Saturday, May 30, 2015

joie de vivre

Because this is the season of spring sports, and my two children are both involved in spring sports, I feel like my bottom is permanently glued to an uncomfortable, backless, hard metal bleacher. I'm sure many of you can relate.  And since they don't have wi-fi at baseball and softball fields, and even if they did, since I wouldn't be toting along the laptop to furiously type on because that would be weird, I have spent very little time in front of the computer. Which could be good or bad, depending on your particular feelings toward this blog anyways. I'm imagining if you hate it you probably aren't reading this, so we will just stick to assuming my friends love this blog and are also excited about the rare Saturday post.

The other day I was having a blah day. Not bad, just blah. Sometimes adults have blah days because work and kids and chores and traffic and expectations and pressures and stressors and everything else just wring the joy right out of life. Remember when we were young and we just couldn't wait to grow up? Well here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The grown-up world we pined for is right here, and we are living the life, yet we couldn't be a more sad and depressed and anxious group of folks. TBH (do you like how I threw in my new instagram knowledge there?), there is something majorly wrong with this picture.

So I texted my bestie where is my joie de vivre?

I've been hearing a lot about joie de vivre (the cheerful enjoyment of life) lately. Dr. Ruth (remember her, the sex therapist that used to be on TV?) even has a book about it. 

Joie de vivre. It sounds pretty, doesn't it? But what is it, really? What makes some people feel like they want to skip down the sidewalk, while others plod?

Have I ever told you that I am a little bit starstruck (#SS)? It seems like celebrities are full of happy, with their money and their fame and their beauty.  (I have two claims to fame: I once met Beth Moore--when I literally hung up mid-sentence during a phone call with my husband, screeching "I JUST SAW BETH MOORE" and then I chased her (and her family, bless them) down in a busy Atlanta hotel, riding up the escalator with them and chatting away like I was part of her security detail. I also stalked Kenny Chesney at the downtown YMCA while he was working out and then accosted him in the hallway and asked for his autograph (which he refused with some pitiful excuse like he was tired or something. WHATEVER. Then he changed his mind. Insert eye roll. In one fateful move, you lost a forever fan, KC.)) I think I've been a little bit #SS because I was certain that being well-known would equal being well-liked, and being well-liked would undoubtedly equal joy. (Being a people-pleaser so you can be well-liked has its pitfalls. And then sometimes you plod down the sidewalk instead of skip because you can't please everybody. The only One you need to worry about pleasing is God, and He has a handy book with details on how to do that. The End.)

(At this point I am having a hard time concentrating. Miss A has entered the room, stolen Siri, and is asking it questions. Can you follow this convo?:
A: what is your name?
Siri: my name is Siri.
A: what is your husbands name?
Siri: perhaps there something I can help you with?
A: should I go to the pool?
Siri: I'm not sure what to say.
A: I need to you say!
Siri: who me?
A: yes you.
siri: and you.

And on and on and on...)

ANYHOW. No wonder a sixth grade teacher doesn't get much accomplished.

While this joie de vivre is a nice sentiment, I find myself it's critic, coming up with excuses as to why adults simply cannot comply with it's command to "enjoy life". How can we, when it seems we will explode from all the pressure?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed  or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. {philippians 4: 12}

Sounds like Paul had his joie de vivre all figured out, and it only takes reading one more verse to figure out what his joie de vivre was all about.

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

All this? All this?

All this. Because I don't suppose Paul would lie.

Joie de vivre. Joy of life. The secret to being content. Christ. Strength. Life. It doesn't take much to connect those dots, does it?

It doesn't say there is a sure-fire way to be happy all the time, which I think is exactly what I expect. I want to feel happy. All. The. Time. In my mind, happiness equals joy, but in real life, we experience the entire gamut: anger. Sadness. Grief. Sorrow. Love. Frustration. Happiness. (And everything in between.)

The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, 
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
{galatians 5:22}

If I look back on habits and mindsets I've held in the past, I can see a common pattern. If you imagine a relationship with God as a vertical line, and everything else as a horizontal line, then I have consistently shown a pattern of taking my eyes off the vertical line and searching all the horizontal ones for joy.  I'll either discover my horizontal lines do work temporarily, or they don't work and I permanently burn them, or I'll figure out they don't work for a time, and then return to them later, often with the same results. (What do my horizontal lines look like now, or what have they looked like in the past? Weight control. Beauty. Food. Popularity. Control. Compliments. Alcohol. Perfectly clean and decorated house. All the things I want that I think will make me happy. Some, like alcohol, I've burned because it's a dangerous habit. I rarely drink. Others, like weight, I go back to over and over, looking for something different and finding the same results.) It's only when I turn my eyes back to that vertical lifeline that I find my complete joy--and that's joy despite the circumstances that I find myself in. The world's issues will never go away--we will always have to deal with the life we've been handed, and all the stuff that goes with it. The good, the bad, and the ugly, as people say. But eventually we figure out that it's not the circumstances as much as it is how we choose to respond to them.

I'm no saint when it comes to my responses. In fact, I am generally a passive-aggressive responder, as I typically forget to look vertically and the horizontal offers no positive back-up. But I find that the more I spend time reading and soaking in His word, the more likely I am to find myself remembering to LOOK UP. Just the simple act of turning my eyes upward acknowledges that those horizontal lines are no longer as important to me as He is. And giving Him the glory, in any small way I can, is what I'm striving toward.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
so that  you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
{romans 15:13}

Have we totally forgotten how to have a good time? Want a little extra joie de vivre in your daily life? Start with daily devotions and prayer, and do little things like adding fun to your day--whether that's reading a book, bouncing a ball or taking a short walk. Need help figuring out what's fun? Think back to when you were a kid. What were some things you liked to do? Skip, run and jump your way to grabbing a piece of that fun and adding it to your daily life!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Control

This is a story about control
My control
Control of what I say
Control of what I do
And this time I'm gonna do it my way
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do...
'Cause it's all about control.
{janet jackson}

I, like Janet, like to feel like I am in control of the situation. Any situation. All situations. This is why I am slightly to grievously offended when I am not asked my opinion on the goings-on around me, and why I offer it even when no one asked. (This mostly doesn't matter to anyone else as I predominantly just speak to air. The twin houses being built in my neighborhood are currently on my radar as Things I Speak About That No One Who Can Change It Listens To.)

I guess I have gone through life just thinking that I might have an issue at some points in my life and then thought, I don't know how to deal with this or if I even should, so The End. I try to catch myself and not comment when I see persons in this house eating a granola bar for snack that was designated for lunch ONLY (in my defense, granola bars are kind of candy bars, and no one needs three candy bars in a day, plus I only buy a certain amount each week and avoid going back to the store because a) I just don't love it there and b) we need to be eating non-prepackaged snacks when we are at home and save prepackaged goodness and convenience for school lunches. And now I have delved way too far into the topic of: Granola Bars. That was a long, perhaps unnecessary, sidebar. Please keep reading.), and I am working on thinking before I speak. And act. Basically I'm working on thinking.

It has not really occurred to me that I try to take control--I mean like seriously micro-manage this family--not because I necessarily want to, but because I have some pretty serious trust issues with God. As in "Hi, God, thanks for being God, I'm terrified you won't show when I need you, so I'm taking control of everything I can and managing the best way I know how", which, if you know me at all, sometimes isn't managing at all but more like flailing. Flailing confuses people. They have no idea what is going on or what to expect. (EXACTLY. This is how the flailing begins in the first place.)

The main idea of trusting God is foreign to me, especially when I've prayed prayers for years that haven't been answered. It feels like I'm being ignored, and I hate with a capital H being ignored. Talk about making someone feel small and unimportant. (Which is why it is in a pre-teen's arsenal of Things I Can Do To Make My Parents Angry.) When the topic of trusting God comes up, I listen with interest but in the back of my head, my mind is swirling with questions like how does a person trust God in the first place and is God trustworthy. Sometimes it feels like other people have figured out this complicated "Trusting God" formula and I'm not part of the secret society.

There seems to be a correlation between trusting God, giving up control, rest, and peace, which makes sense, because taking control and keeping it is exhausting and mostly overwhelming. At least it is for me. AND, go figure this one, other people don't like it when I'm in control-mode. Even when I'm doing the best I know how. How's that for appreciation?

So when I opened up the Proverbs 31 ministries devotion for Wednesday, it was like someone else was finally speaking my language, and I had a mini-lightbulb moment where it dawned on me that my own fear of the world at large drives me to attempt to control every aspect of mine and my family's lives. I am scared. The world is a scary place, and with every day that goes by, I am made more and more aware of this sad fact. And I have moments where I wonder why God doesn't just do something.  And if He doesn't do something, does that mean that my faith is in vain and He doesn't exist? This presupposes, of course, that His doing something would conveniently correlate with what I think He should do, and justice would be served and everything would be fair in my eyes. But I have yet to get down successfully managing myself plus two other little people, so I'm not sure what makes me think that managing the entire world's justice system would be something I could handle.

And with those thoughts, I have neatly shoved my idea of God into a box, made Him more like me than God, and am disappointed when my expectations are not met by this God-in-a-box. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, just honest. But I was reminded yesterday that God is Holy. "And in that holiness, God manages the details of the whole universe...including you, me, and the people we love." (susie davis)

"Yet You are Holy..."

I may think I know, but the reality is I have no idea. The universe and it's details are not something I'm meant to understand or try to control, and I'm not meant to be God's personal adviser on all things worldly, however much I may think He should do or not do, change or not change, bless or not bless.  He is Holy.

Trouble may abound but God is holy still. His sovereignty takes the pressure off of us to control our sometimes scary circumstances and hold tightly to the things we think will bring us comfort. Because God shows up, we can live our lives unafraid.
{susie davis}

Susie Davis
proverbs 31 ministries

That means we don't have to be afraid of the future. Or what other people think. Or all the small and big things that we are afraid of.

It's not an easy thing to do. Even as I write this, I find myself worrying over my kids while they are away from me, as if my presence could or would change their situations. It's smart to be a good parent. It's overwhelming to be a helicopter parent. But in the quiet, when my thoughts shift to the what-ifs and the fears and I try to take control, I hear the promise whispered through the chaos. Yet You are Holy. And I repeat it to myself, as a reminder that He is Holy. And my fears give way to peace in my soul, because I know I can release my grip.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Insta

Yesterday my youngest entered the realm of "double-digits*", which we celebrated by having a cookout and playing the game that never ends. (Also known as Monopoly, which should be outlawed.) But how could I refuse his sweet face on his birthday, even though he gave me an out by saying "I know you probably don't want to play".  He knows his mother well.

*When none of the gifts are toys, you know they are growing up :(



I was informed over the weekend  that I "need to check my Insta account more often" because there are "a few things I need to learn" and I "need to read the comments" so I can "learn these things". First of all, if you've ever taken the time to read the comments on Instragram, you will immediately figure out that a) some people have way too much time on their hands and b) most people are not clever when it comes to commenting and therefore use profanity to fill in all the blanks. And some people have all blanks when it comes to their thoughts. So. I don't read the comments on Insta, and I don't check Insta very often because I find it just like Facebook: mostly annoying.(I know, I know, I still use it, but I can simultaneously find it annoying and be a user of said annoying app. It's possible.) However, this also means that I have no idea what #MCM means. Which means I can no longer communicate effectively with generations who speak hashtag. (Formerly known as the pound or number sign, am I right?)

Anyhow, I'm here to give a short summery on what I learned over the weekend. You're so very welcome.

#MCM= man-crush Monday
#WCW=woman-crush Wednesday

I'll insert here that this confuses me. Am I supposed to post pictures of someone that I have a man-crush or a woman-crush on? Moving forward.

#TBT=throwback Thursday (I already knew that one! Points for me.)
#F4F=follow for follow

There were also several abbrevs that I was clueless about, like TBH (don't laugh, I still use IMHO), and then words I have never in my life used or heard, like meta (still not positive what that means) and on fleek (which apparently means cool? Pretty? Looking good? All of the above?). If at any time you are ever confused about what somethings means, just head on over to urban dictionary (today's featured word is "whoopsie wave"), where you will get a very honest, and perhaps spicy, meaning of said phrase or word. They also use choice words when filling in the blanks. Don't say I didn't, say I didn't warn yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. (If you don't know this song reference, I don't know what else to tell you other than Taylor Swift is one of pop culture's biggest influences and maybe you should check Instagram for help.)



Last night at 8:15, my eyelids felt very heavy after all the celebration and hashtag-looking-up, but I had promised A that I would first play a game on the iPad, then play Just Dance (2015, what). What happens to a body when it doesn't want to move and you attempt a game like Just Dance is much flailing about of limbs. A video of last night's performance would have been comical. At 9:00, I shooed everybody upstairs and then dragged my own self up the steps to do two things, and two things only: wash my face and brush my teeth. The end. So when I looked at the clock and it was 10PM, I had no idea what happened. How does an hour go by and you have no idea? So I, being the good mother that I am, quickly kissed every forehead and blessed every head, one of which was still up and going strong. I was just leaving one room when the door opened and The Other came in.

And then.

"IIIIIIIIIIIIIII caaaaaaaaaaaaan't faaaaaaaaaaall aasleeeeeeeeeeeep. IIIIIIIII neeeeeeeeeeedd yoooooooou."

I personally would have given it a few more minutes, but whatever. I went up and laid down with the can't-fall-asleeper, hoping my presence would offer calm and, ultimately, sleep. Sleep is what I'm going for at 10. Sleep.

And then.

"Mom? MOM! Moooooo-ooooooooom! Where are you? Mom?"

Apparently the "I can't fall asleep" disease is contagious. Enter The Second Child. "Come back to my room, too, kay mom?"

Um. not okay. Mom is tired. Mom wants to sleep. Sleep is what mom is looking forward to. Sleep is what mom wants. Mom loves her children. Mom also loves sleep. Mom loves her children better when mom has sleep. Preferably 8-9 hours of blessed, non-interrupted blissfulness. 

Child #1 was still not asleep when I left his room to go back to Child #2's (see how I used the number sign there? Meaning number, not hashtag? Welcome to 1984, where number sign meant number, and if you said hashtag people would have looked at you in awe and wondered if you, yes, YOU!,  were indeed Back to the Future, also. Hellooooo, McFlyyy-yyyyy--if you know that movie, I know you're laughing, too.)

Remember how cool we all thought this car was? Thanks google for preserving images from such a classic.


We've learned a few things today. My Daughter the Insta User would be proud.
1) hashtags and abbrevs are for kids and Insta
2) urban dictionary is spicy
3) sleep for everybody is good

Y'all have a fun Tuesday-that-feels-like-Monday. You're one day closer to the weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taking Responsibility (and a smoothie recipe!)

I was, like, so pumped up after watching a session of Andy Stanley's Taking Responsibility for Your Life video series, because there are a few people I know who could do just what Andy Stanley was recommending. Namely, actually taking responsibility for your life (a novel concept).  Because obviously I have it so together that I can point out the irresponsibility in others.

He talked a lot about irresponsibility, and how it doesn't matter who is irresponsible, someone has to clean up the chaos left behind by irresponsibility. If you are a parent, then you are nodding your head and going "uh-huh". So when Andy Stanley would walk into one his kids rooms and see something crumpled up in a heap on the floor, like a towel, he would call his child into the room and say to him or her "I would like for you to ask me to clean up your towel. I would like for you to say 'Dad, would you please clean up my towel off the floor because I am too lazy to do it myself'." In the video, he never really said what would happen in his house, but a couple of us in the room thought that was a pretty good idea. Maybe a more pleasant way to communicate than a demand. I was pretty sure I knew how my daughter would react, but I was so pumped to try this new parenting technique that I went against my gut feeling, which was possibly a mistake but like I always say, you never know til you try. (This does not apply to everything and is actually not even great advice.)

I got into the car right after class on Sunday and was presented with the perfect opportunity to try out my new approach. My daughter loves what we like to call smoothies. She has one almost every day, and sometimes she has to drink on-the-go, so the container gets left in the car, which was the case Sunday morning. And even better, it had been sitting there all. night. long. (Mmmmmm, so fun to clean out, so fun that maybe she would learn and not do it again. Maybe.) I imagined all the different scenarios all the way home--how clever I would be, how everyone would look at me with admiration and perhaps a little fear, how my husband would go to work on Monday and talk about what an awesome parent I am, how GMA would call with a request for a permanent spot on their show...

"Anna," I announced as soon as I walked in the door. "Your smoothie container is still in my car. It has been in there since Saturday."

"Why can't you bring it in?", she wanted to know. "You were just out there." (We are currently working on "Respect vs. Disrespect". It's a long row to hoe, y'all.)

A-HA! She walked right into my awesome parenting trap!

"Anna, I would like for you to ask me to go get your smoothie container out of the car. I would like for you to say to me 'Mom, I would like for you to go get my smoothie container for me, because I don't want to walk out there and do it myself."

See, this sort of intelligent parenting is supposed to point two things out to the other person:
1) I am the boss
2) You need to recognize your own mess and then clean it up

She looked at me kind of funny, with her brow furrowed and her stank face on and her head cocked to one side, as if she were trying to figure out what the trick was. What she did not do was recognize her own mess and then sigh and go get the container.

"Um, okay," she said. And then she repeated exactly what I told her to.

"Mom, would you go get my smoothie container out of the car for me? Because I don't want to go out there and do it myself."

FAIL. I totally should have seen that coming.

I stared at her retreating back like a fish, mouth open. Now, how did this go so wrong?

So I raised myself up to my full 5'6", threw my shoulders back and said "GO GET YOUR SMOOTHIE CONTAINER OUT OF THE CAR. RINSE IT OUT. PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER. THEN GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM."

I didn't shout. I was just firm.

Have you ever seen the Twelve YO Shoulder Slump? It looks like they are simultaneously melting into the ground and stomping their feet while their eyes roll. Give her a beat and it could be a dance, like the  whip and the nae-nae.

But she, with great sighs and laments, did exactly as I asked.

Sometimes being direct just works better. (But I'm still thinking about making her watch the video. Talk about great sighs of discontent and vexation.)

Our smoothie recipe: (adapted from Unleash Your Thin)

Reese Cup Smoothie

1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (make it dark by adding more)
1 tablespoon soaked chia seeds
1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter (or almond butter)*
2-3 heaping tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 scoop protein powder
stevia to taste

Soak the chia seeds in 2 tablespoons of water for a few minutes. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

*peanuts or almonds, y'all, no added sugar or oils



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Smile

I know there are degrees of busy. I also know that there are those out there who would look at my schedule and my life and what I call "busy" and give a hearty scoff, because there would simply be no comparison to their own version of "busy". Okay, I get it. But what I am doing right now, in my current state of chaos, certainly does feel busy, and so I'm going with "what feels busy is busy", and so therefore, I am busy. Maybe it doesn't look anything like your busy, and your busy could probably trump my busy, but you do you and let me do me. I'm just sayin' there hasn't been much time to sit down and talk with y'all.

I could have (my top priorities of the day)
a) mulched
b) painted
c) walked with my friend
d) changed my sheets
e) cleaned the kitchen (instead of the spotty work I've done thus far)
f) cleaned the toilets
g) cleaned up the various toys, etc., that are laying around the house
h) weeded
i) written in my journal (a.k.a. blogging)

You obviously see where my priorities are. In my defense, I did paint for a while, because my sweet boy has taken to coming home every day after school asking "hey, mom, did you work on my room today????" because he is verra, verra excited over the transformation from "I don't care what my room looks like so do whatever you want" (if only everyone in the fam could have this attitude) to "I want a Virginia Tech room with one maroon wall, one orange wall, one wall with orange and maroon stripes, a hokie bird, and a giant VT". The fourth wall is up for debate. We are attempting to strike a balance so I can walk into his room. I'm not kidding. And all this coming from the kid who says "I DON'T CARE" to statements such as your outfit does not match, your socks do not match, your hair is getting in your eyes and looks like a bird's nest, and you stink and need to shower. He would really, really, REALLY (emphasis on REALLY) like for the entire transformation to be done by his birthday, which is on Monday. There is a slim to none chance that this will happen. He is hopeful. I like to see that.



I announced on Friday, to no one in particular, that I plan on getting my smile fixed. My husband looked at me with considerable side-eye incredulousness and cocked his head to one side, mouth open. "Huh?" he said, as if he has never heard of someone getting their smile fixed before.

"My SMILE", I repeated. "It's crooked and I'm getting it fixed." I won't promise that a) there was no tone or b) I wasn't looking for a bit of reassurance that, like J.Cole, my man might like a crooked smile.



no need to fix what God already put his paintbrush on.
{j.cole, crooked smile}

(Don't hold me responsible for the rest of the lyrics. It's a rap song. Don't have high expectations.)

I was snuggled up against him on the couch, and whatever he mumbled under his breath was against getting my crooked smile fixed. He's not a big fan of plastic surgery, hair color or a ton of makeup. He's also not a big fan of animals so sometimes I question that guys judgement. It takes a lot of willpower not to go ga-ga over a puppy.

He has no patience when I start talking what is to him complete nonsense.

What is nonsense is not plastic surgery, it's that I would even begin to consider my smile to be anything other than wonderful. A part of me, an invitation to be my friend, a friendly hello. But I don't like my smile and therefore don't like my pictures and sometimes refuse to smile a tooth-showing smile, even though my sister says my closed-mouth smile is less attractive and makes me look mad in pictures. It's also that I would compare myself to anyone and consider myself less than or even unattractive because I don't feel like I measure up to this societal standard of beauty that has been set.

(It is also nonsense that I am sitting here at the computer eating peanut butter out of the jar with no utensil. (Which is good and bad. Good, because I'm not obsessively measuring. Bad, because I am totally double-dipping and I totally don't care.) I had some apple slices that were my spoons but I ate them all, so a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and I'm hungry and the kitchen is at least 10 steps away. You may not want to partake of a peanut butter-and-anything combo next time you come over.)

I think girls sometimes just want to be pretty. So we compare and obsess and get two inches away from the mirror so we can analyze from every angle. I get it. I do the same thing. (Maybe I'm the only one who does this...)



But what I wish that we could all realize (myself included) is that we are. Yes, we are all pretty. We just are. The end. No comparing, no analyzing, no obsessing. Just living and loving and breathing and smiling and laughing. Waterfalls in Hawaii don't look anything like the French Alps, yet they are both so satisfyingly beautiful it takes our breath away.


God knew what he was doing when he made you, and he made you with distinct characteristics that make you you and that make you wonderful.

So, yes, we can smile. Because we are beautiful.

Image result for beauty quotes
all pics are from google images--except the one of me. Obvi. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Don't Blink...

After a busy weekend, I woke up Monday, blinked, and now it's Thursday, and even after a cup of coffee I cannot even figure out how this happened. My older friends say I am way too young to be experiencing this sort of phenomenon, but I promise you, long spans of time can pass by without me realizing it. I guess Kenny Chesney was right: time does go by faster than you think.

So don't blink, is his recommendation. But I'm thinking he just wrote that because it rhymes, since blinking is essential to life and I also need a rest from all the crazy. I don't think I'm lazy, I just think I recognize my own limitations. Especially when I look around and think I have exactly 15 minutes to do everything I need to do for the entire week, for the entire family. I know some may look at the life of a stay at home mom and think other thoughts, which may or may not flutter around the idea of soap operas and bon-bons and the gym, but I am here to say that my jobs (which happen to be the best jobs ever, even if I am tired at the end of the week) takes up a significant portion of my day, which ends at 2:43. That is the minute one job ends and another begins; the minute my youngest steps his blessed little foot off the school bus, and the moment my day of getting things done ends and the job of homework and practice and snack begins.

(And can I just say this: comparison is a dangerous trap. Don't do it.)

If you are anything like me at all, then you get easily overwhelmed by the demands of living life in 2015. Demands are demands, whether you are working your tail off in an office or working your tail off scrubbing baby food off of the floor for the third time in 5 minutes. The minute I start to look around and try to mentally tick off the list in my mind is the minute I get anxious and my thoughts start to spiral, and it's generally not an uplifting experience, although I will admit I have much to learn. After some scant research, I have determined that what I thought I was I am not, meaning I thought that maybe I might lean a little more to being left-brained than right-brained, but alas, as it turns out, I am neither. Leaving me to wonder, do I have a brain and is it working?

When I feel overwhelmed and brain-less, as it would appear I feel at this very writing, then it's easy to believe all the thoughts that may pop into my head, and it is in these precious moments that it is important to remember to take a step back and clear one's head and then begin again, only this time, I start with Truth, and then I end up at Truth, and I seek Truth all in the middle, too.

A quick google search, in combination with biblegateway, reveals this simple truth, written in Psalm 119 and repeated in John 17: the sum of the word is truth. The word is truth. The word. Is truth.

Do we believe that?

So in seeking out truth from the bible, we can be assured that it is true and will not lead us astray. Starting with "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139: 14) all the way to "I have been given... a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7) and all the promises in between (I have made you and I will carry you in Isaiah 46, and he who began a good work will carry it on to completion in Philippians 1, which are just a few among many), we can begin to see that we have purpose. There is meaning in the job--the life-- you  have been handed, and since he designed it, we can handle it. Even when it seems impossible and overwhelming.

I once heard Priscilla Shirer say that there is purpose to the life we have been given--specifically the people you come across, the streets you walk, the school your child goes to, your next door neighbor that gets on your nerves--purpose in everything.  And I tend to pass by those things--maybe because I'm in a hurry or I'm busy and overwhelmed or even because I see them everyday.

I may never get it all done. My grandma assures me that the dust and dirt will still be there long after I'm gone, so I may as well enjoy life and not be so concerned with getting it all done. She's 92, so I suppose she has learned a thing or two in life, and it would be prudent to listen to her wisdom. The relationships we are developing, the life we are living out, the people we are raising--those things are more important than keeping the pillows fluffed, and we would all do well to remember it.

Then you will know the truth
And the truth will set you free.
{john 8:32}

Monday, May 11, 2015

Change This

I had a mini-parenting crisis this morning. Mini-crises of any kind are always accompanied by tears. And I just looked up at the sky, tears streaming, literally streaming, down my face, wishing someone (preferably my mom) would wipe them away and tell me that it was all going to be ok. When I was behind a car a little later on and the license plate literally said "ITS OK", I was like "uh-huh", but then a mini-theology debate broke out after barre and I couldn't remember anything I've learned from Timothy Keller and I also had never heard that Noah (you know, from the ark) was a virgin birth (which I was like where the heck does it say THAT?) and I've read the bible like four times and I was back to my same old fish mouth. Open. Close. Open. Close. Open.

Perhaps wishing for my mom was part of my issue this morning, because it only made me that much more emotional.

I don't get emotional very often. (It's called a defense mechanism.) When I do, I typically attribute my emotional state to a certain time of the month, and interestingly enough, they often coincide. Although, I typically find myself in a PO'd kind of mood, not weepy, but anyways, this morning was a weepy crisis kind of morning. It is on a morning like this that I like to listen to sad songs, because it adds to the ambiance.

Did you know that my children would rather go outside than do homework? I am hoping this is a syndrome that afflicts more than just my two. Homework isn't necessarily the issue, although they don't really like to do it. It's preparing and studying. They are like evil words in my house, and when I say them, I immediately get side-eye and frowns. So this morning, during a discussion with Jon over said homework and lack of preparation and lack of studying leading to a less-than-desirable outcome on several tests and quizzes, my mind immediately went from "171 out of 300 possible points" to "PARENT FAIL", and so I laid down and wished nothing existed because I had failed.

I've been known to be a touch dramatic on occasion.

So I called my friend because I know she can relate and let the words just gush out. "I can't do it" and "I'm not good at this" and "overwhelmed" and "my fault" and "I'm not doing a good job" and "failed" just tumbled out of my troubled heart. This is the point when I knew that whether I knew it in my head or not, my heart had been feeling this way for a long time. Scared of messing up and not guiding my kids in the right direction. Fearful of looking like I am not handling my situation well.

Part of me was like "this is changing TODAY" but the other part of me was like "I don't even know what "this" is so how can I change anything" and then a small, insecure part of me was like "I don't remember anything anyway so even if I tried to change the "this", which I don't even know what it is, I would forget that I've changed it and therefore nothing would change", which is a lot to even try to process.

After the tears part of the conversation had passed, and my emotional footing seemed a little more stable, my friend gave me a few pointers to process and try to implement.

1. Set a goal. Decide what you need to change and how you will do it.

2. Write it down.

3. Take baby steps. Trying to change anything all at one time is an overwhelming, often difficult task that can and should be broken down into doable steps. Take advantage of technology and put reminders like "check homework" or "check in online" in phones and tablets so that you can stay on track.

4. Kids need to take responsibility, too, and set expectations for them. "I expect you to tell me when you have a test so we can study together", etc.

5.  Have firm rules set in place, and set a routine. This season is hard for us, because both my kids play spring sports, which means we are constantly off and running. This also means that I let homework and studying slide. Rules like "you cannot play with your friends/on your iPod/video games/etc until your homework and your studying is done and we have gone over it" are difficult to start but beneficial in the long run.

6. Have check-in points. Our school year is divided into four 9-week sections, so about every four weeks or so, we get a midterm grade. We also have access to grades and details of assignments online (this is where reminders are helpful as I often forget to check online).

7. Have consequences if expectations are not being met. Most kids have something they really love, and when you find out what that something is, you have found your leverage. Don't be afraid to take it away. Kids usually work well with parameters and rules in place, but do expect them to balk like it's nobody's business.

Most of this might be common parenting sense, but sometimes its nice to just have to have it written out so you can reference it when mini-crises arise. And they will.

It's funny, as I look at the time, and realize how much time passes by without me noticing because I'm caught up and distracted by other things. It's funny because as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that my kids are off and playing and distracted and I haven't looked at a single assignment or book with either of them, and once again, I feel that familiar anxiety of "I should be doing better" coming on. But we are not in this alone, although sometimes it may feel that way. God has a plan for me, and you, and, thank goodness, our kids, and my white-knuckle grip on the wheel isn't necessary. I can relax and still get the job done.

I got this.

Friday, May 8, 2015

You Choose

When I said to myself you know, as I survey this space, I think I need a bigger closet, I knew I had a problem.

It was a thought I quickly chided myself for, as my closet is big enough to house all my clothes, but for a split second, that first world entitlement showed up again. I see it in myself and I see in my my kids and I see it in the people around me. It's not a judgement; simply an observation. We are a society of nows and not waits, driven by that ubiquitous desire for more, not satisfied by what is, always striving for what is better. And if the truth were to be known, I am among the leaders of that pack, as I fill my eyes with visions of marble counter tops and Belgian linen bedding, Pinterest pinboards, Houzz ideabooks, and google images.

There is no end to the apps and websites and catalogs and stores that will fulfill any wish, any desire. Most of us have options. We go to the grocery and get to choose the type of apple, the type of meat, the brand of granola bar, and the type of cheese we will purchase. We go to the store and get to choose the type of coffee maker, the style of pants, and the color top we want. Marketers are fighting for our attention and brands are fighting for our loyalty.

And it's driving us to distraction.

This is probably not news to anyone. If you're anything like me, you are easily distracted by all the choices you get to pick from.

But I also wonder this: if it's driving us to distraction, is it driving us from God? Is the fact that we have so many options actually feeding the heavy blanket of insecurity that we are trying so hard to lift? Is distraction smothering our trust, our devotion, our reliance on our God?

I have always been a pretty gullible person. I guess I just innately trust those people around me, and so, as you can imagine, jokes are easily played on me. My mom used to rise up on her soap box, urging me to not be so trusting, and I know now she didn't mean "don't trust people"--although my cynical side totally says "do NOT trust people"--she only meant "please be more discerning, more wise". I get it. I pray the same thing for my kids. So you would think that someone who is as gullible as I am would also be pretty trusting of the God she has both grown up learning about and is growing to love. But when it comes to G-O-D, I have some pretty serious trust issues. As in, I don't.

I was mulling over this during confession last week. It was our last day at the women's retreat, and we were preparing ourselves to take communion. How can I take communion, I asked myself, if I don't even trust the one who made that sacrifice?

The baptist church I attended as a young six-year-old didn't just pass tasteless wafers around for communion. They passed around an actual bread basket. And when you are six and your tummy is growling because the 11:00 service goes on waaaaay too long, a bread basket is a good idea. I would pass that basket, looking longingly at the big pieces of bread, trying to grab at the biggest one while my grandma smacked my hand away. Needless to say, the next church we went to, with their small little square wafer-type non-tasty communion, was a big disappointment. To me, communion was either about being hungry or not being satisfied. It was never about a sacrifice, or being reminded of anything having to do with Jesus or God or rising from the dead or joy or how to live my life. Just bread and wine (and grape juice at my old church, no wine for the Southern Baptists, they don't believe in drinking alcohol, causing my parents to go from a nightly beer to complete teetotalers in one fell swoop).

I took communion last Sunday and veered to my left to pray with one of the many prayer warriors stationed around the room, placing my hands in hers and bowing my head, eyes closed. And in that moment, as her prayerful words were spoken over me, G-O-D became very alive in that room. I could not believe that her prayer over me would be about the very thing I was struggling with only moments before. Trust. When that word came out of her mouth, my eyes flew open and I wanted to jerk my hands away. All I could do is stare at her. Stop! I wanted to say. How did you know that?

I went back to my seat with her words floating in my head. Trust...boldness...fearlessness (pretty bold prayer for a girl who is still scared of the dark, scary movies and ghost stories).

I have, for some of my life, been so driven to distraction that boldness and fearlessness were adjectives that passed me by. Along with life. Because when life is passing you by, you are simply an observer, not an active participant. But along with choosing which gummy snack (or none at all, much to my children's chagrin) at the grocery store, we can make decisions for our lives as well.

We can choose to trust.
We can choose to be bold.
We can choose to be fearless.
We can choose to live the life we love.
We can choose God over everything else.
We can choose to enjoy the ride He takes us on.
We can choose to feed our insecurity with His love.

We can choose.

I'm moving on
At last I can see
Life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know
There's no guarantee 
But I'm not
Alone
There comes a time
In everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind
That those days
Are
Gone.
{moving on, rascal flatts}

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Your Attitude Sucks and Motherless Mothers and Mother's Day. 3 Issues, One Post. You're Welcome.

I love how my sweet first born announces her plans. She never asks. It is beneath her to do so.

The announcement yesterday, complete with haughty tone and don't-even-mess-with-me-sister look was about ballet, which I thought was a negligible issue to take such a stand on, but so be it.

I will not be going to ballet, she informs me. This was my greeting, as she had just walked in the door.

Well, hello, sunshine.

After several debates, and much prayer on my part, I grabbed my watering can and slammed out the front door, with "YOU BETTER CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE GIRL BECAUSE IT SUCKS AND ALSO GET YOUR CLOTHES ON BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO BALLET" trailing on my lips. There are two things I'd like to say about this exchange: 1) I do feel bad about saying someone's attitude sucks, but sometimes a mother has to call a spade a spade. And 2) It's easier to make an ultimatum such as "OH YES WE ARE BLAH BLAH BLAH" and then slam out of a door in your home, because then you don't hear the argument that has been locked, loaded and shot back at you. And sister, if you don't hear it IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.  TRUST ME. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

You need to know my girl is such a sweet little thing, she really is. She melts my heart, and I know one day we will spend afternoons laughing over silly little incidences, like the day I called her a butthole. And also saying things like your attitude sucks. Neither of which I say I did with pride, only with a crooked smile that admits hey, mama makes mistakes, too. However. Yesterday afternoon, after she did get in the car for ballet, there was no laughing. And she assured me that not only would she be mad at me for the rest of the day, but that yes, she would be mad at me for the Rest. Of. Her. LIFE. Like, forever. 

My husband sent me a funny text while I was gone over the weekend. Let me preface this story with a bit of advice. If you are a man and you wear too-short shorts, then today is the day I am offering you a way out. Because if you are a man and you wear too-short shorts, it needs to stop. Anyways, while Krogering for things I won't buy but Jon probably will (kidding, y'all), a too-short shorts-wearing man was spotted by my daughter, who, wide-eyed and also speechless, turned to her daddy and said three words I will never, ever forget: MOM. WAS. RIGHT.

Priceless.

I have been there, too. Like when I realized there might be chance my grandma might be a little bit crazy, and I thought dang, mom was right. And when I realized having a baby and a marriage was hard, hard work, and I thought mom was right. And when I realized that having my sister as my best friend, which I had taken for granted for all those years, was one of the most precious gifts anyone could ever have given me, and I thought mom was right. When I look at the sky and see rays of sunshine and think about how she called them "fingers of God". How her faith became the most important journey she ever went on. How she loved horses and art and her girls (but not cleaning house, no) and her God, and I think man, mom was right. While I had a few opportunities, with my limited knowledge and maturity, to acknowledge her wisdom, my nods to her mothering and life experiences were few.

I wish I had the chance to say hey, mama, you sure were right. And then I'd add a "yo" at the end of my sentence because that is exactly the kind of thing that would drive her crazy (we only speak proper english in this house, and yo, ain't, and cain't are not words), and then we'd laugh and laugh over me driving her crazy.

It's kind of strange how things work out in life. One minute you think you have the whole world sitting in the palm of your hands, and the next, everything is ripped away before you can even say stop. The loss of a loved one suspends those who are left in time, like a twilight zone, looking around and wondering where do we go from here?

I thought I had it all together when I was a young mother. Easy peasy. And the things I didn't know (psh, whatever), I picked up the phone and called my mama. But now we are missing a generation and I'm missing a mother, but I'm still a mother, and sometimes, I'd like to know where do I go from here? She told me she'd be mad at me forever. Where do I go from here? She informs and never asks. Where do I go from here? 

Whoever would have thought I'd be a motherless mother? We are a unique group, those who have lost a young parent as a young child or young adult. Sometimes I think we are lost, vaguely swimming in an ocean, learning to live minus our inflatable arm swimmies, and searching for the person you know went years giving you the last piece of her favorite kind of pie. And when that yearly celebration other people call Mother's Day rolls around, we are disoriented, because while we should be celebrated as mothers, we should also be celebrating our own mothers, yet we have no one to celebrate. Yes, of course we can celebrate the wonderful people who have stepped in as role models and place-keepers for our moms, but nobody can replace the person who gave birth to her kids and subsequently her whole life to her family, and the day just doesn't feel quite right. Like Shell Silversteins The Missing Piece. I'm lookin' for my missing piece. hi-dee-ho, here I go, I'm lookin' for my missin' piece. 

There are lots of things I don't like about living in a fallen world, among them being suffering and injustice. And death. Death is a big one that I don't like. But every time I hear Carrie Underwood's song See You Again I cry, because I'm sad and I'm happy and I'm angry and overwhelmed by the emotion of it all, because God's truth is that I will see my mom again. And I will no longer be a motherless mother. I will be able to be whole, face-to-face with my Maker, and I know my mom will be there. So for the time being, I must be content and find joy with the card I've been handed. He must think I can handle it; otherwise, it wouldn't be mine to hold. And he knows that great things can come, if only I will look to Him and not to loss.

This Mother's Day, take a minute to give your mom a big hug, and then, if you think about, take a minute to say a prayer for all the ones, young and old, who will have a to wait just a little while longer to do the same.

Sometimes I feel like my heart is breaking
But I stay strong and I hold on cause I know
I will see you again
This is not where it ends.
{see you again, carrie underwood}

Monday, May 4, 2015

Arms Wide Open

A friend asked me recently if my blog was growing.

Weeeelllllll, I said slowly, not wanting to give myself away completely. It's plateaued.

Sometimes the other two people have to take a break from reading it, too.

I'm just kidding. I can tell you that more than two people read with me, can relate with me, can identify with me--which is exactly what I've wanted since this blog's inception. No one needs to stay stuck by themselves when there are others out there who are going through all the same things. But I'm not one to put myself out there--which was also a major player in the downfall of my Mary Kay career--and I would never want people to think that I thought my blog was so wonderful that they should read it. Every day or at all. Either way.

I think your blog is that wonderful, she told me. I didn't know what else to say besides thank you, because that is one of the highest compliments anyone can pay a person who writes in her journal everyday and has the cojones to call it a blog. Not to be crass, but really. It takes cojones for me to write the stuff I do, because I would rather suffer with a secret insecurity or two (or 50) than let the world know I'm anything less than the three c's: Calm. Cool. Collected.

Except you obviously know I'm not, especially if you know me at all, (especially the cool part, yall--we've already discussed ad nauseam my nerdy tendencies, and I embrace this me). I recently described myself to a good friend as a person with a penchant for waving my arms around in the air and freaking out when I'm up in arms about something--which in my life, can happen quite often, resulting in, if you can visualize this, a person who runs around waving her hands in the air with her head thrown back, coming slightly unhinged--perhaps not unsimilar to a chicken with it's head cut off. (Ew. Gross.Sidebar: I was invited to farm several years ago, as I became more interested in supporting local (do it, the end) and healthier lifestyles, where I could then PICK OUT my own chicken, have it KILLED, help with the plucking and the ew parts, and then take it home. Um. NO.)

Anyhow, when Mary told me she likes my blog (Hey! She likes it!--LIFE cereal commercial, anybody???), I was encouraged, and maybe even felt a little emboldened, to put myself out there a little more. (Which consists of posting to FaceBook, and trying to figure out the whole Pinterest deal, but if yall want to actually share what you read, then hey, go for it.) I pray over the words that are written and I pray over the people who might be reading, and I pray that we might share a bond over the internet air waves (is that a thing?) that would help us to grow together, to recognize hurtful or negative thinking and change it, to recognize hurtful or negative habits and also change them, and ultimately recognize that our identity can be found in one single source: God our Father. Trust me, I know what it's like to search creation for that elusive thing called identity. And also purpose. And there is not one single solitary thing on God's green earth... (noticing it's not so green anymore, as I was complaining to my friend about another stupid hotel/condo/mess going up on the side of what used to be a green mountain, resulting in landslides and basic T-R-O-U-B-L-E, and can I just say that I was a little bit smug when the walls came down? They've been fixed since then, since nothing can stop a developer who wants to make money, but I was all like ha. Ha. HA. To nobody. But it made me feel better anways. And P.S. do not mention to me that my entire neighborhood is built on what used to be beautiful woods and greenery. It makes me uneasy. Plank. I'll also not go into how much I love luxury and convenience, as neither are green. Enough green talk. I recycle. RRR.)

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...as I was saying, there isn't really anything else that is stable enough for us to put the weighty, like, neediness of identity on. Sometimes I feel like this entire world is a house of cards, waiting to come tumbling down. Things are fragile right now. Is it really smart to look to that fragile state for something as paramount as one's identity? Yet we do, daily, because we forget His great power and get distracted by the mess that is shoved in our face. (Beauty/weight/plastic surgery ads, I'm looking at you.) Hey, I know. Life isn't easy. Maybe you think I'm making it sound too easy to look to God and forget about the rest, but I know, I'm walking along side you. It's not easy to tear your gaze away from the mess and look to Him, but I've found out through trial and error that it's the only thing that works. I promise with my whole heart that I would not lead you astray on this one.

So my challenge to you is this: to walk with the Lord today. To look to Him every time to you feel lost or challenged or scared or unsure. To ask Him to renew your thoughts, and to give you the identity and the purpose you've been searching for. I can't promise that within the hour you will be a completely new woman or man, but the process of trusting Him has started, and that is a beautiful beginning. And sometimes, as is the case with me, there are many, many layers that have to be peeled back before the core of the issue can be addressed and--get this--healed. Not temporarily touched up. Not stitched. Healed. As in complete freedom. So I no longer have my arms up in the air, waving them as I frantically run to and fro, but I have them stretched toward Him, head back, in complete surrender and freedom.  Bringing the shattered pieces back together, but not as the same person, as a new creation in Christ. Made beautiful and whole and free in Him.

Image result for arms wide open
I wish I took this picture, but no, google images had it for me. Sigh. One day.