Monday, March 7, 2016

Easy Street

Easy street
Where you sleep til noon.
{annie soundtrack}

I drove up into my church parking lot yesterday. It's the same church lot I've been driving into every (okay most every) Sunday for the past ten years. This church is a wealthy church. Wealth is not what first attracted me to it; in fact, this church has grown since it's youthful days of meeting in a school auditorium. But as I waited for the driver of a Range Rover to let me pass, and I sat down on my cushy church pew, and listened to the contemporary Christian music (compliments of our very own band) blast from a really nice sound system, I started to wonder...what am I going to church for? What is the church here for? What is it's purpose? The youth group has a full breakfast awaiting them downstairs. The younger youth have cookies and cinnamon rolls, and the adults get to enjoy cakes, cookies and pastries between services in the fellowship hall. And this might be typical for many of the churches in the area, as they, along with area merchants and businesses, have had to figure out a way to attract some paying customers. And since there are approximately seven churches within a two mile radius of the one I attend, it would make sense to give the people what they want, since they can easily withdraw at any time and go to a different church that serves different music and different pastries and has different people. Different. Better. More exciting.

She like them bar with the big ol' chains
Ride around town in a big ol' Range.
{work out, j.cole}

It's not the fault of anyone, really, since pastors and churches have had to change with the times. And 2016 in 'Merica brings with it such stark contrast between the luxurious life of those on top and the desperate lives of those just getting by. I do believe that people innately want things to be easy, because who would choose for life to be hard? Yet I believe that we are so caught up in achieving a life settled in on Easy Street that life becomes narrow and defined by money and success and things. And money, and success, and things all have a shelf life. Is it 5 months or 5 years? No one can know that for certain, but those things will fade, and as Job said "I came here naked and I'll leave here naked". Meaning all of us came into the world with nothing, and will leave with nothing. No one, not even the most powerful human being in the world, can change that fact.

I do enjoy the benefits of belonging to a church that is willing to provide like my church is willing to provide. There is a country club aspect to it, with our flat screen TVs and our beautiful windows and 5,000 different ministries and our well-dressed community. A community that is willing to be open but only so much. I'm not downing the church as much as I am questioning why I go. Is it for learning and community or the coffee? Because I do like myself some Rwandan coffee. 

Yesterdays sermon, by the way, was about honoring the Lord. And specifically honoring the Lord with our wealth. 

And isn't that a hard thing to do.

I've read that we hold on tightest to the things that are the most important to us, and are only willing to sacrifice those things that are easy to let go. And since we as a culture hold money in such high esteem, it's really hard to let go of. 

Or maybe it's the other way around, and the love of money won't let go of me.

Because it's not money that is the root of all evil. It's the absolute adoration and love of it.

As I cast this critical eye on no one in particular except for myself, I wonder if the love of money and the subsequent chasing after it is drowning out the heartbeat of the church and it's message. Because the message of the Gospel is love, and it's love for people, not the things we gather and that eventually collect dust. And it's love for all people, from all walks of life. Which means that all people should feel welcome and not only so but loved by our community of church members. It should be plain to all that the Range Rover out in the parking lot isn't what we are holding closest to our heart, and the reason we are coming to church is not for the free coffee and pastries, or to only commune with our nearest and dearest friends. The church stands for so much more, yet I feel like it some ways it has, along with its members, dumbed itself down in order to attract more people. Are we smothered by the love of money and it's power to numb our senses and dull our minds? Maybe. 

Listen. This is simply the musings and ramblings of a girl wondering the best way to honor the Lord, while living the life of honoring herself by feeding herself the things she wants the most. I say with my lips lined with lipliner and lipgloss that I really do hear the message of honor and love, and then go live the life of honoring my things. I wonder what message I'm sending, but I think I already know. I can say 'I love you' but I really don't want to get my hands dirty. And I also there a way to stop a bullet train? Is there a way to turn a heart so in love with the culture's idea of success and happiness? Is there a way to change a mind so set on gathering what makes it the most temporarily satisfied? I know that if I say yes, then I will probably feel some pressure to change, but if I say no, then I can stay complacent in my satisfyingly numbed state of mind. Better yet, if I stay indecisive and wavering, then I don't have to make a decision at all. I can continue to sing praises with my lips and live life just as I always have. Except that this little nagging feeling won't go away, and my mind keeps on churning out words and thoughts about life that make me uncomfortable, and I keep having to push down my thoughts about where my loyalty really lies every time I deposit my whole entire check into my checking account, without any thoughts of my 10%, while telling myself that I work hard and I deserve what I earn. 

Except who gets to decide who deserves what. Because some really underserving people have made it really big, and some really deserving people continue to struggle. In my opinion.

That's the beauty of the gospel, honestly. No one deserves anything, yet we have been given the gift of love and a direct line to God. And the ourpouring of gratefulness from our hearts results in mercy and grace and sharing that love with others. It's not mine to hold onto, I'm just a person who I'd like to be open enough for it to flow through. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not. Sometimes I turn my gaze away and I fill my eyes with what looks appetizing, yet never fills. 

Church: I'm not critizing you. 
People: I'm not critizing you, either. 
Heather: you might want to look at your heart and be open to some growth and maturity. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


Plans. I've been making them since I was three.

One day I'm going to marry a prince and live in a beautiful pink and purple castle...

One day I'm going to be a beautiful actress like Brooke Shields...

One day I'm going to be a beautiful model like Christie Brinkley...

One day I'm going to be a teacher...

One day I'm going to be the perfect mother who doesn't let her child scream in the middle of Target...

One day my children are going to listen to me...

One day I'm going to achieve Houzz-like perfection...

Some dreams and plans die a hard, slow, very painful death. Some stay alive, burning in my soul, aching to come alive yet never really realizing their full potential. It's these plans for my life that I have the firmest grip on, and a determination to make them succeed.

My plans for my day and my life are mostly made to benefit moi. I know it sounds selfish, and I would agree that it is. And ultimately, my plans, whether they are short-term goals to grow longer lashes (today's mental expenditure) or to organize the basement, or longer-term goals, like going back to school, they are made to make me look better and be better and do better. A better me. Who can argue with that?

Except that I believe that God also has plans for me; plans for peace and not evil, to give me a future and a hope (jeremiah 29:11). And in my finite, limited view of the world and my place in it, it is entirely possible for me to continue on with my plans--good as they may be-- and disregard His and still entirely miss the point.

I don't like chaos. It is perhaps because there tends to be so much going on in my head that I have trouble containing it, and in my younger years, saw that internal rumble spilling over as disorganization and a seeming inability to pull it together. An unholy mess of life all mixed up with me sitting in the middle, trying to plan my way out. As a result, 2016 brings on such a rigid organization (ahem...labeled cabinets) that I find myself inflexible and unmoving, seeking perfection and organization in everything I do.

God's plans for me, when investigated, come with promises that I could never dream up on my own. And even if I did, what power do I have to make absolutely certain that my promises to myself come true? A part of humanity that is true yet pushed aside as weak, I choose to see it as a part of life. I am limited. But for every weakness I have, His power and strength are revealed (2 corinthians 12:9), and His grace covers me. And even within the confines of humanity, I can lay claim to the promises that He gives, through His mercy and grace. I can roll the dice, but God decides what they will determine (proverbs 16:33).

So with (quite a bit of!) trepidation, I open my iron fist just enough to look at today. Yes, I have a plan in place. I believe that my plan is good for me. But what of God and His plan for this day? Should He have a say? Could I even begin to think that while my plan is good, His could be better? That, in fact, His plan for my day could be more than I ever could have asked or imagined? The thing is, I won't know until I'm willing to open up that iron fist and trust that He is, in the words of Margaret Feinburg, up to something good.

Thievery happens in all sorts of strange and unsuspecting ways; one minute, you think you have it all organized and figured out, and the next, you find yourself slave to your to-do lists and your busyness and your plans. Is there joy in organization? Certainly. In absolute rigidity? Maybe one could argue for some truth there, but the reality is, many forms of rigidity are fear in disguise, and fear is the opposite of joy and peace. Joy is stolen right out from under your nose. The ultimate scam.

What now? This is my thought for the day. Not just my singular thought, I should say, but my plural. Thoughts. Being open to God's plan means dying to my own. Hard as it may be for me, I crave that abundant, joyful life He promised in John 10:10, and on some days, it becomes an internal battle for what I crave more. For what I crave the most. My friend Erin tells a story (I won't get it exactly right but...) about two wolves, a good wolf and an evil wolf, both fighting for survival. Which one will live? The one you feed the most.

Cash is something most of us can relate to, and is definitely something many of us want.  But if we could stop for a minute and equate our minutes to our cash, an idea I got from Jennie Allen's study stuck, then we can say how are we spending our minutes just like we might say how am I spending my money? Are we wasting them, or saving them, or using them fully? I don't want to get to the end of my life full of apologies for how I chose to spend my minutes, knowing I don't have many left. And since none of us know exactly when the end of our lives may is the day.

Let's live it well.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Less Traveled

Today I pondered over the question what do I really want out of this life.1 In my mind I could have answered the question two ways, but instead of quickly answering with peace, love, happiness, stuff, I forced myself to really assess what it is I want out of life. This life. Today. Because, see, I'm stuck, probably like a lot of people, in the I wish and One Day categories. I wish I was less distracted and more outgoing. I wish my sister lived closer. I wish my kids would listen. I wish I had horses. I wish...and one day I will deal with my anxiety and finally be happy. One day I will have less heartache. One day my kids will get it. One day I will be truly filled with joy. One day...

One day I will stop being stuck.

When I truly consider the things that I think I want out of this life, my list is shorter than I realize. It's simple, really. Peace. Joy. Less fear. Less heartache. To enjoy life. To live life to the fullest. And yet I find myself not able to attain those things, truly, because I hold back. I question. I wonder why. I let myself get distracted by the antidotes the world has to offer. My heart aches over the frustration of never being quite filled enough, never being quite content enough, always reaching yet never quite close enough to grasp. So I settle. I settle for good because I'm scared of what could be great. Can Great be trusted? Will Great follow through? Will Great really fulfill what my heart is searching for? Is contentment an idea or a reality?

Somewhere along the way we as a group must have decided that settling for the antidotes was better than truly searching for contentment, and we hold on tight to those things we know don't work and probably never will but we desperately wish would.

Don't you open up that window
Don't you let out that antidote...
I just want dinero...
{travis scott}

So what would it take to never be jealous or discontent again?2 I'm sure a list could be made, and it would look different for everyone. Friends. Love. Relief from addiction, anxiety, depression, anger, hopelessness, pain, loneliness, grief. More stuff. Nicer stuff. Beauty. Weight loss. Respect. Health. Those things that represent Contentment. Those things that are within sight but mostly out of reach. Those things that distract and dissolve into smoke and mirrors. Those things. How do you conquer a list that is constantly shifting underneath your feet?

I'll probably never, ever be content. Really. Even if I had it all. Truth. I have a beautiful life and while I have a want list, I also know that the happy it brings is fleeting. Even if I had All The Things (and I'm talking about non-material things, too, like friends, peace, wisdom, discernment), that yawning hole of discontentment would only temporarily be filled.

Life offers many paths. It's not a simple as Robert Frost makes it sound. A fork in the road with only two options would be a blessing to some people. But when all the options you think you have are exhausted and none of them have worked, the road less traveled is typically where one finds herself standing. While other grounds shift, this One remains steady and true.

Fear and distrust are merely choices, not permanent sentences. And we have been given the freedom to choose.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
{robert frost}

1,2 Questions taken from stuck by Jennie Allen

Monday, January 25, 2016

Store-Bought Waffles Deserve Maple Syrup

"I'm going to have some waffles for breakfast," my son announced this morning. "Will you ice them with peanut butter?"

I have turned into somewhat of a food tyrant; in our house, it comes down to syrup. Because I won't buy it. "It's not healthy to start your day with a stomach full of sugar," I explain to them. "And peanut butter has protein and fat to start your day." And if you are going to start your day with sub-par store-bought waffles, then the least we can do is add some sort of nutritional gravy to it. It's not that I'm looking for ways to deny my children the things they want. I'm just trying to get them to see that maple syrup (don't get me started on table syrup) is not adding much in the way of a healthy start.

But we live in a time and place that has us all believing that not only do we want to start our day with syrup on our waffles, but that we deserve to start our day with syrup on our waffles. It's available to me at the store and I do have the $8 it costs to buy it, and it does taste good. So why should I not buy it?

It's not about syrup for me. I've (mostly...) cut sugar out of my diet and am happy without syrup. It fits for me. But I do believe that when I want a new rug under the kitchen table, I should go ahead and get one. I don't necessarily think it should be the most expensive (the sacrifice), but I do think I need a new one. Even if the old one still works.

So maybe it's not about syrup or rugs for some people. I have a list of wants that is a mile long and I'll keep adding to it because I like to dream. It includes a Houzz-worthy white kitchen (with reclaimed ceiling beams, obviously) and reclaimed walnut floors in the basement and marble counter tops in the bathroom. I think I'm worthy enough to actually deserve these things; why not? That doesn't mean I'll get them, but a part of me, albeit a small part, wonders why I should be denied the good things, whatever those good things might be. Chocolate. Hardwood floors. A prime spot at the front of the store. All things happy, all the time.

This week of Jennie Allen's study stuck was hard for me. I don't like hard. I don't mind introspective and thoughtful, but I don't like hard. Parenting is hard. Relationships are hard. Friendships? Hard. Being mad on the inside because I've (a) made up a list of deserved rights in my head, (b) been offended when that list is challenged or stepped on and then (c) being asked to give up my "rights" to said feelings of offense? Ha! OFFENSIVE.

"I'll have you know," I thought to myself this week. "That I'm not your biggest fan right now, Jennie Allen. I like my list of rights that I've made for myself and anyways My People and All The People should know better than to step on my list." The List, as follows (some items have been omitted to protect the reputation of the author):

1. Don't step on my toes. I'm sensitive.
2. Don't ask me to do anything out of my comfort zone. I don't like it.
3. Don't challenge me on what I deserve. Because I actually deserve it all.
4. Don't argue with me. Just don't.
5. Don't ask me to change. Because I probably won't.

I feel like it's a little bit of a touchy subject, this "What Do We Deserve" topic, because I think there are basic human rights that we are entitled to. But entitlement is a dangerous word, and it's bled into our lives like a slow drip IV, making me believe (with gusto) that the current bathtub situation that I must deal with every day  (sniff) has got to change or I can't be happy. Which, among other things wrong with that example, means that I'm literally placing my happy in a bathtub, and I think you might agree that that doesn't make much sense. How can a bathtub determine my ultimate happiness? And yet. I think about it much more than what actually brings real joy, peace and real, actual goodness. Which is something I could use.

I find that when I focus on myself, and by default, all the things I want and need and deserve (and then demand), it actually takes away from the things that I really do value in my life, like creativity, peace, calm, organization, relationships, and gratitude. Those things are are life-giving to me, just like exercise is. They fill me up so that the things that do drain the well (like certain social engagements, which are sometimes killer for me) don't drain me to the point of no return. But focusing on myself takes away from those things, yet I do it with alarming regularity (and passion, I might add, since I am sometimes my very own most favorite person, hands down. And I do have the best ideas.).

So last week, when reading my study and discovering that the suggestion was to lay down my perceived rights, I was at first offended, and then mad. I found it laughable that someone else would suggest something as radical as offering to lay down one's own rights. No! I hold onto them with a tight fist, because if I don't fight for myself, who will? 

Jesus wants our dignity to come from Him...
Do we trust Him to defend us if we stop 
defending ourselves?
jennie allen

But then I, at the suggestion of a friend, bought a relationship book that we are going to read together, and it suggested laying down your rights. And then I read about laying down your rights during my quiet time on this very morning. And whether you just think three's a charm or repetition is God's way of getting your attention, I think it might merit just that. My attention.

It would be radical, wouldn't it, to adopt a lifestyle that says something about sacrifice. See, maple syrup isn't really a sacrifice for me, and really, neither is not getting the perfect rug for under my kitchen table. I want those things, but don't really care enough about them to get really worked up over them. (Well, sometimes maple syrup gets me worked up, but that's another story for another day.) The point is, I don't feel any internal struggle when I'm debating either of those things. It's not really a sacrifice for me, really, to give up on the Quest For A New Rug. What does cause much internal chaos is when someone says something as radical as give up your perceived right to not getting your toes stepped on, because (a) you're not that sensitive and (b) you don't really deserve it in the first place. It is here that I'm stopped in my tracks, and here that I'm doubly offended that someone would even suggest such a thing. And here that I have to stop and think why. Why am I so afraid of this? Why do I think I deserve it all, no questions asked? Why do I think everyone else should deal with getting their toes getting stepped on, their beliefs challenged, their habits changed, their forgiveness withheld, their motives questioned, but not me? And yet I rise with an indignation performance worthy of an Oscar at the mere thought of being placed in such a position.

Christ laid down all his rights, put on a cloak of humility, and was beaten and hung on a cross, so that I (and you and everybody) could be forgiven and free. The real sacrifice was done for me, so I could live in freedom, but also so I could live in a way that shows what Christ did for me. So in a way, I'm living for Christ and not for for myself, and while this goes against every selfish grain in my being, it's what I believe. So it's my responsibility to show love, and that's love for others, not for myself. And to show forgiveness and humility and that happiness can be found beyond bathtubs and All The Things (seriously, sometimes I do want All The Things).

God doesn't tell us never to get angry. God's call is that we be slow to anger because He knows we are so easily offended. And in doing this we live like God: "The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).

If Christ, laying down His rights, justified so few reasons on this planet to respond with anger, how many can we justify?

Let's pick our fights wisely.

jennie allen

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Faith is Questionable

You guys.

Did you expect a whole new look and a new feel and a new blog after all that time off? I'm sorry if you're disappointed. I'm slightly disappointed, too. But. I'm more concerned with thoughts and talking and writing than about those things, and besides, I don't know much about creating a blog. I just write.

I walked into this room slowly, not even wanting to open up the laptop. Or my life. I've got things to do, things that require my time and energy, things that don't include Writing A Blog. Especially a blog that remains largely unseen and unheard of, because I say "Go Big or Go Home", and nothing about this life of mine would be described as Big. As in significant.

But in any event, here we are, beginning a New Year and Resolutions and all the Things that are supposed to bring us joy and peace and instead fill us with a certain sense of...dread? Trepidation? Maybe even fear?

Precisely the reason I don't make resolutions. On New Years Day, anyways.

I don't feel like I've crossed a finish line. I feel like I'm limping along (or sleep/dream running through mud, which is even worse) and there is no finish line in sight. Little things, trivial things, minor things keep popping up. I think every single time I can handle this, only to realize that the reality of the situation is that I remain calm on the outside. Perhaps sometimes I appear collected. Maybe I seem disconnected, closed off. But it's only because I understand what I can't seem to make myself admit out loud: I do not have anything. Related: I have no idea what I'm doing.

Isn't hindsight a beautiful thing? It helps you understand what you did right and what you did wrong and how you'd do it all over again, only different. It helps you remain actually calm and collected, firmly rooted in what you already know. But most of the time I feel like I need hindsight for the future, which, obviously, is impossible unless you are Marty McFly.

I'm doing a new bible study at church that challenges you to question your faith. Of course, some take this sort of challenge on with a bravado that I could only hope to have, because I agree with the concept but am fearful of where it might lead me. What if I find out I have no faith? Where does that leave me? Where does that leave God?

Of course, this leaves God as God because that will never change, and it leaves me a small lump of dark fear. And alone. Which is one of my greatest fears.

So it comes as no surprise that I grabbed the book and brought it home and answered all the questions and pondered and thought and read all the readings (I am type A, after all, and no question can be left blank. That would be preposterous.) and have come away with two thoughts: I still have no idea and I am scared. 

There are lots of things that I'm scared of. Honestly, there is too much in the world that is scary. We know of it all too well, with the frenzy of information we sometimes describe as "media". But for me, it's especially scary to be a parent. Especially when your children don't come with Care Labels. Especially especially when said children make choices. And those choices make your eyes pop out of your head. And extra especially when you have no idea what to do about it.

The root of the issue (can only one root issue be defined here?) is that I am scared of what is left when you strip it all away. I am 100% terrified of knowing that I cannot do life by myself (who can?) and also that no one is actually listening. Maybe this is why I identify with Grey Street so well. Go ahead, read the lyrics and see if you know what I'm saying.

There are things I know I want (like a new phone, things like that) and there I things I am desperate for, like wisdom and peace and this elusive happiness. I see articles and such all about How To Be More Happy, but I don't know that gaining It can be done in seven simple steps. Maybe this is why we hang on to happy, why we gravitate toward what we know is only temporary. Because we are scared that when we really search for it, when we really choose to believe the promises and the stories of true happiness, we will just be grasping smoke.

This is probably why I like the idea of being skinny so much. Call it what you want. Thin, slim, willowy, me, it represents happy. Because if I could get there, then I would not be here. Here doesn't always feel happy. There certainly would.

But is there an actual there? Or are we so scared that Happy just doesn't exist that we're willing to settle for what it seems to be?

I am scared. Instead of grabbing my faith and taking on the world, I feel like the world is taking me on and in the process swallowing me up. It makes me question if I ever really had a firm grasp on my faith to begin with. The reality that is mine isn't changing much, and sometimes, on bad, frustrating days, it seems to be worse. And I find myself thinking, despite all that I know, shouldn't faith make it be better?

I am fearful of grabbing onto the hand that promises to never let me go, because I'm mostly scared it won't actually be there. And I think what does that even mean, anyways? What does it look like? What do I do? Where do we go from here, with this hand holding business? 

But, despite my own best efforts, maybe I do have a faith that won't die, because when the aforementioned children are sassy and disrespectful and make choices that make my eyes pop out of my head and even when I tell them to get your head out of your butt and concentrate on something other than yourself. Like school (you don't have to agree with my method or my terminology, but all I can tell you is that in moments of frustration, the household is lucky I don't resort to only cussing), I find myself holed up in my closet, writing out my fears and disappointments and heartache in a prayer to the only One who I know can offer me comfort, taping my hastily written prayers on the wall. I beg for wisdom and discernment, plead for the answer to my constant question tell me how to handle this. I may be scared of not being heard, but I'm there, which means I may have a tiny shred of faith even on the rough days.

If there is one thing I hate, it's feeling out of control. Related things I hate: feeling stupid, a messy house, feeling disorganized, wasting time, not getting my list done, having things hang over my head that need to get done, not being able to turn my family into Heather-approved robots. I want proof that what I'm doing now is going to be of benefit in the future. I want to know that all the decisions I make today are right. Not just good. RIGHT. I don't like making mistakes, and I don't like learning from said mistakes. It's hard for me to watch other people, especially especially my own people, make mistakes. It, along with all the other things, scares the living daylights out of me. But, as we all know, I am not in control of much of anything (even my own tongue, see above: re: get your head out of your butt, which resulted in one of my children saying "Oh, I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment to you, I'll just sit here and be a disappointment"...but I digress). When I realize this (Lack of Control=Hate), I do the only thing I know to do, which is fall back on that tiny shred of faith, and pray for My People and My Own Self and Faith. Other Options seem few and far between, and besides, I've already been down that path, and honestly, Other Options don't taste as good as they look. Talk about grabbing smoke.

Which leaves me with one option: Faith. Even when I'm not feeling it, even when it sounds absurd and conservative, even when it seems like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth.

I'm taking it easy and easing back into this whole writing a blog thing. But let's keep the conversation going, and I'll see you in a couple of days. Thanks for hanging in there with me. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We Were On A Break

You know, sometimes life just calls for a break. So I'm taking one. Let's just call it an extended break. I might get to writing over the next month, and if I do, you'll be the absolute first to know about it. But I know that I, like you, am going to be busy with all the family things and the Christmas things and the holiday things and maybe you'll appreciate the break more than I will. I'm going to miss journaling here, with you, but January will be here before we know it and we'll be off again. Until, sweet friends, have a safe and happy holiday season.

Much love,

Monday, November 9, 2015


I am a quirky girl. Taken separately, I don't see all my quirks and idiosyncrasies as a big deal (but really, who does?). Put together in a single person, the fact that I MUST have a pretty linen closet (and will sacrifice all logic and practicality to get there), am easily over-stimulated by noise and lights, am offended over cake mixes, and turn into a merciless Miss Manners when people do not RSVP may be too much for the community. (I want friends, I really do, and a robust enthusiasm for thank yous, RSVP's and clean eating may not be the best way to group date.)

Last night, discouragement and disappointment got the best of me, and I fell into my own ocean of despair. Waves of disappointment washed over me as I talked with my sister, hashing out the last couple of weeks. Comments, situations, groups and arguments all got a separate spotlight. We even talked about Instagram, which sometimes just about does me in when I'm in a state of true despondency. My behind-the-scenes can be so depressing compared to the highlight reels of others.

Some things in life are life-giving (Sunday morning bible study), and some things in life are life-draining (Insta for me), and those life-draining black holes have got to go.

In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker likens it to walking on a beam: sometimes things just have to get thrown off.

"You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay. What parts do you love? What are you good at? What brings you life? What has to stay during this season? Don't look sideways for these answers. Don't transplant someone else's keepers onto your beam. I could cook for days, but this does not mean you want to. Classroom Mom for me would mean a nervous breakdown; it might be the highlight of your year. You do you here. There are only twenty-four hours in a day.

We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.

Decide which parts are draining you dry. What do you dread? What are you doing for all the wrong reasons? Which parts are for approval? Is there anything you could delegate or hand off? Could you sacrifice a Good for a Best? Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts. Go ahead. Your beam is too crowded. I know it." {jen hatmaker}

Some parts have to stay, but some parts I get to decide I'm done with. Even though they are good, positive things, they can still be life-draining and crowding the beam. And who can walk on that? I can't. You probably can't. Yet even those don't stop me from trying. And comparing. And being sad when it doesn't seem like I measure up.

Those ruthless cuts will be hard to make. Analyzing the things that are making me feel things like envy, discontent, frustration, resentment or animosity aren't worth keeping. Which means I had to stop following some people on Instagram. And considering the shoulds and should-nots with every situation. I have to say no when I mean no and yes when I mean yes. And sometimes I'm saying no to perfectly good, fun things.

I tend to take things personally. It's just another one of my quirks. Comments that might mean nothing to you might cause me to be in tears; a neglected text or email or invitation might make me reconsider who I am as a person. I can't blame the other person; usually the motives and intentions of others isn't to hurt, but sometimes it can feel that way. This is life-draining for me. It leaves me in a bad place of hurt and sad, but it is also my choice to react this way. Taking Things Personally, I have got to find a way to kick you off the beam.

There is a life out there, waiting to be lived, and now I get to reach up and grab it. Choosing life-giving over life-draining is a daily, mediocre thing, but it can be life-changing. 

Last night just wasn't my night. That happens. But today can totally be my day.