feel the backlash coming through my computer screen.

I see how it is

Here's the thing. I don't mind doing crafty things. Heck, deep down I am still a scrapbooker! I have shelves of binders containing the documented memories of our family for years. I used things like glue dots and washi tape. I get it. Call me selfish, but I really only enjoy crafty things when it's for ME.

What I struggle with is doing the Kid Crafts. The things that involve finger paint and glue sticks, glitter and feathers, thumb prints and watercolors, Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. Anything from Oriental Trading.

And googly eyes.

Sweet mercy, save me from the googly eyes.

This is why it is important to us to hire caregivers for our kids who have a high craft tolerance. They need to not only be able to handle to mess and anarchy that crafting creates, but bonus points if they actually seek out said activities and create them on their own. Evan and I came home from a date one time and found that our babysitter (different than the one listed above. Yes, we have more than one. For sure.) had made homemade salt clay with the boys and had led them in a Creation-themed evening that involved making little models of people with their thumbrints on them because we are all made "with the thumbprint of God." After I picked my jaw up off the floor, we tried to convince that darling girl to drop out of high school and just be our babysitter until our kids turned 18.

I'm not a Craft Mom. I'm just not.

If spring break taught me anything, it's that you can't just stand around and stare at your kids for a week wondering what the heck to do with them now that they aren't in school. Rainy days happen, sick days happen, and there are times when being all craftsy sure would come in handy.

That's where Kiwi Crate comes in.

Creativity kits for kids!
I heard about Kiwi Crate a while ago and I love how easy they make it to craft with kids. What really excites me is that they have now branched out beyond the crafts and developed crates for multiple ages and with different focus. There is Koala Crate for ages 3-4, Kiwi Crate for ages 4-8, Tinker Crate for ages 9-14, and Doodle Crate for ages 9-16. What really excites  me is the Tinker Crate, a kit that zeroes in on exploring science and technology. The website shows a sample crate where kids built their own trebuchet. As soon as I saw that the little how-to clip referenced The Lord of the Rings, they had me.



What mom of boys WOULDN'T want to build a working trebuchet with her sons, tell me that one!! I just know Isaiah would love doing this and it looks so fun.

Right now, Kiwi Crate (and the other associated age-appropriate crates) is running a fantastic sale. For ONE WEEK only, join Kiwi Crate and save 25% on your 1st month subscription plus FREE shipping.  Use code KC25 to get this deal.

With summer coming up (someday, right?), this would make a fantastic gift for a grandchild, niece, or nephew. This 25% off sale is just the right opportunity I've been waiting for to give Kiwi Crate a try! Who knows? I might become "crafty" after all.

But I still can't promise I will save masterpieces like this for longer than 10 minutes.



Baby steps.

Have you ever tried Kiwi Crate? Are you a Crafty Mom or do you struggle like I do? What are some of your favorite crafts or building-centered activities to do with your kids?

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. This post is not sponsored by Kiwi Crate in any way. I really am craft-challenged and I really do want to build a trebuchet. 




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

That Time I Was Kind of a Big Deal.



In the span of just over a week, I stood on stage with a microphone twice and spoke to a grand total of about 5,000 people. I brushed elbows with speakers, authors, musicians, and other such VIPs.

It was freaking awesome.

Here's how it all went down.

My friend Marnia is pretty much the coolest person I know. As in, she can break her foot, give birth, host a dinner party and hold a garage sale all in the same week. Honestly, I've never seen anything like this chick. We were walking together to a meeting one morning when she decided to let me know that the committee for our upcoming women's conference had decided that I was going to emcee the event with her.  Surprise!

So Marnia and I launched into planning mode, which drove her absolutely nuts. I wanted to write everything out first and do on-stage rehearsals of our openers, holding drum sticks as our microphones so I could get used to talking with one hand occupied. She humored me, bless her heart, knowing full well that I was going to have to roll with it when it all changed at the last minute.

I arrived at about 6:15 am on the day of the conference and the first words I heard were, "Did you check your email? EVERYTHING changed."

So basically, I grabbed that microphone and rolled with it. With just shy of 2,000 women watching.


I love how this photo gives you a glimpse into one of the biggest differences between Marnia and I. You can just tell how much more uptight I am than her. There I am in my skinny jeans and leopard flats and she's up there in pink tights and slippers. Basically, she can host an event for a couple thousand women in her pajamas like it ain't no thang.

Amazeballs.

My other gig at this conference was to be the social media stalker so I got to run all over the place with my face buried in my phone. This allowed me access to people and places I might not otherwise have been able to get at.

Example?

Annie. Downs.



Oh hey, Annie. I know you're just chilling in the speaker lounge with Heather Kopp, but remember how you tweeted me at like 11;00 last night? That was awesome. Can I take your photo?



Can I just say something about Annie for a second? She is absolutely, 100% the REAL DEAL. Annie barely even made it to Wisconsin thanks to some Nashville weather that can only be interpreted as a sign of the apocalypse, but despite multiple cancelled flights and her books being MIA, she was all smiles and glitter the second she arrived. She had to step on our stage immediately after Janet Pope had recited the entire book of 1 Peter by memory (Yeah. I know, RIGHT??!!) and believe you me, that is a tough act to follow. She had my heart the second she admitted that she didn't have any books of the Bible memorized, but she did know the entire plot of Gilmore Girls. All seven seasons.

Oh hey, new BFF.


At one point, I was chatting with Annie while we walked to the speaker lounge and my phone made that dopamine-inducing sound to alert me that someone had retweeted me. Y'all, Annie was retweeting me at the same time we were walking next to one another and having a conversation. 

This is what I like to call speaking my love language.

Of course I had to take a selfie with my new best friend before she left us. And of course our photographer had to take a photo of us taking a selfie so I can see exactly how ridiculous I look while taking a selfie.


Apparently these things happen when you're kind of a big deal.

(Seriously, where is that sarcasm font when I need it?)

Then I helped Annie tear the ever loving heck out of her banner carrying bag and then wrap it up with duct tape because we are both super classy like that.



Now, here's a really fun little tangent.

When I first introduced myself to Annie in the morning, I made sure to point out that we had a mutual friend in Jessica Turner, blogger at The Mom Creative and author of The Fringe Hours.

Only a few days later, Jessica herself was in town visiting family and promoting her book so she sent me a text and asked if I might be interested in meeting for lunch.

Ummm.....yes, please.

I've known Jessica for a while through the magic of the Internet, but we had never actually met in the flesh. So I'm sitting there at Noodles and in walks this woman I have admired for several years. Right next to her is her daughter, who I have watched grow up through my computer screen since she was still in her mama's belly. (Adeline, that constant vomiting she endured was a little excessive, my dear.) We talked about blogging, our Stitch Fix stylists, her beautiful newborn baby, and what it's like to parent a "threenager."


I kicked myself for not bringing my copy of The Fringe Hours for her to sign! And Jessica, if you read this, I want to say thank you again for taking time out of your crazy busy schedule to be intentional and genuine with me. And next time, I'll crouch so you don't have to go up on your tip-toes.

Make friends with a superstar author and speaker? Check.
Meet your blogger mentor and brand new almost NYT best selling author? Check.

May as well round it out with a super famous rock band from your childhood.


I don't know that I've ever sent my mother-in-law into a frenzy faster than when I told her that I was going to get to introduce the Newsboys on stage at their concert that night.

This is my excited face.


While we waited backstage, there were guys running all over the place doing any number of last minute jobs before show time. At one point, a guy smiled at me and walked on stage. Pastor Tom (who was going to be doing the intro with me) asked me, "Is he with one of the bands?"

"Of course," I replied, "He's wearing black skinny jeans."

This is the shot I took right after I walked on stage to a crowd of 3,000 strong after showing the opening act guy (John Tibbs) where to find the bathroom and turned around and walked right by Michael Tait in all his black skinny jeans and red jacket splendor.


That glowing blob is me telling the buzzing crowd where to find the bathrooms because apparently I'm really good at that.


And that was it. I went to my seat and enjoyed the show, relishing my 45 seconds on stage telling the folks where to tinkle before Pastor Tom led us in prayer. 

But Michael and I will always have that moment backstage where I walked by him and nearly swallowed my tongue. 

And that's the story of the time I was kind of a big deal. To my mom. For like, five seconds. 

P.S. Remember that book that Jessica wrote? You can buy it here. It's really REALLY good and I know you'll love it! (affiliate link used)


P.P.S. Annie wrote some pretty stinkin' good books too and you can find those here: 
(affiliate link used)

Annie F. Downs - Let's All Be Brave

Monday, April 6, 2015

April Stitch Fix Review




I feel like it's been so long since I've done a Stitch Fix review that I probably need to start all over and explain everything, but for the sake of time let's agree on a couple of things. First, I'm about to copy and paste from a previous post. Second, you are welcome to keep on scrolling down to the good stuff is this is all familiar and you just wanna see what goodies were in that beautiful box already!!!

Cool?

Here's the other thing. Since my last Stitch Fix post, I have purchased a new computer and soon after had to have said new computer's hard drive wiped clean and restored to its original factory settings because I got lucky enough to have a virus completely destroy my computer before I even had a chance to mess it up on my own. I lost my photos and all my software.

That means no photo editing software is currently at my disposal, man.

I used a free Windows 8 app to tinker with these a little, but there are nothing like what I'm used to being able to give ya. Forgive me?

Here we go.


Super Quick Recap of Stitch Fix:

  • Sign up and get excited because you DON'T have to go to mall to shop for clothes! 
  • Fill out your detailed Style Profile. Be very, VERY honest. 
  • Start a Pinterest board dedicated to your personal style and include a link to it in your Style Profile. This is invaluable information for you stylist to chose the best items for you! 
  • Schedule your first "Fix" and work yourself up into a frenzy as your personal stylist chooses some great clothes for you to try on
  • Pay your $20 styling fee and wait for the goodies to arrive on your doorstep
  • Receive a box full of items hand-picked by a personal stylist, just for you, based on your profile and your requests. 
  • Try everything on, keep what you want, send back what you don't. (The $20 styling fee comes off the price of anything you choose to keep and if you buy all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!)

P.S. If you see anything pictured here that you would like your stylist to try out on you, PIN IT to that Pinterest board you share with your stylist. Make notes on the Pin about why you like it - the fit, the style, the color, whatever! The more info, the better your Fix. Swearsies.


41Hawthorn McQue Solid Lace Sleeve Blouse - $48.00
Kensie Rebekah Contrast Detail Blazer - $88.00
Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48.00

Here is a perfect example of why that Pinterest board is such a good idea. I saw this top on Pinterest in someone else's Fix and I immediately put it on my own board with a very subtle hint to my stylist. Pretty sure it was something like "PRETTY. MAMA WANT."

Well, Mama got it.

The lace sleeves on this blouse are just dreamy. It covers enough of my upper arm that I don't feel like I'm waving twice when greeting a friend and just makes me feel all classy and stuff. My stylist, Patrice, also sent this fabulous blazer because I'm pretty sure I wrote the word "blazer" about 14 times in my notes to her.

Side Note: I absolutely cannot read the name "Patrice" without growling it like Robin from HIMYM. So sorry, Patrice. I'm sure you're delightful.


Here are these three items together - the lace sleeve top, the blazer, and the reversible tote. Now, the sleeves on the blazer are a little short for me, but I decided to suck it up and keep it anyway because blazers are my jam and everything else fit so nice.


Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48.00

Just so you can get a feel for this bag, check out how much it holds. That's a 15.6" laptop, friends. I also have a Bible, a notebook, my wallet that was likely overflowing with pennies and Culver's tokens, and a bag of pens in there. Now, I wouldn't call it big enough or rugged enough to be a full-time laptop bag, but it works in a pinch. I love using it as a work tote though!

Can I please hashtag this photo? #ItsFuntobeSmart


Kensie Rebekah Contrast Detail Blazer - $88.00
Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48

Here is the blazer and bag with another outfit. I'm willing to fork over a little cheddar for a blazer because they are magic.


 Pixley Yaiza Printed Wrap Dress - $78.00

When I first pulled this dress out of the box, I wasn't so sure about it. The print threw me off a bit. When I tried to actually put it on, I was straight up confused. It was like trying to solve a puzzle box or something. Once I realized how to actually work a wrap dress and got it on, I LOVED IT. I wore it with leggings and black riding boots and I was so comfortable. It really creates a nice waistline.


Market & Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top - $48.00

I wish you could feel how soft this top is. It's sooooo comfy. I love that it is really long so I can tuck it in if I want, but it leaves me enough room to cover my trouble zones and my booty if needed. I wear this probably more than any other item I got in this Fix.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, I did keep all five items in this fix which means.......25% discount! 

Want to look back through my previous Stitch Fix boxes to get a better idea of what this is all about? Click on over this way, friend. It's my favorite way to not shop for clothes and the idea of having to go back to the mall to shop straight up terrifies me.

Ready to get started?




I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have been sharing the love long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be telling you about it if I didn't love it. 


Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Grace

Friends, for this one I just started writing.

I didn't worry about if it made sense, if all the back-story was there, if I even used correct grammar and punctuation. I just started to type.

So please forgive me if there are questions left unanswered. Excuse the spelling mistakes. Overlook the short-comings, inconsistencies, and inadequacies. I'm sure there are many and I don't care. Not even a little bit. Not this time. 

Let's just join together in a little Good Friday Grace, shall we? 




What is it about that blinking cursor that is just so intimidating? Now that I actually have purchased that ticket to the conference, I feel like I really need to make something special out of my blog. What if this whole thing ends up being a waste of someone else's money? Of course, I never would have actually  gone if it meant spending such a big chunk of our money on something like this but now that it is someone else basically sponsoring me to go, I feel that much more pressure to make it worth it, to make it an investment. It's been made very clear to me that God wants me to devote more of myself to writing. Let's see, what have been the signs recently? The comment from LauraP that my humor has brought her closer to God because she realized that people who love Jesus can also be funny, the encouragement I get from readers like Karen and Nicole and so many others when I post something, the visit from JBU and the excitement about writing something for them, the list goes on and on. I've been searching for margin, for a way to really make this into something special and now God has basically dropped this opportunity on my lap.

But how do I do it WELL?

I'm still so afraid of failure. If I'm being really honest, I suppose I consider mediocrity to be failure. In all things. The writing piece I wrote for work was good, really good. Got great feedback and was told it was going to be published. Found out later that the project was scrapped, not because the writing wasn't good, but just because it wasn't the direction they wanted to go in as far as a new project. It devastated me. Why? Because I wanted to see my name in print? Or because I felt like I had failed? Both? Never even mind the yucky feeling in my belly when I acknowledged how selfishly I wanted that book to be published.

Every area of my life is affected by this - how I mother, how I wait tables, how I clean (or don't clean) my house, how I write. I need to feel like I am succeeding. Even in my marriage, I feel like ordinary and normal is code for underwhelming and mediocre. I know that the desire for something extraordinary is deeply rooted, a good thing by design.

But I still feel so defeated when I fall short.

It would seem that I have only applied Grace to my salvation status and completely forgotten about how profoundly it transforms my earthly breaths.

I don't want to smile in the photo because I'm only in the second week of using that new teeth whitening toothpaste and you're darn tootin' I'll be using a photo editing app to whiten those suckers before it goes on Instagram.
When I make a mistake at work, I immediately start wondering if I should just quit and save everyone a lot of trouble
My idea didn't get picked, so I many as well just start doing as I'm told rather than imagining new directions.
The cursor keeps blinking in my face and the voice of the Enemy is there, sending pulses of poison into my mind with every blink - You've got nothing. You've been fooling yourself. There are real writers out there - you're nothing but a knock-off. Stop wasting everyone's time, money and attention. 

There is no such thing as "good enough." I am never EVER going to feel like I am good enough because I continue to burn out trying to impress a holy God who is not impressed by anything short of perfection.  I saw a quote on Twitter today from Dr. Tony Evans - "The reason he had to die is because even on our best day we are not acceptable to a holy God." That's really it, isn't it?  Even if we were operating on all cylinders, blasting out home-runs every single time we so much as stepped up to the plate, it still wouldn't even be a blip on the righteousness radar to the One who arranged the stars on his canvas and spoke the earth into existence. That battle that we constantly fight against those feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy stems directly from our desire for intimacy with our holy Father.  

He made us this way so we would be drawn to relentlessly pursue Him.

But when holiness feels too far away, we run from Him.

We hide among the trees of the garden, using their shadows as refuge and hoping they will obscure our failure from His view. We wait there, afraid of being found out.

He had to die because even on our best day we are not acceptable to a holy God.

We need His grace. His overwhelming, all-encompassing, never stopping, never quitting, always faithful, unconditional, love you right where you are, as you are, forever and ever GRACE.

We will fail. Over and over, every day.
And every day, over and over, he finds us hiding in the shadows, takes that fear and failure gently from us and carries it with Him to the cross.

Me.

With all my anxiety, doubts, shame, fear, selfishness, and pride. 

Holy. Accepted. Redeemed. Loved.

You.

Let's dare to step out of the shadows and walk in sound assurance of His grace.


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

-Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Anxiety and Ankle Boots



I found myself panicking this morning. Again.

As we've been over in the past, anxiety is an issue for me and we're having a teensy little issue with our insurance that has forced me into a status that is both frustrating and insulting. I remember being in meetings when I was teaching and discussing a student's behavior with my colleagues and we would struggle to come up with a rational explanation for why this kid was suddenly acting like a crazy person. Quite often it came down to one thing:

Must be off their meds.

I hate that phrase.

The dishes are not loaded in the dishwasher to my linking so rather than going straight to bed, I tinker around in there so that the water can actually reach the dried on ketchup coating the plate and I won't pull out spoons covered in crusty Cheerios. Accidentally stick my hand in coagulated pancake syrup. Blame it all on my husband for not loading the dishwasher right.

Must be off my meds.

Manager asks to talk to me about something later so I spend the next fifteen minutes realizing that I'm getting fired and should really just save everyone the trouble and quit but I'd better hurry up but I'm too paralyzed to even think or move so I just stand there frozen, gnawing at the cuticles on my fingertips like a dog on a bone.

Must be off my meds.

Staring at the calendars for the summer, I see a jumble of color-coded lines and times representing where each kid needs to be and when. There are dollar signs and babysitters' names and more dollar signs and work schedules tucked in the corner and questions upon questions about how to make it all work. I erase the pencil marks, spread the white-out over an entire square, and my mind races. All three months worth of papers eventually get angrily crumbled into balls and heaved over my shoulder. Print new ones. Start fresh. Breathe.....

Must be off my meds.

Walking in the door, feet aching, struggling to untie the knot in my apron, I stumble over piles of shoes and backpacks. Changing out of my uniform, I add them to the growing pile of clean-ish clothes next to my bed and as I look around all I can see is chaos and displacement. Stomping and slamming, grumbling and growling. I feel a headache coming on.

Must be off my meds.

Standing in the middle of the dining room next to a table of 16 people, a tray full of dirty bar glasses in my hand. Face to face with the guy bringing out the soups and salads for the first course. He starts to hand them out, but to the wrong people. I whirl into action, grabbing the plates, shoving my tray of glasses into his hands, my voice snapping like a whip. Heads turn nearby, wondering what is going on. I remember none of this later.

Must be off my meds.

Crying at my desk after reading a story on Yahoo news about the German flight being intentionally crashed into a mountain. Suddenly filled with overwhelming sense of dread about travel of any kind and convinced my husband is going to be in a car crash as he drives down I-94 today. Feelings of anger flare up because every time I'm with him in the car I have to tell him to slow down, red light means stop, that's a one-way street!!! Thoughts of planning his funeral lead me to wondering if maybe it will be me. I'm the one who has actually been in the car accidents in the past. What if I get hit after I pick up Micah from preschool? I'll have both him and Thomas in the van with me. What if I lose them both? How will I survive? Wait. What if I don't survive?

Must be off my meds.

This is a tiny glimpse into what my anxious mind looks like. I could go on and on, telling story after story. The other day, I decided that even though it is almost spring, I still want to get a pair of ankle boots. Ten minutes later, I was having a minor meltdown because I had convinced myself I was single-handedly sending us down the path to financial ruin.

I hadn't even ordered the damn boots.

Evan has a hard time understanding my anxiety and I can totally see why. It's irrational and illogical. It's worrying, yet it's something else entirely. There are moments when I straight up feel like I must be crazy.

I am not crazy.

I am also fully aware of the fact that the first thing most crazy people say when you talk to them about their crazy is "I am not crazy."

I do have anxiety. My anxiety does not control me. My anxiety does not define me.
Some days are harder than others. Some moments it is easier to keep my emotions under control than others. Yes, medication helps.

And yes.

I am off my meds.

And I still really want those boots.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesdays are Stressful



The weirdest things stress me out sometimes.


  • Four and a half. There are four AND A HALF pairs of shoes in my living room.
  • The price of apples went up so much that I can't buy as many as I usually do since I still need to have enough money left over for all the organic, gluten free crap I insist on eating now.
  • Feelings of guilt that I buy grass-fed butter for my coffee (for the love) but I still buy chicken nuggets for my family because apparently kids expect to eat multiple times every day.
  • The cost of airline flights.
  • Writing. Yeah, writing stresses me out. Because I want it to be good. I am terrified that I will start clicking away at the keys only to push Publish on something mediocre or even downright horrid and suddenly that whole "I'm a writer" line I use will feel like nothing more than a bold-faced lie. 
  • Cupcakes. I had a dream the other night about a chocolate cupcake the size of a four-month old baby. It had pink sprinkles on it and I'm almost certain it was made with gluten. After eating the entire human-sized dream cupcake, I can't stop thinking dirty thoughts about a real one.
  • Coffee shops. Everything with a ton of calories is exactly what I want. When I finally order my stupid dark roast with coconut milk, I'm just pissy about it. Then I sit down and I can never quite pull off being the cool hipster mostly because I don't have a MacBook.
  • Sex. Very stressful.
  • My kid is 100% incapable of remembering to flush the toilet after he uses the bathroom. He also is frequently busted eating his boogers, digging around in his butt crack, and using his pants as a napkin. A couple days ago, I caught him chewing gum. He found out in the yard and God only knows how long it was out there. 
  • Grown women wearing leggings as pants.
  • How much glitter nail polish is too much
  • Sports bras
  • Parking lots
  • People who buy those rotisserie chickens from the deli area at the grocery store. I mean, you do see the fat dripping and coagulating into a glistening puddle while the reflection of the carcass slowly rotates on the surface? 
  • The fat content in almond butter.
  • When my kid's bus arrives home from school, but he doesn't get off. Even though I knew he was probably still sitting there, his face buried in his book and completely oblivious to the world around him, it's still a joy to start making the phone calls to try to track that space cadet down. Stress levels double when you realize that he left a pair of gloves on the bus for the third time this year. He'd better hope spring shows up right quick.
  • The cost of everything. Here are just a few things we have on our list of Things We Would Like to Buy in 2015: office chair, egress window, groceries, thong underwear appropriate for the gym so I won't have to torture people with my VPL on the treadmill, tickets to see Jim Gaffigan, many margaritas, a DVD player to go in the van so we don't have to hear our children talk AT ALL on the 6 hour drive to Michigan, a new pair of SPANX. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
  • Wednesdays. It's the first day of the week that I have to work at both jobs and it's also when we have half price bottles of wine. Wednesdays are stressful.

Happy hump day.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clinging to Words


I took off my wedding ring to write this one, so you know I mean business.

Can we just all put on our big girl panties and get honest for a second here? I mean, we're all grown-ups and I like to think we are all friends who can be real with one another without fear. We are all cut from the same messed-up cloth and unless I suddenly because popular (ha!) with a whole new set of readers who do things like apply contouring makeup and washing their baseboards (seriously, WHO DOES THIS?), then I think I can say we are in a safe place, among friends who know what it's like to trudge through the  mud in worn out yoga pants only to face plant and pretend to be asleep when the baby cries.

I've met you through Beth at Five Kids is a Lot of Kids.
We've bonded over at The Mom Creative about scrapbooking and then wailed about not having time to scrapbook anymore only to have Jessica remind us that we absolutely CAN find time to do what we love.
Your profile photos have become voices, people I have met in the flesh and become instant BFFs - I'm looking at you, Sara.
We've cried, mourned, and prayed and then tore the gates off Heaven in celebration with Diana at Diana Wrote.
I hit my knees with you when the news broke about Baby Boy Bakery.
In one, big, collective group hug, we cheered on Lisa-Jo, Jessica, Kayla, Diana, and more as they announced their book deals.

Since this is a safe space, can I ask a very bold question?



Why do we even bother to read these mama blogs anymore?

By this point, we've heard it all, haven't we?


  • Quit wallowing in the Mama Guilt. Do what you can, be present, your kids will remember your snuggles more than your craft projects.
  • You are not defined by the number on the scale. Your body housed humans for a very, very long time and then somehow managed to eject them out into this earth and be their primary source of nourishment for the next 400 years, so who give a hoot if you have a little cellulite on your thighs?
  • Somehow we have fallen under the impression that we need to be everything to everyone and it is exhausting. We are tired. So tired.
  • Breastfeeding battles, tantrums, discipline struggles, guilt, shame, unrealistic standards with a side of unmet expectations. 
  • Trying to slow down and do less in a world that wants us to move faster and accomplish more. 
Sound familiar? 

I'm pretty sure I've written multiple posts on these very topics. Some of my favorite pieces from my favorite bloggers have come from places of frustration, honesty, solidarity in our collective brokenness. Hear me now - this is a GOOD THING.

Yes, much of it has been written before in one way or another. We may even experience a little deja vu as we scroll through our blog roll, wondering if we've already read this one because it sounds so familiar. Does that mean that there's nothing left to write? That we are all just recycling the same content that's been floating around the Internet since the blog was born? Have we reached a point where if you've read one, you've read them all?

No.

No, we have not.

Because....words.


Words have value. Words are magical. Words are what can take a love story everyone has heard before and spin it into a fresh masterpiece that takes your breath away. Words have a power beyond our comprehension and connect with us on a soul level.

How did God create the world? He spoke it into being. 
How did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? He yelled at him to mummy-hop his butt out of that tomb.
How does God call us to interact with him? Through prayer....through words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. 
(Proverbs 18:21 ESV)

I'm sure it comes as no shock to our Creator that blogging has become the phenomenon that it has. Blogging, especially among women and I would argue even more so among moms, creates a community built upon a collective experience with words as the foundation.

As long as there are mamas awake at 3 am nursing a baby hitting a growth spurt, there will be an audience for that #zombiemoms hashtag. That Twitter feed is where I found a whole new branch of my tribe.

As long as there are babies who are born sleeping into this world, ultrasounds that include words like "incompatible with life," and unfair jerks like cancer and car accidents, there will be a need for a safe place where a mama can go and be bathed in in the healing power of words. She will need the Dianas, the Angies, and the Lexis of this world to sit down in the ashes next to her and say nothing while she weeps and grieves.   

Blogs give us that. 

Know who else we need? We need Annie, who reminds us about how to use our words to bring life. 

As long as there are stretch marks and cellulite being held up against the standards of Kim Kardashian and her attempts to break the Internet, we will need to be reminded for the ten millionth time that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). 

As long there are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches being assembled because that's all my kid will eat even though the other kid at his table comes in every week with kale chips in bento boxes, we will need to remember that God has big plans in store for us, plans to make a difference in this broken world (Jeremiah 29:11). 

As long as there are last-minute DQ ice cream cakes being held up against the fondant covered, multi-tiered Frozen masterpiece complete with blue glitter and organic Olaf noses, there will be a place for us. 

Blogs matter. 

They give us a place to be vulnerable and honest, to rant and rave a swear a little (or a lot), to shake our fist at God and give a name to our anger, to laugh until we can't help but pee a little. 

Oh no, friends. We are not done yet. 

Welcome to our tribe. 


P.S. Can I please get a slow clap for the amount of time it took me to copy and past all those blogger's websites and create ten thousand hyperlinks in this post? Yah, thanks. :) 




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Button Battles and Butter in My Coffee




Just when you thought you were rid of me forever, I return triumphantly with a close-up photo of my crazy alien hand trying to look all calm and cool lodged in my pocket. This is the illusion of Instagram, friends. To the untrained eye, this photo says something like

Look how casually hip I am as I show off the subtle tuck of my dolman top paired with a wispy scarf woven from the eyelashes of a unicorn. Oh, and be sure to notice the perfectly painted pale pink manicure and trendy gold necklace. #blessed

Excuse me while I gag.

If you've spent any amount of time here in my neck of the woods, you know that pretentious bovine excrement like that is sooooo not my jam. Let's keep it real, shall we?

Man, I wish it were socially acceptable for me to wear yoga pants to work.. Instead, I had to jam my abundant trunk section into these jeans that just came out of the wash because they are on the only work acceptable jeans I have left that only have a small hole in the knee as opposed to a gaping hole in the knee which I get is considered fashionable for 14 year olds who will happily pay $110 of Mommy and Daddy's dollars to purchase, but I prefer to save them for hanging around the house while I pretend to dust and sip a Malbec. So instead, I get to jump up and down and flail about on the bed while I try to cram a ten pound sausage into a five pound casing, aka my 7 for All Mankind boot cuts. After a little cursing and a whole lot of rearrangements of the souvenirs my three sons left me around my midsection, I got those suckers buttoned. Thank the Maker for whatever genius invented the dolman top. It's just blousy enough to cover the volcanic eruption of fat and skin that had bubbled up over the surface of my waistline without anyone being the wiser. I claim victory over you, jeans. Naturally, it is time for a selfie. Only, I haven't washed my bathroom mirror in 3 years so there are smudges and toothpaste splotches all over it so now the photo looks like I have some sort of ghostly tampon hanging out of my lady-parts. And hey there curling iron that is ever-so-conveniently pointing directly to the area in question. Is there a filter that just cuts to the chase and adds a blinking neon arrow right above my baby-maker that says, "Watch out! One wrong move and that button's gonna blow!" At least my nails look good. 

Welcome to the crazytown that is my head, friends.

But I did practically do an entire Zumba class in my bedroom that morning just in an attempt to get those god-forsaken pants to button. I was ready to either spit nails or go eat a deep-fried Snickers for breakfast. I got pretty down on myself; not gonna lie. Heck, it wasn't that long ago that I was flaunting my skinny-tude all over this here blog, writing about my weight loss journey and my new healthy food choices and my 27-minute 5K and other such vomit-inducing nonsense. Seriously, how did you all put up with me? I'm actually shocked nobody beat me over the head with my own running shoes. My comeuppance has arrived, y'all.

And it is brutal.

So the button incident woke me up and got my head back in the game. I figured it was high time I quit eating pork chops with sweet potato risotto cooked in butter and white wine drenched in cheese and butter and served with a side of butter and garnished with a flourish of cranberry gastrique and love. A couple days before I decided to dial my head in to my new approach to food, I went out on a date with my husband and we shared a filet and an order of lobster gnocchi that was so good I actually made noises while I chewed. You know.....noises. 

It was a gluten, butter, cheese and fat induced euphoria, friends. The Malbec was just the icing on the cake. Oh yeah, and we totally had cake later too.

Now I spend my Sunday afternoons meal prepping. Sometimes Evan helps me because it I had to do it all the time I would lose my ever-loving mind.


Those larger containers of food near the bottom of the photo were originally packaged for Evan to take to work, but he left them behind so I totally sharked them and they became mine too. I'm sure I broke them up into several meals though because I have an iron fisted grip on my portion sizes, don't you worry. *cough cough*

Chicken, fish, veggies, healthy carb. REPEAT.

Welcome to my new life.

No gluten, no fried ANYTHING, dairy in very VERY small amounts. Less chemically modified junk (bye-bye to all that chemically altered fat free, reduced fat, processed junk).  I've been referring to it as Paleo-ish because I still allow a small amount of rice, beans, and other healthy grains like quinoa into my diet.

Grass-fed beef is super expensive and it makes me want to punch someone in the throat but I buy it anyway because the Internet told me to.
Almond butter does not quite do it for me like peanut butter can.

Also, I'm pretty sure my sweat now smells like coconut.

Coconut milk coffee creamer.
Coconut oil.
Coconut milk whipped cream.
Coconut flour.
Coconut milk in my Starbucks chai.

It's safe to say that I've officially crossed over the threshold and joined the ranks of the many I have mocked as I relied on them for their gratuity. Now I'm the one trying to not be a pain in the rear as I request the gluten free menu and place my order with a super-obnoxious list of omissions and substitutions.

I haven't been to Culver's in two months.
I switched gyms and I'm back to working out at least 3, sometimes 4 or 5 times each week.
My kids usually still order chicken nuggets and french fries and quite frankly I'm usually too tired to argue with them because I spent all my energy on kettlebell swings and weighted lunges.

The number on the scale hasn't moved as I would have liked. In fact, it's actually gone in the wrong direction. But after only a couple of weeks, I am finding that I actually feel better and my body is responding well to being fed better fuel and getting forced up off the couch from time to time.

It's meant more time at the gym and in the kitchen, less time on the computer. But it's been a good thing. A really good thing. I'm feeling more confident in my own skin again. Slowly, I am remembering what it is like to have control over my body and the food that I fuel it with, rather than letting it control me.

Then again, I did drink coffee the other day with coconut oil and grass fed butter in it.

Because the Internet told me to.





Monday, March 16, 2015

Preggo? Let Stitch Fix Style that Bump!

Ladies, I will be back in action quickly with some regular blog posts about how much of a hot mess I am, but I just had to pop in super-fast to tell you about an amazing new development with Stitch Fix, my absolutely FAVORITE way to not shop for clothes.


STITCH FIX is now offering maternity styling for its preggo clients!

No, I am not pregnant.
Totally done with babies, baby.
Quickly saying a prayer that God doesn't get an ironic sense of humor all of a sudden.

Now, you know how much I love Stitch Fix. I've gotten more than 20 boxes over the last couple years of hand-picked clothes from my personal stylist that has made my life way easier and waaaayyyyy more fashionable. It's been a while since I've written a post about some of the fun things I've found in my Stitch Fix boxes recently, but here's a little sneak peek.


A lace sleeve top, black blazer, and tote bag. I was a happy, happy girl.

Now when I was pregnant, I was approximately the size of a baby hippopotamus, so looking cute was never really much of a concern. This was before the days of Instagram when supermodels could post photos of their 8 month pregnant belly that actually still resembled a washboard.

How is that even possible?

But I digress.


Shopping when you are pregnant is HARD. With Stitch Fix, someone who actually knows what they are doing studies your style, your preferences, even listens to your feedback about what you loved and hated about previous clothes and then sends you things you will LOVE and that make you look cute while pregnant.

When my friend Marnia unexpectedly gets pregnant again, I'm totally giving her a Stitch Fix gift card.

Ready to style that bump?

When you sign up, make sure your due date is correct in your profile and trust me when I say that you need to be as absolutely positively HONEST and DETAILED as possible in your descriptions and feedback. The more specific you are, the better your fixes will be and your stylist will love you for it.

That sweater up there is so cute it almost makes me want to be pregnant again.

Almost. :)




I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a teeny little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be sharing it with you if I didn't love it. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Push the Pause Button





The Lord gifted me with some actual quiet time this morning. I set my alarm another 40 minutes earlier and went to be last night praying that it would make a difference and that I would actually be able to get up. Not gonna lie, I still snoozed for 15 minutes, but I was able to get out of bed and be ready to be still a whole 30 minutes earlier than usual. As I sat down at my desk, I bowed my head and braced myself for the usual whine from the other end of the house, usually something to do with needing to go potty, a dropped stuffed animal, or just a blatant plea to get out of bed and watch Curious George.


But it didn't come.

I spoke to God about how I have felt like I am chasing the wind. All around me are things that are good things - tasks around the house, things on my to-do list at work (where I work for a ministry!), getting into an exercise routine again, spending quiet time in the Word, being intentional with my marriage, meal prepping so I don't make bad food choices, goof-off time with my kids, putting away the stacks of laundry piled up in my room. All good things. But no matter how hard or fast I run after these things, I feel like they are always just out of my reach. I stretch to my limit, but my fingertips barely graze the surface before I have to pull back and I am left exhausted by the effort. As I explained this out loud, the Lord gave me the image of the vine and the branches and I realized how silly it is of me to keep trying to do all these things apart from Him. His Word makes it clear that without the vine, the branch can do nothing. Why should I think that I would be any different?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. As a gal from a Protestant background, observation of Lent has never really been on my radar screen. Growing up, I would remember my Catholic classmates giving up chocolate or swearing for Lent and quite frankly I thought it was stupid. How is not saying the f-word for a month and a half going to help you think about Jesus?

Taking advantage of this peaceful time the Lord had provided me in the dark, I fired up my computer and went to the first day of the Lent study with She Reads Truth. I had fallen behind of late and missed practically the whole study on Esther, so I was already struggling with the guilt of that. I was tired from the running, repentant of my pride in wanting to do it all by my own strength.

Lent is a pause button.

My heart dang near stopped as I read those words and I immediately wrote them down in my journal. I read on about how Lent is a quiet time unlike any other time of the year, a time to stop the running from God and pause to face the reality of our sin and why we need to pause, turn around, and go toward him.

Lent is a pause button.

The Lord was giving me a clear message that it was time to pause, to take a moment to just ignore all the laundry piled around me, the unmade bed, the growing to-do list. Turn off the Facebook notifications, worry about email later. The house was quiet and He called me to do the same.

Push pause, daughter. Can you hear me? 

There have been many times when Evan and I have been watching a show in the living room and we suddenly hear a sound that stands out, that doesn't quite belong. We look at one another for a moment and know that the only way to really hear that sound clearly is to push pause on the TV. The second we do, we can hear our son's voice calling out for a bathroom break or perhaps crying from a bad dream. Whatever the circumstance, we can't fully understand the message if it is being drowned out by the background noise.

Lent is a pause button.

I realized that Lent isn't just about choosing something to abstain from so others will know you are super-religious. I understood that, just like everything else, we have screwed up something that the Lord has provided for us as a way to draw us closer to him. I have seen so many people see Lent as a challenge, an opportunity to show how disciplined and righteous they are for being able to go 40-something days without eating a cheeseburger. This isn't what God intended for this season to be.

Lent is that opportunity to quiet the background noise so we can listen closely to the still small voice of the Spirit, reminding us of our need for a Savior. The study I read this morning pointed to Genesis 3:19b - "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

What can dust do? A whole lot of nothing, that's what.

I doubt I'll do the whole "I'm giving up _____ for Lent" thing, but I am grateful that the Lord opened my eyes this morning to this chance to pause. When I am tempted to open Facebook before I open the Word, my prayer is that I will remember to push pause. In this season of Lent, my prayer is that the Lord will help me to honestly identify what noise I have been allowing to deafen His voice and to help me push pause and lean in to listen to Him.

 




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Busyness of the Proud


"We must refuse to let our calendars control us."

My friend Heather is afraid of my planner. Seriously, when I whip that thing out and start color coding and flipping pages like a madwoman, she gets a panicked look on her face and runs the other direction. She has flat out said that my planner stresses her out.

MY planner stresses HER out.

It's not even her life I'm planning and she's ready to have a panic attack.

I'm so glad that I got to read Jessica Turner's new book The Fringe Hours. There are three HUGE issues that really resonated with me from what Jessica is saying.

1. No matter how scary my calendar looks, it is not the boss of me.
2. It isn't selfish for me to make time for ME.
3. There is no room for guilt in my life.

Jessica made me write down - with pen - that I am not too busy to make time to do the things I love, the things that rejuvenate my soul. What's hilarious is that I was reading this particular section of the book in the few minutes I had left before my nighttime serving shift started and I was pounding black tea to try to wake myself up before I had to take my first table, since I had come straight from my day job to the restaurant.

My calendar is booked solid. No argument from me there. I have very specific pockets of time that are available each week and I am very, VERY good at filling those pockets with things like grocery shopping, running errands, spontaneously cleaning the hardwood floors, trying to eradicate the permanent smell of pee from my bathroom, and wiping face-prints off my patio door.

I'm thinking in particular of my Sundays. Sundays are the only day that I don't have to punch in at a job. It is the one "day off" I get during the week.

My "day off" looks something like this:

6:00 am - Wake up bleary-eyed and cranky because I worked a double shift yesterday and likely didn't get to bed until midnight after being on my feet for no less than 10 hours. Snooze.
6:20 am - Finally drag myself out of bed.
6:45 am - Wake up kids to start getting them ready for church.
7:15 am - Throw reheated frozen pancakes at the kids or dump cereal in a bowl for breakfast. Half the time at least one kid still has a pancake in his hand when we get in the van.
7:30 am - Begin the process of SHOES! COAT! HAT! SHOES! COAT! HAT!
7:40 am - We load into two separate vehicles and drive to church.
8:00 am to 9:15ish - We get our church on.
9:30 am to 11:00 am - While the rest of my clan heads home to change into pajama pants, I volunteer in the church nursery. I get my baby fix without actually having to birth another baby (can I get an AMEN!!!) and it's a serving opportunity that I genuinely enjoy.

The rest of my day is taken up by grocery shopping (because it is the only time-slot I have available to do it), house-hold duties I've been putting off all week, meal prep for my lunches for the week plus dinner and all the accompanying tasks.

And Downton Abbey. That's crucial.

It might not sound like a lot, but it is a lot. And this whole thing goes out the window when there is a birthday party to attend, a large job needing doing, or any other number of things.

Basically, when someone needs me to be somewhere or do something that is outside of my regular schedule, the only time I have to do it is Sunday. So I offer it.

I love taking an hour out of  my Sunday to have lunch with a friend. LOVE. But I still feel guilty every time I do it. I feel guilty every time I choose to leave Evan home with the kids so I go to Target by myself. I even feel guilty taking an hour out of that crazy Sunday schedule to read or nap.

Instead, I race around the house at a frenetic pace, throwing laundry in baskets, chopping sweet potatoes, thawing chicken, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping floors and picking up rogue socks while looking on with contempt while my husband relaxes on the couch with his head back and eyes closed.

"Why does he get to rest when I have to do all the work?" I grumble to myself. "I sure would love to be able to take a nap, but somebody has to do all this!" I tell myself these things over and over until I am slamming pots and pans, sighing heavily, and holding my lips at a tension.

"What's wrong?" he asks me.
"Nothing," I lie.

Why do I do this to myself? Jessica devotes a huge section of her book to ditching the guilt that we women tend to put on ourselves when it comes to setting aside the things that "must" get done in favor of the things that feed our souls. Where did this come from? How do we make it stop?

One of the suggestions Jessica gives in The Fringe Hours is to enlist the help of someone who will champion you and encourage you to invest in yourself. She writes about how her husband Matthew is so supportive of her going to get a massage or scrapbooking instead of cleaning the bathrooms or folding laundry. As I read that section, I realized that I already have that person. Evan is really great at encouraging me to take a break and relax and offering to help so I can get some reprieve.

My problem is that I often don't let him.

When I get right down to it and I am very honest with myself, I find that my struggle is not really with guilt, but with pride. I love to see the reactions I get when people see all the writing in my planner, it makes me feel important to talk about how busy I am, and my ego just grows bigger and bigger when I refuse to delegate something because I am convinced that it absolutely cannot get done correctly unless I am the one to do it.

Ouch.

I hold on to my busyness with an iron grip, raising it aloft like a trophy, displaying it so all can make sure to take notice.  Is my schedule pretty packed? Yes, it is. Do I work a lot of hours in a week? You bet I do. Is it my sole responsibility to make sure that every single thing gets done? Nope. But I act like it is.

This is something I need to work on, releasing my grip on my schedule and allowing the Lord to fill it in for me instead. I need to be ready to say "No" to some things and be ok with that and I also need to step out in faith and say "Yes" to some things I have convinced myself I don't have time for.

Without even realizing I am doing it, I have been slowly stealing away the joy from my own life.

Finding those next steps can be just as challenging as scheduling that pesky dentist appointment. What do I get rid of? Do I get up earlier? Stay up later? Work less? Join a gym? Quit the gym?

It's all something I'm still trying to figure out.




The Fringe Hours by Jessica N Turner releases on February 17th, 2015. You can pre-order your copy HERE and you can also check out www.fringehours.com for more information. I can't wait to read this book a second time and just highlight the heck out of it. :)

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