Friday, October 30, 2015

and it's called life

The blogging world is a funny, twisted kind of place--this of my own discovery, of course, and therefore my own opinion, so take it for what it's worth. It's become a game of who's who and who-do-you-know; a good ole boys club, if you will. If I can say I know so-and-so, then I will boost my own blog posts and get more readers. And, hey, more readers ultimately means two things: more money and more popularity. And those two things equal identity, it would seem. Of course, this isn't so different from the disappointing reality of actual, dirt-grown real life, where in certain circles, who you know is much more important that who you are. And those circles seem a lot wider and deeper than the circles I try to surround myself with, which are 1) let me do me and you do you and 2) living in a drama-free, simplicity-driven zone of life. This means, obviously, that I cannot care about how many readers I get or how many likes I get or how many Friday night invites I get (but sometimes deep down I really, really do care, which does not correlate with what I want to care about, and drives me to internal, soulful tears some sad days), because I am not thirteen. But I have noticed that lots of grown-ups still pretend like they are thirteen, which makes my head spin and also makes me, in my most uncouth and hotheaded moments, want to call (POTTY ALERT) bullshit on the popularity contesters who still brag about what they did last night and who they know and name-drop (I'm talking to church people, too) and talk about how much they drank. Or even worse, what they did eighteen years ago and how much they drank then. (But I also want friends and this may not be the best way to date them.)

Maybe this in itself is a hotheaded moment and should be carefully edited for content before published.

It's just that I'm frustrated, y'all. I have struggles, and I'm not talking about "I can't get my hair to do right, so #thestruggleisreal". I'm talking about real-life, I'm-fed-up-with-this struggles, but it seems like all anybody wants to talk about it how they USED to have struggles (and this is what I did to fix it all with many exclamation points because now life is perfect). Or avoiding the struggle and subbing in humor, or giving a blanket this-answer-will-fix-it-all statement. Instagram and FB and social media are full of edited, Life Is Grand pictures and funny, see-how-many-likes-I-can-get posts, and when you DO post a real-life, MAN-I'm-needing-support-on-this post, people DO NOT LIKE IT. As in, they will tell you, in so many words, I DO NOT LIKE THIS AND HERE IS WHY. This is slightly hurtful, because instead of the support a person may have gone looking for, you find you are being chastised in public instead. (I've had it happen before, via comment--this is why I'm just about ready to renounce all social media, especially my nemesis, FACEBOOK. I do not have time for this nonsense. And yes, maybe I have thrown people I love under the bus in the heat of the moment, which is a mistake, and why social media is dangerous in the first place. Everything you post is instant and permanent.)

But it would seem that a majority of people want a place to go that does not shove real-life problems in their face, but gets them out of real life for a while.

We are all going to make mistakes. This is an unavoidable fact of life that I hate but accept as my reality. We can't all be The Most or The Best at everything, but we can all love our neighbors, which includes the people in your circle, not just your next door. We can, through love, work on building relationships and building each other up, supporting each other in the struggle and afterwards, too, instead of interacting with insincerity and pretentiousness. There is a climb-the-social-ladder aspect to life that I don't appreciate and often don't have patience for. I just want to be real and be honest and be open and have a circle around me that supports the occasional potty mouth (oops see above), the biased opinion, the wayward attitude, and gently suggests an alternative without bashing my head in or abandoning the relationship altogether.

I need a circle that, when I say in a mopey voice "I'm having an ugly day", will say "GIRL, you are not ugly, the world is so much bigger than you having an ugly day" so I can say thanks and move on. Ugly days are going to happen, and I know it sounds cheap and cliche and self-centered and like I don't recognize that there are 99 other (bigger) problems that other people have. I do. Which is part of the reason I'm over the Who's Who of Bloggers in 2016.

It doesn't matter how many posts go viral, or how many likes or how many readers. At the end of the day, a girl still has to live with herself and all the things she has said and done and thought and felt, and while I don't necessarily agree with a total verbal-vomit-fest, I also don't want to be plastic. I want love and I want to love back and I want BIG EMOTIONS and I want to learn how to deal without covering everything up with a pile of dirt and trying to stick a pink plastic flower on the top. And I want people around me who I can help do that, and who will help me do the same.

#thestruggleisreal and it's called life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Faith and Heaven

When an article comes out proclaiming processed meats as bad, I latch on right away. (And then I tell everybody.) This fits into my already-formed belief system, and every notion that I have about processed meat. (Hot dogs? Gross. As bad for you as cigarettes.) And if it conveniently fits an already-formed notion, people very rarely question it.

I am loyal to a fault when it comes to health and food, and get easily offended when people don't see things the same way I do. I won't go as far as to say it's the way I'm wired (totally the way I'm wired), but I don't balance things like this very well. On my beam, not very many things are balanced. They're either on or their off, and when it comes to health, all things unhealthy are off. This puts me in the sometimes "extreme" category, which surprised me when it was pointed out, but I guess it shouldn't. I am a rule-follower, I bend to authority, I don't like coloring outside the lines. Which is why I tried my whole entire life to keep the rules I'd been taught about God. Like live a good life, be a nice person, and you'll go to heaven. Except I'm not always nice. When you compare, my mean isn't as mean as someone else's mean, but haven't we all figured out by now that it's futile to compare, both bad and good? Especially since my barometer of what equals "good" and your barometer of "good" could be the exact same or totally different. So if living a good life means you go to heaven, who gets to decide the "good"?

I am supposing, of course, that most of us would like to go to heaven after we die. This would presuppose that people even believe in heaven in the first place. I do get confused by people who say they absolutely do not believe in heaven or God, but then ask me to pray for them or someone they know, if I'm the praying type, of course. Or tell me I'm in their "thoughts and prayers". What does that even mean? And I guess the opposite could be asked of me: what does it mean when I pray?

Christmas and Thanksgiving at my grandparents house are some of my most favorite memories. All of us sitting around the table, the children entirely unaware of the cancer spreading via anger, bitterness and resent through the smiling adults. And one of my most vivid memories is of my granddaddy sitting at the head of the table (always, it's about respect), sloooowly opening his bible, and reading passages from books I didn't want to hear about. Long passages. Words like thy and thine. (KJV all the way.) All I cared about was my grumbling tummy, not listening to a book that had nothing to do with me. Except I had been taught that YOU PRAY BEFORE A MEAL, you heathens. So we prayed. My granddaddy was an exceptionally long prayer, given to thanking the Lord for All The Things Ever, and sometimes I would get brave and peek at my sister or my cousin, and maybe even sneak a green bean at the risk of getting my hand slapped. So I, for a while, carried that tradition into my own Christmas and Thanksgiving. I mean, it fits, just like turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas.

Except what if I don't want turkey at Thanksgiving anymore? (Nitrates. Read about 'em. And don't even start on processing plants. Blech.) What if I don't want ham? (See above.) What if I want an entirely vegan meal this year, except for I think that tofu is generally over-processed, too, which leaves me eating homemade bread and vegetables.) Does that make me a bad non-traditionalist? Because turkey at Thanksgiving is simply tradition, just like praying over a meal is more obligation or tradition than it is actually giving thanks for the food in front of us. 

About a year ago, I did a bible study by Jennie Allen called chase, and my believe system was confronted with a beautiful reality: all my good life, I've lived thinking I was good enough for heaven because I went to church and sat in the same pew every Sunday and all I needed was trust in the One who made me. (SoBaps do not like to change pews, it's like death.) I had a checklist. I checked them off. Which in my mind equaled GOOD. Yay me!

And then I read that God expects faith, not what I defined as good, and I was dumbfounded and relieved all at the same time. I didn't really have this faith she was speaking of. But I was curious about it.

for it is by grace you have been saved, 
through faith--and this not from yourselves...
{ephesians 2:8}

But it was simplified for me, written in black and white. God wants trust. He wants faith. He is not as concerned that I am sitting in the pew on Sunday morning as He is about where my heart is, and if I am operating out of tradition or out of faith. Do I want to learn more about Him, increase my knowledge, gain understanding, or check my Sunday Morning Box?

five-card poker on Saturday night
church on Sunday mornin'
{little big town}

On most days what do you feel like God wants from you?

What do you think He actually wants from you?

I was stunned. They were two different answer entirely. All my whole life I had thought God had all these expectations of me, and here is was, simple and true.


Even when it doesn't make perfect sense.

love the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength.
{deuteronomy 6:5}

I'm not going to always get it right. (Type A's do not believe this to possibly be true, but it is. I know. Me, too.) I will run when it gets tough and my loyalty is challenged. But that's where the beauty of grace comes in, because like the prodigal son, He will always take me back, no matter what. Always.

I see people every day striving so hard for something, just trying to check all the boxes so they can sleep at night. I do the same thing, trying to get it right so I can have peace. But just trying to get it right doesn't do much for true rest, and that's what God is trying to give. Rest. On every level. Maybe to you, rest means sitting on the couch, but to me, it means having a deep peace and joy that doesn't come from having my list done and checked. It comes from knowing that I can do it all or I can do nothing and if my heart is not in the right place, none of it matters. What I do stems from what I believe, and my beliefs are centered around my faith. And it is freedom.

Christians may come off as perfect people. Or at least like we are trying to be perfect people, but I promise you, there is no way to actually fulfill being perfect. I find this quality to be an incredibly annoying one, and it turns people off to think that the ultimate goal in life is to be perfect. What an fabulously arrogant, misleading concept. No wonder our younger generations want nothing to do with church or church people.

Let your church be without walls, coming from faith and love for Jesus and your neighbor, and see what happens. Everything else is just details.

God can handle our doubts. He is big enough. 
But we have got to quit pretending faith is easy. 
We fight for faith and ask God to give it...
And...God will move; 
He'll move toward me to hold, to love, to restore, to comfort, to be. 
And I would never want to miss that.
{jennie allen}

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Things

I was only just a few minutes ago grumbling about all the things, staring out the window without seeing the view, when my friend texted me to go walk.

ME: I WISH. I have to go teach a class AND THEN go to the grocery. Booooo.

I was then reminded of a conversation I recently had with my same friend about working mothers and we were both all like "how do they even do it?" Working women, I look at you with awe and admiration. How do you get little people ready and then yourself? I work, but it's a few hours and I get to wear yoga pants. You who brave the work force every day in heels and pearls should be given an extra cup of coffee in the morning. You deserve it.

But I suppose it would stand to reason that no matter what our work is--home work or work work or barre work--sometimes the work gets a little stale and we search for a New Thing to make Tired Things not feel so tired anymore.

Sometimes the New Things are fantastic and sometimes they're just cheap subs for the Real Thing.

There is too much out there to tempt a girl who is looking for New Things. (Weight Watchers chocolate-covered caramel ice cream bar, I hate you, you tramp.)

There isn't anything wrong with ice cream. It's only when food becomes the focus that things can get a little out of hand. When we use food--or anything else--to fill us up, we will never really be full.

So I've started asking myself a simple question when I reach for the Caramel Almond Butter.

Am I hungry?

Like am I really hungry, or am I trying to fill myself with a tasty treat when I'm really feeling lonely or sad. And if the answer is I'm hungry, then Caramel Almond Butter will hit the spot. But if I'm lonely, the kitchen isn't the place I need to be. Sometimes you can be surrounded by people and still feel the ache of loneliness.

Sometimes I eat because I don't like to be wasteful.
Sometimes I eat because there is only a tablespoon of peanut butter left and I already have a spoon out.
Sometimes I eat because it tastes good.
Sometimes I eat because I made it and nobody else will eat it.
Sometimes I eat even though my stomach is full, because my heart is empty.

Put down the spoon. Put down the spatula. Save the peanut butter for another day. (Don't even buy the ice cream.) Listen to your body. Then listen to your heart. Pour yourself a cup of hot tea and start from the beginning.

I am feeling _______.

Last night I asked Jack if he ever remembered to pray. He said it's hard to pray because he never hears God talk back.

And I say it's really hard to have a relationship with someone that you never, ever try to talk to. So pray, I told him, and see what happens. You might be surprised.

When you listen to your body, it will tell you when it needs food. And when you listen to your heart, it will tell you when it needs attention. And if your heart is telling your body that it needs food because your heart needs attention, then wires and signals are getting crossed.

Caramel Almond Butter is a great New Thing, but it will never do for me what Christ has already done. I sometimes walk in defeat because I'm lonely, not remembering that I already have what I need. I am loved, accepted and complete in Him. Only I don't always remember this in my heart, and I reach for something yummy instead.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, 
so that in all things at all times, 
having all that you need, 
you will abound in every good work.
{2 corinthians 9:8}

You already have what you need.

You are loved, accepted and complete. There is nothing else that can take His place.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I Choose Me

I just got back from visiting my sister, who is the cutest, most adorable, sweetest pregnant person on the entire planet. And I'm pretty sure her baby will be the cutest, most adorable, sweetest baby born in 2015. We spent time in the nursery, cleaning floors and putting up blinds, figuring out the exact right baskets for the changing table and oooo-ing and ahhh-ing over all the tiny baby things. It is moments like this where I'm pretty sure life doesn't get much sweeter.

We also had lots of time to just talk, sister to sister, in a way that doesn't always happen when we are on the phone or texting or FaceTiming. Sometimes I feel like talking together is a dying art as we trend toward faceless ways of communicating. I happen to be a big supporter of texting, and use it frequently to communicate with friends and family when I'm in a hurry or just don't have time to talk. But I've also been guilty of turning to iMessage to type out a quick text from my kitchen when taking the time to sit in someone else's kitchen to chat might be of more value.

I've found that I'm somewhat of what Jennifer Rothschild terms and "iddict"--a person who has set her very own self up as an idol. I know it sounds funny, in a way, to say that someone would even admit to doing something so selfish, but I don't think it's really all that far-fetched when you take the time to think about it. I choose my way. I think about myself. I choose my wisdom, and I rely on myself.

I've always been a person who has a backup plan when it comes to God. Then if God doesn't come through in the way I've expected Him to, I've got my Plan B in place.

I feel like I was born with a desire for peace and happiness. Plus I was born with BIG EMOTIONS. Everything was dramatic and loud and big with lots of exclamation points and arm waving. I'm still like that, but at some point decided I didn't want to be like that and tried to tone it down. Experiencing the painful lows was not how I wanted to live life, and I became a stoic, even-keeled, stone-faced person. Isn't a rock what people want as a friend? But I still desired that peace and happiness. Church said I could find it in God, but as a completely self-centered little person, I had no idea what that even meant. So I started saying God was important (and he mostly maybe was. I mean, I prayed and stuff) but I was also building that Plan B. My Plan B was Appearance. I will build my appearance and trust in appearance and it will give me peace and happiness when I am skinny and look like Gisele and am perfect. Except that turned out to be like chasing my own tail. Which is a bummer when that's your only backup plan.

So I said to my sister this weekend "I've learned so much and have come so far so why am I still chasing my own tail?" It doesn't even make any sense. I hold God in very high esteem. I am more faithful now than ever before in my whole life. And I still hold myself up, too. "Anything we set up instead of, or along with, God is an idol and when we live out of our Iddiction rather than our true identity, the result is idolatry--the idolatry of self." (Hosea, pg. 112)

Just when I thought I had come so far, I realize I have never, ever been completely willing to surrender my own wisdom. Not for anything. I was willing to hold both God and Appearance up and worship both equally, but God has been very clear all along that we should not acknowledge any god but Him.

This is not easy for me. Since the beginning I've said to trust God and let go of everything else, but the letting go has been a little harder than I thought it would be. My hands and fingers just don't want to listen. I still think I might know a little better than He does what is best for me. So when asked to ponder this question--what does idolatry of self destroy--I had to really assess. Could it be possible that idolatry of self actually destroys the peace, happiness and confidence I'm looking for?

It makes no sense, why I would do this, yet on the other hand, it makes perfect sense. My brain map needs a total rewire. Because, like I learned on Sunday, if you live long enough welcoming certain ideals in your brain, your brain will start to accept them as true. Even if they aren't.

I feel about as spiritually mature as a 13YO right now. And as a 13YO would typically go, I am spiritually selfish and interested in self-preservation. But yesterday my sister gave me a high-five, and it wasn't for something I had done, but for something I had not done. I had not held myself together emotionally and stayed even. I teared up. I cried. I even started waving my arms around in frustration. "Hey!!" she said. "I'm proud of you! That was big emotion!"

So if the next time we get together I am off the scale in either direction or any direction, and I'm madly waving my hands and sharing TMI and all the emotions and you just need me to tone it down, sister, I really don't mean to be acting all sorts of cuckoo. (EXCEPT THAT I DO.) I'm just rewiring and rediscovering and living out loud. Peace and happiness and confidence are worth it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love Is All You Need

I have only just discovered the most beautiful thing, called Caramel Almond Spread.  Of course I understand this is expensive candy in a jar. Listen, you don't even have to have anything to put this on. Just get a spoon and eat it straight out of the jar. Throw away your chemical-laden M&Ms and your red 40 Twizzlers and your who-actually-knows-what-is-in-this candy corn (and for the love do not offer it to my puppy-dog-eyed, our-mom-deprives-us children; they have braces and a mother who HATES commercial candy and sugar propoganda--go watch Fed Up and tell me I'm wrong) and get some Caramel Almond Spread. You will not regret this. Cross my heart. (I know this also has sugar in it. Just go with it.)

It started this morning with cul-de-sac issues (you know you live in 'Merica when you have cul-de-sac issues and all it involves is relative innocence from all parties. Especially when they don't even know they are actually involved in your issue.) and only got worse when I couldn't find the laptop and had to spend fifteen minutes of my busy morning looking for it. Ain't nobody got time to be looking for a laptop that isn't supposed to move from it's spot. Or at least that's how I see it.

"I think I am jaded", I told Jon.

He nodded in agreement. Yep.

"BUT," I countered. "What does jaded even mean, really?" Then I answered my own question. "I think it means you look at the world with a negative perspective. But I'm not a negative person. I'm typically pretty optimistic, right? I mean, I'm pretty encouraging. I don't always see the glass as half-empty, do I? I don't."

His eyes were saying "you scare me" and his lips were saying "I don't really think you can be a jaded optimist".

jaded optimist noun 1. a person who lives in a fantasy world 2. a person who thinks they are an optimist but they are not 3. a real thing you can actually google

When it comes to the world around me, I am mostly cynical. When it comes to my own intentions, I am mostly optimistic. When it comes to pessimistic people, I want to tell them to take a freaking hike and while you are out please lighten up for the love of everything decent and all of the sudden I am Pollyanna playing The Glad Game with bows in my hair.

When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.

I guess cynicism could be attributed to several different factors, like trust issues and life experience. Maybe it's the constant news feed and our exposure to media. Or maybe people are by nature cynics. Or they know themselves too well, and expect others may think/feel/act in the same ways. Whatever the issue may be, I, as a self-diagnosed cynic, have realized that it's hard to look at the world through the lens of doubt and still love people well. And since I am typically looking with doubt coloring my perspective, I do not serve others or love others well.

But I can't ignore that Jesus says that loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is to love others. And as I've learned through many years of marriage and parenting, sometimes love is a choice, not a feeling.

If all people see when they look at me is doubt, distrust, open intolerance, judgement or hate (God forbid anyone see all these at the same time, I would die), then they aren't seeing the God I love and serve and say I represent. I told a friend today that I'm not very religious, meaning I don't do everything always by the books. But I do see myself as faithful. In my eyes, those are two separate things bound together only by assumption and expectation.

Loving others in a world where "others" are sometimes very hard to love cannot be a simple 3-Step process. It's different for every person. But I do believe it means to have a heart for God, and then pour his love out on others. Does others mean neighbors or family or the homeless? Does it mean creating boundaries where there were formerly none? Does it mean allowing God to heal your hurt heart so you can learn to love yourself then others? I don't know what it means for you. Maybe all of the above. But I know what it doesn't mean, and that is doing nothing.

For me, it means starting with baby steps. I'm not packing up tonight to go spend all weekend at the Rescue Mission. It means taking my eyes off me and understanding I'm not the only one who is in a hurry or tired or hungry.

Today I wasn't in a hurry at the grocery store, and the gentleman I had noticed earlier shuffling along the aisles pushed his basket behind me in the checkout line. He didn't have many groceries, and had to lean on his basket to support his legs. He had a smile on his face, but I had to assume this grocery trip hadn't been an easy one. Since I had an entire basket full of groceries plus coupons, I surprised myself by asking if he'd like to get in front of me in line since he had so few and I had so many. Will he remember me tomorrow or pay forward the kindness? Maybe it doesn't matter. In that moment, I had to believe that as I took a step away from cynicism and toward the second command, I was showing love to my others. Start letting your church be without walls and see what happens.

Maybe there is no getting over cynicism, but maybe by taking my eyes off myself and opening them to a world in need of the thing I withhold (that's loving with abandon, people), I can begin overcoming the doubt and distrust that led me toward cynicism in the first place. I'm not a bible scholar, but I'm pretty sure God never said "protect thyself and withhold love". No. I believe in (but haven't to date been entirely successful in living out this belief) loving shamelessly and abundantly and richly, with no expectations of getting it back from people but with every expectation of receiving it to the point of overflowing from the One who offers complete love and acceptance.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal...if I have faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
{1 corinthians 13:2}

Monday, October 12, 2015

Heather Stories

Readers, I am in crisis of epic proportion. Every time I sit down to write, a blank screen stares back at me. Blinking cursor. NO WORDS. But when I get up to go about my normal day, stories flood my brain and I cannot stop. My thoughts are organized into stories. When I go to sleep, I think about things like "I am the unfortunate owner of a black mod-granite kitchen sink. This was a devastating choice made by the former owners who had a great affinity for black sinks, faux marble, and oak. Lots of oak. These same owners could not have known that a white porcelain apron-front farmhouse sink would have been my choice." I think these things and then write them down and am exceptionally unimpressed by my own ability to convey more than a single thought. An old boyfriend, whose parents and brother I knew especially well, used to call these particular short stories "Heather Stories: Short and No Point". They laughed. I was a decidedly good sport about the mocking.

We have four people in our family and one computer. At homework/blogging/work time, there is a race to see who can secure the computer and log in before the horde. Jack made it to number one today, partly because he had to practice his math and then just didn't give it back to me. I finally got all authoritative on him. This works when you're the mom. I'm lucky #2 isn't home yet to voice her loud opinions on "needing more computers" (because that would not be excessive) and "needing to do real work" (because no one else does work on this computer).

I have my screen saver set to show pictures when my computer goes to sleep.

My daughter likes to take selfies.

So my screen saver is really just selfies of Anna.

Sometimes I get caught unawares in the background of said selfies. This makes me look like Parent of the Year. I should get an award. Especially when the selfies show that at 8:10, 8:13, 8:15, and 8:21, I was looking at my phone. I'm sure it is always something Very Important. (Sometimes I tease Jon about his phone and say obnoxious things like "is the President texting you" and he gives me a "I hate you this is actual work" look. Clearly I have it all together and can judge Everyone Else In The Entire World. All 7 billion of you.)

Sometimes people talk to me and I answer them and then I don't even know what we just conversated about or even if I actually spoke because I AM TRYING TO SEND AN IMPORTANT EMAIL ABOUT BABY SHOWERS. Doesn't anybody understand I'm just trying to keep chaos from erupting?

I feel pretty guilty about letting a minor in the house watch Modern Family. It's only because they manage to insert references to underage drinking, teenage sex, show excessive cleavage, and use 7 different forms of "son of a bitch" all in one 23-minute episode. Never mind that Haley is officially the new favorite character. (Mitch and Cam for me.) Also the slurs. (I hear worse in the hallway, mom.) But I do laugh at least seven times each episode, and it gives us something to connect over. (Did you see the episode where Gloria lost Stella and got Cam to help and he screamed in the little girls face? This is what we talk about.) Am I a permissive mother? Maybe. Some things I care very much about. (DO YOUR DEVOTION. TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. WASH YOUR FEET.) Some things I have completely given up on. (Modern Family. T.I. Pandora Station. Explaining that shampoo needs to be used in order to properly clean one's hair. The importance of hygiene. The fact that "tooth brushing" falls under "personal hygiene" and is actually an important part of life.) Will this ruin their lives and make them start drinking at age 14? I'm going to go with no. Lots of things ruin lives. Fictional TV and Top 40 radio will not. Thinking deodorant + antiperspirant is optional might.

Most of the time, life just happens and I learn things in the small, unassuming moments, and it doesn't necessarily make for a great story. I learned this weekend that we often try to find a cheap substitute for God. Things like popularity and Insta likes and appearance and apron-front sinks and Modern Family are just cheap substitutes for the acceptance, love and completeness we are looking for. I know this. Yet I still gravitate toward what I think will bring me what I'm looking for. And I also learned that we are prone to stray even though we already have what we are looking for. Incorrect thinking leads to corrupt action, according to Jennifer Rothschild, and I have lived it enough to believe it. But when we guard our hearts to keep from falling into corrupt actions, we will gravitate toward the truth. We can't stay fixated on the dailyness of life, but instead keep our minds focused on the Lord. And every time we think "my way", we should interrupt and think "thy way". Because we are constantly aware that this isn't all there is. There is more to life than just thinking about myself, and giving credit where credit is due helps me from running toward my own destruction, which only leaves me wounded and enslaved. (Hosea by Jennifer Rothschild)

We have identities as ones chosen and beloved! To remain self-focused means to walk away from that identity, to not recognize what we've had all along. We don't need cheap substitutes. We have already been accepted, loved and completed, and we can get up today and walk in that with our heads held high. And since Jesus said to 1) love God and 2) love people, we can go out into the world with all that love and show it to everybody else. You have what you need. You do!

Friday, October 9, 2015

I'm What?

I got an email from a sweet reader who wanted to know exactly where the heck I'd been and why I haven't been writing as much. (Thank you, Enthusiastic Reader, your devotion makes me feel loved.)

Faithful Ones, I have had brain flatulence that spans the width of this county and it also goes at least as deep. It's not that I don't want to write, it's just that my brain is on a union strike and does not want to give in to the demands I'm placing on it every day. I keep being distracted by things I need to devote myself wholly to, like this fruit fly situation and how should I decorate the front porch for Halloween without having to buy anything new and OHMYGOSH ARE THESE PEOPLE FOR REAL RIGHT NOW LOOK AT THIS KITCHEN NOT TO MENTION YOUR ROOM WHICH I CANNOT EVEN WALK INTO I'M NEVER BUYING YOU ANOTHER PIECE OF CLOTHING EVER AGAIN AND I MEAN NEVER.

Jon tells me I should live out what I say when I write, and I'm all like I KNOW IT BRO. This presents a problem in and of itself, since I cannot seem to rid myself of my own insecurities, so then I just can't even write about anything. Other than the fruit flies. #thestruggleisreal

So I tried to outline exactly what I'm insecure about. Y'all. That is an extremely long list. I had no idea that I was such a insecure person, except that maybe I did and that's why this blog makes sense to me in the first place. And hopefully to you, too, even if you can't relate to all the things. (There are a lot of things.) The funny thing is that when other people tell me the things they are insecure about (because we all are, right?) I look at them real funny and say I can't imagine you being insecure about that so just stop right now. Easier said than done, as I can attest. But from the outside looking in, insecurities are almost silly, because you know the person you're talking to is so much stronger than that. 

One: I put on my yoga pants this morning and they were tight around the waist. TIGHT. YOGA PANTS SHOULD NEVER BE TIGHT AROUND THE WAIST. They're yoga pants, for crying out loud. It's called spandex and forgiving. But my little ole distracted mind just latched right on to that idea, I mean, could we not have had a laser focus during AP Biology, man? No. We must have a laser focus on too-tight yoga pants and then think about them all day. (To be clear, I squeaked through AP Bio with a C, dashing my hopes and dreams of ever being a doctor so I could make lots of money.) I feel like when I walk I might put a hole in the floor. 

Two: Seventh-grade math. Fine. Seventh grade.

Three: I admitted to a friend today that I have zero aptitude at the diabolical game Tangrams. I stare at those little shapes and eventually start thinking about front porches. (Which would require the above position as a doc to do all the stuff I want to do. Bring on the Ben and Jerry's.) This makes me feel sad, because my brains says "ha! and what are you good at? NOT WRITING BLOG POSTS" and then I go about my day feeling small and sad and bad at Tangrams, which means I'm a dumb-dumb and bad at life. (There is a lot of stretching going on here.)

Four: I am borderline introvert/extrovert and while some situations make me feel totally comfortable (lunch with my church aerobics ladies--how old would you be if you did not know how old you were? These girls are SPUNKY), others make me feel gimpy because I am three seconds away from bolting from the dinner I've been invited to because I don't know a single body. (This makes my armpits sweat, adding to the "hi nice to meet you shake my tyrannosaurus rex hand because my armpits are sweaty and I must keep my elbows by my side" issue.) Small talk is sometimes good, sometimes painful. I know some social wonderpeople. I wish I was not gimpy.

Five: Perfection is my frenemy. I hate what is not perfect and love what is, but know I can't be, and besides, perfection takes a long time, and I was born impatient.  I hate impatience. Internal struggle. 

Maybe you have a list that is similar to mine, maybe yours looks entirely different. (Career? Money? Parenting? What other people think? You sound familiar. WE SHOULD TALK.)

I'll leave you with this. Read. Ponder. Speak up. Write. Email me. 

We'll talk next week.

You are not your past. You are not what has happened to you. You are not your struggle. You are not someone else's opinion. You are not your fear or insecurity. You are loved, accepted and complete. You are the beloved. (hosea by jennifer rothschild)

I will trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing unto the Lord for He has been good to me.
{psalm 13:5-6}

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Am Myself

Although it's reductive, I categorize most families as either "sweet" or "spicy". 
There are pros and cons to both, 
with tons of overlap on the Venn diagram, 
but still. In general, a family trends toward one or the other.
{jen hatmaker}

I had a spicy moment last night. My husband calls it my "abrasive" side. Hotheaded, I correct him.

Brillo pads are abrasive.

I come from a line of spicy people. My mother was spicy. My grandmother, bless her, is spicy is a crazy sort of way. She might even spice things up by answering the door with her hinterlands showing.

I have a history of Spicy Moments. I don't know if President Ronald Reagan actually ever got my 3-page letter about the state of emergency that was the NFL, but I was certain he could see that he paid those players waaaaaay too much money, and couldn't he also see that there were starving kids in the world and could he please just spread the wealth around some? (I may not have understood the ins and outs of the NFL--namely that the pres doesn't actually have anything to do with paying the players--but I was absolutely CERTAIN that the actual PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES could fix what was an obvious problem. I was like nine. I was also a disappointed 9YO when the actual president did not write back.) I also wrote P&G, as in that little company called Proctor &Gamble, about using animals to test their Tide. And as an animal advocate, I joined Greenpeace (SAVE THE WHALES) and PETA. (Unfortunately I had trouble giving up my "I love you fluffy little animals but I also eat hamburgers" lifestyle and had to suspend my PETA membership til I could get things under control. That day has not come yet. YET.)

The stress of trying to please Them All, including my fellow life group members and Sunday School members and all the family members and Husband and also live up to my own unrealistic perfect expectations is literally driving me over the edge. I cannot take one more second of keeping my mouth shut simply because that's what I think I'm supposed to do. I'm a thinker and a sayer; I don't have the emotional energy to shove it all down and pretend that I am the Good Wife/Friend/Daughter/Leader/Instructor that I think I want to be. But I fear people's judgement--the Church is the worst of all--and swallow my words and my mishaps and hope people don't walk away. At least not for good.

I keep comparing myself, too. Jen Hatmaker, you are at the top of my I Wish I Was Her List (along with Doutzen Kroes, but I guess we can't all be stunningly beautiful because then it would actually be fair. My friend Stacey, one of the first outside the inner circle of People Who Are Supposed To Think You Are Pretty and Also Tell You (grandma) and also the boy who says I-love-you-you-are-beautiful-can-I-touch-your-boob, told me once that she thought I was stunning, and I will hold onto that kind gesture FOREVER.) and I say, with every single page that I read of yours, I WISH I COULD WRITE LIKE THAT. Only because I think you are hysterical, yes, and almost always right. That much insight and humor only proves that God is actually a thing, and not a figment of my imagination. (The me inside my head and the real, live, actual me fight about this.) I heart you. I actually think people should spend less time here and more time there, which evidently they do. The numbers don't lie.

I do feel like I must have some passion or creativity locked up in this head of mine, but that's exactly where it remains to date: locked up. And exactly what good does that do for anybody?

I might be feeling the slightest bit frustrated mixed with bitter (a dangerous cocktail leading to nothing positive) over my perceived lack of gifts. What, exactly, are my gifts? Because I can tell you that the test I took two weeks ago with the 133 Most Obvious Questions EVER wasn't all that helpful. I already know I like to have people over. I could have told you my best gift was hospitality without answering questions 8, 27, 46 and 84. (I do whatever I can to make visitors and others feel like they belong. Of course. I'm not a jerk.) It IS helpful to have people who want to come over, though. (Maybe why my spicy moments should be tucked back in.)

I know God has made us, each and every one, unique and individual. But that doesn't always make me feel so good when I feel like someone else's uniqueness is a lot better than mine. How is my uniqueness supposed to be touching the world and making a difference? I want big. I want bold. I want loud. I also want to be introverted and quiet and to hold back sometimes, because big and bold and loud make me nervous. I want to shout I AM COMPLEX. DEAL.

I did a bible study a couple of months ago (it was like two years ago. Where does time go?) that asked the question what does God want from me?  And I answered the things any Good Sunday School Girl or Boy would answer: 1) don't cuss 2) don't drink 3) don't smoke 4) DON'T HAVE SEX (that one is huge, sexy time is strictly forbidden til you are good and married) 5) don't do drugs 6) be a republican. But by the time the study was over, the truth about what God wants from me was made very clear: faith. THE END. Because when centered around faith, everything else falls into place. When centered around rules, chaos erupts because no one is perfect, which is why we need Jesus in the first place. I found such freedom, such relief (a weight off my shoulders, honestly) with this revelation. Faith. He loves me even when I cuss (not often, promise, that's a total lie, I just try to keep that tongue under wraps, because WE DO NOT CUSS IN THIS HOUSE AND WE WILL ACT LIKE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN) and even when I have ultra spicy moments and even when I don't get it right or perfect because He is love and offers me the freedom of accepting His love and taking the weight of perfection off my own shoulders. I can still listen to other people (expectations) and listen to myself (expectations) and then accept those expectations and place them on my own shoulders, but the secret is that I DON'T HAVE TO.

I was so blown away by this new-found freedom that I immediately made an appointment to get it tattooed on myself, leading to one of the biggest and most drawn-out (we are talking days) fights Jon and I have ever gotten into. (He has an opinion on almost everything, including tattoos, and it is different than mine. It would shock me if things were different from that.) But I truly wanted a visual reminder of the freedom that I have, and also a reminder that I can and should shake off those expectations, because they hinder instead of help.

The world is not big enough for two Jen Hatmakers, because she has a job that only she can do, and honestly, the world is not big enough for two Heather's, either, because then it would be a world of one big spicy moment and nobody would get any sleep because of all the excitement. Accepting myself in this AS-IS state is only half the battle, though. The other half is living like I do.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mom Jeans

A break in the rain doesn't always mean sunshine, y'all. And I am experiencing a severe lack of VitD over here. As in, I CANNOT EVEN FUNCTION IN SOCIETY. However, since I am at the library (because that printer of mine at home will not even do it's job and print), I've discovered that the library has brand new Mac computers with screens ten times the size of my head, and this makes me some kind of happy. I cannot even back up far enough to see the screen and still reach the keyboard without hurting my eyes. Everything is bright and blurry. I'm delirious.

Jack got home from school today and asked me point-blank exactly where the heck is Heaven, anyway. And before I could even pick up my jaw off the floor, he wanted to know if I honestly thought it was in the sky, as in above us, because then WOULDN'T IT BE BELOW US, TOO?????? (The earth is round.)

I don't even discuss heaven's precise location on Thursdays.

But since he asked, I felt the need to answer his question with some sound theology. As in, I have no idea, kid. He looked at me kind of funny but accepted my answer as-is and didn't press the issue. Sometimes I think that it's best to be honest instead of come up with some cockamamy story that nobody can believe. #heavenisforreal (Do I know? I don't. I haven't even seen it.)

So. Where is heaven, he wants to know. He is looking for a straight answer to one of life's most frustrating questions: if heaven is for real, then where the heck is it? Is it a place, or just a nice thought? Is it something we can see?

I did the best I could. Listen. I do not know the bible frontways and back again. I have learned a lot but have a very long way to go. This is okay with me, since learning too much all at one time blows my brain anyway. So I have to be real with my kids when they ask and tell them that I don't really know the answer to the question. There are mysteries of the bible that I won't ever actually know until I meet God face-to-face, and at that point, I'm not sure that any of the questions I wondered about during my abbreviated time on earth really matter, anyway.

Our time here is so short, when you think about it. The reel really does go by so fast, and before you know it you're 38. I know that 38 seems old to my kids and young to my grandma, but when I looked in the review mirror today and saw THREE GRAY HAIRS shining in the light (I mean, it's a cloudy day. I'm already suffering from Cloud-Induced Gloomy Syndrome. The grays had to make themselves known today?) I was done for. Really. It has gone by so fast. And everyday that goes by, I am more aware of my mortality. Meaning my humanness. As in, I won't be here forever, and I want to make the best life I can make while I'm here. Nobody went to a funeral gushing about how many loans the dead guy closed, you know? The things that we strive for day-to-day are so meaningless when your child comes home and starts asking about "where on the map could we mark heaven" and you start thinking about heaven as a place to be, which means the place you currently be won't be your permanent residence anymore.

Anna came to me this morning and asked if she could borrow a shirt. And pants, too, if I didn't care, and even if I did, could she? (At least she doesn't just take from my closet. That would be too much.) I thought a lot this morning about my style.  Maybe since she's asking it means I have exceptional style. (Good.) Or maybe it means that I dress like I'm 12 and I need to stop shopping in the juniors department, which in a sick twist of fate, I am literally growing out of. (Bad. Hello size 11's, how do you not fit me and thank you, Girl Next Dressing Room Door, for tossing your "too big" size 2's out and going to see if the 00 will work instead.) I mean, is it possible for me to have gotten 3 grey hairs, which is 2 more than I had just yesterday, and lost any semblance of style I had ever in a single day? (Mom jeans.)

Hurricane Joaquin is headed this way. Or at least the effects of Joaquin are. Which means wind and rain. More clouds.

I know.

Life is short and way too precious to worry over the following: gray hair. Being 38. And size 11 jeans.